THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:45 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Well, campers, what are we into today?
Q What have you got?
Q How far is the President into the Dick Morris book? (Laughter.)
Q Did he read it while he was on vacation, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Fascinating reading.
Q Did he read it on vacation?
MR. MCCURRY: No, there was a copy that was delivered here today, and then I believe that we may have had some galleys that got here in the last couple of days. So he's looked at part of it. And the book's the book, you know.
Q What's his opinion of it and what do you --
Q It got here -- how did it get here?
MR. MCCURRY: The Dick Morris view of the world. (Laughter.)
Q An introspective.
Q Would he like it if the American public read it widely? Did he enjoy reading it?
MR. MCCURRY: You know, he thought the book was interesting. There are parts of it that he disagrees with. There are some things that are factually wrong and there are some things --
Q Like what?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to -- look, it's a long book. (Laughter.) How long do you want this briefing to go on?
Q Well, as you know, he characterized it this morning as based on a highly selective misreading, and it seems --
MR. MCCURRY: No, he characterized your question --
Q That's right --
MR. MCCURRY: -- as a highly selective reading.
Q -- but it seems that everything in the book except that sentence which he cited talks about how Dick Morris won the election.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I can cite for you a cast of thousands that might dispute that characterization, those thousands being those that thought they were the ones responsible. But, look, it's his view and he's entitled to have that view and to write his book, and no doubt other books will be written and some already are and we'll see -- history will judge, right?
Q Whose picture is on the jacket of the book?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that there is a picture. I didn't actually look at it carefully. It's like a blue -- apparently, it showed up in book --
Q Does the President think it's a fair book?
MR. MCCURRY: I just said, the President thinks parts of it are interesting, parts of it are wrong, parts are factually off the mark. Some of it provides insights. He thought Dick made an attempt to be fair in some of the characterizations.
Q Is there an index in it yet?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't looked at it myself.
Q In one point of the book, according to one of the excerpts we saw, he describes -- he quotes the President as screaming about Bob Dole being a "evil, evil man."
MR. MCCURRY: Listen, on that point, I think you all have seen and heard the President talk about the Senator, express the respect that he has for the Senator's service, and even those of us who have had the pleasure of talking to the President privately about Senator Dole know that that is factually incorrect.
Q So it did not happen?
Q He did not say that?
MR. MCCURRY: That's not the President -- that's not the President's view of Senator Dole, and the President's view of Senator Dole is the one that he has publicly states and it's the same view that he express privately.
Q Does that mean he never said it, Mike? Did he say it?
MR. MCCURRY: I was certainly never present when President Clinton said anything like that. That's not his view, and I don't really believe that Dick Morris was ever in a place where President Clinton would have said something like that because that's not the President's thinking.
Q At the very end of the book, Mike, Morris describes on October 7th having called the President at the White House, said he was in a bad way emotionally, psychically, badly needed to talk to the President, a personal favor. The next day he says the President called back and Morris goes through this whole -- thing about how he desperately wanted their relationship to continue, thought they'd come to some new level of whatever, and the President said, it can, it will, I'll always give you access to me. Did the President say that, and what did he mean by it?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President -- I think I've told you, and I've had this question from time to time -- the President has talked to him a few times since the campaign and has in a personal way talked to him about matters very personal to Dick. I think that some of you know, from public accounts, what he is going through in his personal life now, and the President has called and talked to him about that situation. And I think the President -- for someone that he has worked with for many years who does indeed have some impressive credentials and played the role that was significant in this most recent campaign -- I don't think you would see the President turning his back on someone that he considers a friend -- faults and all.
Q Will he continue to take policy or political advice from him?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, look, we've told you he doesn't have any formal or informal role as a political advisor, and that was the case, is the case, and will be the case.
Q Does that mean he won't take advice from him?
MR. MCCURRY: I couldn't begin to tell you the millions and millions of people that render advice. The important thing is, what does the President decide, and what judgments does he make, and what actions does he take. And he does that based on his own judgment, and that's I think what the American people are interested in and what we'll focus on here.
Q Mike, on the scene with Bob Dole, I'm not clear. Are you saying that didn't happen --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying that's not --
Q -- or to the best of your knowledge it didn't happen?
MR. MCCURRY: To the best of my knowledge it didn't happen. I mean, I've been in lots of conversations -- I asked the President. I said, you know, he at some point in this book says that he thinks that you believe that Senator Dole is an -- and he said, of course, that's not right.
Q But did he say that he never said any such thing?
MR. MCCURRY: He certainly has never said that, uttered that, thought that in my presence. And I can't imagine, based on what he has said privately and publicly about Senator Dole, that he has ever uttered such a remark.
Q I'm just curious why the President wants to read this book. I mean, given all he has to do -- (laughter) -- no, seriously, given all he has to do, given all that's on his plate, why does he want to devote time to something like this, whose credibility a lot of people question?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't say, based on his perusal of the book, that he has spent a lot of time with it, but he reads voraciously lots of different things. He was reading --
Q Why? Why is he interested in this? I mean, one could argue --
MR. MCCURRY: Contemporary history. He has an interest in contemporary history.
Q Mike, what about, as Jill just said, a couple of the other things he pointed out: Number one, that the President is prone to temper tantrums.
MR. MCCURRY: Have you guys all got the book?
MR. MCCURRY: Is it --apparently, according to the New York Daily News you can buy it in the bookstore.
Q The publisher disputes that, though.
Q Not till Monday.
Q There were characterizations in the book that Clinton is prone to temper tantrums -- this isn't the first time we've heard that -- and that he's isolated and does not read newspapers.
MR. MCCURRY: He only -- doesn't read the things that might cause temper tantrums. (Laughter.)
Q So he picks up the paper and it's all redacted for him, you've got all kinds of black marks --
MR. MCCURRY: That is the most amazing thing, there will be times when the President will ask you about what did you think about something that is the most amazingly obscure piece of journalism that you could imagine, and then there are other times when he -- there are significant articles that maybe have even been front-page articles which he hadn't seen. So he's got eclectic reading habits when it comes to the daily journals produced here in America. But he does, by and large, read -- I mean, he gets a summary of the White House news clips and he doesn't see each and every article, but obviously, we keep him well briefed and apprised of the news of the day.
Q Well, does he hit the ceiling --
Q Mike, how credible can this book be, because every item that we've raised with you today you've knocked down?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh. (Laughter.) Look, I haven't read it. I don't know, you guys have to judge it.
Q Did he hit the ceiling over leaks?
MR. MCCURRY: Does who hit the ceiling over leaks?
Q He. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President -- there are leaks and there are leaks. Sometimes there are leaks that are violations of law because they involve the provision of classified material outside the chain of those who should have access to classified material, and that's a serious matter. And on things like that, sure, he hits the roof. But there are other times when the natural order of business involves the provision of information by anonymous sources and that's the way you and we do business often. So I don't think he would be --
Q What assurances does he have that Stephanopoulos won't also --
MR. MCCURRY: Because of the character and integrity of George.
Q He also goes in some length in here -- about not having let Sherry Rollins listen on an extension, but only held the phone between their ears so she could briefly hear the President's voice, and he said he told the President this and the President said, I know, I trust you, I never thought you let her eavesdrop, blah, blah, blah.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any knowledge of that conversation.
Q You said he wrote parts of it -- what parts?
MR. MCCURRY: Probably the ones that reflect well on him. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, I don't mean to be tiresome, but I'm really -- I don't feel I've gotten a --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, be tiresome. Why not? (Laughter.)
Q I don't feel I've gotten a straight answer on the question of whether the President has said he didn't call Bob Dole an evil, evil man?
MR. MCCURRY: I told you, never in my presence, never in the presence of anyone who works here, and to the contrary: we've heard him say some things that are reasonably affectionate about Senator Dole. So I don't believe it's true and I can't imagine it's true. But I haven't been with the President each and every time that Dick Morris has been with the President. And when I just told the President about it, as I just told you, he reacted very negatively to that because he said that's not his view. And he doesn't believe it's true.
Q -- reporters saying back in the '70s when -- a piece that was written in a magazine --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think we've dispensed with that subject. Let's move on.
Q Can we move back?
MR. MCCURRY: Move back, move forward, move on.
Q Conservatives are having substantial fun with yesterday's briefing --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've got a new one now. Now we've got the liberal media food chain that was in The Washington Post today. That was a significant contribution to our understanding of this blessed theory that we were articulating yesterday. Now, that one you can take to the bank, right, because they've got everybody in there. And Elmo was in there. If you've got Elmo in the food chain you know you're on the mark. I mean, look at the publicity Elmo's been getting right? (Laughter.)
In fact, we're going to give him -- are we doing something with Elmo sometime soon? I think Elmo is going to be -- you want to see how conspiracies work, Elmo is going to be in and around the Inauguration I am told. (Laughter.) How about that?
Q G. Gordon Liddy, a man who ought to know conspiracies -- (laughter) -- says there was a lot of stuff going on in the Nixon administration, but never anything like this.
Q Oh, no, certainly not. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Like what? Yes, I know. I would agree with that, there was a lot different types of things going on during the Nixon administration. (Laughter.)
Q There were reporters --
MR. MCCURRY: Lots of memoirs written about that period, too.
Q There were reporters that President Nixon didn't like, but he said there was no attempt to characterize the press, I guess.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't --
Q Only to wiretap them.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I think they just resorted to wiretaps and stuff like that. (Laughter.) IRS checks. They didn't mess around. (Laughter.)
Q Can you tell us -- there are some reports about a package of aid for D.C.
MR. MCCURRY: On that subject, the President -- you've heard him express concern about the District of Columbia and about ways in which we can address some of the financial needs of the city growing out of the D.C. Control Board's recent recommendations. I can't detail for you any of the specifics, but I can tell you that the President has been working on this. So has Director Raines of the OMB. We obviously have a choice of items that were examined in the preparation of the President's budget that reflect the President's concern about the District. And the menu of options are pretty sensible, and I believe pretty well-known based on the Control Board's report. But the President is committed and will continue to be committed to addressing the needs of the District.
By the way, the President was complimentary of Speaker Gingrich's remarks about the District in his statement to the House just the other day. So the likelihood that there will be some measures that address this I think are pretty clear. But as with all matters related to the budget, we will withhold comment on that until we're in a position to unveil the budget.
Q Mike, one of the first things the Senate is going to do is take up the constitutional amendment to balance the budget. How high a priority is it for the President to stop that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the highest priority the President has when it comes to the budget is to balance it, and that is what he will be working on. And I think it would be far more useful for the Executive Branch and Legislative Branch to spend their time balancing the budget than to spend their time fiddling with the Constitution, when it comes to balancing the budget. The President will focus his attention on balancing the budget and our guess is that if we make a strong and persuasive case that that's what we're about the business of doing, Congress might think, well, maybe that's a better route to travel.
Q But does that mean that he's not going to spend a lot of his time trying to stop a constitutional amendment?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, let's wait and see what happens. And let's wait and see whether that really is a fact, what they press as their first order of business.
Q Mike, on the statement from Shevardnadze today on this Georgian diplomat, Shevardnadze says that he's prepared to waive immunity unless an alternative agreement is reached. Two things: Can you foresee some sort of an alternative agreement that could be reached, and do you think that they're setting up any sort of ambiguity here?
MR. MCCURRY: Let's not bury the lead in that statement. That was a very significant statement that the United States government welcomes President Shevardnadze's direct personal intervention in this very tragic matter. This was a result of some very hard work, most impressively by Secretary of State Christopher, who personally intervened yesterday after we received the initial diplomatic note from the government of Georgia which indicated a contrary outcome. And I think President Shevardnadze's willingness to waive immunity in response to the very high-level expression of concern made by the Secretary speaks for itself.
Now, the statement, of course, leaves open the prospect of additional diplomatic contact between the government of Georgia and the United States government, which is how we read that particular reference, as proper to keep an open line of diplomatic discussion available related to this matter. But the fact that immunity has been waived and justice can now proceed is very significant, and that's the importance of the remark.
Q My understanding is it has not been waived.
MR. MCCURRY: The statement is, "prepared to waive." Now, remember, it cannot be waived until such time as the charges are formally brought. The D.C. Metropolitan board is still investigating the matter, and to my knowledge there have not been charges brought against any individual in connection with the accident.
Q So the U.S. government has assurances that it will be waived once those charges are filed?
MR. MCCURRY: The statement from the President says so, yes.
Q Prepared to waive.
MR. MCCURRY: It's prepared to waive. They can't waive charges -- it can't waive immunity until charges are brought. There is no pending matter to waive immunity on right now. So the government of Georgia is being clear on this, and the sequence of events and the additional public remarks by President Shevardnadze are clear. And we don't have any doubt that that's what they intend to do.
Q In other words, you feel that you have a commitment from the Georgian government to waive if charges are brought?
MR. MCCURRY: The statement is clear to that effect.
Q Could this alternative agreement involve, for example, compensation of some sort?
MR. MCCURRY: No -- let me suggest that you need to let the government of Georgia speak for itself. But our interpretation of that is simply that they wanted to leave open the prospect of additional diplomatic contact, and we do not choose to over-read that reference and perhaps you shouldn't either.
Q Mike, is the Secretary of State as high as the level of contact has been, or has it been higher? Has the President been involved, or is he just monitoring the situation?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has expressed personal concern about this matter, especially to staff and to those who have been working on it. The Secretary was well aware of that. The Secretary is the highest level of communication that we've had, but the President has been following it closely as well.
Q Mike, is there any quid pro quo involved here?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Are any third countries involved in this talking with the Georgians?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge, no.
Q There was a report in the Times about Jacques Chirac possibly coming to visit the President -- anything on that?
MR. MCCURRY: It was more a report about his desire to maintain good, excellent bilateral relations, a sentiment that we share, but --
Q Is he coming? Is anything planned?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have -- he's coming to the United States, of course, for the G-7. Nothing scheduled that I'm aware of, no.
Q On the meeting with the executives this morning, does the President have in mind any kind of numerical goals or targets for how many welfare recipients a company should hire, how many should be hired --
MR. MCCURRY: Company by company, or sector by sector?
Q -- either sector by sector, or region by region.
MR. MCCURRY: No, but my understanding -- Barry can speak more directly to this. My understanding -- come from the meeting was a discussion about taking this very impressive commitment from the private sector and making it more specific by having something more like a work plan from the private sector that would tackle this problem. There seemed to be some sentiment around the room that they could put a little more structure to the effort by the private sector to provide these jobs.
Now, he's not, at the moment, looking for anything beyond the one million job goal that we have set, and that's what we are targeting initially. But the response, based on the enthusiasm around the table for the efforts like the ones presented at the meeting, suggested that there should be a more coordinated, organized effort within the private sector to provide this kind of employment.
Q Did you have any sense of whether the vacancies of such jobs, or if such jobs are created, that welfare recipients would have overwhelming to them, priority to them, opposed to other people who might want to better their life by getting a better paying job than the one they have?
MR. MCCURRY: There may have been some discussion of that point, but as a general matter, what we have seen are the developed training and work opportunities within each of these workplaces that kind of target that population for recruitment. Now, that doesn't -- most of these companies are very large and have very diverse human resources needs and they manage their vacancies and their job creation in different ways, depending on what their particular needs are. But what they talked about today are creating the types of opportunities that would be appropriate given what in many cases are low literacy skills or low training skills of the population we're talking about that is affected -- talking about specifically creating that type of opportunity.
Now, most of these companies are thriving, growing companies, and benefitting from the very strong economic performance that we saw reflected in the employment report today, so they've got a wide variety of openings. But coordinating that within an overall comprehensive approach to human resources management company by company is what the companies spoke to today, and that's the business of the private sector. But it seems like we can get companies sharing their experiences, sharing their ideas, and maybe finding a way to more formally structure this effort. That was the outcome of the meeting.
Q Mike, is there a sense that these jobs that are going to be offered potentially are going to be of a living wage nature? I mean, they're going to be real jobs?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the offset, the wage offset provision of the welfare reform bill is designed to do exactly that, to make it a wage that certainly is better than living off a welfare check. That's got to be the goal and that's the commitment, and that's the way the structure of the wage supplement is run. And states that take advantage of that provision of the law can structure the incentives that exist for the private sector to get in to providing those kinds of jobs accordingly.
Q Is there any indication from CEOs around the country that this is actually working, that people are being hired by CEOs? Is there feedback yet on their whole --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I mean, that's part of the testimony and witness provided by some of these folks today. They've got some specific examples around the table today of how that is going. And anecdotally, the President has been impressed by some of the stories he's heard in his travel that there is a response out there and people are taking this seriously.
Q But this kind of wage subsidies for this have been around for a long time. There must be some data on this. Does he expect that the experience with this new law is going to be better than in the past?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as a general practice, yes. I mean, we've got a couple of things coming together. First of all, the overall mandate in the law creates a larger applicant pool or a larger population pool of people who might want to actively seek these types of opportunities. Two, you've got the experience now of welfare reform that's been conducted by the waiver process, so we've got states that have actually now been in the business of reforming welfare as we know it and have got some experience and have got a track record, so they know how to do it a little bit better. And then, third, you've got the new commitment coming in from the private sector as they respond to the President's challenge and you've got them organizing their own resources to take advantage of the process that's out there.
So I guess you can't be confident and certain, but you can certainly say we've structured things so that we can see more opportunities for success.
Q Two things. Was there much interest among the CEOs in tax breaks? And have you found out yet about whether the White House could hire a welfare recipient?
MR. MCCURRY: Let me take the second question, and then, Barry, why don't you come on up and give a little more of a readout on the meeting.
On the first point, the question that was raised here provoked a pretty interesting discussion among the President's senior -- the senior staff meeting of the President's team here and as a result of that discussion, the Chief of Staff directed our personnel resources people and administration people to look into what type of employment opportunities might be created here at the White House.
Our concern is, we have to look very carefully at what federal employment guidelines and restrictions are, and whether it's possible. There is, anecdotally, some experience that Bruce Reed had at the Domestic Policy Council because they thought about trying to structure some type of intern program. They had actually had that idea some time ago, and they ran into a bunch of bureaucratic obstacles in trying to set something up. So what we want to do is do a more formal, detailed review of what the employment restrictions and guidelines are and then see what that leads to. So we're putting that into --
Q Don't you have a substantial waiting list of people who want to work here?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, sure. But we've got a lot of -- just as I've said describing the private sector, we have a lot of different types of jobs and capabilities. We've got a lot of people who would be willing to come here and do more clerical type work or things that require lower job skills, but those people usually want to end up being White House Press Secretary when they come. (Laughter.)
Q In order, however, to accomplish this goal, then don't you have to assign some kind of preference to people on welfare, and doesn't that --
MR. MCCURRY: In a sense, yes. I mean, that's what we've been talking about here, to kind of create opportunities that don't block others from seeking jobs but also do put a focus on creating additional -- we put the stress on additional employment opportunities for those who have been welfare-dependent.
Q If I could follow that with one more question. When the President offers the welfare payments as a kind of subsidy to private industry to create employment opportunities --
MR. MCCURRY: The law does that now.
Q -- that's one thing. The law does, okay. That's one thing. But for the White House, which theoretically has a fairly fixed amount of work done and many more people wanting to do that work than it does have work, for you all to do the same kind of thing, then you've got to establish a kind of -- I won't call it a quota system, but it sure looks like it, an affirmative action type of program.
MR. MCCURRY: You seem real interested in this, and since all we're doing at this point is just examining what the possibilities are, you should contribute some of those ideas to those who are doing the work.
Why don't you come on up and do a little more on the meeting?
Q Mike, can Wendell get an answer, please?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, we don't know what the answer is. We're not talking about setting up a quota system for hiring welfare-dependent people. We don't even know whether it can be done, period. So we've got to look into it. You're making assumptions about what we might decide when we don't know whether that's what we're going to do.
Q No assumptions, just questions.
MR. MCCURRY: I think I made it pretty clear where we are. We're just starting an initial inquiry into what the possibilities are. There may be reasons why we can't do it. We don't know.
MR. TOIV: In answer to the question, there was interest expressed in the President's proposal for tax incentives for hiring, but the emphasis was really on the responsibilities of the private sector and what businesses around the country, both large and small, need to do as this process goes on.
On the public sector side, there was actually some discussion of the public sector responsibilities, particularly in the area of child care and the area of transportation. There was some discussion of that as well.
Q On the tax incentive idea, some employment specialists have said that if you offer an incentive to certain employers, they might end up actually regarding that as a disincentive for hiring because they feel that, gee, if you have to pay me to a certain degree to hire welfare recipients, why would I want to hire them.
MR. TOIV: Well, presumably, they're going to hire people who can -- who they feel can do a good job for them. In fact, a number of the CEOs who were in the meeting today said this is an opportunity for them. They feel that hiring these people is going to improve their work force ultimately, and by expanding the work force, ultimately provide for economic growth that increases the size of the pie, as one of them put it. So I don't think that -- at least the people in this room did not feel that way.
Q If the White House in the person of Bruce Reed discovers that it was too difficult to do -- made his first stab at it, how do we expect this to happen on the part of employers which have their own restrictions, union rules?
MR. MCCURRY: No, don't misunderstand me. They ran into -- when they tried to do it, they found that there were -- something having to do with federal personnel regulations that ran into -- that would not be a problem in the private sector. It was specific to the structure here.
Q And the old union rules sometimes --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the specifics of that. I don't know the specific problems they ran into.
Q Has there been any thought given to the fact that some people on welfare simply are not employable because of substance abuse problems or other problems, and what will happen to them at the end of the two years?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. And that's been reflected in the debate, and there is a hardship provision that exists within the law, says the state manages -- as a state welfare agency manages its welfare case load, they can take into account cases in which someone is just nonemployable. And that's now reflected in the law. That's a provision of the law that's going to have to be very carefully addressed as we go into implementation, but it's one that I think was debated, addressed, certainly something that state welfare agencies and state welfare commissioners have been looking at, too.
Q Mike, I'd like to ask a question about the food chain.
MR. MCCURRY: The food chain.
Q You made the case --
MR. MCCURRY: You guys went to town. You had a lot of fun with that story. (Laughter.)
Q We love this story. And you presented what you thought was evidence that a conspiracy does exist, and you also said that the President was fully aware of what was going on. The President is asked about it today, and he says no.
MR. MCCURRY: No, not about --
Q He was asked, is there a right-wing cabal in the press.
MR. MCCURRY: In fact, I think to the contrary. When I went through this yesterday, I said he was not -- he didn't follow all this, the production of this document or anything like that. The question was -- and nobody has suggested there was some media conspiracy. We said that there were a group of people who have got their own conspiracy theories who traffic in this stuff. That's all that says. It's not a conspiracy by the media and we didn't suggest it and the President doesn't believe that, as he told you today.
Q But presumably, conservative newspapers, outfits, are part of this food chain.
MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't think we said -- we said that they are part of -- they become part of the commerce in this stuff and become, maybe unwittingly, and seeing some of the comments of people in the papers today, certainly in a discombobulated fashion, as some of them say, that they might unwittingly become prone to pick up some of these remarks. We're not saying that that -- they're not in conspiracy with the people who are producing these things, although in some cases we see -- you can see a direct transfer of the information over.
Q So the President believes there is a conspiracy; he doesn't believe --
MR. MCCURRY: No, you asked him a question; you said no. He doesn't think the press is involved in some big conspiracy. He thinks that some of this material shows up in the way we described it yesterday.
Q Back on the subject of jobs for welfare recipients. Obviously, the President sees some great, broad role for himself and the bully pulpit to get these jobs, to twist arms in the private sector. How does he keep doing this without the message sounding really stale, and we've heard it 16 times, and how does it get out to the people from now on?
MR. MCCURRY: By the time -- you guys will grow tired of it and stop writing about it at some point, but as he moves around the country, we'll continue to do events that highlight the work being done in local communities. You see in our fact sheet how we did that out in Kansas. We'll find other examples like that as we go through the months and years ahead, where we kind of lift up examples and get communities excited as we travel.
Part of this story will then turn to "how is it going," and "how are we doing." And, "is it working," and there will be ample opportunities to come back to the subject, we believe.
Q Even if jobs are provided, there's still a concern about day care and transportation to get people from welfare to their jobs. How can that be --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, that is one of the most exciting areas of innovation going on in welfare reform experimentation state by state. You should call over to HHS and look at exactly that question, because it is a fundamental challenge. A lot of the waivers that we have granted through the waiver process have been aimed at exactly that question -- how do you create the child care -- address the child care needs, how do you provide transportation to those who need it. In fact, some states, if I'm not mistaken, experiment with transportation subsidies and day care subsidies to kind of help offset whatever expenses there are for that. So there's a lot of -- in the whole ferment of experimentation on welfare reform, those particular needs have been getting a lot of attention.
Q Mike, on the Paul Jones case, how much of a distraction or an impediment is that to you in trying to get your preinaugural message out?
MR. MCCURRY: None, because none of us here are working on it, and -- other than me having to answer questions on it.
Q What can you tell us about the summit tomorrow?
Q You said on that same subject yesterday, Mike --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I would -- we did that yesterday.
Q You were talking about the fact that the President is just going ahead and doing his job. You didn't mean to leave the impression that the President is completely disinterested in the issue -- or did you?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I mean, he, from time to time, Mr. Bennett will give him an update on where things are. You also, thanks to the excellent reporting by some in this room, you can't really miss the story, but -- (laughter.)
Q Do you know whether Bennett has had one of those meetings with him to brief him on Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that they've met. I think they talk from time to time and get an update.
Q Could I follow up on that very quickly? Is the Counsel's Office working with Bennett in any way in terms of the constitutional aspects of --
MR. MCCURRY: The Justice Department is a party to the discussion before the Court on Monday, and as it relates to the presidency, yes, the White House Legal Counsel's Office is properly engaged on some of the constitutional -- or on the constitutional question that arises, because part of the President's argument and the importance of the President's argument is the precedent-setting nature of the decision and the effect it would have on future presidents. So it's perfectly appropriate, in fact, necessary, for the White House Legal Counsel's Office to be involved.
Q And will Justice Department and Counsel attorneys take part on the arguments Monday before the Supreme Court?
MR. MCCURRY: Presumably so. They filed briefs on that. I imagine they'll be there to argue.
Q On that same subject, does the President --
MR. MCCURRY: I think the Justice Department will. I don't know whether anyone from White House Legal Counsel's Office will participate.
Q Some reports have the President concerned that this considered hearing by the high court on Monday just gives news organizations in the food chain, the conspiracy chain, if you will, a chance to rehash the whole sordid story.
MR. MCCURRY: You have to make those editorial judgments. The issue addressed is a very narrow constitutional one, and for those who follow constitutional law, it may be of interest. But how news organizations cover it is up to them.
Q Do you have a week ahead?
Q Mike, you said to my question that none of us here are working on it, the Legal Counsel's Office is working on it. Is anyone else on staff working on the --
MR. MCCURRY: Their work has already done. They were done a long time ago on it. The question is more, is there day to day activity going on around here, and the answer is no. The representation of the President in his private capacity is done outside here, and that's where most of the work is being done.
Q Radio address?
MR. MCCURRY: Radio address will happen tomorrow, as it always does.
MR. MCCURRY: No, no, he's taping it later today and I expect the President will take the opportunity to talk more about those things we can do to reduce and curb gang violence in America.
Q What is the thrust of next week's activities. Is there any theme?
MR. MCCURRY: We sort of begin going into the celebratory mode as we -- (laughter) -- look forward to the Inauguration. The President -- obviously, we've got the Cabinet meetings tomorrow that you already know about.
Q What coverage, or is there any --
MR. MCCURRY: We'll be doing a briefing here, Mary Ellen tells me, at 5:15 p.m. tomorrow. And he will wave going in, wave going out, and otherwise you're free to take the day off and show up here at 5:15 p.m.
Q No spray inside?
MR. MCCURRY: No, no coverage inside, no coverage during the day. And we will probably advise Cabinet members we prefer them not to make any comment either coming or going if they're participating in different parts of the agenda for the simple reason that we want to try to prevent people from having to hang around all day long, so we'll make it a little easier for you. But if you show up at 5:15 p.m. -- we assume we're going to finish around 4:30 p.m., come back over here around 5:00 p.m., 5:15 p.m., as soon as we can so people can go home.
Q Is the President doing anything to prepare for this meeting tomorrow, anything special to prepare?
MR. MCCURRY: There have been some good papers done and I imagine he will look at those, that follow the outline of the agenda that we're going to pursue.
Q Are people inside the government, or sort of outside policy thinkers types --
MR. MCCURRY: Mostly staff. White House staff people who have got some for-discussion documents that they've put together that will stimulate those participating so that the meeting will be productive.
Q Are there any new ideas? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: There will be many new ideas. If you would like, I can give you the readout for the meeting right now, if you want to -- (laughter) -- save you the trip down.
Q Go ahead.
MR. MCCURRY: It will be -- and then what I'll do is, I'll do the readout now and then you can turn it to the past tense tomorrow afternoon. It will be a very productive and engaging session in which the President gets many insights from his Cabinet members, he really gets a sense of how this team will work together in a spirited way to carry out the President's agenda for the future. He'll hear specific reports on national security and putting a sense of priority to the various missions that we will face as we preserve America's leadership position in the world; that will be the topic of the first session. We'll hear, then, a discussion and a vigorous discussion about building on the impressive economic performance, a senior reporter today in the employment report and how we strengthen the economy, continue to keep the economy going, continue to keep the strong fundamentals -- I'm serious, I'm doing this now because it's exactly what I'm going to do at 5:15 p.m. tomorrow, so you'll get it again.
Q What if we break the embargo? Then what will you do?
Q He'll call off the meeting. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No, let me do -- some of you have got to write setup stories, so let me do a little bit of this for the benefits of the -- there's a session on national security, preserving America's leadership session in the world; there's a second session on the new economic architecture of the post-Cold War era and how we incorporate some of the gains that we have seen in the economy and continue to build on our leading position in the global economy. That will deal with some trade-related issues, obviously, and there will be an opportunity -- that's not an insignificant subject matter given the fact that the United States hosts the G-7 summit later in the year. So part of the work ahead this year focusses on that, obviously. A good lunch, we hope, with the Cabinet.
Q The menu?
MR. MCCURRY: Probably sandwiches. That's usually what they do for this. Then we'll do -- the afternoon sessions are built around a discussion about the budget, budget priorities, and how they contribute to the overall economic strategy we'll pursue -- a focus on education and young people. The afternoon is sort of about raising incomes, raising kids, and preserving the environment.
So the first session is about how the balanced budget effort will contribute to our economic goals and some specific taskings will come out of that, no doubt. The second session will be on education and young people and how we make it easier for families to raise kids in America with this very specific focus on education, which the President has identified as arguably the single most important thing that he will work on in the next four years. And then we will close off with some discussion about national resources, technology, some things that the Vice President has a keen interest in, and some of his folks will lead part of that discussion. So that's the day tomorrow.
Q Are you going to bring any Cabinet Secretaries for the 5:15 p.m. briefing?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I'll get some of the participants to come over and provide warm commentary about how brilliant the President was during these meetings.
Q Well, if all these subjects are getting squeezed into one day, what kind sacrificed to the Sunday football game?
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing, really, because the schedule initially had been start late on saturday, have a dinner Saturday night and then on Sunday start after church on Sunday. So it would have been a late start in the day on Sunday. And we just took the sessions that we had planned and collapsed them into one day.
Q Are you going to do anything on Monday, or are you going to leave the day to Paula Jones? (Laughter.) Do you have anything planned for Monday --
Q Best question of the week.
MR. MCCURRY: No, Monday we've got a ceremony here. We'll be awarding some Congressional Medals of Honor. That's right, 11:00 a.m., Congressional Medals of Honor. Then Tuesday we'll be bidding farewell to Secretary of Defense William Perry. And the only other event on the public schedule doesn't come until Friday, a meeting with the Conference of Mayors. There will, no doubt, be some other things that we will be attending to in-between there, but we just haven't put them together yet.
Q Mike, going back to Paul's question about the feeding chain, you said it's not a conspiracy by the media. Who is it a conspiracy by?
MR. MCCURRY: We did that at such great length yesterday, I don't think we need to go back to it now.
Q I don't think I came out with a clear answer, though, Mike. If it's not a conspiracy of the media, who is it?
MR. MCCURRY: Go back and take a look at yesterday's transcript. I think we did that subject at great length yesterday.
Q Mike, is the President willing to waive diplomatic immunity for American diplomats should they find themselves in legal trouble in whatever countries they're assigned to?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a case-by-case question, and we would only address that in a case-by-case fashion.
Q Drunk driving, though?
MR. MCCURRY: It depends on the circumstances of the case under question.
Q Has the administration decided whether there needs to be some renegotiation of that international convention under which diplomatic immunity is granted?
MR. MCCURRY: No, the 1961 Vienna convention remains the body of international authority that governs the practice that is centuries old.
Q Welfare question. The President said today the administration has approved 26 states new welfare programs coming out of the '96 law. There was a lot of talk by critics of the welfare reform bill in '96, of a race to the bottom among the states if that bill had passed. Does this administration approval mean that the President and the White House don't think that a race to the bottom has resulted from this bill?
MR. MCCURRY: No, to the contrary. We believe that the waiver process and the experimentation that has been underway has successfully removed now more than 2 million people from welfare rolls state-by-state. And it's not because they have been the devil take the bottom most; it's been because in many cases jobs have been provided and we've broken the cycle of dependency, exactly as we hoped welfare reform would be. So, to the contrary. We think it's moving in a better direction.
Q On Medicare, Republican leaders are treating as a given that the White House is going to shift $55 billion from Medicare Part A in the home health care funding area to another fund, and they're calling that a shell game. What's the justification for doing that or considering that?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, they are being critical now of that, but it is well to remember that the Republican Congress approved exactly that in their own budget in 1995. It has been supported by Republicans and Democrats. And the reason is because it's good policy and that's why it has been proposed in the President's policy in the past. Reallocating the portion of home health care expenditure is associated with chronic care situations, and we're talking about visits that health care practitioners would make to an elderly person in excess of 100 times a year is hard to see as something that the hospital insurance portion of Medicare Part A ought to cover.
And so the argument is that should be shifted to Part B because it makes sense from a policy point of view and, again, you know, it was in the House-passed budget in 1995 and it was a proposal that virtually every Republican House member voted for, including Chairman Archer, including the Health Subcommittee Chairman, Chairman Thomas. In fact, that allocation of expenditures had been the law of the land prior to 1980. So suddenly they don't like the idea so much, but we're in the period in which there is going to be some negotiations back and forth over budget priorities.
Stop talking, Mary Ellen tells me, because we need to set up for the 3:15 p.m. event. Shut up now, Mary Ellen says. Thank you very much. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, what is the status of Tony Lake's nomination papers? Have they gone to the Hill officially?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe they have -- oh, they have gone there. Oh, okay. They were doing a review. In his case, part of what needed to be done was a review of every -- great deal of body of foreign policy decision making over the last four years. And because of the nature of the material that had to be sent, there's a lot of extra amount of time that had to be -- go into actually looking at the source documentation before it went to the Hill. But it did go yesterday.
Q Well, what about those Energy stocks? Is the investigation of that delayed --
MR. MCCURRY: No. No, that was totally unrelated to anything that had to do with that issue.
Q What about speech prep? Has there been any more --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, Mr. Waldman and Mr. Baer wander into the Oval from time to time and attempt to focus the President's thinking on the Inaugural address. And they have not reported any great success, but they're making some progress.
Q Is it going to be a long speech, do you think? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Unknown duration at this point. We will know more much later about that.
Thank you, all, and good night.
END 2:30 P.M. EST