Let’s start by knocking down a presidential strawman.
Q Also he said today, and he’s said this before, that some people have suggested that if we leave the terrorists alone, terrorists will leave the United States alone. Maybe I’ve missed it, but whoever suggested that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think there are people that have suggested that the terrorists would just be idle if we weren’t engaging them in Iraq, and that being in Iraq has led to their attacks. Well, the attacks were taking place for a long time prior to our decision going into Iraq.
Q Have they really said that if we weren’t there, the terrorists would be idle?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, people have talked about this issue. And I think what the President said in his remarks was very clear.
Next, Helen Thomas has a good question.
Q How does the President know we killed 30,000 Iraqis?
MR. McCLELLAN: Because, as I indicated the other day, there have been media reports which have cited information that suggests that some 30,000 people, Iraqi citizens, may have been killed. Now, I think that our military has briefed members of Congress and talked about some of these matters, and I think that a significant number of those deaths are attributable to the terrorists and the Saddam loyalists who are trying to prevent democracy from taking hold. But what the Iraqi people have shown, time and time again, is that they are determined to live in freedom. And tomorrow they start a new chapter in their history by going to the polls to elect a permanent, representative government. And this will be a hopeful moment for the world.
Q Why have we not kept records on how many people we kill?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Pentagon has actually talked about that at length, and General Pace has talked about it, I think, in a number of briefings, and talked about why we don’t. I think that the ones that are probably in the best position to provide that information would be the Iraqi government. But now, there are times when in operations they have been able to provide some information, in terms of the number of terrorists that may have been killed in those operations.
OK, so we count the number of “terrorists” killed, but not civilians? Why is that, I wonder.
Helen is not finished with you, Scottie.
Q I have another question. You keep saying we don’t torture, but you’re trying to negotiate a compromise where we can, an exemption.
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s not correct, and I’ve told you that before.
Q What is correct?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has made it very clear that we do not torture and we do not engage in torture.
Q But you want an exemption.
MR. McCLELLAN: Now, what we do want to do is continue working with Senator McCain and others to come up with a good solution. And Steve Hadley had a meeting —
Q A solution to what?
MR. McCLELLAN: Steve Hadley had a good discussion with Senator McCain earlier today; it was a constructive discussion. We are continuing to work with Senator McCain and his staff to find a good solution on how we move forward. And Secretary Rice spoke about this at length just last week —
Q Why do you need a solution if we don’t torture?
MR. McCLELLAN: — and talked about the difficult issues that are involved here, because we’re talking about the safety and security of the American people, and we’re engaged in a different kind of war against a very dangerous enemy.
Q — need an exemption? Isn’t that what you’re trying —
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s not a correct assessment, Helen, because there are already laws that prevent and prohibit torture.
Q What’s it all about then?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we’ve made it very clear. Maybe you should go back and look at what we’ve said over the last couple weeks.
Q It has not been clear. I want to know why you need an exemption to torture.
MR. McCLELLAN: That is not correct. There are already laws on the books that prohibit torture, both treaties and our own laws. And our own laws prohibit torture.
And finally, Kinsolving tries to get a clear answer regarding Chimpy’s views on contraception (for about the fourth time as I recall) in your Daily Les.
Q Scott, 38 members of Congress from 12 top electoral states have written to the President for the fourth time because, as Congresswoman Maloney of New York says, “I was hoping the President would be able to answer whether or not he supports birth control in less than 165 days.” The only clue we have gotten from Scott McClellan is that abstinence is at the heart of the administration birth control policy. Who knows what that means for 95 percent of American women who use birth control?” And my question: Does the President approve of the use of contraceptives or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s not an accurate description of what we’ve said and —
Q No, no, but she —
MR. McCLELLAN: — and we’ve been over this question before, and my answer is —
Q I know, but they quoted that.
MR. McCLELLAN: — and my answer is the same as what I’ve said previously.
Go ahead, Holly.