Little Scottie McClellan: Card Shark.
Q Does the President think that this move today will satisfy the concerns of many Republicans who were calling for a White House shakeup?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Terry, I know that there’s a tendency in this town to look at it in those terms and look at it in kind of zero-sum ways. That’s not the way the President approached this. Let me back up, because I think it’s best to kind of lay out some of the facts for you.
But I think Andy recognized that it is time for a change. So he and the President had a good discussion about that over the last few weeks. The President reached out to Josh, to talk to him about the possibility of succeeding Andy. And that’s some of the facts.
Q The question, though, Scott is, did the President feel the change was necessary as he tries to better his political standing in his second term?
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MR. McCLELLAN: Well, after a lot of discussion with Andy, he felt that this was the right decision. He accepted the wise judgment of his Chief of Staff.
Q Why is it time in the President’s view?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I think we need to step back and look at the broader picture, because over the course of the last year, since the election of — the reelection of 2004, I think half the senior staff has changed. So there’s constantly change within the White House.
Q But was there atrophy among the senior staff? Did the President have a sense that he’s getting knocked around politically, he’s — there are missteps in the White House that may be attributable to staff, and that he needed to shake things up? Did he have that view?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know that he looked at it necessarily in those terms at all, David. He appreciates the job that his staff is doing.
Q Scott, when Andy Card shows up on March the 8th and raises the possibility, what’s motivating that? Just because he’s tired, or was it on the heels of the ports deal, and the low poll numbers —
MR. McCLELLAN: Having worked with Andy for the last five-and-a-half years, one thing I know is that I’ve never seen him tired. Although he is someone that puts in as long as hours [sic] as anyone — he’s the first one to come into the White House each morning, and many times is the last one to leave, and he’s constantly working round the clock from wherever he is.
Q What was new on March 8th?
MR. McCLELLAN: But I think that — he talked about this a little bit earlier in his remarks. In a White House, particularly a White House of this size, there’s always going to be change, and that change can be good. And so Andy and the President had a good discussion about that over the last few weeks.
Q Scott, can you expand on that a little bit? You said Andy recognized it was time for a change, and you’re right, he did talk about it a little bit. But did he feel someone else could do a better job at this point, that anything had gone wrong? Give us some clarity on why Andy Card would —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you always learn from experience over the last few years, Martha. But I don’t think that’s the way anyone was looking at it. I think that Andy was looking at it from a very selfless standpoint — selfless standpoint.
Q So Mr. Card didn’t think there were any problems?
MR. McCLELLAN: — Andy felt it was time, that change is necessary in any administration, and this was a time for change in this position.
Q Scott, Andy Card said he resigned because it was time for a change. Was it a time for a change for himself, or did he believe it was a time for a change for the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think Andy always looks at it in terms of what’s best for the President. And so that’s the way he approached it.
Q So he did it because it was best for the White House for him to leave?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?
Q So he did it because he believed it was best for the White House if he left?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think he was looking at what is in the best interest of the President, in his view.
Q And, obviously, the President agreed.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, Ken, I think that that’s simplifying it too much. As I indicated earlier, the President reluctantly accepted his resignation.
Q So he agreed with Andy that it was best for the President if Andy left at this time?
MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, I think you’re trying to simplify it, and I wouldn’t do that. And I would not agree with the characterization. I would look at the facts and then move forward from there.
Q Well, does the President think this was the best thing for this White House, for Andy to leave at this time?
MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, he expressed what his views were when it came to Andy. And now you’re trying to get me to fall into this simplification that this town likes to do in terms of describing things. I wouldn’t do that.
Q Would it be fair to —
MR. McCLELLAN: I know, it’s not that simple. But that’s my point, Ken, it’s not that simple. I’m trying to encourage you to look at the facts.
Damn, these guys are psychologically unable to admit any errors, aren’t they.
On to bigger and better things: Sovereignty, Bitch!
Q Scott, on Iraq, there’s a report that the President does not want Prime Minister al Jafaari to lead a new government of national unity, and that he actually put this into some sort of a letter or some sort of communication to a Shiite leader. Does the President want Prime Minister al Jafaari to move forward as leader?
MR. McCLELLAN: What we are doing is encouraging the Iraqi leaders to move forward on a government of national unity, based on strong leadership. It is up to the Iraqi people to decide who the prime minister is. And I don’t think that’s an accurate report at all, what you just described.
Q So the President did not contact any Shiite leaders and tell them what he thinks?
MR. McCLELLAN: I know of no letter.
Q Scott, just to follow up first on your answer on Jafaari. While there may not have been a letter, is it your understanding that the President or others in the White House have conveyed through our embassy there, their sense that Mr. Jafaari would not be the best person to be heading the unity government?
MR. McCLELLAN: What we have conveyed is what I just described to you. We continue to encourage the Iraqi leaders to move forward on a government of national unity. But it is up to the Iraqi people to decide who their prime minister is. And our Ambassador briefed the Cabinet earlier today; he was also on — through video conference with the congressional delegations that had just returned, as well, and he talked about the progress that’s being made to form a government of national unity. But it’s up to the Iraqi people to make those decisions, David.
Q Should I interpret that, Scott, as a denial that the United States has indicated to the Iraqi government what our preferences were, even if it is up ultimately —
MR. McCLELLAN: What we are doing is supporting the Iraqi leaders as they move forward on putting a government in place that represents all Iraqis. And what we have emphasized and encouraged is that it be a government of national unity based on strong leadership. And it’s up to them to decide who those leaders are within that government.
Q The question you’re sort of stepping around, Scott, is understanding that it’s their decision to make, have we expressed a preference or advice?
MR. McCLELLAN: I would describe it the way I just did, David.
And now, Your Daily Les.
Q The result of five national polls, including Gallup and NBC/Wall Street Journal, show an overwhelming majority of the American people believe that the federal government should do more to prevent illegal immigration, instead of the McCain/Kennedy amnesty proposal, so similar to what was tried in 1986 and which failed. And my question: Why does the President believe that illegal immigrants will bother to sign up for a guest worker plan when so many millions have been able to stay in this country while breaking the law?