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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 30, 2006

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Statesboro, Georgia

9:45 A.M. EST

MS. PERINO: Good morning. We're on our way to Statesboro, Georgia. The President will give remarks at a Victory 2006 Rally -- sorry, I forgot to mention he had his regular briefings this morning -- Max Burns will introduce the President, and they expect around 5,000 attendees.

At 12:30 p.m. today he will have an interview with Sean Hannity of FOX News, that will air tonight and tomorrow. Mr. Hannity is on the plane with us today, flying down to Statesboro.

At 5:00 p.m., he will make remarks at the Texas Victory 2006 Rally. And then we will return home at 10:20 p.m., he'll be at the White House at that time.

Other than that, I don't have any other announcements.

Q Can you tell us about --

Q Did Steve Hadley go to Iraq -- what for?

MS. PERINO: Yes, I can confirm that Mr. Hadley did go to Iraq. This is a long-planned trip to the region. With the President out of town this week, it's a good time for him to go, as part of our ongoing assessments and continued cooperation to get Iraq to be a democratically led country that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and become an ally in the war on terror. I'm not going to provide any other information about his movements, for his security, but we'll keep you updated as appropriate and as we're able to provide more information.

Q Planned for how long? How long has it been --

MS. PERINO: About two-and-a-half months or so. I think that he was -- I understand he was planning to go back in June, but that's when the President decided to go, as well, so he's put off his trip until now.

Q How important is it for him to be there at this time, when relations between the White House and the Iraqi government are a little bit sensitive?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that the press reports about the relationship being sensitive are overblown --

Q -- with Maliki's people, so they're not -- it's not just taking our observations, it's quotes from numerous people who work for Maliki.

MS. PERINO: Well, Mr. Maliki had a 50-minute conversation with the President on Friday; Secretary Rice has been there; Steve Hadley is there today -- again, it's been long planned. It's obviously very important that we keep in close contact. And while the logistics are difficult, any time that you can have a face-to-face meeting with your partner or your colleagues, that can help facilitate communication. And it also gives Mr. Hadley a good chance to be on the ground, to assess things and be able to report back to the President with his own -- you know, having seen the situation with his own eyes.

Q What is this for Hadley -- this isn't his first visit, is it?

MS. PERINO: It is not his first visit, but I couldn't tell you -- he did go in June with the President.

Q He did?

MS. PERINO: He did go, yes, in June.

Q Was it his first --

MS. PERINO: I don't believe so, but I'd need to check. I can't remember.

Q And who is he meeting with?

MS. PERINO: I don't have details on all of that. The trip was closely held, for security reasons, and so I don't personally know. I'll see if I can get you more information. I believe he was going to be meeting with the Prime Minister and probably his counterpart, the Iraqi national security advisor.

Q Is the White House getting a sense that there's a need for other person-to-person contact? You have this phone call between the Prime Minister and the President on Saturday; now Hadley is there. There has been a lot of talk of some dissatisfaction within the Iraqi government with the ambassador. And so is it time for others to sort of step in and provide that face-to-face contact?

MS. PERINO: I haven't heard any discussion of that. I think that any time you can have a face-to-face discussion, despite the difficult logistics that are presented in the current situation because of the security -- and also because of the distance -- that -- certainly, secure video provides you a little bit of that opportunity. It's certainly not as intimate as a personal meeting. And he really felt -- I think that the President enjoyed his time -- well, I know that he enjoyed his trip to Baghdad, and then when Mr. Maliki had been in town and participated at the White House, it always is good for relationship building.

But I think those two men, in particular, feel like their relationship is strong and that they have a common goal, and one -- it's a matter of execution. And the statement that we released on Saturday talks about the three goals that they're working on, in terms of turning over security forces.

I haven't heard any discussion -- I've certainly read reports that there might be some people discussing dissatisfaction with one person or another, but it's not anything that's widely talked about within the White House. I think everyone is focused, has their eye on the ball and focused on getting the job done.

Q Is anybody on the -- is Max Burns on the plane with him? He's greeting him there.

MS. PERINO: He is not on the plane.

Q Do you know the details on the second event, number of people and whatnot?

MS. PERINO: Seven thousand attendees.

Q At the Texas one?

MS. PERINO: Yes, this is for Texas, and Dr. Sekula Gibbs will introduce the President.

Q And anything different from the speeches today, at this point?

MS. PERINO: I think you'll hear similar themes as he did -- as he gave in Indiana -- I'm trying to remember where we were.

Q Who's going to be introducing him in Texas?

MS. PERINO: Dr. Sekula Gibbs, the candidate who is the write-in candidate. You know, this rally gives the President and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison a chance to rally up the base, but also to help explain to people the situation there. Not only do you have a special election, which is on the same day, you have to mark that, and then you also have to write in her name in order for her to win.

And early returns -- I was just talking to folks up in front, they said early returns on the write in are very encouraging, but in order to pull this across the finish line, this is an important rally to remind people it's not just checking a box; they actually have to write in the name.

Q Of the people who are coming to the rallies, how are those tickets distributed? They're free, I assume. How are tickets handed out?

MS. PERINO: I don't know in this particular case. Let me tell you how it worked in Indiana, and I'm assuming that it's similar. Of course, they are free. I think they decide on a venue, and then the tickets are handed out by, in that case, for the Sodrel campaign, as well as the Indiana State Republican Party. And I believe it's just first come, first served.

If that, for any reason -- if for any reason that is different for either of these, I'll come back and tell you.

Q Can you tell us a little bit, Dana, about the strategy for this last week, what candidates he chose to visit and why he chose them?

MS. PERINO: Let me give you one example. This is a little bit looking back, and then we can talk about today's. But on Saturday, the Mike Sodrel campaign -- in 2002, Mike Sodrel lost by 9,500 votes; in 2004, he won by 1,425 votes. So it's a highly competitive race and one that, in order to make sure that it puts us into the win column, the President going there for the rally was good.

Max Burns -- I believe he said that it's one of the most competitive races in the south. So going there today is going to help his campaign get out the vote. Turnout is going to be very key in all of these, and that's one of the reasons we're remaining really flexible for those last few days. And I know that you're anxious, all, for the schedule, and as soon as we have more -- everything nailed down, I'll let you know.

Q When? Is that today, tomorrow? I mean, how far out are we going to get details?

MS. PERINO: I don't know. I mean, you have up until Thursday now, and I'll see if there's anything we can add today.

Q What is the President doing at that hotel after the rally in Georgia, before going to Texas? Isn't there something else?

MS. PERINO: That's where -- that's the interview with Sean Hannity. That's where that's taking place.

Q So the schedule being flexible is a reflection of deciding which races to go to, or what --

MS. PERINO: Absolutely. I think that everybody gets -- the political team is constantly getting assessments and data and information that help them make decisions on where's the best place to go. The point of the President going is to maximize turnout. A lot of these races are starting to close and there's some really highly competitive ones, and that's probably where you're going to see the President, in those types of races.

Tomorrow at the Collins event, as well -- back in Georgia again -- is another example of a highly competitive race that looks like a good Republican win, but firing up the base and making sure they turn out to vote is key.

Q Is the interview, it's for his TV program?

MS. PERINO: It is for his TV program.

I'll check on those rallies and just make sure that I'm right on how those are turned out. Okay.

END 9:54 A.M. EST

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