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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 6, 2001
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The Colony Hotel
12:23 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I want to give everybody a read-out on the President's conversation with President Putin, and then to discuss a little bit about next week, as well. I know everybody has a lot to do today, so we'll try to keep this as brief as possible.
President Bush and President Putin had a 10-minute conversation this morning. President Putin initiated the phone call. They discussed their meeting in Ljubljana, and both expressed to each other what a positive and strong meeting they thought it was; how it laid the groundwork for a lot of productive work in U.S.-Russian relations.
They discussed a wide variety of issues and talked about how they could work together on strategic stability, on improved economic relations and on a variety of regional issues. And toward that point, on behalf of the President, I want to announce today the President -- foreign President Putin, that Secretary Evans, Secretary O'Neill and Dr. Rice will all travel to Russia following the meetings in Genoa of the G-7-plus-1.
If you recall, in Ljubljana, the President discussed with President Putin a mission to Russia, to help Russia with improving economic circumstances. And that was a trade mission that they discussed. As part of the follow-up to that conversation in Ljubljana, the President is announcing today that Secretary Evans and Secretary O'Neill will be traveling to Russia immediately following the G-7-plus-1 meeting; and Dr. Rice will be going to Russia and the Ukraine, as well.
Q Do you know what date that would be?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's immediately following the meetings in Italy. You may want to call Congress and call Treasury for the exact itineraries of the Secretaries.
Q Are they traveling together?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me finish a couple of things here. President Putin also wished the President a happy birthday, and he also wished the United States happy Independence Day.
Q Are the Secretaries and Dr. Rice -- so they're not going all together? Or do you have any sense of if they're traveling together and then Dr. Rice goes off to Ukraine, as well?
MR. FLEISCHER: The exact modalities will still be determined, and we'll have more on that closer to it.
Q Why are they doing this? What are they hoping to get accomplished?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's a sign of the strength of U.S.-Russia relations, the importance that President Bush attaches to helping Russia to have a strong economy. The President believes that a strong Russian economy is in America's national interest and in the interest of the world.
And the United States, under President Bush, is committing to working closely and productively with Russia to strengthen their economy.
Q What did they discuss about Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: On the topic of Iraq, the President said that Secretary Powell and Secretary Ivanov had additional work to do in regard to the question of Iraq sanctions at the United Nations. I'm not going to get into all the specifics of what they discussed, I just wanted to note that, of course, four of the five members, permanent members of the Security Council have supported a change in the sanctions policy, which is a sign of clear progress.
The Iraq sanctions program has been in effect for approximately 10 years, and the United States and Britain have sought to make a change in it. Sometimes these changes don't happen overnight, they require additional work, and that's what President Bush expressed to President Putin, that Secretary Powell and Secretary Ivanov -- Minister Ivanov, have a additional work to do on that matter.
Q Did he go further and urge him to support --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to get into the specifics of it. As you know, the President believes that we need to have a sanctions policy that is tight; that is not full of the holes, the way the current policy is; that operates in a manner so that Iraq is not able to rebuild its military without doing harm to civilians.
Q Ari, what about Macedonia? Did they discuss that and movement --
MR. FLEISCHER: They did, they mentioned Macedonia, but I indicated before that the two talked about regional issues, they talked about the cease-fire in Macedonia and the importance of working together. They both were pleased with the results in Southeastern Europe, and the fact that the cease-fire has been agreed to.
Q Any discussion of once -- once any political agreement is there, about U.S. troops being involved, was there any discussion?
MR. FLEISCHER: No discussion of that.
Q No discussion of troops, at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: No.
Q Ari, what about the missile defense system? Did they get into that, at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: They talked about continuing a follow-up, and there will be additional follow-ups as a result of the meeting in Ljubljana and, as the President announced, with President Putin, in Slovenia, in various working groups under DOD that will be working on that issue.
Q Did they set a date for this Crawford summit?
MR. FLEISCHER: We have not announced a date yet.
Q So does that mean they set a date? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: We have additional issues, just make certain they work out. We would never want to hold a meeting in Crawford without enough phone lines. (Laughter.)
Q Ari, do you know if President Bush has discussed with Senator Helms his concerns about the gushing comments Mr. Bush made about Mr. Putin after their first summit?
MR. FLEISCHER: Did the President discuss it with Senator Helms?
MR. FLEISCHER: Not to my knowledge. The President is aware of Senator Helms' reflections.
Q What is his reaction to Senator Helms' characterizations?
MR. FLEISCHER: He respects all senators rights to express their opinion. But as the President said to President Putin this morning, he noted what a good and positive meeting they had in Ljubljana. They both expressed their belief that it was a very strong meeting. The conversation was a warm conversation.
Q Are Barbara and Jenna coming up at any point this weekend?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, they're not.
Q Have they called him yet?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have an update on whether they called. I would refer you to the President's remarks to the pool about the hour of the morning and their age.
Q Can you discuss the report out of Texas that Jenna Bush's driver's license has been suspended for 30 days and she has been fined $600 in the latest underage incident?
MR. FLEISCHER: I cannot discuss that. And, as you know, any matter dealing with the family is a family matter, not a government matter. It's not an issue that the White House is going to get into.
Q Ari, which President won the horseshoe match?
MR. FLEISCHER: It was either 41 or 43. (Laughter.)
Q Ari, anything on the U.S. serviceman who has been now in custody of the Japanese? Any kind of comment coming from the administration? Has the President talked to the U.S. Ambassador about this at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has been kept informed throughout the issue and all comments on that I would refer you to DOD. All right, let me go ahead and give the week ahead for next week.
Q Can I ask one more about the birthday? Did anyone else send any cables or, you know, any other leaders send any congratulations or any special gifts that he got, or anything like that? Not from other leaders, but any --
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, Debbie, I don't know. I would imagine the President has maybe heard from some other folks by way of cards or cables; that wouldn't surprise me at all. It's a happy confluence of a birthday and independence. People seem to be happy to express their wishes on both points.
Q Do you know about the party this afternoon?
MR. FLEISCHER: It will be a private dinner tonight, in honor of the President's birthday. It will be for family and some close friends. And that's really the only details we're giving out.
Q It's at Walker's Point?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, they're not leaving.
Q Is it at Walker's?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q Do you know anything about the boat that they're going to go out on today? Any details on the boat?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, you might want to ask Gordon. What type of details are you looking for?
Q What kind of boat, how fast it goes, how old it is?
MR. FLEISCHER: Gordon would probably be a better person on that.
Q I want color on the boat.
MR. FLEISCHER: All I know is it's buoyant.
Q She wants a leak on the boat. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Very good, Mr. Knoller. Mark does look like a whaling captain today. Put on a floppy hat, we'll send you out there. (Laughter.)
Next week. First, the President's radio address. You're going to be given the radio address, and then several of the President's remarks next week, where the President is going to send a reminder to Congress about making sure they take care of the nation's business. There are several important issues that are pending in the Congress, that the President is concerned are receiving less than their fair share of consideration, important issues that have moved to the back burner, when the American people expect them to be on the front burner.
And that begins with education reform. And the President's radio address will be a reminder of the importance of working together to get education reform enacted into law. And he will remind the Congress to take that up when they come back, so that education can, indeed, be passed and sent to the President prior to the August recess. The President thinks it would be a real step backward for education if Congress failed to take action by sending him a bill prior to August recess. That will be in his radio address.
In remarks Monday to the America's Promised Group that is coming to the White House, the President will focus Congress's attention on three major legislative initiatives that he expects Congress to take action on over the summer. One, again, will be education. You're going to see the President continuing to return to the topic of education, reminding Congress to take care of the people's business, and not to get sidetracked. The President will also talk about the importance of moving faith-based legislation through the House of Representatives, where action has already begun. As you noted, the President yesterday put out a statement welcoming the endorsement of his faith-based initiative from the second largest church group of African-Americans in the country. The President is expecting additional action in the Congress on faith-based education.
And the third element the President will note in his speech on Monday is patients' bill of rights. The President is going to urge Congress to take action on a patients' bill of rights. And you will see a series of events throughout the week next week on patients' bill of rights, reminding the Congress that this is an issue that can be signed into law if Congress is willing to make the right choices by putting progress before politics.
And you'll see the President take to the road a little bit next week. After his remarks Monday, he's going to visit a hospital, again as another reminder to the Congress that the President is dedicated to signing a patients' bill of rights into law. And now it is up to the Congress to make sure they send one to the President that does not contain any poison pills.
On Tuesday the President will travel to New York City. He will go to Ellis Island, where he will participate in an event honoring America's newest immigrants, a naturalization ceremony welcoming new Americans to our country. At Ellis Island, he will also participate, at St. Patrick's Cathedral, in an event honoring the memory of Cardinal O'Connor.
The President will have additional events focused on patients' bill of rights in Washington throughout the remainder of the week, a little more travel in the Washington area to highlight the importance of a patients' bill of rights.
Q Did you say Monday was a local hospital?
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct. He'll travel to a couple local hospitals next week. That's the focus.
Q What about energy? That seems to be lacking here on the issues.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, thank you for bringing that up. I mentioned the President is going to focus on three issues in his remarks on Monday. And the issues will be, again, education, patients' bill of rights and the faith-based initiative. In those remarks on Monday, he will also remind the Congress of the importance of taking action on energy. The House of Representatives believes that it will pass energy measures to protect America's energy independence and to promote conservation by July 12th. And the President's going to urge action in the Congress.
Q Is that a lower priority now, or --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it is not a lower priority. It remains an important priority. And, you know, there have been a series of recent developments on the energy front that should not let anybody relax. Even though there have been some favorable developments, in terms of price movements on energy -- and particularly the price of gasoline at the pump -- the President does not believe that anybody in Congress should be lulled into a false sense of security. America remains overly dependent on foreign supplies of oil. And we have an ageing infrastructure that continues to leave America at risk of blackouts and brownouts at any given moment in many places around the country this summer.
Q Just one more question in that regard. What about the reports that some of the tax relief measures for energy are being delayed, and that the charitable contribution deductions might be delayed in Congress?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President urges Congress to pass those items. Those were the part of the budget that the President has proposed. The President believes those are constructive and helpful steps. The President believes they're the right policy. He urges Congress to enact them.
Q Anything Saturday, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Tomorrow?
MR. FLEISCHER: I hope not. I think you'll have additional golf in the morning. But other than that -- we'll try to do our best to keep you informed of any potential movements. But right now, I'd anticipate the President is going to be basically enjoying time with his family and relaxing.
Q Will we get the radio address this evening, this afternoon?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, radio address will come out at the usual time tonight, or this afternoon. Let's try to move that up a little bit today, try to get that to everybody earlier, on an embargoed basis.
Q And one issue you didn't mention that is going to be -- whether he likes it or not -- is going to be addressed by Congress this summer is campaign finance reform. Why didn't you mention that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President's speech on Monday is going to focus on the issues that I just mentioned. Obviously, there are scores of issues pending in the Congress. And on the question of campaign finance reform, the President is pleased that Congress is moving on campaign finance reform. And he believes that working with the Congress, we can get a campaign finance reform bill done and enacted this year, if Congress will focus its attention on the President's principles. But there is movement on the Congress on it, and the President's pleased to see it.
Q Are you familiar with a report by Byrd to Hastert saying that the President wants to cut $299 million from energy efficiency, renewable energy research?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's a report from Byrd to -- what did you say?
Q It's a report from Byrd to Hastert, saying that the White House wants to cut almost $300 million from last year's energy efficiency and renewable energy research programs.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I think that's -- that was something that was in the President's budget. And as you know, last week, when the President sent up his energy legislation to the Congress, you saw the Department of Energy -- he's now restored a significant portion of that funding. I believe, Ron, that that question that you're addressing was contained in that report sent up to the Congress.
All right. Last question.
Q Does the President have any plans to contact President Putin before the G-8, or is this their last --
MR. FLEISCHER: It all depends on events. So if he does, we'll let you know.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you. And I wanted you to know, I vociferously disagree with the woman playing golf at the first hole, who noticed the pool standing by, standing on a nearby mound, and shouted to a friend, "Cripes, we got this crap again." I don't know who that woman was --
Q She wasn't referring to us. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: The pool report says she "noticed your pool."
END 12:37 P.M. EDT