|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 1, 2002
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:28 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning. I have no opening statement to begin, so we can start right away with questions.
Q Can you tell us how the Biden-Lugar resolution is weaker than the resolution that was passed in 1998, specifically?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President appreciates Senator Lugar and Senator Biden's efforts in this regard. The President appreciates all members of Congress for their thoughts and their suggestions. Specifically, on your question, the President believes that the Biden-Lugar draft ties his hands because it pulls back from many of the provisions that Congress itself cited in 1998, such as requiring or asking or demanding of Iraq to cease their support for terror, to stop repression of his own people, to cease threatening his neighbors. Those are three of the specifics that have been in previous contained bipartisan drafts of what the Congress passed, and also what the United Nations has spoken to and supported. That would not be found in the too narrow Biden-Lugar proposal.
Q But the Biden-Lugar proposal does allude to Iraq being on the list of known state sponsors of terrorism, and the 1998 resolution didn't authorize the use of force to address any of what you just talked about. So how could it be that this resolution is weaker?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because it omits those key provisions that I just cited that the President thinks --
Q But it provides for the use of force, which the 1998 resolution didn't.
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. And on that point, the President is grateful, for the fact that still the fundamental issue that Congress is focused on is the authorization of force. And as Congress debates the various "whereas" clauses, we're going to continue to listen to the Congress and work with the Congress. Dr. Rice met earlier today with Senator Lugar. And so we're going to continue the process. It's been a healthy one.
Q Is this resolution gaining any traction on Capitol Hill, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, I don't think I'm in a position to handicap --
Q Is it unacceptable?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President earlier today said it ties his hands, and that it's too narrow, too narrowly focused. And so we'll continue to work with Congress. I think what you're seeing in Congress, frankly, has been a real strong, bipartisan effort to support what the President has asked for. And the President has shown a real willingness to work with Congress. This has been a healthy process so far. I think it's winding down, coming to a conclusion. And the President tomorrow morning will meet with the four leaders of the Congress, a bipartisan meeting, House and Senate leaders. And I think that the Congress itself wants to be able to soon resolve this and speak with one voice.
Q Senator Lugar was up here this morning. Can you tell us who he was meeting with and what the White House message was?
MR. FLEISCHER: I just did. He met with Dr. Condi Rice this morning here. And the two of them talked about this and Condi shared with him really very much what I just shared with you all. And that's why I began it by praising Senator Lugar for his thoughts.
You know, this is a process where the "whereas" clauses are going to receive their fair amount of contemplation and debate; properly so. The declarative paragraph is what is the most important paragraph; after all, that's the one that authorizes the use of force with the bipartisan support of the United States Congress. And in this process, you saw earlier, there were drafts that were sent up to the Hill that referenced international peace -- and threats to international peace and security, which was boilerplate language taken out of previous United Nations resolutions, and we worked with Congress on that.
We'll continue to work with Congress on this and listen to helpful suggestions. But, ultimately, I think it's becoming increasingly clear that there is overwhelming bipartisan support for the essence of what the President is proposing. And until the drafting is conclusive and final and done, there's going to be continuing conversations.
Q One of the "whereas" clauses of the Biden-Lugar proposal does not include is a reference to the attempted assassination of the President's father. Does the President still believe that it's essential that the congressional resolution mention the fact that, as he put it, Saddam Hussein is the man who tried to kill his dad?
MR. FLEISCHER: Take a look at the draft that was publicly released after the initial discussions with the Congress about what was sent up there, and you'll see if that was in there or not. I just don't recall if it was or wasn't. Certainly that has been a factor that led to previous military action by the Clinton administration against the Iraqi regime. So it has previously led to military use of force.
Not an unserious matter to try to assassinate a former President. But there are many reasons that the President has cited, all of which point to Saddam Hussein's willingness to bring harm to the American people.
Q Is the President's message to lawmakers today and again tomorrow morning, don't send me, or don't write a resolution that looks like Lugar-Biden?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you heard the President himself. The President said that he does not want a resolution that ties his hands, that will result in the United Nations passing anything that's a pullback from what the United Nations has said. After all, why would the Congress speak in a softer voice than the United Nations when the issue is how to send an effective, clear, unmistakable message to Saddam Hussein so he knows that this time the world means business? And that's why the President feels strongly.
Q Will he take it that one step further to the lawmakers and say, don't write a resolution that looks like this, this will be unacceptable?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you heard what the President said. I can't go beyond what the President said. We'll continue to work closely with the Congress on it and we'll see where the ultimate outcome is.
Q If, as you say, what's most important is the authorizing paragraph, then this debate about the various "whereas" clauses, are they really deal-breakers, or is that part of negotiation? I mean, how much -- if you really care about authorization and you're getting what you want there, why are the "whereas" clauses -- how important are the "whereas" clauses?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the entire resolution is important, and it conveys a message. And the question is, what will Saddam Hussein do once he hears this message? Will he say, this is watered down from what they previously said, that I detect a backtracking from the United States, I detect a backtracking from the United Nations? If that's the message Saddam Hussein hears, that's problematic. And that's why the President thinks it's important that nothing be passed that ties his hands, that sends that clear and effective signal in the authorization of the use of force.
Q But if the authorization for use of force, either explicitly or in some other way, nods to a regime change, and he gets that message, I mean, why is that less important or less frightening or less intimidating --
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me -- let me --
Q -- than just stop oppressing your people? I mean, if you can go in and change the regime, you kind of solve the other problem, perhaps.
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me give you an example of something that is not in this draft that has been in previous statements by both the Congress and the United Nations, and that deals with United Nations Security Council Resolution 949. And this deals with ceasing -- Iraq ceasing any threats to its neighbors, which, after all, is what led to the war in 1991, when Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait in August of 1990. That's nowhere found in this resolution by Senator Biden and Senator Lugar.
So, in the event Saddam Hussein were to again threaten a neighbor, attack a neighbor, invade Kuwait, under this too-narrow resolution being discussed right now, the United States would not have the authorization to use force because Saddam Hussein invaded a neighbor.
That's why the President thinks, don't tie my hands, don't do anything that's too narrow. And that would be the case, that cited 949, U.N. Security Council Resolution 949, which we need to enforce. We need to make certain that Saddam Hussein doesn't miss any signals and attack any of his neighbors. But that's nowhere found in what Senator Lugar is working on.
But again, the point I want to emphasize is that we're listening, we're meeting. Condi had a good meeting with Senator Lugar this morning. And she welcomes, and the President welcomes the input from members of Congress. It's leading to a process that is heading toward finality. And that process is going to be inclusive because the President wants to have a big bipartisan vote. But at the same token, the President does not want his hands tied in a way that would confuse the world and weaken the resolutions that we seek to put in place.
Q If I could -- just one more? So by having these "whereas" sections, would that enable the White House to have the kind of flexibility you're talking about? If there was, say, another inspections process that got approved and somehow starts to happen, he'd have these other triggers that could be cited as a reason for taking action.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the inspections is not the issue. The issue is disarmament. Inspections doesn't negate what the United States and the United Nations are working on.
Q But Congress is trying to keep this focused on the weapons of mass destruction, and that involves --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Jean, I think you have to carefully analyze how many people are lining up behind the various proposals on the Hill, when you say Congress wants to keep it focused on WMD. I think that what the President has submitted to the Hill has very powerful, large, bipartisan majorities right now. The question is, different people continue to have ideas and we're going to continue to work with them all.
Q Yes, Ari, I have two questions for you. The first one has to do with the U.N. Russia, China and France continue to publicly say through high officials that they don't want military action, they want diplomatic steps to be taken. What happens -- and I hope it's not a hypothetical. But if the U.N. does not give the President the resolution he and Tony Blair are asking for, does the President feel the resolutions already existing are enough for the United States to take unilateral military action?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President feels that the resolutions that currently exist have been ignored, and if the United Nations were to pass just a warmed-up version of the existing resolutions, then the United Nations is going to be proven to not take Saddam Hussein seriously, and that the United Nations is at risk of being considered the League of Nations.
They've tried it for 10 years and it hasn't worked, and the President believes deeply that it is time for the United Nations to speak differently, to speak effectively, and not to repeat the mistakes that have been made for a decade that have only seen Saddam Hussein continue to build up his weapons. And so that's where the President's focus is.
Now, as to where matters stand with China and France and Russia, the dialogue is continuing. There are still conversations taking place at various diplomatic levels, and I think you're going to see those conversations continue for the time-being.
Q Can I ask you a question on internal politics? President Bush is the head of the Republican Party. He has expended a lot of time and effort in raising funds for different candidates. A very close race in the Senate and the House. Has the President expressed to you any opinion over the fact that Senator Robert Torricelli announced yesterday he will not run for reelection?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. I think the President is really focused on what he believes is the importance of electing a good man who has a positive agenda for New Jersey in Doug Forrester. And that's really where the President's focus has been. President Bush believes that Doug Forrester is a strong leader. He is somebody who is focused on pro-growth policies for New Jersey, pro-education policies. And he has a positive agenda.
Q Ari, is there concern here at the White House that the meetings taking place in Vienna between the weapons inspectors and representatives of the Iraqi government are undermining the President's efforts to get a single resolution out of the U.N.?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I have not heard that. I think there are some people who have had different thoughts about whether it should be one or two resolutions, people in other countries, with or without what's happening with Hans Blix in the meetings in Vienna. And those conversations will continue. But the President, again, thinks it's very important for the United Nations to act differently and not just repeat the mistakes that have been made for 10 years, that have allowed Saddam Hussein to think that he can act with impunity as he builds up his arms. And so the United States position remains that the best resolution -- and what we are seeking -- is one resolution.
Q Apparently, there's some support building for the two resolution method. What exactly is the White House's position on two resolutions? If it comes down to that, can you live --
MR. FLEISCHER: I just gave it to you.
Q But is there a middle ground that --
MR. FLEISCHER: I just gave you our position, Ken.
Q Isn't it true the State Department is crafting behind the scenes a compromise that would have a two-stage resolution with a trigger -- the second resolution with military force would kick in if Iraq doesn't comply with the first one?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has said clearly that he wants to see a one-resolution solution. He does not think that we need to send any signs of weakness to Saddam Hussein; that Saddam Hussein will exploit any opportunity he sees that gives him a signal that the world is not united, that the world is not speaking as one, and that the world is willing to give Saddam Hussein more time. Because more time for Saddam Hussein means more development of more weapons.
Q So just to follow, you're saying that this administration is absolutely, 100 percent, ruling out any support of any two-stage resolution such as the French --
MR. FLEISCHER: I can only say to you as plain as I have, this is what the President believes.
Q If I could do one more on a separate thing. Just going back to the subject of the congressional resolution, the President and you all have talked about the focus is disarming Saddam Hussein, disarming Iraq. Why then shouldn't the President solely have military force used for that focus, to disarm Saddam Hussein?
MR. FLEISCHER: If you're saying, why should the United States retreat from the previous positions taken by the United Nations and the United States Congress, it's because retreating in the face of Saddam Hussein's threat is not an option.
Q But it's unfair to really compare it, because the previous resolutions didn't authorize the use of force. You're talking about authorizing the use of military force. And my question is, if --
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, that supposes that the people who passed regime change didn't mean it, or they thought that Saddam Hussein would term-limit himself. And when they passed regime change in 1998, you have to assume that they meant it. And they cited all those reasons in there about the Iraqi violations of the oil-for-food program, which by the way, he uses to build up his arms. So therefore, it's important to mention it, not to leave it unsaid. That's how he's getting his money for arms. They cited his support for terror, his repression of people, his hostility toward his neighbors. All of these were cited in 1998 by the Congress as why regime change is necessary.
Q But they didn't authorize the use of force to bring about regime change.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's why I said, unless they didn't mean what they voted for in 1998 -- and I don't think Congress indicated that -- or unless they thought Saddam Hussein was into term limits, they remain important criteria today.
Q Ari, the CBO has new estimates that the war in Iraq would cost between $9 billion and $13 billion. Does the White House think that's too low?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President has not made any decisions about military action or what military option he might pursue. And so I think it's impossible to speculate. I can only say that the cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than that. The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that. The cost of war is more than that. But there are many options that the President hopes the world and people of Iraq will exercise themselves of that gets rid of the threat. But it's impossible to say what the President options are militarily from a price tag, because he's made no decisions.
Q Should they be making these estimates?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Congressional Budget Office is a separate branch of the government, they work for the Congress.
Q Ari, two questions. First, I noticed the President this morning, when he said the goal is disarmament, did not mention regime change. And when you go through the Lugar-Biden bill, it doesn't really dwell on regime change as being an objective here in the way that it was in '98.
MR. FLEISCHER: If you are asking, has the President changed his opinion about enforcing the law, the answer is, no. Of course, the President believes that --
Q You didn't raise that, though, as an objection to the Lugar-Biden amendment.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think if you take a look at the language of the resolution that was sent up to the Hill some two weeks ago, the modified draft that was sent up last week, it makes it perfectly plain by citing the 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act that regime change remains our policy. You have that, David.
Q And the second question is, you just said before, the cost of a one-way ticket is less than that, the cost of a single bullet is less than that. Are you suggesting that two perfectly good alternatives, to your mind, would be an exile of Saddam Hussein --
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, Secretary Rumsfeld, and many others, including the President, are not shy about saying the Iraqi people -- after all, this was called the Iraqi Liberation Act -- the Iraqi people can help resolve this matter, as well, and the Iraqi military. And so there are many options that the United States is prepared to see, and the President has said the military option is not his first choice, but the President is indeed prepared, if necessary, to use force. And that's why he's asked Congress to authorize it.
Q Will you help in the one-way ticket scenario? is the U.S. government willing to provide assistance in that regard?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's part of regime change, isn't it, if Saddam Hussein is gone?
Q Ari, two questions. One, hundreds of Indian Americans gathered at the Maryland temple, and that's where -- whose branch was the victim in Iraq where 40 people died. In an amendment -- he called on the administration, especially President Bush, he said that he appreciates what President Bush is doing, fighting terrorism, but he said also that the time has come for the world's two largest democracies should work together and root out terrorism from its roots. Because India is still calm and they have not taken any action and there is no violence at all. Because the terrorists, they try to destroy first democracy and then the religious institutions, but they failed.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry, I'm not sure what your question is.
Q He's calling on the administration that the time has come that we have to fight -- they are the same terrorism against India and against the United States and against Israel.
MR. FLEISCHER: And when it comes to fighting terrorism at its roots, India's leaders and Pakistani leaders know that they have an ally in President Bush. This is something that this administration has spent quite a bit of time on. And I think when you look at how the terrorism has twice, just this year alone, almost led to the brink of war between India and Pakistan, the administration has worked very hard to bring the parties back from the brink -- with quite a bit of success. But it remains a troublesome area.
Q Second question --
MR. FLEISCHER: Goyle, you had too long a first question. And I see many, many hands up behind you. So let's keep -- go ahead.
Q I just have a simple follow-up to Jacobo's question about New Jersey. Is the President scheduled to go campaign there do you know at any point right now? And would he be --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President just returned from New Jersey a week ago Monday. And the schedule for the President throughout October will be a little bit flexible, so that decisions can be made about the President's time. But we'll keep announcing the schedule as the events are final.
Q Would he be more inclined to go to New Jersey now that the seat is eminently winnable?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President will travel as the decisions are made about where his time can be most valuably spent. And I just can't, from this podium today, predict to you every stop he's going to make. But certainly, the President believes in Doug Forrester, supports his candidacy, and wants to help him become a Senator. He thinks it's very important to have people who will help support his agenda.
After all, look what has not gotten done in the Senate, which somebody like Doug Forrester could help get done. Passage of a budget, for example -- the Senate did indeed pass a budget in 2001; it failed to pass one in 2002. A budget is vital to fiscal discipline, to spending restraint. And the President wants to have a Senate that will focus on issues like this.
Job-creating terrorism insurance -- it is in the Senate and the House's hands today to create 300,000 jobs for the economy, if they could only come to an agreement on terrorism insurance. It is probably the single most important act that the Congress can pass to create jobs in America quickly. And that's why the President had the meeting he had earlier this morning with the conferees -- which, incidentally, the President called on them to reach agreement by Friday. I think it was a productive meeting. We'll see if they can actually adhere to that call.
The President certainly hopes they can, because one of the other factors that you can tell up on Capitol Hill was the sniff of diesel fuel is already in the air, and many of them want to go home and campaign, which doesn't leave them a lot of time left to finish the people's business.
Q Ari, as the President goes out and campaigns in these final weeks and raise money for Republican candidates, is he getting any message from those Republicans back in the states to tailor his message more towards the economy and less toward the war?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you're on the trail for the President, and so I think it's fair for you to say that there are many events at which the President does -- the fundraisers, of course, are before Republican groups. Many of his other events, the public events, are before wide-open groups, people from all parties, and even people who have no party. And the President's message is the same, and I think it's well received. The President has been focusing very strongly, just as you saw today, on the economy, on domestic issues.
The President hopes that Congress, in the short amount of time it has left, won't neglect the domestic agenda. And one way to tell if Congress is going to take action or neglect the domestic agenda is whether or not they pass terrorism insurance and create those jobs the President cited. So he does what a President should do, and that's focus on both international affairs and domestic.
Q You addressed David's question about one-way ticket. What about one-way bullet? Is the White House advocating assassination as a possible option for Saddam Hussein?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that it's fair to say that the Iraqi regime is not satisfied with Saddam Hussein, that Saddam Hussein has created a great many enemies inside Iraq. And it is impossible to last forever as a brutal dictator who suppresses his own people, who tortures his own people, who deliberately brings women in public to be raped, so it can be witnessed by their families. He has not exactly created goodwill among the Iraqi people.
Q If I could follow on that, would the White House like to see Saddam Hussein dead?
MR. FLEISCHER: The policy is regime change. And that remains -- and that remains the American position. Clearly, in the event that there is any type of military operation, command and control would, of course, be issues that would come up.
Q Is the hope, though, that he ends up dead in all this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Regime change is the policy, in whatever form it takes.
Q I just want to re-ask again then, the question I've been asking for several weeks. Is the administration about to rescind the executive order prohibiting assassination of foreign leaders, and claim that he's an international terrorist, and in fact, put out a hit on him?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. The policy remains in place, per the law.
Q Why is there no consideration to rescinding that executive order?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's just -- because it's not come up as matter that I've heard discussed, Connie. And so I can't tell you why something doesn't get discussed.
Q Could you ask?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't really think it's an issue. The policy remains regime change, as expressed by the Congress.
Q Ari, the State Department authorization bill with the language on Jerusalem has provoked quite an angry reaction in the Arab world. What are we going to do about enforcing it? What are we going to do about moving the embassy? How are you going to respond to that reaction?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as the President made clear last night in the signing statement that was issued, as he signed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Section 214 of the act deals with Jerusalem, and it does so in a way that we deem, the administration deems unconstitutional. The opinion of the administration, and we will act on this, is that the language passed by the Congress impermissibly interferes with the President's constitutional authority to conduct the nation's foreign affairs. And the President made that perfectly plain. And so our -- the status of Jerusalem under current law will remain unchanged.
Q Are you going to do anything, though, to respond to these protests? And when you say, we regard this as unconstitutional, what acts are you talking about?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that -- what acts? Section 214 of the law.
Q No, no, you said, we deem this unconstitutional and we will act on that. Does that mean court challenge, does that mean ignoring it?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, that means recognizing that the U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed, because we view what Congress passes advisory, not mandatory.
Q Can the President -- the President tomorrow is supposed to meet with Senator Daschle. I imagine that homeland security is going to come up as part of the issue. Has the President had any discussions with Democratic members of Congress on homeland security, the Senate in particular? And secondly, has the President spoken with Senator Daschle since Senator Daschle's speech on the floor of the Congress?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has spoken with a great many Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. He has not, to my knowledge, spoken with Senator Daschle. He looks forward to having Senator Daschle here for breakfast tomorrow morning. And one of the topics that I'm certain will come up is homeland security. And from the President's points of view, it would just be unimaginable for the Senate to leave town without having taken action to protect the homeland.
And I don't know that anybody knows how this is going to come out in the Senate. Because the problem is there have been several major things that the Senate, for whatever reasons, just has not gotten done. It's unimaginable -- one of the most important duties of a member of Congress is to pass a budget. The Senate did not pass a budget. The first time in 28 years since the new budget procedures were created that the Senate didn't get the job done.
And homeland security -- who could imagine that there is a possibility that the Senate would not pass legislation to protect the American people on the homefront? And time is running out, as I said. Sometimes when time runs out, it's the best incentive for Congress to finalize the debating and start the voting. So we'll just have to see which way it's going. But it's going to cut very close.
Q Democrats are putting forth the cloture motions, and they're not getting passed.
MR. FLEISCHER: And obviously the Senate is in a tangled mess, isn't it?
Q What is the administration's position on what kind of access inspectors should have to presidential palaces in Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Unfettered access, unconditional access, anybody, anywhere.
Q And that means no prior notice, no -- not a requirement that they be accompanied by diplomats?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can only express it as plain as that. Unfettered, unconditional, any time, and anywhere.
Q Current U.N. resolutions embraced -- a 1998 resolution embraced an agreement between Secretary General Kofi Annan and Saddam Hussein that told them they would give prior notice and they would be accompanied by inspectors. Is that one of the reasons that you have to have a new U.N. resolution?
MR. FLEISCHER: Absolutely. This is one of the reasons that the existing inspection regime has not worked. Keep in mind, when the Western ear hears "presidential palace," you tend to think of a place in which a leader sleeps -- rather a legitimate purpose. That's not what's going on here. These are places that Saddam Hussein doesn't even go to. These are government facilities, government property, where who knows what is going on, and there's a good reason Saddam Hussein does not want people to go there and take a look at these facilities, even if he never sleeps there.
And that's why the existing regime has been a regime that, for 10 years, Saddam Hussein has been able to play cat-and-mouse with the world. And the President thinks the time has come now for the United Nations to do something different, to act differently, so that we don't repeat those same mistakes.
Q So a new U.N. resolution, the one the U.S. favors, would clear away all the old underbrush and say simply that inspectors have the right to go anywhere, anytime, get at anyplace, no prior notice, no accompaniment by diplomats?
MR. FLEISCHER: Here are the three criteria the United States is seeking in a new resolution that would be tough and effective and different. One, it would make plain for the world to see what Saddam Hussein has violated. Two, it would call on Saddam Hussein to cease his violations of those provisions. And, three, it would make clear what will happen if Saddam Hussein fails to cease his violations.
Q Last week, while she was debating Congressman Bob Ehrlich who, as you know, the President is visiting this month, Maryland's Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend charged that Ehrlich, in her words, "opposes affirmative action based on race. Lynching was based on race. Discrimination is based on race. Jim Crowe was based on race. And affirmative action should be based on race." End of quote. Question: Does the President agree with Mrs. Townsend, or does he believe it's wrong to replace Jim Crowe with Crowe Jim -- among other reasons, because the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., pleaded that his children could some day be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin?
MR. FLEISCHER: Les, I have not talked directly to the President about any of the issues that you just presented from the Maryland debate, so I really can't go beyond that.
Q All right. Senator Torricelli said yesterday, "I've done my duty to my country," even though Mr. Chang, who gave him those illegal gifts, is in prison for doing so, and this year the New Jersey Democrats still nominated Torricelli for reelection to the Senate. Question: the President does not disagree with New Jersey Republicans going to court to keep Torricelli's name on that ballot, nor does the President disagree with George Will's comparison of Congressman McDermott in Baghdad to Adolf Hitler's Lord Hawhaw, does he? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Les, that's three questions, not two. You need to pick one.
Q Well -- let's see --
MR. FLEISCHER: You're taking too long.
Q McDermott -- wait, I'll pick the one. (Laughter.) Does he agree with -- by the way, the New York Times reported that Ron from AP --
MR. FLEISCHER: All right, I get the question.
Q -- got four in a row. You remember that, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: He deserved even more. (Laughter.)
All right, on your McDermott question.
Q Lord Hawhaw.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it was rather remarkable to see a member of the United States Congress travel to Baghdad, Iraq, to say that Saddam Hussein needs to be believed, while the President of the United States will mislead the American people. And I think it just shows it is certainly the good Congressman's right to say anything he wants, no matter how foolish. And he exercised that right.
Q Ari, back on Saddam's travel plans and his retirement plans, what steps has the administration taken to encourage other nations to sort of arrange an easy out for this situation?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think this is something that Secretary Rumsfeld has talked about before. My point being, never underestimate the yearning of people to stop being tortured, to stop being suppressed. Don't overestimate the support there is for Saddam Hussein within Iraq. Don't take this as a prediction of things to come, because I can't possibly make predictions of things to come. But don't overestimate Saddam Hussein's support from his own people.
Events will go where events will go. The point the President makes is that the free world needs to be prepared to deal with somebody who has such a history of developing weapons for the purpose of using weapons, and in the process, he has separated himself from the country. And that's why Congress called it the Iraqi Liberation Act.
Q Ari, there are some AIDS prevention groups that are claiming that the Bush administration is on a witch hunt against them. Is there any merit to their claim that programs that are not abstinence-only programs are receiving frosty treatment from the White House or other agencies?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think no administration, in any country, anywhere in the world has been as committed to fighting HIV/AIDS as this administration has. Through the amount of money that we have put up to help the global fund to fight AIDS, based on the funding increases that the President has sought and the budget here domestically at home, this administration has made this a priority, and is working hard through the funding and the scientific areas to prevent AIDS and to achieve breakthroughs in helping to stop AIDS.
At home, the President does believe that abstinence education needs to be an important part of an overall education program. He has supported increased funding for abstinence education. And this administration is very proud of its record in all of these areas.
Q Is there any risk at all of sending mixed messages of funding programs that are abstinence only or stressing abstinence, as well as programs that don't?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I can just tell you the President thinks that abstinence education is an important program that really did not get much focus at all in the past, and that it's high time that it did. And that's where he is focused on, as well as the other measures that I just cited.
Q Ari, Treasury figures have it that in the second quarter of this year we saw the largest increase in total marketable debt -- that is private and public debt -- and an increase in federal government marketable debt, which was 11 times greater than the first quarter. My question is, don't these figures indicate, on the one hand, that the tax cut was a bit short-sighted, and more importantly that the --
MR. FLEISCHER: What would be the correlation between marketable debt and tax cuts?
Q Well, the fact that the federal government has to get in more money by selling Treasury bills and the like, because of the collapse of income from corporate, as well as from private incomes.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, couldn't that also be caused by excessive spending?
Q Well, I don't think people are spending as much as they want.
MR. FLEISCHER: The government is. My point is that anything dealing with -- go ahead.
Q My question was, the tax cut short-sighted -- and secondly, doesn't the collapse of incomes in the U.S. economy, represented by the economic collapse in the economy as a whole, represent really the Achilles heel of all this war on terrorism, since the ability of the federal government to finance anything is ultimately dependent on the tax income of the people, that they are taxed. You can't run a deficit forever, in other words.
MR. FLEISCHER: If your suggestion is, the United States should only exercise its right to defend against threats in times of surplus and not deficit, I think that's a notion that would not find its place in either history, at times when we previously had to defend ourselves in times of deficit and did. And, two, it's a suggestion that I think would send a real signal to the world that the United States won't defend itself, and we will.
Now, on the question about marketable debt, the factors that contributed most to the decline in revenues had nothing to do with the tax cut. They deal mostly with the recession which, as you know, began in early 2001. The market's decline began in March of 2000, and it was the market decline that principally led to the decline in individual income tax receipts and capital gains receipts.
The other factor, of course, affecting balance sheets is spending. And I've just -- you left spending out of your equation.
Q A follow-up on Ellen's question concerning the cloture vote. It was reported in the Wall Street Journal this morning that Senator Daschle is expected to try again for another cloture vote today. And if Republican lawmakers once again fail to support end of the debate, then he is expected to shelve the homeland security bill until after the election and take it up again in lame duck session. If that is what is about to happen, what is the White House view of this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, one, I think that the efforts of some of the most bipartisan members of the Senate to reach an agreement are underway. And I know that Senator Gramm and Senator Breaux are working very hard to try to address any of the differences that remain. And so this again is why I cited the fact that often in the past, as Congress approaches these deadlines, that it can either serve as a spur to get action done and final, or nothing gets done. And we'll see what the ultimate outcome here is on this one. I don't know that anybody can give you an accurate prediction, Paula.
Q What is your view, though, in terms of taking it up in lame duck session, rather than now?
MR. FLEISCHER: One, I don't know that you can automatically assume there's going to be a lame duck session. The history of lame ducks is they don't really get anything done. They sound good in October, but they really feel bad in November. So I don't know that there is going to be a lame duck. Maybe there will, maybe there won't.
The other factors that complicate a lame duck is, of course, if there are any changes in the Congress, there is a real tendency not to allow an expired, retired group of lawmakers make policy. So I don't know that there necessarily will be one. We'll just have to see if Congress can finish its business.
Q Ari, one on the declarative portion of the Biden-Lugar resolution as written. The resolution urges the President to work through the United Nations. But, separately and distinctly from that, it would authorize the President to use force when the President could present a determination to the House and the Senate that Saddam's weapons provided such a grave threat that military force is justified. Is the President willing to provide that determination in accordance with that resolution?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, there is an old adage in drafting of any language on the Hill that says nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. And you've seen the drafts as they've been exchanged, so you know what the various discussions are about. And hopefully, the process will come to a conclusion rather quickly and everybody will know exactly what the language is, and then we'll see how much support there is for it in the Congress.
Q Does the President have any particular beef with that portion of the declarative part of that resolution?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, this is not something I can negotiate in the press for the President. I can try to give you indications of where he is on some of these major issues. But nothing's agreed to until everything is, and we'll see what the ultimate outcome is.
Q If I can just finally follow that? Usually, "compromise" means to a lot of people the idea of a search for the center, a search for middle ground. Is the President searching for middle ground on this issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the center and the middle ground have already been found. I think that right now, if this was put to the Congress in the form that the administration submitted it just last week as a result of the first round of discussions, it would find very large bipartisan support, very large. So the conversations are continuing because the President thinks it's important to listen to members of Congress, to continue the process, to hear. After all, the question of allowing to authorize force is an important issue. But I think the Senators have already spoken.
Q Ari, could I just clarify the one bullet line -- is the White House from this podium advocating the assassination of Saddam Hussein by his own people, by his military?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the question was about potential costs and different scenarios for costs. And I just cited the fact that Saddam Hussein has survived as a result of the repression and suppression of his own people, and that's a reality about what life is like inside Iraq.
Q But I'm not asking you a question about costs. I'm asking you if you intend to advocate from that podium that some Iraqis, person put a bullet in his head?
MR. FLEISCHER: Regime change is welcome in whatever form that it takes.
Q So the answer is, yes?
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
Regime change is welcome in whatever form it takes.
END 1:07 P.M. EDT