CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer Holds Daily Press Briefing
Aired May 3, 2002 - 12:40 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The White House and Ari Fleischer.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to guess what could be a primary political issue. I do note that the American people strongly support the president and his economic policies. I've seen abundant amounts of data from the media particularly.
FLEISCHER: There was a Gallup poll, for example, out just yesterday that asked questions of the American people about the president's handling of the economy, and they were overwhelmingly supportive of it.
And I think one of the things American people look for from Washington is for the president and the Congress to be able to work together on behalf of the country. And one of the best ways that the president and the Congress can work together is to get agreement on trade promotion authority, to get agreement on comprehensive energy legislation which has the side benefit of creating a lot of jobs for the American people, and to get agreement on terrorism insurance which is harming the ability, particularly in the commercial real estate sector and in the building trades, for people to get hired, because there is a lack of insurance or a problem of getting full insurance which is hindering the ability of large buildings to be constructed.
Large building construction is one of the greatest ways to make certain that working Americans, particularly blue-collar workers, people in the building trades, get the jobs they deserve.
QUESTION: Couple on the visit of the foreign minister and a potential temporary agreement. First off, is the sticking point still that the U.S. wants to store excess warheads in the case of an emergency? Are the Russians continuing to object to that, or has that been worked out?
FLEISCHER: As you can imagine involving any major codification of something as significant as the fundamental reduction that the president says he will make in offensive arms, there is a series of issues, some of which are legal. I have not delved into the specifics of each one of them, but there -- any announcement at this type, any codification of this type has a lot of t's to be crossed and i's to be dotted. And that's what the lawyers and negotiators are working on now.
QUESTION: The other thing is the foreign minister used the word "treaty" when he came out and talked to us here. Does the U.S. view what the president and President Putin could sign later this month as a treaty as well?
FLEISCHER: I would want to talk to some of the lawyers before I can give you a comfortable answer to that to see exactly what the precise form this codification will take.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) supporting some type of written agreement? FLEISCHER: That's correct.
FLEISCHER: A document that would be signed in Russian. That's the president's hope.
QUESTION: Do you agree with the underlying premise of the question that there are sticking points, or are we just talking about, as you said, crossing the t's and dotting the i's?
FLEISCHER: Well, that's a good question, and it goes back to the president is hopeful. I'm aware of how it's been characterized. And these are all good signs, but more work needs to be done. Talks are continuing, and the president is hopeful.
QUESTION: Ari, on the side legislation you mentioned on trade promotion authority, why does the White House think there's been no agreement over the health care part of that? That's the sticking point on that bill. And do you believe that steel workers ought to be part of the legislation as well, as Senator Daschle (inaudible)?
FLEISCHER: Well, number one, this is the nature of the Congress.
Not everything moves at the speed the president would like it to move, of course, particularly in the Senate. That's a problem in that, particularly with the Andean Trade Preference Act, there are going to be some preferences that'll expire. And that can raise the price for our Latin American friends who do business with the United States at a time when we need to be promoting international trade, not creating barriers.
So time is of the essence. And that's why the president gave a deadline to the Senate. It's meaningful. The Senate needs to act, and act quickly.
Specifically on the question of TAA, or trade adjustment assistance, trade adjustment assistance has historically been a very bipartisan program. The problem now is that one of the proposals offered by the majority leader of the Senate has no bipartisan support. He has taken what has always been a bipartisan program and turned it into something that is partisan and has gone too far.
Nevertheless, we continue to talk with the Senate to try to reach an agreement about how to have a trade adjustment agreement that will allow for passage of the trade promotion authority,
QUESTION: OK, but on the question of steel workers, should they be part of that bill? And should health care benefits, in general, be part of that bill?
FLEISCHER: You know, the risk to trade agreements in when the people start trying to address other issues in the domestic agenda that have absolutely nothing to do with the fundamental trade agreement itself. And if people try to make trade promotion authority a Christmas tree for all kinds of domestic issues that have no direct bearing on trade promotion authority, it risks undermining the prospects for a bipartisan agreement.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the president seemed to go beyond -- talking about the Palestinian Authority -- his call that they renounce terrorism. He said that this moment represents a new opportunity for Palestinians to choose how they live, and also talked about the need to end corruption.
Is the president seeking to change the way the Palestinian Authority governs its areas of responsibility? And how does he want to see that effected? Would there be strings attached to American aid to make sure that there's open bidding, or that kind of thing? FLEISCHER: As part of the president's vision of an Israel and a Palestine living side by side as two states living in security and peace, a major part of that is the commitment of the Palestinian people to have a state that is governed by the rule of law, by democracy, by transparency and by a lack of corruption.
And the president does have concerns about the Palestinian Authority, and making certain that the Palestinian people have a government that is worthy of them, and is not in any way inhibited in its ability to serve the people as a result of lack of transparency or lack of rule of law or the presence of corruption.
QUESTION: So right now he sees the Palestinian Authority as plagued by corruption? And how would he want the U.S. to help effect a change?
FLEISCHER: The president has spoken out, if you recall, in Monterrey about the need to make certain that nations around the world are not plagued by corruption. And the president's message to the Palestinian Authority is that they need to make certain that as part of becoming a state that they take action to make sure they have transparency, rule of law and fight corruption.
QUESTION: I was just wondering if he has any confidence that Yasser Arafat can give the Palestinian people a democratic, non- corrupt government.
FLEISCHER: Again, Yasser Arafat, on the question of fighting terrorism and also on the questions of corruption and rule of law, has not earned the president's trust. And these are all issues that the president will watch and monitor.
It's worth noting that the Palestinian Authority, within the lands they currently have self-governance for, can exercise those very values that the president described and spoke to in a speech yesterday. Those will be helpful steps for the Palestinian Authority to take in the here and now, even before the political talks reach the stage at which a state can be created. It is a concern for the president.
QUESTION: Just to shift gears on a different subject, the people of France are going to vote this Sunday in a presidential election in which Jean-Marie Le Pen is one of the candidates. Has the president said anything about the Le Pen candidacy? And in the broader context about the rise of anti-Semitic acts of violence in France and elsewhere in Europe and the feeling of many Americans that the leadership in Europe has not done enough to...
FLEISCHER: Separating the two issues, the president, number one, on the issue of the French election, recognizes, of course, the sovereignty of a democratic-elected France, and this is a French matter.
On the question of anti-Semitism, if you recall in a speech the president gave in San Jose earlier this week, the president spoke specifically about anti-Semitism and specifically cited the burning of synagogues in France.
QUESTION: Does he think European leaders have done enough to discourage that kind of activity?
FLEISCHER: The president understands that the governments of Europe and the leaders of Europe have an issue that is separate, that comes from some quarters of their population that is anti-Semitic. And the president has raised this in conversations he's had with different leaders from Europe. It is a concern for the president.
The president has a real, heartfelt view about human rights and religious freedom.
The president has raised issues about religious freedom in meetings with China's leaders. The president has raised issues about rights for people around the world, as he said in his State of the Union, human dignity around the world, and freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to worship. And the president does have concerns about anti-Semitism in this world, and he has spoken out about them, mostly privately. He did so publicly, of course, in his remarks earlier this week.
HEMMER: We want to get away from the White House here.
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