Great questions from Helen Thomas and Les Kinsolving in today’s Gaggle.
Q Why is it that the President, who considers himself a compassionate President, is giving the biggest tax cut to the richest people in this country and cutting Medicare — Medicaid, I mean, and programs for the poor? I mean, how can you justify that?
MR. McCLELLAN: You actually asked me this question earlier today —
Q I did. I didn’t get a satisfactory answer.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, only in Washington, D.C. is a 35-percent increase in funding for Medicaid considered —
Q Who’s going to pay for this war? Who’s going to pay for the deficit?
MR. McCLELLAN: — a cut. And in terms of the tax cuts, the tax cuts were for all Americans. And the largest percentage —
Q The biggest to the richest people?
MR. McCLELLAN: — of tax cuts go to the lower income Americans. And the tax cuts were important to get our economy growing. And our economy is growing because of the policies we have implemented. It is growing strong and forecasts are that it will continue to grow strong in a very sustained way.
Q So the rich should get the richest — the biggest tax cut?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead. Helen, you’re not letting me respond. Go ahead.
That’s the way you do it, gagglers!
Now, heeeeeeeeere’s Les!
First, Les needles Scottie about the scripted press conference.
Q Scott, Drudge reports that at last night’s presidential news conference, “CBS, NBC and Fox cut off President Bush in mid-sentence as NBC rushed to Donald Trump, Fox to Paris Hilton, and CBS to Survivor.” And my first question, why does the President recognize for questions those reporters whose networks treat the White House with such despicable contempt?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, the President was glad to answer questions from a diverse group of reporters and he was —
Q Oh, it was?
MR. McCLELLAN: — pleased to answer their follow ups, as well. The President took questions for I think well over 45 minutes — well, probably even more, closer to an hour, in terms of questions.
Q ABC radio affiliate. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: But, now, look, in terms of cutting away on the last question, look, I don’t think the President took any offense to that. He was trying to wrap it up so that they could do that very thing.
Q In recognizing reporters last night, it appeared once more as if the President were following a script of pre-selected names. And my question, does the President believe that the American people really want to see questions by essentially the same old pre-selected reporters every time?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, some of your colleagues in this room might not like that kind of question here. (Laughter.)
Q That’s just tough duck.
MR. McCLELLAN: But in terms of — it is good to have you back, though. In terms of your question, the President typically likes to start with some of the larger news organizations and some of the traditional media, and then open it up from there. That’s just the way he approaches it.
Q You mean those networks that are losing — they are losing and those newspapers that are losing circulation?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think Wendell had a question.
Then another gaggler asked Little Scottie about one of Les’ favorite topics, the immigrant-hating “Minutemen”…
Q Scott, organizers of the Minuteman Project were here in Washington this week and they were claiming success for their 20-day effort patrolling — they say legally patrolling — a stretch of the U.S.-Mexican border. I’m wondering if the White House has any — had any chance to review their efforts at all, and what the President’s view is of citizens taking this kind of action?
Q So if they do that without weapons then the President would welcome that sort of activity?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I would leave it there. I’m not going to try to speculate a hypothetical situation. But that’s the distinction I would make.
…which left an opeing for Les.
Q They’re not vigilantes, in other words.
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry, Les?
Q The Minutemen are not vigilantes.
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about the President’s comments earlier during the summit down in Waco? Is that what you’re referring to?
Q Where he — I think he —
MR. McCLELLAN: And that was before — let’s —
Q — certainly implied that all these people were vigilantes.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think —
Q And I don’t know they hanged anybody. I never heard of them hanging anybody.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that was a question that was asked before some of those activities took place, and there were a lot of reports about people taking things into their own hands. And that would be something that would greatly concern the administration.
Q The Minutemen didn’t take it into their own hands, did they?
MR. McCLELLAN: You’ve had your questions, thank you.
It’s not easy being Little Scottie these days.