White House Press Briefing, June 12, 2003


Thursday  June 12, 2003

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary (New Britain, Connecticut) June 12, 2003 PRESS GAGGLE WITH ARI FLEISCHER Aboard Air Force One En Route New Britain, Connecticut 10:54 A.M. EDT MR. FLEISCHER: The President met briefly with the Crown Prince of Thailand this morning before his departure. It was a photo opportunity. Q: The Crown Prince? MR. FLEISCHER: The Crown Prince. He met earlier, if you recall, with the Prime Minister. The President will arrive into New Britain today. He will participate in a roundtable and then make remarks to senior citizens about Medicare and health care. And the administration today is announcing a final rule to lower prescription drug costs for millions of Americans by improving access to generic drugs. This is expected to save Americans over $35 billion in drug costs during a ten-year period. Q: That's $35 billion? MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, 3-5, 35. I expect a quiet weekend in Kennebunkport. The President will enjoy time with his family. Of course, he also has a wedding on Saturday that he's attending for a daughter of a close friend of his. And he will depart Monday, and the President will have events in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, focusing on small business relief. And there's a very interesting increased reporting about the numbers of small business people who have already started to take advantage of the expensing provisions that were part of the tax bill just passed. Q: -- pushing the tax bill that just passed, is he, again? MR. FLEISCHER: He's going to talk about how the economy needs to grow, and the effect of the tax cut that was just enacted will have on growth. Q: Who is he going to be talking to? MR. FLEISCHER: Small business in the Newark area, Newark, New Jersey area. But we'll have more details closer to Monday on exact groups, et cetera. Q: Anything on this Crown Prince meeting this morning, any news out of it? MR. FLEISCHER: No. Q: Can you go into any more detail about this final rule on prescription drugs? MR. FLEISCHER: -- more I can tell you. Q: This was announced last year -- it started last year? MR. FLEISCHER: Correct. The President announced the initiative last year, correct. And then today, as I said, the final rule is being issued today. Q: It's an FDA rule? MR. FLEISCHER: It's an FDA rule. And there will be a factsheet out on it later. And it closes legal loopholes in the implementation of the Hatch-Waxman law, the result of which -- of these loopholes is to delay the marketing of generic drugs, and it is limited access by consumers to safe, effective, low-cost generic alternatives to brand-name drugs. It will encourage innovation while providing quicker access, and it will allow -- and I'll wait for the factsheets to come out so we have the final that is going to allow it, but a certain of period of months' automatic stay at what has led to delays of generic and what is called 505B2 drug approvals on patent infringement litigation as filed. Requirements -- increased information for drug patent submission and listings. So it will improve the regulations required to implement the Hatch-Waxman law. Q: Do you have a problem with us identifying the wedding family? I assume it's going to show up on some local newspaper or website. MR. FLEISCHER: Nobody has asked me not to. I just ask the press, as always, use your judgment dealing with the privacy of somebody else not of the President or his family. But nobody has asked me to ask you that. Use your judgment. Q: -- did not identify that person? MR. FLEISCHER: I did not. Q: Is that going to be your policy, you won't? MR. FLEISCHER: My judgment is the President is attending a private event. Q: Will the President get personally involved in trying to calm the situation in the Middle East in phone calls or otherwise? MR. FLEISCHER: The President is personally involved. The President directs his -- the Secretary of State and the President directs his National Security Advisor to be certain they're in communications with both parties in the region, as well as Arab nations in the region. Secretary Powell has made a series of phone calls today. National Security Council officials have. But make no mistake, what is happening here are that the enemies of Israel, the enemies of the Palestinian Authority, the enemies of Prime Minister Abbas, the enemies of peace are trying to stop a hopeful process from moving forward. The issue is not Israel. The issue is not the Palestinian Authority. The issue are terrorists who are killing in an attempt to stop a hopeful process from moving forward. They are killing because they are terrorists. Q: So he doesn't see that it would help at all for him to pick up the phone and talk to Prime Minister Abbas, talk to Prime Minister Sharon? MR. FLEISCHER: As I just said, the issue is not Israel. The issue is not Palestinian Authority. Israel and the Palestinian Authority want to work together and are finding ways to work together. The issue is Hamas. The terrorists are Hamas. Hamas is no friend to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is a threat to everything that Prime Minister Abbas and those people in the Palestinian Authority who seek to create a state stand for. It's not as if a phone call will get Hamas to stop being terrorists. What's important is for everybody in the region to work together to defeat Hamas and violent terrorist organizations. Q: So you don't have any problem with Israel's comments today that they're vowing to wipe out Hamas, and that the road map may be frozen if there's any more terrorist attacks that occur similar to the bus bombing? MR. FLEISCHER: What the President thinks has to happen is that all parties must defeat terror. The Israelis and the Palestinian Authority want to work together in peace to create a state. Hamas is a threat to both. It's not as if Hamas is part and parcel of the Palestinian Authority. It's important to recognize that groups like Hamas have no interest in peace, no interest in the creation of the Palestinian state. Their goal is to kill. They are the enemies to peace, in the President's judgment. Q: Ari, we know how Israel is fighting terrorists -- they're bombing them and killing them. How is Abbas supposed to fight the terrorists? MR. FLEISCHER: The Palestinian Authority has made a commitment to fight terror and to dismantle terror. And that's a vital commitment that leads to a brighter day in the Middle East. That is at the core on which Israel is working with the Palestinian Authority, because Israel believes in Prime Minister Abbas. President Bush believes in Prime Minister Abbas. It's important, as the President said, for all parties to dismantle terrorism, and that's a message that the President is sending to Israel, to the Palestinian Authority, and to the Arab neighbors. Q: But how is Abbas -- what is he, physically, going to do to fight terrorists? I mean, commitment is okay, but what do you want him physically to do? MR. FLEISCHER: The ability of the Palestinian Authority to take action against terror will be enhanced as the Arab nations work with the Palestinian Authority, and as Israel works with the Palestinian Authority. Israel can and will work with the Palestinian Authority. That should not be confused with the threats to Israeli-Palestinian cooperation that are created by Hamas who wants to stop Israeli-Palestinian Authority cooperation. That's why it's important to make this distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Q: Are you anticipating, then, that the Arab nations will provide security assets and the financial support that will help improve the ability of the Palestinian Authority to go -- to deal with Hamas? Is that the plan? MR. FLEISCHER: I think that there is a widespread recognition that the Arab nations want to dry up the funding for the terrorists groups, and do everything they can to bolster the Palestinian Authority in a variety of ways -- economic, security, political, diplomatic. That remains, still. In this time of great difficulty in the Middle East, there are dangerous paths in this road map, but the road map still remains the course of action. The danger is created by the terrorists. The way ahead will be found by listening to the Arab nations, to Prime Minister Abbas, and to the Israel government. That remains the way ahead on the road map, despite the immediate danger that is in the region created by terrorist killings of Hamas. Q: Ari, in the week since this meeting in Jordan, there's been an incredible spike in violence -- 28 people, roughly, in the last 24 hours. Is the road map in jeopardy of coming unraveled altogether? MR. FLEISCHER: I think that the history in the region is clear that whenever there are the brightest moments of hope, the terrorist work hardest to strike. What's important is that the terrorists be stopped so that progress toward peace can be resumed. Q: Is the President frustrated that Israel has not, apparently, heeded his call or his warning to use caution, to use discretion? MR. FLEISCHER: I think when you look at the most recent statements that came from Hamas this morning, that Hamas' intention is -- I did not bring the verbatim with me -- let me look and see if I have this here, one second. Hamas' statements were that they are at war with Israel, their intention is to attack and to kill Israeli citizens. The President's focus is on the need for all the parties to stop the terrorists. In the end, the issue is not Israel; the issue is not the Palestinian Authority; the issue is not Prime Minister Abbas; the issue is not the Arab nations. The issue are these relatively small, but deadly groups of terrorists who are trying to stop Israel and the Palestinian Authority from coming together at a time when they are, indeed, coming together. That's why they strike now. They strike now because they see peace on the horizon, and Hamas is an enemy to peace. Q: Does the President stand by what he said a couple days ago, that these kind of harsh military attacks by Israel can undermine the peace process, can set back Israel's own security? MR. FLEISCHER: I leave it at just where I put it this morning. Q: In Iraq, there's what sounds like a major combat operation underway, 4,000 American troops going after what is a very strong pocket of resistance. Is it fair to say that the war isn't over in Iraq, and that major combat operations continue, despite what the President said? MR. FLEISCHER: Major combat operations, clearly, are over. But just as the President said, there are dangers in Iraq, and we will face those dangers and confront those dangers. And that's why the military is still there. And the military will take whatever action is necessary to defeat the remaining elements of the Baathist regime. Q: Father's Day plans? MR. FLEISCHER: The President, of course, will be spending Father's Day with his father. The President's family will be there. So I think it will be a classic Bush weekend of sports, of enjoying each other's company. I anticipate the President may play some golf, go fishing. Q: Fishing? MR. FLEISCHER: Go fishing, I said. Q: Are the twins here -- going to be in Maine? MR. FLEISCHER: I don't talk about the President's family. Q: Is the President going to call the six Houston Astro pitchers who achieved the extraordinary accomplishment of no-hitting the Yankees yesterday? MR. FLEISCHER: Last night was a very moving night, as the President had people to the White House for dinner, a very enjoyable dinner. There were no TVs present at the dinner last night. Terry, I have no clue what you're talking about. (Laughter.) Painful, very painful. Misery. Thank you. Q: Thanks. END 11:07 A.M. EDT


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