|The White House
President George W. Bush
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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 in life.
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 come from?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if you were in Crawford, then you may have bumped into Ophelia.
Q Apparently, not long enough.
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 Senate.
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 unemployment.
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 ties.
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 of Mexico.
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 environment.
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 likely be?
MR. FLEISCHER: Most likely Thursday.
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 announced?
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 countries.
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 people.
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 --
MR. 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 that recommendation?
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 counterparts.
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 congressional support.
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 problems.
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 about --
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 violations seriously?
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 will be.
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 the fifth.
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 surpluses.
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 increases.
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 factor.
Q But do you think an additional tax cut at this time is something that's reasonable and prudent?
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 people.
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 productive step.
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 again.
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.
Q A 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 up.
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 favor? Opposed?
Q He can have another month.
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 nature.
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 the content.
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 or two?
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 status?
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 same.
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 general amnesty?
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 Mexican counterparts.
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.
MR. 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 might achieve?
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 what.
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 leak?
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 investigations.
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 the law.
Q Does he not have an opinion on that issue in general?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's the President's opinion.
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 criminal inquiry.
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 it?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated, this is a matter for Justice to determine, as they pursue their business.
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 talking about?
MR. FLEISCHER: What we've taken in this?
Q Has anybody in the White House asked the Justice Department for an explanation as to what happened?
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 question?
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 it?
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 promotion authority.
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 meetings.
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, Ari?
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.
END 1:25 p.m.