Little Scottie held a gaggle today to trumpet the good economic news, but the press corps had other things on their collective mind.
Q Can I ask, when the President came to the Rose Garden this morning, about 10:45 a.m., at that hour did the White House already know about this attack on the Marines in Fallujah?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we did. The President was informed about the loss of the Marines last night, and those that were injured, and then he was briefed again this morning. We are saddened by the loss of life, whether it’s one soldier who loses his or her life, or 10 or 11. We are saddened to hear that news. Our heart and prayers go out to the families. Their loved ones paid the ultimate sacrifice for an important cause, and we are forever grateful for their service and sacrifice.
Hmmmm. So Chimpy had been informed of the staggering Marine losses in Falujah, but somehow failed to mention it in his little speech this morning. Support Our Troops!!
Now, about that gulag…
Q I wanted to also follow up on Terry’s questions about the reports of secret prisons, and the rationale for not saying to the American people whether or not such places exist. Do you feel it somehow gives away something to the enemy to confirm or deny the existence of these places?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the American people understand the importance of us using all available tools to win the war on terrorism and to try to prevent attacks from happening in the first place.
Q But my question has to do with whether or not you confirm the existence, regardless of what’s happening there and what techniques are being used, whatever, how does that protect American security by not acknowledging —
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not getting into confirming or denying anything. I think that when you’re talking about — I mean, some of the reports talk about people like Khalid Shaykh Muhammed and Bin al-Shibh. I mean, these are dangerous terrorists that have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. And I think the American people understand the importance of us getting valuable information that can help us to defeat the terrorists and prevent attacks from happening. This is about their safety and security.
Q Scott, when you say, “using all available tools,” and then you talk about laws, I think it is a little confusing for many of us Americans that all available tools means all available tools, if you won’t confirm or deny the prisons overseas —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said consistent with our laws and our treaty obligations. The President has made it very clear that we do not torture, he would never condone torture or authorize the use of torture. If someone doesn’t abide by our laws, they’re held accountable, and we have done that.
That’s the difference between us and others. When it comes to human rights, there is no greater leader than the United States of America, and we show that by holding people accountable when they break the law or they violate human rights. And we show that by supporting the advance of freedom and democracy and supporting those in countries that are having their human rights denied or violated, like North Korea. We show that by liberating people in Afghanistan and Iraq, some 50 million people. And no one has done more when it comes to human rights than the United States of America.
Q It’s still not clear —
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think — and I disagree with you. I think the American people understand. I disagree with your characterization that you think most Americans don’t.
Q No, I’m not saying that. I think Americans certainly understand “all available tools,” and understand the possibility of prisons overseas. I suppose my question really is, we still don’t have a clear definition of what torture is. If we’re going to stop imminent attacks —
MR. McCLELLAN: There are already laws on the books about torture that prevent — that prohibit torture, and it spells out what those laws are and the treaty obligations. And we’re parties to those treaties.
Q But, yet, it hasn’t been possible to get from you a confirmation when we’ve been very specific about what specific things might or might not be torture, what they are.
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to talk about national security intelligence matters. I’m just not going to get into talking about that.
Go ahead, Paula.
And in your Daily Les today, Kinsolving also noticed that Chimpy has declared War on Christmas.
Q Scott, a two-part question. I’m sure that I am not alone in being very grateful for the President and Mrs. Bush’s invitation to what used to be the Christmas party for the media, but which now reads, “A Holiday Reception.” And I hope — my question is, I hope you and the President will understand, given the recent statement by Speaker Hastert emphasizing Christmas, why I am compelled to ask why the Bush White House has eliminated Christmas and replaced it with the world “holiday”?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know that that’s accurate, that the Bush White House eliminated —
Q It is. Yes, it’s no longer Christmas. It says, “holiday.”
MR. McCLELLAN: This is a time to welcome people of all faiths, and all those who are celebrating the holiday season. The President just yesterday dedicated the National Christmas Tree to our men and women in uniform.
Q Christmas? Did you call it the Christmas, and not Holiday Tree?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, Les, just last night at the Pageant of Peace. And all of us can take part in different ways to celebrate the holiday season and remember those who are in harm’s way and remember those who have lost their lives over the course of the past year.