For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 3, 2001
Press Briefing by
President's Upcoming Travel.................................2-4
President's Phone Calls.....................................5-6
Patients' Bill of Rights...................................9-10
Missile Defense/Abm Treaty................................10-11
Purchase of U.S. Telecom Assets by German Company............11
Omb/Cbo Budget Estimates.....................................15
12:15 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: A very good afternoon. I want to begin with a statement by the President on some action that was just taken in the United States Senate hours ago.
The following is from the President.
"The Senate today took wise and prompt action to help America's farmers. This vote is a victory for our nation's farmers at a time when they need it most. I praise the Senate for agreeing to the House bill and look forward to signing this helpful measure into law."
That's in reference to a vote the Senate cast to pass the House level of funding, $5.5 billion, to help our nation's farmers in need this summer.
On the personnel front --
Q When will the President signed that, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me give you a couple of announcements. On the personnel front, the President intends to nominate Kevin Mole to be ambassador to the European office of the United Nations with the rank of ambassador.
The President intends to nominate the following six individuals to serve as U.S. Attorneys. Margaret Chiara for the Western District of Michigan, Terrell Lee Harris for the Western District of Tennessee, Jim Ming Greenlee for the Northern District of Mississippi, Gregory Van de Tatenhove for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Stephen Beville Pence for the Western District of Kentucky, and Robert Conrad for the Western District of North Carolina.
We may have additional U.S. Attorney announcements to make later today; if so, we'll put them out in writing as soon as they are ready.
As of last night, this brings the total number of nominations submitted to the Senate, 443. The Senate has confirmed, as of last night, 243, leaving 211 nominations pending before the United States Senate.
The 443 nominations made by President Bush exceed the number of nominations made heading into recess by all the previous presidents. Clinton, who had nominated 354, former President Bush, 319, and former President Ronald Reagan had nominated 411. So as we head into the August recess, I think it's fair to say that even given the shortened transition that this administration has worked from, the personnel and the nomination process have worked exceedingly well from the White House end to Pennsylvania Avenue.
The President is pleased with the progress that the Senate has made on the nominations. He looks forward to additional action when the Senate returns in September.
And a final travel item. The President will travel to New York in September, on September 24th to 26th, to participate in the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. He will attend the opening of the general debate and address the general assembly on September 24th. And while in New York, the President will also meet with several foreign leaders and host a reception for heads of delegations. He'll be there overnight in New York City for two nights.
With that, I'm pleased to take questions. Kelly?
Q On the bill, when will you -- will he sign it today or before the President leaves for Texas?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's -- no, there is no possibility of signing it today. Congress still has to enroll it. So the decision on when to sign the bill will be determined in significant part by the timing in which Congress enrolls it and sends it to him.
Q How significant do you think the veto threat was here on playing a role in the Senate?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is very pleased that the Senate took the action, because it means the farmers get the help they need. I think it's another indication that when the President stands by principles that he believes in and works productively with Democrats and Republicans in the Congress, he not only can have success in the House, but he has success in the Senate. And so, he is very pleased that all parties came together today to enter into this important agreement. He wants to sign that legislation quickly.
Q Ari, I don't mean to sound sarcastic when I ask this. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a Friday, it's almost recess, don't do it. (Laughter.) I take your question. Anybody else?
Q Thank you.
Q Why does the President like to go out to his ranch for the whole month of August? What does he plan to do? And that's -- (laughter) --
MR. FLEISCHER: Will you be there?
Q Yes, I will.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's why. President Bush is not from here; he is from Texas. (Laughter.)
Q Was that sarcastic?
Q Did you mean to sound sarcastic? I'm meaning to use this. Can you start that again? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm new in town, but I don't think the networks could possibly work that way.
President Bush is from Texas. His home is in Texas. When his presidency is over, he looks forward to returning to Texas. But he is not of the Beltway, he is not from Washington, he is from the state of Texas and he enjoys going home to Texas.
While in Texas, he will have a working vacation there. I was going to do this at the end of the briefing. Let me give you some information now. But the President will travel for approximately two days a week each week during his visit to Texas. The upcoming week, he will travel one day to build a house in nearby Waco, Texas, to participate in a Habitat for Humanity event.
The following week, the President will travel to Colorado and New Mexico. The week following that, the President will travel roughly three days to Wisconsin and other locations TBD. He'll also travel to Pennsylvania that week.
The following week, the President will have an event in nearby San Antonio, and you can also anticipate travel over Labor Day weekend to some unnamed cities as of this point.
But to get back to the probe, the President enjoys getting out of the Beltway. The President enjoys being in the country. He is looking forward to what he calls his "home to the heartland" visit, where he will be based in Crawford, Texas but will, from there, travel to the rest of America to meet with a wide variety of Americans, to listen to their concerns, including union workers, including people concerned about our nation's defense, including people who are fighting for social justice through Habitat for Humanity. And that will be the essence of what the President does.
He's also enjoying a little down time and a little running, and a little cedar clearing.
Q But does he recreate beyond that on the ranch? I don't think he ever has. I mean, he runs, he takes walks.
MR. FLEISCHER: He'll do a little fishing on the ranch. I'm sure he'll have friends and family over to the ranch. He'll do a little policy, he'll keep up with events. Travel, as I indicated. But it's going to be a working vacation that's going to include parts work and parts vacation.
Q Will there be a national security conference call --
MR. FLEISCHER: He'll have intelligence briefings every day. Every day but Sundays.
Q Live, or by phone?
MR. FLEISCHER: They're always live.
Q Ari, the American people sent him here to the White House. He's going to set a modern record for not being here. Is there something about it he doesn't like?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think when the American people sent him here to the White House, they enjoy the times that Congress is in recess, and they understand that the President also doesn't have to live 365 days a year in the White House.
Q Does he find it like confining or something? He feels the need to get out?
MR. FLEISCHER: He just finds his ranch in Texas welcoming, as well as finding the White House inviting.
Q Ari, the President has billed this trip, too, as going home to the heartland, a place where he says the values are superior or what they should be. And I'm wondering, what exact region does he ascribe these values to? Where is the heartland?
MR. FLEISCHER: He's never said that he finds the values superior. The President has never said anything like that.
Q Well, he says he's found them correct, or what, you know, America stands for.
MR. FLEISCHER: But he's never said anything about superior, because that implies it's superior to someone else's. And the President has never discussed it like that. But what the President believes is, first of all, he has a home in Texas. That is his home.
Secondly, he was sent to Washington to work on the people's business, and that's particularly true when Congress is in session. He will be leaving for his home in Texas on a very good note, on a very positive note for the American people, noting the strong action in the House of Representatives this week to give America energy policy, to pass a patients' bill of rights that can be signed into law, on the conclusion of a Senate action to help our nation's farmers in accordance with the President's desire.
So he leaves Washington on a very strong note, at a very good time, to return home to the heartland to talk to the American people in their communities about issues that are on their minds.
Washington, D.C. is an important part of the American community. It's not the only part. And the President looks forward to going home for a working vacation and he looks forward to traveling throughout the country and throughout the heartland as part of that working vacation.
Q Nice segue, though.
Q I wasn't here this morning, but you spoke about President Bush receiving calls from Prime Minister Tony Blair and the President of the Spanish government, Jose Maria Aznar, on the Argentine crisis.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q And I would also like to ask a follow-up. Deputy Treasury Secretary John Taylor is in Argentina. Can you also comment on what the purpose of his visit is?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President spoke with three foreign leaders this morning. Each call lasted approximately 10 minutes. He called Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to congratulate him on his upper house electoral victory. The President said it was a sign of Japanese public support for the Prime Minister's reform agenda.
In addition, the President received two phone calls: One from Prime Minister Blair and one from President Aznar of Spain. They both called to discuss the financial situation in Argentina. The leaders agree that they are behind President de la Rua's policy, and they all agreed that the focus should remain on implementation of the current IMF package for Argentina.
As for Secretary Taylor's visit to Argentina, I think you need to talk to the Department of the Treasury about that.
Q When you say focus on the current IMF package, you mean no additional aid is necessary at this point?
MR. FLEISCHER: They all agreed to focus on the current -- on the package that is currently before them on the implementation of the current IMF package, and the Department of Treasury may have anything additional to add.
Q Will the President continue his deliberations on the stem cell issue while he's at his ranch, or has the decision essentially been made and you're just waiting for a better time to announce it?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has not made a decision at this time, and I think he is going to think about it while he is at the ranch. And for reporters traveling there, an announcement is possible at any time while he is there. So I advise you of that, and -- but he is still deliberating and he has not made a decision.
Q Where is he in this long, drawn-out process?
MR. FLEISCHER: He's continuing to think about it. He continues to talk to people, to meet with people. And he continues to listen to various sides of the issue, and then I think you will see him stop, ponder, think and then announce.
Q Has he had any meetings with any groups this week on this, do you know?
MR. FLEISCHER: He has.
Q Do you know -- ethicists, scientists? Who has me met with this week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Kelly, I think what we'll do is when the President is ready to announce it, the President's going to share a lot of the information about who he's talked to, what arguments people made influenced him, why he came to that determination. And the White House will also be happy at that time to provide you with who he's talked to entirely.
Q You have previously, like the night he met with ethicists in the Oval Office, you all told us the next day that meeting had taken place. And you can't say what meetings he's had --
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me see if I can get any additional information today.
Q Let me just follow up, too. Is he expected to make the decision this month? Is a decision expected the month when he's at the ranch in August?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a possibility.
Q Vice President Cheney suggested in an interview yesterday, in the context of explosion of violence in the Middle East, that there is some justification for Israel taking the actions it has. Does the President agree?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I don't know if you've looked at the entire transcript of what the Vice President said. But what the Vice President said is that, as he's put it, at the very top of that remarks -- it was a 25 -- 20-minute interview. His remarks on this topic lasted several minutes. And right at the top of it, he said that in some cases, I suppose, by their lights, referring to Israel, it is justified. So he began his remarks by indicating that Israel views this as justified, which is obviously why Israel has taken the steps it has.
Q So he does not agree with the Israelis that they have --
MR. FLEISCHER: The Vice President, the President, Secretary of State are all in unison about the need to stop the violence in Israel. And what the Vice President was reflecting on -- and when I say violence in Israel, that includes the region -- what the Vice President was reflecting on is how both parties see justification in the actions they take. It is the policy of the United States to oppose these killings. And what the Vice President was suggesting is, Israel sees a justification for their actions. The Palestinians see a justification for their actions --
Q You're putting words in his mouth. He didn't say the Palestinians.
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me put words in his mouth because they're the words he said. And I suppose, in some cases, I suppose, by their lights, it is justified. Those are the Vice President's words himself.
Q But if you read down, Ari, he said that in his own words, too.
MR. FLEISCHER: And let me continue. And if you read on, the Vice President said clearly, it would be better if they could work with the Palestinians, and the Palestinian Authorities -- "they" meaning Israel -- and the terrorists of whatever stripe could be headed off and imprisoned and tried, rather than having them actually assassinated, which is a statement by the Vice President of what he thinks is best, which of course is completely in United States policy.
Q He also said that -- I believe the -- sometime they might be justified.
Q He said I think, I think, I think. He said I think there is some justification, and they're trying to protect themselves, by preempting.
MR. FLEISCHER: And that statement immediately followed -- you are literally reading his words correctly -- that statement immediately followed the Vice President's introduction of these remarks by saying, by their lights, referring to Israel, it is justified. He followed that up by saying, I think there's some justification, and they're trying to protect themselves by the preempting. And then he continued -- clearly it would be better if they could work with the Palestinians and head off -- imprison and try, rather than have them actually assassinated.
Q Does the Vice President still think -- does the Vice President still think there is justification, as he said in that sentence, or is he backing off that sentence?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Vice President, as he said -- by their lights, there is justification. What he's reflecting on --
Q I'm asking you about that sentence. Does he still stand by that sentence, or not?
MR. FLEISCHER: You have to take a look at his statement in its entirety.
Q We all have read it, Ari.
Q Do we have to parse it?
Q It's pretty clear.
MR. FLEISCHER: The entirety of his statement, when you look at all three sentences in his statement, in this one area of his statement, it's perfectly clear that he said this is by Israel's lights, and he said clearly, himself, that it would be preferable for -- if they could work with the Palestinians and Palestinian authorities of whatever stripe, to be headed off into prison and tried, rather than having them actually assassinated. So I think he's clearly stating his preferences.
Q He also said very clearly, I think there is justification. Is he backing off that sentence?
MR. FLEISCHER: I've talked to the Vice President about that, and what he is referring to is how both parties seek justification in their actions.
Q Did he tell you, you know, I think I misspoke there, I should have qualified that sentence better?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think he has addressed it throughout the context of his statement. I don't think you can pull out one sentence of a statement; I think you have to look at all three parts of the statement in context.
Q He didn't qualify the sentence.
MR. FLEISCHER: You're focusing on one sentence, and there are three key sentences in it, which put it in, I think, a very detailed context.
Q Do you stand by your statement when you said that the administration at all levels deplore the violence there and that includes the targeted killings?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is no doubt. That is the position of the administration and is shared by all members of it.
Q On the patients' bill of rights, Indian American medical community all over the U.S. is praising President Bush for his efforts to -- pass a bill, number one. Number two, now Democrats are calling for the administration for the immigration reform bill are concerned, and should apply to all the immigrants, no matter where they come from. So -- having to --
MR. FLEISCHER: The second question applied which issue? Immigration?
Q To all the immigrants.
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. One the first question you asked about the patients' bill of rights, I think that's just another sign of how there are a lot of groups in America who want Congress to work together this fall to get a patients' bill of rights done. And if the Conference Committee is willing to work in the same cooperative, productive manner that the House of Representatives has, our nation will indeed have a patients' bill of rights that gets signed into law.
On the question of immigration, the President is looking forward to the visit of President Fox. The President believes the United States must be a nation that welcomes immigrants to our shores. And he'll have more to say on that matter later.
Q Ari, can I ask you about missile defense? Is it the White House's view that the building of these silos at Ft. Greeley in Alaska, which are due to start next month, will be in breach of the ABM Treaty?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you want to ask that to the Department of Defense. My understanding is that is not a breach of the treaty.
Q And will America, if you fail to get agreement from Russia on leaving the ABM Treaty, will America still press ahead and leave the treaty on its own?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has made crystal clear on numerous occasions that he is going to continue to work with President Putin, and he has been doing so very productively. But he is prepared to move beyond the ABM Treaty, because it is the responsibility of the President to protect the American people, and in this case the threat would be posed by a rogue missile launch from a hostile nation that does not share America's interests or America's values. So the President has been very clear about his determination to lead the world in bringing about consensus on the need to move beyond the ABM Treaty.
Q At the end of the day, he's prepared move beyond it alone?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has said at the end of the day, he is prepared to move beyond the treaty. I think by every indication he has received from many of our ally nations in the world, he will not be doing so alone, if it comes to that step.
Let's go to someone new. Have you asked a question yet today? Everybody gets one first policy, unless people get one twice.
Q Ari, the President of Mexico has just said yesterday, I think, the government is planning to close the border to the American trucks. Two questions: One, what is the President of the United States thinking to do about it and, second, do you think that action will be bad for the bilateral relations, especially when President Fox is planning to visit President Bush?
MR. FLEISCHER: The statements made by President Fox of Mexico, that Mexico will respond if the Congress tries to shut down America's borders to Mexican long-haul trucks, is a reflection about why the action the Congress is considering taking is so troublesome, and it's why the President is going to work very hard this fall to reverse Congress's potential action here.
The Congress has to expect that if they take an action that is unfair to one of America's neighbors, America's neighbors will respond. So the President shares President Fox's concerns. And he is going to work very hard to correct this matter. And I think it's also notable that there is so much misleading information used by those who would oppose the President of the United States on helping our neighbors to the south and on enforcing a trade agreement called NAFTA, which has been good for both countries.
Most of the statistics used by the opponents of Mexico trucking focus on short-haul trucks, which have a very different safety record from the long-haul trucks. If Congress allows Mexican trucks to come into this country, it won't be the short-haul trucks that the critics are worried about. It will be the long-haul trucks. And the President is very concerned about making sure that anybody who operates on America's roads operates their trucks safely. And that's why it's important to have an agreement with Mexico so their long-haul trucks can operate on our roads, rather than the long-haul trucks.
Q So only people along the border have to worry?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there's been a longstanding policy in both nations of the short-haul trucks going back and forth. The President wants to increase inspection money for agencies along the border to make sure that any vehicle that's operated in America is operated in accordance with the safety regimes and the insurance regimes.
Q Ari, but the President's planning to call --
MR. FLEISCHER: Wait, it's our one -- you just benefited from the one question policy.
Q Ari, the administration's top tobacco -- international tobacco control negotiator has resigned, and there's some implication that there may be a disagreement with the administration's policy. Had the Bush administration softened its stance on international tobacco control from the previous administration?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, and I would refer you to Mr. Novotny's words himself, when he said that on some areas of the subject, the administration has stronger positions than the previous administration had. This is a quote, "The basic core commitment from the U.S. is the same," said Mr. Novotny, who was leaving on the 23rd anniversary with his agency. He said, "We've made progress. There's an awful lot more work to do." The administration agrees with that. Progress has been made. There is a lot more work to do, and that's why the President is committed to continuing the efforts on fighting children using tobacco worldwide.
Q But what is the explanation for the specific changes that the administration has pursued in softening some areas, such as secondhand smoke, and changing positions from the previous administration? Are you saying the position is exactly the same as the previous?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, obviously Mr. Novotny has said in some instances the administration's position is stronger. And incidentally, he advised HHS that he was leaving back in May. So this was no surprise, and nothing new. But in some areas -- talks are continuing, by the way, in Geneva. And HHS is going to provide routine updates on it.
Q Will fast track be a focus of the President's outreach to Union officials during his break?
MR. FLEISCHER: That meeting is coming up in about three or four weeks, and I haven't seen the text of the President's remarks on it yet. So I can't indicate that yet. But clearly, this fall the President will be making a major effort to secure trade promotion authority.
The President thinks it's very, very important. It shows the United States can compete and win around the world, and the President is now having a series of meetings in preparation for that, and I think you can expect a lot on that topic this fall.
Q Do you know which unions he'll be meeting with, though?
MR. FLEISCHER: We will be announcing that shortly, closer to the visit.
Q Ari, going back to the vacation, the President says he is going to talk about the values. What are some of the values he is going to talk about? And is this connected to this communities of character, this planned approach to take in the fall to have the President use sort of executive power to take leadership on moral issues?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me suspend on that. I think you are going to get a little bit of a better fill-in on Monday down in Crawford about the upcoming events. And today is a day that the President is really going to focus on legislation that was just enacted in the House and the Senate and upcoming fall agenda, but we will have additional announcements in Crawford next week.
Q But for all those people who work on the weekends and want to do stories -- I mean, really, though, it's fair to ask today about what are some of the values? Is it, you know, families, teen pregnancy, gang violence? And is this a rolling out of the President on a moral --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd be happy to. When the President talks about going home to the heartland, in his mind, that reflects the values of hard work, of family, of honesty, of people playing by the rules, working hard to make a living in the United States and being treated fairly and being treated compassionately. That is what the President thinks about when he thinks about the values of the heartland.
Q Ari, in July '96, then-Prime Minister Netanyahu told a joint session of Congress that he wanted to begin to wean Israel off of what he called "generous American assistance," $1.2 billion economic aid at that point in time.
Since then, we continue to send military equipment and economic aid to Israel. Yesterday, you said that the administration is being proactive in the Middle East. Is part of proactive strategy to consider cutting off aid to Israel to pressure them to stop the war on the Palestinians?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President supports a package of aid to the nations in the region. That includes Israel, that includes Egypt. It has been a longstanding part of American foreign policy to help try to achieve stability in the region and to provide assistance to our friends there. And the President will continue to provide that.
Q Would there be any consideration -- there is war talk in the Middle East. And if there was a war, would there be any consideration to consider -- to look at the question of scaling back or cutting off aid to Israel?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is a hypothetical follow-up to a hypothetical that arose yesterday. And as I indicated yesterday, I am not going to discuss hypotheticals.
Q The President is having his physical tomorrow. What kind of a specimen are the doctors going to find? (Laughter.) You can fill in the blank with some other words.
MR. FLEISCHER: Is there another question here?
Q The question is, what kind of the health is the President in? That's what he meant.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
The President tomorrow will have his annual physical up at Bethesda and we will be providing reporters with information following it. The President feels in excellent physical health. As you know, he is an athlete, he runs. We will have information tomorrow. And that will be an appropriate question tomorrow for full information. But the President feels great and he is looking forward to the physical.
Q Are they going to do it up there at Bethesda or down here?
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, it will be at Bethesda.
Q Does he still run every day, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Almost.
Q Has he had annual physicals? And for how long?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's been annual for -- I only went back with him in Texas for a number of years.
Q He's 55 --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct. He's the speed limit -- in some states.
Q He runs on a treadmill in the Residence; is that right?
MR. FLEISCHER: He runs on a treadmill in the Residence. He tries to run about three, four times a week. He will run outside on occasion.
Q On the track?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I heard him say to a group of senators earlier this week, the daytime/nighttime average temperature in Crawford right now is about 98 degrees and he is looking forward to running in it.
Q Senator Conrad met with a few reporters this morning and he said that it's been a great week for the President but that in a couple of weeks there is going to be some very bad news coming out of OMB and CBO when the new budget estimates come out. He said it is going to be a fiasco and that the American people are going to be upset to find that the non-Social Security surplus is practically gone. Any response to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think there have been a number of senators who previously voted to raise taxes on the American people who see a surplus that is the second-largest in American history and don't think it's big enough. And their previous reaction to economic news was to raise taxes. We'll see what the exact numbers are from the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office in approximately three to four weeks.
All indications are that, not only will the surplus be the second-largest in American history, but that this year the United States will have paid down more than $100 billion in debt. So, while the economy has weakened, the economic big picture continues to look strong on the budget front. Social Security has been protected.
And under the President's budget, education will receive an increase in spending, as well as a reform. The Defense budget will be increased. The President believes there is sufficient room in the budget to fund vital government priorities such as education and defense while protecting Social Security. And I anticipate that that's what these reports will show.
Q Ari, on July 17th, on his way to the G8 meeting, did President Bush misspeak when he said that our government will not artificially enter the markets regarding the dollar, or is that a new policy?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't remember the President using the word artificially. Is that a verbatim quote that you have there?
Q This is a quote that was picked up by Reuters.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, well, I'd want to look at the entire quote.
Q During the telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of Japan, did they discuss the Kyoto Protocol, also the appointment of new Japanese Ambassador to the United States?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's the only information I have on the call. So if there's anything additional, we'll try to get it for you.
Q Are they going to talk about baseball again?
MR. FLEISCHER: All the information that I have is what I read out.
Q Ari, one more on the physical. Is this going to be all military doctors that will be running the tests for the President?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think we're going to give you the list of the doctors who are running the tests. But I just don't know off the top of my head if all of them are military.
Q Will the doctor be available tomorrow, do you know?
MR. FLEISCHER: We're going to put out a news release following the procedures -- following the exam.
Q No one on camera, though, for any interview?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct, no one on camera.
Q The FCC --
Q As far as Chinese-Americans are concerned, one is released, another one is arrested and many are in jail and many from here are afraid of traveling to China because they will be arrested on spying for the United States. So if President Bush is going to meet with Chinese leaders in the UN, before he visit to China?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President already made clear to the Chinese Foreign Minister when they met in the Oval Office that the United States has a great number of concerns about the human rights situation in China, the arrest of people who are allegedly dissident. And it remains a point of division between the United States and China. The President will not hesitate to bring up that matter when he meets with Chinese officials.
Q Ari, the President saw the --
MR. FLEISCHER: Wait, I promised Russell.
Q Ari, the Federal Communication Commission requires that if you're going to have a broadcast license you have to be of sound moral character. So when you make the application, you have to answer whether you've ever been convicted of a felony.
They are now going after a gentleman in Missouri who's been convicted of a felony --
MR. FLEISCHER: Be careful, there are many broadcasters in this room.
Q I understand, that's why I'm raising the question. This gentleman was convicted of a felony, child molestation, and they're trying to strip him of five radio licenses. On the other hand, General Electric, which owns NBC, has been convicted of felonies, and they're not being stripped of their license. Why the double standard?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you need to talk to the FCC about their standards. That's their jurisdiction to deal with licensing. Ron?
Q I understand, but generally, does the President have a position on --
Q Have you guys determined yet whether or not the President or the White House has the authority to strip Ann Brown of her Chairmanship?
MR. FLEISCHER: The White House is looking into that matter. And as I said to Kelly yesterday, I took that question, I'm going to try to get an answer for everybody before they leave today.
Q Republicans on the Hill seem to think that power was available to the White House.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm aware that some Republicans think that.
Q Ari, has the President saw the video about the missionary plane shot down in Peru, and if he saw it, what he thinks about it?
MR. FLEISCHER: I know the President has been briefed on it. He is very familiar of it, aware of it. The State Department released the report yesterday and there is a separate -- that is a separate issue from whether or not this program will be continued. And all the information from the State Department will be evaluated in any determination about whether this program, which has been successful in helping combat the war on drugs, will continue.
Q Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
Let me make one final -- before everybody goes, I just would like to say this is Mary Ellen Countryman's last day here at the White House before she takes on her next post. So we just want to thank Mary Ellen. (Applause.)
END 12:51 P.M. EDT