26 September 2001
Transcript: White House Daily Briefing, September 26, 2001
(Bush's sked, Pakistan/coalition aid, Chechnya/Russia, UNSC,
CIA/support of the President, Egypt/involvement in coalition, airline
security, Afghanistan/American embassy building, Iran/rejection of
coalition involvement, tax cuts, Rep Cooksey/comments on Sikh
Americans, Middle East, economy, farm bill, military draft, Jesse
Jackson/envoy to Afghanistan) (6340)
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer briefed.
Following is the White House transcript:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
September 26, 2001
PRESS BRIEFING BY ARI FLEISCHER
-- President's schedule
-- Pakistan/coalition aid
-- UN Security Council approval?
-- CIA Director Tenet/support of the President
-- CIA/view of bin Laden
-- Egypt/Mubarak comments on threats to the President
- Involvement in coalition
-- Airline security/President's view
- Emergency funding release
- Safe to fly again
-- Afghanistan/American embassy building
-- Iran/rejection of coalition involvement
-- Possible tax cuts
-- Returning to normal activity
-- Representative Cooksey/comments on Sikh Americans
-- Middle East/concessions to help coalition
-- Recession possibility
-- Farm bill
-- Draft/possibility of its return
-- Bill Maher's comments
-- Jesse Jackson as envoy to Afghanistan
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
September 26, 2001
PRESS BRIEFING BY ARI FLEISCHER
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:38 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. Let me update you on the President's
day, and then I'll be more than happy to take any questions. The
President this morning spoke with Dutch Prime Minister Kok. The
President and the Prime Minister expressed their agreement about the
need for full solidarity, and the Prime Minister said that the Dutch
government would be with the people of the United States and stressed
that solidarity means deeds, not just words.
The President also this morning spoke with Kazakhstan President
Nazarbayev. The two Presidents discussed cooperation in the common
fight against terrorism. And President Nazarbayev reiterated that
Kazakhstan will support the U.S.-led effort "with all available
The President earlier this morning convened a meeting of his National
Security Council. He concluded just recently a meeting -- it may still
be going on, if it's not quite concluded -- with a group of American
Sikhs, another reminder to the American people of the importance of
waging a battle against intolerance and prejudice in this country as
we proceed with this fight against terrorism. The American Sikh
community has been beset with occasional violence and it's another
reminder about the need for Americans to honor our constitutional
principles in respecting all Americans and all visitors to our country
throughout this time.
The President will depart for the Central Intelligence Agency in the
early afternoon, where he will have a briefing over at CIA, take a
tour of the CIA, and thank the CIA employees for all the efforts that
they are making to win the war against terrorism.
Upon his return to the White House in the mid-afternoon, the President
will meet with a group of Muslim leaders to send another signal,
another reminder to the American people about the need to be -- to
avoid prejudice and intolerance. The Muslim American community has
been very supportive and cooperative with all efforts to win the war
on terrorism, and the President is very appreciative of that.
He will meet with the Foreign Minister of Egypt at 4:15 p.m. in the
Oval Office. And at 4:50 p.m., the President will have a meeting of
his Domestic Consequences Group to discuss economic actions that the
government may be able to take to help provide a stimulus to the
A couple updates on other events or briefings: Secretary Powell will
also meet with the Egyptian Foreign Minister at 2:30 p.m., and then
the two will participate in a joint stakeout at the State Department
at 3:00 p.m. In addition to the schedule from what I announced
earlier, Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller will also
hold a briefing for the American people at 3:15 p.m., open to the
press, of course, to continue to communicate with the American people
about the efforts underway in the war against terrorism.
QUESTION: Ari, Pakistan says they've been discussing with the U.S. a
broad agreement on an operational plan that includes attacks on camps
in Afghanistan. Is that report inaccurate?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, I'm not going to characterize in any way any of
the operational details about what the United States may or may not be
discussing with any of our coalition friends.
Q: Is the United States taking a softer line on Russia over Chechnya
in return for the cooperation Putin has offered in this effort?
MR. FLEISCHER: President Putin gave a very important speech the other
day. This should be noted. President Bush appreciated very much
President Putin's offer of concrete cooperation in the common fight
against international terrorism. And President Putin's remarks
demonstrate that Russia can make a major contribution to that common
struggle against international terrorism, while at the same time
displaying a respect for the sovereignty and independence of Russia's
In particular, the President noted and wants to thank President Putin
for his offer to provide, as President Putin described it, permission
for humanitarian overflights, information about the situation on the
ground, as well as search and rescue operations, if necessary. The
President looks forward to continuing to work with the Russia
government together as we build this international coalition.
But the President also wants to note particularly President Putin's
remarks about the situation in Chechnya in which President Putin
called on Chechen insurgents to disassociate themselves immediately
from the international terrorist networks, and meet for discussions to
resolve the crisis in Chechnya.
The Chechnya leadership, like all responsible political leaders in the
world, must immediately and unconditionally cut all contacts with
international terrorist groups, such as Osama bin Laden and the al
Qaeda organization. At the same time, the United States has long said
that the only solution in Chechnya is a political solution, a
political process to resolve the conflict there. The President
welcomes the sincere steps that have been taken by Russia to engage
the Chechen leadership and, consistent with what you've heard
repeatedly, respect for human rights and accountability for violations
on all sides is crucial to a durable peace there.
Q: Does this offer by Putin reflect any input by the United States,
did Bush suggest that you needed to do something on Chechnya? And do
you have any idea what might happen if the 72-hour period expires
without an acceptance by the rebels?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, there's been an update on that. As you may
have heard, Chechen leader, Mr. Maskhadov has responded, indicated a
commitment to the peace process. He has indicated a willingness, and
so it's important now to let events develop in Chechnya. That is an
Q: And so, the administration believes, with President Putin, that the
resistance in Chechnya has been infiltrated and is linked to the same
terrorist networks that committed the atrocities in New York?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, there is no question that there is an
international terrorist presence in Chechnya that has links to Osama
bin Laden. And that's why I indicated what I indicated. That also is a
point of view that was shared with the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee in, I believe, it was November of 1999 by a spokesman, an
official from the Clinton State Department when he testified before
Senate Foreign Relations. So that's been long been known; in fact,
it's been referenced in the Pattern of Global Terrorism Report, which
was issued by the State Department.
Q: One more on this. Would, then, Chechen separatists, by the
statement you ready today also calling on them to cut off links to
this group -- are they on notice as the Taliban is that they will
share the terrorists' fate if they don't do so?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President's words speak for themselves about
those terrorist organizations that have global reach. But what's
notable here is, the President is reiterating that it's important to
have a political solution to the situation in Chechnya. But,
undeniably, there are terrorists' organizations in Chechnya that have
ties to Osama bin Laden.
Q: And did he suggest this offer by Putin? Did the President and Putin
discuss this offer in advance of Putin's making it? Does this reflect
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd have to check, Randy. Don't know.
Q: Haven't we made many statements denouncing Russia for its attacks
at Chechnya? And is there some image of some freedom fighters there?
And all of a sudden, you're calling them terrorists?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I just indicated, the concern for human rights
remains a vital part of American policy, and the only solution to the
problem in Chechnya is a political one.
Q: Yes. But why is it just today that you're calling them terrorists?
What has changed? Is this what Putin has asked for, in exchange for
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, that's not the case. That's been
the longstanding position.
Q: I think this is the first time -- is this not the first time you've
used this word at that podium?
Q: It's the first time we've heard it.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not sure that I have discussed the situation in
Chechnya with the White House Press Corps prior to this. We haven't
had much reason to do so. But that's why I indicated, going back to
the previous administration, in testimony before the Senate, they said
what they said because it's true. And the State Department publishes a
report every year that included similar information.
Q: Is it fair to assume that these words from you are in exchange for
Putin's cooperation on the U.S. effort?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's an accurate statement about the situation on
the ground and the importance of the speech that President Putin made.
But keep in mind, President Putin called for political discussions,
which leaders of Chechnya have now indicated they are willing to
engage in such discussions. That's a positive development.
Q: Sounds like a deal, though. It sounds like in exchange for Putin's
support, we, rhetorically from this podium, are lending him support in
characterizing the opposition as international terrorists.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, no such conclusion should be reached. This is
consistent with actions taken by the previous administration, because
it's an accurate statement about developments in Chechnya.
Q: Can you give us the date of that Senate testimony?
MR. FLEISCHER: If I recall, it was November 1999.
Q: Is the administration planning to go to the U.N. Security Council
before for approval before any sort of military action is taken? And
do you think that's something you should do? Is it necessary?
MR. FLEISCHER: Number one, the United Nations through the Security
Council has already spoken out on this matter. Number two --
Q: But not on military action.
MR. FLEISCHER: Number two, in accordance with the U.N. Charter, the
United States has the right to self-defense, of course. The President
has spoken directly on that point. But no decision has been reached
about whether or not there will be any additional requests made of or
through the United Nations. There's just no determination at this
Q: But it's something under discussion that you're talking about?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's one of many options that could be used, but
there's no determination.
Q: Senator Shelby continues to suggest that CIA Director Tenet should
probably step down. Is the President planning today to indicate his
support for the Director?
MR. FLEISCHER: Director Tenet has the full faith and confidence of the
President. The President will be at the CIA. He'll have public
remarks, so you'll have to hear those yourself.
Q: How does the White House, CIA and so forth view bin Laden? Is he a
religious leader or a political leader, or both?
MR. FLEISCHER: He's a terrorist. He's a leader of a terrorist
organization that has inflicted grievous harm on our country. That is
the only way to see him. The President has described him as an
evildoer, and the President has said that this is a struggle between
good and evil.
Q: But deeper into that, do you consider him a religious leader or a
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's so hard to assign any religious value to
the acts that he's carried out. There is no religion that preaches or
tolerates the murder of innocent civilians, as he has done to our
nation. There is only one word to describe him, and that is a
Q: I mean, terrorist is an all-encompassing word. What do you think
his goals are? Political, are they not?
MR. FLEISCHER: His goals are murderous, and that's how he's viewed.
Q: Just to murder --
Q: Actually, kind of following up on that, but maybe a little more
personal, President Mubarak has basically said the President was a
target in Genoa during the summit. A few weeks ago, you were concerned
that Air Force One was a target of the attacks. Does the White House
believe that bin Laden is trying to kill the President?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I'm not going to comment on any particular
threats coming toward the White House. Unfortunately, as you all who
work here know, it is not an uncommon occurrence for people to
threaten the government of the United States, regardless of whether
it's President Bush or any of his predecessors. And that's why there
are security precautions taken at the White House as a matter of
But that's not what this is about. This has nothing to do with
anything individual that may or may not have been directed at
President Bush; this is about an attack that took place on our
Q: Ari, on your Chicago trip tomorrow, the President is going to
announce some security measures for the airlines?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has been reviewing reactions that the
government should appropriately take to help protect the traveling
public through increased security at the nation's airports and on
airplanes. The President has a visit to Chicago tomorrow where he will
discuss a series of issues important to the traveling public and to
the airline industry, and when the President has concluded his review,
he will make the announcement himself.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a good possibility, Elizabeth.
Q: Ari, is anything off the table, though, any of the options, such as
guns in the cockpit or federal employees to be the airport screeners?
Are those off the table?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think at this point it's best to let the President
express it for himself. He'll be doing that shortly.
Q: So he's going potentially tomorrow, so is it fair to say he's
pretty much decided, there's a decision-making agreement?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he's likely to have a couple of additional
Q: Ari, any reaction to the burning of buildings in the embassy
grounds, U.S. embassy grounds in Kabul?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no immediate -- I mean, I think it's just
another sign of the fact that this is serious. That was an abandoned
building, as you know. The United States left it many, many years ago,
but it doesn't change anything about what the President has said or
what the mission of the United States will be.
Q: Ari, on Pakistan, this is not an operational question, but the
Foreign Minister is quoted as saying he's asked the administration to
put aside any notion of supporting Afghan opposition groups. Is this a
roll-back on Pakistan's part? What is your assessment of the level of
cooperation the U.S. is getting from Pakistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's been very good. And as I've indicated all week,
there are going to be certain areas in which different nations
cooperate in different ways. And I think you can anticipate that with
Pakistan, as well as any number of nations.
Q: Could I follow on that, though? Have the Pakistanis warned the
administration about supporting the Northern Alliance in the overthrow
of the Taliban? Have they expressed concern about the President's
comments sort of encouraging the people of Afghanistan to step up --
of the Taliban regime?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, historically, there are certain facts about the
relationship between the Northern Alliance and Pakistan that are
indisputable. And as the United States goes about building the effort
to put an end to the terrorist actions that are fostered in
Afghanistan by Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda organization, hosted by
and harbored by the Taliban government, the United States will keep
all these interrelationships in mind.
Q: So Pakistan has legitimate interests inside Afghanistan which we
will take into account?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's a very complicated region of the world,
Terry, where there's a host of groups and nations that have
longstanding -- have various amounts of interests. And as I indicated,
there is an historical relationship between the Northern Alliance and
the Pakistan government, which the United States is aware of and
Q: Ari, Iran has soundly rejected any overtures that the U.S. might or
might not be making in terms of building an international coalition;
in fact, calling the U.S. effort "disgusting." Any reaction?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, the President has made it clear that this
is a time for nations to choose about whether they are with the United
States and the free world in the war against terrorism or they are
not. And I will leave it at that.
Q: Ari, is the President going to have any concrete requests about how
he wants Egypt to be involved in this war today?
MR. FLEISCHER: He may. But, again, I'm not going to be at liberty to
get into any specific requests that the United States is asking. But
Egypt has been a good friend of the United States before, and the
relationship remains very strong.
Q: Ari, I know you don't want to comment on specific tax cuts that
you're considering, or at least you didn't this morning. But would you
comment on whether or not tax cuts that people are considering as part
of the stimulus package potentially should be temporary, or should
they again be looking at long-term tax cuts as were passed earlier?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think from the President's point of view, it will all
depend on the substance of the specific tax cut, for example. The tax
cut that has been passed by the Congress and signed into law, the
President obviously believes that should be permanent. The President
believes that is helpful for the economy now and long-term, and plus
it's the right thing to do. People should not have a marriage penalty
reimposed on them for any reason, for example.
Other ideas that are new will be considered, and there are some
suggestions that some of those be temporary, and I think the President
will weigh any reason for something to be temporary, as opposed to
permanent, in the context of whatever that new idea may be.
Q: Okay. And are reports correct that the White House has been
specifically pushing for a cut in corporate taxes?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's one of the options that's under review.
Q: Have you been pushing for that on the Hill? Supporting that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The White House isn't pushing for anything on the Hill
because the President hasn't given any indications yet about any
determinations or decisions that he has made. There have been a series
of conversations with people on the Hill where the pros and cons of
various proposals have been walked through, including a reduction in
the corporate tax rate, but that falls under the category of a series
of tax items that have been discussed with the Hill. But I think
that's what you're hearing.
Q: Ari, is there going to be any economic announcements tomorrow,
therefore, in Chicago, along these lines of a stimulus? MR. FLEISCHER:
I would just wait until tomorrow. And you've asked me a question about
airlines tomorrow, and I'm not going to go beyond that. The President
may have something to say tomorrow on that topic.
Q: -- just for the airlines --
MR. FLEISCHER: The event tomorrow is more focused on the airlines. But
at all times, the President is concerned about the economy. He'll have
remarks tomorrow, and I'll just leave it at that.
Q: Can I just follow on that --
Q: Ari, when the Republican leadership says that Larry Lindsey is
pushing for a corporate tax cut, they're mistaken?
MR. FLEISCHER: Can you tell me who is saying that?
Q: Dick Armey.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of any conversation like that. I know
that -- I've talked to Dr. Lindsey about this and what he's indicated
to me is he's had a series of conversations, just as I outlined, where
he is talking about the pros and cons of a variety of proposals,
including a reduction in the corporate rates.
Q: But he's not pushing it, he's just saying, these are our options?
He's not favoring one or the other?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think Larry is well aware, as many of the advisors to
the President are, that there are a series of pros and cons that come
with these actions.
Q: Ari, getting back to the issue of getting things back to normal,
the President is going to be flying out to Chicago tomorrow. He had
this meeting with the Boys and Girls Club this morning. When will the
White House be back to full-speed, the typical activities before
September 11th, with the public tours and things of that nature,
especially since you said today is the first time for this Boys and
Girls Club or any other group to come to meet with the President?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me answer that -- I mean, full-speed -- given
the events of September 11th, it would be nice to slow down to
full-speed. It's not a question of full-speed, it's just a question of
there has been a necessary realignment of the President's time and
schedule so he can focus more of his time, unfortunately, on war
preparations. That is typical in any American presidency, or most
But there are increasing signs that the other parts of the agenda are
showing back up on the President's school and other people's
schedules. And you cited a couple of those examples today -- the
meeting with the Boys Club today, the travel to Chicago tomorrow. The
President and his wife went out for dinner last night. I mean, I think
these things also marry to some degree what the American people are
doing. They're increasingly getting back on with their lives.
Q: Where did they go to dinner last night? And I have a follow-up to
that. Where did they go to dinner?
MR. FLEISCHER: They went to a restaurant in Arlington. The press went
with them. There's a pool report available on it; it was a
publicly-announced trip. They went last night.
Q: No wonder traffic was so bad on the way home. (Laughter.)
Q: Ari, a follow-up to that, though. The situation, though --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, there was a report on it last night. The press went
with them. The press always goes with them.
Q: The newspapers haven't seen a pool report on this.
MR. FLEISCHER: I can tell you the pool went with them.
Q: Okay, well, come back. As far as people coming back into the White
House, this is, like you said earlier, this is a first since September
11th. Is the White House -- is the feeling here at the White House
that the threat here has lessened for the American public to come back
into this place, the people's house?
MR. FLEISCHER: What I indicated this morning was, it's not a first for
visitors to coming to the White House on September 11th. The White
House has been entertaining visitors to the White House since
September 11th on a regular basis. This was the first of where the
more traditional -- they're called literally photo opportunities, but
the more ceremonial part of a presidency, where the President will
meet with various award winners across the United States to thank them
and to honor them for, in this case, being the Boys Club Youth of the
The President's had a series of meetings like he's had today with the
Muslim leaders, with the Sikh leaders. He's had earlier meetings with
other groups throughout the period since September 11th. Those are
private citizens coming to the White House for specific purposes. What
took place today, though, was a return to the more ceremonial aspects
of the job.
Q: Will the public tours resume again soon?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll announce that whenever they do. There is no
information on that at this time.
Q: Ari, on the airlines, is there some sort of snag in getting the $5
billion in emergency funding to the airlines?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that OMB announced last night that that money
was being released. There is a formula for its distribution, and that
formula is set in law by the act of Congress which the President
signed. So the money has been released as of yesterday. I'm now aware
of any problems -- it was released yesterday.
Q: Has the President had any communication with Representative Cooksey
regarding his comments on Sikh Americans? And does he have a message
for lawmakers and members of his party in particular about this issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's message is to all Americans. It's
important for all Americans to remember the traditions of our country
that make us so strong and so free, our tolerance and openness and
acceptance. All Americans -- and we come from a very rich cultural
heritage, no matter what anybody's background in this country. And
that's the strength of this country, and that's the President's
message that he expressed in his speech to Congress and as he has done
when he visited the mosque a week ago Monday, and in the meetings that
he's hosting here at the White House today with Muslim Americans and
Q: Did he speak to Representative Cooksey, and what were his reactions
upon hearing those?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President was very disturbed by those remarks.
Q: Ari, does the President believe that in order for the coalition in
the Middle East, those who are supporting the United States, to hold
together, Ariel Sharon and Israel have to make concessions towards
peace, as well as Chairman Arafat? I mean, is there a direct linkage
to the peace process and maintaining any coalition in this war effort?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes that all the parties in the
Middle East have to take advantage of what is happening today and see
this as a moment to realize the repercussions of going down the wrong
road, and that's a road that has led to terrorism and to conflict and
in the Middle East has led to war. And that's why the President feels
so strongly and has said this to leaders, that they should seize this
moment and renew their efforts to accomplish a lasting peace in the
And toward that, of course, there was a meeting this morning between
Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat, where they agreed to
sustain their cease-fire and to resume security cooperation. And the
President welcomes that announcement and that development from this
morning. That's something that the President and Secretary Powell have
been encouraging the parties to do on a rather repeated basis.
The President welcomes a reiteration of both sides to their commitment
to implement the Tenet and the Mitchell plans, and this meeting this
morning constitutes an important first step toward the development of
a more concrete and lasting approach to restoring trust and confidence
in the region.
Q: Ari, can I come back to the Chicago trip? Putting aside the issue,
the specifics of what the President is going to announce tomorrow,
does the President have a message behind this trip of whether it's now
safe for Americans to fly again?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's trip is designed to talk to the airline
workers and to thank them for returning to the flight schedules that
they have returned to, to thank them for doing their part to combat
terrorism and to get America moving again. He may have some additional
things to say on some of the policy items that we've been discussing.
But I do know that typically in America, there are some 5,500 to 6,500
flights a day in our commercial industry. There are now, today, or at
least as of yesterday, 4,500 to 5,500 flights taking off and landing
safely every day across our country.
We're not back at exactly where we were prior to September 11th, but
there are an awful lot of flights flying every day, safely taking
Americans to where they want to travel, and that's an encouraging
sign. There are just increasing signs of life in America is getting
back to normal, as normal can ever be at a time where the President
will still remind the American people that threats remain and the
nation is preparing for war.
Q: -- Americans not to be afraid of flying?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think every American is going to come to their own
judgment. And for some Americans, obviously, the 4,500 to 5,500
flights a day, many Americans have already come to the conclusion it's
safe to fly, and they've safely flown. Other Americans are going to
approach this on their own time, at their own pace, and the President
understands that. So that's an individual decision people are making,
but according to how many flights have been taking off and landing
every day, that's a decision people are increasingly feeling
comfortable with. The President will continue to remind people that
it's important to remember the threat is not eliminated.
Q: But they're only flying at 30 percent capacity, though, Ari, and
that's the problem. I mean, the flights are in the air --
MR. FLEISCHER: No doubt about it. It's exactly right. The flights --
when I give the numbers about the flights taking off and landing
safely, that's not an indication that each of the flights is 100
percent occupancy. There is no question about that, and that's one of
the reasons the President is going to travel to Chicago tomorrow and
talk to the people in the airline industry, because they're hurting as
a result of the lack of passengers.
Q: The question is, I think, what is the President going to say to
people to try to reassure the public that it is safe for them to get
back on those planes? I mean, the planes are in the air, but what can
he say to tell people, look, we're doing everything we can and it is
now safe to get back in the air?
MR. FLEISCHER: And that's one of the reasons that the President has
been focused on development of a security package to help increase
security and protection for the traveling public of both airports and
airlines. And he'll have more to say on that directly, himself.
Q: Related to Jim's question, to your knowledge, how many
administration officials, White House staff, or in the agencies and
departments are traveling commercially this week or next week?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can tell you I know on last Friday, OMB Director
Mitch Daniels flew home commercial to Indiana, came back, I believe,
on Sunday. I'm flying commercial somewhere today for Yom Kippur. So
it's been across the government there have been a series of travels. I
think you'd have to talk to each of the different agencies to get the
Q: Cabinet Secretaries also are routinely now traveling commercial?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, you'd have to talk to each agency; I don't keep
track of all their travel. So you'd have to talk agency by agency. I
can tell you about Mitch, because I just heard Mitch say that, that he
flew home commercial last Friday, just as I'm flying home to New York
Q: Can I just follow up with one more on the CIA -- Director Tenet,
the President, of course, having full faith and confidence in him. But
in terms of the agency, the President has not, of course, wanted to
look back, he's wanted to look forward. But doesn't he believe the
fact that the U.S. had no specific warnings of these attacks that
they're somewhat of an indictment of U.S. intelligence operations?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President views it as a reflection of the
fact that we are an open society, a free society; that the CIA has in
the past been very successful in catching and preventing acts of
terrorism. Obviously, the attacks took place on September 11th, they
were not detected and they were not caught ahead of time. But the
President's focus right now is on winning the war on terrorism. And I
reiterate, he has full faith and confidence in Director Tenet.
Q: Ari, an IMF official today made the statement that a recession in
the United States was a done deal. Now, he took back that formulation
but, obviously, that was his outlook. Does the White House agree with
this, that a recession in the short term at any rate, is going to be
inevitable in the United States?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President remains very concerned about the
state of the economy, and that's one of the reasons he's having the
meeting today, to talk to his advisors about what steps can be taken
to help promote economic growth.
Now, the President continues to believe that the tax cut is the right
policy; the Federal Reserve rate cuts have been the right policy and
that will have a helpful combination in bringing the economy back. But
there's no doubt about it, the attack on our country September 11th
has had an adverse effect on the economy. I'm not going to go beyond
that. That's an economic definition of a recession and that will be
determined by the data as it comes in.
Q: The House next week is planning to move a farm bill, which, as I
understand it, could add some $73 billion, $74 billion over the next
10 years. Does the White House support that bill?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me take that question and get back to you on the
farm bill, Keith.
Q: Ari, back to the airline security thing and Americans getting more
comfortable with flying. There have been several incidents since the
September 11th attack where people have intentionally breached
security to prove the point that it is still ineffective. My question
is, is that inappropriate or is ignoring that reality and arresting
people who do that casting a false sense of security.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that at a time when the people at the airports
are working very hard to secure the airports for the traveling public,
I think it's not appropriate for anything to engage in anything
symbolic of that nature. It's a distraction that prevents the people
who are doing their jobs from being able to carry out their mission if
people are doing it for the purpose of doing something symbolic.
Having said that, the President understands that we do need to
increase security at airports and give more protections to the
traveling public, and he'll have more to say on that point shortly.
Q: -- about the war, just for a second. Since September the 11th, have
there been any serious -- underline the word serious -- discussions at
the National Security Council meetings about bringing back the draft?
And how does the President feel about the possibility of the draft?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I've asked that question, and the answer that I've
gotten directly from DOD is no, there has been no consideration of
Q: As Commander-In-Chief, what was the President's reaction to
television's Bill Maher, in his announcement that members of our Armed
Forces who deal with missiles are cowards, while the armed terrorists
who killed 6,000 unarmed are not cowards, for which Maher was briefly
moved off a Washington television station?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not discussed it with the President, one. I have
Q: Surely, as a --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm getting there.
Q: Surely as Commander, he was enraged at that, wasn't he?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm getting there, Les.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm aware of the press reports about what he said. I
have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself. But assuming
the press reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say, and it
unfortunate. And that's why there was an earlier question about has
the President said anything to the people in his own party. There are
reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they do, and
this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.
Q: The Washington Times reports that the Reverend Jesse Jackson has
nominated himself to go to Afghanistan. My question is, does the
President believe this would be useful, or would it be better for the
cause of justice that since the former head of United Way is in
federal prison for spending tax-exempt funds on his mistress, that the
Reverend Mr. Jackson at least be investigated by the Department of
MR. FLEISCHER: I've got no comment on Mr. Jackson's possible -- the
Reverend Jackson's possible travel. I would just reiterate what the
President has said, the he will not engage in any negotiations or
END 1:10 P.M. EDT
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