McClellan: Briefing on Dubai, levees and Bush voting in Texas today

SHARE McClellan: Briefing on Dubai, levees and Bush voting in Texas today
SHARE McClellan: Briefing on Dubai, levees and Bush voting in Texas today

PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN

: PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

___________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release March 7, 2006

PRESS BRIEFING

BY

SCOTT McCLELLAN

TOPIC PAGE #

President’s schedule………………………………1-2

Travel to Gulf Coast………………………………1-2

Iran/Russian proposal…………………………..2-5, 8

Dubai port deal………………………………..5-6, 9

NSA surveillance program………………………..6-7, 9

Lebanon……………………………………………8

Line-item veto legislation………………………….10

South Dakota abortion measure…………………….11-13

Voting in Crawford………………………………13-14

Rebuilding New Orleans/levees…………………….14-15

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

___________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release March 7, 2006

PRESS BRIEFING

BY

SCOTT McCLELLAN

James S. Brady Briefing Room

11:53 A.M. EST

MR. MCCLELLAN: Hello, everybody, to those who are not going on to

Texas and the Gulf Coast. Let me first begin by talking about tomorrow.

The President looks forward to visiting the Gulf Coast region tomorrow

to get a firsthand look at the progress that’s being made.

This will give the President an opportunity to get an up-close look

at the ongoing recovery and rebuilding efforts. There has been much

progress made, but there is much work to be done. The size and scope of

the devastation from Hurricane Katrina was unprecedented. There are

many needs that we are all, at the federal, state and local level,

working together to address.

The President has made it clear that the federal government will do

what it takes to help residents of the Gulf Coast rebuild their lives

and rebuild their communities. We have already allocated some $88

billion in federal resources to help, another $20 billion is being

requested, and there are some — more than 16,000 federal personnel

deployed and working with state and local authorities to help people

along the Gulf Coast region.

Tomorrow the President — we’re still finalizing the specific

details, but tomorrow the President will visit the New Orleans area,

including participating in a briefing and a tour of the area. And

following that, the President will visit the Gulfport-Biloxi area in

Mississippi.

And with that, I’ll be glad to go to your questions.

Q Is he trying to make up for a lot of the criticism of his

handling of the whole New Orleans situation?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is focusing on how we’re working together to

help the people of the Gulf Coast rebuild their lives and their

communities. The President made a very strong commitment, and we are

following through on that commitment. And he has visited the Gulf Coast

a number of times, as has a number of our Cabinet Secretaries and other

high-ranking officials in the administration. And we will continue to

visit the Gulf Coast region.

Q Does he believe that the criticism has been unfair?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I talked a little bit about that yesterday

and pointed out how, I think last week, while we were traveling, there

were certainly some reports that ignored key facts and people then

twisted some of those facts to fit a certain story line that simply is

in clear contradiction to the public record. There is a very public

record in terms of all those events.

Q Can you characterize on the nuke deal with Iran

— can you characterize what the Russians have been hearing from the

administration today? Have they backed off their initial position as

far as trying to work something out with Iran? And is it the

administration’s position that any kind of research is a bad thing,

anything that allows the Iranians to become more familiar with the

process of creating potential to have nuclear energy is a bad thing?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple things. This is not about us or the

international community, it’s about the regime in Iran. So let’s keep

the focus where it should be, and that’s where it has been. But, no,

I’m not able to characterize meetings that have taken place so far

because those meetings have taken place over at the Department of State.

And I think that you — just a short time ago, some of your colleagues

were able to hear from Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Lavrov of

Russia. He will be coming over here shortly and meeting with the

President, as well. He met with the Secretary of State and our National

Security Advisor Steve Hadley last night. They had very good

discussions.

My understanding was that the Foreign Minister reiterated what

Russia has previously said. They said that they — my understanding is

he said there’s no new Russian proposal out there, that any enrichment

and reprocess activities would take place on — under their proposal —

on Russian soil, and that there would be a fuel take-back provision in

place. And we have previously expressed our support for this approach

because it would allow the Iranian people to realize the benefits of

peaceful civilian nuclear energy in a way that provides an important

guarantee.

This is — the international community has made it very clear that

they are concerned about the Iranian regime developing nuclear weapons

under the cover of a civilian program, and a very clear message has been

sent to the regime that the international community will not allow that

to happen. And that’s why the board of the International Atomic Energy

Agency has reported this matter to the United Nations Security Council.

And now the board is reviewing the latest report from the Director

General of the Atomic Energy Agency, which continues to raise very

troubling concerns about the regime’s behavior.

The regime continues to move in the wrong direction. We have made

it very clear, as well as the international community, that Iran needs

to suspend all its enrichment related activities. And the reason why is

because of Iran’s history. The regime has a history of defying the

international community, of hiding its nuclear activities for some two

decades, and of refusing to comply with international safeguard

obligations. And that is why the international community is continuing

to grow more concerned about the regime’s provocative actions and

behavior. It continues to refuse to come into compliance with what the

board just said.

Q Some members of the international community — it’s not like a

monolithic block. There are some members of the international community

that seem open to the idea that some research can be done on Iranian

soil.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let’s talk about where we are, because this is an

issue of trust, and what the regime needs to do is make a dramatic shift

in its course and behavior. It needs to come into compliance with what

the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency said. Otherwise,

the international community must hold the regime to account.

The International Atomic Energy Agency board spelled out what the

regime needs to do. It needs to adhere to the Paris Agreement it made

with the Europeans, meaning it needs to suspend all enrichment related

activities. It needs to come into compliance with the International

Atomic Energy Agency, and it needs to work in good faith through

negotiations with the Europeans. The Europeans have put forward a

significant proposal with Russia that would allow the regime to — or

allow the Iranian people to realize the benefits of peaceful nuclear

energy. But the regime has continued to reject the proposals that they

put on the table.

But if the regime were allowed to pursue any sort of

enrichment-related activity on its own soil, it could use the technology

it develops in a clandestine way to develop nuclear weapons. That is

simply not acceptable given the regime’s history and its continued

defiance.

Q Is the President at all concerned that the position that the

U.S. and others are taking could actually embolden the Iranian leader

who may feel that he can gain politically by being the target of Western

concern? And with the Vice President today saying, “every option is on

the table,” implicitly implying a military option, is that a concern at

all for the President?

MR. McCLELLAN: We’re pursuing a diplomatic solution to this. The

matter is being reviewed. The report by the Director General of the

International Atomic Energy Agency is being reviewed this week by the

board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. That report continues

to raise troubling concerns. It shows that the regime is failing to

comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency. It shows that the

regime continues to engage in enrichment related activities. This is in

direct confrontation with the international community and the demands of

the international community.

This is — as I said, it’s an issue of trust here with the regime

in Iran. But our concerns are broader than just the nuclear issue, as

you point out. We are concerned about the regime’s behavior when it

comes to its sponsorship of terrorism. We’re concerned about its

behavior when it comes to the repression of its people. We’re concerned

about its behavior when it comes to its role in the region — the regime

has been a destabilizing force in the broader Middle East.

And we have made it very clear that we stand with the Iranian

people who have democratic aspirations. The Iranian people want to

chart their own future, and we stand firmly with them. And the

provocative actions of the regime and its leaders only further isolate

the Iranian people from the rest of the international community. And

the regime has options that have been put before it, but it has refused

to seize those opportunities.

Q When the Vice President says Iran could face meaningful

consequences, what does that mean?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, those will be discussions that take place

with other members of the Security Council. As I indicated, the matter

has been referred to the Security Council. After the review —

Q He’s not talking about a military response?

MR. McCLELLAN: We’re pursuing a diplomatic solution. It’s going

to a new phase of diplomacy now when it heads to the Security Council.

After this review is complete of the latest report, we expect that it

will, very shortly, go to the Security Council and then those issues

will be discussed before the Security Council. The regime in Iran has

continued to defy the international community instead of join with the

international community and work in a cooperative way.

Q So the Vice President didn’t mean to threaten military action

today?

MR. McCLELLAN: He stated what the President has repeatedly stated

and what we have repeatedly stated. He was stating our policy.

Q On the ports deal, the President has said that he would veto

any movement to block it on the part of Congress. Does the White House

have any reaction from Congressman Peter King’s suggestion that one way

to salvage the deal would be to have a U.S. company come in as a

sub-contractor, to have a U.S. company have the access, do the work on

the ground —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you can —

Q — underneath the Dubai Ports World, which would, on paper,

operational —

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, we appreciate Congressman King’s

comments last week when — or a couple of weeks ago, when the company

agreed to submit a new transaction to the Committee on Foreign

Investment and ask for a 45-day investigation. That was at the request

of the company. It is now going through the review process and we

expect it to go through that 45-day investigation shortly. And

Congressman King and some others expressed appreciation for that step.

They felt it was an important step for the company to take.

What we are doing is continuing to work very closely with Congress.

There have been ongoing discussions, as you can imagine, between the

company and congressional leaders. We’ve been involved in those

discussions and we will continue to work with members to make sure that

they have the information they need and they have the facts that they

need so that they have a greater understanding of this transaction. And

we believe that as they come to that greater understanding of the facts,

that they will be more comfortable with the transaction moving forward.

But there’s a lot of discussions going on, and I think a lot of

those discussions are with the company. And we will continue to work

with members of Congress on these issues. One area where we’re focused

is on reform of the Committee on Foreign Investment process, and we’ve

been talking with members of Congress and congressional leaders, we’ve

been listening to their ideas. We’re continuing to engage on that issue

and look at ways that, as we move forward, we can reform that process.

Q — the specifics of his suggestion —

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

Q The specifics of his proposal?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, there are a lot of discussions going

on with congressional leaders and the company, and we’re working to make

sure that Congress has the information they need. And we appreciate the

step by the company that it took in agreement with congressional leaders

to pursue a 45-day investigation.

Q Does the administration support the approach being taken by

Senator DeWine on the NSA surveillance program?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we’ve previously talked about that. Senator

DeWine has put forward some interesting ideas. We’ve made a commitment

to work with congressional leaders on legislation that would codify into

law what the President’s authority is.

The President has not only authority, but the responsibility to use

every available tool at our disposal to save lives and prevent attacks

from happening. And the terrorist surveillance program is what you’re

bringing —

Q He doesn’t have the right to break the law.

MR. McCLELLAN: — the terrorist surveillance program is a critical

tool that helps us to detect and prevent attacks from happening in the

first place. It helps us to connect the dots so that we can save lives.

And it is vital in our efforts to defend the American people and the

save lives. And as you’ve heard from people like General Hayden, our

number two person in the intelligence community, it has been a

successful program and it has been an important program.

Now, we have had discussions with congressional leaders — Senator

DeWine is one of them. There are a lot of interesting ideas out there.

We said from the beginning that we are open to listening to ideas. The

President — the one thing the President said was that he would resist

efforts if it compromised the program in any way, or undermined his

authority to protect the American people. This is about protecting the

American people. Now, we —

Q He doesn’t have the authority to break the law.

MR. McCLELLAN: — we did make a commitment with leaders, like

Senator DeWine and others, to work with them on legislation that would

codify his authority into law.

Q — do you think that you’re nearing an agreement? I think

that — I’ve heard that he’s talking about that it would exempt the

surveillance program and allow for 45 days without warrants. Is that —

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll let Senator DeWine talk more specifically

about what he is proposing. He has talked publicly about some of those

ideas. We want to continue to work with him and others, as I said, on

legislation that would codify into law what the President’s authority

already is. And I think that you’re going to be hearing more from

members in a short amount of time on some of their ideas. And Senator

DeWine, I understand, is coming forward with a legislative proposal

soon, so I’ll let him speak to that.

Q I wonder if I could ask again Jim’s question, which I don’t

think you answered. Given that Sergey Lavrov did meet with the

President’s National Security Advisor last night, do you get the

impression the Russians agree that Iran should do no enrichment, not

even a limited amount, and that there should be a take-back of all

materials — that there is no space between Washington and Moscow on

that issue?

MR. McCLELLAN: One, I’m not going to speak for the Russian

government. I just don’t do that. I will express our views —

Q You can tell us whether Sergey Lavrov gave Hadley assurances.

MR. McCLELLAN: He just spoke publicly to this very issue over at

the State Department, and the Foreign Minister said that there is no new

proposal that the Russians are talking about, something along those

lines. He said that their proposal would mean that the enrichment

reprocessing would take place on Russian soil, the fuel would be

provided to Iran, and then they would take back that fuel. So we’ve

previously expressed support for that approach, and so I don’t think

anything has changed in terms of our view on that.

Q Some of the Lebanese opposition are visiting Washington these

days, speaking that the support from the White House to — for the

President, President Lahud, to step down. How can you say that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we support the Lebanese people and their

desire to live in a free and sovereign nation — free of interference

from Syria and Syrian influence. We’ve made that very clear. In terms

of political decisions within Lebanon, that’s up to the Lebanese people

to decide. And I’m not sure — I don’t have a readout of any of the

meetings that have taken place. I imagine some of those have taken

place at the State Department. They can probably provide you additional

information on that.

Q March 15th — they are insisting Lahud to step out before

March 15th.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know if there’s anything different than

what we’ve previously expressed when it comes to Lebanon and our support

for the people of Lebanon to live in a democratic and sovereign nation,

free from outside interference.

Q Scott, why does the White House think that the CFIUS process

needs to be reformed? What are the problems —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, actually, our Deputy Treasury Secretary spoke

to this last week. And there have been some concerns raised by members

of Congress in terms of their oversight role in the consultation during

that process. This was a congressionally mandated process, so we have

been following through on that process that has been in place for quite

some time, well before this administration came into office. But Deputy

Treasury Secretary Kimmitt last week testified and talked about how —

and I previously, I think, expressed, as well — talked about how we

support working with Congress to improve that process.

And so I think there are ideas from members of Congress. We’ve

been engaging members of Congress and listening to those ideas. I think

we will continue to talk more about it as we move forward. But one area

is looking at ways that we can make sure Congress is getting information

in a timely manner.

Q How about internally within the process? You’re talking about

sort of the oversight role, but internally within the process —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, we’re having discussions with

members of Congress and we’re continuing to look at ways we can move

forward on reform. And we’ll continue to talk more about it as we move

ahead.

Q Scott, a two-part. Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s

overwhelming support of the right of our military to recruit on all

college campuses, does the President hope that his alma mater, Yale,

will begin allowing the ROTC onto their campus now that they have

accepted, as a Yale student, the former Deputy Foreign Secretary of the

Taliban?

MR. McCLELLAN: We were strongly in support of that ruling. We

welcome the ruling by the Supreme Court. We believe that military

recruiters ought to have the same kind of access that other employers

have on campuses. And so we appreciate the ruling by the Supreme Court

in its unanimous decision.

Q How many hundreds of thousands in lecture fees from foreign

countries does former President Bill Clinton have to accept before he’s

required to register as a foreign agent?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you should look at the laws and ask those

questions of President Clinton.

Q Yesterday when the President announced a proposal on line-item

veto authority, he also emphasized the need to rein in mandatory

spending. So I wonder why the entitlement reform panel, why no one’s

been named yet to head that commission.

MR. McCLELLAN: Because there are ongoing discussions with

congressional leaders about how to move forward. The President made it

very clear that he wants this to be a bipartisan commission that would

include members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. There are

serious challenges facing our entitlement programs, whether it’s Social

Security or Medicare or Medicaid. And the President has made it very

clear that we need to slow the growth in those programs so that we can

protect those vital programs for our children and grandchildren. We

want to make sure it’s there for them. And he believes this is an area

where we can work together in a bipartisan way to get something done for

the American people, but it will require a true bipartisan effort. And

that’s why we’re continuing to discuss it with members of Congress. The

President is firmly committed to it.

We are also firmly committed to addressing the mandatory spending

side of the budget. The President has made it clear that if we’re going

to address the long-term challenges when it comes to fiscal discipline,

we must reform our entitlement programs and slow the growth in those

programs. That’s why we took an important step recently by working with

Congress to pass nearly $40 billion in savings and mandatory spending.

That’s the first time that happened, I believe, since 1997. The

President has proposed an additional $65 billion in mandatory savings in

the current 2007 budget proposal. And we look forward to working with

Congress to build upon that.

The President is serious about fiscal discipline and reining in

wasteful spending. That’s why he put forward the line-item veto

legislation yesterday. We believe that there is a good atmosphere to

move forward and continue to build upon the progress we’ve made to

reduce the growth in spending here in Washington, D.C., and to make sure

that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.

Q Are you planning then to wait and set a deadline for

recommendations?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

Q Are you planning to set a deadline for —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, those are discussions we’re having with

congressional leaders as we move forward to put this commission in

place.

Q But are you having any trouble getting bipartisan support —

MR. McCLELLAN: There are good discussions going on with

congressional leaders right now.

Q Scott, as you probably know, the Governor of South Dakota has

now signed this abortion measure that the state legislature passed. Do

you anticipate the administration will weigh in on this as it makes its

way through the courts?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me express to you the President’s views.

The President believes very strongly that we should be working to build

a culture of life in America, and that’s exactly what he has worked to

do. We have acted in a number of ways, practical ways, to reduce the

number of abortions in America. The President strongly supported the

ban on partial-birth abortions. This is an abhorrent procedure, and we

are vigorously defending that legislation. We have acted in a number of

other ways, as well.

Now, I think this issue goes to the larger issue of the type of

people that the President appoints to the Supreme Court. And the

President has made it very clear he doesn’t have a litmus test when it

comes to the Supreme Court, that he will nominate people to the bench

that strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws. But this is law

that was passed by the South Dakota legislature and signed into law by

the Governor of that state. And the President’s view when it comes to

pro-life issues has been very clearly stated, and his actions speak very

loudly, too.

Q So, again — now it’s going to wend its way through the

courts. Will the administration weigh in, in the appeals process that

is going to inevitably —

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is a state — this is a state law.

Q No, but it’s going to become a federal matter —

MR. McCLELLAN: It’s a state matter. The President is going to

continue working to build a culture of life. He believes very strongly

that we ought to value every human life, and that we ought to take steps

to protect the weak and vulnerable, and that’s exactly what we have

done. Now, you’re getting into the question of a state law, and so

that’s something that will — the state will pursue.

Q But, Scott, no, maybe you don’t understand — it’s going to

become a federal issue because it’s going —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me reiterate. Maybe I’m not being clear

— because the President has stated what his view is when it comes to

the sanctity of life. He’s committed to defending the sanctity of life.

He is pro-life with three exceptions — rape, incest and the life of —

when the life of the mother is in danger. That’s his position. This is

a state law, Peter. And I’m not going to —

Q So he would embrace this law as passed by South Dakota?

MR. McCLELLAN: This state law, as you know, bans abortions in all

instances, with the exception of the life of the mother.

Q And not rape and incest, and so therefore, he must disagree

with it, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has a strong record of working to

build a culture of life, and that’s what he will continue to do.

Q I know, but you’re not answering my question, you’re dodging.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I’m telling you that it’s a state issue —

Q He is opposed to abortion laws that forbid it for rape and

incest —

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, look at the President —

Q Isn’t that true, Scott? That’s what you said.

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, let me respond. Look at the President’s

record when it comes to defending the sanctity of life. That is a very

strong record. His views when it comes to pro-life issues are very

clearly spelled out. We also have stated repeatedly that state

legislatures, when they pass laws those are state matters.

Q He disagrees with South Dakota on this one, though, doesn’t

he?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I’ve addressed the question.

Q He does, on rape and incest.

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ve addressed the question.

Q Concerning the President’s quick trip to Texas today, has the

plan all along been for him to vote in person, or is this a result of

some inability to get a mail ballot in time?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I indicated previously, and I’ve already

talked about this issue, the President has voted in person in some

instances and he’s voted by absentee mail-in ballot in other instances.

So he’s done it both ways. I know that in 2002 and 2004, he voted in

person. The President looks forward to traveling to Texas later today

and voting in person. It works out in a way that we are traveling to

the Gulf Coast region tomorrow, so that happens to work well in this

instance. But I’m not going to get into mail-in ballots versus voting

in person. The President looks forward to voting later this afternoon

in Texas.

Q He has property there in Crawford? (Laughter.)

Q Scott, was this the plan all along, or did something happen to

necessitate it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I’ve answered the question. I’m not going

to get into it beyond that.

Q — the cost to taxpayers to make this trip for something he

could have done with a 37-cent stamp?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, he’s done it both ways, if you

look at the past. Sometimes he’s voted in person; sometimes he’s voted

by absentee mail-in ballot.

Q What about Mrs. Bush’s voting?

MR. McCLELLAN: She’ll be voting today, too.

Q Scott, back on Katrina and New Orleans. Yesterday, the

General from the Army Corps of Engineers made a very important statement

saying that the new levees would prevent against catastrophic results

like Hurricane Katrina, but it would not prevent flooding and overtop.

Now, with that information, why hasn’t this administration gone in to

the local government in New Orleans and said, look, let’s talk about

this in the midst of their planning for whether to rebuild in the

low-lying areas or in the higher elevations?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that General Strock also talked to

you about that very issue. Now, let’s keep in mind, when you have

hurricanes, I don’t know of instances when there’s not flooding. So I

think that’s stating something that could be fairly obvious. Now, in

terms of the levees, the President has laid out a plan where we will

rebuild the levees by this hurricane season to be equal to or better

than they were prior to Hurricane Katrina. General Strock briefed on

that yesterday; we’ve provided substantial funding to make sure that

that happens. And the Army Corps of Engineers, under General Strock’s

direction, are on schedule to meet the deadline of this hurricane

season.

Now, we are also going to work to make the levee system stronger

and better than before, and that’s something that’s underway. But it’s

a two-to-three-year process at this point. Now, in terms of decisions

when it comes to issues at the local level, I think the President has

repeatedly said that we will provide funding and resources and

assistance, but the plans will be developed locally, and the strategies

will be developed locally. And we’ll continue to work with state and

local officials and answer any questions they have and provide them

help, but he believes it should be locally inspired in terms of the

approaches that are taken when it comes to rebuilding those communities.

Q So these levees that are being built stronger and better than

before, are these levees being built for homes still in the low-lying

areas, are they being built — just in case of a hurricane, are they

being built with the homes in low-lying areas in mind?

MR. McCLELLAN: General Strock talked about it at length yesterday,

and I think answered those very questions.

Thank you.

END 12:21 P.M. EST

The Latest
A local man opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, about 85 miles west of San Antonio.
It was a bleak picture painted by the half of the GOP primary field — venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, businessman Gary Rabine and state Sen. Darren Dailey — who squared off during a live debate hosted by WGN-TV.
Candace Parker led the way with 16 points, six rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and three steals.
During a rapid-fire “yes or no,” segment, Max Solomon and Paul Schimpf agreed that the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 were not an “insurrection.” But Richard Irvin touted his credentials as a lawyer and said, “I don’t think it’s a ‘yes or no’ question.”