For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 19, 2001
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
Listen to the Briefing
FERC decision on
President's energy task force
- Personnel announcements
- IRS letter
1:40 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good
afternoon. I have several personnel
announcements. President Bush today announced his intention
to nominate John Danilovich to be Ambassador of the United States to
the Republic of Costa Rica. The President today is
announcing his intention to nominate Martin J. Silverstein to be
Ambassador to Uruguay. The President today is announcing his
intention to nominate Johnny Young to be Ambassador to the Republic of
Two judicial announcements: The
President will nominate Laurie Smith Camp to be a judge on the U.S.
District Court for the District of Nebraska. The President will
nominate Paul G. Cassell to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for
the District of Utah.
With that, I'm pleased to take any questions
you may have. Mr. Plante.
Q Ari, whose idea was
it to write a mailing that's going out to the people who received tax
refunds which suggests that they will be receiving just the first
installment of a long-term tax relief provided by the new law?
MR. FLEISCHER: This idea originated
with the agency responsible for all communications with taxpayers, the
Internal Revenue Service. They talked about it with the
Department of Treasury. It was talked about with the White
House, as all issues of this nature get discussed with the White House
with the agencies.
You know, the IRS has significant experience
in dealing with taxpayers. And they understand when there
are issues that are going to cause taxpayers to all start reaching out
and talking to the IRS. And I don't think it would surprise
anybody that at a time when Americans are going to receive 100 million
checks in the mail, if they don't have any notice and they have no
reason to suspect why they're getting the checks --
Q Was it done the last
MR. FLEISCHER: -- if they have no
reasons to know why they're getting the checks, it's the IRS's judgment
that all of a sudden, that will light up the phones of the IRS, that
taxpayers are going to say, why all of a sudden am I receiving all
these checks in the mail. And, so, they have a lot of
experience in working with the taxpayers, and in their judgment, a
letter is the appropriate thing to send. And we're very
pleased that the taxpayers are going to receive the rebates in an
Q If I may follow up,
it's been criticized, perhaps predictably, by Democrats on the Hill as
inappropriate and political and sounding more like a sweepstakes
message from Ed McMahon than a communication from the government,
particularly in the promise of more relief to come.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I think
the IRS, which has a tremendous amount of experience in dealing with
taxpayers and knowing what types of communications cause taxpayers to
pick up their phone and call the IRS and put a burden on IRS workers, I
think they are in the best position of anybody in the government to
know whether or not receipt of 100 million unexplained checks is going
to all of a sudden cause more problems if people do not have any type
of notice that they are going to be receiving a check of this
nature. So the IRS is sending out the notice as part of
their routine communications; properly so. It's a good way
to manage the reaction that the public would give if 100 million
unexplained checks simply arrived.
Q Ari, but what role
did the White House, if any, play in the wording of the
letter? Did the White House consult with IRS or IRS consult
the White House in terms of the wording of the letter? Did
the White House sign off on the final letter --
MR. FLEISCHER: The wording of the
letter was showed to the White House. The White House signed
off. The White House talked to the IRS about it.
You know, let me remind you that every year,
the Department of Health and Human Services sends out to Medicare
beneficiaries a notebook explaining -- a letter, and sometimes it's
actually a glossy booklet, explaining all the Medicare benefits for
people who have just turned 65, who are about to enter the world of
Medicare. Those are millions upon millions of communications
sent. The White House always works with the Department of
HHS on that communication. One year not too recently ago,
all 38 million Medicare beneficiaries received the booklet, not just
those people who were new to Medicare.
So, frankly, it's part of good government for
the agencies to keep in touch with people who are about to get
something that, to answer your question, Helen, is generally
unprecedented. We are not aware of any time where there was
a rebate check sent out to all 100 million Americans like this.
Q Wasn't there a Reagan
MR. FLEISCHER: It was not
retroactive. There was no rebate check sent out in this
manner. Big difference.
Q Do you know who at
the White House signed off?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd have to check,
Ron, to see what specific names are involved in it.
Q Would you mind
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll try to find
out, sure. But like I say, these are routine communications
that the White House is proud to have with its agencies all the time,
in terms of keeping in touch --
Q Well, it's not
routine if it's original.
MR. FLEISCHER: Routine contacts,
between the administration and the agencies, in terms of the important
business that the agencies carry out on behalf of the American people.
But the bottom line is the
same. The President is very proud that the taxpayers are
about to receive a first-time rebate because there has been an
overpayment in taxes.
Now, we understand that there are many people
on Capitol Hill who oppose tax relief, and they do not like the idea of
taxes being cut. And that's going to
happen. They're going to say things they're going to say.
But it is part of an efficient way to administer something brand new to
the American people, which is an unexplained check is about to arrive
on their doorsteps. And it's a helpful communication from
the IRS. And in the IRS's judgment, it's going to cut down
the number of surprised phone calls they get from taxpayers who say,
why all of a sudden did I receive a check?
Q But are Democrats
being unfair when they say that this is political, with Bill's point,
when it sort of alludes to the fact that more is coming, more is on the
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the letter
explains the facts of tax law. And under the 1997 tax act,
where the IRS was given a new mission, to be much more customer
friendly. The IRS is fulfilling that mission. If
you notice, since 1997, the IRS has paid much closer attention to the
communications they have with the taxpayers. The letters
that they send out now to taxpayers are much more customer-oriented,
they're written in a more easily understandable English. And
I think that the bureaucracies deserve praise anytime they communicate
with the taxpayers in a way that is in plain English, easily
understood, particularly at a time to advise taxpayers that they are
about to receive a check. Otherwise, taxpayers would get a
check in the mail, they have no idea why. But taxpayers
deserve to know they're getting a check because their taxes got cut.
Q And do you think that
helps the President politically, this letter from the IRS helps the
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it helps the
taxpayers to understand why they're about to receive a check.
Q But does the letter
on the IRS stationary from the IRS itself help the President
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that for
everybody who voted for tax relief, the Democrats and Republicans
included, for all those members of Congress and for the President, to
everybody who is contributing to the economic recovery that's going to
be created thanks to this tax cut, it helps
substantively. Anything that helps substantively is good
Q How much does the
letter cost, how much does it cost to send those out?
MR. FLEISCHER: You would have to
check with the IRS or Treasury.
Q Can you -- switching
to California for a minute, when we were asking you about FERC
yesterday, it had not actually acted yet. Now that it has,
can you tell us the President's reaction? But more
importantly, during the President's trip to California, you may
remember there was a letter released from 10 or so economists about
sort of a mid-range way of putting price caps on, soft price caps on,
that seemed rather similar to what ultimately was done. In
the White House view, has FERC taken a kind of action that those
economists and Governor Davis have endorsed when we were all out
MR. FLEISCHER: On the question of
the FERC action, let me start with that. This is a 55-page
order issued by FERC, and the White House has not yet received that
order. They have not made it available yet. The
information basically stems from a three-page, four-page news release
from FERC, and also from watching yesterday's action from the states
made by the FERC Chairman from other members of the Federal Energy
It is the assessment of the White House that
in keeping with the President's desire to help the state of California,
and to make certain that there are no illegal price gouging carried out
by any companies, that this action, to the degree that it is
market-based -- and this action does appear to be market-based -- the
President believes that this is and can be a helpful step for the state
It's important to note that FERC rejected
price controls. This is not a price control; this is a
market-based mitigation plan that now will extend to 11 Western
states. But to the degree that it is a market-based program,
this is in keeping with what the President said, and the President is
pleased to be able to help California in that manner.
It does not change the President's fundamental
view that a separate economic matter, which will be price controls,
would not be productive.
Q And to the letter?
MR. FLEISCHER: To the letter --
you're referring to the letter -- which letter? There were
dueling letters from economists during that trip.
Q One from Alfred Kahn
and a group of other economists who had a long history of deregulation,
who were arguing basically for a cost-plus system, which is not far
from what FERC has done.
MR. FLEISCHER: I want to review the
letter with specificity before answering that. But this is
not cost plus. The action taken by FERC is not cost
plus. Cost plus is an arbitrary determination that utility's
costs are at one level, and somebody in the government will set a price
of what an acceptable profit can be above that
level. Somebody in government, a bureaucrat, would have to
designate 10 percent, 15 percent, whatever a government worker deems an
appropriate profit. That's cost plus. This is not
Q Has the White House
economist, Lawrence Lindsey, signed off on this not being a price
control? Does Lawrence Lindsey believe this is not a price
control, this is a market operation?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know that
I've talked to Larry specifically about that, Terry, you'd have to ask
him. But the President has been briefed on this, and the
President has been informed that this is a -- to use FERC's words, it's
a mitigation plan that is a market-based plan. Those are the
Chairman's words, Chairman of FERC.
Q Reaction from the
President today to the execution?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
reaction was brief. He acknowledged the
information. He thanked Judge Gonzales for monitoring the
situation. And the President believes strongly that the death penalty,
when it's administered fairly and effectively, and when defendants have
full access to the courts, that the death penalty serves as a deterrent
to crime, and that's why he believes in the death penalty.
It's also important to point out that the
legislation that led to the federal death penalty in this case was
supported by an overwhelmingly large bipartisan vote of the Congress,
both the House and the Senate, in terms of the execution of drug
kingpins, very, very bipartisan legislation, overwhelmingly
Q Was there an
indication, Ari, that the tax cut on which the President campaigned, in
which he made his top legislative priority and which he traveled
throughout the country both pushing through Congress and then afterward
letting people know it had passed, was there an indication that a
significant number of people were unaware of this, so that the IRS had
to send out a notice, hey, you've got a check coming?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Wendell, I
like to believe that the American people pay very careful attention to
everything that is done and reported from Washington,
D.C. But these are judgments of the Internal Revenue
Service. I think you really need to ask them, what is it
that in their judgment leads them to believe that sending out 100
million checks without explanation will create, all of a sudden, a
terrible phone burden upon IRS workers, where taxpayers say, wait a
minute, what's this check, why did I get it, and they start calling
up. It's their judgment. They have a lot of
experience in these areas, as you can imagine.
Q If I could follow,
presumably, the check comes with an explanation.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's a separate
Q But if -- I think all
of these questions get to whether or not it's the judgment of the IRS
that there would be confusion or whether it's a judgment of the White
House that there's political gain to be made. Was there no
consideration of political gain in sending out this letter?
MR. FLEISCHER: Wendell, just like
when the Department of Health and Human Services on an annual basis
sends to all income and Medicare beneficiaries information about
Medicare, how to be eligible for Medicare, what Medicare means, this is
good government. This is a government keeping in touch with
the taxpayers who pay the bills, informing them that they overpaid
Q Can you answer
Wendell's question? There was no judgment that there's
political gain in here? Is that what you're saying, that
there was no political consideration?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is about good
government, and this is about a substantive decision that the
taxpayers, for the first time, are going to get a rebate
check. It's a highly unusual event for taxpayers to get a
rebate check. It has not happened in modern memory.
Q Accepting that that
is your view of it, there was no judgment there was political gain to
MR. FLEISCHER: No, this is about
tax cuts, and tax cuts' stimulative effect on the economy and the
responsibility of government to communicate with
citizens. Just like Medicare, as I
indicated. That's an annual mailing that you're all familiar
with, and it's part and parcel of good government and government that's
Q Ari, on Senator
Schumer, who you will no doubt quickly point out voted against the tax
cut, says -- was at a press conference just now saying this is going to
cost somewhere between $20 million and $30 million, and questioning
whether that is a good use of government money, and also questioning
why there's a need for the President's name to be in this letter, why
it simply doesn't neutrally say you're getting this money back. What's
the answer to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the letter, of
course, explains that Congress passed it and the President signs
it. Was there an objection to saying Congress passed
it? The fact of the matter is that this law, passed by the
Congress, signed by the President, will result in about 100 million
taxpayers receiving a check. And again, I think it's pretty
easy to understand if, all of a sudden, 100 million checks arrive, it
is the judgment of the Internal Revenue Service, that has quite a lot
of experience dealing with taxpayer complaints and taxpayer reactions,
that any check that goes out without explanation will lead to an
incoming burden to the IRS where their phones will light up with
taxpayers saying, what is this check. And they have
determined that this is the best way to manage this process.
Q But couldn't you just
put a letter of explanation in with the check in the same --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, apparently
not. They cannot do that. Apparently
not. They're prohibited for some reason from doing that.
Q Oh, is that right?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q I just want to make
clear, though. You said the White House
consulted. So, did the White House make any changes to the
letter, and did the White House communicate in talks anything that the
White House felt should be included in this letter that's going out to
100 million people?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes -- I was asked
earlier a similar question about who specifically from the White
House. I'll check.
Q But not necessarily
who, just what. What parts of the information -- was it just
sort of signing off, and did the White House actually make changes to
the letter, or actually provide information?
MR. FLEISCHER: It wouldn't surprise
me if the White House made suggestions on the letter; that's routine in
the White House's conversations with agencies about agency matters,
Q That's what we'd like
to know -- that is, who did what when.
MR. FLEISCHER: Given the
complexities of the tax cut as a whole, both phase-in and phase-out of
the various pieces, will taxpayers be getting letters each time
something phases in and phases out, or kept abreast of how this is
affecting each taxpayer? As a matter of fact, the IRS
booklets that everybody gets at the beginning of the year do explain
that. There is an annual mailing the IRS does send out every
year; that's how people pay their taxes. But this is --
Q -- in different years
and affect different people, will people affected get letters?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure, but you can --
that message from the IRS about the changes and the phase-ins,
information about what the phase-in rates will be is contained in the
IRS's annual mailing to taxpayers. So, yes, there will be an
IRS notification going out to all taxpayers about changes in
phase-ins. It takes place at the time that everybody gets
their tax forms, because that's the time to coincide with when those
changes are made.
The rebate check that arrives, separate and
apart from those tax forms, is a wholly separate type of communication
because it's such an unusual event. And that's the result of
the fact that Congress decided, the President supported a retroactive
Q Back to
death. Does the President really have information or figures
that show that the death penalty is a deterrent?
MR. FLEISCHER: There are many
people, the President included, who believe it is a
deterrent. There are many people who question whether it is
or not. I'd refer you to the Department of Justice
specifically for their studies --
Q Well, everything I've
read is that it has not been a deterrent.
MR. FLEISCHER: As I say, there are
many people who don't believe in the death penalty. But
there are many more who do. And the President --
Q That's not the
point. I just wondered if you had any fact or --
MR. FLEISCHER: -- is, in fact, a deterrent to
Q Ari, if we could
change to the Middle East now. Sharon is coming here next
week to meet with the President and Secretary Powell. What
does the President think about the state now, the
cease-fire? Is that in danger? Are the parties
acting in good faith to implement it?
MR. FLEISCHER: The cease-fire
remains fragile. There is a cease-fire in
place. The violence has been reduced. It has not
been eliminated. And the events in the Middle East are
better than they were following Director Tenet's visit to the Middle
East where he was able to work out the tentative -- the
cease-fire. But the events remain fragile, and that is why
this administration is going to remain actively engaged in trying to
build confidence-building measures between the parties in the Middle
Prime Minister Sharon is going to be in New
York for a separate event. He will come to Washington following that
event to meet with the President.
Q What does the
President hope to accomplish in that meeting? Does he see
some turning point here? Some window of opportunity?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the
President's hope is that the cease-fire will continue to take hold,
that the violence will diminish, and that the Mitchell Committee
report, which calls first and foremost for unconditional cease-fire
from all parties, followed by confidence-building measures, can begin
to be implemented. And as part of that implementation
process, Secretary Powell, at the President's direction, has been on
the phone with Prime Minister Sharon, with Chairman Arafat, with others
in the region. The President continues his efforts, and those efforts
will continue when the Prime Minister visits next week.
Q Is he inviting Arafat
here also for a similar meeting?
MR. FLEISCHER: As always, we'll
advise you if such an event takes place.
Q Ari, The Washington
Post reported Saturday that George Terwilliger (sp), who is a lawyer at
White and Case here, worked for the President during the campaign, and
is a leading candidate for the chief of FBI -- that he has a client,
Credit Lyonnais, a French bank, that's under a major fraud
investigation. And he's been calling the Justice Department
attorneys not to bring criminal charges against is
client. The article talks about legal ethicists who say this
is unethical. I was wondering if you think that this is
unethical for him to be calling the Justice Department while he's under
consideration to be head of the FBI?
MR. FLEISCHER: First of all, I have
not indicated who was under consideration to become the next director
of the FBI. And I don't speculate about who the President is
interviewing and when the President will make that
decision. So in terms of your question specifically, he is a
private citizen, he is not a government employee, and so I don't think
that's a question you should address to me.
Q Ari, has the
President made a decision, though, about the next director of the
FBI? Is the decision imminent? Can you give us a
sense of where things stand on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is nothing
imminent, and when we have something to say, we will announce
it. But there is nothing imminent.
Q Ari, to follow up on
that, though, is it generally the President's view that a nominee for a
top post can continue to lobby an agency he has had extensive dealings
with if he's picked for that top post?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
deal in hypotheticals. As the President makes his
announcements, you will be able to judge the candidates who are
selected what their actions are, and of course that will be a
determination that the Senate will review.
Q When he named his top
executives within a day or two of being inaugurated himself, he talked
quite plainly about maintaining a standard that is above reproach,
above even the appearance of a conflict.
MR. FLEISCHER: Right.
Q You know, is this the
kind of thing he thinks would fall into that category?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
expects all the people that he names to post to be of the highest
Q The AP -- I have a
two-part question -- the Associated Press has reported, and this is a
quote: When former President Clinton first ran in 1992, he
advocated moving the embassy from Tel Aviv. Clinton never
acted on this promise, even though Congress several times tried to
force his hand. During his campaign, Bush promised to move
the embassy to Jerusalem, but citing national security interests, Bush
notified Powell on Monday he was extending an administration ban on the
move for another six months.
And my question is, can you deliver us, Ari,
from this grim comparison of President Bush to President Clinton by
promising that the Bush campaign promise will be kept before he leaves
office, or will President Bush also break his campaign promise like Mr.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President said
during the campaign, upon election he would begin the process of moving
the embassy. That was the pledge that the President
made. Between the time that the President said that and last
week when the President issued the waiver that you discussed, the
events in the Middle East have certainly changed. I think
that's a point beyond dispute. And that it was the
President's considered judgment that due to national security reasons,
the reasons dealing with events on the ground in the Middle East, that
that process would have to await an additional six
months. It's something the President remains committed to,
but that is the reality of the events on the ground.
Q Since the President
has been both denounced and praised for his refusal to proclaim June as
Gay-Lesbian Pride Month, does he believe that public broadcasting,
which is so heavily subsidized by the taxpayers, whether they watch PBS
or not, would the taxpayers be paying for an anti-Boy Scout feature
that allows the Boy Scouts no chance to defend themselves from a
homosexual activist producer named Tom Sheppard?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not familiar
with what you're referring to.
Q Congress, through the
GAO, is seeking the minutes and other internal documents surrounding
the Vice President's energy task force. Is the
administration claiming or considering claiming executive privilege in
the face of that request?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, the
administration is cooperating with the GAO on all matters that the GAO
has scope to look into. Specifically, the GAO asked for
information dealing with any of the costs associated with the task
force -- the expenditure of revenues that is within the purview of the
General Accounting Office. And the administration is
cooperating fully with that request.
There are other requests that the GAO has made
for information that are not within their purview, according to the
lawyers who represent the Vice President on the task
force. According to the GAO lawyers, it is within their
purview. So this is a matter that is now being discussed,
and it should say in a civil fashion between the attorneys for the GAO
and the White House to determine what the scope of the GAO properly is
under the law.
It's also not the first time that the GAO and
the White House, particularly the Department of Justice, have differed
about what GAO's scope is. So this is, for now, a lawyerly
matter. The administration will cooperate in -- where the
scope is appropriate.
Q Specifically, what
questions is the GAO asking that the White House doesn't think it has
MR. FLEISCHER: They're asking for
lists of who was met with, other information pertaining to
that. The one question they did ask that I indicated that is
clearly under their scope is expenditure of funds.
Q Why is a list of who
he or they met with not in the GAO scope?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a statutory
matter -- GAO only has the authority to ask for information of that
which they are statutorily responsible for.
Q Are you exerting
executive privilege in this?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's a matter of
what the GAO scope and purview is. As I
indicated, that's something the lawyers right now are talking to
Q Can I ask you another
question? Why is the President so one-sided on the
Palestinian dispute in the sense that he only speaks directly to the
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not
accurate. The President has spoken with all parties.
Q He has not seen any
Palestinian leader, directly.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
indicated he spoke with Chairman Arafat just a couple of weeks ago, and
Q He's seen Sharon,
what, two or three times?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President will
continue to meet with people and continue to keep in touch with people
as he works to secure a peace process.
Q Why doesn't he have
any direct contact with any Palestinian leaders?
MR. FLEISCHER: He has.
Q Direct, face to
MR. FLEISCHER: He's had several
phone conversations. As always, with any type of
invitations, we will keep you informed if there is more coming.
Q On moving the embassy
to Jerusalem, are you saying then that the outbreak of violence is
responsible for a delay in that plan, and so -- I mean, if the
cease-fire holds, if the violence subsides, then you would reactivate
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's beyond
doubt that the situation in the Middle East is at one of its most
fragile moments in years. And that's the reason the
President has taken the action that he has taken.
Q Can you tell me when
the NIH review of the guidelines for embryonic stem cell research will
be made public?
MR. FLEISCHER: You may want to
touch base with HHS, but my last information was sometime in July.
Q President Putin
talked with the Chinese President late yesterday about the meeting with
President Bush and NMD. Will the U.S. still go ahead with
the plan, even if China and Russia join force against it?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
been very clear on his desire to move forward with the missile defense
plan, because he believes that it will help secure the peace and he
believes it represents a new way of thinking in the post Cold War
era. Along that route, he will continue to consult with our
allies, with the Russians. And as you know, one of the most
promising developments of the meeting that the President had with
President Putin in Slovenia is that the Secretaries of Defense -- the
Russian Minister of Defense, and the American Secretary of Defense will
be meeting to discuss this issue. And in some of the remarks
that President Putin made yesterday, there are positive and optimistic
indications from President Putin about prospects for this issue.
Q Actually, Ari, on
that, I mean Putin also was strongly opposed to the idea of the United
States going it alone, if the Russians don't go along. I
mean, are you concerned about his reaction, at least to --
MR. FLEISCHER: And that's another
reason why the United States' position is to consult with our allies,
with Russia, and with other
nations. That's one of the reasons that a delegation of
American officials went to Moscow, met with Russian
officials. And obviously, it's a topic that was discussed at
great length between the President and President Putin, and will
continue to be discussed now at the appropriate level, which will be
the Minister of Defense and Secretary of Defense level.
Q You're meeting with
Secretary Rumsfeld, how much was the top-to-bottom review
discussed? And is the Secretary pretty close to nearing
completion of that review? Was that sort of a summary
discussed in this meeting?
MR. FLEISCHER: They talked about
the quadrennial defense review. And you'd have to talk to
the Pentagon to see what their timing is, for when they're going to be
ready on their reports.
Q Is there any kind of
outline of any kind of final summary that was presented to the
MR. FLEISCHER: It was a private
meeting. And I won't go beyond that.
Q You said that were
the President to implement the missile defense, he would possibly
respond by abrogating the Start II treaty. He talked about
re-MIRV-ing missiles that are to be a single warhead, under the
agreements of Start II. Does the President feel that this
would be a proper repose, or that Start II is worth preserving at the
cost of keeping the ABM treaty in force?
MR. FLEISCHER: Wendell, the
President is focused on the conversation he had with President Putin
directly. And in that conversation, and in the remarks that
President Putin issued at a news conference following that meeting,
President Putin had some encouraging thoughts. And that,
again, is why the two agreed to have their defense ministers meet to
talk further, and to see what progress can be made.
Q Does that mean, then,
that his public statements about Start II, Mr. Bush does not consider
to be either significant or operative?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
always interested in all the things that President Putin
says. But his focus is on the conversation they had in their
Q One more on the
Middle East. Does the President believe that both Sharon and
Arafat actually represent their people anymore and have control over
the different factions, Israeli and Palestinian factions?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the
President recognizes how delicate and fragile events are in the Middle
East. And he is looking to work with all responsible parties
who can help secure the peace in the Middle East.
Q Did the President
meet with Rumsfeld yesterday also? I think he was spotted
coming into the building.
MR. FLEISCHER: Secretary Rumsfeld
was here yesterday for the swearing-in of the service secretaries.
Q When has it not been
fragile, since 1948, Ari? Can you name one time when it has
not been fragile?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, Les, that
the history of the Middle East has been a series of steps forward and
Q But I trust Bush's
promises more than I would trust Clinton's wouldn't you?
FLEISCHER: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q Ari, has Kosovo been
officially added to next month's Europe trip, and are other stops under
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it has not been
officially added. We have no further word about any
additional travel for the July trip. We announced earlier
that the July trip will begin at Chequers and then the President will
travel to Genoa and then the President will travel to Rome.
Q Are you exploring
alternate sights for the leaders of the G-7 plus one to meet?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have no
information on that, Wendell. I have not heard that.
Q Ari --
MR. FLEISCHER: Wait a
minute. We have a person who hasn't got a question yet.
Q This is a question
that I think affects a lot of Americans. It seems like
California is going to get to prevail on their effort to get bailed out
with their energy crisis. Can the rest of America expect any
relief with these terrible gas prices?
MR. FLEISCHER: I cannot
characterize what FERC did as a bailout. What FERC did is in keeping
with the President's stated desire that FERC be vigilant to make sure
there is no illegal price gouging, and to make certain that no
companies withhold supplies in an effort to create a spike in the
price. That's in keeping with -- that's the action that FERC
took. So I think that's a very different nature for saying a bailout.