Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En route Tipp City, Ohio
12:03 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: A quick update. The President had a phone call this morning with President Karzai. They spoke this morning at 7:50 a.m., from the Oval Office. The President reaffirmed the joint partnership and strong relationship shared between the two countries. They discussed ongoing security operations against extremist elements, as well as progress on implementation of the comprehensive approach, security, governance, and economic development and reconstruction. They also talked about ongoing counter-narcotics efforts.
Both Presidents look forward to continuing to work together to build a prosperous and free Afghanistan, and fighting extremism in the global war on terror.
He had his normal briefings this morning, after his phone call with President Karzai. We are on our way to Tipp City, Ohio, and on board is Congressman John Boehner. This is his district.
At 1:00 p.m., the President makes remarks on the global war on terror. He will take questions from the audience. And then we arrive back at the White House at 4:00 p.m. -- 4:10 p.m.
And there is a quick note that this is National Volunteer Week. As you know, President Bush has been very encouraging of all Americans to answer the call to service, to love their neighbor by giving their time, talents, and energy to comfort those in need. During National Volunteer Week, USA Freedom Corps has mobilized the Cabinet, and last week we put out a compilation of their volunteer service activities that you can check out on that week-ahead document. And also, of course, any American that's interested in volunteering can check out opportunities at a website, Volunteer.gov.
With that, I'll take your questions.
Q: Dana, does Attorney General Gonzales's testimony on Capitol Hill have any bearing whatsoever on his job status?
MS. PERINO: As I've said many times, the President has full confidence in the Attorney General. The Attorney General looked forward to the hearing that is taking place right now. Of course, the President has not seen any of that testimony. As I told you, he's had a busy morning, and now we're on our way to Tipp City, Ohio. And I haven't seen any of the testimony, either. But clearly, we would hope that there were no preconceived notions, or canned talking points that the senators had in mind before they had this hearing. They said they wanted to get to the facts, and I'm sure that the Attorney General will be fully responsive to their request.
Q: So is it fair to say that no matter what the testimony, no matter what the back-and-forth, that the President plans to stick with Attorney General Gonzales?
MS. PERINO: I think -- yes. I think the President has full confidence in the Attorney General and whenever that changes for any public servant, we'll let you know, and I see no indication of that.
Q: Are you concerned that pressure is building on Paul Wolfowitz? There was a report yesterday that his deputy suggested in a private meeting that he step down.
MS. PERINO: As we've said before, the President has confidence in Paul Wolfowitz, Mr. Wolfowitz had apologized, and that the review board -- the board was undergoing a review, and that that was appropriate to let them finish that, because they're an independent agency -- let that process take place.
Q: Does the President think that what he did was appropriate?
MS. PERINO: What the President has said is that Paul Wolfowitz apologized, and to let the board do its work.
Q: Okay, so the White House will respect whatever decision the executive board decides, whether that's --
MS. PERINO: I've not heard it characterized any other way.
Q: I'm just -- if the executive board decides to keep him, or release him, or suggest that he leave, will the President respect that decision either way?
MS. PERINO: Well, frankly, I don't know how that board -- I don't know how that works in terms of the structure. It's an independent agency, but let me look into how that works. I don't know if the board recognizes something --
Q: Okay. Like a vote of no confidence, or something?
MS. PERINO: I don't know, I'll have to look. Tony Fratto can help in the meantime, if you guys can't catch me this afternoon.
Q: Anymore on the event today, the questions that people are asking? Are these prescreened questions? Are they just going to be picked at random?
MS. PERINO: No -- in fact, the Chamber of Commerce distributed the tickets, except for a handful that went to Congressman Boehner's office. And we didn't announce until today that the President would be taking questions, so there was no prescreening of anyone who is attending the event.
Q: Dana, is the President at all concerned about reports concerning Doolittle and his fundraising? Specifically, the President spoke on his behalf at a fundraiser in October, and Mr. Doolittle's wife apparently received tens of thousands of dollars as commission. Is there any concern from the White House or the President?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think what you're referring to are the reports about FBI action, and given that it is FBI action and that is within the Department of Justice and a Justice Department matter, I would decline to comment on it from here.
Q: But the President was personally there at the fundraiser, so does he have any personal concern that perhaps this wasn't handled in an above-board fashion?
MS. PERINO: I can ask; I haven't heard that.
Q: Dana, has the President been briefed, or seen at all the disturbing footage of the Virginia Tech shooter, the video and the photos?
MS. PERINO: That is a good question. He didn't say and I didn't ask him on the short flight that we had from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base. And so let me take it back. I would doubt it. I know, obviously, he looks at the papers in the morning, but I don't know if had the television on, or not.
Q: Is there -- perhaps not yet, but do you have any reaction? I take it you've seen the footage -- any reaction you can offer on behalf of the White House?
MS. PERINO: Again, I think that it's important for the investigation to be completed by the Virginia Tech Campus Police and the various state and local authorities that are looking into this. What it does tell us is that there was, unfortunately, a very disturbed and deranged individual who was a loner on campus and who needed help for his own mental health, and that did not happen in time to prevent a tragedy. And so I think that's one of the things that, as a society, we're going to have to continue to think about, as to how do you recognize the signs of somebody who is so disturbed that they would take 32 innocent lives, and then their own? It's just something that we're really going to all have to struggle with.
I'm sure that the families are having a very difficult time in the days following this event on Monday. And the President holds them in his thoughts and prayers -- and Mrs. Bush, too. They were very honored to be there on Tuesday, and it deeply affected them.
Q: Can I just follow up on one thing? I think I had you saying the President has full confidence in Attorney General Gonzales, and then the President has confidence in Paul Wolfowitz. Is there a distinction there?
MS. PERINO: No.
Q: Dana, some housekeeping -- who did the President visit downstairs before boarding?
MR. DECKARD: I'll get you the names.
Q: Thank you.
END 12:12 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/274595