White House Daily Briefing, May 25
25 May 2005
President's statement on Justice Priscilla Owen, Bush travels to Denmark, Iraq/Afghanistan, Palestinian Authority, judicial nominees, FBI memo/mistreatment of detainees allegation, emergency notification system, stem cell legislation, Iran, Iraq, president's agenda/Republican support, Amnesty International/human rights, women's role in combat, Naval Academy speech
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan briefed the press May 25.
Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
May 25, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
-- President's statement on Justice Priscilla Owen
-- Announcement of President's travel to Denmark
-- Iraq and Afghanistan/U.S. there by invitation?
-- Prime Minister Abbas/ending terror in Middle East
-- Judicial nominees
-- FBI memo/mistreatment of detainees
-- Emergency notification system
-- Stem cell legislation
-- President's agenda-Republican support
-- Amnesty International/U.S. human rights offender
-- Women's role in combat
-- Naval Academy speech
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
May 25, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:47 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. I want to begin with one statement by the President. And then I have an announcement to update you on for the President's schedule.
As you all are aware, the Senate just voted to confirm Priscilla Owen to the bench. This is a statement by the President: I applaud the Senate for voting to confirm Justice Priscilla Owen. She has served with distinction on the Supreme Court of Texas, has demonstrated that she strictly interprets the law, and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. I urge the Senate to build on this progress and provide my judicial nominees the up or down votes they deserve.
Again, that's a statement by the President. Now, one statement to make on the President's schedule. The President will travel to Denmark prior to his participation in the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. The President's bilateral program in Denmark will take place on July 6th. Denmark is a close friend and ally of the United States, and Prime Minister Rasmussen is a strong proponent of effective transatlantic cooperation.
The President's visit, his fourth to Europe since his second inauguration, underscores the President's commitment to working with our European partners to advance freedom and prosperity in the world. And with that, I will be --
QUESTION: Any other stops on that trip?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's all I have to update at this moment. And with that, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q: The other day -- in fact, this week, you said that we, the United States, is in Afghanistan and Iraq by invitation. Would you like to correct that incredible distortion of American history --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we are -- that's where we currently --
Q: -- in view of your credibility is already mired? How can you say that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I think everyone in this room knows that you're taking that comment out of context. There are two democratically-elected governments in Iraq and --
Q: We're we invited into Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are two democratically-elected governments now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments, and we are there today --
Q: You mean if they had asked us out, that we would have left?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Helen, I'm talking about today. We are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments --
Q: I'm talking about today, too.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and we are doing all we can to train and equip their security forces so that they can provide for their own security as they move forward on a free and democratic future.
Q: Did we invade those countries?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve.
Q: Is Prime Minister Abbas doing enough to crack down on terror?
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, let me start by saying that the President looks forward to welcoming President Abbas back to the White House tomorrow. President Abbas was elected as part of the democratic wave that is sweeping the Middle East. He was just elected this past January, so he is now coming to the White House this time as the democratically-elected leader of the Palestinian Authority. And the President looks forward to talking with him about a range of issues.
This is a hopeful moment in the Middle East, when Prime Minister Sharon is moving forward on his Gaza disengagement plan. And it's important that this disengagement effort is successful. We want to do all we can to support President Abbas and the Palestinian people as they work to put the institutions in place for a viable democratic state to emerge in those areas. And so we will be talking about that.
And we also expect the leaders will also be talking about the challenges that all parties have as we move forward on his two-state vision. The President strongly supports the two-state vision that he outlined of Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security. And the way to get there is the road map, and the road map spells out obligations that both parties have. And it's important that those responsibilities and obligations are met.
President Abbas has publicly spoken out against terrorism, and against violence aimed as Israelis. He's publicly spoken about stopping terrorism, and it's important that he continue to move forward to dismantle terrorist networks and organizations. That's one of the responsibilities he has.
As I said, all parties have responsibilities. Israel has responsibilities, as well, and the President has spoken very clearly about those, as well. And it's important that the security forces be reformed. We designated General Ward to go to the region to work with the Palestinians to reform those security forces. The Palestinian leadership has begun to take some steps to reform the security apparatus. There is more to do. And so that's what we will continue to urge them to move forward on -- the steps that they are taking -- we will continue to urge President Abbas to move forward on the steps he is taking to meet his responsibilities.
And as he does, and as the Palestinian people do, we will be there to stand with them and support them. And the international community, I believe, will be there to support them and stand with them as they work to put those institutions in place. The United States has made substantial commitments to the Palestinian Authority already in terms of financial assistance. Japan came forward recently with a commitment of significant financial resources. We urge others to do the same and do their part to help President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership as they move forward to fight corruption and end terrorism and build the institutions for democracy to emerge and put in place economic reforms.
Q: Scott, a question about filibuster compromise. Unlike Republican leaders like Senator Frist, who said on the Senate floor that he thinks Democrats are trying to assassinate the President's judicial picks, the President, if you remember, in the press conference sort of distanced himself from that kind of rhetoric, saying he actually thinks Democrats have a philosophical disagreement with him about these judicial choices and didn't ascribe it to political motivation. That said --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I remember someone asked that question.
Q: I did. But that said, does the President then think this is a fair compromise? Does he think it's reasonable that he should get some, but not all? Or does he think he should get everything and give nothing?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President continues to believe and push for our nominees to receive an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate. The Senate is moving forward on nominees who have waited for years to simply receive an up or down vote. Now they are going to get one. That's real progress in terms of these nominees. And we are pleased that the Senate is moving forward on those nominees. And we will continue to work and push for up or down votes on nominees as this process moves forward.
Q: But, Scott, I mean, you know very well this is such a heated topic, and it's driven in large part by not only senators in the fight, but by activist groups who sort of pumped this level up. And it seemed like the President recently was trying to ratchet it back down to more of a philosophical disagreement. So, naturally, the President is going to push for his nominees and push for up or down votes -- but I just wonder if he thinks at this stage it's actually an equitable compromise? And does he in his own mind realize that he's going to get some of these judges and not get others? And does he think that this --
MR. McCLELLAN: I understand. This was an agreement among senators, and the Senate procedures are matters for the Senate to work out.
Q: But you guys get involved, though.
MR. McCLELLAN: But we are pleased that progress is being made on nominees. The President recognizes that his responsibility is to appoint -- or nominate individuals to the bench. The President believes in appointing highly-qualified individuals who have a conservative judicial philosophy, people who will interpret the law and not make law from the bench. And that's what he will continue to do. And it's the responsibility of the Senate, in our view, to give those nominees an up or down vote, and the Constitution spells that out.
Q: Just one more try at this. Does he think that the discussion and the compromise has helped this process, ultimately, for a future Supreme Court vacancy?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's been a victory for our judicial system. It's been a victory for fairness, because now they're moving forward on nominees who for years have not received their up or down vote on the floor of the Senate. But we will continue to push for nominees to -- for all nominees to receive an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate.
Go ahead, Mike.
Q: Does the President plan to make any changes in his process for nominating judges in light of this compromise? Will he vet them differently? Will he try to pick more moderate people?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's what I said -- I expect he will continue to appoint people who interpret the law and not make law from the bench, people who share a conservative judicial philosophy. The nominees he has put forward are highly-qualified individuals that are respected by those who know them best, and Priscilla Owen is a great example of that. She was someone who was one of the President's first judicial nominees. Back in 2001, she was announced as part of that initial batch of judicial nominees. The vacancy that she is filling is a judicial emergency. And we have said that the Senate needs to move forward on these nominees. Now they are moving forward on her nomination and other nominees who have waited years for a simple up or down vote. But the President --
Q: So he's not going to consult the Senate any more than he has in the past?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, the President -- we have -- the White House has and will continue to consult the Senate on judicial nominees. We welcome opportunities to listen to any views they have. But the President is going to continue to move forward on appointing individuals who have a conservative judicial philosophy and believe in interpreting the law, not making law from the bench. And that's what I would expect them to do. That's something he ran on when he first ran for office, and when he ran for reelection, as well.
Go ahead, Terry.
Q: Scott, there's an FBI memo that's been released today through a Freedom of Information request. It dates from August 23, 2002, and recounts the interrogation -- the interview of a detainee at Bagram. And in this memo, the FBI recounts that this detainee says he had nothing against the United States, but the guards in his detention facility do not treat him well, their behavior is bad; about five months ago, the guards beat the detainees and they flushed a Koran in the toilet.
Now, there has been some statements coming from some administration officials since the Newsweek retraction of its story that a Koran was flushed down the toilet, that the United States government had no knowledge of any such allegation.
MR. McCLELLAN: This is referring to a detainee, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think what the Department of Defense has said is that they have found nothing to substantiate any such allegation.
Q: At one point I believe Mr. Di Rita said that there was no such allegation.
MR. McCLELLAN: You can check with the Department of Defense on his words, but I know that they have publicly said that they have found nothing to substantiate any such allegations. There have been allegations made by detainees. We know that members of al Qaeda are trained to mislead and to provide false reports. We know that's one of their tactics that they use. And so I think you have to keep that in mind, as well.
Q: For sure. How important is it --
MR. McCLELLAN: But in terms -- I mean in terms of if there's any abuse of detainees, we take any such allegations very seriously. And if there is abuse of detainees, we hold people to account -- you mentioned mistreatment of a detainee -- and we have done that, and we also take steps to correct any problems. And we have done that, as well.
Q: Are you saying that there is no substantiation of any Koran desecration at all at Bagram or Guantanamo Bay?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you look back, I think the Department of Defense briefed last week, and they talked about the specific allegation that you're bringing up, and they have found nothing to substantiate any such allegation. In terms of the handling of the Koran, that's a different matter, and they have talked about that, so you might want to look back at what they've said.
Go ahead, Goyal.
Q: I have two questions, one on the goodwill visit of the First Lady. It looked like from the visit that she's representing well the United States and the President. She's very charming and friendly and outgoing. My question is here that there's an old saying there's always a great woman behind a successful man. How the President take this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Mrs. Bush is a tremendous asset to this administration. And she returned last night from her trip. I think it was a very successful trip. Mrs. Bush went to the Middle East to talk about the importance of supporting freedom and to talk about advancing women's rights, something that has been very important to her, personally. She also went there to talk about the importance of improving education and making sure that all children receive an education and to make sure that women have full participation in society and full participation in the political process. She had a very good trip. She updated the President about it, and she was pleased to go there.
Q: Second question is on the -- May month is Asian Pacific Heritage Month proclaimed by the President. Today, President is going to celebrate in the East Room, and I'm sure many bright and brilliant Asians will be there. What can Asians, you think, 10 million or so, can expect today from the President? Because their concern is also really immigration, visas, and also family reunion. And what they are saying is immigration process so slow that families are waiting for 10, 15 years --
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, the President will be celebrating this occasion today and he will -- it's an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of Americans who are of Asian and Pacific ancestry. And so he looks forward to that event later today. President Yudhoyono of Indonesia will join him for that event. They are going to be meeting before that, and I'm sure they'll talk about a range of issues, as well. But I think we've talked about this issue before; I don't really have any update for you on it.
Q: Scott, can I ask one more question about the airspace alert of May 11th? You mentioned that the White House emergency notification system was not triggered. Who made that decision? Why was it not triggered?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I mean, we review all these matters and look into it. I don't think we need to get into all that publicly. But it's been looked at, it's been reviewed; people are making sure that any steps that need to be taken to strengthen our procedures are taken. And when it comes to you all, I know there were some concerns raised and we've taken some steps to address that already.
Q: The reason I'm asking is this is an issue for the entire West Wing, right, that the system didn't go off. Is that not an issue of concern and --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's -- but I think you have to look back at what occurred and what happened and the steps that were taken. These steps weren't in place prior to September 11th. They are now in place, and there are a number of different measures, security measures, that are in place that people are following. So there's a lot of backup measures, as well. And so I think you have to take that into account. But, obviously, you look at those issues and make sure they're corrected and work to make sure they're corrected in the future.
Bob, go ahead.
Q: Any change in the protocol of notifying the President of the circumstances?
MR. McCLELLAN: There's no change from what I told you last week.
Go ahead, Ann.
Q: The Senate is now going to schedule a vote on the stem cell legislation that passed yesterday. What does President Bush think should be done with all of the frozen embryos in clinics that are not going to be used?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, the President talked about that very issue yesterday, and --
Q: I don't think he addressed that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think -- actually, I think he did. The President was pleased to welcome families here to the White House, families that had adopted children as embryos. It showed a life-affirming alternative that is available for people. And when it comes to frozen embryos, I think we have to keep in mind that it's a small percentage overall that is actually used for research, or potentially discarded. And the President yesterday wanted to highlight what these families have done. The President believes we ought to encourage people to choose a life -- a life-affirming alternative to the discarding of these embryos. And that alternative is adoption, because the President believes we should value life at every stage. And that's -- we should value life in America, and that means at all stages. And that's what the President was talking about.
Now, in terms of the stem cell policy, the President was also making a very important principle -- or stating a very important principle and what his policy is. The President's policy is that we should not be using public dollars for the destruction of life. And that's where -- he believes very strongly in that ethical line, and that we should not cross that ethical line.
Q: But for the families who do not wish to have their frozen embryos given up for adoption, are you -- is the President saying that those should just be held forever?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's the choice of the parents. But if you look at what is currently in place, more than 88 percent choose to keep those embryos frozen so that they can be used for future families. And it's a small percentage that is actually used for research -- less than 3 percent -- and an even smaller percentage that is actually discarded. The President believes that there is a great alternative available to that, and that is adoption. And that's why he was pleased to welcome those families here yesterday, and the children who they adopted and to talk about that alternative.
Q: But he'd rather have them discarded than used for medical research?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't think that's what the President said. I think the President said what I just said.
Q: Can I just follow on that, Scott, because certainly adoption of additional embryos is a terrific alternative, but, I mean, do you really mean to suggest that those people who support stem cell research and public funding for it, for the promise that that holds in the scientific community, is that not life affirming, as well?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not suggesting anything of that nature. What I'm saying is in response to the question about these frozen embryos, but -- and the President's belief that we ought to promote a culture of life in America and that we ought to value life at all its stages. The President believes very strongly that we must pursue the tremendous possibilities of science, and he believes we can do so in a way that respects the dignity of life and that maintains our highest ethical standards.
Keep in mind that the President instituted a policy where it has now led to federal funding for some 600 stem cell lines that have been sent to researchers. There are more than 3,000 that are available and waiting to be used for research, as well. We want to explore the promise, but we're still in the very early stages of that.
Q: You're making a judgment --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, but let me --
Q: -- there was a big debate about the existing lines --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but let me make -- I'm coming to an important point, because the President talked about this yesterday. He talked about how the decisions we make today have far-reaching consequences. That's why when the President came into office he appointed a bioethics advisory panel to look at these issues, to make recommendations and to advise him on these decisions that we face. We must pursue life-curing treatments, but we also must meet moral and ethical obligations. And that's what the President was talking about yesterday. And the one principle that is very important in his policy is that we shouldn't be using public dollars to fund the destruction of life.
Q: Scott, does the President have any concern that in this particular field of research, the United States, for all its technological genius, lags well behind many other countries in the world?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there is a lot of private research going on, as well.
Q: That's the stuff that's at least, at the very minimal, keeping us in the game, but we're well behind a number of --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has worked to double funding for the National Institutes of Health. The President has provided substantial federal resources to exploring the promise of adult stem cell research, as well as embryonic stem cell research. But as I said, there are far-reaching consequences to the decisions that we make today. And the President believes we can do so -- we can advance the promise of science in a way that meets our highest ethical standards. And that's the approach he's taken.
Q: But the hard and fast fact is that even with the private research that is going on today, the United States lags well behind other countries in this field of research. And I'm just wondering if this President, who keeps on talking about science and technology, is concerned at all about that.
MR. McCLELLAN: John, actually, this is in the very early stages of its -- the stem cell research is in its very early stages.
Q: Right, as it gets further and further out, we're falling further and further behind.
MR. McCLELLAN: We don't know the full promise of it because it's in its very basic research stages. And that's why the President has put forward a policy that he did to be the first President to provide federal resources for embryonic stem cell research, as well as significantly increase funding for adult stem cell research.
You know as well as others that adult stem cell research is showing tremendous promise. We also strongly support the legislation for umbilical cord blood stem cell research and believe it's important to move forward on that legislation, too.
Let me go here, back -- go ahead.
Q: Yes, the President said yesterday that there are no spare embryos. I'm wondering what the President would say to those potential parents who create embryos knowing that some of them are going to be lost, some are going to end up frozen forever; in their efforts to create one child, one baby, that they are effectively destroying many embryos in order to do that. Does he see an irony in that?
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think I just pointed out to you some of the facts about frozen embryos and I think you should listen to that. But the President supports in vitro fertilization. And I don't think the way you characterize it in any way reflects his view.
Q: Scott, there's a lot of activity about Iran this week. Does the White House support some bills that are making their way through the Senate -- or in the House rather, one that makes it more difficult -- one that requires investments who hold -- companies doing business with Iran to divest their funds. There's another one that seeks penalties against foreign companies that invest more than $20 million a year in Iran's energy industry. Does the White House --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd have to take a look at the specific pieces of legislation. I think our views on Iran have been made known very clearly, and our concerns about Iran, and our support for the people of Iran as they seek greater freedom. But I'd have to look at the specific legislation. I don't know the exact legislation you're referring to.
Q: Some of the statistics that have been bandied about say Iran could have four or five nuclear bombs at this point, or nuclear warheads. Does the White House confirm any of that?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's -- and, in fact, right now what we're doing is supporting the European efforts to make sure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. The Europeans and the United States share a common goal. We also now share a common approach. If you'll recall, we expressed our support for the approach they are taking to make sure Iran is not developing any nuclear weapon under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. And they are continuing to have discussions. They spelled out the importance of having an objective guarantee in place to make sure Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.
If you'll recall, Iran was hiding its nuclear activities from the international community for some two decades, and that's why we were suspicious about their activities and that's why we are skeptical about their activities. And that's why it's so important to have an objective guarantee in place to provide confidence to the international community that they are not developing a nuclear weapon.
Q: For the second day running, the news about Zarqawi being wounded has been in the headlines. I'm wondering if you have any details about that, considering that there is another report that he's been taken to a neighboring country for treatment.
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q: And if you think that if his injury or ultimate death will lead to the insurgent being weakened?
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. One, no, I have no additional information beyond what the army said yesterday, which is that they had no information to be able to verify what the state of his health is, or whether or not he had, indeed, been wounded.
And in terms of Zarqawi, he is someone we continue to pursue. I think you've seen the coalition forces and Iraqi forces have worked together to go after some of his key lieutenants, and they're bringing to justice some of his key lieutenants. They have done so over the course of the last few weeks. And we will continue to pursue him and bring him to justice, as well.
In terms of the insurgency that you brought up, the terrorists that are there, or the remnants of the former regime that seek to derail the transition to democracy, this is a determined enemy; they are trying to do everything they can to derail the transition to a free and peaceful future for the Iraqi people. But the Iraqi people are showing that they are determined to build a brighter future that is based on freedom and democracy, and we are there to support them and help make sure that they can defend for their own security as we move forward, so that our troops can return home.
And so this is a determined enemy. It is more than just one person. And we will continue to work with Iraqi security forces to defeat the enemies of freedom that are in Iraq. They will be defeated. And the Iraqis are providing -- are playing a much bigger role in that. I noticed some reports today about some of the raids that Iraqi security forces have been engaged in, going after those who are enemies of the Iraqi people and enemies of freedom. And they've been performing well. But there is more to do to build up those security forces.
Q: Scott, the House ignored the President's veto threat and voted to ease the restriction on stem cell research. It looks like John Bolton's nomination will go to the Senate floor, but it's the Senate Republicans urging its colleagues not to vote for the nominee. And the President is having problems getting his Social Security package, even among -- even facing resistance among some members of his own party. Is there a concern about sort of an onset of lame duck status around here?
MR. McCLELLAN: You wouldn't want to take a more cynical look at things, would you? (Laughter.) Let me back up and let's talk about where we are with this Congress. This Congress has been in place since -- for just over four months now. We have made significant progress in the first four months or so of this Congress. The Congress has passed class-action lawsuit reform. The Congress has passed common-sense bankruptcy reform. The Congress passed a -- or adopted a budget resolution that reflects the President's commitment to funding our highest priorities while keeping us on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. They moved forward and passed a supplemental to make sure that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have the resources they need to do their job and to make sure that the security forces in those two countries that we're working to train and equip are meeting that objective -- significant resources provided there.
The House has moved forward and passed a comprehensive energy bill. The Senate is moving forward this week in committee on that legislation. It's important that they get that legislation to the President as soon as possible. The President has been calling for that for some four years now, and the American people have waited long enough. It's time for them to get him a bill to his desk that he can sign into law so that we can reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. So there is important progress there.
In terms of Social Security, I would disagree with the way you characterize it. I think we are making important progress on a very difficult issue. We're seeing steady progress. The objective of the President initially was to reach out to the American people and explain the problems facing Social Security. The American people clearly understand that there are serious problems facing Social Security. And when the American people see problems, they expect Congress to act to solve those problems. Congress is moving forward now in the Senate and House on Social Security reform. And we welcome those steps. So there's steady progress there.
Sometimes the legislative process isn't going to move as fast as we would all like, particularly on an issue that was this difficult. Otherwise, we would have already solved this problem. But there are real problems facing Social Security, and now you're seeing Democrats who once said that there was no problem, saying, well, there are serious problems, but we should do nothing. Yet, you've got a few that are starting to break ranks and say, no, we need to put something on the table about how to solve this. The President welcomes those who are coming forward with ideas in hopes that we can move forward on these important priorities in a bipartisan way to get something done for the American people.
Go ahead, Greg.
Q: Scott, Amnesty International report today, saying the U.S. is a top offender of human rights. Does the White House dispute that assessment?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the allegations are ridiculous and unsupported by the facts. The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity. We have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have worked to advance freedom and democracy in the world so that people are governed under a rule of law and that there are protection -- that there are protections in place for minority rights, that women's rights are advanced so that women can fully participate in societies where now they cannot.
We're also leading the way when it comes to spreading compassion. The United States leads the way when it comes to providing resources to combat the scourge of AIDS. The President put forward his emergency plan for AIDS relief to fight the scourge in Africa and high -- other highly afflicted areas of the world. So I just think it's ridiculous and not supported by the facts when you look at all that we do to promote human rights and promote human dignity in the world.
Q: On various reports of abuse, whether it's at Guantanamo Bay or Afghanistan, you've often said that those are isolated incidents. Are there any U.S. policies, though, in place currently that have lead to those isolated incidences that should be reevaluated?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are a society based on laws and values -- it's not just laws, but also values that we hold dearly. And certainly, what you bring up has been a stain on the image of the United States abroad. But if you look at how we address these matters, it shows our commitment to human rights and human dignity. We hold people accountable when there is abuse. We take steps to prevent it from happening again, and we do so in a very public way for the world to see that we lead by example, and that we do have values that we hold very dearly and believe in.
Q: So the current policies aren't contributing to the problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. No.
Q: Scott, House Republicans have decided to dial back on their proposed provision that would limit women's roles in combat, now creating allowance for the military to wait 60 days. What is the President's position on this new provision, and what will he say to the women Naval Academy cadets who he'll be speaking to on Friday who may have enrolled in that institution, expecting to fulfill jobs they may not be allowed to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for your service and sacrifice, just as he will say to the male midshipmen, as well. The President greatly appreciates the job that our women are doing in the military. They're serving in many roles and many capacities, and they're serving and sacrificing as we wage this war on terrorism and as we work to spread freedom and democracy in the world. We appreciate all that they are doing in the military.
In terms of policy, I think that you can talk to the Defense Department. We do live in a time when there are new emerging threats that we have to address. And the battlefield is changing in the 21st century. And I think you have to recognize that, as well. The policy of the Department of Defense has been and continues to be that women should not be in direct ground combat roles. And we support that policy, but we also have to move forward -- and the Secretary of Defense has been working closely with congressional leaders on this very issue. And we have to -- as we move forward, we have to look at the -- how the battlefield has changed and how to address those changes. And I think that that's what they're committed to doing.
Q: Should they change the motto, do all you can do?
MR. McCLELLAN: And in terms of -- in terms of the Naval Academy, because you asked about that, I'll probably be able to talk more about it tomorrow. The President is still working on his remarks. He looks forward to giving the commencement address at the Naval Academy. If you'll recall, back in 2001, it was the very first academy that the President went to to give such a commencement address. This was prior to September 11th. And the President in those remarks talked about the importance of transforming our military to address the emerging threats that we face. And so I expect that the President will note that, and refer back to some of what he discussed previously, because now you have midshipmen from that class who are serving in the war on terrorism, and serving honorably and making tremendous sacrifices. And we appreciate what they're doing.
So I think the President will talk about the war on terror and the progress we're making, but he'll also focus on how we're working to transform the military and what we've done since that time, as well as what we're in the process of doing to transform our military to address 21st century threats.
END 1:21 P.M. EDT
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