13 April 2005
White House Daily Briefing, April 13
President's schedule, meeting with congressional members, energy costs, Leader DeLay/criticism from Republicans, budget/agriculture, ANWR/capped oil wells, Social Security, Afghanistan/permanent military base, Israel/settlements, Palestinian Authority/road map, Iran/Israel, President's trip to Russia, Saudi Arabia/Crown Prince visit, China, opening game/nationals
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan briefed the press April 13.
Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:20 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. Good to see you, Terry. All right, let me begin with the President's morning. And then I've got a couple of announcements to update you on, on the President's schedule.
The President had a couple of congressional meetings this morning. The President was pleased to welcome the bipartisan congressional leadership to the White House for breakfast. The meeting was an opportunity to discuss a number of important priorities for the American people. One of the top priorities that the President discussed at the beginning of the breakfast was the need for a comprehensive energy plan. The President remains concerned about rising gas prices, and that's why he outlined a detailed and comprehensive energy plan four years ago. And we continue to call on Congress to act on that energy plan and get it passed.
He also talked about his meeting on Monday down in Crawford with Prime Minister Sharon. Prime Minister Sharon has put forward a bold initiative to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, and the President talked about the opportunity that this presents to get moving on his two-state vision of Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security. And they talked about the democratic progress going on in the region, as well, and they talked about the new government that is taking shape in Iraq and Iraq is on the path to a brighter and democratic future.
They also talked about the supplemental. The President talked about the importance of acting quickly to pass the supplemental so that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will have all the resources they need to complete the mission, and that they'll have the resources they need to help train and equip the Iraqi and Afghan security forces.
There was also a good discussion about the budget. The President believes it's important that we get a budget resolution passed soon, one that funds our highest priorities and exercises spending restraint, so that we can make sure that we meet the President's commitment of reducing the deficit in half over the next five years.
Then later this morning, the President had a good discussion with Republican leaders from the House and Senate. This was the Republican leadership, and that meeting focused on the legislative agenda that is before us. We have a very full agenda before us in the coming months. And they spent a considerable amount of time talking about some of the same issues I just mentioned a minute ago -- the budget, energy, Social Security. The President talked about the progress that is being made as we reach out to the American people, and he talked about the need to move forward and get it done.
Now, a couple of announcements I have. One of them I think you all are already aware of. The President will welcome Crown Prince Abdullah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to his ranch in Crawford on April 25th. The President looks forward to discussing with -- discussing a wide range of key bilateral and regional issues with the Crown Prince, including our efforts to promote democratic reform, achieve peace in the Middle East, and win the global war on terrorism.
And on April 28th, the President looks forward to welcoming President Torrijos of the Republic of Panama to the White House. The President looks forward to discussing with President Torrijos the common interests Panama and the United States have in improving security, strengthening democracy, and expanding economic opportunity in the hemisphere. The meeting is a reflection of the close cooperation between our nations and the strength of our bilateral relationship.
And with that, I am glad to go to your questions.
QUESTION: Scott, on the subject of gas prices, what's the President -- can you detail for us the President's concern? Is he worried that high gas prices are starting to put a strain on family budgets? Or is he concerned that they've reached the level now where they're starting to actually negatively impact the economy?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's concerned -- his concern has been something he's had for his entire administration. This is a concern that the President has had from day one, when he came into office. We continue to go through this year after year because we do not have a comprehensive energy plan. That's why the President outlined a comprehensive energy plan to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy and make us more energy self-sufficient.
And rising gas prices are a drag on our growing economy. Our economy is growing strong. We have seen some 3 million jobs created since March of 2003. Our economic growth is strong. We're seeing sustained and strong economic growth. But rising gas prices are a drag on that economy. And it's a concern that the President has about the impact it has on the American people and on their pocketbook. And that's why he's calling on Congress to get moving on the energy plan that he outlined four years ago.
Q: Does he have some kind of an idea where the tipping point is here, where a drag on the economy could become fully slamming on the brakes?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, keep in mind that we've already been acting on a number of initiatives that the President developed as part of the comprehensive energy strategy that we developed back in 2001. There are some steps that we can take from the executive branch and we have taken those steps; we will continue to do so. But what we need to do is continue to work closely with Congress and get Congress to get this legislation passed so that this problem doesn't recur.
But in terms of the assessment, obviously, it remains a concern that we have these rising gas prices. What we have is -- and you have to take into account the world economy -- what we have now is two nations that have been developing, China and India, who are consuming much more oil. And the supply is tight. And that's -- the President recognized the problem that we faced when he first came into office. That's why we need to act on the plan that he outlined.
Q: Will there be any immediate impact, if Congress approved the energy package right now, on gasoline prices, the rising gasoline prices?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are steps that we need to look at now that we can look at and that we are looking at. This is something that is a high priority for this administration. We meet regularly on these issues, and we will continue to do so.
The President next week is going to give a major speech talking about our energy situation and about rising energy prices and the need to address this issue. It's something that he has talked about at length for four years now. And it's something that he has put forward a proposal to address. And Congress needs to follow up on that proposal.
But there are steps that we can look at now to address some of these issues. We've got to make sure that there's no price gouging going on. We've got to continue to move forward on cleaner, more efficient technologies, and that's exactly what we're doing. We've taken some action when it comes to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for SUVs and trucks. We helped improve those standards. And as a result, by 2007, you're going to see some -- see us save some 340,000 barrels of oil a day.
We also have taken steps on diesel regulations to enable clean diesel vehicles to -- or to have clean diesel vehicles. And our budget in 2006 has $2 billion in tax incentives for energy-efficient hybrid vehicles. And we want to see continued funding for the hydrogen fuel initiative. So there are steps we're taking. But what needs to happen is Congress needs to act on the comprehensive strategy that we outlined.
Q: And if they do that, will there be any immediate impact on rising prices?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've got to make ourselves more energy self-sufficient. That's one of the things the President, I expect, will talk about in his remarks, and you'll hear more from the President in his remarks next week, talking about this matter.
Q: Scott, the President met at least twice today with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. As you know, he's come --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me back up, Terry, one other thing I want to make, and I think it's a point I've made before, we've got to have comprehensive solutions. We can't have patchwork crisis management year after year. And that's what we're seeing it comes to, and that's why we need to act on a comprehensive solution.
Q: The President, at least twice, has met with House Majority Tom DeLay today. And in light of some of the criticism from fellow Republicans -- Chris Shays, as well as Newt Gingrich -- Shays saying that he believes he should step down; at best, he says, this is a distraction, these questions over his ethics; at worst, that it's bogging down the potential for other congressional Republican candidates for 2006. Is it still the President's feeling that he believes that he can effectively lead the Republican Party? And, if so, why?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, the President previously made his views known, and that remains his view. He has confidence in Leader DeLay. We have worked with him on a number of important priorities, as well as other congressional leaders, and the President intends to continue working with congressional leaders -- like Speaker Hastert and Leader DeLay -- to get things done for the American people.
Q: Do you believe that the criticism from other fellow Republicans erodes his ability to effectively lead the Republican Party?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's why we're focused on working with congressional leaders like Leader DeLay to move forward on the important priorities facing the American people. The meetings you brought up, the two meetings that he attended were focused on the important priorities before the American people. The American people want us to focus on getting things done on their behalf -- on important issues like Social Security, like a comprehensive energy plan. That's where our focus is. And the President has made his views known on Leader Delay.
I know that there's going to be a tendency to get us to react to every comment that's made day in and day out, and I think the President's views are well-known. We're not going to get into commenting on everything that is said each day.
Q: So -- on DeLay and on one other subject -- so just on the record, then, the President has reviewed the allegations against Leader DeLay and he's completely confident that Tom DeLay is clean and can lead the Republican Party?
MR. McCLELLAN: He was asked this question in a press conference just a couple of weeks ago; he made his views known when it comes to Leader DeLay. That remains his view. And in terms of those matters, I mean, I think I previously talked about that those are issues that will be addressed by the congressional leaders and by Leader DeLay.
Q: On the budget -- you mentioned that the President talked about the budget -- when the President rolled out his budget there was a great deal made of how tough it was. One of the areas was agriculture, where the President had proposed cutting subsidies primarily to very large corporate agri business operations. It sounds as if the administration has now retreated on that. Why?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't think that's the case and I think you might want to follow up. I think you're referring to some comments by Secretary Johanns, and you ought to look at his testimony from his hearing yesterday and I think you'll see that in his comments. But I'm sure his office will be glad to follow up on that.
That is an important part of our deficit reduction plan. These proposals are common sense, reasonable ones that we believe Congress should act on. We're continuing to work closely with Congress on the budget that the President put forward. And it's important that they move forward on a budget that is responsible and funds our highest priorities, but also holds the line on spending elsewhere. And that's one of the areas where it's important for Congress to act, to find savings. We should move forward on those proposals and that's what we believe. And we'll continue working closely with Congress on those matters.
Q: So the report that the administration has given up trying to cap subsidies at $250,000 -- that's incorrect?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's an accurate description at all.
Q: Scott, you said a couple days ago that, as the President said, he considers Tom Delay a friend. I actually went back -- I never saw the President say that anywhere. He said he had confidence in Tom DeLay. And I also noticed that Tom DeLay said when the President was running for President in 2000 -- or 1999 -- that Bush was not a social friend of his. So does Bush consider --
MR. McCLELLAN: There are a number of congressional leaders that he works closely with on the Hill and he considers a friend, sure.
Q: And he considers Tom DeLay a friend?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. I mean, I think there are different levels of friendship with anybody, so -- (laughter.) Well, no, you referred to social friends and -- but, no, he certainly is a friend.
Q: What level of friendship are you referring to here?
MR. McCLELLAN: A friend. The President considers him such. And we support his efforts, along with the efforts of other congressional leaders, to move forward on the agenda that the American people want us to enact.
Q: Scott, back on the energy plan, some critics are saying that the ANWR situation is long-term and whatever that would yield, it does not yield enough to make a substantial difference in any gas price that is set at the time. With the ANWR situation, is this administration, with the new plan, thinking of possibly uncapping some of the capped oil wells in this country that were capped because of environmental concerns?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, one -- one, and this is something the President talked about earlier today, is we do need to diversify our supply of energy in the United States. That's part of the plan that he outlined to Congress, and that's part of our efforts, is diversifying our supply. And that means looking at alternative sources of energy. It also -- the comprehensive plan that he outlined also calls for expanding conservation. There are certain lifestyles that we've become accustomed to. And the President believes it's important to expand conservation to promote energy efficiency, and to look at alternative sources for energy.
And in terms of the issue you bring up, we need to look at ways we can use new technologies. New technologies is an important component of our energy plan to drill in environmentally responsible ways. And you can go back and look at the plan that we outlined. There was a very detailed lengthy book that we put forward in terms of what we're pursuing.
Q: So are you saying that you're looking toward new technology to find -- to go into these oil wells that are capped because of environmental concerns -- are you coming back to --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know, I mean, I think there are some probably private companies that look at ways they can go ahead and do that. But in terms of our plan, I would go back and look at it. I don't know specifically, I can't recall specifically what it says on that matter. But one area where we can make a difference and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy is ANWR and expanding our domestic production capabilities, and making use of the new technologies that do it in an environmentally responsible way. When we're talking about ANWR we're talking about a very small footprint on the land there.
Q: Okay, but are you talking about as an option, possibly making a footprint on some of these capped wells, as well?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, go back and look at our energy plan. There's a lengthy book.
Q: Can you tell me, without looking --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't recall specifically, April. But there are examples where I know companies have gone back and looked at ways they can explore again where wells have been capped.
Q: Scott, a minor point, and I don't mean to sound facetious, but you said the President had two meetings with members of Congress, the first was bipartisan.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.
Q: Did the second one take place immediately thereafter, and did somebody say, all the Democrats out?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. (Laughter.)
Q: What happened there? How did it --
MR. McCLELLAN: The meeting this morning was at breakfast. It was at 7:00 a.m., it was about an hour, from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. this morning. The meeting with the Republican leadership from the House and Senate was a little bit after 11:00 a.m. this morning, and it took place in the Cabinet Room. In fact, the first thing the President did was walk in with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and introduce them to the members of Congress. They were here for the President's Cup team captain photo with the President.
Q: Scott, you said that -- in talking about Social Security with the leaders this morning, the President talked about progress that's been made and that it's time to move forward. What progress does the President think has been made, and what does he want in terms of the move forward?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think if you look at survey after survey, it shows that more and more Americans understand that there are serious problems facing Social Security, and you continue to see in survey after survey that there is strong support, majority support for the idea of giving younger workers the ability to invest in personal retirement accounts. That is a voluntary effort that the President has put forward. And the first phase of our push on Social Security has been to reach out to the American people and educate them about the challenges facing Social Security.
And we continue to reach out to the American people and talk about the problems facing Social Security, and I think that that's the progress that is being made. That is an important part of moving forward on legislation, because the first step is everybody -- for everybody to have a common understanding of the problems facing Social Security, recognize that it is something that needs to be addressed and needs to be addressed now. And I think more and more Americans are recognizing that.
Q: So when you say the President told the legislative leaders it's time to move forward, what does he expect of them in the near-term?
MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of -- well, in both this morning and with members of Congress -- I mean, right now we continue to reach out to the American people and talk about the challenges facing Social Security. And the President is talking about some of the ideas and he's saying, I want to listen to all ideas that are out there; I welcome all ideas; come forward with your ideas for solving this problem; we need to have a bipartisan solution to get this done, but it's important that we get it done this year.
And in terms of how we move forward, that's what we're discussing with members of Congress -- how do we move forward in a bipartisan way to get it done this year. Because the American people, when they see problems, they expect their leaders to address those problems. And -- go ahead, I'm sorry.
Q: Just one more, then. So the 60-in-60 trip is up in two weeks, and if this is part of what comprises phase one, does phase two start in two weeks, and what does it entail?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not putting -- if you're asking for a time line, we continue -- I mean, we've been on a 60-day push to educate the American people about the problems facing Social Security. We continue in that outreach to the American people right now. We will at some point enter a different phase where we'll be focusing much more on the solutions. But for now, we need to continue to talk about the problems and the challenges facing Social Security, and the need to find a permanent solution, and not only a permanent -- a solution that permanently fixes Social Security, but one that makes it a better deal for younger Americans, and for future generations. Nothing is going to change for seniors.
Those who are now retired or near retirement aren't going to see any changes. But at some point, we'll move into another phase where we focus more on the solutions. And those are discussions that we continue to have with congressional leaders. We're going to work in concert with congressional leaders as we move forward. And we want to continue to hear from them about how we can move forward in a bipartisan way to get this done.
Q: Scott, can I follow up on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead. I'll come to you in a minute. Go ahead, Connie.
Q: There are several stories --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll come to you. I'll come to you. Go ahead.
Q: Thank you. Just two quickly, one on Israel, one on Afghanistan. Would the administration withdraw support for Prime Minister Sharon's plans if he continues to extend settlements? And on Afghanistan, what do you think about the proposal for a permanent U.S. base?
MR. McCLELLAN: The proposal? Okay, on -- first of all, on Afghanistan, our focus is on making sure that Afghan forces are trained and equipped and able to provide for their own defense and security. We want to make sure Afghan forces are able to combat the threats from terrorism within their own country, and from others who seek to derail the transition to democracy in Afghanistan. And so that's where our focus has been.
We've been working very closely with the government in Afghanistan on -- and having ongoing discussions about how we move forward. We will continue to discuss future security arrangements with officials in Afghanistan and how we move forward. I wouldn't want to speculate on it at this point.
In terms of the question you asked about Prime Minister Sharon, I think it's important to go back and focus on what the President talked about in his press avail the other day with Prime Minister Sharon. Much of the focus of the meeting the other day in Crawford was on the withdrawal plan that Prime Minister Sharon has outlined. The meeting focused on how do we move forward on this bold initiative, this disengagement plan that Prime Minister Sharon has outlined. And that's why the President focused on the importance of the Palestinian leadership taking Israel up on its offer to coordinate closely on the withdrawal from the Gaza.
It provides a real opportunity for us. If we are successful there in the Gaza, it provides a real opportunity to move forward on the road map and to move forward on the President's two-state vision. But we've got to make sure that there is -- and the world has a responsibility to help in those efforts to make sure that the Palestinians are able to move in and self-govern that area, and begin moving forward on additional measures to have institutions in place for a viable democracy to emerge. And so that's really where the focus was.
In terms of the settlement issue, all parties have obligations under the road map. I talked about this the other day. I know this was a question you all followed up with me on after the press conference, as well. We recognize that Israel has certain views that they're going to take into the final status discussions. Our view on the final status discussions were reiterated the other day by the President. He talked about them a year ago here at the White House; he reiterated them the other day -- where the focus needs to be right now, it is on seizing this opportunity before us, this opportunity that has been put before the parties in the region by Prime Minister Sharon. And we want to see both parties meet their obligations under the road map.
Go ahead. I'll come to you. No, no, go ahead. I'll come to you, Keith. Go ahead, did you have something?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q: Oh, thank you. On North Korea, it is reported that North Korea had requested the closure of the U.N. Humanitarian Affairs Office in Pyongyang.
MR. McCLELLAN: That they have requested the what? The closure --
Q: Closure of the U.N. Humanitarian Affairs Office in Pyongyang.
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen those reports.
Q: You didn't see --
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you asking me for a reaction, or --
Q: Yes, what is your comment?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll take a look at those reports.
Q: It was reported by Korean Broadcasting.
MR. McCLELLAN: This morning?
Q: No, weeks ago.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay. (Laughter.) I'll take a look at it.
Q: Scott, on the road map, can you identify even one Palestinian terrorist group that has been disarmed by the Palestinian Authority in accordance with the Bush administration's own road map? And I have a follow-up.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's important to look at some of the steps that have been taken. And the President talked about President Abbas the other day in the news conference. We look forward to having President Abbas visit Washington again so the President can talk to him about what we can do to support them in their efforts to move forward on the two-state vision that he outlined. But there have been some steps taken to address the security situation.
It's important that they have a unified security structure. General Ward has been in the region working closely with the Palestinians to help put those security forces in place and have a unified structure to address some of these issues. But the road map is very clear in what it says. We've been very clear in what our views are, as well. And it's important that the parties meet their obligations.
Q: In the event that Hamas, a terrorist organization not yet disarmed by the PA, wins a majority in the legislative PA, will the Bush administration still send $350 million U.S. taxpayer dollars to the PA, or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, it's -- the one thing that you see when people have elections that are free and fair is that they tend to choose people who are committed to improving their livelihood, not people who are committed to terrorist acts. And I think if you look back at the previous Palestinian elections, the people that were elected, while they might have been members of Hamas, they were business professionals. They were people that ran on talking about improving the quality of life for the Palestinian people and addressing their economic needs and addressing other needs that are important to them -- not terrorists.
Q: Scott, Senator Graham said yesterday that he would like the administration to put forth some ideas for addressing the solvency of Social Security and not just the private accounts issue that the President has said doesn't address solvency. When can we expect to see some ideas from the administration that -- like raising the retirement age and others that have been put forth that address the solvency issue?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, some of them you brought up. The President has said all those ideas are on the table. The President has said all ideas are on the table with the exception of increasing the payroll tax rate. That's what he has made clear: I welcome all ideas, and it's important for others to come forward and present ideas. If they recognize that there is a problem, then they need to come forward and present ideas for solving that problem. That's what the American people expect. And the President has said, our door is open. We want to see Democratic leaders start to come to the table and present their ideas for solving this problem, so then we can move forward in a bipartisan way to get something done.
But in terms of timing, those are discussions that we continue to have with congressional leaders to talk about how we move forward. And we will do that in concert with those congressional leaders.
Q: One more question on the Sharon meeting and his meetings yesterday with the Vice President. I guess I'm looking for a way to sum up the Iran question and whether it's our -- the U.S. government's belief that the Israelis have given us new reason for alarm about what Iran is up to.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of our public assessments of the threat from Iran and their ability to develop nuclear weapons -- Admiral Jacoby gave our current public assessment of what the threat is. And that's what it remains. So you might want to go back and look at his remarks from last month where he talked about it.
But in terms of the whole issue, Iran and the development of nuclear weapons, I think that our view has been stated very clearly, and that is that we support the efforts of the Europeans to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. We all have a shared goal of making sure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. And the Europeans stressed the importance of Iran providing objective guarantees. We want to see this resolved through the diplomatic efforts of the Europeans. We want to see it resolved in a peaceful way, and that's what we're pursuing.
Now, the President and the Prime Minister discussed this issue over lunch the other day in Crawford. They talked about Iran's nuclear programs and our view that Iran's civilian nuclear program is a guise for which they're using to develop nuclear weapons. And that's why it's important that Iran come clean, cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency and that they abide by their other international obligations. And so we'll continue supporting the efforts of the Europeans.
And they did have some discussion about our concerns. We have concerns about Iran's intentions, and we have talked about that with Israel previously. Those are ongoing discussions that we have with them.
Q: Are we more concerned after what Sharon said to him?
MR. McCLELLAN: We remain concerned about Iran's intentions. That's the way I would describe it.
Q: Scott, the bulk of Western Europe celebrates the end of the European theater of World War II on May 8th. The President is celebrating it on May 9th, which is when the Russians mark it. Why?
MR. McCLELLAN: Why is he celebrating --
Q: What's the message being sent by doing it with President Putin, rather than doing it with the rest --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President looks forward to going to Russia to mark this occasion. This is something that President Putin has talked about for quite some time. As we get closer to that meeting, then I think we can focus more on the visit and talk more about what we're going there for.
Q: Can you say whether he will mark it also on May 8th, do something on May 8th, some proclamation --
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you posted on the schedule.
Q: On the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince, there's some rumors running around the market that some oil deals will be discussed, specifically whether the Saudi sour crudes will be swapped into the SPR to release perhaps some light sweet crudes. Will the discussions -- do you expect the discussions at the ranch to be that detailed? And does this mark a point where the President is willing to jawbone OPEC about production levels? Because he has not been so far this year.
MR. McCLELLAN: I gave you a general sense of the agenda. As we get closer to the meeting, then we can talk more about the agenda at that point.
Q: And on the speech next week on oil issues, should we expect a major new initiative to come out of that speech, or will it be more of what we've heard already?
MR. McCLELLAN: Same thing. Again, this is a week away. The President hasn't even worked on the speech at this point.
Q: -- we can concentrate that long.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President -- you'll hear more from the President next week. But as we get closer to it, we can talk more about it at that point.
Q: What day is the speech?
MR. McCLELLAN: I expect it will be next Wednesday. We're still finalizing that.
Q: Here? There?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you details later this week, once we finalize it.
Q: Practicing in the theater yet?
Q: Scott, on energy again, I understand the President believes a comprehensive energy plan is the long-term solution. Does he believe Congress, or anybody, can do anything about a short-term solution and the currently spiraling prices?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I talked about what we're doing now. Maybe you weren't paying attention at the beginning, when Terry was asking his questions, but --
Q: Well, you never really gave much of an answer on something immediate.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think I did. We are constantly looking at these issues. That's why I said that it is a high priority for this administration, it has been from day one. We need to make sure that there's no price-gouging going on. We also need to move forward on those other initiatives -- which we are -- that I outlined at the beginning.
Q: But those are long-term solutions. Currently, gas prices --
MR. McCLELLAN: Those are steps that we can take now to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. And in terms of price-gouging, that's not -- that's something we do now.
Q: Will the high price be on his mind when he speaks with Abdullah at the ranch?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's wait for the meeting -- let's wait until we get a little bit closer to the meeting; then we'll talk about it at that point.
Q: Does he have to fill up the pickup truck, himself? (Laughter.)
Q: Actually, on the pickup truck, the photograph --
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on. Hang on.
Q: -- the President's position to have a high-level regular meetings with China? And will energy and military, those aspects be included in these kind of talks?
MR. McCLELLAN: They are -- they're included in those kinds of talks. What do you mean? I'm sorry, you asked about meetings with China?
Q: The administration has decided to have some mechanism to talk to China --
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure, we have a number of different working groups that we have with China on different issues and different areas, and we continue to have ongoing dialogue with China on a number of issues.
Q: This is a new thing that will be headed by Deputy Secretary Zoellick, that some paper reported, that maybe they were going to start in the summer, they will have regular high-level exchanges, and why.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think we talked about that previously, about some different working groups that will continue to focus on different areas with China. That's something we've talked about previously. You can go back and talk to State Department about some of the specifics of what they're moving forward on now.
Q: Will they talk with China about energy? Are there going to be competition --
MR. McCLELLAN: We've had discussions with them about it. I'm sure we'll continue to in the future.
Q: Scott, you know the President is throwing out the first pitch at RFK tomorrow. Can you give us -- can you give me, at least, any idea of kind of what his schedule for the day is? Is he going to meet with the team? Is he going to warm up in the bullpen? Is he going to stay for much of the game? That sort of thing.
MR. McCLELLAN: He's loosening up and getting ready. The President looks forward to throwing out the first pitch tomorrow at the first home game for the Washington Nationals. And in terms of -- I'm sure that he will visit with both teams beforehand and talk with them. And then I'm sure that he will have some time to do a little warm-up before going out on the mound. But he looks forward to throwing out the first pitch. And as an avid baseball fan, he welcomes baseball coming back to Washington.
Q: Is he going to watch much of the game? Are there any security concerns about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: He will watch some of the game.
Q: Does he have a position on whether it should be called National Guard Field?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q: Scott, at what level are you concerned about price gouging, and just what are you doing about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: What's that? Well, Department of Energy and Justice Department, they stay focused on those issues to make sure that that isn't happening.
Q: I mean, is this at the refiner level, at the service station level?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's something we're always staying on top of, Peter.
Q: What, if anything, can you point to that the administration tried to do, ever, to keep gas prices from getting to the point where they are now?
MR. McCLELLAN: What can I point to? The comprehensive energy plan we outlined at the very beginning of our first term and called on Congress to pass.
Q: I'm asking what's been done to try to keep gas prices from getting to where they are now. Whatever it was --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's why I pointed out that what happens is that we see this problem recur year after year -- the prices go down, but then they come back up, and they continue to rise. That's why we need a comprehensive solution to this issue. That's why the President put forward a comprehensive solution to the issue. And now it's time for Congress to act on that comprehensive energy plan.
END 1:56 P.M. EDT
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