THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:00 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Let me start with a couple of housekeeping items, and then I've got a statement from the President on Bosnia that will trigger some questions you might have.
The Vice President is going to address a conference on global climate change and human health on Monday. This will be this coming Monday, September 11, at the National Academy of Sciences. His keynote speech is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. And I wanted to put a highlight on it; it's a very important conference. It's going to get into the whole question of global climate change, what we know about the science of the questions related to global climate change, which is a very important point, and some of the disputes about how we address the problem. I think the Vice President is going to have some thoughtful remarks on that -- 4:00 p.m. Monday.
Q In Washington?
MR. MCCURRY: Here in Washington -- National Academy of Sciences Auditorium, 2100 C Street, N.W.
Second, to follow up on our Pennsylvania Avenue discussion of yesterday I wanted to report on the progress of the Parks Department of the reconfiguration of Pennsylvania Avenue. They had originally a deadline of September. They asked for more time. I was not aware of this yesterday -- they asked if they could have until at least early November to work through some of the issues various architects, historians and others have been raising as they look at the question of how best to configure the front of the White House and Pennsylvania Avenue for the best advantage of the American people, who will have greater accessibility to the front of the White House as a result of some of the changes they want to make. The President wants this job done right. He was more than happy to give them the extra time.
And in the meantime, they are starting to do some short-term things that improve the area out there. They've painted over some of the stripes in the road; they've taken down some street signs and things like that that are actually helping to improve the appearance of the area.
Now, on some of the security issues raised yesterday, I did check into what was the reason for closing down Pennsylvania Avenue. I am told that they do that on a regular basis when foreign leaders are staying at Blair House and they have an imminent movement involving that foreign leader. They try not to make it overly disruptive. I said, on behalf of the press corps, that there had been some concern expressed, and I was told by some of our security folks they'd be happy to look into it and make sure there's no unnecessary delay, for those of you who may have been detained yesterday.
Q Are they going to wipe out all of the traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they've already done -- they've already closed --
Q Some cars come through.
MR. MCCURRY: They have people -- from time to time, we allow people, congressional members and others who have appointments with the President to use that, and of course, foreign motorcades with foreign leaders who are coming to use either the West Lobby entrance or the official state entrance will most likely continue to have motorcade access. But those are the kinds of questions that, of course, they will examine.
Q Mike, is one of the questions they're examining turning the area in front of Blair House into a parking lot, as it's been used for lately?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard of any claims of turning it into a parking lot. It might make it more accessible, but not necessarily more attractive. I think there's a balance in the goals that they will examine.
All right. I just wanted to report to you on a briefing the President has just received on the very successful meeting today in Geneva of the foreign ministers of Bosnia, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The President some time ago, as you know, developed a new American initiative which has been put before the partners that we have in Europe and the Russian Federation as we continue to try to move the diplomacy on Bosnia forward. And today we have reached what the President calls, in a statement we will issue very shortly, "an important milestone on the road to peace in the former Yugoslavia."
The President is very satisfied with the progress that Ambassador Holbrooke and his foreign interlocutors made today. He notes in the statement that, as a result of the intensive mediation by Ambassador Holbrooke and his team supported by our Contact Group partners in the European Union and Russia, the three foreign ministers who met today have endorsed a set of agreed basic principles that will serve as the framework for political settlement to the conflict in Bosnia. They also agreed that on the question of Eastern Slavonia. They will work actively towards a peaceful solution. That, of course, is encouraging news as well.
You have seen some reports now coming from Geneva, so I won't go through all the elements of the agreed basic principles, but several things are very important to note about them, and these are reflected in the President's statement as well. The principles commit all three governments to support a settlement consistent with the goals that we have long sought in Bosnia and those include, most importantly, for the first time, an agreement that Bosnia-Hercegovina will continue as single state within its present borders and with continuing international recognition.
Consistent with the Contact Group plan, under the terms of the settlement, all three agree that Bosnia-Hercegovina will consist of two entities -- the federation established last year under the Washington agreements that created a federation between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, and then also a new Serb republic. The 51-49 percent parameters of the Contact Group's territorial proposal will be the basis for a settlement subject to an adjustment that the parties make by mutual agreement, an objective that had long been sought by President Clinton.
The two entities will also have the right to establish relationships with neighboring states, but those must be consistent with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia-Hercegovina. They have also pledged to adhere to international human rights standards, to ensure freedom of movement and the right of displaced persons to return to their homes and to collaborate on joint economic projects that will be key to the future of Bosnia-Hercegovina that will include transportation links and communication among all of the people of Bosnia. These are important principles around which we can now move toward intensive negotiations for a full peace agreement, the President says.
The President also, obviously, congratulates all those on his team who have carried forward his initiative, including Secretary of State Christopher, National Security Advisor Lake, Ambassador Holbrooke, and, of course, those representatives of the foreign governments who met today in Geneva and who put forward this impressive achievement, but by no means final achievement.
There's a lot of hard work now that lies ahead. The President is instructing his foreign policy team to press forward with the elements of his initiative that were addressed today in Geneva. And he hopes for a satisfactory conclusion of a final peace settlement that is based upon the principles agreed to today in Geneva.
Q Does the President think that if he had pushed two years ago that this could have come about, instead of backing off and letting the European powers just say no and --
MR. MCCURRY: Hindsight is always 20/20. When the United States put forward a preferred alternative in May of 1993, there was not a climate in which the European allies that are so central to our work together on this issue, found at that moment that they could accept. I think the climate has changed significantly over the last two years, but more importantly, the United States, by stepping forward at this point and offering the President's initiative has been able to positively bring together not only the European Union, the Russian Federation, others who are now working together with the Contact Group, but more importantly, bring together the representatives of the three governments --
Q Do you think the bombing did it?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I believe that he believes a combination of patient diplomacy and patient diplomacy married with a commitment when necessary to apply force has been the significant change in the equation here. But this war has also gone on for a long time. The parties themselves have exhausted resources; they've seen the lives of their people lost; they've seen innocent civilians slaughtered. And at any point in any conflict, parties sometimes agree that enough is enough.
Q Why, in light of the perceived consequence of this step and the satisfaction the President feels that it reflects well upon the efforts of his administration in what has been a very difficult area, is the President not making this statement himself?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I just talked to the President on that question, and he agrees that we need to emphasize that at this point we've, in a sense, reached the first step of a process that we hope will lead to a peace settlement. There is a lot of hard work ahead. And the President believes Secretary Christopher, who will address this in a moment, Ambassador Holbrooke, who has already spoken on his behalf, are making forward progress towards the destination that he has helped define through the work that he's done on the issue of Bosnia in recent weeks. And there will be plenty of time at some point for the President to step forward and to explain to the American people where we are in reaching a peace settlement. But in a sense, this is a first step, a good first step, and one that the President feels will be properly noted both in Geneva and then later on today at the State Department.
Q Does this mean the bombing is now going to stop?
MR. MCCURRY: The U.S. and NATO air campaign that has been underway has been undertaken in support of three conditions that have been very clearly established to the Bosnian Serbs by the United Nations. Those conditions have not been met -- that is, the air campaign is in connection with those three conditions, and we continue to expect that the Bosnian Serb leadership will understand that that conditions must be met for the air campaign to be suspended.
Q Mike, isn't there a large element of fiction in this agreement today to say that you're going to preserve the overall territorial integrity of Bosnia Hercegovina at the same time you're partitioning the country into at least two, if not three, states? For instance, if this agreement were to gel, who would ambassadors be accredited to?
MR. MCCURRY: You've used a word that's not a correct word to use in connection with this agreement today. That's the word, "partition." A partition would be dismembering a unitary state and dividing the entities among other nation states. That is very specifically what the parties have agreed not to do. They've agreed to honor the territorial integrity of Bosnia Hercegovina within a defined international boundary. They will allow certain rights of affiliation. But remember those have been acknowledged for some time, even back to December of 1994 when the Contact Group agreed that the goal of diplomacy ought to be in support of parallel relationships that might exist similar to the 1994 Washington Agreement in which the Croats and the Muslims together formed a federation and then were allowed to confederate with the government of Croatia.
Now, at that time, when we put together that Washington agreement I don't recall anyone suggesting that that represented partition. It was a form of constitutional affiliation with the government of Croatia. And to date, they've said that there will be some discussion of how that type of relationship might develop with the former Yugoslav Republic at some future date. Now, that is something that will be mutually agreed to by the parties, but it is premised on the fact that there is a territorial boundary of Bosnia Hercegovina that will be honored by the parties and recognized by the international community. And that is manifestly not a partition.
Q -- for this overall entity if, in fact -- you don't like to use the word partition -- you divide the effective political control of that territory into at least two pieces? Are the ambassadors going to be accredited to Sarajevo or to Pale?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, those are the specific types of questions that the negotiators will now addressed based on the principles that have been established today. The important principle is the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Hercegovina and then how the leadership structure takes place that governs that nation state will be one of the subjects that the negotiators will now address.
Q Holbrooke may have talked about this, but have Mladic and the Serb military group agree to this as well? Because they haven't always gone along with what the political leaders --
MR. MCCURRY: I have not seen any public reaction from either General Mladic or from Karadzic at this point. The Bosnian Serbs were represented today at the meeting today in Geneva. They have agreed to a formula for representation in the negotiations that has been put forward by President Milosevic. And they will have to speak to the elements of this agreement. But they were certainly there and present, and supportive of the position taken in the negotiations today by the Foreign Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic.
Q So you're just waiting to hear what they say publicly? Because, I mean, that's the key at this point, right?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they will have to speak for themselves, sure.
Q How supportive are the Russians? I know Mr. Yeltsin has had a lot of problems with the policies there. How supportive are the Russians of this agreement?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have been very supportive of the Contact Group process, very instrumental in helping bring together the discussions that have made forward progress on the diplomacy. I think it's significant that, as Assistant Secretary Holbrooke has indicated, that he will be returning back to the region next week for follow-up discussions. Deputy Administrator Igor Ivanou of Russia will be going to Belgrade tomorrow indicating the Russian Federation's very active role in these discussions. And I believe in the near future there are some additional plans for meetings in Moscow to pursue the negotiations connected with these agreed basic principles.
Q Anything agreed upon in terms of the indictments of Mladic and Karadzic? And the second question: What it is going to take from here on out to change the status of sanctions on Serbia proper?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, on the first point, I'm not aware of any discussion in connection with the Geneva meetings today. On the second point regarding sanctions relief for Serbia, for the former Yugoslav Republic, as subject -- that is part of the discussions that would be pursued. And I really don't want to get into that.
Q The Russians have demanded that NATO stop the bombing around Sarajevo, the air strikes. What's your reaction to that, and is there any indication they would withdraw that --
MR. MCCURRY: NATO has undertaken these air strikes at the urging of the United Nations. The United Nations has set forth the conditions that must be met by the Bosnian Serbs in order for the air strikes to be suspended. And I think it's up to the U.N. and NATO authorities to indicate what the plans for the future of the air campaign would be.
Q Yeltsin also indicated that -- he implied that Russia would be willing to provide some kind of military assistance to the Serbs, saying that Russia was ready to provide more than humanitarian aid to the Serbs while they are being bombed. What is the White House reaction to that, and has the U.S. sought any clarification of Yeltsin's remarks?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not certain that I know what that statement means, but we will be in a position as we continue to work with the Russian Federation to advance the diplomatic approach agreed to today to stress the possibility of a peaceful outcome of this conflict as opposed to a military outcome.
Q How seriously does the White House take Yeltsin's opposition to --
MR. MCCURRY: We took very clear notice of the remarks of President Yeltsin. We will discuss them further in follow-up conversations with the Russian Federation, but we are simultaneously encouraged that on the diplomatic avenue we continue to be very engaged with the Russian Federation as we pursue the types of discussions we saw today in Geneva.
Q Mike, leaving aside whatever words you want to, the thrust of this agreement is that 49 percent of the territory of a internationally-recognized state is going to be turned over to another republic. Why doesn't this agreement suggest to people who are in the same position as the Serbs were at the start of this conflict that aggression pays off and that if you continue a civil war long enough, you will be rewarded?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, to begin with, for the simple proposition that the Bosnian Serbs, as a result of the agreements reached today in Geneva under this framework would be required to give up territory that they had gained through aggression. That is, the clearest indication that they would have to give up some of their conquests based on the results of the conflict.
But, secondly, and a larger point, there is a clear difference between attaining and acquiring that territory and then governing it as a nation state and working through the arrangements that recognize the international boundary and the territorial integrity of the nation state as established today.
Q Are you convinced that Belgrade had the right to sign for the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have the representations of President Milosevic, the statements of various Bosnian Serb leadership that don't conflict with the representations of President Milosevic as to the representation at the negotiations.
Q Did the President speak to Holbrooke today?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. He's talked with the Vice President. I believe he plans to talk to Secretary Christopher further. He has, of course, had briefings with the National Security and the Deputy National Security Advisor.
Q Were there any new instructions from the President to Holbrooke as to the next steps?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has been very actively engaged in the work that is behind some of the outcome of the meeting today in Geneva, and he has, as we've gone along here, contributed suggestions to our negotiating team, has done so mostly through the National Security Advisor, but has been, in a sense, monitoring the developments and then making suggestions on how to fine-tune some of the presentations and, as necessary, although this hasn't occurred recently, stepped in to make contact with some of his foreign counterparts when necessary, although that hasn't happened in recent days because things have gone relatively well.
Q Did the briefing for the President include any estimate of how much time it would take to complete an actual agreement based on the framework worked out today?
MR. MCCURRY: It did not, although we understand from the schedule we are looking forward now to a very intense period of negotiations that will clearly last for the next several weeks. It's impossible to predict at this point how long the negotiations might last, but Assistant Secretary Holbrooke has indicated that he will try to keep momentum moving forward.
Q Did those take place in Geneva?
MR. MCCURRY: They will take place in Geneva, Belgrade, and then, as I indicated earlier, likely Moscow, and some other possibilities as well.
Q Those are Contact Group meetings?
MR. MCCURRY: Those are Contact Group meetings.
Sandy Vershbow is here, too, who has been following this. Do you want to add anything to what I've said so far?
MR. VERSHBOW: Dick Holbrooke and his team are coming back, actually, tonight and they'll meet with the President on Monday. And we will all be consulting on the next steps in this process. Then he'll launch again mid-week for a Contact Group meeting towards the end of the week, and then he'll go back to the region for another round of very active shuttle diplomacy where we'll be tackling both translating these constitutional principles into a full-fledged agreement and tackling the territorial issues which, of course, are still out there, with the 49-51 parameter as the starting point.
Q What time on Monday?
MR. VERSHBOW: I don't know. Sometime in the morning.
Q Because the President is leaving for Illinois on Monday.
MR. VERSHBOW: Then I assume it's in the morning.
Q Does that mean the Serbs will give up about 20 percent of their territory?
MR. VERSHBOW: That's right. The estimates are that they control 70 percent. I think it's been reduced a little bit by developments on the ground; it may be a little under 70 percent now. But, yes, they would go down to 49 percent. But it's the exact configuration of the map that has to be worked on.
Q How would you define the U.S. role in these negotiations?
MR. VERSHBOW: We have been, I would say, active mediators. The aim has been to push specific ideas, try to encourage the parties to think flexibly, think about the long-term viability and defensibility of the state, and to also recognize that the opportunity that we now have may be fleeting and that we have to come to grips with this problem quickly and arrive at a solution, and not think about interim steps and longer-term drawn-out processes.
Q Will the U.S. -- will that advance the U.S. becoming an arbiter if they get into disputes over territories?
MR. VERSHBOW: I wouldn't want to speculate on what specifically we will do if there is a difficult-to-resolve dispute over territory or some of the more detailed constitutional provisions, but we're not going to be passive in this. We're going to use all of our energy and creativity to try to pilot this thing to a conclusion.
Q Sandy, as part of this, did the U.S. and the other NATO allies or the Contact Group promise any sort of money for rebuilding former Yugoslavia in all this?
MR. VERSHBOW: We have indicated in the course of Holbrooke's discussions that we envisage a comprehensive economic reconstruction program as essential to the success of a peace settlement. And we've said that we will contribute to such an effort, although we look also to the European Union, to the Islamic countries and Japan to make sizeable contributions as well.
We're still doing our own thinking. We've just had some consultations with the EU this past week, so it's premature to talk about any figures.
Peter Tarnoff attended this ministerial meeting yesterday in Paris between Contact Group countries and the OIC. And he stressed the importance of their contributing to economic reconstruction.
If I could add one point on an earlier question about who's going to represent this state, I mean, exactly how this will work has to be worked in the negotiations. But I want to reemphasize that Bosnia will continue its present legal existence as one state. This is not going to be a new Bosnia; it's going to be today's Bosnia established with new constitutional arrangements. And there will be one international personality and, therefore, one foreign representation for this country. How that's going to be worked out among the different groups is one of the many thorny issues that's still to be settled.
Q On that point, might you end up with a rotating presidency, then -- give the Serbs six months and the Croats and the Muslims the other six months?
MR. VERSHBOW: I don't think I would get into that. I mean, that's one of probably a number of different models that may be discussed.
Q Will the Bosnian Serbs be internationally recognized?
MR. VERSHBOW: People keep using the word Bosnian Serb state. There will not be a Bosnian Serb state. There's going to be a Bosnia-Hercegovina. That will be the state. It will have -- they will be two highly-autonomous entities.
Q Okay, will the Bosnian Serb entity be recognized internationally?
MR. VERSHBOW: Not as a state. It will not have a seat in the United Nations or in any other international organization.
Q Will it have autonomous borders so that -- you know, with crossing points and so forth? And to what extent will it be autonomous apart from the rest of Bosnia?
MR. VERSHBOW: The exact scope of the autonomy, of course, has to be worked out in the remaining negotiations.
Q Will it be an enclave?
Q Has anybody worked out the national flower issue? (Laughter.)
MR. VERSHBOW: I think the expectation is that the map will -- there will be a borderline between the two entities, but this will be an internal boundary. And as Mike said and as is stressed in the President's statement, the parties have committed to joint public corporations, joint projects for transportation communication, emphasizing that there will be elements here that are inclusive.
Q The statement does refer to this as the Republic of -- and it does say that it's going to have its own constitution.
MR. VERSHBOW: That's correct, just as the state of Delaware has a constitution. But it's part of a larger state and Delaware doesn't have an international personality.
Q Well, I think it kind of does. (Laughter.)
Q You just put down Delaware. (Laughter.)
MR. VERSHBOW: Using the legal term, not the psychological.
Q Joe Biden has had an international personality, if there ever was one. Wait until you see Bill Roth in action, or the Finance Committee. (Laughter.)
Q Would you dispute the suggestion that the Serbs have come out victors?
MR. VERSHBOW: I would certainly dispute that. I think what we have been striving for throughout this effort is a solution that does not lead to the breakup of Bosnia Hercegovina. And this framework, the agreed principles that were adopted today ensures that that will be the case. There will be one Bosnia at the end of this.
MR. MCCURRY: Last question. Doyle.
Q Sandy, what mechanisms are you contemplating for enforcing this agreement? And I'm specifically asking about two counts. One, are you still contemplating a multinational peacekeeping force with U.S. participation on the ground if you succeed? And, number two, what kind of mechanisms would you contemplate for dissuading the Bosnian Serbs from breaking the agreement and attempting to join Serbia?
MR. VERSHBOW: Our thinking continues to point toward an international peacekeeping force that would be commanded by NATO, which would move into Bosnia very quickly to establish control on the ground, and it would have very tough rules of engagement to ensure that this agreement doesn't unravel before the ink is dry. We want to see that this is a success.
We're continuing to do our own planning on what such a force would have to do, taking into account the new features of the settlement and what we anticipate will be the geographic provisions. And the planning on NATO is going to pick up speed very quickly, because we hope that this settlement can be reached in the coming weeks.
Q Then how soon is the U.S. willing to commit ground troops to that peacekeeping force? When does that trigger in?
MR. VERSHBOW: Well, our commitment to participate in a NATO implementation force is longstanding. And we would expect to introduce our forces early in the process. Exactly when, I really can't say. It's too soon.
Q I mean, are we talking weeks, months?
MR. VERSHBOW: More likely weeks than months, certainly.
Q And there's still 25,000 troops?
Q New subject.
MR. VERSHBOW: The numbers are not set because we have a different settlement than previous plans have looked at. So exactly what the grand total will be and what will be the U.S. share --
Q Where are the Croats in all this --
MR. VERSHBOW: The government of Croatia was a co-signatory, a co-endorser of these agreed basic principles. And, of course, the Bosnian government representation, Foreign Minister Sacirbey, was speaking for the Federation of the Bosnian Croats as well as the Muslims. And, indeed, there are some Serbs in their delegation, the loyal Serbs part of the federation.
Q Mike, can we change -- switch the subject to Senator Packwood?
Q Just a second, one more on Bosnia. What impact does the White House think this should have on Congress with respect to overriding the veto on lifting the arms embargo? Does that, in your view, making it a moot point or --
MR. MCCURRY: If I'm not mistaken, Senator Dole has already indicated that they will delay any vote on an override of the President's veto. That, obviously, takes into account some of the developments both on the ground and in the diplomacy. And certainly today's development is something that we would expect the Senate and the House to consider as it wrestles with the President's veto.
Q Do you think Senator Packwood should be allowed to spend another 60 to 90 days in the Senate?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it would be up to the Senate and the Republican leadership to decide how they want to and take care of the question of how we move the nation's business forward. But clearly, as Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, it will be difficult for Senator Packwood to continue to play a role that will help get the nation's business done now that he's indicated he's going to resign. So the President is concerned that we do everything possible to move the nation's business forward as quickly as possible. Senator Dole apparently has indicated that Senator Packwood will remain in place for sometime.
I'm not sure how that's going to work, but it's perhaps Senator Dole will clarify that. We would like to see -- we would like to see at least the committee and the work of the committee move towards resolving some of these underlying questions that are going to be fundamentally important to a resolution of the budget impasse that now exists so that we don't end up in a crisis atmosphere weeks from now.
Q Well, I know, but what do you think of it? I mean, do you think Packwood ought to stay on for another 60-90 days, or not? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he -- it's very hard for us to see how he could be effective in his role as chair of the Finance Committee, given the ordeal that he's been through. I mean, it would make a lot of sense, it would seem to us, to structure something that would allow the work of the Finance Committee to proceed with a new chair. Now, we're not -- we don't run the United States Senate, unfortunately, Senator Dole and the Republicans do. So it'll be up to them to decide how they want to address that issue.
Q Any new plans for a meeting with the bipartisan congressional leadership?
MR. MCCURRY: We continue to work that through. I think it will depend on how the timing looks for next week and what various schedules are.
Q It's on Tuesday.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, we got it -- Tuesday. They've been talking about Tuesday. I just didn't know we had -- yes, I see, it's ahead for Tuesday at 9:00 a.m..
Q And we can confirm that officially?
MR. MCCURRY: I sure can. It's here on the -- assuming that this is official, okay.
Q As late as last night the White House Counsel's Office had identified 900 -- over 900 pages they want to keep protected from the committee looking into Travelgate.
MR. MCCURRY: That's not accurate. They've got -- they're having discussions with a congressional committee about 900 documents or -- is it 900 pages of documents or -- 900 pages of documents. And, as we have in the past, we'll work through whatever issues are involved in executive privilege as we provide to the committee the material that it needs to complete an inquiry it has underway. We've always cooperated with these congressional inquiries and done so in good faith. And we've worked out procedures and arrangements whereby the institutional prerogatives of the presidency are protected as the work of the legislative branch in Congress proceeds appropriately as it should. And I'm sure they'll be able to to work out some accommodations so that appropriate inquiries by the Congress can be satisfactorily addressed by the White House.
Q You're quoted this morning as saying that the Congress will get all the papers it wants.
MR. MCCURRY: I saw that on the wire, and I'm real careful about what I said this morning. I hope someone will clear that up on the wire. I said any appropriate inquiries by the Congress we are fairly confident we'll be able to resolve a procedure that will allow them to look at the documents that they want to look at. That's what we've done in the past. I'm not aware of any impediment to that type of cooperation existing at the present. But they are going to have to follow up on that. And there have been some discussions between the Legal Counsel's Office and the congressional staff on those points.
Q So nothing has changed from last night --
MR. MCCURRY: We have not claimed executive privilege for any documents and no documents have been withheld. But they're talking now about what procedures -- what are the procedures by which Congress will be able to examine what it wants to examine.
Q Is there a official White House review of the episode involving Mr. Stephanopoulos last night, or is that just being handled as private matter?
MR. MCCURRY: It would be totally unnecessary.
Q How long had his license been expired?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again.
Q How long had Stephanopoulos' license been expired?
MR. MCCURRY: George told me his license, driver's license apparently expired towards the end of July, and his registration, D.C. registration on his car expired just at the end of August. So, several days ago, and, of course, he was out of the country and had not gone down to do battle with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Q How is he able to buy a drink without his driver's license? (Laughter.)
Q Susan asked if that was what the beard was about.
MR. MCCURRY: His beard has been properly shaved, but has not resulted in him being carded in any establishments.
Q In all seriousness, Mike, in a Post story this morning, there was an implication that George's companion may have attempted to badge their way out of this tight spot. It talks about the companion jumping from the car and flashing a badge to the police. Do you know who that companion was and what the circumstances --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of that report.
Q Who was that White House official?
Q Who was the companion?
MR. MCCURRY: It was not a White House official. It was one of George's friends, as I understand it.
Q Was it a law enforcement official? Who was it?
MR. MCCURRY: No. It was a friend of George's.
Q Does the President ever say to the staff, gee, you know, it might be nice if you followed the regulations that most people have to follow that the government has out there?
MR. MCCURRY: He certainly does. And he fully expects George to get his license renewed. (Laughter.)
Okay. Let's move on. What else?
Q Is the President more than willing, as Mr. Gephardt asserted last night, to sign a clean continuing resolution for 30 or 45 days --
MR. MCCURRY: Let me clear up -- we are told by Congressman Gephardt's staff that he did not indicate that 30 to 45 days was in a period of continuing resolution. So you may want to --
Q I can read the quote to you.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, why don't you -- you don't need to read it to me. You need to call Congressman Gephardt's staff and then clarify it with him because they are pretty insistent that they didn't indicate any period of time.
Q We have it on video tape.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, all right. Go play the videotape for Congressman Gephardt.
Q Let's go to the video tape.
MR. MCCURRY: But in any event, the President is interested in getting this budget debate -- getting on with it. You know, we have got to keep moving forward getting the business of this country done and writing a budget and moving forward. And there's just absolutely nothing about gridlock or impasse or confrontation or no compromises that is going to help resolve these issues.
So what the President is saying is if there is a way in which you can get -- for a very short duration of time, if there is a reason to have a continuing resolution while serious discussions are taking place on the underlying budget issues, he certainly doesn't have any objection to that. But the onus is on the Congress now to come forward and start moving on these things. They are way behind schedule, and they need to start moving forward. They should be not talking about how they're going to delay things, but talking about how they are going to bring things to a resolution.
Q -- reject the long-term --
MR. MCCURRY: No. I said he has said is, you know, if it's necessary to kind of keep things on hold while serious discussions are underway on the budget, the President certainly wouldn't automatically object to that type of development.
Q If all they presented him is a longer-term, 30- to 45-day CR, are you saying he would veto that?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying that we've got an interest in getting things done. And if it helps to get things done to have a very short duration continuing resolution that helps get things done --
Q How short is short?
MR. MCCURRY: Short is short.
Q How long is that? Fifteen days?
MR. MCCURRY: Not months.
Q Why is 30 days --
MR. MCCURRY: Because there's either a period where there's serious discussions underway and that's probably a matter of weeks or there's just an attempt, obviously, to kick the can down the road and delay decisions, more interested in getting the work done and moving forward on discussions that can resolve these issues. And if it's necessary to buy a little time to do that, the President doesn't object to that.
Q I noticed the President this morning in his speech pointed out that he hasn't been around Washington too long, he's still learning about Washington. He made similar comments earlier in the week in California. Is the President now projecting himself as an outsider in Washington?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he has not -- does not come from the culture of Washington, has not been a regular insider here, has not been stuck up on Capitol Hill for most of his career --
Q Georgetown University, working on Capitol Hill --
Q Governors Association --
MR. MCCURRY: But I think the President very clearly feels that a lot about the way work gets done in Washington is both peculiar, in his opinion, and in need of fundamental change.
Q Well, I know it's his preference to get things done in a matter of days. Would the President be willing to buy a little time --
MR. MCCURRY: This is what the lawyers say -- asked and answered. Let's move on.
Q Is that going to be the President's message to the bipartisan leadership on Tuesday, that he will go for a CR?
MR. MCCURRY: He's going to say we'll go for getting the work done, let's move ahead. If that involves -- it's conceivable that it might involve a CR; we'll have to see.
Q -- but have you set a time frame yet for when he's going to do the balloons and bunting announcement type thing? Is that going to wait until after he wraps up the budget?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we have not set a time for that.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:02 P.M. EDT