Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Need proof that Little Scottie is facing an increasingly aggressive press corps? Check out today’s gaggle.

First up, Helen Thomas. OK, Helen has (to her credit) always been aggressive, just play along with me here.

Q Does the President think — I wasn’t here for the briefing yesterday, unfortunately. Does the President think that the CIA analysts misled him in going to war?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you need to read the report from the Robb-Silberman Commission. This was a bipartisan commission that was appointed by the President, and it came to a number of conclusions in that report. And it talked about what went wrong with the intelligence relating to Iraq. And that report would be a good place to look; and it spells out the conclusions.

Q Was he upset that he was misled?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again — and I don’t think that’s the words that the members of the commission used in their report. They talked about a culture within the intelligence community that had not changed and adapted to meet the threats that we face today; there are many new dangerous threats that we face. And the —

Q Is that what motivated him to go into Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me — the organization structure of our intelligence community was such that it was aimed at the Cold War; it was organized and structured to confront the threat from the former Soviet Union and it has not fully transformed itself. We have taken a number of steps since September 11th and since the September 11th Commission came out with its recommendations to transform our intelligence community and to make sure that we have the best possible intelligence. The President is committed to moving forward quickly on the recommendations in this report, as well. That’s why —

Q That’s not the point of my question. My question is, is he upset that he moved aggressively against Iraq on the basis of information that was false?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, we’ve been through this question a number of times before. I don’t think the report changed what we have previously said on this matter.

Q It has not changed it at all? He’s not —

Here some idiot interrupts Helen with a lame-ass question about the pope.

Q Scott, can you tell us how the President plans to pay tribute to the Pope, should he pass in the coming days? Will we hear from the President, personally, and does he plan to attend a funeral?

But Helen follows up later in the gaggle.

Q Back to the report on the botched WMD intelligence, have the massive intelligence failures documented in the report caused the President to rethink his policy of preventive war?

MR. McCLELLAN: You know, September 11th taught us a very important lesson, and that lesson was that we must confront threats before it is too late. If we had known of those attacks ahead of time, we would have moved heaven and earth to prevent them from happening.

This President will not hesitate when it comes to protecting the American people. And in the post-September 11th world that we live in, the consequences of underestimating the threat we face is too high. It’s tens of — possibly tens of thousands of lives.

Q What about the cost of overestimating?

MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about the Iraq situation?

Q Going into Iraq, yes, with bad intelligence.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we’ve talked about this before. The world is safer with Saddam Hussein’s regime removed from power. The Iraqi people are serving as an example to the rest of the Middle East through their courage and determination to build a free future.

Q The ones that are alive, you mean?

Then Raghubir Goyal of the India Globe took his shot. Scottie normally calls on Goyal when he needs to run from a tough question, but lately this gaggler has been beating Scottie up over the sale of F-16s to Pakistan.

Q Scott, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Mr. Karamat, told The Washington Times that his country will not honor the U.S. request to get directly or interview A.Q. Khan, where or which rogue nations he supplied, or his network, nuclear components. And, also, he received number of letters that there will be arms race in South Asia if this arms supply continue. If President was under any pressure to supply these armed F-16, or he made his own — the decision was on his own, or any — under pressure from somewhere?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, the decision was made based on what we briefed you all on last Friday, I believe it was. The State Department had a briefing to talk about the decision and the President spoke with Prime Minister Singh to inform him of the decision, as well. This is something we have been discussing for quite some time, and we continue to work closely with both India and Pakistan, and will as we move forward.

Q And A.Q. Khan?

MR. McCLELLAN: What was your question? I didn’t hear a question.

Q Ambassador of Pakistan to the U.S. told The Washington Times that his country will not give access to the CIA or the U.S. to interview A.Q. Khan which rogue nations he supplied, what kind of nuclear components —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Pakistan has been a good partner in the global war on terrorism, and they’ve been a good partner in working with international community to address proliferation issues.

Next up, Fox News’ Wendell Goler. Yes, you read that correctly: Fox News.

Q What’s behind the increasing involvement of the First Lady in political affairs — her trip to Afghanistan, this effort the President gave her in his State of the Union address. Has she come to him and said she wants to be more involved? Has he decided that she’s a resource he needs to use more in his second term?

MR. McCLELLAN: She has a great passion for the issues that you brought up. She is someone who comes from a background in education, having been a teacher and a librarian. She cares deeply about the education and development of young people. She has made education a top priority throughout her life and her career. This is something that she personally has a deep passion for.

[Blah-blah, Afghanistan, blah.]

Q You’re going to completely ignore the basis of the question, though, that she is certainly more active in the second term than she was in the first?

[Mr. Ailes is not going to like that one, Wendel.]

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think — I think she was very active in the first term, Wendell. She is someone who has made these issues a priority throughout her life. And I think the way you characterized your question, I would take some exception to that, because these are not new issues to Mrs. Bush. These are issues that she has cared about throughout her life. And we welcome her involvement in all those areas.

Then someone beat Scottie about the head and rounded shoulders with the Rand Report.

Q Thank you. There is a new Rand report that says the United States was not prepared for the war’s aftermath in Iraq, and that during the war, intelligence and tactics were flawed. Is anybody going to be fired as a result of this report?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I think that that’s a report that was requested by the Department of Defense. I’m not sure that we have actually seen that report. You might want to direct questions about it specifically to the Pentagon. But in a time of war, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. And you have to be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances on the ground. And we have worked to adapt to the circumstances on the ground to accomplish the important mission we are working to achieve.

Q The point is that they weren’t prepared.

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.

Finally, a gaggler came close to asking the $64,000 question. If just one member of the press corps would ask specifically if the president believes that Treasury Bonds carry the full faith and credit of the United States of America I’ll be happy.

Q Can I ask briefly about next week, as well? Parkersburg, the visit to the Bureau of the Public Debt. The President said on a number of occasions the trust fund — the Social Security trust fund doesn’t exist. I gather this is a way of saying, well, it does, but it’s really only on paper?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we might want to wait and talk a little bit more about it Monday. But I think that’s one of the points the President will emphasize. That is one of the problems with the Social Security system, because of the way it’s been set up as a pay-as-you-go system. Many people, I think, think that their money is being set aside and held in an account somewhere, and it’s not. The government is holding IOUs, but they’re not setting aside their money. And the benefit of personal accounts is that that will be your money, you will own it, you will control it, it will be yours to pass on to your heirs, as well. And that’s one of the important elements of the President’s plan to strengthen Social Security.

All in all, a very good day for the press corps. And a very bad day to be Little Scottie.