House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
White House Briefing Room
October 2, 2001
QUESTION: And why is that?
QUESTION: Ari, would you go so far as to say that no matter what the Taliban might say
at this point, it may not make any difference? Are you ignoring whatever they
MR. FLEISCHER: The President could not have made it any clearer two weeks ago
when he said that there will be no discussions and no negotiations. So what
they say is not as important as what they do. And it's time for them to act.
It's been time for them to act.
QUESTION: Are you ignoring their statements, though?
QUESTION: Why not say -- has time run out?
QUESTION: Ari, on the economic stimulus package, the President said he wants Congress
to move quickly, but also they need to agree on a size first. I'm wondering
if he's laying down any kind of deadlines or timetables. I know you guys are
unwilling to do that on the terrorism legislation.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President has not done that. The President was very encouraged
by the talks this morning, and I think what has to happen next is each of the
members of Congress -- each of the leaders of Congress has to go back now and
talk to their rank and file, to their membership. These are the elected leaders,
but it's very important for them and for the White House to listen to the rank
and file. They play a very important role throughout all of these bipartisan
discussions that are going on. So that's the next action you should look to.
QUESTION: Do you expect movement on this in a matter of days, a matter of weeks? What
kind of --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to guess the time frame. I think that there are
a series of important initiatives that are moving in Congress that are not limited
to just the items that were discussed this morning. Education, for example,
is another one that the President would like to see action on.
So, again, there is a deliberative process that the framers of our government
put in place that guides us, even during war. And that process remains.
QUESTION: Ari, but as far as the timing, is the size or the components of this package,
as well as when you announce it dependent at all on when the United States takes
military action and the reaction to that military action?
MR. FLEISCHER: No.
QUESTION: Ari, sorry to belabor a point, but would you categorically rule out any kind
of contact with the Taliban?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President could not have said it plainer. I just repeat what
the President said -- no discussions, no negotiations, action.
QUESTION: Have you had any contact, direct or indirect, with the Taliban in the last
MR. FLEISCHER: There's nothing that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Can I just clarify something? Earlier I asked you if, in the President's mind,
anything had to be done, diplomatically, information-sharing-wise, anything
had to be done before military action could begin. And you seemed to suggest
that, no, nothing had to be done. And now Secretary Rumsfeld is going overseas
to consult and provide information. And so I just want to clarify that point.
Does the President believe that there's any diplomacy left to be done, or anything
at all that has to be done before military action can begin?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, obviously from September 11th forward, the United States,
at all levels -- the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense
-- have been talking with our friends and allies. Under Secretaries have been
visibly and publicly going to visit areas. So this shouldn't come as a surprise
to anybody that the Secretary can go.
QUESTION: But what I'm asking is, at what point have we crossed the threshold where
the coalition is set, and we're ready to go, when the President makes the decision?
I'm not asking you a timing question. I'm asking you in his mind, is military
action ready to begin, or does more diplomacy have to go forward, does more
information have to be shared with other countries?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, that's a question about timing, and I'm just not going
to go down that road.
QUESTION: Could you say if more needs to be done?
QUESTION: Ari, there's been an upsurge of fanatical violence in some other parts of
the world. Do you see any correlation? Do you think extremist groups are taking
advantage of the lack of attention paid to them to conduct their violence?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not sure how to characterize what you say is upsurge.
QUESTION: -- and killings and massacres.
QUESTION: Unfortunately, there are parts of the world where these things took place
before September 11th, and take place since. But I really don't know how to
characterize that as an upsurge. The United States has a mission ahead of it,
to protect our country in the wake of the fact that we've been attacked. And
the President is focused on that. He will, of course, continue with the State
Department, to work throughout the world to promote peace in any regions of
the world where there is instability. But the President has a mission ahead.
QUESTION: Ari, we've learned additional comments by some of those people who attended
the meeting with the President, particularly Ramsi Yusef. Does the White House
now have any second thoughts at all about the people who were invited to that
MR. FLEISCHER: Jim, I think I've addressed that question repeatedly in the last
several days. There's no answer -- no different answer.
QUESTION: Were you aware of all the things that those people had said before you came,
or was that a surprise to the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, we were aware that there very well could have been statements
made that the President didn't agree with. The President will have meetings
with groups that he does not agree with everything they say. But it's also important
to remind Americans that even for those who have differing views, that the rights
of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans must be respected.
QUESTION: Ari, the President said this morning on the Israel-Palestinian peace process
that he's committed to working with both sides to bring the level of terror
down to an acceptable level for both. What is an acceptable level? Is there
an amount of violence which he sees as acceptable, given the --
MR. FLEISCHER: You've heard the President say repeatedly, publicly, that what's
important is that both sides make 100-percent effort. And that's in distinction
to 100-percent results. And the President has called on all parties in the region
to make 100-percent effort.
QUESTION: Some people believe that we have given a lot of time to Afghanistan, sending
one mission after another mission, and Osama bin Laden may not be in Afghanistan
at this time, he may have already cross the border; number one. Number two,
Indian Minister said yesterday that they are the same terrorists, but they are
under different names throughout the world, including in India. There was a
car bomb yesterday, 35 people died. And also, if you can give some detail of
yesterday's meeting with the President and --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that that was addressed yesterday in terms of the meeting.
A readout was provided yesterday about that. And as for the whereabouts of Osama
bin Laden, I have no comment about that. It's further proof of the multiple
contradictory statements that have been made by the Taliban.
QUESTION: Ari, on the economic stimulus package, what is the trade promotion authority
-- on it, and when do you expect the President to take some action about it
MR. FLEISCHER: That remains another one of the important pieces of domestic
legislation that is pending on the Hill. The President continues to adhere to
his very principled belief that free trade benefits all people, can help create
jobs throughout the economy, higher-paying jobs than is typical of most jobs.
And so the President is going to continue to push the Congress to make progress
on trade promotion authority while working closely with Democrats and Republicans.
It's clearly an issue that you must have Democrat support for it in order to
get it done.
QUESTION: Ari, going back to the Palestinian state, could you address the comments coming
from some quarters that the reason that we're doing this now is because we need
to do something to reach out to Arab countries for this coalition? And could
you also address the question of whether the President still feels, as he has
said in the past, that Yasser Arafat needs to do more to control violence?
MR. FLEISCHER: On the second point, the President does feel that, yes. And that's
why the President is calling all parties to make 100 percent effort, so that
we can begin the process that leads to the implementation of the Mitchell Accords,
which can have a conclusion at the end of a negotiated dialogue, which is something,
frankly, that Prime Minister Sharon said as recently as September 24th, that
-- let me put it in Prime Minister Sharon's words -- quote, "Israel wants
to give the Palestinians what no one else has given them, the possibility of
establishing a state." So I think it should come as no surprise. It's long
been the vision of a negotiated settlement.
QUESTION: The first part of the question, though -- Ari, no, you didn't address the
first part of the question, the linkage --
MR. FLEISCHER: What was the first part?
QUESTION: The linkage between these developments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Is it part of a conclusion on the part of the administration that one way to
make this that it's not a campaign against Islam, and to solidify the support
of Arab nations is to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and
to indicate support of a Palestinian state?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if you believe what you read this morning, all those stories
pointed out that this was in place prior to September 11th. So I think that
deals with the question of linkage.
QUESTION: CNN is reporting that, according to my State Departments colleagues, that
the Secretary of State is planning another, potentially a speech reiterating
that same point, and a series of high-profile steps to make this case, in part
to solidify support of the international community, in particular Arab nations.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that if you're hearing things about what the Secretary
would do, I think you need to ask the Secretary.
QUESTION: Ari, the Washington Post reports this morning that the Bush administration
has dropped a Clinton administration action that charged the Southeastern Pennsylvania
Transportation Authority with alleged civil rights violations, because 93 percent
of all female applicants failed in its aerobics test, which test the Clinton
people charged was overly rigorous. My question -- given this commendable Bush
administration decision, Ari, am I entirely wrong to presume that what you said,
the President regards the best armed forces in the world means that he will
not succumb to the extremist-feminist demands for females in ground combat units,
will he, Ari?i, (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Les, I've got to confess that I really haven't been keeping up
with aerobics since September 11th.
QUESTION: Well, it is the Washington Post. You read that paper.
MR. FLEISCHER: I have nothing to offer you on that topic.
QUESTION: Okay. Maryland's Republican leader, Dick Bennett, who was appointed U.S. Attorney
for Maryland by the older President Bush, recalls vividly that when the Clinton
administration moved in, there was what he termed the "Reno Railroad,"
in which every U.S. attorney in the country was fired. Now, given this, why
did this President Bush, through his Attorney General, give to the U.S. Attorney
for the Southern District of New York full authority to investigate the presidential
misbehavior of the same President who appointed her, and who nearly 10 months
after the apparencies of the "pardongate" outrage still has neither
any report, not any indictment?
MR. FLEISCHER: Separate and apart from the specifics of your question, the administration,
of course, left in place several U.S. attorneys, and they have been being replaced
on a regular basis. But to promote continuity in government, continuity in prosecutions,
and continuity in justice, several U.S. attorneys were left in place.
QUESTION: It wasn't the Reno Railroad, then -- there was no Reno Railroad in the Bush
administration, was there?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not familiar with what that term might mean.
QUESTION: Up in Congress, the Senate Commerce Committee, on a bipartisan basis, sent
a very strong signal that they want passenger screeners at airports to be federal
workers. Is the President prepared to sign on to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President proposed his aviation package, as you know, that
include the federalization of standards for the workers, of background training.
The President has some concerns about the implications of putting all these
new tens of thousands of people on the federal payroll because he believes that
there can be effective safety at airports without taking that step. But he's
aware that there are many members of Congress who see it differently and he's
going to work with them.
QUESTION: Also, on the airline safety, the package announced this morning, the direct-in
flight path to Reagan -- which I understand won't be exactly a straight line,
it will have a turn in it coming down the Potomac -- what are the implications
for any aircraft that strays off that line?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm just not going to discuss things about hypotheticals, but
I think you --
QUESTION: It's not a hypothetical.
MR. FLEISCHER: You just said, if an airplane strays off that line.
QUESTION: No, I said, what are the provisions for an aircraft that strays off --
MR. FLEISCHER: You need to get back to Webster's.
QUESTION: What are the provisions for an aircraft that strays off that line?
MR. FLEISCHER: John, I think these questions need to be addressed to the FAA,
particularly on the flight path. I think you need -- based on the premise of
QUESTION: The President has ultimate authority over that.
MR. FLEISCHER: Based on the premise of your question, you need to talk to the
FAA about flight routes coming into National, because it's going to differ from
what you just stipulated.
QUESTION: On homeland security, with this new agency being created, will the Defense
Department still have the primary responsibility for homeland defense in its
purest sense, or might it have to --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's kind of akin to asking, given the fact that the government
has a National Security Council, would the Department of Defense still have
primary responsibility for the defense of our country. The purpose of the Homeland
Office, just like the National Security Council, is to tie together and better
coordinate the activities of, in this case, the 46 federal agencies, including
some at DOD, that have a responsibility in protecting our nation's homeland
defenses. So it's a coordinating post, it's a policy post. But clearly, various
agencies continue to have their vital functions, which are much more operational
and mission oriented.
QUESTION: Has the President spoken to Tony Blair since he gave his speech?
MR. FLEISCHER: He has not.
QUESTION: Does he intend to talk to him today?
MR. FLEISCHER: As always, I try to do my best to give you readouts on phone
calls. If there's anything --
QUESTION: Did he talk to him before he gave his speech?
MR. FLEISCHER: If he's moved to pick up the phone, I'll advise you.
QUESTION: Did he talk to him before Blair gave his speech?
MR. FLEISCHER: Define before. He's talked to Tony Blair several times in the
last several weeks.
QUESTION: In the last 12 hours?
MR. FLEISCHER: No.
QUESTION: Why is there no --
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, and then Keith.
QUESTION: One more on the Middle East. Does the President's recognition of the ultimate
goal of the Palestinian state come as a reflection of the administration's sense
that part of the campaign against terrorism has got to be to take the fuel out
of the anger that some of these people have, and that a Palestinian state and
the U.S. working toward it would do that?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, Terry, the President said it because it's the logical conclusion
of the vision, that the President talked about this morning, at the end of a
negotiated peace process. And that's why I also read to you what Prime Minister
Sharon said very recently. That was just a week ago. Prime Minister Sharon's
words are similar in that effect. And I think you should see it in that context.
QUESTION: But is there a new urgency to it at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a consistent policy.
QUESTION: I've just got a specific question I've got to ask.
MR. FLEISCHER: Triple follow-up.
QUESTION: The al-Shamal Bank in the Sudan was found by the State Department in 1996
to have been established with $50 million of Osama bin Laden's personal fortune.
In the embassy bombing trial there were also links between that bank and bin
Laden. Why isn't that bank on the Treasury's list?
MR. FLEISCHER: As was indicated when the President announced it in the Rose
Garden, that's the first tranche. And I'm not going to be able to give you a
prediction ahead of time about any follow-on groups that are listed as terrorist
organizations. The Department of Treasury is reviewing that as we speak, and
there can be additional announcements at any time. QUESTION: Ari, why is there no timetable for the stimulus package, given its importance
to the economy?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because, one, it's always important, when dealing with the economy,
to take a look in a measured way, to do the right thing, not the rushed thing.
And that is the process of the Congress. It's a deliberative process, it's a
But I also want to make the point, and this is something the President alluded
to in his remarks, about how important it is to send a signal to the nation
that the leaders and the members of Congress are working together. This is the
essence of bipartisan. And the President wants to make certain that the country
sees the men and women of the Congress, Democrat and Republican, working shoulder
to shoulder on these issues.
Will there be some disputes down the road? No one can ever rule it out. But
the President thinks it's terribly important that the nation see the leaders
of Congress and the rank-and-file members of Congress working together. This
is how you do it. And that means Congress needs the time and deserves the time
to go back and vet some of these ideas with its membership, Democrat and Republican
QUESTION: If I could have a triple follow-up, too. So it's correct to assume that there
were no deals made at this meeting this morning?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think there was --
QUESTION: On any aspect of the stimulus package?
MR. FLEISCHER: It was a series of discussions about what people believe are
the right steps to take, both on the economic stimulus, on a package of relief
for dislocated workers, on the budget with the appropriation bills that are
now overdue, that are pending action, probably this month.
So it was a collection of ideas from the leadership, an attempt to arrive at
principles then that those leaders can take back to the Hill so that the various
members of the Hill can weigh in now and move it along.
QUESTION: -- going to meet again this week?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is four follow-ups.
QUESTION: Who's counting? (Laughter.) Are they going to meet again this week?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's nothing on the schedule at this time.
QUESTION: Ari, it's been a little more than a week since the President turned out his
request for freezing of assets around the world. When the Treasury provided
us with a list yesterday of the countries that have acted on that request, there
were only 19. Missing from it were three countries where there has been a lot
of banking activity in the past for those groups -- Malaysia -- and the President
spoke to Prime Minister Mahathir yesterday --the Philippines, Indonesia, which
said it would not join the list. What is the President doing to lean on individual
leaders of those countries at this point, a week later, to get them on the list?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as the Treasury Department has indicated, these actions
have to be done in concert with the laws of those nations. Not all nations around
the world have the same laws that allow them to take as vigorous action as others
have done. And so there will be continued focus through diplomatic channels,
through the Treasury Department, to work with those nations to get them to do
as much as they possibly can do. It's a recognition of the fact that some nations
have better laws to get the job done than others.
QUESTION: Did the President raise this issue with Prime Minister Mahathir?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd have to find out specifically, Dave.
QUESTION: On the economic stimulus, one gets the impression that the President does
not want to announce anything that does not already have broad support in the
Congress from both Democrats and Republicans. Is that the case? And, if so,
to what extent does that limit what the White House would like to do in an economic
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I just think you're seeing, as I indicated, the essence
of bipartisanship. And that's a process that lends itself to a lot of conversations
and a lot of venting after those conversations. That is the President's intention
here, because he thinks that's how the nation is best served.
QUESTION: In other words, he's not going to introduce a package for which there is broad
MR. FLEISCHER: That would not be the essence of bipartisanship.
QUESTION: Just three quick questions on homeland defense. Is Governor Ridge expected
to start next week in his new job? How will that office be staffed? And what's
the White House view of making it a Cabinet post, a Cabinet-ranked post?
MR. FLEISCHER: The post will have Cabinet rank.
QUESTION: What about legislation, assuming Congress would want to have a Cabinet post?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President announced it in the manner he did because he thought
that was the most propitious fashion to get this office up and running and to
have the office well-administered. So Governor Ridge will begin next week, and
we'll have further announcements for you next week about staffing and space
and various White House issues so you can be in touch.
QUESTION: Is the President open to a discussion on the Hill to make it a Cabinet post
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President will continue to work with Congress, but he's
made clear that this the manner in which he thinks is best.