For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 29, 2001
Press Briefing by
By Ari Fleischer
Tax Cut Refund............................................2
Vice President/Health........................2-6, 13-14, 19
Elliot Abrams Appointment...............................3-4
Surgeon General Report.................................6-11
Environmental Groups/White House Web Site................11
Muslim Leader Ejected From White House................11-12
Japanese Prime Minister Visit.........................14-16
Patients' Bill of Rights..............................16-17
Milosevic/War Crimes Tribunal............................19
Gun Sales/Background Checks...........................19-20
the White House
Office of the Press Secretary
12:03 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good
afternoon. I have a personnel announcement and two
additional announcements to make. I'll be more than pleased
to take questions.
The President will appoint Secretary Norman
Mineta to be a member of the AmTrak Reform Board for a five-year
term. And the President also intends to nominate Randal
Quarles the be United States Executive Director of the International
Monetary Fund for a term of two years.
On two policy matters, the President is very
pleased to note that in a bipartisan action last night, the House
Judiciary Committee passed his faith-based initiative. The
President had, in the third week of office, identified this as one of
the major priorities of this administration as a way to get help to
millions of people who have been left behind in our society, including
15 million children who are at risk. And of that, there are
some 2 million children of prisoners that this program will help
through mentoring and through other programs.
As far as follow-up to this, the President
will, on Monday next week, meet with a group of national service
organizations, such as the Kiwanis Club, the Rotary Club, the Optimists
Club, where he will kick off a campaign to sign up mentors to help 1
million children receive additional helping hands in their young
On Wednesday, the President will travel to
Philadelphia, where he will meet with members of the Greater Exodus
Baptist Church to continue to talk about the power that his faith-based
initiative can bring to those who need help and have been left behind
in our society.
Secondly, on policy, this Sunday marks a very
important day. This Sunday the American people will begin to
pay lower taxes as a result of the tax cut that the President has --
that the President proposed and has been approved by the
Congress. On Sunday, people's paychecks will go up, they'll
have more money in their checks, because income tax rates will be
Already this year, the 15 percent rate has
been lowered to 10 percent, and all rates will come down beginning this
Sunday, meaning all people's paychecks will go up following this
period, this Sunday.
This is all part of four installments that
people will get in lower taxes, beginning this Sunday. The
other installments include 91 million checks that will be sent out to
taxpayers this year as a result of the retroactive lowering of tax
rates. And then beginning on January 1, there will be a
permanent change made so the 15 percent rate is 10 percent, and then
next April, parents with children will receive additional tax relief as
a result of the increase in the child credit.
There are four installments to the tax cut
over the next nine months, and the first one I'm pleased to report
begins this Sunday.
Q When do the checks go
out, Ari? Do you know when they go out?
MR. FLEISCHER: The checks will
begin going out sometime in late summer, early fall. They
will go out in order of people's Social Security numbers. So
if you want to know when you're going to get your check, you can take a
look at the last two digits of your Social Security
number. The lower your last two digits, the sooner you'll
get your check. So if your last two numbers end in 01,
you'll get a check most likely sometime late summer. And for
people whose numbers end around 99, they'll get it sometime this fall.
Q What about joint
filers, so there are two numbers?
MR. FLEISCHER: For the joint
filers, whoever the signatory is will have the Social Security number.
Q Ari, the White House
this morning made a decision that the Vice President's announcement of
his condition and his procedure tomorrow would be made very abruptly,
and it was an abrupt public announcement. What was the White
House concerned about in the way of public reaction, that it felt it
needed to take that step?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I differ with
your categorization of it being abruptly. I think the Vice
President, himself --
Q -- no notice --
MR. FLEISCHER: The Vice President,
himself, wanted to be able to share the information with the American
people, in his own way and in his own words. And I think
it's entirely appropriate to hear the message from the Vice
President. And he wanted to be the first voice on it, and I
think that's entirely appropriate.
Q Why would the
President send back to the NSC a man who admitted that he misled the
American people, Congress on the Iran Contra scandal, participated in a
cover-up and now he's supposed to be in charge of democracy and human
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, you're
referring to the appointment of Elliot Abrams to the staff of the
National Security Council. And the President believes that
Mr. Abrams is eminently qualified for that position. He
believes he's the best person to do the job and he has full faith in
Q How could he be the
best person with that record?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think you'll
also find, if you talk to several people on the Hill, that he enjoys
bipartisan support and that there is a recognition that he is an
outstanding diplomat, he has an outstanding record; and what he has
done as Assistant Secretary for International Organizations and Human
Rights at the State Department. For the last five years he
has been president of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy. And I
think that, again, if you talk to people on the Hill -- you'll always
find opposition to somebody, but I think you'll also find bipartisan
support for Mr. Abrams.
Q He still participated
in a cover-up against the American people.
Q Does the President
have an opinion about his past and how it impacts his ability to
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks
that's a matter of the past that was dealt with at the time, and that
Mr. Abrams is held in high regard by Democrats and Republicans, alike,
and that he'll do an outstanding job in this position.
Q Does the President
think that Mr. Abrams acted in a totally ethical way in the
past? Is that the way that White House officials should
conduct themselves now?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
believes that he is the best person for the job and he enjoys the
President's full support.
Q Did the President
appoint him to a National Security Council job which does not require
Senate confirmation, as opposed to a State Department job, because he
felt he was unconfirmable?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can only talk to
you about the job to which he has been appointed.
Q On the Vice President
again, many of people who get pacemakers implanted are warned to stay
away from cell phones, microwave ovens. Is the Vice
President -- you know, he's surrounded by people with sophisticated
communication devices, walkie-talkies, cellular phones. Has
any thought been given to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that
is a question you need to address to medical
personnel. Medical personnel are the ones who -- first of
all, the procedure and the tests will take place
tomorrow. And then if they proceed with the step of
installing a pacemaker, I think that's an appropriate question for
medical personnel. They understand the technology of
pacemakers better than I do.
Q Why is it not an
appropriate question for the White House, given the White House has
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the question
is, what are the medical implications of pacemakers.
Q I think the second
question might be, are you worried that the White House might have to
make some changes or arrangements in order to accommodate whatever
device that they may implant?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you should
allow the test to be performed tomorrow to see what the determination
is. And then I think that's a technology question that's
best addressed to medical personnel who understand the technological
implications of their recommendations to their patients.
Q Last year, the
President's father reached out to an independent heart specialist to
get an independent take on Vice President -- then Mr. Cheney's --
health and his capacity to do his job. Is the President
going to seek any extra input on this, any independent assessment for
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, this is a
question for the Vice President about who he entrusts his medical care
to. He has entrusted it to some of the nation's very best
doctors and physicians. The President has full faith that
Secretary Cheney knows how to take care of himself -- I'm sorry -- Vice
President Cheney knows how to take care of himself. And the
Vice President is in excellent medical hands.
Q Does the President
need to conduct his own independent assessment of this, given the
responsibilities that he asks --
MR. FLEISCHER: No. As I
indicated, the President has feel faith that the Vice President is well
aware of how to take care of himself. And as the Vice
President has said just hours ago from this podium, he has had heart
disease for years and years, it's not something new to him, and he's
been dealing with it very successfully, as a Secretary of Defense who
served during war time and as a Vice President.
more. There are now -- since he has joined the President's
team, he has had three episodes: one, a heart attack; one, a
repairing of a stent; and now this discovery of an
arrhythmia. After having had heart disease for 20 years,
with major heart attacks happening a long time ago, is that any
indication that the responsibilities he's been asked to undertake here
are affecting his health?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that very same
question was put to the Vice President on this very spot just hours
ago, and the Vice President answered it for himself. And he
said that this is a condition that he has lived with for many a year
and that he's going to undertake this test tomorrow, it's a routine
procedure and if all goes as planned, it will be an outpatient
procedure and he'll be back at work.
Q No second thoughts on
the part of the President?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q Did the President ask
that question? Did he pose that question to the Vice
MR. FLEISCHER: The question that
Q The one that I posed
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
discussed with the Vice President on Tuesday this week -- just as the
Vice President indicated already to you today -- that he asked
questions about how the Vice President was feeling, what the Vice
President was hearing from his doctors, what the recommendation
was. And the President said to the Vice President that he
thought he made a wise decision.
Q Did he ever, at any
point, bring up the question of whether, you know, he could continue in
MR. FLEISCHER: No. The
Vice President was asked that this morning. I mean, all these
questions were asked to the Vice President and you've heard his
Q Ari, on the Surgeon
General's report, has the President read the full report and, if not,
is he going to? And what is his reaction?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
not read the full report. The President understands the
report was issued by a Surgeon General that he did not appoint, a
Surgeon General who was appointed by the previous administration and --
Q What does that have
to do with him reading a report or not? I mean, he believes
in education, doesn't he?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, he believes in
Q He's a strong
advocate of education. Why wouldn't he read the report?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think I've
addressed the question.
Q No, you haven't.
MR. FLEISCHER: I was asked if he
read the report.
haven't. Why wouldn't he read it?
MR. FLEISCHER: He's aware of it.
Q What do you mean,
aware of it?
MR. FLEISCHER: He has many things
to read. He's aware of the report. He's aware of what the
Q Has anyone here read
it, Ari? Or can --
Q Well, what does he
think about it? Can we get back to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. The
domestic policy has looked at it.
Q Does the White House
have a view on whether it is helpful and advances the debate, or
whether its views are things the White House, itself, would endorse,
the administration would endorse -- since you're distancing yourself
from the Surgeon General?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
believes that everybody has a responsibility to behave in a fashion
that stresses individual responsibility, and that all individuals need
to act responsibly, they need to understand the consequences of the
choices they make.
The President believes, and the report does
have some indication on this, that the best way to prevent pregnancy,
the only sure-fire way is through abstinence. And that's the
best way to avert disease, as well.
Q But the thrust of the
report, Ari, is that abstinence education alone, as I understand it,
will not be successful in all cases and other things need to be tried,
as well, including more broad-ranging sex education --
MR. FLEISCHER: There is no
question, and the report gives some slight indication to this, that the
only method that is fail-proof for averting unwanted pregnancies is
Q Is the President
concerned about the spread of AIDS?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
very concerned about the spread of AIDS. And, as you know,
the President believes the nation and the world need to launch an
effort that focuses on both education and treatment.
Q I know, but the
Surgeon General raises this one indication of preventing the spread of
AIDS, the use of contraception.
MR. FLEISCHER: Right.
Q And is the White
House view that only abstinence should be followed to prevent the
spread of AIDS?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the
President's view on these matters is that these really are questions of
local control and local decisions, and it's not for the White House to
dictate those types of policies. And it's important to allow
local control, to allow people in various schools to make these
decisions. But the President continues to believe that
abstinence and abstinence education is the most effective way to
prevent AIDS, to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Q Local control,
though, means a public health hazard, and AIDS could be spread because
people are not taking precautions. Isn't the White House
concerned about that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The White House is
concerned about many things, but that also means that local control is
local control and it means that not everything gets dictated from the
Q Does that apply to
sex education? What is his view on sex education being
taught in schools?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a matter of
Q Is he for or against
MR. FLEISCHER: Is he for local
control? He's for local control.
Q Is he for or against
students being taught about sex at school?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a question of
local control, Ron.
Q And in February, you
have an opportunity to appoint a Surgeon General. Is it safe
to assume he will appoint his own Attorney General?
MR. FLEISCHER: That he will appoint
his own --
Q That would be a story
-- Surgeon General.
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course, the
President will appoint his own Surgeon General.
Q Is it possible that
it would be Satcher?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm just not going
to confirm, deny, speculate about anything involving
personnel. That's --
Q Can we assume,
though, that Satcher would not be reappointed?
MR. FLEISCHER: -- as you know, the
longstanding White House policy.
Q Can we assume, given
your remarks, that he will not be reappointed?
MR. FLEISCHER: You're trying to get
me to speculate about personnel, and as you know, that's something I
just choose not to do.
Q Well, you won't say
that the President has confidence in the Surgeon General today, is that
MR. FLEISCHER: It's not a question
Q What should we infer
from that? Can we just draw our own conclusion and you'd be
okay with that?
MR. FLEISCHER: That I don't
speculate about personnel.
Q Should he quit now?
Q No, no, because there
were other matters like earlier today you did express the President's
confidence in Elliot Abrams, but not the Surgeon General. So
what should we infer from the distinction?
MR. FLEISCHER: That Elliot Abrams
enjoys the confidence of the President.
Q And the fact that the
administration -- that you've emphasized that this administration did
not request this report, that the previous administration did,
indicates this administration wouldn't be interested in this subject,
there's no curiosity about the effectiveness of sex
MR. FLEISCHER: As I recall, also
the previous administration delayed the release of this report because
it did not want it to come out in the middle of an election year.
Q We're asking about
what this President, now holding office --
Q Did he ever believe
in reading an opposite opinion?
MR. FLEISCHER: But you do afford me
the opportunity to remind you of the history of this
report. Obviously, the previous administration made some
judgments about the merits of this report. They made a
decision that it was a report that they did not want to come out at a
time when the previous administration at least was running for
office. And so the previous administration must have seen
something in this report that made them delay it until after the
Q But what is it that
makes the President not want to read something like that? I
mean, does he never read anything controversial?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I think it's
no secret. Presidents of the United States do not have the
time to read each and every report that comes out of the federal
Q Was he told about the
MR. FLEISCHER: He's always briefed
on these matters.
Q Briefed by whom?
MR. FLEISCHER: By staff, domestic
Q Have you read it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Have I read
it? I've been briefed on it.
Q Ari, didn't the
President ask Dr. Satcher to stay on earlier this year? And,
if so, why did he do that?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's news to
me. I have not heard anything like that. People are
appointed to terms. His term does not expire until next
Q -- he didn't ask the
Doctor to stay on?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, do you have
any evidence? You just said the President asked him to stay
Q I believe the Doctor
said that he was asked to stay on.
MR. FLEISCHER: He has a
term. He has a term that has not expired.
Q Ari, some
environmental organizations are claiming victory with some sort of web
demonstration against the White House. They're claiming that
they sent so many e-mails that the White House web server was brought
down. Is that accurate?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not heard any
information about our web server being brought down. And
typically, I receive any such notice rather quickly. I think
it's happened once since the President took office. But I
have received no information on that.
Q Have you gotten any
indication that the White House has been flooded with e-mails or --
MR. FLEISCHER: No more than the
Q Ari, Muslim leaders
representing more than -- American Muslims in this country were invited
to a meeting here at the White House yesterday with the community and
faith-based initiative. However, they walked out of that
meeting because one of their members was expelled and accompanied by
security after being allowed in and cleared for security reasons.
Now, this member is the son of Dr. Samuel
Arian and his uncle is Dr. Mazen al Najjar Mr. John
DiIulio, the director of office, he described it as guilt by
association. I hasten to add, neither of these two men were
found guilty by any court in this country of any
wrongdoing. Now, David Bonior has protested very strongly
and issued a statement on the subject. Would the White House apologize
to the American Muslim community?
MR. FLEISCHER: Mr. Bonior is right
to complain. The President is very upset about
this. The President is very concerned that an action was
taken that was wrong and inappropriate, and the President apologizes
for it on behalf of the White House.
I want to say that the Secret Service has one
of the most difficult jobs in the government, and they do it on an
extraordinarily sound and good basis. And everybody who
works in this White House is grateful to the Secret Service for the
good work they do. In this one instance, the Secret Service
made a mistake. They've acknowledged it; they have said
so. They will continue to say so. And the
President is concerned about it to the point where he does apologize.
Q Ari, on that same
subject, some of the Muslim leaders complained that what they sense as
snubs or insults to them have begun with, I guess, the cancellation of
an Eid holiday observance, cancellation of Vice President Cheney's
briefing last Friday for the American Muslim Council, as well as Dr.
DiIulio's failure to appear at this briefing, at which the person was
ejected. Is there a pattern of snubbing Muslim leaders for
perceived or unperceived reasons?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. And
there have been many other meetings that have gone forward just as
planned. But in the case, for example, that you mentioned
about the Vice President's meeting, I think everybody understood that
that was a matter dealing with airplanes and logistics and travel time
that were beyond the control of the Vice President. And so
he was not able to make that meeting, and he wishes he could have.
But this White House has engaged in extensive
outreach, all part of the faith-based and community initiative that I
began this meeting with. I said that the President was very
pleased that the House took the action it did to support a program that
can help the nation's mosques, receive help from the federal government
to help them complete the good works that they do on behalf of people
in their community.
Q Back on the Vice
President. Obviously, the energy report is over and we've
moved into the legislative phase. Could you just give us a
sense of what his portfolio, what his policy portfolio looks like now?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
Q The Vice
MR. FLEISCHER: The Vice President's
portfolio is very, very busy, just as the President's
is. And it's the President's agenda. And that
includes taking action this summer on education so that our schools can
be improved and reformed. It includes taking action on the
faith-based initiative which is moving in the House. It
includes completion of the energy recommendations in the form of
legislation on Capitol Hill. And as you note, the House's
committed by mid-July to have an action on energy at the committee
level. The President hopes that the Senate will take similar
So there's a very busy agenda -- that includes
additional items involving appropriation matters where the
administration is pleased to see that the Congress appears to be
holding the line and keeping spending at the levels and the rates that
the President recommended.
Q Can I follow --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's Les
time. A follow-up?
Q Wasn't he appointed
to some new task force after -- he was appointed to head another task
force after energy. Do you recall what that was?
MR. FLEISCHER: No.
Q Oh, cyber-terrorism,
Q Ari --
MR. FLEISCHER: I called on
Les. It's Les time.
Q Can we just stay on
that subject for just a second?
MR. FLEISCHER: Stay on that
Q Which is he is
running a new task force that is supposed to be quite
intensive. Can you tell us what kind of demands that makes
on his time? The general concern I think we're hearing from
all these questions is whether or not, given the succession of problems
that the Vice President has had, is his capability to handle the
workload matching the workload he's got.
MR. FLEISCHER: As the Vice
President, himself, said this morning, he anticipates that this will be
an out-patient procedure tomorrow and that he'll be at his desk and
working on Monday. And many of these same questions came up
after the last time the Vice President had a medical procedure, and he
was right back at his desk, working. And that has been the
case in each one of these instances.
It's a remarkable reflection about the
progress of American medicine that heart patients -- not only Dick
Cheney, but millions of others that are just like him -- are able to go
into a hospital, have an out-patient procedure, and return to their
normal lives, which includes their family lives and their business
lives, the very next day. And that's a tribute to modern
medicine and the remarkable changes that have been made in the
treatment of heart disease. And the Vice President is one of
millions of fortunate Americans who are able to enjoy a full life,
thanks the medical technology and to the abilities of our nation's
Q But the point here
that's being brought up that I don't think you're addressing -- yes,
these questions were posed to the Vice President. But you speak for
the President. There is evidence in the past where the
President has independently, basically, checked up on his running mate
to make sure, independently, that he was fit to serve. And
so I think the question that stands out is, does the President believe
that the Vice President's capabilities physically match the workload
that he's still got ahead of him.
MR. FLEISCHER: There's been no
change in the statement, I said that the President has no such
concerns, when I said it 10 minutes ago. The President has
no such concerns.
two-part. The New York Post has published a report that --
quote -- tapes exist to prove that Arafat ordered the execution of
U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel and two others in Khartoum in
1973. But, for reasons of state, every American
administration from Nixon on has refused to comment. Can you
say that this report, that they note is backed up by U.S. Naval
Officer James Welsh, is false or not, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: I am not familiar
with the report, so I can't comment on it.
Q Both the Washington
Post and the Washington Times have again reported the Episcopal Church
legal battle of Accokeek, Maryland, where the Bush administration's
deputy general counsel of the INS is charged in court with an assault
of an elderly church warden, and where this Bush official's wife, the
acting bishop of Washington, is charged with
trespassing. And she has charged a federal court suit asking
that the court remove the elected rector of this 300-year-old Christ
And my question is, since this rector that she
wants to remove because she doesn't agree with him is a Texan and he
adheres to the same traditional Christian beliefs as the Reverend John
Wesley, who founded President Bush's United Methodist Church --
MR. FLEISCHER: Is there a question
Q -- the President
certainly cares about this, doesn't he? Because he is a man
who cares about religious freedom, doesn't he, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: He cares about
religious freedom, Les. And I have no --
Q Can you say something
about his INS deputy general counsel being involved in this, in this
federal suit? Is he just going to be silent on this, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Obviously, you have
heard a lot about this. I'll have to --
Q If you give me one
minute with the President, I'm sure he would speak out, don't you
MR. FLEISCHER: If I gave you one
minute with the President, you'd take 10.
Q Oh, no.
MR. FLEISCHER: Go ahead.
Q What concrete
measures is the U.S. going to offer to help the Japanese economy?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President
is looking forward to his visit tomorrow with Prime Minister
Koizumi. And the question of the Japanese economy will be
one of several topics that are discussed.
The President understands that the Japanese
economy is an issue that the Prime Minister is very concerned about and
the President looks forward to listening to what the Prime Minister
says. I think after the meeting we may have more information
to share with you. The President will be there, tomorrow,
obviously. There will be a brief photo op, where you'll have
an opportunity to ask a question or two, so that's a question you may
want to address following on the meeting.
Q They are going to
talk about the Asia security issue. Is China, as the
neighbor of Japan, going to -- or should worry about anything about
FLEISCHER: No. Frankly, the United
States-Japanese security alliance has been a bedrock of peace and
stability in the region. And the fact that we have such a
strong security relationship with Japan has brought peace and,
therefore, should bring comfort to all neighbors in the region.
Q In that same meeting
there will be a climate issue. And the Prime Minister will
be coming up with a new proposal to make United States easier to
discuss Kyoto protocol issues. What is the reaction of the
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
reaction will be, he'll be interested in listening to whatever the
Japanese Prime Minister has to say. And if, indeed, what you
just described comes up from the Prime Minister, the President might be
able to discuss it tomorrow.
Q Ari, does the
President believe that there is much chance of getting a patients' bill
of rights at this point out of the Senate, that he could support?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think you
still have to allow the Senate to finish its work. It's not
clear whether the Senate will finish. It's not
clear what amendments will be offered in the Senate. I think
the senators are still trying hard to figure that out for themselves.
So regardless of what the Senate does, the
President's principles remain unchanged. And the President
is ready, willing and able to sign a patients' bill of rights into law
that protects patients in their dealings with HMOs. And he
believes that can be done, and should be done, without driving up the
cost of health care, by turning our health care system over to the
Q -- has he made any
phone calls on that, though, in the last couple days to any senators,
talked to any senators about it?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd have to check
his phone logs or ask him, so I don't know.
Q Yesterday, Ari, from
this podium, you accused supporters of the bill in the Senate of
putting politics before progress and not compromising. There
is now an amendment that is blessed by the White House, is it not -- by
Breaux and others -- that would shift some of the liability provisions
to federal court. Would the President sign the bill if that
amendment is passed?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, David,
there is a real question about whether that amendment will even be
offered. So I don't think it's appropriate to speculate or
comment on something that may not even be.
Q -- does the White
House support that amendment? You won't comment on it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I
indicated, it may not even be offered, so I'm not going to speculate
about something that may not exist.
Q Does something have
to be offered in order for you to comment on it? I mean,
there are proposals that --
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, it does.
Q Your energy plan --
MR. FLEISCHER: Paula?
Q On Medicare reform,
Senators Bob Graham and Lincoln Chafee yesterday introduced a
bill. I'm wondering if the White House has any response to
that? And, also, they want to start moving on that
mid-July. Does the White House believe there is room on the
congressional plate to do energy, on faith-based initiatives and --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll tell you
something. The President is becoming increasingly concerned
that the Senate is failing to take action on education. It's
important that the House and the Senate are able to proceed to a
conference. There should be no higher priority than
educating our nation's children. And the President
understands that you can have a crowded Senate calendar, but that needs
to begin with education.
The President is pleased that an agreement has
been reached -- although, it is a tad late -- on the defense
supplemental, so that the Department of Defense can receive the money
that it has been promised in this very fiscal year, which will end in
just a few months.
So there is a real question about what issues
are the nation's priorities. And the President believes that
education is a top priority for this nation and so, too, is making sure
that Americans have a summer that is as free as possible from blackouts
and brownouts and high energy prices. So, therefore, he also
calls on the Senate to make sure that they take prompt action on
Q On Mexico, yesterday
you mentioned the possibility of growing tensions and the U.S. because
the vote in the House, in regards to the
trucking. Yesterday, the Mexican government denied that they
participated in Operation -- International to capture about
8,000 smugglers. Do you think this is the result of this
MR. FLEISCHER: No. I
think it's hard to say that there is any type of
correlation. Nothing has been done yet. The House
of Representatives has taken one step and, as the Mexican government
knows, it's a multi-step process. But the President is
concerned. The President believes it was an action that was
not necessary, and the President believes that we do need to increase
the number of inspectors on the borders, that we can and should have
safe trucks operated in the United States. And the same
standards should apply to all, whether they are Mexican or American.
Q -- because INS have
announced here, in a big conference, press conference, the results of
this participation that was supposed to involved Mexico and 12 other
Latin American countries. But now Mexico is saying that they
were not informed, they didn't know anything about the operation. What
do you --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a
question you should address to the appropriate agency.
Q How does the
administration justify its enthusiastic backing of Milosevic's transfer
to the U.N. on the War Crimes Tribunal at the same time it so strongly
opposes the proposed U.N. Court of Criminal Justice?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's an already
recognized international Tribunal of Criminal Justice in the Hague, and
it's a separate matter. It's a separate legal matter, it's a
Q Back to the Vice
President, very quickly. The briefing room was virtually
empty this morning when the Vice President came up and
spoke. I mean, I got to sit in the third row, which meant it
had to be pretty empty.
MR. FLEISCHER: There's room in the
first row for this briefing.
Q My question is, if as
Ms. Matalin said, she has no concerns about the public's confidence in
the Vice President's health, why not fill this room with every reporter
possible, and say that to as many people as he could?
MR. FLEISCHER: The announcement
went out at 9:15 a.m. this morning, so, of course, all reporters who
were at work at 9:15 a.m. would have been here.
Q Well, I mean, other
people do have multiple tasks they play around here. I mean,
everyone -- it's not to say that people were --
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't control
people's schedules for when they decide to arrive at work at the White
Q So the Vice President
informed the President on Tuesday. Why the three-day
MR. FLEISCHER: He shared with the
President on Tuesday what was found, as a result of the harness the
Vice President was wearing. And he discussed with the
President the recommendations from his doctors. The Vice
President talked with his family and with his wife, and I think he made
the final decision last night, is what I'm told.
Q Ari, the Attorney
General has announced his intention to change the policy concerning the
retention of records from background checks at gun sales, reducing the
length of time those records are preserved to one day, and there are
some law enforcement communities say that's a very bad
idea. Senator Schumer in the Senate and Ms. McCarthy in the
House are going to introduce legislation to overturn
that. Does the President support what the Attorney General
did, and would he veto a bill like the one Senator Schumer intends to
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, the President
thinks its very important that we have a system that safeguards people
from anybody who would seek to purchase a weapon illegally, and that's
why he supports background checks. And he believes that background
checks can and should be done on an instant basis. He also
supports people's right to privacy. And he supports the
right of law-abiding Americans not to be treated as criminals, and to
have any type of onerous keeping of their records. So he
Q Is this is a -- to
the gun lobby?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can only tell you
what the President believes.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you,
everybody. Have a very enjoyable weekend.