CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Ari Fleischer Holds Press Conference
Aired November 28, 2001 - 14:38 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, we are told, is just seconds away from stepping out to the lectern there in the press briefing room at the White House. We are going to bring that to you live, of course, just as soon as it gets underway.
No doubt, he will be asked about some comments the president made just a short time ago, just about an hour ago, in fact, when he spoke to a farm group visiting here in Washington. The president laid it on the line, in effect, for the Congress, especially for the Senate, saying he expects an economic stimulus bill to get passed as quickly as the Senate can possibly and the Congress possibly do it.
He said, in so many words, the country is waiting for action. And for the first time, he said that at least 415,000 workers have lost their jobs since the Congress started to move on this question and he said these people are waiting. He said, any further delay will put more families at risk. He pointed out that the House of Representatives had acted on the stimulus bill, but he said it stuck in the Senate, in his words. He said, it's important now for the Senate not to look for ways to spend money, but to get this worked out -- Ari fleischer.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Did I miss something? Is this Friday in the briefing room?
I have no opening statement, so I will be happy to get right to questions.
QUESTION: I just happened to have noticed that the budget director said that the U.S. is unlikely to return to a balanced budget until possibly 2005.
FLEISCHER: And that is exactly why the president said today how important it is that the Senate take action to pass a stimulus bill so growth can be provided so that does not come to be.
There is no question that surpluses are driven by growth, and the president has always believed that the key to surpluses is growth. Failure to have growth, as we are now in a recession -- entered a recession in March -- will lead to a diminution of surpluses. And the best way to return to an area of surpluses and prosperity is for the Senate to pass a stimulus plan. QUESTION: If I may follow up, the fear, of course, is that the compromises being talked about won't actually stimulate anything.
FLEISCHER: And that's again why the president is calling on the Senate to pass something that is along the lines of what he proposed, which he outlined today in his speech to the farmers, along the lines of something that the House has passed, which focuses more on stimulus and less on spending, particularly spending in order to buy votes, because that is what appears to be happening in the Senate right now, as opposed to a bill that focuses on stimulus for the economy to get the economy going and growing again.
QUESTION: The president said again today that countries could face accountability for the United States if they aid, abet or harbor terrorists, but he didn't mention, like he did two days ago, countries that produce weapons of mass destruction. What's the significance of that?
FLEISCHER: Consistent with what he's always said about that topic.
QUESTION: But he's mentioned that once now, everybody made a big deal out of it. And then he did not announce it today. He did not mention it today.
FLEISCHER: I would refer you to those who made a big deal of it. And I think that's an indication that...
FLEISCHER: Let me go backward on that one. I think what you heard when the president gave those remarks, which he stands by, of course, was that you were very familiar with the president using his usual formulation about, "if -- those who harbor terrorists, are terrorists; those who house terrorists, are terrorists." You've repeatedly heard that formulation from the president. You've also repeatedly heard the formulation from the president about the United States will hold accountable those who develop weapons of mass destruction for their use, again, and especially in the cause of terrorism. The president has always said both statements.
What he said the other day is, he just put both statements together into one statement. So that's why in his mind...
FLEISCHER: That's why in his mind he said this, "I've always been saying this." He just put the two notions together in one paragraph.
I don't think where it fits into a paragraph matters. What matters is the president meant both statements, and that is why he said both statements.
QUESTION: Ari, on aviation security, the president said again today that, the (inaudible) government's doing the best it can to meet the deadline. But apparently, that's not good enough. And the president has signed a bill that calls for a 60-day deadline to screen all bags coming through airports. And his transportation secretary is saying, "Guess what? It's not going to happen. There's no way it can happen."
FLEISCHER: I don't think he said it's not going to happen. I think he said that there are some difficulties in making artificial deadline of 60 days reality, given some of the constraints on the acquisition of all the equipment required.
If it was that easy, it would have been done a long time ago. And that's what the administration's being forthright about, that sometimes when Congress passes an artificial deadline that says, "You have 60 days to do something that has never been done before, now go get it done," sometimes that can be done, sometimes it can't be done. This administration is committed to do everything possible to try to get it done.
QUESTION: Well, then why did the president say, when he signed that bill, that the country is going to be secure in the airways? And why did he not say, "Well, we're going to get secure at some point, but understand these deadlines may be very difficult to meet"?
FLEISCHER: Because there are a variety of ways to measure security. And obviously, if every bag in the hold had been inspected on September 11, the attack on September 11 would have still taken place. That's why there are many different ways to measure security. Inspecting the bags in the hold -- every single bag -- is an important priority. The president is committed to it, the secretary of transportation is committed to it, and the government will make every effort to get it done as quickly as is possible.
QUESTION: And it's not the whole enchilada, when it comes to aviation security.
FLEISCHER: Oh, there are many facets that go into aviation security, including, as the president talked about, increasing the number of air marshals, cockpit safety, increasing the inspections in the hold, better screening, better standards for the people who enter on the airplane and their carry-on baggage. All of that, broadly speaking, goes into security. Making sure that we have good information about people who come into this country from other countries and travel on our airplanes, all of that goes into security.
QUESTION: Ari, can you tell us if and how the president was informed of Mr. Spann's death, the CIA agent who was killed in Afghanistan, what his reaction was and if he's called the family?
FLEISCHER: I was not there when the president was informed. I just presume that he was told at his usual intelligence briefing, in one way or another, by Director Tenet. And the president was aware of the announcement, of course -- the public announcement that the CIA made today. I do not have any information about any phone calls at this moment.
QUESTION: His reaction and was there a reason that he didn't mention this first battlefield casualty just a couple of hours ago, when he spoke to the Farm Bureau and the country?
FLEISCHER: You've heard the president previously talk about the first casualties in the war on terrorism took place on September 11, and that's at a time when some 4,000 Americans were killed up in New York, Americans were killed at the Pentagon, Americans were killed on flight 93 in a field in Pennsylvania. Since then, there have been people who have been hurt in accidents in the battlefield or in the region. And, anyway, I just think the president understands that this battle began September 11. There may be more injuries, there may be more deaths, and the president regrets each and every one.
QUESTION: Ari, Prime Minister Aznar (sic) said that he'd be willing to study the issue of extraditing these eight Al Qaeda members. Why don't you want to extradite them to the United States?
FLEISCHER: Well, the president has made clear that no one has asked for them to be extradited at this time, and that's a matter for the Justice Department to make their determinations of, about the course of justice where justice should be served, and those are determinations that are made by professional prosecutors and diplomats in terms of the individual facts of individual cases.
QUESTION: Is it still possible they could be extradited?
FLEISCHER: Well, again, it depends on the individual facts of individual cases. Certainly the typical standard for extradition was a crime committed against Americans, or a crime committed in the United States where someone's fled the United States. If the facts in this case support that, then that would lend more likelihood of an extradition request. If the facts are these are members of Al Qaeda cell operating outside the United States whose crimes that they are being charged with do not directly affect the United States, then there are other jurisdictions that are also appropriate.
So it's always driven by the facts. And the determinations will be made by the Department of Justice, and if their extradition is required, a request -- the proper authorities weigh in on that in terms of communications with other nations.
But on the case in question here with Spain, there has been no such request made of Spanish officials.
QUESTION: The prime minister indicated toward the end of his remarks that he was, sort of, consulting with the European Union. It sounded like there may be some type of compromise in the works, because of the European's Union's feelings about the death penalty, and military tribunals. Is the administration seeking any, kind of, compromise with the European Union to pave the way for extradition of any suspect?
FLEISCHER: No, I think that was a statement that President Aznar made about Spain working the European Union, and I think you have to do any follow-ups with President Aznar, in terms of what he meant and what he said.
QUESTION: So the administration is not seeking any type of compromise, paving the way for the future to have any European Union countries extradite any suspects to the United States?
FLEISCHER: No, there's nothing that I'm aware of, but you may want to ask Justice about that as well.
QUESTION: Ari, during the hearings on Capitol Hill this morning, one of the questions that came up was, "Why during the negotiations during the anti-terrorism legislation, why wasn't Congress informed at that point that it was at least under consideration implementing military tribunals?"
FLEISCHER: Well, the president, in his authority as commander in chief, has wide powers to act as he thinks is appropriate for the nation at a time where national security is paramount interest, and he made his decision based on that authority and based on his responsibilities. It is not always the role of the administration to consult with all parties. The president has powers granted him under the Constitution to take actions as an executive that he thinks are appropriate, and that's what he did in this case.
QUESTION: Ari, I'm not quite clear on this, the Al Qaeda members and why we're not asking for their extradition, because in the States anybody who's even been suspected of being near Al Qaeda or having anything to do withy anything is being questioned or detained. Under the president's formulation, if you're a member of Al Qaeda, almost de facto you're been trying to attack the United States or you've threatened the United States. So why wouldn't we want...
FLEISCHER: Well, I think you've gone a little broader there, and you began your question with the answer -- you said "in the States." And these are matters that are determined by the facts and the circumstances of each individual case of justice, and somebody who is in the States, of course, is under the American system of justice. Somebody who is arrested in another nation would come under America's system of justice only if other facts are present, and that's why, as always, consider it on a fact-by-fact case.
QUESTION: You said one of the facts that needed to be present was that they were seeking to attack the United States or threaten the United States, and under the president's formulation...
FLEISCHER: If there's a direct chargeable offense against the United States.
QUESTION: But being a member of Al Qaeda, doesn't that put you...
FLEISCHER: Well, again, I think you need to talk to the Department of Justice about the individual facts, not any broad statement about Al Qaeda, but individual facts that govern justice, jurisprudence and extradition, and the Department of Justice has jurisdiction.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment that the Talibans who are non- Afghans who are surrendering in Afghanistan, what will happen to them (inaudible) Secretary Rumsfeld said that they should not be let go free? And also, they might come back in the future again in a year or so against the United States or against (inaudible).
FLEISCHER: Well, the secretary of defense said that the surrenders are being made to the Northern Alliance, and this is a matter internal with Afghanistan. And the United States is urging the Northern Alliance to make certain that people are treated humanely, as is their right, and that's where that matter stands.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on the eight Al Qaeda members, the president just shook his head when he was asked this morning, "Did you discuss the extradition?" I just wanted to follow up on that. He didn't answer. Was there no discussion whatsoever of extradition?
FLEISCHER: No, President Aznar was asked the question by a Spanish reporter and he answered it and that was what he said in the meeting with President Bush.
QUESTION: But he said he would study it.
FLEISCHER: The two of them had that -- what he said publicly is what he also said privately.
QUESTION: And the president had nothing to say in the meeting as well? He expressed no opinion or views?
FLEISCHER: Well, since the United States has not requested their extradition, and it was mostly for President Aznar to discuss his thoughts on Spain since Spain is the one who has arrested them. And the president appreciated what President Aznar said.
QUESTION: Well, wouldn't the president use it as an opportunity here to explain why he might want to use a military tribunal as he explained to the American people (OFF-MIKE) want to explain that to the prime minister?
FLEISCHER: Because you're speculating that this would be a case that would fit that and the president has not engaged in that speculation. The president has said that he wants it as an option. But in the event that there is an extradition request, then I think that becomes a relevant moment and a relevant issue.
But, again, given the facts of each individual case, only if officials at the Justice Department thinks it is a matter for extradition would that become relevant. Since nobody has asked for them to be extradited, it wasn't relevant.
QUESTION: Are you not asking him because you don't want to be turned down? I mean, is that what's going on here?
FLEISCHER: No. Again, each case is an individual case and you'd have to talk to the Department of Justice to find out the facts on any one individual's arrest. You know, the United States is not asking for every person arrested all around the world to be brought to America.
QUESTION: If it wasn't a relevant part of the discussion, why did the prime minister raise it himself? FLEISCHER: Because he knew that the press would ask it. It made it relevant in the sense that the press is going to talk about this.
QUESTION: Has the president made a decision not to say anything about so that, you know, it wouldn't come up?
FLEISCHER: Well, again, the president has always thanked people for their cooperation on the war on terrorism. The president always has made it a point that other nations are helping in the war by arresting people, and arrests have been made. Arrests aren't only made in Spain, arrests have been made in many other nations. And the president, in those cases, has not talked about extradition unless the United States were to make a request.
There are arrests going on in the war on terrorism around the world. The president is very pleased by that. He was very pleased and he thanked President Aznar for the arrests in Spain as very helpful in the fight against terrorism. You shouldn't look at the arrests in Spain any differently than you would look at the arrests in any other nation.
If there is something that suggests the United States a need to extradite, we will inform you of it. We have not made such a request to Spain, nor have we made a request to any of the other nations involved, with the exception of the Algerian.
QUESTION: The Spanish magistrate handling the case has said that these individuals are directly linked to the September 11 attacks on the United States. So the Spanish justice system is satisfied that they are linked to a crime against America.
FLEISCHER: And that's why I said that you need to talk to the Department of Justice to get the Department of Justice, who is charged with responsibility in this matter, for reviewing facts on circumstances of any arrests to determine whether or not there would be anything involving extradition. If there is, then I submit to you this becomes relevant. Until then, it's speculation.
QUESTION: Well, why wouldn't the president use this face-to-face meeting, though, because if it does become relevant and the U.S. does want to extradite these individuals, then there is the issue about the potential use of military tribunals. Wouldn't the president want to use...
FLEISCHER: The president did use the face-to-face meeting to thank President Aznar for their arrests, because it was very helpful in the war on terrorism, just as he has thanked many nations around the world who have arrested people.
But I remind you that the president is not seeking the return to America or the bringing to America of everybody arrested everywhere in the world. If that does happen, it'll happen because of the facts and the circumstances of the individual case, and you will know all about it.
QUESTION: Back on the stimulus package, Senator Daschle, today, decreased his demand for new spending on homeland security from $15 billion to $7.5 billion, and also said he would be willing to take that out of the stimulus package, and I presume put it somewhere else. Does that make the president any more likely to accept more spending than he has indicated he would?
FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's a sign that people are listening to the president's message, because they understand that if the violate the agreement they have promised to honor, the president will veto the legislation, as he has made repeatedly clear. So it's movement in the right direction, but there is additional movement to be made in order for the Senate to be able to pass a spending bill that keeps the agreement they promised.
QUESTION: But what I'm wondering is, does this mean that the president is also going to move in Senator Daschle's direction and possibly offer to spend some more than he has previously offered?
FLEISCHER: The president already moved in the direction of those who want to spend more money, and that is why there is an agreement in place that should be honored. And that agreement was to spend more money in the wake of the attack on September 11, and that's why the appropriations accounts were increased to $686 billion, an additional $40 billion. That was all because the president moved in the direction of those who wanted to spend more to fully fund the war on terrorism, including the war on the home front.
That agreement has been reached. Both parties moved in each other's directions. Having reached that agreement, it is inappropriate for those who reached it to say, "Thank you. Now we want more." And that's why the president's message to the Congress and to the Senate this morning was that the spending has been agreed to and it was a good agreement, it should be honored.
Now that the spending is done, it's important to stimulate the economy and provide tax relief to individuals and to businesses so the economy can grow, so that people don't lose their jobs, so that surpluses are created once more, and that Congress can adjourn having kept its agreements.
QUESTION: Does the president support the idea of at least temporarily suspending collecting taxes as part of the stimulus...
FLEISCHER: The president addressed that in the Rose Garden. I have nothing to add beyond...
QUESTION: He was asked about it. I didn't hear him answer.
FLEISCHER: That's what I said. The president addressed that in the Rose Garden.
I appreciate the opportunity to directly step.
QUESTION: I mean, can't you take a position on that? FLEISCHER: Well, the president has said it's an interesting idea, but the president has said that it's important for the Senate to pass something that stimulates the economy.
The president's vision of what stimulates the economy is accelerating the income tax cuts for all Americans, for creating a new tax cut that the president believes should be in the form of an income tax cut for low-income to middle-income Americans, as well as increased expensing and increases in the ability of businesses to deduct and not be covered by the alternative minimum tax on their taxes.
And incidentally, I looked at the numbers -- Helen, if you remember -- she's not here -- but Helen did raise this issue yesterday, and the numbers are as I indicated yesterday. In the House passed bill, which is not precisely identical to the president's, they had $25 billion over 10 years in expensing, $24 billion in 10 years over in alternative minimum tax relief, $21 billion in something called subpart F (ph) which was not part of the president's proposal, but that is what is passed the House, and they had $86 billion in individual tax relief. Those are 10-year figures.
QUESTION: Can you just summarize that? The president's neither for or against it?
FLEISCHER: The president is for the proposal that he made.
QUESTION: Let me try to take this one step further. Senator Daschle also said that he would -- he and his caucus might support the payroll tax holiday, but only if the Republicans were prepared to give up on the accelerated rate reductions for income tax. Is that a non- starter as far as the White House is concerned?
FLEISCHER: Well, that is one most of the important ways to stimulate the economy. The president believes that the recession would be worse if it were not for the tax cut that was entered into earlier this year where tax cuts were made on July 1; additional tax cuts due on January 1. But there are others that need to be accelerated to get more impetus to growth on January 1.
And the Senate is running out of time to get that done. It's only a matter of a short number of days if not just a little bit longer than that -- just maybe it's a matter of weeks if not less -- until the IRS has to send the tax forms to the all American people. The longer the Senate waits to take action on a stimulus, the harder it is for the IRS to get the tax forms into the hands of the American people.
The Senate does not have forever. And as the president said in his speech today, he proposed this from seven weeks ago, and since he proposed it, more than 415,000 Americans have lost their jobs. It's time for the Senate to act.
QUESTION: So that trade-off is not acceptable to the White House?
FLEISCHER: The president is a big believer in the need to cut individual income tax rates as a way to create growth.
QUESTION: One more on the subject: You said that Daschle's proposal, cutting from $15 billion to $7.5 billion, was movement in the right direction, but there needs to be more.
FLEISCHER: About another $7.5 billion more.
QUESTION: Is that movement need to be zero in order to (inaudible)?
FLEISCHER: The president has made it clear that an agreement is an agreement and an agreement. And that the president, in the meeting, as you know, with House and Senate Democrats and Republicans alike, told the Congress that he would veto anything that violated an agreement they already made. After all, if the president says, "We made an agreement; OK, we didn't mean it; let's come up with a new agreement," what's to hold anybody accountable for the newest agreement? They'll just violate that one as well. The president has said that the existing funding is sufficient to fully and properly fund the war on terrorism.
And the president also reminds the Congress, particularly the Senate and those who want to spend more money in the Senate, that the government can't even spend what's been approved fast enough. They haven't been able to spend all the money that's already been set aside. So there's a more orderly process that the president believes is appropriate, and that is next year, as we come back, that if more money is needed, it needs to be taken a look at in a careful context next year and not rushed into at an end-of-year/get-out-of- town spending spree.
QUESTION: Ari, the president laid out what he thinks would be in a good farm bill, but would he accept the version that's being pushed by Senate Democrats?
And also, why has he been unwilling to definitively say whether he would accept the payroll tax holiday or not? Can you say -- beyond saying it's interesting?
FLEISCHER: On the farm bill, the president addressed that in his speech today and you know what the president believes in.
FLEISCHER: Well, the president thinks the timing is odd in the Senate. At a time when all Americans need help, why is the Senate abandoning all Americans and focusing only on one segment of America, even a segment as important as farmers. Farmers are terribly important; but so, too, are the people who buy farmers' products. And that means the first priority of the Senate should be getting a stimulus package that helps all Americans and helps Americans so they don't lose their jobs.
The second part of your question was on...
QUESTION: Why has he been unwilling to go beyond saying that payroll holidays is just interesting? Why won't he say definitively he endorses it or doesn't...
FLEISCHER: Well, there's other aspects to the payroll holiday than Senator Lott addressed this morning, which are technical, which is how quickly it could come into being to give a stimulus to the economy; would it have to wait too long?
Also, any time you reduce payroll taxes, you're reducing the amount of money that goes into Social Security and into Medicare. Both programs are going broke; Social Security has problems, Medicare has problems. And the money that people pay for their payroll taxes was promised to go into Social Security and into Medicare, and to use it for other purposes raises issues as well.
So having said that, the president believes it's an interesting idea but there are better approaches, and the better approach is the one the president has proposed. But he would like to see progress made in the Senate.
QUESTION: It's a sad story about the CIA agent who was killed, but it's very important that the CIA made the announcement, which is a change of policy. Does this mean that the CIA will now be more forthcoming in announcements that have to do with intelligence? And do you have any details about his execution, which was apparently pretty gruesome?
FLEISCHER: I would just refer you to the CIA on this topic. The CIA did make the statement, Director Tenet did. And this is a very sad day. It's sad for the country. It's sad for the CIA. They are a very close family. And I think all Americans take note of this. And any loss of life in the war of Afghanistan is troubling to this country, and so, too, today's loss.
QUESTION: Any words from the CIA to be more forthcoming in the future?
FLEISCHER: Well, again, I think these are decisions that will be made on a case-by-case basis, and the CIA did today what was appropriate.
QUESTION: On the payroll tax, one clarification, if I may: The Republicans on the Hill, including Senator Lott, were saying today, this is now a much faster way of getting money into peoples' pockets and that it would replace the rebate to workers who had previously paid income taxes. Did the president indicate in this morning's breakfast or does the White House -- is the White House generally amenable to that kind of approach?
FLEISCHER: Again, the president thinks it's an interesting idea. The president has his proposal that's on the table. But as you heard the president say in the Rose Garden, what's important is for the Senate to get moving and for the Senate to pass a bill that can get to conference so that everybody gets a stimulus.
I think what's happening in the Senate, is they're taking a look at the piece that affects low-income Americans and trying to find another way to help low-income Americans. And the president thinks that's a worthy goal. The president has one way to do it, others have another way to do it. But it's also not clear how much support there is on the Hill at this moment for such a proposal.
But the president is pleased to see the discussions. The president is pleased to see what he hopes will become progress. But still, the Senate has a long way to go and time is running out.
QUESTION: Now that Senator Daschle has removed the spending from the stimulus proposal itself and is going to pursue it in other ways, does that mean that the president's veto threat over stimulus has now been lifted?
FLEISCHER: The president never made a veto threat over the stimulus. He wishes the Senate would complete its work so there could be something that could go to conference and to be considered for signature.
QUESTION: I thought the president had said he would veto additional spending...
FLEISCHER: Additional spending.
QUESTION: ... but spending has attached to the stimulus?
FLEISCHER: Well, that's all speculation about whether it was or wasn't attached to the stimulus. So literally nobody made a veto threat over the stimulus, because there was no spending attached to it. You know, that's a hypothetical, and the White House doesn't issue veto threats over hypotheticals.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Senator Daschle said that's the way they were going to proceed. The Democratic proposal was that they were going to add that spending...
FLEISCHER: The president made it clear to Congress, regardless of the vehicle, that anything that exceeded the spending agreements would not be supported and could be vetoed. So we're saying the same thing, I'm being literal; on the stimulus there was no veto message.
QUESTION: So this clears the way then -- the stimulus -- the president -- regardless of how Congress makes up the details, however they craft the details of this thing, there is now nothing that sticks out in this process that is likely to generate any opposition from the White House.
FLEISCHER: Other than the fact that they haven't made any agreements that can get the process moving, and that's what's important now, is for the Senate, as Senator Daschle and Senator Lott both said this morning and should be commended for saying, that they are committed to finding a process so that the Senate can pass a bill.
What's important now is for the Senate to compromise. The Senate needs to work well together and the Senate needs to find a bipartisan solution that cuts taxes, that stimulates the economy and that helps people who get unemployment extension, that helps people to get health care if they've lost their jobs. That's what the Senate needs to do and then they'll be able to match the House and shortly thereafter be able to send something to the president.
QUESTION: The American Payroll Association said today that this idea of a payroll tax holiday would be workable had it been proposed about six months ago, because it takes at least that amount of time to work that through the payroll system, that it has a ripple effect on software, on IRS forms, et cetera, and therefore any type of near-term economic stimulus could not be achieved with this proposal. What is your response to that?
FLEISCHER: Well, Senator Lott, I think, addressed that this morning. I think it was a question asked...
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) provide...
FLEISCHER: He said that if there are any technical considerations, they would take a look at them is I think as he put it. There are a variety of issues that go into consideration of the merits of a payroll tax holiday of that nature and I have nothing to add to it. And the president says it's an interesting idea, but the president has a different approach.
QUESTION: Senator Daschle today said that he would like to propose halving the homeland security funding to $7.5 billion and attaching it to the DOD appropriations bill. When asked about this, the Office of Management and Budget director said he would recommend a veto to the president if that were attached to the DOD appropriations. What would have been...
FLEISCHER: Well, there's no difference between that and the previous questions and I've already indicated that the president said he would veto anything that spent more than the agreement Congress has already made.
QUESTION: Ari, I have two questions. A group of family members of the victims of September 11 are marching this week from the Pentagon to New York to protest the war. They were here on Monday in front of the White House. One of them is Amber Anderson, who is the 28-year-old widow of Craig Anderson who died at the Pentagon. She wrote a letter to the president in which she said, "When we buried my husband, an American flag was laid over his casket and my children believe the American flag represents their dad. Please let that representation be one of love, peace and forgiveness. I am begging you, for the sake of humanity and my children, to stop killing. Please find a nonviolent way to bring justice to this world."
Now they want to meet with the president. Is the president willing to meet with them?
FLEISCHER: You asked me a similar question about a month ago about this same family. Now, if there is any meeting, I will, of course, keep you posted about any meetings the president has. But the president, and I think most Americans, understand that the purpose of this campaign is to save lives, not to take lives, and that's why the president is so determined to defend our country.
He also is very respectful of the message that he has received from these families. He understands their thoughts and they're heartfelt. He understands them. He respects them. He differs. He believes that this mission is saving lives.
QUESTION: And the second question is, in the New York Times, William Safire charges that the president has seized dictatorial power by replacing the rule of law with military kangaroo courts that conceal evidence, make its own rules and execute the accused with no review by a civilian court. He says these are similar to courts in the Soviet Union and current communist China. In your view, how are they different from those kangaroo courts?
FLEISCHER: Well, the president, obviously, completely disagrees and so too do many people who have taken a look at this issue. And I dare say, based on something I heard on National Public Radio this morning, so too do the overwhelming number of Americans disagree with that assessment.
So the president, as I've told you before and you've heard from the president himself, believes it's a helpful option to preserve this right to have a military tribunal, just as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in World War II, for those cases where the president thinks it will help, again, to protect lives, to protect jurors and to maintain the need of the government to have secrets, as the campaign against terrorism is carried out, from any information that would brought to light in a trial for those cases of people who are deemed to be terrorists.
QUESTION: You said this morning that in negotiations on airline security that the president had expressed his concerns about the 60- day, sort of, time frame. In those negotiations, what was the time frame that the president favored? And as of now, can he present a new time frame to the American people when they can expect this to happen by?
FLEISCHER: Again, the president and the administration is going to work diligently to try to meet that 60-day goal. And I think we'll all find out close to the 60th day whether that will be able to happen or not. So I think you've seen administration be very forthright about an element that is in a bill.
And it should not surprise anybody in this room who has covered Congress before to know that there are often deadlines that are chosen in legislation that sometimes are met, sometimes are not met.
The ability to meet them is often less a reflection about the interest of the administration of meeting it, and more often a reflection about how realistic it was for Congress to set that artificial deadline in the first place, particularly in this case, when Congress was advised that 60 days presents a whole series of problems.
You may want to talk to some people in the private sector, who would be responsible for helping to train more dogs that can sniff, to develop the machinery; ask them if they think it's realistic to develop such a capability within such a short period of time.
QUESTION: Will we be using the National Guard in the meantime to hand-check bags?
FLEISCHER: Again, talk to the Department of Transportation as I indicated yesterday. The secretary has said that he has means available to help achieve that goal, and he will do whatever he needs to to help achieve that goal. But Transportation will give you the details on what they are going to do.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Jim (ph) was asking about whether there were markers on any of the other bills?
FLEISCHER: Markers on what now?
QUESTION: On other bills that are pending. And I wanted -- it seems like there may be one now on the DOD bill. But I wanted to ask about the transportation appropriations bill, and what the bottom line was there for the president on this Mexican truck provision, and the...
FLEISCHER: On the Mexico trucking provision, nothing has changed. The president's previous message about the importance of allowing Mexican truckers the right to bring their trucks into America without discrimination remains. The president has indicated that he would veto that bill if that is not fixed.
The conversations are under way on the Hill to fix that. To the best of my knowledge, that was the only other issue in which a formal veto threat has been made.
On the question on the DOD authorization, it wasn't so much the vehicle that would be vetoed as much as it was anything that would exceed the spending agreement would be vetoed as opposed to any one bill. So wherever, if the Congress were to try to slide or slip all the extra funding onto any different measure, would make that measure suspect under the president's previous veto message.
QUESTION: Since the president has said that we want bin Laden dead or alive, does he believe any reasonable American will regard our soldiers killing bin Laden as assassination, like The Washington Post claimed on page one in reporting Israel's killing of that mass- murdering Hamas leader?
FLEISCHER: As you know, there is a military operation under way, and in the course of that effort people will be brought to justice.
QUESTION: It would not be assassination then?
FLEISCHER: This is a military operation.
QUESTION: The New York Times reports rather critically about the American Council of Trustees and Alumni's publishing a list of 117 anti-American statements heard on their college campuses such as, quote, "Anybody who can blow up the Pentagon gets my vote."
My question is, does the president believe that this national exposing of these statements on campus is wrong or does he support the council, whose chairman emeritus is Lynne Cheney? FLEISCHER: Obviously, the president disagrees with people's making those statements, but the president also understands that one of the reasons that every time America has been attacked America wins is because people are free to make such statements, and that's one of the great strengths of our country. But the president disagrees.
QUESTION: But he doesn't think it's wrong to report these statements, does he? He supports Lynne Cheney...
FLEISCHER: It's a free country, and people can assemble those statements and report them.
QUESTION: I just had one question, a follow-up on the -- is there any talk of the president's father attending the funeral for the CIA agent?
FLEISCHER: I have not heard.
QUESTION: Is there anything you can do to help Enron, which is near collapse?
FLEISCHER: That is being monitored by the Treasury Department in terms of any effect it may have on markets or any other areas. And they are keeping an eye on that. And I would refer you to Treasury.
WOODRUFF: The president's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, answering questions for about the last 34 or 35 minutes or so.
The main line of questioning there had to do with the stimulus -- economic stimulus package that's before the Congress. The House passed a version of it weeks and weeks ago. It is now very much before the Senate.
Ari Fleischer underlining how much, how strongly, the president feels the Senate has got to act. For me, the most -- some of the most important signals from him came when he was asked about this proposal from Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott to give people, in effect, a holiday from the payroll tax. Ari Fleischer -- the impression earlier had been that the White House was behind this. But Ari Fleischer said, "The timing on this is odd." And he said, "Every time you tamper with the payroll tax, you hurt Social Security and you hurt Medicare." And he went on to say it's not clear how much support there is in the Congress for that. So, perhaps, some division of thinking there between this Republican president and his Republican leader in the Senate.
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