Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer November 4
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 4, 2002
Press Gaggle by Ari
Aboard Air Force One
En route St. Charles, Missouri
First Lady's Birthday
Midterm Elections / GOP Outlook
11:09 A.M. CST
MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning, one and all. Happy penultimate day. We're almost there. If the President hasn't campaigned in any of your hometowns, he'd like to apologize -- we can certainly squeeze a few more in.
The President, as you know, has departed his campaign stops in Iowa. Prior to his events in Iowa, the President was his usual early morning self. He went for an early morning run on a treadmill. He received his intelligence briefing. He also called President Fox of Mexico, they had a conversation, continued consultations about the United Nations Security Council resolution. Then he participated in the Iowa Welcome.
We will shortly arrive into Missouri, where the President will support the campaign of Jim Talent for the Senate, John Lewis for the State Senate, and the Missouri Republican ticket.
The President will then depart for Arkansas, to support the campaigns of Tim Hutchinson for reelection, Governor Mike Huckabee for reelection, and the Arkansas Republican ticket.
And then in Texas tonight he will support the campaigns of John Cornyn for the U.S. Senate, Governor Rick Perry for reelection, Jeb Hensarling in the 5th congressional district. And the Texas Republican district -- ticket, excuse me.
With that, I'm happy to take your questions.
Q Ari, there was a report on NBC this morning that the United States and France have reached a compromise on a meeting of the term "material breach" in the Security Council resolution. Is that accurate?
MR. FLEISCHER: Nobody has brought anything like that to my attention. The talks continue at a productive level and we are hopeful that we will be able to move forward with one voice at the United Nations Security Council.
Q Is there any reason to -- is there any reason for this hopefulness? Anything different?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think it's -- what I'm reflecting is the tenor of the conversations that have been taking place for the last week. I did not see this NBC news report. As I indicated, nobody had brought anything that to my attention.
Q Or anything else that makes you even more hopeful?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this is the product of long diplomacy, and we still don't know where it will end up. I need to put that caution in here: we do not know. But the President made the determined course on September 12th to speak in very clear, black and white, moral terms to the United Nations. Then he launched a methodical, diligent, diplomatic campaign. We'll see ultimately if this campaign is successful. But, clearly, the differences have been narrowed to several issues, and we'll see if we can finalize those issues.
Q -- assurances from Fox of support?
MR. FLEISCHER: I cannot characterize what a foreign leader says. It's continuing consultation.
Q -- the President took in his remarks to Fox?
MR. FLEISCHER: Stressing the importance of the United Nations speaking with one voice and the threat Saddam Hussein poses and the need for the United Nations Security Council to act in a meaningful way this time.
Q How will he mark the First Lady's birthday, other than rolling over in bed and saying "happy birthday"?
MR. FLEISCHER: I anticipate that there will be frequent singing throughout the land, particularly in the Mississippi River region of the United States. I would anticipate that very few people in the history of our country will have been serenaded by as many people on one day as perhaps will happen today.
Q Is he giving her a gift?
MR. FLEISCHER: What is he going to do? He's going to pay careful attention to the singing that he hears at these various events. Out of courtesy and respect for Mrs. Bush, he may not sing, himself. If you see his lips moving on stage, I'm not sure that he will actually --
Q Is that his gift to her, not singing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that would be one of the gifts, not singing. He has already purchased her a present and that's super-duper top-secret information.
Q Did he give it to her.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President, of course --
Q Does she have it or does she have to wait until the end of the day?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know if he gave it to her already or not. I'll have to do a little sleuthing. He told me yesterday that he already had it, so looked forward to giving it to her. The rest --
Q -- end to that story?
MR. FLEISCHER: Donald Rumsfeld couldn't even find out, it's so super-duper.
Q Is there any party or anything, even a small, private -- any party, a small, private party? I realize he's busy today, but --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think the Bushes tend to celebrate these things quietly and privately.
Q Are they going to do that on Air Force One? We've got that long, like 90 minutes when we're on the ground in Missouri, where they have private time on Air Force One. Is this --
MR. FLEISCHER: I will do my best to annoy and bother the President by asking him what I can ask him about this topic and see if he is forthcoming with information. If I can use the names of any reporters, that might help me make the case to the President. For example, if I simply put the question to him myself, I think I may get a lack of full response, full throttle.
If, however, I could borrow somebody's good name and use their good name. For example, any volunteers here? (Laughter.)
Q Bennett Roth, that might be good. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Mr. President, I have a question from a specific reporter. I'll see if that opens up the flow of information better.
Q Can I ask you about Saudi Arabia? Do you have any reaction to the Saudi Arabian announcement they would not let U.S. bases be used in any attack on Iraq, including one specifically authorized by the U.N.?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated yesterday, I don't discuss basing issues.
Q Ari, how does the President feel about the prospect for Republicans regaining control of the Senate?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President is hopeful that Republicans will have a big day tomorrow. He is hopeful that they will, one, be able to break the historical trend which so clearly runs against incumbent Presidents in their first term mid-terms. All signs give a lot of reason to be optimistic that the trend can be broken.
I think it remains an open question about whether or not Republicans pick up seats. There are just an awful lot of close races across the country right now, and there's no telling how they're going to break, particularly in the Senate.
Q Is there any concern that these tough Senate races that the President's pulling out all the stops for, if Republicans lose in those races, that it will reflect badly on the President?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think, again, there is such a hard to define characteristic to so many of these races this year. It's a real combination of a popular President who is working very hard on behalf of the Republicans in these states, in a year in which there is no overwhelming powerful domestic or international issue that's single most in any race. And there are a lot of local factors.
So that's why -- it's an unusual cycle, because there are so many close Senate races. Will they ultimately end up in a significant switch, we'll see. But I'm hard-pressed to remember a cycle going into election day where you could really say there were so many questionable Senate seats.
Q Is the President going to watch the returns?
MR. FLEISCHER: Back at the White House, in the Residence.
Q -- is senior staff going to be?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think we're still trying to work out all the details. He may have some members of Congress over to watch the results. We'll fill you in tomorrow.
Q Do you anticipate any statement on the results Tuesday night?
MR. FLEISCHER: We're trying to work that through right now, Ron. I'm not sure how we're going to -- I'll probably be there late tomorrow night. And we just haven't figured out yet if we're going to speak tomorrow night, wait until Wednesday. Of course, a lot depends on just what we know on Tuesday night.
Q You'll be at the White House, is that where senior staff is going to be, or they'll be at the RNC, Rove and you --
MR. FLEISCHER: Mostly at the White House. We'll set up our own little command center to track results.
Q Tomorrow morning, when the President votes, do you think he'll have anything to say, want to talk?
MR. FLEISCHER: Don't know yet, we'll see.
Q Is he following the poll reports daily, or is he kind of waiting to see what the results are?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, he gets updates.
Q And how intensely is he scrutinizing the results in the polls? How into it is he?
MR. FLEISCHER: He's following it closely. Tomorrow is important. Tomorrow is a day that's going to be a real indication of whether or not the President's agenda has a better chance of being passed in the Congress. In a 50-50 Congress -- let me rephrase that. A 50-50 Congress which becomes a 51-49 Congress means there's a significantly greater chance for the President's agenda to be enacted into law. So the President is watching it very closely.
Q Is there anything unusual -- I mean, extra special political updates in the morning, or that he's asked for poll reports that maybe hadn't been given to him?
MR. FLEISCHER: Karl fills him in every day.
Q -- multiple times a day, right?
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, no. There's only so many ways you can say, it remains close. It's not as if there's these dramatic swings from state to state overnight. That has not been the trend of this cycle. And so I -- the President, like all observers, is in a similar position. This is now moving into the hands of the voters, and we'll see what they say.
He's hopeful, the President is hopeful. Obviously, I think the President is heartened by the fact that he appears likely to have broken the historical trend against incumbents in their first terms. That is a very serious, significant development. The other significant development is you have to go back into the 1920s to find a time when Republicans have controlled the House for as long of a period as this time. And those are things they take some pride in.
Again, this is out of our hands, virtually out of the President's hands now. He has one day left of campaigning, and then tomorrow it's up to the voters. But to have won in such a close election in 2000 and have such a close House and Senate when throughout 2001 and 2002 we all knew what history showed, and history showed that Republicans should be in for large losses in 2002. To be on the edge of breaking that historical trend is a significant accomplishment that the President has noted. Will it go beyond that? Tomorrow we'll find out.
Q There's a poll out today suggesting that there's been a 9 percent shift -- you saw this Gallup/USA Today Poll -- in the last two weeks towards Republicans. Do you guys feel like it's the President out there stumping that's made the difference?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll find out tomorrow. I think what happens next is this will be a serious academic exercise and political exercise. People will study the exit polls and to determine what drove voter behavior. I think people in both parties can give you predictions here on a Monday, but we're now heading into the point of reality, what are the voters telling us, not what are each political party hoping to hear. And we'll be able to all work through that data tomorrow and analyze -- whatever the outcome is -- what did the voters themselves say drove their behavior.
Q You sound like you know the answer. You sound mighty optimistic.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think I'm really trying to --
Q What are your numbers telling you?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I'm just saying, there's only one way to know, Terry, if we get -- if we don't have a good day tomorrow, we'll study what the voters say to find out why. If we have a good day tomorrow, we'll study what the voters say to find out why. I'm trying to be -- very hard to just be --
Q Why do I think that if you didn't have a good day tomorrow that you wouldn't be telling us to study what the voters --
MR. FLEISCHER: People are going to study what the voters say regardless. No, I thought that was -- that wasn't optimistic or pessimistic, I was trying to be an academition.
Q Has the President commented on the -- go ahead.
MR. FLEISCHER: Sorry, Bush White House.
Q Any other phone calls expected today on Iraq, other than Fox?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't anticipate any others today.
Q And has the President commented about the negative campaigning? Has he reflected on it? He feels like some of the campaigns have gone too negative?
MR. FLEISCHER: I've not heard him reflect that.
Q Thank you, much.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thanks, troops.
END 11:18 A.M. CST