Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cleveland, Ohio
9:59 A.M. EDT
MR. STANZEL: Good morning, everyone. We are on our way to Cleveland, Ohio. I'll give a run through of the President's day, and then take your questions. The President had his normal briefings this morning at 8:00 a.m. On Air Force One today we have Representative Steve LaTourette, Republican from Ohio.
At 10:45 a.m. the President visits GrafTech International, Ltd. GrafTech manufactures carbon and graphite products for industrial applications, and they also engineer and are developing new fuel cell components from natural graphite. So the President will take a tour there. At 11:40 a.m. the President will have some lunch with community leaders in Cleveland. We'll announce that location once we get closer to that. You should all have the list of participants for that lunch already.
At 1:00 p.m. the President is visiting Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic, as you're probably all familiar, is a not-for-profit, multi-specialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. And the President will take a tour there and have an opportunity to discuss with the leaders at the hospital how they are working to improve quality of care through information technology and outcome measurements.
At 1:45 p.m. the President will make remarks to the Greater Cleveland Partnership, with is a association of companies in Northeast Ohio. And they have approximately 16,000 members. And there will be about 400 invited guests to that, including members of the partnership of the Cleveland Clinic and local business leaders.
So that's the President's day. And with that, I'll take your questions.
Q: Scott, in the speech, can you give us a preview of what the President is going to address related to Iraq?
MR. STANZEL: First of all, the President is coming to Cleveland today -- he'll talk about a number of things. This is really an opportunity to have a deep dive on the important issues that the President believes are impacting the American people. The President will talk about the issue of Iraq and the war on terror. He'll also talk about how Congress should move forward on energy legislation, and also on health care and how we empower individuals to have greater care -- greater ability and authority to make their own health care decisions. So much in the way that we did last year in Miami and Chicago in June and July, this is an opportunity to take a deep dive.
On the issue of Iraq, the President will continue to talk about the things that he has discussed in the past, and that is why it's important to continue to take the fight to the terrorists. The surge, as we've noted, is just a couple weeks underway, in terms of the full complement of troops.
As you may have heard him talk about on the 4th of July, you know, we all want to get to a day when we don't have 159,000 American troops on the front lines. We want to get to a time when the Iraqis are better able to account for their own security and have made progress on the economic and political fronts. So there will be an opportunity for the President to talk about that today, as well.
Q: -- focusing on that -- is that going to be a real focus, about wanting to get the troops back or drawing down?
MR. STANZEL: I think -- you know, the President, going back, all the way back to January 10th, when he announced the new way forward, he talked about how we had to have -- we made a commitment through the Baghdad security plan, to have an increase in the number of troops to bring greater stability, to provide that breathing space so they can make progress on the economic and political and security and training issues.
So the President will continue to talk about how he believes that we should try to get to the goal that all Americans, we believe, want, and that is a stable, peaceful Iraq where they can be an ally on the war on terror and not a home base for al Qaeda, which is what would happen if we had a precipitous withdrawal.
Q: Is there a shift in strategy at all? You know, politically, if not an actual military --
MR. STANZEL: The shift in strategy occurred with the new way forward, which is now two weeks underway. And that was a dramatic shift in strategy, based on the input that the President received from commanders on the ground and leaders in Washington. That operation is now just two weeks underway in its full array of troops.
So the President believes that this June -- or, July 15th report will be an opportunity for an initial snapshot of how that is going; just an initial snapshot after a few weeks. September 15th is another time to provide an assessment and receive some recommendations from commanders on the ground.
Let's note that Congress debated this issue for 100 days. They debated the Iraq war funding for 100 days. Then they put in place, in passing that, they put in place two opportunities to get those updates: July 15th and then two months later on September 15th. So we are just now in the beginning phases of that.
Q: Scott, is it a shift in message, not so much a shift in strategy, but do you want to highlight the fact that he does want to draw down troops?
MR. STANZEL: Well, I think if the President has been saying that we want to get to a place where we do not have as many Americans on the front lines and Iraqis have taken more control over their security -- if he's been saying that since January 15th, maybe that hasn't been reported, maybe that hasn't been noted, but he said it as recently as July 4th. And I can --
Q: Would you say he's trying to -- I mean, we know he's said that in the past, but is he trying to reemphasize that today?
MR. STANZEL: I think those are your words, Martha, but he, in his speeches --
Q: But you seem to be going back -- we know he's said all that. Is he reemphasizing this today because --
MR. STANZEL: But you're not reporting it, Martha.
Q: Yes, we have. Of course, we have.
MR. STANZEL: That's the key difference here, is there is this impression that the President doesn't want to bring the troops home. He does. And we --
Q: So you're trying to reemphasize that?
MR. STANZEL: Those are your words, Martha.
Q: Are they accurate?
MR. STANZEL: I would say you will hear the President's remarks and you can make your assessment then, just in time for the evening news.
Q: Is he going to address the July 15th report that's due this week? Is he going to talk about it?
MR. STANZEL: Stay tuned.
Q: Scott, do you know when that report ends? I mean, whatever information they're gathering, was it a week --
MR. STANZEL: I don't know the window. I can try to get you that information.
Q: Do you know whether it was two weeks ago, or whether all the surge forces were in place?
MR. STANZEL: I don't know the window of assessment, so we can try to get that for you.
Q: Can I ask you about something else? On Libya, there's a story out from the news service over there that the President had Fran Townsend deliver a letter to Moammar Gaddafi this week. Can you tell us anything about that, what did the letter say?
MR. STANZEL: I'm aware of that report, Toby, but I'll have to gather more information for you.
Q: Can you even just confirm --
MR. STANZEL: I will have to gather more information for you. I'm aware of the report, but don't have anything for you on that.
Q: Any response to Pakistan's response to the Red Mosque siege?
MR. STANZEL: That's an internal matter for the Pakistani government to address. What remains clear is, in places throughout the world the threat of extremists is real, but that operation is a matter for the Pakistani government.
Q: Scott, can you respond to The Washington Post story today on -- that Attorney General Gonzales received multiple reports from the FBI about lapses in the procedures safeguarding the use of national security letters and other procedures of that sort? Should Gonzales have acted on those reports from the FBI?
MR. STANZEL: I would refer you over to the Department of Justice on that. I've certainly seen that story and I know they've had comments in it, but I don't have any information for you on that.
Q: Is it appropriate for a Cabinet officer to ignore reports from below about wrongdoing within his agency?
MR. STANZEL: I'm not aware that that's the assertion. But maybe that's the assertion you're making, but the President has said repeatedly that he has great faith in the Attorney General, and that has not changed.
Q: Will the White House be looking into and evaluating his performance in this regard?
MR. STANZEL: With response to the story, you mean?
Q: With response to these reports that the FBI had --
MR. STANZEL: What reports?
Q: The FBI reports about improper following of procedures, safeguards on national security letters and other things.
MR. STANZEL: That's -- you know, Maura, that's all I have for you on that. We'll continue to -- I'll try to gather some more information for you on that, but I'd refer you over to the Department of Justice for more facts about what reports they may have received --
Q: But he still has --
MR. STANZEL: -- about this story.
Q: He still has faith in the Attorney General, despite the fact you're just -- I mean --
MR. STANZEL: The President's views on the Attorney -- the President's views on the Attorney General have not changed.
Q: So it doesn't matter about this story, or they don't want to look into it before you make a statement like that?
MR. STANZEL: I'll leave the comments where they are, Martha.
Q: Thank you.
MR. STANZEL: Thank you.
END 10:09 A.M. EDT
George W. Bush, Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/275997