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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 5, 2005

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route Greensboro, North Carolina

11:49 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: All right. Let me start off by talking about the plant that the President will be going to today. The President will be going to the Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery plan in Kernersville. And this is a plant that produces hydraulic excavators that are used for home building and demolition work. It is the largest manufacturing facility in North America for this kind of excavating equipment. And this is a company that, as I mentioned, I think, the other day, has hired hundreds of employees over the last few years because of the growing economy. And the tour of the plant, when the President goes to the plant, he's going to tour an assembly line of the hydraulic excavator machine from the beginning of the process to the end of that process, when it's the finished product.

And then he'll make remarks to the workers. I talked a little bit about that the other day. Just to reiterate a couple of things, the President will talk about how our economy is growing stronger. We've seen some 4.5 million jobs created since May of 2003; the unemployment rate is at 5 percent, down to 5 percent, below the averages of the '70s, '80s and '90s.

I think the President will give a lot of credit to the hard work and ingenuity of American workers and entrepreneurs, and it's because of their hard work and ingenuity and productivity, and because of our sound policies of tax relief and spending restraint that our economy is in good shape. And one thing the President will do in his remarks is talk about how we have a foundation of growth in place that will allow us to take steps to make American workers' and families' lives even better. And he'll talk about the importance of addressing their energy needs, their health care needs, moving forward on pension reform, making sure that we're fully funding those pensions and protecting their pensions, and things of that nature.

And one thing that he will do in his remarks, too, is directly take on some of the pessimists, the pessimists that we've seen throughout the last century who have said that our best days are behind us. America's workers and entrepreneurs have shown time and again that they are wrong, that we have the best workers in the world. And when we pursue pro-growth policies, those workers are able to realize their full potential and pursue their dreams. And that's some of what the President will talk about. He'll also take on the economic isolationists who think that we should retreat from opening markets to our products and workers and services in his remarks, as well.

And that's just a quick overview of today. With that, I'd like to turn it over to Al, see if he has anything to add, or take some of your questions on the economy. Oh, one other thing, too. A number of administration officials are going to be going out talking about the economy. I know that Secretary Snow and Secretary Gutierrez have speeches, I think, on Thursday -- in Washington for Secretary Snow and I think in Atlanta for Secretary Gutierrez, and I think Secretary Gutierrez has another event on Friday. And I'll try to get you some of the additional events that people will be doing.

Q -- Secretary Snow on here?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, Secretary Snow and Secretary Gutierrez are with us, as well as two members of Congress.

Anything to add?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Only that the numbers keep coming out very strong. We had new numbers today on the service industry. And it continues to be strong, and the Christmas season appears to be -- it has started off strong, and we expect consumer sales to continue to be strong. And this economy is on a sustainable pace. We expect '06 to be strong, as well.

Q What about companies like GM that have announced all these layoffs? How do you expect that to affect the economy?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Well, obviously, GM has some big challenges right now, primarily because they make automobiles that are less fuel-efficient. And with higher energy prices, the American people are interested in more fuel-efficient cars. It's unfortunate that General Motors is going to have to be laying off at the same time Toyota and other companies are expanding in the U.S. So the important thing is that the overall economy is strong. And we're very confident and -- in General Motors and Ford, they've been very important companies over the past century, and we're confident they'll continue to be very important and very successful companies.

Q Do you think the federal government ought to come up with some sort of bail-out for the auto makers, or do you think the market out to be able to sort this out?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Again, the -- GM and Ford have very successfully succeeded in the marketplace, and we expect them to continue to succeed in the marketplace. There doesn't need to be any -- they don't need a bail-out. All they need is the time to restructure, and we're confident they'll be very successful.

MR. McCLELLAN: I forgot to mention the President will talk about the steps that we can take to help people do even better is also job training, and for those workers who do want to seek other jobs or have lost their jobs, that we make sure they have the education they need and the skills they need to be able to fill those jobs.

Q Something on Rice?

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, he's done here. You're done.


Q This morning, Rice talked at Andrews -- I don't know if you know what she said.


Q Okay.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm aware of her statement. Well aware of her statement.

Q She said that --

MR. McCLELLAN: That was something that was part of an interagency process, in responding --

Q -- that the intelligence agency is getting some information from a small number of dangerous detainees that have prevented terrorist attacks, both in Europe and in the United States. Can you shed any more light on that? Can you give us any more detail on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we've talked about some in the past, but I think you can understand why it's important, then -- she talked about this in her remarks -- that we don't get into discussing intelligence matters of that nature. We're engaged in an ongoing war on terrorism. We face a very dangerous and ruthless enemy, as she talked about in her remarks, and we have a responsibility to do everything that is lawful within our power to protect the American people. And there are a lot of sensitive issues surrounding the war on terrorism, and talking about intelligence matters could compromise ongoing operations, and we don't want to do anything like that.

Q Like more than one country in Europe?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think I just -- what do you mean by, "more than one country"?

Q She was talking about terrorist attacks being prevented in Europe, so we're talking about more than one country, is it several countries?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to -- if the intelligence community wants to talk further about it, I'll let them. But I think we've talked about some of the plots that have been disrupted in the past. But in terms of talking about specific intelligence that we get from people that have been captured on the battlefield, I think it's best that we don't -- and she talked about that in her statement -- because it could compromise things in the ongoing war on terrorism. And I think the American people understand that.

Q She also said that whatever the United States did, that the European counties had cooperated. By saying that, doesn't that just inflame the rift?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think what she said, was she talked about how we have and will continue to respect the sovereignty of other nations. The issue here really to focus on is, what are we doing to protect our citizens. That's the highest responsibility of any government. And that's how we have to look at this. We are engaged in a different kind of war against a different kind of enemy, and we have to be able to adapt in order to face that enemy. And each country has to make their own choices. And she emphasized that in her remarks. But we all should do what we can to work together in order to prevail in this war on terrorism and defeat the terrorists.

Q Sharing the blame with Europe then, it sounds as if she's --

MR. McCLELLAN: Sharing the blame? I'm not sure what you're referring to. We are acting to protect the American people and working with other countries to protect their citizens, as well. This is a global war on terrorism. We have seen terrorists attack throughout the world, and this is an ongoing battle. This is a very dangerous enemy. And we all -- all of us in government, around the world, have a responsibility to do what we can to protect our citizens.

Q Scott, the Saddam Hussein trial today -- is the President aware of the delays? Is he concerned that Saddam Hussein can get a fair trial, or that this is being excessively delayed?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is a trial by the -- that is being conducted by Iraqi officials. Saddam Hussein is going to face Iraqi justice. The Iraqi people are holding him accountable for his crimes against humanity and the atrocities he committed against the Iraqi people. And that's the way it should be. There is -- this is an Iraqi court. And, yes, the President is aware of the developments.

Q But not concerned?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's up to the Iraqi people to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, and that's what they're doing through the special tribunal.

Q So he thinks it's working, the tribunal is working?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's important that there be a -- that due process be afforded to the defendants and that there be a fair trial. And there are a lot of countries -- a number of countries that worked to provide technical advice to the special tribunal and set it up so that it was based on -- so that the tribunal was based on the rule of law and based on international standards and based on providing people due process. And those are important steps that they need to continue to take. So, yes.

Q Is the administration going to delay efforts to make the tax cut permanent until 2007 or 2008?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Is the administration going to delay efforts to try to make the tax cuts permanent --

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, one of the things the President will talk about in his remarks today is the importance of making those tax cuts permanent. Our economy is in good shape. But we've got to continue to act on pro-growth policies. And if we don't make those tax cuts permanent, that means a big tax hike for the American people, for American families. It's important that we move forward quickly on them, because it's about providing certainty so that people can plan for their future. And that's a very important aspect of it. The last thing we need to do right now is raise taxes. That would seriously hurt our economy at a time when it is seeing -- when it is growing strong.

And so the President will talk about the importance of making those cuts permanent in his remarks.

Q How likely is it this year --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're working with Congress on these issues. There are some in Washington -- the President will talk about this in his remarks -- who are advocating that we ought to be raising taxes at this time, and that would only harm our economy at a time when it is moving along in a very strong way.

Q What about fundamental tax reform? Is that -- is the President going to --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Al and I actually talked about that in the briefing the other day. I mean, I think we pretty much covered that issue the other day.

Q Okay.

MR. McCLELLAN: Anything else?

Q What's your reaction to the 9/11 former commissioner saying that you're receiving failing grades?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's important to look at what they're -- some of what they're talking about. First of all, the best way to protect the American people is to take the fight to the enemy, to stay on the offensive. We are taking the fight to the enemy abroad, and by doing so, that is keeping them from plotting and planning to attack inside America. Because of our -- the great work of our intelligence community and our first responders and our men and women in uniform, we have been fortunate -- we are grateful that we haven't been attacked since September 11th. But we have made -- we have taken significant steps to better protect the American people at home. There is more to do. This is the President's highest responsibility.

One of the issues, I know, that the commission talked about, in terms of what you used as an example as an F, was the issue of funding, making sure that that funding is based on risk and based on the threat and that the funds are going based on a risk-based assessment. And that's something we've been working with Congress on to make sure that we are doing. And there's more that needs to be done there to make sure that the funding is prioritized and the resources are dedicated to the greatest risks. And that's something we will continue to do.

Q Who is the President's chief economic --

MR. McCLELLAN: But, I mean, we are not satisfied. There's more we've got to do to continue protecting the American people. And we have been acting and implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. We have acted on 37 of 39 recommendations that apply to the executive branch. There are an additional two that apply to Congress. And that's what -- we will continue to move forward on those steps.

Q Is Secretary -- Secretary Snow, you said, is on board.


Q Is he the President's chief economic spokesman?


Q So why was he not back here talking to us? Is there any reason? Is he going to speak today, or is there --

MR. McCLELLAN: He's speaking this week. I just brought Al Hubbard back to speak to you all.

Q Okay, okay.

MR. McCLELLAN: No reason other than that.

Q Okay.

MR. McCLELLAN: Anything else? Thank you.

END 12:02 P.M. EST

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