For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 25, 2001
Press Briefing by
By Ari Fleischer
President's Schedule 1
Trip to Chicago 1-2
Department of Education Funding 2
Department of Treasury G-7 Meeting 2
Nation-Building 2-4, 6
U.S. Promises in Return for Support 4
President's View of Taliban 4-5, 5-6, 7-8
Afghanistan Opposition Groups 5
Russian Participation in Afghanistan 6
U.S. View of Russian War in Chechnya 6-7
Human Rights 7
Economic Stimulus 7, 8-9, 12-13
Use of Social Security Trust Fund 9-10
Airline Industry Stimulus 10
Airline/Airport Security 10-11
Displaced Workers in Airline Industry 11
Trade Promotion Authority 12, 13-14
Saudi Arabia Cutting Ties with Taliban 13
Education Bill 14
the White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release September 25, 2001
the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:50 P.M. EDT
FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. Let me give you an
update on the President's day-to-day, and then share some other
information with you.
President, as many of you know, began his day with a meeting of the
bipartisan congressional leadership. He met with Majority
Leader Daschle, Speaker Hastert, Minority Leader Lott, Minority Leader
Gephardt, to discuss the military planning, as well as to discuss
his intelligence briefing and a briefing with the FBI this morning, and
then he convened a meeting of the National Security Council. He has
just concluded a meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan, where they
discussed ways the United States and Japan will cooperate in fighting
against terrorism, and he will depart shortly for the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, where he will thank the workers there for the role that
they have been playing in the war on terrorism. And he will
also receive a briefing on several aspects of the investigation.
President will also travel to Chicago on Thursday to meet with airline
workers at O'Hare Airport. He will thank the workers for
their contributions in combatting terrorism by working every day and
getting our airline system and our economy back on track to help keep
our economy moving and to help to keep the American public moving.
President will also talk about the importance of the government and the
airlines working together to address important issues of airline and
airport safety. He'll address airline workers' concerns
about these difficult times and the impact it's having on airline
workers and their families.
Following his meeting with the airline workers, the President will also
have lunch with Mayor Daley. That's on Thursday.
to share with you some new information, also, out of the Department of
Education about assistance, and the Department of Treasury. From
Education, Secretary Paige announced today that the U.S. Department of
Education will provide $5 million in immediate assistance from his
Rehabilitative Services Administration to New York State to help those
who have suffered disabling and mental and physical injuries as a
result of the terrorist attacks.
Secretary also announced a $1.7-million grant to New York from the
Department's Project Serve to meet the needs of New York's school
districts whose students and teachers were directly affected by the
attacks. That grant is in addition to the $4-million grant
that had previously been announced.
the Secretary announced that the Department is sending a team of mental
health experts specializing in trauma and disaster response to meet
with key staff of the New York City Board of Education to create a plan
to help the city's students and teachers in the aftermath of the
now, over to Treasury. These are follow-on announcements to
yesterday's announcement by the President in the Rose
Garden. Secretary O'Neill participated today in a conference
call with G7 finance ministers during which they discussed the economic
and financial situation in the G7 countries and their common cause in
strengthening the international fight against the financing of
the Secretary and the finance ministers have issued a joint statement
just moments ago in which they agreed to integrate action plans
developed since the attacks, and pursue a comprehensive strategy to
disrupt terrorist funding around the world. They also agreed
to meet in the United States in early October to review the economic
developments, which is a very encouraging sign that, again, the world
is joining the United States, shoulder to shoulder, to fight this war
against terrorism on multiple fronts, including the financial one.
that, I'm more than happy to take questions. Campbell.
Q Ari, the President said this morning that
we're "not into nation-building," but at the same time he's made it
abundantly clear the Taliban is a target. So what is the
administration's plan with regard to the power vacuum that's likely to
result if we take out the Taliban?
FLEISCHER: Well, again, the President said that we have
respect for the Afghani people. I remind you that the
Taliban regime is not comprised entirely -- it's comprised
substantially of non-Afghanis who came into Afghanistan for the purpose
of sponsoring terror and bringing it to the rest of the
world. So the President's message is that we will take
actions designed to protect the people of the United States and protect
the people around the world from terrorism, and that we will take
action, including military action, against those who harbor
not designed to replace one regime with another regime. Part of the
process also will be being mindful of stability in the region
throughout the process. But it is not nation-building, but
that's not to say that the Taliban will be given a free pass because
they can encourage terrorism, harbor terrorism, and then because we
have to worry about issues involving instability, won't take
action. The President has made clear we will.
Q But if he says we're not into nation-building,
ultimately you're going to have a situation when this is over that you
have to deal with. Or is it your view that it's someone
else's problem, other countries in the region should deal with
it? Or is there -- Northern Alliance --
FLEISCHER: Well, I think you're presuming in your question
that whatever action the United States takes, and the world takes, that
the situation in Afghanistan will be worse. And that's not a
presumption that I think you can make.
Q Maybe because of the deliberate ambiguity of
the President's comments, but I took it another way, which is that he
was saying today that the government, our government is not after the
removal of the Taliban as a precondition of achieving its objectives,
that in fact, he'd work with any of the citizens of Afghanistan, he
said, who would be willing not to support terrorism. Does it
represent a less aggressive posture toward the regime in Afghanistan
than he articulated in his list of demands last Thursday?
FLEISCHER: I think you need to look at it exactly as the
President described it, which is that anybody who harbors terrorism
will be the target of our operations and the target of our
actions. And within the Taliban, they have to decide what to
do. And clearly, they are, at least from what we're hearing,
making their choice that they will continue to harbor
terrorists. But we will take whatever action is necessary,
with an eye always on stability, to protect people from terrorism that
is sponsored by the Taliban.
Q But if there are officials within the Taliban,
dissident officials, in Kabul as opposed to Kandahar, for example, who
are willing to meet our demands, that's okay? We aren't
looking, as you point out, to replace one regime with another, we just
want to --
FLEISCHER: The issue is not to what regime do you belong,
but what actions have you taken in sponsoring or harboring
terrorism. If you are sponsoring or harboring terrorism, you
will be a target for American action and for world action.
Q Don't you think that the United States ought
to have an answer at the end of the road? If they do come
along with us, this will happen, and so forth. You were
saying, we're assuming it will be worse. We're not assuming
anything. We want to know where you're headed.
FLEISCHER: Well, that's why I answered Campbell's question
by saying that stability is always an objective.
Q And this is -- you know, during World War II
many promises were made, Atlantic Charter and so forth, to people who
would help us, allies and so forth, North Africa, that they would find
freedom at the end of the road, and so forth. And we are
offering nothing, publicly.
FLEISCHER: What we are not doing is turning a blind eye to
anybody who would sponsor or harbor terrorism.
Q All we're offering is destruction.
FLEISCHER: We're offering protection.
Q Ari, can I just follow? Isn't it
fair to say the President said that the Taliban is an -- I think he
used the word incredibly repressive regime. Does he believe
that the Afghanistan population would be better off without it?
FLEISCHER: You know, again, there's no question the Taliban
is a repressive regime. Women have no
rights. It's just by all definitions of the free world and
other world a repressive regime. But again, the fundamental
mission that the President is focused on is going after, through a
variety of means, those people who sponsor or harbor
terrorists. The stability of the region is also an important
issue, which is going to, of course, be a part of all the planning that
goes into what is done.
will not stop the United States or any other nations from taking action
against those who have carried out this attack on the United States.
Q Where is the carrot?
Q Isn't it fair, though, to say that there has
to be discussions going on within the administration and with allies
about possible steps, whether it be a UN protectorate or something set
up in the case of removal of the Taliban? I mean, isn't it
fair to say there has to be some discussion of that?
FLEISCHER: Again, you're assuming the objective here is to
remove a regime. The objective here is to target those who
have sponsored or have gone after or harbored the
terrorists. And that will take a variety of forms.
Q Ari, if our support for the Northern Alliance
is not to overthrow the Taliban, is it then to try to occupy more areas
of Afghanistan and remove the effective amount of territory that bin
Laden can operate in?
FLEISCHER: The United States is going to work with a variety
of people, including Pakistan and, of course, as you know, Russia and
others, involving putting the coalition together.
question on the Northern Alliance specifically is --
Q If our support of the Northern Alliance is not
to remove the Taliban from power, is it then to encourage the Northern
Alliance and help them occupy more areas of Afghanistan to remove the
effective areas that bin Laden can operate out of?
FLEISCHER: The United States welcomes the efforts of the
Northern Alliance and anybody else to put an end to those who sponsor
terrorism to fight those who sponsor terrorism.
Q But have we stated to the Alliance that we
want their help in fighting terrorism, but don't go -- don't march on
FLEISCHER: I'm not going to be more explicit than that.
We're not, as you know, indicating exactly what actions we're asking of
different people or nations around the world.
Q Ari, can I put aside the issue of what we or
our allies might do, but was I wrong when I heard that the President
say that the Afghan people have this repressive regime, many would like
to be rid of it -- but was I wrong in hearing him really calling for
the overthrow of the Taliban?
FLEISCHER: The President has made it clear, and Condoleezza
Rice said on one of the Sunday shows that the people of Afghanistan
would clearly be better off with a different regime. But the
whole purpose of this exercise is that the Taliban should not be given
an excuse because there could be other issues that follow after their
support for terrorism is diminished or put an end to.
should be no question around the world that our actions are going to be
aimed at protecting citizens around the world from the Taliban's
actions to sponsor terrorism.
Q Even if our explicit goal is not regime change
or nation building, the President would be delighted if the Afghan
people did that job for us?
FLEISCHER: The Afghani people are not synonymous with the
Taliban. They are different. And the Taliban, to
a significant degree has come in from the outside, from other nations,
from different regions of the world, and they've taken advantage of the
turmoil that has existed in Afghanistan and the lack of a powerful
central government in Afghanistan to make Afghanistan the breeding
ground for their international terrorism.
there is a difference between the Afghani people and the Taliban.
Q If I just heard the statement you said, we
would support any elements within Afghanistan who are willing to put --
that anybody --
FLEISCHER: End terrorism in Afghanistan. We'll
work with them.
Q Ari, President Putin last night, when he spoke
on Russian TV, made it clear that the degree of Russian participation
in the campaign against terrorism would depend on what he called
greater understanding for what the Russians are trying to do in
Chechnya. Is he going to get that greater understanding from
the United States?
FLEISCHER: Well, the position of the United States is
enshrined as an important principle in fighting for human rights
everywhere around the world. And it will continue to be
America's position. Russia, too, has terrorist threats that
it is addressing. And the United States at all times will
remind all nations around the world, as they deal with any threats,
that human rights must always be a policy objective.
Q Could you state for the record what this
government's current view is of the war in Chechnya?
FLEISCHER: The United States government's view about the war
in Chechnya is one that we are reminding the Russians about the need to
adhere to important human rights, to respect the various nationalist
movements, and to do so in a way that is consistent with the UN charter
and human rights.
Q So, Ari, are you saying that with Russia and
other nations who might be offering money or assistance to us, you'll
not give up on this desire to have human rights be at the top of the
agenda? You won't let that kind of slide for a little while
in order to get their support?
FLEISCHER: You know, I think if you take a look around the
world, at all the actions that over time our American military and our
nation has been called on, human rights has always been at the
forefront of it. It's true in the manner in which the United
States military conducts its operation and the manner in which any type
of harm to civilians has always tried to be kept to the absolute,
absolute minimum. And that message is an internal American
message to all nations around the world.
Q On the economic front, you mentioned earlier
today that the administration is looking at both industry-specific
problems and the big picture. Is it possible that we'll see
another bailout similar to what you've done for the airline industry,
for some other industry?
FLEISCHER: Ron, I think it's too soon to say. The
focus remains on having taken action to help the one industry that was
principally adversely affected as a result of an order by the United
States government to put all its planes on the ground, and therefore,
deny itself the ability to carry out its business for a period of
several days, the United States moved quickly to help the airline
such immediate action was taken that had a direct impact on any other
industry. The President is working with members of Congress
very closely on any potential next package that would help the economy
in general. There could be different elements of that
package that bring different amounts of help to different people,
depending on their circumstances. But that's under review
right now and there's no specific indications that I can give you about
what it will look like.
Q To ask about the Taliban here, at what point
did the President's strategists or advisors differentiate between the
Afghan people and the Taliban? And are you saying that the
United States is content to let the Taliban fall in upon itself and not
make any sort of value judgment about who will replace that
FLEISCHER: Well, the distinction has always been made, and
the best example I can give you is the United States provides
approximately $140 million a year in assistance, humanitarian
assistance, to help feed the people of Afghanistan, while at the same
time the United States has never recognized the Taliban regime as a
legitimate government. So that's the existing policy and
it's a wise one.
the actions that the President and his staff have been undertaking
since September 11th have kept that distinction in mind.
Q Ari, and the second part of that question?
FLEISCHER: Give it to me again.
Q Is the United States content to let the
Taliban fall down upon itself to create pressure that will cause it to
fall apart on its own, without making a value judgment about who
replaces that leadership?
FLEISCHER: The United States has made it clear about the
conditions for actions that must be taken on the ground in Afghanistan,
involving turning over Osama bin Laden, his top lieutenants to the
proper authorities, shutting down and closing all the terrorist
facilities, allowing United States access to make certain that they're
shut down. Those are the conditions and they need to be met.
Q On the Hill, Ari, you've had Greenspan and
Rubin meeting yesterday on the House side, today on the Senate side,
talking about economic stimulus. To what extent is the White
House involved in this, and what does the White House view on the need
for any stimulus in general, and on the efficacy of any particular
actions that might be taken?
FLEISCHER: That's why I indicated the administration is
working very closely with members of Congress about what type of
economic action could be taken to help as far as a stimulus for the
the interesting developments out of some of these meetings on the Hill
involving Chairman Greenspan was the Chairman's statement that it's
very important for Congress to pass trade promotion
authority. He believes that in the wake of the attack on the
United States it's now more important than ever for the United States
to have that authority. That's been reported by a senator up
on the Hill this morning; it's the senator's attribution of what Mr.
the President shares that view. The President does believe
it's important for Congress to take action on trade promotion authority
and do so this fall as another way to help the economic and to help
protect, to create jobs in America.
Q Has the administration reached a view that it
is necessary, in fact, to have another stimulus program, a package of
things to stimulate the economy, beyond what is already in place?
FLEISCHER: It remains under review.
Q Ari, isn't the President concerned that an
issue like that, if it comes up for a vote in the House, will be
divisive and harm this unity that he's fostered on the Hill?
FLEISCHER: No, I think the President wants to do it in a way
that reaches out. Clearly, trade promotion authority cannot
be agreed to unless it is bipartisan. You have a Republican
House and a Democratic Senate, so by definition, anything that moves in
the Congress will move with bipartisan support.
Q A recent Bloomberg news poll shows that while
a majority of Americans support war, they don't support using the
Social Security Trust Fund to pay for it. What is the
administration's position on this? Isn't it kind of clear
that you would need to dip into this money?
FLEISCHER: Let me make a couple of points. One
is, I read that story; it surely seemed to me, at least by the person
who was quoted in the story, is that he was under the impression that
the choice was lose his Social Security check or pay for a war, which
clearly is not the case. The existence of the Social Security surplus
has nothing to do with the ability of the government to pay all
benefits to retirees now and for the long-term future. So I
think there was a wording issue in that poll.
even having said that, the President is not going to be governed by
whatever the polls show. And I think the President
recognizes that -- he's appreciative of the very strong support he has
from the American people. I don't think anybody believes a
90-percent rating is going to last forever. But the
President is going to continue to do what he thinks is right for the
country and protect the country and to take whatever actions are
necessary in accordance with his previous statements about Social
Security should not be used unless in times of war or
recession. And clearly, we are in a time of war.
Q Is the President, when he meets with the
airline workers on Thursday, going to have anything to offer beyond
what he's already done for that industry, and the possibility that
there might be additional stimulus?
FLEISCHER: We'll keep you posted if there are any policy
developments to accompany that trip. Nothing I can report
Q But he's going to meet them. Is he
simply going to feel their pain, or is he going to try and help them in
some other way?
FLEISCHER: It's exactly what I indicated in my announcement
of the trip. And if there are any other add-ons to it we'll
let you know, we'll keep you posted.
Q Ari, do you know if the President has spoken
directly with the exiled King of Afghanistan?
FLEISCHER: I have no information that says he has.
Q Ari, forgive me if this is answered by the
Pentagon. In the letter the President sent yesterday about
the deployment of combat-equipped troops to foreign nations in Central
and Pacific Command, do we know what nations and what the criteria is,
or are we not allowed to know?
FLEISCHER: I'll have to look into that. I don't
know that specifically.
Q On airline security, the President said that
Transportation Secretary Mineta, coming over this
afternoon. So he's going to present options. Are
we expecting the President to sign off on recommendations today?
FLEISCHER: Well, I think it depends on what the options are
and what the discussion is. The President has asked his
advisors to take a look at various issues affecting airline security
and other matters like that. He's having a series of
meetings; he'll likely have more. So I'll be in that meeting
and if there's anything to report, I'll try to keep you posted.
Q As I understand, you know, Mineta has the task
force. Is he presenting to the President the findings of the
FLEISCHER: Let the meeting take place, and I'll try to fill
Q Can I just ask one other
question? Sorry, John. In terms of one view of
the President, does he support having federal workers, federal
employees be the ones to screen baggage and luggage at airports?
FLEISCHER: That's under review. I think it's part
of the whole package. The President wants to see the
recommendations in their totality. John?
Q I was just going to ask that.
Q The President this morning said that Labor
Secretary Chao is developing recommendations to address displaced
workers, but no consensus has been reached yet. Can you
elaborate on what the differences are? Is this dealing with
what sectors should be assisted, or how to assist displaced workers?
FLEISCHER: Well, of course here you get into the differences
in the government about who has direct authority over which programs.
Secretary of Labor, of course, has jurisdiction over unemployment
programs. And clearly, there are concerns as tens of thousands of
Americans have been laid off and are being laid off about what actions
the government can take to make sure that the safety net is working for
them. And so that's what he's referring to.
broaden this for a second, because a lot of the questions are on what
are we going to do on aviation security, on the economy stimulus, on
help for uninsured workers. And I just want to reiterate
something I mentioned last week. Throughout this process,
still, the normal, deliberative, thoughtful fashion of the government
has got to go on. There is going to planning on the military
front. There is of course a rush to action to help people in
New York and at the Pentagon respond to the immediacies of the
when it comes to what domestic action needs to be taken, one of the
strengths of our country, and one of the factors of a Congress is that
it needs to be carefully thought through, developed, worked with the
Congress, hearings held. And that in itself is a process
that takes time. And the administration recognizes that. So
that's one of the reasons you're hearing on a lot of these issues, it's
under review, et cetera. There won't be a rush to action; there is
going to be action taken at the appropriate time.
Q With respect to that, Secretary O'Neill has
indicated that if there is to be any stimulus package, you need
probably at least another week to asses the impact of September
11th. Would you agree with that time frame?
FLEISCHER: Well, I'm not going to comment on any particular
timetable. But as I indicated, it's a process that will take
an amount of time to make certain that's a deliberative and thoughtful
process. I'm not going to put a hard day on
it. It very well may turn out to be exactly
that. It may turn out to be somewhat closer or different
Q Just a follow-up on Keith's
question. The President's not worried at all that wrapping
up TPA into the economic stimulus package is going to kill any chance
of getting a stimulus package through, if in --
FLEISCHER: One, I never said anything about wrapping it up
into a stimulus package. I talked about it, as others have,
on its own merit, and its own intrinsic worth. But no
determination is made about whether that will be part of an existing
stimulus or not. But no, that remains an important issue for
many Democrats and Republicans, and something the President feels
Q On the stimulus package, does the
administration share the concern of some economists that there's a
danger here of replicating policy mistakes of the late '60s, building
in too much stimulus that would then have the effect of laying the
groundwork for an inflation problem down the road?
FLEISCHER: Well, without addressing specifically that one
concern, there are a variety of reasons that the thoughtful process
that our framers left to us that has gotten this nation through times
of war and times of peace is a process that needs to be
followed. And that is why, as I indicate, it's going to be
deliberative, it's going to be thoughtful. It won't be a
rush to come out with an economic stimulus because the nation was
attacked; it has to be done right.
that's why the President met with the leaders today, to discuss it with
them, to talk it through with them, to listen and to hear their ideas
to share his thoughts. And that's how the process will go.
And then, of course, it's going to go through the regular order of the
Congress, which is a process that takes weeks.
Q Is it possible to offer some indication of the
extent to which, in the debate within the administration, the prospect
or the problems of potential inflation in the future are being factored
into this deliberative process?
FLEISCHER: In the meetings that I've been in, I have not
heard that explicitly said. There are lots of economists in
this building though, so I wouldn't rule out that some economist
somewhere said something.
Q The administration has said war or recession
justifies spending the Social Security surplus. But do they
believe the same things justify going into deficit spending, or is
there a bottom line on how much they would spend?
FLEISCHER: The President's priority is to take the necessary
steps to protect this nation in the wake of this attack, and to
assemble the coalition and give it the means required so that we can be
victorious in this was throughout whatever period of time it's going to
budget implications of that remain to be precisely determined, and
those will also substantially be driven by the strength of the economy
and how quickly the economy comes back. So we'll all have at
our disposal the latest estimates, as time goes by, about the shape of
make no mistake about the President's priority is to give the resources
necessary to fight and win a war. He will always be mindful
that whatever actions are taken still involve taxpayer
dollars. And that's when it comes to the domestic
consequences, when it comes to any industries that are asking for
assistance, or whether it comes to the means necessary to fight the
Q But you would not rule out deficit spending,
if that's what it takes to fight the war?
FLEISCHER: Well, right now the government continues to have
a very large surplus. I think the other day I explained that
this was the first time in the nation's history that the government has
had a surplus as it began a major military effort like
this. Previously, it's always had deficits, which puts the
country, economically speaking, in a stronger position to begin this
effort. But those are the President's priorities.
Q On coalition-building, can you -- the
significance of the
Saudi move, cutting off from the Taliban?
FLEISCHER: That's a very significant step for the Saudi
government to take. And the President, as he indicated, is
appreciate of the actions that they have taken in this regard.
Q Ari, are you confident you can pass trade
promotion authority this fall, and avoid a difficult fight --
FLEISCHER: Well, I think you have to let it develop on the
Hill. And to continue -- the President will continue to work
it in a bipartisan fashion. He'll continue to listen and to
have outreach. Clearly, even in this wonderfully new mood of
cooperation that has taken place on the Hill, nobody expects votes to
be 535-0. But we still have a system, and it's a system that
has worked well throughout times of war and times of
peace. And the President is going to continue to do
everything he can to work cooperatively with as many people as
possible. Hence this morning's meetings with the Democrats
and the Republicans.
Q This morning, Representative Gephardt said
that on the education bill, he needed to talk to more of his members,
this was going to take more time, that there was a lot more work to be
done. Is the administration disappointed in
that? Does the President want to get this
done? Is this an indication, even quietly, of the return of
some of the partisan differences over that issue in particular?
FLEISCHER: I don't think it's a return to partisan
differences, Terry. I think it's the right of members of
Congress to weigh in. And there are 535 people who have a
right to weigh in. And there are going to be a variety of
viewpoints expressed. The important thing is to keep the
sense of comity and working together strong. And that's why
the President met this morning with the Speaker, the Minority Leader,
the Majority Leader. And he'll continue to do that.
there be voices from the Hill that disagree with the administration on
issues? Of course. But, together, a lot can still
be accomplished on the issues like education, on patients' bill of
rights, on trade promotion authority, on an energy
package. Senator Lieberman has indicated interest in
continuing to move the faith-based package. So there
continues to be signs of good progress on the Hill.
Q Even on education? It doesn't look
like that's going anywhere for the moment.
FLEISCHER: No, I think clearly it's going. It's
heading into the Conference Committee. Nobody expected it to
be passed today. We have to wrap this in just a minute,
because we've got to all get to the FBI.
Q Ari, are there plans to have meetings like the
one with the congressional leaders once a week, like a regular meeting
with congressional leadership every week?
FLEISCHER: It's not a regularly scheduled once a week, but
it just seems to be working out that way, at least at this
point. And a lot of phone conversations as well.
PRESS: Thank you.
FLEISCHER: Thank you.