THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:24 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Slow news day at the White House, and not much to brief about today. The dog still is still unnamed dog, unnamed First Dog. Now we have everyone and their mother wants to have a dog-naming contest, so we will take that under advisement. The dog is not named Georgie, that is not true. Someone speculated on that.
Q How did that rumor get started?
THE PRESIDENT: Probably by Stephanopoulos. (Laughter.)
What else can I tell you? The only -- the President, you know, has been in the residence during the day, but he did have a call this morning with Prime Minister Hashimoto. The two of them talked about the need to redouble the efforts of the U.S. and Japanese delegation to make progress in Kyoto, which is down to the wire now. The two -- the President and Prime Minister affirmed that the U.S. and Japanese positions were in sync, and they agreed to work to secure cooperation with the European Union on some of the key points that remain in the discussion. And this includes all aspects of the dialogue from targets to differentiation of the joint implementation, developing country participation, issues that those of you who have been following the dialogue in Kyoto are familiar with. And they agreed that they would both be in contact with their respective delegations to see if progress could not be made.
Q Is there a chance that there -- what is your assessment of the prospects that a treaty will be worked out?
MR. MCCURRY: I'd say it's far from clear. There are very difficult issues. There has been, on some issues, progress and the sense we get is that there's been on some of the difficult issues some momentum, but still very difficult issues to deal with. Under Secretary Eizenstat, I think, has given the latest readout in Kyoto to reporters who are following the deliberations there. And not a lot that I can add to that.
Q It doesn't look like Vice President Gore achieved much by going to Kyoto. Was it a waste of time?
MR. MCCURRY: No, absolutely not. I mean, he gave the forward momentum to the discussions that have got them as they go into the final hours now really working those issues hard. I think he also -- if you go back several weeks when the U.S. position, as it was articulated by the President, was in some senses put aside or dismissed by other nations, it has become a real outline, in a sense, of a what a prospective package might look like if there is success in these negotiations. And the Vice President very ably advanced the argument for that position with his appearance.
Q Is the President surprised at how much he's had to move on this?
Q When you say that the U.S. and Japanese positions are in sync, I mean, Japanese were going for a lower level of greenhouse gas emissions --
MR. MCCURRY: We have been working closely with their delegation and they're now working together to advance ideas that we hope can form the basis of some consensus in Kyoto.
Q What are they?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to go into the substance of what is being advanced in Kyoto.
Q Can you tell us anything about the Vice President's proposal for a 2 percent reduction by 2010?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not going to get into the substance of what the negotiators are doing in Kyoto.
Q But that was put on the table today?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not doing anything on the substance of what the negotiators are doing in Kyoto.
Q The Italians are reporting that the U.S. is willing to cut the emissions by 5 percent. Can you confirm that or deny it?
MR. MCCURRY: I just indicated I'm not going to go into the details fo what the negotiators are doing in Kyoto. Now, a lot of governments and a lot of delegations in Kyoto are saying a lot of things at this point, but there's a very intense negotiation underway. And as all of you know, sometimes there's a public diplomacy aspect of negotiations.
Q Did the President initiate the phone call?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe the Prime Minister called in -- correct.
Q Mike, when you were going to staff meetings in 1996, what was your understanding of Janis Kearney's role in those meetings?
MR. MCCURRY: She was there as one of the participants.
Q And what did you observe her doing in those meetings? What was her role?
MR. MCCURRY: Same thing everybody else was doing, just sitting there and having a cup of coffee and trying to wake up in the morning.
Q So you didn't have a particular understanding of why she was there or what her role was?
MR. MCCURRY: I knew roughly what her job was, like I did with my other colleagues.
Q And that rough understanding was what, please?
MR. MCCURRY: The answer to that question I think you're going to get from Mr. Davis in a short while. I'll leave that to him.
Q When you attended a couple of meetings in October of '96, you brought up to the senior staff, according to White House records, the Asian money the President had received from the Rady group. What was the reaction when you brought that up in the staff meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with the Rady group, what are you talking about?
Q Riady, I beg your pardon.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any recollection of that, but I gave reports every -- very frequently at senior staff meetings about things that are in the news that some of you are writing about.
Q Was there generally discussion that came from those briefings?
MR. MCCURRY: Scott, there was discussion every morning at 7:45 a.m., 7:30 a.m., at our staff meetings -- that's what we have meetings for.
Q It seems in the record, though -- and I'm sorry, if I can just follow with this final question -- it seems in the record at least on two occasions you brought up these provocative subjects and there was no discussion whatsoever.
MR. MCCURRY: That was generally the case. I sort of would say, we've got all this stuff in The New York Times today, we've got this stuff in The Washington Post today, that's probably what I'll be dealing with today. And everyone said, mm-hmm, yes, good -- poor McCurry, he'll be dealing with those subjects today.
Q And nobody would say anything substantive about those things?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I don't have any specific recollection of each and every of those meetings, but we had a general discussion. The purpose of those meetings was sort of what are people at the White House going to be working on on a given day.
Q Mike, what was the President's reaction to the fact that suddenly there's another batch of documents that didn't seem to be turned over in a timely --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know of any reaction that he had to it. I think on the question of how the material was processed and delivered, Mr. Davis is going to be briefing your news organization shortly on that.
Q Do you think it seems appropriate that --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to get into that subject.
Q What's he going to tell us? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to -- he'll tell you when he tells you.
Q Is that on-camera briefing scheduled for a certain time?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what his arrangements are -- whatever his arrangements are that he's making with you, your producers and so forth.
Q But you have to admit, Mike, that this is an embarrassment to the White House, that after months of these documents being subpoenaed, the woman who had gone through to try to fulfill earlier subpoenas now makes available her own diaries of these entries that had been requested months ago.
MR. MCCURRY: I think you've all seen the entries and they speak for themselves.
Q The President is about to embark on another round of fundraisers and his draw, or take, at the previous ones have been disappointing to a lot of Democrats who thought he could be raising -- should be raising more. And some are saying they are despairing of ever catching up. Given that the President hasn't been able to make much of a dent in the debt, is he still hopeful that Democrats will be competitive financially this year, or is he --
MR. MCCURRY: Some days we get criticized for doing too much fundraising, and now we get criticized for not doing it well enough. So I guess we're never going to win on this one.
Q Well, no, I'm just asking, is he disappointed in the amount of money he's been able to raise so far given the hole the party is in.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think he would like to help the Democratic Party retire the debt and he's been working hard at it.
Q How does he feel about his progress so far?
MR. MCCURRY: We've got a long ways to go.
Q Does he feel that he's responsible, the money he drained from the Democratic Party in '96 helped contribute to this mess that the party is in right now?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that he's addressed that question before and I don't have anything new for you on that.
And that's it for the day.
Q No, no, no.
Q Mike, on another subject -- the First Lady is today touting diversity and celebrating diversity. It seems that the President's initiative on race, every time he tries to put something out there it fizzles a bit. Is he concerned about that right now? is he looking to make a bigger --
MR. MCCURRY: No, he doesn't agree with that. I think that he's been doing some very productive work on the race initiative and it's been going well, and you just need to look at some of the reactions to the town hall that we've seen all around the country and the way it's been covered and the reaction it's got, and I think he's very pleased with the progress we're making.
Q Is he pleased with the meeting in Dallas that was all black and closed?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the Deputy Chief of Staff made that very clear over the weekend how we felt about that.
Q I just want to return to Mara's question. I think the point of the question is, does the President feel he's losing the ability to deliver some bang for the buck, that he's just not the draw that he was before.
MR. MCCURRY: Given the number of requests we're getting for his attendance at fundraisers on behalf of candidates for office, that can't possibly be true.
Q What is the reason that he's not bringing in as much as he did last year? I mean, are donors scared off?
MR. MCCURRY: Because you make a lot of these people feel like common criminals. That's why.
MR. MCCURRY: By implying that contributing to the work of a political party is something that's wrong.
Q And we're doing that?
MR. MCCURRY: And it's not wrong, and many of our donors have said that they feel, based on the requests that they get, they feel somewhat harassed.
Q They feel harassed by the requests for money?
MR. MCCURRY: By the -- they probably feel that way, too. (Laughter.) But I think they feel -- a lot of them feel like they've been under enormous pressure because there's something implied to be wrong about their participation to the party by giving contributions. A lot of them have said that.
Q Does this mean the President will actually have to do more of these if he's able to raise less money?
MR. MCCURRY: I've already made it clear to you that there's going to be an awful lot of fundraising and more if we don't pass campaign finance reform. We need to pass campaign finance reform and get some control of the amounts of monies that both parties are going to have to spend on campaigns.
Q But given this trend of people giving less, does this mean -- does that multiply the number of events he'll actually have to do than he would otherwise?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not a fundraising planner, I don't know the answer to that. They could try to make the events that we have bigger or -- I just don't know how they will adjust the schedule accordingly. But I've made it clear to you that there's going to be an awful lot of fundraising on the schedule because that's the reality. I think I've been through this several times now.
Q Mike, on Iraq, Secretary Cohen has cancelled his trip to the Middle East, citing Iraq as one of the reasons. Is the situation sliding back to where it was a few weeks ago?
MR. MCCURRY: It won't if the Iraqis grant to Chairman Butler of the U.N. Special Commission the access that he needs to sites. And what is needed here is full cooperation.
Q Well, Mike, in Paris, Butler today said that that access is just not forthcoming at all, that the Iraqis show no signs of budging. How is this thing going to be rectified?
MR. MCCURRY: It will be rectified with compliance by the government of Iraq.
Q But they're not complying.
MR. MCCURRY: Sooner or later the will of the international community, having been expressed clearly by the Security Council, will be achieved.
Q Well, what did the confrontation accomplish?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've never told you that it was over, did we?
Q On welfare, there's a new study out today that says that jobs exist for only about half of the displaced welfare workers and there are protests being planned tomorrow in 50 states. Does the President have any plans or ideas to find jobs for these displaced workers?
MR. MCCURRY: We've been working ceaselessly on that, as you know. From the efforts that we've made to encourage a response by the private sector to the works that we're doing with state governments to assure that there are services, training, placement services available -- there's a considerable amount of effort both in the public sector and the private sector to get the kind of response we need and we need -- we have an economy, remember, that's now created almost 14 million jobs in the last five years, so the jobs are there. Matching people who we're formerly dependent on welfare to the job opportunities that exist has to be part of the effort, but also encouraging private sector employees to take a chance on someone who has been welfare-dependent has been a major part of the President's effort. He's worked on this, done lots of events. I think you've all been at some of those events.
Q Does that mean that he's done everything he can and it's up to the private sector now?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's has not done everything he can because he plans to do more and has been doing a great deal to stimulate that kind of response. We've been working on this I think -- I don't think anyone can challenge the notion that the President has devoted a considerable amount of time to making sure that this transition that has to occur in our economy away from a model of dependency through the cycle of welfare that existed prior to reform -- we've made it clear that we've got to change the whole culture and the ethic of how employers and those who are welfare-dependent approach their own responsibilities as we implement welfare reform.
Q Do you know why Lanny Davis last night, when he was going over these documents, didn't have or wasn't given a reasonable explanation for why they're so late and why now, and it's taken a day and he's come up with an explanation we're all going to hear?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not. And I think that he would be a position to brief you in a short while.
Q Does the President believe that the investigation into the wartime record of Mr. Lawrence should continue now that his widow has requested that the body be --
MR. MCCURRY: I think that the State Department has already indicated they're going to finish the report they've been asked by that White House to conduct.
Q Is the President angry about how this has all turned out, or upset by it?
MR. MCCURRY: I think his letter spoke for itself last night.
Q Can you tell us anything about Thursday's event, which is guess is about drugs?
MR. MCCURRY: We can do a little bit -- do you want to do a little bit on the trip? Why don't we do that. And, Wolf?
Q Burton says that your comments on Louis Freeh were disgusting and the President should apologize.
MR. MCCURRY: When did he say that, this morning?
Q This morning.
MR. MCCURRY: I missed it. I'll take the good advice of The Washington Post today and not comment on that topic.
Q What happened to the Bill Lann Lee statement? Is that still going to --
MR. MCCURRY: Any moment.
Anything else? Mr. Lockhart will do a quick preview.
MR. LOCKHART: As you know, tonight, first we do the human rights reception. I am faithfully informed that we may even have an advance text for those of you who would be bothered by the late start of the speech.
Tomorrow the President goes to the South Bronx, the Charlotte Gardens area of the South Bronx. As many of you know, Presidents in the last several decades have gone there as a symbol of the kind of revitalization that needed to be done in urban areas like that. And the President will be there to highlight the good work that's been done both within the private and public sector, in cooperation, and the dramatic recovery in that area.
Thursday, the President will talking about his drug policy. An important part of the drug policy is interdiction. The Coast Guard is a key player in that. He'll be joined by Secretary Slater, General McCaffrey and the Attorney General, and they'll focus on the efforts, particularly on interdiction and the Coast Guard in dealing with the delivery of drugs into the country.
Between those there are two fundraising events, Wednesday in New York and a lunch for Lt. Governor Buddy MacKay in Florida, and a DNC gala and dinner that evening. And then we come back.
Q Do you have the amount of the --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have final amounts. I'll have at least the New York ones tomorrow morning.
Q Which event is Gephardt going to be attending?
MR. LOCKHART: Tomorrow night in New York, the Democratic Congressional Campaign dinner, which is -- I don't have the location here -- in the Waldorf.
Q How do you feel about Gephardt coming and raising money for the Democratic Party at this point, given his criticism of the White House for being a "money machine"?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that the President and Representative Gephardt share the same common goal of recapturing the House in 1998, and this is part of that effort.
Q At what event is the President likely to discuss the Lee nomination?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that will be one of the -- the DNC event is -- there is a Hispanic Gala dinner with leaders in the Democratic Party in the Hispanic community. And I believe that he will mention, as he is doing today, the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Division and the importance of putting someone of Mr. Lee's quality in to run that division.
Q Joe, just to follow up on Wolf's question, though, do you feel that Gephardt is at all hypocritical? I mean, it sounds like he wants to put his ATM card in the same machine.
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think, as Mike discussed the other day, that both the President and the Minority Leader spoke and agreed that the common agenda is electing Democrats in 1998.
Q Right, I got that part. I'm asking about specifically Gephardt taking advantage of the President's fundraising abilities.
MR. LOCKHART: No. If you're asking me if I think he's being hypocritical, the answer is no.
Q Do you think 1998 is in Gephardt's vocabulary?
MR. LOCKHART: He said it is, and I think he's showing it by doing this event tomorrow.
Q On Thursday, any policy announcements?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there will be some new figures on the fight against drugs, but the event will be more to highlight, particularly with the Coast Guard's involvement, the interdiction part of this multipronged effort to fight drugs.
Q So the President, you said, did speak with Gephardt?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q I missed that.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:43 P.M. EST