For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 10, 2001
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
Listen to the Briefing
12:40 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good
afternoon. The President is very pleased with the action the
United States Senate just took moments ago to pass significant tax
relief to the American people while providing the vital funding the
government needs for Social Security, Medicare, education, and a budget
that also holds the line on the growth in domestic
spending. Now that both the House and the Senate have acted,
it's clear that the economic recovery package that the President has
talked about is on the way. Tax relief is on the
way. Educational improvements are on the way. And
maintaining the nation's vital priorities, especially for our senior
citizens, is on the way.
The President views
this as a very important day in his new presidency, and he is very
pleased to thank the Democrats who helped make this possible, and the
bipartisan action that the Senate took represents a new and helpful way
to get business done in Washington.
three personnel announcements to make and then I'll be pleased to take
questions. The President intends to nominate Cari Dominguez
to be a commissioner of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission for
a five-year term, expiring on July 1, 2006. And upon
confirmation, she will be designated as Chairman. The
President intends to nominate Dennis Schornack to be Commissioner of
the International Joint Commission of the United States and Canada, and
upon confirmation he will be designated as Chairman. The
President intends to nominate Janet Hill to be Assistant Secretary of
Health and Human Services for Management and Budget.
One final announcement -- there are four --
the President intends to nominate Harvey Pitt to be a commissioner of
the Securities and Exchange Commission for the remainder of a five-year
term, expiring June 5, 2003. And upon confirmation, he will be
designated as Chairman. And in each of those cases, upon
confirmation, of course, is a matter to be determined by the
Senate. That is, if confirmed. The President
believes that all of them should and will be.
Q How many of the total have you now nominated?
MR. FLEISCHER: The total for?
Q Of the total slots,
MR. FLEISCHER: I
don't have that information with me. I'd have to get that
Q Ari, on
drugs, the President talked about what's failed really in the drug war
in this period, beginning in the early '90s. From his point
of view, what's gone wrong?
FLEISCHER: It's not clear what the exact causes of it
were. But the trend is discernible and worrisome and crystal
clear. We just handed out -- I think if you haven't gotten
it yet, it will be available after this briefing -- the study that was
done that shows the trend in how the use of drugs declined each and
every year from the early '80s until the early 1990s, and then it went
up consistently throughout the 1990s.
President thinks it's essential for the government to send a simple and
clear message: Don't do drugs. Doing drugs will
kill you; it will wreck your communities; it will harm
children. And it's a powerful message that the government at
all levels needs to send.
Q But we've heard all that. What I'm
asking you is why won't you be reflective here? I mean, if
the President is out there saying that something has gone wrong since
the early 1990s, clearly you've got a lot of people, including Joe
Califano, who have studied this, so what's happened?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the
President will be interested in hearing the opinions of some of the
experts about why this could have possibly taken place. But
his focus is on moving forward now to make certain that he gets the
trend of drug use down. Part of that --
Q Why can't you look in
the past and be reflective? Why do we always have to look
forward? He doesn't have any opinion about what's gone wrong
and what's the problem with the approach is?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because the President's focus is going to be
on creating a drug policy that focuses on demand, that focuses on
supply, that's a broad-based, rounded strategy to reduce drug abuse
everywhere. That's his focus.
Q Does the administration have any explanation
for the fact that gas prices are up so much, in the Midwest
particularly, given the fact that inventories are up, given the fact
that summer is still a month away, and given the fact that back in
March the EPA allowed better, slightly cheaper formulations for the
reformulated gas that's used in that Midwest market?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's very
troubled about the rise in gas prices, not only in the Midwest, but
throughout the country. It's been a troubling practice that
has taken place over the last several years. And each time,
particularly in the Midwest, it's been found to be attributable to
pipeline problems, breakdowns that reduced the capacity to keep the gas
supplies moving, to problems that dealt with blending of gasoline as
part of some of the programs the federal government operates to keep
the air clean. All of those have contributed in recent years
to the rise in gas prices in the Midwest.
President is going to remain vigilant in terms of making certain that
there's no price gouging. He's instructed the agencies to
keep a close eye on that. Earlier this week I indicated the
Department of Justice had responsibility for this. Actually,
it is the Federal Trade Commission that has primary responsibility for
this. And the President is going to make certain that the
United States stays on top of it.
Q But this took place even though you took steps
to make certain it wouldn't happen again.
FLEISCHER: Well, that underscores exactly why the nation
needs a comprehensive national energy policy. It proves the
fact that unless the nation takes broad and focused actions to combat
the problems we have with energy, problems will arise. That
makes the case for what the President is seeking to do.
Q Just one more,
please. You're under terrific pressure from the Hill to do
something in the short-term, because the people who represent these
people who are out there at the pump buying gas are feeling the pain
and they want you to do something that will help consumers
now. Is the White House any more willing to do that than
MR. FLEISCHER: Well,
the President believes the energy policy that he will announce next
week will help consumers now -- that it will help consumers now, it
will help consumers tomorrow and it will help consumers into the
future. There are a variety of steps that the President will
be taking and as he's already announced, such as the conservation
initiatives that he's launched. By having the federal
government reduce its need for electricity and for consumption, that
will create more capacity which hopefully will lower
prices. The actions the President has taken in terms of
bringing refineries on to line can be helpful. So there are a series
of steps that the President will be taking that can be
helpful. And he looks forward to working with members of
Congress on that.
Q Follow-up on David's question. The
President said today that acceptance of drug use is simply not an
option for this administration. And afterwards, one of his domestic
policy advisors said, "the notion that drug use is okay, the notion
that I didn't inhale, we're all baby boomers, we all did it, those days
are over." Does the President believe the previous
administration tacitly accepted illegal drug use?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is not
going to look back. He's going to look
forward. He does think it's very important for the
government at all levels to send a consistent message that drug abuse
is wrong, that people should not tolerate drug abuse and that parents
need to know that the government is working with them when they send
signals to their children, that don't do drugs, don't get started on
drugs, it can ruin your life, and that treatment programs are available
and other methods of education are available to help those who do make
the mistake and start taking drugs.
Q If you're unwilling to answer his question and
say, no, we're not accusing the Clinton administration of tacitly
condoning drug abuse, then, in fact, you are accusing them of doing
that. You're not answering his question, yes or no -- do you
think the Clinton administration tacitly endorsed --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
focus is on the future, and that's what the President discussed today
on how to stop people from -- fighting drugs.
Q Oh, come on. Ari, you release
figures that conveniently talk about an increase in drug use among a
narrow group of Americans -- high school seniors -- that just happen to
coincide exactly with the Clinton presidency, and you're saying that
you've got a solution for a problem that you haven't diagnosed?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, David, a
reporter asked me if I could give them the statistical backup for what
the President said today. I was happy to release it in
response to a reporter's question.
Q The issue is you're promising to solve a
problem -- the President is promising to solve a problem that you and
he don't know what it is, you haven't diagnosed the problem, you say we
should just look forward?
FLEISCHER: I think everybody in government is wrestling with
how to solve the problem of drug abuse in America. And what
the President has offered today as he named a new drug czar is an
approach that is really going to begin to fight this on the demand
level, in addition to the supply and interdiction
levels. And that's what American families want to hear, and
that's what the American people want to hear, is not finger-pointing,
but problem-solving. And that's where the President's focus
Q But, Ari, a fair
question is that you are coming out saying, here's your solution, or
what you're going to do, you don't want to look back, but isn't it fair
to say, what are you all doing differently that the Clinton
administration didn't do for eight years that didn't result in a
reduction in drug use?
FLEISCHER: I think sometimes in this town there's this
fascination with trying to pit one politician against another, to have
one person blame a predecessor --
Q You're the one bringing it up.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not President
Bush's style --
Q You're the one who keeps referring back to the
'80s and the '90s.
FLEISCHER: I'm responding to questions that are asked me
about the '80s and '90s.
Q No, you bring it up on your own initiative.
Q But I think it is a
fair question of what are you doing differently. What
approach is different compared to the Clinton administration?
MR. FLEISCHER: As the President
announced today, he is going to really begin to have a renewed focus on
fighting the war on drugs, particularly with the emphasis on education,
on prevention, on treatment, on the demand side of the
equation. It's always important to fight it on the
interdiction side and on the law and order side. Added to
that will be a robust effort to fight it on the demand side, as
well. And it's always possible for an administration to take
action that sees fit because it's the right thing to do, whether it was
done before or not done before by its
predecessors. Administrations are entitled to look forward
in finding solutions without having to look backwards in any type of
finger-pointing way. That's not how President Bush does his
Q Ari, let
me try it this way. The President indicated that Joe
Califano greatly influences his thinking about this issue, is that
right? Didn't he say that?
FLEISCHER: The President has been influenced by many people,
including Mr. Califano.
Q But he said today that Califano greatly
influenced his thinking. Since you won't seem to diagnose the problem
in the past eight years very well, then I guess we can rely on what
Joseph Califano says has been the problem and to the degree to which
that's influenced the President?
FLEISCHER: I'm here to talk about the President's policies
for fighting the war on drugs.
Q Why are you spending five times as much on
interdiction as you are on treatment?
Q The President talked about his opposition to
drug legalization. Can you tell us what he was referring
to? Was it marijuana, was it some other thing?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President was
referring broadly to the movement that's afoot in some parts of
America, very small parts of America, that suggest that drugs should be
legalized. There's some movements that question whether or
not it's worth spending the money to fight drugs, why not just legalize
it and let people become drug users in a legal society. And the
President, as he indicated today, cannot have differed more strongly
As for the question of medical marijuana, the President does not believe that it's appropriate to allow what is a controlled substance to be given to people in terms of medical marijuana. There are other effective ways, the President believes, to help people who suffer illnesses so they can be relieved of the pain and the symptoms that they're going through. There are other ingredients that can be delivered outside of a marijuana cigarette, for example, to help people who need help, who suffer.
Q What about the budget
disparity? You're spending five times as much on
interdiction as you are on treatment.
FLEISCHER: That's why the President is reducing those
disparities. He's spending more money on the demand side
than had been previously spent.
Q I'm thinking about in the current budget.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if somebody
wants to suggest that we stop the interdiction efforts, the President
does not support that. What the President supports is a $19
billion drug program that has more money than previously to reduce drug
abuse on the demand side. And the President is not going to
cut back on the interdiction efforts; that's important. But
he's going to increase prevention efforts, education efforts, and
Q Does the President consider himself a part of
the baby boomer group?
FLEISCHER: Indeed, he does.
Q Ari, kind of along those same lines, you just
talked about the renewed focus the President hopes to place on this,
and he framed it as a moral issue. He's spoken in the past
about his problem with alcohol and how he overcame it. Is he
going to bring that experience to the table as he leads this crusade?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a very
interesting question. The President understands that for
people who suffer from an addiction that everyone is
different. People find their own ways to get these terrible
problems resolved; some successfully, some
unsuccessfully. He understands there's no one size fits all
solution, and that's why his plan will seek to encourage a series of
treatment programs across the country.
his own personal experience, he will tell you that one of the ways he
was able to stop drinking overnight was because of the power of
faith. He does believe that that can be a very helpful and
constructive way to help people who are going through internal issues
that require strong discipline and strong faith. That was
his personal experience. That's the reason he believes faith-based
programs can be effective; he's seen their power.
And there are other programs in America --
Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, the 12-step program that they have
is, indeed a faith-based solution that many people who were previously
alcoholics will tell you it was thanks to those types of programs that
they were able to find a new way of life and a way of life that's
alcohol-free. So true with drug programs in many cases.
Q So can we expect him
to reflect on this as he, perhaps, goes out on the road, or makes
MR. FLEISCHER: I think
that's possible. I've heard him reflect on that before.
Q He's never said he
was an alcoholic or addicted to alcohol.
FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q We're you trying to imply that?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. No,
I'm talking about programs other people have used, and referred to
Alcoholics Anonymous and people who have taken part in
that. But, no, the President has not indicated
that. But he has indicated that one of the reasons he was
able to just give up drinking in the manner that he did was because of
the power of faith.
Q Ari, back on the question about gas prices in
Illinois, you said that the President has something that will help
people today and help people tomorrow. Now, a pipeline --
new pipeline construction, new power plant construction, new imports
from Canada and Mexico will not help people today, and they will not
help people tomorrow. It will help people in
time. Is there some other program that we don't know about
that he has got in mind that is going to help people tomorrow?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the
conservation program that the President has announced is very helpful
Q That doesn't help
somebody at a gas line.
FLEISCHER: Well, indeed, it does. If people are
able to start conserving their supplies and if people decide
conservation applies to their own personal use of their vehicles, it
certainly can. So it all depends on the individual decisions
that people make when it comes to conservation. But the
President's focus is going to be on helping people through a
comprehensive national energy policy that addresses the supply issue,
the conservation issue, the infrastructure issue. That's
where the focus will be. But this problem did not come up
overnight; it won't be solved overnight in its entirety. But
the President's energy plan can help to begin to solve it from the
first day it's announced.
And I also want to
point out that the President tackled this problem immediately upon
becoming President. He immediately tasked Vice President
Cheney with the creation of this task force, which will make its
recommendations next week, as you know. So from the first
moments or the first hours of his presidency, he's been on top of the
problem, and he will have a comprehensive national energy plan
available next week.
Q But that still doesn't help anybody
tomorrow. So I just want to make sure. You're not
saying that conserving 10 percent of the energy in a federal building
in California is going to help somewhat in the gas line in Chicago?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President's focus is going to be on doing everything he can for all terms, short-term, medium-term and long-term. There will be many actions that are going to be focused in a more comprehensive nature.
Q Right. Is
there anything that the White House really can do to affect a gas price
at a pump in Chicago today?
FLEISCHER: The White House -- the President is committed to
doing as much as he can. And the focus is going to be
exactly as I indicated.
Q Is the White House open to any type of
investigation, as some Democrats have called for, into the rising gas
prices, to see if there's anything awry here?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, the President has
directed the agencies in charge to be vigilant. And as you
know, that's something that has been looked at many times over many
years. And the conclusion typically comes out the
same. But the President has directed the agencies to be
always supposed to be vigilant. So are they doing anything
other than being vigilant? I mean, are they, as was done
last year, undertaking some sort of investigation, some sort of study,
to see if they can identify the factors responsible and if, in fact,
gouging is one of them?
FLEISCHER: It's interesting you mention that. A
study was just released last week that examined whether or not there
had been price gouging in last year's spike of prices on the West
Coast, as well as in the Midwest. And the conclusion was
that it had not. But the President has directed the agencies
to make certain that there is no price gouging. And that is
the President's focus as he goes along with the development of the
Q So has he
ordered a formal study of some sort, or are they just --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, they're
maintaining their vigilance, to make certain there is no price
Q But is he
maybe having them collect data, on-time data, rather than waiting or is
MR. FLEISCHER: You may want
to address this specifically to the agency that's been tasked with
making certain that there is no price gouging. Get their
methods from them.
Q Which agency is that?
MR. FLEISCHER: FDC.
Q What do you say to
Democrats, though, and do you accuse them of playing politics where
they said that the administration could do something, that it's saying
it's powerless, but that it could do something and that it's beholden
to the oil industry so it does not want to step in to reduce gas
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the
President is going to continue to focus on a policy that involves
conservation, that involves the use of new technologies, that involves
improving and modernizing the infrastructure and producing more
resources. That's where the President will continue to
focus. I think it's fair to ask what has been done over the
last many years by those who are in positions of power, who could have
made some decisions that were helpful. Whatever was or
wasn't done, the President is going to proceed to try to help this
nation to avert a growing energy crisis.
Q Just on the Middle East
briefly. The violence is absolutely horrific now, on both
sides. Isn't there anything the administration can do other
than words? Can funds be withheld from either party, for
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the
President joins in the condemnation of the brutal killings that took
place of the teenagers in Israel. It's another reminder of
how the violence has gone too far on all sides, and how the first step
that's going to be necessary to secure peace in the Middle East is an
end to the violence. And that remains the President's
dedication. As you know, he's had a series of meetings with leaders --
so, too, has Secretary Powell -- to discuss how to bring about peace in
the Middle East. And the United States will continue to play its role
as a facilitator in bringing the parties together.
Q But is there any move
to cut funding to both Israel and the Palestinians?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, that's not
something under contemplation.
Q A quick question. Can you confirm a
report in a Pakistani newspaper that the Pakistan dictator is coming to
the White House on the invitation of President Bush to meet here in the
White House in July?
FLEISCHER: I have no information on that.
Q But can you confirm
MR. FLEISCHER: Go ahead.
Q The purpose of the
National League of Cities meeting today -- some things that are going
to be talked about, I'd assume Internet sales tax
moratorium. Anything else?
FLEISCHER: I don't have a report on that meeting, so I'll
have to find out.
Q Ari, who's been drug-tested at the White
House, and what happens if -- first, has anyone failed, and what
happens if they do?
FLEISCHER: As part of the policy of working at the White
House, all employees must be drug-tested, if you're going to work in
the Executive Office of the President. And that means some
650 people were drug-tested upon a condition of
employment. Since then, 127 White House employees have been
randomly drug-tested. And its an ongoing random drug-testing
program that this White House will continue to operate.
And I'm not going to get into anybody did or
did not pass. That's going to be treated as a private
personnel matter. I would suggest to you that in its
entirety, this White House is a very professional operation, and there
are no problems that have been brought to anybody's attention. Let me
In the event that something --
somebody were to be tested positive, the White House policy is to treat
this on an individual, case-by-case matter, to sit down and talk with
the person whose test may have come back positive, to work with them to
determine whether it was some type of casual usage or if there is a
more serious problem, to determine what drugs were involved, and to
work with that person and to help that person seek treatment and
counseling. And if the situation is not resolved, the
consequences could be anywhere from a letter of reprimand to firing.
Q Were there 650 drug
tests to begin with and now you're doing random follow-ups --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q -- of another 127?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, that would
include people who had previously been tested.
Q Yes, okay.
FLEISCHER: Correct. It's an ongoing random
drug-testing program at the White House.
Q Everybody was tested to begin with?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q And then random tests
MR. FLEISCHER: That's
that includes senior staff, that 650?
FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q And just to follow up, again, when you said
there have been no --
FLEISCHER: It also includes the President and the Vice
Q They were
MR. FLEISCHER: They were
tested as a condition of employment here. They were the first two to
take the drug test.
Q Who imposed the condition of employment, if it
wasn't the President?
FLEISCHER: The people.
Q Oh, come on.
FLEISCHER: No, it's true. The policy of the White
House is all employees have to be drug-tested. And that
policy extends to the President and the Vice President.
Q Some people might not
have voted for him if they had known that. (Laughter.)
Q When did they take
Q Is that
the first time --
FLEISCHER: The first week in the White House.
Q Ari, do you know, to
your knowledge, have other Presidents been drug-tested?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know.
Q What if he would have
failed, what would have happened, do you know? (Laughter.)
Q Ari, when you said
that no problem has been brought to anybody's attention, are you
suggesting that nobody failed the test?
FLEISCHER: I'm suggesting from this podium -- I'm not going
to get into counts and numbers on something that may involve counseling
of employees. But the fact of the matter is that there are
is going to sound arcane, but when the President took this test, how
was it administered? Who gave it? Was it a blood
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll be happy
to talk to you about that somewhere other than this podium.
Q In the usual fashion,
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm
Q In the usual
fashion, we assume?
Q There are two ways to do it.
MR. FLEISCHER: Let's take some
other topics, and I'll be happy to help you with these questions.
Q Where's Lester when
we need him? (Laughter.)
Q -- my question, by the way?
Q A different topic, if
I may. There appears now to be something of a delay in the
consideration of Olson over questions about what he's done in the past
with regard to magazine articles regarding President
Clinton. Any concerns about the delay? Any White
FLEISCHER: Jim, Mr. Olson has assured the committee that he
was not involved in that matter in any way. He has said so
directly to the committee in the form of a letter that has gone to the
committee. And the committee has his assurances.
Q Ari, if it's true, as
you indicated, that part of the President's concern with gasoline
prices and the energy crisis is for the short-term, why is it that he
wouldn't consider a suspension of the federal gasoline tax?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated
when we talked about that issue a couple days ago, the President did
not campaign on that idea, but he has not closed the door on that
entirely. His focus is going to be on longer-term solutions,
on solutions that are more comprehensive in nature. But I did not
indicate that that door was closed in its entirety.
Q Ari, can I take one
more crack at the what went wrong in the drug issue --
Q No pun intended.
Q My recollection of
the campaign is that during the campaign the President and the Vice
President and others said that the existing administration sent mixed
signals. Are they backing off that, or do they not still
MR. FLEISCHER: The
statistics speak for themselves about the use of drugs. And
they can't be quarreled with. Those statistics are
independent statistics about the use of drugs by high school
students. I'm simply making the point, as the President
would want, that this administration is not going to spin its wheels by
looking backwards, pointing fingers or placing blame. The
President is determined to make progress and move forward.
And I understand that in this town sometimes
people prefer politicians to spend their time pointing fingers as
opposed to solving problems. That's not President Bush's way.
Q Wasn't the President
himself looking back when he said today that there was a decrease from
'85 to '89, and unfortunately, that isn't the case now or since?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
also said that we have energy problems that were long in the making in
this country. The President has said that taxes need to be
addressed in this country. The President has said education
needs to be improved. I suspect that every President --
Q It suggests that
someone wasn't doing the job, doesn't it?
FLEISCHER: Every President always takes their term of office
and has the right to reflect about statistics and whether things are
going right or wrong. And in this case, President Bush's
style of operation is to look forward and not point fingers.
Q Your example is
energy, and guess who's been outspoken about how the country lost its
way and what wrong -- the Vice President of the United
States. So all we're asking for here is for you, reflective
of the President's view, to find out where the country went wrong in
MR. FLEISCHER: Mr.
Gregory, I'm sure you will find no shortage of
people who are interested in pointing fingers. I am not one
of them, and neither is the President. And when it comes to
the question of drugs, the President thinks what is most important is
the country be brought together so that families know that the
government is on their side. And that's going to be his
Q Is the Vice
Q -- to
say we can solve a problem by understanding what went wrong in the
past. I think that's the question.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think we've exhausted this topic.
Q Ari, I have a policy
question on that. Does the President believe that the use of
mandatory minimum prison sentences for possession of relatively small
amounts of illegal drugs is an effective way to attack the problem?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me get back to
you on that. That's a specific question I want to try to get
back to you on that.
Q In general, does he believe incarcerating
people at the rate the United States does is an effective way to
address the problem?
FLEISCHER: The President's focus is going to be on a variety
of approaches to fighting and winning the war on drugs. The
President is very concerned by some of the statistics that he has heard
about the small percentage of drug users who account for the
overwhelming majority of drug use in America. His focus, as
he indicated today, is going to be on how to solve that problem through
treatment. He talked about the treatment gap between the 5
million people who are hardcore drug abusers in this country, only 2
million of whom receive treatment. There are 3 million
hardcore abusers who are not getting the treatment that the President
would like them to be able to get.
tasked the Attorney General with taking a look at the programs that are
run by the Department of Justice to fight the war on
drugs. I think he'll be interested on hearing their
Q Does that include mandatory minimums?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's one
of the areas the Attorney General may look at.
Q So he's open to the
possibility that we incarcerate too many people, that the incarceration
MR. FLEISCHER: As I told
you, I'm going to take your question and try to talk to the President
and get you something a little more specific on it.
Q Would you post the
answers, so we know them?
FLEISCHER: Yes, I will.
Q Are you saying there is a review --
MR. FLEISCHER: You are cut off at
eight questions today, Mr. Gregory.
have your first.
Q Well, not all drug abusers are high-schoolers, and for the last few years of the Clinton administration we were told that general drug use was coming down. Does that jibe with your statistics? Will you admit that's the case?
MR. FLEISCHER: As you heard today,
that those people who do not take up drugs before the age of 21 are
virtually guaranteed to never take up drugs in the rest of their
life. And that's the reality on the streets. That's the way
children are; that's the way adults become.
Q But didn't overall drug use among the
population as a whole decrease in the late '90s, the way the Clinton
administration, at least, told us?
FLEISCHER: Statistics speak for
themselves. You'll be able to see them; we've put them out.
Q Ari, at the risk of
asking another stupid question, I want to go back to the drug
testing. I think it's safe to imply from your answer on the
staff tests, that you don't have a zero-tolerance policy here, that it
is possible to have tested negative -- I mean, to admit to a drug use,
and still work at the White House?
FLEISCHER: Well, the zero-tolerance policy means that
anybody who tests positive is going to have to take
action. And it will be decided on a case-by-case basis,
Q It doesn't
necessarily mean losing their job?
FLEISCHER: It can be such things as -- depending on the
individual circumstances involved, depending on the nature of the drug,
depending on the casual treatment of the drug -- such actions as a
letter of reprimand to firing. So it very well could include
firing. It all depends on the circumstances involved.
Q Actually, Ari, to
follow up on that, does this apply to all federal agencies -- I mean,
aside from the White House?
FLEISCHER: I can only speak for what the White House policy
is. You may need to talk to the different agencies, to have their
Q Is there
any difference between this and past White House policies?
MR. FLEISCHER: I couldn't tell
Q Ari, on the
statistics involving teenagers, while the drug abuse hurts and results
in death of a certain number of teenagers, alcohol kills a lot more
teenagers every year. Traditionally, the Drug Czar's Office
has been reluctant to get involved in any kind of an anti-alcohol
campaign. Does the President have any view as to whether that's an
appropriate part of the Drug Czar's charge or whether others in the
government should be dealing with the danger alcohol poses to young
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there
are other agencies that are involved -- the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol
and Firearms, of course, has primary responsibility in that
area. And the President in his announcements today talked
about the role that he sees for the Drug Czar.
Q Can I just follow up
on that? There is this billion-dollar, five-year program for
media advertising against drugs. Would he have any view on
efforts in Congress to divert some of that funding to discouraging
alcohol abuse among young people?
FLEISCHER: It's not a topic I've gotten into with him, so I
couldn't tell you.
Q Two Japanese scientists are charged yesterday
with stealing material from -- center. What's the reaction
of the White House?
FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?
Q Two Japanese scientists are charged by Justice
Department with stealing material from the -- center -- what's the
reaction of White House? Do you have any comment on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't now have any
information on that. I'll have to find out.
Q Ari, can you comment
on why the White House is briefing union members on the energy plan on
Monday, and which other group are you reaching out to? And
is that an attempt to split the unions from the environmentalists, as
the paper reported today?
FLEISCHER: In advance of the announcement the President will
make on Thursday next week about his energy policy, the White House has
begun a series of meetings with groups that can be very helpful in
helping America to conserve energy and to produce energy.
Those groups include consumer groups; they
include union organizations; they include environmental groups; they
include groups that are focused on renewable supplies. And
the administration will be having a series of meetings with all of
those groups. And the purpose of the meetings is to discuss
with them the President's recommendations because they can be a very
valuable part of helping America to achieve energy independence and to
lowering the price of energy.
Q Ari, in the area of renewables, there are
several tax credits that are due to expire in that area, as well as use
of electric vehicles. A Treasury official, last week, called for their
renewal. Will they be part of this plan, or a separate --
MR. FLEISCHER: There will be a
series of tax incentives in the program that deal with such issues as
that, and you'll be able to judge that for yourself when the plan comes
out on Thursday.
Q Ari, tomorrow's meeting with the Nigerian
President -- we don't want to steal the news -- we know, obviously,
he's going to talk about funding for AIDS in Africa. How
does the President square what he wants to do as President in his
administration with the comment he made during the campaign when he
said, while Africa may be important, it doesn't fit into the national
strategic interests as far as I can see that?
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, that question, which came up at
a debate, was focused on the military and the role of the military and
whether the United States be committed militarily. The
President has always said that Africa is an important focus of our
foreign policy. And that's evidenced in the meetings that
he's going to hold tomorrow.
Q What kind of priority, when it comes to
fighting AIDS in Africa is this administration planning to --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd say it's a
terribly important priority. AIDS is ravaging Africa and
it's a problem that the United States and this President are terribly
concerned about. In fact, if you recall, there have been
meetings that the President held with a group of Democrats who came up
here early in his administration where it was the President who brought
the issue up to discuss with the visiting guests. So it is a
top priority, fighting the war on AIDS both home and in Africa for this
Q Is the
administration changing its view on the timing of talks with North
MR. FLEISCHER: No, there is
no change in that. The policy, vis-a-vis North Korea is
under review and Secretary Armitage indicated that and there's been no
change in our posture toward North Korea.
Q I think he also said that the administration would soon begin talks with North Korea. Is that not correct?
MR. FLEISCHER: It all
depends on the timing of the review and your definition of "soon."
Q Going back to the oil
crisis, many Asian nations are worried about Washington's -- the rising
price in the U.S. What is the President -- he's in touch
with those smaller nations and also how the administration's relations
with the oil producing countries, especially in the Middle East?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
been reaching out to a series of nations, to discuss a variety of
issues that involve energy, that involve regional security and
stability, and will continue to do so.
Q Ari, the President talked about parental
involvement today. How much has he talked to his own
daughters about both drug and drinking? And given the fact
that his own daughter was cited for underage drinking, isn't that a
sign that there's only so much effect that a parent can have on their
FLEISCHER: No, I think, frankly, there are some issues where
I think it's very important for you all in the press corps to recognize
that he is the President of the United States; he's also a
father. And the press corps has been very respectful in the
past of treating family matters with privacy, and I'm certain that
you're going to do so again. I hope so.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you, everybody.
END 1:14 P.M. EDT