THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Little Rock, Arkansas) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 1, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY AND JOE LOCKHART
Filing Center Robinson Center Little Rock, Arkansas
2:05 P.M. CDT
MR. MCCURRY: All right. Sorry, I just wanted to make sure I closed a lot of loops before I came to visit with you. We can get in and out of here fast, so you can enjoy the rest of your afternoon.
I'm going to impart very little information to you, I'll tell you to begin with. The President, as most of you know, went to church this morning with Mr. Kelley, returned home. He made a handful of calls to leaders of other nations that share our concerns about Iraqi military activity in Northern Iraq.
Q Who did he call?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to specify who he called. A handful of calls to leaders that --
Q Five or less?
MR. MCCURRY: Less than a half a dozen. And those calls fit the pattern of diplomacy that the United States government brings to bear in a matter related to Iraqi military affairs.
He completed those calls. He's getting in a round of golf. He's looking forward to his rally tonight, and he may go out to dinner afterwards.
Q Are any other calls planned?
MR. MCCURRY: None that I'm aware of at this point.
Q And what would the purpose be of not saying who he is speaking to? Is that to --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as we have told you, the United States government is consulting closely with those who share our concerns about Saddam Hussein's behavior. We are sharing with them ideas on what course of action the United States government might pursue to make it clear that there are consequences for behavior by Saddam Hussein that have no justification.
Q Is the United States considering action which it would inform others, considering and unilateral action, or would it all be in the context of an international decision?
MR. MCCURRY: We are working with others in the international community to develop a course of action that we believe would be the proper response to behavior that we believe is unjustified.
Q So it's not a unilateral --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the purpose of international consultations and a high diplomatic effort is to get others in the international community to join with the course of action the United States of America believes is necessary.
Q Who has the President dispatched to the Middle East?
Q We've got a story saying he talked to Major. You can confirm that, I take it?
MR. MCCURRY: You can well imagine that one of the first people that the United States would turn to at a moment like this is our closest ally, the United Kingdom. But I'm, again, not going to confirm any specific conversation. That was a good call. (Laughter.)
Q Who in the administration has gone to the Middle East to begin diplomatic --
MR. MCCURRY: There have been news accounts that some of your news organizations have developed indicating that the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Robert Pelletreau, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili are in the region. I will provide no official confirmation on those stories, but they look pretty good to me.
Q And what's their mission?
MR. MCCURRY: There purpose is to continue the pattern of international consultations that the United States government would bring to bear at a moment like this.
Q Mike, there have been reports that the Iraqi -- or the Kurdish leader whose forces are being attacked by Iraqi forces claim their using war planes in violation of the no-fly zone.
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Talabani, who is the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, has said publicly that he believes that Iraqi military aircraft are attacking positions in and around areas that are occupied by his faction, the PUK. I have checked; we have no information that corroborates that allegation.
Q You are still robustly enforcing the no-fly zone and presumably would be aware of any violations.
MR. MCCURRY: We have significant resources available that would alert us to any violations of the no-fly zone. I'm not aware of any violations of the no-fly zone.
Q Would you say the world leaders that he spoke with are of a like mind with him on how to deal with this? And what's the U.S. vital interest up there?
MR. MCCURRY: I would say the outcome of these calls are strong agreement that we should work together to fashion the appropriate response.
Q And the vital interest up there, the U.S. vital interest up there?
MR. MCCURRY: We have significant vital interest in that region of the world. We fought a war because of them.
Q Excuse me, Mike. Could we follow up on that, please? The action is all contained within Iraq's own border, it's Saddam Hussein's country.
MR. MCCURRY: That is correct. The question was, do we have vital interest in the region. I said, of course, we do. Now, this specific area in northern Iraq is covered by several relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, they do not specifically prohibit forces from Iraq from entering the area. It is not a no-go zone in terms of ground deployments, it is a no-fly zone in terms of aircraft.
There are some relevant resolutions that protect the rights of minorities in the north, but this situation is obviously complicated by the fact there is internal factional fighting between two different Kurdish groups, one of which has indicated publicly that it is -- or at least is alleged to have indicated publicly that it has invited Iraqi military authorities into the region.
Q Wait a minute, if I could follow up.
MR. MCCURRY: We've got a lot of time. One at a time.
Q Has that been reconciled then?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry?
Q Yesterday you were talking about how confusing and today you're talking about how complicated it is. Has that been reconciled to some kind of determination that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi military has, in fact, violated any U.N. resolution that would require some sort of response?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are clear obligations Saddam Hussein has, under U.N. Security Council resolutions, to protect the rights of the minority Kurdish population in the north. This situation is complicated, as I indicated yesterday, because part of the situation on the ground involves factional fighting on the ground between rival Kurdish factions, and we do have indications that one of those factions is providing assistance to Iraqi military authorities. That makes the situation more complicated in the view of the United States.
Q Yes, but what's the answer to the question I just asked?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the answer to the question is that in any event, regardless of international obligations, there's no justification for the action that Saddam Hussein has taken, and the United States believes there should be consequences for that action.
Q What is our vital national security interest for protecting the Kurds in Iraqi territory?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have a range of interests in the region. They are not necessarily related to the human rights of various population groups there, although the protection of those -- humanitarian interests of those groups is something that we've long held as an important international goal.
Q Mike,, will you spell out the basis on which the consequences will be visited upon the Iraqis if and when they are?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I will not, because that's a back-handed way to attempt to get me to comment on what might be under contemplation, and I won't do that.
Q No, it's not. You have described a menu of possibilities that's out there, something may or may not happen. If it does, under what authority?
MR. MCCURRY: I take issue with that. I've described no such menu of options. The United States believes that the international community has obligations with respect to the regime of international law in place after the end of the war in 1991. And as we did in October of 1994, we believe there's legal justification in international law that takes certain prudent steps. I'm not going to detail those beyond that at this point.
Q Well, Mike, is there a line in the sand past which, you know, they cannot cross, past which you won't tolerate?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I am not drawing lines in the sand. That is not the purpose of the consultations that we have underway. As I will say, again, our belief is that there is no justification for the military action that Saddam Hussein has taken in the north of his country, directed, apparently, against one faction of the Kurdish population there. And the United States believes that he cannot with impunity conduct himself in that manner, that there should be consequences for that type of conduct. We're working with the international community to develop the appropriate consequences.
Q Is the U.S., Mike, considering withdrawing support for easing oil sanctions against Iraq for humanitarian purposes?
MR. MCCURRY: The 986 oil sales are very complicated because there's a complicated administrative regime in place at the insistence of the United States government and the government of the United Kingdom, principally, to make sure that the proceeds of those sales arrive at their destination. The administrative proceedings related to the 986 oil sales are still underway.
Q Mike, so that's not under consideration then?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a very artful answer -- a difficult question to answer at this point.
Q Are the consequences you're talking about designed to compel Saddam Hussein to withdraw his forces from the north, or to punish him for doing it in the first place?
MR. MCCURRY: They are -- we are looking at ways in which the international community can ensure that Saddam Hussein understands that this is behavior that has no justification and that has provoked the condemnation of the international community. The fact is he has considerable force in that area, invited in, allegedly, by one of the factions there. And we are reviewing the status and the deployment of those forces, even as we speak, with others in the international community.
Q Can I follow on that? Condemnation is one thing, you say there should be consequences. That's taking action. Are you saying that there will be consequences for what has happened so far?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm just repeating what some of you saw Mr. Panetta say earlier today, and he indicated, yes.
Q In what you were just talking about, in terms of the disposition in forces. I know it's confusing and it still changes, but what is your latest fix on what they are trying to do, where they're going with --
MR. MCCURRY: There are conflicting reports there and we are examining reports, for example, that there has been shelling on Sham Sharmal, that they may have as an objective Sulaymeniyah as a town which would again be a town within the geographical area in which the PUK has been dominant. We are analyzing what we can best understand about the objectives of this Iraqi military action.
I should stress, however, that we have seen nothing to confirm the statement yesterday by Iraqi official press sources that there was a planned withdrawal from the region that they now occupy.
Q Senator Dole says that apparently Saddam could not hear President Clinton's "barely audible warnings." Were your warnings to Saddam barely audible?
MR. MCCURRY: We are confident that Saddam Hussein knows how gravely we take the situation. That was communicated to him in a variety of ways, and the strength of the presentation would make him understand that it was also the strong view of the President of the United States.
On Mr. Dole's statement, by the way, I would only suggest to him that this is a moment in which it is best for the United States of America to speak with one common voice in making clear that this unjustified behavior is unacceptable. And, further, we will certainly be in a position at an appropriate point to provide him the type of classified briefing that would give him better information upon which to make his public statements.
Q But that has not happened yet? Now that he is the official nominee, will that not happen on some --
MR. MCCURRY: As is custom, we would find a way to provide him the necessary briefings so he understands issues related to an important foreign policy matter of this nature.
Q Mike, is the President's schedule for tomorrow, campaign schedule, still on track? Has he given any consideration to going back to Washington to deal with this crisis?
MR. MCCURRY: No. As I indicated, he believes it's important for him to continue on the schedule he's maintained because Saddam Hussein should not be in a position to have an effect upon his schedule.
At the same time, our schedule tomorrow, we're thinking of adding one or two meetings here, locally, with some folks who happen to be here in town. So we'll have to keep you updated as to his schedule.
Q The nature of those meetings?
MR. MCCURRY: I think there are some black clergy groups in town, if I'm not mistaken. But the schedule office can help you out.
Q Forgive me if I missed this at the very beginning there, but did you say how many world leaders he had talked to this morning?
MR. MCCURRY: I was real vague about it. I said, you know, less than half a dozen.
Q Did he do this from Mrs. Rodham's house?
MR. MCCURRY: He may have, just because of the sequence of timing. He may have made one on the way back from church, but I think the bulk of them he made in Mrs. Rodham's house.
Q You mean from his limo?
MR. MCCURRY: He may have done that, just because of the timing. I didn't check that. I just know that of the handful of calls he made, most of them he made at Mrs. Rodham's house.
Q Senator Warner was on the tube this morning; he said he was struck by the relative silence from other world leaders condemning this. What's the position of the U.S. government? Are they doing enough? And could you also clarify why you're being so discreet about who the President's calling? That doesn't seem to correspond with what you usually do when you tell us who the President is talking with.
MR. MCCURRY: On the first question, we are briefing others and sharing our views with other international governments to make clear our own concern and to put those governments in a better position to voice their opposition to this action by Saddam Hussein.
On the second matter, I've told you that we are suggesting a course of action. We believe it's more likely we can be successful in accomplishing that course of action if we provide other leaders a chance to do work that they must do in order to bring people together around common objectives.
Q When might you think this course of action might be evident to us?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q What might you think this course of action that is agreed upon might be evident? Would it be imminent? Would it be days?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate. We, obviously, have some fairly high-level diplomacy underway, even as we speak, and that will continue. A variety of people are engaged. There's been press speculation about two emissaries we have in the region -- Secretary Perry, Secretary Christopher. Others have been fully engaged, and I've told you the President, himself, has made several calls at the highest levels. That's a pattern of activity that shows that we are working this problem in the near-term.
Q But is it accurate to say that what you said earlier in the week, that you are ruling nothing in or out with respect to the nature of these consequences?
MR. MCCURRY: I would change nothing about my previous statement, that we don't rule in or out anything related to diplomatic or military approaches that we might take.
Q Just following up on Mark's question, you know, it's nighttime in Europe and very late at night in the Mideast, it's not a matter of hours we're talking here --
MR. MCCURRY: No. Look, I'm just not -- no purpose at all for me to speculate hours, days, weeks, months. I just won't do this.
Q Yesterday you kind of minimized, at least to some degree, the possibility that what Iran is doing is somehow involved and whether they might be instigating this to some degree. Has that assessment changed at all, and has any kind of message gone out to Iran to knock it off?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, on the record all I would be willing to say is that there has been some information available that does suggest that Iran has close ties to the PUK faction.
Q And no message to Iran, no message through intermediaries to Iran, just like to Iraq?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are in contact -- I've told you that some of our work on this fits a diplomatic pattern that is a classic pattern now in two administrations of how we approach matters related to conflict in the Gulf region. So you know from past experience that we are often in contact with governments that we believe have some influences with other governments in the region. I'll just leave it at that.
Q The President said that American forces in the region would be reinforced. Is that beginning to happen?
MR. MCCURRY: The Pentagon is already providing some details on that. There's been a lot of press speculation related to AF deployments, some ship movements, some aircraft movement. I haven't seen anything that strikes me as being particularly wrong.
Q Apparently there is something on the wires now saying that Saddam Hussein is ordering the troops to pull out. I know you've kind of answered that, but this apparently is now happening.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, maybe Bob Dole was wrong, maybe Bill Clinton's voice was a little louder than Mr. Dole thought.
Q And can I ask another thing? Do you --
MR. MCCURRY: But I, at the same time, I'll say as I said last night, it's not words, it's actions that we'll be looking at.
Q Does a withdrawal then put all these other plans, contingencies on hold?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't leap to that conclusion if I were you.
Q What is the status of the efforts that the U.S. had to bring the two factions together?
MR. MCCURRY: Let me review that a little bit. We have made a very significant effort, because of our concern with the Kurdish population in the north, dating back to the implementation of Operation Provide Comfort, consistent with our diplomatic goal of having an organized opposition to Saddam Hussein that could effectively resist his repeated attempts to conduct repressive action against this minority population. We have tried to help them be organized so they could stand up to that type of repression. We've attempted to get the PUK, the KDP to work together closely. We've had some success in the past, but in recent months the friction between those two rival factions has overcome their ability to see that they have a common enemy, Saddam Hussein.
It is, frankly, very disappointing to us that the leaders of these two factions are more willing to fight each other than they are to stand up to Saddam Hussein. And there have been -- we, as recently as last week, had very high-level talks underway in London with representatives of both factions to attempt to negotiate cease-fire arrangements between them so that they could stop their internal conflict and think about how best to represent their own civilian populations in the face of hostile behavior by Saddam Hussein. And it is very regrettable that that need for cooperation is now unapparent as they conduct themselves as leaders of rival factions.
Q Given the fact that this area is really under a microscope with a lot of intelligence -- did this come totally out of the blue?
MR. MCCURRY: No, no, not at all. I mean, it came to your attention out of the blue, but it's a matter, as I said yesterday, that we have been following in detail with a lot of organized high-level diplomatic effort underway related to it for quite some time. It just was not transparent.
Q Yesterday the President said it was premature to speculate on what the U.S. response would be. Presumably, if he's picking up the phone to world leaders he has in mind what he thinks the international response should be. Is it safe to say that the President has decided what he would like to do?
MR. MCCURRY: That might be an assumption that you would make, but it would be premature for me to speculate on anything the President might decide to do.
Q When you say we are suggesting a course of action, is that another way of saying the folks who are going overseas for the President are carrying a plan to the allies?
MR. MCCURRY: It's safe to say that we have some ideas that we are going to use in consultations with other governments.
Q And would any of those -- you would not rule a military component of that in or out?
MR. MCCURRY: I've done that already. I said I wouldn't rule in or out any diplomatic or military options.
Q Mike, what's the analysis of Saddam's motive or his timing to do this?
MR. MCCURRY: Very unclear. We are not in a position to readily understand his thinking. As I said yesterday, he's prone to miscalculation. And on the record I just wouldn't want to speculate on what his motives might be.
Q Will the President mention this in his remarks tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know of any plans for him to address it tonight at the rally, no.
Q Anywhere else today -- any plans for him to talk about that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't -- he doesn't plan any comment on it today. The indication I had earlier was that he didn't plan to make any public statement on this today.
Q Mike, you've got a couple of Kurdish factions here, one of which has Iraqi support, the other of which has Iranian ties. Why should the United States care if they go at it? What is our interest?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, our main interest here, while we have significant humanitarian concern for the Kurdish population in the north, our main interest and main concern here is that Saddam Hussein not be in a position to believe that he can with impunity continue to treat his own people the way that he has treated the Kurdish population in the north. Because he is prone to miscalculation, that might lead him to believe he can do other things that are clearly unacceptable. We know that he is an individual who once invaded a neighbor to the south, and it is important for him to understand that there are consequences for behavior that the international community, we hope, believes to be unjustified.
Q I mean, this is like this far and no farther? This is not necessarily this incident, per se, these circumstances --
MR. MCCURRY: I will stick with the answer I gave you at the top.
Q Mike, in that question you're saying "treat his own people" the way he treats the Kurds. Is there an indication he's actually treating his own people the way he treats the Kurds?
MR. MCCURRY: He has shown over and over again through his use of chemical weapons against civilian populations, through torture, through unacceptable behavior that he mistreats minority factions within Iraq. You are well aware of our concern when it comes to the Shiia population in the south living in the Marshes, the extraordinary things he's done to cause catastrophic consequences in their lives. And as I say again, there's a pattern of behavior here that is just not justified.
Q Yes, but that's all old news and this is against the Kurds, and that's old news, too. Why are we particularly concerned?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, because we have -- we maintain in that region a force posture that is designed to deter Saddam Hussein from believing that he can get away with anything.
Q Dole's speech, have you seen and heard it?
MR. MCCURRY: No, what did he do?
Q He has delivered a --
MR. MCCURRY: Is that the one that we just talked about? Normally, on a matter like this I would ask Joe to respond. I'll just repeat what Mr. Panetta said today. This is a moment in which the United States would best speak with one voice and making it clear to Saddam Hussein that unjustified behavior cannot be accepted. The United States government is moving swiftly -- it had moved swiftly to attempt to deter him -- is moving swiftly to develop the appropriate response to his actions.
Mr. Dole -- we can put Mr. Dole in a better information to understand the situation and give him the information that he needs to understand with more clarity the situation that exists in northern Iraq so that he does not need to make intemperate public pronouncements.
Q Mike, I'm sorry, I thought he was doing a drug policy speech today.
MR. MCCURRY: Did he do that one? Okay, I'll -- anything else for me? And I'll turn it over to Joe for that.
Q You're not one of the President's political advisors?
MR. MCCURRY: I try to restrict myself when it comes directly to matters related to campaign charge and countercharge.
Q Kentucky Governor Patton apparently came away from the bus trip saying that he was given -- or led to believe that there was progress on a solution to the FDA tobacco issue. Was there and what's the status?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you've heard me say often that it would be far preferable if we could put in place sooner rather than later a regime of protections so that kids would be deterred from smoking. One way to do that is to accomplish legislatively what we would attempt to do through the regulations that the FDA has promulgated. Of course, we continue to work on that issue. We continue to hope that there will be discussions between the affected parties -- the industry, some of the states that are in litigation, and certainly those who are responsible for public health policy. We'd hope there would be discussions that could lead to an outcome that would put in place a statutory framework that would meet our objectives.
But I want to make clear the President would have to be convinced that any outcome of those discussions meets the health care objective he has identified for the country -- reducing tobacco use among minors by one-half within a seven-year period. We believe that the program that has been put forward by the FDA is the best way to do that as a matter of public health policy. But we are open to suggestions of how best to accomplish that in a way that avoids lengthy litigation.
Q Mike, do you have any suggestion that those negotiations between the tobacco state legislatures and the plaintives in the suit have borne any suit fruit yet?
MR. MCCURRY: We have heard various things reported. We've seen various things publicly indicated by those who are participating. We've seen one company in the industry say that there's just no way what's being talked about would be acceptable to them. We've heard some hints from elsewhere that it might go somewhere. We're just keeping our ears open and listening very carefully about what we hear about those discussions.
Q Was there anything said to Patton that would give him reason for that optimism that he's expressing, though?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I believe, frankly, that Governor Patton would like to find a way in which there is not the assertion of jurisdiction and regulation by the FDA. But at the same time, I think he clearly understands the President's firm commitment to meet the health care objective. And he would like to believe and hopes certainly that they could reach some agreement that all the parties would find satisfactory. But he came away, I'm sure, even if he came away hopeful and optimistic, he came away very clearly convinced as well that the President's determined to meet the health care objective that he's identified.
Q Is the White House itself involved in any direct negotiations on this?
MR. MCCURRY: I would not say that we have had formal role in any formal negotiation.
Q Who's the person in the White House that handles it informally and is being kept abreast of it? Mr. Panetta or --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the person that -- Jan O'Connor on Harold Ickes staff watches it most carefully. But it's a very significant matter. And Mr. Panetta also follows it very carefully as well, as will some of our other policy and national economic council folks.
Okay, any other subjects? I'll turn it -- yes?
Q Do you know more about the Florida plans or travel beyond --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't. April, have you seen anything more on travel?
Let me bring Joe up. Joe, why don't you do that. Blast on.
MR. LOCKHART: I am informed by my office that we'll have a release today. It may have already gone out. I'll check as soon as we come down.
Q What will the release say?
MR. LOCKHART: On Thursday, Friday.
MR. LOCKHART: Florida, yes.
MR. LOCKHART: Let me find out because I'm not sure what the sequence is.
Q For planning purposes -- we know that California is next week -- can you give us a rough outline of the dates?
MR. LOCKHART: I know that there is a fundraiser, for planning purposes, on the 12th.
Q We understand it's going to be more extensive than that.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have anything more on that. But I will read now from the Florida release which Vickie just brought me.
President Clinton will travel to Florida on Thursday, September 5 and Friday, September 6, 1996. He will visit several cities in Florida including Tampa, Sunrise, Miami and Orlando. Additional details will be available.
Q And when do we depart on that California trip -- for planning purposes, when do you think we're going to depart for California?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure. I'll try to find out for you.
Q Like Sunday or Monday, do you know?
Q It's on the schedule to Newport News to dedicate the Harry Truman.
Q Is that a political trip -- the Newport News?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so.
There was question on Dole?
Q Dole's policy speech.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I don't know that he provided many specifics on how he expects to involve the military, but we would object to the premise that the military isn't playing a significant role of the fight on drugs.
The President has directed successful efforts using some $800 million a year for interdiction, which have been successful; additional $300 million for excess military equipment to be used with allies and local law enforcement officials. And there is a supplemental request for, I believe, $130 million, which is being held up now on Capitol Hill.
I would suggest that the problem is not with the military, but with Congress's unwillingness to provide the funding that the President has asked for. Senator Dole, in particular, has fought the President on the Safe and Drug-Free School program, fought the expansion in 1994, tried to cut the funding in half in 1995. Congress cut almost $800 million in the Drug Control Office budget for this year.
And I think looking forward, if you look at the potential consequences of the Dole economic plan and take him on face value on which programs have been taken off the table, you're looking at a 40 percent across-the-board cut in all law enforcement programs, according to independent analysis. So we question how the programs that he is talking about will be funded.
Q Joe, the Dole campaign has asked for President Clinton to turn over his medical records. Will he be doing that?
MR. LOCKHART: I think Mike addressed that.
MR. MCCURRY: I just want to remind people that on May 24th, when I briefed in very significant detail on the President's annual physical exam, I told you all that he had been examined by a dermatologist who had discovered an inclusion cyst on his neck, that it was benign, that it would be removed at some point in an out-patient. That matter was fully disclosed to you May 24, and the Dole campaign, frankly, is just grasping at anything they can find.
You know, when you're 20 points behind or 10 points behind or however far behind they are, I guess that's what you do.
But we have provided -- I've checked this -- we have provided more detailed information on test results, on the results of his annual physical exam than you customarily have gotten as White House reporters. And I double-checked that to make absolutely sure that I was right about that. Plus, you've got all of the medical records that then Governor Clinton revealed in 1992. He gave you -- in fact, as near as I can tell, looking at what I think is the material that the Dole campaign is talking about, you got more complete medical information from then Governor Clinton in 1992 than Senator Dole has released to date.
In addition, if it's not -- I believe it was the St. Petersburg Times reported last week that there are some significant test results that they have asked for from the Dole campaign that the Dole campaign has withheld.
Now, what it boils down to is this: There is no issue related to the President's health. He has an ingrown pimple that's not a problem. But we are not going to make health an issue in this campaign, nor will we make age an issue in this campaign. And when it comes to disclosure, Senator Dole ought to disclose the facts about his economic program that will affect the health of millions and millions of Americans who depend on Medicare and Medicaid.
Q Mike, why do you say that you've released more information than any other President has released? I recall that we've gotten the vital signs, the test results, and so forth of previous presidents in their annual --
MR. MCCURRY: I've given you -- I gave out information just the other day in response to questions from the Dole campaign on blood test results and a whole series of questions that, frankly, were headed in a direction that was obvious to all of you. I gave you all those test results. I checked. And to my knowledge, those have never been released as a result of any previous President's annual physical.
So my point is that you got from candidate Clinton in 1992 a very complete set of medical records from his doctors, principally here in Arkansas. I then provided you -- well, you have been provided by the White House annual updates. And the update that I gave on May 24th of this year after the President's annual physical was a very complete description of the President's physical condition based on all the tests that his doctors felt were necessary to evaluate his health in an annual physical.
Q You don't mean to imply that the brief summaries that were released by the candidate's doctors in '92 represent medical records, are you?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they are very extensive. I have looked at that information. I don't have it with me here in Little Rock, but I looked at it back in Washington. It was a very -- it was as complete, in fact, in some respects more complete than the summaries that the Dole campaign has released.
Q -- actual medical records. His medical file was not --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- to my knowledge the medical records -- quote, unquote -- "medical records" is not what the Dole folks released about Mr. Dole. They have released a summary of test results. Is that correct?
MR. LOCKHART: They Dole campaign released an eight-page narrative from his doctor as well as a handful of medical records. They withheld, after a request from the St. Petersburg Times that was doing a long take-out on the issue, several tests of which the paper thought were key. I mean, I'm not in a position to tell you whether they are or not. But the paper thought they were. And there were two tests in particular that the Dole campaign refused to release.
But as far as releasing medical records, it really was a narrative from Senator Dole's physician which consisted of about eight pages with a few charts.
Q Which is fine with you guys because that's what the President has released.
MR. MCCURRY: My strong belief after working very carefully with the President's physician is that we gave you extensive results of tests and description of tests that he took that give you a very complete and very accurate picture of the President's overall health. And as we do and as other Presidents have done when a question comes up -- like I got a question yesterday because the cyst on his neck has been somewhat inflamed, mostly, according to what I understand from the doctor, probably because of the sweaty, hot conditions that he's had, or the fact that it may have been irritated while on the trail, it was more noticeable to you, even though I again remind you that I told you about this back in May.
Q So the White House has no intention or feels no need to issue any more medical --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not going to say that, Mark. I think we have a responsibility to report accurately to you and the American people on the status of the President's health. And I consider that a very important part of my responsibility. I thought I did a pretty good job doing that in May. I gave you a lot of information; I worked hard with the doctors, talked with Dr. Mariano, got very complete indications on what the results of those tests were, and briefed on this in very great detail. And then if someone raises a question about any particular result or on a health related issue of the President I think we are very forthcoming in giving answers.
We also have a responsibility to protect the dignity of the office. And I think we found the right combination of important information so you can get an accurate picture without doing something that's lurid.
Q What do those test results requested by the St. Petersburg Times relate to, prostate problem, or what?
MR. LOCKHART: The second one I can't remember. The first one was something called an arteriogram, which I think has to do with -- yes. And again, I just got this from reading the story. I've got no independent knowledge of it.
Q Do you think that he should release those tests?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that's for him to decide.
MR. MCCURRY: I think, again just what I told Mark, I think it's important for the American people to have an accurate picture of the health of the candidate for office or the President himself. I think, frankly, my obligation to give you that picture of the President's health when it's the President goes even beyond what applies to a candidate.
Q Do you think Dole has done his level best --
MR. MCCURRY: I think that they believe they have put out enough information for people to have an accurate picture of Senator Dole's health. and what I intend to do is to do exactly as I have done, provide you a very thorough accounting of what the President's health is, to answer questions related to any health issue that you have, to affirmatively advise you if there's something related to the President's health that is significant that needs to be reported to you, and to be willing to take questions from you if there is some question raised. In fact, I took questions from the Dole campaign the other day that were raised. And if it's appropriate to provide information in response to those questions I will do it.
I think that's about -- you know, I think that's about the right combination of information in the public's interest and the public's right to know and information that protects, frankly, the dignity of the individual human being. And if there is an issue here that you all are concerned about and you need more, let's work it through and we can figure it out.
Q On another subject, based on the comments that the President gave the Arkansas Democrat Gazette when he was asked about Dick Morris, it sounds as though the President is not angry and does not feel betrayed by Dick Morris and the allegations that would suggest that Morris compromised Presidential confidentiality. Is that accurate, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily, Mark. Remember, the President has no knowledge point by point of whether these allegations are true. We have the statement that Mr. Morris has made in which he does not specifically deny it. We have his resignation from the campaign for the reasons he set forth in his statement, the President's acceptance of that resignation, and his tribute to the contributions that Mr. Morris made to the campaign.
It is, at the same time, clear that there are some allegations there that would cause anyone concern. I don't think any American, an especially an American President, would want to have private conversations listened in to. But we have no way of knowing whether or not that -- whether, in fact, that happened.
Q Did he ask? MR. MCCURRY: The President and the Vice President and the
First Lady and even Mr. Morris's own wife, as she has indicated now in an article, did not walk through all of the lurid conversations there. If there is -- or lurid allegations there. Any allegation that I think that we need to look at with respect to protecting the President, protecting the office of the presidency, we would look at. But I'm not aware of anything in there that causes specific concern.
The President, after all, knows what he said on those calls, and it's safe to assume that he is confident there is nothing there that causes him concern.
Q But when you said "not necessarily" to my question about whether the President might feel angry or feel betrayed --
MR. MCCURRY: I meant to indicate from that that the President is not in a position to know whether all those specific allegations are true or untrue.
Q But did you also mean to indicate that the President is human and couldn't help but, in reading those allegations, have some qualm or concern that at a human level his personal confidence had been violated?
MR. MCCURRY: Let me make it clear: He has not read the Star article. He has not read the New York Post account. I think the most he has even seen about these specific allegations are the ones that most of your news organizations saw fit to print.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:58 P.M. CDT