White House Gaggle with Scott McClellan October 17
For Immediate Release
October 17, 2002
with Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Atlanta, Georgia
Call to President Megawati
Florida Race / Jeb Bush
Congress' Continuing Resolution
Saudi Arabia on Terrorism
10:28 A.M. EDT
MR. MCCLELLAN: Let me go through the President's morning and the schedule for the day, and then I'll be happy to take some questions. I do have one issue I want to bring up as well.
Let me begin with giving you a readout. The President this morning called President Megawati. He called to express his condolences for the tragic bombings in Bali and to reiterate his offer of U.S. assistance and support in bringing the people responsible to justice.
The two leaders agreed that the Bali bombings required a swift and decisive response and they further agreed to work together with other concerned governments, particularly the government of Australia, to bring the perpetrators to justice. President Bush and President Megawati also look forward to discussing these and other issues at the upcoming APEC summit next weekend.
The call was about 20 minutes. I think the conversation was a little less, because you have an interpreter.
Q How many minutes?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Twenty. But you also have an interpreter, so the conversation was probably --
Q The President the other day said he wanted to hear from the leader a resolve to fight terrorism. Did he hear that from her?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q The President said the other day very bluntly he wanted to hear from Megawati a sense of resolve, a sense that she was finally going to do something. Did he hear that?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I think the latest indications from Indonesia are that they -- that they are taking steps to combat terrorism. We have been working constructively and cooperatively with President Megawati and her government to combat terrorism and we -- we will continue to support them in their efforts --
Q Could we just shorthand this --
MR. MCCLELLAN: -- to particularly find these perpetrators.
Q Could we shorthand this? Did the President hear what he wanted to hear from her?
MR. MCCLELLAN: In what sense, Ron? I'm sorry.
Q Did he hear from her a commitment that she will step up and fight terrorism now?
MR. MCCLELLAN: It was a constructive conversation and, as I indicated just a minute ago, they -- the two leaders, agreed that there needed to be swift and decisive action in response to the latest bombings.
Q Did the President bring up at all -- did the President bring up at all the notion that President Megawati had not been doing enough up to this point to combat terrorism?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I think the President continued to urge President Megawati to do all that she can to combat terrorism, and that we are going to continue working with them in that effort.
Q When you say a swift and decisive response, Scott, does that mean retaliate against al Qaeda, or what does that mean?
MR. MCCLELLAN: As you know, I think the investigation is ongoing at this point. But both leaders agree, as well as with other countries I mentioned, that we need to bring these perpetrators to justice, that those people who are responsible for the attacks need to be brought to justice so --
Q -- al Qaeda?
MR. MCCLELLAN: We're letting the -- well, the President made remarks on that the other day. But the investigation is ongoing.
Let me jump back through the President's day, then we can come back to some of the other stuff.
The President had -- following the phone call, the President had his usual intelligence and FBI briefings this there will be a Freedom Corps greeter at the first stop in Atlanta, Jill Sieder, who founded the East Atlanta Kids Club and spends approximately 25 hours a week as the coordinator for the Kids Club, that helps at-risk children.
Following that, the President will make remarks at the Georgia 2002 Unity Luncheon to support Congressman Chambliss' campaign for the U.S. Senate, as well as Sonny Perdue's campaign, gubernatorial campaign, and the Georgia Republican Party. The event is expected to raise $800,000 for Congressman Chambliss' senatorial campaign and the statewide Republican 2002 victory efforts.
Q The $800,000, that gets divided up, somehow to both?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Right. Following that, we will go to Florida, where the President will begin by participating in a roundtable and make remarks highlighting his Reading First initiative and the historic No Child Left Behind Act. Florida has been very involved in efforts to promote reading and make sure that -- and implement education reforms within the state.
Following that, the President will deliver the keynote remarks via satellite to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce National Convention's Tribute to Hispanic Businesswomen's Luncheon. There, he will talk about the importance of small business and entrepreneurship to job creation and economic growth.
Q Where are they meeting?
MR. MCCLELLAN: They are meeting in -- one minute, please -- Los Angeles.
Then the President will participate in a reception for the Florida Victory 2002, and that will be at a private residence. It's expected to raise $900,000 for Florida Victory 2002.
Q Can we officially ask that you let at least one pooler in the event tonight? There's a long history of the Presidents allowing -- even in a private residence -- allowing one pooler in.
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'll take the request. But we typically have not opened up -- these are private residences; those have typically not been opened in the past. But I'll -- I'll see what I can do. But you also have a private family that owns this home, so we'll see what we can do.
Q Whose home is it?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Home of Bruce and Lesa Kennedy.
Q What do they do, do you know?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I don't have --
Q Has the owner of the residence objected to opening it up?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Supporters --
Q Scott, the President is a powerful man, and if he would like to have -- he can request --
MR. MCCLELLAN: Let me take your request, but we have, in the past, the receptions at private homes have not been open events. So let me take your request.
Let me make some remarks on one other issue that I think is an important development in Congress. Congress is leaving town in a fiscally responsible way by passing a continuing resolution that is clean. This is a significant victory for fiscal discipline, and a striking departure from how Congress has previously left town. In the past, Congress has tended to go on a spending spree as they prepare to leave town. And I just wanted to point out that this is a significant victory for fiscal discipline and fiscal responsibility.
Q -- what you were saying?
MR. MCCLELLAN: That the passage of a continuing resolution that is clean, and holding the line on spending. We hope that this is a sign that things are being done differently under President Bush's leadership, and we hope this new direction and new tone will be lasting in the Congress.
Q -- is he going to sign it?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, we'll let you know when we have that scheduled for signature. And that's all I have.
Q Anything on North Korea? Is there anything on North Korea?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I think it's what was indicated last night by the Department of State, that we seek a peaceful resolution. This is a serious violation of the agreed framework and the nonproliferation treaty. I talked to the President about this. The President believes this is troubling and sobering news. I would point out that -- and this was expressed in Richard Boucher's statement last night, that it was the United States that confronted North Korea about the information that we had acquired, and North Korea acknowledged that they had a secret program.
Q -- President's words, this is a troubling, sobering news, or is that your quote?
MR. MCCLELLAN: That's what I'm saying on behalf of the President. That's what he --
Q -- not his words? Those are not his words, those are your words?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, they're his spokesman's words. After -- I talked to him about it and that's -- yes.
Q Does he see it as a good sign that the North Koreans admitted to this? Does he see that as a hopeful sign?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, again, I think he views it as I described it, troubling and sobering. And as I said, this is a serious -- serious violation. And that's why we are addressing this through diplomatic channels. We are working -- we're consulting with Congress, we're consulting with our friends and allies. As the statement noted, we have officials in the region to discuss this with friends and allies about how to proceed. But we continue to seek a peaceful resolution.
Q Why is it we just got a resolution to go to war against a country that we think has nuclear weapons, that we think has weapons of mass destruction, but we're seeking a peaceful solution against a country that admitted to us it has a secret nuclear weapons program for many years? It's been deceiving us just as Saddam supposedly has.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well remember, Ron, what the President said last week in his remarks in Cincinnati. Iraq is unique. Iraq is an aggressive invader that has launched military attacks on neighboring nations recently; that Iraq has also demonstrated a willingness to use weapons of mass destruction. If you go back to the President's remarks, he pointed this out very specifically. He said the threat from Iraq stands alone, that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant who has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people.
And the same murderous tyrant has tried to dominate the Middle East and has invaded and brutally occupied a small neighbor as recently as a decade ago. So Iraq is unique.
And as he pointed out in the remarks, too, when he quoted one of the former chief weapons inspectors for the U.N., he said, the fundamental problem with Iraq remains the nature of the regime itself. Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction. And again, he has demonstrated his willingness to use those weapons of mass destruction.
But we -- yes, go ahead.
Q Does the President think that the leader of North Korea is a murderous dictator addicted to weapons of mass destruction?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Clearly, North Korea is a repressive -- has starved its people and -- but these are different regions, different circumstances, as I just pointed out. And so we're --
Q Does the President --
MR. MCCLELLAN: -- so -- and --
Q Does he think he's less dangerous than Saddam Hussein?
MR. MCCLELLAN: We are not --
Q -- intent is to not wait for something to happen.
MR. MCCLELLAN: We are seeking a peaceful resolution. This is something that is best addressed through diplomatic channels at this point, in consultation with our friends and allies, others who have a stake in what is going on.
Q Is this -- a channel between the U.S. and North Korea, or is that just completely stopped?
MR. MCCLELLAN: There is -- there are no plans to hold further talks at this time.
Q Are there any plans for the President to talk to the leaders of South Korea and Japan about --
MR. MCCLELLAN: We have officials, as indicated in the statement last night, in the region.
Q Why no plans to hold further talks at this time? Why not talk to these people?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I think now this is appropriately addressed about how to proceed with our friends and allies in the region, and in consultation with our friends and allies, and in consultation with Congress.
Q Will the U.S. continue to fulfill its obligations under the '94 agreed framework? Are we going to stop those payments for the reactor?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Again, I think, rather than addressing this through media channels at this point, it's being addressed in consultation through diplomatic channels. And we need to let those consultations occur.
Q Does that agreement stand?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, remember, it was North Korea who told us that it was nullified, that they were in serious violation. They are the ones who acknowledged that they were in serious --
Q So should we consider it dead, or --
MR. MCCLELLAN: North Korea indicated that it was nullified, so, yes.
Q Has the U.S. agreed that that agreement is dead?
MR. MCCLELLAN: They have violated the -- seriously violated the agreement, true.
Q Do you think North Korea announced this as a way to draw attention to their own humanitarian plight and to seek economic assistance?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Do you think North Korea announced this as a way to draw attention to their own humanitarian plight and seek economic assistance?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I can't speak for North Korea. Again, I would remind you that it was the United States that confronted North Korea with this.
Q Why did we wait until the North Koreans acknowledged, rather than when we presented them with evidence a couple of weeks back. Why didn't we announce that they -- we had that evidence publicly?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, again, it was addressed on the meeting on October 4th. We confronted the North Koreans with this information. North Korea acknowledged that they did have a secret program.
Q Is the President going to address this matter today?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I don't expect him to. Again, this is something that right now is best addressed through diplomatic channels. Our view is very clear. We seek a peaceful resolution.
Q Scott, does the U.S. have any particular demands, in terms of, you know, North Korea has to let in inspectors, or they have to provide some other assurances that they now will end their nuclear weapons program? What specifically are we expecting the North Koreans to do now that this is acknowledged?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I think it was what was addressed in the statement, that we expect and call on North Korea to comply with its commitments under the nonproliferation treaty, and to eliminate its nuclear weapons program in a manner that is verifiable. We addressed that last night in the statement by Richard Boucher.
Q Which friends and allies are we talking to about this?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, again, the ones in the region, as well as others. And as well, the President does intend to bring this up with President Jiang next week in Crawford. As you know, they are meeting on Friday, and the President does intend to bring this up.
Q Scott, have you been on Pakistan, pulling back the same way India has? What's the administration's response?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, we welcome the announcement. There are a couple of positive developments in the region that will help reduce tensions. You also have a statement from Pakistan today that it will -- it too will begin withdrawing military forces from the border. So these are very positive developments to reduce tensions and hopefully create an atmosphere conducive to dialogue between the two nations.
Q The Council on Foreign Relations is releasing a report today saying that the war on terror is going to be severely crippled unless the U.S. addresses Saudi funding of terror. Has the White House seen that report?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I don't -- I'm not aware that we have seen it. Treasury Department did comment on it, point it out that they viewed some serious flaws in the report, about not looking at what Saudi Arabia has been doing recently. We appreciate the cooperation from the Saudis in cracking down on terrorism, particularly in working to regulate charities that could be funding sources for terrorism. So we are continuing to work with the Saudis.
Q -- that much credence in that report?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, the Treasury Department expressed what they viewed as flaws in it. And, again, I go back to that we're pleased with and appreciate the action that has been taken by the Saudis in our global war on terrorism.
Q Do you have anything more --
MR. MCCLELLAN: -- comes to the financial network.
Q There was a report this -- there was a report that said the Saudis may have been behind the funding for the Bali bombing. Ari was asked about it yesterday and he said he'd see if he could get more on that. Do you --
MR. MCCLELLAN: I don't have any information.
Q So, is Jeb in trouble?
MR. MCCLELLAN: The President looks forward to going to Florida today to campaign on behalf of the party, as well as strongly support his brother's reelection campaign. But the governor of Florida has a proven record that the people of Florida are responding to in a very strong way. He shares the President's agenda when it comes to improving education. And that's an important issue in this reelection. And Governor Bush has a very strong record when it comes to implementing education reforms and making sure that every child receives a first-rate education.
Q He'll be at the education event, Jeb?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Yes, yes.
Q So he's not worried about his brother at all?
MR. MCCLELLAN: The President is confident that his brother is going to win reelection because of his proven record of accomplishment in the state of Florida.
THE PRESS: Thanks a lot, Scott.
END 10:48 A.M. EDT