Q Scott, can you explain the thinking at the White House and in the administration why the President is so insistent that the Iraqi elections go forward in January when it is clearly dangerous to do so?
Q It would be that milestone whether it goes forward in January or February or March or some other date. So why — and even if the President is agreeing with others when he makes this call, why is it important to him that these elections go forward then?
Q Scott, you seem to be suggesting that holding fast to this date is as much symbolism as anything to send a message that the insurgents will not derail the process. Would it be a defeat for the democratic process if you were to postpone those elections?
Q And how much of this calculation is to facilitate an as early exit as possible for American troops?
Then somebody in the press corps (Russell Mokhiber, Helen Thomas?) twisted the knife:
Q Would it be accurate to say that the 135 or so men who died — men and women who died over the past month, died to assure the President’s goal of a January 30th election date?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry, say — repeat your question.
Q Would it be accurate to say that the 130 or more troops who died over the past month died to help assure the President’s goal of elections on January 30th?
MR. McCLELLAN: They have sacrificed to make the world a safer and better place.
Q When you consider the casualties, the high number of casualties over the past month, is it still accurate to say that major hostilities are over?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, for those who are involved in combat, I don’t think you can say that. And certainly, we saw the recent activity in Fallujah. And we can go back to the aftermath of that time period, and General Franks was someone who asked the President to make that statement, as he pointed out several weeks ago. But we had a lot of Saddam loyalists that just fled from the battlefield when we would have expected some of them to stand and fight. And they are now being defeated. — those that continue to take up arms against the Iraqi people and their future that is based on freedom.