Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Little Rock, Arkansas
10:36 A.M. CDT
MS. PERINO: All right, I'll go through the schedule and then two announcements, and then take your questions. We have another short flight today, so I'll make it as quick as possible so you can get your breakfast.
We left Waco this morning; we're on our way to Little Rock, Arkansas. The President will make remarks at the Asa Hutchinson for Governor and Arkansas Republican Party Luncheon. And then we travel later this afternoon to Nashville, Tennessee, and he will make remarks at Bob Corker for Senate and Tennessee Republican Party Dinner. And then he will go to Salt Lake City, where he will remain overnight.
One announcement: President Bush will welcome His Highness Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of the state of Kuwait, to the White House on September 5, 2006. Kuwait is a close and valuable ally. The President looks forward to discussing with Amir Sabah a range of bilateral and regional issues, including the war on terror, assistance and reconstruction of Iraq and of Lebanon, and Kuwait's commendable progress on reform.
As you know, the past two days the President has been in the Gulf Coast region on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. And as you saw, the rebuilding is underway, but there is still a long way to go. And that's why the President reaffirmed his commitment to the region. The anniversary was not the ending of his commitments. He reaffirmed it, and he said before that it's going to take several years, but I think you all saw there that the spirit of hope, coupled with the hard work of the people of the region and the volunteers is self-evidence, and all that coupled together will make for a stronger region.
Tomorrow the President will kick off a series of several speeches on the global war on terror, that will go through his speech at the United Nations General Assembly meeting on September 19th. As you know, the President is constantly talking about the issues we face in the war on terror. It is important for people to hear from their Commander-in-Chief, especially in a time of war, to understand the choices, developments, and consequences of victory and defeat.
These speeches will be a comprehensive look at the state of the war on terror, the intents and the capabilities of our enemy -- that's al Qaeda, as well as the other terrorist groups fighting against freedom in the Middle East -- and steps we've taken to make the nation safer.
For that first speech tomorrow in this series, at the American Legion annual meeting, the President will put the violence that Americans are seeing on their TV screens and reading in their papers into a larger context. He will acknowledge that these are unsettling times in Iraq, in Lebanon, and also the unsettling news about the foiled terror plot out of London. The key is that all of this violence and all of the threats are part of one single ideological struggle, a struggle between the forces of freedom and moderation, and the forces of tyranny and extremism.
The speech will provide some historical context, explaining the roots of the ideological struggle in the lack of freedom in the Middle East, and it lays out the practical case for the freedom agenda in some detail. The speech then focuses on the application of our strategy around the world, a bit of Afghanistan, a bit on Lebanon, and a longer section on Iraq, the challenges that we're facing and what we are doing to overcome -- defeat those challenges and overcome them.
He will also provide an update on the security situation in Iraq, especially in Baghdad. As you know, the Baghdad security plan is still in its early stages, but reports from commanders on the ground is that it is showing good initial results.
So that speech will take place tomorrow. As for the other speeches, there will be at least one next week, probably more. And as soon as I have final details that I can announce to you in terms of dates and locations, I will get those to you.
Q: -- on the road?
MS. PERINO: Yes. Probably a mixture, Deb; some on the road, and some in D.C.
Q: Tomorrow, is he going to mention anything about troop strength? Because Casey is talking about how he believes that Iraqi security forces could take over the security with little help from the coalition, maybe within a year to 18 months. Is he going to be specific about that?
MS. PERINO: From what I've seen, no, I don't believe so. I think because the President has said all along that decisions about troop strength will be left to the commanders on the ground. General Casey -- I saw that report today; I haven't seen his full comments, but those decisions come from the commanders up to the President. And in the speech currently, I don't see a lot of that in there. It's more about the strategy for winning.
Q: -- from what was reported in The Wall Street Journal today and other places. What is different about this particular push than the previous three over the past year, and even before that, dating all the way back? He's always highlighted the high stakes involved. He's always highlighted the fact that there needs to be an ability to adapt to the enemy and fight in different ways. What is different about this one?
MS. PERINO: Our nation is heading into the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and it is important that the President be talking to the American public about this war that we didn't start, but one that he is committed to winning, that means being on the offense against the terrorists.
But you asked me what is different, so we're heading into this anniversary, it's 9/11; these speeches will be -- not so much retrospective in nature, although there will be some of that. There will be a sharp focus on the future, important to remember what has occurred, put that in context because that helps everyone understand the nature of the enemy. It's a bookend of speeches between now and September 19th at UNGA. There's opportunities to remind people about the threat that we face and how we're going to overcome it.
Q: The Journal had reported it, though, that there would be less focus on progress on the ground, so much as the greater struggle. Is this an attempt to avoid talking about progress on the ground?
MS. PERINO: I would not say that that was entirely the context for what these speeches are. It will not be speeches only about Iraq; it will be about the global war on terror, including a discussion about the institutional reforms that have been put in place and how those have helped to protect us, for example, the intelligence community reforms, the proliferation security initiative, the Patriot Act, the transformation of the FBI. And so it's a comprehensive look. I don't know if that report this morning was entirely in context.
Q: Dana, do you think the President will be as pointed as Secretary Rumsfeld was yesterday in pointing out what he believes the shortcomings of the critics are in terms of understanding this global war on terror?
MS. PERINO: I saw this morning that DoD released a statement saying that comments from his speech yesterday might have been mischaracterized by reports. I'll let DoD and the reporters who covered that sort that out. But what Rumsfeld was talking about was clearly making the case that we remain vigilant in fighting the war on terror and confronting the threats to free societies. That is what the President will be talking about.
Q: Does the President think that the Democratic Party understands the stakes, the nature of this war on terror?
MS. PERINO: I think the President said it best last Monday when what he said in the press conference was that there -- in any democracy, he expects healthy debate and he expects criticism. It makes the country stronger. He said, and he believes, he does not question the patriotism or the love of the country of any other American. He does believe that there are choices to be made, and it is wholly appropriate for the President to define the decisions that he's making and the choices that are before us and how he chooses to address them, and contrasts that with other ones. Those are not arguments that we shy away from, but in terms of the speeches, that's how he will try to draw those distinctions.
Q: On a different matter, I just noted from the schedule tomorrow the President is supposed to meet with the head of the Mormon Church. Has he met with that man before? Is that a -- is that something -- is that a meeting he's had?
MS. PERINO: I'll need to go back and check scheduling. I don't know if he's met with this individual before. He has met with members of the Mormon Church before, but I will check.
Q: Why is he meeting with him?
MS. PERINO: I'm going to get more for you on that. I didn't talk to anyone about that today because I was focused on these speeches, but I'll see if I can get you some more.
Q: Why is the fundraiser closed, this one? Why is this fundraiser closed?
MS. PERINO: It's in a private residence. All of the ones that we've done in private residence have been closed. And the one later in the afternoon is at a hotel; that will be open. And tomorrow's is open, too.
END 10:48 A.M. CDT
Dana Perino, Press Gaggle by Dana Perino Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273256