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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

White House Press Briefing

Aired December 18, 2002 - 12:48   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, has just started a briefing over at the White House. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: ... the National Security Council.

He also met with the secretary of health and human services and the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, where following their meeting with the president the FDA commissioner and the secretary of HHS announced that in an effort to improve health of the American people the FDA will be moving to provide more information and more accurate information on foods and dietary supplements that will provide people with the tools they need to have better health from the point of view of the foods that they eat or the dietary supplements that they take.

And then, following that, the president met with the prime minister and president of Spain. They are currently still having lunch. At the session in the Oval Office they talked about regional issues, including the situation vis-a-vis Iraq and the prospects of making progress toward peace in the Middle East. They, as I said, are currently having lunch.

And those are the events for the president for the day.

I'm happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Can you now tell us, does the president believe that Iraq has once again defied the international community with its declaration? And is he prepared to make that case now publicly in the United Nations?

FLEISCHER: Iraq recently submitted to the world a voluminous document that it purported to be its final, its full, its accurate and complete listing of all its programs involving weapons of mass destruction. The United States is continuing to review what is in that document, but even before our total review is complete, we have made certain assessments of it.

But even before our total review is complete, we have made certain assessments of it.

And the president is concerned about Iraq's failure to list information in this document. The president is concerned with omissions in this document. And the president is concerned with problems in this document. I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Does that mean that Saddam Hussein has defied the international community? Is this, in the president's estimation, a material breach of the United Nations resolutions?

FLEISCHER: Well, in terms of what's going to come next, given the problems in Iraqi declaration and the omissions in the Iraqi declaration, tomorrow Hans Blix of the United Nations will go before the Security Council in New York to discuss the findings and the facts that the United Nations inspectors have found in this declaration.

Following that, I think you will see the United States move in a very deliberative and thoughtful way about what the implications of this are.

We want the inspectors to have the tools they need to do their job. We want them to be able to fully use every asset given to them in the United Nations Security Council resolution. And that will be the deliberative path that the United States proceeds, as people start to discuss what is indeed in this declaration and what is indeed not in this declaration.

QUESTION: Can I just do one more on this, because you're obviously making it clear that the president doesn't think Iraq has come clean. There are problems, there are omissions.

The president in Prague was crystal clear. He said if Iraq does not totally come clean, then Saddam Hussein will face his own demise and the severest of consequences. Have we arrived at that point?

FLEISCHER: I think it's fair to say again, the United States will continue to be deliberative in this manner. But this was Saddam Hussein's last chance. And it is important now to listen to the world, to listen to the United Nations, to listen to allies, to listen to other countries as they too have their chance to look at this declaration and evaluate it, just as the United States looks forward to doing.

QUESTION: Does that mean that the White House, including possibly the president, is prepared to say that Iraq is in material breach because of these concerns?

FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, the United States is going to want to pursue a deliberative approach to this. The process of this final test begins tomorrow in New York as Hans Blix discusses with the United Nations what the United Nations inspectors have found or not found in this declaration.

That would be -- we will be interested to hear what Mr. Blix said. We will be interested to hear what other nations say. And we will, as the United States government, share information, as well, tomorrow.

QUESTION: Does this deliberative approach mean that you're not ready to go as far as to say there is material breach? FLEISCHER: Again, I'll just repeat, it will be a deliberative approach, and any statements will be made by the appropriate authorities, and they'll be made over the appropriate timetable that the president and others judge is appropriate.

QUESTION: Can I ask a Lott question quickly? Does Senator Chafee's statement today that Senator Lott should go, should resign as majority leader, does that change the White House position in wanting to say publicly whether he should remain or not?

FLEISCHER: Just as I indicated yesterday, any of the events, any of the comments that lead up to this potential January 6 meeting, the White House will not comment on.

QUESTION: As you know, the Brits have once again gotten out a little bit ahead of us. They've declared this morning in a statement down on the floor of the House of Commons that the Iraqi declaration is, to use Jack Straw's words, "an obvious falsehood."

Is this a case of the U.S. (sic) going first, the U.S. to follow, to make the same point in tandem? And do we expect to hear from the president on this tomorrow?

FLEISCHER: Well, all nations have it within their right to evaluate the declaration themselves and to share their thoughts with the world. And I think that's part of the healthy process that the president launched when he went to the United Nations and said the United Nations needs to re-enter this debate and make certain this time Saddam Hussein does what he promised to do to disarm.

QUESTION: Is this a concerted effort?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think people are all looking at the same document and aware of the fact that tomorrow Hans Blix is going to be talking about it, so it's kind of a natural event that many nations are going to be reflecting on it. So we welcome the comments of other nations.

QUESTION: But do we expect to hear from the president?

FLEISCHER: As always, if there is anything from the president, I'll let you know.

QUESTION: So you haven't made that decision?

FLEISCHER: That's correct.

QUESTION: A quick Lott question. He says he talked to the president today. Can you characterize that for us?

FLEISCHER: He did not say that. He said he talked to the White House today. He did not talk to the president.

QUESTION: Who'd he talk to?

FLEISCHER: He talked to other officials in the White House on the staff level. He did not talk to the president.

QUESTION: On Iraq, if Iraq is lying, why shouldn't that be grounds for war, given everything that the president has been saying for months?

FLEISCHER: Well, because the president has said that he wants to work with the international community. The president, having gone to the United Nations, has made the decision that the United States will work with our partners around the world in both the diplomatic areas and in all areas to do everything we can to put the pressure on Saddam Hussein to preserve the peace by disarmament.

The president said he would do it. You are watching the president do exactly what he said he would do.

So the president has said that this is Saddam Hussein's last chance. The United Nations has made it clear in passing 16 resolutions that Saddam Hussein disobeyed that they, too, have reached the point where they want Saddam Hussein to at this point, finally, do what he pledged and disarm. And this is the president's decision, this is the president's approach.

QUESTION: But great powers can't bluff, it's often said. Is this an admission that the United States doesn't have international support right now to go to war, even if this declaration is an obvious falsehood?

FLEISCHER: Two points again. The president is going to pursue this in a thoughtful and deliberative way, in consultation, as he promised, with our allies.

And I assure you this president does not bluff. When he said that Saddam Hussein must disarm, that he wants Saddam Hussein to disarm so peace can be preserved or Saddam Hussein will be disarmed, it is not a bluff. He hopes Saddam Hussein will do it still.

QUESTION: Ari, before the Iraqis submitted this declaration, you said from this podium several times that omissions would constitute a material breach under Section 4 of the U.N. resolution.

You've just told us now for the first time that, in fact, you now believe there are omissions in the report. The way we would do the math, we would think omissions equal material breach. You're not saying that now.

Is there a political advantage in delaying a declaration of material breach? Are we only discussing -- is it a question of timing here or a question of substance?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's important to allow a process that the president asked to begin to take its course. The president went to the United Nations Security Council and asked for the inspectors to go back into Iraq.

And in the resolution authorizing the return of the inspectors, it created a process for the inspectors to come back to the United Nations Security Council to make reports on what they are finding. And so what you are seeing is the president doing just what he said.

And so tomorrow Hans Blix will go to the Security Council, and the pace and the timing will be measured and be deliberative.

QUESTION: Ari, you're conflating two issues.

There's a question of what the inspectors go out and do and find, those reports. And then there is Iraq's separate obligation to provide a report, which they have done, of their weapons of mass destruction.

We're discussing here just an assessment of that report, not of what the inspectors have found. If there are omissions in that report, it seems fairly clear, unless I'm reading 1441 incorrectly, that that alone would constitute a material breach. Am I wrong?

FLEISCHER: And as I indicated on the timing, given the fact that the president asked the United Nations to proceed in this manner, it's appropriate to allow Hans Blix to make his statement tomorrow. And then we'll see what the future course takes after that.

QUESTION: Ari, a quick question. According to the U.N. reports, Afghanistan is still not free of Taliban rule, and especially women are in trouble. And they are still facing (inaudible) Taliban rule there. And what president is doing about this situation in Afghanistan?

FLEISCHER: When it comes to the future of Afghanistan, the future is indeed far, far brighter than it was until the United States was able to move in and help the people of Afghanistan to shed themselves from the oppression of the Taliban.

There's no question that there's still pockets of resistance in isolated portions of Afghanistan. The situation in Afghanistan remains a situation where the United States remains deeply concerned and deeply involved.

But when you take a look at the food shortages that were taking place in Afghanistan, when you look at the healthcare needs for the people of Afghanistan where their healthcare needs have been improved now or their healthcare has been improved, the situation clearly has improved.

But this is not a short-term endeavor. The United States is going to continue to play its role to help the people of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, yesterday (inaudible) back into his future employees of homeland security about the security of the future and how to protect the homeland of the United States. The question is here that the (inaudible) report that there over 700 al Qaeda connectors (ph) are still in the United States, where they are, who they are, where they live...

FLEISCHER: I'm sorry, who are you attributing -- who said 700 al Qaeda are in the United States?

QUESTION: According to the reports...

FLEISCHER: But who do these reports say said 700 al Qaeda are in the United States?

QUESTION: Different intelligence reports.

FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of anybody in the United States government who said that there are 700 al Qaeda in the United States.

Now, the president has said that we have concerns about al Qaeda operating around the world, including the possibility of them having sleeper cells in the United States. It remains a concern.

And the United States continues, through its efforts through the Justice Department, through state and local law enforcement as well as through other agencies of the federal government, to take every action possible, to protect the country, to prevent potential terrorists from coming into the country, and to ascertain whether indeed there are terrorists operating inside the United States. And if there are, every lever of the federal government is involved in making certain that we can find them and catch them.

QUESTION: One on Iraq and one on Senator Lott. First on Iraq, has Hans Blix, as you noted, will deliver his report tomorrow to the Security Council. Has he characterized to anyone in the United States government what he is prepared to tell the Security Council?

And is the -- are you withholding judgment to David's point about whether saying publicly an omission equals material breach to wait to see if Hans Blix does that first, whether he is prepared to say there is a breach?

FLEISCHER: No, because, first of all, as I said to you this morning, it is the job of the member states to declare whether or not there is or is not a material breach and decide the timing for whether to declare a material breach.

The inspectors are there to report facts, not to make conclusive judgments in that nature. So I would not expect that to be the case.

QUESTION: So he cannot report that, in his view, Iraq's document has omissions?

FLEISCHER: I think -- we'll all wait to hear what he says. And of course there is some level of contact with all nations of the world as they review this document. After all, the United Nations Security Council came together as one body, and they all frequently consult. But we do not know every detail about what's going to be said tomorrow.

QUESTION: Senator Lott said this morning that he had been in almost daily contact with the White House. And he said that in one of those conversations -- at least one of those conversations, he had been told that it was the view of whoever he was talking to here at the White House that he was being treated unfairly. And that yes, it was conveyed to him by the White House that it was important that he take a lead role in trying to clear all of this up. But that the White House also viewed it important that he do so because it wanted him to be there to help advance the very important agenda.

Is that not taking sides...

FLEISCHER: I want to be very careful here. I saw about half of the tape of what Senator Lott said, and I did not hear him say any of that second portion of what you said. So I want to be precise. Already some have suggested that Senator Lott said he spoke to the president, when Senator Lott never said that. So I want to be precise, if anybody is describing Senator Lott's words, and I think everybody needs to work off of the transcript to make certain that the information is accurate.

Let me say this about where the White House is. And I want to repeat what the president said when he went to Philadelphia. This is the president's approach. He views his job as to elevate the nation and continue to focus on the issues involving race and racial healing and racial progress in America.

And that's where the president is on this matter.

I've indicated to you that, in terms of any election or possible election, if there is one, the White House will have not comment.

I want to make very plain where the White House stands on this, and I think it's important. All potential leadership races on Capitol Hill, if there is a leadership race, the White House plays no role and will play no role and offers no thoughts and opinions and offers no advice about this matter. It is a congressional matter if it gets to that point.

QUESTION: Did someone tell Senator Lott they think he's being treated unfairly?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think that there is a sense that you can't help but pick up a newspaper and read things, and you see that things are being said that are wrongly -- wrongly being sourced and attributed to people in the White House. And I think there is a sense here that, obviously, people read those stories and they want to know is the White House saying these things, yes or no.

And I call on you, with respect, this is a very sensitive matter, of course. It's a matter of people having strong opinions, people presenting what they hope will be a conclusion on one side or another, and then being willing to influence the debate so that their conclusion can be reached. This is a very difficult issue for all concerned to discern; whether or not when somebody comes to you and says, "I heard such and so say," whether or not they're really representing what actually was said or not.

I have never seen an issue where the White House seems to have so many advisers that we now read about in the press, none of whom seem to have any names, none of whom seem to have any responsibility. And that's why I've said to you what I have said on the record about the White House position.

And I think you all are in a very difficult spot if you have to evaluate information you heard that is third-hand and fourth-hand, that allegedly applies to what is being said in the White House, recognizing there are people who have preformed opinions about what the final result may be, and they may be sharing their preformed opinion with you that is removed -- far removed from what the White House is saying.

QUESTION: Just to zip this up, so then if somebody in this building told Senator Lott he was being treated unfairly, it was about quotes anonymously attributed to White House officials or White House advisers, not that it was unfair for fellow Republican senators to challenge his hold on the leadership.

FLEISCHER: No. As I've made plain, the White House has no comment on any potential leadership race and the White House will offer no advice or opinions or judgments to people who may or may not be involved in this.

And that is, I think, something that everybody in Washington is well familiar with in terms of the typical White House approach to any leadership race, if there is in this case a leadership race, because I think that, too, is something where nobody knows with certainty whether it will or won't be.

QUESTION: Ari, if there are omissions in the Iraq declaration, can the American people be confident that proof will be forthcoming to show what those omissions are?

FLEISCHER: I've said this before, I will say this again, and I think it's very important. We are a democracy. Democracies are extraordinarily reluctant, and particularly the American democracy, to go to war.

In the event that the president reaches the conclusion that what he has determined is his last choice and his last option becomes the only option to protect and to save American lives, you can be assured the president will repeatedly talk to the American people about this. He will continue his deliberative and his thoughtful approach. That will be the approach that the president takes over the passage of time.

And so you will hear from the president when the president deems it appropriate. And I would reach no conclusions about when that would be, whether it's this week or some other time. But you will hear, of course, from the president. It's his job in our democracy.

QUESTION: Well, with respect to my colleague, there are a couple other points I think I'd like to attempt to clear up about Senator Lott's dealings with the White House.

He says he's in contact with the White House a couple of times a day. I'd like to know if that's true. He says he's talked with the president about this issue more than once. Is that true? And he says, most importantly, the president supports him. Is that true?

FLEISCHER: Again, I want to go back and look at the transcript to make certain that what is being presented here -- because, again, I saw half the tape and so I have the remaining half the tape to watch, but I did not hear any of those points made in the half the tape that I saw. So let's all review the transcript to make sure that these are all accurate presentations.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: The whole thing? I understand it was lengthy.

My position is, as you know, and I have said this repeatedly on behalf of the president, that the president does not think Senator Lott needs to resign. We will have no comment on any events leading up to a potential race, if there is a race, on January 6th. And, as I indicated earlier, the White House plays no role and will not play a role, you know, if there's no thoughts or opinions about any potential candidacies.

QUESTION: But you could tell us, however, if Senator Lott is speaking accurately when he says the president supports him. Is that true?

FLEISCHER: Again, I want to wait until I can read a transcript before I comment on something that I have not seen or heard myself.

QUESTION: Well, you know that independent of what Senator Lott is saying.

FLEISCHER: I made it very plain from the president's point of view.

QUESTION: Is it really fair to say the White House plays no role? How can you stand there and say that? Most of us believe otherwise.

FLEISCHER: Well, you're in a position where you're not naming who is saying these things to you. You have to evaluate whether somebody says something to you and presents it to you as, "I was talking to somebody in the White House and this person in the White House says," you're one step removed, I present.

QUESTION: How can you stand there and say the White House plays no role in this when it is widely understood in this town that the White House has certain concerns, possibly choices, about what is going on?

FLEISCHER: "Widely understood in this town" is not precise reporting. "Widely understood in this town" is often the repeating of a rumor mill that is not accurate.

QUESTION: Aren't you taking sides when you say he doesn't have to resign? Aren't you choosing sides?

FLEISCHER: As I indicated, this is about a potential leadership race, and the White House does not choose sides in a potential leadership race if there is one.

The president does not think he should resign.

QUESTION: On Iraq, you had said, I believe I got it, that the United States government would share some information tomorrow on the report. Can you sketch, sort of, how that will take place and who'll be involved?

FLEISCHER: Let me finalize that and I'll be able to provide you that information, I think, shortly thereafter this briefing. You'll know who it will be and we'll just put that out shortly.

QUESTION: Yesterday when you were talking about missile defense and the decision to deploy it, you noted that there had been predictions that doing that would cause relations with Russia to go very sour, and, in fact, quite the opposite had happened; I think your words were, something to the effect that relations with Russia had never been better.

Today the Russian foreign ministry put out a fairly lengthy statement responding to the decision to deploy missile defense, expressing deep regret, saying that it would trigger a new arms race and basically saying that they strongly disagreed with the decision. Does that cause you to reassess your assessment of U.S.-Russian relations?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think that there's no question that in a relationship that is probably the best in modern times between the United States and Russia there are areas where there are disagreements. And those disagreements have been handled through very patient and quite diplomacy that has been effective.

But the fact of the matter is that there is a remarkable and historic lowering of the level of offensive weapons that President Bush and President Putin have agree to. And the president will hope that the Congress and the Senate will make one of its priorities in the next Congress ratification of the Treaty of Moscow, which will prove to the world that, at a time when the United States is moving forward with missile defense, we are actually lowering the number of offensive weapons around the world to historic lows.

QUESTION: So you don't see this rather negative reaction out of Moscow as problematic for the relationship?

FLEISCHER: No. As I acknowledged, there are going to be differences in the relationship between nations that are becoming increasingly friendlier, but the facts about whether or not this has led to a buildup of weapons are just the opposite, as is well known. There actually is a historic reduction in weapons.

QUESTION: Last week the Iraqis canceled a very lucrative contract that it had with the state-owned Russian oil company, Lukoil. Do we take that to be any kind of signal or straw in the wind about where Russian-Iraqi relations are going and Russia's attitude toward...

FLEISCHER: Yes, I have no information on that beyond the reports that we've all seen. That's a matter between Iraq and Russia.

QUESTION: It seems to me, Ari, that you should be able to, even without reviewing Senator Lott's most recent comments, clarify whether or not the president has spoken with him. Have they talked since December 5th, when Senator Lott made his comments?

FLEISCHER: The last time I'm aware that the president and Senator Lott spoke was after the president returned to the White House from his speech in Philadelphia.

QUESTION: They have not spoken since?

FLEISCHER: I said that's the last time I'm aware that they spoke.

QUESTION: Ari, on Iraq, earlier you said that you're not aware of everything that Mr. Blix may or may not say tomorrow to the Security Council. Does that mean that he has, at least in part, briefed the White House to a certain extent on what he will say?

FLEISCHER: As I indicated that Hans Blix works per the Security Council and we, as the United States, being a member of the Security Council, and the Security Council voted 15-0, we always consult. This is what you would expect in a multilateralist endeavor like this. It's not as if there are bridges that have to be crossed between the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council, the members states of the Security Council and the inspectors. It is designed to be a collaborative process. So, of course, there are going to be communications.

You're well aware of the fact that Hans Blix has visited many capitals around the world, including Washington, where he met with Dr. Rice, where he's met with numerous American officials. He went to Paris and met with the French government; went to Russia, met with the Russian government; went to Beijing, met with the Chinese government. He's doing his job.

QUESTION: Ari, Governor Jeb Bush just recently made the following comments to the Miami Herald regarding Lott, quote: "Something's going to have to change. This can't be the topic of conversation over the next week."

Did the governor make these comments without consulting his brother at all?

FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of any conversation between his brother and the president about that. Obviously, people make statements, and the White House still will not comment.

QUESTION: So there was no...

FLEISCHER: I said I'm not aware of any.

QUESTION: Ari, forgive me for coming back to this, but having gotten the verbatim myself, I've got to ask it. The tape was played for me of Senator Lott saying, after describing his plans to hang in there, he said, that he believes the president and his aides, quote, "support what I'm trying to do here and will continue to do so."

Is he wrong?

FLEISCHER: Again, you know I have a longstanding policy that if there's information that I have not seen myself in the transcript, I will reserve the right to review the transcript.

QUESTION: You didn't hear him say that?

FLEISCHER: I did not. I will review the transcript.

QUESTION: Ari, when you say the president says Senator Lott does not have to resign, is that referring to his position as majority leader?

FLEISCHER: That's correct.

QUESTION: Ari, two questions on Iraq. The first one: You say that the United States is going to share information tomorrow; presumably that will be to the Security Council and will involve some security -- some intelligence information. Will that also be made public?

FLEISCHER: No. I'm indicating that the United States will have something to say publicly about this matter. Of course, Ambassador Negroponte will be at the United Nations Security Council when Mr. Blix makes his report.

Ambassadors to the Security Council will be speaking in the session at the United Nations. I've given no indication about any content of that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) we consider to be our mission and our proof that those are our missions that things are, maybe, being held back and not being disclosed?

FLEISCHER: I would just urge you wait until tomorrow, and then you'll hear from the appropriate officials.

QUESTION: A second question: The president, way back in September, said weeks rather than months, that this is a very pressing issue, that the danger is growing.

Here we are, we're more than three months out from that time of the speech. Iraq continues to fire on our aircraft in the no-fly zone. Is there any concern that American action has been co-opted by this whole U.N. process that, maybe, there might be some slacking of support among the American people as this thing drags on and on and on?

FLEISCHER: And what was it exactly that the president said should take weeks not months?

QUESTION: On acting against Iraq.

FLEISCHER: That's not precise. The president said -- if you recall his words, the president has said that the vote that the United Nations needed to cast after his September speech to the United Nations, urging them to vote on a new resolution, had to take weeks not months. That's precisely what took place at the U.N.

Again, this is why words are important and the precision in which you quote government officials is important. That's what the president said should need to take weeks not months. It did take weeks not months.

QUESTION: Meanwhile, we're quite a ways down the line and this just seems to be dragging on. It doesn't seem to be any end in sight.

FLEISCHER: The president does not hold that view. The president holds the view that when it comes to matters of war and peace, it is important to be deliberative, be thoughtful and to be wise. And that is exactly the course that the president will take.

QUESTION: Ari, Senator Lott seems to have made some sort of conversion to embrace affirmative action, at least that's what he indicated, I think was the BET interview.

Where does the administration stand on this? Does it agree with him on that?

FLEISCHER: Exactly what I said yesterday when I was asked the question yesterday. The president supports affirmative access. And yesterday I gave a very lengthy description of what that entails. So you'll be able to find that.

QUESTION: I have two questions. First of all, on Iraq, I wanted to clarify: Does the president believe that every day that the weapons inspectors are in Iraq is effectively containing Saddam Hussein and Baghdad's program of weapons of mass destruction or does the world continue to be, in his view, at risk as long as the inspectors are on the ground?

FLEISCHER: No. The president's view is that the inspectors are a means to an end, and that the end is the disarmament of Iraq. And that the inspectors can be a tool in determining whether Iraq has indeed disarmed, and especially their role can be a helpful tool if Iraq cooperates with the inspectors. That's the president's view.

QUESTION: So, in effect, he does not believe that Saddam Hussein and the program in Baghdad could possibly be contained no matter how many weapons inspectors you have there.

FLEISCHER: Well, it all depends on whether Iraq cooperates. And one way to measure whether Iraqi is sincere in its desire to cooperate is to evaluate their declaration and to see whether it is indeed truthful and complete and full.

QUESTION: And a follow up then on Lott. I want to just clarify in my own mind, if the president -- if it's important for us to understand the president's thinking about Senator Lott, and he reached this decision that it is not necessary -- the words are that Senator Lott does not need to resign as majority leader, what is in the president's mind that made him conclude that that was not necessary?

FLEISCHER: For the exact reason that the president gave in Philadelphia. He said that Senator Lott apologized, and rightly so. QUESTION: In the president's mind the apology was sufficient and that Senator Lott could ably continue to be the majority leader in the Senate.

The president said that he apologized and rightly so and did not think he needed to resign.

QUESTION: And that's all the Senate needs at this point.

FLEISCHER: That's the president's statement. That's exactly what he has said, correct.

QUESTION: Ari, with respect to affirmative access, I understand the example that you gave yesterday with respect to a fixed percentage in college admissions at the University of Texas. But could you give an example of how affirmative access would work in the workplace with respect to recruitment, hiring and promotions?

FLEISCHER: That was not something that came up in the context of Texas. And so, I think that still remains the best example.

The president has said...

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer addressing questions from reporters in his daily briefing.

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