THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
12:12 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Bob Weiner of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, on behalf of Barry McCaffrey, announces that Barry McCaffrey today at 1:30 p.m. will release two important studies on drug use in America. One of them is actually interesting. Both of them are interesting.
Q This is not the Bob Weiner from Maryland?
MR. MCCURRY: It is, they're one in the same. That's what his job is. That's what is day job is. It's actually an interesting study. It was done in Cook County on hard core drug use that indicates we may be underestimating the volume of hard core drug users in America. The other is a report on one of their regular updates, the pulse check on national trends in drug abuse. That is at 1:30 p.m. at 750 17th Street, N.W. on the 5th floor. You're cordially invited, and I promised I would draw attention to it and I just did.
Q Could you tell us more about the negotiations we understand are underway between the Independent Counsel and the President's lawyers on the possible testimony of the President?
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, I talked to the lawyers today and came up with nothing that I can share on that subject. Don't have anything for you.
Q Can you even say that there are negotiations underway?
MR. MCCURRY: I cannot.
Q Do you -- can you tell us -- expect that at some point, the President will appear before the grand jury investigation?
MR. MCCURRY: Can't share any thinking with you on that subject; I don't have any.
Q Why have they muzzled you?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't say.
Q You know the President often says that he --
MR. MCCURRY: There's just -- for whatever reason, the lawyers are not inclined to get into that subject.
Q What reason did they give you?
MR. MCCURRY: That they just were not inclined to get into the subject. They didn't give a reason.
Q But there is no gag order, as in the case of the Paula Jones case?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not aware of any legal reason.
Q Well, if there's no legal reason, what's the political reason?
MR. MCCURRY: Since I don't know the reason, I can't speculate on what it might be.
Q Well, why doesn't anybody want to talk about it?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know, Bill -- don't know.
Q Can you bring the lawyers in here?
Q Well, it stands to reason that he would testify if he's not a target, right?
Q He is a target.
MR. MCCURRY: It may very well, but I'm not going to speculate on things I don't know about.
Q How many lawyers are there? Did you get some figures on that? Has it expanded?
MR. MCCURRY: Did we get the final figures? I don't have any reason to dispute the count of 34; I do have reason to dispute that it was at one point, four; that's -- historically, I don't think it's ever been that low. It may have been in early 1993 as they were setting up the office, they had four attorneys, but they were probably in the process of staffing up.
Q Terry has a great idea.
Q Can you bring the lawyers here since -- we could talk to them then.
Q Yes, and we'll ask them.
Q You'd like that, wouldn't you? (Laughter.)
Q We'll make your case for you.
Q Why don't you make that proposal?
MR. MCCURRY: I like that idea, but that probably won't happen.
Q They wouldn't all fit.
Q Are you getting along with those lawyers these days?
MR. MCCURRY: Sure, excellent, famously.
Q But does it serve the President's interests to have you have to say what you just said to us, that you can't even discuss something that appears to be taking place?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you're making a judgment that it is appearing to be taking place. I can't make that judgment. I don't know that that's the case.
Q Well, many news organizations have now confirmed that there is a discussion -- whether it's ongoing, is what we're asking you, and what it leads to.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm in the position of not being able to comment on that.
Q Mike, are you not concerned that by not saying anything you give the appearance, or risk giving the appearance, that the President may be trying to hide something?
MR. MCCURRY: No, because sooner or later he either will or he won't. I mean, this is not -- I don't think most Americans will pay that much attention to it.
Q You don't think they're paying attention to this story?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think they will pay much attention to the question of will he or won't he or are there negotiations, are there not negotiations. I think in the end of the day they will be interested in if he does or he doesn't.
Q They'll pay attention if he does, won't they?
MR. MCCURRY: Maybe, maybe not. I don't --
Q He's done videos two or three times before, and you've told us about it.
MR. MCCURRY: That's not true.
MR. MCCURRY: No. We've always -- if memory serves me correctly, when Judge Starr has been here to talk to the President they have usually had the Counsel's Office make a statement at the conclusion of the ceremony. Is that right? Ask Mr. Knoller, my resident expert.
Q As far as the --
MR. MCCURRY: In fact, if I'm not mistaken, there's never been any announcement or rarely been discussion in advance of that.
Q We knew, for example, when McDougal was interviewed here. I mean, when McDougal arrived for the Clinton testimony here at the White House.
Q Yes, the Whitewater trial. We knew in advance that that was going to be taped.
MR. MCCURRY: I think it was the day of. But it was the day of, most likely.
Q But not for the independent counsel.
Q Does the White House have a position on the legal question of whether the President can, in fact, be subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury?
MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check on that. I don't know if there is. If there is, you should ask Mr. Kennedy. Jim Kennedy will, on that question can be helpful. He probably is not going to be helpful on any of the other questions.
Q The President's former counsel, Lloyd Cutler, said on Sunday that if President were asked to testify he felt the President certainly would. Do you have any reason to quarrel with that judgment?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Cutler is entitled to that opinion. I just don't have anything that would confirm the wisdom of that statement.
Q But isn't that at odds with the President's statement that he wants to do everything he can to cooperate with the investigation? By not saying he's willing to give testimony if asked, doesn't it imply otherwise?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe so.
Q Really? (Laughter.)
Q On another topic, Bob Livingston today said that his panel would move two supplemental appropriations bills, one with the full $18 billion for the IMF and U.N. arrears, but also the abortion related language -- the ban on funds going to organizations that lobby foreign governments on abortion. Would that be acceptable to the President?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we need to see those supplemental requests moved forward and we're interested in getting the job done. We still object to the linkage of issues that are not directly related. The controversy over the Mexico City language which stopped the U.N. arrears bill at the end of last year was truly unfortunate, and it has done all of the damage to the U.S. efforts in the United Nations that Ambassador Richardson, Secretary Albright and others have talked about.
So our preference is to see these very important emergency supplemental requests move forward. We're talking about the very critical work we're doing in the Persian Gulf, the critical work we're doing in Bosnia and the very necessary disaster relief that people who have been affected by the weather this year need to get their lives back in order and get their businesses and their homes back together.
That should proceed with that separate debate on a separate issue that we had now year after year in which our views are very well known and on which the President is very firm and will continue to remain firm and they should just find another way to address that issue, another way to resolve that issue, as Secretary Albright has indicated we're willing to do.
Q How much does the Clinton administration believe the U.S. owes the United Nations right now?
MR. MCCURRY: We owe, as of the end of September, about $1.5 billion. Our supplemental request requests $1.02 billion -- that's the figure I mentioned to some of you earlier. And by not paying up on what we owe the U.N., we are missing some of the advantages of things that we could be getting -- a drop in our assessed rate for the regular budget at the U.N., a drop in our assessed rate for peacekeeping missions. We're going to lose probably more than $100 million a year in what we eventually will have to pay to the United Nations because we don't go ahead and move to erase these debts that we owe.
Q Mike, Kofi Annan said this morning that President Clinton needed to be more aggressive in seeking that money from Congress. Is there more the President can do?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've been doing quite a bit. It's been the subject of extensive testimony on the Hill. We've been up on the Hill vigorously advocating the merits of paying up our apportioned bills to the United Nations. I think many members of Congress share the sentiment. We think a vast majority of both Houses of Congress are ready to right now retire those arrears. We keep getting tripped up on issues that are, in our view, not materially related to the question of the work we're doing at the United Nations.
Q But should a bill reach the President's desk that has abortion-related provisions, what would he do?
MR. MCCURRY: We are very reluctant on the President's behalf to extend veto threats, but he has in prior instances made clear how firmly he feels about this and we certainly are moving in that direction, if Congress continues to move in the direction it's moving.
Q Is there potentially room for compromise on that type of language?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. Well, there's room to address it. There are fundamental, in our view, almost constitutional issues at stake here. What the Congress is trying to do is to prevent recipients of some of this funding from doing what they would be protected in the United States in doing under the First Amendment.
And we've always had a real concern about that and we've addressed that very directly. None of this money goes for performing abortions or for advocating abortions. But it is, in fact, many of the organizations that are active in family planning work that have done so much to prevent abortions around the world would lose access to funding if this type of language were to proceed.
Q Does the President have an opinion on whether his helicopter pilot should be transferred out of the White House detail because of adultery?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar enough with the case. The first I knew about it or heard about it was when I read about it in The Wall Street Journal and I don't know the President's thinking on it.
Q Would you take the question?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll see if there's anything that anyone here wants to say on it.
Q The Appropriations Committee tomorrow plans to have a hearing about whether or not the White House has misused funds by using for the President's private scandals, the White House Counsel's Office and the Office of --
MR. MCCURRY: And the Press Office that takes all these questions and never answers them?
Q Exactly. Does the White House have any comment on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Maybe they'll cut our budget, then we won't have to take any of these questions anymore. I think that you can gather my answer is that it is precisely the inquiries -- so many of them directed by Congress itself -- precisely the questions that we take from you and try to answer as best we can or don't answer as best we can, that generates the need for staff, then, to handle these inquiries. It's the Congress itself that's responsible for many of the inquiries that have occasioned the hiring of lawyers, the enormous amount of work that's done on document production. So it's a little odd for them to claim that we've got people responding to issues, in many cases that they generated.
Q So it's an appropriate use of taxpayer money?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's an appropriate use of taxpayers' money, one, to deal with public issues that are posed by members of the press. I think it would be an infringement on your right to ask these questions and consider these matters if the White House didn't have staffing and resources to respond. And, two, it's certainly legitimate for the White House Legal Counsel's Office to deal with legal issues that arise that are in the province of the work they do on behalf of the Office of the Presidency.
Q Mike, on that issue, do Ickes or Kantor receive any federal money, or are they all privately financed?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is -- I don't know for certain in the case of Mr. Ickes, I don't believe he has been retained in any capacity that I'm aware of. And Mr. Kantor and his firm are paid as private arrangements made through the President and the First Lady, who are the firm's clients.
Q And it would be the same for Harry Thomasson?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that he's working in any capacity that would require compensation.
Q And are either -- do any of those three have office space or telephones or any White House staffing associated with them?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. I mean, I'll double check that but I'm certainly not aware of any.
Q When's the neutering? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I imagine it will be sometime in the future, given the age of the young puppy.
Q You'll let us know? Is there a gag rule on that, too?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Mike, have you clarified everything on the Iraq deal with Kofi Annan to your satisfaction? Is there anything in there that the President is going to be asking about that still raises some concerns?
MR. MCCURRY: We have been very satisfied with all the discussions we've had with the Secretary General and others at the United Nations on the procedures that will be available to the U.N. Special Commission in Iraq as they conduct their mission. There are still discussions underway about how Mr. Butler and the Special Commission will go about the job of conducting the inspections at the so-called, presidential sites. I'm not aware that there have been any issues in dispute between the United Nations and the United States on that particular issue; in fact, things to the contrary seem to be developing well.
But irrespective of that, the importance of fulfilling the mandate of that memorandum of understanding and doing the inspections as required by the United Nations is very important to us. We believe it's very important to the Secretary General. And the Secretary General and the President in a short while will spend some time on exactly how that process will proceed.
Q Mike, two questions on the U.N. There are some who argue that the U.S. has paid so much money for peacekeeping operations that actually the U.N. owes the U.S. money. How do you account for that argument?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we get credit for the work that we do in peacekeeping but that's, again, part of the assessment that we get from the United Nations to pay for peacekeeping operations that undertaken by the world community. There are many U.N. peacekeeping missions around the world in which the United States does not participate.
There are also things that we do, I think you're specifically referencing maybe the work that we do as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for which we, for example, in Bosnia, don't get any direct credit from the United Nations for that type of work. But we undertake those missions because they are in the interest of the United States. We see those as part of our security work abroad and while we appreciate the credit that we get from the world community for doing that work, it is not a direct financial credit that erases any of our arrears.
Q That reminds me, when does the President intend to nominate a new U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: You're in cahoots with --
Q That's Connie's question.
Q I have no knowledge of what you're talking about. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: That is a question I will certainly have to take. (Laughter.)
Q When you get back to us on that?
MR. MCCURRY: The importance of the bilateral relationship we have with the United States and New Zealand, the work that we do in the Pacific Region will keep going.
Q The ANZUS treaty?
MR. MCCURRY: The ANZUS treaty --
Q Wait a minute, have you got sheep down there? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: The question, Mr. Donaldson, do you have sheep down there?
Q He doesn't want any nuclear power --
Q No, but I want the new U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand to perhaps destroy by fire all the sheep in New Zealand. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Donaldson apparently looking for competitive advantage when it comes to the procurement of sheep. (Laughter.)
Q Yes, indeedy. But I'm sure that you're checking out nominees and you'll make certain that war record is not --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't' like the direction this is going. (Laughter.)
Q Sheep don't --
MR. MCCURRY: Don't say it. I know what you're thinking. (Laughter.)
Q No, I'm not. I'm not going to say it. Dumb, but not stupid. (Laughter.)
Q -- are trying to allocate money to the Iraqi opposition. Do you think these moves in the Congress are being an obstacle and preventing this agreement with Iraqis are going to --
MR. MCCURRY: No. We have long had strong support for elements in Iraq that are trying to form a viable opposition to the government of Saddam Hussein, and we've maintained contact with them and worked with them and have in the past provided some assistance. We are continuing to look for ways in which we can advance dialogue with those who are interested in a brighter and better future for the people of Iraq, and there are many in Iraq who are so interested.
The Senate has some ideas that they have put forward now in this bill. We are looking very carefully at those ideas. They're not dissimilar in some cases from things the administration was already pursuing, and we'll continue to work with our Congress as we build a program of support for a long-term effort to bring about the type of change that will improve the quality of life for all the people in Iraq.
Q On the question of Mr. Butler's permission -- UNSCOM, is the United States willing to appoint a Russian deputy to Mr. Butler here?
MR. MCCURRY: We have a very negative view of that idea. We believe that the Special Commission has been very effective in doing its work. Mr. Butler is seen as a very fair, if indeed a very vigorous, administrator of the effort he has been assigned by the United Nations. And we think the structure that exists within the special commission has worked quite satisfactorily and the new leeway that's been given to the Special Commission by the government of Iraq needs to be fully tested and needs to be fully implemented.
Q What's wrong with having a Russian deputy if there's an American deputy?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't think much of the idea and we don't think it's necessary.
Q Is the President going to try to reel in the Secretary General today, to avoid him becoming like Boutros-Boutros Ghali, someone who -- a Secretary General who pursued his own policies in other areas? The SG favors the deputy UNSCOM, he's got a special rep now to Iraq, he has a phone number of Saddam Hussein.
MR. MCCURRY: Correct on one thing. I'm not aware the Secretary General has expressed a view on the concept of a Russian deputy for UNSCOM.
Q Well, he's forwarded the letter, but I don't think he's looks that unfavorably on it --
Q Apparently, he has.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that he has stated a view on that. But the answer to your larger question is that we have worked very closely with Secretary General Annan, we believe he's been very effective in the role that he's undertaken at the United Nations. He has provided key leadership at some very important and delicate moments for the United Nations.
We've spent part of this briefing discussing a question of what we owe the United Nations, and one thing that is commendable about the work of the Secretary General is that he has very patiently and persistently pursued the concerns we've expressed in the past about administrative reform at the United Nations and breaking down some of the bureaucratic structures there that we believe often impede the work of the United Nations around the world.
So I think in short, this is not a meeting in which we are trying to recalibrate his work, we're trying to work together with him to accomplish objectives that we believe we share with the Secretary General.
Q The Secretary General said on Sunday that he thought he might put forward to council the idea of a Deputy Undersecretary that would be Russian and let the council decide, even though he's aware of the U.S. opposition.
MR. MCCURRY: He has, if I'm not mistaken, made clear he would take the idea -- which comes from a Security Council member, after all -- and forward it to the council. I'm not aware that he's said anything that would indicate his own endorsement of the concept.
Q Didn't you, yourself, the other day point out that one of the most aggressive inspectors was a Russian, probably disliked by the Iraqis even more than Scott Ritter?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I pointed out that when -- not long ago, or after the stand-off with Iraq in November, one outcome was the establishment of technical evaluation teams that went in to evaluate on an almost like a peer basis some of the work that the Special Commission was doing in Iraq, one of them headed by a Russian arms control expert which produced a report that fully confirmed -- I think it's fair to say fully confirmed -- many of the reports that were given by Mr. Butler to the Security Council.
It is not an objection, per se, to any national, it's more an endorsement of the current structure, the way it works, the reasons why we think it's effective. We are going through a period now in which we're getting ready to establish a diplomatic element in one aspect of the Special Council work, and that should be administered carefully and probably not wise to make larger, broader changes in the structure of the Special Commission at this time.
Q Mike, do you have any comment -- the Pakistan government is suing the U.S. government over $650-odd million that were given for the planes. Now they want money or the planes. So about this lawsuit --
MR. MCCURRY: We are well aware of their concerns and the President has discussed that at highest levels with the government on many occasions. We continue to search for some type of equitable resolution. We were working on an idea, as you probably know, that now looks much less fruitful, given the condition of a country that was -- a third party country that was involved in some of those discussions.
Q On Iwo Jima, now that this is gathering steam, does the White House concur with the moves by some to oust J. Carter Brown, and have you yet taken a stand on where the Air Force Memorial should be?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not. I mean, this came up the other day and I have to confess I have not looked further into the issue, but we will and see if there's anything we have to say, and I'm not aware that we've taken a position on that.
Q The Senators and Congressmen are now circulating a petition that --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything from the White House on that subject beyond what I said the other day at this point; but if there is more to say, I will pass it on.
Q The U.S. has been asked to contribute diplomats to those inspections, those special inspections of presidential sites -- has there been a decision? Will there be American diplomats on those teams?
MR. MCCURRY: We believe they should be -- that should be done based on what the good judgment of those organizing the effort suggests. I think that the ultimate decisions will be made by the Secretary General. Diplomats can be drawn from those countries that have embassies in Baghdad -- which we do not, of course -- but they also can be drawn from other members of the council. If we are asked to participate -- I imagine we will, but I have not heard of any such requests at this point.
Q Mike, on another subject, is there money in the President's 1999 budget proposal for the Race Advisory Board to continue its work through the Justice Department?
MR. MCCURRY: The work that the President's Advisory Board is doing through the Justice Department? I'm not -- I'll have to look into that for you, April, I don't know; or, you may want to call over to Judy Winston and the folks over there. I'm not exactly sure how whatever funding request is in the budget relates to that.
Q Is there going to be a town hall meeting anytime soon from the President?
MR. MCCURRY: Most likely. The President has enjoyed those town halls and I suspect he'll do more of them and perhaps even soon.
Q Before Africa?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Before testifying before the independent counsel? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, other subjects.
Q Do you have any comment on the elections in India?
MR. MCCURRY: You know, I don't, and I apologize for not having that. We, of course, are aware that a government seems to be coming together. I don't know whether we have been formally notified by the government of India of the formation of that government, but I suspect that we certainly will want to have a reaction when it is done and congratulate the new Prime Minister, who I think is well known to us, but I probably ought to wait and see if we have an official confirmation before I say anything further.
Q A little closer to home, do you have any reaction to the congressional election in California?
MR. MCCURRY: That's good news. It's good news for many reasons, not the least of which is that Laura Capps can come back to her job here at the White House. But obviously, the President intends to congratulate Mrs. Capps on a very well run race. I think that we at the White House were particularly impressed with how important the issue of health care and the rights of health care consumers, how important that issue was in the race. She ran, as a strong element of her campaign, a strong endorsement of the Patient Bill of Rights. And that, we believe, was one of the decisive elements in the campaign.
But she will be an admirable member of the House and a worthy replacement for her dear husband, who we all miss greatly. And we get to have her daughter back here on the White House staff, which is even better.
Q Do you think that portends anything for November?
MR. MCCURRY: Should I read -- can I reach large global significance on the vibrancy of the President's message and the work of the Democratic Party nationally and how encouraged we are looking ahead to the fall of one House race in California? (Laughter.)
Q Mike, does the White House have any possession of what's happening in Chile, with General Pinochet giving up the army and going into the Senate with kinds of protests?
MR. MCCURRY: We have not made a direct comment on that, but it is, I think, a reminder to the world of the impressive changes that have incurred in Chile since General Pinochet left power. He is now becoming a member, a Senator for life, in the Chilean legislature, that presents all of the issues that they will discuss and deal with in Chile, although that is certainly a domestic matter.
But the President, I think, would turn the question around and say look at the impressive changes that have occurred in Chile. Look at the demilitarization of their ruling authority and the work to nurture and make more vibrant the democratic institutions of Chile -- something that we think will be impressive to all of you when we are there next month, to see how much change there has been since the days of militarism.
Q Has the President taken all of his shots for Africa?
MR. MCCURRY: Has the President taken all of his shots? He better have.
Q What's the purpose of adding Uganda to the Presidential trip?
Q Rwanda, sorry.
Q Sounds like --
Q Remember, I'm getting old. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: There will be a regional summit meeting in Uganda and the President, look to that as an opportunity to discuss the issues that I think have been so contentious in the life of Central Africa. But a stop in Rwanda will in a very symbolic and I think dramatic way underscore the importance the United States attaches to efforts to resolve the conflicts there that have led to genocide, have led to the brutality that have cost so many innocent civilians their lives.
It is, above all else, an expression of concern that we in the United States have for the people of Rwanda -- for all the Great Lakes region -- and our sincere belief that working together in the world community we can do something to stem the horrible genocide that has occurred.
Q But it's still going on, according to some organizations. And the government that he's going to be visiting is a part of it.
MR. MCCURRY: There's a great deal of concern and unrest, and we will be saying a lot more about that when we are there.
Q Are you concerned for the President's security?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is well protected whenever he travels anywhere in the world or at home.
Q Why was that decision only made at the very last minute to add that stop?
MR. MCCURRY: To work through some of the issues to allow us to schedule the trip took some time.
Q Mike, can you say why the President waived Jackson Vanik on Vietnam?
MR. MCCURRY: It summarized, I think, the statement that we've already given you. The primary reason was that the change we've seen in Vietnam over the last 15 years -- there have been nearly half a million people who have been able to emigrate in an orderly, legal way from Vietnam. The Vietnamese government has taken seriously the responsibilities it has to follow through on cases that we have presented to them for specific review. And as a mark of the progress that has occurred and the President's belief that we can encourage even more progress in the future, the President felt it was in the national interest to provide this waiver under the Jackson Vanik provision of the 1974 Trade Act.
If you're pool for the Oval, you can come march in front of me. Anything else, any burning questions?
Q Is the President aware of Prime Minister Hashimoto's announcement that he will go to Indonesia this weekend? Does he have any --
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that we are aware that Prime Minister Hashimoto intends to go to Indonesia. Those in the international community who have worked to support efforts to bring about greater stability and economic coherence to the functioning of the Indonesian economy will surely communicate directly to the government of Indonesia the importance of following through on the economic reforms they have pledged to undertake. And I can easily imagine that the Prime Minister's message will reinforce the message that has been delivered by the President, by others at high levels within the United States government.
Q What's your comment that the Congress now agree on in China, and the government reform? What's your comment about that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any specific reform. I'll have to kind of take that and look into some of the specific issues. In general, we believe that there has been a worthy debate about the future of political and economic reform in some elements of the structure of the ruling party in the Peoples Republic. But there clearly needs to be further discussions about exactly those issues that we raise in our own diplomacy.
Q Mike, on the tobacco deal, Speaker Gingrich said yesterday that Republicans are not going to allow any legislation that has any form of limited liability for the industry, which is sort of a flip. And I was wondering, why is the White House willing to grant this industry any form of limited liability and why instead don't you support Senator Conrad's bill, which is a no-limit liability bill?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we do. We have announced our support for Senator Conrad's bill. We also support Congressman Fazio's bill, which is built -- I mean, very similar to it in many respects, but in fact in some respects it's tougher on the industry itself.
Our views on liability limitations, I think, are pretty well know. We are not in favor of them, we don't think that they're necessary for good public health legislation related to tobacco in the Congress. But if they were included in a comprehensive bill dealing with tobacco, we would certainly look at it and see if it was worth a trade-off in terms of what we get to protect the public health interests of children. And we -- you know, no change in our view on that.
Q Well, that -- Mike, your comments on this have kind of migrated slowly over the weeks. I mean, you used to say that you didn't think immunity was a deal-breaker. Now you're saying you just agreed to look at it. I mean, it seems that as this --
MR. MCCURRY: I've said all the same things -- exactly what I've said before and I didn't mean to indicate any change in what I've said to you over and over again. I need to run folks.
Q On Indonesia you said that you were looking for the Indonesian government to implement fully the reforms recommended by the IMF. But the IMF has now softened its reforms by agreeing to a currency board. Are you disappointed the IMF is now backing down in the face of the Soeharto government?
MR. MCCURRY: We have indicated the concerns we have about a currency board and the lack of flexibility we think that will provide to those who want to see a flourishing of a private economy and private enterprise in Indonesia. But the IMF is in a position to make those judgments based on their technical discussions that they've had. We are supportive of the work the IMF is doing in Indonesia.
Q The Middle East and concerning the latest announcement, the Israeli government that they want to withdraw from Lebanon first. Would the United States agree to that, or think of that or uphold the 425 Security Council Resolution that calls for immediate and --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, our views on U.N. Security Council Resolution 425 are the same as they've been. They haven't changed. At the same time, we have always suggested to all the parties that are part of the Madrid Process that a search for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace has to be an inclusive process, and it needs to include all the parties, putting -- you know, as a practical reality, some of the tracks and the dialogue move at different paces at different times. But we have had very direct dialogue with the government of Israel on exactly this question. I suspect that dialogue will continue in the near future.
I need to -- Please, only a few more.
Q Mr. Annan is going to the Middle East, and I understand he is discussing with the President that trip. Do you see any role that Mr. Annan can play in this process? Are you going to ask him for anything?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure the President and the Secretary General will talk about the trip he plans to take next week to the Middle East. We certainly will want to make sure that all the efforts of those in the world who are supporting the Middle East peace process supports the work the parties themselves are doing. And the parties have made clear themselves how they see the process and how they see the role that other parties can play.
Q Republican leaders have been calling for tax cuts in the range of $30 billion to $60 billion in this year's budget resolution. Are cuts of that magnitude unacceptable to the administration?
MR. MCCURRY: Cuts of that magnitude to us would seem to put in some peril the balanced budget agreement and the search for reducing the commitment the President has made to devoting future surpluses to save Social Security first.
So we would be, I think, inclined to be skeptical initially about any report of that nature, but since we have advocated our own highly targeted tax cuts and tax relief and we believe that's the best place to start, we certainly owe it to other parties to look and see what they have to say; although that doesn't sound like it's going to go very far.
Q Ralph Nader said yesterday that it was grossly inappropriate for the President to go to a fundraiser --
MR. MCCURRY: That was asked and answered yesterday.
Q Just to update, are you personally confident the President is telling the truth when he denies --
MR. MCCURRY: I've answered that before and I said yes. Anything else? Okay, thank you. Thanks. Yes, quick?
Q African delegation, presidential delegation?
MR. MCCURRY: Don't have anything new on it.
END 12:50 P.M. EST