|Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings|
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 14, 2003
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
10:45 A.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon -- or good morning. Thank you, that's right. It's not our usual practice here to have these early briefings. Because of the President's meeting with the President of Poland, and then the lunch, I wanted to move it all up today. So what I'd like to do is give you a combination gaggle/briefing, so I'll get into in some length on the President's schedule today. A couple personnel announcements I typically do in the gaggle, and then we'll take your questions, as usual.
The President began this morning with his intelligence briefing, followed by an FBI briefing. He will meet shortly with the President of Poland in the Oval Office, to be followed by a lunch with the President of Poland. I anticipate that the topic of conversation will include the strength and the importance of the warm bilateral relationships that we share with Poland. I think there will be some discussion of trade, NATO expansion, as well as discussions of the ongoing efforts in the war against terror.
Later this afternoon, in the East Room -- that will be a pool event at the top in the Oval. In the East Room, the President will make remarks to welfare-to-work graduates. The President will congratulate the welfare-to-work graduates on their success, highlight the importance of work and family, and then announce his support for bipartisan congressional action on a welfare reform package that the President will announce today.
Fact sheets will be available to you to walk you through the specifics of what the President is proposing. And I want to describe to you, too, the women that the President is going to meet with today who are real success stories when it comes to helping people make it in America who were previously on welfare.
Pamela Hedrick will join the President. She was on public assistance for eight years when she lived in Columbus, Ohio's notorious public housing development, the Greenbriar Apartments complex, which was often there referred to as "Uzi Alley." She's a single mother on welfare. She was determined to help clean up her community, and she organized her neighborhood block watch.
She volunteered at the Greenbriar Enrichment Center, a faith-based program started in the public housing development where she lived, and she helped organize a woman's support group. The program offered training and volunteer work opportunities around the city. And she volunteered at the United Way and was also hired as a receptionist there. She eventually was hired by Ohio's First Lady Hope Taft, and has been working as an assistant in her office for the past two years.
She participated in the Habitat for Humanity program, and earned enough money to purchase a house, which she lives in with her husband, Martia Jackson, and their two children, Dante and Darius. She attends the Columbus Community College, with a major in political science. And she hopes one day to run for elected office.
Another person the President is going to be greeting as a sign of welfare success is Lorey Wilson, who grew up in a household that received welfare, and as a teenage mother she became welfare-dependent following high school graduation. She tried several times to find work, and was hired in 1989 by Cellular One. She had to leave her job and enroll in TANF and take care of health care needs of her children. And then she later found a new job at a private sector company, but was laid off when the factory she worked at shut down.
She turned to a community center in Indianapolis, where she received counseling and access to training and resources that helped improve her employability. And she eventually found a part-time job with a private company. And through a job-training program, she currently obtained a job as an office manager and has been working now full-time for a private sector company. She's used her success and her funds to purchase a home and her vehicle. And she's very proud, and she will report to the President that her two children are A students.
The reason I go through this at great length is because this is, to the President, the essence of what welfare reform is all about. It is not just a program involving government numbers and federal spending. It's how to improve the lives of some of our neediest fellow citizens. And it's something the President cares deeply about. And the President will look forward to being with these people this afternoon.
The personnel announcements -- and then I'll be happy to take your questions. Susan Neely, currently the communications director for the White House Office of Homeland Security, has been named Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for the Department of Homeland Security. Gordon Johndroe, who I know is familiar to many of you, will be joining the new Department of Homeland Security as Press Secretary.
And then some internal press housekeeping information for you -- Rachael Sunbarger will move to the Department of Homeland Security as Assistant Press Secretary. And she will be replaced here at the White House by Liz Donnan, who many of you know has been an intern here in the press office, who will come on board at the White House and work in our lower press office.
So congratulations to the people who are moving on from our press office, though I suspect they won't be far. And congratulations to the new people.
Q Somewhere out in Virginia, I understand.
MR. FLEISCHER: The gaggle is now over. This now can be an on-camera briefing.
Q Ari, what can you tell us about the diplomatic efforts going on with North Korea? The Russians and the Chinese, apparently, envoys are going to be acting in some fashion as an intermediary here?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we welcome this step. We think it's appropriate for these officials to talk. And we believe that the message that will be given has been very unified as far as our approach to North Korea. The world has condemned North Korea's actions in stepping out of its international obligations. And we anticipate that North Korea will hear that message.
Q Are we asking them to pass on any specific messages or offers?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's nothing that's been brought to my attention. I think that they, in their own rights, are going to express their thoughts about the situation. You've heard many of them yourself, when it comes to -- North Korea has put itself in a situation increasingly itself from the world, from Russia, from China, from South Korea, from Japan.
Q Is it a step toward a solution?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's up to North Korea. We'll find out. We hope so.
Q Any reaction to Blix's comments that he regards the January 27th report as simply another interim report, and that it will take him well into March to finish the inspections or to proceed to a point where he can make a so-called comprehensive report? Does this delay the timetable?
MR. FLEISCHER: From the beginning, the President has made very clear that the burden is on Saddam Hussein to comply and to disarm. Nothing has changed that. The burden remains with Saddam Hussein. The issue is not how long the inspections will last; the issue is whether Saddam Hussein this time is finally willing to disarm. He's been given a final chance to disarm. And, regrettably, we've seen no evidence that he has made the strategic choice to disarm and to come into compliance with the United Nations. We first saw this is in the Iraqi declaration, which the world agreed was inadequate, and Saddam has not complied and, therefore, time is running out.
Q So that means that you'll wait until the inspectors have finished their work?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated yesterday, the President has not put any specific date on how long he thinks the inspectors will do their job. But as I've made plain today and as the President has said repeatedly, Saddam Hussein is not disarming and, therefore, time is running out.
Q Well, what do you mean by "time is running out"? How long can you let 200,000 U.S. troops sit in the sand?
MR. FLEISCHER: The question is how long will it take for Saddam Hussein to come clean and to prove to the world that he's disarming.
Q Why do you go so far out of your way to say that the burden is not on the inspectors? I mean, does the President think that the inspectors are doing any good? Does he care what they say or what they conclude? Or does he simply believe either Saddam Hussein puts up or shuts up and the U.S. gets ready to go to war?
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course, the President thinks that they're doing good, and that's why he wanted them to go there. But the fact of the matter is if Saddam Hussein is hiding his weapons from them, it makes it very hard for them to fulfill their mission. And this is why the inspectors will be the first to tell you, if Iraq fails to cooperate, it makes their mission very, very difficult to prove whether Saddam Hussein does or does not have the so-called smoking gun. Because smoking guns, as we know, can be hidden.
Q Well, then, what is the United States doing specifically to help the do a good job? What's the evidence of that good job that they're doing, and what specifically is Saddam Hussein holding out on?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the question is Saddam Hussein has had a history of failing to cooperate with the inspectors. He has the ability and the means to hide the weapons that he has developed and that he is developing. I think the declaration that he made is proof positive that he has withheld information about his weapons of mass destruction program, programs that these previous inspectors said were there when they were forced out of the country in 1998. And now Saddam Hussein still has failed to account for the weapons that's there. And these are statements that come from Hans Blix and Dr. ElBaradei about what is -- the gaps that are in the declaration.
Q What help are giving, if we know about all this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as Dr. Blix said yesterday, that he is satisfied with the help that he has been getting from the United States government.
Q But Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei are the experts. They're the -- that's why they're there. They're the experts. They say they need months to get that proof positive, to get the answer to the question. Why does the President think he knows better?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President has made plain that the burden does not fall on the inspectors; the burden falls on Saddam Hussein to comply with the inspectors. And that's the judgment of the President, having judged Iraq's past behavior, their ability to fool the inspectors, to deceive the inspectors, to hide things from the inspectors, and Saddam Hussein's motives, moving forward, in terms of whether he has indeed changed and is at this time cooperating. The President has seen no proof that this time he is complying and willing to disarm.
Q But the inspectors aren't saying they're being fooled, they're being duped. Does the President think that he knows better than they do as to how effective their work can be?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the inspectors have raised a number of concerns that they have, and they have said they don't believe they're getting full cooperation and compliance from Saddam Hussein. They have found problems that they have cited. And the President is content to let them continue in their work, of course. And the President is looking forward to the January 27th date. He believes it will be an important date. And as I said yesterday, the President hasn't put a specific date on when he believes the inspections will come to some type of conclusion or not. But the President's message is clear to Saddam Hussein, that he needs to comply.
Q It's not up to the inspectors to judge how effective their own work is and can be; it's up to the President to say if their work is over --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think it's something that we're going to continue to work together on.
Q But it seems like you've already decided.
MR. FLEISCHER: Patsy.
Q Everything you say makes it suggest that you've already decided that the answer is that they haven't cooperated.
MR. FLEISCHER: But they haven't cooperated.
Q No matter what the inspectors say?
MR. FLEISCHER: Patsy.
Q No matter what.
Q If the North Koreans agreed to talk about rolling back their nuclear program, will the agreed framework still be on the table, including the completion of two nuclear reactors that the United States, Japan and South Korea promised to build?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's impossible to speculate about what may be the result, but the fact is it begins with North Korea dismantling its programs. I think nobody in the world wants to repeat the pattern where North Korea has the ability to put the world through blackmail once again. And the most effective way to maintain a denuclearized North Korea, Korean Peninsula, is by North Korea moving forward on that which they promised the world, which is that they would not have -- develop weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons, and that now, having seen their patterns of behavior, it's important for them to dismantle the programs that they have so the world doesn't have to go through this again.
Q So you haven't already decided to scrap the 1994 agreed framework and negotiate another agreement?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the 1994 agreed framework has been nullified as a result of North Korea's actions. As Secretary Powell made clear in an interview yesterday, it's a question of some type of new arrangement that would replace that.
Q Has the President now decided to file an amicus brief in the Michigan affirmative action case?
MR. FLEISCHER: The matter remains under review. The deadline is still Thursday. And it's something the President has continued to focus on. He focused on it again yesterday. He'll likely focus on it some more, and it remains a question of under review.
Q Has he instructed the Justice Department to draft a brief that he is considering?
MR. FLEISCHER: That would be answering the question about has the President made a decision about whether there would be or would not be a brief. You're saying, does this mean the administration will definitely get involved.
Q Has he asked them to draft one if he's considering whether to file?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I want to leave -- I think, at this point, the best thing is the deadline is Thursday and this would be a matter that, as the events get closer, they'll express themselves in some form or another.
Q Ari, yesterday Assistant Secretary of State Kelly said that if North Korea agrees to set aside its nuclear program in a verifiable way, there would be opportunities to discuss energy aid. Secretary Powell is quoted in that interview you just referred to as saying that it is possible down the road to discuss not a formal treaty probably, but some sort of language on a nonaggression agreement between the United States and North Korea. Is it not fair to describe these public comments by senior diplomats of the United States government as inducements to try to get North Korea to the table?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, given the fact that the administration has always said that North Korea knows what it needs to do -- it needs to come back into compliance, it needs to dismantle its programs -- that's the first step in anything that is potential one way or another. That's a sine qua non. It must happen. Without that happening, nothing else will flow. And that's as a result of the actions that North Korea has taken and put itself in this position.
So I don't think these can accurately be described as any type if inducement when the statement remains identical to what you've heard for weeks. North Korea has got to put itself back into compliance.
Q But there's public discussion of those possibilities now, in days after senior administration officials say there will be no incentives, no concessions, no quid pro quo. Is there not some inconsistency there?
MR. FLEISCHER: I fail to see it. If North Korea does what it promised to do, then, in effect, then we would be back at the relations with North Korea the way they were prior to them breaking their word. The important issue here is that North Korea take that action, and do so in a real way, in a verifiable way, and in a way that is dismantling of the facilities. Otherwise, the world can right away be in this same position again, where the world takes North Korea at its word, North Korea sees if it can get anything, and then North Korea plays this blackmail game again. This is a road the world has traveled down before, which is a dead-end road. And we have no interest in traveling back down that path.
Q Well, then, would it be fair to say there is little or no price to pay for North Korea for breaking its word, if, after a period of standoff and confrontation, if it says, oh, never mind, we can go back to the way things were the day before?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is a price to be paid by North Korea and the price has been that they're only hurting their own people. It's the people of --
Q They don't seem to care about that.
MR. FLEISCHER: -- it's the people of North Korea who suffer the most.
Q What's your understanding of what the Chinese and the Russians are offering in terms of mediating the dispute with North Korea? And do the talks replace the U.S. offer for technical talks at the United Nations?
MR. FLEISCHER: The ball remains in North Korea's court when it comes to talking with the United States. The statement that you've heard that came out saying the United States will talk to North Korea about them getting back into compliance remains. And we have not heard back from North Korea on that point.
As I indicated, we welcome any of the conversations our allies have with North Korea. And I think you have to allow the conversations to take place before you can determine anything that may be said about them. I'm not in a position to give you all the details of talks between two sovereign nations.
Q It's my understanding that what the Chinese are offering is to mediate talks between Washington and Pyongyang. Is that not the case?
MR. FLEISCHER: We've already made it plain that we're not looking to negotiate, that we're willing to talk to North Korea about their dismantling their programs.
Q One on Iraq and one on welfare reform. On Iraq, you say today that time is running out. But many of our allies are saying that the inspectors need more time. How is the White House going to manage that disconnect of expectations by the rest of the world?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the inspectors have more time. But time is running out. This is a question of not allowing Saddam Hussein to string the world along forever. And I don't think the two are at all hard to understand or incompatible.
Q But I think that some of our allies would consider into mid-March if that's what the inspectors feel they need some time, that that would not be stringing along the world forever.
MR. FLEISCHER: And I said yesterday the President has not put a specific date on this. And the President will, of course, continue to consult and talk with our allies and friends about the situation in Iraq, as he regularly does. But it's fair to say that, just like I said, time is running out.
Q On welfare reform -- the fact sheets and program he'll unveil today or talk about today, is it the same one that he did last summer? Or is there news in it?
MR. FLEISCHER: The House of Representatives took action last year on passage of welfare reform. This is one of the issues that did not come up in the Senate last year. And what the President will announce today will be what the House -- similar to what the House passed last year in terms of helping move people from welfare to work, strengthening the work requirements in the welfare law, and encouraging other programs in giving support to welfare families.
Q So he's not going to deviate from the guidelines and priorities he outlined?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. You'll see that on the fact sheet it's similar to that.
Q Ari, the last couple of weeks, there have been many issues of race that's hit the desk of the President. And in the midst of all of these controversies, many Americans still want to know what the President's philosophy is as it relates to civil rights.
MR. FLEISCHER: I've said this to you repeatedly. The President's philosophy when it relates to civil rights is the President believes it's important to give people every opportunity, to be sensitive to the needs of minorities in this country, and to be cognizant of the fact that all deserve an equal shot, and he wants to find a way to help people to make it in America. And the President through a variety of this policies has put programs forward to do just that: the education bill that the President has proposed; the economic recovery package the President has proposed; and specifically when it comes to issues of civil rights, the election reform legislation that the President signed is one of the most effective measures of helping improve civil rights in America. Many leading black organizations have cited that legislation as an important issue in civil rights. And the President was proud to sign it.
Q Will his decision for Thursday reflect what you're saying?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll ultimately find out.
Q Ari, just to clarify, there's been at least one report that I've seen that says the President has made a decision. You're clearly saying that's not true, he has not made a decision regarding admissions --
MR. FLEISCHER: That matter, as I indicated, remains under review. And I've seen numerous reports saying the President has made contradictory decisions. If you read different accounts in different papers, you see the President has decided different things. So I think it's fair to say people who have such reports don't have all the facts, because, obviously, if they did they couldn't report things that are contradictory.
Q Also to follow on something you said earlier, you said yesterday the President focused on this. Who is he working with on this matter?
MR. FLEISCHER: Just as I indicated yesterday, he is working with White House staff and Department of Justice.
Q Before going into any war, does the President feel, as a matter of policy, that it's his obligation to tell the American people how many casualties that they should expect?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know that there's any possibility of predicting how many casualties may be expected in the event the President makes a decision to go to war.
Q Shouldn't there be some type of discussion of that, though? Given that we've heard a lot about the risks of not acting, shouldn't there be some discussion of the risks of war, as well?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, it's a hypothetical about something that hasn't happened yet, and so I don't know how I can answer that other than to say that, as I said yesterday, in the event the President makes the determination that the best way to preserve the peace and to protect the American people is to move forward to disarm Saddam Hussein, he will, of course, and at some length, discuss this with the American people in great detail.
Q Ari, is the President disappointed with his former Treasury Secretary's public comments that he wouldn't have done the dividend tax cut? And secondly, does that make it more difficult for him to sell the tax cut, because we knew that it wasn't a secret that there was a difference of opinion?
And, on an unrelated matter, what does the President think about the major news organizations' decision to go to market-oriented policies for election result predictions?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, on the first question, it's no surprise and nothing new. It's been heard repeatedly both in public and in private. So there was nothing different here.
Q Does it make it more difficult to sell it in the closely divided Senate?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I don't think so. I think that's an opinion that the previous Treasury Secretary stated repeatedly, on the record and in private, so everybody was well aware of it.
On the second question about the decision, obviously, the 2000 election was an election in which the previous system broke down. And so I don't think, from the President's point of view, these are decisions that are being made by officials in the media about how best to be accurate. And the President welcomes any focus by the media on how best to be accurate.
Q Is the President considering any kind of a speech on affirmative action? Yesterday you talked about what an important issue it is in this case, it's risen to his attention, and has the impact to -- has the potential to impact a lot of Americans, black and white. Is it something that's important enough for him to -- aside from any legal brief -- to speak out on to the American people?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, as I indicated the deadline remains a Thursday deadline on the Michigan case that -- that's the deadline for whether or not the federal government will file a brief involving this case in any way. And the administration has a variety of different means to communicate whatever decision the President makes on this, and we'll let you know whatever that means will be.
Q The comparison I keep going back to is stem cell debate. A lot of people thought that no matter what he said he would offend half the population. They're saying the same thing about this. He seemed to portray the issue of stem cell research in a way that satisfied more than half the population. Is there a way to do that with affirmative action? Or is it such a polarizing issue that you're going to automatically --
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think the President approaches this as an issue on which it would offend half the population. I think the President looks at this as any great nation that wants to make the best of life for all Americans would look at this as an issue for how to unite our country around common ideals and common goals. Because as much as there can be differences when it comes to racial issues in America, in the President's judgment, there is so much more that unites us on racial issues than divides us. And that's the approach the President brings to this issue.
Q Ari, the framework agreement required that the plutonium facility at Yongbyon be frozen. But I think what you were saying today with the emphasis on dismantling is that the position has hardened, that now that facility must actually be destroyed. Is that correct?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated I think there is nobody who wants to repeat what we're going through now by allowing North Korea to do this once again to some future President. North Korea has a history of engaging in a blackmail playbook for the purpose of getting more out of its neighbors and other nations. And this is a tactic North Korea has used in the past. And it's something the President thinks, for the good of peace around the world, any actions taken by North Korea have to, this time, fundamentally represent a different way to go and assures the peace, so North Korea cannot later flip a switch and turn on nuclear weapons.
Q So it must be dismantled?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's what I said yesterday. That's correct
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, certainly we wouldn't want anything to be dismantled that could immediately be mantled.
Q And, Ari, does the same apply to the uranium enrichment centrifuge -- the same?
MR. FLEISCHER: The purpose is to make certain that North Korea comes into compliance with its international obligations not to produce nuclear weapons.
Q But in both cases, dismantlement is the standard?
MR. FLEISCHER: The principle is what I said, and dismantlement is the means.
Q You mentioned that the President, should he decide that war is the only option, would speak at length to the American people. Given a rising tide in Europe of anti-war sentiment, would he also feel the need to go to Europe and talk directly to allies who potentially we might need in that kind of war?
MR. FLEISCHER: I need not remind anybody in this room that when the President talks to the media, the media these days has ways of covering it around the world. So when the President -- if it reaches the point where the President makes the judgment that he will go to the American people, that, of course, will be a message heard around the world.
Q Ari, another question on the timing. How can there not be a timetable? How can time be running out if there's not a timetable? I don't get it.
MR. FLEISCHER: Because as you repeatedly asked me in the past, what exactly is the timetable? And I've said in the past, that's something Saddam Hussein will have to figure out.
Q Right, but now you say that time is running out.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q There's no timetable, but time is running out.
MR. FLEISCHER: I said there's no timetable for how long the inspectors have to be in their jobs with a specific date. Yesterday the questions were about 12-month specifics. And I said, I have not heard a specific timetable from the President, which is exactly how I said it yesterday. And I don't think it's -- I think it's perfectly consistent to say that while there's not a specific timetable, the President has made clear that time is running out. You're asking for a date, a month, a number of months, how much time, and that's an undefined matter. The President has simply said that time is running out.
Q Speaking of dates, you say now that January 27th is an important date. Has it taken on some new meaning as a milepost in this whole situation?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think that's consistent with what everybody in the government has been saying about January 27th, since January 27th became a well-known date late last year, per the U.N. resolutions.
Q Can I just go back to the question of public opinion? Yesterday you mentioned that the administration was going to send out senior members of the Cabinet to talk to the American people about the tax cut package. Is there a similar plan on Iraq, in terms of reaching out to people to explain to them the case that the U.S. is making and --
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated, that in the event that the President makes a determination that the best way to protect the peace is to disarm Saddam Hussein through a coalition of the willing, the President will, of course, make that case. But I don't want to get ahead of where the President is on this. But the President understands that that is a matter that the President of the United States has a singular responsibility to take on to communicate with the country and the world in the event he comes to that conclusion.
Q Do you think these polls out today that show that the President's personal approval rating has dropped into the 50s, and the disapproval --
MR. FLEISCHER: Did you say, polls, plural?
Q I said, poll.
MR. FLEISCHER: Plural?
MR. FLEISCHER: There you go.
Q But all I wanted to know is, does this tell us anything about the way in which the White House is communicating convinced the American people of the case against Iraq? Is this something that's of any concern to you?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I hardly think that at all. I think, frankly, that there are a number of news organizations, well represented in this room, who have shown the President to be at such a consistent high popularity level that you've stopped even reporting those facts to your readers or viewers. Actually, viewers. And so there's all kinds of numbers of polls out there.
Q Could you try to explain again to the world why North Korea is less of a threat than Iraq to the United States and to the --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President's judgment about why diplomacy can be successful in North Korea and why he is less optimistic that that is the case with Iraq is borne by the behavior of the leader of North Korea versus the leader of Iraq. Iraq has a recent history of acquiring weapons of mass destruction and then using them to kill its neighbors, to invade countries, to bring attacks to others -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel, Iran. There's virtually not a neighbor left for Iraq that they have not attacked in the past 10 to 15 years.
That is not the case with North Korea. You have to go back to the Korean War to find examples where North Korea has physically, actually launched military assaults against its neighbors or the region. And so the President does view the two as different levels of threat or risk. And those are the judgments the President makes. And I think those judgments are borne out by the successful way he's working with the allies around the Korean Peninsula.
Q On economics, Ari, once the Congress acts on the President's tax cut proposals, what are the economic indicators to watch over time to judge whether they're working or not?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there are a variety of factors that will influence that. I think the one that means much to the American people is unemployment, because the President cares very much about anybody who can't work. When you take a look at statistics, the most meaningful one in the lives of the American people is, do they hold a job, are they working, and is it a good paying job. And that's something the President is keenly interested in.
Having said that, the fact of the matter is, unemployment is typically a lagging indicator of growth. And so there are a variety of factors that also get looked at, which is, the growth of the economy as commonly expressed through GDP. GDP, as you know, is recovering from the recession, from the attack on our country. We've gone from a position of recession into low growth, and the President would like to make it into higher growth.
And actually, I should even hesitate before I call it low growth. I think 2002 is going to be low to moderate growth. And the President would like to push it to even higher levels of growth. But there are a number of other factors that go into it: low inflation; high productivity; low interest rates, which allow the American people to refinance their homes, which puts more money into their pockets, which has been happening to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars throughout the economy. All of those are causes for optimism about the state of the economy. But because of unemployment, the President wants to make sure that we're taking every step possible to help protect the economy and provide jobs for people.
Q So those numbers --
MR. FLEISCHER: We're going to have to call this off in just a minute or two because I've got to get in for the Poland meeting.
Q If those indicators -- if the numbers were all up, that's a fair -- that's a fair sign that the proposals of the President were working. If they're down, is it a fair sign that they failed?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that those are the leading factors that influence the economy. And I think there's no question that over time Presidents get judged by that and that's something this administration understands.
Q Ari, let me ask you a question on dates.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
END 11:14 A.M. EST