THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY The Briefing Room
1:20 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Let me start with a couple of items. First, the President had a 10-minute phone conversation late this morning with Chairman Chancellor Helmut Kohl following on his call to Prime Minister Prodi yesterday to express condolences for the aircraft incident in Italy yesterday. There were eight Germans who were killed as a result of that accident, and obviously on behalf of the American people the President expressed condolences.
Second, the President and the First Lady are announcing today that the first of the Millennium Evenings that they will be having here at the White House to celebrate the approach of the new century and the new millennium will happen on February 11. Millennium Evenings are part of the White House programs that we are running between now and the year 2000 to celebrate the arrival of the new century, that will include lectures, performances. People who are great thinkers, great artists, great visionaries will reflect the millennium theme: Honor the past, imagine the future.
On the first Millennium Evening, February 11, at 7:00 p.m. in the East Room, the very eminent American historian Bernard Bailyn will give the very first Millennium Lecture. He is a professor emeritus at Harvard and no doubt some of you here studied under him or have surely studied his works. He will discuss core American ideas that helped shape this nation and ideas that will guide the nation as we go into the 21st century.
This lecture, by the way, will become the first ever cybercast event from the East Room, with live video, audio, and interactive capability. And the President and First Lady will encourage Americans to participate in this lecture and discussion via computer. And there will be more on the White House web site about how actually to do that.
Q Will the President be answering questions by computer, or just taking comments?
MR. MCCURRY: Bernard Bailyn will be answering questions, as the lecturer that evening. The National Endowment for the Humanities is the cosponsor for this evening, and we're getting help with the cybercast and the simultaneous satellite transmission of the event from Sun Microsystems, and we're grateful to them for their assistance.
Item the third, also in a way dealing with the year 2000, I want to announce that the President -- have we put out the executive order of the President's establishment of the 2000 conversion council. As you know, we've been intensifying our efforts to make sure that federal systems can support critical programs for the American people as the calendar rolls over to the year 2000 and we face the problem of computers being able to read dates correctly.
The President has designated John Koskinen, who served as Deputy Director of OMB from 1994 to 1997, to return to public service for management. He was the Deputy Director for Management at OMB. Many of you will remember him during the period of the shut-down, late 1995 and '96; he's the fellow that came here and briefed a lot. He was the one that really kept track of what the status of the various federal agencies were. So some of you will recall him from that.
Q How do you spell his name?
MR. MCCURRY: K-o-s-k-i-n-e-n. He will serve as Assistant to the President and Chair of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion. And that's the council that you got the paper on that the President established earlier today. And they're going to do a lot of work to make sure that a variety federal programs and agencies are equipped to deal with the anticipated problems of computers being able to make that transition on that day.
He will be on board in the next 30 days, and Sally Katzen, who you will recall I announced a short while ago as the new Deputy Director of the National Economic Council. She had been really leading a lot of OMB's efforts to address this problem over the last two years. She will serve as vice chair of the council.
We have been working very closely with Congress and this council will of course continue to work closely with Congress, particularly Representatives Steve Horn, Connie Morella, Senator Bob Bennett, and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. It was actually from Senator Moynihan that I first became aware of this problem. I think it was almost two years ago now that he first highlighted this problem in a request that he made to the Congressional Research Service for additional study of the problem and the ability of the federal government to adjust. And, if I'm not mistaken, he wrote the President two years ago and suggested that there be someone here at the White House who had the responsibility of coordinating the work that federal agencies and the federal government need to do to protect American citizens from problems they may encounter when this conversion occurs. And of course that's what we have been doing through OMB and what we will do now more specifically with the designation of Mr. Koskinen to this position on this council.
Q Do you see these as surmountable problems?
MR. MCCURRY: They are clearly going to be surmountable, but they are not going to be -- we will not experience this change of date without some problem. OMB Director Frank Raines, when he briefed the Cabinet on this issue recently, said there will still be some degree of difficulty in making the conversion and some lapse in the ability of our information infrastructure to cope with this. The question and the problem now is to minimize any disruptions that might occur both for government and for the American people, and that's the work this council will surely pursue.
Q You were going to get the President's attitude on renaming National Airport?
MR. MCCURRY: The President certainly understands that the Congress is interested in honoring President Reagan as his birthday approaches, and if the bill to rename Washington Airport is passed by the Congress, the President will sign it. At the same time, our understanding is that Senator Daschle has worked hard to assure that the Republican leadership will allow a very important IRS reform and restructuring bill to come up for consideration prior to March 30th, and the President is also especially pleased that in return for the Reagan renaming bill going forward there will be an opportunity to pursue some of these issues related to IRS reform.
Q Quid pro quo?
MR. MCCURRY: This is -- our understanding is that Senator Daschle has gotten either a time agreement -- probably a time agreement or at least some agreement to bring up to the Senate calendar that measure.
Q In return for the renaming of the airport?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll let Senator Daschle speak to that, but that's our understanding.
Q Does the President see this as an exception to the general rule that only people who are deceased are usually honored in this way, or does the President now believe that other living Americans should be so honored?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that, given the respect that Americans have for President Reagan, this is probably a special circumstance.
Q So the President is not bothered by the suggestion of some that it was Ronald Reagan who broke the air traffic controllers' union, and that an airport should be named after him?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President is well aware of some of the arguments in and around this bill, but I think for him it came down to a question of honoring Ronald Reagan, and he thought it would be appropriate to indicate he would sign the bill.
Q Mike, the Russian president today made what is probably the strongest possible warning against action against Iraq. What is the United States answer to Mr. Yeltsin?
MR. MCCURRY: I think first you need to see the clarification of that statement made by his press secretary. They already have somewhat modified the interpretation of those remarks. We have had very direct dialogue with President Yeltsin, and even as early -- even as late as a short while earlier today, Secretary of State Albright was in contact with Foreign Minister Primakov on this matter. They're very aware of our views. We are certainly very aware of the views of the Russian Federation. They prefer a diplomatic solution to this crisis and so do we. But we've indicated to them, and I think they know, that the options for diplomatic solutions here are dwindling.
Q Well, is there anything in what Iraq is now proposing, to open up the presidential palaces under certain conditions, that could solve this problem?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, insofar as we understand the current Iraqi proposal, it does not meet the criteria that some of you heard me lay out earlier today. The issue for us is very simple: there's got to be full compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions. And according to those very resolutions, there must be permitted full and unfettered access to the sites that the U.N. Special Commission desires access to.
UNSCOM, in the view of the United States government, is the designated organization that should undertake inspections and monitoring, and its integrity must be upheld. Those are the very clear standards that we have that we would evaluate any idea put forward or any suggestion made by the government of Iraq. And very clearly, based on what we know at this point of the Iraqi proposal, given those standards, their idea falls short.
Now, I will say at the same time, the fact that the government of Iraq is now seeming to recognize that there's going to have to be some additional access to sites and they can't continue to block so-called presidential sites, that is certainly some indication that they're beginning to get the message.
Q Are you studying the proposal that they have put on the table? Or are you still relying on reports, news reports of what it is?
MR. MCCURRY: We are attempting to learn more about it and understand it better. But that is -- based on our current understanding, we believe it falls short.
Q You don't have it yet, in other words?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe we are learning more about it.
Q Can we just go back to Yeltsin for a second? One of the things that the Russians did not clarify or change was his warning that an attack on Iraq could lead to a world war.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think that point particularly has been amended and clarified by the presidential spokesman, and I refer you to the clarification that they've now issued.
Q Well, because this has been raised, can we just ask, what is the President's view? If military action is necessary, does he believe there's a danger of a world war?
MR. MCCURRY: The President -- to the contrary, the President believes that if we exhaust diplomatic avenues and other options have to be pursued, that will be done with very strong support in the world community, just as there was very strong support to deal with Iraqi aggression during the Persian Gulf War. I think that when we reach the point where there's no diplomatic solution that presents itself, and if there is a need to pursue additional measures such as military options, the President believes we will do so with very strong support.
Q Did you all ask the Russians for that clarification? Was there communication --
MR. MCCURRY: The clarification had, in fact, been issued prior to our government being aware of the initial statement, as far as I know.
Q What has the President done today? You said you would tell us at 1:00 p.m. of additional action he was either taking -- or briefing.
MR. MCCURRY: He's been getting updates from his National Security Advisor. It was the call to Chancellor Kohl that I thought might be happening. And then I expect that the President will be getting some additional reports later today.
Q But that was basically a condolence call.
MR. MCCURRY: Correct. It did not deal with Iraq.
Q Are you suggesting that Yeltsin simply misspoke?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm suggesting that there has been a clarification by the presidential spokesman that I think is self-evident and speaks for itself.
Q Did the Russians communicate any reason that he might have --
MR. MCCURRY: You know how reluctant press secretaries are to amend and revise the remarks of their bosses.
Q In Secretary Albright's conversations, or anybody else's, did you get any sense of why it is that Yeltsin might have misspoken?
MR. MCCURRY: There are very strong views that the Russian Federation has on use of force at this time. Those were well known to us, both from the public statements the Russian Federation has made and through our private diplomatic efforts.
Q Is the President considering claiming executive privilege for some of his aides in their answering questions with Kenneth Starr?
MR. MCCURRY: As far as I know, nobody has raised that issue specifically with the President. Now, there have been, as I indicated to many of you earlier today, as there always is when the independent counsel is pursuing testimony from officials at the White House, some discussions about the parameters and nature and scope of testimony to be given.
But the purpose of the discussions that White House Legal Counsel have had with Mr. Starr's office is to head off any confrontation or any dispute over the nature and scope of testimony.
Q Does the White House Counsel believe that it's possible to claim executive privilege with these particular aides?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't know that -- I think the generic discussion they're having is not specific necessarily to these two aides if, in fact, these are two aides that are being sought for testimony by the independent counsel. I think it's more a generic discussion of how the executive branch continues to have the ability to give confidential advice to the President, even if there is an ongoing inquiry.
Q Just one last question. Is there any concern that if there is a claim that some of these consultations are off limits, that it seems to conflict with the President's promise to cooperate fully?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't accept the question because it's so highly speculative. There's been no assertion of any claim of privilege and the purpose of discussions that are underway is to try to see that there won't be any.
Q Was it Ruff talking to Starr, is that the level of the discussions?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Ruff, Mr. Breuer, in conversations with representatives of Mr. Starr.
Q Mike, you're saying that there are limits, that the Counsel's Office has suggested to Starr that there are limits to the things that the witnesses will testify to.
MR. MCCURRY: White House Legal Counsel Offices are -- or White House Legal Counsel for years and years, if not decades, has suggested there should be proper limits on the ability of separate branches of government to impede on confidential deliberative processes of the presidency as an institution. That is a matter of law and has been heavily litigated and adjudicated over the years. And I think their conversations they've had have been generic to that point and in that context.
Q If Mr. Starr crosses that line, you will invoke executive privilege?
MR. MCCURRY: I've already answered that question. I said it's highly speculative at this point and the purpose of conversations is to see if we can't avoid any confrontation of that nature.
Q Mike, you said that there was support from the international community for possible military strikes against Iraq. But Secretary Albright, when she came back, she came back with very little practical collaboration from any of the Arab countries in the area. Aren't you concerned that --
MR. MCCURRY: That's not at all the assessment that she gave of her trip. And she has spoke to that publicly. I think she had a much different read-out from her diplomatic efforts.
Q Aren't you concerned that when pictures come back with Iraqi children who have been killed as a result of a bomb attack, that the reaction in the Arab world will be a veritable firestorm, especially in countries like Jordan and Egypt, which are --
MR. MCCURRY: It is the responsibility of civilized leaders to protect noncombatants. It is the desire of the United States to avoid military confrontation. And that is why the ultimate outcome and responsibility rests in the hands of Saddam Hussein. If there are noncombatants killed as a result of collateral damage, if in fact there is a pursuit of a military option, the world should understand and recognize that is because of the recalcitrance of Saddam Hussein. He and he alone is in a position now to head off that outcome. And I think we would hope the reaction, if any, in the world would be directed to the need for Saddam Hussein to meet his obligations that have been placed upon him by the entire world.
Q Can we go back to your earlier statement about Iraq's plan that's on the table. Does the White House think there's an opening here, that they are changing their position, that they seem to be --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I only noted that they seemed to be moving toward some recognition that the blocking of so-called presidential sites is not a tenable position for them to be in. If that's so, that is an important recognition on their part and we hope that they now understand that what needs to happen is for there to be full and unfettered access by UNSCOM to the sites that UNSCOM deems necessary to investigate.
Q And how would that influence what the U.S. is considering right now? Would that be an encouraging -- is that an encouraging sign?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't characterize it as encouraging, I characterized it as I just characterized it.
Q Mike, any late word as to whether Saudi Arabia will allow the use of their airfields for possible strikes?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the discussion that the Secretary had on that point is the one that she characterized publicly after her meetings with the Crown Prince, and that was all a matter of public record.
Q In the past you've spoken -- on Iraq you've spoken in terms of actions and deeds, not just words. Would it be sufficient for Saddam to agree to open the presidential sites to stop the train, or you would have to actually get in there?
MR. MCCURRY: I gave a very careful answer to that question.
Q Several news organizations have petitioned the court in Little Rock to lift the gag order in the Paula Jones case. Does the President oppose that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if the President has any view of that. I believe, if I'm not mistaken, the President's attorney has suggested that the trial date should be moved forward so that the facts can come available in that venue. I refer you to Mr. Bennett.
Q But I'm asking specifically about the lifting of the gag order?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what, if any, position we have taken. I suggest you contact Mr. Bennett.
Q Mike, this morning you said the President feels he had cleared the air on this whole business that's been surrounding the White House. Does he really feel that way, or do you want to clarify that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think on the two points that he has addressed he feels that he has given the American people in very plain words his view. And if there are additional questions to be addressed, they will be addressed in these venues that present themselves through the formal investigation that is underway. And I think many Americans apparently seem to understand that there is a proper venue for those questions to be answered.
Q But he's the one who promised to give answers sooner than later.
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, we've been through this at least every day for a week now and I don't really have anything new to add to that.
Q But there haven't been any answers every day.
Let me add that the President has just concluded a call with President Mubarak of Egypt. Obviously, the focus was on Iraq, but also some discussion of the Middle East peace process. They reviewed some of the work that Secretary Albright has done in the region. Both the President and -- both presidents agree that Iraq must fully comply with Security Council resolutions and they reviewed the status of diplomacy by both countries to address that objective.
Q How long was the talk?
MR. MCCURRY: Ten-minute call.
Q Well, does Egypt support, participate, give its -- allow its troops and facilities to be used if there is a strike?
MR. MCCURRY: It would certainly be more proper for the government of Egypt to address that than for me.
Q Can I just switch gears for a second? How concerned is the President that White House staffers may be accumulating additional legal expenses now in connection with their testimony before a grand jury?
MR. MCCURRY: No change in the concern he has always expressed on that. He has always indicated that's a source of concern.
Q Can I just follow up for a second? The President said during the campaign that he would personally try to help his staffers pay off their legal expenses at some point down the road. Is he still committed to helping them down the road and making sure that their legal bills --
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard any change in what he said on prior occasions.
Q In a related issue, how close is the White House -- or is the President to establishing another legal defense fund for himself?
MR. MCCURRY: Same answer I gave to you earlier today, that that apparently is in a state now where necessary documentation to establish a fund is being reviewed by White House Legal Counsel. The President would not give a go ahead or acknowledge any such fund until it was properly reviewed by Legal Counsel. The indication I have is that that process will take some time and I don't anticipate anything in the next day or so on that.
Q Excuse me if you answered this on a previous day, but the Olympic Committee apparently asked that there not be an attack on Iraq during the Olympics. Is that at all a factor in U.S. decision-making?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are aware of the statement by the OIC and have acknowledged the importance of the Olympic tradition and Olympic standard. At the same time, we are not proceeding on any set timetable or any set deadline with respect to the work we're doing on the problem in Iraq. And, first and foremost, the President has an obligation as Commander in Chief and as our chief diplomatic to protect U.S. interests. And he would concentrate his attention to that question first in acknowledging the statements that have been made by the OIC.
Q What does that mean? I mean, how do we interpret what you just said?
MR. MCCURRY: It means that we have to continue this very delicate, difficult, important work; do it day by day; and do it consistent with what needs to be done at that moment.
Q You seem to be saying that, not withstanding the statement of the OIC, the President will proceed on whatever timetable he believes best, and he won't take that as a consideration.
MR. MCCURRY: It may be that I seem to have said that, but I think what I said was much clearer than that. (Laughter.)
Q Can I just follow up on that specific point? Our you suggesting that the Iraqis can breathe easily until February 22nd?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's very clear they should not breathe easily because they have the full weight of a variety of communities -- or a variety of nations in the community of nations now bringing enormous political and diplomatic pressure to bear on them to do what they must do, which is to comply with the mandates of the United Nations. And they have, as I said earlier, now indicated that something about their current posture that's untenable, but they need to go ahead and grant the full and unfettered access to the United Nations that the United Nations deserves.
Q Yes, but clearly everyone in the room but me understands what you said. But help me out since I've got to report on ABC.
MR. MCCURRY: I'll say it again. The President has to proceed on this with no set timetable or no set deadline or no set calendar, influenced by anything other than the strategic national interests that we have and his obligation under the Constitution to protect America's national security.
MR. MCCURRY: Period.
Q But the anxiety seems to be more on the part of our allies against our acting, rather than some worry about Saddam. I mean, we're the ones that are drumming up -- beating the drums, and they're trying to hold us back.
MR. MCCURRY: I think we have had very useful, productive exchanges with our close allies, and there have been a number of expressions of support from some of our closest allies for the work that we have been doing.
Q Mike, if there is a war or attack, how much do you think the world economy and world oil will be affected from the attack?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't pretend to want to speculate on, first, if there would be military action, because as I have indicated to you, the President has made no decision to that end; second, what impact there would be as a result of that would be almost impossible to predict or calculate.
Q And don't you think Saddam Hussein is taking his time by not allowing the U.N. inspectors so he can hide his -- whatever he has elsewhere?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's quite clear he has already taken too much time.
Q Did the President have a reaction to the execution of the woman in Texas?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't. I never did -- I don't believe -- we have not gotten one, no.
Q Mike, given that there is supposed to be a rule at Arlington against reserving grave sites, can you tell us on what authority the President has reserved a grave site for C. Everett Koop?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll look into that and maybe we can get an answer with some help from the Department of the Army.
Q On IMF, is the administration pushing Congress for any certain reforms, and what types, if any?
MR. MCCURRY: We have been looking mostly -- I mean, it's not -- the IMF has developed a number of facilities to assist economies, especially in the Asia region. And in each case they have negotiated separately with governments what type of economic and political banking, financial institution reforms ought to apply in exchange for support from the international lending community and from the facilities that are made available.
I believe, if I'm not mistaken, what's pending before Congress is just a straightforward request to make a U.S. contribution to the new borrowing authority of the IMF. And I think that that is done with all the same customary safeguards that we have when we are contributing to one of the international financial institutions.
Q Would that hang on any certain reforms, such as transparency or --
MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check further into it. I don't know that there's any conditionality on that. But we can look into that for you. I'm just not aware of any.
Q Knowing the workings of the White House, would you say it would be common for somebody who used to work here but who had left to be cleared back in as many as 30, 35 times over the course of eight months?
MR. MCCURRY: It depends on the individual, whether they knew people here, and whether they were coming in for business or were they coming in to see friends -- it just depends on the individual.
Q It wouldn't be surprising?
MR. MCCURRY: I have seen some myself who've been here at least that often. But I've seen some people who rarely come back. I think it just depends individual to individual.
Q Is the legal defense fund that's being reviewed right now by Counsel, will that have a higher contribution limit and less restrictive --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on the structure or formation of that fund until it's been reviewed by Counsel.
Q On the year 2000 problem, what federal agencies are considered to be the most vulnerable as far as making this transition?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, agency by agency, they can report on the progress they've been making to address conversion issues. I think in my own -- you know, just based on what I've seen discussed, it is clear that the Defense Department has been very early on the problem and has probably been somewhat in the forefront among agencies in addressing some of the concerns. And that's obviously as you would expect. But I think the other agencies are now addressing the problem with a great deal of urgency. But I can't give you a precise agency-by-agency review.
Q Mike, in response to Claire's question you said you were aware of people who had come back at least that often. Could you give us a couple of names of people who have come back that often?
MR. MCCURRY: Anecdotally, I just prefer not to get into individuals and drag their names into it. We can -- you all know a lot of the people who have worked here in my office, and you just see them around from time to time. And, you know, I don't think it's that surprising.
Q Can you give us a rundown of what's on the agenda for the Tony Blair visit?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Are you going to do a briefing today on this? Any kind of advanced briefing on Blair?
MR. MCCURRY: On Blair? We don't have anyone coming out to do Blair. I can just do it now if you want me to do it.
First of all, you all know the Prime Minister arrives later this evening. If I understand correctly, he has a program over at Blair House tonight himself that focuses on a discussion of Asian regional economic issues. He'll be meeting with Mr. Kandasu (phonetic) from the IMF, and then I believe having dinner with Secretary Rubin, Fred Bergston (phonetic), and maybe some others as well.
The formal program begins tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. with the arrival ceremony. We'll do a weather check on that at 7:30 a.m. and let you know whether that will be inside or outside. After the traditional arrival ceremony here, statements by both leaders. They will adjourn to a small working lunch in the Oval Office -- in the Oval Office dining room. And then there will be an expanded larger meeting of the two delegations in the Cabinet Room following. I expect they will obviously devote considerable time, first and foremost, to Iraq, Bosnia, and Northern Ireland peace process, Middle East peace process. They both plan to spend some time on that.
As they move into a larger format, they'll get into a range of other issues from regional security issues, issues related to NATO, and the expansion of NATO, European integration. There will be a considerable discussion about the Asian regional economy and the efforts that the world is making to assist those economies make the transition they're going through now. There will be a lot of discussion about global climate issues coming out of the Kyoto conference. I suspect there will be some focus that the Prime Minister will want to place on U.S.-EU issues because of the current presidency of the U.K. of the European Union and other bilateral issues that may arise.
Have I left any out?
And then, of course, they have after that -- after the meeting we'll do some kind of limited read-out tomorrow. But because the President and the Prime Minister have a press conference on Friday, they will have an opportunity to address the meetings that they're having in greater detail. There will be a pool spray, by the way, in the Oval Office when they first meet, right after the arrival ceremony. Tomorrow night is the official dinner in honor of the Prime Minister.
MR. LOCKHART: We've got to get a lot of these people over to the event.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, there's going to be an escort for crews that need to go over to the event. You need to go now.
And then Friday after the press conference the President and the Prime Minister and members of their delegation and policy advisors to both will adjourn over to Blair House for a continuation of a conversation that Mrs. Clinton and the Prime Minister first started when Mrs. Clinton visited England back in the fall. The Prime Minister's office calls it "Checkers II." They held this at the Prime Minister's country residence outside London, Checkers. And they will continue in that less formal format a discussion about the changes that post-industrial economies go through and the issues that we have in common as center-left governments attempt to address a range of issues related to governance and to the responsibilities of government to address those problems.
Q Both the President and the Prime Minister?
MR. MCCURRY: The President and the Prime Minister.
Q At Blair House?
MR. MCCURRY: At Blair House. Then on tomorrow evening the Blairs and Clintons will depart for Camp David --
Q They have a news conference.
MR. MCCURRY: I already did that -- this is Friday morning. Friday evening, they will depart for Camp David after first taping a joint radio address. And then they plan to spend all day Saturday, I think -- Blair will leave Saturday morning.
Q Is center-left an appropriate description of the Clinton administration?
MR. MCCURRY: I am repeating a description given by the Prime Minister's official spokesman in London yesterday, and I don't quarrel with it although I think there would be different ways of describing how governments --
Q Is center describing left or center-left -- (laughter).
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not a political philosopher, but I think everyone understands the term.
Q Is the President going to address the situation in Iraq during the top of his remarks today?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he will have a very short passage that will reiterate much of what he said in the State of the Union.
Q Mike, why is the guest list so voluminous for the State dinner? It's exceeded the bounds of the State Dining Room to hold them all.
MR. MCCURRY: I think a lot of people want to go.
Q In your comments at the top on National Airport and Reagan, you said the President would sign it. It almost sounded like he wanted to respect the wishes of Congress but didn't make clear whether this was actually something that he is affirmatively in favor of. Does he urge people to back this?
MR. MCCURRY: I said if Congress passes it he will sign it.
Q But is he affirmatively in favor of it?
MR. MCCURRY: I said if Congress passes it he will sign it.
Q Will the President be meeting with Cohen and Albright and Berger this afternoon at 5:00 p.m.?
MR. MCCURRY: That's not clear to me. I think that there is -- late this afternoon there are plans with the President's principal national security advisers to hold an additional session of Iraq. Whether or not the President joins that session or whether or not they brief the President afterwards, as they sometimes do, is not clear at this point. Correct?
Oh, that's right. He did want to have some opportunity to hear a little more. He's had a pretty full report already relayed through Mr. Berger about her efforts in the last week. But I think he did want an opportunity to talk privately with her and get a little more perspective, as well. So he may take the time to meet directly with Secretary Albright, depending on how the afternoon unfolds.
Q Is the White House in any way involved in Charlie Trie's decision to return to this country?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I am aware of.
Q Any reaction to his decision to come back?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Kennedy has issued that on our behalf.
Q What was it?
MR. MCCURRY: He said whatever he said --
Q He didn't say anything. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: He said -- asked anything specifically about this surrender, contact the Justice Department. Otherwise the process should appropriately proceed.
Q Mike, the President was very close to Charlie Trie for many years. Would the President like Charlie Trie to cooperate with the investigation?
MR. MCCURRY: He's always encouraged everyone to cooperate.
Okay. Thank you.
END 1:57 P.M. EST