Today’s gaggle begins with Helen Thomas goading Little Scottie into a lie about the president’s proposed budget.
Q Scott, why — why did the President cut down on food stamps and child care and a thousand other — well, not that many — social causes, and so forth, and give huge tax cuts to the rich again?
MR. McCLELLAN: He didn’t.
Q He didn’t cut down on food stamps and child care, and so forth?
MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of the President’s compassion agenda and providing a safety net for those in need, we have made a strong commitment to helping those who are in need. And I think you should look at our budget and look at what we’ve done, because I disagree with your characterization. You might want to look at our budget to see the specifics. We’ve continued to support those programs that are providing aid to those in need.
Q And everyone who has been getting food stamps —
MR. McCLELLAN: If you’ve got a specific, I’m glad to talk about it, but you should go back and look at the briefing earlier this week by our OMB Director, and he addressed these issues. And your characterization is just —
Q In such a vague way and he didn’t really hit them.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, John.
Yes, Scottie is lying as Paul Krugman demonstrated today.
Speaking of lying, what about that Condi Rice, eh?
Q Scott, last year during the 9/11 Commission, one of the key points it looked into was whether the administration had taken the al Qaeda threat seriously enough before 9/11. Condoleezza Rice, in defending the administration, wrote an op/ed piece in The Washington Post, in which she said, “No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the administration” — meaning from the Clinton administration when the Bush administration came in. Now the sort of infamous Richard Clarke memo from January 25, 2001, has been released over to the National Archives center. And in there, there is an attachment of a strategy — the 2000 year strategy of the Clinton administration. It’s entitled, “Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al Qaeda Status and Prospects.” Was Dr. Rice telling the truth?
MR. McCLELLAN: Was she telling — yes, she addressed this matter previously. I’ll be glad to take a look at that. I haven’t taken a look at it, John.
Q She said there was no plan turned over from the previous administration.
MR. McCLELLAN: John, I’ll be glad to take a look at what you have. I’ve not seen it at this point. But, remember, we made it very clear during that time period that al Qaeda was a threat we took very seriously. You have to look at the actions that we took during that time period.
You also have to remember that we were not on war footing prior to September 11th. We are now a nation at war on terrorism. The President is leading the effort to go after those who seek to do harm to America. We’re staying on the offensive and bringing them to justice. We’re also working to advance freedom and democracy in the world to make the world a safer and better place, and we will continue to pursue that agenda.
But I know of no reason for anything to change from what we’ve said previously. And I’ll be glad to take a look at that document that you cite. I haven’t seen it.
Q Basically, you are saying there was no plan turned over — if you’re sticking with Dr. Rice’s op-ed, then you’re saying there was no Clinton plan turned over?
MR. McCLELLAN: I have no reason to believe anything changes from what we’ve said previously, and I will be glad to take a look at that document that you cite, because I have not seen it.
Finally, we turn to North Korea and the question I’ve been wanting to ask since yesterday: Saddam (truthfully) denied that he had WMD but the U.S. illegally invaded Iraq anyway. North Korea openly admits that it has nuclear weapons, but we do nothing. What’s up with that?
Q Scott, you referred previously to the diplomatic strategy on North Korea, I’d like to turn you to the question of assessing the nature of the threat. During the Iraq experience, the President was out several times a week describing his concerns about what would happen if Saddam Hussein obtained a weapon, or, secondly, what would happen if he exported nuclear materials.
If you believe, as American intelligence seems to now indicate, that the North Koreans have several, and if you believe that they may have been caught in at least one case of export, can you explain to us why this threat would be any less urgent than the Iraqi threat?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure.
Q And why the President hasn’t been out discussing it on regular occasion?
MR. McCLELLAN: Iraq was unique, that’s why. And we talked about that previously, about why they were unique and how they had defied the international community for some 12 years, and how they had defied resolution after resolution. It was Saddam Hussein’s choice to make, and he chose continued defiance. Iraq was a country that had invaded its neighbors, and —
Q North Korea has not defied the international community? Because this — as I recall, this all started in the President’s father’s administration —
MR. McCLELLAN: I was giving you the reasons behind the Iraq threat and why it was unique. And we stated that very clearly before.
We believe that the best way forward to resolving the nuclear issue in North Korea is the six-party talks. [Scottie is fillibustering here, go to the transcript if you want to read it all.]
Q Scott, I asked you to assess a threat, and you came back and told me about a future diplomatic way forward. Putting aside how you solve it, could you address the comparative threat?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you asked me why North Korea — you asked me why North Korea and Iraq were different —
Q I’m asking if North Korea, with weapons and with a record of export is —
MR. McCLELLAN: — and I pointed out that we talked about the situation with Iraq. Iraq was a unique situation, particularly in a post-September 11th world. We’ve talked about that on numerous occasions. [More fillibustering.]
Q So it’s your position that Iraq, because it defied the United Nations — but may or may not have had the weapons — was a greater threat than North Korea, which may not have had the record of U.N. resolutions, but has the weapons? That’s —
MR. McCLELLAN: I stated the reason for Iraq, and why it was a unique threat, and why we addressed it. It was Saddam Hussein’s choice to make, in the end — he chose continued defiance. We’ve been working through the six-party talks. We’ve made some progress. It’s progress that we were able to get North Korea to sit down and talk with the other parties in the region about how to address this issue in a way that North Korea agrees to eliminate its nuclear weapons program, and a way North Korea can realize better relations in return. The proposal spells out some very clear, practical steps. It’s a comprehensive approach to resolving the matter. And that’s why it’s important for North Korea to come back to the talks, so that they do not continue to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.
That’s what happens without “Jeff Gannon” around to snuggle up to Little Scottie’s sphincter. Without a lifeline tossed his way by Mr. HotMilitaryStud, Scottie has to talk out the clock as he admits at the close of the gaggle.
One last thing I want to mention, as she unfortunately walked out of the room because I was talking too long, but maybe she is watching this right now: Claire Buchan, who has been deputy press secretary here for the last four years, I’ve worked very closely with her during that entire time period, is going on to be chief of staff to the Secretary of Commerce, Secretary Gutierrez.