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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 24, 1997
                            PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                              MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

1:25 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's Friday here at the White House. Our ranks have been depleted by something that's more entertaining somewhere in town.

I wanted to start saying something that I'll say on behalf of all of us in the room, on your side and my side, and that's just a moment tribute to a person who so dominated this room on so many occasions and so defined what it meant to be a White House reporter. I think Ann Devroy of The Washington Post bedeviled and befriended many people who sit at this podium. But I knew her for 20 years and I will miss her dearly, because she is in my mind someone who really defines what excellent reporting is all about and someone who defines amicability as an attribute of the adversarial relationship that exists between the press and those of us in public life. But she'll be missed. And I know a lot of you feel that way, too. Take a moment and think about her at some point today.

And on that somewhat less than happy note --

Q Do you know if there's going to be any memorial or service?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll check with the Post. I suggested to them that we could -- we'd like to circulate word here when we know more. Maybe, Peter, do you know any --

Q It's not firm, but they're tentatively thinking about a service a week from tomorrow. We'll let everybody know.

MR. MCCURRY: Peter says maybe tentatively a service a week from tomorrow. When we get details we will either post them here or, if it's sometime next week, I'll try to make an announcement on Monday.

Q The President is on the road a week from tomorrow, isn't he?

MR. MCCURRY: I believe so.

All right, other questions.

Q Where is the speech?

MR. MCCURRY: The speech?

Q The text?

MR. MCCURRY: He's going to give it in a while. Do we want to put out an advanced text?

Q That would be nice. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Something truly extraordinary? (Laughter.) We'll check with the President. As long as he's comfortable with the text, if he is, we will do that. That might make a Friday afternoon speech a little bit easier for all of you.

See if it's possible. If it's not, since it is at 2:30 p.m., people still have plenty of time by deadline time.

Q Mike, with the President trying to celebrate master teachers and so forth, is it slightly overshadowed by the fact that kids in 46 D.C. schools essentially are going to end up on the street because they have to replace a boiler?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, no, it's not overshadowed. I think it points, among other things, points to the work that we've been doing. You know, are D.C. task force has been very closely involved with General Becton and helping. The General Services Administration, in fact, has been assisting the District in doing some of the roof and boiler repairs and other work going around. Not surprisingly, because the federal government maintains so many buildings here in the District of Columbia, this was a sensible way for us to provide assistance to them.

But the D.C. schools are in trouble and are in need. And we have because dealing both with the question of physical infrastructure and how we can help provide whatever federal expertise is available to the District, but we have also been dealing in a sense with the metaphysical -- how do you improve what happens in the classrooms. And part of the purpose of the event today was to talk about the kinds of standards, the kind of excellence, the kind of challenge we need to place on schools, school systems, and students and parents and teachers and administrators so that we have the kind of schools we need to compete.

Q Not to dig -- but do you think they're going to about it in a sensible way, with the lawsuit and all?

MR. MCCURRY: You mean, locally here? I don't want to -- our role has been, if I understand correctly, has been confined to help get the work done so the schools get the repairs they need so the kids can go to school. I think that's where we've had our focus.

Q We understand that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been unsuccessful in attempts to get a meeting here when he visits in the next few days for personal fundraising. Is he being sent a message?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure, because if you look at the papers in Israel today, there are about four different versions of what his plans are, of what his intent is. We've got a process underway. Ambassador Ross was just in the region. The next scheduled meeting I believe is with the Defense Minister, Abu Mazen,* here in town. They are going to be meeting at the State Department. That's the process, the peace process that we are committed to. And the Prime Minister's schedule, as far as I understand, is not set at this point.

Q There is no intent, Mike, to send him a message by telling him he's not welcome at this point?

MR. MCCURRY: The Prime Minister of Israel would never be told that he is not welcome in the United States or at the White House. At the same time, I don't have anything to announce to you on any scheduled visit by the Prime Minister because my understanding is that his schedule has not been set.

Q When was the last time there was the Prime Minister of Israel in Washington and he didn't see the President? Can you show a precedent for that?

MR. MCCURRY: In my own experience, that's rare and unusual. But I'll tell you again, there's been no announcement from the government about any planned travel by the Prime Minister.

Q We know there's no announcement. We want to know if he wants to come and you're not letting him.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe that's the case.

Q Putting it in English. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Maybe if I answered in Hebrew it would come out better. (Laughter.)

Q Are the talks completed in Beijing on proliferation and our selling nuclear technology to China?

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Samore and Mr. Einhorn have returned. They got back yesterday, I believe, late yesterday. They had useful and productive exchanges of views with their counterparts that will contribute to the discussions President Clinton and President Jiang Zemin will have when they meet on Wednesday. The President, on the subject of nonproliferation, will have some things to say this afternoon and talk about the importance of working with the government of China to address our concerns about the spread of technologies that can contribute to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and also weapons that can be destabilizing in dangerous parts of the world.

Q I gather from what you're saying then there was no final agreement reached on terms acceptable to the United States.

MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm suggesting that we're entering into the period of the summit now and it would be more appropriate for the President to address that subject publicly, and for the Presidents to discuss that subject and build on the work that their mediators have been able to achieve.

Q Will he report any specific progress in the speech today, or will that be saved until Monday?

MR. MCCURRY: The speech today, as Mr. Berger advertised it yesterday, is really an explanation to the American people of the importance of this relationship and why we are engaged -- on subjects like proliferation, but a full range of issues -- economics, trade, democracy, human rights, environmental concerns, security concerns in the Asia Pacific. The range of things that make this one of the most important bilateral relationships that we have. But as you can well imagine, the work that goes into a summit usually builds up to things that Presidents announce once they meet, not prior to their meeting.

Q Mike, Wei Jingsheng's sister is calling on the President to cancel his trip to China if her brother is not released as part of this summit. Does the President share that view?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have not made any announcements one way or the other about any planned travel by the President, so I'm not aware that there's a trip to cancel in the first place. There will be a discussion related to human rights, and the case of her brother that has often been raised at the highest levels and at various levels by the United States in our discussions with the Chinese.

Q Let me get to that point in a more direct way. Will the President talk to President Jiang about Wei Jingsheng?

MR. MCCURRY: He will talk -- he will certainly address the issue of human rights, and if he discusses specific cases we will that information in the readout after the meeting.

Q Are you still hopeful that some dissidents will be released before the summit?

MR. MCCURRY: We are not suggesting that we anticipate that. We have said that that will, of course, be welcome because we would welcome the release of anyone incarcerated for purely political reasons or because they are pursuing what we consider to be universal human rights that even the Chinese themselves acknowledge ought to be protected.

Q Mike, if the Chinese, on the eve of a summit ostensibly aimed at improving relations, aren't willing to take that gesture, how do you -- how should we read that?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have a very sophisticated understanding of that, some of which, as I recall, was addressed by some of the experts you had here earlier. We will certainly raise these cases, talk about the personal conditions that some people face. But the Chinese have made quite clear through their public statements prior to the summit their attitude on these matters, and I don't think it's proper at this point to raise expectations one way or another.

Q Just to clarify one point on the proliferation issue, are you saying that perhaps enough progress was made and it's simply a matter of the two leaders making the announcement on Wednesday, or are you saying that this thing is really being kicked up upstairs?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying that at the point we're at now, prior to a summit that is only days away, lower-level officials such as myself stop making public pronouncements and we allow the Presidents to make announcement. So I'm not guiding you one way or another.

Q On another China thing, on the trade front, can you confirm that the Chinese are going to buy 50, not 30 Boeing jets?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't. That would only be for the government of the People's Republic to announce.

Q Will you raise the persecution of Christians in China?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll discuss a range of things related to religious tolerance, human rights, the promotion of democracy -- issues that the Chinese are familiar with because we have made them a part of our bilateral dialogue regularly.

Q President Jiang says he doesn't want to hear about that.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he knows he will.

Q In answer to Scott earlier, you said that there was no announcement about a trip next year, but there was a prior announcement about a reciprocal state visit.

MR. MCCURRY: Correct. It has been our view that these exchanges should be regularized and they should become part of our engagement with the People's Republic. And that remains true and will likely remain true after the coming summit. There is just no specific meeting that we could specifically cancel.

Q But it is the President's intention to travel to China next year, is it not?

MR. MCCURRY: Certainly it's the President's intention to maintain a constructive approach to this bilateral relationship so that the tenor and environment of the relationship is such that exchange of visits at the highest levels becomes a regular order of business. But that would something that we would evaluate on an ongoing basis.

Q You said after the Philippines. You said there would be a visit in 1998.

MR. MCCURRY: That's correct, but we have not announced a specific date for any trip to China, as you well know.

Q But will there be a visit in 1998?

MR. MCCURRY: There has been -- there is certainly the expectation and the expectation is that there will be one, as we indicated.

Q Tomorrow in Philadelphia, the Million Women March will take place, with an increasingly influential group of supporters and backers. Does the President have an opinion regarding the Million Women March?

MR. MCCURRY: I think his view of that event is similar to other events that we've had recently when people of faith and commitment express the importance of taking personal responsibility for the kinds of changes that improve the lives of the individuals and of the communities in which they live. And the President, of course, applauds people who in that spirit gather together to celebrate both their faith and their commitment.

At the same time, that doesn't mean that he necessarily subscribes to everything that every march or every event lists as part of its agenda, or everything that is said at such events on behalf of those who are invited to speak or participate. But at the same time, he recognizes that the spirit which has moved so many people -- the Promise Keepers recently, the Million Man March a year ago, this march in Philadelphia -- is something that really does contribute to a deepening of both spiritualness by the American people and a commitment to communities and to strengthening families, all of which are things that the President talks about himself quite often.

Q To follow up, Winnie Mandela's presence -- is the President concerned that's going to make it more militant?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that's what I meant in the answer I gave to the prior question.

Q On Medicare, Senator Harkin has said that he wants assurances that your HCFA nominee makes Medicare fraud and abuse their top priority before going forward with that nomination --

MR. MCCURRY: I will assure him right here and now that Medicare fraud and abuse will be a high priority of the next person administering HCFA.

Q Senator Ashcroft announced today he'd vote against David Satcher for Surgeon General because of his support for the President's position on late-term abortion. Is the White House newly concerned about the prospects of Satcher for confirmation?

MR. MCCURRY: We are not newly concerned about that. We understand that some people will see that as an issue that troubles them. They'll want to make a statement with respect to that issue connected to the nomination. But given the superior quality of the nomination, the strong support he got in the committee, the strong support he's received in the Senate, I don't anticipate that being a problem in confirmation.

Q Are you concerned about the kidnapping of two international observers in Colombia yesterday?

MR. MCCURRY: We are. In fact, I believe, if I'm not mistaken, the State Department, they've already condemned this attack on democracy. It's a clear violation of immunities enjoyed by international observers who are there to protect the strengthening and nurturing of democracy. We deplore continuing violence against Colombians who wish to run for office and wish to participate in the elections on October 26th. And we reject any attempt to subvert free, peaceful and democratic elections anywhere in the world. We expect a vast majority of municipal elections will proceed in a normal fashion and will be legitimate. And, of course, we'll be working with those in the international community to determine the fate of the election observers.

Q Mike, before, you talked extensively about the issue of the AIDS placebo in Africa. What's the White House saying today, as Johns Hopkins is thinking about pulling out of that study?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, as we said before, these trials have been developed with a significant degree of oversight by bioethicists and by those both in the countries in which the trials are participating and by those who designed and administer them, with close attention to the ethical issues that are raised. For all the reasons that we described before, the use of some placebo treatments in a control group is proper if you're trying to determine whether or not there's a way that treatment can be provided to people who would otherwise receive no treatment.

Now, we are very encouraged by the fact that these trials that have been occurring in Thailand are coming along and may provide useful information to those conducting the experiments. You'd have to check at the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services to understand further how that will impact other ongoing projects in Africa and elsewhere. But it could very likely be the case that if you get positive results from the trials in Thailand, that that will make the use of placebos contraindicated in some of the trials that are now occurring in Africa. And that would be good news; that would mean that there then would be an ability of governments that have sufficient funding available to start the short-term treatments with AZT, so that we'd be able to help people who clearly need help.

Q Senator Dole says he's willing to testify before Senator Thompson's committee, and suggests the President might do the same.

MR. MCCURRY: If Senator Dole feels he needs to testify in front of the committee, he should do so. He's free to do so. The White House has cooperated fully with the committee, provided thousands of pages of documents, abundant material. And I'm not aware that the committee has asked the President to answer to any specific concerns that they've raised. We've been working to satisfy the concerns of the committee.

Q If they invite him, would he accept?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't imagine, given the general performance of that committee in recent days, that any President of the United States would attend and participate in their proceedings. But we have not received any invitation.

Q What do you mean by that?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's just become I think not an exercise at getting at the truth that will lead people to understand, that will lead to wisdom, that will lead to reform of campaign finance reform; it's become a collective exercise in partisan warfare. And it doesn't have much to do with reforming campaign finance laws.

Q Is there a possibility someone other than you at the White House is aware of an invitation from the committee?

MR. MCCURRY: Not unless they intended that we not receive it. I've talked to the people who would have been sent it. I think we anticipate we might receive something, but I think I made it pretty clear the way we feel about it.

Q You don't think much of the hearings?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think any of the senators participating think much of the hearings.

Q Is that right? Are you sure?

MR. MCCURRY: Based on how I read the senators participating yesterday, I don't think they thought much of the proceedings, either.

Q So what's going to happen?

MR. MCCURRY: We hope what will happen is campaign finance reform, that, ultimately, at the end of the day they'll all realize that the American people are less interested in theatre and more interested in results, and that the results they're anticipating and wanting are some change in the laws that have got loopholes that led to some of the instances of abuse that we saw in '95 and '96.

Q You say that, but, you know, the President made a pretty theatrical gesture of saying that he was going to hold the spotlight on the Congress on this. And you said a couple of days ago that you thought that you had accomplished that, but there hasn't been an up or down vote on campaign finance reform.

MR. MCCURRY: I know. And I hope you guys will take note of that and continue to report the fact that there has not been progress on campaign finance reform legislation.

Q -- other than us reporting on it? Is that where it ends?

MR. MCCURRY: We continue to look for ways and find more ways to continue to build public support for it. We've got -- Vice President Mondale, Senator Kassebaum-Baker has been out there working on the things that the President asked them to do; we are working to advance other aspects of political reform and continue to find ways to keep this debate energized so we don't lose momentum on campaign finance reform. But I think your reporting makes a big difference.

Q Mike, if you agree that there has been no up or down vote on campaign finance reform --

MR. MCCURRY: No, no, no. No, I don't -- I believe there has been. Let me set that aside. It was clear in those votes on cloture who was in favor and who was not.

Q That's an up or down vote on campaign finance reform?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's not the same as getting to something where you could pass, because if you had an up or down vote it would pass. But it's clear -- I mean, what we wanted was to make sure that people were on the record either for or against campaign finance reform. That has now happened, because it's clear that people who were failing to invoke cloture were attempting to kill the bill.

Q You don't think the President running to fundraisers every other day mars the dedication and influences people to think that maybe it's not a great, sincere --

MR. MCCURRY: He would run less to those events if we didn't have a situation in which we were being significantly out-raised and out-spent by the Republican Party, as you know. Every once in a while, you might want to report on what Republican fundraising practices are and their record so far this year, because they are -- you'll see very quickly, they have significantly out-raised and out-spent us.

Q Do you think that other Presidents have engaged in a fundraising event like the one that's coming up next weekend at Amelia Island? Do you see that as different from things before, or --

MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to go back and see what other Presidents have done. I imagine other Presidents have had retreats with their top donors before, and I can think of at least one occasion where that may have happened. Setting that --

Q What was that?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll go and do some research and then let you know. But setting that aside, what's changed, David, is the exponential growth in the cost of these campaigns. That's what's different than past years. And I think you've all reported on that. It costs dramatically more now to finance and run campaigns, partly because many of the folks that you all work for charge more now for the right to advertise and communicate with the voter.

Q Do you think the American public is going to swallow this weekend event no matter how it's reported on?

MR. MCCURRY: You know, they're going to see -- look, that weekend event, they will probably see more of than Senator Lott's weekend back in February when he took his team down to Florida for the same kind of weekend retreat. Now, I think the only difference was, if I'm not mistaken, they charged about three times as much as the price tag for this weekend. But they did the same kind of thing. I think some of that did get covered. And I think the American people will see it for what it is -- it's politicians having to spend more time raising money and less time addressing the needs of average Americans, which is precisely what's wrong with this system and precisely why we should change it. But the President makes that argument himself all the time.

Q Would the President relish a chance to talk about this before the Thompson committee?

MR. MCCURRY: No. I mean, look, that's a disingenuous question, Mark, and you know it.

Q _Talking about the performance of the committee, has the President actually watched any of it or does he only get reports from aides?

MR. MCCURRY: He gets some reports, but there, frankly, has not been a lot going on there substantively that he needs to know. Most of it's been comical.

Q Back to your point about how the money -- the costs have gone up, do you think that as a result of that you're going to have more and more blatant events -- is it going to get worse, is what you're saying?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, we have to correct some of the mistakes that clearly we made back in the '96 campaign and Republicans have to correct the mistakes that they made. But some of those same mistakes are being made. In terms of how the law is structured and how the law works, the Republicans are up in Staten Island doing exactly the same kind of advertising now. So some of it's not going to change. They're using the loophole that's in federal election law to run issue advocacy ads that clearly help support one of their candidates. And it's perfectly legal. We're not crying foul about it, because it's exactly what we did and what Dole did in 1996.

Q How many people do you think you're going to get at $50,000 a throw?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. That event, the DNC can tell you more about it.

Q Talk about a loophole, have you all done anything with the FEC, with that petition, since you all sent that over? Have you talked with the FEC, done anything to push them on that, closing the soft money loophole?

MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check on that. There may have been some contact just seeing where they are. I think they go into a formal consideration process in which we are limited in when we can have contact or make presentations as they go through the adjudication of a filing of a petition like that. There's probably some formal process that's underway on that.

Q Does the trial of the nanny up in Boston have any relevance to the President's overall message and concern on child care issues?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's anecdotally one other example of why there's concern about the condition of children in America. I mean, it has maybe a little more sensationally brought the concern directly forward, but there are too many cases that go unreported, unnoticed, of abuse, of violence, of times in which we don't nurture and care for children the way we should.

Q A message that the defense seems to want to develop there is that mothers should stay home and that that's the problem there.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, mothers should make the choice that is right for them and for their families.

Q Mike, to go back to China one last time. Is there any aspect of the U.S.-Chinese relationship that is now contingent on the progress on human rights?

MR. MCCURRY: Any aspect of the overall -- the overall relationship is contingent on progress of human rights, because the way we foresee this relationship unfolding in time for the Chinese to take the full advantage and benefit that they would get from immersion in the world economy, transacting business freely with democratic capitalist nations -- for them to enjoy the full benefit of the changes that they are making they have to embrace political liberalization, human rights, respect for things that are enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights, because they will never succeed at what they're trying to do until they recognize that inherent truth, that in order to function, markets have to have free flows of information, people have to have the ability and freedom to make free choices.

And so, in a sense, everything about the future of this relationship is contingent on them making the right choices when it comes to respect for human rights, promotion of democracy, tolerance, basic human freedoms. And we've made that point clear. That's -- our argument to them is that you will never enjoy the full advantage of the relationship with us or with any nation until you really recognize that you've got to step away from political authoritarianism.

Q What do you say, though, to the Chinese response to your argument, which is just the opposite? Let me just phrase the question this way: Their response to you would be, we're enjoying all the benefits of trade and entry with every other country in the world, except the United States. We're dealing diplomatically, politically, economically, with everybody else. They don't insist on human rights. If we have to buy Airbus jets, we buy them. If we want to engage in any kind of trade, if we want to knock at the door of WTO, only the U.S. is buying -- aren't we isolated globally in the very argument you're making to the Chinese? Aren't we the only ones who are making that argument to them?

MR. MCCURRY: There are times when we feel very lonely making arguments to them about human rights. But that doesn't make us any less determined to press that argument with them, because we believe it's the right thing to do morally.

My point is it's also logically the right thing for the People's Republic to embrace because over time whatever commercial transactions they're able to pursue, there is an illogic that goes to suppressing freedom of choice in markets by not granting people the exercise of freedom and the exercise of their own basic human rights. And so, in time, they will fail at what they're trying to do. That is the argument that we make and I think that we make persuasively.

Also, the response sometimes is, well, our fashion of dealing with these questions is consistent with our own culture and we should not have attitudes imposed on us from the outside. I think that argument does have some merit because we do have respect for their own cultural traditions, their own practices. But remember that we are entering a new time in which the flow of information, the flow of commerce is free and unfettered and done electronically and done instantaneously, and faxes and cell phones and the Internet are coming to China and they're going to dramatically change both the way they do business and the way in which the government has to think about the rights of individual citizens.

That's part of the change that comes about and part of what will be an interesting conversation, part of what the disagreement will be. This summit will include a discussion and a disagreement on exactly this subject, because we've had it before. But we will continue to press it because over time, we think the Chinese will see the merit of the argument that we make.

Q Leo's question in another way, short and to the point is that they seem to hold a lot of trump cards, don't they, the Chinese in this relationship?

MR. MCCURRY: Only if take a very shortsighted view of what these transactions are about. They're not solely for commercial gain by one country as against another country. They're also about building the kind of long-term fundamentals for growth and for progress that will sustain that performance over time. And our argument is you can't do that if you're infringing on the rights of so many of your citizens.

There are interesting numbers, some of which you've had already in this briefing, the number of patents, international patents that are protected by Chinese inventors is much lower than it should be for a country of that population and an economic status of that size. And in part that's because of the fetters that exist on the flow of information and knowledge. And they're going to be holding themselves back, so they might -- yes, they can go by Airbus and not by Boeing or whatever the transaction is on any given day, but over the long-term they're going to be eating their seed corn. And that's the argument that we try to make.

Q Mike, how can the administration be so sure that economic liberalization in China will ultimately lead to political improvement? There are other places like Singapore and Vietnam which have experimented pretty well with keeping the political model the same.

MR. MCCURRY: We can't be certain, but our argument is that by remaining engaged with them it's far more likely to produce that outcome. One of the purposes of this summit and the next summit and of staying engaged is it's more likely we keep them on the path to political reform, economic reform, liberalization, pluralism. But we have to protect, of course, against the possibility of some other worse outcome. And we do. But that's looking on the negative side of a relationship that we are trying to do everything possible to increase the option of a positive.

Q Is there anything in what you would negotiate with them at this point that would be conditional upon some evidence of progress and human rights?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to go to the heart of the discussion, but I'll stay with what is the larger answer there -- that there are aspects of the entire relationship that depend on the recognition of the fundamental importance of respect for human rights, and the fact that the full advantage of this engagement can't be explored until there is that recognition.

Q They didn't strike anything from the agenda, did they? I mean, these things are worked out mutually, aren't they, and so it will come up --

MR. MCCURRY: That's correct, and we have -- when we raise issues like the one we're talking about that they know we will raise, they have issues that they raise of concern to them that we know they will raise. And that's part of the nature of the dialogue, but it is useful to have that dialogue.

Q Mike, if I could change the subject, representatives of African American government workers, I understand, were here today to complain and will have a press conference later about the suspension of IRS affirmative action programs. Do you have a response?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check into that, Peter. I was not aware of that, but we can track that down. Do you know who they met with?

Q I don't know that.

MR. MCCURRY: Check and see. I think we probably gave them some assurances there were no abrupt wholesale changes, but repeated that many agencies are now going through the evaluation of their own affirmative action programs required by the Supreme Court in Aderand, so they have to go through the strict scrutiny that leads to narrowly tailored problems if and when they are indicated as necessary consistent with the court's requirement.

Q And what can you tell us about plans this weekend for observing a certain birthday?

MR. MCCURRY: Nothing. In fact, I think -- given the bleak bit of information I have here, I'm probably to deny that there is a birthday. (Laughter.) Whose birthday? What are you talking about? It's all a secret. Actually it's all a surprise.

Q Tomorrow or Sunday or both?

MR. MCCURRY: There will be some celebrating over the weekend. Now, there's an event out in Chicago on Monday that the First Lady's Office can tell you more about that's more of a public event. But that there will be some celebration this weekend, too.

Do you want me to do the week ahead? Okay. We're moving that direction?

Saturday's radio address -- we'll tape today. We already know about that. Saturday night the President and First Lady are looking forward to attending the annual dinner of the National Italian American Foundation. One of the reasons he is looking forward to that dinner is one of the honorees will be the first and so far only Italian America ever to serve as Chief of Staff the President of the United States of America. (Laughter.) That's a little test. I noticed that Berger's been getting results with his tests. Barry noted that for my enjoyment that Leon will be at that dinner.

Q Is that going to be accompanied by an endorsement for governor?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he will endorse it. Now, the only problem in Leon has decided he's not running. (Laughter.) Hasn't decided if he's running. He hasn't indicated his plans one way or another on that. He has not. I will be present, however, to endorse him -- depending on who else runs. (Laughter.)

Q Are you Italian?


Sunday, everything is as indicated. Monday, we've got -- it will be NCAA basketball day for hoops fans around here. We've got the University of Arizona Wildcats and the University of Tennessee Lady Vols coming for a visit. The 1997 Men's and Women's Collegiate Basketball Champions. And the President, then later in the day will speak at the annual policy conference of the Democratic Leadership Council at the Omni Shoreham, and Monday evening, he goes off to Chicago. As you know, Tuesday he's got the event in Chicago.

Q What time?

MR. MCCURRY: It will be at a public school. What time is the departure on Monday to go out there? I think it's like --

MR. LOCKHART: It's 6:30 p.m.

MR. MCCURRY: It's early evening, or what is for us early evening.

Q Around 6:40 p.m.

MR. MCCURRY: At 6:40 p.m., okay.

Tuesday morning, the school event in Chicago I told you about at the gaggle.

Q Returns?

MR. MCCURRY: Returns on Tuesday.

Q No other --

MR. MCCURRY: No overnight Tuesday.

MR. LOCKHART: He gets back about 2:30 p.m.

MR. MCCURRY: About 2:30 p.m., so we're back about mid afternoon on Tuesday. And Wednesday we've got the state visit, the Chinese state visit, as you know. Thursday, the President -- we have a little more -- you guys got all worked up by those two great scholars we had earlier, so I had to --

Q Where can we get his itinerary for his Washington stay?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the Embassy briefed on that and put it out. So my guess is if you call over to the Embassy they can get it to you.

Thursday, the President will travel to Children's Hospital here in Washington, and he, Steven Spielberg and Norman Schwarzkopf will kick off a nonprofit effort to use the Internet to connect sick and terminally ill children in hospitals around the country. Will be kind of interesting.

Friday is the trip to Florida, which we will be excruciatingly taken to the cleaners on -- (laughter) -- and then we go to Little House Elementary School. On Friday -- Saturday, we get creamed. But we'll get creamed Friday, going into the weekend, too. It's all part of it. You guys, please go get that -- I'm reminding you, though, before you do that, get the tape of Lott and those guys down in Florida so at least there's some semblance of balance.

Q Thanks for the tip. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure it will do a lot of good.

And then he's going to go up and campaign for our candidate in Staten Island, the open seat, the Molinari seat, and for future Governor McGreevey, and for future Mayor Messenger in New York.

Q What day is that?

MR. MCCURRY: That's Sunday, the 26th.

Q He'll be in Florida Friday and Saturday?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he's there Friday. He's supposed to go to events -- this is the school he was going to go to when he banged the knee. He's actually on Friday going to Little House Elementary School, and that's the school that he was going to go visit before he injured his knee at Greg Norman's, or the night before.

Q Does he campaign for Beyer in Virginia next week?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. He goes back, I believe, next week. We haven't announced it; it's Monday, though. We have announced it, I just did.

MR. LOCKHART: The Beyer campaign has announced it.

MR. MCCURRY: The Beyer campaign announcement is Monday. The White House is usually clueless.

That's it, the week. One more?

Q And the radio address -- will the President be making his pitch for legislation --

MR. MCCURRY: We'll have an embargoed text of that available shortly -- or later.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:03 P.M. EDT