Q Before the war, there were estimates coming from the administration that it would cost about $50 billion. Today, if you add everything up, including the amount that we’re going to likely see soon, it will be about $300 billion. What is the White House perspective on why the cost is so much higher than originally anticipated?
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, you’re talking about a briefing that will be held later today, so I’m not going to get into specific numbers. But we’ve made it very clear from the beginning that we’re going to do everything we can to support our troops as they work to win the war on terrorism. Our troops are on the front lines of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that they have the resources they need to complete their mission. And we’ve been very clear that those assessments will be based on the circumstances on the ground.
Q My question is why – even if you take the – whatever it is you’re going to give – don’t even talk about a specific number because no one talks about that – but, just in general, why was it that the idea and the planning seems to be so different than what it actually is now? What do you ascribe that to?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has talked about that before, Dana. He talked about it on your network just last week in an interview with one of your correspondents. And he’s talked about what we expected would happen and some of the changing circumstances on the ground. War – in a time of war, you have to be prepared for the unexpected and you have to be flexible enough to adapt to circumstances on the ground. And it’s important that you give the commanders on the ground the flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances. And that’s what we will always do. That’s how you are able to succeed and complete the mission.
Q So you didn’t anticipate the insurgency? That’s just the bottom line?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President talked about how, when we went into Iraq, that we didn’t expect that the Iraqi army, under Saddam Hussein, would flee the battlefield like they did and come back to fight another day – they did in large numbers.
Q If you’re talking about a briefing –
MR. McCLELLAN: Hold on, let me go to Terry.
Flee the battlefield? I’m sure they did but Scott fails to mention that we FIRED the entire military and the government apparatus putting 1/2 a million people out of work. As usual when any question gets remotely close to pointing out a mistake or a blatant fuckup, the topic is changed - quickly.
You’d think that a 250 billion dollar discrpency would be worth some discussion, some explanation. Something. All we get is, “well, ya know, things didn’t go exactly to plan….” Yeah, yeah, yah - things seldom go to plan. If I screwed up a budgetary projection this badly (percentage wise) I’d be out in the street. Instead these bastards are rewarded with another term, a bigger job…..
Q Let me try it this way: The changing circumstances you’ve just described have meant the men and women of the American military have had to sacrifice a lot, as has just been pointed out –
MR. McCLELLAN: They have, and their families have, as well.
Q Absolutely. We’re now looking at $300 billion and counting for the cost of this war and operations in Afghanistan. What sacrifice is the President asking the rest of us to make, especially those at the upper-income levels, perhaps, to make, to help shoulder the burden of paying for this war?
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, the families of those who are on the front line in the war on terrorism are making tremendous sacrifices –
MR. McCLELLAN: – and we talk about that on a regular basis, and our thoughts and prayers always remain with the families of those who are in harm’s way.
This is about fighting and winning the war on terrorism. We do that by taking the fight to the enemy and staying on the offensive. We also do it by what the President talked about last week in his inaugural address. Advancing freedom is essential to our long-term security. And the broader Middle East has been a dangerous region in the world for too long. We are committed to doing all we can to support efforts in the region to move forward on – to move forward toward a free and peaceful future. That’s why what we’re working to achieve in Iraq is so critical. The stakes are high there. The terrorists recognize how high the stakes are. When you have someone like Zarqawi come out in an audio tape and say that this is an all-out war on democracy, that states how high the stakes are in Iraq.
This is a struggle of ideologies. And there are two very different ideologies, the ideology of hatred and fear and oppression, and the ideology of hope and freedom and opportunity. That’s what we’re working to achieve. And when we have a free and peaceful Iraq, that will be a significant blow to the ambitions of people like Zarqawi.
It’s very curious that the ideology of fear and hatred is not attributed to those in this country that choose to oppress those that have differing points of view. Hope freedom and opportunity? There are millions of Americans who live everyday under oppression and despair.
Q The cost of that struggle, though, it seems the President is willing just to throw onto the debt of the United States, just to increase the debt of the United States, and increase – make permanent tax cuts for the very wealthiest among us –
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let’s separate this out, because these are two different matters.
These are not different matters. $300 billion (off budget) for a war is very relevant to all Americans, wealthy or not. And the fact that the lowest economic classes are bearing the “sacrifices” is unacceptable.
No I don’t want to pay more taxes, nobody does. But those who stand to benefit financially from this should also be the ones to pay for it.
Q Well, money is money.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President – first of all, this is about the safety and security of the American people. And we will do what it takes to win the struggle of ideologies that we are in. This is a struggle of historic proportions. And the terrorists recognize how high the stakes are. You see that every day with what is going on in Iraq. You see that through messages from a terrorist like Zarqawi, who is doing everything he can to try to disrupt the transition to democracy, because he knows that it will be a major defeat for the – his ambitions and the ambitions of those who want tyranny and oppression and fear and chaos.
I thought this was a war over WMDs? When did it turn into an idealogical war?
And in terms of – you’re talking – you brought up the issue of tax cuts. The tax cuts were key to get our economy growing and creating jobs here at home. And that is one of the President’s top priorities here at home. And look at the results. We’ve seen 2.6 million some jobs created over the last year or so here in America because of the policies that we’re pursuing.
And in terms of the deficit, the President has a deficit reduction plan. It’s based on strong economic growth and spending restraint. By taking steps that we have to get our economy growing stronger and creating jobs, we’re also seeing increased revenues coming in. And by working with Congress to exercise responsible spending restraint, we’ve got a plan to cut the deficit in half over the next five years. And we are –
Q That includes the cost of the war and of the Social Security package –
MR. McCLELLAN: – we are on track to meet that goal.
And we’re to believe this?