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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 10, 2006

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

12:28 P.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I think that the American people today are seeing that Judge Alito is someone that we can all be proud of, and someone that will do an outstanding job on our nation's highest court. He is answering questions in a very open and straightforward manner. The Judiciary Committee began the hearing yesterday, and I think Judge Alito, very clearly, summed up the foundation of his judicial philosophy when he made it clear that "no one is above the law and no one is beneath the law." I think that's the kind of openmindedness and fairness that the American people expect. And so we look forward to continuing to see the hearings move forward, and then the Senate moving forward on his confirmation.

And with that, I will be glad to go to your questions.

Q What's the White House doing, and the administration overall, in response to Iran breaking the seals at its Isfahan enrichment plant?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are consulting with our European friends and others about how to move forward. Any resumption -- any resumption -- of enrichment and reprocessing activities would be a further violation of the Paris agreement that Iran agreed to. Such steps would be a serious escalation of the nuclear issue by the regime in Iran. There is serious concern throughout the international community about the regime's behavior, and given Iran's history of concealing and hiding their nuclear activities from the international community, and its continued noncompliance of its safeguard obligations, such concern is well-founded. It's also why the international community has sought objective guarantees from Iran that the regime is not developing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian program.

And so we are in close contact with the Europeans and others about how to move forward. The International Atomic Energy Agency, last fall, found that Iran was in noncompliance of its safeguard obligations. There's an obligation in the statute of the Atomic Energy Agency to report such noncompliance to the Security Council. Everybody in the international community is sending a clear message to Iran that it needs to abide by the Paris agreement, come back to negotiations, act in good faith, and provide objective guarantees that it can be trusted and that it's not developing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian program.

Q Do you think you'll get an emergency meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors and do you think that they will --

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, we're in discussion with the Europeans and others about how to move forward. This is a serious matter. It's a concern. You've heard the concern expressed by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency; you've heard the concerns expressed by the European-3 -- Britain, France, Germany; you've heard concern expressed by Russia; you've heard concern expressed by many throughout the international community about the steps that they are taking.

Q Even if you got a referral to the Security Council, where can you really go with it? You got one a couple, three years ago on North Korea, and the Chinese stood in the way of any action.

MR. McCLELLAN: This is about Iran and Iran's continued non-compliance and its continued behavior that is moving in the wrong direction. And there are options that are available to us if Iran does not come back to negotiations. We are trying to urge Iran to abide by its agreements and get back to negotiations. If it continues down this road and the negotiations have run their course, then there is only one option to pursue, and that is referral to the Security Council. And that's what we will be talking with our -- are talking about with our European friends and others.

Q But if North Korea is any indication, there's a good chance that the most prominent option that you have is not going to go anywhere, because a member of the Security Council, China, will block any action on it. What do you do?

MR. McCLELLAN: There is a growing majority within the international community that is telling Iran that if it does not come into compliance, if it does not negotiate in good faith, there is only one option that will be left, and that is referral to the Security Council. And then that matter would be discussed at the Security Council. I'm not going to try to speculate about what happens at this point. At this point, we are in discussions with Europeans and others about how to move forward and get Iran to get back to the negotiating table.

Q Scott, the President has said that the United States really doesn't have much leverage against Iran at this point. Do you still feel that's the case?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Iran is the one that is isolating itself from the rest of the international community. And the international community has come together and is sending a clear message to Iran. There are additional steps that can be taken if Iran continues on the path that it is currently pursuing. This regime is out of step with its people, and it's further isolating the country from the rest of the international community.

Q But does the President believe --

MR. McCLELLAN: He has said previously --

Q -- that there's not a lot of leverage?

MR. McCLELLAN: I would look back at exactly what he has said previously. But what we are doing is working with the international community and supporting the efforts of the international community to resolve this matter in a peaceful and diplomatic way.

Q When the President was last in Germany, and he met with Chancellor Schr der, that was the time that he really sort of threw himself behind this idea of the EU-3 taking the lead role in this.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.

Q Has he reached a conclusion that apparently that diplomatic channel has no longer -- is not working?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're discussing how to move forward with our -- Europeans. That's why I said that everybody has sent a clear message to Iran, the Europeans and others, that they need to come back to the negotiating table, they need to adhere to the Paris agreement, and they need to provide objective guarantees about their nuclear program, so that we know that they're not trying to develop nuclear weapons. And that's the message that has been sent to Iran. If Iran continues on this path, and we realize that the negotiations have run their course, I think the international community is prepared to move to the next step. They've already been found in non-compliance. And being found in non-compliance by a growing majority of the International Atomic Energy Agency leads to one more step if they don't come back to the table.

Q Did Britain's Foreign Secretary take military action off the table today?

MR. McCLELLAN: You'd have to ask them what their views are. I haven't see the full context of his comments.

Q So you don't have any interpretation of what Jack Straw said today?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll, we're trying to resolve this, we're all working together trying to resolve this in a diplomatic manner, and that's been our focus.

Q Is the U.S. taking military action off the table? Is the U.S. taking unilateral military action against --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President has made it pretty clear, he said previously Iran is not Iraq. We are working with the international community to resolve this in a peaceful and diplomatic manner. That's what we've been doing and that's what we continue to do. In terms of options, you know the President has already addressed that. The President has made it clear we never take options off the table.

Q So you have to build a coalition again?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I just answered your question. You're jumping way ahead.

Q On Iraq, the President said today we were going to have complete victory. And in view of the daily attrition, people dying -- Iraqis, Americans -- every day in Iraq, has he weighed the human cost and is he willing to go to the end at any price?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and I think that the Iraqi people have demonstrated that they want to live in freedom, that they want to chart their own future. Where our focus is right now, Helen, is on continuing to move forward and support the Iraqi people as they work to form a new government. That's why the President talked about the importance of building a government that is inclusive and representative of all Iraqis -- a government of national unity, as he talked about it. He talked about that in detail in his remarks.

In terms of the sacrifices that have been made, we mourn the loss of our men and women in uniform who have sacrificed, but it's for an important cause --

Q But he's going to have another year of sacrifice.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the terrorists, I think you have seen, clearly understand how high the stakes are in Iraq. What Iraq will be is an example to the rest of the broader Middle East, which has been a troubled region when it comes to freedom. They will be an example when it comes to freedom --

Q Do you think other Arab countries are going to welcome an invasion by America?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- they will be an example when it comes to freedom. When it comes to freedom, Iraq will serve as an example. And by advancing freedom in the broader Middle East, we are laying the foundations of peace for generations to come. And that's what the President talked about in his remarks.

Q Is there any Arab country who would want America to come in --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are steps that have been taken by countries across the broader Middle East, with the exception of primarily two.

Q The President said there is a difference between responsible critics and irresponsible critics. Who is being irresponsible? Who is he talking about?

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think the statements by some are very clear, in terms of the irresponsible statements --

Q Is he talking about Senate Democrats?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- that they made. We've been through this before in this room, and that's what -- the point the President was making. I think we very clearly spelled out some of the irresponsible statements that have been made in the past. What's important is that we all focus on working together to succeed in Iraq, because a free Iraq will be a major blow to the ambitions of the terrorists, and be a major victory in the broader global war on terrorism.

Q Were Congressman Murtha's comments responsible?

MR. McCLELLAN: We've already addressed that issue. And General Pace addressed some of his more recent remarks, about the message that sends to our troops. And I would leave it with what General Pace said.

Q Can you -- would the President believe those are irresponsible remarks? Does that hurt the morale of the troops?

MR. McCLELLAN: We've already been through those remarks. But withdrawal is the wrong message to send to the enemy, to our troops, and to others. And that's why the President has made it clear that success in Iraq is critical to our efforts in the war on terrorism. That's why we have a strategy for victory. And we're moving forward on all three elements of that strategy -- supporting the Iraqi people as they build a democratic and peaceful country.

Q He's also talked about timetables giving the message to the enemy that you don't want to give, and conditions-based timetables.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.

Q And yet today, he said by spring there will be a few thousand fewer troops; by the end next year --

MR. McCLELLAN: If conditions on the ground permit.

Q Exactly, if conditions on the ground permit. But that's still, in a sense, a timetable. That's still letting the adversaries say --

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I disagree with you characterizing it that way. The President has made it very clear that our troop levels will be based on the recommendations of our commanders. If they need more troops, he made it very clear again in his remarks today, they will have more troops. But the commanders will be the ones who will make the recommendations.

Q But, hopefully, by the end of this year you'll have fewer troops.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, they've made some recommendations already, and we're in the process of reducing some of the troop levels because the Iraqi security forces are in better position to control more territory and take the lead more in the fight. And then our forces can also step back more and focus on going after the Zarqawis and other terrorists who are seeking to derail the transition to democracy.

Q So if they're not in any position to take over more territory, more troops, maybe? That's conditions-based, as well?

MR. McCLELLAN: It will be up to the commanders on the ground.

Q Two questions. One, NATO has decided that they will withdraw their forces or relieve ones from the areas of Pakistan. But Pakistanis in the Kashmir area, they are blaming and claiming that billions of dollars that went for their help, it has not reached them, and they are still in trouble, and they have no food or -- and how can NATO withdraw --

MR. McCLELLAN: The United States, and I think many in the international community, are continuing to stand with the people of Pakistan and help them as they recover from the earthquakes. This was a terrible earthquake that had a large human cost to it. And we have provided significant support both from our military and from charitable organizations to help people in the region who are in need, and to help them recover and to help them rebuild. And we are firmly committed to doing so. There's also been a private effort that's been initiated to provide additional funding to those international non-governmental organizations that have a proven record of helping those who are in need.

Q Going back to Iran. Iranian President, why he's behaving like this, because he thinks and he did say in the statement that China is behind Iran, and China is helping Iran's nuclear weapons and to produce, and they will back Iran all the way through United Nations Security Council.

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen those exact comments suggesting that.

Q The President referred to countries that have not fulfilled or not lived up to their obligations to Iraq financially. What countries are they?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't want to get into names here from the podium. There was a Madrid conference, and a number of countries stepped up and said, we are ready to support the Iraqi people as they move forward on building a democratic country. And there were pledges of, I think, more than $13 billion. And there are many countries that have yet to fulfill their commitments, and what the President was emphasizing today is that we encourage you to move forward as quickly as possible to fulfill that commitment to help the Iraqi people. Then there are others at the conference, as well, that did not make pledges, and we would urge those countries to consider making pledges to help with Iraq's reconstruction.

Q You don't want to name any right now?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't want to get into naming names from the podium.

Q Scott, back on the responsible or irresponsible, that distinction, why is the President bringing that up again? There have been recent comments --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to take on directly those who make such comments. We have time and time again. And this has been --

Q -- have there been more recent --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is something the President has been talking about in the series of speeches he's been giving, because it's important to, one, set the record straight and to make clear that, look, we should have a vigorous and open debate about this matter, but irresponsible comments have no place in this debate. And that's what -- the American people are there to hold people to account for such comments. And this is about taking on directly those who would make such comments. But, no, I don't have anything new, other than what we've already addressed.

Q And what's the -- an update on Prime Minister Sharon? What's your understanding and what can you tell us?

MR. McCLELLAN: I know what you know from the doctors who are taking care of Prime Minister Sharon. We continue to keep him in our thoughts and prayers, and we pray for his recovery. There appear to be some signs of improvement and that's encouraging.

Q Does the President think that a two-state solution is still possible without his leadership?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've made it very clear that we believe that the desire for peace in the Middle East is wide and deep, in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories. And there's an Acting Prime Minister that is in place. We have two high-ranking officials from the administration who are, if not already there, on the way to the Middle East to continue talking about important priorities relating to the peace process. They're focusing on the upcoming elections for -- the Palestinian legislative elections, and they will be in the region meeting with officials from both parties. And we're certainly in close contact with the Acting Prime Minister and will continue to be.

Q Can I just follow up on the speech? Tomorrow, the speech -- is that going to have a different focus than the one we had today?

MR. McCLELLAN: I would describe it as a follow-on to today's remarks. This is an opportunity for the President to continue talking to the American people about our strategy for victory in Iraq and the way forward in 2006, and what to expect in 2006. So, tomorrow in Louisville, he will be visiting with the people of Kentucky about these priorities and about our plan. And he looks forward to the opportunity to go there tomorrow.

Q Let me, if I can, also -- this admonition to politicians to -- not to be irresponsible, do you expect that to be a continuing election-year theme as the President gets further into --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll see if people continue to engage in irresponsible attacks. And if they do, we will take those on directly. We're not going to shy away from it.

Q Has the President had his lunch yet with the Vice President, and any updates on how he's --

MR. McCLELLAN: He was having lunch with the Vice President. The Vice President is doing very well. He's been -- he was here yesterday afternoon and participated in a lengthy meeting last night with our combatant commanders who are in town. This is an annual meeting that takes place, and he's been attending meetings throughout the morning, including the intelligence briefing that he attends on a daily basis with the President. And they are having their weekly lunch right now.

Q Is he still using the cane today?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Is the Vice President still using the cane today?

MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't notice because I've only seen him when he's sitting down today. (Laughter.)

Q Scott, a two-part: There has been considerable national attention to Vermont's Judge Edward Cashman, who sentenced Mark Hulett, who was found guilty of four years of raping a girl, beginning when she was seven years old, that this judge sentenced this child rapist to only 60 days in jail. And my question: Surely, the President shares the national outrage at this sentence and believes, as do a number of Vermont legislators, that this judge should resign, doesn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I don't know if I've had an opportunity to look at this specific case. I haven't kept up with every case that's occurring across the United States. That might be a surprise to you. But certainly, we take such crimes very seriously. In fact, one thing the President is going to be focusing on this afternoon is combating the trafficking in persons, which is a terrible crime in which people are subject to being put into a modern day form of slavery. And in some instances, children are raped. And that's -- that cannot be tolerated. And he'll be talking about some of that in remarks later this afternoon when he signs the Reauthorization Act to help us better combat the trafficking in persons.

Q Scott, the circulation-dwindling Washington Post has just joined a church in re-entering the burgeoning field of radio broadcasting. And my question, does the President believe there is very much compatibility at all between The Washington Post and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? And if so, what?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's news to me, Les. But we'll leave the criticism of radio broadcasting to the radio broadcaster like yourself. (Laughter.)

Go ahead, Sarah. Go ahead, Sarah.

Q I have two questions, please.

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.

Q Published reports say that South America is turning left, led by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and supported by the new President of Bolivia. Is the President concerned that the democracies so close to home are in jeopardy? And how does he intend to counter what's happening south of the border?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's been a very high priority for this administration. In fact, we just had a trip not long ago to the Summit of the Americas in Argentina. And one of the areas that we focus on with countries throughout the hemisphere is making sure that we're continuing to strengthen democratic institutions. The advance of democracy is important not only abroad, but within our own hemisphere. And that means the commitment to free and open elections, the commitment to the rule of law, fighting corruption -- those are efforts that we have been working very closely with other countries in the hemisphere on to move forward.

Q Following up on Les's question yesterday, has your mother absolved you of your political support for her, knowing that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Has she done what for you?

Q Absolved you, has she absolved you --

Q -- of your political support for her, knowing that your proper loyalty lies with the President and his choice? If so, will you ever again be invited to Mom's for dinner? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: You know, the President always said, listen to your mother, and I've heeded that advice for a long time.

Q Scott, why are there not any U.N. peacekeepers in Iraq, and why are there not members of NATO supporting the U.S. troops, especially at a time when the number of troops from the United States --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there is support that NATO is providing in terms of training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. So I think that ignores some of what the role is that NATO is playing. Certainly, the United Nations has played a role when it comes to the monitoring of the election process and we appreciate those efforts.

Q -- peacekeepers, the Blue Helmets, why aren't they helping us?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the solution here is to train and equip Iraqi security forces. That's the solution for moving forward. And there are a number of countries that are helping, a number of countries that are members of NATO, as you point out. And NATO has committed to play a role, and is playing a role, when it comes to the training situation of Iraqi security forces. And we very much appreciate those efforts. There's always more that everybody can do to support the Iraqi people. I think the Iraqi people have shown through their determination and courage that they want to chart their own future, that they want to live in freedom. And all of us should stand by the Iraqi people as they move forward to do so.

Q Scott, I have a one-part question. In general, it seems like this administration's definition of --

MR. McCLELLAN: I thought it was going to be about my mother. (Laughter.)

Q In general, it seems like this administration's definition of the irresponsible comment on the war is people who disagree with it. Can --


Q -- you point to an example of someone who disagrees, but does it in the proper --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, the President has pointed to examples in the past, and we pointed to examples --

Q Who?

MR. McCLELLAN: He talked about some of those who are protesting the wars who have long held a view that we shouldn't have made the decision to go into Iraq. And he respects their disagreement. But he disagrees strongly with their view, and he has specifically talked about that in remarks.

Q Is anyone who talks about withdrawal talking irresponsibly?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Is anybody who --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I wouldn't characterize it that way. But we have said that withdrawal sends the wrong message.

Q So it's irresponsible to talk about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I didn't say that. You have to look at each time we have said people have made irresponsible comments. There are some that have made irresponsible comments suggesting that we don't have a strategy in place for winning in Iraq. And they have been briefed on that very strategy. We've talked about that in the past.

Q Can I just follow on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me go to Victoria --

Q Scott, how closely was the President following this morning's Alito hearings?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's had some meetings and he had a speech a short time ago, so he's had a pretty full schedule this morning. But he was catching some of the hearings a short time ago in the private dining room, back off from the Oval Office. I think that was probably around 11:30 a.m., that time frame, he was watching some of the hearings. And I expect he'll try to catch some coverage later in the day.

Q They've already started to get a little bit heated. Does the President concede that the hearings can be heated and dignified at the same time?


Q So when we heard yesterday about it being a dignified hearing, were there any senators in particular that the President was thinking of as not being dignified?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, were there what?

Q Were there any senators in particular who the President was thinking of when --

MR. McCLELLAN: The President was saying that he hopes that there will be a civil and dignified hearing. This is for our nation's highest court and the American people expect the hearing to be conducted in a fair and dignified way. I think there has been a history of doing so in the United States Senate. There have been some who have engaged in inaccurate comments and dishonest attacks, certainly a number of groups that are outside the mainstream, and some who have sought to inject partisan politics into the Judiciary. The President believes that the Judiciary and the confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee should be above partisan politics. And that's only the point he's making.

Q But in terms of the actual senators, themselves, they should not be in the least concerned that if they do raise their voices or get heated, that that would be considered undignified?

MR. McCLELLAN: The senators can ask whatever they want. That's the important role that they play when it comes to the confirmation process. They have a very important role to play and there should be a vigorous debate and a vigorous discussion. And I made that point yesterday; I've made it again today. And I think certainly the American people are seeing that Judge Alito welcomes those questions and has answered those questions in a very open and straightforward way, and they are seeing that Judge Alito is someone who has complete mastery of constitutional law and American jurisprudence. They're seeing that he is someone who clearly understands the role of a judge, and he is someone who brings great experience to the bench -- more experience than any nominee in the past 70 years. That's why he got the highest rating from the American Bar Association, which Senate Democrats called the gold standard for judicial nominees.

Q Scott, I just want to come back to this point about irresponsibility, because there seems to be --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're not talking about you.

Q Not today, anyway. (Laughter.) But this goes back to your predecessor, Ari, saying at one point that people need to watch what they say. And this seems to be kind of a continuing theme from this White House. A lot of people might say that it's bad for troop morale and irresponsible to say that American troops would be greeted with candies and flowers, when that didn't happen, or that there were weapons of mass destruction when there weren't any. In other words, the President seems to want to define the terms of the debate about a war that he knows is controversial, in no small part because of representations he made to the country --

MR. McCLELLAN: I reject that completely, and that's just complete distortion of what he said.

Q What's a distortion?

MR. McCLELLAN: You're ignoring exactly what he said. The President said that the American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it, and they know the difference between --

Q Then why does he have to prescribe what it is?

MR. McCLELLAN: So you're not letting me have an honest, open debate here. I welcome the opportunity to do this -- but they know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted -- we welcome that. In fact, the President has met with some of those honest critics. He met with a number of them just last week. And partisan critics who claim we acted in Iraq because of oil, or that we acted because of Israel, or that we acted based on misleading the American people --

Q Who has made that charge? Which Democrat in Congress has said he did it for oil or for Israel?

MR. McCLELLAN: He didn't single out members of Congress. He singled out people that --

Q -- elected officials responsible --

MR. McCLELLAN: We can point to --

Q Who are you talking about? Are you talking about Harry Belafonte and Sheryl Crow? Is he really worried about those people?

MR. McCLELLAN: We can point to a number of people. I think the Chairman of the Democratic Party has made numerous statements that are --

Q Who else is part of --

Q Why did he go in then?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Chairman of the party has made numerous irresponsible comments. We have confronted these issues head on, and we will continue to take them on. You might want to back us down from challenging people, but when they make irresponsible comments, we're going to challenge them.

Q You just said one of the irresponsible comments was that he doesn't have a strategy for victory, that people have made that comment and that they've been briefed on it. They might just not agree with the strategy for victory, or whether it is a strategy for victory.

MR. McCLELLAN: But they're implying to the American people that we don't have a strategy in place. And this is after they were -- just after they were briefed by our commanders on the ground who put that strategy in place.

Q So that's irresponsible to imply that they just don't like the strategy?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. I said that "we don't have a strategy" -- there's a difference.

Q -- semantics --

MR. McCLELLAN: No. People have made that point, said that we don't have a strategy in place for winning in Iraq. That is irresponsible.

Q That's exactly my point, that they think it's not a strategy for winning.

MR. McCLELLAN: No. You know exactly what I'm talking about. I can go back and pull up comments that members of Congress -- certain Democratic leaders have made stating that we don't have a plan in place. And this is right after they were briefed by our commanders on the ground. So I reject that.

And I think -- I know sometimes in this room you want to focus on one portion of what the President said. We've taken on those who have made these comments directly. I'm not saying anything in the last couple of days; this speech was about much more than what the President was talking about. But because some are going out there trying to mischaracterize things and trying to imply things that just aren't true, we're going to make it clear to the American people that it's important to look at the facts. And that's what we're doing. We're confronting them with the facts.

And the facts are that members have been briefed about our strategy. We continue to brief members. The President has sat down with bipartisan members of Congress; the President has sat down with administration officials from previous administrations, some who did not agree with the decision, some who do not agree with everything we're doing in terms of moving forward on that strategy, and listened to their ideas. We welcome those ideas. That's honest critics. There's a difference between that and those who are trying to score quick political points based on irresponsible comments.

Q But it's not like they're denying they've been briefed, Scott.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q It's not like they're denying they've been briefed. They're leaving a clear --

MR. McCLELLAN: They are leaving a clear -- no, the instance you're talking about, they're leaving a clear impression with the American people that there is no strategy. And that's just absolute false. Again, we addressed this previously. I think that now people are backing off from that, because the President has engaged in a continuing dialogue with the American people spelling out very clearly what our strategy is. So I think since that time people are starting to back off that, that made those false charges.

Thank you.

Q Scott, nobody has made any of these kind of statements recently --

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you, John.

Q -- what's the purpose of the President saying it --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no --

Q -- today, other than to keep the fires of partisan outrage stoked?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, John, let me clarify, if I wasn't clear. There have been comments made recently. I'm not saying in the last day or so, but this is part of what the President has been saying in each of the series of speeches he has been giving, and we'll continue to take those on if they engage in that. There are -- and there are some that continue to make them; I don't think that they've ever quit making them. And we will take those on.

Thank you.

END 12:57 P.M. EST