Press Gaggle by Tony Fratto
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Sarasota, Florida
12:23 P.M. EDT
MR. FRATTO: We're on our way to Sarasota for a fundraiser with Vern Buchanan. The President will have remarks -- this is in the Sarasota Bradenton exhibit hall. They're expecting a large crowd down there. Senator Martinez is expected to be down there, as well.
This evening we go to Boca Raton for a fundraiser at a private residence. I think you all know this is closed. You guys will be next door somewhere. And then we return here. We're expecting Governor Bush to be at the fundraiser tonight in Boca with the President.
We have a quick announcement, something I want to highlight. Secretary Bodman is making an announcement this afternoon on one of the President's priorities. He's announcing a hundred million dollars to fund 25 hydrogen research and development projects that can help the way we secure power in our nation. These projects support President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative, and Secretary Bodman is making that announcement today. So we're looking forward to that.
One other note, I just got word that General Pace will be briefing at the Pentagon this afternoon at 3:45 p.m. I don't have any further news on that, but just give you a heads up that he will be briefing later today.
Q: Tony, a few things. Do you have numbers on how much is being raised at the two fundraisers?
MR. FRATTO: I don't. You have to check with the campaigns on that.
Q: And then, secondly, Tony Snow said a few weeks ago that the President was really going to ramp up his campaigning activity, more open fundraisers, rallies, that sort of thing, and yet he's -- we're only two weeks out, and it's really pretty leisurely at this point, two days last week, two days the week before, three days this week, only a couple events each day, no rallies so far. How do you -- why not more activity at this point?
MR. FRATTO: Actually his pace in this election is -- I think we're actually ahead of schedule, in terms of number of events, in terms of where we were back in, say, the last midterms that we were involved in. In terms of the nature of event, I think something to keep in mind is how -- you see a lot fewer rallies in general, and that has something to do with the new campaign finance laws, that make how you fund something like a rally -- where you get the resources to support a rally. And in the current campaign finance laws, it's just very difficult to -- if you're in a federal campaign you need to use hard dollars, and those hard dollars are very scarce.
So you're seeing a lot fewer rallies, although we are expecting to have a few as we go forward. I think you'll see the President out a lot more next week, too. But his campaign -- in terms of the number of events, it's been very aggressive, and he's been throughout the country. He's going to keep going.
Q: Understood about the campaign finance laws. When Tony was talking about before, he was sort of creating the impression that it was going to be different by now than it actually is.
MR. FRATTO: I don't think that's the case. I think we knew the President's schedule fairly well. He'll be out a lot more next week. We're still two weeks out. Like I said, if you say -- if you're talking about his schedule, you need to say, compared to what? And I would compare it to the last midterms, where we're right about the same number of events as we had last time around. He's been campaigning fairly hard, he'll continue to.
Q: I guess the indelicate follow up to that is, is the fact we are seeing even fewer rallies tied to his popularity, or lack of popularity? We're seeing Mrs. Bush go out this week, for example, and do a lot of rallies. Do candidates not want to rally with the President?
MR. FRATTO: No, that's not the case at all. Like I said, his schedule is just as aggressive. And I don't know how many rallies Mrs. Bush is doing; I haven't seen her schedule lately. But there's no question that to do a rally with a President of the United States is a very expensive endeavor for a campaign. It's not the kind of rally that you can do with other officials. There are an enormous number of expenses for -- you know, you all see it, bike rack, and security, and everything else that goes in --
Q: The way that rallies or political events are funded is the same for the President, as for the First Lady, or for Cheney, it's -- they don't pay for any of the security costs.
MR. FRATTO: But you need to do a big -- if you're going to do that investment of having a President go in, it's got to be big enough, and hosting a rally is expensive for a campaign. There's no question.
Q: Are you suggesting that there is there less money to go around this time? Because the campaign reform laws --
MR. FRATTO: It's the kind of money.
Q: Tony, Boca Raton, I believe, is in Congressman Shaw's district. Is he getting together with the President at the event or on the ground?
MR. FRATTO: I don't have anything on that. I don't know. I haven't seen the guest list.
Q: Have there been meetings already with department heads, planning the agenda for next year?
MR. FRATTO: That's actually a process that's been going on for some time in terms of -- and I think -- I'm new to the White House, so I don't know how regular it is, but I do have the impression that it's something that Chief of Staff Bolten has wanted to do, in terms of listening to the goals and priorities from the departments, and it's been going on for quite a while.
Now in terms of planning for next year, I think the Chief of Staff and other senior leadership in the White House, and the President want to know what ideas the departments and agencies have, and to hear -- these are the people who are working very closely with their issues, and we have a -- having come from one of the departments and agencies, I know the creativity that's coming out of them, and I think they want to hear it at the White House.
Q: Has the President been in those meetings?
MR. FRATTO: I haven't been in all of them, so I'm not sure.
Q: It's been reported that in some of these meetings the President doesn't want people to talk about the prospect of planning in the event that the Democrats take over Congress. Is that correct?
MR. FRATTO: I think the President has been very clear that he's preparing for a Congress that has Republican leadership, and that's the way we'll continue to proceed. It's the only way to proceed.
Q: The President spoke a lot yesterday about Social Security reform, and he's been talking about it a little bit lately. It's a subject on which some Democrats are attacking Republican congressional candidates, especially in Florida. Is he concerned at all that, by talking about it this close to the election that it's a liability for some of his allies in Congress?
MR. FRATTO: I think it's a liability for any responsible officeholder to ignore the fact that there is a long-term problem with our entitlement programs. And so, if there are people out there who claim to want to be officials, and their idea of responsible governing is to attack individuals who are looking for solutions to problems that everyone recognizes are important, then my question to them is, who is being responsible? The President is interested in addressing the long-term challenges our country faces, and he's not going to be shy about doing that.
Q: Can you give us a sense where the message is going today?
MR. FRATTO: The President is going to be talking about the economy today. I think you'll see in his remarks at the fundraiser this afternoon again hitting on the economic message. Our economy has been very strong. We're seeing continued, strong job growth. We're seeing energy prices fall. We'd like to see them go lower, of course, as most Americans would, but we've seen a good, sharp drop off in energy prices. Consumer confidence is way up. The equity markets are performing very well. We're seeing record highs in some of the markets, and that tells us, and we think it tells Americans, that there is a great deal of confidence in our economic future.
And the President will continue to talk about the distinctions between the parties on issues like tax policy, and, I think, he'll try to go into a little bit more -- you know, dive in a little more deeply on one or two particular tax-policy issues today.
Q: In what way?
MR. FRATTO: Listen to the remarks.
Q: Just ones that he's talked about before?
MR. FRATTO: Well, he's talked about all of his tax policies before.
Q: You said that it's the only way to proceed, to prepare for a Republican-controlled Congress. With such a close election, and with both parties recognizing how close it's going to be, why not at least consider both alternatives?
MR. FRATTO: We're still in the game, and -- if you're in the game, you're in it to win.
Q: But you don't know the outcome of the game any more than I do, and --
MR. FRATTO: We feel confident about the outcome, and that's the way we're going to proceed.
Q: Continuing the analogy, but government isn't a game, and you are governing, and so your responsibility is to prepare for how to govern regardless of how it turns out. So it may be a game in the political sense, but it's really not a game to Americans who want their government to be ready to do what needs to be done.
MR. FRATTO: He'll be ready.
Q: That means you're preparing for the other outcome?
MR. FRATTO: We are ready. We are ready for -- we're ready for a -- we're ready to work with a Republican Congress. Nice try, Jennifer.
Q: That would suggest not ready for a Democratic Congress.
MR. FRATTO: Questions? Anything else? Thank you.
END 12:35 P.M. EDT
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/273391