House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
White House Briefing Room
October 4, 2001
QUESTION: Just for clarification then, when Dr. Rice informed the President,
the administration was not aware that this could -- was just an -- or appeared
to be just an isolated case?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, all the facts as they were being developed were shared
at various points throughout the day. So it's impossible to put an exact timetable
on what information was developed when. It was shared over the course of the
morning and into the afternoon.
QUESTION: Ari, can you give us some more details on this $320 million in aid?
How is the food going to get into the right hands? How are you going to make
sure it doesn't fall into the hands of the Taliban, et cetera?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, unfortunately, there is a history of working to get food
to people who live in repressive regimes. And there is always a concern to make
certain that the food is kept out of the hands of the Taliban who will deny
it to their people, while getting it to the people who were suffering. And in
this case, the United States government will work with world food programs,
with the United Nations, to get food into the regions where it can do the most
QUESTION: Is the idea here to, aside from feeding the people, to win the hearts
and minds of Afghans who might be willing to abandon the Taliban?
MR. FLEISCHER: Two points on that. One, the purpose is to feed people who are
hungry. There is a grave humanitarian crisis shaping up in Afghanistan as a
result of the actions of the Taliban. And as the President said in his remarks
at the State Department, one of the great things about our nation that enables
us to win wars and to be such a good people is that our nation has a good heart.
And you're seeing that put into place when we help feed the people of Afghanistan.
But even before September 11th, the United States was Afghanistan's largest
supplier of food, because it's the right thing to do, and it's the humanitarian
thing to do. So the United States has always made that distinction between the
people of Afghanistan and the Taliban regime.
QUESTION: You apparently now, judging from Dr. Rice's remarks, U.S. does, in
fact, embrace a notion first mentioned by Tony Blair to go in and do something
in a major way to help build and develop Afghanistan to end hunger and that
sort of thing, once the chips fall where they may on whatever happens in the
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, to repeat what I've said many times, the United States
is not engaged in nation-building in Afghanistan, but the United States will
help those who seek a peaceful, economically-developing Afghanistan that's free
QUESTION: On the stimulus package, does the President believe that the $60 billion
to $75 billion should be split evenly between corporate and individual as Senator
Daschle and others have recommended, for it? And also in setting these parameters,
does the President believe that House Leader Dick Armey's suggestion a $150-billion
tax cut package would adversely affect the economy and increase long-term rates?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President has already established his range. And so
you know where the President stands. And the President is going to work with
Congress to find the right mix and the right balance so that enough goes to
stimulate investment on the demand side by getting it into the hands of consumers,
while also providing enough to get in the hands of corporations and businesses
that stimulates investment so they can keep their workers employed.
QUESTION: An unrelated question. On the U.S. package, would the President like
to give a holiday for payroll taxes as a way of increasing the economy?
MR. FLEISCHER: The idea of a rebate is one of the ideas that is under consideration.
And the President will take a good look at that.
QUESTION: Is he inclined to be in favor --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's too soon to say what the ultimate shape of this
package is going to be. The President announced the parameters yesterday; he
gave the three principles about stimulating consumers, helping to provide incentives
for businesses, as well as the placement of aid for displaced workers. So he's
going to work with Congress on a series of things that fit that bill.
QUESTION: Ari, Secretary Ashcroft today said he was disappointed with the grandfather
clause. He claims that the terrorism battle is going to take longer than the
time the Congress wants to put --
MR. FLEISCHER: By the grandfather clause, I presume you're referring to the
House antiterrorism bill that includes a sunset. Well, the President shares
that concern. It is entirely possible, if not likely, that this war against
terrorism is going to last beyond the sunset. And it's important that policymakers
have a realistic understanding of what this different type of war will involve,
and how long it will require giving the law enforcement agencies the tools they
need so we can prevent further attacks on the country.
QUESTION: Will he get involved with the Congress in trying to increase the time
or changing --
MR. FLEISCHER: I just made clear the President's position.
QUESTION: Can you spell out why the administration opposes notification of a
court after grand jury information is shared with intelligence agencies? Why
does the administration oppose the notification --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm going to refer you to Justice particularly on that. That's
a matter much more legal than I can entertain.
QUESTION: Ari, Daschle says the worker assistance plan that the President announced
today is not enough. Is this a limit, or is this just sort of a first step that
the President is taking in terms of worker assistance?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this is the President's proposal. This is what the President
believes is the best way to help workers get back on their feet and to help
them as they go through any of the effects of unemployment, including loss of
health care, since the attacks.
QUESTION: So he's open to other proposals, possibly, and maybe spending some
more money, as well?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as always, he will work with the Congress. But this is
the President's proposal; this is what he calling on the Congress to pass. The
President has announced that he believes it's important to extend unemployment
benefits for 13 weeks, and to provide $3 billion worth of national emergency
grants through the states so people can get health care, so they can get job-training.
The President believes this is the best solution.
And also, the President said one thing that's very important, when he said it's
important also that people in Congress don't start inventing or designing new
systems, new-fangled notions. There are a series of existing protections that
need to be beefed up, that need to be lengthened. But the existing provisions
on the books have proved before capable of doing the job to help people who
have lost their livelihood. And the President is confident they will do so again.
He also thinks it would be a mistake if people try to engage in a whole series
of new government programs, new creations, while there are a series of existing
ones that need to be strengthened.
QUESTION: Can I follow that?
QUESTION: Along those lines, is the President concerned about what the legislative
process might do to any stimulus package, and of course, whether or not it can
be done in three or four weeks?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think everybody in Congress has said that they would
like to get it done in that type of time frame. Congress typically adjourns
sometime in the fall, and so the President will, obviously, work with the Congress.
That is our system. But make no mistake; the President feels strongly about
what the best package is.
QUESTION: Ari, are you saying this package the President put forward today should
satisfy Democratic concerns about laid-off workers, and that therefore, the
airline security bill should go forward without any further holdup?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President does think that the question of how to help
people who have lost their jobs is best considered in the context of a stimulus
bill and it should not be part or bogged down in an otherwise important aviation
QUESTION: So this should reassure Democrats that the President is going to be
faithful in addressing that thing so that the airport security should go ahead
MR. FLEISCHER: Jim, I think the substance of what the President's proposing
speaks for itself, that it's very important to help people who have lost their
jobs so they can have an extended period of unemployment at a time like this.
People who have lost their jobs, they right away get concerned about their health
care, and the President is addressing that by providing $3 billion worth of
grants so that people can get their COBRA coverage paid for.
But there's also a tendency at times, too, done by both parties, to turn everything
into a Christmas tree and to start funding everything for everybody in all times
and for all reasons. And throughout this, it's always important to protect taxpayer
money while bringing help to those in need.
QUESTION: -- any indication the Democrats are satisfied by this in the first
MR. FLEISCHER: The President announced just an hour or two ago, so I think it's
important to let the Democrats think.
QUESTION: Democrats are saying -- they're saying it's a good first step, but
one problem they have is the unemployment benefits. They could settle with just
additional 13 weeks, but they're concerned about all 50 states. So what would
the President's plan do for a worker not in a state that is hardest hit, but
who is laid off because of the effects of the September 11th attack? That's
the question they have.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, obviously, the focus of the package is on those states
that are impacted the most, and that's where there is the greatest amount of
unemployment as a result of this. But keep in mind, of course, you're talking
about an additional 13 weeks on top of an existing 26 weeks -- that's half a
year, that's six months. So it's also premature on some of those questions.
QUESTION: Let me ask you a couple of questions about the asset-freezing. Why
were the Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad missing from your list of suspected
MR. FLEISCHER: They're already covered on existing lists.
QUESTION: And have the Saudis complied with your request to freeze assets of
27 people and organizations?
MR. FLEISCHER: You'd have to talk to Treasury specifically for a case-by-case
on all the various people that have been mentioned in the President's executive
order from the Rose Garden. But suffice it to say the administration and the
President are very satisfied with the cooperation of Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: The other list that the Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are on,
does it crack down as hard as the list that the President put out today?
MR. FLEISCHER: When you say, "crack down as hard," that's a hard distinction
to make. I think the question is, is it effective.
QUESTION: Does it, for example, go after the banks that don't comply?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd have to check that out, Ron. Talk to Treasury.
QUESTION: Going back to the Afghan relief a little bit. One way to feed Afghan
refugees is via military aircraft of humanitarian Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs.
Is the President in favor of doing that? Also, possibly setting up tent cities
or other refugee camps in neighboring states, staffed perhaps by the military
and other organizations?
MR. FLEISCHER: At this point, I'm not going to comment on some of the questions
about means of delivery into Afghanistan. Obviously, anything involving that
information could be misused by people who might hear what I say. So I'm going
to be careful about how I indicate food aid is going to be brought into the
people of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: The House leadership, the GOP leadership is coming over to meet with
the President. Can you tell us what that meeting is about? Is it a follow-up
to their meeting earlier with Mineta? And where is the President now on federalizing
MR. FLEISCHER: This is a follow-on to a whole year-long series of meetings that
the President is going to continue to have with members of Congress. He's having
a group down tonight; he had a group over for lunch today. As you know, he met
with the four leaders yesterday. He's going to continue to have different members
of Congress down to talk to them -- that's how you make progress on many of
these issues that you're asking me about. Will Congress agree, will Congress
have other ideas -- the way you get Congress to agree is to listen to their
ideas and bring people together.
QUESTION: And airline security personnel, is the President more open to that
MR. FLEISCHER: On the federalization question? The concerns of the President
remain about putting all screeners on the federal payroll. And let me give you
a for instance about one of the items of the President's concern, and that is,
as you know, when somebody is put as a member of the federal civil service,
it's virtually impossible to ever take any type of action or disciplinary action
if their work is not up to standards. And the President thinks it's very important
that in the case of the screeners and the workers, that the managers have the
ability to make certain that their work is up to all relevant standards and
can take disciplinary action if appropriate or if necessary.
So there are a host of issues that can involve diminishment of safety, as people
are put on the federal payroll. And these are types of things that need to be
worked out with the Congress.
QUESTION: But is the President willing to compromise on that, if that's what
it takes to get the airline security --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to -- let's just see what develops on the Hill.
QUESTION: Ari, in view of --
MR. FLEISCHER: Only two today, Les. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: In view of the President's gratitude to the many Americans who donated
blood for the wounded at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, what is the
White House reaction to the Harvard Crimson news report quoting a Harvard undergraduate
organization leader named Clifford Alexander's email to all members, "On
the Red Cross form you will be asked, are you a man who has had sexual contact
with another man since 1973. This applies to many of you. You should lie."
Since the AIDS tainted blood donations also killed Arthur Ashe, surely the White
House deplores this statement urging such lying, don't you, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Les, I'm not familiar with that report.
QUESTION: I've got it right here. You can read this --
MR. FLEISCHER: You can keep it.
QUESTION: Right there. It's on the net. If this is true --
MR. FLEISCHER: Do you have a follow-up?
QUESTION: Yes, I do, but if it's true, you deplore it, don't you, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: What's your next question, Les?
QUESTION: Last Saturday night at the Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner,
CNS reports that they videotaped President Clinton being confronted, interrupted
and shouted out by a member of ACT-UP who said Mr. Clinton was a liar, responsible
for his lover's death because Clinton never launched a Manhattan Project to
conquer AIDS. Does the President -- the President doesn't agree with this charge
against his predecessor, does he? And he deplores such behavior, doesn't he?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm also not familiar with that report.
QUESTION: Ari, after the statements President Bush made yesterday about the
possibility of a Palestinian state, does he intend to speak to Yasser Arafat?
I don't think he's had a conversation with him since he became President.
MR. FLEISCHER: As always, we keep you informed of all of the discussions that
the President has, or wherever I can, with foreign leaders.
QUESTION: Back on humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. How can you work through
the U.N. food program and other NGOs when most of those organizations, if not
all, have pulled their people out of Afghanistan? Reports from the region indicate
there's nobody left. How do we work through those programs?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think USAID, the Agency for International Development, and
the State Department addressed many of those questions in the briefing they
provided earlier today. So I want to refer you to that. They're the experts.