Yes, after a weeks absence, the gaggle is back, Les is back (after three months absence), and – thank god – Helen is back.
Q Would the President still have gone into war if he’d known what will be in this report, that there were no weapons of mass destruction?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he’s already addressed that issue, and his position remains the same. And I think that what he said earlier today was important to note, as well. We are seeing that the Iraqi people are serving as an example —
Q That was not the point when we went to war.
MR. McCLELLAN: We are seeing that the Iraqi people are —
Q They were supposed to be threatening us.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, well, you’ve expressed your opinion, and you’ve heard ours, as well.
Go ahead, Goyal.
Q I’ve told you what you told us.
MR. McCLELLAN: Saddam Hussein’s regime was creating instability in the region and we are better off with his regime out of power. And the Iraqi people are showing —
Q The American people were told they were under threat.
MR. McCLELLAN: The Iraqi people are showing, through their courage and determination —
Q Are you sorry you told the American people a falsehood?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Oh, my. Yes, you had better run into the open arms of Goyal, Scottie, because Helen has your number (although Goyal was no lapdog today).
Now, on to the Culture of Life.
Q In the Terri Schiavo case, there seems to be more efforts to exhaust legal wranglings to reinsert Terri Schiavo’s tube. What are the President’s thoughts about this. As he said, there’s nothing else he could have done.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don’t think that’s what the President said, first of all. Let me correct you on that. The President is saddened by the situation. We continue to stand on the side of defending life. We stand on the side of the parents and all those who are working to defend life. This is a complex case, and the President believes in a situation like this, we should always err on the side of life. And so we will continue to stand with all those who are seeking to defend life.
Q So is he working with the senators in some kind — working the phones, some kind of backdoor approach to possibly work out some kind of emergency situation to reinsert this tube?
MR. McCLELLAN: As he spoke about last week, we looked at all our options, we explored all our options from the executive branch side, and we made a decision to support the congressional efforts. And Congress passed legislation that the President signed; that legislation gave her parents another opportunity to try to save their daughter’s life. They are continuing to work, as well as others, to save their daughters life. And we will continue to stand with those who are on the side of defending life. The President believes that our nation, in situations like this, where someone is at the mercy of others, we should have a presumption in favor of life.
Q Has the President, since he feels so strongly about this, has he reached out to the parents of Terri Schiavo?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t have any updates on phone calls he’s had with them, but obviously, like I said, we continue to stand on the side of the parents and all those who are working to defend life in this situation.
Q Just to follow up on the Schiavo case, if I can. The parents’ allies have suggested that the President has it within his power to ask the Attorney General to take the daughter into protective custody as a potential federal witness, thus saving her life. Does he have it within his power?
MR. McCLELLAN: Mark, again, I think the President addressed the issue last week. We did look at all our options, our White House Counsel’s Office. We worked with the Justice Department, looked at all options. The decision was made to support the congressional efforts. [Defending life… complex case…]
Q He doesn’t have that power —
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we addressed it last week. I don’t think there’s a need to repeat what we’ve already addressed.
Q Two short questions. Does the President favor changing the laws in this country so that parents, rather than the husband, could have custody of a person in this situation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think that the case that we’re talking about here with Terri Schiavo is an extraordinary circumstance, and that’s the way we looked at this. I know Congress — some members of Congress are looking at some legislation, that’s something they’re looking at. Obviously, if legislation came our way, we would take a look at it, at that point.
Oh, yeah, that Culture of Life thing is important. Not important enough to actually do anything about (now that the polls are out), not important enough to actually cause the president to meet with the parrents, not important enough for the president to propose any legislation…
Next up, a bubble question.
Q Scott, another question about this trip to Iowa tomorrow. And this is an issue that’s come up here before, but it’s back in the news today. There’s a wire story from Colorado that three people were barred — who had tickets to go to the President’s Social Security conversation in Colorado were barred because of a bumper sticker that someone thought to be anti-Bush. Can you tell us what the guidelines are for local volunteers, in terms of allowing people to come in and hear their President speak?
MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of volunteers?
Q In the past you’ve blamed this kind of thing on over-zealous volunteers.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know all the specific circumstances you’re bringing up regarding that event. [I know nothink!]
Q What are the marching orders that are given to the people at the door?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?
Q What are the marching orders —
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know. I’ll be glad to look into it and see what else I can find. I don’t know if there’s formal marching orders, as you referred to them. But I’ll be glad to look at them.
Q Are you concerned that the President is not hearing a lot of different viewpoints in these conversations?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President hears a lot of different viewpoints every day, when we follow the news.
[!!!!! I thought the president did not follow the news!!! And why does he not get a diversity of views from his advisors?]
I mean, there’s plenty of viewpoints being expressed on this issue. As I said, these conversations are about educating the American people about the problems facing Social Security. That’s what they’re designed for, to talk about the problems that we face and to talk about possible ideas for solving it. I think the American people expect that when members of Congress and their elected officials in Washington, D.C., see problems, that they work together to find ways to solve those problems.
[And, of course, it’s the Democrat’s fault.]
Our door has been open for Democratic leaders to come forward and work with us to fashion a bipartisan solution on this issue. And so far we have seen little response from Democratic leaders. There are some Democrats who have stepped forward and said that they recognize there is a problem — that’s an important first step. And now we need to work together to find a bipartisan solution. But there are plenty of views being expressed on this issue. And we’re going to continue talking to the American people about the problems facing Social Security. And that’s what these conversations are about.