White House Press Gaggle by Claire Buchan
White House Press Gaggle by Claire Buchan
Crawford Elementary School
12:40 P.M. CDT
MS. BUCHAN: Good afternoon, everybody. Let me tell you a little bit about the President's day. He began his day with his usual intelligence briefing. He also had a videoconference meeting with senior national security advisors, and he has been out working on the ranch most of the morning since then. And he looks forward to hosting you all tonight, to his ranch.
And also I just want to get you a little bit of information on departure. We'll be leaving on Saturday -- I know a lot of you were interested in that. So with that, I'll be happy to take your questions.
Q Is the President considering asking Congress for money for Iraq before the budget?
MS. BUCHAN: The President has said that we will do everything to ensure that our military troops and that those who are responsible for the reconstruction in Iraq have all the resources necessary to get the job done and to do it effectively. So we will be listening to the military commanders, we'll be listening to Ambassador Bremer and working with Congress on that.
Q -- met with Bremer yesterday -- I mean, Condi was meeting with Bremer yesterday --
MS. BUCHAN: Who met with Bremer?
Q I believe that Bremer was at the White House yesterday, and I was wondering if that came up in the conversations?
MS. BUCHAN: I believe he met with Dr. Rice. I don't have a readout of their meeting. But as I said, the President has said, he said yesterday that victory in Iraq is critical, it's critical to the war on terrorism and that we will do everything to ensure that the resources are there to finish the job and to do that effectively.
Q I assume that that's not -- the supplemental is not off the table? Is that --
MS. BUCHAN: Well, he said, and Director Bolten has said, Secretary Wolfowitz has said that we will be going to the Congress for a supplemental for the '04 budget. We've made that very clear. We don't have the numbers at this point, and until we have responsible numbers, we're not going to go to Congress with them.
Someone call me from over here?
MS. BUCHAN: Yes.
Q Will there be an emergency supplemental -- supplemental?
MS. BUCHAN: At this point, we are working with Ambassador Bremer. We're talking with the military commanders. And we will ensure that the resources are there, and that we have what it takes to get the job done. We have said that there will be a supplemental for '04.
Q But he says he needs money now. Everyone says the supplemental -- to deal with the Pentagon, everything else is a couple of months away from being ready.
MS. BUCHAN: -- will listen to him.
Q There will be two requests?
MS. BUCHAN: I think that you should wait and see . The President said yesterday that victory will require substantial resources and time, and that we are committed to providing both of those and that we will not retreat; that this is an important war, or front in the war on terrorism, and that we are committed to seeing it through to a successful end.
Q But you won't rule out that there could be an immediate request for an infusion of money, just for administration costs in Iraq. separate from what the rebuilding may require in a separate supplemental?
MS. BUCHAN: I will rule in that the President has said that we will have -- that the troops and that the people who are in Iraq responsible for the reconstruction will have everything that it takes to get the job done.
Q Claire, there were criticisms from lawmakers yesterday, following the President's speech, who said he was still not being specific enough to inform the American people about what was expected in Iraq. They say, you know, tens or hundreds of billions of dollars, tens of thousands of more troops would be necessary and that the President needs to explain this.
Do you -- do you think -- will he be continuing to talk about this in the future? And what is your reaction to that criticism?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, a couple of things. With regard to the money, as we've said, when we have an accurate estimate, a responsible estimate, we will go to the Congress, we will work with Congress -- and we've repeatedly said that. So expect that to come, but when the information is ready.
With regard to your second question, will the President be continuing to talk about this, yes, of course, He has been talking about it, it is a high priority for the President and he believes it's important to communicate with the American people and you heard him do that yesterday, talking about why this battle against terrorism is so important and how Iraq is an important front in the war on terror.
Q Why does he think support is slipping, as measured by polls, that Americans are showing more doubts about the purpose of the mission and its ultimate success or its ability to succeed? Why does he think that's happened?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the President knows that the American people are patient. He has communicated from the beginning that this is a different kind of war and that it will require patience and he believes that the American people are patient.
Q Claire, is there not a sense of urgency about getting Bremer more money for his operation, or could it wait weeks or even longer?
MS. BUCHAN: We'll listen to Ambassador Bremer to determine what his needs are.
Q To your knowledge, is there a sense of urgency about it?
MS. BUCHAN: This is a very important mission and if Ambassador Bremer or the military commanders in the field believe that they need more resources, we will work with Congress to ensure that they get them in a timely fashion and in the time table necessary.
Q On this morning's videoconference with the national security advisors or aides, did the topic of North Korea come up? Has the President been briefed at all by people who were taking part in the talks, like Mr. Kelly? And what does he hope will come out of these talks?
MS. BUCHAN: On national security discussions this morning, as you know, we don't talk about the contents of those meetings. On the talks more generally, the six party discussions on North Korea, which were convened in Beijing today, and they're scheduled to continue through the 29th of the month, the President has long said that this is a multilateral issue. And we are pleased that the meetings have begun and we welcome them.
We understand that all the parties delivered their opening statements of their positions. Besides the United States, the participants, as usual, are China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and North Korea. All of them began with their opening statements. Assistant Secretary of State Kelly reiterated that our top priority remains the complete, verifiable, and irreversible elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
Q You can't say whether Mr. Kelly has spoken to the President? You can't say that?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't believe he has, no.
Q Is he getting any readouts on what's going on in Beijing?
MS. BUCHAN: He had his national security meetings today. He also had his intelligence briefings. So I think it's safe to assume that he's being updated as necessary, yes.
Q Was the one-on-one discussion between North Korea and the United States that occurred on the sidelines, was that planned or scheduled or --
MS. BUCHAN: Well, what we've always indicated is that these will be multilateral discussions, and nothing precludes a conversation across the table between two parties. But that's always been what we've said on that. But there are not separate and individual bilateral discussions going on.
Q Claire, Paul Bremer said yesterday that Iraq is going to need several tens of billions of dollars over the next year, so he has said more or less what's required there. Is the administration prepared to provide that kind of money?
MS. BUCHAN: As I've said, I think here repeatedly, the President is committed to ensuring that Ambassador Bremer and our troops on the ground have the resources that they need to do the job.
Q Do you agree with his "several tens of billions"?
MS. BUCHAN: We will talk with him, we will work with Congress. We'll talk with the military commanders, and we'll make decisions. And when we have responsible, good estimates, we will go to Congress with those.
John, did you have a question?
Q Before the war, and immediately after the war, there was talk about reconstruction being largely paid by Iraqi oil revenue. Since the war, there have been a lot of oil line disruptions, there's been sabotage -- there was just apparently in the last 24 hours some. Is this causing a change in the administration's estimate of what it's going to cost, in terms of the American and other -- contribution from other countries? In other words, is the oil revenue that the United States hoped would be coming in to the Iraqi people from the pipelines, are you having to downgrade that now because of sabotage?
MS. BUCHAN: A couple of points. We have said, and sort of to Dana's point, there are variables, which is why we are working through them to determine what is the accurate number. How many countries participate, what those countries participate in, how fast the Iraqi oil will flow -- all of these things are variables that contribute to what the costs will be and what the amount is that we'll need to seek from the Congress. That's one aspect.
Secondly, I think the point you make is one that the President makes, which is that those remnants of the former regime, those terrorists who are attacking the Iraqi's resources are attacking the Iraqi people, themselves, and they are harming the ability of the Iraqi people to more quickly achieve the success that will ultimately come.
Q Claire, has the United States given up on the idea of that new U.N. resolution?
MS. BUCHAN: Given up what?
Q On a new U.N. resolution to make --
MS. BUCHAN: No. No, no. We continue to talk. Secretary Powell continues to talk with his Security Council colleagues and we continue to listen to other nations, many of whom are already participating. There are 31 countries already participating in the recovery of Iraq. We continue to talk to more and --
Q But last week the President said confidently that there will be more foreign troops, more countries in Iraq. When might we see that?
MS. BUCHAN: We'll keep you posted. Conversations are ongoing, they continue.
Q Is the President at all surprised by the fact that we've now lost more troops in Iraq since he declared an end to major combat operations -- granted, not all of those are combat related. And does he feel any obligation to speak out to the American people about expectations and about how much longer we can expect these types of attacks on our troops?
MS. BUCHAN: A couple of things. To that specific question, you might want to look at the President's interview with the Armed Forces Radio. He was asked that exact question, so you can have it in his words, exactly. But the President appreciates the sacrifices that are being made by the men and women in America's military, and by their families. And he believes that they are bravely serving a good cause and that it is a battle against terror that we cannot retreat from. And that while major combat operations have concluded, a battle still goes on.
Q The report yesterday on the Columbia disaster was very critical of the White House. Does the President --
MS. BUCHAN: Was what?
Q Was critical of the White House's stewardship of the space program. Is the President going to ask for more money for the space program, or any changes?
MS. BUCHAN: As you know, the President has put forward a budget request for '04. The President very much appreciates the work of the commission and we will be working with NASA Administrator O'Keefe as we go forward on this. They're analyzing all of the recommendations and yesterday, I believe, indicated their desire to do everything that they can possibly do to improve the safety of the space program.
Q Does that include asking for more money?
MS. BUCHAN: The President's budget stands as it is and, obviously, if there are changes to that, we'd let you know. But the President's budget stands as it is.
Q If I could follow-up on that point --
MS. BUCHAN: I can't hear you.
Q What general view does the President have of where the space program should go from here? What vision does he have? What should its purpose be?
MS. BUCHAN: The President very much believes that space is an important frontier and that the space program should go forward.
Q Where? To what end?
MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry?
Q Where and to what end?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, we will be working with Administrator O'Keefe on the specifics that were put forward by the accident investigation board. They worked very hard, and they put forward a very, very comprehensive report, which is being reviewed as we speak. And NASA is committed to working through it, and we will look to Administrator O'Keefe for his leadership.
Q Claire, can you say if the President has a point of view about the controversy over the Ten Commandments monument?
MS. BUCHAN: It is important that we respect our laws and our courts. In some instances, the courts have ruled that the posting of the Ten Commandments is okay. In other circumstances, they've ruled that it's not okay. In either case, there's always opportunity for appeal of the court's decisions. But we believe that it's important to respect the laws in the courts.
Q Is that the President's view, or the White House view? How would you characterize that?
MS. BUCHAN: I'm not sure they're different. At least I hope they're not. (Laughter.)
Did you have a question? I think you had your hand up. Okay. Anybody else? Okay, thank you.
Q Does the White House have any reaction at all to Arafat asking the militant groups to reinstate the truce?
MS. BUCHAN: The way forward in Israel, in the Middle East, is by dismantling terrorist networks, by dismantling terrorist organizations. And one of the first steps in the road map is the consolidation of the security forces under Prime Minister Abbas. That must happen. The terrorist networks must be dismantled. And Arafat has once again shown himself to be part of the problem. He is not part of the solution. And the security forces need to be consolidated under Prime Minister Abbas.
Q He's asked the militant groups now to reinstate the cease-fire, basically.
MS. BUCHAN: Well, actions to dismantle terrorist organizations and to dismantle terrorist networks are what is needed and what's most important.
Thank you, all.