THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
3:03 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you. Other news that you can use from the White House today -- remember, we had one leftover question from the President's annual physical exam on Friday. The inclusion cyst that he had removed was sent to pathology for a report. The President has been informed by his doctor today that it came back, as expected, with a benign pathology. It was determined to be a benign epidermal inclusion cyst, very similar to the one that was removed when the President had his annual exam in May of 1996.
Q Have the sutures been removed?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. They will do that -- they can do that here at the White House, and I don't know whether they've performed that procedure yet, or not.
Q Mike, have they done anything, giving him new medications or anything for the stiffness in his knee?
MR. MCCURRY: Not reported to me. They have generally treated those with standard variety analgesics that we've reported to you in the past when he needs them. And they tend to be, as the President has indicated, related sometimes to weather or just how much he has been exercising.
Q Mike, before you get a barrage of other questions, this morning at the gaggle you spoke of President Samper meeting with General McCaffrey. My question is, what caused the President to change policy? Nobody has talked to Samper, especially not a member of the Cabinet, as General McCaffrey --
MR. MCCURRY: It's not a change of policy. Our policy has been steadfast in saying that we need to work with any government that wants to assist the United States in efforts to curb illicit and illegal narco-trafficking. And there are elements of the government of Colombia that have assisted U.S. law enforcement personnel, and we have reiterated that from time to time.
Q President Samper doesn't even have a visa to come to this country. Why --
MR. MCCURRY: He does -- the role that Colombia plays in international drug trafficking is significant and important for us to press the arguments that we make about what we can do to jointly address that drug trafficking is important. And that's obviously what Director McCaffrey was doing. He was reinforcing our message to all Cambodians that the fight against drug trafficking and the corruption related to it must continue.
MR. MCCURRY: Colombians, Colombians.
Q Mike, The Washington Post had a story on Saturday saying there was a division. They were saying State and Defense were not in favor of this meeting. Is there anything to that?
MR. MCCURRY: You would have to ask those agencies. I'm not aware of any, but once the meeting was held there is one single U.S. government position.
Q Mike, the President indicated that he became aware of the videotapes I think Thursday evening. Why the delay between Thursday evening and when --
MR. MCCURRY: You can tell from the half-empty briefing room there is another briefing underway on that subject now, so you should be there. They're taking those questions there.
Q Mike, the Supreme Court is reconvening today. Where does the White House stand on that affirmative action issue, the Piscataway, New Jersey --
MR. MCCURRY: We have filed a brief in that case. I think it's self-explanatory. It's the judgment of the Solicitor General that while the plaintiff is entitled to the damage she was awarded by the lower court, the nature of the case itself is not representative enough of Title VII cases that the court could draw broader interpretations on non-remedial affirmative action from that case.
Otherwise, I think the argument set forth in the brief speaks very directly to the case. It's always been considered by the Justice Department to be unique in its facts, and for many reasons we argued that the Supreme Court should not hear the case and try to render any larger judgment of the law based on the case. We've argued it's not representative of the way the Court should look at the instances in which non-remedial affirmative action is still needed, which is the policy of this administration.
Q Mike, I've got a policy question rather than the kind of legal question that might be being fielded across the street about the tapes. Is any consideration being given here to changing the policy of involving military personnel in videotaping political events?
MR. MCCURRY: They are here only because they have under law the authorization to produce archival material about the presidency. And that's what the purpose of the tapings that they render are. It's done for archival purposes. The materials they film are then stored as archives and are available presumably to future historians. I think that's an important function for future historians of having an archival record of a presidency available. It doesn't matter whether the event is a political event, an official event, a closed event or an open event, if it's determined that's part of the archival record of the presidency they should be there to record whatever portion they record of the meeting. And it's no fault to them -- they basically do what is agreed to in the schedule that is examined every day and included in the events they're included in.
Q So copies of these tapes were not necessarily made and given to people who attended and, say, if someone said, hey, I'd love a copy of that video --
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, but you should talk to the people who have done more to look into that issue.
Q Do they do all political fundraisers?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is they show up at most of the events that you all show up and they -- political events, the same things that you have. But again, I want to refer you to people who have been looking into this all day and can answer the questions.
Q I know Lanny is taking folks through the details, but I think this is a broader question that I think may be appropriate here. Lanny is saying that this was a mistake and an honest mistake. Was it -- is it a huge mistake and is it something that you guys should be -- what I mean is, should you be looking internally? Is there a question of trying to find out who is responsible and to account for this?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a judgment you all will make. I'm not going to try to characterize it one way or another here. The facts are the facts and you decide what the facts say.
Q The President's remarks on the global warming treaty didn't address an energy tax, but is that something that the administration is thinking about doing in the short-term or the long-term?
MR. MCCURRY: There are a number of options on how you can deal with greenhouse gas emissions and what strategies you would use to achieve various different types of targets. We've got a very intensive effort, both internally within our government to look at different kinds of strategies for meeting greenhouse gas emission targets in the future, and, of course, an extensive effort of consultation with other governments that we will have to work with if we are to produce a multilateral regime that will achieve specific targets for the greenhouse gas emission targets that we'll need to do something about the problem.
Now, we're not at the point yet where we've developed any of that with specificity that you can say, was a carbon tax going to be useful in dealing with the problem or not. There are a number of things short of taxes that you could consider and probably ways you could use the tax code to encourage energy-efficient technologies that generate less greenhouse gas emissions.
So I think that there are a number of issues like that that we'll have to work through as we go into the trading sessions that will occur in Germany and then looking ahead to Kyoto there will be a lot of discussion within international negotiating bodies on those points.
Q How much time is the President now spending on fast track lobbying, and what's the White House assessment of where things stand now?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has already spent significant time to get the negotiating authority he needs to continue to open markets overseas. We've had a series of meetings with members of Congress, specifically Democrats in the House, where we have to do, I think, a lot of hard work. The President has met numerous times with his advisors and been kept abreast of some of the discussions you heard Mr. Sperling describe earlier, so that we know what's emerging in our consultations on the Hill. And I suspect strongly that he'll be doing some one-on-one work on the issue as we go ahead.
But again, our goal is to try to get the President the negotiating authority he needs to open up overseas markets and do so this year.
Q How do you think it looks now?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we've got a lot of hard work ahead, and we've acknowledged that we're doing that hard work.
Q Is it off the scope for this year?
MR. MCCURRY: No. We very much believe we need that authority. We need to continue to press to open markets, and we want the President to gain that authority this year.
Q Have you seen what Archer has announced? Gene indicated he had not.
MR. MCCURRY: I have not no, but I know Ambassador Barshefsky has been working with the Chairman over the weekend, has had close consultation with him. My guess is that USTR will probably be in a better position to respond.
Q That's where we should go?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q If Senator Lott succeeds with his amendment on campaign finance reform, the McCain-Feingold -- does that mean the issue is dead for the year? What could you do in case that succeeds?
MR. MCCURRY: It most likely is because Senator Lott's amendment is very specifically designed to kill campaign finance reform. This is an up or down vote on whether or to members of the Senate favor campaign finance reform, pure and simple. A vote for the Lott amendment is a vote to kill campaign finance reform and will be recorded as such. Now, we will continue to try to find ways to press the issue forward, but any vote in favor of the Lott amendment effective kills campaign finance reform.
Q Mike, Jesse Helms is reported to be blocking Mr. Kennard's FCC nomination because of a radio license. If it's true, what's the White House doing about Helms' challenge?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether that's true, or not. I'd have to check.
Q Mike, can you explain how, if the President found out about these tapes on Thursday, the Attorney General didn't find out about them until Saturday?
MR. MCCURRY: Asked and answered, and I can't.
Q I was told it wasn't asked and answered.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I indicated I'm not prepared to answer the question, nor can I.
Q But Lanny Davis isn't prepared to answer it --
MR. MCCURRY: In the back. I'm not dealing with it, David. I don't know the answer.
Q Mike, do you mean nobody at the White House knows how the President can find out on Thursday and his Attorney General doesn't know for two more days?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer, so I'm not going to be in a position to help you, sorry.
Q Mike, on the Kyoto Conference, Japan today put its negotiating point on the table. Although the U.S. hasn't specified its position and probably won't do so until later this month, do you think that their formula, which would involve the U.S. cutting by if I'm right, 2.2 percent from 1990 levels, is that a reasonable frame of reference?
MR. MCCURRY: There will be a lot of work that we will have to do. We will study very carefully the proposal that's been made by the government of Japan. There is a lot of thinking in our government about how you achieve specific targeted reductions on what the level should be from 1990 as you project ahead into the next century. There are different ways you could achieve reductions, different measurable ways that you could come up with different percentage reductions from 1990 levels, but I don't think it would be correct at this point to say that we've rendered any kind of definitive judgment on what those target levels should be as we advance our own negotiating position.
We very much appreciate the negotiating position that's been put forth by the government of Japan. We know that they've thought seriously about many of the same issues that we've been addressing and we'll see how those issues play out as we prepare for the October 20th multilateral negotiating session in Bonn.
Q Congressional reaction to restructure of the IRS, to the administrations proposals, the review board's pretty negative. Are you considering any changes to that proposal?
MR. MCCURRY: I think there will be more work ahead on that to be done by the Treasury Department working with folks here at the White House. And as I said last week, I don't rule out the President may want to say more about that sometime this week. But first and foremost, we've got to get a reform proposal that we are certain meets the criteria that the Department has and the President has to make the IRS both more customer-friendly and more efficient and effective in the necessary work that it must do.
Q The President declined to comment on the Israeli assassination brouhaha, but does the President have an opinion regarding the Montgomery County, Maryland, attempts to extradite Daniel Sheinbein for the murder charges? And does he see any irony in the fact that a friendly country is almost in the same posture as Libya, where sanctions were imposed for refusing to --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there is a lot in that question that's kind of loaded up. The State Department has addressed our efforts to work with the government of Israel to ensure that justice is done, and that work should and properly continue, the President believes.
Q Did the President wear his hearing aid this morning?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I don't know whether he's actually -- I know he was fitted for them, but I don't know that he's actually received them yet.
Q What do you got tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: What is tomorrow? Tuesday?
MR. TOIV: President Weizman.
MR. MCCURRY: We've got the meetings with President Weizman, who arrives here tonight. Anybody else?
MR. TOIV: Well, there might be something else, but I'm not sure that we've --
MR. MCCURRY: We're holding open the possibility of trying to make some news on other subjects, too.
Q Mike, getting back on these videotapes --
MR. MCCURRY: Let's not. I think I was better off on that subject when I was briefing with a bag on my head. (Laughter.)
Q Are the WHCA logs going to be available to the press for what they covered during this time period?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. Thanks.
END 3:17 P.M. EDT