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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 16, 1998
                           PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

1:31 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Hello. Happy Friday. A couple of things. First, I want to thank Harris Wofford and Goody Marshall for coming down to talk about a little bit of the plans we have for Monday. Obviously, we believe that the activities on Martin Luther King Day on Monday will kick off what the President expects to be a very big year for national service.

Two weeks ago, the President announced that he is going to seek an expansion of the Peace Corps by 10,000 volunteers. Harris told me -- Harris, given his association many years ago with the Peace Corps, told me that's a goal that's long been something that those who have been supportive of the Peace Corps program have had in mind. It's kind of interesting that he's now working to expand that concept of service in his role at the Corporation for National Service.

And then the President has, of course, announced that he will ask Congress to reauthorize AmeriCorps and other programs of the Corporation for National Service this year. So we will be working hard with Congress to achieve passage of that legislation, of course, the increase in Peace Corps that the President wants. And I think it's very appropriate, and the President believes it's appropriate, on Monday, as we honor the service of someone who has meant so much in American history, to use that as the occasion also to continue to place the emphasis the President has been placing on volunteerism and national service.

Q What are you going to do?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm going to be doing something in connection with this, and I'll keep it private.

Q Will you have a schedule here on Monday, briefings and -- what will you do?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't think so. We'll have some people here to assist in the President's movements and assist the pool. But I think a lot of us will be off doing things connected with the service, things you just heard about.

Q So no briefing?

MR. MCCURRY: No briefing -- certainly, this is not a day off, it's a day on. As someone said, it's not a day on here at the Press Office.

The President will travel to Champagne, Urbana, Illinois and will cross Wisconsin on January 28th, the day after the State of the Union address. This is something the President likes to do the day following the State of the Union address, to really go to the country and talk to the American people about those things that he has laid before Congress in his annual message, announcing that travel.

We'll give you details of the trip when they become available. Just wanted to get the travel date on your calendar, and I believe it is a one-day trip, yes.

Some of you saw the happy news that Lanny Davis will be succeeded immediately by a worthy successor in James E. Kennedy. I'm announcing on behalf of Chuck Ruff, the Counsel to the President that James E. Kennedy will be joining the White House Counsel's Office to serve as communications liaison and spokesman on a range of issues that are handled by the White House Counsel. He replaces Lanny. Mr. Kennedy is currently the Director of Issues Management at Standard and Poor's Rating Service in New York and I think he's known best for his work for Senator Joe Lieberman. He's worked in a variety of capacities for Senator Lieberman for over 17 years, not only in his time as United States Senator, but going back to Senator Lieberman's service in Connecticut as Attorney General in other capacities. We've got information on him.

He is not a lawyer. He has worked frequently in and around lawyers and I believe maybe on Judiciary Committee issues as well. But I think you will find him a very able and very effective press spokesman and a very good contact on such issues as may arise that you would like to inquire about that I will refuse to answer.

Q The turnover rate is so high in that job.

MR. MCCURRY: Pressure.

Q Does he know what he's getting into?

MR. MCCURRY: He's met with a number of us. He certainly has no illusions about any ease to the job.

Q Will he be dealing with Bruce Babbitt and can you tell us what you know about him?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything to say about that and don't have any information one way or another on that subject.

Lastly, in accordance with the visions of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, the President has determined that the suspension under the waiver provision of Helms-Burton is necessary to the national interest and will, in fact, help expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba. This is the fourth time the President has exercised the waiver of provision under Helms-Burton. The President believes this suspension will promote a peaceful democratic transition in Cuba consistent with his policy towards Cuba since the first days of the administration and consistent with the Helms-Burton Act itself.

The President has said that he expects to continue suspending the right to file suit as long as America's friends and allies continue their stepped-up efforts to promote transition in democracy. And our friends and allies, as a result of the efforts that we have made -- and the President would pay credit to Under Secretary Eisenstadt, among others, who have pursued this -- the President does believe that our allies, out of their own convictions about the need for change in Cuba and also because of the dialogue that we have had with them, have become even more united and firm in pushing for democratization and peaceful democratic change in Cuba.

In a variety of ways, you will recall that in December the European Union has reaffirmed its common position with respect to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Cuba, and there have been a succession of other things done by our allies and friends that makes this waiver in the President's opinion well-justified and in the national interest.

Q Helms' office is very unhappy with that decision.

MR. MCCURRY: I think this is the fourth time that Senator Helms' office has been very unhappy.

Q Why didn't the President just veto that measure?

Q They say that you're abusing -- excuse me -- the provision.

MR. MCCURRY: The President believes that his action is fully consistent with Title III of the act for the reasons that he has set forth in the message he has dispatched to the Congress.

Q Can you look into the question about possible tradeoffs with Congress in exchange for this renewal of the waiver?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any. The President has acted under the statute. Upon review of the information, his national security and foreign policy advisors have presented to him that are consistent with the statutory requirements of the act.

Q Mike, is the White House concerned about this bad few weeks -- I mean, you had Herman, the latest news on Babbitt, Espy, Cisneros. It seems like all of this is coming together now.

MR. MCCURRY: I would caution you all that mere allegations are not the same as convictions of wrongdoing or things that are truly bad news, and that there are provisions under law that have to be pursued by the Justice Department when they feel necessary. And the President feels quite confident in expressing his confidence for his Cabinet Secretaries that have come under fire and believes increasingly that this is part of the common condition that public life in Washington is about in particularly partisan times.

Q Any personal thoughts, given your work with Babbitt?

MR. MCCURRY: I have absolutely -- my own personal view, he's one of the most decent people that I've ever worked with in public life and one of my true heroes. And I have absolute confidence that whatever outcome of any review underway at the Justice Department, it will reflect well on the credit of someone who is one of the most distinguished people that we've ever seen in public life.

Q Does the administration consider the Butler mission to Baghdad essentially the last straw for diplomacy in this standoff?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there will be a lot of discussion upon his return to New York and we will be pursuing in the aftermath of whatever report he makes or is able to make to the Security Council other diplomatic avenues, so, of course, it won't be the end of diplomacy.

Q But are you willing to let this go on and on? I mean, another Butler mission, more teams being --

MR. MCCURRY: I've answered that question a number of times in recent days, and I think you know where we are on it.

Q What is the schedule for the Netanyahu visit?

MR. MCCURRY: It's coming up next week sometime and I don't have a detailed schedule. But as we get closer to it we'll give it to you.

Q Mike, some of the Palestinians and some of the other Arabs are already talking about again raising this double standard issue, the Israelis are not in compliance with their Oslo commitments and the United States sort of tolerates it somehow, and yet when it comes to Saddam, if he doesn't adhere to the letter of the mandate from the U.N. he's threatened with military action. Whether it's real or not, it's an issue diplomatically.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, let me help them understand the difference. The government of Iraq is under stipulations by unanimous resolution of the U.N. Security Council. There are U.N. Security Council resolutions that apply with respect to, or impact upon the peace process in the Middle East and they are aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace, which is the goal of U.S. policy. But the key difference is between the Israelis and the Palestinians, they are mutual agreements that they themselves have made between themselves. The commitments they have made to each other are the ones we seek to be honored. And what the President will impress upon both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu is the importance of honoring the commitments they've made to each other, not necessarily the commitments that they have to the world community -- although the world community, I believe, is united in encouraging them to try to make progress forward in the search for peace.

Q Aren't there also Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw?

MR. MCCURRY: There are a number of Security Council resolutions, as I said, that impact the peace process. But what matters most here are the commitments they've made to each other under Oslo, what has been reaffirmed about the need for redeployment in the Hebron Accords and in the note to the record on that. And we continue to base our dialogue with respect to their commitments on the mutual commitments the parties have extended to each other.

Q But the question is are you choosing to pick and choose which Security Council resolutions --

MR. MCCURRY: You're missing my point. I'm saying that what counts in this dialogue -- our commitment to longstanding U.N. Security Council resolutions is longstanding U.S. policy and we can reiterate longstanding U.S. policy if need. That's not the question. The question is what are the two parties together mutually pledging to each other and how can we get them to continue the work that they must do together to advance their process forward. This is about the obligations they have to each other as they move their own process forward.

Q Well, having heard what Israel is saying, what does the President intend to do to try to get them to abide by their --

MR. MCCURRY: I think you've heard Ambassador Ross upon his return say that they have got some very critical choices that they have to make. And I think we have worked to sharpen up those choices, and I think the President will further that effort to get them to confront the difficult choices that they must now make if peace is to move forward.

Q Do you expect that you will be able to get the countries to lock into those decisions next week, or is this a stop along the way?

MR. MCCURRY: I imagine that this will help -- if it's successful, will move forward, but not likely to resolve some of those choices, because those are difficult choices on both sides and our guess is that there will continue to be work afterwards. But the hope of the President is that we can move things forward.

Q What can you tell us about the President's preparations for tomorrow's deposition?

MR. MCCURRY: That he's going to take some time to prepare.

Q Prepare for what?

MR. MCCURRY: The deposition.

Q In what sense?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I'm sorry -- Scott?

Q Well, David wanted to know, in what sense, and I --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to get into how you prepare. I think probably some of you have had to appear someplace with a lawyer before and that's how you prepare.

Q To what extent does the Paula Jones situation impact the President's schedule overall?

MR. MCCURRY: It has some impact and it is a distraction, but it is not a burdensome distraction.

Q Has he met with his lawyers today?

MR. MCCURRY: He hasn't yet, but he'll spend some time with them today before he goes off and does --

Q Well, would you say the President dreads tomorrow's deposition?

MR. MCCURRY: I think he's just going to go do it.

Q Does the President --

MR. MCCURRY: I mean, I think it's safe to assume that there would be other things that he would do on a Saturday, but he will do it and recognizes that he must do it and he will get it done.

Q Does the President feel it's the last thing he'll have to do with regard to the case?

MR. MCCURRY: Who knows, and I don't know and I don't want to comment beyond what I just said.

Q What does he think of Glenn in space?

MR. MCCURRY: He said, "That's great. I'm thoroughly delighted. I've always encouraged him to think about this and I'm pleased NASA thinks it's the right decision."

Q What do you think of Glenn in space?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's great, too. I have had the uncommon experience of sitting in a plane that John Glenn is about to fly with his wife, Annie, as a copilot. And I remember the one and only time I did this, we sat on the ground and sat and sat some more, and I finally looked at the other staff there, I said, is something wrong? He said, no, he's just doing his checklist, in which he does apparently every time he gets into the cockpit and flies somewhere. So I don't think I've ever felt safer flying somewhere than when I flew on that trip.

But I think that he is someone, for all of the reasons that he described today, who I think will bring a lot of knowledge, expertise and ability to this assignment that he's been given by NASA, and I think he will, more importantly, be able to help the American public reengage in the importance of what we're trying to do in space and give them another way to understand some of the interesting possibilities that arise because of our determination to continue our effort in space research.

Q Mike, can you clarify something you said in the gaggle this morning about tobacco? You said that the administration believes caps on liability is not necessarily a deal-breaker. Could you explain whether you think the absence of limitations on liability in tobacco legislation would be a deal-breaker?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that the parties themselves have addressed that question with some sufficiency. I think the point that we've always made is that caps on liability relate to the other aspects of legislation and how they relate to what public health objectives can be achieved in the legislation is the key thing.

Now, absent them, which was, of course, what some people are calling, I'd have to -- you'd have to see what disposition there would be generally by those who participated in the negotiation that continue to support the settlement that they reached.

I suspect and know that you would know that they probably might reconsider their commitment to the settlement that they reached.

Q Doesn't this legislation have a life of its own? I mean, if Congress wants to pass a law, keeping the threat of a company's immunity or raising taxes on them and not giving them immunity, there's nothing the companies can do except for lobbying against it.

MR. MCCURRY: The likelihood of getting compliance and getting the voluntary effort that the industry has pledged to which will achieve the results that we want is much changed if you start tampering with the basic formula that they've reached. Now, there's things about the settlement that you know that we've taken issue with, including the size of the fund that would be created, but remember, our objective in this all along has not been to achieve regulation for the mere achievement of the regulation; our objective has been the public health goals that the President wants satisfied. And if we head down the path of protracted litigation or challenges or gridlock in Congress over legislation, then we're not going to achieve the public health result that we want.

So that's why the President's focus has been on getting the kind of comprehensive legislation that can be passed and can be passed quickly.

Q Up until this point, the President has spoken of principles that he wants to see. Is he now ready to propose specific numbers?

MR. MCCURRY: He will propose specific numbers in the budget and he will work with Congress to propose specific language to enact in a comprehensive approach to tobacco that will achieve the principles that he outlines.

Q Specific numbers will be for the overall cost to the tobacco companies?

MR. MCCURRY: They'll be related to the way in which you could structure the overall settlement. That will give Congress additional ways in which they can approach the question of codifying in legislative language the settlement.

Q Mike, you also said this morning that you believe, in response to a question, that you believe tobacco is on the run. With all of the lawyers and all of the money that big tobacco still has behind it, why do you feel that way?

MR. MCCURRY: They've lost ground in the courts, they certainly have lost ground in the court of public opinion. The disclosure of very damaging documents that reflect on the industry's attitude I think helps lend impetus to those in Congress and the administration in their effort to seek legislation that will achieve the primary public health objective of the President, which is to protect kids from tobacco use and tobacco addiction.

Q Do disclosures on youth smoking make passage of that settlement less likely?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I think we believe it makes it more likely. We believe we are more optimistic as a result because we think it's going to be much harder for members of Congress to oppose efforts to achieve the right kind of legislation, and we will continue to work very closely with Congress on that.

Q Mike, there is a Matt Rudd report today about --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to take the question.

Q What do you make of the U.S.-Baltic charter which is about to decide in an hour?

MR. MCCURRY: We are very excited to have the three Presidents here and the President believes that the charter itself is going to usher in a new period of cooperation with the three Baltic nations. You will hear more from the President later on this. That our partnership extends beyond our common concerns about the collective security of Europe looking into the next century, but it also is about the very real bilateral partnerships we seek to create with each of these three countries who have transformed themselves in a way so miraculous since 1989.

The President wants to celebrate that today and, I think with each of the three President right now has taken the opportunity to both congratulate them on the progress they've made towards economic and political reform, and then also to foresee that time in which they are fully integrated into the common institutions of European security and European economic prosperity.

Q Mike, let me, if I can, remove the man's name and ask if there is an Internet campaign web site registered to a phone in the Vice President's Office?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to answer that question and I'm not going to answer any question based upon that particular source.

Q Any update on the Asian economics crisis, and also, how deep the U.S. is willing to help the Asian economic troubles. Also, Secretary of Defense is also in Asia?

MR. MCCURRY: We have a very strong commitment to economic security in Asia and regional economic stability. Deputy Secretary Summers' mission, which is now almost concluded, has been enormously successful, we believe, in reasserting the very strong interest the United States government and the United States people have in our engagement with the Asian Pacific region and in creating the conditions in which those economies can continue to prosper.

I think I am -- I think it is safe to say, the President, who has been very personally engaged in this, and has conducted conversations at the highest level, is going to remain thoroughly engaged as we monitor the implementation of the types of facilities that have been developed through the IMF, and as we monitor the progress governments in the region make implementing the types of economic reforms they have pledged to conduct.

Q A follow-up -- the Secretary of Defense visit to China and also other Asian countries during this economic crisis -- what is he doing in the area?

MR. MCCURRY: What is --

Q Secretary of Defense.

MR. MCCURRY: The Secretary of Defense has had a group of reporters traveling with him, as reported to him on his project. He is there to remind governments in the region that economic security in that region is part of our concept of national security; that our forward-deployed status in the region is about the collective security and about our treaty commitments that we have in the region and our interest in regional security. But I think he has been in a position to underscore the importance that we attach to economic stability and the reasons why we see that as part of the way in which we build a balance in the prospects for peaceful commerce and transactions of commerce between the countries.

Q How about his visit -- special visit -- anything to do with China --

MR. MCCURRY: On Summers in China?

Q No, the Secretary of Defense.

MR. MCCURRY: He's -- I don't have anything from the Pentagon.

COLONEL CROWLEY: It was actually a trip that he had postponed from the fall.

MR. MCCURRY: That's right. He had planned, as you know, to be there last year and looks forward to continuing the high-level military-to-military exchanges that we have had that grow out of our engagement with the Peoples Republic. But the Pentagon can tell you more about his specific program.


Q Does the President agree with the U.S. airlines full-page ads that Japan is thwarting open skies and her regulations are keeping our airlines from --

MR. MCCURRY: We have a number of views on the need for an open skies arrangement and progress in those discussions with the government of Japan, but we express them in something other than cartoon form.

Q Do you mean their claim is not legitimate?

MR. MCCURRY: We have a very thorough and exhaustive dialogue with the government of Japan and USTR can give you some of our recent comments on that.

Q But they aren't getting anywhere.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we -- I'd like to say we sort of know that. The President and Prime Minister have addressed that issue and instructed their trade representatives to make more progress on that issue. The President has been discouraged and has said so to the government of Japan -- that there has been progress lacking.

Q Well, why doesn't he put pressure on them?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, if you contact USTR, they can tell you about the extensive diplomatic effort that they have, in fact, made on that issue.

Q What is the delay on the compromise to the European Union on Helms-Burton? Almost a year ago, President Clinton promised to the Europeans to convince Congress to give him the power to suspend Chapter IV of the Helms-Burton.

MR. MCCURRY: I know that under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, we do have provisions for waiver, which I talked about earlier, that the President has now extended. The Chapter IV provisions, I think, are statutorily different and I'd have to go back and look at them and understand exactly how they relate to the waiver provision under Title III. I know that there's a difference there.

Q Because the Europeans just mentioned it a while ago that they are prepared to put again the demand of the United States on the World Trade Organization, so they were expecting to -- from the White House at least -- this month to have any response according to the last negotiations?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have not taken action in front of the WTO and our conscious of the importance we attach to fulfilling our requirements under the congressionally-passed Helms-Burton Act. And we have had extensive dialogue with governments in the region on that. I can't speak for them on what their expectations are with respect to other provisions of the act.

Q A couple days after the election last year, the Knoxville News Centinal did a report about someone in Vice President Gore's office establishing a Web site for one of his political action committees and using the Vice President's phone number and -- official office phone number. Can we take it that that is not appropriate, to establish any political activity using --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know a thing about that. I refer you to the Vice President's Office.

Q Can you say some more about how the administration plans to highlight its concerns about judicial appointments?

MR. MCCURRY: We're going to continue to make the case both to members of the Senate, and then, I think, increasingly, make the case more publicly, that the delay in confirming judges that the President has duly nominated who are all -- we believe, and others, including the ABA have judged to believe -- exceptionally well-qualified and well-qualified individuals, is hurting justice, just as Chief Justice Rehnquist has indicated in his report. So I think you'll hear us talking about it more and see us pressing the case with members of the Senate more directly.

Q Back on the Middle East for a moment. Given the recent drift in Israeli politics with domestic politics, with David Levi's departure, and then the recent Cabinet decision on the West Bank, what realistically can you expect to come out of the meetings next week?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's realistic to expect that, as often is the case in the Middle East peace process, that this will be a meeting that is candid, that requires patience, that is one in which all parties try hard to get each other to understand the points of view that they have about the process and some of their concerns about issues that are embedded.

But in our role as a facilitator of the dialogue that we believe the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority must have, I think we will do our best to help each party understand its differences with the other party and then seek to help bridge those differences. That's the best work the President can do. A lot of work has gone into the preparation of the President for this meeting and the laying of the table for the parties so that they can take advantage of the opportunity that exists in meeting with the President and being here in Washington.

The Secretary of State has met with both leaders. Ambassador Ross has been in region recently, and our expectations, frankly, are not great at this point. But sometimes in this process you have to deal with the fact the expectations are not great and find ways to move ahead. I expect that's what the President will do. He has spent considerable time already talking with Mr. Berger and some of his advisors about how we might be able to try to move ahead, but I think we are realistic about where we are at this moment and just know that we have to continue to try to press forward and continue to get the parties to focus on the choices they must make, and do everything we can to help clarify those choices so that they can maybe see a little bit farther down the road.

Q What's your best case of what could come out of it?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I'm not going to make artificial guesses on what might be the outcome.

Q Mike, is the format still planned -- separate meetings with Netanyahu and Arafat? Is there any possibility, do you envision any chance that you may bring them together?

MR. MCCURRY: I think, given the status of the dialogue at this moment, the arrangements we've made for separate meetings is a wise one.

Q The question is the possibility -- is it even your thinking that you might bring them together?

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't seen anything or heard anything that indicated that that's a likelihood.

Q When will you be announcing some of the President's overseas travel plans?

MR. MCCURRY: As soon as it's ready, and it's not ready yet. I've been pressing every day to try to do it because I know that you'd like to all make your plans.

Q Mack McLarty is in Mexico now. Will he deliver a special message to the Mexican government regarding the recent events in Chiapas, or what is the message from the White House to the Mexican government on this issue?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are well aware of the concern that President Zedillo has about events in Chiapas, acknowledge his determination to learn the truth about that episode. I think that President Zedillo has been quite outspoken himself on that matter. Of course, at the same time, those events do concern us. Through our embassy we have sought to learn more about what the Mexican government understands about the circumstances of the tragic loss of life, and I'm not aware -- I'd have to check to what degree there will be dialogue by Ambassador McLarty on that subject. I imagine, given our concerns and given how relevant that is to the work that the Mexican government is doing currently, it will likely come up. But I'm not aware that Ambassador McLarty planned any particular initiative on Chiapas.

Q Mike, do you expect any problems with the --

MR. MCCURRY: B.J.? I'll see if that's the right answer. (Laughter.)

Q -- with the Senate action on the nomination of David Satcher to Surgeon General?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we certainly hope not. He has distinguished himself so much at the Centers for Disease Control and has such a distinguished record of committed service to this nation's public health that it is very difficult to imagine how a issue almost extraneous to his own professional career, abortion, would be used to try to bring down his nomination.

That is not a subject that he has been especially provocative about other than to share the President's view that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. And I would be tempted to say that if effort is made to block his nomination, it would appear to be another effort by the Republicans to try to put another scalp on the wall for no good reason, at a time when we really need to -- we've got serious public health issues that would require the presence in office of a highly-qualified Surgeon General, which David Satcher would be.

Q Mike, do you foresee the President speaking at any length about Asia, both the economic crisis and perhaps some of the security questions that Secretary Cohen was discussing this week, in the State of the Union speech?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the State of the Union speech is too far -- since it's not next week, it's still too far away for me to make a prediction. I suspect you heard the germ of an idea take -- root in the petri dish -- you saw the seed of a thought that might later blossom into bloom. (Laughter.) I think what he talked about yesterday up in New York at Jesse Jackson's thing might -- if he is going to address it, I think it will be in the context of reminding the American people of why we are engaged in Asia, how important commerce and goods and services with Asia is to millions of Americans' families. And I think he might attempt to draw some of the connections that he made yesterday. But at this point it's too early to predict what finally shape the speech will take.

Q Does the President think the Pope's visit to Cuba will have a political impact there?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's not necessarily the focus that we would want it to have, nor would, I imagine, the Holy Father want it to have. But I think we do believe it will place a focus on the humanitarian suffering that the people of Cuba have had to endure at the hands of a totalitarian communist regime. I believe it will put some focus on the lack of religious freedom that Cubans have suffered under under this regime. And I believe that discussion may have an element of politics associated to it, not necessarily by intent of the Church or by the Pope, but by the reality that that affects the lives of so many millions of Cubans.

At the same time, there could in fact be positive results in having the Holy Father in Cuba able to talk about the importance that the world attaches to human rights and to the need for relief of the suffering. And that discussion itself might empower those who believe there can be change and might even touch the heart of Fidel Castro.

Q What if he asks the President to lift the embargo while he's in Havana?

MR. MCCURRY: No doubt he will since he has those views, and we will respectfully accept his point of view, even if we must disagree.

Q Mike, how are your consultations with Congress on fast track going?

MR. MCCURRY: They continue to go.

Q And do you think they will be through before the State of the Union speech?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't predict.

Q Do you think he will mention it in his State of the Union?

MR. MCCURRY: I do not know.

Q Do you have any date for the announcement of the nomination of --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe we're in a position to announce that formally, although my understanding is that the speculation on that was well placed and that the process of finalizing the nomination was moving quite well and it would be only a matter of days until we would make that announcement.

Q Do you have the obligatory week ahead by chance?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll just put it out. There's not much on it, but I'll come back and do it at the end.

Q You spoke about the distraction of this deposition. Is the President concern about it setting a bad precedent for future Presidents?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that's an obvious answer given the litigation that arose from this, and I'll just refer you to the opinions that have been filed on the President's behalf and the fact it addressed exactly that matter. That was the whole purpose of extensive litigation that's been reviewed all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Okay. Next week Martin Luther King Day, as you just heard, at Cardozo High School. And the President will participate in the renovation project there, along with Mr. Wofford and others. I believe the President and the Vice President and the First Lady will all be there. Is that right?

MR. TOIV: The Vice President will be in Atlanta.

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, that's right, the Vice President is in Atlanta doing the MLK stuff down there. Why you ask me to do this, I do not know, since -- Tuesday, we've already talked about Netanyahu. We've got a Medal of Honor presentation. There is a DNC dinner that night. Wednesday, no schedule. Thursday, a meeting with Chairman Arafat, lunch with the Vice President. Friday will be a Cabinet meeting to kind of review -- give the President an opportunity to give a preview to the Cabinet on some of the State of the Union developments, telling them when it's appropriate for them to stand up and cheer. And we tape the radio address live on Saturday. That's the week ahead.

Q Well, the Netanyahu -- there is a meeting in the morning in the Oval Office, and then what? Is there an afternoon meeting, too?

MR. MCCURRY: We've got a meeting at 10:00 a.m. and then he goes elsewhere for other meetings -- right?

Q The Vice President, the Secretary of State --

MR. MCCURRY: The Vice President, the Secretary of State and others that he will meet with.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:02 P.M. EST