Regarding the NG troops in Iraq:
Q Are you going to bring back any National Guardsmen from Iraq to help?The levee broke, but what's the cause?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the military talked about that a little bit yesterday. I think you're talking about two separate priorities and we're addressing both. And they'll be talking later today, I think, about some of the ongoing increase in the number of National Guard units that are being deployed to the New Orleans area to meet the security and law enforcement needs that are on the ground.
Q Do you have enough troops on hand?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that they've indicated that, yes.
Q Scott, there's already a line of discussion going on about the funding of projects prior to this, whether projects in New Orleans, in particular, were under funded because of the Iraq war or for other reasons. Is there a -- do you find any of this criticism legitimate? Do you think there is any second-guessing to be done now about priorities, given that the New Orleans situation was sort of obvious to a lot of the experts?
MR. McCLELLAN: As I indicated, this is not a time for politics. This is a time for the nation to come together and help those in the Gulf Coast region. And that's where our focus is. This is not a time for finger-pointing or playing politics. And I think the last thing that the people who have been displaced or the people who have been affected need is people seeking partisan gain in Washington. And so if that's what you're talking about, that's one thing.
Now, if you're talking about specific areas, if you're talking about specific areas, I think I would be glad to talk about some of those, if that's what you want. I don't know what specific areas you're --
Q I'm talking about policy. I'm talking about the SELA project, for instance, is one some people cite where they felt they needed $60 million in the current '06 fiscal year, they were given $10 million, those types of projects. And a lot of --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, which project --
Q SELA -- Southeast Louisiana flood control --
MR. McCLELLAN: Flood control has been a priority of this administration from day one. We have dedicated an additional $300 million over the last few years for flood control in New Orleans and the surrounding area. And if you look at the overall funding levels for the Army Corps of Engineers, they have been slightly above $4.5 billion that has been signed by the President.
Q Local people were asking for more money over the last couple of years. They were quoted in local papers in 2003 and 2004, are saying that they were told by federal officials there wasn't enough money because it was going to Iraq expenditures.
MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to talk to General Strock, who is the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, because I think he's talked to some reporters already and talked about some of these issues. I think some people maybe have tried to make a suggestion or imply that certain funding would have prevented the flooding from happening, and he has essentially said there's been nothing to suggest that whatsoever, and it's been more of a design issue with the levees.
Q Without getting into finger-pointing or partisan politics or anything, would you concede that, given the difficult reality on the ground there now, that more could have, or should have been done to have resources available, to move quickly or to be there? Or is it your position that this is simply the nature of responding to disasters of this scale, that it's going to take days or weeks to get --
MR. McCLELLAN: Very legitimate question. I think that that's something that, over time, will be able to be addressed and looked at. I mean, you're still, right now, trying to assess all the damage and destruction that's been done. Now is the time to remain focused on the response and recovery efforts, and that's what we're doing. There will be a time for politics later; there will be a time to look at all these other issues and do more of a critique or assessment of the response efforts. But right now we're making sure that we're doing everything in our power to respond to this natural disaster.
Incidentially, what's going on with the president of Iran?
Q The new President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been identified by at least five former U.S. --
MR. McCLELLAN: Tell you what, let me stick on the hurricane.
Safer in Baghdad?
Q Scott, since the briefing started, I've gotten a number of emails from people saying that correspondents who've been in Baghdad and New Orleans say Baghdad feels safer to operate in; people saying that it's absolute chaos in the streets; message boards on the Internet are going crazy. They're frustrated that you're deflecting this to FEMA. Is the White House properly, adequately concerned? And can you tell us --
MR. McCLELLAN: Deflecting what to FEMA?
Q You're deflecting all specifics to the FEMA briefing.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not. I've given you some updates, but they are the ones who are in charge of operational aspects on the ground. And the Department of Homeland Security is in charge of the operational aspects from Washington, D.C. And they're pulling together officials that will have the most updated information to you. So your characterization is just wrong, Jessica.
Q Why have helicopters stopped flying over New Orleans?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, the people on the ground will be able to provide you with the latest information on that. As I would with any engagement abroad in terms of operational activities, as you mentioned, with the military, the people who are in the best position to give you those updates are the ones who are overseeing the operational activities. That is being done by the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, and it's being done by FEMA on the ground in the region. So that information is being provided to you all.
Do you believe these "answers?"