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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 27, 2008

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En route Albuquerque, New Mexico

12:18 P.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: Okay, we are on our way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The President had his normal briefings this morning. The first stop of the day is the President will attend a White for Congress and New Mexico Victory Luncheon in Albuquerque. Then we will go to Mesa, Arizona, where he will visit the Silverado Cable Company. And then we will do there a McCain for President and RNC Victory Reception in Phoenix. We will remain overnight in Colorado Springs, and then he has the commencement address in the morning -- of which I have a preview for you in just a moment.

If you can bear with me, I have one other announcement to point out of you -- it might have been lost in the weekend coverage. On Friday the Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, Jay Hein, he announced that the office will host a Gulf Coast Conference on Disaster Relief and Preparedness in New Orleans on May 29th and 30th. It will feature Mrs. Bush; General Doug -- Major General Doug O'Dell, who is the new federal coordinator for Gulf Coast rebuilding; Danny Wuerffel, member of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation; and other private and public sector leaders.

This will be held during National Hurricane Preparedness Week and will highlight the strengthening of the role between faith-based organizations and community groups through disaster preparedness, response and recovery. And this will have a special focus on the Gulf Coast region.

Because we have quite a full day and I'm not going to be able -- I think the next time I would be able to talk to you would be too late, let me just do a preview of the President's commencement speech that's going to be at the Air Force Academy tomorrow.

The commencement will compare and contrast the careers that the Class of 2008 will have compared with that of the World War II generation. More specifically, it will take a look at the differences and similarities in air power and warfare, today versus World War II, both in terms of enemies we face and technology available to fight. It will draw parallels of post-war conditions between Germany and Japan and then today's conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He will talk about how there is one constant, that freedom has the power to overcome tyranny and transform societies. And the President will express the great confidence and gratitude he has for the Class of 2008 as they take up their mission -- will express his great confidence and gratitude he has for them -- make that more grammatically correct.

I have one sentence from the speech as prepared that I'm going to provide for you now. It is the following -- this is, again, as prepared for the President tomorrow: "America has assumed this obligation before. After World War II we helped Germany and Japan build free societies and strong economies. These efforts took time and patience, and as a result Germany and Japan grew in freedom and prosperity and are now allies of the United States. And we have reaped the benefits in generations of security and peace. Today we must do the same in Afghanistan and Iraq, and by helping these young democracies grow in freedom and prosperity we will once again reap the benefits in generations of security and peace."

That's all I got.

Q Will you have excerpts later tonight on more of it?

MS. PERINO: No. I think that's all.

Q Okay. And do you know the number of graduates?

MS. PERINO: Sorry, I don't, but Carlton will be happy to get them for you.*

Q Can you -- how is the President feeling about the idea of being needed as a McCain supporter out on the road now? I mean, this is like the first --

MS. PERINO: How's he feeling about being needed?

Q In other words, his role now -- this is the first real role in this. I mean, is he going to be very visible with McCain from here on out?

MS. PERINO: Again, President Bush isn't on the ticket. So this is a new role for him. The past several cycles, either his dad had been on the ticket or -- and there were the in-between years during the '90s. And then he's been on the ticket the past two times. And so it is just fundamentally different for the President this election cycle. And in many ways it's good to be an observer and a supporter wherever he can. You'll remember that the President and John McCain had a great meeting and event in the Rose Garden back in early March. And as the President said, he will do as much or as little as anyone needs him to do to help elect Republicans.

But at the end of the day, any candidate who's running for office has to stand on their own two feet and they have to chart a course for themselves. Every election is about change -- go back through history and every single one is about how things are going to look in the future. And that's what Senator McCain has set out to do, which is to chart his own course, talk about how he will lead this nation in a time of war and threats from enemies and the challenges we have of keeping competitive in the world as the economy is in a current slowdown -- but looks like hopefully it's come back because of the economic stimulus package, which is another thing the President will talk about today at the Silverado Cable Company.

So when you ask me how he feels, remember, I don't do a lot of psychoanalysis of President Bush. He's glad to be out on the road doing some politicking today. He will do as much as he can across the board for candidates through this cycle, but he also is Commander-in-Chief and has responsibilities -- for example, as you know, we're going to be out of the country for eight days as he goes to Europe to meet with our allies and further strengthen and deepen the relationships we have with his European partners.

I think how he feels about it is a little less important; he's just glad to be out on the road. It's a little bit reminiscent, but it's a very different feeling because you're not on the ticket.

Q Dana, a couple follows on that, please. You said in many ways it's good to be an observer. Can you elaborate? What's good about being an observer?

MS. PERINO: Well, I mean, I think you look -- talk to candidates. It's an exhilarating and exhausting experience. And twice around is plenty. And also you've heard the President say he believes it's harder to be President -- son of a President than it is to be President. He's been involved in this for a long time and you can't wish for something that's not going to happen -- he doesn't wish for a third term. He thinks it's good that we have a two-term limit in the United States. It's good for the country to have that smooth, peaceful transition of power every four or eight years; one where you get new energy and new ideas across the board -- from the President on down, throughout the administration.

Also, in terms of as an observer, this is a man who understands politics very well; he understands what the candidates are going through. And I can just imagine that when you have a chance to sit back and observe it, it's very different than if you are on the ticket yourself and responsible and accountable for trying to win that election in November.

Q Dana, also, is the President bothered by some of the criticisms that Senator McCain has made on the campaign trail of the administration on various things?

MS. PERINO: No, he is not. As I said before, the President and Senator McCain have had -- have had a long, good relationship over the years. And if you were there for the Rose Garden event, I think one of the things that I tried to remind people of is how hard John McCain campaigned for the President in 2004 to help him win reelection. The President believes it's our turn to try to help him, and we'll do that in whatever way he needs.

But at the end of the day, in November it will be John McCain who wins because he stood on his own two feet and talked about how he would lead the country in the future. It's not about looking back; it's about looking forward.

Q And do they appear in public together today?

MS. PERINO: I think there's going to be just a brief appearance on the way back to the airplane.

Q In Phoenix?

MS. PERINO: In Phoenix.

Q Can you clarify the circumstances with the Convention Center versus a private residence? There were reports that --

MS. PERINO: I did over the weekend, though you may not have seen the comments, so I'll just repeat them here, which is that as you know, our practice has been for fundraisers that the President does, if they're at a venue like a hotel, that they are open to press. The McCain campaign has a practice that's different, and that is that all of their fundraisers, regardless of location, are closed to the press. And so to accommodate the practices, they decided to move it to a private residence today.

Q There was a specific report that ended up getting pretty widely circulated out of Arizona that said the event was moved because of lackluster sales, and also because of feared protests. Are either of those points accurate?

MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of. I'd refer you to the McCain campaign for those. But I would remind you that given that it's a free country, no matter where we go there's always a possibility for protests, so I don't think I'd put a lot of stock into that concern.

Q Dana, he is meeting with the President of the Mormon Church Thursday morning; is that right? What's the significance of that?

MS. PERINO: Well, I believe the last time we were in Utah, in Salt Lake City, we did the same. The President has --

Q Okay.

MS. PERINO: Yes, we did; I was there. (Laughter.) Yes, so, I mean, he meets with them regularly, and thinks that they have a good role to play in America, in terms of helping communities and spreading the word of love. And the President often meets with religious leaders, and I don't think he would -- I don't think the President would ever pass up an opportunity to meet with the President of the Mormon Church.

Q New subject. I didn't see any reaction yesterday on Iran and the IAEA report. Do you have anything on that for us this morning?

MS. PERINO: Well, certainly we're currently reviewing the report, as you know. I don't believe it's final yet, in terms of final dissemination from them. We remain concerned that Iran continues to defy the international community when it comes to their nuclear program. If you look at what the IAEA said, they are -- that organization remains concerned. And I think that this should further open the eyes of the world to the problems of Iran.

And by failing to cooperate fully and transparently with the IAEA on these matters, we can only conclude it wants to preserve the ability to weaponize; Iran's continued nuclear fuel cycle development reinforces this conclusion. And despite Iranian protests that they have never violated their NPT or their IAEA safeguards obligations in which they cooperate fully with the IAEA, this report apparently demonstrates that Iran has not met its international obligations, and continues to violate the commitments that it committed to.

Q What do you do now?

MS. PERINO: Well, as you know, Secretary Rice is leading up a conversation and negotiations with our allies, the P5-plus-1, for possible further sanctions, but I'd refer you to State Department for where they are on that process. I haven't heard -- although she and David Miliband answered questions from the press either last Thursday or Friday, and they talked about the status of it. I'd refer you to that.

Q I had one question on the economy. Can you give us a little bit of flavor for what the point of today's event is? And is the President's visit for him to talk about an uptick in the economy? Did I hear you right?

MS. PERINO: No. No, you didn't hear me say the President was going to say that. I said that the --

Q I thought you said something about the stimulus taking effect. I swore --

MS. PERINO: I said we believe that that stimulus is going to have the desired effect to bounce us out of the slowdown that we were in, and that as the stimulus checks went out, starting the first of May -- late April, first of May -- there was also another component of the economic stimulus package, and that was for businesses to be able to take advantage of some tax breaks so that they could buy equipment and to accelerate the depreciation, as it makes a big difference for a company like the one we're going to visit today, because that means that they can invest, expand, and usually when they're investing and expanding, they're creating more jobs.

So the President will highlight that portion of it today for a couple of reasons: one, to make sure that businesses across the country know that this opportunity is available to them; and two, to highlight how many businesses have taken advantage of it already. That's in addition to the individuals who have gotten stimulus rebate checks. I'll have you check with the Treasury Department -- or the President might have them later -- in terms of how many individuals have now received their checks. As you know, that was going to be a multi-month rollout. But I believe it's pretty high, the number of people who have already gotten it.

Q So he might be releasing some numbers in his comments?

MS. PERINO: I think so, but I don't think that these are numbers that are necessarily -- they're not a secret. But I think -- we're trying to get -- I'm trying to get an update, so we make sure that we have something.

Q This is the same business message at that printing plant in Sterling, Virginia.

MS. PERINO: Yes, from Sterling, Virginia, and it's a similar message from there. So you'll hear from the President -- talk about that portion of it today.


Q Can I ask one last thing? What is the division on the cost of the trips between official business and then party business?

MS. PERINO: There's some -- there is a formula that exists. I don't have it off the top of my head, but it's followed whenever we go on trips like this.

Q Can we run that down at some point?

MS. PERINO: We'll see --

Q -- in the next couple days since -- get a sense of which part of the trips?

MS. PERINO: Maybe you should look at your reporting from last year, because -- or in 2006 cycle. We had the exact same conversations over and over again. So I'll try to get it for you right now, but --

Q That would be great.

Q -- because of fuel costs. Does it still cost $68,000 an hour to operate Air Force One?

MS. PERINO: I have no idea, Roger.

Q Could we get an update, maybe?

Q I think our question -- one question I have is the breakdown of this trip, because there's a little bit of official and there's a little -- you know, certain days are --

MS. PERINO: I don't know how specific we get in breaking that down, but I'll see what I can get you. Okay?

Q Thanks.

END 12:33 P.M. EDT

*There will be 1,012 graduates.