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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 29, 1998
                           PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

1:05 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me start with just a quick couple of points on the President's brief --

Q Could we have quiet, please?

MR. MCCURRY: Thank you, Mr. Donaldson. I appreciate that assistance. Mr. Donaldson is asking for decorum in the White House press lobby/briefing room. Please. Something unusual.

Okay. The President's very brief meeting with President Isaias of Eritrea. Obviously the President extended congratulations on the tremendous progress the government of Eritrea has been making as it reconstructs its own civil life, as it deepens and strengthens democratic institutions, as it continues on the road of progress it has marched since independence. They also compared some notes on --Mrs. Clinton has visited there. They talked a little bit about some of her fond memories of her travels there.

They discussed a number of issues growing out of the President's recent trip to Africa, including cooperation on countering genocide, issues related to central Africa, the Great Lakes Region, how we can continue to support regional development and promote democracy, and ways in which we can sustain the dialogue and further exchanges between the United States and Africa. A brief but good meeting with someone that we well respect. Obviously the President had a lengthier discussion with National Security Advisor Berger.

Anything else?

Q Is Richard Riley going to Ireland?

MR. MCCURRY: He's welcome to travel anytime. I think all of us enjoy going there.

Q Appointed as envoy?

MR. MCCURRY: He is highly valued and respected as Secretary of Education. I'm not aware that we've made any decisions with respect to our ambassadorial post.

Q When is the announcement? Tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: We are a long ways from an announcement related to the Ambassador to Ireland.

Q After we talked this morning, Speaker Gingrich came to a stakeout and repeated much of what he had to say, including the following quote: "This is not about sex, this is about law breaking," and he's referring to the President.

MR. MCCURRY: This is about politics. And it's about things other than the work that the American people expect to see their leaders doing here. And the President is going to stay concentrated on the matters he's been working on: education funding, child care, the work we're doing right now on a major foreign policy issue with respect to the expansion of our NATO alliance. There's a lot of work to be done and we'll leave the politics to the Speaker.

Q But a lot of that work can't be done without the cooperation to some large extent of Republicans on the Hill, including the Speaker.

MR. MCCURRY: We do have a Constitution that has three branches of government: the legislative branch, the executive branch, the judicial branch. And the executive branch here, the White House, the President does need to work with the legislative branch, and there are 535 good people there and we will work with all of them.

Q But if the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone is connected --

MR. MCCURRY: The thigh bone is connected to -- right.

Q Did you get any feedback on your remarks this morning?

MR. MCCURRY: Feedback on which remarks?

Q That he should come to his senses.

MR. MCCURRY: It doesn't appear that he did, according to Sam. (Laughter.)

Q This morning he was saying as soon as he comes to his senses we can get on with the work -- meaning? Could you clarify that? Did you mean that you're not going to work with him until he comes to his senses?

MR. MCCURRY: No, of course not. I mean, we'll work with him. To the degree he's willing to work with us, we will work with him. He's the Speaker. We have to -- we don't have any choice but to work with him to the degree that the legislative branch and the executive branch are going to work together to do the business of the people. We're going to do the business of the people. We think there's probably a strong majority of members of the House of Representatives who want to get on with business and leave the politics to other times and more appropriate venues.

Q But, Mike, he was just talking about authorization of IMF funding and linking it to the fact that how can the Congress approve IMF funding when there's so many questions concerning the Riadys and campaign finance. Are the Democrats legitimately working to solve those question when they're opposing --

MR. MCCURRY: In all of the countless billions of words that have been spewed and uttered and written about campaign finance, I've never seen anything that connects any issue with respect to the Riadys to the question of IMF funding. That is way out of left field. I don't know what that is about.

Q He's talking about the funding and helping in Indonesia and saying that Congress shouldn't act until a lot of the questions about -- that the Democrats refuse to answer are answered. Okay, what about this. Why --

MR. MCCURRY: That's got nothing to do with IMF funding. I mean, it's crazy.

Q Why are the Democrats opposing immunity for --

MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea. That is an issue that arose in the course of the House committee hearings. I think they all spoke to it. Representative Waxman was very clear. They object to the conduct of that hearing by Chairman Burton and they had a number of issues and they were all very public about it. That was their food fight, not ours.

Q Well, part of what the Speaker is saying is that the White House and the Democratic Party are delaying on these investigations and that's also delaying the business at hand.

MR. MCCURRY: I personally don't know a thing about -- I don't even know who they were trying to immunize, but I'll check with Mr. Kennedy here and see. To my knowledge we had absolutely no role in that whatsoever. That was a procedural dispute about the way in which that ill-begotten investigation has been conducted by the chairman.

Q This isn't going to stop. The Speaker said today, I will never again, as long as I am Speaker, make a speech without commenting on this topic.

MR. MCCURRY: They have precious little else by way of valuable ideas on how to move the country's business forward to contribute, so they do resort to other issues from time to time.

Q But if this continues day after day, aren't you worried that at some point --

MR. MCCURRY: If the Speaker continues to make attacks like this each and every day, the American people will either see those as being valued commentary on the condition of life in Washington or they won't. My guess is the American people will say, knock it off, at some point to him, and then he'll get back to doing business.

Q Mike, speaking of Newt Gingrich, tomorrow he's supposed to come out with his Republican anti-drug control policy. He's going to attack General Barry McCaffrey. McCaffrey is under attack at the CDC and now Newt is expected to come out and throw something at him as well. What's the President's response?

MR. MCCURRY: You've heard me before on this subject. General McCaffrey has done a very good job of leading our comprehensive approach to fighting drugs. He can point to the work that we've done with Congress to achieve a number of things. We've put in place an anti-drug campaign that will help discourage drug use by young people, secured funding for it. We've established the Drug-Free Communities program, which is empowering anti-drug groups in countless towns and cities. We've mobilized millions of Americans to fight drug use through the Prevention Through Service Alliance.

We've been taking -- working with the help of Congress to further all of our goals, that are quite ambitious with respect to discouraging drug use by young people. And we've got a comprehensive drug strategy pending in our budget proposals before the Congress that we hope they will take up and pass, because that's the way to make progress on what is a very important administration priority, which is being led very ably and successfully by General McCaffrey.

Q So it's safe to say the President isn't really looking at any of these darts that are being thrown --

MR. MCCURRY: It's safe to say that, as in a number of things, he is looking to see less politics and more progress.

Q There was a press conference this morning by some of the conservative opponents of affirmative action that met with the President some months ago. They said that while they were charmed by that meeting, they are now convinced that the President isn't serious about including them in the dialogue. Any reaction?

MR. MCCURRY: It's the first I've heard of that and I'm surprised to hear that, because we did value their contribution and their ongoing contribution. And I'll check and see what efforts the race initiative staff has been making to continue what the President thought was a very valuable contribution they made to his race dialogue.

Q Mike, have you said in the past few days whether the President supports the actions that Congressman Waxman and the others on the Government Reform Committee have taken?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that we have taken any position on it one way or another. I'd check with Mr. Kennedy on that; he may have been addressing the issue.

Q Are you in coordination with Mr. Waxman here at the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: We talk to him from time to time about all sorts of issues because he plays the leadership role on a variety of subjects. But I do not know the degree to which we've had any contact with him on this.

Q Is he doing your bidding?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, our bidding has got to do with all the things I'm telling you about -- the work the President discusses and does every single day. We are less interested in political theatre and more interested in doing the business that the President talks to you about each and every day. Our work has been on those things -- getting a tobacco agreement, moving ahead on some of these critical funding priorities that we have for investments that will help continue the economic performance we've seen, helping improve educational standards, health care quality. That's the business the President is working on.

Q What's the outlook on tobacco now?

MR. MCCURRY: We had a good meeting with the groups that were represented here today and walked through what we see as the outlook for passage of comprehensive legislation and the degree it's going to take working together and getting people with different viewpoints to come together in order to pass legislation. A very good meeting.

Q And ultimately opposed to what Mr. Gingrich is saying, which is, I'll help him raise the tax if all the money goes right back to the American people.

MR. MCCURRY: We are unalterably opposed to what is being referred to in the debate as a skinny bill. We think the comprehensive approach that's been developed through the Senate Commerce Committee with the hard work of Senator McCain and others represents the right direction to go with the kinds of improvements and modifications we've been discussing with the sponsors.

And there is, to our assessment, a strong bipartisan coalition ready to pass that legislation if we can get the leadership moving in that direction.

Q Mike, your reaction to the death sentence handed down to the nine accused coup plotters in Nigeria?

MR. MCCURRY: I didn't see -- you got something on that? Why don't you take -- I'll answer your question and then come back.

Q Back to Gingrich, do you have a view on what his -- why Gingrich is coming out with this? Just a month ago he said -- he was telling Republicans, you shouldn't focus on the problems and scandals of the White House and the like because it's not going to help you in your re-election?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I do not know. He needs more junk food in his diet, maybe. I just don't know. (Laughter.)

Let me do Nigeria. The verdicts and death sentences were the product of a closed military proceeding, which in its totality failed to achieve the minimum standards of due process. And because the proceedings took place beyond the scrutiny of the public and press, it's unknown if defendants had access to counsel of their own choice and the opportunity to confront their accusers or the right to present and contest evidence, all hallmarks of civil procedures in legal settings that governments around the world respect.

Obviously, the United States government believes that this is demonstration that the government of Nigeria does not take seriously its obligations, and its respect for international norms of legal procedures seriously are in question.

Q Do you call on Nigeria to reverse?

MR. MCCURRY: We call on the due process and respect for law and the role of law to apply. And we believe that the matter should be reviewed urgently by the appropriate authorities.

Q On the State Department authorization bill, given that you object to the Mexico City language inserted there, do you have any concerns about the uses to which USAID money is put in international family planning programs?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we don't have any concerns that they are somehow or other being directed to prohibited activities like abortions. But we do know that groups that operate in the field -- nongovernment organizations that receive the kind of assistance we're talking about -- are exactly the people that some of you saw at work during our trip to Africa, who are helping with maternal health care, who are helping children who need immunizations from diseases, who are dealing with all the consequences that those programs are designed to address.

In many cases, clinics that provide a range of services to women provide a variety of medical services. And it seems to us very shortsighted to cut off the kind of funding that can help deal with a range of health-related issues that do not go directly for the performance of abortions because that is against our law and there's been no suggestion that that law ought to change. And it also goes to organizations that have played a very valuable role in the international debate with respect to population control.

So it's very shortsighted if your concern is the health and welfare of populations that really need this kind of care.

Q To follow that, Senator Helms says they're going to sit on the bill for a couple of days to see if the President changes his mind.

MR. MCCURRY: It's not likely to happen; in fact, it will not happen. And it's better that they send the bill here so we can quickly veto it, so we can get on to addressing all those things that are not tied up in funding that we need to address.

Q Mike, why is it important that these family planning organizations be able to lobby for abortion, since they're already prohibited from performing them?

MR. MCCURRY: It's not that -- it's not necessarily important that they do; it's that many of those groups, because they feel strongly about the issue, that is one aspect of the work that they do. But I'm talking of -- I've just described to you what we think is important is the work that they do in the field in health care delivery affecting the populations that need that kind of assistance. And it would be, in effect, a violation of their freedom of expression to say they couldn't participate in any of these other debates or that they somehow or other would lose this valuable funding that they need just because they do raise a voice in that other debate.

Q Well, if you could just describe the distinction. I mean, you obviously don't have any compunctions about preventing them from performing abortions, but for some reason you've drawn the line at lobbying for abortion. Why is that a more kind of sacred right to protect than the ability to perform them?

MR. MCCURRY: Because it's a right to freely express their views in the context of an international debate, and in some countries, domestically in that debate. That's a right that we happen to cherish -- the right to freedom of expression, freedom to debate.

Q Mike, do you have any indication -- early indication -- from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on how it will view Davidow's nomination?

MR. MCCURRY: Only the comments that I've seen expressed on behalf of the chairman by his spokesman, which said that they would promptly and thoroughly review the nomination. We believe it has been a well-received nomination. Ambassador Davidow is highly respected. His work as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs was exemplary, helping to lead to the success of the President's recent participation in the second Summit of the Americas. He's widely know throughout the region and within Mexico as someone who has provided extraordinary leadership to that part of our government dealing with relations in the Americas. And I think for all those reasons and many more, his nomination will be well received in the Senate.

Q What are the prospects that the Vice President's trip to the Middle East will get the peace process back on track?

MR. MCCURRY: The Vice President's trip is primarily for the purpose of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Israel's independence, but as with any high-ranking travel by senior officials in our government, our meetings with the parties can help encourage them to make those difficult decisions that are necessary if we're going to move the process forward. The Vice President fully intended to engage both the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli leadership on that point, but that would be preparatory to the meetings that we foresee in London May 4th and, no doubt, additional work in the process itself.

Q So your expectations are pretty low for this thing?

MR. MCCURRY: My expectations were never that this would be a critical moment for decision making in the process. But it will lend, we hope, some momentum to the thinking of those that believe now is the time for these parties to be very serious about bridging the gaps in their positions that exist, and to recognize that this is a moment that needs to be seized because there may not be all that many moments in the future.

Q Mike, will the President, when he's in California at the end of this week, take the opportunity to make his position on Proposition 227 public?

MR. MCCURRY: I have not heard whether he will address the Unz amendment or not. I'm not aware that there's anything that would suggest itself as a forum for that, but I don't rule out that the issue might arise -- the Unz initiative in California.

Q Ward Connerly, Abigail Thernstrom, and a number of other people who met with the President last December on the race initiative --

MR. MCCURRY: Been there, done that.

Q -- launched their own today. And among other things said that they felt they'd been had by the President.

MR. MCCURRY: Been there, done that question already.

Q Maybe you talked about this -- Netanyahu's coming here in about two weeks. Do you expect the President to see him at that --

MR. MCCURRY: It is a wonderful answer, Karen. It didn't tell you a whole lot, but -- (laughter.)

Q Is the President favorably disposed to seeing Netanyahu when he comes here for the AIPAC conference?

MR. MCCURRY: He is always very favorably disposed to receive the Prime Minister of Israel under any circumstances. He would love an opportunity to receive the Prime Minister after there has been significant progress in the Middle East peace process.

Q Will he break bread with him this time?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- that's the first I've heard that there's any certainty to the Prime Minister's schedule. The last I'd heard was it was not entirely clear that that was going to happen. If it is, that's a new development and the NSC can maybe help you out on whether we've heard anything about plans.

Q It was reported that -- President Clinton is going to talk directly -- Cyprus. Could you please comment or is there some way --

MR. MCCURRY: I have not heard anything that suggests to me that the President would be speaking directly either to President Clerides or to Mr. Denktash. I do know that Ambassador Holbrooke intends to see them when he arrives in Cyprus, I believe Friday -- correct? And obviously he will convey the strong sentiments of the President that it is important for the parties now to take an opportunity to set aside the differences that have divided the island for the last 20-plus years. And we will raise other issues that have also been a source of concern to us, particularly the reported acceptance of a proposed shipment of SA-300 missiles.

Q -- today give a strong warning to Cyprus for a new Turkish invasion on the excuse of the Russian missiles, as you mentioned. May we have your reaction, since the White House is directly involved for a solution?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we certainly would like to see a solution that would prevent the introduction to the island of missile technology that we think would be destabilizing. We've made that quite clear. We've raised our concerns with the Russian Federation. We have raised our concerns directly with the Greek Cypriot leadership and with others. And we acknowledge that those arms transfers can have a potentially destabilizing affect, could lead other to take measures in reaction. And for all those reasons, we think it's important to set aside that sale and that proposed transfer.

Q The status of the threats of an invasion from Turkey? How do you comment?

MR. MCCURRY: I know that there have been threats made. I would not cite any specific threats as being any more or less alarming than simply the fact that the introduction of technologies that are potentially destabilizing represents the wrong direction at a time when we are trying to promote reconciliation and dialogue that could lead to a peaceful settlement of the issues that have divided the Turkish community and the Greek community on Cyprus.

Q Mike, you spoke earlier about the concerns the White House has about the supplemental spending bill. Which items are likely to attract a line item veto from the President if it arrives in the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I would not, at this point, want to identify our specific concerns in connection with a question on the line item veto or the use of the line item veto. I can tell you that we have been very explicit in identifying our specific concerns and you can take them exactly for what they are -- a strong express to the Congress of what needs to change in those -- in the supplemental language and what -- I guess a better way to say it would be what we're trying to prevent from happening during the conference that would make it more possible for the President to sign a bill rather than have to consider a veto -- any kind of veto.

OMB Director Franklin Raines has written to the conference chairs today and I believe that letter we can make available that has some specific provisions cited, not the least of which is the decision -- or a proposal being considered by the conference to allow 600,000 Uzis and AK-47s to come back in the country so they can show up on our streets, which seems like a particularly wrong-headed idea.

Q Does the President have any plans to talk to Mr. Lott about Mr. Gingrich's statements?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether he has any plans. It's principally a session that would talk primarily about the NATO debate that's now underway and how we can bring that to successful conclusion with a vote of ratification, but I don't rule out that other subjects might arise. That's not the President's primary purpose.

He clearly wants to focus on the bipartisanship in foreign policy that's being demonstrated in a very good Senate debate on the future of NATO and talk about what we think would be a very historic decision by the Senate to move forward and accelerate the modernization and redefinition of one of the important institutions of Euro-Atlantic cooperation.

Q You had also -- the other day, you know, Mr. Gingrich made some statements in support of Mr. Starr and against White House aides. And you said that it was unfortunate that he was hanging on politics, that it was getting in the way of the business. Do you think that the investigation is dragging on and getting in the way of the business at hand?

MR. MCCURRY: Which one? There are quite a few.

Q The Grand Jury, either.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know -- one of them I think is coming to some kind of conclusion and another one keeps going on. We continue to -- you know, irrespective of that, continue to work on the things that we talk about here every day and I haven't detected that it's interfered with the President's ability to continue addressing those things that he wakes up and thinks about every day when he comes to work.

Q Do you think Mr. Starr's private work is dragging this on?

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't addressed that subject. I don't know the degree to which it does interfere with his work. I'm not in a position to evaluate that.

Q You can't tell us anything more about those one or two questions that Mrs. Clinton declined to --

MR. MCCURRY: I can't. I'm not familiar with what they are and only familiar with the statement that Mr. Kendall has issued that you've now received.

Q Is that the first time that a First Lady has invoked that spousal privilege?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not enough of a historian to know.

Q Can you say whether the President thinks he's well served by the First Lady declining to answer a couple of questions?

Q It's a trap.

Q Don't give it away.

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Kendall indicated that it was perfectly appropriate for the First Lady to, in a five-hour interview session, fail to answer two questions on the grounds that she didn't want to repeat conversations she'd had with her husband. And I don't know any reason why the President would dispute Mr. Kendall's judgment that it was appropriate.

Q Well, was it in the spirit of cooperation, I guess is what I was asking.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what the questions were and I don't know whether Mr. Starr or his representatives have any objection to the fact that she didn't answer those two questions. I don't know.

Q Mike, doesn't that leave the impression, though, that there's something to hide in refusing to answer a couple of questions?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think so. It's a common law application and I think most Americans are familiar that wives are not required to testify about certain things involving husbands. I don't know that that gives any appearance other than that.

Q Secretary Shalala today said that the White House still needs to see some improvements on the McCain tobacco bill. Can you elaborate a little bit more about how close the White House is to supporting a version of that bill?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, a version of the bill -- I mean, we have recognized that the passage of the McCain bill, 19 to 1 in the Commerce Committee, is a very significant step forward in this whole debate. And our concerns on the specific provisions that we have are -- you know, compared to the comprehensive nature of the bill, are at the edge of fine-tuning the legislation, although there are some important concerns that we've expressed. But they are not designed to make it impossible to move forward with that legislation. That's the vehicle, that's the one that's moving, that's the one that clearly has the best prospect in this session of Congress to gain passage and to make history, and we're very encouraged by the prospects for passage.

Q So what elements need to be --

MR. MCCURRY: Have we identified those specific things?

MR. TOIV: Particularly the look-back.

MR. MCCURRY: It's the look-back provision. Wait a minute, I'll tell you.

Well, it's that and it's the overall cap. It's the $3.5 billion cap and making it company specific. And there are a number of other concerns. We can get you some more. Bruce Reed can help you on some of the specific things.

But we are at the point now where we're working with various people on the Hill to identify very specifically those things that we would like to fine-tune with respect to the legislation. And I think Senator McCain, himself, has indicated that some of our concerns seem to him things that certainly can at least be thought about and talked about.

Q She spent a lot of time speaking about the price per pack of a $1.10. Would you like to see the price of cigarettes rise higher as a way to discourage --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've projected a price impact of $1.50 per pack over 10 years. And most experts say that that would translate to roughly $1.10 over five years. There have been different estimates about that, but that certainly not -- most experts think that that's within the right range; that by no means, way, shape, or form are the exaggerated claims of the industry, accurate according to any of the experts who have assessed what the impact of the legislation would be.

Q This reported scientific cooperation with China, is there any concern by the White House that this would enable China to penetrate into America's computer system?

MR. MCCURRY: No. We would clearly have taken into account any national security concerns prior to finishing the work that was launched by the two Presidents at the state visit and culminating in the memorandum signed by the Secretary of State and the new Chinese Foreign Minister today.

Q If the President isn't going to raise Gingrich in his -- you know, the regular phone calls that he holds with Lott, should we just assume it's not being taken very seriously?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. It's -- yes. Yes. Take it that we don't take entirely seriously a lot of the political bravado, because at the end of the day there's work to do and we'll get on with doing the work one way or the other and we'll see where the Speaker ends up.

Q But in that connection, Mike, seeing that the Speaker's attack follows those by Mr. DeLay and Mr. Armey, don't you see a concerted, calculated Republican policy developing here?

MR. MCCURRY: I just saw someone on television reading a six-page memo that instructs people to do exactly that. So I assume that it is, of course. What else would it be?

Q Well, is this war?

MR. MCCURRY: No, it's a P.R., political strategy on behalf of the Republican leadership for reasons that mystify us. We can't figure out what they think they're doing.

Q What do you think?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they're making a serious mistake. I think they ought to be working on the things the American people want Congress and the President to work on, which is why we are sitting here talking ourselves blue in the face about all the things the President is working on every day and trying to get done. There's not that much time left in Congress to get these things done and we need to get back on to it.

Q How many days --

MR. MCCURRY: It's a dwindling number, Sam, a dwindling number.

Q The President doesn't seem to be on the phone much these days with, you know, lobbying his --

MR. MCCURRY: We've had a lot of members of Congress down here, and he has phone or office time every afternoon, and I think talks to a lot of members of Congress daily.

Q Will he be talking to the Speaker today?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if he plans to talk to the Speaker. I think we bit off plenty today by dealing with the Majority Leader of the Senate.

Q Mike, a group of conservatives, the Conservative Action Team, is proposing a $150 billion in net tax cuts. Do you have anything new on an overall tax cut level that might be acceptable to the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we have a great tax cut package that we've identified that's pending in our FY '99 budget proposals, and they're targeted and they go to the heart of what we think smart tax policy ought to be about: helping families rise kids, moving forward with the kind of energy conservation and measures that will help us deal with the issue of climate change -- back in the news today because countries are beginning to sign the Kyoto protocol. Yes, we've got a good, smart approach to tax cut that doesn't do any damage to our goal of continuing to balance the budget and maybe even produce surpluses, and that's the way to go.

Q Mike, there seems to be a bit of ambiguity in the Kendall statement. Should we take it to mean there were only two questions that the First Lady didn't answer and that spousal privilege is the only privilege that was invoked?

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard anything contrary to that, but you may want to pursue that with Mr. Kennedy.

Q Mike, any reaction on Paula Jones formally filing notice of appeal today?


Q Mike, just one last question. Has the President yet made a decision on the possibility of reducing troops in the Gulf? And if not, during what timeframe do you expect him to make that call?

MR. MCCURRY: As I told some of you earlier, the President and the administration constantly assess our force posture in the Persian Gulf. It's extensive. It's there to back up the work we're doing diplomatically to achieve compliance by the government of Iraq with relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. The President would seriously consider recommendations from his national security advisers and from the Secretary of Defense related to our deployments in the Gulf.

But, that said, that deployment has certainly proved its usefulness in achieving the agreement that the U.N. Secretary General was able to arrive at with the government of Iraq and with the continuation of inspections necessary for the work of the U.N. Special Commission.

Now, inspections are not the same thing as full compliance, and for that reason we are not rushing to make any decisions about force posture in the region. We'll look at it very carefully, as we look at it every day, and assess what are the best interests of the United States and the international community as we continue our work.

Q What's going on tomorrow at 10:45 a.m.? There's TBA on the schedule, some announcement the President makes.

Q The Rose Garden.

MR. MCCURRY: We'll be talking about the national economy and ways that we can continue its stunningly fine performance.

Q Any closer to a press conference?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. Who knows?

Q Well, who does know? Do you know?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know, and I don't know that anyone knows.

Q Why doesn't he hold a press conference and answer the question that he promised once he would answer for the American people.

MR. MCCURRY: Which one?

Q About the scandal. These are legitimate questions, and the American people have a right to the answer. At an appropriate time I will give them.

MR. MCCURRY: I've forgotten what the questions are by now.

Q What was his relationship with Monica Lewinsky?

Q We can remind him.

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure that if you want to ask that, that you will receive the answer that he's already given you. He's told you what the relationship was not.

Q What was it, though?

MR. MCCURRY: And he's answered the question as to what he's asked people to say about it, and I don't know that he intends to say anything more beyond that about it.

Q Mike, seriously, does the President not want to hold a news conference? Is that --

MR. MCCURRY: The President, just about every day this week, has been taking questions from you. I think he -- he had what amounted to a mini-press conference yesterday.

Q It's not a formal news conference, and you know it.

MR. MCCURRY: You like the East -- you like being in the East Room where you guys all get to stand up and be on TV --

Q No, but we'd like a forum in which a lot of questions and a lot of subjects can get answered.

MR. MCCURRY: Okay. Well, we certainly -- I certainly like those, too, as you know.

Q Remember how he went on and on at that news conference over at the State Department, an hour and half, wouldn't quit -- oh, I'm having fun, let's do some more.

Q That was last February.

MR. MCCURRY: Good, we'll go back over to the State Department and do one with them again. That's good.

All right, we're done. Thanks.

END 1:40 P.M. EDT