House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
White House Briefing Room
October 16, 2001
12:15 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. The President this morning spoke with Australian
Prime Minister Howard. The President told the Prime Minister that he appreciated
Australia's commitment to help the coalition in the campaign against terrorism,
and said he was looking forward to seeing the Prime Minister at the upcoming
APEC meeting for which the President will depart for Shanghai tomorrow.
The President convened a meeting earlier this morning of his National Security
Council, and he will depart from the White House shortly after this briefing
to arrive at the Red Cross, where the President will take part in an event to
help the children of Afghanistan. As you know, the Red Cross is helping to process
all the money that is coming in as a result of children's contributions across
America to help the children of Afghanistan.
The funds raised by America's children will go to provide clothing, emergency
medicine, clean water, shelter and food for the children of Afghanistan. Following
that, the President will return to the White House.
And then I have one additional announcement, then I'll be happy to take questions.
The President will meet with the Federal Chancellor of Austria, Wolfgang Schuessel
on November 1st, 2001, to talk about bilateral issues involving the United States
and Austria as well as coalition efforts in the war against terrorism.
QUESTION: Ari, given that three of the letters now have been traced to Trenton,
New Jersey as its place of origin, has the government been able to establish
a link beyond those letters to each other, but to any of the hijackers or anyone
associated with Osama bin Laden?
MR. FLEISCHER: Federal investigators are poring through all of the evidence
that they have at their disposal about all these incidents of anthrax, whether
it's in Boca Raton or New York City or elsewhere. And there is nothing definitive
to report at this time. The investigation is well underway, the federal resources
are committed to it, but there is no indication of anything I can point to at
QUESTION: The major focus of the investigation now is establishing links between
bin Laden or others who are operating here?
MR. FLEISCHER: The investigators will be on the lookout for the source of the
anthrax that was put in the mail, and they will make any determinations they
can about who was behind that, where it came from, whether there are any links
among the various incidents, and whether or not there is any foreign involvement.
All of that is being actively looked at.
QUESTION: Ari, there is a dispatch from Islamabad that says that a so-called
moderate Taliban member, official, has asked for a bombing pause of two days
so that they can persuade -- the moderates can persuade the hard-line Omar to
turn over bin Laden. Now, what is -- is there such a thing in the works? Have
they talked to Powell? Have you heard anything at the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President addressed that in its entirety when he
returned from Camp David on Sunday, when he said there will be no negotiations.
The military campaign remains underway, the financial campaign remains underway,
the diplomatic, the political, and --
QUESTION: Why not any negotiations? Everything is negotiated eventually And
why not a cease-fire for a couple days?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because that's not what the President announced to the American
people in his speech to the Congress. The President is not pursuing such a course,
because he does not think it would be constructive.
The President has given the Taliban government ample time to respond. The President
made it perfectly plain about what actions the Taliban needed to take in order
to avoid the fate that they have chosen for themselves. They had plenty of time;
they chose not to act.
QUESTION: It isn't a question of time. This is a possible opening.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President does not view it as such.
QUESTION: Ari, if I follow-up on David's question. Given that there are anthrax
attacks confirmed now in Florida, New York, Washington, D.C., post offices in
New Jersey and Florida where al Qaeda cells that committed the hijacking were
known to operate, given the scale of this, isn't the administration leaning
toward, at all, the notion that this is not some kind of lone American crazy,
but that there would be foreign involvement, connected to September 11th?
MR. FLEISCHER: The administration is suspicious. The administration is suspicious
about whether or not there are or are not any such links. And that is being
actively reviewed and looked at. But again, there is no hard evidence. But there
remains the issue that the administration is taking a good hard look at.
QUESTION: Is there a policy in place perhaps before September 11th about any
nation or group which would cross the line of using biological weapons? Was
there any policy of what the U.S. response would be in that regard?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, I'm not going to speculate about what our reaction would
be to a foreign nation that did this, because we don't have any such evidence
at this time. Suffice it to say, the President has taken action to defend our
country and will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Ari, the anthrax found at the personal office of Tom Daschle has been
described as, quote, "not amateurish," a suggestion that it is of
a particularly pure, powerful nature. Given that and other attacks, is it now
clear that the United States is subject to bioterrorism, that you were reluctant
to describe that yesterday; will you now confirm it to the American public now,
assume, is bioterrorism happening within the United States?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a determination that will be made by the appropriate law
enforcement officials. The line between whether this is merely criminal or terrorist
is something that often involves whether or not a foreign nation is involved
or whether or not cells of any type of foreign nation or terrorist group operating
in this country. All that is under investigation right now, and I don't want
to get ahead of that story.
QUESTION: How does it not reach the threshold, based on what you know so far?
What's missing? What could possibly be missing from that equation?
MR. FLEISCHER: The determination of who was behind it; and that has not been
determined at this time.
QUESTION: Secretary Thompson said, clearly people feel terrorized. There is
anthrax in the mail. Therefore, it's bioterrorism.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think the investigation is well underway to determine
the source of these mailings, and I'm not going to go beyond that.
QUESTION: Ari, Congress has taken steps to protect the mail. And I think that
they've suspended the delivery of mail. The White House gets a lot of mail.
What steps have the White House taken to protect the mail, and what other measures
have the White House taken in -- these anthrax outbreaks?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, unfortunately, well before September 11th, the White House
had security systems well in place. And the reason I say unfortunately, is because
the White House, obviously unique among government agencies, has precautions,
security precautions that exceed most other federal agencies, if not all federal
agencies; a reflection of the fact that the entire Executive Branch is personed
-- one person, the President. And so, there have been a series of protections
that were in place prior to September 11th. Suffice it to say, as many of you
can witness being around here, security is beefed up even more since September
11th took place. That includes the mail that the White House receives. So there
have been a series of precautions put in place that put the White House in a
different spot, a more protective spot.
QUESTION: Ari, on the anthrax itself that was contained in these letters, is
there anything to suggest it might have been a type of anthrax stores that a
laboratory might hold for research that got booted out the back door? Or is
there any evidence that this was the sort of anthrax that had been worked up
into a weapon of bioterror?
MR. FLEISCHER: The source of the anthrax is being investigated right now where
it possibly could have come from. So, that's the only answer I can give you.
They're trying to determine where it is. Helen asked me this morning earlier
a question about whether it came from any government stockpiles such of that
nature. I just want to remind you that the United States has no anthrax for
offensive purposes as such; it was all destroyed as a part of the Biological
Weapons Convention, to which the United States is a signatory. So any other
supplies that may be available for biodefense purposes are all accounted for.
QUESTION: In your statement, you said you had nothing definitive. It sounds
like you have something.
MR. FLEISCHER: Nothing definitive -- which statement?
QUESTION: You said nothing definitive on the cause and the linkage and so forth.
MR. FLEISCHER: It's all under investigation. Keep in mind, the package that
was received by Senator Daschle, for example, yesterday came in just 24 hours
ago; the investigation has just begun. I don't think it would surprise anybody
that at this point in the investigation there is nothing to declare. Everybody
in the FBI, all the appropriate law enforcement agencies, including local, are
reviewing the information sources.
QUESTION: Isn't there a full press court on this thing?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's putting it lightly, Helen.
QUESTION: I was just wondering, have any of the investigators told you whether
the spores were kind of clumped together in these little clumps, or whether
they were in the fine powder that they would be manufactured in for use in a
MR. FLEISCHER: It's all being investigated, John, and remarks like that or answers
like that will come from the appropriate investigative authorities in due course.
QUESTION: And, Ari, does the investigation extend since you've just said that
our biodefense stockpiles are all accounted for, does this investigation then
extend overseas? Are we in contact with Russia, which had a major bioweapons
program, not all of which can be accounted for? Do you know if we're in touch
with Russian officials on this?
MR. FLEISCHER: I would have to ask for specificity about any diplomatic contacts
of that nature.
QUESTION: Ari, do you foresee a role for the Taliban in a postwar Afghanistan?
Apparently, Secretary Powell has been saying that over there in Pakistan.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a little bit of an overcharacterization, what
the Secretary said, and I've read the transcript of the news conference that
he had with President Musharraf. But the President has made it very plain in
the Afghanistan Declaratory Policy that the United States will work with those
who would seek a peaceful, economically developing Afghanistan that is free
from terrorism, and that will be a broad-based group.
I think beyond that, it's too early to say exactly who will be in, who will
not be. That's going to be something the President has indicated he wants to
work with the United Nations as a part of. Suffice it to say, it will be broad-based.
QUESTION: Ari, given that the President is speaking at the Red Cross this afternoon,
is he going to have any reaction to the bombing of the Red Cross warehouse in
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a matter that the Department of Defense is taking a look
at right now and has not yet been confirmed.
QUESTION: But, Ari, the International Red Cross says that it happened. And how
do you square that confirmation from the Red Cross with the President's very
personal plea to the children of America to help buy supplies, the very same
supplies destroyed over in Kabul?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated, the Department of Defense is taking a look at
this right now to determine what, if the source could have been. And as I remind
you, that in a case like this, until information comes in that is determinative
or final, it's hard to say whether something was a result of anti-aircraft weaponry
that was shot from the ground, other weapons that were shot from the ground,
that it came back down, or whether or not it was coalition efforts. And that's
why the Department of Defense reviews these matters carefully and takes it seriously.
QUESTION: Might the President have enough information by the time he speaks
at 2:30 p.m.?
QUESTION: Ari, Bob Graham, who is the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee,
has said that he has information that the United States is very close to getting
bin Laden, either killing him or capturing him. Is this a view that is shared
in the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again that gets into operational areas. And I'm not going
to discuss operational areas.
QUESTION: Is he speaking out of school, as a recipient of intelligence?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think I would want to see exactly what he said, how he said
it, before I can characterize what somebody said and something that -- I'm hearing
about it for the first time today.
QUESTION: You don't believe me?
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course I do.
QUESTION: Ari, Secretary -- Treasury Secretary O'Neill said yesterday, indicated
that the stimulus package that the Republicans are pushing in the House is too
big. Is that also the President's position on it, too?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President said that what we need to do is have a stimulus
that could help the get the economy without having any adverse impact on long-term
interest rates. And that's what the President supports. The President identified
a number, as scored by the Department of Treasury, between $60 billion and $75
As you know, Keith, better than many, there often are a difference in the scoring
conventions used by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the congressional entity,
and the Department of Treasury here in the Executive Branch.
And so often, when you take a look at a similar proposal, it was somehow scored
differently by both entities. So the President is very pleased with the actions
that the House Ways and Means Committee has taken, and Chairman Thomas' leadership.
He looks forward to the vote on the floor, and hopes that this will pass. He's
confident in the end, the bill that emerges from the conference will indeed
be a stimulus that can get bipartisan support, that will help get the economy
going, while fit into the description you describe: big enough to provide a
boost to the economy, but not so big that it has any impact on long-term rates.
QUESTION: So since the House bill is bigger than $75 billion, is it safe to
assume that the President also thinks that that's too big, it may have an effect
on long-term interest rates?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think it's safe to say that the President understands this
is the beginning of a process, and he's going to want to continue to work closely
with the Democrats and Republicans, to successfully complete the process.
QUESTION: Ari, what does the President want to see taken out during the committee
-- the conference committee? You keep saying that it will go to confident --
conference and come out in the end okay. What do you hope will be taken out?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think at this point it's important to let Congress do
its work. The House Ways and Means Committee just passed it on Monday; it's
scheduled for a vote on the floor of the House perhaps as early as Thursday,
and then it's important to let the Senate do its work. And very often, the most
helpful way to be successful and bipartisan is to be respectful of each the
Senate and the House's prerogatives and wait until it gets to conference, and
then work shoulder-to-shoulder, bipartisan in conference.
QUESTION: You're giving no instructions to the Senate what the President would
like to see in that bill?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Senate is very well aware of the proposal the President made,
which is, scored by the Department of Treasury, a stimulus that costs between
$60 billion and $75 billion that would include such bipartisan ideas as expensing,
as elimination of the corporate alternative minimum tax, as acceleration of
the existing tax cuts that are in law, as well as rebates which score in many
ways as a spending program for people who did not pay income taxes.
QUESTION: Ari, you said earlier to us this morning that when federal officials
speak about anthrax, they should speak accurately. Were you in any way indicating
that to date that hasn't always occurred? And is the President, himself, feeling
a particular burden to help the nation deal with what is becoming a rising level
of anxiety about anthrax?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, when I said that I'm saying it because everybody should speak
accurately in all that they do. It's worth noting that in the developments of
this anthrax story, I've seen a wide discrepancy in the media about how many
people, for example, have been exposed. I've seen reports in the media that
people were hospitalized with anthrax when they never were. So it's a particularly
important job for the federal government -- and I speak for the President and
for agencies in the government to some degree -- to make certain that the information
they have is considered and is accurate before rushing to report it.
QUESTION: How about the President? Does he feel any particular burden to help
the country deal with what is becoming a rather anxious situation, not just
with the war, not just with the general threat of terrorism, but with anthrax
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if you recall in the remarks the President made last, I
believe it was Friday, at the Hispanic Heritage event in the East Room, the
President addressed the topic of anthrax when it came to light that an employee
at NBC News had been diagnosed with exposure to anthrax and --
QUESTION: Well, what has happened since then? Is he going to try to work the
country through this day by day?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you've heard the President speak about this before, and
you'll hear him speak about it in the future, of course.
QUESTION: Ari, the President is going to be out of Washington for six days,
and out of the country for the first time since September 11th. A lot of Americans
are wondering, is it safe for him to be that far away for that length of time,
and is it a good idea?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me take that in both parts. One, the President has absolute
faith in the Secret Service to secure his safety. Presidents before have traveled
to places that were dangerous, and Shanghai certainly does not fit that description.
So the President has absolute confidence in the ability of the Secret Service
to protect his safety at all times.
As for being out of the country, I just remind you the communications available
to the President is second to none. He will be in frequent contact with everybody
he needs to be in contact with throughout this issue. I anticipate he'll be
having lots of updates and phone calls and he'll be able to give direction from
the road, just as he would from the White House.
But even beyond that, the President continues to be concerned about the strength
of the United States economy. Even during this time of war, it's important to
keep an eye domestically on issues that matter. And the ability of the United
States and our allies to engage in free trade, which helps create high-paying
jobs at home for Americans, and also to help developing economies of the world
so they can grow richer and prosper, creating jobs and security for their own
people, is in the American interest at all times, in war and in peace.
So the President does see important domestic goals to be achieved through this
conference, which will bring together some 21 leaders from across the globe,
as part of the Asia Pacific Economic Council. And that's why he's heading off
to this meeting.
QUESTION: He doesn't see any limits on his ability to give commands at a time
of war from the other side of the world?
MR. FLEISCHER: Absolutely not. Telephones work.
QUESTION: Does the President have any reaction to the violent demonstrations,
anti-American demonstrations in Indonesia, Pakistan, other parts of the world?
And is that likely to change his policy in any way?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you have heard the President say before, he understands
people throughout the world have the right to demonstrate and to have their
voices heard. But I think it's worth keeping these protests in context. Pakistan
is a nation of 150 million people. And the protests have numbered in the thousands.
With each day, it seems that there are less people in the streets, not more.
I remind you that when the President has traveled around Europe, for example,
after he left Goteborg, where there was an EU summit, the President was already
in Poland, and there were more protesters at that EU meeting than there were
in some of these protests that we've seen in the Middle East. So I don't think
that was an indication that the European governments, for example, had a majority
of their populations against them -- to say that.
Similarly, in a nation of 150 million people, when the protests do number in
the thousands, I think it's also fair to say, and to ask, is there a majority
that is silent on this matter? So you do have pictures, of course, that I've
seen on the air, of these protests. Pictures often get on the air easier than
the broader context does.
QUESTION: Where is the Vice President going to be during the President's trip?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll have to get you an answer to that with specificity, whether
it's at the White House or some other secure location. I don't know. The Vice
President's office would probably be the fastest way to get there.
QUESTION: Ari, on the stimulative package, you said earlier the Senate understands
the components that the President laid out. But according to Senator Daschle,
one of the other understandings of that initial meeting was that these tax cuts
should be temporary and not permanent. Does the White House believe the tax
cuts should be permanent or temporary in order to stimulate the economy?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, obviously it was some of them; for example, the tax rate
reductions that are already part of the law. Those are by definition permanent.
They were agreed to by Congress earlier this year and signed by the President.
So when you talk about accelerating them from 2006 to 2004 or 2003, or 2002,
I'm sorry, that doesn't really fall within that definition. It's something permanent
that's being accelerated.
QUESTION: But specifically the corporate investments. In order to -- if you
have an open-ended window, the argument is then there's no reason to --
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me put it to you this way. One, a lot of those ideas are
bipartisan. Expensing is something that had been suggested to the President
by a number of Democrats. But the President wants to make certain that the package
has a short-term effect on the economy, to give it a boost, so that the fiscal
impact will be measured short-term, and not have any type of longer, larger,
QUESTION: You said a little while ago that you didn't want to speculate on our
reaction to any -- if it were discovered that any particular state had been
the source of this anthrax, because we don't know the source of it. Let me ask
you a policy question. In 1991, the first Bush administration issued a very
specific warning to Iraq, that if the Iraqis used any chemical or biological
weapons on U.S. forces, U.S. targets, or U.S. allies, then we'd respond with
weapons of mass destruction. Does that still stand as U.S. policy?
MR. FLEISCHER: I answered the question by saying that the President has said
that the United States will defend itself.
QUESTION: -- policy still stands?
QUESTION: Ari, when you talked about the Senate trimming back the stimulus package
to $75 billion, as you proposed. Can you say that's what your message is going
to be tomorrow morning, clearly? Because you're sort of talking out of two sides,
and I think there is a lot of --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, you're really --
QUESTION: And secondly, on the WTO ministerial meeting, does the administration
have a position on possibly moving it to Singapore or Geneva?
MR. FLEISCHER: On the first of the two very related questions -- on the first
part of it, you really now are getting deep into the weeds of scoring conventions
between the Department of Revenue Analysis, I think is the technical name, at
the Department of Treasury, and the Joint Committee on Taxation in the Congress.
And this is not a surprise. Very often, both entities take a look at the exact
identical proposal and come out with a different analysis of how much the cost
would be. And so the proposal that the President made, taken a look at by the
Department of Treasury, fit into the President's parameters. The proposal that
was received on the Hill was scored differently by the JCT.
In addition, the items passed by the Ways and Means Committee included several
items that the President did not propose. But again, this is the beginning of
the process. This should surprise nobody who's watched Capitol Hill before.
The process has just started, and that's how you can get it to a conference
where a successful end can come. If they never started, there wouldn't be a
stimulus. The fact that they've started is very healthy.
On the second question, the WTO has been discussing very actively the site for
its next meeting. The government of Qatar has done a superb job in preparing
for the meeting that is scheduled in November in Qatar. The United States intends
to show up wherever that meeting is, because of the importance of securing another
round of free trade throughout the world. So this is a decision that the WTO
will make as far as its exact location. It very well may end up being where
it's scheduled to be, but in all cases, the United States will be there.
QUESTION: Ari, reports coming out of Boston today that doctors are going to
pharmacies and basically clearing the shelves of Cipro and other antibiotics,
not for their patients, but for their own families. If the caregivers are not
feeling secure about the threat of bioterrorism, isn't it incumbent upon the
President to say something, especially before he leaves the country tomorrow,
to tell people whether or not they should be panicking? There is panic in the
country about this.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, first of all, the supply is plentiful, and Secretary Thompson
has made that clear. The United States government has some 2 million antibiotics
available in the case of treating anthrax symptoms, and if you take a look at
what's happened now, you've seen, at most, several thousand people -- at most
-- who have even been tested for possible exposure, out of a supply of some
2 million. And so health professionals have told people if they're coming in,
that there is no need to take this unless there has been an exposure. And as
you know, there's been few places where there has been any type of confirmed
QUESTION: But still, doctors are cleaning out the pharmacies, themselves.
QUESTION: Ari, can you talk about the volume of mail response is to the White
House, to the President's request that children send in dollars for the children
in Afghanistan? And also, is there any concern at the White House that the President
solicited this mass mailing right before we have all these concerns about what's
in the mail?
MR. FLEISCHER: On the answer to the numbers, this morning when I was briefed
on this, after yesterday afternoon, the White House had received some 8,000
pieces of correspondence addressed to the children of Afghanistan. And then
by 9:15 a.m. this morning, it had been up to 18,000. So obviously it's coming
in, and the President is very pleased to note that. We'll have updated numbers,
of course, throughout the process.
As for the security arrangements, all that is being considered, of course, so
that any questions like that will be fully addressed.
QUESTION: In relation to that question, many critics are wondering, how can
the President ask for children to send money for the Afghanistan children, when
many children at the World Trade Center still have not -- well, children of
the victims of the World Trade Center still have not received funding yet, because
of the loss of a parent?
And also, the White House pretty much is a place unto itself, as far as security,
with the metal and organic detectors for mail. What about that -- what about
at the post office -- the head -- the main post offices in certain states, or
in every state, to have some type of sophisticated system, because this is going
on, to do what the White House is doing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it's -- I heard Mayor Giuliani say this yesterday, and
I think it's sage, that across the United States, every day, the volume of the
mail sent, compared to what is happening here, you can't even compare. I mean,
what's happened here is you've had, in the case of Boca Raton, NBC, Senator
Daschle's office, three confirmed instances of something being -- apparently
either mailed or dropped off, it's not clear whether it was mailed or dropped
off in all cases.
Billions of pieces of mail move across this country on a regular basis. And
I don't recall if that's over a day period or a year period. So there clearly,
based on everything we know, there's no need to take that type of step. It has
to be kept in perspective. And every precaution is being taken. I think people
are hearing about what to do if they receive something they believe is suspicious,
types of activities they should engage in, as far as putting it down immediately,
calling 911, federal law enforcement authorities or the postal inspector will
come, will take care of it. They're trained to take care of it. That's the proper
QUESTION: What about the Afghan situation --
MR. FLEISCHER: To compare the plight of the children of Afghanistan to people
who are blessed to live in this country, even those whose lives have been affected
by the attack on our country really is not equal. The children of Afghanistan
have no food, or they have barely any food. It's been taken away from them by
the Taliban. Children of Afghanistan don't have access to medicine, they often
don't have access to blankets and to clothing, and that's what this is aimed
The families of those who have been affected by the attacks in New York have
suffered a tragedy in human terms and in family terms, that has touched everybody
in this country. But you can't compare the resources available to help those
families to the resources available to help the children of Afghanistan. Help
is available for both, in different measures. And the President thinks it's
entirely fitting, in the traditions of our country, to have the children of
America help the children of Afghanistan. We'll also help our home here as well.
QUESTION: Ari, going back to Secretary Powell's statement from Pakistan today.
From your remarks from the podium, are you trying to distance the White House
and the President from what Powell said today? And secondly, isn't it irregular
for a United States Cabinet officer, particular a Secretary of State, to talk
about including an organization, and any kind of government, that we are now
at war with?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well again, let me just cite to you what the Secretary said in
his remarks in Pakistan this morning. In our discussions, there was no doubt
that both are common goals, seeing that the post-Taliban government in Kabul
would be one that represented all the people of Afghanistan, would be a regime
that obviously would be friendly to all its neighbors, would include -- including
Pakistan. So that's what the Secretary said, and that's perfectly consistent
with the President's Afghanistan Declaratory Policy, of course.
QUESTION: Except that the organization that -- the Pashtun, which is the largest
ethnic organization, is the Taliban.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there are elements of the Pashtun that are in the Taliban,
but I don't think it's accurate to say -- I know it's not accurate to say that
all the Pashtun are Taliban.
QUESTION: What are you objecting to?
QUESTION: Ari, in addition to the APEC agenda you've spoken to earlier, the
President has a chance in Shanghai obviously to meet with a lot of his coalition
partners. Can you say something about what he can do in that face to face diplomacy
that he's not been able to do in Washington in five weeks?
And second, the President has been talking for weeks about his vision of a post-Taliban
Afghanistan. Will that be on the table when he meets with these folks? Will
he be asking for some specific commitments or some ideas from these people on
how to knit together a post-Taliban Afghanistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think you can anticipate two broad areas of topics --
of conversation at the APEC meetings, beginning in Shanghai. And they are one,
on the trade front, the stated purpose of APEC, as is traditional. It is an
economic council. Its purpose is to create an environment to have economic development
that benefits all the entities that belong. So that, number one, the trade matter.
Two, I think you can expect some type of statement about anti-terrorism that
will unite all those who are there. And the exact language will be available
at the time. Then in the bilateral meetings which the President will be holding,
I think it just depends. There will be different conversations with different
nations about what they think, about the future of Afghanistan, about their
efforts in the coalition, their financial efforts, for example, in seizing assets
or shutting down banks or entities that fund the al Qaeda organization.
So it really depends, nation to nation, what those nations want to talk about,
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the mood and level of anxiety at the
White House, given the fact that anthrax has now turned up in part of official
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the concern at the White House is the same concern that
all the American people have. It touches everybody who works here to learn about
what happened in Boca Raton, and that one person has died as a result, that
there are other people, a small number, who have been exposed. Any number who's
been exposed is going to cause concern in this White House, just as it does
with people across the country.
To hear that an infant up in New York City has been exposed, of course it awakens
in everybody who works here a real sense of concern for our fellow countrymen.
It also is a reminder we have a job to do in this building. And that job is
being done. And that is to make certain that the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
the Centers for Disease Control are on the ground in Boca Raton and in New York
City and in Washington, D.C., helping the people who have been directly impacted
by this, making sure that they get the health care they need, making sure that
the supplies are available, and they are. So it's an emotional reaction to it
because people are human, and this has been a wonderful, an emotional time for
our country where everyone has come together.
It's also a businesslike environment, because it is the job of the White House
to coordinate all of the efforts of the agencies to make certain that people's
needs are being taken care of.