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

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

  1. Senate action on budget/President's reaction
  2. Personnel announcements
  3. Drug plan
  4. Gasoline prices/gouging
  5. Middle East/violence
  6. Solicitor General nomination
  7. Union members/energy briefing
  8. Tax credits/renewables
  9. Nigerian President visit/Africa, AIDS
  10. North Korea talks

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.

    I have 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, total vacancies.

    MR. FLEISCHER:  I don't have that information with me.  I'd have to get that for you.

    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?

    MR. 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.

    The 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.

    The 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.

    MR. 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 they were?

    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?

    MR. 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 is.

    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?

    MR. 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.

    MR. 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 business.

    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?

    MR. 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?

    MR. 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 with that.

    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.

    MR. 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 treatment efforts.

     Q    Does the President consider himself a part of the baby boomer group?

    MR. 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.

    From 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 speeches?

    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.

    MR. 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.

    MR. 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?

    MR. 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 vigilant.

    Q    They're 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?

    MR. 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 policies.

    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 gouging.

    Q    But is he maybe having them collect data, on-time data, rather than waiting or is he --

    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?


    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 prices?

    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 example?

    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?

    MR. FLEISCHER:  I have no information on that.

    Q    But can you confirm or deny?

    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?

    MR. 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?

    MR. 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 say that.

    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.

    MR. 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 continue?

    MR. FLEISCHER:  That's exactly correct.

    Q    And that includes senior staff, that 650?

    MR. FLEISCHER:  That's correct.

     Q    And just to follow up, again, when you said there have been no --

    MR. FLEISCHER:  It also includes the President and the Vice President.

    Q    They were tested?

    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?

    MR. FLEISCHER:  The people.

     Q    Oh, come on.

    MR. 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 the test?

    Q    Is that the first time --

    MR. 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?

    MR. 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 no problems.

    Q    Ari, another topic?

    Q    This is going to sound arcane, but when the President took this test, how was it administered?  Who gave it?  Was it a blood test?

    MR. FLEISCHER:  I'll be happy to talk to you about that somewhere other than this podium.

    Q    In the usual fashion, we assume?

    MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm sorry?

    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 House response?

    MR. 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 believe it?

    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?

    MR. 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 fighting drugs.

    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 focus.

    Q    Is the Vice President --

    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?

    MR. 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.

    He's 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 recommendations.

     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 rate --

    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?

    MR. FLEISCHER:  Yes, I will.

     Q    Are you saying there is a review --

    MR. FLEISCHER:  You are cut off at eight questions today, Mr. Gregory.

    You may 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?

    MR. 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?

    MR. 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, again.

    Q    It doesn't necessarily mean losing their job?

    MR. 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?

    MR. FLEISCHER:  I can only speak for what the White House policy is. You may need to talk to the different agencies, to have their policies.

    Q    Is there any difference between this and past White House policies?

    MR. FLEISCHER:  I couldn't tell you.

    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 people?

    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?

    MR. 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?

    MR. 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?

    MR. 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 President.

    Q    Is the administration changing its view on the timing of talks with North Korea?

    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 children's behavior?

    MR. 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

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