Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:12 P.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I have no opening statement, so I'll be more than pleased to take your questions.
Q: President Putin has just said that pulling out of the ABM was a mistake. And once again reiterating that the treaty is a cornerstone of world security. What's your reaction to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, I think there is much more to his reaction than that. I do not believe that you have all of it. And we will take a look at his reaction in its entirety as the government receives it. And so I will withhold on any reaction until his statement is received in its entirety, because there is much more to it than what you've just indicated.
Q: Like what?
Q: That doesn't change the fact that he thinks it's a mistake.
Q: Good -- very good point. (Laughter.) And also, can I take from your answer that you -- the administration was given advance notice of what the President was going to say?
MR. FLEISCHER: This morning in Moscow, when the official notice was delivered to the Russian Foreign Ministry, our Ambassador Vershbow delivered it to the Acting Foreign Minister. And during that meeting, the United States government was given some type of indication about what Mr. Putin might say.
So I would refer you to his comments in their entirety, and also note, of course, that Mr. Putin has said that the strength of our relationship, even on an area where we may disagree with missile defense, remains strong in many areas. And those areas are constructive and important to both nations, the strategic mutual interests that we have will continue to guide our relationship beyond today's announcement.
Q: But, Ari, despite the fact that the President is taking great pains to portray this relationship as extremely cordial and warm and growing, it doesn't change the fact that the United States and Russia couldn't reach a deal; through numerous meetings, they still couldn't reach a deal. So what went wrong? Where was the failure that led to the United States having to defy Russia and other allies who support the ABM Treaty and to unilaterally say that's it, we're out?
MR. FLEISCHER: A couple of points. One, the President has made it plain that the United States intended at some point to move beyond the treaty. And there were a series of discussions that were held to see if anything could be done to accommodate the President's desire to develop a robust testing system that would protect our country within the constraints of any type of agreement within the treaty.
And in the course of the discussions the United States had with Russia, it became clear that no arrangements could be reached that would be satisfying to both countries because in order to properly test, the United States did not want to put itself in the position where there could be misinterpretations or disagreements about the exact nature of the treaty -- did this particular test violate the treaty, did that particular test violate the treaty -- even if the treaty had been somehow amended.
And so the President's judgment was that the most productive way to proceed to maintain good relations would be to proceed with clarity. And that clarity is to move beyond the treaty so that the United States will not be inhibited in any way from developing robust testing systems.
Q: Could I follow on one point? Is it -- was one of the major sticking points that Russia -- to what you were saying -- wanted to be consulted in advance of each test, and that's something that the United States was not willing to do?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it wasn't a question of the United States not being willing to do. The United States is going to be very cooperative with Russia as we move forward in describing the tests. But the issue is, in order to test technology like missile defense, one test could lead to another test to a different type of test. It is impossible to, in advance, suggest to anybody, including Russia, here is the exact list of tests we're going to take, because we could have tests one through seven, for example, and as a result of what we learn in those tests, have a different test to test eight.
So it's impossible to lay out with the precision and clarity every step along the way, or to anticipate if every one of the testing regimes would possibly violate a hoped for amendment to the treaty, for example. So the President made the judgment that it is best to proceed with clarity and in a way that no one can misunderstand. And that way we cannot violate a treaty, because we're no longer party to the treaty.
And I think it's no surprise to anybody if the Russians would indicate that they would have preferred the United States to stay in the treaty. But that's why I said that it's not unexpected, but you need to take a look at what Mr. Putin said in its entirety, because it was much more constructive and broad than that.
Q: But it appeared for a time, before the President met with President Putin in Crawford, that a deal was possible under which the U.S. would be able to test with Russia's agreement that it didn't break the treaty -- in other words, to bend the interpretation. Was the decision that that wasn't possible made in the meeting between the two men in Crawford, or did it come later?
MR. FLEISCHER: The decision that that would lead to further difficulties and points of confusion as lawyers wrangled about whether the test did, indeed, interfere with the amended treaty, that really became clear to both parties in the talks leading up to President Putin's meeting here in Washington, prior to arrival in Crawford. I think that's when it then became clear that the best course was the course the President outlined today, from President Bush's point of view.
If that path had been pursued, it was the President's judgment it would have lead to incessant wrangling about whether or not every component of every test honored this amended agreement. And one of the reasons the President has proceeded like this is because he thinks the United States' relationship with Russia should be based on less wrangling, not more. And the ABM Treaty would stand in that way.
Q: Let me just follow up. Did the President and Putin then agree to disagree when they met?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it was clear what course the United States was going to take. And I think it was also clear about the broad strength of the U.S.-Russian relationship, which has developed very strongly throughout the year. And then the fact grew even deeper and richer in the meetings in Crawford.
And the reason for that -- there is so much more to the U.S.-Russian relationship than a 30-year-old treaty. Russia is moving in the general direction of the West, a future Russia lies with the West, the prosperity of Russia does. And the United States welcomes that.
The President has repeatedly said that he welcomes a future role for Russia in the World Trade Organization. As you know, NATO 20 sees a role for Russia in a consultative fashion. The President has proposed to the Congress that they eliminate the restrictions that have been imposed on Russia as a result of the old Jackson-Vanik laws. So there is so much more that is positive in the relationship between the United States and Russia, and I think the two leaders have agreed that that's where the focus should properly lie.
Q: On that, Ari, the President also said he wanted to formalize this new relationship, strategic relationship. Does that mean that he is aiming to get some kind of document, treaty or otherwise, that he and President Putin could sign which would encompass perhaps missile defense, size of nuclear stockpiles, joint defense planning, that kind of thing?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think on the topic of the reduction of offensive weapons, which is another area the United States and Russia share, the President has made a commitment to reduce the number of weapons in the United States' nuclear arsenal to include between 1,700 and 2,200. Russia has indicated that they are interested in a similar reduction.
The President has always said that he is open to whatever form that would take, whether that is codified in some type of document or other, or whether or not that's something the United States will simply proceed and do. The President is indicated an openness to the form.
Q: So formalizing the relationship that he was talking about relates only to the size of the nuclear stockpiles, not to some new agreement about missile defense parameters, or not some new agreement about joint defense planning Russia's role in NATO?
MR. FLEISCHER: Nobody's ruling out other documents that would be presidential statements or codifications in whatever form they take. There have been a variety of different issues in which the U.S. and Russia collaborate, particularly on offensive weapons I've indicated he's open. But on missile defense, no. I do not think that it is not in the cards of missile defense. The President could not have been plainer in his remarks in the Rose Garden today.
Q: One more. The President said he had consulted, obviously, with President Putin extensively. Who else did he consult with? This is something that could damage the coalition, arguably, since there were a lot of nations who didn't want to see this. Did he talk in particular to China?
MR. FLEISCHER: He did. The President, this morning, called President Jiang of China. As well, he has spoken this week with Prime Minister Blair, with President Chirac, with Chancellor Schroeder, with Mr. Koizumi. The President has had a series of consultative discussions with the leaders around the world. In addition, the Vice President and the Secretary of State had a series of conversations. The Secretary of State, of course, met with many leaders in his recent travels.
And so, the United States has done exactly what the President committed to do, which was to consult, to talk to various nations --
Q: What was their reaction?
MR. FLEISCHER: And I'll let each nation characterize it for itself.
Q: Since you've told us about it, you should give us their reactions. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: I was going to give you as much as I can give you, while I don't speak for the other governments.
Q: You know we're not going to be able to call China and so forth.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, your phones work. You have reporters there.
Q: When he talked to those leaders, did he tell them --
MR. FLEISCHER: But let me answer Helen's question. The reactions vary from leader to leader, and again, I will leave it to them and to their able spokespeople to give you more specifics, but --
Q: What was your --
MR. FLEISCHER: Wait a minute. The President, in his conversations, number one, everybody appreciated the fact that the President had consulted with them. Two, on the case of China, for example, President Jiang said to the President he looked forward to further, high-level dialogue about this topic. And other leaders just recognized that the President had always said he was going to do this, and they recognized that the President kept his word, did what he indicated what he was going to do.
So I think you will be able to get additional reaction from the governments; they will, most likely, have public statements.
Q: They didn't really like it, is what you're really saying, but they had no alternative --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think again, different leaders say different things. As you know, right from the beginning of the year, Europe has basically been of several minds about this topic. The President has all along had widespread support for these from Spain, from Italy, from Hungary, from Poland. There have been many nations that strongly do support this.
Q: To break the treaty -- they all had supported that?
MR. FLEISCHER: They've always understood the United States' statement about the need to develop missiles defenses and they supported that.
Q: What more can you tell us about the discovery of the tape? Who found it? Where was it found? And is it a recruitment video? Does bin Laden threaten more attacks in this video?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you've seen the video in its entirety, so you can judge Mr. bin Laden's statements for themselves. But the tape was acquired in a home in Jalalabad. That's where it was found. It was subsequently brought to the attention of U.S. officials and then it was sent to the United States.
Q: Did U.S. troops find it?
Q: What's the chain of custody? Can you tell us who found it and then --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to be able to get into the specific means of who found it, what the chain of custody was --
Q: You just suggested that U.S. officials did not find it, it came into their possession. So someone other than U.S. troops or U.S. operatives found it?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a fair inference.
Q: And did the United States purchase it?
Q: And then to get it to the hands of U.S. military or CIA officers?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to get into all the details about the chain of command.
Q: The date it was found?
MR. FLEISCHER: You may want to check with DOD about exactly when it was found. I can tell you, the President was first informed of it on November 29th. He first viewed portions of it on November 30th.
MR. FLEISCHER: Here at the White House during his morning intelligence briefing.
Q: Ari, you mentioned that before Putin even got here that they sort of had an understanding of what was going to happen. Why then did weeks pass after Putin left that we're getting the announcement today from the President? I think some find it curious that in the middle of all this hoopla we -- ABM at 10:00 a.m., tape at 11:00 a.m, -- it gets sort of washed under the events. What took so long --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, there's -- it's, I think, bizarre to think there could even be a connection between the two; that doesn't serve any purpose. The President, in fact, spoke to President Putin on Friday last week and informed him that he would be making the formal notification, and that's why the formal notification took place today.
Q: Any reason why -- since they knew before he even got here that they were going to do this, why wasn't it sooner after the Putin visit?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no reason. You have to pick a date. I think your question, no matter what date would be picked, could be a similar question. The President chose this as the date, and formal notification, as I said, was delivered this morning in Moscow.
Q: Along those lines, Ari --
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, did you have something?
Q: Yes. I actually want to follow that -- why did the President tell Putin before he told congressional leaders or the American public they were pulling out?
MR. FLEISCHER: The treaty is with Russia.
Q: But formal notification was given today. Why informal notification three days before --
MR. FLEISCHER: Because of the treaty with Russia, and the President thought the appropriate place to make the first notification about a future intent was with President Putin of Russia, the follow -- successor nation to the signatory of the treaty.
Q: A follow-up on the tape. You said the President viewed it in this intelligence meeting November 30th. What was his impression then? Did he say then, I think this is something the American public needs to see?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President wanted to make certain that the tape was authentic, to make certain that there could be no misunderstanding about anything that's in there. And that's what set the course in motion the events that you've seen in the last several days, where a determination was made that it was, indeed, authentic. And then, the process began whereas I've indicated publicly all week that the President wanted to share information with the country this tape was of a different nature than the previous tapes, and nobody saw any intelligence concerns, sources or method concerns that would be jeopardized by the release of the tape. And the rest of it was the DOD work on the translation.
Q: Is it fair to say from the beginning he was inclined to release it if it met all those standards?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President's approach all along has been, if it doesn't compromise intelligence, we're a democracy, the information should be shared -- not only on this, but on all matters.
Q: His first question was, what was the President's initial reaction November 30th? Can you share anything on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has known all along that Osama bin Laden has been behind this. That's been clear from really the very first days after the attack took place. So it came as no surprise to the President that Osama bin Laden would be taking responsibility and having advance knowledge of the attack, because it's consistent with other information.
Q: How did he know?
MR. FLEISCHER: Bill, it's consistent with other information the President has through other sources, methods and means.
Q: What about the laughing and sort of comparing this to a soccer match?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President expressed that himself when he was asked about the tape on Monday this week, and you heard the President say that this is further proof that this a just cause that the United States is engaged in. He referred to Osama bin Laden as a murderer who would seek to destroy civilization if we didn't stop him, and what an evil man Osama bin Laden is. That was the President's reaction throughout it all.
Q: Ari, can I just follow on that, because a big concern U.S. officials have said is by releasing the tape it could put to rest any doubts that might still exist in the Arab and Muslim world. So is the President calling on moderate Arab leaders to play the tape and to speak out about it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Kelly, I think this tape is going to be an instance in which different people will come to the conclusions as they see fit. The tape speaks for itself. People will be able to watch it and listen to it for themselves, and form their own judgments. It won't surprise me if some people come to differing judgments about it, but people will come to their own.
Q: Is the White House any more -- feeling any more favorable to Senator Daschle's proposals on the stimulus, such as payroll tax holiday, reducing the 27 percent bracket to 26 percent, feeling any more favorable to that today than you were yesterday?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there was a very lengthy meeting that was held on Capitol Hill last night about the stimulus. And the President is pleased to see that members of Congress are talking and attempting to find a way out of the gridlock that has met the stimulus discussions on the Hill. The President has made a proposal that he believes can break the gridlock.
What really this comes down to now is leadership, particularly in the Senate. After all, if the House of Representatives was able to pass a stimulus, why can't the Senate? So it still remains to be seen whether or not the Senate will decide to take action.
Q: The Israeli government has announced a decision not to have any dealing anymore with Yasser Arafat. Where does it leave the American efforts?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is aware, of course, of these statements, and the President believes very strongly that Chairman Arafat needs to demonstrate his desire to achieve peace in the Middle East. And the President believes it is incumbent on Chairman Arafat to demonstrate in actions and deeds, and not just words, that he will bring the killers to justice. And that is what the President is waiting to see.
Q: What will happen to the Zinni mission?
MR. FLEISCHER: What will happen to it? General Zinni is actually going to meet with Prime Minister Sharon at approximately 1:30 p.m. this afternoon Eastern time. And so he is continuing to have discussions, to talk to Mr. Sharon about the ramifications or the meaning of the recent statements made. And so until that meeting takes place, we will wait to have any further evaluations.
Q: Can I just follow up on my previous question?
MR. FLEISCHER: We're going to come back. There are people who haven't had any yet.
Q: Back on the treaty for a moment and the conversation with President Jiang. The Chinese obviously have a much smaller nuclear fleet than the Russians do. In the course of the conversation, did the Chinese at any point suggest that they would respond to this by building up the size of their nuclear fleet? And if they do increase the size of their arsenal, do you believe that the decision to build a system that might be able to defeat the current size arsenal in China would be responsible?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, these are issues that came up directly between the President and President Jiang during the President's meeting there in Shanghai this fall. And the President made it clear at that time, as he has done previous times on the phone, that the development of an American missile defense system is not a threat to China, that this is designed entirely to protect the United States and the people of the United States from a launch that would come in the form of a terrorist attack if they were to get their hands on ballistic missiles, or a rogue nation that would seek to harm the United States. Those launches would come in the forms of one or two missiles. That is what the missile defense system is designed to counter.
A nation like China, that has the ability to launch many numbers of missiles at the United States, could not be stopped as a result of a missile defense program. This is not aimed at China. This is aimed at the rogue nations, the terrorist nations of the world that would do harm to the United States in much smaller launches than China would ever be capable of doing.
Q: Can you respond to the question of whether President Jiang indicated that he would respond to this by building up the size of his nuclear --
MR. FLEISCHER: The reaction from President Jiang this morning was he looked forward to more high-level dialogue with the President about this.
Q: Could I ask about executive privilege, which the President is exerting in terms of the oversight of prosecutors? Previous Presidents, not always cheerfully, but previous Presidents have allowed these documents to go to Congress so they can exercise oversight of prosecutors. What's changed that this President doesn't think that's right?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, actually, I differ with that premise. Previous Presidents -- President Reagan three times exerted executive privilege, and President Clinton four times. So it is not uncommon.
The reason President Bush in this case exerted executive privilege was to protect the effectiveness and the deliberativeness of the justice process. In this case, where after the administration had already turned over 3,500 pages to the House committee in question, they continued to pressure the administration to obtain very specific prosecutorial decision-making memoranda that are the heart of the justice process, the heart of the deliberative process the contains uncorroborated, raw information, raw data that prosecutors weigh to decide whether or not to bring a case forward. And often, especially when a case is not brought forward, release of that information could be harmful to the people in question, when a decision is made never to proceed with the prosecution.
And so, as a desire to protect the privacy of these conversations, the President viewed the attempt to obtain these documents as an attempt that would inhibit the candor necessary to have an effective process of deliberation, as well as a risk to politicizing internal, important judicial, Justice Department decisions. Because if the Justice Department is required to turn these documents over to Congress, it can apply political pressure to a process that should be guided only by law, the rule of law and prosecutors recommendations.
Q: -- that both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill as saying that this makes oversight of prosecutors impossible now.
MR. FLEISCHER: And that's why I pointed out to you that 3,500 pages have been provided. But there has been a precedent, and it's well-established, about protection of certain documents that should not be politicized and deserve to be kept private. I would turn that exactly around and say that if documents like this were to be provided by Congress, they would have a chilling effect on the Justice Department's ability to carefully weigh matters of prosecution to decide in which cases prosecution should be or should not be brought.
Q: On the Middle East, some Palestinian spokesmen are now saying that this is open war between Israel and the Palestinians. Is it? And in the past, when there has been war, the United States has come to Israel's assistance. Would this administration do so, if needed?
MR. FLEISCHER: What kind of -- the President has always made it plain that the United States has a very close, special relationship with Israel. But I'm not going to get into any hypotheticals. There has been violence in the Middle East for a considerable period of time.
Q: Bin Laden talks a lot in the tape about how the attacks bolstered Islam. There's shots of the downed U.S. helicopter, and some others on the tape talk about how they're feeling very comfortable where they are. Doesn't this look to you like something that was intentionally left behind, and that bin Laden wanted this to be viewed by the world?
MR. FLEISCHER: We have no indications of that. In fact, if anything, the manner in which the tape was acquired would suggest that people were leaving the house in a real big hurry and left it behind.
Q: Two questions. As far as the tape is concerned, he said one time that the messages of congratulations were falling in. Where they were from, number one? Number two, two weeks ago India Globe carried the whole thing, and where he said that in the article that he is behind attacks on the U.S. And also, in another article, he said that jihad will continue after the attack.
And the second question is that India -- and this time the target was India's parliament. And Indian authorities blame the Taliban behind that attack. Now, do you think India should do the same thing that the Israelis are doing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Number one, let me just announce to you that President Bush this morning also called President Vajpayee of India -- I'm sorry, Prime Minister Vajpayee of India, to condemn the attack and to express the condolences of the American people through the Prime Minister to the families of those who were killed, and to all the Indian people. The President also offered the assistance of the FBI and of the State Department counterterrorist teams if so desired. And so I just want to make sure you were aware of that.
Q: The Taliban --
MR. FLEISCHER: We have no indication of who is responsible.
Q: -- as far as the tape is concerned.
MR. FLEISCHER: Go ahead. What about the tape?
Q: If you think you are going to provide the tape to al Jazeera, they should play this tape, because they had been playing the hatred messages against the United States?
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, we do not see this tape in the same context as the previous tapes, because again, this is not a prepackaged tape that Osama bin Laden clearly, on the other tapes, indicated he wanted to be distributed. He was the man responsible for their distribution. So the Department of Defense has released it, it is available to everyone. I can only presume that al Jazeera, among other media outlets, has acquired it.
Q: But this will clear --
Q: Ari, you, in effect, today placed this tape on the table in the court of public opinion. How would the administration intend to use it in a real court, or I assume in bin Laden's case, a tribunal as evidence?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I can't answer that question. I'm not an attorney, and I think that's hypothetical, involving the ultimate fate of Mr. bin Laden.
Q: Do you think that it would be legal evidence in a court?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not qualified to make judgments like that; I'm not a lawyer.
Q: What's the current state of thinking about where bin Laden is now?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the Department of Defense yesterday when they briefed, indicated that they have no reason to think that he has left Afghanistan. There have been reports, of course, that he has, that he was -- the Department of Defense was asked about that yesterday, and they said the border is porous and they don't have definitive proof. If they knew exactly where he was, I think he would have already been taken care of. But they don't see any reason to believe that he has left Afghanistan.
Q: What's the President's level of concern, Ari, that he's been on the loose for this long?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has been patient all along, and he continually has reminded the American people that this Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants can be brought to justice tomorrow, next month, or next year.
Q: Ari, going back to the tape issue and somewhat to what Heidi was talking about, many critics are already saying that the administration has given bin Laden a platform. For one, he's saying that he wants all the people in the United States to call on Allah and the prophet Mohammed. That's one thing that he said in the tape that's his platform. What do you say to that when you say that the President felt that it was okay, it wasn't prepackaged propaganda, but he did, indeed, give bin Laden a platform to speak what he wanted to speak?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that's a message that you heard in any number of forums, that Osama bin Laden and his followers have called this a religious war that they would seek to bring to the West or to the United
States. So that's not a surprising or a new development.
Q: Ari, can you clarify the point at which the administration realized that it was going to be impossible to reach an agreement with Russia on some sort of new regime that would allow missile defense testing?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it became increasingly clear in the lead-up to the meeting in Washington with President Putin that any attempts to create one central agreement on how to move beyond the ABM Treaty would lead to more difficulties rather than less. And so that's when it became clear, and I think that was then -- when the two leaders met in the Oval Office, that's when that became final.
Q: Why wait until now to go ahead and make the formal announcement? What was the reason for the delay?
MR. FLEISCHER: There just has to be a date picked at some time. And this is done with an eye toward the future needs of the Defense Department to proceed with missile testing and --
Q: So the sense was that there is a test that is about six months out that needs to be done that might --
MR. FLEISCHER: There is a robust series of tests. And as you know, even prior to President Putin's arrival in the United States this fall, the Defense Department walked through a series of tests that they would have engaged in, but they would have bumped into the treaty, as they put it. And so, all along the United States has been concerned at the fact that the timetable to develop a test to protect the country on missile defense was bumping into the ABM Treaty. The bump was about to take place.
Q: Two questions. Fox News reported yesterday that some 60 Israelis have been detained in the United States since September 11th, and that federal investigators suspect that these Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the September 11th attacks in advance and not shared it. Can you shed any light on this report?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. I would just refer you to the Department of Justice with it. I'm not familiar with the report, so Justice -- go ahead.
Q: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
Q: No, no, no -- (laughter.)
(Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling of the Arizona Diamondbacks come up to the podium.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Congratulations. (Laughter.)
Q: Ari, call their names. Call their names. What are they? (Laughter.)
Q: Who do you guys play for? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Can somebody call in Mayor Giuliani, quick? Fast! (Laughter.)
Q: Put the hat on him.
RANDY JOHNSON: We were told we couldn't leave until you've actually had this on -- (puts hat on Ari's head.) (Laughter and applause.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, boy.
Q: Any comments, Ari? How do you feel?
MR. FLEISCHER: I still don't know why the infield was in in the bottom of the 9th. (Laughter.) Congratulations. It was a great World Series and you guys really deserved it.
RANDY JOHNSON: Thank you.
CURT SCHILLING: Thank you very much.
MR. FLEISCHER: These are the world champion Arizona Diamondbacks, I'm chagrined to report. (Applause.)
RANDY JOHNSON: It may be just a rumor, but I heard if we rub your head, we'll be back here next year. (Laughter and applause.)
MR. FLEISCHER: I suspect I'll have even less hair next year, and the Yankees will be back. (Laughter.) Congratulations.
RANDY JOHNSON: Thank you very much.
CURT SCHILLING: We were questioning your first name, A-R-I, which is basically almost the New York Stock Exchange symbol for the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Laughter.) The correlation there is that you were probably born a Diamondbacks fan and just don't know it yet. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm really honored that you guys are here. Baseball is a great sport --
CURT SCHILLING: So is your staff, from what I understand. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: My former staff. (Applause.)
END 12:43 P.M. EST
George W. Bush, Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/271851