The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 26, 2005

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

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Press Briefing
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1:30 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I just want to give a quick update on Hurricane Rita and then the recovery for Hurricane Katrina, as well.

As you are aware, the President issued major disaster declarations this weekend for Texas and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, at the request of the governors. Priorities remain on saving lives and sustaining lives in support of the state and local response efforts; providing communications capabilities; continuing the damage assessments -- there are ongoing damage assessments in Texas and Louisiana. Other priorities include restoring critical infrastructure, assisting with the return of evacuees and continuing to establish distribution recovery centers.

Getting power back on is a high priority, that's one of the issues that came up in the President's briefing earlier today at the Department of Energy; you heard his remarks about that. There are some -- 707,000 was the latest number we had at that briefing, residents in Texas without power, and 539,000 in Louisiana. Altogether, with Arkansas and Mississippi, you have about 1.3 million, as of earlier today, that were without power.

Texas has a -- on the evacuation efforts, has a seven-day planned phased return. With both Texas and Louisiana, we continue to urge residents to listen to the governors and their authorities about when is the best time to return, and not to return before they say so. On Katrina, we have provided more than $2 billion in immediate cash assistance to more than 1.4 million households.

And, finally, the President will be returning to the region tomorrow, as he mentioned earlier today. We don't have the details of that trip yet, we're working on finalizing up some of those plans, but we'll get them to you as soon as we can.

And with that, I am glad to go to your questions. Kelly.

Q Earlier today, the President said, and encouraged Americans to not use gasoline unnecessarily, to not take trips that were not absolutely necessary. Would the President curtail his own travel to the region, since he can be in touch by --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's important for the President of the United States to travel to the region and get firsthand accounts of the operations and to provide comfort and support to those who are -- have been affected by this -- by these hurricanes, as well as those who are providing the critical support, the critical relief to get these people back up on their feet and to save lives and sustain lives. That's an important responsibility of the President of the United States, and he had a good trip over this weekend and was able to get a firsthand account of a lot of operations that were underway, as well as to talk to officials about some of the lessons we've learned over the past few weeks and do some fact finding on his own. But it's an important responsibility for the President.

And in terms of the conservation efforts, the President did call on people to conserve where they can. He will be issuing a presidential directive later today to federal departments and agencies, encouraging those agencies to take appropriate steps to conserve where they can, to conserve natural gas and gasoline and diesel fuel at their facilities to the maximum extent that they can.

And he mentioned a couple -- he mentioned one way that federal agencies can help is to curtail non-essential travel and other activities that use gasoline or diesel fuel. They can take steps to conserve natural gas or electricity during periods of peak consumption. And the President will be issuing this directive to the agencies later today, and he also encourages the American people to do the same. We have a short-term, or temporary disruption of supply. And all of us can take steps to help to make sure that the people in the region are getting the resources that they need.

Jennifer, go ahead.

Q Is the situation with the gas supply really so bad that he needs to tell all Americans not to drive very much? I mean, that seems rather drastic.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's exactly what he said. He said to take steps where you can to conserve energy. He talked about it, and I think he put it in context when he talked about how we have a temporary shortage that we need to address and the American people can help in that regard.

Q If I can just follow up on what Kelly was asking. What the President did for the vast majority of the weekend was get briefings, many of them via videoconference, that he could have easily done here at the White House. Why is that not something -- why is that not the kind of -- just the kind of travel that could be curtailed?

MR. McCLELLAN: For the very reasons that I talked about this weekend, and that the President talked about. It's important for the President to get a firsthand look at the operations that were underway. It's important for the President to see how those operations are being carried out from the federal government's standpoint; how the coordination is going. The President made it clear that we are going to do what we can to learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina, and do everything we can to prevent something like the response that we saw at all levels of government from happening again. That's why he talked about the role of the military today, and how that's one lesson learned from a major catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina. And there are a number of lessons learned.

I think that you all -- some of you were there on the trip and able to see the discussions that took place. It was very important for the President to be there and be able to get a firsthand account of how those operations are being carried out and to hear firsthand some of the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, as well.

Q And what's he doing tomorrow that makes it necessary travel?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll be updating you on the schedule later today, but the President has typically gone to the affected regions when you've had major hurricanes to assess -- to look at some of the damage, himself, as well as visit with victims or those affected, and to provide support or encouragement, to lift the spirits of all those who have been working round-the-clock to help people in need. There are more than 70,000 federal officials that are working with state and local officials and first responders to provide important relief to people in need. And I know the President's visit yesterday to the joint field office in Baton Rouge was very much appreciated. You saw the enthusiasm from all those who have been working 24/7 to help the people of the region rebuild their lives and recover.

Q Earlier today you said the President was thinking of suggesting trigger power for the military to take over in the most severe catastrophe. My question is, would he bypass our constitutional civilian rule over the military to get that kind of authority?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are some laws that are already in place. You have the Insurrection Act, which was originally passed I think back in 1861. The President had authorities before that to quell rebellions or restore law and order if needed. But that was primarily -- the purpose of that act was really aimed at what I just said, quelling rebellions or restoring law and order. What we saw with Hurricane Katrina was a category five hurricane coming up the Gulf Coast. I think it hit as a category four. But this was a major, catastrophic event, and that's what the President is talking about, a situation like Hurricane Katrina. Is there a trigger needed, an automatic trigger for something like a hurricane five --

Q Wouldn't that be dangerous? After all, there is a --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- for something like a --

Q -- precedent, isn't there?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me -- that's why I'm trying to go through this to talk to you about his views and his thinking on this because it is one of the important lessons learned of Hurricane Katrina. And the President is talking about what do we do in the event of a major, catastrophic event when we need to quickly deploy large amounts of resources and assets to help stabilize the situation. That's what he's talking about.

The military is the one organization that has the capability to quickly deploy large amounts of resources and assets to help stabilize a situation in the event of a major catastrophe.

Q But why bypass civilian control? You have instant communications, you can call the President.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we saw some of the problems from Hurricane Katrina. And this is one of the lessons --

Q Why? What --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- this is one of the lessons learned when you have a situation where state and local first responders are doing everything they can to help. But they're also victims. And to a large extent, they are overwhelmed. And so the question becomes, in a situation like that, how do you immediately or quickly establish some stability to help get people the help they need.

Q But can't you assume, then, that the President would know immediately if there was a severe catastrophe in the country?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, what?

Q I said, wouldn't we assume that the President would know immediately that there was something terribly catastrophic?

MR. McCLELLAN: And that's why we need to look at this issue, because right now, the way things are set up, you have the Department of Homeland Security, which is from the federal government standpoint where you have a number of agencies under its umbrella that help assist the first responders. But it's primarily a state and local responsibility -- the initial response efforts, with the full support of the federal government.

And we saw with Hurricane Rita that there was very good coordination going on at all levels of government. And the response -- or the reports that the President was receiving that the response efforts were going well to get people the help that they needed and to save lives.

With Hurricane Katrina, you had a unprecedented natural disaster, one of a size and magnitude like we haven't seen before. It covered a very large area. And the President wants to make sure that we learn the lessons from Hurricane Katrina, and that means at all levels of government. And one of the lessons is, in a situation like this, do you need an organization like the military to come in and quickly stabilize the situation. They're the one organization that can do that, and that's what he wants Congress to consider.

Q They couldn't even reach the President during Katrina.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's false. That is absolutely false.

Q Well, then, isn't that the lesson --

MR. McCLELLAN: In fact, if you go back and look, the President was very engaged during that time period, including on the day -- the morning before the storm hit, when he was participating in a videoconference with federal and state and local officials, and the different -- in the region.

Q Scott, beyond the President's travel tomorrow, what is the President going to do to conserve his own gas use and energy use here by White House staff?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the directive will go out to the entire federal government, and it will be going out later today. And I highlighted some ways that people can take steps to conserve energy. So that's what we'll be looking to do here at the White House, as well.

Q Will you consider fewer cars in the motorcade? We've asked you previously how much gas the motorcade uses and you guys won't tell us. So I'm curious, can you tell us how much gas the motorcade --

MR. McCLELLAN: We will take steps here at the White House, as well. And I'll keep you posted, once the directive goes out.

Q Will you tell us how much gas the motorcade uses?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q How much gas the motorcade uses?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me take your question. I'll look into it.

Q Is the President paying any attention to this protest outside, that's happened over the last few days?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't spoken to him about it. He was tending to business last -- oh, you're talking about over the last few days?

Q Yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he's very much aware of the people here who have come to Washington, D.C., some to express support for the steps that we're taking, and a number of others that expressed a different view. It's the right of the American people to peacefully express their views, and that's what you're seeing here in Washington, D.C.

Q Is he worried that Americans have lost confidence in his ability to conduct the war?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, here in Washington, D.C., this weekend -- I mean, the President talked about some of this the other day in remarks at the Pentagon. He recognizes that there are differences of opinion on Iraq and our role in the broader Middle East. Some people want us to withdraw from Iraq and withdraw from the Middle East. They are well-intentioned. But the President strongly believes that withdrawing from Iraq and the Middle East would make us less safe and make the world more dangerous.

He talked the other day in his remarks about the nature of the enemy that we're up against. The enemy that we're up against has no regard for innocent human life. They have a very clear strategy for wanting to dominate that part of the world. And the Middle East became a breeding ground for terrorism over the last few decades. The terrorists thought that the United States would not respond, that the United States -- they saw in instance after instance where the President talked about the other day, they saw our response to the hostage crisis in Iran; they saw the bombings -- our response to the bombings of the Marine barracks in Lebanon; the first attack in the World Trade Center back in '93; the killing of American soldiers in Somalia.

The President recognized on September 11th that we were engaged in a global war on terrorism, and that meant that we needed to go on the offense and take the fight to the enemy -- and that's exactly what he's done -- and that we needed to work to change the status quo in the Middle East. The status quo is no longer acceptable.

That's why we're working to spread freedom and democracy. The President believes very strongly that freedom is a universal right. And to defeat the enemy we need to continue to take the fight to the terrorists and bring them to justice. And we need to continue to support the advance of freedom and democracy, because free societies are peaceful societies. That's why we're engaged in the Middle East, and withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan and Iraq would be precisely the wrong thing to do.

Q Can I follow up?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, David.

Q Scott, I want to take you back for a moment to the President's comments on how and when he would use the military. As you said you have some existing authority. You have the Insurrection Act. You've got other acts that have taken place since then. And one of the arguments we've heard a fair bit is that there are many things that the military could have done, short of taking a law enforcement role from early on in Katrina. So what exactly is the President looking for? Couldn't he have invoked greater authority for the military before, or in the early days of Katrina under existing law?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, if you look at existing law, I talked about the purpose of existing law. The purpose of existing law really was aimed at quelling rebellions or to restore law and order. And I think in the instances that it has been used -- if you look back over history, it has really been used to enforce civil rights of African Americans. Back in '57, President Eisenhower brought in federal troops and the Arkansas National Guard to desegregate the schools in Little Rock. In 1963, Kennedy forced the -- implemented it to force desegregation at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Now, in '92, President Bush -- former President Bush used it to federalize National Guard troops to quell riots in Los Angeles. But I think the purpose --

Q Isn't this closer to the 1906 example where you had -- when you had troops sent to the earthquake --

MR. McCLELLAN: The purpose that we're talking about here is a major catastrophic event like a category five hurricane, like a disease outbreak of avian flu, for instance -- that's something the President is very focused on -- or a large-scale terrorist attack. And so the President thinks Congress needs to look at this issue and consider the best way to address it. And should we establish some sort of automatic trigger that says the federal government is in charge of stabilizing this situation in the aftermath of a catastrophic-type event. And the one organization, in the President's view, that can do that is the Department of Defense, because they have the logistics and the communications and the resources and assets needed to do so.

Q You offered your comparisons to civil rights cases. Could you go back to another natural disaster? Obviously, the federal troops acting immediately in the San Francisco earthquake, that did not seem to require presidential action.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, these are all issues that we need to look at, and that's why he thinks there needs to be a robust discussion with Congress and do we need to establish some sort of trigger that would automatically say the federal government, and specifically, the military, is the one that will be in charge of stabilizing the situation.

Q Scott, tell me what you mean by automatic --

MR. McCLELLAN: And then the Department of Homeland Security would come back into play once the situation is stabilized, as he said earlier today.

Q What does "automatic" mean here? Does that mean category five versus category four? Does it mean the President, himself --

MR. McCLELLAN: As you are aware, there are instances -- a governor can request us to take certain steps, or the President has the authority to take steps he deems necessary. But this would be, as I described it, more of an automatic trigger, and it's something the President discussed over the weekend with some of his commanders at Northern Command, where it wouldn't be necessary to get a request from the governor or take other action.

Go ahead.

Q Can I follow up on the demonstrations? Why were there arrests -- right now, of the demonstrators? And, also, has the President communicated with any of the demonstrators, especially those who support his cause?

MR. McCLELLAN: Connie, I don't know about what's going on out there right now. We've been focused a number of important immediate priorities. We've been at the Department of Energy, over there participating in briefings on Hurricane Rita and the response efforts. So those are questions you need to direct elsewhere.

Q Is he communicating with those -- especially those who support his cause? Has he said anything --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the American people recognize the importance of what we are working to accomplish in the broader Middle East. Iraq is a key part of establishing a foundation for lasting peace and security. What we're working to do is lay a foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren. And the President has made it very clear that his number one priority is the safety and security of the American people. And we are engaged in a global war. It is a war that is -- that continues. The President said after September 11th, that some would tend to forget. He will not. We are going to stay on the offensive until we win this war, and we're going to work to spread freedom and democracy to address the --

Q How many are you going to kill, in the meantime?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are saving lives. We have liberated some 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I'm sorry, go ahead.

Q Our colleagues are saying that Cindy Sheehan was arrested. Does the President approve of her arrest --

MR. McCLELLAN: I hadn't heard that until just now.

Q Scott, a follow-up on David's question. Colleagues at the Pentagon say that they have not talked to anybody at a senior level in the military who thinks that this idea of an automatic trigger is a good idea.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President talked to senior levels of the military, and they had a good discussion about it.

Q Good discussion. Was there concern raised about this idea of having a trigger without, sort of, an official presidential directive or --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. In fact, that's part of the discussion as I briefed you all over the weekend. He spoke with Admiral Keating and other officials at Northern Command. He was able to get some input from commanders there. He's talked to Secretary Rumsfeld about this, he's talked with state officials -- some state officials about this, and I think they all understand the importance of moving forward and considering how we go about addressing this issue.

Q So you said, yes -- yes, that there was concern expressed?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? Well, there are a lot of issues to address, Dana. There are legal issues involved. You have to look at what the current law is. But we saw some unique and enormous challenges that Katrina presented us with. And that's why the President believes it's important to have a very robust discussion about this and for Congress to consider what steps need to be taken.

Q But would he do this -- if there is a robust discussion and there is something decided on that, would -- put the U.S. military in control of what's going on domestically and the military --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, as he said today, it's to help stabilize the situation.

Q Would the President go over their heads if he thought it was absolutely necessary to put this in place --

MR. McCLELLAN: What we're doing right now is moving forward on a discussion about this, and we'll work with Congress as they consider this. As you are aware, there are two committees that are moving forward on hearings to look at what went wrong and what went right with Hurricane Katrina and to apply lessons learned. And this is an issue that they should look at as they're discussing these issues.

We are also doing a comprehensive review within the federal government. The President directed every Cabinet Secretary to participate fully in the review that is underway, being led by the Homeland Security Council. And so we're looking at lessons learned. That's the purpose of the comprehensive review that we're undertaking. And these are issues that I'm sure that will come up in the context of that, as well. But it's something he continues to discuss with his military leaders and commanders. And it's something we'll be discussing with members of Congress.

Go ahead.

Q Scott, is the President suggesting that he thinks it would make sense to draft another energy bill containing new incentives for companies to build or expand refinery capacity?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he believes it's important to continue acting to address the issue of high energy prices. He spoke about this earlier today. We have taken a number of steps. One of the most important steps we took was to sign the first national energy strategy in a generation. That was an important piece of legislation that will increase domestic supply, that will expand conservation and energy efficiency and that will help expand some of our critical energy infrastructure. And one of the issues he brought up today was the need to expand refining capacity.

Q Will the White House be taking new proposals to the Hill to address that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll keep you posted on the steps that we're taking. But there's additional action that can be taken by members of Congress. One piece of legislation that they can act on is expanding domestic exploration and production in an environmentally sensitive way in ANWR. We're talking about a small footprint within ANWR where they can expand our domestic production.

And other steps that they need -- that we are looking at are the rules and regulations relating to our refineries. There are refineries that the President has visited with that would like to expand. He visited the refinery down at Pascagoula, Mississippi, and was able to get a firsthand look at the operations there and the steps that they were taking in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

And there are U.S. refineries -- officials at U.S. refineries that are saying to the President, we would like to be able to expand our refinery capacity, but under the existing rules and regulations, we cannot. And this is -- that's one of the important needs we need to address. And the President has outlined a number of other initiatives that Congress can act on, as well.

Q The President talked about having a robust discussion, and the phrase seems to have the connotation of debate. And I'm wondering, when he was talking to the military leaders over the weekend if he heard any kind of reservation about the military becoming the lead role and, if you don't want to say there was a dissension, at least a diversity of opinion on the subject with the military commanders he spoke with.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't want to try to speak for everyone within the military, but this is starting the discussion on this important issue. And you heard General Clark, I think, talked about in the briefing the other day at the Joint Task Force Rita in Texas, that the military has the ability to bring in overwhelming resources and quickly get those assets in there.

He had a very good discussion with Admiral Keating and others at the Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And that's why -- there are a lot of issues that need to be looked at in this context, and that's why he was discussing these issues with some of the officers and the commanders at Northern Command. And I'm sure you can direct questions to them, if they want to comment any further.

Q Scott, everybody says we need more of a refining capacity, but nobody can give you a number. And the President must know how much refining capacity -- what's the magic number?

MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't bring a magic number out with me. I'll see if there's any additional information to provide on that.

Go ahead, Richard.

Q Scott, if you have one of these restructurings, would it require creation of an office in the Pentagon to just respond to major disasters, so that you have a unit that would be ready and willing to --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Northern Command was set up after the attacks of September 11th. It was set up for the purpose of defending the homeland. And that includes helping to defend the homeland when it comes to catastrophic events. They have played an important role in Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, and it's Northern Command that was responsible for overseeing the operations of the United States military in those two hurricanes.

General Honore heads Joint Task Force Katrina; General Clark heads the Joint Task Force Rita. And General Honore has been the point person for the military, and he reports to Admiral Keating at Northern Command. So you already have the structure in place. And that's what the President was talking about some over the weekend and again some today. You have the Northern Command in place that has a large amount of resources and assets at their disposal; it has the logistical and communications capability needed to quickly deploy those resources and assets into a situation and bring about some stability. And that's what the President is talking about, that you already have that structure in place.

Q Scott, I have a two-part: The New York Post reports that at a meeting sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, New York's Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel declared: "George Bush is our Bull Connor." And my question: Since The Post says Rangel should be ashamed of himself, I'm wondering if the White House agreed?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen those comments.

Q At the same Black Caucus meeting, Harry Belafonte said, our foreign policy has made a wreck of this planet. To which Senator Hillary Clinton said, what Harry said is so important. And my question: Does the White House --

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I haven't seen these comments. We've been focused -- we've been focused on --

Q It was last Thursday --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the hurricanes.

Q Have you missed it? Don't you read The New York Post?

MR. McCLELLAN: There are a lot of priorities we have that we're focused on right now, and I just haven't seen those comments, so I don't want to weigh in until I've had an opportunity to see the comments.

Go ahead.

Q Scott, when the President said -- said this morning that he had talked to refiners, what have the refiners offered the President as an explanation of why they aren't doing more capacity?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, as a general matter, talking about some of the rules and regulations that are in place that are overly burdensome that prevent them from being able to even expand at their own sites. We also want to be able to build new refineries in the United States. It's a real problem when it comes to supply, that we don't have the capacity to -- when we have the oil to refine it into gasoline. And the demand is high for a number of reasons that the President has outlined, not only here, but across the globe, in places like China and India.

Q I guess what I'm getting at is have they brought forth some sort of laundry list that he has taken and given to Secretary Bodman, for example, to say do something --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Department of Energy and the National Economic Council under Al Hubbard -- Secretary Bodman and the Department of Energy and Al Hubbard, here, within the White House, are looking at these issues, and are looking at steps that we can take to help expand that refinery capacity from the federal level because we want to look at these rules and regulations and look at steps that we can take to help encourage the expansion of the refinery capacity.

Q Think something will come out of that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Think something will come out of that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's something we're very much focused on. The President has talked about it at length previously, not just today; but it's something we've been working on for some time now. And, certainly, we have to look at the energy strategy we've put in place and steps that can be taken in that, as well.

Go ahead, Goyal.

MR. McCLELLAN: Scott, President of Iran called the Prime Minister of India on IAEA. The Prime Minister of India told the Iranian President that Iran should pull their act together as far as the transfer of nuclear technology or the spread of nuclear weapons. And India in Vienna, Austria working with the European Union and the United States as far as Iran -- the spread of nuclear technology is concerned, case went to the U.N. Security Council. My question is, what does President think about India's stand now with the United States and with the European Union and a clear message to Iranian --

MR. McCLELLAN: We appreciate the support. The world is saying to Iran that it is time to come clean. The world has put Iran on notice with this resolution. It is unacceptable the way Iran is behaving. And if it does not come into compliance, then the matter is going to be referred to the United Nations Security Council. The resolution clearly spelled that out.

Iran for two decades has hid their nuclear activities from the international community and failed to comply with their international obligations. They need to abide by their international obligations, and they need to abide by their agreements with the Europeans. We continue to support the diplomatic efforts of the Europeans to resolve this matter. But you saw at the International Atomic Energy Agency that there is a growing majority of nations that recognize Iran's noncompliance must be addressed. And if they continue to fail to comply with their international obligations, then the matter is going to the United Nations Security Council. That was clearly stated in the resolution that was passed.

The resolution reflects the international community's deep concern about Iran's pattern of deception and concealment. And we will not tolerate it.

Q I have another question also. Just for the President, as a friend, I don't think I would criticize my friend, President Bush, politically, like General Musharraf did that time in (inaudible) before he came to the United Nations. What he said was really that women in Pakistan are treated better than in the U.S. And every 90 seconds, woman is raped in the U.S. And look at what's happening in Louisiana.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think this issue came up at the State Department yesterday. And the United States is a leader when it comes to speaking out about violence against women, and taking steps to prevent it. And that is a message we state very clearly across the world. And in terms of the specific comments, I think that the government of Pakistan has addressed that matter and disputed some of the characterizations that were made.

Our National Security Advisor is traveling in the region and visiting with Afghan and Pakistani officials and talking about ways we can continue to work together on important priorities.

Go ahead, Greg.

Q Scott, the President -- is the President's call for fuel conservation a temporary one? Or is he asking Americans to permanently change their behavior and their energy usage?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are steps that -- in the energy bill that we passed, to, as I said, expand conservation, and there are steps that -- or initiatives that the President has outlined that are important steps that we can take to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. This has been a high priority for the President from day one, and he has spelled out a number of steps that we can take when it comes to addressing the root causes of high energy prices. We need to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy.

We can take steps to do so by expanding domestic exploration and production, but by also encouraging energy efficiency and conservation. That's why the President has put forward proposals such as his tax credit for hybrid, clean diesel vehicles. We've moved forward on new rules when it comes to the corporate average fuel economy to increase fuel economy for light trucks and SUVs. We've moved forward on renewable fuel standards to expand the use of ethanol and biodiesel. And the President has an initiative to move forward on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. He dedicated a significant amount of resources to that initiative. And we are going to continue to act to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. And conservation is an important part of that. And also looking to alternative sources of energy.

Go ahead.

Q In Belfast today it was announced that the IRA is putting arms beyond use verifiably. The White House made a statement -- welcoming it. Do you have anything more to add? And will you continue -- will President Bush continue to employ Mitchell Reiss as a special envoy to the area?

MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. One, we welcome today's statement by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning that the Provisional Irish Republican Army has comprehensively and verifiably disarmed. It marks an historic day for Northern Ireland, and is very encouraging for all those who support the peace process, the rule of law, and a Northern Ireland free from sectarian violence. It also marks an opportunity for all parties to renew efforts to reach a sustainable political settlement in Northern Ireland.

So the decommissioning by the IRA is a critical first step in fulfilling the terms of their July 28th statement to pursue its goals through exclusively peaceful and democratic means. And it must be followed by actions demonstrating the Republican movement's unequivocal commitment to the rule of law and to the renunciation of all paramilitary and criminal activities. We remain steadfast in our support for the peace process and the work of the British and Irish governments to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation for the people of Northern Ireland under the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.

Q Will you continue to employ Mitchell Reiss as a special envoy?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any update on that at this point, but we'll continue to work closely with the British and Irish governments as we move forward. And he's been -- played an important role.

Thank you.

END 2:06 P.M. EDT

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