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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 11, 2003
Press Gaggle with Ari Fleischer Aboard Air Force One En Route Chicago, Illinois
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Chicago, Illinois
9:35 A.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: All right, let's begin. A typical day at the White House. Prior to departure, the President had his intelligence briefing and the FBI briefing. Then he will, in Chicago, have a visit on a roundtable with -- on Medicare with senior citizens and doctors. And then the President will make his remarks to the Illinois State Medical Society.
In his remarks, the President is going to talk about the importance of Congress finishing the job this year to get prescription drugs to seniors. He'll also talk about the importance of getting medical liability reforms enacted into law. He'll return to the White House, have some policy briefings, and then he'll also meet with the Secretary of State.
And then, tonight the President will host a dinner that follows Mrs. Bush's visit to the Holocaust Museum tonight. She's going to the Holocaust Museum tonight to preview the Anne Frank exhibit. And following that, the President will host a dinner at the White House for a group of distinguished guests, including a relative of Anne Frank's, to note this important exhibit. And of course, the President, having just returned from Auschwitz, will welcome this group to the White House.
Q -- meeting with Powell?
MR. FLEISCHER: Regular weekly meeting. Whatever is on their minds.
Q Is any of this dinner coverable?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a private dinner. I'm just informing you of it.
Q Who is the relative of Anne Frank?
MR. FLEISCHER: Mr. Bernd Elias. Mr. Elias is the lender to the Anne Frank exhibit and the first cousin -- first cousin of Anne Frank.
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
MR. FLEISCHER: It doesn't indicate whether he is Dutch or -- I don't have that. You may want to call the Holocaust Museum. They may have additional information on the background of those who lended these newly found documents, these wonderful new documents to the Holocaust Museum, which will go on display tomorrow.
Q Ari, I understand that Senator Roberts, Senator Warner and Porter Goss are having a press conference any minute now to discuss examining the evidence that the administration had before going to war with Iraq. Does the administration have any take on that, or are they going to cooperate in any way?
MR. FLEISCHER: The administration welcomes the review. It's important. We always work together with Congress on dealing with the threat of Iraqi possession of WMD and we will continue to work with Congress on the facts that led previous administrations, Democrats, Republicans alike, to know that he had WMD. This is an important part of Congress' oversight, and we welcome it.
Q Ari, can you comment on Hans Blix's charges now that he was the object of a smear campaign in the Pentagon, and that intelligence was misused?
MR. FLEISCHER: This administration is looking forward, not backward, when it comes to Mr. Blix.
Q Has the President done anything or plan to do anything to follow up his comments yesterday on the Middle East? Is he going to call Sharon or --
MR. FLEISCHER: There are ongoing conversations between administration officials and officials in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority. What the President wants to see happen next is for Israelis and the Palestinian Authority to get back to the business of peace and to get back to the business of the roundtable -- of the road map. That is where the President thinks the parties need to focus.
Q Were there new calls made today, new calls? You said, ongoing contacts; new calls made today?
MR. FLEISCHER: At the NSC level and State Department level?
Q Rice, Dr. Rice? Lower than that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't report all of her calls. If she did, I don't -- yesterday I know Condi called. I didn't ask her today, did you call?
Q There are contacts today?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q What is the President's reaction to Mr. Sharon's comments in the Israeli press this morning that if Mr. Abbas doesn't take care of it, he will?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President expressed his views yesterday.
Q No reaction to today's comments?
MR. FLEISCHER: What's important is for new thinking in the Middle East, and new thinking must be based on the notion that the only acceptable path ahead is the path laid out in the road map that builds trust, that's based on results, that focuses on the peacemaking responsibilities of both parties.
Indeed, Israel does have a right to defend itself. There have been terrorist attacks. This President is committed to Israel's security. But because this President is so committed to Israel's security, he is able to remind Israel that their responsibilities are to focus on the road map.
Q Is it fair to say that if Israel is allowed to defend themselves, does that include preemptive strikes against Hamas and others?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is focused on what has to happen here, today, based on the facts on the ground. I'm not going to anticipate or try to anticipate every conceivable security threat that Israel does, indeed, face. But we are dealing with a series of events that took place at a very important and sensitive moment in time, and that's where we are today.
Q Ari, what did you conclude from looking at that second attack yesterday? Was that a disregard of your earlier criticisms?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's still a matter that's being looked into.
Q Ari, on the continued phone calls on the NSC and the State level, would you characterize that as a continuation of the full-court press you talked about yesterday?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's a reminder to all parties about the importance of getting on track on the road map.
Q What does the President hope to accomplish with his Medicare speech today, and does he plan to do any phone calls to senators on the Finance Committee, which takes it up tomorrow?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the Finance Committee is moving forward nicely. And the President today will talk about the importance of getting this done. You know, I think when the President ran for President, he talked about the need to get prescription drugs to seniors as part of a modernized Medicare program. He never stopped keeping the focus on that important action. And what's happening in 2003 is very encouraging because it really appears that this year there is a will to get it done.
The President had a good meeting yesterday evening with the congressional Republicans, where they talked about Medicare and the prospects for getting it done, and it's a widely shared view that it can get done. The President wants to put the Medicare issue and the health care issue front and center on the national agenda because he thinks this year Democrats and Republicans can deliver.
Q -- Medicare will he talk about the health care issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: He'll talk about the needs of the uninsured. He'll talk about his initiative to help provide funding for more community health centers and migrant health centers to help those uninsured. He'll talk about medical liability reform. The President -- this President has a lot in his health care agenda, and interestingly, it's moving.
Q What about on Medicare? Will he talk about the Grassley-Baucus bill that's been working through the Finance Committee, or will he stick to sort of generalities today?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, he'll talk about the progress that's being made both in the House and the Senate.
Q But will he sort of endorse that bill or talk about it by name, or do anything to --
MR. FLEISCHER: You'll see. You'll hear him in a few hours.
Q Ari, did he discuss the child tax credit with Congressman DeLay yesterday?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think Congressman DeLay has a very good understanding of the President's position on this.
Q What was his reaction to DeLay saying it ain't going to happen?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President's views on this are well-known.
Q How were they imparted to Mr. DeLay? I mean -- he read it in the press, or is there some other way --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll just leave it out there, that they're well-known from a variety of different places.
Q Did they meet yesterday? Was he at the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, of course, he was.
Q Was that issue raised?
MR. FLEISCHER: A number of issues were raised, including overall taxes.
Q Is this issue one he's going to personally involve himself in, or is he going to kind of sit back and let events take their own course in the House?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has a tax relief agenda that you're very familiar with. There are many provisions on there, such as permanent child credit, things of that nature. What the President wants at the end of the day is to make sure that the Congress delivers, that action be taken, that child credits promised are child credits delivered.
Q Well, the refundable part wasn't part of the President's original package, though, was it?
MR. FLEISCHER: But as the President has made clear, had it been in the 2003 package as passed through the Senate originally, he would have been happy to sign it. And the President looks forward to signing it now.
All right, thank you, bearded ones. Thank you, non-bearded ones.
END 9:47 A.M. EDT