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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 3, 1996
                          PRESS BRIEFING BY
                             MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

1:15 P.M. EST

Q Any reaction to this report from these doctors about the 25th Amendment and that if the President becomes incapacitated? They're about to release their recommendations.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, first and most appropriately to say, we don't anticipate invoking the 25th Amendment anytime soon. But the President did have a good opportunity to meet with Dr. James Toole, with Professor Arthur Link, with former Senator Birch Bayh, along with Dr. Connie Mariano, the President's personal physician, to review the work of this independent council that has been here. They are doing very important work to flush out recommendations on what to do, should the 25th Amendment ever need to be invoked. That, of course, deals with orderly succession from the President to the Vice President when the President is incapacitated for whatever reason.

And that is a serious work involving a lot of thoughtful deliberations over the last two days by this panel of outside experts made up of presidential scholars, doctors, former physicians and Dr. Mariano representing the White House as the President's physician. The President thanked them for their work over these last two days so that he would await the final recommendations that they have deliberated on over the last two days. They're getting ready to hold a press conference shortly -- but he told them that he highly values their work, that this White House like previous White Houses does have a set of understandings about how we would address those questions should those questions arise, and that first and foremost in the President's mind is the need for protecting the public's right to know in the event that that type of situation arises -- that there be an orderly process and an orderly report to the public on whatever conditions might arise.

It is some serious business. We would all pray, of course, that we would not need to see that amendment invoked during the time any President is in office, but it's important to have contingency plans available.

Q Is there no system now of succession if anything happens?

MR. MCCURRY: There is, like most White Houses, a set of understandings about how that question would be addressed and there will be some recommendations that certainly the White House will review coming from the work of this outside council on how to formalize a process of reviewing those issues should the need arise.

Q Who will do that? Is that a Counsel's Office thing?

MR. MCCURRY: It will be -- a number of people will want to look into it. The Press Office will have an interest in how we handle timely public reports in that type of event. The Counsel's Office will be interested in the constitutional issues. Dr. Mariano,

as head of the White House Medical Unit, will be interested in the role that the President's physician plays in making those types of determinations. So there will be a number of people who will look at the recommendation.

Q If anything happened right now, there would be a system?

MR. MCCURRY: There's a set of understanding in place -- a contingency plan in place that is, in fact, classified because of the national security implications related to command and control. But it has been reviewed and is reviewed on occasion to assure that it protects the interests of the American people.

Q But is it the President's Chief of Staff -- or who is that has the overall responsibility for saying, okay, here's what the Press Office will do, here's what this office will do?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President's Chief of Staff certainly would be the one that would formalize any recommendations that we would accept and any procedures that would be changed. In fact, Erskine Bowles also thanked the group as they left the Oval Office for their work and said he, too, would be interested in the report that they will issue.

Q When do you expect to review the procedures you have set up when these new final recommendations come out to see if you might --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to say. That may be entirely the case that the contingency plans that we do have available meet some of the recommendations of the group. But we'll certainly look at the group and see whether they conform to the procedures we have in place.

Q Is this some kind of a regular review process, or was there a feeling that some changes needed to be made in this decision?

MR. MCCURRY: No, the Working Group on Presidential Disability, which is the group that's been meeting the last few days, grew out of, if I'm not mistaken, grew out of a recommendation developed at the Carter Center in Atlanta, stimulated by the council of former President Jimmy Carter. And they have now met three times -- this was their third occasion to gather and they include -- we can get you the list of people -- include folks like those that I just mentioned -- Senator Bayh, who is, himself, the author of the 25th Amendment, Professor Link, who is the world's leading scholar on Woodrow Wilson; Dr. Toole, who is the Director of Stroke Research at Bowman Gray School of Madison Wake Forest University. So they're practicing people from the medical community. There are also former White House physicians included in the working group.

So it's really -- they have no formal affiliation with the White House, but they are a group of recognized experts on these questions that are lending their time and their wise counsel to make sure that the right procedures are in place.

Q Are you making the Riady letter available to members of Congress today?

MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is, we fully intend to do that and we'll send it -- there are now I think at last count, about 11 congressional committees looking at those issues and they've made probably close to 100 requests. But they do intend to make that available, maybe even sooner rather than later.

Q You said you were going to make it available to use simultaneously -- or how will that work?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll figure out the right way to release it once it's gone to Congress.

Q Mike, are you saying 11 committees want that one Riady letter --

MR. MCCURRY: No, I think there are 11 different committees that have made requests and many of them are overlapping. And because Congress -- in part because Congress is still in formation for its 105th session, I don't think they've separated out who's going to do which part of the work on this particular issue. But we certainly will cooperate and provide the information in a candid and forthright manner to those dually deputized to look into it.

Q I'm still not clear what it is that's going to be turned out to the Hill today.

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not clear that anything will be turned over today. I'm saying at some point this correspondence will go to whoever we think is the appropriate congressional entity.

Q It's not just that letter, it's the bulk of the correspondence that you've uncovered and that's been in the papers?

Q Sooner rather than later doesn't mean today. Sooner rather than later means --

MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily, although it may -- if it goes up today, we might turn it over today.

Q But are there other letters from other businesses?

MR. MCCURRY: There are a number of them, yes.

Q Apparently, one of the businesses, Mike, is Protective Life Insurance. What did the administration do for that insurance company?

MR. MCCURRY: They requested a letter in support of a joint venture that they had with the Lippo Group. The Vice President sent a letter to James Riady, a fairly standard congratulatory letter, on a joint venture project they had.

Q Did the administration give a letter of recommendation to the insurance company?

MR. MCCURRY: There is a letter of -- not a letter of recommendation, a letter of --

Q Introduction?

MR. MCCURRY: -- I think congratulations for a joint venture that they had publicly announced that had already been undertaken, if I'm not mistaken. I can go back and check that.

Q Would they be able to use that letter to open doors with other elements of the administration?

MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge.

Q Protective Life operates a PAC, and all of its life it's given money only to Republicans. We're told they gave $50,000 to the Democratic Party this year for the first time. There would be no relationship?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know anything about a contribution made, and I have been told by others that they have traditionally been strong contributors to the Republican Party.

Q Mike, could you give us any insight into why the President gave the "no comment" response to Bill's question about James Carville's project, since it seems to be pretty controversial?

MR. MCCURRY: Mostly because he didn't have anything to say on the subject.

Q He certainly has --

Q Well, he did actually have something to say -- talk to him.

Q He said that he wasn't going to speak to him.

Q Said he wasn't going to speak to him. I asked him if he was going to talk to him, and he said no.

MR. MCCURRY: So that was the exchange.

Q He just thinks it's -- can you tell us why he's decided not to address this?

MR. MCCURRY: Can't amplify on the exchange. I think I covered that in some detail yesterday.

Q But that was before the President had been asked about it personally.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I briefed on that yesterday.

Q So, basically, by his no comment, the President is giving tacit approval to Carville to do whatever the hell he wants.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe that's a proper interpretation.

Q Why shouldn't we draw that inference?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you will draw the inferences as you see fit. You report the news.

Q But you must think we shouldn't. What's the proper inference? What's the fair inference?

MR. MCCURRY: The fair inference is there was an exchange in which the President declined comment on the subject that he was asked about. Those are the facts.

Q But I know, but he said he wasn't going to speak to the guy about it who --

MR. MCCURRY: -- kind of stick with the facts, you usually come out right.

Q Mike, was there an agreement between the U.S. and EU that resulted in the organization's call for more democracy in Cuba?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's a very strong effort on the part of the United States to encourage all countries to express concern about the status of democracy and human rights in Cuba. The European Union has spoken of its own initiative to the question of democracy in Cuba, and we are encouraged that they have lent a very strong common voice to the call for democratization and liberalization in Cuba. But that is a decision that the European Union, of course, had to take on its own, judging the merits.

Q Did the EU receive any assurances or suggestions the President would contain or suspend the lawsuits under Helms-Burton if --

MR. MCCURRY: No, although I will suggest that we have had a very active dialogue with them about Cuba. Certainly, they have had a very active dialogue with us about Helms-Burton. I don't believe you could say that the strong views they have on that legislation have changed markedly. But, of course, the United States welcomes the statement calling for greater democracy and freedom in Cuba.

Q Does it -- if I can ask one more question -- does it make it likely or more likely the President will decide to continue to suspend the lawsuits?

MR. MCCURRY: We had -- when we talked at the time of signing the bill about the kinds of things we would pursue we certainly indicated we would pursue active diplomacy with the Europeans and others, furthering the objectives of the legislation itself, which was to bring international pressure to bear on Castro to change the nature of his regime. So it is certainly a factor to be considered, but I don't want to say that it settles the matter.

Q Do you have any information or reaction on the explosion in the subway in France?

MR. MCCURRY: No, we are getting most of our information at this point through news accounts. We will be getting a briefing as it's available from Embassy Paris. We're certainly are concerned about the rescue effort, treating those who are injured. We'll immediately check to see if there are any American citizens involved. We're not aware of any at this point, but we'll be probably working very directly with the embassy and then certainly with the government of France if there's any reason for us to be directly involved with them.

Q This year in college football, Navy and Army both beat Air Force, which means that the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy will be awarded for the first time in a long time to the winner of the Army-Navy game on Saturday. Does the Commander-In-Chief have any plans to attend the game?

MR. MCCURRY: There is a large group going because I know the Pentagon is organizing an excursion up there, and he would mightily enjoy that. (Laughter.) Road trip.

Q Is that a yes?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't know. I have no idea, but I'll ask him. It's a great idea.

Q Has the President intervened at all with Milosevic in terms of personally --

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we have had -- he has not personally raised the issue, he has not had direct contact that I am aware of with President Milosevic, but there has been a very active dialogue with him, including the Secretary of State's most recent meeting, but obviously also very strong diplomatic presentations not only by the United States, but by other governments within the Contact Group related to the democratic process that ought to exist in Serbia.

It would be a real setback for Serbia's desire to join the community of nations, to expand its contact with Europe, to seek greater trade benefits and commercial benefits with other nations if they were to suppress what is clearly a rising of the Serbian people in the interests of a democracy -- and the great concern being expressed in the streets of Belgrade and elsewhere about the municipal elections that were held last month.

Q But does the U.S. have any clout?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we do have clout.

Q I mean, the protestors seem to think the Americans have not done their share to promote democracy.

MR. MCCURRY: They are well aware, no doubt, that one of the chief objectives of President Milosevic has been the removal of the so-called outer wall of sanctions that exist on Serbia. Those remain in place. They are attached to different types of issues -- for example, the status of Kosovo and other issues. But certainly it would be a real setback to Serbia's desire to see those outer wall sanctions removed if there was to be any violent repression of the dissent now taking place in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia.

Q Any reaction to the news that Mr. Kamarck will not seek reappointment at the Ex-Im Bank?

MR. MCCURRY: Has Mr. Kamarck's letter been made public? His service at the Ex-Im Bank has been highly valued by the President. He provided excellent leadership. He has set forth his own reasons for leaving in a letter that he has delivered to the White House. I'm not aware that the President has seen it yet, but he certainly greatly values the service that Kamarck rendered to the nation and his leadership of the Ex-Im Bank itself.

Q Is the President under pressure from women's groups to name women to important national security positions?

MR. MCCURRY: No. (Laughter.)

Q Wait, whoa, whoa, Mike.

MR. MCCURRY: To be under pressure one must feel pressure. The President has had a good, active dialogue with leaders of various communities -- or, I should say, actually the White House has. The Vice President has had good meetings with leaders of various groups who represent the interests of women in America, and the spirit of those conversations does not suggest pressure.

Q What would you call it? Is he being importuned?

MR. MCCURRY: He's been --

Q Strongly encouraged?

MR. MCCURRY: He's certainly been encouraged and consulted with, and a spirit of amicability pervades the dialogue.

Q Last Monday, eight days ago the Vice President met with about a hundred women of various groups who supposedly -- I wasn't there -- supposedly strongly --

Q Why not? (Laughter.)

Q -- encouraged him to convey to the President their concern that women are not getting the kinds of jobs that they deserve.

MR. MCCURRY: I'm surprised at your lack of ubiquitousness. What was the question again? (Laughter.)

Q How would you describe that Gore meeting with 100 women who came --

MR. MCCURRY: Fruitful, productive, candid, delightful.

Q Weren't they trying to pressure him into getting women into these kinds of positions?

MR. MCCURRY: I think I just answered that question a moment ago.

Q No, the question is a little different. Weren't they trying to pressure him?

MR. MCCURRY: The spirit of that meeting is, as I suggested to you, is a good faith effort by the Vice President, continuing an effort by the White House generally to consult with a wide group of American people, American organizations, leadership of various constituencies as the President assembles a team for a second term. And the spirit of those conversations has been something that doesn't suggest pressure. It suggests they've got strong views and strong desires and we hear them and listen to them and enjoy their counsel.

Q Well, does the President -- that isn't how -- how would they apply pressure if not by such a meeting? What do they have to do -- have to have a march? What do they do?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, go out and have a demonstration. I don't know. How do people pressure? What do people do to pressure?

Q Come on, Mike --

MR. MCCURRY: -- having a good, straightforward --

Q Strange credulity, as Jim Wright used to say, that he's meeting with these large groups who have this single interest in mind and then not putting pressure on.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you were there. Wolf wasn't there, but you were. If the spirit of the meeting was friendly and amicable, that wouldn't suggest strong-arm pressure tactics, would it?

Q Why not?

Q Absent the atmosphere of pressure, does the President have any desire, feel any commitment to put women in key jobs?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, as I indicated yesterday, of course.

Q Has the Vice President met with other groups about the transition process, or are the women the only ones?

MR. MCCURRY: Has the Vice President met with others? I would have to check. I think he's probably had as wide a range of consultations as the President himself has. The President, prior to losing the ability to telephone more vigorously, had talked to, I'd say, probably dozens of people, including representatives of various organizations, including people on Capitol Hill about the set of personnel choices he's had. And there's been a very active effort by the White House transition team to reach out, as well.

Q Mike, I think while we were gone Cisneros was quoted as saying that he expected -- that Clinton gave him assurances that there would be the same number of Hispanic Americans in the Cabinet in the second term as there were in the first. Is that true? Was he accurately reflecting the President's view?

MR. MCCURRY: That sounds too mathematical. I think that the President probably assured Secretary Cisneros that he sees the importance of involving Hispanic Americans in central roles in this administration.

Q Following the AIDS research meeting with the President, one of the officials said that there would be guidelines coming out in early '97 on cocktail mix drugs. Do you know anything more about that?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know anything more about -- was that Secretary Shalala or one of the other public health officials there? I'd have to check it.

Q It sounds like it would be coming --

MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check at HHS. I'm just not familiar with the issue.

Q Is any of the President's doctors changed the diagnosis on the voice as far as the cause or the level of concern?

MR. MCCURRY: No. I spoke to Dr. Mariano this morning and she was going to talk to him about it again. He sounded a little worse today than he did yesterday to me. But I certainly am not in a position to provide clinical diagnosis. I think she was going to talk to him later on today and see if he's been following his regime --

Q Are there any other symptoms besides loss of voice?

MR. MCCURRY: None that the President has reported.

Q If he can't talk how can he report it?

MR. MCCURRY: None that the President croaked. (Laughter.)

Q None that he'd written down?

Q Do you know what he was drinking in the photo op, Mike? Did he have a cup of tea or --

MR. MCCURRY: He's been drinking a lot of hot tea to try to keep the vocal cords loose. He also said that -- you noticed that he stood when you all came in the room. He said it is -- frankly, it's easier for him to speak when he's standing.

Q This is not having an effect on the pace on the national security? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Stretch! No.

Q Mike, can you also talk about the President's contacts with people in the Hispanic community?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't detail them for you. I know that he's had at least several. And they had been designed to reach out to get ideas on people that might be available for appointment; also to consult about particular people who might be available for particular assignments. I'm hesitant to sort of detail a list. I wouldn't want to leave people out, and I think the President's also entitled to make some of these calls in private.

Q To get back to John's question, it's not really a stretch, though, is it, because he said himself he couldn't do any work on it this weekend because he couldn't work the phones?

MR. MCCURRY: I guess the only -- he wasn't in a position over the weekend to call people on the telephone, but that was, frankly, by orders of the doctor. She had suggested that he try to avoid using his voice.

Q That's part of the question. Have the voice problems slowed it down at all, or is that --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I think he was more interested in spending Thanksgiving weekend with his family, in any event.

Q Mike, does the President sense any sense of urgency at all in naming his national security team, or is it just --

MR. MCCURRY: No, because, as you know, they wouldn't be able to take office until confirmed by the Senate, and the Senate wouldn't be in a position to do that until next year in any event. He is moving along at a pace that he feels is proper, because he's going to have to pick a Cabinet that he will work with for four years and he wants to make decisions that will put him in a position of enjoying the kind of continuity that he's enjoyed with his first-term Cabinet.

Q So there's no artificial deadline, like Christmas or anything like that?

MR. MCCURRY: As I said, I still am sticking with the general time line -- decision-making in December, vetting of candidates in December, public announcements in January, ready to go January 20.

Q Is he uncomfortable at all, though, with the kind of frenzied speculation that people float up and they float down and you have this public effort to jockey into position involving --

MR. MCCURRY: He knows most of that is inconsequential, because a lot of it is off the mark, so it doesn't bother him very much.

Q But it does affect people's reputations, and it does affect people's --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you should think about that when you report, because if you're not reporting accurately on who is under consideration or who is up, who is down, then you're doing that damage yourself through your reports. The President's not doing that damage.

Q But is he concerned about that?

MR. MCCURRY: Of course. He doesn't want anybody to be put in a position that there is unwanted speculation or unnecessary speculation about who is up, who is down. Every single person that I've seen reflected are great people who have rendered good service to their country and who are exactly the kind of person the nation would honor by assuming that they would be the kind of person under consideration for Cabinet positions.

Q Is there any damage to or consequences to the President and his administration that it looks uncertain? There had been a lot of talk initially about not repeating errors made four years ago and so on. No?

MR. MCCURRY: It's conceivable there could be, but the way to deal with that would be for all of us to just take some time off and not deal with this until the President's made some decisions that he's going to announce. How about that? Take a break and don't speculate idly and don't talk to people who don't know what they're talking about to begin with, and then there won't be any of those concerns to worry about, will there?

Q What fun would we have?

Q One more variation on the voice. Whether dealing with the transition or anything else, is the President's voice hindering him in terms of getting any of his work done? He suggested yesterday, if I read the transcript correctly, that he had tried to do work over the weekend, but found that his voice was shot and that's why he stopped.

MR. MCCURRY: The only thing that he was not able to do over the weekend was to get on the telephone and talk to people. And for those who were at home with their families over Thanksgiving, that was probably just as well anyhow. He might otherwise have been in a position to make phone calls to continue some of the outreach that he's had underway, but he's in a position to do that and, of course, he's assisted by people who are doing some of that for him now.

Q How has the President reacted to the continuous flow of articles in the newspaper and on the editorial pages about the Riady connection to the White House? How is the President reacting to those? Day after day these reports are coming out.

MR. MCCURRY: He's instructed us to continue to answer questions candidly and forthrightly, which he knows will occasion additional reporting.

Q Mike, what kind of venue do you expect for the Yeltsin meeting next year?

MR. MCCURRY: Date and place and venue have not been determined. There were some preliminary discussions about that between the Vice President and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. There will have to be more work done by both sides to finalize any arrangements.

Q Would there likely be a visit in Washington by President Yeltsin?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to speculate.

Q What is the President looking for in a new AIDS czar, and is there any discussion of that being elevated to Cabinet-level status?

MR. MCCURRY: There has been some discussion because it has been raised. I don't know what the President's thinking on that is. I don't believe he's turned his attention to that post yet. There is a significant effort underway to deal with AIDS, to deal with AIDS prevention specifically, as you heard outlined by the Vice President today. There are a number of public health officials in the administration who are working on that -- do very good work, as you saw reflected in some of the briefings earlier today. But that is a very key post. It is treated seriously because of the seriousness of the disease itself, and the President will find someone superbly qualified to take the position.

Q But you don't have any special requirements?

MR. MCCURRY: We're not -- Paul, I'd suggest we're not that far down that road yet to be working on that type of appointment, is my impression.

Q Mike, Carville says that he wanted to launch a campaign against Kenneth Starr some time ago and that he was talked out of it by White House officials. Do you know who that was?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't.

Q Do you know anything more about whether or not officials have had any contacts with Carville in recent days?

Q No, it's just what I reported yesterday.

Q You talked about being ready to go on January 20th. Have you been assured that the Senate will be ready to confirm --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Senate -- the President did raise that subject with Senator Lott. And by the way, we should check and see -- my guess is that the President will telephone or send telepathically some message of congratulations to Senator Lott later today. So just double-check on that and we'll report that to you when that happens. But, obviously, the White House congratulates Senator Lott on his reelection today and Senator Daschle on his reelection as Minority Leader.

Q What's his relationship to Daschle now?

MR. MCCURRY: He and Senator Daschle have worked very closely on a number of issues throughout the entire term of the President's service here. I'd say it couldn't be a closer working relationship.

Q Does the President support Senator Daschle's suggestion the MFN for China be placed on a permanent footing?

MR. MCCURRY: That is not a position that the President has taken. There are lots of people who express that sentiment, both in Congress and within the business community, because they believe it will lead to more secure economic engagement with China. But the administration has not taken a position on the merits of those arguments.

Q Senator Lott said today that because of Attorney General Reno's decision not to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Democratic contributions, there is more need for Congressional hearings. Republicans agree up front they'll be partisan and fairly contentious. What do you expect out of this and how are --

MR. MCCURRY: I expect that those predictions are correct.

Q How would you --

MR. MCCURRY: Did the Senator say that there would not have been hearings had an independent counsel been appointed? I didn't hear him say that.

Q How will you deal with this, and do you expect --

MR. MCCURRY: In the honest, straightforward, candid way the President has directed.

Q Well, let me ask you one more question. Right after the election, especially in Little Rock there was this atmosphere of bipartisanship. Both the White House and Congress seemed to be talking about the need to work together, and they were down-playing the hearings. In fact, Speaker Gingrich said that that would not necessarily be the way to promote a better atmosphere. Do you see a change in that, and why?

MR. MCCURRY: As the President said yesterday, if the congressional leadership chooses to focus their work and their energy and their enthusiasm on that subject, that's what they will do. The President will be working on the agenda he laid before the American people during the fall, and that's where his energy and enthusiasm will be while we simultaneously cooperate with whatever inquiries are underway on the Hill. It will be up to the congressional leadership to decide if they want to put their chips in that particular block on the table.

Q Do you think that's a bad use of their time?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they have to decide how to use their time themselves.

Q What do you think prompted him to also add that he thought an independent counsel might be appointed?

MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea. You should ask him that question.

Q You had said that the President is not focusing on an AIDS czar. Is he focusing at the moment on any of the domestic --

MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say he's not focused, I said we're just -- there's, no doubt, a process underway related to that position, but I think that that will be one chronologically the President will address after he gets through Cabinet selections.

Q I guess my question is, is he focusing yet on any of the domestic appointments, or is he still primarily concerned with the national security team?

MR. MCCURRY: He has started focusing on some of the domestic appointments as well.

Q What's your best guess for a national security announcement?

MR. MCCURRY: Any guess I made would be wrong, and then you would yell at me for having guessed wrong, so I'm not going to guess.

Q Do you expect confirmation by the Inauguration, or do you expect that these people will begin to function subject to confirmation?

MR. MCCURRY: No, you can't function subject to confirmation. You have to be confirmed, and it will be up to the Senate to decide what the confirmation schedule is.

Q Thank you.

MR. MCCURRY: Wait. We've got one more back here.

Q Will he meet with Janet Reno this week?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any plans for a meeting.

Last one, over there.

Q Mike, is there any reaction from the White House to the decision of the Attorney General of Mexico?

MR. MCCURRY: No particular reaction. The constitution of the Cabinet in Mexico is up to the President's discretion. We had great admiration of the existing Attorney General. The newly -- or rumored-to-be-appointed Attorney General is a known human rights activist. We would hope that in the work that we do bilaterally with the government of Mexico on so many issues of importance, including those that fall within the province of the Justice Ministry, that we would continue the close cooperative working relationship we've had with the current Attorney General.

Q It is true that this puts in jeopardy the high-level contact meeting that's going to take place next week here in Washington?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with that meeting, but the appointment of a new Attorney General would not diminish any need for the United States and Mexico to cooperate together on those issues that we've identified for bilateral cooperation. And we have a number of them and most of them fall within the province of a binational commission of which the Attorney General of the United States and the Attorney General of Mexico were both lead participants.

Q Thank you.

Q Does the President have bronchitis or laryngitis?


Q I mean, is he taking any antibiotics?


END 1:45 P.M. EST