Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

In today’s gaggle Scottie is still wearing his rose-colored glasses.

Q Scott, you said that they talked — the President, in his discussion with Talibani, talked about the security situation. Did they express any concerns about the rising level of civilian casualties and the deaths of American troops?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that President Talibani — actually, some of the numbers have been coming down, but, I mean, there still are difficulties that remain.

[snip]

Q What’s the expectation? The President has talked, like, at some points where he’s warned that the casualties are going to rise, there’s going to be more violence. What’s the expectation now, going forward?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that’s the desperation you see from terrorists and see from regime elements who know that a free and peaceful Iraq is going to deal them a significant blow, and deal a significant blow to their ambitions. They recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. We recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. A free and peaceful Iraq will help bring powerful change to a dangerous region in the world. It will help make America safer. That’s why we must continue working closely to train Iraqi security forces, so that they can defend themselves from external, as well as internal threats.

Q Do you think that things are going to continue to get worse, not better?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you have to be prepared for changing circumstances on the ground. That’s one of the lessons I think we’ve learned in previous wars, is that commanders need to have the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances on the ground.

And the president doesn’t do timetables, or any planning at all for that matter.

Q How does the President feel about the growing calls from members of his own party about withdrawing from Guantanamo, about setting a date certain for bringing troops home from Iraq, the growing sense of uneasiness that’s been expressed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has talked about how timetables send the wrong message.

[snip]

Q Going back to one of your earlier responses, you said that timetables send the wrong message. In light of the fact that Congressman Jones and others are talking about some sort of a legislative action on this — in this regard of the timetables, what message are you concerned that that sends?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has talked about it. The message that it sends to terrorists and others — all you have to do is wait and we’ll leave — and the message it sends to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people, remember, if you go back in the past, they thought previously that we were going to come in there and remove the regime and it didn’t happen. And many were slaughtered by that brutal, oppressive regime.

So it’s really — it’s what the President has talked about, that it would send the wrong message to the terrorists and it would send the wrong message to the Iraqi people. They have shown they’re committed to democracy and freedom, and we’re going to stand with them to complete the mission, which is to train the Iraqi forces to be able to provide for their security and to support the Iraqi people as they move forward putting the institutions in place for a sustainable democracy.

Q So are you, in effect, asking Jones and others to forget about this —

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m stating what our views are. I haven’t seen exactly what he said or what he’s proposing, but I’m stating what our views are.

Here Scottie gets snagged on a rare follow-up regarding the Downing Street Memo asked by a reporter who won’t let him blame it on the Clenis.

Q Could we go back to the press availability with Prime Minister Blair last week? In response to a question, the President said, about the Downing Street memo, “My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully.” And then later on he says, “And so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully.”

“How to do this” — that refers to regime change or just to weapons inspections?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, regime change was the policy of the previous administration — remember, that goes back to the previous administration.

Q But the policy of previous administration was —

MR. McCLELLAN: I addressed the threat posed by Iraq.

Q Right, which was not to do it using military force at that time. The decision by this administration was to use military force. So when talking about this —

MR. McCLELLAN: Not at that time.

Q But when talking about this, and this response, is the President referring to regime change or referring to inspections of weapons —

MR. McCLELLAN: The threat posed by the regime in Iraq.

Q So regime change.

And now, your Daily Les in which we find that Les is just wild about Mary.

Q Scott, what is the President’s thinking about the propriety of the Republican Party accepting $5,000 from a pornographer, the example that sets the moral climate of this nation? And I have a follow up.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you need to direct those questions to the committee, itself.

Q Among the Evangelical Protestant leaders who so helped the President win reelection, the Reverend Don Wildman, of The American Family Association said, “The Republicans need to go public with an explanation. Just doing nothing is the worst thing they can do.” And my question: Do you think that tomorrow night, none of the TV cameras at all will focus on Mary Cary who was arrested in Tacoma last month for publicly touching herself in a sexual manner —

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, you’ve asked this question before and —

Q No, no, no, no, this is a new question. It’s newly worded —

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that those are questions to direct to the event sponsors —

Q But do you agree with him, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, in back.