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Nobody Believes In You You Lost Again Again 1 Hour Loop

  • Press Briefing by Scott McClellanThe James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Press Briefing view listen 9/11 Commission

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  • Hans Blix comments

1:03 P.M. EST MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I don't have anything to beginwith. So let's go straight to your questions. Q Has the President agreed to take as much time as is necessary to answer the questions of the 9/11 Commission? MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Bill, a couple things. One, I would like tostart off, before I get to that specific question, and just talk aboutthe unprecedented cooperation that this administration has provided tothe 9/11 Commission, which is a legislative -- Q How do you know it's unprecedented? MR. McCLELLAN: -- which is a legislative body. And I think youcan look at the facts, Helen, and I'm going to get to a couple of thosein just a second, if you'll let me. We have worked closely andcooperatively with the commission. We have worked in a spirit ofcooperation with the commission. The President strongly supports thework of the commission. If there is something we can do in addition toall the steps that we are already taking to prevent something likeSeptember 11th from ever happening again, we want to know about it, andthe sooner, the better. That's why this administration has provided more than 2 millionpages of documents to the commission; provided more than 60 compactdisks of radar, flight, and other information; more than 800 audiocassette tapes of interviews and other materials; more than 100briefings, including at the head-of-agency level; and more than 560interviews. We have bent over backwards to make sure that thecommission has all the information they need to do their job. Thecommission chairman, himself, has stated that there is not a singlepiece of information that they have asked for that we have not providedthe commission access to. Obviously, as part of this, the President will be meeting with thechairman and vice chairman at some point in the near future. We arestill working on the exact time of that meeting. We have discussedwith the commission what we believe is a reasonable period of time toprovide the chairman and vice chairman with answers to all of theirquestions. Q Is that the one-hour time frame? MR. McCLELLAN: That's what I'm referring to. And let me put thisin perspective, though. I think, one, keep in mind, you're talkingabout a sitting President of the United States. It's extraordinary fora sitting President of the United States to sit down with thelegislative body like the 9/11 Commission. But the President ispleased to do it. Certainly a sitting President has many greatresponsibilities to tend to; none more important for this Presidentthan acting to prevent attacks like September 11th from ever happeningagain on American soil. The commission has already had access to all the documents andinformation they have requested, including our most sensitive nationalsecurity documents. The commission has already visited with numerousWhite House staffers and administration officials. The commission isalso looking at this in a larger context. The commission is looking athow these threats materialized over a period of years leading up toSeptember 11th. We are talking about a period of seven or eightmonths, for this administration. So I think many of their questionshave already been asked and answered. But the President believes their work is very important. It'simportant to our efforts to prevent these type of attacks fromhappening again on American soil. And so he's pleased to sit down withthem and visit with them. And we believe that -- obviously, you haveto set parameters when you're talking about a sitting President of theUnited States. And we believe we've set aside a reasonable period oftime. But the President intends to answer all their questions. Q Even if it takes more than the assigned amount of time? MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's let the meeting take place. I mean,again, I think you have to set certain parameters. And you look at areasonable period of time. Given all the information I just talked toyou about, all the information they've had access to, all theadministration officials they've already visited with, many of theirquestions have already been asked and answered. So now -- this is notthe beginning of the process, they've been at work for quite some timenow. And they're coming to a period where they're entering the finalstages of their work. Q Just one more thing. The President, as you say, is very busyand has many responsibilities. However, the President does have timeon his schedule when he has time to himself, has time to relax, hastime -- as Senator Kerry pointed out -- to go to a rodeo. Why wouldone hour be the maximum amount of time that you would schedule for -- MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, for the reasons I just walked youthrough, it's a reasonable period of time to set aside for a sittingPresident of the United States. Obviously, the President stronglysupports the work of the commission, and that's evidenced by the kindof cooperation we've provided to the commission. But, again, there are some important principles involved whenyou're talking about a legislative body interacting with the executivebranch. But the work of the commission is very important to thisnation, and the President strongly supports the work of thecommission. That's why he's more than happy to sit down and visit withthe commission, and he looks forward to the meeting. Q Scott, why won't the President sit before the full panel?What is the idea, what is the thinking behind that? And is there anyreconsideration of Dr. Rice publicly testifying? MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, in terms of sitting down with the entirecommission, I mean, we've already discussed -- the letter originallycame from the chairman and vice chairman. There have been a number --as I said, numerous meetings with White House officials -- youmentioned one -- and with administration officials. And there's not asingle commissioner that has sat down and participated in anyinterview. Dr. Rice -- you mentioned Dr. Rice -- Dr. Rice sat down, wasscheduled for I believe a two-hour interview -- sat down for I think itwas more than four hours that she actually visited with thecommission. She was more than happy to visit with the commission.Only five members actually showed up, despite the fact that it wasscheduled for the entire commission. You had another national securityofficial under Dr. Rice who met with the commission and I think onlyfour showed up. Obviously, these are issues you discuss with the commission, butthe commissioners depend on others to provide them with the informationthey need. And we believe that in this setting we can provide themwith the information they need from the President of the UnitedStates. And we have great confidence in the ability of the chairmanand vice chairman to share that information with the rest of thecommission. Q So you're saying you're concerned about attendance, thatthat's the reason why he won't sit down -- MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm pointing out past practice. I think youneed to keep that in context for your reporting. But I'm saying thatwe have great confidence in the chairman and vice chairman to be ableto share that information with the rest of the commission, as othermembers have done in other interviews. Q And is there any reconsideration about Dr. Rice testifyingpublicly? MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, if there are additional meetingsscheduled with the commission we would keep you posted on that. Again,this is not her personal preference; this goes back to a matter ofprinciple. There is a separation of powers issue involved here.Historically, White House staffers do not testify before legislativebodies. So it's a matter of principle, not a matter of preference.But she was more than happy to sit down and visit with the commissionat length, and answer all their questions. Q Scott, this morning you suggested this was a -- you said thiswas a period covering seven or eight months, as opposed to seven oreight years. Do you mean that an interview with, let's say, PresidentClinton should take longer because he was in office for a longer periodof time and, perhaps, there are more events that took place during thattime than, perhaps, say, an interview that would take place withPresident Bush? MR. McCLELLAN: Certainly, the threat from terrorism did not happenovernight. It is a threat that has been building for quite some time.You can go back to previous attacks or attempted attacks on Americans,whether it was in America or elsewhere -- I mean, the World TradeCenter attack in 1993 -- these threats have been building for quitesome time. I'm pointing out the reality that September 11th issomething the President of the United States will never forget.September 11th taught us that we must confront threats before it's toolate. And that's exactly what this President is doing. This Presidentis acting to take the offensive and take the fight to the enemy, tobring them to justice before they can carry out their attacks onAmericans or on American soil. Q What does that statement mean, when you said this is seven oreight months, as opposed to seven or eight years? MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that these threats -- like I said, thesethreats have been building for quite some time, and they didn't happenovernight. I'm putting that in context. I think it's important tokeep this in context. And obviously, September 11th happened a shorttime after this administration came into office. But it taught us somevery important lessons, and we have made significant strides in actingto prevent something like this from ever happening again. And there'sobviously more to do and we continue to take additional steps to winthe war on terrorism and protect the homeland. Q If what you say is true about cooperation, why is it thatevery day we read complaints from the commission that you're not reallyplaying ball at all? MR. McCLELLAN: Let's see, let me read from the commission,Chairman Kean, on February 27, 2004, in an interview with CNN: "Wehave gotten a lot of cooperation from the President. This is one ofthe first Presidents to agree to an interview. Even during the KennedyCommission, Lyndon Johnson wouldn't give them an interview. From dayone, when they helped us get our clearances expedited, they have beenhelpful. And let me stop there for a second. We have been working to makesure that the commission has all the information they need to do theirjob, and to make sure -- Q Everything they asked for? MR. McCLELLAN: And to make sure they have it in a timely manner.Their work is very important. The President strongly supports theirwork. Let me continue -- Q Well, what's the fight about? MR. McCLELLAN: Let me continue, let me continue. The chairman ofthe commission: "We have now seen the most secret documents in thepossession of the United States government. No congressional committeehas seen those kinds of documents. We have seen them." Then he goeson to say, "There hasn't been a single thing we have asked for thatsome members of the staff haven't seen. Not a single person hasrefused to be interviewed." I think that's pretty powerful statementsthere -- Q Well, what's the problem now? MR. McCLELLAN: -- by the chairman of the commission, Helen. Q What do you think is the cause? MR. McCLELLAN: I'm pointing out the facts to you. I think it'simportant to look at the facts. Q You're pointing out the facts, but you have not explained thecontroversy that we read every day -- MR. McCLELLAN: What controversy? Q Yes, every day we read there -- MR. McCLELLAN: Where? Yes, but who -- Q -- are complaints you're not -- MR. McCLELLAN: Tell me a specific report, and I'll be glad to talkto you about it. Q Every day -- MR. McCLELLAN: I just pointed out the kind of cooperation we'reproviding to the commission. Q The very fact that you have to go into the big defense everyday. MR. McCLELLAN: I think you should look beyond some of thereporting and look at the facts. Q Scott, this morning you were talking about -- you said thatthe President will answer all the commission's questions. There seemsto be a change in tone, when this afternoon you're saying that one houris a reasonable period of time. MR. McCLELLAN: Everything I said from this podium here, thisafternoon, is consistent with what I was saying earlier today. Q Well, now you're emphasizing that one hour is a reasonableperiod of time. MR. McCLELLAN: I've said that before. Q Right, but this morning you were talking primarily about --you said over and over again, the President will answer all questionsasked -- MR. McCLELLAN: And, of course. I want to make that point.Obviously, the President is going to answer all the questions that theywant to raise. Q And even if that -- MR. McCLELLAN: But many of their questions have already been askedand answered. Q Even if that runs over the allotted period of time? MR. McCLELLAN: Nobody is watching the clock, Terry. But again,there is a reasonable period of time that has been set aside for thismeeting. Q Just to nail it down -- MR. McCLELLAN: Terry two, or Terry one. Okay, Terry one. Q It's on the schedule for an hour -- MR. McCLELLAN: And believe me, you can answer a lot of questionsin one hour. Q Well, it's a pretty big event in our nation's history. MR. McCLELLAN: It is. Q And there might be a lot of questions to ask. So he's got anhour on the schedule, but you're telling us he's willing to answer allthe questions that they might -- MR. McCLELLAN: But many of the questions have already been askedand answered at this point in their investigation, in the commission'swork. But the President -- Q Nobody is going to watch the clock, it could run -- MR. McCLELLAN: That's right, nobody is watching a clock. Q If I could just pick up on Norah's question here on therelative burden, if you will, in the investigation -- the previouseight years or more and the months that this administration was inoffice. Can you tell us, to what degree, if any, does the Presidentbelieve he is responsible in having run the government for thosemonths, in perhaps not doing enough to foresee and to prevent this? MR. McCLELLAN: That's what the commission is looking into. But,again, I mean, I think it's clear that these threats didn't happenovernight. These threats have been building for quite some time.Terrorists declared war on September 11th, when they carried out thosehorrific and tragic attacks on September 11th. And the President ofthe United States will never forget that day. And I think that'sevidenced by the way he has acted since September 11th. ThisPresident's highest responsibility is to protect the American people.This President has acted on many fronts to prevent an attack like thisfrom happening ever again. The President is leading a global war on terrorism by taking theoffensive and taking the fight to the enemy. We are working withothers to confront the most deadly threat of our time, the possibilityof terrorists getting weapons of mass destruction. We are working withother nations to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Thewar on terrorism is being fought on many fronts. It's being fought ona financial front; it's being fought on the law enforcement front; it'sbeing fought on the military front, as I just mentioned; and it's beingfought on the home front, with our first responders and others who areinvolved in preparing us in case another attack does happen on oursoil. Q There's no question that that attack, the 9/11 attack was asurprise and dastardly attack that caught the nation off-guard. But inthis review of what we might have done that we didn't, does thePresident believe there is something that his administration ought tohave been doing before 9/11? MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, let's let the commission do theirwork. Like I said, he's looking at this from what we are doing toprevent something like this from ever happening again. And we've madesignificant strides in preventing something like September 11th fromever happening again. We are dismantling and disrupting the al Qaeda terrorist network.We have already brought to justice in one form or fashion sometwo-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership. We are continuing to take thefight to the enemy. We are continuing to make sure that we areimproving our sharing of intelligence, not only within the UnitedStates, but with other governments. We are continuing to work to makesure that we're sharing information between law enforcement agencies,not only in the United States, but across the world. We're continuingto take steps to crack down on terrorist financing. The Department ofTreasury just had an important announcement yesterday on some of ourefforts to crack down on terrorist financing. This is a global war on terrorism. This President has made it thehighest priority of this administration. And if -- if there issomething additional that we can be doing to prevent an attack likeSeptember 11th from happening, we want to know about that information.But look at what we're already doing. Q Scott, do you believe that -- MR. McCLELLAN: Wait, wait, you've already had questions. Nowwe're going back and forth on the front row. There's -- Q I just have a quick one to follow on. MR. McCLELLAN: -- rows back there. Quick one. Q Do you believe that the legitimacy of the 9/11 Commission'sreport will be challenged by the fact that this is released during theDemocratic Convention? Or do you think that the Democrats will sort ofsoil the legitimacy of this report in some way, because it's releasedaround the time of the Democratic National Convention? MR. McCLELLAN: You're asking me to speculate about what others maydo in the context of an election year? Q Well, it's released around, you know, the time that they'renominating their presidential candidate. MR. McCLELLAN: I'd certainly hope that people don't politicizeit. This is too important to become politicized. Q The change in tone to, "nobody is watching the clock," isthat in response to the criticism from Senator Kerry yesterday? MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't think he's someone who lets the factsget in the way of his campaign. I think I've made it very clear, thetype of unprecedented cooperation this commission -- thisadministration is providing to the commission. Q But you are changing the tone the day after his criticism. MR. McCLELLAN: No, I was asked a question earlier this morning,and I'm repeating what we have previously said. Q Scott, speaking of Senator Kerry, he's targeting a certaingroup of Americans, African Americans, to try to appeal to them withquotes saying, "President Clinton was often known as the first blackPresident. I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be thesecond." He says, "It's a question of keeping faith with the communityand doing things that really make a difference." How important is theAfrican American vote to this administration and to this 2004election? MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is going to reach out to allAmericans, from all backgrounds. I think if you look at the actionsthat this President has taken, they are actions that are helping toimprove the quality of life for all Americans. And I start with theeconomy, on the domestic front. Well, I should back up. I start withthe actions we've taken to protect the homeland and win the war onterrorism. That's first and foremost. That's the highestresponsibility of this President. But this President has acted tocreate an environment for job creation and sustained economic growth.We came into office and we inherited a recession. But we took action,and we got us out of a recession by the actions that we took. I


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