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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 15, 1996
                             PRESS BRIEFING
                            BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

2:50 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start with this just in: Former President of Poland, Lech Walesa, is planning a private visit to the United States later this month, the White House understands. He will meet here at the White House on June 3rd with President Clinton. I believe his itinerary -- he's going to be speaking at various venues around the country. He'll be in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, and Maine. I think he plans, by the way, to see former President Bush when he's in Maine -- that's our understanding. And he's now back to his old job at the shipyards as an electrician. But the President very much looks forward to seeing the person who did so much to create the transformation that we now know as the end of the Cold War era.

Q Mike, is that before or after the visit of the current President?

MR. MCCURRY: When is Kwasniewski here? Just before the visit of President Kwasniewski.

Q What's your reaction to Philip-Morris?

MR. MCCURRY: We are somewhat encouraged and slightly disappointed, is the reaction. We are encouraged that Philip-Morris has announced a series of steps that move in the direction the President has outlined, being steps that we can take to discourage tobacco use among minors. That's a very important commitment on the part of a company that clearly is trying to be a good corporate citizen.

At the same time, some of the steps that have been outlined by Philip-Morris fall a little bit short of the standards that the President has set out and that the Food and Drug Administration now has under review as part of their rulemaking.

The President has made it clear all along that he would prefer to see a legislative solution here, but above all, he would prefer to see companies take on the responsibility of meeting the standards he set down that will keep tobacco use down among young people and discourage them from becoming addicted to a product that we believe causes disease.

Q So what do you do now? Are you going to work with them to formulate legislation, or what's the next step?

MR. MCCURRY: We would welcome further efforts by Philip-Morris and by others within the industry to meet the standards that the President has set forward and certainly would be willing to discuss legislation that would be up to the specifications that the President articulated.

Q Well, Mike, would you be willing to quid pro quo, that the FDA not regulate tobacco? Are you willing to give in --

MR. MCCURRY: They said that they are willing to support a legislative solution. The President indicated when he announced his initiative on tobacco use among the young people that he's open to a legislative solution, but it's clear that it has to be up to the specifications he outlined at that time.

Q What's his stand on vending machines, vending machine sales? Can you put pressure on them?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't recall specifically. I think that's one of the steps that we outlined in his initiatives. I think vending machines were covered.

Q Only the areas that have access to children -- not about where there are only adults.

MR. MCCURRY: I think that's -- I believe that's right. I believe areas that would be accessible to minors.

Q Let me ask -- I was just going to ask you what the White House thinks about Bob Dole's apparent decision to resign from the Senate?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I'm going to withhold -- the Senator is due to make his announcement very shortly, and I think in fairness to and respect for the Senator, I'll let him speak and then I'll be available later on.

Q Do you know if the President has spoken to him?

MR. MCCURRY: He has, and I'll tell you more about that afterwards.

Q Could we get that during -- so that we can use it right after the Senator's announcement? That would be very helpful.

MR. MCCURRY: I'll do it as soon as I reasonably can after the --

Q Mike, you'll come back to the podium?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll come back here and we'll do that on camera, sure.

Q Mike, does the President send a delegation or a personal representative to the inauguration in Taiwan?

MR. MCCURRY: The State Department is apparently going to be announcing the representation at some future time.

Q Any reaction to China's response to Ambassador Barshefsky's announcement?

MR. MCCURRY: I believe the Ambassador herself had an opportunity to address some of these matters. But we did expect an announcement of this nature that follows the pattern that was sent last year. We hope China recognizes that's it's in China's self-interest to live up to the international agreements it has made with others. And we believe that when they do live up to that agreement it will serve the interests of the people of China as well as the people of the United States.

Q So the United States will not be responding to the Chinese counter-sanctions?

MR. MCCURRY: The steps that we have outlined are those that Ambassador Barshefsky discussed this morning.

Q Do you see this as a technical move or is this a real trade war we are in now?

MR. MCCURRY: This follows the pattern that was set in the previous dispute on intellectual property that resulted in the agreement that we reached with the People's Republic.

Q Mechanically speaking, you would have to -- according to law, you would have to respond to these -- to China's sanctions once they went into effect?

MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that, under the trade act of 1974, any consideration of response would occur after a country put into effect sanctions. That's not what the People's Republic did today. They, in a sense, announced a target list -- similar to the target list that we announced.

Any other subjects? All right. What we'll do is we'll take a break now and hear Senator Dole make his announcement and then we'll be back shortly.

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to the White House Briefing Room. Several of you asked about the President's reaction to Senator Dole's announcement. I thought I would just review the phone call that the President had with Senator Dole about 12:45 p.m. today.

They spoke for five minutes, had a very warm, very personal conversation. The President said to Senator Dole that he has done a lot of things for his country and he ought rightfully be proud of his 35 years of service in the United States Congress. And the President thanked Senator Dole for his service.

He said he knew it must have been a very tough decision to make, because the President knew that Senator Dole so loved the Senate and so loved the work that he did there. The President said that "I hope we can continue our debate like we did when we worked here in the Oval Office, with the best interests of the country at heart."

They talked a little bit about those items that are on the legislative calendar in the Congress. I think I should leave it to Senator Dole to describe his views, but the Senator -- or the President believes that it will be possible to raise the minimum wage, to expand health care coverage along the lines of the Kassebaum-Kennedy bill. We hope we can get that worked on between now and June 11th.

The President also remains very much committed to the agenda that he's set forth and that he's talked about a lot. We've got to balance the budget; we've got to reform welfare; we have to expand health care; we've got to provide tax relief to working Americans. And he will remain committed to that agenda and will look forward to working with whatever leadership the Republicans in the Senate constitute.

Q Mike, how do you think this changes the dynamic of the race?

MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea. In the President's view, this has been, as he described it, a season in which we ought to make progress on the problems the country faces because there will be plenty of time this fall for a campaign.

Q Mike, some of the people -- some Democrats are trying to portray this as an act of desperation. Does the White House see it that way?

MR. MCCURRY: The President doesn't see it that way. He sees it as I just described it to you. He thanked Senator Dole for his service. He looks forward to a campaign in which he hopes that the debate will match the interests the people of this country have in doing things that we together have to do as a country.

Q Mike, did the President say anything to Dole like, may the best man win, good luck in the campaign? Was there any quote you could give us from the conversation?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, most of what I just gave you were quotes from the President. But he did say that the Senator had succeeded in surprising everyone quite well.

Q He succeeded in surprising -- I'm sorry.

MR. MCCURRY: "You succeeded in surprising us all," he said.

Q But anything about good luck, you know --

Q Not too much. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: He thanked him for the call, said that he was glad that Senator Dole had called him; said that he looked forward to working with them in the time that the Senator will continue to serve in the Senate.

Q Mike, you said the President hopes for action on minimum wage and Kennedy-Kassebaum by June 11th. Does he have any commitment from Senator Dole in that regard?

MR. MCCURRY: They had a conversation about the items that are on the calendar, and the President hopes we can get those two pieces of work done. I'll leave it to the Majority Leader to describe the schedule for the Senate.

Q Does that mean that you think after June 11th the window is closed?

MR. MCCURRY: We look forward to working with whatever leaders and the Senate-designate at that time. There will, presumably, be a new majority leader, and we'll continue to try to do this work of the country, to pursue the President's agenda of balancing the budget, giving tax relief to working Americans, making sure we expand health care and doing the necessary work of reforming welfare as we know it.

Q But realistically, how do you expect Dole's departure will affect the dynamic of legislation?

MR. MCCURRY: It will depend on the attitude of the newly constituted Republican leadership. We hope that they will want to work together with the President in a bipartisan fashion in the time between now and the fall campaign to do these things the country wants to see get done.

Q Mike, won't it also depend to some extent on how the new -- how the Senate leadership responds to a Republican Party that does not any longer have its candidate as the leader in the Senate? Doesn't that change the atmosphere a bit and to some extent potentially take some of the politics -- the presidential politics with which this season has been so filled out of it?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't want the dynamic in the Senate will be, but I can -- the President has suggested that we could do with a little less politics in this period between now and the convention and maybe this will assist that outcome.

Q Just to follow up on that question, is he likely to be saying anything to Senators Daschle and others about filibusters and other moves of that kind between now and the rest of the legislative season?

MR. MCCURRY: Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt both have been making it quite clear that it's a very high priority to raise the minimum wage. That's what a lot of those efforts are about, and the President is, himself, just as committed to seeing that we raise the minimum wage. And we hope we can get that done and get it done in the weeks ahead.

Q Less politics perhaps between the White House and the Hill, but what about the President making more formal campaign appearances? I know he's foregone a formal announcement, but should we expect to see him out on the stump more?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has a busy schedule between now and the conventions this fall. He's got an important meeting with other leaders of the G-7 coming up in Europe. He's got some graduation speeches on his calendar ahead. And he'll continue to make some political appearances. We've always suggested that that's part of the President's calendar. But also, an urgent part of the calendar is sitting down and finishing this work that remains unfinished. And the President believes there is time between now and the fall campaign to do that work.

Q Mike, I guess what we're trying to get at is, is this, what happened today -- does this require or prompt any radical changes or anything like that in you guys, or is it still pretty much the steady-as-you-go approach?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has a program laid out that he wants to pursue. He's got an agenda of very important concerns for the country that he wants to pursue. We feel confident that we're doing the work of the country and the work that he was elected to do as President. And that that's the path that he ought to stick on. We don't anticipate any major changes.

Q Mike, did the Senator sound to the President like he had any misgivings about leaving the Senate?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it was clear from Senator Dole's announcement and clear from the conversation it was a tough decision, as I indicated.

Q And what was the President's reaction to Senator Dole's speech?

MR. MCCURRY: He watched a little bit of it. He's doing some paperwork in the Oval Office and was able to catch some of it and thought that it was a very heartfelt statement.

Q Only some of it? What, did he come in late, or tune our early, or what?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he was in and out of the Oval. There is not a television in the Oval Office and he was in and out of the Oval.

Q Just to clarify something. Senator Dole called the President at 12:45 p.m., not the other way around?

MR. MCCURRY: He called him just around 12:45 p.m. just to --

Q Dole called Clinton?

MR. MCCURRY: The Majority Leader called the President, correct.

Q To inform him of his decision?


Q And does the President as a politician think this a wise move on the part of Dole? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think we -- there will be already numerous people, too numerous, analyzing the politics of this. The President will choose not to.

Q New subject?

MR. MCCURRY: Different subject?

Q What can you tell us about the filings of the President's lawyers at the Supreme Court today in the Paula Corbin Jones case?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know a thing about it.

Q You aren't aware of this at all?

MR. MCCURRY: I was not aware of it, no.

Q What can you tell us, Bill? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Anything else? Thank you.

Q Can I ask one other question?


Q Given that a lot of stuff seems to have happened in the last couple of weeks, is there any chance that you could, on our behalf, as the President for a news conference? We haven't had one --

MR. MCCURRY: We talked about that the other day and he agrees. We've had a couple of opportunities where he's had encounters with you the last couple of days, but we all agreed that it's time to do one again and we'll see if we can get one scheduled.

Q What was the question?

MR. MCCURRY: Hear, hear. Good day to do it. Major statement.

Q Are you willing to have the FDA forego regulating --

MR. MCCURRY: Catherine, I did that in an earlier session. I said essentially that we've always said a legislative solution is attainable if it meets the standards the President spelled out.

Q The President did one interview with a news organization today before Senator Dole's announcement, but was asked about it in advance. Can you share any of what he said?

MR. MCCURRY: He didn't make any news. He reiterated the importance of the agenda that he is pursuing, as I've just done here.

Okay, thanks.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 3:40 P.M. EDT