Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Grand Rapids, Michigan
11:56 A.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: I have a few things to announce, and I also have the week ahead, which is kind of lengthy, so we'll do that at the end, okay?
This morning -- the President taped his radio address this morning. This topic is the tragic shootings that occurred at Virginia Tech this week. I think you'll notice that today the President has been also swept up by the school spirit and support for Virginia Tech, as you may know. The school encourages everyone to wear their school colors today, and he has a maroon and orange tie on. And he -- that was just a small way to continue to show his support. But the other thing I wanted to let you know about the radio address is that we will be releasing that unembargoed early this afternoon for your use.
The President asked -- there's a little bit of news in this speech, and then he has asked his top officials at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Justice Departments to provide whatever assistance we can to schools, including higher education schools, to participate in a review of the broader questions raised by this tragedy. He has directed them to travel to communities across the nation to meet with educators, mental health experts, and then the state and local officials who have responsibility for these policies. And he's asked that Secretary Leavitt compile what they learn and summarize it for him, with some recommendations about how we can help avoid such tragedies. So that will be coming out, maybe by the time we land.
Q: How much -- can I just -- how long is that review supposed to take place?
MS. PERINO: Not long. This is a new tasking by the President. And so a lot of the details are still being worked out. Secretary Leavitt said he plans to get started quickly. He's going to bring in a wide array of experts, which could include the folks that I mentioned, the mental health professionals, educators, state and local officials, other Cabinet members, including governors. But given that this has just been assigned, let's give them a little bit of time to figure out how they want to do that.
Q: Did you say higher ed only, or --
MS. PERINO: Well, no, I don't -- no, it's not higher ed only. I think that one of the things that we have to look -- consider, when we think about the broader questions raised by the tragedy, are the mental health issues, and also how can people recognize disturbing behavior and when is intervention appropriate and allowed. And so it will be for everyone.
I would point out to you that in October of last year, when we did the school safety conference, one of the things that we said we would provide was the list of best practices for schools. That was a K-12 focus. And so among the other things that are going to be determined is that -- how can we expand that to college campuses? And in addition to that, I would mention to you -- although I don't have a date for you -- it was already in the works that the Justice Department -- that the Justice Department was going to have a campus safety conference this summer. That was already in the works prior to the tragedy, but of course, it takes on additional importance.
So there's -- any more questions on that?
Q: HHS is heading that up?
MS. PERINO: Yes. Along with colleagues -- with Secretary Spellings and the Attorney General.
Q: I thought you said DOJ.
MS. PERINO: Secretary Spellings, Leavitt, and the Attorney General, those three.
He had his normal briefings at 8:00 a.m. At 10:30 a.m., he signed the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act. Today on board with us, on our way to Michigan, we have Congressman Vernon Ehlers and Congressman Pete Hoekstra --
Q: The first one was --
MS. PERINO: Vernon Ehlers. We're going to his district.
Q: I'm sorry, can I just see this spelling? What was the spelling again?
MS. PERINO: E-h-l-e-r-s.
Okay, back on track. At 1:00 p.m. he's going to give remarks on the global war on terror. About 500 guests, members of the Western Michigan World Affairs Council and their guests. Dixie Anderson is the Executive Director of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, and will introduce the President. And then we arrive back at the White House at 4:00 p.m.
Let me take your questions, and then we'll do the week ahead.
Q: Is he doing any interviews on potential new candidates for the AG --
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of, no. One of the things that the President did upon returning from his trip yesterday was spoke to the Attorney General, following his hours of testimony. The President was pleased that the hearing had finally been held; that the Attorney General was fully responsive to the Congress, answered hours worth of questions after providing thousands of pages of documents, and again proving that there was no credible allegation of wrongdoing. The Attorney General did apologize for the way it was handled, said it could have been handled better, and the President agrees with that. But the Attorney General continues to have the President's full confidence.
Q: Was the President disappointed in the testimony?
MS. PERINO: Is the President? No.
Q: But what about the fact that even Republicans now are coming out and calling for the Attorney General to resign?
MS. PERINO: There is no doubt that there were many members from both sides of the aisle who had expressed frustration over the confusing remarks from the initial responses on this matter. And that frustration had built up over many weeks. The President believes that the Attorney General answered all of their questions honestly and forthrightly. I can understand there are some people who still don't want to support the Attorney General; that is their right. But he has done a fantastic job at the Department of Justice. He is our number one crime fighter. He has done so much to help keep this country safe from terrorists. He has worked determinately to prevent predators from attacking our children. He has worked -- they have a fantastic record of fighting corruption in government and in keeping gang violence off our streets.
And I could go on and on, but I think that following the hearing and following the tension that was in the room, I think on this new day I think -- hopefully people will be able to take a step back, realize that there was no credible evidence of wrongdoing, that the Attorney General has apologized for how it was handled, and that he has a job to do, and he's been doing it very well. And the President has full confidence in him.
Q: Dana, has the President spoken with Paul Wolfowitz over the last couple weeks?
MS. PERINO: No, not that I'm aware of, and there's no change -- the President still has confidence in him. And there is a review that's ongoing by the board, and we're leaving it with them to go ahead and complete that.
Q: Is there any plans for the President to personally call Mr. Wolfowitz and express his support to him directly?
MS. PERINO: I've said it publicly for days, and I'll let -- if there's an update on the President's call schedule --
Q: Does the President ever get tired of having to express his full confidence in the people around him these days?
MS. PERINO: When you're President of the United States and you have this many folks that you are employing, it's a pretty small number that he's had to express full confidence in. All of us who serve at the pleasure of the President, if the moment he doesn't have full confidence in you, you no longer work for him. And we all take that very seriously.
Q: Dana, at some point, though, whether or not the Attorney General has done anything wrong, there comes a question as to whether he's being effective any more in that job, particularly when Arlen Specter, the chairman of that committee, says there is a credibility gap.
MS. PERINO: Well, I could go through the list again of all the things -- the great things that the Attorney General has been able to do at the Department. I won't, I'll just refer you back to the transcript when you get it.
Q: That isn't what I'm asking.
MS. PERINO: I hear your point, but I can tell you that this President believes that the Attorney General's effectiveness is something that he has been very proud of, and that he believes will continue with the Attorney General at the helm of the Justice dept.
Q: Does the White House view this matter as closed?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that there's no doubt there's probably going to be follow-up questions; there usually are. And the request by the President for the Department of Justice to be fully responsive stands. And as you know, we're in communication with the Hill, in terms of their requests for us, as well. I think that the hearing is over, and we'll just see where it goes from here. A lot of this isn't in our control.
Q: So the President said in Mexico that he had work to do in Congress, and went up there, and we were waiting for him to go there, so do you think he did what was necessary?
MS. PERINO: I've said repeatedly, since yesterday, that the President was very pleased with how the testimony went yesterday; that the Attorney General was responsive, and he did what the President asked him to do, and that the Attorney General fulfilled his responsibility to the Congress by answering hours worth of testimony and providing all of the documents.
Q: Is the President going to mention it today at all?
MS. PERINO: No. The President is going to be giving a speech about Iraq, which is something you guys might want to focus on -- with a nation that is at war. This speech is going to be more formal -- more formal, in terms of his remarks, than yesterday's, where that was a little bit more off-the-cuff. He will also be using some visuals today, some maps, that help describe what our force posture was prior to the Baghdad Security Plan implementation, and the current force structure, as well as -- so he'll talk about Baghdad, and he'll also talk about al-Anbar province, as well as areas outside of those, in terms of what we are doing to help put the Iraqis in control, quell the violence in Baghdad, and allow for those political and diplomatic and economic reforms to take place, and then so that we can eventually get to the place where the American troops can come home. The President will talk about the consequences of withdrawing too fast, when the conditions are not ripe on the ground.
Q: Do you think he'll go any further than he did yesterday on the consequences of withdrawing?
MS. PERINO: I think that there are -- it's well articulated in the speech. The week ahead?
MS. PERINO: Okay. So, Saturday night, the President makes remarks at the White House Correspondents Association dinner -- see you there.
On Monday, April 23rd, at 10:15 a.m., the President will meet with the President of Peru. That will be in the Oval; pool at the bottom. At 1:15 p.m., the President participates in a meeting on Medicare Part D in the Roosevelt Room; pool at the bottom. And then the President at 3:15 p.m. will participate in a photo opportunity and makes remarks to the Indianapolis Colts. I think they won a championship.
Q: The Indianapolis --
MS. PERINO: Indianapolis Colts -- had to remember what sport that was, but I just remembered. Okay, Tuesday, April 24th, at 1:00 p.m., the President visits Harlem Village Academy Charter School; that's in New York, pool coverage. At 1:25 p.m., the President will make remarks on No Child Left Behind reauthorization -- same location; that will be open to you. At 6:05 p.m., he will attend an RNC dinner; private residence and closed press.
On Wednesday, April 25th, the President and Mrs. Bush make remarks on Malaria Awareness Day in the Rose Garden, weather permitting.
On Thursday, April 26th, at 10:15 a.m., the President and Mrs. Bush make remarks to the 2007 National and State Teachers of the Year. Will we let you know the location of that as we get closer to the day. That evening, at 6:45 p.m., the President and Mrs. Bush welcome the Prime Minister of Japan and Mrs. Abe to the White House. That will be on the North Portico of the White House, and open press. On Friday, April 27th, the President welcomes the Prime Minister of Japan to Camp David; pool coverage. At 11:10 a.m., the President participates in a joint press availability with the Prime Minister of Japan, also at Camp David.
On Saturday, April 28th, the President delivers the commencement address at Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida; back in D.C. that night.
And then one thing to put on your radar screen, a couple weeks down the road, is that the President is going to visit Jamestown to participate in a celebration of America's 400th anniversary on Saturday, May 13th. And we'll provide more details about his -- what that means, in terms of participation, as we get closer.
Q: Will he be with the Queen there?
MS. PERINO: No, the Queen is coming the 6th and the 7th. I don't know if the Queen is going to be there on the 13th.
Q: Where does Thursday start? Does it start with the teachers, or does it start --
MS. PERINO: Thursday -- Thursday, what?
Q: Thursday starts Teacher of the Year?
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q: Is that maybe not at the White House?
MS. PERINO: No, it is. It's just --
Q: -- where?
MS. PERINO: It will be at the White House, but sort of depends on the weather and how many people we have.
Q: Abe is Friday, or does that start Thursday?
MS. PERINO: Thursday night for the -- for when they arrive, and then dinner, and then -- they'll have a social dinner Thursday night, and then Friday is the meeting and the lunch and the press availability.
END 12:09 P.M. EDT
George W. Bush, Press Gaggle by Dana Perino Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274599