Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Shall we have some gaggly fun with pictures?

Q No, there was a gap in front.

Q — big gaps. A big gap in the front.

Q There was a big gap in the front? All right, well, what I’m getting at here —

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know how you describe it — you all saw the pictures there.

OK, enough of that silliness. On with the gaggle.

Little Scottie sez: The Uzbekikitty may not be house-trained, but he’s our Uzbekikitty, dammit…

Q Scott, the President of Uzbekistan has now admitted that his government killed upwards of 170 of its citizens, some anti-government protestors, some escaped prisoners, apparently. Opposition groups say the figure could have been far, far higher. What’s the President’s view of this situation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, we spoke about it just the other day. The State Department addressed this very matter and expressed our concerns about it. Obviously, we have continued to urge restraint by all and for all to work for calm in Uzbekistan. We were deeply disturbed by the reports that authorities had fired on demonstrators last Friday, and we expressed our condemnation about the indiscriminate use of force against unarmed civilians. And we certainly deeply regret any loss of life. So we’ve expressed that previously.

But we’ve also called on people to reject those who would try to incite violence, as well. And we talked about that, too. We’ve urged the government, as well, to allow humanitarian organizations, like the International Committee for the Red Cross, to have access to the region so that they can gather facts and help take care of people that need help.

…so don’t go comparing him to a dictator. [Don’t miss Jack Pine Savage’s comparison of the Uzbekikitty to another familiar dictator.]

Q That’s very clear. I wonder if I can contrast it with something, though. In 2002, the President said of another leader who had arrested 75 people and had them sentenced: “The dictator has responded with defiance and contempt and a new round of brutal oppression that has outraged the world’s conscience.” The President was speaking of Fidel Castro, who imprisoned these dissidents, didn’t kill any of them, and I wonder why the double standard.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know that I would look at it that way. Obviously, Terry, there are different circumstances around the world. You have to deal with those different circumstances. And so I wouldn’t look at it that way at all. But we have long spoken about our concerns when it comes to the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, and we’ve laid out the facts as we know them about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. We would like to see a more open and responsive government. But the way to achieve that is not through violence; it’s through peaceful means. And that’s what we always emphasize.

Q This is a leader who has been in power since before the fall of the Soviet Union. He’s clearly a dictator by any definition of that word. And I wonder if you could respond to the concerns that many people have that this administration is going easy on him because he is necessary in the war on terrorism, in part because the United States has rendered certain detainees into his country and —

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the facts speak differently. The facts are very clear in terms of we speak out about the concerns that we have, we speak out when we are disturbed by events that take place. And that’s what we have done in this instance, as well. And I just did.

Next, the gaggle consensus regarding Chimpy’s position on the nuclear option: Ridiculous.

Q I just want to follow up on this filibuster issue, because, with respect, I mean, it just sounds ridiculous, the idea you want to — you don’t want to interfere in Senate rules when you know full well that if this step is taken, there might be a response that slows down priorities that this President cares about, including Social Security, if it ever gets that far. So what I’m asking is, does the President believe that, should Democrats not only block him on these nominees in the so-called nuclear option, but if they were to actually slow down business in Congress as a result of any steps the Republicans take, that that would have negative political consequences for them if they do that? In effect, is he daring them do to it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it would have consequences for the Democratic leadership in the United States Senate if they continue to hold up progress on the important priorities for the American people. The American people elected us to get things done. The American people want to see us work together on important priorities. The President has reached out across partisan lines in order to find solutions to our pressing priorities. Senate Democrats have been standing in the way of progress on some of those important priorities. And that’s the President’s — that’s the President’s view.

Good question of the day, the press corps has learned something from Helen Thomas.

Q Scott, you just mentioned that our enemies are looking for any material that they can find to damage us or our reputation. Isn’t it the case that the Newsweek article would not have done the damage that it has if our reputation hadn’t already been damaged by the atrocities at Abu Ghraib?

And finally, getting Scottie on the record (follow the link to catch him in a lie).

Q Can you assure us that there have been no instances of desecration of the Koran?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Department of Defense actually addressed that yesterday, and I talked about it, as well.

Q You can assure us of that, there are no cases?

MR. McCLELLAN: You ought to talk to the Department of Defense. They talked about it yesterday. They have found nothing to substantiate any such allegation that was made by the Newsweek report. And Newsweek, itself, retracted the report because they realized it was wrong.