THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:40 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: I've got a couple of things that we have got coming out today. I think right about now, Jamie Gorelick is briefing over at Justice on the security review issues that we've talked about from time to time here. And the President has signed an Executive Order. We're putting it out now just in advance of her briefing, implementing several of the recommendations that come as a result of that review. So, be on the lookout for that.
Q Can you sum them up for us?
Q Building security.
MR. MCCURRY: I can if I can find them. This was the title of the study: "Vulnerability Assessment in Federal Facilities." The President is very concerned about ensuring that we have adequate security at federal facilities, not only for federal employees who work there but for those who come in and transact business with the federal government.
Obviously, in the wake of Oklahoma City, we know that there's a great deal that can be done, and we've looked extensively at what are the minimum requirements for a variety of facilities to assure us that American citizens, when they are working with their government or working for their government, will have the kind of protection they need.
So, the President's got five different directives to sort of instruct the GSA to take a look at what minimum standards should be. The Justice Department's done a pretty good job of defining that -- what kind of upgrades are going to be necessary to meet those minimum requirements, and, more importantly, what type of new risks and what type of threat exists in light of the changes that we've seen taking place in the world as a result of the threat of international terrorism. So, be on the lookout for that.
Q How much?
MR. MCCURRY: The cost estimates will be briefed by the Deputy Attorney General. I believe that they're estimated in the range just under $1 billion, but that we believe we can handle that in the course of appropriations as they come through the next several fiscal years, using funds that are devoted and already appropriated for building maintenance and upgrades.
Q Well, will there be a big difference in getting into the White House and every other building?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the White House is different because there's a security that's secured separately on the facility here as you know. But there may be some changes that the American citizens encounter at various federal office buildings around the country, and those will be designed to protect the American people. And I'm sure that people will be able to deal with -- there may be inconvenience at some point, but it's all in the interest of keeping people a lot safer.
Q Mike, is there any progress or is there not any progress on a rescissions deal?
MR. MCCURRY: There is progress in the sense that there are good discussions that are underway. The Chief of Staff, I asked him just before he came out, I said, are you making any progress up there and he said, yes, the heavy breathing continues. So, as some of you may know, the Chief of Staff met with Chairman Livingston and Chairman Hatfield this morning. They are exchanging some pretty precise formulas now on how they might achieve both reductions in spending and address some of the concerns that the President had on issues ranging from timber salvage to some of the specific funding requirements the President had in areas like education and training.
Q Where were these meetings?
MR. MCCURRY: The Chief of Staff was on the Hill meeting with the two Chairs.
Q Any reaction to the sentencing-- from the President of the sentencing of Webb Hubbell?
MR. MCCURRY: I think, if I'm not mistaken, we've got a statement that is ready to be out that will be from Mark Fabiani -- as, obviously, the President and the First Lady look forward to the day when Mr. Hubbell will rejoin his family and his community. Webb Hubbell has given much to his family, the state and his country. He's assumed full responsibility for his mistakes, and he's accepted the consequences of his actions.
Q Does the President think the sentence was too harsh? Hubbell had asked for less.
MR. MCCURRY: They didn't have any comment on that.
Q Mike, can you explain why someone who took a presidential helicopter on a golf outing is put on a $3,000 a month retainer?
MR. MCCURRY: I cannot. You should direct that question to Lynn Utrecht who will be happy to help you out on that.
MR. MCCURRY: Lynn Utrecht, who is the counsel for the DNC, right?
MS. TERZANO: Clinton-Gore.
MR. MCCURRY: The counsel of the Clinton-Gore committee and who's familiar with that retainer.
Q As a follow-up to -- question, does the White House think it's appropriate?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that the arrangement by which he provided services for his specific expertise which dealt with his knowledge of contracts and business that occurred during the transition was helpful and was warranted the retainer he was paid.
Q Did the White House Counsel's Office approve of this retainer and this agreement before --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check. I don't know.
Q Is he still on this retainer?
Q Mike, on the trade deal, the President said this was going to mean more American jobs. Do you folks have a ballpark estimate as to how many more over the next three or five years as a result of this deal?
MR. MCCURRY: I've heard some floating around today, but I believe at -- Ambassador Kantor and Minister Hashimoto just finished the press conference a short while ago that they had in Geneva, and there are some of our experts who have been more closely associated with the details of the negotiating, are doing some briefing right now on that subject. So let's watch the reports you're getting from your colleagues.
If I get specific information, I think in coming days we'll be in a better position to measure macroeconomic impact and job impact as we see how the details of this agreement work through.
Q Was this entirely one-sided blinking on Japan's part, or do you acknowledge that some compromising concessions were made on our part?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll be careful about my demeanor here, but I think you could tell from the reaction to the President, from the reaction of Ambassador Kantor, and from others here, that we're very happy with the agreement. I don't want to go too far beyond that in suggesting one side won or the other side lost. I think, as the President said, we clearly believe that the American people, the American working family, so many workers in the auto and auto parts sector, are real winners here; but so are Japanese consumers, who will benefit from lower prices and higher quality American goods that will now be more accessible in their markets.
Q Mike, again on trade, Senator Bradley is proposing to launch this Clinton trade -- focus on the competition policy. How interested are you to pick it up?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again -- who's launching that?
Q Senator Bradley.
MR. MCCURRY: Senator Bradley? Well, Senator Bradley had some strong views on the subject of our trade negotiations with Japan and has stated them in some of the articles he's written in recent days. I think it's fair to him to allow him to have a chance to assess the results we've been able to achieve in Geneva, and we'll be interested in what his reaction is. Presumably, based on what he's written in the past, he will welcome this agreement.
Q No, my question was, are you interested in picking his idea up to launch a new trade talk round -- Clinton round --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, you mean -- a WTO round that is --
Q No, no, no -- it is going beyond the WTO, because WTO isn't --
MR. MCCURRY: I've read his description of his idea, but I have not checked here with people who can -- who may be interested in pursuing that. I'll have to check and come back to the question tomorrow.
Q Why didn't the U.S. demand numerical targets in this agreement? And what sort of enforcement mechanism is there?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the enforcement -- look, this -- we've achieved a number of things that match what our goals were in going into this type of discussion. On numerical targets, you're using phrase; as you know, that's one that the Japanese have some very specific concerns about.
What we are interested in were specific commitments in these three areas that would lead to measurable progress, measurable progress with clearly defined objective criteria that says how are you going to satisfy your own expectations, what type of projections do you look at over time, how will we be satisfied that we are gaining access to markets? And on this agreement, more so than any agreement that we've ever had with the Japanese in the auto sector, we have got some very specific commitments. And in the area of both dealerships and in the aftermarket, this agreement goes well beyond any of the voluntary agreements that have been reached in the past.
Now, the enforcement mechanism is, in some sense, the same one that always exists. This agreement is not enforceable under our trade law; Ambassador Kantor has made that clear, because these are voluntary agreements that come out of the Japanese private sector. On the other hand, we now have some objective criteria with which we can measure this trade relationship and, if, over time, we see that there is some underlying problem that is continuing to deny access to our markets, U.S. trade law is still applicable.
Q Mike, this is a voluntary agreement, though, right? I mean, the Japanese government's not signing anything that guarantees that they will buy --
MR. MCCURRY: This is the -- the statements and the announcements coming out of Tokyo even now from the five companies, are voluntarily put forward by them. And as Ambassador Kantor made clear, there is no government-to-government agreement suggesting that those are enforceable under U.S. trade law.
Q Mike, what's make you confident you're not going to do this again next year, or the year after that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean, because we -- for a number of reasons. We have the most detailed, comprehensive agreement we've ever had in this sector with the Japanese, and we have got some very specific criteria that exists over time with which we can measure the progress we're making. As I say, if we are not making that progress over time, then we go back, and our law -- and look at what the underlying problem might be, and we can then act accordingly according to the U.S. trade law.
Q Mike, to sort of follow on that, the President talked about there's still much more to be done in the trade area. And he was taking credit for the sanctions, forcing the Japanese to negotiate seriously. Is this the kind of brinkmanship that we're going to have to play from now on with them -- if you can't get voluntary agreements, they had best be prepared for a lot more sanction threats?
MR. MCCURRY: No, you know, by no means. We have 15 different agreements that we've been able to reach under the framework with the Japanese, and to my recollection, none of them have required this type of 11th-hour bargaining. On the other hand, we were not dealing with a sector as critical as the auto/auto parts sector and this has been historically the source of the greatest friction within our trade relationship. So the fact that we've made this progress now here should be encouraging, but we'll have to see. We've got financial services discussions with the Japanese that come up, I think, very shortly and we'll have to see how this climate, the climate of these negotiations, affects other areas.
But I would point to the success we've had in the agreements we've reached with the Japanese to suggest that negotiation still is preferable to the imposition of sanctions.
Q Mike, the administration indicated repeatedly that enforceable and numerically measurable targets were an indispensable element of our negotiating position. Does that mean that we will continue to seek that in future discussions with the Japanese, since we did not get that here?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, what we've got here is objective criteria that gives us a basis to measure the progress that we expect. And we have some very specific expectations as they've been outlined by both the President and by Ambassador Kantor that we will know whether we are meeting the results that we expect based on this agreement by the number of dealerships, by the type of access we have.
But we also have specific commitments from the Japanese to do things in their markets, specifically with respect to deregulating the aftermarket. And those are things that you know for a fact have either happened or they haven't happened. And that is the kind of agreement that we will look for not only in other sectors, but that we'll look for across the board. We're interested in opening markets, and it's pretty easy to tell usually whether those markets have been opened or not.
Q So would it be fair to say that if we're able to negotiate in the future private sector voluntary agreements that do include some element of, even if not government enforceable, numerical criteria that will be satisfactory to this administration? It's not just a model?
MR. MCCURRY: No, that goes too far. That stretches the principle too far because it changes from sector to sector. There's different history of what the competitive practices have been sector by sector -- what happens in financial services and what happens in the film, the photographic film sector might be different than some of the experiences that U.S. manufacturers have had in auto and auto parts.
So, I think you have to look at what specific sector of the economy you're talking about -- what the historic practice has been, what the nature of the competitive practices or the restrictive practices have been. And that's, indeed, what we've done under the framework as we've worked through each of the 15 agreements that we've reached.
Q Which side advanced the ideas that became the core of this agreement?
MR. MCCURRY: On Monday night -- this is the story that Mickey will tell; it involves a lot of contact that he had back through with the President over the last 48 hours, I guess, since Monday night. Ambassador Kantor was in close contact with Sandy Berger. Berger was providing briefings regularly to Leon Panetta and to Dr. Tyson who were with the President out on the West Coast. And the President was sending instructions back to Ambassador Kantor, I would say, pretty close to hourly. They were getting updates as the two sides met back and forth, a little more -- I'm doing a tick-tock on this. It was 8:00 p.m. last night when Ambassador Kantor called in with the news that he thought they were 80 percent of the way there.
Q West Coast time?
MR. MCCURRY: These were all East Coast times -- 8:00 p.m. last night here in Washington when he called in -- that would have been in the very wee hours of the morning in Geneva. And then they started again, as you know, in Geneva very early this morning about 5:00 a.m. our time here. Ambassador Kantor called in at about 6:30 a.m., said that there were a couple of final points that needed to be determined but we're close, he said. These are discussions he had with Sandy Berger and Berger then related to others here on the staff.
At 8:00 a.m., Ambassador Kantor called in and said we're dotting the i's and crossing the t's but we're essentially done. And then at 8:30 a.m., Ambassador Kantor got on a conference call with members of the National Economic Council, including Secretary Christopher, Secretary Rubin, Dr. Tyson, some of the other staff members of the NEC -- Secretary Brown had good contact, because one of his chief negotiators was actually participating out in Geneva. But at 8:30 a.m., based on Ambassador Kantor's briefing, those members of the Cabinet made a unanimous recommendation that the President ought to accept the agreement.
At 9:00 a.m., Sandy Berger was doing some additional briefings for others in our government. They went over to see the President about 11:25 a.m. this morning, gave him a thorough briefing on the details of the agreement. The President then had about a 10-minute call with Ambassador Kantor from Geneva so he could get more details, but he started the conversation by saying, hey Mick, congratulations; it sounds like you did great. They talked for about 10 minutes, the President asked some very specific questions. The President also asked what the likely response would be from the auto workers, from the auto parts sector, the auto industry generally, and we believe that they are going to be supportive of the agreement, that they will each be issuing their own statements.
Around 11:45 a.m., the President said, based on the briefing, he thought it was a deal that ought to be accepted.
Q When did the breakthrough that got them on the way to this deal occur? I mean, when did this -- they seemed to be going nowhere. Something happened. What happened, and when?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, Monday night, Ambassador Kantor reported back that there were real substantial gaps, but his assessment was that Minister Hashimoto was in Geneva to bargain seriously, and that it might be possible to get an agreement.
There were, during the day on Tuesday, unresolved issues throughout the discussions, but I think Ambassador Kantor still believed that it was going to be possible to achieve an agreement, and I think it was really late in the day yesterday, going into Washington time, probably between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. when the negotiations really took on a dynamic that looked like they were going to reach the agreement that they reached.
Q Did somebody put the core of this on the table finally, and that's what broke -- normally, that's what happens?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, there were ideas exchanged on both sides, and to get the exact sequence, you need to rely on your colleagues who are going to get a more detailed readout from Ambassador Kantor and his team in Geneva. But I think it's safe to say that the elements of this agreement were foreshadowed in some of the comments you saw coming out of Geneva and here in Washington and even Tokyo prior to this latest round, but it was pretty clear how the elements would come together once they did.
Q Mike, does this change the landscape at all for avoiding a similar confrontation over Kodak and over at the airlines?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's kind of a similar question that we had earlier. I don't want to predict how this will affect the climate, but as I say, we have reached agreements in 15 areas, now a 16th, and we will have to see whether that creates a climate in which progress can be made in some of the other sectors that we're examining. Each one has its own chemistry and has its own underlying issues. You have to take them almost dispute by dispute. But, certainly, we've demonstrated now that there is a willingness on the part of both sides to negotiate and try to reach agreements in good faith.
Q How close are you to a decision on whether to intervene on the film case?
MR. MCCURRY: I want to refer that to USTR. I think that they need to look at that.
Q Mike, in Halifax, both leaders instructed or pledged to redouble their efforts. Was there any kind of signal in Halifax that we didn't know at the time that there was some give on the Japanese part?
MR. MCCURRY: No. Most of what you saw in Halifax was, in fact, the tone that was adopted privately in the discussions that were held between the President and Prime Minister and between Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Kono. Ambassador Kantor did have some meetings while they were in Halifax; he did not negotiate directly with Minister Hashimoto while they were in Halifax. There was a sense that, with clear political direction from both sides, the negotiators would redouble efforts to reach an agreement. That is, indeed, what happened, and it required a lot of, as Ambassador Kantor has described, some very hard bargaining in the final end.
Q But in the next step, Mike -- the next step, there were staff negotiators below the level of Kantor. Did they make the breakthrough progress --
MR. MCCURRY: No, what they did was really clarify the underlying technical issues -- what were we going to be looking at in terms of some of the comprehensive, concrete and measurable details that we were looking for. Those were the concerns on our side. On the Japanese side they had similar, mostly technical issues that needed to be clarified, but that set the stage for -- it was clear there was no breakthrough and there were, indeed, some obstacles to an agreement at that level and it set the stage for the higher level talks between Ambassador Kantor and Minister Hashimoto.
Q New subject.
Q I've got another one on trade. There seems to be something unreal about labeling these agreements voluntary when you've just gone through the tick-tock of these intensive negotiations with the Japanese Minister of Trade. Was he simply fronting for the five companies? Is there no nexus between the Japanese government and the so-called voluntary agreements of these five?
MR. MCCURRY: The structure and the functioning of, you know, the Japanese economy particularly in this sector is one that Ambassador Kantor has addressed. The impact that the government can have on specific decisions growing out of the private sector is well-documented in Japan.
The fact that MITI has taken on some very specific obligations under these agreements to send directive to the private sector is an important feature of the agreement.
Q The President, when he was out here, referred to Japanese plans to increase auto production in the United States as part of this agreement. But I've read reporting that says that the Japanese have let it be widely known for some time that they plan to do that in any event. Why was that included as part of this agreement?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it fits with the structure of what is underway. It fits with the structure of the overall agreement and it does represent important commitments that are coming out of the private sector. A lot of this hinges on obligations that the private sector is announcing.
Q But this was not something that Kantor negotiated?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I mean these were reflected in the conversations that they had. I mean, in a sense, it became part of the climate in which you could look at the overall package that was negotiated by the two sides.
We need to move on to another subject. Maybe take just one more on this.
Q There's no reference to Prime Minister Murayama. Did he have any role in this, or you guys written him off? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No, the President very clearly paid tribute to the government of Prime Minister Murayama, and I'm certain that their government will react accordingly to the news that has come from Geneva.
Q The Justice Department today issued this 40 pages of guidelines on affirmative action programs. Could you explain how there are these new strict standards for analyzing government affirmative action fits into what Clinton doing? Is this now irrelevant?
MR. MCCURRY: The memorandum that the General Counsel, the Assistant Attorney General has sent around is specific, legal guidance based on the Supreme Court's decision that the Assistant Attorney General has sent around is specific, legal guidance based on the Supreme Court's decision in Adarand that points to the standards that will exist for federal affirmative action efforts as a result of the Court's holding.
There are other aspects of the review that the President has undertaken that are important and that, certainly, this becomes a part of, but is not necessarily solely restricted to this. The President has asked --
Q How will these --
MR. MCCURRY: The President has asked for some very specific evaluations of how federal affirmative action programs have worked; what, according to those who administer these programs are some of the underlying difficulties with these when they have not been able to achieve the type of results that are foreseen; what are the problems; and then how can they be fixed? Now some of those are just the question of good, efficient management of government programs that don't necessarily relate to legal standards that are set forth in Adarand.
So some of this is, how do you improve the effectiveness; how do you correct any problems that exist in existing programs; and, then, how do you, as you deal with a number of things, including the legal criteria that is set forth specifically in the evaluation of Adarand, how do you begin to fine-tune and tailor these programs so that they can get the job done?
This is an important -- Assistant Attorney General Dellinger's guidance to the counsels of the various departments and the agencies is an important part of the work that this administration, this White House is doing on affirmative action, to be sure.
But the President is going to set forth both the policy directives that go beyond this and go to the question of how you fine-tune these programs in the future. And he's going to do that, I would suggest, rather soon.
Q Is the President going to accept the military base-closing commission's report?
MR. MCCURRY: He will -- as we've said several times before now, he will rely on the recommendations and the discussion he has with the Secretary of Defense on that subject. And the Department of Defense has made clear that they continue to evaluate the costs, the overall effect on military operations, and the long-term cumulative effect of some of these decisions on military readiness as they make the evaluation decisions that have been taken so far by the commission.
Q Is he getting outside advice besides the Pentagon since a lot of the Pentagon figures are seriously disputed by the base closing commission?
MR. MCCURRY: Is he getting -- say again? Are they getting --
Q -- any kind of independent advice on this because the Pentagon made the case that the base closing commission did not accept, said that many of the Pentagon figures were inaccurate. I mean, is he just listening to Perry on this or has he got somebody else who will look at the figures --
MR. MCCURRY: The Pentagon -- if I understand correctly, I think that they've added nine bases for closure that were not recommended by the Pentagon and they've recommended 15 bases for -- to stay open that were not -- that had been recommended for closure by the Pentagon. That clearly reflects a different analysis of what the facts were.
The Pentagon now has to go back and look at what the impact of these decisions by the commission have been. But they have had exhaustive studies done on what the microeconomic impact is community by community of these decisions. That is part of what fed into the Pentagon's initial recommendations and it went into the evaluation of the decisions that were made by the commission itself.
So I think -- I'm not so certain that there's a dispute about what the impact of some of the decisions are. It has to be looked at carefully and fit with the whole picture of what cost savings are going to generate as you mix and match different installations that you're closing or keeping open.
Q What is the White House reaction to the latest Unabomber threat?
MR. MCCURRY: I mean, I don't know that we have a specific reaction. We are obviously aware of the steps that they are taking. The FAA has indicated what security measures are now in effect in California specifically to deal with the threat, and I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment about any particular law enforcement effort that might be underway.
Q Has the President said anything, expressed any concern?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he is aware of it, he is aware of the steps that have been taken, have been taken by the appropriate federal agencies, and he certainly is encouraging members of his law enforcement team to do everything possible to apprehend the unknown bomber.
Q Mike, back on Watson. This administration said over and over again it wants the highest ethical standards. Are you at all concerned about the public perception when someone is required to repay a cost and then miraculously gets a job that pays him more than twice what he was required to pay? Does that strike you as a problem?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q What do you mean, no?
Q Two questions on affirmative action --
MR. MCCURRY: -- I don't -- Helen, is the question, is there some ethical problem that is suggested in this particular instance? No.
Q You're not -- you're concerned how it looks to people to see this guy who's --
MR. MCCURRY: This guy has been compensated for services that he rendered in which he had particular expertise. This is a guy who knew what the administrative contracts were, he knew who the vendors were, he made it more possible for the Clinton-Gore Committee to fully comply with federal election law. And he was compensated for those services. That's the only issue here.
Q But Mike, isn't there also a timing concern in the sense that he got this consulting job miraculously after he got fired from the White House job?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar enough with the timing to know the answer to that.
Q Mike, two questions on affirmative action. You said "rather soon" in terms of the timing.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q White House officials have been saying "soon" for a long time. Can you define that a little?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we mean it now. (Laughter.)
Q The second one is this: The Republicans on the Hill seem to be indicating that they are going to take a slower approach and they may not be dealing with the issue until next year. Is that appropriate in the White House's opinion that the legislative remedy should be pushed off until next year.
Q Is that appropriate in the White House's opinion that the legislative remedy should be pushed off until next year?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure I follow the question.
Q Republicans on the Hill are saying that they will wait until next year before they really begin to get into any reform of affirmative action. Does that timeline fit with what you're thinking?
MR. MCCURRY: Their timeline will have to be of their own choosing, but they will no doubt be so sufficiently impressed with the work the President has done on affirmative action that they might want to change some of their plans to restructure, remedy federal affirmative action programs once they see the commitment of the President to the programs and to making sure that they work in the best interests of equal opportunity and justice; once they're satisfied that we have responded to the directive of the Supreme Court in Adarand. It might be entirely be possible that Republicans will put on hold any effort to abolish affirmative action.
Now, based on the very strong statements that some of them have made where they clearly want to just abolish every effort that exists currently to try to break down the barriers that exist in this society, you would have to wonder whether they will put things on hold. But, certainly, putting things on hold until next year gives them a chance to really evaluate the progress that the President is making to improve programs and we hope that they will make their calculations accordingly.
Q Was the President at the start of this meeting with Democratic leaders?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe so, no.
Q With the President on the road tomorrow and Friday, are you saying affirmative action is still possible this week?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I would say more likely July sort of by the end of the month.
Q You're taking care of everything.
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q Why do you have to act?
MR. MCCURRY: Why do we have to act on what?
Q On affirmative action. What is the big pressure to --
MR. MCCURRY: You've got a number of reasons. Among them, as set forth in the Justice memo, you've got some serious need to look at these programs now and to comply with the law of the land as interpreted by the Supreme Court.
Q On the trade thing, just to clarify. Because of the way this is structured you don't need to go to Congress for anything on this?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll double-check that, but I'm not aware of any reason we need to submit any of this.
Q Did anything happen on American Express --
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I know of, Julie.
Q -- Federal Express --
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I know of.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:15 P.M. EDT #81-06/28