Thursday, March 09, 2006

LOSING UGLY Nasty, brutish and long:

Q That's a very nice filibuster. You've been asked very simple questions. Is he going to veto it, or is he speaking some sort of real compromise?

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, let's talk about a really simple question. I don't think you can simplify it that way.

Q Why?

MR. McCLELLAN: Because it takes things out of process of where things are. And I know you might want to simplify --

Q All right, then where are they?

MR. McCLELLAN: But I want to give you an accurate reflection of where things are.

Q Do you have a proposal to compromise with all the opposition?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm trying to tell you and you keep wanting to jump in.

Q No, you jump to 10 other subjects. It's very -- it's on the table.

MR. McCLELLAN: Because they talked about those other subjects, as well.

Q I didn't -- we didn't ask you that.

MR. McCLELLAN: I know, but I think it's important to put it in context.

Q No --

MR. McCLELLAN: So the American people have an accurate reflection --

Q Now we know -- what would he do? In view of the overwhelming opposition --


Q -- does he have a plan to --

MR. McCLELLAN: You've asked your question, let me try to respond to you.

Q Okay.

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, the approach we're taking is working with members of Congress to move forward, and that's exactly where we are. That's where things are.

Q But does he have an idea of how it can be compromised?

MR. McCLELLAN: How what can be --

Q This whole business of the ports.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why those discussions are ongoing.

Q Well, what's being discussed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, I mean, one area where we're talking about moving ahead is on CFIUS reform. That means improving and reforming --

Q It shouldn't be retroactive.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the process that's underway.

Q Scott, just back to the veto. You said that this doesn't mean the President is changing his position. His position before was that he would veto it. Why can't you say whether or not you still -- he has that position?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's talk about --

Q Are you backing off?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's talk about that -- no, what we're doing is trying to work together with Congress to move forward and to find a resolution to this issue. And there were very good discussions earlier today with Republican leaders who were over here for a regularly scheduled meeting. The President, when he was asked that -- he was asked that question. He was asked that question I guess a week or two -- a couple weeks ago, and he responded to that question. But where we are in the process right now is working together with members to resolve this matter and to move forward.

Q I understand that you want to move forward and you want to resolve this process. But by saying it doesn't mean the President is changing his position, that means he would still veto it.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think it's an accurate reflection to try to suggest that lines are being drawn or that veto threats are being issued, because what we're doing is emphasizing -- focusing on ways we can work together.

Q So you're backing off that, or you're not backing off it?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I just said that --

Q He would still veto it?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, see, you're trying to draw lines. We're trying to work --

Q The President drew the lines, I didn't draw the lines.

MR. McCLELLAN: He was asked a specific question a couple weeks ago, so let's put it in context.

Q And we're asking you a specific question.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me put it in context. What the President is doing is reaching out to congressional leaders. We're reaching out to congressional leaders and we're talking about how we can move ahead together. I don't know how I can be more accurate in terms of the way I reflect where things are than I am right now, because that's where they are.


Q Scott, does the President regret -- given what's happened with these discussions with Congress, does the President regret calling reporters to the front of Air Force One to issue the veto threat, stepping off the helicopter and coming over to us and reiterating the veto threat? Would this all -- this conversation have unfolded differently if the veto threat was never made?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President called reporters up to the front to talk about his trip and to talk about important priorities that we were focused on.

Q Which happens every time, happens every trip?

MR. McCLELLAN: He's done it on a number of times, a number of occasions. I can go back and pull those transcripts for you.

Q It was kind of an uncommon thing, though, to then step off and repeat it. He had a point he wanted to make.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, let's put it in context, too, though. He was asked a specific question, and he was expressing what his position is and what his views are.


Q Scott, can I just review what the President said? You keep talking about this context. What do you say to those in Congress who plan to take legislative action? This is February 21st in Air Force One, President Bush said, "They ought to listen to what I have to say about this. They ought to look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it with a veto." I don't understand why you're saying you're not drawing lines in the sand? That's a line in the sand.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you where the emphasis is right now, and where things are in terms of the process and the discussions. Again, that was a question he was specifically asked a couple weeks ago.

Q If he was asked it again today, what would he say?

MR. McCLELLAN: Martha, he would say what I'm saying right now, so I think I've expressed our views.

Q That you're moving forward. He would not say again, I would veto it?

MR. McCLELLAN: It doesn't change what I just said. Again, look at the meeting that took place earlier today, and let me again describe for you the nature of that meeting. The nature of that meeting was to talk about how we can continue to work together on important priorities and how we can move forward on other issues. And one of the issues the President brought up was this very issue.

But to try to suggest we're trying to continue to get into drawing lines or issuing veto threats is not --

Q But you are backing --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- is not --

Q You are backing --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- is not where things are.

Hang on, let me finish.

No, I didn't say that. I said that our position hasn't changed, but our -- where we are right now in the process is, working with Congress to try to find a way forward. I know that there's sometimes a tendency to simplify things, but it takes it out of context when you do that. And that's why I'm stressing to you where things --

Q Well, he put it pretty simply when he said he would veto it.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I'm trying to stress to you where things are right now.

Q All right, but did the President --

Q But the line in the sand was drawn. And if you're saying, no, no, no, we're not backing off, the position is just the same, the position isn't just the same if you're not drawing a line in the sand, because the President drew a line in the sand.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I gave you an accurate description of where things stand. I don't think anything changes in terms of what I just said earlier in this briefing.

Q Scott, but you're giving the impression that you're backing from the veto threat?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I just answered that question earlier.

Q So you're not doing that?

Q You're not backing off?

Q The President is not backing off?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think people in this room are trying to get us into drawing lines with Congress. We're trying to work with Congress to move ahead.

Q You drew the line.

Q We didn't draw the line.

MR. McCLELLAN: And that's where we are.

Q You did it.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, actually, David, I didn't. What I'm saying is that we're all working together to try to find a way ahead. So I didn't do that.

Q The President drew the line. Martha just read it to you. I mean, he did it, and you are not willing to stand up there, --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.

Q -- and say the President still has the view that he would veto it.

MR. McCLELLAN: He was asked a specific question. And as I said, his views and what he has expressed are what they are, and they remain the same. But where we are right now in the process, David, is trying to work together to move forward. And so I don't think anybody is trying to -- from our side it trying to get into drawing lines. We're trying to work together to move ahead. And I don't know how clearer I could be, but that's the accurate reflection of where things are. It's not an accurate reflection to suggest otherwise. And so what I'm trying to do is put this in context for you all in this room. And you can keep asking the same question, but I'm giving you an accurate reflection of where things stand in this process. And that's the best I can do.

Thank you.

END 1:31 P.M. EST

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.