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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 10, 1997
                             PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                                MIKE MCCURRY 

The Briefing Room

1:22 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Is Julie Green refusing to come out here? By popular demand, Julie Green.

I'm starting with some happy news today. The President today named Amy Weiss Tobe to be Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy White House Press Secretary. Amy, please stand up and introduce yourself.

Those of you who don't know Amy, she is currently serving as the Communications Director for the Democratic National Committee, where she manages the communications and press staff -- (laughter.) And as you can imagine, she is especially delighted -- (laughter) -- that she will be coming to work here. She'll be coming here to the White House to work, taking over from many of the duties that Lorrie McHugh used to handle. So she'll be getting to know your Correspondence Association and all of you who have all the problems that I have not been dealing with very effectively in the time since Lorrie departed.

Q She answers questions, too? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: She does, although, as you know from Lorrie's role, Lorrie worked more on the operations side of the White House Press Office, and Amy will have that function now. She has had a long distinguished career here in Washington. She worked for Congressman Synar for a number of years, worked as Director of Communications for the Campaign For America Project, which a national meeting and grass-roots campaign that Mike Synar devoted a lot of his time and energy to in a very heroic way. She served as Press Secretary for the Clinton-Gore Campaign in '92 in Oregon, while I was in Colorado doing the same thing, so we were colleagues at that point. And she was Communications Director at the Center for National Policy from 1988-1993. And we first met when we worked at the DNC a long time ago.

So it is a pleasure to welcome her to the White House. And she will start on October 27, which is a very significant day for many reasons.

Q What?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, let's put it this way. She will be a very special birthday to the Press Secretary to the President of the United States.

Q Awww.

Q Twenty-nine again. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: That's right.

Now, good news always is followed by somewhat less happy news, challenging news. But Julie Green, who has been our Assistant Press Secretary here in the Lower Press Office and done a great job and has made what we call the grand circle here of starting off in the Upper Press Office, going over to Media Affairs, doing very good work there, and then coming back, promoted along the way, to be the Assistant Press Secretary in Lower Press, has been snatched from us. And if it weren't for the fact that the snatcher was a fellow South Carolinian, the Secretary of Education, I don't know I'd be wild about this. But Julie is going to be the new Press Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education. It's a very good opportunity for her and she will be serving Secretary Riley, and starting soon there.

Julie, before working here at the White House, worked for Senator Joe Biden, worked for former Governor Bruce King of New Mexico. So she brings a lot of interest in education issues and a lot of skill in dealing with the press to what is one of the frontline assignments in our government, in a department that deals very much with issues that are at the top of the President's agenda. So we're glad that we will have someone that we know and trust working in that department, where they will be of service to all of you.

And I'm pleased to announce that we will be naming to replace Julie, Nanda Chitrey, who worked in the campaign, most recently in the Clinton-Gore '96 press office, and worked at the State Department's Bureau of Public Affairs in the time that I was at the State Department. She's really a delightful and very talented, competent press spokesman. And she'll be taking over -- we'll make the swap later on this month. We look forward to having these new faces and saying goodbye to someone that we very much appreciated here.

Q Mike, the Speaker is quoted as saying about the IRS reform plan that the administration's IRS reform plan is so skimpy if it were a person wearing it on the beach he'd be arrested for indecent exposure. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's cute, but this is about the business and hard work of reforming an agency. It's not about public relations. And the Speaker should know better, to know that something that has taken five months of hard work by the Department and has a lot of seriousness attached to it should not be dismissed with something that's a little bit on the silly side.

Q On President Clinton's trip to South America, with the Hispanic community interested in knowing which members of American citizens of South American background that know of the sensitivities, idiosyncracies and needs of the South American countries are accompanying President Clinton on this mission, as compared to our dear friends of the Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban background -- of course, the rest of the Anglo Saxon --

MR. MCCURRY: Do you have a question? Who's going on the delegation?

Q The question is, who of South American background, American citizens --

MR. MCCURRY: We'll be able to provide you a delegation list later on.

Q What does the President think of President Yeltsin deciding to sign the land mine treaty? Has he been in touch with winner?

MR. MCCURRY: He has not had an opportunity to personally congratulate Ms. Williams, but he certainly does congratulate her and the international campaign to ban land mines for the receipt today of the Nobel Prize.

This President has done significant things when it comes to the elimination of land mines. We have destroyed 1.5 million mines from our own arsenals. We have committed, I believe it's accurate to say, more money than any country in the world in the act of demining of mines that have been placed around this world. As the President announced September 17th, that's a program that we're now going to expand by 25 percent. Now, that is clearing the mines that are out there that have caused the carnage that causes so much heartache.

At the same time, the President, as you know, has launched an effort within our own military to field alternatives to the antipersonnel land mines by the year 2006, which is a commitment we've made and we are working very hard now in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to advance our own ideas about a global ban on land mines.

President Yeltsin's statement today may prove useful if we see how it is refined and developed in the conversations in Geneva. The Russian Federation was not present in Ottawa during the Ottawa process and we will attempt to learn more about the position that the President articulated today.

Q -- says it's an embarrassment for the President that they got this award for their work on a treaty that he won't sign. What's the reaction to that?

MR. MCCURRY: My reaction to that is we worked very hard to get a treaty we could sign; that the United States of America has unique responsibilities in this world assigned to us by the international community. And you don't have to look any farther than the demilitarized zone in Korea to understand exactly the importance of the assignments that we have, where we have to protect the people of South Korea from a very large armed deployment to the North, and that is one special circumstance in which there has to be some accounting for the requirements of our role of global leadership in this world.

Now, at the same time, we have developed the technologies that make it possible to have personnel land minds that are safe because ours in our arsenal now deactivate in a period of time and they are used in circumstances, war-fighting circumstances, in which the President as the Commander in Chief needs to protect our men and women in uniform.

Think no farther than Barry McCaffrey's left hook around the Republican Guard in Iraq if you want to know the importance of the deployment of land minds in a battlefield situation. We've had a recent experience in which we needed these for military purposes.

At the same time, our government is committed and is doing the hard work diplomatically of building international support for a regime that will include countries like Russia, China, and perhaps even eventually countries like Iran that are the leading exporters and manufacturers of those devises.

Q Mike, you said the President had talked with her, but she said on the morning shows that she was going to try to call him. I don't know, is this a call he might be interested in taking?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that they have spoken yet.

Q Two years ago the President supported the core efforts of the Million Man March. Two years later there's an anniversary and this time it's branched into the Million Women March. What are the President's thoughts at this time about the Million Women March as well as the Million Man March?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I have not heard him say anything recently on the subject, but he has commented about -- last week when the Promise Keepers were here and it was reflective of what I think he said at the time of the Million Man March, that when people of goodwill and intention take responsibility for their lives and express that and express that together, that is a positive thing. He said much the same thing at the time of the Million Man March. You can see the good that is expressed by those who want to reflect on their faith and on their own personal commitments, and you can see the good in that without necessarily subscribing to every aspect of every agenda advanced by groups that sponsor activities like that.

You know, the President has always sought to acknowledge the spirit that moves people to express their own convictions when it comes to personal morality, personal responsibility, and he applauds that.

Q Mike, on that same thing, does the White House or the President have a view on Louis Farrakhan's call for a day of atonement?

MR. MCCURRY: The view -- I haven't heard the President express it recently, but it would be very similar to what he said on that same subject at the time of the Million Man March.

Q Which was?

MR. MCCURRY: We can get you a copy of -- he gave a long speech on it at that time.

Q Does the White House intend to respond today in part or in whole to the Senate subpoena for additional tapes or documents?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have been responding by working with I think members of the staff from the Senate, the House, obviously the Justice Department to cooperate fully with them in responding to the subpoena request. I think all three of those entities have a good understanding of where we are in the work we're doing and they know that the President has ordered that we be responsive and produce those materials. As a practical matter, I'm not aware that it's going to be done today because I just don't think logistically it can be. But I know in each case, those who are seeking this material, we've had discussions with them to let them know where matters stand.

Q On the line item veto, what do you expect on defense appropriations and when? And also, in terms of military -- what does the President -- how does he feel about getting not complete information from the Pentagon?

MR. MCCURRY: I dealt with that subject this morning and don't really have anything new on that. On the general issue of defense appropriations, the President will be receiving some sort of recommendations from his advisors, most likely next week on the trip, and he will deal with whatever recommendations he gets. I can't say anything here that would indicate we anticipate specific action or not. I mean, he may get a recommendation -- he could conceivably get a recommendation that would indicate that he does not need to exercise authority. He could get an indication that he needs to consider that exercise of authority in a number of instances. We'll just have to see what happens. Nothing before we leave.

Q Okay. And this morning wasn't on tape. I just wanted to ask you --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, as I think a number of others have already said, the President had very clear criteria and acted on that criteria based on the information we have from the Pentagon. Now, if the Pentagon revises that information based on looking at it more carefully, that will happen. I think the President, as a general proposition, would rather err on the side of taxpayers and their interests than go ahead and commence with projects that were not clear need to be in the pipeline at that point. But if there are a handful of projects that need to get another look-see by the Pentagon, we hope that they will then work with Congress to reappropriate.

Q On global warming, do you know why the energy tax isn't an option under consideration now, as Gene Sperling indicated?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are a number of options under consideration. I think he was trying to cool down everyone's fervor on that particular option.

Q -- Cabinet members or senior advisors are recommending it.

MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. But at the same time, there's been no decision at all about the options that have been presented. I expect the President to work on that issue more with his advisors and be in a position for the United States government to advance its position more clearly as we go into the discussions in Bonn at the end of the month.

Q So there's a possibility that it still could be advanced down the line?

MR. MCCURRY: I think Gene was giving you good guidance on what the current thinking is inside the government. But I just want to make it clear that we haven't necessarily ruled in or ruled out any option at this point and no decision. There's just not -- as he said, I don't think there is anyone who has advocated that particular point.

Q Michael, did the President have any reaction to the Reagan tape in which the President was shown making a direct appeal for funds?

MR. MCCURRY: I did not talk to him directly about it. I was told that he was interested in it and wanted to know what kind of event it was, and he was told it was an event in the East Room in which the President was seen thanking his supporters and asking if he could count on them for the help.

Q He enjoyed it, in other words? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that he -- I think that we've said here that it has not been uncommon for Presidents to have donor maintenance events or thank-you events at the White House for people that are supporting the political efforts of the President, and I guess that tape sort of bears that out.

Q Could you also tell me if the President had any reaction to Harold Ickes' testimony before the Thompson committee?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the President thought Harold gave zesty and candid answers.

Q Best defense is offense.

Q Zesty and candid. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Zesty is a word that they didn't let me use over at the State Department. (Laughter.)

Q Beyond a timetable of during this stuff over to Thompson, Burton and others, including the Justice Department, can you give us an update on what they've found so far?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they've found, not unexpectedly, a lot and probably hours of Bill Clinton talking at fundraising events. When you do the search a lot of what the material is, is similar to what you already know of yourself, because they're events at which your pool was present. There are probably other occasions, too, and they're still going through it. I'd be remiss in trying to characterize it any more than that because they're still looking.

Q Has there been any effort by the Counsel's Office to try to get the committees to narrow the scope of the subpoenas?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have tried for a long time to get these committees to narrow the scope of their subpoenas, not just with respect to this matter, but across the board. I told you the other day we were laboring against an extensive volume of requests and we sometimes don't get a clear sense of what the priorities are of the committee. But I think that's why it's useful for counsels to be in contact with each other, and I gather they are in contact, particularly on this matter, so that everyone has got an understanding of what the process is.

Q Mike, what is the President supposed to do with the Treasury appropriations bill? Is he going to sign it anytime soon?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't -- can I answer that and then -- I'll bust the embargo.

Q Is he expected to sign it today or tonight? Is he going to sign it tomorrow?

MR. TOIV: No, no, I don't think we can embargo that.

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, okay. He is going to sign it today and one aspect of that bill will be the subject of the radio address that he gives tomorrow. And specifically the subject is our efforts to combat drugs, because there are some things, important things in that bill that address our nation's effort to combat drugs.

Also, just as we kind of wrap up the week here, we're going to try to get a lid on very soon. I do expect the President very shortly to veto the partial birth abortion bill. That will be done and we will issue a written statement on that once that happens. It will be very consistent with what the President has said all along, what the President said in his letter to the Hill earlier in the week. The President will regret the fact that there hasn't been a narrowly tailored exception for those rare cases in which the health of a mother needs to be considered.

Q Mike, on the IRS reform measures they were talking about this morning, is there a legislative timetable? Is there legislative language and a target date to get some stuff up to the Hill?

MR. MCCURRY: There will need to be. I did not hear Dr. Summers say one way or another when they would develop that -- presumably next year. I don't think they set a specific date, but I would anticipate it would be they would work on it this year develop that -- presumably next year. I don't think they set a specific date, but I would anticipate it would be -- they would work on it this year with the goal of seeing if they couldn't present more concrete language next year.

Q Just on the partial birth abortion, is he confident that he can uphold this, even if the vote is close to election day next year?

MR. MCCURRY: The President is confident that when members stop and think about those rare cases in which this procedure needs to be available -- and they are rare, and they are -- we've heard dramatic stories that are so riveting about the reasons why they do need to be available -- I think that when members reflect on that, the President is confident his position can be sustained.

Q Mike, there was an administration official quoted in The Washington Times today as saying that the tapes might not be turned over until after the President returns from his trip to South America. Is that timing in accordance with what you have seen?

MR. MCCURRY: That doesn't fit with what I've heard, but on the other hand, I think they're working very hard to get it done, and they have to be complete and they have to be thorough and they have to get the work done. And I don't want to predict how long it's going to take, but I hadn't heard it was going to take that long.

Q Do you have some -- if you haven't heard it would take that long, is your sense that sometime next week it will be turned over?

MR. MCCURRY: I just don't want to predict, David. I mean, it's not fair to the people who are doing the work. And I think, also, we have an obligation to tell the Justice Department, the House and Senate investigators first, and I'm not privy to conversations that our lawyers are having with their lawyers.

Q Do you know how big a staff is working on going through this?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we don't have huge staff in the Counsel's Office, but they've got -- they're trying to get those available who have been working on document production to work on it. Now, I'll tell you, I'll guarantee you two weeks from now we'll start hearing from Chairman Burton and Chairman Thompson about some other basket of documents that haven't been produced because -- you know, now we're going to do videotapes, and then they'll go back to doing what they were working on before.

Q Did anyone on the committee take you seriously yesterday about sending over 50 or 60 additional people?

MR. MCCURRY: Thankfully not. (Laughter.) I'm told that might have had certain separation of powers questions raised.

Q Mike, getting back to the Million Man March and the Million Woman March real quick. What's the President's thought on the fact Winnie Mandela is going to be keynote speaker for the Million Woman March?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the President's thinking on that.

Q Are you going to be briefing on the trip during -- because there will be many things happening next week that will --

MR. MCCURRY: We are always available -- I'll be on the trip.

Q Normal briefings?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll be doing our normal, customary briefings as we do when we travel, but we won't be doing it here.

Q Mike, the Cassini Probe is due now to be launched on Monday. Has the President given any thought to stopping it, as some members of Congress were voting to?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has a lot of confidence in the process that Dr. Jack Gibbons used. He has got the authority under Presidential Directive 25 to review the issues associated with the use of radioactive elements in a launch like that. Dr. Gibbons has looked at that upside down, sideways, every which way, and has gotten a lot of good technical reassurances from people who are working on the launch, and the President is very confident in the reasoning it was used. He didn't second-guess the decision made by Dr. Gibbons.

Q Is that a public document?


Q Yes.

MR. MCCURRY: Aspects of it are classified, but we did a whole -- when we announced that, we released a lot of information on it. It's about two years ago, I think. Maybe?

MR. CROWLEY: We'll find out.

MR. MCCURRY: P.J. can check on that for you.

Q Mike, Starr released his report on Vince Foster today. Does the White House have a copy of that, and is this going to finally end all the speculation?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether we have received a copy or not. But based on the news reports we've seen, we certainly think there is nothing surprising about the report, but we certainly hope and pray that it brings a very sad chapter in the history of this White House to a conclusion, as it should, and as it should have long ago.

All right. We'll see you. Those of you on the trip, we'll enjoy your company and we'll be back here --

Q What is the President doing tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: -- the 20th.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 1:45 P.M. EDT