For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 21, 2001
Press Briefing Index
President's Schedule Today 1-2
Chretien and Koizumi Upcoming Visits 2
President's Meeting with Insurance Companies 2
Emergency Assistance for New York 2
Taliban 2-5; 9
Military Operation 5-6; 7-8; 10; 11-12; 12-13
Sky Marshal Program 6-7
Support From Other Countries/Coalition 10-11; 17-18
Homeland Security Office 13-15; 16
Radar Trace of American Airlines Flight 15
Surplus Funds 16-17
Week Ahead 19-20
the White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release September 21, 2001
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:51 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good
afternoon. I want to give you some information about the
President's day, then, if you will remind me I have as much detail as I
can provide on a week ahead, which I'll do at the conclusion.
The President this morning spoke with
Turkish President Sezer. The President and President Sezer
affirmed their solidarity in the fight against terrorism and all those
who support and harbor them. The President expressed his
thanks to Turkey, a Muslim country, and NATO, that has long suffered
from terrorism, for its strong support. The Presidents agree
that Turkey and the United States will work together in the long
The President also spoke with Nigerian
President Obasanjo this morning. The President thanked
President Obasanjo for his support and letters and calls of
condolence. He described his new policy to fight terrorism
and those who provide terrorists with sanctuary.
President Obasanjo offered Nigeria's
unconditional support to fight against terrorism, stating that, "If we
fail in the task, the world is unsafe for all of
us." President Bush thanked President Obasanjo for his
leadership role in Africa and noted his current efforts to promote
peace in the Sudan. And the President offered condolences to
the Nigerian people for the loss of life in the recent Muslim-Christian
violence in central Nigeria.
The President also spoke with Omani Sultan
Qaboos this morning. The Sultan conveyed his condolences to
the United States over the attack, and pledged Oman's support for the
international fight against terrorism.
The President thanked the Sultan for his
expression of sympathy and stressed the high value that the United
States places on the friendly relationship with the Sultanate of
Oman. And the President also made clear in the course of
that conversation that the United States did not attribute the criminal
actions of the terrorists with the peaceful religion of Islam, which
Two upcoming visits I want to
report. President Bush has invited Prime Minister Chretien
of Canada to come to Washington for a working visit on Monday,
September 24th. The Prime Minister has accepted, and he will
be in the Oval Office followed by a lunch, private lunch, for a meeting
with the President.
In addition, President Bush looks forward
to welcoming Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to Washington for a
working visit on September 25th, next week.
In a little while, this afternoon the
President will meet with leaders of the insurance companies from across
America. And the message the President expects to hear from
these leaders is that the insurance industry is very well capitalized
and is prepared financially to respond fully to all concerns raised in
the wake of this disaster, which is good news for all Americans.
And, finally, the President will depart
for Camp David this afternoon. And I'll get a little bit into the week
ahead, including weekend activities, at the end.
One other item -- two other items, just an
update on a couple areas involving the Cabinet. Attorney
General Ashcroft and Director of the FBI Robert Mueller are in New York
City today. General Ashcroft has announced $10 million in
emergency assistance from the COPS program to assist the city of New
York with its law enforcement needs.
And Education Secretary Paige is in New
Jersey, where he has announced a $1.5 million grant to assist the New
Jersey Department of Education, and also to provide $250,000 in
assistance to the Maryland Department of Education, to assist students
and teachers impacted by terrorist attacks.
Q Ari, the
Taliban's response to the President's speech last night was, show us
compelling evidence that bin Laden is guilty and then let's
talk. What's the President's message for the Taliban today?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
message to the Taliban today is the same message that he gave last
night, that there will be no negotiations and no discussions; he
expects the Taliban to honor the demands that he made in his speech
last night, to cease their efforts to support and harbor terrorists and
to turn terrorists over to the United States or other authorities and
to allow the United States access to the terrorists' camps where the
training took place, to make certain that they are no longer training
terrorists who can bring harm to people around the free world.
Q So he rejects
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a fair
Q And he also said
that if they do not comply, that they will share the fate of the
terrorists. So is it now the policy of the administration
that if the Taliban regime does not comply they will be removed from
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has made it very clear that the United States is preparing for action
on a wide range of fronts, that include military, financial, diplomatic
and will be aimed at those who harbor and support or engage in
terrorism. And I think your question answers itself.
Q But shouldn't the
American people know that one of our war aims is to remove from power
the government of Afghanistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has said that he will take action to protect our citizens and people
from around the world, and that those who engage in terrorism will meet
with, as he put it a few days ago, that those who attack the United
States engage in an act of self-destruction -- whether it's a removal
of power or whatever form it takes. And I'm not going to go
into what specific form it's going to take.
Q Let me follow,
then. During the campaign, the President said -- now,
obviously, things have changed -- that one of his conditions for
committing military force was having a clear exit
strategy. In Afghanistan, what would that look like?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'm not
going to presume to tell you what the operational details may be, but
the goal is very clear. And the definition of victory is
when freedom defeats fear. And that is what is one the line,
as the President said last night. The terrorist attacks have
created a situation of fear in the United States and around the
world. And this war against terrorism is aimed at making
certain that freedom conquers fear and that the world can be safe from
Q Is the President
ruling out any kind of discussions with the Taliban that could
ultimately lead to his goal along the lines that the United States has
had with Pakistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has made very clear that he is looking for action, not
words. And he has given in his speech last night a very
clear list of actions that need to be taken.
Q But does
meaningful consultation or negotiation not constitute action?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the
President addressed it last night, himself.
Q Does he believe
that the Taliban wants to negotiate, or is he convinced that the
response to the speech was essentially the Taliban thumbing its nose at
the United States?
MR. FLEISCHER: One, we have
received no official word from the Taliban. What you have
heard has been conveyed through the press. But the President
could not have made it any plainer last night that this is not the time
for negotiations or discussions, this is the time for action.
Q Do we have
concrete proof, other than they hate freedom and that -- this is very
nebulous, simplistic stuff, because you really don't know. That
doesn't really give enough of meat on the plate here. Do you
have concrete proof that this man was guilty, and if you have it, why
don't you present it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me remind
you what I've been saying for the last three days.
Q I know he's been
indicted and so forth, but that isn't --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's
correct. Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization have
been indicted in connection with the bombings of United States
facilities in Kenya and Tanzania. That indictment stands on
the books today.
There are also indications that the al
Qaeda organization was involved in the bombing of the
Cole. Let me try to help you on your specific question,
Helen. You're asking for us, today, publicly, to provide
you, the press, with evidence, when Secretary Powell has said that all
Q Provide the
MR. FLEISCHER: -- fair enough
-- that Secretary Powell said all roads point to the al Queda
organization. You've heard other people, Vice President
Cheney, talk about the President -- the President talking about the
prime suspect is Osama bin Laden, the al Queda organization.
The challenge that the government always
faces when you ask a question like that, provide the proof, is the
means of providing the proof provides valuable information to those who
are the objects of any potential action. They would like nothing
better than to be able to hide where they are hiding, and have the
United States reveal what we know and how we know it, which will make
it easier for them to hide, and will make it easier for them to carry
out further actions if we report our sources and our methods for how we
obtain information. We're just not going to do that.
Q You are saying
it's not incumbent on this government to explain?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the
American people have heard plenty of explanations from the President
and from the government assembled. And the American people
support those actions.
Q The President and
others in this administration keep asking for not only hunkering down
for the long-term, but patience. And yet polls show that the
American public is angry and wants some sort of immediate military
retaliation. Without getting into operational details, can
you tell us if that military strike or retaliation, or whatever, is
coming within hours, days, weeks or months? Can you give us
some kind of time frame?
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course
Q Ari, can we ask
this question then? Does this administration believe, based
on the Taliban's response, that military action is inevitable?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has made it abundantly clear that this nation is preparing for war,
because war has been declared against the United States. And
the United States will respond. The United States will
respond to protect lives in the future. The United States
will respond because justice demands it.
Q The President
also went through a list of what he says are the evil to the Taliban's
own governance of Afghanistan. Is this, in effect, a war of
liberation of Afghanistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's a war
to protect people around the world, so they can enjoy their freedom,
and so freedom can defeat fear. I think what the purpose of
the President doing that was, he wanted to share with the American
people who it is who would engage in such an attack on the United
States. The President has previously referred to al Queda
organization and terrorists generally as they operate in the
shadows. It's hard for Americans to relate to who they are
and what they seek. So I think the purpose of the President
saying that last night was to give the American public a broader
explanation about who these people are who would do this.
Q Is the
administration then supporting this exiled King, the northern
insurgency or some kind of U.N. administration of that country if the
Taliban, now removed by military or other ways?
MR. FLEISCHER: The objective,
again, is to protect the American people and people from around the
world from terrorism and from harm, so they can live without
fear. That's the objective of the campaign and the President
has made it very clear.
As plans are put in place through the
variety of means which I've identified before -- diplomatic, political,
otherwise -- the United States, of course, will always keep an eye on
issues involving stability. And that will all be taken into
account involving the planning.
Q Let me do just
one more. Shouldn't the American people be involved,
informed in that debate, as to what their government is committing to
in the governance of Afghanistan? In other words, if we're
supporting some King, shouldn't we know that? If we're
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not the
case, Terry. What we're doing is preparing for action on a
host of fronts with our allies. And as the United States
leads, that helps to protect people around the world from
terrorism. You're right away jumping to hypotheticals about,
well, what happens next after a hypothetical action is taken, what
happens to a hypothetical government that would be in a hypothetical
place. And I can't go there.
Q Ari, one of the
ways to achieve that objective domestically, at least, Secretary
O'Neill has said, is to federalize the U.S. Marshal program for the
skies for the aviation. Does the White House economic team,
Josh Bolten, Larry Lindsey --
MR. FLEISCHER: The U.S. Marshal
program, of course, is federal.
Q I mean the sky
MR. FLEISCHER: They are
Q And the security
-- increase the number of sky marshals and the security screeners at
MR. FLEISCHER: Right.
Q Does the White
House economic team, Josh Bolten and Larry Lindsey have a different
view of that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, I
think what he was referring to, what the Secretary of Treasury was
referring to was the agreement that's being negotiated and was
completed last night on the Hill. There are still additional
talks going on today, and I think it will still get voted on today.
Q -- going much
further than that agreement?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, what he was
referring to was not a question of putting people on a payroll, he was
referring to making them federal employees. He was talking
about the federal assistance to upgrade security and to have better
training of the people that are at those gates who the Americans see
every day when they travel through airports, who look through the X-ray
machines, et cetera.
Q But federalizing
those workers, the security screeners, is off the table?
MR. FLEISCHER: Mark, that's not
part of what they're talking about on the Hill right now, so --
Q I realize it
might not be in the initial package, but are you rejecting it out of
hand forever, or just for the immediate future?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think
it's not in the cards right now, and we'll see -- when you say, is it
off the table, the administration is going to continue to listen and
work with the Congress on it. There are some people who have
some thoughts about it, so we'll listen. But I think the
agreement that's being worked out on the Hill is all but
final. They're going to vote on it shortly. So
just watch the events on the Hill.
Q Ari, going back
to the exit strategy question, when will we know, how will we know, if
freedom is defeated here, the war is over, and our troops can come
MR. FLEISCHER: First of all, I
need to again remind everybody that this is going to be a different
type of war. And so you're asking in the traditional sense
of troops come home.
Q That's what I'm
asking, how do you define the end of this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there are
going to be things, Ron, such as undermining financial networks that
the President has talked about, that you may not know. There
will be victories the President has talked about that are going to be
But I think it will be clear to the
American people that when they're again able to say that they can
travel without fear throughout the country, that the risks have been so
reduced because of the actions that were taken in the form of
financial, in the form of military, that the world will be able to
breathe a sigh of relief and say that the events have changed, the war
on terrorism has been won.
Q But when he
decides to put troops in battle to do this military operation you're
building up for, will he be able to tell the American people at that
time when they're coming out?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
deal with hypotheticals, Ron. He has made no such commitment
yet about putting troops in battle. So I think you're way
ahead of things. But I will just remind you, the President
has said that the definition of victory is when freedom conquers fear
and the world is safe.
Q But you can see
that's a hard thing to define -- when freedom has defeated fear, when a
war is over.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, but I
think also the American people will recognize that over the course of
this struggle, there are going to be many victories, many of which they
will know and will be plain to see; many of which will be new -- things
in the financial realm, that they will come to
understand. And it will be a different type of
war. But I think in the end, the American people will have a
good grasp of what victory means.
Q Ari, the
President, the Secretary of State, others in the administration made
clear that priority one is taking out al Qaeda and Osama bin
Laden. If that is successfully done, will the American
people, should the American people feel that the level of security has
been restored? Is that the important marker?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I'm not
going to get into hypotheticals about any potential action against any
group right now. I think that you have to let this develop
over time --
Q But that's not a
hypothetical, it was a defined goal. And if the President
has said, has pledged that that goal will be achieved. So
when and if that's done, what should Americans conclude from that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think there is
no question that when it is done, that the al Qaeda organization has
been eliminated and they no longer have the global reach and the
ability to carry out terrorism the way they have, there will be no
doubt that it will be a marked improvement, that the American people
will call a victory.
Q To follow on one
other point. As we sit here now, does the President believe
that the window of opportunity has closed in terms of the Taliban
responding to his demands?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he's put
them on notice, and he is preparing to do what must inevitably come
Q But the clock is
ticking. How long will the clock tick?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
Q So he does not
consider the public response from the Taliban today, through the media,
to be an official rejection of his demands?
MR. FLEISCHER: Suffice it to
say, the reason the President met with his National Security Council
this morning and that he will do so again tomorrow, is because the
planning is active and underway.
Q Will you answer
that point, about what he's concluded, or has he reached a conclusion
about whether they have rejected --
MR. FLEISCHER: Given the fact
that war preparations continue, I think it's fair to say that nothing
has changed. The Taliban have not agreed to the demands the
President laid out, and therefore the President will continue to take
every action necessary to protect this country.
Q How solid do we
feel we have the support in South Asia, the surrounding countries, so
forth, for any action we take?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think --
now this is some 10, 11 days after the attack took place, and all
indications are strong. The meetings with the foreign
Q Pakistan, India,
MR. FLEISCHER: The meeting with
the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia was a very, very positive,
productive meeting. Pakistan, of course, has been
supportive. As the President said, from the very beginning,
this will be a time for Pakistan to determine in actions what course it
seeks to take. And the President has been very encouraged by
the results and the actions of Pakistan, of India, of the neighboring
You know, the President is aware of what
goes into coalition building. And that's why I always remind you that
different countries are going to do different things. And I
wouldn't be surprised if over time different countries change the
things that they do. That's to be expected, as well. This
is going to be a coalition that's going to be changing, in terms of
what it does, given different events. And that's also to be
expected in the course of anything long.
Q Ari, the
President has said that the country should be prepared to take
casualties in this fight. Is he talking about civilian
casualties beyond the 6,000 or 7,000 at the World Trade
Center? Is he indicating that as we press the fight against
terrorism, there are likely to be more terrorist incidents in this
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has made it very plain to the American people that we still have to be
vigilant here at home, domestically. And that is because
there are still threats that remain, and will always remain, so long as
there are terrorists who operate, and so long as our society is
free. And so the President has warned, domestically, that
people have to be prepared.
And the President has also warned that as
the planning is made for what comes next militarily, that it will be a
different type of war from some of the wars that -- if you can say,
fortunate enough to have experienced in the past, where casualties were
kept at such a great minimum, or none at all.
Q We're talking
civilian casualties, we're talking the potential -- it's still more
terrorist incidents within our borders.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you can
only look again to what the President has said. How can he
make a prediction. What the President has said, that
everybody has to remain in a state of alert and warning because we
still are a free country and that people have to be prepared to take
actions. And that's why the military and the domestic agencies remain
on alert within these borders.
Q John Ashcroft
apparently has warned the Mayor of Boston and the Governor of
Massachusetts that for some reason, tomorrow is a significant day,
according to their investigation. Can you share with us any
of his security concerns, or what is Attorney General Ashcroft trying
MR. FLEISCHER: I would refer
you to Justice on anything specific that the Attorney General has
Q A separate
question. Is the United States sending a message to
Iran? Have they done that in the last few days?
MR. FLEISCHER: The United
States maintains contacts with Iran through the Swiss in Teheran, and
the government of Iran sent the United States a message of
condolences. The United States sent back to Iran a message
of thanks for the expression of condolences.
Q Were there any
other messages, besides just thanks?
MR. FLEISCHER: To the best of
my knowledge, that's the extent of it.
Q When the
President meets the Chinese Foreign Minister, is he going to tell about
Pakistan -- through China?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll try to get
you some type of readout for the meeting.
Q Is there coverage
on that, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I don't
believe we're going to have an open meeting for that.
Q When you said a
moment ago that the defeat of bin Laden and his network would be viewed
as a victory, you didn't mean it would be viewed as the victory,
correct? That's not the end of the war, if his organization
and he were destroyed?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as the
President has said, this is going to be a long struggle, and there are
going to be many components to it. But, again, you have to
take a look at these things through things that will be financial
victories, as bank accounts are drained, as assets are frozen. There
will be military moments, some that will be visible to the American
people, some that won't be, and probably will never be known.
So there will be a series of actions, and
each one will represent a step on the way to victory.
Q So that's a
"no"? The goal of this is not just the defeat of bin Laden
and his network, it's broader, and that action, defeating bin Laden,
would not be the end of this, correct?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I've
been indicating on a regular basis, the President has said that the
goals are broad, and that is to fight terrorism where terrorism
continues, where terrorism persists, and where terrorism represents a
threat to free people in the United States and everywhere. And, again,
I just remind you that the al Queda organization is present in some 60
countries. And those who harbor and support terrorists are
the targets of the President's action to protect our
country. And there are nebulous lines about where some of
these organizations begin and some end.
Q Ari, going back
to what Helen had to say, yes, the Taliban wants to know specific
answers as to why the United States is targeting Osama bin
Laden. But there are some people, even though the United
States as a whole, the American people, seem to be looking for
retaliation, there are still some people here who want to know -- to
remove some of the shadow of what you have, to precisely pinpoint Osama
bin Laden as the person who has perpetrated this.
MR. FLEISCHER: April, I can
only ask you, and this has been a consistent question from Helen and
from other people here who are seeking information on behalf of the
people of this country. I can only remind you that there are
some questions that, to find the answer to, reveal very valuable
information about how the United States would get that
information. And to reveal that, we would provide
information to the al Queda organization, to Osama bin Laden, to any
other enemies of this country, that they would love to
have. And I will not do that.
I just want to say this with the greatest
respect possible. You have the right to ask those
questions. I have the responsibility not to answer them.
Q Ari, a follow up
to that. But what do you say to the people here in this
country, who, as we talk about security, that we have to be mindful of
what's going on in our borders, and there still seems to be a cloak of
secrecy and people are still uncertain after what happened on
9/11. So what do you tell those people? Just
trust the Bush administration, this is it? I mean, is it
supposed to be full trust?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think if there
is any uncertainty, it doesn't derive from the fact that the United
States government is properly keeping details and operations and
methods and sources secret; I think the American people, frankly, are
pleased to hear that the government does that.
I think, if anything, there is still
throughout the country a shock that has been felt as a result of the
fact that our country was attacked and lives have been lost, and that
is natural. Our nation is still going through a period of
mourning. People have lost loved ones. People are
missing. And so I think that is more the cause of the
anxiety. Fortunately, for our nation, this is a new
occurrence. But it has happened. Our borders have
been attacked, within our borders. And I think that's the
source of the anxiety.
I think, frankly, the American people take
encouragement from the fact that this government will not have loose
Q To what extent
will Governor Ridge be taking over as the face of the response to
September 11th? I mean, since this was an act of domestic
terrorism, will he be helping to coordinate military responses going
after Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda? Would he have an equal
footing with the Attorney General, in terms of the Justice Department
investigation? Will he be handling the reconstruction in New
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, he will
have Cabinet rank and, therefore, he will be part of a team that always
has worked very closely together. And if you notice, there's
always areas of overlap between various government agencies and between
different Cabinet departments. The key here when it comes to
homeland defense is to have one very effective person at the pinnacle
of it who can help coordinate it.
Now, there will be other clearly defined
missions, of course: DOD, Defense, Attorney General, with
Justice and the investigation, the gathering of
evidence. But all of that still has implications for how you
combine the various interagency groups that are working on homeland
defense and ongoing protection from terrorism. So that will
be his charge, and he'll work as a member of a team.
Q Let's follow up
on that. Still this is not very well defined, what he's
going to be doing. Will he, for example, have any role in
overseeing the investigation of terror attacks? Will he have
any oversight authority in retribution for terror
attacks? Or is his job only to protect the country in the
event of a terrorist attack?
MR. FLEISCHER: The
investigation part will continue to be in the hands of the Department
of Justice. But of course, as they develop their
information, there's going to be things that can help in preparing to
protect our country. As Justice Department uncovers leads,
for example, that would indicate the types of action that were taken
against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, those could be
valuable clues that somebody like Governor Ridge will want to know
about, so he can say, these are the types of patterns we saw, these are
the types of things we need to know so we can protect America from
anything in the future.
Q But Justice still
takes the lead on the investigation?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's
correct. The mission of the Governor, of Governor Ridge and
this homeland office, homeland security, is to develop a coordinated,
integrated and comprehensive national strategy to combat domestic
terrorism, strengthening our homeland preparedness and security at all
levels of government. And there are a lot of different
agencies. His job will be to coordinate them in preparing
for the homeland defense. It is not to replace the existing
agencies that are doing their work in
investigation. It is not to replace the Department of
Defense, where it has taken the lead, of course, on things military.
Q One more
question. Are you -- do you have any idea how many people
are going to be in the office? And I take it from this
morning, you are leaving open the possibility that the White House
would ask for additional money to pay for this office?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, those
matters are still being considered. I think the best
analogy, I gave you one this morning on something administrative, but I
think the best way for you all, people very familiar with the White
House, to think of this, too, is the National Security Council provides
a real coordinating capacity involving State, involving Defense,
involving CIA, and does so in the position of security.
This will do something similar in the
direction of homeland defense. And there are subtle differences, but
that's your best guide.
Q Will it be like
some of the agencies, there will be people on loan from Justice and
other departments working the White House rather than hiring a new
staff here? Is that how --
MR. FLEISCHER: It could be any
combination of the above. It's early, and we'll keep you
fully informed as that develops, but it's early.
Q What was the
MR. FLEISCHER: Will it be new
hires, will it be people on loan from Justice or other agencies.
John, you had one?
Q Ari, can you tell
us more about this other radar track that you were mentioning this
morning, that gave clearer evidence that American flight 77 was headed
for the White House initially?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Secret
Service is going to handle all the inquiries concerning any tracks
involving the White House and the security of the White House, and
they'll give you a full explanation. In fact, I think they
may already have, in the case of CBS.
Q In Israel, the
newspaper, Haaretz, reports that every political party in the Knesset
denounced the manifestations of Palestinian joy following last week's
terror attacks on the United States, except the Israel-Arab parties,
who also refused to sign the Knesset's letter of sympathy to the
American people. And my question, surely after last night's
unforgettable and specific, very specific Presidential address, the
White House is not going to evade comment on these Israeli-Arabs, are
MR. FLEISCHER: I took that
question when you asked me a question two days ago about anyone around
the world, including the Palestinians, who would rejoice at the loss of
American life. And I said at the time, that the United
States condemns it.
Q Given the fact
that during Desert Storm, 100 percent of our female POWs, two of them,
were both raped, the Commander-in-Chief does not intend to send any
women into what appears to be coming combat, does he, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Les, the
President has the highest regard for the military, believes it is fully
prepared for this mission. And the military, as currently
constituted, is the best in the world. And the President
supports their structure.
Q But there are no
females in those special forces --
MR. FLEISCHER: I stand by what
I said --
Q He won't send
women into this, will he, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: I stand by what
I said about the President knows that we have the best military in the
Q On which day did
the President approach Governor Ridge with the job
offer? And was he the President's first choice for the job?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, I have
no information on the second part. I have not talked to the
President about that. According to the information I have,
it was Wednesday night, and then again Thursday morning.
Q In order to
respond fully to the terrorist attack, is the administration willing to
exhaust all surplus funds and, if necessary, even resort to deficit
spending or consider rescinding part of the $1.35-trillion tax cut?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, Paula,
I've taken a look at the financial condition of our country at times of
previous wars. And as much as the President has indicated
because of things operational that this is a different kind of war, it
is also important to note that this will be the first war that will
have begun when the United States government was in a position of
All previous wars in which the United
States engaged, our nation was in deficit. The surplus is
the second-largest in history, and that does provide an important and
helpful cushion. But the President's focus will always be in
times of war and peace to keep an eye on taxpayer dollars because in no
case, war or peace, will taxpayer dollars be wasted. But the
President is prepared to wage this war, and to do what is necessary to
keep the country free.
But right now, I'll just follow the
projections, but we do have a very large surplus, which puts us in a
stronger position to begin this effort.
Q -- projections
were based on mid-session review prior to September 11th. If
it does look like your surplus is exhausted, are you willing to
reconsider rescinding the tax cut or resorting to deficit spending?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
deal with hypotheticals. Obviously, the President is talking
with Congress about an economic stimulus package that actually would
have additional tax cuts in it. So I don't think what you've
suggested on a tax cut is in the cards at all.
Q Have we gone into
a war with this level of accumulated debt?
MR. FLEISCHER: In the
percentage of the GDP, I would have to take a look; I couldn't tell
Q Wouldn't that be
important, though? Because the surplus is sort of a
momentary thing, comes and goes, it seems like. Isn't the
more important figure whether or not, you know, what level of debt
MR. FLEISCHER: I think
economists could differ on that question, but I think the important
question is debt as a percentage of GDP, and I don't have that off of
the top of my head.
Q Will this
coalition have a restrictive effect on the President? Will it tie
America's hands, as did the coalition, to some extent, in the Persian
FLEISCHER: No. And that's one of the reasons I
indicated earlier that this will be a coalition where people contribute
differently, and it will change over time. There will be
moments where people contribute more, and then they'll contribute
less. There will be moments where they contribute fully
throughout. It will be a coalition with changing needs, with
changing requirements. And the President will continue to
work with all nations of the world to accept their contributions to
helping defeat terrorism as those nations see fit.
We have to get to the week ahead, I just
want to remind people.
Q You said the
other day that the airline companies have a legitimate claim on the
U.S. government for having their planes put down on the ground and some
of the ensuing problems that have flowed from that. What about the
airline workers? Do you feel that they, many of whom, tens
of thousands of whom have lost their jobs in the last week or two, do
they have a legitimate claim on the U.S. government?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, certainly
the action that was ordered affected the airline
companies. They were told to put the planes down on the
ground. And that's all being considered as part of the
package to help the airline industry. As I mentioned, there
are other factors that are being taken into consideration to help the
economy, to help unemployed workers, and those will be addressed, as
Q One question
before you go to the week ahead?
MR. FLEISCHER: John, go ahead.
Q About my former
homeland. The President did not mention Canada last night in
his address, and it's being taken north of the border as a snub because
Prime Minister Chretien has not stepped up to the plate to support this
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh,
no. Oh, no. No, the President would hope nobody
would take it in that manner. In fact, Prime Minister
Chretien was among the first people that the President called on
Wednesday, September 12th, to thank Canada for the role that they
played in helping the United States. And he'll be coming here next
week, as you know, which is a sign of the high esteem that the
President holds Canada in, and that all Americans do. I just think
American support for Canada is so strong it speaks for itself.
Q So why didn't he
mention it last night?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated,
I think that American support for Canada is so strong that it speaks
for itself. And the President is looking forward to visiting
with Prime Minister Chretien next week. Canada has been
stalwart, and always is.
Q One quick
question. Just a quickie. Going back quickly to
proof and culpability, can you say definitively from the rostrum,
without divulging sources of intelligence or anything else, that Osama
bin Laden and his organization are responsible for the attack of last
MR. FLEISCHER: I will refer you
right back to the statements that have been made by the President,
where he called him a prime suspect; the Secretary of State, who said,
all roads lead to the al Qaeda organization. Their remarks speak for
Q That's not really
definitive. That's not quite definitive.
MR. FLEISCHER: Their remarks
speak for themselves. Let me give you the week ahead.
Q What are we doing
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me give you
the week ahead.
Q -- there is a --
every terrorist group of global reach. And this has been
interpreted by some in one country who say that unless the
administration has a global reach, they are free to carry on terrorist
attacks on neighboring countries. So can you clarify, the
President -- terrorism, period, whether it is global, local or
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the
President's message to terrorists is clear: that those who
carry out acts of terror that threaten freedom will find a very strong
foe in the United States and in the coalition.
Tomorrow, the President will chair a
meeting of the National Security Council from Camp David via
teleconference, and then --
Q What time will
that be, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have the
exact time, Ron, and there will be no read from that. It
will be, obviously, a private conversation the President will have.
Q Will it be multed
Q Video conference
you said, right?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a
On Sunday morning, in accordance with the
proclamation that the President issued on Tuesday, September 11th, to
lower flags across America to half-staff, the flags will be resumed at
their full staff on Sunday morning. The President will take
part in a brief ceremony up at Camp David, along with members of the
United States Marine Corps, to proudly return the American Flag to full
staff on Sunday morning. And I would anticipate you will see
similar events across the country as the flags are brought to full
Q What time and
Q Do you expect
he'll make remarks?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll get the
time out to you as it becomes clear for Sunday.
Q How about
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll get the
times out to you and any other description of the event,
Ron. It will be a pool event.
Q Will that be
before or after the fire fighters' memorial in New York City?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll get the
time out to you as soon as it's immediately clear.
The radio address, which is being done in
collaboration with the office of House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt --
the President's speech writers have been talking with Congressman
Gephardt's speech writers. Both the Minority Leader and the
President will talk about the economy and how we're going to work
together to take actions to help strengthen the American economy.
The President and Mrs. Bush will return to
the White House on Sunday. On Monday, the President, as I indicated,
will meet with the Prime Minister of Canada; on Tuesday with the Prime
Minister of Japan. The President will continue next week
with meetings with his National Security Council, as well as with his
domestic consequence group, as he prepares to focus on the fight
against terrorism, and to get the American economy back on track.
The President will turn his attention next
week to also some domestic matters, including education. And
the Senate, for example next week, it looks like it will pass the
Jordan free trade agreement. So there will also be other
domestic issues that start to take place next week as well.
Thank you, everybody.