THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:03 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Let me just add one thing, in terms of tomorrow, because I know everyone's dealing with holiday schedules tomorrow. We do not at this point anticipate the President making any comment on the Russian election prior to departing here tomorrow. If he said anything tomorrow, it would most likely be while he's doing some of his events tomorrow in and around those events. So some news organizations had wondered about whether they needed to double staff here tomorrow morning. We wouldn't anticipate that.
Q Mike, on another logistical question about that, is the President going to pre-tape his radio address, like tomorrow or something? And do you have any idea what the topic is going to be?
MS. GLYNN: No, I don't think he's doing it until Friday or Saturday.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, at this point, this early in the week, Todd, I don't know. The last I had heard he was probably going to do it Saturday live, but we'll let you know -- try to let you know sometime during the course of the day tomorrow.
Q He'll probably be here in Washington at White House through the weekend?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q No scheduled activities, then. And then is the Sunday thing still --
MR. MCCURRY: He is. He's planning to deliver his testimony in the Branscum trial Sunday afternoon, as I reported to some of you earlier. And we will do the same thing that we've done in the past on that, provide you with a written summary of the proceedings, not as to content but as to just who was here and how long it took and that sort of thing.
Q Mike, should we also then not expect a readout from you or from David on the elections tomorrow morning?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. We're not planning that. In fact, I'm not planning any morning gathering tomorrow prior to departure since the President leaves
Q What time does he leave tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: He leaves about 8:30 a.m., I think, tomorrow morning.
Q Who's going on that trip with him from the staff? Are you going with him on that or is Mary Ellen?
MR. MCCURRY: Not yet determined. Either I will go or one of the deputies.
Q Do you have a second deputy -- Colonel Fetig or David -- okay.
MR. MCCURRY: Two of them are right here.
Q All of the back and forth on tobacco yesterday, at the end of the day Dole's campaign came out with some history on Gore, that he had at one point, I think, in 1988 made a statement that he had helped to grow and harvest tobacco with his own hands. What, again, for the record, is the position on how the Vice President feels he can now be in a position to criticize?
MR. MCCURRY: He has talked repeatedly to that issue and his own personal experience, and has acknowledged that as a native Tennessean he grew up on a tobacco farm that had been in the family, and that he -- but he also acknowledged that his family has been touched by the tragedy of the health consequences of tobacco use.
And he has publicly discussed the reassessment of his position on tobacco-related issues as a result of the death in his family. And his own advocacy of measures on warning labels and others is very clear, and he has spoken to that publicly. It's a little disingenuous for the Dole campaign to cite only that part of his record without all the things he's done since then related to tobacco use.
Q Do you know whether -- do you know what year it was his sister died? There's some sense that that was well before he was making --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I'm sure the Vice President's office can help you with that. They gave me a couple points here, but I don't have that date. But they'd be able to help you.
Q But generally the reason for his change in attitude was his sister's
MR. MCCURRY: His own personal -- his own personal experience in the death of his sister, absolutely.
Q Mike, was the President personally involved in the decision to send Louis Freeh to Saudi Arabia? And can you tell us a little bit about what the U.S. is doing in terms of assessing whether the Saudis have done all that they should have about security for the U.S.?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has asked for regular summaries about how the investigation is going and has asked that the Bureau make that a very high priority matter, which they have, reflected in the fact they have 70 personnel there. I don't know, to be honest, whether or not the Director consulted with him about going there, but it's certainly appropriate given the very high level attention we expect the Bureau to bring to that investigation.
As to the investigation, we continue to enjoy cooperation from Saudi officials. They are working strenuously to develop information and leads, evidence, as they examine what evidence is available at this point. And they are determined to pursue that investigation to all ends of the earth. You know yesterday the State Department announced, through its awards program that's available for international terrorism, a $2 million award that is available for those who have got concrete information and can help in the investigation. All agencies of our government that can contribute to this investigation are contributing so that we can hopefully apprehend those who are responsible.
Q Mike, Tony spoke on Sunday and he said that the U.S. might consider retaliation. And he cited the George Bush attempt in Iraq. Would the White House have that same view if it were a country that the U.S. had been trying to build a relationship with, like Syria?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not going to speculate as to consequences, but we know in this world there are consequences for acts of terrorism. You saw that in the case of Pan Am 103 with Libya, the tough program of international economic sanctions that have been placed on Libya. And there could be other consequences, as well. But absent concrete information at this point on any outside sponsorship of this event, because that evidence has not been developed, it's not useful to speculate.
Q Mike, on the truancy thing, the President has made clear that he wants to use the bully pulpit to talk about issues that are a concern, not just things that are directly under the purview of the federal government. Is there any concern about overdoing it, though, or diluting the message by being kind of an all-purpose commentator or does he measure that --
Q As sparrow falls, I mean --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, let me just run through. I mean, this is -- this is where the -- as the American people think of their future and what lies ahead in the 21st century, and as this President thinks about what are the most significant challenges we face as we develop a country that can meet all the extraordinary opportunities that are available in the 21st century, the one key element is protecting kids as they enter into a community, enter into school situations, as they prepare for a place in the workplace, as they deal with all the negative consequences of problems that they face in their communities.
That's why you've seen this President advocate local options on school uniforms, why you've seen a very determined effort to keep guns out of schools, zero tolerance proposals. That's why you've seen him endorse and embrace local options on school curfews. That's why you see him using both the bully pulpit and the resources of the federal government to serve as a clearing house for those communities that are trying to fight drugs, fight gang violence, keep schools safe, bring greater discipline to school settings, keep kids off the streets and away from violent situations or the prospects that they might engage in violent crimes in communities, and why you've seen him advocate a series of things that really use the tools of the federal government appropriately to nurture these local efforts.
He sees that as a central part of what the next American president, if it's him or whoever, is going to have to address, as we prepare for what we need to do together as a nation to combat some of these problems.
Q Mike, what is the President's message in Youngstown tomorrow? Is it just a general Fourth of July message? Is he going to have a patriotism manual or will it be -- (laughter).
MR. MCCURRY: Well, look, it's the Fourth of July. He will enjoy celebrating the rich history of this country. And I think in light of an election, a Democratic election in Russia, it will be a particularly appropriate moment to mark some of the hallmarks of our own democracy as we think of the freedoms that Americans have fought for and the achievements we have made as a country.
So it's a Fourth of July celebration at a moment in human history in which American values and American democracy are flourishing all over the world.
Q What about in Maryland, Mike --
Q Can we have translation from Dave?
Q Where are the strolling strings?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll probably eat a hot dog or two, too.
Q Mike, did you say anything about Clinger earlier this morning -- forgive me if you did -- about Clinger's request?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q Did you say anything about Clinger's request -- Clinton asked to justify hiring Livingstone?
MR. MCCURRY: We dealt with all that yesterday.
Q How did you get hired? (Laughter.)
Q Mike, Ann Lewis says last night, according to The Washington Post, that she doesn't know now. So I wondered whether you wanted to revise or extend your remarks on Craig Shirley being a paid adviser to the Dole campaign?
MR. MCCURRY: What we said yesterday, and I think I said here yesterday if I recall correctly, is that the Dole campaign has publicly said that he assisted them with their radio-outreach program in a National Journal article. In May they indicated they were going to use him in that same capacity this coming fall. He works for his expenses, as we understand, or that's what he has said publicly. We don't have any reason to dispute any of that. He is described in The Washington Times -- which you can judge for yourself, but they tend to know these things -- described in The Washington Times as a long-time supporter of Bob Dole.
I read in The Washington Post today that he was -- while a Washington Post reporter was there talking to him he had a contact with one of the lead consultants in the Dole campaign. So, ergo --
Q Is the President planning a written response to the Clinger letter since he got this letter from Clinger?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Well, I'm sorry, no. We assume he's had a -- He's had a response to McIntosh's letter on a different subject.
Look, on Clinger, the concern there is that he starts that letter with an assertion that, if true, would be news to this White House, which is that there's been misuse of the information in the FBI files. Now, if that's true, he should come forward immediately, publicly, and present the documentary evidence that supports that assertion. If it's not true, he should say so. He should say, frankly, that they haven't been able to establish that, and because certainly we have not been able to establish that. And I believe that's a subject that the independent counsel, in any event, is looking at.
And, you know, third, we would say he should be a little more careful with the facts. And he goes on and makes a long set of assertions there, the most grievous of which, I believe, is the attempt to unfairly impugn the record of George Stephanopoulos here. I have reason to believe, based on contacts from many of your news organizations, that they tried to peddle a story that they knew to be untrue yesterday, by not providing all the documentary evidence available on a certain matter that we have given to the committee. And that shows a carelessness with which Chairman Clinger continues to use in conducting these matters, and it leads you to the conclusion, obviously, that he is doing this in an attempt to harass and attack politically the President.
Q Mike, the question, though, is Clinger put all of this in a letter directly to the President, and I wondered if the President is going to call him on those things in a letter responding to him?
MR. MCCURRY: He often writes to the President, and we often work with his staff, work with him, and response usually through the Counsel's Office. We have already indicated, you know, that we are certainly willing to cooperate with what we believe are very legitimate questions about the FBI files matter. But when we see him then turn around and use our cooperation as the basis for careless attacks, not based on fact, you have reason to believe that he is not operating in good faith.
Q I understand that, but I just wonder, it's one thing for you to say that from this platform, but it's another thing if the President were to send him a strong letter to follow.
MR. MCCURRY: The President routinely asked the White House Legal Counsel to work with the committees on these matters, and I haven't seen anything that would indicate any different approach here.
Q Do you think that he's referring to the Army sergeant who looked at his own file and found the names of two of his accusers and --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure I know what you're --
Q It's a pretty widely known story
MR. MCCURRY: That was not -- that was not an issue raised in the letter yesterday.
Q What about the issue of dirty tricks and Craig Livingstone running political dirty tricks in the '92 campaign? Would you categorize that as dirty tricks if he was running chicken George events or --
MR. MCCURRY: The level -- the degree to which he engaged in the activity reflects on his resume, I don't have any firsthand knowledge of it.
Q Well, by the same token, is there anyone in the White House who is running "butt man," who's responsible for the cigarette-shaped character who's following Dole around?
MR. MCCURRY: Certainly not that I'm aware of, but you might want to give Mr. Lockhardt a call. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, did Livingstone report to Stephanopoulos during the campaign? Was that who his boss was --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm saying -- and he has specifically said that he did not oversee his activities and was not familiar with the grandiose unit described in Mr. Livingstone's resume.
Q So there was no relationship there, then -- I mean, do you know what the relationship --
MR. MCCURRY: Not unless there was a passing acquaintance. I mean, it would be like many of us -- we had -- you know, Craig Livingstone was an advance person, so you'd see him at various events from time to time. I, for example, knew he worked at the 1988 convention in Atlanta, where I worked. So many of us had seen him on and off the campaign trail over the years.
Q Well, those personnel records show Livingstone writing to Stephanopoulos asking for a better job, the nuclear football job --
MR. MCCURRY: Right. And that's exactly what I'm referring to. That committee, or someone on behalf of Chairman Clinger, went out and peddled that story yesterday without attaching to it a piece of paper indicating that Mr. Stephanopolous took absolutely no action with respect to that request. And to give you half the story and not the half that is exculpatory for Mr. Stephanopolous shows that they're acting in bad faith. And some of you should start thinking about whether or not you're being led around the nose by Chairman Clinger and his staff.
Think about it. I'm not asking you to do anything, just think about it. (Laughter.)
Q Would it have been wrong if Mr. Stephanopoulos had chosen to support his candidacy for this job?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it would have been -- it reflects Mr. Stephanopoulos's sound judgement that he lent no assistance to Mr. Livingstone in his request that he get help for the position he was interested in.
Q Well, the letter did say that he offered to help, though, right?
MR. MCCURRY: It does not say that -- it says thank you for your -- whatever -- it says thank you for your assistance. He ran into Livingstone; Livingstone said can you help me out; George says send me a note on it; the note comes in; he instructs his secretary to do nothing about it.
Now, that was all abundantly clear to Chairman Clinger and Chairman Clinger's staff. And the fact that they misportrayed that to news organizations yesterday, and I know that they did based on the calls that we got yesterday, gives you some indication of what they are doing now with this inquiry. They are actually using it to try to peddle dirt on the President, on the President's staff, and attack him politically.
And it's a campaign, and I know that, and they know that. But we ought to -- there are some serious, very legitimate questions that need to be answered related to the FBI files matter. And it behooves this committee, if they want to look into it, to stay focused on those things that are important to the American people, and that we know are important, and that we know we have to answer to. But he impugns the credibility of that type of inquiry when they use this committee for that type of attack that they know misportrays the evidence that's been presented to them.
Q There was a report last night that -- on one of my competitors, ABC -- that Craig Livingstone's salary was increased 40 percent over his tenure here at the White House. Is that true?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is he had a series of, I believe, three pay increases designed to bring him up to the salary level consistent with the salary history of that position.
Q And it wasn't based on merit or performance?
MR. MCCURRY: It was based on an understanding that that position paid a certain salary, and that he believed that he was entitled to that salary performing the functions of the director of the office.
Q Now, was that part of an overall readjustment of salaries or just for that particular office?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that was a part of an overall, White House-wide.
Q Wasn't it common practice to reduce the pay levels of White House employees? I thought when you first came, you cut some of those salaries.
MR. MCCURRY: We cut staffing, but not having been here, I'm not sure exactly the answer to the cuts overall staffing. And they cut some pay levels. The point that he made was that he had been hired at a junior level salary, and he was ending up in a senior level position and that he was entitled to compensation based on the history of that system -- if I understand correctly.
Q One more on tobacco. Again, do you think that the Republican's scrutiny of Mr. Gore's statement might be more justified if there is, in fact, this big gap between the tragedy in his family and when he finally revealed his position?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that they will look at that issue and the facts will speak for themselves. But you ought to contact the Vice President's office on it.
Q Is he going to continue to be sort of the point man on tobacco and criticizing Dole's stand?
MR. MCCURRY: The President spoke to the issue yesterday and others will continue to speak to it, as well. I imagine it is a baffling proposition that Mr. Dole has asserted. And given the President's strong concern on this issue, you know that he's been working on the issue of how we can reduce the health effects of tobacco use, especially on young people, through the proposals that we've made relative to advertising tobacco products to young people. It's an issue he will continue to speak out on. And there is now a clear difference between the President and Mr. Dole on the issue.
Q On Craig Livingstone, who was responsible then for assessing his performance and giving him those pay raises?
MR. MCCURRY: He worked under the supervision of the Office of Legal Counsel.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:21 P.M. EDT