THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
2:46 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Hello, everyone. I'm going to have -- Mr. Panetta will be here shortly and, little change in the program, we'll bring him out. Since we are running late, we'll just bring him out and go ahead and do it on camera when he's here, so he can tell you more.
Q About what?
MR. MCCURRY: Anything you're interested in. He's here. What are you interested in today?
Q Mike, I'm interested in -- I'm quoting a Senator from Kansas. Why did you guys give up on the American Dream? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I think I have heard President Clinton at almost every stop along the way in recent months talk about the America Dream. I heard the Senator talk about reaching for the stars, where one presumes you will grasp pie in the sky.
Q Mixing metaphors.
MR. MCCURRY: Mixing metaphors. All right, let's eat another one. No, that was a sad thing to watch. I mean, Bob Dole has devoted -- Bob Dole has devoted an exemplary career in the United States Senate to important principles like balancing the budget and living within our means. And it was rather sad to watch him humiliate himself by walking away from those firmly-held beliefs.
He once said that he didn't believe in supply side economics. There's no way the plan he announces today works unless you make assumptions that are even more extravagant and rosy than those made by the supply-siders in the 1980s. And that's kind of a sad commentary on where we are.
Meanwhile, we will continue to work on balancing the budget and providing tax relief in a targeted fashion within the confines of a balanced budget and continue an economic program that is producing real results for the America people that are encouraging.
Q I thought you were going to leave the campaign stuff to Lockhart.
MR. MCCURRY: See? I was just making a commentary there while we wait for Mr. Panetta.
Q Over the weekend, Newt Gingrich said that FBI agent Sculimbrene had, in fact, testified that there were people in the White House using drugs as late as January 20th. Can you say categorically that that's not the case?
MR. MCCURRY: I can say categorically that anyone who came to work at the White House in and around that period had to pass a mandatory pre-employment drug test. And to my knowledge, no one who was admitted for appointment at the White House testified positive. That's the way you establish that, as a matter of fact. That would be pretty strong evidence that that is incorrect testimony if, in fact, he said that.
Q How so? In other words, couldn't they have taken the test a day or two after --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not a specialist on those tests, but if you came to work -- you're required upon entering service within a matter of days to take a mandatory pre-employment drug test, and you have to pass it in order to work here. That would tend to discount any suggestion that people were doing what he is alleged to have said.
Q And from what you know, people were not using drugs right up to their --
MR. MCCURRY: You cannot use drugs and work at this White House, period.
Q But up until inauguration, can you rule out that people were using --
MR. MCCURRY: I can say categorically that anyone who failed to pass a test given within days of when these events alleged to have occurred would have failed that test and would not have been hired. Simple.
Q Speaking of drugs, over the weekend a CIA spokesperson said John Deutch is going to be investigating what went on at Mena Air Force Base in Arkansas during the 1980s. He's going to be looking at --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe that's true. And I don't believe a spokesman said that on his behalf.
Q Yes, a spokesperson said that on Sunday.
MR. MCCURRY: I saw that reported in a news magazine, but I'm not certain that that's what he said. But you can check at the CIA.
Q Said that they're going to be looking at drug smuggling there and also the illegal shipping of arms to the Contras while President Clinton was governor of Arkansas. Does President Clinton have any comment on that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe that they're looking at anything specifically related to Governor Clinton at the time of Governor Clinton. But I'll refer you to the CIA for what they may have said. I'm not sure that you're characterizing it correctly.
Q On the TWA bombing and Iran, is the administration looking into suspicious activities by Iran related to the TWA bombing?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q Is the administration looking into suspicious activities by Iran before the bombing of TWA?
MR. MCCURRY: You'll have to ask the FBI for comments on what they're investigating.
Q A domestic question on TWA. Suffolk County apparently is wracking up a pretty big bill on law enforcement, rescue and other efforts. Is there any plan for the federal government to reimburse them?
MR. MCCURRY: The costs that are being borne by local law enforcement officials to support that is something that the Justice Department will look at and we've got the capacity to make supplemental requests if that is, in fact, warranted. I'm not aware that that discussion has occurred yet here, but we do have a capacity to go back and make that type of request for local law enforcement assistance to a federal investigation. And if that's warranted I'm sure we'll be making that request.
Why don't I take one or two more and then I'll pass it on to the Chief of Staff.
Q Does the administration plan to send any representative to Yeltsin's presidential inauguration on Friday?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we will have a delegation attending --
MR. JOHNSON: No, Ambassador Pickering.
MR. MCCURRY: Ambassador Pickering will be representing the United States. And do we have anyone else joining him?
MR. JOHNSON: No, the Russian government has asked that we do it at this level.
Q Mrs. Pickering?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. The Russian Federation request was for a representation at the ambassadorial level.
Q In Bob Dole's economic program, there is a proposal to cut capital gains by 50 percent. Is the administration going to counter with nothing on capital gains?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has had a very measured, targeted, tax relief proposal that he is confident will work to continue the strong economic performance that this country has enjoyed. We will always continue to look at the implications related to the tax code, as we have said in the past, but we're confident we have a very strong program that the Chief of Staff is here to discuss. So bring him on.
One last one.
Q Mike, I just wanted to follow that. Capital gains -- you guys have always left that up in the air, and, while not casting aspersions on what you have proposed, this has been a thing really since '92 you have said you would looked at, but you've never --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have supported targeted tax relief, for example, the Bumpers provision, which had targeted tax relief aimed at job creation. And that's something we have -- we have never said that that's something that we find philosophically objectionable, something that has to fit in an overall tax strategy.
The Chief of Staff is here. And, Mr. Panetta, it's a pleasure to welcome you here.
MR. PANETTA: Is it nice to back, Michael?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm a little out of practice.
Q Mike, do you guys have the welfare bill yet?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we have not received it and have no indication that we will receive it anytime soon.
Carl, on your point on Governor Reagan in 1980, we were recalling, some who covered the Reagan campaign in 1980, that it was always a standard proposition of Governor Reagan on the stump that we would take the increased revenues from the decreased taxes and use that to rebuild our defense capabilities. In fact, I think that's probably close to a direct quote. So that was the essential promise of Reagan's supply-sideism. Of course, it did not bear out it being accurate over time.
And then back -- I've checked in the meantime with the CIA. They have, for about three or four months, at the request of Congressman Leach, been looking into a series of specific questions that he put to the agency. There was nothing -- not anything that I'm aware of that was new about that. They had acknowledged some time ago that they were pursuing those allegations. I'm not aware of anything about those allegations that would suggest that a response from the White House is needed.
Q Are you planning any more response to the Dole speech today? Is President Clinton going to hold a press conference?
MR. MCCURRY: Beyond the exegetical analysis that Mr. Panetta just gave? No. We do have some individual people who are available here and there, but that's the bulk of it.
Q What were the specific questions they're looking into, that Leach put --
MR. MCCURRY: You can get it from either the Congressman or from the agency.
Q Mike, in the Sunday Times yesterday there was a story about a dispute between the British and Americans over going after Karadzic, and they gave some details with regard to contingency plans which exist. There have been no statements coming from the administration, to my knowledge, that there would be an indication they're moving toward a military solution. Do you know if there's any basis to this story?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we do not routinely discuss intelligence matters, but I can assure in this case there is no plan for any unilateral action related to either Mr. Karadzic or Mr. Mladic beyond our own firm belief, shared by the British government, that he should be delivered for justice at The Hague.
Q So you're saying unequivocally that there is no -- MR. MCCURRY: It is, as near as we can tell, a complete
fabrication -- the story itself in the Sunday Times, a complete fabrication.
Q No. Thank you.
Q At President Clinton's Rose Garden event on Friday where he was with Phil Knight of Nike and other corporations, he is calling for -- could you explain what it is that he is calling for there?
MR. MCCURRY: I was gone last week I will get my designated hitter. We have a fact sheet and some other things. Can we give you that material?
Q Well, let me follow up and ask this -- and maybe since you weren't here you don't have an answer. He particularly singled out Phil Knight of Nike, which makes a lot of its sneakers in Indonesia. Did he raise with him privately the issue of possibly just raising the wages there beyond the two dollars a day that he pays and also registering some kind of corporate protest to the crackdown in Indonesia right now?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge, but we can check on that. Do you know the answer?
MS. GLYNN: Sure, I can tell you -- I don't know specifically what he actually asked him --
MR. MCCURRY: Go ahead. All yours.
MS. GLYNN: I'm not aware that he raised the issue specifically of the wages and the wage rate in Indonesia. But the reason that Nike was there is because they have taken quite a lot of flak lately in the news because of some of their overseas labor practices. So the reason they were highlighted is because we'd like them to crack down on some of their sweatshops and make certain that they're not using sweatshops abroad.
Q And does the agreement that they came to, would it involve human rights groups locally monitoring these plants not only in Indonesia, but around the world?
MS. GLYNN: As we said on Friday, what they're going to do is they're going to come back to the President in six weeks and tell him what they have done to eradicate -- at six weeks -- to eradicate sweatshops and to make certain that they're not being used by their company.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:24 P.M. EDT