The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 17, 2001

Press Gaggle
Ari Fleischer
the James S. Brady Briefing Room

9:50 A.M. EDT

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Good morning, people of the gaggle.  President Bush spoke this morning with President Zayid of the United Arab Emirates.  The conversation lasted approximately 10 minutes.  The two spoke about cooperation against terrorism.  And President Bush thanked President Zayid for his public statements in support and for his willingness to help.

     Earlier this morning also, as you may know, the President went to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and greeted employees on their way in, thanking them for doing their part, it's a symbol of what everybody across the nation is doing today as they do their part in returning to work.

     The President, as we speak, is in a National Security Council meeting. Then at 10:40 a.m., the President will depart the White House en route to the Pentagon.  And the President will have a meeting at the Pentagon on the Reserve call-up.  He's going to meet a group of Reservists and thank them for their efforts.  He'll be briefed on the status of the call-up and he will talk also about the gratitude he's shown for the families and the employers of those who have been called up to help our nation as it prepares to be put on a war footing.

     Q    Do you expect he'll talk to the pool, Ari?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me keep going, then I'll take questions.  The President will come back to the White House, and then at 1:30 p.m., the President will make a phone call to Harold Levy, who is the Chancellor of the New York City public schools.  Chancellor Levy will be joined by Secretary Rod Paige, will be at his side.

     The President is going to talk to him about the efforts that New York City is making with federal assistance to welcome children back to school. Secretary Paige will make an announcement about federal assistance to the New York City public schools today, in the form of money to help with counseling and other services to help families and loved ones and parents as the kids go back to school.

     In mid-afternoon -- and we will give you the exact location later -- the President will depart the White House, where he will go to an Islamic center in the Washington, D.C. area --

     Q    Is this reportable?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Yes, it is.  He will go to an Islamic center in the Washington, D.C. area to meet with Islamic leaders and congregants.  And the President feels very strongly the importance of all leaders across America sending a message that Arab Americans, Muslim Americans love their flag, too.

     Q    What time is that?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Mid-afternoon.

     Q    No specific time?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  We'll provide that shortly.  At 3:45 p.m. this afternoon, the President will be at the White House for a meeting on economic policy, talk about the economy and, also, in  particular, talk about the airline industry.

     Mrs. Bush will be leaving today to attend a memorial service in Pennsylvania for those who lost their lives in the crash of the flight in southwestern Pennsylvania.

     And that's the rundown on the schedule today.  I've got some info on briefings.  General Ashcroft and Director Mueller will brief at 12:30 p.m. I will be briefing at 1:00 p.m.  As I mentioned, the President will be calling up to New York at 1:30 p.m.  That event, right now, I have no coverage on that event, just so you know.  The pool event at the Pentagon -- there will be an event at the Pentagon, of course, and the visit to the Muslim center, the Islamic center.  I anticipate some elements --

     Q    How about the economic --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, it's a regular, private meeting.

     Q    Can we at least get a transcript of the phone call, Ari?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That's an interesting -- let me see if we can't do that.

     Q    And it's with the economic team, the economics meeting?  Who is going to be involved in that?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Economic meeting?  Yes, his regular economic team.

     Q    Ari, where is the Vice President and where is he working during the day and where is he staying at night?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I don't know the answer to that.  I just don't know.

     Q    Ari, the economic team, will O'Neill be there or --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President has a regular group in the White House that is his economic team.  It's Larry Lindsey, it's the domestic policy staff, Josh Bolten. That's the group.  They've been spending a lot of their time looking directly at the domestic consequences of the terrorist attack.

     Q    Will Mineta be part of that?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  What you have to understand, this is the internal White House group, this group.  And they are always in touch with their appropriate Cabinet agencies.  But it's an internal White House working group.

     Q    Has the President heard back from the Pakistanis yet, concerning the Taliban?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The government continues to be in contact with the Pakistanis, in a variety of ways.  Certainly, the conversations are two-way conversations.  So the administration talks to the Pakistanis, the Pakistanis talk, share information with us.

     Q    Have they agreed to do what we ask them to do?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I have not characterized what it is that we've asked them to do.  You notice Secretary Powell yesterday also did not characterize what we've asked them to do with specificity.  But the American government is appreciative of the efforts that the Pakistanis are making.

     Q    Well, the stories are correct, aren't they, that we've asked them to turn over --

     Q    We've asked Pakistan --

     Q    I think the question is, what's the response back from the Taliban, through the Pakistanis?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I cannot confirm those reports, that the Pakistanis are doing that.

     Q    Ari, where are we in terms of the coalition that the President is trying to build?  Do you have a list of countries that are on line?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I don't think you're going to see a list of the coalition.  What you're going to see is an effort by nations around the world to do their part.  And I've already walked through with you the types of activities that the United States is talking to these nations about, whether it's political, economic, military, financial, diplomatic.

     And I think what you're going to see is, to varying degrees, different nations around the world doing different things, different levels of support.  Some nations, many nations, it's going to be rather robust.  It's going to incorporate many of the areas.  For some, it may be a contribution in smaller ways, one or two ways on what I just indicated.  And it will vary from nation to nation, as each nation is able.  And that's the type of effort that the President is working on world leaders with.

     Q    Are we asking them to do specific things, or is that -- is it that nebulous, that everybody offers --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I just indicated some very specific categories, and we are asking nations to do specific things.

     Q    And is the President at all concerned about some of the comments that have come out -- President Putin, German officials, Italian officials -- which are not as robust in their support.  Italian officials saying the word "war" is inappropriate; German officials saying their military is not going to get involved?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  And as you know, Secretary Rumsfeld spoke with the Italian Defense Ministry and was very encouraged with Italy's response and reaction.  So, too, was the President, based on his conversation with President (sic) Berlusconi.

     Q    And is the President -- is the administration going to work through the United Nations at all?  Some countries have said that they will get involved in a U.N. Security Council sanctioned operation.  What is the U.N. strategy?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President is going to continue to work with a variety of means.  And some are multilateral, some can include the United Nations, for example, others are going to be direct and bilateral.

     What you should expect is the President is going to do what it takes. And that means a variety of approaches that recognize the issues that different nations have to consider as he puts together a coalition to combat terrorism at all levels and on multiple levels.

     Q    Ari, what is the White House view of the extent and type of aid that should be provided for the airline industry?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, the President will meet today with his economic team to consider a variety of issues involved with helping the airline industry.  The President is very concerned about the health of the airline industry and he'll start to get some clear indications today about what possible options there may or may not be.

     Q    He will, or we will?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  He.

     Q    To follow up on Terry's question, can you tell us with specificity whether the President intends currently to seek U.N. Security Council sanction on any military activities apart of this campaign?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me try to obtain that.

     Q    And a follow up on Keith's question.  Is it just the airline industry that the President is concerned about, or are there other industries -- the insurance industry, other parts of the U.S. economy that may be upstream or downstream from --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, that's why I said he's going to have a briefing today on the status of the economy.  And, of course, the economy includes multiple sectors.

     Q    But the airline industry has received special attention.  Should there be others that also are going to receive special White House attention, like the insurance industry?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I think you have to allow the meeting this afternoon to take place, and I'll tell you -- to the degree I can -- what type of conversations the President is having.

     Q    When we take whatever military action we're going to take, what are the risks of, one, retaliation back to us and, two, getting moderate Arabs and Muslims mad at us?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me take the first question.  I think what people have to recognize -- and I think you are hearing it and seeing it from the President and all his advisors -- is America is preparing for war.  And that does include the risks and the possibilities of harm to Americans, wherever they may be, including at home.  And that's why the President has cautioned that people must be vigilant.  The nation and the government are doing everything it can.  But one of the great blessings of our country is our openness, and with that openness comes risk.  And that is the reality of the world we face right now.

     Q    And diplomatically, the moderate Arab states and so on being not so happy about --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President will continue to work building coalitions with different nations, and different nations will respond accordingly.  But many of these nations face risks if they don't do anything.

     Q    Ari, can you speak to the concerns about if Pakistan gets involved with an attack on Afghanistan, how internal strife may destabilize a country with nuclear weapons?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm not going to get into hypotheticals.

     Q    It's not a hypothetical, it's an analysis.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm not going to get into hypotheticals.

     Q    Ari, has the President spoken to Chairman Greenspan?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I don't know.  I'll have to ask.

     Q    Do you have a reaction on the Fed action?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No.  The President -- the standard policy of not commenting on interest rate cuts is in place.

     Q    To follow up on Keith's question, it sounds like the President is supporting some sort of bailout package, but they're just working on exactly what form and how much it will be?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, I didn't indicate that.  I said the President is going to have a briefing today about economic conditions, including that of the airline industry.  So I just urge you to suspend until the meeting can take place.

     Q    -- to stimulate the economy, specifically, that the President is considering now?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I couldn't hear the beginning of your question.

     Q    Are there other options that the President is considering taking to stimulate the economy?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I can only ask you to let the meeting take place, and I'll try to give you a report.

     Q    Do you expect decisions at that meeting, or not?  Difficult to say?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  It will take place in five, six hours, and I'll be available.

     Q    Over the weekend there were two -- seems to be the first of the killings for the backlash against Arab Americans, Muslim, Middle Eastern and -- and a Pakistani killed in Dallas, and a Sikh in Phoenix.  Is today's Islamic event -- the Islamic Center event related to that, and does the President have a comment about those deaths?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I can tell you, the President wanted to go there exactly out of -- well, for two reasons.  One is because it's just the right thing to do.  It is the tradition in the history of our nation -- we are a nation of immigrants.  We are a nation from around the world.  And no matter where someone comes from or when they got here, they are just as American and they love our country just as much as everyone else.  And that's true in times of war, just as much as it's true in times of peace. But it needs to be said more often in times of war.  And that's why the President is going.

     He's very concerned about any violence that would take place to anybody as a result of ethnicity or background.  And he -- I can tell you, in the private meetings he's been in with members of Congress, the President has said to the members directly, it is a leadership test for all of you -- for all of us -- to speak out and tell people, and remind people, that Muslim Americans and Arab Americans love this country, too.  And I think that is going to be an ongoing issue where it's important for all leaders to speak out.  And the President will do so today.  It's important.

     Q    On the domestic front, how similar will this wartime footing be to past wartime footings?  Will we see rationing?  Will we see a draft? Will we see sacrifice on those levels in this country?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I can't predict.  I just can't say.

     Q    Are you interested in preparing the country to make those kinds of sacrifices?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I think the country gets it.  I think the country understands that we're heading into what the President calls a new war of the 21st century.  And I think the country also understands that this is not 1941.  I think the country understands that in a war on terrorism, you're dealing with people who don't have capital cities, they don't have troops of the traditional nature.  And that means the war is going to get fought on multiple levels, as Secretary Cheney talked about -- as Vice President Cheney talked about.  I just think the American people get that, and the American people are preparing.

     Q    Ari, there are apparently a lot of people on Capitol Hill that don't feel that they're being as well informed by the White House as they should be.  Does the White House agree with that, and are there plans to increase the flow of information over to the Hill?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  As I stated repeatedly, conversations with the Hill are terribly important.  The Hill has a vital role to play at this time, and they have an important role to play at all times.  They have a vital role to play.  And the Office of Congressional Affairs is working as hard as they can to work with all members of Congress to provide them with everything we can possibly provide.

     Q    So they are being provided sufficient information?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  We hope so.  I mean, I recognize that there are going to be some who differ with the amount of information that is provided, but the administration is going to work as hard as it can to satisfy all possible concerns.

     Q    Ari, in terms of getting the country prepared for war -- and I'm not asking for specifics -- does the President want to, and does he plan to travel the country and seek out different venues where he can make that case outside of Washington?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  He does want to, yes.  And I'm not going to get too far down that road on the schedule, but I think you can anticipate that in time.

     Q    Ari, has the President been involved in any discussions relating to Reagan National Airport, or have you heard him discuss the issue?  Has he expressed his views on the subject to Secretary Mineta or --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I don't know.  I don't know about the President specifically and Reagan.

     Q    How about others here at the White House?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I'd have to run some -- I couldn't tell you about every conversation everybody has had.

     Q    Ari, in light of the Vice President's comments yesterday about having confidence in our country, the last I checked to Dow was down over 500 points.  Do you have any comments on this opening or any advice to investors or anything?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, one.  Given what took place in the Asian markets and other markets, some could say that this is not unexpected.  But beyond that, the fundamentals of the economy remain very strongly and solidly in place.  And markets are long-term, and I'm not going to comment on fluctuations, large or small, up or down on any given day.

     Q    How much attention is the President paying to domestic issues and to the economy in specific, given that, obviously --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  There's no doubt, in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the President spent most of his time planning on security details. But as you know, Secretary O'Neill has been a part of these conversations at varying levels, and the President is concerned and is focusing his time on the economy and on the domestic consequences of this.  But I don't want to give you any other indication.  In the immediate aftermath, the President's first thoughts were on matters of security.

     Q    On the request that the Attorney General and the FBI Director will be making of Congress on changing the way that Congress deals about wire-tapping and other things, what is the sense of urgency that the administration on having that legislation passed?  Is it something that it needs as a tool to deal with the current situation of peril that the administration has -- the country in, or is it something that can wait and see two or three months down the road?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President supports the Attorney General's efforts, of course.  There are important steps that can be taken to enhance our ability to prevent attacks on the United States and to win this war.  But beyond that, I think you're going to get a briefing from -- and the details, at 12:30 p.m. from the appropriate officials.

     Q    The sense of urgency, though?

     Q    What are the President's thoughts about balancing civil rights against the need for stepped up protection?  Where does he -- how does he see this, how do you have balance for this?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President thinks that we can and must have both. It's vitally important to have both.

     Q    Will we need to infringe, even slightly, on civil liberties, in order to protect ourself at this point?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President, again, thinks that you can have both. And that has to be the goal of policy makers.

     Q    You may have already answered this.  If so, I just didn't hear the question.  Any reaction to the Taliban's reported refusal to turn over bin Laden?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I indicated that I didn't confirm that anybody -- the Pakistanis had asked for it.  I can't confirm that they have.

     Q    Who's attending the NSC meeting now?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The usual National Security Council team.  I didn't look in the room, but it was presumably Secretary of Defense, Condoleezza Rice, Secretary Powell.  I don't have a list in front of me.

     Q    Ari, the early indications are that although we've seen a great increase in flag sales, we did not see any dramatic increase or even noticeable increase in enlistment in the armed services.  Number one, is the President disappointed by that, and, number two, is the administration considering taking any steps to boost enlistment?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  You know, I think that's a DOD issue.  But from everything that I have heard, the volunteer forces that we have are the world's finest and best and are capable of the task to which they will be assigned.

     THE PRESS:  Thank you.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Thank you.  I'll be back to brief later.

                             END                10:10 A.M. EDT

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