THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Manila, Philippines) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 25, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Filing Center Westin Hotel Manila, Philippines
9:40 A.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: I know that you're all riveted by the color commentary here on the APEC meeting. Should I just not interrupt? What do you want to know about? Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is today's daily gaggle at the White House.
All right, let's start with Time Magazine. It is reported on the wires that in an interview with Time Magazine, the First Lady has said that she wants to help her husband successfully implement welfare reform. If you'll recall, she said much the same -- or the President said much the same in a conversation that was on ABC Television back in October.
The President has encouraged everyone who cares about the welfare of children in America to work hard now to implement an historic welfare reform measure passed by the last Congress. He expects those with special expertise in the area of child welfare to look at the implications of welfare reform for children. Our attention increasingly will be at the state level as states implement the law and as the private sector creates the jobs that they have pledged to create to make welfare reform a success.
The First Lady was indicating that she will certainly be a part of that effort, given her lifelong concern about kids. I'm not aware that there's any formal role that is planned for the First Lady other than that she will continue a lifetime of work on behalf of children in America.
Q Does the President plan to ask Mrs. Clinton to take any formal role on any issue the second term?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware the President plans to ask her to take a "formal role" in any area. He does expect her and other experts on child welfare to help him and help the administration successfully implement welfare reform.
Q Do you plan to have a war room operation as you did for health care reform?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that we plan that type of operation. This will be -- there will be a number of Cabinet agencies, specifically Health and Human Services, but others -- certainly the President's Economic Council, Domestic Policy Council -- working very closely with state governments as they begin the very hard work of implementing this historic statute.
The President also will be reaching out to the private sector. As you know, during the campaign we were very encouraged by the pledges we got from private sector employers to say they will make the hiring of welfare-dependent individuals part of their own personnel and human resources planning, and that's the type of effort we foresee.
There's not a pending piece of legislation other than a technical correction measure before -- that's planned to be before Congress. The President clearly had some areas of welfare reform that, frankly, are unrelated to welfare reform that deal more with the provision of benefits to legal immigrants that he's identified as an area that he would like to press. We will be consulting with Congress on how best to address those areas in the President's concern.
Q -- that the First Lady was talking about undertaking, as I understand them, would make it seem like either she would be representing the President on them or she wouldn't be representing the President on them and sort of free-lancing on it. Which will it be?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, she is always, anywhere she goes in the country, supportive of her husband's policies. That's one of the great things about the First Lady -- she is an almost tireless advocate of President Clinton's policies. But in this case, she will, as she travels in the country, be in a position to see how welfare reform is unfolding at the state level. What she suggested is that there's a considerable body of evidence now on how we can reform welfare based on the dozens and dozens of waivers the Clinton administration has granted, and she knows that as she travels around the country she will want to put a special focus on the work that's occurring to reform welfare.
Q So why is she saying she want's a formal role if there are no plans for her to have a formal role?
MR. MCCURRY: People who remember the interview don't recollect that being a significant part of the interview. She described her role as I've just described it and as the President has described it on a prior occasion, being out there in the country seeing what the experience is at the state level and in the private sector as welfare reform is implemented. And, of course, she would continue to use her own expertise, her own background to be a knowledgeable advocate for the implementation of welfare reform.
Q Will make the excerpt available where she talked about --
MR. MCCURRY: -- is offering to hawk the interview and get a little extra --
Q With all due respect, could you explain what's really going on here? Because the President has indicated that he wanted her to play a very active, if not a formal role. And she has now said she's going to play a formal role. But every time we ask officially about it, it seems like you're backtracking from it. Is there --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, she has -- I guess another way of looking at this -- she has a formal role; she is the First Lady of the United States of America. And that's a capacity in which she travels, in which she advocates the President's policies, and in which she lends her own expertise based on her own background, her own personal life story. I mean, I don't know that there's -- that is the formal role. She's First Lady.
Q Well, I think formal role here equates to policy-making.
MR. MCCURRY: The policy has been made already. The question now is successfully implementing the policy, and that is really going to go on at the state -- I mean, what she suggests in the interview, if you read it carefully, is that this will be going on at the state level and she will be very interested and keen on learning what the experience is at the state level and incorporating that into the administration's understanding of how welfare reform is proceeding.
Q Mike, I get the impression she's suggesting she'll be the President's eyes and ears to say whether or not the reform is working at the state level in various states.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, she'll be in a position as she travels to evaluate experience states are having as they implement welfare reform and, of course, she'll carry that information, as she does on many subjects, back to the President. And she will continue to be a very tireless advocate on behalf of children. She's devoted a lifetime of work to that, and you can well expect that she will continue.
Q You would not consider that advisory capacity a kind of formal role?
MR. MCCURRY: I am told by the First Lady's staff that she would like far less stress put on the concept of role, far more stress put on the work that she plans to do, what it really is going to be. She's going to be traveling around the country; she'll be in a position to see how welfare reform is being implemented. She'll be in a position to convey that to the President and to others in the administration and the White House, and that is all consistent with a lifetime of advocacy on behalf of the children of America.
Q Mike, will the final statement of the APEC summit reflect anything of a timetable for free trade on computer and information technology? And will President Clinton have anything to say about this summit before he leaves the Philippines?
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, two good questions. The President has worked -- you know, as we told you, his number one goal here in Manila was to press hard on measures that would free up trade and information technology. An important goal for the President here at APEC was to seek APEC's active support for trade liberalization -- a trade liberalization agreement in the information technology sector that could be successfully concluded by the WTO ministers when they meet next month in Singapore.
You all are aware that the APEC ministers had something to say on this very subject. The President yesterday, beginning in his meeting with President Ramos and then in his discussions with Prime Minister Hashimoto, with President Kim and President Jiang Zemin, suggested that the leaders might want to be somewhat more specific as they address that subject. There was considerable discussion on that point, I understand, when the leaders met informally last night. I expect they will have perhaps more to say on this very subject when they issue their declaration later today.
But the United States would clearly be delighted if there was a commitment to an information technology agreement by the WTO ministerial conference that would establish a date certain goal for this substantial elimination of tariffs in the information technology sector.
Q Mike, will we get a date certain? It's already being written up.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we would be delighted if at 3:00 p.m. when the statement is read it included that type of specific --
Q Would you expect it would?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any expectations in advance of the reading of the final declaration.
Q Will President Clinton say anything? Will President Clinton remain silent, or will he say anything?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is delighted with the work that is being done here by the APEC ministers. He plans, as you know, to stop by and see the United States Embassy staff here in Manila before leaving, and I expect that when he does he will talk about the importance of the work that's been done here at APEC, talk about the vision laid out, beginning in Blake Island and carrying through each of the subsequent three APEC leaders meetings to realize the goal of free trade and investment by the year 2020.
I think he will speak about the information technology area and the way the leaders plan to address that subject, and indicate his great satisfaction with the statement that the leaders by that time will have issued. And he'll talk about the importance of information technology as part of the infrastructure necessary to build a growing global economy as we look ahead to the 21st century. He will say all that at the Embassy later today.
Q Mike, that's currently listed as a private greeting. Are you now saying you're opening that up?
MR. MCCURRY: We are opening that up and it will be available -- is it pool? The pool will be feeding that.
MR. GAINES: The pool will be there. The audio will be on the P.A. here, live.
MR. MCCURRY: Audio here live; pool will be present for the occasion.
Q Will the President answer reporters' questions there, too?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll be talking with the Embassy staff, it's a formal speech.
Q The U.S. position at WTO is still that you go to zero tariffs by 2000, beginning in '97?
MR. MCCURRY: In the information technology area? Yes, we'll be negotiating -- as the negotiations continue in Geneva we will be pressing for a goal, beginning in the next century, of substantially eliminating tariffs in the sector.
Q Is that something the President has pressed here?
MR. MCCURRY: As I said at the beginning, he raised the issue of the information technology sector in his meeting with President Ramos yesterday morning. I think the President would credit President Ramos with having exercised a great deal of leadership on this issue. It was clear that President Ramos had had a number of conversations himself with other leaders. They did a great deal of work around the question of the language in the declaration on that subject and, of course, we will await the outcome at 3:00 p.m. today.
Q Mike, what date would the United States be delighted to see included?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have long said that our goal is to seek the substantial elimination of tariffs in that sector by the end of the century -- the beginning of the next century.
Q Yes, Mike, one more question on Mrs. Clinton. While you want to deemphasize role and she wants to deemphasize role, will she be spending much of her time and energy on welfare reform in the second term?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I think she indicates that that is -- this is a subject that the President has asked all who believe in welfare reform, believe in helping people make the transition from welfare dependency to work -- (President is seen on television arriving at APEC meetings.)
Q Oooh. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Looking very sharp, the Press Secretary said. Looking very sharp. You know, I saw the bellman at the hotel was wearing that same shirt earlier today. (Laughter.)
Q This has special embroidery on it.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I know. It's a very -- there's a very -- I'm sure we have a briefing sheet on these shirts.
Q Is that a kevlar t-shirt underneath?
MR. MCCURRY: He's looking very good. We must say he looks -- the President looks smashing here.
Q Oooh! (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Other subjects?
Q Do you have a sense of whether the President and his wife had a conversation about this, if they sat down and said this will be what I want your work to be in the second term? How -- is there a kind of understanding?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they've been talking a lot about welfare reform. The President surprised the First Lady somewhat in his Barbara Walters interview on ABC. Those of you who saw that will recall that. But they have been talking about the important opportunity that exists with the passage of the welfare reform legislation by the last Congress and the need for everyone in America who cares about the welfare kids to be a part of the work to successfully implement this bill.
And I can't tell you how many times or under what circumstances they've talked about it, but, of course, they've talked about it because it's a central item on the President's agenda for a second term and the subject of kids and the welfare of kids has always been a subject on the First Lady's agenda.
Q But when I asked him about it at the news conference he sort of said, well, that was overblown and backed way off of it.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, and I -- people are stretching here to try to create something that's not there. She is the First Lady of the United States. She will be all around the country over the next four years on behalf of the President's policies. But in her own life's work, she has always had a special devotion to kids and kids are at the very heart of a lot of the work now that needs to be done on welfare reform. And the result of successfully implementing welfare reform for kids could be truly extraordinary -- helping kids get out of conditions of welfare dependency and poverty, getting into stable family situations that are built around income-producing jobs for the mother -- the formerly welfare-dependent mother.
That is very important, challenging, exciting work for those who care about kids. So, of course, her attention would be very much on that subject. I'm not saying that she won't, of course, be interested in other subjects as well. But she has written about, talked about, spoken about the condition of kids, and you can't treat the subject seriously now without knowing that welfare reform is a very large part of the equation. That's what she's going to be doing.
Q Mike, why the sensitivity over the word "role"?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, because you all will make it into something that it's not; that's why. She's the First Lady. Enough said.
Q Would you call it an assignment?
MR. MCCURRY: No. The President and the First Lady have talked about an important issue that is going to very much be a part of his agenda for the next four years. She talks about those things that are important to the President, but she also talks about those things that are important to her. Come on, we're beating this thing to death.
Q On ITA, you said last night that it's not so much a date, but rather very strong language was also something Clinton was looking for. Did he get what he wanted in terms of the strength of the language?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, listen, I told you that we wanted as strong as possible endorsement from APEC for an international trade agreement to be negotiated by the WTO ministers in Singapore -- formally concluded by the WTO ministers in Singapore. Not surprisingly, the President has been working that issue himself. I told you last night that one of the values of having leaders meet at this level is that they can identify those issues they want to put attention to, and when the declaration is read later today, we'll see whether they have put a little more oomph into this issue than the APEC ministers did.
Q -- by 2000, drop it off a little?
MR. MCCURRY: I gave you enough hints that we can let it sit now until 3:00 p.m.
Q Two things on today's agenda. First, what time did you say the President is speaking at the Embassy group?
MR. MCCURRY: What time, Jeremy, is that Embassy meet-and-greet?
MR. GAINES: About 5:00 p.m.
MR. MCCURRY: About 5:00 p.m.
Q At all the previous APEC meetings there has always been a general press conference for all the leaders.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there wasn't last year because the President wasn't there.
Q All the leaders who were there all have a general press conference. And why have they decided to do away with that tradition this year?
MR. MCCURRY: Just partly news value, partly a lot of the news here in Manila, of course, was wrapped around the meetings yesterday, and also because the President will be departing for Thailand. But we did want him to have an opportunity to comment publicly, so we worked in the remarks that he'll make on APEC there.
Q And one other, if I could just follow up on that. The President said recently that at two previous APEC meetings, I think he's attended receptions that were given by friends of his from the region. Is he doing that at all on this -- did he do it yesterday or plan to do it?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. They had a pretty good opportunity to meet -- you know, they've now formally made the involvement of business leaders in this region part of the advisory process within APEC. They had a good session last night, as you know. And that's the only event that I'm aware of -- the nature of the schedule here didn't allow for any other type of socializing.
Q Were any of the business leaders who attended the dinner yesterday contributors of the President's campaign?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I assume some did, some didn't. I assume some may have contributed to the President's opponents, but that's not the basis upon which they were here in the first place.
Q Mike, I caught James Carville on Meet the Press, and he says he's going to be starting this massive campaign to try and label Kenneth Starr as a Clinton-hating partisan. Is the White House aware of this, and is this something the White House wants him to be doing?
MR. MCCURRY: I was not aware of his remarks. I didn't even know he was on the show.
Q Will you take the question?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again.
Q Will you take the question, please?
MR. MCCURRY: I will ruminate about taking the question.
Q The question is whether the White House is aware of Carville's campaign and whether he's had any discussions.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if he talked about it on Meet the Press, we must be aware. I didn't know he was on Meet the Press.
Q No, I'm not asking if you're aware he was on Meet the Press or even aware of his remarks. I'm asking if the White House is aware of his campaign to discredit Starr.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he has talked very -- he feels very strongly on that subject and has spoken out numerous times publicly about it. He feels strongly. There are others who feel very strongly on that subject and we let them speak for themselves.
Q He also said that the White House, in a previous effort to do this, had talked him out of launching this campaign. Has the White House been in contact with Carville on this issue, do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know.
Q -- the President plans on Wednesday, Thursday, for the holiday over the weekend?
MR. MCCURRY: I think his plans are to go to Camp David at some appropriate point Wednesday.
Q Is he going to take Wednesday off --
Q Until Sunday?
MR. MCCURRY: We've got the event with the turkey in the morning, and he'll probably have some discussions with his transition advisers before he heads off.
Q Mike, just so we can get your latest comment on the record -- does the President or the White House think that Kenneth Starr is pursuing a partisan Republican agenda?
MR. MCCURRY: The President believes he's the independent counsel and pursuing his work and he has to account for the work that he does himself.
Wait a minute. There was some other thing that we need. Do we need to do anything on Belgrade elections? Okay. I'm getting out of here while I can.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 9:53 P.M. (L)