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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 23, 1996
                              PRESS BRIEFING
                             BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

1:57 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Anything else, any other subjects? Yes, ma'am?

Q You know, all this -- we're getting every five minutes, talking about the Republicans saying that Clinton hasn't done enough to curb narcotics. Why doesn't he answer that? Why doesn't he come out and say -- the last two or three days around here there's been documented evidence that it was George Bush and Oliver North and the CIA that was bringing in the narcotics, and they're still doing it. The CIA is still bringing in the narcotics through Mena, Arkansas. And why in the devil doesn't -- excuse me for saying that -- but why in the world doesn't Clinton come out and say the Republicans are the ones who have been bringing in the narcotics?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President is on the --

Q Will you ask the President for me, that question?

MR. MCCURRY: The first part of that question, the President is satisfied, as Director Deutch has indicated, that they are conducting an independent review of those allegations at the CIA, and that is underway, as has been announced.

Secondly, the President is --

Q I didn't quite understand what you said just then.

MR. MCCURRY: What I just said just then is as Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch has said and assured members of Congress, an independent inspector general at the CIA is looking into some of the allegations that you just referenced.

Q They're looking into the allegations? Is that what you said, that they are looking into the allegations?

MR. MCCURRY: They're conducting an independent inspector general's review of the matter.

On the first part of the question, the President is happy to talk about his record during the time he has been President; and, frankly, his commitment going back to all the years he's been in public service to combat drug trafficking and drug use. This President has requested more funding from the Congress for anti-drug efforts than his predecessors did. He has put together a drug strategy now at the leadership of a four-star general. He supported the death penalty for drug kingpins. And he's worked vigorously to combat drug use and spoken to the issue publicly.

Q Why doesn't he just come out and tell the Republicans, after all, you have been bringing them in for years --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I believe that's what we're in the process of doing. I think we're attempting as effectively as you can during a political season in which many misbegotten charges get made, to rebut some of that information.

Q No one's saying that he's -- allegations -- inspector general to find out something. All he has to do is turn around in his office and find it.

MR. MCCURRY: That's exactly what he's doing. Helen.

Q Did the President make any news at the Lehrer interview, I mean, touch on any new subjects?

MR. MCCURRY: That'll be your judgment and not mine. He touched on a lot of relevant subjects.

Q Do we wait until that's broadcast?

Q They've announced the plans to make it available.

MR. MCCURRY: They're going to make it available themselves.

Q Mike, forgive me if I missed, because I didn't hear the President's remarks on the signing of the Defense Authorization Bill, but is one of the notions the administration has in signing this, with the additional $11 billion, whatever, in spending he does not believe necessary for defense. I realize there are many others reasons in the bill that he signed it. But does that money now become part of, in his eyes, a negotiable pot that could be used for these various things like airline security, these things that were mentioned at the time that terrorism measures were proposed?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has indicated and did indicate that these are ceiling figures and he would expect, in the appropriations process itself reflecting this authorization bill, to be in a position to negotiate with Congress on overall funding levels that match our defense needs, but also address some of the other priorities the President has put forward. And, indeed, some of our discussions so far with the Congressional Republican leadership and the appropriators on the Hill -- we have some reason to believe that that would be the disposition of Congress.

Q Just to finish up on the U.N., what things in the speech would we here specifically geared to a U.S. domestic audience?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, this is a -- he's speaking, in a sense, to a global audience. So it'll be a speech that appropriately articulates central themes in U.S. foreign policy, but they are very directly relevant to the American people -- zero tolerance for lawless behavior, terrorism, drug trafficking. Those things the President has put at the front of the foreign policy agenda as we go through the changes we now go through in the post-Cold War era will be very much on his mind.

He certainly will be addressing those and also the continuing interest in a disarmament agenda that includes the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban, our work to combat anti-personnel land mines, the need for a chemical weapons convention, for biological weapons negotiations.

All of these things you'll expect the President to address in this setting. These are all, the President would suggest, deeply relevant to the American people who care about the position of the United States in this changing world and care about things like terrorism, drug trafficking, environmental degradation, international crime. These are -- the U.N. is one place among many in which we sees tools available to combat all of these scourges of the post-Cold War era.

Q It seems like it's going to be very similar to last year's speech.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it'll reflect on many of the same things, note the progress we've made on many of those goals and priorities the President articulated last year at the General Assembly.

Q Is the Clinton Campaign at all worried about what seems to be a popular negative in the Dole Campaign, calling the President a closet liberal and drudging up a four year old MTV interview?

MR. MCCURRY: It's a negative campaign as they try various ways in which to engage the American public and fail utterly. They have gone negative. And that is a source of concern mostly because it degrades the prospects for a vigorous debate about the two different visions for the future that are out there -- the President's versus Mr. Dole's.

Q Do you think your campaign's being run differently, less negatively?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that our campaign is run consistent with the President's admonition that we try to focus on issues and not insults.

Q Mike, what are the President's goals in meeting with Hashimoto tomorrow and what do you think they might talk about in the way of trade?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they'll have a bilateral meeting that will follow up on, obviously, the signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban itself. I expect them to review that very significant matter because the Japanese will play a role in the discussion about ratification and leadership and towards that end. The Japanese have lent the United States critical support on two very urgent issues, Iraq and Bosnia, and I expect the two leaders to review those subjects.

And, certainly, they will discuss Okinawa and some of the steps that are being taken there to relocate the Marine bases and the current deployment pattern on Okinawa. And then we do have some economy issues that are outstanding, the civil aviation issue and the insurance issue. I expect them to review that.

The participants in the meeting are the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor. To my knowledge, they are not meeting with trade ministers present. So the focus will be on some of these security issues, our global cooperation, our global agenda that we pursue together with the government of Japan and then also, some economy issues as well.

Q This is a more limited schedule than the President's had in the past when he's gone up to address the U.N. Is that because it's an election year or why?

MR. MCCURRY: Sure. He'll be leaving the United Nations after some of the meetings, his speech, some of the work that he will do. And he is making a campaign stop later in the day. And that does reflect the fact that we are in the midst of a general election period here in the United States. But I think other members of the world community would certainly understand that.

Q Does the campaign have to pick up the costs of the U.N. part of the trip?

MR. MCCURRY: All travel now during the period in which the President is the designated candidate of the Democratic Party is deemed political travel. The specific costs associated with his presence at the United Nations is judged by the Federal Election Commission to be an official expense since it's in pursuit of U.S. foreign policy. But all the costs of getting there and then getting to New Jersey and conducting the campaign travel associated with that our political expenses.

Q Mike, this morning in the Oval Office when the President answered Helen's question about Ross Perot, did he mean to say, in talking about the agreement, that without Perot there is not going to be a debate?

MR. MCCURRY: The Dole campaign, it is my understanding, made it quite clear that Perot's participation or Pat Choate's participation, there would not be any debate in which Dole would be willing to participate. The President believes the debates are an important feature of the electoral democratic process we're going through now. And there would have been no opportunity for him to contrast his views with those of his major opponent if Mr. Perot had been included. That was the view expressed by the Dole campaign, and we had to reluctantly and with some regret accept that view.

Q Now North Korea provocation is proven. Is there any changing U.S. policy towards North Korea?

MR. MCCURRY: No, there is no change in our view that violations of the armistice are unnecessarily provocative and dangerous. And it continues to be the United States's view that the four-party talk proposal put forward by President Kim and President Clinton at Cheju Island represents an effective way to limit tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Q Mike, just to go back over your thinking on the debates, Dole is the guy who is obviously behind, hoping the debates might give people a chance to give him a fresh look. Why is the President not in a stronger bargaining position and able to enforce his view of how the debates should be held? He doesn't need them as badly as Dole would appear to, and the Dole camp has indicated it does need them.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President believes that presidential debates have become a valued part of the electoral process now, and he has long maintained that he would be willing to participate. We have participated in a fashion -- or we will participate in a fashion that meets the President's view that there ought to be a defined period in which these debates occur. And they will occur between the 6th of October and the 16th of October. They will occur in settings in which the President believes help the American people see the contrasting views of the candidates, and hear from individual Americans, the town hall format that we urged be adopted. And they are limited to two direct engagements between the two candidates for 90 minutes apiece, on two nights. I think --

Q It doesn't sound like you fought very hard for your viewpoint on Perot, though, does it?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I would suggest that we were able to get some other things that were important to the President in thinking about the debates that reflects the wisdom and skill of our negotiator, Secretary Kantor.

Q Mike, can I follow up on Claire's question. What's the difference between Dole calling you all -- or the President a liberal, and the White House repeatedly calling Dole an extremist? Why is one more negative than the other?

MR. MCCURRY: I believe that we have said that the proposals put forward by the Republican Congress, and in some cases endorsed by Mr. Dole when he was Majority Leader, represent a fairly extreme view of what Americans think is proper policy direction for the country.

Q And do you think it's positive that you have your campaign spokesman saying Dole's record is do nothing, and you all are running black-and-white ads of a shifty-eyed Dole is positive campaigning?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's necessary any time you face a direct attack to effectively rebut the attack.

Q Or counter-attack. Wouldn't that be more a counter-attack than a rebuttal?

MR. MCCURRY: I said, "effectively rebut."

Q Do you think that "liberal" is a bad word? When he was talking in the Oval Office, he called it a --

MR. MCCURRY: No, it's just an old, tired -- there are too many old, tired ideas in this debate. The President has been putting forth new approaches on how we solve the problems Americans face. Sometimes they come from what some may call liberalism. Some others may come from what people used to call conservatism. It used to be a conservative view that you need to balance the budget, cut taxes for the American working class and middle income, live within your means. And the President has certainly embraced that conservative view, as opposed to Mr. Dole, who has walked away from those matters.

So I don't -- what is conservative, what is liberal?

Q So is he a conservative?

MR. MCCURRY: He is conservative on many issues.

Q Then is he liberal on many issues?

MR. MCCURRY: Maybe on some.

Q Mike, just to follow up a little bit on the question, really, it would seem that on the debates, if the President just wanted to be a stinker, he could be the world's biggest stinker on this point about his terms, and he would -- no debates would happen. Does he feel that the idea of having debates is important enough that he should set aside whatever --

MR. MCCURRY: There have been many quadrennial campaign cycles in which people played a lot of games about debates. The President has long ago concluded that the debates are important. They are of value to the American people as they make their own judgments about the candidates. He enjoyed participating in them in 1992, fully expected to participate in 1996 and, frankly, wanted to go ahead and get the schedule set so we could go ahead and have these debates without a lot of negotiating back and forth.

As I suggested in answer to Brit, I think we came away with some things about the format, the structure, the timing of these debates that are more than satisfactory from the perspective of the President.

Q On the subject of the President's supporting middle class tax cuts, the Joint Committee on Taxation on Friday came out with a second study of the President's tax cut proposal and still concludes that it would raise taxes, not cut them over time.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'll check with Gene Sperling, but I believe that we've had strong disagreements with that study and I'll have to look into it further.

Q Mike, late Friday the Pentagon put out a report on the School of the Americas about a training manual that was used from 1982 to 1991, which advocated intimidation, coercion, interrogation, elimination. Then a report was made. The question is, as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, this is a very damning report. The School of the Americas trained thousands of Latin American officers, quite a few of them violated their human rights. What does the President feel about the report and --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President felt it was very appropriate for the Bush administration, which discovered and investigated the use of this inappropriate training manual, to discontinue its use and to retrieve and destroy those manuals that were in existence during the Bush administration. This obviously is a matter that predates the President's arrival here at the White House.

We have, by the way, since that time, undertaken considerable reforms at the school. It's focus has been redirected towards issues that connect to human rights and to how to best protect the individual rights of citizens that will interact with the civilian and military leaders of the countries that participate in the curriculum of the school.

In short, the School for the Americas is not the school that would have entertained the use of these very inappropriate manuals long ago.

Q Let me ask you, Joseph Kennedy, Congressman Kennedy is asking for the School of the Americas to be eliminated.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we see that this -- the school is a way by which we can advance our values in that region as we interact with the military leadership of countries that are participating in the curriculum of the schools. In short, a way in which we can help advance some of our key interests in that region and, by engaging with them, we hope to instill new values and a new respect for fundamental things like international human rights and the types of values that have in the past been abrogated.

Q Can you talk a little bit about the strategy for debate preparation? After the end of this week, is he going to be pretty much in Washington preparing, what's the plan?

MR. MCCURRY: He will do what candidates customarily do. He will prepare, he'll read briefing books, he'll have some discussion with aids, and he'll hold the debate.

Q Well, will he spend more time in Washington, will he do less travel?

MR. MCCURRY: He will spend time here in Washington and on the road, a combination of both. Obviously, before any major debate there's some sufficient downtime so that he can prepare for what are very central moments in the life of the campaign. But I don't expect him to do anything that's out of the ordinary.

Q -- go to the various debate cities in the immediate preceding hours, like a day before?

MR. MCCURRY: Sure may, right.

Q Possibly go to Hartford on Saturday?

MR. MCCURRY: Go out to Hartford early, go out to San Diego early, I'd expect him to do that.

Q Do you have any comment on the Greek elections?

MR. MCCURRY: We obviously congratulate Prime Minister Simitis on the victory. The two leaders, President Clinton and Prime Minister Simitis, have a very good working relationship. We expect to have very close, cordial relationships with our key ally, Greece, as we continue to address all the issues of relevance to us, both within NATO and as we address our very extensive bilateral agenda together.

Q Do you have a tentative time for that meeting with the CEO from welfare --

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I've heard. No.

Q -- over the weekend that President Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin, will unveil the inflation index bonds on Wednesday. Is this, in fact, going to happen and can you give us any information on some of the terms of the bond?

MR. MCCURRY: The President is very interested in ways in which we can make savings for college educations more accessible to the American people. If you're interested in that, it'd be a good idea for you to go with the President when he speaks in Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

Q Can you tell us, is he going to introduce anything new in New Jersey when he talks about the Family and Medical Leave law?

MR. MCCURRY: He'll be talking about the record of the Family and Medical Leave act, and talk about his own proposal recently in Nashville to extend some of that so we can help the American people be successful both at work and at home as they meet their obligations as parents, as family members and also work to be more productive in the work place.

He'll reflect a little more on some of the things he advanced at the family conference in Nashville.

Q What town are they going --

MR. MCCURRY: I believe it's Freehold, out in Monmouth County.

Q One of the things that Perot has argued is that he felt that he was going to come out at the end and sort of make a big dent in his gap in the polls. Does the President sort of -- does he agree with him in that respect, that if he would have been included in the debates he could have made a big difference?

MR. MCCURRY: I have to leave Mr. Perot's imaginations about his political strategy to him. We're focused on our own strategy, on our own plan to advance the President's ideas in front of the American people and leave it to Mr. Perot to decide on how to do likewise.

Okay. Thank you.

END 2:16 P.M. EDT