Once again the Great Cessna Panic, and the deicision to allow Dear Leader to finish riding his bike before he was informed that 35,000 people had been evacuated, dominates today’s gaggle. There’s a lot to wade through here, hard to do justice to it all so you may want to click the link above and read it for yourself. But watch the Scottiebot 3000 get stuck on the word “protocols” as he tries to explain why the Commander in Chief is not a key ingredient in defending this country from a terrorist attack.
Q Scott, yesterday the White House was on red alert, was evacuated. The First Lady and Nancy Reagan were taken to a secure location. The Vice President was evacuated from the grounds. The Capitol building was evacuated. The continuity of government plan was initiated. And yet, the President wasn’t told of yesterday’s events until after he finished his bike ride, about 36 minutes after the all-clear had been sent. Is he satisfied with the fact that he wasn’t notified about this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. I think you just brought up a very good point — the protocols that were in place after September 11th were followed.
Q The fact that the President wasn’t in danger is one aspect of this. But he’s also the Commander-in-Chief. There was a military operation underway. Other people were in contact with the White House. Shouldn’t the Commander-in-Chief have been notified of what was going on?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, the protocols that we put in place after September 11th were being followed. They did not require presidential authority for this situation.
Q I take it that it’s not the Secret Service’s duty to inform the President of national security circumstances, that that would come from somebody here at the White House. Even on a personal level, did nobody here at the White House think that calling the President to say, by the way, your wife has been evacuated from the White House, we just want to let you know everything is okay.
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, all the protocols were followed and people were — officials that you point out were taken to secure locations or evacuated, in some cases.
Let’s just look at the questions for a bit as Little Scottie is not offering any answers.
Q Thank you, I appreciate that. Isn’t there a bit of an appearance problem, notwithstanding the President’s safety was not in question, protocols were followed, that today, looking at it, he was enjoying a bike ride, and that recreation time was not considered expendable to inform him of this. Isn’t there just an appearance problem?
Q Scott, I think there’s a disconnect here —
Q But has the President even indicated that even if everything was followed that he would prefer to be notified, that if the choice is: tell the Commander-in-Chief or let him continue to exercise, that he would prefer to be informed?
Q Is he ever — is he on any protocol to be informed at any point? Is there a protocol that involved when he’s informed?
OK, back to questions and answers as a key point is coming up.
Q I think there’s a disconnect here because, I mean, yesterday you had more than 30,000 people who were evacuated, you had millions of people who were watching this on television, and there was a sense at some point — it was a short window, a 15-minute window, but there was a sense of confusion among some on the streets. There was a sense of fear. And people are wondering was this not a moment for the President to exercise some leadership, some guidance during that period of time? Was this not a missed opportunity for the President to speak out and at least clarify what — that he was informed, and what was taking place at that time? If not even during the 15-minute window, why not later in the day?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President did lead, and the President did that after September the 11th when we put the protocols in place to make sure that situations like this were addressed before it was too late. And that was the case — that was the case in this situation. And in terms of during this time, this was a matter of minutes when this was occurring. And all the appropriate security personal and Homeland Security officials and others were acting to implement those protocols. And we commend all those that worked to follow those protocols and make sure that this situation was addressed. And it worked, in terms of the protocols.
Q Any consideration of reexamining these protocols in light of yesterday?
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, I’m not pointing to anything specifically, but in any situation of this nature, there’s always going to be a review to look at how things transpired. And if there are any improvements that need to be made, they will be made.
Scottie, is the president an incompetent oaf?
Q Scott, may I just maybe take a slight step back? Aside from the particulars of what happened yesterday and when, maybe the larger issue has to do with whether this President is sufficiently at the levers of power on his job during the day or night. When we think of the event at the ASNE meeting, when the President said he didn’t know about the issue of possibly requiring passports of all Americans who are returning from Canada or Mexico until he read it in the papers — and I think that’s the larger question we’re all trying to get at.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I disagree and I think that’s unfounded. Absolutely the President is. I disagree with your characterization completely, and I think the American people reject that, as well. And the President was informed immediately upon the conclusion of the bike ride, as well, about what had occurred. But by that point, it was well in hand.
Q Might there be something wrong with protocols that render the President unnecessary when the alarm is going off at his house?
Q And those protocols are okay with the President despite the fact that his wife was in a situation where she might have been endangered?
MR. McCLELLAN: She was taken to a secure location, as were some other officials.
Q And wouldn’t he want to know about that as it was happening?
MR. McCLELLAN: He was briefed about the situation.
Q After it happened.
MR. McCLELLAN: He was briefed about the situation, Ken. And I think that he wants to make sure that the protocols that are in place are followed. The protocols that were in place were followed.
Q Scott, to follow on the same line of questioning, if there is a possibility that a plane may have to be shot down over Washington, doesn’t the President want to be involved in that type of decision?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Keith, I think again, it depends on the circumstances in the situation. You have to look at each individual situation and the circumstances surrounding that situation. There are protocols —
Q You talked about the circumstances — a plane was three or four miles away, maybe less, from the White House —
Q No, within three miles, within three miles.
Q Doesn’t the President want to be involved in what could be a decision to shoot down a plane over Washington?
MR. McCLELLAN: To answer your question, I was just getting ready to address exactly what you’re bringing up. The protocols that were put in place after September 11th include protocols for that, as well. And there are protocols there. They’re classified.
Q And wasn’t there a possibility that a plane headed for the White House, that this was the leading edge of some broader attack, isn’t the President concerned that maybe he should have been alerted to the fact that this could have been the beginning of a general attack?
MR. McCLELLAN: That was not the case, and I think the Department of Defense yesterday indicated that they didn’t sense any hostile intent on the part of the plane, so again —
Q How did they know — how did they know this plane wasn’t laden with WMD or some other type of weapons like that? Did they get reassurances from the pilot? Or how did they know that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, if you want to give me a chance to respond, I’ll be glad to. The protocols were followed. This situation, as you’re well aware, turned out to be an accident.
Q So if it was assessed that there was no hostile intent on the part of this aircraft, can you tell us why 30,000 people — 35,000 people were told to run for their lives?
MR. McCLELLAN: Because of the protocols that are in place, John. We want to make sure that the people in the area of the threat are protected. After —
Q But what was the threat? You just said there was no threat.
I ask you again , Scottie, is the president an incompetent oaf?
Q Right, but there seems to be so many disconnects here. You’ve got a plane that was assessed as not being a threat, you’ve got 35,000 people evacuated, you’ve got a person who you claim is a hands-on Commander-in-Chief who is left to go ride his bicycle through the rural wildlands of Maryland while his wife is in some secure location somewhere, it’s just not adding up.
Q Scott, protocols aside, was there any kind of explanation given by the Secret Service, kind of a commonsense reason for why they didn’t notify the President? Was it that they didn’t want to disrupt his bicycle ride, they didn’t want to inconvenience him? I mean, what was the reason?
MR. McCLELLAN: Maybe you didn’t hear what I pointed out earlier in the briefing so let me repeat that. The President was never in danger. He was at an off-site location —
Q I heard you.
OK, enough of that. On to the important stuff.
The Return of Jeff Gannon?
Q Scott, U.N. leaders have faced a number of scandals over the past year, from the Oil for Food scandal, the sex scandal in Africa, possible involvement by Kofi Annan, the Volcker possible whitewash of the investigation. Why is it that Republican leaders seems to be more upset about John Bolton’s tough management style than they are with corruption at the U.N.? And where’s the outrage regarding that instead of whether or not Bolton is, let’s say, polished enough to handle the job as U.N. ambassador?
And finally, your Daily Les.
Q Scott. Scott, the President has said he is opposed to illegal aliens getting driver’s licenses, and he supports the REAL ID Act. But on the other hand, he says we need the cheap labor that these illegals provide. And my first question: Does he believe these cheap labor illegals should be confined to being bused rather than being able to drive even used cars?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry, that immigrants —
Q Well, does he believe these cheap labor illegals that he says we need, should they be confined to being bused to their jobs, rather than being able to drive, even used cars?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I don’t think that’s the way the President has described it, first of all.
There are some 8 million to 10 million undocumented workers in this country that are filling jobs that Americans are not. And there’s also a great strain on our border because of that, that we need to address. We’ve done a lot to strengthen our border security.
But the proposal that the President put forward will not only match willing workers with willing employers and address an economic need, it will address a humanitarian need, and it will address a security need, as well, because it will free up our resources along the border to focus more on those people who shouldn’t be coming to this country in the first place.