For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 28, 2003
Correction to Gaggle, 11$ Billion. Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer Aboard Air Force One En Route Dearborn, Michigan
April 28, 2003
Aboard Air Force One
En route Dearborn, Michigan
11:08 A.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: The President before he left had his intelligence
briefing, FBI briefings, policy briefings. And will arrive at the
Dearborn Ford Community Performing Arts Center, where he will have a
roundtable with Iraqi Americans, and will make remarks on Operation
Iraqi Freedom, where the focus of his remarks will be an update on the
progress of reconstruction as the President sees a hopeful, democratic
Iraq to emerge from war.
And then prior to the departure the President will meet with the
three heads of the auto industry in the area. That will be the
Chairman of the board and CEO of Ford Motor Company, the President and
CEO of General Motors and the President and CEO of Daimler/Chrysler.
The purpose of the meeting is to talk to them about his jobs and growth
program, and also to get their sense on how the economy is doing
because, clearly, the automotive sales is an important part of durable
sales and job creation and consumer confidence.
With that, I'm happy to take your Qs.
Q Any access to that meeting, or will there be a readout
MR. FLEISCHER: The auto meeting?
MR. FLEISCHER: Closed meeting. I'll be there, so I'll let you
know afterwards. I believe that the three of them may have their own
plans to talk to local media afterwards.
Q Coverage on the meeting with the Iraqi exiles is closed.
Will we get any readout, or why no coverage for us?
MR. FLEISCHER: It is closed. I should advise you that there are
many reporters from Arab media outlets who are on this trip, who flew
out on the press charter. There are some eight who don't typically
travel with the White House press corps, who asked to go. They were
accommodated. And we are going to accommodate a couple of them into
the meeting. So they will be there for their own reporting purposes.
Q Are there going to be American reporters there?
MR. FLEISCHER: No.
Q Why not allow --
MR. FLEISCHER: Because we cannot open up the whole thing up.
Q Are they pooling for us?
MR. FLEISCHER: They're given an exclusive.
Q We have to object to that, we just have to object to that.
You're going to allow Arab reporters in because you want to get that
message out, but you're afraid of American reporters?
MR. FLEISCHER: The reason I put it on the record here and told you
is so you could go to them and talk to them about it afterwards.
Q That's not good enough. That's not good enough.
Q We can't rely on people that we don't know or that are not
part of the regular White House pool to report to the American media on
something this sensitive.
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me see if I can expand it into one more. Let
me see if I can.
Q Please. Thanks. Some of the Iraqi -- or at least one Iraqi
group has served notice that it wants to issue a communique to the
President to say that they want to control their own destiny. What is
the administration's reaction to that sort of sentiment?
MR. FLEISCHER: We want the Iraqi people to control their own
destiny. There's no difference in that. That's one of the reasons
that the second meeting took place today with all the various Iraqi
groups to talk about the structure of the IIA. And we understand there
are going to be different people have different thoughts about the pace
of how quickly Iraqis will be able to take over. But there are many
others who want the United States to continue to lend a hand,
particularly on security and organizational efforts. And as the
President said, and he'll talk about this in his remarks, but we are
here for the purpose of helping the Iraqi people to arrive at that
point. But then we want to leave.
Q Ari, are there just Iraqis, or are there other Arabs, as
MR. FLEISCHER: Other Arabs, as well. The roundtable -- we're
distributing the list of people who are going to participate in the
roundtable, you'll have that. I don't remember if the roundtable is
exclusively Iraqi, but then the speech will be Arab Americans, Iraqi
Q Will the President discuss the Middle East road map or
prospects for the Middle East?
MR. FLEISCHER: The speech is about the future of Iraq.
Q On tax cuts, the Chairman of the Finance Committee said
yesterday he might be able to get it up to $425 billion or $450
billion, but that that would require offsets or spending cuts. Would
the President back offsets which amount to tax increases by another
name in order to get it up to that kind of range?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, first of all, we're pleased to see a
willingness from the various parties on the Hill to come together so
that the economy can grow and jobs get created. We will continue to
work with the Congress on the exact details of it.
You know, the President's budget, for example, had some $11 billion
over 10 years in areas that raised revenues. So I think it really
comes down to the nature of the specific proposal. And we'll work with
Congress to see what they come up with.
Q Would he support including in any tax package the expanded
business depreciation proposal that's being talked about if it came at
the cost of scaling back, in particular, the dividend tax exclusion?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President continues to support, and will fight
for, a 100 percent dividend exclusion, not scaled back.
Q Ari, when are we going to be able to ask the President
questions again? It's been more than a week.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm working on it.
Q I mean, last time was Fort Hood.
MR. FLEISCHER: But in fairness, I understand, that's absolutely
accurate for the White House Press Corps. But of course the President
has done numerous press interviews. I take the point.
Q -- as much time --
MR. FLEISCHER: Fair point, I take it, I'm working on it. But I do
want to say, the President has been accessible, not to the White House
Press Corps immediately, but he has been visible taking questions from
-- whether it was Tom Brokaw or whether it was a media forum Tuesday
with a group of business and economic writers from the press.
Q Is there going to be some give and take with the Iraqi
roundtable, or is he speaking -- is it just a one-way thing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Every roundtable takes on its own personality. So
typically there's some level of give-and-take. What the President
usually likes to do is go around the room and listen to everybody and
hear everybody's perspective.
Q Some of the participants have told some of the Detroit
newspapers -- they're quoted in the Detroit newspapers today as saying
they want to ask the President why oil wells were protected but
hospitals and buildings, museums and so forth, were not, that sort of
thing. Is he going to be ready to respond to those kinds of pointed
MR. FLEISCHER: That does happen at the roundtables. I think the
press has been in some of the roundtables where people flat-out
disagreed with the President's position on taxes, for example. That's
kind of how the roundtables go, sometimes. Sometimes they mix it up,
sometimes there's opposition, sometimes people agree. We'll see what
happens at this one.
Q So does he feel like he has to kind of mend fences here, to
kind of woo some of the people back? You know, do you think --
MR. FLEISCHER: Mend fences? I think everybody here is going to be
very appreciative of the fact that thanks to this President, Iraq is
now free. And these people, I think, see a very hopeful and bright
future for Iraq.
Within that, sure, issues are going to come up. That's why the
President seeks these roundtables. He finds these roundtables,
particularly where people will say something to him that pushes the
debate, as very helpful. It's his way, as he puts it, to break out of
the bubble and to hear from real people and to hear the real thoughts
that are on their minds. So that's why I said, sometimes these
roundtables just depend on the particular roundtable for the texture of
what's discussed. Sure, sometimes people disagree and they tell him.
Q And why were oil fields protected, if they're correct -- are
they correct in asserting that oil fields were protected but other
civilian buildings and so forth were not?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course it gets into the plan that CENTCOM
had. And I think CENTCOM would tell you is day one, it was from a
military point of view physically easier to land hundreds and hundreds
of miles away from downtown Baghdad, for defensive purposes, than it
was to arrive at a building, for example, in downtown Baghdad, on day
So some things flowed directly from a war plan and the physical
arrangements to protect our forces as they secured assets throughout
Q Can I ask you about -- what's the administration's position
on whether Islamic Sharia law should be part of the new Iraq? There
are a lot of people in Iraq calling for the adoption of the Sharia
legal code, which is very strict and very traditional.
MR. FLEISCHER: These are the issues for the Iraqi people to figure
out, to settle on themselves. But the administration believes what
should guide any of these discussions is transparency, rule of law,
Q So you're open to it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Transparency, rule of law, tolerance. We've always
said that there can be an Islamic democracy -- not an Islamic theocracy
like Iran, but an Islamic democracy.
If nothing else --
* * * * *
Q Do you have any guidance for us on when the road map might be
MR. FLEISCHER: There's an important vote tomorrow in the
Palestinian parliament, which is one of the final steps, if not the
final step, in the ratification of Abu Mazen's cabinet. It's
important to let that event go forward, and then if all is ratified,
then you will see the administration move forward very shortly
thereafter with the release of the road map.
Q Within hours, or days?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can't predict hours or that type of thing, but it
will be very shortly thereafter. At that point there's no purpose in
waiting. We want to move forward to help the parties to find a way to
Q How are you guys going to do that? Are you going to have a
speech? Is he going to have a --
MR. FLEISCHER: It will be principally a State Department-led
Q One other thing in the -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
Q Powell is going to do it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, what do you mean when you say, "do it?" I
think there could be different layers to it, you know, in terms of --
Q What is Bush's role going to be on this?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll keep you posted.
Q So it could be as early as tomorrow, maybe?
MR. FLEISCHER: I want to, the reason I'm hesitating to be more
specific is, allow the events on the ground to conclude.
Q Any further guidance for us on what he's -- the tone of what
he's going to say when he goes out to the Abraham Lincoln, in terms of
-- is he going to say, peace, victory in our time, or what is he going
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he's going to sum up where we are. He will
talk about that the combat phase has come to a -- let me do this. Let
me do this. We'll have more to say about what the remarks on the
Lincoln will be, as it gets closer to it. We're still waiting -- we're
still waiting to hear from Tommy Franks. The speech on the Lincoln
could be the speech where he gives the summary on that. If that
becomes the case, I'll have more to say about it closer to it. Today
is Monday, I'm just not prepared to go that far yet.
Q Would it be jumping at this point? Jumping too --
MR. FLEISCHER: You almost had me.
Q Would it be jumping too far to say, is he going to use the
MR. FLEISCHER: Whenever he gives the remarks -- and it could be
Thursday -- he does not look at it as declaring victory. He looks at
it as describing where we are, and the fact that we are now turning
into a new and important phase in the war on terror, and in Iraq.
There still are missions to be accomplished in Iraq. So he won't look
at it as simply declaring victory. He'll look -- he will use different
words to describe where we are.
Q I've got to clarify. I need to ask, the President still
wants to see the full dividend exclusion. That's what you said?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President continues to support and will fight
for a 100 percent dividend exclusion.
Q Thank you, sir.
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay.
END 11:23 A.M. EDT