Press Gaggle by Tony Fratto
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Billings, Montana
11:57 A.M. EDT
MR. FRATTO: We're rapidly approaching Billings, Montana for a rally with -- it's a Victory Rally in Billings with Senator Conrad Burns and other candidates -- Denny Rehberg in -- Congressman Denny Rehberg in Montana. Should have began by saying the President had his usual briefings this morning.
We'll have a greeter when we land in Billings. Mark Polakoff and his son, Nathan, will be there, also have their dog with them. Their dog is a search and rescue dog. Mark Polakoff is a search and rescue volunteer. He's there part of the Freedom Corps. And Mark has carried out hundreds of searches in Montana and Idaho and other parts of the West. We appreciate his service, and the President will greet him when we land.
And, of course, later on this afternoon we'll be on our way to Elko, Nevada, for a rally with Senator John Ensign and Dean Heller, the candidate, in Elko.
Q: -- for both of them? It's also for the Senate candidate in Nevada?
MR. FRATTO: There is no Senate candidate in Nevada.
Q: -- for the governor's race, as well as the -- going to be there?
MR. FRATTO: I don't believe so. I can check on that, though.
Q: In other words, it's just Heller?
MR. FRATTO: And Senator Ensign will be there too, of course.
Just one note for the schedule. On Saturday morning the President will do his weekly radio address live from our site in Colorado. That will be at 8:06 a.m. in Colorado. And we'll give you more details as we get closer to that.
Q: Is that going to be pool coverage?
MR. FRATTO: That will be pool coverage, yes.
Q: Tony, do you know the subject?
MR. FRATTO: It will be a familiar subject to you. (Laughter.)
A couple words on the President's remarks in Montana. Two things you want to look for that I can highlight for you. The President will be focusing on the importance of the Senate's role in approving judicial nominations. It's obviously a very important subject for the President. Senator Burns has been instrumental in helping to move and confirm federally-appointed judges. The President has an interest, as you've heard him address previously, in not having judges on the bench who seek to legislate from the bench and who are activist judges. So that's something you should look for in his remarks.
And also you'll see language in there on the Patriot Act. Obviously, the Republican Senate was instrumental in reauthorizing the Patriot Act -- passing it the first time and then reauthorizing it recently. Something to remember, Senate terms are six years; the Patriot Act was -- it was a five-year reauthorization, so it's going to come back and we want to make sure that Senator Conrad Burns is in the Senate when the Patriot Act comes back for reauthorization.
I'll take your questions.
Q: Could you talk about the districts that he's going to be going to in these last few days of the campaign? These are all red states. Why were they chosen that way?
MR. FRATTO: The President is going to districts where we know that he can make a difference and where he knows that he can make a difference. These are all very contested races. Each one of them we consider necessary for our strategy of keeping the Senate and the House in Republican hands. They're all very tough, very difficult, contested races, and that's where -- that's where we're going to go, wherever they are.
Q: There are some tough, contested races in blue states, as well. Is it because the White House is afraid that the President could become a liability in those?
MR. FRATTO: Not at all. We haven't cancelled any events. We go where we think we can have the biggest impact in winning these seats.
Q: But it is striking, Tony, that here you are a few days from the election, and the President is spending his last several days in 10 states, all of which he won in 2004. So now, what does it say about the vulnerability of the party that this is where the President has to spend his time?
MR. FRATTO: It says that there are particular races where this President could make a particular impact in keeping control of the House and the Senate, and nothing more than that. Midterm elections are always very tough, as you've heard others talk about. Elections are always close, they're always tightly fought. And we feel very confident with the way things are going to turn out on Tuesday. We have more money, we have a better ground game, we have outstanding candidates, and we're being very strategic in where we go. And we think you're going to see those results on Tuesday.
Q: Can you say -- this may be more of an RNC question -- but can you say from your porch where a lot of the action is in the final few days in terms of where the bulk of this spending might be?
MR. FRATTO: You're right, that's an RNC question.
Q: Will he mention Senator Kerry today, or has that gift stopped giving now?
MR. FRATTO: Senator Kerry made his apology, maybe four days late, yesterday, but it was the right thing to do. And I don't think we have anything more to say on that.
Q: -- in his stump speech, do you know? Does he mention the Kerry episode?
MR. FRATTO: Does he mention it or will he mention it? It was mentioned the other day for clear reasons. I'm not going to comment on whether it will come up today or not.
Q: Why not? Why can't you say whether it's in the speech or not?
MR. FRATTO: We're still working on the speech.
Q: You guys haven't made a decision about what you're going to insert it or not?
MR. FRATTO: I just haven't seen the final speech, and I don't like to talk about final speeches until I've seen the final. I can tell you about the parts I know for sure are in the speech.
Q: Can you run those -- the specifics of those, who he's seeing in each of those places?
MR. FRATTO: Maybe I can come back later go and go through these. I just haven't looked at the specifics on these. I can bring them up with me, and maybe we could try to go -- maybe on the second flight today.
Q: Tony, is there a chance Karl Rove could come back and talk to us about those races, maybe?
MR. FRATTO: I could check with Karl.
Q: Why is he campaigning for a gubernatorial candidate in Iowa? Why is he campaigning for Nussle in Iowa?
MR. FRATTO: Like I said, with each of these races what we're looking for are places where the President could have a particular impact and carry candidates over the top. And that's where we're going, and I think you'll see those results on Tuesday.
Q: The announcement here on the different stops he's going to make, who made the decisions on where the President will be going in these last few days?
MR. FRATTO: That's a decision that involved lots of people. There's no one person who decides where the President goes. At the end of the day, the President is looking for the best advice from the political office in the White House, and also his instinct. This isn't his first campaign. He's been around this country quite a bit and has a good feel for it and has a good sense for how he can help candidates also, but it's -- there is no one person making that decision.
Q: Did the President have a lot of input on where to go?
MR. FRATTO: The President decides his final schedule, so he works with those who are looking for these opportunities.
Q: Can I ask you about Iraq? President Talabani said today that he thought it would take two or three years before the security forces could get up to speed and the U.S. troops could go home. Does the White House agree with that assessment?
MR. FRATTO: Well, I don't think we can make a comment on that particular assessment. You've heard U.S. officials, our U.S. generals make their estimates on how long it might take for the Iraqi forces to come up to speed. I think what's clear is that we all want that to happen as quickly as possible. The goal is that Iraq can defend, govern, and sustain itself. And I think we and the Iraqis want to get to that point as quickly as possible.
Q: Do you have anything on Iran test firing a missile?
MR. FRATTO: I saw the news reports. I don't have any independent verification on that.
MR. FRATTO: He asked if it was my first Air Force One gaggle. This is actually my second. The first with this equipment like this way, though.
Q: How do you like it?
MS. FRATTO: I like you people crowding in better. It's easier for me. I like it the old-fashioned way.
Q: Do you have anything on the President's schedule on Saturday for the First Lady's birthday or for their anniversary on Sunday?
MR. FRATTO: Let me check on that. I haven't heard yet, and hopefully we'll be able to tell you something on that.
Anything else? Okay.
END 12:07 P.M. EST
George W. Bush, Press Gaggle by Tony Fratto Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273400