The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 26, 2001

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Kansas City, Missouri


10:20 A.M. EST


     MR. FLEISCHER:  If I told you the President began his day with an intelligence briefing, would you laugh?

     Q    He went to the Gridiron.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No sense of humor in the nation's press corps this morning.  The President began his day with an intelligence briefing.

     Q    You can fool some of the people all the time -- concentrate on this.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That's why I'm here.

     Q    We're not some of the people you can -- (laughter.)

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President has National Geographic on board.  They are completing what's been a four year interview that they've been doing on Air Force One, the history of Air Force One.  They've been working on it for four years.

     MR. JOHNDROE:  They do new ones every several years.  As soon as they have one out, they start working on a new one, a few months after that, to keep them updated.

     MR. FLEISCHER:      So there will be a National Geographic documentary about Air Force One, the airplane.  The Clinton administration cooperated with National Geographic in putting it together.  The President just did an interview with them.  They're on board, filming different scenes on board. And we anticipate that it will air in the next several months.  So he just did that.

     First event of the day --

     Q    When are they going to come back and shoot the most important cabin on the plane?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Actually, they did that with some of the reporters traveling with the Clinton administration.  Some of your colleagues have made the cut.  They will be on the air.

     Q    Is that all they're going to do?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I'll be happy to flack for you until they need to. The President at 11:20 a.m. will go to Bajan Industries, B-a-j-a-n, Industries.  He'll make brief remarks.  It's a minority-owned small business.  They employ approximately 100 employees.  They were founded in 1996.  And they are what's called a light-hand assembly plant that sells greeting cards through its parent corporation, Hallmark.

     And the President will go their to talk about his tax plan, and how it will help entrepreneurs, small businesses.  Small business generates 51 percent of private sector GDP.  And the small business community provides approximately 75 percent of all new net jobs in the economy.

     And the vast majority of the business owners pay taxes on the personal, not the corporate, scale.  We'll have many other small business owners in the audience, many of whom do pay personal income tax rates for their businesses.

     Q    What minority owns the business?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  African American, Mr. Bajan.

     Q    How do you pronounce it?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  B-a-j-a-n.  Bajan.

     Q    Excuse me, they assemble -- do they have to do --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Greeting cards.

     Q    Okay.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  We'll have a tax family with us in Kansas City.  It's the Edwards family.  Robert and Jennifer Edwards.  Two sons, Quentin, Q-u-e-n-t-i-n, three and a half years old; Ian, who is one year old.

     Q    The three-and-a-half year old's name?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Quentin.  Q-u-e-n-t-i-n.

     Q    How do you spell Ian's name?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I-a-n.  The Edwards family has a total income of $37,000.  They currently pay $1,750 in federal income taxes.  Under the President's plan, they would be removed entirely from the income tax rolls. They would have a 100 percent tax cut.  Robert is a manager of a Bob Evans Restaurant chain.

     Then the President will fly to Montana.  We'll have two events in Montana.  He will meet with a group of agricultural leaders at the Tractor Supply Company, for approximately 45 minutes.  It will give the President an opportunity to listen to the concerns of farmers in Montana.  Senator Burns will be there for that conversation, as well.  Agriculture is, of course, a mainstay of the Montana economy.

     Then the President will participate in a rally this evening at the Metrapark, M-e-t-r-a-p-a-r-k.  We're expecting several thousand people there.  The President will build support in the state of Montana for his budget and tax plan.  Of course, the House of Representatives will vote on the budget resolution tomorrow and Wednesday.  The Senate will take it up shortly thereafter.  The House will begin debate tomorrow, vote anticipated Wednesday.

     The President is traveling with Governor Roscoe, who we expect will receive a tumultuous welcome back to Montana.  Governor Roscoe, of course, is very popular here.  And he supports the President's tax plan.

     Q    Here, is he --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I don't know where.  I think we'll have lawmakers with us both places.  A lot of members of the Missouri -- the Missouri delegation was invited.  A lot will meet us on site.

     Q    What Democrats are traveling with us here?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Yes, there will be Democrats.  We invited them, as well.

     Q    Do you know what Democrats will be here, though?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Congresswoman McCarthy.

     Q    Does the President support the Treasury Secretary's decision to sell his -- okay.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The Palmer family will be a tax family that will join us in Montana.  Kathy, with a K, Palmer, P-a-l-m-e-r.  Twelve year old son, Joseph; nine year old son, Jacob.  Michael Palmer is a machinist for Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad.  He's a member of the union.  Kathy is a teller for Wells Fargo Bank.  They have a total family income of approximately $47,000.  They currently pay approximately $2,900 in federal income taxes.  Under the President's plan, the Palmers would pay $1,200 in federal income taxes, giving them $1,700 more to use as they see fit, meaning they got a 59 percent tax cut.

     Q    Do you ever consider putting out -- just putting that stuff out on paper, to save you from having to go over it before every trip?  That way everybody's got the paper.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  We were trying to do that.  Anne is trying to get together more information to make available under the scheduling site.  So it's a good request.  We're trying to get it done.

     Q    What's the President's reaction?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  -- the President about it.  The President always thought of Secretary O'Neill as a man of the highest ethics and good judgement.  He continues to think so.

     Q    What about the Comair strike, will he intervene?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me remind you of what we've said explicitly on this topic.  The President's authority is limited by the actions of the National Mediation Board.  In the case of this strike, the President is urging both parties to get together and reach an agreement, so that the traveling public is not disrupted.

     But without a recommendation from the National Mediation Board to create -- to determine that an impasse has been reached that will substantially harm the economy, the President's hands are tied.  He does not have the authority to intervene without action by the National Mediation Board.  That's why he is urging both parties to come together and reach an agreement, so the public is not further disrupted.

     Q    He does not have the authority to intervene without action by the National --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Mediation Board.

     Q    Do you have any indication that such a --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  His hands are tied.

     Q    I presume that you guys have been in touch with the Board.  Why are they holding off?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Because the National Mediation Board can only recommend the creation of a presidential emergency board if they make a determination that substantial harm to the local economy is so severe that this step is recommended.

     Q    The local economy?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Transportation matters under the Railway Relations Act, which covers this dispute, are triggered by substantial harm to the economy, which usually depends on the presence of an airline that is so large, so dominant in the region that when they strike there is no alternative means of transportation.  They have not reached any such conclusion in this case.

     Q    That's when they told you that it's not a question of impasse, it's a question of affect on the economy?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That is how they are limited by the law; that's correct.

     Q    They've not indicated to you that that's going to change anytime soon?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That's correct.

     Q    This is the way it is?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That's correct.  Right.  Which is why the President has urged both parties to come together and reach an agreement.

     Q    Ari, what can you tell us on the high tech meeting on Wednesday?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I don't have anything further on that yet.  Do we know anything more on the high tech meeting?  No.   I haven't seen the list of attendees yet, but it's for the purpose of building support for the President's budget and tax plan, for the vital group of the economy that's kept our economy strong.  If there's any group that has its finger on the pulse of the economy, it's the high tech community, and the President wants to hear their thoughts about the strength of the economy and to share with them his ideas for how to improve it.

     Q    So this will be like a round table or can you picture the format at all?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I haven't looked that far ahead yet.

     Q    I want to ask you about the New York Times.  It talks about the new plan for Iraq, that would have a U.N. inspector stationed at the border, inside of airports.  It also talks about using people in the region, about setting up accounts for them to put --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I've asked for some information on that this morning. I haven't received it yet.  Let me share it with you after I get it.

     Q    What can you tell us about tomorrow's speech?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Tomorrow's speech will be about -- you'll hear new information tomorrow.  It will be about the status of the economy, its strengths, its weaknesses.  It will be a TelePrompTer speech.

     Q    What kind of new information?  On his proposals or on the economy?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, it's going to be the President's assessment of where the economy is, why his plan is the best plan to help the economy recover.  There will be -- he will share with the American people his view about where our nation stands, from an economic point of view:  the strengths of the economy, the weaknesses of the economy and what he proposes to do about it.

     Q    Is this an attempt to clarify what many regard as confusion over what the President does believe about the economy?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm not aware that there is any confusion.

     Q    A lot of people have said and written that he's made conflicting statements about the state of the economy, wondering whether he's talking it up or talking it down.  And then it's been widely reported --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  We've always dismissed that as not a serious question.

     Q    Let me ask you a serious question.  Where does he think the economy is?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  He'll address that tomorrow.

     Q    Is it sputtering, or is it an economy that he is confident will recover?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President believes -- the President knows that we're in the middle of an economic down-turn, but he has faith that the long-term strength of the economy is solid.  He has said that on numerous occasions.  But there is no dispute that we are in an economic downturn now.

     Q    A recession?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Economic downturn.

     Q    How do you define a "downturn"?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  How do you define a "recession" is probably the real question.

     Q    Negative growth.  Then how do you define a downturn.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  We had 5 percent economic growth and 4 percent economic growth and 2 percent economic growth and 1 percent economic growth.

     Q    What does the President think about the timing of the downturn? It was just after his coming into office.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I believe that's not accurate.  What I just walked through began in the summer of 2000.  The market correction, the market decline began in March of 2000.

     Q    -- reports.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  GDP growth started to drop precipitously in the summer of 2000 and the fall of 2000.  That's the facts.

     The President then said, it doesn't matter when it began; what matters is how to fix it.

     Q    Has he changed his views?  I mean, are we likely to hear something tomorrow representing a reconsidered assessment of the economy? Or is that a --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, no.  I just answered the question; -- or a downturn.  But he has faith in the long-term soundness of the economy.

     Q    Do you mean literally in the middle, we've been four or five months in an economic downturn, we have another four or five months before we come out of it?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President is not going to predict the duration.

     Q    Do you expect the President to make the point that you just made about the number of quarters that this has been true?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm going to urge you to await his remarks.

     We have information from Gordon.

     MR. JOHNDROE:  You just saw the Congressman.  Senator Kit Bond, Congressman Samuel Graves are at the airport.  And meeting the President at Bajan Industries is Senator Carnahan, Congresswoman Karen McCarthy, Democrat from the 5th district in Missouri; Congressman Dennis Moore, a Democrat from the 3rd district in Kansas.

     And in Billings, Governor Judy Marz, a Democrat, will greet the President on arrival; and Senator Max Baucus, Democrat, will also be there.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Thanks, everybody.

     Q    Thanks, Ari.

     Q    Do you have anything on -- is going over today, over to meet with people in Macedonia.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Who is?

     Q    Lord Robertson is heading over today, NATO Secretary General, anything about that?  Does the President have any hopes of what might come out of that meeting?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  As you know, the President issued a statement on Friday, expressing support for the Macedonian government and his condemnation of the actions by the Albanian extremists.  Over the weekend, the President -- yesterday, the President discussed the importance of stepping up patrols so that NATO and the United States, operating in support of KFOR, can interdict the shipment of arms from the extremists into the region.  And the United States will continue its military cooperation with the government of Macedonia.

     END                                               10:38 A.M. EST

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