Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Today’s gaggle started about three hours later than usual, something the press commented on a couple of times in the transcript.

The word for the day was :Semantics.

Whether it was backing away from bellicose statements about North Korean nuclear weapons…

Q A couple of things on Korea. When the two leaders first met here in May 2003, they emerged with a common statement that said, “We will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.” That statement was notably absent today. Can you explain why?

MR. McCLELLAN: Everybody said that they want a nuclear-free peninsula.

Q It’s a different thing than, “we will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.”

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, we can get caught up in all the semantics, but let’s talk about the issue that is before us. The issue before us is North Korea and their nuclear weapons ambitions. We are seeking to resolve that through the six-party talks. We have all been committed to the six-party talks. We believe that that is the way to, once and for all, resolve this issue. Remember, it was back in the ’90s when North Korea had violated the agreement they made previously. We believe now, with all nations in the region coming to the table and speaking with one voice, that that is the way to get this matter resolved.

…Or toning down your language when speaking about that other Dear Leader.

Q In terms of how the President today addressed the leader of North Korea by using “Mister,” as a — presumably a sign of respect [here], when recently Vice President Cheney referred to him as an “irresponsible leader,” Secretary of State Rice had talked about the “outpost of tyranny” in referring to North Korea — is it a specific attempt to be more respectful in order to entice North Korea to respond?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I was just talking to David a second ago — this isn’t about semantics, this is about a very serious matter. This is about peace on the Korean Peninsula. This is about getting North Korea to abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions. So I wouldn’t get caught up in all the semantics.

Q But there is a toning down of some of the rhetoric.

MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn’t read anything into it.

Go ahead, April.

Here’s a nice question.

Q Scott, next week you’ve got not one, but two Medicare events on the schedule. I’m wondering if the President is planning something major in this field, and if he’s hearing the people who have said to him, hey, there’s a bigger crisis here in Medicare than there is in Social Security?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in fact, something major is happening in Medicare; we are implementing the prescription drug law so that all seniors are going to be eligible to receive a prescription drug benefit for the first time, starting in January of 2006.

Yes, Scottie, and your brother Markie kicked off this “major happening in Medicare” by mailing empty envelopes to thousands or Medicare benficiaries. Sort of a metaphor for the empty promises of the assministration. Cool.