Ah, mucho gaggly goodness in yesterday’s press briefing. I should do seperate posts on Little Scottie’s tap-dancing around the death of Tom DeLay’s political career and the job Brownie did on the Assministration while testifying before congress Tuesday, but for now I’d like to focus on Iraq.
And who better to kick off the festivities that Helen Thomas?
Go ahead, Helen.
Q The papers have been satiated in the last few days, again with another round of our abuse of prisoners and detainees and torture. Has the President ever issued a directive to all military prisons under our control that they should not torture and they should abide by the Geneva Accord?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Yes. In fact, we did that quite some time ago.
Q There is an actual directive?
MR. McCLELLAN: If people are involved in wrongdoing, they’re going to be held to account. And that’s exactly what — that’s exactly what this administration has done.
Q I asked you if the President has issued any executive order against torture.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President made it very clear that we do not torture and we do not condone torture. And if people —
Q But we do.
MR. McCLELLAN: — and if people break the law, they are brought to account. And that’s exactly what we’ve done in the instances that you’re referring to.
Q Why don’t they know it, then? I mean, why has there been this continued abuse?
MR. McCLELLAN: They do know it. And the Secretary of Defense and military leaders have taken steps to prevent such horrible atrocities from happening again.
Q But not if it goes beyond sergeant. Why is that?
MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to talk to the Department of Defense, because they can brief you —
Q No, I think this is something at the presidential level.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, but I think it’s important —
Q It has to do something with our reputation.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it’s important for the American people to know the facts. And if you look at the facts, people have been brought to justice that are involved in wrongdoing. And any allegation of wrongdoing is taken very seriously by this administration. We have an outstanding military; 99.9 percent of the men and women in uniform do an outstanding job and represent the American people in the best possible way. They uphold our standards and our values.
Q Do you have any papers showing the President has issued a directive against torture?
MR. McCLELLAN: We’ve actually put out paper previously about the directives that he’s made —
Q An actual order?
MR. McCLELLAN: — and he has publicly stated it very clearly to everyone in his administration and to the American people.
Q Then why is it still going on?
Now, about the president’s little Rose Garden appearance…
Q Two more questions on that. The President twice today said that we are changing our strategy to adapt to the insurgents changing theirs. Usually you don’t think about changing a strategy that’s working. Is ours not?
Q Scott, it seems like the President is concerned about the erosion of support on Capitol Hill for the Iraq war, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the American people understand the importance of completing the mission and succeeding in Iraq. Iraq is central to winning the war on terrorism. That’s why you heard the President talk about it today. It’s something that we’re going to continue to keep the American people updated about.
Q Is the President concerned about the erosion of support on Capitol Hill?
MR. McCLELLAN: The American people — the President believes it’s important to keep Congress informed and to keep the American people informed. I think Congress understands the importance of succeeding in Iraq. They have shown a strong commitment to what we are working to achieve there, and the President is greatly appreciative of that.
Does Little Scottie or anyone else in the Assministration have a clue as to what is happening in Iraq?
Q Just very, very briefly, on Iraq, now the President in the long remarks that he made in the Rose Garden — or you here have mentioned one of the most salient facts about the violence in Iraq: It’s sectarian. It’s Sunnis killing Shia. Why didn’t the President talk about that? Many people think the country is on the verge of civil war. And what’s the President’s read on the sectarian nature of the violence in Iraq right now?
MR. McCLELLAN: It’s terrorists killing Iraqis. It’s terrorists attacking innocent civilians.
Q So you just don’t recognize the sectarian nature of it?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. It’s the terrorists that want to take Iraq into civil war. That’s what their goal is. They want to bring chaos into this country. But the Iraqi people have shown them every step of the way that they are determined to build a free and democratic future. And that’s why they’ve continued to move forward on the political process. And the President has said as they move forward on building a lasting democracy, the terrorists will continue to seek to carry out their violence and become more desperate. And we can expect that there will be more violence as the Iraqi people move forward on securing their freedom and democracy.
Here’s a seemingly-tangental question that curled Scottie’s shorts.
Q I have one other quick question, which is, has any member of the administration appeared before the Valerie Plame grand jury in the last month or so?
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s a matter you need to direct to the special prosecutor overseeing that investigation.
And as usual, we close with your Daily Les.
Q The Weekly Standard reports that Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan has always enforced that graduate school’s ban on cooperating with recruiters from any employers who exclude homosexuals, except for the Department of Defense, which, if so banned, would, under the Solomon Amendment, cost Harvard at least $400 million a year in research grants.
And my question, since the President graduated from Harvard’s Graduate Business School, he is surely appalled by Dean Kagan’s cash-influenced inconsistency, isn’t he?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I’m sorry, you kind of lost me on part of that question. (laughter.) I’m not sure exactly where you were going with that.
Q They banned — they banned any discrimination against homosexuals, except by the Department of Defense. And if that’s banned, if they ban the Department of Defense they’d lose $400 million.
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry, I don’t know that — I’m not sure the link you’re making there. I guess I’m missing something.