THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts) _______________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 26, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY BARRY TOIV
Edgartown Elementary School Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
11:50 A.M. EDT
MR. TOIV: Good morning. A few announcements first. The pool switch time will probably be pushed back a little bit today, given the late start. We'll let you know how late.
Secondly, the President will address the United Nations General Assembly on September 22nd. We will overnight the 21st in New York, and as many of you know, this will follow directly on travel to California. We'll go directly from California to New York. No more details on California; no more details on any further travel. And there will be sign-up sheet here and in Washington for the New York part of this trip today.
Q For the opening of the session?
MR. TOIV: Yes, for the opening of the General Assembly. I think the actual opening of the General Assembly is about a week ahead of that.
Q Does he have --
MR. TOIV: Not at this time.
The third thing I wanted to announce is we will have paper in a little while, I hope -- the White House is pleased to announce that Audrey Haynes will be the new Director of the White House Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach. Audrey works for the Governor of Kentucky. She is the Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet for Health Services in the state of Kentucky. Let me actually give you her middle name. I'm not sure how it's pronounced -- Tayse.
Q What's the President doing today?
MR. TOIV: The pool will know shortly, when they get out there. But there will be some activities today.
Also, the White House is very pleased at the results of a poll that were released today by Phi Delta Kappa and the Gallup organization on education issues. As you may already be aware, their poll suggests that there is really a very strong consensus among the American people in support of high national standards for education and specifically for standardized national testing to measure students' achievements. I'm sure they've already released their numbers, but 77 percent of the public is supportive of national standards; 67 percent are supportive of national testing; and 57 percent are specifically supportive of the President's proposal. And so we're very pleased about that.
As you know, there have been some concerns raised about the President's proposal, but we think that not only does it have the support of the American people, but we believe that those standards and establishing national tests will improve students' performance in the long run and prepare our kids for the challenges of the 21st century.
And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.
Q Barry, what has the White House been told about the reported defections of two North Korean diplomats?
MR. TOIV: I don't have anything for you on that, Mark. I believe the State Department will have something to say about that today, though.
Q The President was not informed of that this morning?
MR. TOIV: I didn't say that. I said the State Department will have something to say about this today. I will say the President, as you know, as I've repeatedly said here, the President is being kept fully informed on all national security issues.
Q Are you going to let the State Department tell us that the President was informed while he was in Martha's Vineyard when they tell us anything? Wouldn't you want to do that yourself?
MR. TOIV: Well, I just said that the President is being kept fully informed on all national security issues. But as far as having anything to say about this specific issue, the State Department is going to have something to say this afternoon.
Q Are you able to confirm these defections?
MR. TOIV: That's all I have to say about it, Mark.
Q Well, Barry, was the President told specifically about this this morning?
MR. TOIV: That's all I have to say about it at this time.
Q Is there some great mystery here?
Q Barry, you don't understand. We're trying to steal this story away from our State Department colleagues, okay. (Laughter.) I'd like to lay it out here -- let's just get it on the table. There's nothing going on here --
MR. TOIV: We're not going to let you.
Q -- we want the story.
MR. TOIV: And we're not going to let you.
Q And they -- to Martha's Vineyard. (Laughter.)
Q -- for Barbra Streisand's wedding.
MR. TOIV: I'm going to resist the temptation.
Q Why did the President flip-flop on his decision to let people have their airbags disconnected?
MR. TOIV: I'm not sure why you would suggest that.
Q Well, let's see. I need to quote my colleagues here in the USA Today. The federal regulators "retreating from a plan to let mechanics disconnect their bags."
MR. TOIV: Those issues are under consideration at the Transportation Department. NHTSA -- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- has a comprehensive initiative to increase the benefits of airbags while reducing their potential risk. And they've also proposed allowing vehicles owners concerned about potential risk to disconnect their airbags. That proposal is currently in rule-making, and no final decisions have been made. We do expect a final rule fairly soon, though. I think any story that suggests that a decision has been made on this issue would not be accurate.
Q Can you tell us what it is the President is proposing? When you say to allow owners to disconnect, can you --
MR. TOIV: That's what the proposal is, as I understand it. To tell you the truth, I don't have any further detail on it, Ann, but I'd be happy to get it for you.
Q And so you believe the rule-making --
MR. TOIV: The rule-making process is ongoing.
Q It will let owners disconnect --
MR. TOIV: That's the proposal that's under consideration.
Q Did the President, as one report this morning has it, bring some options on Social Security reform to Martha's Vineyard to study?
MR. TOIV: I'm going to have to check on that. I'm going to check on that.
Q Did he party with Stallone last night? Was he there -- is the newspaper right? Do you know what Stallone read?
MR. TOIV: What he read? My understanding is that there was something resembling dialogue from his latest movie.
Q Was it a lot of --
Q Could you give us a few lines of it, Barry?
MR. TOIV: I don't have it. I think you would want to check with the producers of film to find out what occurred, since I believe it was their thing.
Q Any plans to travel off island for Labor Day festivities anywhere?
MR. TOIV: No plans at this time. I can tell you that I'm sure you'll all be interested to know that the Vice President will be traveling to Moline, Illinois, for Labor Day for their annual traditional Labor Day celebration, and Labor Secretary Alexis Herman will also be there, as will John Sweeney, the head of the AFL-CIO.
Q Where again?
MR. TOIV: Moline -- I think it was Moline, Illinois. Somebody correct me if I'm saying that wrong.
Q Was that an invitation to the President which he had then asked the Vice President --
MR. TOIV: I don't know the answer to that one. Yes, it is Moline, Illinois.
Q Is travel being restricted because you're running out of money and you're at the end of the fiscal year for staff to accompany the President and so forth?
MR. TOIV: There's no plans for traveling at this time, and as you know, Mark, as you are painfully aware, the President is on a three-week vacation.
Q No, but I meant between now and the end of the fiscal year, September 30th? We had -- a few weeks ago McCurry confirmed that you only had about $40,000 left of your $800,000 travel budget.
MR. TOIV: We are always careful with our travel dollars.
Q But has travel been put off because you're running short, do you know?
MR. TOIV: I don't know. I just announced travel.
Q Yes, you said that. So you're not aware --
MR. TOIV: There's only a month left in the fiscal year, and we're away for the first week and I've just announced another trip before the end of the month.
Q It would be unusual for the President not to have an event on Labor Day, though, certainly.
Q I think the question is, can you definitively say that money has no role in whether or not the President will travel on Labor Day?
MR. TOIV: I'm not aware of any role that money might have in that, but there's no plan for any travel at this time.
Q While we're on the Vice President, there is a story today about Americans being deeply skeptical of the administration's claim that global warming is underway and needs to be addressed. There's really not that much time once the President gets back to Washington between December when you folks have to announce some plan, and presumably you have to announce it even before December. What are you guys going to do? Are there any presidential events planned? Is there any -- when is this campaign going to get underway?
MR. TOIV: I will have to check to see what further events are planned related to global warming. There certainly will be other comments by the President on this issue. He will definitely continue to speak out on it. We're well aware that not a lot of attention has been paid to this issue. The President is well aware that he needs to do a lot to make sure that people understand all of the issues involved.
Q Do you folks think that two or three months is sufficient time to convince the American people that they need to cap their emissions from fossil fuels?
MR. TOIV: We're certainly going to do -- the President's going to do whatever he feels is necessary to explain the issues to the American people, and also to consult with appropriate organizations, with members of Congress and with others and with the business community, obviously, as we head up towards the Kyoto Summit.
Q Barry, do you plan any more personnel announcements today? Because I understand that William Ferris may be the new chairman of the National Endowment --
MR. TOIV: We don't plan any further announcements today.
Q Is that true?
MR. TOIV: We're not prepared to make any announcements on that particular position. Dr. Ferris is somebody who is a well-respected scholar, but we're not prepared to make any announcements with regard to the Endowment.
Q Does the President plan to attend the discussion on race here on Friday night?
MR. TOIV: No plans for doing that.
Q So we should not expect that he would add that to his itinerary on Friday?
MR. TOIV: I wouldn't expect it at this time.
Q How about the event Friday afternoon for Dorothy West? Is he planning to attend that?
MR. TOIV: I'll have to check on that. I'll be honest with you, I suspect that if he were to do that, we wouldn't let you know ahead of time, anyway. But I'm not aware of any plans for that.
Q How many more incidents have to happen on Mir before we get the American astronauts off there, and are you not making a political decision by continuing to keep the staff there so that the Russian -- because of the Russian participation in the Space Station?
MR. TOIV: Obviously, we make those decisions -- the safety factor is obviously the critical factor for us in determining whether an American astronaut goes on the Mir. The decision as to -- obviously, that's an ongoing decision, but NASA does not see fit to take an astronaut off of the Mir. The decision as to whether the current astronaut is replaced by a new American astronaut is still -- NASA is still examining that question.
Q Is it purely a space and safety question, or are there political and foreign policy considerations to that decision?
MR. TOIV: The Mir program provides a myriad of benefits to -- and our participation in the Mir program provides a myriad of benefits to both countries. But the primary factor for us in terms of having an astronaut on board is safety.
Q Is there any White House involvement in that decision-making process, or is it strictly left to NASA?
MR. TOIV: There will be White House involvement. Jack Gibbons, the President's Science Advisor, is working with NASA on that issue, and he will make a recommendation to the President at an appropriate time.
Q He'll make the recommendation, Barry, on whether the astronaut is replaced?
MR. TOIV: Yes.
Q That will be a presidential decision?
MR. TOIV: In the end, it will be, yes. *
Q Do you know if the President was briefed on this latest -- the oxygen problem they've had on Mir?
MR. TOIV: Yes, this is part of his briefing every day on the -- part of his national security briefing is the events on the Mir, and so, yes, he's fully updated.
Q -- expression of concern about that?
MR. TOIV: Not aware of any, no -- other than, obviously, the President continues to be concerned and is keeping updated on it, but I don't have any new words for you.
Q Do you have an update on when Chelsea gets back?
MR. TOIV: No. What we said last week still holds -- we expect her back sometime this week.
Q Did the President ever have any reaction to the Florida tobacco settlement yesterday? Did he ever respond? Did he ever express himself on the settlement of the Florida tobacco case yesterday?
MR. TOIV: He's aware of it, but I don't know that he had any specific reaction to it.
Q Barry, can you give us any illumination of what the First Lady does when he's off golfing? Is she doing anything out of the compound?
MR. TOIV: She has spent almost all of her time, other than the times that you have seen the two of them traveling about, she has spent most of her time at the residence, reading. She's been doing a lot of walking on the residence grounds and just basically relaxing. She has -- I'm only aware of one separate trip she's taken, and that is two days ago she went for a walk around Oak Bluffs and I think she did a little shopping there.
Q Was she alone?
MR. TOIV: I'm not aware of any friends she's had in, no.
Q Was the walk -- was she with a friend --
MR. TOIV: No, I think she had one staffer with her. I think Capricia went walking with her.
Q Is it true that she is looking for a permanent family vacation home here on this off-shore island?
MR. TOIV: I've answered that question several times already. I'm not aware of any such plans.
Any others? Thank you.
Q No, thank you.
END 12:07 P.M. EDT