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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 23, 2002
Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer
Aboard Air Force One
En route Trenton, New Jersey
9:42 A.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: The President this morning will be arriving into Trenton, where he will participate in a welcome event in New Jersey. And then he will depart the airport for the Sovereign Bank Arena, where he will hold a fundraiser for Doug Forrester that's expected to raise $1.5 million.
He will return to the White House where he will have a meeting the President of Kyrgyz Republic. And those are the events on the President's schedule today. That's what I have for you.
Q What about the German elections? Chancellor Schroeder won reelection after largely running against President Bush and his Iran policy.
MR. FLEISCHER: As is the tradition when an incumbent wins reelection the State Department puts -- and that's all I intend to say.
Q That sounds kind of chilly --
Q -- from Schroeder last Friday. Do you accept that as an apology for what happened?
MR. FLEISCHER: It really didn't read like an apology. It read more as an attempt at an explanation.
Q I'm sorry, it read more like what?
MR. FLEISCHER: An attempt at an explanation.
Q Everything you've said so far sounds awfully chilly. And I take it relations with the new Schroeder government are not going to be as war as relations with the old Schroeder government.
MR. FLEISCHER: The State Department is the appropriate agency that will issue the -- records.
Q The California legislature and Governor Gray Davis passed a stem cell bill directly contradicting President Bush's position. Do you intend to have that sort of overruled -- did the federal government --
MR. FLEISCHER: What you have to remember is President Bush, through his action in August 2001, created the guidelines for the first federal effort to fund stem cell research, to actually provide dollars for the purpose of stem cell research, where it was previously prohibited by the federal government.
The President placed a series of ethical requirements that would protect from abuses of stem cell research in the federal funds. That's a federal matter. I don't comment on state matters. The President has put protections in place that he thinks are appropriate on the federal level.
Q So you don't have any problem with the California law?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but as you know, the President has always said states have authority within their states. As a governor he did not appreciate the federal government stepping in, telling states what to do -- even when the President came to a different conclusion than the state would come to. So you need to see this in the broader context and the President's consistent approach to the federal government not dictating terms to states.
Q Except that on two occasions --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has been plainspoken on the issue of use of federal funds.
Q On physician-assisted suicide, the President did step in and have John Ashcroft prosecute -- I forget if it was Washington state or Oregon.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm going to have to take a look at that; I don't remember what you're talking about specifically. But there are a host of other issues where the President has a different position than states have acted -- Vermont, for example, is one case. So it's not unusual as a matter of principle for the President to remember what it was like to be a governor. He does not as President dictate to the states, but on the federal level, where federal funds are involved, there's no mistaking what the President thinks.
But, broadly, this also points to the need for the Senate to act on a ban on cloning. This can be a slippery slope and it's important for the Senate to act. The Senate has a cloning ban that the House passed in an overwhelming bipartisan vote -- more of its unfinished business.
Q -- about rewrite of the language in the congressional resolution to -- the passage about "restore peace and security to the region"?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, when we sent it up there, we sent it up there as a draft for the purpose of working closely with the Congress -- and of course we're amenable to working with the Congress on the language of the resolution. If the Congress decides that the boiler plate diplomatic language that's been contained in previous United Nations resolutions is not appropriate, we'll work with them on it.
But this is boiler plate language taken directly out of U.N. resolutions. If Congress decides what the U.N. has passed could have worldwide support, is that the way to go, we'll of course with the Congress on it. You know, we want to work with Congress, we will work with Congress and there's no harm done in fixing a problem that's not there.
Q And on the U.N. resolution, are you now persuaded that Russia will at least abstain from a veto of --
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll just continue to work the quiet diplomacy.
Q What's the status of that now, the U.N. resolution?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Secretary Powell is continuing to work it. I'll try to get an update on timetable. I need to get that, so if I something, I'll let you know.
Q Does the President think that Senator Torricelli should release his testimony -- Senate Ethics Committee?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not talked to him about that specifically; I don't know.
Q What does the President think about the various ethics problems Senator Torricelli is having?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks that New Jersey deserves better and he's pleased to be here today to support a good man -- Mr. Forrester.
Q What do you all see as Mr. Forrester's chances?
MR. FLEISCHER: Strong; this is one of the most hotly contested races in the country and he's running a good race. He's in sync with New Jersey and the President hopes that he'll be successful.
Let me say one thing, vis a vis the situation in Ramallah. The President views what Israel is doing now as unhelpful to the cause of bringing about reform in Palestinian institutions. The President's priority is peace. Peace has been secured by new Palestinian institutions. And what Israel is doing is running contrary to that cause. It is not helpful.
Q Are you communicating that as directly to them -- has the President called --
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. There are calls being made at high levels by others in the government.
Q Can you name anybody, like Powell or Condi Rice, or --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll just leave it at high levels, for now.
Q Have they spoken directly to Sharon?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, people have spoken directly with the Prime Minister.
Q Can you --
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't say who made the call. I said they've been made at high levels.
Q But two Prime Ministers have been directly --
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q Has the President made any calls today?
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't get a report that he did. I don't think he did, just looking at his schedule. But nobody gave me any reports. I'll verify.
Q Did he call Schroeder to congratulate him?
Q Has Powell or Dr. Rice or anybody -- have you all heard any reaction from Iraq's new announcement on Saturday about not wanting the new -- do you feel like your making progress as a result of that?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but I saw Iraq this morning said that another United Nations Security Council resolution would be wicked. How can Iraq pretend to be for unconditional inspections when they say the United Nations must do nothing, otherwise the world is wicked? The expressed opinions of the world would be wicked? I think once again that shows further Iraqi defiance of the United Nations Security Council. And the question that remains is, what path will the Security Council pursue.
Q Thank you.
(The following portion is on background)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I will say, on background, senior administration official on background, Chancellor Schroeder and his government have a lot of work to do.
Q Meaning to get relations back on course?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Chairman Schroeder and his government have a lot of work to do to improve relations which have been damaged between the governments. Relations between the people will be strong, because the American people and the German people have a 50 year history of working together. But at the governmental level, Chairman Schroeder and his government have a lot of work to do to repair the damage that he did by his excesses during the campaign.
Q Is there any official response to Schroeder's declaration?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: State Department will have it, State Department will have it.
Q No, no, -- his explanation letter, or his apology letter?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just gave it, I did that on the record, here.
END 9:51 am
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