THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
2:05 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the White House, and welcome to the daily briefing. I'd like to start today, first of all, by inquiring as to whether there are participants in the festivities today who would like to ask a question or two about the just-concluded bilateral meeting between the King of Morocco and the President of the United States of America. I have with me David Satterfield, who is the Senior Director for Near Eastern Affairs -- and you get South Asia, too, right? -- and at the National Security Council, Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, who I think many of you know. Any -- have we've got questions here?
Q Did the issue of the King's concerns about U.S. sanctions on Iraq and Libya come up?
MR. MCCURRY: There were two -- I should do a little tick-tock -- two separate meetings. The King and the President met tete-a-tete for, gee, an hour and a half outside and inside, taking advantage of a glorious spring day in Washington. And David was the notetaker in that. Then Mark was the lead participant on the U.S. side on the expanded bilateral meeting that did a lot of the economic issues, including the economic investment treaty -- so we can divide up either way, if you've got a question or two.
MR. SATTERFIELD: The President and the King did discuss a variety of regional issues. Among those, they discussed regional security concerns, including policy towards Iraq. The President reiterated our view that it's premature at this point to consider lifting sanctions on Iraq; that Iraq must demonstrate full compliance with all of the U.N. sanctions requirements before such a step is taken.
With respect to concerns about the suffering of the Iraqi people, humanitarian interests, the President made clear our view that there are provisions within the U.S. sanctions regime for the supply of medicines and other humanitarian goods to Iraq. If Saddam Hussein chooses to avail himself within the parameters of those resolutions of such an ability, he can help address these needs.
Q Did the King register similar thoughts about Libya?
MR. SATTERFIELD: That was not discussed.
Q Libya was not discussed at all?
Q Can you give us more detail on that agreement?
AMBASSADOR GINSBERG: Are you talking about the trade investment framework agreement? This agreement is going to be used as the structure in which to establish a bilateral economic and trade framework with Morocco. There are two addenda to this agreement. We're going to be sending out to Morocco in April a science and technology delegation to begin laying the groundwork for exploring a new science and technology trade accord with Morocco; and secondly, to expand our agricultural research assistance to help them to diversify their agricultural exports. Part of this is all attributable to the belief that a stronger Moroccan economy is the best methodology for maintaining Morocco's stability into the future.
The King will be going over to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation shortly to oversee the signing of a new OPIC agreement with the head of OPIC, Ruth Harkin.
Q Did the King raise the subject of Jerusalem and in what terms? And was there any kind of agreement with the President on the subject?
MR. SATTERFIELD: The King and the President discussed at length the status of the peace process. The President reviewed the progress made by Secretary Christopher during this most recent trip, particularly on the Syrian track; also, developments on the Palestinian track. The King made clear his views that are well- known, that progress on all negotiations ought to continue; that a peaceful resolution, comprehensive resolution was his goal, something that he was working for, as well as a U.S. goal. But, no, there was no specific discussion of troops.
Q What was the King's answer to the President's call to support the extension of the NPT?
MR. SATTERFIELD: The President reviewed our belief that indefinite extension of the NPT regime at the upcoming conference is extremely important, both from a regional and from a global perspective. An indefinitely extended regime greatly strengthens our ability, the ability of all who participate in the regime, to fight the threat of proliferation, which we believe is a direct challenge to states in the Middle East. This directly relates to concerns which the King had raised about regional security and the need to address terror and violence.
On the specific issue of Morocco's position on the NPT, the King expressed concern that a regime which was not seen as universal in its scope, that excluded Israel, would be difficult for many states to support. The President responded by noting our view that while we support universal adherence to the NPT, including Israel, while we support the goal of a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East, a comprehensive, regional peace is the essential element which must be in place to provide a context for adherence. That should be the goal, that should be what we work for.
Q Did the President raise any human rights concerns, detentions of political dissidents and their families, and was there any discussion on that?
MR. SATTERFIELD: The President and the King discussed, broad-brush, the importance of moving ahead not just on political settlements, but also improving the economic, day-to-day lot of people throughout the Middle East.
AMBASSADOR GINSBERG: Let me -- if I just may add, this issue comes up in my discussions with the King as well as with his government on a more sustained basis, particularly in the area of democratization. And so, the subject is very much on our agenda.
MR. SATTERFIELD: I would make one final comment, though, is that the King did say he believed that greater movement towards democratization, speaking generally in the region, was a positive thing.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you, guys.
Q Names and titles again? I'm sorry.
MR. MCCURRY: David Satterfield, who is the Senior Director of the National Security Council for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs; and U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg.
Q Is Satterfield taking over for Indyk?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. In fact, Indyk, I believe, gets sworn in this afternoon at the State Department at 5:00 p.m. You don't think that's right?
Q Spelling on --
MR. MCCURRY: Mary Ellen can get that afterwards. Marc I think is with a C.
Q What happened to Parris? Isn't he supposed to be coming on?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, you're right. He's director. Isn't Parris the Senior Director? Grade inflation. (Laughter.) Mark Parris, who used to be at the NEA Bureau over at State is now Senior Director. I misspoke. But, David Satterfield has been one of the regular members of the peace team, and a regular participant in a lot of the Middle East peace process discussions.
All right. Moving on. I've got a good one -- the Internet. How many in here are surfing on the Internet? Okay. Now, you remember last October we announced the launch of "Welcome to the White House: An Interactive Citizens Handbook." I'm sure you'll all remember that -- picture of Socks, among other things.
I would like to report to you now that PC Magazine -- that's not PC as some of you might think PC -- calls this one of the most important sites on the Internet to drop in for a visit. We're very proud of it. And since its inception, the home page, which is sort of the entry point into "Welcome to the White House" has been accessed 1.248 million times. And 18 million -- over 18 million files have been downloaded -- everything from pictures of sculptures in the Sculpture Garden just outside the East Wing to the FY '96 federal budget available now.
Now, we've got some people here who are -- I have to confess, I, myself, has not done this -- my abacus does not have a modem, so I haven't quite gotten around to it yet. (Laughter.) But we do have some folks here, Jock Gil and others who some of you know. If any of you are having any technical difficulties, or if you'd like to have more information about that, we're very proud of that, and it's part of our effort to join the information revolution taking place.
Q Can you get the President's schedules on Friday put on that immediately?
MR. MCCURRY: Last Friday, or this coming Friday? (Laughter.) I don't know. Do we have schedule stuff on there? We ought to do that. We can't -- we don't want to do that. We can't do that. (Laughter.) No. All right, all right, all right. Okay. (Laughter.)
Q There are a lot geeks on the information highway that just lurk.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's right -- my guess is that there are people around here who have some concerns about that.
A follow-up on that?
MR. MCCURRY: No? All right. Let me move one more. (Laughter.)
Q Let's move on.
MR. MCCURRY: One more. I do want to -- some of you may have seen the Department of Health and Human Services release today -- they have been looking at the question of whether or not the license revocation provision that the President talked about last week before the National Association of Counties, what impact that might have on child support payments. And they've determined that it, in fact, could have raise millions of dollars in delinquent child support, which would be going to those who now deserve it -- in fact, legally are entitled to it, and that it could -- the license revocation provision, if applied nationally, could increase total child support collections by as much as $2.5 billion -- "b" as in billion -- over the next 10 years.
I think thus validating much of what the President said in his March 7th address, and clearly following on one of the elements of his own welfare proposal, and one that would like to see the United States Congress give some attention to.
Q Mike, can you tell us where the President stands on his review of affirmative action? And when can we get his final policy decisions?
MR. MCCURRY: He -- the President is moving very methodically, carefully and in a deliberate way through the questions that he is examining as part of this review. He wants to make sure he gets it right. It's not as important to get it necessarily quickly. But it's important to get it right. And he's looking for the right answers. He's talking to a lot of people about it. And I expect he will have more to say publicly shortly, but I don't want to put any type of artificial deadline out there, including appearances by administration witnesses before Congress.
Q What is that supposed to mean? What is the significance of Deval Patrick's testimony? That was originally supposed to be the major statement of administration principles on this. What is it now going to be --
MR. MCCURRY: The President will be making the major statement of his priorities and principles -- in fact, has already addressed himself publicly to exactly those principles, because they are the same ones that define his service going back as a governor, and what he's raised in front of the American people on past occasions. But the administration will have to move forward and present a variety of programmatic specifics to the Congress. That will be done in the context of the President's broad articulation of the policy and some of the things that he's suggested to you he's looking at as part of this review.
Now, he will do that in his good time. And the administration certainly won't get in front of him. So it'll remain to be seen what type of testimony they will address to specific questions pending the review that the President is now conducting.
Q supposed to be programmatic specifics?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure. You'd have to ask over at Justice what suggestions he's had from the committee that he has appeared before. I'm not even sure I know which committee it is that he's scheduled to appear before on March 24th, but --
Q Is that going to be delayed?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. You'd have to ask Justice.
Q Mike, I understand both from your comments in the recent days about all special prosecutor matters being handled on a case by case basis, that Secretary Cisneros is an individual case, the President's responding accordingly. But could you articulate what overarching principle, if any, is operating in allowing a Cabinet officer who has been deemed by the relevant Cabinet officer, the Attorney General, to have misled the FBI in getting his job, getting the honor of serving the President, allowing that person to continue to serve?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's not what she determined. She determined some facts related to matters discussed in the statement, the application statement that she's filed with the three-judge panel. But it did not go to the question -- you've just addressed the question of materiality. And that's one that she, herself, said was a close and difficult issue.
Q She said whether it was legal was a close and difficult issue.
MR. MCCURRY: No, she said that -- she said the materiality of that, which goes to the question of whether or not it represents criminal misconduct, is a close and difficult issue. So you're -- the question, I think presumed a judgment on something that she, herself, did not address herself to and suggested that that should be part of what an independent counsel would look at.
Q You mean whether he did so in pursuit of the job as opposed to whether he simply did so?
MR. MCCURRY: Right. And I think the President's statement yesterday is very clear, just -- both the character and integrity of Henry Cisneros and the job that he has done outweighs the mistakes that he has acknowledged that he has made.
Q I want to make sure there's something in your statement yesterday, did I understand, when you said, nothing in the Attorney General's statement would have diminished the President's resolution to -- you meant as a -- what did you mean by that?
MR. MCCURRY: In fact, I came right back on that because nothing in the factual information about the payments made by Secretary Cisneros contained in the application statement filed by the Attorney General yesterday, would have changed the President's determination that he was the right nominee for the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Q You didn't mean to speak to her conclusion about his representations to the FBI?
MR. MCCURRY: That is correct. I did not mean -- the President, as he indicated yesterday, feels that that was a mistake.
Q But the fact remains that he lied to the FBI at a time when he was being considered for a high government job.
MR. MCCURRY: The facts are as they were presented in the Attorney General's statement yesterday.
Q That's the fact, and so, therefore, one must wonder why it is that the President is so willing to let that pass, as he said yesterday that he was.
MR. MCCURRY: The statement couldn't have been clearer on that yesterday.
Q Mike, in your response to Todd's question of what standard is being applied here, you pointed out that there's been no finding of criminal misconduct. Is that where the standard lies?
MR. MCCURRY: As I had suggested yesterday, each and every case has to be judged based on the facts as they are presented and the determinations of law that are made, whether it's by an independent counsel, a court of law, or those who are determined to address those matters within the administration and the White House.
Q Mike, Senator Specter says that he has some serious problems about the addition of the CIA chief in a Cabinet post. Is the President intent on going forward with that, or is that something that he is rethinking?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is going forward with that, with the understanding that is clear between the President and his nominee, Deputy Secretary Deutch, that Deputy Secretary Deutch will be at the table, at the Cabinet table, as it were, as someone who has got the best analysis in intelligence available to those who are making decisions about U.S. foreign policy. He will not be there himself to be a participant in that policy-making, but he will be there, rather, to provide the best available information to those principals who have to make those decisions. And the Deputy Secretary is clear on that, as is the President. It is not foreseen as a policy-making role, it's one as elevating the stature of the information and intelligence-gathering function within the decisions to be made by the principals.
Q So you think that the worries that Senator Specter is expressing are groundless at this point?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that that may satisfy -- we'll have to see. That may satisfy the concerns of some senators who addressed themselves to this issue. I think there is real concern about the application of intelligence and information gathered which needs to be assessed and evaluated, having that somehow presented in a way that's designed to advocate a particular point of view.
And, frankly, some might argue we've had some of that in the last two years absent the presence of the CIA Director at Cabinet rank. But, regardless of that, the President's view is that elevating the stature of intelligence-gathering within the foreign policy apparatus of the government is a very good idea, particularly at a time when I think everyone's judgment, from the President on down to his likely nominee for CIA Director is that we need to raise the morale of those who are involved in intelligence-gathering on behalf of the U.S. government.
Q But when the President uses, as he sometimes does, those Cabinet meetings as a way to get members of the Cabinet to go out and sell the administration, do you think it's appropriate for the CIA Director to be there?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry -- go out and do what?
Q Sell the administration. You recall we had a little briefing here one day right after the President told them to get all fired up and go out and sell the administration. Is that the kind of thing that's appropriate for the CIA Director to take part of?
MR. MCCURRY: The CIA Director should do that if the CIA Director is comfortable with doing that. Really, the issue, if I understand the concerns raised on Capitol Hill correctly, the issue goes more to the other direction -- will we have confidence that information is being fairly and adequately evaluated if it is placed in the context of a policy discussion in which someone is taking a point of view. That's the reason why the President, I think, feels strongly that you have to separate the policy-making function from the analysis and the evaluation function.
Q John Deutch is already a significant policy-maker in the administration. He's not giving that up when he goes to the CIA, is he?
MR. MCCURRY: He's indicated to the President he's had discussions with the White House that he would give up that direct participation, that direct policy-making participation in exchange for having responsibility to be the chief analyst and assessor of information that needs to be available for that.
I make a point about this -- this is not unlike -- I feel personally about this myself -- it's not unlike what you find as a press secretary from time to time; you're really not a policy player, because you're someone who has got to evaluate the different positions that are presented so that you can then fairly and accurately reflect points of view that exist within the White House or within the administration. From time to time -- it doesn't say that you won't be called upon for advice from time to time, or that -- in that sense, but by no means is the role of the press secretary a policy-making function.
Q Is there an agreement to give him control over more information than the CIA Director has traditionally had, even though he is supposed to be the one who oversees and sets the output of all the intelligence agencies?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think so. The CIA Director --
Q more than the Defense Secretary, for example?
MR. MCCURRY: The CIA Director is also the Director of Central Intelligence, in that sense, the head of the intelligence community. And there is a strong view that he should function as the Director of Central Intelligence, and one need that you see in the post-Cold War era is to get the different intelligence agencies working together as they assess the challenges the U.S. faces in the post-Cold War world.
Q Mike, when can we expect a decision on a Moscow summit?
MR. MCCURRY: When it's ready to be decided, which may be sometime before too long. I would note, I think, some of you asked me earlier today -- Secretary Christopher plans a meeting soon with Russian Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev. They'll meet in Geneva. That may or may not end up being central to that decision, but I suspect that they will evaluate bilateral relationships, assess what progress can be made in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia, at a highest-level meeting sometime in the first half of this year.
Q So you wouldn't expect a decision before then?
MR. MCCURRY: Certainly don't expect it before then, and maybe not necessarily in the context of that meeting. But that meeting may provide information that is useful to both sides in clarifying the schedules of President Yeltsin and President Clinton.
Q Mike, there are reports in Ireland that the President is planning to announce Friday that he'll visit that country this year. Is that on the schedule of his travel?
MR. MCCURRY: You guys holding out on me? I haven't heard anything about that. I'll have to check on that. I'm not aware of anything like that.
Q There is also a report on the wire today that the President has got some unionists -- described as paramilitary types who are part of some sort of St. Patrick's Day celebration with the President, that they'll be here along with Gerry Adams, their sworn enemy, and so on and so forth. What is that all about?
MR. MCCURRY: When we indicated we had invited Gerry Adams to the St. Patrick's Day reception, we had several others who also were invited, and some who have accepted. We expect John Hume will be here, John Alderdice from the Alliance Party. There are several others who may attend, representing the Ulster Democratic Party and some others. But we did extend -- our intent was to extend that invitation to other political parties in Ireland to participate as well.
Q This is for the Friday evening?
MR. MCCURRY: Friday evening. For the reception that the President is hosting in honor of the Irish Prime Minister.
Q High-level security?
Q These are the -- that are apparently saying today that they are coming. You have no concern about putting them and Gerry Adams together in the same room?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a big house. (Laughter.) There will be room for plenty.
Q Will you be serving alcohol? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Could someone go to the Social Office and check on Gene's invitation and see if -- (laughter.)
Q The Republicans are apparently dropping that amendment on allowing states to make their own decisions on Medicaid funded abortions.
MR. MCCURRY: Dropping it or postponing it? Yes, postponing it.
Q Any reaction to that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, score round one to the President. He's been making the case strongly that that is an unwise idea and that that option of choice needs to be preserved for women at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder who might otherwise be cut off under the type of amendment foreseen in the House. But I do note that the sponsor of that amendment has indicated only that he's been promised an opportunity to bring it up at the end of the 100 days.
This is apparently an effort by the Republican majority to take the issue of choice, which they once elevated in the discussion of the first 100 days, to somehow rather minimize that. And I suspect it's because they've provoked quite an angry response from the people of the United States as they attempted to take a very extreme view and codify that as a litmus test for positions they would take on matters related to choice in the first 100 days.
So, as I say, round one goes to the President and his argument against that type of extremism. We'll have to see what happens as they pursue this issue in the second 100 days.
Q On the Conoco oil deal, has the executive order actually gone --
MR. MCCURRY: It's not been signed yet. They were in the final stages of drafting it and we expect it to be done perhaps as early as today, if not tomorrow.
Q And would it be fair to say that this could be an example of a harder line you guys are taking against companies doing business over there or thinking about doing business over there?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, that would be fair.
Q Are there any other executive orders in the works?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I've canvassed to see if there -- I mean, the question is are we pursuing an executive order strategy in some sense. Not that I'm aware. The President has to make judgments on -- case by case on matters where he thinks it may be warranted to use his executive authority to issue executive orders. He's done that on several occasions here, but they're all different types of circumstances. In this case, there was a compelling reason related to national security that gave him -- convinced him that was a step that was warranted.
Q More to the point, though, are there any other companies that you're aware of that the administration is taking a hard look at?
MR. MCCURRY: Related to oil sales or potential oil sales in Iran?
Q Is there any other questionable business ties with Iran?
MR. MCCURRY: We are not aware of specific cases that pose the type of immediate economic danger that the Conoco transaction posed. But we are assessing, as part of our ongoing review steps that we can take to isolate Iran economically, what types of business transactions Iran may be interested in prospectively, and how that might impact on our policy and how we might convince those with whom we have influence both internationally and domestically, how we could seek to convince them to avoid that type of economic relationship which nurtures Iran's ability to fulmine terrorism, to break apart the Middle East peace process, which we've just been talking about with the President earlier today, and to do many of the things that we find so objectionable in the world.
I mean, look no further than the front page of the New York Times today for a very good and interesting account of efforts underway for Iran to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Not a very good idea in our opinion.
Q Mike, isn't it correct that the U.S. is somehow working out a deal with Russia to allow them to build that reactor in Iran if the waste is taken back to Russia?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the question of the provision of whitewater reactor technology by Russia to Iran is something that is deeply embedded in our concerns with the -- Did I drive Rita Braver out of the room? Bye, Rita. See you later.
MR. MCCURRY: That has been sort of an ongoing subject of dialogue between the United States and Russia. It was, in the most recent -- Gore-Chernomyrdin got into the question of the LWR technology. There has been other discussions that have been underway on that involving some of the State Department folks who look at that question. I suspect that issue will be both on the agenda of the Christopher-Kozyrev meeting coming up next week, and then probably on the summit agenda, as well, although, we obviously -- if there's a way of resolving that issue, that would be advantageous from our point of view.
Q What is the nature of tomorrow morning's REGO event?
MR. MCCURRY: Tomorrow morning's REGO event will be an opportunity for the President not only to advance his argument that there is a sane way to go about the job making the United States government leaner and more efficient and a better deal for taxpayers, but that there needs to be sort of an ongoing effort from the top, using the bully pulpit to encourage federal agencies to look at ways they can do a better job of executing their duties. So this will be an opportunity for the President and the Vice President to present a series, the second in a series of regulatory reform proposals. The reforms tomorrow are going to focus on environmental and food and drug safety regulations and there will be a special effort made to sort of reduce the burden of those types of regulations on small businesses.
Q The venue for this?
MR. MCCURRY: He is going to be visiting, I understand, a small business -- a custom print shop over in Arlington -- in Shirlington, right off of I-395.
Q Mike, some women's group held a press conference this morning and several of them said that if President Clinton's worried about the angry white male he hasn't seen anything like angry women if he backtracks on affirmative action. Is their anxiety justified?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe their anxiety is justified. Their concern is obviously justified. They look back to the enormous and positive changes that have occurred in the last generation in our country. And they see those on Capitol Hill that talk about returning to the America of the 1950s, and they say, well, wait a second. You know, women have profited immensely from the structure of law and remedy available in the last generation that have increased their opportunities within the marketplace help them break through career barriers, and, justifiably, they're saying there are a whole lot of people up on Capitol Hill now that seem to want to roll back that type of progress.
Q the administration is reviewing affirmative action and that's what gives them pause not just about the Hill Democrats --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think, go back there right now, John, and ask them what is of greater concern to you -- Newt Gingrich and the Republican majority who would like to roll back affirmative action, do away with it altogether, or the President of the United States who's trying in a sensible way to have a national conversation on this issue that results in good, common sense policies. I suspect you and I both know the answer you'll get on that, right?
Got any takers on that?
Q Is the President still going to the Speaker's lunch tomorrow? And will there be any time tomorrow or Friday where he will be photographed with Mr. Adams?
MR. MCCURRY: He will be going tomorrow to the Speaker's lunch, and I don't know what the arrangements are. We should call up to Blankley and see what they're going to do up there. He's has an event over at the residence, will be handled in the customary way we handle White House receptions of this nature.
Q Is he making any effort, for British sensibilities, not to be photographed with him?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that he's making special efforts, but this is a reception in honor of the Irish Prime Minister on St. Patrick's Day with whom the President will meet that day. And as we customarily do, we put the focus on the President and his counterpart that he is meeting with. We don't necessarily put the spotlight on all the invited guests -- including members of the press.
Q Mike, did the President ever get through to John Major on this subject?
MR. MCCURRY: On this particular subject, he exchanged letters with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, I believe, has indicated, or at least we've heard from them that he's anxious to talk to the President. We expect that they will converse shortly. The President attempted to reach the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, as many of you know, was traveling in the Middle East, and I think they have made at least an informal arrangement to talk when Prime Minister returns.
Q Do you mean on the subject of a photograph or the subject of --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, no, no, no. They've exchanged views in writing on the peace process in a very amicable exchange of letters, a friendly, warm and special relationship kind of exchange of letters, and exchanged views in a way that makes clear that both are very determined to advance the peace process in Northern Ireland. And both are determined to do what they can subject to maybe at times a different perspective on what are the right tactics, but at least an agreement on what the ultimate objective should be.
Q Any chance you'd like to release a copy of the President's warm and friendly letter?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm inclined to say yes, but these guys, you know, you can see the propeller-heads in the foreign policy community saying no.
Q When was the letter sent?
MR. MCCURRY: It was sent yesterday. Day before yesterday. Monday. Monday. Too-de-loo.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:37 P.M. EST