Fleischer addresses cost of armed pilots

By Les Kinsolving

Editor’s note: Each week, WorldNetDaily White House correspondent Les Kinsolving asks the tough questions no one else will ask. And each week, WorldNetDaily brings you the transcripts of those dialogues with the president and his spokesman. If you’d like to suggest a question for the White House, submit it to WorldNetDaily’s exclusive interactive forum MR. PRESIDENT!

At today’s daily White House news briefing, WND asked Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer about an issue first reported by WorldNetDaily regarding the cost of training airline pilots to carry weapons onboard:

WND: Transportation Secretary Mineta has reported that the start-up costs to train airline pilots to carry firearms is nearly $1 billion, with a $250 million annual cost to maintain that training. The Airline Pilots Association, among others, say that that figure is far too high. My question is even if Mineta’s figures were accurate, has anyone in the Bush administration calculated the cost to the U.S. economy if even one more airliner is hijacked by terrorists, especially if it’s shot down by F-16s?

FLEISCHER: You raise a complicated and important issue about how to protect the safety of passengers. And this is not a black or white issue. This is a very complicated issue about how to arm pilots in a way that actually promotes safety, so mistakes don’t happen from people who are not trained in the arts of security, particularly security in the confined spaces of an airliner traveling in an area where a stray bullet could actually bring the plane down itself.

And so the secretary’s focus and the president’s focus all along have been on the best way to do this while maintaining safety. And it’s not a simple question, and that’s why the secretary is focused on training aspects and what the costs of training would be, the effect of taking pilots out of the cockpit so they will not be able to fly and putting them in a training program, what the effect that would be on air travel. There are a host of issues that come into play with this, and those are all being worked together with the Congress.

WND next turned the subject to President Bush’s relationship with self-styled civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson.

WND: The Associated Press quotes the Rev. Jesse Jackson as comparing President Bush’s foreign policy to King Herod’s. But you, Ari, told us that when Jesse was caught paying extensive money to get his impregnated mistress out of Chicago, the president telephoned him to say, “You are in my prayers”, with no such prayers for other clergy adulterers such as Jim Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart. My question is, does the White House have anything by way of response to the King Herod charge? Or do you think that Jesse’s failure to attract more than 600 to a 15,000-seat arena at Michigan State University illustrates how discredited he is? (Laughter.)

FLEISCHER: Les, the White House …

WND: Could I just get a chance without the cackle?

FLEISCHER: The White House is not aware of any recent statements by King Herod. (Laughter.)

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