Today we begin with a little gaggler humor.
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I want to begin with one world leader call from earlier today. The President had a good conversation with President Hu, of China.
MR. McCLELLAN: Here we go. (Laughter.) You all need to go home and pack, and get ready for the trip.
Helen Thomas has no time for such foolishness. She want’s to know how much Baboon-a-palooza is costing us.
Q Has the President’s campaign on selling a new Social Security approach ended now, basically in travel? How many states did he visit and how much of the taxpayers’ money did he use to sell?
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. First of all, I think we’ve visited some 25 states up to now. The 60-day push on educating the American people about the problems facing Social Security has ended.
Q How much money did the President spend —
MR. McCLELLAN: The President will continue going out across the country reaching out to the American people. I don’t have a figure on that right now, Helen.
Q Can you get it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll see what I can do.
Another gaggler wants to know how much harm John Bolton has done to the U.S. diplomatically – but Little Scottie knows nothink.
Q And one last question on the subject. One of the accusations that was raised was from John Wolf, who is a former Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation, worked under Bolton at the State Department. And in his interview with the committee, he said that Bolton’s pursuit of disputes with members of that bureau in the State Department, the Nonproliferation Bureau, dragged on so long that sometimes Secretary Powell — issues did not get to Secretary Powell in a timely way. Was that something that you saw happening in the first term, or is it something that Secretary Powell complained about?
MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate you trying to ask the hearing to be held here from this podium, but I think that John Bolton has addressed these types of questions through the hearing process and through written responses. John Bolton is someone that has a tremendous amount of experience; he has been confirmed by the Senate four times, including once by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is now hearing — or overseeing his confirmation process for ambassador to the United Nations. He’s someone who has had a couple of decades of service to his country in the government. And he brings a lot of passion and a lot of experience and sometimes a little bluntness to the position. But we believe those are the type of qualities that are needed to go about the important work of reforming the United Nations. And that’s why the President believes so strongly that he is the right person at the right time to fill this important position.
Q But from where you sat, his actions in office over the last four years you would say were not delaying issues getting up to Secretary Powell?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’ve never been known to see anything of that sort.
A rare question concerning He Who Must Not Be Named (or Captured).
Q Scott, two questions. One, now comes the arrest of number three most wanted terrorist by the Pakistanis. The question is that after the great damage was done to the United States and we are still living under the fear of terrorism, they’re giving, or delivering to the U.S. one by one terrorists — they are still holding number one and number two. When are we getting number one? That’s the main question because the great danger is still there and terrorism is still around the globe.
Later, either Scottie forgot what year this is or the President is a Miserable Failure.
Q But is the budget outlook improving, or is it getting worse?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of our fiscal situation, if that’s what you’re asking about, you know we have an update called the mid-session review when we’ll give our next update on our fiscal situation. But we — the President has put forward a deficit reduction plan. He is strongly committed to making sure that we stay on track to meet the goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2005. The budget resolution that was just passed by Congress keeps us on track to cut the deficit in half by 2005.
And finally, your Daily Les.
Q The New York Times yesterday devoted more than half a page to a California story headlined: Retirees Answer the Call to Hunt for Terrorists, Patrolling in Planes, Trucks and Boats. And my question: Does the President believe that any of these retirees are doing wrong, or are “vigilantes”?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I haven’t heard him express that about those individuals. If you’re talking about people who have become part of the citizen corps in helping in the global war on terrorism, we have expressed our support for efforts to — that all of us need to be involved in the efforts to defeat terrorism and disrupt terrorist plots.