THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:30 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I want to talk a little more -- I didn't get, when we announced the transition team yesterday, did not get an opportunity to talk more about the process we have underway. I think there are -- probably through my own bad work, I haven't sketched our clearly enough what the timing is.
The President, probably because the Secretary of State had a desire to make his plans known, has been dealing, as you know, with a vacancy at the State Department. He has also been concentrating in this initial part of the transition period on his national security team, for all the obvious reasons -- that of preserving America's leadership role in the world as a central responsibility he has as Commander-in-Chief and as President; and putting that team together and making sure it's the right one for America's future is the first and most urgent task that he sees in the transition itself. That's led to a lot of speculation about that job, about other people in the national security orbit.
But what I want to do is describe for you a little more the way Erskine has organized some of the work the transition team that we announced yesterday is doing and what -- a more realistic view of the timing will be. There are sort of three phases and three main focuses of the transition effort that's underway now.
The first phase, which is the one that we're in, is an outreach -- moment for outreach or a period of outreach in which the President, the Vice President, members of the team that were announced yesterday are touching base with a lot of the President's supporters around the country, talking to people who normally be consulted on very important announcements, generating ideas, generating thoughts not only about personnel, but also about how most effectively to carry forward the agenda the President outlined in the campaign, but on the subject of personnel, really is an attempt to meet our goals of excellence and diversity and to think of those people that the President has encountered over the last four years who could truly make a contribution to doing those things he talked about in the campaign -- building the kind of future that he described to the American people.
Now, that inevitably triggers for all of you someone saying, gee, I talked to maybe even the President or I talked to so and so and Clinton's thinking of so and so. That generates a lot of names in the pot. And those of you who know how the President works personnel issues knows that he frequently will say, what about someone. He likes to bounce ideas off people. So a lot of you, frankly, are right now chasing vapor trails. And I can tell that by reading your reports. And I know that you've got nothing else to do right now and I know that that's the way it goes. But just so you -- just as long as you remind your readers and your viewers that there are rumors and speculation and that they're probably not close to final decisions, that's fine because it's Washington's favorite parlor game.
But anyhow, this first period that we're in now, which will be outreach, will be consultation, will be thinking through different kinds of names, will lead to recommendations that I expect to start moving to the President as we get into December.
Now, the President, as you know, simultaneously is talking to his current Cabinet and sounding them out on their own plans. He met with three Cabinet members today and talked to them. And by the way, there's one news account today that, I think, very unfairly takes a shot at Attorney General Reno who the President admires and whose service he values highly, and somehow or other implies because we haven't said she is staying that somehow or other she is left twisting in the wind.
Well, the President met with Ambassador Barshefsky today, with Secretary Shalala today, with Secretary Riley today. Those of you -- you know the President's thinking on all three of them, how much he admires and respects each of them and how much he values their service. But we're not announcing decisions about their tenure in office now either, because the President will work through all of these decisions and do that very carefully in a very disciplined way.
Now, there will be some new people. Those people have to be put through a vetting process during the month of December. We'll be doing that type of work -- that type of background work on anyone who is new or anyone who is incoming. And I expect that that will then lead to the types of announcements that the President would need to make about personnel beginning around about the beginning of the year or early in the new year.
So that is a realistic sense of the timing here. That has been the transition team's design and Mr. Panetta's design, Mr. Bowles design for some time now. But we started off, I think, a little too fast-paced, mostly because we did have the vacancy at State and that's led to a lot of speculation. So report what you will, speculate as you will, but at least know that that is the process as we've designed it and that's how we expect it to go.
Q So you don't think there will be an announcement of a new Secretary of State until early January?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, we will -- the President -- on the National Security cluster, and that is essentially Defense, Secretary of State, and then how those people intersect with other members of the team -- for example, Director of Central Intelligence, U.N. Ambassador, National Security Advisor -- those who gather as the principal national security advisors to the President -- the President is struck by how well that team has worked together in the past to advance America's foreign policy objectives and how important it is to have a team that continues to work in that fashion as we look to the next four years.
So part of this process is getting a right individual here that affects decisions about the right individual there, and he will make those announcements as he sees fit. I don't expect any announcement pertaining to Secretary of State anytime soon, but there are other issues involved in that cluster that he has been working on, and as I said, in that area his thinking is much more highly advanced and we do have identified candidates and he has done interviews, and we are in a much more advanced state of consideration for those sets of positions.
On the other ones, I've got every other minute someone calling to say that some governor or some senator or someone somewhere is certainly going to be the secretary of this or that, based on what they're hearing. And I think what you're getting is feedback from people who are being consulated as part of this outreach process that we have underway. So I just want to make sure you understand what it is you're chasing.
Q Speaking of that, The Boston Globe reported today that Governor Weld --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, yeah.
Q -- is being considered for the Secretary of State's job, and he says he'd take it. (Laughter.) Is he in the running?
MR. MCCURRY: And I read the same thing about --
Q Oh, attorney general, I'm sorry.
MR. MCCURRY: -- at least a half a dozen other senators and congressmen and governors and others everywhere. Reading our regional clips is fascinating, because you can really see our whole Cabinet has already been announced.
Q Well, is this a lot of paybacks by the President or White House just to float these names?
MR. MCCURRY: No. We're not floating names, but the President is consulting, and so are people at the White House. And then, that generates speculation. Naturally, I think, if someone --even people who are the most discreet individuals on Earth, when they get a call from the President and the President says "what do you think about so-and-so for this job," it's a little difficult not to pick up the phone and call your mother-in-law and say "guess who I was just talking to," and I think then that shows up at the grocery store line and then it eventually makes its way to you. It usually takes about an hour or so -- (laughter) -- but that's the process and that's the nature of the reporting.
Q We stake out the grocery store line. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: It's where you learn a lot of truth. Good place to learn truth.
Q Would it be courtesy that when he names a secretary of state he wants to name the entire national security cluster at the same time?
MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily.
Q Mike, why has the administration chosen to handle this process in this way? You talked at the outset about an orderly transition and, yet, we have this image of mass resignations, mass --
MR. MCCURRY: I mean, that's just not fair. We don't have -- we have, I think, what -- two Cabinet officials, three Cabinet officials that have indicated their plans publicly, and then a lot of background reporting and sources and things like that. I mean, frankly, the truth -- the President has barely seen half the Cabinet to discuss with them privately their plans. The other half he will see next month when he gets back from Thanksgiving. So the process -- I mean, no, we have not created --
Q Anticipation of change --
MR. MCCURRY: I may have done that in the case of Secretary of State inadvertently by trying to be helpful and say, well, look, we can't rule out the prospect of an announcement before he goes. I probably shouldn't have done that and kept you guessing; I would have been a lot better off if I didn't.
Q Are you still saying that's a possibility, or are you now telling us that you don't expect that to happen before he goes?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't necessarily rule out that he might have a Cabinet announcement before he goes, but I'm not going to guarantee that. And it's better, I can tell, not to even raise speculation of what might happen, because then you guys try to move the story too far too fast, and that's -- look, the human brain only works so fast. Some of you -- and I'm looking at Wolf Blitzer -- have to report the news 24 hours a day, but the news just doesn't move that quickly sometimes. And new cycles, particularly when you're making careful consideration of who you want to be around, should reflect the pace at which the President is actually deliberating.
Inauguration Day is January 20th, and clearly we want to be in a position to present names to the Senate so that we will have a team ready to go on that day.
Q Have we over-stressed this idea of having some Republicans in the mix?
MR. MCCURRY: No, because the President himself has indicated publicly to you that that's something he feels is important.
Q Mike, kind of dovetailing off of Stewart's question, now that the transition team is formed, what's the thinking going on in terms of vetting so he can avoid some of the bumps in the road you had in the first go-around?
MR. MCCURRY: Good question, and one of the reasons why I'm trying to slow people down. There is -- the three phases of this process are outreach, consultation, sounding out people on different names and different ideas; then, a process of vetting and clearing potential nominees so that they can be announced by the President; then a period of an announcement.
There is a fourth part of this process, too, which is a formal understanding of how we best advance the policy agenda of the President. Frankly, the most interesting stories around this building now is the work being done by the President's policy advisors and by our budget team to actually take the work the President did in the campaign and translate that into legislation, translate that into an inaugural speech, translate that into a State of the Union address. I think it's substantively, that work, I think, is interesting and there are a lot of people who are working on that. I think we get mesmerized by personnel sometimes, but that's actually, in terms of significance and what happens in a second term, likely to be much more important.
Q Mike, did the President ask you to make the comment you made about the coverage of Janet Reno?
MR. MCCURRY: No. He has not, in fact, has not said anything to me about it, and didn't have time this morning to read some of it. I'm doing that because I've read that, and I think -- I am just trying to make sure people can report as accurately as they can.
Q How would you describe her status? Has he -- she's not among the people --
MR. MCCURRY: No. As I said, he's now, I think -- we did three more Cabinet level people today, he will do -- continue these individual sessions he's having with Cabinet members when he returns maybe around Thanksgiving or probably as we get into December. And the intent had always been to have her -- she's sort of later in the process because the President knows that she's on the job and doing the job.
Q Mike, what I don't understand is, if you have such an orderly process and you're putting the national security team first and, yet, you're not going to announce those folks for quite some time, how can you possibly have a Cabinet appointment announced in the next 48 or even 24 hours?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, because there are different ways that we can handle different types of announcements and different combinations of people that might come together. And I'm basically giving the President some flexibility. Now, the other thing is, remember, none of these people can go to work just because the President names them. They have to be confirmed by the Senate which means that there's, in fact, some restrictions on them participating in policy deliberations. They can prepare for their own confirmation and prepare in the sense that they'll face a confirmation hearing at some point down the road once the President's nomination is announced, or at least the intent to nominate. So there's not any practical effect of getting a name out now so that they can work on Zaire or work on Bosnia or work on NATO expansion or work on many of the issues that we face.
But we do also recognize that once we get in the final stages of consideration, a name is likely to become available to you quickly and we don't want to leave people guessing when there's no need to have them guessing.
Q But if you have an announcement, whoever it is and for whatever position this week, what does this do to phase one, outreach?
MR. MCCURRY: In the national security cluster, that type of outreach is very well-advanced because it began early and it began early partly because the President was aware of what Secretary Perry's plans were and Secretary Christopher's plans. Secretary Christopher, you remember, was actually in Little Rock on Election Day, talked to the President about, among other things, his own plans and a likely successor, and so that process of outreach on those issues really began several weeks ago.
Q So you're talking about an early Defense post announcement?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say that, no.
Q Why would the President ask Senator Lott to expedite -- to talk about expediting confirmations when he doesn't seem to feel any great rush himself?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they wouldn't consider it until the 105th Congress reconvenes in January. I'm not indicating that we wouldn't be in a position to move names up to the Senate by the time the Senate convenes and starts to transact business, but the Senate, remember, comes in on, what, the 4th and the 5th, and then they traditionally adjourn for two weeks and then they begin just prior to the Inauguration. And the 104th Congress did a commendable job of considering the President's nominees, and we've only suggested that worked well and we hope we can be in a position to do the same type of process -- 103rd Congress, 103rd Congress.
Q Mike, could you clarify for us precisely what the President's position on the balanced budget amendment is -- whether he's going to lobby against it and whether a statement you made the other day, which I will read in one second, still stands which is, "It looks like they're going to do it, so the question is how they do it" -- is that still operative?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, that's true. And the President, I think -- it does appear they're going to do it. And the President has concerns, if they do it, they need to think very carefully about that because of the economic impact which is what he was indicating the other day. But to recite your questions, he has not changed his view that it's a bad idea. You shouldn't write national economic policy into the Constitution. He's against it. He will obviously raise his voice at the proper time against it if we reach that point.
Now, remember what happened in the current -- or in the last Congress -- the idea got a lot of initial velocity and then slowed down once people started thinking of the implications. There are people who initially were for and then began to look more carefully and the thing began to peter out a little bit. And the President would have that opportunity, I think, to raise an argument that we'll know better once the Congress convenes and once we see whether they do advance this as their first idea.
But he opposes it. He thinks it's a bad idea. He would obviously speak against it even though he doesn't have a veto power, as you know. And as to whether you could make one work in an economic sense, I think all the President's economic advisors think that's virtually impossible.
Q Could you then explain what the purpose of his statements the other day were where he said not once but many times suggested he could live with the idea of --
MR. MCCURRY: He was reminding people that as a governor, he lived within a balanced budget requirement himself. In terms of the national economy, it's different. When you've got responsibilities for the functioning of the national economy, that raises different set of questions than the governor does when a governor has -- lives under a balanced budget requirement. And he went on at that. I think, frankly, he was a little bit surprised that his remarks were interpreted that way. And so I think people tried to help clarify that yesterday.
Q Back on the transition. White House aides made a big point that President Clinton has learned some lessons from the first transition which was pretty messy and he was going to put off this vacation until the end of the week so they could get some things done, including naming his new Secretary of State. If he fails to do that and he goes off on this trip, is there any concern that that kind of raises the specter of some of the problems that marked the last transition?
MR. MCCURRY: No. Look, he is, as I've just told you, very -- now in his national security area, very well-advanced in his thinking on how that's going to come together. But you need to announce these things when you're in position to announce them, when they are fully vetted and when they are things that are fully together. And one thing that we're trying to avoid is a situation where we get too far out speculating in advance of really having likely nominations finalized.
Q Did the President -- did you just underestimate the amount of time it would take to kind of think this through? Because the word was definitely out there that we should expect this before he left.
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President thought -- the President, in considering this, thought more about the importance of the team. And I think there are some things about his discussions and his understanding of what people's plans are that affected the way he approached the issue of a national security team. And it wasn't -- it became, as he considered this, not just one appointment -- Secretary of State -- but a number of appointments in the national security area. And it's important for him to have a collection of people particularly as we face many of the challenges that he has been dealing with during this period, too.
Zaire became a problem that required urgent attention. There's been ongoing considering of Bosnia and the President's been doing that as well. So these things reminded him of how effective our foreign policy team has been and how important it is to have continuity and that level of counsel and advice as we go into the next four years.
Q Speaking of that, could you give us a little on what's been going on today in terms of the kinds of discussions within the administration on both Bosnia and Zaire?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, on Zaire there have been -- there's additional planning work being done over at the Pentagon. I think they're going to be in a position to talk more about their understanding of the situation on the ground, the risk. I think they are probably talking more about the type of contribution the United States might make -- they're going to do that tomorrow, they'll be doing that tomorrow. But they've been looking at that issue of how we would structure a U.S. contribution.
The main work today on Zaire is being done by Tony Lake. The National Security Advisor went to New York. He's been meeting throughout the day with those countries that are interested in being participating countries in a multinational force. They've been gathered together by the government of Canada and they're working through many of the issues that I identified here yesterday, some of the concerns and issues that we have raised in terms of defining a mission that would allow the United States to participate.
Q Are we going to get a readout on that meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is they are not likely going to do that, although -- are they meeting at the U.N.?
MR. JOHNSON: They're meeting at the Canadian Mission.
MR. MCCURRY: They're meeting at the Canadian Mission to the United Nations, and it's -- there are a number of news organizations that are up there. But I don't plan to do a readout here. I expect if there's anything further to say on that, having done -- we walked you through what our concerns were and we're addressing those now. If there's anything further to say on that, I expect the President will probably do that.
Q How about Bosnia, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: On Bosnia, the analysis by the President's policy advisors of what the NATO military authorities have prepared now in looking at the four options they were tasked at is very well-advanced and they've been working through those issues. The President's going to sit with the foreign policy team tonight to talk about it some more. There are, I suspect, based on that a number of issues that he's going to want to get some answers on that will probably come back to him tomorrow. And then, I think he does intend -- he intends, although it is his call to make, intends to maybe say something further about that tomorrow before he leaves.
What's driving that is that we're now moving in the phase in which the issue of a follow-on force would be addressed by the North Atlantic Council. In a more formal way, the United States government will take a position in those deliberations, and the President thought it incumbent upon him to talk about where we would be on those issues before he leaves.
Q Would that be kind of a South Lawn announcement?
MR. MCCURRY: We're still thinking about that. A little cold to be out on the South Lawn.
MR. MCCURRY: We'll see.
Q For a year, the President has been saying that U.S. troops would be out of Bosnia roughly approximately the end of December. But for months, critics have been saying that's just not true, that everyone knew they were going to stay on as part of a follow-on force, which wouldn't be IFOR, but they change the name, but it will still be U.S. troops in Bosnia. So what do you say to those critics who say the President was deliberately misleading the American public about the extent of U.S. deployment in Bosnia?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that I've heard anyone actually say that. I would respond to any specific criticism of that nature.
Q Bob Dole raised that issue during the campaign.
MR. MCCURRY: I can recall him saying that there was the issue of a follow-on force and how it would be addressed and how you address the security situation in Bosnia. But, be that as it may, what the President consistently said and what I've told you here on occasion and you've heard briefed at the State Department and elsewhere, the IFOR mission, the current deployment, the work of that mission expires in December. And we've already begun the ramp-down on that mission, that mission is winding up, those troops are coming home.
The question now is, then, how do you preserve the work that has been done in Bosnia and how do you deepen the process of implementing the civilian accords; how do you make sure that the security situation remains safe and secure enough that they can continue to do the work of building political institutions and a civil life for the people of Bosnia. And that may well require some type of presence in Bosnia. We have said that all along. That's why we very publicly identified the four options that were available.
Now, very quickly, in our view, of the four options, one was to basically say we're done and Bosnia is free and can go on -- that was never a very likely option. The other option was to continue the current mission, to leave the troops there, to just -- to extend the presence of the troops in Bosnia. We ruled that option out on behalf of the United States very early on.
So the focus has been on what type of presence would you have, and the two options that are there have been, I think, fairly well-discussed at the Pentagon and at the State Department, in here on occasion, but you all know that that has been the planning and the timetable for a follow-on force. The President has publicly addressed that and did publicly address that during the campaign, and said he would consider at the point we got from NATO military authorities an assessment of the option we'd examine that, we'd make some decisions. We would then put it back to NATO for a tasking. And that's where we are.
Then, the NATO military authorities completed their work on those four options within the last week or so; that's been assessed now within our government. We are looking at the analysis. We will pronounce ourselves on our own preference as to an option, and then the North Atlantic Council, by consensus, will send to tasking the development of an operational plan for a follow-on force if there is to be one.
I think the President has been clear all along in describing that timetable and indicating that that would be the way he would consider it. He would consider it only consistent with those same standards and criteria that he applied to our initial deployment.
Q Isn't it true, though, that it's been already narrowed down to these options two and three, the deterrent force and the stabilization force, and that, I gather the V.P. did tell NATO today that the U.S. would be agreeing on one of these two?
MR. MCCURRY: I will -- that's what I just said. I said it was never very likely that they were going to just pull up stakes and go home because we needed to preserve some of the gains that had been made and never likely that they were going to continue the existing mission. So I think for practical purposes, most of the focus has been on the second and third options all along.
The Vice President is adamant that he told Secretary General Solano that no final decision had been made. But I think he did share some of that thinking -- here's how we are beginning to view these two options. And, of course, that would be proper for the Vice President to do in a conversation with the NATO Secretary General.
Q Could the President tomorrow -- is he likely to announce a final decision about what the U.S. participation will be or --
MR. MCCURRY: If he makes a final decision. He is the Commander-in-Chief and reminded many of us today that he's the one that gets to make those kinds of decisions.
Q In practical terms, what's the difference in terms of number of troops that a deterrent force would require as opposed to a stabilization force?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not going to get into speculating what the analysis is on that. That, frankly, will be once they evaluate what the military authorities looked at in their analysis. They will then send that back to a formal tasking to NATO's commanders for the development of what they call an operational plan and then that's when you get a more concrete idea on the numbers.
Q If troops are there, what would be the change between the situation that U.S. troops find themselves in today and one that they would find themselves in, say, post-March after the IFOR troops are out -- simply changing rules of engagement?
MR. MCCURRY: No, rules of engagement, that's a separate set of issues. It's the specific tasking and mission assignments that are identified for a force.
Now, remember -- remember what the implementation force is -- or, in fact, now it's more proper to say what it was. It was an outgrowth of the accords negotiated in Dayton and then ratified in Paris at which we, because of our concern about putting U.S. forces in harm's way, actually had U.S. military officers sitting with the negotiators in Dayton to identify the specifics of a deployment of a force that would assist the parties in making good on their agreements.
So if you go back to the Dayton Accords and go through that, there's a military annex to that accord that has got very specific mission assignments for the international force. And if you talk to any of the folks at the Pentagon, they can actually lay out for you charts that measure off how they've done in meeting the goals and objectives of that force.
Now, that basically is winding down now. And to consider an additional deployment, an additional follow-in force, you'd have to structure the exact type of operation plan, with the exact type of mission priorities and objectives. And that work remains to be done. So that what generally -- there are some general -- you know what a war prevention mission might look like and there has been some speculation in the press if it was focusing only on deterring dealing with an outbreak of -- a resumption of hostilities between the parties and how to deter that. That's what is collectively been called option two.
And you know what a war prevention and stabilizing approach would be -- something that would more designed to preserve the gains of the Dayton Process, to continue to put in place some of the security procedures and working with the parties to enhance their own ability at law enforcement that have been ongoing as part of the current force deployment.
So, talk to your buddies --
Q So the description changes?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes -- well, the mission changes and that -- changes in mission and change in mission priorities then affect the way you task out the type of force that you would deploy. They would be very -- they're different. Remember, the first and foremost task of the implementation force was separation of forces, the establishment of freedom of movement. They are now dealing with the more complicated parts of the process, which is why the arguments in favor of continuing to have some kind of security presence makes sense.
Q In his remarks tomorrow, do you expect him to make the case to the American people for the deployment of these troops in both areas?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he'll talk about the success of the mission that is winding down and what the needs still are in Bosnia as we attempt to help the parties preserve the peace. It's a fragile peace. I mean, we sort of knew that was going to be the case for a long time. Given the hatred, given the killing, given the ethnic cleansing, it was not likely to be a situation in which the parties would easily reconcile. But that country is at peace. The war did end. And that is largely because of the negotiations that we undertook, and I think preserved those gains by having the deployment of the force that's there.
And the point is, we can't -- the point is, ending that mission and removing all presence does run the risk of seeing that there would be some return to hostilities. Ambassador Holbrooke, I thought, testified on that very eloquently in front of Congress -- by the way, extensive testimony, extensive presentation by the administration, by those who are familiar with Bosnia throughout the period of the last six months. So I think it's been a very public discussion of what the needs are going to be in Bosnia.
Q And in Zaire, will he attempt to offer some assurance that Zaire would not become another Somalia, as some critics have likened it to?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think he will talk about the very prudent way that he has evaluated the needs there, and what he is determined that he as Commander-in-Chief can do with respect to U.S. forces that would make it clear that we've got a very firm handle on the nature of any deployment, what the mission would be, what the priorities for U.S. forces would be, and what the overall goals of the mission itself would be.
Q -- the follow-up on Zaire I was trying to get in. At APEC will the President try to convince other allies to send in forces, or is he going to let the Canadians take care of that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we're in consultations -- I didn't do the calls -- did I do the calls yet? We are in active consultations, obviously, with other governments -- Mr. Lake in New York today. The President, by the way -- I forgot to say earlier --had two foreign policy calls today. He had a good conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. The Prime Minister called to congratulate the President on his reelection victory, but it was an opportunity to touch base on the peace process, for the President to review the current status of negotiations related to Hebron. They both agreed that getting an agreement on a withdrawal at Hebron would then allow the parties to move on to other issues, and that was, among other reasons, why it was important that they conclude those discussions.
The President then also had a good conversation with President Chirac, specifically on the subject of Zaire, and other subjects. And they talked mostly about where we are in thinking through the parameters of that force and how to best address some of the humanitarian situations.
Q Is the U.S. role to try to convince the other countries to contribute, or are we letting Canada do that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we will -- look, there are other countries that have now stepped forward as a result of our indication that we're willing in principle to participate. Other countries have now stepped forward and said that they also would be willing to consider contributing forces. And as it often does, a decision by the United States of that fashion has the effect of stimulating participation by others. And we are -- yes, to answer the question, yes, we are encouraging that, too.
Q What about an air drop? Has that been considered? Would that be effective at all, rather than sending troops?
MR. MCCURRY: The goals of the mission I described yesterday are establish an air bridge, so that relief can be provided on the ground. Now, clearly some of the conditions that we outlined require a cease-fire, require a non-hostile environment. And there hasn't been much favorable news on that front in the last 24 hours. But that's why we continue to press the parties themselves to implement a cease-fire and press the governments that can be of assistance to use their influence to get the parties to stop fighting.
Q -- that the President is talking to members of Congress?
Q I'm trying to get to --
MR. MCCURRY: One at a time.
Q -- just dropping food from the skies now --
MR. MCCURRY: That is less effective than establishing humanitarian convoy routes and letting the relief workers on the ground get to the people who need the help, which is what the focus of the planning has been.
Q Did you say whether the President has talked to members of Congress about Zaire?
MR. MCCURRY: He did in the leadership meeting here the other night, had a conversation and flagged that forum and told them we were generally moving in this direction and agreed that there should be follow-up consultations. I don't know, the President -- did he make calls yesterday?
MR. JOHNSON: No, those were with the Cabinet level.
MR. MCCURRY: They did the Cabinet level -- Cabinet level consultations yesterday to follow up on the President's meeting with the leadership.
Q Cabinet folks made --
MR. MCCURRY: Calls to -- yes, to relevant members of congressional committees and others.
Q And where do the talks or negotiations or whatever is underway stand in regards to getting assurances that U.S. troops wouldn't have to shoot their way in?
MR. MCCURRY: There's an active effort internationally to try to bring that about, led by the U.N. envoy, Ambassador Chretien, and he has had discussions, we've had our own diplomats that have been in discussion with the governments of Zaire and Rwanda.
Q But don't you have to be talking to militias and the governments there? Is that going on?
MR. MCCURRY: They're not all that easy to find. What we've been doing is dealing with people that we believe have got some measure of influence with the parties.
Q So that is going on?
MR. MCCURRY: That is going on, and we also -- he does not have those assurances yet, nor do we have a final assessment from the team that is there to actually look. We've got a military team as well as a disaster relief team on the ground in the vicinity who are attempting to assess what the actual security situation is for the benefit of the President and those who do planning.
Q When can we expect a report, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they've got to get as close to the action as they can get, and I don't think they've gotten there yet, correct?
Q So, Mike, the mission wouldn't go ahead then if they did not get the agreement from --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are a number of things that have to come together. They've got to get a better situation report on the ground, a better sense of what the environment would be, and we also would have to get authorization from the United Nations to institute a Chapter 7 mission, and then you'd size and transport and locate the force. It can be -- there's some speculation in some of the newspapers today that the Pentagon thinks they could be ready to mobilize pretty quickly on it, but we've got a precise set of conditions that were laid out yesterday.
Q But with all of these questions still outstanding, what is there specific for the President to announce tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've got deliberations underway in New York, and we've got better assessment coming, but I think also just the sense that the President wanted to take an opportunity to describe why he would place U.S. forces in harm's way, whether it's in Bosnia or in Zaire. The President understands that he has an obligation and when he makes a decision to do something like it.
Q Do you expect something tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying that if there is a decision that he needs to talk about tomorrow of that nature, he would do so.
Q Can I follow that, Mike? The President, both in Zaire and in the Bosnia decision, seems to be following a three-step process where there was relative silence during the campaign, or ambiguity, followed by this period of consideration, which we're now going through, followed by an announcement of these decisions in these two areas. Why is the administration choosing to handle this transition policy in this way?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think that's an accurate reflection of what happened. The President addressed this in one of the national debates. He gave a speech on it in Detroit. I mean, it has to do, frankly, with what gets coverage and then what gets joined in the debate.
The truth is that there was -- Wolf is right, that there -- Senator Dole at one point did address some of these issues, but there was no engagement around those issues. Frankly, I think that's because there is still, although at times it looked a little precarious, there still is a bipartisan foreign policy in this country when it comes to doing things such as we are contemplating with respect to Zaire and Bosnia. And even though there are sometimes disagreements on tactics, there was not a point of real engagement with Senator Dole around those issues, because, broadly speaking, both Senator Dole and President Clinton are internationalists who see a vital role for the United States providing leadership in the world.
And there are examples of that that we're dealing with right now, and there was not a major point of disagreement on that, so it was not a place at which you could define a choice that the American people needed to make, so, as a result, got less attention in the debate itself.
It's my judgment -- now, we went out of our way in the closing weeks of the campaign to give a foreign policy speech on the future of Europe, of which Bosnia was a key element. And I think --I recall the interest with which many of you saw that.
Q So the President doesn't feel he's springing this on people, he feels that they've been given fair warning?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, look, the American people have a --there's so much information out there, they only get what comes clattering across the airwaves at them sporadically. So we have to rely, frankly, on you all to help us.
Q Mike, if you would follow up, there were many questions asked during the final week of the campaign about the rumors that U.S. troops might stay on in Bosnia. And there was never an answer, yes, they will -- which now it appears we're down to two options in which they will.
MR. MCCURRY: Debra, that's not fair.
Q Do you feel you were properly candid before the election --
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. The President answered that question 100 percent on the money. And he did so at least at the debate and at least on several occasions he said, here's where this stands; this stands at a point where there's going to be consideration of a follow-on force; there are options being examined; I'm not going to announce a preference on behalf of the United States until we see what the options are and how they're analyzed and what it's going to mean for U.S. troops.
In fact, we'll get the transcript of -- I believe it's the San Diego debate, right? I'm pretty certain it was the San Diego debate, nationally televised debate, the second debate in which the President outlined that in very careful detail.
Q -- chose not to talk about that, though, in his NATO speech.
MR. MCCURRY: He talked about -- Bosnia was --
Q He talked about Bosnia -- he certainly didn't talk about follow-on. I mean, can you say why he chose not to there?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll go back and look at the speech. I thought he did.
Q Mike, both options that are now before you would require U.S. troops, correct?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the United States has indicated -- look, the United States is the leader of the North Atlantic Alliance. We have unique role when it comes to NATO. It's difficult to imagine a follow-on force that would not include U.S. participation. But that's exactly the issue that's under consideration. That's exactly what the President -- by the way, the President also said, defined this just recently, this same issue I think in the David Brinkley interview, if not elsewhere.
Q Could you elaborate on who the administration plans to send to Cardinal Bernardin's funeral? And on the phone call, you wanted to talk about --
MR. MCCURRY: Has our statement -- we've got a statement from the President on Cardinal Bernardin that recounts the telephone conversation with the Cardinal yesterday, and he describes it in the written statement he has issued. He has asked Leon Panetta to head a delegation to represent him since he will be out of the country, and they are still formulating the rest of the delegation.
Q Mike, on the U.N., on Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in spite of the U.S. claiming that they will veto, veto, veto, I think Egypt has already renominated him for a second term as Secretary General, and many world leaders from many important countries are backing his reelection. Is the U.S. still fully going to veto whatever comes, or any possible arrangement for a little more time, or what?
MR. MCCURRY: Our decision is as firm as it was when the President spoke to it at the time he was at the United Nations in October.
Q Mike, our CNN International people are interested in the Latin American trip by Mack McLarty. Do you have anything that can enlighten us on that?
MR. MCCURRY: I know Mr. McLarty as Counselor to the President has had a principal role in following up on the work of the Summit of the Americas. I'm not sure of his itinerary, but he is pursuing those tasks that were identified in Miami at the Summit and those things that the governments in the region agreed that they would cooperatively to advance the common interests of the democracies in the hemisphere.
Q Is he going to lay out U.S. policy toward Latin America in a broader sense?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that policy is well-known to those governments with which we have close consultation. What they're working on collectively are things we're doing in the region to advance the interests of democracy, economic development, to encourage human rights, encourage liberalization of militaries in the region. And all of those things are well-rehearsed in our bilateral discussions with governments in the region.
Q To what regarding --
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q And when is he going to do that?
MR. MCCURRY: Hey, the stuff I just made up is pretty good. Can we give me a break? (Laughter.)
Q Isn't the fundraising over?
MR. MCCURRY: Johnson will do the -- get more on the specific itinerary for you.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:15 P.M. EST