Press Gaggle by Dana Perino and Administration Officials on the EU Summit
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
9:20 A.M. EDT
Dana Perino, Deputy White House Press Secretary
Judy Ansley, NSC Senior Director for European Affairs
Rod Hunter, NSC Senior Director for International Trade, Energy and the Environment
MS. PERINO: Good morning. President had his normal briefings at 8:00 a.m. At 10:00 a.m. he will have a photo opportunity with the 2007 national and state teachers of the year. That will be in the Oval, stills at the bottom. And then at 10:20 a.m. the President will make remarks in the Rose Garden to that same group of folks. Mrs. Bush will introduce the President. And the teacher of the year will make remarks, as well.
Q: Will there be dancing?
MS. PERINO: Don't think there's any music to start that up again. (Laughter.) And it might rain on that parade, as well. And then this evening the President and Mrs. Bush will visit with the Prime Minister of Japan, and his wife, Mrs. Abe, at the Blair House. And then there will be a welcome at the North Portico that's open to press, and then the President and Mrs. Bush will host a social dinner with them, as well. Mrs. Bush's office said that it will release the dinner menu this afternoon -- the much anticipated dinner menu.
This morning I'm going to do the same routine that we did yesterday, since we have an upcoming U.S.-EU summit on Monday, but tomorrow morning we're all going to be up at Camp for the Abe visit, so we thought this was the best way to get you a preview of that. Senior Directors Rod Hunter and Judy Ansley will talk to you a little bit about that U.S.-EU summit, and then I'll follow up with all the other questions you have.
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: Good morning. On Monday President Bush will welcome German Chancellor and EU President Angela Merkel, and European Commission President Barroso to the White House for the annual U.S.-EU summit. This will be an opportunity for these leaders to discuss our strategic partnership and to explore ways that we continue to expand our areas of cooperation across a broad range of issues: economic, foreign policy and security.
What I'd like to do is just briefly run through the schedule for the events on Monday. The summit will begin at 10:00 a.m. with a 20 minute restricted meeting for the leaders, where we expect they will just talk about whatever issues of the day they want to. That's a really very unscripted meeting. Then it will follow with an expanded meeting for about an hour and a half, where they will discuss economic issues, energy security and climate change, and begin a discussion of some of the foreign policy issues.
That will be followed from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. by a working lunch, where they will continue their discussion on foreign policy and security issues, followed by a press availability with the three leaders.
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: East Room. We're working today with the EU on the full range of global challenges. This is no longer a relationship that's just about bilateral issues. I'd like to address just briefly some of the foreign policy and security issues that we expect will be discussed during the summit, and then I'd like to turn it over to Rod for discussion on the economic issues.
In the foreign policy area, our joint goal is to advance freedom, democracy, and human rights worldwide. And we're working, really, globally with the EU on this, from resolving the final status of Kosovo, with the goal of supervised independence; to bringing freedom and security to the last dictatorship in Europe, in Belarus; to the Middle East where through a revived Quartet process we're hoping to restart the peace process, with the goal of two states living side-by-side; to Lebanon, where we're engaged heavily with the EU in ending the crisis there this summer; Iran, I think our work with the EU 3 in trying to prevent nuclear weapons capability in Iran is probably one of the better examples of the successes we've had; also, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, we're engaged very much with the EU on our comprehensive approach, certainly, in Afghanistan, and they're also providing quite a bit of assistance to the government in Iraq.
Latin America is an area that will certainly be a topic of discussion -- agreement between us that we should continue to spread development and human rights throughout Latin America. And of course, that's a particular issue of our President. And in Darfur -- a lot of discussion with the EU about how we can end the genocide in Darfur.
On the security area, we'll be working together -- we'll work together to try to increase our information flow so we can disrupt terrorist activities and also disrupt terrorist financing. That will be a big priority. Proliferation, very much the same type of thing, trying to disrupt the financing for those that are trying to seek weapons of mass destruction and trying to disrupt that flow.
I think I will stop there and let Rod talk a little bit about the economic issues, which will be a big focus of the summit.
Q: All that in one day? They're going to do all that in one day?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: He'll actually -- last year when we did the summit in Vienna, they actually went through the whole list of issues. They hit on all of them, and we'll hopefully have a statement that will address all of those.
DIRECTOR HUNTER: Good morning. We would imagine that three -- there would be three issues in particular that would -- economic issues that would be covered by the leaders. First, Doha. This is a top priority for the leaders. They each recognize the importance to continue global growth, but also, and especially for developing countries, of a successful Doha Round.
Second issue, the transatlantic economic engagement. Chancellor Merkel has shown leadership in putting this at the top of her agenda. We have extensive economic integration with the European Union already, and extensive engagement by various government officials. We're going to be -- I mentioned the leaders will be talking about how we can streamline that ongoing cooperation which we have with the Europeans and -- with a view to encouraging growth and further integration.
The third issue, as Judy mentioned a moment ago, will be climate, energy security and economic growth, three issues that need to be discussed together. These are priorities for the leaders, as you know, and as part of those discussions, I would imagine that a central point will be the role of technology development -- innovation and technology as a way to solve the challenges on those three inter-related issues. And this, of course, being an area where the President has shown particular leadership, as demonstrated with the State of the Union address. And then the third part of that would be the need to incorporate, or to draw into this discussion emerging economies.
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: Be happy to take any questions.
Q: What about the argument that America is going to lose out on globalization to India and China; eventually they're going to become so high-tech we will lose more and more of our jobs, more and more of our entrepreneurship, we'll have nothing for the grandchildren.
DIRECTOR HUNTER: I think the leaders view this as -- that further integration is actually an opportunity for our peoples, ours and the Europeans, to take advantage of their opportunities to create better lives for American citizens and for Europeans.
Q: You think it will improve it, while we lose all of our jobs, from high-tech to --
DIRECTOR HUNTER: I don't think I would agree that we would lose all of our jobs. In fact, as you've seen at the present, our unemployment rate is at all time lows, and our growth has been pretty strong. The global growth has been pretty strong largely because of integration over the past --
Q: Call Bombay for your telephone bill?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: I'm sorry? (Laughter.)
Q: Is population growth ever an issue on the agenda?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: They do address that. I think they had a little discussion of that last year, and we'll see if comes up again this year.
Q: What did they say last year?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: They discussed, obviously, that there are some problems in certain areas, some in terms of population growth, some in areas in Europe where population isn't keeping up, quite frankly. So it's really an issue that spans a lot.
Q: When we've been on some of these trips, foreign leaders have brought up the issue of visas and the entry to the U.S. issue that they have. How much is that going to be a part of this?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: We fully expect that they'll raise that again this year. I think the President would welcome that. You know that he made an announcement of an initiative in Estonia when he was there to try to modernize our visa waiver program, to enhance security, and also allow it to be expanded, so that some of these newer European Union countries might be able to get into that program. So it's something that he discusses frequently with Europeans and with the EU, so we expect that that will be discussed, as well.
Q: Is he going to announce any more countries that will be eligible to -- that won't be subject to the visa restrictions?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: His initiative was to have a change in the law, and until the law is changed, the countries won't qualify under the old standards.
Q: Nothing is going to happen on that front.
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: No, other than just, I would imagine, a renewed commitment to try to get that legislation.
Q: You mentioned climate as one of the three issues on the economic side. And, obviously, this is going to be a major topic at G8, and the White House has recently indicated that it's going to be a topic at APEC, as well. And I'm just wondering how you move the issue forward when European countries are at odds with what President Bush's vision for this is?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: Well, actually there's a lot more agreement than so much being at odds, as I think you just described it. There's much we agree on. One, about the challenge, and man's role in creating that challenge. There is, I think, general agreement about the importance of developing the innovative technologies which will help us transition to a less burdensome, on the economy, with fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
So the questions, I think, are more about means, rather than the ends.
Q: So are you only going to talk about the points on which you agree, or are you going to get into some of the areas of disagreement, and try to work something out that -- where each side gives some ground?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: The leaders will have had a number of opportunities, and will have a number in, as you point out, the coming months to discuss these issues. As I say, there's probably a lot more agreement than meets the eye on climate change.
Q: Are they going to announce some sort of climate change agreement? Is that what you're saying?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: No. (Laughter.)
Q: So the friction will continue? They'll just agree to disagree?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: I'm not sure that I'd call it friction, but --
Q: It's a little facile to say they agree about the ends, but not the means. We all want world peace, but how do you get there? So is there any indication that there's going to be a new agreement about some of the means, or there's more coming together?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: I think that it's likely that there will be a statement that they'll agree to on this issue. I mean, what will be in it and what the outcome will be, I don't know at this point, but we fully expect that there will be a statement that addresses the issues, as Rod described them, of energy security, climate change, economic development, which is how we addressed it last year in Vienna. I don't have details on --
Q: So nothing really so new?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: Well, they have pretty good discussions in these meetings, and I think they'll discuss the full range of things. But as Rod said, there's broad agreement on the issues of certainly what the problem is, and the need to address them, and we can discuss -- the leaders will discuss the various ways of how they want to go about getting to some conclusions. But there certainly is no disagreement on there is a problem and it needs to be dealt with. And as you say, there will be a number of opportunities over the coming months to advance this.
Q: Will defense be on the agenda since plans to set up interceptors in Europe have raised concern in Europe, as well as Russia?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: It won't be on the agenda as such. If it is raised, the President will certainly be more than willing to discuss it.
DIRECTOR HUNTER: One last?
Q: Would you talk a little bit more about some of the economic integration specifics? In other words, what's going to be in that statement, or what kind of actual practical result could we expect to see from this?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: I think we should wait until we see -- actually see the statements on Monday.
Q: Can you discuss climate change in the context of national security, as well as energy security? There have been studies in terms of how destabilizing this could be in developing countries, like a displacement of poor people in developing countries that could be directly affected by this.
DIRECTOR HUNTER: Well, as I mentioned at the outset, the way the leaders look at this issue, and the way they framed it last year is that climate change needs to be viewed in -- together with energy security, as well as continued economic growth. And I think you'll see them framing it in a similar way in this context. We need to encourage diversification of fuel sources away from energy sources that are -- produce greenhouse gas emissions.
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: Thank you.
DIRECTOR HUNTER: Thanks.
MS. PERINO: Okay. Terry Hunt.
Q: You've been keeping track of the number of days since the war supplemental was sent up.
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q: How quickly will the President deal with a bill? How quickly will he veto it once it arrives here? Can we expect it to be done the same day?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to put a time on it. But I think -- it will be very soon. We need to see when we get the bill. But it will be very soon. Obviously the President has said that we need to get the process over with, in terms of them sending him a bill and him vetoing it so that we can take the next step. So it will be soon, but I can't give you a date, or time.
Q: Do you think -- what do you think about the effort to time this with the fourth anniversary of the President's declaration of the end of major combat --
MS. PERINO: Well, I noticed that yesterday there are anonymous Democratic sources who are saying that this was their strategy and that an on-the-record quote from the Senate Majority Leader's spokesman saying that that is preposterous. I wonder which one is accurate. And I think that if it is the case that they withheld money for the troops in order to try to play some ridiculous PR stunt, that that is the height of cynicism, and absolutely so unfortunate for the men and women in uniform and their families who are watching the debate -- and you would hope that that is not true, although it does make you wonder, why did the House wait so long to appoint conferees? There were no conferees appointed during that two-week break.
And I would just remind you that I know that our opponents for years have tried -- have misconstrued that speech. I would encourage anybody who's actually going to write about this to go back and read that speech and what it was about and what the USS Abraham Lincoln was doing, how long they had been gone, way past their six-month deployment. I think they were gone nine to 10 months. They were expanded, and their mission was accomplished. The President never said "mission accomplished" in his speech.
And I would just hope that the cynicism on the Hill doesn't run that deep, but I wouldn't put it past them.
Q: Is it cynicism to want to bring people home to safety, instead of the daily killing that we see in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: No, Helen, that's not what I was --
Q: I mean, those words are very tough, very tough.
MS. PERINO: Helen, that's not what I was talking about.
But that's not what Terry's question was. What I was saying is that it is cynical if they withheld money from the troops in order to have a PR stunt.
Q: They're not keeping money from the troops. They'll put money in to bring them home.
MS. PERINO: Caren.
Q: Any reaction to Senator McCain's comment that he thinks that Gonzales should resign?
MS. PERINO: Just similar to what I had said before, which is, obviously we have good relationships with our friends on the Hill, and when you have good relationships with people, you can have disagreements. And in this one, I think that the President would respectfully disagree.
Q: Dana, on the "mission accomplished" speech, though, wasn't the phrase something to the effect of, "the battle of Baghdad is over"? Clearly that's not true.
MS. PERINO: I think it was -- it was major combat. And I -- it was major combat operations. And at that point, if you're going back -- I'm not the greater historian on this, since I was at the Council on Environmental Quality during this episode, but Baghdad did fall very quickly. One of the things that we have learned over the years is how strong, first of all, that al Qaeda would be in Iraq, that they would set up this battle as, in their own words, the battle to win. And we did not know that their stoking of sectarian violence would do what it did last year. We had -- at the end of 2005 and early 2006, you had the votes for a government and a vote for a constitution with millions of people in Iraq. And it looked like we were moving towards a period of political reconciliation. And then if you look at the marker of the bombing of the Samarra mosque in February of 2006, it really started this chain reaction, which is -- then in the fall of 2006, the President heard the call of the American people who wanted to see a change in Iraq, and he underwent an extensive review, a comprehensive review which led to the new Baghdad security plan, which is now under way as General Petraeus --
Q: Four years ago he said major combat operations were over. All those things happened after he said major combat operations were over. Wasn't that a rosy scenario?
MS. PERINO: He said that -- he also said that a transition from democracy -- I'm sorry, the transition from dictatorship to democracy would take time. And -- go ahead.
Q: Are you really blaming al Qaeda for the sectarian violence in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: I think there's multiple factors, and I think that even General Petraeus said yesterday that their whole aim -- if you look at that Zarqawi to Zawahiri letter, their whole aim was to try to stoke sectarian violence. They love chaos, they want to fill the vacuum with their extremist ideology.
Q: Are you suggesting that if it wasn't for al Qaeda, there wouldn't be sectarian violence?
MS. PERINO: No, I'm not suggesting that. But what we do know, and it has been established by the MNFI forces and the intelligence community, if you just look at the NIE that we released in January of 2007 that that is the consensus opinion of the national security agencies of this country.
Q: But they're not the only ones responsible. The sectarian divisions existed before, and were exacerbated by the war.
MS. PERINO: I don't think that we're -- we're not arguing that it wasn't.
Q: How about this political interference by the Hatch Act, in the Hatch Act?
MS. PERINO: There wasn't political interference within the Hatch Act. What you're talking about is --
Q: Use of the government agencies?
MS. PERINO: No, what -- it is perfectly lawful for the political appointees at the White House to provide informational briefings to political appointees at the agencies. And no laws were broken, and we provided more information about that last night.
Q: Was that all vetted through the Counsel's Office prior to those sorts of sessions happening? What sort of oversight was done within the White House?
MS. PERINO: Yes, generally -- because it's not unlawful and it wasn't unusual for informational briefings to be given. They were run by Sara Taylor and Scott Jennings.
Q: But there's a higher standard, obviously, at the White House than no laws were broken. Aren't there ethical questions, as well?
MS. PERINO: There were no -- what ethical would have been broken?
Q: No, in terms of using federal resources, federal people to encourage people. The allegation is out there that people --
MS. PERINO: There's no --
Q: -- were being encouraged to help Republicans.
Q: Targeting certain Democrats --
MS. PERINO: No, political -- there is no prohibition under the Hatch Act of allowing political appointees to talk to other political appointees about the political landscape in which they are trying to advance the President's agenda. None.
Q: You say it's not a violation of the Hatch Act.
MS. PERINO: Not a violation of law, or of ethics.
Q: So why is the Office of Special Counsel investigating it, if you're still saying that it's clearly --
MS. PERINO: That you'll have to --
Q: -- fine, why would they be investigating?
MS. PERINO: You'll have to ask them. You'll have to ask them.
Q: How many of those meetings did --
MS. PERINO: I think there was an average -- we had records from the 2006-2007 cycle. It was around 20.
Q: Dana, could --
MS. PERINO: Let me just go to Mark real fast, and I'll get back to you.
Q: Should we expect the President to give us a statement on -- after the final passage today?
MS. PERINO: No, I think you're going to have to have one from me. I think this is -- look, this is a little bit of a foregone conclusion, a little bit anti-climatic. The President has long said he would veto a bill if it was sent to him with the constraints that they have in it. And we'll -- I might have more to say a little bit later today.
Q: One other point, yesterday Congressman Duncan Hunter called for Senator Reid to step down because of his "War is lost" comment. Does the White House --
MS. PERINO: I haven't seen that.
Q: Does the White House think that that statement was so destructive that Reid ought to step down because of it?
MS. PERINO: I'll let the -- I'll let them fight that out on Capitol Hill. We've made our comments about that.
Q: David Broder thinks he ought to step down, too. (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: I'll let David Broder speak for himself, as well.
Go ahead, David.
Q: Dana, on the political briefings, if it's the White House's position that those are appropriate, and it was done with public funds in a public agency, will the White House consider releasing the PowerPoint demonstration that was used? And if not, why not?
MS. PERINO: I don't think there's any reason for us to release a PowerPoint presentation. Talking about informational briefings at the White House is -- we don't turn over lots of documents. There's work done at the White House, and that is appropriately done. And I just think -- I just caution everyone to take a step back. These briefings were not inappropriate, they were not unlawful, they were not unethical. There is nothing wrong with what they did.
Q: Who says so?
MS. PERINO: Who says so? I think -- I don't know who is saying so.
Q: Then why not release the documents used and let --
MS. PERINO: I'll take it under consideration, David. I'll take it under consideration, but I sincerely doubt it.
Q: If they're subpoenaed, they'll be out.
Q: Did all the briefings take place at the White House or were some of at the agencies?
MS. PERINO: No, not necessarily. Sometimes at the agencies.
Q: In federal agencies.
MS. PERINO: Yes, but there's -- but there's nothing prohibiting that.
Q: Did you say that the Counsel's Office has reviewed this at all?
MS. PERINO: I think the question was had -- did they know about it beforehand, and as a general matter, yes.
Q: Were they always presented to the Counsel's Office, can I do this one, can I do this one, on an individual basis?
MS. PERINO: I don't know if that was necessary.
Q: It was just common practice and sort of known?
MS. PERINO: I think that since it was allowed and since it had been -- the initial general sign off had been given, I don't think -- I don't know; I'll check and see if each one was checked.
Q: Can you clear up just one thing? You said you turned over a bunch of papers last night. Turned them over to who?
MS. PERINO: No, no, no, we provide more information last night about these briefings, in which we said --
Q: To whom?
MS. PERINO: To reporters who had been asking about it.
Ann, did you have one?
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q: On the upcoming veto, any more discussion as to if there would be a public ceremony or anything?
MS. PERINO: No. Nothing to report yet.
Q: Will he dance?
MS. PERINO: Will he dance? I doubt it.
Q: What about Secretary Rice. She's saying this morning that -- she sort of suggested she won't comply with a subpoena from the House because she's already answered these questions before. Is the White House --
MS. PERINO: I'd refer you to the -- the Department of State has answered extensively over the last several days, Sean McCormack and Tom Casey have given extensive on the record comment about it and I'd refer you to that. But there is a long-standing practice that the President's senior advisors do not testify on Capitol Hill. And I think what you'll see -- if you go back and look at those State Department briefings -- is that there has been extensive investigation by independent commissions about this matter that Waxman wants to look into. Also her own public testimony when she became Secretary of State.
So I think with the Secretary who is now, I believe, in Norway and then on her way to other places around the world, talking about America's interest in helping to bring peace and security around the world, that that's what she's focused on. And they've said that they will try to answer his questions to the best of their ability.
Q: Could you just differentiate between what you just said about the Secretary and Cabinet members not testifying and --
MS. PERINO: Secretaries do testify, but he wants to talk to her about her specific position when she was senior advisor to the President as National Security Advisor.
Q: Okay. So you're saying in her role as National Security Advisor, those people do not --
MS. PERINO: Correct. That's it, that's the distinction.
END 9:45 A.M. EDT
George W. Bush, Press Gaggle by Dana Perino and Administration Officials on the EU Summit Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273531