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Ari Fleischer Gives a Press Briefing

Aired September 17, 2001 - 13:25   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: To the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: President Bush spoke this morning with President Zahid of the United Arab Emirates. The conversation lasted approximately 10 minutes. The two spoke about cooperation against terrorism. And President Bush thanked President Zayid for is public statements of support and for his willingness to help.

Earlier this morning, also, as you may know, the president went to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and greeted employees on their way in, thanking them for doing their part, a symbol of what everybody across the nation is doing today as they do part in returning to work.

The president as we speak is in a National Security Council meeting, and then at 11 -- no, I'm sorry, at 10:40, the president will depart the White House en route to the Pentagon, and the president will have a meeting at the Pentagon on a Reserve call-up. He's going to meet a group of Reservists and thank them for their efforts, and he'll be briefed on the status of the call-up, and he will talk also about the gratitude shown for the families and the employers of those who have been called up to help our nation as it prepares to be put on a war footing.


FLEISCHER: Let me keep going, and then I'll take questions.

The president will come back to the White House. And then at 1:30, the president will make a phone call to Harold Levy who is the chancellor of the New York City public schools. Chancellor Levy will be joined by Secretary Rod Paige who will be at his side.

The president is going to talk to him about the efforts that New York City is making with federal assistance to welcome children back to school. Secretary Paige will make an announcement about federal assistance to the New York City public schools today in the form of money to help with counseling and other services to help families and loved ones and parents as the kids go back to school.

FLEISCHER: In the mid afternoon -- and we will give you the exact location later -- the president will depart the White House where he will go to an Islamic center in the Washington, D.C. area.


FLEISCHER: Yes, it is.

He will go to an Islamic center in the Washington, D.C. area to meet with Islamic leaders and congregates, and the president feels very strongly the importance of all leaders across America sending a message that as Americans, Muslim Americans love their flag too.

QUESTION: What time is that?

FLEISCHER: Mid afternoon.


FLEISCHER: We'll provide that shortly.

And at 3:45 this afternoon, the president will be at the White House for a meeting on economic policy. He'll talk about the economy and also, in particular, talk about the airline industry. Ms. Bush will be leaving today to attend a memorial service in Pennsylvania for those who lost their lives in the crash of the flight in southwestern Pennsylvania.

And that's the rundown on the schedule today.

I have some info on briefings: General Ashcroft and Director Mueller will brief at 12:30. I will be briefing at 1:00. As I mentioned, the president will be calling up to New York at 1:30. That event, right now, I have no coverage on that event just so you know. The pool event at the Pentagon will be an event at the Pentagon, of course, and the visit to the Islamic Center, and I anticipate some elements of...


FLEISCHER: No, it's a regular private meeting.

QUESTION: Can we get a transcript of the phone call (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: That's an interesting -- let me see if we can't do that.


FLEISCHER: Economic meeting? Yes, his regular economic team.


FLEISCHER: Look, still a gaggle, one at a time.

QUESTION: Where is the vice president? And where is he working during the day, and where is he staying at night?

FLEISCHER: I don't know the answer to that. I just don't know. I'll have to find out.

QUESTION: Ari, the economic team, will O'Neill be there, or...

FLEISCHER: No, this is -- the president has a regular group in the White House that is his economic team. It's Larry Lindsey. It's the domestic policy staff -- Josh Bolten. That's the group, and they've been spending a lot of their time looking directly at the domestic consequences of the terrorist attack.


FLEISCHER: Well, what you have to understand, this is the internal White House group, and they are always in touch with their appropriate Cabinet agencies. But it's an internal White House working group.

QUESTION: Has the president heard back from the Pakistanis yet (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: The government continues to be in contact with the Pakistanis in a variety of ways. Certainly, the conversations are two-way conversations, so the administration talks to the Pakistanis and the Pakistanis talk -- share information with us.

QUESTION: Well, have they agreed to do what we asked them to do?

FLEISCHER: Well, I have not characterized what it is that we've asked them to do. You notice Secretary Powell yesterday also did not characterize what we've asked them to do with specificity.

But the American government is appreciative of the efforts that the Pakistanis are making.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) response back from the Taliban?

FLEISCHER: I cannot confirm those reports, that the Pakistanis are doing that.

QUESTION: Ari, where are we in terms of the coalition (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: Well, you know, I don't think you're going to see a list of the coalition. What you're going to see is an effort by nations around the world to do their part. And I've already walked through with you the types of activities that the United States is talking to these nations about, whether it's political, economic, military, financial, diplomatic. And I think what you're going to see is varying degrees, different nations around the world doing different things, different levels of support.

Some nations -- many nations -- it's going to be rather robust. It's going to incorporate many of the areas. For some, it may be a contribution in smaller ways, one or two ways on what I just indicated, and it will vary from nation to nation as each nation is able. And that's the type of effort that the president is working on the world leaders with.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ask you to do specific things or is that nebulous that everybody just, you know, offers...

FLEISCHER: Well, I've just indicated some very specific categories, and we are asking nations to do specific things.

QUESTION: And is the president at all concerned about some of the comments that coming out -- President Putin, Germans, Italians, for instance -- which are not as robust in their support? The Italian official saying the word "war" is (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: And as you know, Secretary Rumsfeld spoke with the Italian defense minister and was very encouraged with Italy response and reactions, so to is the president based on his conversation with President Berlusconia.

QUESTION: And is the president's administration going to work with the United Nations at all? Some countries have said that they will get involved in the U.N. -- U.N. Security Council's sanctions (OFF-MIKE) What's the U.N. saying?

FLEISCHER: The president is going to continue to work with a variety of means and some of them are multilateral, some include the United Nations, for example, and others are going to be direct and bilateral. I think what you should expect is that the president is going to do what it takes, and that means a variety of approaches that recognize the issues that different nations have to consider as he puts together a coalition to combat terrorism at all levels and on multiple levels.

QUESTION: Ari, what does the White House (OFF-MIKE) to the extent of the type of aid that should be provided to the airline industry?

FLEISCHER: Well, the president will meet today with his economic team to consider a variety of issues involved with helping the airline industry. The president is very concerned about the health of the airline industry, and he'll start to get some clear indications today about what possible options there may or may not be.


QUESTION: Can you tell us with specificity when the president intends (OFF-MIKE) seek U.S. Security Council sanctions -- any military activity as a part of this campaign?

FLEISCHER: Let me try to obtain that.

QUESTION: Ari, a follow-up on that question. Is it just the airline industry that the president is concerned about? Or are there other industries (OFF-MIKE) other parts of the U.S. economy that may be upstream or downstream...

FLEISCHER: No, that's why I said he's going to have a briefing today on the status of the economy and, of course, the economy includes multiple sectors.

QUESTION: But the airline industry (OFF-MIKE) FLEISCHER: Well, I think you have to allow the meeting this afternoon to take place, and I'll tell you to the degree I can what type of conversations the president is having. QUESTION: When we take whatever military action we're going to take, what are the risks of, one, retaliation back to us, and, two, getting, you know, moderate Arabs and Muslims mad at us?

FLEISCHER: Let me take the first question. I think what people have to recognize and, I think, you're hearing it and seeing it from the president and all his advisers, is America is preparing for war, and that does include the risks and the possibilities of harm to Americans wherever they may be, including at home.

And that's why the president has cautioned that people must be vigilant, the nation and the government are doing everything it can. But, you know, one of the great blessings of our country is our openness, and with that openness comes risk, and that is the reality of the world we face right now.

QUESTION: And diplomatically, the moderate Arab states and so on, not (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: Well, again, the president will continue to work building coalitions with different nations and different nations will respond accordingly. But, you know, many of these nations face risks if they don't do anything.

QUESTION: Ari, could you speak to the concerns about Pakistani's involvement with an attack on Afghanistan and how internal strife may destabilize, particularly with nuclear weapons?

FLEISCHER: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals.

QUESTION: It's not a hypothetical (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals.

QUESTION: Ari, has the president spoken with (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: I don't know. I'll have to ask.

QUESTION: Do you have a reaction on the (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: No. The standard policy of not commenting on interest rate cuts is in place.

QUESTION: Ari, to follow-up on Keith's question (inaudible) the president is supporting some sort of bail-out package (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: I didn't indicate that. I said the president is going to have a briefing today about economic conditions, including that of the airline industry, so I just urge you to suspend until the meeting can take place. (CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... the economy, specifically what the president's considering now. FLEISCHER: I couldn't hear the beginning of your question.

QUESTION: Other options that the president is considering taking to (inaudible)

FLEISCHER: I can only ask you to let the meeting take place and I'll try to give you a report.


FLEISCHER: I'll be there.


FLEISCHER: It'll take place, you know, five, six hours and, you know, I'll be available, so.

QUESTION: Ari, over the weekend there were two incidents (inaudible) backlash, and you have people -- Arab-American, Muslims Pakistanis (inaudible) a Sikh in Phoenix. Is today's Islamic event -- Islamic Center event related to that and does the president have a comment about (inaudible)

FLEISCHER: (OFF-MIKE) for two reasons.

One is because it's just the right thing to do. It is the tradition and the history of our nation. We are a nation of immigrants. We are a nation from around the world. And no matter where someone comes from or when they got here, they are just as American. And they love our country just as much as everyone else, and that's true in times of war just as much as it is true in times of peace, but it needs to be said more often in times of war, and that's why the president is going. He's very concerned about any violence that would take place to anybody as a result of ethnicity or background.

I can tell you that in the private meetings that he's been in with members of Congress, the president has said to the members directly, it is a leadership test for all you -- for all of us -- to speak out and tell people and remind people that Muslim Americans and Arab Americans love this country too. And I think that that is going to be an ongoing issue where it's important for all ears, to speak out and the president will do so today. It's important.

QUESTION: On the domestic front, how (OFF-MIKE) will we see rationing, we will see a draft, will we see sacrifice on those levels?

FLEISCHER: No, I can't predict. How can you say?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) to make those kind of sacrifices?

FLEISCHER: You know, I think the country gets it. I think the country understands that we're heading into what the president called a new war of the 21st century. And I think the country also understands that this is not 1941. I think the country understands that in a war on terrorism, you're dealing with people who don't have capital cities, they don't have troops of the traditional nature, and that means the war is going to get fought on on multiple levels that Secretary Cheney talked about -- Vice President Cheney talked about.

FLEISCHER: I just think the American people get that, and the American people are preparing.

QUESTION: Apparently, there are a lot of people on Capitol Hill who don't feel that they're being as well-informed by the White House as they should be. Does the White House agree with that, and are there plans to increase the...

FLEISCHER: I stated repeatedly, conversations with the Hill are terribly important. The Hill has a vital role to play at this time. And they have an important role to play at all times. They have a vital role to play.

And the Office of Congressional Affairs is working as hard as they can to work with all members of Congress to provide them everything we can possibly provide.

QUESTION: So they are being provided sufficient information?

FLEISCHER: Well, we hope so. I mean I recognize that there are going to be some who differ with the amount of information that is provided. But the administration is going to work as hard as it can to satisfy all possible concerns.



FLEISCHER: He does want to, yes. And I'm not going to get too far down the road on the schedule, but I think you can anticipate that in time.

QUESTION: Has the president been involved in any discussions relating to Reagan National Airport or have you heard any discussions about (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: I don't know. I don't know about the president specifically on Reagan.


FLEISCHER: I'd have to run some (inaudible) I couldn't tell you about every conversation that everybody has had.

QUESTION: In light of the vice president's comments yesterday about having confidence in the country (OFF-MIKE) FLEISCHER: Well, one, I'm mean given what took place in the Asian markets and other markets, some could say that this is not unexpected, but beyond that, the fundamentals of the economy remain very strongly and solidly in place. And markets are long-terms.

And I'm not going to comment on fluctuations large or small, up or down on any given day. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: Well, look, there's no doubt, the immediate aftermath of the attack, the president spent most of his time planning on security details.

But as you know, Secretary O'Neill has been a part of these conversations at varying levels. And the president is concerned and is focusing his time on the economy and on the domestic consequences of this.

FLEISCHER: But I don't want to give you any other indication in the immediate aftermath. The president's first thoughts were on the matter of security.


FLEISCHER: Well, the president supports the attorney general's efforts, of course. There are important steps that can be taken to enhance our ability to prevent attacks on the United States and to win this war. But beyond that, I think you're going to get a briefing and the details at 12:30 from the appropriate officials.

QUESTION: What is the president's thoughts on the balance of civilian rights against the need for stepped-up protection? Where does he stand? How does he see this?

FLEISCHER: The president thinks that we can and must have both. It's vitally important to have both.

QUESTION: Would we need to infringe even slightly on civil liberties in order to protect ourselves...

FLEISCHER: Well, the president, again, thinks that you can have both and that has to be the goal of policy makers.


FLEISCHER: Yes, I indicated that he hadn't confirmed that anybody or the Pakistanis had asked for it. I can't confirm that they have.


FLEISCHER: The usual National Security Council team. I didn't look in the room, but it was presumably secretary of defense, Condoleezza Rice, Secretary Powell. I don't have a list in front of me.

QUESTION: Ari, the early indications are that although we see a great increase in flag sales, we do not see any dramatic increases (OFF-MIKE) and two, is the administration considering taking any steps to boost the enlistment?

FLEISCHER: You know, I think that's a DOD issue. But from everything that I have heard, the volunteer forces that we have are the world's finest and best and are capable of the task to which they will be assigned.

Thank you. I'll be back to brief later.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: The White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, with his daily briefing. Among the things he said, the president is keeping his eye on the market. So are we. We can tell you the Dow has now made a new low for the day, down 650 points. The Nasdaq at about 100 point loss at this moment. This has all been sort of deteriorating over the last 35-40 minutes.



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