|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 3, 2006
Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cincinnati, Ohio
12:00 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good morning, everybody. The President loosened up a little bit this weekend. He's looking forward to throwing out the first pitch today at the Cincinnati Reds home opener against the Chicago Cubs.
But before I get to that, let me walk through the President's day. The President had his usual briefings this morning, and he called Chancellor Merkel this morning. This is part of the regular consultations the two leaders are having on a range of issues. They talked about the continued efforts of the international community to prevent the regime in Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, they talked about developments in the Middle East, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well. And the President briefed Chancellor Merkel on Secretary Rice's trip to Iraq over this weekend.
Then following that, the President spent some time at the ranch, and then we are now headed to Cincinnati, where, when we get there, the President will visit both clubhouses. So he'll visit the Chicago Cubs clubhouse first, and then the Reds. And then he'll be sitting in the owner's box for the game after he throws out the first pitch. My understanding is that he is the first sitting President to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a game in Cincinnati. So just one little bit of color for you there.
And then this afternoon, after the game, we'll return back to Washington.
Q Was he really practicing this weekend?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he did on Saturday. He got some time in where he threw some pitches.
Q How else did he spend his weekend?
MR. McCLELLAN: He threw it with the one Cincinnati Red who is traveling with us today, Mr. Joe Hagin. (Laughter.) We're going to his hometown. He's spent it with some -- you know, with friends, and got in some bike riding, and did some work around the ranch, stayed in touch with staff on a variety of issues.
Q Discussion in those variety of issues about changes at the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: You know I don't speculate on any of those matters.
Q Can you confirm that Treasury Secretary Snow is out?
MR. McCLELLAN: Who said that?
Q I heard reports of it.
MR. McCLELLAN: You heard reports of it. Look, there are going to be a lot of -- there's going to be a lot of speculation.
Q Heard rumors.
MR. McCLELLAN: There's going to be a lot of speculation as a new Chief of Staff is coming on board. And that's what it is, it's speculation. And we're not going to get into responding to anonymous sources or the speculation that's going on. We've already talked about the authority that Josh will have as he comes into the position. He'll be looking at all these issues, and we'll move forward from there.
But the President has a great economic team. Our economy is strong. And he appreciates the job that his economic team has done. The latest report came out this morning on manufacturing activity. Manufacturing activity has now expanded for 34 straight months. Our economy has created nearly 5 million jobs in the last two, two-and-a-half years. And the unemployment rate is at 4.8 percent. So we're going to continue to focus on the priorities that the American people are most concerned about and continuing to build upon our record of accomplishment.
Q Have you had any thoughts that you might be leaving soon?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't speculate on any personnel matters.
Q You're not speculating for yourself.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm focused on helping the President advance his agenda, just like the rest of the team at the White House.
Q But Josh wasn't there this weekend, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q They were in touch over the phone over the weekend, I take it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Andy is still serving as Chief of Staff as Josh transitions into the job. The President is staying in close contact with the senior staff, as he does all the time. But I know there's an interest in trying to get us to speculate about things, and we're just not going to do that.
Q Despite Straw and Rice's visit to Iraq, the Iraqis don't seem any closer to a unity government. What more can be done here?
MR. McCLELLAN: You said, they don't seem to be closer?
Q They don't seem any closer, right. They seem further away.
MR. McCLELLAN: Based on what?
Q Well, based on the fracturing of the Shiite coalition.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think -- the fracturing of the --
Q Well, the Shiite block is having some internal strife, problems about calling for Jaafari --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my understanding is that the Iraqi leaders are continuing to work form a government of national unity, a government that represents all the Iraqi people. You heard from Secretary Rice this weekend, from Iraq. That's really where we stand. We continue to urge the Iraqi leaders to move forward as quickly as possible to get a unity government in place. That's what the Iraqi people want. It's important that they do so, in order to, as Secretary Rice put it, help disable those who want to create sectarian violence, and continue to foment sectarian strife.
And Secretary Rice talked about how there's a vacuum, and it's not good to have a vacuum in politics. And so that's why she said it's time for the Iraqi leaders to move forward and get a unity government in place.
Q Getting back to the personnel -- possible personnel changes, are you ruling out any Cabinet or senior staff changes in the near future?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not getting into any speculation, Jay, for the -- you've asked that question previously. When we have something to announce, we make those announcements in due course. But I wouldn't read anything into the speculation one way or the other. I see a lot of speculation based on people outside the administration. The President has tapped Josh Bolten to be his new Chief of Staff. And he will take a look at the White House structure, he'll take a look at issues relating to the administration. And the President is going to look to his advice and counsel as we move forward.
Q Any announcements this week, maybe? Or would you not want to --
MR. McCLELLAN: If there's anything to announce, we will keep you posted on it. How many times do you want to ask the same question? And you all know, this has been a policy of ours from the get go. We just don't speculate on any personnel matters.
Q Frist is talking of bringing the immigration bill to the floor by the end of this week. Is that something the President would concur with, in terms of the timing? And what about the concerns that --
MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of timing, that's for leaders in Congress to make those determinations. But we're pleased that the Senate is moving forward to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Senator Frist talked about the importance of having a comprehensive piece of legislation. The President believes it's important that any immigration reform be comprehensive. And it begins with securing our borders. And we have taken a number of steps to better secure our borders. But there is more to do.
And we all want to see our borders -- we all want to make sure that we have better control of our borders. And that's why we have stepped up the number of resources we're dedicating -- we've dedicated more resources to the border, whether it be new technologies or more Border Patrol agents. But there is more we would like to do, as well. And so we're working closely with Congress on this issue. But part of securing our borders is moving forward on a guest worker program, because that will relieve pressure off the border. It will allow our Border Patrol agents to focus on the criminals and the terrorists, the smugglers and traffickers that are trying to come into this country for the wrong reasons.
And so the President is continuing to urge the Congress to move forward in a comprehensive way. And we're pleased with the progress that's being made.
Q Is a few days enough, though, to overcome this internal conflict between the Republicans on where to go with this bill -- what to include in the bill?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, when you're referring to conflicts, what are you referring to?
Q Over the guest worker program --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think there are a lot of people that have talked about the importance of making sure that there is a comprehensive piece of legislation. And that's what the President is continuing to urge. We're continuing to stay in close contact with leaders -- leaders in the Senate and leaders in the House -- and we're pleased with the progress that's being made.
Q Can we expect an announcement --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's what's important -- what's important at this point is, I mean, it's still early in the legislative process, but it's moving forward. And we look forward to the Senate acting, and then moving to conference committee, where we'll continue working with leaders once it gets to conference committee to iron out details. The President talked about how this is a difficult issue, it's an emotional issue. And there are tough choices that have to be made and compromise that has to be made along the way. But I think most Americans recognize the importance of addressing this in a comprehensive way, because our immigration system is broken. And if you're going to fix it, you need to address it in a comprehensive way.
Q To replace Josh Bolten at the OMB, will the President be making an announcement any time soon on who he's picked to replace Mr. Bolten?
MR. McCLELLAN: It is a priority to get that filled. Obviously, Josh is moving out of that position in a short amount of time, so we're moving forward as quickly as we can to fill the position.
Q So this week maybe?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't speculate about timing on personnel matters. I'm sorry, Jay, you've been gone for a little bit, but just a reminder about our policies on personnel issues.
Q Where's the memo on that? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Anything else? Okay, thanks.
END 12:11 P.M. EDT