CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
White House Press Briefing
Aired January 23, 2003 - 13:05 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: You can see Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, giving a briefing there. We will go to that in a moment. We're all monitoring deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz. He is delivering a policy address on Iraqi disarmament to the Nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations. We'll check in with both. Let's first go to the White House.
QUESTION: ... why is he still the administration's choice to be on that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
FLEISCHER: I'm not indicating to you. As you know, I don't speculate about personnel.
I'm not indicating to you whether he will or will not be appointed to that panel. What I am indicating to you is that the views that he holds are far, far removed from what the president believes.
QUESTION: You said earlier today that the president doesn't care whether the American people support any decision to go to war or not.
FLEISCHER: I didn't say that.
QUESTION: Yes, basically you said it.
QUESTION: OK, what did you say?
FLEISCHER: That's a wily paraphrase. Wily.
QUESTION: I think I've compressed it well.
FLEISCHER: I know you do, that's why you asked it the way you did.
The president believes the following: that his job as commander- in-chief is to, first and foremost, protect the country from any threats that he perceives the American people may suffer.
In carrying out that duty the president, of course, at all times wants to have the support of the American people. But if the American people are fundamentally opposed to or totally in favor of a military action anywhere in the world, the president will make his judgment about when to use force to protect the country on the basis of what he believes is best to protect the country, not on the basis of any poll, for or against. QUESTION: But basically you're saying the impact of the public's opinion has no meaning -- meaning actually the anti-war demonstrations have no impact on the White House.
FLEISCHER: No. What I'm saying is quite the contrary. The president, of course, seeks public support, and if the president makes a determination to use support, the president will go to the public, and I think you'll see he'll build even more support.
At this very moment the strong majority of the American people, as indicated by public polls, on a very consistent and long-term basis, with little to no change since last August, has said that they support the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) he does expect that the public would support him if he goes -- I mean, he would rally the patriotism and so forth. Isn't this what the drum beat is now, where major speeches every day in support of war?
FLEISCHER: Well, I think there's no question that the administration is and will continue to take its case and make its case to the American people.
We are a democracy after all.
QUESTION: As you make the case, why don't you produce the weapons?
FLEISCHER: That's up to Saddam Hussein, to produce the weapons. They're not in the possession of the United States.
QUESTION: If we know something, why don't we prove it?
FLEISCHER: Let events take their course, and listen to Mr. Wolfowitz's speech today.
QUESTION: Are you going to pull a rabbit out of the hat?
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld yesterday seemed very dismissive of the position of France and Germany. He said: They're the old Europe.
PHILLIPS: All right. We're monitoring Ari Fleischer there, his White House press secretary briefing with reporters. One thing that he was commenting on was the recent AIDS panel choice, the Bush administration choosing Jerry Thacker, a Pennsylvania marketing consultant who has characterized AIDS as the "gay plague." He was responding to reporters.
A lot of criticism coming forward after this because he was chosen to serve as the presidential advisory commission on HIV and AIDS. We're also told that Thacker, a former Bob Jones University employee, says he contracted the AIDS virus after his wife was infected through a blood transfusion.
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