Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Osama may not dominate Chimpy’s thoughts, but he sure did dominate today’s gaggle.

Q He seemed to be offering a conditional truce under fair conditions, and seemed to be tying it to a U.S. pullout from Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: And as I indicated, clearly, the al Qaeda leaders and the terrorists are on the run. They’re under a lot of pressure. We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business.

Oooh, tough talk there, flabman. So how come Osama is still in business?

Q Scott, you said three-quarters of al Qaeda leadership who’s been captured or killed — I assume you meant known leadership.

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s right. Well, and we know that they replace their leaders. We’ve talked about that at length. But we pursue those, as well, and we’ve brought some of those to justice, as well. But it’s not the same organization that it was when it attacked us on September 11th, because of the actions that we have taken and because of what we have done to put their leaders out of business or bring them to justice.

Q But we’ve been unable to capture Osama bin Laden. He’s still capable of sending out messages, he’s still capable of threats, and I assume, still capable of attacks.


Q Explain why it’s so difficult to find him, just for the American public who may say, we’re so technologically advanced, the greatest army in the world, but we can’t find him —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you have to look at the nature of the enemy that we face, and the nature of the war that we’re engaged in. This is a war on terrorism. It’s broader than any one person. It’s a struggle of ideologies.


Q Ideological war, or not, why is it so hard to find him?

MR. McCLELLAN: He is someone who is clearly on the run and has been hiding, and we will continue to pursue him and bring him to justice.


Q How do you know he’s on the run?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it’s clear from all indications. And the last time we heard from him was a year ago in a tape, an audiotape, and as I indicated that was when he was urging the Iraqi people not to vote. And so anyone that thinks Iraq is not a central front in the war on terrorism, all they need to do is go and look at the words of bin Laden, look at the words of Zawahiri and other terrorists.


Q Scott, back on the struggle that you’re talking about, and the narrow view. New York Congressman Ed Towns said, the administration’s priorities are upside down; instead of concentrating on Osama bin Laden, we’re concentrating on war in Iraq. And this goes back to the issue of why Osama bin Laden has not been found. And he was the impetus of this war on terror. He was the one who attacked — well, his minions attacked the United States. Why not have Osama bin Laden captured or otherwise?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you’re ignoring a lot of what the President has said, and a lot of what we are doing. And I think that some do have a misunderstanding of the nature of the enemy that we face and the war that we’re engaged in. Some do view this as more of a law enforcement matter. But this is about an ideology. This is about an ideological struggle.


Q Scott, with bin Laden still out there taunting, threatening and commanding as much attention as he apparently still can, can you legitimately claim to be winning the war on terror?

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely, for the reasons that I spelled out earlier.

Then Helen chimed in.

Q Why do you keep linking Iraq and 9/11 and so forth? Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and you keep — we started the war in Iraq. We brought the terrorists in, so-called.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that’s a misunderstanding of —

Q — and 20 to 50 people are dying every day in Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think, one, that’s a misunderstanding of the global war on terrorism that we are engaged in —

Q We invaded.

MR. McCLELLAN: Some people take a narrow view of the war on terrorism. The President recognizes —

Q Innocent Iraqis are paying the price.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President — well, first of all, the Iraqi people, we have heard from many of them who have expressed their appreciation for the removal of a brutal and oppressive regime —

Q Many are dead. Thousands are dead.

MR. McCLELLAN: Second of all, Zawahiri, bin Laden’s number two leader, has talked about how Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. We know that the terrorists want to create a safe haven from which they can plan and plot attacks. The stakes are high in Iraq. And that’s why it’s critical that we prevail in Iraq, because it will be a major blow to the ambitions of the terrorists. They don’t want us in the Middle East. The Middle East is a dangerous region of the world. It has been a breeding ground for terrorism, a breeding ground where people are —

Q They don’t want a foreigner in their country.

MR. McCLELLAN: — planes into buildings and attacked innocent civilians across the world. And that’s why it’s so critical that we prevail in Iraq, as well. And we will. And the Iraqi people no longer live under a brutal, oppressive regime, a regime that was responsible for the systematic torture and killing of people who simply spoke out against that regime.

Why wasn’t Dear Leader informed about the bin Laden tape?

Q Scott, during the appearance in Sterling, Virginia, the President didn’t find out about the reported tape until after that was over —

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s correct.

Q — and you have a situation where millions of people are watching television, they’re learning about the tape before the President does. Doesn’t the White House see that as — view that as kind of awkward, and was any thought given to perhaps giving him a note or somehow concluding that event —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don’t think — he was briefed immediately after the remarks, and I think that was an appropriate time to inform him of it.

Time for more AbramOffal. Looks like Scottie is going to call on the “not going to comment on an ongoing investigation” defense from here on out.

Q And going back to the Abramoff investigation, do you have an update for us on any records of phone calls or emails between staff members and Mr. Abramoff, or photos of the President with him?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, as I indicated yesterday, we’re not going to engage in some sort of fishing expedition. I know there are some that want to play partisan politics, and do so. This is a gentleman who is being held to account for the wrongdoing he was involved in. He is someone who, through himself and his clients, contributed to both Democrats and Republicans. And it was outrageous what he was involved in doing and he needs to be held to account, and he is being held to account by the Department of Justice.

Q Can you tell us of any phone calls, records or —

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ve already addressed this.

Q — have been requested or subpoenaed by the investigation?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I would have heard of that and I haven’t heard anything like that.


Q Scott, you said a few minutes ago you weren’t going to do a fishing expedition on any contacts Abramoff might have had with White House people. But some of his lobbying firm billing records and emails and other things that are emerging in this case suggest some specific meetings with White House officials, including an aid [sic] to the Vice President. Have you had any opportunity, or will you take the opportunity to sort of compare those records with anything —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I mean, the gentleman you bring up, Mr. Abramoff, is someone that is being held to account by the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice has an ongoing investigation and they’re the ones who are overseeing that investigation.