Military

White House Daily Briefing, September 29

29 September 2005

Judge Roberts vote, Next Supreme Court nomination, Republican Party challenges, United Nations reform, Medicaid waivers, War on terrorism

White House press secretary Scott McClellan briefed the press September 29.

Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:

(begin transcript)

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
September 29, 2005

PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN

INDEX
-- Judge Roberts vote
-- Next Supreme Court nomination
-- Republican Party challenges
-- United Nations reform
-- Medicaid waivers
-- War on terrorism

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
September 29, 2005

PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN

James S. Brady Briefing Room

11:58 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I want to update you on the President's schedule for today.  At 3:00 p.m. today in the East Room the President looks forward to participating in the swearing-in ceremony for the 17th Chief Justice of the United States.  The President will make remarks at the swearing-in ceremony; then Justice Stevens will administer the oath to Judge Roberts.

And let me update you just a little bit more about the vote that just took place in the United States Senate.  First of all, we commend the United States Senate for moving forward in a timely manner to confirm the new Chief Justice, and for moving forward in a civil and dignified way.  I think it reflects well upon our nation, and it reflects well upon the United States Senate.

Judge Roberts arrived at the White House a little while ago.  He came here to watch with White House staff the vote, in the Roosevelt Room.  The President was wrapping up a meeting in the Oval Office, and he stepped outside of the Oval Office at the beginning of the vote to catch a little bit of the vote, in the Oval Office.  And then after seeing some of the initial votes taking place, he went over to the Roosevelt Room, joined Judge Roberts, Senator Thompson, and other White House staff that was there -- I think all of the Counsel Office or most of the Counsel's Office was in there, as well, probably about 25 to 30 White House staffers -- and proceeded to continue watching the vote.

When the vote went over 50 senators, the whole room in the Roosevelt Room broke out into applause for Judge Roberts, who nodded and expressed his appreciation in a very humble way.  And then the President shook his hand and congratulated him.  They watched a few more votes, but then they went over to the Oval Office, along with Senator Thompson and a few others.  And they've been visiting in the Oval Office.

Judge Roberts and Mrs. Roberts will join the President and Mrs. Bush for lunch over in the Residence here shortly.

Oh, and by the way, one moment of levity that was in the Roosevelt Room was when everyone started -- broke out in a long, extended applause for Judge Roberts.  Someone reminded them that the gavel hadn't gone down yet and that it wasn't official.  It was -- everybody broke out in a little bit of laughter at the moment there.

Chief Justice Roberts is someone that the American people will be proud of for many years to come.  He is someone of the highest intellect and integrity, with a judicial temperament and modesty that will make him an exceptional Chief Justice, and the President looks forward to the swearing-in ceremony later today.

I expect that a number of members of the Cabinet will be present, a number of senators.  I think everyone on the Supreme Court will be there, with the exception of Justice Scalia, who had a previously scheduled commitment that he is attending to.  And also joining the Supreme Court Justices will be Mrs. Marshall, the widow of Justice Thurgood Marshall; and Mrs. Stuart, the widow of Justice Potter Stuart.

And joining Judge Roberts will be his wife, Mrs. Roberts, and his kids, Jack and Josie, as well as his mother and father and several other family members who will be present, as well.

And with that, I'm glad to go to your questions.

QUESTION:  Looking ahead, what are the political considerations the President is taking into consideration as he looks at his potential nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, I think, first, we ought to step back and recognize what an historic day this is --

Q:  Okay, done. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN:  -- and celebrate the swearing-in of the 17th Chief Justice of the United States.  And that's what we're focused on today.  The President continues to move forward on a very thorough and deliberate process for naming the nominee for the vacancy that exists.  We have consulted with over 70 United States senators.  That matches the level of consultation that we held for the first vacancy.  The level of consultation that we engaged in was unprecedented; we have now matched that.  We continue to reach out to some additional senators, and we will keep you updated on that as that comes to a conclusion.  But it is essentially wrapping up at this point.

The President is going to nominate someone who he feels is the best person for the position.  He will nominate someone that will make the American people proud, just like Judge Roberts has.  And he will nominate someone who is highly qualified and has the experience and expertise and temperament to represent the American people well on the Supreme Court.

Q:  So political considerations don't play a role here?  You know the Democrats and Democratic organizations are saying that this nomination is even more important than the Chief Justice, and if he nominates a conservative, he's in for a fight.

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, they were saying that before and it didn't happen.  The United States Senate moved forward in a civil and dignified way.  The leadership of the Senate set a tone of civility and goodwill, and we hope that that is what they will carry over into the next confirmation process.  The American people expect it to be conducted in a civil and dignified way, and we commend the Senate for, to a large extent, meeting that expectation.

Q:  One final question.  The size of the "yea" vote that Roberts got, is that an indication to the President that he could nominate someone very like him to fill the remaining seat?

MR. McCLELLAN:  He will nominate someone who possesses the same kind of qualities that he has looked for in other positions that he has filled to the bench.  He looks for someone who is going to be fair and open-minded, someone who will faithfully interpret our Constitution and our laws, and someone who has the kind of qualities that he found in Judge Roberts; has the integrity and the modesty and the judicial temperament needed to serve the American people well in the highest court in our land.

Q:  Thanks for all the nice things you said about me, by the way.

Q:  So is Roberts the --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Yes, let me clarify, those things were said about Judge John Roberts, not CBS reporter John Roberts.  (Laughter.)

Q:  So is Roberts the standard against which the President is going to measure any new nominee?  Is that what he looks at?

MR. McCLELLAN:  He will select someone that the American people can be proud of.  The American people saw in Judge Roberts someone who will make an outstanding chief justice.  And I think he's someone that all of us can be very proud of.

We appreciate the large number of senators that recognized that and voted to confirm him.  He is someone who has the exact kind of qualities that are needed on the United States Supreme Court.  The President, as he did before, is considering a diverse group of potential nominees for the vacancy on the Supreme Court.  He spoke about that the other day, and he will move forward in a timely manner to fill that vacancy.  He has been moving forward on it.  It's a process that is very deliberate, and it's going to be very thorough.  He's doing his homework and he is carefully considering who he will select to fill that vacancy.  He recognizes the influence that the Court has on the American people and the power that they have serving on the bench.  And he will talk a little bit about that later today in his remarks about Judge Roberts.

Q:  Well, there's some thought that because Judge Roberts was a conservative but not on a fringe or far right, that he won more Democratic support than someone else might have.  Is the thought that that's what the President --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Terry, I think the American people want the President to nominate someone who has the qualities that the President looks for.  They want someone who will faithfully interpret our Constitution and our laws, that will apply the law, that will look at the law and apply the law, that will be open-minded when it comes to deciding cases.  That's what the American people have seen in Judge Roberts.  And that's what the President is looking for as he moves forward to fill the vacancy that exists.

Q:  So a Roberts -- a Roberts clone.

MR. McCLELLAN:  That's your words.  This person will be highly qualified to serve on the United States Supreme Court, and someone who will make the American people proud, just like Judge Roberts.  But this person will have their own unique qualities and experience that they bring to the position, as well.

Q:  Scott, can I ask you about -- go ahead.

Q:  How important are the consultations?  When senators try to wave him off certain names, does he listen to them?

MR. McCLELLAN:  He takes into account the views of the members of the United States Senate.  He believes the consultative process is a very important part of the nominating process.  It is something that he takes into account and takes seriously.

He has sat down with some of the Senate leaders and heard what their views are.  Remember, in the first vacancy, we went through an unprecedented level of consultation.  So he has that fresh in his mind, as well, what senators were expressing.  And the White House staff has done extensive outreach, as well, so that we can take into account their ideas and their views.  That's an important part of the process.

And once the President makes the nomination, he believes it's important for the Senate to move forward in a timely manner and in a civil and dignified way.

Q:  But he's not giving anybody a veto over his choice.

MR. McCLELLAN:  No, the President is the one who nominates someone to fill the vacancy, and it's the role of the United States Senate to move forward in a timely manner to give that person a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.

Go ahead, Terry.

Q:  Scott, justice --

MR. McCLELLAN:  You defer to Terry, too?

Q:  Yes.  No, I'm taking it.

MR. McCLELLAN:  Oh.

Q:  Justice Roberts -- Justice Ginsberg has taken the unusual step of going on the record to say that Judge Roberts was right in refusing to answer questions from Democratic senators, primarily, that tried to get him to make a commitment or describe his reasoning in a way that would foreshadow how he would rule in certain cases.  It's strange, it's unusual for a sitting Justice to do that.  What does that tell you about the Democrats who voted against Judge Roberts because he wouldn't answer those questions?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, you want someone on the Supreme Court that has the qualifications of someone like Judge Roberts; that has the experience and expertise and the intellect and the modesty and the judicial temperament to represent the American people well.  I think that the standard has always been to look at the qualifications -- certainly, in recent history -- is this person qualified to sit on the United States Supreme Court; is this person someone who will apply the law in a fair and open-minded way?  The answer is, yes, in Judge Roberts.  The American people saw that during his confirmation hearings and saw that as they came to know him better.

And I think, as you pointed out, Justice Ginsberg -- I mean, that's a good example to look back at, because you have the precedent that has been established there in the confirmation hearings.  People may have disagreed with some of the views that some of the Justices had held -- philosophical views -- but the standard is the qualifications and how they will lead as a member of the United States Supreme Court.

And the precedent that was set with Justice Ginsberg and Justice Breyer and others before them is that they should not be expected to answer questions about cases that may come before the Court.  It's important that if you're going to be fair and open-minded on the Court, you want to be able to hear that case before you start making decisions about it, and hear all the facts.  And I think that that's a widely recognized precedent that has been set.

Q:  So whoever the next nominee is, Democrats in the Senate, people around the country should not expect any more of an answer to a lot of these question than Judge Roberts.

MR. McCLELLAN:  I don't think it's ever been an expectation that members who may serve on the United States Supreme Court would answer questions about cases that may come before that Court.

Q:  Let me -- these are obviously difficult days for Republicans.  The top Republican --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Not for Judge Roberts.  (Laughter.)

Q:  Good point there.  But the President's political standing has eroded significantly; we've gone through the laundry list of other potential legal problems for other top Republicans.  As essentially the top Republican in the land, how does the President --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Someone had to stop all the goodwill in this room.

Q:  Right.  How does the President assess the state of the Republican Party, a party that's got to face voters again in congressional elections --

MR. McCLELLAN:  The Republican Party is a party of ideas, and a party of finding solutions to the pressing problems before the American people.  The President believes that we are here to lead and to solve problems.  That is why we are pressing ahead on the important priorities to get things done for the American people.  And that's what we will continue to do.  You have a united congressional leadership in the Republican Party that is determined to continue getting things done for the American people, and that's exactly what we'll do.  And the President will continue leading on the highest priorities facing the American people.  That's what we have continued to do.

Q:  Does that answer suggest the President just puts his hands over his eyes and over his ears and doesn't pay attention to what is going on in this town?

MR. McCLELLAN:  No, absolutely not.

Q:  Well, then what about --

MR. McCLELLAN:  What's going on in Washington is different from what may be going on in America.  I know Washington --

Q:  Okay, in America, the President's political standing is significantly eroded; --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Hang on.  I'll come to you -- hang on, hang on --

Q:  -- one of the top Republicans in Congress is now under indictment; you've got the top Republican in the Senate who is under investigation; you've got a leak probe of this White House's activities of releasing secrets.  These are difficult days, are they not, for the Republican Party?  How does the President assess it; does he worry about it?

MR. McCLELLAN:  These are days of important progress for the American people because we're pushing ahead on the priorities that they are most concerned about.  The American people are most concerned about making sure that we win the war on terrorism and that we succeed in Iraq, and that we address the issue of high energy prices.  And they're most concerned about making sure that the people who have been affected by these hurricanes are taken care of.  And those are the priorities that this President is focused on.

There are other priorities, as well, and we continue to move forward on them.  But I don't think you can take just a few instances, or a few matters, like you're bringing up, and make broad characterizations.  The President isn't one who gets caught up in the weekly polls that go on in this town, or all the focus on who's up, who's down in Washington, D.C.  He's focused on solving problems for the American people, and that's what he'll continue to do.

Q:  Easy for him to do.  What about congressional Republicans who have to face voters?  You think they go out to their districts and say, oh, yes, well, the Republican Party is the party of ideas and moving forward?  Or you think you're a little more worried?

MR. McCLELLAN:  I think they will -- I think they will talk about how we are the party --

Q:  You don't think they're worried about having to face voters in this climate?

MR. McCLELLAN:  And we are the party that has advanced an agenda to help the American people and make us safer and stronger and better.

Goyal, go ahead.

Q:  Scott, last week when I was at the United Nations meeting many of the world leaders, including Secretary General Kofi Annan, they were -- and also the Secretary of the United States for FEMA.  Now the question is also that the U.N. is now under reform.  Yesterday, Ambassador Bolton was testifying before the Congress and also many senators also said the same thing, this is the wrong time to uphold the U.N. funds, it will send the wrong signal to the United Nations.

MR. McCLELLAN:  Right, he was expressing the administration's position.

Q:  Ambassador Bolton also said that we should not uphold the funds, because this is the wrong time at this time of reform --

MR. McCLELLAN:  The President believes it's very important that the United Nations press ahead with important reforms so that we can make sure it is as effective as possible.  The President wants to make sure that it is focused on its core missions, that it is reforming its management structure and ending any corruption and making sure that nations that defy people's human rights aren't sitting on a human rights commission.  There are a lot of reforms that we are pressing ahead with.

The American people expect that.  We, the American people, provide a lot of support, in terms of taxpayer dollars, to the United Nations.  And I think that they expect us, as an administration, to make sure that those dollars, and that the United Nations is as effective as possible, that those taxpayer dollars going to the United Nations are going to an organization that is committed to reform and committed to being as effective as possible.

And the President believes the United Nations is an important multilateral organization.  That's why he tapped Ambassador Bolton to go to the United Nations, because he is someone who has, at times, been critical of some of the actions or inaction taken at the United Nations.  That's exactly the kind of person you want there, working from the inside, to make it a stronger, more effective organization.

Q:  It sounds like a threat, though.  It sounds like reform, or -- the way we want you to reform -- or we'll cut off  --

MR. McCLELLAN:  That's not the way I would describe it.  I think that the American people expect us to make sure that those taxpayer dollars are being used for the purposes that they are intended to be used.

Q:  Scott, the President is saying --

MR. McCLELLAN:  We are the largest contributor to the United Nations. Q    Insofar as the President has indicated that he's mindful of the need for diversity on the Court, that that's an important function, can you sort of prioritize diversity in the context of the upcoming nominee -- a woman, a minority, where it stands and flesh out what the President's thinking is about how he's mindful?

MR. McCLELLAN:  He's considering a diverse group of potential nominees -- men, women and people from all backgrounds.  That's the way I would describe it.  I don't think I need to go beyond that at this point.  And once the President is ready to make that announcement, you will hear more from him about it.

Q:  Not so much in terms of specifics, but in terms of the overall principle, of seeking to sustain or enhance diversity in the Court.  Why is that important?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, the President has always appointed people from all walks of life to the bench, whether it was in Texas when he was governor, or since he's been President of the United States.  If you go and look at his record, it is a record of appointing highly-qualified individuals from all walks of life to the bench.  It is a record of appointing highly-qualified individuals from all walks of life to senior positions within the White House and within the government of the United States.

It's a record he's proud of.  He is mindful that we are a country that is diverse and we are proud of our diversity, and that that diversity is one of our greatest strengths.

Q:  Scott, has the President interviewed any potential candidates for the O'Connor seat since the search was reopened after Chief Justice Rehnquist?

MR. McCLELLAN:  I'm not going to get into that question out of respect for the process.  The President continues to move forward on the nominating process.

Go ahead, Elaine.

Q:  What happens now with Ed Gillespie?  Is that team, that same team now going to be the same team --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Yes, at this point, I mean, I think he needs to get back to his work.  We appreciate all that he did to help coordinate the confirmation process.  We appreciate all that Senator Thompson did to help Judge Roberts move through the confirmation process, as well.  In fact, Ed was one of the ones that joined Judge Roberts and Senator Thompson in the Oval Office with the President immediately following the vote.

Q:  In terms of the team in place, there have already been, as you know, attacks -- it's not been more than an hour --

MR. McCLELLAN:  That's interesting that you point that out.  There already have been attacks before the President has even named someone to fill that vacancy.  That's a very -- that's interesting.  We're -- right now, we've completed a process that has largely been civil and dignified and reflects well upon the United States and the United States Senate.  We would certainly hope that as we move forward, that members of the Senate do not become beholden to liberal special interests who are seeking to prevent us from having a civil and dignified process.  The American people expect it to be a civil and dignified process.

Q:  And to follow up on Steve's question about the consultation process, when you say that it's been an extensive consultation process, are you talking about the numbers of senators that you've reached out to, or are you talking about the level of discussions?  When you say, consultations --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, it's not only just reaching out to them, it's getting their views and getting their thoughts.  And everybody, I think, recognized that the level of consultation for the first vacancy was unprecedented -- the number of senators that we contacted and talked to about their views and their thoughts -- and we have matched that level of consultation for this vacancy.  And we're still continuing to consult with additional senators, as well.

Q:  The President obviously already got a --

MR. McCLELLAN:  He believes -- he believes it's very important.  The President wanted to make sure that we were reaching out and getting the input from members of the United States Senate.

Q:  But surely, the President, by now, obviously has a sense of who he wants to see in that position.  So some of these consultations, towards the

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, but keep in mind as you go through -- I mean, you started -- certainly he had names from the first vacancy that the -- people that the President was familiar with.  And the list, anytime you go through a nomination process like this, is always dynamic and changing.  I mean, people may be added to it or taken off of it.  And the President will have more to say soon.

Q:  Scott, on the consultation, has the President consulted with any groups, particularly on the issue of diversity?  Friday we understand that the head of the NAACP, Bruce Gordon, met with President Bush and Karl Rove.  Did they, indeed, discuss the potential nominee soon to be named?  And what were they talking about?

MR. McCLELLAN:  The President was pleased to sit down and meet with the new NAACP President, Bruce Gordon.  They had a very good discussion about ways we can work together on shared priorities.  The meeting was a private meeting, and I think both of us are leaving it at that for this -- at this time.

Q:  Okay, granted, it was private.

MR. McCLELLAN:  But you're still going to ask me what occurred in the meeting?

Q:  Oh, yes, most definitely.  When you have issues of Katrina and the race aspect, and then when you have the NAACP itself saying that John Roberts was not a friend to civil rights, of course --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Who said that?

Q:  I'm not talking about you, John Roberts.

MR. McCLELLAN:  Who said that?

Q:  The NAACP.

MR. McCLELLAN:  Who at the NAACP?

Q:  The leadership -- I'll give you that information later along.  But anyway, for them to say that, and you have a meeting with -- to meet with the President, there is apparently still a concern that the person will be an extreme conservative, that the person would not maybe be a friend to civil rights, i.e. affirmative action and things of nature, what --

MR. McCLELLAN:  And I think the facts have shown otherwise when it comes to Judge Roberts, just to correct the record a little bit.

Q:  How does -- how does that change, because we understand during the Reagan era he was against affirmative action and certain civil rights issues.

MR. McCLELLAN:  April, he has just been confirmed by 78 members of the United States Senate who supported him.  And I think that all those questions were fully addressed during the hearing process.  And go and look at the record.

Q:  I did look at the record.  Reagan-era records show that he was not --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, then you formed your opinion, but --

Q:  No, I did not.  I'm still --

MR. McCLELLAN:  -- most Americans disagree with you based on what the record was.

Go ahead.

Q:  During the consultations over Judge Roberts, did his name specifically come up during the consultations --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Yes.

Q:  -- with any Democratic senators?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Yes.

Q:  And has the next nominee's name come up during consultations with any Democratic senators?

Q:  Good, I like it.

MR. McCLELLAN:  Very good question.  (Laughter.)  But that doesn't mean you're getting an answer to it.

Q:  Or the names on the short list?  Is there a short list?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Very good question.

Q:  Answer it.

MR. McCLELLAN:  Go ahead.

Q:  We want the answer.

MR. McCLELLAN:  I know you do, but I'm not going to get into the nomination process.  As I said, the list -- people are added to it, taken off of it, and I think you can expect that it is not that long at this point.

Q:  How long --

Q:  How do you get on it?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, I'm not getting into that, because, as I said, it can change.

Go ahead.  Are you interested?

Q:  No, but, I mean, how does one get on it?

MR. McCLELLAN:  You've got some experience in the courts, covering the courts.

Q:  How does one get on the list?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, do you want me to pass on your name?  Okay.  (Laughter.)

Q:  Senator Ron Wyden, who is one of many Senate Democrats who supported --

MR. McCLELLAN:  I'm sorry, Senator who?

Q:  Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who supported the nomination of Judge Roberts, said yesterday, "If these debates are purely partisan, our future will include constitutional bedlam whenever a Supreme Court vacancy occurs, when the Senate is controlled by the opposition."  And the first part of my question:  Does the President agree with this?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, I think I already actually answered that question in some of the initial responses up here to questions about the confirmation process going forward for this vacancy.  The American people expect it to be conducted in a civil and dignified way.  This is for the highest Court in the land, and I think it was largely done so in the instance of Judge Roberts.  And we hope it will be going forward.  We commend the United States Senate for the way they conducted these hearings and this confirmation process.

Q:  With regard to yet another Democrat Party division, what is the President's reaction to the growingly furious Maryland gubnatorial Democratic primary election, and does he expect that the bitter Duncan-O'Malley feud will help reelect Governor Ehrlich?

MR. McCLELLAN:  You know the President's view in this election and who he supports.  He very strongly supports Governor Ehrlich in his reelection bid.  In terms of any events later on, we'll talk about that later.  This is really not a time when we've been focused on the upcoming elections.

Q:  Scott, you said that the President is essentially wrapping it up, the list is not that long at this point.  Could we have something as early as tomorrow?

MR. McCLELLAN:  You should expect that as of this time that there is a window we are in.  The President could make an announcement at any time from here on out, once he comes to a decision.

Q:  Are you talking about today?

MR. McCLELLAN:  No.  Today is to honor and celebrate Judge Roberts.

Q:  You have ruled out today?

Q:  That's a positive.

MR. McCLELLAN:  Go ahead, Paula.

Q:  I wonder if you could characterize the administration's position on issuing Medicaid waivers, because my understanding --

MR. McCLELLAN:  There should be this much goodwill every day.

Q:  My understanding is the way it's currently set up --

MR. McCLELLAN:  April, by the way, you bumped Mike out of his seat.  That's not goodwill.

Q:  The approach that the administration supports leaves it up to the state to do the temporary waiver, as opposed to the Grassley-Baucus bill, which would give an across-the-board waiver, not leave it up to the states, to get the help to individuals more quickly.  Why is the administration opposed to that?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, let me mention a couple of things, because I want to make sure that the record is clear here.  We have moved forward in what we believe is the best and quickest way to get people the care that they depend upon.  I think we are all committed to making sure that those who depend upon vital services or benefits like Medicaid are getting the care that they need, and that they're getting it as quickly as possible.  That's why we've moved forward quickly on waivers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to make sure that people have what they need.

And it's not only when it comes to this one benefit.  It's a whole series of benefits.  Secretary Leavitt has lead our interagency working group to make sure that we were cutting through red tape and cutting through bureaucracy to get people the kind of benefits that they depend upon from the government, those who are in need, and certainly in need more than usual right now as their homes and their lives have been turned upside down.

Our primary focus is helping those who have been affected by the hurricanes.  And the approach you're talking about appears to go well beyond that.  And it would send money out to 29 other states that really suffered little or no impact from the hurricanes.  What we are doing is making sure that the states that have taken in a large number of these people who were evacuated, are compensated for taking care of those essential government benefits.

Q:  So are you saying if there's victims that didn't -- if victims did not go to those 29 states -- what if some of them did go to --

MR. McCLELLAN:  No, I just said that we're making sure that states are compensated for the care that they're providing to these people who were covered under Medicaid.  That's something that the President has been committed to.  We've already issued waivers to cut through the red tape in Medicaid and get people the care they depend upon.

Q:  But that's -- I'm sorry, but that's directed at those that were covered, not those that might become covered --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Those who depend upon it --

Q:  -- because of what happened in the hurricane.

MR. McCLELLAN:  Yes, I think I spoke to you earlier -- and keep in mind, go back and look at all that HHS has done.  The Health and Human Services Department has taken a number of steps to make sure the health benefits that people depend upon are getting to them.  So I don't think you can just look at one issue.

But we have also acted when it comes to Medicaid to make sure that those who depend upon it are getting it and getting it quickly and that states are being compensated for the large number of people that they're taking in who are eligible.

Q:  That's a small number.

MR. McCLELLAN:  We can keep going on this, Paula.  I guess you have a different view.  We went over this this morning.  I'm glad to continue going over it.

Go ahead.

Q:  Two quick clarifications.  When you say that the President is still consulting, but now he's in a window, poised to make a decision, are you saying that there are 30 other senators that need to be consulted with, to --

MR. McCLELLAN:  No, I said that we have matched the unprecedented level of consultation that we had initially, and that there's still a few others that we've been reaching out to, as well.

Q:  So in terms of --

MR. McCLELLAN:  So I didn't say it was finished, but it's essentially wrapping up at this point.

Q:  But he's in a position that he's capable of making a decision now.

MR. McCLELLAN:  I said as of tomorrow, really, is when you should consider yourself in a window when an announcement could be coming.  I'm not saying that it's coming tomorrow, I'm not saying when it's coming.  But we're in that window of possibility.

Q:  And then also to follow up on what Elaine was asking earlier.  Who -- what is the new White House team for this nominee to sherpa --

MR. McCLELLAN:  I don't have any other announcements to make at this point.  The President, first, will announce who he has selected, and he will do so when he is ready to.

Q:  But should we expect that there should be a replication of that kind of effort?

MR. McCLELLAN:  You should expect that we'll update you once the vacancy has been named.  Not ready to get there yet.  I know you're ready to publish something, and I appreciate that, too.

Mike, go ahead.

Q:  Who's going to administer the oath of office to Judge Roberts?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Justice Stevens.

Q:  Justice Stevens.

MR. McCLELLAN:  I think I mentioned that at the top.

Q:  I missed the first bit.

MR. McCLELLAN:  Maybe you were going back to your seats, since you -- (laughter.)  I've seen the facts, and someone up here jumped in your seat.

Q:  Maybe it's because I had a question you could not answer.

Q:  Scott, there is a short list.  If you'd like to add my name, I'd be honored to serve.  But my question is, why the full court press on the war?  Is the President concerned about the polls that show more and more -- that less than 50 percent of the American people now feel we should have gone to war with Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Maybe you missed what I was saying to David Gregory earlier in the briefing.  He doesn't get caught up in those.  What the -- what we're trying to do -- the President spoke after September 11th and said that we're going to be engaged in a long and difficult war.  The war on terrorism is one of our highest priorities.  It's one of the most important responsibilities the President of the United States has, protecting the American people.

And September 11th changed the equation.  The President recognized that we were at war, and that's why he made the decision to engage the enemy abroad so that we weren't fighting them here at home and to change to status quo in the broader Middle East, a status quo that led it to become a breeding ground for terrorism, where people flew planes into buildings.  And that's why we are working to support the advance of freedom and democracy, because the best weapon we have against the ideology of hatred that the enemy espouses is democracy.

And the President believes it's important to keep the American people updated about the progress we are making in the war on terrorism and our strategy for winning the war on terrorism.  He also believes it's important to continue to talk about the nature of the enemy we're up against, because this is a determined enemy; it is an enemy with a very clear strategy to drive us out of the Middle East and dominate the broader Middle East by creating safe havens for terrorists.

We saw what happened in Afghanistan.  They had a safe haven for terrorists there.  That safe haven has been taken away.  Now the terrorists are engaging us in Iraq because they recognize a free Iraq will be a major blow to their ambitions.  And I think you're going to continue to hear more from the President and the administration in the coming days and weeks about the progress we're making in Iraq, the challenges ahead.

This is a determined enemy that will continue to try to prevent freedom from taking hold.  They will continue to carry out violent attacks against innocent civilians because they have no regard for innocent human life.

Secretary Rice will be making a speech tomorrow at Princeton at the Woodrow Wilson Center.  And she'll be talking about the war on terrorism.  The Vice President is traveling to Camp Lejeune next Monday, and he will be talking about the war on terrorism.  The President will be making a speech here in Washington, D.C. -- it will be a significant speech -- to update the American people on the war on terrorism.  And you have General Abiziad and General Casey who are in town today briefing members of Congress and the American people about our strategy for winning the war on terrorism, and our strategy for succeeding in Iraq.

And we're going to continue to support the Iraqi people because every step of the way the Iraqi people have defied those who want to turn back to the past, and those who want to create safe havens in the Middle East for terrorists to plan and plot against the United States.

Q:  Given all that, in summary, in a little over 24 hours here, the President in the Rose Garden; you have the Pentagon heavy hitters up on the Hill; now you've got the Vice President; now you've got the Secretary of State; why suddenly this maximum effort?  Is the President --

MR. McCLELLAN:  Well, I don't know that I agree with the characterization.  Obviously, some of the focus over the course of the last month has been on the response and recovery and rebuilding efforts going on relating to Hurricane Katrina and more recently Hurricane Rita.  So that's been some of the attention publicly.

But the President has remained focused on all the high priorities that we have on our plate.  And none are higher than those that relate to the safety and the security of the American people.  And we have remained focused on those other issues.  Now we're at a period where we are going to continue talking more and more about the progress on the ground.  This relates directly to the safety and security of the American people and our efforts to establish lasting peace for our children and grandchildren.  And that's why he's continuing to talk about it.

Q:  Scott, when is the President making this significant speech?

MR. McCLELLAN:  I'm sorry?

Q:  The significant speech.  When is the President making it?

MR. McCLELLAN:  Next Thursday.  Here in Washington.

Q:  When Roberts was --

MR. McCLELLAN:  John Roberts.

Q:  When Judge Roberts was first nominated, Sandra Day O'Connor remarked that he's right in every way except he's not a woman.  Now that the President has the unique opportunity to fill the same position for a second time, without mentioning any names or anything, because there are a lot on there, how important does he believe it is --

MR. McCLELLAN:  I said it's not that long.

Q:  -- for the right person for the job to be a woman?

MR. McCLELLAN:  He believes it's important to consider people from all walks of life, for the reasons that I stated earlier in answer to some of the other questions.  And I think I've been through his views on that.  But he's going to appoint the person who he feels is the best person for the vacancy.  And we certainly appreciate Justice O'Connor staying on the bench a little bit longer.  It was -- and I think that in the President's remarks today, he will also pay tribute to Chief Justice Rehnquist.  I know that he wishes he could have been there for when Judge Roberts joined the Court, but that just wasn't meant to happen.  But it's also a day to pay tribute to him.

Thank you.

END     12:37 P.M. EDT

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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