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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 27, 2006

Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel
Crawford Middle School
Crawford, Texas

11:15 A.M. CST

MR. STANZEL: Good morning. Thank you all for being here. I'll let people have a second to get their tape recorders set up.

At this point you all should have the written statement from the President from last night regarding the passing of Gerald Ford. You should also have a statement from the Vice President, and you should also have the President's remarks from this morning, as well as the proclamation from the President.

I just want to let you all know that subsequent to announcements from the Ford family, I won't have much information about the arrangements. Those announcements will come from the Ford family, so beyond those things, I probably won't have much information for you.

So with that, I'm happy to take your questions.

Q Can you confirm, there's an AP report that the viewing is going to -- or the cathedral service, sorry, is going to be taking place Tuesday, according to congressional sources. They were told to --

MR. STANZEL: -- congressional sources, and I will wait for -- and I would caution you all to wait for word from the family.

Q Any changes to the President's schedule?

MR. STANZEL: No changes at this point to the President's schedule. Certainly, we will look to any announcements that come from the Ford family about the arrangements and we would have announcements potentially after that point.

Q About tomorrow, is he going to be meeting one-on-one with certain members of the NSC, or is he just going to have a big roundtable discussion with them, or what's the set up? And --

Q Will you repeat the question?

Q And I realize that it's a non-decisional meeting, as you said, but, I mean, is he getting closer, or are we still at square one, or where are we in the decision-making process?

MR. STANZEL: Well, the President certainly has been talking at length with his advisors. The question was regarding arrangements for tomorrow and what we can expect, in terms of logistics, how that meeting will be set up.

That will be a meeting of all the members -- the members of the National Security Council. People that will be in attendance, of course, the President, the Vice President, Secretaries Rice and Gates, General Pace will be in attendance, Stephen Hadley, J.D. Crouch will also be there. And we expect that that meeting will get started fairly early in the morning, and we will -- you can expect, in terms of coverage, the President to have some brief comments for the pool at the conclusion of that meeting.

In terms of the decision-making process, as we've indicated before, this is a time for the President to be talking with his advisors about all the potential options, making sure that due consideration is given to the next steps, making sure that we're thinking through the new way forward in Iraq, to take into account all of the differing views.

We have said it's a non-decisional meeting and the President will announce the new way forward after the first of the year. So the President can characterize the meeting when it concludes tomorrow.

Q Are people coming in already tonight?

MR. STANZEL: In terms of schedules, Secretaries Rice and Gates will be arriving today, and the other participants will be arriving tomorrow morning.

Q Will Rice and Gates spend the night at the ranch?

MR. STANZEL: I do not know where they will be spending their evening.

Q -- tonight already?

MR. STANZEL: If there are meetings, we can certainly let you know; but if there are, those would be more informal in nature. Tomorrow is the day for the more lengthy discussions.

Q When you say they're getting started fairly early, what are you talking about, like, 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m.?

MR. STANZEL: Fairly early.

Q There's no set time?

MR. STANZEL: We'll keep you posted on the schedule, but the meetings will begin in the morning.

Q And there are some threats from Saddam's Baath party over in Iraq, related to Saddam's execution. Would Saddam's execution in any way complicate President Bush's formulation of the new Iraq policy, because if it leads to more violence or anything along those lines --

MR. STANZEL: Well, I think, Toby, the enemy has always used just about any excuse they could find to foment violence, and that is not new. As we said yesterday, the Iraqis deserve praise for continuing to utilize the institutions of democracy to administer and pursue justice.

But in terms of potential violence resulting from the carrying out of that justice, certainly that's something that the multinational forces are aware of and Iraqi forces are certainly aware of. So we've seen in the past that the enemies have worked to use any excuse to foment violence and that's something that we're monitoring, for sure.

Q So does that mean that you're expecting some -- you're anticipating, or the administration is anticipating some sort of breakout of violence as a result of the execution?

MR. STANZEL: I think we're always aware of the situation and we're always knowledgeable that terrorists and former Saddamists have used various excuses to foment violence, and certainly the goal of the multinational forces, the goal of the Iraqi security forces is to provide security for the Iraqi people, and they will do that going forward.

Q Let me follow up, then. Has the military made any preparations for anticipated violence --

MR. STANZEL: I'd refer you to the multinational forces in Iraq, in terms of any preparations that they may be making. But like I said, the enemies of freedom and the enemies of the institutions of democracy have used excuses before, and conversely, have not needed excuses to attack. So the security situation is something that is an ongoing concern in Iraq.

Q Scott, why is this not a decisional meeting?

Q You said no changes, at this point in his schedule. Is it safe for us to report, though, that changes are expected in his schedule? Can we go there?

MR. STANZEL: I don't know that that would be the case. Again, we'll just wait for the Ford family to make announcements about the arrangements and we'll have more information for you at that time.


Q Can I ask why this meeting tomorrow is not a decisional meeting? Why is it that they aren't going to be making decisions tomorrow?

MR. STANZEL: Because we don't expect decisions to be made at the meeting. So it's non-decisional in that it's still part of the process by which the President is communicating with his advisors, asking questions, probing them for answers, and when he has an announcement to make about the new way forward in Iraq, he will do so.

Q But could the President inform Secretary Gates, Secretary Rice of his decisions tomorrow? And is it safe to assume that the decision will be announced a few days after the first of January?

MR. STANZEL: Like I said yesterday, I wouldn't characterize the timing of the President's announcement of his new way forward in Iraq. I think it largely depends on how comfortable he is with the information he's receiving, making sure that we've thought through all the parameters of any options. Certainly, I will let the President communicate to you all after that meeting his thoughts about what took place in the meeting. So I'm not going to prejudge the discussions that will take place during that meeting.

Q Scott, has the President's schedule been changed or altered in any way because of President Ford's death?

MR. STANZEL: Like I said at the beginning, no; no announcements have been made regarding adjustments to the President's schedule. But we'll certainly look forward to any announcements from the Ford family and make subsequent announcements at that time.

Q It is still the President's intention to unveil his new way forward in January, is it not?


Q Will the days of national mourning or various ceremonies associated with President Ford cause the President to look at a different time line because he might not want to give this new way forward while all the nation is focused on Ford remembrances?

MR. STANZEL: Well, we have not announced, other than the President will announce this new way forward in Iraq after the first of the year. So those are speculative, and we look forward to announcements from the Ford family.

Q Is there any SVTS associated with tomorrow's meeting --

MR. STANZEL: I'm sorry?

Q Any secure video as a part of tomorrow's meeting?

MR. STANZEL: Not that I'm aware of. If I get more information on that I can let you know.

Q Do you have a sense of what the contact with the President and Mrs. Ford, or President Ford had been since their meeting in April?

MR. STANZEL: That was the last time -- you mentioned the meeting in April -- that was April 23rd in Rancho Mirage, and that was the last time that the President, I believe, met with President Ford in person. But I don't have a characterization of any conversations that may have occurred between the President and Mrs. Ford or President Ford since that time.

Q And you said he's planning on attending the funeral, could that just be one of the events, or would there be others?

MR. STANZEL: Well, the arrangements have not been announced at this point by the family. So we can advise you about the President's attendance once those announcements are made.


Q Can you tell us if the President is concerned that expectations have set too high for his announcing this way forward and whether it will be a true solution in Iraq? and his mood, given that public opinion shows a majority of Americans are very unhappy with the war, that all the political leaders are calling for some dramatic change -- does he feel enormous pressure right now?

MR. STANZEL: Well, the President has spoken frequently about the importance of our effort in Iraq, the importance of helping the Iraqi people institute a government and create a society that is stable, can govern itself and be an ally in the war on terror. And he continues to ask questions. He understands that the American people are, rightfully, very concerned about what is going on in Iraq, as is the President.

But the President wants to make sure that he's taking the appropriate amount of time and giving the appropriate consideration of all the options before making an announcement.

In terms of expectations, I think the American people and the Iraqi people want are unified in the idea that we want a stable, secure and peaceful Iraq. And this is an effort to make sure that we are examining the situation on the ground and making the right policy choices that will not only stem the violence, but help create a political situation that is more stable for the Iraqi people and will also help the economy in the country. So there are a number of facets to the situation in Iraq.

And in terms of pressure, it's, I think, the President's desire to make sure that appropriate consideration is given to all options.

Q Scott, is there one person or one office in the White House that's handling the bulk of the liaison work with the Ford family?

MR. STANZEL: I'm sorry, for the family?

Q Is there one White House person or office that's talking to the Ford family, handling all the coordination that I assume has to be done?

MR. STANZEL: I can get you information on that, Greg, I don't know that personally.

Q Did the President have any reaction to Senator Biden's statement yesterday that he doesn't think more troops ought to be sent to Iraq?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I hope that Senator Biden would wait to hear what the President has to say before announcing what he's opposed to. President Bush will talk soon to our troops, to the American people and to the Iraqi people about the new way forward in Iraq that will lead to a democratic and unified country that can sustain, govern, and defend itself.

So the President has been listening to a lot of different people, whether it's on Capitol Hill, whether it's members of the Iraq Study Group, whether it's talking with the Iraqis directly, and he appreciates the input. But certainly in terms of Senator Biden, we would hope that he, too, would also wait to hear what the President has to say before announcing his opposition.

Q On the proclamation, the National Day of Mourning, during President Reagan's funeral the government was closed for one day. Will that happen this time, also?

MR. STANZEL: Yes, for decades, on a National Day of Mourning, upon the passing of a President, the federal government has been closed, and that is the expectation that the same thing will occur this year.

Q Do we have a date?


Q Can I ask a question about another subject, about Iran? Are you concerned about the decision by the Iranian parliament to oblige the government to revise cooperation with the IAEA? Are you aware of the decision --

MR. STANZEL: I'm sorry, say that again.

Q That the Iranian parliament decided -- adopted a bill obliging the government to revise cooperation with the IAEA. Are you --

MR. STANZEL: We can take a look at that. I don't have any guidance for you on that right now.


Q Do you have anything on the Vice President and how he was notified? We've asked his office, and they don't have any details on how he learned --

MR. STANZEL: I don't have any information on how the Vice President learned, no.


Q On the timing of Saddam Hussein's execution, noting that it's within 30 days, is there any communication with the U.S. government and pressure to make it sooner rather than later?

MR. STANZEL: That is a matter for the Iraqi people, and we are observers to that process. They are a sovereign government, and they will make their own decisions regarding carrying out that justice.

All right, thank you all very much.

END 11:30 A.M. CST

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