Q So I take it you're not going to talk directly about President Clinton, even though he was talking very directly about you all?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if we want to talk about policies, I'm glad to talk about that. But I think we've made our views clear and the results are helping all Americans.
Q Can I just follow on that? Can I just quote the former President? He says, "You can't have an emergency plan that works if it only affects middle-class people. If you tell people to do something that don't have the means to do it, you're going to lead the poor out," talking about the people who lost homes who have no property insurance. He said, "Everything they own was in their little home. If we really wanted to do it right, we would have had lots of buses lined up to take them out, and also lots of empty vans to save the belongings of those with no home or flood insurance." Now, you've said the President was unhappy with the effort. Does the President basically agree with what Bill Clinton is saying?
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't say "the effort," I said, "the results."
Q "The results."
MR. McCLELLAN: You can't discount all the work that was done by the search and rescue teams and the Coast Guard and the first responders, the state and local people that were on the scene trying to save lives. And as the President said, the storm didn't discriminate, neither did the federal government response. We were trying to save the lives of all those who had been affected by this. The Coast Guard search and rescue teams were trying to save the lives of everybody they could in the city.
Q Well, given the President's unhappiness, does the administration basically agree that Bill Clinton is right?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've expressed our views. He can speak with his own views. But I think the President has clearly expressed our views. And in terms of the issue when it comes to the elderly and vulnerable and the poor, those that didn't necessarily have the means to get out of the area -- the President has spoken at length about that. He made it very clear that some of the greatest hardship fell on those individuals -- the elderly, the vulnerable, and the poor. And the rebuilding of the region is an opportunity to renew our commitment to equality and justice for all Americans by building a better and stronger region. And that's what he's committed to doing. There is a deep history of injustice that has led to poverty and inequality, and this storm has brought to light, in a more vivid way, some of that inequality and poverty that exists in the region. And it's not going to be overcome instantly. But this President, from day one, has been acting boldly to address these issues and to achieve results.
Q If he was so bold, why do we have 37 million people living below the poverty line? MR.
McCLELLAN: Well, do you want me to go back and talk about the economy?
Q I mean, if his policies are so great.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll be glad to go -- more Americans are working than ever before, Helen. We've --
Q Thirty-seven million below the poverty --
...Q Following up on John's question about what President Clinton said, you've said and the President has said this storm did not discriminate. But the point that President Clinton was making isn't -- wasn't about the relief recovery after the storm hit, it was about the preparations beforehand. He was talking about the fact that buses should have been there to get people out who couldn't have done it themselves. So is that something that President Bush should have been more attuned to? Or is that something that he really relied on the Mayor --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's going to be a bipartisan investigation by Congress. They're going to do a thorough investigation and look at all these issues. There were certain -- there were responsibilities at all levels of government: the federal, state, and local. The President has made it very clear that he accepts responsibility for the federal government's role. He wants to see what went wrong and what needs to be fixed for the future so that we can make sure that we are better prepared in the future to respond to such situations, whether they be natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
Q Does the President still think it was a good idea to get President Clinton on board and give him this kind of platform?
MR. McCLELLAN: We appreciate the efforts of President Bush and President Clinton to reach out to the private sector and individuals to encourage even more giving from the American people to support those who have been affected by this natural disaster. And, look, this is a difference over policies. I think when you boil it down to -- boil it down, it's just difference over policies. And that's why I said we welcome a discussion of the policies to address the causes of poverty and inequality that have occurred, that -- I mean, it's a long history that led to the poverty and inequality; it is a long history of injustice, that goes back to slavery and segregation. And we need to address these issues, and this President has been working to address those issues in new and bold ways. And all you have to do is go and look at the record and look at what we've accomplished for the American people, particularly for low-income Americans and people that are living in poverty. The Medicare is another one; seniors starting in 2006, low-income seniors are going to have virtually everything paid for when it comes to their prescription drug benefit.