White House Briefing by Ari Fleischer - October 3
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 3, 2002
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:37 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I want to give you a report on the President's schedule, and then I have an opening announcement about Hurricane Lili.
The President began his day with a phone call to the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, followed by an intelligence briefing and an FBI briefing. And then the President spent a good portion of the morning urging Congress to focus on the domestic agenda. The President made the case to the Congress about the importance of passing legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security, as well as to create 300,000 jobs in the economy by passing the terrorism insurance legislation that's pending on the Hill.
He's currently having lunch with the Vice President, and later he will do a drop-by of the Board of Directors of LULAC, and then attend a reception this evening for the Blair House Gala.
The President also, just ten minutes ago, got off the phone with Joe Allbaugh, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration. And he is going to be declaring, or is declaring Louisiana a disaster area as a result of the hurricane. Hurricane Lili has weakened overnight from a Category 4 hurricane to a Category 2. Although weaker, it remains a dangerous storm that threatens lives and property, and several actions have been taken to prepare and respond to its anticipated effects.
Evacuations have been ordered in all coastline parishes in Louisiana, and additional evacuations have occurred in Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Thirty-nine shelters in Louisiana and 37 shelters in Texas have been opened to provide temporary housing. The FEMA emergency response team has been activated, and FEMA personnel have been deployed to Texas and to Louisiana. An emergency response team and rapid needs assessment team have been pre-positioned in Baton Rouge. The United States Department of Transportation took advance action to secure railways and pipelines, and has activated the Emergency Transportation Center in Atlanta. The United States Army Corps of Engineers' Planning and Response Team for Debris, Water, and Ice and Power is on alert. And three disaster medical assistance teams have been deployed to Shreveport and three deployed to Jackson.
Director Allbaugh is en route in Louisiana, and will remain in touch with the White House. And additional actions that have been taken: EPA and the Coast Guard have pre-positioned federal assets to respond to any release of potentially hazardous materials; urban search-and-rescue teams are on alert; and the USDA has inventories of food on hand should it be needed -- that's the United States Department of Agriculture. And the President, as I indicated, is declaring Louisiana a disaster area.
With that, I'm happy to take your questions. John?
Q Ari, the word has gone out that the President is getting increasingly impatient with the pace of progress, or the lack of progress at the United Nations Security Council on a single resolution. Yesterday, French President Jacques Chirac declared that he is "totally hostile" to the idea of a resolution that would automatically authorize the use of force. What's the President's message to the French President today?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, in regard to the first part, I noticed there was a report on the news last night that didn't cite anybody that made that case, that the White House is impatient or the White House -- I'll just cite what Secretary Powell said this morning. Secretary Powell said that he's optimistic that we'll be able to get an agreement from the United Nations Security Council. And the President believes that it is vital for the Security Council to act and speak differently than it has over the last 10 years, and that he believes, as a result of the diplomatic efforts that are underway, that indeed will be the result. The President just could not imagine that the United Nations Security Council would become irrelevant by letting the status quo remain.
So the diplomatic conversations are going to continue with our allies -- with China, with Russia, with France and other members of the Security Council. And I think what you're seeing is, diplomacy unfold. And in the end, the President remains optimistic the outcome will be solid.
Q The art of diplomacy suggests that everyone has to move a little bit. The President has shown no sign of that so far.
MR. FLEISCHER: How do you know that?
Q Is he willing to move toward the French position?
MR. FLEISCHER: How do you know the President has not moved?
Q Because he hasn't signed on to France's idea of a two-step resolution.
MR. FLEISCHER: I submit to you that much of these negotiations are, as you would expect, diplomatic conversations that take place in private. And as you know, the President said -- has a resolution that he's been working on with the British. And of course, we are amenable to working with other nations on the exact wording in the resolution. But the point the President made in his speech to the United Nations is that it is imperative for the United Nations to act so that Saddam Hussein knows that he needs to disarm.
Q Ari, did the President say today that he knows war, in one of the speeches, or he's been a part of a war?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, what the President has said, Helen, the only thing I could think of that you may have picked up, is the President in his meetings with congressional members and other, has said, with a lot of sadness, that he is the one, as Commander-in-Chief and as President, who in the course of the war in Afghanistan, has hugged the widows of those whose lives were lost in Afghanistan. And it's a role that he does not relish. It's one of the deepest burdens of the job.
Q But he didn't say that he was involved in any war?
MR. FLEISCHER: I've never heard him say that, Helen. He has talked about those who lost their lives in the war, and what it's like for the President to meet with the survivors, the families of people who have been killed in combat, and how difficult it is, how emotional it is, and that he doesn't look forward to ever having to do it again. But he also then --
Q Well, why is he preaching a war with Iraq if he doesn't want to do it again?
MR. FLEISCHER: Then he states how resolute he is to protect American lives.
Q Does he have any idea of how many people would die in this war that he --
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I don't know that anybody can tell you. Perhaps everything can be averted if --
Q We don't even know how many died in Afghanistan. There's no casualty figures.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think what the President is worried about is how many Americans will die if Saddam Hussein is successful in acquiring the nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction that he seeks, because he has a history of using the ones he gets.
Q Against the United States?
Q Ari, why isn't the President impatient at the pace of progress at the U.N.? It's been three weeks since he gave his speech --
MR. FLEISCHER: Because I think the President understands how the U.N. works. And when the President went up there he said that this would be a matter of days and weeks, not months. And it is not a matter of months. And so the President understands that diplomacy is a painstaking task and an important one. It's a serious task, and that's what you see going on up at the United Nations now.
Q Can I follow that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Campbell.
Q I'm going to change the subject so if you want --
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll go back, Kelly.
Q Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid asked the White House recently in a letter for an accounting of how taxpayers are going to be build for these fundraising trips. Are you planning to provide him with that information?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is an old issue. I think the letter is actually an old letter; it was sent about a week ago. And this has been discussed many times. There is a funding formula that is decades old that all White Houses adhere to for the allocation of expenses between political and governmental, and that is always being followed.
Q So you are providing them with that information?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's the formula and it's in place. And anything else, I'd refer you to the Office of Management and Budget where the letter was sent. But everybody is well aware of the formula and it is, of course, followed.
Q Back on Iraq, you said the President is committed to working in the United Nations and quiet diplomacy will continue. Is there another line of diplomacy that's going on? Bulgaria today announced that it would allow United States forces to use its airspace and its resources in any eventual action against Iraq. Romania has done the same. Is the administration lining up a potential non-U.N. coalition?
MR. FLEISCHER: I want to remind you, the issue, as the President said in New York, is disarmament. That is the purpose of protecting the American people. And the American position, as expressed by the Congress, is regime change. And the President wants to make certain that the United States, the people of the United States, military, or people in the region, and our neighbors in the region, are protected from the threats that Saddam Hussein poses.
The President went to New York and asked the United Nations to become relevant again, to make certain that they passed the resolutions that make it clear to Saddam Hussein that he is out of compliance with the U.N. resolutions, that he needs to come into compliance with the resolutions, and that there will be consequences if he fails to come into compliance. And the President has also said that if the United Nations does not act -- he believes they will -- but if the United Nations does not act, the President knows that the United States will be joined by many nations around the world who share our concerns about the threat that Saddam Hussein poses.
Q So it's fair to see these other nations making these statements as part of an administration effort to line up another coalition?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me put it to you this way, Terry. I think the days of anybody the United States would do anything unilateral are over. I think it's very clear to everybody what the United States is doing, it's doing with the support of many nations around the world. The only question that remains is what role will the United Nations Security Council play? Will they be a part of this -- the President hopes so -- or will they become irrelevant -- the President hopes not.
Q Do you have a sense, though, of how many countries are lined up behind the President now -- when the President talks about a "vast coalition", how many countries he has behind him?
MR. FLEISCHER: I just will refer to the way the President has said it, and the President has said he'll be joined by many.
Q And I just have two other follows, sorry. At the U.N., give us any sense of how close you all are to getting an agreement?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me try to give you a report about the U.N. Of course, there is a meeting underway, the United Nations Security Council, as we speak, and Hans Blix is reporting to the United Nations Security Council. Hans Blix will also be in Washington tomorrow at the State Department, and we welcome his visit to the State Department. The conversations with him are important.
At the Security Council, I think it's fair to say that there are a lot of loose ends that are being discussed. Secretary Annan said earlier today, "the Council is discussing whether or not the regime should not be" -- the inspection regime -- should not be tightened or strengthened -- "should or should not be tightened or strengthened, to ensure that we don't repeat the weaknesses of the past." Those are Kofi Annan's words this morning.
There is widespread recognition in the Security Council that the existing regime failed to do the job -- it failed to disarm Saddam Hussein, and it has left a threat in place. They are meeting now with Hans Blix to discuss what to do about these weaknesses in the past, as Kofi Annan called them. And we welcome this discussion, it's an important one. Tomorrow, the discussion will continue when Hans Blix comes to the State Department. And the United States thinks it's vital that if the inspectors are to return, they have the means and the ability and the will of the world to do their job.
Q Final -- and I have to ask -- the Iraqi Vice President has said a way to resolve this would be a duel between President Bush and Saddam Hussein.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, there can be no serious response to an irresponsible statement like that. I just want to point out that in the past, when Iraq had disputes, it invaded its neighbors. There were no duels; there were invasions. There was use of weapons of mass destruction and the military. That's how Iraq settles its disputes.
Q Ari, two-part question. I was hoping that I will travel with the President to India, but now I'm seeing, according to a report in India Globe that intelligence agencies, including Secret Service, are advising him not to travel to Pakistan, but only to India, despite even elections took place there. And second, how do you put the India and United States relationship today, after all these --
MR. FLEISCHER: On number one, I have not heard any such report. But as you know, I never comment on any potential presidential travel. There are always rumors about the President traveling to every nation around the globe, and I don't report on any until there is anything from the White House to announce. And there is nothing that has been brought anywhere close to my attention indicating that, so I really don't have anything for you on that.
And the President is very pleased that relations with India are strong. The President and Prime Minister Vajpayee had a good meeting up in New York. India is an important democracy, friend of the United States. And relations are strong between the United States and India.
Q Ari, earlier with John, you said that you asked him -- how do you know that the President hasn't shifted. And I understand that no White House Press Secretary ever likes to talk about a shift in policy, but isn't the increasing use of "disarmament" as opposed to "regime change", isn't that -- isn't that, in and of itself, a shift on the part of the President? And secondly --
MR. FLEISCHER: Disarmament was the first statement the President made to the United Nations in New York. So I fail to see how something can be a shift when it's a repeat of a core message that the President has delivered to the world.
Q And secondly, on the domestic agenda, you said he was going to focus on the domestic agenda. But I didn't hear anything about the Senate's plan for increasing unemployment insurance, even though today jobless claims were up the most they've been since May. And would that be a part of a possible deal to get terrorism insurance?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware that anybody has suggested any type of terrorism insurance. The legislation that's pending now is very close to agreement. There are still talks that are underway involving the parties on this issue. And the President is hopeful that the agreement will come together, because 300,000 jobs depend on it.
On the question of other steps that can be taken to help protect the economy, we're going to continue to work with Congress on legislation that is pending on the Hill. And there's not much time left in the Congress to act. And we'll see what ultimately the Congress is capable of doing.
Q Yes, Ari, two-part question. First one has to do -- you've been using the word "regime change" continually. Now the word "effective disarmament" is also popping up. Secretary Powell I think gave an interview to USA Today to which -- correct me if I'm wrong -- one of the implications was that if Saddam Hussein disarms himself in a way which the United States considers totally disarmament, he might remain in power. Is that a possibility?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not what the Secretary said. I think that's rather a stretch to think that's what the Secretary said. The Secretary basically repeated what the President said when he went up to New York at the United Nations. If you remember, the President, in his speech to the United Nations had, I think it was six paragraphs that began with the word "if," all describing that if the Iraqis wish peace, they will -- and the President went through the list of the things they need to do -- destroy weapons in support for terror, release and account for the POWs, and their illicit program that gets around their obligations in the Oil-For-Food Program.
The President said if that happens, it would signify a new openness and accountability from Iraq. But nothing that Secretary Powell said would give anybody the indication that Saddam Hussein has shown any willingness to conduct himself in a way that would do all of those things. If he did, he really wouldn't be the dictator that he has been. And I don't think anybody thinks that Saddam Hussein is changing.
Q Next question, a two-part question. I still come back to the New Jersey thing. The President is still the head of the Republican Party. Now that the Supreme Court of New Jersey has decided that Frank Lautenberg can be on the ticket, I understand the Republicans are going to go to the Supreme Court. Is that something the President believes in?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, my statement is exactly as I said yesterday to you, Jacobo. The President thinks Doug Forrester is an outstanding candidate for the Senate, would make a great senator. He offers a very positive agenda for New Jersey. And the President leaves the lawyering to the lawyers.
Q Ari, earlier today, the President talked about the U.N. being resolute and for Saddam to follow the U.N. after 11 years of defiance. Is there a timetable that the White House has for this resoluteness of the U.N. and for Saddam to follow the guideline?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, in terms of the United Nations, it is exactly as the President said when he was in New York, and that is days and weeks, not months. That is the timetable the President said for when the U.N. to act.
Q We're in to weeks now.
MR. FLEISCHER: We indeed are, but we are not into months. And that's the timetable the President outlined.
Q Ari, and also another question on another subject, Al Gore and Al Sharpton. The President in 2004 may have either one of them to contend with. What are your thoughts about that, especially today, as -- I know you guys are laughing, but especially today as Al Sharpton is deciding to leave his Action Network to look into a possible presidential run.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that there is a lot of domestic Democratic internal politics going on. And the Democrats have a lot to sort out. And that's a healthy part of the process. It's the Democrat Party's right to select who its standard bearer will be, or if there are differences within the Democratic Party, there may be independent candidacies. We shall see. But that's all for the Democrats to sort through. And the President is going to focus on the job he's doing here on both the domestic and the foreign fronts.
Q Has the President, in terms of homeland security, thought about meeting with or calling -- or maybe he has already -- heads of the unions that are -- might be affected by the department of homeland security. He's dealing with Congress, but how about the union heads?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, those individuals have already been spoken with at the President's designation by the head of the Office of Personnel Management, Kay James. She has met with them and talked with them repeatedly and reported to the President on the conversations. And she's also reported to many members of Congress. In many of the sessions where Democrats and Republicans come down to the Cabinet Room to meet with the President she's been in attendance and she's reflected the thoughts of the workers that she's met with.
But the reality is, this is an issue that is now stuck in the Senate. And this has come time for resolution and action, if it is achievable. And this will be a real test of the Senate to see whether they are capable of acting on homeland security, or not. They have failed to pass the budget. And it would be another major failure if, in addition to failing to pass something as simple as a budget, they failed to enact legislation to protect the country by creating a department of homeland security.
Q Ari, another union-related question. At the cost of a billion dollars a day, is the President getting impatient with the situation with West Coast ports? Is he inclined to intervene at some point?
MR. FLEISCHER: We continue to -- the White House continues to monitor it very closely. The President is routinely informed about the status and it is an ongoing cause of concern. The longer the strike goes on, the more harm is done to labor. The longer the strike goes on, the more harm is done to management. And the longer the strike goes on, the more harm is done to the economy.
Given the combination of the three, the President thinks it is vitally important for management and labor to come together to resolve this. He believes they have the ability to do so, he calls on them to do so. And the federal government has offered the services of mediators to help get it done.
Q -- time for a cooling-off period?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's the answer to your question.
Q Ari, the Russian Foreign Minister has said again, "Let's get the inspectors back in there as soon as we can. We can talk about toughening the mandate later if need be, but get the inspectors in now. Trying to negotiate a new mandate is only going to delay the inspectors." What's the flaw in that argument?
MR. FLEISCHER: The flaw in the argument is that that's a formula for inaction and potential disaster, because it hasn't worked for 10 years. So the President thinks what is vital is for the world not to repeat its mistakes, and to send people in under an inspection regime that everyone knows is flawed, that will lead to failure, that will lead to more games where the inspectors aren't inspectors, they're visitors who get run around. They're not inspectors under the existing regime. And that's why I point out to you what Kofi Annan said this morning in New York, when he himself cited the need to make sure we do not repeat the weaknesses of the past.
People are listening to the President. They're listening in diplomatic circles, and these diplomatic circles take time. The President went to New York knowing that he would not get action out of the United Nations overnight. The United Nations is proving that. But the President is going to continue to work through the United Nations.
Q Even if you acknowledge that the existing rules would only lead to additional mistakes being repeated, is there not a benefit to be gained from having inspectors looking around there now to see what they can find?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's a real risk that would be taken in doing that, and showing Saddam Hussein that he's in charge, that he can run people around again, and that the world will not act. After he's done it for so long, this would be akin to the world saying, we don't mean what we say, you can do it again. You can give the visitors the runaround, and the world will do nothing. The President thinks that has happened for too long already.
Q You've spoken of the need for diplomacy to take some time. Why wait for it? Why not get the inspectors back in?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks they should go in under the new auspices, so they can do their job. If they go in under the current regime, it is -- it is a fool's errand to call them inspectors. They would be nothing more than tourists who get a runaround.
Q Ari --
MR. FLEISCHER: The newest reporter from the New York Times, I see. Mr. Kensolving.
Q There was a vacant seat and I offered to get up and this nice lady from the Times insisted --
Q So then give me your question. Can I ask a question? (Laughter.)
Q You'll come back, won't you, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, you are not allowed to refer to somebody as a "nice lady" and not agree to her request. (Laughter.) So we will go to Elizabeth and then, at the end of the briefing, we will come back.
Q Given what we were just talking about, are you still expecting support from the Russians in the Security Council?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is optimistic, as Secretary Powell said he is optimistic, that at the end of the day the world will see the issue as he laid it out in New York, because the President cannot imagine the United Nations wants to make itself irrelevant.
Q Is he going to be talking to Mr. Putin again?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the conversations are continuing at many levels and I always do my best to try to report to you on the calls. Now, he hasn't spoken to him since the last time I reported it to you. But there are many conversations going on through the United Nations, through other diplomatic levels, through the State Department, as you would expect.
Q Thank you. In the U.N. or any other coalition you would form, are you asking for financial and military support, as well as just verbal support? And also, if there is regime change, would you expect that oil contracts with other countries are canceled by Iraq at that point in time?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can't speculate about any outcomes with that type of specificity. And I would say that the President has made it clear that it is important for the United Nations to act, through the Security Council. If they don't, the President has made perfectly plain that the United States and Britain and others will be part of a wide-ranging coalition that will help protect the world, and will do so in many ways. I can't go into a delineation of all of them. And we'll see what the events develop.
Q In the administration's view, are there any circumstances under which Saddam Hussein could remain in power?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that anybody who thinks that the conditions that the President laid out in New York, which are the conditions that the world must honor in order to protect the peace, are actions that Saddam Hussein has shown any willingness to engage in over the last ten years. So unless somebody thinks that all of a sudden Saddam Hussein would change his ways, would become a reformer, would become a person who believes in freedom, who would cease his militaristic approach, I think they're going down a path that no one in the world agrees with.
Q You're saying it's not likely that he would do what is necessary to remain in power, but --
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know -- I don't know of a single person who has come to any type of judgment that Saddam Hussein would do that. And that is why the world faces such a threat from this man.
Q But the administration's policy, if I understand it, has been that regime change is necessary because that is the only way, or the surest way, to make him disarm. But that there are other ways, as you pointed out in the President's "if" statements in his U.N. speech, that there are other ways that disarmament could be accomplished.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you have two issues going on at the same time. You have the issues before the United Nations Security Council, which involve the world coming together and saying that the resolutions that passed that focus on disarmament, focus on abandonment of hostility as a way to handle relations with neighbors, cessation of repression of people within Iraq -- all those issues -- weapons of mass destruction development -- need to be addressed per those U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Separately and apart, but equally important, you have the United States Congress' statement from 1998, which is likely to be echoed shortly in a big bipartisan vote in the House and Senate in the next week or so, saying that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime. That, verbatim, are the words of the Congress, signed by President Clinton in 1998.
Q So quite apart from efforts to disarm and whether or not they succeed, regime change is still in place -- regardless of what happens on the disarmament front?
MR. FLEISCHER: Regime change is the law of the land for the United States, as spoken by the Congress, signed by President Clinton and supported, of course, by President Bush.
Q Ari, yesterday in the Rose Garden, Senator Warner harkened back to the '91 Gulf War resolution and he said, Mr. President, we delivered for your father and we'll deliver for you. I guess I had never thought of it in that way. Does the President think of this as a blood feud?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, and I don't think that's at all what Senator Warner was saying, no. I think Senator Warner is pointing out that for 11 years, Saddam Hussein has been a constant menace to people who love freedom. And that's why the United States Congress in 1991 authorized the use of force, because Saddam Hussein invaded a sovereign country of Kuwait. That's what I think Senator Warner's reference was to. And the point is that, since that war ended, Saddam Hussein has engaged in even more of a militaristic approach by seeking to build up his weapons of mass destruction in absolute and total violation of the United Nations resolutions he swore to agree by, and the armistice that he signed as a result -- as an agreement to end the war.
Q Ari, could I follow and ask you, it's been about three months, I think, since the President gave a White House news conference. A lot has
happened since then, a lot of questions on the mind of the public. Does the President think it would be healthy for the debate to come down here and answer those questions to the American people?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you know, the President enjoyed the questions that were put to him in the pool events this week. I can look at many of you in here who have questioned him. Mr. Roberts, I recall your question. And so I think the President regularly does take questions from the press. We always take a look at the issue of the news conference. I know there's widespread dissatisfaction in the press about the number of news conferences, formal sessions the President has. But I think the President is very open and accessible, takes questions very often in a variety of ways and in a variety of settings and will continue to do so. We'll always take a look at the possibility of a news conference and keep you informed if we do.
Q Why isn't he holding regular news conferences?
MR. FLEISCHER: Paula?
Q Sorry, Helen.
With respect to the administration's economic policy, as you know, former Vice President Gore yesterday widely criticized your current course, called for a mid-course correction, suggested a stimulus package which would include extending unemployment benefits after they run out in December when Congress is not in town. What is the White House reaction to some of their suggestions which, as you know, the President himself has proposed, particularly the small business tax relief?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I addressed this earlier. I was asked about a UI extension and I talked about it earlier, so there's really no change from what I said just before.
Q But as you know, it runs out in December, when Congress isn't in town. So is there an urgency to get something on the books before --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, we're going to continue to work with Congress on all issues involving the economy and restoration of growth. But the President thinks that the number one, most concrete thing that can be done now is to create jobs. And Congress has within its power right now the ability to create some 300,000 jobs, particularly in the hard-hat and construction industry.
Q But, as you know, that's just one income sector and unemployment benefits would extend in a broad spectrum to others that are unemployed.
MR. FLEISCHER: There are a number of issues that have been talked about on the Hill that can create growth and opportunities for people so they don't have to collect unemployment, so they can collect paychecks. And there remain a number of conversations on the Hill about all these topics.
Q Secondly -- I'm sorry -- but --
MR. FLEISCHER: Thirdly.
Q -- point -- thirdly -- that was made in his speech yesterday is that it would not be unprecedented, particularly in a time when the deficit is moving upward, to increase taxes to offset previous tax cuts. And the precedent he set was that of President Ronald Reagan, who in '82 did increase taxes to offset previous tax cuts. Is that something the administration at any point in time would ever consider doing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think there is no question that there is a growing movement inside the Democratic Party to raise taxes, and President Bush is going to resist that. I think many Democrats have tried to talk around the issue by saying they're not really raising taxes, they're just stopping the tax cuts that have been promised the American people from ever going into place. And that's like saying to an American worker that if your boss says you're about to get a pay raise next year and he takes it back -- well, you were never going to get that pay raise anyway, so you won't miss it.
Well, that's taking money away from somebody that was promised to them. And when Washington does that, it's called a tax hike. And the President will strongly fight those who believe that we should raise taxes.
Q So are you saying President Reagan, then, did that?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no question President Reagan raised taxes in 1982. That's a historical fact. He did cut taxes much larger in 1981.
Q Ari, on homeland security, if you don't get a bill, what would the specific impact be on the government's antiterrorism efforts? And also, how long will it take you to ratchet up next year to try to get another bill through?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the impact is going to be that many of the people whose jobs are really security-focused and antiterrorism-focused will not be able to come together and do a better job at protecting the country. They currently do a very good job for America in their various agencies.
But it is the widespread judgment of many people that we can do better. There is more that we can do. And by bringing people from Customs, from Border Patrol, from the INS, from the various federal agencies, into one entity whose sole mission now is to protect the homeland from the risk we face in this new world of terrorism, that all these efforts would be enhanced if they were together in one office, in one department, in one agency. And so it would be a denial to the American people of additional protections at a time when we need additional protections, because of the increasing threat.
Q But additional, you don't think we'll be less secure. I mean, are there any specific things that you're --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, no, there's no question we're less -- failure to pass it would mean we'd be less secure than if we were able to create the new department. There's no question that that's the President's opinion. That's why the President felt the status quo was not good enough. These people work very hard in their existing agencies to protect the country. But times change, and the federal government needs to change along with the times. And the threats that we face in the 20th century are not the same ones we face now in the 21st century, vis a vis terrorism. And September 11th proved that. And it would be very risky for the federal government to return to the pre-September 11th approach to how to protect the homeland. And that's why the President has urged Congress, and the Senate particularly, to finish its business and not to leave until they finish work on the department of homeland security.
Q If you don't get a bill, will you still push for it next year?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I don't think the President even wants to face the prospect of not getting a bill, because that would be such a retreat from the security measures that need to be taken to protect the country.
Q Ari, in an op/ed piece in the Washington Post today, Sandy Berger suggests dropping the threat of military action from the resolution the United States is presenting to the U.N. Security Council. Berger believes this would help its passage. Would the President accept such a compromise?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has made it clear that the resolution before the United Nations must include three things, and again those three things are to state that Iraq is not in compliance with its existing obligations to the world; what Iraq must do to come into compliance; and what the consequences will be to Iraq for failure to comply. The problem, in the President's judgment, is that if you remove that third provision, Iraq will have no incentive, none, none whatsoever, to change its behavior and disarm. They will continue in the same cat and mouse games they played throughout the '90s.
Okay, Ron and then Les.
Q For the folks who have to look ahead to this trip that begins tomorrow, can you tell us how much of it is political, how much of it is a little rest and relaxation.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President will have a trip tomorrow that's focused on the gubernatorial campaign in Massachusetts, and then an election in New Hampshire. He will remain for the weekend in Maine, in Kennebunkport. And we'll keep you informed about any official activities, if there are any, while the President is there.
Q -- any speeches to talk about Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: The radio address, I will let you know tomorrow what the radio address will be on.
Q Ari, to rephrase Jacobo's question, the President surely is not opposed to his fellow Republicans going to the U.S. Supreme Court over this Lautenberg in for Torricelli scheme, okayed by this New Jersey court, which was so recently reversed by the Supreme Court regarding what they tried to do to the Boy Scouts.
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, I have no changes to what I said earlier.
Q The President, as you probably know -- I didn't see you there -- but the President was tremendously well received last night. In fact it was a historic financial record-breaker in Baltimore for Congressman Bob Ehrlich's campaign for governor. But Ehrlich's rival, Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who has strongly campaigned for school character education, has invited Bill Clinton. And my question is this: Does the White House think that this will be as good for character development in Maryland as if she had invited Senator Torricelli? What is your viewpoint on this, Ari? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, I think the President addressed the issues that he raised last night in his remarks about the importance of that race.
Q Were you there?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but I hang on every word that the President says, and so I watch it on internal White House TV. Thank you.
Q Ari, I just -- want to come back to one thing very quickly. The three pillars of the U.N. resolution that you just outlined, is the President willing to accept anything less than that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has made it clear in his speech to the U.N. that this is a test not only of whether Saddam Hussein will disarm, so the world will know that safety can be protected. It's also a test of whether the United Nations will be relevant, whether the United Nations will be the League of Nations or the United Nations.
It is, after all, the United Nations that Saddam Hussein is thwarting by his deliberate disregard for their resolutions. And as Kofi Annan said this morning, we don't want to repeat the weaknesses of the past.
Q But is he willing to accept anything less than the three pillars that you outlined?
MR. FLEISCHER: Those are the three pillars that the President has outlined, and that is what the President expects, and that is what the President will fight for. And that's what the President expects.
END 1:13 P.M. EDT