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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 7, 2001
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
11:57 A.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me give you an update on the President's day and a couple
of announcements. The President this morning had his usual round of briefings
from the intelligence community, as well as from the FBI, about the status of
the investigations. The President also met with the First Deputy Prime Minister
of Kuwait, Minister al Sabah. At that meeting, they discussed bilateral and
regional issues, as well as the war on terrorism.
Kuwait reaffirmed its strong support for the United States in the campaign that it is waging, and the President assured the Acting Prime Minister that the United States will remain vigilant on regional security issues that Kuwait faces, including Iraq, in the midst of this campaign.
The President will depart the White House shortly for an event in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, where he will visit the Financial Crime Enforcement Network. This is a joint operation center that's operated by the Department of Treasury, and at this event the President will announce additional actions on the financial war against the terrorists. He will announce a series of measures that take on the infrastructure that al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations use to raise their funds and to support their terrorism around the world.
Following that, the President will return to the White House. He will have a meeting with Democrat members of Congress to discuss the importance of passing trade promotion authority this fall so that the United States' trade partners can have additional trade with each other, with the United States, which will also, in the President's opinion, be helpful in creating high-paying jobs here in the United States.
And, finally, the President will meet with the Prime Minister of Great Britain this afternoon in the Oval Office to discuss ongoing cooperation in the war on terrorism. I wouldn't be surprised if they also discuss anything involving the upcoming visit of President Putin to the United States, and the President will also have dinner with the Prime Minister this evening in the Residence.
Two other announcements. The President will welcome Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson for a meeting at the White House on December 3rd.
And, finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow is scheduled to vote on the one member of the President's Cabinet who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate, and that is John Walters, who the President has nominated to be Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy. John Walters has been working on the issue of fighting the war against drugs since 1986, where he began his work at the Department of Education. He also went on to become -- to establish the Office of National Drug Control Policy, serving as the Chief of Staff and Deputy Director in this office.
During his time, treatment funding increased by 74 percent, he was very effective in fighting the war on drugs. His nomination is supported by some of the largest treatment and prevention organizations in the country, including the Community Antidrug Coalition of America and the Partnership for a Drug Free America.
The President urges the Senate to take action and pass the one remaining member of the President's Cabinet so that his Cabinet can be complete and so that the nation can fight the war against drugs. This late into a presidency, the President thinks it's only appropriate for him to have his team in place, certainly at the Cabinet level. And with that, I'm more than happy to take any questions.
Q Can I just follow up on the alert, since I'm a little unclear after what the Governor said. Based on what the FBI said last week, the alert that they issued, is that now in place indefinitely?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's exactly what the Governor just said.
Q But for example, you're telling local governments to put their resources, police and everything, around what you think might be potential targets. A lot of them are complaining that they don't have the resources to do that if they're not aware of something specific. Are you giving them flexibility so that they can make adjustments or --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, in the phone call that Governor Ridge had with the governors last week on Monday when that alert was announced, Governor Ridge made clear to the nation's governor -- and all 50 were invited to be in on the call -- that they do have flexibility. It is up to the governors in our federal, state and local system to make the determinations about where to deploy their resources, how best to put them out there. There is no federal dictate in a case like this; it requires flexibility for the governors, working with their local law enforcement and state personnel to deploy resources as they see fit.
Q But are you updating them with information, as well?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. Certainly.
Q They said this alert was applicable to only a few days. That time has lapsed, nothing has happened --
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. I think an example was on Thursday last week. The law enforcement community was updated about uncorroborated evidence of potential attacks on suspension bridges along the West. This is an existing network that has been in place well before September 11th through the FBI and the Justice Department to provide the latest intelligence information to law enforcement communities so they can take actions as they see fit.
Q And does the alert go beyond the law enforcement community? Does the administration want the citizenry, the people to remain on high alert?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. There is no question the President does. While the President has said numerous times, and this is something he is going to be addressing in a rather comprehensive way tomorrow night, the need to get back to normal lives, which increasingly -- for weeks now, we've seen that is what the American people have done. People are taking their children to school. People are enjoying recreation. They're going out at night; while recognizing that life in America has changed since the 11th.
Q Can I just press you on this? Isn't an indefinite, highest state of alert almost a physical impossibility? Don't you risk that people's attention to the alert naturally wanes, and that they can't do that, and that the next time you do get a specific and credible threat, you aren't going to be able to ratchet them up any higher?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, as Governor Ridge said, this is one of the most complicated and difficult decisions that he has to deal with and that people in the local level, people who -- just a month ago, Governor Ridge was a governor who was also dealing with the aftermath of September 11th in his state.
These are difficult calls to make. But it is the conclusion of the law enforcement community, along with the intelligence community and the President, that the best manner to proceed isn't a manner of living on a heightened state of alert. What's so tragic about this is that because our nation was attacked on September 11th, the United States, for the first time in our modern history -- since you can go back to the beginning of the 19th century when the United States was under attack in the early 1800s from a foreign nation -- it's the first time in our modern history the United States has had to deal with the consequences of a soil that can be attacked.
Other nations have had to live with this for years, unfortunately; Europe has, Israel has.
Q What do you want Americans to do about it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, in the law enforcement community, to maintain their vigilance, to maintain a heightened state of alert, to recognize that there are certain critical infrastructures that lie within their states, whether they're dams, whether they're nuclear power plants, that they need to be more vigilant about.
I've heard people in the law enforcement community say that in terms of individual citizens, citizens are the eyes and ears of law enforcement in the community. If they see something in a neighborhood that they've never seen before, that they should report it, just as they normally would if there was something that would raise attention.
Citizens particularly -- this is something, again, I've heard from the law enforcement community -- people who drive trucks, take security arrangements for your trucks. Make sure you lock your trucks. People who have access to uniforms, make sure your uniforms are accounted for. It's common precautions that people can take in their daily lives that make the life of the law enforcement community easier because we're one nation, and the citizenry is working in a helpful fashion with law enforcement to be vigilant.
Helen, that's what our nation needs to be, is vigilant, and while going back to life.
Q Can you -- why we have 10,000 hoaxes? I mean, is there any psychology behind that you know of?
MR. FLEISCHER: The hoaxes?
Q Ten thousand?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you know, Helen, again, well prior to September 11th, I think everybody is familiar with the propensity of people to engage in hoaxes or copycats, once something is notable. It is something that, unfortunately, people do for a variety of bad reasons. Hoaxes distract the law enforcement community from what they need to be involved in. The law enforcement community has to take hoaxes seriously to make certain that they are a hoax. How do they know until they evaluate it?
So the message from the federal government is, if anybody engages in such hoaxes, they will be prosecuted. And as the Governor has said, there are many people who are on their way to prosecution and hopefully jail time.
Q Ari, Senator Feinstein and other lawmakers have expressed impatience with the pace of the FBI investigation. And some governors and mayors are frustrated with the handling of these national alerts. Does the administration feel a need to shore up public support of his handling of the crisis?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has been gratified by the strong support he has received from the American people, not only for the conduct of the war, but abroad, but for the manner in which homeland defense is being handled at home. I think by any number of means that you, the media at least, has been using to evaluate public opinion, you can see the public support for the President is powerfully strong.
And I think the reason for that is because the President has been forthright, the President has been wrestling with these difficult issues, as Governor Ridge just walked through about -- do you or don't you alert the public about these potential threats, even if the information the government has is nonspecific, but is deemed to be credible.
And the President has urged the members of his Cabinet to err on the side of filling the country in and sharing information. And the country has absorbed that information rather well. Obviously, it's information nobody wants to have.
But you can also look -- again, take the case of the anthrax in the mail and judge where the country is. As you have heard before, there are some billions of pieces of mail that are mailed every year, 680 million pieces of mail that are mailed on a daily basis. And Americans, while they are being more cautious than they ever were before with good reason, feel safe receiving their mail. They are alert, they are on watch. They know now what to look for because the government has given warnings. The government actually provided the evidence that was received -- in the case of that letter sent to Mr. Brokaw, and sent to Senator Daschle -- so the public can see what the handwriting was, so they are alerted that if anybody -- and, obviously, the targets seem to be more media types or governmental types -- but now, that means the staff in those offices. We're talking about in the case of the media people's secretaries, whoever opens the mail, they know what handwriting to look for.
And I think that's been a source of comfort to the country that the government is providing the information. But, obviously, this is a situation, in the wake of September 11th, that the President wishes the country wasn't going through. The fact of the matter is the country is going through it, and the President is gratified for the reaction the country has given.
The President will have a lot more to say on this topic tomorrow night in Atlanta.
Q Ari, can you give us an update on the domestic crackdown on these two financial networks, where the raids have taken place, how many arrests do we have so far, and any ballpark on the amount of dollars that are tied in the U.S. to these groups?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me give you some information about it. The President, of course, will provide most of the information in his announcement, and I don't want to get too far ahead of him, ahead of the President. But the Treasury Department has added 62 names of organizations and individuals to the list of groups whose assets will be seized or are eligible for seizing. Nine of the organizations are in the United States. Two of the individuals in question are in the United States.
Beginning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time this morning, Treasury and Customs agents delivered blocking orders and began securing evidence at several locations across the United States, and evidence is being secured as a result of these raids or actions by the law enforcement community.
Q Do you have any sense of the locations in the U.S.? Is it Minneapolis, Massachusetts, Seattle?
MR. FLEISCHER: I want to withhold on that. There will be a fact sheet that accompany the President's remarks that will spell it out.
Q And just one more. How difficult is this, because these are largely, loosely, unregulated money exchanges that are sort of -- how difficult is it to make sure that you've got the ones that might be funneling money to the al Qaeda network?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has made clear that the war against the terrorists is going to be a multi-front war. You have been hearing a lot about the military campaign, obviously. And you have been receiving regular information from the Pentagon about it.
But the President also believes that the war on the financial front is just as important. The ability for the United States and for governments around the world to start squeezing the source of funding that the terrorists use to operate their missions is a vital component to winning this war. The less money they have, the fewer missions they will be able to carry out. And that is why the President has been working so regularly with other nations.
Often, in his meetings in the Oval Office, he cites the financial war on terrorism and says if you're not able to contribute militarily, your help on the financial front is just as important.
It is complicated business. It's difficult business because the terrorists have set up these entities because they think they can hide behind them. And they are going to constantly move their money around to the best degree they can. So this is going to be an ongoing front. Nobody can give you any indication that any one action will bring the terrorists to their knees. But as a result of a combined series of actions over a considerable period of time, as more and more nations across the world take on the responsibilities and help the United States and other nations to shut these entities down, the United States will have more success.
So this is one front that will develop over time. But the President will be pleased this afternoon to provide a report about success in this ongoing financial front.
Q Two questions, Ari. On yesterday's elections, you said the President called the two defeated Republican candidates for governor in Virginia and New Jersey, and he is trying to call the governor -- I mean the new mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. Has he spoken with Bloomberg? And the question is, those defeats in Virginia and Pennsylvania, what kind of negative impact will they have on the Republican party?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President, last I heard, which was just shortly before I came out here, had not yet spoken with Mr. Bloomberg. He anticipates doing so shortly, and I will try to get you an update on any other calls the President makes on the results of the election.
But I think it's fair to say looking back at yesterday's election results, that it shows an inconclusive pattern, basically, where local races are decided on local issues. In the case of Virginia, obviously the victorious candidate ran a campaign that sounded very much like a conservative campaign, a Republican campaign. Campaigns are often campaigns of ideas, less party labels than ideas in this case. The ideas he ran on were rather right of center.
In the case of New York, obviously, I think it was a big surprise to people, a big come-from-behind victory for Mr. Bloomberg, keeping New York in the Republican column, an overwhelmingly Democratic city. Democrats obviously had a big win that they can brag about in New Jersey. When you add up all the legislative races across the country, and taking into account the special elections that took place prior to yesterday at the end of the year, it looks like very close elections in the state houses, it looks like a pick-up of three seats for the Republicans in the state houses as a net basis.
So I think that's a fair summary of what's taking place with the elections. Governor Ridge has reminded me right before he came out here that the Supreme Court in Pennsylvania has now gone Republican. And so that means in his state of Pennsylvania, for example, the Governor, both houses of the legislature and the supreme court are all Republican.
Q Does the President feel he could have done more to help the candidates from Virginia and New Jersey?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think the President was active in all three races. The President taped Get Out The Vote messages that were used by all three candidates. The President did mail that was used by various candidates. So I think you've seen, just as I said, a series of local elections this year decided mostly by local factors.
Q Can I follow on that? You've suggested that the Democrat in Virginia ran as a Republican. Is it fair to say that in New York City, the Republican might have run as a Democrat? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, obviously, Mr. Bloomberg had not been a Republican all his life. And I think people were aware of that. And I think these -- I think there is something to be said about that. He is a Republican, he ran in an overwhelmingly Democrat city and had not been a Republican all his life. Again, I think it's local issues and local races.
Q -- relationship at all between the White House
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President is going to work very closely with Democrats and Republicans, with Democrat mayors, Republican mayors, Democrat governors, Republican mayors.
Q Governor Ridge came out just now and essentially ran through his schedule, which included meeting with the disability group and the NASCAR group and some other events like that. But he didn't -- other than four post offices remain closed, he didn't have any news to share with us, it didn't seem. Given that the President's speech tomorrow night is on homeland security, you said he was going to focus on people returning to their normal lives, taking their kids to school, but will the President have any news that we should expect to share? Any updates for the American people?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you will be in a position to evaluate that after you hear the President tomorrow. But the President will give a report on the status of the war, on both internationally, but mostly on the home front side. And will discuss with the American people what steps have been taken and are going to continue to be taken to protect our country.
But you know, this is a profound moment for the country, given the fact that our homeland has not been threatened by a foreign foe since the early 1800s. And now, in the wake of an attack, September 11th, where the World Trade Center was hit, the Pentagon was hit, another airplane was hijacked that was heading likely toward Washington, D.C., who knows what target.
Obviously, the American people have recognized that times have changed. And I think they're going to look forward to hearing the President's assessment about what those changed times mean and what those changed times represent, and what actions the United States government is doing to protect the country.
Q Is the President's threat yesterday to veto spending bills that exceed the appropriations levels agreed to in the supplemental spending levels agreed to, is that a non-negotiable threat, as some Democrats seem to think?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no question the President meant what he said. The President believes very strongly that the amount of money that has been set aside as a per -- an agreement made with members of Congress for $686 billion, with the additional $40 billion of emergency appropriation and $15 billion for airlines is ample funding to fulfill the government's mission to protect the nation and protect people, both internationally and at home. And as evidence of that -- and this was discussed in the meeting yesterday -- of the $40-billion emergency appropriation that has been spent, the government has only been able to put $3.9 billion out the door. They can't even spend what's been approved fast enough, because that's the way money flows in reality.
So if Congress were to put an additional $20 billion on there, it's just more money that cannot yet be spent. So the President's point was, why rush now to make a decision about spending money, when there is plenty of time next year in a more orderly, thoughtful fashion, to take a look at exactly where the needs lie, to let a little time lapse so that better judgments can be brought about where money is needed.
The President never ruled out the possibility of funding additional needs next year. His point was, you can't get everything that you want even spent this year. So what's the rush, what's the hurry, in the case now where $40 billion has already been approved, acting this fall is a rush to judgment, where mistakes will likely be made; sufficient funds are already -- are in the pipeline, and an agreement was reached.
And once an agreement is reached, the agreement should be honored, in the President's opinion.
Q Let me ask you about the people who were raided this morning. Are these individuals and entities that law enforcement officials suspect of helping bin Laden and al Qaeda, or are they individuals and entities that they have reasonable confidence that they think they know helped --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm going to leave that to the law enforcement community to describe, because there have been a series of very specific actions in many different cities, and each one has its own unique features. And I think it's best for the law enforcement community to provide you with the information, place by place. And I think they will be happy to do so.
Q Ari, the McCain-Bayh bill seems to be an effort to develop some specific things Americans can do to help in this war, something the White House hasn't done a whole lot yet. Is the McCain-Bayh bill stealing yours and Governor Ridge's thunder?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, as I indicated yesterday, there are many positive elements in the McCain-Bayh bill, and the President is pleased to see that. Much of what's in there, for example, the bill endorses what's called "the silver scholarship program," a program of getting senior citizens involved, which is something the President ran on in the course of the campaign. So the President sees this as more evidence that people are working well together on a series of national interests, and that's why I said what I said yesterday; there are many positive elements to that legislation.
Q Two follow-ups, please, on the United Kingdom. You talked about Prime Minister Blair. He's making a tremendous effort to get here. Is all of this effort just symbolic, or will something actually be accomplished? And then, tomorrow with Prime Minister Ahern -- is Ireland taking part directly in the antiterrorism effort?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you will have your opportunity tonight in a news conference with Prime Minister Blair and President Bush to ask them that question after their meetings are concluded and before they go to dinner. So you will have an opportunity to ask it there.
But, obviously, the President sees us as a real working session with one of our coalition's chief allies, chief partners. And I think that the people of Great Britain and the United States take great pride in how well our nations are working together.
I will have more on Ireland tomorrow, when tomorrow takes place.
I'm making my way across the rows. I'm making my way. You're at the end of that row, it seems to me.
Les, you are separate and apart from that row, but I will get to you.
Q On the indefinite alert, are you saying that over the next month or two, there is no chance of ratcheting down and is there even a procedure or a -- to say okay, things are better, if you get intelligence that says okay for the next few days things are getting better? Is this only a one-way ratcheting up and not a possibility of ratcheting down?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, as Governor Ridge indicated to governors, they have the flexibility to make the decisions as they see fit. Governors are used to making decisions involving their Guard, involving their state police, involving local enforcement. Law enforcement is, in many ways, a key responsibility of the state governments. These are issues they are used to dealing with. Unfortunately, terrorism is something generally new. But dealing with law enforcement is something they are used to.
The governors will make their judgments and their decisions as they see fit. They will deploy their resources as they see fit. They will assign their officers hours as they see fit. And so these are decisions that will be made by the governors. I think, in some cases, you may see standing up, standing down. Those will be decisions that governors are left with the flexibility to make in the overall rubric of being on alert because the threats have not gone away.
Q But you may tell them standing down, you know, that it might be a little less --
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, you'll get continued updates from the federal government as events warrant. But as Governor Ridge said, for an indefinite period, people need to be on alert because that's a realistic reflection of the threats our country faces.
Q Ari, you and the Governor just touched on the problems confronting the Postal Service. They say they are going to need a federal bailout. How is the administration going to respond to that need?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me try to get something more for you on that and evaluate that. I really have not had any good conversations with people about anything involving that.
Q What is the administration's evaluation of the scope of the unforeseen problems that are facing the Postal Service?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, let me get back to you in the full context on that.
Q Ari, if I may, on the Blair visit, there are sources in Britain who say that Tony Blair does have a real influence with the President on certain obvious issues like the way in which this campaign has been presented. There has been a lot of coordination certainly around your office and that sort of sphere. And also on the question of Iraq, Tony Blair has made it quite plain behind the scenes that he doesn't want to see a campaign broadened toward any move against Iraq in the near future. So my question is basically a blunt one. How influential is Tony Blair inside this White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: Prime Minister Blair is very influential. He and the President stand shoulder to shoulder. The President values his counsel, he values his wisdom, he appreciates the strong support of the people of Great Britain. And they will continue to work very closely together.
Q And does he have the ability to change minds, change the President's mind on certain issues?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I said, he's very influential. I'm not prepared to go down and tick tock very issues. But the two work well together. They really, from the beginning, when they met in their first meeting at Camp David, began a very strong relationship. And I think it's done nothing but grow since then. The President went to Chequers and met with him, and has met with him on several occasions, talked with him on the phone very often. It's interesting, too, because they come from different parties. But they have strong ties.
Q Ari, two things. What does the White House see in reference to outgoing New York Mayor Giuliani for Washington, possibly? And, also, is the White House now admitting that the script is being written -- on the anthrax situation, since you did say this morning that the President thinks there is more of a coordinated effort on these anthrax letters, especially in the wake of the Brentwood situation?
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay, on the question of Mayor Giuliani, which is a question I understandably get just about every day, my answer will be the same every day. And that is, I'm not in a position to speculate about any personnel involving the Mayor or anybody else. That's a long standing White House policy.
Q Should we be surprised to see --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you need to talk to Mayor Giuliani, and to get his sentiment about what his intentions are, first.
As for the question about anthrax -- I think your question is, is the administration writing a script every day. The administration is going two things. One, it is basing its decisions on all available evidence, on whatever knowledge exists about how to treat anthrax, from the Centers for Disease Control, from the scientific community and the medical community. There is certain information that existed prior to the attacks that has proved itself to be very useful and relevant.
There's other information that has been changed as a result of, for the first time, anthrax being sent through the mail. It's without precedent. No one had ever sent anthrax through the mail. So of course, the government is learning, as a result of now unfortunately having empirical data to judge what actions need to be taken, as we learn from the anthrax episodes.
Q Ari, can you tell us if the President welcomes the owners' of baseball vote to close down two Major League baseball teams?
MR. FLEISCHER: Baseball is not a topic that I intend to do any talking about until next April, when the Yankee season resumes. I have not talked to the President about that so I don't know.
Q Ari, can you confirm on a broadcast report that he does welcome the idea of setting up a special memorial park stadium in Northern Virginia and having one of the Florida teams there? Can you confirm that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not talked to the President about this. He hasn't talked to me about it and, frankly, we do talk baseball quite often. So if there is anything on it, I will try to let you know. But I haven't heard anything from the President one way or another on those.
Q Since Virginia voters increased the State House of Representatives from barely more than half to two-thirds Republican and elected a Republican attorney general, does that provide the President with a sense of relief since the New York Times this morning twice reported -- not once, but twice -- that Warner campaigned like a Republican?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated earlier, I think the races, in sum, were decided by local issues. Obviously, the President is a Republican; the President is pleased with Republican victories. But when you take a look at this in sum, I think it's fair to say it was a close election throughout the country and it was mostly decided on local issues, local campaigns.
Q Since long-time Democrat Bloomberg, also like Warner, campaigned like a Republican, does the President believe his fellow Republicans should be gracious enough to forgive Bloomberg for contributing to Barbara Mikulski?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not a topic that I'm aware the President discussed. And, as I indicated, the President looks forward to working with everybody that this nation elects, Democrat or Republican, and he thinks that everybody needs to do that.
Q -- to the Democrats, Ari; he should be forgiven for that, shouldn't he?
MR. FLEISCHER: He is the duly elected Mayor of New York and the President looks forward to working with him.
Q Governor Ridge this morning said that he hoped the anthrax attacks have stopped permanently. Do you have any concrete information to base that hope on? Or is that just a result of the fact there haven't been any new reports?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think hopes are hopes and he is speaking as every American would, that we all hope that is the case. That is a totally different question from expectations. The Governor was clear to say that there is no way of knowing about what the future will hold.
Obviously, there is somebody, somewhere, who mailed anthrax on at least three occasions, AMI, to NBC, and to Senator Daschle, other examples. And so the investigators are continuing their work. This is a complicated case. And obviously everybody hopes that the anthrax sent to Senator Daschle will be the last.
I gave you a report this morning about the anthrax that was sent to Pakistan. The alleged anthrax sent to Pakistan has turned out to be negative. It was tested at a United States laboratory last night after being received from abroad and it has tested negative, which is a good sign, good news.
But I'm not willing and neither is Governor Ridge or the President to make any predictions about what the future will hold.
Q If Congress carries through with this veto strategy, do you get to a point where the administration would endorse a long-term CR rather than try to do individual preparations?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let's just see what Congress does here. I think Congress received the President's message yesterday and I think now Congress is absorbing that message. And Congress has some decisions to make.
I think the appropriators have to go back and meet with their members and decide what their next course of action is. Obviously, there are many people up on Capitol Hill who agree with the President and were pleased with what he said. So let's just see what the implications and the results are from yesterday's meeting.
Q -- administration would ever entertain the idea of a government shutdown versus a veto?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, if you take a look at what's happening across the board, the President has already signed into law two of the appropriation bills; three other conferences, I think, have been complete; several others are getting ready to be complete. So with the exception, perhaps, of one bill, Congress is sending the President legislation and the President is working well with the Congress on what they are sending to him. So I am not sure that's even an issue.
But the President made crystal clear in the course of the campaign that he does not believe government shutdowns are a way to do the people's business. He does not support that. But I don't see anything leading anybody to the conclusion that that's in the cards this year.
Q There were Republicans on the Hill yesterday who were saying that they are unlikely to be able to move anything out of conference without adding additional money. Even they want $2 billion or $3 billion. They figure if they compromise with the Democrats, you'll be in the $6 billion, $7 billion, $8 billion range. What does the President do about that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, an agreement is an agreement is an agreement. And when the Congress enters into an agreement with the President of the United States and says $686 billion is the amount of money that we agree to spend, it's important for agreements to be kept. After all, if it's easy to walk away and break an agreement, what good is the next agreement? What value does that carry if you are willing to break the one that just preceded it.
So an agreement has been reached, and the President believes it's important to hold to that agreement.
Q What about lawmakers who say times have changed a little bit? There are more concerns about homeland security --
MR. FLEISCHER: The attack took place on September 11th and the agreement was reached with Congress in the first week of October. So, clearly, that was three weeks after the attack took place and that agreement was reached in full consideration of the fact that we are a changed nation.
Q And to Democrats who say they find it impossible to think that the President would veto something that is calling for additional money, even for homeland security, around the holidays, they just think there is just no way he'll do it.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President could not have been more plain yesterday when he said, "If I need to, I will veto that bill."
Q Ari, aside from Tom Ridge, is the President taking any more Cabinet officers with him to Atlanta? And how long is his speech tomorrow supposed to last, approximately?
MR. FLEISCHER: I will have a time estimate on the speech a little bit later. The President has been working on it, he is still revising it to some degree. As always, the length of the speech sometimes depends on how much applause there might be. I can't predict that.
END 12:28 P.M. EST