THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Birmingham, Alabama) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 24, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY AND DOUG SOSNIK Birmingham Southern College Birmingham, Alabama
11:51 A.M. CDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good morning, everybody. We're going to take just a few quick questions now because I understand you all have to load up in about 5 minutes. We'll have more time down the road to talk. And, obviously, we don't have anything to say about Mr. Perot just now because he hasn't talked yet.
Q Anything from the North Atlantic Council about surveillance planes that might help you Northrup Grumman?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, just briefly. Let me tell you -- we are going to -- those of you who have not filed this we're going to Lake Charles next and the President will be speaking at a Northrup Grumman plant there that modifies 707s --Boeing 707s -- as part of the J-STAR program. That is, for those of you who don't know, is a sophisticated tracking aircraft that was used both in Bosnia and Operation Desert Storm, and the United States military is purchasing, I think, 19 of them. I can give you more information on that.
But in Brussels earlier today, NATO -- NATO's military committee agree that type of aircraft ought to be a central part of their integrated package for the future. They did not select the U.S.-manufactured J-STARs specifically. That will be reviewed by the NATO's armaments committee November 5th, I think, when they meet. But they will --
Q November 5th was the date?
MR. MCCURRY: November 5th or 6th. But they did identify that type of aircraft as a piece of technology they want in the future. That puts in line then to compete. I think it's only -- the British, the French have both got a product that would be somewhat competitive, we would say. But it would bode well for a future production line at this particular facility we're going to visit if they do indeed purchase additional J-STAR aircraft.
But it's -- our program is on-line and there's a procurement program in place that's responsible for a lot of economic activity in the region.
Q Is there any indication of how many planes we're talking about?
MR. MCCURRY: No, not an indication of how many at this point. They're still reviewing future needs for the Alliance.
Q How was the decision-making process made at the council? I mean, is it a bidding effort? Will all three bid against each other and then they make a decision? I mean, what's the criteria?
MR. MCCURRY: That's the kind of procedure they use. Once they make a decision, they're going to procure a certain type of aircraft, they then write specifications and they let out bids to those who want to compete.
Q So they haven't placed an order -- they haven't placed an actual order for planes, for specific planes?
MR. MCCURRY: They have not placed an order for specific planes at this point. They've agreed that with the concept of that should be an integrated element of the airborne capacity of the Alliance in the future.
Q Did you say it's a joint British-French alternative, or are there separate British and French --
MR. MCCURRY: I think they've got two. My memory is that there are two different types of aircraft that fit that profile. I may be wrong about that. I can check that before we get to Lake Charles.
Q Why wasn't the President as fulsome in his praise of Mr. Bedford as he was about retiring Senator Heflin?
MR. MCCURRY: I thought he very warmly indicated that Senator Bedford would be an excellent choice by the people of Alabama for United States Senator. I thought that was very warm praise, indeed. He obviously has enormous respect for Senator Heflin and praised them both.
Q Did he say that?
MR. MCCURRY: He made it clear he thought that he would be the right choice for the people of Alabama.
Q But he went on about 10 times longer on Heflin. Why is that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's got great respect for Senator Heflin as, indeed, most of the Senate does, and many people do and certainly the people of Alabama.
Will you get Kevin, because he wanted to ask me about Netanyahu.
Q The President said that this presidency has done more than any other presidency to stop drugs at the borders. The numbers seem to tell a different story.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know about that. I mean, we've had a very successful interdiction effort in the number of returns, interceptions, interdictions -- all reflected favorably on the administration's commitment to drug interdiction at the border and to increasing the efforts internationally to make that a high priority.
The President, as you know, spoke of that at the General Assembly just recently.
Q But he cut it for two years. He cut the amount.
Q Israeli press reports say the Prime Minister and the President had a conversation.
MR. MCCURRY: The President and Prime Minister Netanyahu did speak on Tuesday. If you've been following the Middle East peace negotiations, you know that Ambassador Dennis Ross, our special Middle East coordinator, was literally at the airport Tuesday prepared to return home based on some conversations with both the Palestinian delegation and the Israeli delegation. He elected to remain in Israel. After that decision, the President and the Prime Minister talked. It obviously was aimed at encouraging progress in the discussions about implementation of the Oslo Accords. I won't get into any specifics beyond that.
Q Who initiated the call?
MR. MCCURRY: The call was at the request of the Prime Minister.
Q And when was the call?
MR. MCCURRY: Tuesday.
Q Mike, a federal judge has sent marshals over to DNC to find out why Huang won't testify or talk to him as he wants. Do you all have a reaction to this? Does the President want to Huang to cooperate with this -- in this case?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we always want people to cooperate, but the circumstances of that I'm not familiar with. You'll have to ask the Justice Department.
Q To follow that, does the President want Huang to answer the questions about DNC fundraising that Chris Dodd said he would be available for on Sunday?
MR. MCCURRY: As we've said repeatedly the last several days, wants him to assist the Federal Election Commission, which the DNC has asked to look into these matters.
Q Mike, has anybody in the campaign been in touch with the Perot people since the Dole move?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge. I haven't heard anything to indicate that we've had any contact.
Q What was your reaction to the Dole move?
MR. MCCURRY: Mystification.
MR. MCCURRY: Because it just -- no apparent reason to believe that would be a useful initiative. But we'll see what Mr. Perot says and we'll talk about anything that he does say if there's a need for a reaction when we get to our next stop.
And that's it. Mary Ellen is giving me the signal. We better get going.
Q Mike, why are you in Alabama? A state that -- what brings you to Alabama?
MR. SOSNIK: We're here for three reasons. One is we're here to win the state. We're tied right now. Secondly, we want to help not only in the Senate race but also the Congressional. And thirdly, we want to continue in not only Alabama but you see in Arizona, Florida, Virginia, other states that we want to make this more competitive for Democrats in the future of presidential politics.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. We'll see you all in Lake Charles. Happy trails.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:58 A.M. CDT