For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 3, 2002
Press Gaggle with Ari Fleischer
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1:27 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. We're on our way to Pittsburgh for
the President's Labor Day events. It will be a two-part event, so
we'll watch a group of carpenters and workers go through a training
program where they build a house. It's an actual mock home that they
use as their training facility. So the President will witness the
construction, and then the President will give remarks about the
importance of workers to America, honor those on Labor Day who have
given so much to our country, talk about the economy and give
generalized, overall remarks. Nothing very different from what you've
heard before. Very similar.
And that's it for today. And then let me just say the President
looks forward to getting back to business here in Washington, which
promises to be a very important and busy five-week period before
Congress leaves to campaign for reelection. The President sees this as
a window to get things done for the country, particularly in terms of
enacting homeland security legislation into law so the country can be
better protected; securing more economic -- providing more economic
security for the American people as a result of passage of terrorism
insurance, which will create jobs; energy legislation which will
provide energy security to our country, something always in need. And
there are many other important legislative matters that are pending,
and the President views this as a window to get things done. And he
will work closely with the Congress to do that.
We'll have a number of meetings at the White House this week with
members of Congress to talk about the legislative agenda.
Q Who's coming in tomorrow?
MR. FLEISCHER: Tomorrow is a meeting on homeland security, so it
will be a group of senators to talk about the prospects for getting the
Senate to pass the bill.
Q Democrats as well as Republicans?
MR. FLEISCHER: They're coming in over several different days;
we'll have several different groups. So I'll have the exact lists out
tomorrow. It will be bipartisan. They may come down in groups of
Republicans, groups of Democrats. But throughout the week both parties
are going to be heavily -- they'll have a heavy presence at the White
House, both parties will.
Q Is tomorrow's meeting bipartisan, is it open, and what time is
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have tomorrow's schedule here. I think
it's still photos at the top, is what we announced last week. And I
don't recall if tomorrow is Rs or Ds first. I just don't remember.
Q Is it Senate only tomorrow?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q Is there anything on the public schedule tomorrow?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have tomorrow's schedule, so -- there
wasn't when we put it out last week.
Q Is the President disturbed to see the kind of stories that
suggest Colin Powell is not on board with administration policy? And
how can the President let these -- his administration figures speak so
differently about something that's such a priority for him?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, they haven't spoken differently. They've
spoken the same. I think this is much ado about no difference.
Q So the President agrees with Secretary Powell that there must
be an international coalition consensus before there is any attack on
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has always said that he will
consult. The President has always said that through leadership, others
follow. That creates coalitions and that continues to be the
President's view and the Secretary's view and the administration's
Q And Vice President Cheney agrees that there -- with Secretary
Powell on the need for inspectors to go back in?
MR. FLEISCHER: The American position, as the Vice President said
in his remarks, and Secretary Powell said, and as the President has
said, is that arms inspectors in Iraq are a means to an end, but the
end is knowledge that Iraq has lived up to its promises that it made to
end the Gulf War, that it has in fact disarmed, that it does not
possess weapons of mass destruction. And the President's position, the
Vice President's position, the Secretary's position consistently have
Q So hundreds of reporters are wrong? We're seeing a gap that
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's much ado about no difference.
Q Secretary Powell has told the BBC that inspectors should go
back as a first step. Does the President agree with that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's position is, of course, Saddam
Hussein needs to live up to the commitments he made at the end of the
Gulf War. Those commitments included making certain that Iraq did not
possess weapons of mass destruction, and that means, having weapons
inspectors there. Now, will weapons inspectors alone guarantee that he
doesn't have weapons of mass destruction? That's why the Secretary
said it's a first step.
Q And this -- earlier today, the Iraqi -- I believe it's Deputy
Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told us in South Africa, where he's attending
this development conference, he expressed greater openness to the
possibility of inspectors coming back than Iraq has recently. Does the
President see that as encouraging? Does he want to talk about that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Iraq changes positions on whether they'll let the
inspectors back in more often than Saddam Hussein changes bunkers.
Every day you get a different story out of Iraq. They don't have a
history of reliability.
Q So you don't view this as credible?
MR. FLEISCHER: Iraqi officials don't have a history of reliability
on their public statements.
Q Apparently there's a meeting tomorrow in Iraq about -- with
Kofi Annan about inspectors. I mean, do you view that as a positive
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll see what comes out of the meeting.
Q Is the President likely to take any questions today from the
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't talked to him about it.
Q Talk to him.
MR. FLEISCHER: Anything on your minds?
Q We'd like to talk to him about Iraq.
MR. FLEISCHER: Mr. President, what type of nail are you using?
Q Three-penny or four-penny, right?
Q Ari, the head of the AFL-CIO today is going to make some
remarks. He says that they're going to launch the most aggressive
political effort in our history to replace corporate controlled elected
officials with men and women who will do the work of people who work.
I mean, does this demonstrate a growing rift between the Republican
Party and the labor movement? And what does the President want to do
to close that rift?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is proud to spend his Labor Day with
working men and women, and leaders of their unions. There are
obviously some union leaders who have the willingness to put national
interests above partisan party interests. There are other union
leaders who are really appendages of the Democratic National
Committee. And the President will continue to build bridges to work
with labor leaders who are willing to work across what has historically
been a partisan divide. The President is working hard himself to
bridge that. And I think when you look at rank and file union workers,
there is increasing support for President George W. Bush and they are
not in lockstep with some of these older-line liberal labor leaders.
There's splits in the labor movement.
Q Do you think the President will take any questions today?
MR. FLEISCHER: I was just asked that. Don't know. I haven't
talked to him about it. So I don't know.
Q Can I ask you one more thing? Are you aware Ivanof today, the
Russian Prime Minister, is with Iraqi Foreign Minister and said that he
didn't see any reason why there should be any type of action against
Iraq. Do you have any reaction to what he said today?
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't seen what he said specifically, so I
don't have any reaction. The President has always said that regime
change is our bipartisan policy for our country, and the world would be
better off with a different leader at the helm of Iraq.
Q Any meeting scheduled with the congressional leadership as a
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me take a look at that. I know there's just a
lot of congressional meetings this week. I think I'll have a better
handle on it tomorrow.
Q What number trip is this for the President to Pennsylvania?
MR. FLEISCHER: We've got it in the material. I'll find out.
Q Who's up front with the President today?
MR. FLEISCHER: Do you have that, Harry? A couple of the union
leaders who -- Harry will get it.
Q Any chance for a news conference this week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Point noted. Nothing is planned. We'll let you
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I don't think there are any elected officials
Thank you, everybody.
END 1:36 P.M. EDT