For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 28, 2001
Press Briefing by
By Ari Fleischer
Upcoming Travel of the President..........................1
Milosovic/War Crimes Tribunal.......................4-5, 20
Middle East-Secretary Powell Comments.................5, 16
Surgeon General Report..................................5-6
Patients' Bill of Rights.................7-9, 11, 15, 17-23
House Vote on Mexican Trucks..............................9
July 4th Festivities at the White House..................11
Japanese Prime Minister Visit.........................16-17
Stem Cell Research.......................................17
Nevada Nuclear Test Site Review..........................18
the White House
Office of the
12:45 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Where is
everybody? We need to have a sale. I have no
personnel announcements today. But I would like to indicate
a little bit of travel to help you with your planning for next week.
On Wednesday, July 4, the President and Mrs.
Bush will travel to Philadelphia, where they will attend a neighborhood
block party and the President will make remarks at the Independence
National Historic Park before they return to Washington that
evening. And on Thursday next week, the President and Mrs.
Bush will depart for the weekend to Kennebunkport, Maine.
And with that, I will take your questions.
Q What role will the
White House play in assessing what the government's next steps should
be in the Microsoft case?
Q And what is the next
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me address
that as complete as I can, given the fact that this decision was just
handed down. The decision -- there are several things and
it's very complicated, but it remands some aspects of the lower case,
it vacates several aspects of the lower court case, it reverses several
aspects of the lower court case, it affirms some aspects, and then
there are additional reversals and additional remands in the
case. The Justice Department is going to review the
decision; they're studying it now. The President has been
informed, and it's a complicated legal case. The decision
was just handed down, so the President is going to be having further
discussions and will await the Justice Department review and study of a
decision that just came down in the last hour.
Q So the President is
going to have further discussions; that means he will have some role in
assessing what the government's next step is.
MR. FLEISCHER: This will be a
matter that is reviewed by the Department of Justice, and we'll have
further information for you after the Department of Justice completes
its review. As I said, the President was informed.
Q Is it pretty safe to
say that this Justice Department won't pursue this case with the same
zeal as the last administration?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's too
soon to make any conclusions, John. The matter was just
ruled upon in court, and it's fair to allow the Department of Justice
to review a very complicated legal decision.
Q Can you summarize,
though, the President's views about the case, going back to when he was
a candidate and how that informs what the direction will be now?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
been very clear on this all along, and he has said he does not comment
on matters that are currently before the court. So he has
not commented on this. And, again, it just took
place. The ruling just came out, and so I think your
questions are fair, but I think you just have to allow a little time to
go by so Justice Department can take a look at it.
Q Is it safe to say
that any decision that is made by the Justice Department, he will have
signed off on?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, I'll work with
you on the process as it develops here. But at this point, this is a
matter that Justice is studying.
Q And, in general, he
does not prefer litigation as a way of regulation?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
believes that people should work hard to enter into
agreements. And the President believes that there's too much
litigation in our society, generally speaking.
Q Ari, when you say the
President will discuss the ruling, who will he discuss it with?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President just
knows what happens. There are decisions that are
made. Again, Ron asked a similar question about what is the
process, and I think, again, the process begins with the Department of
Justice studying the case. And Justice needs to do that, and anything
that happens from there, I'll be happy to share with you.
Q The Justice
Department has just issued a statement saying that they are pleased
that the Court of Appeals found that Microsoft had engaged in illegal
MR. FLEISCHER: And then it says
they're studying the case. It was a two-sentence statement
and that's what they say. There's no difference between what
the White House thinks and Justice Department thinks. That
case was brought by the government.
Q Are you pleased that
the Court of Appeals did find Microsoft had engaged in illegal action?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a fair
statement. The White House concurs with it.
Q Any time line for the
Justice Department review, how long Justice will be reviewing this?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know.
Q Ari, do you think the
public can get a little bit more than the President, as a rule, thinks
there's too much litigation in our society? I mean, he now
presides over a Justice Department which, before he took office,
launched major litigation against this company. So, I mean,
to say that he's against litigation generally and thinks there's too
much in our society, can we get a little bit more?
MR. FLEISCHER: David, I will be
happy to share with you at the appropriate time any more that I
can. But this is a legal matter, it is pending, depending on
what action is taken. And the President's policy is not to
comment on pending legal matters of that nature.
Q Can you tell us why
the President is pleased that the court upheld the ruling that
Microsoft had engaged in unfair practices?
MR. FLEISCHER: This was a case that
was brought by the government and was continued by the Department of
Justice under his administration. And there are certain
aspects of it that upheld what the government was
doing. There are other aspects that did not. And
that's the view of the Department of Justice and the President
Q Does he concur with
the fact that -- does he believe that Microsoft has engaged in unfair
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, I've gone as
far as I'm going to go on that topic. And again, the matter is still
pending. There will be an appropriate time, but the case
needs to first be studied. The court ruling just came out,
and I know your organizations are studying it as well, in its
entirety. The Justice Department will do the same.
Q I'm not sure I'm
clear on what he's pleased about.
MR. FLEISCHER: The statement spoke
Q Well, not
really. That's why I'm asking.
MR. FLEISCHER: Because there were
certain aspects of the government's case that were upheld.
Q Right. So
which aspects is he happy about? Are you --
MR. FLEISCHER: The aspects that
were upheld, as the Justice Department statement indicated.
Q Is there any reason,
Ari, why you're hesitant --
Q There's a report that
Milosevic has been handed over to a War Crimes Tribunal
official. Are you aware of this? Do you know
anything about this?
MR. FLEISCHER: I am not aware of
that in specificity.
Q On the Milosevic
report, too, you're not aware -- had you heard anything to believe that
he was going to be turned over to investigators today?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think if events on
the ground develop, you will be informed. And the position
of the United States has been clear all along, that it's important for
the government of Yugoslavia to cooperate fully with the international
criminal tribunal in the Hague.
Q If he is turned over
-- and I know the U.S. is sending a delegation to that Donors
Conference -- but if he is turned over to the Hague, would the U.S.
then go ahead and support funds going to Yugoslavia, or we'd still want
to see more action done?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is a
delegation going over, and the position of the United States government
is that are aid is important, that we're participating in the
conference, and we're pleased with the actions that Yugoslavia has
taken to date. But it's also important for the government of
Yugoslavia to cooperate fully with the investigations.
Q Today Secretary of
State Powell endorsed a proposal by Arafat for outside monitors to
supervise the cease-fire. Does the President agree with that
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not quite
what Secretary Powell said. Reading from a transcript of
what he said, the Secretary said -- and I quote -- "I think there is a
clear understanding of the need for some kind of monitoring observer
function performed by some group." That is not, as you put
it, an endorsement of what the Palestinians have said. That
is a restatement of longstanding United States policy. There
is no change in the United States position. The Secretary's
language involving -- and I quote again -- "some kind of monitoring
observer function," that stems back to the Wye Accords. And
there's no change. Both parties would have to agree to what that
monitoring function would be. And that's what the Secretary
Q How does some kind of
monitoring observer function differ from what Arafat is proposing?
MR. FLEISCHER: He's proposed a very
specific international force. That's not what the Secretary
said. And again, what the Secretary said goes back to the
Wye Accords. That is no change in the United States
Q What is the United
States position on Arafat's specific proposal for an international --
MR. FLEISCHER: Any such proposal
would have to be agreed to by both sides.
Q Ari, the Surgeon
General released this morning a report on healthy sexual behavior,
promoting healthy sexual behavior. Did the President see
this report before it was released to us today, and did he have any
input or influence either directly on the report or through Secretary
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this report
was commissioned by the previous administration. It was
released today by an appointment of the previous
President. And I think you can anticipate, if you haven't
gotten already, that Secretary Tommy Thompson will have a statement
Q Does the President
agree that there's, what Surgeon General Satcher said, that this
country is suffering from a conspiracy of silence around communicating
to children and educators and physicians about sexual issues, and that
we should be supporting from the top a national open dialogue on
sexuality to prevent the spread of AIDS and other STDs?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think Secretary
Thompson is going to get into that in greater
specificity. The President is very concerned about the
problem of AIDS in the United States and around the
world. That is a topic that you know he brings up very
frequently in his meetings with foreign leaders and it's a problem that
he has identified the United States needs to take the lead in, in
helping the world to find a solution and a cure to AIDS. The
President's overall approach on these matters focuses on abstinence,
abstinence education. And that's something the President has
spoken about a great deal in the past.
Q Did the White House
see the House vote against the President's drilling proposals as a
setback for the overall energy policy?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, first of all,
I want to stress one thing. I saw some press reports about
the Great Lakes and there was some type of implication that the House
vote on the Great Lakes had something to do with what the President
proposed. The President has proposed nothing on the Great
Q Last week's votes on
ANWR and --
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. Let
me get to that. There is nothing in the President's energy
plan that deals with the Great Lakes. That's a state
matter. And so I just want to make sure that that point is clear.
The President thinks it's very important that
we have an approach that focuses on conservation. As he
indicated this morning in his event at the Department of Energy and the
actions he announced today to help save electricity and to conserve
here in the White House and across the country through changing
appliances so they can be both convenient and energy efficient.
The President also believes it's important to
reduce our reliance on foreign supplies of energy. And he is
cautious about any actions the Congress would take that would increase
American reliance on unstable foreign supplies of oil.
He does worry that we are a country that seems
to lurch from energy crisis to energy crisis. And even
though there are some encouraging signs -- a new power plant went on in
California -- the margin of error in California is far too small for
anyone to rejoice. There are still energy problems in this
nation and the President does not believe that we can be a nation that
lurches month to month from crisis to crisis.
The American people would like the government
and Democrats and Republicans alike to focus on comprehensive
fundamental energy fixes so we can reduce our reliance on foreign
supplies, once and for all.
Q Ari, on patents' bill
of rights, why is the President calling some additional House members
to the White House today? Is he feeling the pressure to make
some headway here when he's got an uphill fight even in the House,
where he's got a dog in the fight with the bill he's backing?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President hopes
that everybody gets the message that we're all in this together and
that it's terribly important to give patients the protections they
need. And that means there has to be a willingness in the
Congress to compromise. And if you take a look at the votes
that have taken place in the Senate, you see there is not much of a
willingness to compromise. And the President thinks to get patients
those protections, it is vital for the Congress, the Senate and the
House to put progress before politics. And the House has
shown much more of an inclination to work in a manner that can get a
bill that can get signed into law. And he'll continue his
efforts to reach out to senators and to House members, Democrat and
Republicans alike, so that a patients' bill of rights can be signed
Q Does he feel,
therefore, that he's losing some ground on this? As you say,
there's not much willingness to compromise, apparently, in the
Senate. And is that a veiled veto threat?
MR. FLEISCHER: He doesn't look at
it as if he's losing ground or if somebody else is losing or gaining
ground. He views it as, will patients get the protections
they need in their dealings with HMOs? Will people be able
to keep their health insurance as a result of the legislation that the
Congress proposes, or will that legislation result in such increased
liability expenses that people are unable to get their insurance
through their employers anymore. That's the President's focus, and
that's what he feels strongly about.
Q So his principles are
losing ground on this.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we'll have to
see what the ultimate outcome is. The Senate still has some
important amendments ahead of it, and the President hopes that the
Senate will work with him, and not just try to work in a fashion that
puts politics before progress.
Q And that's what
they're doing in the Senate, you believe?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has a
lot of concerns about that. And I said it yesterday, that
the President hopes that the Senate will not put politics before
progress. This President hopes that the Senate will show a
willingness to compromise. The President hopes that the
Senate is not engaged in partisan activity that will result in people
being denied the patient protections they need, and employers having to
cut off the insurance to their employees because they can't afford the
higher liability costs of the Senate legislation.
Q You said the Senate
is not willing to compromise. But what about this
Snowe-DeWine compromise which would limit how much employers would be
held accountable, especially if they did not have any role in health
care decisions. They wouldn't be --
MR. FLEISCHER: It would be an
interesting reflection on the Senate if that was the one and the only
amendment that the Senate agreed to. The President thinks
that that is a helpful step, one of several steps that need to be taken
in the right direction. But if that's the only step that the
Senate takes in that right direction, than it's clear that the Senate
is not interested in a bill that can be signed into law; the Senate is
more interested in putting politics before progress.
Q Is it safe to say
that he's increasingly pessimistic that he'll get a bill out of the
Senate that he could support?
MR. FLEISCHER: The ultimate outcome
gets determined often by the conference committees. So I
think it's important and the President believes that it's important to
continue to work with the House of Representatives, to continue to work
with the Senate, to see if the Senate makes any changes here in the
last few days of the debate on the bill, potentially.
But I think it's always important to give
Congress time to work things out. It's always important for Congress
to get to conference and then, often in conference, reasonable members
of both the House and Senate are willing to work to compromise, because
then they realize that they will have a chance to either get something
done for the American people or engage in a political activity that
contains a poison pill that they know will not get signed into law.
Why would the Congress want to engage in a
political activity to pass something they know would not be signed into
law, when it is within their reach to pass patient protections that
they know will get signed?
Q This is in the Senate
itself, though, just without the conference committee. I
mean, the Senate -- is he pessimistic that he is going to get a bill
out of the Senate that he could sign?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he is
monitoring it and we'll just have to see where the votes are.
Q Ari, has the
President spoken to President Fox since the vote in the
House? Does he believe this will create -- this vote will
create friction between both countries?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
not spoken with President Fox. But there is no question that
the vote in the House will create frictions. There are also
signs of the friction that will be created. We already have
Mexico saying that they are going to deny access to American trucks in
That vote in the House not only is unfair to
our neighbors to the south, it's not consistent with safety standards,
because they didn't approve the inspectors that the President wanted to
approve. But that vote in the House also hurts American
truckers because it hurts the ability of American truckers to carry on
their livelihood south of the border. And it's not
consistent with NAFTA.
Q Ari, I couple seconds
ago, you said that the President thinks that we're a country that
lurches from one energy crisis to another. How does he
square that belief with the statement made yesterday by a BP-AMOCO
executive that the world is awash in oil, there is no oil crisis, there
is no energy crisis, and the idea that this really seems to be a
problem of regulation rather than resource?
MR. FLEISCHER: If that's the case,
why then did the previous administration tap the Strategic Petroleum
Reserve in October of 2000? Why did prices spike up the way
they did as a result of regional differences, where our electricity
could not be transmitted from one part of the nation to the next. We
are a nation that is increasingly consuming energy, as a result of the
strength of the Internet economy, and that trend is foreseen to
continue well into the future.
And the President believes very strongly that
the best way to address it is in a comprehensive, fundamental way that
solves this problem once and for all, so the American people do not
have to lurch from crisis to crisis. And that solution,
which the President is calling on the Congress to pass, and the
President has invited Democrats and Republicans from the Congress to
join him here at the White House today, depends on both conservation
and increased exploration.
Q But Ari, given that
the energy situation in California looks to be improving, that gas
prices look to be coming down, politically, is there just less
MR. FLEISCHER: Absolutely
not. Absolutely not. Because one power plant went
onto line is not a reason to think that the nation or California are
out of the woods. It's important to bring additional power
plants onto line. But it's an excuse to lurch from one
crisis to the next. If policymakers relax, this nation still
has fundamental energy imbalances that can only be addressed, in the
President's opinion, through greater conservation and through increased
exploration and through fixing America's infrastructure.
And in all cases, no matter what happens in
California this summer, our nation remains overly dependant on foreign
supplies of oil and energy. And that is never in the
interest of the American consumer, or the American energy industry, or
the American user of energy.
Q A few times today
you're putting conservation first in the list of things that needs to
be done. That's a change for the
administration. Is it an acknowledgement that you did not
win the American people to your plan to begin with, because you
overemphasized production, and now you're trying to catch up --
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, I was just
explaining it in the order in which the energy plan that the President
proposed two months ago explained it. The first item in
there was conservation.
Q But, Ari, just for
the record, you talked this morning on the attendance of the 4th of
July festival here at the White House, and talked about how it would be
senior officials, but it would be on a rotating basis. Could
you tell us why it wasn't done by an alphabetical -- on an alphabetical
basis, so perhaps it would be more inclusive, and wouldn't seem so
MR. FLEISCHER: First of all, I
didn't say senior officials. I said I would try to get an
answer to everybody about exactly who was invited, and here's what it
is. The invitation -- first of all, the President is going
to welcome to the White House on July 4th thousands of people who work
for the government and their families, so they can have an enjoyable
July 4th, watching the fireworks.
In the past, there have been 11,000 people on
the lawn of the White House, and it was too many people to be able to
have any type of enjoyable event. So this year, and on a
rotating basis, everybody will be covered over the course of the four
years, so the gates will be open to all White House employees and their
families. This year it's going to be employees of the
Residence; it's going to be groundskeepers; it's going to be political
appointees. They will be welcomed to the White
House. It's going to be about 3,000 or 4,000 people, as well
as their families. And then in subsequent years, that's
going to be expanded to other groups. So it rotates fairly
and squarely, so all can be invited.
And in the past, I want to remind you that
people showed up with tickets and were turned away at the
gate. And if you can imagine disappointing families, that's
the best way to do it. And the President wants to avoid that
Q I want to go back to
the patients' bill of rights. And really quickly, a second
question about energy. On patients' bill of rights, is there
a sense -- I'm listening very carefully to what you're saying, and I'm
getting the sense that the White House is beginning to get a little
concerned that the Senate's unwillingness to compromise on patients'
bill of rights is boxing you into a position where you're going to get
a bill you have to veto, and the Democrats in the Senate may be looking
for a political gain here rather than an actual bill.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
been unequivocal that he intends to protect patients, and that means
preventing any legislation from being signed into law if it means that
patients are going to lose their insurance.
In the meeting yesterday with House members,
the President saw that the likelihood of a patient dying in a hospital
is three times more likely for someone who does not have insurance than
for somebody who does. And that's the reason -- the reason
is because if you don't have insurance you wait too late to get
treatment, and too often it's too late. And the last thing
that a nation needs and our workers need is to lose health insurance as
a result of costs that get driven up by a bill that is written more at
the behest of trial lawyers, because there is so much that can be
agreed upon in the legislation that the Senate proposes.
The President agrees with 90 percent of what
the Senate is doing. So why can't the Senate send to the
President the 90 percent that everybody agrees on and get a bill signed
Q And on energy, we've
got members of the House and Senate committee to talk about
that. You've got an indication that the House will take this
up in July. Do you have any indication that the Senate is
willing to follow suit?
MR. FLEISCHER: With what the House
Q With the energy
MR. FLEISCHER: With energy
policy. Oh, well, the President certainly hopes
so. I think there's no question that if the Senate were to
abandon any approach to conservation, any approach to increased
exploration, to fixing America's aged infrastructure, the Senate, in
the middle of the summer, would be turning its back on people who are
paying sky-high prices for energy and who are still lurching from
crisis to crisis.
Q May I follow on
MR. FLEISCHER: Let's get some
people who haven't had questions.
Q Yes, but I think a
MR. FLEISCHER: You'll get to follow
Q It won't be a
Q Is the President
having trouble finding a new FBI director? It seems to be
taking much longer than many people anticipated.
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, it's
been a longstanding policy of the White House not to comment or
speculate on personnel.
Q Why do you think the
President is sagging in the polls? And is there any concern
over here about that? And in particular, the indications
that many average Americans don't think he shares their concerns.
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, let me say this
as clearly as I can. I just dismiss the premise of the
question. On the same day that a Reuters-AP poll came out,
for example, came out that showed the President has a 60-percent job
approval. The fact of the matter is that the President's numbers have
been solid and stable. And the President, having emerged
from a very close, one of the closest elections ever in the history of
the United States, his presidency has been very well-received by the
Depending on what poll you want to look at,
his job approval is anywhere between 50 percentage points and 60
percentage points. The fluctuation is
minuscule. Some days it goes up, some days it goes
down. But the President has emerged from one of the closest
elections in American history to have received solid support from the
American people. And the best evidence of that is the fact
that the President's agenda is moving forward on the Hill, and gone are
the days in Washington where people are talking about
gridlock. Instead, people are talking about getting things
And on the patients' bill of rights, if the
Senate is willing to pass and focus on the 90 percent where there is
agreement, there will be further reason for the American people to
receive everybody in this town well.
Q Senator Murkowski, as
you know, is announcing the President's energy package right around
this time, and he is supposed to be calling for a date certain that the
Senate should be introducing or pursuing this plan -- I presume in
markup. Does the White House agree that Senator Daschle
needs to set a date certain for advancing the energy package?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks
it will be very helpful for people who are paying sky-high bills for
gasoline, for electricity, and for people who worry about whether their
lights are going to go on or have additional blackouts, for the Senate
to set a date so that we know that an energy plan can and will be
received in the Senate. After all, if the House can do it,
the Senate can, too.
Q Also, why is it that
on a day when the President's own package is being advanced from the
congressional end that you haven't emphasized it from this
end? You're only emphasizing the energy conservation
component. Why didn't you promote the entire package today?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, actually, you're
about to get the President's package. It's being put together
now. You're going to get that today. The
President indicated that this morning. You're going to have a handout
Q One more follow-up on
John's question. On the BP study, the head of BP said in an
interview that it's not necessary to have additional gasoline
refineries, you can just expand existing ones. And I just
wondered if the White House had a response to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The issue deals with
both supply and with capacity, refinery capacity. Our
nation's refineries are running full out. And any way that
can expand them, whether it's an expansion of an existing refinery or
whether it's the building of new ones, will help create more supply,
which will get the price down for the consumers at the pump.
Q On the subject of
what's going on in the Senate, Republicans have been pretty direct in
criticizing the Democrats for holding up this legislation. Senator
Murkowski today said that if they continue to delay, they're
threatening the economic security of this country. Since
this is a long-term energy strategy, what does a delay of a few weeks
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'm sure that
Senator Murkowski is just thinking back to the things that were said
two months ago by Senator Daschle, when Senator Daschle indicated that
there is an urgent need to move on energy, that people are paying very
high prices. So there is a lot of agreement in the Senate
that there is an immediate short-term problem that needs to be
addressed, and that's why the President believes the Senate will act
within its responsibility.
Q But this plan doesn't
address the short-term problem.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it does, in
the fact that the longer you wait, the worse the problem
gets. And no long-term solution, a comprehensive solution
means the nation --
Q But indications are
the problem is getting better.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I differ with
that. Because one power plant went on in California, which
is very helpful, but more needs to be done.
Q I'm not talking about
power plants. The price of gasoline is going
down. The price of natural gas is coming down.
MR. FLEISCHER: It doesn't change
what happens at the refineries. It doesn't change what
happens with the infrastructure problems. And it, again,
leaves America vulnerable to lurching from crisis to
crisis. I mean, again, this happened in October last year,
to the point where the previous administration deemed it a national
emergency, and they tapped the Strategic Petroleum
Reserve. People who pay their high prices this winter,
people who worried about blackouts and brownouts -- do they want to
just be told the issue has gone away? I don't think they'll
Q It's no coincidence
that when they did it last fall it just happened to be in the middle of
a very tight election?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a
question you can address to the previous administration.
Q On the patients' bill
of rights, I'm wondering why the President believes that his views on
the issue reflect principle and those who support the Senate bill are
putting politics ahead of progress?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, surely --
Q Are they unprincipled
MR. FLEISCHER: Surely, you would
think that with all the votes in the Senate there would be room for
some Democrats to act in a bipartisan way and compromise with the
Republicans. But there's been scant evidence of that to
date. All the votes seem to be lopsided, almost party-line
votes, where very few Democrats are willing to cross
parties. The Democrats are voting on block. And that's a
sign that the Democrats are not willing to compromise, at a time when
to get patient protections to people, to get 90 percent of what
everybody agrees to, signed into law, there's a focus on voting on
block to create a bill that everyone knows has a poison pill, where 10
percent of the poison stands in the way of 90 percent of the remedy.
Q Ari, this
administration came into office talking about conservation as a
"personal virtue," that did not solve the country's energy problem.
There's been a pretty steady shift since then and the President's
message today certainly was very different. Is that shift a
reaction to the currents of public opinion, which indicate that people
are suspicious of --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President and
the Vice President have both been very clear from the beginning that no
one plan alone can solve the problem. Conservation alone can't solve
the problem, and exploration and development of energy resources alone
can't solve the problem. And energy policy to get the United
States fundamentally and long-term energy secure requires
both. And that's what the President stressed in his remarks
today, and that's what the Vice President has always stressed.
Q On outside monitors
in the Middle East, did the President discuss that with Prime Minister
MR. FLEISCHER: Not during the
portion of the meeting that I was in, and I'd have to check to see if
it came up at any other portion of the meeting.
Q Can you comment on
reports that the United States is pressuring Europe and Japan to ease
their monetary policy?
MR. FLEISCHER: When the Prime
Minister of Japan comes to the United States this weekend, the
President is looking forward to having a wide-ranging discussion with
him about a variety of topics. Those will include the
security alliance between the United States and Japan, and our
U.S.-Japanese alliance is a cornerstone of the peace and prosperity in
Beyond the security arrangements that they're
going to talk about, they will talk about important trade issues that
will -- the meeting will also give the President an opportunity to
listen to the Prime Minister discuss the structural reforms of the
Japanese economy. And the President will be curious and
attentive to the discussions that the Prime Minister has.
Q To follow on the Asia
security, why is all this changed from Europe to
Asia? Because the new military defense budget funds for the
transformation of the army --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's not a zero-sum
game. There's no shift in focus. The United
States enjoys an important security relationship with Japan.
There's a very clever man here with a sign
over his head that has his name. Bill.
you. I am new. That's the problem.
MR. FLEISCHER: Welcome, Bill.
you. Given the fact that researchers have discovered and
isolated stem cells of adult fatty tissue, and billions of stem cells
are discarded every day in umbilical blood in hospitals, and being that
the President is pro-life, will he resist efforts to continue creating
human embryos, robbing them of the stem cells and then destroying those
MR. FLEISCHER: Bill, this is an
issue that the President has been focused on and it's a very important
and sensitive matter because it involves many aspects of
life. And the President is focused on that. He is
well aware of the powerful research that can come from stem
cells. He also is cognizant of the fact that life should not
be destroyed to save or make another life. So this is an
issue that has very important matters on both sides, and the President
is focused on it now. He has not made a decision.
Q Ari, on patients'
bill of rights, why are you so enthusiastic about a conference
committee on that? Isn't that exactly where the last
patients' bill of rights died?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I didn't say I
was enthusiastic, I just pointed out the process of the Congress means
Q You said it was
important to get it to conference. That's what we've got to
do, and that's exactly where the last one was stuck for --
MR. FLEISCHER: But it is important
to get to conference. That's not an indication of enthusiasm
or lack of enthusiasm. That's a statement of how the
important process in the Congress works. And the fact of the
matter is that after the Senate passes something, it's important to
compare it to what the House passes than to see if reasonable-minded,
compromise-oriented members of the House and Senate would be willing to
work with the White House so patients could get their protections.
Q Well, is there
something different this year that is going to make a conference
committee any more successful this year than it was last year?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, President Bush
is in the White House and he is determined to bring parties together to
get something done, if the parties on the Hill will so oblige.
Q Well, President
Clinton said he was, as well, and also --
MR. FLEISCHER: You only get seven
today. We have to go to somebody who hasn't had one
Q Ari, how does the
President feel about the call by some in the Energy Department for a
review of the readiness of the Nevada Nuclear Test
Site? Does he feel that's needed?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a very
technical matter. It is not dealing with anything involving
a resumption of nuclear tests, if that's what you're
implying. It's a technical matter, dealing with preparation
for any potential -- other events. But it does not have
anything to do with the resumption of nuclear tests.
Q Does he agree with
the technical need for this review?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not a matter
I've spoken directly with the President about. That's a
matter that was addressed yesterday in testimony before the House.
Q Can you refresh our
memories then on where he stands on the moratorium?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
going to continue the moratorium.
Q What exactly is the
poison pill that you referred to in the Senate bill? Is it
employer liability, is it state versus federal, is it the cap on
MR. FLEISCHER: Ninety percent of
the Senate bill is in complete agreement with the President and he is
prepared to sign it into law now. And that 90 percent covers
patient protections. That's why it's called the patient bill
of rights. Those 90 percent include such things as allowing
a woman to go see her OB-GYN without first having to go through a
gatekeeper. It allows somebody to go to an emergency room
without having to dial an 800 number. And those are the
areas that average patients care most about.
There are unrelated provisions in there, 10
percent of the bill, that deals with liability issues. The
President believes people should have a right to go to
court. But then, the bill bogs down on a question of whether
it should be state court or federal court, whether there should be no
caps when people go to court, or whether the caps should be set at a
very high level of $5 million.
The President's concern about those provisions
is that they will lead to a denial of health insurance, where people
will lose their health insurance because of the excessive costs these
liability provisions would put into the health care
system. Why can't the Senate focus on what everybody agrees
to and send that to the President so the issue can be signed into
law? If they were to do that, they would put progress before
politics because then a bill could be signed into law. And
then if they want to have further discussion of the liability issues,
we can return to that subject.
Q Just to be clear, the
poison pills which you are identifying are the question of caps and the
question of suing in state versus federal?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's
correct. Those are several of the liability questions.
Q Ari, on energy, just
to follow up on the personal virtue question, are you saying that the
administration has not shifted at all its emphasis on conservation when
it comes to dealing with the energy situation?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the energy
report that the President proposed two months ago speaks for
itself. It began with energy -- it began with
conservation. There were some 105 recommendations in the
report and some 35 of them, if I recall, focused on conservation.
Q But just hearing the
President's remarks today, I mean, is there concern in this
administration that you have not been able to get your message out, or
that the American people may not like the message? But still
most polls -- I know you don't like to look at polls -- but more
Americans disapprove than approve of the President's handling of
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a
reflection of the fact that most Americans are dissatisfied with the
status of energy in this country, because they know we have a real
problem in this country. And the solution the American
people want is, one, that it's long-term, that it reduces our reliance
on foreign supplies of energy. So I think there is a real
reflection in the country that our energy status is weak, and that's
measured in those polls.
Q But those polls
disapprove, though -- more Americans disapprove than approve of the
President's handling of this problem, which most Americans want to be
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, given where
our nation is on energy, given the fact that people are paying $2 a
gallon for gasoline, and given the fact that people in California and
several other states are at risk of brownouts and blackouts, whoever
was in the White House right now would have similar ratings from the
American people because it's a reflection of how serious the energy
problem is in America. The difference is, President Bush has
a comprehensive, fundamental solution to reduce our reliance on foreign
oil, through conservation and through more exploration.
Q The Serbian
government just confirmed that Milosevic has been handed over to the
Hague. In light of that, do you have any comments on his --
MR. FLEISCHER: Any developments
that would take place during the course of this briefing I'm not going
to comment on until I've had a chance to review them.
Q Ari, what do you say,
what does the White House say, the President say, to Democratic
assertions that the Fletcher bill may include the words "state court"
in its language, that it gives patients the idea that they will be able
to take their claims to state court, but does more to keep people out
of state court than it does to let them get in?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President would
say that's the reason that he will support the bill.
Q Because it keeps
people out of state court?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because it keeps
people in federal courts, which is where justice will be adjudicated
far faster than in state court. And also where companies
will not deny insurance to their workers, as a result of having to
offer 50 different plans in 50 different states, as a result of putting
suits in state court, where you can have 50 different
rulings. It's very important --
Q So you agree then
that the Fletcher bill does more to keep people out of state court than
it does to let them get into state court?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Fletcher bill
focuses on keeping the cases in federal court, except in those
instances -- and this is where the Fletcher bill compromises -- in
which HMOs fail to honor their commitments to the independent review
organizations when a ruling is held against them.
Q You would agree with
the premise that the Fletcher bill does more to keep people out of
state court than it does to let them get into state court?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Fletcher bill is
designed to provide a remedy at the court that will adjudicate the
fastest, which is federal, and in a way that will help people so they
can keep their health insurance. That's why the President
supports it. The President wants the cases to be heard in
federal court because he thinks that's how people get to keep their
Again, the focus here is on how you get people
to keep their health insurance as we've given them the patient
protections. And in a system where health insurance is
offered to employees in 50 states, so that people can have the same
plan offered them in the 50 states, that incentive to give people
health insurance can unwind if all of a sudden people have to get 50
different plans offered in 50 different states, because 50 different
lawsuits can have 50 different impacts on what is allowable in
insurance and what is not. There is a uniformity and a
benefit to having a national standard when it comes to health
insurance. And putting court cases in state court threatens
that uniformity and, therefore, threatens the ability of people to have
Q On the hydrogen cars
the President saw today, miraculous devices, available -- the
technology is available today. The problem has always been
infrastructure. You can't get compressed hydrogen down at
your Exxon station. But the people who build these fuel-cell cars say
if there were incentives for energy companies to start doing that, that
we could see fuel-cell cars, clean technology on the roads very
soon. Is there anything in the President's plan that's going
to help that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's plan
proposes tax credits to help people purchase hybrid-fuel
vehicles. And the President believes that the market will
respond, just as the market has responded to natural gas vehicles, for
example. The more vehicles that get powered with natural gas, the more
gas stations respond and have pumps that pump natural
gas. The President believes very much that many of these
issues would be addressed by a continuous focus on technology.
The technology can make amazing changes in our
society. Just as energy efficiency as a result of technology
has saved the nation the construction of many power plants, it's made
the nation a much more energy-efficient country because of the
technological changes that have taken place.
Q Ari, about last
night, speaking of money issues, last night the Republicans raised over
$20 million at the fundraiser. Is that going to be happening
a lot more often now, with the President speaking at fundraisers and
raising that kind of money? And also, how will the
McCain-Feingold bill affect that, if it passes the House?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President will
continue to help elect people who believe in the same agenda that he
believes in, in improving education and solving America's energy
crisis, cutting taxes. And therefore, the President will
engage in all activities that he deems appropriate to help support such
candidates. The proceeds from the dinner last night go to
electing members of the House and members of the Senate who support
President Bush and his ideas. So it should be no surprise that the
President would lend his support to such an endeavor.
Q Are we going to see
that more often now, though? I mean, President Clinton was notorious
for having fundraisers all the time. So will President Bush
be doing the same thing?
MR. FLEISCHER: You'll be able to
judge that for yourself. The President's schedule is always
publicly available, and you'll be able to see.
Q Ari, if it appears
that the House and Senate will not be able to agree on patients' bill
of rights,over this 10 percent that you say is a poison pill, would the
President consider bypassing the normal legislative process and calling
for a summit?
MR. FLEISCHER: And going through
Q Calling for a
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh. I'm
not going to speculate on hypotheticals. The President's
going to continue to work with members Congress, Democrat and
Republican alike, to try to get it done.
Q He talked about the
unprecedented way to resolve things.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm just not going
to speculate about the process. The process is defined, and
the President's going to do his best to bring people
together. He hopes that people will be willing to work with
him, just as he's willing to work with them.
Q Ari, during the
energy speech, the President talks about the stale debate over drilling
for natural gas and hydrocarbons in Alaska. Was he signaling
that he wants to take drilling ANWR off the table, put it on the
sidelines, so the rest of the energy proposals can go forward?
MR. FLEISCHER: No.
Q Thank you.
Q Then what was he
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
Q Yes, can you follow
up on that? What did he mean by that statement?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President just
Q -- no follow-up --
MR. FLEISCHER: What was that?
Q You said thank
Q Is this a reversal of
Q I should not have cut
him off. (Laughter.) Can we get a replay on
that? What did he mean by that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President was
referring to the stale debate that suggests that we can't both conserve
and explore. That's what the -- that was the focus of the
President's remarks. THE
PRESS: Thank you again.
MR. FLEISCHER: You're really