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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 4, 2006
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:00 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me begin with previewing tomorrow a little bit. We have the best health care system in the world here in America, and yet there are still some problems and challenges that we face. We have seen rapidly increasing health care costs, we see small businesses that want to cover their employees not able to afford the coverage, millions of Americans are uninsured.
The President, in his State of the Union, outlined a comprehensive plan for reforming our health care system. It's based on preserving our system of private medicine, strengthening the doctor-patient relationship, and making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. And the President has outlined some commonsense, innovative ways to meet those objectives.
Tomorrow the President will be focusing on health savings accounts, which will help make health care more affordable and accessible, and already is helping to making health care more affordable and accessible for more Americans. The President will be traveling to Bridgeport, Connecticut, and he'll be participating in a conversation on health savings accounts. The conversation participants will include a local business owner, a bank official, and individuals who own health savings accounts.
Health savings accounts were first established in the Medicare Modernization Act that was passed in 2003 and signed by the President in December of 2003. Three million Americans now have health savings accounts. This provides Americans with more control over their health care and helps to lower cost. And the President looks forward to going to Bridgeport tomorrow to talk about health savings accounts, and as well, his broader health care agenda in the conversation.
And with that, I'm glad to go to your questions today. Jennifer.
Q Thanks. The President this morning made it sound almost inevitable that there will be more changes once Mr. Bolten comes on board. Obviously, you're not going to talk about what those are.
MR. McCLELLAN: But you'll ask anyway.
Q But I'll ask anyway, if you're going to announce in a week changes that you guys already know are going to happen? And he also talked about that he looks forward to hearing from Mr. Bolten about what changes he would make and about continuing to make the White House more effective. Is he acknowledging a bit of a tin ear on the part of this White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think what you heard the President say was that we have accomplished much over the last few years. And he expressed his gratitude to Andy Card for the way he had structured the White House and how effective we have been over the last few years.
And if you go and look at the record, it is a record of results. We passed historic education reforms, we passed Medicare Modernization Act, which provides seniors with more choices and substantial savings on their prescription drug coverage, we lowered taxes to get our economy growing. Our economy is strong and growing with nearly 5 million jobs created in the last -- since the summer of 2003, an unemployment rate down to 4.8 percent, well below the averages of the '70s, '80s and '90s. So this is a White House that has helped the President advance an agenda to make America safer and more prosperous. We are winning the war on terrorism, but that war continues. It is a long struggle.
And I think what the President was saying in his remarks earlier is that he looks forward to working with Josh in his new position as Chief of Staff. Josh, as any Chief of Staff would have, has the authority to look at the White House structure and decide what is best to meet the President's needs, and to help him advance his agenda. And so the President looks forward to talking with him and listening to his recommendations and moving forward from them. He's going to look to Josh for his advice and counsel on important matters like that.
Q But he also said that he needs good, crisp information. And that suggests that he's not getting it.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, I don't think he was suggesting that. In fact, he expressed -- again, he expressed his gratitude for all that Andy has done to help make sure that he is getting the kind of information he needs to make those decisions on behalf of the American people.
Q So why is --
MR. McCLELLAN: But there are always -- we always learn from experience. That is something this White House has always done. And the President pointed out that Andy had helped assemble a very smart, capable and experienced team, and the President appreciates the job that the team is doing.
Q Then why reorganize, which the President implied --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, for the reasons that Andy --
Q -- strongly is going to happen, if there isn't a need -- if there's no need for change?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, for the reasons that Andy talked about earlier. I think any White House goes through changes. And we've gone through a lot of change over the last few years, but it's also important to have continuity, so you have to balance that continuity with change. And with a new Chief of Staff coming in, of course the President is going to look to the new Chief of Staff for his recommendations and his thoughts and counsel.
Q But it sounded as though the President was saying that maybe it's time to freshen things up a little bit?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think Andy Card talked about that when he announced his resignation. And that's something that he and Andy had talked about, that it was a time for a change. And the President agreed with Andy's assessment.
Q But the President today seemed to be suggesting that the changes could include, as said, crisper information?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what we want to do is build upon what we have accomplished, and continue to focus on getting things done for the American people. And that's what the President was talking about in his remarks.
Q Could you describe a little how Mr. Bolten is organizing the way in which he will make these recommendations to the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's still -- he's in the transition process right now, and he's been reaching out to members of Congress, listening to some of their thoughts. And he's continuing to move forward on that transition. But, no, I'm not going to get into previewing anything at this point. Everything will be announced in due course, if there are any changes to announce.
Q Scott, can you expand a little bit on your statement that we always learn from experience, just what the President feels he's learned through Andy Card's tenure, or what's happened in the past few months and what changes you might like to make in approach? I mean, obviously --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I mean, that's asking for me to speculate about things. And Josh has the authority to look at the White House structure --
Q No, I asked you what you learned from experience.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and determine what needs are there.
Q Okay, then let's go to what you learned from experience.
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. And we've talked about it over the course of this administration. We've learned lessons from responding to catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina. That's why we came forward with a comprehensive review and outlined more than a hundred recommendations for moving forward, so that we're in better position to respond in the future. We've implemented significant intelligence reforms, and we are continuing to do that to make sure that the President gets the best possible intelligence, so that he can make decisions that are in the best interests of the American people. We have adapted and adjusted to circumstances on the ground in Iraq as needed, and that's what you do in any wartime situation.
So those are examples of how we learn from experience. And that's important for any leader to do. A leader should always be learning from experience and willing to make necessary changes to move forward and continue to do a better job.
Q And given what Mr. Bolten's already done, is it reaching out to Congress, as well? Is that a lesson you've learned, that you need to do that more?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we have reached out to Congress over the course of the last few years. But we want to continue to do more, and we want to continue to build upon that. And so Josh, last week, I believe he -- in his first day after the announcement called more than 30 congressional leaders. And he's continued to reach out to members of Congress and listen to their ideas. The President wants to hear their thoughts.
The President has been having a number of meetings with members of Congress. He has another meeting this afternoon with some Republican members from the Senate. Last week he met with a bipartisan group on his competitiveness initiative. This is a bipartisan group of senators that is committed to advancing the initiative the President outlined in his State of the Union to keep America the most competitive economy in the world.
I'll come back to you. Kathleen, go ahead.
Q Scott, the Democrats have reacted to the announcement by Tom DeLay that he's not going to be seeking office again by saying, "Tom DeLay's announcement is just the beginning of the reckoning of the Republican culture of corruption that has gripped Washington for too long." Thoughts about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, the President talked about his conversation with Congressman DeLay yesterday. The President was coming back from Cincinnati aboard Air Force One when he spoke with Congressman DeLay by phone. And the President wishes Congressman DeLay all the best. He appreciates his service and thanks him for his service to the nation. As he talked about earlier, he knows that this was a difficult decision. We have worked very closely with Congressman DeLay and other leaders on the Hill to get things done for the American people.
And we see that in the results. We see that in an America that is safer, but we are not yet safe, there is more to do. We see that in an America that is expanding prosperity for more Americans, and the number of jobs that are being created. We have a very healthy economy that is continuing to grow strongly.
But we need to do more. We need to build upon that. And so the President is going to continue focusing on his agenda, which is a hopeful agenda for the American people, and advancing that agenda and building upon the great progress we have made.
Now I think what you see from Democrat leaders that you reference in your comment is that they tend to engage more in partisan attacks, because they can't win the debate of ideas, because they have few ideas to offer. And the President is going to continue focusing on our ideas of where he wants to lead this country.
Q Does the White House, though, see this in any way as presenting an opportunity to put this -- some of these clouds, these ethics clouds that have been really hovering over the Republican Party, put this behind you in any way? No opportunity to get things back on track?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's why Congressman -- I don't think that's the decision that Congressman DeLay -- I don't think he based his decision on that. I mean, go back and look at what he said earlier today, and go back and look at the record of both parties, and stuff.
Q Scott, what's going on with Iran? They've been so in your face. Every day they come out and they brag about a new weapons system. And have American-Iranian talks been underway at all?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Have talks been underway at all, because --
MR. McCLELLAN: I have no update, in terms of any talks, if you're talking about regarding Iraq. But in terms -- are you asking about some of the recent events inside Iran, in terms of their military program?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think their aggressive military program, and defiant rhetoric are further examples of how the regime is isolating itself and the Iranian people from the rest of the world. It is also a reminder of why the international community is united in its concern about the regime's possible development of nuclear weapons, and why the international community is calling on Iran to comply with its international obligations, or face further isolation.
Last week, the Security Council sent a very clear statement to the regime. It said: Comply with your obligations; come clean. You have 30 days to come clean, make a commitment to come clean and comply with your obligations, or we're going to be back at the Security Council consulting about next steps to take.
Q Do you think sanctions are enough to stop them? I mean, they're really very warlike?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to speculate about next steps, but, again, there's a very united presidential statement that was released by the Security Council last week spelling out what the regime needs to do. It needs to adhere to its international obligations. It needs to suspend its uranium enrichment and enrichment-related activity and come back to the negotiations and act in good faith.
The International Atomic Energy Agency will be working with the regime. We'll see if the regime is ready to commit to negotiation over confrontation. You can understand why we are skeptical, given their history of hiding their activities and given their willful disregard for adhering to their international obligations.
Q Scott, back to Josh for a second. Can you give us an indication as to how he is getting prepared for any impending reorganization, in terms of who is he working with? Is he working with the Vice President? Is he working with Harriet Miers?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not going to get into that at this point. It's still very early in this transition period. There will be plenty of time to talk about this as we move forward, and we'll do so in due course.
Q And just if I can, on the subject of the Democrats in Congress and how they've taken a view of Mr. DeLay's departure, is the President -- and their assertion that this election should turn in some way on a culture of corruption, as they put it -- is the President concerned or disappointed that he's been let down by Republicans? And does this, in his view, become legitimate discourse? As a candidate years ago, the President campaigned as a reformer with results. And we've got ethics legislation pending on the Hill and lobbying reform, et cetera, et cetera. Is there not a sense of having been hampered by his own party's activities?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've got a record of results, and we are a party of ideas. And the President looks forward to discussing the differences in ideas and talking about the substantive differences. The Democrats don't want to debate the ideas because they have no ideas to offer, they have no vision of where they want to lead America. The President is going to continue focusing on the hopeful agenda he has outlined, and talking about his vision for where we want to lead America.
This is a country that is seeing strong economic growth. This is a country under the President's leadership that is becoming safer because we are waging a comprehensive war on terrorism. So let's talk about the issues, and let's debate the ideas. The President looks forward to that. We are a party that has outlined very clear ideas and a clear vision for where to lead this country. The Democrats can only engage in attacks because they have nothing to offer.
And what they do offer is a very narrow vision of the global war on terrorism. They offer retreat and withdrawal. They offer a limited view of how we wage and win the war on terrorism. The President recognizes you have to use all tools at your disposal to win the war on terrorism. And that's exactly what we're doing. That's why we're taking the fight to the enemy. We are leading from a position of strength and confidence, not weakness and uncertainty. And that's -- and we're going to continue to talk about these ideas as we move forward. The President looks forward to a healthy debate on the ideas that we have pursued.
Q Understood. But in your answer there wasn't an expression of the President's concern about a reflection on his party by Republicans. And that was the question. So --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, this is a party that has accomplished much for the American people. We have worked very closely with congressional leaders to get things done, and it's a record that is making America more prosperous and safer and providing seniors with prescription drug coverage. They're realizing substantial savings on their prescription drug coverage. One of the things the President will talk about tomorrow is the responsibilities we have at the federal level when it comes to health care. We have a responsibility to make sure that health care is provided to our seniors and low-income Americans. We also have a responsibility to make sure that health care is more affordable and accessible.
And on the first goal, we have already taken significant steps. We're expanding the number of community health centers to meet the needs of the poor and indigent. We are moving forward on the Medicare implementation and providing seniors with substantial savings on prescription drug coverage and more choices. So these are the issues that the American people care about, and that's what they want us to focus on. That's what we'll continue to focus on. And there are very clear differences on those issues.
Q Scott, Tom DeLay is, perhaps, more than any single member of Congress responsible for the President's successes on Capitol Hill. Does the President regret at this point that he's resigning?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President respects his decision. This was a decision that Congressman DeLay made for the reasons that he stated earlier. He called the President to inform him about that decision, and the President is continuing to look toward the future of how we can continue to get things done for the American people. We have a very capable group of leaders when it comes to the Congress, and this is a group that the President has worked very closely with to get a lot of things done. And I encourage you to look at the record.
There's a tendency of people to talk about some of the side issues, but let's look at the results, let's look at the facts. There has been great progress made over the last few years when it comes to strengthening our economy and when it comes to winning the war on terrorism. And we look forward to talking about how we can continue to move forward and build upon that great progress we've made on behalf of the American people.
Q But speaking about -- talking about side issues, my question was, does the President have any regret at this point that this man is leaving? I haven't heard anyone say that he should stay, or that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President talked about how he recognizes it was a very difficult decision, but the decision has been made, and now it's time to move forward and continue working with congressional leaders to build upon our record.
Q Okay, so no regret. And also on Snow, when the President was asked --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think he looks at it that way, Keith. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Maybe you didn't hear.
Q Okay. No, I heard. So Secretary -- the question was asked directly if Secretary Snow was staying, and he didn't say that he was, why didn't he do that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Keith, we never -- we've had a long policy of never speculating about personnel matters. The President appreciates the great job that Secretary Snow is doing, and the rest of his economic team is doing. I talked about the great accomplishments we have made when it comes to our economy. And we need to continue to build upon those policies that we have put in place to create a healthy economic environment where we're creating millions of jobs. But there are still concerns when it comes to rising gas prices, rising health care costs. That's why the President has outlined initiatives to address the root causes of high energy prices. And we encourage Congress to move forward quickly to pass those initiatives.
Q The President has expressed confidence in members of his administration whose tenure has been questioned before --
MR. McCLELLAN: And he expressed appreciation for the job that Secretary Snow is doing, said that he is a valuable member of his team.
Q I know you don't discuss personnel matters, but there are growing reports/rumors by my brethren that Scott McClellan is going to ride off into the sunset, specifically a story in The Washington Post this morning saying that Scott McClellan is going to leave and be replaced by Dan Senor. As though you were under oath --
MR. McCLELLAN: Must have missed that story.
Q -- as though you were under oath, can you give us a simple "yes" or "no" answer? Is the story correct?
Q Was that in the The Washington Post?
Q No. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I missed that story. I didn't see that one in The Washington Post.
Q But what's your comment?
MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate the question, and as I've said, I never speculate on personnel matters. Period. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. First of all, I'm really thankful to President Bush. I will never forget the ride of my life on Air Force One. And I've been staying there to review his visit in India, talking to thousands of Indian --
MR. McCLELLAN: Had a great visit to India. Do you have a question?
Q My question -- also, President was covered widely by Zee News in India, and I have a special CD for the President and also am thankful to my friend (inaudible) and others in the community. My question is that, officially, can you state now how President feels or felt, and officially how the visit -- we can view, or the view -- as far as his point of view?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President's point of view? I think he talked about it. He had a very good visit to India, as well as to Pakistan. And we have good relations with both countries. We want to continue to strengthen those relations, and that's what we will do.
Go ahead, Les.
Q And also on this --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me keep going. Go ahead, Les.
Q Scott, I have a two-part question. (Laughter.) As the nation's chief law enforcement officer, the President fully supports the White House's Uniformed Secret Service and the U.S. Capitol Police when they do their duty to protect him and members of Congress, doesn't he?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? Are you bringing up -- are you bringing up an issue over at the Capitol?
Q Yes --
MR. McCLELLAN: Regarding Capitol Police?
Q Yes, that's --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think direct those questions to the Capitol Police.
Q Well, no, I want to ask you a question, if I may. Since there have been so many public statements made in support of Congresswoman McKinney's apparent defiance and cell phone slugging of a Capitol Police Officer who tried to stop her from entering the Capitol when she was wearing no security badge, how long will the President keep silent when this Congresswoman has already held two press conferences, one of which did not allow the media to ask any questions --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's a legal matter; we'll leave it to the appropriate authorities. I have not discussed it with the President.
Q Doesn't the President have any --
MR. McCLELLAN: What's your second question?
Q That was the second one -- (laughter) -- have any statement on this? She's making statements all the time. Surely the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Les, I just said that I've not discussed it with him. What's your next question?
Q You have discussed it --
MR. McCLELLAN: Was that your second question? Roger, go ahead.
Q Scott, on the meeting this afternoon the President is having with the -- I believe it was Senate Republican leaders, is that right?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q How many are there, what time is it, and is it in the Residence?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's a little bit before 4:00 p.m. No, I think it's over here -- it's over here in the Oval Office. It's to continue talking about his agenda and talk about legislative priorities and also hear from them.
Q Who are they?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll see if we can get you additional -- we'll see if we can get you -- I think it's a number of chairmen on some various committees. But this part of the ongoing meetings that the President is having with congressional leaders.
Q Will the President or Josh Bolten -- is he also asking about soliciting their ideas on changes --
MR. McCLELLAN: If there's anything else to provide you from the meeting, I'll let you know. But the purpose of the meeting is to talk about the agenda and legislative priorities. Obviously, the President wants to hear from members, as well, and get their views.
Q Will Mr. Bolten be in the meeting?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll keep you posted.
Q Scott, Britain's Daily Telegraph has reported that the government over there held secret talks yesterday with defense chiefs to discuss a possible targeted strike against Iran, and the strike would be American-led if, in fact, Iran were to snub the United Nations. Can you tell us if any similar talks have been held here --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know about those reports. I haven't seen them.
Q Has the President discussed such a possible strike with --
MR. McCLELLAN: What we're trying to do is achieve a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue with regards to Iran. That's why we're working with the international community. This, you hear, is about the regime's behavior. I know the regime would like to make it an issue between the United States and itself, but this is an issue that the regime has with the world. This is a concern that the world has about the regime's behavior. We have a number of concerns about the regime's behavior and there appears to be a pattern to its behavior, a pattern of concealing its nuclear activities, a pattern of supporting terrorism, a pattern of threatening rhetoric, and a pattern of disregarding the demands of the international community.
So we're keeping the focus on the regime, which is where it should be, by working with the international community to prevent the regime from developing a nuclear weapons capability. That's what the objective is and that's where the focus is. And we are pursuing it in a diplomatic way.
Iran is not Iraq. We have said that before. And we are working to address this by working with our partners in the international community. We're working through the Security Council, we're working with Germany, and we're working with others to address this growing concern of the international community.
Q If the President had held talks with Mr. Blair, would you tell us if we asked?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President speaks with Prime Minister Blair on a frequent basis. They speak on a weekly or biweekly basis. We don't get into reading out those discussions. I don't know anything about this report, Victoria.
Q Scott, do you think the resignation of Tom DeLay is a serious blow to the reputation or the image of the Republican Party?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't have -- I haven't heard the President look at it that way at all. In fact, we appreciate the leadership of Congressman DeLay. We also have a number of other leaders on the Hill that we are working closely with, and we will continue to do so. I know there is a tendency sometimes to draw broader conclusions from such an announcement, but again, look at the record, look at the results we're achieving for the American people. We're going to continue focusing on how do we move forward and build upon those results.
Go ahead, John.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: You moved? Did you get kicked out?
Q No. No, I didn't think -- (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I would have come to you. (Laughter.)
Q You would -- okay, thank you, Scott. Last week, I asked you whether the President would veto an immigration bill that did not include a guest worker program and only included enforcement. You said it's very early in the game.
Now, the President was asked whether he would sign a measure that has enforcement but not guest worker when he was in Mexico, when he was in Cancún, and he was very unclear in his answer -- did not say yes or no. We've gone on two weeks since you and I first discussed this. Can you say whether the President will sign a bill that is similar to just the House measure, enforcement and no guest worker?
MR. McCLELLAN: What I emphasized was what the President emphasized, too, that we want a comprehensive bill. We believe that if you're going to fix the immigration system, you have to do so in a comprehensive way. And that's what the President is continuing to urge members to move forward on.
Now, the Senate is moving forward and looking at passing a comprehensive bill. We are pleased with the progress that's being made. There's a lot of discussions that are going on. They're debating the issue this week. And today, they restarted those -- restarted the debate yesterday. So we're pleased that there's a lot of discussions going on about how to build broad support for a comprehensive piece of legislation.
We look forward to continuing to work with Congress as it moves forward, as it goes to conference committee. We'll continue to work with members and iron out the details. But the President believes very strongly that we need a comprehensive bill that begins with securing our borders, but it also needs to include a guest worker program because that will help us better control our borders. It will take pressure off the border, and it will allow our Border Patrol agents and law enforcement officials to focus on the criminals, those who seek to come here for the wrong reasons, those who are engaged in smuggling and trafficking, or trying to engage in terrorism. And so that's what the President believes. That's what he's continuing to urge Congress to get passed. The President wants a comprehensive bill.
And now we have taken a number of steps to better secure our borders. We've increased funding I believe some 66 percent since we've been in office. We've expanded the number of Border Patrol agents significantly. We've made use of new technology to deploy along the border so that we can stop people from coming into this country illegally, but there's more we want to do, as well.
And so we appreciate the efforts of those who have put forward initiatives to focus on securing our borders. That's an important part of a comprehensive piece of legislation. But it is still early in the legislative process. And we're going to continue working with members as it moves forward.
Q Now, do you have the hard numbers that you have called for increasing the Border Patrol by?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have that. I gave out some of those last week. We're -- in our current budget, it expands at an additional, I believe, 1,200 or 1,500. I think there are some 12,000 Border Patrol agents. We increased it I believe -- and double-check this; I said this last week -- some 1,500 or more over the last year or so. But I'll be glad to double-check those numbers with you.
Q Thank you, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure.
Q Scott, we heard again the President urge Iraqi leaders to sort of get their act together and move quickly in forming a unity government. Can you tell us, what's his level of frustration with the pace over there?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we need to focus on the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people want to see a unity government formed as quickly as possible. The President emphasized again today that it's time for the Iraqi leaders to get a government in place that is representative of all Iraq's communities.
So that's where we're continuing to focus. We're continuing to urge the government to move forward and get that -- excuse me -- let me get a glass of water -- we're continuing to urge the Iraqi leaders to move forward and get a unity government in place. The discussions continue. The discussions are going on, I believe, around the clock between the elected leaders. The Iraqi people showed most recently last December when they went to the polls in large numbers that they want to chart their own future. They want to live in freedom. Nearly 12 million Iraqis showed up and cast their ballots.
Now, the results were, I think, officially certified around February 10th, and the Iraqi leaders have been working since that time to come together and form a unity government. And those discussions continue. We urge them to get it done as quickly as possible. It's important that it move forward -- that they move forward quickly because it will help, as Secretary Rice said, disable those who want to continue to create sectarian strife, those who are trying to foment sectarian violence. And that's why it's important that they move forward quickly.
Q Is the President satisfied with the pace?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President indicated earlier today that it's time to get it done. We recognize that Iraq is a new and emerging democracy, and they are learning to compromise and learning to come together and put in place a government. But again, our focus is on the Iraqi people, and helping them move forward on putting a lasting democracy in place because it will help lay the foundations of peace for generations to come.
A free Iraq will help inspire reformers in the broader Middle East, and the President talked about it earlier today. He talked about the importance of transforming this troubled region of the world. It is a region where for too long we thought we had stability at the expense of democracy. And we're no longer going to accept that. The President recognizes that free societies are peaceful societies and that it is in our long-term interest that we help to support reformers throughout the Middle East as they move forward to expand freedom and democracy.
Q Scott, you said the President wants comprehensive immigration reform that includes a guest worker program. One compromise would only apply to those workers who have been in the United States for at least five years. Would that approach be acceptable to the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President outlined some principles, Paula. And what we're focused on at this point is working with members to move forward on comprehensive legislation and do so as quickly as possible. There are some difficult choices and compromises that will need to be made as we move forward. But at this point, I think it's important to keep the focus on the fact that it is moving forward. And there will come a time when we will be in position to talk about some of the specific details in greater detail, and iron out some of those details.
But what we want to see is the Senate continuing to move forward, as they are doing, and get a comprehensive bill passed. And then we will work with leaders as it moves into conference.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 12:31 P.M. EST
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