For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 26, 2001
Press Briefing by
By Ari Fleischer
Pakistan/Coalition Aid.................................2, 7-8
U.n. Security Council Approval?.............................5
CIA Director Tenet/Support of the President.............6, 15
Cia/View of Bin Laden.......................................6
Egypt/Mubarak Comments on Threats to the President........6-7
Involvement in Coalition...............................9
Airline Security/President's View...........................7
Emergency Funding Release.............................12
Safe to Fly Again..............................13-15, 16
Afghanistan/American Embassy Building.......................7
Iran/Rejection of Coalition Involvement.....................8
Possible Tax Cuts........................................9-10
Returning to Normal Activity............................10-12
12:38 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good
afternoon. Let me update you on the President's day, and
then I'll be more than happy to take any questions. The
President this morning spoke with Dutch Prime Minister
Kok. The President and the Prime Minister expressed their
agreement about the need for full solidarity, and the Prime Minister
said that the Dutch government would be with the people of the United
States and stressed that solidarity means deeds, not just words.
The President also this morning spoke with
Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev. The two Presidents
discussed cooperation in the common fight against
terrorism. And President Nazarbayev reiterated that
Kazakhstan will support the U.S.-led effort "with all available means."
The President earlier this morning
convened a meeting of his National Security Council. He
concluded just recently a meeting -- it may still be going on, if it's
not quite concluded -- with a group of American Sikhs, another reminder
to the American people of the importance of waging a battle against
intolerance and prejudice in this country as we proceed with this fight
against terrorism. The American Sikh community has been
beset with occasional violence and it's another reminder about the need
for Americans to honor our constitutional principles in respecting all
Americans and all visitors to our country throughout this time.
The President will depart for the Central
Intelligence Agency in the early afternoon, where he will have a
briefing over at CIA, take a tour of the CIA, and thank the CIA
employees for all the efforts that they are making to win the war
Upon his return to the White House in the
mid-afternoon, the President will meet with a group of Muslim leaders
to send another signal, another reminder to the American people about
the need to be -- to avoid prejudice and intolerance. The
Muslim American community has been very supportive and cooperative with
all efforts to win the war on terrorism, and the President is very
appreciative of that.
He will meet with the Foreign Minister of
Egypt at 4:15 p.m. in the Oval Office. And at 4:50 p.m., the
President will have a meeting of his Domestic Consequences Group to
discuss economic actions that the government may be able to take to
help provide a stimulus to the economy.
A couple updates on other events or
briefings: Secretary Powell will also meet with the Egyptian
Foreign Minister at 2:30 p.m., and then the two will participate in a
joint stakeout at the State Department at 3:00 p.m. In addition to the
schedule from what I announced earlier, Attorney General Ashcroft and
FBI Director Mueller will also hold a briefing for the American people
at 3:15 p.m., open to the press, of course, to continue to communicate
with the American people about the efforts underway in the war against
Q Ari, Pakistan
says they've been discussing with the U.S. a broad agreement on an
operational plan that includes attacks on camps in
Afghanistan. Is that report inaccurate?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, I'm not
going to characterize in any way any of the operational details about
what the United States may or may not be discussing with any of our
Q Is the United
States taking a softer line on Russia over Chechnya in return for the
cooperation Putin has offered in this effort?
MR. FLEISCHER: President Putin
gave a very important speech the other day. This should be
noted. President Bush appreciated very much President
Putin's offer of concrete cooperation in the common fight against
international terrorism. And President Putin's remarks
demonstrate that Russia can make a major contribution to that common
struggle against international terrorism, while at the same time
displaying a respect for the sovereignty and independence of Russia's
In particular, the President noted and
wants to thank President Putin for his offer to provide, as President
Putin described it, permission for humanitarian overflights,
information about the situation on the ground, as well as search and
rescue operations, if necessary. The President looks forward
to continuing to work with the Russia government together as we build
this international coalition.
But the President also wants to note
particularly President Putin's remarks about the situation in Chechnya
in which President Putin called on Chechen insurgents to disassociate
themselves immediately from the international terrorist networks, and
meet for discussions to resolve the crisis in Chechnya.
The Chechnya leadership, like all
responsible political leaders in the world, must immediately and
unconditionally cut all contacts with international terrorist groups,
such as Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization. At
the same time, the United States has long said that the only solution
in Chechnya is a political solution, a political process to resolve the
conflict there. The President welcomes the sincere steps
that have been taken by Russia to engage the Chechen leadership and,
consistent with what you've heard repeatedly, respect for human rights
and accountability for violations on all sides is crucial to a durable
Q Does this offer
by Putin reflect any input by the United States, did Bush suggest that
you needed to do something on Chechnya? And do you have any
idea what might happen if the 72-hour period expires without an
acceptance by the rebels?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually,
there's been an update on that. As you may have heard,
Chechen leader, Mr. Maskhadov has responded, indicated a commitment to
the peace process. He has indicated a willingness, and so
it's important now to let events develop in Chechnya. That
is an encouraging sign.
Q And so, the
administration believes, with President Putin, that the resistance in
Chechnya has been infiltrated and is linked to the same terrorist
networks that committed the atrocities in New York?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, there is
no question that there is an international terrorist presence in
Chechnya that has links to Osama bin Laden. And that's why I
indicated what I indicated. That also is a point of view
that was shared with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in, I
believe, it was November of 1999 by a spokesman, an official from the
Clinton State Department when he testified before Senate Foreign
Relations. So that's been long been known; in fact, it's been
referenced in the Pattern of Global Terrorism Report, which was issued
by the State Department.
Q One more on
this. Would, then, Chechen separatists, by the statement you
ready today also calling on them to cut off links to this group -- are
they on notice as the Taliban is that they will share the terrorists'
fate if they don't do so?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the
President's words speak for themselves about those terrorist
organizations that have global reach. But what's notable
here is, the President is reiterating that it's important to have a
political solution to the situation in Chechnya. But,
undeniably, there are terrorists' organizations in Chechnya that have
ties to Osama bin Laden.
Q And did he
suggest this offer by Putin? Did the President and Putin
discuss this offer in advance of Putin's making it? Does
this reflect U.S. input?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd have to
check, Randy. Don't know.
Q Haven't we made
many statements denouncing Russia for its attacks at
Chechnya? And is there some image of some freedom fighters
there? And all of a sudden, you're calling them terrorists?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I just
indicated, the concern for human rights remains a vital part of
American policy, and the only solution to the problem in Chechnya is a
Q Yes. But why is it just today that
you're calling them terrorists? What has
changed? Is this what Putin has asked for, in exchange for
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I
indicated, that's not the case. That's been the longstanding
Q I think this is
the first time -- is this not the first time you've used this word at
Q It's the first
time we've heard it.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not sure
that I have discussed the situation in Chechnya with the White House
Press Corps prior to this. We haven't had much reason to do
so. But that's why I indicated, going back to the previous
administration, in testimony before the Senate, they said what they
said because it's true. And the State Department publishes a
report every year that included similar information.
Q Is it fair to
assume that these words from you are in exchange for Putin's
cooperation on the U.S. effort?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's an
accurate statement about the situation on the ground and the importance
of the speech that President Putin made. But keep in mind,
President Putin called for political discussions, which leaders of
Chechnya have now indicated they are willing to engage in such
discussions. That's a positive development.
Q Sounds like a
deal, though. It sounds like in exchange for Putin's
support, we, rhetorically from this podium, are lending him support in
characterizing the opposition as international terrorists.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, no such
conclusion should be reached. This is consistent with
actions taken by the previous administration, because it's an accurate
statement about developments in Chechnya.
Q Can you give us
the date of that Senate testimony?
MR. FLEISCHER: If I recall, it
was November 1999.
Q Is the
administration planning to go to the U.N. Security Council before for
approval before any sort of military action is taken? And do
you think that's something you should do? Is it necessary?
MR. FLEISCHER: Number one, the
United Nations through the Security Council has already spoken out on
this matter. Number two --
Q But not on
MR. FLEISCHER: Number two, in
accordance with the U.N. Charter, the United States has the right to
self-defense, of course. The President has spoken directly
on that point. But no decision has been reached about
whether or not there will be any additional requests made of or through
the United Nations. There's just no determination at this
Q But it's
something under discussion that you're talking about?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's one of many
options that could be used, but there's no determination.
Q Senator Shelby
continues to suggest that CIA Director Tenet should probably step
down. Is the President planning today to indicate his
support for the Director?
MR. FLEISCHER: Director Tenet
has the full faith and confidence of the President. The
President will be at the CIA. He'll have public remarks, so
you'll have to hear those yourself.
Q How does the
White House, CIA and so forth view bin Laden? Is he a
religious leader or a political leader, or both?
MR. FLEISCHER: He's a
terrorist. He's a leader of a terrorist organization that
has inflicted grievous harm on our country. That is the only
way to see him. The President has described him as an
evildoer, and the President has said that this is a struggle between
good and evil.
Q But deeper into
that, do you consider him a religious leader or a political leader?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's so
hard to assign any religious value to the acts that he's carried
out. There is no religion that preaches or tolerates the
murder of innocent civilians, as he has done to our nation. There is
only one word to describe him, and that is a terrorist.
Q I mean, terrorist
is an all-encompassing word. What do you think his goals
are? Political, are they not?
MR. FLEISCHER: His goals are
murderous, and that's how he's viewed.
Q Just to murder --
Q Actually, kind of
following up on that, but maybe a little more personal, President
Mubarak has basically said the President was a target in Genoa during
the summit. A few weeks ago, you were concerned that Air
Force One was a target of the attacks. Does the White House
believe that bin Laden is trying to kill the President?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I'm
not going to comment on any particular threats coming toward the White
House. Unfortunately, as you all who work here know, it is
not an uncommon occurrence for people to threaten the government of the
United States, regardless of whether it's President Bush or any of his
predecessors. And that's why there are security precautions
taken at the White House as a matter of routine.
But that's not what this is
about. This has nothing to do with anything individual that
may or may not have been directed at President Bush; this is about an
attack that took place on our country.
Q Ari, on your
Chicago trip tomorrow, the President is going to announce some security
measures for the airlines?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has been reviewing reactions that the government should appropriately
take to help protect the traveling public through increased security at
the nation's airports and on airplanes. The President has a
visit to Chicago tomorrow where he will discuss a series of issues
important to the traveling public and to the airline industry, and when
the President has concluded his review, he will make the announcement
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a
good possibility, Elizabeth.
Q Ari, is anything
off the table, though, any of the options, such as guns in the cockpit
or federal employees to be the airport screeners? Are those off the
MR. FLEISCHER: I think at this
point it's best to let the President express it for
himself. He'll be doing that shortly.
Q So he's going
potentially tomorrow, so is it fair to say he's pretty much decided,
there's a decision-making agreement?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he's
likely to have a couple of additional conversations today.
Q Ari, any reaction
to the burning of buildings in the embassy grounds, U.S. embassy
grounds in Kabul?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no
immediate -- I mean, I think it's just another sign of the fact that
this is serious. That was an abandoned building, as you
know. The United States left it many, many years ago, but it
doesn't change anything about what the President has said or what the
mission of the United States will be.
Q Ari, on Pakistan,
this is not an operational question, but the Foreign Minister is quoted
as saying he's asked the administration to put aside any notion of
supporting Afghan opposition groups. Is this a roll-back on
Pakistan's part? What is your assessment of the level of
cooperation the U.S. is getting from Pakistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's been very
good. And as I've indicated all week, there are going to be
certain areas in which different nations cooperate in different
ways. And I think you can anticipate that with Pakistan, as
well as any number of nations.
Q Could I follow on
that, though? Have the Pakistanis warned the administration
about supporting the Northern Alliance in the overthrow of the
Taliban? Have they expressed concern about the President's
comments sort of encouraging the people of Afghanistan to step up -- of
the Taliban regime?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well,
historically, there are certain facts about the relationship between
the Northern Alliance and Pakistan that are
indisputable. And as the United States goes about building
the effort to put an end to the terrorist actions that are fostered in
Afghanistan by Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda organization, hosted by
and harbored by the Taliban government, the United States will keep all
these interrelationships in mind.
Q So Pakistan has
legitimate interests inside Afghanistan which we will take into
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's a
very complicated region of the world, Terry, where there's a host of
groups and nations that have longstanding -- have various amounts of
interests. And as I indicated, there is an historical
relationship between the Northern Alliance and the Pakistan government,
which the United States is aware of and sensitive to.
Q Ari, Iran has
soundly rejected any overtures that the U.S. might or might not be
making in terms of building an international coalition; in fact,
calling the U.S. effort "disgusting." Any reaction?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, the
President has made it clear that this is a time for nations to choose
about whether they are with the United States and the free world in the
war against terrorism or they are not. And I will leave it at that.
Q Ari, is the
President going to have any concrete requests about how he wants Egypt
to be involved in this war today?
MR. FLEISCHER: He
may. But, again, I'm not going to be at liberty to get into
any specific requests that the United States is asking. But
Egypt has been a good friend of the United States before, and the
relationship remains very strong.
Q Ari, I know you
don't want to comment on specific tax cuts that you're considering, or
at least you didn't this morning. But would you comment on
whether or not tax cuts that people are considering as part of the
stimulus package potentially should be temporary, or should they again
be looking at long-term tax cuts as were passed earlier?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think from the
President's point of view, it will all depend on the substance of the
specific tax cut, for example. The tax cut that has been
passed by the Congress and signed into law, the President obviously
believes that should be permanent. The President believes
that is helpful for the economy now and long-term, and plus it's the
right thing to do. People should not have a marriage penalty
reimposed on them for any reason, for example.
Other ideas that are new will be
considered, and there are some suggestions that some of those be
temporary, and I think the President will weigh any reason for
something to be temporary, as opposed to permanent, in the context of
whatever that new idea may be.
Q Okay. And are reports correct that
the White House has been specifically pushing for a cut in corporate
MR. FLEISCHER: That's one of
the options that's under review.
Q Have you been
pushing for that on the Hill? Supporting that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The White House
isn't pushing for anything on the Hill because the President hasn't
given any indications yet about any determinations or decisions that he
has made. There have been a series of conversations with
people on the Hill where the pros and cons of various proposals have
been walked through, including a reduction in the corporate tax rate,
but that falls under the category of a series of tax items that have
been discussed with the Hill. But I think that's what you're
Q Ari, is there
going to be any economic announcements tomorrow, therefore, in Chicago,
along these lines of a stimulus?
MR. FLEISCHER: I would just
wait until tomorrow. And you've asked me a question about
airlines tomorrow, and I'm not going to go beyond that. The President
may have something to say tomorrow on that topic.
Q -- just for the
MR. FLEISCHER: The event
tomorrow is more focused on the airlines. But at all times, the
President is concerned about the economy. He'll have remarks
tomorrow, and I'll just leave it at that.
Q Can I just follow
on that --
Q Ari, when the
Republican leadership says that Larry Lindsey is pushing for a
corporate tax cut, they're mistaken?
MR. FLEISCHER: Can you tell me
who is saying that?
Q Dick Armey.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of
any conversation like that. I know that -- I've talked to
Dr. Lindsey about this and what he's indicated to me is he's had a
series of conversations, just as I outlined, where he is talking about
the pros and cons of a variety of proposals, including a reduction in
the corporate rates.
Q But he's not
pushing it, he's just saying, these are our options? He's not favoring
one or the other?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think Larry is
well aware, as many of the advisors to the President are, that there
are a series of pros and cons that come with these actions.
Q Ari, getting back
to the issue of getting things back to normal, the President is going
to be flying out to Chicago tomorrow. He had this meeting
with the Boys and Girls Club this morning. When will the
White House be back to full-speed, the typical activities before
September 11th, with the public tours and things of that nature,
especially since you said today is the first time for this Boys and
Girls Club or any other group to come to meet with the President?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me
answer that -- I mean, full-speed -- given the events of September
11th, it would be nice to slow down to full-speed. It's not
a question of full-speed, it's just a question of there has been a
necessary realignment of the President's time and schedule so he can
focus more of his time, unfortunately, on war
preparations. That is typical in any American presidency, or
most American presidencies.
But there are increasing signs that the
other parts of the agenda are showing back up on the President's school
and other people's schedules. And you cited a couple of those examples
today -- the meeting with the Boys Club today, the travel to Chicago
tomorrow. The President and his wife went out for dinner
last night. I mean, I think these things also marry to some
degree what the American people are doing. They're
increasingly getting back on with their lives.
Q Where did they go
to dinner last night? And I have a follow-up to
that. Where did they go to dinner?
MR. FLEISCHER: They went to a
restaurant in Arlington. The press went with
them. There's a pool report available on it; it was a
publicly-announced trip. They went last night.
Q No wonder traffic
was so bad on the way home. (Laughter.)
Q Ari, a follow-up
to that, though. The situation, though --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, there was a
report on it last night. The press went with
them. The press always goes with them.
Q The newspapers
haven't seen a pool report on this.
MR. FLEISCHER: I can tell you
the pool went with them.
Q Okay, well, come
back. As far as people coming back into the White House,
this is, like you said earlier, this is a first since September
11th. Is the White House -- is the feeling here at the White
House that the threat here has lessened for the American public to come
back into this place, the people's house?
MR. FLEISCHER: What I indicated
this morning was, it's not a first for visitors to coming to the White
House on September 11th. The White House has been
entertaining visitors to the White House since September 11th on a
regular basis. This was the first of where the more
traditional -- they're called literally photo opportunities, but the
more ceremonial part of a presidency, where the President will meet
with various award winners across the United States to thank them and
to honor them for, in this case, being the Boys Club Youth of the
The President's had a series of meetings
like he's had today with the Muslim leaders, with the Sikh
leaders. He's had earlier meetings with other groups
throughout the period since September 11th. Those are
private citizens coming to the White House for specific
purposes. What took place today, though, was a return to the
more ceremonial aspects of the job.
Q Will the public
tours resume again soon?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll announce
that whenever they do. There is no information on that at
Q Ari, on the
airlines, is there some sort of snag in getting the $5 billion in
emergency funding to the airlines?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that OMB
announced last night that that money was being
released. There is a formula for its distribution, and that
formula is set in law by the act of Congress which the President
signed. So the money has been released as of yesterday. I'm
now aware of any problems -- it was released yesterday.
Q Has the President
had any communication with Representative Cooksey regarding his
comments on Sikh Americans? And does he have a message for
lawmakers and members of his party in particular about this issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
message is to all Americans. It's important for all
Americans to remember the traditions of our country that make us so
strong and so free, our tolerance and openness and acceptance. All
Americans -- and we come from a very rich cultural heritage, no matter
what anybody's background in this country. And that's the
strength of this country, and that's the President's message that he
expressed in his speech to Congress and as he has done when he visited
the mosque a week ago Monday, and in the meetings that he's hosting
here at the White House today with Muslim Americans and Sikh
Q Did he speak to
Representative Cooksey, and what were his reactions upon hearing
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
was very disturbed by those remarks.
Q Ari, does the
President believe that in order for the coalition in the Middle East,
those who are supporting the United States, to hold together, Ariel
Sharon and Israel have to make concessions towards peace, as well as
Chairman Arafat? I mean, is there a direct linkage to the
peace process and maintaining any coalition in this war effort?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
believes that all the parties in the Middle East have to take advantage
of what is happening today and see this as a moment to realize the
repercussions of going down the wrong road, and that's a road that has
led to terrorism and to conflict and in the Middle East has led to
war. And that's why the President feels so strongly and has
said this to leaders, that they should seize this moment and renew
their efforts to accomplish a lasting peace in the Middle East.
And toward that, of course, there was a
meeting this morning between Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman
Arafat, where they agreed to sustain their cease-fire and to resume
security cooperation. And the President welcomes that
announcement and that development from this morning. That's
something that the President and Secretary Powell have been encouraging
the parties to do on a rather repeated basis.
The President welcomes a reiteration of
both sides to their commitment to implement the Tenet and the Mitchell
plans, and this meeting this morning constitutes an important first
step toward the development of a more concrete and lasting approach to
restoring trust and confidence in the region.
Q Ari, can I come
back to the Chicago trip? Putting aside the issue, the
specifics of what the President is going to announce tomorrow, does the
President have a message behind this trip of whether it's now safe for
Americans to fly again?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
trip is designed to talk to the airline workers and to thank them for
returning to the flight schedules that they have returned to, to thank
them for doing their part to combat terrorism and to get America moving
again. He may have some additional things to say on some of
the policy items that we've been discussing.
But I do know that typically in America,
there are some 5,500 to 6,500 flights a day in our commercial
industry. There are now, today, or at least as of yesterday,
4,500 to 5,500 flights taking off and landing safely every day across
We're not back at exactly where we were
prior to September 11th, but there are an awful lot of flights flying
every day, safely taking Americans to where they want to travel, and
that's an encouraging sign. There are just increasing signs
of life in America is getting back to normal, as normal can ever be at
a time where the President will still remind the American people that
threats remain and the nation is preparing for war.
Q -- Americans not
to be afraid of flying?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think every
American is going to come to their own judgment. And for
some Americans, obviously, the 4,500 to 5,500 flights a day, many
Americans have already come to the conclusion it's safe to fly, and
they've safely flown. Other Americans are going to approach
this on their own time, at their own pace, and the President
understands that. So that's an individual decision people
are making, but according to how many flights have been taking off and
landing every day, that's a decision people are increasingly feeling
comfortable with. The President will continue to remind
people that it's important to remember the threat is not eliminated.
Q But they're only
flying at 30 percent capacity, though, Ari, and that's the
problem. I mean, the flights are in the air --
MR. FLEISCHER: No doubt about
it. It's exactly right. The flights -- when I
give the numbers about the flights taking off and landing safely,
that's not an indication that each of the flights is 100 percent
occupancy. There is no question about that, and that's one of the
reasons the President is going to travel to Chicago tomorrow and talk
to the people in the airline industry, because they're hurting as a
result of the lack of passengers.
Q The question is,
I think, what is the President going to say to people to try to
reassure the public that it is safe for them to get back on those
planes? I mean, the planes are in the air, but what can he
say to tell people, look, we're doing everything we can and it is now
safe to get back in the air?
MR. FLEISCHER: And that's one
of the reasons that the President has been focused on development of a
security package to help increase security and protection for the
traveling public of both airports and airlines. And he'll
have more to say on that directly, himself.
Q Related to Jim's
question, to your knowledge, how many administration officials, White
House staff, or in the agencies and departments are traveling
commercially this week or next week?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can tell you I
know on last Friday, OMB Director Mitch Daniels flew home commercial to
Indiana, came back, I believe, on Sunday. I'm flying
commercial somewhere today for Yom Kippur. So it's been
across the government there have been a series of travels. I
think you'd have to talk to each of the different agencies to get the
Secretaries also are routinely now traveling commercial?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, you'd
have to talk to each agency; I don't keep track of all their
travel. So you'd have to talk agency by agency. I
can tell you about Mitch, because I just heard Mitch say that, that he
flew home commercial last Friday, just as I'm flying home to New York
Q Can I just follow
up with one more on the CIA -- Director Tenet, the President, of
course, having full faith and confidence in him. But in
terms of the agency, the President has not, of course, wanted to look
back, he's wanted to look forward. But doesn't he believe
the fact that the U.S. had no specific warnings of these attacks that
they're somewhat of an indictment of U.S. intelligence operations?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the
President views it as a reflection of the fact that we are an open
society, a free society; that the CIA has in the past been very
successful in catching and preventing acts of terrorism. Obviously,
the attacks took place on September 11th, they were not detected and
they were not caught ahead of time. But the President's
focus right now is on winning the war on terrorism. And I
reiterate, he has full faith and confidence in Director Tenet.
Q Ari, an IMF
official today made the statement that a recession in the United States
was a done deal. Now, he took back that formulation but,
obviously, that was his outlook. Does the White House agree
with this, that a recession in the short term at any rate, is going to
be inevitable in the United States?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the
President remains very concerned about the state of the economy, and
that's one of the reasons he's having the meeting today, to talk to his
advisors about what steps can be taken to help promote economic
Now, the President continues to believe
that the tax cut is the right policy; the Federal Reserve rate cuts
have been the right policy and that will have a helpful combination in
bringing the economy back. But there's no doubt about it,
the attack on our country September 11th has had an adverse effect on
the economy. I'm not going to go beyond
that. That's an economic definition of a recession and that
will be determined by the data as it comes in.
Q The House next
week is planning to move a farm bill, which, as I understand it, could
add some $73 billion, $74 billion over the next 10
years. Does the White House support that bill?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me take that
question and get back to you on the farm bill, Keith.
Q Ari, back to the
airline security thing and Americans getting more comfortable with
flying. There have been several incidents since the
September 11th attack where people have intentionally breached security
to prove the point that it is still ineffective. My question
is, is that inappropriate or is ignoring that reality and arresting
people who do that casting a false sense of security.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that at
a time when the people at the airports are working very hard to secure
the airports for the traveling public, I think it's not appropriate for
anything to engage in anything symbolic of that nature. It's
a distraction that prevents the people who are doing their jobs from
being able to carry out their mission if people are doing it for the
purpose of doing something symbolic.
Having said that, the President
understands that we do need to increase security at airports and give
more protections to the traveling public, and he'll have more to say on
that point shortly.
Q -- about the war,
just for a second. Since September the 11th, have there been
any serious -- underline the word serious -- discussions at the
National Security Council meetings about bringing back the
draft? And how does the President feel about the possibility
of the draft?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I've asked
that question, and the answer that I've gotten directly from DOD is no,
there has been no consideration of that.
Commander-In-Chief, what was the President's reaction to television's
Bill Maher, in his announcement that members of our Armed Forces who
deal with missiles are cowards, while the armed terrorists who killed
6,000 unarmed are not cowards, for which Maher was briefly moved off a
Washington television station?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not
discussed it with the President, one. I have --
Q Surely, as a --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm getting
Q Surely as
Commander, he was enraged at that, wasn't he?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm getting
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm aware of the
press reports about what he said. I have not seen the actual
transcript of the show itself. But assuming the press
reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say, and it unfortunate.
And that's why there was an earlier question about has the President
said anything to the people in his own party. There are
reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they do, and
this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.
Q The Washington
Times reports that the Reverend Jesse Jackson has nominated himself to
go to Afghanistan. My question is, does the President
believe this would be useful, or would it be better for the cause of
justice that since the former head of United Way is in federal prison
for spending tax-exempt funds on his mistress, that the Reverend Mr.
Jackson at least be investigated by the Department of Justice?
MR. FLEISCHER: I've got no
comment on Mr. Jackson's possible -- the Reverend Jackson's possible
travel. I would just reiterate what the President has said,
the he will not engage in any negotiations or discussions.
END 1:10 P.M. EDT