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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 31, 2003

President Didn't Say Simon Says
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
November 31, 2003

11:10 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning. Let me run through the President's day so far. First of all, this morning the President ate a full bowl of Crispy Corn Flakes, with Raisins. While he read the back of the box, his staff verbally summarized important news events. The President made a phone call to Governor Schwarzenegger of California, and I'm told the two had a positive discussion regarding the development of the entertainment industry as it specifically pertains to the cinema. After a game of solitaire on the computer, a two-mile jog and a nap, the President convened his physical fitness board and had a nice lunch. The President is now in conference with Vice President Dick Cheney in an undisclosed location. I'd like to open the floor to questions.

Q: Sir, many in the press are wondering whether Mr. Bush stands by his statment of March 18 that "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised"...

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. The President ...

Q: The President absolutely stands by that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Of course. The President of course absolutely stands by that statement.

Q: How is that possible, when no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Dave, if you look carefully at the transcript of the President's remarks, you'll find that at no point in his speech does the President say "Simon says."

Q: Pardon?

MR. McCLELLAN: Simon says. As in the game. Simon says.

Q: What does that have to...

MR. McCLELLAN: Operating under the principles of Simon says, unless a phrase is not followed "Simon says," it is not to be taken literally. Indeed, to take literally a statement not followed by "Simon says" traditionally merits some mark of derision. Acting in that capacity, I must say I am disappointed by the lack of professionalism of the press corps in this regard. Are there other questions?

Q: Following up on that, in a speech to the Republican National Committee Vice President Cheney asserted that "Saddam Hussein has neither accounted for, nor destroyed" anthrax, sarin, mustard gas and VX nerge gas. But with none of these weapons found, it is becoming increasingly plausible that Mr. Hussein actually did order the destruction of these agents, that is if they ever existed. So...

MR. McCLELLAN: Hold on. I'm not comfortable with the direction that statement is headed in. If you will review your press packets for that day, January 31 of this year, you will note that January 31 is National Backwards Day. Clearly the Vice President's remarks must be taken in that context.

Q: I see. Are there any other caveats that would clarify the White House position on weapons of mass destruction?

MR. McCLELLAN: Certainly. On March 30, 2003, when Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld asserted of any alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that "We know where they are, they are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north of that," he was warming up for April Fools' Day which, if you were to fly around the world one and one-half times in an easterly direction, it would already have been. I am also advised that when President Bush said of Saddam Hussein on September 19, 2003 that "this is a man who has weapons of mass destruction and says he doesn't. He poses a serious threat to the American people," he was tacitly honoring International Talk Like a Pirate Day. As we all know, pirates are known to exaggerate and dissemble at times, and I'm quite sure the President's audience appreciated that...

Q: Are we supposed to take this seriously, Mr....

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not finished. Finally, when Secretary Rumsfeld asserted the existence of "bulletproof evidence" connecting Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda, he had his fingers crossed, which is a well recognized sign that the meaning of a statement should be taken conversely. You wanted to ask that question, now, Helen?

Q: Thank you, I do. Is there any time in the future at which you anticipate that Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney or Mr. Rumsfeld will acknowledge that they either misled the American people or were themselves mistaken in their confident assessments of a military threat from Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's a fair question, and I'm happy to announce that tomorrow morning at 10:00, the President, Vice President and Secretary will convene in the Rose Garden to announce the results of a thorough and unbiased evaluation of the administration's claims in the run-up to the war in Iraq. Following their announcement, all three will be happy to take as much time as is necessary to address unscripted questions from the press corps in this regard.

Q: Really?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I didn't say "Simon says." Thank you very much for coming today. Have a good weekend.

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END 11:30 A.M. EST


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