THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:41 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Little me start with one or two things. First, good news in from Kinshasa. Ambassador Bill Richardson, as some of you know, has just announced a short while ago, after meeting this morning with President Mobutu, that President Mobutu and Laurent Kabila, who is the leader of the Alliance faction, will meet aboard a South African naval vessel in international waters off Gabon on Friday.
South Africa will be the host of the meeting. Ambassador Richardson will be there at the beginning. This is a very significant step forward in our goal of attempting to mediate a resolution of the conflict between the two factions. Our hope, of course, is that discussions can lead to some cease-fire, to a suspension of the violence that has led to the displacement of so many refugees and so many deaths of innocent civilians in Zaire, particularly eastern Zaire. And, of course, we also hope these discussions will begin the transitional process that can lead to a government that will be elected in free and fair elections.
So I wanted to share that good news and share the President's compliment to Ambassador Richardson for achieving this agreement for a meeting.
Q Did Kabila seem open to the idea of a cease-fire?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I can't comment on what the parties might say to each other once they meet. They have said various things publicly, as you know and there will still be significant work ahead diplomatically to encourage both a cease-fire and a resolution of their differences.
Q Can I change the subject?
MR. MCCURRY: Of course.
Q Is the White House open to a broader base capital gains tax cut than the simple $500,000 capital gains tax cut the President proposed?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has a capital gains tax cut proposal, as you know. It deals with homeownership; it would make it easy for virtually everyone selling a house -- except for veyr, very high-income individuals or very high proceeds from a sale of property. But we also simultaneously know we have to be flexible, and we all understand the Republican side's interest in the capital gains question. That will be among many issues that both sides will discuss as they continue these talks.
Q Does the same thing hold for estate tax relief?
MR. MCCURRY: Almost. We've got our own ideas on estate tax reform, particularly as it affects people who are trying to transfer family farm property within a family. But, again, we are trying to keep open and flexible as we proceed in these discussions.
Q So you're flexible on the estate tax? This is all -- everything is still on the table?
MR. MCCURRY: We are exploring ideas with the other side and trying to remain flexible and continue to have discussions in good faith.
Q Mike, on broader capital gains, would the President prefer that a compromise would benefit individuals rather than businesses?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not going to attempt to get that specific here. There are discussions underway; they have been good and productive. And one of the reasons that we think they've proceeded in a productive way is that we haven't tried to negotiate our points in public.
Q What are the chances for a deal this week?
MR. MCCURRY: They are uncertain.
Q Any meetings scheduled today, as far as you know?
MR. MCCURRY: I think there are meetings going on right now, in fact. There have been meetings around the clock.
Q Meetings between whom?
MR. MCCURRY: Between us and them, between us and us, between -- (laughter.)
Q Between them and them?
MR. MCCURRY: Meetings within the White House.
Q Is the President involved in any of these meetings?
MR. MCCURRY: He's following it very carefully, has been contributing and has been on the phone on and off as warranted.
Q You meant literally, Mike, around the clock?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as you know, we had a lot of folks from the White House that were up on the Hill pretty late last night and were back up there late this morning. And we expect discussions will continue in various venues throughout the day.
Q Well, how would you say progress on the "us and us" talks are coming? Are you selling this to Democrats?
MR. MCCURRY: We've had very good, productive conversations with our Democratic friends in the House and the Senate. There are different points of view. Some of them have talked publicly about some of the points of view that they've shared, but we consult closely with them and share the President's thinking and give them some sense of what direction we're headed.
Q Well, would you say that you have a proposal that you could predict would get a majority of Democrats?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that the President's goal remains an agreement that eventually when voted upon would gain a majority in both the House and Senate Democratic caucuses. But we certainly expect that we'll have to spend considerable amount of time if we get an agreement making the case for the merits of the agreement.
Q When are the President's phone calls warranted in this process? To do what, to get what done?
MR. MCCURRY: I mentioned yesterday that he obviously talks from time to time with Senator Lott, and I imagine, if there is going to be an agreement at some point, the President would need to be directly involved in some fashion.
Q But have there been over the last 24 hours or so points where he has had to get involved to move something forward?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe he's talked to Senator Lott at least once -- maybe just outside 24 hours ago.
Q Is the White House still insisting that the Medicare home health payments be moved out of the trust fund?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm just not going to attempt to answer questions at that level of detail.
Q Mike, is there a change, or what's the latest position on the estate tax cap going to $1 million?
MR. MCCURRY: Again, same answer -- I'm not going to try to cover the substantive detail of conversations that are fluid and ongoing.
Q Is the President concerned that his threat to veto a supplemental spending bill that has the CR attached to it would in any way harm the budget talks that are underway?
MR. MCCURRY: No, our concern is the reverse of that, that the presentation at this important moment of an idea like that seems designed not in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that has attended to the talks so far. That seems to be an effort to jam the President into -- forcing him to accept Republican budget priorities as a way of keeping the government open. And I think we've been down that road before and we know that that's not a successful way to do business.
Q And there is no question he would veto the supplemental if it had the CR or the EO defunding attached?
MR. MCCURRY: We notified the Senate yesterday that, in the form that the disaster supplemental is currently written, the President would have to veto. And think about that for a minute. I mean, the President just went out and saw all those folks out in the Dakotas who need that disaster relief and that some members of the Congress would hold the fate of those disaster victims hostage to a political element of the budgetary process seems, to us, very unwise. And we would hope that they would recognize that the people who need that disaster relief that comes through the supplemental, they need to get that relief. We need to get the assistance funds out there so that FEMA and other federal agencies can do their work. And they shouldn't be playing politics with a provision that is tacked on that is really related more to what happens if these current budget discussions don't go forward successfully. At the moment, they're going forward successfully and there's no need for that type of end game strategy anyhow.
Q Could you answer her other question about if the executive order, the amendment that negates that is in there, he would also veto it?
MR. MCCURRY: We've got -- I mean, we'll have to see what we actually said formally to them. We object to that provision, obviously. I believe that the veto threat attached to the entire bill as it's written and also applies to that provision. But I want to double-check that.
Q Could you?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q If the White House gets close to a possible budget deal, are you going to canvas Congress to see if the 50-percent threshold of Democratic support is within reach? Or are you going to put it out there and then let the sales campaign begin?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's pretty much what we've been doing. We've been sensing what various members of the caucus feel, how they feel about different types of approaches you might be able to take if you were going to close the gaps that exist now. And we believe we would be able to get there in the end of the day to a majority, but we know we'd have to work it.
Q And if at the end of week the sides are still very close and the talks seem productive, is there any kind of practical impediment of the President going out of town, or can talks continue even with him gone?
MR. MCCURRY: Realistically, he could be reached in a moment's notice, if need be. I think everyone's sense here is that things will either come together or won't sooner than that.
Q Mike, does the President have any doubt that China's promise that Hong Kong will be more free when it takes over -- does he have any doubt about that claim made today?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have any doubt that the entire international community will press hard to make sure that China honors its commitments in the 1984 Sino-British joint declaration and basic law. We told them that we certainly expect that, the world expects that. And they've acknowledged that they believe the individual liberties and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong will prosper just as the economy of Hong Kong has prospered after the tansfer. But, obviously, that -- we'll be well advised to watch very carefully how the transition occurs. It will be a subject of keen interest.
Q The President said he was satisfied with what he heard today. What did he hear?
MR. MCCURRY: On Hong Kong?
MR. MCCURRY: Pretty much exactly that -- an assurance that there would be no diminution of freedom and liberty; in fact, that the individual citizens of Hong Kong would prosper and be better off as a result of the transfer.
Q Did the President raise the issue of concerns of China's involvement in campaign fundraising in the United States during his meeting with the Foreign Minister?
MR. MCCURRY: He raised it briefly by reiterating the concern expressed by the Secretary of State Monday.
Q Did they address the Spratley Islands?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge. You should really check at the State Department; my understanding is that's where they work that issue, if it was worked.
Q What about MFN? Did he reassure the Chinese the U.S. would work to extend MFN this year, and did he express any concern about China's trade surplus?
MR. MCCURRY: They did both of those subjects -- the current trade issues that we're dealing with with respect to China, and also -- what was the other issue, Steve?
Q Trade surplus.
MR. MCCURRY: MFN, yes. Both of those the President said he intends to address later this year in the fashion that we've said, and we do expect to continue to work through some of the trade issues that we have under negotiate.
Q On that topic, what's the White House's view of Gingrich's call for a shorter-than-usual MFN extension?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there is a lot of debate about that. I mean, that would really require a change in the Jackson-Vanik procedure and Congress would have to consider that. That's not something that we can implement on our own. We implement the law as it's written, which is currently an annual review.
Q What's your position on it? Is it a good idea or a bad idea?
MR. MCCURRY: Our position is that the annual review has allowed us to look at the questions related to immigration that have to be part of the MFN review process and that currently works satisfactorily to protect our interests in orderly migration, immigration.
Q It doesn't sound like your opposed to a shorter MFN.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we'll just see if it goes anywhere. We're not certain that that's really likely to head anywhere in Congress.
Q How much confidence does the President put on China's reassurances? Does he think their past track record gives them the benefit of the doubt, or does he view this skeptically?
MR. MCCURRY: He views our process of engagement with them as the best way to produce the kind of change that we seek.
Q But when they offer reassurances on Hong Kong, does he find that encouraging or does he think that it's not worth much?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that he feels that it's encouraging. But, as I said, we are well advised to watch carefully.
Q Mike, Gingrich seems to be driven by more skepticism of promises made that Hong Kong will be free in his threats on MFN. Is the White House telling Gingrich that it's pressing its view that you believe Beijing, that he shouldn't be as concerned as he is, he shouldn't be as worried as he is?
MR. MCCURRY: I, frankly, don't know whether we've had any direct conversation with the Speaker on that, but I assume that he's familiar with the administration's views on that, we've expressed it publicly.
Q Reno said today that Freeh briefed Berger on national security matters and tried to clear up what the President has a right to know. Is she saying there's been another Freeh-Berger briefing?
MR. MCCURRY: She said -- as I told you yesterday, we're confident the Attorney General has taken steps to make sure that we have got the information that we need to conduct foreign policy. And after some of the concerns we had about certain allegations that appeared in the press, we did arrange to have the FBI Director and the National Security Advisor just review the information available.
Q When did that happen?
MR. MCCURRY: Monday, Monday.
Q And did he review the information that was given to the Senate Intelligence Committee that was reported in The Washington Post --
MR. MCCURRY: They discussed that briefing, but I'm not going to get into the substance of the briefing.
Q Did Berger get the same amount of a briefing as the lawmakers did?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't know what briefing they gave the lawmakers. But we're satisfied that the Attorney General and the Director have taken steps to make sure the President has the information he needs to conduct foreign policy and deal with national security questions.
Q The President did not ask, is this the same briefing you gave those other folks?
MR. MCCURRY: They covered that subject generally; I'm just not specifically going to reveal what was given in a classified briefing.
Q Is it safe to say the White House got more information than it had before Monday's briefing?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Mike, how much of the discussion with the Chinese Foreign Minister related to this campaign -- alleged campaign influence issue?
MR. MCCURRY: Probably about 30 seconds. Remember, the issue was addressed in greater detail by the Secretary of State.
Q What was the response?
MR. MCCURRY: The one that he has given publicly.
Q Mike, you were saying that you did not learn anything -- the administration did not learn anything more on Monday than it knew before?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't want to say that necessarily, because I don't -- I'm not familiar enough with every specific content of the briefing to say that. But as a general proposition, that would be the case.
Q Has the President's view changed? In the news conference, he suggested that these were all pretty iffy, that they were just allegations, that no one really had any proof, though we've been led to believe that the intelligence reports were much more concrete than that.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know who's leading to believe that, but I think the Attorney General has addressed some of that already today in her testimony.
Q Has the President been watching any of the hearings?
MR. MCCURRY: No. He got a report, just a brief report on that.
Q What about Specter's rather strong statement that the White House is still not completely in the loop?
MR. MCCURRY: I've just given you indications otherwise.
Q What are some of the particulars that the White House is looking for in this report that's due back in 60 days from McCaffrey and Reno on the disparity in sentencing for cocaine versus crack?
MR. MCCURRY: I think they want to look specifically to that question of whether that current disparity, which I think is in the ratio of about 100 to 1, if it's tightened down, as suggested, to a high of 15 to 1, or even less than that -- whether that will bring greater balance and fairness in the applications of sentences -- whether that's seen as effective law enforcement strategy, and then also, obviously, whether it's effective drug control strategy as well. We need to protect both the public health interests and also the law enforcement interests.
Q Mike, the police officers who were involved in that L.A. shootout are in town today advocating legislation that would make body armor by mail illegal. Would the White House support in principle that sort of legislation?
MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check carefully here before I answer that. I think it's something we might be interested in, but I don't know -- to my knowledge, we haven't taken a position on it.
Q Mike, I just want to go back to your answer about the briefing on Monday. I'm just unclear on what you're saying in response to the question whether or not the White House learned more at that briefing than it knew before.
MR. MCCURRY: As I said earlier, I said I don't want to suggest there may have not been some new information, but I think it was generally consistent with what we have told you in the past.
Q Who else besides --
Q So maybe some new information, but not significant new information --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to characterize significant or insignificant.
Q The President in his press conference says he assumes that whatever he is given, Congress is also given. Does he assume that whatever Congress is given, he is also given?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q And what about any of the participants in the Berger-Freeh meeting besides Berger and Freeh?
MR. MCCURRY: The Deputy National Security Advisor was there, and I'd have to check and see if there were any other NSC staffers there. Only NSC staffers, to my knowledge, participated.
Q To follow Mara's question, why does he assume that he gets the same information Congress gets? Did Berger ask, are we getting the same information? Or is it literally an assumption.
MR. MCCURRY: It's more our interest here was really the other way around. We wanted to make sure, in light of allegations and in light of the criminal investigation, that nothing be provided to the White House that wasn't simultaneously shared with the House and the Senate. And, obviously, it's the Attorney General's job to make sure the President has the information he needs with respect to national security and foreign policy matters.
Q Well, that's why I'm curious that you answered her question so definitively, that you assume that the White House is getting the same information that Congress does.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Why do you assume that?
MR. MCCURRY: Because that's the Attorney General's job.
Q I know, but there have been questions in the past about whether --
Q The Attorney General's job is to make sure you can get out foreign policy, not to give you the same information that the Hill's getting, isnt' it?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q It could be different --
MR. MCCURRY: No. The information is the information.
Q Wasn't there a concern raised earlier that because it involved Democratic Party fundraising there might be a conflict if they provided certain information to the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: No, because we never asked, nor sought any information that would impede or interfere with any criminal investigation that they're conducting.
Q So, again, did Berger or anybody here --
MR. MCCURRY: We asked for national security foreign policy information.
Q Did anybody here ask the FBI or the Attorney General, is this the same information that was given to --
MR. MCCURRY: I said already two or three times that they covered the same ground that was covered in the briefing that was given on the Hill.
Q So there were no restrictions on passing this information up the chain of command from --
M. MCCURRY: It was given to the top of the chain of command at the National Seucrity Council.
Q There was a report over the weekend that Berger was seething when he learned about this Freeh-Reno briefing last week to the intelligence --
MR. MCCURRY: I think there was an effort made to clear up any misunderstandings. The was one of the purposes of the meeting.
Q Mike, people following the hearings on the Hill today, following this line of questioning of the briefing today might want to know why it has taken going on five years for the adminsitration to iron out procedures on something as simply as how different agencies communicate with each other and with the wWhite House.
MR. MCCURRY: It hasn't. I mean, there is an ongoing process of exchanging information and making sure that the President has the information that he needs to conduct affairs that he's constitutionally responsible for.
Q Shouldn't that be a given?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that you have to make sure that your systems work all the time. And that's one of the things we've done here. And we, frankly, have had to clear up some misunderstandings that are based, as the Attorney General said today, on reporting that is at least in some part, inaccurate, which is sometimes part of the problem.
Q Excuse me, what's inaccurate?
MR. MCCURRY: Reporting, newspaper reporting, as the Attorney General said.
Q Did the meeting take place here in the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe so, yes.
Q Is the President planning a new peace initiative for the Middle East, like all his predecessors did before him, if and when?
MR. MCCURRY: He is already deeply engaged in a peace initiative that flows from the Madrid process, flows from the work that we have done with respect to the declaration of principles and then also to the Madrid formula for advancing a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. And our diplomacy is quite active in the pursuit of our aim.
Q Mike, you were supposed to tell us who was involved in the tobacco meetings earlier today and who came and who met with whom?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are bunch of meetings back and forth today and I think all the sides have been participating. There have also been some people here from HHS just to look at some of the questions about how -- what some of the implications are of the recent court ruling and how we can best advance the President's public health objectives.
Q These are the Bruce Lindsey meetings?
MR. MCCURRY: Also, the Solicitor General was here this morning also to talk about how to advance the appeal -- say again?
MS. GLYNN: He first went to speak to the Solicitor General.
MR. MCCURRY: He went over to Justice. He met with the Solicitor General at Justice to talk about how to appeal those provisions of the North Carolina case that we indicated that we would appeal.
Q -- release a list of names to us?
Q Can you be more specific about who met with whom here at the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: I can, if you need me to. I mean, we had some HHS representatives, not named here, just to talk about general public health issues. There was a representative of Liggett here. There was a meeting of the -- there will be a meeting late this afternoon with all the parties together involving the attorneys general, including Attorney General Moore; Mr. Carlton, who is a lawyer for the tobacco companies, and lawyers for the plaintiffs.
Q Including Hugh Rodham?
MR. MCCURRY: Hugh Rodham and John Cole.
Q What time is that meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: 5:00 p.m.
Q It should last about how long?
MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea.
Q And that's with Bruce?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Anybody else besides Bruce?
MR. MCCURRY: I think only Bruce.
Q -- what they're going to talk about?
MR. MCCURRY: They're going to talk, obviously, about the status of some of the discussions that have been underway between those parties and the meeting that the attorneys general had over the weekend.
Q But Bruce is only monitoring and not facilitating or mediating or negotiating?
MR. MCCURRY: He's monitoring and I think in this case has brought them together for a discussion that they're having. I don't know whether that's at their initiative or our initiative.
Q Is this the first time that there will be this three-way meeting in the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: No, there's been one that we reported to you last week.
Q So that sounds like facilitating, correct?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's actively monitoring.
Q Mike, did the President and the Foreign Minister today discuss food aid to North Korea, the four-way talks?
MR. MCCURRY: Can you do that?
Q -- regarding North Korea.
MR. JOHNSON: The discussion centered around the preparations that we all have underway, have a successful visit in the fall. But the topics concentrated on human rights, Hong Kong, nonproliferation and trade issues. The security issues on the Peninsula were not part of the President's discussion, but they have been a large part of the discussions which have been held before by the Secretaries of State and Defense and the National Security Advisor.
Q Dave, on that, has the Foreign Minister been able to corroborate to any of the people that you just mentioned some of the more dire reports from the Chinese border on a North Korean famine?
MR. JOHNSON: That specific issue has not been raised during the meetings that I've been in. It may have been raised to the State Department. You may want to ask there.
Q Did they specifically talk about China's arms relationship with Iran today?
MR. JOHNSON: They talked about nonproliferation and the need to work together in order to limit proliferation to areas of instability, including Iran. But bear in mind, this was the President's discussion and the detailed nature of those types of questions have been handled at other venues.
Q Do you have logistics for the fall meeting?
MR. JOHNSON: It's going to be here, and it will be in the fall. (Laughter.) I presume you were looking for a date; no, I don't.
Q You said late fall.
MR. JOHNSON: I think it's going to be right in the middle of the fall, myself, but -- (laughter).
Q The meeting between the heads of government, the heads of state --
MR. JOHNSON: The state visit of the Chinese President here to Washington, yes.
Q There was speculation that it would come either before or right after the APEC meeting, which I believe is in Vancouver; is that correct?
MR. JOHNSON: It's in Vancouver during Thanksgiving week, and I'm sure it will be either before or after that meeting. (Laughter.)
Q Will it be immediately attached?
MR. JOHNSON: It will be in the fall. We hope to work out some specific dates soon through diplomatic channels, but we don't have anything to announce.
Q In the human rights discussion, was there anything new?
MR. JOHNSON: I don't think so, but what we want to do is, as we move toward the summit, we want to have the summit be an opportunity where we can talk about making progress on things. And one of the things we want to be able to talk about making progress on is human rights. And the President's meeting was an effort to set the stage for that type of discussion.
Q Sometimes the Chinese get quite belligerent in response when we raise these questions and say -- and make accusations about the U.S. record on various subjects. Was there any attempt at rejoinder when he raised human rights?
MR. JOHNSON: No, this was, I think, a quite civil discussion.
Q Did he not respond, or what was the response?
MR. JOHNSON: I think the Chinese share the idea of trying to make progress on human rights. I think where we have work to do is defining mutually what that progress is.
Q Let me just follow up on that question. Do they ever say human rights is a two-way problem, that they would like to see the U.S. do something on issues -- human rights perhaps concerning Chinese?
MR. JOHNSON: Like your colleague, I've heard reports of those reports, but that was not part of the discussion today.
Q David, the Chinese Foreign Minister, I guess it was Monday in a speech, mentioned that he'd like to have a U.S.-China nuclear peace accord prepared by the fall visit. Do you know what that is and was that discussed this morning?
MR. JOHNSON: He's talking about the 1985 peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We, too, would like to have everything in place so that that could go forward, but there are certain nonproliferation issues that we have to have ironed out, and it will be our goal to do that. But it remains to be seen whether or not we can achieve that, but that certainly would be a good outcome to have.
Q Was it discussed this morning?
MR. JOHNSON: It was alluded to; I think it might be inaccurate to say it was discussed.
MR. MCCURRY: I want to go back to one question earlier on the -- the question of the EEO provision on the disaster supplemental; it's not currently in the bill. We strongly oppose any effort to attach it to the bill because we strongly oppose any provision to delimit the President's executive authority in that matter. So the veto question is a moot question at this point, but it's obviously a provision that we strongly oppose.
Q Did the administration have any role at all in the EEOC decision regarding people with psychological or other mental problems?
MR. MCCURRY: In the sense that we oversee the implementation of the law, the Americans for Disability Act was passed in 1990. The President was strongly supportive of it and obviously oversees the implementation of the law. These guidelines, which were publicly released back in March somehow or other caught The New York Times' attention, but that has been part of the routine provision of guidance to employers among others as they implement the act and make sure that people are complying with the act.
Q Is there any concern about how the federal government will have to comply with what kind of steps would have to be taken?
MR. MCCURRY: We have to comply with the terms of the law as to private employers as well, and you would have to check at OPM and see how they are going about doing that.
Q Mike, are the First Parents paying full fare at Stanford?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what the terms of their agreements are.
Q Does she have a scholarship?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know.
Q Mike, last week, Democrats on the House Commerce Committee sent the President a letter saying they wanted to meet with him to talk about the ozone particulate rules, and they have not gotten any kind of response back. Is there any effort to put together a meeting with the President, or is someone else going to meet with them, do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: You should check with the CEQ on that and check with Katie McGinty. My guess is they're probably working through the issue over there.
Q Just out of curiosity, do you know of any senior staffers who went to Stanford?
MS. GLYNN: Maria Echavesta.
MR. MCCURRY: Did she? Are you sure? I know Warren Christopher did, but I don't know --
Q Does this represent a major embarrassment to those who went to Princeton University? (Laughter.)
Q That was going to be the follow-up.
MR. MCCURRY: I think that she had a number of excellent choices, as the President said earlier.
Q Can you confirm now that the President will have some vacation in Spain this summer, and do you have anything already about the meeting between the President and Mr. Aznar?
Q No, and no, other than that obviously the President was very much looking forward to meeting with Prime Minister Aznar. He expected to cover a range of bilateral issues as well as issues related to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, expected them to spend a lot of time reviewing what we'll do in Madrid this summer at the NATO Summit, and discuss issues related to European integration and other matters.
How are we doing on a readout on this, by the way?
MR. JOHNSON: We will get some material together for those who are interested.
Q The briefing on Mexico will be tomorrow, on camera?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll do it at 2:30 p.m. We're going to bring out Secretary Rubin, the National Security Advisor, General McCaffrey and Mack McLarty, Special Ambassador.
Q On camera?
MR. MCCURRY: Here, on camera, live in color at 2:30 p.m. That's right.
Q Mike, is the President doing anything tomorrow other than his evening speeches?
MR. MCCURRY: No. He's got a routine office schedule, no public events aside from the dinner, and obviously closely monitoring any budget discussions that are underway.
Q Mike, nothing at the OAS? Somebody was floating the idea? No?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I've heard, no.
Q There was a report on human rights in Mexico today. Is that one of the subjects that the President is going to bring upon in his trip to Mexico?
MR. MCCURRY: That has been a subject that we have addressed within the context of the binational commission. Our view, we have not examined this America's Watch report yet, but our own views on the human rights situation generally in Mexico is covered annually in our human rights report and was so in January in the most recent report. We have our own assessment of human rights conditions and think favorably on the improvements that have occurred over the last decade in the human rights situation there, while acknowledging that there are concerns that we have that we raise directly with the Mexican government.
Q Is Nick Burns' nomination in any trouble?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that we've ever said that he's been nominated anywhere. But on that general subject, he was here at the NSC, ran a good interagency process with respect to the newly independent countries, among other things; never acted dishonorably or never acted independently of an interagency process that included senior ranking members of the State Department and other agencies. And anyone who has ever listened to him or spend any time with him knows that he is an anti-communist to be sure. And any suggestion to the contrary is bordering on ridiculous enough that I hope it doesn't get pursued further.
Q Does the White House have any comment on the fact that a filibuster is going on after the vote on the Senate floor?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, only the comment that we had that we fully understand those who are determined to get a final confirmation vote on Alexis Herman because she deserves it.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you.
END 2:13 P.M. EDT