Press Briefing by Dana Perino
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:32 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: It's Friday; I have two announcements and then will take your questions.
Later this afternoon, the President will announce additional sanctions against the leaders and cronies of Burma's dictatorial regime. He is taking this action because Burma has failed to show progress towards easing restrictions against the peaceful people of Burma who long for freedom and democracy. Additional details will be available after his statement that detail out those sanctions and other actions.
And then tomorrow, the President will be heading to the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland. He will focus on a conservation message tomorrow in taking two actions -- let me detail them just a little bit, and then I'll turn you over to Jim Connaughton; at 3:45 p.m. he'll have a conference call to give you more information.
The President will sign an executive order tomorrow morning. It will help preserve two of our nation's most popular recreational fish: the striped bass and red drum. The two species were once very abundant, but over-fishing in the 1970s and '80s has depleted them. So the executive order aims to conserve striped bass and red drum fish for the recreational, economic and environmental benefit of present and future generations.
And in addition to that, the President will talk about migratory bird habitat and actions that we can take, including financial support for habitat conservation, tax incentives, and also tasking the Department of Interior with working to improve habitat for migratory birds. And as I said, Jim Connaughton, the President's Economic Advisor -- I'm sorry, Environmental Advisor, will have a conference call at 3:45 p.m. today to give you more information.
Q: Why does the President think that additional sanctions on Myanmar will work now, when they have failed for decades?
MS. PERINO: Well, we believe that tightening the noose around the leaders in Burma -- and including those who help them do their evil work through funding their activities or going out to do their bank transactions or buying their luxury goods to pass them on to them -- will have an effect of explaining that not only is the regime, the main leaders of the regime the target of our sanctions, but so will be the people who are working for them.
In addition to that, he will be talking about some export controls that we will be seeking. And the President will also highlight the work of other countries, including Australia and Japan and some of the European countries that have all, one, spoken out, but also made sanctions. And then countries like Indonesia, right there in the region, have done some things to speak out.
He will call on, in his statement, China and India to do more. And so this is all headed towards pressuring the regime to try to make a difference.
Q: Do you see any results so for -- (inaudible) -- years of sanctions?
MS. PERINO: Well, the reason that the President is taking this additional action is because Burma said that it would do certain things. We had a condition that we wanted the political prisoners to be released; they have not done that. We had a condition that they would designate somebody who would liaison with Aung San Suu Kyi and others in order to get to a peaceful transition to democracy; they did designate somebody but that person has not done anything to hold any of these talks. And so this is what we can do at the moment and the President continues to tighten that not only here in America, but then working with international partners and allies so that they can do the same.
Q: Secretary Rice didn't seem to come back with much progress from her trip. Does this set back the idea of a peace conference in November, move it to December?
MS. PERINO: Well, I took her -- I've been reading the reports of her trip. She did have a -- they were going to have breakfast with the President this morning, she and Secretary Gates, to talk about the trip. Steve Hadley is going to go to the Middle East region next week as well. We believe the time is right for there to a substantive and serious discussion about getting to a Palestinian state. I have not heard anything to suggest that we would not be holding a meeting. They're all working towards it. We don't have a date yet. There are some steps that the Palestinians and the Israelis are trying to take right now to work collaboratively together to try to reach a core set of principles so that they can have a good, successful meeting here.
Q: Well, meeting so far has not been that successful, and you hope to do --
MS. PERINO: Well, we haven't had the meeting yet.
Q: -- you hope to do this in Annapolis in November. It is now the middle of October.
MS. PERINO: We said late fall and there's -- what she said is late fall. It could be November, it could be early December; that's what she said when she was in the region. When we have a date, we'll let you know. But we do think that the time is right to push on this. Secretary Rice was there for about a week and Steve Hadley is going there next week. It will be an opportunity for him to hear the views of the Israelis and the Palestinians -- not just about the meeting, but about underlying issues as well.
Q: Is she going to talk to us after she sees the President today?
MS. PERINO: Well, she was already here. We missed her.
Q: I thought she was here at 1:00 p.m.
MS. PERINO: She might be coming back, but she was here this morning as well.
Q: Would it be more effective -- rather than tightening sanctions on Burma to pressure China, their largest trading partner, to cut off trade?
MS. PERINO: Well, you'll hear from the -- you'll hear the President today saying that he wants China to do more. And he met with the foreign minister of China last week, in trying to -- maybe it was the week before, but trying to pressure them in order to do more. And China has shown a willingness to talk to us about it. But the President today, in his statement, is going to call on them to do more, and India, as well.
Q: They haven't really cut off trade with Burma, today. Is the President going to encourage them to do that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I'll let you hear from the President in about an hour.
Q: Are you learning anything more about the explosions in Pakistan, and any concerns that the President has about what impact that might have with Benazir Bhutto being back --
MS. PERINO: Well, we continue to get the reports back. Obviously, it was a horrible tragedy, with over, I think, 136 people being murdered, innocent people that were there just to rally around someone that they support. We, obviously, will offer our support through the embassy. The President is concerned that overall -- when you look at a moderate Islamic state like Pakistan, that any time they try to make moves towards stabilizing their democracy, that radical Islamic extremists do something in order to try to stop that progress, and that is a concern to the President not only in Pakistan, but in the entire region.
And one of the reasons that we are actively engaged is to try to make sure that we can stop this trend of radical Islamic extremists from murdering innocent people, especially the women and children -- men, women and children who were there yesterday. But I don't have additional information about anyone who is claiming responsibility.
Q: Dana, has the -- have U.S. officials gotten any fix on what organization might have been behind this attack? And is there any suspicion that al Qaeda was the author?
MS. PERINO: I'm going to just decline to comment; there's conflicting information coming in. Until there's something concrete, I'll decline.
Q: Judging by the kind of attack it was, and the target, the location, I mean, is there any sense of --
MS. PERINO: I'm going to decline to comment as to who it was.
Q: Dana, can you talk a little bit about sort of what might have been reported back by Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates on the meeting in Moscow?
MS. PERINO: I have not had a chance to get an update on that, and I'll see if I can get you one. They've had public statements in which they said that they thought the meetings were productive. We're going to move forward on the missile defense plan that we have, the program, and we're going to continue to work with the Russians to figure out if there's a way that we can work together in using some of their technologies.
I think it shows that we have good relationships with Russia when Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates will go together to meet with the counterparts -- their counterparts in Russia, in addition to Vladimir Putin, who obviously then moved on and had additional meetings in Iran. And the President said he wanted to hear more about that, but until I have an update, I'll have to wait.
Q: Isn't this a long time to be waiting to hear about a readout, though, from Vladimir Putin --
MS. PERINO: It's my readout. The President heard from them this morning.
Q: -- from Russia on the meeting with Iran?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't think so. I don't think so, no.
Q: It's not unusual to, two days later still, three days later still not have any kind of --
MS. PERINO: The President hears from his senior advisors, Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates, and then if he does talk to Vladimir Putin, we'll let you know.
Q: On the domestic front -- on the timing of the executive order tomorrow, can you talk -- I know Jim Connaughton is going to have this conference call, but what is sort of behind this? There's concern that --
MS. PERINO: It's something that we've been working on for a while. There's concern about what?
Q: Well, it's the commercial fishermen, I understand, in North Carolina are concerned about the effect that this will have on their livelihood.
MS. PERINO: On their livelihood. Right. This is an issue that the President has been interested in for a while. You might recall that last January he signed into law the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which would create some market mechanisms when dealing with fish stocks, in order to make sure that we have sustainable fishing.
The President has been interested in this issue for a long time. He's a sportsman who has great interest in making sure that we're taking care of those fish stocks, both through sustainable fishing commercially, and making sure that they're available there for the sportsmen that want to spend their weekends and any time -- free time that they can get out casting a line.
So tomorrow the President is taking action on this, with this EO, because it is ready, and this is something that we've been working with for a long time. I think Jim Connaughton will tell you today that we've spent a lot of time talking to the fishermen and trying to understand their concerns, and see how we can work with them through different means of conservation, and also through these laws like Magnuson-Stevens.
Q: Dana, the President today certified Saudi Arabia as fully cooperating in the war on terrorism. Last month, the U.S. Treasury's top official for cracking down on terrorism financing told ABC News that Saudi Arabia actually had done very, very little, if anything at all, to crack down on terrorist financing. Can you reconcile those two positions?
MS. PERINO: I don't recall what the Treasury official said. What I know about this program is that the President has to waive restrictions against helping to promote programs like the Middle East Partnership Initiative and the Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor -- they fund programs in the Kingdom for democracy, so for governance, issues of helping women -- women's empowerment, education, reform programs. So what the President did today was say that we will continue to do that.
In order for these programs to get off the ground in the Kingdom and get the funding, the President has to weigh them. That's why he took this action today. And I think that in order to get the people -- any country, including Saudi Arabia, to be one that is empowering women, helping ensure that there is a broader base of education for all of its people, that we want to promote programs like the Middle East Partnership Initiative that the President created so that democracy can start to take a hold.
Q: Dana, I realize you want to let the President make his announcement, but are any of the new sanctions being announced today -- do any of them affect countries or individuals that are not from Burma?
MS. PERINO: I'm going to let the President announce that, but those details will be out and you're probably headed down the right track.
Q: Getting back to the Middle East peace conference, how would you characterize the initial reaction of countries in the region to the idea of this get-together in --
MS. PERINO: Well, I'd look to somebody like the Egyptian foreign minister that had a press conference with Secretary Rice after their meeting, who said he was encouraged and he felt that this was the right time to start having a meeting. I think other countries might have expressed that they think that the timing is not right, but I think that the Israelis and the Palestinians believe that it is a good time for them to come together, establish a set of core principles that they can work on so that -- you know, we're not going to solve Middle East peace all in one moment at a meeting here in the United States; that's not what we have set out to do.
But we do think that it's time for the -- for us to have that path laid out by the Israelis and the Palestinians on how they can get to a Palestinian state. So I would look to the comments by the Egyptians as very positive and I'll see if I can get more from Secretary Rice.
Q: We were told this morning in another briefing that the invitations have not been sent out to --
MS. PERINO: That's true.
Q: Sounds like this is very much a work in progress, that --
MS. PERINO: It is. It is a work in progress and Secretary Rice said that while she was in the region, that we are working towards getting all the pieces together so that we can announce when the meeting will be, extend the invitations and then set out the agenda so that you all can be there to cover it.
Q: So you are confident that it will come off?
MS. PERINO: I have no reason to -- I have heard nothing to suggest that it wouldn't.
Q: Back to the sanctions. The ASEAN nations have not been fully supportive, it seems, of the sanctions -- I'm thinking of Malaysia, for example, another big trading partner. Is the U.S. trying to persuade (inaudible) to come around or anything?
MS. PERINO: Well, obviously, we're working with all of those nations. But the President, today he will commend Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia for speaking out, and then he'll call on China and India to do more. And obviously we'd like other countries to do additional work. Australia has done a lot, in terms of the sanctions that they can do under their system.
So yes, we want everyone to do more. But we really -- what the President and Mrs. Bush really want to see is for the Burmese leaders to do what they said they were going to do, which is to start taking steps to have a transition back to a peaceful country, where they're not going out in the middle of the night snatching people from their homes and throwing them in political prisons.
Q: The White House has allowed Senator Rockefeller to see some key documents that he'd like to see. I'm wondering if, in general terms, you can describe those documents and perhaps lay out who else in Congress he may allow to see them.
MS. PERINO: Well, I think it's premature to say who else might see them. The Senate Intelligence Committee and Senator Rockefeller and Senator's Bond's staff had showed a willingness to want to include in their legislation retroactive liability protection for companies that were alleged to have helped the United States in the days after 9/11. Because they were willing to do that, we were willing to show them some of the documents that they asked to see.
The Senate FISA bill has many good components. We appreciate the serious work that has been done by Senator Rockefeller and Senator Bond. We have not seen the final product yet that came out of the markup. And so we need to see that before we comment further.
We are disappointed that the bill includes a sunset provision. We don't think that that's necessary. And we have strong concerns about one of the amendments that came out of the markup yesterday -- the Wyden amendment. That is one that we would like to see taken out of the bill. We don't think that it was intended to be in there, and I think the staff is working on that. And so we'll let that process play out.
But to the extent of anyone else being able to see the documents, I think that we'll wait and see to see who else is willing to include that provision in the bill.
Q: Dana, could you talk about the Wyden amendment a little bit? What specifically --
MS. PERINO: Well, we haven't seen the final language, but as we understand it, we would have concerns because we would not be able to accept it. The Chair and the Vice Chair, Senators Rockefeller and Bond, I understand recognize the problem with the language and are in agreement that it needs to be changed.
It basically was, as I understand it, hastily drafted and agreed to, and it would, as an end result, take a step backwards beyond even before where we were when the original FISA bill was passed in 1978 in regards to targeting foreign intelligence overseas.
Q: On the Mideast conference, if I may. Why does the President feel that we need to send Stephen Hadley when Secretary Rice just came back from the region?
MS. PERINO: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you, the first part?
Q: Why does the President feel the need to send Stephen Hadley to the Middle East when Secretary Rice --
MS. PERINO: Well, Steve Hadley, even as Deputy National Security Advisor, had gone to the region many times in order to help try to bring the peace to the region. And he's going -- Steve Hadley is going in support of Secretary Rice's efforts. And as we have been talking about here, we're trying to get the building blocks together so that we have what we need in order to establish the dates for the meeting, the agenda for the meeting, and what we hope to get out of it.
So I think that the President looks forward to hearing back from Stephen Hadley when he gets back. It will be -- I think he leaves next Wednesday and he turns around -- I think he'll be back by the weekend.
Q: Dana, what can you tell us about the President's get-together with the Vice President at this Eastern Shore?
MS. PERINO: Tomorrow? The President will have his first visit to the Vice President's Eastern Shore home in Maryland. I understand that on the menu are Maryland crab cakes. It's a social lunch that the President and Mrs. Bush will have with the Vice President and his wife, Lynne Cheney.
Q: It's not duck-hunting season there, is it?
MS. PERINO: I don't think so. Crab-hunting -- crab-gathering? I don't know, I've never gone crabbing.
Q: Thank you, Dana. Congressman Murtha says --
MS. PERINO: Congressman who?
Q: Murtha, he says that we have fewer allies than before the Iraq war. Is that true, and does it matter?
MS. PERINO: I don't know what he was referring to. I think that the United States has allies all around the world; we're quite satisfied.
Q: Yes, next month President Nicolas Sarkozy coming to visit President Bush. Can you please tell us a little bit about his visit? And how is -- how healthy is it, the relation between French and the United States?
MS. PERINO: The United States enjoys a great relationship with France, and the President is really looking forward to President Sarkozy coming to visit. There's going to be some events down at Mount Vernon, which we're really looking forward to. And there will be a dinner and a lunch, as well as a media availability where they can talk about what they discussed during their meeting. I think that there's a lot of things on the agenda, including Iran and possible additional sanctions for that country if they don't live up to their international obligations. And there's a range of issues that they can talk about. And the President is looking forward to the social aspect of it as well.
Q: Thank you.
END 12:50 P.M. EDT
George W. Bush, Press Briefing by Dana Perino Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/276309