McClellan on Cote D'Ivoire and FEMA

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan allowed me to ask two questions at yesterday’s briefing—one about Cote D’Ivoire and the other about FEMA. I’ve pasted my questions and his answers below. The full transcript is available from the White House.

Q Thank you, Scott. Two questions. First, recently an international group known as the Working Group, and known by the French acronym GTI, said that the parliamentary elections in Cote D’Ivoire should be voided, and this led to a string of violence in that country. Now, last summer you told us that Cote D’Ivoire was on the agenda of the working lunch between President Bush and President Mbeki at the White House. Does the President still support the continued democratic pattern in Cote D’Ivoire, and is democracy in Africa

MR. McCLELLAN: Of course we support the advance of democracy, wherever it is taking place. The President has spoken out very clearly about that. I don’t know about specifics relating to the issue you bring up. It’s not something that has been brought to my attention recently. I think the State Department has probably addressed it more recently.

Q Scott, one other question, if I might?


Q Thank you. Recently Fran Townsend, when she came up from that podium, and Michael Chertoff, when he testified before Congress, were highly critical of former FEMA Director Michael Brown, and specifically both said he went outside the established rules for a FEMA director during Katrina. Appearing on television last Sunday, Mr. Brown says that is absolutely not true, that both of them should know better; he followed the same procedure that every FEMA director does in an emergency. Does the White House have an opinion on this?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that our view is that we need to continue focusing our efforts where they should be, which is on helping the people of the Gulf Coast recover and rebuild their communities. That’s what the President is doing. That’s why he visited the region just last week, and that’s where we’re going to keep our focus. We’re going to continue working to make sure the federal government is doing everything we can to support the people along the Gulf Coast as they rebuild their lives and rebuild their communities.

There is a lot of work to be done, and the President specifically focused on three key areas. He talked about where we are in terms of rebuilding and strengthening the levee system. He talked about where we are in terms of removing the debris, and he talked about where we are in terms of getting people back in their homes. And so that’s where our focus is going to remain.

Our focus is also going to remain on applying the lessons learned from this catastrophic hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast region. And we’re going to continue applying those lessons. We have already taken a number of steps. There are some 125 recommendations that Fran Townsend talked to you all about in this room. And we’ve got to continue acting to make sure we are better prepared in the future to respond to catastrophic events, whether they’re natural disasters or terrorist attacks. And that’s what this President is committed to doing, and that’s why he directed Fran Townsend to undertake that very review.

Q So you stand by what Fran Townsend and Secretary Chertoff said?

MR. McCLELLAN: Our views have been expressed very clearly.