Here's today's briefing from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.
Still more questions about the accidential shooting, despite Vice President Cheney's interview with Fox News.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 16, 2006
TOPIC PAGE #
Economic news...........................................1, 16-17
Senate Patriot Act action....................................1-2
Vice President hunting
accident.................2-5, 6-7, 8-9, 11-12, 14, 16,17-18
Photos of Abu Ghraib...........................................5
U.N. report on Guantanamo.............................5-6, 15-16
NSA surveillance program..................................7-8, 9
Iranian nuclear program....................................12-13
UAE oil ports.................................................13
* * * * *
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 16, 2006
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:33 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I want to begin with a couple of important issues. First of all, on the economy, there is more good news that came out on the economy today, a couple of indicators. The housing starts were up significantly in January. Home ownership is at an all-time high. The latest unemployment insurance claims also came out today, and they point to continued strong job creation as we move forward. Our economy is strong -- it grew at 3.5 percent over the last year. That's faster than any other major industrialized country in the world. There have been nearly 4.8 million new jobs created since the summer of '03, and the unemployment rate is at 4.7 percent, below the averages of the '70s, '80s and '90s.
And the President is focused on continuing to keep our economy growing strong by moving forward on three key areas -- well, I should say, four -- moving forward on our initiatives to reduce our dependence on oil, foreign oil, and moving forward on his competitiveness and innovation initiatives, and making the tax relief permanent and also continuing to build upon our record of restraining spending.
Secondly, there was some action today on the Patriot Act. We're pleased that the Senate took a step forward on renewing the Patriot Act. This law provides important tools to our law enforcement and intelligence officials who are on the front lines in the war on terrorism, saving lives and protecting the American people.
There was a good agreement that was reached by members of the Senate. It was reached in a good faith effort. Yet there are still some Senate Democrats that want to continue to engage in obstructionist tactics and prevent this vital legislation from being reauthorized. We hope the Senate will move ahead quickly and reject the continued obstructionist efforts, and get this act renewed before it is set to expire next month.
And with that, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q Scott, to revisit a subject from this morning --
MR. McCLELLAN: And from the last week. (Laughter.)
Q Does President -- not last week, this week.
MR. McCLELLAN: I said, from the last week.
Q Does the President think the Vice President's shooting accident was disclosed in a timely enough fashion?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that, one, the Vice President participated in an interview yesterday and answered all the big questions relating to this issue, and explained his rational behind the decision that he made. The President is very satisfied with the way this matter has been addressed. I think that at this point, what we are doing is looking forward to the future, not looking back to the past. The American people saw yesterday that the Vice President is very concerned about his friend Harry Whittington. They saw his concern and compassion for a friend of his who he shot in a hunting accident. As he said, it was one of the worst days of his life.
The top concern for the Vice President has been and continues to be the well being of Mr. Whittington. He remains in our thoughts and prayers. And I think that the views have been expressed pretty thoroughly on this matter.
Q We haven't heard from the President on whether he thought it should have been disclosed sooner. And that's what I was asking.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if the President wants to say more on this, you're going to have the opportunity to see him later today, and we'll go from there.
Kelly, go ahead.
Q Also on this subject, does the President feel that it was appropriate to give the discretion to the Vice President to make those decisions -- as he described to us yesterday -- about disclosure, at a time when he was understandably under enormous personal duress, concerned about his friend, having just been through a traumatic event. Is that the right time for him to be making those decisions, when you have a formal apparatus here to deal with disclosures to the public?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, Kelly, like I said, I think we've been through these issues thoroughly over the last few days. I think the American people are looking at this and saying, enough already; let's focus on the priorities that are most important to this nation. We're all focused on the well being of Mr. Whittington. We're all concerned about his health and well being. And the last reports from his doctors were that he was doing well. I think they're providing an additional update here shortly. But we keep him in our thoughts and prayer -- want to see him recover fully and return home.
But we are continuing to focus on the priorities that the American people are most concerned about, like the ones I talked about at the beginning of this briefing. The views have been expressed thoroughly from me at this podium. I think the Vice President went through this pretty thoroughly in a 30-minute or so interview yesterday with Brit Hume, who is a respected journalist. And he covered, I think, all the major questions that people are interested in. And the Vice President answered those questions in a very thorough way.
Go ahead, follow --
Q Has the Vice President been seen by a physician or had any medical follow up himself, again, given the stress of the circumstances?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, Kelly, I think that we have heard from the Vice President. I think that there is a tendency in this town to over-analyze things. And I think that falls into that category. If there's additional information the Vice President's Office thinks is appropriate to share, I'm sure they will.
Q Scott, one of the top priorities for the American people, no doubt, is their confidence in their leaders. And this has been an administration that has made it very clear that credibility and just telling the facts was important, that it's clear that that's what you guys do. And I asked you about this in the morning gaggle, you said that you thought I'd taken it out of context, or misunderstood, so I've gone back and re-read the transcript. After the Vice President went through the entire course of events why he asked Mrs. Armstrong to do the talking, he was asked, "Does it raise the question whether you could have headed off the firestorm if you had put out the word to the national media," and the Vice President's response was, "Well, who was going to do that? Are they going to take my word for what happened?" Does the Vice President believe that his word is not credible with the American people?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think that the Vice President feels like I do, that sometimes in situations like this there is a tendency to over-interpret what was said. I think what the Vice President was referring to was the fact that he was involved in this hunting accident. He was the one who accidentally shot his friend, and he feels horrible about it. He wants to see his friend fully recover. He felt that Mrs. Armstrong, who was an eyewitness, could provide the most credible account of what occurred. She was not someone that was involved in this accident. And that's all he was saying.
Q There have been accounts that Republicans on the Hill feel that this has damaged the party, in general. Is that a message that was conveyed to the President when they had breakfast here with him?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again -- no. And nothing that I've heard from that breakfast yesterday -- are you talking about yesterday? Well, that was a bipartisan leadership meeting --
Q But some of the Republicans later --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware that that topic came up. I know that what they did talk about were our foreign and domestic policy priorities. They talked about important priorities like the ones I mentioned at the beginning that we're working to move forward on to keep America the most competitive and most innovative economy in the world. So I don't think that that issue came up at all, and I haven't heard anyone express that. In fact, I heard -- a short time ago the President met with some House Republican leaders on another important bipartisan priority, which is making sure that we succeed in Iraq. They had a very good discussion, and I think some members in there expressed their appreciation for the Vice President.
Q Another topic. I know you addressed some of this in the gaggle this morning. Are you upset with the new publication of some of the old pictures from Abu Ghraib? Are you upset with the publication at this time? And on Guantanamo, is there any credibility to U.N. calls to close down Guantanamo?
MR. McCLELLAN: What we were upset with was the appalling acts that took place at Abu Ghraib. That's why this administration acted quickly, and our military acted quickly, to hold people to account and bring them to justice, and to also take steps to prevent something like that from happening again. That's the difference between the United States and some countries in the world that systematically engage in torture. When we find abuses or atrocities like that, we show the world that people are held to account; we show the world that we take these matters seriously, and we take steps to prevent that from happening ever again. These are relating to the same instance that took place back at the original time.
And we've taken a lot of steps since that time to hold people to account and take steps to prevent something like that from happening again. Our military goes out of their way to represent the best of America and our values. And one of those values is treating all people with respect and dignity, and treating people humanely. And the vast majority, the 99.9 percent of the men and women in our uniform, do an outstanding job representing the United States.
What was your question about the United Nations?
Q The U.N. committee call on Guantanamo.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'd point out a couple of things. First of all, the U.N. team that was looking into this issue did not even visit Guantanamo Bay. They did not go down and see the facilities. They were offered the same kind of access that congressional leaders, who are responsible for oversight of these matters, have been provided. Yet, they declined to go down there.
I think that what we are seeing is a rehash of allegations that have been made by lawyers representing some of these detainees. We know that these are dangerous terrorists that are being kept at Guantanamo Bay. They are people that are determined to harm innocent civilians, or harm innocent Americans. They were enemy combatants picked up on the battlefield in the war on terrorism. They are trained to provide false information. And al Qaeda training manuals talk about ways to disseminate false information and hope to get attention.
But the International Committee for the Red Cross has been provided full access to the detainees. The military treats detainees humanely, as directed by the President of the United States. And the United Nations should be making serious investigations across the world, and there are many instances when they do, when it comes to human rights. This was not one of them. And I think it's a discredit to the U.N. when a team like this goes about rushing to report something when they haven't even looked into the facts. All they have done is look at the allegations.
Q Scott, back to the reaction to Mr. Cheney's statements yesterday. The House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, says that this is analogous or comparable to the administration's inability to come clean, and suggested that the delay of it and the administration's unwillingness to come clean is analogous to a lack of cooperation with the Abramoff investigation and even the response to Katrina. Can you react to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that just shows that the only ones who are making such allegations like that are the most partisan of people or the conspiracy theorists that live out there, and they try to take this matter and paint with a broader brush. I think most Americans reject that wholeheartedly.
Q I have another question. On the subject of the NSA surveillance program and its regular review, et cetera --
MR. McCLELLAN: And I would say, too, that I think some want to use this to distract from the real issues, because they don't want to talk about the agenda, they don't want to talk about their ideas for America, they don't want us to engage in a debate on the substantive issues that matter most to the American people.
Q On the NSA surveillance program. There's talk on the Hill that there may be some movement in a way to legislatively improve either FISA or create some sort of a better supervision of the NSA surveillance program that would satisfy one of the two of the branches, legislative or judicial. What is the White House's current view of that dialogue, and where it seems to be headed?
MR. McCLELLAN: There's good discussion going on with some members of Congress. We have worked very closely with Congress on the terrorist surveillance program. It is a critical tool that is both lawful and necessary. And that's -- and the President felt it was such a vital tool that he felt it was also important to keep Congress briefed about this program. And that's what he has done. We have briefed members of Congress more than a dozen times. It is a carefully tailored program that is aimed at intercepting international communications of al Qaeda or al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. And that's what his focus is.
Hang on, I'm coming to the question I think that you're getting to.
So we have spelled out the legal rationale behind this vital tool. We don't believe that congressional authorization is something that is necessary, because, as the President has spelled out, and others have spelled out, he already has the constitutional and the statutory authority to authorize the terrorist surveillance program.
The President also has said that we will continue working with Congress. We will -- we are open to ideas regarding legislation. The one thing the President said was that he would resist legislation if it would compromise this vital program that helps save lives and prevent attacks from happening.
But we have seen some good ideas presented by Senator DeWine, and we are committed to continuing to work with Congress on legislation that would not undermine the President's ability to protect Americans. And so we'll keep working with members of Congress as we move forward.
Q In short, though, the administration is open to the idea of some legislative adjustments?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we previously expressed that we will work with Congress on this, and we previously expressed that we're open to ideas. We've talked about how there's kind of a high bar to overcome. But at this point, we've only heard ideas from Senator DeWine. We think there's some good ideas, but we have not seen actual legislation.
Go ahead, Elaine.
Q Scott, going back to the Vice President, you said yesterday on Air Force One that you speak for the White House, on behalf of the White House and the President, and you also reiterated --
MR. McCLELLAN: I am the White House Spokesman. I believe that statement is fact.
Q And you also reiterated that in talking about the way the Vice President's information came out, you said you can always look back at these issues and learn to do better in the future. Did the President -- if so, did the President communicate that view to Vice President Cheney?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think as I indicated earlier, I'm not interested in going back and rehashing what has already been said on this matter. I don't know that there's anything else I can say that I haven't already said about these issues. You all heard from the Vice President on this issue, as well, yesterday, and heard his views. And he talked about his rationale behind that. And I think there are a lot of people that understand that his focus was first and foremost where it should be, on making sure that his friend was getting the medical care he needed. And also, after that, secondary to that, making sure that all the facts were together and that the American people were provided an accurate account of what occurred. And the public was informed about this very matter.
Q And on the NSA surveillance discussions, why couldn't those discussions have taken place sooner?
MR. McCLELLAN: What do you mean, why couldn't they have taken place sooner?
Q Before the program was made public and the disclosure was made -- why couldn't there have been --
MR. McCLELLAN: Maybe you have forgotten about what has already been said. First of all, we talked to members of Congress and briefed key leaders on this more than a dozen times. It is a highly classified program. It is critical in a time of war that you are able to surveill the enemy, and that's what this is about. So let's keep that in mind. And this is about international communications involving al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda members.
And during those discussions I think the Attorney General pointed out -- with congressional leaders -- pointed out that the subject of legislation came up and there was concern expressed that if you moved ahead on legislation that it could compromise this program. And I don't think anyone who recognizes how vital this program is wants to do anything to undermine it, because it is a successful program; it has helped us to better protect the American people and prevent attacks. I think you've heard from key intelligence officials, whether it was General Hayden or Director Negroponte, the two top intelligence leaders, or the head of the FBI, they have talked about how vital this program has been.
Q Thank you, Scott. When the Department of Homeland Security was created and organized shortly after 9/11, FEMA was made part of it, a lower level agency within the department, which many say was the genesis of the clash between FEMA Director Michael Brown and Secretary Chertoff. Now, yesterday, Congressman Shuster of Pennsylvania, criticized the structure, and called for FEMA being made an independent agency once again outside the Department of Homeland Security. Your reaction?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my reaction is to point out a couple of things. First of all, when the Department of Homeland Security was created, there was a bipartisan effort that was undertaken. And there was strong bipartisan support for putting all these departments and agencies under one umbrella, where they all focused on one priority, and that is protecting the American people.
And now in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we have undertaken a comprehensive lessons-learned review to look at things that we can do better to prepare for future response efforts. And Secretary Chertoff has already taken a number of steps to make sure that we are in position to be better prepared in the future.
And one of those initiatives he undertook was to look at FEMA and take some steps to strengthen FEMA and make it work better, and put it in a better position to respond in the future. Now, we have to keep in mind that the first responders are always going to be the state and local folks. They're the ones who are on the front lines. And the role of the federal government is to support those efforts. But we have seen that this was a catastrophic hurricane, and in those instances where something like that happens, what do you do?
And that's why we have taken a comprehensive look at how we move forward. And our Director of Homeland Security is going to be talking about more than a hundred recommendations that we are making to move forward on. And much -- many of those we need to act on now, and move ahead on. There are some that will take a longer-term effort. But I think everybody recognized the importance of the way the Department of Homeland Security was structured when FEMA was put under it. And that remains where our support is, as well. But we also must continue to work to make sure that everything is fully integrated at the Department of Homeland Security.
Q So while you support measures for reform, none of those hundred measures you refer to include making FEMA independent again?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've expressed our view previously, and we continue to support FEMA being where it is.
Q Scott, the Vice President spoke yesterday to Brit Hume, but everything is still not in a nice, neat package that the White House wants to make it look like it is. Some are still concerned with the fact that the Vice President was not interviewed by local police until the day after. And now we're hearing that there was alcohol at lunch, a couple of hours prior to, and the investigators did not get a chance to talk to the Vice President or find out the level -- the blood level -- or what alcohol level at that time. That is not a nice, neat package. And there's still a concern about --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think you characterized the full picture there, April. I think you ought to look at what law enforcement officials have said on that very matter. And I think most Americans believe that this issue has been covered thoroughly, and most Americans recognize that the Vice President is first and foremost concerned about his friend. So I reject this characterization. I think this room and this town sometimes gets overly caught up in this. But the American people appreciate the answers to the questions that have already been asked.
Q But the Vice President himself addressed the issue that he had alcohol prior to -- hours prior to. And no one tested --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll refer to --
Q -- no one tested in the hours prior to. And no one tested --
MR. McCLELLAN: April, if you want to continue to pursue this, you can do that. I think most Americans recognize this is what it is, which is a hunting accident, a terrible hunting accident, where someone was injured --
Q If an average person --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Whittington. We want to see him recover fully.
Q That is very true.
MR. McCLELLAN: If you want to over interpret things, that's your business. The American people have heard the answers.
Q But Scott, what the average American -- if that situation were to be the case, they would be investigated, and a blood alcohol level tested and taken that day.
MR. McCLELLAN: Maybe you ought to look at what the sheriff's department put out about that very matter. And they interviewed people, April. Because you are not giving people a full picture when you characterize it that way. It's already been provided by law enforcement officials, by eyewitnesses. And the Vice President has provided those answers, too. He was very thorough in his responses to the questions that were asked yesterday.
Again, if you want to continue to pursue this, that's your business. We're going to continue to focus on the priorities of the American people.
Q Thank you. Scott, Secretary Rice is calling on the international community to pressure Iran into giving up its nuclear program. But Iran seems to be thumbing its nose at the world by enriching uranium. It doesn't seem to be concerned about U.N. action, so what's left? Is the military option still on the table?
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. First of all, we are continuing to pursue a diplomatic approach to resolve this matter. The international community is very concerned about the regime's continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. And the international community is determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. They have shown that they cannot be trusted. The regime continues to openly defy the international community. That's why the International Atomic Energy Agency voted in a very strong way to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council.
Now the board -- the Atomic Energy Agency board is waiting for Director ElBaradei to report back on his review of the nuclear program in Iran. And he provided a preliminary assessment a few weeks ago, and he'll be providing additional information. But I think the international community is determined to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability. This isn't about the question of whether or not Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear program. They do. We've said we support the proposal that was offered by Russia. But the regime has shown through two decades of hiding their activities, and continued defiance of their international obligations that they cannot be trusted.
And so it's a matter of confidence. In order to gain that -- regain some confidence with the international community, what they need to do is take the steps that were spelled out by the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. And that means abiding by the Paris agreement, suspending all enrichment in uranium -- in enrichment and enrichment-related activities. And it means cooperating fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and acting in good faith in negotiation with the Europeans to resolve this matter in a diplomatic way.
There is a menu of options, as Secretary Rice pointed out yesterday, that are available to us. And we will consider those very carefully along with our partners in the international community.
Q Scott, I have a two-part. The government's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has approved a deal that will put six major ports in the United States under the control of a state-sponsored company based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. And my question: Knowing, as we do, that the Arab Emirate was tied in many ways to the 9/11 hijackers and their deeds, and knowing the critical nature of port security and protecting the nation, will the President step in and stop this deal from going into effect March 2nd?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my understanding, Les, is that this went through the national security review process under CFIUS, at the Department of Treasury. That is the agency that is responsible for overseeing such matters. And this includes a number of national security agencies -- the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Justice, among others, and there is a rigorous review that goes on for proposed foreign investments for national security concerns. And in terms of specifics relating to this, Treasury is the chair of this and you should direct those questions to Treasury.
Q Among a considerable number of very strong media criticisms, syndicated columnist Michelle Malken, this morning described as -- in her words -- "circus antics of clown journalism 101, one print reporter is going on television wearing an orange hat and vest, and a TV reporter yelling at you that you're a jerk." And my question: Do you honestly believe Michelle is wrong, or will you evade?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I haven't heard her specific comments and I haven't had a chance to take a look at them --
Q Well, it's in the paper, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me point out a couple things. One, we talked about this earlier in the week -- there have been some legitimate questions and legitimate issues that have been raised. At the same time, I think that those questions and those issues have been addressed. They've been addressed in a very thorough way. I went out of my way to be as responsive as I could be earlier in this week. The Vice President thoroughly addressed all the questions that came up yesterday in his nearly 30-minute interview with Brit Hume. Brit Hume is a very respected journalist, and I think that I'll leave it to others to make judgments, or get into that kind of --
Q But is Michelle wrong? Are you saying she's wrong, or do you want to evade?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- or get into that kind of analysis. I'll leave that to others.
Q Scott, I think you said, in regard to this whole matter, you want to look forward. Obviously one thing, looking back on how it all played out, that would have mitigated some of these issues and problems, is if we'd had greater access to the Vice President, not only that day, but in general. Is there any internal discussion about making him more available --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are times when you all travel with him. This was not one of those times. This was a weekend hunting trip with friends of his down in Texas.
Q Scott, can you describe the supplemental that's about to go up to the Hill?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Mark. We're going to be having a briefing on that later. I expect it will probably be a conference call and they'll be talking about it more. But this includes emergency funding for our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We want to make sure that our troops have all the resources they need to succeed and to complete the missions in those theaters and the global war on terrorism.
There's also important funding for ongoing Katrina recovery and response. Don Powell, our federal coordinator, yesterday announced an additional $4.2 billion that will be going to Louisiana. Governor Blanco expressed her deep appreciation for that on behalf of the people of Louisiana and said it shows the President is strongly committed to doing what we can from the federal level to help the people recover and rebuild their lives and their communities.
But we have not sent the supplemental to the Hill yet. There are ongoing notifications with members of Congress, I believe. And so I don't think it's appropriate for me to jump out ahead of that process until we send that supplemental up. And then we will probably be providing you with additional information, including fact sheets and a briefing.
Q Just a quick one in general terms, though. In the past, critics have suggested that this is -- that it's -- that the war spending ought to be part of a regular budget that gets sent --
MR. McCLELLAN: There's nothing changed in terms of we've said previously on that, and I would leave it to the briefers to talk more about it once this goes up.
Q Scott, you said the U.N. team that didn't go to Guantanamo was offered the same kind of access as congressional leaders. U.N. team says that the reason it didn't go was because it was not going to be given access to the prisoners themselves, and that it saw no point in going, although it mentioned that it had good cooperation with the U.S. military. Why was it not possible to give the U.N. team direct access to the prisoners --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that that's accurate characterization. I think they were going to be provided good access to the facilities there, and I don't know that's an accurate description. I think you ought to direct that to the Department of Defense, as well as maybe our U.S. office at the United Nations. I don't think -- I don't know that that's an -- I don't know that's accurate, Victoria.
Q One other quick one. Vice President Cheney talked yesterday about the trauma of seeing his friend fall to the ground when he shot him, and I was wondering whether this has caused Mr. Cheney to reflect on the kind of trauma that's experienced daily by the men and women in the military who have to shoot people?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, here's another example of where I think this town sometimes gets into taking an incident like this and trying to draw broader conclusions or over interpret or overanalyze things and get into all sorts of other issues. We are all deeply concerned about our men and women in uniform who have been injured. We are deeply concerned for all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. And their families remain in our thoughts and prayers.
And I think you've seen that by what the President and Vice President have done, Victoria. They have visited the wounded, they have visited the families of the fallen, and they will continue to do so. But I think that it's just absurd to try to get into looking at it in the way that you just suggested.
Q Scott, you mentioned when you first came in that the number of job creations has gone up impressively. But this country continues to lose quality jobs -- like the Ford Motor Company layoffs, GM, and manufacturing jobs. What's being done to prevent those from being outsourced overseas while you say that the number of jobs in this country that are created --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what we've had to do is what the President outlined in his State of the Union Initiative. The President outlined an agenda to keep America the most competitive and innovative economy in the world, and he outlined specific initiatives. I don't think this room wants me to go back through all of them right now, but he outlined the Competitive Initiative, and he recognizes that there is some anxiety among the American people, despite the fact that our economy is very strong. There are millions of new jobs that have been created.
People are also living in a changing world and a changing economy. And many people -- the President has talked about this -- in the 18-39 range are changing jobs more frequently than previous generations. And what we've got to do is make sure that we continue to have the most skilled and educated work force in the world. And that -- it starts with education. And that's why the President, when he came into office, passed historic education reforms to make sure that we have the best educated work force in the world.
But it also means investing in our sciences, investing in research and development, as the President outlined. And there's a lot of bipartisan agreement on what the President outlined. He thinks this is one area where we can really get something done this year to strengthen our economy even more. And that's why I hit on those four areas after I made the remarks about the economy, because there is some concern among families about the future of our economy. That's why we must continue to build upon the pro-growth policies that we've put in place, and continue to make sure that workers have the skills they need to fill the high-paying jobs that are being created.
Q The Vice President did one interview with one news organization. Will he be available to the rest of us to talk about this accident?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think he pretty thoroughly addressed the questions that were raised.
Q To one news organization. Would he be available --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know what you're suggesting.
Q Well, no, no, just a general press briefing about --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was a pretty lengthy interview that covered all the major topics related to this subject, and I think the Vice President went through it pretty thoroughly. Of course, he has public appearances on a frequent basis, and if you all want to ask him questions down the road, then that's your business. But I think the American people look at this and appreciate the fact that the Vice President went out there and thoroughly responded to all the questions relating to this issue.
Now, the reason he waited, as he said, was he had been talking about going out and addressing these issues, but on Tuesday his friend had some complications and he wanted to wait to make sure he was doing better before he went out there and started talking about this.
Q Scott, we have seen from the press release -- Without Borders, and an article -- the attack and robbery happened to --
MR. McCLELLAN: I can't hear you very well.
Q Sorry. There was an attack and robbery happen to Dr. -- Lee in his Atlanta home last Wednesday -- independent newspaper -- and also -- developing -- to help Chinese people get information outside of China. -- featured in a front-page article on Wall Street Journal two days ago. I wonder if you have any comment on this? Actually, this case is one of many ongoing cases of attack and harassment of people who work for independent news organizations --
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about in China? I mean, I think that we make our views very clear to the government of China on these matters, and our concerns. We strongly support freedom of press. We strongly support freedom of religion. And we've made those views very clear to China in discussions we have with them. There are a lot of areas we work together, but when we have concerns we express those directly to the government, as well, and say so publicly.
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