September 09, 2005

The Scottie Dodge

Scott McClellan seems to know less and less with each passing day. Watch him try to sidestep the estate tax Thursday:

... Q I'm going to yield the floor, but I just have one more question. Why does the President believe it is morally justified, why is it the right thing to give some of the richest people on the planet a huge tax cut right now?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's not a fair --

Q Well, that's what the estate tax cut repeal, making it permanent, is, isn't it? There are some people who want to hand on billions -- hundreds of millions of dollars to their --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, no -- the tax cut you're talking about -- I don't know of any that are expiring this year. They expire in later years.

Q Right. But why at this point in our history is it justified, morally right to do that?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, I'd have to dispute your characterization, because all Americans receive tax cuts. We went through a very difficult time, economically, and our national economy is really a lifeline for that region that has been hit by this hurricane. We must continue to keep our national economy growing and creating jobs. The latest unemployment numbers are down to 4.9 percent last week, more than 4 million jobs created since May of 2003. We've made tremendous progress to keep our economy growing and get people -- and create jobs.

Q And there's no way to ask the richest people in America to sacrifice?

MR. McCLELLAN: And the economy -- keeping our economy growing stronger is important to helping with the rebuilding and recovery efforts on the ground. The last thing we want to do is take more money from lower-income Americans that have been affected by this and that have received significant help from those -- from those tax cuts.

Q That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about taking money from higher-income Americans.

MR. McCLELLAN: And we're going to remain focused right now on our highest priority. Well, again, these tax cuts you're talking about, many of them expire in later years. I don't know of any that are expiring this year. But it's important to keep our economy growing and keep jobs being created.

... Q Scott, on estate taxes, you pointed out that they don't even expire until 2010. Are you saying that there really isn't any necessity to address this right now, particularly given the other priorities that --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying their highest priority right now is the response to the immediate needs of the people who were affected by Katrina. There are other priorities we have, as well, and we continue to move forward on those priorities. Right now, our highest priority remains where it should be, and that's with the people in the region.

Q Would that be a prudent use of the legislative schedule, though, given the other priorities and the tax doesn't expire until 2010?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Congress sets the legislative schedule; we work closely with them and we will continue to do so as we move forward on other priorities. ...

But what can you expect from a guy who clearly doesn't think that the federal government can walk and chew gum at the same time. Follow the jump below for further instances where the "immediate needs" dodge was used to avoid questions about accountability, investigations and anything else he didn't want to talk about:

MR. McCLELLAN: I would say what the President has said. The President made it very clear that we've got to remain focused on the immediate needs right now, and that's where our focus remains. ... Now is the time to remain focused where we are. ... No, this is a time to help people, and that's what we're doing. So that's where we are right now. We've got to stay focused on what the needs are of the people in the region right now. There are a lot of people who continue to need assistance, and we don't want to divert resources that are part of those ongoing immediate needs. ... I think that, again, this isn't a time to start getting into start discussing all the options that are available. ... We remain, first and foremost, focused on those immediate needs. ... That's where the President's focus is right now; it's on those people and it's on how we can come together and work together. There are immediate needs that we continue to meet -- work to meet. ... Well, right now, Wendell, our focus remains on the immediate needs of the people in the region. ... But, most importantly, we remain focused on the needs of those right now, the needs of the people right now. ...

This is what McClellan said about Bush's praise of the officials managing the relief and rescue efforts, which one would think was a significant clue in knowing what Bush thinks about immediate needs:

... Q Scott, the President has said FEMA Director Mike Brown is doing "a heck of a job" on disaster relief, yet calls for his ouster seem enormously widespread. Does the President still think Brown is doing "a heck of a job?" And I have one follow-up.

MR. McCLELLAN: I actually went through this yesterday -- David and I. David can probably fill you in on it. (Laughter.)

Q Wait, wait, wait. Give it a crack today, though.

MR. McCLELLAN: We went through this yesterday, Terry. The President is appreciative of all those -- Secretary Chertoff and FEMA head, Brown, and all those at the federal level and state level and local level that are working round-the-clock to help the people who are in need.

Q Appreciative -- does he have full confidence?

MR. McCLELLAN: We went through all this yesterday. ...

This was the 'yesterday' run through:

Q Scott, does the President retain confidence in his FEMA Director and Secretary of Homeland Security?

MR. McCLELLAN: And again, David, see, this is where some people want to look at the blame game issue, and finger-point. We're focused on solving problems, and we're doing everything we can --

Q What about the question?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're doing everything we can in support --

Q We know all that.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

Q Does he retain complete confidence --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to continue. We appreciate the great effort that all of those at FEMA, including the head of FEMA, are doing to help the people in the region. And I'm just not going to engage in the blame game or finger-pointing that you're trying to get me to engage.

Q Okay, but that's not at all what I was asking.

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure it is. It's exactly what you're trying to play.

Q You have your same point you want to make about the blame game, which you've said enough now. I'm asking you a direct question, which you're dodging.


Q Does the President retain complete confidence in his Director of FEMA and Secretary of Homeland Security, yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: I just answered the question.

Q Is the answer "yes" on both?

MR. McCLELLAN: And what you're doing is trying to engage in a game of finger-pointing.

Q There's a lot of criticism. I'm just wondering if he still has confidence.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and blame-gaming. What we're trying to do is solve problems, David. And that's where we're going to keep our focus.

Q So you're not -- you won't answer that question directly?

MR. McCLELLAN: I did. I just did.

Q No, you didn't. Yes or no? Does he have complete confidence or doesn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, if you want to continue to engage in finger-pointing and blame-gaming, that's fine --

Q Scott, that's ridiculous. I'm not engaging in any of that.

MR. McCLELLAN: It's not ridiculous.

Q Don't try to accuse me of that. I'm asking you a direct question and you should answer it. Does he retain complete confidence in his FEMA Director and Secretary of Homeland Security, yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said -- that's exactly what you're engaging in.

Q I'm not engaging in anything. I'm asking you a question about what the President's views are --

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely -- absolutely --

Q -- under pretty substantial criticism of members of his administration. Okay? And you know that, and everybody watching knows that, as well.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, everybody watching this knows, David, that you're trying to engage in a blame game.

Q I'm trying to engage?


Q I am trying to engage?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct. ...

This is how the White House deals with direct questions. They refuse to answer them one day, then the next time the question is asked, they refer back to the original dodge as if it were a get out of jail free card merely to have been asked in the first place. Why does anyone even bother showing up to these White House press conferences? McClellan could read his prepared statement to an empty room and be done with it for all the information anyone gets out of him.

Posted by natasha at September 9, 2005 02:00 AM | US Politics | Technorati links |

The Democratic Party response should be: We can do more than one thing at a time.

Posted by: PhilW at September 10, 2005 01:10 PM

Reporter: Scott, is the president's nickname for you "Toady"?

McClellan: Playing the Amphibian-American card, eh?

Posted by: Kevin Hayden at September 11, 2005 04:43 AM