THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
2:33 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Mr. Hunt, welcome to the briefing today.
Q Thank you, sir. Good to see you.
MR. MCCURRY: Delighted to have you with us.
I don't know how apropos this is to announce, at a moment when Mr. Berger is, in fact, speaking in the same location on the subject of warming -- it's just too -- President Clinton will host the White House Conference on Climate Change: The Challenge of Global Warming, at Georgetown University's Gaston Auditorium on Monday, October 6th.
That's not global warming at Gaston Auditorium, that's global warming. And it's not related to Sandy Berger's speech going on at the same location right now -- which is on Bosnia.
The Vice President and a number of Cabinet members will join the President in representing the administration. Invited participants will include scientists, economists, corporate executives, environmental civic labor leaders, small business owners, members of Congress and representatives of state and local governments. It will be broadcast by satellite to several dozen locations around the country.
Q Is going to invite, Mike any scientists who believe that cyclical sun changes might be responsible for this or only folks who believe --
MR. MCCURRY: They're hard to find -- 2,600 scientists, including Nobel laureates, all have provided scientific --
Q So you will only have scientists who believe in the President's side.
MR. MCCURRY: It's not a President's side versus another side. There's a consensus by leading scientists, widespread in the academic community, that there's measurable impact. And the question is, what are we going to do about it.
Q It's not a consensus if you have folks who hold an opposing view.
MR. MCCURRY: Let's not argue. If you want to go be on a panel at the Heritage Foundation, you can. The goals of the conference are to improve the understanding of climate change among the American people and inform them of the development of U.S. policy to address this challenging problem, and the conference will include panels covering scientific, technological, economic, international aspects of climate change, and one to the degree there is uncertainty about the measurable scientific effect that can be thoroughly explored. And we'll have more information on that next week.
I think some of you have seen the -- have we put out the paper from the advisory board?
MR. TOIV: No, we're waiting for --
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. The Race Advisory Board has some personnel announcements they're making about people that they've added to their effort that they're putting out, and they also announced that the next meeting of the seven-member advisory board is scheduled for Tuesday, September 30th, with the President attending at least part of that meeting. That will be an opportunity for Dr. Franklin and Dr. Winston to provide updates on what the board has been doing, talk about some of their future activity and obviously it will be in the aftermath of the President's speech Thursday at the anniversary at Central High.
Q Where will that be?
MR. MCCURRY: That will be at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel. It runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The President will be there sometime late morning.
Q Mike, with regard to the race initiative, why does the President feel that personal vignettes and anecdotes from his experience in Arkansas will enrich his speech on Thursday?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that because the issue of race for all Americans ultimately is a personal one, it involves interrelationships that people have, how they view people of diverse circumstances, and the President, as a native son of Arkansas, which went through that emotional, wrenching period 40 years ago, has some thoughts. And his attitudes today, certainly, as President were formed by the experiences he had as a young man.
So it's not only relevant to the discussion that he now wants the nation to entertain, but I think it also is relevant to the way he views these issues in the prism through which he sees the issue of race in our society. If you have not seen his little essay in one of the news magazines this week, he talks a little bit more about that.
Q Mike, in Sandy Berger's talk about Bosnia, he seems to be raising the stakes for continued NATO/U.S. presence past IFOR if things are not stable by next June, by mentioning that what is at stake is preventing a wider war in Europe, the credibility of NATO, the credibility of U.S. leadership in Europe. Isn't that a strong signal that IFOR is not going to be the last chapter?
MR. MCCURRY: He, elsewhere in that speech, Leo, as you know, says the international community's engagement in Bosnia will continue, but whether an international security presence is part of that engagement and what role the United States might play remains to be decided. In part, that decision will depend on where things stand as we approach the time of SFOR's departure; it's a reiteration of what we've long said, and he has not shifted the ground on the President's determination to meet the timetable that has been outlined and, at the same time, focus on the situation on the ground day in and day out until we reach that point.
Q But he's going against the President's point of let's focus on what's going on now. He is focusing on what's going to be the picture in Bosnia and in Europe after June of next year, when he talks about the possibility of a wider war, when he talks about NATO --
MR. MCCURRY: That is just not true. That is the reason we have been there with these two deployments -- the IFOR deployment and SFOR deployment -- in the first place. That's been a fundamental underpinning of why we've become engaged and why we took on a leadership role in the international community to both promulgate the Dayton Accords and to deploy our own troops in furtherance of the aims of the Dayton Accords.
Q So you're saying that the bottom line -- there is nothing new in this speech.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying -- look, this is -- what it is, is a very articulate and very extended argument that counters the --I call them the cut-and-run crowd, what does Sandy call them in the speech?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Those who would give up on a multi-ethnic state.
MR. MCCURRY: He calls them something else. (Laughter.) No, he had a better phrase than that. Anyhow, it's a direct response to those that have said that somehow or other we can walk away from this international tragedy and leave it to others to continue to do the work of rebuilding civil society in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the aftermath of the worst ethnic and military conflict in Europe since World War II.
Q Mike, what you just said, though, that we will reassess -- and I'm not quoting you directly -- but as we get closer to next summer. That, in itself, is different from what the President has insisted all along, which is that we're gone.
MR. MCCURRY: That paragraph I read you has been the standard guidance on that question for six, seven weeks now. It hasn't changed one iota.
Q So just to clarify, we're now maybe staying beyond, if events necessitate.
MR. MCCURRY: I've answered this same question, I'll answer it -- I'll go back and read to you the same answer I gave before, that we've long said the international community is going to have some kind of presence in Bosnia beyond June of 1998.
Q But you've also said that the intention of the United States is to leave.
MR. MCCURRY: We have said that what that presence will be and what the U.S. role in it might be will not be determined until we assess what the situation on the ground is.
Q So how does that square with the promise to get American troops out by the June deadline?
MR. MCCURRY: The SFOR deployment ends in June of 1998. The North Atlantic Council's authorization for this deployment expires on June 1998. We have had this discussion, I assure you, at least two or three times here before.
Q We're not talking about just this deployment. We're talking about the continued presence of U.S. troops in some form and under some mandate into the future.
MR. MCCURRY: That's not what the President is -- the President is talking about an end to the SFOR mandate in June of 1998. What the international presence is beyond that point has not even been a point of discussion within the North Atlantic Council --
Q That's not true because we've asked the President --
Q That leaves open the possibility that there could be U.S. troops there, doesn't it?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I have not --
Q Doesn't it?
MR. MCCURRY: There's no shifting of ground here. Let me be very clear about this. Sandy has repeated what the President has said and indicated on this issue. He's answered the question himself -- we can go back and dig up transcripts for you and there's no change in that view.
Q Mike, when the President has answered this question, he has said that it is the intent, it's the intention of the United States to have American troops out of Bosnia by next summer. Is that still --
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. That's repeated by Mr. Berger in this speech. That's what he just said.
Q In every forum.
MR. MCCURRY: Let's go on, something else.
Q What difference does it make if we replace new U.S. troops there for the old U.S. troops? It doesn't make any difference to the people back home what we call SFOR or IFOR or whatever it is.
MR. MCCURRY: It matters what the mission is, what they're doing there, what the mission plan is, what the probability of success is, what the exit strategy is -- none of those questions, which have been addressed either by the United States through its own command authority or in concert with our allies. It's a moot point.
Q You know very well that the bottom line for the American public is going to be whether there are U.S. troops there and not under what mandate.
MR. MCCURRY: Right. And the bottom line for the American people is, we've got a lot of brave people in harm's way right now, and they want to know what support are we giving them right now to do the job they've been sent there to do by the United States.
Q And we want to know whether they're going to be there after June.
MR. MCCURRY: No, we want to know, are we going to be able to get the mission accomplished that they've been tasked to do, and that's where the President's energy is and that's what the work is that we've been doing.
Q Okay, so the priority is not --
MR. MCCURRY: Let's go on. I need to get something else on another subject.
Q But the priority then is not to --
Q We've got a lot of time.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't.
Q -- the priority is not to get the troops out, the priority is to get the job done?
MR. MCCURRY: The priority has been to accomplish the mission that the troops have been sent there to do, as the President said. That's why the President suggested, I'm not focused on a date in the future in June of 1998, I'm focused on today and tomorrow and what those people are doing to accomplish the mission that I've assigned to them.
Q Sounds like you're leaving the door open.
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I'm not saying -- I'll just say once again, I'm not saying anything different from what the President himself has already said. I would suggest you play his clip, not mine.
Q What now are the prospects, Mike, for getting that mission accomplished by the June date?
MR. MCCURRY: They are covered at great length in Mr. Berger's speech, and I commend it to your attention.
Q Is the President going to a gay dinner?
MR. MCCURRY: Have you got the annual Human Rights Campaign dinner is October --
MR. LOCKHART: November 8th --
MR. MCCURRY: November 8th, and he is going, yes. I need to alert you quickly to a letter that the President has sent Senator Lott and Senator Daschle with copies to Senators McCain and Feingold, addressing a concern that Senator Daschle very properly has about the sufficiency of the time that the Senate Majority Leader has allocated to discussion of campaign finance reform issues in the Senate. Senator Daschle's concern, properly so, has been, is there going to be enough time for the Senate to take this matter, seriously consider it, weather an anticipated filibuster, and achieve final passage before the anticipated congressional adjournment.
The President today has sent a letter to Senator Lott saying that there should be that sufficient time and if in the view of senators that time has not been made available to senators for consideration of this issue, he will call a special session of Congress and bring them back so they can complete work on this very necessary bill. We've got copies of that letter ready to go; it's being addressed on the Hill right now by Senator Daschle. I apologize for rushing to get to that, but I didn't want to bury my lead.
Q Has he talked personally to Lott on the possibility?
MR. MCCURRY: He has not. Mr. Hilley has been in contact with Senator Lott's staff and there has been extensive discussions on the Hill on this subject, and the President is determined to see that this issue is adequately addressed in this session prior to adjournment.
Q What would that entail, that special session? This purpose only?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think -- I think you can only call them back -- he has to call them back into session with the stated purpose of addressing this, but I think once Congress is in session they can determine other matters that might be addressed.
Q Can they just then adjourn?
Q Yes, can he keep them in session then?
MR. MCCURRY: He can keep him in session. In fact, his letter says he'll call on Congress to stay in session until all the critical elements are fully considered. He clearly can also call them into session as well.
Q And this is to pass the Senate finance --
MR. MCCURRY: This is to deal with what we anticipate will be a revised version of the McCain-Feingold measure, one that would be available to senators if they choose to act this year, now, on the repeated call of the President and others to reform campaign finance laws.
Q Mike, legally the President needs a congressional adjournment, doesn't he, in order to call Congress back in a special session.
MR. MCCURRY: Right.
Q Couldn't Lott and Gingrich counter the plan for a special session by merely recessing and, I believe under congressional rules, just have a pro forma session of a minute or two every three days?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they might. I'm not an expert on Senate rules. They might attempt to do that, but I think there clearly is sentiment in the Senate now to take up this legislation. And the President believes that the letter that he has communicated is sufficient to assure that there will be ample time for consideration of the issue by the Senate.
It would be hard to imagine that in the face of the President's call for action, his determination to see that the Senate acts on this matter -- indeed, that Congress act on this matter -- that they would resort to a gimmick in order to avoid taking a stand on campaign finance reform.
Q Mike, I notice you've not said the President will keep the Senate in session until there is a vote. Is there a reason for that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he wants them to stay there until they get the job done, which is the vote, final passage, wrapping it up, of course.
Q The House Majority Leader Armey said today that he would put fast track behind two other pieces of legislation --
MR. MCCURRY: Let's stay on this subject before we get on something else.
Q It's in this context. There was the article where Ickes was quoted as saying that the President doesn't really care very much about campaign finance reform and he's using it for political purposes.
MR. MCCURRY: He did not say that and he is not quoted saying that. And I've talked to Mr. Ickes, and if you call and ask him he'll say that he's never had a conversation in which the President expressed that sentiment to him. Frankly --
Q It is quoted as --
MR. MCCURRY: He's not directly quoted saying that the President doesn't have a concern about campaign finance reform.
Q What did he mean?
MR. MCCURRY: He was talking about the broad sweep of the President's priorities and what mattered most to him. And he believes that he's been inaccurately interpreted by the author of the article. He called me to point that out to me and draw that to my attention -- to tell you that.
Q Mike, does the President want Lott to give him a date now, to give him a date certain? I mean, Lott has said he wants a date certain, but he's kind of informally said, well, I'll do it in October.
MR. MCCURRY: Senator Daschle's concern has been that there was not a date certain. Senator Daschle, I believe, is addressing this matter right now. I believe he will consider it sufficient that the President can use his constitutional authority to keep Congress in session to assure that there will be ample time for consideration. Senator Daschle's concern will be that this might come up in the last one or two days of the Congressional session; there wouldn't be ample time to debate, consider, and pass the measure in question.
Q So what do you want Lott to do? Do you want Lott to announce a date?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is saying that if any attempt is made to bring this bill up in a manner that would preclude sufficient time, I'll call on Congress to stay in session until all of these critical elements are fully considered. He can thus assure that they will stay here in Washington to finish the job.
Q And this applies to the House as well as the Senate, or just Senate consideration?
MR. MCCURRY: The letter is addressed to the Senate, so it relates to Senate consideration. But there is sentiment in the House, as you know, to take up the bill and Senate passage has -- the prospect of Senate passage has led some members of the House to indicate that they would push for consideration in the House of campaign reform legislation this year, which, of course, we would strongly encourage.
Q Is the President basically saying that if there is no passage this year no matter when they bring it up, he will keep the Senate in session until there is passage?
MR. MCCURRY: He's saying he will keep them in session so that they can duly consider the bill. We understand that -- what we've said all along is we want to see people take an up or down vote on this to see where they are. We believe it will be passed. We think there is a majority sentiment in both places.
We can't tell Congress what to do; our Constitution doesn't work that way. But we can keep them here until there is adequate time for members of the Senate to be recorded yea or nay on the measure.
Q Mike, is this an attempt by the President to sort of take the monkey of campaign finance problems off his own back and put it on Lott's? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No, this is an attempt to continue to advance the measure we've been talking about and pressing all year long.
Q So the White House supports Daschle's tactics today as far as trying to make the --
MR. MCCURRY: We certainly understand Senator Daschle's concern about this measure, but I think the President has acted through this letter to help resolve some of his concerns in a way that can allow the business of the Senate to proceed.
Q Have you heard anything back from Lott? I mean, did you consult with him, let him know this was coming?
MR. MCCURRY: He's had the letter for a while and he knew it was coming, and I think he knew that we would make it public.
Q For a while? Like how long?
MR. MCCURRY: Earlier today.
MR. LOCKHART: Late this morning.
MR. MCCURRY: Late this morning.
Q And do you have any reaction back from him?
MR. MCCURRY: I should leave it to the Majority Leader to speak. It's his chamber.
Q If you keep the Senate in, you have to have the House in there as well.
MR. MCCURRY: You have to keep Congress in, correct.
Q When was the last time a President called a special session?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the history of that. I would have to do some research.
Q Whose idea was it to write this letter? Was it done at the instigation of Daschle?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have been consulting closely with the proponents of campaign finance reform to see what the President can do to lend some momentum to their cause, so it grew out of those conversations.
Q Mike, the President has been having a hard time with Congress on some of his other priorities. Does he consider that he's spending a tremendous amount of political capital in making this threat and he might anger them further? What kind of thought went into that?
MR. MCCURRY: The thought that went into consideration of this issue is that it's our estimation that more than a majority of the Congress wants to proceed with campaign finance reform. It's only been killed in the past because a small minority filibustered the legislation. Senators McCain and Feingold have now reasonably addressed some of the concerns other senators have. They've tried to fashion a measure that, while it's not necessarily everything that the President would want to see in a campaign finance reform bill, will present the prospect of gaining swift action in Congress. And the President wanted to lend his support to their efforts.
But we believe there is majority sentiment to do so in Congress, so we're not at all concerned that we will anger the bulk of Congress. We might anger those who have intended to filibuster this measure to try to drag things out or somehow or other slip out of town without taking a recorded vote, but so be it.
Q You just said "recorded vote"; is that what you're insisting on? That's the bottom line?
MR. MCCURRY: The letter just wants --
Q We don't have the letter.
MR. MCCURRY: The letter -- provide sufficient time for debate, is our key goal, but we believe that sufficient time for debate obviously includes a recorded vote yea or nay on the measure.
Q Mike, given the memos that have been reported in the newspapers in the last couple of days, does the President have any better recollection of whether he made any fundraising phone calls?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that he has reviewed that. It has not been reported to me by Counsel he's taken time to review those measures, but those memos would be immaterial in any event.
Q There was an article by the Deputy Attorney General, former Deputy Attorney General, quite critical of Janet Reno's legal reasoning in this issue and the distinction she made between hard and soft money. Is that something the White House agrees with?
MR. MCCURRY: The White House view is that the law in question has not been broken, as the President said yesterday, and it's pretty clear it hasn't been broken. It's a law that's never been enforced. It's over a century old. It was written at a time when there weren't telephones, and the only time it's been tested in the courts, the judgment of the courts has been that it goes to the question of where the person being solicited is located and not where the person doing the solicitation is.
It's interesting that people get all exercised about something that's not that significant.
Q Mike, why are the memos immaterial?
MR. MCCURRY: For the reason I just said.
Q Isn't that kind of a technical distinction that you just made, because actually the spirit of the law was to prevent abuses of power. The President calls up somebody --
MR. MCCURRY: No, the spirit of the law was to prevent Bill Clinton from walking down the hall into my office and shaking me down for $1,000. That's why the law was written; it was so that you couldn't solicit from federal employees on federal property.
Q Can I clarify one thing related to this? When the President said that he's confident that he has honored the letter of the law, who gave him that advice? Who gave him the --
MR. MCCURRY: These were all asked and answered yesterday. I'll refer you to yesterday's transcript.
Q Mike, would the White House like to see how members of Congress have abided by this Pendleton Act also?
MR. MCCURRY: Senator Phil Gramm has acknowledged that he violated this statute, and the Justice Department, I believe, has said that they examined the question and didn't prosecute. They've never prosecuted anyone under the statute. That's correct, right? I mean, Gramm says that he made calls from the Senate building.
Q What's your source of that? We've had a little trouble running that down, the Gramm thing, and he denies that now.
MR. MCCURRY: I should have prefaced that by saying I had been told that by the people working the issue and I'll see what their citation is on it.
Q Mike, related to my question, I'm told that that wasn't answered yesterday. And could you repeat it, or whatever you think was answered yesterday?
MR. MCCURRY: I did everything -- I said yesterday I was not going to interpret the President's comments yesterday. They're clear, they speak for themselves, and I don't have a lot to add to it. I mean, the President is clear that he did not violate the law. The White House is clear he didn't violate the law. And in due course the people who have to look at this matter will come to that conclusion and we can move on to other work -- like passing campaign finance reform.
Q It was completely explored through the Counsel's Office before he would have made any calls?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to describe the work the Counsel's Office is doing. But the President had a great deal of confidence in the statement he made yesterday, of course.
Q When the Vice President said that he was advised, who advised him?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to get into that. That's business between the President and his attorneys.
Q Why wouldn't you want to get into it if you know you could just clear it up?
MR. MCCURRY: Because I don't know. I was not a participant in those discussions and I imagine they're discussions in which, despite some court rulings, there are some attorney/client privileges that extend. So I'm not going to detail the legal work product that goes into statements. I think they are clear and they speak to the issue.
Q So, Mike, are you saying that if the Attorney General takes a non-political, reasoned look at this, she'll --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, as opposed to being badgered by editorial writers and by Republican members of Congress. People should just give her the space to look at the law and make the right decision. So it's not free from --
Q Do you think she is being badgered now?
MR. MCCURRY: It's hard to pick up a newspaper and not see her being badgered or listen to some members of Congress and see her being pressured. The whole point of this exercise is to allow independence to prevail -- contrary to the independence suggested in the whole process, to allow political pressure to be brought by people who, for partisan reasons, oppose the President to -- you know, people have threatened to impeach her. That's about as much pressure as one could bring, I would imagine.
Q Mike, if the White House view is that the Pendleton Act doesn't cover this kind of thing, should the law cover this kind of thing? Does the President support --
MR. MCCURRY: What the law should do is to allow for campaigns to proceed, for fundraising to be regulated, and the way it would be regulated under the McCain-Feingold measure and for the law to be changed the way we are already trying to get the law changed. I just told you some things that the President is doing today to try to move campaign finance reform forward in the Congress. That's the law that ought to be written.
Q So the law should, in the White House then, continue to allow fundraising calls to be made from --
MR. MCCURRY: Let's make sure everyone is clear here: we are not calling for taxpayers to pay for campaigns. Right? And we're not calling for public financing of our campaigns. We're not asking taxpayers to pay for congressional campaigns, for other campaigns, say, national, general election presidential campaigns.
That being the case, there's going to be fundraising. Presidents, as head of their political parties, are going to have to do fundraisers. And they ought to be regulated. They ought to be regulated under the terms of the kind of reform measure that the President is now advocating, has been advocating.
Q And should it continue to be legal, in the White House view, for fundraising to continue to take place from government offices?
MR. MCCURRY: It should continue to be legal -- look, yes, it should be legal. I think there's some desire on the part of some people in this debate to make it illegal for the President and Vice President of the United States to raise money. It should not be illegal for the President and Vice President of the United States to raise money to further the political work of their parties.
Q From the White House.
Q Including by telephone calls from --
MR. MCCURRY: It's interesting, you're all stunned by that, but that's kind of where we've moved this debate right now.
Q From the White House, is the point, from the Oval Office, from the White House, it should continue to be legal for them to --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying it should be -- look, they should continue to have in place the kind of laws that let them to do their work as heads of their political parties that they need to do. And it should not be reduced to absurdities.
Q But, I'm sorry, the point we're trying to press you on is whether you consider it reducing it to absurdity to rule out the use of their offices to raise money, their physical offices.
MR. MCCURRY: I think they should be allowed to raise money in the fashion that they have raised it. They've raised it, and raised it effectively, but it ought to be regulated so they have to spend less time doing it.
Q Including the President from the Oval Office --
MR. MCCURRY: He's raised money lawfully. The President has no -- I don't have any change in the answer he has about calls and so forth.
Q Any President from the Oval Office phone?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we should pass McCain-Feingold. Let's move on to another subject.
Q Mike, in April of last year the President launched with the Japanese Prime Minister a review of defense guidelines between the U.S. and Japan.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q That review came out today, it was released in New York. It didn't seem to include anything new in the way of Japanese commitments towards helping U.S. forces --
MR. MCCURRY: We are getting further information on it based on the meetings that Secretaries Albright and Cohen had today, but they've addressed that at some great length now in New York, so I think I will defer comment to them.
Q Going back to earlier, House Majority Leader Armey said that he wanted to put fast track behind two other pieces of legislation -- school choice and how you take the census. And he also said that it wasn't important even to pass it this year. Are you disappointed in his comments?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we attach a much greater priority to giving the President the authority he needs to move free trade agreements forward. They've been a fundamental part of the President's economic strategy to grow the economy and that strategy has been working. And the President, very shortly, next month, is going to be in conversations with other governments that are anxious to pursue free and fair trade with the United States, and having that authority to negotiate agreements is important, or at least it will be in a region in which that is an issue that is of great importance, and we attach much greater priority to it. But we certainly will try to move forward despite the concerns that he has expressed.
Q Is the President hoping to sway some minds at the AFL-CIO about fast track, or did the two sides agree they were going to disagree?
MR. MCCURRY: Probably not. I think that he's going to point out a lot of the areas in which we work in common with organized labor and representatives of working people, and he's going to make the point that free and open trade has been part of what has given this economy a very strong boost over the last four and a half years and part of what has been responsible for increasing wage income of working families, and that that needs to remain a central element of our economic growth strategy for the future, and that if we have to disagree on that subject, we should just disagree amicably in the spirit of friendship that exists between the President, his party, and the representatives of labor.
Q Is he going to ask them not to spend the members' money to try and quell his --
MR. MCCURRY: He's going to address the importance he attaches to free trade, and he's going to call for them to try to keep an open mind towards those who are customarily in great support of the interests and needs of working people in this country and suggests that on not that single issue should all members of Congress be judged.
Q How does he read Mr. Sweeney's call for a ban on soft money?
MR. MCCURRY: That's, in effect, what even the revised version of McCain-Feingold would do. So given the President's strong support for that measure, he obviously welcomes the support that's been expressed for that position by the AFL-CIO.
Q Can I just -- on fast track. Does the President have commitments from the leadership of both the House and the Senate to bring it this year? Do you have firm commitments to try to get fast track to the Floor this year?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think we have -- we don't have firm commitments to get it to the floor this year, but we certainly would entertain those if they were offered.
Q Is the White House opposed to floor consideration of Bud Shuster's ISTEA proposal?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check. Do we have a Shuster version of ISTEA, or whichever version -- there are about six or seven versions -- we've got our own bill.
MR. TOIV: We opposed the bill.
MR. MCCURRY: We opposed the bill. We have our own version of the bill. We would prefer to bring our bill to the floor. I'm not sure whether we've got any statement of administration policy on that measure. Is that the committee-passed bill?
MR. TOIV: Yes. We've expressed -- it violates the budget agreement, as the leadership --
MR. MCCURRY: We, for all the reasons I think is already in our statement of administration policy, we see the committee bill as being a violation of the balanced budget agreement and, therefore, we need a substantial modification before the President would see it as an acceptable piece of legislation.
Q Back on campaign finance, is the President confident that no members of the DNC or his campaign were involved in improperly funnelling money to the Teamster's election?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that the President has addressed that question, and the DNC has spoken to that and I think our Counsel has spoken to the degree in which we've had any knowledge of our engagement in that issue. I'll have to refer back to what they've said on that.
Q I'm wondering if he's concerned about it to have asked that it be looked into.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that there is anything that has been alleged that would suggest there is something we should look into, but I'll check it with our Counsel and see if we've seen anything on that.
Q Would you clarify something for me? A few months ago the DNC issued new guidelines about soft money -- no contributions over $100,000 and so forth. At that time, did the party say that it would stop raising soft money if the Republicans would also stop raising soft money in the meantime? And did the President agree with that, and is that still operative?
MR. MCCURRY: That offer still stands, and it was said, if I'm not mistaken, the day after the election by Chairman Dodd. The first challenge was put to Chairman Haley Barbour by Chairman Dodd, either the day or the following day after the election, and said let's agree that we should get out of the soft money business, and if the Republican Party will join us, so that we don't have to unilaterally disarm, we would stop raising soft money. And that --
Q Sometimes the President should take an initiative.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, Helen, we are -- look at the figures in the paper. We're already being seriously out-raised by the Republican Party, and we happen to believe -- we happen to believe with what we stand for, and what our party stands for, and we believe in our candidates and what they advocate, and we want to run good campaigns for them and we want to run competitive campaigns.
And it might sound swell to get on a high moral ground and sort of say, yes, we're going to foreswear soft money, but then we'd see a lot of our candidates lose. We know what happens when they go out and attack candidates. We saw that happen in 1998 and -- I'm sorry, it happened in 1994. We know what happens when people can amass huge campaign war chests to go after members of Congress who are under-financed.
And that's why there's going to be fundraising. And we ought to have a system of campaign finance laws that work and not laws that don't work. And did the Republicans ever -- yes, they formally said that they are not entertaining that because they believe in soft money. They want to raise it -- there's something to that effect, and you have to -- I saw Chairman Nicholson -- who said that?
MR. TOIV: Nicholson.
MR. MCCURRY: Nicholson, yes. Nicholson has repeatedly, any time he's asked that in television interviews, just said, well, no, they're not going to get out of the soft money game because they believe it's ok.
Q Mike, are you saying that the switch in control of Congress in '94 was mainly a function of money?
MR. MCCURRY: In part. It was large part of it. It was people amassing war chests, special interests going after people who voted very often with the President on certain issues. Yes.
Q Mike on the AFL-CIO, is the President concerned about these reports that McAuliffe helped clinch a deal that gave the AFL a $50 million signing bonus on this credit card program?
MR. MCCURRY: We just did a series of questions on that. I clearly will have to check will Counsel in order to answer that question. We already did that. Yes.
Q What's the administration sense from the Hill at this point, is it still possible that the House will act on it by the time of the President's trip?
MR. MCCURRY: It's still possible they will act this year. It's important that they at least consider doing so, and we continue to press the case very strongly, yes.
Q By the time of the President's trip?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we hope we could get it done by then.
Q Mike, does the President have a read on -- even though they were truncated by Senator Daschle's actions -- the IRS hearings that Senator Roth has been conducting today --
MR. MCCURRY: He's got a lot of confidence in Secretary Rubin. Secretary Rubin has addressed this issue at great length. There have been a number of reforms undertaken at Treasury to assure that the Internal Revenue Service performs in a way that's more friendly to the primary customer involved -- the U.S. taxpayer. And the President would expect that those necessary kinds of reforms continue, and any evidence of abuse or aggressive or egregious behavior be dealt with firmly by Treasury officials. But there's every indication that's what Secretary of Treasury Rubin is doing, and they have been in a position to comment at much greater length on the whole question.
Q Can you come back to the Human Rights Campaign dinner? They're saying that this is the first time a sitting President has ever addressed a gay and lesbian civil rights --
MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check. I don't know for a fact that that's true. I can't recall a previous occasion, but it's one that the President looks forward to and he has worked closely with members of the fund and members of that community on issues that are of primary concern in the gay and lesbian community. But those are very extensive; they run a whole gamut of issues across policy issues because that community is actively involved in a number of pursuits. And the President looks forward to having the opportunity to do it. I think that he's not been able to do it in previous years from schedule conflicts, but he is looking forward to being there.
Q Doesn't it tend to send a signal if, in fact, this is a precedent? I mean, if this is a --
MR. MCCURRY: I just told you, I don't even know if it is a precedent, so I doubt it's a signal. But I think it's an important occasion the President's delighted to be able to attend.
Q Also on -- is there some sense in the administration that it may be Republican hostility to this proposal might have been underestimated? And is there any plans for the President to get personally involved with Republicans like he did with Democrats?
MR. MCCURRY: He's been heavily involved already personally and has pressed this privately with some Republican members. And, no, there's a sense that this was going to be a tough issue all along, but as we indicated or you heard me indicate the other day, we've heard a lot of disagreement from the opposite side of the political spectrum, too.
So we are pretty confident that we've got to -- a free trade negotiating authority that rests right in the center where the American people are and which will continue the economic benefits that derive to Americans from having free and open trade relations around the world.
Q But, Mike, neither the House or the Senate is likely to vote on the President's proposal as written.
MR. MCCURRY: That's always true of any proposal we send, because Congress is in the hands of the Republican Party. But on the other hand, we've fashioned an approach that we think will be very attractive as they wrestle with the issues the way we wrestle with the issues. And they may even, in fact, come back to some of the provisions that we deal with and of course, this is going to -- it will be a long way before we reach the legislative finish line.
Q Mike, while you were away, the Black Farmers Association was out in Lafayette Park yesterday protesting, again, saying that they don't think they're getting enough help from the Department of Agriculture in settling outstanding litigation and cleaning up the "vast discrimination," as they put it, in terms of getting loans and other types of help. Do you see the President getting out front on that issue and --
MR. MCCURRY: He has had the opportunity to talk with Secretary Glickman about that issue and does consider it an important one. He has been assured by Secretary Glickman that all those things that he has talked about publicly they are proceeding with. They are doing a lot at the Department. And, if I'm not mistaken, some of the people who were here registering their concern met with Assistant Secretary Reed at the Department of Agriculture and we'll continue to follow the conversations the Department is having.
I think Secretary Glickman, as a matter of high priority, has taken on the issue of addressing equity issues in farming, particularly with respect to black farmers and the provision of credit; and most importantly in the instances of discrimination that some rural black farmers have clearly suffered from. And the President expects the Secretary to proceed vigorously with those efforts at reform.
Q Was the President consulted on the elimination of this top job at the Pentagon -- international security, I believe.
MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check and see. I believe that was a reorganization effort undertaken by Secretary Cohen. I'm not aware that it reached consideration here, but the NSC staff can double-check for you if there's anything further on that.
Q Mike, what's the timeframe for the President's proposals for the tobacco deal to be turned into legislation?
MR. MCCURRY: The timetable?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there will be -- we hope that the consideration can begin in short order -- I kind of expect it already is. There are already hearings on some aspects of the proposed settlement that had been underway and that will continue. And we hope that as we move into 1998 there can be careful and early consideration of the package. But it's too early to predict what the exact timetable will be.
Q Will the President craft a bill? Are you going to sign on to someone else's legislation?
MR. MCCURRY: We've already indicated we think that will be an evolutionary process that evolves out of the conversations and consultations that we've already had on the Hill, that we will continue to have -- that we are continuing to have now and that we will have into the future.
Q Does that mean that you haven't decided who's going to do it yet?
MR. MCCURRY: No, that means that it's -- there are a lot of jurisdictional issues up on the Hill that are going to have to be resolved. We're going to have to work closely with the people who are designated by the leaderships in both Houses to take on the issue and take on various segment parts of the bill. And there are going to have to be some other conversations, frankly, with some of the stake-holders in the process, particularly those from the industry -- all sooner or later and ultimately will wind up as legislation that we believe will be embraced by a strong bipartisan majority in both Houses.
Q Has the President talked to Dick Morris yet?
Q Does the White House have a comment on the Federal Trade Commission report on the tobacco deal?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard him comment on it, but there have been various administration people who have.
Q Also yesterday at the farmers protest, former Secretary Espy was present and asked him on the record whether he was getting any sort of help from the administration. He says he continues to get help from his friends at the White House. What kind of help is he getting?
MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea. I don't know what he meant.
Q I mean, considering he's under indictment and so forth, I mean, he's still getting help and support. What kind of help is he getting?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. Spiritual help, perhaps. What did you just ask?
Q Dick Morris, did he talk to him?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I heard reported to me. He was down in the Orchestra seats and -- (laughter.)
Q Is he going to have a hostile audience in Pittsburgh? I mean, he's going to hit the issue hard --
MR. MCCURRY: We hope not. I mean, look, we've worked with AFL-CIO --
Q They think they lose jobs, and how can he --
MR. MCCURRY: We think they're wrong on that point. We think that free and open trade creates jobs, creates wealth, has created a stronger American economy and enhanced U.S. competitiveness in the world, and that over time will result in better, higher-paying jobs for exactly those members that organized labor represents.
So we just beg to differ. But if he's looked at how many things we've worked together with Labor on, most of the time the Republicans are yelling at us because they say we're too close to organized labor. So I don't know why we would go in there thinking that it's Daniel in the lion's den tomorrow.
Q Mike, confirming reports out of Tallahassee, has the President settled on Florida State Senator Darrell Jones as the new Secretary of the Air Force?
MR. MCCURRY: Have we done anything on that? No. There's been no decision on that and no announcement on that.
Q Mike, anything else today on?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think the President's out and about. He's got nothing on the calendar. And you guys know what's going on for tomorrow. Can we move any paper?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll check right away.
MR. MCCURRY: We've got the letter that I mentioned to you that we can release to you, and beyond that, we'll be ready to go.
END 3:17 P.M. EDT