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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 27, 2005
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:35 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. The President had a good meeting earlier today with Republican members of the United States House of Representatives. The President thanked the members for a very productive session, and he thanked them for what we have worked together to accomplish over the last few years. He talked about how we have been focused on results for the American people and we have delivered. The President talked about the economy and how our economy is showing strong and sustained growth; 2 million jobs created in the last 12 months alone, more Americans working than ever before, the unemployment rate down to 5 percent.
He talked about education and the results that we're seeing from the reforms that we passed under the No Child Left Behind Act. We are now measuring and we're able to assess how students are doing, and that means we're able to get them the help they need where they're not performing, and we're closing the achievement gap so that all children can learn and succeed.
We've also been working to achieve peace and security abroad by advancing freedom -- I should say, achieving peace and security at home and abroad by advancing freedom abroad. The President talked about his belief that everybody has the right to live freely. And he also thanked the members for their strong support for our troops who are in harm's way, and for their families here at home. The President talked about the ideological struggle that we're engaged in when it comes to the war on terrorism, and the nature of the enemy that we're up against.
He also talked about the Medicare reforms that we passed and how we're in the process of reaching out to seniors, to educate them about the new and better benefits that they're going to be receiving under the Medicare legislation. They will, for the first time, be receiving a prescription drug benefit under the Medicare legislation.
The President also talked about the energy legislation. He thanked Chairman Barton and Chairman Thomas and others in the House for working together with members of the Senate and coming to an agreement on a good piece of legislation. We have waited far too long for a comprehensive energy strategy. The strategy will put us on the path to reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and it's an important piece of legislation and I know the President intends to sign it when it reaches his desk.
The President also talked about the highway legislation and thanked them for moving forward on an agreement when it comes to the highway legislation.
He talked about the Central American and Dominican Republican Free Trade Agreement, and the President talked about how this was important to help level the playing field and open up new opportunities for our own goods and services. Right now, you have many goods coming in from Central America that are coming into this country duty-free. Ours are not going to Central America duty-free, and he believes it's important to level the playing field.
But he also talked about the strategic or national security implications of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the strategic implications it has for our own hemisphere, and the importance of supporting young and emerging democracies in our own hemisphere, and the importance of strengthening democracy here in our own hemisphere. And that was something that clearly resonated with members of the House. There -- a number spoke afterwards, after the President did, and talked about the national security implications involved in this vote. We look forward to the House moving forward on the vote tonight, and we continue to urge them to move forward and get that agreement passed.
The President -- and he also talked about how trade expands opportunity and lifts people out of poverty, and it will help address the problem of illegal immigration in that way, because families will be more willing to want to stay home to support their families because they'll have more opportunities at home.
And then the President touched on the Patriot Act and thanked the House for moving forward on reauthorizing the Patriot Act, how it's important to protecting the American people, and making sure that our law enforcement officials have everything they need to do their job. This provides them with important tools to better protect the American people.
And he touched on Social Security, as well, and the importance of moving forward and strengthening Social Security, and making sure that younger workers have the voluntary ability to invest in personal retirement accounts, and how he looked forward to continuing working with members of the House to get that done, and that he was confident that we would get it done.
And that's an overview of his remarks to members of the House. And with that, I will be glad to go into questions.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you've heard the President talk about how we've been working in partnership with countries around the world to promote cleaner energy and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And that is something we have continued to move forward on. In terms of the specific announcement that you're talking about, I've seen some media reports. I do expect that you'll be hearing more out of the region later and I think we may have some more information that we'll be able to get into with you later, as well. But I'm not going to go and make the announcement ahead of anything that's going to be coming out of there first.
Q Well, there's already -- Australia is already talking about this agreement, and I'd like to hear what the United States says about it.
MR. McCLELLAN: And you will.
Q And when would that be?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll have more information for you probably, I expect, later today.
Q From here, or where?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll perhaps have more for you here. We'll keep you posted, too, on how we'll get that information to you.
MR. McCLELLAN: No. We have not had a request for tax returns.
Q Is that the sort of information that you would be willing to provide should you get those requests?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that we look forward to continuing to work with the Senate as we move forward on the confirmation process. But that is not a request that has come at this point, and I think it's just getting ahead of things for me to get into that from this podium.
Q So you're not ruling it out, though?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, there hasn't been a request made, and we'll let the discussions with the Senate proceed forward, and we're going to continue to work with them as we move forward.
Q Do you think the story in the Post is wrong then, that the Bush administration will not give them the documents -- not give them the tax returns -- that's wrong?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think it's getting ahead of the process because there has been no request made of his tax returns at this point.
Q Has there been any suggestion that the administration would turn down such a request, as suggested in today's media?
MR. McCLELLAN: There just hasn't been a request made, so let's not get ahead of the process is what I would say.
Q Scott, on the other files, what should members of -- what should the public glean from what's been released so far? What does it tell us about Judge Roberts and his judicial philosophy?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I actually talked about that yesterday. I think that the files that you're referring to mostly are from about 20 years ago, and I think what those files show is a young White House staffer helping to provide legal analysis in support of the President's agenda, President Reagan's agenda. I think that's what they show. And in terms of the documents, themselves, we were more than happy to expedite the release of all these documents -- it's more than 60,000 pages of documents that we're expediting the release of so that the Senate can move forward on the confirmation process.
Q You're not suggesting that the legal views expressed in a document when he was a young lawyer at the Justice Department do not reflect his own legal views, are you?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you have to look at his record and look at his record on the last -- in the last two years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. I think if you look at what people have said who know him best, Democrats and Republicans alike, they will tell you that he is someone who will be an impartial judge who is committed to interpreting our Constitution and our laws, and not trying to make law from the bench.
Q Right, I understand all that. I've heard that a million times, with all respect.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, maybe people that are watching haven't heard that, so I think it's important --
Q Well, you say it every day. My question --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- I think it's important for them to know about that.
Q I understand that. Everybody has said that repeatedly, which doesn't tell us very much. The issue is what's in the memos. Do you dispute the fact that those are, indeed, his legal views? Do they not telegraph his legal thinking, precisely?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think there's a distinction between advocating on behalf of a client and someone's personal views.
Q He was a political appointee. Was he hired because he had contrarian views to the administration?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know why -- you'll have to go back and look at that time. I'm sure these are issues that he --
Q Why should people --
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on, hang on -- these are issues that he'll be glad to discuss during the confirmation process. Those are questions I'm sure that will come up. But it's important to look at the record and it's a record that Democrats and Republicans alike have praised. They know that he is someone that is highly qualified for this position and someone who is committed to important principles when it comes to being a judge. He has shown that over the last two years on the Circuit Court of Appeals.
Q Without badgering you, is there any conclusion that you can draw from these files that have been made public? In other words, what can we conclude about his judicial philosophy based on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think his philosophy is one of interpreting our Constitution and our laws, one of providing an impartial and fair look at the facts and then applying the law based on the facts. That's what his record shows.
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you keep asking these questions that are related to an ongoing investigation --
Q Does he still have his security clearance?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and those are questions that have already been addressed.
Q No, they -- I've never heard this before. Have you?
MR. McCLELLAN: The question has been asked before.
Q We haven't heard an answer.
Q What was your answer?
Q There hasn't been an answer.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q Given the fact that you said that he was speaking on behalf of a client in these documents, and essentially most of his career has been on behalf of clients, whether in private practice or working with the administration, isn't it appropriate for him to answer some questions when he is at the hearings about his personal views on particular cases that he will definitely have to deal with on the Court?
MR. McCLELLAN: On particular cases that he will deal with? I think everybody said that -- and there has been -- a precedent has been set in previous confirmation hearings that potential judges should not be prejudging cases that come before them. A judge should look at the facts and look at the law and look at the Constitution, and then apply the law based on the facts that are before him or her in that case.
Q Let me rephrase that -- particular issues, the way he views the hot-button issues that we all know that will be up for -- we expect -- a very, very long time, while he is sitting on the bench.
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple things. The President does not believe in litmus tests for judges. He's always held that view. And secondly, Judge Roberts is someone who has shown that he believes in interpreting our Constitution and our laws and not trying to legislate from the bench. He is someone who has shown that he is impartial and open-minded when he approaches cases as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. And he has said that someone's personal views don't have any role to play in the decisions that judges make.
Q Well, what's wrong with Roberts talking about, commenting on past decisions?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's going to be a confirmation hearing process, there are going to be all sorts of questions asked, and the Senate has the right to ask those questions. I know he looks forward to the hearings.
Q Will the White House encourage him to answer those questions?
MR. McCLELLAN: There will be plenty of time to talk about all those issues later.
Q Scott, can I clarify on the tax return issue? Is there not a White House policy that where now you guys don't release the tax returns, or you do instead a one-page summary or something --
MR. McCLELLAN: Generally speaking, for a judicial nominee, what we have done is had a policy in place where we do a tax check of the nominee's past three years tax returns. We get assurances from the Internal Revenue Service that there aren't any problems there that we need to be aware of over that time period. And that is generally speaking. Now, nominees also have to fill out a detailed financial disclosure form. And in many respects, that financial disclosure form is much broader than the tax returns and provides more information than the tax returns would.
Now, in terms of Judge Roberts, as part of the vetting process, we did ask for his tax returns from the past three years and we have received those.
Q But it's the White House policy not to release those to the public?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, generally speaking, on judicial nominees, we just do a tax check. But on Judge Roberts and for this position, we did look at his tax returns as part of the vetting process.
Q So was there a policy change about releasing those records to the Senate, or to the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I told you what our policy was and the policy that we've had in place since 2001 when it comes to judicial nominees. But that's why I was telling you that with Judge Roberts, we did ask to look over his tax returns from the previous few years, and we have done so. And that's something that we can discuss with the Senate as we move forward.
Q Also, on -- did you infer the other day that on these memos that are not going to be released because of attorney/client privilege, that the White House didn't review those as part of the vetting process?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have not seen or reviewed those documents. I noticed that Senator Kennedy said that he thought it was important for the American people to know what the President knows. Well, we haven't seen or reviewed any of those documents. It wouldn't be appropriate for us to do so. That's privileged information that is related to the confidential deliberative process between attorney and client. And I spoke about that yesterday. Seven former attorney generals, in a letter, stated publicly that to make that information available would have a chilling effect on their ability to receive candid and honest and thorough advice from their staff attorneys.
Q Isn't that weird that for a position so important, there's so much documentation out there that you all wouldn't even look at?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's not appropriate. That's why I said that we've always worked in a way to make sure that the Senate would have all the appropriate information that they need to do their job. And that's why we went out of our way to expedite the process for the release of documents so that they'll have that information prior to the confirmation hearings.
Go ahead, Sarah.
Q Thank you. Scott, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is telling the interim Iraqi government to toughen up, and serving notice on Syria and Iran to stop fostering terrorism in Iraq. Is he doing this on orders from the Commander-in-Chief? And what does the President intend to do about the problem of Syria and Iran?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have expressed our concerns about both those countries, and they have made commitments in the past to play a constructive role in the neighborhood and the trends of those two countries have been in the wrong direction. And we have taken some action, as well, under the Syria Accountability Act, but we want to see more done to go after the remnants of the former regime that are operating out of Syria and engaging in attacks on the Iraqi people.
Q Will the President have a news conference for us before he leaves? And if and when he does have one, could you consider broadening it out to those of us who don't travel, but still have a lot of exposure?
MR. McCLELLAN: I always take things into consideration. And if there's more to announce in terms of any press conference, we'll keep you posted.
Let me go back here. Go ahead.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we believe it's important to move forward on Social Security reform this year. And that's something the President talked about with members of the House earlier today. There is a commitment from the leaders of the committees in the two chambers to continue moving forward on strengthening Social Security. It's important that we act this year for the reasons that we've stated previously because it only gets worse over time, and the longer we wait, the most costly it becomes, an additional $600 billion a year if we wait to act. That's why it's important to act now. We know it's on an unsustainable course. And the President is going to continue working with members to get something done this year, and he's confident that we can continue to work together and move forward on this important priority for the American people.
Nothing is going to change for today's seniors, but this is about helping our children and grandchildren realize a brighter future by having a secure retirement when they get ready to retire.
Carl, do you have something?
Q Having not seen the documents that you say are protected by attorney-client privilege, how can you determine that attorney-client privilege is important to protect? Because it is a privilege that can be waived, but, presumably, that would need to have some understanding of the information included therein.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's important to look back at what the former solicitor generals said. And the former solicitor generals said, these -- this information relates to the deliberative process. And so you're talking about the deliberative process during the decision-making period when solicitor generals are looking to their attorneys for candid and independent and honest advice on cases. And it would have, as they said, it would have a chilling effect on their ability to receive that kind of candid and honest advice that they need to be able to do their job for the American people.
And I think it's important to look back at that. These are Democrat and Republican solicitor generals. As I said yesterday, to release this information, future solicitor generals might as well put up a "do not apply" sign on their door to attorneys that want to work for them if they ever think they're going to go before the Senate for a confirmation hearing.
Q You said no White House officials have looked at the solicitor general's papers. Have any administration officials, perhaps people in the Justice Department?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Justice Department -- previous Justice Departments have. You can direct questions to others. We have not seen or reviewed, is what I said, any of that information so we don't know what's in that information.
Q Can you tell me whether the -- any one in the current Justice Department has, or the Bush administration?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what the rules are guiding that information. You can direct those questions to them.
Q I called them yesterday and they said they won't be answering these questions until they decide how they should answer these questions. (Laughter.) That's what I was told.
MR. McCLELLAN: You can direct those questions to them. I haven't heard any such thing. Maybe you were, but I haven't heard any such thing.
Q So you can't provide any -- can you direct them to answer the question?
MR. McCLELLAN: Talk to them about it.
Q I have a follow-up question, which is --
MR. McCLELLAN: You asked me to accept the premise of your characterization. I have no idea.
Q That's what I was told.
MR. McCLELLAN: I can speak from our standpoint, and no one has seen or reviewed that information from our standpoint. And I said, why, because it would be inappropriate to do so. Obviously, there are people that -- it may be appropriate for them to see that information. I don't know. You would have to ask the Justice Department.
Q If they'll answer the question. Yesterday, you suggested that -- you determined -- you made the release of these documents possible after discussions with Senator Specter. Did Senator Specter explicitly request these documents, or were they offered in conversation?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, and I never -- no, in fact, I never said such a thing. I know that there are some reports in the paper that someone in his office may have said that, and that appears to have been a mischaracterization. But we did talk to him before releasing that information, and he appreciated the -- he expressed his appreciation for the fact that we were going to expedite the release of these documents.
Q And isn't it true these documents were sort of available by FOIA anyway, the White House didn't actually release anything?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, this question came up yesterday, and at the Reagan Library -- you're talking about presidential records, and these are records that sometimes will take months to go through the process for releasing. And what we wanted to make sure we did was move that process forward and get this done in weeks so that they can move forward on the confirmation hearing process in a timely manner. So I think there's a big distinction there that you need to look at.
Q Scott, can I ask a follow up to Jessica's question? You keep using the words, "nobody has seen or reviewed the documents here at the White House." Has anybody at the White House received a report, a briefing on these documents, whether it be verbal or written?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of, John. Not that I'm aware of. That's why I'm saying "seen or reviewed," because that would be -- fall under "review," I think.
Q Many pundits and news organizations are focusing attention on John Roberts' links to the Federalist Society. Do you remember any such focus or concerns expressed about Ruth Bader Ginsburg's overt activism on behalf of one of the most controversial groups in America, the ACLU? And do you see a double standard here in the media? And I have a follow-up.
MR. McCLELLAN: I wasn't following her confirmation process that closely at the time. I was back in Texas. But you're welcome to point those things out if you so choose.
Q Good. Since the Senate -- (laughter.) I thank you very much. Since the Senate yesterday voted 98 to nothing to make sure that the Boy Scouts will be able to continue holding camping events on U.S. military bases, the President in his speech to the National Boy Scout Jamboree tonight will also support Senate Majority Leader Frist's Support Our Scouts Act of 2005, won't he?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, of course --
Q Or does he intend to ignore Senator Frist and say nothing about the ACLU's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Of course --
Q -- suing the Boy Scouts?
MR. McCLELLAN: Of course, the President strongly supports our scouts. And the President looks forward to going to Fort A.P. Hill this evening and speaking to the parents and the Boy Scouts that are present. It's also a moment to keep in our thoughts and prayers the families of those four parents who tragically lost their life earlier this week. These parents were role models to those Boy Scouts, and I think the President will -- I expect the President will touch on that. But this is --
Q Will he support Senator Frist's --
MR. McCLELLAN: For these remarks, the President is going there to highlight all the positive things that the Boy Scouts do, and all the positive contributions that troop leaders make to instill in them a sense of leadership and responsibility. And that's what the President will be talking about.
Q What about Senator Frist?
MR. McCLELLAN: You'll hear his remarks tonight.
Roger, go ahead.
Q Yes, back to the taxes. Did the review, which I assume has been completed by IRS, show anything that would cause any concern?
MR. McCLELLAN: These are all issues that will be discussed through the confirmation process. I don't know what their review showed, and I think there's confidentiality things involved in that, so I couldn't even speak to that, Roger. Nor is this the appropriate place to get into all those issues.
Q Is there any reasons why the White House wouldn't turn over the tax returns to the committee --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think it's just getting ahead of things at this point.
Q Scott, does the White House want Roberts to be considered in committee in August, or will it wait until September?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the decision will be made by the Judiciary Committee. It's the Senate's decision to ultimately make. We have had discussions about the timing. We have been working from the October 3rd date back, because October 3rd is when the Court comes back into session and we want to make sure that Judge Roberts is in place by the time the Court convenes in October. And so we've encouraged the Senate to move forward in a timely manner on his confirmation so that he can be in place. Ultimately, the decision will be made by the Senate. And I know that Chairman Specter has spoken to that issue and talked about how he's looking at it. But that will be a decision that they make.
Q I'm aware of all of that. I'm wondering, does the White House want the hearings to be in August?
MR. McCLELLAN: We want them to begin in a way that Judge Roberts can be in place by the time the Court convenes.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll keep you posted. I know he has a meeting scheduled with one member of the House later today to talk about it.
Q Which one?
Q Yes, who?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I'm not going to get into names. This is an agreement that is coming up for a vote later tonight, it's a close vote; the President has been meeting with members of the House, Democrats and Republicans alike, to urge them to support the agreement. And I talked about the reasons why earlier. This is important for leveling the playing field and opening up opportunities for our goods and services. It's also important to our national security and to supporting democracy in our own hemisphere. And the President brought that up earlier today in his remarks to the House, and he's continuing to reach out, and we'll keep you posted if there's anything else to update you on.
Q Is he going to make calls over to members of the Hill?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you posted.
Q Scott, first of all, tomorrow Prime Minister of Pakistan supposed to be visiting the White House, but now I understand it's cancelled. And second, of course, I understand -- I agree with the President that Islam is a religion of peace and understanding, and also I would like to say that Pakistan -- all the Pakistanis are not terrorists. But what I am asking is a question, how much faith and trust the President has today in General Musharraf as far as fighting against terrorism is concerned? Because the road is going toward Pakistan as far as terrorist activity, and Egypt, or in London --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me just answer. The President believes President Musharraf has been a good partner in the global war on terrorism, and in the ideological struggle that we're now engaged in. This is an ideology of hatred that the terrorists seek to spread. And the way to defeat that is to take the fight to them, and to also spread freedom and democracy, and that's what we're doing.
April, go ahead.
Q What about the meeting with the Prime Minister?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that they've previously addressed that, why they had to postpone that trip.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't cushion John Roberts -- oh, wait, Judge Roberts, okay, sorry. (Laughter.)
Q You continue to say, he was young. You've used those words consecutively for a couple of days. Are you aware of something that is getting ready to come out in the 65,000 documents from the Reagan era that will make this administration say, well, that was when he was young and he has now changed his mind, because there's a major --
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, let me address that -- let me address that very quickly: No. (Laughter.)
Q Well, why do you continue to preface, he was young, then? Why do you continue to say that, because you lead us to believe that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Because I'm stating a fact.
Q Don't be smart about it. I'm looking for a serious answer.
MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, go ahead.
Q No, no, no, I'm looking for a serious answer, not anything just off the cuff. I want to know why you continue to say this man was young. We don't know anything about his philosophy, and it seems that you are trying to preface this now, so when this happens --
MR. McCLELLAN: At the period of the early '80s?
Q This administration must know something that is coming out to preface us, to get us to understand this was when he was young, and he may have changed his mind.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not all.
Q What are you aware of? Is it about abortion, Roe v. Wade?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not at all, April.
Q Why does the White House look at income tax returns of prospective judges?
MR. McCLELLAN: Why what?
Q Why does the White House look at the income tax records of prospective judges?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, on judicial nominees, our policy has been to do tax checks. Now, with Judge Roberts, for this position, we did ask for the tax returns, and look at those as part of the vetting process to see if there were any problems that had occurred over the past few years.
Q And shouldn't those same concerns be afforded to senators who might want to see those and know about those records before they vote on --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I just think there hasn't been a request made, and let's not get ahead of where things are in the process.
Q I'm sure this administration has an answer ready for when a request is made.
MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to continue to work closely with the Senate as they move forward on the confirmation process.
Q You said you want them to have all the records they need.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me point out again, the financial disclosure forms that nominees have to fill out is in many ways broader than the tax returns that they have.
Q If a prospective appointee declined to give you permission to see the income tax records, would that be the end of the prospective appointee?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, he did not, in this case. And second of all, the policy with other judicial nominees was not to ask for their tax returns from those few years. It was a policy that said we want to -- we're going to do a tax check of those few years and check with the Internal Revenue Service.
Q You said the White House wants senators to have all the documents they think are appropriate. If someone thinks that's appropriate, will they get the income tax records?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, now you're asking me to speculate about requests that have not been made, and I'm not going to do that.
Q This is a profound discussion of the separation of powers in this dialogue today. To what extent is the administration's position in the context of Judge Roberts consistent with the executive privilege law as it stands, post-U.S. v. Nixon?
MR. McCLELLAN: Post U.S. v. Nixon?
Q In 1974, the tapes, and so forth.
MR. McCLELLAN: Haven't really thought about it.
Q Could you look into that for us?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't even thought about it.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think everybody wants our troops to come home, and I know the Iraqi people want to be able to have full responsibility for their future. The President has made it clear that we have a two-track strategy when it comes to Iraq. One part of that strategy is to continue to move forward on the training of Iraqi security forces, and that's what we're doing. As we stand up Iraqi forces, we will stand down American forces.
And the Iraqi forces are showing more and more that they're willing to take the fight to the enemy. They're engaging more and more in the fight themselves. They're making some important progress. But there is work to do, and we are committed to making sure that they're in position to be able to provide for their own security. And that -- in terms of our troop levels, we always look to our commanders on the ground. They make decisions based on the conditions on the ground. And that's what we'll drive the decisions made about troop levels.
Q And when General Casey says that substantial pullout will take place next summer or next spring, tell us why this doesn't send a wrong message to the insurgents --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think General Casey said that it would be based upon conditions on the ground. And we have to continue to look at the progress that's being made on the political front and the building of democratic institutions in Iraq. And we also have to look at the progress that's being made on training the Iraqi forces.
The President talked about our strategy and the details of how we're going about to make sure that the Iraqi forces have the command-and-control structure they need, and to make sure that they have the readiness levels to be able to fully defend their country both from internal threats and external threats. Ultimately, it will be the Iraqi people that prevail over the terrorists and those who seek to derail the transition to democracy, because the terrorists understand how high the stakes are. When we succeed in Iraq, it will be a major blow to the terrorists and their ambitions of spreading an ideology of hate. And we're going to defeat them there so that we don't have to fight them here at home.
Q Does the President share General Casey's views?
MR. McCLELLAN: General Casey said that it would be based on conditions on the ground, is what I saw that he said.
Q I understand. I'm asking you, is that consistent with what the President believes? Was he speaking, in effect, for the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: That it would be based on conditions on the ground?
Q What he said today --
MR. McCLELLAN: What he said in terms of being based on conditions --
Q -- setting a timetable based on those conditions.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President's view is that we will look to the commanders on the ground. General Casey is one of our commanders on the ground, and we will make decisions based on what they say, and they make decisions based on the conditions and the progress that's being made on the ground.
We all want to see our troops come home. The President wants to see our troops come home. But we've got an important mission that we need to complete. And we need to make sure that the Iraqi people are on a path to democracy and security.
Q So the President is comfortable with the timetable that General Casey discussed, provided that those various markers are met? Is that accurate?
MR. McCLELLAN: We look to our commanders on the ground, and the President has always said that we will make decisions based on what they say.
END 2:07 P.M. EDT
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