THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
12:55 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: And happy Friday. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the White House Briefing Room, and we'll get going. We'll talk real fast today because we have to get done by 1:45 p.m. so you all can go and do the Teacher of the Year event. Okay, that's all I have to say. Anything else? No? Good, good-bye. (Laughter.) In our hyperkinetic state today.
Let me just start by reading to you a part of a written statement from the Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. The Vice President's statement reads: "The President and I believe we have an historic opportunity to systematically reinvent the agencies which implement the nation's foreign policies in order to ensure that they effectively confront the new and pressing challenges of the post-Cold War world. To that end, the President has approved the two-year reorganization plan for these agencies.
I'm proud of this achievement. I'm confident that through this historic reinvention process we will create leaner and more effective structures in order to ensure American leadership around the world for the new century."
The person who has worked most closely with the Vice President on this reorganization plan and can tell you a lot about the effort that's really going on over the last three years to arrive at this moment is Dr. Elaine Kamarck, the Vice President's Senior Policy Advisor and reinvention of government guru.
Why are you looking at me, Leo?
Q Well, I was going to ask you, why was it a bum idea the last two years and this year it's a great idea?
MR. MCCURRY: Never been a bum idea, but the time is right now and the time was not exactly right then. And Dr. Kamarck can tell you why.
Q Wait a minute. Are you denying that the administration strenuously opposed this reorganization during the Christopher days?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, absolutely, because I was there with Secretary Christopher -- we had always looked for ways of restructuring and making more efficient those agencies, but we always believed simultaneously it needed to be done in the right context of reinventing government. It was not just about collapsing organization boxes on an organization chart, it was about innovation and a new spirit of modernization within our foreign policy apparatus. And it took until now to do that.
Now, there are other complicating factors, too. There was a budget fight in 1995-'96 which subsumed a lot of the efforts to look at the function 150 Account broadly and then to look structurally at the foreign policy apparatus. But Elaine will tell you a lot more about that, too.
Yes. Why do you want me in this when you've got the expert here?
Q Why should this not be regarded as a quid pro quo for Senator Helms in order to get a Senate vote on the chemical weapons?
MR. MCCURRY: Because long before we got to the point of debating in the Senate the Chemical Weapons Convention, Secretary Albright said she was committed as a matter of principle to modernizing and reinvigorating those foreign policy mechanisms that we used to advance U.S. interests around the world, and moreover, as part of the Vice President's longstanding interest in reinventing government, we had a strong interest in bringing reinvention to the State Department. That has been true for three years and we've been working to that end for three years.
Q But didn't she say that as a quid pro quo to get confirmed?
MR. MCCURRY: She said that, recognizing, obviously, that Chairman Helms has pressed this goal, but there's been support within this administration for modernizing our foreign policy institutions over the last three years as well -- three years being actually from the beginning of the President's term, but the serious work began in '95 or so.
DR. KAMARCK: Let me talk to this a little bit. We looked at this seriously beginning in January 1995. At that time we began a very large scale reinvention activity that encompassed the four agencies involved here. It was led by the National Performance Review. Among the difficulties that we encountered at that time was a feeling that there was a significant amount of reinvention that needed to go on in the State Department itself before the State Department was ready to then absorb other agencies.
We then, as Mike said, as we were beginning to sort out some of those things and a reinvention agenda for the State Department, we came into the summer of '95, as you know, we ran into the budget crisis and the eventual shutdown of the government. And this job was put aside for a time-being with the exception of work that was being done at OMB and at the State Department about how the State Department itself ought to reorganize.
When we got reelected, came into office again, this was one of the pieces of unfinished business in the reinventing government agenda that the Vice President wanted to go back to. He began to talk about this with the new Secretary of State, who also came in with a significant desire to do serious reinvention at the State Department.
Reinvention at the State Department is an a priori qualification for doing any other consolidations of other agencies, and that's one of the things that made this happen this time. There will be a new Under Secretary for Management, there is some personnel changes, et cetera, and there are management plans being developed right now at the State Department. So part of what's going on here is we've got a reinvigorated State Department and a State Department that will hopefully start dealing with some of its core problems as we proceed.
Q And it's only coincidence that it came a week before the chemical weapons vote?
DR. KAMARCK: Only coincidence.
Q Is it a happy coincidence?
DR. KAMARCK: Yes. Of course, it is. But once again, remember, doing these things takes a long time. I mean, we generated piles and piles of paper last time. And one of the reasons that we could, in fact, do this in a relatively short period of time right now -- as we started thinking about this in February again -- is that we had, in fact, gotten to roughly these conclusion two years ago and had done a lot of the groundwork and kind of understood where the pieces would fit best for a 21st century diplomacy.
Q As a result of this reorganization, Elaine, how much money will the taxpayers save over the next several years?
DR. KAMARCK: They will save some money, but the savings are not big. The entire 150 Account, all of this money is about one percent of the federal budget. These are very small agencies; they have a very small number of employees. If you are looking to balance the budget on these agencies, it would be impossible.
As we develop the legislation and actually go through the details of the reorganization plan, we will give you personnel and savings figures. But they're not -- they will not be huge given the size of these entities.
Q Elaine, for two things -- first, how many jobs are going to be lost and how is it going to affect the relative independence of the Voice of America and other related --
DR. KAMARCK: The Voice of America has editorial independence and integrity as it is and that will stay exactly the same under the reorganization.
As I said before, there will be some job loss I'm sure, but this will not be huge. There will be administration consolidations, consolidations of public affairs, legislative shops, etcetera. But basically, these are -- the ACDA and USIA consolidations are being done in order to strengthen the State Department's capacity to do public diplomacy and arms control.
Q Do you have a figure on those jobs?
DR. KAMARCK: No, we don't have a figure on the jobs yet. And we won't until we actually write the legislation and then have OMB cost it out.
Q How far down the ladder on the table of organization at the State Department is ACDA going to end up?
DR. KAMARCK: ACDA will be, actually, very high up in a new under secretary that will have not only a reporting relationship to the Secretary of State, but the ability to speak directly through the Secretary to the President of the United States on matters of arms control advocacy. And what was very important to the Vice President in putting this together is that there be that independent advocacy role of ACDA preserved in the State Department. And we have models elsewhere in the government for preserving that independent access to the President.
Q And that under secretary will be limited to arms control or will have wider jurisdiction?
DR. KAMARCK: Wider jurisdiction. What will happen is that ACDA and what is now the PM bureau of State will merge essentially into a larger under secretary.
Q -- information activities at USIA, where will they go in this --
DR. KAMARCK: Some of those information activities will be moved into the State Department. There will be an attempt to make a unified public affairs structure for diplomacy. The I Bureau at USIA, which has received a lot of kudos for bringing information into the electronic age, will be preserved, brought into the State Department, and we hope will enhance the State Department's capacity to communicate to foreign publics.
MR. MCCURRY: Tell them about the new under secretary for public diplomacy. (Laughter.)
DR. KAMARCK: I don't think we'd better do that right now.
Q Elaine, is there any way to assure those at VOA that the level of independence won't be impacted by this? You've said it won't, but as the process goes along -- might change. Can you give us that kind of a guarantee?
DR. KAMARCK: I can give you that kind of guarantee. That guarantee was explicit in the decision memorandum that the President signed off on that there would be this editorial integrity. And that is something that the President and Vice President feel strongly about.
MR. MCCURRY: Let me add something on that. You will not be surprised to hear that we have heard already quite an earful from Evelyn Lieberman on that subject. She has stressed how important the integrity of VOA's independent editorial voice is and how necessary it is for that to be a useful and reliable tool of information around the world. And, of course, that's foreseen as part of the plan.
DR. KAMARCK: Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, sir?
Q What are the preparations the White House and other agencies in the federal government are undertaking in light of the upcoming Oklahoma City anniversary and Waco --
MR. MCCURRY: Appropriate and necessary ones. There is a greater attention to security and reminders about the need to be vigilant and alert. But beyond that, I'm obviously not going to discuss specific security measures.
Q Will people be inconvenienced as a result of these --
MR. MCCURRY: If any federal workers or American citizens are inconvenienced, I'm sure they'll understand why.
Q Mike, are papers going to be issued this afternoon on the consolidation?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, in fact, we've got a statement from the Vice President and a fact sheet that goes with the remarks that Elaine has just made. That's available -- should be available by the time we finish here.
Q Mike, you told us this morning there were no plans for any formal observances or events here linked to the ceremony. Is that related to the fact that the McVeigh trial is getting underway in any way?
MR. MCCURRY: It is so, very directly.
Q How so?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think you're all aware of the judges order in that case, so we have to be very circumspect in our discussions about matters related to the case.
Q Will there be any statement issued or --
MR. MCCURRY: I believe we will -- I'll have to check on that. I think there is a plan for it, but I'll have to check on that.
Q Mike, a question on the First Family's tax returns. There was a that huge contribution to charity, but the President and Mrs. Clinton have big legal debts also. Why did they not do a direct application to their legal debts? Or can you ask that question?
MR. MCCURRY: I can ask them that question. To my knowledge, the -- first of all, the largest volume of the charitable contributions came from the book proceeds. And Mrs. Clinton made it clear that she was going to donate those to charities that deal with health care especially for children, and for institutions that are involved in philanthropic work on behalf of children. I think they would have considered it inappropriate to devote any of the proceeds of the book to their own legal bills.
On the $12,000 they get from the Henry G. Freeman Pin Fund, that has traditionally been amounts that the First Lady directs to the charities that she and the President support, and they wanted to continue that practice. And then, the additional amount of about $7,300 that represented the balance of their charitable contributions they prefer to give to their church, to some of the institutions that they have supported over the years.
I think that that's their preference. The President, on the subject of his legal bills, has indicated that he expects to be employable when he leaves the White House and has some measure of confidence he'll be able to retire his bills and his obligations.
Q Mr. Lee of Hong Kong emerged saying he wants the Clinton administration to continue to extent MFN for China without any strings attached and the President thanked him for that statement. Has the President flatly decided to do that this year?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he has not -- he can't decide to do that, Wolf. The review of most-favored nation status has to be done in the context of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. It would require an act of Congress, I believe, to make a change in that part of the process. There are a number of people who believe there should be unconditional and permanent extension of MFN status, but we are continuing the review that's required under the law, specifically the Jackson-Vanik Amendment.
Now, let me go back through just a couple general points. Mr. Lee met for about 45 minutes with the Vice President, and the President joined that meeting for about 25 minutes, the last 25 minutes of the meeting. The President, in his own presentation to Mr. Lee, stressed the strong view that the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration is the cornerstone of law that protects the future of Hong Kong as we go through the changes that will occur approaching the date of reversion July 1.
The President said China should not only uphold the economic freedoms that have been so important to the people of Hong Kong, but should also continue to extend civil and political freedoms to the people of Hong Kong because that's a necessary condition of creating the environment in which market economics can flourish, which has been, obviously, the key to Hong Kong's success. So the President strongly shared the view, expressed also, of course, by Mr. Lee, that support for rule of law, that press freedoms, the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the liberties that have been associated with the people of Hong Kong should and must continue, and that that should be seen as a commitment made by the government of China in the 1984 declaration that they entered into with the government of the United Kingdom.
Q On that list, you didn't mention the right to elect their own legislature. Lee said that he considers the 1984 agreement already to be broached since they're disbanding the elected legislature. Do you agree with that?
MR. MCCURRY: We have expressed very grave reservations about the action to adjust the structural polity of the Provisional Council, which has been the elected governing body of Hong Kong. And we have expressed concerns about that and said that that is contrary to the commitments that have been made by the government of the People's Republic in the 1984 Declaration.
Q What are you going to do about that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've raised this in our dialogue. Secretary Albright raised exactly these points in her recent visit, as did the Vice President. And the future of the status of Hong Kong is something that will be very much a factor in our engagement with the People's Republic, as are a number of issues. And this is an issue in which clearly there are some potential disagreements.
Q Lee also said that he asked the President to invite the new China-appointed Chief Executive of Hong Kong to come to the White House as well. How did the President respond to that? And will you consider --
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't get a specific readout on that point. I'll take the question and find out. I think that we would consider his views, but I'm not aware that we've extended any invitation at this time.
Q Mike, what portions of the U.S.-China relationship could be affected by problems with Hong Kong?
MR. MCCURRY: It's not a direct zero-sum trade-off in any aspect of the relationship. What we've said often in areas where we have disagreements with the Chinese is that the full benefit of our bilateral relationship which means much to the people of the United States and much to the people of the People's Republic will not ever be fully realized while there are impediments in the relationship. Clearly, any diminution of the freedoms enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong would be a serious impediment in the relationship.
But at the same time, we have got a structure in our relationship through the exchange of visits that we have to raise those issues, to deal with them. So it's really a question of when do you get the full benefit of the engagement that we are pursuing, and that relationship matures, blossoms to the degree that we erase some of these disagreements that we have on a number of areas, whether they're security areas related to proliferation, whether they're human rights concerns, whether they're questions about the structural polity and governance of Hong Kong.
Q Does China get the full benefit of our relationship now? I mean, would you want to quantify how close --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe they necessarily do. They have -- there are some things that they seek in the world, particularly with respect to membership in economic institutions that are important to their status as an emerging economic power, that are made more difficult by the impediments that exist.
Q Mike, are you saying that we would not back them for membership in the WTO if they continue with this plan to disband the legislature in Hong Kong?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm saying -- I'm not saying there is any direct linkage there because that's an issue that we've considered on a variety of bases and the merits of that I think have been well discussed in the past. I'm saying that is one example of the way in which the relationship would take on new energy if some of the these disagreements were diminished.
Q Mike, I think what we're trying to get at is something we've been trying to get at before. There doesn't seem -- I know you have to deal in diplomatic terms, but it seems that in the recent past that there hasn't been a great deal of effect on China's actions in other areas by our concerns over things such as human rights and things of that sort, and I think we're just trying to find out if you all think that there is anyplace where you can have influence, where you can exercise any sort of leverage if there turn out to be problems with Hong Kong, or if, in essence, it's just jawboning.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, a large measure of it is jawboning, but that is important to the Chinese leadership. And they demonstrate that by the vigorous opposition they bring to efforts, for example, to raise criticisms in fora like the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which we just experienced earlier this week. They clearly are sensitive to those in the international community who raise concerns about some of their actions.
Now, the flip side of this coin is there -- the other strategy sometimes suggested is isolation, or to somehow treat the People's Republic as an outlier nation, and the United States firmly believes that would lead to even more severe consequences for the people of China than a strategy designed to engage with them to exchange views and to continue to bring the benefits of market economics and democratic capitalism to the people of the People's Republic. In the long run, that strategy, in the President's view, has a greater likelihood of success in bringing about the kind of respect for universal human rights that we seek than a strategy of isolation.
Q Mike, how would you interpret the impression that Lee took from the meeting that the administration would be defending Hong Kong's freedoms?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that he understands the deep concern we have about the future of Hong Kong, as I've just expressed it. I think we explicitly made clear the importance that we attach to the Joint Declaration. And I'm sure that's the impression he carried away.
Q The Athens News Agency of the Greek government dispatched yesterday that the targets for solution to the Greek -- over the Aegean Sea and Cyprus is in the hands of President Clinton to be announced soon. Any comment?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry. Who that's in --
Q The Athens News Agency.
MR. MCCURRY: We don't -- Eric, we don't have anything to that effect? We are discussing -- I would just reiterate what we've said in the past about our determination to work with both governments to minimize any conflicts that arise in the Aegean and to assure that these two close allies and friends of the United States amicably resolve their disagreements.
Q Could you please confirm reports that the next Ambassador to Greece will be -- Negroponte -- due to the point that he was a close associate to Henry Kissinger, responsible for the Turkish invasion, occupation and partition of Cyprus?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I can't confirm that.
Q Can you confirm the report that the U.S. government has asked the Israeli government for a six-month freeze on settlement activity?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't begin to get into any of that type of detail, even if that had any truth to it. What I will tell you is that Ambassador Ross just faxed in his departure statement. He's leaving, as we had told you earlier, to come back here after good and successful meetings with Chairman Arafat and with the Prime Minister. He also reports that he had a good -- if I can find it --had a good meeting with the Chairman and senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials just in the last 24 hours to explore ways to ensure security coordination and cooperation between the parties.
That is significant because, as you know, we have been working to try to get the parties engaged in, one, restoring in a sense a greater security, especially in the territories in the West Bank; two, to find ways in which they can build confidence between each other that they can work together which will, we hope, reinvigorate and reenergize the process itself. Now, we've shared a number of ideas. I'm not going to get into substantively in the kinds of ideas that we've shared.
Q The security meeting was everybody in one room together or also shuttling?
MR. MCCURRY: They were not proximity discussions. They were together, and they were described as being productive sessions.
Q What city was that in?
MR. MCCURRY: The statement doesn't say. I can find out.
Q Is that the first time that they --
MR. MCCURRY: Burns had talked -- I think, Nick Burns over at the State Department had talked to Dennis by phone, so he may have a little more. He's going to do more on that.
Q Is this the first time Dennis Ross personally had ever done that kind of three-way meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily.
Q Is the White House encouraged, Mike, that the budget talks appear to be continuing, that this is apparently not the make-it-break-it week?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President is satisfied that a lot of hard work is being done throughout the White House at different levels on reaching a bipartisan balanced budget agreement. It is hard work. It is important for the White House to work this from many different angles.
We also, as you know, have been discussing very closely with our Democratic friends on the Hill, especially in the Senate, how we are proceeding in taking their views on board because they rightfully want to know the structure of any potential balanced budget agreement.
But we're working hard, and I think that the statements you see from both sides indicating that the work is serious, the discussions have been productive. But there clearly are different points of view. And those different points of view have not been resolved. But if there's going to be an agreement at some point, they will have to be resolved, and the question for next week is whether they can make any progress in addressing some of those differences.
I think they've got, as a result of the work they've done, now a much clearer understanding of where the differences lie, where the need is going to be for some flexibility and give and take. And then they can now move into a phase in which they examine the question of whether an agreement is, in fact, possible.
Q Has White House been able to knock down some of the road blocks as far as Herman is concerned today?
MR. MCCURRY: I would say that we're working hard at it, and we're loosening some of the screws, but we're not there yet.
Q I have a question about the President's phone call over to the Newseum today. When Paviani's media conspiracy chart came out and you explained it, a day later you said the President doesn't buy into the conspiracy. Today, he's talking about "near news" forces bearing down on us. What is he talking about?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, look, he's clearly talking about the proliferation and change that have occurred in the way information is provided. I know you referred to the staggering increase in the number of news sources that exist. And near news, as is frequently used in your business, your trade, refers to like magazine shows and different types of information media that mix entertainment and news.
Q Also, does he think that --
MR. MCCURRY: The White House briefings sometimes do that, too.
Q Does he think that he or those in the White House have been hurt by news hype? What was his reference there to?
MR. MCCURRY: Go back and see what the President said. He said that there are occasions in which the rush to report things can damage reputations. And I think everyone in this room is aware that that's occurred. I don't think he was referring specifically to him, to anyone in the administration, to anyone in the White House. He was talking collectively about how reputations can sometimes be damaged when news is reported before adequate legwork that confirms facts.
Q What ever happened to the auto makers meeting that was supposed to take place --
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing. I don't have anything new on that.
Q Do you have any schedule or timing for it?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard of any schedule for it. The Vice President, of course, met with one of the leaders when he was in Detroit, but I haven't heard of anything firming up on the President's calendar.
Q In a series of interviews apparently, with The Los Angeles Times -- refined something he told the Times reportedly, after consultations with the White House. Do you know anything about the consultations? Did you talk with him yourself?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I didn't. That was Lanny. Lanny Davis knows more about that. I got a bit of it and it was a very complicated saga, and I'd have to refer you to him.
Q Anything more on the error at Commerce in terms of remedy or preventive maintenance?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, only that the Commerce Department I think has talked a lot about how it happened. They got a good understanding of what the problem is. They had asked for some additional data on oil imports. The Customs Bureau had sent in some data that extended beyond the period that they were actually looking at for that statistical series they were doing. It generated about a $1.1 billion miscalculation, which was an important one because it actually ended up being that the trade deficit figures that were finally put together at the end of the day yesterday I think were a little better than the market had anticipated.
But the importance of continuous, successive statistical series that help us measure the performance of the economy is something that the President understands is important. That's why we have proposed additional increases in funding for some of those series and why we've, even at a time of downsizing, tried to preserve the integrity of that body of economic data that allows all Americans to understand better how we're doing collectively.
Q Mike, do you mind running through next week's schedule?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't mind at all. (Laughter.) I should probably run through the rest of today. I think the boss wants to talk to you a little about the Chemical Weapons Convention. He'd like to end the week in which we've had a lot of positive momentum on ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention -- end the week on a high note with the President talking about the work that he will do next week in advance of the vote Thursday to try to achieve ratification, and then talk about some of the problems that exist with those amendments that are still pending on the Senate floor. So I'll bring him down here 3:30 p.m. or so, in that neighborhood.
Q How long?
MR. MCCURRY: Long enough to get the job done.
Q Is it going to be a general press conference or just --
MR. MCCURRY: No, he'll come down and make that statement and I imagine you might want to ask him about the budget -- or maybe he'll talk about the budget, one or two other things. (Laughter.) One of two other things. I'll tell him that since I've exhausted all the questions that exist he doesn't have to stay here long.
Q How long, approximately, will his opening statement be?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know yet. Probably about five minutes -- three minutes, four minutes.
Q I just want to try one more time on this Hong Kong stuff. Were you trying to leave the impression that there will not be necessarily any specific negative consequences to China if they continue with their erosion of civil liberties in Hong Kong?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I hope the exact -- to the contrary. I was trying to say that we are -- I've said even several days ago, indicated that there would be consequences for any erosion of freedoms and liberties that are currently enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong. And the expectations are that commitments currently existing, such as those that are made in the 1984 Joint Declaration, will be honored.
Q And just one other question. Do you view what happens to Hong Kong in the same way that you view other human rights issues inside China proper, or do they have a whole other level of importance?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you really can't compare them because the status of Hong Kong is different, the economic conditions are different, the benefits of democracy and market economics have meant much different things to the people of Hong Kong. I don't think you can compare that directly to different conditions in China -- just as you cannot compare the human rights concerns that we had within China as being identical from province to province. They are different if you're talking about South China and the coast where there's been a significant degree of economic modernization; and different if you look at other, lesser developed parts of the country.
Q What I'm getting at is the fact that China hasn't released dissidents or hasn't done the things that we want them to do has not stopped us from pursuing our policy of engagement with China and other economic ties. And what I'm wondering is will the same be true with Hong Kong?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it would -- as of July 1st it will be incorporated in the concerns we have that we raise bilaterally, obviously.
Q With regard to the plans for a U.S.-China summit in the second half of this year, you obviously haven't set a date yet. Is there even a particular month that the White House has in mind for that event?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the only -- I haven't seen anything other than suggestions that it might occur sometime late in the year.
Q And whatever the date might be, how long after July 1 can you watch Hong Kong before you have, in effect, to make a go/no-go decision with regard to a summit? Does a summit like that take a week to nail down, a month to prepare for?
MR. MCCURRY: There are many factors that go into scheduling a summit. I don't want to suggest any direct linkage to that. The condition and status of Hong Kong and the conditions facing its people will be an ongoing concern of the United States government and not directly related to any particular date on a calendar.
Q What you're saying, Mike, is that, nevertheless, there will be a window of several months post-July 1 that you could look at Hong Kong before you have to make a final decision on the summit?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say that, you did.
Q Let me just clarify that, if possible. Is the United States going to give a firm date to China before July 1, or are you explicitly waiting until after July 1 to do that?
MR. MCCURRY: We have an ongoing dialogue with the government of The People's Republic making arrangements. I'm not going to try to elaborate that.
Q There were some fairly clear sentiments emerging from the meeting of Mr. Lee here today. What sort of sentiments or message, if any, would you hope would come out of next week's meeting with the Dahli Lama, whom you've indicated this morning is coming here?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that the -- first and foremost, we would hope that the people of the world would understand the deep respect that the United States has for this important religious figure and the importance we attach to the cultural heritage, the political dynamic, the religious realities that exist for Tibet as an issue that should be of concern to the People's Republic.
Q Mike, getting back to Alexis Herman, a lot of people are saying that if the vote doesn't happen this week, you may as well forget it. Are you getting any semblance of who --
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's too dire and bleak. We are working through concerns that have been raised by some senators and we haven't satisfied those concerns. But we will do everything we can to do it because we don't think that should be an impediment to the confirmation of an excellently qualified nominee.
Q Have you gotten a date then or a potential date?
MR. MCCURRY: We have -- I just told you, we're not there yet.
Q Mr. Lee said that the President agreed with his view that issues surrounding the handover of Hong Kong would be considered even after the handover as an international matter and not a domestic Chinese matter. Is that correct?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the commitments that have been made by the government in an international agreement, the 1994 Sino-British Declaration, are commitments that are made in the eyes of the international community.
Q And will continue to be after the handover?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the commitment was made in 1984 under different arrangements, but they are commitments that are seen by the international community as binding in agreement between two sovereign governments.
Q But I guess the question is, does the international led by the United States feel any responsibility for making sure that those are enforced?
MR. MCCURRY: I spent half of this briefing talking about the concern and the commitment we have to following closely the situation in Hong Kong. It's obviously not set; it will be an ongoing concern.
Q Back to the rest of the week ahead.
MR. MCCURRY: The President will do his weekly radio address live from the Oval Office tomorrow at 10:06 a.m. The subject will be NetDay and the things that he is doing to challenge Americans to link every classroom in this country to the Internet by the year 2000.
Q Will there be anything special about the --
MR. MCCURRY: There will then be, at 10:30 a.m., a computer video conference with schools participating in NetDay, and you can watch the President and the Vice President interact in telecommunicability.
Q With each other or with somebody else? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Watching them react it a little bit like watching corn grow. You know, you have to stand there a long time. No, that's not true. (Laughter.) They're going to be in the cyberspace. They're going to go ride on the "Infobahn" together. Something. I don't know. What are they doing, Mary Ellen?
MS. GLYNN: They're going to talk to some kids.
MR. MCCURRY: They're going to talk to kids around the country who are doing NetDay and send messages back and forth. And this is another way of saying that the President's going to finally have a computer in the Oval Office. I may bury the lead. Maybe that's the lead.
Q What kind of computer?
Q It's going to be said that day? That's going to be in there permanent?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, we're going to get all kinds of questions.
Q Mac or PC?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. But whatever company that made the computer, I'll bet you they made a donation to our campaign along the way. (Laughter.) It's a dead-certain bet. You had better go find out.
Q Mike, is that computer going to stay there in the Oval Office or did you just bring it in?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he's going to use it. He's going to like try to get computer literate. Al Gore's going to -- have you ever seen Gore's office? He's like fishing around stuff all the time. He's got more gizmos on that than I've ever seen.
Q Is it true, does he not type? That's what I was just about to --
MR. MCCURRY: He types about like I do, like -- like that. Hunting and pecking.
Q He'd better learn because he's not showing a good example.
MR. MCCURRY: He's been hearing that from the Vice President, from Chelsea, and from others for quite some time. So he's got to get with it.
Q Is there coverage of this --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, 10:30 a.m. Stills only? We're just taking pictures?
Q That's not coverage.
MR. MCCURRY: All right. Let me go through the rest of the week. We've got 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, for those who've got pool duty, the President is going out to address the United Auto Workers; general economic discussion, putting out his priorities over at the Sheraton Washington. Monday, no public events; he's got the day off Monday because he's been working Saturday and Sunday. Tuesday, he's --
Q Is that a comp day?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, it's a comp day. (Laughter.) No, flex time. But if he works overtime we would insist on getting equitable pay for -- (laughter). All right. Tuesday is Earth Day. How soon we forget. They're going to go to Anacostia Park and there is a river celebration in honor of Earth Day out at Anacostia Park. The President will be there.
Wednesday, no public events yet. Thursday, no public events yet. Friday, Prime Minister Hashimoto is here, as you know. We've got a working visit with him and I expect around 2:30 p.m. for the Prime Minister and the President to see all of you. Saturday, weekly radio address is broadcast. Saturday night, the President of the United States addresses the White House Correspondents Association.
Q Taking questions? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Only from the Association's president.
Q Stills only. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Stills only.
What else? What else do you want to know about? What else do I need to tell you? Go home. One more, go. Q The Pentagon is doing this recycling thing now. Is the
White House doing it for Earth Day, anything?
MR. MCCURRY: We've been -- we've had a program of recycling here for a long time. I can't tell you a lot about it, but I know I have to throw away all my white paper in a special place. And we do cans and we do other stuff. The Vice President instituted -- started doing a lot on recycling four years ago.
All right, have a good weekend everybody. See you all.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:35 P.M. EDT