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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 9, 1997
                           PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY

                          The Briefing Room

1:37 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to today's White House daily briefing. I'm here at your disposal. Questions.

Q Is Secretary Albright going to Cairo?

MR. MCCURRY: Is Secretary Albright going to Cairo? White House. (Laughter.) You could ask at the State Department -- no, she's going to have to be on hand for important meetings that she has with representatives of the Palestinian Authority. A short while ago, my understanding is, the Palestinian Authority indicated that a senior delegation, including Saeb Erekat and Abu Mazin, will be leaving shortly for scheduled meetings with the Secretary and Ambassador Dennis Ross, our specific Middle East coordinator, on the morrow.

Q Will the President be meeting with that delegation as well?

MR. MCCURRY: There is nothing scheduled at this time, but the President has indicated his willingness to be available should his participation be necessary.

Q I didn't mean, is she going tomorrow; I meant later in the month, like April 25th.

MR. MCCURRY: We have not ruled out visits by either the Secretary or Ambassador Ross to the region, but you've heard the President say that those trips ought to be conducted with the purpose of advancing the process. We're at a point where we're trying to repair the process, so we'll see if further steps warrant a belief that we'd be in a position to move this process forward to help the parties with their discussions, to help them bridge the differences that continue to exist in their positions, and to continue their dialogue.

Q Mike, apparently an Egyptian official was telling a news agency that she was going to be there on April 25.

MR. MCCURRY: It has long been a feature of Middle East diplomacy that speculation in the region outstrips what the facts of the matter are. The fact of the matter is that we are having important meetings here tomorrow and that we will see, based on that, whether there is a commitment on both sides to do those things that will help restore security to the people of Israel and the people of the territories; and, secondly, to help restore confidence that this process has integrity and will lead to resolution of differences that exist between the parties. And that is exactly what the President has worked on this week, will continue to follow closely, and probably work on himself. And we will make judgments on future diplomatic efforts based on how things are going.

Mr. Hunt.

Q Mike, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee says that an agreement has been reached with the White House for the voluntary production of documents and -- the White House documents and interviews with employees. Do you have anything on that?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything on that other than to say that the White House Legal Counsel has had very amicable conversations with the Senate committee staff. We have worked in the spirit of full cooperation that the President has ordered, and we look forward to being cooperative as they continue their inquiry.

Q Do you have any idea how many White House employees might be interviewed?

MR. MCCURRY: That would not be our place to say. That will be up to the judgment of the Senate.

Q Does this mean there will be no subpoenas?

MR. MCCURRY: I have not heard any suggestion that there are any subpoenas coming our way from the Senate and, given the amicable conversations that Legal Counsel has had with the staff, we would hope to pursue the matter in that spirit.

Q You keep stressing amicable. I mean, does that --what special meaning does that hold for --

MR. MCCURRY: That they're, you know, getting together and resolving the issues they need to resolve and moving forward.

Q In contrast to?

MR. MCCURRY: Subpoenas. (Laughter.)

Q Have you told the Senate that anyone is available in the White House for --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to try to detail the conversations. That would be prejudicial to whatever the Senate, the committee staff may want to be pursuing. They are in a position to know what information they believe they need access to for the conduct of their inquiry. We've indicated that we will be cooperative and we intend to work with them to produce the people and the materials they seek.

Q Does that mean that it's more likely that the Senate committee will get documents and access to people faster than the House committee, with its rather far-ranging subpoenas?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to compare the two. The situation in the House is, indeed, more complicated, and the discussions have been more difficult.

Q Same ground rules as in the House?

MR. MCCURRY: Say again.

Q Same ground rules, in terms of proprietary information about DNC, privacy issues?

MR. MCCURRY: At the moment I don't believe there is an overall protocol that governs the production of materials and testimony for the House committee. That's my understanding.

Q Why is the House committee more difficult -- more complicated?

MR. MCCURRY: You should ask Chairman Burton and his staff that question.

Q Mike, why do you perceive it as more difficult?

MR. MCCURRY: Because it's been less amicable. (Laughter.)

Q Can you give us the status report?

Q More adversarial?

Q Before we go off this, could you explain why you would rather provide this information not under a subpoena? I mean, subpoenas give you a certain legal protection?

MR. MCCURRY: Because we want to be cooperative and we want to address the concerns and interests that the senators have. And that can be done, it can be done in a way that protects executive office privileges and concerns. The President, as you know from his prior statement, wants to proceed in a fashion that doesn't require him to assert any kind of privilege on the materials that are being sought legitimately by the Congress.

Q And the introduction of subpoenas does what?

MR. MCCURRY: It just creates an adversarial process when the process could likely be more amicable.

Q What specific protections did the White House get under this --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to detail the discussions.

Q Mike, could you talk about what the U.S. government is doing with -- to solve the situation in Zaire, especially as it relates to moving out the Mobutu elusive government?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the political situation is very unclear as of this moment. There have been conflicting reports on the status of Prime Minister-designate Tshisekedi. There have been some reports that President Mobutu has now named a new Prime Minister. There's one encouraging fact, which is, whatever the status of the Prime Minister they've been charged with pursuing, the peace negotiations that have been underway under the auspices of the U.N. and the government of South Africa. What we are seeking in Zaire is some type of orderly transition. We believe that there need to be negotiations that lead to a cease-fire, lead to some type of settlement, and that that must include and should include some orderly transition to a new polity for the government of Zaire. That would likely include at least some transitional arrangements and eventually some elections that could establish a democratic basis for a new government.

We have not suggested that Mr. Mobutu should resign or should go into exile; that is, in fact, for the people of Zaire to decide. But we have suggested that the era of Mobutuism in Zaire is over because the status quo is no longer tenable, given the dire conditions that exist for the people of Zaire.

So what we are now seeking are negotiations that will lead to settlement of the conflict between the government and the rebels, and secondly, an orderly transition that establishes a government that can function on behalf of the people of Zaire.

Q Isn't that a rose by any other name? Isn't this real interference?

Q -- the reports that you're encouraging the exile of Mobutu? I just heard you say that.

MR. MCCURRY: That I'm repeating what I said earlier today and, I believe, what has also been said at the State Department. I don't believe I've said either of those two things.

Q Mike, when you talk about -- when you say you want some type of orderly transition, has the United States offered to do anything, make any personnel or troops available to help in this orderly transition? How do we want to facilitate the orderly transition?

MR. MCCURRY: We have been participating in the work that has been done by the U.N. special representative, and followed very closely, along with the governments of France, South Africa, and other concerned governments in Africa, the progress of the negotiations that have been underway. We've welcomed some of the statements made as a result of the negotiations this past weekend, and we encourage those negotiations to lend fruit to a settlement that could bring reconciliation to the sides and an end to the fighting.

Q How about the United States' role? Do we have a role in this?

MR. MCCURRY: We have a role that I just described. We are participating in support of the negotiations that are underway, and we've acted in a way that we hope is helpful.

Q Would the U.S. be willing to help Mobutu, even if he chose to do so, and has that been indicated to him? Or have you tried to indicate that to him?

MR. MCCURRY: What we want is an orderly transition and we want everyone to cooperate to make that orderly transition possible.

Q How did you reconcile -- you said the era of Mobutuism is over, but you're not overtly calling for his removal. How do you reconcile the two?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that I need to reconcile those two.

Q How does he stay in office if he -- if the era is over, how does he stay in office?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that, given the need for some type of transitional arrangements that can lead to a period in which the people of Zaire would duly elect a new government, that assessment speaks to our view.

Q Mike, what is the current assessment of the need for U.S. -- (laughter).

MR. MCCURRY: Say again, Gene, I'm sorry.

Q Your years at the State Department served you well. You learned -- (laughter).

MR. MCCURRY: Ambiguity is an art form.

Q What is the current United States assessment of the need to evacuate our nationals from Zaire?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I won't add to what the Pentagon has briefed this week on that. They have got an evacuation force that is deployed there across the river. They can tell you more about the status of it. I believe that -- it was the Nassau. The USS Nassau is in station. They are prepared to deal with the deterioration of the circumstance. We are frankly satisfied so far that those types of measures are not necessary, but as the Pentagon has indicated in its briefings, it's wise to be prepared. And they can tell you more. They have got a -- they can tell you more about the array of the deployment that they've got that's available.

Q Mike, what most Americans I think would be concerned about vis-a-vis Zaire would be the U.S. troops over there and the protection of the Americans there. You're talking about the troops being used to potentially rescue Americans if the situation is serious. But as the other question alluded to, do you also see a potential U.S. military role to ensure that transition? I mean, is that how we might use our troops?

MR. MCCURRY: No, the force that has been deployed there has been to address the interests and the security situation facing American citizens, their dependents, American personnel. And I think the Pentagon has been very clear about what that deployment is about.

Q Mike, I just wanted to come one more time at just reconciling your statement of the end of the era of Mobutuism yet you're not encouraging the exile. Doesn't the fact that you're saying that there's -- that you want -- not "want," that's putting words in your mouth -- but the fact that the end of Mobutuism is there signify that you're taking sides and that you are signaling that he should go?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are a number of sides there. We're signaling that the status quo is not functioning for the people of Zaire and it needs to change. That's why there has to be some type of transition. And the transition we suggested is one that would lead eventually to elections that would form the basis for a new democratically elected government. But there inevitably has to be some transition process, and that transition process will be necessary in order for any negotiated settlement to take hold.

And it's pretty clear at this point that there needs to be fundamental change in the way those questions are addressed.

Q What is Mobutuism? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Mobutuism is the state of disrepair of the Zairian political economy, the sad conditions that many people in Zaire live in now, the lack of effective political representation that the people of Zaire have suffered under for some time. The condition is allowed now a sizable portion of the eastern part of the country to fall into the hands of a rebel faction. It's the sad state of a country that needs a more orderly government.

Q How does the current state of Mobutuism square with the fact that for many, many years the United States actively supported Mobutu as a buffer and as a supplier and as a channel for money in the battle against the communists in Angola?

MR. MCCURRY: There have been numerous changes on that continent and around the world in that period of time. And with the situation that we face now, understanding that their history -- and every situation in the world in which changes in political culture occur.

Q Mobutuism was okay then?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, Mobutuism -- there's been changes in the way Mr. Mobutu himself has addressed his responsibilities as President of Zaire. There have been changes in the complexity of the political dynamic within the country in that time.

Q Mike, the Safire article in the Times today suggested that Bruce Lindsey may have perjured himself in saying the he knew nothing about efforts to help Hubbell in testimony in '96. Can you respond to that?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't speak for Mr. Safire, I don't know what his state of knowledge is.

Q How about Lindsey?

Q Mike, did Randy Beers apologize and offer to resign from the NSC staff?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have more to say on that when Mr. Ruff and Sandy Berger complete their review of that matter. I believe that will be shortly. I think we have said for some time that Randy has felt for some time if he had the opportunity to look in retrospect to how he would have treated the information given, he would have reported it to his superiors. We've said that on prior occasions.

Q Following up with this detail that the article quotes from a deposition in '96 in which Bruce was asked, present day, do you know of any efforts that were undertaken to help Hubbell find work? And his answer was basically no. And the question is how could he, at that late date, not have known?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I've inquired of the White House Legal Counsel and they've checked and Mr. Lindsey asserts that that testimony was truthful.

Q The Greek -- music festival on Amia Islet of the Aegean May 25th in order to clarify the status quo, which has been changed, as you know, Mr. McCurry, during the -- President Clinton. In the last two days the -- do you consider Amia Greek? Could you please comment?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've said repeatedly that we believe that the dispute between Greece and Turkey over ownership of Amia/Kardak, the islet that carries both names, should be submitted to the International Court of Justice. That is our view, has been our view and remains our view.

Q Is the President planning a new initiative to deal with race in the United States?

MR. MCCURRY: The President, as he indicated in both his Inaugural Address and in the State of the Union, feels that the question of race relations between Americans of many ethnic and racial backgrounds is one of the fundamental questions that he should address as President during a second term.

He has, for some time now, been exploring ways that we could have an effective effort in which he would lend his leadership and others in the government would lend their expertise to the question of how you improve the status of relations between the races in this country.

I suspect that when the President completes that review and has a more structured sense of how he wants to pursue it, he will take the opportunity to make a fairly major address on the subject.

Q But is there something right now that's happening that has propelled him -- the anti-affirmative action backlash, for example -- that he feels --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I would not place this in the context of current events. In fact, if you look at the history of race relations in this country and where we've been since the 1960s, there have been many improvements.

We have had some of the things that have been -- the wedges that have driven apart Americans around the question of race have subsided in some respects. But there still is hostility and mistrust, racism and bigotry and, indeed, prejudice of many types. And the President, I think, believes that one of the things that we must do to prepare this country for the 21st century is to learn to appreciate our diversity and to see it as a strength of our society and to help Americans understand how they can individually break down barriers that exist between us.

And the best way to do that, how to do that, has occasioned him to empanel a task force that's been working with him on structuring the right kind of effort. They have looked historically at previous efforts of this nature, the efforts President Truman made in the 1940s with respect to the Armed Services; the Kerner Commission empaneled by President Johnson in the 1960s; and, indeed, a variety of efforts over time led by Presidents and by White Houses to address that question.

I suspect in due course he'll have a lot more to say about it.

Q Mike, is this likely to form the context of his speech, this initiative, the context for the Tuskegee apology?

MR. MCCURRY: I think there will be a number of things that the President will be doing to celebrate racial diversity in America and to acknowledge the pain that has existed in the past because of evidence of prejudice and hostility towards the races, dealing with the victims of the Tuskegee experiments is an unhappy episode that needs to be addressed. Jackie Robinson breaking the race barrier in major league baseball is a happy occasion to celebrate. There will be things like that that the President will be attempting to address in coming days, I think leading up to a more formal structured effort to really look at the status of race relations in America.

Q Mike, you were steering us away from current events, but yet in his radio address in the past couple weeks he's hit the issue head on. Wouldn't you suggest that it's at the top of his mind that there is something more --

MR. MCCURRY: It's very much on his mind. The incident in Chicago recently involving a young teenage boy who was beaten into a coma had a very real personal impact on the President. I think he continues to see evidence of unfinished business when it comes to creating a society in which Americans appreciate the diversity that is one of the remarkable features of this country. And I think he will continue to address it based on events that happen, issues that arise, and needs that he feels should be addressed.

Q Mike, does the President believe that the country is open to this sort of leadership, that it wants to hear what he has to say on the subject? Or does he think that these are tough times in that regard?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's a nation of 250 million Americans and many of them will take his message differently. There are some who will be opposed, there are some who will be appreciative, there are some who will see that the President feels that it's necessary and believes it's an important issue. And, above all else, we hope there are many Americans who will look in their hearts and think for themselves about whether they, individually, can do something to confront evidence of racism in our society.

Q Does the President believe he can change minds?

MR. MCCURRY: The President believes that the leadership of the bully pulpit can change hearts.

Q Members of the relevant committees in the House and the Senate are calling on the Social Security Administration to close down the web site for fear of infringing on people's privacy.

MR. MCCURRY: The Treasury Department, I believe, has responded to that -- I'm sorry, the Social Security Administration has responded to that. They're looking at ways to make sure that that service to the American people and to taxpayers is one that lends information that is provided in a way that is secure and protects the privacy of individual American citizens. I can refer you more to them. They've been addressing publicly the steps that they're taking. We think that it's important that we do that. We think there is a fundamental importance in protecting the privacy of information that should only be available to those individual citizens who request it.

Q Do you think it's necessary to shut it down temporarily to assess --

MR. MCCURRY: We're not experts on that question or on the degree of security built into the architecture of the computer software that runs the program. That really is something for the experts at the administration to examine, and they are, and they are speaking to it.

Q In the past, the President has used the Association of American Society of Newspaper Editors speech to make some news. Is he going to do that this Friday, and is he going to talk specifically about fast track?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's very likely he will try to make news at that speech. I think it's very likely he will concentrate on some of the foreign policy challenges that we face. And I think given his strong interest, as he expressed it with Prime Minister Chretien yesterday in free trade in this hemisphere, that he will likely address the subject of fast track. But I would also suggest he would probably take an opportunity like that with a gathering of major newspaper editors from around the country to make a persuasive case for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which is a very timely consideration as well.

Q Right, but if he does bring up fast track, it will be explained how he wants to handle the labor and environmental issues?

MR. MCCURRY: I think if the President chooses to address that subject, that's a fundamental question in that debate, and I can't imagine he would not address those specific points.

Q There's a report that President Yeltsin may be going to Paris at the end of May to sign the charter, the NATO expansion charter. There was some talk early on that President Clinton might be thinking of going. Is that something that is open, or is that ruled out at this point?

MR. MCCURRY: I tell you, that would -- that goes well ahead of where things are at the moment. We are still attempting to negotiate a charter to sign, so I think I'll leave speculation on when it might be signed to some knowledge of what the outcome of the discussions will be on getting a charter structured between the Russian Federation and NATO.

There has been very good work done on that subject, a lot of hard work done by the President during his recent meeting with President Yeltsin, but that will ultimately have to be resolved in the negotiations that Secretary General Solana has been having with the Russian Federation and will have to lead to formal agreement by 16 different governments. How it is then promulgated and brought into force will be something that will be the subject of future discussions.

Q Is the President still planning a Cabinet meeting tomorrow? Is there one overriding topic for that?

MR. MCCURRY: The President will have the first full-scale Cabinet meeting of his second term tomorrow, and it will be for Cabinet agencies to report back to him on the status of their efforts to address welfare reform and specifically what they can do as employers to incorporate the President's strong interest in providing job opportunities for welfare-dependent mothers.

Q Is that the only issue on the plank?

MR. MCCURRY: That will be the principal focus and if there are other items that arise, we'll let you know tomorrow.

Q Mike, there's a new dynamic in the budget situation. Up on the Hill, a "born again" Speaker Newt Gingrich today called for zero capital gains taxes, zero estate taxes, et cetera. Is this going to make it that much more difficult as he tries to fend off people who may want to replace him, et cetera?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the real dynamic that matters on the Hill today is the one that we are very carefully engaged in with the leaders of the budget committees on both sides. That's the status of the hard work that's being done. You saw some reporting today on some of the discussions that occurred yesterday. Those discussions continue today. That is where the White House team is really fully engaged with the chief budget writers on the Hill and fashioning, we hope, eventually, a budget agreement that would balance the budget by a date-certain. Many different people on the Hill will have ideas that they will want to contribute to that debate, and certainly the Speaker would be one of the foremost among them. But the process that we are using right now to move the balanced budget forward in our discussions with the Hill is one that involves our team working with the budget chairs and the ranking members.

Q Does that make it that much more difficult?

Q You're saying Gingrich is not engaged in that process?

MR. MCCURRY: He's not at the moment engaged, although the President certainly foresees an opportunity in the future in which he can sit with the bipartisan leadership and really see if they can make additional progress on these matters. We will await this week's worth of discussions with the Budget Committee chairs to see how that comes before we make any judgment on that.

Q Is this a reaction to the idea --

Q Is the Speaker seen as sharing in the requisite bipartisan spirit in general?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, the Speaker, you know, he's got a political agenda that we well understand right now. He has got a little charm offensive underway with the far right at the moment, and we understand that and we will --

Q Where did you get that line? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: -- I thought of it in the shower this morning. (Laughter.) He has a charm offensive underway with the far right and we understand that. But at some point in order to get business done, he has to come back to the center of the political spectrum and work with those like the President who are in the center who are trying to move this country forward and make bipartisan progress on issues like balancing the budget, fixing our schools, improving health care in America, protecting Americans from crime, and dealing with some of the issues involving the world that we live in that we've talked about.

That's where the action is, but at the moment we can understand it if the Speaker's politics needs him to be elsewhere.

Q Mike, he also criticized Arafat, blasted Arafat and criticized the administration's policy towards Israel as unfair. Does that come under the charm offensive?

MR. MCCURRY: We haven't detected that his remarks on the situation in the Middle East have had any impact on the work we're doing to keep the process on track.

Q Has it backfired, in fact? Does it go against trying to get the two sides together?

MR. MCCURRY: I doubt that it has had any real impact.

Q Are either of those things the White House could support -- no estate taxes, no tax on capital gains? Or is that --or are both those ideas not really in the political center?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has made it clear to his team negotiating that he wants them to be flexible and to be open to ideas from the other side. Now, the Speaker himself would obviously have to incorporate those ideas into the deliberations that are underway that are serious, that are moving this prospect for a balanced budget forward. But if they are incorporated, we will certainly be receptive and listen and see how that fits into the contours of a balanced budget and see what trade-offs there exist in making those kinds of agreements.

I think the President, above all else, has sent the message to his negotiators that they need to be open-minded as they deal with those from the other side that might have contrary views. We've got very strong views about our own budget and they don't include those ideas. We've got tax relief in our budget that we think is prudent and targeted on things that will grow the economy in the future. And we believe that that's the right way to provide tax relief to Americans. But we also understand that this is a process in which a Democratic President has to negotiate with a Republican Congress and so we're going to have to be open-minded.

Q Well, that open-minded, to draconian tax cuts, down to zero?

MR. MCCURRY: That is -- let me suggest, as I just said, there is a process underway and the Speaker should incorporate his ideas into that process. There are probably some people associated with his party in that process that might not share some of those views.

Q Mike, by saying that the Speaker's politics are elsewhere, and also by saying that his comments on the Mideast have no impact, do you the Speaker being irrelevant to the power dynamic of Washington?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, no. He's the Speaker of the House of Representatives and will likely remain so. (Laughter.) And the White House will work closely with him.

I'm not sure if that will help or hurt him.

Q Forgive me for going back to Zaire for a minute. This morning you said Mobutuism is about to become a creature of history. I mean, any plain-speaking person would think that what you were saying is, Mr. Mobutu, the time has come for you to go. Is that not what the United States is saying?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that it's clear that we have to move beyond President Mobutu and think about how we begin to structure a government that can address the needs of the Zairian people and that's what the United States is committing to supporting. And that is ultimately where this process will lead to some reconciliation between the factions that are now fighting, and will lead to some situation in which you can address the terrible humanitarian needs of the people -- especially the refugees now in the east -- and deal with the needs of the people of Zaire, which have gone for a long time unaddressed.

Q So is the U.S. government ready to help Mr. Mobutu leave?

MR. MCCURRY: Asked and answered.

Q Well, my question is along those same lines. Just in general terms, in terms of options that are open to Mr. Mobutu, from what you know, are there places that you know of where he would be welcome should he choose to choose exile?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he travels abroad extensively and even recently and so, of course, the answer is yes to that.

Q Mike, can I go back to your statement on -- to the far right. That came in answer to a question about Gingrich's call for these zero taxes. Are the people who support those taxes the far right -- what did you mean by that answer to that question?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm talking generally about the Speaker over the last several days has been doing war with pundits in his own party and has been talking on the Rush Limbaugh Show. I was referring to that. The Speaker has clearly got ideas that matter with respect to foreign policy, with respect to economics. In fact, one of the things that I think you can safely say about the Speaker is that he has a lot of creative, interesting ideas. But he also has a political reality that he's dealing with, and I was commenting generally on that subject.

Q Has he called you since your remarks have been publicized?

Q But this is more on the GOPAC speech and Limbaugh and that kind of stuff and his outreach to the people that --

MR. MCCURRY: He's had a lot to say recently, and he's been critical of the President, and we understand that. But we also need to get him back into the real work that's going on in this town right now, which is on a balanced budget, which is on improving the state of schools of America. And that train is moving forward.

Q One follow-up on Amia. You said that -- the ownership of Amia should be addressed at the International Court of Justice from Greece and Turkey. What happened to the sovereignty of the island, because there is a difference between ownership and sovereignty? Do you have a position on that?

MR. MCCURRY: Trick question. (Laughter.) No, the entire -- there's no -- I did not mean to indicate any change in our views that the International Court of Justice should resolve the remaining issues. I know that there are different ownership assertions made. But the issue broadly defined is the one that we've suggested the ICJ should address.

Q Mike, yesterday the President said that he had spoken with Mr. Ruff about the issues in the Woodward piece. How frequently does the President speak with Mr. Ruff on issues involving campaign finance?

MR. MCCURRY: Not often, usually in advance of occasions when we see all of you -- when we've just got to figure out how we answer the -- whatever the question is that you're interested in on a given day. That's generally the occasion.

He works -- obviously, he sees the White House Legal Counsel many times on other issues. They talked yesterday on Proposition 209, as you know. And the Legal Counsel's Office is going to follow up based on the circuit court's decision. But those are -- that represents the large volume of work that the Legal Counsel's Office does with the President. The other matters are the fraction of time that it takes to deal with you.

Q Mike, has the President's meeting with the three automaker CEOs been rescheduled, and what's on their agenda?

MR. MCCURRY: It hasn't been rescheduled yet, and the agenda has not been set.

Q Mike, yesterday the President said there was no basis for suggestions that the DNC got sensitive classified information. Is there any evidence that White House -- non-cleared White House staff got intelligence information?

MR. MCCURRY: The President said yesterday, based on the conversations the White House Legal Counsel had, there was no basis for believing that intelligence information had been transmitted from the White House to the DNC. And I'm not aware of any allegation that it had been transmitted outside of intelligence channels to any other uncleared individual.

Q But it would have had to go from people in the political section to the DNC, rather than directly from the NSC, right? So the idea is that it would have gone through them? If somebody from the NSC would have told somebody on the political side about these allegations --

Q That's the allegation.

Q -- then they would have passed it on to the DNC?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on what, as far as we can tell at this point, didn't happen.

Q Mike, you said at the beginning of last week that the nominations for the vacancies in the Fed were very close.

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, what happened to that?

Q What happened to that? (Laughter.)

Q How come none -- how come nobody in here has broken the names yet? What's wrong with you people? (Laughter.)

Q Trying to challenge --

MR. MCCURRY: Look at the back row back there. (Laughter.) Where is BNA? Where is Commerce Clearinghouse? (Laughter.) Where's the Bloomberg? Come on.

Q It's a challenge.

MR. MCCURRY: Maybe they haven't -- actually, maybe they haven't forwarded recommendations --

Q Do we get a prize? (Laughter.)

Q CNN-FN, don't leave them out.


Q Have they been selected?


MR. MCCURRY: Have they been -- I think they're in a very advanced -- they're in an advanced state of promulgation.

Some of you asked about solar flares earlier. I checked on it. We have a great deal of concern about this, because they are going to hit at a period of time, as near as I can tell, in which they're either going to evaporate John Sununu or Geraldine Ferraro on Crossfire -- that will be about the time. Now, the White House takes the view if they manage to interfere with the transmissions of CNN that carried Mr. Sununu's remarks, we're not going to make a federal case out of it. If they interrupt Geraldine Ferraro, we'll authorize the Office of Science and Technology Policy to conduct an immediate inquiry.

Q How about Buchanan?

MR. MCCURRY: What I did check, more seriously, is that those who are following this are aware of the fact there may be some disruptions. They are working in the scientific community to understand what the nature of disruptions with communications might be. They assure us that individual citizens are not likely to suffer any effects from it, given the protective blanket of the atmosphere of planet earth.

Q Will your cell phones drop out?

MR. MCCURRY: They might be. You better be careful. If you're on a cell phone, you might all of the sudden end up connected to Congressman McDermott, so be careful. (Laughter.)

I didn't say that, did I? I didn't say that. (Laughter.)

Q Can you give us any sort of readout on Mrs. Rabin's visit with the President?

MR. MCCURRY: The President had a very warm and very personal meeting with Mrs. Rabin and her son. Mrs. Rabin presented the President with a copy of her book, which the President very much appreciated. They had, obviously, reminiscences about her late husband and a very, very warm and affectionate meeting.

Q Mike, can I try the question again, what is the status of the Fed nominations at this point? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: The last I heard, the recommendations were about to be made to the President. And I'm just being careful in case they've gone into him. I don't know if they've gone in.

Q This has progressed to the point where Erskine Bowles is reviewing the names?

MR. MCCURRY: Beyond that point.

Q Beyond that point?


Q Mike, was policy discussed at that meeting with Mrs. Rabin? Did they discuss policy?

MR. MCCURRY: They talked about the peace process and just the current situation and the need to -- she is -- one of the things she is doing, if I'm not mistaken, is establishing a grass-roots peace movement in Israel. I believe that's accurate. And they did talk a little bit about the current conditions and obviously the need to try to keep this peace process on track so it improves the lives of the Palestinian people and the people of Israel.

Q Did she offer any substantive suggestions for the process?

MR. MCCURRY: This was not designed to be a substantive policy meeting; it was designed to be more of a personal meeting. But obviously the personal concern that both the President and Mrs. Rabin have about the status of the process at this moment would not have escaped either one.

Q Just to be clear, so President Clinton is actually reviewing the names for the Fed at this point and that's where the hang-up is?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not absolutely certain that they've sent him a recommendation paper yet.

Q What is holding it up then?

MR. MCCURRY: Nothing. Just making sure that we've got excellent qualified people.

Q Is there anything else on the schedule for tomorrow besides the Cabinet meeting?

MR. MCCURRY: Anything else on our schedule tomorrow? The radio/TV dinner. How could we forget? It's going on tomorrow. What else?

Does the White House Correspondents Association have excellent entertainment arranged now?

Q Absolutely. Headliners. You'll be delighted.

MR. MCCURRY: We hope so. All right, thank you.

END 2:15 P.M. EDT