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Press Gaggle by Tony Fratto

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 1, 2008

Hotel InterContinental
Kansas City, Missouri

7:51 A.M. CST

MR. FRATTO: The President had his normal briefings this morning. At 8:35 a.m., as you know, the President will sign the Presidential Proclamation in honor of American Heart History Month here at the hotel; we'll have pool coverage for that.

The President will be accompanied by Joyce Cullen as he signs the proclamation. As a reminder, Joyce Cullen is someone who heard Mrs. Bush, she was here some time ago and saw coverage of her event to a local hospital talking about the importance of women getting treated for heart disease, recognized that she had some of the symptoms that Mrs. Bush was bringing to the attention of women across the country, and went and had herself checked. And she actually suffered a heart attack at the hospital, where she was able to be treated, and had surgery and she's in good health today. So we're happy to have her here with the President today.

The First Lady -- I think you know already, the First Lady taped the radio address for this week.

Q What's it on?

MR. FRATTO: And it is on healthy heart. The First Lady has been -- she is the National Ambassador for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, for their program on heart -- their Heart Truth Campaign, to bring awareness of heart disease and for people to go out and get tested and to understand the symptoms of heart disease. So she taped the radio address; I think we'll be releasing that without an embargo shortly, this morning.

The First Lady was in New York for the Heart Truth Campaign yesterday. And just as a side note, the First Lady had an opportunity at a UNICEF event at the U.N. to meet with President Torrijos, the President of Panama. As you know, Panama takes over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month, and so Mrs. Bush took the opportunity to remind and reinforce the importance for the U.N. Security Council to keep pressure on the military junta in Burma. And of course President Torrijos said that he would of course want to keep the pressure on Burma to make the democratic changes that we all have been calling for.

The heart emphasis this morning began with the First Lady, and the President signing the proclamation this morning. It's American Heart Month, and that's the reason for this timing.

At 9:00 a.m. the President participates in a breakfast meeting with business leaders.

Q Heart healthy? (Laughter.)

MR. FRATTO: We'll see -- we'll see what side of the menu that they order from.

And then at 10:20 a.m. the President tours Hallmark Cards. It will be a chance for the President to talk again about the economy and the need to quickly pass an economic growth package and get that through Congress as quickly as possible so that the economy can get the impact of that growth package that it needs. I think you have background on the visit; I'll just leave it there.

And then of course, as you know, the President attends a lunchtime fundraiser for Sam Graves and the Missouri Victory Party. I'll get the week ahead in a minute. Do you have any questions?

Q Can you comment on the new jobs report, and particularly the fact -- if I have this right -- that the number of jobs was actually cut, ending that consecutive streak of job growth that the President touts so often?

MR. FRATTO: I can't comment on the jobs report at this time in the morning. I think you'll have a chance to hear from us later today -- and that, of course, has to do with the long-standing rule of not commenting on economic data within one hour of release of that data. So we'll have a chance to talk about it later this morning.

Q Do you think the President will? Or how --

MR. FRATTO: I think you can expect the President to make a comment reflecting on the jobs number later this morning.

Q Can you even say whether you were just surprised at what came out, anything like that?

MR. FRATTO: I can't, no. I'm sorry.

Q Can you --

MR. FRATTO: I know it's tough timing for us out here on the road on this, but you'll get a chance to hear from us later.

Q What's your reaction to OPEC's decision? They rebuffed the President's request in Saudi Arabia for them to pump more oil.

MR. FRATTO: I didn't see any reporting on that, in terms of what OPEC's decisions are, so I'll have to see what they said.

Q I can tell you what they said. They said that they would keep oil supplies unchanged and they began a debate about whether to curb supplies in March.

MR. FRATTO: Well, look, I think everyone is fully aware that having a reliable and steady and predictable supply of oil is a benefit to the global economy, in addition to the U.S. economy. Oil is a global commodity. It is so overwhelmingly a function of supply and demand. And as the President -- the point the President made in the Middle East, and you've heard others make, in this -- is that, as you see the price of oil rise, you're going to see demand for oil drop, and it can have a drag on economies here in the United States and other economies that use oil as a important energy source. That's not in the interests of oil-producing countries, and we hope that they understand that their decisions on oil production have a real impact on the economy and the use of this commodity.

Q Are you saying that this decision will have a real impact on the economy, I mean, this decision that they made today?

MR. FRATTO: I think it's important for them to understand that all of their decisions have an impact on the economy, and are reflected in prices. When you see that reflection in prices, the markets respond, and they don't always respond in ways that support prices that way.

Q Tony, can you talk a little bit about the breakfast -- what the point is, who he's meeting?

MR. FRATTO: Yes, these are local business leaders. I think we'll have an event backgrounder for you that gives you some background on each of the participants in the meeting, but the President always likes to hear -- especially at this time where we're seeing mixed economic data. There are parts of the country that are doing very well; some others aren't. We're seeing the real economy in the country generally performing pretty well with decent business activity.

And so he likes to hear directly from people in the business communities see -- you know, ask them very bluntly, how are your business -- how is business? Are people coming through the door? Are you getting orders? Are you getting orders at the rate that you expected? What's your outlook over the next six to eight or 10 months? You hear people try to make predictions about the economy based on looking at macro-data, and sometimes the best sense you can get about the economy is to hear directly from people who are on the front lines of business activity, in terms of consumption and job creation. These are the people who are doing it, so he likes to hear directly from them.

Q Tony, you said the President -- we'll hear directly from the President about the job numbers. Will that be at the breakfast or at his remarks later in the day?

MR. FRATTO: No, I don't think we have -- we don't have remarks scheduled for the breakfast.

Q So we'll -- it will be at his later -- after the Hallmark tour?

MR. FRATTO: Exactly, yes.

Q What's the tie-in, if there is one, between Hallmark -- or a corporation that size, and the economic stimulus package?

MR. FRATTO: Well, you know, it's interesting, but it is a company that does make capital investments and can, in fact, I believe -- and they'll be able to tell you this better than I can -- would expect a benefit from the bonus depreciation provisions that are in the House bill that we like and would like to see passed by the Congress. So they would benefit from it. Any time you make those kinds of investments you need to hire people to use the equipment or software or whatever it is that you're investing in.

So Hallmark is a unique company, and that is -- I mean, there are some others like this that are large, central companies but have -- they have franchises all over the country and all over the world. And it's essentially a collection of small businesses, so they have a pretty good sense of what's going on across a broad region of the country and even in parts of the world.

Q Can I ask one more on the OPEC thing -- I mean, the President spoke directly with King Abdallah, so what more can the United States do to get its message across? Obviously they're not listening.

MR. FRATTO: I think they do listen to us, and I think they do listen to the market, also. And we will continue to make the case for -- if everyone who has an important role in the global economy, whether it's energy producers or on a financial investment side or on the trade side, to do what they're doing to make the economy -- the global economy be as efficient as possible, and to understand that market forces will do what we all learned that they do in basic economic classes. If you don't have supply meeting demand, consumers and the economy are going to react in different ways, and maybe not the ways that you would like them to.

Q Do you have a comment on the al Qaeda commander stuff?

MR. FRATTO: I don't. I know we're looking into it, and I would just refer you to the intelligence community.

All right. Okay.

Q Thanks, Tony.

END 8:03 A.M. CST


http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/02/20080201-6.html



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