Wednesday, April 21, 2004
MR. McCLELLAN: We will succeed in Iraq, because the stakes are high, and it's important that we do succeed. The President will continue to stay the course and help the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful future because a free and peaceful Iraq is key to bringing about greater stability in the Middle East, which has been a dangerous region in the world. And that will lead to a more secure America, and it will lead to a better and safer world. So it's very important work that we're trying to help move forward on in the region.
Q So this process could go on for a very long time. Where does the money come from?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we will always make sure that our troops in the theater have everything they need to do their job.
Q But where does that money come from?
MR. McCLELLAN: And that's why -- well, you can go and look at what we outline in our budget and what we talk about in terms of a supplemental going forward. That's why you set priorities in a budget. And we will always work to make sure that our troops have everything they need to do their job. The President has made that very clear repeatedly.
Terry, you had something.
Q The money gets borrowed, though. Just to follow up, the money is borrowed.
MR. McCLELLAN: Keith, I'm going to try to keep jumping around. The President --
Q -- the money is borrowed --
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on. I'll follow up with you. But the President is speaking here shortly, so I'm trying to keep jumping around quickly.
Q I'll follow up.
Q Thank you, thank you, Terry.
Q Because it's an excellent question.
Q Thank you. And --
MR. McCLELLAN: We cannot -- we can't not afford to make sure we succeed in Iraq.
Q Let's get a little -- let's try and get a little more specific here. The President, as a responsible Commander-in-Chief, is surely being informed and has reached judgments about what it will take to succeed in Iraq. Don't the American people in an election year, aren't they entitled to have this President level with them specifically about what, in his best judgment as Commander-in-Chief, it will take, it will cost?
MR. McCLELLAN: He did.
Q How long --
MR. McCLELLAN: He did just last week.
Q How much --
MR. McCLELLAN: And he does -- and he does in almost every speech. And he talks about -- he talks about that they will have all the resources they need. We've been very clear, and keeping Congress informed along the way, too, that, look, there's going to be a need for an additional supplemental. But we need to look the circumstances on the ground. We need to base it on the most precise estimates that we can going forward. And that's why we look to commanders in the field to make those determinations.
Q So the Commander-in-Chief --
MR. McCLELLAN: But our -- but the troops --
Q -- who is the responsible political official to the voters, right now he's clueless about how much it will cost? He cannot tell us --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, actually -- actually, our Director of the Office of Management and Budget has talked about this in briefings to members of Congress. I think Pentagon officials are talking to members of Congress again today about those issues, going forward.
Q Can you give us a ballpark figure?
MR. McCLELLAN: I just disagree with that, and --
Q -- $50 billion, $100 billion --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think our Management -- the Director of the Office of Management and Budget has testified in recent months about the needs going forward. And he's talked about those levels. So you can look back at his very comments. But the alternative of not taking this course is something that we cannot let happen. This is too important, and we must stay the course and finish the job in Iraq, and make sure that our troops have all the resources they need to complete their work.
Q Scott, isn't part of staying on the course to actually know what the course is? I mean, there has been a pattern in this administration, from the prewar days, of not telling Congress and the American people in precise terms what was required financially of the deployment.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we've -- no. Wrong.
Q Again, you're saying, well, whatever the facts are on the ground, whatever the commanders say. Why don't we put a little -- shed a little light on all of this?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why members involved in the budget process testified before Congress, and go and brief Congress on these issues. I would encourage you to look at their very comments, because I think you're mischaracterizing those very comments, David. Let's be very clear here. This President --
Q You have to refresh us what the numbers are, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- this President has increased defense spending by records amount, by 35 percent since 2001. In addition to that significant increase in funding to meet our defense needs, the President has worked to pass supplementals totaling $164 billion for the Pentagon to wage the war on terrorism. This is about winning the war on terrorism. And this is the highest priority for this country, because it goes directly to the safety and the security of the American people. So I think we need to be clear in looking back at exactly what has been said and what we anticipate going forward.
Q That's non-responsive.
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure, it is.
Q No one is questioning whether or not we need the money, and whether it's not a valuable goal. But the question is, what is the money? You've just given me, it's $164 billion in what supplementals he's asked for in the past --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and that $87 billion wartime supplemental was very important to making sure our troops had the resources they needed going into this year and going forward. And we said we were going to be coming back with a supplemental at some point, and that we would look at the needs from the commanders in the theater to make a determination, a precise determination of what those needs would be.
Q We still don't know what the needs are?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think our Director of the Office of Management and Budget has spoken before Congress and talked about how -- the range of what we're looking at.
Q Can you tell us what the range is in the near future?
Q Can you just remind us what the range is?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't recall that specific number off the top of my head, but he's talked about that in testimony before Congress. So I think you can go back and look at that.