THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Aboard The Bus On The Road To The 21st Century) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 19, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY Tacoma Dome Tacoma, Washington
Q -- there would be a robot on Mars by Independence Day of 1997. Your fact sheets don't reflect that.
MR. MCCURRY: Well that's the -- when on August 7th, when he talked about the probe -- I can get the details on the probe -- that's the one he announced then.
What he's talking about today is the continuous robotic presence on Mars. They've got some unmanned probes that have already been scheduled that will be there by, as the President says, 1997. The goal by the year 2000 is to have a continued presence, robotic presence there to collect data and send it back. Now, there would be a variety of robotic devices that would provide that presence.
Q So a probe isn't a robotic device?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, no. This is an unmanned probe that would go to Mars, collect data, but would not be in a position to continue to feed data. What we're looking for is a a continual transmission of data from the surface of Mars. And that's the goal we described for the year 2000.
Q And that was already set -- his announcement today?
MR. MCCURRY: The previous one -- he talked about August 7th when we talked about the discovery on Mars.
Q So you said the probes -- this is just the continuous one? That's the new part?
MR. MCCURRY: The difference in the goal for 2000 is to have a continued presence there that would send a data stream back to Earth.
Q Is he concerned about abandon -- if he abandoned the man on Mars, about the vision aspect of --
MR. MCCURRY: No, it's not -- we're not abandoning that concept. What we believe is that in the era that we're managing our space exploration resources prudently, we ought to establish a sufficient grounds for that type of commitment of resources.
That's -- a manned mission to Mars is a roughly $100 billion proposition. To commit those kinds of resources now, lacking a scientific basis for that, the President doesn't think is justified. But the purpose of these continued unmanned probes it to establish a scientific basis for future exploration.
Q Even though Bush had made that announcement in '90, had there yet been a commitment to that program?
MR. MCCURRY: There had not been -- to my understanding -- not been the kind of commitment of resources that would fulfill that, and there were other competing interests in the space program. Obviously, our highest priority is the international space station because, one, that becomes a platform in which you can do a variety of space-related research -- not only planetary research, but also other geophysical and also theoretical research on things like the origin of the universe.
That is a, in the scientific community, much higher priority in some respects and we think that's a better investment of resources in the short-term. Plus, that's a shared cooperative program because it's an international program. One of things we believe -- one of the things that this new space policy underscores is that this is an opportunity for cooperation with other countries into the future.
Q -- that Saddam Hussein is better off.
MR. MCCURRY: I talked to Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch. He assures me that there is nothing -- it is neither his intention, nor would the transcript of his testimony today indicate that he has a different assessment of Saddam Hussein's military capacity in that region. The Director concurs with the President's assessment that Saddam Hussein's military capacity has been reduced particularly by the creation of the expanded no-fly zone and by the work that we've done to delimit his air defense capacity.
Now, what the Director did testify to today is that he believes that in the last six weeks Saddam has gained a stronger position politically in the region. He also testified today that that is a very fluid situation because he has made an alliance with one of the Kurdish factions in the north.
Some of you may know that the Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pelletreau met yesterday with Mr. Barzani, who's the leader of the faction that invited Saddam Hussein to go into the north. That's a reflection of how fluid the situation may be as Saddam contemplates his own prospects in the north.
But the Director stressed to me that he was making a judgment about Saddam's political position. I'm not aware that anyone in our administration would disagree with that assessment as to his political capacity. But remember that the President spoke on Monday to his reduced military capacity, his reduced threat to U.S. pilots that are flying no-fly zone enforcements.
Q What did Pelletreau offer Barzani?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not going to get into the nature of their conversation. They had a meeting; it was described as a productive meeting, and there is some basis for future contact.
Q The President yesterday said that there were 30,000 at Pike Place Market. The local police estimated about 8,000.
MR. MCCURRY: Whatever. (Laughter.)
Q Today he said 20,000.
MR. MCCURRY: It's better than 150 people on a sunny day in southern California, no matter how you look at it.
Q Is today a case where there was not an appropriate indoor location to hold this rally?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what the details were.
Q And why inflate these crowd figures? I mean, you know -- 8,000 is a decent crowd.
MR. MCCURRY: We get different counts that are provided to him by the number of people they mag. And I'll go find our what --
Q Yes, but from 8,000 to 30,000 is a huge --
Q 35,000 -- as the evening progressed they got up to 35,000.
MR. MCCURRY: One of our advance people said 4,000 or 5,000. Whatever. You report whatever you want to on crowd size.
Q We were just curious as to how the President --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know -- if we all go -- I haven't talked to the President. I don't know who told him 28,000.
Q He attributes it to the Secret Service which makes it sound very official.
MR. MCCURRY: Let's put it this way: it was a very large crowd.
Q Well, yes.
Q Yes, but it wasn't --
Q When he gives us facts like that --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll go find out where he got -- who conveyed that information to him.
Okay, anything else?
Q You dismiss the fact that -- or you seem -- or Deutch appeared to dismiss the fact that Saddam Hussein is politically better off or more powerful, in a better position than he was as of recently. But isn't that just --
MR. MCCURRY: It was very clear what I said. The Director told me he testified as to his stronger position politically.
Q Yes, but isn't that --
MR. MCCURRY: We would do -- don't dispute --
Q Isn't that just as dangerous? Isn't that just as detrimental to regional security as --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it has diplomatic implications --
Q Right, exactly.
MR. MCCURRY: -- that we are dealing with, as reflected in the Assistant Secretary of State's meeting yesterday, because we believe we should work to counter any strength that he's gained politically in the region. Now, that's a different question from what his military capacity is, his ability to threaten our pilots, threaten his own people, threaten his neighbors.
Q But were the political gains manifested in the resistance by some of the former coalition partners to join in?
MR. MCCURRY: To the contrary. As you know from Secretary Perry's mission to the region, the coalition has been considerably strengthened -- support from the French, strong support from the British, from other international partners, and the willingness by governments in the region -- specifically Arab governments -- to provide platforms for our own enforcement of no-fly. That all reflects the very serious disciplined work we've done diplomatically to keep the coalition strong.
Q Are you reading different accounts of this than I am? Even the Kuwaitis have some reservations about this.
MR. MCCURRY: I am relying on the reports given by the Secretary of Defense. And the Kuwaitis, as you know, agreed to the basing of additional fighter aircraft in the region. They're in a position to carry out our commitment to protect our pilots and to enforce the no-fly zone. Facts are facts.
Q But --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, facts speak very loudly. We have an enhanced military capacity in the region. We've got additional troops that are there for training exercises in Kuwait. We have additional fighter aircraft available. The government of Saudi Arabia has expressed itself on its willingness to assist us in no-fly zone enforcement missions. Those are -- that's what counts.
Q The Saudis also say they wish you guys had hit him a lot harder if you're going to hit him at all.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President spoke to that on Monday. We took the appropriate action to delimit his military capacity in the region and to reduce the threat to our pilots.
Q so was Deutch off the reservation at all?
MR. MCCURRY: No. He was providing, as the Director of Central Intelligence should, a candid, thorough assessment of his both geopolitical and military capacity.
Q Was that cleared with Tony or the White House? Was it --
MR. MCCURRY: We don't clear the assessments provided by the Director of Central Intelligence. His job is to provide sufficient analysis to policymakers so we can implement policies that work. That's exactly what we're doing. Obviously, if we share the assessment that Saddam may have gained somewhat politically in the last six weeks, you could expect our diplomacy to direct itself to countering that result, which is why we --
Q Countering the result is primarily diplomatic at this point, or is it a combination diplomatic, military?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've taken very strong action to limit his military capacity. We're following up with that now with diplomatic efforts to reduce any influence that he's gained because of his incursion into the Kurdish areas in the north.
Q So what rally were you referring to in southern California?
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q What rally were you referring --
MR. MCCURRY: I just was reading the papers this morning.
Okay, see you all.
THE PRESS: Thank you. END