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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 23, 2002

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:40 P.M. EDT

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. The President began his day early this morning with a phone call to Turkish President Sezer. The Presidents discussed a range of issues pertaining to the United States-Turkey strategic partnership, which stretches from the Balkans to the Caucuses, and the Middle East to Afghanistan. They discussed cooperation on Iraq. They agreed on the need for Iraq to comply fully with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. And they discussed other issues of mutual concern, including Cyprus, support for Turkey's progress toward EU ascension, and Turkey's strong record on economic reform.

Following his phone call to the Turkish President, the President had his intelligence briefing, an FBI briefing, and then he convened a meeting of the National Security Council. The President, earlier this morning, signed into law the Department of Defense appropriation bill, as well as the Military Construction appropriation bills. And the President is now having lunch with the Vice President. He will participate in a roundtable on children's online safety, and make remarks on children's online safety later this afternoon.

And that's my report on the President's day. I'm happy to take your questions.

Q Did the Turkish President express any concerns about the use of its airbase for a potential attack on Iraq?

MR. FLEISCHER: John, you would have to leave it up to the Turkish officials to characterize any remarks that the Turkish President made.

Q Ari, what happens if the Security Council fails to reach an agreement on a new resolution against Iraq?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let's see what happens at the United Nations. No one is going to know what the outcome of any vote at the United Nations Security Council will be until members of the Security Council raise their hand and vote. And there is movement in New York. We'll see ultimately where it takes us, but the diplomats are earning their salaries and are working very hard on the actual language now.

Q Do you all have any deadline? Are you looking at this week for the U.N. to either reach some consensus, or are you planning to take this resolution to the full council?

MR. FLEISCHER: They are hard at work in New York, and I think the best way to describe where they are is the end is coming into sight, but it's not here yet. They have some amount of time left, but not a lot. And the President knows that, and I think the U.N. knows that, too.

Q -- some amount of time left, what that means?

MR. FLEISCHER: I would not hazard a guess on it. The U.N. is a very deliberative body -- and this has probably been the most deliberative debate of the United Nations Security Council in the history of the United Nations. It's been a thoughtful debate, a deliberative debate and a lengthy debate. It's coming to an end, but it's not here yet.

Q And I have one more. Not to go over the language, what you're willing to accept or not, but are you all at the point where you feel like you've negotiated enough, that you've made enough compromises that your position is pretty set on what United States will support in a resolution?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think that everybody clearly understands that the American position is a position that's shared by many -- and we'll see if it's shared by all -- is that there must be a tough inspection regime, that there must be consequences if Saddam Hussein fails to honor the previous United Nations resolutions, and that there must be a finding that Saddam Hussein is in material breech, as the United Nations has previously found.

Q Is the U.S. calling a full Security Council meeting for this afternoon?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is movement and that is not ruled out. There very well may be additional action broadened to the E-10 beyond the P-5 -- in other words, to all 15 members of the Security Council. Any such announcement will come out of New York.

Q Does that mean that there has been or has not been agreement reached between the U.S. and France?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, while there is movement which is, in and of itself, a good thing, it is impossible to say whether or not movement will yield to agreement. The process is moving forward and we'll see ultimately if that process leads to agreement. It does not necessarily mean that everybody yet agrees. That's why I said that there is only one way to know if everybody agrees, and that's when they raise their hand.

Q And on that issue, when it goes to the full Security Council, the United States will need the votes of others outside of the Permanent Five. Mexico is one of those countries. Does the President expect Mexico to vote in favor of this? Has he talked to President Fox about this?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think it would be my role to describe how a sovereign nation will vote. Of course, the President hopes Mexico will support the American position. We'll find out.

Q Ari, if there's not an agreement among the P-5 on the language of a U.N. resolution, might the United States take it to the Elected 10 as a form of putting a leaver on some of the intransigent members of the P-5?

MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated there, there is movement and that's a very good possibility. That could clearly be one of the ways the movement is expressed. I think if that were to be the case you would hear from people in New York. And it's something you should keep your eye on.

Q Are we hearing from some of our allies on the E-10 that, let's get going on this, bring it to us, and we'll put the arm on France?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think people understand that after 11 years of Saddam Hussein defying the United Nations, the United Nations has to face up to its mission. And one way or another the United Nations is going to have to make a decision. They've been engaged in a very thoughtful and deliberative debate, and the debate is coming to a close. And the members of the Security Council feel the debate coming to a close, and I think they want to do their part to constructively engage on what type of closing this will be. The events are coming together.

Q Would the French not see this as ganging up and dig their heels in even further?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, it's not my place to characterize what other nations would think or not think. I have no reason to believe that would be accurate. Everybody understands that at a certain point, and the point is arriving, the United Nations Security Council has to make a decision.

Q Ari, if I can change the topic. We're heading into the two-week stretch prior to election day, and the President has a pretty grueling schedule. Can you talk a little bit about why he's chosen to go to these various states? And do you share the same optimism that was expressed by some of his political advisors about Republican gains in certain newspapers?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the history, of course, of midterm elections in the first year of a President is that there are massive setbacks for the party in power. That's a historical trend that has seldom been violated. It's a historical trend that is almost always honored. I think there have been only three occasions in modern times where an incumbent President's party has actually gained seats in the first midterm election. So history suggests that the incumbent party would have major losses.

These decisions will get made by the voters. We'll see ultimately what the voters do. The President does look forward to traveling on behalf of people who are running for office who would help the President get through his agenda of, for example, getting prescription drugs to senior citizens, providing fiscal restraint, improving education. We'll see ultimately what the outcome is. But the President will be traveling to a variety of districts where he may be able to make a difference.

Q Does he plan to go to Florida to help his brother?

MR. FLEISCHER: We'll keep you updated on the schedule as events develop. He certainly has been there many times before, and we'll keep you informed on all the scheduling events between now and the election.

Q The President has always prided himself in having a lot of patience. And you have told us from this podium that we're still within the time frame for a resolution at the U.N. But were the President's patience wearing a little thin yesterday when he said he doesn't want the U.N. to be like the League of Nations, or when he doesn't want it to be just a debating body?

MR. FLEISCHER: When the President says he doesn't want the U.N. to be like the League of Nations, it's not a sign of patience or impatience. It's a fact. And the United Nations has an important decision before it, and it's the decision that the President laid out on September 12th. And I think that this is why the United Nations Security Council has approached this issue with the care and the deliberation that it has.

The fact of the matter is, until the President went to New York and made the speech on September 12th, the United Nations was slumbering in terms of whether it would hold Iraq accountable for the resolutions that it previously passed. And that wasn't acceptable. And now the world is facing up to what is, or is not, acceptable, and we'll see.

Q On an unrelated subject, is the White House going to do something, is it involved in doing something about the hacking that took place yesterday on the Internet in which nine of the 13 world global services were affected?

MR. FLEISCHER: The cyber division of the FBI and the National Infrastructure Protection Center were aware of the attacks as they were being made because of the vigilance with which the federal government maintains the protections for the Internet and in which we work with the private sector on it. The attack Monday was unique in that it targeted the main servers of DNS's, but the method of the attack was nothing new. There was some degradation of service; however, nothing failed, and providers were able to mitigate the attacks very quickly.

The Cyber Security Office in both the FBI and the Department of Commerce have been working with private companies that work the Internet for a number of years now, and this has helped to raise the awareness in the private sector about steps that need to be taken to protect the Internet and to assist them with their protective measures. There's an investigation underway to determine who was responsible for the attacks.

Q Ari, does the President think this was an act of cyber terrorism?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'll get there.

Q If I can follow up on something you spoke about this morning. You gave us a pretty comprehensive list of how many different federal agencies are involved in the sniper investigation. I was wondering if you could go beyond that and give us an idea of whether we're talking about people who are in command positions, how many people we're talking about in field positions. Can you give us just a little more detail on what some of these folks are doing, specifically? Not specifically, but in general, beyond just the raw numbers?

MR. FLEISCHER: At the President's direction, the federal government is providing the manpower to catch the killer, and the resources to counsel and comfort the community. And there is a joint operation center that has been set up in Montgomery County that is staffed by representatives of multiple federal agencies, along with representatives of the local government, particularly any local government where a shooting took place.

And that leads to the best interaction among federal officials and local government officials, so they work shoulder-to-shoulder and side-by-side, so information can be shared, leads can be pursued, and resources can be brought to bear. That's what's happening on a 24-hour day, seven-day-a-week joint operation center.

Q A related follow-up. Almost predictably, some of the pundits and so-called experts on television are already questioning whether the President might want to reconsider this comprehensive fundraising tour that he has ahead of him simply because these attacks are happening in the backyard. Has there been any talk of that, and do you think that that criticism is fair in general?

MR. FLEISCHER: First of all, I haven't heard any such criticism. Maybe I pay less attention to the cable pundits. But at all times, what makes America free and strong is our democratic system. And at all times, everybody in both parties should participate in our democratic system; that's what sets America apart and that's what keeps us strong.

Q Is that fair or unfair?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think I've addressed it.

Q Ari, in connection with the President's forthcoming trip to Mexico, since we have pressured Israel to give part of the land it conquered in several defensive wars to the Palestinians, does it follow that we will now seriously consider returning the claimed -- homeland in the Southwest back to Mexico? Or does the President now agree with President Fox that we should have open borders?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm really not sure I follow the thread that connects those various arguments.

Q Well, I mean, if you give back all those states, that would be no problem. But in lieu of that -- President Fox believes in open borders. How does the President stand on these?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think there's no connection between the points of your question. But I would point out to you that, of course, with Israel, all the decisions that Israel made were made as a sovereign government, that Israel makes as a result of the decisions that Israel feels are in its best interest to pursue peace.

Q Michael Wellback (ph), the French novelist, who called Islam the most stupid religion, was acquitted in a Paris court of Muslim charges of inciting to hatred, at the same time that Oriana Falacci, the author of Rage and The Pride, which strongly criticizes Muslims, spoke in Washington last night despite death threats reported, page 1, of The Washington Times. And my question is, does the President condemn Wellback and Falacci?

MR. FLEISCHER: Les, I'll take a look at exactly what they said.


Q Thank you. On the sniper situation, does the administration have a policy about negotiating with terrorists, which is apparently what is going on here? And also are you considering a more visible presence such as mobilizing or asking the states to mobilize the National Guard?

MR. FLEISCHER: The law enforcement community is the proper place to ask any questions about what steps they are going to take. These decisions are not made by the White House. This is the law enforcement judgment about how to proceed. And the federal government has been providing many, many resources. National Guard issues, of course, are state issues in terms of that.

Q What about the issue of negotiating with terrorists?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, nobody is -- it's not clear who is responsible for this, if there is a connection or not a connection to terrorists. And as you're aware, some types of lines of communication have been opened. And law enforcement is pursuing it in their judgment because it's the proper and wise thing to do.

Q Ari, on the sniper case, I know we discussed this a bit this morning, but can you explain to us why you don't see a need for the FBI to completely take over this investigation as some has suggested?

MR. FLEISCHER: Because of the collaboration that currently exists between the local enforcement authorities and the federal government, because the cooperation has been strong. People are working together well and shoulder-to-shoulder on this. And the federal government has dedicated a tremendous number of resources to help the local government. It's a joint operation. It's a joint command. And that, in the judgment of the law enforcement experts, is the best way to proceed. These are judgments that are made by law enforcement experts.

Q I understand that -- you don't see that a unified command would be an improvement over judgment by committee, if you will, as how things are going now?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think no matter what, you're going to have a committee working together. You're going to have the myriad of agencies working to lend their expertise to it. For example, the federal government, through the FBI and the ATF, is doing all the significant lab work on this matter. The FBI has been coordinating all the evidence and all the forensics. But you want the local government, in whose jurisdiction the shootings took place, to also have an important role in this investigation. And that's what is being done.

Q But have there been discussions at the White House about the FBI taking over? I mean, have you discussed this in the last couple of days as things have looked so grim?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's just as I indicated -- it's a joint operation, a joint command.

Q Have you discussed that issue of possibly, there's a need for this now?

MR. FLEISCHER: I can only tell you what it is; it's a joint operation, a joint command that is --

Q You're not answering my question. Have you -- has there been discussions at the White House about the FBI --

MR. FLEISCHER: Elizabeth, there are none that I've been involved in, so I couldn't tell you if there's anything beyond that. And this is the status of it.

Q In the denial of service attacks, does the President view them as acts of cyber-terrorism? And can you tell us what the United States is doing to prevent future attacks from being successful?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, number one, as a result of the focus that has been made in both the private sector and in the federal government in recent years, there is an increase in security for the Internet. There is a recognition that the Internet is a vital part of our economy and the world's economy and has become part of the critical infrastructure that we, as a government, work with the private sector to keep protecting. And so many new protections have been put in place.

In terms of who may have done this attack -- that's why I mentioned to you that there is an investigation underway -- we don't know. We'll take a look to see if there are any signs of who it may or may not be. I'm not aware there's anything that would lead anybody to that direction. History has shown that many of these attacks actually come from the hacker community. But we're -- that's why an investigation is underway.

Did you have one yet, Ken?

Q No. Just to go a little further on Elizabeth's question, has a federal takeover or an FBI takeover been raised and rejected for the reasons that you outlined?

MR. FLEISCHER: I can only report to you the way it is. And as I said to Elizabeth, there's no conversations that I'm aware of that go beyond that.

Q You're not aware of anyone even raising the possibility of an FBI takeover?

MR. FLEISCHER: I can only tell you the federal government is deeply involved and involved in a way that the federal government has the lead on many of these issues already. And that's why I cited you the specifics about the lab work that is being done, the forensic work that's being done. But there's also a desire to work collaboratively and closely with the local community.

Q But to your knowledge, no one in the White House or the federal government has proposed going beyond --

MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, there's nothing that anybody has brought to my attention on that.

Q Ari, there is a French military cadet, a young cadet, who was a trained marksman, and he's trained on the French version of the M-16, which fires a .223 caliber bullet. He took leave to go to the Chicago area back in August. He's turned up missing and the French government says it has notified authorities, including the United States, that he is now deserted. He's of Yugoslav heritage. And has the President been made aware of this, and is there any evidence at all that this man could be the sniper?

MR. FLEISCHER: On anything that may or may not involve any particular theories or any particular leads, that's going to be a matter that the law enforcement community would have to address, not the White House; and that's something I think you'd need to bring to anybody's attention there. They will make their judgments about what type of information they think would be helpful to make public and to provide, as they are also working to make sure that they can catch this killer.

Q Has the President been briefed on this French --

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not -- I'm never at liberty to discuss with you any of the specifics of the President's briefings, either on intelligence or the FBI matters, no matter what their jurisdiction is.

MR. FLEISCHER: Are you saying that there's still a chance whoever is behind these attacks is linked to international terrorism? And I ask, because it seems like with this communication, we should have some light shed on that.

Q The answer remains what you've heard publicly. It was said on the Sunday shows, and we've been saying for quite a considerable period of time, we do not know. We have seen no evidence that would lead us to think that was the case. But the only way to know is to catch the killer, and we have not been able to catch the killer. And once he is caught, obviously we'll be able to know. We don't know, but there is no evidence that would point in that direction.

Q Ari, the full text of the U.N. resolution, as proposed by the U.S., was introduced yesterday morning to the P-5. Has the U.S. accepted any changes in that text since then?

MR. FLEISCHER: There are going to be continuing conversations, and they are really working now on the every word, every sentence, every paragraph level. The diplomats are earning their keep. They are doing what they should be doing for a living. Nobody has ruled out that there could be any changes. But the core of the resolution must be as I described it earlier in order for the U.N. to keep the peace, and that is that there must be material breach, there must be consequences, and there must be a tough inspection regime.

Q Consequences -- a mention of serious consequences, or consequences must be part of the language of resolution?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's been made very plain.

Q So you're saying the U.S. is willing to accept changes, but not to change those items you just mentioned?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me turn it around. Can you imagine after a decade of Saddam Hussein defying the United Nations and after having successfully thrown out the inspectors for four years, the United Nations message to Saddam Hussein is, you can continue to do it because there won't be consequences? That's rather hard to imagine now that the United Nations Security Council is hard at work at bringing this to a successful resolution.

Q Thank you. Ari, Pravda is reporting that Russia is considering carrying out a coup against Saddam Hussein to guarantee Russia first choice of lucrative oil contracts, after Saddam Hussein is deposed. Is the President aware of this? And will he work with Putin to aid any coup attempt?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's the first I've heard of the reports. I really can't evaluate it.

Q Has any local government jurisdiction asked the federal government to take any steps at all that might reassure citizens that the act of voting won't be potentially dangerous?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of any. I have not heard anything to that.

Q Going back to APEC and President Putin, could you just say -- the White House or administration officials have placed great store by the relationship between the President and Mr. Putin. What is significance, coming as it does amid these negotiations at the U.N., of the bilateral meeting with Mr. Putin on Saturday?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as a part of an increasingly stronger and stronger relationship between the United States and Russia, the agenda for the meeting with President Putin will be full. There is a lot to discuss. And that's going to include trade matters. After all, APEC remains a trade summit.

It will also include discussions about the situation on the Korean peninsula. I think Russian, itself, is very troubled by the recent developments. It will include, likely, a discussion about events in New York concerning the United Nations Security Council. And there very well could be other issues that come up, too, as they talk. The President and President Putin have a very good relationship and I know the President is looking forward to spending time with President Putin.

Q Ari, in the past year some evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell have made very disparaging comments about Islam, calling it a religion of violence, Mohammed is a terrorist. How come the President hasn't specifically repudiated these statements?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President has repudiated such statements every chance he can. And I think that's evidenced by the events that the President holds. When he holds the Iftar dinner here at the White House, when he commemorates important Muslim occasions, when he invites all the Muslim ambassadors to the White House, when he visits the Afghani embassy and he makes clear his position, the President has made perfectly plain that Islam is a religion of peace and that's what he believes.

Q So actions not words?

MR. FLEISCHER: You know, sometimes people make outlandish statements hoping that they can, like flypaper, draw other people down to their level and attract them into their issues the way they see them. And the President would rather elevate a nation and educate and work with a nation to make certain that we all understand that everybody in this country is here because of America's 200-year history of openness and tolerance. And that's why our country was founded. And that's what the President does. He sets his sights up high and doesn't drop them down low.

Q So you're saying Franklin and Falwell did that? They tried to lower the --

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry -- go ahead.

Q But Franklin Graham spoke at his inauguration.

MR. FLEISCHER: Go ahead.

Q Two questions. First, on the U.N. resolution, when he spoke to the General Assembly on September 12th, he said a resolution would be achieved in days and weeks, not months. And by that calculation, I guess we have until November 12th before we have to use months, plural. Is the President confident that a resolution satisfactory to the U.S. can be achieved by then? And does he, in fact, even intend to allow the debate to go that long?

Secondly, unrelated topic, on the sniper, putting aside the question of whether there should be a change in command-control structure, given the overwhelming number of tips -- local officials say they're overwhelmed by the amount of phone tips they're getting -- is the federal government considering boosting any assistance from federal officials to help handle phone calls, other tips that are coming in? Is there anything additional the federal government is planning on doing? Again, not speaking to the issue of command or control.

MR. FLEISCHER: Okay, let me walk you through what actions the federal government has taken. And much of it involves on the investigative side. But it also involves helping to pursue the leads and -- and doing a lot of the day-to-day work. As I mentioned, there is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week joint operation center that's been set up in Montgomery County. And the following federal agencies are involved, as I said, to try to catch the killer or provide comfort and counseling to the community.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has provided to the Sniper Task Force 454 agents; 59 inspectors, nine canine handlers, and 101 support staffers to do lab and computer and intelligence analyst work. The Customs Department has provided two A-Star helicopters, which are light-lift helicopters. And to support them, Customs has provided a 20-person flight team, as well as they have made a Blackhawk helicopter available.

The United States Secret Service has provided 50 special agents to the Sniper Task Force. The FBI has 600 personnel working on this matter. They are focused on profiling, on working on the leads, the Marshals -- the Federal Marshals are involved, as well as the Drug Enforcement Agency are involved. I said earlier that all significant laboratory work is being conducted at both the FBI and the ATF bureaus. And the FBI is coordinating all evidence and forensic work.

On the counseling side, which is also very important, the President, when he hears these reports, not only wants to know about what steps is the federal government taking to catch who is responsible, but he and Mrs. Bush, their hearts go out to the families and the communities who have to alter their way of life for children who can't go outside for their recess. These are things that the President and Mrs. Bush, as parents, have tremendous empathy with the community.

The Department of Education received a request from the state of Maryland school superintendent late yesterday afternoon for financial assistance in helping the schools obtain radio equipment for the school buses here: $250,000 has been identified to meet that request.

In addition, the Department of Education on the federal level has offered $250,000 to the Virginia superintendent for instruction and $100,000 to the D.C. schools superintendent. And that money would be left to these local jurisdictions to decide the best way it could be spent to meet their local needs. This could include security measures. It could include protective services, counseling, and other security issues.

The Department of Interior Park Police is cooperating and working with local enforcement. And the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, has been working to provide assistance in crisis response, training activities and risk communications to facilitate and coordinate a regional response to these attacks.

Also money has been made available through Department of Health and

Human Service to the local communities to address counseling issues to enhance hotline services, to provide public education. So the federal government is -- launched an all-out effort on both the counseling side and the catch side to try to bring this to a conclusion.

Q You didn't mention DOD and the surveillance --

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry. Thank you. And DOD, as I mentioned last week, has provided the air platforms to try to catch the killer.

Q So we're talking -- it's been about well over a thousand federal government personnel who are helping out here --

MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.

Q There's been no contemplation of doing any more? And also I had a question about --

MR. FLEISCHER: No, these are -- these decisions are reviewed every day by the appropriate agencies. And they make their judgments knowing that the President has urged every agency to devote all resources necessary to catch the killer.

Q After September 11th the President called up the National Guard to patrol airports, saying that it was -- for the feeling of the traveling public to be safer. With the severity of the warning that children are not safe, has the time come for the President -- or has anyone recommended to the President that he consider some kind of National Guard deployment for school areas around here?

MR. FLEISCHER: Ann, I will report each of the actions and the steps that have been taken. And in the event -- and as I mentioned, these things are reviewed on a daily basis. In the event any additional actions are taken, I will always do my best to report it.

Q Can you say whether that has been under consideration or whether the President would think this is a feeling of security on a par with the traveling public after September 11th?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think as has been pointed out, there are now more than 1,000 federal personnel that have been made available. And we'll continue to monitor it on a regular basis to determine every step possible that can be taken to help catch him.

Q Ari, just one extra, because you're going to be gone a long time.

MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, Les, I'll see you next week.


Q Mitch Daniels indicated today that he was -- the administration is willing to go higher than the SEC's current $568 million. Do you know how much higher?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated last week, we want to work with Congress on this matter. And the President places great priority on helping crack down on corporate corruption. The budget that the President did propose for the SEC is the largest increase in the recent history of the SEC. We want to work with the Congress and see exactly what the even higher level may or may not be. I think it's impossible to specify.

Q Is it the administration's policy that you would be willing to go more than $568 million if that's what's needed?

MR. FLEISCHER: We're going to continue to work with Congress to determine what the appropriate level is, and do it in a fiscally responsible way.

Q On appropriations, you got two bills signed today; 10 more. And Senator Lott said recently that the time may have come for the House and Senate to split the difference on the remaining bills. And I just wondered what the White House reaction to that was.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, two down, 11 to go. And we'll see. I think that nobody knows, given the fact that Congress has now decided that these decisions won't get made until a lame-duck session of the Congress takes place. Nobody knows what the ultimate outcome will be. There are many different factors that influence how productive lame-duck sessions are. And we'll have to wait and see what happens when they come back.

The President's position will remain unchanged, and that is, that it's important for Congress to fund the priorities the President has established, such as the increases for education, the increases for domestic homeland security, for bioterrorism, and the other items in the President's budget. He's gratified that they passed a defense appropriations bill. And then Congress has to adhere to the spending ceilings that have been set in the level of the House budget resolution.

Q Were you happy with defense spending?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President, as he indicated in his remarks in the Rose Garden, was happy with defense spending. He appreciates members of Congress from both parties doing their share to keep the country safe.

Q Ari, can I come back to the U.N. resolution one more time? The French have proposed to substantially soften much of the language in the U.S. version of the resolution, taking out the words, "material breach," removing references to previous U.N. resolution violations. What's the White House's position on that type of softening of the language?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we'll see. We'll see ultimately where this goes. They're talking, and that's important.

Q You have said in the past, when dealing with Congress, why would we agree to a resolution that's weaker than something that's already out there. Are you thinking along those lines with this?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we're going to wait and see. We'll see ultimately what the positions are of the various parties as they sit in earnest across a table from each other and talk.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.

END 2:06 P.M. EDT