A decent gaggle today, lots of juice for the gaggle-obsessed. And of course no gaggle is complete without the conscience of the press corps.
Q The Palestinians think they’re fighting an occupation. The Palestinians think they’re fighting an occupation.
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, we have a unique opportunity before us to move forward on the President’s two-state vision —
Q Right. But is it good that the Israelis continue to occupy their land?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, go ahead.
George Tenet received the Medal of Freedom today, which prompted your preznit to say the following:
“There’s still a lot of Queens in George Tenet.”
However, the press corps has not forgotten Mr. Tenet’s record as DCI.
Q The President awarded the Medal of Freedom to George Tenet, among others, just a short time ago. It was Mr. Tenet who told the President that it was a slam-dunk case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Has the President simply forgiven Mr. Tenet, or how does that —
Q So they may have made mistakes, these winners of the Medals of Freedom, but now is not the day to talk about it — is that what you’re saying?
Q Is the President trying to make some sort of statement with this?
Q Scott, does the President consider the intelligence that George Tenet provided him on weapons of mass destruction prior to going into Iraq to have been good intelligence, or to have been faulty intelligence?
MR. McCLELLAN: I stand by what I said earlier — this is a day to pay tribute to all three of these individuals for the great record of accomplishment that each of them have achieved in public service.
Q So was it good —
MR. McCLELLAN: We’ve answered those questions. Today is a day to pay tribute to these men for the great work that they’ve done to make America more secure and to make the world a safer and better place. As I pointed out, these individuals have helped transform a very dangerous region of the world that was ignored for some two decades and it became a breeding ground for terrorism —
Q — what part of the record are we supposed to look at?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you get to report what you want, David. But this is a day to pay tribute to these individuals.
Q He has a legitimate question. You can’t just whitewash it and say we’re not going to talk about that today.
MR. McCLELLAN: But I can say that we’ve already addressed that issue, and we have.
Q You didn’t answer the question, though.
MR. McCLELLAN: We’ve already addressed the question. Today is a day to pay tribute to these individuals, and we’re going to stay focused —
Q I asked a question about something else, about whether the intelligence was good, or whether it was faulty.
MR. McCLELLAN: And we’re going to stay focused on honoring these individuals on this day. That’s where our focus will be.
And let’s not forget John McCain.
Q An important ally to the White House, Senator McCain, has said that he has lost confidence in Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. How does the President react to that — both what he said and the substance of his criticisms about Rumsfeld and the war?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President reacts by saying that Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a great job during a time of war. We appreciate his leadership at the Department of Defense. And that’s why the President asked him to continue his service, and he’s pleased that Secretary Rumsfeld will continue to serve as Secretary of the Defense.
Q But there are some who believe that, given the ongoing dangers to U.S. troops, given issues like armor being a problem and troop size and strength being an issue, that in the middle of this Cabinet reshuffle, Secretary Rumsfeld has been left in place when perhaps he shouldn’t have.
MR. McCLELLAN: Secretary Rumsfeld has been doing a tremendous job during some very challenging times. During a time when we are in the middle of the war on terrorism, he has helped us make great progress to dismantle and disrupt the terrorist networks across the world. He has provided strong leadership in liberating Afghanistan and Iraq from oppression and tyranny. And he has been working to transform the military to better meet the challenges that we face and the threats that we face in the 21st century. The President appreciates the job that he’s doing, and that’s why he asked him —
Q Does he just brush off the criticisms from somebody like McCain?
MR. McCLELLAN: — that’s why he asked him to continue his service. I think you’ve heard directly from the President on this very issue. He feels very strongly about the great work that Secretary Rumsfeld is doing at the Pentagon.
Q But what I’m asking you, does he just brush aside this kind of criticism from John McCain, a man he campaigned with?
MR. McCLELLAN: We work very closely with Senator McCain on many issues. And of course not. He’s one of the leaders in the Senate.