Little Scottie skipped over Helen Thomas and let Jassica Yellin of ABC News have the first question in today’s gaggle but as this is my goddamn obsession I can order the questions any way I like.
Start us off, Helen.
Q Does the President think that he can continue to conduct a war without end, without raising taxes, which money — the cost of this war is expected to go up — almost $2 trillion. Guns and butter, you cannot — who is going to pay for this?
MR. McCLELLAN: You bring up a very good point.
Q Future Presidents?
MR. McCLELLAN: You bring up a good point. We are a nation at war, and that’s why it’s important that we keep our — that we make sure we meet our priorities —
Q Who is paying for it?
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s what I’m getting to. It’s important that we meet our most important priorities during this time of war, and it’s also important that we work extra hard to hold the line on spending elsewhere in the budget.
Q That will handle the cost of the war?
MR. McCLELLAN: It’s absolutely critical to keeping our economy strong. Our economy is strong. The President talked about that earlier today.
Q You can have the guns and butter —
MR. McCLELLAN: — many Democrats want to raise our taxes. And the President has pointed back to what they said a few years ago, when they said that tax cuts would do nothing to create jobs. Well, more than 5.1 million times, they have been proven — they have been proven wrong.
And we are engaged in a global war on terrorism. And the cost of inaction is far higher — we are laying the foundations of peace for generations to come. But we’re going to make sure that our troops and our military has everything they need to complete the mission and do the job when it comes to prevailing in the war on terrorism. And that’s why the President has outlined budgets that meet our most important priorities and hold the line on spending elsewhere.
<Obsession continues, Read More.
OK, with that non-answer we know proceed to Jessica Yellin: Rumbling over Rummy.
Q Scott, a number of members of the military have called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Does the President still have full faith and confidence in him, and is there any plan to replace him?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think that a — to the first part of your question, when you asked about confidence in him. I think that you said, members of the military. I think there have been some former members. So I think we ought to draw that distinction, because if you go and look at what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the other day, he was speaking his own personal view, and he is someone who is held in very high regard and has earned the respect of all those serving in the military.
Q Does the President think that retired generals, by virtue of no longer being in service, have less valid opinions about Secretary Rumsfeld?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’ve never heard him express it that way. People are going to express their opinions; they have the right to do so.
Q Does the President consider their views or their perspective, since they’re not in the chain of command and might be freer to speak?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President looks to — well, first of all, I think that that is somewhat insulting to our commanders, because our commanders are people of high honor and integrity. General Pace spoke the other day in the briefing at the Department of Defense, and he talked about how — I’m going to go back to his own words.
This is, again, the Chairman of our Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said, “In the last couple of days there have been several articles, opinion pieces, editorials about the responsibility of senior U.S. military officers to speak up, to tell the truth as we know it, and that is a sacred obligation of all of us who are fortunate to represent all the members of the Armed Forces and to have the opportunity to participate at this level.”
Q Thank you. My question has been answered in part, but has the President talked to, or does he intend to talk to, the five generals who are now saying Defense Secretary Rumsfeld should resign?
MR. McCLELLAN: I know of no plans. He’s well aware of their opinions.
Q Secretary Rumsfeld in the past has said that he’s offered his resignation to the President, but the President has refused. Has Secretary Rumsfeld recently offered —
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t have any update. That would be a question to ask him. I don’t have any update.
Q And can I just ask you to explain a little bit, why do you feel it’s so necessary — if you could explain why it’s necessary to distinguish between a retired member of the military and an active in talking about evaluating their opinion?
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn’t think I said that. I just said that —
Q Well, with Jessica —
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?
Q But with Jessica, you made it a point to clarify that right away.
MR. McCLELLAN: That was General Pace. Or, was that Kelly, I think, was bringing up former — you said military officials, and I was just saying these are some former members of the military.
Q And why is that?
MR. McCLELLAN: It’s just a fact.
Q But are you somehow suggesting that —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you are.
Shorter Little Scottie: I know you are but what am I?
Again we ask, what did the president know and when did he know it?
Q When did the administration become aware of the Pentagon report that talks about mobile trailers?
MR. McCLELLAN: The only update I have on that matter is what the Pentagon said yesterday. The Pentagon put out a statement and talked about how that was a preliminary report from a DIA — meaning Defense Intelligence Agency — sponsored technical exploitation team, and that information was sent to the DIA. And then they said that the CIA-DIA joint white paper that was released publicly on May 28th reflected the position of the intelligence community at the time, and that the findings that you’re bringing up were vetted with other intelligence analysts during the summer of 2003. So that’s a statement from the Pentagon, and that’s the only update I have at this point.
Q So if it had been vetted then would you have known about them by, say, September 2003?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you’ll remember, the view of the intelligence community was expressed in the white paper that was released on May 28th. It was a joint white paper by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. And that’s what the President’s comments were based on. I know that there were still — and that view prevailed for quite some time period. You can go back and look at that time period, because there’s a lot of discussion about it. And then you had the Director of the CIA talking as late as February, saying that there was not a consensus on this issue — February of the next year. And these findings were incorporated into the Iraq Survey Group, which completed a final report in September of 2004. So that was a year later, more than a year later when the Iraq Survey Group completed that report. And if you go back to, I think, October of 2003, David Kay was still saying that it wasn’t exactly clear, or something along those lines, in terms of what these might be used for.
Q Well, the report had said it was absolutely clear what these could and couldn’t be used for, that they couldn’t be used for —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I just pointed out that at the time there was a preliminary report coming in from the field, and that it was evaluated and assessed over a period of time.
Q When was — one second one. When was Congress briefed on the contents of this?
MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to talk to the Defense Intelligence Agency. It was in the Iraq Survey Group report, which was a public document incorporated into the bipartisan Robb-Silberman Commission report which looked at the intelligence relating to Iraq, and then made recommendations about how to improve our intelligence.
Q The Vice President, as late as January 2004, was still stating that they were weapons labs.
MR. McCLELLAN: There were a number of people who were still talking about that issue for quite some time.
Today, in Your Daily Les, Kinsolving questions Little Scottie’s Texanhood.
Q From San Antonio, The Washington Times reports this morning that the gravesite of Gregorio Esparza, who was killed in action defending the Alamo, is now missing. And my question: Does the former governor of your state believe that Esparza’s grave should be searched for, restored, and honored?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven’t taken a look at that issue, Les. But I’ll be glad to take a look at it.
Q Get back to me?
MR. McCLELLAN: As someone who is a Texan, and certainly someone who has followed Texas history very closely, as well.
Q You’re a Virginian, you keep telling us.
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?
Q You are registered to vote in the —
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m a Texan.
Q — in the commonwealth of Virginia?
MR. McCLELLAN: Born and raised in Texas. Temporary resident of Virginia, which is a great state, too.