Press Briefing by Dana Perino
For Immediate Release
November 29, 2007
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:49 P.M. EST
MS. PERINO: Good afternoon. I have one statement for you. This is a statement from the President, so in his voice, and then we'll release it: Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of former Congressman Henry Hyde. From his service in the Navy during World War II, until his retirement from the U.S. House of Representatives last year, Henry Hyde led a life devoted to public service.
During more than 30 years as a congressman, he represented the people of Illinois with character and dignity, and always stood for a strong and purposeful America. This fine man believed in the power of freedom, and he was a tireless champion of the weak and forgotten. He used his talents to build a more hopeful America and promote a culture of life. Earlier this month, in recognition of his good and purposeful life, I was proud to award Henry Hyde the Medal of Freedom. Congressman Hyde's passing represents a great loss to the people of Illinois and our nation, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family in this sad hour.
I'll take your questions.
Q Can you clear up the confusion with China over what led to the turning the Kitty Hawk away from the port?
MS. PERINO: We have been in communication with the Chinese. We are asking them to clarify the reasons that the Kitty Hawk was turned back. Yesterday we were told there was a miscommunication. Today there are reports in the press that someone in the defense ministry is saying it had to do with other reasons. So we are asking for a clarification on that matter.
Regardless, we believe it was wrong for the families of these sailors who went to Hong Kong in order to have Thanksgiving with the sailors that were on that ship to have been denied that opportunity. It was a tremendous disappointment for them, a lot of expense, and we hope that that would never happen again. And the President has said that one of the best ways for that not to happen again is for there to be this hotline that he talked about establishing back when we were in APEC in Australia, a hotline between our two militaries, so that any misunderstandings or miscommunications could be cleared up right away.
Q Where does that stand? Have they agreed to that?
MS. PERINO: Yes, when we were in APEC, there was an agreement that we would work to establish that hotline. I don't think it's up and running yet, but this underscores the need for it.
Q Given the way this has unfolded, from misunderstanding to now something that you call absolutely wrong, does the President view this an intentional affront to him?
MS. PERINO: No. No. I think the President believes we have good relations with China, we work cooperatively with China on so many different issues. This is one small incident. And in the big picture, in the big scheme of things we have very good relations. We would just like to clarify this issue. We feel badly for the families that were denied this opportunity to see their loved ones, and of course for the sailors who were on the ship, who must have been so disappointed to not have been able to see their family, that they were so looking forward to.
And so we've asked for the clarification and I think that we'll get it, and then we'll be able to move beyond this.
Q There was a report today that Musharraf is going to end his emergency rule by December 16th. Has he told the administration this?
MS. PERINO: We saw the reports, and of course our embassy officials have been in touch with the Musharraf government. We welcome this step.
Q Have you confirmed it?
MS. PERINO: Yes. Yes. He has said that they would lift the emergency order by December 16th. And as the President said yesterday, that is an essential step in order to get Pakistan back on the path to democracy. We look to the candidates and the people of Pakistan to fully participate in these free and fair elections; that they be able to voice their opinions, that they be able to assemble and that they be able to have the freedom of the press that they had had before the emergency order was in place.
We also call on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from violence. And we are not going to judge the date of lifting the emergency order. The President has said that it should be lifted as quickly as possible, as soon as possible. President Musharraf has indicated that December 16th would be the date, and we hope that he follows through on that.
Q Did the White House put that kind of pressure on, in this new triumph?
MS. PERINO: I think you have to give President Musharraf some credit here, because while he made the decision to establish the emergency order -- which we believed was a mistake and we counseled against -- he did take the step to take off the uniform.
Q Under our pressure?
MS. PERINO: Well, certainly we have been in communication with him, but I think that he made this decision on his own.
Q Did we threaten him in any way?
MS. PERINO: No.
Q Dana, does the President believe that the Pakistan elections can really be free and fair, when the opposition will now only have three weeks to campaign between the time of which the emergency rule is lifted and the vote is held?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think we have -- look, our system of government is different. We've been having a primary election here for the past 12 months, and another 12 months to go before our general election. Obviously, that would be -- three weeks in our country would be very different. It is a good step that he is going to lift this emergency order on December 16th, and that the free -- that the elections will be able to be held without this emergency order.
Q Dana, the President is going to be meeting at the Pentagon this afternoon with top brass, talking about, among other things, Iraq and Afghanistan, and I know that he's going to be -- you have just put out this 2007 funding -- war funding by the numbers, really, taking the gloves off, coming down hard on Congress. Where do things stand at the Pentagon when it comes to them actually running out of money for the wars in Iraq and --
MS. PERINO: Well, I think the slide that you're to is this one -- talking about is this one. I don't think it's taking the gloves off by just pointing out the facts. They have had almost 300 days in order to debate in Congress the President's request for the money for the troops. There are about 100,000 civilians who would be at risk of losing their jobs if this money is not appropriated.
And the President is going to go to the Pentagon today -- as I told you this morning, they're going to talk about a variety of issues. They're going to talk about the health of the force; the President wants to grow the Army and the Marines. He would like an update on that. He wants to know how recruitment and retention is going. He wants an update on the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan in particular. Of course, they're going to be talking about the budget, as well. So that's why the meeting is scheduled for over an hour and a half. The President will make a statement afterwards.
But I hardly see that as taking the gloves off, because they've had the request, they've seen how wonderfully our troops are performing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this money is for the day-to-day operations that is needed to fight the war on terror. And this includes bullets, body armor, the MRAP vehicles that will help protect them. And it also includes some State Department money. The Congress is always saying that this war can't be won by military might alone. Well, we couldn't agree more. And that is why they should move forward and support the supplemental, because there's a significant amount of State Department money in there to help fund these political and civilian organizations.
Q But, Dana, is there a date by which the Pentagon and the White House knows for certain that the troops will actually begin running out of those things?
MS. PERINO: Well, I would refer you to them for the specific dates, but I know that there are some things that they have to do in terms of furlough notices, given labor laws -- if someone is going to lose their job, they have to give them 60 days notice. That's why sometime in mid-December that those notices would have to go out. But as to the specific date as to when operations would have to cease, I don't know.
They are trying to do some creative work in terms of moving some money around, but they can't do that forever. And that's no way to run a business, and certainly no way to run a war.
Q Dana, what's your reaction to Senator Leahy's ruling that since the President was not involved in the prosecutor firings his claim of executive privilege is no legal basis?
MS. PERINO: We were baffled by the decision. Senator Leahy, himself, has said that these contempt filings would be futile, and yet they continue to move forward with them. They only have six legislative days left in the session. Their focus should be on funding the troops, making sure the intelligence gap remains firmly closed, and by passing a budget, which is something that our country -- our democracy should be able to do. They complain about Iraq; the Iraqis were able to pass a budget. It's almost completed. Ours is nowhere near completed.
The Democrats have failed to pass not only the legislation for the troops, but any legislation on energy, on veterans issues that we have provided to them, on the housing mortgage industry, on entitlements. They haven't moved forward on AMT reform -- it's about to hit 20 million people.
We have provided for them a legal and sound argument, based on executive privilege. This is a reasonable position because the President needs to receive candid advice -- not just this President, but all future Presidents, as well. And so we provided them an opportunity to get the very information that they say that they wanted to have, but instead they continue to move forward on a legal track that even Senator Leahy, himself, has said -- he has said that this would be futile.
Q Understanding that, but the point that he's making is that the President is claiming that he needs the candid advice of aides, but in this case there was no candid advice from aides because he was not advised, or was not commanding people on this subject.
MS. PERINO: But the privilege extends to the assistants to the President that work for him. And I don't understand his reasoning in that the President wasn't involved and therefore I should -- the President is not involved so we should continue to move forward? What they said that they wanted to know is what did the President know. And they have said that -- if he is now saying that the President wasn't aware of it, as we have said from the beginning, I don't understand why he continues to have this rope-a-dope that's not going to go anywhere.
Q Are you drawing a negative comparison between the United States Congress and the Iraqi National Congress?
MS. PERINO: No, I'm providing you a comparison that the Iraqi Congress -- parliament is accused of not being able to get anything done. And true, they have got a lot of work ahead of them. They've got big issues to deal with. One of them is dealing with the budget, and how they are going to distribute the revenues across the different provinces. And they have to overcome a lot of sectarian issues. And they are moving forward. They have been able to do that.
Our country, after 200 years of democracy -- they're not even able to get appropriations bills to the President; I think that we have signed one. And so there's a lot of issues that have to get done. Think about it -- they have six legislative days left in the session, and all of this work is going to be left undone.
Q Dana, on -- two. One on Pakistan, which is, what are your criteria for whether the election there is free and fair? And will you get -- how will you assess whether it's been free and fair?
MS. PERINO: Are you asking if we have a specific criteria --
Q Do you need observers on the ground to report back? What are you criteria? Does it need to be --
MS. PERINO: Let me -- I'll need to check with the State Department more.
Q And then, you haven't mentioned the minesweepers being denied access to Hong Kong in the last couple of days, and I'm wondering whether there's a difference between seeking a clarification on the Kitty Hawk and the minesweeper issue?
MS. PERINO: Well, obviously the Kitty Hawk was a different situation, in that you had family members who had, at great personal expense, gotten to Hong Kong so that they could have a visit -- a planned visit with their loved ones. The minesweepers, obviously that is another issue. But it goes back to the point that I made, which is it underscores the need for this hotline so that our militaries can talk to one another quickly so that there are no miscommunications.
Q Does the clarification request extend to the minesweepers, or is that only the Kitty Hawk?
MS. PERINO: I believe we've only been talking about the Kitty Hawk, since that has been the source of the disagreement.
Q Thank you. Two British questions. Has the President dropped in on a meeting with David Cameron and Stephen Hadley?
MS. PERINO: I don't have an update for you on that yet. I don't know if the Stephen Hadley meeting has taken place yet.
Q Do you know if the President plans to, or do you have any thoughts on --
MS. PERINO: We'll give you an update if there is an update.
Q All right. And also if any statements about this British teddy bear situation in Sudan, which is --
MS. PERINO: Well, I think obviously it's an outrage. And we stand with our U.K. allies in trying to make sure that this woman is protected from the court that says that they want to impose this sentence on her, which seems -- to anybody's explanation -- anyone looking at this on its face would have to conclude that it was outrageous.
Q Is President Bush trying to intervene in any way or speaking to --
MS. PERINO: I have not -- I don't know. I'll check for you, but he's not personally been intervening, no. The U.K., the British are handling it on their own.
Q Dana, there's a draft of an energy bill circulating around town that will be introduced in the House next week, that has very aggressive bio-fuel standards. And I'm wondering if the President has seen this draft or been briefed on it, and if he -- you know, what -- did you have an opinion on it?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't think that he has seen the draft that is circulating around town, but what we do hope is that the Congress could work on an energy bill with us. It's something that we should all be able to agree on. We have proposed an energy bill. We have a bio-fuel proposal in ours as well, an alternative fuel standard that we would like to see in -- put in place, so that we can meet the President's goal of reducing gasoline use by 20 percent in 10 years. But I'm not going to comment on that draft. Let's let this process work through. We would hope, in the six legislative days that they have left that they could get there. I think that's a pretty high bar for them to get over, but we'll try to help them if we can agree on it.
Q Thank you, Dana. Two questions: Since the President is scheduled to go to Baltimore tomorrow, why can't he stay in Baltimore tomorrow night so that on Saturday, as Commander-in- Chief, he can join with 8,000 future leaders of our Army and Navy in what is surely the most colorful game on earth?
MS. PERINO: I am sure that is going to be a great game. The President has his first holiday reception I think tonight, and then there's another one tomorrow night, so he'll be busy.
Q He won't go to the Army-Navy game?
MS. PERINO: No, he'll be here.
Q Does the President as head of the Republican Party believe that it would be good to have even more presidential debates?
MS. PERINO: I'll leave that up to those candidates to decide. He's very glad he's not having to do that this time around.
Q Is he supporting Hillary Clinton?
MS. PERINO: Is the President supporting Hillary Clinton?
Q He has said so many nice things about her.
MS. PERINO: The President will support the Republican candidate.
Q On the greenhouse gas that was sent out yesterday, greenhouse gases declined, many scientists are saying that the emissions intensity is misleading, because it's giving the impression that the actual greenhouse gases are falling, when the EIA says that they've risen 15 percent. Do you think the President is misleading?
MS. PERINO: What I said yesterday is that the actuals have gone down by 1.5 percent; intensity was 4.2 percent. Obviously greenhouse gases continue to grow. What the President said is that we don't want them to grow at the high rate that they are; we want to slow the rate of growth, and we are working to do that. He said we want to slow it by 18 percent by 2012, and we are on our way to do that.
But we have never said that we are going to stop greenhouse gas emission growth, because to do that would mean that we would stop economic growth, and the President is not for that either. He believes that you have to have a strong economy if you're going to help solve this problem, because you need the money to be able to buy the technologies that will help you solve the problem.
Q But shouldn't the number of actual emissions be the focus?
MS. PERINO: We gave you both numbers. We gave the actual number, which is 1.5 percent, in 2005, which is a significant reduction; the largest since 1985 -- I'm sorry, the 4.2 percent in reduction in intensity is also very good. And it's better than almost any of our allies around the world.
Q Does the White House have a reaction to Venezuela's threat to expel a U.S. embassy official for allegedly conspiring, they say, to defeat a referendum that would have given Hugo Chavez indefinite reelection?
MS. PERINO: I have not heard that they -- that he was proposing to expel one of our ambassadors. We will check on that. Obviously there's going to be an election in Venezuela. That's going to be up for the people of Venezuela to decide. But I think you are seeing some signs lately of people who are unhappy with the Hugo Chavez regime and -- anywhere from the student protests to others. And so we'll let them have their referendum, and I'll check with -- I'll check for you on that.
Q One more, just on the trade rep announcement with China today. Apparently, China has agreed to terminate illegal subsidies in the industries, like steel, wood and IT. But how can the U.S. -- how will that happen without any U.S. supervision or monitoring of any sort --
MS. PERINO: That announcement was just made right before I came out here. So let me refer you to U.S. Trade Representative Sue Schwab. She'll be out -- be able -- she will be available today, I heard from her spokesperson.
Q Sorry, Dana.
MS. PERINO: It's okay.
Q The administration has released its updated economic forecast, cutting the 2008 growth. Many people are worried about the risk of a recession. What's the White House's take on that?
MS. PERINO: Well, Eddie Lazear, the President's Chairman of the Council on Economic Advisers, did a conference call. The transcript will be out soon. I understand a lot of people weren't able to listen to it because the news cycle came out as it did. But it's been clear to everyone that the fall-out from the housing market is going to have an effect. And that's not a surprise. But even despite that headwind, we believe we have strong fundamentals in our economy. Inflation is low, job growth is very good, we've had 50 consecutive months of job growth. And so we're going to have to weather the storm on the housing market side of things. But we believe that our economy is doing quite well.
One of the most important things that the President will look to do in this next six legislative days that Congress has of this year and next year is to make sure that Congress does not try to pass laws that would harm our economy in the future.
Q Lazear was not asked this specifically; does the administration see a risk of a recession?
MS. PERINO: I saw his comments. I saw Eddie Lazear's comments on one of the news shows, and he answered that question, saying that he thinks that the fundamentals of our economy are strong, it will continue to see growth.
Q There was something on the PowerPoint slide you showed us that I was wondering if you would maybe explain. It says weeks of funding DOD can provide with fund transfers. Could you explain what that means?
MS. PERINO: There's a -- in terms of the way that they can work on their accounting, there's only one week that they can do it in terms of the transfers. I don't have a lot of detail on it, but this is the information that DOD gave us. And so if you want more information about the transfer issue I can get you to Sean Kevelighan at OMB.
Q But you're not suggesting that the war effort would run out within a week?
MS. PERINO: No, no, no, no.
Q One question --
MS. PERINO: One?
Q The day after tomorrow, December 1st, is the World Day on HIV/AIDS. I'm wondering if President Bush is going to address this crucial issue and if he would like to make any statement, since this health crisis is --
MS. PERINO: The President will be --
Q -- for the U.S. population.
MS. PERINO: The President will be making a statement tomorrow at an event in Mt. Airy, Maryland. He will mark World AIDS Day, and Mrs. Bush will be with him.
Q Thank you.
END 1:08 P.M. EST
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