CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
White House Press Briefing
Aired December 19, 2002 - 12:32 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Ari Fleischer is answering reporters' questions at the White House briefing. Let's go and -- Let's go and listen to him right now.
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: ... possible moment.
QUESTION: Has the president ever taken the position on the Augusta National country club issue of taking women in?
FLEISCHER: It's not a comment that the president has discussed. As you know in the conversations about appointments, the president has said he doesn't think it's a disqualifying matter for appointments to his administration.
QUESTION: It has nothing to do with appointments. Does he take a position on whether women should...
FLEISCHER: No, that's the only context in which I've discussed it with the president. So that's the answer I can share with you.
QUESTION: Appointments for what?
FLEISCHER: Administration positions. That's the context in which it came up about two weeks ago.
QUESTION: Well, do you know what his position is.
FLEISCHER: As I indicated, it's not a topic I've discussed with the president beyond that. I'll see if there's anything I can get for you on it.
QUESTION: Ari, do you have any sense yet of the tenor of Hans Blix's briefing to the Security Council? And is the administration satisfied with the content of his briefing?
FLEISCHER: The Security Council meeting continues in New York. And once the portion of the meeting is concluded, Mr. Blix, I am advised, will go out and discuss with the press that which he said in the private meeting.
So I think I have to yield and allow Mr. Blix to speak. Then the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Negroponte will speak. And then Secretary Powell will speak.
QUESTION: But certainly you've got some sense of what he's going to say. Is the administration convinced that he shares the administration position on the declaration?
FLEISCHER: Let me put it this way to be as helpful as I can, while being respectful of the fact that Mr. Blix deserves the right to make his remarks known.
I think that it will become increasingly clear that the world community, including the United Nations, sees omissions in the Iraqi document, that at a time when the United Nations Security Council and the United States and all member states of the Security Council were looking to Iraq to provide a full, complete and accurate description of their weapons programs there is a wide recognition that Iraq has not done that.
There are omissions and there are problems.
QUESTION: One more on this. Do you feel -- does the administration feel like the weapons inspectors do have a larger role to play when it comes to disproving this declaration or is the burden not on them at all? Is their primary function, in the president's mind, to recruit Saddam's weapon scientists at this point?
FLEISCHER: The president feels very strongly that the burden is on Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein must cooperate with the inspectors. The president believes, as the inspectors themselves have often said, that they have a very difficult task, particularly if Iraq does not cooperate, particularly if Iraq does not declare full information and if Iraq hides the information that they have or if Iraq omits information from their declaration.
The president thinks the mission of the inspectors includes both inspections, to find whatever can be found, given Iraq's attempts to deceive and to hide, as well as to interview scientists and people involved in the weapons program. Those are both part of their mission in the president's judgment.
QUESTION: Just on the other topic. Does the president believe -- putting aside questions about whether or not Senator Lott should resign -- does the president believe that the ongoing controversy related to Lott, these daily questions and so forth, that it is harming his ability to enact his agenda this year?
FLEISCHER: Well, I think that, one, the president has had great success in enacting his agenda in the last two years. And given the change in the Congress the president anticipates that the prospects will be good for continued success in enacting his agenda.
So the president looks forward to the policy discussions beginning next year with Democrats and Republicans on the Hill. And he thinks that he will be able to make great progress.
QUESTION: OK. But you're not answering the question at all. I mean has the controversy itself that's been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) now for a couple of weeks, and with the meeting among Republicans January 6 promises to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for another couple of weeks, is this harming the president's ability to enact his 2003 agenda? FLEISCHER: First of all, it's not 2003; Congress is not back. And the president is optimistic that his agenda in 2003 will move forward nicely in the Congress, because the president thinks it's important...
BLITZER: I want to interrupt Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary...
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