White House Daily Briefing, July 29
29 July 2005
Domestic agenda, stem cell, Bolton nomination, Osama bin Laden, Middle East, national security, energy bill, economy
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan briefed the press July 29.
Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
July 29, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
-- Domestic agenda
-- Stem cell
-- Bolton nomination
-- Osama bin Laden
-- Middle East
-- National security
-- Energy bill
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
July 29, 2005
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:23 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCLELLAN: A good Friday afternoon to everybody. I'd like to begin by talking about the week of accomplishment in the United States Congress. We've had a very productive week of accomplishment for the American people. We are working together to achieve real results.
As you're aware, they've already moved forward and passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Congress is also now moving forward on the comprehensive energy legislation and the transportation bill. These are two important priorities that the President called on Congress to get done and we appreciate Congress moving forward on these priorities and working to get them done before leaving town. This has been a successful and results-oriented session.
There was also additional good news on the economy this morning. The second quarter GDP numbers came out showing that in the second quarter we saw GDP grow at 3.4 percent, which was roughly in line with what the market expectations were. We're seeing solid and sustained economic growth. The tax cuts that we passed and the pro-growth policies that we have pursued are working. We've seen more than 2 million jobs created in the last year alone. The unemployment rate is at 5 percent and more Americans are working than ever before. So we continue to see good economic news and an economy that is on a sustained path of strong growth and job creation.
And with that, I will be glad to go to questions.
QUESTION: Scott, in his speech today, Senator Frist said that the policy that President Bush announced on embryonic stem cell research in 2001, in Senator Frist's words, "will slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases." Does the President dispute that position of Senator Frist? And is the President open to the idea of expanding federal financing?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I think Senator Frist indicated that this is a position that he had stated more than four years, and that he held as a physician, prior to him coming into the United States Senate. So this is something --
Q: Well, it's one that he's talking about now.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- so this is something that he has said before. The President was speaking with Senator Frist just last night, talking about the legislative agenda and the end of the session here and moving forward on the remaining priorities. And Senator Frist told him he was going to be making these remarks; the President said, you need to vote your conscience when it comes to this legislation.
There is a lot of common understanding between the two. Both recognize that there are real ethical issues involved in this decision. Both are strongly committed to advancing the tremendous possibilities of science. Both -- Senator Frist stated that the President was the first President to allow for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. And the President came to a policy position back in 2001, after a lot of deliberation. It was a very thoughtful process; he listened to people with different views about how we can move forward and continue to advance science while maintaining the highest ethical standards.
The President is strongly committed to advancing medical research in an aggressive way, while making sure that we're maintaining the highest ethical standards. The decisions we make today have far-reaching consequences. So the President said taxpayer money should not be used to create life for the sole purpose of destroying life. He also recognized that there are issues where the life and death decision had already been made concerning embryonic stem cell research. And the President was the first to allow for the federal funding of that kind of research.
Now, there are a lot of alternative sources of stem cell research that we also need to be exploring. And I think Senator Frist touched on that as well today. Adult stem cell research shows great promise. Umbilical cord, blood cell shows great promise. And scientists today are looking at ways to derive lines from embryonic stem cells in a way that wouldn't destroy life. We need to continue to explore the possibilities that are before us.
But the President's decision didn't put any prohibition on private sector research that is done. But I think the President has made his position pretty clear, and he appreciates Senator Frist's position.
Q: But does he disagree with Senator Frist's conclusion that the 2001 policy will slow the potential to bring new treatments?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, a couple of things. Let me talk about the President's record and I'll come to that specific question, as well.
The President has pushed to double funding at the National Institutes of Health, to $29 billion a year, so that we can continue to encourage research. We've seen more than an 80 percent increase in funding for all stem cell research. There's a substantial amount of funding both in the public and private sector for all stem cell research -- that includes adult stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research.
Now, in term of embryonic stem cell research, we are at the early stages of understanding the potential of this kind of research. We are just in the basic research phase trying to understand the potential that is there. The President's policy has allowed for 600 shipments of lines to go to researchers, and they're already being used -- those lines are already being used at this point. There are an additional 3,000 more lines that are available. So these lines are available so that we can explore the basic research and try to understand the potential that is there.
But as I mentioned, adult stem cell research is showing great promise, as well, and we need to continue to move forward on that.
Q: You were going to come to my question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you were asking about the research that's available, and that's why I pointed out the lines that are available.
Q: So the President does not think that his policy is slowing development of new treatment?
MR. McCLELLAN: The lines that we've made available will help us move forward on the basic research so that we can understand the potential of embryonic stem cell research. And the private sector is also doing funding and looking at the promise, as well.
Q: A few on this, Scott. I just want to make sure I understand the President's position. Does the President today stand by his pledge to veto any legislation from Congress that would expand the number of stem cell lines available for federally funded research?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has made his position very clear. Nothing has changed in terms of his position. We are going to continue to aggressively advance medical research, while also maintaining the highest ethical standards.
Q: The Republican Party appears to be moving away from this President on this issue. How does he react to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that there are many Americans that share the President's view that we need to continue to explore and advance science, but we need to make sure that we maintain ethical standards. As I said, these are decisions that have far-reaching consequences. And that's why the President worked to find common ground on this difficult issue.
Q: Okay, let me just interrupt. Most Americans --
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on, hang on.
Q: Most Americans don't support the President's decision, according to polls.
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on. This is a difficult issue. The President recognized that when he made his decision back in 2001. The President has always worked to try to find common ground on difficult issues.
The decision that the President made was addressing taxpayer dollars. The President does not believe we should be using taxpayer dollars for -- or to support the further destruction of human life. That's where he set the line. Now, there's no prohibition on the private sector research that goes on. There are a lot of lines that are now available so that we can move forward on the basic research.
Q: As an individual, does he support the private research that's going forward on embryonic stem cells?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President -- the decision he made was relating to taxpayer money.
Q: I understand that. I'm asking if as an individual --
MR. McCLELLAN: And the President is someone who believes we shouldn't be creating life for the sole purpose of destroying it. And he stated that position.
Q: Separate issue.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that addresses your question.
Q: One factual thing here. Well, let me just get an answer to this first part. The fact is that the Republican Party is moving away from this President, and there is a feeling that Senator Frist articulated today that, in effect, the President is stuck in a 2001 decision when the science is passing him by.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, I'm going to disagree with you right now on saying the Republican Party is moving away. The Republican Party is united and moving forward to implement important priorities for the American people. This week has been one of the most successful weeks --
Q: On stem cell -- I'm talking about this issue.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, you made a general statement that they're moving away.
Q: No, no, I meant on this issue. I meant on this issue.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, but let me talk about this issue, because some of you in this room, and some of your colleagues, two months ago, were saying that this President is facing lame duck status, that we can't get things done that --
Q: Let's not divert off of that, Scott. I was specific to this issue. Let's not get off on that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Of course, you don't want to talk about it.
Q: That was your opening statement, you had time about that. No, the Republicans support you on any number of things, I can list them --
MR. McCLELLAN: You don't want to talk about it.
Q: I'd love to talk about it, let's lengthen the briefing, but one question about --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going anywhere.
Q: -- you said 600 shipment of lines and 3,000 lines available.
MR. McCLELLAN: An additional 3,000.
Q: Senator Frist said today that there were supposed to be 78 stem cell lines after the August 9th decision, and there's only 22 available today, and some of those have degraded to the point that they're not useful. So how do you square those numbers?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I just pointed out -- because what you can do from those stem cells that are available is derive additional lines. And that's why I pointed out that there's 600-some lines that are already being used right now. There are an additional 3,000 more that are going to be available for this kind of research. The fact of the matter is, we're still in the early stages of the research.
Now I want to back up, because I do think it's important to talk about the accomplishments. Maybe you don't want to talk about it, because a number of people in the media were saying just two months ago --
Q: Don't start with that.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, let's start with that.
Q: Don't take me on like I don't want to talk about it. That's ridiculous. You want to make your statement, make your statement. I was asking you a specific question on a specific issue, and don't try to turn this into a screed about the media.
MR. McCLELLAN: Then don't make a broad statement, like you did.
Q: I corrected myself. I meant on this issue.
MR. McCLELLAN: Of course you don't want to talk about it, because you don't want the American people to hear about the great progress that we're making on the legislative front.
Q: I thought I heard your opening statement pretty clearly.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure you'll be reporting on it later tonight.
Q: Watch the broadcast tomorrow.
Q: Scott, how much do you think Senator Frist's position is about jockeying for position on the 2008 elections?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, Senator Frist addressed that question earlier today, and I think he answered that question. He talked about how this is something that was based on his conviction.
Q: You don't see any politics involved here?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President told him last night, you need to vote your conscience. The President made a decision based on his principles, and Senator Frist is making a decision based on his principles.
Q: Scott, just to follow up.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me go to Jessica, and then I'll come to you.
Q: I have a follow-up and then another question. You've said that the President does not support the further destruction of human life through creating new embryonic stem cell lines. Does he think it should be criminal to destroy frozen embryos that are not used in fertility clinics?
MR. McCLELLAN: Jessica, no, this is relating to the taxpayer dollars. That's the President's decision.
Q: But if the President believes that's the destruction of life, why doesn't he make an effort to oppose it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Jessica, the decision that he made was relating to taxpayer dollars. He's the President, and this is taxpayer money. This is federal funding.
Q: So what should happen to the 400,000-plus frozen embryos that are sitting in fertility banks not being used, waiting to be thrown out?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in fact, he just had an event a short time ago, talking about how there are embryo adoption families, people that can adopt these embryos and --
Q: But that's a nominal -- nominal -- number compared to the hundreds of thousands of embryos --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, no, go back and look at what I said at the time, because I gave out some statistics. I think that you need to look at the statistics I gave out at the time. But this --
Q: But you never came up with a policy on what should be done. Do they all have to be given up for adoption?
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you going to let me respond?
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, thank you. No one seems to want to talk about the great progress this week in Congress, but -- (laughter.)
Q: There's been great progress. There's been great progress.
Q: You do.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure it will be reported. (Laughter.)
The President's decision was based on federal funding of taxpayer dollars. That's what it was based on. He's the President of the United States, the President of all Americans, and I think many Americans understand and appreciate the decision that he came to, because this is a difficult issue. It is their taxpayer dollars, and that's where -- but that's where he drew the line and that's the decision that he made.
Q: So should all those embryos be given up for adoption -- must they be?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I addressed that question a long time ago.
Q: But no answer.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I did address it, Jessica. Go back and look at that briefing. I addressed it, and you can go back and pull up all those quotes and comments from that time. I laid out the facts -- some of your facts, I think that you are trying to cite are not exactly accurate.
Q: Scott, when I asked this morning what David just asked about the fact that Senator Frist is making it very clear that he believes that not only are there fewer lines available, but that the lines available, many of them have been contaminated, and that he believes -- your answer to that question has been, well, we're at the early stages of science right now. But he made very clear on the Senate floor today, sort of the whole purpose of his speech and his position is that we're not at the early stages and that what we need right now in order to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think everybody recognizes we're at the basic research stage.
Q: But what he -- the whole point of his policy now is that you need to modify because you're slowing research, you're slowing science if you don't. So my question is, are we just at a point now where the President disagrees with Dr. Frist on the science?
MR. McCLELLAN: I just pointed out some of the facts. There is substantial amount of funding, both in the public and private sector, going to stem cell research -- that's adult stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research. I talked about how the President was the first one to allow the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research --
Q: I understand that. Where we are right now --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and I made the point that we believe that the lines that are available now will allow us to do the basic research to understand the potential of stem cell research, of embryonic stem cell research.
Q: Just one quick follow up. Was the President taken by surprise by this? And, also, I know that he made an effort to talk to Senator Frist at the event this morning and they walked down together. Did they talk privately --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, this is something that Senator Frist stated over four years ago, as he indicated earlier today.
Q: He hasn't stated it -- he actually said that he -- he has not said that he would, sort of, defy a veto threat until today. He actually made it pretty clear that he was going to go along with the President until today.
MR. McCLELLAN: His views, though, he stated more than four years ago.
Q: I know, but this is about legislation --
MR. McCLELLAN: Understood.
Q: -- and this is about the President issuing a veto threat.
MR. McCLELLAN: But I'm just pointing that out just like he pointed out earlier today. And he also pointed out that -- he praised the President for being the first one to allow for this kind of research through federal tax dollars.
What the President's focus is on is the public money, and that's the decision that he made.
Q: I understand that. But when the President of the United States issues a veto threat and the Majority Leader of his own party defies that, I'm just sort of wondering what his reaction -- aside from he understands he has to vote his conscience --
MR. McCLELLAN: We've worked very closely with Senator Frist to accomplish a lot of things in the last session for the American people. I know some people in this room don't want to ask questions now about it, they seem to ask --
Q: No, but it's about an ally who we really rely on, on this issue --
MR. McCLELLAN: Two months ago everybody wanted to talk about how we weren't going to get things done.
Q: I'm not talking about -- okay. Let's again just stick to this. This is somebody who he really relied on as a physician in terms of coming up with a policy --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's stick to this, yes. That's exactly the point.
Q: -- four years ago.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's talk about the progress we've made over the last session. No, because you're talking about Senator Frist. I mean, you know, there may be issues where sometimes people disagree, but we have worked closely together to get a lot of things done for the American people. That's the point.
Q: I understand that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, then I hope that it gets back to the American people about the important progress that we have made and what we've accomplished this week, because just two months ago many of you in this room were saying, well, has he entered a lame duck status, can he get anything done? People in this room were saying that the nomination -- or the Supreme Court battle would prevent him from getting anything done on the domestic agenda. Well, this week we've gotten things done.
Q: Well, I wasn't one of those people and I'm asking specifically about this issue.
MR. McCLELLAN: It's time to move on. And I just addressed your questions.
Q: John Bolton, will there be a recess appointment announced before the President goes to Waco?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, any decision on any recess appointment would be made by the President of the United States. That's his decision to make and it would be his announcement to make when he's ready to do so. Now, in terms of this position, there is a vacancy at the United Nations for our ambassador. We need our permanent representative in place at the United States at this critical time. There is an effort underway to move forward on comprehensive reform. We have outlined the comprehensive reforms that we want to see put in place to make sure that the United Nations is an effective multilateral organization. And it's a critical time to be moving forward on this. The United Nations will be having their General Assembly meeting in September, and it's important that we get our permanent representative in place.
Go ahead, Carl.
Q: First on Bolton, and then another question about today's discussion. Is the President concerned about the apparent error on Mr. Bolton's questionnaire to the Senate, in which he said that he had not been questioned in a federal investigation in the preceding five years, when now it has been revealed that, in fact, he was at least interviewed in the context of the Inspector General-CIA investigation of the uranium potential sale from Niger to Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think the State Department addressed that last night and it was John Bolton who pointed that out.
Q: Is the President concerned about this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have a follow-up?
Q: So is the President concerned about it? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: No. I just said, no. The State Department pointed out the --
Q: Great, okay. So, moving on from that, since you want to talk about the economy -- in the context of the discussion we've been having here this morning, one gets the sense that you think that there's an "I told you so" coming here for the administration, because the press, in the past four months, has been writing the President off as a lame duck. Is that what you're doing? And, if so, why?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I wouldn't say that. But I remember being in this room, I remember all the coverage at the time, just two months ago, and, frankly, there hasn't been a whole lot of focus in the media this week on the significant accomplishments that are being achieved for the American people. This is important for the American people to know that this Congress has come together and gotten things done. That's what the President vowed to do in his second term. He did it in his first term, and he's doing it in his second term.
There are a lot of --
Q: So, if I may -- pardon the interruption -- are you suggesting then that the absence of coverage to your standard is because the media is deliberately trying to suppress that information on behalf of the administration?
MR. McCLELLAN: All I know is that there was a lot of coverage saying, two months ago, that the President wasn't going to get anything done on the domestic agenda, that he was maybe entering lame duck status, and the facts say otherwise. We are getting things done for the American people, and the ones who are benefiting are the American people. Thank you.
Q: I ran a calculation on my computer this morning and --
MR. McCLELLAN: Uh-oh. (Laughter.) That's not fuzzy math here.
Q: -- 1,241 days after Pearl Harbor, Adolph Hitler was dead. And today, it's 1,417 days after 9/11 -- Osama bin Laden is still alive. We've got a pretty good idea that he's in western Pakistan. Why can't we get this guy? Is it Musharraf? Is it -- who is keeping us from --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, his safe haven in Afghanistan has been taken away. We went in and liberated the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban that was supporting his activities has been removed from power. The remnants of the Taliban and the al Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden are on the run. We have worked to bring to justice, in one way or another, some three-quarters of the al Qaeda leadership and management structure. So we are dismantling the al Qaeda network.
But this is an ideological struggle that we are engaged in. It is a long-term struggle. We are continuing to pursue all those who seek to do harm to the civilized world. They will be brought to justice. We are now fighting the war on terrorism on the offensive by taking the fight to the terrorists overseas, so that we don't have to fight them here on our own shores.
But, more importantly, we're working to support the advance of freedom and democracy. The advance of freedom is the way that we will prevail over their hateful ideology that is based on spreading fear and chaos, and killing innocent human beings. They have no regard for human life. But we'll continue to go after all those who are responsible for attacks and seek to do harm to the American people.
Q: The reason I ask is, General Musharraf -- there was a Dow Jones wire story today -- he admitted that he wasn't as aggressive against the religious terrorists in his country in 2002 as he might have been, because he said he was facing a threat from India and Kashmir, and he claimed that he didn't have international support for his presidency. I mean, has he been an obstacle? He seems to be saying --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President had a good discussion with President Musharraf yesterday. He is a good partner in the global war on terrorism. He recognizes the enemy and the nature of the enemy that we are up against. And he just spoke in the last couple of weeks about the steps that he's taken to go after those who espouse this extremist ideology, this ideology that preaches hate, this ideology that preaches violence against innocent civilians. This is an enemy that wants to dominate the Middle East.
And I would point back to our own history. For decades, we ignored what was going on in the Middle East, and thought we were getting peace and stability in exchange for letting dictators rule in countries throughout the Middle East. Well, we didn't get either. And the President, on September 11th, made the decision that we were going to take the fight to the enemy and that we were going to work to advance freedom in the broader Middle East to help lay the foundation of peace for generations to come, for our children and grandchildren. And that's what we're doing. And we're working with many nations around the world to do that. This is a -- much broader than just a military effort. We're fighting this ideological struggle on many fronts, and we will continue to do so.
Go ahead, Sarah.
Q: Thank you. Scott, lots of small cameras around London have greatly aided London police in identifying and arresting bombers and other terrorists. Would the President endorse the placing of such cameras in and around Washington, and other major cities in this country? And should the Congress provide more money for national security before it goes home for the summer?
MR. McCLELLAN: You're talking about placing cameras in positions?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's a lot of security measures that we're taking. In some instances, there are. We need to continue to provide our law enforcement and intelligence officials with the tools they need to do their job. We also need to make sure we're safeguarding people's civil liberties. And that's what we have been working to do.
Q: The question about Congress, because they need more money. Should the Congress provide more money for national security before it goes home for the summer?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, they are moving forward on the appropriations bills, the budget bills that -- they already have adopted a budget framework with a top line that is consistent with where we wanted to be to make sure that we're meeting all our highest priorities, like our security needs, and that keeps us ahead of schedule to cut the deficit in half over the next five years, or over the next four years now, I guess I should say.
And so Congress is moving forward to make sure we're funding those important priorities. And we appreciate the efforts that they have made. The House has moved forward on a number of bills, and the Senate has begun moving forward on those priorities, as well.
Les, go ahead.
Q: Scott, The Washington Post this morning reports that, "Many days, no doubt, he" -- that's you, Scott -- "he harbors his own desires to finger his feelings about reporters." (Laughter.) That's what they reported. And my question is, since The Post also reports that "The President suddenly thrust his right hand into the air and extends a finger." White House officials yesterday said it was his thumb. Could this be interpreted as the traditional thumbs-up signal, or is it a mistake to confuse the President's thumb with his middle finger?
I have a follow up.
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, okay, I found all this kind of preposterous --
Q: It was in The Washington Post.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and the story that was run there. Clearly, if you look at it and if you were there, you would recognize that the President was giving a thumbs-up. Someone in the media had asked something to the effect of, how does it look on the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and the President gave the thumbs-up.
I don't know how someone is trying to divine my inner thoughts, but despite some of the back and forth that we engage in today and other times, even with people like David -- (laughter) -- I have great respect for the job that you all do. And you all -- you all know the way I deal with you all and I know the way the President acts. And that's -- it's just preposterous to make that kind of suggestion.
Q: Appreciate it. Was the President glad to read this morning's Washington Post report that Washington radio station WMAL has suspended, without pay, talk show host Michael Graham because he said the fault for recent acts of terrorism lies not with Islamic radicals alone, but also with Muslims generally because religious and followers have supported extreme elements?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't want to endorse any particular news outlet. I'm not sure where -- which paper he would have read that in, but we really --
Q: The Washington Post. The Washington Post.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- we really haven't had a discussion on it, with all the other issues going on today before Congress.
Go ahead in back. Oh wait. Roger, sorry, go ahead.
Q: Two things. Number one, do you have an idea when he might be signing the energy bill?
MR. McCLELLAN: Nothing to announce at this point. First of all, they haven't passed it fully from the Senate.
Q: Senate is to vote on it within the hour.
MR. McCLELLAN: What's that?
Q: Senate is to vote on it within the hour.
MR. McCLELLAN: Right. And we appreciate that they're moving forward on it. But I wouldn't want to speculate before it's passed, number one. Number two, it depends on how quick Congress can enroll that legislation and get it to us, as well. But, certainly, if they pass it, I wouldn't expect anything before we head off for Crawford.
Q: Okay, and another question, on the economy --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President does intend to sign it, though.
Q: -- polls suggest, or show, that while the economy is improving, GDP and the numbers that you cited, and so forth, polls show that most people don't know it, don't realize it, don't understand why. Why do you suppose that is?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's important to continue to point out the progress that we've made. Remember, we went through an awful lot when we were coming into office and when we were first taking office. We had the recession, the September 11th attacks, the corporate scandals, and all those put tremendous pressure on our economy. The President led and he acted, working with Congress, to pass significant tax relief to get our economy growing again. Remember, there was a lot of discussion back then that it would hurt revenues. Well, revenues are coming in much higher than what was originally projected. Our economy is on a path of strong and sustained growth. And all
the -- if you look at the overall indicators, all of them are pointed to continued strong growth. I think most economists recognize that the economy is going to continue to grow in a strong and sustained way as we head into the next few quarters and into next year.
And now with that said, there are certainly people that are hurting, and the President recognizes that. We have been going through a changing economy. That's why the President has called on Congress to take action on additional pro-growth policies. That's why he's so pleased that they've moved forward on the free trade agreement for the Central American countries. This will help level the playing field for our farmers and small businesses here at home, so that they can compete on a level playing field. It will open up new opportunities -- free trade helps create jobs here at home. The energy legislation is an important piece of legislation.
Q: Is it just sort of a lag factor?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q: Is it just sort of a lag factor?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll leave it to others to kind of analyze all that. But I think it's important for the American people to hear about the important progress that we're making when it comes to our economy. And it's something we'll continue to talk about, because this is something that directly impacts their daily lives. And I think I would also point out that after-tax income for families is up above 12.5 percent over the last few years. That's money after you've paid your taxes that you have available to spend and save and invest. And we will continue to build upon the policies we have put in place to keep our economy growing stronger.
And we will also work to make sure that those who have lost jobs over the last few years are able to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams by working to advance education -- or improve our public schools, as we have done under the No Child Left Behind Act, and working to make sure that workers have the skills they need to fill the high-paying, high-growth jobs of the 21st century.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. My name is (Inaudible), wt Jiji, Japanese news wire service.
MR. McCLELLAN: Great, welcome.
Q: Thank you. I was born and raised in Hiroshima, Japan. (Inaudible). And August 6th is coming again. I believe Japanese people should recognize and appreciate U.S. occupation policy against Japan (inaudible), partly because of the Japanese economy recover. And it is very fortunate the U.S. and Japan can maintain good relations, and they are security allies.
Having said that, I believe the use of automatic weapons during World War II was cruel and (inaudible), against international law, I mean, international public law. So in the history of human beings, losers cannot say anything, winners make history as they like.
Q: Is there a question?
Q: Yes. Sixty years have passed, so I believe Japan may say something. I would not necessarily ask, recommend President Bush or someone say someone should apologize, but I believe some statement or comment is needed, because time is running out --
MR. McCLELLAN: I understand. I think I'll leave the history to historians. I mean, we're all well aware of the history. But the President is focused on the future, and we do have a great relationship with Japan. The President has a good friend in Prime Minister Koizumi.
This is an example of how freedom leads to peace, because 60 years ago, as you pointed out, and the President often points out, we were enemies. Today we're working together to advance freedom in places like the broader Middle East, and what we're doing is laying the foundation of peace for our grandchildren and our -- for our children and our grandchildren. And I think that's important, to remember the past, but to look to the future and how we can continue to build upon the great relationship that we have. And the President is pleased to have a good friend like Prime Minister Koizumi, who understands the importance of that.
Thank you. You all have a good weekend.
Q: What's the week ahead?
MR. McCLELLAN: I gave it out this morning.
END 12:56 P.M. EDT
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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