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 you.
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 3rd.
Q: I didn’t hear any announcements of any pre-Africa briefings next week.
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 McCormack.
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 that?
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 California.
Q: Is the number, $27 million to be raised in June, is that accurate, Ari?
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 expect?
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 coming weeks?
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 “no” votes.
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 Garden.
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 plans.
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 bills?
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. (Laughter.)
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 nail-biter; 216-215.
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 close.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he went to sleep with his fingers crossed. (Laughter.)
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 there?
MR. FLEISCHER: The killings have taken place because there are still loyalists to Saddam Hussein whose interest is killing people. And this is why he security operation is so important and this is why Ambassador Bremer and the DOD have placed such a focus on security inside Iraq.
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. (Laughter.)
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 funeral?
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 his schedule.
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