For Immediate Release
July 1, 2005
Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan After President's Visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center
3:40 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: I was just going to let you all know, so you can get it back to the rest of the press corps, that the President spoke with Senator Leahy and Senator Specter after the lunch with the Prime Minister of Kuwait. This was when he was in the Oval Office. He also left a message for Senator Reid. Essentially the President said that he looked forward to sitting down and visiting with them when he got back from the G8 to talk about the Supreme Court vacancy.
I think that the American people want to see civility in the nomination process. And we want to work together with the Senate and consult with senators and listen to their views, and the President indicated that. It's important to work together and elevate the discourse as we move forward.
Q When was it that he met with Reid and talked about --
MR. McCLELLAN: This was at the -- he was at the White House Wednesday for the breakfast with the bipartisan bicameral leadership.
You heard about the President's visit with the wounded soldiers, as well --
Q Is it still 37 and five Purple Hearts?
MR. McCLELLAN: I need to double-check that. I believe so. You might want to double-check with Walter Reed, as well --
Q They didn't know.
MR. McCLELLAN: There were five Purple Hearts, and I believe it was 37. There may have been one other individual that was added to that list.
Q What was the most moving experience for the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's an emotional experience. The President -- as I pointed out this morning in the first gaggle of the day -- (laughter) -- the President visited with not only a number of soldiers, but he also visited with five or six families of soldiers that were in the intensive care unit. He didn't actually see those soldiers because they're undergoing treatment and surgery as we speak.
The President was honored to meet with the wounded and their families. They are courageous and brave souls. And it's a moving experience to see the spirit that some of the wounded have. It's an amazing spirit. I mean, there was one individual, I remember, who had lost one of his legs and he struggled to stand up so he could stand at attention and salute the President. There was another who was laying in his bed and had both his left arm and right arm, I think he'd had some sort of surgery and they were both wrapped up past their elbows. And the soldier did everything he could just to raise his right arm all the way up to his head, in full salute to the President. The President looked at him and said, "You got it. You got it." And their spirit and bravery is just amazing to see.
The President asked them if they're getting everything they need, and asked their family members if they're getting everything they need. He talks about how proud he is of them and how honored he is to see them. And --
Q He's a very emotional man. He has cried before. Did you see any tears well up, or did you see tears running down today?
MR. McCLELLAN: There were some -- like I said, it was an emotional experience. I think he shared some tearful moments with some of the family members and the soldiers. He also shared some laughs with them, and a lot of hugs. And he did -- he awarded five Purple Hearts. One soldier was wounded twice and received two Purple Hearts.
Q Do you know his name?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure Walter Reed can get that. I don't have the list on me right now, but I'm sure they can get you that. And I can check on it, too, and probably get it to you.
Q Going back on the President meeting with the Senate leaders --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me see if there's -- I took a few notes. Here is something that -- kind of the tone of the President's visit. I mean, he asked, "Are you doing okay? Are you getting what you needed?" I remember at one point he looked at this young son of a soldier who was -- he was probably five or six-years-old, and the President said, "Are you proud of your dad?" And he said, "Yes, I am." And he said, "I am, too." The President said, "I am, too." And he thanked them all for their service.
He repeatedly said, "God bless you," to both spouses and parents, as well as the soldiers, themselves.
Q Back on the other issue of the --
MR. McCLELLAN: He talked about that they were getting the best medical care available, and at the end he thanked all the medical staff for all that they're doing to help these soldiers recover.
Q Did any outpatients get in? Because I saw one downstairs where we were trying to get some food -- one of them was trying to get in to see him. Did he meet with any of the outpatients?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there was one soldier that -- a sergeant -- that he saw on his way out that -- he had a prosthetic arm and had --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- had suffered other injuries. Yes, he had a t-shirt, shorts, and a cap. And the President stopped and visited with him for a while. He had suffered some injuries to his legs. He was walking, but the President had a good visit with him on the way out. So that was one I know that I saw.
Q Back on O'Connor, is the White House -- what is the White House expecting -- no -- yes -- from Harry Reid's office? As the President is going to the G8 and preparing, you know, holidays and things, what is he expecting from Harry Reid during his down time until after he gets back from the G8?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he just --
Q -- talk to the other Dems and things about how we're going to push this -- how they're going to push this through?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think I kind of addressed that when I started at the beginning of this gaggle, when I talked about I think that all people would like to see the discourse elevated and civility prevail in this process. The President wants to hear what their views are and listen to what they have to say. And that's what he's going to do -- I mean, he has had an opportunity with Senator Reid already once, but I know he wants to sit down and visit with him further as he does with other senators, as well.
Q Scott, when you say he left a message for Senator Reid, did the President personally speak with someone on his staff or it was a message from secretaries to secretaries that we've called, or what?
MR. McCLELLAN: My understanding from the President was that he had left a message for him. So I don't know -- I didn't specifically ask him if -- who he had spoken to.
Q And when you say he had spoken to Senator Reid, that was on Wednesday?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. And then Senator Frist this morning, as I indicated earlier, and then Senators Leahy and Specter. It would have been shortly after 1:00 p.m., or around the -- shortly after 1:00 p.m., because it's when he returned to the Oval after having lunch with the Prime Minister of Kuwait, Prime Minister Sabah.
Q Were any specific names discussed during those phone calls?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. Like I said, he was essentially saying -- he was essentially saying, I want to sit down and visit with you when I get back. And that was really the thrust of the call.
All right. Thank you all. Have a good 4th.
END 3:52 P.M. EDT