Is that an independent press corps I smell?
On North Korea:
Q What do you think of Senator Kerry’s remarks about North Korea in today’s New York Times?
MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have a specific question about it?
Q Well, he said it’s become a nuclear nightmare because the administration has kept its eye on Iraq instead of North Korea.
MR. McCLELLAN: And Senator Kerry would have us return to the failed Clinton administration policy.
Q What have you guys done to make North Korea any less of a threat? Aren’t they as much of a threat now as they —
Q Scott, where is that getting you?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we’re continuing to make progress through the six-party talks. Those talks are ongoing. We expect that another round of talks will be coming up. And now, for the first time, you have all those nations in the neighborhood actively engaged —
Q Right, but that’s not a new concept. The point is, you don’t have any tangible progress.
Q Besides talk, name one piece of progress that you’ve made.
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?
Q Besides talk, name one piece of progress —
Q In four years, have you been able to remove one nuclear weapon from North Korea or reduce the threat at all?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry, what?
Q In four years, have you been able to reduce the threat at all in North Korea? Are they any less dangerous now?
MR. McCLELLAN: It’s an issue that this President is leading the way to confront, by bringing all five parties in the region together in the six-party approach.
On the lapse of the assault weapons ban:
Q Scott, how do you respond to Senator Kerry’s charge that letting the assault weapons ban lapse will put more weapons in the hands of terrorists?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, the President’s position is very well-known on the assault weapons ban.
Q Does the President agree with critics that the weapons — assault weapons ban has been ineffective, hasn’t made much of a difference?
Q Is the ban effective, or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don’t know that — I think that’s a question that other people are looking at, still.
Q Isn’t it kind of disingenuous for the President to say that I’m for the assault weapons ban, but then not spend a nickle of his political capital to fight for it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree. His position has always been well-known, and it’s been clear going back to his first campaign for President.
Q That he was for the ban?
MR. McCLELLAN: For a reauthorization of the current ban.
Q Let me follow up on this point. For a guy who goes around the country and says, I say what I mean, and you should take me at my word — so if he’s for the ban, and he doesn’t do a thing —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, keep in mind that the Congress is the one that sets the legislative timetable, and Congress has made clear that it’s not going to be coming up. I think you’ve had leaders in Congress state that.
Q But the President didn’t work for it to come up. I mean, nobody — everybody understands how this process works. The President wants tax cuts, he lobbies all over the country —
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s why the President has taken strong steps to make sure we are combating violence committed with guns. And that’s why we have a strong record —
Q He was happy to let the authorization lapse, wasn’t he?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, you know that’s a ridiculous assertion.
Q Name one thing, one step that the President took to have the assault weapons ban reauthorized?
Q Is there one congressman, one congressional leader who he has called in Congress, and said, please put it on the timetable?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let’s debate the real issue here — and we’re proud to debate the record on combating violence committed with guns, because we have a strong record of strictly enforcing our laws and reducing crimes committed with guns, if you look at the record.
Q And the President has a strong record of lobbying very hard for legislation he truly supports. Name one person who he called to lobby on behalf of legislation.
MR. McCLELLAN: — his position has been made well-known.
Q So there’s nothing more he could have done to get the ban extended?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think members of Congress have stated — congressional leaders have stated that it’s not going to be coming up for a vote.
Q Has he ever mentioned it in a speech that you can remember, I mean, as he goes around the country, ever mentioned the assault weapons ban?
Q I’ve heard him bring up lots of legislation he wants passed as he goes around the country. I’ve never heard him bring up, I want to see the assault weapons ban —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, he’s made his position very well-known. So I disagree with that assertion.
Q Can you name one person who he’s called on the Hill on behalf of this legislation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, members of Congress know his position very well, Ron.
Q So has he made a call to any of them?
MR. McCLELLAN: His position is very well-known, Ron, and members have known his position. And it’s been discussed with members, too.