For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 2, 2001
Press Briefing Index
Personnel Announcements 1
Presidential Appointments/Confirmations 1-2; 4; 12-13; 16-17
Patients' Bill of Rights 3-4; 14
U.S. Senate Reorganization Agreement 1; 2; 4
Offshore Oil Leases 4-5; 13-14; 15; 16; 17
Surplus/Economy 7-8; 12
Medicare/Social Security 8-10
Death Penalty 10
John Mccain 10-11
Vice President Cheney 11-12
Kosovo Travel 14
Tax Rebates 14
the White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release July 2, 2001
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:38 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good
day. I have personnel announcement, coverage announcement,
and then I want to discuss something that is of note in the United
The President intends to nominate Wanda
Nesbitt to be Ambassador to the Republic of Madagascar. The
President intends to nominate Mattie Sharpless to be Ambassador to the
Central African Republic. The President intends to nominate
George McDade Staples to be Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial
On a coverage note, the meeting with Mr.
Schundler will be a pool meeting, it will be open to pool at the end of
the meeting. You have that on your schedules, that's open to
the pool at the end.
I also want to note that the President is very
pleased to see that a reorganization agreement has been reached in the
United States Senate, which the President hopes will now allow senators
and the leadership from both parties to address what is a growing
confirmation gap in the United States Senate involving Presidential
The numbers are very simple and
clear. As of June 30th, President Bush has nominated more
people for confirmation to the United States Senate than any of his
three predecessors, despite the late confirmation, or the late
inauguration of the President as a result of the
transition. By late inauguration, I mean the amount of time
that was available to the President during the transition.
As of June 30th, the President has nominated
315 people to Senate-confirmable posts. That compares with
Bill Clinton, who, as of June 30th, nominated 249 people; George Bush,
former President, 220 people; and Ronald Reagan, 301
people. President George W. Bush has nominated more than any
of these three people. Yet, the record in the Senate shows
there is a growing confirmation gap.
For President George W. Bush, the Senate has
confirmed only 132 of the President's nominees. Bill
Clinton, at the same time, had 188 confirmed; George Bush had 147
confirmed; and Ronald Reagan had 225 confirmed.
So despite the problem of a late transition,
President George W. Bush has nominated more people than Bill Clinton,
Ronald Reagan or George Bush, yet the United States Senate lags far,
far behind. The problem is in both parties. There
have been holds put by people in both parties. And the
people believes that it's the interest of good government for the
Senate, now that a reorganization agreement has been reached in a
bipartisan fashion, to step-up the pace and to confirm his nominees,
because the only people who get hurt are the citizens of the country
when we do not have a government in place.
Q What is the problem
in both parties, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is just a
lag. It does not seem to be a high enough priority of the
United States Senate for attention to be focused on it. We
have entered an era where senators, individual senators are putting
holds on individual people for a wide variety of reasons that seem to
be much greater than previously done. And the numbers speak
Q But you think it goes
beyond attributing it to just the changeover in the Senate?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, because
the lag began even before the changeover. I mean, there has
been a lag in the last month, even more pronounced. For
example, as of May 31st, the Senate confirmed 129 people; as of June
30th, 132. So only three people were confirmed in one
Now, I do think it's legitimate to allow the
Senate at the time to enter into an agreement on the reorganization
resolution, which they have done. And the White House issued
no comments during this period of time which hardly anybody was
confirmed. But now that the Senate has reached this
agreement, the President believes it's very important for the senators
to step up the pace and begin the confirmation process anew, so that
the government can be put in place.
Q Ari, speaking of
nominations, how come there's been such a delay in finding somebody to
run the FBI?
MR. FLEISCHER: I just don't agree
with that characterization of a delay. The FBI is a position
unlike almost any other position that a President will make an
appointment to. It is a fixed 10-year term. It
has a jurisdiction and an impact on people's lives that is very direct,
very pronounced. And it's the type of decision that a
President should weigh carefully and thoroughly before naming
someone. And that's the approach that the President has
Q Is there a problem,
though? Is it detrimental for the FBI to be sort of
leaderless and without a permanent chief for any long period of time?
MR. FLEISCHER: The FBI will be
under an interim director, and the President has faith that the people
heading the FBI will do an excellent job. But, again, this
is a serious appointment to a 10-year post. It is not a post
that serves at the pleasure of the President. And,
therefore, it's a post that deserves more time, more consideration, and
that's what the President is giving to it.
Q On the patients' bill
of rights, Senator Daschle yesterday suggested that if the President
can't support the current version of the bill that he allow it to
become law without his signature. And I'm just wondering,
given the statement that came out on Friday night, where there was no
veto word, he just said that in clear conscience he couldn't sign that
bill, is it possible that he might take up Senator Daschle's invitation
and, in clear conscience, not sign a bill such as the one that's there
right now, and just allow it to become law without his signature?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, last I looked,
if you allow something not to be signed, it's called a pocket
veto. So I'm not quite sure how you can let something become
law without a signature on it, in the federal system.
Q It depends on the
timing -- 10 days.
Q You have 10 days.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's
right. But in any case, the President's statement was as
clear as clear can be. The President said that the version
passed by the Senate is not something that he will
sign. That's just another way of stating what he has said
always, that he will sign a measure that has the patient protections
that he has sought, that the Senate has sought, that the House has
sought. But he will not sign something, he will veto
something if it includes the liability provisions as passed by the
United States Senate.
Q So he would veto this
bill in its current form?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President could
not have been clearer in his statement. There's no change.
Q On the
reorganization, one more, does this reorganization prevent senators
from putting a hold on a nomination?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it does
not. The Senate retains the prerogative of putting holds on
nominations. The President is simply appealing to the better
judgment of the Senate to step up the pace. Clearly, this
Senate lags far behind all previous recent Senates in the first year of
a President's term. And it lags behind badly. And
it's not just the new Senate. It is a problem in the Senate,
itself. It's not partisan to one party or the
other. But it does cause problems for the nation and for the
ongoing filling of posts in the government. And the numbers
are growing increasingly troublesome. There is a
confirmation gap in the United States Senate.
Q Ari, which is the
bigger problem, the politics on Capitol Hill or the paperwork and all
the background checks these folks have to undergo?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again,
President George W. Bush is way ahead of the pace of previous
Presidents in terms of making nominations to the Senate, even with a
shortened transition. I'll say the numbers again.
As of June 30th, the President has nominated
315 people for confirmable Senate positions. Bill Clinton,
with a full transition as of June 30th, only nominated 249; George Bush
nominated 222; Ronald Reagan nominated 301. So President
George W. Bush is way ahead of the pace of nominations. So,
clearly, the problem is not on this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, in
terms of filling out the paperwork and getting the nominations to the
Q Ari, on offshore oil
leases, has the President communicated at all with his brother, and is
he at all concerned about his brother's political fortune, since his
brother opposed this move?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not talked to
the President about if he talked to his brother in regard to
anything. There will be an announcement made later today,
and I'm not going to get into the specifics of it, by the Department of
Interior. I will simply say that the President has heard the
voices of many people in Florida; he is concerned about the
environment; he's concerned about people in Florida and their reaction
to development of resources off of their shore and there will be an
announcement made later today by the Secretary of Interior.
Q Is this part of his
energy plan and, if so, how does it fit in, per se?
MR. FLEISCHER: This was always part
of an announcement that was made by the Department of Interior, after
they reviewed the sale, as is routine with all sales.
Q Is there going to be
a surprise turnabout in his views?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think what you
will hear will be a reflection of what the President said during the
course of the campaign, which is he would work with the governors of
all the states in the region and would have a program that is balanced,
that allows our beaches to be protected, as well as development of
energy in a way that is environmentally sensitive.
Q May I ask you another
question? Did the President say the Wall Street Journal poll
FLEISCHER: (Laughter.) He didn't say it to me, so
I haven't heard that.
Q You didn't check it
out with him?
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't check that
Q Can you tell us what
his views are now on all these stories that his polls have fallen?
MR. FLEISCHER: He shrugs his
shoulders. He thinks it's a non-issue, a non-story.
Q He doesn't follow
polls, at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
cognizant of them, but the President thinks the test of a leader is
what you do in office. And the President is also comforted
to know that he has the solid support of the American people.
Let me reflect on that. I take a
look at the polls, so let me give you little reflections on
that. According to the latest Gallup Poll, the President's
job approval rating is 55 to 33. That's according to Gallup,
and there's some other polls --
Q It's what?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's 55 to 33, most
recent Gallup. There are some other polls that show his job
approval in the low 50s; there are some other polls show his job
approval in the high 50s. Gallup is right smack in the
middle. Let me give you some numbers to compare it
to. In October of 1996, on his way to a landslide
reelection, then-President Clinton's job approval according to Gallup
was 54 to 36 --
Q Why do you always
have to bring in the Clinton administration? I mean, why
don't you just stick with your own --
MR. FLEISCHER: According to the
same Gallup polls of President Reagan, in October of 1984, Ronald
Reagan's job approval was 58-33 --
Q What did President
Truman do? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: -- and I can get
that, too. (Laughter.) President
Bush, in 1992, in October of '92, his job approval was 34 to
56. And the reason I bring up the history of it, Helen, is
because history is a good indication of the present,
often. And you asked me, should the President be worried
about the poll numbers.
Q I'm wondering what --
MR. FLEISCHER: If poll numbers at
the point at which the President has them are any indication of popular
support, then previous Presidents who had virtually identical job
approvals went on to landslide reelections just a week or two after
those polls were taken. So the President enjoys solid
support of the American people. By some measurements, that
solid support is down from a very high level of support. But
when you take a look at the numbers in and of themselves, the numbers
Q May I just follow up
on that? All these stories indicate, other people are
talking that you are concerned, that there are more meetings, more
strategy, more trying to reach out to the Republicans who are
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, you asked me,
is the President concerned, and I answered the question. The
President really shrugs his shoulders at these polls.
Q Is there more
activity around here now to improve the --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's fair to
say the White House is looking carefully at our summer and our fall
strategy. The White House has turned a corner, where the
major initiative that the President believes will help the economy to
recover has been put in place and has been signed into law, which will
give a boost to growth and give a boost to the economy. And
that will likely take place sometime this fall, and as a result of an
accomplishment of the President's singular initiative. Now
it's important to focus anew on other initiatives that the White House
Q Can I follow up on
that? There's a new budgetary environment, in part because
of the tax cut and the weakening economy and the declining tax receipts
as a result. And the surplus that we heard so much about
during the campaign is rapidly dwindling, at least in the near
years. Should Americans be concerned about
that? What happened?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think people
should be concerned about lack of growth in the
economy. Growth is the key to revenues. And any
time the economy softens it will have an impact on
growth. And to review the numbers, industrial production,
which is a key measure of the strength of the economy, peaked in
September of 2000 and has gone down since then. Growth of the economy,
as measured by the Gross Domestic Product, hit 5.4 percent in the
spring of 2000. But in the summer of 2000, the slowdown
began. And for the period of July, August, September of 2000
-- so now we're talking almost one year ago -- growth dropped
precipitously, to 2.2 percent. And in the fall of 2000,
growth dropped even more, to just over 1 percent.
And on Friday last week, we had new estimates
of first quarter -- January, February, March -- growth, which includes
20 days prior to this President taking office, where growth was revised
to 1.3 percent. So the decline in revenue that you are
accurately describing is caused by low growth in the economy.
The solution to low growth is to cut
taxes. Taxes have now been cut in an overwhelmingly
bipartisan fashion. And to listen to the private sector
economists tell the story, you hear that they believe that as a result
of the tax cut and the fact that it's only now starting to go into law,
it will give a boost to the economy, estimated anywhere from 1
percentage point to .7 percentage points. In other words, it
will help grow the economy and, therefore, bring in additional revenue
at a time of a weakness in the economy.
Q In the out-years,
maybe. In the near-term, revenue has declined because of the
tax cut, as well. And that will force changes in the budget
FLEISCHER: (Laughter.) Wait a
minute. Wait. You just said that revenue has
declined as a result of the tax cut. The tax cut hasn't gone
into effect yet.
Q As they prepare the
budget for the next year and the following year, they're going to have
to take into account --
MR. FLEISCHER: The decline in
revenues already exists, and it exists as a result of the slowdown in
the strength of the economy, going back to last summer and last
fall. That's beyond dispute. The tax cut, for the
first manifestation of it, went into effect yesterday, on Sunday, as
people will in their next paychecks receive bigger salaries as a result
of changes in withholdings. After the $300 and $600 checks
are delivered to people, that, too, will have an impact on revenue.
But more importantly, according to private
sector economists, it will boost growth. And let me just
read to you from some of the things. This is one firm called
Macro Economic Advisors. These are the leading private
sector economists: The tax cuts just passed by Congress, at
about 1.2 percentage points to GDP growth at an annual rate.
Morgan Stanley: The tax bill
awaiting the President's signature delivers fiscal stimulus sooner than
we've been expecting and packs a punch. We estimate it will
boost second half growth by one and one-quarter percentage points.
And I could go on, Merril Lynch, Lehman
Brothers, all the financial accounting firms who make their living by
trying to be as accurate as possible have all said that the tax cut
will create more growth. The problem in revenues is a
problem caused by low growth. The tax cut is the cure to the
problem, because a tax cut leads to greater growth.
Q While waiting for
that cure to take, will the administration spend any of the Medicare
Hospital Insurance Trust Fund surplus on anything other than
hospitalizing the elderly?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me address that
in two parts. There's an issue dealing with Social Security
and there's an issue dealing with Medicare. The President has made it
unequivocal to all that Congress should not take any action that would
lead to any spending, at all, of Social Security money. That
money belongs to Social Security. Under the Bush budget,
even with these new numbers, Social Security need not be
touched. If there's any touching, it's as a result of too
much spending by the Congress.
So this is a wake-up call to the Congress not
to spend tax dollars, because if they spend, and go back onto a
spending spree, the Congress risks tapping Social Security's
money. And Congress should take no step that will put Social
Security within reach.
As for Medicare, it has long been the position
of the Bush administration that there is no surplus in
Medicare. And the reason for that is, there's a shell game
in Medicare. Medicare is divided into two parts that only
people in Washington understand. One is called part A,
hospitals, the other is called part B, doctors. The two
together represent a deficit, not a surplus. So it's --
Q One part of it
represents monies that are earmarked for hospitalizing the
elderly. You're willing to raid that money to pay for the
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a meaningless
distinction. There's part A and part B adds up to
Medicare. It's like saying somebody has money in the left
pocket of their pants, and they have a big IOU in the right pocket of
their pants. And that IOU is much bigger than the amount of
money they have in the left pocket. By that description,
you're saying that person is awash in money because they've got some
money in their left pocket.
No. It is one system. It
is Medicare. It's one person. And when you add up
the amount of money that Medicare spends for doctors, compared to the
money it takes in; and when you add up the amount it spends for
hospitals, the Medicare system is in deficit, not
surplus. And the President believes that every penny of
money that comes in for Medicare should be earmarked to Medicare.
Q But won't that
strategy accelerate the depletion of the Hospital Insurance Trust
MR. FLEISCHER: No. It
means that every penny of Medicare will be earmarked for Medicare.
Q Medicare will run out
of money faster --
FLEISCHER: No. Because under any other way of
doing it, what people are saying is, don't use the money that comes in
for the hospital trust fund on Medicare, use it instead to pay off bond
holders, use it instead to pay down debts. That's taking
Medicare money and giving it to people who have nothing to do with
The President thinks it's much sounder to take
all the money that comes in for Medicare and spend it on Medicare for
both hospitals and doctors.
Q Ari, on the death
penalty, two questions. The district attorney in Houston
will decide within the month whether to seek the death penalty against
Andrea Yates -- she's the mother who drowned her five
kids. Has the President expressed an opinion on whether this
woman should be put to death for that crime?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, Russell, I have
not heard him do so and he doesn't engage in that type of
speculation. That's not the job of the President.
question. Last week, Sara Lee plead guilty to crimes in
connection with a 1998 outbreak of listeriosis, which caused the death
of 16 people, eight miscarriages and 40 to 80 seriously injured
people. The company plead guilty to crime. Has
the President expressed a view on the death penalty for corporate
criminals? That is, revoking the charter of a corporation
that has been convicted of a crime that has resulted in death?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. As I
indicated in your preface question, the President does not weigh in,
those are matters at Justice and they should not be dictated by
decisions made at the White House.
Q Wait a
second. Ari, wait a second. He's in favor of the
death penalty for individuals, generally. Is he in favor of
the death penalty for corporations convicted of crimes that result in
MR. FLEISCHER: Russell, these are
questions that are handled by officials of Justice, not by people in
the White House.
Q How can you say --
MR. FLEISCHER: You only get three,
Q I have 18 questions,
also, but I'll whittle it down to one. (Laughter.) There
were four demonstrations in Arizona over the weekend, by Republicans
opposed to John McCain because of his stance on issues.
What is the White House's position on these
disgruntled Republicans and this ongoing effort to recall Mr. McCain?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
working very closely with Senator McCain on a host of issues, and he
looks forward to continuing his works with Senator
McCain. There are many areas where the two of them have
forged a lot of consensus, and see room for a lot of good things to be
done for the American people. And that's the President's
John, I told you I was going to
call you before, and I missed you.
Q I don't know where
that went. (Laughter.) I was actually going to
enter into the frustrating pit Terry tried to get you
through. I'll yield on that one.
The Vice President is back at work and the
President says he looks great. Did we learn anything,
though, new over the weekend about the Vice President, in terms of, is
he on any new medication, any new findings, whether it's cholesterol
level or any other heart significant findings that we should know
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, there is
nothing that I can offer, beyond what his doctors said at a lengthy --
Q Terry? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: I think everybody
needs a sign today. (Laughter.)
Mr. King, there is nothing I can offer beyond
what his doctors said at the news conference that they had on Saturday,
which was a very lengthy news conference where people had opportunities
to ask all kinds of questions.
I think if there is anything that our nation
has learned as a result of this, it is the marvelous progress that is
made in science and in medicine, so that millions of people -- who
don't have to be the Vice President of the United States -- can have
health problems, can have those health problems treated and then return
to work. And I think that that's a very encouraging sign for
Americans from all walks of life about the state of technology, the
state of science and the state of medicine.
And I think it's -- it's always interesting
for politicians to undergo any type of health
treatment. Because on the one level I think that every
politician wishes they could have a little more of their anonymity back
but, at the same time, I think every politician recognizes they're
lending to an awful lot of knowledge across the country, where other
people go out and get the health care they need as a result of the
coverage of what is typically a private matter for somebody.
And in that sense, I think Dick Cheney is
pleased, because there are probably people whose lives are being
changed and are being improved because they heard what he's been
through and they realize they can do the same thing, and they can enjoy
healthy, normal lives.
Q Ari, one follow-up
back to the point Terry was trying to make. I won't get into
the Medicare A and B, since he tried so diligently and didn't get you
But do you concede that if the President gets
his wishes through the Congress in the next year or so -- the increased
defense spending, a prescription drug benefit to his liking, gets the
compromise he wants on elementary and secondary education -- that if
you take aside Medicare and Social Security and you've got about a
trillion dollars over 10 years, there is at least $700 billion of it
right there, there really is no -- there is not much of a surplus left
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, I think there
is no question --
Q Terry? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Be inconsistent, at
Q Why don't you call
him Helen? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, I think there's
no question -- (laughter.)
Q How about
MR. FLEISCHER: There is no question
that if Congress lives within the limits of the budget resolution that
the House and the Senate have already voted on and agreed to abide by,
they will be able to pass the budgets that honor the President's
priorities without tapping the Social Security trust fund, as the
President has said.
Again, the key to having increased revenues
coming into the government is from growth. And the best way
to secure future growth is as a result of the tax cuts that were passed
and signed into law on a bipartisan basis.
Q Ari, on the
confirmation gap, you acknowledge that this happened in the previous
Senate, controlled by Republicans. But the fact that the
President waited until now, when the Senate has gone over to the
Democrats seems to inevitably raise the issue of partisanship here.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think that if
that was the case, the White House would have spoken out a couple weeks
ago. But the White House wanted to wait for the Senate to
have a chance to reorganize. And now that a reorganization
agreement has been reached between the two parties, it's a matter of
simple fairness to filling the slots of government, which serve all the
people, not just the Democrats and not just the Republicans, but the
So the remarks are aimed at being helpful to
the Senate, to remind the Senate that it is a bipartisan obligation to
help fill those posts.
Q To turn it around, if
the Republicans had control of the Senate for the first five months of
the year, the Democrats have been in control for one month, and if the
administration considers this a priority, what kind of communication
went on to the GOP --
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, it was ongoing
then, too. The holds were in place then, too. And
as you know, we started publishing the data on the number of
confirmations made and on the number of nominations made during the
Republican Senate, as well. This is not a partisan
issue. It should not be treated or seen as a partisan
issue. It should be seen as an issue of how to fill an
Q -- to perhaps build
bipartisanship with Senator Daschle, and to try to make sure that at
least the folks on his side aren't --
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no question
this is an opportunity for the Senate to speak in a bipartisan
voice. These are nominations made by a Republican President
that need to be approved by a Democrat Senate. And it has
been the tradition of the Senate that regardless of who is in the White
House, a President is entitled to put his people in
place. And that has been the powerful tradition of a
bipartisan way of Senates before, and the President hopes that will be
the tradition, too, of this newly-constituted Senate.
Q On Friday, the White
House said they were worried about an oil deal with Iran that the
Italian Energy Group, ENI, was about to make. On Saturday --
and signed a $1 billion oil deal with Iran. I'd like to know
if this administration plans to invoke ILSA or any sanctions against
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me take that
question and get back to you on that. I'll have to look at that.
Q Do you have anything
on a possible trip by President Bush to Kosovo?
MR. FLEISCHER: If we have any
announcements to be added to the trip the President is making in July,
we'll announce it at the appropriate time.
Q Kind of on the same
subject. Is the administration proposing today in the
Federal Register new oil leases for off-shore drilling in the Gulf off
MR. FLEISCHER: I addressed that
earlier. There will be an announcement made by the Secretary
of Interior later, and I'm not going to delve into any of the specifics
on that matter.
Q Ari, on tax relief,
as you know, I guess in the third week of this month the first tax
rebates are supposed to go out. But funding for that program
is tied up in the defense supplemental. Is there any
deadline or drop-dead deadline that the President needs to sign that
bill into law in order for the checks to come out --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's probably a
question that needs to be addressed more at the Department of Treasury
than to the White House. They're much more familiar with
what their mechanical needs are for the distribution of
checks. That's not under the White House.
Q I also have a
follow-up on your answer to the question about the patients' bill of
rights. I just don't understand -- when the President was
governor, he allowed a portion of the patients' bill of rights to go
into law without his signature, dealing, I believe, with legal recourse
issues, which is one of the issues in question now. Why
couldn't the President do that if he so chooses to?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think if the
United States Senate were to send the President the same liability
provisions that are in place in Texas, that very well may be enacted
into law. But that's not what the Senate is
considering. The Senate is considering a provision that has
caps set at $5 million. In Texas they're set at
$750,000. It's a vast difference. So that might
be a constructive route now for the House of Representatives to take so
that a patients' bill of rights can, indeed, be signed into law.
Q There's no way that
he would ever consider allowing a bill to go into law without his
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the
President addressed that question last week.
Q Ari, the President of
Mexico has just gotten married this morning. Taking aside
that he's a very close friend of the President of the United States, I
wonder if the President has already called Fox to congratulate him?
MR. FLEISCHER: He has not called
him. And as you know, after phone calls are made, if there
is one, we'll let you know.
Q Is he sending a
MR. FLEISCHER: Is he what?
Q Is he sending a
Q How does the
announcement that's being made at the Interior Department square with
the image and the message that the President was trying to convey when
he went to Florida a couple of weeks ago?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated
earlier, the President has heard the voices of the people of Florida
and he's done just what he said he'd do, which is work with the
governors of all the states on the Gulf of Mexico and come out with a
plan that is environmentally sensitive and balanced.
Q Aren't the very
people he was appealing to with that trip the same people who are going
to be not too happy, to say the least, with what's being announced at
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you should
wait and hear what the Department of Interior has to announce.
Q The President
approved it, though --
Q -- we did, too.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?
Q This is an order from
the President, right?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is from the
Secretary of Interior. The President is --
Q I mean, the President
signed off on it, didn't he?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President signed
off. This is an order from the Secretary of Interior.
Q The murderous Osama
bin Laden has threatened Israel and the United States in the next two
weeks to, in his words, hit them where it hurts the
most. Since President Jefferson sent the U.S. Navy to attack
the Barbary pirates and President Wilson sent the U.S. Army under
General Pershing into Mexico in pursuit of a mass murderer of
Americans, named Pancho Villa, the President realizes that these are
two legitimate presidential precedents for his taking military action,
doesn't he, Ari? Or does he think that Jefferson and Wilson were
MR. FLEISCHER: I can't speak to the
history, Les --
Q You know the history,
you went Middlebury College, they have a good history
Department. You know the history. Now, was that,
in the President's view, wrong what they did?
MR. FLEISCHER: They also teach
foreign languages there. Les, I don't discuss military
Q No, no, no, I just
want to know, does he think that these are not good presidential
MR. FLEISCHER: The President will
take action that he deems appropriate in national security interests.
Q The Washington Times
reports that 40 members of Congress are supporting the giving of the
Congressional Gold Medal to Mohammed Ali. Does the President support
this and, if so, would he support an amendment that the presentation of
this medal be in front of the Vietnam War Memorial wall?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not something
I've talked to him about.
Q Ari, given that you
said the President has sort of signed off on the Interior announcement
that's happening right now, can you shed any light on why the President
thought it was important to go forward with this at this time, given
that the House, including 70 Republicans, did recently voted to pose a
MR. FLEISCHER: I think I've
addressed the issue, and let's wait for the announcement to be made.
Q The confirmation
situation, are all the gaps in the government making it harder for you
guys to push your agenda through?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it does
present challenges. It presents challenges again for the
government and for people, regardless of their party. It
presents challenges for the Congress to have witnesses come up and
testify. It presents challenges for the nation to have the
appropriate ministerial officials go abroad to represent the United
States in important meetings, and throughout the
government. At a time when only 132 people have been
confirmed by the United States Senate, it does suggest that the Senate
needs to, when they return, refocus on this as a priority.
Q What are the biggest
challenges, given all the openings you all have got?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's rather
logical. There are voids in places where there should not be
voids. There are people who are not able to serve in jobs
that the nation needs them to serve.
Q Do you have a
breakdown on how many holds are by Democrats and how many holds are by
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I have not seen
any such breakdown.
Q Ari, on the oil
MR. FLEISCHER: And not all of it is
attributable to holds. Others are attributable to just that
action has not moved forward.
controversial, aren't they, like Otto Reich and so forth -- Negroponte,
all of these people involved in Iran-Contra?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, there has
never been a President who did not have some nominees that brought up
certain levels of controversy.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think we've heard
"deeply, deeply controversial" from other Senates, too.
Q They didn't get
reappointed to the White House.
MR. FLEISCHER: We've heard other
issues in other Senates, but no Senate before has lagged this far
Q Ari, on oil leasing,
I was unsure from your last response whether or not you were confirming
or not whether President Bush has actually conferred with his brother
prior to today's announcement on --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I indicated I
hadn't talked to the President about if he talked to his brother.
Q Can you let me know
if he does?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you
2:10 P.M. EDT