For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 29, 2008
Press Briefing by Dana Perino
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:37 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Hello. Happy Friday. Today Senator John McCain announced his vice presidential pick, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. The White House is energized and excited by this choice. President Bush called Governor Palin just before his meeting with President Kikwete of Tanzania. He said that the McCain-Palin ticket is very strong. He wished her good luck, told her that she will be a fantastic vice presidential candidate, and that he is looking forward to a great victory in November.
Also, President Bush today just issued an emergency declaration for the state of Louisiana. This declaration provides for federal aid to supplement the state and local preparations for tropical storm -- or soon to be hurricane Gustav. FEMA is authorized to provide resources, equipment, and direct federal assistance. Secretary Chertoff and Administrator Paulison have been in the Gulf Coast region meeting with state and local officials about the preparations, and today Secretary Chertoff will be traveling to Mississippi and will meet Governor Barbour about Mississippi's planning for the potential landfall of the storm.
And that's all I have.
Q Dana, on the storm, does the President still plan to go to the convention, regardless of what happens with the weather?
MS. PERINO: We have no changes to the schedule, and we'll let you know if there are any.
Q Can you give us any indication of what he's going to be speaking about?
MS. PERINO: Sure, happy to. The President is looking forward to the honor of speaking at the Republican Convention on Monday night. The speech expresses gratitude. The President will thank his family, his administration, and most of all, the friends, supporters and volunteers in the convention hall who have supported him and the Republican agenda for these past eight years.
The speech reviews the major issues facing the country, from terrorism and war to the economy and the direction of our culture. Above all, the speech reflects on the role of the presidency and the qualities that are demanded by the job, and makes the case that John McCain is the best qualified to be our next leader and commander-in-chief. In particular, it highlights McCain's unique judgment, perspective, and experience to deal with the unexpected, to stand firm on his convictions, put the country above himself, and make hard decisions necessary to protect the American people.
The speech rallies Republicans to have confidence in America's future and to do everything they can to elect John McCain to the presidency.
A couple of things that the speech does not do: Do not expect this speech to define the President's legacy. This is not an opportunity to recap accomplishments of the past seven and a half years. It will not serve as a farewell to the American people, and it certainly will not attack Barack Obama.
Q Why not? I mean, this week --
MS. PERINO: Because he's got class.
Q -- the President has taken a great deal of criticism. Every speaker it seemed at the Democratic Convention spoke about the failed policies of the Bush presidency. Does he not want a forum in which to answer that criticism?
MS. PERINO: But this President knows better than almost any politician in America what it's like to face criticism. He watched his dad as vice presidential candidate for two terms go through that, and then when his dad ran for President, he saw it again, and then in his own campaigns, the two national elections. He knows what it's like in high political season, and he's not going to respond to every attack.
But some of the attacks are just out-and-out false; for example, suggesting that the Bush administration hasn't invested in alternative or renewable energies. Everybody in this room knows that that's not true. So we're in high political season. We're not going to let it get to us. We're going to focus on the big picture. And most importantly, President Bush will be working to make sure that John McCain is the next President of the United States.
Q Are there any other -- any other role for him planned at the convention? I know he's going in Monday to give the speech, he goes back out, but is he going to be doing anything else?
MS. PERINO: I think that's it. We're just going to be giving the speech, and then in the tradition of past Presidents, he will spend the rest of the week, we call it down, and he'll be at Camp David for the week. So we get back from Minnesota and go straight to Camp.
Q Okay. And one other question about -- back on the hurricane. Obviously things will be developing over the weekend. Are there plans for either anything happening here at the White House, or for the President to do or say anything over the weekend?
MS. PERINO: At the moment, nothing to be -- for a presidential event that would be open to the public. But he will be getting an update in the morning. He's gotten -- he had, I think, two today already. And when Chertoff and Paulison have updates they pass them either through senior staff or directly to the President. Secretary Chertoff spoke to the President yesterday by phone.
Look, we're taking the storm very seriously. Thankfully, so are the leaders of the states that could be impacted, and they seem to be well prepared. We certainly applaud the state leaders for all that they've done to get their regions organized, to provide for early evacuation for people with special needs who might need it. So everything seems like it's on track. But it's a very serious storm and so we are taking it seriously. And things could change in a moment's notice. Right now the storm is scheduled to land Tuesday afternoon, but we've seen that change over the hour.
Q When do you make the call on whether or not the storm affects the President's plans? Sunday? Monday?
MS. PERINO: All I know is, not right now. (Laughter.) I don't know, Wendell. It's hard to say. It's speculation and if I were to guess I'd probably be wrong.
Q Dana, are you saying that some of the criticisms that Senator Obama had last night in his acceptance speech of the Bush administration and of the President were out-and-out false? And if so, can you specify beyond energy policy?
MS. PERINO: No, I would look to -- you all can fact-check it yourselves. We're not going to. I'm not going to get into the -- into a back-and-forth with the Democratic presidential candidate, who had a really good convention and -- but we do recognize that this President has been unfairly attacked across the board by many Democrats for quite a while. But certainly as we get into this last eight weeks of the presidential campaign, tensions will probably flare, but this President has a lot of class, he's very gracious, and he also is very focused. And so nothing gets him off his game.
Go ahead, Olivier.
Q Dana, Georgia has cut off diplomatic relations with Russia. I wonder if you have a reaction to that.
MS. PERINO: Well, I'm certainly not surprised. And we continue to be dismayed that Russia has not fulfilled all of its requirements in the peace agreement that it signed, the one that Sarkozy sent that was a six-point plan. So we are focused on trying to make that agreement -- or get that agreement fulfilled, so those obligations to be fulfilled, and for the Russian military to be back into its posture that it was in on -- before the hostilities began on August 7th.
Georgia is going to need the support of the world. There is unison when you look at the reaction about a country's sovereignty, its independence, and its territorial integrity. And you've seen across the board, countries coming forward to announce their support for Georgia, and condemning the actions of Russia. And the results of that are that Russia is increasingly isolated, and will bear the consequences of that isolation unless they fulfill that agreement and then make amends.
Q There is reporting, though, that Secretary Rice is bringing "clarifications" to the cease-fire agreement that, in fact, would give ground to Russia; give them rights to patrol more territory in Georgia than the original cease-fire and make other concessions like that. Is that -- is that completely contradictory to the --
MS. PERINO: I have not heard that and I don't know if it's accurate, but we'll check on it, or refer you to State.
Q On the same topic, South Ossetians' parliamentary speaker said that in meetings between President Medvedev and then the leader of South Ossetia, that the two men agreed that Russia would absorb South Ossetia in several years. And then the deputy parliamentary speaker of South Ossetia went on to say that Russia and South Ossetia are going to be signing an agreement to allow Russian military installations in South Ossetia.
MS. PERINO: Again, I don't find any of this surprising, given the actions of the past three weeks. But South Ossetia and Abkhazia are a part of Georgia under U.N.-recognized laws, in fact, laws and Security Council resolutions that Russia itself has supported. And I don't believe that Russia would want anybody questioning its territorial integrity. And we certainly don't. But we do expect the world to live up to its obligations to live up to the -- and live up to the law. And the law is that Georgia's territorial integrity should be intact and it should not be a question. And so it doesn't surprise me, though, that Russia and South Ossetia or Abkhazia would be having those conversations.
Q What about this agreement to allow Russian military bases in South Ossetia? They're supposed to sign that September 2nd. What can -- what can and will the U.S. do about that?
MS. PERINO: We're taking measured looks at all of this, but it's not just the United States; this is the international community and especially Europe, who has been very strong. You've had strong statements out of NATO, the G7, the OSCE, across the board, and then the individual countries themselves making strong statements that they stand with Georgia. They stand for democracy; they believe in the cause that these countries have been working towards.
And Georgia was a bright shining star economically there in the region, and they're going to need help reconstructing their economy. Right now what we're focused on is trying to get humanitarian aid in there, because there are many people who are homeless, or who are without food or clean drinking water, and so that has to be our priority right now.
Q But would Russian military bases in South Ossetia be acceptable to the United States?
MS. PERINO: What we want is the posture before August 6th, and before August 6th you did not have Russian bases on that territory.
Q What are the President's thoughts on the selection of Governor Palin as John McCain's running mate?
MS. PERINO: Speaking of that, I actually have a statement by the President I forgot to read. (Laughter.) We will release it, but let me give it to you here.
President Bush will say, in his words: Today Senator McCain made an exciting decision in choosing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to join him on his ticket as the vice presidential candidate. Governor Palin is a proven reformer who is a wise steward of taxpayer dollars and champion for accountability in government. Governor Palin's success is due to her dedication to principle and her "roll up your sleeves" work ethic, and services as a wonderful example of the spirit of America.
By selecting a working mother with a track record of getting things done, Senator McCain has once again demonstrated his commitment to reforming Washington.
I applaud Senator McCain for selecting Governor Palin. This decision is yet another example of why the American people can trust him to make wise decisions and to confidently lead this country.
Q Has the President spoken to her since he was -- since she was selected?
MS. PERINO: Yes, I -- that's what I led off the briefing with -- he called her.
Q He called her?
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q Dana, does the President believe, with his administration and the expanded powers given to Vice President Cheney, he has set the model for future administrations?
MS. PERINO: I reject the notion that expanded powers were given to Vice President Cheney --
Q I don't say that in a pejorative -- the President has always talked about the responsibilities that -- perhaps I used the wrong word -- "responsibilities" might have been a better word than "powers." I don't mean extraconstitutional powers in any way. I mean making Mr. Cheney more of a partner in the executive than previous administrations have.
MS. PERINO: Yes, I see what you mean.
Q Does he believe he has set a model for future administrations in that regard?
MS. PERINO: I think it will just depend. President Bush has relied on Vice President Cheney for many things, and one of it was the experience and judgment that he brought to the job in a variety of areas, for all of the service and dedication that he had had over the years. And he's been a steady hand and a good confidential advisor for this President.
And -- but every President gets to make their own decision as to how their Vice President would work. But what I saw today was that Senator McCain fully intends that Governor Palin will be by his side and will be a strong partner for him, and I think he couldn't have -- made a better choice.
Q Two quick questions. One, did President watch last night Senator Obama's acceptance speech? And second, also -- same question -- does the President realize or accept one thing, that Senator Obama made history last night by being the nominee of a major political party in the U.S. and being a son of immigrant from Kenya?
MS. PERINO: Sure. President Bush did not stay up to watch the speech last night, but he did see a lot of the reporting on it this morning and watched some of the pieces. So he did see it. And absolutely, it was a great moment for America that we have -- that shows that we've come a long way. And he certainly congratulated Senator Obama on this achievement and it speaks volumes for this country, that it's an opportunity -- it's a land of opportunity for all people. And he's going to be focusing his efforts now on the contest to come, which is the presidential election and he'll be supporting John McCain.
Q And second, as far as the President's travel to China -- Olympics now over -- many human rights groups are asking if President had really represented them, like Burma, Tibetans, and other groups are asking as far as human rights in China is concerned, because they think now Chinese have put under the rug because of Olympics and presidential and many great leaders were represented there.
MS. PERINO: President Bush did raise all of those issues before he got to China, and then with the Chinese directly, and he will continue to, as will the rest of the world, and continue to put pressure to allow for more human rights in the area.
Q Two questions back on the Republican Convention.
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q First off, do you know which convention was the first one the President ever attended?
MS. PERINO: Not off the top of my head, but we can look for you.
Q And secondly, can you talk a little bit about his feelings about the changed circumstances? After all the moments of triumph he's had at conventions, he's going to address a convention this time and they can't wait to turn the page and go on to the next nominee.
MS. PERINO: I don't think that you can speak for the delegates of this country, especially of the GOP. This is a party that has stood by the President, and -- but conventions are about the next President and who the candidates are going to be, and it's their chance to shine. And we intend for the spotlight to shine fully on John McCain. And that's what the President is going to do in his speech, is spend the great majority of it talking about how our nation has faced significant challenges on several different fronts, and that John McCain is the type of person who can come in and start leading immediately, because he's got the experience to do so.
Q So no wistfulness at all on his part?
MS. PERINO: Not from this President, no.
Q Dana, do you know if Senator McCain consulted the President about his running mate choice?
MS. PERINO: No, but we were informed beforehand.
Q Do you know when?
MS. PERINO: In the hour or so before the announcement. Maybe a little bit before.
Okay, all right, thank you.
END 1:51 P.M. EDT