Sen. Frank Lautenberg
(D-N.J.) has requested that White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan turn over all documents to the Senate concerning how a Republican operative posing as a reporter gained entry to President George W. Bush's White House news conference in January and asked a question disparaging of Democrats.
The reporter used the name Jeff Gannon, but in fact his real name was James D. Guckert, Lautenberg noted in a Feb. 10 memorandum to McClellan. "As you may know, Mr. Guckert/Gannon was denied a Congressional press pass because he could not show that he wrote for a valid news organization. Given the fact that he was denied Congressional credentials, I seek your explanation of how Mr. Guckert/Gannon passed muster for White House press credentials."
As reason for his request, Lautenberg wrote McClellan: "I have led the effort in the Senate to investigate a number of instances of troubling propaganda efforts by the Administration. The Government Accountability Office has agreed to my requests to investigate various attempts at media manipulation: fake television news stories touting both the new Medicare law and the
'No Child Left Behind' education program; a study rating individual journalists on their
'favorability' to Republican education policies; and the payment to journalist Armstrong Williams."
Gannon/ Guckert attracted attention after he initiated the following question-and-answer exchange at the President's Jan. 26 news conference. The transcript comes from the official White House web site. Indicating the questioner, the President said, "Yes, sir."
Q Thank you. Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock-solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you said you're going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?
THE PRESIDENT: Continue to speak to the American people. Right after my State of the Union, I think I'm going to four or five states to continue to address this issue. You know, I can remember President Clinton doing the same thing on Social Security. I thought he was very effective in teeing up the issue, of making the case. And I will do the same thing. There is a -- in terms of whether the economy is growing or not, there is a -- the jobs are increasing, the forecast looks strong. Obviously, there are some things we need to do to make sure that America is a good place to continue to risk capital and invest. That's why I'm urging the Congress to pass legal reform.
You might remember, one of the first issues that I addressed after election was legal reform, asbestos reform, class-action reform, medical liability reform. I believe if there is a -- that we've got a chance to get some good, meaningful legislation out of the Congress early, which will send a good signal that we will address those issues that make -- that stand in the way for further economic expansion. We need an energy bill and I look forward to working with members of both parties to get a good energy bill out.
Obviously, people in the capital markets are going to be watching the issue of twin deficits -- on the one hand, the spending deficit, the fiscal deficit. We'll address that in our budget that we're getting ready to submit to Congress. Obviously, we're going to have to work closely together to send the signal that we're willing to tackle some tough issues. The budget I'll be submitting is one that says, we'll spend money on projects that work, but we must make sure we're not wasting the taxpayer's money.
In terms of the trade deficit, it is important for us to make sure that -- in countries that are -- that countries treat their currencies in market fashion. I've been working with China, in specific, on that issue. Secondly, that people knock down their barriers to our goods and services. Thirdly, that we continue to grow our economy at home by making -- by some of the reforms I've just discussed.
But I think most people are optimistic about the economy next year. It's very important that we continue to put pro-growth policies in place.