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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 20, 2003
Press Gaggle with Ari Fleischer
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Kennesaw, Georgia
8:52 A.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning. Let us begin. I want to talk to you today about both the domestic agenda and foreign policy. Today marks the sixth event that the President has had to build support for his tax plan, as he announced earlier this year. He will meet with a group of Georgians to talk about their real-life economic situation, and then make remarks promoting his tax plan. The President today will also receive the endorsement of Democratic Senator Zell Miller for his tax plan, which starts to remind you a little bit of the pattern in 2001.
A new element in the President's remarks today will be an analysis of the Blue Chip Economic Forecast for this year. The Blue Chip Forecast, which projects growth at 3.3 percent, is predicated on Congress passing a significant tax reduction plan in 2003, with a substantial amount of tax relief effective in 2003. Of course, the retroactivity of the President's plan provides that boost to the economy.
If Congress were to fail to pass the President's plan, or fail to pass significant tax relief in 2003, the private sector forecasters would be forced to lower their estimates of growth for the economy, which means fewer jobs getting created. So the President will talk about that during his remarks today, as well.
The President will also talk about how the dividend plan helps promote better corporate governance. That's an important part of what happens when you create tax-free dividend distribution and stop the unfair double taxation on dividends. It has a very positive effect on getting better corporate behavior. And the President will discuss why that's the case.
Then the President will depart Georgia, head to the ranch in Texas. And then no events tomorrow until the arrival of President Aznar in the evening, which will be a closed press arrival. I will go the filing center tomorrow and do the typical gaggle at the file, time TBD.
Foreign policy: I want to bring something to your attention. We continue to be concerned about Iraqi defiance on the ground and their refusal to comply with the United Nations. Six days after Hans Blix requested Iraq provide a list of individuals who oversaw and were involved in the destruction of Iraq's biological chemical weapons, Iraq has provided the United Nations with nothing.
After Hans Blix went to New York and stated how he expected that Iraq would provide additional documentation showing that they indeed destroyed chemical and biological weapons, Iraq has provided the United Nations with nothing. Private interviews with inspectors have dried up. Iraq has insisted on a 48-hour advance notification of the U-2 flights, making U-2 spy missions, designed to determine what is happening, predictable; thereby diminishing the value of such flights, which, per 1441, are supposed to be unconditional rights to fly the U-2.
And, of course, Iraq has indicated that it will not destroy the LSUB-II missiles, which Hans Blix reported to the United Nations are, in fact, proscribed weapons. So the situation on the ground is not good, which is a cause for concern.
With that, I'm happy to take your questions.
Q Is the President going to mention Iraq or foreign policy in the speech at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: His speech will be primarily focused on the domestic agenda, but as typical, the President will discuss a wide range of issues, including Iraq.
Q Anything new on Turkey?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is nothing new to report on Turkey, except for the passage of time, and there is not a lot of time that can pass. This is not a bluff. The United States is preparing for war in case a decision is made to go to war. We have to deal with realities, and we will. And if basing is not allowed in Turkey, we have no choice, we will pursue other options.
Q Ari, on that point, Turkey is at least tangentially often referred to as a member of the coalition of the willing. Since their willingness seems to be predicated upon a great deal of money, are they really part of the coalition? And what does that say about other members of the coalition and any contributions they might be making, or are there quid pro quos involved in those relationships, as well?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Turkey, as a neighbor of Iraq, is in a different situation from many nations, and so there are understandable differences between Turkey and other nations. If Turkey does not make the decision to allow for the greater use of Turkey -- or the increased use of Turkey for this basing, that doesn't mean that Turkey is playing no role. Turkey is playing a role. Turkey has already allowed the United States to go into Turkey to upgrade some of the Air Force bases and other bases in the area. So Turkey is indeed playing a role and will continue to play a role in all cases. It's a question of how active a role will Turkey play.
Q Ari, how close to -- how far apart are the two countries? Is it just a matter of money, or is it something else? I mean, is this a gulf that can be breached?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's unclear. Either it will get -- either the gap will get closed, or it won't. It's not very complicated, it's just that simple. It can go either way.
Q Why is not clear? Is it not clear to Secretary Powell, who tried to intervene yesterday? I mean, where is the hang-up? Are there clear differences, and you just don't know how to bridge them, or you don't know what more Turkey wants?
MR. FLEISCHER: Turkey is seeking additional financial assistance.
Q Ari, are there any countries besides Britain now that we know are providing substantial financial or military assets in this coalition of the willing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the coalition of the willing includes, as you know, scores of nations -- or I should say, more than a score of nations. As is always our habit, we will allow for the various nations to describe their own roles. Obviously, the military roles would be principally led by the United States and Great Britain in all cases, given the size of the United States military, given the size of the United Kingdom's military. There are, indeed, other contributions that will be made by others in smaller quantities or qualities, given the size of their armed forces.
Such things as basing is crucial. Such things as overflight rights are crucial. These often are the differences between being able to quickly and immediately supply a large fighting force, and having a fighting force slowed down as a result of lack of supply or lack of overflight. But no one has ever overestimated the military armed forces combat abilities of other nations and the role they would play. So there will be differing contributions from differing nations. But we have never tried to suggest that any sizeable amount of combat forces would come from nations other than the United States, United Kingdom.
You've heard, and you're aware of Australia's contributions, for example, which are significant for Australia and are very helpful. That's an example.
Q -- reaction to the French getting a waiver from Mugabe to travel to this Africa summit in Paris? The administration says that Zimbabwe should be kept out of the commonwealth and the French got a waiver for Mugabe to come to Paris, despite the EU travel ban.
MR. FLEISCHER: It's the first I've heard about that, so let me take a look and we'll try to post. Good question. Very erudite.
Q What about the timing on the second resolution? You said yesterday, maybe this week or next week. Has it slipped a little bit since then?
MR. FLEISCHER: The timing remains a matter that we're in consultation with allies about.
Q Is next week still operable?
MR. FLEISCHER: Operable? Absolutely.
Q But not later than next week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Next week remains, as I indicated a couple days ago, this week or next -- that remains the phrase that I would employ.
Q That's for tabling a resolution, or for --
MR. FLEISCHER: Tabling.
Q There was a report in one of the papers this morning that you would probably wait until Blix reported again. Is that inaccurate?
MR. FLEISCHER: TBD. We'll see -- see the exact dates of Mr. Blix's report.
Q But that wouldn't be next week, would it? It's the 1st, not until Saturday.
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think it's known what the exact date of Mr. Blix's next report will be.
Q Can I ask a local Georgia question? The Governor of Georgia supports a referendum to bring back the Confederate flag to be Georgia's flag. Given the fact the President campaigned so hard for Governor Perdue, does the President have any feelings about this?
MR. FLEISCHER: He thinks it's a matter for the people of Georgia to decide.
Q Has he discussed this with Governor Perdue at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know.
Q Aren't the people of Georgia citizens of the United States, and doesn't the flag have greater ramifications and representations as a symbol than just as a state concern, matter? In terms of what the President's feelings are.
MR. FLEISCHER: As a matter of principle and practice, the President believes this is a matter for the people of Georgia to decide.
Q Another local question. I noticed in the roundtable it's supposed to be a group of representatives of small businesses. But there are three members from one company, two members from another company, and one member from a third. It doesn't seem like it's all that broad a representation.
MR. FLEISCHER: Sounds broad enough to me. Whether it's three people or six people.
Q Right. But you have three people from one company. Does he expect to get differing points of view from the same company?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. What you have are -- people don't have a point of view because they work for a company; they have a point of view because they're individuals. Companies employ people from a variety of backgrounds. Could be Democrats, Republicans, independents. What's different is their circumstances in life. What's the same is how all Americans, in the President's judgment, will benefit from the tax plan.
Q Ari, some African American leaders are saying black voters should boycott the Georgia referendum. Do you have any thoughts on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes it's a matter for the people of Georgia to decide.
Q So that's within their -- a reasonable thing for them to do?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President views this as he does state referenda, as matters for the people of the states to decide.
If there's nothing else, thank you.
END 9:04 A.M. EST