For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 28, 2001
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:45 P.M. EDT
- Upcoming travel of the President
- Microsoft case
- Milosovic/War Crimes Tribunal
- Middle East-Secretary Powell comments
- Surgeon General report
- Energy plan
- Patients' bill of rights
- House vote on Mexican trucks
- July 4th festivities at the White House
- FBI director
- Japanese Prime Minister visit
- Stem cell research
- Nevada Nuclear Test Site review
THE PRESIDENT: Where is
everybody? We need to have a sale. I have no
personnel announcements today. But I would like to indicate
a little bit of travel to help you with your planning for next week.
On Wednesday, July 4, the President and Mrs.
Bush will travel to Philadelphia, where they will attend a neighborhood
block party and the President will make remarks at the Independence
National Historic Park before they return to Washington that
evening. And on Thursday next week, the President and Mrs.
Bush will depart for the weekend to Kennebunkport, Maine.
And with that, I will take your questions.
Q What role will the
White House play in assessing what the government's next steps should
be in the Microsoft case?
Q And what is the next step?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me address
that as complete as I can, given the fact that this decision was just
handed down. The decision -- there are several things and
it's very complicated, but it remands some aspects of the lower case,
it vacates several aspects of the lower court case, it reverses several
aspects of the lower court case, it affirms some aspects, and then
there are additional reversals and additional remands in the
case. The Justice Department is going to review the
decision; they're studying it now. The President has been
informed, and it's a complicated legal case. The decision
was just handed down, so the President is going to be having further
discussions and will await the Justice Department review and study of a
decision that just came down in the last hour.
Q So the President is
going to have further discussions; that means he will have some role in
assessing what the government's next step is.
MR. FLEISCHER: This will be a matter that is reviewed by the
Department of Justice, and we'll have further information for you after
the Department of Justice completes its review. As I said,
the President was informed.
Q Is it pretty safe to say that this Justice
Department won't pursue this case with the same zeal as the last
MR. FLEISCHER: I
think it's too soon to make any conclusions, John. The matter was just
ruled upon in court, and it's fair to allow the Department of Justice
to review a very complicated legal decision.
Q Can you summarize, though, the President's
views about the case, going back to when he was a candidate and how
that informs what the direction will be now?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has been very clear on this all
along, and he has said he does not comment on matters that are
currently before the court. So he has not commented on
this. And, again, it just took place. The ruling
just came out, and so I think your questions are fair, but I think you
just have to allow a little time to go by so Justice Department can
take a look at it.
Q Is it safe to say that any decision that is
made by the Justice Department, he will have signed off on?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, I'll work with
you on the process as it develops here. But at this point, this is a
matter that Justice is studying.
Q And, in general, he does not prefer litigation
as a way of regulation?
FLEISCHER: The President believes that people should work
hard to enter into agreements. And the President believes
that there's too much litigation in our society, generally speaking.
Q Ari, when you say the
President will discuss the ruling, who will he discuss it with?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President just
knows what happens. There are decisions that are
made. Again, Ron asked a similar question about what is the
process, and I think, again, the process begins with the Department of
Justice studying the case. And Justice needs to do that, and anything
that happens from there, I'll be happy to share with you.
Q The Justice
Department has just issued a statement saying that they are pleased
that the Court of Appeals found that Microsoft had engaged in illegal
MR. FLEISCHER: And then
it says they're studying the case. It was a two-sentence
statement and that's what they say. There's no difference
between what the White House thinks and Justice Department
thinks. That case was brought by the government.
Q Are you pleased that
the Court of Appeals did find Microsoft had engaged in illegal action?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a fair
statement. The White House concurs with it.
Q Any time line for the
Justice Department review, how long Justice will be reviewing this?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know.
Q Ari, do you think the
public can get a little bit more than the President, as a rule, thinks
there's too much litigation in our society? I mean, he now
presides over a Justice Department which, before he took office,
launched major litigation against this company. So, I mean,
to say that he's against litigation generally and thinks there's too
much in our society, can we get a little bit more?
MR. FLEISCHER: David, I will be
happy to share with you at the appropriate time any more that I
can. But this is a legal matter, it is pending, depending on
what action is taken. And the President's policy is not to
comment on pending legal matters of that nature.
Q Can you tell us why
the President is pleased that the court upheld the ruling that
Microsoft had engaged in unfair practices?
MR. FLEISCHER: This was a case that was brought by the
government and was continued by the Department of Justice under his
administration. And there are certain aspects of it that
upheld what the government was doing. There are other
aspects that did not. And that's the view of the Department
of Justice and the President concurs.
Q Does he concur with the fact that -- does he
believe that Microsoft has engaged in unfair practices?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, I've gone as
far as I'm going to go on that topic. And again, the matter is still
pending. There will be an appropriate time, but the case
needs to first be studied. The court ruling just came out,
and I know your organizations are studying it as well, in its
entirety. The Justice Department will do the same.
Q I'm not sure I'm
clear on what he's pleased about.
FLEISCHER: The statement spoke for itself.
Q Well, not
really. That's why I'm asking.
FLEISCHER: Because there were certain aspects of the
government's case that were upheld.
Q Right. So which aspects is he happy
about? Are you --
FLEISCHER: The aspects that were upheld, as the Justice
Department statement indicated.
Q Is there any reason, Ari, why you're hesitant
Q There's a report
that Milosevic has been handed over to a War Crimes Tribunal
official. Are you aware of this? Do you know
anything about this?
FLEISCHER: I am not aware of that in specificity.
Q On the Milosevic
report, too, you're not aware -- had you heard anything to believe that
he was going to be turned over to investigators today?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think if events on
the ground develop, you will be informed. And the position
of the United States has been clear all along, that it's important for
the government of Yugoslavia to cooperate fully with the international
criminal tribunal in the Hague.
Q If he is turned over -- and I know the U.S. is
sending a delegation to that Donors Conference -- but if he is turned
over to the Hague, would the U.S. then go ahead and support funds
going to Yugoslavia, or we'd still want to see more action done?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is a
delegation going over, and the position of the United States government
is that are aid is important, that we're participating in the
conference, and we're pleased with the actions that Yugoslavia has
taken to date. But it's also important for the government of
Yugoslavia to cooperate fully with the investigations.
Q Today Secretary of
State Powell endorsed a proposal by Arafat for outside monitors to
supervise the cease-fire. Does the President agree with that
MR. FLEISCHER: That's
not quite what Secretary Powell said. Reading from a
transcript of what he said, the Secretary said -- and I quote -- "I
think there is a clear understanding of the need for some kind of
monitoring observer function performed by some group." That
is not, as you put it, an endorsement of what the Palestinians have
said. That is a restatement of longstanding United States
policy. There is no change in the United States position.
The Secretary's language involving -- and I quote again -- "some kind
of monitoring observer function," that stems back to the Wye
Accords. And there's no change. Both parties would have to
agree to what that monitoring function would be. And that's what the
Q How does some kind of monitoring observer
function differ from what Arafat is proposing?
MR. FLEISCHER: He's proposed a very
specific international force. That's not what the Secretary
said. And again, what the Secretary said goes back to the
Wye Accords. That is no change in the United States
Q What is
the United States position on Arafat's specific proposal for an
MR. FLEISCHER: Any
such proposal would have to be agreed to by both sides.
Q Ari, the Surgeon
General released this morning a report on healthy sexual behavior,
promoting healthy sexual behavior. Did the President see
this report before it was released to us today, and did he have any
input or influence either directly on the report or through Secretary
MR. FLEISCHER: Well,
this report was commissioned by the previous
administration. It was released today by an appointment of
the previous President. And I think you can anticipate, if
you haven't gotten already, that Secretary Tommy Thompson will have a
statement about that.
Q Does the President agree that there's, what
Surgeon General Satcher said, that this country is suffering from a
conspiracy of silence around communicating to children and educators
and physicians about sexual issues, and that we should be supporting
from the top a national open dialogue on sexuality to prevent the
spread of AIDS and other STDs?
FLEISCHER: I think Secretary Thompson is going to get into
that in greater specificity. The President is very concerned
about the problem of AIDS in the United States and around the
world. That is a topic that you know he brings up very
frequently in his meetings with foreign leaders and it's a problem that
he has identified the United States needs to take the lead in, in
helping the world to find a solution and a cure to AIDS. The
President's overall approach on these matters focuses on abstinence,
abstinence education. And that's something the President has
spoken about a great deal in the past.
Q Did the White House see the House vote against
the President's drilling proposals as a setback for the overall energy
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, first
of all, I want to stress one thing. I saw some press reports
about the Great Lakes and there was some type of implication that the
House vote on the Great Lakes had something to do with what the
President proposed. The President has proposed nothing on
the Great Lakes.
Q Last week's votes on ANWR and --
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. Let
me get to that. There is nothing in the President's energy
plan that deals with the Great Lakes. That's a state
matter. And so I just want to make sure that that point is clear.
The President thinks it's very important that
we have an approach that focuses on conservation. As he
indicated this morning in his event at the Department of Energy and the
actions he announced today to help save electricity and to conserve
here in the White House and across the country through changing
appliances so they can be both convenient and energy efficient.
The President also believes it's important to
reduce our reliance on foreign supplies of energy. And he is
cautious about any actions the Congress would take that would increase
American reliance on unstable foreign supplies of oil.
He does worry that we are a country that seems
to lurch from energy crisis to energy crisis. And even
though there are some encouraging signs -- a new power plant went on in
California -- the margin of error in California is far too small for
anyone to rejoice. There are still energy problems in this
nation and the President does not believe that we can be a nation that
lurches month to month from crisis to crisis.
The American people would like the government and Democrats and
Republicans alike to focus on comprehensive fundamental energy fixes so
we can reduce our reliance on foreign supplies, once and for all.
Q Ari, on patents' bill
of rights, why is the President calling some additional House members
to the White House today? Is he feeling the pressure to make
some headway here when he's got an uphill fight even in the House,
where he's got a dog in the fight with the bill he's backing?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President hopes
that everybody gets the message that we're all in this together and
that it's terribly important to give patients the protections they
need. And that means there has to be a willingness in the
Congress to compromise. And if you take a look at the votes
that have taken place in the Senate, you see there is not much of a
willingness to compromise. And the President thinks to get patients
those protections, it is vital for the Congress, the Senate and the
House to put progress before politics. And the House has
shown much more of an inclination to work in a manner that can get a
bill that can get signed into law. And he'll continue his
efforts to reach out to senators and to House members, Democrat and
Republicans alike, so that a patients' bill of rights can be signed
Q Does he
feel, therefore, that he's losing some ground on this? As you say,
there's not much willingness to compromise, apparently, in the Senate.
And is that a veiled veto threat?
FLEISCHER: He doesn't look at it as if he's losing ground or
if somebody else is losing or gaining ground. He views it
as, will patients get the protections they need in their dealings with
HMOs? Will people be able to keep their health insurance as
a result of the legislation that the Congress proposes, or will that
legislation result in such increased liability expenses that people are
unable to get their insurance through their employers anymore. That's
the President's focus, and that's what he feels strongly about.
Q So his principles are
losing ground on this.
FLEISCHER: Well, we'll have to see what the ultimate outcome
is. The Senate still has some important amendments ahead of it, and
the President hopes that the Senate will work with him, and not just
try to work in a fashion that puts politics before progress.
Q And that's what
they're doing in the Senate, you believe?
FLEISCHER: The President has a lot of concerns about
that. And I said it yesterday, that the President hopes that
the Senate will not put politics before progress. This
President hopes that the Senate will show a willingness to
compromise. The President hopes that the Senate is not
engaged in partisan activity that will result in people being denied
the patient protections they need, and employers having to cut off the
insurance to their employees because they can't afford the higher
liability costs of the Senate legislation.
Q You said the Senate is not willing to
compromise. But what about this Snowe-DeWine compromise
which would limit how much employers would be held accountable,
especially if they did not have any role in health care decisions.
They wouldn't be --
FLEISCHER: It would be an interesting reflection on the
Senate if that was the one and the only amendment that the Senate
agreed to. The President thinks that that is a helpful step,
one of several steps that need to be taken in the right
direction. But if that's the only step that the Senate takes
in that right direction, than it's clear that the Senate is not
interested in a bill that can be signed into law; the Senate is more
interested in putting politics before progress.
Q Is it safe to say
that he's increasingly pessimistic that he'll get a bill out of the
Senate that he could support?
FLEISCHER: The ultimate outcome gets determined often by the
conference committees. So I think it's important and the
President believes that it's important to continue to work with the
House of Representatives, to continue to work with the Senate, to see
if the Senate makes any changes here in the last few days of the debate
on the bill, potentially.
But I think it's
always important to give Congress time to work things out. It's always
important for Congress to get to conference and then, often in
conference, reasonable members of both the House and Senate are willing
to work to compromise, because then they realize that they will have a
chance to either get something done for the American people or engage
in a political activity that contains a poison pill that they know will
not get signed into law.
Why would the
Congress want to engage in a political activity to pass something they
know would not be signed into law, when it is within their reach to
pass patient protections that they know will get signed?
Q This is in the Senate
itself, though, just without the conference committee. I
mean, the Senate -- is he pessimistic that he is going to get a bill
out of the Senate that he could sign?
FLEISCHER: I think he is monitoring it and we'll just have
to see where the votes are.
Q Ari, has the President spoken to President Fox
since the vote in the House? Does he believe this will
create -- this vote will create friction between both countries?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
not spoken with President Fox. But there is no question that
the vote in the House will create frictions. There are also
signs of the friction that will be created. We already have
Mexico saying that they are going to deny access to American trucks in
That vote in the House not only is
unfair to our neighbors to the south, it's not consistent with safety
standards, because they didn't approve the inspectors that the
President wanted to approve. But that vote in the House also
hurts American truckers because it hurts the ability of American
truckers to carry on their livelihood south of the
border. And it's not consistent with NAFTA.
Q Ari, I couple seconds
ago, you said that the President thinks that we're a country that
lurches from one energy crisis to another. How does he
square that belief with the statement made yesterday by a BP-AMOCO
executive that the world is awash in oil, there is no oil crisis, there
is no energy crisis, and the idea that this really seems to be a
problem of regulation rather than resource?
MR. FLEISCHER: If that's the case, why then did the previous
administration tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in October of
2000? Why did prices spike up the way they did as a result
of regional differences, where our electricity could not be transmitted
from one part of the nation to the next. We are a nation that is
increasingly consuming energy, as a result of the strength of the
Internet economy, and that trend is foreseen to continue well into the
And the President believes very
strongly that the best way to address it is in a comprehensive,
fundamental way that solves this problem once and for all, so the
American people do not have to lurch from crisis to
crisis. And that solution, which the President is calling on
the Congress to pass, and the President has invited Democrats and
Republicans from the Congress to join him here at the White House
today, depends on both conservation and increased exploration.
Q But Ari, given that
the energy situation in California looks to be improving, that gas
prices look to be coming down, politically, is there just less
MR. FLEISCHER: Absolutely
not. Absolutely not. Because one power plant went
onto line is not a reason to think that the nation or California are
out of the woods. It's important to bring additional power
plants onto line. But it's an excuse to lurch from one
crisis to the next. If policymakers relax, this nation still
has fundamental energy imbalances that can only be addressed, in the
President's opinion, through greater conservation and through increased
exploration and through fixing America's infrastructure.
And in all cases, no matter what happens in
California this summer, our nation remains overly dependant on foreign
supplies of oil and energy. And that is never in the
interest of the American consumer, or the American energy industry, or
the American user of energy.
Q A few times today you're putting conservation
first in the list of things that needs to be done. That's a
change for the administration. Is it an acknowledgement that
you did not win the American people to your plan to begin with, because
you overemphasized production, and now you're trying to catch up --
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, I was just
explaining it in the order in which the energy plan that the President
proposed two months ago explained it. The first item in there was
Ari, just for the record, you talked this morning on the attendance of
the 4th of July festival here at the White House, and talked about how
it would be senior officials, but it would be on a rotating basis.
Could you tell us why it wasn't done by an alphabetical -- on an
alphabetical basis, so perhaps it would be more inclusive, and wouldn't
seem so exclusionary?
FLEISCHER: First of all, I didn't say senior
officials. I said I would try to get an answer to everybody
about exactly who was invited, and here's what it is. The
invitation -- first of all, the President is going to welcome to the
White House on July 4th thousands of people who work for the government
and their families, so they can have an enjoyable July 4th, watching
In the past, there have been
11,000 people on the lawn of the White House, and it was too many
people to be able to have any type of enjoyable event. So this year,
and on a rotating basis, everybody will be covered over the course of
the four years, so the gates will be open to all White House employees
and their families. This year it's going to be employees of
the Residence; it's going to be groundskeepers; it's going to be
political appointees. They will be welcomed to the White
House. It's going to be about 3,000 or 4,000 people, as well
as their families. And then in subsequent years, that's
going to be expanded to other groups. So it rotates fairly
and squarely, so all can be invited.
the past, I want to remind you that people showed up with tickets and
were turned away at the gate. And if you can imagine
disappointing families, that's the best way to do it. And
the President wants to avoid that situation.
Q I want to go back to the patients' bill of
rights. And really quickly, a second question about
energy. On patients' bill of rights, is there a sense -- I'm
listening very carefully to what you're saying, and I'm getting the
sense that the White House is beginning to get a little concerned that
the Senate's unwillingness to compromise on patients' bill of rights is
boxing you into a position where you're going to get a bill you have to
veto, and the Democrats in the Senate may be looking for a political
gain here rather than an actual bill.
FLEISCHER: The President has been unequivocal that he
intends to protect patients, and that means preventing any legislation
from being signed into law if it means that patients are going to lose
In the meeting yesterday
with House members, the President saw that the likelihood of a patient
dying in a hospital is three times more likely for someone who does not
have insurance than for somebody who does. And that's the
reason -- the reason is because if you don't have insurance you wait
too late to get treatment, and too often it's too late. And
the last thing that a nation needs and our workers need is to lose
health insurance as a result of costs that get driven up by a bill that
is written more at the behest of trial lawyers, because there is so
much that can be agreed upon in the legislation that the Senate
The President agrees with 90
percent of what the Senate is doing. So why can't the Senate
send to the President the 90 percent that everybody agrees on and get a
bill signed into law?
Q And on energy, we've got members of the House
and Senate committee to talk about that. You've got an
indication that the House will take this up in July. Do you
have any indication that the Senate is willing to follow suit?
MR. FLEISCHER: With what the House
Q With the
MR. FLEISCHER: With
energy policy. Oh, well, the President certainly hopes
so. I think there's no question that if the Senate were to
abandon any approach to conservation, any approach to increased
exploration, to fixing America's aged infrastructure, the Senate, in
the middle of the summer, would be turning its back on people who are
paying sky-high prices for energy and who are still lurching from
crisis to crisis.
Q May I follow on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let's get some
people who haven't had questions.
Q Yes, but I think a follow-up --
MR. FLEISCHER: You'll get to follow
Q It won't be a
the President having trouble finding a new FBI director? It
seems to be taking much longer than many people anticipated.
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, it's
been a longstanding policy of the White House not to comment or
speculate on personnel.
Q Why do you think the
President is sagging in the polls? And is there any concern
over here about that? And in particular, the indications
that many average Americans don't think he shares their concerns.
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, let me say this
as clearly as I can. I just dismiss the premise of the
question. On the same day that a Reuters-AP poll came out,
for example, came out that showed the President has a 60-percent job
approval. The fact of the matter is that the President's numbers have
been solid and stable. And the President, having emerged
from a very close, one of the closest elections ever in the history of
the United States, his presidency has been very well-received by the
Depending on what poll you
want to look at, his job approval is anywhere between 50 percentage
points and 60 percentage points. The fluctuation is
minuscule. Some days it goes up, some days it goes
down. But the President has emerged from one of the closest
elections in American history to have received solid support from the
American people. And the best evidence of that is the fact
that the President's agenda is moving forward on the Hill, and gone are
the days in Washington where people are talking about
gridlock. Instead, people are talking about getting things
And on the patients' bill of rights, if
the Senate is willing to pass and focus on the 90 percent where there
is agreement, there will be further reason for the American people to
receive everybody in this town well.
Q Senator Murkowski, as
you know, is announcing the President's energy package right around
this time, and he is supposed to be calling for a date certain that the
Senate should be introducing or pursuing this plan -- I presume in
markup. Does the White House agree that Senator Daschle
needs to set a date certain for advancing the energy package?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks
it will be very helpful for people who are paying sky-high bills for
gasoline, for electricity, and for people who worry about whether their
lights are going to go on or have additional blackouts, for the Senate
to set a date so that we know that an energy plan can and will be
received in the Senate. After all, if the House can do it,
the Senate can, too.
Q Also, why is it that on a day when the
President's own package is being advanced from the congressional end
that you haven't emphasized it from this end? You're only
emphasizing the energy conservation component. Why didn't
you promote the entire package today?
FLEISCHER: No, actually, you're about to get the President's
package. It's being put together now. You're going to get
that today. The President indicated that this morning.
You're going to have a handout on that.
Q One more follow-up on John's
question. On the BP study, the head of BP said in an
interview that it's not necessary to have additional gasoline
refineries, you can just expand existing ones. And I just
wondered if the White House had a response to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The issue deals with
both supply and with capacity, refinery capacity. Our
nation's refineries are running full out. And any way that
can expand them, whether it's an expansion of an existing refinery or
whether it's the building of new ones, will help create more supply,
which will get the price down for the consumers at the pump.
Q On the subject of
what's going on in the Senate, Republicans have been pretty direct in
criticizing the Democrats for holding up this legislation. Senator
Murkowski today said that if they continue to delay, they're
threatening the economic security of this country. Since
this is a long-term energy strategy, what does a delay of a few weeks
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'm
sure that Senator Murkowski is just thinking back to the things that
were said two months ago by Senator Daschle, when Senator Daschle
indicated that there is an urgent need to move on energy, that people
are paying very high prices. So there is a lot of agreement
in the Senate that
there is an immediate short-term problem that needs to be addressed,
and that's why the President believes the Senate will act within its
this plan doesn't address the short-term problem.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it does, in
the fact that the longer you wait, the worse the problem
gets. And no long-term solution, a comprehensive solution
means the nation --
Q But indications are the problem is getting
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I
differ with that. Because one power plant went on in
California, which is very helpful, but more needs to be done.
Q I'm not talking about
power plants. The price of gasoline is going
down. The price of natural gas is coming down.
MR. FLEISCHER: It doesn't change
what happens at the refineries. It doesn't change what
happens with the infrastructure problems. And it, again,
leaves America vulnerable to lurching from crisis to
crisis. I mean, again, this happened in October last year,
to the point where the previous administration deemed it a national
emergency, and they tapped the Strategic Petroleum
Reserve. People who pay their high prices this winter,
people who worried about blackouts and brownouts -- do they want to
just be told the issue has gone away? I don't think they'll
Q It's no
coincidence that when they did it last fall it just happened to be in
the middle of a very tight election?
FLEISCHER: I think that's a question you can address to the
Q On the patients' bill of rights, I'm wondering
why the President believes that his views on the issue reflect
principle and those who support the Senate bill are putting politics
ahead of progress?
FLEISCHER: Well, surely --
Q Are they unprincipled about this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Surely, you would
think that with all the votes in the Senate there would be room for
some Democrats to act in a bipartisan way and compromise with the
Republicans. But there's been scant evidence of that to
date. All the votes seem to be lopsided, almost party-line
votes, where very few Democrats are willing to cross
parties. The Democrats are voting on block. And that's a
sign that the Democrats are not willing to compromise, at a time when
to get patient protections to people, to get 90 percent of what
everybody agrees to, signed into law, there's a focus on voting on
block to create a bill that everyone knows has a poison pill, where 10
percent of the poison stands in the way of 90 percent of the remedy.
Q Ari, this
administration came into office talking about conservation as a
"personal virtue," that did not solve the country's energy problem.
There's been a pretty steady shift since then and the President's
message today certainly was very different. Is that shift a
reaction to the currents of public opinion, which indicate that people
are suspicious of --
FLEISCHER: The President and the Vice President have both
been very clear from the beginning that no one plan alone can solve the
problem. Conservation alone can't solve the problem, and exploration
and development of energy resources alone can't solve the
problem. And energy policy to get the United States
fundamentally and long-term energy secure requires both. And
that's what the President stressed in his remarks today, and that's
what the Vice President has always stressed.
Q On outside monitors in the Middle East, did
the President discuss that with Prime Minister Sharon?
MR. FLEISCHER: Not during the
portion of the meeting that I was in, and I'd have to check to see if
it came up at any other portion of the meeting.
Q Can you comment on
reports that the United States is pressuring Europe and Japan to ease
their monetary policy?
FLEISCHER: When the Prime Minister of Japan comes to the
United States this weekend, the President is looking forward to having
a wide-ranging discussion with him about a variety of
topics. Those will include the security alliance between the
United States and Japan, and our U.S.-Japanese alliance is a
cornerstone of the peace and prosperity in Asia.
Beyond the security arrangements that they're
going to talk about, they will talk about important trade issues that
will -- the meeting will also give the President an opportunity to
listen to the Prime Minister discuss the structural reforms of the
Japanese economy. And the President will be curious and
attentive to the discussions that the Prime Minister has.
Q To follow on the Asia
security, why is all this changed from Europe to
Asia? Because the new military defense budget funds for the
transformation of the army --
FLEISCHER: It's not a zero-sum game. There's no
shift in focus. The United States enjoys an important security
relationship with Japan.
There's a very
clever man here with a sign over his head that has his name. Bill.
you. I am new. That's the problem.
MR. FLEISCHER: Welcome, Bill.
you. Given the fact that researchers have discovered and
isolated stem cells of adult fatty tissue, and billions of stem cells
are discarded every day in umbilical blood in hospitals, and being that
the President is pro-life, will he resist efforts to continue creating
human embryos, robbing them of the stem cells and then destroying those
MR. FLEISCHER: Bill, this
is an issue that the President has been focused on and it's a very
important and sensitive matter because it involves many aspects of
life. And the President is focused on that. He is
well aware of the powerful research that can come from stem
cells. He also is cognizant of the fact that life should not
be destroyed to save or make another life. So this is an
issue that has very important matters on both sides, and the President
is focused on it now. He has not made a decision.
Q Ari, on patients'
bill of rights, why are you so enthusiastic about a conference
committee on that? Isn't that exactly where the last
patients' bill of rights died?
FLEISCHER: Well, I didn't say I was enthusiastic, I just
pointed out the process of the Congress means that --
Q You said it was
important to get it to conference. That's what we've got to
do, and that's exactly where the last one was stuck for --
MR. FLEISCHER: But it is important
to get to conference. That's not an indication of enthusiasm
or lack of enthusiasm. That's a statement of how the
important process in the Congress works. And the fact of the
matter is that after the Senate passes something, it's important to
compare it to what the House passes than to see if reasonable-minded,
compromise-oriented members of the House and Senate would be willing to
work with the White House so patients could get their protections.
Q Well, is there
something different this year that is going to make a conference
committee any more successful this year than it was last year?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, President Bush
is in the White House and he is determined to bring parties together to
get something done, if the parties on the Hill will so oblige.
Q Well, President
Clinton said he was, as well, and also --
FLEISCHER: You only get seven today. We have to
go to somebody who hasn't had one yet. (Laughter.)
Q Ari, how does the
President feel about the call by some in the Energy Department for a
review of the readiness of the Nevada Nuclear Test Site? Does he feel
FLEISCHER: That's a very technical matter. It is
not dealing with anything involving a resumption of nuclear tests, if
that's what you're implying. It's a technical matter,
dealing with preparation for any potential -- other
events. But it does not have anything to do with the
resumption of nuclear tests.
Q Does he agree with the technical need for this
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not
a matter I've spoken directly with the President
about. That's a matter that was addressed yesterday in
testimony before the House.
Q Can you refresh our memories then on where he
stands on the moratorium?
FLEISCHER: The President is going to continue the
exactly is the poison pill that you referred to in the Senate
bill? Is it employer liability, is it state versus federal,
is it the cap on damages?
FLEISCHER: Ninety percent of the Senate bill is in complete
agreement with the President and he is prepared to sign it into law
now. And that 90 percent covers patient
protections. That's why it's called the patient bill of
rights. Those 90 percent include such things as allowing a
woman to go see her OB-GYN without first having to go through a
gatekeeper. It allows somebody to go to an emergency room
without having to dial an 800 number. And those are the
areas that average patients care most about.
There are unrelated provisions in there, 10 percent of the bill, that
deals with liability issues. The President believes people
should have a right to go to court. But then, the bill bogs
down on a question of whether it should be state court or federal
court, whether there should be no caps when people go to court, or
whether the caps should be set at a very high level of $5 million.
The President's concern about those provisions
is that they will lead to a denial of health insurance, where people
will lose their health insurance because of the excessive costs these
liability provisions would put into the health care
system. Why can't the Senate focus on what everybody agrees
to and send that to the President so the issue can be signed into
law? If they were to do that, they would put progress before
politics because then a bill could be signed into law. And
then if they want to have further discussion of the liability issues,
we can return to that subject.
Q Just to be clear, the poison pills which you
are identifying are the question of caps and the question of suing in
state versus federal?
FLEISCHER: That's correct. Those are several of
the liability questions.
Q Ari, on energy, just to follow up on the
personal virtue question, are you saying that the administration has
not shifted at all its emphasis on conservation when it comes to
dealing with the energy situation?
FLEISCHER: I think the energy report that the President
proposed two months ago speaks for itself. It began with
energy -- it began with conservation. There were some 105
recommendations in the report and some 35 of them, if I recall, focused
just hearing the President's remarks today, I mean, is there concern in
this administration that you have not been able to get your message
out, or that the American people may not like the
message? But still most polls -- I know you don't like to
look at polls -- but more Americans disapprove than approve of the
President's handling of energy.
FLEISCHER: I think that's a reflection of the fact that most
Americans are dissatisfied with the status of energy in this country,
because they know we have a real problem in this
country. And the solution the American people want is, one,
that it's long-term, that it reduces our reliance on foreign supplies
of energy. So I think there is a real reflection in the
country that our energy status is weak, and that's measured in those
Q But those
polls disapprove, though -- more Americans disapprove than approve of
the President's handling of this problem, which most Americans want to
MR. FLEISCHER: I
think, given where our nation is on energy, given the fact that people
are paying $2 a gallon for gasoline, and given the fact that people in
California and several other states are at risk of brownouts and
blackouts, whoever was in the White House right now would have similar
ratings from the American people because it's a reflection of how
serious the energy problem is in America. The difference is,
President Bush has a comprehensive, fundamental solution to reduce our
reliance on foreign oil, through conservation and through more
Serbian government just confirmed that Milosevic has been handed over
to the Hague. In light of that, do you have any comments on
MR. FLEISCHER: Any
developments that would take place during the course of this briefing
I'm not going to comment on until I've had a chance to review them.
Q Ari, what do you say,
what does the White House say, the President say, to Democratic
assertions that the Fletcher bill may include the words "state court"
in its language, that it gives patients the idea that they will be able
to take their claims to state court, but does more to keep people out
of state court than it does to let them get in?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President would
say that's the reason that he will support the bill.
Q Because it keeps
people out of state court?
FLEISCHER: Because it keeps people in federal courts, which
is where justice will be adjudicated far faster than in state
court. And also where companies will not deny insurance to
their workers, as a result of having to offer 50 different plans in 50
different states, as a result of putting suits in state court, where
you can have 50 different rulings. It's very important --
Q So you agree then
that the Fletcher bill does more to keep people out of state court than
it does to let them get into state court?
FLEISCHER: The Fletcher bill focuses on keeping the cases in
federal court, except in those instances -- and this is where the
Fletcher bill compromises -- in which HMOs fail to honor their
commitments to the independent review organizations when a ruling is
held against them.
Q You would agree with the premise that the
Fletcher bill does more to keep people out of state court than it does
to let them get into state court?
FLEISCHER: The Fletcher bill is designed to provide a remedy
at the court that will adjudicate the fastest, which is federal, and in
a way that will help people so they can keep their health
insurance. That's why the President supports
it. The President wants the cases to be heard in federal
court because he thinks that's how people get to keep their health
Again, the focus here is on how
you get people to keep their health insurance as we've given them the
patient protections. And in a system where health insurance
is offered to employees in 50 states, so that people can have the same
plan offered them in the 50 states, that incentive to give people
health insurance can unwind if all of a sudden people have to get 50
different plans offered in 50 different states, because 50 different
lawsuits can have 50 different impacts on what is allowable in
insurance and what is not. There is a uniformity and a
benefit to having a national standard when it comes to health
insurance. And putting court cases in state court threatens
that uniformity and, therefore, threatens the ability of people to have
Q On the
hydrogen cars the President saw today, miraculous devices, available --
the technology is available today. The problem has always
been infrastructure. You can't get compressed hydrogen down
at your Exxon station. But the people who build these fuel-cell cars
say if there were incentives for energy companies to start doing that,
that we could see fuel-cell cars, clean technology on the roads very
soon. Is there anything in the President's plan that's going
to help that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The
President's plan proposes tax credits to help people purchase
hybrid-fuel vehicles. And the President believes that the
market will respond, just as the market has responded to natural gas
vehicles, for example. The more vehicles that get powered with natural
gas, the more gas stations respond and have pumps that pump natural
gas. The President believes very much that many of these
issues would be addressed by a continuous focus on technology.
The technology can make amazing changes in our
society. Just as energy efficiency as a result of technology
has saved the nation the construction of many power plants, it's made
the nation a much more energy-efficient country because of the
technological changes that have taken place.
Q Ari, about last night, speaking of money
issues, last night the Republicans raised over $20 million at the
fundraiser. Is that going to be happening a lot more often
now, with the President speaking at fundraisers and raising that kind
of money? And also, how will the McCain-Feingold bill affect
that, if it passes the House?
FLEISCHER: The President will continue to help elect people
who believe in the same agenda that he believes in, in improving
education and solving America's energy crisis, cutting
taxes. And therefore, the President will engage in all
activities that he deems appropriate to help support such
candidates. The proceeds from the dinner last night go to
electing members of the House and members of the Senate who support
President Bush and his ideas. So it should be no surprise that the
President would lend his support to such an endeavor.
Q Are we going to see
that more often now, though? I mean, President Clinton was notorious
for having fundraisers all the time. So will President Bush
be doing the same thing?
FLEISCHER: You'll be able to judge that for
yourself. The President's schedule is always publicly
available, and you'll be able to see.
Q Ari, if it appears that the House and Senate
will not be able to agree on patients' bill of rights,over this 10
percent that you say is a poison pill, would the President consider
bypassing the normal legislative process and calling for a summit?
MR. FLEISCHER: And going through
Q Calling for a
FLEISCHER: Oh. I'm not going to speculate on
hypotheticals. The President's going to continue to work
with members Congress, Democrat and Republican alike, to try to get it
Q He talked
about the unprecedented way to resolve things.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm just not going
to speculate about the process. The process is defined, and the
President's going to do his best to bring people
together. He hopes that people will be willing to work with
him, just as he's willing to work with them.
Q Ari, during the energy speech, the President
talks about the stale debate over drilling for natural gas and
hydrocarbons in Alaska. Was he signaling that he wants to
take drilling ANWR off the table, put it on the sidelines, so the rest
of the energy proposals can go forward?
Q Thank you.
Q Then what was he signaling --
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
Q Yes, can you follow
up on that? What did he mean by that statement?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President just
Q -- no follow-up --
MR. FLEISCHER: What was that?
Q You said thank
Q Is this a reversal of position?
Q I should not have cut
him off. (Laughter.) Can we get a replay on
that? What did he mean by that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President was referring to the stale
debate that suggests that we can't both conserve and
explore. That's what the -- that was the focus of the
PRESS: Thank you again.
FLEISCHER: You're really welcome.