White House Daily Briefing, October 9, 2003

 

Thursday  October 9, 2003

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

October 9, 2003

PRESS GAGGLE BY SCOTT McCLELLAN

Aboard Air Force One
En route Portsmouth, New Hampshire

9:02 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, everybody. Let me run through a few things on the schedule. First of all, we have Congressman and Mrs. Sununu on board, Congressman Bass and Congressman Bradley, as well.

When we stop in Portsmouth, the Freedom Corps greeter there, I wanted to bring to your attention, Kathleen -- Kathy -- Rice, she goes by "Kathy." For the past 30 years she has provided support services to hundreds of New Hampshire National Guard family members in need, and she's a wife of a Guard member, as well. And she helps them meet their needs when they arise, particularly when their spouses are deployed.

We begin by going -- the President will make remarks at the New Hampshire Air National Guard, Army National Guard Reservists and families. There will be about -- I think about 1,400, 1,500 expected there. Let me give you a little bit of information on this National Guard Base.

Pease Air National Guard Base's primary mission is to support strategic aerial refueling and air traffic control operations under the operational control of the Air Mobility Command. And the air crews support the worldwide air-to-air refueling requirements for DOD bombers, fighters, transports and rescue aircraft, and those of allied forces, as well.

And a little bit on their involvement in Iraq. Recently, the Air Guardsmen from this facility have been involved in operations such as in-flight refueling, air traffic control at Baghdad International Airport, and acting as security police. And an air traffic controller from this facility actually helped control air traffic at the Baghdad International Airport two days after it was captured by coalition forces. And they have also played a -- they've been playing a significant role in the post-major combat operations in Iraq.

Then at the next -- I'll come back to the speech in a minute. In Manchester, the Freedom Corps greeter that the President will meet upon landing is Robert Perkins. And he has been active in a number of volunteer activities, including the Boys and Girls -- helping establish a Boys and Girls Club in the area. And the remarks to the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, I expect about 600 or so in attendance, these will be business and community leaders.

That's kind of the quick summary of the day. Then after those remarks, the President will travel to Kentucky, where he'll participate in the Ernie Fletcher for Governor event this evening.

On the remarks today, the President will be highlighting the nation's two highest priorities: strengthening our economy so that we can create an environment for job creation and sustained growth; as well as winning the war on terrorism, to make America safer and more secure. I expect the President will talk about the challenges that we have faced over the last two years and how we've been acting to meet those challenges.

And on the economy, I think the President will talk about how we've been through a recession and other challenges, but that the economy is moving in the right direction. The President is optimistic, but he is not satisfied because there are still people looking for work who cannot find a job. That's why the President will be talking about the importance of Congress working with him to act on his six point plan that he has outlined to strengthen our economy even more and translate economic growth into job creation.

And then he will also talk about how during this time of challenge on the economic front, we have also confronted the new and dangerous threats we face. He will talk about how we're taking the fight to the enemy so that we get them before they can attack us. He'll talk about the importance of confronting threats as they gather, before they reach our shores. And, finally, he will talk about the central front in Iraq and the progress that we are making there and what that means for the safety and security of the American people. And I also expect he will specifically talk about the Guards and Reservists in New Hampshire who are serving their country and highlight the specific ways that they are helping to serve in the war on terrorism and thank their families for the service and sacrifice that they are making, as well.

And with that, I'll just jump right into the questions.

QUESTION: Are those last questions aimed at addressing some of the concerns expressed by generals recently about retaining Guard people who -- there are some concerns people in the Guard may not want to stick around if they face year-long tours in Iraq and the like.

MR. McCLELLAN: Clearly, the Guard and Reservists are playing an important role in helping us prevail in this central front in the war on terrorism. And the President looks forward to the opportunity to personally thank these Guards and Reservists, as well as thank their families for the sacrifices they are making. It's an important cause that they are involved in, and the President will remind them of that.

Q: One other one. President Putin today said that he thinks the U.N. should resolve the issue or pass a resolution on Iraq's sovereignty before the donors conference in Madrid. Has the White House position changed on that at all? Are you listening to what President Putin has to say?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're continuing to talk with member nations of the Security Council and work to move forward on a new resolution to broaden international support in Iraq even more. And we continue to consult with those other countries that are on the Security Council and discuss ways that we can move forward on that resolution. We made improvements to it and now we're working forward on it.

Q: Do you think it needs to be done before the donors conference?

MR. McCLELLAN: I've never put any time lines on it. At this point, we're continuing to consult with the other countries.

Q: Governor-elect Schwarzenneger says that he hopes to meet the President next week and that he wants lots and lots of favors. What kind of things does President Bush think the federal government can do for California that it isn't currently doing?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- had a brief congratulatory conversation yesterday. They have not met since he won election. The President looks forward to meeting with him in the future and I'm sure if the governor-elect has some issues that he wants to discuss with the President, he can do it at that time. But the President very much looks forward to working with Governor-elect Schwarzenneger.

Q: Will President Bush do more for California with a Republican governor than he was currently doing for California?

MR. McCLELLAN: Certainly, as I said, the President looks forward to working with the governor-elect. I think that they will have a good working relationship and work together on shared priorities.

Q: Will they see each other in California next week?

MR. McCLELLAN: No update on the schedule at this point, but we'll keep you posted. I've got, obviously, the week-ahead is tomorrow, so I'm sure you will anxiously listen to it then.

Q: Most importantly, did the President watch the Red Sox-Yankees game last night, and has he offered you a take of it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I know the Chief of Staff did.

Q: Did he watch?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know, he probably -- well, let's see, we were at the RNC event, and I didn't ask him this morning.

Q: Well, it ran late.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll check with him.

Q: What's all the down time in Lexington -- when he gets to Lexington, he's got about two hours of down time.

MR. McCLELLAN: Just to tend to official business and have some time before the reception this evening. That's not unusual.

Q: Is anybody coming in, do you know? Are there any visitors we should --

MR. McCLELLAN: If there are --

Q: Scott, there's talk that the donors conference may be delayed because of lack of interest. Is there any possibility that you think it will be delayed? And what will the President do to keep it on track?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're moving forward on the premise that it will take place as scheduled. I saw a conflict in reports to that effect, but we expect it to take place as scheduled.

Q: Two questions. One, is the speech that he's giving at Pease the same speech he's giving in Manchester?

MR. McCLELLAN: Similar, very similar.

Q: Okay, second question, about the economy. When you say that the President still isn't satisfied, is he in any way downplaying Mr. Bolten's estimate yesterday that the deficit might not be as large as had been earlier predicted this year?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's talking about -- what's most important is that we work to create an even stronger environment for job creation. And remember what Director Bolten has said. He's talked about the importance of -- the deficit is manageable, and the way to address it is to keep our economy growing and to have spending restraint at the federal level. And that's the way that you address the deficit. We've got a plan to do that, and it's a manageable one, at that.

Q: Gasoline prices still are relatively high. Yesterday natural gas futures went through the roof on expectations of a cold winter. How much are higher energy costs foiling or hurting the President's tax cuts and the efforts of those to spur the economy. Are they working against each other?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one thing, you bring up that issue, is it's -- one thing that's important to highlight is the importance of acting on one part of the President's six point plan, and that is to pass a comprehensive energy plan that reduces our dependence on foreign sources of energy, that modernizes our electricity system.

So, anything else?

Q: Do you want to say anything about the dollar? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Our position remains the same. Thank you.

END 9:12 A.M. EDT

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