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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 16, 2008

Press Gaggle by National Security Advisor Steve Hadley
Aboard Air Force One
En route Benin, Africa

7:21 A.M. (L)

MS. PERINO: Good morning, everybody. We're on our way to Benin, Africa. We gave you the schedule and Steve read that out last Wednesday. He's here and he will answer a few of your questions about what the President hopes to see accomplished at this stop and maybe give you a little preview of the next day. So I give you Steve Hadley.

MR. HADLEY: Good morning. You've heard about the trip, we did the backgrounder, you heard the President's speech. I don't have a whole lot to add to that.

We kick off today in Benin. This is a place where the Malaria Initiative, of course, is present; MCC is present; the education initiatives are very active here. So this is a place where we've got some leadership that is making right decisions, pretty democratic, investing in their people, a real partner for a number of these programs. So it's a good way to kick off the trip.

So this is day one; it ought to be an interesting six days. I'd be glad to answer any questions.

Q Could you give us a little bit more on Rice's trip to Kenya and how that will work out and what she hopes to accomplish?

MR. HADLEY: Sure. Kofi Annan, as you can tell from press reports -- there's a little more, as well. They're making incremental progress towards a political framework, whereby there would be a way ahead; still working on power sharing, still working on a way to resolve questions about the elections. So I think there is some incremental progress going on. And Condi is just going to want to go and reinforce that and try to accelerate it a bit. So it's a good opportunity in the region for her to show the President's concern -- but also get on the ground and help support Kofi Annan and maybe move things forward a little further and a little faster.

Q How long will she be there?

MR. HADLEY: A matter of hours. I'm not sure the logistics have been all worked out. But it's basically to go in, give some impetus, but then step out and let Kofi Annan continue his diplomacy.

Q In the early stages of planning for this trip, was Kenya ever on the agenda?

MR. HADLEY: You know, it's a good question, and I don't think so. I don't think so. You know, it's a long-time friend and ally. I believe Mrs. Bush has been to Kenya. It was really not on the agenda for this trip. We kind of wanted to go some places that the President and First Lady had not been -- not only true of this trip, but a number of places it's true. My recollection, the answer is really no. If it was, it hasn't been on it for a long time.

Q Steve, is the government doing, or administration doing anything different to prepare for Sunday, when the FISA law expires? Is there anything that you all are going to do as a result of that?

MR. HADLEY: Well, there's a lot of -- you know, we've made our point on that, and the President yesterday meeting with Republican leadership; I think Mike McConnell is going to be out on some of the -- on the FOX News show on Sunday --


Q Same thing. (Laughter.)

MR. HADLEY: -- making the case and explaining to the American people why we need to get this law in place, and that the quickest, fastest, best way to do that is for the House to take up the Senate bill. So that will be an important thematic. That's where we are. This needs to get done. And we'll be out saying that, along with the congressional Republicans.

Q There's always discussion about dire consequences if the law were to expire. What is the government doing to prepare for any of these potential dire consequences?

MR. HADLEY: Well, there's not a lot you can do. When you degrade your intelligence, it puts you at risk. And you can try through other sources, but you know, we're kind of as fully committed on -- we're making all the time every effort we can on intelligence, and when one of your important tools is taken away from you for a period of time, it's hard to compensate for it. That's what is so unique about this law and about the kind of coverage this affords. It's coverage you can't really get any other way. That's why we call it a "gap in intelligence." Gaps are hard to fill.

Q One last question on this, I'm sorry. If you all had Article 2 power to do this prior to this becoming -- this program becoming publicly known, why wouldn't you continue to do that Sunday, even absent the legislation?

MR. HADLEY: Well, as you know, there's been a lot of discussion about that and a lot of strong preference from the media, but particularly from congressional leaders that we do this in a legislative framework. And that's what we've been trying to do, to do it in a legislative framework. But to do it in a legislative framework takes two -- it takes a legislature willing to adopt a framework. And that's what we need to get done.

Q Can I ask you a question on Kosovo? If Kosovo declares its independence on Sunday, will the United States recognize it as an independent state?

MR. HADLEY: Let's see how that proceeds. Let's see how that proceeds.

Q Steve, back to Africa for a moment. The President's stop in Benin is relatively short and then he's moving on to Tanzania. He's talked about wanting to see how these programs, such as MCC and malaria, are working. Can you talk about the strategic or political significance of the President actually being in the region to see how these programs are working?

MR. HADLEY: Well, part of it is to see how they're doing in person. Part of it, though, is to go to the countries that have made the right decisions to, as we say, rule democratically, fight corruption, invest in their people, to be open to the problem -- to the power of free markets and free trade. And part of it is wanting to go to these countries, stand up next to those leaders, draw attention to the fact that they're making the right decisions for their people, and strengthen their hand.

So, yes, it is to come and see the programs, it is to give some attention to the programs, but it is also to show some tangible support to those leaders who are making right decisions for their people.

Q On supporting leaders and tangible support, President Kagame in Rwanda has not really been all that open towards opening up towards all parties. There's some democratic concerns. Are you at all worried that you're sending a message that Kagame can (inaudible) democracy and have minority party rule in Rwanda?

MR. HADLEY: Well, one of the things the President will do at every stop and with all these leaders, as he always does, is emphasize the importance of democracy and building the institutions of a free society. Look, these societies are always in transition and the President -- are in transition, and as the President says many times, democracy is always a work in progress, including ours.

So one of the things he will do at all these stops is to urge them to continue to move forward , putting in place the democratic institutions on which democracy over the long term depends.

So part of his message at every stop is, you're doing well, but there's always more to do when you're building a democracy and he will make that point in all these places.

Q And he believes that Kagame is committed to democracy?

MR. HADLEY: I think he believes all of these countries, their leaders are on the path towards the kinds of governments that we want to partner with, with Africa. They're all works in progress, they're all going to look a little bit different, and some of them are different points along the path. But we believe they are on that path. And to the extent there's more work to do, that will be, as in many cases there is, that will be a subject of discussion between the President and the leaders.

Q Steve, is it fair to characterize this, at least in part, as a legacy trip for the President? Is that a fair characterization?

MR. HADLEY: You know, you know the President and you've seen him. He doesn't do much looking over his shoulder. He's a guy who is looking for what he can get done. He's very results oriented. So when I have my conversations with him, they're never, "Well, let's talk about our legacy," they're always, "Look, we've got year left; let's be concrete and let's get stuff done." And that's what I think you're seeing here. He wants to stand up -- to the leaders who have supported these programs, made the right decisions, and he wants to draw attention to them so that they can become part of the American approach in Africa not only for this administration, but also for the next administration.

You know, one of the things he's doing is he's very strong about giving to the next team the set of tools and policies that they're going to need to continue to make progress on a whole host of issues. The new team is going to have a lot of issues to address when they come in, and the President has been very clear he wants to leave these issues – make as much progress as he can in the next year that is ahead of him and leave the next team a good set of policies and tools to deal with these problems.

Q Thank you.

END 7:33 A.M. (L)

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