THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Lake Charles, Louisiana)
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY Northrop Grumman Hangar Chennault Industrial Airpark Lake Charles, Louisiana
3:48 P.M. CDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the White House briefing at our remote location here in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Entertaining you today is White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, and we'll go now to Todd Purdum of The New York Times for the first question, Todd.
Q Do you have any reaction to Ross Perot's criticisms in Washington that the second term of the Clinton administration will be like Watergate, it will all come unravelled, people will be sorry?
MR. MCCURRY: For those of you until today did not have an opportunity to follow some of the utterances of Mr. Perot, you will discover this is similar to what he has been saying in all those many weeks you didn't cover him. And my reaction is as it has been, that that's not fair, not correct, and not an accurate characterization of a President who has done exactly what he said he would do when it comes to pushing for campaign finance reform, political reform, balancing the budget, giving America a brighter future -- issues that Mr. Perot, himself, sometimes addresses.
Q On the specific question of Watergate marring a second term -- and he's creating gridlock and Watergate all over again, how would you react to that specific --
MR. MCCURRY: The President has been taking great pains to assure that there won't be gridlock in a second term by making it very clear the agenda that he would pursue in a second term; it's the one that he's identified in his many public appearances during this campaign. He has sketched a very concrete bridge to the 21st century, and he's ready to build that bridge.
Q Mike, have you all, in fact, pulled your ads out of the northeast?
MR. MCCURRY: We've made adjustments to reflect our understanding of the chemistry of the race and to respond to what we perceive to be the Dole campaign's targeting strategy. We, throughout the campaign, haven't talked precisely about where we are campaigning, but we're encouraged by the strong support being shown in the northeast and, indeed, around the country for the President's campaign.
Q Mike, Perot alleged that this Jorge Cabrera had a rap sheet going back to the 1980s. Why wasn't that discovered when checks were presumably made before he came to the White House to have his picture taken --
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding, checks were made and the Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting the President, made a determination he did not pose a security threat to the President. For further information on how they made that check, my understanding is that the Secret Service is prepared to address that.
Q Mike, can you address Ross Perot's concerns in the second term to bring what he describes as a second Watergate?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, that was the question I just answered.
Q James Huang, they tried to deliver -- the Marshall Service tried to deliver a subpoena today. He's missing in action and no one seems to know where he is. Do you have any reaction?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know where he is, either; but I'll see what the Marshall Service or the Justice Department is saying about it.
Q Mike, you answered the point about gridlock, but I don't think you answered the part about the second Watergate.
MR. MCCURRY: There have been -- there is ample reason to believe that the President is 100 percent correct when he says campaign finance reform ought to be a very high priority of the 105th Congress. He's made it clear he will fight for that. And in this campaign he is the one who has clearly advocated and tried to achieve campaign finance reform; and his principal opponent, Senator Dole, was the one who has filibustered campaign finance reform, that's ultimately going to be the answer.
Q Mike, you said the Secret Service --
Q That's not what he's talking about. He's talking about the fact that you have all these things bubbling around and they could all rise to strike down and create problems for the second term.
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's certainly not the President's view of the future and Ross Perot will have to speak for himself on that.
Q Mike, you said the Secret Service had made a determination that this individual did not prose a threat to the President.
MR. MCCURRY: That's my understanding, correct.
Q Were Clinton and the campaign or the White House aware that this individual had drug convictions on his record?
MR. MCCURRY: To my knowledge, no one was aware of that.
Q We can't hear any of the questions, Mike.
Q Mike, was it about the fact the indictment -- that Cabrera had been indicted?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Is the President calling on Huang to meet with U.S. Marshals? It's an embarrassing situation where a Democratic fundraiser is essentially ducking U.S. Marshals --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he works for the Democratic National Committee and I'll be in contact with their spokesman and see what they're saying about his whereabouts.
Q But he was a former department -- Commerce Department official and at present is head of the DNC. I mean, we're talking about some --
MR. MCCURRY: He's not head of the DNC. But I'll check with the DNC to see if they know anything -- if they're saying anything or know anything about his whereabouts.
Q He is a friend of President Clinton, if I am correct. Is the President at this point saying he should go forward and actually comply with the --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President always says that people should cooperate with legitimate inquiries by law authorities.
Q Does that mean -- calling on Huang to meet with U.S. Marshals?
MR. MCCURRY: He always believe people should cooperate. And I just said I'll check further with the DNC and see if they can tell me anything further about the circumstances. Or you may want to check directly with the DNC.
Q Can I change the subject?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, as always, please do.
Q One of the speakers on the podium was saying that this new agreement with NATO might create 700 jobs. Do you know where that number came from?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's a projected -- there have been discussions within the NATO military -- by NATO military planners about the nature of the air surveillance system that ought to be developed and available to the alliance in the future. They're talking -- there have been discussions in general in Brussels about a significant investment by the alliance and that type of technology. But, as always, within the alliance, there would have to be agreement by governments of the size and scope of such an investment.
There is clearly, with the procurement that our government plans for the J-STAR, significant resources that will go into production here in Lake Charles and at the other facilities that contribute to the project itself; but, obviously, a decision by NATO in the future to proceed with procurement of this type of plane could have a significant economic impact here. I can't say that it will be 700, but someone from Northrop Grumman is here and maybe can help with that.
MR. MCCURRY: It surely is.
MR. HAMILTON: I'm Larry Hamilton, Director of Public Affairs in the Washington Office of the Northrop Grumman Corporation. If, in fact, we get a NATO buy which would -- of 10 aircraft, that would add another 300 employees to this plant, it would extend production from the year 2004 to about the year 2007, and it would mean that we would make a total of 19 for the U.S. and 10 for NATO, which would be a total of 29. So it does have a big economic impact for this area, as well as Melbourne, Florida, because we refurbish the airplanes here; we take used 707s and bring them -- and when they leave here, they have zero hours on them.
We then fly them to Melbourne, Florida where we put all of the computers and the consoles and that, and then we deliver them to the Air Force. And back to Mike's comment earlier about frogs and one thing and another, there's a million lines of code in the JOINT STARS, which is more than there is in the space shuttle, so it's a real technology development. It took us 10 years to do.
Q Ten more planes for NATO?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, but I want to stress on that, that we cannot presuppose decisions that the NATO armaments directors will make November 6th and 7th when they meet. There has been planning around the air surveillance component, air tracking component that would be part of NATO's integrated force structure, and obviously we have strong views on the utility of the J-STARs. But we would have to work especially with the British and the French and the Germans, who have all expressed strong interest in that question to have a position that would reflect the consensus of 16 at NATO.
Q Is the decision going to be made on which plane to buy on November 6th and 7th?
MR. MCCURRY: The specifications for how they would address the priority identified by the Military Committee today will be addressed in greater specificity.
The British, I think -- maybe I can get some help here -- didn't they have a thing called the "nimrod," at one point, but that's never been in production, right?
MR. HAMILTON: NATO is looking right now at four systems to provide for their airborne ground surveillance system. One is a helicopter system called Creso, which is made in Italy. One is Horizon, which is made in France. The other is JOINT STARs, which we make, and the British are trying to, or have under consideration and have out for bid for a program called ASTOR. ASTOR is smaller than JOINT STARs in that they are planning to try and put that into a commercial-size jet. You're looking at a Canada Air or something like a nimrod. But right now, there are only three systems that are actually in production and available, and that's the two helicopter systems in JOINT STARs. Astor is still a paper airplane; at least a couple of years away from production.
MR. MCCURRY: And as you heard the President say today, he is perfectly willing to put some muscle to this question as well, as NATO considers what the options are.
Other subjects? It's a quiet day on the campaign trail.
Q Did the President speak to Netanyahu last night?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he spoke -- we did that earlier, Wolf. And I wanted to correct -- there were one or two wire stories that I think misinterpreted what I said earlier. They spoke on Tuesday -- Tuesday, not today. The President and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Q What did they talk about?
MR. MCCURRY: The Middle East peace process.
Q Did the President speak -- deal on Hebron?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is satisfied that the parties are fully engaged on the substantive issues, and knows that Ambassador Dennis Ross, who elected to remain in Israel, is working very hard on that question.
Q Mike, any reaction to what Dole said in Florida today about the President, that Americans would be making a big mistake to vote for him?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't have any reaction to that. And as a general practice, in my time in politics I think it's best not to accuse the American people of not thinking when you're trying to earn their support and trust.
Q Has there been any contact in the last couple of hours with Perot people? You said earlier there had been.
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge, no.
Q It's my understanding that the President is not eager to offend, you know, Mr. Perot's supporters. He presumably thinks that this grandest of Mr. Perot's charges about the fate of his second term is really not consummate with the facts. Did he have any kind of pointed reaction to this like, what a bunch of --
MR. MCCURRY: No, the President's reaction is that we should continue making the positive case about the future that he's been making and that that would likely have some appeal to those who might be considering supporting Mr. Perot. Ultimately, the best way to beat another candidate in this race is by offering better ideas, a better plan for the future and we're making some headway; and because that's what the President has been doing.
Q Why do you think Perot is saying all this?
MR. MCCURRY: Because he had an audience today, delivered to him by Mr. Dole. Okay, that wraps it up for today. Now, on to New Orleans.
Q Is there any feeling in the White House that a Democratic Congress would be a good thing to have because then you would have Democrats with the power and not Republicans?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, the White House obviously feels it would be great to have a Democratic 105th Congress. The President has been working hard to elect Democratic members of Congress but, most importantly, has been asking people to share his vision and plan for the future because that's the way you make the best appeal to the voters.
Voters, increasingly in America, don't vote partisan labels they vote on ideas, they vote on results and they vote on who will best protect their interests into the future. And the President is delighted and encouraged that so many Democratic candidates are standing with him in appearance after appearance and pledging to help him build the bridge that he talks about building to the future. That's the best way, in the President's view, to make the case for the election of those candidates -- obviously Democratic candidates.
Q Mike, do you know, was Senator Dole in Alabama while the President was there? Was he in New Orleans today, as well?
MR. MCCURRY: There was a little bit of an overlap, I think. He was -- if I understand his schedule correctly, he was speaking at roughly 1:15 p.m. in Montgomery, at about the time we were getting ready to depart. So they may have overlapped in air space. And he will be in New Orleans speaking prior to our arrival. I think his event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Q Mike, do you mean that you really think a 100 percent Democratic Congress is better than a bipartisan Congress?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not foolish enough to suggest that any party would elect 100 percent numbers in either body of our Congress. What's important is electing people who share a vision and determination to come together and do the kinds of things that the President has suggested we need to do for the future.
We hope many of those will end up being Republicans -- if they're elected -- because even Republicans may find some merit in the argument the President's making about the future. That's why the President makes an argument that appeals not only very strongly and very obviously to Democrats, but also increasingly to moderate Republicans, to independents, to many others who see in his plan and his ideas a far preferable alternative than the one offered by the President's principal opponent.
Alright. Enough of this.
END 4:06 P.M. CDT