White House Daily Briefing, October 7
07 October 2005
Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, hurricane relief, Karl Rove, homeland security, Greenspan successor, economy, refineries, war on terror, Iran, avian flu, Middle East
White House press secretary Scott McClellan briefed the press October 7.
Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
October 7, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
-- Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers
-- Hurricane relief
-- Karl Rove
-- Homeland security
-- Greenspan successor
-- War on terror
-- Potential flu pandemic
-- Middle East
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
October 7, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:50 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCLELLAN: Good Friday afternoon to everyone. The President's Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, began the process this week of moving forward towards confirmation. She met with 16 members of the United States Senate, and the President appreciates the warm welcome that she is receiving from members of the Senate. And we look forward to the Senate moving ahead on her confirmation and completing it by this Thanksgiving.
And with that, I will go straight to your questions.
QUESTION: The Senate has acted on legislation that would provide loans to some of the local communities who have been hard hit by the hurricane, to help them keep their payrolls going. I know the White House has been working on that issue with Congress --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.
Q: -- but is this an approach that the White House supports and that the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: We've been working very closely with members of Congress. I haven't seen the latest update, in terms of any passage of legislation. I've been in some meetings with the President, so I haven't seen that. But, yes, we have been out front working with members of Congress to move ahead to provide important relief to people in the region, including on the issue of essential employees that work for the government.
Q: There was some talk that disaster assistance would be made available to allow them to fund public payrolls -- but this would be different, it would be a loan approach. What's the White House thought on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is something that we have continued to work with Congress on; we've continued to have discussions. We've had very good discussions. We're trying to reach an agreement and a consensus with members of Congress so that we can move ahead and get people the relief that they need and get people -- get those localities, or those communities assistance, to be able to provide payments for essential employees.
Q: All right, I'll just try one more time. Which is the approach that the White House prefer to take to fund --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, our approach is that we're working very closely with Congress because we have a shared objective, that is, making sure that we're getting important financial assistance to these communities that have seen their tax bases essentially wiped out. We want to make sure that we're getting assistance to these communities so that they can pay for the essential employees that those communities depend upon.
Q: Back on the Miers' nomination, today the President said that she will be confirmed, whereas, Tuesday he said he didn't want to pre-judge the Senate; he was hopeful. And in that intervening period there have been conservative voices who say that she should withdraw for the good of the President, and others who have raised some doubts. So why is the President more confident now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Because there are so many people who have been speaking out who know her well and have said she would make an exceptional Supreme Court justice. It's not "more now." The President has always been confident that she will be confirmed because he knows her qualifications, he knows her experience and he knows her judicial temperament. She is someone that is firmly committed to strictly interpreting our Constitution and our laws and not legislating from the bench. The President has a long record of appointing people to the bench who are strict constructionists. That's what the American people want. They want judges that are going to look at the facts and apply the law. She will.
Now, let me back up and talk about her qualifications. She is someone exceptionally well-qualified to serve on the United States Supreme Court. I would encourage you -- all of you here in the media -- to go and look at history and look at the standard that has been used for previous Supreme Court justices that have been confirmed by the United States Senate. And look at her record, and look at their record. She is exceptionally well-qualified if you look at what she has accomplished in her distinguished career.
Q: But when the President was careful on Tuesday to say he didn't want to prejudge the Senate and that he was hopeful, and now affirming that not only would she not withdraw, but that he clearly believes she will be confirmed. Does he feel he needs to muscle it a bit more now?
MR. McCLELLAN: He stands firmly behind her nomination. That's what -- he's expressing his confidence that she will be confirmed. There are some that -- and let me point out, too, because in your question, I don't think it pointed everything out. There are a lot of conservatives who know Harriet Miers, and they are strongly supportive of her being confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. They know her record, they know her judicial philosophy; the President knows her judicial philosophy. The more the American people come to know her, the more they will recognize what the President already knows, which is that she will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice.
Now, there are some that are trying to set a different standard from previous Supreme Court justices that have been confirmed. If you go and look over history, including some of the recent Supreme Court justices -- or more recent that were confirmed by the United States Senate -- there are a number that did not serve on the bench prior to being selected to -- by the President to serve in this capacity. Go and look at people like Justice White and Chief Justice Rehnquist. They are people who served with great distinction and have a very strong record, and they are individuals that were widely praised -- or have been widely praised for their time on the United States Supreme Court.
Harriet Miers brings real-life experience as a practicing attorney to the United States Supreme Court. The President believes it's important to have some diversity of perspective on our nation's highest court, that that will serve the American people well. That's why he selected her.
She has quietly accomplished much in her life and established a very distinguished career. I encourage people to go and look at that. She has been a pioneer and trailblazer for women in the legal profession. She was clerking for a federal district judge back in 1970, and I don't think there were many women clerking for federal judges back at that time. She has served in some of the highest positions of our nation's government, serving as the Counsel to the President, the Deputy Chief of Staff, and as Staff Secretary before that. She has handled -- had to address a number of -- or wide-range of legal issues. She has served as a city councilwoman, she has served as a state official. And she has practiced many -- or tried many cases before state and federal courts. She is someone who brings extremely -- or brings great qualifications to this position.
And so let's look at the record and look at the career and look at her judicial philosophy. That's why the President selected her.
Q: Has the President spoken to any of the prominent conservatives who have suggested that she is not the best qualified, that there are better picks out there, or that perhaps she should withdraw? Has he talked to any of these people?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know of any personal conversations to update you. Like who?
Q: Well, today --
MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, some of them have been at the White House.
Q: Well, yes, one of them was here yesterday, as a matter of fact.
MR. McCLELLAN: But, I mean, that was for a tribute. That was not for the Supreme Court nomination.
Q: And the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: We reach out -- we reach out to everybody, Bill, and this is very early on in the confirmation process. What you're seeing is that members of the Senate are doing their job, which is to ask questions and get to know the nominee, and then they will have hearings and get an opportunity to ask her questions. It will be a thorough process; she very much looks forward to it. And then they will be able to vote on that nominee. And we're confident, as they come to know her, that they will confirm her.
Q: So are you suggesting that the President is basically just ignoring this background noise?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are a lot of people, as I said -- are you ignoring all the people that know her so well and that are speaking out and talking about how highly-qualified she is to serve on our nation's highest court?
Q: I, personally, have no dog in this fight, but --
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, okay, you're doing this for someone else. Well, it's whoever --
Q: No, no, no, no, I mean, it just as a reporter.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, but you are a reporter, are you pointing out all these other individuals that have worked with her and come to know her? She has a long career in the legal community. She served as the first woman president --
Q: I was asking about the criticism directed by some of the President's more conservative friends.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and we pointed out her qualifications and her record and experience; now she will go and make her case to the United States Senate. And we're confident when they look at her record and her accomplishments that she will be confirmed. She was the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association, then the Texas Bar Association. She was on track to be a leader within the American Bar Association, but she gave that up to come with the President to Washington, D.C., to serve in some of the highest positions in government.
Q: One more, more or less unrelated. It's been reported in several places that Rove is the point man to taking charge of the hurricane recovery. Is that the case?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. That's false.
Q: Is there such a person?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think anyone ever checked that. It just was one of those things that started appearing, and no one ever bothered to check it.
Q: Is anyone in charge?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President.
Q: Almost had me forget what I wanted to ask. What do you mean --
MR. McCLELLAN: How about CBS, anyone in charge there? (Laughter.)
Q: I'll get back to you on that. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Fair enough.
Q: Scott, what do you mean by the phrase, "doubtful credibility," when you talk about the information --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's what the Department of Homeland Security has talked about when they look at the intelligence -- when -- that's what the intelligence community has assessed. And the Department of Homeland Security talked about that yesterday. You heard the President earlier talk about what I said to you all this morning, as well, which is that when we get intelligence information like this, we share it with local officials. And local officials can then look at that intelligence and determine, or make decisions about what needs to be done with it.
Now, this is intelligence that we continue to analyze. It is specific intelligence. But it's something we continue to analyze along with local authorities in New York. And we will continue to do that.
Q: Should it be considered some kind of criticism of New York for overreacting? Some in New York --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you heard otherwise from the President earlier today. Local officials -- state officials and local officials are elected to represent their people and to protect their citizens. And the reason we share information with state and local officials, when we receive it, is so that they can take that information and look at it and make decisions about what they need to do that is in the best interest of their citizens, as the President pointed out in his remarks earlier today.
So we will continue to analyze this, working with local authorities in New York. And the local authorities made a decision that it was important -- that they thought it was important to share that information with the public, and you've heard from them.
Q: Scott, following up on the question the President was asked the other day about the process of picking a successor to Alan Greenspan, when do you hope to pick somebody? And has the process been set back at all by the hurricanes and the need to pick two Supreme Court nominees?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, other important nominations, as soon as possible. You know that I don't tend to put time lines on it; the President will make a decision when he's ready to do so. But we are moving ahead on the nomination. The President's staff has been working very hard at looking at individuals that -- to bring to his attention, and he's been thinking about it as well.
Q: Obviously, though, there's been a lot going on in the last few months. Has that affected the process? Has it slowed it down at all?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we have a lot of people that are focused on various priorities throughout the federal government and within the White House. When you're President of the United States there are a number of priorities that are on your plate; this is a priority appointment. The President is thinking about it very carefully and we continue to move forward on that nomination. But I'm not going to speculate about the timing or any names.
Q: I know you don't want to speculate on the timing, but Greenspan --
MR. McCLELLAN: But you'll still ask me. (Laughter.)
Q: -- has said he wants to leave by a certain date. I mean, do you hope to get somebody confirmed and in place by --
MR. McCLELLAN: We are moving forward on the nomination now.
Q: Secretary Snow and Chairman Greenspan are going to China this month.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.
Q: What message does the President want Secretary Snow to take?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Secretary Snow has been talking about it, I'll let him talk more about it; I think he's probably in the best position to do that. But they are going there for, I believe, some sort of conference, and they've been speaking about it, so I'll let Secretary Snow address that.
Q: He was here the other day, prior to the Rose Garden event. Could you tell us what he was talking about --
MR. McCLELLAN: He meets with officials here at the White House all the time. I'm not sure which day you're talking about. I'm not sure if he was even meeting with the President.
Q: -- what he's been telling the President about the economy --
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think actually that was a meeting prior to the press conference that you were referring to. I don't think the purpose of that meeting was to discuss his trip. But whether or not they had a discussion about it, I'd have to double check.
Go ahead, Wendell.
Q: The President has talked about the need to create incentives to get oil companies to build refineries to increase capacity. About 50 refineries have closed in the past dozen years or so. Does Mr. Bush not feel it might be more effective to do something to get them to reopen? Might that provide a quicker supply of refined product?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we want to take steps that would help expand -- or give businesses the opportunity to expand existing refineries. We also want to make sure that the right incentives are in place to encourage the construction of new refineries. We have not built a new refinery in the United States since the 1970s. We have a serious situation with regards to our tight supply. It's something the President believes needs to be addressed. The House is moving forward on legislation today, that Chairman Barton introduced. We support passage of that legislation. There are some issues we have, within the legislation, concerns about and we'll work with Congress to address.
But the President has singled out additional refinery capacity -- or refining capacity as a critical need for our growing economy. His legislation -- Chairman Barton's legislation includes some measures that would simplify the refinery permitting process, but it also maintains the high environmental standards. And it takes some concrete steps to act on the President's call for new refineries to be suited -- to be sited at formerly military sites, as well.
And so we look forward to continuing to work with the Senate to move forward on that legislation.
Q: When you talk about expanding existing capacity, does that include reopening some of these 50 refineries that were closed --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that it rules that out. I mean, obviously, it's going to be decisions made by others.
Q: There are -- there are --
MR. McCLELLAN: But we want to create an environment where people feel like they can move forward and expand refining capacity. That's what's important. We have a very tight supply right now. We know that gas prices are high. The President is very concerned about that. We've moved forward and acted on a comprehensive piece of energy legislation that will help address the root causes of high energy prices. But we also need to address the supply issue. And you have refineries operating at above 90 percent -- at above a 90 percent rate. And that creates a very tight supply.
Q: On that supply issue, there are oil company documents that indicate these refineries were closed specifically to increase the profits of oil companies. Is the President concerned about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q: Does it need to be looked into?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q: There are oil company and American Petroleum Institute documents that indicate there was pressure to close these refineries in order to increase the profits of oil companies.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure about that specific issue. I'll be glad to take a look at it, though.
Q: Scott, when he was asked yesterday about the foiled terrorist plots, Attorney General Gonzales identified shoe bomber Richard Reid as one of the 10. But when a list came out last night, Reid was not one of those listed. Who put the list together? Was the FBI involved in its preparation? And why was there --
MR. McCLELLAN: It was put together by the intelligence community. And I'd have to go back and look at the list; there was certain information that was not included because of national security reasons. So I'm not sure that that's exactly accurate. I'd have to go back and look at the list.
Q: And can you tell us any more about the foiled attempt on the West Coast. Was it, in fact, linked to Khalid Shaykh Muhammad?
MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to direct questions to the intelligence community. I'm not going to have more to say on those matters at this point.
Q: Just to follow up on that, why did it take so long to get that list out?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are national security issues involved. And, obviously, the intelligence community wants to make sure that information that could compromise ongoing operations or sources and methods is not something that's disclosed. So we just wanted to be careful about that.
Q: But you knew that the President was going to be talking about --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, much of that information has already been public, Elaine.
Q: And going back to Harriet Miers, on that question, was the President surprised by the sharpness of the criticism from some conservatives about her?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President recognizes that she is someone who has not sought the limelight and is someone that is not as well-known to the broader American public. But she is someone with a distinguished career and a long record of accomplishment. And that's what the confirmation process is about. This is very early on in the confirmation process. People are just coming to know who Harriet Miers is. And we are confident, as they get to know her, that they're going to see exactly what the President saw, which is that she'll be an outstanding member of the United States Supreme Court, and she will bring a different perspective to the bench than is what -- than necessarily is on there now.
Q: Does he anticipate, though, that it would be this intense, some of the criticism that has come out?
MR. McCLELLAN: What are you talking about, "this intense"?
Q: Well, in terms of how sharp --
MR. McCLELLAN: All the individuals who know her know that she will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice. So I think you have to look at what those individuals are saying. Those who know her well know that she is exactly the kind of person that is needed on our nation's highest court.
Q: And just to clarify, the President earlier, when he was asked whether or not he would rule out withdrawing her nomination, he didn't quite answer "yes" or "no." I mean, he said, she will be confirmed, but I just want to clarify --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he made it very clear that she'll be confirmed and that's what Kelly was asking about, as well.
Q: So he is -- he has ruled out --
MR. McCLELLAN: See, this is -- the media wants to get into, "so and so said this," "respond to this negative." The President is confident that she will be confirmed and knows that -- that's why he said, I know that she's going to be confirmed, earlier today.
Q: Scott, two questions. One, yesterday the speech by the President on war against terrorism was great speech. Also he said that countries who are helping --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me back up, Elaine, because I don't want to let that go, because I think it's important what Kelly and I were talking about earlier. There are some that want to set a different standard. Let's look at the facts, let's look at the record. We're confident when people look at the facts and look at the record that they will recognize how exceptionally well-qualified she is to serve on our nation's highest court. And I know there is this tendency of the media to go and chase some of these comments and ask us to respond to negatives.
She's going to be confirmed. We are moving forward on this confirmation. And we are confident that the United States Senate will vote to confirm her, because they will recognize what the President recognized as he was going through the nomination process. He thought very carefully about this vacancy. He consulted with members of the United States Senate. A number of Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate said it would help to look outside the Court, to look outside -- to look at someone that hasn't been on the bench, someone that can bring real-life experience to this Court.
And that's what the President took into account. He took those -- took that advice and those thoughts very seriously. That's why you go through a consultation process. So let's step back and look at this. I know sometimes there's a tendency to focus on what one or two individuals may say, but look at what all those individuals who know her so well are saying about her.
She is someone who has been a trailblazer for women in the legal profession. She is someone who has been named by the National Law Journal one of the top lawyers in the nation and one of the 50 top women lawyers in the nation. She has served at the highest levels of government. That is real, practical experience dealing with a variety of legal issues that will be very helpful when she is sitting on that Court. She has great legal ability. She is someone of enormous character. And she is -- she has a strength of character that the President has seen as he has come to know her. She is someone that is firmly committed to our Constitution and our laws. She will look at the facts of the case, and she will apply the law.
And all you have to do -- and I encourage you to do this -- is go and look at previous Supreme Court justices. Look at the standard that was used, look at their qualifications and experience -- and look at Harriet Miers' qualifications and experience. Look at those who haven't served on a court before, like Justice White and Chief Justice Rehnquist, or Justice Powell. Those individuals had never been judges before. And look at their experience and look at what Harriet Miers has done. And look at what she has accomplished. Also, all those individuals -- or at least two of those individuals -- were in their 40s when they were nominated to the Court. She has had a longer career than some of those individuals, and has a lot of good, diverse experience that will enable her to make an outstanding Supreme Court justice.
Go ahead, Goyal.
Q: Scott, two questions. One, yesterday the speech by the President on war against terrorism was great speech. And, also, he warned number of countries --
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you, we thought so, too.
Q: -- he warned number of countries who are harboring, helping, supporting terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. Does he know now where is -- which country is holding Osama bin Laden or harboring and helping those terrorists and --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if we knew where he was, we would go and get him, I can assure you of that. We are working very closely with governments in the region to pursue al Qaeda leaders and bring them to justice. We have made significant progress in dismantling and disrupting the al Qaeda network. But there are others that step up and fill some of those voids that are -- they're not as experienced, while the leaders like Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri, are on the run, there are others out there that seek to do harm to the civilized world. They have no regard for innocent human life.
This is a terrorist network that has a very clearly defined strategy. They want to drive us out of the Middle East, they want to create a safe haven in the Middle East, and then they want to topple governments in the broader Middle East, and eventually, a goal is the destruction of Israel, as well.
It is a war that is difficult, but it is a war we are winning and it is a war that we will win. The President knows that. But it is a war, and we must continue to take the fight to the enemy, we must continue to work to spread freedom and democracy. The President had a very good conversation with the Prime Minister of Hungary earlier today. And he talked about the war on terrorism and the importance of succeeding and the importance of what we're working to accomplish in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, and what that means to our long-term peace and stability.
Q: On Iran, after India's vote (inaudible), at the IAEA against Iran, as far as nuclear weapons and technology concern. Yesterday, President also warned Iran supporting terrorism in Iraq. And, also, yesterday, Prime Minister Blair, in a news conference (inaudible) Iraqi president also confirmed that Iran is helping those terrorists --
MR. McCLELLAN: A question came up about that yesterday. What's your question today?
Q: So what President think about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have a number of concerns about the regime in Iran. We stand on the side of the Iranian people who want greater freedom. We have a number of concerns about a regime that is more interested in pursuing nuclear weapons than they are in providing their people with the rights and the freedoms that they deserve. We have concerns about a regime that wants to move in a direction opposite of the rest of what the Middle East is doing. And we have expressed those concerns. We support the efforts of the Europeans to resolve the nuclear issue in a diplomatic way.
Iran is a country that has a long history of supporting terrorism. Iran showed the international community that all of us should be concerned with some of their comments at the United Nations. We will continue to stand with the Iranian people who seek greater freedom.
And Iraq is important. Building a democratic and free and peaceful Iraq is critical to advancing freedom throughout the region. It will serve as an example for the rest of the Middle East. And the President has talked about that at length.
Mark, go ahead.
Q: A couple of quick ones about Katrina, and I'd like to follow up what Bill was asking about. The idea of having a czar for reconstruction has been suggested to the President. Is that definitively off the table? Is it still under consideration?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I know people have different terms for what a czar means. Obviously, we continue to look at the best ways we can help support the state and local communities as they move forward on rebuilding and getting people back on their feet. We want to do everything we can to help people get back on their feet and rebuild their lives and rebuild their communities. That's why we have taken a number of steps to get immediate relief to them.
We continue to look at additional ways that we can help in the Gulf Coast region. It's a very good question. The President, I think it was just last week when he was asked about that, maybe it was earlier this week, and he said that -- someone I think phrased the question, saying that we have ruled out -- we've never ruled anything out. We continue to look at different ideas for how we move forward, and what's the best way to do that, because you have the immediate relief and response efforts, and then you move more into the longer-term recovery and rebuilding. And so we want to make sure that we are in the best position to continue to help as people start to rebuild their lives and their communities.
Q: Can I also ask you about the trip Monday-Tuesday. Is there a particular aspect of recovery, reconstruction, the President wants to highlight?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you can expect that he'll continue to meet with some local officials, and obviously, there are other areas that are important to him. I'm not ready to kind of get into the final details, but housing is something that's a priority for us right now. We want to help people get back into their communities that maybe have suffered significant damage or destruction, and help get the private sector going again in those areas, so it can help with the rebuilding efforts, and people can get back to work and have jobs.
We also want -- so temporary housing is a priority for the administration right now; also moving ahead on longer-term housing. Some communities had their houses totally destroyed and there is nothing there but just the slab of concrete. The President has seen that firsthand. So some of it will be focused in those areas.
Q: Scott, back to the Court for just a moment. When you say that there are some who want to set a different standard, I'm not sure I know what you mean.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you might want to follow some of the media coverage. I'm not saying the media, I'm just saying what people are saying in the media. I'm not trying to get into individual names, or anything of that nature. But I think it's clear to people, when you look at some of what others are saying.
You asked me what I mean by a different standard?
MR. McCLELLAN: Or people?
Q: I'm not sure what that sentence means. I mean, can you just clarify?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. I mean, if you look at some of those who think that you have to be a person who has served on the federal bench for a period of time before you can be a member of the nation's highest court. Or there are other issues, as well. I mean, that's one. There are some that feel like you have to come from the bench, you have to have a track record as a judge. There are many people that have served on our nation's highest court, that have served with great distinction, that brought broader perspective to the Court, that had not served as a federal judge. And I named a few of those earlier today.
Q: Okay. Separate question. On the bird flu meeting this afternoon, the President is going to listen -- offer federal help, or ask them what the feds can do to encourage increased capacity. What will be his message to them, as far as the federal offer of help?
MR. McCLELLAN: We need to work together to make sure we are fully prepared in the event of a flu pandemic to our nation and the rest of the world. This is an issue that the President takes very seriously. He's been focused on it for a long time, now. Over the course of the past year, we moved forward on a number of steps to prepare for a potential flu outbreak. They include the preparation of a pandemic influenza preparedness plan. Secretary Leavitt has been moving forward on that and leading that effort. He's going to be talking more about that soon.
We had a good discussion yesterday, in one of a series of meetings that the President has been chairing to talk about these issues, and how we move forward. We've been working to expand our antiviral stockpile. We are significantly increasing that stockpile. We've been working to develop the vaccine for the H5NI virus. And we've worked with the international community to establish an international partnership to combat this disease, or this potential pandemic that is a threat to many in the world and here in our country. We hope that there never is an outbreak, but we must be fully prepared in the event that there is.
As you know, the President read the book about the 1918 great influenza pandemic, and this is something that he's very focused on. He looks forward to sitting down and talking with these manufacturers. Secretary Leavitt has met with these manufacturers and had extensive discussions with them. The President is going to talk to them about how we can move forward together to make sure we're fully prepared. And he looks forward to hearing from them about what they are already doing to protect people and address a possible flu outbreak.
One thing that we need to focus on is our manufacturing capacity. Right now, we have a severely limited manufacturing capacity for a flu vaccine. As we work to expand that capacity, that will help us have the public health infrastructure in place in the event that there is a flu outbreak. Whether that is an H5N1 virus outbreak, or it's a different kind of flu outbreak -- as you know, it may be a very different kind of virus next year or the year after. And if we have that infrastructure set up and the capacity in place to be able to reduce mass doses of the vaccine, that will help protect millions of people.
And so he looks forward to talking to them about these issues. Many drug makers have left the market over the last couple of decades out of concern because of issues like liability and lawsuits. And we need to make sure that we're doing what we can to support their efforts to expand capacity. So one thing he'll do is ask them, what else can we be doing from the federal government level to help you move forward on expanding that capacity.
Les, go ahead.
Q: Midway through his speech on the war on terror, the President said, "The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them because they're equally guilty of murder." And my first question, since the Palestinian Authority surely harbors Hamas, which I've heard you say the President recognizes as a terrorist organization, what about the $1.6 billion U.S. that have been given to the Palestinian Authority?
MR. McCLELLAN: Hamas is a terrorist organization. And we made it clear that Hamas needs to be disbanded. That is a responsibility of the Palestinian Authority under the road map.
Q: They're not -- they're not exercising that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think you have to look at the progress that has been made. Prime Minister Sharon put forward a bold proposal and moved forward on it. He acted on it. He withdrew from Gaza. That presents a real opportunity for the Palestinian leadership to step up and help build a democratic state. That means establishing law and order and good governance.
Now, remember, their previous leader left them in a very bad situation, to say the least, with the corruption and the multiple security forces that were in place. That's why we had General Ward in the region working with Palestinian security forces to establish -- help establish that law and order in Gaza and help lay the groundwork for a democratic state to emerge. Because that's what we're working toward; that's what the President is committed to.
Iraq will serve as an example for the rest of the Middle East; a democratic Palestinian state will serve as an example for the rest of the Middle East. And we're firmly committed to it. And he looks forward to visiting with President Abbas again here in a couple of weeks and talking to him about what the steps that they're taking and what we're doing to support those efforts.
As you know, the Quartet envoy Wolfensohn has been in the region, too, helping them address some of the economic issues related to building the institutions necessary for a democracy to emerge.
Q: The Vice President told two talk radio hosts that New York's Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel's comparison of President Bush to Bull Conner "was so out of line, it almost struck me that Charlie was having some problem. Charlie is losing it, I guess." And my question, does the President disagree with the Vice President --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President strongly supports the Vice President. The Vice President strongly supports the President. I don't know that I could add anything to what he's already said.
Q: On this, good.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q: Thank you. My question has been answered in part, but -- about New Orleans. Mayor Nagin says his city is broke and that he has to lay off 3,000 city employees. Will the President allow that, since those people are needed to bring back the city to life?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is always concerned when people lose jobs or people who want to work don't have a job. That's why we've acted and taken strong steps on our economy to get it growing and creating jobs. We have a very strong national economy.
Now, the Gulf Coast region has been hit hard by not one, but two significant hurricanes. And that has displaced a large number of people, and communities are having to rebuild from the ground up. New Orleans is a community that has suffered significant damage, and it's going to take time to rebuild.
We must do our part from the federal government level to help provide relief to those in the region who have been affected by these hurricanes. And that's what we're doing. We are working closely with Mayor Nagin, we're working closely with the governors in the region and other mayors and county officials. The President has had a number of meetings in the region with these officials to look at issues like this. You have communities in Mississippi, like Waveland, that have been wiped out. They have no tax base anymore. The city -- we saw it, the President had a good look at it, it has just been wiped out. He visited with the Mayor of Waveland. We are going to do what we can from the federal government level to help the people in the region and to help them rebuild their communities and to help them rebuild their homes and their lives.
Now, one of the things the President emphasized in his press conference earlier this week was the importance of helping the private sector get back up and running. And that's been a focus of our efforts, as well, because as the private sector gets back up and running, it creates those jobs for people to fill. And we want to make sure we're getting the temporary housing in place -- working with the state and local communities to get the temporary housing in place for those people who are filling those jobs. So we continue to work with these officials to address these issues. And that's why I pointed out our support and leadership in working with Congress to provide some relief, particularly for those essential employees.
Q: Scott, thank you. Last night in New York, the Canadian Prime Minister made a speech in which he described the President's position on soft wood lumber as, "nonsense," called it a "breach of faith," said that the President is threatening the future of NAFTA and the future economic relations on the continent, and he hinted at using oil as a weapon in the trade dispute. Any reaction?
MR. McCLELLAN: Prime Minister Martin is a good friend. The President has worked very closely with him to address our shared priorities. We have a good relationship with Canada. This is one of those issues that has been a difficult issue, that we've been trying to work to resolve. And our trade officials are trying to resolve these issues as we speak.
Q: So when he uses the possibility of oil, and points out that Canada is the largest supplier of energy to the United States, and says that he may sell it to China instead, doesn't this ratchet it up a little bit?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen his comments, but I know that this is something that the two leaders have discussed in each and every meeting that they've had. I know it's something that the two governments have been trying to work to resolve. And that's what we're committed to doing. There are concerns on both sides.
Q: Thank you.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Thank you all. Have a good weekend.
END 1:29 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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