Another lengthy gaggle today, starting with one of Scottie’s favorite activities, lying for his petulant boss.
Q Scott, recently, top Democrats in Congress, they had some tough words and some questions about President Bush. Congressman Pelosi says that — said that “the President was obviously in denial,” because she said she talked to him yesterday about Mike Brown and said that things were going wrong, and he said, What’s gone wrong?” What hasn’t gone right? And I’d like to ask you if you know if that’s an accurate portrayal of the conversation.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it’s not, because they discussed a lot of other things. And I think the President was just wanting to know what she — what she was most concerned about.
Q So it wasn’t as if he knew — he didn’t know, wasn’t aware that things had gone wrong?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Terry, I just updated you on the President’s day; I updated you yesterday. You all are well aware of how engaged this President is in the response efforts and making sure that we’re meeting the immediate needs.
Yepper, the president is certainly engaged — his head is engaged with his rectum.
What’s this? Harry Reid dared to criticize the sacred vacation?
Q And then Senator Harry Reid is questioning whether the President’s Texas vacation impeded any kind of relief efforts.
MR. McCLELLAN: The Senator — the Senator must not be aware of all the updates that we were providing you all, because I cannot imagine that he would engage in such personal attacks if he did. You all, or your colleagues were covering us during that time. We were providing you regular updates on the President’s participation in our efforts to prepare for what was then a tropical storm off the coast of Florida, and then we continued to keep you all updated over the course of the next several days about the President’s participation in the preparations for what was coming.
Q Scott, can I follow up on what Terry was saying? One of the things that Harry Reid did say today was, why didn’t President Bush immediately return to Washington from his vacation, and why didn’t he recall key officials and staff members back from their vacations? And then he asks, would the President — would the presence of key officials in Washington have improved the response?
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, we are focused on getting things done and solving problems on the ground. And again, I go back to what I was just talking about, the President on Saturday, Saturday night issued — this was Saturday night before the hurricane hit, which I believe was early Monday morning — the President issued an emergency disaster declaration for the state of Louisiana. Then the next morning, he issued declarations for Mississippi and Alabama. So we were focused on the preparations that were being made prior to Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast region.
Q So your answer to the Senator would be that the presence of officials in Washington would not have improved the response?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that my answer is that you all are very well aware of what we were doing in terms of preparations for Hurricane Katrina. And I’d just assume that he is not informed of everything we were doing and all the updates that were being provided at that point.
And the only thing more revered than the Chimp’s five-week vacation is The Horrid Womb.
Q Does the President agree with his mother that the homeless taken from New Orleans to Houston are much better off now because they were underprivileged in New Orleans?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think she was making a personal observation on some of the comments that people were making that she was running into. I’m not sure that that’s exactly what she said, but —
Q I have it right here if you need it.
MR. McCLELLAN: — what we’re focused on — what we’re focused on is helping these people who are in need.
Q Does he agree with his mother?
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think that the observation is based on someone who — or some people that were talking to her, that were in need of a lot of assistance, people that have gone through a lot of trauma and been through a very difficult and trying time. And all of a sudden, they are now getting great help in the state of Texas from some of the shelters.
Q “It’s scary that they’re all coming to Texas.”
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think you can look at her comments.
Q That is what she said, though.
Don’t try to nail Little Scottie down on any facts. Facts are for tick-tockers and blame-gamers.
Q When was the President informed, warned by the National Hurricane Center or other agencies, that Katrina was a hurricane that could overtop the levees in New Orleans?
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, I appreciate you wanting to get into some of the factual tick-tock questions and things of that nature. I think we were keeping you updated throughout that time period, and if you remember, there were a number of people that, Monday, felt that the initial storm, which was the hurricane hitting the coast and then hitting the New Orleans area and Mississippi and Alabama and parts of Florida, that at that point, that New Orleans may be — well, the flooding had not come at that point. And many people were talking about how —
Q You’re the federal government — if you want to get into tick-tock, the Army Corps of Engineers knew Monday morning that the 17th Street flood wall along that canal had given way. My question is different, it’s about getting prepared for that.
MR. McCLELLAN: A lot of the media reports coming out —
Q When did the President know that Katrina was the kind of hurricane that could overtop the levees?
MR. McCLELLAN: A lot of the media reports that were coming out Monday, Monday night, Tuesday morning were expressing that it had missed the massive flooding that some had projected in a worst-case scenario.
Q The President of the United States was getting his information about this major disaster from the media?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, I’m just pointing out — because you’re trying to point out some things and I’m trying to point out, back to that time, if you’ll recall, and just put that in perspective. The President was getting regular updates from people in the region and from people here in Washington, D.C.
Now watch as the gagglers finally challenge one of Scottie’s favorite non-answer tactics.
Q And then a second question along those lines — there was a choice made at some point that the unit — some of the regular military units that were closest, some of which were planning to deploy to Afghanistan in January, not be used so that they would not be interrupting their training for Afghanistan. Was the President involved in that decision?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you need to talk to the Department of Defense, and they can talk to you about that. But I think Secretary Rumsfeld briefed yesterday and said that we’re meeting all our needs.
Q He talked about the choice. My question was, was the President involved in that decision.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and Secretary Rumsfeld is the one who can provide you latest update.
Q Defense can talk about the selection. What I’m asking you to talk about was, was the President involved in this decision about training for Afghanistan versus using troops that were the closest?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I don’t have anything for you on that.
Q Can you see if you can get back to us on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I’ll see, but I —
Q Whether he was involved —
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s what I’m trying to say, that he sets the overall direction and directs certain steps to be taken. I think the military is the one. They can probably talk to you a little bit more about that.
Q They’ll talk to us about a lot of things, but not what the President was involved in, and that’s your job.
MR. McCLELLAN: They talked at length the other day, so —
Q Doesn’t the President have a conflict of interest leading the investigation since what he did and did not do —
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t think that’s — I don’t think that’s what he was saying, Terry. I think he was going to say he’s going to lead the effort to make sure there’s a thorough investigation of things.
Q Scott, if the President is going to lead this investigation, he certainly knows what he, himself, did or didn’t do. What could he have done to have made sure that the results were not unacceptable?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, that’s getting into all the after-action analysis, Ed. We’re going to remain focused on solving problems right now and supporting the work that’s ongoing to help people in need.
And now, your Daily Les.
Q Follow-up. World Net Daily reports that despite the devastation and suffering by so many thousands in New Orleans, there was a homosexual parade called “southern decadence.” Does the President believe this is tolerable or —
MR. McCLELLAN: I want to finish on the military. The military is doing an outstanding job in search and rescue and ongoing humanitarian efforts, and we’re greatly appreciative of the many men and women in the region, from the National Guard to reserve to active duty —