Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

In today’s gaggle Russell Mokhiber returned from covering the Nader campaign. After he delivered this zinger Little Scottie probably wished that Nader was still campaigning:

Q Johns Hopkins, in its public health — last month estimated that the war in Iraq resulted in 100,000 Iraqi deaths. The administration has said in the past that it doesn’t do body counts, but do you consider 100,000 to be in the ballpark of the number of Iraqis killed as a result of the war?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know of any specific estimates on the civilians. I know that the United States military goes out of its way to minimize the loss of civilian life. And what we are working to achieve in Iraq is an important cause that will make America more secure. And we’re working side-by-side with the Iraqi —

Q So you’re killing Iraqis to make America more secure?

MR. McCLELLAN: — with the Iraqi people to move forward on free elections, because a free Iraq will help transform a dangerous region of the world and make America more secure. And our men and women in the military are doing an outstanding job; they are serving and sacrificing in a very important cause.

Q If I could follow up on that, did the President have an estimate before him on the number of Iraqis killed —

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not aware of any precise estimate or estimate of that nature.

Later in the gaggle another member of the press corps asked, “What about Mars, bitch?”

Q Scott, almost a year ago the President outlined plans for expanded space exploration. Yet, that was a subject that rarely came up, if ever, on the campaign trail. I’m wondering — and it hasn’t been —

MR. McCLELLAN: I believe he just talked about it a few weeks ago; we had an astronaut traveling with us one day.

Q Well, it hasn’t been one of the priorities for the coming year. I’m just curious where those plans stand. Are they on the back burner?

MR. McCLELLAN: It’s reflected in our budget and I think it will be reflected in our upcoming budget, as well. Remember, this is a long-term vision that the President outlined for NASA, that made sure that they were focused on a very clearly-defined mission that is based on 10, 20, 30, 40 years down the road. So he remains committed to it.