THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY The Press Secretary's Office
MR. MCCURRY: Good morning, everybody. Several people early on asked me just to run through --
Q Can't hear you.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, come on in and gather around. Several people earlier this morning asked me about Karachi and what we've got on that. The Secretary of State has issued a statement. I suspect shortly the President will have a statement, too, obviously expressing --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes -- expressing our sadness and outrage at this attack on U.S. diplomatic representatives abroad. We will also indicate our determination to bring to justice those who were responsible for this vicious crime. We have had contact with the government of Pakistan already. The Prime Minister's office called to express condolences through our embassy in Islamabad.
Q Who called?
MR. MCCURRY: The Prime Minister's office called to express the condolences of the Prime Minister and indicating her sympathy to the families of the victims. And we have had contact with appropriate officials within the government of Pakistan, including the Ministry of the Interior to coordinate efforts to bring to justice those responsible.
The Counsel General in Karachi activated what's called the warden system. Those of you who don't know -- familiar with the warden system, it's a way by which American citizens in an area stay in contact with one another --
MR. MCCURRY: Warden system -- it's a way in which American citizens stay in touch with each other just so all American citizens in the vicinity would have accurate information about the attack.
Q How many are there in Karachi?
MR. MCCURRY: How many AMCITS there? I don't know. We can check on that, or the State Department might have that.
Q Mike, did you say which ministry you've been in touch with?
MR. MCCURRY: Interior -- Ministry of the Interior.
Q Is Mrs. Clinton still going?
MR. MCCURRY: Let me finish for a second. The warden -- the message that went out through the warden system indicated that we don't -- we're not aware of any threats to other U.S. citizens, but we did advise all American citizens to exercise prudence, security precautions in the region surrounding Karachi, and we indicated that we would make additional changes to the warden notification as necessary. The government of Pakistan has agreed to provide all necessary protection for U.S. citizens anywhere in Pakistan.
Q Is there any indication that this could be linked in any way to the arrest and the deportation of these terrorists?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't -- law enforcement efforts are at a preliminary stage, and we don't have information about the motive or identity of those who perpetrated the crime.
Q What about the identity of those who were killed, Mike? What did they do for the U.S. government, and is there any indication that these two people would have been singled out for any reason?
MR. MCCURRY: No, there were three victims As you know, Gary Durell. who died was a communications technician in the consulate. There was a secretary, Jackie van Landingham, who died following the attack; and the third victim, Mark McCloy, was a dependent of another secretary in the consulate, and he worked in the mailroom. There doesn't seem to be any connection to the professional responsibilities of this. They were driving in a U.S. government van.
Q So it would appear that -- is it the belief that they were targeted simply because they were Americans?
MR. MCCURRY: As I say, we're at a preliminary stage in the law enforcement effort, and we'll work wit the government of Pakistan and appropriate officials there to learn what we can as quickly as possible and bring those to justice who were responsible.
Q Do you know if the van was marked as a U.S. government van?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know.
Q Mike, how might this affect Mrs. Clinton's itinerary?
MR. MCCURRY: She intends to proceed with her trip. Her itinerary did not include Karachi, but she is planning to proceed with her trip, and, obviously, we always assess security issues related to any delegation of U.S. citizens traveling abroad.
Q It didn't include Karachi, did it?
MR. MCCURRY: It did not include Karachi.
Q How close is she going to --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to talk about her itinerary.
Q Do you know if the FBI is assisting in this investigation over there?
MR. MCCURRY: We will make available to the government of Pakistan, working in cooperation with them, any U.S. resources that would assist in bringing those responsible to justice.
Q Were there any specific threats in advance that the embassy received, knew about from any groups in Pakistan targeting the U.S.?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any specific threats, Wolf, but there has been ongoing gang-related violence in and around Karachi.
Q Ongoing gang --
MR. MCCURRY: Gang-related violence. There are factions that have been fighting back and forth. There have been, I think, several hundred Pakistani deaths. I'm not aware of any specific threat that exceeded the normal security concerns that we would have for our consulate operating in an area that's experienced that kind of sectarian violence locally.
Q But this would be a political, wouldn't it?
MR. MCCURRY: You're asking me about motive, Helen. I do not know about motive. We don't know who committed the crime.
Q Any higher alert status being ordered for other diplomatic outposts?
MR. MCCURRY: Not beyond the precautions that are being taken in the Karachi area and the monitoring of the situation in Islamabad.
Q Islamabad, for example --
MR. MCCURRY: They will have additional -- I mean, as we always do in a case like this, we are very quickly in contact with other diplomatic representatives in-country to see if there is any other violence directed against other foreign nationals.
Q But judging by the warning that is being put out, confining it primarily to the Karachi area, it seems as if the U.S. doesn't believe or the Pakistanis don't believe this is part of any larger, organized effort against -- directed at U.S. citizens.
MR. MCCURRY: They don't know until they look further into it, Mick. They have to make that judgment, and they will adjust whatever security measures they take according to what they assess the threat to be. But for the time being, they've asked people to take precautionary measures and to avoid unnecessary travel.
Q When was the President informed of this? Do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe this morning by the National Security Adviser.
Q Any additional steps to protect Mrs. Clinton during the trip --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't discuss security. It's not a wise idea to discuss security arrangements.
Q When will you be talking --
Q at 9:00 this morning?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q He was notified --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what time. I just know that -- he said -- Tony said he notified him this morning. I don't know what time.
Q When is she leaving on this trip, Mrs. Clinton?
MR. MCCURRY: Do you guys know when Hillary is leaving on the trip?
Q Around the 24th she leaves for Asia, South Asia.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Thanks, Helen. (Laughter.)
Q Any reason why the President jogged and walked this morning as opposed to just jogging? Is he not feeling well?
MR. MCCURRY: He jogged and walked?
MR. MCCURRY: He's looking for the cat to carry on his back again probably.
Q Walked mostly, though.
Q Has Socks been spoken to about this?
MR. MCCURRY: No. They keep Socks chained -- I mean, poor Socks gets tethered.
Q What was the reason not to keep us in the motorcade?
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q We were not allowed to go ahead of him and catch him at any point?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of that. Tell me more about that later, and I'll find out.
Q We're usually allowed to leapfrog ahead to get a picture of him running by, and this morning we were told that -- the lead agent told our press agent that we were not to leapfrog ahead this morning for some reason. That wasn't made known to us.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know anything about it, but I'll check.
Q Why are we not allowed to cover striker replacement?
MR. MCCURRY: Do you want to cover striker replacement?
Q Of course.
MR. MCCURRY: All right. Well, let's do it right now. Do you want to do it now?
Q No, cover it actually, when it's happening.
Q No. Can't we get in here --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, he's signing the executive order, the title is "Insuring the Economic" -- I've got copies of it here -- it's an executive order insuring the economical and efficient administration and completion of federal government contracts. He will sign at 9:45 a.m. this morning in the presence of AFL-CIO executive -- no, that's not right -- Mr. Lane Kirkland and Tom Donahue. What is Kirkland's real title?
MR. MCCURRY: Because this is -- we're doing exactly what -- I think that Kirkland is --
Q yes, president AFL-CIO.
MR. MCCURRY: Is he the president? He's the president. Yes, I he's president of the Federation and the Secretary Treasurer Tom Donahue.
Q AFL-CIO president.
MR. MCCURRY: That's right.
Q I'm sorry, Mike, you didn't answer it.
MR. MCCURRY: And he will -- let me just run through the executive order, because -- among other things, the story already was broken on the wire last night. This is saying exactly what the Vice President told the AFL-CIO Executive Council in Bal Harbor.
Q photo opportunities of events that -- that have broken on the wire -- talked about ad nauseam.
MR. MCCURRY: And sometimes you don't. What this executive order does is --
Q a little embarrassed about it?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he's just proceeding exactly as he said he would, and exactly as the Vice President said he would.
Do you want to know about the executive order?
Q to send the Vice President --
MR. MCCURRY: Is anyone interested in the executive order?
Q We're interested in why you're managing the news, too.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, because that's what we get to do. You get to report it -- we get to make it, and you get to report it.
As a matter of -- what the executive order will do, is will declare as a matter of policy that the U.S. government will not procure goods or services from employers that permanently replace lawfully striking employees. I think in taking this step, the President will strike a blow against inefficiency in our federal procurement system, strike a blow for the taxpayer by preventing against the use of replacement workers.
The use of replacement workers results in longer strikes, reduces economic productivity, because you use less experienced workers, an employer doesn't have access to those who know their jobs best and have the best available skills. It results in more contentious labor relations, which can have a negative effect on productivity, and it results in adverse consequences ultimately for the taxpayers who have to pay more for goods and services that the government procures. So it is accurate to say that the President is acting consistent with his executive authority to protect the interests -- to protect the interests of taxpayers --
Q Can you prove any of that? -- is this just a theory that you --
MR. MCCURRY: No, this is -- if you want proof, one way of finding it is to go to the provinces in Canada who have had experiences with provincial statutes that bar the use of replacement workers, which you've seen measured improvements in productivity as a result of that.
Q Is this contracts over 100,000?
MR. MCCURRY: This affects contracts that are in excess of what's called the simplified acquisition threshold in federal procurement that's $100,000. There are more than 28,000 contractors who do business with the government in excess of that threshold amount, so this executive order would cover about 90 percent of all federal procurement dollars. Most of you know that the largest federal procurement agencies are the Department of Defense, NASA and the General Services Administration. They, along with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, will develop the regulations necessary to implement the President's executive order --
Q contractors are currently hiring replacement workers?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, in 1994, there were, by one estimate, approximately 450 -- I think there were 454 recorded strikes in the country, and about 30 of those strikes involved the use of replacement workers. Now, those were not necessarily all federal contractors, but that gives you some rough scope of the number of strikes that involved replacement workers --
MR. MCCURRY: There would be some fraction -- we estimate some fraction of that would be strikes in which there would actually be federal contracts involved, but it represents as a percentage probably a small fraction of those collective bargaining relationships in which there are federal contracts involved.
Q Does this supply the subsidiaries --
Q So out of 28,000 contractors less than --
MR. MCCURRY: Wait, wait, wait -- one at a time.
Q Out of 28,000 contractors, less than 30 would be --
MR. MCCURRY: It would be the number of contracts that might be involved in a typical year would be less than 30. Now, let me run through a little bit about what actually --
Q Not all those 30 are federal contracts --
MR. MCCURRY: No, it would be -- the number we're talking about, a small handful of federal contractors, which is, in fact, part of the good news here, by and large, those private enterprises that the government does business with, enjoy the benefits of healthy, collective bargaining relationships.
Now, let's hold on for a second. I want to run through exactly how it works, because it's important what they do, and what it does and does not do. The executive order would allow the Secretary of Labor to investigate situations in which there is a claim or a perception that there is a use of permanent striker replacements with a federal contractor. If the Secretary finds that a contractor permanently replaced lawfully striking workers, the Secretary can notify the agency involved, the federal agency that's involved, and direct the agency to, quote, unquote, "terminate for convenience" the contract involved. Now, this is prospective, it's from the date of the signing of the executive order today forward. It does not affect retroactively contracts that are in place in which an employer might currently be employing permanent striker replacements.
"Terminate for convenience," by the way, is the standard terminology that used in federal contracts. There are a list of reasons why the federal government can terminate a contract. And what this does, essentially, is add the use of permanent striker replacements to the items that are available to a contracting agency to terminate an existing contract.
The executive order also allows the Secretary of Labor prospectively and retrospectively, to debar any employer from future contracts, so that if you end up in a situation where you've got documented use of striker replacements, you could bar -- after due process, bar that employer from future contracts.
But what this essentially does, if you think of cases like the Bridgestone strike, others, it essentially says that we don't want the industrial equivalent of minor leaguers and rookies making the tires for the next Desert Storm. That's what this is about. And it does have provisions in there, in which agencies can respond to the directives of the Secretary of Labor.
Q Does it affect subcontracting relationships, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: It doesn't affect subcontract -- I'm not aware of anything that affects subcontracting relationships. The other question is, as you seek to bar future contracts, can you bar other product lines within a company, the answer is yes, so that if you've got a company that's got different types of product lines, you could bar contracts with other products or goods and services that are produced by that employer. It does not vertically allow that type of reach on inbarments. In other words, if a holding company -- you've got a subsidiary company that has been involved in hiring striker replacements, you don't go after the parent company, or vice- versa.
Q What companies besides Bridgestone?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, Bridgestone is one. There are examples --
MR. MCCURRY: Caterpillar would not, because the Caterpillar Company has not indicated an intention on its part to hire permanent replacers to replace the UAW workers that are on strike. But what this effectively does, by putting out there the threat that they might lose future federal contracts, it certainly would be a disincentive to any company that was interested in the status of its federal contracts from that point, hiring replacement workers.
In the case of Bridgestone-Firestone, the Secretary of Labor could not act to terminate for convenience the contracts that are currently in effect, or have been in effect prior to the date -- the effective date, which is today. But the Secretary of Labor could make Bridgestone-Firestone ineligible by barring them from future contracts with the federal government as a result of their continued employment of striker replacements. I think they've got, if I'm not mistaken, about 2,300 striker replacers now employed to replace about 4,000-plus rubber workers who are out on strike.
Q Some companies facing a strike hire interim, not permanent, strike replacements. (Inaudible) These people sound like they're exempt. Is that a loophole that causes any type of concern?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Secretary of Labor will have to make a determination whether they are permanent striker replacements or whether they are interim replacements. I think as a question of policy, it is whether or not the employer intends to try to operate and honor the terms of the contract over time. Now, there would be a -- the reach that goes for the barment provision in the Executive Order is for the duration of the strike. So if there's a settlement or any collective bargaining agreement that results in a settlement, then that lifts the barment provision within the Executive Order.
Q I don't think there are any federal contracts with major league baseball, but can we presume from his position on labor here that he would not throw out the first ball -- he and Mrs. Clinton would not throw out the --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. We've already -- we've indicated in the past he would not put out -- throw out the first ball. This, to our knowledge wouldn't have any impact on the baseball strike because major league baseball is not a major federal contract.
Q That was just my way of changing the subject.
Q (Inaudible)-- contractors. Can they basically delay things by (inaudible) -- Labor Department -- (inaudible)--
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Secretary of Labor has to make a good faith determination of whether or not there's a use for permanent replacers and has to -- has the authority under the Executive Order to investigate any use of permanent replacement workers. And that could be the result of conversation between the employer and the Labor Department.
Q Does the White House Counsel believe that this could be overturned by congressional action?
MR. MCCURRY: The White House Counsel is certain that the President is acting within his authority under federal statute to protect the economic interests of American taxpayers, since he has been delegated the authority by Congress to effectuate the provisions of the federal government's procurement laws. So the President is acting fully within the parameters of 40 USC Section 486A.
Q But that doesn't mean that Congress can't taken to --
MR. MCCURRY: The Congress could not -- the Congress would have to prevent the use of federal funds from the implementation of the Executive Order, I believe. I'm not a constitutional scholar but -- the President, having --
Q Well, if you're basing -- (inaudible) -- statute, then the statue -- (inaudible) -- be changed.
MR. MCCURRY: They could run -- they could raise the constitutional argument that the President shouldn't be delegated the authority to administer procurement laws, but I think that would be a rather peculiar position for Congress to take. They more likely would prevent federal funds to be used to implement the Executive Order, which is how in the past this has happened.
Now, by the way, I think it's important to point out, the President is following historic precedent and is acting exactly as have past Presidents in taking this step. Some of you who are here and covered the Bush administration recall in the Beck case, the President acted when Congress failed to enact a statute that would have required employers to notify employees of their right not to join a union. It was in fact, by the way, I think a measure that was sponsored by Speaker Gingrich, or then Congressman Gingrich. When the Congress failed to pass that legislation, the President then used his own executive authority in 1992 to sign an executive order that put into effect that same provision as it applied to federal workers.
And there have also been -- Presidents have used executive orders in similar types of circumstances to implement certain changes in policy. President Truman used an executive order to desegregate the armed forces. President Reagan used an executive order to ban striking members of PATCO from returning as air traffic controllers. Bush, in fact, had used the executive order to implement what are called pre-hire contract provisions. So, you know, the use of an executive order in connection with federal contract-related issues is something that the past chief executives have done consistent with their ability to do what they felt would most efficiently and effectively implement federal procurement law.
Q So you're using Ronald Reagan's hiring of permanent striker replacements as a precedent for --
MR. MCCURRY: As a -- we use that as a precedent to justify the President's executive authority to implement a change in policy through executive order, absent legislation passed by Congress.
Q Is this one of those lines in the sand between this President and Republicans in Congress -- one of just many that have been drawn lately?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q Is this one of those lines in the sand that the --
MR. MCCURRY: A line in the sand? No. It's not a line in the sand. This is done to protect the economic interests of U.S. taxpayers who have a right to the most efficient delivery of goods and services procured by the government. And it's done in the interest of fair and equitable collective bargaining. The use -- the President's view, as stated in his campaign for President, and has stated during the first two years of his administration, is that --
Q So why didn't he want to be seen doing it?
MR. MCCURRY: -- is that --
MR. MCCURRY: -- is that the use of replacement workers tilts the balance in labor relations and disrupts 40 years worth of history in the way the structure of equitable collective bargaining and between labor and management.
Now there are those on the Hill, Mick, to answer your question -- those -- Senator Dole, Senator Kassebaum, specifically have taken the opposite view, which is the balance tilts in the other direction, if you take away an employers right to hire a striker replacement. Our view is that's disruptive of amicable collective bargaining and that is one more reason why the President acted as he did. But if you suggest that there's a different philosophy there, behind the way some Republicans in Congress view the issue and the way the President views the issue, that's probably correct.
Q Mike, what about the dollar? Can you update us on what the administration is planning to do, if anything --
MR. MCCURRY: The Secretary of the Treasury is the administration spokesman on matters related to the dollar and has stated that a strong dollar is in the national interest.
Q Does the President have full confidence in the Secretary of the Treasury in this matter?
MR. MCCURRY: He has full confidence in the dollar and the Secretary of the Treasury.
Q Mike, what's wrong with the President?
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q What's wrong with the President? Is he not feeling well?
MR. MCCURRY: I have -- I don't know what you're talking about.
Q Will you ask him?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll go find out.
Q He apparently walked as much as he ran this morning, we're told, on his jog.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. I'll find out. That's the second time I've been asked that.
Q And we haven't had a frontal of the President today, so we're just wondering --
Q A frontal shot.
Q Full frontal.
Q Is he doing anything else today?
Q We're wondering if he's feeling all right?
MR. MCCURRY: You saw him -- you had a big story off the President yesterday.
Q You have to go to a hotel to see it.
MR. MCCURRY: Not every day do we make news.
Q Did he break out after that cat crawled all over his head? Is he all broken out today?
MR. MCCURRY: You guys want a copy of the Executive Order?
Q Yes, sure.
MR. MCCURRY: Wait a minute. First it goes to the wires --
Q Hey, I didn't get one.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you get one first. And then everyone else. You can pass them out.
Q What about Hatfield -- (inaudible)
MR. MCCURRY: I talked about Hatfield the other day. Nothing new on Hatfield.