Thursday  June 26, 2003
Office of the Press Secretary
June 26, 2003


-- President's daily schedule
-- General Abizaid's comments
-- Hamas cease-fire/Yasser Arafat
-- Supreme Court resignations?
-- President's goals for Africa
-- AmeriCorps funding
-- WMD in Iraq/Dr. Ubaydi
-- Affirmative action
-- Troop size in Iraq
-- Future presidential remarks to Iraqi people?
-- Sourcing of federal jobs
-- Opposition to coalition forces in Iraq
-- Deaths of illegal immigrants
-- Intelligence consensus on WMD
-- Medicare
-- National registry proposal
-- Fundraising in California

Office of the Press Secretary
June 26, 2003


The James S. Brady Briefing Room

11:45 A.M. EDT

MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning. The President began with an intelligence
briefing, followed by his FBI briefing. And then he met with the
President of Panama, where they discussed trade between the United
States and Panama. The President thanked the President of Panama,
President Moscoso, for her country's excellent law enforcement and
security cooperation along the Panama Canal. He congratulated the
country of Panama, the people of Panama on the 100th anniversary of
independence. And he thanked the government of Panama for their
support on Article 98 action on international agreements.

The President will, at 12:25 p.m., make remarks at the Corporate
Council on Africa's U.S.-Africa Business Summit. The President will
announce there his agenda for Africa. This is in anticipation of the
President's upcoming trip to Africa. And the President will discuss at
quite some length the situation in Congo, Liberia, Sudan. He'll
announce a new $100 million anti-terrorism effort, particularly to
include airport and seaport security. And he'll talk about his already
announced initiatives dealing with helping the people of Africa in the
fight against hunger, the fight against AIDS, to improve education,
and to develop the country and the continent, and to increase trade.

Later this afternoon, the President will meet with the Prime Minister
of Mauritius, and I anticipate that trade will be the topic at those
discussions, as well.

With that, I'm more than happy to take questions.  Campbell.

QUESTION: Ari, yesterday we asked you about General Abizaid's comments
during his confirmation hearing, when he said that it was perplexing
that they had not yet found weapons of mass destruction. You said you
had not yet seen the report. Presumably, you've had a chance to go
through his comments. Do you agree that it's perplexing that they have
yet to find WMD?

MR. FLEISCHER: And let me thank you for giving me the opportunity to
look at it, which I've done. I've read most of what he said yesterday,
and indeed, he did say that it was perplexing in that sense that we
had not yet found it. He also went on to say -- and I quote him --
"I'm confident we will show that there was deception. I'm confident we
will show that there was deception. I'm also confident at some point
it will lead us to actual weapons of mass destruction."

And then in explaining as the senators pressed him on what he meant by
perplexity, the General stated that, "Before the war, we picked up the
movement at the depots. We thought that meant that they were certainly
moving things forward for use of military operations. It may very well
have been that they received the order, quite to the contrary, to get
rid of them. But I don't know. And I think we won't know for a while."

And I think he's stating the obvious, that we haven't found the
weapons yet. Given the fact that we have intelligence which we
strongly believe in and continue to believe in, that is perplexing. I
think it's similar to what the President said when he talked about, in
an interview, I think, with NBC, when the President said he
understands that people may be skeptical until the weapons are
actually found. So I think it's a rather plain English description of
the process and the fact that we haven't discovered them yet. But he
also stated in there his confidence that we will.

Q: But, Ari, it's completely different than what the White House has
said about the same issue. The President has always said it's not
surprising, you've said it's not surprising that we haven't found
them, because they've engaged in a program of deception and denial for
the past decade. He's saying it's perplexing. Which is it?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think it's just as the President said, he
understands that people will be skeptical until they're found.

Q: But that's not what -- that's not what he's saying. He's saying
it's perplexing. You're saying it's not surprising. So you're at odds.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, when he says -- when General Abizaid says, as he
said to the senators yesterday, "Before the war we picked up the
movement at depots that we thought meant they were certainly moving
things forward for use in military operations. It may very well have
been that they received the order, quite to the contrary, to get rid
of them." That deals --

Q: So is he incorrect in saying it's perplexing? Or should he be
saying it's not surprising, based on the pattern of deception and

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'm kind of perplexed by what the difference is
between perplexing and surprising.

Q: Well, if you're perplexed, you don't understand it. If you're not
surprised, you expected it.

MR. FLEISCHER: Given the fact that they have been hiding, just as he
talked about -- he stated in here, how they have been -- "I'm
confident we'll show there was deception" -- I think it fits the same
remarks the President said when he said he's -- he understands
people's skepticism.

Q: Yasser Arafat today said that a formal announcement of the
cease-fire may be coming soon. Is this something the White House is
concerned about, to have him in this out-front role? Does it show that
Abbas really isn't the real power and isn't the one, as the White
House would like to see out front?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President is less interested in who is
speaking and more interested in who is acting. And by acting, he means
who is taking actions to actually reduce the violence and to dismantle
Hamas. That's where the President's focus is; less interest in who
happens to be speaking at any one time.

Q: You guys have said over and over and over that you don't want
Arafat in the frontline role. And here he is playing that very role at
a very crucial moment.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the United States has been unequivocal, and we
will continue to deal with Prime Minister Abbas because he can deliver
on peace. But the United States, obviously, doesn't control everything
that everybody in the region can say. Different people have freedom to
speak. That doesn't mean that their voices count in the halls of this

Q: Doesn't it show that Abbas -- that Arafat -- I'm sorry -- is
helping to deliver on peace, if he's the one who's out front talking
about a cease-fire, which is something that all the sides have wanted?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President is less interested in who's
talking and more interested in actions. That's the real measure. Will
Hamas be dismantled? Will violence diminish -- will the violence stop?
That's action, not rhetoric.

Q:  By announcing a cease-fire is in itself action, isn't it?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think you have to refer your question to Palestinian
authorities about different people speaking. You know the point of
view of the President and the Secretary of State.

Q: Has the White House still received no heads-up on Supreme Court

MR. FLEISCHER:  Right.  Nothing new to share.

Q: And when or if there is a vacancy, should we continue to be guided
by the President's statement in the 2000 campaign that he would pick
someone who would be in the mold of Justices Scalia and Thomas?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President made many statements in the campaign
about this topic and they are all operative. I'm not certain that you
just accurately quoted the President, though. I don't think he said,
pick somebody. I think he talked about people he respects. When it
came to pick people, he talked about picking people who were from the
mainstream and who were not going to be -- who would not -- write
laws, but who would be strict interpretations of the Constitution. But
in any case, unless there is an announcement, there is no vacancy.

Q: Ari, the measures you outlined for dealing with African regional
conflicts this morning fall short of -- in a couple areas of what's
been urged by the United States. Britain has urged the United States
to lead an international force in Algeria. And Kofi Annan has called
on the United States to support expansion of the U.N. peacekeeping
force in Congo. My question, is the United States open to further
steps than what you outlined this morning?

MR. FLEISCHER: You know the President will begin his remarks shortly,
so you'll hear in some greater length what the President thinks about
each of these topics. And I think the best thing is just to let the
President's remarks speak for themselves when he gives them. He'll be
beginning in just a little over 20 minutes or so.

Q: Okay. Does the President support the provision of $200 million to
rescue AmeriCorps? The supporters say the program faces crippling and
unexpected budget cuts.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President, one, was disappointed by the
funding levels for fiscal 2003, and that's why his budget for the
upcoming fiscal year represents sizeable increases in funding for
AmeriCorps, so it can have 75,000 volunteers, up from its current
level which is 50,000. As a result of an accounting fix in the formula
that Congress uses to determine the funding levels for AmeriCorps, we
are already making some progress toward pushing above the 50,000
figure this year. And we're going to continue to work with Congress to
get the funding up for the '04 levels -- to the '04 levels he

Q: So do you think the program can be spared, the severe cuts in
staffing that --

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it remains to be seen. The President
believes in AmeriCorps. The President thinks AmeriCorps is doing good
work across America, helping communities, and providing very valuable
outlets for people to make contributions and to work hard for
different communities across the country. That's why he's supported a
rather large increase in the number of volunteers. So the President is
on record. He is working to accomplish it. He's going to fight for it.
We can't get everything we always seek with the Congress, but the
President wants to do it.

Q: Ari, can you go back on the questions we were beginning to pursue
this morning on what the significance was of this finding in the
backyard of some pieces of a centrifuge and some plans. Have you been
able to learn any more --


Q: -- about that? And what the origin of them was, what the supplier
country was, and whether the equipment found was significant enough to
make more than one prototype centrifuge?

MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. I have some additional guidance for you on it.
I'm not going to be able to answer all of those questions, but let me
start at the beginning on this topic. The head of Iraq's pre-1991
centrifuge uranium enrichment program, Dr. Mahdi Ubaydi, approached
United States officials in Baghdad and turned over a volume of
centrifuge documents and components that he had hidden in his garden
from inspectors since 1991. The doctor told us that he was interviewed
by IAEA inspectors most recently in 2002, but he did not reveal any of
this to the inspectors. Dr. Ubaydi told us that these items, the
blueprints and the key centrifuge pieces, represented a template for
what would be needed to rebuild a centrifuge uranium enrichment
program. He also claimed that this concealment was part of a secret,
high-level plan to reconstitute the nuclear weapons program once
sanctions had ended.

Those are the facts about what the United States government has
learned from this Iraqi scientist. And that is his description of the
material that was found, indeed, in his garden.

Q: If I could pursue it for just a minute. Obviously, the U.N. had
found the nuclear program after the first Gulf War, had announced that
it was then dismantled. We knew they had the knowledge, but they said
that they had dismantled the pieces. Are you telling us that what you
have found is essentially some remnant pieces that the IAEA had not
gotten when they shipped everything else out of the country?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think what this says is that buried in one
scientist's garden was a template for what would be needed to rebuild
their centrifuge uranium enrichment program. And according to this
very scientist, this is information, these are materials that were
deliberately hidden, with the purpose being to produce them once the
sanctions had been lifted from the country in an effort to
reconstitute their nuclear program.

Q: So, Ari, can you give us a sense of the scale and scope of this?
Are there many scientists who we don't know about who are providing
information? Or is this considered a breakthrough? MR. FLEISCHER:
Well, we're hopeful that this example will lead to other Iraqi
scientists stepping forward to provide information. We have maintained
right from the beginning that the best way, based on the history of
what was discovered in the '90s, to obtain information is as a result
of Iraqis providing information to the United States, just as this
scientist has.

This case also illustrates the challenge that the international
community faces in Iraq, as we search for evidence of weapons of mass
destruction programs that were designed to elude detection from the
very scientist who often would not share with the international
inspectors what they knew and where they had things hidden.

Q: Can you comment on the Supreme Court decisions, two historic cases,
one on affirmative action? Does the President believe that there's any
circumstance in which it's appropriate to consider race as a part of
determining admissions?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, the Supreme Court has spoken. The
justices have ruled. And the President, as he said, felt -- believed
this was a carefully balanced decision. And it represents -- as the
President said, he applauds the decision in that it represents a way
to get diversity achieved on our college campuses, and to do so
without imposing quotas.

Q: Does he believe that there's any circumstance in which it is
appropriate to use race as a factor in determining admissions?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'd refer you right back to what the President
said in his statement. He applauds the fact that the Court recognizes
the importance of finding diversity on campuses. The President thinks
it's appropriate to do so in a race-neutral way, in a way that
increases diversity and does so without quotas.

Q: And on the Texas sodomy case, does the President believe that gay
men have the legal right to have sexual relations in the privacy of
their own home?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think on this decision, the administration did not
file a brief in this case, unlike in the Michigan case. And this is
now a state matter.

Q:  So he has no position on this?

MR. FLEISCHER: It's just as I indicated, the administration did not
file a brief on this -- as, I think, you know.

Q: Ari, back on the Iraqi scientist. Why isn't this evidence that, in
fact, Iraq had literally buried its nuclear program, that it was not
operative, and that they -- and that it was not a current threat to
the United States?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, nobody said it was operative. In fact, people
have said, clearly, that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction of a
biological and chemical nature. We expressed concerns about the
development of a nuclear program, but nobody ever maintained that Iraq
had nuclear weapons. I think the question is, did this good scientist,
under orders, bury this for the purpose of hiding it and bringing it
out later? Or did he bury it for the purpose of getting rid of it? And
as he has indicated to the United States, he buried it for the purpose
of letting the inspectors leave the country, having sanctions be
removed, and then using it to reconstitute a nuclear program.

Q: The Vice President's words were, they are reconstituting a nuclear
program --

Q:  Thank you.

MR. FLEISCHER:  And I think that's based on  --

Q: -- evidence of an active reconstitution?

MR. FLEISCHER: This is one piece. It was certainly not the only garden
in Iraq. But also, the Vice President was aware of a matter that is in
dispute between the United States and the IAEA involving centrifuges,
as you know.

Q: Ari, we always knew that Iraq had the capability, and this is
evidence that Iraq had the capability. But it is not evidence that it
was a current threat to the United States, or that's what your critics
are saying. Why was -- why is this evidence that Iraq posed a nuclear
threat to the United States if this material had been buried since

MR. FLEISCHER: Be mindful of what I said; this is evidence that Iraqis
-- an Iraqi scientist was hiding information from the inspectors. And
the purpose of this was to bring it back out, to unearth it after
sanctions were lifted against Iraq for the purpose of reconstituting a
nuclear program. The fear, of course, is that Iraq would reconstitute
a nuclear program and, therefore, obtain nuclear weapons. And I remind
you that in the early 1990s, the inspectors were prepared to give Iraq
a clean bill of health when it came to a nuclear program. And only as
a result of information that was obtained by Iraqi defectors did we
later learn that Iraq was far, far closer to having nuclear weapons
than the international inspectors ever thought.

Q: You just said that this is not the only garden in Iraq. Do you
expect to have similar finds like this in upcoming weeks and months?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, we're hopeful that this example
will encourage other Iraqis with knowledge of Saddam's WMD programs to
come forward.

Q: Ari, can you tell us something about the meeting President Bush
held with the President of Panama?

MR. FLEISCHER:  I just did.

Q:  Sorry, I was covering her.

MR. FLEISCHER: You missed it. I'm sure it's exactly what she said to
you. The President congratulated Panama on their 100th anniversary of
independence. He thanked the President for her nation's strong support
on security cooperation along the Panama Canal. They talked about
trade. That's the heart of the issues.

Q:  Second question, Ari, has do to with the fact that --

MR. FLEISCHER: He also thanked her for the Article 98 cooperation,
which was important.

Q: Second question has to do with the fact that almost daily an
American soldier loses his life or are wounded in Iraq. Is the
government considering any additional measures? Because we hear talk
of reducing troops. Is there any chance there may be an increase, at
least of police force, or people who special in security issues?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think all these issues were discussed at great length
by Secretary Rumsfeld at his news conference yesterday -- the day
before yesterday. And the Secretary is always looking at the force
structure to make sure it's the most efficient and effective force
structure to bring greater security to Iraq. As you know, the number
of joint patrols that are being operated with Iraqi policemen has gone
up substantially. But Iraq remains -- particularly in certain regions
of Iraq -- a dangerous place, where there are loyalists who are loyal
to Saddam Hussein, who killed and tortured Iraqis, and now they seek
to harm Americans. That's why it's important, in the President's
judgment, for us to make certain that we maintain our presence there
to finish the job to help rebuild Iraq.

Q: On the Iraqi matter, are you saying that it is less of a case of an
impending threat from Iraqi nuclear programs, and more of a question
of Iraqi intent and the lengths to which they were willing to go to

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I'm referring specifically to what is
known in this one scientist's garden. And what is known in this one
scientist's garden is he hid this equipment, and the purpose of hiding
it, according to him, was to bring it back out later, after the
inspectors left the country and after sanctions were removed, for the
purpose of reconstituting Iraq's nuclear program.

Q: So an indication of Iraqi intent, even though it wasn't an ongoing

MR. FLEISCHER: In this one scientist's case, that's exactly right. In
this one scientist's case, an example of intent.

Q: Now, I gather that he is conveying to U.S. authorities what he was
told by the people who told him to bury it. I mean, was there a sense
of when they were going to bring these things out? Was it just after
inspectors left, after sanctions had been lifted? What's the --

MR. FLEISCHER: According to what he told us, after sanctions had been
lifted. And if you recall, there was discussion during the 1990s about
lifting the sanctions. The United States helped defeat that effort,
but there was discussion that would have made this immediately
relevant if sanctions had been lifted.

Q: Can you remind us of the one incident you were mentioning a moment
ago, where the IAEA was on the verge of saying -- or inspectors were
on the verge of saying that there were no nuclear weapons in Iraq?

MR. FLEISCHER: Just as I said. In the early 1990s, the IAEA was close
to delivering a clean bill of health for Iraq on nuclear programs,
only to learn from defectors that Iraq did, indeed, have a program to
try to develop nuclear weapons. And it was judged that without the war
Iraq would have been able to develop -- the first war, the 1991 war --
Iraq would have been able to develop nuclear weapons much sooner than
IAEA ever expected.

Q: You made the point that the centrifuge in the gardens is an example
of Iraqi intent to deceive and intent to reconstitute a banned program
when they had the opportunity to do so.

MR. FLEISCHER: Keep in mind, I'm reporting to you what the Iraqi
scientist told the United States. These are really his explanations of
why this material was buried in his garden.

Q: My question is, it is not an example of something else,
specifically the success of the international program of sanctions and
inspections in disrupting an illicit program to the point where
significant pieces of an important piece of equipment had to remain
buried in a garden --

MR. FLEISCHER: Surely. And that's one of the reasons the United
States, in the '90s, opposed efforts to lift the sanctions. And that's
why the President went to the United Nations and said, send the
inspectors back in there. The more pressure on Iraq, the President
judged, the better. But clearly, given Iraq's refusal to cooperate
with the inspectors has shown that in 2002 the IAEA spoke to this
scientist -- did he tell them what was buried in his yard, for the
scientist -- for the international community to find it in 2002? No,
he would have been killed if he did.

Q: Certainly not. But doesn't it show that that decade-long,
12-year-long effort to constrain and to contain Iraq's illicit weapons
programs was pretty successful?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think it also was very close to being lifted.
Sanctions were very close to being lifted. And keep in mind that the
inspectors had been removed from the country for four years. And
during that four years, we are still now just learning what Saddam
Hussein was doing with his weapons program.

Q: Nobody was talking about lifting sanctions in 2002. Doesn't it at
least partially undermine the administration's argument that it was
necessary to go to war --

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm hard-pressed to understand how the discovery of
this nuclear equipment, which would be a template to reconstituting a
program, that was buried in a scientist's backyard undermines the case
the administration was making. It seems to me rather the opposite.

Q: President and Tony Blair addressed the Iraqi people. Many Iraqi
people now -- at the end of the war. Many Iraqi people now don't
identify with Mr. Bremer, they identify with the President. Does the
President have -- given some of the security concerns that Iraqi
people justifiably have now, does the President have any plans to
address the Iraqi people again, either directly going there,
television, radio, whatever? And if not, why not?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, there's nothing immediately planned, except for the
obvious fact that every time the President speaks publicly now the
Iraqi people can, in growing numbers, hear about it as a result of the
fact that there's a free press in Iraq for the first time. And there
are satellite capabilities in Iraq now, that people can receive news
and information. So the President's words are carried around the
world. And now, for the first time, the Iraqi people do get to hear
and see what President Bush says.

Q: Are there attempts by the U.S. government to interview some more
scientists, find them, assuming there's lists --

MR. FLEISCHER:  Of course.

Q:  Can you give us some sense of that?

MR. FLEISCHER: It's part of the ongoing mission, that is, both the
mission headed by David Kay, from the CIA's point of view, in
cooperation with the Department of Defense, who provides much of the
logistics and the ability to move around Iraq and carry out the work
of the group that is charged with finding where the weapons of mass
destruction are. That includes conversations with officials; it
includes reading gigantic amounts of paper, which takes time,
translate them, have experts who are fluent in Arabic read them, and
some of the papers could be in English. But it involves going through
these documents and talking to officials. This is all ongoing.

Q: Ari, I have two questions. One is on the California trip, another
one on Supreme Court, but just one quick clarification. You said the
scientist approached U.S. authorities. When did he approach U.S.

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have the precise dates of when the first
contacts were made with the scientist.

Q:  Would it be this year, though?

MR. FLEISCHER:  I don't have the dates.

Q: And on the Supreme Court, has President Bush or yourself given any
further thought to Senator Daschle's proposal to have the President
confer with Senate Democrats before naming any possible prospective --

MR. FLEISCHER: Sure, it's just as I described before. The President
does believe in the importance of consultation. That's why his chief
counsel has already met with several of the Democrats who have sent
letters to the White House. But the President has not ruled in or
ruled out what actions or meetings or different things he may or may
not do for a vacancy that does not exist.

Q: And on the trip to California tomorrow, the opponents of the Gray
Davis recall are saying they are going to use Bush's trip as a way to
push him to change his opinion about not giving any formal stance on
that. What is his position on that?

MR. FLEISCHER: This is a matter for the people of California to

Q: And if they call on him to stand -- take a stand on the recall --

MR. FLEISCHER: He will say he just did. This is a matter for the
people of California to decide. That's the President's view.

Q: Ari, regarding the President's forthcoming trip to Africa, there
have been widespread reports of tens of thousands of blacks held in
actual slavery today, with Newsweek publishing photographs of slaves
in Mauritania, and the Baltimore Sun sending two writers to buy and
free slaves in Sudan. When the Clintons visited the African nations
adjacent to these slave countries, I can recall no report that either
of them said anything about this enormous evil of black slavery today.
And my question: President Bush will surely speak out about this
slavery in Africa, won't he, Ari?

MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated yesterday, the President, during this
trip, will visit Goree Island, and the President will talk about --

Q:  Slavery.

MR. FLEISCHER: -- the President will talk about slavery, he will talk
about freedom, he will talk about democracy.

Q: An American woman, Sarah Saga, whose father kidnapped her in 1985
and took her to Saudi Arabia, spent 10 days in the U.S. consulate in
Jeddah, before escaping to the United States. She was fearful of her
father and husband, whose permission, under Saudi law, she needed to
leave Saudi Arabia. And my question: Am I correct in presuming that
President -- that the President, as a compassionate leader, is deeply
concerned about Ms. Saga, and many other American women so held
hostage, or will you leave us in doubt of the President's concern by
an evasion that bucks this question to the State Department?

MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, there are agencies that are responsible for
having the specific information about specific cases.

Q:  But I want to know what the President thinks.

MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes that the best way to serve the
country is to have the experts review individual cases. As a broad
matter, the President is working very closely with Saudi authorities
to encourage additional reform within Saudi Arabia. As for any
specific case, it's not a buck, it's the direct answer. You need to
talk to the people immediately responsible for the specifics.

Q:  Thank you, Ari. That's good.

MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you, Lester, for your evaluations. (Laughter.) Go

Q: Two quick questions. One is, do we have more about General
Musharraf's meeting with President Bush? And another one in this
connection is that he may be famous here with President Bush, but back
home, he has a lot of problems domestically because two of his four
provinces there have declared Islamic --

MR. FLEISCHER: I think this was all addressed at length, and there was
a rather long background briefing immediately following President
Musharraf's visit, here in the White House press room.

Q: And second, when the Prime Minister of India was in China, he made
two statements -- one, that Tibet is part of China. And second, the
U.S. is worried about India and China relations now from his visit.

MR. FLEISCHER: India and China proliferation, is that what your
question was?

Q:  Relations between --

MR. FLEISCHER:  Relations?

Q:  Relations, and also India declared that Tibet is part of China.

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think the topic with India-China relations came
up in the meeting with President Musharraf.

Q: Two questions, please. Earlier in the year, the President announced
a plan to tentatively source over 400,000 federal jobs. Democrats in
Congress are attaching language to appropriations bills for each of
the agencies to prevent that. Is that something that the President
would veto if those bills came to his desk with that language in it?

MR. FLEISCHER:  On competitive sourcing?

Q:  Yes.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think if you recall, the Office of Management
and Budget made an announcement about the administration's proposals
on competitive sourcing to ensure the taxpayer dollars are spent in
the wisest fashion, and that the work force works in the most
effective way. And competition is the best way, in the President's
judgment, to do this in many cases. I'm not going to get into any
discussions of vetoes on bills that are only now just moving, but the
President made the announcement because he believes in it.

Q: Thank you. Ari, my question is related to Ellen's. Opposition to
U.S. and British forces in Iraq seems to be escalating. How is the
President going to handle this? And is he concerned that it will
become a major issue of his reelection campaign?

MR. FLEISCHER: It's just as I answered when I talked to Ellen about
that. The President, of course, is deeply concerned and regrets every
loss of life, whether it's American, whether it's British, as well as
those who are wounded. After all, he is the person who has met with
many of these wounded, has met with the families of many of those who
have died. And he takes these things hard and he understands what it
could mean to a family when a life is lost.

The President also understands what it means to the future of security
for the United States and for the region to make certain that the
mission that the United States and our allies started is completed.
And that means finishing the job to help rout those who, left to their
own devices, will continue the killing of others, as well as
Americans. And these people are the loyalists, they're the Baathists,
they're the Fedayeen. And this is why the mission continues -- and the
mission is not complete; the President is determined to finish it and
do so right.

Q: Ari, since you said the President feels something close in his
heart at the death of illegal immigrants, my question is, how the
White House is thinking about the proposal by some Democrats in the
House that to combat the illegal immigration threats -- people make
money with the illegal immigrants -- to give rewards up to $1 million,
and even legal residence to the people who give the names and
information to lead to dismantle this?

MR. FLEISCHER: I have not talked to the President or seen anything
from White House staff indicating one way or another on that. The
President's views on these matters are well-known. The President wants
to welcome immigrants legally to the United States. He thinks it makes
for a richer, stronger, better country. And he also wants to continue
his efforts into increasing democracy and trade around the world so
that people have opportunities and better lifestyles and economic
chances at home.

Q: The weapons trailers that were discovered in Iraq -- has the
President established any different procedures or expressed any
concern about consensus-building among the intelligence, whether it's
Defense, the CIA, or State, so that when he is dependent on making
public remarks on their findings, that there is a consensus?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think you're seeing that the process is a very
active interagency process, that the national intelligence estimate,
which is the one document which speaks most conclusively about
information the administration judged in leading up to the war, is an
interagency collaboration. That is the full vetting of all documents.
When there is a NIE requested, it involves all agencies. And, of
course, the different agencies all work to carry out their missions
where they have the most expertise. That's how the system works.

Q:  What about the analysis of the trailers?

MR. FLEISCHER: And that was an analysis by the Central Intelligence
Agency, and by the Defense Intelligence Agency, very public and
well-known, conducted by the experts.

Q: So if State Department had any reservations about the analysis
being premature, the President is not concerned about that?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, in this instance, the people with the most
authority and the most knowledge and the best ability to be on the
ground and to learn the facts, and therefore, to be the strongest
sources, have spoken. Now, of course, in any intelligence opinion,
there will be others in agencies who are free to express their
thoughts and their opinions, and they do so. That's part of the

Q: So just to make this clear, in this instance, the President
believes that the CIA and the Defense Department have supremacy in the
analysis, not State?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes that they, in this instance,
have the best judgment because they were in the most authoritative
position to have accurate information. It's not only the President who
thinks that, but so, too, does the Secretary of State.

Q: And one other quick question about the gardener, the scientific
gardener --

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it was his garden. I'm not sure he was the

Q: Correct. It would be unlikely that he would be the only scientist
who might have pursued the same sort of effort to hide things from
inspectors. Do you know whether this particular scientist has
suggested any other like-minded Iraqis who the military may be talking
to now?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm only going to deal with that which is known. And
this administration is allowing the facts to speak for themselves in
this matter. The administration has no need to say it is one way or
another way. The facts speak for themselves here. And what other facts
emerge will emerge. And that's part of the process we're going

Q: I wanted to ask about Medicare. How does the administration respond
to critics that say that adding a prescription drug benefit to the
program might actually cripple it? That it won't control costs, but
that, in fact, costs will continue to escalate in the years -- and
that this is really -- it's politically a good thing, but practically
speaking, it's bad policy?

MR. FLEISCHER: This is an issue that came up yesterday in a meeting
that the President had with members of Congress, and members of
Congress looked at existing entitlement programs -- some members did
-- and talked about how their growth has ballooned in terms of cost.
The President's response was that if you take a look at what this new
program could get prescription drugs to seniors would call for, it
calls, for the first time, for new private sector health care to be
offered within Medicare, under Medicare, so that seniors have choices
and options, and therefore, competition.

And according to the administration's estimators, the actuaries, and
estimated 47 percent of senior citizens will sign up for this new
Medicare program, which is a huge influx of people, into new private
sector plans that are better at controlling costs than what the
government has done. The experience of government enterprises has been
that the cost have grown considerably higher than original
projections. By injecting for the first time private sector
competition, the President views this as the best way to modulate and
to make certain that prices do not grow beyond what was expected.

Q:  Moving from the public aspects of it to the private part --

MR. FLEISCHER: Moving from government price-controlled Medicare into
-- within Medicare, private plans with choices and options exactly
like members of Congress have, just like members of Congress have on
the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan.

Q: With all this talk about creating jobs and putting Americans back
to work, is the President worried about the potential negative effect
of this national Do Not Call Registry on an industry that employs
almost 450,000 Americans?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think you always have to get your fundamentals first
when it comes to what actions the government can take. And the
President is concerned about people being able to go to their homes,
be in their kitchens, be in bedrooms at night, and not get bothered by
phone calls that they don't want from telemarketing organizations;
that the public has a right not to receive those calls if they don't
want them. And first things first, from those principles about
honoring people's right to privacy. Jobs get created in our economy
through all kinds of ways. But the principle of honoring people's
privacy is an important one.

Q:  You said, "first things first" -- so you stop the calls and --

MR. FLEISCHER: By that logic, if jobs was the only issue at stake,
then the government should just put everybody on the federal payroll
because that's a good policy to create jobs. There are reasons that
people have jobs, is because their work leads to consumers who want
their product. If consumers don't want their product, the consumers
have a right to speak for themselves.

Q: Have you done any kind of an analysis on how many jobs would be
lost as a result of this registry?

MR. FLEISCHER: You may want to log on to Ask the White House tomorrow,
and ask the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. That's at 11:00
a.m., Ask the White House, www.whitehouse.gov. Anything else I can
serve up, John? (Laughter.)

Q: Ari, if you could also tell us, has the President ever received an
unwanted telemarketing phone call?

MR. FLEISCHER: Probably not since he got to the White House.
(Laughter.) He gets other unwanted calls every now and then, however.

Q: The President's going to California tomorrow to make a couple of
fundraising speeches. Does he think it's important for the Republican
presidential candidate, presumably himself, to stay in the California
race to the end? Does he think it's important not only for the
national ticket, but for congressional tickets? And does he intend to
do that?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think political calculations, things of that nature,
what states will get contested, is a matter quite a bit down the road,
and the campaign will address that. There's nothing I can get into.

Q: Ari, does the President continue to believe that the trailers found
in Iraq were proof of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?

MR. FLEISCHER:  It's exactly as he said.

Q: Ari, just back to the Medicare question. Just to clarify, you said
that your actuaries believed 47 percent would leave traditional
Medicare for one of the private plans.

MR. FLEISCHER:  Correct.

Q:  But there have been a number of other studies that --

MR. FLEISCHER: Correct, the Congressional Budget Office has it at a
much lower rate.

Q: Yes, much lower. So didn't the congressional Republicans come back
at you and say, you are just asking us to trust your actuaries, that
this -- I mean, given the difference, you're saying 47 percent, I
think the CBS study was 10 percent.

MR. FLEISCHER: I think it actually may have been even lower. But the
point is valid. There is a dispute about what percentage will enter
into, and this is why actuaries do what they do and make their best
judgments. And there are two different points of view on it, and that
will be reflected in the vote the members of Congress took.

The question was what does the President think. And the President,
based on the actuaries that formed this study, gave his judgment. Time
will tell if that's rather wrong, but the principle of giving people
more choices and more options is something this President, as you
know, believes very strongly in. And we'll see what the majority

Thank you.

END  12:24 P.M.


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