For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 9, 2001
Press Briefing Index
Personnel Announcements 1
- Education,patients' Bill of Rights 1-5; 6
Economy 5; 10-12; 14; 15-16
India Travel 5-6
- Civil Rights, Racism 9-10
Bolivian President 10
New York Trip of 7/10 12-13
Stem Cell Research 13-14; 16-17; 18; 19-20
Middle East 14-15
Trade Promotion Authority 15; 20
National Forests 17
Illegal Arms Shipments 18
Airlines Merger 18-19
the White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release July 9, 2001
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:15 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon,
rambunctious national press corps.
The President intends to nominate Jack Martin
to be Chief Financial Officer of the Department of
Education. The President intends to nominate Joan E. Ohl to
be Commissioner of Children, Youth and Families, with the Department of
Health and Human Services. The President intends to nominate
Melody Fennel to be Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban
Development for Congressional Intragovernmental
relations. The President intends to nominate Frederico
Juarbe Jr., to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment
And the President intends to nominate seven
individuals to serve as members of the Board of Directors at the
Commodity Credit Corporation -- that will come out in
writing. The President intends to appoint nine individuals
to serve as members of the President's National Security
Telecommunications Advisory Committee. That, too, will be
provided in writing. And the President intends to appoint
six individuals to serve as Directors of the Board of Directors for the
Student Loan Marketing Association. That, too, will be
available in writing shortly.
Q Ari, how is it that
the President is having to work so hard at this point in the
legislative calendar to try to get his measures through Congress?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if you take a
look at what's happened since the President took office in
January. You'll see that he is simply turning the corner,
having passed his most important initiative to get the economy growing
again. He is now urging Congress to focus on additional
vital actions that Congress needs to take. And they are all
the issues on which the President ran and which the President committed
himself to in his first three weeks of office.
Q Well, are they not
MR. FLEISCHER: Clearly, when it
comes to education, the Senate has gotten off on the slower track than
was the case just a month ago. Education is a national
priority. Education is an issue on which the President
ran. Education is an issue that's been put on a back burner
in the United States Senate in the last month.
The President thinks it should be a top
priority for the Senate and for the House to get to a conference
committee so that an education bill can be signed into law before the
children go back to school in September.
Q Ari, on the question
of education and conferees, House Republicans haven't even appointed
their conferees. So why --
MR. FLEISCHER: I just said that.
Q No, you said, the
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I added the
House in that same sentence.
Q So is the House
Representatives equally derelict in moving on the President's agenda?
MR. FLEISCHER: As the President
said today, it's important for Congress to act and send him a bill that
he can sign before the students go back to school in September.
Q But, Ari, I mean, it
seems clear that the House and the Senate have got their legislative
priorities. Are they just at odds with the President?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's
typical in our government system for the President to call on Congress
to do things. Congress's agenda is not always the peoples'
agenda. Congress's agenda is not always the President's
In this case, the President today is making
very clear to the Congress that education reform, a patients' bill of
rights, helping people who have been left out and left behind in our
society through faith-based programs are all vital, top priorities; and
he's calling on Congress to focus their attention on those matters.
Q Does the President
feel like for the first time now, six months into his term, the
Democrats are starting to at least try to thwart his agenda?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think I
would use the word thwart, but clearly, the Senate changed
hands. The Senate is no longer a Republican
Senate. The Senate is now a Democratic
Senate. And I think there's no question that if the Senate
were under Republican control, education would have been
done. I think you would have seen the conference committees
get appointed. And it is one of the facts that the new
Senate is placing less attention on education than the previous Senate
Now, both the House and the Senate need to act
to appoint conferees, so that the education bill on which great
progress has been made can be brought to fruition, and therefore signed
Q How would having had
a Republican Senate made appointment of conference committee members
come any quicker? Why would that influence -- the fact that
the House hasn't moved on it, either?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because it's up to
the leaders of the Senate to schedule debates. And obviously
another debate, which is an important one, on patients' bill of rights,
came up and that took the place of appointing the conferees.
Q So Senator Daschle,
in the President's mind, is standing in the way of key elements of his
agenda. I mean, that's what we're talking about here, isn't
MR. FLEISCHER: You heard the
President express it in his own words today. And he said
that progress is being made, but that the Senate needs to take action,
and the House needs to take action. Congress should send him
legislation on a patients' bill of rights, on education and on
faith-based solutions prior to leaving for the August
recess. That's his call to Congress.
Q Can I just try to put
a fine point on it? I mean, you speak for the
President. You're saying that the Senate is putting
education on the back burner and that it's changed hands. Is
it not correct to say that the President believes that Tom Daschle is
standing in the way of his agenda?
MR. FLEISCHER: David, it's not a
question of individuals. That's not the way it
works. The Senate is --
Q It's not just a
matter of --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's the prerogative
of the leaders of the Senate to make their decisions as they see
fit. It's also the prerogative of the President to fight for
his agenda. And his agenda begins with education. It
includes helping tens of millions of people, including 2 million
children of prisoners, who have been left behind in our
society. And it includes a patients' bill of rights that can
get signed into law.
I don't think it should surprise anybody to
see President Bush fight for his agenda. He was successful
in the first action of his agenda, which was to protect the
economy. Now he and his administration are turning a
corner. We're entering a new phase with the Congress, where
there is a lot of hard work that gets done by the Congress,
traditionally, before they leave for the August recess.
The President is sending a note to the
Congress today. Before you leave for recess, address these
priorities of the people: education reform, patients' bill
of rights and faith-based solutions to people who have big, intractable
problems in our society.
Q Let me follow up on
the question I had. You're criticizing the Senate Democrats
for putting patients' bill of rights on the front burner and education
on the back burner. But the patients' bill of rights is also
one of the top three agenda items.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q You're criticizing
them for doing something --
MR. FLEISCHER: Appoint the
conferees. Let's go to conference. It can be
done. You can have the conferees appointed, and you can have
patients' bill of rights move. But the conferees could have
been appointed some time ago.
Q Same in the House,
where the Republicans --
MR. FLEISCHER: Same in the House.
Q But I still don't
understand what the Senate Democrats have done wrong, besides put focus
on patients' bill of rights, an issue that the President said --
MR. FLEISCHER: The appointment of
the conferees. The education bill could already have been in
conference if the House and the Senate had acted on it
previously. And I think the two are looking to act about the
Q So when you say that
Congress's agenda isn't always the people's agenda, what do you mean by
that? And does that include the House and the Senate?
FLEISCHER: Education. Education is a top issue
for the American people. Education is not moving in the
House or the Senate. The President believes very strongly
that education needs to move.
Q So you're suggesting
that Congress is not acting in the best interests of the American
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I'm suggesting
that the President is going to continue to prod the Congress, so that
the Congress focuses on an agenda that includes education reform before
children go back to school in September, that includes a patients' bill
of rights that can be signed into law, and includes faith-based
solutions to people's social problems.
Q What's the
President's time table for the growing economy, which you referred to,
which doesn't exist?
MR. FLEISCHER: His time table for
when it will grow again?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's,
actually, a very important question, and that's a matter that
economists argue about. (Laughter.)
Q Everything I read,
it's not growing at all.
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, they
revised GDP figures for January, February and March, which came in at
about 1.3 percent, I believe, 1.2 percent. The economy in
the second quarter did not grow by a strong rate either, which is a
continuation of a trend that began in the summer months of the year
2000, and then accelerated throughout the fall of 2000, and has
continued into the winter and the spring of 2001.
The nation's economy has been in an
approximate one-year slowdown. And it is reaching the point where, as
a result of the cuts in rates by the Federal Reserve in combination
with the tax cut that is about to be received by the consumers, the
President believes the economy will start to come back. He's
not an economist, he doesn't have a crystal ball, but most economists
have suggested that the recovery will begin sometime late this year.
Q Back on this
question. I just want to make sure I'm understanding you
clearly. The House leadership, which is Republican, and the
Democratic leadership in the Senate are equally to blame for the lack
of progress on education in conference committee, is that correct?
MR. FLEISCHER: Major, I think that
there's no question that the previous Senate was looking forward to
taking up the education bill immediately upon return from the recess in
I, believe it was May. And that got put back. I
think that bill would have moved faster -- if you recall, the education
debate was lengthened in the Senate; it would have been completed
earlier. They took more time to complete
it. There were a lot of amendments to the education bill,
and that did delay the whole process. Conferees have not been
appointed either in the House or in the Senate, and the President calls
on Congress to send him the bill.
The Senate had intended to name conferees when
the Senate was under Republican control. That was something
that Senator Lott said he intended to do. I think there's no
question that had that happened in the Senate, it would have made it
happen in the House. And now they're both waiting to appoint
conferees. In all cases, the President thinks they should do
it, and that way a bill can get sent to him.
Q Ari, as you know,
China has sent us a love letter with the EP-3, a bill for about $1
million. And the Pentagon says it costs probably $5.8
million to dismantle the plane and fly it home, and it may cost another
$40 million to $50 million to put either that one or a new one back in
service with the fleet. A three-part question.
One, will we pay the China
bill? Two, the State Department implied we may send a bill
of our own -- will we? And three, what was the President's
reaction when he heard about the China bill?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not discussed
the China bill with the President. I think this is something
that you've heard from DOD and the State Department about, and they
have addressed it. I don't have anything further to add to
Q Ari, do you have
comments on India Globe front-page story that President Bush will visit
India next year, early next year? And, also, this was
confirmed by the new Indian Ambassador to the U.S. who met President
Bush, presenting his credential last week in the White House.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I cannot
confirm that. We have not announced any such travel.
Q And also, the new
ambassador praised President Bush, he said, the more you know him, the
more you understand him. Many people may have misunderstood
him -- President Bush. So he had high praise for him.
MR. FLEISCHER: High praise
Q Ari, the NAACP
Convention is underway in New Orleans. President Bush's
absence is being made note of, especially since he was there last year,
and there is going to be a video to replace him this
year. Is there bad blood between the organization right now
and the President, especially in light of the fact that Julian Bond
made some -- as some of the administration officials say -- strong
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, from the
President's point of view, he is going to continue his reaching out to
groups of Americans and individual Americans who did not support his
candidacy. He is President of all the people, no matter how
they voted, and the President is going to make that clear in his
actions and in the manner in which he governs.
He understands that there will be times when
people do not support him, and he's respectful of that.
Q Ari, last year he was
very strong in his statements when he attended the NAACP
Convention. He said that civil rights would be the
cornerstone of his administration. He's been in office for
six months -- not one African American civil rights leader has been in
the White House. What do you attribute that to, especially --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I differ with
that premise. The President has held a series of meetings
with African American leaders to discuss many items on his
agenda. If you're asking about --
Q Mainstream -- the
mainstream group that African Americans as a whole look at as civil
rights leaders, not the ones that the White House considers their --
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated to
you this morning, I'll be happy to check the logs to get you all the
names of people who have visited with the President who are considered
civil rights leaders. And the President will continue to
meet with them. He's done so in a variety of
contexts. Very often, people who did not support his
candidacy, and the President had them in to talk to them about his
faith-based and community initiative. I remind you where the
President spent July 4th, with Mayor Street, up in
Philadelphia. So I don't think there is an issue here.
Q But Street is not
Q During the campaign,
the President -- then-governor -- was pretty clear on not using Social
Security trust fund money to pay for domestic spending programs; the
same thing with Medicare. Now there is talk about possibly,
if surplus forecasts come in lower than expected, dipping into the
Medicare trust fund. Can you explain for us this apparent
change in thinking?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you're 100
percent exactly right. The President said he will not -- and
he will not -- dip into Social Security. And the President
is calling on the Congress to make certain that they do not engage in
any excessive spending, because it's important for Congress to protect
the Social Security surplus.
So the President is fully, 100 percent
committed to it. But it's a reminder in this town that the
real threat to budget surpluses come from spending. And I
also want to point out that there is already talk on Capitol Hill of
raising taxes, if you can believe it. An important senator
has said that the government should consider additional
revenues. That's tax increases -- despite the fact that we
have a record surplus, despite the fact that we just enacted a tax cut
to get the economy growing again. It's a reminder that the real threat
is from a tax-and-spend approach to government that the President
thinks is not in the interest of the country.
Q Is the Medicare
surplus no longer off limits?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
been crystal clear and consistent about Medicare. He
believes that every penny that comes in for Medicare should be used for
Medicare. And under his budget, that's exactly what
Q Ari, can we go back
to the NAACP Convention. Why is the President not attending
this year? And do you have any reaction to Julian Bond's
MR. FLEISCHER: Wendell, the
President has sent a video this year. Obviously, the President would
like to attend many events all around the country as often as
possible. As was pointed out, the President attended last
year. Unfortunately, he cannot attend everybody's event
every year of his Presidency. He still wishes the NAACP a
very successful convention, and that will be conveyed in the video that
On the statements made by Mr. Bond, I think
it's another reminder why it's so important for people in this town to
change the tone. I think there was a certain sense of going
too far. People may have political differences, but it's
still important to be respectful and to talk in a manner --
Q Do you think he was
MR. FLEISCHER: -- than to talk in a
manner that elevates the tone, rather than lowing it.
Q Do you differ with
the tone or the substance of the comments?
MR. FLEISCHER: Clearly,
both. But there's always room to disagree, but to disagree
politely. And I think that in those remarks, talking about
the Taliban wing of the Republican Party, talking about canines, it's
unfortunate. And it's another reminder of why everybody
needs to work together to change the tone.
Q And, Ari, on the
substance, at this juncture, what would the President point to as his
major accomplishments in advancing civil rights and racial justice?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, I think there
is no question about it, that the speech the President made before the
joint session of the Congress in late February, the President talked
about abolishing, ending once and for all, racial
profiling. He's the first President to call for such an
action. The Department of Justice is hard at work on that plan right
now. Already various Cabinet agencies are implementing such
proposals. The Department of Energy has already taken
proactive steps to do that on their own. And the Justice
Department will have more to say on that shortly.
When you take a look at the President's
appointments, and you take a look at the President's commitment up and
down his administration to putting people in place who are well
qualified, the best the nation has to offer, I think it sends a very
hopeful signal about the strength of this country.
Q He doesn't talk about
it much, though. It doesn't seem to be an item high on his
MR. FLEISCHER: I differ with
that. I think the President does talk about
it. He talked about it, I thought very eloquently, in his
Inaugural Address. He talked about it in his budget message
in February. He talked about it up in Philadelphia, if you
remember, just on July 4th last week.
Q Does the President
believe that -- how bad a problem is abiding racism in the country?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President,
particularly having grown up in Texas, in a state where there is a
large and growing Hispanic population -- in fact, the majority of
school children will be hispanic in Texas, as a result of the
demographic changes underway -- the President is keenly aware of the
issues that all of us in this society confront as a result of
differences in the color of someone's skin or in racial background or
ethnic background or religious background.
And the President, throughout his life and as
governor and as President, has always done his best to try to bring
people together. It's an enduring American problem, and it's
something that everybody has to work on.
Q Ari, Bolivia has been
a very strong ally of the United States in the fight against
drugs. And President Hugo Banzer -- is now in Walter Reed
Hospital. He came there on June 30th, for
treatment. He has just been diagnosed with cancer of the
liver and cancer of the lung. Do you know if President Bush
has spoken with him or intends to speak to him?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't
know. I'll try to get you something on that.
Q You said that the
main threat -- the real threat to the surplus is a tax-and-spend
approach. Obviously, Democrats are saying that the real
threat is the tax cut that was passed. By your own
estimates, it takes $1.35 trillion out of the surplus. Why
isn't that a real threat?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, it never
ceases to amaze me how the Democrats can criticize something that many
of their own members voted for, that hasn't even gone into effect
yet. There's been a shortfall in revenues, and the shortfall
is a result of the weak economic growth that took place beginning last
year and that continues until now.
The cause of the budget surplus' decline from
gigantic levels to immense levels is a lack of growth. The
tax cut is the cure for the problem. The tax cut will lead
to more growth. Revenues don't come into the Treasury only
as a result of the tax rate. They come in as a result of
people holding jobs. And you could have 100 percent tax
rate, and if somebody doesn't hold a job, there's no revenue coming
The key to higher surplus figures is more
growth. And the key to more growth is the tax cut, which was
supported by a good number of Democrats. Now, the Democrats who voted
against it are the only ones out there saying, let's raise
taxes. And that's the wrong focus for the economy, in the
President's opinion. And the President is pleased to note
that those Democrats believe to a small minority.
Q But it's not your
view that the tax cut is actually going to -- I mean, you still say
there's a cost to the tax cut, to the surplus. Even though
it's going to, in your view, potentially stimulate the economy, it's
not going to bring in more revenues than it's going to lose for the
budget, is it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Without the tax cut,
the economy would be far worse. The fact of the matter is, from the
estimates of economists -- Democrat, Republican, private-sector, it
doesn't matter -- you seldom see such wide-spread agreement against
economists that the tax cut is going to provide a boost to the economy,
without which there is a strong possibility the nation could go into
It's the economy -- it's the tax cut that's
holding up and strengthening the economy that's going to enable it to
turn around and bring in more revenues. Revenues result from
growth, not just from the tax rate structure.
Q Okay. So
do you disagree with your own estimate that it will cost $1.35 trillion
over the next 10 years, or do you think there's an economic stimulus
effect that will decrease that cost?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it's an
interesting question, and economists will differ with the exact amount
of additional growth that will come from it. Most economists
looking at this year are saying it's going to create growth of anywhere
from three-quarters of a point to one percentage point of additional
The other question that the President has
asked himself is, if taxes weren't cut, wouldn't Congress spend the
money? And the answer is, yes, of course they
would. So you can't ask the question in a
vacuum. The fact of the matter is that there is always an
important reminder to Congress to engage in fiscal
discipline. If taxes weren't cut, the economy wouldn't
rebound; and if taxes weren't cut, the Congress and members of both
parties would spend the money anyway.
So the tax cut is the solution to the problems
the nation is going through with the weak economy. It's also
the solution to stopping the government from going on a giant spending
spree which would threaten the Social Security surplus.
Q When will the
President start aggressively pushing a tax package for
corporations? They were all promised this when he was
putting together the first tax bill, that there would be another tax
bill later this year that would be specifically targeted to helping
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, nobody
here said there would be another tax bill later this
year. As you know, every year the President sends up a
Q -- we all know that
you guys had told all these guys on the outside who were helping
advocate your tax package that there would be another tax package --
MR. FLEISCHER: You'll have to wait
for the '03 budget, which is typically submitted in January or
Q So we won't see
anything the rest of this year?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's always -- those
items are always, as you know, contained in the budget. And
so we'll see what the budget looks like at that time.
Q -- to New York, could
you outline the significance of this trip to New York?
MR. FLEISCHER: The trip to New York
tomorrow is going to focus on, one, an event to welcome new Americans
into our country. The President is very proud of his
long-standing record as being a welcoming Republican when it comes to
immigration and new Americans. So he's going to participate
in a swearing-in ceremony at Ellis Island, to welcome America's newest
From there, he'll travel to Saint Patrick's
Cathedral, where he'll participate in an event in honor of the memory
of Cardinal O'Connor.
Q And what about
O'Connor, will he use that as a mention of faith-based or what --
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't looked at
his remarks for that. I have to do a little more background
on that. I think we will work to put something out on
that. So we'll have an entire event summary for you later
today, that will include whether or not he even has remarks; I'm not
Q Is he going to
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I'm just not
Q Will he again be
pushing his legislative initiatives at any time in New York?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. No,
no, no. Again, I need to look at whether he's going to have
remarks at that event tomorrow or not. I just am not sure.
Q Is that a forum where
he would discuss publicly or privately the ethical concerns around stem
cell research that he's wrestling with right now?
MR. FLEISCHER: The purpose of the
event is to go up and honor the memory of Cardinal
O'Connor. I can't speak to any private conversations the
President may have.
Q And will you tell us
about them if they occur?
MR. FLEISCHER: Not if they're
Q On stem cell, how
important are the personal experiences he's hearing from people very
close to him -- Andy Card -- and his father was mentioned in the paper
over the weekend -- in making his decision?
MR. FLEISCHER: As the President
approaches this decision he's thinking very carefully and
very thoughtfully about different peoples' perspectives on this
issue. And many of those perspectives include things that
are individual and things that are personal. And the
President is very aware that there is a balance on this issue where
there is so much potential for health and for breakthroughs.
On the other hand, the President is very
concerned about preserving a culture of life. And both sides
of the issue have very compelling, important personal stories to
tell. And the President is a good listener and he's going to
have a very thoughtful approach to this.
Q Is he going to meet
with -- Congressman Smith of New Jersey has asked him to meet with
three children who were born from -- were conceived, and then their
embryos from which they grew were cryogenically preserved and they were
adopted by infertile couples. Mr. Smith thinks that these
children are examples of what might be destroyed in the research that
others want funded. Is the President going to meet with
these children, as Congressman Smith has asked?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is the first
I've heard about it, so I'll try to find out for you.
Q Ari, is there any
time table at all for that decision? Is it in anyone's
mind? I mean, could this go on for weeks, or even months, or
do we expect something before Europe?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no hard time
table for it. I think when the President decides he has
something to share and has something to announce, he will.
Q It could be quite a
long time, then?
MR. FLEISCHER: Whenever the
President decides, we'll let you know.
Q Ari, you said earlier
about no further tax cuts this year. Does that include the
MR. FLEISCHER: That's already been
proposed by the President. The question is, when will the
President propose any additional or new.
Q So you're not ruling
that out for this year?
MR. FLEISCHER: No,
no. The question was, when will the President propose
anything else. That's already in the President's proposal
submitted to the Congress. In fact, I anticipate that Ways
and Means may take action on that shortly.
Q So the President is
still supportive of further tax cuts this year for business, is that
correct? I mean, if other things such as that, and maybe a
capital gains tax cut and so forth, other items of his agenda, you'd be
supportive of that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
speculate about other items that are not in the President's
budget. But we'll have to just see if Congress decides on
its own to send any additional measures to the President.
You've been very patient.
you. There's some conflicting reports from the Mideast that
Secretary Powell may have mentioned in the conversation over the
weekend to Prime Minister Sharon that the seven-day period prior to the
cooling-off period must begin now. Is this the White House
opinion? Has the period begun, or is it still -- are we
still waiting --
MR. FLEISCHER: I going to want to
take a look at exactly what Secretary Powell said before I venture into
that, so let me take a look at that.
Q Can you tell me if
there's any initiative being planned from the White House side to try
and get things moving in the Middle East otherwise?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
remains very concerned about the recent up tick in the violence in the
region, and he urges all parties again to do their utmost to maintain
the cease-fire, as fragile as it is, and to break the cycle of
Q Does the President
see any problem to get approval for trade promotion authority with the
problems in the Senate on the patients' bill of rights and
education? Do you think the President will be through
getting the approval for the TPA as he promised to the countries of
Latin America before October or September?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President
is hopeful that he is going to be successful in those initiatives prior
to that time. You mentioned -- what was the fourth issue you
said there? You had education, patients' bill of rights --
Q Yes, you said that
education and bill of rights will be a problem for trade promotion
authority on the side of the Democrats. They are opposing
the trade promotion authority because the unions are lobbying on the
MR. FLEISCHER: There should not be
a link between trade promotion authority and improving education for
America's families and for America's schools. There should
not be a link between any of those programs. The President
believes that they are the right thing to do, in and of themselves, and
should not be tied to other legislation.
Q Just to clarify on
taxes. There are several initiatives that were in this
year's budget that were not part of the first tax package. Will the
President, this year, push as aggressively for the enactment of those
tax cuts as he did the ones that were included in the first tax
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, when you say
"as aggressively," I'm not sure how to measure that. But the
Q He had a very -- in
his national campaign, when he traveled -- different cities and had a
bunch of pep rallies. Will he do the same thing --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
continues to believe in them just as fully as ever. The
President thinks it's an important part of his legislative
initiative. And as I just mentioned, Ways and Means is going
to take up one of those items that is contained in the faith-based
initiative to allow people who don't have a deduction for their child
to be given the right to get one for the first time -- since 1986.
Q But will he lobby
Congress to enact all those that have not been enacted that were
included in his budget?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think there's no
question that if it's something that's in the President's budget the
President is going to urge Congress to enact it.
Q And as a general
proposition, the President is or is not supportive of further business
tax breaks this year?
MR. FLEISCHER: You've seen
everything that is proposed in the President's budget, and you can
Q No, I'm not asking
about the budget, I'm asking about what he wants for the rest of the
year. Is he supportive of further business tax breaks, or
MR. FLEISCHER: I've answered that
already. If Congress passes any items that were not in the
President's budget, the President will evaluate it in reality, not as a
Q Ari, what is the
President's position on the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty? Is the -- effectively dead? Is the New
York Times article on Saturday accurate?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, this is an
old issue, going way back to the transition when the President said,
and many members of the United States Senate have said, that the
treaty, itself, is a fatally flawed treaty. There's no surprise,
there's nothing new there.
Q On stem cell, how
absorbing is this decision for the President? Is it the hardest policy
decision he's had to make so far? Is it true that it's
starting to permeate other areas of the agenda, which is to say it
comes up in meetings that are supposed to be about something
else? I mean, is this a real tough one for him?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, a lot of
things come up at meetings. The President is often in a
meeting on topic and lots of issues come up. So that should
be no surprise. But there's nothing really further I can add
to the issue other than what I've said before. The President
is thinking very carefully about this issue. He's listening
to all sides of the debate and hear their perspectives, and that's
where the President is.
Q But you won't say how
difficult this is for him?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's an
important decision and the President is treating it as such.
Q But you won't say
whether it's more difficult than others?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's hard to make
that kind of linear definition.
Q When does the
President think life begins?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I have not
Q What's his
theory? What is his theory or what is his belief?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
said that we need to be a culture that values life in all its
forms. And that's the position the President has
spoken. That's what he has said throughout the campaign --
Q What does that
mean? I mean, when does he actually think a person is coming
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has
spoken on that by saying that he thinks everybody in society needs to
value a culture of life. That's how he's defined it.
Q But when does life
begin that we value?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's how the
President has defined it, Ron.
Q Can you take that
Q -- has opened a
60-day comment period on new rules for national
forests. There has been some criticism of some of the
questions as being loaded. For example, the question of how
you fight wild fires in roadless forests. What's the purpose
of the review period? And how do you deal with criticism
that some of the questions are intended to illicit answers that support
the administration's view?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is a routine
procedure all agencies take as part of
rule-making. Rule-making includes a comment period that's
often 60 days, whereby all interested parties are able to venture
forward and talk to the agencies and tell them what they
think. And that's exactly what you're seeing played
out. You've seen it played out in literally thousands of
decisions that agencies make always in the government. This
is exactly how a rule-making process works.
Q Ari, will the
President answer questions of motive, intended to illicit the response
that you want?
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't seen the
questions. You just read one; I think that's a question you
should address to the Department of Interior.
Q Ari, will the
President answer the question about when life begins when he outlines
and explains his decision on stem cell research?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you'll hear
him in his own words explain it and you'll be able to evaluate it at
Q Can you ask him so we
can get an update tomorrow when he thinks life
begins? Because that's really an important part of this.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll do my best.
Q Ari, millions of
illegal arms are being shipped around the world, smuggled, and they
land in the hands of terrorists. And today a full U.N.
conference is opening on the shipments of illegal arms. Any
Presidential comments? What is he going to do to stop all
these? Because those arms to terrorists come back against
the United States.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
very concerned about all issues involving arms to
terrorists. As you know, it's something that he and
President Putin have discussed at great length, about the problems of
extremism on the border of Russia. And the President shares
that concern and believes that we need to have an approach where all
developed nations and developing nations work together to have a
nonproliferation strategy to prevent terrorists from receiving
Go ahead, you had a question.
Q Yes, on the
airlines. Is there any truth to the rumor that President
Bush is going to meet with John Ashcroft and United Airlines CEO James
Goodwin on the US Airways-United Airlines merger?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have
anything for you on that, but the President does not get involved in
merger issues. That's a matter of Justice.
Q Regarding that, in
the interest of preserving jobs that could be lost if this merger
doesn't take place, is the President working with anybody to kind of
like restart negotiations at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: On the merger?
MR. FLEISCHER: You need to talk to
the appropriate people in the government who deal with mergers from a
legal point of view.
Q What does he think
about it, though?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, you need to
talk to the people who are responsible for the legal point of view on
matters dealing with mergers. That's antitrust.
Q Ari, the HHS proposal
to cover unborn children under the CHIP program, does that suggest that
the President believes that life begins at conception? If
you can confer health insurance coverage to an unborn child from the
date of conception, does that not suggest he believes life begins at
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it shows
that HHS has a draft memo that talks about how best to get prenatal
care to women who are pregnant. And that's what that issue
Q But if you can confer
personhood and provide insurance for an unborn child from the date of
conception, is that not a philosophical statement that life begins at
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's an
actual idea from the government about how to help low-income women who
are pregnant. That's what's that's all about.
Q But don't you have to
provide insurance for a person?
MR. FLEISCHER: You have to get
assistance, prenatal care assistance to the pregnant moms, which help
Q You're not covering
the mother, you're covering the child. So does that not
confer personhood to a child from the date of conception?
MR. FLEISCHER: First of all, when
you deal with the specific language of a draft memo at HHS, you should
talk to HHS. The President's concern is to make certain that
there is proper prenatal care. And that's what the focus is
Q Could we just stop
because you're not going to go there? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm happy to go
round in circles with you. (Laughter.)
Q Ari, there's very
little time left until the August recess, and there's the
appropriations to fill. Realistically, if Congress focuses
on education, patients' bill of rights and the faith-based initiative,
doesn't that really squeeze out energy -- real action on energy, or
trade promotion authority?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. The
President has already seen action in the House shaping up on
energy. The House is scheduled at the committee level to
take action on preserving America's energy independence by July 12th.
And that's a sign that it can be done. That, too, is an
important priority. But the President today outlined three
priorities that he thinks are the most important for Congress to focus
on between now and when they leave for their month-long August recess.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
1:53 P.M. EDT