Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

During today’s gaggle Little Scottie had this to say in response to a question regarding the president’s decision to attend the pope’s funeral.

And the President was honored to present him with the Medal of Freedom on that visit to the Vatican. That is the nation’s highest civilian award. And the President stated the reasons why he chose to present it to the Holy Father: the Holy Father is someone who stood for freedom, for human dignity and promoting a culture of life.

And with those hot-button words Scottie opened himself up to this excellent question from Elaine Quijano of CNN.

Q Scott, you mentioned the culture of life. When Pope John Paul II wrote about the culture of life in 1995, he described it also in terms of the death penalty, not just abortion and euthanasia. He said that in these modern times, cases where the death penalty was warranted are rare, if not nonexistent. Now, knowing that the President fully supports the death penalty, used the death penalty, does he see it as a contradiction to use that phrase, “culture of life,” and still support the death penalty, which the Pope expressed his opposition to?

MR. McCLELLAN: Elaine, I think the President’s views are well known. I don’t think now is the time to talk about where they may have differed on one or two areas. This is a time to honor a great moral leader, someone who, as the President said, was a hero for the ages.

Q Well, wait. Don’t you honor a great moral leader and a great teacher, somebody who did engage in debate, whose whole life was about this kind of discussion and wrestling with difficult moral problems, by answering that question: Does the President see it as a contradiction that he adopts only part of what Pope John Paul said was the culture of life?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, let’s separate out — I mean, because I spoke about this issue last week, and why the President’s view is the way it is. And that’s because we’re talking about the difference between innocent life and someone who is guilty of horrific crimes.

Q But, Scott —

Q Scott, if I could —

[Here Scottie tries to duck the question by turning to Fox News’ Wendell Goler or my buddy Les Kinsolving.]

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, Wendell, and then Les. We’ll get to Arizona Minutemen in a minute. (Laughter.)

[Scottie is ribbing Les Kinsolving here because Les’s recent questions dealt with Bush calling the Arizona Minutemen “vigilantes”, but Les is making it clear that he’s not Scottie’s buttboy.]

Q I didn’t ask that.

[And Elaine won’t let go.]

Q It is the Pope’s phrase, “a culture of life,” which the President adopted, endorsing only part of.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, the President’s views go back a long ways. This is not something that was new to the President over the last decade. The President has long believed in promoting a culture of life in America. And that is something he has talked often about, and he will continue to talk about. And he has stood on the side of defending life when it comes to legislative efforts.

But one of the things that I think — and I think that the Holy Father was a great moral leader in this respect — and one of the things the President talks about is that building a culture of life in America is about more than laws, it’s about changing hearts. And that’s what the President has tried to do, as well.

Whoo, boy. Fresh off a whipping from one of CNN’s gagglers, Scottie must now face the wrath of a riled Les.

Go ahead, Les.

Q Scott, The New York Times reports a Supreme Court case involving Oregon’s assisted suicide law, which the Bush administration wants to prosecute doctors who administer lethal doses of federally controlled drugs. And my first question, is the President, as a devout Christian, aware of early church father, Lactantius, the tutor of Emperor Constantine’s son, and his justifying suicide for impending torture, or St. Jerome’s justifying suicide in defense of chastity, and in 16th century Britain, the use by priestly permission of the holy stone?

MR. McCLELLAN: You lost me at, “thank you,” Les. (Laughter.) The President and I have not had that discussion. (Laughter.)

Go ahead.

Q Follow-up. Follow-up?

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, follow up.

Q Is the President aware of the years of acute agony preceding the death of cathedral dean, journalist and Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift?

MR. McCLELLAN: I will take your question. If there’s more to say, I’ll get back to you. I don’t think — we haven’t discussed that one, either.

Trifle with Les at your own peril, Scottie, particularly on religious issues. Les just happens to have been an Episcopal minister for fourteen years. What surprises me is Les seems to support assisted suicide.

I tell you what, this press corps is asking tough questions now. Where did all that mandate talk go, anyway?