House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
White House Briefing Room
October 24, 2001
3:24 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I'd like to give you a report on the President's
day, and then give you a few updates on some of the activities in fighting the
war on terrorism on the domestic front. And then I'll be happy to take your
The President, this morning, had his usual intelligence briefings, and then
he convened a meeting of the National Security Council. He, also this morning,
met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then he had a meeting with members of
Congress to discuss homeland security with Governor Ridge, where government
presented them with an update on the status of the office and the activities
of the office. That is the first of two such meetings; the second meeting will
take place this afternoon, with the President, Governor Ridge and other members
The President, also today, traveled to the Dixie Printing Company in Glen Burnie,
Maryland, to make the case for the House of Representatives today to take action
on an economic stimulus package that will help the American people get back
to work, that will help provide a boost to the economy. Action on that is pending
in the House, and the President is very hopeful that the House of Representatives
today will pass that economic recovery package.
And as I mentioned, the President, later this afternoon, will have the second
of his meetings on homeland security with Governor Ridge and members of Congress.
Three announcements on the domestic side on fighting the war on terrorism: One,
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson today announced $300 million
is being released immediately through the Centers for Disease Control to supplement
public health grants to the affected states and cities as a result of the anthrax
attacks. Those communities are New York, New Jersey, the District of Columbia,
and Florida. And these funds will go to surveillance, detection and confirmation
of anthrax cases. That way the public health response capabilities can be improved.
In addition, the Secretary, along with Helge Wehmeier, the President and CEO
of the Bayer Corporation, today announced agreement for a significant new federal
purchase of the antibiotic Cipro, at a substantially lower price. The antibiotic
is expected to be available by January 1, 2002.
Under the terms of the agreement, which is valued at $95 million, Health and
Human Services will pay 95 cents per tablet, for a total initial order of 100
million tablets. Funds for the purchase are included in the $1.6 billion emergency
proposal made by President Bush and sent up to the Congress on October 17th.
Resources on hand by January as a result of this will be able to treat 12 million
people immediately for anthrax exposure. And as Secretary Thompson said in announcing
this, the beneficial price also means that we can have more funds available
to assist state and local health responders to be ready for all eventualities.
And, finally, Postmaster General Jack Potter today announced a number of strong
safety measures as part of the Postal Service's four-part effort to better protect
employees and workers and the public through education, investigation, intervention
and prevention at the Postal Service. The preventative measures announced today
by the Postmaster General are: Adopting and deploying new technology to neutralize
anthrax that might move through the mail. This new technology, which involves
irradiation, is already being used successfully to fight bacteria in food.
In addition, he announced that the Postal Service will provide employees who
process mail with masks and gloves for their protection. They will also establish
field command centers so employees can notify the centers if they seek admission
to a hospital. That way, the Postal Service can quickly identify any pattern
or medical problems that might develop.
In addition, he announced a change in the procedures at the Postal Service,
that they will change the way they clean mail-sorting equipment. The Postal
Service will use vacuuming equipment exclusively to clean the equipment and
absorb dust and other particles. Postal facilities will also use stronger antibacterial
cleaning chemicals as part of routine maintenance.
And, finally, supervisors and postmasters are going to continue giving mandatory
talks to employees to educate them and provide them with information they can
use so they can receive the full protections they deserve.
With that, I'm happy to take any questions.
QUESTION: Ari, on the irradiation, are we talking about ultraviolet, are we
talking about cobalt radiation? Are these facilities that can be added on to
the postal stations, or do they have to be sent out to third-party providers?
MR. FLEISCHER: The announcement made by the Postal Service was irradiation.
It is not defined beyond that. And this would be equipment that the Postal Service
purchases for themselves for their own use.
QUESTION: Ari, on the same subject, on Postal Service, I understand $175 million
was assigned to them, but it seems they're going to need more money than that.
Is the President willing to ask for more funds for the Postal Service, or will
they have to go to Congress directly?
MR. FLEISCHER: That figure was developed in concert with officials at the Postal
Service. The President announced that yesterday, the $175 million. And we will
continue to work with the Postal Service and others to meet their needs.
QUESTION: Before it's needed, will money be available?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's the announcement the President made yesterday, and
that's based on the immediate assessment of the Postal Service's needs.
QUESTION: Ari, I've got a couple questions. First, is the FBI alert that was
issued about two weeks ago, is that still in effect and at the same level?
MR. FLEISCHER: Law enforcement agencies and the FBI remain at a heightened state
QUESTION: So the same state of alert as it was a couple weeks ago?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's fair to say it's a high state of alert, it remains
a high state of alert.
QUESTION: And Senator Frist today said that the grade of the anthrax suggests
more than a casual scientist was involved. Does the White House agree with that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Involving the mailing to Senator Daschle's Office?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not sure how to respond to --
QUESTION: Or that killed the two postal workers.
MR. FLEISCHER: Suffice it to say that the mail that was received in Florida
was lethal enough to kill one person. The mail that was received in Senator
Daschle's office also took the lives of two postal workers. And so however it's
defined -- and I think the best place for those definitions to come are from
the scientists involved -- it had a lethal affect.
QUESTION: Do you know --
QUESTION: Mr. Potter this morning said that there are no guarantees that the
mail is safe. Does the President agree with that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, the President is satisfied that every step is being taken
to protect postal workers and everybody who receives mail. Those steps have
been very visible, very public; I just announced several of them. That's the
reason that the President has, himself, said that it's important for people
to be on alert, to look for suspicious packages. You see the Attorney General
reading off of an FBI notice about what a suspicious package might look like.
The President is satisfied that every precaution is being taken.
Obviously, in a country in which more than 200 billion pieces of mail are sent
every year, now we have what is a handful of cases in which anthrax has been
sent through the mail. Just by virtue of the fact that more than 200 billion
pieces of mail are sent every year and only a handful have, unfortunately, had
anthrax, it is safe to conclude that the mail is overwhelmingly safe.
QUESTION: So people should feel safe opening their mail?
MR. FLEISCHER: People should feel safe opening their mail. People should also
be alert as they proceed as they open their mail. And obviously, the cases that
have been anthrax sent through the mail all have involved high-profile, high-visible
QUESTION: So, Ari, to follow on that --
MR. FLEISCHER: Or organizations. I should add that.
QUESTION: Because the Brentwood facility has been contaminated, and mail that
goes through the Brentwood facility has been stopped to certain places, are
there discussions underway, has there been a decision to stop mail delivery
to certain parts of the city where that mail would pass through the Brentwood
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of any such conversations, David, but that's a
question that could better and fuller be answered by Postal Service officials
here in the Washington area.
QUESTION: Wouldn't that be a prudent step?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I have not been involved in any such conversations, so
I don't think I'm qualified to answer that.
QUESTION: Ari, you say the Postal Service is going to buy these machines now
to irradiate mail. But some are in existence -- it is done for mail that goes
into the State Department, and shall we just say other government facilities
already. Have those been provided to the District, because this is a high-profile
area and many targets -- is the District already using existing machines to
do that now?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Postmaster General said this morning that he believes that
the first purchase will be in place in approximately November, and the Postal
Service will be the group that makes the determination about exactly where they
are going to position these based on their analysis.
QUESTION: The government owns some now. Any loaners? The federal government,
in conjunction with the Postal Service, uses these at certain facilities. Any
effort to expand that to David's question about the civilian population in the
District of Columbia? Its mail goes to the same facilities, at least at the
MR. FLEISCHER: The determinations about where these machines are going to be
put is going to be done by the Postal Service based on an analysis of where
the needs are. And that's how they're going to respond.
QUESTION: Ari, you said yesterday that since September 11th, you were taking
extra precautions at the remote mail facility here for the White House. Since
we've learned since that all mail to that facility comes from Brentwood, had
there been any effort since September 11th to also change security measures
at Brentwood, on the assumption that they also were receiving the same mail?
MR. FLEISCHER: The security procedures that are made here are made because of
the unique threat levels that exist at the White House. And so I can only speak
to the changes that are made here that affect the remote facility that the White
QUESTION: But every bit of mail that comes to the White House facility goes
through Brentwood first, right?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm the spokesman for the White House; I can only answer the
question about what's happened for the White House procedures. I can't speak
to all the mail at any postal facility across the country.
QUESTION: Where I'm heading is, did the Secret Service make any effort to back
upstream a little bit from their own facility, your own remote facility, to
the next step, which would have been Brentwood?
MR. FLEISCHER: To the best of my knowledge, those procedures were initiated
at the remote facility here for the White House.
QUESTION: And ended there?
MR. FLEISCHER: To the best of my knowledge, that's right.
And since Keith is in David's seat, we'll go right to Keith.
QUESTION: Sounds like a good idea. (Laughter.) Ari, these meetings with Ridge
and members of Congress, are these sort of going to be regular meetings with
members, or are they a one-time attempt to sell some team members on this office
and the idea that you don't need any further legislation?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, at the meeting this morning, I think many of the members
found it very constructive to have these conversations. And Governor Ridge has
also spent considerable time up on the Hill meeting individually and with different
groups of members of Congress to talk about homeland security and to listen
to members of Congress and to gather their ideas.
One of the purposes of the meeting also, in addition to information-sharing
and update the members on homeland security, was it's no secret that there are
a number of members of Congress -- some of whom came down to the White House
today -- who believe that legislation is necessary to give Governor Ridge more
power, the power that they think he may need. And they received a very strong
message from the President today that no legislation is necessary; that Governor
Ridge has all the power that he needs; that Governor Ridge, by virtue of the
fact that he is in such proximity to the President, has the ear of the President,
has the respect of the President, Governor Ridge has everything he needs to
be able to get his job done. And that was the message that the President and
the Governor gave to members of Congress earlier today.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this point that has to do with homeland security?
The White House is still in a stage where both the President and Governor Ridge
are trying to define to lawmakers and to the American people what this office
is all about. Where is Governor Ridge? We're in the middle of a major anthrax
scare. Why aren't we seeing -- why aren't the American people hearing from him
MR. FLEISCHER: The Governor has been spending much of his time with members
of Congress. Today, for example. I think everybody saw the Governor was out
here on Monday in a news conference, side by side with many of the officials
who are working on the anthrax issue that developed here in Washington, D.C.
People will continue to see the Governor. And, in fact, you raised the question
-- many people will see him on one of America's premiere networks tonight. So
he's going to be continuing to be visible. People will continue to see the Governor
and he's going to be out briefing and informing people on a regular basis.
QUESTION: Which network?
MR. FLEISCHER: That would be the Central Broadcasting System. (Laughter.) Of
course, ABC and NBC asked about CBS. Columbia, excuse me. (Laughter.) You're
Columbia and not Central? You need to give up that seat, that's a Central seat.
QUESTION: Is there a lesson learned in David's question about the mail? The
remote facility goes on a higher alert and does not contact Brentwood. If the
Secret Service sees a suspicious person outside the gates, they call the D.C.
Police and the Park Police immediately. If you go on a higher sense of alert
at your mail facility and you know all your mail comes from the Brentwood facility,
how could you not call the Brentwood facility, at least as a courtesy, to say,
we think something could be up, we're going on a higher state of alert, you
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, in answer to the question, I said that to my knowledge.
And so I can't speak authoritatively for every phone call that the Secret Service
ever makes. I don't know every phone call the Secret Service makes. But suffice
it to say, the Brentwood facility is already on an alert status as a result
of the Daschle letter; the mail at that facility had stopped. And so, I think
in this case, it's --
QUESTION: But there's a -- the dates. You say the remote facility implemented
additional -- it's already a place where mail is taken for a reason, for security.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the question here was relevant, after the discovery of
the small level of anthrax that was found on the cutting machine at the remote
QUESTION: I think the question was that you said yesterday that facility has
gone on a higher state of alert, even since September 11th, prior to the discovery
of any letters.
MR. FLEISCHER: But, again, to use your analogy, if somebody were to see something
here at the gate, it would be seeing something here at the gate that would trigger
an involvement with the other authorities of the area, the Park Service Police
or the D.C. Police. Seeing something at the gate is the equivalent of what was
discovered last night on the cutting machine.
QUESTION: On this Cipro, since there's still a lot of confusion among doctors
and officials, why is the government giving Cipro to those who are not positive?
How are you going to know if they were exposed if they're taking the antibiotic,
and what's the directive on how long they should be taking it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the action that has been recommended by local health officials,
as well as the Centers for Disease Control, is that Cipro should not be given
to anybody unless there is some type of reasonable evidence that they have been
in the proximity of something that could have contained anthrax. And that's
why, in the case of where you've seen Cipro being given to someone, it's where
an assessment is made that there could be a risk involved to the person from
possible anthrax exposure.
And that's why, take for example the case up in New York City of the news outlets
that received anthrax in the mail, local workers at those outlets were given
Cipro. At Senator Daschle's office, those who were in the environment in which
that envelope were opened were given Cipro. In the case here at the remote facility,
those who worked at the remote facility or visited the remote facility, Cipro
has been made available to them.
So I think there is a pretty logical thing you can see. The determination of
the health community is, wherever somebody may have been exposed to anthrax,
they will prescribe Cipro as a prophylactic treatment. It is not recommended
by the health professionals for anybody -- they have not possibly been exposed.
QUESTION: Some people have stopped testing in some places now, too. They've
giving the Cipro, but not testing. So there's no way to know who has been exposed.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not sure I follow your question. That they've stopped testing?
In each and every one of the cases I just cited, tests were done.
QUESTION: In the District, though, they were given Cipro --
QUESTION: Ari, can I ask about penicillin? Talking about Cipro and arrangements
being made, is there enough varieties of penicillin in the system, and is the
government negotiating with the manufacturers of penicillin --
MR. FLEISCHER: I would refer you to the statements that Secretary Thompson has
made on numerous occasions about the push packs that are available throughout
the country to respond to a series of emergencies on short notice. And the Secretary
has addressed -- and I do not know, medicine by medicine, everything that is
in those push packs, but that's a question that the Health and Human Services
Department has under its purview and they've given assurances about the availability
of those push packs.
QUESTION: Ari, is the President meeting with the Governor of New York here today?
MR. FLEISCHER: Not that I'm aware of. Not on my schedule.
QUESTION: -- update on the testing of the folks out at the remote facility and
here at the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: This morning I indicated that as a result of all the preliminary
tests that had been done, that there have been no positive anthrax cultures
found. That statement holds. There have been no positive anthrax cultures found
as a result of any of the preliminary tests that have been done. I believe those
tests will be final approximately Thursday -- tomorrow -- or Friday, and so
we'll have additional dates as events warrant.
QUESTION: -- that you gave us earlier?
QUESTION: I'm sorry -- the numbers you gave us earlier still stand, 120 out
MR. FLEISCHER: The numbers I gave earlier still stand. We are in the middle
of a business day. Tests are underway today of people who work at the remote
facility, as well as those who may have visited that facility. And that's why
I don't have a numbers update for you from what I gave this morning. The numbers
that I gave this morning were 50 individuals who work in the EEOB mailroom here
at the White House grounds, and approximately some 150 or so individuals who
work or visited the remote facility. That number is subject to change as a result
of when you say number of people who visit -- that number is obviously going
to show some fluctuation as visitors are identified.
QUESTION: Any source of the anthrax yet? Is it still believed that it's cross-contamination
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't believe anybody had identified what the source is. There
are suspicions about what it could be. That is clearly one suspicion. But there's
no information yet that is conclusive about what the source may be.
QUESTION: That was the first thing I wanted to ask you. There was a fairly small
amount, relatively --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
QUESTION: -- that was found on that machine. Does that lead investigators to
believe that it was cross-contamination rather than a letter addressed specifically
to the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated, there's no conclusive finding on that point.
It is, from everything that I have heard from the people involved in this, it's
been described as trace amounts.
QUESTION: Could I ask you about the economic stimulus package? The President
today is calling for passage of a bill that he does not support. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, he does. The President --
QUESTION: He supports the House bill, including the costs --
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course, the President supports the House bill. I've said that
on numerous occasions from here. The President is very pleased with the House
action, and the President is calling on the House to pass it today. He's very
pleased with the Ways and Means Committee action, and he's calling on the House
to pass it today.
Obviously, when a President sends legislation, particularly something as important
as an economic stimulus, up to the Hill, the Hill is not a rubber stamp. The
Hill does not give the President a carbon copy of what he asks for. In the case
of the economic stimulus pending in the House as we speak, it is much of what
the President asked for. It is very similar to what the President asked for.
And the President believes that this is a very strong way to begin the process.
He would like the House of Representatives to pass it. He hopes that the Senate
will take action on a similar package.
There's been some legislation offered in the Senate that in the President's
opinion has much too much spending in it, that it's not a stimulus package,
it's a spending proposal. And so the President looks forward at the end of the
day to House passage, the Senate passage and an agreement, and a bipartisan
one, in the Conference Committee.
QUESTION: But the fact that he called for passage of it does not mean that he
embraces a $100 billion short-term stimulus?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think as everybody who follows the congressional process knows,
there are several steps to it. And today is the beginning step in the House.
There will be a final step in the House which is called final passage, and that
will be a reflection of changes that are likely to be made in a Conference Committee.
And the President is very pleased with the way this process is beginning.
QUESTION: -- commitment from Senator Daschle about when that bill will be brought
up on the Senate side?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you'd have to talk to Senator Daschle about the schedule
of the Senate floor.
QUESTION: On the airline security package, or aviation security package, there
is a surcharge -- some would call it a tax. Is the President prepared to sign
something that includes this individual surcharge or tax on each trip somebody
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, the President is favorably inclined toward that provision.
QUESTION: What I was wondering is, would he sign the House bill if that got
to him? Or is this sort of a tactical move to --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a hypothetical. And now you're suggesting that the Senate
may be a rubber stamp for the House.
QUESTION: Right. But what does it mean to say that he supports the bill, then,
if you can't tell us that he would sign it?
MR. FLEISCHER: It means that the President supports the bill. He's very pleased
with the fact that the House is going to pass an economic stimulus package that
lowers individual income tax rates for working Americans; accelerates the existing
tax cuts; that provides tax relief for low-income Americans who do not pay income
taxes by giving them rebates; that provides faster expensing, that way businesses
can have more of an incentive to invest in plant and equipment, which creates
jobs. And, finally, the fourth major component of that is the elimination of
the corporate alternative minimum tax, which has served as a real disincentive
for businesses the invest in plant and equipment.
Finally, it also includes a proposal that's similar to what the President announced,
which are national emergency grants to help workers in states where there is
high unemployment -- principally, New York and other areas that have been impacted
as a result of the attacks -- so workers can receive health care and other help
as they go through unemployment.
QUESTION: Does it mean that he's putting the Democrats -- putting the onus on
the Democrats the change the bill to the way that he wants it?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it means the Congress is going to do what Congress does,
and that's the House pass, the Senate pass, and then meet in conference.
QUESTION: On the surcharge, earlier this year you defined any measure that would
raise revenues as a tax increase.
MR. FLEISCHER: -- I ever defined it that way.
QUESTION: Yes, you did.
MR. FLEISCHER: No. This is --
QUESTION: You said, if it raises revenues, it's a tax increase.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, actually, there's already on airline tickets a fee, that's
a standard part of airline ticketing. And this clearly is a fee to provide additional
security. And that's the purpose of it. This is to provide funding for air marshals,
this is to provide funding for cockpit doors. The President can already fund
those through the emergency appropriation. This can also help provide more stringent
oversight, and a federal role in the screening and in the standards that are
set for security personnel.
But I don't even think you're going to see any disagreement on that among some
of the staunchest Republicans on the Hill. And I defy you to find that statement
because it has not been made.
QUESTION: Secondly, on the Homeland Security Office, has the House -- Graham
came out and said he was holding off on his legislation. Have you gotten similar
signals from the House? Are they going to also hold off on legislation to establish
congressional authority for the Homeland Security Office?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can't say the House has entered into any agreement on that;
I said that the President made his case. The issue came up and the President
made his case.
QUESTION: Graham endorsed his case out here after the meeting.
MR. FLEISCHER: I would just have to refer you -- members of Congress will speak
for themselves about what their intentions are on that.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on homeland security? There are so many voices, so
many people within the government who are addressing the anthrax situation,
and yet, it is Governor Ridge who is head of homeland security. So, despite
his appearance, which we'll eagerly consume tonight on television, what is he
MR. FLEISCHER: The Governor is involved in -- (laughter) -- I guess we know
which network did not get the interview tonight. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I think we had it last week.
QUESTION: It wasn't the Northern Broadcast Corporation. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Aside from recovering from the interview he had with your network
QUESTION: But, seriously, there are so many disparate voices on this, what is
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. He's talking to many of those voices. The Governor's job
is a very busy coordination job. And one of the issues that came up at the meeting
today was that one of the reasons the President has suggested to members of
Congress that they do not need to make this a statutory post, that he does not
need Cabinet rank, for example, that it does not need to be a Cabinet-level
Office of Homeland Security is because there is such overlap among the various
agencies, because every agency of the government has security concerns. They
have different divisions across various agencies, whether it's the Department
of Defense, whether it's the CIA, whether it's the Department of Interior, whether
it's Department of Treasury.
Many of these agencies have law enforcement roles within what they do. Interior,
for example, with the dams and some of the reservoirs, things of that nature.
Defense is fairly obvious. Treasury has Secret Service, which has tremendous
resources across the country. CIA, with their ability to gather intelligence,
All of those entities still need to be coordinated here at the White House.
Just as the National Security Council has very successfully coordinated various
defense-related entities across different agencies here at the White House.
The nation is at war. The war has two home fronts: one is abroad, in Afghanistan;
the second is here, defending the homeland. To defend the homeland is going
to require a coordination of all those various agencies. So to directly answer
your question, he spends a lot of his time working with those agencies, coordinating
what they're doing, bringing people together so that there can be a joint response
to various issues -- just as you saw he did on this podium on Monday, when he
stood shoulder-to-shoulder with officials from the District of Columbia, from
the Centers for Disease Control, from all the various agencies that were affected.
That's how he spends his time.
QUESTION: And since he has arrived here at the White House, is t President more
confident that the government is able to prevent the spreading of this anthrax
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President is very confident that he has the right man
for the job and that Governor Ridge is leading an effort here in the government
to do everything possible to protect Americans from further attacks.
I can't go so far as to say, David, that the nation is no longer at risk or
at threat because there has been a hiring of a good man for an important job.
But the President has every confidence in Governor Ridge. And that, too, by
the way, was something that members of Congress in both parties emphasized today
at the meeting, that they thought the Governor was the right man for the job.
QUESTION: Is there anything the administration can do, or plans to do, to get
Israel to back off a bit? And how much is this latest escalation of violence
threatening the coalition on terror?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you know, the President met with Foreign Minister Peres
yesterday, and he expressed his condolences about the assassination of Minister
Zeevi. And he also did urge Israel to withdraw from Area A in the West Bank,
an area in the West Bank. He has made his point and he hopes that it will be
listened to. He's also called on Chairman Arafat to make a 100 percent effort
to do everything possible to reduce the violence and to arrest those responsible
for the assassination.
QUESTION: It didn't work out too well, though, there's more violence there today.
And is it threatening the coalition, is the second part.
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I think that it's always in the interests of anybody
-- whether they are in the coalition or not in the coalition -- for there to
be peace in the Middle East. And that's why the President has been working so
hard to convince both parties to reduce the violence, to withdraw from the West
Bank, to make 100 percent effort, and to then follow through on the Mitchell
QUESTION: And is the President meeting with Sharon on the 11th?
MR. FLEISCHER: You mean at the meeting up in New York?
QUESTION: I'm not sure, I just know he's in town --
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have anything on that right now.
QUESTION: Is there a time when we can expect the Vice President to no longer
work out of his secure location? And could that send a message of calm to the
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the Vice President is in the White House today. He's been
here on a regular basis recently.
QUESTION: To stay?
MR. FLEISCHER: Is he staying at the White House? If the President invites him
to spend the night, I'm sure he could. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Seriously, --
MR. FLEISCHER: He's been here on a regular basis. Since last week -- I don't
remember the exact date he came back to the White House, but he's been working
at the White House on a regular basis.
QUESTION: What's happening to all the mail that's sent to the White House now?
And would you recommend to American people that they send e-mails instead, to
lessen the work load, or not send letters to the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as a result of what has happened, and also as a result
of existing security precautions that have been in place, particularly since
September 11th, I can just say that precautions have been in place dealing with
the mail. And I'm going to just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Ari, there are some in Congress and elsewhere who support the idea
of national ID card to be issued to all U.S. citizens. What's the President's
thinking on that idea?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not a topic that I've heard discussed with the President,
so I'm not aware of how he would think about that. But I'm not aware of any
discussions involving that.
QUESTION: Ari, in an era of bipartisanship after the war, when it comes to judicial
nominations, Senator Daschle basically told the President yesterday that it
was his way or the highway. When is there some sort of compromise going to come?
Does the President expect in the next couple of months, maybe after the appropriations
bills are passed, that there will be some meeting of the minds here about going
forward? And what sort of message does this send in case there, for example,
was a Supreme Court vacancy at this time?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the Senate did, yesterday, pass four judges and I believe
they also passed -- I believe it was 14, perhaps 18 U.S. Attorneys.
Having said that, the traditions of the Senate, going back many a year, are
that in particularly a President's first year in office, almost everybody that
the President has nominated up to the August recess has been confirmed. And
that is a long-standing tradition. And given the fact that there are -- numerous
judicial emergencies have been declared, that there is a shortage of judges
on the benches, given the importance of winning the war on terrorism and avoiding
bottlenecks in the courts as federal cases are brought, the President does think
it is terribly important for the Senate to take action on the judges before
QUESTION: And how about the nomination of John Walters to be drug czar? That
was made a long time ago and he's still waiting.
MR. FLEISCHER: That, too, is a priority for the President. He is hopeful that
the Senate will take action on John Walters as the drug czar. Afghanistan happens
to be one of the largest producers of drugs in the world, and the President
thinks it would be very productive to have the drug czar put in place.
QUESTION: The President said earlier in Baltimore that he'd like to accelerate
another round of rebates. The IRS Commissioner said yesterday that logistically
that would be very difficult to accomplish before the end of the calendar year,
in time for the holiday season, as the President says he wants to have extra
money in people's pockets. How do you get this done?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the faster Congress gets it done, the easier it will be.
So the answer to that really lies in the hands of Congress. If Congress wants
to join the President in getting more money into the hands of low-income people,
of all Americans, so they can have that rebate to help stimulate the economy
quicker, and also in time for the holidays, then Congress needs to act and act
QUESTION: The President keeps talking about he's going to get the evildoers,
we're going to get the evildoers. Realistically, what is the timetable, do you
think, for the federal government to be able to bring someone in custody or
have a suspect for these anthrax letters? And also, I mean, the reality is that,
compared to the Unibomber situation when the Unibomber was found by accident,
because of a mess-up on his part. And also, has the President called any family
of those victims from the Brentwood Post Office?
MR. FLEISCHER: April, I'm not going to engage in guesswork about when an investigation
is going to find the people who did it. Obviously, that's a crystal ball that
nobody has. But it's fair to say that the FBI and local law enforcement are
dedicating every resource to that task. That is obviously, when the United States
is under anthrax attack, people mailing anthrax to various people, it is --
nothing could concern the law enforcement community more than that. And they
are dedicated to that. And hopefully -- everybody hopes that they will have
a breakthrough and they will be able to find whoever is behind this and arrest
whoever it is, and do so quickly. But I can't engage in any guesses on that.
QUESTION: Is hope the operative word -- hope? You said hope. Is that the operative
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, from my point of view, somebody who's not a professional
investigator, I hope that they're going to be able to find whoever did it immediately,
as fast as possible. The investigators are working this as thoroughly, methodically.
They're good at what they do. And the President does have confidence that whatever
time it takes, they're going to be successful.
QUESTION: Has he called the Brentwood victims yet? Has the President called
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have the information on who the President's called.
QUESTION: Ari, I've had several calls, some from people in aviation, who ask
why, when you check in your suitcase at airports, such checked-in bags are not
run through any machine or searched, like carry-on luggage? And I'm wondering,
is the President aware of this, and concerned?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not sure the President is aware of who's calling you. (Laughter.)
Les, I don't know about the individual cases, of anybody who's calling you,
what happened to their baggage. I can tell you that I've flown commercial numerous
times, prior to and after September 11th, and all my carry-on baggage has been
searched -- has gone through the machines.
QUESTION: Did the U.N.'s General Secretary at any time after September the 11th
tell President Bush, we have told the Taliban that they must immediately arrest
those responsible for World Trade Center and Pentagon murders so that there
is no need for you to make war?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't speak for the Secretary General, so I can't tell you
what he has said.