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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 9, 2008

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route West Point, New York

10:37 A.M. EST

MS. PERINO: Okay, everybody, we're on our way to West Point, New York. On board with us today Congressman Geoff Davis and Congressman John Shimkus. The President will make remarks on defense transformation at 11:25 a.m.

This morning, earlier -- I'm sorry, I should have mentioned -- he put out a statement on Zimbabwe. So I think you probably all saw that -- can provide that for you.

At 12:30 p.m., he will meet with the West Point senior cadets. That is closed press, but about 1,100 cadets will attend. And then the President is going to do an interview with the Pentagon Channel. Where is my guy? There you are. Hi. How are you? Welcome.

And then at 3:05 p.m., we will return to the White House.

I want to mention one thing to you to look out for today. The National Center for Education Statistics is going to release its latest TIMSS score -- it stands for Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. Their number is going to come out and it's going to show a continued closing of the achievement gap between white and African American students for both 4th and 8th graders. So I'll let you see those results, and maybe we'll try to flag them for you in specifics once they release them.

One scheduling announcement. On Thursday, December 11th, the President is going to announce new data that demonstrates continued progress reducing drug availability and use since 2001. New youth drug use data from the Monitoring the Future Study showed continued reductions in overall youth drug use over the past seven years, and new law enforcement and workplace drug test data show a significant disruption in the cocaine market. So taken together, that data, which covers a broad spectrum of key availability and use indicators, show the effectiveness of the President's balanced National Drug Control Strategy.

And so he, on Thursday, is going to meet with people who are in recovery; and leaders in drug prevention, treatment and law enforcement; and he'll highlight a few of the successes that have contributed to our nation's reduction in drug use on Thursday.

Q He did it last year --

MS. PERINO: He did it last year, and the trends have continued. So he'll do it again on Thursday.

I'll just go to questions.

Q Dana, can you tell us, please, where negotiations stand with the Hill on auto legislation?

MS. PERINO: Well, we met through the evening in person, over the phone, and we exchanged language with them last night, continuing those discussions this morning. I would characterize it as the following: that good progress is being made. We are still working through a number of issues, some of them just small and technical, and other ones a little bit more meaty in scope, but, all in all, making sure we're headed in the right direction.

Our insistence on long-term viability be -- our insistence that long-term viability be reflected in the legislation is something that we have held very strong feelings about, and that has not changed. If there is no long-term financing -- there will not be long-term financing if they cannot prove long-term viability.

Q Has that issue been addressed to your satisfaction?

MS. PERINO: I think I would just say we're not quite closed down on everything yet, but we're certainly -- we certainly made a lot of good progress over the past several hours. I would characterize the conversations as cooperative in spirit. We're working fast, but we're also wanting to get it right. So we have a little bit of time to continue to work with them to finalize these details.

Q So that issue -- that has not been settled?

MS. PERINO: I think overall we're headed in the right direction. But since we are still in discussions with them, I'm going to decline to comment on too many more specifics.

Q But bottom line: You are insisting on that one issue.

MS. PERINO: Absolutely. Our insistence that long-term financing be contingent upon a long-term viability plan is intact.

Q One follow on that. It seems like the Hill is saying, too, that they are also wanting long-term viability. So is the hang-up how you do that, or is it the principle that's the hang-up?

MS. PERINO: I think there's -- it could be both, right? It's the whole package. We just want to make sure that all the "i's" are dotted and "t's" are crossed before we say that we have a deal. And then there will be the legislative process. I don't know whether they would go to the Senate first or the House first; I think we've heard both scenarios. But that will be up for the members of the Congress to decide.

Q Dana, Speaker Pelosi said today that -- she suggested Paul Volcker as the "auto czar." What do you think of him for that position?

MS. PERINO: I think as we've said all morning, we don't even have legislation yet, so we're not going to comment on any rumors about personnel announcements that would come after legislation has passed. So we'll just have to wait.

Q Are there any concerns with the concept of the "car czar" as the Democrats have presented it? Is it more or less --

MS. PERINO: No, I think what I laid out for you yesterday in regards to a financial viability advisor is what we think that that entity should do. And so while we finish working with them on the details, I'll just decline to go any further than that at the moment. I don't know if we'll have something finalized today. I think it's possible, but again we're -- while we're working fast, we want to get it right. So I wouldn't read into anything if we don't get it all finalized today. We're going to try to, but we still have some time to get it done.

Q Thank you.

END 10:42 A.M. EST