For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 13, 2001
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
Listen to the
- Argentina Bailout
- Democracy in Cuba
- Education Bill
- Campaign Finance Reform
- Stem Cell Research
- Global Warming
- Faith-Based Initiative
- Presidential Polls
- Beijing Olympic Bid
- Trade Liberalization in Latin America
- Costa Rica Meeting
- Mexican Trucks
- Tax Cut
- Week Ahead
12:38 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll take your
Q Well, we want some
personnel announcements. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Do I hear a thank
you? It's Friday in the White House press room.
Q Ari, on
Argentina. Have they asked for help from the United States,
in the way of the $15 billion or any amount of money? Have
they asked for help?
MR. FLEISCHER: Steve, let me answer
it to the greatest degree I can. President Bush has sent a message of
support to President de la Rua with respect to the economic situation
in Argentina. The President said that he was watching the
economic situation in Argentina closely, and he noted that President de
la Rua's Wednesday proposal to bring down the fiscal deficit in
Treasury officials, including Secretary
O'Neill, are in touch with the appropriate Argentine officials, and any
questions beyond that I'm going to refer to the Department of the
Treasury. Q What
triggered his note? Why did he send the note? Was
there something that prompted that, other than the general economic
MR. FLEISCHER: It's well-known
about the economic troubles that Argentina is facing. So
it's a statement from the President to the President of Argentina.
Q What was it that you
said about the fiscal situation? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear
MR. FLEISCHER: The President --
President Bush informed President de la Rua that he was watching the
economic situation in Argentina, and his note was an expression of
support for President de la Rua.
Q Ari, on Cuba, can you
outline the President's general thoughts about the importance of
underscoring freedoms in Cuba and also looking ahead to what he's going
to be looking at next week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Today is the eve of
the 7th anniversary of the ramming of a tugboat called the 13th of
March Incident. It was a ramming of a tugboat by Cuban
authorities. The President will shortly have an announcement
of several specific actions he has taken to further the cause of
democracy and the people who yearn to be free in Cuba. An
announcement will be coming out from the President later on that topic,
and I can't get into the specifics until it's out from the President.
Q I'm not looking for
specifics, just your thoughts of why it's important, why he wants to
underscore freedom in Cuba.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
believes that it's important to promote democracy and freedom
everywhere, and as totalitarianism and communism have faded from the
scene, there remain just a few isolated spots on this earth where it
remains, and Cuba is one of them. The President is on the
side of those who yearn to be free.
Q And looking ahead to
next week, I know he hasn't made this -- well, you can say that -- but
he's going to be facing a decision next week on whether to allow
Helms-Burton to take effect.
MR. FLEISCHER: There is a separate
matter dealing with legislation called Helms-Burton Title III
specifically, and under the law, that matter will not need to be
concluded until July 17th.
Q What is weighing on
-- is he worried about the consequences that any decision might cause
among European allies --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he'll
address whatever his concerns are at the time he makes his
announcement, which will be not until next week.
Q Ari, there have been
some meetings this week on the education bill. And as I
understand it, some significant players, even Republican lawmakers,
have advised the White House that because of the complexities of the
education reform bill and working them out, that they think they need
more time to do a really good bill before July and they can't meet that
deadline. Is the White House willing to engage with Congress
on extending the President's preference to have this done by July in
lieu of the complexities of the education?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President would
be disappointed if Congress were not able to send him an education
package prior to the children going back to school. But he
does want to work with the Congress and will work with the Congress in
a bipartisan fashion. This has been an issue where
tremendous progress has been made. Congress is focusing on
education in a different manner this year with President Bush's
support. And it's a matter that is less ideological and much
more practical in terms of how do you help our schools to help our
And so, the President continues to urge
Congress to get the work done before the August recess, but he will
work in a very collegial fashion with the Congress.
Q That's not an
absolute deadline, in other words?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's what the
President has called for, it's what he hopes will happen.
Q Ari, on campaign
finance, you said before that the White House hadn't yet sorted out
what this means. Have you sorted it out yet, and could you
remind us what the President --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think I said
the House hadn't sorted out what it meant.
Q Well, you said it was
Q Yes. Have
you had any clarification now?
FLEISCHER: No. No. I think it's --
really that clarification will be found first in the House.
Q Can you remind us,
please, what the President's principles are and what he will accept for
campaign finance reform?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
believes that there should be maximum disclosure of contributions, that
we need to post disclosures that he did during the campaign, on the
Internet. He believes that we need to have a ban on soft
money from corporations and from unions.
The President has a series of other proposals
in there. Scott, why don't you remind me on the others.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, we can get
that to her, so --
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me post the rest
of them. I stopped at two, right there.
MR. MCCLELLAN: -- ban on
corporations -- soft money for corporations, labor unions.
Q That's been a top
Q That will be
helpful. Thank you.
Q Well, I mean,
whatever is going to happen, yesterday was the chance to have something
happen and it didn't. And you haven't even expressed any
disappointment. The President ran as reformer; is he
disappointed that it didn't get resolved --
MR. FLEISCHER: Keith, I addressed
that at the gaggle this morning. I was asked about
it. I'll be happy to give the same answer I gave this
morning. The President is calling -- has said to the
Congress, and has called on them, to improve the current system, which
the President believes is in need of reform.
The President has indicated that he would like
to sign a bill this year that improves the campaign finance
system. He has said to lawmakers directly, in private and in
public, that they cannot count on him to veto campaign finance reform
this year, which is something that many Republicans have called on him
to do. He has indicated to them that he cannot be counted on
to do that.
The President would like to sign a bill that
improves the current system.
Q So no judgment about
what happened? I mean, McCain was pretty clear about what he
thought about what happened yesterday. You have no view
about whether it's disappointing that it didn't --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
still prepared to sign a bill if it meets the principles.
Q Does the President
believe that an egg fertilized outside the womb constitutes the
conception of life?
MR. FLEISCHER: Jim, again, on this
whole topic -- which your questions deals again with stem cell research
Q No, this could deal
with a lot more than just stem cell research.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, until the
President makes that determination, he's going to speak for himself
about the reasons and his approach, his view of life, his view of
health, his view of science at the time he makes the decision.
Q Is there a reason you
don't want to answer this question?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's not a
question of want to or not want to. It's a question of as the
President deliberates on this matter, he'll share those reflections,
Q On global warming,
the statement that you just put out, is that the extent of what the
President plans to bring to the allies in America about his solution to
global warming, or is this just like a first --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, this is a first
step that the administration is taking. This is in follow-up
to what the President announced last month, about the effort to combat
global warming. The President today announced a series of
specific initiatives that the administration is going to undertake to
combat global warming. And the global climate working group
continues its efforts on a more broad approach.
Q Dr. Rice mentioned in
her briefing that you would have something to say about -- something to
say about he could bring or what the advances have been by the
Cabinet-level group when he went to Europe? Is this it, or
does he plan to say more about it next week, before he goes to Europe?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President will
have additional remarks next week, but this represents the statement of
administration on this issue.
Q Can you tell us what
other plans he'll -- the European trip next week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Nothing beyond what
Condi indicated this morning.
Q Ari, I just have a
follow-up question on the faith-based initiative, the process for how
you notify, for example, the Salvation Army when they requested a
change in an OMB circular? And I just wondered, after the
decision was made in early June, that this request was unworkable,
whether or not any White House or OMB official contacted the Salvation
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have
anything further beyond your question to me this morning about
it. I know that John DiIulio contacted the Salvation Army
after the decision was made final this week. But I don't
have anything interim from OMB. You may want to ask the OMB
press office. I just haven't had a chance to talk to them
Q Several new, or at
least a couple of new polls out, ours seems to show a slight decline in
the President's job approval rating, though it's still within a
sufficient margin of error -- 59 percent to 56 percent. Do
you have any comment on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: It sounds to me like
there are two polls in a row that show the President's job approval
rating is the mid- to upper 50s -- 56 percent and 57 percent in the
cast of the Gallup poll that's released today.
I think this is further evidence that the
President's message and his presidency has been well-received by the
American people. Those are solid marks -- 56 percent, 57
percent job approval. Certainly, it is leap years ahead of
the job approval of the previous President at this turn in his
presidency. It's generally consistent with the job approval
rating that Ronald Reagan had at this time in his
presidency. Ronald Reagan was a little bit higher than
President George W. Bush's at this time.
But I think it's a sign that the American
people welcome his presidency, that they are supportive of his
presidency and the agenda that he is pursuing and an agenda that is
starting to move nicely on Capitol Hill.
Q Why, when -- last
week or the week before, there were four polls that showed a drop in
the polls, you and your allies at the RNC had conference calls to
explain that you couldn't trust the polls and it's just a blip in time
and no big deal? Now you're --
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think
anybody said you can adjust the polls. I think the message you heard
on that phone call and the message that I've repeated many times here
is that the President has been in a very consistent range, and some
polls in the low 50s and other polls in the upper 50s, and that it's
been adding a lot of stability to the President's numbers, particularly
when measured from January 20th.
We indicated that several polls were taken at
a peak right after the China period. But that's been a
consistent message from the White House. Nobody ever said that you
can't trust the polls; the message was there seems to be a stability in
the President's ratings and the ratings are solid.
Q Ari, on faith-based
MR. FLEISCHER: Major, are you
cradling that telephone? (Laughter.)
Q Yes. I'm
just holding it here, in case it doesn't ring. It rang
during Condi's briefing, so I want to muffle the
MR. FLEISCHER: Expecting a
Q Don't want to bother
you in any way.
In extolling what the Ways and Means Committee
did on faith-based, you took no note of the fact that its tax
provisions are a tenth of the size the White House originally
proposed. Is there any sense of disappointment that the tax
provisions are not larger and do not reflect the larger effort to
expand charitable giving to those who cannot or do not currently
MR. FLEISCHER: If you check the
transcript, what I said is that the Ways and Means Committee passed a
scaled-back version of what the President proposed, and I likened it to
the President's overall tax proposal, where he sought a larger tax
cut. He did not get all of what he wanted, but in the case
of the Ways and Means bill, as I said, he got $13 billion of tax relief
over a 10 year period.
And the President is very pleased that for the
first time since 1986, if this passes into law, people who don't
itemize on their taxes will be able to take a deduction for charitable
giving. That will help spur even more than $13 billion
dollars' worth of charitable activities across the country.
Q But, Ari, how can a
$25-a-year deduction -- which is, I believe, what that amounts to --
spur more charitable giving, if that's all you're getting?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because it ramps up
over time. It's $25 in the first year for individuals, $50
for couples. And then it ramps up over a number of years to
a more sizeable level. It has been scaled
back. The President would have preferred more, but that was
the pattern in the previous tax bill which, when he signed into law, I
think people recognized the President was successful in getting much of
what he sought.
Congress is not a rubber
stamp. Congress exercises its own free will. But the
principle of what the President sought has been put back into the tax
code if this is enacted.
Q But you would concede
that $1.35 trillion is much closer to $1.6 trillion than -- I mean,
we're not talking about similar --
MR. FLEISCHER: And that's why I
called it scaled-back. This is phased-in over a longer
period of time, but it still ramps up to a significant level.
Q Ari, on a related --
MR. FLEISCHER: Let's go to somebody
who hasn't asked one yet. Go ahead.
Q On this action on
climate change, part of the President's language talks about reducing
uncertainties in the science. Does the President -- is he
already accepting the dangers of global warming, does he need these new
scientific reports before he'll state that global warming is a serious
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
always said global warming is a serious problem, it is a serious
priority. That's widely acknowledged. The President
But the National Academy Report that came out
last month also indicated that there are areas of
uncertainty. There are some things that are known, but there
are other things that aren't certain, and that's what this addresses.
Q Why is the initial
action, then, towards more research as opposed to a specific action to
target a reduction in global warming?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you notice
here, there are several steps that have been taken to engage in carbon
sequestration. Those are specific steps in the action that's
been announced. For the debt for forest agreement by the
Department of Treasury, those are specific steps, in that case,
addressed to El Salvador, to help address carbon sequestration -- not
to study, but to do.
MR. FLEISCHER: Let's
go. We're trying to get to new people.
Q Ari, following up on
that, though, can you just explain to the American people who don't see
your paper what it is that you are saying today about global warming?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President today
announced a series of actions to further promote the cause of
reductions of global warming and to reduce greenhouse
gases. These include the fact that NASA will now invest $120
million over the next three years in research on natural carbon cycle
climate modeling and the link between atmospheric chemistry and climate
to help reduce uncertainties in science, which were highlighted by the
National Academy of Science's report.
In addition to that, the Department of Energy
just signed agreements to begin two significant new projects to study
carbon sequestration. The first agreement is with the Nature
Conservancy, which is the world's largest private international
conservation group, to study land use and forestry practices for
storing carbon more effectively in Brazil and in Belize.
And, finally, to further cooperate -- to
further the cause of cooperation in the Western Hemisphere, the
Department of Treasury yesterday entered into a $14 million debt for
forest agreement with the government of El Salvador under the Tropical
Forest Conservation Act.
By this Act, the agreement will secure
important benefits of carbon sequestration and climate change
mitigation. In other words, it will reduce
carbon. And those are specific initiatives that that the
President is pleased that the agencies have been able to take at this
Q Ari, is the President
open to the idea of revising the Kyoto protocol and making it more
acceptable to the United States, or are you simply --
MR. FLEISCHER: There is currently a
Cabinet-level review that is working on how to reduce greenhouse
gases. The President is committed to the procedural Kyoto
approach, as he announced last week -- and it's an international
approach. And the President believes there is going to be a
promise of much in the way of new technology to help address global
Q So Kyoto could be
reconfigured or reformulated?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's the
international aspect of bringing the various nations together that was
set out in the Rio -- in Rio.
Q The process --
Q Not the process, not
Q The document itself
MR. FLEISCHER: That's
correct. Right, I did not say the protocol.
Q As far as the
President's concerned, the document's --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's the process
that was laid out, which is a continuation of what began in
Q Ari, is the
administration trying to avoid embarrassing or provoking Beijing in any
way by taking a neutral stance on the selection for the Olympic Games?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is the
President's position about sports and policy. The President
does not view this as a political matter. The President
views this as a matter for the International Olympic Committee to
decide what nation or what city should host the Olympics.
Q Having said that, is
it the President's hope, or even belief, that perhaps by Beijing now
hosting these games in 2008 that it will foster an atmosphere of more
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President
believes that the Olympics are a sporting event, and not a political
event. But having said that, this now is an opportunity for
China to showcase itself as a modern nation.
Q He, therefore, thinks
it was a mistake to boycott the Moscow Olympics in 1980?
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't work for
him in 1980 and it's not a topic I've asked him about, so I don't
Q Is there any concern
on the part of the President and his economic team that the earlier
initiative for trade liberalization in Latin America is going to be
undermined by all this financial turmoil that's going on in the region
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that is one --
the President has addressed that, in terms of expressing his support
for President de la Rua, in the note that he sent. But the
administration was always going to work through the Department of
Treasury around the world with various nations about economic
Q I wonder if the
President was aware of the strong and continued increase of Hispanic
business organizations supporting the trade promotion
authority? And in that respect, has he had any conversation
with the President of Costa Rica?
MR. FLEISCHER: Just this week, the
President met with a group of leading American Hispanic businessmen and
women to discuss trade promotion authority. The Hispanic
business community is a growing and thriving part of our economic
success and it's further part of how we can have an economic recovery
by focusing on small businesses, many of which are Hispanic.
So this week, many of these leaders committed
to the President they would help to pass trade promotion authority
because they believe in it and because they think it's good for their
On that point, too, I want to note again that
the President continues to urge Congress to make progress on the issue
involving Mexican trucking. The President believes that's an important
commitment that we have under NAFTA. There was a helpful
step taken in the amendment that was passed by Senator Patty Murray on
that matter; additional work needs to be done. And the
President wants to make sure that the Congress does not take any action
that's unfair to our friends from the south.
Q Do you have a
read-out on the Costa Rica meeting?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm going around to
the new people, and I'll come back.
Q About the Mexican
truck issue, what Murray did on that amendment, is that enough to avoid
a veto of the Transportation Appropriations Bill, or is --
MR. FLEISCHER: It is a helpful
step, but the concerns raised in the Mitch Daniels letter that said the
staff would recommend a veto, those concerns remain in place.
Q Just one other thing
about that. Since the Sabo amendment on the House bill
before the recess, has the President spoke with Fox or other people
about Mexico's concern about the issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President of
course spoke to President Fox and President Aznar of Spain when they
were together in Mexico. And that was about 10 days
ago. That was after the House action on that
matter. I don't recall if that particular topic came up.
Q Just a readout on the
Costa Rica meeting, what they talked about?
MS. COUNTRYMAN: We'll have some
points a little bit later. I'm sorry. We haven't
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll have a little
bit on that for you in a little bit. I wasn't in the
meeting, and so we'll have something in a little bit.
Mr. David Gregory.
Q Hi, thank
you. (Laughter.) And I'll have a follow up.
(Laughter.) Does the -- on stem cell -- I'm trying to be
serious. Would the President like to discuss this matter
with the Pope prior to finally making his mind up?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
not indicated what his timetable will be. He will decide
when he sees fit. And I have no indication whether that will
be prior to or after the trip.
Q But does he -- would
he like to consult the Pope on this directly, face to face?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
keeping his own counsel on that, so I really have no information about
whether it will happen before or after.
Q But I'm saying, has
he not expressed any desire, as one of the people to listen to and
consult with, that the Pope would be among them?
MR. FLEISCHER: That again would get
into whether or not he's willing to decide before or after the
trip. And the President has not given any such
indication. He just has not given an indication about that.
Q A congressional
research economist yesterday was talking at the National Economics
Club, and this might be a little wonky, but she said an unintended
consequence of the new tax cut package is that certain families of
four, earning, say between $25,000 and $30,000 a year, will not benefit
from the tax rebate because it will be offset by the child care
Is there any concern -- I know the President
is always talking about like a single waitress benefiting from his tax
cut package, but apparently they've done an analysis, and it turns out
that families of four in that income tax bracket won't -- it's going to
be offset --
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't -- I'm not
familiar with her remarks, and I haven't seen the analysis, so I'd
hesitate to comment.
Q For next week, could
you look ahead to Monday? What is he doing Monday, what's
the significance of it, and also just sort of give a summary of what's
happening next week.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President on
Monday is going to have a meeting with a veteran of the Vietnam War, to
give him the Congressional Medal of Freedom -- I'm sorry, the
Congressional Medal of Honor. And the President will depart
for Europe on Wednesday next week, where he will meet with Prime
Minister Blair, where he will meet with the Queen, where he will travel
to Genoa to participate in the G-7 summit. And following
that, the President will travel to Rome to meet with the
Pope. And if there are any additional travel, we'll fill you
in at the appropriate time.
Q How about Monday,
Q Is he going to be
pushing any further on the legislation as its going through -- any
further events on faith-based or anything like that next week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, there will
be an interesting -- this will be an interesting time, because while
the President is abroad, there's going to be a very busy domestic
agenda here at home. And I think you can look forward to the
President discussing that agenda during the trip.
There will be on the floor of the House of
Representatives, as soon as next week, possibly, patients' bill of
rights could be on the floor as well as the faith-based
initiative. And the President has been working very hard on
both initiatives, as you know. He's been having a series of
meetings with House Democrats, House Republicans on the patients' bill
of rights so that a bill can be sent to him that he can sign into
law. He'll be very keenly interested to see what the House
does, and that may -- very well may happen next week, so too with
Q Ari, do you mean to
say there's some question about the President's stop in Kosovo, which
Dr. Rice spoke about earlier today?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not issued
any formal statement on it. Dr. Rice, of course, has
THE PRESS: Thank you.