THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
2:25 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: First, I want to call attention, in case you did not see it -- the President's Initiative On Race has announced two interesting research projects that are going to contribute to the final report on race relations in America. The President will do, as part of his initiative on race -- they have, working cooperatively with the National Research Council, which is the operative arm of the National Academy of Sciences and Engineering, are going to undertake a project to do 30 studies by prominent academics on a range of topics, including demographic trends, disparities and discrimination across many settings in distilling important areas of social science, finding where there's consensus on issues involving race.
That will lead to a major conference to review these studies, October 15th and 16th in Washington, and the Race Advisory Board can tell you a little bit more about that conference. The co-chairs will be Neil Smelser, Director of the Center for Advanced Study and the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford; and William Julius Wilson, from Harvard -- distinguished leaders in social science, both.
And then, working with the Council of Economic Advisors, they're also going to compile statistics about what we know on the effect of race in our society and particularly in employability trends, and tie that all together and bring it together so it becomes available as a resource to those who are working with the President to draft the President's final report on his initiative.
And I wanted to call that to your attention. If you're interest in further detail on that, contact the Press Office at the Race Initiative or the National Research Council itself directly.
Q That will be the final report?
MR. MCCURRY: No, this will be an effort to bring together statistics and information that will help illuminate the thinking of those working with the President on the final report.
Q When does the commission go out of business?
Q Does this mean the President is extending the initiative past the year?
MR. MCCURRY: The report I expect by the -- we're targeting roughly the end of the year.
Q Does this mean the President could be extending the initiative just beyond September?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has already made clear that he see the dialogue that is undertaken as part of this race initiative as something that will need to continue, and continue for some time. The initiative and the structure of the initiative itself -- our target was for a year; we are, obviously, going to be working on this through the end of the year. We'll make further announcements about how structurally we'll continue the good work that's been going on.
Q Mike, a follow-up question. The initiative started in June, and we're approaching the year's anniversary, and it hasn't seem to gain the momentum that the President had wanted. It seemed to have got to a high point around the time that the First Lady did her town hall meeting in Boston. It's kind of leveled off after that --
MR. MCCURRY: I disagree with that strongly. We have had an ongoing work by both the advisory board, the members of the advisory board, and the initiative itself. There's a lot of exciting stuff going on, and I really encourage you to be in contact with Judith Winston and the staff to get updated on a lot of the things they have underway. The President's had a recent town hall; we have another televised event coming up in a short while that we're working on with PBS that will be very interesting. So I'd say there has been an acceleration and momentum in this initiative that is going to carry us on through the production of the final report, and more importantly, beyond that as we continue to grapple with the issue.
Q Mike, the President didn't seem to give any support to the Habibie government. Is the administration content to see Habibie fill out Suharto's term?
MR. MCCURRY: We are content if we see the kind of progress toward the democratic transformation that needs to take place in Indonesia actually beginning to occur. We will have to watch very carefully what this new government proposes. We'll be very interested in what kind of cabinet appointments the new President wants to make, and we'll see what kind of policies they promulgate. The important thing for us is to see progress on the kind of economic and political conditions that will restore stability to the life of the Indonesian people and provide Indonesia the role it needs to play in the greater regional economy of the Asia Pacific. And all of that will take a great deal of hard work and a great deal of determination and courage on the part of the leadership of Indonesia.
Most important to us is to see that they remain very directly engaged with the people who brought about this moment of change and, in large part insisted upon the change of direction that is now taking place.
Q If I could follow on that, Mike, what should we read into the fact that the President didn't mention Habibie by name and expressed no particular support for the change in government?
MR. MCCURRY: You should read into that that we are very carefully watching the developments there and we'll be very interested in the type of policies and programs that the new leadership of Indonesia promulgates.
Q The President had a chance to respond to his feelings about -- you were so strong this morning in attacking the Congress for the cutting off of exports to China and so forth, the satellites. What is he doing about it, how is he going to counteract it?
MR. MCCURRY: We have not cut off exports to China and Congress did not vote to cut off exports to China. I hope they didn't, in any event, given the billions and billions of dollars that are involved.
MR. MCCURRY: We don't export satellites to China.
Q Whatever they voted.
MR. MCCURRY: I think they voted to say that we would no longer allow U.S.-made satellites to be put on top of Chinese rockets to be launched into space.
Q So what does the President feel about that?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's a short-sighted decision by our Congress because it's going to cost consumers money, it's going to provide a competitive disadvantage to people who manufacture satellites, it will probably put at risk a lot of jobs of American workers. And I don't know why they did such a thing.
Q Why didn't the President address it? That was the question. Why didn't the President address it? He talked about everything else in the foreign policy area.
MR. MCCURRY: He's more than happy to address that, and he's got people who will be working with relevant congressional committees to make sure that the facts are in front of Congress. Apparently, the facts were not in front of Congress because they've taken a series of decisions that are very much misplaced.
Q Well, we'd like to hear him say what you said. Maybe he'd like to come out and do that.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, he gave you a lot of news already today.
Q Mike, what kind of a position will this put him in next month when he goes to Beijing?
MR. MCCURRY: By this time next month more members of Congress will have more factual information, they'll probably have more reasoned opinions.
Q Well, still, even if that happened this will still be part of the backdrop for that visit.
MR. MCCURRY: I doubt very much that this issue will be much of a backdrop for that visit by the time we get around there. I think people will step back and reflect on the importance of this bilateral relationship, the work we need to do with the Chinese on a host of regional security issues, economic issues, global trade issues, a lot of concerns that we worked together with. They'll understand the importance of a strategy of engagement. They'll see the progress we've made on a host of issues, from human rights to other concerns. And no doubt by then members of Congress will wish the President well for a successful trip.
Q Mike, you seem to be very much belittling the concerns that Congress expressed. What they seem to be saying is they're fearful that the mere act of bringing those satellites over for launching sets up a situation whereby technology can be transferred. Do you dismiss that?
MR. MCCURRY: Of course, I dismiss that because those same -- if they were concerns of that nature, they would have been raised at the time President Ronald Reagan embarked on that strategy in September of 1988, or in all the instances when President Bush granted the same type of waiver. So, having -- not raised those concerns in the past, knowing full well the scope of the law, in many cases relevant committees having been briefed on the details of these transactions, I can't imagine that the current tempest is anything but politics.
Q Mike, a more charitable way to look at what they're doing now is, confronted with evidence that something might have gone horribly wrong, they want to stop those fearing that it might result in problems.
MR. MCCURRY: What is the evidence and what is it that went horribly wrong? I'm not sure I understand the question.
Q Well, the evidence is that China may have received a briefing or paper about -- that helped them with their missile guidance systems.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if I understand correctly, the Justice Department is looking into that. There's no allegation that I'm aware of that suggests that the Clinton administration provided that information. Are you aware of any evidence to the contrary?
Q The point that they're making is, if the missile -- if the satellite transfer set in motion that chain of events, then we ought to stop that chain of events lest there's a problem.
MR. MCCURRY: That's not the substance of any allegation that I'm aware of. I think the concern was that when of the Chinese rockets blew up, there was some effort to determine why. But it had nothing to do with the communication satellites that were placed on top of the rocket, David.
Q No, it had to do with the guidance system of the rocket itself.
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q It has to do with the rocket itself.
MR. MCCURRY: It has to do with the rocket itself and what transactions occurred between the aerospace company involved and the People's Republic. To my knowledge, there's no allegation that the Clinton administration or government officials played any role in that transaction.
Q But there are allegations that the President's waiver contributed to a harming of national security. That's a --
MR. MCCURRY: That's not true, Mark. That is incorrect.
Q Well, wait. It's in the letter that 152 members of Congress wrote the President.
MR. MCCURRY: That's not factual. You're correct that a lot of people are seizing on this, twisting facts to make political charges, but that's not the nature of the information that has been reported.
Q The allegation, Mike, is because it involves the guidance system, and that appears to be the main concern here.
MR. MCCURRY: The guidance system is not transfer -- that's not what the waiver has to deal with. The waiver has to do with the use of the Chinese rocket to shoot --
Q Mike, the point is this --
Q -- the technology can be used to improve the guidance system --
MR. MCCURRY: That's not the fundamental allegation that's being investigated by the Justice Department, if I understand correctly, even just reading the news reports.
Q Mike, you would agree that the American companies probably would not have had a vested interest in improving China's missile technology were it not for the fact that American satellites were on top of those missiles.
MR. MCCURRY: You're probably right, David, that the American companies that manufacture these expensive communications satellites didn't want to see them blow up in space. You're right about that.
Q Well, is that an excuse -- you're not excusing --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, seeing how -- trying to figure out -- I can see why a company would want to figure why that had happened, see if there is some way of preventing that, given the fact that they spend millions of dollars to launch these satellites into orbit.
Q Right. And if in doing that, they then jeopardize American national security --
MR. MCCURRY: In doing that, if anyone jeopardized American security they ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, if that's what the Justice Department determines is the correct course of action. But that has literally nothing to do with this President, this administration or our decision-making.
Q Burton says he hopes this isn't treason.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, look, he's a guy that believes you have to kill watermelons before you eat them.
Q Kill watermelons? (Laughter.) That's the silliest thing I ever heard.
MR. MCCURRY: Enough said.
Q That sounds like a Lockhart line.
MR. MCCURRY: All my good lines are Lockhart's lines. (Laughter.)
Q You said it's just politics, but how do you explain the mass defection of Democrats and --
MR. MCCURRY: Because I don't think they have -- look, I said this morning and I think this is true -- I think there is a lot of concern about misinformation that's been out there. I think we have a responsibility to set the record straight and make sure people go back and understand exactly the detail of the decision-making made and the basis upon which the administration proceeded with some of these licenses. And I think once that's done I suspect most members of Congress will be satisfied and will move on.
Q So you're saying the fact that you didn't give Democrats enough information is the only reason they voted with Republicans?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that maybe in reacting to news accounts that they read, a lot of people voted based on the spur of the moment rather than the logical.
Q Where's the congressional relations operation, for God's sake?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure that they're working fast to get information up to the Hill.
Q Mike, Australia today, and some other countries welcomed Suharto's move in Indonesia, saying that it was constitutionally provided for. Am I to take it by your comments that simply being a constitutionally provided for succession is not enough for you in this case? Not enough for the U.S. in this case?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's always better to behave constitutionally than extraconstitutionally, but the issue is whether or not the political transformation occurring in Indonesia is one that leads toward greater democracy and greater opportunity for the people of Indonesia to have -- affect the course of policy implemented by the leadership. And that's what we are going to be carefully watching in the days ahead.
Q And if I could follow that, by your words then, on the face of it, it's not apparent that it does?
MR. MCCURRY: On the face of it, it's apparent that we should watch carefully the development there in the days ahead.
Q What do you think of President Habibie?
MR. MCCURRY: He has been the Vice President, been a close ally of President Suharto, is someone that to my knowledge we have not had extensive interaction with, given that he was only recently selected for that position by President Suharto, but someone that we will certainly work with as we carry out the important aspects of the bilateral relationship that we have, and as we continue to assess the performance of the leadership of Indonesia as it moves ahead on economic and political reform.
Q Mike, this morning you said that the vote by the House was knee-jerk and fool-hardy, not just because it would hurt American consumers, but because it was kind of meddling in American foreign policy that would have damaging results.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, all of the above.
Q Do you still believe that?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I mean, I do. I think that they reacted in the heat of the moment to a lot of newspaper headlines without stopping and learning more about the transactions, learning more about the facts. I can tell from some of the questions I've faced from some of you the last couple of days that people just -- fundamental factual basis of understanding is not there, and I think as we build that we'll get better assessments by our Congress.
Q But I'm asking what's the effect on foreign policy, why did you think --
MR. MCCURRY: I think for good reason we don't have 535 Secretaries of State, we have but one.
Q Where is the highly vaunted White House spin machine?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's -- the achievements of such a machine are vastly overstated on most occasions.
Q What's your reaction to Tom DeLay's resolution on executive privilege that the House is debating --
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't paid any attention to it. I'll have to check into that later.
Q Mike, is Dennis Ross coming to the White House today? And where are we in the Middle East peace process?
MR. MCCURRY: The Middle East peace process, we've had an exchange of meetings between the Secretary of State and the leaders. We have explored some ideas with them and some ways in which gaps can be closed in their respective positions. We have had some public statements from the parties that they are examining ways that they might bridge differences, and we are continuing to work hard to see if we can achieve that.
Q Sounds like you have caved on the Middle East.
Q There have been reports that the President is going to give Netanyahu another week to accept U.S. plans. Do you have a comment on that?
MR. MCCURRY: We think it is very important for them to find quickly a way in which they can move ahead on the agenda that we have outlined in the past -- the security arrangements necessary so the people of Israel are confident that they are moving forward in a peace process that works for them; and further redeployment so the Palestinians are confident that they are continuing to have some aspects of self-government as they move forward; the other aspects of the interim issues that have been under discussion and near resolution for some time now; and then ultimately a format in which these parties can move into a discussion of the permanent status issues that are much more difficult in any event, and they're going to require hard work between now and next May when they are supposed to be resolved.
Q Did the President discuss this with Albright today when she was here? When Albright was here for a vote this morning --
MR. MCCURRY: He's already had an opportunity to talk to the Secretary and to assess where things are. I don't know that they spent time on it today.
Q Two weeks ago you said from this podium that this administration was not going to water down its proposal, meaning the 13.1 percent proposal. Is that still your position?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Mike, during the Africa trip the President directed the Justice Department to study the phenomenon of school shootings. What's occurred since then and what, if anything, has the administration decided it can do about this?
MR. MCCURRY: The Justice Department I think is providing some updates, but a couple of things in motion now in light of this terrible event in Oregon. First, the Department of Education has been in contact with the State Superintendent of Education to make available the team of people that they have for crisis response that grew out of some of the terrible experiences in Paducah and Jonesboro and elsewhere. That's available to them. I think it's really up to the state to indicate whether that's a resource that they want to have available.
Second, some of the work done out of that briefing that the President had with experts on these issues is leading to an examination of what, if any, federal role there is in working with state education agencies in trying to find ways to do better training, do better awareness efforts in schools so that they move to the kind of zero tolerance for guns on campus that we have long advocated, and find ways of successfully implementing that strategy. In most cases, that still is going to be a local decision, but we're looking carefully to see if there's any federal role that is suggested.
One thing that came up in the session before is whether or not there is some type of copy-cat phenomenon. We don't know the answer to that. We don't know enough about this incident today to know what is suggested by way of motive. But I'm sure in the aftermath of this event they will continue to do that type of work that was already underway to look at questions and motive.
And, by the way, the President has spoken to the principal of the school in Thurston just to express his personal condolences and that of the First Lady and to let people there know that nationally this country will stand with a community that is clearly suffering.
Q If I could follow up, Mike, on the briefing that the President was involved in on this phenomenon, what were some of the things that were discussed that schools should do to protect themselves?
MR. MCCURRY: I'd go back and talk to education people and Justice Department people -- there were a lot of questions about security, a lot of questions about counseling and the utility of on-campus counseling and what role the school can play in helping people who are dealing with estrangement or dealing with difficult psychological situations.
There was, by no means, any federal program suggested or, coming out of that meeting, any suggestion that we should prepare federal initiative because, again, the work to address these issues is going to be largely local and even personal, down to the family level. But clearly, the experts believe that schools need to be sensitive to students who are at risk; that communities need to be mindful of the kinds of tears in our social fabric that produce awful incidents like this; and that there might be some proper role for the federal to play largely through assistance to state education agencies as they attempt to grapple with this problem. But they are still working on it. Tragically, we've had another event before we have any real clear-cut answers.
Q Some people ask why now there is such energy on these kinds of shootings when for years there have been shootings in minority schools that have gone unremarked, at least nationally.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there has been -- I don't know that they've gone unremarked, Sam. There has been a real strenuous effort during the term of this President and even dating beforehand to kind of create violence-free, drug-free, gun-free learning environments for our young people. That's irrespective of what kind of community we're talking about. That's been a priority, and it's been addressed as a priority in the crime bills and the other legislation that's come along the way.
It starts with getting the communities more directly involved in protecting kids. It includes things like community policing, which this President has been a strong advocate of, and includes the concept of getting parents, teachers, administrators more directly engaged in both security issues and also figuring out what the sources of violence are all about. So I think there has been a great deal of work on exactly that issue.
Q You would reject the idea that it's not just because predominantly white students are killed?
MR. MCCURRY: I would not reject the idea that sometimes our interest as a nation and the interest of news organizations might be greater in cases when they are confined to these kinds of communities, but the problem is no less important if it occurs in urban settings and involves minority kids. And my suggestion is that there has been an awful lot of hard work on that that ought to be acknowledged and recognized.
Q What's the name of the principal that the President called?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll get that for you. See if you get the name.
Q Does the President still expect a report from Reno on this subject? There is one forthcoming?
MR. MCCURRY: There was a combination of ways in which they thought there might be some follow-up. There might be a series of specific proposals or things that we might be able to do as a government, and then he looked to the Attorney General to see if there was some way of summing up what the federal role might be.
Q Does he see any problem with the availability of guns to these young people?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's only part of the problem, because we've done -- most of these states have got laws on the books to deal with the acquisition of firearms by minors. It's got to be clearly more than that. It's detection. It's figuring out how you keep guns off of campuses, and figure out what best you can do.
Q What is the administration doing with regard to the situation in India? How are we making our concerns felt with regard to --
MR. MCCURRY: We are working directly now to implement the sanctions that the President has implemented as a result of U.S. law that -- I don't have anything current on that, but the Treasury Department can presumably tell you more about that. And the President continues to be directly engaged in conversations that help build international support for limiting tensions on the Indian subcontinent. In that respect, he did talk earlier today to President Boris Yeltsin of Russia about the situation in India and Pakistan --
MR. MCCURRY: Today, earlier today. They discussed ways in which we might continue to impress upon the government of Pakistan the importance of not testing, and continue to deal with ways in which we might encourage the government of India having tested to think very seriously about its international obligations and the utility of things like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a way of dealing with the development of a future course of action.
Q Was that the sole subject of the call?
Q Follow up, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: It was that. They also talked about -- they discussed one or two other regional issues, following up on the meeting they had last week. It was a call that lasted 15 minutes, I think.
Q Did they discuss START II ratification?
MR. MCCURRY: They did not talk about summit.
Q Mike, the Ambassador, as I understand, is not in India. How do we maintain our contact? How do we discuss with the Indians themselves?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, through Embassy New Delhi we do have channels of communication available to senior leadership in that government. So we do have a way to talk to them and we, of course, have the Embassy here.
Q The President's concern with terrorism seems to have moved to a new dimension. For his speech tomorrow, can you give us kind of an outline of what -- any kind of preview?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President, tomorrow at the Naval Academy, will want to talk about the ways in which we respond to the new threats, security threats that we face as the American people, as we look ahead to the 21st century. He will talk about the work we need to do organizationally within our government to combat terrorism and those who sponsor and promote terrorism. He'll talk about the threat of biological weapons and the ways in which we can better protect ourselves from the threat of use of biological weaponry. And he'll talk about the new and important threats posed to information technologies by those who might seek to subvert or damage critical infrastructures.
Q Does the President envision significant new spending in association with this?
MR. MCCURRY: There is some spending involved with this, but in part it's both a change of attitude -- a way in which we organize ourselves better, and way in which we better prepare ourselves in case we face a terrorist threat.
Q Is he announcing concrete measures?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Mike, in a deposition, Ken Bacon has conceded that it was he who orchestrated the research and release of Linda Tripp's personal file to the New Yorker magazine. Is that the kind of behavior the White House thinks should occur, and do you all still have faith --
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't read his deposition, not familiar with it. I've only seen a news account in the Washington Times on it. I'm not familiar enough with the issue to comment on it.
Q Well, would that -- does that jive or does that not jive with Clinton's promise in '92 that he would fire anybody who did something that was done with the passport --
MR. MCCURRY: I think that it's important to have facts, and I don't have facts on that matter and I don't rely on the Washington Times to be a source of information to make a further comment.
Q So you'll get the facts -- will you get the facts?
Q Why not?
MR. MCCURRY: The Pentagon has indicated that there is an Inspector General's report that's being conducted on this. They have suggested that there. If that is truly the case, then it wouldn't be proper for us to comment in any event until the Inspector General's report had been concluded.
Q Can you ask Ken directly about it? Have you?
MR. MCCURRY: I have indicated to him I don't intend to comment on it until the factual basis is present to comment on it and it is a matter that the Pentagon has previously indicated is being reviewed by their Inspector General.
Q Well, you've talked to him about it?
MR. MCCURRY: I told him -- I didn't talk to him about it, I told him I was not going to comment on it.
Q What did he say back to you?
MR. MCCURRY: He said he understood.
Q Does he deny that he said this?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't discuss it further other than indicate that I wasn't going to comment.
Q Are you able to say whether anyone at the White House directed Kenneth Bacon to release this information about Linda Tripp?
MR. MCCURRY: I can say that that is not the case. And if I understand correctly, he has elsewhere said that that's not the case.
Q Well, you're looking into this, though?
MR. MCCURRY: There's no need for the White House to look into it because the Inspector General at the Pentagon is looking into it.
Q Mike, as the hours lead up to the referendum in Northern Ireland there's a concern over the Unionists and an undecided vote. Are there any reassurances that the White House can offer for those Unionists who have concerns about --
MR. MCCURRY: The President has commented at great length on this because of his concern. He did so today again. He has also taped a radio message, which is we hope available to those who will vote on the referendum tomorrow. The President believes it's important for the people of Ireland to take this opportunity to bring peace to the provinces, peace to Ireland, and to seize a rare moment to set aside troubles that have led to so much violence and so much tragedy.
The alternative is almost unimaginable because the only alternative is a return to violence and to further division between the sects. And for that reason, among many, the President hopes the people who vote tomorrow will in their conscience seize this moment for peace.
Q What's your reading on it? Do you have any kind of a --
MR. MCCURRY: Our reading on it is consistent with the voluminous reporting about the attitudes of both communities as they prepare for the vote.
Q On tobacco, Mike, is the White House doing some lobbying on this? Is the President making phone calls, trying to deal with the Gregg amendment and the vote on that expect I guess tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: We have been in close contact with Hill leadership or Senate leadership about the Gregg amendment and certainly hope that the Senate, for all the reasons the President set forth in the letter that he sent to the Senate yesterday, will defeat the Gregg amendment.
Q Mike, getting back to the speech tomorrow, is this reflecting the end of the administration's review of a response to chemical or biological weapons --
MR. MCCURRY: It's reflecting the conclusion of two presidential decision review processes, two presidential decision directives, one in the area of biological weapons, the other in the area of critical infrastructure.
The name of the principal of Thurston High School is Larry Bentz.
Q How long was the conversation, do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any other details on it.
Q Is the President making calls. You said "we" meaning the White House, but is --
MR. MCCURRY: The President has had some conversations with Senate leadership on this, yes.
Q The President had two memoranda, two reviews ongoing, and they're completed now. Is that what you were --
MR. MCCURRY: That's what I said, yes.
Q And they were classified?
MR. MCCURRY: They were normal presidential review -- presidential decision review processes, interagency. And they will conclude with the release of the two PDDs tomorrow. We don't release the PDDs, but the President will describe them in a speech tomorrow, and we'll have more information available and a briefing after the speech, after you return from Annapolis tomorrow about some of the details.
Q Could you tell us a little bit about how his thinking has evolved on this? He's had a couple of meetings at the White House --
MR. MCCURRY: I think he's had some meetings, briefings here, really sees these challenges as being fundamentally part of the issue of national security as we think of the 21st century challenges the American people will face. The new threats in this world are not the old Cold War threats of a world divided by ideology. They are the threats that present themselves because of the proliferation of information, technologies, the organization of criminal behavior that sometimes crosses international lines. This has been a subject we've talked about recently at the G-8, that we talked about prior to the G-8, that we have addressed in a variety of different ways.
And with respect to cyber technologies and the assault on the critical infrastructure of information technology and with respect to biological weapons, we've actually now got some decision-making that we can reflect in the speech tomorrow.
Q Mike, what's the White House reaction to the stepped up, sort of second round --
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q -- sort of made a second round of -- campaign to question the President's leadership in --
MR. MCCURRY: This is the guy from Missouri? (Laughter.) He's running for the President on the Republican side, as are about two or three dozen others, so I think we don't -- we'll see how far he gets along before we take that too seriously.
Q Do you know when you're going to send the documents to the House International Relations Committee and whether you're going to release them from here?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Ruff indicated by the end of the week.
MR. MCCURRY: We'll release them here. I'll have to check with Counsel's Office on that. I think they're inclined to want to make sure that Chairman Gilman is the first recipient.
Q On China, Mike, a number of additional U.S. lawmakers called today for the President to postpone the trip until the so-called China connection questions are cleared up. Are you going to change your mind on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Politically, they will no doubt continue to pose those questions for some time to come, at least through November. As a question of foreign policy, we have to continue to do the work the President was elected to do, to try to protect the interest of the American people as we conduct our diplomacy and as we address the challenges we face in this world.
For many reasons, many of which I've already addressed in this briefing, the President sees building a more positive, constructive relationship with China as being in the best interest of the people of America. I think, because of whatever controversy members on the Hill want to stir up, it would be irresponsible of the President to set aside his own duties as the chief foreign policymaker of this administration by not pursuing what he believes is a relationship that's in the interest of all Americans.
Q But if that foreign policy is not supported in the legislative --
MR. MCCURRY: That policy of engagement with China is supported in this Congress and will be supported in this Congress. And after the dust settles from those votes yesterday and some reason comes back to prevail in the halls of Congress, we'll move on and get on with the relationship.
Q Mike, why did the White House even ask for the Justice Department's opinion on the Loral waiver if it was just going to ignore the Justice Department answer which was that it would hurt its ongoing criminal probe?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that we sought their views and took the unusual step of consulting with an agency that's not indicated in the statute because they wanted to take into account the concerns raised by the Justice Department. Those concerns were considered, but the support of the State Department, the Defense Department, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the President's own National Security Council, and the arguments made by the principals in those agencies overweighed whatever concerns were expressed by the Justice Department.
Q What were those overriding factors?
MR. MCCURRY: The launch of commercial communications satellites on Chinese rockets helps keep the United States involved in a very active way in the global commerce on satellite launch, which is critically important to U.S. manufacturers of communications satellites, an area in which we have right now a technological advantage over our foreign competitors -- and that to continue to find less cost ways of making those satellite launches available at a time when we don't have the capacity to launch all of those satellites ourselves, and when there's excess demand because there aren't enough rockets available to shoot satellites into space -- that the ability to engage with the Chinese to have these projects that we undertake with them is a thing that's both in our interest and in their interest, and is another way in which we can continue to make more constructive the relationship that I just talked about a moment ago.
And that all those reasons, plus the safeguards built around the transaction to ensure that, A, the technology in the satellite itself is not transferred, and, B, that there's no enhancements made to the ability of the Chinese rocket program to increase their capacity under the launch vehicles -- which is a requirement of the law and has to be filed -- all of those conditions, necessary conditions, were met in the judgment of the experts who reviewed the license application, which originated from the State Department in the first place.
Q We're about a month and a half away from a major disruption in the student loan program, which, by the way, could affect a lot of these students in the room. Congress is moving a student loan bill, but you've said -- the White House said you're going to veto it. When is the White House going to come up with an alternative?
MR. MCCURRY: Good question, and given the importance that I'm sure the students attach to it, we'll get a good answer and post it.
Q Once more on the China trip, Mike. Is the President not troubled that 153 members of Congress think he should not go on this trip?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President believes that most of those members of Congress, as they learn more facts and as they think about the matter, will quickly agree that the President ought to continue with a trip that's fundamentally important to the bilateral relationship.
Q So you don't see any chance at all that he might postpone it?
MR. MCCURRY: None.
Q Mike, some of the critics of going to Tiananmen Square took offense at your comparison to the South Lawn of the White House. Do you think that's a fair comparison? They're suggesting, Mike, hundreds of people weren't massacred on the South Lawn --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, there is a -- Tiananmen Square is not -- it's defined in the minds of many Americans for those terrible event in June of 1989, but in the eyes of the Chinese people it's defined by centuries of history. And among other things, if we intend to go to the Great Palace to meet with the Chinese leadership, we are going to be at Tiananmen Square. I don't know of any other way that you get there without going through Tiananmen Square.
So the reality is that's the way they do it. I think that maybe some of these folks are confusing an issue of substance with an issue of protocol. The substance that everyone should be interested in is the work that we are doing to press very hard for the kinds of improvements in China's record on human rights that we have fought for since this President has been President. And we've had some what you'd have to say are certainly not discouraging developments. We've had some almost positive developments with respect to the human rights record that China is compiling. We've had, interestingly, the Dalai Lama and others saying that there seems to be some evidence now that the course this administration has launched upon seems to be working.
And so our interest is to see if we can't do something to protect the rights of the people of China who have legitimately expressed themselves in opposition to their government; to assure the Chinese leadership that we take seriously the issue of incarceration of those who are just simply expressing their free opinions; and that we continue to press hard for all of those kinds of improvements in religious freedom, freedom of the press, freedom of organizing, freedom of those who want to organize to express their rights as workers that we have made in prior arguments to the Chinese leadership.
Q With that in mind, Mike, will the President have something to say about Tiananmen Square in Tiananmen Square?
MR. MCCURRY: He will talk about the fundamental importance this government attaches to human rights, liberties, and the consequences when governments fail to heed those rights and those liberties. So the answer, broadly speaking, is yes.
Q Will he do it in Tiananmen Square?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that he's speaking there. I don't know what their protocol drill is there.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:05 P.M. EDT