For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 30, 2001
Press Briefing Index
Personnel Announcements 1
Black Law Enforcement Executives 2
Vieques 2-3; 5-6
Social Security Reform 3-5
Middle East 6-7
Arsenic Standard 7
Cloning, Stem Cell Research 8-9; 22
Missile Defense 9; 18; 19-20
Nafta, Trucking 10; 12-14; 20
Fast Track 10
Faith-Based Initiatives 10-11
Patients' Bill of Rights 11-12
National Academy of Sciences Study 13-17; 18-19; 20-22
the White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release July 30, 2001
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:19 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good
afternoon. I have a series of personnel announcements I'd
like to make today.
The President will nominate eight
individuals today to be United States Attorneys. They are
the following: John L. Brownley, for the Western District of
Virginia; Paul Charlton, for the District of Arizona; Tod P. Graves,
for Western District of Missouri; Michael Heavican, for the District of
Nebraska; William Mercer, for the District of Montana; Thomas Moss, for
the District of Idaho; John Southers, for the District of Colorado; and
Mills Waggoner, for the Middle District of North Carolina.
In addition, the President intends to
nominate Emil Frankel to be Assistant Secretary of Transportation, for
And, finally, the President intends to
nominate Read Van de Water to be Assistant Secretary of Transportation
for Aviation International Affairs. She is the founder of
Carson King Consulting, an employment consulting and placement service,
which she has managed since 2000. From 1997 to 1999, she was
Legislative Counsel for the International Trade and Investment, with
the Business Round Table. And she previously served as
Legislative Counsel, Director of Government Affairs for Northwest
Ms. Carson -- otherwise known as Van de
Water -- has a master's degree from George Washington University and
her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. And you will
receive the full information of all these U.S. Attorneys and others
coming out in writing shortly.
Mr. Gregory, you have your hand up.
Q What will he --
what will the President talk about today, this hour, for the black law
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
speech this afternoon will cover two topics broadly. One is
the importance of combating crime across the United States in a tough
manner, in a fair. And also the President will address the
faith-based initiative which he has proposed that has passed the
House. And he will talk about the progress and the momentum that he
sees for that initiative.
Q Why is that an
important audience for the faith-based initiative?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because often
some of the worst problems of a society are linked to
crime. And the police of our communities are the ones who
have to deal with the consequences of drug abuse, of alcohol abuse, of
violence within families. So to the degree the people have
solutions to these social problems, it creates great help for our
nation's police forces, because it means they don't have to deal with
the consequences of these social ills.
Q There was a
nonbinding resolution yesterday in Puerto Rico, calling for the
immediate end of the testing. Will the President immediately
end testing, or do it over the next two years, as he announced last --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has accepted the recommendation of the Department of the
Navy. That represents a balanced approach. The
President has always said it's very important to listen to the people
of Puerto Rico, and he has. The President also believes it's
very important to have a seamless transition so that our military can
be the best trained it can be, so we are prepared for any contingencies
around the world. And that's the approach that the President
Q So we can't do it
immediately, we need to take a couple years?
MR. FLEISCHER: The
recommendation of the Department of the Navy was that the withdrawal
from Vieques would be effective as of May 2003. And that's a
recognition of the fact that the people of Puerto Rico have concerns on
this issue, but so, too, it's important to make certain that our
military is trained until an alternative location is found.
Q Does the
referendum have any say with the President? After all, isn't
that the will of the people? The referendum shows they want
it stopped now.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, and in
addition, there are the ongoing legitimate needs of our nation's
military. And these matters are not only decided by
referenda, but they are decided by a variety of factors that represents
a balanced approach. And that's what the President has done
Q What about
communities who are also facing military operations in their area they
didn't want? Do you think this starts a precedent, where
local communities should be able to have some kind of a vote either to
get rid of military operations or maybe to keep base closings that they
don't want closed?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ann, the
President thinks it's important to listen to the local communities; and
he thinks it's important for the United States military to work well
with the nations that are hosting us or the localities in this country
that have military facilities. Very often these communities
cherish those military facilities. There may be occasions
where they don't, and there are some problems.
And the President thinks it's very
important to work closely with local hosts. But it's always
a question of balance and working well with local hosts and securing
the military needs of our country to have our men and women properly
trained so they can deter war.
Q The question is,
a referendum against base closings or a referendum for other
communities that do not the military as a neighbor.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, in this
case Vieques is rather unique. As you know, this was an
agreement entered into by the prior government of Puerto Rico with the
previous administration, and codified by the United States Congress
that has created a referendum. So it is the law of the land
in this one instance. I'm not aware of another instance
which is similar to this. But this is the
law. There is a referendum in Puerto Rico.
We're going in order here, as you may have
been able to tell. So now we'll go -- Major.
Q On the question
of Social Security reform, the President has made clear he is not in
favor of increasing payroll taxes. Is he open to the idea of
exposing more income to the payroll tax, itself, increasing the
threshold, as it were, which those Social Security taxes are now --
MR. FLEISCHER: A tax hike is a
tax hike is a tax hike, and the President opposes tax
hikes. The President does not think that's an effective way
to save Social Security and he differs, frankly, from Congressman Kolbe
and Congressman Stenholm. Their approach does have included
in it a tax hike, and the President's principles flat-out rule out tax
The problem with tax hikes with Social
Security is it's what has always been done, and it hasn't gotten the
job done. Social Security is still going bankrupt, despite
the fact that previous administrations and previous Congresses relied
on tax hikes as a way to boost revenue coming into the
system. Social Security has a tax hike each and every
year. For upper income earners, the amount of income subject
to Social Security taxes rises every January 1st.
So that is not part of the President's
principles; he does not support it.
Ron, do you have a follow-up on that?
Q What about the
other elements of that plan, the adjusting the COLAs and accelerating
the increasing the retirement --
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me remind
you of the President's principles on Social Security. Let me
read from them. Modernization must not change Social
Security's benefits for retirees or near retirees. That's
the first presidential principle.
The entire Social Security surplus must be
dedicated to Social Security only. Social Security payroll
taxes must not be increased. Government must not invest Social
Security funds in the stock market. Modernization must preserve Social
Security's disability and survivor components -- keep those separately
under the President's proposal. And modernization must
include individually control and voluntary personal retirement
Q But, Ari, what
about those that aren't near retirees, those like 30 years down the
pike? What about their benefits? You're talking
about just retirees or near retirees.
MR. FLEISCHER: Under the plan
that the President envisages, their benefits will increase and that is
a result of the combined savings of the government portion of Social
Security in conjunction with the individualized
benefit. Under all historical models, those younger workers
would have more money to retire on as a result of the new system.
Q And without any
need to adjust COLAs or to increase the age of eligibility?
MR. FLEISCHER: Those would be
all issues that the Commission takes a look at.
Q Ari, back to
Vieques. Sixty-eight percent of the inhabitants of Vieques
want the Navy out immediately. I think the resolution of the
President speaks -- May 1, 2003 -- it doesn't say on May
1. That means there's some wiggle room
there. When you have 68 percent of the people saying one
thing, could this spur the White House to try to accelerate it? I'm
not saying --
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, the
President has said, and he is listening to the people of Puerto Rico,
he thinks that's important. The President is also the
Commander-in-Chief, with a responsibility to make sure that our men and
women are sent into harm's way with the best training possible. And he
wants to do both, and he has done both. He has listened to
the people of Puerto Rico, and he wants to make certain that our
nation's military training mission is fully and fairly carried out.
The Department of Navy is engaged in
looking for alternative sites to Vieques, and they need a sufficient
amount of time to get the job done, to protect our men and women in
their training missions. So as always, it's a question of
balance, and the President believes he's found it.
Q Yes, but to
follow up on that, you did say earlier -- I don't know if was sort of a
-- that the changeover was effective 2003. Is it your
understanding that we won't be leaving that base until May 2003, or we
will be leaving it sometime between now and then?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the
announcement from the Department of Navy said effective as late as May
2003, but I will just refer you to the direct words of the Navy's
announcement or recommendation. But it was through May 2003,
Q What's the
soonest you think it can get done?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a
question you need to address to the Navy. That really depends on the
Navy's success on finding an alternative location.
Q Can it possibly
be done immediately, as this non-binding resolution --
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, that's a
question for the Navy.
Q Ari, under the
terms of the agreement there is a binding referendum which is scheduled
to take place in November, which as you know would either have the Navy
leave or would it allow to resume live fire. Is the
administration doing anything at all to lobby and try and change the
vote on Vieques, even though we know that the vote on Vieques is not
necessarily representative of the whole people of Puerto
Rico. So what's going to happen -- what are you going to do
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of
what's being done with that. But given the action that the
President has already announced concerning Vieques, with the Navy
recommendation, the President has already determined in accordance with
the Navy, that the United States needs to find an
Q Ari, what's the
latest on potential monitors for the Middle East? Is the
administration opposed to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The question of
monitors for the Middle East really begins with adherence to the
cease-fire. That is the necessary prerequisite, to make
certain that the cease-fire takes hold and that it lasts. As
then the United States and other nations move forward and deeper into
the Mitchell Committee recommendations involving political solutions.
Specifically and only at that time will the question of monitors
possibly come up. And in that context, the President has
said that on the topic of monitors, it would have to be agreed to by
Q So the view of
the White House is that, especially with the fresh violence there, that
this is something that is sort of far off to consider?
MR. FLEISCHER: The first action
has to be implementation of the cease-fire. The question of
monitors will only come up in a practical matter, in conjunction with a
lasting cease-fire. The implementation, therefore, of the
political provisions dealing with reconciliation under the Mitchell
Committee recommendations, and then in the context of anything the two
parties agree to.
MS. COUNTRYMAN: And that
reflects what the G8 leaders all agreed to at the summit last week.
Q To follow up on
that, what's your reaction to the violence we've had just today?
MR. FLEISCHER: It is, again, a
troubling reminder of how fragile the situation is in the Middle
East. And the United States urges restraint on all parties
and urges all parties to do their level best to, again, achieve a
Q There is no
cease-fire now. The President doesn't believe there's one,
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there are
calmer moments and then less calm moments, more violent
moments. That, unfortunately, has been the marked pattern in
the Middle East for the last several months.
Q Ari, is the White
House encouraging another vote in the House on the arsenic standard?
MR. FLEISCHER: Is the White
House encouraging another vote in the House?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of
anything, Dan. Do you have anything specific in
Q Just if there was
some effort to get them to consider that again?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not
received any of that information that there is.
MR. FLEISCHER: A do-over.
Q You are
backtracking a lot on all the regulations you tried to say "no" to from
the beginning, aren't you?
MR. FLEISCHER: Would you like
to be specific? I'm not sure what you're referring to.
Q The whole slew of
regulations that -- new regulations that Clinton left
behind. You seem to be very negative toward, saying "no" to
all of them. So now you're renewing your --
MR. FLEISCHER: There has been a
case-by-case review of the Clinton administration's last-minute
regulations, and that's ongoing. Some have gone through;
others have not gone through. And I think that would be what
you would typically expect when a new administration comes to town.
Previous administrations are within their
rights to issue as many last-minute regulations as they deem
fit. But because it's regulatory and not statutory, it's
subject to the review of the incoming administration. And that's
exactly what this administration did. That's exactly what
all incoming administrations do.
Q Ari, tomorrow the
House is going to have a vote on two competing bills, on the question
of cloning. One is sponsored by Curt Weldon, one is
sponsored by Jim Greenwood. Some see in this cloning debate
the subtext of the stem cell debate. Because in the
Greenwood bill, which the administration opposes, there is an allowance
for the creation of cloning for medical research purposes.
Can you give us the White House
perspective on the debate about cloning, itself, and its position on
these two competing pieces of legislation?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
opposes cloning of human beings. The President thinks that
it is wrong and opposes it strongly. As for the more
specifics on the legislation that you mentioned, let me take that
question -- I want to get back to you with specificity on that.
Q Could you add to
that the creation of any embryos strictly for research purposes?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll post it,
Q Since I feel
almost certain that you discussed with the President Pope John Paul's
strong public objection to embryonic stem cell research -- because the
Pope said it violates human life, which he said begins at conception --
my question is, could you tell us if the President is aware of the
disagreement that human life begins at conception by Popes Gregory the
XIV and Innocent III, as well as Saints Augustine, Anselm, Thomas
Aquinas and Alphonso -- and does the President believe that the instant
an egg is fertilized it has a soul?
Q Didn't that come
up in the morning briefing? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Welcome back, by
the way. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you very
MR. FLEISCHER: You must have
been doing some papal research while you were at.
Q And if want to
recite the catechism after that, that would be great, too,
Q I'd just like to
know, does he believe that the instant an egg is fertilized it has a
MR. FLEISCHER: On the topic of
stem cell research, this is going to be an issue that as the President
deliberates and reaches his conclusions, he will share the reasons why
he has come to the decision he makes at that time.
Q -- saints and
popes. (Laughter.) And the other
question. Since I feel sure that as a very dedicated chief
spokesman for the President you must have diligently studied the
presidency, very diligently, I ask, Ari, can you name one President who
died in the last 50 years who received a 14-page all adulatory, no
mention of false, obit in the Washington Post, and 24 pages of such
adulation, no faults, obit in Newsweek? Can you name one
President? You can't, can you, Ari?
Q You're the
weakest link. (Laughter.)
Q What was your
answer to that, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: I yielded to Mr.
Koffler. I think he had --
Q You'd like to
duck that question because you can't name one single President that had
that kind of adulatory, no fault obit, can you, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm a frequent
reader of the archives of our nation's newspapers. I must
not have read all the issues.
Q Missile defense,
Ari. You're going to be clearing ground for some land in
Alaska shortly, and I'm not sure -- I think you're aware that several
members of Congress have asked for a specific citation of where
Congress has authorized that. Does the administration
believe it needs that, or can it just go ahead and spend the money?
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, the
way legislation and appropriations works, there is discretion within
the different accounts, including the Department of Defense, of course,
to spend money in accordance with promoting the national defense of the
United States. So unless Congress speaks otherwise, there is
no prohibition on that.
Q It does not have
to specifically authorize clearing of land for missile defense?
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course
not. Imagine all the expenditures the United States
government enters into on every given day, whether it's the Department
of Defense or any different agency. There's a broader
statutory authorization for, in this case, promoting the national
defense. But Congress does not authorize or appropriate
every single penny that is spent; it just has to be for the purpose of
Q Ari, last week
USTR Zoellick gave a speech in which he basically linked the future of
the trade agenda, the Bush trade agenda, to the being able to persuade
the country that it had a good deal with NAFTA. To what
extent does the fight over the trucking bill on the Hill now tell you
something crucial about the political climate on the Hill with respect
to that agenda?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's a
worrisome indication that there's some people on the Hill who are
pursuing an isolationist path. And the President would like
to stop that from happening. I think you see some people on
the Hill are pulling back from NAFTA, which is
troublesome. And on the question of Mexico trucking, the
President believes very strongly we can have both safe roads and be
fair to our neighbors to the south, to our Mexican
friends. So there are some troubling signs of isolationism
on the Hill, and this action on Mexico trucks is one of them.
Q Can you give us
an idea for the administration's timetable for fast track?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
working with Congress on the exact timing of it. The
President is clear that he believes that fast track should be
authorized. It's, again, a good indication of whether
Congress will be isolationist or Congress will join with the President,
promoting vigorously America's agenda around the world, because we can
win on America's agenda in a multilateral world. But the
exact timing of it is something that really we'll take our lead from
members of Congress on.
Q On faith-based
initiatives, what are the hurdles before the bill now? What
do you see as the next hurdles, now that you've gotten through the
House, but the President's obviously trying to lend a little momentum
to the effort here today. What do you have to do now?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think there
are two issues. One is substantive, and that is the right of
senators to take a good, hard look at all pieces of legislation, and
decide whether or not they believe that it serves broad public
purposes. And the President is confident on that score that
the Senate will do so. After all, no less a person than Al
Gore campaigned on faith-based initiatives. If you remember,
there were many initiatives announced by then-Vice President Al Gore
that the Democrats heralded as the Democrats' willingness to work on
But I think that it's also fair to say
there is a political consideration. This would be seen as a
big victory for President Bush if it gets through the Senate, and there
may be some who seek to simply deny the President a victory, even if it
comes at the cost of hurting 15 million low-income Americans, 2 million
children of prisoners who look for new ways of having social problems
Q So you're saying
that the opponents in the Senate are in part motivated just by an
attempt to keep the President from succeeding?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, certainly
there's no question that the House of Representatives has taken action
on faith-based legislation. The only thing that stops it now
from being signed into law is the actions of the Senate. But
the President is hopeful that the Senate will put progress before
politics, that the Senate will put ideas before ambition, and therefore
send him legislation that can be signed into law on a way to help solve
Q Will he name any
MR. FLEISCHER: I addressed the
Q Can you give us a
status update on patients' bill of rights? And is it true
that the White House gave a specific offer, and it was rejected? And
where does that leave us if that's correct?
MR. FLEISCHER: As a result of
the President's conversation with Congressman Norwood last week,
Congressman Norwood was able to take an idea of his to a group of
congressmen and senators that he's been working very closely with on
the patients' bill of rights legislation.
The President has been very encouraged, as
a result of those talks, and we'll see exactly where those talks lead
to as this important week approaches.
Q Okay. But have there been any
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll have to
check and get an update. There hadn't been any as of about
10:00 a.m. this morning.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I'll have
to get an update; I'll have to talk to --
Q And they had a
negative response to the proposal, why are you so encouraged?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it
depends on who the negative is you're talking about.
Q -- and people who
support the -- wrote the alternative.
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll see
exactly where it ends up. Again, this is what is typical of
the very last stages of legislative progress. And the
President continues to see signs of progress. But let me try
to work and get you a little bit of an update later on.
Q Ari, on trucking,
you know, what's going on here? I mean, this is -- if it
goes down in the Senate, as well, this would be a big defeat. The
President is adamantly against what's happening in
Congress. What's he doing? How did it get to this
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the
initial Senate vote was a disappointment for the President and for the
people who believe in free trade and being fair to our neighbors in
Mexico, as well as people who are dedicated to NAFTA. I suppose you
could say on one hand, it was a victory for the isolationists and a
defeat for those believe that America should join with the rest of the
world and be fair to other nations.
But the President and his staff have been
talking to a number of senators. And the President hopes
that when this bill gets to conference, we'll be able to fix
it. And we're going to continue to have conversations with
some of the senators who are dedicated to fixing it.
Q Ari, can I
follow-up on that? Do you think the President will have the
34 votes on the Senate to keep his veto power on this trucking issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't do vote
counts, and so I'm not going to guess what the votes will
become. But the President is very clear on
this. He thinks that the action taken by the United States
Senate is unilateralist, it's anti-NAFTA, it's unfair to Mexico, and
that we can have both safety and allow Mexican trucks to operate in the
Q Now the Mexican
government is working on a bill -- the House and in the Senate calling
to Mexico to drop out of the chapter of transportation of
NAFTA. Has the President of this country been in contact
with the Mexican government, or has been telling anybody on the Hill
about this threat by the Mexican government?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no
question that when the United States takes an action unilaterally that
is anti-NAFTA, we put our NAFTA partners in a position where they will
of course look at their laws and say, do we need to take a counter
action, a retaliatory action which could lead to difficulties for
American truckers. So that's the problem when you start to
unwind agreements that we have with our international allies.
And that's why the President is committed
to NAFTA. He believes NAFTA has been very helpful and
successful in creating jobs in the United States and in creating
opportunities in Mexico.
Q Ari, will the
President sign legislation, a transportation bill, that has an
anti-NAFTA provision in it?
MR. FLEISCHER: The staff has
recommended a veto to the President. You've heard what the President
said. And the President and his staff are going to do their
best to fix this when it goes to conference. But the staff
recommendation remains a veto.
Q On this question,
does the White House believe Mexican trucks are as safe as Canadian
trucks right now? Percentages indicate they are not, they
fail their safety inspections at a much higher rate than Canadian
MR. FLEISCHER: The question is,
should we have one standard that makes all trucks operating in the
United States operate safely? And that answer is, yes, there
should be one standard. And if one nation's trucks have a
higher failure rate, and therefore are not allowed in the
country, the standard should be uniform.
There's no reason to have a different
standard for Canadian trucks than for Mexican trucks or Mexican trucks
than Canadian trucks. They both should have an insurance
regime and a safety regime that is tough, to make certain that all
trucks that operate in the United States are operated in a safe
fashion. But that same standard should apply equally to
Canada and to the United States. And then if they don't pass
it in the same proportions, then they need to take the corrective steps
to address it, because only those trucks that are deemed safe will be
allowed on our roads.
Q Ari, majority in
the House and the Senate are of the opinion, by the votes that they
have cast, that they are not as safe, and are not going to be as safe
as either the insurance or safety regimen that this administration has
MR. FLEISCHER: Then the better
course would be for the Congress to pass one standard that applies
fairly and equally to Canada and to Mexico, lest it be seen that this
standard is something that is aimed only at Mexico, and not at Canada,
and then allow only those trucks that are deemed safe onto America's
roads. But to take a unilateral shot at only one nation does
not seem fair.
Q Yes, on the same
point, one of the problems with figuring out which trucks are safe is
having enough inspectors. I was down in Laredo once, trucks
were lined up as far as the eye could see, and there was one -- one --
American safety inspector. Is the American committed to
beefing up inspection enough so that people will have confidence that
when a truck is let in, it has been inspected and is safe?
FLEISCHER: Absolutely. And that's why the
President's budget included a multi-million dollar increase in the
inspection account. Therefore we could make certain that we have more
inspectors on the border.
Q And how many
inspectors would you increase on the border? Do you know?
MR. FLEISCHER: Anybody have the
figures on that?
MS. BUCHAN: I want to say 80,
but we'll need to confirm that.
We'll have to get you those
numbers. They're available. It was in the
President's budget. There is both a dollar amount,
specifically, in the President's budget and that translated into the
number of inspectors hired. And that was submitted to the
Congress in February by the President. It's an important
issue, to make sure we have enough inspectors there.
Q The National
Academy of Science may have already done this, but they're expected to
release their recommendation for CAFE standards today. I wondered if
the White House is releasing any form of statement of position, or are
you just commenting to the effect that you're going to review it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, one of the
central tenants of the President's
energy policy was to increase conservation and energy
efficiency. The National Academy study, which will be coming
out, is an important step in determining what actions can be taken on
that front. The study is something that we find
encouraging. The National Academy study highlights the
promise of technologies and reforms that could both increase mileage,
and it also takes into account the problems that are created with
lighter vehicles -- increased deaths on the road as a result of lighter
vehicles. And this report that is coming out is reflective of all of
There is a problem for the administration
because Congress has prohibited the Department of Transportation from
fully reviewing the National Academy study. And the
President is calling on the Congress to remove the prohibition so that
the United States can benefit most broadly from this National Academy
study. It's a 200-plus page study; it will be
reviewed. But there is a question of how much review can be
done until that prohibition is lifted.
Q When you mention,
though, that there's a problem in terms of lighter vehicles, are you
saying that there should be some allowance in terms of higher gas
mileage for heavier --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but the
National Academy report will highlight the risks for passengers of
lighter vehicles. There's a real concern that will be
expressed in this report about the number of people who die on the
roads because the vehicles they're driving are lighter in order to
partially meet CAFE standards.
So there's a series of tradeoffs that the
National Academy of Sciences recognizes involving higher fuel mileage
and transportation safety.
Q When you said
that the Transportation Department can't fully review this, you're not
trying to indicate that you can't review this to the extent that you
wouldn't be able to make a decision, are you?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there is a
prohibition in law that stops the Department of Transportation from
fully reviewing this report. It's an irony that Congress is
asking for a National Academy of Sciences study on CAFE standards, but
then they prohibit the administration from reviewing that study in its
entirety. It's the law. This is something that
Congress passed years ago that actually stops the administration from
spending money to study the National Academy of Science report on CAFE
standards. It's a Catch-22, and it's not
right. And that's why Secretary Mineta wrote to the Congress
asking them to lift this prohibition. It's a troublesome
prohibition if you're dedicated to conservation.
Q Are they going to
have to lift that prohibition in order for you to make your decision on
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it's very
hard to figure out right now how to have a whole review of it if
Congress prohibits the administration from having a full review of it.
Q But does it
expire on the 30th of September without renewal?
MR. FLEISCHER: It
does. But the report is coming out now. Sure, I
mean, the administration could sit on it for quite a period of time,
but the President, as I mentioned at the top -- one of the central
tenants of his energy policy is increased conservation, is energy
efficiency. So if Congress is serious about helping the
administration find productive and balanced ways to increase energy
efficiency and conservation, Congress should remove the prohibition so
the administration can get working on this National Academy of Science
study right away, without delay.
Q Are you asking
someone to introduce legislation to remove the prohibition?
MR. FLEISCHER: Secretary Mineta
has already written to the Congress asking them to take that step.
Q But don't you
need some legislator to --
MR. FLEISCHER: It would be a
matter of the appropriations and in the appropriation bill they could
just do it.
Q -- they can do
without a new piece of legislation?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it would
Q Let me just
follow-up on that. By the time you get the bill -- let me
just follow-up real quick. By the time you get the
appropriation bill through, the September deadline would have lapsed
anyhow, right? Isn't it kind of a false argument you're making here?
MR. FLEISCHER: It depends on --
in all cases, the administration would not be able to review something
that is coming out here in July until October. If there's
any vehicle, whether it's appropriations or whether there's any vehicle
they can send up earlier -- when the Secretary wrote to the Congress he
asked for it to come up earlier.
This is up to Congress. It's up
to Congress to decide whether they want to create a Catch-22, that says
we should have more energy efficiency and conservation, but we're not
going to let the administration -- how to get it.
Q They're literally
prohibited from reading a study?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's
correct. Not from reading, but from a full review of the
study. You can read anything, but you can't spend money to
do any further review of it. You can read it, but that's
The prohibition that the Congress has
passed on the administration reviewing the National Academy of
Science's study destines the study to gather dust until
October. And that's why the administration has strongly
urged Congress to remove the prohibition. Energy efficiency
I know it's a Catch-22; it doesn't sound
like it makes much sense, but it is the law of the land and we have to
live under it, until they remove it.
Q Excuse me, but,
Ari, months ago, you were asked about the CAFE
standards. And back then, when the energy plan was still
under consideration and not announced you kept saying, well, we'll wait
until the CAFE standards --
MR. FLEISCHER: And we can
Q -- are reviewed.
MR. FLEISCHER: Right.
Q -- are reviewed
and recommendations are made by the National Science
Academy. So why didn't all of you press for a change in
appropriations back then, when you knew that even when they came out
you wouldn't be able to comment? Why did Mineta wait until,
like, a week or two ago to press for this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Paula, I will
remind you of the date of the letter. When you asked me this question
a month ago, I told you that Secretary Mineta sent a letter up
there. We'll get you a copy of it; you'll see it wasn't a
week or two ago.
Q But in February,
if you knew full well back then --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you
should address the question to Congress -- why is Congress tying the
administration's hands? Secretary Mineta wrote Congress a
letter more than a month ago -- not a week or two ago, but more than a
month ago, asking them to lift the prohibition.
Q Why didn't he
write it back in February, when he knew full well that standards were
supposed to be -- National Academy was supposed to come out with a
report in July --
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think
if you feel so strongly about it you may want to address it to the
Q It's not just me,
personally, Ari, or professionally.
Q Going back to
national missile defense, briefly. There seems to be some
wiggle room now between the United States and Russia, about national
missile defense, and maybe a modification to the ABM Treaty.
But press reports we're getting out of
Beijing seem to show an unalterable position by the
Chinese. Does the President plan to go ahead even if that
position remains unalterable?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has made very clear that he believes that the job of the Commander in
Chief is to protect the people of the United States from accidental or
rogue launch of a ballistic missile. And the President is
going to continue to consult with our allies, consult with Russia,
consult with the Chinese. But he has made perfectly plain
that he intends to protect our country from any such launch.
Q Ari, can you just
outline what kind of study you have to do of the study in order to make
a determination on CAFE standards? Why can't you just read
MR. FLEISCHER: You'll see, when
you see the National Academy of Science report you'll see it's more
than 200 pages, it raises a series of trade-off issues; it does not
make any hard, specific recommendation, itself. So,
therefore, it does require some real careful thought from the
administration about which of the many findings that they make, which
of the many series of inter-related recommendations they make should be
It's not a simple matter. And
it raises a variety of issues, not only dealing with CAFE standards,
but with a two fleet standard. So as you can imagine with
any type of big study, it is complicated.
Q So either way,
then, we're months away from a decision, since it's that long --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it
depends. If Congress does what Secretary Mineta asked
Congress to do, the administration will be in a faster position to give
a full review to the National Academy of Science study.
Q But once you did
that -- like, say that Congress did what you want Congress to do -- how
long after that point would you be able to make a determination on what
you're going to recommend on CAFE?
MR. FLEISCHER: It depends on
what their findings are. That would be part of the
administration review, and I'm not prepared to guess how long that
Q How is it -- what
is it that you're actually prohibited from doing? If you can
sit down and read it, couldn't White House officials sit down and read
it and sit and discuss it without actually having the meter
running? Wouldn't you -- can't you just sit around, since
people here are already on salary --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think what
we need to do is, we will get you a copy of the prohibition, so you can
read the prohibition for yourself. This is the law. And as
I indicated, you can read anything, but then Congress has tied the
administration's hands, making harder for the administration to accept
an act upon this study.
Q What money would
you have to spend? You say they prohibit you from spending
any money. What money would you have to spend to do what you
say you need to do?
MR. FLEISCHER: Typically, in
the case of these 200 page reports, the administration convenes
different meetings, they may have different working groups assembled to
focus on it. And I think you can talk to the Department of
Transportation. They'll give you a cost breakdown of what it
But I think, again, the prohibition will
speak for itself, and we'll be happy to get you a copy of what Congress
Q On missile
defense, when President Putin stands by President Bush's side, it seems
like there seems to be some working ground on missile
defense. When they are apart, however, President Putin seems
to step-up the rhetoric. We've heard about multiple warheads
on missiles. Where does President Bush think that President
Putin actually stand on this? Because the two sides, when
they're together and when they're apart, the talk is very different.
Q Well, I think
President Putin took that question, himself, in Genoa, when he was
asked the question about didn't you say afterwards that you would have
a multiple launch regime in case the United States developed missile
defenses. And he indicated that he continued to stand by
what he said to President Bush. So I think you need to ask
Russians across the line about the statements they make. I
can't speak for them when they go to Moscow, but the message that the
President has been receiving in private is very much the message that
we've been receiving at other levels of the government from President
Putin and that I certainly saw in all President Putin's statements.
Q Ari, do you have
any reaction to Japan's House of Counselors election on
Sunday? Is the President happy that Prime Minister Koizumi
was given a mandate --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's an
internal Japanese matter, the actions that are taken by their
Q You have called
the people who are opposing the entry of Mexican trucks or not being
fair, like the Canadians. You call them unilateralists,
anti-NAFTA and not fair to Mexico. Do you think they're
doing this thing out of principle, or do you think they're trying to
butter-up the unions, especially the Teamsters?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think as
always, it's a question of a balance between principle and politics in
the Congress. There are many people, of course, who act on
principle. Principle is often affected by domestic
Q One last question
on the NAS study. I know that the Transportation Department
is prohibited from spending their money, but don't you have a budget
for your domestic policy staff from which you could draw funds from so
they could study this while you wait for whatever Congress is going to
do on --
MR. FLEISCHER: This study
should be reviewed and reviewed properly. And to review a National
Academy of Science study on raising auto standards for cars, that
should be done by the agency of jurisdiction. There should
be no need to have an end-around. It should be done by the
Department of Transportation.
Q But his point is
correct, isn't it? There's nothing that prohibits your
domestic policy staff from examining.
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know,
again, whether the domestic policy staff has adequate resources that
Transportation would have, whether they have the expertise that the
Department of Transportation has. Transportation has
hundreds of people who are --
Q You have people
detailed over here from Transportation. It's easy.
MR. FLEISCHER: All these points
are ways to do an end-around a congressional prohibition that should
not exist. Wouldn't it be easier for Congress this week to
send the President legislation that he could sign to end the
prohibition? If Congress is dedicated to helping conserve
energy and increase gas mileage standards, end the
prohibition. Let the administration get to work.
Q Ari, why couldn't
this be done through the NEC? The NEC coordinates all
MR. FLEISCHER: Again it's the
same question. It's best done by the Department of
Transportation. That's where the experts are.
Q -- and you can't
do it that way, then why don't you find another way to do it?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I've
never ruled out that the administration won't pursue this through
whatever means are possible. But, again, the question is,
why is the Congress tying the administration's hands and forcing it to
even examine whether or not there are alternative ways to get the job
Q Are your hands
really tied? It sounds like there are other means of doing
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you're
surmising that it can be done here, without the experts from the
Department of Transportation. I'm not saying that it can
be. The Department of Transportation, as you can imagine,
has the experts necessary to study this, and that's the place that the
study should be done.
Q You need a member
of Congress to introduce something along these lines. Have
you talked to any members of Congress? Do you have a
prospect in mind? Has anybody stepped forward to do what you
need them to do?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll check with
Congressional Affairs and see if we can't give you some
names. I don't know. I'll check with
Q Are you sure
you're not using this prohibition just to punt this issue down the road
about two months?
MR. FLEISCHER: If we were using
the prohibition to do that, why would Secretary Mineta have written to
Congress a month ago asking them to remove the
prohibition? Again, the burden falls on
Congress. It's Congress who enacted the
prohibition. Congress sent it; President Clinton signed it.
There's a prohibition that binds President Bush, that ties his hands.
On the one hand, it's hard to say to the
administration, here's an important National Academy of Science study,
do something with it; and at the same time, say to the administration,
we don't want you to do anything with that study.
Q On a range of
social issues, from the stem cell debate to sex education, critics of
the President are basically suggesting that they have science on their
side, and the President or the conservatives have just politics or
religion on their side. How do you think the President is
going to respond to that sort of an argument?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
believes that it's best to apply both science and principle to all
matters that come before the government. And that's
reflective of the actions that his administration has taken.
Q Well, for
example, last week when we had the controversy about the effectiveness
of condoms, and Congressman McDermott was suggesting that somehow --
were Galileo and the people who suggested that condoms weren't always
effective in preventing venereal disease were the Catholic Church. Is
there going to be an effort on the part of the White House to make the
scientific -- to continue to make the scientific case for, whether it's
stem cell research or abstinence only sex education, that there is a
scientific debate here and not just a political one?
MR. FLEISCHER: True, of