Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

After today’s gaggle I bet Scottie could use a joint.

Q But, Scott, let me just ask you, on the investigation front, because a couple of days ago, the President used interesting language by saying, “I’m going to lead an investigation into what went right and what went wrong.” You said, in fact, that would be some kind of after-action analysis. And now, Republicans are saying they’ll have a special committee, which Democrats say that they don’t buy into. So can’t the President just clear all this up? What kind of investigation does he want, and by whom, and will he support it being done independent of the federal government?

MR. McCLELLAN: I would say what the President has said. The President made it very clear that we’ve got to remain focused on the immediate needs right now, and that’s where our focus remains. That’s what he’ll be talking more about later today. There are people who are in need of assistance, and we continue to keep our focus there.

We also believe it’s important for there to be a full investigation of the initial response, the preparedness and response —

Q By whom?

MR. McCLELLAN: Congress has a role to play in that. They’re moving forward on a joint investigation. And the President made it clear that he’s going —

Q But it’s not joint, the Democrats say it won’t be joint.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President made it clear that he’s going to lead an effort to investigate the response, as well. And we’ll be talking more about that as we move forward. Now is the time to remain focused where we are.

[snip]

Q This congressional investigation isn’t going to be very bipartisan if there are no Democrats on it.

[snip]

Q Would it be fair if I have a question on another subject? The President’s definition of “bipartisan” would include members of the Democratic Party?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the Speaker and Majority Leader made it clear that they intended to move forward on a bipartisan committee.

Q Those are Republicans. I’m asking — that would include —

MR. McCLELLAN: They said they were going to move forward on a bipartisan committee. They are the congressional leadership and they’re moving forward in a bipartisan way.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Helen Thomas.

Q I’m going to yield the floor, but I just have one more question. Why does the President believe it is morally justified, why is it the right thing to give some of the richest people on the planet a huge tax cut right now?

MR. McCLELLAN: It’s not a fair —

Q Well, that’s what the estate tax cut repeal, making it permanent, is, isn’t it? There are some people who want to hand on billions — hundreds of millions of dollars to their —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, no — the tax cut you’re talking about — I don’t know of any that are expiring this year. They expire in later years.

Q Right. But why at this point in our history is it justified, morally right to do that?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, I’d have to dispute your characterization, because all Americans receive tax cuts. We went through a very difficult time, economically, and our national economy is really a lifeline for that region that has been hit by this hurricane. We must continue to keep our national economy growing and creating jobs. The latest unemployment numbers are down to 4.9 percent last week, more than 4 million jobs created since May of 2003. We’ve made tremendous progress to keep our economy growing and get people — and create jobs.

Q And there’s no way to ask the richest people in America to sacrifice?

MR. McCLELLAN: And the economy — keeping our economy growing stronger is important to helping with the rebuilding and recovery efforts on the ground. The last thing we want to do is take more money from lower-income Americans that have been affected by this and that have received significant help from those — from those tax cuts.

Q That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about taking money from higher-income Americans.

MR. McCLELLAN: And we’re going to remain focused right now on our highest priority. Well, again, these tax cuts you’re talking about, many of them expire in later years. I don’t know of any that are expiring this year. But it’s important to keep our economy growing and keep jobs being created.

I believe this is the first gaggle-mention of a blog.

Q Scott, there are a couple of issues that are developing that are of concern to journalists now in Louisiana and Mississippi. One of them is FEMA refusing to take reporters and photographers when they’re going to recover the bodies, ostensibly because they don’t want pictures of them on the news. But this also is at the same time as reporters are discovering that access is being barred to them to places by the military — to places where they previously went. Brian Williams’ own blog reports an instance of a police officer turning a gun on a reporter.

MR. McCLELLAN: Sorry, I haven’t blogged today, so I haven’t seen some of those reports.

Q Well, check it out, he has three instances in there of the military being hostile to journalists.

MR. McCLELLAN: I know that the military, and I think even Coast Guard is taking steps to try to make sure reporters can go along on some of the efforts, the humanitarian assistance efforts and the search and rescue efforts. That was my understanding when we were there on Friday visiting with a lot of the Coast Guard people that had been working round-the-clock on search and rescue operations.

Your first statement that you made, I think you need to look further into that, because I don’t think that’s an accurate characterization. I saw some reports to that effect, and my understanding is that it was not an accurate characterization.

[snip]

Q I have a quote from FEMA about it, saying the recovery of victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect, and we have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media. And, yet, the bodies, themselves, tragically, are a very large part of this story. And to bar any official —

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not sure that that’s the full statement.

And finally, your Daily Les.

Go ahead, Les.

Q Scott, the President has said FEMA Director Mike Brown is doing “a heck of a job” on disaster relief, yet calls for his ouster seem enormously widespread. Does the President still think Brown is doing “a heck of a job?” And I have one follow-up.

MR. McCLELLAN: I actually went through this yesterday — David and I. David can probably fill you in on it. (Laughter.)

Q Wait, wait, wait. Give it a crack today, though.

MR. McCLELLAN: We went through this yesterday, Terry. The President is appreciative of all those — Secretary Chertoff and FEMA head, Brown, and all those at the federal level and state level and local level that are working round-the-clock to help the people who are in need.

Q Appreciative — does he have full confidence?

MR. McCLELLAN: We went through all this yesterday.