THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) _________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 25, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY AND JOE LOCKHART
Warwick Hotel Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
4:20 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Let me start by asking first if there are any follow-up questions for Gene Sperling on the Sperling bonds from earlier today? Yes, I assume he's worked you all furiously, individually, so you've got that.
The second thing, just to report that the President spoke just a couple of moments ago with Secretary of State Christopher. The Secretary of State and the entire Middle East peace team has been very active today, talking both to the leadership of the Palestinian community and to the Israeli leadership about the situation in the West Bank and the Gaza, the demonstrations related to the opening of the tunnel along the West Bank, over along the west wall in Jerusalem last evening.
Secretary of State Christopher had just spoken a short while ago with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the Secretary briefed the President on that conversation. Obviously, the United States urges all sides to do what they can to urge restraint and to reduce the level of violence. The United States believes that both parties have demonstrated that they can resolve their differences in face-to-face discussions, and that's the way for them to deal with issues that divide them. Return to violence and to bloodshed is certainly not the way to deepen and nurture the peace process that has brought so much hope to both Arab and Jew in Israel and in the territories.
Any other questions you've got on any other subject?
Q Does Christopher know anything about Yeltsin? Does he have any update?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we've had some reports in from our embassy in Moscow that reflect some of the same things you've seen publicly on Dr. Debakey's comments and some of the evaluation had been made by the doctors there. We don't have anything independent beyond that.
Q What's the state of play on the debates?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have Joe do that in a second.
Q Mike, what about -- on the subject of the files, the Filegate thing, the papers that were released today from the White House, what are they, what do they say, what do they mean?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as -- when we have good news or not so good news related to that matter, I leave it to Mr. Fabiani to talk about it. He's been in contact with most of your news organizations. I don't have anything to add to the statement that he's made already.
It's material that had originally been in the possession of the White House, had been turned over to the independent counsel. The independent counsel now felt free to make it available to the White House, and it is a list that were used in the Office of Personnel Security that tend to confirm some of the things that have been said in the past about the nature of the files that were used to make some of the file's requests.
Q Does it tend to show, you think, that it was a mistake?
MR. MCCURRY: It tends -- it certainly supports the general pattern that we saw in some of the comments that were made initially by the White House about this whole matter.
Q Any sense what the President is going to do with his House-passed immigration bill?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we're still looking at that. Mr. Panetta has had some conversations on the Hill today. We will take a look at what passes the Congress in the form of final conference reports, and-or what is included in any type of funding resolution the Congress brings to the President's attention as they wind up work in this session. Those are related questions and there are a great deal of discussions underway right now about that. I don't want to preempt the value of those discussions by being overly eager to comment on them publicly.
Q In the President's speech tonight to the Hispanic Caucus, do you anticipate news and additional comments on --
MR. MCCURRY: He will certainly review the work that we've done to protect America's borders, but also to encourage diversity in the American community and to respect those who come from different cultures. And the President will once again say that America's diversity is part of our strength as we look to the 21st century. I also expect him to review some of the significant achievements we've been able to make for all Americans, and especially for the Hispanic American community.
Q Mike, since the Secret Service can't keep track of who works at the White House, what does that say about their capabilities in running an effective security operation?
MR. MCCURRY: We believe they're a very capable organization.
Q Any sense that the arrest of this alleged spy will undermine U.S.-South Korean relations?
MR. MCCURRY: No. The United States and the Republic of Korea have a very strong and very deep relationship and, more importantly, a security alliance that we believe will endure any allegations of individual wrongdoing.
Q What about the alleged handler who works, supposedly, out of the South Korean Embassy in Washington? Should he be expelled or arrested?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any comment on matters that obviously are now within the province of the Justice Department.
Q -- back to the Palestinian violence -- do we have any problem with the tunnel that apparently was the genesis of all this?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are many issues involving Jerusalem that the parties, themselves, have identified as final status issues. Our view is that parties have already demonstrated they can make headway when they deal with those issues in their face-to-face discussions, and that's where they should raise issues. We also believe they should focus intensely on those issues they have identified and not create new issues that complicate their ability to resolve differences that are already there.
Q So should the Israelis have negotiated this in a final status negotiation before doing what they did?
MR. MCCURRY: We believe in the value of face-to-face, direct negotiations to resolve differences and, at the moment, most of all, we urge all sides to calm the situation and to see if they can't restore calm, civil order and discourage the violence that has been occurring.
All right, Joe can tell you more about debates.
MR. LOCKHART: First off, I've just talked to Secretary Kantor, who, if you need some more detail on this, is available in his office. I know he's talked to many of your colleagues this afternoon. But just to go through the chronology as he described it: On the 21st, Saturday, Secretary Kantor, the Clinton negotiating team, Carroll Campbell, the Dole negotiating team, negotiated for nine hours, came to agreement on 20 separate issues as far as times, dates, location, criteria for who gets in, who doesn't, and at about 6:00 p.m. at night reached an agreement.
On the 22nd they had a conference call, Secretary Kantor, Governor Campbell, with the commissions, Frank Fahrenkopf, Paul Kirk and Janet Brown, who is the executive director, where they formally extended the invitation for the commission to sponsor the debates.
Since that time, Secretary Kantor has not heard at all, formally or informally, from the Dole campaign. He's made several phone calls to Donald Rumsfeld, the Dole campaign chairman. Those calls have not been returned. So we have not heard officially from them about any problems they might have with the agreement.
Now, through media reports and other conversations, there seems to be several items that they have a problem with. And I'll just take the two of them that I know about, because they've also -- I think they've told reporters this afternoon that they have sent an amended agreement back to the Clinton-Gore campaign for us to sign. No such agreement has been received by Secretary Kantor, by our general counsel, or our campaign manager. I think one of their lawyers indicated that it wasn't done, it might be there by the end of the day, it might be there tomorrow.
But on the two items that I've been specifically told about, one is a podium. As Secretary Kantor describes it, this is a red herring issue, because the issue of the podium or lectern was discussed at length on Saturday and the agreement reads that there would not be a podium as in something like this between the candidate and the audience, but there would be a three-sided structure whereby people could lean on, take notes, keep a glass of water. But the key thing is a three-sided structure designed by the commission and approved by both campaigns.
So in the agreement they have the ability to change whatever the design is, to make it to their liking, both sides have to agree. So it's somewhat curious that after 48 hours and counting, they're making an issue of something they have veto power over.
Q -- three-sided structure?
MR. LOCKHART: It's basically -- the design that I was shown was something that came behind you, that you could put up on the side, you could put notes -- you could take notes, you could put a glass of water. It's just -- the concept is so that there's nothing between you and the audience so that you're able to move around freely.
Q Joe, but if Bob Dole wants a lectern in front of him, does your campaign have any problem with that?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, what we're talking about here is what they agreed to. Let me just go through the other points, then we'll come back.
The second point -- so they clearly have veto power or whatever over whatever structure is there, but they did agree specifically to the idea of there being no podium in the town hall format.
Q No lectern?
MR. LOCKHART: No lectern, sir.
On the issue of the baseball game, again it is a curious objection because it was the Dole campaign that pushed for the debate on the 16th. Our preference was the 13th. The 16th -- Mickey Kantor brought up on several occasions that it might conflict with the baseball game -- as you remember, Mickey had some experience in 1992 with the same issue -- and the Dole campaign insisted that that was not a problem, that the 16th was the day they wanted to do it, 9:00 p.m. was the time they wanted to do it.
We agreed, and the overall agreement remains in place, and it remains at the Dole campaign headquarters waiting for signature.
Q Have you heard about this audience selection issue with the town hall meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: No. As far as formal communications go between the two lead negotiators and the Dole campaign, there has been none. What they have talked to the press about -- an amended agreement, but they have not sent it to us.
Q And you've signed the agreement, right?
MR. LOCKHART: We have signed the agreement.
Q Who signed it?
MR. LOCKHART: Mr. Kantor.
Q When did he sign it?
MR. LOCKHART: He signed it Monday around noontime.
Q Who drew up the agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: The way they drew up the agreement was they used the 1992 agreement as sort of a boilerplate, and then just on the 27 issues, they just dropped in the language from each thing. And, specifically, the podium one -- there was one that didn't apply. The Dole people didn't want the stools that we had in 1992, they wanted to stand. So they had to specifically, from their notes, do different language this time.
Q But who physically, who was it who wrote out the agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: The actual -- the language was dropped in by, I believe, either our general counsel or someone on her staff.
Q Joe, yesterday in New Jersey, in the crowd was a fellow dressed up in a chicken outfit, holding up a sign, "Chicken Dole." Does the Clinton-Gore campaign have any connection with that person?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know who that person was.
Q Well, that's not the question.
Q So the Clinton-Gore campaign is not sponsoring any "Chicken Dole" person at this time?
MR. LOCKHART: No, no. Not that I know of.
Q Okay -- not yet.
Q Joe, if your position in the campaign originally was for a debate on the 13th, what's your problem with changing the time on the 16th?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there were two problems. One problem is that we have reached an agreement. And anyone who has ever been involved in negotiations knows that when both sides argue their position, and then at the end of the day, when you agree, it's an agreement, and it doesn't get reopened to serve one side's purpose.
The second potential problem -- and again, I'm -- since we haven't been formally informed of this, it's hard for us to speculate on what they might be thinking, but if, in theory, the Western states no longer have any importance to them, it might work to their advantage if they were doing it at 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, thus diminishing the audience.
Q Why do you think the Dole people are raising these objections?
MR. LOCKHART: I'll repeat you what Mickey said a few moments ago, which is, he knew going on they didn't want to debate Ross Perot, and it's now not completely clear that they want to debate Bill Clinton.
Q What about Nelson Warfield's remark, calling Mickey Kantor a used car salesman?
MR. LOCKHART: I would suggest that that was a poor choice of words for Mr. Warfield, given the fact that one of Mr. Kantor's major accomplishments is as a new car salesman for America and for American workers.
MR. MCCURRY: We're number one! (Laughter and applause.)
Could we end this torment? (Laughter.)
Q What's your reaction to Jesse Jackson signing on to the Perot lawsuit?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't seen it and I don't have any comment.
Q Joe, is your campaign unwilling to negotiate anything that has already been agreed to in Saturday's meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: We have an agreement which we signed and which we plan to move forward with.
Q Have you ever known anybody who wore a chicken suit?
Q Are you saying no to renegotiations or any kind of changes?
MR. LOCKHART: Mark, there's been no request to renegotiate, so I'm not going to speculate on what we'll do. We have an agreement, we've signed it, we plan to move forward.
Q Is there a deadline for their side?
MR. LOCKHART: No, there's no deadline in the contract.
Q Joe, what --
MR. LOCKHART: I said, there's no agreement to have the debate right now. There is no debate without this agreement.
Q Is it the position of Clinton-Gore --
MR. LOCKHART: We don't --
MR. MCCURRY: I said earlier Pennsylvania, but we may not be able to come back and do that just because we're looking to try to find a place where we can get hotel rooms and accommodate everybody. We haven't nailed that down yet. That was for planning purposes.
Q When was tonight's events scheduled? When were this evening's events scheduled in Philadelphia and this morning in Pittsburgh?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I mean, the Pittsburgh was in the last four or five days. I'll have to check on this evening's receptions.
Q The burden of my question is, was this day of travel scheduled after the President already decided he didn't want to have a debate in St. Louis tonight because of the U.N. speech yesterday, or were, in fact, the existence of these events part of the reason why he decided he didn't want a debate in St. Louis?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think as we moved forward and it became clear that we didn't have an agreement to go on the 25th, we moved forward with the schedule. But I would have to check on the exact time, yes.
Q Joe, the last question on Mark's point -- what is your objection to negotiating with the shape of the lectern to accommodate Senator Dole's greater ease in taking notes?
MR. LOCKHART: My point is, is that their objection is a red herring. In the contract, there is a point that says the structure will be designed by the commission, is subject to the approval of both campaigns. They won't approve it if they don't agree that it's to their liking and meets their specifications. So it's very unclear and curious as to why they're raising it.
Q But are they raising the idea of a lectern because of his handicap?
MR. LOCKHART: We don't know. We have not been communicated with officially.
Q And what's wrong with having something like a small lectern that would get between the candidate and the audience?
MR. MCCURRY: There's obviously nothing wrong with it.
Okay, there are two things I want to say. One, we're going to sign the V.A. HUD bill at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. That includes the 48-hour provision that the President's been talking about that we strongly support, so we're looking forward to a signing ceremony for that. And then, the President, as you know, goes up to the Hill, meets with the Democratic Congressional Caucus. I expect the President will have some things to say to the stakeout afterwards, along with the Vice President, Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt.
Q Stakeout on the Hill?
MR. MCCURRY: That's on the Hill, yes.
Q What would the topic be generally?
MR. MCCURRY: They are going to talk about the work we've been able to do. The President intends to thank the Caucus for the hard work they've done the last two years and in difficult circumstances with the Republican majority, but they've been able to accomplish things for the American people that the President is proud of and that the Democratic Caucus is proud of, too. We'll be celebrating those things, talking about the work that lies ahead in the next several days to complete this session of Congress, and focus on the good work that this Congress was able to do despite the circumstances for the American people.
Q What time is he going to be up on the Hill, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: They are due up there, I believe at around noontime tomorrow. Let me check.
Q Where will he sign the --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have that yet. Barry? We don't have --
Q Rose Garden?
MR. MCCURRY: They haven't picked a site yet. And the visit up to the Hill is supposed to begin around 12:45 p.m., and would be done around 1:45 p.m. And then I'll do my briefing after they get back down afterwards.
Anything else? Thank you so much.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 4:35 P.M. EDT