For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 13, 2001
By Ari Fleischer
Democracy in Cuba..........................................2
Campaign Finance Reform..................................3-4
Stem Cell Research.......................................4-5
Discussion with the Pope.............................12
Beijing Olympic Bid.......................................10
Trade Liberalization in Latin America..................10-11
Costa Rica Meeting.....................................11,12
12:38 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll take your
Q Well, we want
some personnel announcements. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Do I hear a
thank you? It's Friday in the White House press room.
Q Ari, on
Argentina. Have they asked for help from the United States,
in the way of the $15 billion or any amount of money? Have
they asked for help?
MR. FLEISCHER: Steve, let me
answer it to the greatest degree I can. President Bush has sent a
message of support to President de la Rua with respect to the economic
situation in Argentina. The President said that he was
watching the economic situation in Argentina closely, and he noted that
President de la Rua's Wednesday proposal to bring down the fiscal
deficit in Argentina.
Treasury officials, including Secretary
O'Neill, are in touch with the appropriate Argentine officials, and any
questions beyond that I'm going to refer to the Department of the
Q What triggered
his note? Why did he send the note? Was there
something that prompted that, other than the general economic climate
MR. FLEISCHER: It's well-known
about the economic troubles that Argentina is facing. So
it's a statement from the President to the President of Argentina.
Q What was it that
you said about the fiscal situation? I'm sorry, I couldn't
MR. FLEISCHER: The President --
President Bush informed President de la Rua that he was watching the
economic situation in Argentina, and his note was an expression of
support for President de la Rua.
Q Ari, on Cuba, can
you outline the President's general thoughts about the importance of
underscoring freedoms in Cuba and also looking ahead to what he's going
to be looking at next week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Today is the eve
of the 7th anniversary of the ramming of a tugboat called the 13th of
March Incident. It was a ramming of a tugboat by Cuban
authorities. The President will shortly have an announcement
of several specific actions he has taken to further the cause of
democracy and the people who yearn to be free in Cuba. An
announcement will be coming out from the President later on that topic,
and I can't get into the specifics until it's out from the President.
Q I'm not looking
for specifics, just your thoughts of why it's important, why he wants
to underscore freedom in Cuba.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
believes that it's important to promote democracy and freedom
everywhere, and as totalitarianism and communism have faded from the
scene, there remain just a few isolated spots on this earth where it
remains, and Cuba is one of them. The President is on the
side of those who yearn to be free.
Q And looking ahead
to next week, I know he hasn't made this -- well, you can say that --
but he's going to be facing a decision next week on whether to allow
Helms-Burton to take effect.
MR. FLEISCHER: There is a
separate matter dealing with legislation called Helms-Burton Title III
specifically, and under the law, that matter will not need to be
concluded until July 17th.
Q What is weighing
on -- is he worried about the consequences that any decision might
cause among European allies --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he'll
address whatever his concerns are at the time he makes his
announcement, which will be not until next week.
Q Ari, there have
been some meetings this week on the education bill. And as I
understand it, some significant players, even Republican lawmakers,
have advised the White House that because of the complexities of the
education reform bill and working them out, that they think they need
more time to do a really good bill before July and they can't meet that
deadline. Is the White House willing to engage with Congress
on extending the President's preference to have this done by July in
lieu of the complexities of the education?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
would be disappointed if Congress were not able to send him an
education package prior to the children going back to
school. But he does want to work with the Congress and will
work with the Congress in a bipartisan fashion. This has
been an issue where tremendous progress has been
made. Congress is focusing on education in a different
manner this year with President Bush's support. And it's a
matter that is less ideological and much more practical in terms of how
do you help our schools to help our children.
And so, the President continues to urge
Congress to get the work done before the August recess, but he will
work in a very collegial fashion with the Congress.
Q That's not an
absolute deadline, in other words?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's what the
President has called for, it's what he hopes will happen.
Q Ari, on campaign
finance, you said before that the White House hadn't yet sorted out
what this means. Have you sorted it out yet, and could you
remind us what the President --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think I
said the House hadn't sorted out what it meant.
Q Well, you said it
Q Yes. Have you had any clarification
FLEISCHER: No. No. I think it's --
really that clarification will be found first in the House.
Q Can you remind
us, please, what the President's principles are and what he will accept
for campaign finance reform?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
believes that there should be maximum disclosure of contributions, that
we need to post disclosures that he did during the campaign, on the
Internet. He believes that we need to have a ban on soft
money from corporations and from unions.
The President has a series of other
proposals in there. Scott, why don't you remind me on the
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, we can get
that to her, so --
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me post the
rest of them. I stopped at two, right there.
MR. MCCLELLAN: -- ban on
corporations -- soft money for corporations, labor unions.
Q That's been a top
Q That will be
helpful. Thank you.
Q Well, I mean,
whatever is going to happen, yesterday was the chance to have something
happen and it didn't. And you haven't even expressed any
disappointment. The President ran as reformer; is he
disappointed that it didn't get resolved --
MR. FLEISCHER: Keith, I
addressed that at the gaggle this morning. I was asked about
it. I'll be happy to give the same answer I gave this
morning. The President is calling -- has said to the
Congress, and has called on them, to improve the current system, which
the President believes is in need of reform.
The President has indicated that he would
like to sign a bill this year that improves the campaign finance
system. He has said to lawmakers directly, in private and in
public, that they cannot count on him to veto campaign finance reform
this year, which is something that many Republicans have called on him
to do. He has indicated to them that he cannot be counted on
to do that.
The President would like to sign a bill
that improves the current system.
Q So no judgment
about what happened? I mean, McCain was pretty clear about
what he thought about what happened yesterday. You have no
view about whether it's disappointing that it didn't --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
still prepared to sign a bill if it meets the principles.
Q Does the
President believe that an egg fertilized outside the womb constitutes
the conception of life?
MR. FLEISCHER: Jim, again, on
this whole topic -- which your questions deals again with stem cell
Q No, this could
deal with a lot more than just stem cell research.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, until the
President makes that determination, he's going to speak for himself
about the reasons and his approach, his view of life, his view of
health, his view of science at the time he makes the decision.
Q Is there a reason
you don't want to answer this question?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's not a
question of want to or not want to. It's a question of as the
President deliberates on this matter, he'll share those reflections,
Q On global
warming, the statement that you just put out, is that the extent of
what the President plans to bring to the allies in America about his
solution to global warming, or is this just like a first --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, this is a
first step that the administration is taking. This is in
follow-up to what the President announced last month, about the effort
to combat global warming. The President today announced a
series of specific initiatives that the administration is going to
undertake to combat global warming. And the global climate
working group continues its efforts on a more broad approach.
Q Dr. Rice
mentioned in her briefing that you would have something to say about --
something to say about he could bring or what the advances have been by
the Cabinet-level group when he went to Europe? Is this it,
or does he plan to say more about it next week, before he goes to
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
will have additional remarks next week, but this represents the
statement of administration on this issue.
Q Can you tell us
what other plans he'll -- the European trip next week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Nothing beyond
what Condi indicated this morning.
Q Ari, I just have
a follow-up question on the faith-based initiative, the process for how
you notify, for example, the Salvation Army when they requested a
change in an OMB circular? And I just wondered, after the
decision was made in early June, that this request was unworkable,
whether or not any White House or OMB official contacted the Salvation
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have
anything further beyond your question to me this morning about
it. I know that John DiIulio contacted the Salvation Army
after the decision was made final this week. But I don't
have anything interim from OMB. You may want to ask the OMB
press office. I just haven't had a chance to talk to them
Q Several new, or
at least a couple of new polls out, ours seems to show a slight decline
in the President's job approval rating, though it's still within a
sufficient margin of error -- 59 percent to 56 percent. Do
you have any comment on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: It sounds to me
like there are two polls in a row that show the President's job
approval rating is the mid- to upper 50s -- 56 percent and 57 percent
in the cast of the Gallup poll that's released today.
I think this is further evidence that the
President's message and his presidency has been well-received by the
American people. Those are solid marks -- 56 percent, 57
percent job approval. Certainly, it is leap years ahead of
the job approval of the previous President at this turn in his
presidency. It's generally consistent with the job approval
rating that Ronald Reagan had at this time in his
presidency. Ronald Reagan was a little bit higher than
President George W. Bush's at this time.
But I think it's a sign that the American
people welcome his presidency, that they are supportive of his
presidency and the agenda that he is pursuing and an agenda that is
starting to move nicely on Capitol Hill.
Q Why, when -- last
week or the week before, there were four polls that showed a drop in
the polls, you and your allies at the RNC had conference calls to
explain that you couldn't trust the polls and it's just a blip in time
and no big deal? Now you're --
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think
anybody said you can adjust the polls. I think the message you heard
on that phone call and the message that I've repeated many times here
is that the President has been in a very consistent range, and some
polls in the low 50s and other polls in the upper 50s, and that it's
been adding a lot of stability to the President's numbers, particularly
when measured from January 20th.
We indicated that several polls were taken
at a peak right after the China period. But that's been a
consistent message from the White House. Nobody ever said that you
can't trust the polls; the message was there seems to be a stability in
the President's ratings and the ratings are solid.
Q Ari, on
MR. FLEISCHER: Major, are you
cradling that telephone? (Laughter.)
Q Yes. I'm just holding it here, in
case it doesn't ring. It rang during Condi's briefing, so I
want to muffle the ring. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Expecting a
Q Don't want to
bother you in any way.
In extolling what the Ways and Means
Committee did on faith-based, you took no note of the fact that its tax
provisions are a tenth of the size the White House originally
proposed. Is there any sense of disappointment that the tax
provisions are not larger and do not reflect the larger effort to
expand charitable giving to those who cannot or do not currently
MR. FLEISCHER: If you check the
transcript, what I said is that the Ways and Means Committee passed a
scaled-back version of what the President proposed, and I likened it to
the President's overall tax proposal, where he sought a larger tax
cut. He did not get all of what he wanted, but in the case
of the Ways and Means bill, as I said, he got $13 billion of tax relief
over a 10 year period.
And the President is very pleased that for
the first time since 1986, if this passes into law, people who don't
itemize on their taxes will be able to take a deduction for charitable
giving. That will help spur even more than $13 billion
dollars' worth of charitable activities across the country.
Q But, Ari, how can
a $25-a-year deduction -- which is, I believe, what that amounts to --
spur more charitable giving, if that's all you're getting?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because it ramps
up over time. It's $25 in the first year for individuals,
$50 for couples. And then it ramps up over a number of years
to a more sizeable level. It has been scaled
back. The President would have preferred more, but that was
the pattern in the previous tax bill which, when he signed into law, I
think people recognized the President was successful in getting much of
what he sought.
Congress is not a rubber
stamp. Congress exercises its own free will. But the
principle of what the President sought has been put back into the tax
code if this is enacted.
Q But you would
concede that $1.35 trillion is much closer to $1.6 trillion than -- I
mean, we're not talking about similar --
MR. FLEISCHER: And that's why I
called it scaled-back. This is phased-in over a longer
period of time, but it still ramps up to a significant level.
Q Ari, on a related
MR. FLEISCHER: Let's go to
somebody who hasn't asked one yet. Go ahead.
Q On this action on
climate change, part of the President's language talks about reducing
uncertainties in the science. Does the President -- is he
already accepting the dangers of global warming, does he need these new
scientific reports before he'll state that global warming is a serious
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has always said global warming is a serious problem, it is a serious
priority. That's widely acknowledged. The President
But the National Academy Report that came
out last month also indicated that there are areas of
uncertainty. There are some things that are known, but there
are other things that aren't certain, and that's what this addresses.
Q Why is the
initial action, then, towards more research as opposed to a specific
action to target a reduction in global warming?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you
notice here, there are several steps that have been taken to engage in
carbon sequestration. Those are specific steps in the action
that's been announced. For the debt for forest agreement by
the Department of Treasury, those are specific steps, in that case,
addressed to El Salvador, to help address carbon sequestration -- not
to study, but to do.
MR. FLEISCHER: Let's
go. We're trying to get to new people.
Q Ari, following up
on that, though, can you just explain to the American people who don't
see your paper what it is that you are saying today about global
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
today announced a series of actions to further promote the cause of
reductions of global warming and to reduce greenhouse
gases. These include the fact that NASA will now invest $120
million over the next three years in research on natural carbon cycle
climate modeling and the link between atmospheric chemistry and climate
to help reduce uncertainties in science, which were highlighted by the
National Academy of Science's report.
In addition to that, the Department of
Energy just signed agreements to begin two significant new projects to
study carbon sequestration. The first agreement is with the
Nature Conservancy, which is the world's largest private international
conservation group, to study land use and forestry practices for
storing carbon more effectively in Brazil and in Belize.
And, finally, to further cooperate -- to
further the cause of cooperation in the Western Hemisphere, the
Department of Treasury yesterday entered into a $14 million debt for
forest agreement with the government of El Salvador under the Tropical
Forest Conservation Act.
By this Act, the agreement will secure
important benefits of carbon sequestration and climate change
mitigation. In other words, it will reduce
carbon. And those are specific initiatives that that the
President is pleased that the agencies have been able to take at this
Q Ari, is the
President open to the idea of revising the Kyoto protocol and making it
more acceptable to the United States, or are you simply --
MR. FLEISCHER: There is
currently a Cabinet-level review that is working on how to reduce
greenhouse gases. The President is committed to the
procedural Kyoto approach, as he announced last week -- and it's an
international approach. And the President believes there is
going to be a promise of much in the way of new technology to help
address global climate changes.
Q So Kyoto could be
reconfigured or reformulated?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's the
international aspect of bringing the various nations together that was
set out in the Rio -- in Rio.
Q The process --
Q Not the process,
not the protocol.
Q The document
itself is dead?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's
correct. Right, I did not say the protocol.
Q As far as the
President's concerned, the document's --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's the process
that was laid out, which is a continuation of what began in
Q Ari, is the
administration trying to avoid embarrassing or provoking Beijing in any
way by taking a neutral stance on the selection for the Olympic Games?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is the
President's position about sports and policy. The President
does not view this as a political matter. The President
views this as a matter for the International Olympic Committee to
decide what nation or what city should host the Olympics.
Q Having said that,
is it the President's hope, or even belief, that perhaps by Beijing now
hosting these games in 2008 that it will foster an atmosphere of more
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the
President believes that the Olympics are a sporting event, and not a
political event. But having said that, this now is an
opportunity for China to showcase itself as a modern nation.
Q He, therefore,
thinks it was a mistake to boycott the Moscow Olympics in 1980?
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't work
for him in 1980 and it's not a topic I've asked him about, so I don't
Q Is there any
concern on the part of the President and his economic team that the
earlier initiative for trade liberalization in Latin America is going
to be undermined by all this financial turmoil that's going on in the
region there now?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that is
one -- the President has addressed that, in terms of expressing his
support for President de la Rua, in the note that he
sent. But the administration was always going to work
through the Department of Treasury around the world with various
nations about economic situations.
Q I wonder if the
President was aware of the strong and continued increase of Hispanic
business organizations supporting the trade promotion
authority? And in that respect, has he had any conversation
with the President of Costa Rica?
MR. FLEISCHER: Just this week,
the President met with a group of leading American Hispanic businessmen
and women to discuss trade promotion authority. The Hispanic
business community is a growing and thriving part of our economic
success and it's further part of how we can have an economic recovery
by focusing on small businesses, many of which are Hispanic.
So this week, many of these leaders
committed to the President they would help to pass trade promotion
authority because they believe in it and because they think it's good
for their businesses.
On that point, too, I want to note again
that the President continues to urge Congress to make progress on the
issue involving Mexican trucking. The President believes that's an
important commitment that we have under NAFTA. There was a
helpful step taken in the amendment that was passed by Senator Patty
Murray on that matter; additional work needs to be done. And
the President wants to make sure that the Congress does not take any
action that's unfair to our friends from the south.
Q Do you have a
read-out on the Costa Rica meeting?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm going around
to the new people, and I'll come back.
Q About the Mexican
truck issue, what Murray did on that amendment, is that enough to avoid
a veto of the Transportation Appropriations Bill, or is --
MR. FLEISCHER: It is a helpful
step, but the concerns raised in the Mitch Daniels letter that said the
staff would recommend a veto, those concerns remain in place.
Q Just one other
thing about that. Since the Sabo amendment on the House bill
before the recess, has the President spoke with Fox or other people
about Mexico's concern about the issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the
President of course spoke to President Fox and President Aznar of Spain
when they were together in Mexico. And that was about 10
days ago. That was after the House action on that
matter. I don't recall if that particular topic came up.
Q Just a readout on
the Costa Rica meeting, what they talked about?
MS. COUNTRYMAN: We'll have some
points a little bit later. I'm sorry. We haven't
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll have a
little bit on that for you in a little bit. I wasn't in the
meeting, and so we'll have something in a little bit.
Mr. David Gregory.
Q Hi, thank
you. (Laughter.) And I'll have a follow up.
(Laughter.) Does the -- on stem cell -- I'm trying to be
serious. Would the President like to discuss this matter
with the Pope prior to finally making his mind up?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has not indicated what his timetable will be. He will decide
when he sees fit. And I have no indication whether that will
be prior to or after the trip.
Q But does he --
would he like to consult the Pope on this directly, face to face?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
keeping his own counsel on that, so I really have no information about
whether it will happen before or after.
Q But I'm saying,
has he not expressed any desire, as one of the people to listen to and
consult with, that the Pope would be among them?
MR. FLEISCHER: That again would
get into whether or not he's willing to decide before or after the
trip. And the President has not given any such
indication. He just has not given an indication about that.
Q A congressional
research economist yesterday was talking at the National Economics
Club, and this might be a little wonky, but she said an unintended
consequence of the new tax cut package is that certain families of
four, earning, say between $25,000 and $30,000 a year, will not benefit
from the tax rebate because it will be offset by the child care
Is there any concern -- I know the
President is always talking about like a single waitress benefiting
from his tax cut package, but apparently they've done an analysis, and
it turns out that families of four in that income tax bracket won't --
it's going to be offset --
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't -- I'm
not familiar with her remarks, and I haven't seen the analysis, so I'd
hesitate to comment.
Q For next week,
could you look ahead to Monday? What is he doing Monday,
what's the significance of it, and also just sort of give a summary of
what's happening next week.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President on
Monday is going to have a meeting with a veteran of the Vietnam War, to
give him the Congressional Medal of Freedom -- I'm sorry, the
Congressional Medal of Honor. And the President will depart
for Europe on Wednesday next week, where he will meet with Prime
Minister Blair, where he will meet with the Queen, where he will travel
to Genoa to participate in the G-7 summit. And following
that, the President will travel to Rome to meet with the
Pope. And if there are any additional travel, we'll fill you
in at the appropriate time.
Q How about Monday,
Q Is he going to be
pushing any further on the legislation as its going through -- any
further events on faith-based or anything like that next week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, there
will be an interesting -- this will be an interesting time, because
while the President is abroad, there's going to be a very busy domestic
agenda here at home. And I think you can look forward to the
President discussing that agenda during the trip.
There will be on the floor of the House of
Representatives, as soon as next week, possibly, patients' bill of
rights could be on the floor as well as the faith-based
initiative. And the President has been working very hard on
both initiatives, as you know. He's been having a series of
meetings with House Democrats, House Republicans on the patients' bill
of rights so that a bill can be sent to him that he can sign into
law. He'll be very keenly interested to see what the House
does, and that may -- very well may happen next week, so too with
Q Ari, do you mean
to say there's some question about the President's stop in Kosovo,
which Dr. Rice spoke about earlier today?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not
issued any formal statement on it. Dr. Rice, of course, has
THE PRESS: Thank you.