THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
11:41 A.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Play ball.
Q When are we going to find out when we leave and what we're supposed to be doing?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll be leaving just after the -- probably about 11:30 p.m. -- I mean, the President's leaving. I think the press charter will leave sometime sooner than that Friday night, probably after the fireworks, arriving Saturday morning in Spain.
Q Is Granada on or off?
Q Is that the President or the press charter?
MR. MCCURRY: That's the press charter and the President. My understanding is the press charter leaves just somewhat prior to, but we'll give you more travel details as they get developed.
Q When does the President arrive in Madrid on Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: Mid-afternoon, I think. Late afternoon.
Q Can we get a schedule, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: They're working on the scheduling and as we always do, we'll pass it on when it's ready.
Q Any further things on what Clinton might be doing July 4th? Still no public events?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard of any public events at this point.
Q Do you know when the President returns to the United States, when does he leave Copenhagen?
MR. MCCURRY: He leaves the 12th, Saturday night, and probably arrives very early Sunday morning here -- correct?
Q Does the President have a bilateral program in Madrid, and if he has, will they discuss --
MR. MCCURRY: He sees Prime Minister Aznar and he will see Secretary General Solana. And then he also, on Monday evening when he arrives, he meets with the NATO observer group that you heard mentioned, and I believe there is a dinner that evening.
Q These are just private meetings, or he's actually making a speech to the observer group? I mean, these are just bilats?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, bilaterals and then a private meeting.
Q There's no public event on Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: No, although I think we'll probably have some -- a photo op or something there. He'll have some formal statement when he arrives in Madrid, and that will be his first public event.
Q Will he discuss with Mr. Aznar the future role of Spain and the military structure?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure that subject will be addressed, although the Spanish government has addressed their own intentions with respect to that issue, and we are encouraged by what they've said.
Q Mike, by now you're probably familiar with the resignation of the Chief Counsel of the House committee that's investigating campaign finance. Given that having -- the way that investigation has been going and given what the Chief Counsel said about his reasons for resignation, are you or is the President worried about the fairness of that investigation and what's going on up there?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has said all along that it's important that these committee inquiries be balanced and that they be fair and that they be aimed to an ultimate purpose, which is to correct any flaws that are determined to exist in the campaign finance system. So, of course, it's of concern when someone who is responsible -- a former U.S. Attorney who has been charged with the responsibility of fairly conducting this inquiry says that he's not allowed to operate in a professional manner. In a way, that's flabbergasting.
Just go back to the Senate Watergate hearings. If Fred Thompson one day had resigned along with two of his investigators and said he wasn't being allowed to conduct himself in a professional manner, there would have been an enormous outcry in this country, and I think it has to be troubling to anyone who wants to see a good, measured approach.
Q Do you have any recourse? Because now --
MR. MCCURRY: No. I mean, we don't --
Q -- with his resignation, they'll just get someone else --
MR. MCCURRY: This is a matter within Congress, within the committee. It is Chairman Burton's responsibility and, goodness knows, he's taken on all of that responsibility himself in some sense to conduct that inquiry, so he needs to deal with that situation.
Q And just one more question. Has the President or anyone here taken up with perhaps the Speaker the reservations about the fairness of the inquiry?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I am aware of. I'd have to check and see. I don't imagine so, but we have cooperated extensively with that committee. We have had negotiations directly with Chairman Burton. We've produced hundreds of thousands of pages worth of documents. We've negotiated with him over issues where we have had some disagreement and we'll continue that level of cooperation. But how the committee structures its own work and who is doing that work I think is Chairman Burton's responsibility and he'll have to address himself to it.
Q What cooperation is the White House giving the Hill, both committees, in terms of bringing Trie and Huang to testify? You probably know where they are, and are you making any moves to bring them back to this country?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have the capacity to go search out people who are represented by counsel --
Q No, you don't, but you probably know where they are.
MR. MCCURRY: -- and bring them in. I don't know whether we do or not.
Q Not you per se, but our government, surely.
MR. MCCURRY: It's not at all clear that anyone knows where they are working, but we've seen what has been suggested. I think the White House Legal Counsel is looking at that and will act on it appropriately.
Q Are you saying that administration officials do not know where they are?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't speak for every single administration official. I'm not aware of anyone who knows where they are, but they've been -- news organizations have interviewed some of these people, so I don't think they're that --
Q You know what I'm asking, Mike. What I'm asking is whether a person in -- Mike --
MR. MCCURRY: Bill. Yes.
Q Do you regard it as a White House job to find those people and bring them back for the committee?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I mean, it's a law enforcement question first and foremost, if there is a desire to seek out those people for legitimate inquiry. But the suggestion has been made -- my understanding is that Chuck Ruff is examining the request and will act on it appropriately.
Q You're talking about the letter from Congressman Burton?
Q I was surprised by the comparison you just made. Does the White House view these investigations as being as sensitive and as significant as the Watergate investigations?
MR. MCCURRY: There have been a lot of parallels drawn by many of you.
Q But that's the first time I've heard you draw that parallel.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I wasn't directly drawing a parallel. I was just saying if you imagine in the context of an inquiry into these types of matters, that that had happened, and think back to that. I doubt that they're going to end up being comparable in the end, but that will be for the American people to judge.
Q Once again, if I could ask --
Q There's increasing irritation among some Republicans on the Hill about what they call "preemptive document dumps" by the White House on these matters. Would you say that's a proper characterization of what the White House --
MR. MCCURRY: We have been -- look, for months and months and months, we've struggled, I've struggled with requests from all of you to answer questions. And we have -- most of the time, we face criticism from you that we have not been producing information as quickly as you want.
MR. MCCURRY: But we try to do our best, and to now be accused of trying to be helpful to respond to news organizations seems a bit odd. I don't know where that -- I mean, one of the functions that we've got here is to respond to proper inquiries that we get from news organizations. That's what we're doing, as we also simultaneously cooperate with the committee.
Q Neither the President, nor any of his senior aides, knows where these people are?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to make a blanket statement like that. That's kind of a silly question.
Q No, it's not a silly question, Mike, given your answer.
Q -- Burton's counsel's decision to resign, who's left in charge now is Dave Bosse (phonetic), who, of course, worked with Floyd Brown on the Willie Horton acts. Does that raise a question? He's been put fully in charge.
MR. MCCURRY: Look, Chairman Burton has to accept some responsibility for the conduct of his staff. I think it depends on how he conducts himself in that position and that's ultimately Chairman Burton's responsibility to address a question like that.
Q But does that raise the concern here that it's going to be just an --
MR. MCCURRY: I would be hard pressed to imagine you all wouldn't raise that issue.
Q Mike, any movement on the release of the Jane Sherburne notes and the other notes that were involved in the Supreme Court case?
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing to new to report on that.
Q Are you going -- can you tell us what the state of play is? Is that going to be released, or are you just saying --
MR. MCCURRY: The same as I said yesterday.
Q Mike, will there be representatives of either the three or the five possible invitees at Madrid? Will they be involved? Will you have the Hungarians, Poles, Czechs involved at any point in the agenda?
MR. MCCURRY: They are represented at some level, I'm not -- we'll have to find out at what level they are represented. I don't know the answer.
Q The other day the Greek Minister of Defense, Apostolos Tsokhatzopoulos, was here at the White House for talks, do you have anything on that?
MR. MCCURRY: I know that he saw the Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, General Don Kerrick and Sandy Vershbow, our Senior Director for European Affairs. They discussed regional issues, including our interest in helping the Greeks and the Turks reduce tensions between two very valued NATO allies; as well as an opportunity to preview the upcoming deliberations on Cyprus that the President has empowered Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to undertake.
Q Mike, did you mean to say that the White House, in the person of Chuck Ruff, is reviewing the request from Congressman Burton that the President direct the Secretary of State to ask China to see if it knows where Charles Yah Lin Trie is?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. He has accepted that communication and is reviewing it and will act on it appropriately.
Q I'm still a little confused on the release of anything. In the past the White House has made fairly dramatic releases of large batches of information that's gone to the Hill. Is that no longer the policy of this --
MR. MCCURRY: We have released documents from time to time, responded to specific inquiries from time to time, helped news organizations that are working on particular aspects of the story and try to be helpful. We'll continue to do all of the above.
Q Mike, can we get a list of the observer group in Madrid, as well, and will that include opponents as well?
MS. LUZZATTO: Yes, well get that.
MR. MCCURRY: It's actually -- it would be better to put out kind of a -- some of them are actually members of the observer group and I think there are one or two who are going just as part of the congressional delegation.
Q Who's actually going with the President Friday night? Who will be with him on the plane?
MR. MCCURRY: The First Lady and that's it, I think. A couple of people just to kind of handle routine traffic over the weekend. But we anticipate no public events, no briefings, no activity while they're down for a couple of days. In fact, I don't even think we're going to have any briefing.
Q Will you be there?
MR. MCCURRY: No, absolutely not. They're on vacation until Monday.
Q To elaborate a little bit on something Sandy Berger said on tomorrow's event, could you elaborate on why the World War II veterans are coming in for tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's important to put the history that's about to be made in Madrid in the context of 50 years of keeping the peace in Europe and the extraordinary sacrifice made by Americans who fought for the freedom and liberty of Europe when it faced the Nazi threat.
I think the history of NATO, its outgrowth from the end of a world war that divided a continent along a new fault line based on totalitarianism versus free markets and democracy is a reminder that the new world that the new world that we live in presents extraordinary opportunities, but new challenges, that must be responded to. And I think linking the history of Madrid to the history of the Alliance and the involvement of the United States on the European continent and defending it, protecting its freedom is an observation well worth making as we think about the President's upcoming trip.
Q Is there a decision on the President addressing the NAACP in Pittsburgh?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think there's a decision yet, or at least we haven't gotten to the point where we're announcing that he's going.
Q Mike, in light of the CBO analysis of the Medicaid health care for children bills, what is the White House going to do in conference to try to make sure that 5 million children are insured?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, first of all, we have some problems with the methodology that CBO used. We think that they're excessively pessimistic as they judge what individual states are going to be able to accomplish as they work through some of the financing that will be available one way or another.
Let me do a little bit on this. Right now we've got at least 30 of the 50 states that are expanding their Medicaid offerings beyond the minimums that are required under current federal law. We've got another 15 states that are proposing expansions to kind of take on more children. So the evidence is that the states are interested in expanding coverage and opportunities to protect children, so the CBO, which has made kind of a negative judgment on the performance by assuming that they wouldn't make that kind of expansion with the new funds that are available, that their analysis yields some numbers that I think we take issue with.
In any event, there is one aspect of this analysis which is important and that we do in a sense agree with CBO on, which is that the degree to which you target the funding and make it clear that it is used for an expansion of existing program activity rather than diverting the money off to other purposes, which the House bill would allow in some circumstances, is useful. We're going to get more coverage if we expand existing coverage under Medicaid. That's one of the reasons why we preferred to do an expansion of Medicaid along the lines that Senator Chafee and Senator Rockefeller were pursuing, as opposed to trying to just turn it into some kind of block grant in which some of the money might be used, or used electively, by a state for other purposes.
Q What about the overlap, the overlap with children who get insurance in some other form or fashion, maybe through their parents? Do you agree with CBO there that there is a significant crossover?
MR. MCCURRY: There may be some overlap, but there are large numbers of uninsured, and we want to target, clearly, the uninsured kids or the kids who don't qualify for any Medicaid coverage. There are sometimes kids within an existing family in which other siblings have got Medicaid-qualified coverage, and that's one of the things we're looking to expand.
Q I think in conjunction with this issue raised by CBO, we've had many other social programs in the past -- federal- state cooperation -- where the feds insisted on the maintenance of effort to prevent the very kind of thing that CBO is projecting here, so that you don't have substitution of new funds for funds that states were already using, either Medicaid or their own. Will the administration, in confidence with the House and Senate, insist on pretty strong maintenance of effort language or the equivalent to prevent that kind of thing?
MR. MCCURRY: Right. Absolutely. The President supports strong provisions on maintenance of effort that would prevent new funds from replacing existing funds that are used for children's health coverage. And we think that states should use the new investment -- the new funds that they get to leverage coverage, not just reduce current spending. And that was one of the problems with the House bill, because they could have put some of their monies off into disproportionate share hospitals, the DSH provision, and we said at the time that that was going to divert funding away from the coverage expansion that we're seeking.
Q Mike, on another children's issue, there is a government study out today that said more children are entering school earlier and then attending college, but at the same time, adolescent smoking and drug use is up. What's the White House read on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Our reaction to that is, it makes all the more imperative to move forward with the public health policy the President has articulated with respect to young people smoking. That's one reason why the sooner we get to a solution that's implemented rather than litigation over the jurisdiction we have, the better we'll be with respect to tobacco use. And it also underscores -- some of the aspects of that study underscore the importance we attach to focusing anti-drug efforts on the youngest population.
Q Mike, there is a story out today that some conservative groups seem to be targeting the President's nominee for civil rights -- and I wonder if you'd seen that and if you have any response, or what kinds of conversations are going on between the White House and Hill over this?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've seen that and it does cause us concern. Bill Lee has got over 20 years of experience in civil rights. He has devoted his entire personal career to the promotion of civil rights, has authored briefs before the Supreme Court, has argued before seven U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal cases. He has, as a litigator, as someone who has demonstrated a civil rights, is someone who can expand our concept of civil rights beyond just matters involving relations between white and black in our society. He is someone who brings a wealth of personal experience and professional experience to the position. And it's hard to imagine that he would be unacceptable in a position that puts first and foremost the protection of the individual rights of Americans, something that I think conservative generally say they embrace.
Q The criticism from those, though, seems to be not for protection, but the fact that perhaps he is asking for the same kind of special protection that Lani Guinier was asking for, and others.
MR. MCCURRY: He is, to my knowledge, someone who supports the President's view that there are tools that need to be available to government to address persistent examples of prejudice and discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere our society. Now, there are some who believe, within the conservative movement, that we have ended racism and ended prejudice and ended discrimination in our society. The President just does not believe that's accurate. So, in that sense, that fight will continue.
This is ultimately a question about whether or not government continues to need tools to address discrimination. That's a fight that the President will have because he believes strongly that government must have those tools and we must have policy-makers who embrace the use of those tools properly and strictly structured to meet the tests that have been placed on us by the Supreme Court.
Q Mike, though it's hard to imagine on Mr. Lee's qualifications that he would have much opposition, here comes the standards question: Does the White House give him unqualified support and is willing to go to the mat for him if he runs into problems?
MR. MCCURRY: Sure.
Q Senator Kerry said yesterday that the Weld nomination in Mexico is in such peril that President Clinton should now personally intercede with Senator Helms on Weld's behalf. Is there any thought being given here to doing that?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, there is thought, a lot of thought being given about how we can best advance the interests of a nominee that the President intends to proceed with because he believes it will be someone who will serve all Americans exceedingly well in the post the President intends to nominate the Governor to.
Q Mike, asked about that several weeks -- a couple weeks ago, maybe a week and a half ago -- I believe officials said that Secretary Albright would have talks with Senator Helms about that. Has she spoken with him?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is she has. They have talked; they have not resolved all the concerns, but we will continue to press his case.
Q Mike, does the President agree with Senator Kerry that he is, indeed, in deep peril?
MR. MCCURRY: In reality, the nomination hasn't been sent to the Hill yet because we've got a process that you go through before we can formally send up a nomination. But when it does, the President will emphasize the importance of acting swiftly on the nomination and underscore the merits of the case for Governor Weld in that position, because it's a very strong one.
Q Is one option, though, for the President to call Helms himself to make the case?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on something like that. I think we'll continue to work -- we try to work very cooperatively with Chairman Helms and his staff. We'll continue to do so. We've got a large volume of nominations that are now moving their way towards the committee, and we want to work closely and cooperatively with him.
Q What's holding up Foley -- Foley to Tokyo?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the same thing. They just -- look, the degree of scrutiny that you have to go through to get one of these nominations, let alone to make it to confirmation, is unparalleled. I don't think there has been a time in the history of our country where you go through that type of scrutiny and that's just the facts of life and the way Washington works now. So it takes time to get that together.
Q Mike, once the process of investigation or whatever is holding up the nomination -- will the nomination be made anyway?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
One last one?
Q Speaking of Governor Weld.
Q Chairman Archer today contended that the President's tax cut proposal only cuts taxes by -- only has a net tax cut of $70 billion, not $85 billion.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with his analysis, but we stand by ours.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:04 P.M. EDT