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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 12, 1997
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                             MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

2:49 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the last daily briefing of our first week back from vacation. No, wait a minute -- is today Friday? Oh good, today's Friday. Suddenly had a lapse there. I think, the President having answered so many questions today, I will be brief at this briefing. There's not much else to do.

Q We could see Governor Weld enter the White House after the hearing today. Did he see the President?

MR. MCCURRY: He sure did. He is here with his wife, and just after the event with Dr. Satcher, the President took the opportunity to visit for a short while with Governor Weld to review the status of the nomination, to assure Governor Weld that we were going to continue to press hard to see if we can't find some way for the Senate to move ahead in a way that clearly, most senators want to move -- which is to get this nomination, somehow or other, to the floor so it can be voted up or down. And we believe if that happens, that Governor Weld will be confirmed, given his extraordinary quality and given the service he can bring to all Americans as he advances the United States' interest in Mexico City.

Q Mike, he said he would call Senator Lott. Has he done it yet?

MR. MCCURRY: He has not. I expect either later today or perhaps sometime over the weekend he will call Senator Lott. And what he will explore with Senator Lott is to see if there is any way in which the work of the Senate can be more effectively done. That's obviously in Senator Lott's neighborhood. And we hope that Senator Lott will also be hearing from members of the Republican Caucus who clearly don't enjoy the kind of spectacle that they had to suffer through today, but maybe as those kinds of conversations unfold, Senator Lott's willingness to consider some way in which this nomination can be advanced will progress.

Q Did the President watch any of today's proceedings? And if he did, did he have any reaction to what he saw?

MR. MCCURRY: He did not. He got a report on it from Deputy Chief of Staff John Podesta, who was there and suffered through it.

Q Did the President have any response?

MR. MCCURRY: The response is pretty much the one that the President already gave you. He believes, given the overall sentiment in the Senate, there ought to be a way for the Senate, the world's greatest deliberative body, to deliberate.

Q Mike, I now understand why the President didn't go the route of a recess appointment during the last recess, but he is not now saying that he is committed not to do a recess appointment were Weld's nomination not to go through before adjournment this year?

MR. MCCURRY: No. I think as he made clear, he held that issue in abeyance because it would be more proper for him to have an opportunity to review that issue with the leadership, with Senator Lott in particular. And we, of course, at this point have no idea when the Senate might adjourn for the year -- we would, of course, prefer that the Senate go about doing its business in an orderly and democratic fashion, which would be to conduct the regular order to bring the nomination before the committee, to have a hearing, and to move it to the floor.

We are encouraged by reports that some senators say perhaps there is a way within Senate rules that they might move ahead somehow or other and get this nomination to the floor. We believe there should be a fair process here and one that gives fairness and dignity to the nominee, as the nominee deserves, as the President deserves.

Q So the President hasn't ruled out a recess appointment in the future?

MR. MCCURRY: Mark, he was very clear in answering that question and said that he would want to weigh many factors before he answered. I'm not going to answer it for him. He chose not to and told you why.

Q Senator Biden is quoted as saying that some senators are asking, why doesn't somebody tell the White House this dog is dead. Other than merely enjoying the spectacle of the Republican in-fighting, why don't you withdraw the nomination?

MR. MCCURRY: Because Bill Weld, a Republican governor who has served the citizens of his state extraordinarily well, who served the people of the United States extraordinarily well when he served in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, is someone who is superbly qualified to advance the interests of all Americans in Mexico.

At a time when Mexico is going through extraordinary political change, at a time when Mexico is learning the reality of dealing with the emergence of a more vigorous democracy, dealing with the reality of a divided government, sending a Republican governor as our representative is a symbol in and of itself that we understand and work well in an environment of divided government ourselves. For all the right reasons, all the reasons of substance that ought to rule the day here, this is an excellent nominee to be ambassador to Mexico. And that is first and foremost in the President's mind. And if there are senators who don't believe that's true, then that debate ought to be held and it could be held vigorously, but is should not be gaveled out of order.

Q Let me follow up if I may. If the cost of doing that, though, is to adversely impact your relationship with Senator Helms and to adversely impact your relationship with Senator Lott, if the cost is bipartisanship, you're saying it's worth it?

MR. MCCURRY: We have from the very first moment that this nomination drew controversy indicated that we would fight hard for Governor Weld, but we would fight fairly. And I think the President clearly expressed his own feelings about Chairman Helms. He has acknowledged the prerogatives that he has as chairman of the committee, acknowledged that we work exceedingly well with him on a whole host of issues. The President is appreciative of the good working environment that Chairman Helms has created on foreign policy issues, and we do not believe that the fair fight for Bill Weld should interfere with other serious foreign policy issues that are in the best interests of all Americans. And I think in the end of the day, Chairman Helms probably will think that's a good way to operate, too, that you can fight, you can fight honorably and fairly, and Chairman Helms is certainly an honorable gentleman.

Q What do you say to Helms' contention that when the Democrats were the majority they routinely held up controversial nominees in exactly the same fashion by not even granting them a hearing?

MR. MCCURRY: We have got some data. We dispute some of the numbers that have been presented by the committee staff through Chairman Helms. Mr. Lockhart can give you some more detail on some of that. We're getting a better accounting of some of those from the State Department and from elsewhere.

Q Can I ask another question? In the past, the President was accused of sort of backing away when his nominees got into trouble. How hard is the President going to fight for this nomination right now?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the answer is evident from what he did today. He is fighting hard and will fight hard.

Q Why do you term today's meeting a spectacle?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it just is not -- the nominee was there prepared to go forward, to deliver a statement, to answer questions. That's the way it's always done in the Senate; that's the way it should be done in this case. And to, at the stroke of noon, suddenly have a hearing or a meeting end that could have, in fact, become a hearing which would have allowed the ordinary business of the Senate to progress seemed to be fairly unusual.

Q President Clinton's meeting with Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa -- could you please tell me if Clinton did bring up changes to Hong Kong's electoral system and, if so, what was Mr. Tung's response? And also, just in general, briefly, what did they talk about?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they -- I've got a longer statement -- I can cover some of it for you. But they had a very broad-ranging meeting that covered the host of issues associated with the very positive U.S.-Hong Kong relationship. They did cover some of the issues that you just cited. The conversation spanned economic issues, related both to trade and our interest in continuing what is a very vibrant commercial relationship we have with Hong Kong, involving, I think, some $24 billion worth of trade. There is over $14 billion invested by U.S. investors in Hong Kong so it's a very fundamentally important economic relationship, and clearly, they spent a great deal of time on that.

They've talked about, of course, the transition -- the President expressed our support for and interest in Hong Kong's new status. He talked about, as I just said, the magnitude of U.S. interest in Hong Kong and how important it is for Hong Kong to have strong support for the kind of trading practices that allow this commerce to unfold.

The President talked about the importance of intellectual property rights, called for a bilateral investment agreement between the U.S. and Hong Kong. Mr. Tung assured the President that Hong Kong's export control regime will remain strong as well as its enforcement of intellectual property rights.

On political matters, the President expressed his disappointment in the decision to reverse Hong Kong's legislative election reforms. You recall, that's changes that have been made in the LEGCO -- the Legislative Council -- that existed prior to the turnover. The President said that we will be watching events when it comes to the political status of institutions in Hong Kong very closely. He said that we are encouraged that so far basic freedoms, such as freedom of the press, speech, and the right to demonstrate, were being protected. The President did indicate that that was a source of great concern to the American people and would be one that he as President, on behalf of the American people, would obviously continue to follow closely.

Mr. Tung defended his proposed change in Hong Kong's election law. He said that Hong Kong was determined to protect its basic freedoms, the rule of law, and to develop democratic institutions. He reaffirmed what he has said on other occasions publicly, that he is committed to the aspects of the basic law that would allow for certain changes in the composition of the democratically-elected LEGCO to unfold.

I've got a longer statement that we are going to make available that provides some additional details on what was a very good and productive meeting.

Q But would you say it's fair that he did press him to continue, or to strengthen the process toward democratization?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that is an accurate characterization, and it was a conversation that was held warmly, but it did reflect the candor with which the President addressed that issue of the need for democratization and continued progress towards electoral reform.

Q And did he express concern over some recent steps that have been taken in Hong Kong?

MR. MCCURRY: As I just indicated, yes.

Q Specifically?

MR. MCCURRY: They made changes, Wolf, in the composition of the Legislative Council there. And as we have elsewhere, through the State Department and others -- Secretary Albright, of course, raised this when she was there -- the President reinforced the concern that the United States government has expressed on prior occasions.

Q -- describe the atmosphere, when they discussed this part on reforms in Hong Kong as very defensive, or how would you describe the atmosphere?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, the atmosphere of the discussion was productive, it was candid. I think that Mr. Tung is a very able representative of the people of Hong Kong, and he described in very great detail his own actions. And I think that's consistent with much of what he has said publicly. And the President, equally, raised his concerns in a direct manner. But it was a very cordial conversation.

Q Mike, we didn't have a chance to address the Mir report with the President. Was he disturbed by its findings, especially with what the astronauts said they had gone through?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the Inspector General's report that has been forwarded to the Hill is one that the President will get a further briefing on by the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Dr. Gibbons. And Dr. Gibbons has, on behalf of the President, been following this very closely and has been directly in contact with NASA. We look to NASA to make some fundamental judgments about issues that are related to our space program, but the safety of U.S. personnel in space is obviously their primary concern, as it always has been. And Dr. Gibbons will -- has asked for, and will receive, additional updates from NASA on the status of that aspect of the Mir program.

Q But you've heard some of those findings. Aren't you at all, you know, just kind of taken aback by what some of the testimony from astronauts have revealed?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to characterize our reaction here. I think we'll have a time to go through all the length of the IG report and then the President will get a further update and analysis of that from OSTP.

Q Mike, has there been any talk thus far about ending U.S. participation in the Mir project?

MR. MCCURRY: Dr. Gibbons has indicated, and NASA has indicated itself, that they've got their flight program review process in place and they look at questions on an ongoing basis related to safety, and make determinations on U.S. participation and joint missions, and I'd really refer you to NASA to kind of get the update on where they are in consideration of that.

Q Mike, what can you tell us about the President's knowledge, or advisors' knowledge about Mr. Sioeng -- the matter that the Senate Committee was briefed on by the FBI, CIA, NSA and Reno?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't add to -- I believe that the Counsel's Office here has been in contact with a lot of your organizations and has walked through what is known about that. I can't really add to that and I think they've -- they've already, on prior occasions, handled that. Remember that, if I'm not mistaken, it was The Los Angeles Times has reported on this matter going back several weeks ago, and we have since followed up with that and provided the account that we have available. I haven't walked through that information myself so I don't -- I wouldn't want to hazard a guess.

Q Has the President been briefed on that? Is that part of the information that's been passed on to him?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to describe the substantive content of briefings that we get from the intelligence community or from the law enforcement community other than to say, as is fairly obvious, that the President has in place a process so that he gets the information that he needs to conduct foreign policy. And those procedures we've talked about here before -- they are in place. They have not led, to this point, to any change in our policy toward China.

Q Mike, the line has been, for the last several months, that if there was evidence of Chinese influence-buying, that that would be dealt with most seriously and would impact U.S. foreign policy. And now --

MR. MCCURRY: That's why I think it's -- when I tell you there's been no information presented to us that I'm aware of to date that has led to a change in our policy towards China, I think you can take that as a telling remark.

Q Well, so the reports that --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what the reports are. You've got one newspaper report said it was an incremental report on intelligence information and one senator quoted saying there was no decisive information conveyed. And you've got another newspaper here in town that reports something different. So I don't -- you all have to sort out what the truth is. I can't help you. I don't know what they briefed on the Hill. We're not -- the administration was a participant -- I mean, the White House was not a participant in that briefing and you'd have to go to either those who received the briefing or those who gave the briefing to get more information.

Q But Reno and Freeh were here yesterday to brief at the White House.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we -- as I just said, we have a process in place that we have access to information that's critical for the President's conduct of foreign policy.

Q Can I ask a follow-up question on that? The New York Times editorialized today that what the White House ought to consider doing is have the CIA Director and the FBI Director make public what the findings are thus far so as to end this cloud as to whether there was indeed a Chinese plot.

MR. MCCURRY: I think the President would share this sentiment that it is important for the American people to have the facts when they can properly be presented so that the American people can know the truth. But at the moment, there's an ongoing investigation underway at the Department of Justice. The intelligence community has acknowledged there's classified and sensitive information that may or may not pertain to issues like these, and I think it's important that we uphold the law and not violate anything that has to do with the nation's national security, and that we also not do anything that would interfere with any ongoing investigation.

But I'm saying that in one way or another in the end of the day we certainly would share the sentiment that whatever the facts are, they ought to be presented directly to the American people.

Q What do you have for the week ahead?

Q I just wanted to ask, on this tobacco meeting that the President is having with Shalala and Bruce Reed, do you expect some decisions to be made at this meeting? What is the timetable for a decision?

MR. MCCURRY: The President indicated to me that -- have some idea of how the discussion is -- a very comprehensive analysis of the settlement has been made, but the analysis of the settlement will only suggest to the President things that he might want to consider as he pursues this issue and as he protects the nation's public health and particularly the health of younger Americans. He has made clear that sweeping legislation that really accomplishes his public health objective is something that he is committed to pursuing. And what is in that legislative proposal once it's fashioned is something I think the President will think carefully about.

He will get this review this evening. I don't anticipate any decisions at this meeting tonight, nor do I over the weekend. I think it will be into next week sometime before the President's prepared to address this at the earliest. I don't rule out the possibility he might want to think about it even a little bit longer and address it later on.

Q Mike, did the President see Mr. Tung as the spokesman for China --

MR. MCCURRY: He saw him as the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, reflecting the status that Hong Kong has within China and reflecting what is -- the Chinese accurately describe as the one China-two systems formula.

Q -- no discussion about the ability of China --

MR. MCCURRY: I have -- nothing relayed to me got that specific into the substance of the conversation. I believe that they talked about trade. I think they certainly exchanged views on the United States' attitude toward the People's Republic. I think the President did discuss his upcoming opportunity to meet with President Jiang Zemin. But the level of detail they got into I'm just not briefed on at this point.

Q Mike, on the tobacco thing again. When the President's point of view is finally expressed, probably next week, publicly, will it still take the form of his views on how -- on the package as it stands, or -- it seems to me you're talking more about him actually proposing concrete proposals for changing it.

MR. MCCURRY: I believe he will certainly use the proposed settlement as a way to reflect on issues that are central to this country's public health, but there are things that were not addressed by the proposed settlement that the President indeed may want to address. One example of that that I think has already been described publicly is the needs of rural communities and those in which the tobacco growing is a disproportionate source of commerce. I think the President has long been concerned about tobacco farmers and how they going to be impacted by the effort to reduce dependency on tobacco products. And that's not an area, as you know, that is addressed by the settlement. That may be, in fact, the kind of area the President would want to address.

So I think this will be a combination both of reflection on some of the things, the good work done by the attorneys general with other parties, and also an opportunity to move the debate forward and look at the question of what best would advance the President's overall fundamental public health goal, which is to reduce smoking by young people.

Q And in the broadest sense, it will take the form of his saying, one way or another, I can accept or endorse this deal if it includes such and such and such and such?

MR. MCCURRY: I would suggest it might be more in the notion that here is a way in which we can accomplish the public health objectives that we believe all of those who have been a part of this debate share, and that will necessarily involve some commentary on some of the ideas that have already been put forward.

Q So he might not necessarily embrace the tobacco deal, but suggest ways to accomplish the same goals?

MR. MCCURRY: I think he will, as I say, talk more about his fundamental goals and how to achieve them, but certainly do that in the context of the settlement discussions that have been held.

Q Sounds like he views the settlement as a starting point rather than any kind of --

MR. MCCURRY: Sounds good.

Q But he has expressed and spelled out those goals a lot of times. My question is, how does the end of the review process on this specific deal change what he gets up and says next week?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's providing him an enormous amount of data and reactions from those who have been a part of this review process. You know, they've talked to dozens and dozens of people and gotten a lot of good ideas, and that can now constructively be put into the development of a policy, or maybe proposed legislation for Congress, that would be productively in the interests of the nation's young people and indeed all Americans.

Q Proposed by the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: That's the President's goal, as he has indicated publicly the last couple of days.

Q Mike, a number of proponents of the tobacco deal have said that unless the President whole-heartedly embraces it, it's dead. The White House doesn't look at it that way?

MR. MCCURRY: Whole-heartedly -- I mean, we --

Q Embraces it. Unless he comes out and says, I'm for this.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that they've said that. It's been widely reported and I don't think anyone on behalf of the administration has disputed the idea that there are some fundamental things about the proposed settlement that would have to change. The President, indeed, publicly has identified some of those himself.

Q Embraces it and says, except for X and Y.

MR. MCCURRY: It's impossible to embrace something he's already said was going to have to change in some fashion.

Q What level of concern is there that the industry will walk away from a deal that the White House proposes?

MR. MCCURRY: There have been extensive conversations with them about that and we know their thinking, but I'd really have to -- the industry and the people who speak for the industry have to address what they -- what their attitude is and whether or not they find anything proposed or said by the President acceptable or unacceptable.

Q What did the President mean when he said that there are questions of substance and timing related to the tobacco deal? What was he talking about as far as the timing is concerned?

MR. MCCURRY: I think when -- questions of timing is because there have been differing public statement up on Capitol Hill about when they might likely want to turn their attention to some of those issues. So I think it's when you move forward and place some of these things before Congress and how you -- when you begin the real effort to codify some of the elements that have been discussed in the settlement and move forward with legislation.

Q Back to the package discussed in the meeting of Mr. Tung and President Clinton. Can we say that they are understand the different stand of the other side but not convinced? I mean, the President was not convinced by Mr. Tung's appreciation?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they had an amicable exchange of views here, but it was an exchange. And there clearly are a set of views that are held by the United States government and a set of views held by the Chief Executive. And while they were not identical, the discussion was cordial and the exchange amicable.

Q How would the President -- description of Hong Kong after the takeover --

MR. MCCURRY: Our assessment has been that there have been aspects of the turnover that have gone smoothly. And as I said, we -- the President said that he was encouraged by some of the things and welcomed some of the efforts to make the transition -- the time since the transition smooth. And there are features of that we have expressed gratitude for and elements of the transition that we've expressed concern about.

Q Subject of speech tomorrow night and the week ahead?

MR. MCCURRY: We ready? Anything else before we kind of end up on the schedule?

Q The report that the Soviets have been -- gyroscopes from Soviet missiles have been finding they're way to unsavory characters. Is the Vice President going to bring this up in his visit to Moscow, specifically? And, in general, when the Vice President and other officials have brought up with the Russians their concern about these sorts of security issues, what are the Russians saying? Are they saying we can handle this, we know what to do, or are they saying we're in trouble and need help?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've kind of provided you a lot of detail on some of our substantive discussions with the Russians at various times when we intersected with them on this issue. The President has raised it, obviously, with President Yeltsin. It has been a feature of the Gore-Chernomyrdin dialogue, so, yes, it will be raised by the Vice President during the course of his meetings. We recently had Ambassador Frank Wisner, who was -- did he go to Moscow, P.J., Anne? He went in early August to Moscow, and on behalf of the President, really raised many of these issues very directly. But we've engaged with the Russian Federation at multiple levels to express our concern about proliferation and try to work through some of these issues.

The Russian Federation's response has been one that I think is familiar to those of you who have followed the debate. They suggest that they have acted consistent with law. When we've raised concerns, they have taken those concerns on board and said that they would look into them further. And we have had in some respects, at some levels, a very technical dialogue with them about the nature of these exchanges.

I think you can get more on that from some of our arms control and proliferation people. They can tell you more about the substantive elements of the dialogue. But there has been a willingness to engage on the subject, which we consider important, but at the same time we have -- all of our concerns have not been satisfied, which is why we continue to press them and press them vigorously.

Q But, concretely, is there a sense that there are more and more holes in that sieve all the time, or that they're plugging them up?

MR. MCCURRY: I think our overall sense is that they take seriously the issue of proliferation. They know, in any event, how seriously we take the issue. They point to things that they have done to address some of the concerns that we have expressed, but we remind them that on some issues that we have raised we have not been satisfied.

Q Mike, are you going to have Joe take the podium to address Helms' facts and figures on prior nominees?

MR. MCCURRY: We can do it afterwards and he can just kind of gaggle with you afterwards if you want to do it.

Q On the tobacco for a minute, is the youth smoking penalty issue still the major roadblock, and is that what would pretty much determine how the administration plans to --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to describe anything as a major roadblock. I think there are at least -- there are dozens of issues that are raised in the review that has been completed now, a lot of options on how to deal with them. And at least a half of dozen of those are very significant elements, some that have been reported on, some that have not.

Q Why does your government propose to have a bilateral agreement with Hong Kong on intellectual property rights? Does your government think that --

MR. MCCURRY: It's a bilateral investment treaty; it's a BIT. We have proposed a bilateral investment treaty similar to those that we have with other governments that would specifically cover intellectual property rights as well as a range, compendium issues that are normally covered under an investment treaty.

MS. LUZZATTO: And then they discussed intellectual property protection.

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, yes. The President proposed that we pursue a bilateral investment treaty, but then he also raised, in addition to that, our concern about intellectual property rights issues and received, as I indicated, the reassurances given by Mr. Tung.

Q Mike, you said that the White House wanted to fight hard, but fight fair for Weld. Does the White House think that Jesse Helms has not fought fair?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I think he's conducted himself in a way that he thinks reflects the strong concern that he has about the nomination. And we would not dispute that. He has done -- there is a letter that he referred to today that he sent, I think genuinely, to try to convey his thinking to the President. And that letter was private for a very long time. It was not made public, to my knowledge, by Chairman Helms at all. It surfaced in the news the last couple of days and, of course, the Chairman was within his full rights to discuss it today. And we took that letter very seriously.

The President thought about it very seriously and conveyed his response by sending Mr. Bowles to meet privately with Chairman Helms. And we were very circumspect in describing that to the point that some people thought that we weren't doing anything on behalf of this nominee when, in fact, we were trying to pursue this in a dignified way and in a way that reflects the way sometimes quiet diplomacy can work. But there are other times when you need to use sharper elbows in diplomacy to get the outcome that you desire.

Q Can you say now why the President didn't take Helms up on his offer to appoint Weld to a different ambassadorial position?

MR. MCCURRY: Sure, because Governor Weld is not interested, and the President is absolutely convinced that he's the right choice for Mexico. There was never any serious consideration given to sending Governor Weld to any other location. He wasn't, frankly, interested in going to any other location. And for all practical purpose, looking at major ambassadorial post, I believe --I can't think of, anyhow, any major ambassadorial post in which we have not at least designated someone or have a candidate in the process of being prepared for a nomination. So it's not a viable option.

Q Well, the President doesn't think it's fair to block the nomination without a hearing. He made that pretty clear, do you think?

MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. I think he made that very clear. But, at the same time, as I said, we're encouraged that some senators are saying, well, maybe there is some way that we can advance this nomination to the floor without a hearing. And our preference would be regular order. Our preference is a hearing, consideration by the committee, a vote by the committee, debate on the floor, and a confirmation vote.

Q But, Mike, if Senator Helms is doing nothing wrong, then who is the roadblock?

MR. MCCURRY: No, no, I didn't say he's not doing anything wrong. He's using the power of the Chairman under Senate rules to block a nomination. And that, I think, will strike many Americans as a peculiar way to do business. Now, there are things about the Senate rules which, if you have ever listened to Senator Bobby Byrd, you know are peculiar to begin with. In a country that prides itself on democratic institutions, half of this briefing has been about a conversation we've had with the Chief Executive of Hong Kong today stressing our concern about democratic processes in Hong Kong. So I think some Americans might look today at what happened in the Senate and say, well, that's a curious juxtaposition.

Q Mike, is there a point at which the President becomes concerned that this jockeying back and forth becomes insulting to Mexico, that they deserve an ambassador?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that there is concern by the President and by the administration about how this debate will be regarded in Mexico. I think at least in part we hope that the people of Mexico will see that this is a position that is taken seriously, it has provoked a big debate in the United States. Unfortunately, so far, that debate has not been about what it ought to be about, which is the merits of someone who we believe is qualified to serve in a post that is very important.

But we would hope that somehow or other the people of Mexico recognize that the President has chosen someone that he thinks would be superbly well-qualified to represent our interests and very anxious to engage directly with the government and with the people of Mexico so we can continue the improving prospects for the bilateral relationship.

Q Mike, does the White House share Secretary Albright's view that her trip has not been particularly successful, that she should not return to the region until and unless the parties there are willing to make hard choices?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has gotten at least a preliminary briefing on some of the sessions that Secretary Albright has had. She, of course, has provided her party and those who are covering her in the region with a much fuller understanding of some of her conversations. I think she has spoken very openly and candidly about what needs to happen at this point in the peace process.

But the President certainly concurs that there is no point to go there and "tread water." I think the President wants to see progress, would reinforce the message delivered by the Secretary that the parties need to concentrate their energies on addressing those issues that she identified. He would encourage them to think seriously about some of the issues and ideas presented by the Secretary, and understand that the United States will be available as a facilitator, but we can only do our work when they're prepared to do their work. And we are, of course, encouraged by what the Secretary described as a small step, but at least a step -- senior advisors to the parties will be here in Washington I believe next week for further conversations.

Q Did it fall short of expectations? Were there any expectations?

MR. MCCURRY: There were no expectations or at least very low expectations, and we met them exceedingly well. (Laughter.)

I'm going to do the week ahead. This just in -- the President of the United States will travel to Pittsburgh, Little Rock, and Houston from September 24 to 28. This is not next week, this is September 24 to 28. I wanted to announce that today so we could start making plans. The President will address the AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh on September 24. Afterwards, he'll attend a DNC luncheon and then fly to Little Rock, Arkansas.

On September 25th, the President will attend the 40th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Most of you, I think, were aware of that, but we had not officially announced that until now. In the evening, he'll attend a Congressional Medal of Honor Society reception. And Friday, the 26th of September, the President will travel to Houston for the day, holding an event that we're still working on. And then he'll have some -- I think a lunch and a dinner fundraiser, returning back to Little Rock for the evening. And he has no other public events in Little Rock. I thought he was going to do some family things --

Q How does the Central High thing go? Is he going to make a speech there?

MR. MCCURRY: He'll make a -- this is an opportunity we've identified as part of the President's initiative on race to really talk a little bit about the fundamental changes occurred in the nation's school system, and thus, the fundamental change in, really, our culture, as a result of segregation, of the Brown decision, and then talking about the consequences of those changes as they were reflected in the President's own home state and in the capital of his home state.

Week ahead. Tomorrow the President delivers his weekly radio address -- the subject will be campaign finance reform -- and attends that night the Congressional Black Caucus Gala.

Now, Jeff, the President will try to get some substance into these remarks, but it is their gala, and he, in fact, I believe, is the warm-up act for James Brown tomorrow night. (Laughter.) So he will -- I don't want -- he correctly guesses that he probably is not expected to deliver a major lengthy policy address, but I think he does want to touch base on some of the significant items that we've been dealing with.

The initiative itself -- he wants to do an update on some of the questions that have been raised by the Caucus before when we met with them. He'll give them on some of their own agenda items a very brief update. But this will not be a long speech. It will be the opportunity for the President to give them a few brief remarks and then to have an enjoyable evening when he gets to share some entertainment.

Q What's the coverage of that?

MR. MCCURRY: In-town travel pool.

Q At what time?

MR. MCCURRY: The address is not going to be until 10:00 p.m. So if you draw pool duty tomorrow night, you get some great entertainment, great little speech.

Q What time is he going?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what time he's going. Earlier in that evening, I guess.

Q Mike, the President's appearance and speech tomorrow night at the CBC, is that kind of a way to help mend some of the divide that's between the President and the CBC, especially since the crack cocaine disparity versus powder cocaine?

MR. MCCURRY: He's got a great working relationship with that Caucus and a great working relationship with most of the members of that Caucus. And we have our family feuds from time to time, and we disagree with each other from time to time, and we get a little hot under the collar from time to time, but, by and large, most issues -- that Caucus has supported this President through thick and thin. And the President appreciates it. And he's going to say thank you, first and foremost, for the support they've given to so many of his efforts and initiatives. And he'll reflect on some of the things where we're working to address concerns that they've raised with the President. And we're going to celebrate good times, because that's mostly good times and very few bad times.

Q But Maxine Waters has been visibly missing from several events the last few --

MR. MCCURRY: She presses us regularly and often on concerns that she has, and we, in respect for her, are regularly and often responsive.

Q Monday?

MR. MCCURRY: Sunday, no public schedule. Monday, the President will address Service Employees International Union at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at 11:00 a.m., and that will be address --

Q Who again?

MR. MCCURRY: SEIU. He will talk to SEIU at 11:00 a.m. Monday morning. Tuesday, he will mark the 50th anniversary of the Central Intelligence Agency. Wednesday, we're holding open in case he -- we're holding open for an event in case we do have an event on Wednesday. (Laughter.)

Q Is he going to Langley?

MR. MCCURRY: Thursday, he leaves -- yes, it will be out at Langley, going on for the 50th Anniversary at Langley. So, get ready.

And then Thursday, he will go to California with his daughter.

Q Do we know what time?

MR. MCCURRY: To be determined. And then he's out there for -- I think I've told you most of the schedule for Friday, Saturday and Sunday already on that.

The week ahead. And we're done for the week. Have a pleasant weekend.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 3:29 P.M. EDT