For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 13, 2007
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route New Albany, Indiana
10:14 A.M. EST
MS. PERINO: We are on our way to New Albany, Indiana. A few updates. The President had his normal briefings at 8:00 a.m. At 9:00 a.m., in the Oval Office before leaving, the President signed the DOD appropriations bill and he vetoed the Labor, HHS and Education bill. More on that in a moment.
At 9:50 a.m. today, the President called the President of Guatemala. That was from -- I'm sorry, President-elect of Guatemala -- President-elect Colom of Guatemala to offer him congratulations on winning the election on November 4th, after a spirited campaign. The President said he watched it closely, and he called to congratulate him on a great victory. The President said he wants to work closely with President Colom to expand on the good relationship between our two countries, especially on President-elect Colom's pledge to alleviate poverty, improve social justice, and have an open society. The President said he looks forward to working with him and to seeing him after he is sworn in.
Q How do you spell his name?
MS. PERINO: C-O-L-O-M -- as in "Mary."
So at 11:15 a.m. this morning, the President is going to have lunch with business and community leaders -- pool at the top. And we will release an event backgrounder on the participants so that you have that when we get there. The President will then make remarks on the budget.
A couple of points on that. During his remarks he will be addressing this group of business leaders, as well as community leaders from what's called One Southern Indiana. It's a local economic development council that represents 1,100 small businesses in southern Indiana. And the President will highlight how it is an important time for the American economy, describe Congress's spending plans and explain what they mean for everyday families and businesses in the heartland. And the President will say the last thing American people need now is higher taxes. He will talk about Congress's delay in passing appropriations bills and make clear that waiting until the last minute is no excuse for wasteful spending. The bills need to be passed one at a time and in a fiscally responsible way.
I am intending to get you excerpts of that speech before we land -- that's why Carlton is not here at the moment -- so you'll have a few things to work with.
At 2:00 p.m., the President will be interviewed by David Asman of FOX Business Network. I mentioned the other day this is rescheduled from the day that the President went out to California for the wildfire tour. At 3:55 p.m. he'll return to the White House. And tonight, at 7:45 p.m., the President and Mrs. Bush will host a social dinner -- this is in honor of the 10th anniversary of America's Promise, the Alliance for Youth -- State Dining Room at the White House.
This was founded by five living Presidents and Mrs. Nancy Reagan as a commitment to improve the lives of the nation's youth. And as Governor of Texas and as President, the President has been supportive of the principles and goals of the organization. At 9:00 p.m. tonight he will make remarks in honor of America's Promise, the Alliance for Youth.
I said I'd give you a couple of points on the bills -- the one bill signed and one vetoed this morning. The President will say today in his speech that the Department of Defense appropriations bill was not a perfect bill -- it includes some unnecessary spending -- but that he signed it because it is essential to deliver these funds to our military during a time of war. And in addition, this is a bill we agreed on. There was consultation and cooperation to find common ground. And this is the way the process should work.
Conversely, the President vetoed the Labor, HHS and Education appropriations bill. The bill is nearly $10 billion over the President's request, and is filled with 2,000 earmarks. He will call on Congress to take out the pork and reduce the overall spending level and return it to him quickly.
That's all I have.
Q Did you announce on the ground that he vetoed these bills, or is this the first announcement?
MS. PERINO: No, it happened right as we were walking out to the helicopter. So you can do a wire call after this if you want.
Q He did at the White House before he left?
MS. PERINO: Yes, right before he put on his raincoat.
Q Is there any worry about doing these two actions at the same time, and giving ammunition to Democrats, who will no doubt say he's willing to spend money on war and not on domestic priorities that they want?
MS. PERINO: As I said, the President will say that there is some unnecessary spending in the Department of Defense bill, but that we had worked cooperatively with them on it. One of the things about the Labor, HHS and Education bill is the -- not only the extra spending of over $9 billion, almost $10 billion, but also 2,000 earmarks that the President would like to see stripped out, and which Congress said early on in the year that they would be a different Congress and not include these earmarks.
Q Can I ask about Pakistan? Benazir Bhutto has said today that she won't participate in a government with Musharraf, and that her party may consider dropping out of the elections if they're held. The situation keeps sort of getting worse. What is -- how are you guys looking at this? How do you see it? Do you see it as getting worse?
MS. PERINO: I would describe it as evolving and changing over -- almost every hour, there seems to be a different development. And the call by President Musharraf to -- that he would have free and fair elections was a positive one because it clarified for the Pakistani people that that would take place. But we remain concerned that the emergency order is still in place, and if confirmed by the supreme court to be President, then President Musharraf should be quick to take off his uniform, as he said he would do. We are hopeful that moderate elements can join together to have increased dialogue as they work through this political situation.
Q Any reaction as far as the moderate element? Do you consider Musharraf a moderate element?
MS. PERINO: Pakistan has certainly been on a path to democracy, with an increase in civil society, press freedoms, and improved -- moving towards a market economy, and that we are urging them to get back on that path.
The terrorists and extremists that are our enemies are also the enemies of the Pakistani people. Remember, 800 Pakistanis have died at the hands of terrorists just since July. So the situation is very dangerous. We want people to be able to protest peacefully, to be able to have open -- an open society where they can speak their mind, and we're urging them to get back on that track.
So I wouldn't call it a personal issue with President Musharraf. We want everyone to be working together and communicating, and in fact, Deputy Secretary Negroponte will be traveling to Pakistan later in the week.
Q At what point do you all have to make the calculation that the concerns about fighting terrorism in Pakistan -- obviously real ones -- but you have to make the calculation that those concerns -- expressing such sort of mild condemnation of what's happening there becomes -- makes you all vulnerable to just being situational, having situational interest in democracy and situational interest in human rights? I mean, all of his promises come with a caveat that's unacceptable to the White House.
MS. PERINO: And that's why we are having to urge strongly President Musharraf to get back on the path to the constitution. And the other political parties that -- in Pakistan should all be working towards that goal together. And we -- it is not a tidy situation and something that we are continuing to monitor very closely, to be engaged in. And as I said, Deputy Secretary Negroponte will be traveling to the region later this week.
Q What's your reaction to Bhutto calling for Musharraf to step down?
MS. PERINO: Well, obviously, there's a lot of political tension in Pakistan right now. First and foremost, the most important thing is for the country to return to its democratic path, and that would be starting with lifting the emergency order and allowing those free and fair elections to go forward, and then establishing a democracy where the president of the country is not also the chief of the military.
Q Do you -- the Times report about an envoy going, can you say anything about that?
MS. PERINO: I think that description was a little bit too strong in terms of "envoy." Deputy Secretary Negroponte will be traveling there later in the week. I believe that's who they were referring to.
Q But why is "envoy" too strong?
MS. PERINO: Well, he's not going in terms of -- he's not going in a different capacity than what he is, which is the Deputy Secretary of State.
Q Does the call by Bhutto for Musharraf to step down -- does that eliminate any possibility of a power-sharing agreement?
MS. PERINO: As I said, the situation is evolving almost by the hour. So we'll have to encourage continued dialogue between all of the parties there.
Q Do you have any reaction to the new report -- it was in the Post -- about the war cost $20,000 so far for American families, and $1.5 trillion more --
MS. PERINO: I haven't seen the report, but it's obvious the motivations behind it. This report was put out by Democrats on Capitol Hill. This committee is known for being partisan and political. They did not consult or cooperate with the Republicans on the committee. And so I think it is an attempt to muddy the waters on what has been some positive developments being reported out of Iraq.
Obviously it remains a dangerous situation in Iraq. But the reduction in violence, the increased economic capacity of the country, as well as, hopefully, some continued political reconciliation that is moving from the bottom up, is a positive trend and one that we -- well, it's positive and we hope it is a trend that will take hold. Again, I haven't seen the fundamentals of this report, and possibly OMB would have something later today.
Q Thank you, Dana.
MS. PERINO: Okay, we'll get those excerpts to you.
END 10:24 A.M. EST