Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Why is the White House hiding the fact that Dick Cheney has gout from the American People?

Q Can you tell us what the pre-existing foot condition is that the Vice President has?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Vice President’s Office talked about that last week. And I’m sure if there’s more information to share with you, they will do so.

Q They didn’t mention anything specific. It’s his —

Q Well, we don’t know what it is.

MR. McCLELLAN: I would encourage you to direct questions such as that to their office, because they check with his doctors and then provide information in an appropriate fashion.

Q Do you think that the Vice President’s Office should disclose what the foot condition is?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that they’re appropriately taking steps to disclose information.

Q So you have no problem with the way they’re handling it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I just indicated that.

Q Well, Scott, his personal physician, Gary Malakoff, from G.W., back in 2000, said that he’d had several minor occurrences of gout in his foot. Can you tell us if that’s the condition?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and as I just pointed out, his doctors and the Vice President’s Office provide information in an appropriate way. And I’m sure that they will continue to. I would direct those questions to his office, because what they can do is check with his doctors and check with the Vice President and then provide that information to you all.

[snip]

Q Scott, is there a particular reason why the Vice President’s foot condition is a secret?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that if you look back, his health — his doctors and others have discussed his health situation over the last few years. So I don’t know that I would agree with the characterization.

Q But we can’t find out from you what the foot condition is, and apparently, not from the Vice President’s Office, either.

MR. McCLELLAN: The Vice President’s Office is the appropriate place to ask those questions. I don’t have more information on it than what they are providing.

Q Do you know what is wrong with his foot?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again —

Q Is it some dreaded infectious weird foot disease? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: The Vice President’s Office has a press office and they’ll be glad to talk to you about it. I think the Vice President talked about it in his remarks last week, and it’s a pre-existing condition that he talked about.

Q Is it gout?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead. Go ahead, Connie.

Revenge of the Six Billion Dollar Man

Q Scott, Paul Bremer was interviewed — I guess it was over the weekend on NBC — and said that he had sent around a summary from think tanks saying that you needed three-times as many troops to stabilize Iraq as there were. He said he sent a message to Secretary Rumsfeld, heard nothing; told the President about this and his concerns about whether or not there were — that we needed more troops over there. He said the President said he tried for more foreign troops, but made no mention of increasing the number of American troops. Why would someone like Paul Bremer, who was on the ground —

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me mention —

Q — I know he talks about commanders and he listens to commanders —

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me back up and mention a couple of things. First of all, Ambassador Bremer has served this country admirably under extremely difficult circumstances. He is someone who understands the stakes in the war on terrorism and why it is so important that we transform Iraq into a democratic society. It will serve as an example to the rest of the broader Middle East. His experience and observations provide an interesting and vivid perspective of what he observed and what he did in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The President, as you know, relies on a team of civilian and military and foreign policy advisors who make decisions — or when he makes decisions about the conduct of the war. Ambassador Bremer, I think, has pointed out that in his book he’s providing his perspective based on the role that he played at the time. And we appreciate very much his advice and his commitment that he made to what was an important cause.

Q But was he not qualified to ask for more troops? Why wouldn’t you listen to your most senior civilian on the ground?

MR. McCLELLAN: Because the President has already addressed this question on numerous occasions, Martha. The President believes that the decisions about our troop levels ought to be based on the recommendations of our military commanders who are on the ground in Iraq. They’re the ones who are in the best position to say what they need to complete the mission, and the President has always relied upon his military commanders who are on the ground there, implementing our strategy for succeeding in Iraq.

Q But Paul Bremer was on the ground, too. He was the one who had to help stabilize Iraq, as well as — and when he saw that —

MR. McCLELLAN: And I just indicated to you that the President makes decisions based on the advice of a team of foreign policy and military advisors. And it’s the commanders on the ground who are in the best position to make decisions about our troop levels.

Q Secretary Rumsfeld didn’t respond. It sounds like Paul Bremer doesn’t —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I saw that the Pentagon did respond through his spokesman to this issue.

Q No, he said in May 2004, when he asked Rumsfeld for more troops that he didn’t even get a response. Are you sure you’re hearing all the advice you need to hear?

MR. McCLELLAN: You can talk to the Pentagon about that.

Q Are you sure you’re hearing all the advice you need to hear?

Scottie Cites Progress in Iraq

Q We’ve had about two dozen American troops killed in Iraq in the past week. Doesn’t that undercut your argument that progress is being made there?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. In fact, the President talked about how, as the Iraqi people continue to move forward on the political process and continue to move forward on reconstructing their country, the terrorists and Saddam loyalists will do everything they can to try to derail the transition to democracy…

Finally, Less violates the unwitten law.

Q I appreciate that. Do you know of any other time in American history when a President has supported for reelection to his former governorship of a man who is running against his Press Secretary’s mother — (laughter) — and does he expect you to go with him to Texas when he campaigns for Governor Rick Perry against your mother? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: I always enjoy spending time in Texas with the President — and my mother. (Laughter.)

Q Are you going to go with him when he’s campaigning against your mother?

MR. McCLELLAN: I travel with him almost all the time — not quite all the time, but most of the time. And in terms of — I think you’re speculating about things at this point; we haven’t announced anything on his schedule. But I think my views have been made very clear when it comes to the Texas governor’s race.

Q You’ve got wonderful assistants. Couldn’t they go?

MR. McCLELLAN: They do. They do travel. Sometimes I do stay back.

Q You’re going to campaign against your mother?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, look, of course not, Les. (Laughter.) I already addressed that question last week. She has my full support. She is someone who —

Q She has your full support?

MR. McCLELLAN: She is someone who cares deeply about the state of Texas. I’ve made that very clear.

Q But the President — what about him? He’s not giving your mother his support.

MR. McCLELLAN: I already stated the President’s view on the election and that he would be supporting the Republican nominee. Thanks for trying the stir this one up. (Laughter.)