print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
In Focus
News by Date
Federal Facts
West Wing

Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 18, 2002

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room

12:55 P.M. EST

MR. FLEISCHER:  Good afternoon and happy Friday to the White House press corps.

The President this morning placed a call to Argentine Eduardo Duhalde. They had a good conversation about the economic challenges that Argentina is facing as the government moves forward to achieving a sustainable economic plan.  President Bush reaffirmed America's strong bilateral relations with Argentina.  He stressed our commitment to the Argentinean people and our heartfelt appreciation for the difficulties that the people of Argentina are facing.

The President expressed his willingness to work with the Argentinean government as its confronts their serious economic challenges.  President Bush also underscored that once Argentina has committed to a sound and sustainable economic plan, working with the international financial institutions, the United States is willing to support Argentina through the IMF and other international institutions.

President Duhalde thanked the President for his strong support during these difficult times and expressed the administration's commitment -- his administration's commitment to maintaining strong relations with the United States.

Following the call, the President convened a meeting and was briefed by the Central Intelligence Agency, briefed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and then convened a meeting of the National Security Council to go over the latest in the war effort.

And then this afternoon, the President will tape his radio address, which will air tomorrow.  And then the President has additional meetings with staff, and then he will depart for Camp David in mid-afternoon.

Two other announcements.  The President will welcome a visit to Washington on January 31st the Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder.

And, finally, the President is very pleased to announce today that beginning in early February, the White House will once again be open to tours, beginning on a limited basis, for school groups that are coming to Washington.  Spring is often a time of great tourism in Washington, D.C., and much of that tourism comes from school groups coming to town.  And the White House will again be open for business as school children visit.

It's a great place to visit and the President and Mrs. Bush encourage tours to come to Washington, D.C.  School groups will be able to now to come and visit the White House.  That will all be done through the congressional offices.  The procedure will be, asking any school groups that want to come visit the White House, get in contact with your member of Congress, with your senator, and then they will work with the groups to obtain all necessary information to get them cleared into the White House so that school visits can begin.  The President and Mrs. Bush are very pleased to be able to take that limited step as part of reopening the White House.

Q    When is that, Ari?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Beginning in February, we anticipate.

Q    Is there a date set yet?

MR. FLEISCHER:  We'll announce an exact date once we have it.  We're looking right now at early February.

Q    Ari, does this reflect tighter security, lower threat, both or neither?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, no, it is a reflection of tighter security, because it is going to be done on a basis, just like anybody else, just like you all are cleared into the White House.  So it's a way to recognize how to -- in this environment, which is still a dangerous one, where threats still do remain on the domestic homeland front -- how you can still balance the President and Mrs. Bush's desire to keep this the people's house.  And it is especially important for our nation's school children, because school visits are a big part of how children learn, how they grow. It is a time-honored tradition, that is being balanced with a nation that is at war.

Q    How far off is general admission --

MR. FLEISCHER:  There are no indications on that yet.

Q    Why would they not screen individual tourists coming in?  If you are going to be checking Social Security numbers and dates of birth, why not do that for individual tourists?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The White House is pleased to be able to take this step today, to be able to announce this today.  President and Mrs. Bush very much hope that they will be able to, at some point, take additional steps.  So this will now begin.  It will be a process now where the White House will be clearing in -- or WAVE-ing in, as you know our procedures are called -- many more people than is typical because typically the process for those tours is they don't need to be waved in.  So this will be a new requirement, a new obligation, a new burden on the White House staff.  But it is one that the President and Mrs. Bush very much want the White House to take up.  And I think, frankly, it comes at a very good time for Washington, D.C.  It's important to welcome people here this spring.

Q    Ari, going through the congressional offices, does this mean that the Congress person or the staff has to somewhat validate this group?  And also, do they have to talk to the -- I mean, what's the procedure going --

MR. FLEISCHER:  No, they will be the office that obtains the necessary background information, full name, Social Security number, date of birth. They will then convey that down to the White House.  So they will collect that information and put it -- collect it and send it down to the White House.  So it's a helpful process so members of Congress can get the word out to their school groups, come to Washington, visit this spring.  We need to get that information from you.  They collect it, they convey it to the White House.

Q    In a follow-up, you say a limited number.  How many kids at a time will you be allowing in?  And is it, like, on certain days that they will be allowed to come here?

MR. FLEISCHER:  April, I anticipate as it gets a little closer to February, I'll have a little more specific information on the size of the groups.  This will run from Tuesdays through Saturdays.  And I don't know yet if there are going to be any numbers on the sizes of the groups.  But like I said, the President and Mrs. Bush are very pleased that they can take this step today.

Q    On the call that President Bush placed to President Duhalde, the situation in Argentina is getting worse by the minute.  People are lining up in embassies trying to get out of the country.  Still people are protesting, they can't get their money from the banks, their accounts are frozen.  It's a real mess.  President Bush has reaffirmed the support of the United States for the people of Argentina.  But they also insist on demanding an economic plan that can be approved by the IMF.  However, that's not going to be done overnight, and there's strong political pressure there from the people.  Is there any way the United States can work with other governments and the IMF to try and speed up the process? Because when the help comes, it might be too late.  We might have a sixth President.

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, the United States is working with Argentina. That's one of the reasons the President called today, to reaffirm our commitment to helping Argentina.  But the key does remain for Argentina to internally come up with a plan that can demonstrate sustained economic growth.  And the world community does stand ready to help Argentina, to work with Argentina.  But the President believes that that's the prerequisite.

Q    A panel of scientists from the National Academy today recommended that Congress enact a ban on reproductive cloning, but also recommended that cloning for the purposes of harvesting stem cells go ahead.  What's the White House's position on that?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, on the ban on cloning, that's action that was passed by the House of Representatives last fall.  The Senate has yet to act; the President hopes that the Senate will act.  The President is ready to sign that legislation into law.

On stem cells, I refer you back to the remarks that the President made in August, addressing the stem cell issue.

Q    Would you reiterate those for us, since they have just now recommended that nuclear transfer cloning techniques be allowed to go ahead for scientific research on embryonic stem cells?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me do this, John.  I'm going to take a look at exactly what the National Academy report was on the second topic you raised, so I can answer it in the context of that.

Q    They said, from a health and safety perspective, they recommend that scientists be allowed to use nuclear transfer techniques to create cloned human embryos to produce human stem cells.

MR. FLEISCHER:  I'll get back to you.

Q    Ari, often when the President travels abroad or the Commerce Secretary or Trade Representative or high-ranking Cabinet officials, they take along corporate CEOs, company honchos with them.  Did Ken Lay or anyone else from Enron, any Enron executives ever travel with any administration officials, that you're aware of, on foreign trips or --

MR. FLEISCHER:  Not in this administration, that I'm aware of.  You can check with the agencies.  I can speak for the presidential trips that I've been on, all the trips abroad -- the answer is no.  But you'd have to check with any of the agencies.  I think you'll find the answer is no, but you need to check with them.

Q    Ari, we got word that President Bush is supposed to be observing on a larger scale, Dr. King's birth this weekend and Monday.  Dr. King, champion of civil rights -- President Bush said before he became President, at the NAACP Convention that civil rights will be the cornerstone of his administration.  What will and has the President done in efforts to keep Dr. King's dream alive in fostering civil rights in this country?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, Monday is a federal holiday that will commemorate Dr. King's birth, and the President looks forward to welcoming a group of Americans to the East Room in commemoration of that event.  And the President will have additional remarks at that time.

But let me share with you a couple of the things that the President has done since January 20th, when he became President.  I think that it's fair to say that from the President's point of view the most important accomplishment he has made has been in the area of education.  In fact, the President often has said that education is the cornerstone of civil rights. Education is a way to help all Americans to achieve a better future.  And the focus of much of the President's efforts has been on improving our nation's public schools.  And the President does view that as a key, helpful part of improving life for all Americans including African Americans.

Beyond that, the Armies of Compassion initiative that the President has launched includes a number of incentives to help faith-based organizations and community groups that are helping African Americans. That's why I can give you a couple different examples.  Martin Luther King III and Rosa Parks, the Church of God in Christ, all African American -- the Church of God in Christ, being an African American church, has supported this initiative very strongly and urged its passage.

You also recall, the President's budget contained a very large increase in funding for historically black colleges and universities, an attempt again to help people through education to have a better life in the country.

The White House also has a working group on race.  That's a senior-level group that offers advice to various offices in the White House on race relations.  So there have been a whole series of actions that have been put in place along those lines.  And the President again will reflect on that himself in his remarks on Monday.

Q    Ari, a follow-up to that, there's something with a major bite, something that he started at the very beginning that has fallen along the wayside, the issue of banning racial profiling.  Where is that now?  Many people championed that with him, because he said something that Bill Clinton did not do.  Bill Clinton studied, and President Bush said he wanted to ban. Now, where is it?

MR. FLEISCHER:  In the President's address to Congress last year, upon taking office, the President called for a ban on racial profiling.  And the President remains committed to that. As a result of the war that began on September 11th, the Department of Justice, which had jurisdiction and purview over this, which was working very closely with a lot of local governments, as well as federal entities and agencies, has gotten distracted to other issues, of course.  The priorities of fighting the war on terrorism, of taking the Justice Department away from this mission.

Now, I do want to remind you that the Department of Energy has announced a ban on racial profiling throughout all their entities.  If you recall, that was put out earlier this year.  It is an area the President is committed to.  Progress has been slower than the President would have liked as a result of what Justice is now involved in.  But it is a presidential commitment and he intends to keep it, he wants to keep it; it has been delayed.

Q    Could the ban happen before the end of his presidency?  I know there's a distraction because of the war --

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President has not forgotten his promise.  The war has intervened, but the President has not forgotten the promise; it's a promise he intends to keep.

Q    Ari, did anyone from Enron ever talk to the Vice President or ask the Vice President to talk to the Indian opposition leader about this project and the debt that it was owed by the Indians?


Q    No?  So no, kind of -- and what prompted the Vice President to bring it up in that June meeting was?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me give you some broader context about it, because you're asking about something specific.  The President views the job of the United States government and its central function is to help protect American jobs, whether those are the result of investments overseas that help create jobs at home, or jobs domestically.

For example, the President has talked to China about purchasing a Boeing aircraft.  In the instance of the power plant, which is the Dabhol power plant in India, as you know, Secretary Evans said that he talked to Ken Lay about the plant in India, he said that on one of the Sunday shows.

Former Secretary Ron Brown, former Secretary Mickey Kantor, former Secretary Bill Daley, all of the Clinton administration also advocated for the project during various phases of its development, which goes back to 1994.  There are other projects I could get into that also financed or are backed by other OPIC or through Job Creation America that President Bush and others in the administration have talked to other governments about.

So it's in that context that the Vice President called* and expressed, as -- what he did, was he asked about the status of the project.  It is an important project to create jobs in

*  expressed in a meeting

America.  And there's also a taxpayer exposure as a result of the work that's being done through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which is a government agency.

Q    What is the size of that exposure?  What is the U.S. taxpayer on the hook for in this --

MR. FLEISCHER:  OPIC has an exposure of $160 million in loans and $180 million in risk insurance.  And the Ex-Im Bank has a direct loan of $300 million.

Q    If I can follow real quick.  OPIC believes that the President, himself, might have raised it in a November 9th meeting with the Indian Prime Minister --

MR. FLEISCHER:  That's correct.

Q    -- but it was never raised.

MR. FLEISCHER:  That's correct.

Q    Why did the administration decide not to raise it?

MR. FLEISCHER:  As you can imagine, anytime before any foreign leader comes to the White House to meet with the President for meetings that are typically about half an hour long, everybody in the government would like the President to raise just about everything under their jurisdiction.

It's common for people to say, we want the President to raise this. And then there's a process, usually, which goes through the National Security Council to help vet it so it's a reasonable meeting, because otherwise the President would probably cover everything that everybody in the government does.

Q    Ari, the decision about sort of the appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest, it was not made for that reason that he did not raise this with the Prime Minister?

MR. FLEISCHER:  No, the Vice President had raised it earlier and the determination was made that this would be one of the issues that did not rise to the President's level.

Q    These e-mails, though, from the National Security Council to OPIC say somebody -- the name's blacked out -- confirmed that President Bush cannot talk about Dabhol-- cannot.  And it also says Larry Lindsey was advised he could not discuss Dabhol.

MR. FLEISCHER:  That's correct.

Q    Did the President and Larry Lindsey go to the Counsel's Office and ask advice for an ethics ruling as to whether they could discuss it?

MR. FLEISCHER:  No.  In the case of Mr. Lindsey, the Counsel's Office did recommend to Larry Lindsey that he have no direct involvement in the Dabhol plant as a result of his previous holdings with Enron, so that was specific to Enron-specific related, in the case of Mr. Lindsey.  While, with the President, it was a matter of not rising up to his level.

Again, as you can imagine, there is always an inclination from everybody when a foreign leader comes here to raise it to the President's level.  And it's the jobs of the people who prepare for those meetings to weigh what should go to the President's level or shouldn't.  And then what you would typically see as somebody passed the word back that he won't raise that, he can't raise that, he is going to raise other issues.  So, thank you for trying, this one didn't make it to the President.

Q    Would it have been inappropriate for the President to have raised it, if he had had unlimited time with Indian officials?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Appropriate in the sense that the President always is looking out to protect America's jobs and taxpayers' money.  I don't see any problem with that.

Q    I just want to follow up on the question I asked about Haiti a couple days ago and the charge of economic terrorism leveled by President Aristide against the United States.  And I wanted to find out the President's position on the Aristide government now, and also on the harassment of journalists in that country.

MR. FLEISCHER:  The United States has expressed concerns about the election process in Haiti, particularly with regard to the legislative elections.  The administration considers that the solution is in the hands of the Haitians themselves.  The administration supports efforts by the Organization of American States to bring all parties together to resolve what is an electoral impasse there.

Currently, the United States provides Haiti with $70 million through nongovernmental organizations for developmental assistance directly to the Haiti people.  Direct assistance to Haiti will be reviewed once all parties involved reach a political agreement.

Q    On Israel, is the peace process dead now?  And what comments do you have to make in the wake of yesterday's attacks    --

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President strongly condemns the attack that took place in Israel yesterday which took innocent lives.  The President condemns, once again, another terrorist attack on our friend Israel.  The President believes that Chairman Arafat needs to continue and must demonstrate that he has the desire and the willingness and the ability to dismantle terrorist organizations, and that is a vital precursor in order for peace to be achieved in the Middle East in the President's opinion.

Q    Is there any point in continuing peace process talks at this point, at this juncture?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Again, the President is committed to achieving peace in the Middle East through whatever means are the most likely to achieve peace in the Middle East.  So the President will continue the involvement, but it is a very difficult situation.

Q    Larry Lindsey sought a ruling on the Indian plant.  Did he seek a ruling before he went ahead with this study last fall on Enron's -- whether it would affect the markets or not?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Totally unrelated.  The Dabhol plant was directly something that would impact Enron.  The review had nothing to do with Enron specifics.  It had nothing to do with anything directly financial to Enron. It was a review about markets and how markets would be impacted -- in other words, whether or not consumers would have to pay more for their natural gas, whether or not consumers would even be able to get natural gas because of the disruption in supplies as a result of Enron's bankruptcy.  So you can't -- the comparison is very different.

Q    But that review could have ended up in the government doing something about Enron.  It didn't, but it could have, right?

MR. FLEISCHER:  But that didn't take place.  The review was of markets to determine whether markets were impacted.

Q    He didn't seek a ruling from the Counsel's Office?

MR. FLEISCHER:  It's apples and oranges.  One was a more direct involvement.  The other was reviewing broader implications having nothing to do with the specifics of Enron's financing.

Q    Does the President share Governor Gray Davis's concerns that Enron took advantage of the people of California and is any government agency looking into whether it, in fact, did that?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President is very concerned that the people of Enron, the leaders of Enron took advantage of the people of Enron.  That's the concern the President has, that the people who worked for Enron now have lost their paychecks, and the people who were counting on retiring, because they work for Enron, have lost their ability in many cases to retire in the comfort that they were hoping to retire.  The President's concerns focus on people who work for other companies that worry, will they be put in a position that Enron workers were.  That's where the President's focus is at.

Q    But no concern about the prices Enron charged for the natural gas to California, the power to California?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Anything dealing with the charges for prices is something that would be examined by FERC and that's what they do under their purview.

Q    You said earlier that we continue to face a threat here in the homeland.  Can you explain why the President has yet to nominate a head for the Food and Drug Administration or for the National Institutes of Health a year into the administration?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Stay tuned.

Q    Well, I mean, that's not an adequate answer, Ari.  A year has gone by, a quarter of the President's term has gone by and he has yet to name such a person.  Why has it taken this long to come up with a name?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me respond specifically on that, two reasons. One, this is a -- these are very important positions that need to be named, especially given the events of September 11th.  And the President is not going to compromise the issue of time in order to get the best person for the position.  And these positions often are people who come from the private sector who have substantial private sector knowledge.  Not everybody from the private sector rushes to get into the government.

Q    Ari, back on Enron, does the President think that it's the government's responsibility to at least partially help reimburse some of these employees?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The employees of Enron?  Let me take you back to December 5th and just let you know explicitly what the Department of Labor did at the time that Enron announced its bankruptcy.

Secretary Chao put out a news release on December 5th announcing the investigation the Department of Labor was launching into Enron and the assistance that was being provided to the dislocated workers there and to the employees because of their pensions.

She said on that day -- and let me quote what Secretary Chao said -- "Enron's employees have gotten the short end of the stick in the sudden collapse of this company, and we are committed to doing everything we can to help them."  The United States Department of Labor has activated a toll-free hotline to help workers -- it's 877-US2-JOBS -- to take calls from laid-off workers of Enron and to direct them to a nearby, one-stop re-employment center.  And Enron employees with questions about their employee benefits can also call the Department's pension and welfare benefit administration, and that's a Dallas office and the phone number for that is 214-767-6831.  So within the law there are things that can be done to help Enron's employees and the Department of Labor is on the case.

Q    But at the end of the day, is it the President's goal to help these people get their money back?  What's the end goal?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, again, through the Department of Labor and through these provisions, there are steps that can be taken to help those workers at Enron.  But, clearly, anytime a company in America -- the .coms, when they suffered major bankruptcies, there are things that can be done within the law to help those workers.

Q    Ari, this weekend the President will mark the conclusion of his first year in office.  Does he see any room for improvement in his own performance and, if so, upon what aspect do you think he'd most like to improve his performance in the next year?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Would you mind if I answered the question by telling you what the President thought was good in his performance in the first year?  (Laughter.)

Q    You can do that after you answer my question, we can compromise. (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER:  Okay, let's compromise.  I think the answer that I give will be longer than the one that you've asked.  As far as shortcomings, I think the President would say that he'll leave that to critics.  If any critics want to offer some ideas about what they see as his shortcomings, he'll be happy to listen and hear what they think.

But I think what the President would tell you, if he was looking back -- and it is, on Sunday it will be the one-year anniversary of the inaugural, when the President became President.  And that it's fair to say that this first year has been a year of results and progress.  And it's also been a year of challenge and defense of our freedoms as a result of the attack on our country.

When the President refers to results and progress, he takes great pride in the fact that on a bipartisan basis the Congress and the President together were able to improve education for the country, particularly for students in public school; that taxes have been lowered for all Americans; that the marriage penalty has been reduced; that the death tax has been eliminated; the environmental legislation, which had been sought for 10 years, to help clean up abandoned areas in our urban cities has been finally enacted into law, to protect the environment through brownfields legislation.

And on progress, the President is very pleased that trade promotion authority has finally been passed out of the House of Representatives. That was almost a decade in the making.  An energy comprehensive plan to make America more energy independent was passed by the House.  Legislation to help people who are in poverty was passed through the Armies of Compassion, a faith-based initiative.  And on health, a patient bill of rights has been passed by both the House and the Senate the President would very much like to sign into law later this year.

That really is a lot of progress on the legislative front in the first year of a presidency, particularly given the fact that the House has such a small margin, that the Senate switched sides.  That's a strong first year in office.

On the side of the war against terrorism, I think the President is very gratified at how our nation has stood so strong together without any sense of who belongs to any party and how this nation has joined to fight a war against the terrorists who attacked our country and who have supported him so strongly and the men and women of our Armed Forces so strongly.  I think that if you asked the President, he thinks it's been a good first year.

Q    He has not discussed with you any areas for improvement, either on his part or on the part of the White House staff?

MR. FLEISCHER:  He will -- well, anything he talked about on improvement with the White House staff, I will definitely leave between the staff and the President.  But as for if you want to know about -- he understands how politics works.  He will leave that to others.

Q    Is there any White House reaction to the opinion of the President of Pakistan that bin Laden is probably dead for lack of dialysis treatment?

MR. FLEISCHER:  We just don't know.  I don't think the President would view that as an unwelcome event.  But the fact of the matter is, we do not know.

Q    Is that just a possibility because of his inability potentially to get treatment for his kidney disease?  I mean, another senior official said it's a reasonable conclusion, but a guess.  I mean, is there weight given to that for that reason?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Whatever the cause might be that would lead to that event, it's a justifiable cause.

Q    Ari, some social conservatives down at the RNC's annual meeting have expressed concern; they are a little unhappy with at least one liberal nominee up for a party position.  As titular head of the GOP, is the President, first of all, aware of any of these concerns?  And, secondly, what is he doing to unify the party?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President does think the party is wonderfully unified.  I think it is a fair statement to suggest that the Republican Party is more unified now than it has been in a decade.  And that is a sign of the great strength that people have, the great support that people have given to President Bush and his governance of the party.


Q    One more if I could.  Are there deep divisions within the GOP, though, between pro-life and pro-choice forces?

MR. FLEISCHER:  I think there's no question there are divisions in the Republican Party between those groups.  But one thing they all have in common is they support the President, and it's a sign of a healthy Republican Party that welcomes different views into the party.

Q    Ari, does the President, who has been so deeply and, I think, commendably, concerned about the World Trade Center bombing, believe that the statue of the three firemen raising the U.S. flag should have two of them race altered from the photograph, or not?

MR. FLEISCHER:  I have not talked to the President about it.

Q    If you would take the question.  The Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson of Los Angeles, in his lawsuit just filed against the Reverend Jesse Jackson, notes that Jackson has implied that it is "necessary for business to pay from $250 to $2,500 annually to Mr. Jackson's international trade

bureau in order to have a reasonable chance of participating in Toyota's $700 million worth of minority contracts," which is a statement that Toyota firmly denies.  And my question -- since the President is, by the Constitution, the nation's chief law enforcer, why isn't Jesse Jackson at least investigated for this and for spending tax-exempt contributions on his mistress, for which the white man who did that remains in federal prison?  What about that, Ari?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Lester, I've got nothing to offer you on that topic.

Q    On Saudi Arabia, the Washington Post had a major story on the front page saying the Saudi government would like to reduce the presence of the U.S. military there for internal political reasons.  Is the White House aware of that --

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President spoke with the Crown Prince just last week -- actually -- I'm sorry -- earlier this week from Air Force One.  And the President, in that conversation, as he has done throughout his presidency, expressed his thanks to the government of Saudi Arabia for their strong support in the war on terrorism, which has been, as you can take a look -- just this weekend in Tokyo, a conference that is being co-sponsored by Saudi Arabia to help with the rebuilding of Afghanistan. The President is very pleased with the actions the Saudis have taken.

As to the story specifically, of course, the story quoted unnamed anonymous Saudi officials, and so I can't comment on anything if people don't put their name on it.  But I'm not aware of any contacts that anybody named "anonymous" has had with the United States government, let alone anybody who has a Saudi name with the United States government suggesting that it's time for the United States to leave.  I'm not aware.

Q    On the Enron case, Senator Grassley yesterday said that his use of several hundred tax savings bolsters the need for tax shelter legislation.  Does the administration support legislation to reign in abuse of tax shelters?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Certainly, if there are abuses of tax law, anybody, whether they are individuals or corporations, are not paying their fair shares, the laws need to be enforced or the laws need to be tightened up. The specifics of any legislation involving corporate tax shelter reporting will always be looked at.

Q    You mentioned earlier that the President had talked to China about purchasing Boeing aircraft, and the Vice President raising with the Indian opposition leader Enron's issues in India.  Can you say that's a regular order of business for the President and the Vice President to speak to foreign leaders about corporate interests overseas?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President doesn't look at it as if he is expressing a corporate interest overseas.  Unemployment is sky high in the Pacific Northwest.  It is among the highest in the United States.  I think when the President does this, what he has in mind are the workers, the people that he met at the John Deere factory, for example, earlier this week in Iowa.  Those are the people that the President is concerned about. They work for American corporations and the President believes when those corporations do well, their workers do well; when those workers do well, their corporations do well.

And that's why it is not uncommon for leaders of the United States, no matter what party they are, to help make certain that if contracts are to be awarded overseas, they are given to Americans.  There is a lot of competition.  Europeans try to get into the competition.  Others do.  And, of course, the President is going to advocate that the best quality products are American.

Q    Let me just follow up quickly.  Do you have any other examples of that kind of intervention by the President or the Vice President?  And can you assure people that Vice President Cheney's intervention on behalf of Enron had nothing to do with the political contributions that the company gave to the campaign?

MR. FLEISCHER:  I can assure you that, obviously.  If that was the case, why did Ron Brown, Mickey Kantor and Bill Daley do the same thing?  I don't think you could say that they were influenced by the contributions that were given to the Bush campaign.  It was done because they thought it was in America's national interests to do it.

Q    If contact with Indian officials involved Enron, why not reveal it before now?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Reveal it before now?

Q    Well, I mean, specifically Cheney's discussion with Indian officials.

MR. FLEISCHER:  I am not sure I see what the question is here.

Q    Well, I mean, why are we only learning about this in the last couple of days in more detail?  It seems to be sort of dribbling out, as opposed to --

MR. FLEISCHER:  I am not sure there was any revelation.  This is something that Commerce Secretary Evans himself said on NBC's Meet the Press last Sunday.  He talked about when he called -- when he spoke to Ken Lay, it was about the Indian power project.

Q    Right, but not that the Vice President had spoken --

MR. FLEISCHER:  Right, but this is the ongoing business of the government.  As I indicated, it is what was done in the case of Clinton administration officials, and it was done by the President in the case that Terry just mentioned, for Boeing.  I'm not sure what you're asking for.

Q    We've been asking you about this contact with Enron officials, contacts the administration has had involving Enron for weeks now.

MR. FLEISCHER:  This wasn't contacts with Enron officials.

Q    Well, I know, but it involves Enron.  So that's why important just curious why it wouldn't --

MR. FLEISCHER:  Okay, so now we're off of contact with Enron officials and contact with anything involving anything that Enron was involved in. That's my point.  You're asking for us to -- I'm not sure how to comply with your request in that sense.

And I also have the week ahead, if people want to get to the week --

Q    Ari, one quick question?

MR. FLEISCHER:  One quick question, then let's do the week ahead.

Q    Mr. C. Daley, thankfully no relation, has said that you are "like a rock star," and would like to have you on his new show, Last Call.  I don't know what the ratings are going to be, but do you agree with that assessment?  (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm afraid, with that judgment, his show, which I hope will be a popular show, is going to have very low ratings.  I hope he has better guests than me.

Let me do the week ahead and get myself out of this topic.  For the week leading up to the State of the Union on January 29th, the President will continue to focus on creating jobs for Americans and on homeland security.  The President will highlight the fact that economic security for America begins with economic security for each of our families, and the President believes the single most important way to protect the economy is to prevent another terrorist attack on this country.

On Monday, the President and Mrs. Bush will join in a celebration honoring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King in the East Room.  The President will sign a proclamation observing Monday, January 21, 2002, as a national holiday.  Also on Monday, Mrs. Bush will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, to make remarks at an annual commemorative service honoring Dr. King.

Tuesday --

Q    Ari, can I go back?  What civil rights leaders are going to be here?

MR. FLEISCHER:  We will have all the lists out.

On Tuesday, the President will travel to Charleston, West Virginia, to tour a factory and to talk about ways to create more jobs for Americans.

On Wednesday, the President will meet with bipartisan leaders from the House and the Senate in the Oval Office.  And that afternoon, the President will make remarks on the war effort to the Reserve Officers Association here in Washington, D.C.

As part of the President's ongoing discussion that week of homeland security, the President will meet with U.S. mayors and county officials to discuss ways to keep the homeland secure.

On Thursday afternoon, the President will have a Cabinet meeting.

And, finally, on Friday, the President will travel to the Northeast, where he will talk about homeland security.  We will be announcing the exact location, of course, closer to the 48 hours as we standardly do.

Q    Northeast?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Northeast.  Thank you.

Q    What about Senator Schumer's contribution, Ari.

Q    What did you just say, Northeast, Ari?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Northeast, on homeland security.

Q    I can't hear.  All these people screaming.

MR. FLEISCHER:  They're always screaming, April.  (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, all you screamers.  Have a good weekend.

Q    What about Senator Schumer's contribution?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Les, you're the lead screamer.

END                              1:30 P.M. EST