Chimpy IsNo Fan Of The First Amendment
Q Thanks. Can you just offer a little insight as to why the President would sort of part with his own tradition of not going out to Andrews to greet leaders, and do so for a religious leader, but not having done it for political leaders?
MS. PERINO: Well, obviously, as I said, it’s an historic and important visit.
Q How does the White House balance the different elements for an arrival ceremony? Is it a secular head of state arrival? Is it, in part, religious overtones, with the singing of “The Lord’s Prayer”?
MS. PERINO: Well, this is a little bit different, in that the head of state is also the head of the Catholic Church that is visiting the White House. And so I think we’ve struck the right balance, and that it’s perfectly appropriate for the White House to welcome the Pope and have one of the songs performed tomorrow by Kathleen Battle — who we are very happy to have at the White House — she’ll be singing “The Lord’s Prayer.” And many people across America and across the world say that prayer in order to provide themselves comfort and confidence in getting their day started. And so we think it’s perfectly appropriate.
Q Can I just follow?
MS. PERINO: No, I think I’ll go over here to Mark.
Pope Ratzo Is No Fan Of Chimpy’s Vanity War
Q Last year in his Easter message, the Pope said, “Nothing positive comes from Iraq.” How does the President speak to the Holy Father about that subject?
MS. PERINO: Well, they have a relationship that is based on trust and they are able to have frank conversations. I will say that while Iraq has come up in the past when the President has talked to the Pope, as I understand it, they’re not prolonged conversations about it. Obviously there was a difference of opinion back in 2003 and beyond, in subsequent years. But now I think that there is an understanding that with the strategy that’s working in Iraq right now, the most important thing we can do is help to solidify the situation, root it into freedom and democracy so that people of religious minorities — I’m sorry, people of a religious faith who are minorities in their countries can practice freely and be free from persecution. And that is something that they share. I expect them to touch on that a little bit.
Q On the war, do you expect him to say, we just politely disagree, let’s move on?
MS. PERINO: I don’t expect any public conversation about it. But they will have a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office and it’s possible that it could come up; I won’t rule it out. But I don’t think it will be — I don’t think it will dominate the conversation in any way.
Q Dana, back to Iraq. I was struck by what you said, that the most important thing we can do now is to sort of — is to basically finish and to bring about peace. And I wonder, does the — will the President try to make that case to the Pope? In other words, even though he may have disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq, will he now try to find common ground in this way to say, look, the best thing we can do there now is —
MS. PERINO: Sheryl, I really don’t think that the President is planning to spend a lot of time talking about the issues of Iraq with the Pope.
Chimpy’s Goin’ To Hell
Q Dana, the President, you mentioned just a few minutes ago, he believes that human life is sacred, and he does say that he shares that belief with the Vatican, and a culture of life. Yet when he was governor of Texas some 152 people were executed in the state prisons — according to some, that was a record number for a modern governor. How does the President — first of all, does he still support capital punishment? This is something that the Vatican has said — it’s calling for a worldwide end, obviously, to capital punishment, saying it’s an affront to human dignity, not in keeping with the culture of life. Does the President still support capital punishment? And how does he square that?
MS. PERINO: This is another issue where there is a disagreement, and the President does believe that the death penalty, when carried out through a system of justice, can help protect innocent life and can punish the most grievous of crimes. And so there’s a place where there’s a divergence. But I would caution you that there is much more agreement between these two leaders than there is disagreement.
Q There’s a new Washington Post/ABC News poll that gives President Bush a 28-percent approval rating on his handling of the economy, and this is after the stimulus package and after he’s spoken out about the economy. What does the President have to do to gain the confidence of the American people on the economy?
MS. PERINO: I think what — the stimulus package has not even had a chance to go into effect yet, because it was passed and signed into law back in February, and now the checks are going to be headed out of the IRS around — the Treasury Department sometime the first week of May and the second week of May — the first week of May, people who want to receive their stimulus check in the form of a direct deposit, they’ll get it that week; and then the week after that they’ll get the paper check, if that’s how they decided to get it. So it’s going to take a while for that to have an impact. And I think that when you start seeing those numbers turn around in terms of the economic data, that’s hopefully when people will start feeling more confident in the economy.
Dang, John, Even Dana Peroxide Thinks Your Gas Tax Holiday Idea Is Stupid
Q And what does the President think about Senator McCain’s proposal for a gas tax holiday during the summer?
MS. PERINO: Well, as I said this morning, I’m not going to comment specifically on the proposal. I know in the world of — in a campaign, everybody wants a quick reaction.
Q Dana, you said you weren’t going to weigh in on Senator McCain’s proposal today on this gas tax holiday. You do weigh in, from this podium, on a number of proposals. When do you think you might weigh in from the White House on this proposal?
MS. PERINO: On the gas tax holiday? I don’t know if we would.
Q If you would?
MS. PERINO: I don’t even know if we would.
Q So whether it’s a good idea or not a good idea, we’re not going to hear from this White House?
MS. PERINO: I think that Senator McCain can make his case. And he’s our nominee, and we’re very excited about it.
Les Kinsolving Still Hates The Gays
Q There have been demands that our Armed Forces be forced to accept what the Centers for Disease Control still report is the largest spreaders of AIDS. And my question: The President not only opposes this for our Armed Forces, but hopes his successor will, as well, doesn’t he?
MS. PERINO: I’m not going to dignify that with an answer.
Q You won’t dignify it with an answer?