For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 16, 2001
Press Briefing Index
Personnel Announcements 1
Larkspur Peeker Power Plant 1
Mexico 4-8; 8-9
- Temporary Worker Program
U.s.-Japan Missile Defense 8
India-Pakistan Meeting 10
National Academy of Sciences Report 10-11
Russia-China Relationship 12
Taiwan Relations Act 12
Faith-Based Bill 12-13; 16
- Salvation Army
- Charitable Deductions
Income Tax Code 13-14; 14-15
- Human Rights
the White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release July 16, 2001
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:56 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good
afternoon. A few announcements. The President
intends to nominate Marie T. Huhtala to be Ambassador of the United
States to Malaysia. The President intends to nominate Mary
Anne Solberg to be Deputy Director of the National Drug Control
Policy. The President intends to nominate Scott Burns to be
Deputy Director for State and Local Affairs in the Office of National
Drug Control Policy. And the President has designated David
Curtis Williams to be Acting Inspector General of the Department of
Housing and Urban Development.
One final note, and I'll be pleased to
take questions. Today, Governor Davis will open the Larkspur
Peaker Power Plant in San Diego, California. The President
is very pleased to note the addition of a new power plant coming on to
the grid in California. This plant was helped to come on
line as a result of work that was done by the Bush administration and
Environmental Protection Agency, where they issued administrative
orders, a consent that allowed the immediate and expedited construction
of peak new power plants. It's another example how the
federal government can and will work with California to help get
through the energy crisis that they are in the middle of.
And with that, I'm more than happy to take
Q Ari, the
President said earlier today that when there is not necessarily a
crisis, or people aren't feeling the crunch, that it's harder to get
people to think about long-term solutions, when you're talking about
energy. Do you -- are you taking the view with this sort of
new push to sell the plan that there is, in fact, a
crisis? Or is this really a long-term strategy?
MR. FLEISCHER: After a period
of substantial stability and, in fact, low prices in the energy
industry throughout much of the mid-1990s, beginning in approximately
1998, the energy industry has been met with a series of spike-ups and
spike-downs, in terms of energy prices. And while many
politicians have alternated between denial and blame, President Bush
thinks the best course of the nation is to stay steady and true, to
have a stable, comprehensive policy that allows America to develop its
energy resources, so we can have more energy independence.
So clearly more people focus on problems
in energy when they're in the middle of something
extraordinary. But as I've indicated, there have been a
series of spike-ups, spike-downs, which leave politicians to
alternatively blame and then deny. They blame somebody else
for a problem, and then they deny there's a problem.
The President thinks the best course is to
continue to focus on a comprehensive solution, so that we don't need to
have any more blame or any more denials. Instead, we have
Q Is that where we
are right now, in a spike-down period? Are you waiting for
gas prices to go back up, the brownouts to start up again?
MR. FLEISCHER: Prices have been
coming down recently. The President is very pleased about
that; that's good for the consumer, that's good for the
country. But as the history of energy in the United States
has shown, these trends don't stay in one direction very
long. And America still has an aging infrastructure in terms
of the electric grid. It still has an aging infrastructure
in terms of the ability to get natural gas from one part of the country
to the next. There are regions of the country that remain
vulnerable to blackouts and to brownouts. And America still
is a nation that is overly reliant on foreign supplies of oil.
So despite the fact that prices have,
indeed, come down recently, which is a good thing, the President still
wants to focus the nation's attention on the need to get the job done,
so we are less dependent on foreign oil.
Q Ari, not two
months ago the President said, in St. Paul, Minnesota, we are facing
the biggest energy crisis since the Arab oil embargo of the
1970s. What happened to the crisis?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the nation
still is operating on the margins of error. Any little
problem can create a major problem for the country. We still
are not out of the woods. California has brought on a couple
plants, which is helpful. Conservation has been very
helpful. The federal initiative in California to have the
federal government, which is the largest consumer of electricity in
California, cut back its usage by 10 percent has been
helpful. And certainly the role that individual Californians
have plaid in conservation has been helpful. The FERC action
has been helpful.
So it's taken a combination of actions,
all of which has added up to a little bit of breathing room so far.
But as I indicated, this is July 16th --
summer is halfway over and the nation is still far more dependent today
than it was in 1973 on foreign supplies of energy.
Q In retrospect,
did he overstate the case in St. Paul?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I don't
think so at all, John. I think anybody who has had their
power go out knows that the President was not overstating the
case. Anybody who was paying $2.50 a gallon for gasoline
knows the President wasn't overstating the case.
Q But nobody is.
MR. FLEISCHER: They were just
as recently as five, six weeks ago. And so it remains an issue of
volatility in the market, and we remain a nation that is too dependent
on foreign supplies of oil. And we remain a nation that has
continued to lurch from crisis to crisis, with periods in between of
relative calm which were marked by a later crisis.
The President's approach is it is the job
of serious people in government to focus on comprehensive solutions
that get the problem solved once and for all, so America won't once
again ask itself, how did we get into the energy predicament we're in.
Q Ari, but since
Americans aren't paying so much money for gas right now at the pump, is
it going to be harder to get Congress to focus on this, since they have
such a busy agenda in these last two weeks?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Americans
are, clearly, not paying as much as they were five weeks ago, and
that's a good thing. But Americans are paying more today
than they were paying a year ago, and that's a bad thing.
So from the President's point of view, the
more supply we can bring on the market, the lower the price
is. The more capacity we have to refine energy and gasoline
and get it to people so they can pump it into their cars, that the
better our nation will be. The less reliant we are on
foreign supplies of oil, the stronger our nation will
be. And the more modern our infrastructure, the better it
will be for one region of the nation to be able to make up a shortage
by using a surplus in a different region of the nation.
We remain a nation that has energy
problems. And the President has offered a plan to Congress
to help solve those problems. Just because the price has
gone down, does that mean the President thinks we should cut back on
conservation? No. The President is still as
equally committed to conservation, just because the price has gone
down. And he hopes that Congress will hear the message and
that Congress will act on his plan that focuses on both conservation
and on exploration. And that's exactly why Vice President
Cheney and members of the President's Cabinet are taking out across the
country today, to help meet with American people and help promote the
Q Can you give us
the status of this proposal to legalize the standing of 3 million
illegal Mexicans, I guess? You know, where does it
stand? What's going to happen? Is it a long-range
MR. FLEISCHER: Earlier this
year, President Bush met with President Fox and they discussed many
issues of mutual interest, including immigration and border
issues. As a result of those meetings, the President of the
United States committed the United States government, through the State
Department and the Justice Department, to work with their Mexican
counterparts on a way to make our work with Mexico along the border
more orderly and more humane and to have more safe and legal
immigration into this country.
That's very significant, because this is
the first time in many a long period of time involving our relationship
with Mexico that Mexico and the United States are approaching the
border from a position of shared responsibility, as opposed to where
there's an immigration problem, and illegals arrive in the United
States and Mexico says that's an American problem, now we have the
President of Mexico and the President of the United States and our
governments committed to working together on immigration issues.
Toward that point, there has been a series
of meetings at the State Department and at the Justice Department with
Mexicans that are focused on the possibility of a new temporary worker
program, which could hopefully create a more orderly process for
immigration into this country, which would take into account issues
such as border safety, it would involve a temporary guest worker
program, it would have ideas on regularization of undocumented Mexicans
in the United States, it would focus on worker rights, it would focus
on labor demand, it would focus on cooperation of law enforcement along
So there is a working group that is in the
middle of their effort. The White House has not yet received the paper
from that working group. But the President is encouraged about the
progress that we are making with Mexico on border
issues. And the President has said that America is a nation
of immigrants, and we should welcome people to our shores.
Q Is this working
group going to work out the details of how this all comes about, or
how, for example, the illegal immigrants here will be able to legalize
their standing? Is it all going to be crossing every "t" and
dotting every "i"?
MR. FLEISCHER: They are looking
at the creation of a new, temporary, guest worker
program. And as part of the guest worker program, as you
indicated, there are some 3 million Mexicans who are in the United
States illegally, and this would focus on whether or not there is
anything that can be done to regularize their immigration status and to
provide them either some type of temporary or some other type of status
that would welcome them into the United States.
Q Just one last
follow up. Is that a legislative process?
MR. FLEISCHER: Parts of it very
well may be legislative. It depends on what actions the
working group recommends. But they are still in the middle
of their work. It still is -- it's not early, but it's right
in the middle of what they've been working on. And so it all
depends on what specific recommendations they will propose to the
Q Ari, when you're
talking about regularization, are you at all envisaging allowing those
3 million undocumented Mexican citizens living in the United States to
apply for permanent residency, and ultimately -- i.e., a green card --
and ultimately for citizenship? Is that even in your minds,
MR. FLEISCHER: It really
depends on what the working group recommends.
Q So it's a
possibility then? That's one of the possibilities they're
MR. FLEISCHER: It all depends
on what the working group recommends. And the President has spoken out
before on these issues, about welcoming our neighbors to the south; but
also the importance of enforcing the laws of this country and having a
border that both the United States and Mexico are working hard on to
make sure that we have a more orderly, humane, legal and safe migration
into the United States.
Q Ari, on the same
subject, please. This will have to go -- any regularization
or amnesty or whatever will have to go to Congress. Does the
President intend to work with Congress or present a plan to Congress?
FLEISCHER: Absolutely. Anything that requires
legislation -- and much of this, as I indicated, would -- the President
would, of course, work with the Congress on this.
Q But I mean,
before he sends it up there. That's what I mean.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
hasn't even received it himself, yet. So it's all a little premature.
Q But as this idea
has sort of, like, come out now, have you received any response from
border legislators or border state officials?
MR. FLEISCHER: If anybody here
has, I'm not aware of it. Obviously, it's a topic that's
important to the border states. But, again, the White House
has not yet received anything.
Q You would call it
MR. FLEISCHER: As I mentioned,
it's a possibility of a new temporary worker program.
Q Ari, the whole
idea of a temporary worker program is that it's temporary, that people
come and go for short periods of time, or up to a year, I think, in
some of the programs. But it sounds as if one of the options
that is being considered now is not a temporary program but, rather, to
give people who are here working illegally some sort of permanent legal
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I
think it's important to see exactly what the State Department and the
Justice Department working group come up with, what ideas they submit
for the White House. And, again, it's at mid-level of their
deliberations. I don't anticipate any action or any
decisions on this for quite a little bit of time.
Q Well, when you
use the term "regularize," doesn't that imply some sort of permanent
legal status, rather than a temporary status?
MR. FLEISCHER: It totally
depends on how they do it. It can be done temporarily; it
can be done on a longer period of time; it can be done in a manner that
one event can lead to another event in the immigration stream of events
down the road. So, again, it really depends on the substance
and the facts of something that has not yet been received by the White
House. And even after it is received by the White House, it will
undergo some more review. Members of Congress will have
But from the President's point, he thinks
it is very important that we work with our Mexican friends to say that
the United States is a nation that has welcomed immigrants, and that we
have immigration issues with Mexico, and that those issues should be
handled in a way that recognizes humanity, that recognizes safety, that
recognizes law, and that focuses on ways to have legal and safe
migration into this country.
Q Is it accurate to
say that he is considering among his many options a program that would,
in fact, make temporary workers -- give them some sort of permanent
legal status that would eventually enable them to become citizens?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, we'll
have to wait to see what the working group recommends. But,
clearly, as a result of if you come with a legal status, then under the
laws of the United States, well, of course, you're perfectly within
your rights then to apply for citizenship, just like everybody else who
had become a citizen of this country.
Q Does the White
House have a position on whether or not those temporary workers should
receive traditional government benefits -- health care?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you're
getting way ahead of where this is. They're just not there now.
Q Can you take
that, to get us a sense of what the report is, when it gets here?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me go to
somebody who hasn't asked yet.
Q Can we finish on
this topic then, just one question? Can you -- since you're
expecting this today, can you undertake to get us at least the gist of
what that panel recommends, when you get those documents today?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll work with
everybody on it, absolutely.
Q Are you going to
get it today?
Q Can I ask you, do
you believe there is going to be another meeting between the U.S. --
the Secretary of Justice and the Attorney General with Mexican
counterparts before the --
MR. FLEISCHER: You need to ask
somebody at the Department of Justice what the Attorney General's
schedule is; I don't keep it.
Anybody else on this
topic? Yes, ma'am.
Q In the past,
President Bush has stated that he is against an amnesty
program. But it seems to me that you're mixing what it would
be, and the Mexicans have pushed for, which is a regularization of
legal people here in the United States -- Mexican illegal workers in
the United States. And the worker program on the other side, which is
Will the White House reconsider a position
where some regularization of those who are here already would take
MR. FLEISCHER: You've
accurately stated the President's position and there is a distinction
between the two programs.
Q What is the
MR. FLEISCHER: Between the two
programs, the temporary worker program and an amnesty program.
Q So there is a
space for the other?
Q Any reaction to
Taiwan's President calling for a joint missile defense with U.S. and
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have
anything on that statement; I'm not familiar with it. I'll
have to take a look at that.
Q Go back -- what
is the distinction on that? I mean, because that is a point
of confusion I think for many of us. If the President is
against an amnesty program, but one of the options is to regularize
status, which would eventually allow people to qualify for citizenship,
isn't that an amnesty?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, amnesty is
an automatic granting, as opposed to a formalized process that
everybody who comes to the United States, in accordance with the laws,
has to go through. It's a very lengthy process and it's very
Q Ari, how does the
President plan to deal with the anti-immigrant backlash that's bound to
develop over such a controversial proposal?
FLEISCHER: Proudly. The President believes that
we're a nation of immigrants. The President, as he said at
Ellis Island, said that immigration is not a problem to be solved, it's
an opportunity for all Americans and for our country. And
that's the message that the President has given about immigration.
The President has also said, as I
indicated, that we need to make sure that our laws are enforced, that
the borders work. And that's why what's very significant
about this development is that for the first time in so many years,
this is being done with Mexico, and that's a result of the strong
relationship and the amount of respect that the United States has for
Mexico; and the strong relationship that President Bush has with
It is terribly significant that Mexico is
a partner in this. And it's a big change from the way it's
been done in the past. And it's a bright sign of --
Q Why? They've never resented the
immigration. Why do you say that? They've never
resented the illegal immigration. It's been a safety valve
MR. FLEISCHER: But now Mexico
wants to work with the United States on making sure that the border is
done in a humane --
Q They never
resented it before.
MR. FLEISCHER: -- border
crossings are done in a humane, legal and safe way. And to
work cooperatively across the border is terribly important and it's a
Q Ari, on
Helms-Burton, the President did say he would extend the waiver for six
months, but he didn't have a chance to elaborate. Could you
give us an idea of what's going on in his thinking?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
will elaborate that in a statement that will be issued sometime
later. So the statement will speak for itself on that
Q Later today?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have a
firm timetable on it; it could be today, it could be
tomorrow. But the President will elaborate on his own
Q There is nothing
you can say at this point, since he's already announced it?
MR. FLEISCHER: That will be, in
the President's words, in his statement.
Q Ari two quick
questions, one on India and China. India, first. There is a
peace summit going on in Agra -- and it has been extended by two days
by the General -- Pakistan. We don't why. If
anybody is in touch from the White House or the President has spoken
with the Indian Prime Minister or anybody on this summit?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of
any conversations the President has had about that. But, of
course, the United States is following closely the developments
involving the meeting between India and Pakistan. It's a
promising sign that the two parties are talking, and I'll leave it at
Q On energy
efficiency, specifically fuel efficiency, a few months ago when the
administration was asked about the freezing CAFE standards, the
administration kept pointing to the National Academy of Science study,
which is due out, I believe, this week. Secretary Mineta,
last Friday, said that now the administration has to wait at least
until October because it doesn't have the funding to do a review of
that study. And I just was wondering why another delay.
MR. FLEISCHER: The timetable
for the National Academy of Sciences report -- I'm not aware of what
you said with Secretary Mineta -- but we're expecting the National
Academy of Sciences report prior to that. Secretary Mineta
did write to Congress last week asking for additional assistance from
Congress involving the fuel standards.
The administration is pleased to work with
Congress on this matter. The administration has not made a
determination about whether a administrative route or a legislative
route is the best route, but this is a topic that the President is
waiting to hear back from the National Academy of Sciences on.
Q Secretary Mineta,
last Friday, said that the administration wouldn't be able to take a
position until it had the funding to do a review of the study, and that
it won't be able to get the funding until the next fiscal year, which
starts October 1.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the first
step is the receipt of the report. And so I think it's important to
see what the National Academy of Sciences recommends, and that will
help to direct the President in terms of any other step he'll take.
Q So there is no
way the administration would have any position on this until October,
at the earliest?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, until the
report is received. Until receipt of the National Academy of
Q Can you check on
that and see if there is some holdup that Mineta is referring to --
that you're not aware of?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes -- let's
check on it.
Q Ari, I've got two
questions for you. The first, there appears to be a
grass-roots movement led by Republicans nationwide to keep big-rig
interstate trucks from -- to keep them on the interstate highways, to
ban them from small, two-lane roads. For example, Christine
Whitman, when she was governor of New Jersey, permitted this policy in
parts of New Jersey. Senator Warner got behind an effort to ban these
big trucks from a small road in Virginia just last week, Route 17, and
it's happening in the Eastern Panhandle of West
Virginia. Does the President favor this kind of limitation
on interstate trucks to the interstate highway systems?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a matter
that the Department of Transportation would be working on, and I don't
think that's something that the President himself would get involved
Q The second
question I have for you, there's a broad coalition of political
leaders, ranging from former CIA Director James Woolsey to consumer
advocate Ralph Nader, that are pushing for the legalization of
industrial hemp. This is a non-drug crop, it was grown by
Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. It has a ride range
of uses, clothing, fuel. Farmers around the world are growing it;
China, Canada, importing it. It's illegal here, in the
United States, for farmers to grow it. Does the President
favor the legalization of industrial hemp?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of
any statements that the President has made that would lend one to reach
Q Can you look into
MR. FLEISCHER: Industrial
hemp? Well, I'll advise you if anything changes from what I
Q On Russia and
China's pact, they said they're leaning to a -- new world
order. What's your comment on that? And also,
what's -- affect the meeting between the President and President
MR. FLEISCHER: This is a
restatement or a signing of something that was talked about just prior
to President Bush's departure for the June trip to
Europe. If you recall, at that time, there was a meeting
between the leaders of Russia and China. We're not the world
we used to be, where it's a zero-sum game any more. And if
Russia and China find ways to cooperate peacefully, and make the world
a more secure and stable place, that's in the United States' interest.
Again, it's not a zero-sum
game. Just because Russia and China have entered into an
agreement does not necessarily mean it's something that would be
adverse to the interests of the United States.
Q Some say if the
border issue with Russia doesn't exist anymore, the national security
for China might be the coastline regarding Taiwan which might be in the
interests of the U.S.?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course
anything dealing with Taiwan is something that, as you know, in
accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, is covered by a whole body of
law and a whole series of statements have been made on our relations
between China and the United States -- between China, the United States
and Taiwan. So that's all covered by the Taiwan Relations
Q Ari, how
confident is President Bush concerning HR-7, the faith-based bill, when
it heads to the House floor later this week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the vote
will take place on Wednesday, on the President's faith-based
initiative. And the President is following it very
closely. He's been talking to members of Congress about
it. I think that's going to be a very important, interesting
vote. I think that issue is one that's been picking up
momentum, and the action taken by the House Judiciary Committee, the
House Ways and Means Committee -- and it's going to be a very important
vote on Wednesday.
Q Did the Salvation
Army questions that were raised last week do any lasting damage to the
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think
you'll find out on Wednesday, with the vote. I think if it
passes, the answer will obviously be, no. But, again, I'm
not aware of any such repercussions.
Q How much personal
lobbying is the President engaged in on this?
MR. FLEISCHER: He's been
talking to a number of members of Congress about it. I
anticipate some meetings or potential. And as you know, he's
traveled the country with members of Congress. Tony Hall, an
Ohio Democrat, a very important supporter of the President's
initiative. You know he went up to Philadelphia, of course,
on July 4th, and met with the constituency that's very dedicated to
having new ways of solving old social problems.
Q Ari, has he tried
to increase funding for it, which has been cut back significantly, up
MR. FLEISCHER: Which aspect are
you referring to? On the tax provisions of it?
Q It's down to,
quite a bit from, I think, the Ways and Means Committee.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, you're
talking about the tax provisions that were passed. Well,
what the Ways and Means Committee did, is they just much more slowly
phased-in the President's program. And they scaled it back.
And the President has had a host of successes on tax legislation, where
he made a proposal, the Congress scaled it back to some
degree. This proposal has clearly been scaled back to some
But the essential elements that the
President sought, which is the right of people who do not itemize on
their taxes, and I believe 70 to 80 million Americans to be able to
receive a deduction for their charitable contributions will now be back
on the books. It's been some 15 years since people who
didn't itemize could get a deduction for their charitable giving.
It starts out as a very small charitable
deduction. But then it increases. It increases
over time. And this is a long-term business, and charities
are able, as a result of a multiplier effect, to take these small
deductions and increase their good works and their good deeds with it.
It's a good precedent for the future, as well.
Q Talking about tax
changes, there have been some reports that the President
will -- may propose a complete overhaul of the income tax code, maybe
even go into a flat tax. At what stage are those
MR. FLEISCHER: Very
Q But there is some
FLEISCHER: Sure. There are some bright minds in
this building who would like to think about the future. And
they have been having some discussions about the ultimate possible
shape of a tax code. But those are in the very, very
preliminary stage. I would not look for any immediate
Q Is the flat tax
one of the things that's being looked at?
MR. FLEISCHER: They're looking
at a host of ways of making the tax code fairer, flatter, more simple.
Q China. Rush Limbaugh asked the
other day that what Beijing has done to earn that trust to host the
Olympics in China, while there are human rights torture and persecution
-- religious persecution, among others. And China is
celebrating against the United States.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the
decision about where the Olympics are held, whether it's in Beijing or
whether it's in any other city across the globe, is a decision made by
a sports body called the International Olympic
Committee. It's not a decision that's made politically by
the President of the United States or any other nation. The
President is a sportsman and he
recognizes the right of athletes to compete in as non-political an
environment as possible. Having said that, this is also an
opportunity for China to show the world a modern face, and that will be
an important item to watch in China.
Q But the United
States is not still going back from the violations of human rights and
other tortures in China?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has continued and will continue in his conversations with Chinese
officials to speak out on the cause of human rights. The
President, if you recall, in a phone call to President Jiang Zemin
about 10 days ago or so, brought up the case of some of the dissidents
in China. And of course, now, we're pleased to note that one
of the dissidents who was put on trial has now been released and will
be free to leave China.
Q Ari, back on
Tom's question, for a second. In addition to other steps
that this group of bright minds at the White House is looking at
undertaking to make the tax system, tax code more understandable, more
evenly distributed, fairer, if you will, is the consumption tax part of
THE PRESIDENT: It's too early,
John. I think they're casting a very wide net right now,
taking a look at a host of ideas. And I don't know that they
are -- they are not focusing on any one specific aspect or one specific
approach. This is a multiyear type of endeavor.
Q Do you know if
that's a proposal that's been floated?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
discuss anything that's been a private discussion that's not yet
reached any more serious policy level.
Q Ari, on that
area, though, the last time a flat tax was put forward in national
debate was when Steve Forbes ran on one as part of his presidential
campaign, and at the time it was criticized as being disproportionately
unfair to the poor, and disproportionately favorable to the
wealthy. Is the President ultimately against a progressive
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, the
President is, obviously, focused on, number one, creating an
environment so the economy can grow as a result of the tax
cut. Two, the President would like to create a tax system
that is simpler and fairer for people. Our current tax
system is terribly, terribly complicated; makes average, ordinary
Americans have to go out and hire accountants just to figure out how to
fill out a couple pages. There are even people who file a
1040 who have to hire accountants to fill out the simple 1040 EZ.
So we have a very complicated tax system,
where lawyers and accountants are able to help people who have wealth
get around paying taxes, and average people have to go out and hire
accountants and lawyers just to figure out how to pay their bills
because the system is too complicated for them to figure.
There's room for improvement in the tax
system. I don't think anybody would differ from
that. But it's too premature, way too premature to start
speculating about any one type of tax change, because it just hasn't
reached that level in the White House.
Q But when you have
flat tax, isn't that putting the argument of simplicity against the
argument of fairness?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you
should address that to somebody who is advocating a flat tax.
Q -- you said that
was one of the options --
Q Did former
President Bush call Prince Khalid of Saudi Arabia in behalf of the
President, in terms to say his heart is in the right place?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, that's a
topic I'm not going to get into. Former Presidents, including the
President's father, including other former Presidents, often call
around the world --
Q It's a very
MR. FLEISCHER: I understand,
but I think -- I don't speak for former President Bush.
Q You're refusing
to answer the question?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't speak
for former President Bush.
Q That's not the
point. You're speaking on behalf of the President and you
know whether the phone call took place, or not.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think
there are conversations that former Presidents may engage in that the
White House is not going to announce when former Presidents do.
Q It's right in the
Q Ari, is President
Bush going to meet with the embryo babies who are lobbying in town this
MR. FLEISCHER: Tom, if we have
any meetings to talk about, we'll talk about them.
Q Going back to
faith initiative bill. Is President in touch with other
minority religious groups like Muslims, Hindus, and others in the
area? Because they have a large community here and temples
MR. FLEISCHER: The Faith-based
Office has had a series of meetings with people from all walks of life,
all denominations. And the President has attended several of
those meetings. The President thinks it's terribly important
to reach out to groups, and as he said during the campaign, churches,
synagogues, mosques, all Americans from all types of different
backgrounds. It is a reflection of the fact that very often
these groups are very close to people in their communities and they
have a way of getting closer and solving people's problems better than
a government, that can sometimes can be a little distant.
Q What are their
views, if you have met with them?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?
Q What are their
views on the bill, if you have met with them? How do they
feel about --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think
you need to reach out to the individual organizations and ask them what
their views are.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:28 P.M. EDT