THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:50 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Let's see, what do we have left to do today? We have to do the radio address. That will be done later today -- probably much later today.
Q Subject? Fundraising?
MR. MCCURRY: Remains to be seen. Remains to be seen based on further developments later today.
Q Is the meeting over with Secretary Albright?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, the President and his senior foreign policy advisors had a very good discussion that lasted well over an hour today on the subject of drug certifications. This was an opportunity for the President participating in a discussion with each of the principals of the National Security Council and others to really review case-by-case where we are with some of the countries. They focused on those that are most controversial, the ones that you all know about.
Secretary Albright departed here, went back to the Department to do some more work on the issue; and we will see later today whether she is in a position to forward her final recommendations to the President. If she does, the President will then consider them. I don't rule out the possibility he might act on them later today.
Q Before 6:30?
MR. MCCURRY: In short, no final formal recommendations have come from the State Department at this point, although they've had a very good conversation on the issues. And obviously no final decisions by the President at this point.
Q Do you expect that might come this afternoon, before evening news time
MR. MCCURRY: It's entirely possible it might come later today.
Q Is the hang-up here just Mexico? There are several countries that are being considered.
MR. MCCURRY: There are a number of countries. I mean, there are 32 countries total -- correct? -- that have to be reviewed under the law and they are -- there was some discussion of the general determinations today or the general question of certification/decertification and then specific conversations with respect to a handful of countries.
Q Depending on the President's decision, would he do anything such as call the President of Mexico or make any contacts himself with foreign leaders about his decision?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't rule that out.
Q Mike, is your guidance logistically still that the announcement would come from State and you'd put out a written statement here; is that how --
MR. MCCURRY: Generally, they do a very thorough, detailed briefing over at the State Department on this issue, usually with the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics matters -- Narcotics and Law Enforcement. Affectionately known in the Department as the Drugs and Thugs Bureau.
Q What kind of message --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, Assistant Secretary Gelbard.
Q What kind of message does President Clinton want not just Mexico but any of the countries to take out of the -- is U.S. certification important and what message does he want to express with this decision today?
MR. MCCURRY: It's important -- drug certification says to those countries that we certify that we appreciate your cooperation in the fight against drugs. Decertification says, you're not giving us satisfactory cooperation as we work together in the international community to combat drug trafficking.
Q Sanctions are connected to that, right?
MR. MCCURRY: Sanctions flow from --
Q You say the first announcement --
MR. MCCURRY: Under the Foreign Assistance Act, sanctions derive in various ways out of the decision. It typically affects the position the United States takes in international financial institutions. It can affect, in some cases, bilateral assistance programs. There are different ways in which the consequences are reflected if there is a decision to decertify -- for any country.
Last year when we talked about the difference between Colombia and Mexico, and the respective treatments of the two, you'll recall we kind of walked through all that.
Q Mike, then how do you call the middle ground, the one in which you don't approve but you certify for national security -- what is that called?
MR. MCCURRY: There is a decertification but because the national interests of the United States are implicated, the decertification can be waived in certain instances.
Q So they are decertified, but you waive it.
MR. MCCURRY: They are declared decertified and then the decertification itself is waived because of the compelling and overriding national interests. Now, by describing to you process, please don't anyone leap to any conclusions about where we are in the deliberative process.
Q Was that discussed today as one of the possibilities?
MR. MCCURRY: We had a very wide-ranging discussion of a number of issues.
Q Where will it be announced first?
MR. MCCURRY: As I said earlier, the State Department. And we'll probably here put out a presidential statement in written form, would be my guess.
Q How much weight do you give to the views of Senator Feinstein, the letter that was signed by 40 senators?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are well aware of their views, but this is a matter under Section 4-90 that is done by the law and by the criteria spelled out in the law. That's what the President and his advisers focused on today. It's what the Secretary will focus on as she prepares her recommendations to the President.
We obviously know that this is an issue, with respect to Mexico, that a number of people have strong feelings about. We also know that some in Congress will take issue with whatever decision the President makes. That happens every year, one way or another.
Q The enactment of this law precedes by quite a few years the President's arrival in Washington. Does the President think this is a good law, very helpful in the fight against drugs? Or does he feel, as many others do, that it sort of messes up our diplomacy?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe the President feels this is one of many tools that we have available to the United States government to combat drug trafficking. It is useful sometimes for other governments to understand how seriously we take these issues, how seriously the American people regard drug trafficking, and why we in the United States of America expect cooperation when it comes to combating drugs. Now, that's the express will of the Congress in this law, and I think that reflects the express will of the American people and the President.
Q Mike, how do you respond to someone like the Colombian Foreign Minister and others who have said that given the extremely heavy demand for drugs in the United States the United States has no standing on which to judge other -- supplier nations until they've taken care of their own problems?
MR. MCCURRY: Our response to them is best reflected in the very comprehensive briefing you had earlier this week by General McCaffrey on our total drug control strategy that focuses both on demand and supply. We're spending $16 billion, a record amount of money, much of it devoted to controlling the demand for drugs here in the United States, encouraging young people not to start using drugs, sending simple and very straightforward messages about the danger of drugs.
The President is fully engaged on that and we have law enforcement resources, extensive law enforcement resources aimed at curbing drug trafficking here within our own boundaries. So no foreign government ought to mistake the determination of the President and the American people to combat this problem internally, but they should also understand that we expect cooperation as we fight the program externally.
Q Mike, if I could follow on that, as General McCaffrey pointed out, we also spend $49 billion on the drugs themselves, several times the amount we're spending on the programs you mentioned to stop them.
MR. MCCURRY: We're trying to bring that number down as we make the number available of taxpayer resources committed to fight on drugs -- as we seek to make it go up.
Q Do you have a comment on the DNC returning $1.5 million?
MR. MCCURRY: The President and the White House believe they are doing the appropriate thing to correct any mistakes that they've identified and to return contributions they should not have accepted and to implement new procedures that will address the shortcomings the President himself has identified, taken responsibility for, and asked to be corrected.
Q Mike, going back to the drug thing, since the Senate has given so much problem -- you know, 40 senators -- has the President spoken personally with Trent Lott and with Tom Daschle by phone on this issue?
MR. MCCURRY: Obviously, he saw Senator Daschle earlier today. I don't think this was a subject that came up. I do believe that he will have the opportunity once he's made any final decisions to reach out and talk to folks on the Hill. I expect a number of people here, once the President has made a decision, to reach out to members of Congress to advise them of the President's thinking and the President's decision.
Q The President has said before that the reason why some of these abuses have occurred is because there is this incredible need for money in the political process. Is he concerned that by shutting off these avenues of cash-raising, that the DNC is going to put Democrats at a competitive disadvantage?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is aware that there is that risk, or at least in part that risk.
Q Mike, are you going to continue your disclosure policy with the second batch of Ickes documents that's gone up to the Hill by releasing them here at the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: Let me describe a little bit of where we are there. Mr. Ickes' attorney has now sent to the Committee additional materials that were not included in the previous release. My understanding is, based on the statement that I'm sure you all have from the Democratic National Committee from Wednesday, you know that there have been some discussions between the DNC and the Committee about the confidentiality of certain proprietary documents. My understanding generally is that these are budget documents from the Democratic National Committee that would detail internal procedures related to just simply how they finance and run the national party. And some of that, obviously, the national party considers proprietary information that might not necessarily be advisable to share with every Republican on the Committee, or at least share in a fashion that it could be reproduced and sent elsewhere.
So they have been working to negotiate a confidentiality agreement. I frankly don't know where that stands, but Mr. Ickes, apparently, had in his possession some documents that were in common with those that were under review by the DNC and the Committee. Mr. Ickes has now elected to go ahead and provide these documents. We will look and see exactly what he has produced and see if it's -- we're in a position to disclose it. I don't know the answer at this point.
Q It's our understanding that you've had these documents for a week.
MR. MCCURRY: We've had the same documents. What we don't know is which ones Mr. Ickes elected to produce, because he believed that they were responsive to the request from the Committee or how he produced them or in what fashion he produced them -- whether, for example, he elected to withhold any portion of any document. We just don't know the answer to that. We'll look and see what his attorneys have actually produced and then see if there is anything that we can do with it to continue to make available and public the information that the President wants the American public to have on this subject.
Q Do you think that could happen today?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll see. I just don't know.
Q Are you concerned at all from what you have seen of these documents that you've had for a while that the DNC was overzealous in its efforts to raise money in the ways that were described?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President -- the President certainly addressed that general subject earlier in the week. So did I. I really don't know that there is anything about any of these other documents that adds to what we've said about it already earlier in the week.
Q Does this stuff get in the way at all of your second term agenda?
MR. MCCURRY: No. The President today has worked on the problem of combatting drugs. He has talked to the Democratic leaders of Congress about balancing the budget, how we can improve health care in America, how we can move forward on our education agenda. He has got an active program schedule next week on that issue. He will also continue to work on the problems of campaign finance reform -- or the problems of campaign finance by working to try to reform the body of law that exists.
The answer in the end of the day, ultimately, to these discussions is going to be reforming the system of law we now have in place. The President knows that, and that's where he's devoting his energy.
Q Mike, among the documents is one apparently requesting seats on Air Force I and II and seats at private dinners and spots at White House events be set aside for contributors. Is this a proper thing? Is there any difference, for example, in Air Force 1 seats than there is at White House events?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- the document you're asking about, I'm not familiar enough with to discuss at any great length. It's not clear who created the document or how it came to be in Mr. Ickes' possession. I just don't -- simply don't know the answers to that.
Now, as to what we have done in helping encourage people to contribute, I think a lot of that you know. It's on the public record. And obviously some of the things that are listed in this one document did happen; others didn't happen.
Q I'm sorry, if I could follow that. Others didn't happen? Which didn't happen? Air Force One seats --
MR. MCCURRY: Once that document -- and we've got a better understanding of that document, maybe I can be in a better position to answer your questions.
Q I'm sorry, but can you tell me what you specifically meant when you said others didn't happen?
MR. MCCURRY: For example, I'm not sure that anyone can guarantee that they can get a seat at the Kennedy Center. I know I can't. So, you know, I'm not sure that that's something that was ever suggested --
Q That would have been the presidential box; that's easy.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm just not sure --
Q No, but the suggestion that they would be available for support and funds --
MR. MCCURRY: It says "guarantee," if I'm not mistaken. And I don't know that anyone can guarantee that.
Q What about coordination between commissions and boards and fundraising. I gather that's also suggested --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not in a position to go through that itemized list and talk about it. Maybe we can do that at some future date.
Q Do you know who this person is who got that -- that name?
MR. MCCURRY: I know who Martha Phipps is, she was, I guess, the assistant or deputy to David Wilhelm, who, at the time the fax code at the top of the document indicates it was sent, was the chair of the DNC. But beyond that I don't have any other information about the document.
Q Mike, Ambassador Nuccio resigned from the State Department this weekend. At the press conference he charged that the White House is basically afraid of confronting the CIA on the issue of human rights, and that you actually have a mutiny going on at the CIA because it is not following White House directives. And I was wondering if you could please comment.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he said a number of things and I don't need to go back over everything he said other than to say that we wish him well in his new pursuits. Many of us who worked with him think that he was a very fine public servant, but he made a decision as a matter of conscience and pursued it.
He is wrong with respect to our willingness to examine issues that he raised with respect to the CIA. We did exactly that. We had an intelligence oversight board that did an exhaustive review of exactly that subject matter, produced a report, we made it available to you here. And many of the issues that he's raised I think are now a matter of public record because we pushed hard to make them a matter of public record, often in times when some at other agencies would probably have preferred not to have been that public and open about the matter. So I take some issue with that aspect of his statement.
Q Mike, back on the Ickes papers, is there some level of surprise, disgruntlement, anger here at the White House that he, A, had these in his files and, B, released them so readily?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think as I said yesterday, he has a right under the Presidential Records Act to retain personal records. And these records appear to our Legal Counsel to be records that he would have been entitled to retain in his possession upon leaving the White House.
Q But just because he had the right to doesn't mean he necessarily had to disperse them in this way or keep them.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you know --
Q What was he entitled to? I mean, weren't there documents and didn't they belong to the DNC and the President?
MR. MCCURRY: Documents that belong to the White House, which are presidential records, have to be left in the custody of the White House. There are a category of records and personal effects that people are allowed to take with them when they leave here. It's not often done, I'll say.
Q Mike, I'm not a lawyer, but I was under the impression that referred to more personal things that had to do with him as a person. But these are things that seem to be sort of his official duties.
MR. MCCURRY: No, they aren't -- in the Presidential Records Act as amended, there are specific exemptions for a category of documents that are personal in nature and that include items that pertain to the political work of the President and his reelection campaign. There is, in effect, a specific political exemption under the Presidential Records Act.
Q The question is, is there any bad blood now between officials here in the White House and Harold Ickes?
MR. MCCURRY: None. Not between me and Mr. Ickes and not that I'm aware of.
Q How about anybody else?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any bad blood. And, as you know, Mr. Ickes continues to serve in an important capacity, helping to prepare for what is arguably one of the chief foreign policy items on our agenda for the coming year.
Q The Ambassador from Mexico the other day, in raising the other side of the drug equation, demand inside the borders of the United States, said some people had suggested maybe California and Arizona ought to be decertified for voting to legalize marijuana. The administration position on that is well known. My question is, do you feel that those two votes hamper you in relations with Mexico and other countries in terms of the United States itself not having totally clean hands?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not an authority on Mexican law, so I don't know what procedures are available to the Mexican government that they could do their own work to further the fight against drugs.
Q No, but my question was whether the California and Arizona positions on legalizing marijuana are a hindrance in the attempt to enlist cooperation from other countries in fighting drugs?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that they are a hindrance in the effort to enlist other countries to fight drugs, but you know the administration's strong feelings on those measures. General McCaffrey has made clear are strong opposition to them and are willingness to challenge some of those decisions in court.
Q Would you be willing to release the one single document in this that does list the various things being considered for --
MR. MCCURRY: I am willing to do it. I would prefer to do it at such time as I can tell you something about it. I don't know a blessed thing about this document at this point, and I'm not in a position where I can talk about it. Now, we will see if others know about it. I imagine -- the DNC has got a press conference underway right now. I don't know whether they know anything in greater detail about it, but at such time that we can actually tell you something about what this is, I'd certainly consider that, yes.
Q And a second thing, did the President call any members of the Senate or Congress expressing unhappiness with those who have come out in favor of an independent counsel to take a look at campaign finance reform?
MR. MCCURRY: The President talks to members of Congress all the time, and those are private conversations, and I don't talk about the details of them.
Q Did the President sign a bill today releasing family planning funds from USAID?
MR. MCCURRY: He did and we are putting a statement out on it. Yes, he signed it a short while ago.
Q Can you just explain to me, how much money does that release? I'm hearing two figures --
MR. MCCURRY: We'll have a written statement, and Mary Ellen can help you out with more of the details.
Q Among the 77 contributions totalling $1.5 million that were returned by the DNC were contributions raised by Charlie Trie and John Huang and -- who is the third one?
MR. MCCURRY: Chung, Huang and Charlie Trie.
Q No, the other one.
MR. MCCURRY: Johnny Chung, John --
Q Yes, Johnny Chung, John Huang --
MR. MCCURRY: I was actually ahead -- I missed the announcement because CNN cut away so they could analyze the news -- (laughter).
Q CSPAN carried it.
MR. MCCURRY: They were kind of analyzing the news right at the point where they were making the announcement, so I missed the announcement.
Q Well, I'm reporting the news to you now.
MR. MCCURRY: Good, thank you, Wolf.
Q Were contributions that they made -- that these three individuals raised for the Clinton-Gore campaign, are you taking a look back now to see if maybe they should be returned as well?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- I'd have to check into that. I don't even know whether they contributed or solicited money for Clinton-Gore 96. I just simply don't know. I'll have to find out about that.
Q Did Governor Romer call the White House and inform them of what they were going to do today?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that our political affairs director has had a conversation with DNC folks so that we knew late yesterday the broad parameters of what they were going to do, yes.
Q But you don't know of Romer or Steve Grossman or anyone calling the President to say this is what they were going to do?
MR. MCCURRY: They've had an opportunity to talk to the President about this in the past and made it clear what they were going to do. Remember, what the DNC is doing today is precisely what they've said they would do all along they -- they would review the status of these contributions, return any they felt that they shouldn't accept, and institute procedures to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's what the President expected and certainly in their conversations they worked on how to best accomplish that.
Q And the President has encouraged them to do exactly what has happened today?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely, yes.
Q I don't want to retread it too much, but Governor Romer also indicated that the President was very frustrated with how the party, the committee itself was handling the affair. Is he gratified with everything that has been done today and what will be done?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that he feels they've acted appropriately to address this matter and will need to continue to do that.
Q Mike, did the President or other senior officials at the White House know at the time that the FBI was investigating either China's contributions or possible organizing of contributions either to the DNC or to Congress? And if not, why not? Isn't that something that he should know about?
MR. MCCURRY: You're making a question about a story that you have your own proprietary interest in, maybe, but I'm not going to comment on that story because it relates to an ongoing investigation that the Justice Department has underway. There's really nothing I can say about that, other than to repeat what the Attorney General herself said yesterday.
She noted that the White House had asked for national security information related to the matters that she identified, and she identified specifically an upcoming trip by Secretary of State Albright to China. She said that we reviewed the matter and made appropriate information available that had already been released for dissemination prior to the investigation. I think that's an important observation, and I won't attempt to add to what she said.
Q Mike, what's the White House view of Senator Murkowski holding up the Pena nomination?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's got some concerns that are related to a separate issue. Mr. Bowles has been on the Hill to meet with the Senator. We're trying to have good, positive discussions to resolve that so we can move on to Secretary Pena's confirmation, as with the other two nominees that are still unconfirmed at this point. We are pressing hard now to have the Senate fulfill its advice and consent responsibilities and move on to consider these nominations. And we believe we can move the process forward to consideration by the full Senate. All three of these nominees are going to be confirmed.
Q Let me follow up. What was Bowles' impression after meeting with Murkowski as to whether this is a serious obstacle or that it can be resolved readily? What's the view?
MR. MCCURRY: His impression was that we could resolve this in the end of the day and move on to confirmation.
Q Mike, Phil Gramm equally said he was going to sit on Lake's nomination until he saw his FBI file. Are you going to release it in its entirety?
MR. MCCURRY: As I've said, I don't have any new information. The Legal Counsel's Office has had discussions the Committee to see if we can accommodate some of the concerns and provide some satisfactory level of information so the senators can move on. The White House is very concerned that a senior Republican senator has said it's only politics at this point that is holding up the Lake nomination.
Q That seems to be a gauntlet sort of thing; he either wants the files or it's not going to happen over his dead body.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there is a customary procedure that is used and the Senate knows what that procedure is. They're asking to do something that is extraordinary and we will work with them to try to figure out some reasonable way to accommodate the concerns the senators might have.
Q Mike, with Yasser Arafat arriving here on Sunday, what effect do you think Israel's recent announcement to develop new areas in Jerusalem -- the Jewish neighborhoods, if you will -- will have on the atmosphere for the meeting, and what does the President hope to accomplish with Arafat?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President looks forward to a positive and warm exchange of views with Chairman Arafat. That's generally the tone of their relationship and their work together. That's the climate in which I would expect this meeting to occur.
At the same time, I think the Chairman has been very outspoken on that matter. I'm not going to comment on what the parties say about the positions of each other; we just don't do that. We work to try to build confidence between the parties. And, clearly, there are aspects of this recent decision that tend not to be helpful in building confidence. But with those -- we will certainly explore those issues, I'm sure, with Chairman Arafat, hear his views, and then comment appropriately if comment is warranted.
Q What are your concerns that the Israeli announcement might become a real stumbling block at this point in the process?
MR. MCCURRY: It's like everything else in the Middle East peace process: It's building it one careful stone at a time and one -- you know, inch by inch. And we know that there are often things that happen that make the peace process harder. But we also know that you have to continue to work on it and continue to make progress. And so far that's what we've been able to do and that's what we'll do on Monday.
Q Mike, are there specific topics on the agenda for the Arafat meeting with the President?
MR. MCCURRY: A number of them. The post-Hebron implementation, whether the final status discussions -- how do they shape up, the general review of all aspects of the Middle East peace process as all parties, we hope, continue to search for a just and comprehensive peace in the region. Specific attention to the question of economic development in the territories and how that is developing and ways in which the Palestinian Authority continues to encourage investment and commerce within the territories and with Israel, itself. And other bilateral issues.
Q Mike, with regard to the Har Homa development -- and other Palestinian officials in recent days have talked about an explosion and renewal of violence. Do such comments also set back the peace process in the views of the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to comment on those comments. Again, to say what I said earlier, we use our offices to try to encourage the parties and the leaders of the parties to work together to build confidence so that the people in the street see that there are rewards for peace. That's the best antidote to those who espouse violence.
Q Well, but under Oslo both sides have certain obligations and you've made clear your displeasure at what you see an Israeli infraction of Oslo. What's holding you back when the Palestinian side reverts to provocative statements on violence?
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing. I mean, we have said that provocative statements are not helpful. We've said what we need are efforts to build confidence. That's what we encourage the parties to pursue.
Q When Prime Minister Netanyahu was here, did the President ask him not to go forward with the building of these homes?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, they had a good review of the subject. I'm not going to attempt to address the substance of their conversation in that detail.
Q Mike, is the White House concerned about the apparent challenges within each of the respective leader's parties that are being -- for various reasons -- the growing scandal concerns in Prime Minister Netanyahu's party and then, of course, there are those within Chairman Arafat's party that are concerned about the decisions he's making in regards to the accords?
MR. MCCURRY: The political culture of the Middle East is vibrant and it affects leaders in different ways. We are aware of that.
Q And what are you doing to support those leaders in that regard?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we work with the leaders of the parties to further our common interest, in this case, a great focus obviously on the peace process but also on the economic fortunes of the people of Israel, the people of the Palestinian community as well.
Q Did Prince Sultan ask for a reduction of American troops in Saudi Arabia?
MR. MCCURRY: They had a just general discussion of the posture of U.S. forces in the Kingdom and in the region, but I'd have to check further on that specifically.
Q Who did he see here today? Was he here today?
MR. MCCURRY: He saw the Vice President today.
Q Back to certification -- if you certify Mexico --
MR. MCCURRY: If we stay in here long enough, they may be done by the time -- (laughter).
Q If you certify Mexico for reasons other than strict drug cooperation, wouldn't it affect the credibility of the whole thing?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on what decision the President might make.
Q Can you comment on the report that Unionist politicians will be invited here to the White House with Sinn Fein -- does that have the President siding with the Unionists?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have involved in the past representatives of various parties in our annual celebration of St. Patrick's Day here. I'm not aware that Mr. Adams, for example, has applied for a visa to come to the United States around about that time.
Q Mike, is the President suffering from allergies or something today? He sounds kind of husky. It sounds like he has throat problems.
MR. MCCURRY: He has -- this time of year he does. I didn't -- I was with him earlier and he didn't mention anything to that --
Q He feels all right?
MR. MCCURRY: -- but this is the time of year where his allergies act up a little bit. Don't they, Ms. Glynn? They do.
Q You noted yesterday --
Q Week ahead?
Q -- you said that campaign finance reform remains a very high priority for the President but noticed that polls seem to suggest it isn't a very high priority for the American people. Is that becoming a source of concern? The President has spoken out about trying to get campaign finance reform several times now. There doesn't seem to be a ground swell out there in the land to carry this through Congress?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, look, there may not be a ground swell out there in the land, but I think every -- certainly, there's a ground swell here in this room every day. And I think that we understand it and we understand we have some responsibility to address the shortcomings in the system, whether or not the American people have this as a high priority on their agenda.
The American people very properly want to see progress in balancing the budget. They want to know what we're doing here to protect their communities from crime. They want to know whether we're going to have good schools. They want to know whether we're going to have quality health care. They want to know in short what are we doing to work on the problems that matter most to them.
And when you look at the same poll that you're talking about, what do they say are the most important issues -- balancing the budget, fixing our schools, having good health care. I mean, that's what they expect the President and the Congress to work on.
So when they kind of hear all this stuff every single day and they say, well, wait a minute, what are they doing about the stuff that matters to me? And what we're trying to do is say, look, we are working on that, and we are trying, in each of those areas, moving those things forward, working with Congress every day and having meetings, talking to folks on the Hill and trying to advance those objectives.
But campaign finance reform is going to have to be one of them, because it goes to the integrity and quality of the process they use to pick the leaders who are here. So we will, even if it doesn't register on the Richter Scale of public concern, we'll continue to press it.
Q The week ahead?
MR. MCCURRY: Should I do the week ahead, or should I do -- no, no, let me do week ahead.
Week ahead. When does the week begin? Sunday. The President returns from New York Monday -- Monday we see Chairman Arafat, as we've just been discussing. We'll also --
Q Returning from New York Sunday, right?
MR. JOHNSON: Saturday -- goes Saturday comes -- he returns from New York on Sunday, I believe.
Q Does he have any events on Sunday?
MR. MCCURRY: He's got -- that's right Ford's Theater gala Sunday night. And then in addition to the meeting with Chairman Arafat on Monday, we'll be releasing a new public service announcement that the President has done, that really is a very, very nice piece of work and we appreciate the support of all of the news organizations, especially the broadcast organizations that have indicated they're going to be helping us in airing this. It features the President and the First Lady and talks about the importance of parenting and the roles that parents can take. We'll do a lot more of that for you Monday.
Tuesday, we have a press conference as you know, we've previously announced.
Q What time will that press conference be?
MR. MCCURRY: That will be scheduled now for 2:00 p.m.
Q Is that definitive, 2:00 p.m.?
Q Is there one on Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: Unless I change it at the last minute.
Q Is there one on Monday with Arafat?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. Are we doing a -- we're doing a photo opportunity at the beginning.
Q But no joint news conference?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
MR. MCCURRY: This is in terms of protocol, doing it the exact same way we do it every time the Chairman is here. Okay. If you get my drift.
MR. MCCURRY: Wednesday, no public events. Thursday, we go out to Michigan, as you know. Friday, we may be doing some more related to the District of Columbia.
It's a week in which Kevin Bohn from CNN will no longer be with us. And that voice -- that voice that often echoes over the briefing room --
Q Mr. President -- (laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Mike, Mike, Mike! (Laughter.) That wakes some of us up sometimes at ungodly hours.
Q Where is he going?
MR. MCCURRY: He is going off to become the new super producer for CNN who will -- Kevin has been -- (applause).
Q He's going to do the Nutty Professor.
MR. MCCURRY: -- a job very well done. It often falls to Kevin in those times when the real correspondents in this room, or those who think they're real correspondents that have fallen asleep, it falls to him to keep us honest here, and to ask the tough questions and to follow up, and it's been a job very nicely done, Kevin, and congratulations for a job well done, and Godspeed as you go off and do campaign finance stories for CNN. (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:26 P.M. EST