(Thurmond, Harriet Miers/Josh Bolton, San Francisco protests, weekend
at ranch, week ahead, date of Fleischer departure, Mrs. Bush,
Condoleezza Rice, state budgets, Medicare, Iraq) (3100)
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer briefed reporters on Air
Force One as they accompanied President Bush on a trip to California.
Following is a transcript of the briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
June 27, 2003
PRESS GAGGLE BY ARI FLEISCHER
Aboard Air Force One En route San Francisco, California
10:45 A.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning. Okay, let me give you a couple items. You
have the statement on Senator Thurmond, so I won't repeat that, you
already have it on the record, it's been distributed on the ground
electronically and otherwise.
The President today is announcing that he will appoint Harriet Miers
to replace Josh Bolten as Deputy Chief of Staff. We're all very
thrilled for Harriet, thrilled for Josh -- now been confirmed by the
Senate. And the exact dates of Josh being sworn-in as OMB Director and
the exact dates of Harriet assuming Josh's duties are to be
determined. But Harriet will replace Josh.
Q: Is there going to be a statement that's released on the ground,
with, like, a little bio of her and that sort of thing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me see if that's in the pipeline or not. I just
wanted to let you know about it.
Q: The spelling, the spelling of Harriet Miers.
MR. DICKENS: H-a-r-r-i-e-t, M-i-e-r-s.
MR. FLEISCHER: And when we get to San Francisco, the police in San
Francisco have been advised that he will expect large, very large
numbers of protestors.
Let me give you the week head.
The President will spend the weekend at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
On Monday morning, the President will travel to Miami, Florida, where
he will make remarks to seniors, on Medicare. And then attend a
Bush-Cheney '04 luncheon. From there, the President will travel to
Tampa, Florida. He will attend a Bush-Cheney '04 reception there,
before returning to the White House Monday evening.
Tuesday morning the President will make remarks on education reform
and parental options at a school in Washington, D.C. That afternoon,
the President will participate in the Presidential re-enlistment of
military service members in the Rose Garden.
There are no public events on Wednesday or Thursday. Friday, the
President will travel to Dayton, Ohio, on July 4th, where he will make
remarks at the 4th of July Celebration 100th Anniversary of Flight.
Also next week, "Ask the White House" will feature two new guests who
have previously not appeared on "Ask the White House." They are, on
Tuesday, July 1st, at 1:30 p.m., First Lady Mrs. Bush. And on
Wednesday, July 2nd, at 1:30 p.m., National Security Advisor Dr.
Condoleezza Rice. Coming next week on an "Ask the White House" near
Q: When are you doing it, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm doing mine on Bastille Day, July 14th. (Laughter.)
My final day.
Q: Is that right?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. Also next week, briefings ? there will be no
briefing on Thursday. We're anticipating the President is going to
have no events ? I don't think he has any public events Thursday, is
what I just said.
Q: News conference?
MR. FLEISCHER: And no briefing on Thursday. I would not leap to that
conclusion, if I were you. We're trying to give everybody a happy,
early July 4th. We don't want to make you work late the night of July
Q: I didn't hear any announcements of any pre-Africa briefings next
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, yes, you can anticipate that. I'm sure the National
Security Council will be doing the normal scheduling of Dr. Rice. The
President will have his usual meetings with foreign reporters.
Q: Interviews ?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's events will be Thursday. And, of
course, we'll deal with the whole transcript issue and all of that.
Q: You mean, like, the foreign journalists?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. Dr. Rice will be an NSC call about what day. To
use an NSC word, her modalities will be determined by modality-meister
Q: On the protests in San Francisco, are those diverting ? I mean, the
motorcade is only going, what, five minutes, so it's not affecting his
travels or route or anything like that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I would never talk about Presidential travels.
That's always a security matter. This is not really new, there have
been large protests before.
Q: Does he have a message for the protestors?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a free country.
Q: The White House told the police department, is that ? I'm sorry, I
missed what you said at the top.
MR. FLEISCHER: The police department has informed us ? which is always
? the Secret Service works very closely, obviously, you see them on
the sides of the road with the local police. And they communicate
about what to expect. The San Francisco Police Department ? LA, as
well, because we do expect rather large crowds. I don't think it will
be our usual size protest. San Francisco, there's ? police have been
notified by the organizers to expect an actually very large crowd. And
in Los Angeles --
Q: Do you have any numbers?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'm going to let the San Francisco Police
Department do ? I don't think the White House should be giving out a
number, because I can't vouch for it.
And in Los Angeles, as well, they're expecting sizeable crowds ? not
as large as San Francisco, but probably in both cities it will be far,
far larger than we've experienced on recent trips.
Q: That said, is the White House doing anything different because of
MR. FLEISCHER: I never discuss security matters. It's San Francisco.
Q: When was the President's last trip to San Francisco? Did he
campaign there as governor?
MR. FLEISCHER: He was in the San Francisco area, certainly. We'd have
to take a look at the briefing material and see when San Francisco,
itself, was. The President was in ? we'll just take a look and try to
get you an answer.
Q: It seems like we went somewhere near San Francisco.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's what I was just saying. I remember last August,
we came down from Portland and then we did several stops in
Q: Is the number, $27 million to be raised in June, is that accurate,
MR. FLEISCHER: You need to talk to the campaign.
Q: -- the number, though? And there's some criticism that, you know,
it's so early, there's not really a need to come out with these kinds
of numbers this quickly, except to get a report in through the end of
June that will be impressive and perhaps depress Democratic
fundraising. Is there any truth to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is ? as you all know, when I announced that the
President was going to travel and do these fundraisers I was asked,
why is the President traveling now? And if you look at the precedents
in previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, this is
really when Presidents begin their fundraising efforts. So this
follows along ?
Q: -- money this early?
MR. FLEISCHER: The point is that this is the time that Presidents in
both parties traditionally do begin their fundraising activities. It
just seems odd that people would object to the fact that the President
has a lot of supporters. The amount of money the President raises will
be determined by the amount of support that the American people see
fit to give him.
People can argue why is the President popular, but the fact of the
matter is, the President is popular and he enjoys support and the
amount of money he raises will be dependent on the views and wishes of
his supporters ? just as the Democrat money will be raised in
accordance with the views and wishes of Democratic supporters. We both
play by the same rules.
Q: Are the campaign people going to have numbers on the ground, do you
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q: Is the President doing anything about the California crisis, the
budget crisis? Is he working with Gray Davis or anybody there?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, that's a state matter. It is in any
state, the issues involving budgets is the core of what states do and
it's a state matter.
Q: What about the question of state budget deficits? Is there anything
coming up ? the President, you know, beyond the budget process, is
there anything he's planning to do, if he'll address that in the
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the best solution for the fiscal issues in the
states is for the national economy to grow, which leads to higher
revenues and more jobs. And that is what the President is focused on,
that's what his plan is aimed at doing. And we'll continue to track
the economic data, watch the trends. The forecast continues to predict
increased higher growth, which is what this is all about.
Q: -- Medicare on Monday, now that perhaps by the time we land we will
have bills out of both Houses. Is the event focused on trying to lean
one way or another, trying to influence the conference process? What
does he want to do with this event?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we already have bills out of both Houses now. The
House and Senate ?
Q: By the time we took off, you mean?
MR. FLEISCHER: The House passed it about 2:30 a.m., in the morning.
The House passed it 216-215; and the Senate passed it ? there were 21
The point is, this is a national priority. The President believes
deeply in the importance of getting prescription drugs to seniors, to
giving seniors more choices and more options, to creating a modernized
Medicare that includes a role for private plans. So the President will
constantly push for this because nothing is set in stone. No one
should take this for granted. It requires ongoing work and ongoing
effort, and that's what the President said this morning in the Rose
Q: Is he going to seek to really influence the process one way or
another now that they have to reconcile their two versions?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think what's going to come next is, typically in any
type of conference, the conference will begin with a voluminous
document that has all the points that are similar between the House
and Senate bills, and all the points that are different. And then you
can expect a process where the House and Senate staff and members will
walk through all these areas, trying to narrow differences.
And that the White House will stay very deeply involved in this
process. The White House has been involved. Certainly, conference is
the key place now for the most important decisions to be made.
Secretary Tommy Thompson has been deeply involved in this effort, as
well as White House staff.
Q: Which does the President favor, the House or Senate version?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President favors joining together of the two
versions to get a plan on his desk that he can sign that has choices
and options for seniors, and an important role for private sector
Q: Well, the statements put out, the Senate ? the White House
statement on the Senate version said it was: largely consistent with
my framework. And the House statement: it was broadly reflected of the
reforms outlined. What's the difference?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that's because there are different provisions in
both the House and Senate bill that ?
Q: -- statements?
MR. FLEISCHER: That the President didn't get everything that he wanted
in either the House or Senate bill, but he got much of what he wanted.
And so the President is acknowledging that the House and Senate are
making very good progress, moving forward. Certainly, this has never
happened before. What happened yesterday is worth pausing and noting,
in that neither the House nor the Senate, either in Democratic control
or Republican control, has ever previously passed a prescription drug
benefit for seniors. Previously, the House had done it, but the Senate
had not. So it is a very important marker that took place yesterday on
the way to getting the job done.
Along that way there are complex issues that will get ironed out at
the conference. The President will be deeply involved in that through
his staff. And the President will, as necessary, have meetings. He
made phone calls to House members yesterday on the result ? obviously,
an extraordinarily close vote.
Q: Are there any provisions in either one of the two bills that if
they remain in the final version would keep him from signing it?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is the time to talk about bringing them together
and getting it done, not to talk about what will stop it from getting
it done. This has been a hopeful and a good process so far. And that's
how the President looks at it. I refer you to the SAPS. If you want to
get into the specific policy issues on here, you have the SAPS for
both the House version and the Senate version. If you want, I can walk
through some of these issues, they're very technical. But it's public,
you have it.
Q: So, Ari, are you saying there is no poison pill in either of these
MR. FLEISCHER: This is no time to be, in the President's judgment,
looking at it from that point of view. His point of view is exactly
what he expressed in the Rose Garden this morning: that the House and
Senate have made tremendous progress; seniors deserve prescription
drugs, choices and options; we're on the verge of getting it done,
let's finish the job.
Q: Can you elaborate about the President's phone calls? How many,
where he was when he made them?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President made calls into the night, as late as
8:30 p.m., last night, to wavering members. It was a close vote.
Q: Which wavering members?
MR. FLEISCHER: We never release that, as courtesy to the members to
preserve their ability to waver to and from.
Q: And how many?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it was six, or so.
Q: Did he ?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the vote was at 2:30 a.m., in the morning.
Q: How many of the six voted his way?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I would have to tell you who he called in order
to answer that question.
Q: You could just say, you could just give us a win percentage.
Q: How effective was his ?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let's just say the vote was won by one vote. It was a
Q: How did you do on the 19 wavering conservative Republicans you had
in the other day?
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't looked it up.
Q: When he went to bed, was he confident it would pass? That's awfully
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he went to sleep with his fingers crossed.
Q: Ari, on Iraq. The body count does grow, seemingly by the day. Is
there any reaction from the President on that? Is there any thought to
changing plans or ideas about how we're going about what we're doing
MR. FLEISCHER: The killings have taken place because there are still
loyalists to Saddam Hussein whose interest is killing people. And this
is why \the security operation is so important and this is why
Ambassador Bremer and the DOD have placed such a focus on security
But it's just as indicated yesterday, this President is determined to
do exactly what he promised to do, which is help to stabilize Iraq.
And Iraq is growing, in many places, more stable over time. There is
violence in pockets of Iraq. The President mourns the loss of every
American, every Briton who was killed. But he's determined to see this
mission through and he will.
Q: On the Ari-month-ahead, how did you select July 14th as your final
day? What special plans do you have for the briefing?
MR. FLEISCHER: I was a French minor, and so the notion of doing it on
Bastille Day does have special appeal. (Laughter.)
No, it's because of the trip to Africa. I wanted to go on the trip. So
when I told the President I was leaving, the dates we talked about
were after the Africa trip. So the trip is the 7th to the 12th, get
back I think late Saturday night; Sunday, then come in Monday, do one
final briefing and do hope for a brief, momentary honeymoon, easy,
nice, softball questions, Helen behaving herself, hopefully.
Q: So there was no veiled reference to white wine swilling?
MR. FLEISCHER: That will not be a veiled reference, that will be
actual behavior beginning Tuesday. (Laughter.)
Q: What are the chances of the President going to Strom Thurmond's
MR. FLEISCHER: The arrangements are currently being looked at by the
family, as well as by members of the Senate. It's much too early for
any determinations to be made, because they're just now starting to
look at what they're going to do.
Q: When you say that, are you talking about when the funeral would be,
or are you talking about the President's attendance?
MR. FLEISCHER: When the memorial service might be, when the funeral
might be. The family does not have answers yet, the Senate does not
have answers yet.
Q: But has the President expressed an interest in going?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm going to leave it there. Of course, the President
has a trip out of the country, so there are just a lot of arrangements
that require being looked at ? of course, the Senator died last night
? that are being looked at. But there are no conclusions reached.
People are aware of what the President's travel schedule is.
Q: It sounds like a strong possibility, if it could be arranged with
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't indicate that. I didn't indicate anything one
way or another. I just said, he just died so people are now just
looking at the arrangements. We'll let you know, of course; but it's
too soon to say.
END 11:02 A.M. EDT