Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Oh hell, more progress in Iraq.

Q On Iraq, the President said today we were going to have complete victory. And in view of the daily attrition, people dying — Iraqis, Americans — every day in Iraq, has he weighed the human cost and is he willing to go to the end at any price?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and I think that the Iraqi people have demonstrated that they want to live in freedom, that they want to chart their own future. Where our focus is right now, Helen, is on continuing to move forward and support the Iraqi people as they work to form a new government. That’s why the President talked about the importance of building a government that is inclusive and representative of all Iraqis — a government of national unity, as he talked about it. He talked about that in detail in his remarks.

In terms of the sacrifices that have been made, we mourn the loss of our men and women in uniform who have sacrificed, but it’s for an important cause —

Q But he’s going to have another year of sacrifice.

MR. McCLELLAN: — the terrorists, I think you have seen, clearly understand how high the stakes are in Iraq. What Iraq will be is an example to the rest of the broader Middle East, which has been a troubled region when it comes to freedom. They will be an example when it comes to freedom —

Q Do you think other Arab countries are going to welcome an invasion by America?

MR. McCLELLAN: — they will be an example when it comes to freedom. When it comes to freedom, Iraq will serve as an example. And by advancing freedom in the broader Middle East, we are laying the foundations of peace for generations to come. And that’s what the President talked about in his remarks.

Q Is there any Arab country who would want America to come in —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are steps that have been taken by countries across the broader Middle East, with the exception of primarily two.


Q Scott, why are there not any U.N. peacekeepers in Iraq, and why are there not members of NATO supporting the U.S. troops, especially at a time when the number of troops from the United States —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there is support that NATO is providing in terms of training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. So I think that ignores some of what the role is that NATO is playing. Certainly, the United Nations has played a role when it comes to the monitoring of the election process and we appreciate those efforts.

Q — peacekeepers, the Blue Helmets, why aren’t they helping us?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the solution here is to train and equip Iraqi security forces. That’s the solution for moving forward. And there are a number of countries that are helping, a number of countries that are members of NATO, as you point out. And NATO has committed to play a role, and is playing a role, when it comes to the training situation of Iraqi security forces. And we very much appreciate those efforts. There’s always more that everybody can do to support the Iraqi people. I think the Iraqi people have shown through their determination and courage that they want to chart their own future, that they want to live in freedom. And all of us should stand by the Iraqi people as they move forward to do so.

And if you dare speak of Iraq, do so in an approved manner only or the president is gonna getcha.

Q The President said there is a difference between responsible critics and irresponsible critics. Who is being irresponsible? Who is he talking about?

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think the statements by some are very clear, in terms of the irresponsible statements —

Q Is he talking about Senate Democrats?

MR. McCLELLAN: — that they made. We’ve been through this before in this room, and that’s what — the point the President was making. I think we very clearly spelled out some of the irresponsible statements that have been made in the past. What’s important is that we all focus on working together to succeed in Iraq, because a free Iraq will be a major blow to the ambitions of the terrorists, and be a major victory in the broader global war on terrorism.

Q Were Congressman Murtha’s comments responsible?

MR. McCLELLAN: We’ve already addressed that issue. And General Pace addressed some of his more recent remarks, about the message that sends to our troops. And I would leave it with what General Pace said.


MR. McCLELLAN: So you’re not letting me have an honest, open debate here. I welcome the opportunity to do this — but they know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted — we welcome that. In fact, the President has met with some of those honest critics. He met with a number of them just last week. And partisan critics who claim we acted in Iraq because of oil, or that we acted because of Israel, or that we acted based on misleading the American people —

Q Who has made that charge? Which Democrat in Congress has said he did it for oil or for Israel?

MR. McCLELLAN: He didn’t single out members of Congress. He singled out people that —

Q — elected officials responsible —

MR. McCLELLAN: We can point to —

Q Who are you talking about? Are you talking about Harry Belafonte and Sheryl Crow? Is he really worried about those people?

MR. McCLELLAN: We can point to a number of people. I think the Chairman of the Democratic Party has made numerous statements that are —

Q Who else is part of —

Q Why did he go in then?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Chairman of the party has made numerous irresponsible comments. We have confronted these issues head on, and we will continue to take them on. You might want to back us down from challenging people, but when they make irresponsible comments, we’re going to challenge them.

Q You just said one of the irresponsible comments was that he doesn’t have a strategy for victory, that people have made that comment and that they’ve been briefed on it. They might just not agree with the strategy for victory, or whether it is a strategy for victory.

MR. McCLELLAN: But they’re implying to the American people that we don’t have a strategy in place. And this is after they were — just after they were briefed by our commanders on the ground who put that strategy in place.

Q So that’s irresponsible to imply that they just don’t like the strategy?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. I said that “we don’t have a strategy” — there’s a difference.

Q — semantics —

MR. McCLELLAN: No. People have made that point, said that we don’t have a strategy in place for winning in Iraq. That is irresponsible.

Q That’s exactly my point, that they think it’s not a strategy for winning.

MR. McCLELLAN: No. You know exactly what I’m talking about. I can go back and pull up comments that members of Congress — certain Democratic leaders have made stating that we don’t have a plan in place. And this is right after they were briefed by our commanders on the ground. So I reject that.


And the facts are that members have been briefed about our strategy. We continue to brief members. The President has sat down with bipartisan members of Congress; the President has sat down with administration officials from previous administrations, some who did not agree with the decision, some who do not agree with everything we’re doing in terms of moving forward on that strategy, and listened to their ideas. We welcome those ideas. That’s honest critics. There’s a difference between that and those who are trying to score quick political points based on irresponsible comments.

Q But it’s not like they’re denying they’ve been briefed, Scott.

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

Q It’s not like they’re denying they’ve been briefed. They’re leaving a clear —

MR. McCLELLAN: They are leaving a clear — no, the instance you’re talking about, they’re leaving a clear impression with the American people that there is no strategy. And that’s just absolute false. Again, we addressed this previously. I think that now people are backing off from that, because the President has engaged in a continuing dialogue with the American people spelling out very clearly what our strategy is. So I think since that time people are starting to back off that, that made those false charges.

And now your Daily Les.

Q Scott, the circulation-dwindling Washington Post has just joined a church in re-entering the burgeoning field of radio broadcasting. And my question, does the President believe there is very much compatibility at all between The Washington Post and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? And if so, what?

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s news to me, Les. But we’ll leave the criticism of radio broadcasting to the radio broadcaster like yourself. (Laughter.)