THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Orlando, Florida) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 6, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:00 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Ladies and gentlemen --
Q Accompanied by --
Q -- briefing rules?
MR. MCCURRY: We're on the record, but we don't have any cameras.
Here are a couple of points I want to make. First and foremost, you could tell from the President's remarks today that he's absolutely delighted with the employment report we got from the Bureau of Labor Statistics today. It confirms a very strong performance of this economy during his tenure as President. It reflects some of the key arguments that he's been making about the 21st century.
But you will see him, as you did here at the community college today, increasingly make the case that we have to build on this record of economic progress by investing in education for the future. The 21st century economy has to pay higher wages to the American work force. And the President firmly believes that higher earning goes hand in hand with higher learning, which is why we are putting such a stress on the investments we would make in an additional 13th, 14th year of education, in preparing our kids for a lifetime of learning by getting them literate by the third grade, doing everything we can to make our schools work by improving their infrastructure through school construction, by making them drug-free, by making them gang-free, by instilling a sense of discipline through curfews and school uniforms -- all these things tied together in how we build on the economic record of the last four years.
The President's economic program, adopted in 1993, was very much about the macroeconomy -- putting America's fiscal house in order and creating the fundamentals of a very strong and growing economy. The President, in the next four years if reelected, would devote attention to the microeconomy -- how do we raise family income, how do we assure that workers are in jobs in which they can be more productive, in which they can earn higher incomes.
So these things, I think, are part of what excites him about a 21st century economy that really will present unparalleled opportunities for prosperity amongst the American people. Again, I would stress also the statement that Dr. Stiglitz put out today that the good news today clearly does not raise inflationary fears. Corporate profits remain strong. The GDB report from last week showed that profits are as high as they've been in 28 years, and the increase in trend in labor costs remains below the current rates of price increase, which is a key factor in measuring what the inflationary prospects are within the economy.
In short, this is not an economy that's overheating, it's an economy that has measured strong steady growth that is producing the exciting kind of employment numbers that we're seeing today.
Q Labor costs remain lower than what? I'm sorry.
MR. MCCURRY: They remain below current rates of price increase. So in other words, the rise in labor costs that are associated with the growing economy are below those of the general rate of inflation in the economy, which is a good indicator because it means that we can provide both job growth and wage growth simultaneously without raising inflationary fears.
And your follow-up question is, am I saying that for the benefit of the Federal Reserve. Of course not, because we don't comment on their -- any kind of decision-making.
The second thing -- we've put out a piece of paper with a very important statement from the President on NATO expansion. A short while ago, Secretary of State Christopher, in Stuttgart, Germany, gave a major foreign policy address entitled -- well, it was an address on the 50th anniversary of the Speech of Hope, which was former Secretary of State James Burns* landmark address in 1946 that declared that Germany would be a part of the future of Europe.
In the President's statement he has two pieces of news: one, that he will call -- the United States is calling a NATO summit for next year. Obviously this President would hope to participate on behalf of the United States, but more importantly, the work of this summit would be to begin the accession talks that would bring the first group, Partners for Peace, into the NATO Alliance. That is very significant news, the President indicating that is his purpose for this summit. The Secretary of State today, in a major foreign policy address in Europe, sending the signal that we are going to begin the process of enlarging NATO with the summit meeting next year.
Q Did you advance that speech with the Russians? Did you let them know ahead of time?
MR. MCCURRY: This speech, as you can tell from the statement itself which also pledges -- which also suggests that at this summit we would confirm the creation of a very broad and deep partnership between NATO and Russia -- you can well imagine that we have worked carefully within the NATO alliance and within the Partnership for Peace to talk about the opportunities that exist.
Q First of all, would this summit meeting have occurred anyway, or this would not have happened if Christopher hadn't called for it? And, number two, is there a specific date when these countries would actually be --
MR. MCCURRY: The purpose of the summit is to really establish the who and the when. Up until now, as you all know, we've really been talking about the how and the why -- why do we need to expand NATO, how would we do it and what is the process. You're all familiar with the Partnership for Peace program, with the close affiliation that some of the central and East European countries have with NATO that we've been developing through the Partnership for Peace program. Part of this summit will, in fact, be about enhancing the Partnership for Peace so that those who are not selected for the first round of admissions to NATO would see their opportunities for involvement with NATO step up.
We did not set a date. It is true, Mara -- it would be true that since the last NATO summit was in, I think January of 1994 that they occur on balance about once every three years, so that it would be an expected thing to have a NATO summit sometime soon, but more importantly, by declaring that this is a summit that will really begin the process of NATO enlargement where we'll really put a very key focus on what the work will be.
Now, a lot of work will go into this; there is a NATO defense ministerial meeting that's about to happen soon -- Mary Ellen, you don't know -- sometime soon there will be a defense foreign ministers ministerial meeting in December. That will be critical in sort of setting the table for a head of state summit next year.
Q Your earlier answer about whether this was vetted with the Russians -- is that down at the ambassadorial level? Is there any reaction at all?
MR. MCCURRY: The question of NATO is of such a high-profile concern in the bilateral relationship it is regularly reviewed at a variety of levels. This particular speech I don't know whether it came at the embassy level or elsewhere, but we've had kind of an ongoing series of dialogues with the Russians on the subject.
Q So this would not have come as a surprise to Russia?
MR. MCCURRY: It would not come as a surprise that as we move into 1997, the actual work of who and when would be the focus of NATO's work plan.
Q Did somebody specifically tell the Russians we're going to propose a meeting next week?
MR. MCCURRY: In some fashion or other, the speech was brought to their attention.
Q Any reaction?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have a reported reaction.
Q Pardon me if you've already answered this, but will this meeting take place without regard to the election results this year?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the United States government is formally proposing it, and the intent of the government would be to conduct the summit meeting. But any newly-elected president could review that decision, of course.
Q Mike, how was the President told about this helicopter mishap today, or has he been told yet?
MR. MCCURRY: He got an update from Deputy Chief of Staff Evelyn Lieberman based on the information we have from our military liaison, Al Sullivan, who travels with us.
Q Where did that happen?
MR. MCCURRY: It just happened right after the speech here at Valencia.
Q He didn't know about it --
MR. MCCURRY: He had already gone out on stage when we first got word of this.
Q Has he had a reaction yet that we could --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's very concerned about -- trying to find out more about the status of crew. As I said earlier, DOD Public Affairs Ken Bacon is planning to brief in about 20 minutes and they're developing information as fast as they can. I am now told that apparently -- and this is again preliminary information subject to confirmation -- there may have been six on board the helicopter, and I'm told that they all escaped under their own power. And we are checking that to see if any of them suffered any type of injury.
Q Will he visit them?
Q Mike, this happened as they were landing or taking off?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm told that it was -- the helicopter was in the process of landing.
Q Is there any concern at the White House about the presidential support aircraft? What happened in Wyoming, I believe there was an accident a couple of months ago in Connecticut, a training mission --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, a great deal of care goes into the security of these aircraft, and we have confidence and faith in the Defense Department's record of air safety when it comes to these missions. There is always risk involved in air travel and we believe it's a very minimal risk.
Q -- that were slightly injured?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say they were slightly injured, I said we're checking to see if there may have been injuries and we're developing more information on their condition.
Q Will he go visit them?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure where they are right now, so we'd have to determine the facts.
Q -- how many Partners For Peace are there? And is Russia formally in the Partnership For Peace at this point?
MR. MCCURRY: Russia is in the Partnership For Peace and it has what we call a parallel relationship that is developed with
NATO that allows for a broad cross-section of involvement both through Partnership For Peace and in our dialogue. Of the former Warsaw Pact countries that are now Partners For Peace, 32 sounds about right. We can -- Mary Ellen can double-check that. These are the former Central and East European countries that were, most of them, members of the Warsaw Pact.
Q Mike, has the President been informed of the story that Dick Morris had an illegitimate child, and has he had any comment particularly in line with the fact that we've all heard the President go out and talk to young people and urge them not to have illegitimate children and say what a bad thing --
MR. MCCURRY: He's been made aware of the report. He has no knowledge of whether it is true, or not.
Q And one other thing --
Q What was his reaction?
MR. MCCURRY: He said, is it true, and we said, we don't know.
Q And one other thing that's being alleged is that Dick Morris told his friend that Mrs. Clinton was responsible for the ordering of FBI files --
MR. MCCURRY: Rita, if you want to use the Star or tabloids to base your questions, I can try to help you. But I don't have any information on that.
Q A number of the things that have been raised have been accurate, so I think that it's, unfortunately, legitimate to raise them.
MR. MCCURRY: You know more about it than I do then.
Q This isn't from the Star, but it's Dick Morris. How does he feel about him signing a book contract months ago?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think anyone is particularly wild about that. I think that we -- if he had a financial interest in a book project we believe it should have been disclosed.
Q What was the President's reaction to that?
MR. MCCURRY: About as I just indicated.
Anything else? Other things?
Q Mike, doesn't he feel any kind of sense of betrayal here? I mean, this guy was sitting there --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what he's going to write in the book, do you?
Q Are you thinking back of what things you might have said in his presence?
MR. MCCURRY: I mean, it might be a political science textbook. He's very fond of elaborating on his political theories, so it might be destined for political science courses. I don't know what kind of book it is.
Q Was this the first time he knew about --
MR. MCCURRY: We told him on the plane last night that it had been reported on several news accounts that there was a book.
Q He didn't know before that? In other words, Morris had never told him privately?
MR. MCCURRY: We still don't know what the terms of any book arrangement that he has are.
Q On the unemployment stats, do you know what the rate was that he inherited from Bush?
MR. MCCURRY: We're checking. I seem to remember it was 7.7 percent. It was close to 8 percent and now it's down to roughly 5 percent, and we can get the exact number.
Q -- choppers that were involved in this incident, do you know which ones they were? Were they the ones ferrying the press yesterday?
MR. MCCURRY: We are told, but I don't have confirmation again, preliminary information that the one that apparently crashed and burned at Orlando Executive Airport was one of the CH46Es that transported members of the press yesterday in and around Miami.
Q The second incident --
MR. MCCURRY: There was a second incident involving a CH53, I believe -- that's the preliminary information I have -- for precautionary reasons made a landing in a farm field somewhere south of Orlando to check a hydraulic question, and there are apparently no -- that's not seen as a major incident.
Q Do you have a better explanation as to why the President had to cancel this event on Saturday?
MR. MCCURRY: As I told a lot of people last night, it's real simple -- and Joe can chime in here, because it involved both a campaign and a White House review. The President made the assumption that as Commander-In-Chief -- or the White House made the assumption on behalf of the President that, as Commander-In-Chief he can christen a new aircraft carrier, and that could be an official event that his official duties would allow.
Upon closer review by Clinton-Gore '96 counsel and White House Legal Counsel, it was determined that in this period now in which he is the official candidate of the Democratic Party up until the election, that all costs associated with his travel are deemed political costs, and thus events that are held that he attends are deemed to be political events. The exceptions for that involve national security matters; if he had to make a foreign trip or something related to foreign policy and when you're inspecting the damage of natural disasters. And, no, I don't have any further information on whether he might do that anytime soon.
Because of that, this christening in Newport News would have been deemed a political event, and the President felt that that would put in an impossible situation all of the senior military officers who are being invited to attend. He cannot ask his senior military commanders to attend a campaign event on his behalf, and it would have been, in the eyes of the Federal Election Commission, a campaign event.
In addition to that, the campaign itself would have been responsible for the costs of the event and they plan, you know, a proper ceremony for the launch of the new aircraft carrier. They were going to have a fly-over, they were going to invite a lot of distinguished guests to be there. They were inviting members of the Truman family to be there. And we, quite frankly -- I mean, Joe should speak to this -- the campaign itself could not absorb the costs of that type of event and we would have no clue. I mean, no one costed it out, I don't think.
In any event, we would have been in a position of trimming back the event that the Navy and the DOD and others wished to have on this occasion. So, for all those reasons, but especially in the President's view because of the position that would put his commanders in, he felt that he should not go there in his capacity as a candidate. So he's asked Secretary of Navy John Dalton to represent him. Secretary Navy Dalton will read a statement from the President.
Q Is there an FEC regulation that only national security events and only disasters can be attended by the President --
MR. MCCURRY: The advisory opinions, based on interpretations, those are -- let me make it clear. This was the interpretation by White House and Clinton-Gore attorneys, based on advisory opinions from the FEC.
Okay -- 1992 unemployment average was 7.5 percent. In July and August of 1992 the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. So that's the direct comparison -- July-August figure, 7.8 percent; the rate today, 5.1 percent.
Q Can you lay out next week at all in terms of what substantively he's going to be addressing himself to?
MR. MCCURRY: Mary ELlen will do that for me.
Q When did the President learn about the crash? Was it after the speech here?
MR. MCCURRY: He was told by Deputy Chief of Staff, Evelyn Lieberman, just as he concluded his appearance here at Valencia Community College.
Q We were working the phones so I didn't see it, but I'm told that he was handed a piece of paper just before he spoke and he looked "shocked."
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check with him. I was told he was told at the conclusion of the event.
All right, anything else? I'd like Joe to do a little, kind of wrap-up on the Florida trip, the importance the President attaches to it and do things political.
I think we're scheduled to depart here in 10 or 15 minutes.
MR. LOCKHART: I'll be very brief. The campaign is very pleased with the trip to Florida, two days here. We think we've reached the majority of voters here tonight. The last event in Panama City, we're going into a place where the President lost by a 2-1 margin in 1992. We believe, especially given the economic news today, that makes the case of why we plan to be much more competitive. And, as I've said to some people, if we don't win a plurality there, votes that we won up there, Senator Dole has to make up other places in the state. And especially given the local coverage we've gotten over the last day and a half, the campaign is very pleased.
One note that I've been asked a couple of times on a national level, there has been a lot of stories and speculation in the last day due to the shake-up in the Dole campaign, with the new media advisers, especially given some of the public remarks Mr. Castellanos has said, offering free advice when he wasn't in Senator Dole's employ, about having to be nasty to win. We think we're entering a particularly interesting part of the campaign, which poses what we think will be a character test to Senator Dole of whether he will continue to fight this campaign on the issues like it has been until now, or whether he will resort to going into some of the character assaults and personal -- you know, insults rather than issues that people like Mr. Castellanos have been advising when he wasn't in his employ.
Q Mike, just logistically -- and Joe -- what are the prospects of him going to one of the Carolinas?
MR. MCCURRY: As the President said today, he had dispatched FEMA Director James Lee Witt to supervise the disaster relief efforts that are now under way. He will take a recommendation from James Lee Witt on whether his own presence there would be helpful or useful or whether it would interfere with any efforts under way. And he won't make any decision on whether or not to travel there until we get an on-site recommendation from James Lee.
And there are 26 Partnership for Peace members, which can't be the entire -- that's not all of the former Warsaw Pact countries because there were 35 of them -- so there are 24 that have been granted, 24 Partnership for Peace Members currently. They would be the pool eligible for accession to NATO.
Q Are there 24 or 26? You just said 26. MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, 26, 26, 26. Q Can I ask one more thing on the helicopter? Who would
be the crew members aboard? They were all passengers, they were all Marine crew; is that right?
MR. MCCURRY: We understand it was just crew, and we don't have a passenger list.
Q What about maintenance and operation of the President's own helicopters?
MR. MCCURRY: The answer I gave at the top of the briefing.
Q Mike, do you know why it was at Orlando Airport? Was it --
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is it was refueling en route to it's next destination. I've heard two things about it's ongoing destination. One was Quantico, where it is based, I believe; and the other is that it may have been en route to St. Louis for support of the President's travel next week. Those are conflicting reports and OSDPA is ironing those out.
Q Do you expect the President to say anything about the helicopters?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't.
Q Mike, the other helicopter that just landed as a precautionary thing, is that also a part of the President's support?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe it was, but we're checking on that. The information about that is a little more sketchy.
END 1:23 P.M. EDT