THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:46 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Just a program note for a little later on in the afternoon -- Prime Minister Yilmaz is about halfway through his working meetings here at the White House. He has just concluded a bilateral meeting with the Vice President. Of course, he had a very good meeting with the President already. They are getting ready to have a signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room and then an official lunch that the Vice President hosts at Blair House. At the conclusion of that, I've got two senior officials who will do a little background readout on the meetings that they have been having.
Going exceptionally well, confirming the very close and solid working relationship and friendship the United States enjoys with the people and government of Turkey.
Q Has the U.S. -- I may have missed it -- made a statement on the rejection of Turkey?
MR. MCCURRY: The President, in a sense, did that at the press conference when he talked about the importance of anchoring Turkey to the West and incorporating the future of an undivided European continent with the strong presence of what is the geopolitical, geostrategic crossroads between the East and West -- Turkey. I think the President clearly made known his view that we see a future for Europe with Turkey in it, and of course we have long favored membership for Turkey in the European Union.
Q Was it discussed today?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't give you a readout at this point because the meetings are still in progress. Those who participated will be here and can tell you. I imagine it would have been because it is a topic of central importance both to the United States and to Turkey.
Q Mike, what should we make of Jack Kemp declining to attend this afternoon's discussion with the President?
MR. MCCURRY: If I gather correctly, all he told the White House was that he just couldn't make it. I've seen his staff has indicated that they think that the dialogue needs to be more open. We have had very open dialogue on race. That has been the purpose of many of the events the President has had, including his town hall meeting. But for these outreach meetings that we've been doing with the President engaged in what amounts to really good conversation with people who can help him and help the Advisory Board understand issues. We have elected not to put them under full-scale lights, camera, action, because it has not always been conducive to those types of sessions to have that type of coverage.
Now, we do have press coverage. It is in the sense that it will be available to those of you who want to write about it or report on it to cover, it will be available for coverage under the way that we could produce it. And, frankly, I'm sorry in that he can't be there because I think Jack Kemp is a very interesting and thoughtful person and has been exceptionally interested in trying to get the Republican Party more in tune with issues of importance to urban America, and those are issues very often of concern to minority Americans.
Q The government of South Korea has said that President-elect Kim will be going to the U.S. and Japan. Do you have any word on this or can you enlighten us?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not. I know that there was no discussion of a -- formal discussion of a visit in the very brief phone call that the President had with the President-elect last night. I think the President indicated that he, of course, hopes to see the President-elect at some future date, but no discussion of anything specific.
Q Can I just follow up quickly? You mentioned that the U.S. favors Turkish membership in the EU. Why does the U.S. have an opinion on what is a discussion between Turkey and the European Union?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it is, and it's not our decision to make. But we have in the past expressed that view to European governments.
Q We have 600,000 troops there.
MR. MCCURRY: Did the President in his call with President-elect Kim admonish Mr. Kim on the need to implement the IMF package that his predecessor negotiated?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, by the time they had their call last night, which was principally for the President to congratulate the President-elect, the President-elect had spoken very specifically on that subject, and I think had made it clear that he will fully implement the IMF package, which was welcome news to the United States.
Q Will you invite him, the President-elect Kim?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we just had a discussion of that. There was no formal discussion of that last night and I'm not aware of any plans for any visit. We work in very close partnership with the Republic of Korea, and at the moment we are advancing issues together that we have presented in the format of the four-party talks that are underway in Geneva. And I know that we will continue a very close strategic partnership with the Republic of Korea.
Q Will Senator Dole be accompanying the President to Bosnia?
MR. MCCURRY: The President would very much like him to do that and I imagine the Senator would want to if he can. I don't know whether he has been able to make arrangements to do it or not. We have not yet been able to hear back and we fully understand that in the midst of a busy holiday season it might be hard for him to juggle things. But we'd like to have him if he can join us.
Q Has the President had any feedback on his decision for an open-ended stay? I mean, is he getting any kind of reaction?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's had conversations with the leadership on this subject, but others -- the Secretary of Defense, principally, but others in the administration have been taking soundings on Capitol Hill and we're very encouraged. We know we're going to have to make a very persuasive case for the U.S. participation in an international security presence in Bosnia beyond June of 1998, but we are very encouraged with the common sense, practical, and nonpartisan way that members of Congress seem to be reacting to the President's announcement.
Q On Peter's question, do you have the rest of the CODEL that's going with the President?
MR. MCCURRY: Mark, I've got -- I think they still -- similarly, there are some other people that we've extended invitations to and many of them were delighted to get it and they were trying to see if they could rearrange -- in some cases rearrange personal and family affairs to accompany the President. There are at the moment 10 members of Congress who are listed as part of the President's delegation -- Senator Biden, Senator Lieberman, Senator Coats, Representatives Kasich, Murtha, Skelton, Young, Mack Collins from Georgia, Boehner, and Senator Ted Stevens. Congressman Boehner and Senator Stevens, who have just been able to indicate that they will accompany us. So we have 10 accompanying the President now, and the President is delighted with that response.
Q What does he hope to accomplish by this trip, aside from the Christmas greeting?
MR. MCCURRY: This will be, in addition to the principal purpose, is to pay tribute to those men and women who are serving far from home in this Christmas season, holiday season, on behalf of the people of the United States. And in that way, this will be a symbolic visit not only to those troops in Bosnia, but a representative salute to all the 106,000 American men and women who are serving far from home during this holiday season.
But it will also obviously be an opportunity for the President to address the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, to meet with the collective presidency to discuss and learn further aspects of the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, and to get his own personal assessment from his commanders on the ground and from other representatives of NATO nations -- their sense of the tasks that lie ahead as we move forward both with the current SFOR mission and as we contemplate the parameters for whatever the follow-on mission will be.
Q Mike, Richard Butler now says that he does believe that Iraq has been hiding banned weapons in the so-called presidential palaces and compounds. What is the U.S. going to do about it, or what should the United Nations do about it?
MR. MCCURRY: That is very troubling information, and the United States expects other members of the Security Council and other members of the United Nations to hear Chairman Butler's report and listen very carefully to the evidence that he and his scientists put forward. They are not the ones that recommend a course of action, but they are the ones that present the facts. And if Chairman Butler indeed, when he makes his presentation later today, displays and explains what conclusions that he has reached, I think it is important for the Security Council to be very mindful of what the meaning of that evidence might suggest.
Q What do you mean by that?
MR. MCCURRY: I think what it means is that if there was any interruption in dormant programs during the period in which UNSCOM was absent from Iraq or, alternatively, if there is any evidence of any activity in any program, including those at sites that have yet to be seen, that would be a very grave matter. And that needs to be considered very carefully by the Security Council.
Q Well, Mike, what's the timetable for this? I mean, clearly, you don't want to get out in front of the Security Council, but should they think about this for a couple weeks? At what point does the U.S. do what it's always said it would do, which is if it can't get Security Council, act on its own?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to lay out any artificial timetable. I think it needs to be deliberately pursued by the Security Council. The Security Council in prior resolutions has indicated it will remain seized of this matter, and well it should, and the deliberations on what course UNSCOM should take in coming days, weeks needs to be carefully considered by all members of the Security Council.
Q You've been pretty careful all along not to say this crisis is over. Does that mean you're not really surprised by what Butler is now saying?
MR. MCCURRY: It's not a surprise to the United States that there has been concealment, there has been obstruction with the work of U.N. inspectors, and it's not hard to imagine that there would have been a reason for that obstructionist behavior by the government of Iraq.
Q Well, Mike, not too many weeks ago, you were putting out some pretty dire warnings, and Secretary Cohen was on television with a bag of sugar saying this can annihilate half of Washington, D.C. All of a sudden, it seems like the urgency is gone.
MR. MCCURRY: Maybe on your part, but not on our part.
Q Well, how urgent is this situation? I mean, you said in a matter of weeks --
MR. MCCURRY: No less so now than when we were demonstrating the possible impact of a program that can produce even small quantities of biological and chemical agents.
Q Why is there so little talk from --
Q Where is the saber rattling?
MR. MCCURRY: The sabers are in the Persian Gulf and they are already rattling.
Q Does the United States see Iraq as an imminent threat or a long-term threat?
MR. MCCURRY: Most likely both.
Q Mike, a few minutes ago, over at the State Department they said that on Monday Iraq had converted a request for $100 million worth of oil for food and medicine into instead spare parts. How do you interpret them wanting spare parts instead of oil?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know enough about the technical details of that, David, to respond to that. It would be important to know the nature of whatever conversions they have done. Now, in fairness, to deliver humanitarian supplies, food, medicine in distant rural areas in Iraq you need to have trucks, you need to have delivery vehicles, and so there may be some issue related to how they're doing it. But on the other hand, the possibility of some prospect of converting that to uses that the military might find helpful would be of concern. That's why the United States in establishing the 986 oil sales program insisted on having a monitoring mechanism that was supervised by the United Nations, for that very reason.
Q Mike, would you like to see the U.N. act on Chairman Butler's evidence on an urgent basis?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they are already taking it up without any delay and considering it and discussing it, so I think that's -- we are not faulting the U.N. Security Council's review. They've taken it up immediately.
Q Mike, as the President prepares for this affirmative action meeting this afternoon, does he consider that there is basically an unbridgeable gap between his views on affirmative action and the views of people like Ward Connerly, or does he see possibilities for reaching common positions across --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe we know the answer to that, which is one of the reasons why he wanted to see these individuals and exchange views with them. I think the President hopes that there are areas in which there is some common agreement on ways in which we can approach the question of race in America and find some common ground. I think the President suspects there may be, with some of the people he will see today some areas in which they do have agreement on ways that we can proceed and shape his current Race Initiative in ways that are helpful.
There may be disagreements on the applications of a specific tool to use in addressing prejudice and discrimination and injustice, such as affirmative action, but there might, in fact, be some areas of agreement that would be useful to pursue in bridging differences and in repairing the breach that sometimes exists on this issue and in our society.
Q The point I mainly had in mind, given the President's remarks in Akron and at the press conference, is he seems to be placing increasing emphasis on need-based rather than solely race-based programs, pointing out that Supreme Court has put rather sharp limits on how you can go with affirmative action. And by the same token, you hear more and more from the opponents of affirmative action that they would be ready to support need-based programs. Is that an area where he sees some fruitful commonality?
MR. MCCURRY: There are elements of needs-based applications for remedies like affirmative action in current law. And under the Adarand test, as it's been applied to specific government affirmative action programs, needs-based criteria has been helpful in meeting the strict scrutiny criteria that the court established in Adarand.
At the same time, we have never suggested that should be the sole criteria, because there are other instances where it is not entirely useful to make an economic-based only determination. And the President, I think, addressed that in some specific detail when he delivered his results of his study of affirmative action in 1995.
Q Mike, who else will be in the meeting from the administration with him today?
MR. MCCURRY: Maria Echaveste, who is our Director of Public Liaison; Sylvia Matthews, the Deputy Chief of Staff; and Judy Winston, who is the Executive Director of the President's Advisory Board on the Race Initiative; and I think Governor Tom Kean, who is a member of the board, will also be participating in the discussion.
Q I thought Kean considered himself one of the conservatives.
MR. MCCURRY: He should, and he is. But he is also -- it's important to note he is also a member of the board itself.
Q How about Franklin?
MR. MCCURRY: Dr. Franklin, I think, was not -- would have been there had he not had some other appointment this date. We really worked hard to get a day in the midst of the holiday season and a combination of people that we thought would be good for this discussion.
Q Does he have a kind of structure or an idea of how this conversation should go today? I mean, he laid out some pretty specific questions in the press conference on Tuesday that seem so much more focused than the way he ran Akron. And I'm just wondering if he has a plan for this conversation.
MR. MCCURRY: He may have one, and it most likely will be different from the one that was recommended to him by his staff. But since I am here and not in the preparation meeting for the meeting, I can't really tell you how it will unfold. I think it will be, as it typically is in these meetings, an opportunity for the President to really go around the room and hear individually from these people and get their thoughts, and then maybe guide the discussion in certain directions.
Q When you say it's different from the one the staff recommended, he rejected --
MR. MCCURRY: Because it's Bill Clinton we're talking about, so the likelihood that he would have his own idea on how to run the meeting is high, I would say, shall I say?
Q Why are there not more members of the board attending? Did some refuse to go?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we wanted one to be there so that there would be some input back to the board, and this is not a formal meeting of the board. The board has just met and, of course, the members arranged their schedules to be in town earlier this week. But this was not --
Q But, Mike, if it there were more than one you would have to have it in public, right?
MR. MCCURRY: The purpose of this meeting was not to conduct another meeting of the board; it was to really give the President some opportunity to reach out and talk to people.
Q But if you two, wouldn't you have to make it public?
MR. MCCURRY: Is it two or more? If you have some combination of members, it then is a different -- it becomes a formal meeting of the board.
Q Other than rejecting affirmative action, do any of these opponents think that there is no racial discrimination in this country?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't imagine any of them think that, because I think they're all sensible, realistic people. But I think they have different views on how to remedy instances of racial discrimination.
Q Like what?
MR. MCCURRY: They have all written a great deal and spoken a great deal on it, which is why we have them here today.
Q Mike, did the President have any reaction to the news accounts of the Fairfax meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't talk to him about it. The reaction here at the White House was it was disappointing to us that you all were so interested in someone who was so clearly not a part of the conversation. But that happens, and he got what he wanted at the expense of others who were there who participated.
Q An NSC employee apparently asked the CIA for intelligence information on citizen civilians. Is that a practice that's rare, common? And in principle is it something that the White House condones?
MR. MCCURRY: I would ask you to double-check this information with Counsel's Office, but my understanding as it's been related to me by Counsel's Office, it's a practice that is, while rare and while used only under specific circumstances, is specifically provided for in Executive Order 12333, which governs such requests and the handling of such information.
Q So in principle, is the White House condoning that kind of --
MR. MCCURRY: If there are circumstances in which that type of activity is necessary, then it is appropriate. I can't comment on the specific instance.
Q The White House does consider the CIA to be a source of information on American citizens.
MR. MCCURRY: The White House believes in Executive Order 12333.
Q What is the basis of that order?
MR. MCCURRY: It handles -- provides for the collection, retention, and dissemination by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Q On someone considered subversive?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it's got a whole criteria in it. Some of it is classified. And it is the document which governs the federal government's practices in this area.
Q What is the background on 12333? When was it promulgated? Who signed it? What does it say?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll find someone to help you out on that.
Q Was there a suspicion of criminal activity, or was this a --
MR. MCCURRY: I have not looked into this. If you want further on the specifics, I'll direct you to Counsel.
Q I just have a logistical question for those of us who have early deadlines this afternoon. How will these rolling transcripts come out? Life every half-hour? How will that work.
MR. MCCURRY: You have to ask staff.
Q On the question of his appointment to the National Endowment for the Arts, is the President trying to inject more Southernism into our national culture, or is he --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's a good idea, but I don't know if it's necessarily what the result is.
Q -- or is he trying to assure the early and easy confirmation of his choice?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he was looking for someone who would be fully well-qualified, who was familiar with the federal Arts Endowment and would have experience in this area. As you know, Mr. Ivey has served on four professional panels which advise the Arts Endowment and he's someone who really understands a lot of the issues that the Endowments deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Now, I don't believe that we are confirming at this point that he is, in fact -- oh, we are. So I don't have to play cute about this. So he is I think someone who will bring a lot of expertise and background to the position.
Q There are a lot of Southerners, isn't there?
MR. MCCURRY: There are two endowments, and the fact that two of the endowments have two Southerners -- unless you believe it's unfair to include Southerners or somehow or other they shouldn't be considered for positions like this, I don't think it's that unusual or --
Q There certainly isn't a Southern quota, right? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No, they can't be quotas because quotas are illegal and wrong and everyone I know, including Bill Lann Lee is against them.
Q Is this affirmative action?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, come on. (Laughter.)
Q The fact that --
MR. MCCURRY: Maybe, because it probably is remedying past prejudice and hostility against southern people -- yeah. Yeah. Barry is saying, don't go there. You're a Yankee, of course, you'd say that. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, the fact that Ward Connerly was invited to today's meeting, but was not invited by Commission Chairman Franklin to a commission meeting, is it fair to interpret that as kind of a tacit rebuke?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I mean, look, that has -- way too much has been made of that. Dr. Franklin has addressed that on numerous occasions, said that Mr. Connerly was not necessarily the right person for the conversation they were having that particular day. Dr. Franklin thinks it's wonderful that he is here and talking to the President today.
Q There seems to be a lot of different opinions about how this Race Initiative needs to be tackled within the administration itself. Is it true that there has been some kind of effort to galvanize the staff, not just from Erskine Bowles a couple weeks ago saying, put it on your radar, but through other members of the staff saying, we all need to have our own town hall meeting here because there seems to still be some problems about this? Is it true?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that there has been a general sense that we should work hard on this. This is important to the President, and he thinks it's important to the country, and I think a lot of us feel like -- all of us on the staff feel like we ought to contribute our best efforts to making this a success.
Q But let me ask you this. Are there are some here that said at the very onset that this is political suicide for him, he's polarizing himself?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't think anyone said that. I think -- in any given issue there are people who have different ideas of what priorities would be, but this is clearly what the President wanted to make a priority for this year and next year, and that's why we owe it to him, since we work for him, to work hard to make the effort a success.
Q But has there been a recognition, and because of that recognition, that things weren't moving as quickly as maybe the President wanted, that some key staffers are now involved, like perhaps Erskine Bowles?
MR. MCCURRY: There were key staffers involved in this effort from the beginning, but I think on any given issue, sometimes people get assigned a portfolio. I think on this one a lot of us --a lot of people on staff have realized that we should chip in and do our best, even if it has not been immediately assigned to us as an area of responsibility.
Q What does that mean, though? What are people doing differently now that they weren't before?
MR. MCCURRY: Working, helping out, working on the effort. Showing up to meetings mostly.
Q Iraq and one more question on the sense, or lack of sense of urgency on your part. A month ago when the issue was American inspectors being kicked out, there was that sense of urgency on your part. Now, when the issue may be that during that interim period they hid weapons or continued to hide weapons, the tone is more muted here. Can you explain the difference in tone?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't understand the judgment -- the difference in tone. I don't sense that at all. I think we've --
Q You were using stronger language, there were more briefings in the briefing room. You were offering people to network television morning, day, and night; and now you're not.
MR. MCCURRY: That's exactly what we've been doing. Did ABC not get a guest this morning? Did you miss out or something?
Q You know that's not my point.
MR. MCCURRY: But, no, we have been talking to this regularly. We have had people out there on the air. I think it's your level of interest that tends to fluctuate, not ours. And I think you ought to think about that, because that's really what has happened.
Q Mike, getting back to affirmative action, the President said at his press conference that he thinks the Supreme Court now is sort of backing away from setting new parameters for affirmative action, leaving it to the political process. But there are some lawyers who think that there may be some cases ripening in Michigan and Washington State on possible Supreme Court review of the Bakke decision on higher education enrollments.
I've got two questions. One, does the President still believe that Bakke was decided right? And if the Supreme Court accepts review, agrees to review, will the administration defend the Bakke decision?
MR. MCCURRY: I would not hazard an answer to the first question, because no doubt, the President given his grounding in constitutional law has spoken at great length about the Bakke. I'm just not familiar with that because that's not every been immediately in our radar sights here. On the second question, it would be more appropriate for the Solicitor General's Office to discuss that. How the United States government enters into cases and what positions it takes in cases is an area that's done and handled very carefully by the Justice Department and I'd refer you to them.
Q But you haven't heard a change --
MR. MCCURRY: I have not, no. But I've heard him go beyond what the matter of law is, since the matter of law has to be seen in light of subsequent decisions by the court, I have seen the President address issue -- the underlying issue at great length. And I think that's probably what he will continue to do -- is to address it not as a matter of law, but to address it as a question of what are the practices that most advance the interests of all the American people consistent with some of the principles that he has talked about even this week at the Press Conference.
Q Mike, can you explain what the point is in the United States seeking yet another resolution from the Security Council to open up the sights? I mean, isn't it like we've had enough of those resolutions already?
MR. MCCURRY: It's important when we have had unanimous views expressed by the Security Council and achieve that. That becomes the basis upon which actions can be taken by entities of the U.N. and it becomes part of the record that is necessary if questions of international law arise in the future about other actions. So, the answer is no, it is not something less than important to pursue every avenue at the Security Council and to deliberate in that context.
Q What do you mean, entities of the U.N.?
MR. MCCURRY: UNSCOM.
Q Under 12333, was the Heslin (phonetic) request appropriate and authorized?
MR. MCCURRY: I have already directed you to the Counsel on that.
Q Mike, forgive my attempts on this one, but this is a story that's got a lot of coverage in Japan. As you are aware, several hundreds of children in Japan got sick after watching a cartoon show this week. The President has launched many campaigns regarding making content on television child friendly, giving parents tools to control what their children what, and things of that kind. Was it -- first of all, was he made aware of what happened in Japan? And second, does he see it as falling into any of his initiatives in those areas?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not, but given the extraordinary coverage that incident received here in the United States, the President is no doubt aware of it. I have not talked to him, but you're correct in pointing out that the question of how we protect our kids and how we involve broadcasters in a voluntary way in addressing these concerns themselves, which in many cases here in the United States they have, has been an ongoing concern of the President and the Vice President and will continue to be. I'm not aware that we have had any similar episode here involving the use of automation that has triggered that type of incident among especially young people in the United States. But it would be something I think that the President would take seriously. I also believe it's something that the industry itself would want to work to avert.
Q In the last few weeks, do you feel that it's getting harder for you to galvanize support within the Security Council perhaps for anything stronger than resolutions and diplomacy?
MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily. I think we have worked very patiently to lay the basis of understanding for other members of the Security Council. We have insisted, and others have insisted, that Chairman Butler and UNSCOM be allowed to do its work, and they have. They have been in Iraq. They have been quite active. In the same period there has been continuation of surveillance flights on behalf of the United Nations involving U-2s. And I think that vigilance and that steadiness has been the hallmark of our diplomacy but also the united response to the United Nations during that period.
You're asking questions that relate to what happens in the future, given what expectations are of what certain reactions might be. And we will have to measure that and see that as it happens.
Q Well, I guess what I'm asking, too, is do you feel that your -- other members in the Security Council share your viewpoint that this is serious and, as you said, as imminent a danger?
MR. MCCURRY: It is fair to say based on conversations we've had at highest levels that other members of the Security Council share our determination to see that U.N. inspectors have access to the sites that they need to see in Iraq.
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that's correct -- unanimously. I think that there are different interpretations of how to perceive if that does not happen immediately or if it does not happen over time, or what consequences there should be if the government of Iraq is not compliant. But I think the view that there needs to be access to the sites so that proper record can be developed so that we can go back to the U.N. Security Council 687 regime and establish the record that is necessary and required by the end of war resolution, I think there is unanimity on that point of view.
Q Can you offer reassurance that at some point we will have access, that the United States will insist on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the United States has insisted on that. And I think at some point that it will be available one way or another.
Q Back on the other side of the Persian Gulf, the President indicated at his press conference the other day that there's discussion within the administration about how to proceed, if at all, with Iran. Is that discussion still ongoing? And can you talk a little bit about what options are being looked at or whether there's some sort of communications being discussed?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't. I think that will be a process that we have here that evaluates in that region of the world almost, if not on a daily basis, at least week by week the status of our understanding of what's happening in the region and assessing the events *** political military events. And that will be ongoing. And we will be interested to see what further actions are taken by the government of Iran that buttress the tone that was reflected in Mr. Khatemi's remarks.
Q Does the administration intend to appeal the federal judge order related to the health care task force?
MR. MCCURRY: I have to refer you to Justice on that. They would be the ones.
Q What is your view on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Our view is whatever Justice decides.
Q What do you think about that finding? Do you think it's right that --
MR. MCCURRY: On the SSI cases?
MR. MCCURRY: We think it is proper to go back and make sure that --
Q No, no --
Q -- health care task force.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, on that --
Q The fine.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I'm sorry. I misunderstood. I am advised by Counsel's Office that I am not comment on that action.
Q Speaker Gingrich has put himself on the short list for 2000. Does that bode ill for getting much done with him?
MR. MCCURRY: That's good. He's good. He's got a lot of good ideas. He should. He should get out there. (Laughter.) Why are you laughing? This is not a laughing matter.
Q That's the short list.
MR. MCCURRY: I am shocked and offended that you would laugh at the idea that the Speaker of the House would consider running for President. I think it's very -- I think it's good that he would do that. He's got more ideas per second than almost anyone. (Laughter.)
Q Buddy news?
MR. MCCURRY: Buddy is doing great. Buddy is very good with kids. He had -- all the children that were at the Christmas story the other day got to meet Buddy when they passed through to take their pictures. It was very cute.
Q Will Chelsea be coming to Bosnia?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I have heard.
Q What do your kids think of Buddy?
MR. MCCURRY: They were very well impressed. He has now created demand for a puppy in the McCurry household, as you can well imagine.
Q Are you going get one?
MR. MCCURRY: No comment. We'll talk about it.
Q Is this your last briefing, or are you briefing next week?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we will not have briefings -- Monday we are gone; Tuesday we get back in the middle of the night, there's not much point in doing something here Wednesday. And the only activity I'm aware of Wednesday is -- or late Tuesday the President will light the menorah for Hanukkah. And then there will probably be some Christmas shopping and Christmas activities. We are going to encourage him to stay at home on Thursday.
Say again? Travel on the 30th to Renaissance Weekend. So I think this is probably it for the year. So I'll see you all in 1998. (Applause.)
Q Where does he light the menorah, in here?
MR. MCCURRY: He's done it -- he did it last year in the Oval. So I imagine that's where --
Q Is that the only thing on his schedule for next week besides the trip?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, the week ahead, that's about it, I think. Just the trip to Bosnia and lighting the menorah. I think it's in the Oval. He did it in the Oval last year.
All right, everybody. Thank you. Have a happy holiday.
END 2:22 P.M. EST