Press Gaggle by Gordon Johndroe
Aboard Air Force One
En route California
11:19 A.M. EDT
MR. JOHNDROE: Good morning. The President had his normal briefings this morning, and is on his way to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. Established in 1982, the NTC is the Army's premier desert training facility, preparing combat units for warfare. The NTC has been reshaped in the last three years to better prepare units for the challenges of combat in the global war on terror.
Key elements of this change include a greater emphasis on language and culture, training for the use of Iraqi-American role-players, the construction of 12 urban combat facilities, and a shift from high-intensity desert combat to an emphasis on counter-insurgency operations.
The President will see three demonstrations -- an IED insurgent cell briefing that he will get, see a route clearance demonstration, and then also get an overview of IED defeat systems; so all part of the training that goes on at the National Training Center.
He will then have lunch with military families and personnel. In his remarks, the President will thank the members of the Armed Services for the work they do, and also thank the families for the sacrifices that they make, as well. After that, he'll meet with the families of fallen soldiers, and then participate in a reception in California for the RNC. We arrive in Texas late tonight.
Two more things. The President and Mrs. Bush will welcome the Prime Minister of Japan and Mrs. Abe to the White House on April 26th for dinner. On April 27th, the two leaders will meet at Camp David and will review the continuing strong cooperation on bilateral alliance matters and in economic relations. And the press office will issue a statement on that later today.
And finally, it's been 58 days since the President requested funding for our troops. He's disappointed Congress left Washington without finishing their work. The President can sign a bill anywhere, anytime. Our troops are waiting for that money, and the President is waiting for a bill that doesn't tie the hands of our commanders on the ground.
Q: Why the -- what's the significance about the line about the President can sign a bill anywhere, anytime?
MR. JOHNDROE: As the President said yesterday, he's hopeful that Congress will get its work done because the troops need the money. They need the funding to complete the mission.
Q: Gordon, any more you can tell us about the release of the British sailors? Does this sort of ease the tension at all between the U.S. and Iran?
MR. JOHNDROE: I know that Prime Minister Blair has welcomed this. We share his sentiments. But this was very recent information, so we need to see how this develops.
Q: I don't understand what's developed -- maybe I missed it. Did they let the British troops leave Iran?
MR. JOHNDROE: The Iranians have just made this announcement, so I think information is still coming in.
Q: -- talked at all that it's Iranian personnel that the United States may be holding in Iraq -- was there -- do you know if there was any discussion about that?
MR. JOHNDROE: I have no information that indicates there's any linkage between these two issues.
Q: Which two? Sorry.
Q: I was asking if there was a link between -- if there was any talk about the Iranians we're holding in Iraq. So, as far as you know, that did not come up?
MR. JOHNDROE: No.
Q: We're still holding them, right? At least --
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, in Iraq, yes.
Q: So, in terms of the number of days since the Congress has had the funding request, there's some dispute about that from the Hill. They say they didn't really get a final version until a few weeks ago. Do you know what you're basing your day count on?
MR. JOHNDROE: The day the President released the budget. He released both the FY 2008 budget, as well as the FY 2007 budget -- released them both together and with as much information and specifics as possible that the Congress has called for in the past.
Q: That was enough for them to have been able to start working on a bill --
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes.
Q: Will the President mention the supplemental in his remarks in Fort Irwin?
MR. JOHNDROE: His remarks are primarily to thank the soldiers and their families for the work and the sacrifice they make, talk about the war on terror. But, yes, he will also reiterate his call for Congress to pass funding for the troops.
Q: What can you tell us about the RNC event?
MR. JOHNDROE: I'd refer you to RNC for any information on that.
Q: Can you tell us if it's at Brad Freeman's house, is that right?
MR. JOHNDROE: In a private residence.
Q: Well, we know that.
Q: What does the weekend look like? Is he doing anything on Easter Sunday?
MR. JOHNDROE: He has family -- he and Mrs. Bush have family coming to the ranch. But we'll get you more on the rest of the weekend schedule later.
Q: Are any other Cabinet Secretaries going to come down over the course of the next few days?
MR. JOHNDROE: I'm not aware of any right now, but we'll keep you updated on anyone that comes down.
Q: I heard generally that he's going to be spending mostly private time this week. Do you think we'll be seeing him at all until Sunday? Are there any planned appearances by the President?
MR. JOHNDROE: We'll keep you updated on any changes to the schedule.
Q: One question about Speaker Pelosi. Has the White House invited her to give a briefing about her trip when she returns? There was a report to that effect this morning.
MR. JOHNDROE: We'll listen to what she has to say after she returns from the Middle East. But I would note that she, earlier today, said that the road to Damascus is a road to peace. Unfortunately, that road is lined with the victims of Hamas and Hezbollah, and the victims of terrorists who cross from Syria into Iraq. It's lined with the victims in Lebanon, who are trying to fight for democracy there. It's lined with human rights activists trying for freedom and democracy in Syria. So, as we said yesterday, we don't think these meetings are productive.
Q: Just on the first part of your answer, has the White House specifically invited -- you said you'll listen, but has the White House invited her to brief any White House officials on her trip?
MR. JOHNDROE: I'll check on that. I'm not aware of any at this time. She still has more countries to go to.
Q: She also said she was carrying a message from the Israeli government. Do you know anything about that?
MR. JOHNDROE: You know, I would check with the Israelis as to if, in fact, they did really ask her to carry a message. I'm not sure. I think that the United States has been working in multilateral forums with countries in the region and countries in Europe, to send a message to the Syrians that they need to change their behavior. And it's unfortunate that she took this unilateral trip that we only see as counterproductive.
Q: Did she consult with the State Department before going, do you know?
MR. JOHNDROE: The State Department urged the Speaker not to go.
All right, thank you all.
END 11:28 A.M. EDT
George W. Bush, Press Gaggle by Gordon Johndroe Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273573