For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 24, 2003
Correction: Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, Correction on Saddam Hussein Has No Choice
PRESS BRIEFING BY
President's schedule and announcements.................1-2
Iraq/scientists, timetable.................2-11, 13, 16-19
American public opinion.............................6
France and Germany.........................7-8, 18-19
Administration's evidence...........................9 Civil
Medicare/prescription drug coverage..................12-13 Democrats'
economic plans............................14-15 John Snow/vetting
process...............................15 State of the Union
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release January
PRESS BRIEFING BY
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
10:40 A.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning and a happy Friday to the White House
press corps. I want to give you a report on the President's day, and
then I have two domestic announcements to make and two foreign
policy-related announcements to make, including one on some of the most
recent developments in Iraq.
The President began his day today with an intelligence briefing,
followed by a briefing from the FBI. He convened a meeting of the
National Security Council. Later this morning the President will do a
drop-by with the United States Conference of Mayors, who are in town,
to talk to them about important municipal issues that they face. And
then, in the afternoon, the President will make brief remarks at the
swearing-in ceremony for the new Secretary of the Department of
Homeland Security, Tom Ridge. Today is officially the first day of the
new Cabinet department designed to provide greater protections for the
American people as we move forward into a different type of 21st
And then, later this afternoon, the President will also work
privately some more on his State of the Union address. He'll do his
first TelePrompter rehearsal today on the State of the Union.
On the domestic front, President Bush today has directed the
Secretary of Health and Human Services to release an additional $200
million in low-income housing home energy assistance, otherwise known
as LIHEAP, emergency funds to help low-income individuals respond to
the rising costs of home heating oil, particularly during this cold
snap. With today's $200 million release of emergency funds, the
administration has released $1.5 billion in LIHEAP funds for this
heating season, which will prove to be especially helpful this year,
given that the Energy Information Administration estimates that
residential heating oil prices will be more than 20 percent higher than
the average of the last five years.
LIHEAP helps eligible families pay the cost of heating and
insulating their homes in the winter and cooling their homes in the
summer. Approximately 4.6 million low-income Americans will receive
assistance this year. That funding is covered under the budget the
President has submitted to the Congress.
In funding that was not covered in budgets that have been submitted
to the Congress, as a result of the Senate passage last night of the
fiscal year 2003 appropriation bills, the President is, one, thankful
to the Senate this will now move forward. It's been a very late
process, and the President looks forward to working with Congress to
resolve last year's funding issues so quickly under the new Senate.
This is a real mark of leadership by Senator Frist and Leader Frist and
the entire Senate in getting this done so quickly.
One important point, when you look back at the process that is now
ended in the Senate, as a result of all the votes that took place, the
taxpayers have been saved, by a conservative estimate, $380 billion
over 10 years, as a result of the votes in the Senate. The cost of all
the amendments to increase spending on a wide variety of federal
programs added up over 10 years to $380 billion in increased spending.
And when the President says that it's important to have fiscal
discipline, this is a prime example of it. All the individual
components added up -- a conservative estimate -- would have meant
$380 billion over 10 years in higher spending. And thanks to the votes
in the United States Senate the taxpayers have been protected.
Two foreign policy announcements -- President Bush will welcome
Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller to Washington February 5, 2003.
Poland is a close friend and ally of the United States. In addition to
discussing key global and security issues, the President and the Prime
Minister will discuss ways to improve commercial and trade relations
between the United States and Poland.
And, finally, there have been increasing numbers of reports out of
Iraq, as expressed by the Chief Inspector Hans Blix, about Iraq's
refusal to comply with allowing their scientists to be privately
interviewed, as is their obligation per the United Nations Security
Council resolution. President Bush believes that Iraq's refusal to
allow Iraqi scientists to submit to private interviews with U.N.
inspectors is unacceptable. Under U.N. Resolution 1441, Iraq has an
obligation to comply. This is not a matter for negotiation; this is
not a matter for debate. Saddam Hussein has no choice. His refusal is
further evidence that Iraq has something to hide. To protect the
peace, Iraq must allow and encourage its scientists to participate in
private interviews, and it must do so without delay and without
Happy to take your questions.
Q Does the President, therefore, believe that that refusal
constitutes a material breach of the U.N. resolution 1441?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President does not look at this as a lawyerly
matter of the word. The President looks at this as a practical matter
of whether or not Saddam Hussein has any intention of disarming. And
Saddam Hussein is engaging in a constant pattern now, and an increasing
pattern of defying the inspectors, refusing to cooperate, showing the
inspectors facilities in which he knows that nothing will be found, but
all the while thwarting the goodwill and the good intentions of the
inspectors to carry out their mission by stopping them from engaging in
the practices that history has shown are the most successful practices
in discovering what weapons he has.
Q What you dismiss as a lawyerly matter is the very framework
that the President is committed to by having that sort of language
inserted into the resolution. So the question is, does he consider
this the end of the line, or has the administration made a
determination that, despite the views of what the inspectors are there
to do, that it is willing to allow the inspections regime to go on a
little bit longer than maybe the President would like in an effort to
shore up support internationally and even here at home for a potential
MR. FLEISCHER: The real issue is, is Saddam Hussein making the end
of the line come even closer by his unacceptable behavior.
Q Can you answer that last part of the question, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: What was your last part, David?
Q Is the administration, despite its views about what the
inspectors are supposed to be doing, what Saddam should be doing, is
the administration prepared to allow inspectors to have more time in an
attempt to shore up support internationally for a potential conflict?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has not put a definitive timetable on
it. They clearly are still carrying out their mission to the best of
their ability. They are working on the time they have, but time is
Q The inspectors, as you know, regard the appearance before the
United Nations Security Council on Monday as just another interim
report, not the sort of wrap-up report which was envisioned by the U.S.
when this process began. Do you expect the President to address that
on Tuesday, since the process of the U.N. won't be over until
MR. FLEISCHER: Bill, the United States has consistently called it
an important date. I don't know that anybody has said it is a wrap-up
date or a final date or a deadline. I'm not aware of anybody saying
that. It's an important date. We want to hear what they have to say.
And I think that when you look at what the inspectors are reporting,
why they are saying that they have gotten what they call "some
cooperation" from Saddam Hussein, they are also the first to say, the
inspectors, themselves, that they are not given the cooperation they
need when it comes to interviewing the scientists and they are not
given the cooperation they need and demand about being able to fly U2
surveillance aircraft over sites in Iraq. They are not getting what
Iraq had committed to do. And again, under the U.N. resolution, it is
not a question of negotiation, it is an obligation.
Q Would you address the perception that the U.S. wants this over
with sooner rather than later?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is no question the United States wants Saddam
Hussein to disarm sooner rather than later.
Q Back to the scientists. The Iraqis say that they've asked
these scientists to cooperate with the inspectors and the scientists
don't want to be interviewed in private, they want the minders there.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I think what they said is, "We did our best to
push the scientists, Lt. General Hossam Mohammed Amin, the chief Iraqi
liaison officer to the U.N. inspectors, said, but they refused to make
such interviews without the presence of Iraqi officials." In a
totalitarian police state like Iraq, that's laughable. There's no
credibility to that.
Saddam Hussein has called the inspectors spies. In Iraq, if the
President of Iraq, who does not exactly have a history of being a
peaceful man toward those who have any dissent toward his opinions,
calls the inspectors spies, he is sending a very powerful message to
his scientists, don't meet with them, because if you meet with spies,
you know the history of what's happened to people who defy my will.
And the environment that has been created by Saddam Hussein as an
environment that is hostile to whether or not the world will see
whether he had weapons of mass destruction, because he wants to hide
what he has from the world.
Q Are you aware of specific instances of intimidation?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me share with you two things that have
taken place, and these are very indicative. These are things that took
place in the past that are indicative of the future.
You're very familiar with the case of Hussein Kamel and Saddam
Kamel, Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law who were killed in 1996 by Saddam
Hussein. They were lured back into Iraq after they left the country.
They were promised that all had been forgiven when they left the
country, brought back in under different pretenses, and instantly
executed at the order of Saddam Hussein.
There's a scientist named Muayad Hassan al-Janabi. He was killed
in Amman, Jordan, in 1992. He attempted to defect. He wanted to
leave. He was tracked down by Iraqi security agents and executed. And
as you well know from your reporting, this is a common practice for
Q Are you aware of specific instances of the inspectors that we
have -- that the U.N. mission has tried to talk to this time around
who have been intimidated at some point?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think, given the fact that Saddam Hussein
calls the inspectors spies, what more intimidation do you need for him
to encourage people not to meet with people he calls spies. Imagine
that you're an Iraqi scientist and you have information you would like
impart, and you don't want Iraqi minders sitting there to impart the
information, and you heard your president say, these inspectors are
spies -- that is an atmosphere of intimidation environment designed
to stop them from doing what the United Nations has called on Iraq to
do, which is to make them fully and immediately available -- which is
why the statement from the Iraqi general is a laughable statement.
Q Who in this country, beside the President and his courtiers,
want to go to war with Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of anybody here who wants to go to
war with Iraq, Helen. But the President very much wants to protect the
peace by making sure that Saddam Hussein cannot engage in war against
Q He's aware that there is widespread opposition to war in this
MR. FLEISCHER: Do you think that the majority of the Americans are
opposed to war with Iraq, Helen?
Q I think so. What do you think?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think if you take a look at all the public
surveys on this issue, there's a lot of Americans who believe that
Saddam Hussein does, indeed, pose a threat. And they believe --
Q They'll give their brothers, their husbands, their children?
MR. FLEISCHER: -- and they believe that if the President,
knowing what he knows, makes the determination that the best way to
protect the American people from the risks that we have seen our nation
is vulnerable to --
Q So he believes people want to go to war?
MR. FLEISCHER: -- is to disarm Saddam Hussein from having
weapons of mass destruction, the President will make a case --
Q We have weapons of mass destruction. Eight other countries
MR. FLEISCHER: And how many resolutions has the United Nations
passed urging us to not have the weapons that we have that have
successfully kept the peace for 50 years?
Q How many other nations have defied U.N. resolutions and
gotten away with it?
MR. FLEISCHER: None like Saddam Hussein on a measure that has been
this unequivocal, where the world has called on him --
Q I could give you chapter and verse otherwise.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm aware that you try to.
Q Does the President feel that relations with Western Europe,
particularly with Germany -- where we have so many troops based --
and France, demands more of his role now in terms of contacting either
of those leaders, especially in advance of his State of the Union
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President will continue to contact world
leaders and to reach out and talk to different people. As you know, he
talked to President Putin yesterday. He looks forward to the visit of
Prime Minister Blair. And we will continue to inform you of the phone
calls and the conversations the President makes. Up and down the
government, Secretary Powell continues to consult very closely with
world leaders, and the President will continue to work with them.
Q Are you concerned that the angry words back and forth over the
last few days are hurting his cause, as opposed to helping the promise
-- any kind of promise of diplomacy?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, there is a very identifiable history of
the United States relations with Europe, where European nations,
European people were split and divided. The United States, working
very closely with European nations and with European governments, saw a
policy that it thought was in the interest of peace, developed it,
worked it with our allies, advocated it, pushed it through,
In the early 1980s, for example, after the Soviet Union deployed
SS20 intermediate-range missiles into Europe, there were massive street
protests throughout Germany and throughout Europe against the
counter-deployment of Pershing missiles by the United States, along
with European governments -- massive street protests.
We worked together with the European leaders and the European
government. We counter-deployed, put the Pershing missiles into
Western Europe. And it was one of the ways that through peace, through
strength, the world became a much safer, better place, with tens of
millions in Eastern Europe now living free.
Similarly in 1991, in the events that led up to the Persian Gulf
war, there was tremendous opposition. There were many people who said,
let sanctions take place, do not engage yet in military force, let it
take its time. The argument of, let sanctions take place, is similar
to the arguments that people are making now, about let the inspectors
continue their work. Of course, back in 1991, if the argument, let
sanctions take place, had taken hold, Saddam Hussein would still be
sitting in Kuwait and most likely be occupying other nations, as well.
And so the President looks at this as a matter of the importance of
consultation, respecting those who differ with him on this issue, and
building a wide coalition -- and it will be wide -- of those who
see it his way and agree. And make no mistake, he will listen, he will
consult, but he will lead.
Q Is there any discussion of a possible compromise under which
the inspectors would be given, say, a month more in exchange for allies
reassurances that they won't drag it on any longer?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, number one, the President has -- it is
because of the President's actions that the inspections are there. And
helpfully so. The inspectors are doing their best in an environment
where Saddam Hussein is doing his worst. The President has not put a
timetable on how long the inspectors should be there. They were there
yesterday; they are there today and working; they will be there
tomorrow and working.
We wish them every success and are providing them with every means
possible to help them to be successful. The problem the world will
have to confront one day is, if Saddam Hussein continues in his efforts
to defy them, to stop them, to not live up to the very obligations that
Saddam Hussein committed to when the United Nations passed these
resolutions, what then will the world do? Will the world choose to do
nothing, or the world choose to recognize that Saddam Hussein is not
cooperating? These decisions have not yet been made.
Q You said that the President said that Saddam Hussein, to
protect the peace, must allow these scientists to be interviewed. Does
he consider this a cause for war?
MR. FLEISCHER: If the President reaches the point where these
accumulation of events lead up to the conclusion that war is the only
way to protect the peace, the President will say that. He has not
reached that point yet.
But clearly, when you look at the behavior of Saddam Hussein and
when you look at the statements that have come from the inspectors
themselves, it is impossible to reach the conclusion that Saddam
Hussein is cooperating. He is not. And he is not cooperating because
he is hiding, hiding his weapons of mass destruction.
Q Ari, John Bolton, in Japan, made it clear that the United
States has some evidence that they're going to give over to the world
very shortly. Can you elaborate on that? What kind of evidence is he
talking about, in what form?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is nothing new. This is something that you've
heard many people say. Secretary Powell said it recently about the
United States would make it's case. And in the course of events, as
I've indicated, the President, others in the administration, will have
information to say as developments warrant.
You've seen this week, in the speeches given by Secretary Armitage
and Secretary Wolfowitz the continuation of the importance of dialogue
and reasoning. And that will continue. And the administration will
continue to share with the world and share with the country why we have
such a cause for concern.
Q -- in speeches, but not really any new hard evidence about
what the U.S. thinks that Saddam Hussein actually has -- hard
evidence in terms of their weapons. Is this something the President is
going to talk about in the State of the Union? Is this -- do you
actually believe that there is hard evidence that exists that will
bring these countries around and bring the American people around?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is confident that if it gets to the
point where he does reach the conclusion, and he goes to the country,
he is confident that the country and much of the world will understand
the seriousness and the weight of what he is presenting. And that is
why, if our democracy does go to war, which is a step the President
still hopes can be averted, we will go to war knowing that we have the
support of much of the world.
Q Is that yes to her question?
MR. FLEISCHER: Jim.
Q How does the President feel about launching a war if France
and Germany flat out say they won't support it and that he should not
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that in the event it does become a matter
that the President does believe that we have reached the point of last
resort and that force is the only way to get Saddam Hussein to disarm
from the weapons that he has, the President's preference would be to
have all of the world with the United States and with this large
coalition. That may not be possible. That may not be achievable. But
will that stop the President and the coalition from doing what it
believes is necessary to protect the world? No, it will not. We, of
course, want to have the support of as many as possible if it reaches
Q First of all, thank for commenting on Jim's hypothetical. We
can expect that precedent to be observed in the future, I'm sure, as
MR. FLEISCHER: Do you have a hypothetical?
Q No, I don't. I have two questions about Iraq.
MR. FLEISCHER: You're missing an opportunity to roll off of that.
Q First of all, the President, in his speech in St. Louis the
other day, made reference to "the so-called inspectors." What did he
mean by interposing those words, "so-called," in front of the word,
MR. FLEISCHER: The exact same thing I said yesterday on that when
I was asked. The President was referring to something very similar to
what Secretary Rumsfeld said over the weekend on one of the Sunday
shows -- the mission of the inspectors is not literally to go and to
inspect, as much as it is, as Secretary Wolfowitz walked through
yesterday, to verify that actual disarmament has taken place.
The inspectors are not armed with magnifying glasses to go out and
look for clues. They are armed with scientific knowledge of how
nations that disarm engage in disarmament. Their job is to go in and
verify that disarmament has taken place. And so, in some sense, the
word "inspector" is a misnomer, but that's the context in which the
President said it.
Q What would you use?
Q The statement, you mean?
Q The Secretary of State has said that the inspections are not
working, as a flat statement. This President has an MBA. He prides
himself on how much he holds accountability dear. How much longer
would he -- even though you say he has no timetable on this, how much
longer would he like to preside over or lend his administration's
support to a program that his own people have said is not working?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think when you get at what is not working,
you have to ask what the cause of its not working is. And the
inspections and the inspectors have a history of engaging in acts
around the world that do, indeed, work. That was proved by their
efforts in South Africa. What's not working in Iraq is Saddam
Hussein's compliance with Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's compliance with
the inspectors. That's the cause of the inspectors having such a
difficult time doing their job. The solution is that Saddam Hussein
has to change his ways and disarm. Or President Bush, as he has said,
will lead a coalition to disarm him.
Q My question was about timing, though. My question was, how
much longer would this President, who prides himself on holding
accountability dear, lend his administration's support to a program
which his own Secretary of State has said is not working?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has said time is running out. He
hasn't been more specific than that.
Q Short of the decision to go to war, are there interim things
that can be done to fix the process from the U.S. side or the U.N.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I said, in the President's judgment,
Saddam Hussein's refusal and his intimidation of his scientists is
unacceptable. It must cease. This is an act of willful defiance by
Iraq toward the United Nations and toward the United Nations
inspectors. Saddam Hussein's defiance of the United Nations about
refusing to allow the U-2's to fly, per U.N. Security Council
Resolution 1441, is not acceptable. So these decisions are in Saddam
Q There's nothing that the U.S. can take, for instance, to have
a more robust force with the inspectors, for instance, to try to make
the situation more --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President made it very plain,
repeatedly last fall, that this is Saddam Hussein and Iraq's last
chance. They were given that last chance as a result of this vote of
the United Nations Security Council resolution. And this will not be
another 10 years of defiance by Saddam Hussein.
Q There was an heavy INS action in San Diego yesterday. Civil
liberty organizations are up in arms about it. One, was the White
House aware of this activity? And, two, how do you respond to the
civil liberty organizations that say this is a further example of the
erosion of civil liberties in the U.S.?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll have to take a look at it and get you more
information about it. I'm not familiar with the specific action.
Q Medicare, the President -- I assume on Tuesday night and
later on next week -- is going to talk about a Medicare reform
proposal that would move elderly people into HMOs -- into managed
care types of care.
MR. FLEISCHER: No --
Q So all the reports we're hearing about this and the
President's speech in July was wrong? He doesn't want them in managed
MR. FLEISCHER: When you isolate the issue about managed care, let
me try to bring justice to the President's position on this matter.
The President, as he said repeatedly when he campaigned for the
presidency, believes that seniors deserve more choices and more options
in their health care plans. And the President believes that one of the
most important choices that seniors want that they do not currently
receive is prescription drug coverage. And the President will, as the
Congress reconvenes, make it a top priority to create a modernized
Medicare that includes prescription drug coverage for seniors. And
that will have a variety of options, a variety of choices.
Q Let me just -- the experience so far with Medicare plus
choice, which was begun in 1997 as part of the Balanced Budget Act,
everyone agrees -- everyone from Wall Street to elderly people on the
street believe is a failure. Wall Street downgrades the stock of
insurance providers who are in the Medicare market because they can't
make money on it; 1.3 money elderly people have had their plans
disappear. So I'm wondering if -- given the experience since 1997,
with a program very similar to what the President is about to propose
-- why does he think it will work now if it hasn't worked in the past?
MR. FLEISCHER: Therein the key question -- similar to what was
proposed in the past. There are many lessons to be learned about what
took place in 1997, in which some of the designs of a bipartisan
Medicare proposal signed into law by President Clinton did not come to
fruition the way the planners exactly had hoped. Many of the reasons
for that are the cutbacks that were made to providers in the days and
years since that '97 program was passed.
Any plan that the President proposes will be new on Medicare, and
will learn from the lessons of what took place in 1997. It will not be
a photo copy of what took place in 1997. It will be better than what
took place in 1997, that learns the lessons of what took place in 1997,
so that seniors do, indeed, have more options and more choices, as part
of a government-provided plan.
Q Ari, you've said January 27th is an important date. Does that
mean it's a critical milepost in deciding whether we should go to war
with Iraq? And if it's not, can you be more specific about what
happens next and why it's important?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it's an important date. And I can't be more
specific until the date comes and we know what the inspectors say.
It's important to hear what the inspectors have to report.
Q Is it considered a milepost in deciding whether we go to
MR. FLEISCHER: It's considered an important date. All the actions
of the inspectors are part of what the President will evaluate because
that's how the world will know whether Saddam Hussein is cooperating.
Q Is the White House looking at it as a trigger point?
MR. FLEISCHER: Important date.
Q Ari, the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, Frank Griswold,
said -- and this is a quote -- "The United States is rightly hated
and loathed for its reprehensible rhetoric and blind eye toward poverty
and suffering. I'd like to be able to go somewhere in the world and
not have to apologize for being from the United States." My question
is, does the President take this at all seriously, or does he
categorize it with Senator Patty Murray, who is now becoming known as
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, I think the President has repeatedly said
that -- and you'll hear this in the State of the Union from the
President -- that he believes that it's important for our nation that
we know ourselves to be as caring and compassionate people as we are;
that that caring and compassionate record of the American people and of
our United States government be shown and shared to the world. Some
will see it that way; others may not. The President will continue to
focus on what he knows the United States represents, which is a
wonderful beacon of caring and compassion around the world.
Q In view of recent wire service reports of an increase --
startling increase in cases of AIDS, HIV and syphilis in New York and
California, as well as this morning's Washington Times page one story,
does the President believe there are no such things as "bug chasers"?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of what you're talking about,
Q Page one. These are people in the homosexual community that
feel it's erotic to contract AIDS. And this is what is reported --
MR. FLEISCHER: I've no idea what you're talking about, Lester.
Q You don't read the Washington Times?
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course, I do.
Q You do? Well, then what about it? You must have read the
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, I expressed yesterday the President's
thoughts about AIDS and people who have AIDS. And the President's
thoughts are that people who have AIDS deserve to be treated with care
and with compassion --
Q The ones that went after it to get it?
MR. FLEISCHER: -- that people need to be treated with care and
compassion. He is very proud of the fact that his budget has
unparalleled amounts of money, both foreign and domestic, to help
people with AIDS.
Q Yes, but what about the ones that go after it?
MR. FLEISCHER: You only get two, Lester, and you've sure have had
Q Ari, Senator Daschle has put his alternative economics
proposal out there. I was wondering what the White House thinks about
the $300 tax rebate and, specifically, the one-year increase to 50
percent bonus depreciation. And secondly, can you give us a bit of
walk-through on how John Snow's revelations about his child support
disputes were relayed to the President, what his reaction was
initially -- gut reaction -- and if there was any discussion about
it, or he just said, don't worry about it --
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. On the first question, there are many
Democrat plans on taxes. There is no unified Democrat position. There
is, I think, a growing movement on the Hill in support of what the
President has proposed, and that will be tested over time. As the bill
is taken up in the Ways and Means Committee, there are likely to be
amendments to it. But the President is confident the core of it will
move forward rather nicely.
I think it's impossible to tell what Democrat alternative or
alternatives will emerge because there are so many of them. There's a
lot of divisions from the Democrats --
Q What about the $300 tax rebate?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has made his proposal, as you know,
and he's going to fight for his proposal. That's what he believes the
Senate and the House --
Q So he doesn't want $300 for --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, he wants the Congress to pass what he
proposed. And that's why he proposed it. He thought it was the best
Q He wouldn't be willing to add it to his proposal?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he is going to ask Congress to pass what he
On the second part of it, the information was made known to the
White House during the vetting process. As the nominee moved forward,
it was shared with the Senate, as you know. And the President believes
that Mr. Snow is the exact right man for the post as Treasury
Secretary. He does not think this has any bearing on it; this was a
matter that was settled. And if you've seen the statements from Mr.
Snow's former wife, it's all amicable. And the President thinks this
should move forward, and he actually is confident, it indeed will.
Q How did he say that to him?
MR. FLEISCHER: Go ahead.
Q Can you sketch out some of the themes the President will touch
on in the State of the Union?
MR. FLEISCHER: State of the Union, the President -- let me take
a step back. The President views States of the Union as a moment to
talk about the big challenges, the major challenges our nation faces at
home and abroad. He sees it as an opportunity for this generation and
for people who are in office today to face up to these challenges and
to deal with them, not to pass them on to future generations.
And I think there will be four major issue areas that the President
discusses in the State of the Union. They will be the economy and
creating jobs for the American people; it will be making America a more
caring, compassionate place; it will be the importance of providing
health care for the American people; and it will also be a focus on
security, security both on the homefront, homeland, and national
security. Those will be the four areas that the President spends quite
a bit of time discussing in the State of the Union.
Q Ari, in the area of corporate accountability, what is the
White House view of the SEC decision a few days ago to allow auditors
to also be tax consultants to the firms that they audit?
MR. FLEISCHER: The administration views these matters as developed
by the career staff of the Security and Exchange Commission and then
voted on by all the commissioners, including the commissioners who were
recommended by Senator Daschle and other Democrats. This was a
unanimous vote by the Securities and Exchange Commission, having looked
at the substance of what their career staff proposed. They're an
independent agency, and that's how the White House looks at it.
Q Ari, on Monday, when we listened to Mr. Blix, if he is
supposed to be the Chief Verifier, should we listen with confidence
that they have received all of the U.S. intelligence that we have
available for them to verify and make an interim report?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I believe that Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei
have both said in the past week to 10 days that they have received
actionable intelligence from the United States and they're satisfied
with the intelligence they are sharing. I can't speak for them, but I
know that's what they've already said.
Q Well, in response to Dana's question, you seem to suggest that
perhaps if the President were to declare war and want the American
people and the world to know why, he would have more dispositive
information at that time to make a persuasive case. That would suggest
that there is something that's not been made available to the
inspectors. Is that correct?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, not necessarily.
Q But possibly?
MR. FLEISCHER: I would urge you to take a look back at what
Secretary Wolfowitz said yesterday. Secretary Wolfowitz referred to
Iraq's very able capabilities to hide things and to move things, to
have mobile laboratories for the purpose of hiding and moving. That's
information that does not allow you to have 100 percent certainty of
the coordinates of where something may happen to be at any given second
or moment. That would be what an inspector might call actionable. If
it were that simple that we could say the mobile laboratories at this
longitude and this latitude at this exact moment, things would be much
easier. Iraq is more clever than that, and they're aware of our
capabilities in some ways.
And so this is what Secretary Wolfowitz talked about yesterday. So
when you take a look at what can the inspectors act upon versus what do
we know Iraq has, Secretary Wolfowitz addressed that. And therein lies
one of the key issues that Saddam Hussein exploits, knowing that he has
a massive infrastructure, headed by his son, designed to deceive the
inspectors. And so there are differences in terms of what inspectors
Q How do you know that?
Q Let me ask you, as audiences listen to Mr. Blix's report on
Monday, what does the President think that we should all be listening
for? What are the key ingredients of this update that we should all be
paying attention to?
MR. FLEISCHER: The key ingredient the President thinks that the
world should look for is whether Iraq is complying. Absent Iraq's full
compliance, the way South Africa did, the world can have no confidence
Saddam Hussein has got rid of the VX gas, the sarin gas, the botulin,
the anthrax, the mustard gas that the United Nations reported that he
had in his possession at the end of the 1990s. Absent cooperation,
absent proof that he's destroyed them, the world can only make one
conclusion, and that is that Saddam Hussein is hiding these very
Q Ari, the LA Times cites U.S. and British officials saying
Secretaries Powell and Straw yesterday seriously considered giving
inspectors several more weeks, in exchange for allies' insurance that
they will not let inspections go on indefinitely, and that this would
help sway the skeptical allies. Are you saying -- are you
discounting that report and saying again there is no timetable for
MR. FLEISCHER: I have no information to verify that report. You
might want to address that to the State Department, but I have no
information given to me to verify it.
Q Ari, there are reports that Saddam Hussein may be seeking to
take stockpiles of chemical weapons, park them outside Iraq and hide
them there. That, as far as I'm aware, is not an element of his
deception that the administration has cited. Is this something the
administration is aware of? Has it passed on this information to U.N.
inspectors, and would it like the inspections team to be looking at the
possibility that he is squirreling away his weapons of mass destruction
outside the country?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm aware of the reports, and there's nothing I can
indicate one way or another about those reports.
Q A question about the European allies, sir, how would the
President characterize the critical mood among major European allies?
And secondly --
MR. FLEISCHER: How would he characterize the what --
Q The critical mood among European allies, like Germany and
France, for example. And secondly, does the President expect them
eventually to come aboard and be convinced by his arguments about Iraq
and disarmament, et cetera? Or is it more like Secretary Rumsfeld
suggested earlier on, it's the old Europe and we better look to the new
Eastern European countries --
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no question that European governments are
divided with most European governments being in favor of the
administration's position that, in the event it becomes necessary
because Saddam Hussein won't disarm himself, a coalition should be
assembled to disarm him. There are important friends and allies that
we have who -- in the case of Germany -- have expressed their
unalterable opposition to the use of the military to disarm Saddam
Hussein. And there are other nations, such as France, who -- it's
unclear what position France will finally take in the end. And the
President respects those nations. But the President also sees a great
many other nations that do see things differently, that are working in
a different manner to help protect the peace.
And the one thing about this debate that I think can't be focused
on enough is Europe is not a monolith. European governments represent
many different points of view. The one point of view that keeps --
seems to be shared is the point of view of those who would oppose the
President -- the President is confident, as I said yesterday, that if
the call is made, that Europe will answer the call.
Q And Europe also being Germany and France, for example?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I said yesterday that's -- I just said
Germany is unalterably opposed. And in the case of France, it's
possible that when Europe answers the call, France won't be on the
line. That's the French prerogative. That's their right.
Q -- expect to veto in case of a Security Council
MR. FLEISCHER: It's not clear what the next course will be at the
END 11:46 A.M. EST