Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Now it’s time to have some fun with the ethics gaggle.

Q There were the briefings that began, the ethics briefings that began today. Can you describe in some fashion what the presentation is that White House staffers are hearing for an hour, and what you’re trying to accomplish?


Q Is there underlying concern that the highest ethical standards have not been observed by everyone?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this was — the President made this decision in light of recent circumstances, that we should take this action. And that’s why he directed the Counsel’s Office to proceed with these refresher briefings.


Q Is this all we should expect from the President, the ethics refresher courses, the extent of his reaction to the indictment?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as you’re aware, if you’re asking a question about an ongoing investigation, we’re not going to have further say at this point while it continues. It is a very serious matter, and we are going to continue to cooperate. That’s what the President directed us to do and that’s what we are doing.

Q I asked you a different question. Is this the full extent of what the President deems necessary, “in light of circumstances?”

MR. McCLELLAN: The President is always free to take the action that he feels is appropriate.

Q Does the President think that Karl Rove lived up to the highest ethical standards —

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, that’s a question relating to an ongoing investigation.

What about Unka Karl?

Q Do you think that while Karl Rove is under investigation that he should retain his security clearance?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m just not going to talk about an ongoing investigation. You’re asking that question in the light of an ongoing investigation; it’s something that continues at this point.

Q One last one on this. It just — it strikes me as odd that, given the fact that Karl Rove has not been charged with any crime, he’s merely under investigation, so far as we know, that the President’s language about him and his confidence in him has been so distant, that he simply refuses to comment on his standing within the White House because of a pending matter.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don’t agree with that. I mean, Karl Rove is continuing to perform his duties as Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor. We appreciate all that he’s doing.

Q So the President stands by Rove a hundred percent?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I’ve made it clear to you that everybody who works here at the White House has the confidence of the President.

Q That’s not exactly a direct answer, though.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you’re asking a question relating to an ongoing investigation and —

Q Does he stand by Karl Rove a hundred percent?

MR. McCLELLAN: — the investigation relating to him is something that is ongoing, and the President has addressed that.

Q — forward-leaning as that, to say the President stands behind Karl Rove a hundred percent?

MR. McCLELLAN: I just made the President’s views known.

And Big Time?

Q Scott, is anyone in the White House exempt from participating in these and —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it’s a mandatory session.

Q Would the Vice President have to attend?

MR. McCLELLAN: It’s mandatory for all White House staff. That’s who it’s for.

Q And he’s considered staff?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he’s considered the Vice President. (Laughter.)

Q So he does not have to attend?

MR. McCLELLAN: All White House staff is required to participate in these sessions.

Irving Libby?

Q Will the President pledge not to pardon Lewis Libby?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to discuss an ongoing legal proceeding, and I’m not going to —

Q Can you just —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I’m not going to speculate about any matters relating to it. This is something that is just beginning. There will be a hearing process that is going on right now, and we need to let that legal proceeding continue. I was asked this question last week, and that’s — I’m just not going to speculate about things at this point.

Q So if he’s interested in seeing the legal process continue, that means he will not pardon him, is that correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: There is a legal proceeding —

Q That would interrupt the legal proceeding.

MR. McCLELLAN: — that is going on relating to that individual. Under our system, there is a presumption of innocence. And we’re not going to comment on it while it is continuing. And I’m not going to — certainly not going to speculate about it, as well.

Q Should we take that to mean it remains a possibility?

MR. McCLELLAN: It should mean exactly what I said.

Go ahead, Goyal.

Even I know the answer to this one. The president NEVER appologizes.

Q Scott, the President was asked about an apology to the Wilson family, and he did not answer it. And if — I’m wondering if that non-answer goes to the fact that an apology would be under review right now from the administration.

MR. McCLELLAN: It goes to the fact that there’s an ongoing investigation and legal proceeding, and we’re not going to have any further discussion of it while it is ongoing.

Q So are you saying an apology would compromise the investigation?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know how I could make it more clear, in terms of our response to questions relating to an ongoing investigation.

And now, your Daily Les.

Q And my second. Since President Bush supports the creation of a separate Palestinian state to halt Muslim violence in Israel, will he now back the creation of an autonomous “Paris-stinian” state to quell violence in France?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has made very clear what his view is when it comes to the Middle East peace process. And he was the first President to articulate a policy of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. We’re making great progress there.