Fleischer Briefing July 16 - Harken & Halliburton
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 16, 2002
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:23 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. The President this morning had his usual CIA briefing, which was followed by an FBI briefing. And then the President met with members of Congress on the Department of Homeland Security to discuss the importance of Congress moving to take action to vote to create a Department of Homeland Security at the Cabinet level, to protect the American people from the ongoing potential threats of terrorism.
Later this afternoon, the President will welcome to the White House Judge Priscilla Owen, Justice Priscilla Owen. The President nominated Justice Owen to serve on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 9, 2001. She has waited more than one year to be confirmed and to have a hearing in the United States Senate. And a hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday of this week has now been postponed by the Senate.
Justice Owen is one of 32 nominees to the circuit courts by President Bush. Since the first nominations on May 9th, only 10 of those nominees have been confirmed -- this despite the judicial vacancy crisis in the courts. The American Bar Association unanimously rated Justice Owen as well qualified, the highest possible rating that can be given to a judicial nominee. The President knows that she is a well qualified jurist and he hopes that the Senate will take action and confirm her and put her on the circuit court.
With that, I'm happy -- oh, one final announcement and then I'll take your questions. The President also looks forward to welcoming to the White House King Abdullah of Jordan on August 1st.
Q Just to answer a lot of the questions that have been out there and to show, back-up your claims in the past that this is an open administration. Why not just ask the SEC to release all the documents behind the Harken investigation -- just to get it out there.
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, you know, the SEC took a look at all the questions that were raised in the context of Harken and they have come to their conclusions. They have made their determinations and they made their judgments and they made their call. It's all been shared with you. And you have what they determined.
Q Why don't you want to have shared with us the basis that they used to come to that conclusion?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Ron, you know, the lesson in Washington, there's no end to that type of question. It doesn't matter that the SEC has already looked into this in its entirety, shared its finding, shared its results with you and come to the conclusion that there's no "there" there.
Q Let me follow-up --
MR. FLEISCHER: The premise that you're asking is any time we ask for anything, we want to have full access to everything in a file. And that's just the precedent that is lacking in sense or merit, and especially in a case here where you know the conclusions, you know the reasons, you have everything you need, and it's all at your disposal.
Q Can I ask one more question? The President's accountant said yesterday that a Texas bank freed up $130,000 -- 130,000 shares of Harken stock that were being pledged for the loan the President took out for the Texas Rangers. Do you happen to know what the President did to get the collateral free?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, Ron, I'm not the President's accountant.
Q On Halliburton, Ari, you said from the podium that the Vice President believes that the lawsuit against him is without merit. I realize you're not going to comment on an ongoing SEC investigation. But isn't it also true that because of these things that one of the most experienced former CEOs in this administration has become something of a political liability, in that at the time when you're cracking down on corporate responsibility, the Vice President is not heard from, he's not talking about these issues. He can't be used as a vital spokesman of the administration.
MR. FLEISCHER: I thought I saw him on TV just yesterday or the day before giving a speech about corporate governance. So I just differ with your findings and with your premise.
Q That was a fundraiser, right, and we'd all stipulate that those don't get a lot of coverage, right?
MR. FLEISCHER: I saw him on TV, so obviously he got covered.
Q Wait a second, is that your only answer?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry, what was your next question?
Q I mean, that was -- so he's not a liability at all that he can't speak out about these issues?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Vice President of the United States continues to be a powerful asset not only for the country, but for the President. I think the American people recognize in Dick Cheney a distinguished leader, a man of integrity, a man who has sound judgment, who has been doing and continues to do important and very powerfully important things for this country, and continues to give the President sound judgment, good advice. We're honored that he is serving this administration.
Q Just one more -- can I just do one more on this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, you may.
Q Thank you. Is the -- was he aware of circumstances or problems within Halliburton that could ultimately affect the financial position of the company prior to his selling of stock?
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, these are issues that if the Securities and Exchange commission deems them appropriate to look into, they will look into.
Q There was unhappiness at the White House yesterday over the coverage of the President's Birmingham speech and relating it to the stock market. Does the President feel that he is being treated in a different way in terms of this kind of coverage? Does the President feel that this kind of coverage has a negative impact on the markets, and that it's a disservice?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, the President really doesn't spend much of his time worrying about the coverage that he gets; he leaves that to others. But the President's focus is on the economy, on long-term solutions to keeping the economy growing and strong. The proposals he's made to Congress to clean up corporate governance, the need for Congress to pass a tough bill to get tough on corporations prior to their leaving on the August recess. That's where the President has focused on, that's what he works on and that's what he works at.
Q Well, within the White House itself, I gather there's unhappiness for this kind of coverage?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you know, I can't pick quarrels with the press on an hourly basis. If there's something that I think I need to share with you about the way the press covers that information or news, I'll be happy to do it.
Q Two questions. One, again, this time another massacre in Kashmir, and this time was worshippers at a Hindu temple, 35 of them were injured or killed. Any reaction by the President? Because, again, India is saying that enough is enough.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President continues to be deeply concerned about the violence in Kashmir. The President, as you know, has been working very hard with quite a bit of success, along with other members of his administration and the international community, to reduce the amount of tension between India and Pakistan over this disputed area. It continues to be an area of great concern and volatility, and it remains an area of active American diplomatic engagement.
Q Just to follow up? What Indian government has been saying for the last three months, now German intelligence is saying really the same question I asked last week of President Bush, where is Osama bin Laden? He said he doesn't know if he's dead or alive. Now, German intelligence is saying that he is, in fact -- Afghanistan-Pakistan border. So what do you think he has to say now?
MR. FLEISCHER: The United States has nothing conclusive. The answer remains the same, that we do not know whether Osama bin Laden is dead or alive. I think you're going to continue to see numerous reports from all different places around the world because nobody seems to know. But that doesn't change for this President what this war is about, what the fundamental mission is about.
Nor does it change on a day where the President announced his strategy for homeland security the fundamental mission at hand, which is the continued protection of the American people. Because whether Osama bin Laden is or is not alive, there are still people who are doing their best to infiltrate our borders, to enter America, to bring harm to American citizenry in any way that they possibly can.
Now, the President hasn't talked about it for a little bit of time, but the President continues to receive a threat matrix each morning that arrives on his desk that details several of the threats in whatever general forum or information we have about them.
And so that is, to the President, what this war is about: the continued protection of the American homeland, the American people and our interests abroad from people who would seek to do us harm and have continued to look for ways to bring harm to our country.
You only get two. I promised two -- no, you don't get a follow-up to the follow-up to the follow-up. Kelly.
Q Can I have two? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Depends what they are. If I like them, you can keep going. If I don't -- so obviously you're going to get stuck with two.
Q All right, we'll see how it goes. First, though, I believe the current head of Halliburton told Newsweek Magazine that the Vice President was aware of the practice of having these construction costs, these higher construction costs counted as revenue before the customers agreed to pay them. Is that true?
MR. FLEISCHER: Kelly, as I indicated earlier, as David pointed out, if there is anything the Securities and Exchange Commission is going to take a look at and review, they are the ones to do it and I will not have anything further to add or subtract.
Q So you won't be saying what the Vice President knew or did not know, you're leaving that to the SEC's investigation?
MR. FLEISCHER: I've addressed it as fully as I will.
Q Why won't the President come out and endorse the Sarbanes bill? Senator Lott, House Speaker Hastert both believe that at the end of the Conference Committee, the bill is going to look very much like the Sarbanes bill. Why won't the President come out and endorse it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because this is the beginning of the process, and the President wants to bring it to a successful close and he wants to do so quickly. And the President views this as a case at any time -- and you have seen this on a million pieces of legislation -- any time there's a House bill, a Senate bill, the best course for a President, any President, is to work in the conference to get an agreement between the two bodies, something that is good and tough and strong that cracks down on corporate wrongdoing. And that's where the President is, and that's what his focus is.
Q He seems to be signalling, though, if a bill like the Sarbanes bill gets to his desk, he would most likely sign it.
MR. FLEISCHER: What the President has said unequivocally is that the House has passed a strong bill, the Senate has passed a strong bill and he wants to sign a strong bill. And, frankly, I think it's fair to say that the notion has been well served by the debate in the House and the debate in the Senate and the actions of both the House and the Senate.
This appears to be an instance of where Washington is coming together in a bipartisan way to learn from some of the excesses of the past and to change the laws so that corporations are more accountable and that the arm of the law hangs over these corporations, in case any of them engage in wrongdoing again. And this is -- it remains to be seen whether that same good, bipartisan spirit will continue in the conference. But the President is doing everything in his power to make sure that happens.
Again, the President calls on the Congress to complete action so a bill cracking down on corporate America can be signed into law and Congress passes it before they leave for August recess.
Q Ari, following on the Sarbanes corporate crime bill, the -- there seemed to be a stampede yesterday. You had a 97-to-zip vote. Are there any fears that there's a movement now towards regulation that runs counter to what the President has said? He's been very clear that he fears overregulation.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I've just praised the House and I praised the Senate for the actions they've taken here. And I did that based on the bipartisan way the two have approached the issue and on the merits of what they've passed. Certainly, the Senate legislation reflected the very issues that the President went up to New York and called for. The President called for a doubling of criminal penalties from five to 10 years for people who engage in corporate fraud. Wire fraud investment passed by the Senate. The President in New York called for strengthening the laws that criminalize document shredding. That's been passed by the Senate.
The President called to strengthen the ability of the SEC to freeze improper payments to corporate executives while a company is under investigation, so they can't transfer corporate money to their own personal account. That was passed by the Senate. And the Senate empowered the SEC through administrative action to bar directors and officers from continued service if they engage in misconduct.
Q Specifically on the issue of overregulation, though. You haven't answered that, you haven't addressed --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly, any time the Senate or the House passes so much of what the President asks for, the President doesn't consider that overregulation or underregulation; he considers it just right amount of regulation.
Q An unrelated follow-up? Senator Clinton has proposed extending unemployment benefits by 13 weeks. Originally, it called for extending those benefits for people who were victims or related somehow to the tragedy on September 11th. The bill now calls for an outright extension for anyone who continues to suffer from unemployment. Where does the President stand on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Congress just passed and the President signed into law earlier this year an extension of unemployment benefits by a period of 13 weeks. And so that is already law of the land. The President thinks one of the most important contributions Congress can make to fighting unemployment is to pass trade promotion authority, which will create jobs in the country. That's currently stuck in a conference committee in the Congress. He thinks passage of energy legislation will help create jobs in the United States.
The President also calls on the Senate and the Congress to pass terrorism insurance, which is hurting particularly the construction trades, denying them the ability to create more jobs. There are many things Congress can do this session before they leave for the year to create jobs in this country, and the President is going to continue to call on the Congress and hold their feet to the accountability fire to make certain they get those bills passed into law.
Q Is that a no?
Q Ari, two questions, please. The first one, is the President going to announce today the appointment of a new Ambassador to Mexico, the nomination of a new U.S. Ambassador to Mexico?
MR. FLEISCHER: As always, the personnel announcements are published and feel free to read it. I don't know off the top of my head about that personnel announcement, though.
Q It was not on the wires, but it's all right. Next question. Does the President feel -- I know the President has been backing Harvey Pitt as president of the SEC -- does the President feel, though, that some of the criticism, some of the questions the Democrats have and John McCain have, does he feel some of those arguments are valid?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. The President listens to Arthur Levitt, for example. Arthur Levitt, the former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission appointed by President Clinton has commended Harvey Pitt for the superb job he is doing at the SEC; for the enhanced number of corporate wrongdoers who Harvey Pitt has now banned from serving as members of board of directors of corporate companies or in corporate positions anymore; for the amount of money that Harvey Pitt has taken back from business executives who took that money as a result of filing phoney books.
He is receiving bipartisan acclaim from some of the best experts in the business, such as Arthur Levitt. And the President knows that Harvey Pitt is doing an excellent job, a superb job. And the President looks forward to him continuing in that good job.
Q Ari, reaction to the latest attack in the Middle East and --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President condemns the latest violence in the Middle East. This is another reminder of why it is so important, in the President's judgment, for all the parties in the Middle East to do their utmost to focus on peace, to stop the terrorism that is plaguing the people of Israel, and to take every action possible to bring peace to the region.
Q -- hear you saying anything one way or the other about whether you think Israel should be careful about --
MR. FLEISCHER: I can't hear you, Deb.
Q I said, I don't hear you giving any guidance to Israel about whether you think Israel should be careful about how it responds to this particular incident, or any indication of whether you're holding Chairman Arafat responsible.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's -- the President's reaction is just as I indicated.
Q Can you -- Ari, does the President still have confidence in Army Secretary White?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, he does.
Q Has the President ever expressed an opinion on whether he thinks that the corporate executives who have been taking the 5th up on the Hill have the right to do that, or if that's wrong, they should actually be --
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not heard the President weigh in on that topic. Obviously, everybody has constitutional rights, but I have not heard the President weigh in on that topic.
Q Ari, you talked last week, and I think a little bit yesterday about the question of how the President talks about the economy versus the markets. I'm wondering if you can explain how he separates this in his mind? Obviously yesterday he was talking about economic fundamentals and the long-term -- trying to restore long-term confidence in the economy. Does he also expect that his words will be reflected in the short-term confidence that's voted on each day in the markets, or does he pretty well ignore that, and design his speeches so that --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's focus is on policy. And policies impact principally the economy, and they do so in a number of ways. For example, take the tax cut that the President passed into law. The bipartisan tax cut reduced rates, encouraged growth, gave a stimulus to the economy and gave a boost to the economy, and that manifests itself mostly through the first quarter, as you saw, which had growth in excess of 6 percent, as the stimulative effect of the tax cut went into effect, as well as last fall with the rebates.
Education is another example, for instance. That's something that affects long-term the strength of our country. The policy changes made to have better education, children with a brighter future, broadly impacts the economy as businesses, as employers have a better educated work force. Trade promotion authority, I alluded to it earlier, by enabling the United States to enter into more trade agreements with different nations around the world, it creates more jobs for the American people, often sector related. All of those create more employment, more employment creates more growth, more growth leads to more revenues, more revenues leads to a sounder economy and better fiscal discipline in Washington. That's the President's focus.
All of the above influences market behavior, but the President does not seek, nor would he seek, to try to announce any policy that would try to affect fluctuations on a daily basis in markets.
Q As you design his comments, do you design them with an eye toward how the markets may react in the short-term? Or do you just focus on those longer-term issues?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President focuses on policies that impact the economy, that impact the American people, and then the markets make the decisions they make based on whatever variety of reasons markets make. That's why they're called markets.
Q The President's counter-terrorism strategy, give us a sense of what the new elements contained in the strategy -- how that will impact his Department of Homeland Security, whether some of the laws he's called for changing should be folded into the legislation that creates this Cabinet level department.
Also give us a sense of the costs of what some of the new provisions called for today might come to. And how much of the Rose Garden appearance today was aimed at putting pressure on lawmakers who still have questions about the viability of some of the elements of the President's Cabinet level department?
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. Let me work backwards on your questions. From the day the President went on national TV and addressed the nation to announce that he wanted to create a Cabinet level Department of Homeland Security, communication with members of Congress has been vital, because they're the ones that this nation is looking to and relying on to get this job done. The President can only propose, but it's up to Congress to do this.
And to get this enacted into law it's going to be very important for many people who have diligently, waited years in the Congress to serve on committees that give them jurisdiction over the needs of their constituents to be able to say, I may have to give up something that I've worked for a very long time to arrive onto this committee to serve the nation because we're in a new era.
And the Coast Guard is one example. The President believes now that the primary mission of the Coast Guard has got to be the defense of our homeland. The Coast Guard indeed does have many other vital missions, such as maritime safety, such as inspection of boats to make certain that they catch the fish that they are supposed to catch in the quantities in which they've agreed to catch. That's part of our laws.
But the President believes that given the fact that we have terrorists who are still trying to infiltrate our borders, the number one mission of the Coast Guard needs to switch and become the defense of the United States of America. And the President believes, though, as members of Congress work through all these various issues they, too, will come to the same conclusions he has. And that's why he has worked so diligently with members of Congress. He respects the differences of opinion that they may have, and he understands why there may be reasons as a result of seniority or as a result of various parochial interests that members of Congress may initially react differently.
But in the end, the President believes that Congress will put our nation first and will put homeland security first. And that's why he'll continue to meet with members of Congress, as he did today.
On the cost question, Wendell. The President, in his budget for fiscal year '03, proposed significant increases in spending for the various agencies associated with homeland security. And as a result of those increases and then the savings that will accrue as a result of some of the duplicative missions that will now be united at the Department of Homeland Security, this can be done in a cost-neutral manner. There may be some transition costs depending on some of the ultimate decisions that the Congress makes, but given the fact that the President has already proposed all these spending increases, he thinks all this can be accomplished within those previously proposed announcements.
And, finally, on your question about the mission of the department, the President believes that this new Department of Homeland Security will make the nation safer by improving our intelligence and our early warning capabilities, by toughening our borders and our transportation security arrangements, by strengthening our efforts to prevent domestic terrorism, by affording more protections for critical infrastructure, by defending against weapons of mass destruction, and finally, by improving the ability, particularly at the first responder level, to apply to emergencies.
Q If I could follow-up. In fairness, you continue to characterize all opposition to the President's proposal, even the individual elements of the President's proposal, as matters of turf. But there are lawmakers who feel that there are fundamental problems here and they have nothing to do with turf. They have nothing to do with congressional oversight. They have to do with whether or not the focus should be on retraining elements of homeland security now, rather than focusing on putting them under other bosses, if you will. Don't you kind of gloss over some of the fundamental concerns lawmakers have about posse comitatus, about other constitutional elements and other elements of the effectiveness of homeland security when you brush aside arguments or concerns as matters of turf?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can reiterate what I said -- for example, on the Coast Guard, that wasn't about turf. That was about the legitimate ongoing needs and missions of the Coast Guard in matters that are not directly related to homeland security.
Q -- set it up, you talk about lawmakers waiting years to serve on various committees --
MR. FLEISCHER: Certainly they're both factors. They're both factors, and I think everybody recognizes that. Just as I indicated on the Coast Guard, there are valid reasons that the Coast Guard has other missions, for example. But the point the President is making to members of Congress, the primary mission of these agencies needs to change, and the primary mission needs to be the defense of our country.
Q Just to follow-up, one more on the Middle East, Ari. Would the White House accept Yasser Arafat as some sort of emeritus position in the Palestinian Authority? And is there a growing split between the State Department and the White House on this issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as both the President and Secretary Powell have said -- Secretary Powell most recently in his interview with Mr. Koppel -- it's not the place of the United States to determine what position any individual holds; it's up to the Palestinian people to ultimately decide what role Chairman Arafat should play. That's what Secretary Powell said last night, and that's again what I have reiterated this morning.
Q Ari, under the homeland security strategy that he announced today, what does the President have in mind for a domestic role for the military, for the U.S. military?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is nothing that I'm aware of that suggests any change in that. So no changes from the domestic role. Now, as you know, the Department of Defense earlier announced just as part of their internal reorganization, an internal focus on the defense of the United States, but no changes beyond that.
Q What about an increased federal authority to call up the National Guard?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me take a look and see if there's anything on that. I'll try to advise you.
Q Doesn't it at least call for a review of how the military can be used in the future?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me take that and try to get back.
Q It looks like the House is going --
MR. FLEISCHER: Sarah. Ann, you're in the on-deck circle.
Q Ari, the Pentagon Comptroller says the Pentagon will run out of money next month unless the Congress appropriates $14 million in the supplemental. With America's military playing a key role in homeland security, is the President going to lean on Congress to supply the money?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is an important issue that is of great concern. Secretary Rumsfeld has sent a letter up to the Hill about the timing of passage of this emergency funding legislation the Congress is currently considering, because the more time goes by, the more likely it is that people will end up being furloughed or that the Transportation Security Administration will not be able to purchase some of the detective equipment and bomb detecting equipment, screening equipment that it needs to protect our airports.
It is a serious problem. Congress is aware of it. Time is running out, and there may have to be other steps taken if Congress does not act, and act quickly.
Q It looks like the House is going to pass this afternoon some provisions stiffening the criminal penalties for corporate wrongdoing, bringing it even closer to the Senate bill. I'm wondering what the White House's role has been in prodding them to do this, and generally what the President's reaction to that is?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the biggest role that anybody has played is the country. The country has sent a clear signal to the Congress and the Congress has listened, both to the country and to the President, that we need to toughen the laws. I remind you the President made proposals back in March and April on several aspects of this, particularly involving corporations and pension laws that need to be reformed, and then the recent scandals have given rise to a speeded up action in the Senate on some of the criminal penalties against corporations engaged in wrongdoing.
So I think the country is speaking, the Congress is listening, and the President hopes Congress will continue to listen so that he can have something to sign before Congress leaves when they go home in August.
Q But has the White House done anything specifically to encourage them to speed this up and to bring it a little closer toward the Senate --
MR. FLEISCHER: Ann, I don't know if Congressional Affairs has had any conversations with them. They very well may have. I don't know about every conversation they hold.
Q Ari, the President has said repeatedly over the last couple of weeks that he thinks the wave of corporate malfeasance is limited to a couple of bad actors, a few bad apples. We have a couple weeks down the road a deadline for the biggest companies in the nation to certify the CEOs of those companies, to certify their financial statements. Based on what's coming into the government at this point, will the President's assertion hold, or is the problem going to turn out to be more widespread?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President does believe that most of these problems are limited to a small number of people who are engaged in malfeasance. And it doesn't matter what the number, those who do it need to know that the federal government is prepared to take tough action against them, including imprisonment, if that becomes necessary.
As you point out, under the leadership of Chairman Pitt, the Securities and Exchange Commission took the action of making -- I think it's the 964 largest corporations in America go back, re-look at their books, and certify the accuracy of their books. And they have until August 14th to do so. I cannot prejudge what they will found, but the Securities and Exchange Commission has asked for that as part of the diligence that this administration is engaged in, in keeping corporations accountable.
Q Does the President believe that those two State Department officials who e-mailed their insults of Congressman Ben Gilman should have been merely reprimanded, rather than fired, with not even a reprimand for whoever it was that ordered the State Department police to detain reporter Joel Mowbray as extensively reported in both the Post and the Times?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not familiar with the e-mails, Lester.
Q What about Joel Mowbray? That was reported, you must have been familiar, because both of Washington's dailies reported this. How does the President stand on that? Does he feel that reporters should be detained by police?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President understands that the law is a law, and the law should be enforced, and that reporters have a right to report.
Q Does the President believe that felons who break the law should be allowed to vote for those who make the law?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes that's a matter for each state to look at their own laws, which jurisdictionally --
Q How did he feel in Texas? Did he -- did he --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd to take a look at the law in Texas, Lester. I don't know it off the top of my head.
Q What do you think of Greenspan's assessment of the economy? And do you think that the markets react to his statements perhaps in a way they react to the President's --
MR. FLEISCHER: On the markets, far be it from me to try to divine what markets do or why they do it. There are plenty of people of spend a lifetime -- principally they work in areas where the markets are located, not Washington, D.C. -- who do their best to ascertain what makes markets go up or down. And three-quarters of the time, they themselves will recognize that they don't know very much what makes markets go up or down.
I do think there is a phenomenon in Washington where part-time analysts do think they can tell people what makes markets go up and down and, as often, Washington gets it wrong.
Q So you don't think Chairman Greenspan's comments today had any impact on the market behavior?
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't had a chance to assess Chairman Greenspan's comments; I was giving an answer about market watchers in general located within the Beltway of the District of Columbia.
Q Does the President agree with Chairman Greenspan's assessment of the economy right now?
MR. FLEISCHER: You heard from the President yesterday about his assessment of the economy and the President's assessment is upbeat.
Q Ari, do you think other traditional, old-style companies should follow the lead of Coca-Cola and other major firms in trying to -- deciding to expense stock options?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's a determination that those companies will make. What the President believes about stock options is that, one, stock options need to be fully disclosed. The President believes that there needs to be simpler reporting on stock options that provides more details. Two, the President believes that shareholders should be required to approve the issuance of stock options. Right now, shareholders are not necessarily involved in the approving of stock options. He thinks that both those changes need to be brought to the treatment of stock options.
Q Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
END 12:55 P.M. EDT