THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Chautauqua, New York) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 4, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY, JOE LOCKHART AND DOUG SOSNIK
The St. Elmo Hotel Chautauqua, New York
10:54 A.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good morning, and how are you all today? All right, here's what the plan is. I'm going to --
Q We need the speakers louder, Mike.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we need the speakers louder.
Q Just project, Mike.
MR. MCCURRY: I'll project about like this. I'll do some Q&A now, and you should know very shortly we will have the Saturday radio address coming out. Now, we're handling this a little bit differently, and let me explain why.
A short while ago, the Centers for Disease Control announced a new report that shows that for the fourth consecutive year there's been a decline in the teenage birth rate, and for the first time in 20 years there's been a decline in the out-of-wedlock teen birth rate. Encouraging news, obviously. That's the subject of the President's radio address. Because CDC has put out that report today, we're going to go ahead and move the radio address today so you can use it for Saturday news coverage.
Q So in other words, we can use it as soon as we get it?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it will come out unembargoed because CDC has already released this report and that's what we're commenting on. So it's actually a comment on a report that's already out there. But you're all encouraged to write about it two days in a row if you would like to. (Laughter.)
Q So the audio will be released today as well?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll do the audio and the text, and the text they're doing now, so it should be available very shortly.
Q Will you take some questions on that first?
MR. MCCURRY: I can do so, although we've got some material coming up from HHS that will give us a little more on it. I'll see if I can -- and I know a little bit about it now.
Q For example, what would you cite under the Clinton administration that might get credit for this?
MR. MCCURRY: The President, first of all, has made this a primary focus of his work. He has addressed this problem throughout his tenure in office, as you know, and he signed an executive order that requires young mothers to stay in school or lose welfare. We've mounted an unprecedented crackdown on child support enforcement. Child support collections are up 50 percent. We'll have a lot of statistics available for you on the number of cases that we've been able to address where we've hunted down deadbeat dads. So the message that's gone out is a very clear one, that you have responsibility and you must take responsibility for your actions, and the message that goes both to the mother and the father.
I think the concentrated focus the President has brought to the issue has helped generate the right climate for this type of improvement in the numbers. Now, I don't want to overstress the improvement. There is a slight increase, but it shows the beginning of some marginal changes in what has been one of the most serious problems in our culture, and it's one that obviously the President will continue to address if he has four more years.
Q So you think after -- do you think the crackdown on after-birth responsibility has led to less teen sex?
MR. MCCURRY: We believe that the tough message about parental responsibility, combined with better education, combined with a lot of the things that we have supported at the community level and putting a concentrated focus on this from the bully pulpit has helped generate the right climate for this improvement.
Q It's unusual for this report to come out so quickly. Last year's numbers just came out in June. Is this politically connected, or is it just --
MR. MCCURRY: There have been -- throughout this year you have seen a lot of adjusted dates in the release of government reports. One of the main reasons for that has been the change in the cycle because of the government shutdown. That's affected a lot of the releases. Now, we just did a Census Bureau report that came out on schedule, even though it had -- they had to work hard to get that out because of the government shutdown. Government reports come out literally every single day, just about.
Now, we are obviously in the middle of a campaign season and we choose to focus on those reports that come out that reflects some of the things that the President is working on that he wants to argue for the American people, and I don't think that should surprise anyone here.
Q Debate stuff?
Q Mike, what can you tell us about the President's decision to send Secretary Christopher over to the Middle East talks? What message does the White House, does he hope that that decision will send to the parties over there?
MR. MCCURRY: The parties are at a crucial point as they now dig in and do the hard work of discussions about the implementation agreements. We had discussed the utility of having the Secretary in the region. As you know, both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat have indicated their willingness to be available to their senior negotiators when they gather in Erez on Sunday morning.
The Secretary had a previously scheduled trip to Africa, so he is en route to that continent, and his ability to be in the region makes it possible for him to consult with the parties. Now, the format, the discussion of how that will happen I'll leave to the State Department; they're still working on those details. In fact, the formal announcement of the Secretary's trip will actually occur somewhat later today, if it wasn't already just made.
Q -- a basic idea of what he's going to try to do?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he will continue to do the work he did throughout the morning on Wednesday as he really dealt with the very difficult issues the parties have and worked to identify ways in which they might bridge their differences on all of the relevant issues, whether it's Hebron or prisoner release, or the question of economic access for the labor market in the territories, or whether it's some of the issues related to security that are of primary concern, obviously, to the government of Israel. So all of those issues upon which the parties in good faith aired their differences in Washington now need to be raised in the context of a formal, technical negotiation that can bridge differences.
Q Mike, based on the outcome of the summit this week, would you say the U.S. and Christopher and those interested in the outcome of these talks are in for a very long haul?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't want to say one way or another how long it will take. You heard the Secretary say Wednesday that he thought it might be a matter of weeks, but that will depend on the willingness of the parties to make progress. We believe it's important for them to make progress. We believe it's important for them to move forward with their implementation. We detected in both sides as a result of their discussions their willingness to do that.
Stunned silence here.
Q If Christopher goes to Erez, it will just be for a few hours?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm leaving it to the State Department to describe precisely how he will engage with the parties. And they are prepared to do so, I believe, fairly shortly.
Q Debate prep?
MR. MCCURRY: We did that. The Senator and the President I think did a good job addressing that. I don't have much to add to that.
Q Did they do a formal mock debate last night?
MR. MCCURRY: They did a variety of things yesterday -- some Q&A, some reading through papers, some discussions back and forth. Obviously, the two of them debated in a debate format at one point, and you heard the results described.
Q Do you play the role of the moderator?
MR. MCCURRY: A lot of different people take turns doing that. I did it last night, but Don Baer has done that, John Podesta has done that. I think -- Ann Lewis did it at one point, Joe did it at one point. We've got a lot of people helping out on that because the questions are many and the answers are few.
Q What's your biggest fear going into the debate Sunday night?
MR. MCCURRY: My personal fear? That the spin afterwards will take too long and we won't be able to go to sleep early. It's not a question of fear, it's a question of do we want the President to have the opportunity he just described to you. And you heard what his goals are; we just want him to have that opportunity.
Q Can you talk a little bit about how this is working, where are they prepping, where are they doing the mock debates, what does it look like, stuff like that?
MR. MCCURRY: They're just up the hill at this little auditorium and they work in there, and the President does all of the standard things that you would expect a candidate to do. He reads some briefing books and he has some Q&A and some dialogue with the people there. Nothing surprising about it.
Q Is it an identical set to what was agreed to for the debate Sunday night?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what the debate's format looks like Sunday night. It looks like a debate, you know, it's like a podium and you talk.
Q Does he have a stage or something like that?
MR. MCCURRY: It's just -- it's an auditorium. My understanding is it's a wonderful new facility here at the Chautauqua Institution that is designed for classical music.
Q Is it just like a debate, with a TV set?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, it just looks like a debate, you know, standard thing.
Q Are they going to dress up in coat and tie to, like, actually create the mood of the formal occasion, or is this casual?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, this is sausage making. So the sausage is Sunday, and watch it and you'll have a good idea of what it looks like.
Q We're trying to get the sausage on the preparation.
MR. MCCURRY: I know, you want color and I'm not giving it.
Q In what way did Senator Mitchell beat the President to the point where he had decided --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think that was a light-hearted reference by the President. But they worked through a lot of questions, Q&A back and forth and he heard what the President and the Senator felt about it.
Q Mike, are folks posing to the President the kind of questions you expect Dole to pose to him?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have many expectations one way or another. I mean, Dole doesn't pose questions, as far as I know. It's the moderator format requires the moderator to pose questions back and forth.
Q -- be real; you know that Dole is going to make pointed questions in reference --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, thank you. That's good intelligence. Do you get that from the Dole campaign? That's good.
Q But address it. Come on.
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q Address it.
MR. MCCURRY: Address what?
Q We just asked you, do you expect Dole to ask pointed questions.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what to expect --
Q And you tried to blow it off on the moderator.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what to expect from Senator Dole.
Q Well, what is the President saying or what does he plan to say when he's asked to take a no-pardon pledge?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he answered that question a short while ago.
Q He answered it here?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, it's in the transcript.
Q On Sunday what's the plan of action? Do you know when he'll be heading for Connecticut?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not -- have we put out a final schedule for Sunday yet? We'll get up here at some point Sunday and go to Hartford. And I think we'll do a -- he goes and does a walk-through of the facilities so he can see it at some point, and then they have the debate Sunday night.
Q And there will be coverage, we presume, of that walk-through?
MR. MCCURRY: No, there's no coverage by agreement of the campaign. That was stipulated, too, I think in the arrangements made.
Q What can you tell us about this ad that's been reported on that the campaign has put out, specifically targeted at African Americans? Why would you do that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's a good point. Any other things for me before I turn it over to -- we have some interesting developments in the political world and we turn now to our political desk, Joe Lockhart and Doug Sosnik, available for commentary on those subjects.
Anything else on any other subjects?
Q What about the Social Security snafu, the underpayments. Is there any -- do you know anything about that?
Q L.A. Times today.
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't seen it. I'll have to look at it today.
Q Is the White House quietly looking into a replacement for Freeh?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, thanks for asking, Ron. The President tells me that that is categorically untrue as far as he knows. Anyone that is sounding out anybody is doing it without his authorization and they should stop it.
Q Does he have full faith and confidence in Freeh? Does he want him to stay the full term?
MR. MCCURRY: He does. We don't know when --
Q I'm sorry -- does he want him to stay the full term?
MR. MCCURRY: What's it for?
Q Ten years.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I think that goes beyond his own service in office if he's reelected.
Q And when you said, he does, you're answering the question as to whether he has full faith and confidence in Freeh?
MR. MCCURRY: He has full faith and confidence in the Director and he's not planning to make any changes in the office, as far as I know.
Q Has their relationship cooled at all?
MR. MCCURRY: Their relationship is strong. He is a strong law enforcement officer.
What else is out there that we should do now, so I don't have to come back? This is it for the day, by the way; we're shutting down. We'll have -- in terms of us, we'll be gone and encourage all of you to enjoy beautiful upstate southwestern New York.
Q That means no golf, nothing else?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll play golf -- we hope he'll play golf this afternoon, because it's such a lovely day. And we'll get a protective pool together just to get a picture of that. He will not talk to the pool. He's done that already.
Q And you're not talking tonight after --
MR. MCCURRY: Not talking tonight afterwards. This is it for the day.
Q Is he still going to have these rehearsals, one a day, or what's the schedule?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I mean, they're up there talking through some debate things now, sits with staff and talks through different elements of what -- we expect, obviously, questions in the economic area, the political area, foreign policy. He talks about how he will approach that. A large part of what he wants to do is make sure, as he said earlier, he can talk about his record in a compelling way. And when you have to do that in 90-second-bursts you need to focus on how best to do that. And that's what he's doing. It's not very complicated.
Q Can you just give us a quick rundown of who's working with him?
MR. MCCURRY: It's different people at different times. It's several senior aides. Probably about two dozen people are up from Washington and various people take part and help out.
I want to correct one thing, because I think Leon, he didn't mislead the pool yesterday, but I think the pool may have misunderstood something. We had done some, a little bit of work in Washington prior to departure. Laura Tyson, Bob Rubin and some others were identified as being part of the debate prep effort. They are not here at Chautauqua. They did some work back down in Washington prior to coming up here and they don't --
Q And they're not coming here?
MR. MCCURRY: They're not coming here, as far as I know. It's mostly a collection of senior White House aides, policy people -- Gene Sperling is in high dudgeon. (Laughter.) Which is kind of exactly what you'd expect.
Q He's here.
MR. MCCURRY: No, he's here? He's here. This is a moment of crowning glory. He's got six-feet-high worth of briefing papers and books and he's just grinning ear to ear.
Q Mike, if you've already answered this, I'm sorry, but when the President's on the golf course there will be a pool for that?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I mean, if you guys need a picture of that --
Q Can you give a time check?
MR. ENGSKOV: We weren't planning on taking the pool. It's right here on the campus.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. Sounds good to me.
Q So there's a pool lid, in other words -- there's a travel pool lid after you --
MR. MCCURRY: Travel pool lid after -- I mean, it's a travel pool lid now.
Q What about a picture, though, of him playing golf?
Q Yes, we would like a picture of that.
MR. MCCURRY: Got a great picture of him out there today.
Q That's good, but how about a picture of him playing golf?
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. You put together a travel pool and it will have to be on stand-by; and if we can work it out, we'll work it out. But, I want to emphasize, he will not -- you ask for a picture -- only he's not going to talk to the pool.
Q Who's the senior person back at the White House? I mean, is Harold back there, is he up here or --
MR. MCCURRY: Evelyn Lieberman, the Deputy Chief of Staff is in full command and is reporting regularly to Leon Panetta.
Q Is she in full dudgeon, too?
MR. MCCURRY: No, she's capably managing all the important work that occurs at the White House.
Q So Harold is here?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Ickes is here.
Okay. Now we've got some interesting developments politically.
Q I was asking about that ad which he apparently didn't make public as you normally do with your ads that is targeted directly at African Americans. The Post story says that it talks about black unemployment at a 20-year low. Why should this not be taken as pandering to a specific racial group when you do things like that?
MR. LOCKHART: First off, it's not targeted purely to African Americans, it's an ad that, as it was described for me, was scored high on the hip scale -- designed for young pp --but also African Americans, people in urban markets. They told me last night that it may also run on MTV, for instance.
Q Why wouldn't you have released it in the normal way you do all your other ads?
MR. LOCKHART: To be perfectly straightforward, that was an oversight on my office's part. We brought in a different firm that did that ad -- a New York firm which the Post talks about. And everything in the Post story is pretty much accurate. And we didn't understand how they were releasing it, so it was an oversight.
Q Will you make it available now?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, it's being made available this morning out of Washington. I can get it up here, too.
MR. LOCKHART: Text, yes.
Let me draw your attention to something else. If you had a chance to peruse the New York Times this morning, there's a very interesting article, which having worked for some candidates in the 1980s, Democrats who were unsuccessful, I understand the feeling -- Speaker Gingrich gave an interview with the Times editorial board, suggesting that his advice to Republican congressional candidates was do whatever it takes, if you have to distance yourself from Bob Dole, go ahead and do it. It's what we used to call back in the '80s "lifeboat day." Republicans are now orderly going to be going to the lifeboat and leaving the good ship of Bob Dole's campaign and doing what they think is important.
We think this is significant, that coming from the Speaker of the House, one of the leaders of the Republican Party, that he is now out publicly telling people that if you feel it helps you politically, go ahead and distance yourself and that the Republican Party is beginning to make some significant strategic and tactical decisions that are putting resources toward congressional and Senate candidates and away from Senator Dole's campaign.
Beyond this article, the Republicans are planning a new bite today from the RNC that's targeting many of the congressional districts. Doug Sosnik has more of the details, but it does play into the whole idea that there are many in the Republican Party who feel it's in their interest to begin to distance themselves from Senator Dole and his campaign.
MR. SOSNIK: I mentioned it before, let me just reinforce something I said last week, which is we're at a point now in the campaign where the only thing that matters are actions. It's basically where you send the candidate and where you spend your money. The rest of the stuff, the talk the people do between elections, we're past that phase now.
Q You mean, like debate spin?
MR. SOSNIK: Like debate spin. And the other is, is that increasingly, as you move into the end of an election, while often, depending upon whether you're up or down, often the interest of a presidential candidate and the congressional candidates are more similar than dissimilar. There are differences, and as you get into October those differences play themselves out in those tough decisions on where you go and where you spend your money.
This summer, we didn't talk about it, but we made note of it -- this summer, just to remind you, and I'll talk a little bit about the next buy, next week's buy in a moment for the Republicans, but this summer, the RNC put up $20 million worth of ads. There are two noticeable things about those ads over the summer. One was it didn't mention Dole, and that was also, if you will recall, at the middle of his tax announcement, his plan.
So one is, it didn't mention Dole and the other -- about half of the buy was in parts of the country that would do Dole no good in winning 270 electoral votes. And so as we talk about next week's buy, there is one buy behind us. Again, actions speak louder than words, where you spend your money, where you don't spend your money -- that's really what matters. So the buy this summer was the beginning of what you will see I believe next week as well.
Barbour is doing a press conference right now, is announcing a new ad around the country for congressional candidates. We don't know what the ad is. It will be, I think, noteworthy, though, to see whether or not Dole is in the ads, and if he is in the ads, what role he plays and how prominent he's played.
And, secondly, again, if you look at where they're buying, the markets around the country, from the information that we've received in this, it's just a partial buy, it's clear they're buying a lot of parts around the country that have nothing to do with aiding a Dole candidacy to 270 electoral votes; specifically buying heavily in Kansas, Indiana, Vermont, Upstate New York, Nebraska, Washington State, West Virginia.
I just want to mention three things as we think about moving into next week. One is based on history. Looking at the polls right now, you should expect Dole to get a bump off this first debate. Four out of the five last presidential cycles, the person who was behind got a boost out of the first debate. The difference -- and it was a small boost -- was Mondale in '84. Some argue Mondale got a boost in '84; if you want to believe that. Then five out of five of the last presidential debates, the candidate behind after the first one tightened the race.
Secondly, it's increasingly incumbent upon both sides, but particularly the Dole campaign at this point given the electoral college map, to make initial final decisions following the first debate on what states are going to be in play and not in play. You're at a point now four weeks out that you've got to make decisions on that.
And, thirdly -- it's the answer to point one was, Dole is not in their ads that Barbour just announced a few minutes ago in Washington. The third thing is, you should expect -- and we're saying this to you in part to make sure you all keep your eye on it -- you should expect a large radio buy next week across the country by the Dole campaign that will, I'm sure be -- we don't know what the ad will be, but I feel confident in saying to you it's likely that it will be very negative. Campaigns tend to prefer to use very negative ads through radio, generally it goes under the radar of analysis by the TV and by newspapers. And if they do go over the large buy next week on radio and it is negative, I think that should give you some sense of where they're campaign is as they hit the final four weeks in terms of them being behind.
Q Are you going to speak for Perot, too?
MR. SOSNIK: No.
Q Doug, you provided a list the other day of places where Dole has not advertised since Labor Day. Do you have any other states to ad to the list of places they've gone dark?
MR. LOCKHART: Everywhere now.
MR. SOSNIK: They're dark all weekend, apparently. Nancy's yawning back there as we talk about this campaign. They have not bought, basically, since August in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington State. They've now pulled out of Iowa. I look around the room; I know most of you have been doing this for a long time -- those are states that are supposed to be in play at this time of year.
Q Do you know if New Hampshire as well -- I heard that they've gone dark.
MR. SOSNIK: Well, they had been dark in New Hampshire. There's a poll that came out this past week, a public poll, which had us up, I think 20 points in New Hampshire, and all the -- New Hampshire's an interesting state. You've got us leading the governors race right now; depending in which poll it's probably a dead heat in the Senate race; very competitive in the congressional races. The President enjoys a significant lead there.
They are going back up in New Hampshire. And they just bought for next week Oregon, which they are down, according to the public polls, they are around 20 points. And I'll just remind you on California, they've now plowed about $3 million in.
Remember in '94, we all assumed Huffington was sort of an unusual candidate in his ability to spend money. Feinstein spent, I think, $7 million in California on TV from Labor Day until election. Wilson spent about the same amount. And that was in a -- Feinstein race -- Huffington was about a dead heat race on Labor Day. We're not in a dead heat situation right now with Dole.
But in terms of playing California to win California, if you look back at history -- and again, words don't matter, actions and money is the tale of the tape and knowing what the campaign's intents are. You look at where the bar has been set by recent campaigns in California, what it takes to do a successful media campaign, and you're looking at a minimum of $7 million in -- the Wilson race and the Feinstein races were both basically dead heat races.
Q So you basically agree with Dick Morris that the race is over with?
MR. SOSNIK: No. The fact I just sat here and told you a minute ago that next week you're going to wake up -- I can't speak for your polls, Wolf -- but next week, you're going to wake up and the polls are going to be tightening and we're going to be -- the race is going to be tighter next week.
And we -- you look at this campaign and you didn't know what was going on, and you look at what we've been doing, you look at what Dole's been doing and you think we're behind in terms of the amount of travel we're doing, the types of events that were doing. And we're going to continue to do that all the way through and run a campaign that we want to win every single day and take nothing for granted.
Q Doug, are you commending the RNC for not misusing soft money by leaving Dole out of their ads? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: I think he's saying no.
As long as we're talking about ads, let me just add one other thing, that we will have a new ad -- it should be ready, should have a script up here in about an hour. I'm not precisely sure what's in it, so when it get here, I'll be around if anybody wants to talk about the script. We'll get it around. I don't -- I think this is the ad, though, that won't go up until Monday.
Q Is this released in Washington, too?
MR. LOCKHART: Released in Washington, too, yes.
MR. MCCURRY: Let me ask one question. Do you guys -- if we've got routine statements coming out on just -- there's still some cleanup stuff that Congress is doing as the House winds up today, as the Senate wound up yesterday. We'd be happy to take routine paper and put it out to the wire bureaus directly in Washington and call it around. Is there any way you'd have a problem with that?
Q I'd like to see it up here.
MR. MCCURRY: We'll have it available here, but we will move it first to bureaus down there. Is that okay with all you guys?
Q Oh, sure.
Q Fine with the wires, yes.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. So it looks good -- transfer command and control down to Mary Ellen on that kind of stuff. I think there are some just -- there will probably be some routine things on appointments and things like that. I just want to save the wires.
Q No more vetoes coming on any bills, are there?
MR. MCCURRY: No, if there's anything of -- do we have an all-call capability here?
Q No. Very sporadic.
MR. MCCURRY: We don't. Okay, well we wanted to give people basically the ability to go do stuff today. So we'll cover -- if there's anything, we'll do everything we can to protect people. But I don't see any reason for us not to transfer some of the dispensing of paper down there.
Okay, well, have a good day and we'll see you tomorrow.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:20 A.M. EDT