For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 31, 2001
Press Briefing by
By Ari Fleischer
the President's Fall Agenda.............................1-2;16
Upcoming Presidential Events.................................2
New White House Website....................................2-3
the Saturday Radio Address.............................3;17-18
the President's Travel Labor Day....................3-4;6-7;22
State Visit of President Fox of Mexico............4-6;11;16-17
Law Enforcement/Drug Trafficking..........................9
Little League Pitcher........................................7
President Putin's Visit This Fall...........................10
Race Conference in Durban................................18-19
Reporter's Telephone Records/Subpoena....................19-20
12:40 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Welcome back,
everybody. It's a pleasure to welcome you back to the White
House for a Friday briefing before Labor Day Weekend. I've got a
rather lengthy opening statement today. I'd be pleased to
take questions following it, but there is a lot going on that I want to
get into in terms of the fall overview, as well as look at the week
ahead, next week, and some additional items.
One, the President arrived in the Oval
Office at 7:10 a.m. this morning, and has had a series of briefings
very much focused on the fall agenda. And the President is
looking forward to a very busy, substantive and productive fall.
The President is going to focus like a
laser beam on the economy, education, opportunity and security this
fall. Security meaning retirement security, health security,
and of course, national security. But those four are going
to be a very important, broad theme of what the President seeks to
accomplish, working with the Congress. And he will remain
focused on the economy, education, opportunity and security.
Specifically, the legislation that's
pending before the Congress deals with education. And there
is a bill currently in conference that the President is looking forward
to working with the Congress on. Getting the patients' bill
of rights agreement through the conference and signed into
law. Having Senate action begin on the faith-based
initiative to help people who are in poverty and people who need help
Energy legislation that's been passed by
the House. The President is looking forward to action in the
Senate, so we can make America more
energy-independent. Trade promotion authority will begin
this fall. It's a very important initiative that focuses on
both the economy and opportunity. And, of course, the
appropriations process will come to conclusion this
fall. And the President is looking to make certain that
Congress honors the budget agreement; does not bust the budget, does
not spend too much.
Nothing is more important in the
President's opinion than to get the economy going and growing, and if
Congress is willing to abide by budget agreements and not bust the
budget, it will be a very valuable contribution to economic growth.
There will be several other major
legislative initiatives, some dealing with the environment, brown field
legislation, for example, that the President is going to work hard on.
Beyond the immediate congressional
calendar, the President is also, along with Mrs. Bush, going to be
launching this fall a major initiative on reading, helping families so
that children are able to read.
The President will also launch an
initiative that is very much a tie-back to what he first articulated
when he ran for governorship of Texas back in the mid-'90s, dealing
with communities of character. That's another way to look at
the importance, throughout our society, both in people's lives and
through legislation, issues involving personal responsibility, issues
involving the fabric of our society.
The President will focus -- and when I
talk about communities of character, the President will focus on issues
involving citizenship, good citizenship, tools for parents to help
parents, and youth development, helping make sure that children are
raised well in a society in which it's often difficult for parents.
And that's, in summary, the agenda that
the President is going to focus on this fall. Each of those
issues, of course, falls into that broad category of the economy,
education, opportunity and security.
A little bit on upcoming scheduling
events. At 2:50 p.m. today, as you noted, we added an event
to the schedule this morning. The President and Mrs. Bush
will participate in launching the new White House website --
WhiteHouse.gov, one word, and this will be a new, highly interactive
website with an improved search engine that's going to be very helpful
to the public, to researchers, to reporters. It will contain
Spanish content. And also, for the first time, it will include a
children's site, a kids' site. It's called
WhiteHouseKids.gov, all one word.
The President's pets -- Barney, Spot,
India and Ophelia, the long-horned cow will be the tour guides for
children as they surf the web, taking them to different pages of the
White House and different events throughout the White House.
Q Where did Ophelia
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if you
were in Crawford, then you may have bumped into Ophelia.
Q Apparently, not
MR. FLEISCHER: It would be
unfortunate for you if you did. Ophelia is not
small. And one of the real points of the website, and this
is something Mrs. Bush is going to talk about today -- particularly the
WhiteHouseKids.gov website -- is it's going to have a focus on helping
children learn to read. It's going to make reading fun and
interesting for children. And that will get launched this
afternoon by the President and by Mrs. Bush.
Reporters will be interested to note, too,
there will be several features on there involving a search engine that
will make it much easier for you to click on subjects, bringing them
up, for example, in the press briefings, that if you see at the top of
the briefings a table of contents, you have to scroll all the way
through the briefings to find the topic you're looking for, you will
now be able to click on the top of that table of contents and it will
take you directly to the subject matter.
So I think it's going to be a website that
makes the American people closer to their government, as well as help
children learn how to read.
The President's Radio Address this weekend
will focus on education. The President's event this afternoon will
focus a bit on education, and his Radio Address will focus on education
and the importance of getting an agreement with the Congress on the
education bill that's currently pending before the House and the
Looking ahead to next week, the President
will travel on Labor Day Monday to express his concern about the
strength and the state of the economy. He is very concerned
about the needs of American workers to make certain that the economy is
strong. The President believes that while unemployment is
low, for anybody who is unemployed, they are suffering from 100 percent
The President is going to listen to the
needs of America's working people, and he will discuss the economic
recovery package that he has put in place to help keep the economy, get
the economy going, and growing again.
He will meet on Monday first with the
Northern Wisconsin Council of Carpenters, and then he will take a tour
of the carpenters' training center. And the press will
depart immediately from there and will arrive into Detroit for a Labor
Day barbecue with Michigan teamsters. The filing time has
been changed from the Wisconsin site to the Detroit site in an effort
to make both events fully open to the press.
And then, of course, President Fox will
arrive for President Bush's first state visit. The
President, President Bush, wanted to invite President Fox for the first
state visit as a sign of the importance he attaches to U.S.-Mexico
Mexico is a good neighbor of the United
States to the south. Mexican culture and heritage and
Hispanic heritage is a very important and large part of the American
tradition, and the President thought it was fitting to make our
nation's first state visit under his administration with President Fox
Relations between the United States and
Mexico have never been better, in President Bush's opinion, and he will
welcome President Fox in that context.
I anticipate the issues that they will
talk about will focus on migration issues, on law enforcement and
counternarcotics cooperation, on the role of the North American
Development Bank or the NADBank, on water issues, a dispute that is
current involving the Congress, involving the rights of Mexicans to
bring trucks into the United States.
And then, let me walk you a little bit
through some of the specifics in terms of events for your information,
and then I'll be happy to take questions.
The official arrival ceremony at the South
Lawn will commence at 10:00 a.m. The President and Mrs. Fox
will travel from the Blair House, arrive at the Diplomatic Entrance,
will be greeted by the President and the First Lady.
Q On Wednesday?
MR. FLEISCHER: On
Wednesday. A color guard will present the colors, and the
President will review the troops. This will be the first
such time that has happened in President Bush's term of office.
The South Lawn events will, of course, be
open to the press. At approximately 10:55 a.m., the
Presidents will enter the Oval Office for a closed Oval Office
meeting. The meeting will be followed by a very unusual
joint Cabinet meeting between the United States government and the
Mexican government, a further sign of the deep cooperation that exists
between our two countries.
President Fox will depart the White House
in the early afternoon to pursue a separate calendar of events
involving State Department and other officials on his schedule.
And, of course, the State Dinner will be
that night, Wednesday night. One reminder for those fortunate enough
to be on pool duty, it is black tie for all poolers, and that includes
the cameramen as well as the correspondents. But I do want
to advise you about that now in case anybody needs to quickly go out on
Labor Day and get a tuxedo.
Thursday, President Fox will have his own
schedule in the morning, and then he will return to the White House and
he will join the President, where they will depart the White House on
the South Lawn for Toledo, Ohio, where the two will visit the Aurora
Gonzalez Community and Family Resource Center in Toledo for a visit, to
again commemorate the very important role that Mexicans and Hispanic
Americans play in our American culture.
Toledo was chosen because it's home to a
very large and growing Mexican community of Americans. And I
think it's a sign that President Bush has reflected that as somebody
who grew up in Texas, as somebody who is a border governor, he has a
very deep understanding and a deep appreciation for the role that
Mexico plays in America's economy, in America's culture, in America's
heritage, and he looks forward to welcoming President Fox in that
One final personnel note. I
want to make sure that everybody here knows -- I believe you do -- a
couple of people who are with us today who are new to the White
House. You may remember fondly Anna Perez, who was former
First Lady Barbara Bush's spokeswoman. She has joined the
White House as Communications Counselor to the National Security
Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, and is with us.
And, of course, you know Sean McCormack,
the very trusted and able spokesman for the National Security Council,
who is the Acting Chief Spokesman for the National Security Council.
Q Questions on the
Fox visit. You mentioned a news conference. Will there not
be a joint news conference as is the custom for state visit?
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't
announced it yet; there likely will be.
Q What day would it
MR. FLEISCHER: Most likely
Q In Toledo, or
before they leave?
MR. FLEISCHER: Before the
departure from the White House.
Q And do you expect
any kind of major agreement on the guest worker program that would be
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
and his Cabinet have been working very closely with Mexican authorities
on the issues involving migration. As you remember in the
President's visit to President Fox's ranch in February, the two agreed
that we need to take a new look at immigration issues between our two
From President Bush's point of view, he
thinks it's very important that America be a nation that welcomes
immigrants. He recognizes the huge contributions to our
economy that immigrant workers have made, and the vital role America
has in welcoming people who will fulfill that role in our economy.
I believe next week, what you can look
forward to will be a series of principles that are announced by the two
Presidents. The issue of immigration is very important to
President Bush. It's also very complicated. It
also involves some thoughts by members of Congress, and the President
is going to continue even after President Fox departs to work on this
issue so that immigrants can be welcomed to America in a way that is
legal, safe and humane.
Q Any major signed
agreement is unlikely because of how complicated it is, and --
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated,
I think you can anticipate a series of principles for a framework.
Q What has caused
the President to embrace the Teamsters Union, a union which opposed him
in the general election, as you will recall?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
traveling on Labor Day to honor America's workers. And what
better group to honor than America's teamsters.
MR. FLEISCHER: And
carpenters. (Laughter.) Though the President is
looking forward to that visit, and it is a little
unusual. He's a Republican, he's going to be welcomed into
union offices, headquarters and picnics and barbecues. As
you know, in Pittsburgh, he did something similar. The
President thinks it's important, no matter how somebody voted, to reach
out and represent them. He represents all the American
Q I have a
follow-up. Does the President have an opinion on the
unmasking of the 14-year-old pitcher's real
age? (Laughter.) Seriously.
MR. FLEISCHER: I talked to the
President about that, and he was disappointed to hear
that. Little League is Little League and the age is up to
12. The President was disappointed to hear that.
Q Ari, on the Labor
Day visit, is there any plan to announce any new
initiatives? I know there is a report the White House is
considering some sort of wage insurance policy for workers that have
been displaced by --
FLEISCHER: No. The President's remarks Monday are
going to be focused on the concerns that working Americans have at this
time of economic softness and his plan to bring about an economic
recovery through the plans that he's implemented.
Q Ari, going back
to the Fox visit. Wasn't the plan, though, for some time
that the two leaders would have an announcement about a major
initiative on immigration reform? We know that there was a
recommendation floated last month about, you know, dealing with 3
million Mexican immigrants. Was the White House maybe a
little bit surprised by the opposition on both sides of the aisle to
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think
it's a reflection of what a complicated issue it is. This
issue has been worked on diligently at the Cabinet level, both State
Department and the Justice Department, along with their Mexican
And there is a universal agreement on both
sides of the Rio Grande and throughout the United States government
that it's important to do this right; that this is such an important
issue for Americans, for Mexicans and for people from other nations
that when America changes its immigration laws in a way that makes
clear to the world that we are a nation that welcomes immigrants, that
it be done right and that it be done in a manner that can earn
Q Any time line,
though, as these principles come out, about a goal of when to come up
with a more broader --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, there is no
hard and fast date. That's why I indicated that the talks
are going to continue after the visit from President Fox.
Q A follow up,
Ari. I'm wondering; by the end of the Bush administration,
will we see millions of illegal Mexican immigrants gain legal status?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think
you just have to wait and see what announcement, what the deliberations
lead to. But what you will see is a concerted effort by
Mexico and the United States, together, to deal with immigration
issues. And that's a big break from the past, where Mexico
pursued its policies and United States pursued its, and the two seldom
talked and never reached any agreements.
Q Ari, on the same
subject, the fact that this is complicated is, of course, not
new. What changed in the past month or so that made you
folks realize that it was only going to be possible to turn out
principles and not a real agreement, at this point?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me
give you an example of one issue that policy makers are considering
carefully. And that is, there are people who are already in
this country, contributing to the American economy, even though they
may not be legal and they are paying taxes. As a result of
their labor and their efforts, Americans are able to enjoy many aspects
of life because of the immigration work force.
The President wants to make certain that
if there is a willing employer who needs a willing worker, we have
immigration policies that respect that arrangement.
At the same time, he wants to very
sensitive to the people throughout the world -- including in Mexico --
who have applied to come to the United States and are waiting on a long
waiting list to come here legally. He doesn't want to do
anything that would put people who may be illegal ahead of a line,
ahead of people who have waited patiently, while being legal.
And that's one aspect of how to have an
approach on a very complicated topic that is balanced, that reflects
the welcoming nature of America toward immigrants, the important role
that immigrants play in our American economy, the fact that many people
are here who pay taxes, but there are many people who would like to
come here and are trying to get here legally.
Q Ari, on the
Mexican thing, on law enforcement and anti-narcotic efforts, we're
going to see something, an announcement about the extradition of real
Mexican drug leaders to the United States. Is the President
ready to discuss our directive with the President of Mexico, especially
about the issue about the former governor of Quintana Roo, one of the
major drug traffickers who had some indictment in New York.
MR. FLEISCHER: On the question
of working together on law enforcement and counternarcotics efforts,
President Bush is highly praiseworthy of President Fox's courageous
efforts to fight organized crime and to reduce drug
trafficking. The level of cooperation between United States
agencies and Mexican agencies, which in the past have been strained, is
now growing. There is an increased confidence between American
officials and Mexican officials as we work together to combat these
But the President is very pleased with the
efforts that Mexico is making, and I think you can anticipate some more
discussion about that and some information about that next week.
Q The question
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not ruling
out more news on that front, but there will be announcements made next
week that I'm not going to preview.
Q Ari, you said the
President recognizes the contributions that immigrants, even illegal
immigrants, make in this country, in the work force. What
are the President's thoughts on the legal issues here? I
mean, he's generally identified as a law and order politician, as
someone who promotes respect for the law. If people have
violated the nation's immigration laws, is there to be no sanction or
punishment for that? Does he not take those laws or those
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's
precisely the issue and the reflection of the complexity of
it. There are millions of people who have entered this
country illegally. And that is one of the issues that has to
be dealt with. The President does not want to create a
program that has incentives for people to come to the United States
illegally. The President wants to make certain that we have
programs that are realistic and that honor the law.
At the same time, he wants to make certain
that people don't lose their lives trying to come to
America. He's very respectful of the fact that the reason
that so many people come to this country is for a better way of life;
and that people who live across the Rio Grande, for example, come here
because they want to put food on the table for their children and
they're driven to come here by family values -- the same family values
that drive Americans. And they're driven to come here by a
better way of life.
The President also thinks very strongly
that one of the real long-term solutions to any issue dealing with
immigration is to help Mexico to strengthen its economy; to help a
growing middle class develop in Mexico. And that's another reminder of
the importance of free trade. And the trade between the
United States and Mexico has boomed under NAFTA, and the President
wants to make sure that keeps going.
Q Ari, if I could
follow that, I wonder if the measures that the President envisions to
deal with the problem of illegal immigration from Mexico might be
extended to cope with illegal immigrants from Haiti, for
example. Are you looking at other countries that --
MR. FLEISCHER: Wendell, the
Cabinet-level group is looking at all these possibilities, and that's
something that will be considered at the appropriate
time. President Fox arrives next week. Our
relationship with Mexico is unique, of course. We share a
very long border with Mexico. The immigration issues with
Mexico are different from other nations because the ability of Mexicans
to walk across the border in many cases -- but the task force is
looking at all those issues.
Q That announcement
on principles you expect on Thursday, there was a question asked
earlier we couldn't hear in the back.
MR. FLEISCHER: The question
earlier was about timing of a news conference. There will be
-- any announcement will take place on either Wednesday or Thursday,
and so we'll keep you riveted to your seats to determine which day it
Q But a joint press
-- most likely on Thursday?
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q Ari, on the
planned visit this fall to Texas of President Putin, how confident is
the administration that will still occur, and how important do you
think it is for it to occur?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think there is
no question that it will occur. In fact, keep in mind also
when the President travels to Asia from October 15th to 25th, he will
also meet with President Putin in Shanghai. And then he
looks forward to meeting with him again at the ranch.
In fact, you just reminded me of
something, too. With the visit by President Fox, I believe
that makes President Fox and President Bush's fifth visit in the eight
months of President Bush's tenure.
Q This one will be
the fifth visit?
MR. FLEISCHER: This one will be
Q On the budget,
surplus estimates have obviously changed the climate
somewhat. Democrats are announcing maybe Congress should
consider suspending the tax cut in later years in order to deal with it
to try to get everything funded. Where are you on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated,
when the President talks about what is important this fall, he is going
to focus on the economy. And he thinks that one of the most
important things that Congress can do is not raise taxes. If
Congress tries to raise taxes, it will make the economy even
worse. And by any measure, if Democrats start talking about
delaying tax cuts or rescinding tax cuts or not letting them go into
effect, or taking back people's rebate checks, a tax hike is a tax hike
is a tax hike, and all of those are tax hikes. That's why
the Democrats are pursuing them. They allegedly raise revenue, but
they will hurt the economy.
The President is confident that his budget
protects America's priorities, that it increases funding for education
for defense, for example, but it gets the economy going and growing
again. And the best way to protect Social Security, the best
way to protect Medicare is to have an economy that grows. If
the economy doesn't grow, Social Security and Medicare will lose trust
fund dollars. If the economy grows as a result of the tax
cut, which has bipartisan support, then that's the best solution to
help Social Security and Medicare.
Q In the broader
terms, in the speech he gave this week on the agenda, I mean, he's
still kind of making this pitch that you can have it
all. But as long as Congress doesn't tack on anything new to
the budget, that everything can be paid for, and even Republicans are
saying, well, we don't see how this is going to happen.
I mean, honestly, what are you considering
in terms of cuts or adjustments that you need to make?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me remind
you of some basic facts about the budget that the President has
proposed to the Congress and the mid-session review, which came out,
which had the latest figures dealing with the surplus.
In 2001, spending will be $1.854
trillion. In 2002, spending will be $1.962
trillion. In other words, spending between 2001 and 2002 is
slated to go up by $107.2 billion under the President's budget, while
there will still be a Social Security surplus of $174 billion, and a
non-Social Security surplus of $4 billion in 2002.
A surplus is a surplus because it's money
that need not be spent and doesn't need to be spent. But under the
President's budget, education will grow, because there is room for $100
billion of new spending while still living within the budget limits,
while still producing Social Security and non-Social Security
To give you some specific numbers,
national defense, for example, between '01 and '02 under the
President's budget would grow from $303 billion to $330
billion. Education, training, employment, social services
will grow from $64 billion to $75 billion. Those are
So within the President's budget, there is
plenty of room for increases. The spending goes up, but it
goes up at a reasonable level. The risk to the surplus and the risk to
the economy, if Congress goes beyond the levels recommended by the
President, and squanders the surplus on bigger
spending. That's the risk to the economy, and that's why
it's so important for Congress to continue, as they have been doing, to
honor the budget agreement so far through the appropriations process.
Q That spending
number is predicated on your budget assumptions which are higher than
those of the CBO and higher than those of the median economists.
MR. FLEISCHER: Even under the
CBO scoring, there is plenty of room for spending
increases. For example, if I recall the CBO numbers, for
2001, discretionary spending under CBO was $642 billion, and it's
slated to go up to $670 billion in '02, while still leaving a $2
billion non-Social Security surplus, according to CBO.
So the question in Washington is never, is
something going to need to be cut, it's how much more do you want to
increase it? The President believes it can be increased by a
reasonable level of between four and six percent. People
want to spend more than that. The question is, how much of a
spending increase does Congress want to engage in? If
Congress engages in too much spending, they will bust the budget.
The President's budget has reasonable
levels of spending increases, while still leaving surpluses in Social
Security and the non-Social Security accounts.
Q Ari, on that same
topic, some Republicans on Capitol Hill are talking about further tax
cuts -- capital gains, increase the R&D tax credit, perhaps tied to an
increase in the minimum wage. How does the President feel
about additional tax cuts, either tied or not tied to an increase in
the -- the economy?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I
indicated -- the President believes that job number one is to grow the
economy. And the President is going to, as part of next
year's budget process, review any proposal that would help to grow the
economy. It's premature to focus on exact details of
that. As you know, that budget comes out in January or
February of next year. But that's the most important
Q But do you think
an additional tax cut at this time is something that's reasonable and
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's
something that will get taken up next year. But clearly, any
effort now to take away people's rebate checks or to delay people's
promised tax cuts is a tax increase. And the President will
call it a tax increase, and he will oppose it, because he believes
deeply that it will hurt the economy and hurt America's working
Q The President
travels to the Midwest next week, with the economy just about flat,
barely growing at all, and go back in time hurt four or five months,
and the administration was talking about the economy improving by
now. Most economists say, not only is it not improving now,
but it's not likely to any time in the next three or four
months. Is it fair to say the President is more concerned
about the economy than he was when he took office, and if so, what
additional steps does he think he can implement? Irrespective of
urging Congress not to boost spending too much, what else can you do,
what else is he considering?
MR. FLEISCHER: By point of
reference, you will not be able to find any statements by the President
or the staff suggesting that the economy would be growing by
now. The administration has been very careful not to make
specific predictions --
Q He certainly said
he hoped that it would, and thought that his plans would lead to --
MR. FLEISCHER: But he didn't
indicate exactly what day, what month, what quarter. So the
premise of your statement I really do want to rebut,
because that's not something that's been said. The
President does believe strongly that he has put into place a plan that
will get the economy growing again. And that's shared by a
host of private sector forecasters from all stripes, Democrat and
Republican, who do believe, as 12 Democrats in the Senate believe, that
the tax cut will help get the economy going again.
What more can be done? Trade
promotion authority. The President believes very deeply that
if Congress wants to send a signal to America that it cares about the
economy, one, it won't bust the budget, and two, it will pass trade
promotion authority. That promises to be a very important
issue this fall. And if Congress fails to pass trade
promotion authority, it could hurt the chances for an economic
rebound. Passage of trade promotion authority would be a
Q Is he more
concerned now though when he first took office about the
economy? And isn't it true now, really, it's the Bush
economy? You can't really go back to the Clinton
administration and point to what was going on now. You've
been in eight months in office, and what do you now would really be a
MR. FLEISCHER: I can't just
tell you from the President's point of view, this was his economy on
January 20th at noon, because he's going to accept responsibility for
what takes place in America while he is President. The
economic facts are, the slowdown began in the summer of 2000, and now
we are in the summer of 2001. It's been about a year.
Historically, slowdowns last a year, a year and a
quarter. It's unusual for them to go beyond a year and a
half. Combined with the six rate cuts that the Federal
Reserve has put in place, combined with the tax cut that is now in
place, that's delivering rebates, which will help stimulate spending,
stimulate savings -- all of that is likely to give a spur to the
economy. Exactly what month, what quarter, that's something
for economists to speculate about.
But the evidence -- in fact you said,
economists don't think it will take place for three or four
months. I remember reading on the front page of yesterday's
Washington Post, an economist from a bank in San Francisco was quoted
as saying, he believes it's already started to recover. So
these are the things economists will differ about. But the
principle is the President has a plan in place to get the economy going
Lester -- we have not heard from you in a
while. You didn't make it to Crawford.
Q No, I read about
it, though. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Crawford read
about you, and you would have been most welcome.
two-part. Both The Washington Times and The Washington Post
and other media have given extensive coverage to the Montgomery County,
Maryland school board ban on Indian names for athletic
teams. And my question, the President does not support such
censorship, does he? Because when he was running the Texas
Rangers, he never, ever asked the Atlanta Braves or the Cleveland
Indians to change their names, did he, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Les, these are
local matters, and the President does not get involved in that.
Q But, I mean, this
-- oh -- all right. (Laughter.) Since I think
most Americans believe that the President faithfully kept his campaign
promise to restore honor and decency to the Oval Office, the President
would in no way criticize The Washington Post for their putting
surveillance around the Annapolis townhouse of a female staffer of the
still-married Governor of Maryland, who The Post found and reported
spent several nights with this staffer. He wouldn't condemn
The Post for doing that, would he, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Nothing to offer
on that topic. From Lester to Paula. Paula had her hand
Q Could I have one
last -- I've been away for a month. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Do we have a
consensus? Democracy will prevail. All in
Q He can have
MR. FLEISCHER: Boy, you guys
really don't like me.
Q What do you mean
you've been away for a month? Did they let you out?
Q Does the
President believe it was right or wrong for federal judge James King to
uphold Florida's law banning homosexual adoption? And
surely, you won't enrage both sides by one of your wonderfully charming
and ingenious evasions of this question, will you, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know,
Lester, the President does not comment on judicial rulings of that
Q Well, what do you
think he feels?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not
discussed it with him. Paula, you had your hand up.
Q Well, amid the
ambitious agenda that you've set for this fall, as you know, are 13
regular appropriations bills that have not reached the President's
desk. He has repeatedly said that he wants defense and
education among the first agreements.
Your OMB Director has indicated that it
would not be unprecedented if any other bills were to come before him
first, for him to veto them solely on the basis of the order and not
Would the President veto any other
appropriations bills that reached his desk before defense and education
are agreed on?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a
complicated matter and, broadly speaking, what the President wants to
make certain of is Congress doesn't engage in the usual gamesmanship of
pitting defense off against other worthy priorities, or making
education come last.
As I indicated earlier, the appropriations
bills have so far been funded at, generally, the level that was agreed
to in the budget resolution. So if another bill were to come
in first and it came in at exactly the requested level, the President
will take a good look at that.
If the President thinks that Congress is
setting up the budget in a way that our nation's schoolchildren would
suffer, or that our defense will be hurt, then I think he will take a
different look at the appropriation bills.
So it really depends on the whole, big
picture of how appropriation moves.
Q Senator Biden
earlier this week sent a letter to President Bush asking that sanctions
on India be lifted, or waived. Where do you stand on that,
because a lot of people on the Hill expect that decision within a week
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me take that
and we'll get back to you on that. We'll post it.
Q In terms of the
Fox visit, if you could tell us just a little bit -- you said there was
going to be a framework on immigration. That sounds a lot
like the principles that they had six months ago. Have they
really accomplished anything in these talks? And could you
specifically tell us if some of the undocumented people in this country
will, at the end of this process, end up with permanent legal status?
MR. FLEISCHER: That question,
the second part, was really asked earlier. But, no, they
have made progress. And I think you'll see that and what is
released next week and in the discussions that you hear next week.
I can't preview it all. There
are going to be some things that, of course, the principals, are going
to want to discuss.
Q I think that the
gentleman asked if millions of people were going to be -- I'm asking if
any one of those undocumented is going to get a permanent legal
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, whether
it's one or whether it's millions, it all depends on the decisions and
the principles that are arrived at. So the answer is the
Q And that will be
part of the framework?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll see
exactly what the framework indicates, but there will be additional
issues that remain after the framework is issued and after the two
Presidents have met. And after President Fox departs you can
anticipate the administrations continue to work on this issue.
Q Can I ask you,
the Mexican government is proposing a wide variety of solutions to
solve that problem. I think it is that kind of integrated
solution that contemplates maybe giving legal status to some workers,
the guest worker program, et cetera. Do you agree that these
problems have to be solved throughout this wide solution, not only with
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's
exactly why -- number one, on general amnesty, as you know, President
Bush opposes general amnesty. But that's exactly the issue
that the task force is working on, shoulder-to-shoulder with their
Q Education, since
it's the subject of the radio address tomorrow. Where do we stand on
education? You know, another month has gone by since the
last Congress was in town. Has any progress been made during
that time of getting something that the President can sign?
MR. FLEISCHER: The reports are
that the staff meetings that took place on the education conference
were very helpful, that a lot of the underbrush issues, as they're
referred to, have been addressed successfully. There remain
a series of member discussions to be had, many of those involve the
issue of accountability and at what level to set the bar so that you
can determine what schools have passed their children, what schools
have failed their children.
Those would be the type of issues that is
typical in a conference. We'll await the return of the
members. And also, keep an eye on the congressional calendar
this fall, as a result of the timing of September events, the Jewish
holidays and other events in September, there are about 14 legislative
days in September, so I think you can take a look at a busy fall going
for some period of time.
Q Spending. Are you making progress
on spending in the conference?
MR. FLEISCHER: On the education
spending issue? That will be --
Q Yes. There's a huge gap there.
FLEISCHER: Yes. I think that will be another
issue, Bill, that they're going to be talking about pretty carefully
this fall at the member level with the administration.
Q You don't know if
there has been any progress on that, or --
MR. FLEISCHER: I wouldn't call
that an underbrush issue.
Q You would not
call it -- so it's still outstanding?
Q In the end, the
administration does have someone at the racism conference in Durban, at
the very least, to fill the chair. So what happened to not
participating at any level and what do you think this racism conference
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course,
the President indicated that he wanted to make every effort to clean up
the language so that the racism conference did not have language that
was anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. The President was pleased with the
actions that the conference took on the reparations side of the
language, for example.
And I can tell you that nobody is more
disappointed that the conference took the turn it took than Colin
Powell, who very much would have liked to have gone. But the
President, as a sign of his willingness to do exactly what he said --
which is to work up until the last minute to get the language cleaned
up -- has dispatched a career official from the State Department, a
deputy assistant Secretary, to Durban for the
conference. And he is working, as we speak, on trying to get
the objectionable language taken out of the document.
If he is not successful, then you can
anticipate what the President said will be, indeed, adhered
to. If he is successful, then the United States will be able
to participate. So it all depends on the actions taken on
the ground in Durban.
In all cases, the United States does have
an observer from the consulate office in Durban, and I think you can
anticipate for protocol reasons and because we have a congressional
delegation at the meeting, that person would stay welcome no matter
Q But the
conference has started. Isn't it a bit late to still be
talking about the language? Either the conference is going
to achieve something or not.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think we're
going to know in short order.
Q Ari, does the
President think it's proper for the Justice Department to subpoena a
reporter's personal telephone records to find out the source of a
MR. FLEISCHER: When it comes to
law enforcement agencies and their carrying out their ongoing and
legitimate investigations, many of which are criminal investigations,
the President does not think it is the proper course of action for the
White House to tell the Justice Department how to go about its
This is a matter of law how to go about
its investigations. This is a matter of law enforcement and
Justice Department practices. It is not a question for the
White House to politically, for example, tell the Justice Department
how to carry out their efforts, so long as they're carried out within
Q Does he not have
an opinion on that issue in general?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's the
Q Well, he opposes
racial profiling, Ari, for example, and that's a way an investigation
could be carried out, right?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think
that's a different matter than the exact conduct of one particular
Q But he's asking
in general whether the President has a position on whether reporters
should have to be concerned that their, say, home phone records are
going to be subpoenaed.
MR. FLEISCHER: I really don't
equate racial profiling with this matter; neither would the President.
Q You don't think
it's -- he doesn't have an opinion whether it's right or wrong to do
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated,
this is a matter for Justice to determine, as they pursue their
Q And secondly, to
follow up, is anybody from the White House or the President inquired
from the Justice Department what action was taken in the matter we're
MR. FLEISCHER: What we've taken
Q Has anybody in
the White House asked the Justice Department for an explanation as to
MR. FLEISCHER: Not that I'm
aware of. I talked to Judge Gonzales about it the other day,
and he indicated to me this was a Justice action, with no prior notice
or consultation with the White House.
Q Has there been
any subsequent discussion between the White House and the Justice
Department about the action taken?
MR. FLEISCHER: None that I'm
aware of, Ron.
Q Can you take that
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll see what I
can do with it. It's a big building.
Q Please, I've
waited for a month. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: You waited for
one month? I hope not in that spot.
Q Given the very
slow growth in the United States and the near recession in Japan, as
well as weak economies in the European countries, is the President also
worried about the global economy, the risk of global
recession? Is he doing anything internationally to avoid
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I
indicated, as the President focuses on the economy, on education, on
opportunity, on security, the economy has many facets to it, global,
and of course domestic. But the President believes the
greatest contribution America can make to improving the global economy
is to get the American economy going. And he believes that
he has the proper solution in place.
He also believes the global economy will
develop and grow faster if we can get trade promotion authority put
into law. That will be particularly helpful to nations in
South America, which are poised to increase their trade, and have a lot
riding on the line if Congress takes the proper action on trade
Q What's your
comment, please, on the sentencing today of Yvette Lozano?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not
talked to the President about it, but as somebody who worked on the
campaign, I hope this will bring this unfortunate chapter to a
close. I think nobody is more hurt or disappointed or
saddened that this took place than the Bush campaign, particularly Mark
McKinnon. That's very unfortunate that she did what she
did. And she acknowledged what she did. I hope
she has learned a lesson. This is a very sad and unfortunate matter.
Q Do you think she
was acting on her own?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's what all
the evidence indicates from the course of the investigation.
Q Is the President
meeting with Daschle and Gephardt next week, and why did you guys say
there was a meeting? Daschle and Gephardt's office said they
were never called about it. And now apparently they just got
called yesterday. What happened?
MR. FLEISCHER: Campbell, I
think this was a classic case, in all seriousness, of the letter that
was sent from the Hill, and the good intentions of the White House
literally crossing in the mail. There was information in the
White House that said the meeting was set up and done. And as I
indicated, I think it really was a matter of two good things crossing
in the mail.
In all cases, there is a meeting next week
with Senator Lott, with Speaker Hastert, with Congressman Gephardt,
with Congressman Daschle -- Senator Daschle. All those
meetings will take place next week.
Q Now are they
meeting separate --
MR. FLEISCHER: Individual
Q Is he meeting
separately with Daschle and Gephardt? All of them?
MR. FLEISCHER: Individual
meetings. Right. And it will be followed by an
invitation to the Hill for additional meetings.
Q Can you give us
the days these meetings will take place?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, let me get
that next week. Let me double check with our schedulers.
Q Anybody Tuesday,
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry, Ron?
Q Will any of these
meetings occur Tuesday?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's possible.
Q Going back
earlier, the discussion -- the President will be going to see the
Carpenters' Union and the Teamsters' Union. Both these
unions are very supportive of the energy plan, specifically drilling in
ANWR. Is this a -- should we be expecting in the future more
cooperation with these -- specifically these two unions? Are
you building a partnership with these unions? Is this a quid
pro quo meeting -- appearance for their support for ANWR drilling?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's a
healthy sign of bipartisanship. I think it's a healthy sign
that a Republican President is going to work with and listen to people
from across America's political spectrum, not all of whom voted for
him. And there will be issues where the President and the
unions can work together, and he will pursue those
efforts. The President is appreciative of the efforts that
the Teamsters took, for example, on talking to members of Congress
about the importance of developing an energy independence plan through
exploration in ANWR. I anticipate that many of these same
people are going to be talking to Senators about it, because they now
how important it is to their livelihood as Union workers, but as well
to the American economy.
Q If I could just
follow up on the leadership meetings. You saw the letter
that Democratic leaders sent to the White House, to the President a
couple days ago. Democrats are saying the President needs to
show they use leadership. They feel that in light of the new
numbers in the surplus, the slow, sluggish economy, that he really
needs to come forward and explain -- not just for this year, but even
projections over the next several years to pay for missile defense,
prescription drug coverage. And they say you can't just sort of throw
it to Congress, that the President is not showing
leadership. What do you say to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the
President has demonstrated so much leadership that 28 Democrats in the
House followed him on the economic recovery package; and one-quarter of
all the Democrats in the Senate followed the President's leadership on
the economic recovery package.
The vote to boost the economy by providing
the stimulus of a tax cut was a big bipartisan vote. And the
only reason it happened was because the President did demonstrate
leadership. And I think the fact that Democrats are having
some serious internal deliberations about which direction they should
move and how to move -- Senator Miller, for example, has got some very
interesting opinions about what the Democrats are doing.
So the President has demonstrated
leadership and he's going to continue to work with those Democrats.
THE PRESS: Thank you.