View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 28, 1995
                             PRESS BRIEFING
                            BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

1:51 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We will, if you're willing, will not provide any further detailed readout on --. Technical difficulties.

Okay -- reverse! Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the White House. We will not provide any further readout of the meeting that the President has had with Prime Minister Kok. I'll run through a few points here, just for those of you who need to file on that.

The Prime Minister and the President, accompanied by their delegations, met in the Oval Office for approximately an hour this morning, then held a working lunch in the Old Family Dining Room for approximately one hour, and then just concluded the press availability, which many of you witnessed.

Their discussion ranged across a wide variety of topics important to the bilateral relationship between the Netherlands and the United States. They discussed, as you could tell from the press availability, U.N. peacekeeping and the global commitments that both the Netherlands and the United States have made with the Dutch delegation, emphasizing much, as the Prime Minister indicated, the importance of U.S. leadership around the world and the importance of resisting the siren call for isolationism, which some in our own domestic political environment find alluring from time to time.

They discussed Bosnia. They discussed the security architecture of Europe, the development of post-Cold War institutions within Europe that can keep security on that continent, noting the importance both of the Western European Union and also the expansion of NATO through the formulas provided in the Partnership for Peace.

At lunch they discussed peacekeeping further. They reviewed narcotics cooperation in the Caribbean, particularly given Dutch's longstanding interest in Suriname; and discussed proliferation issues, the importance of indefinite extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty; and the topics -- other topics were pretty much as indicated by both the President and the Prime Minister in the Q & A session they've just had. They did talk about the purchase soon that the Dutch will make to modernize their air mobile guard, and the President did indicate the value of the Apache helicopter as he indicated to you.

I guess in general, the discussion reflected something I think you'll hear more from the President tomorrow night about -- the importance of U.S. engagement in this world at a time in which many look to the United States as almost a bellwether of how they might structure their own foreign policies, looking to us both for leadership and for definition on a wide range of foreign affairs topics. The President, I believe, tomorrow night will outline that argument in greater detail, the importance of engagement versus isolationism, the importance of keeping involved in this world, and the benefit that that provides to American citizens, and he'll place our efforts at promoting our nonproliferation agenda in the context of that broad strategy for engagement overseas.

That's a nice way to segue into a little bit of a preview of things the President will address more tomorrow night, because they were very much a part of the discussion. I believe they will very much echo what Prime Minister Kok just said -- and very convincingly, I think -- that we live in a time when partnership, leadership engagement are needed now more than ever, pointing once again to the importance that many of the Europeans attach to U.S. leadership in this world.

There, with that, maybe some further questions --

Q Mike, the President was asked flatly if the budget amendment is passed tonight and goes to the Senate for ratification, will he lead the fight to oppose state ratification of the balanced budget amendment, and he didn't answer the question.

MR. MCCURRY: He will lead the effort to make sure state legislatures have the information they need to judge the merits of the constitutional amendment. First and foremost, what many state legislatures are going to want to know is what will this mean in terms of our ability to serve the citizens of our state, and for many governors, what will this mean in terms of my own need to ask for tax increases to pay for the social services that are likely to be cut once certain social insurance programs are dumped on me by the federal government with their budgets slashed. So I believe that effort will be part of what the President directs his attention to, much as he did today, asking for some clarity about what this all means. I don't think the President could have been any clearer than he was just now, saying that once we -- if we do, in fact, impose a constitutional mandate for a balanced budget, that those who have been successful in that effort do rightfully have an obligation to explain to the American people how they might accomplish that objective. Because as we begin to see from stories in the newspaper today, it might involve some measures that the American people might find troubling.

Q Mike, with all due respect, that's political obfuscation. Will the President stake his political prestige on defeating -- (inaudible) -- in the state legislatures if it comes to that?

MR. MCCURRY: The President will stake his leadership role on the need for people to have the information they deserve to judge the merits of this amendment under the Constitution of the United States. And we are, after all, talking about the Constitution of the United States, the sacred responsibility for amending that Constitution, once the Congress has duly authorized the presentation of an amendment to the state legislatures, is for the states in our system of government as defined by our founders. It is up to states, then, to debate, implement the measures of ratification that would lead to the promulgation of an amendment.

Q So, Mike, can you give us some sense of what this answer means? Does this mean that the President will be sending something like copies of Congressional Quarterly out to governors that will let them know what -- or does this mean that the President is going to be out himself on the stump, his voice speaking in clear terms that this is a bad idea or what?

MR. MCCURRY: The effort to achieve ratification of the amendment to the Constitution is likely going to take some time. State legislators, legislatures will consider that over the course of coming months and likely into next year. And I think it is a safe bet that the President of the United States will be on the stump during the course of 1996. I recall that there is a national election around about that time, and I believe that the likelihood that this might -- likely that this will be an issue in that context, I think, is manifest if, in fact, the Senate ratifies this amendment. And there is an effort underway at the time to ratify this state by state.

But the states -- don't miss my point here -- the states have under our Constitution a solemn obligation to consider ratification of this amendment as they have in recent efforts to amend our Constitution. And it was in the province of the states to duly consider that amendment. The point the President is making is that the states ought rightfully to have the necessary information to make the judgment pro or con on the amendment.

And the President's view is that if those who advocate this amendment are forthcoming and present the facts to the legislatures, the legislatures are likely to have second thoughts about the wisdom of this amendment.

Q Is that a policy of neutrality? Is that what --

MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely not. It's a policy of full disclosure, that the American people have a right to know what this amendment is all about, as the President just told you.

Q Mike, what was going on behind the scenes today with the White House in regards to the balanced budget amendment? Did the President make any calls to these remaining undecided senators?

MR. MCCURRY: No, the President has not been on the phone to individual members. He has been getting updates from our legislative staff --

Q Just today you're talking about?

MR. MCCURRY: Just today, and getting updates from our legislative staff who have followed some of the negotiations and discussions underway on the Hill. The White House does have -- is in close contact with people on the Hill who are following the debate in the Senate very carefully.

Q Mike, today the President issued a veto threat on the Brady law. Who exactly is he aiming that threat at, because my understanding is there is no organized movement to really get rid of or change the Brady law at this point?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President, if I heard him correctly, had two points that he made in addition to his own pledge that Congress should not tamper with the promise to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America to fight crime. He also indicated that the ban on assault weapons and the Brady Bill provisions as adopted were for him important elements of this country's effort to combat and fight crime.

Q But do you perceive that there's an actual movement to change not just assault weapons -- we know that -- but the Brady --

MR. MCCURRY: There's not, but the crime legislation has a ways to go in the United States Congress. It has been suggested from time to time that in some elements within Congress that there might be a desire to review the Brady Act provisions. We would hope that would not advance any further in the legislative consideration.

Q Will you confirm a press conference for Friday around 1:00 p.m.?

Q In the Old EOB?

MR. MCCURRY: Is there -- would you all like to have a press conference at about 1:00 p.m. on Friday?

Q No.

Q Not our decision.

MR. MCCURRY: Good. Done deal. (Laughter.) Yes, the President will be happy to meet with all of you and take your questions at 1:00 p.m. on Friday in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building -- the East Room, being otherwise occupied, courtesy of the National Public Radio.

Q An hour and a half? How long?

MR. MCCURRY: I would -- three, four hours? No, it'll be of sufficient duration to allow a wide cross-section of your questions to be addressed.

Q Mike, some of the leading lights of the Senate today introduced a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. Does the President have a position on that amendment?

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't had an opportunity to discuss that with him.

Q Question, please? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: It was a question either about leading lights or dim bulbs, I wasn't sure which. (Laughter.)

Q Are you going to send Foster up officially today, or sometime soon?

Q Ever?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the arrangements are being made to forward the nomination to the Senate this afternoon.


MR. MCCURRY: How about that? Some news. (Laughter.) Thank you all.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:02 P.M. EST