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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 1, 2002
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:27 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. The President began his day today with a briefing from the Central Intelligence Agency, followed by his usual FBI briefing, and then he convened a meeting of the Homeland Security Council.
Then the President met in the Oval Office with the King of Jordan, where they discussed the path to peace in the Middle East. And then the President dropped by a meeting that his National Security Advisor was having with the Foreign Minister of Israel, where they focused on helping to relieve the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people.
The President is having lunch now with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of Treasury, to discuss the economy. And later this afternoon the President will sign an important health measure into law that will attempt to alleviate the nursing shortage throughout the country, particularly in those under-served areas where there is a nursing shortage.
One final statement and then I'll be happy to take your questions. The Senate earlier today had a very important test vote on passage of trade promotion authority. The President believes that passage of trade promotion authority will result in more jobs for America's workers and for America's ranchers. The more markets that are opened up to the American worker around the world means the more places American goods and services will be sold, which creates jobs for Americans right here at home.
The President is very grateful to the Senate for taking action on trade promotion authority and he'll, of course, look for the final vote. But a decade-long trend appears to be breaking and a new trend beginning, where the President will finally have trade promotion authority.
Q Ari, is the President aware of, did he have any reaction to the investigation of the home of a former Fort Detrick scientist in the anthrax scare?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's the first I've heard of this. I don't have any information on it, Bill. Scott.
Q The President made pretty clear in the photo op he wasn't budging on Iraq, he was going to tell the King he's still -- he's adamant about a regime change. The other day the King called this, the idea of an attack on Iraq, somewhat ludicrous. Did he express any of these objections to the President in this meeting today?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think you heard in the public session the tenor of the conversation between the two leaders. The President does feel very strongly about this matter. I think the American people do, as well, and the President, as he indicated when he spoke in the Oval Office, will continue to formulate options, to think about what the appropriate course is and will continue to consult as he does so.
Q I know you speak for the President, but what did the King say to the President --
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, I do not speak for other leaders when they come to the White House.
Q Do you know whether they talked about urging Israeli restraint after this attack a couple days ago?
MR. FLEISCHER: They did not speak specifically about the attack. The President expressed the condemnation and the anger that he felt in the public session.
Q What recent provocation can the President show the American people by Iraq against America to justify bombing Iraq, killing Americans and killing Iraqis?
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. Without going into the second part of your question --
Q Recent. Recent provocation. Anything that would justify going to war.
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. Without going into the second part of your question and justification for any potential action that the President may or may not decide to take --
Q He doesn't think he has to have one?
MR. FLEISCHER: The fact of the matter is Iraq today is thumbing its nose at the world. Iraq is not honoring the obligations it committed to when Saddam Hussein signed a peace agreement to end the Persian Gulf War. He continues to refuse to allow weapons inspectors into Iraq, he continues to violate the policies that allow for oil to be exported from Iraq. Saddam Hussein has thumbed his nose at the world, and has lied and not kept his obligations.
Q Thumbed his nose at the U.N., but not at the U.S. per se, so why is it a U.S. role?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I thought you would be the first to say the U.S. plays a role in the U.N. We belong. And Saddam Hussein's --
Q Okay, then vote in the U.N.
MR. FLEISCHER: When Saddam Hussein violates his word that he gave when the Persian Gulf War ended, by saying he would allow for unfettered inspection by international inspectors, and does not keep his word, that's a real cause of concern for the United States and for the United Nations.
Q It may be a cause of concern, but is it a cause to go to war and kill a lot of people?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to speculate about what the future may or may not hold.
Q Ari, back in the Gulf War, one of the reasons given for not toppling Saddam then was fear of upsetting a balance between Iran and Iraq. What's happened since then that would now make it -- you know, make carrying out U.S. policy of replacing Saddam more acceptable in the region, or more productive?
MR. FLEISCHER: Randy, I think it's safe to say that on an overwhelming bipartisan conclusion, when the Congress voted and President Clinton signed into law the language of the legislation that made regime change the policy of our government, policymakers in both parties reached a thoughtful conclusion that President Bush supports, that the world would be better off and the region would be safer with Saddam Hussein removed from power. And the reasons for that are because of the instability that Saddam Hussein has brought to the region, the threats to the lives of the millions of people who live in the region that Saddam Hussein represents, and the bellicose nature of Iraq's regime.
And that's why you've seen such an unusual, bipartisan showing of support for legislation calling for a regime change.
Q Ari, two quick questions for you. One, is President aware of the press reports from London that now 22-year-old Osama bin Laden's son -- is control of all al Qaeda operations? And it's just like, like father, like son. And he's said he's ready to take his father's --
MR. FLEISCHER: Regardless of who it is who may or may not be in any type of positions of power in what's left of al Qaeda, the President is focused on defeating al Qaeda as an entity, and he's focused on defeating terrorism wherever it exists. He's less interested in the names of any individual who may be involved, as much as he is in rounding up every individual who may have any type of role in sponsoring terrorism. So the President is really not interested in the names; he's interested in the capture of all.
Q And, second, in connection with the terrorists held at Cuba -- in Cuba, Guantanamo Bay, some of them, they have filed lawsuit against President Bush. If you have seen the proffer of the lawsuit?
MR. FLEISCHER: I've known what the courts have ruled about this matter, and the courts have already spoken on it and nothing has changed.
Q The President has been saying all along that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. But today we had some manufacturing numbers that came out showing that manufacturing slowed a lot more than expected in July. So why is he so confident? And what fundamentals is he referring to?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Heidi, as you know from being a financial reporter, on any given day, you're going to have a wide variety of data released. And much of the data can give different pictures of the economy. But, by every measure, most of the data that is coming out does support the private sector belief, the government's belief that the economy is growing.
Yesterday we talked about that blue chip private forecasters continue to believe that the economy will grow between 3 and 3.5 percentage points this year. The Federal Reserve economists have come to the same conclusion, that the economy will grow by 3 and 3.5 percentage points. And so every given day, all the experts review all the data that come out, and reach those conclusions.
Q But are there any data that you can point to other than forecasts, projections, actual data showing that we're in a recovery?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, certainly the fact that the economy grew by 5.0 percentage points in the first quarter. The economy grew, but a much smaller amount than the President would have liked, in the second quarter. When you take a look in the first-time claims for unemployment, you'll still see that there is -- first-time claims are below levels that would raise alarms.
So that today's release, for example, on first-time claims -- it comes out every Thursday. The employment picture remains somewhat strong in those reports. So, again, you can take a look at the scores of reports that come out on a weekly basis.
Q The United Nations, Jordan, France, Germany, all these countries against military action to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Does the President feel as if he's been effective in communicating his position, and does he feel that he in any way influenced King Abdullah today in articulating that position --
MR. FLEISCHER: I certainly hope you are not presuming that the President's position is military. The President has indicated he's made no decisions. The President is reviewing all the options that are available. That would include military options, diplomatic options, political, financial. And so I'm not aware the President has made any -- reached any conclusions, because he has not.
Q And if the President is not -- if military option does happen, and other countries don't come on board, is the United States prepared to do it alone?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I can't answer a speculative question about a hypothetical that doesn't exist.
Q Ari, the President was asked, regarding the terrorist attack at the university in Israel in which five Americans were killed, whether or not this would provoke the United States to open up a front on its war on terror there. His answer was that he -- that we already have actions in Afghanistan and the Philippines. I wonder, can you explain what those actions have to do with a terrorist attack in Israel?
MR. FLEISCHER: The point the President is making is that the war against terrorism is a multi-front war. And in different regions of the world, the war is being fought differently. In Afghanistan, it's being fought through a variety of means that includes the military. So, too, in the Philippines, through training programs.
In the Middle East, it's being fought through diplomacy, it's being fought with financial means, it's being fought through political means. And those are the steps -- and the President, from the beginning, after September 11th, said different regions of the world will require a different response to terror. But wherever terror is, the United States is determined to fight it.
Sadly, the attacks that took place in Israel yesterday have claimed American lives. And the President is just as determined to fight terror in the Middle East as he is everywhere else in the world. It's taken too many lives of too many people from a variety of nationalities, and now including Americans.
Q If I can follow on Suzanne's question. The President did seem to stress today that he is leaving open all options regarding Iraq. However, we've never seen any reports of "the diplomatic secret plan" for resolving a problem in Iraq. (Laughter.) But as you know, we keep seeing potential military scenarios. Is there such a diplomatic option in the works?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, let me fill you in on the diplomatic secret plan. (Laughter.) As you know, the United States works very hard through the United Nations, through world organizations, to bring political and diplomatic pressure to bear, so that Saddam Hussein does live up to the obligations that he committed to when the Persian Gulf War ended.
Saddam Hussein is the one who signed a peace agreement saying that we would have weapons inspectors in Iraq to make certain that Iraq did not develop weapons of mass destruction -- the object of which was not to have inspectors in the country. The object of which -- that's the process. The objective is to stop Iraq from getting weapons of mass destruction that, if they were to obtain them, they would be used either against America, America's allies, or be used to blackmail the United States with the threat of being used against America's allies -- most likely target being, of course, Israel.
And that is why Saddam Hussein has got to be held, in the President's opinion, accountable for the commitments and the promises that he made that he would not develop weapons of mass destruction. That effort is being, again, undertaken through the United Nations, that's a diplomatic effort. And as I indicated earlier, Saddam Hussein has thumbed his nose at it. And as Secretary Rumsfeld testified on the Hill yesterday -- or others testified on the Hill yesterday -- I don't believe it was the Secretary -- others testified before Senator Biden's committee -- Saddam Hussein will lie.
Q Ari, I have two questions for you on trade promotion authority. First of all, you sounded very optimistic today that things are going well. In case the President gets the Senate approval before he goes to Crawford, Texas, would he have a bill signing ceremony here, just like he did?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think that the bill won't be ready and enrolled and sent to us. And in any case, I don't think we need to move that quickly on the signing. I think you may hear from the President about how important this is, perhaps tomorrow, in terms of -- this is a singular, major accomplishment. And let me tell you what will follow as a result of free trade agreement -- free trade -- trade promotion authority being given to the President now.
There are several agreements that are trying to be negotiated around the world. Without trade promotion authority the President's hands are tied, he can only negotiate one country at a time. Most of the big trade agreements that lead to the most jobs for America's workers are the broader agreements that involve multiple countries.
Following the effort in Seattle back in the mid- to the late 1990s to negotiate a worldwide trade agreement, the Seattle talks, as everybody remembers, broke down. In Doha in 2001, through Ambassador Zoellick's work, the talks were successful. What's necessary now is to move beyond those Doha first round of talks and now implement a worldwide trade agreement. And Ambassador Zoellick stands ready, once the President has trade promotion authority, now to implement that on a multi-country basis.
The Free Trade Agreement of the Americas is another important regional trade initiative that is standing by, ready to be acted upon, if trade promotion authority can be granted to the President. Then, of course, these agreements would have to be submitted to the Congress for a straight up or down vote. They would not be amendable. That's one of the key strengths of trade promotion authority.
The bottom line of all these fuzzy sounding global agreements is more opportunities for the American people to market the products and the services they make abroad. The more foreigners buy American products, the more jobs there are for the American people. That's the strength of the Senate action today.
Q My follow up has to do again -- Secretary O'Neill and Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, you just said, are having lunch with the President today. The Secretary is traveling to South America next week. He's going to Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. The crisis in Argentina certainly has spread, it's now contagious, Brazil is having dire problems. Uruguay the same. Is the subject going to be broached today with the President, O'Neill and Chairman Greenspan?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm spending my lunch here with you, so I don't know what they're talking about. I will get a report, though, afterwards, and see what I can share with you. It's possible that's a topic; I just don't know.
Q On bill signing --
MR. FLEISCHER: I want to keep moving. Yes, ma'am.
Q On Mexico, Ari, you mentioned something in regards to a future meeting between President Fox and President Bush in Crawford, Texas. Do we have the date for this meeting, and what's on the agenda? Immigration, probably?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, I didn't quite mention it. (Laughter.)
Q Or we understood that --
MR. FLEISCHER: I was answering an inquiry that supposed the meeting was going to take place. We will be announcing shortly the President's more complete agenda for his trip down to Crawford in August. And as I indicated, the President will be meeting with a foreign leader while he's there.
Q Just one?
MR. FLEISCHER: Just one. And the President enjoys a very good, close relationship with Mexico, and he looks forward to all his meetings with President Fox.
Q Do we have anything on the table for the two Presidents to talk about? Immigration? The situation with Cuba? Business -- from Mr. Fox?
MR. FLEISCHER: As always, whenever a meeting is announced, more information will follow about any agenda for any of those meetings. I think it's premature now to guess.
Q To follow-up on the questions about Hamas, why doesn't the White House take action against Hamas or its backers -- Iran or other countries? There is the precedent, in 1986, President Reagan went after Libya because one American was killed at a disco bombing in Germany. So there is precedent for this.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President has indicated that we are taking action against terrorists, and that action comes in a wide variety of forums. And that's what the President is dedicated to.
Q There's been some question about long-term unemployment, and that that is not moving as quickly -- unemployment not moving as quickly as people would like, as the economists hope. Is the President going to be doing anything about trying to address that specific issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that is one of the issues that the President is most concerned about. The President, when he began the year, warned about the risks of a jobless recovery, urged Congress to take action on the stimulus package and extended unemployment benefits for 13 weeks to help people who were unemployed.
The President believes that if any one person is unemployed, that's one person too many. And that's something that the President will continue to focus on as he looks to get the economy moving in even higher numbers than it already is.
The stimulus package did include some of what the President asked for. It did not include all of what the President asked for to help give a boost to the economy. But given the fact that we also learned yesterday that the recession actually began earlier than anybody thought, lasted longer than anybody thought, the unemployment rate is at a lower level than it historically has been for most recessions.
But it remains a top priority for the President. And the best way to deal with unemployment, to deal with the economy, is for Congress to continue its work to send trade promotion authority to the President. And one of the best ways to create jobs fastest is for Congress to take action on terrorism insurance legislation -- without which, hundreds of thousands of construction jobs are at risk, because businesses are not getting the insurance they need. And most of the businesses affected are in urban areas, and these businesses are involved in the construction trades, but they can't get insurance for their large construction projects.
Talk about a provision that affects the bread and butter of working-class Americans, this is an issue where the Senate -- the Congress has yet to act. And the President hopes they will.
Q Back on the bombing, the President says he's furious about it. But it doesn't sound like he's really going to do anything about it other than what he's already doing. Is that --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I just have to dissuade you from the notion that when the President says that the United States is going to take steps that involve political, military, diplomatic, financial, and he doesn't spell out for you which one of those options it is, that you say he's not doing anything. The United States is continuing to do a variety of things to combat terrorism, and we will continue to do so.
Q And is there a message to Israel in there, that you all do whatever you want to do and we're with you on it?
MR. FLEISCHER: As the President indicated, Israel has a right to defend itself. And he always cautions that it's important to remember the consequences of any actions to promote peace. But this was a horrific act of violence, a horrific act of terror.
Q Further following up on that, a few minutes ago when you said that the U.S. is just as determined to fight terrorism in the Middle East as anywhere else, were you opening the door to a direct U.S. response to this Palestinian attack at Hebrew University?
MR. FLEISCHER: The United States is making direct responses through the variety of the means I just outlined. We do so through their political means, through diplomatic means, and we continue to do that.
Q I'm referring now to a specific direct response that would be seen as a direct response --
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I just refer you back to what the President indicated today.
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no question that the President believes that these people who engage in these acts of terrorism are the Palestinians' worst enemies, let alone Israel's worst enemies. And now, these people have taken American lives.
There's no question that people who engage in these homicide bombings do not believe in the cause of peace, and they represent some of the biggest obstacles to the Palestinian people's ability to achieve a state.
Q Ari, Senate Democrats say a prescription drug bill is dead for this year. Some Republican senators are making this a campaign issue. With older Americans caught in the middle, does the President plan to try and get a prescription drug bill passed before November?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President would dearly love to have a prescription drug bill passed before November. He hopes that the Congress will be able to return to this issue. Obviously, the House of Representatives -- here's what's happened now.
The House of Representatives has passed legislation to get seniors prescription drugs. President Bush supports the legislation. It can happen if the Senate can figure out how to get its act together and get it done. The House was able to. The President is ready, willing and able to sign. The missing partner is the Senate, and the President hopes that we can work with the Senate to get this done.
There was a path for it to have been done in the Senate and, unfortunately, the leadership of the Senate chose a partisan path as opposed to letting a bipartisan bill emerge from a place that had enough votes to get it moving, and that was the Senate Finance Committee. It's a very puzzling thing that the most bipartisan plan of all was yanked out of the Senate Finance Committee, where it could have been most likely passed by the floor of the Senate with a bipartisan vote.
Q Ari, I'm interested in why you won't get specific about U.S. involvement in or response to the deaths of five Americans in Israel. Is the FBI investigating? Do we assume that Israel is better prepared to deal with a response to the situation without our help? Tell us why the President -- why we're not seeing a visible U.S. response to the murders of five Americans here?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the United States has been in direct contact with Israel, through the embassy, and will continue to be, to develop leads about who is responsible for this attack. And we will continue to work with Israel on those matters.
Q In the last week, there have been amendments added to both the homeland security department bill and the Defense appropriations bill that would prohibit any company that established offshore tax havens from receiving federal contracts from those departments. Would the President consider vetoing the Defense appropriations bill if the Wellstone amendment is kept in it?
MR. FLEISCHER: I've heard no talk about that. The United States is -- the President is committed to working with the Congress to take action to prevent sham transactions that would protect corporations from paying the taxes that they are supposed to pay.
MR. FLEISCHER: I've noticed. (Laughter.)
Q We also hear about disputes within the administration over Iraq, and we have hearings on the Hill about Iraq. Isn't all this chatter making it difficult to actually make planning for whatever it is you're going to do about Hussein?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that if Saddam Hussein picked up America's newspapers and read them, he'd be really confused right now, not a bad outcome.
Q Does that means it's intentional?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think that's the case. As the President says, there are a lot of number fours and number fives who really don't know anything about what they're talking about who happen to talk.
Q Ari, you just said before that we're in contact with Israel to develop leads about who is responsible. We know who's responsible, it's Hamas. They've claimed credit for it. And what we are all asking you, in different ways here, is why is this attack different from 9/11, when the President went down to Wall Street, to Ground Zero, and said, the people who did this are going to hear from us. Why isn't he saying something similar here? Is it that five lives aren't enough?
MR. FLEISCHER: The United States is already in the middle of an active war against terrorism. That's why Hamas is on the list of terrorist organizations, that's why the President has been as strong as he has been in confronting the veiled leadership of the Palestinian Authority, and will continue to be as strong as he has been in supporting Israel in its war against terror. And those efforts will continue at the presidential level, and at all levels.
Q Ari, in the stakeout, Foreign Minister Peres tried to draw a distinction between going after terror and going after Palestinians. And in that context, he brought up some economic initiatives and some security initiatives that Israel is prepared to take. Did he share those with the President, and if so, what was the President's reaction to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the focus -- I'm not going to get into all the specifics, but the focus was on humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. The President completely agrees it is vital to make a distinction between the Palestinian people and the terrorists who prey upon them and who prey upon Israel and who prey upon other innocents. And the Palestinian people have not been helped by their failed leadership.
But the Palestinian people have a crying humanitarian need. And the President wants to work with Israel, and Israel has indicated a willingness to take steps that are concrete to help improve the humanitarian conditions for the Palestinian people. And the President is going to support those steps and continue to work with Israel on it.
Q Last night the Senate confirmed the President's nominees for the Federal Reserve Board. I was curious if you happen to know when the President will sign-off on that so they can get to work on the Board? And for the economy overall, is the President encouraged that the Senate took action so quickly to get them confirmed, so they can get to work on economic issues?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President is of course always grateful whenever the Senate confirms anybody. But there are many more people who are waiting in line in the Senate to be confirmed. And it's important that the Senate finish its business, because there are many jobs that are waiting for their officially confirmed office-holders to be able to assume their full powers and full duties, at the Federal Reserve and at other places as well.
And it took the Senate a little while to even confirm people for vacancies at the Securities and Exchange Commission. So the President will continue to look toward the Senate for action on these positions, and he hopes that before they leave, either tonight or tomorrow, the Senate will be able to do what Senates usually do, which is on their way out of town, confirm an awful lot of people who have been hanging. And the President does have a commitment from Senator Daschle to do that. Senator Daschle has said so publicly.
Q One last time, when the President said that Israel must defend herself, does that mean that's a green light for action from the United States? Does that mean the U.S. will support action --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is saying the same thing that he has always said, that Israel has a right to defend herself and Israel makes its own judgments.
Q -- Jordanian King, are there concrete steps or agreements that you can point to that -- were reached with the President, aimed at moving forward the Middle East peace process?
MR. FLEISCHER: The concrete steps that are being focused right now on the Middle East peace process, vis-a-vis the Palestinians, are a creation of a constitution, the creation of security forces under a unified command that are effective, and the fight against corruption by setting up financial systems that allow for money to be spent on schools, on health care projects, as opposed to being siphoned off for corruption.
Those are the three principal areas that focus on the institution building of the Palestinian entities that will give confidence to Palestinian people, to the Arab neighbors, to the Israeli people, and to the United States, as well as Europe and Russia and the Quartet, that Palestinians are indeed creating institutions that everybody would hope get created for a state to be born.
Q And you're saying that Jordan is playing a role in --
MR. FLEISCHER: Absolutely, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are playing very helpful roles in all of this.
Q When you said a moment ago that the United States is in direct contact with the embassy in an effort to continue to develop leads, is the United States taking an active role in the investigation of this attack?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think this is something that Israel is leading the effort in.
Q Ari, as the United States formulates its response to the bombing, is one of the factors you take into account whether or not Americans were actually targeted, or just happened to tragically be present and Israelis were the ones who were actually targeted?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that for the families, it does not make any difference. Americans have been killed, and that's why the President expressed his outrage and his anger about this attack.
Q But does the United States in any way see a distinction between Americans tragically who were present, as opposed to Americans being targeted, as you try to figure out what your response should be? Do you see a difference in kind there at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: I really don't. I don't think the President makes that distinction.
Randy and then Les.
Q Ari, was the President encouraged by the arrests of WorldCom -- two WorldCom executives this morning? And do actions like that provide the sort of deterrent the President was seeking when he signed the Corporate Responsibility Act?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the Justice Department will have additional announcements, or an announcement, to make later today about this topic. But suffice it to say the President is determined that people who break America's laws and engage in corporate practices that are corrupt will be investigated and will be held liable, will be held accountable, and will likely end up in the pokey, where they belong.
Q Ari, on Saturday, August the 17th, after you all have gone off to Crawford, advocates of black reparations are hoping to attract a crowd of one million to Washington to demand up to $10 trillion in reparations to blacks for slavery that ended 136 years ago. And my question, what is President Bush's position on such black reparations demands?
MR. FLEISCHER: I would refer you to the same comments that I made when you asked me that question, about -- I think it was a year ago. Same position then.
Q A year ago, you remember?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q You remember it, Ari? I don't remember --
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, I always remember your questions.
Q What was it, just to refresh my less-than-agile mind, like yours?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sure you'll find it in the transcript.
Q Wait a minute, wait a minute -- no, I have my second question. Harvard's AIDS researcher, Dr. Bruce Walker, told the 14th International Conference on AIDS of an HIV-positive Boston man whose immune system had been fighting this infection, but who had unprotected sex with a male partner who has a second strain of HIV, which makes development of a vaccine next to impossible. And my question: since there are reports in San Francisco and New York of widespread resumption of unsafe sex, does the President believe that taxpayers should continue paying for the treatment of people who have AIDS and deliberately spread it, or who engage in unsafe sex?
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, I have no idea about any of the circumstances that you cited with those examples
Q No idea? All right.
MR. FLEISCHER: Ken.
Q Ari, just a point of clarification. When the President made the remarks this morning regarding terrorists who commit these acts in the name of -- I believe he used "false religions" was his term. What exactly was he saying? And I ask this simply because, as you know, when he used the word "crusade" way back when, there was some criticism then. So I was just wondering if you could clarify exactly what he meant.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes very deeply that Islam is a religion of peace. And there are people who use the pretext of religion as an excuse to kill Jews, to kill Israelis, and now to kill Americans. And the President will oppose that with every fiber in his body. And the President knows the peaceful intent of the Islamic religion.
These people who are terrorists are radicals, they're extremists, and they represent a threat to not only the people of Israel, but the people in the region, and especially to the Palestinian cause themselves -- itself.
Q Back to the five Americans killed in Jerusalem. Do you feel like they were targeted because they were Americans? Or it happened that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think I could possibly be in a position to evaluate that.
Q Ari, you have defended the President's vacation in August from this podium. How does he feel about --
MR. FLEISCHER: Will you be down there?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we hope you will join us.
Q I'll be with my son. (Laughter.) But my question is, how does the President personally feel about all these criticisms that have been thrown at him?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he's used to the silliness of Washington. It kind of just rolls off his back. And he's looking forward to getting down there, and -- it's a silly, silly town sometimes.
Q Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
END 12:59 P.M. EDT