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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 7, 2002

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer

      Listen to the Briefing

  1. President's schedule
  2. Travel to Central America
  3. Geneva Convention/detainees
  4. Campaign finance
  5. Meeting with Prime Minister Sharon
  6. Vice President travel to Middle East
  7. Pakistan/kidnapped journalist
  8. Faith-based initiative
  9. Olympics
  10. Unemployment insurance extension
  11. Chairman Arafat

1:00 P.M. EST

MR. FLEISCHER:  Good afternoon.  Let me give you a report on the President's day, and then I have a travel announcement I'd like to make.  The President this morning had his usual round of intelligence, FBI briefings, with the Homeland Security Council, as well.  Then he participated in the National Prayer Breakfast.

This afternoon, the President will meet with Senator Lieberman and Senator Santorum to discuss the great progress that the Senate is making in an agreement that's been reached in the Senate on the President's armies of compassion initiative, to bring help to people who are in poverty, or have difficulties in life that can be solved through some of the faith-based solutions and compassion solutions that the President has proposed to the Hill.  They also include increased charitable giving.

Later today, the President will also meet with the Prime Minister of Israel to discuss efforts to obtain -- achieve peace in the Middle East.

Travel -- the President will travel to Lima, Peru on March 23rd, and San Salvador, El Salvador on March 24th.  This is following his visit to Monterrey, Mexico.  Peruvians over the last year have reaffirmed strongly their commitment to democratic principles and have shown leadership in promoting these principles throughout the Interamerican region.  In Peru, the President will meet with President Toledo to discuss our mutual efforts to strengthen hemisphere democracy, free trade and the rule of law.  They will also discuss our common fight against narcotics trafficking and terrorism.

In El Salvador, the President will discuss with President Flores the proposed initiative on a Central American free trade agreement.  The two leaders will also discuss U.S. support for El Salvador's ongoing efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and to modernize its economy.  They'll also review U.S. assistance programs for earthquake reconstruction.

With that, I'm happy to take questions.

Q    Can you tell us about the President's decision on the detainees in Guantanamo Bay?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Ron, at this moment, I have nothing to report on that topic.  When we have something to share we will get it out and --

Q    What was the question?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Mr. Fournier, would you like to ask your question louder?

Q    Can you tell us about the President's decision on Guantanamo Bay?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Were you able to hear that?  The question was, will you tell us about the President's decision on Guantanamo Bay.  And the answer is that there is nothing to report at this moment.  When we have something to report, we will, of course, provide it in its entirety.  But there's nothing to report right now.

Q    Can you confirm the report that's out there?

Q    Can you tell us why the President has decided that the Geneva Convention applies to the conflict, itself, and the Taliban fighters, but not al Qaeda and other terrorists?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Again, there's nothing to report at this moment.  And whenever we have something, you will get it and you will have it in full fashion.

Q    Are you denying that he's made a decision on it?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Again, as you know, John, there are times when decisions are made, but there are some notifications, et cetera.  And so, until everything is notified, I'm not going to get into this topic in any great length.  But you will have information provided to you in its entirety as soon as all is available.

Q    You're not knocking down the story.  You're not saying what's out there in the wires right now is incorrect?

MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm saying that when the White House has something to report to you, we will report it.  You will have it in a full fashion.

Q    Will the President make an announcement, or will it be on paper?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, the President is going to be having an event tonight.  As you know, it is a press pool event, so you are certainly free to ask the President anything on your minds.

Q    Is that expected today?

MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm sorry, Jim?

Q    Do you think something today on this matter?

MR. FLEISCHER:  I hesitate to make predictions as to timing.  As soon as all timing is taken care of, it will be released in its entirety.

Q    Ari, when the House Speaker comes this afternoon, if he asks the President to pick up the phone and call House Republicans and to help Speaker Hastert defeat the campaign finance Shays-Meehan bill in the House, will the President do that?  Will he actively lobby against that bill and help the Speaker who said yesterday he wants to kill that bill?

MR. FLEISCHER:  First of all, I'm not going to deal with any hypotheticals for a meeting that has not taken place yet.  But the President is prepared and willing to support legislation that will improve the current campaign finance system.  The President believes that there is too much soft money in the system.  He wants to abolish union soft money, he wants to abolish corporate soft money.  He believes we need to have greater disclosure so the American people can know where the money that enters our campaigns comes from, so they can take that into account in their decisions as to how they want to vote.

There are a series of reforms the President supports.  Those reforms that the President supports as principles are partially reflected in several of the bills that are moving on the Hill.  And the President will continue to work with the Congress so the current system can be improved.

Q    Yes, but Hastert has said that this bill is a life-or-death issue for the Republican Party.  Does the President agree with that?  And if he agrees with it to any extent, why won't he work against the bill?

MR. FLEISCHER:  There have been many strong feelings expressed on both sides of this issue.  And I can assure you, all those strong feelings have been brought to the President's attention directly and indirectly.  And the signal that the President clearly sends, has sent, and continues to send, is that he wants to sign legislation that will improve the current system.

What I think is so different about campaign finance reform in the year 2002 is, for the first time in about 10 years or more, this debate is real, because they know there's a President who's prepared to sign something if it improves the system.  In the past many years, with divided government particularly, Democrats in Congress when President Bush was there always pushed for something they knew former President Bush would never sign.  President Clinton always pushed for something he knew Congress would never go along with.

This year, it's real.  This year is meaningful.  And the President hopes that Congress will send him something that he can sign, because he wants to get the job done and reform the law.

Q    Does he think this improves the system?  Does he think Shays-Meehan improves the system, or not?

MR. FLEISCHER:  As I indicated, the Shays-Meehan bill and many other bills partially reflect the President's principles.  That doesn't entirely reflect the President's principles.  But there are some things in there that do.  There are some things in there that clearly do not.

Q    So he wouldn't sign it then?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, again, it hasn't even made its way through the House yet.  And so the exact process is undetermined.  There may be amendments in the House.

Q    Isn't it easy for you to stand up here and say the President would love to sign something that improves the system, when you know full well that he doesn't support this, and wouldn't support this?

MR. FLEISCHER:  David, it's never easy for me to stand up here and say anything.

Q    I know, but let's answer the question.  (Laughter.)  Can you answer the question?

MR. FLEISCHER:  What's your question?

Q    It's easy to say that he would sign something that improves the system, when you know and he knows that he doesn't support this.  He doesn't think it improves the system.

MR. FLEISCHER:  As I indicated, there are many bills that partially reflect the President's principles.  Shays-Meehan, for example, differs with the President's principles in that the President thinks individuals should be allowed to contribute soft money to campaigns, because that is money that they give on their own volition.  It's not coerced, it's not forced, it's not removed from their paychecks the way money is taken from union workers, for example, and put into a political cause.

The President believes that corporate soft money should be banned, because it is taken against the will of people in companies.  They have no say in how that money is spent.  The same thing applies to union soft money.  There's a difference on individuals.  So on two of those three, the President's principles are met.  On one of those three, it's not.

In the end, the President will take a look at the product that the Congress settles on.  This could go to conference.  It's not clear what exact process will take place between the House and the Senate.  So, as is typical when legislation is at its beginning stage on the House, it's impossible to say with any definition or definity, how the President will ultimately come down.  He'll let the process continue to work.

Q    But, Ari, John's underlying question was, is the President going to get involved in the lobbying on this legislation.

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, the President has been involved.  There have been meetings that I've been in where the President has made crystal clear to Republicans who oppose campaign finance reform that he wants to sign a bill and that they cannot count on him to veto legislation.

Q    Will he call any members this week, while the debate is going on?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Not this week, certainly.  The debate hasn't taken place.  Next week -- ask me next week and I'll try to keep you informed.

Q    Will he lobby against this bill, yes or no?  Do you know?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President has made it clear that he wants to sign something that will improve the system.  Now, again, John's question was presuming that the Speaker will ask the President, and I don't want to go down that road --

Q    I'm not asking that question --

Q    I'm asking something different, just generally --


Q    I'm not asking about Hastert, I'm asking specifically, will the President lobby against the Shays-Meehan bill?

MR. FLEISCHER:  As I indicated, the President believes that there are elements in the Shays-Meehan bill that partially meet his principles.  And the President will continue to work with Congress.  I think you can anticipate in many of the meetings the President has with members of Congress, he'll talk about campaign finance reform and the principles that he supports, and urge the Congress to pass something that matches those principles.

Q    Will he lobby against the Shays-Meehan bill?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Ask me that next week and we'll see what decision is made.  But again, the Shays-Meehan bill partially represents what the President believes is right.  There are elements of it that do not.

Q    Why would the decision be different next week?  Why would it be different next week?  You know what it is now.  Hasn't he decided whether he's for it or against it now?

MR. FLEISCHER:  This is the beginning of the process in the House of Representatives.  The legislation is coming to the floor.  You don't know what ultimate outcome Shays-Meehan will have once it hits the floor.  Depending on the rule, right now it looks like it's amendable.  The discharge petition under which Shays-Meehan is going to be considered on the floor allowed for 10 amendments by the majority, 5 for the minority.  So when you describe Shays-Meehan, are you describing Shays-Meehan as it is today in its pre-vote fashion, or are you describing it as it will exist in its ultimate outcome?

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Q    Will he lobby for amendment?

Q    Let me ask the question this way.  The Speaker has pulled a few rabbits out of the hat for the President, whether the issue be tax cuts, trade promotion authority, some other tough issues in the House of Representatives.  If the Speaker came to the President and just on a purely political sense, and said, Mr. President, you've called me and said I need you on this one, Denny; Mr. President, this time Denny needs you -- would the President feel a debt to the Speaker to get involved?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President will always work closely with the Speaker, and the President will also honor the principles that he ran on.  And he ran on a series of principles to improve the current system.  And the President has been in meetings with members of Congress and Republicans where he has indicated to them that he wants to sign a bill that improves the system.

And I think, John, that is what has made this debate so real this year.  It used to be an empty exercise in Washington, D.C. when it came to campaign finance reform.  This year, it's real, it's significant, and it has a chance to be signed into law and that's why the President laid out his principles.

Q    But did you indicate just a second ago that a decision has basically not been made about whether or not he would lobby against this?

MR. FLEISCHER:  No.  I indicated that the President views this bill as partially reflecting his principles.

Q    But he may end up lobbying against it, is that correct?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Again, when you say "this," you're defining something before it can possibly be understood.  It's amendable, changes can be made.

Q    You could lobby against this bill.  It doesn't have to be on the floor for the President to start lobbying against the bill.  I mean, he could start today, if he wanted to.

MR. FLEISCHER:  And, obviously, he has not.

Q    He has not.  And could there be a decision to lobby against Shays-Meehan before it comes to the floor?  Is that under consideration?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President has made it clear that he is going to work with Congress to sign something that improves the system.  Shays-Meehan partially improves the system.  It's inconsistent with several of the President's principles but it's consistent with others.  So we'll just see what the ultimate outcome is.

Q    I have two questions.  One has to do with this trip you just announced, Ari.  When President Clinton went to Central America after Hurricane Mitch, he went to Honduras, El Salvador, and then he went to Guatemala and met with all the Central American Presidents.  You've announced that he will be in Lima on the 23rd and in El Salvador on the 24th.  Does he contemplate meeting all the Central American leaders in El Salvador, after the official visit to El Salvador, to push the Common Market?

MR. FLEISCHER:  There will be a more robust announcement later about all the people that the President will be meeting with during these travels.  So there will be other meetings with other leaders.  Stay tuned for more robust announcements.

Q    May I follow up with my second question?  The meeting today with Prime Minister Sharon, it will be the fourth meeting President Bush has held with Mr. Sharon.  No meetings with Chairman Arafat.  What has changed as far as -- it seems in the Middle East, terrorism continues.  We just had an event lately.  What does the President expect can be worked out with Mr.  Sharon, given that terrorism still exists in the Middle East and it doesn't seem to be abating?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, violence is not new to the Middle East, and throughout the history of the Middle East, the United States President has met with the Prime Minister of Israel to discuss efforts to reduce the violence, and this is part of the longstanding American commitment to Israel and to meetings with Israel's Prime Ministers.

The President and Prime Minister Sharon are going to discuss this evening the campaign against terror and other developments in the Middle East.  The President believes Chairman Arafat knows what he needs to do to crack down on the terrorist activities in the Middle East and that the United States is looking to Chairman Arafat to do more to demonstrate his opposition to terrorism and the concrete steps he'll take.

The President will also express to Prime Minister Sharon this evening the President's deep concern about the plight of the Palestinian people, and he will discuss what steps might be taken to ease the situation for the people.

Q    Could I come back to the prisoner issue for a second here?  If you can't tell us about an actual decision, since this is the only time we're going to get public comment from you today, can you at least tell us about the deliberative process involved and the decision making process in giving certain status to Taliban members as opposed to al Qaeda members?  If you can just talk about the concerns and the deliberative process?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President has held a series of meetings with this National Security Council, and has discussed the various legal issues involved in the applicability of the Geneva Convention.  In all cases, the President will reflect a policy that is a given with America's traditions of treating military detainees well, treating them humanely, giving them full rations of food, three meals a day, medical treatment.  All of that will be a given, no matter what decisions the President makes, because that's a reflection of the values of the United States and the way our military treats people.

The legal issues that are involved, in terms of the applicability of the Geneva Convention, particularly given any distinctions that may or may not be made between the al Qaeda and the Taliban are issues that have been a subject of discussion with the National Security Council.  That's something that you will hear from -- at the appropriate time.

Q    What role did international pressure play in the deliberations?

MR. FLEISCHER:  This has really been a discussion that was centered around the thoughts of the national security team.  And the national security team, as you know, has always said that these detainees should not be treated as prisoners of war, because they don't conform to the requirements of Article 4 of the Geneva Convention, which detailed what type of treatment would be given to people in accordance with POW standards.  That's a very easily understood legal doctrine of Article 4.

For example, the detainees in Guantanamo did not wear uniforms. They're not visibly identifiable.  They don't belong to a military hierarchy.  All of those are prerequisites under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention, which will be required in order to determine somebody is a POW.

There's a broader issue about the important principles of the Geneva Convention, and the President's belief in the Geneva Convention as an important governing doctrine.  And you will hear more about it.

Q    Just one more, if I could.  What do you lose if Taliban fighters are declared eligible under the full provisions of Article 4 of the Geneva Convention, versus the status that they enjoy right now?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, that's not an issue under discussion, John, because the determination has already been made that neither the Taliban nor the al Qaeda are prisoners of war.  We've heard that repeatedly from Department of Defense, from this podium.  So that's not under discussion.

Q    Why is the President sending the Vice President to the Middle East?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The Vice President is going to travel to the Middle East and to other nations from March 10th to March 20th, at the President's request.  He'll visit U.S. forces, as well as he'll have meetings with heads of states and governments and foreign ministers in Kuwait, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, Oman, Jordan and Israel.

The Vice President knows this region very well.  He knows the leaders of the region very well.  He has many longstanding relationships with senior officials of these countries.  The Vice President will hold wide-ranging discussions on matters of mutual interest, including our ongoing campaign against terrorism and other regional security issues.  The trip builds on earlier visits, for example, that the President directed the Secretary of State to make and the Secretary of Defense to make.  It's one of the things that Vice Presidents do at the President's requests.

Q    Is there a reason for the timing right now?  Is there some shift going on, or some particular reason why he would go at this particular time?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Just as Secretary Powell has visited the region, Secretary Rumsfeld has visited the region, it's appropriate for the Vice President to visit the region.  There is a timing issue involved in the fact that the President will be out of the country for a period of time in February.  There is also the importance of scheduling the event -- be respectful of the Hadj.  And so there are a series of reasons that the trip is the week it is taken, reflected with the President's schedule and other regional important matters.

Q    How about security concerns?

Q    Going back to Arafat and terrorists, the Wall Street Journal reporter is still held against his will in Pakistan.  The troubling thing is that his captives are asking that F-16s should be released to Pakistan and also Pakistanis are held in Cuba also should be released.  Now, what I'm asking you, what is the President doing for his release, using his power to get his release?  And also if General Musharraf comes next week here, if he's going to bring him with on his plane?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Obviously, this is an issue that is very troubling to all Americans and to the President.  The President is very concerned about what has happened with the kidnapping of Mr. Pearl.  It is the longstanding policy of the United States government, and that remains in place, that the United States government does not and will not negotiate.  But the United States has worked very productively with Pakistan.

Pakistani authorities are doing all they possibly can to obtain the release of Mr. Pearl.  The United States is fully satisfied with the actions of the Pakistani government.  And if there's any one thing that the kidnappers need to know is that they should release Mr. Pearl unconditionally and immediately.

Q    Does the President believe that or he agree that terrorism is still there in Pakistan, whether they're al Qaeda or whether they're Taliban backers or whoever they are, they are still in Pakistan, despite the border security --

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, clearly, the President has designated two entities in Pakistan as terrorist organizations and has frozen their assets, and has found good cooperation from President Musharraf in taking action against these groups.

Q    On the Geneva Convention, one clarification.  A decision to apply the Geneva Convention to Afghanistan and to Taliban fighters would not, I believe you were saying, would not have any effect on the decision to declare them as non-POWs?

MR. FLEISCHER:  No, that's a settled matter, and it's been settled for weeks.

Q    Could I ask you, on the meeting today with Santorum and Lieberman, what is the import of what the President is doing here?  Does he hope -- is he embracing this compromise as the bill he believes the entire Congress should pass?

MR. FLEISCHER:  The President attaches great import to today's event.  The House of Representatives has already passed one of the President's major campaign pledges to the American people to have faith-based solutions to help people who are in poverty who otherwise have been falling through the cracks in our society, even throughout the '90s when we had unparalleled growth.  We still had millions of Americans who were left behind.  Very often these people were people who no government program, even the most well-intentioned, could ever reach.

Faith-based solutions very often have been a way to find ways to help people.  And by that, the President refers to tearing down barriers that prohibit the federal government from working with groups that may be faith-based, so those faith-based groups can turn their resources into the communities in which they live to help lift people up.

The House of Representatives passed legislation, much along the lines of what the President proposed, by more than 40 votes.  A nice bipartisan vote.  The significance of today is now it looks like the Senate is moving in the same direction, bipartisanship, to create a new way of bringing help to people who have been left behind.  And the new way the Senate has agreed to focuses on allowing some 84 million Americans who currently are not allowed to deduct money for charitable giving, for the first time since 1986, receive a deduction for their charitable giving.

It also breaks down barriers where the federal government previously did not provide help to community or faith-based groups that were doing good works in their neighborhoods.  So this is an important bipartisan moment where the United States Senate now looks like it will make progress on helping people who are mired still in poverty or have been left behind.

Q    This bill takes a slightly different approach to the question of discrimination of those who work for religious charities.  Does the President embrace the Senate version over the House version?  Is he taking a stance here on how the discrimination issue should be addressed?

MR. FLEISCHER:  You correctly point out that the Senate arrives at the same good conclusion by achieving a different method.  The House had what was known as charitable choice provisions.  The Senate provision would bar the federal government from discriminating on religious grounds, including religious iconography, governance, and experience with government contracts.

It's a different way to get to the same good result.  And the President, as always, will work with the House and the Senate and hope to have a good agreement that the two reach together so that the barriers the federal government has put in the way of these faith-based and community action-oriented groups can be taken down to bring help to people.

Q    What are the President's expectations for the Olympics?  Does he have any security concerns, and how much can you tell us about his participation?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, his participation will be limited to speaking.  He will not be competing.  (Laughter.)  The President looks forward to going to Utah tomorrow.  It's one of the real honors of the presidency to be able to participate in something as momentous and glorious as the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, which only come every, of course, four years.  He's a sportsman, so I think he'll have particular interest in meeting the athletes and visiting with them.

But as for the security, this is a very large undertaking, and the President and Homeland Security Director Ridge and all the officials of the government are working very hard with Utah officials and Olympic officials to provide for the safety of the area.  They are satisfied that every precaution has been taken.  And the President looks forward to heading out to the games.

Q    Ari, as the President meets with the religious leaders, is he going to be talking -- obviously, his welfare proposals -- in particular this idea of trying to --

MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm sorry, you said with the religious leaders?

Q    Yes, with the leaders this afternoon.

MR. FLEISCHER:  Two senators.

Q    Okay, I'm sorry.  (Laughter.)  My mistake.  But anyway, is he going to be talking up this proposal about promoting marriage in the welfare proposals?

MR. FLEISCHER:  I'd be surprised --

Q    How can the government promote marriage, and is there an example of a state that has had some kind of program that has really worked?

MR. FLEISCHER:  One, I'd be surprised if that issue comes up.  It's a separate topic.  The goal is the same, which is to help people who have been left behind.  This is a different way to do it.  You're talking about the reauthorization of the 1996 welfare law, which is up for this year.  I don't think that's going to come up this afternoon.

But the authors of that law, which passed with huge, overwhelming bipartisan votes in 1996 and was signed into law by President Clinton, of course, were concerned about promoting stable families and less reliance on welfare through increases     -- through marriage.  The tax act, interestingly, that the President signed in June of this year, adjusted the income brackets for the earned income tax credit program, recognizing that low-income Americans suffered a marriage penalty, and that anything that discourages marriage -- whether it's through the tax code or through other social aspects of welfare laws -- needs to be addressed to give people encouragement to come together, not be driven apart.

Q    Ari, I have a couple more questions about this decision that you have yet to announce, whether or not you have anything to announce.  Should the Taliban prisoners, however you want to characterize them, unlawful combatants, whatever, be given full provision under the Geneva Convention, what changes for them?  Do they get stipends for cigarettes?  Do they only have to give name, rank and serial number?  Will they be released when cessation of hostilities is officially declared?  What changes if you fully apply the Geneva Convention to them?

MR. FLEISCHER:  One of the interesting issues of Article 4 of the Geneva Convention deals with if you were to deem somebody as a prisoner of war, the United States government would be obligated to pay them a monthly stipend.  The United States government would be obligated to give the al Qaeda or the Taliban detainees, the al Qaeda terrorists in Guantanamo musical instruments.  Those would be obligations imposed upon a government under the prisoner of war aspect of Article 4 of the Geneva Convention.

And that, as I mentioned, is a settled issue.  There is no dispute about it.  They are not, will not be considered prisoners of war, neither the al Qaeda or the Taliban.  That's an example.

Q    So you don't change their classification, but if you decide to fully apply the Geneva Convention to them, even though you don't declare them prisoners of war, what changes for them?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me -- once the decision is released, you will be informed of it fully.  I just -- I have to leave it at that.

Q    Ari, can we go back to the Middle East for just one second?  This morning you said the United States would continue to remain engaged with the Palestinian Authority.  By using that phrase, Palestinian Authority, rather than explicitly saying Chairman Arafat, were you trying to suggest that the United States may reach out to other officials there, or is it still the position now that the United States will keep engaged with Arafat himself?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Keep in mind, of course, I also indicated this morning

that Secretary Powell has talked with Chairman Arafat.  And so it remains at the same level that it's been.

Q    Tom Daschle has written a letter to the President asking his help in getting the House to pass the 13-week unemployment insurance extension that the Senate has just passed.  Daschle is saying that there are problems in the House.  How does the President feel about that?  Would he lend a hand?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, of course, the House has already passed a stimulus that includes the 13-week unemployment extension.  So the fastest way for Senator Daschle to have gotten a 13-week extension would have been to agree to what the House passed.  Of course, he has put the Senate on a different path, which is complicating matters.  But in all cases, the President will continue to work with both the House and the Senate, so that people who are unemployed can be given help.

But the President thinks that the Senate has missed a golden opportunity to help people so they can keep their jobs -- not only to help people who have lost their jobs, but what about helping people keep their jobs?  It's important not to turn your back on those people.  And the President was disappointed that the Senate failed to take action more broadly.

Q    Ari, Ankara's Turkish Daily News, and other Turkish newspapers, as well as Germany's -- have reported numbers of al Qaeda have arrived in the Gaza Strip and made contact with the Palestinian Authority.  And the President -- my question is, the President's State of the Union promised, we must pursue them wherever they are.  He makes no exception for the Gaza Strip, does he?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Les, as you know, the President has indicated that this is a war against terrorism wherever it is.  The United States will continue to work with various entities around the world to fight terrorism.

Q    Good.  (Laughter.)  The New York Times has editorially --

MR. FLEISCHER:  Can we stop at the good?

Q    No, no, I just want to say, I think that's wonderful.   The New York Times has editorially denounced Governor Jeb Bush because he supported the President at the University of South Florida for firing a professor who called for death to Israel, and who brought Islamic Jihad leaders on the campus.  Does the President support his brother's decision?

MR. FLEISCHER:  I have not followed that issue, Les, and so I really couldn't answer the question.

Q    Since it has been two weeks, could I -- just one last one?

MR. FLEISCHER:  No, you cannot.  You only get two today.  It's a strict policy.

Q    Can I go to my second one?

MR. FLEISCHER:  No, that would be three for you, and then I'd be in trouble with Les.

Q    My second one.

MR. FLEISCHER:  You had two.

Q    He had two.  If he has three, you'll be generous.

MR. FLEISCHER:  Has anybody not had one?

Q    On Arafat, the United States position on Arafat will always be relevant, not irrelevant, as the Israelis say, as long as he holds the title he now has?

MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, if you're asking about "always," I can't answer any question that begins with a premise about "always."  But the President's position is clear, and that is that the burden remains squarely upon Chairman Arafat to do more, because the President thinks he can do more.  And the President views this as a matter of importance, not only to help and protect innocents in Israel who are losing their lives, but also to protect the Palestinian people, who don't gain from the constant fighting, and who need leadership that concerns -- is concerned with protecting them, as well.  And this is where some new thinking is required by Chairman Arafat, so we can take action against those terrorists, who, after all, also present a real threat to his authority.

THE PRESS:  Thank you.

MR. FLEISCHER:  Thank you.

END                              1:28 P.M.  EST

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