WHITE HOUSE REGULAR NEWS BRIEFING
JULY 12, 2005
SPEAKER: SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY
MCCLELLAN: Good afternoon.
The president had a good visit this morning with four leaders of the Senate on the Supreme Court nomination process. It was a good bipartisan discussion that the president had with Senators Specter and Leahy, and Senators Frist and Reid. The president talked about the importance of moving forward in a dignified and civilized way during the nomination process. Today’s meeting underscores the president’s commitment to consulting closely with members of the Senate. The consultative process is an important part of the nomination process, and the president takes this responsibility very seriously.
The president spent a good bit of time visiting with the senators about the timing of moving forward on the hearings for a potential nominee. The president continues to visit with members of his senior staff and look over the backgrounds and rulings of potential nominees, and he looks forward to continuing to consult closely with members of the Senate. He wants to hear their views and their ideas as we move forward.
And I think the consultations, you can expect, will continue even after he makes his decision and makes his nominee known.
We have now consulted with more than 60 senators. We have consulted with more than half the Democratic Caucus. We continue to reach out to others. And this process is something that continues.
Secondly, this afternoon the president looks forward to welcoming some bipartisan leaders to talk about passing comprehensive energy legislation.
MCCLELLAN: The House and the Senate have both moved forward on comprehensive energy legislation that will reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy.
And so the president will have the bipartisan leaders from the energy committees, as well as the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committee, over this afternoon to talk about the importance of moving forward and resolving remaining differences and getting this to his desk by the August recess.
This is a high priority for the president of the United States.
Our economy is strong. We continue to see sustained growth. We’ve had more than 3.7 million jobs created over the last 25 months. We have an unemployment rate that is now at its lowest since September of 2001 at 5 percent.
But there is more we need to do to continue to keep our economy growing strong. The tax cuts that we passed are working. Those are fueling economic growth and job creation.
But we also need to address the root causes of high energy prices.
And four years is long enough. We are long overdue in acting on energy legislation, and so the president looks forward to discussing with these leaders how we can move forward and get this done quickly.
Finally, I want to make one announcement.
The president and Mrs. Bush will welcome President Uribe of Colombia and Mrs. Uribe to their ranch in Crawford, Texas, on August 4th.
The president looks forward to continuing his dialogue with President Uribe on our shared efforts to protect and promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, fight terrorism and drug trafficking, and promote prosperity through economic growth and opportunity.
And with that, I will be glad to go to your questions.
QUESTION: In the wake of this meeting this morning, is he willing to consider expanding the number of candidates for the Supreme Court? He’s already looking at more than half a dozen choices. Is there a consensus candidate among these choices? Or is he going to expand the number?
MCCLELLAN: Well, I don’t want to rule things in or out.
The president has expressed publicly that over the course of the next few weeks — he said this last week actually — that he would narrow that list down and focus on a handful of potential nominees. At that point, he would look forward to sitting down and visiting with those potential nominees.
This is a very important position. The president takes his constitutional responsibility seriously.
MCCLELLAN: And that’s why he is going through a thorough and deliberate process as we move forward. The president is consulting with members of the Senate. The White House is consulting with members of the Senate. The president is visiting with his key advisers as we move forward to discuss potential nominees and their rulings and their backgrounds.
The president wants to see someone appointed of high integrity, of high intellect, someone who will faithfully interpret our Constitution and our laws and not try to make law from the bench. That’s the criteria he has set.
He’s going to look at a diverse group of individuals. He is looking at a diverse group of individuals. And when he has more to say on it, then he’ll do so at that point.
QUESTION: Scott, some Democrats are calling for the revocation of Karl Rove’s security clearance. Does the president see any need for that?
MCCLELLAN: I think there’s a lot of discussion that’s going on in the context of an ongoing investigation. This is based on some news reports that came out recently.
I think you heard me talk about the importance of helping this investigation move forward. I don’t think it’s helpful for me from this podium to get into discussing what is an ongoing investigation. I think it’s most helpful for me to not comment while that investigation continues.
And these are all issues that some are trying to raise in the context of news reports. I don’t think we should be prejudging the outcome of any investigation at this point.
QUESTION: But the issues of security clearance and criminal investigations are often on very separate tracks. So does the president see any reason or any necessity at least in the interim to revoke Karl Rove’s security clearance?
MCCLELLAN: First of all, let me back up. Some of you asked a couple of questions about if the president still has confidence in particular individuals, specifically Karl Rove.
I don’t want to get into commenting on things in the context of an ongoing investigation. So let me step back and point out that any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president.
MCCLELLAN: They wouldn’t be working here at the White House if they didn’t have the president’s confidence.
And in terms of security clearances, there are a number of people at the White House that have various levels of security clearance. And I’m confident that those individuals have the appropriate security clearance. I haven’t gone around looking at what those security clearances are.
QUESTION: But, Scott, are you suggesting — I think it’s pretty clear to everybody at this point you don’t want to comment on the investigation, but the president has also spoken about this when asked.
So does the president…
MCCLELLAN: Spoken about…
QUESTION: Well, he has spoken about these questions that have come up as part of a leak investigation.
So does he retain confidence in Karl Rove specifically?
MCCLELLAN: Yes. Any individual who works here at the White House has the president’s confidence. They wouldn’t be working here if they didn’t have the president’s confidence.
That’s why I’ve stepped back from this and talked about it in the broader context.
Now, these questions are coming up in the context of an ongoing investigation. And I stated long ago, you all will remember, that the investigation is continuing. I want to be helpful the investigation. I don’t want to jeopardize anything in that investigation.
And that’s why I made a decision and the White House made a decision quite some time ago that we weren’t going to get into commenting on questions related to that investigation.
QUESTION: But isn’t the difficulty that you have said to the public, dating back to 2003, affirmatively Karl Rove was not involved, and now we have evidence to the contrary?
So how do you reconcile those two things? How does the president reconcile those two facts?
MCCLELLAN: Again, if I were to get into discussing this I would be getting into discussing an investigation that continues and could be prejudging the outcome of the investigation. I’m not going to do that from this podium.
You do point out some statements that were made. I remember well the comments that were made.
After that point, I also remember going and testifying in this investigation and I remember well individuals who were involved in overseeing this investigation expressing their preference personally to me that we not get into discussing what is an ongoing investigation. I think that’s the way to be most helpful as they move forward. And that’s why I’m in the position that I’m in.
MCCLELLAN: I’m not going to get into jumping on every news report as the investigation continues and try to comment on them, because I don’t think that’s helpful.
So I think you have to step back from any individual news story or individual reports. Let’s let the investigation take place.
I look forward to talk about some of these matters once the investigation is complete. I’d welcome the opportunity to talk about some of these questions. But I don’t think it’s appropriate to do so at this time.
QUESTION: One final one on this…
MCCLELLAN: I think the American people can understand and appreciate that.
QUESTION: Well, we’ll see. But I just have one final question on this.
The question of whether a law has been broken, a crime committed, is a separate matter. You’re not going to resolve that. That’s for a grand jury to decide.
We know what the facts are. We know that Karl Rove spoke about Joseph Wilson’s wife, referring to the fact that she worked at the agency. You’ve heard Democrats to say today that alone was inappropriate conduct.
What was Karl Rove trying to accomplish by having the conversation he did? And does the president think that it was fair of him to do that? Was it fair game?
MCCLELLAN: That’s a question related to an ongoing investigation. The investigation continues. I think you know that very well. I’ve responded to that question. And if I were to start commenting on news reports or things related to the investigation, I’m getting into prejudging the outcome of that investigation. I don’t want to do that from this podium.
Let’s let the investigation take place, and let’s let the investigators bring all the facts together and draw the conclusions that they draw, and then we will know the facts at that point.
QUESTION: But, Scott, there’s a difference between what’s legal and what’s right. Is what Karl Rove did right?
MCCLELLAN: Well, I mean, you can state the obvious. I understand and appreciate that. And I appreciate you all — I know you all want to get to the bottom of this. I want to get to the bottom of it. The president has said no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than he does. We want to see it come to a successful conclusion.
The best way to help the investigation come to a successful conclusion is for me not to get into discussing it from this podium. I don’t think that helps…
MCCLELLAN: I don’t think that helps advance the investigation.
QUESTION: You say you won’t discuss it, but the Republican National Committee and others working obviously on behalf of the White House, they put out this Wilson-Rove research and talking points, distributed to Republican surrogates, which include things like: Karl Rove discouraged a reporter from writing a false story.
QUESTION: And then other Republican surrogates are getting information such as: Cooper, the Time reporter, called Rove on the pretense of discussing welfare reform. Bill Kristol on Fox News, a friendly news channel to you, said that the conversation lasted for two minutes and it was just at the end that Rove discussed this.
So someone is providing this information. Are you, behind the scenes, directing a response to this story?
MCCLELLAN: You can talk to the RNC about what they put out. I’ll let them speak to that.
What I know is that the president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation. And as part of cooperating fully with that investigation, that means supporting the efforts by the investigators to come to a successful conclusion.
And that means not commenting on it from this podium.
MCCLELLAN: And, no, I understand your question.
QUESTION: … Fox News and other Republican surrogates are essentially saying that the conversation lasted for two minutes and that the subject was ostensibly welfare reform.
They’re getting that information from here, from Karl Rove.
MCCLELLAN: And, again, you’re asking questions that are related to news reports about an ongoing, continuing investigation. And you’ve had my response on that…
QUESTION: At the very least, though, Scott, could you say whether or not you stand by your statement of September 29th, 2003, that it’s simply not true that Karl Rove disclosed the identity of a CIA operative?
Can you stand by that statement?
MCCLELLAN: I look forward to talking about this at some point, but it’s not the appropriate time to talk about those questions while the investigation is continuing.
QUESTION: Can we take that as a yes or a no?
QUESTION: This was a statement you made on the record 21 months ago. You very confidently asserted to us and to the American people that Rove told you he had nothing to do with it.
Can you stand by that statement now?
MCCLELLAN: Yes, and I responded to these questions yesterday.
QUESTION: Can you explain why the president chose today to break with his usual practice of taking two questions from the American side at events with a foreign leader and only taking one?
MCCLELLAN: This time last Friday, I think, with Prime Minister Blair — or Thursday — they did the same thing.
QUESTION: Normal practice in the Oval Office is to take two questions. I’m just curious why…
MCCLELLAN: He did that last week with Prime Minister Blair as well.
QUESTION: Should — if he had responded…
MCCLELLAN: You’re going to have another opportunity to see him this week.
QUESTION: If you had responded to the questions today about Karl Rove would he have gone beyond your stance here to…
MCCLELLAN: You’re going to have other opportunities to ask him questions. He takes questions on a fairly regular basis.
QUESTION: Let me just do what you did a few moments ago and step back from the context of the investigation to the president’s agenda. Does Karl Rove, with all the attention being paid to him now, become a liability to the president, an impediment to his pushing his agenda?
MCCLELLAN: You’re asking all these questions in the context of the news reports…
QUESTION: I’m talking about in the larger sense of Rove being the deputy chief of staff…
MCCLELLAN: We’re continuing to move forward on our agenda. And we’re on the verge of accomplishing some very big things when it comes to the agenda.
QUESTION: But is Karl Rove an impediment now, with all this attention distracting from that push on your agenda?
MCCLELLAN: Everybody who is working here is helping us to advance the agenda, and that includes Karl in a very big way.
QUESTION: Has he apologized to you for telling you he was not involved?
MCCLELLAN: I’m not going to get into private discussions.
QUESTION: I mean, he put you on the spot. He put your credibility on the line.
MCCLELLAN: I appreciate you all wanting to move forward and find the facts relating to this investigation. I want to know all the facts relating to the investigation.
QUESTION: These people are on the record, one quote after another.
MCCLELLAN: The president wants to get to the bottom of it. And it’s just not appropriate.
If you’ll remember back two years ago or almost two years ago, I did draw a line. And I said we’re just not going to get into commenting on…
QUESTION: But people made comments in defending…
MCCLELLAN: We’re just not going to get into commenting on an investigation that continues. And I think you’ve heard me explain why I’m not going to do that.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) put yourself out on a limb, Scott?
MCCLELLAN: I do want to talk about this. And we will talk about it, once the investigation is complete.
QUESTION: Do you regret what you said in 2003? Do you regret putting yourself so far out on a limb when you don’t have facts?
MCCLELLAN: I’ll try to come back to you if I can, but I think I’ve responded to…
QUESTION: Well, you haven’t responded to that. Do you think you went too far two years ago?
QUESTION: Scott, for the first time on Capitol Hill, a two-day conference on (inaudible) on Kashmir is going on. But for the first time, the group is saying that they are showing the other side of Kashmir as being brutalized (inaudible) Kashmiri Hindus.
And several congressmen came to speak, including Congressman Wilson. And he said that he just came back from the Cuba prison and talking with the prisoners and all that. And he said that those prisoners are there to stay because those are the ones who killed 60,000 Kashmiri (inaudible) in India and those are the ones who killed on 9/11 thousands in America and killing around the globe. So he said they are there to stay.
But he said that now time has come that India and the U.S. should work together to fight against terrorism, because common enemies are out there (inaudible) world’s largest democracy and world’s richest democracy.
Does the president agree with him, or at least what he said yesterday…
MCCLELLAN: We are working closely with India in the global war on terrorism.
MCCLELLAN: We’re working closely with Pakistan in the global war on terrorism. And it’s important that they continue to move forward on their dialogue to resolve issues surrounding Kashmir. And we continue to support their efforts and their dialogue that is ongoing.
They’ve made some progress and they’re having more direct discussions relating to the region.
QUESTION: Does the White House have a credibility problem?
MCCLELLAN: These are all questions that you’re bringing up in the context of an investigation that is…
QUESTION: I’m not asking about that.
MCCLELLAN: Well, it’s clear that this is coming up in the context of news…
QUESTION: We could talk about WMDs, the whole range of issues.
MCCLELLAN: … in the context of news reports.
And I appreciate those questions. And I think you’re trying to get at the specific news reports and wanting me to comment on those specific news reports.
QUESTION: But they’re news reports that have been confirmed by Karl Rove’s attorneys.
MCCLELLAN: You can keep jumping in, but I’m going to try to keep going to other people in this room as well. And we can have a constructive dialogue here I think, but that’s not the way to do it.
QUESTION: It’s not my job to have a constructive dialogue, Scott. Sorry.
QUESTION: The two-year call-up for members of the Reserve and National Guard is nearing an end. Will the president issue another call-up? And, if so, when and for how many troops?
MCCLELLAN: For the National Guard and Reserve?
Well, I think the military has spoken to that recently and they’ve talked about their tours of duty, and I don’t really have anything to add beyond what the Pentagon has said on that more recently.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice says it is pointless to have talks with North Korea just to have talks. Is the president willing to negotiate with North Korea, or does he still demand that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons program without any conditions?
MCCLELLAN: North Korea needs to make a strategic decision to abandon its nuclear ambitions. That’s what’s important.
All parties involved in the six-party talks have put a proposal on the table for North Korea. The six-party talks are going to be resuming here within the next couple of weeks and it’s important that North Korea come back prepared to talk in a serious way about how to move forward on that proposal.
MCCLELLAN: We still have not heard a response to the proposal that is on the table.
We believe that proposal addresses the concerns of all parties and that it’s the way to move forward to resolve the nuclear issue. We all want to see a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. That’s a goal we all share, and that’s what we’re working toward.
And it’s important that we make progress in the next round of talks toward that goal. And discussing that proposal and how to move forward on it is the way to do so.
QUESTION: The president is going to be speaking Thursday to the Indiana Black Expo the same day that the NAACP is continuing its convention in Milwaukee.
Is this a snub to the NAACP and has he been invited to speak to the NAACP this time around?
MCCLELLAN: I think he may have been but this event has been scheduled for quite some time. I’m not sure that we received any request prior to this event. I’d have to go back and check.
But the president looks forward to making remarks at the expo. He will be talking about the ownership society.
QUESTION: Scott, the news that the G-8 nations offered the Palestinian Authority $9 billion inevitably recalls the 2003 International Monetary Fund report that Yasser Arafat diverted $900 million to a special bank account he controlled.
And my question: Considering Mahmoud Abbas’ long association with Arafat was his refusal to dismantle any terrorist groups like Hamas in accordance with the road map, how on earth did the president allow nearly $1 billion to Abbas without U.S. protests?
And I have a follow-up.
MCCLELLAN: I think that we’ve spoken to that issue — and why we are trying to support the efforts on the disengagement plan and make sure that that’s successful and help the Palestinians put in place the institutions for a democracy to emerge and for a democratic state to emerge.
I would point out that apparently there was a suicide bombing in Netanya at a shopping mall just a short time ago. We condemn I the strongest terms this vicious attack.
MCCLELLAN: There is no justification for the murder of innocent civilians — men, women and children.
We express our condolences to the prime minister of Israel and to the people of Israel. Those who have been injured are in our thoughts and prayers. And those who have been killed in this terrorist attack, we express our condolences to their families.
Terrorists are seeking to derail the peace efforts in the Middle East. And all parties must step forward and combat terrorism. The Palestinian Authority needs to act to dismantle terrorist organizations and to stop attacks from happening in the first place.
We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms.
QUESTION: Does the president believe that it is outrageous for a Los Angeles advertising man to be conducting a campaign to persuade the town selectmen of Weare, New Hampshire, to approve the building of a hotel on the land where Justice Souter’s house is located? Or does he regard this as an historic irony resulting from Souter’s vote in the case of Kelo v. City of New London?
MCCLELLAN: I didn’t see anything on it.
QUESTION: What? You didn’t see anything on it. You’d like to evade this one.
MCCLELLAN: No, I haven’t seen anything on it. I like to see reports before I comment on it.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) why you can’t answer Andy’s question about whether, generally speaking, whether the administration has a credibility problem. I think a lot of people are tuning in wondering, Can we trust what this White House says? Can we trust what Scott McClellan says?
Not talking about the case, can you just address — do you feel like there’s a credibility problem?
MCCLELLAN: Yes. I think you all in this room know me very well. And you know the type of person that I am. You and many others in this room have dealt with me for quite some time.
The president is a very straightforward and plain-spoken person, and I’m someone who believes in dealing in a very straightforward way with you all as well. That’s what I’ve worked to do.
QUESTION: Back to SCOTUS for just a minute: The Democrats say, to this point, the consultation has made for a good start. But there’s already some indication that they’d like to begin to hear the president actually talk about names as part of that consultation.
Should we expect the president to actually consult over specific names with Democrats?
MCCLELLAN: Well, I think there are some that maybe have suggested that they should have veto power over the president’s selection. The president has a constitutional responsibility to nominate someone to the bench, and I don’t think any individual should have veto power over the president’s constitutional responsibility.
The president has made it clear what he is looking for in a nominee and the type of person that he is person for. He’s looking at a diverse group of individuals. And he will appoint someone — or nominate someone to the bench that we can all be proud of. We should all be working to move forward in a constructive way and to elevate the discourse.
The president hasn’t made a decision at this point. He is at this point looking at a group of individuals and looking at their backgrounds, looking at key rulings that they have made, discussing it with members of his staff and his advisers. And he’s also reaching out to members of the Senate, the White House is reaching out to members of the Senate to listen to what their views are.
This is a process that is ongoing. It’s been ongoing since the — well, even before the vacancy occurred, even before Justice O’Connor announced her resignation.
QUESTION: Should Democrats expect the president specifically to consult over the potential nominee by name?
MCCLELLAN: By name? I think that people are welcome to express their views on who they might have in mind for the vacancy that exists on the Supreme Court, but it’s the president’s constitutional responsibility to make that selection. And I don’t think any individual should have veto power over that selection process.
But the president is going to continue to consult, he’s going to continue to listen. Once he’s made the nomination, he’ll also continue to consult with members of the Senate. That’s an important part of the process. But to suggest that you should have veto power, I just think is unreasonable.
QUESTION: On the terrorism some more please?
MCCLELLAN: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Did the United States coordinate with the British on their latest findings? And do you have any comment on what they unveiled in the last hour or so?
MCCLELLAN: Well, we are coordinating closely and working closely with British authorities. I think that it’s best to leave this investigation for the British authorities to discuss publicly.
MCCLELLAN: They’re the ones who have the lead on this. But we operate in a very transparent way with our British counterparts, and we share intelligence on a real-time basis with British authorities.
They’re moving forward on the investigation and we’re doing all we can to help those efforts.
QUESTION: Netanya, that’s an area — I mean, it’s a tragedy when anybody is killed — that’s an area where a lot of Americans and foreigners live. I think there’s an American consulate there.
Do you know if any Americans were involved in this?
MCCLELLAN: I don’t have any update beyond what you’ve seen in the media reports.
QUESTION: How long has the president known that Karl Rove spoke in 2003 to at least one reporter about Joseph Wilson’s wife?
MCCLELLAN: That’s a question relating to the investigation. You’ve had my response on those questions.
QUESTION: Was it like a big surprise to him this week when the story broke about it?
MCCLELLAN: Again, it’s an ongoing, continuing investigation and I think I’ve addressed why I’m not going to get into discussing it further at this time.
QUESTION: So I understand your reluctance to talk. Mr. Rove’s attorney, Mr. Luskin, spoke to reporters a few days ago. Would you be willing to allow your attorney to speak to reporters about these matters?
MCCLELLAN: Next question. I’m not going to get into discussing the investigation at this point.
QUESTION: Back on the fact that the president has confidence in everyone who works for him…
MCCLELLAN: And you’re making an assumption that I wouldn’t make either.
QUESTION: Back on the situation of the president having confidence in everyone who works for him, does his confidence allow for everyone, to include Karl Rove, to conduct the same duties that they were conducting a couple of years ago today and yesterday?
QUESTION: So Karl Rove is still doing the…
MCCLELLAN: I don’t know if the duties are the same, because the agenda has moved quite a ways since then.
QUESTION: So nothing has changed in the way of his duties with the president? And what has his interaction been with the president in the last couple of days?
MCCLELLAN: As I pointed out at the beginning, any individual that is working here at the White House and doing their job has the confidence of the president and the job that they’re doing. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t have the confidence of the president of the United States.
And in terms of what we’re doing here at the White House, we’re trying to implement the president’s agenda. We’re going about working on helping him to make a decision to fill the Supreme Court vacancy that exists.
We’re moving forward on important pieces of legislation like the energy plan that the president outlined and that has been passed by both chambers and that they’re working to get passed.
MCCLELLAN: We’re trying to move forward on passing the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
There are a number of important priorities that we are focused on and that’s what everybody here at the White House is working on.
Any time you have an investigation of this nature that is a criminal investigation, it’s going to draw media attention. And any time news reports come out abut that investigation, obviously it gets attention in the media.
But we’ve got an important job to do on behalf of the American people. We’re focused on moving forward on that agenda. So people are going about doing their work here at the White House.
QUESTION: All right, Scott, since it’s drawn media attention, it’s also drawn attention here at the White House. You’ve totally changed some of your statements, as you said yesterday. So therefore, it’s been bantered about at the White House.
And knowing the president has been advised of the talking points, what has he said to Karl Rove in relation to the situation today and yesterday?
MCCLELLAN: You’re asking about the investigation and…
QUESTION: I’m asking about the president’s friendship and political advisement from Karl Rove on this situation. What does he…
MCCLELLAN: It’s in the context of the investigation and I’m not responding to that.
QUESTION: I’m asking about the daily duties…
MCCLELLAN: Just not going to go further on.
QUESTION: … and the conversation with Karl Rove and the president of the United States.
MCCLELLAN: Everybody’s going about doing their business as they should be.
QUESTION: Scott, were you in on the meeting with the senators this morning.
MCCLELLAN: No, it was a breakfast with the four senators. And the vice president and Andy Card were in that meeting.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on what length and depth they discussed the concept of Senator Specter and Leahy talked about at the stakeout concerning looking beyond the circuit courts for a nominee?
MCCLELLAN: No, I think you heard from the senators in terms of what they expressed. And I think some of the senators that were there are still maybe going to suggest some additional names for the president.
The president was very much listening to the ideas that they had and listening to any suggestions that they had for potential nominees. That’s part of the consultative process.
Senator Hatch, this weekend, pointed out that in his 29 years in the United States Senate he has not seen anything like this in terms of the level of consultation with the United States Senate from the White House. He called it unprecedented.
And we intend to continue consulting with the Senate as we move forward.
QUESTION: Do you know if the president shares the two senators’ concerns that picking judges from the circuit court makes for somewhat of an insular Supreme Court and that there would be some advantage in broadening it out?
MCCLELLAN: I think that’s getting into speculating. I mean, the president’s made it clear what he’s looking for in a nominee and that he’s considering a diverse group of individuals.
And I don’t think he wants us to get into speculating about potential names beyond what he has said at this point…
QUESTION: But as a matter of…
MCCLELLAN: … because I don’t want to rule things in or out. I’ll let him do that on his time frame.
QUESTION: But, Scott, just as a matter of a commentary on the analysis that selections of Supreme Court justices from the appellate court could hem it in, is that a function of…
MCCLELLAN: Could hem it in?
QUESTION: Could hem in the court, could limit the number of options in terms of going outside the appellate court: Is that something that has been discussed in the context of the selection process?
MCCLELLAN: The president’s outlined the criteria that he’s looking at. And there’s some that are trying to discuss, you know, the type of individuals they would like to see appointed to the bench and we welcome any suggestions that people have that are trying to work through this process in a constructive way.
QUESTION: Scott, the president has said that invading Iraq has made the world safer, but the government’s own terrorism statistics show a dramatic increase in the number of international terrorist attacks since the invasion.
QUESTION: And the London bombings have demonstrated that the fly paper theory was just a theory.
Can you explain the disconnect between the administration’s rhetoric on this issue and the reality on the ground?
MCCLELLAN: First of all, the terrorism incidents that you bring up — last week, there was a report released by the National Counterterrorism Center, and they explained how they have developed a new methodology to better track terrorist attacks across the world.
So your characterization leaves the wrong impression for people who might be watching this briefing. And I would dispute that pretty strongly.
Now, in terms of Iraq, terrorists have chosen to make Iraq a central front in the war on terrorism. And the president made a decision, after September 11th, that we were going to take the fight to the enemy, that we were going to wage a comprehensive war on terrorism. That included not only taking the fight to the enemy, but also working to spread freedom and democracy because that’s the way you defeat the ideology that terrorists espouse.
Terrorists have been carrying out attacks for years, for a couple of decades at least. If you go back and look at the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, you can go back and look at the first attack on the World Trade Center, certainly the attacks on September 11th: Terrorists don’t need an excuse, and there is certainly no justification for the taking and murder of innocent human life.
They have no regard for human life. This is a battle of ideologies. This is a struggle of ideologies. The president recognizes that this is not a limited war on terror. This is not just related to Afghanistan and the Taliban. This is about an ideological struggle.
And that’s the kind of battle that we are waging.
But there’s a long history of attacks by terrorists that predates anything that occurred in Iraq.
So that’s just a misunderstanding of the nature of the enemy that we face in this war on terrorism.
QUESTION: The RAND Corporation also keeps track of statistics on international terrorism, and their data also shows that 2004 had the highest rate of international attacks in 13 years.
MCCLELLAN: The difference between 13 years ago and today is that we are on the offensive. We have taken the fight to the enemy. And the president has made it very clear that we are going to prevail. We are going to defeat the enemy.
They are now on the defensive. And we’re going to keep them on the defensive. We’re going to continue to seek out those who seek to do us harm and bring them to justice and try to prevent attacks from happening in the first place.
We are fighting them abroad so that we don’t have to fight them here at home. The best way to win the war on terrorism is to stay on the offensive. And the ultimate path to victory is spreading freedom, because freedom or free societies are peaceful societies.
If you go back and look at World War II and the Cold War, we defeated ideologies with the power of freedom. And we’re going to defeat the terrorist ideology by spreading the power of freedom as well.
And you may have a different view of the nature of the enemy we face and the war on terrorism, but the president knows that this is a struggle that is going to be a long struggle. It must be a sustained struggle. And we must wage it on multiple fronts. And that’s what we’re doing.
QUESTION: Back on the Rove question, you are continuously saying it’s an ongoing investigation. But it’s also an ongoing news story that has opened up what has been described as a credibility gap here.
Do you not sense — is there no sense here — that perhaps you, the president and/or Karl need to say something more about this situation to close that gap?
MCCLELLAN: I think that if I started getting into questions relating to this investigation, I might be harming that investigation from moving forward. I don’t want…
QUESTION: I’m asking you about the sense here at the White House.
MCCLELLAN: I know. I heard your question. I appreciate your question, because I know you all have a genuine interest in seeing this investigation come to a conclusion and know what the facts are.
MCCLELLAN: And there are news reports that come out all the time in investigations. I’m not going to comment on news reports that come out in the middle of an investigation or during an investigation, because that could just prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
We want to know what the facts are, and the way to do that is to let the investigators complete their work. As I said, they certainly expressed a preference to me and others that they would prefer that from the White House we not get into commenting about this in a public way. That’s a preference that’s been expressed to me personally as well. And I want to be helpful to this investigation.
I also would like to be able to talk more about it, but I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing to do while it is continuing. That’s the reason why I’m not going further than I am.
And I think if the American people hear that, they can understand and appreciate that. It has nothing to do with whether or not I want to comment on anything that was previously said. There will be an appropriate time to talk about all this. The time for that, though, is not now.
Thank you. Appreciate it.