Press Briefing by Ari Flischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:32 P.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I want to fill you in on the President's day, and then I'm pleased to take questions. The President began with two phone calls this morning -- one, he called Prime Minister Orban of Hungary. The two had a very friendly conversation. The President congratulated the Prime Minister for the honorary degree that he received on February 11th from the Fletcher School of Tufts University. The President discussed the importance of the freedoms and values that our nations hold dear and the importance of the Hungarian contribution to regional stability. And the President expressed his determination to rout out terrorist groups, and expressed appreciation for Hungary's support for the war on terrorism.
The President also called President Aznar of Spain, in his capacity as the President of the EU, the European Union. The President called to brief President Aznar on the announcement he will be making this afternoon on global climate change. It was a very productive discussion, both leaders emphasizing their common purposes.
Along those same lines, Secretary Powell and Dr. Rice have also been calling world leaders, filling them in on the President's announcement this afternoon.
The President then had his briefings this morning, the CIA briefing and FBI briefing; had various other meetings with staff. He is currently having lunch with the Vice President. And he will depart the White House, where he will travel to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where the President will make a new announcement about global warming and ways that the President is proposing to reduce the amount of emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as well as making an announcement where the President will be the first President ever to propose a multi-emission strategy for power plants that will lead to cleaner air for every community and for people everywhere in America. It's a proposal that is focused on reducing three pollutants from power plants. That has never been made before; goes beyond anything previously proposed, which will be a high-water mark in cleaning the air in communities across our country.
The President will return to the White House. He'll have a credential ceremony for newly-appointed ambassadors. And then this evening the President will participate in a salute to gospel music, celebrating America's cultural and musical heritage.
And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.
Q: Ari, does the President believe that the Shays-Meehan bill that passed the House early this morning improves the system? And would he discourage Senate Republicans from filibustering it to death?
MR. FLEISCHER: John, the President has been very clear that he wants to sign a bill that improves the current system. Parts of that legislation surely do. Other parts are not as fully consistent with the President's principles, but parts do.
As for what the Senate is going to do, the President understands that the senators have historically had very strong feelings about it, and the President has made it clear that he would like to have something sent to his desk that he can sign.
Q: Is this something that he could sign?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we don't know what the ultimate outcome will be yet. It all depends on what action the Senate takes. So I think it's a little early to get declarative, but the President has sent a very clear signal to the Congress that he wants to sign something that improves the system.
Q: Sure, but Shays-Meehan in its current form, does he believe that's enough?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President will wait to be declarative until he sees what the final bill is. As you know, the House passed something; the Senate now has to take up what the House passed. We don't know what the ultimate outcome will be in the Senate, so it's a little early to get declarative.
Q: If I could --
MR. FLEISCHER: Third question. (Laughter.)
Q: -- then I'll sit back for most of the rest of the briefing. Does the President have any particular objection to Shays-Meehan? Is there anything in the current bill that's a deal-breaker for him?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I've not heard the President use the word, "deal-breaker," but I know that the President has six principles which you know that the President is dedicated to in campaign finance reform. The President wants to get soft money -- union and corporate soft money out of politics. The President wants to have more disclosure.
The President has outlined a series of items, and the President is very pleased that one of most pernicious elements of the Shays-Meehan bill was removed at his request at 2:45 a.m. in the morning, this morning. And that was a provision that was put in at midnight the night before, which would have allowed for the first time to have soft money collected to pay off hard money debts. The President objected to that provision, and the President is gratified that the House did the right thing and took out that giant soft money loophole.
Q: And is he willing to compromise on paycheck protection?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's four. We'll come back to you later.
Q: Yes, Ari. Yesterday General Musharraf, having President Bush at his side, pretty much implied that Daniel Pearl is still alive. Today we're hearing reports that the person who has been captured in Pakistan has been saying that he believes he's dead. What is the latest thing the White House knows about?
MR. FLEISCHER: We've heard those reports. There's no confirmation of that. We cannot confirm that, and have no indication. Obviously, the President hopes very deeply that Mr. Pearl is still alive. And we continue to do everything possible with Pakistan to bring him home where he belongs.
Q: In the conversation that General Musharraf held with President Bush yesterday, was there any time an indication that he had some basis on which to base his optimism that he was still alive?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he shared with you everything that he said when he participated in the news conference.
Q: Ari, back on campaign finance reform, are you concerned at all that if there is a GOP-led filibuster in the Senate that this could slow some movement on some of the White House's priorities, for instance, trying to get the Senate to take up a stimulus package?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, filibusters come and filibusters go in the Senate, and it's become a modern day common occurrence. Filibusters used to be very rare events. Filibusters also used to be unruly, disorderly things, in which people would have to stand on the floor of the Senate and speak for 24 or 48 or 72 hours. Now filibusters are so routine that you don't even have to speak on the floor.
Q: That's true, but at the same time, you do have an agenda that you want to pursue. And to repeat the question, are you concerned that a GOP filibuster on this issue will hurt the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think you -- in understanding what a modern day filibuster means, it's all become a nice little orderly device where you file something called cloture. And it doesn't literally tie up the floor, you just have to get 60 votes. They've really taken the filibuster process and made it so routine that it really doesn't tie up the floor anymore.
Q: Yesterday, you were --
MR. FLEISCHER: Third question.
Q: It's two-and-a-half. (Laughter.) Yesterday, you were very concerned that the Democrats or the proponents of Shays-Meehan had inserted something into the bill at midnight --
Q: Soft money. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: Money is falling on the floor here from -- (laughter). If those are contributions, I am no longer allowed to accept them, thank you.
Q: At the same time, we had legislation that some people considered pretty important, considered at about 2:50 a.m. this morning, or the final vote was wrapped up about then. What's the White House's opinion on the fact that the vote had to be taken in the middle of the night when most of America, unless you were up watching the replay of the Olympics, missed it?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's fairly typical in the House and in the Senate. The schedule of votes often slides and it's just a function of the procedures that are used on the floor of the House and the Senate.
Q: Ari, why are you being so noncommittal about this? Because in the past, if there are other measures that you support, even if the process is not complete, you have said that the President would sign a bill or would veto a bill. Why not in this case?
MR. FLEISCHER: Kelly, I think as a result of the manner in which the President has approached campaign finance reform -- the President has for the first time made this a real debate that has a chance of getting signed into law -- I think that in a case where both parties were doing a fair share of posturing over the last decade on this issue, that there was substantial risk involved if the President had boldly come out for one or the other, as opposed to outlining the principles he outlined and worked productively with members in both parties to move things forward to improve the system.
I think it could have led to a system where, again, Democrats would have said, well, let's do the opposite of what the President says, because we'd rather have the issue than the reform.
The President has made it real this year as a result of the outline, of the principles that he has outlined and the path that he has chosen to pursue. And I think that's why you're seeing something move forward that for the first time has a real chance of going somewhere. Let's see what the Senate does, but that's the reason why.
Q: How does the President view the recent arrests of the Falun Gong activists in Tiananmen Square?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President obviously is concerned with any arrests for religious purposes in China. I anticipate that when the President goes to China, this will be, again, a topic that the President raises directly.
There have been indications of improvements on some levels of human rights and religious rights issues in China. There have been other examples or arrests that run contrary to that improving trend. So it's an important topic; the President remains very committed to taking this up personally and directly with Chinese officials.
Q: Going back to Mr. Pearl, the Prime Minister of India today said that General Musharraf is misleading the world and the United States. First he was blaming India for the abduction of this Wall Street Journal, but now the person who has been arrested in Pakistan is a terrorist organization -- or the chief of a terrorist organization. Now, do you think General Musharraf is withholding some kind of information back until he gets out of the United States? Because if they have arrested the chief of the abductors, the ones who abducted Mr. Pearl, then where is Mr. Pearl? So that means he's holding something back and he's not telling the truth to President Bush or to the United States.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is satisfied with the actions that the Pakistan government has taken in a very difficult circumstance. I think everyone's heart goes out to the family and coworkers at the Wall Street Journal. And the President is gratified by the actions Pakistan has taken in the wake of a kidnapping.
Q: Ari, yesterday the President said, he specifically said, that he wanted the reform bill to take effect immediately.
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q: Has that been cleared up because of the debts matter that has come down on the side that the President wanted? Has that been cleared up at all? He hasn't changed that opinion?
MR. FLEISCHER: Clearly, the combination of the two in delaying the effective date and then allowing a giant soft money loophole to be created for the duration of this year was problematic. But the President does believe that if it's a good reform, put it into effect.
Certainly, when it passed in the United States Senate, Senator McCain's proposal would have been effective 30 days after signature by the President. So, in other words, it would go into effect this year -- not after the election, but prior to the election. It was good enough for the senators and its sponsors at that time. Now, the House had a provision in there which would have made it immediately effective until they changed that two nights ago. So, clearly, the sponsors of reform have in the past seen very good reason to make it effective immediately. The President agrees with those reformers.
Q: Is this an issue that still might be a veto matter?
MR. FLEISCHER: I addressed that yesterday and gave no such indication.
Q: As you may know, the Pentagon acknowledges that it does not control the CIA's actions in Afghanistan. It also admits that the CIA does not always coordinate what it does in real time with the Pentagon. So the implication is that the CIA is really running its own war, so to speak, in Afghanistan. Does the President know this? Does he condone it? Or would he prefer that all military activities come under the Pentagon?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't believe that's what the Pentagon has said. I don't believe anybody at the Pentagon has said the CIA is running their own war. The President has created a system where the CIA, the Department of Defense are working hand-in-hand and working very productively in a way that has resulted in quick victories through Afghanistan. And that's exactly the type of operation that's continuing.
Q: Can I do a follow-up? It doesn't seem to always work. You have the case -- still undecided, of possibly three peasants or three al Qaeda killed by a CIA-fired Hellfire missile. The Pentagon says it was not aware of this, it didn't know about it until after the fact. So, in a sense, the CIA is doing its own thing of controlling its own firing on targets without telling the Pentagon.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think they are all working very well together, from the President's point of view.
Q: Have the President's advisors already determined that he's got to sign the bill, the campaign finance bill, whatever one comes here, for political reasons?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President is going to wait to see what the final form is once it comes out of the Senate, and then he will have something declarative to state. Until then, I'm just not going to presume what action the President would take.
Q: Do you deny, though, the beliefs of many Republicans, including some who work here, that he-- the decision's already been made that he will sign the bill?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, I get my information on this directly from the President, so I don't presume to speak for everybody on the staff. I can tell you what the President said.
Q: Has he made a tentative decision?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. But, as in any case, with the legislation, the President wants to see what it's going to say in the final form. I mean, you just don't know what the Senate is going to do. There's a lot of talk about will the Senate try to amend it, will they be unsuccessful in amending it? Will the Senate basically take the House bill and put it in a photocopier, and, therefore, send it directly to the President? Those are --
Q: Well, answer that -- if they did photocopy the House bill, what would happen?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't answer hypotheticals. As I said --
Q: Yes, you do.
MR. FLEISCHER: What's that?
Q: You don't answer this one. But you do answer hypothetical questions.
MR. FLEISCHER: It would be hypothetical if I told you what type of hypotheticals I'd answer. (Laughter.)
Q: Does he support the Senate bill? I mean, of the two bills that have been passed, is there any reason to veto either one?
MR. FLEISCHER: We're going to go around in circles on this. I think I made it clear that the President wants to sign legislation that improves the system.
Q: Ari, on the campaign finance bill, a lot of people have already given their money for the 2002 election. So if Senator McCain's deal were to come through, what would -- has the President considered what would happen to all the people who have already given soft money and other money to the 2002 election?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, given the view that many people hold, including the President, that soft money should be taken out of the system, that would be an appropriate reform. And obviously it was good enough for many senators when they voted on an effective date 30 days after enactment, and it was good enough for the sponsors of Shays-Meehan until two nights ago to have it immediate. So I think the question should go to the sponsors, in terms of what would change that would make them change their position. The President's position is consistent with what the reformers previously held.
Q: On the environmental proposals the President is making today, on power plant emissions, the President is calling for mandatory reductions. On global climate change and dealing with greenhouse gases, he's talking about voluntary reductions. Why the difference between the two?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, both are patterned after existing success stories. And on the climate change proposal that the President has made, I would refer you to EPA 33/50, which is the toxics reduction program. That's a program that has been successful, that has been supported by people from industry, from the environment. And industry has met the targets laid out in that.
On the 3P's, or the multi-emissions strategy that the President is announcing today in terms of the reductions of targeted levels for SOX, NOX, and mercury, that's patterned after the acid rain cap and trade program, which has also been hailed by people.
In terms of what the President has announced today on global warming, if we're getting any indications thus far from various constituency groups, it's a classic case of where some in the environmental community say the President doesn't go far enough, and many in the business community say the President is going too far. I think that's probably a good indication that the President may have gotten it just right.
Q: You would, on the global climate change, you would actually allow an increase in greenhouse gases, rather than seeking some sort of decrease.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let's be clear on whether or not there is an increase or decrease under Kyoto and under what the President is proposing today. Because Kyoto exempts so many nations around the world, such as India and China, there is no reduction in pollutants under Kyoto. It still is an increase in Kyoto. They've exempted so many nations that on a worldwide basis, emission of greenhouse gases continues to go up, albeit at a slower rate.
So what the President is proposing is to decrease that rate of growth. And under what the President is proposing, if the entire world worked on slowing the growth in emissions, we would get more reductions than anything that would be agreed to under Kyoto. So the President is proposing something that is actually complementary to Kyoto. Other nations in the world will still be free to pursue the Kyoto manner of reducing greenhouse gases, if that's what they think is best for their nations. President Bush, because he wants to protect America's workers and America's economy, has proposed a different way to arrive at the same goal. And the President welcomes the debate on this now. He thinks it's the best thing for America's workers, for the environment, for the economy.
Q: You can only control what the U.S. emits. Which plan, under Kyoto or your plan, would result in the greatest decrease in U.S. emissions? If we follow Kyoto, or if we do what the President proposes?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I don't think -- it's an academic question, because the President has indicated he is not going to pursue a policy that would cost 5 million jobs and do up to $400 billion worth of damage to the economy. So that's not a question I can answer because the President is not pursuing that.
Q: What kinds of indications, if any, have you had from other countries that they're going to follow the President's lead on this?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's a little early, since the President himself hasn't announced it yet. I mean, there are phone calls that are being made, and I think people are looking forward to hearing what the President says in a full-throttled way.
So far what we're hearing is people think it's thoughtful, they're saying they hope it can be productive. But I'll let the other nations speak, and then both the State Department and the National Security Council are going to be collecting information from around the world. You'll probably hear it, as well, through your sources throughout the world. People have not been shy on this topic.
Q: You discussed it with them ahead of time?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Dr. Rice, Secretary Powell, and the President have been making phone calls. The President made the call I reported to you this morning. Secretary Powell and Dr. Rice have made other calls. And most of the leaders said that it sounds thoughtful, it sounds good. We'll listen to the President and we'll let you know. I mean, he hasn't even announced it yet.
April? And, Les, I wasn't mad at you yesterday. The magic "thank you" came before you asked your questions, so I'll do my best to get back to you today. But we're on April right now. And then Connie.
Q: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: You already got one.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Apparently some at the U.N. are having some words about the issue that the -- what is it, the AIDS, the global AIDS foundation is not getting the kinds of donations that once were expected, in light of 9/11 and things of that nature. What is the White House saying, especially as they are leading the charge to fund this U.N.-backed AIDS issue in Africa?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the fact of the matter is that the United States is the globe's leading donor of funding to fight AIDS worldwide. We far surpass any other country in our contributions to the global fund. Our $200 million proposal that's in the budget will bring our total contribution over two years to half a billion dollars.
The President has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations to pledge America's commitment to leading the funding source for the worldwide effort to combat AIDS. And that's for the global, worldwide fight against AIDS. Domestically, the President's budget calls for $144 million for Health and Human Services Global AIDS Program, beyond our contribution to the global fund. And that's in addition to all the funding increases that the Centers for Disease Control is going to receive in the President's budget. So the President is very proud the United States leads the world in fighting AIDS.
Q: Yes, understood. But the critics there at the U.N. are saying that it's falling short of its expected goal, and -- you know, and the United States --
MR. FLEISCHER: April, all I can say to you is I don't think you will ever see a situation in the world where after the United States does the most and leads the way, there will be some who say the United States is not doing enough. I think we've all grown used to those criticisms. The President will just continue to be proud of the fact the United States is leading the world.
Q: Is that U.N. fund on the back burner now because of 9/11?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's on the front burner, thanks to the contributions.
Q: Do you have any information on this New York Times report about the Palestinian who might be taking over al Qaeda? And what is the latest on this high state of security alert?
MR. FLEISCHER: On the New York Times report, in reference to someone who is reported to now have taken over the role of Mohammed Atta -- I'm sorry, Mohammed Atef -- we're aware of his background. The United States does know about him. As the President has said, the threat is not over that al Qaeda, which exists in more than 60 nations, is going to try to reconstitute itself in the best manner that it possibly can. And they do have abilities. And that's why the President is determined to continue to pursue action across a variety of fronts to disrupt, to block, to stop and, if necessary, to kill them so they are not able to take actions against our country.
The reason that there are threats and threat alerts across our country is exactly because of people like Mr. Zubaydah, who we don't know exactly what his role is in al Qaeda, particularly given the disruptions that have taken place with al Qaeda. But it does remain an ongoing concern. I can't get more specific than that because nobody knows what his exact role is.
Q: Ari, to get back to Mark Smith's question, I think he was asking and what we may want to know is, to what extent was there some consultation before the global warming decision that the President will make later on, and if this comes in the context of extending the war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan. We're hearing some concern from other capitals that maybe this administration is swinging back toward a more unilateralist approach. I think that's the context in which the question was being posed.
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay --
Q: I must say that I was asking if there was some consultation ahead of time. I kind of thought there would be, since it impacts a lot of other countries.
MR. FLEISCHER: There have been conversations, of course, as you know, back and forth between the United States and nations around the world on Kyoto, because this is part of the U.N. framework on reductions of greenhouse gases. The United States has been present at all the conferences that have been taking place on global warming. So even as we differed with the method that other nations were using to meet their Kyoto goals, we were part and parcel to those conversations, even though we clearly told them we differed in the manner in which they were going to reduce greenhouse gases.
As for the development of this policy, this was developed by the President as an alternative to Kyoto, and I think the world knows that. That was shared directly. It's not a surprise. And then, yesterday, today, phone calls were made to leaders around the world to inform them of the decisions the President made.
Q: Back on the subject of religious rights, is the President still convinced that engaging China, whether it's through trade or other means, is still the best way to advance religious freedom in that country?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, absolutely.
Q: And has he seen measurable progress pursuing that strategy?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, there have been some very newsworthy and notable problems. And the President will discuss those problems. On the other hand, there have been some encouraging signs and the United States is going to continue to push for increasing religious freedom in China. So it's a complicated picture. I think sometimes it moves forward, sometimes it moves backwards. But as far as the President is concerned, he will be consistent in always pushing for it to move forward.
Q: Is it a difficult issue to raise forcefully, especially when he's a visitor?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's an interesting question. You know, during the visit to Shanghai, when the President raised it directly with President Jiang and his leaders who were sitting at a table with him, the habit of this President is to just raise issues directly and in a straightforward fashion. He speaks about as plainly and bluntly in private as he does in public. And the President believes that's an effective way to engage in good diplomacy. He doesn't want anybody to misunderstand what he thinks.
And so, I was there when the President made his case about the importance of religious freedom, and the values that are attached to it; and how, as a result of encouraging people to be free in their practice of religion and free in their day-to-day lives -- he also talks about the importance of a free press -- he believes that societies prosper more, and therefore have more economic development. And that's the type of message that the President has said directly.
Q: Would you specify what proposals President Bush will bring to South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung to put weapons of mass destruction by North Korea under --
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me do this. On any questions pertaining to the President's upcoming trip, Dr. Rice is going to be briefing this afternoon on the record and on camera. So I think you will get that from the President's National Security Advisor.
Q: Ari, on the Kyoto global warming thing, if the concern about the Kyoto protocols was the exemption of all these developing nations, how does the President's plan today deal with that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if you're going to exempt nations, Kyoto just doesn't get the job done. But the United States still has to face a decision about what its role will be in honoring a U.N. framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because the President believes that we do need to adopt a strategy to slow down, reverse, halt the emissions of greenhouse gases. So the fact that other nations are exempt is a symbol of the flaws of Kyoto. But because Kyoto is flawed, it doesn't mean that the United States should stop from doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And that's why the President proposed it.
Q: Well, why this route? Why not work through to try to reform some sort of a modified Kyoto to maybe erase the exemptions, or have --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it's the judgment of the President that this is the most practical and achievable way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it's also a recognition of the fact that you have a United States Senate that voted 95-0 against the framework of the Kyoto agreement when it was presented to them by the previous administration.
Kyoto was never very well-supported in the United States by people in both parties. But it still is important to make environmental progress.
So I think what you're going to have in this debate, you're going to have some very vociferous noises from some people in the environmental community and other places who are going to say that this is insufficient, it doesn't get the job done, all the while failing to recognize that Kyoto was going nowhere under both parties in Washington, D.C.
Instead, what you have here is a President who is willing to break the log jam to get something done to protect the environment and to protect America's economy.
Q: Has the President been watching the Olympics and is he familiar with the scandal involving the outcome of the figure skating event between the Russians and the Canadians? And does he have --
MR. FLEISCHER: Campbell, it's a topic I haven't discussed with him. I imagine, knowing him, that he has watched it and followed it, but I don't have anything to report. Can I fudge on that? (Laughter.) Let me see. I'll ask him.
Q: You said you would take the question as to why the State Department should be allowed to try to stop a Marine sergeant who was held hostage in Tehran for 444 days from suing the Iranian frozen assets in the United States of $9 billion. What happened to it when you took it? And what is happening now?
MR. FLEISCHER: It remains in taking.
Q: You will get us the answer?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. No, I think you asked a legitimate question.
Q: Concerning the President's recent meeting with seven representatives of the 3.9 million Boy Scouts of America, of which I gather he's the honorary president, the President doesn't believe that any Boy Scout policy is wrong or evil, or he would, as a man of ethics, resign as their honorary president, wouldn't he, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President was very proud and pleased to welcome the Boy Scouts to the White House and to receive their annual report.
Q: He doesn't think that any of their policies are evil or wrong?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President, as I said, was proud to receive them here. They are a private organization who have rights under the law.
Q: My question -- he doesn't believe any of their policies are wrong?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think I've answered it.
Q: On the President's climate change, environmentalists are not only saying they think it doesn't go far enough. They think by not having any mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is a sign of the impact of the coal and oil industry on this administration. What's your response to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I just think that is unfortunate rhetoric. That is what contributes to Washington getting nothing done. I mean, that type of attack the motives, link it to something sinister is exactly why policies break down in Washington. The question of how to protect the environment is something that really needs to be done in a way that brings people together. That type of rhetoric only serves to drive people apart.
As I mentioned, the Kyoto protocols are submitted to the United States Senate in a test vote of its general nature. And it was rejected 95-nothing. So it's important for some in the environmental community-- we know that not all are going to join, just because they won't -- but it's important for some in the environment community to want to work productively with the White House because we can get a lot done if they're willing to work together.
Q: And they say, voluntary controls, getting corporations to reduce their carbon pollution have not worked in the past, so why will they work now?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that they have said it works very well in the toxic reduction program. And so there is a prototype that works well, and that's what the President is committed to.
Q: Ari, the Shays-Meehan bill passed this morning with what, by this White House's measure, would be extraordinary bipartisan support. Given your historic cheerleading for bills that have passed with broad bipartisan support, which isn't the President encouraging the Senate to pass this one?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has said he has several principles that he wanted to see satisfied in campaign finance reform. The Shays-Meehan legislation satisfies some of those principles, not all. And the President will wait to see what the Senate does and then I think you'll have more on the topic.
Q: Does he want a strong bill passed?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants a bill passed that meets his principles. (Laughter.)
Q: Can you tell us what the President gave Mrs. Bush for Valentine's Day?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I can. For Valentine's Day --
Q: -- what the President gave the First Lady for Valentine's Day?
MR. FLEISCHER: And I hope the press will be willing to be forthcoming in what the press got from different people for their Valentine's Days, as well. There is equal curiosity.
The President sent Mrs. Bush some tulips. And Mrs. Bush surprised the President in the middle of a riveting domestic policy briefing, and sent Barney and Spot in, and around Barney's neck was a ribbon that contained a heart-shaped cookie that said "Mr. President" on it. And she sent in a plate of chocolates and cookies, as well, to the President and to the lucky staffers who happened to be meeting with him at the moment. So the two enjoyed a pretty nice little Valentine's gift for each other.
So, thank you.
END 1:04 P.M. EST
George W. Bush, Press Briefing by Ari Flischer Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/272501