THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY The Briefing Room
1:50 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: There are only two people on the press staff left who were with Bill Clinton at the very beginning, back in 1991-92, when he ran for President, and one is Josh Silverman. Today is his last day, and to be candid about it, ever since China, we don't where Josh is. (Laughter.) He's off enjoying himself somewhere. But Josh did a stellar job in the lower press office. We will miss him greatly, but he's got some great opportunities. But we are delighted to announce today that Julia Payne, who's worked in our regional press operation in the Old Executive Office Building, will become the new second Assistant Press Secretary in the lower press office. She's well known to most of you -- worked on the Vice President's staff before joining the White House press staff last year. And we're delighted that she will now be on the front lines of the adversarial relationship between --
Q I thought she already was.
MR. MCCURRY: -- the amicable but adversarial relationship.
She is. She's well known to all of you, having traveled with a lot of you and gotten to know you. But we're delighted that she'll be doing her fine work in lower press.
THE PRESS: Hear, hear. (Applause.)
MR. MCCURRY: Would you like to make a speech? Do you want to do the read-out on the Yeltsin call while you're here.
MS. PAYNE: I'll leave that to you, Mr. McCurry.
Q Does she get a raise?
MR. MCCURRY: Actually, I don't know.
Q If she doesn't, put in one for her.
MS. PAYNE: Thanks, Ann.
MR. MCCURRY: I think she is well compensated -- such as compensation goes in this place.
Now, the President of the United States and the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, moments ago, completed a useful and productive conversation that dealt primarily with the financial situation, economic situation, in Russia, but also touched briefly on issues related to missile technology proliferation.
President Yeltsin reaffirmed that Russia is working hard with the International Monetary Fund to bring negotiations on the conditionality for an additional financing package that would be available through the IMF to Russian economic authorities that are trying to bring that to a successful conclusion. Those of you that have covered and watched their deliberations know that there has been intensive work done by Prime Minister Kiriyenko and his economic team, including Deputy Prime Minister Chubais. They have done a lot of work to satisfy some of the concerns that have been raised by IMF officials who are in Moscow.
The United States government certainly agrees that Russia needs an IMF program that works, one that the Russian government is both capable of implementing and that addresses the country's most pressing financial and structural problems.
We think both sides have done good work here. It's time, though, in our view, for these negotiations to come to closure. And certainly the President indicated to President Yeltsin that he supported President Yeltsin's efforts to wind up these conclusions successfully, and also to bring the urgency of this matter to the attention of the Duma.
We also agreed that actions that Russia takes now will be the most critical component in turning around the perceptions that the investing community has in the financial situation in Russia. And we think that the positive impact of the work being done now sends the right signal to the markets and to investors about the long-term structural prospects for Russia's economy.
And as I say, they also -- the President then raised the issue of the importance we attach to missile technology proliferation issues, reminded President Yeltsin of the great concerns our Congress has about missile technology issues. And the President stressed the importance of continuing to make progress in the variety of channels that we have used to address these concerns as we look ahead to issues that will be dealt with at high levels in preparation for the summit the two Presidents will have in September.
Q On that topic, does the White House pay any credence to this book by this Russian defector who says the mafia controls the Russian government?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any analysis that would suggest that that is a proposition we attach great importance to. We are certainly well aware of and concerned about the operations of organized criminal syndicates in Russia and elsewhere in the world, and we have addressed that question in a variety of fora, including most recently at the G-8.
Q Who initiated the call, how long did it last, and was there any link at all between the two issues you just talked about?
MR. MCCURRY: As I reported to the gaggle this morning, the call was initiated at the request of President Yeltsin and it lasted approximately 20 minutes.
Q Any link between the two issues you talked about, implied or otherwise?
MR. MCCURRY: No. Those are two issues that arose, two issues that will clearly be a part of the work that both governments will do going into and leading up to the summit -- although obviously the urgency of Russia's economic situation is what prompted the call from President Yeltsin.
Q Did President Yeltsin indicate how much money Russia will be seeking, and was there any discussion of simply bilateral aid from the U.S. to Russia?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that they had specific dollar figures, but those have been widely reported coming out of the discussions the IMF is having with Russian authorities in Moscow.
Q Bilateral assistance from the U.S. to Russia?
MR. MCCURRY: We've indicated and would reiterate now that we've talked about our participation in assistance being given by international financial institutions, principally through the IMF. This is a multilateral effort and one in which the United States is joined by other industrialized nations.
Q Is it your anticipation that this package would be done and in place by the time the President goes to Moscow September 1st?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. That's our desire, as I just said, to see this brought to a conclusion soon and Russian authorities are working hard. If I'm not mistaken, President Yeltsin has indicated he's changing his immediate travel plans, and obviously the urgency of the situation requires that kind of a response.
Q Mike, is the President concerned that the longer there is a delay in these international loans, the greater the likelihood that Russia might earn its money through transfers of nuclear technology?
MR. MCCURRY: There are a variety of ways in which -- those are apples and oranges comparisons in terms of the size and volume of the transactions and what's being sought by Russian economic authorities for their economy. But it is still a source of concern irrespective of the financial situation that the proliferation outside of established international norms of certain types of technologies to countries that are not abiding by international principles is a real concern irrespective of what the financial aspect of the transaction is.
Q Mike, you talked about the importance of perceptions. What are the most immediate steps that Russia can and should take, in the administration's view, to improve the perceptions of people in the financial community?
MR. MCCURRY: Clearly, the most important thing is to negotiate successfully a package of credit assistance that would be available through the IMF. And the IMF has got certain requirements and stipulations, as they do in every situation in which they are engaged, and that's been the premise of the talks that have occurred between Russian officials and IMF officials.
A lot of it is technical, but essentially it calls for transparency, it calls for some assurance that the market-related principles that are important to the structural economy are abided by with, and that the concerns that the IMF normally and routinely places in some of its credit assistance programs are able to be met by Russian economic institutions and authorities.
Q But, Mike, you've been pretty outspoken about what Japan should do, for instance. Why not be more specific about --
MR. MCCURRY: The question there is related to the Japanese macroeconomy; it's not the specifics that are attached to an IMF conditionality on lending. We've got a much --
Q No, but Peter's question was how to reassure the financial markets and foreign investors, not the IMF.
MR. MCCURRY: What would most reassure the financial markets and the investing community, in the opinion of the United States, would be to see a successful conclusion of these discussions between the IMF and the Russian government.
Q So no other kind of structural reforms --
Q One of the provisions the President's talked about were the need for Russia to be more successful in collecting taxes by --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. We have cited in the past our concern about the taxing authority of the Russian government and trying to see that there is more regularity in the collection of revenues from the economic activity that Russian citizens engage in. A great deal of it right now is all off the books and black market, and that's been a principal source of concern to the government. And Prime Minister Kiriyenko has been quite outspoken in the last several weeks in dealing specifically with that problem.
Q On another issue, or --
MR. MCCURRY: We're still working on this.
Q It appears Russia has faltered, so to speak, in carrying on economic reforms. Does the White House believe the President has the political power -- the government of Boris Yeltsin has the political power and the political will to reform the economy?
MR. MCCURRY: We have a high degree of confidence in their determination to do this. They have a complicated environment in which they make national economic policy, and we are well aware of that. But we have high regard for the skills of Prime Minister Kiriyenko and his team, and they are clearly working at the overall direction of President Yeltsin, who is quite actively and vigorously engaged in dealing with this crisis.
He's been on the phone today not only with President Clinton but with a number of other world leaders, very actively engaged in dealing with what is obviously a very real moment of peril for his national economy.
Q Would it be fair to characterize the call as a lobbying effort on the part of President Yeltsin to have the U.S. use its influence on the IMF to approve the loan?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'll leave the characterizations to you, but it was clearly President Yeltsin's desire to keep President Clinton well briefed on the status of the discussions that are underway.
Q Mike, what were the right signals that you referred to that Russia is sending the financial markets?
MR. MCCURRY: As I just said, to see that they meet and agree to the conditions the IMF is putting forward and that they successfully resolve the negotiations they have underway.
Q But you said, to do with the discussions over the loan. It doesn't have to do with any --
MR. MCCURRY: Well they have, as I just said, they've got other things and there are other aspects of economic reform and modernization that the IMF will look for and that we have encouraged. And one of them, P.J. mentioned, is tax collection, but we've also talked about better oversight and regulation of investment, more attention to property rights and law when it comes to those who are making investment decisions. And those are the kinds of things that we routinely stress in our bilateral discussions with the Russians.
Q Mike, doesn't the fact that Russia is in the center of this financial blowout after the Asia crisis indicate that the situation we're facing -- the crisis we're facing in the financial system is not a regional problem, but is really systemic problem requiring, perhaps, more thoroughgoing measures to bail out a country whenever it hits in a new region?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think -- I'd take it a little differently. I think it reflects the growing interdependence of the global economy and the way in which industrialized nations and developing nations are directly affected by the changes that are occurring in the global economy. As the global economy becomes more interdependent, as capital flows, information flows, market activity constricts, because of the flow of the different types of technologies that speed transactions and speed information and capital flows, there's more likelihood that market developments in one area of the world can impact elsewhere.
You know, the simple way to put that is we wake up in the morning with reports on what's happening in Asian financial markets and then listen as that activity moves around the globe. And that affects financial and economic decisionmaking of people all around the world simultaneously.
Q On another issue, at the top of page one of both of Washington's daily newspapers, as well as the Baltimore Sun this morning, is Maryland Governor Glendening's snubbing of his predecessor, Governor Schaefer, and how his sudden abandonment of former Congressman Barnes in favor of the snubbed Schaefer. And my question is, is the President, as titular leader of the Democratic Party, also aware that the day after Glendening appointed Barnes as Controller, he told an open meeting in Towson that Barnes was his 7,399th choice. And does the President believe that Ph.D. in political science Glendening handle this effectively, or not? And I have a follow-up. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Not having a Ph.D. in political science myself, I know that the proper answer to that is that the President is well aware of political developments, but on a matter sensitive --
Q Wasn't he stunned by this?
MR. MCCURRY: -- matter sensitive and local and well within the capacity of Maryland Democratic officials to resolve, he will leave their decisionmaking to their good wisdom and judgment.
Q I have just one follow-up. Baltimore's Mayor Schmoke was asked at a news conference yesterday if he had ever had a Time Magazine lady reporter express interest in being ravished by him and what advice he had for the President in how to handle this problem. (Laughter.) And he said, and this is a quote: "not during my administration and my only advice to the President is, let your press secretary handle it." (Laughter.)
And my question is --
MR. MCCURRY: Ladies and gentlemen of America, welcome to the White House briefing room. We -- you may find it surprising, but we have questions like this on and off every day of the week. (Laughter.) This is what we kind of do here. It may seem quite absurd to you who are tuned into watching this, but this is what we do. (Laughter.)
Q What do I see posted on the bulletin board back there?
My question is, since there have been listeners --
MR. MCCURRY: Whatever you post on the bulletin board is your business, but it's your -- the bulletin board belongs to you in the press, not to us.
Q But since there have been listeners who have seen you on C-SPAN and other places and they contend that you are more alluring than the President -- (laughter) -- I'm wondering --
MR. MCCURRY: It's Friday.
Q -- I'm wondering if there are any Time reporters have made any such suggestions to you, and how did you handle them -- I mean, the suggestions.
Q Don't ask, don't tell.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, don't ask, don't tell. That's a good answer. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, in view of the increasing violence in Northern Ireland leading up to this very dangerous marching weekend, is the President concerned that the peace process in which he's invested so much is now threatened?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is very concerned about the violence that has occurred there and, as you know, has spoken on at least one occasion to some of the leaders of both communities to see if they can employ their good devices to try to seek reconciliation to sectarian violence through dialogue and through discussion, which is the premise of the peace agreement that the people of Northern Ireland have now clearly put their faith and trust in.
The President welcomes and applauds the action today by the government of the United Kingdom to initiate indirect contact talks between the Orange Order and the residents of Garvaghy Road, and we hope that kind of dialogue, if it happens tomorrow, diminishes the violence and encourages people to see that through talking, they can resolve some of the differences that they do have. That would be an expression of faith in the peace process that the citizens of Northern Ireland have blessed at the ballot box and have made clear that they want to see as the useful tool for the decisions that need to be made about their own future.
Q Has he any plans to speak to the leaders?
MR. MCCURRY: We are very closely following the discussions that are underway. We've had some contact with British officials today to learn more about the format and the structure of these indirect talks that are being proposed for tomorrow. We certainly will be monitoring those developments tomorrow as the parties, we hope, gather for that kind of dialogue.
Q Mike, by a unanimous vote, the Senate today passed a resolution that many saw as a repudiation of President Clinton's remarks on Taiwan. Majority Leader Lott said it sends a powerful signal that the Senate is not accepting President Clinton's new policy. What's your reaction to that?
MR. MCCURRY: The Majority Leader perhaps has not followed carefully enough exactly the work the President has done in this area. I would refer you to a couple of things. First and foremost, understand that the Majority Leader is wrong when he discusses a new policy. There is not any new policy; there was simply a reiteration of a policy that presumably Senator Lott abides by. I haven't heard him suggest that the policy should change, and since the President merely reiterated longstanding existing tenets of U.S. policy on the question of Taiwan, there shouldn't be any question of where the United States government stands on those issues.
In fact, the resolution affirms the Taiwan Relations Act, calls for the peaceful resolution of differences between Taiwan and the PRC, and also discusses the importance of the very strong and robust unofficial relationship the United States maintains with Taiwan, and expresses appreciation for the democratic processes that have been underway in Taiwan for the last 12 years.
I think it's very important to note that Dr. Richard C. Bush, who is the board chairman and managing director of the American Institute in Taiwan, which is the way in which the United States expresses our concerns and deals with issues related to Taiwan, on July 8th made a very detailed statement, which we can give to you, that notes the views of the United States with respect to Taiwan, notes very importantly that President Li himself has indicated publicly that the United States abided by its commitments during the summit, and notes approvingly some of the statements that have been made by Taiwan authorities, including Foreign Minister Jason Hu.
So the Taiwanese themselves have expressed their satisfaction with the outcome of the Senate, and my strong suspicion is that the remarks of Senator Lott are once again an effort by the Republican leaders to look for the dark lining in the silver cloud. It's another attempt to try to take what was widely hailed as a successful trip by the President, politicize the results, and turn it into something it was not.
In reference to the statements by Taiwanese authorities themselves, looking at the review that was made of the issue by Dr. Bush, I think one would conclude that we have very carefully and very precisely followed longstanding policy that has enjoyed support from Republicans and Democrats.
Q Mike, the President has always said he thinks there should be a peaceful resolution of differences. But what's the U.S. policy on what we would do if China attacked Taiwan?
MR. MCCURRY: The response is directly implied in the Taiwan Relations Act.
Q Could you explain --
MR. MCCURRY: I won't do it off the cuff, because it's a precise formula and I don't have it in front of me right now, but we can get it for you if you need it.
Q Back to Russia. You said the IMF and Russia should reach an agreement soon. When should the loan payments begin?
MR. MCCURRY: The pay-out of the loans and what tranches develop is always within the structure of whatever agreement the IMF reaches with the countries they're negotiating with. The IMF can tell you better than I can.
Q Mike, can I just try again? Is there a simple answer to the question whether we would come to Taiwan's defense if attacked?
MR. MCCURRY: We've made clear the concern we have over security in the region. We've made clear through our direct actions, actions taken by President Clinton, what we are willing to do to protect the interests that we have in the Asia Pacific, and those of you who are familiar with what happened in 1995 will recall that directly. And beyond that, I'm not going to wing an answer on something that is very precisely stated in the Taiwan Relations Act.
Q Can I ask a follow-up? Does the administration think Taiwan would thrive if it has the same relationship that Hong Kong now has with China?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it is certainly accurate to say that Taiwan thrives today economically and flourishes because of the extraordinary hard work of the citizens of Taiwan and because they've made important and real steps towards economic reform and political reform and have embraced democracy. And since they directly elect their leaders and have so in free and fair elections for the last 12 years, they have an edge up on countries that have not embraced democratic principles.
Q So, does the administration in effect see Taiwan absorbing China rather than China absorbing --
MR. MCCURRY: Policy towards Taiwan is clearly set forth in the three communiques and in the Taiwan Relations Act.
Q Mike, there was a peaceful protest by Eritreans outside the White House this afternoon, and I'm wanting to know what the U.S. position is on Ethiopia and Eritrea, that dispute.
MR. MCCURRY: We have been supporting -- I don't have in front of me the status of our efforts, but we've had a variety of contacts that Susan Rice, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, has made in furtherance of what I think are the Lusaka Protocols.
COLONEL CROWLEY: Just recently with the mediation we've been successful in reaching agreement among the two sides not to use air power, for example, to --
MR. MCCURRY: We have been trying to mediate some confidence-building measures and also some limits in the violence that has occurred between the two of them as they fight over their common border. And we have had -- there is some other stuff I think maybe P.J. can get for you, but I don't have it right in front of me.
Q Mike, any new U.S. government efforts on dealing with the Nigerian crisis?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that we still have folks who are in Lagos to monitor the results of the autopsy that will occur shortly. And we are continuing the discussions that were initiated by Under Secretary Pickering to try to encourage this regime to take steps that will help the people of Nigeria understand that there is hope for a democratic future in Nigeria, including release of prisoners, including discussions, at least initially, about how the people might express their free will about future governments.
Q Does that mean you officially say that the U.S. government does have some concerns that the death of Abiola could have been foul play?
MR. MCCURRY: I would only restate what we've already said. We don't have any direct information that refutes what the government has said, but we attach great importance to this independent autopsy that is to be performed by an outside team of specialists that have been in contact with, among others, the family of Chief Abiola.
Q On Taiwan, when you were talking about the Taiwanese agreement, is it an oversimplification or is it incorrect to say that the United States has a longstanding commitment to defend Taiwan --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, we very clearly have a longstanding commitment. It's just -- it is phrased in a way that I can't recall off the top of my head right now, and I know enough to know that I'd want to get the precise formulation if I was going to answer the question directly so that I would not be accused of making new policy, because there is no change in the policy.
Q India-Pakistan -- yesterday the President issued a statement saying he agrees food should not be a weapon. But once the agricultural element is taken out of the sanctions, what is left to prove the President has any resolve in the wake of the nuclear testing, that India and Pakistan should --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the obvious answer is that the provision of credit through international lending authorities is the single most important thing, structurally, to the economy of Pakistan, and it probably far out-ranks agricultural credits and agricultural commodities exchanges as a source of concern to their government. That's their real concern right now.
Q But the World Bank is lending --
MR. MCCURRY: It's -- no, they're not.
Q No, they are.
Q The specific loan regarding humanitarian assistance --
MR. MCCURRY: There's one loan, that's right. P.J. said there's one specific --
Q It's defined very, very broadly.
MR. MCCURRY: -- humanitarian loan that's not defined all that broadly, I don't think.
Q Mike, was the President glad or sad, or how did he react to CNN firing producers but not Caplan or Arnett.
MR. MCCURRY: I think that on matters related to the integrity of journalism, it's best to leave those decisions --
Q He had no opinion, or --
MR. MCCURRY: -- best to leave those decisions in the hands of journalists, and they're not much use in us commenting on it.
Q You said earlier that the U.S. continued to favor a multilateral approach to Russia, as opposed to a bilateral approach. Can you just explain why the multilateral approach is favorable over the bilateral approach?
MR. MCCURRY: So that we don't have to pay for all of it ourselves. (Laughter.) Simply put. But also I think that it's much more effective. I mean, we have bilateral assistance programs, obviously, that we maintain with Russia and they're important and they encourage things like the promotion of democratic institutions. We have some economic assistance programs that we think have been very useful to the growing ranks of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in Russia. But the real work that's done systemically for economic assistance is best done when it's done through international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, the IMF, and those that we play, obviously, an important role in.
Q Mike, could you talk about tobacco, in terms of why, if the state attorneys general and the tobacco companies come to a settlement that does not meet federal action -- why would that be bad?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say it would be bad. I think that we applaud the state attorneys general and the work that they've done, and clearly understand exactly why they would want to protect the citizens of their states by wanting to recover funds from the companies to make good on the claims that they've had to pay for those who have suffered from health effects of tobacco use, tobacco addition.
But that's not the same thing as meeting the requirements of the President's approach to a national public health policy on tobacco which includes FDA jurisdiction, includes developing the kind of counterweight advertising that would discourage people from smoking, and particularly kids, that will achieve the kind of targets on reducing teenage smoking use that we want to see, and that provides some protections for rural communities. None of that are featured in the negotiations that the states have underway with the tobacco companies, and so they only are addressing part of the what is a larger problem that needs a national response.
Q -- new talks come to some kind of a settlement, does that make it harder for the President to push for what he wants -- take away some of the --
MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily, because I think that those familiar with this would agree that you get the desired result, which is a public health policy that discourages young people from taking up the habit of smoking, only with the kind of national response foreseen in the approach that has been embedded in federal legislation, specifically through the kind of increase in price that would discourage use. And you don't get that from settlements that deal with claims with the payment of health care payments that states have made. You get that when you embrace a new national policy.
So the work will continue and we will continue to work hard to try to break the gridlock that the industry and the Republican leadership of Congress have on the issue at the moment. They won't keep it forever because they're on the wrong side of history.
Q Are you telling the attorneys general to go ahead and make the best deal they can?
MR. MCCURRY: We understand that they're going to do what they think they have to do to protect their citizens, and that's one consequence of the Republican leaders of Congress not giving the American people what the American people want, which is a new national health care policy that protects kids from tobacco.
Q Could you give us a readout on the meeting between the Saudi Arabian delegation and the President this morning?
MR. MCCURRY: The President had a very warm and useful meeting with Prince Aziz. The Prince conveyed the best wishes of the Crown Prince, transferred a letter from the Crown Prince to the President which we are in the process of studying now. The President, in turn, asked that the Prince convey the warm wishes of the people of the United States to his father, King Fahd. And beyond that, it was a useful review very briefly of our close relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Q They didn't discuss the blown-out building?
MR. MCCURRY: In other contexts, the importance of that investigation have been stressed to the Prince.
Q Mike, on the Middle East, Secretary Albright said today that the United States is "coming to the end of it" regarding the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Has the President in fact told the senior staff that the United States has reached a stopping point? Has he drawn a line at this point?
MR. MCCURRY: The President hasn't told the senior staff that, but I think it's clear from the work that we've done and what the Secretary has said that we are engaged in this process and our role has a utility only insofar as the parties themselves are committed to working hard on the issues that divide them and overcoming their differences. And the Secretary has made it clear and the President certainly concurs that there's a limit to the degree in which we participate in a process that doesn't have utility.
Q Have we reached the limit? I mean, are we there?
MR. MCCURRY: The Secretary's statement today speaks for itself. We certainly are getting close to that point.
Q On the Tombs of the Unknown, Secretary Cohen suggested last week that probably there would be dialogue in the days ahead involving Congress and veterans groups on the future of the site now that it lacks the remains of a Vietnam hero. Will the White House be involved in that?
MR. MCCURRY: We will not directly be involved. We have been briefed by Secretary Cohen and his staff about how they are dealing with that issue. We certainly concur that being in close dialogue with veterans and their families is the best thing to do, but we're confident that the Defense Department and the Secretary are handling that with an enormous degree of sensitivity and with what is the President's number one goal firmly in mind, to achieve the fullest possible accounting for those who are still missing from the conflict in Vietnam.
Q Mike, on the Medal of Honor for this hero corpsman today, how did he come to Clinton's attention, and why now, so many years later? What has happened?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the main reason, as the President will say shortly, if he hasn't said it already, is that it's really Ingram's buddies who served with him that brought this to the attention of military authorities. For whatever reason, I'm not sure that I know or that we know here, his citation never made it up through the chain the way it should have, given the uncommon valor and bravery that he demonstrated in Vietnam. But his comrades in arms kept bringing this to the attention of military authorities, and the President is gratified that he's in a position to do what should have been done sometime ago.
Q Next week the House is going to vote on the Hefley amendment which overturns the President's executive order adding sexual preference to the list of things that the federal government can't discriminate against when it hires people. What's your position on that, and what would the President do when, in fact, that does come to his desk?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I can't -- we'll have to see what happens when -- if that happens. But I think the President and the White House finds it appalling that Congress would give serious consideration to something that would, in effect, legalize discrimination against American citizens simply because of their sexual orientation. That's exactly what this would do.
And it is a debate that occurs in a climate in which some -- whether inadvertently or not -- are going to make it easier for Americans to be comfortable with prejudices and with hate. And that is quite unfortunate. And the President will make it clear.
Q Anybody in particular?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are -- you can pick and choose. There are a number of Republicans who apparently think that it's great politics for them to go out and gay bash. And that's appalling.
Q Are you saying the President doesn't know whether he'd sign this or not?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what form it's going to take. We don't think it's ever going to get that far, because we think there are enough Republicans -- we think there are Republicans in both Houses of Congress who are appalled at what their leaders are doing, and are going to stand up to their leaders and say, knock it off. That's what -- you would expect that from those who subscribe to the party of Abraham Lincoln.
Q Why has the U.S. failed to influence the Palestinians and the Israelis to move toward peace? Is it that they don't -- you think that they're just not willing to take the steps necessary, or the U.S. just doesn't have the --
MR. MCCURRY: It's Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m., and I could talk for an hour on that subject, but I will spare you other than to say this has been painstaking work, but ultimately both parties have to want to make progress. And when either party, or sometimes both parties, make it a calculation to duck hard decisionmaking on tough issues, it's very hard to make this process move forward. And we're at a point now where it's going to take a certain amount of courage on both sides for these parties to get a peace process that the international community wants, that the peoples of the region, that Arab and Jew alike want -- it's going to take some courage to get that going again.
Q To follow up, there was a report I heard earlier that the area is closer to war now because of this stalemate. Does the White House concur?
MR. MCCURRY: The what -- say again?
Q I heard some report on the radio that the area is closer to war now.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with any reports of that nature.
Q Mike, on global warming last night at the fundraiser, the President talked about while he was in China he received information from the Chinese of weather information dating back to the 1400s, which seem to back -- he thought backed him up, that the world is getting warmer. Do you know what he's talking about?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to look into that.
Q He talked about that in China.
MR. MCCURRY: I think we talked -- there were some exchanges related to meteorological data, but I'll have to look specifically into that.
Q Do you all feel that's accurate enough to --
MR. MCCURRY: Let me look into it further.
Q On his trip to Libya, President Mubarak said that he felt that the two nations were strategically linked and felt that Libya needed one nation --
MR. MCCURRY: To cut to the chase on that one, the Secretary of State spent a long time discussing that issue in her meeting with Foreign Minister Moussa at the State Department earlier, so I'll refer you to that transcript.
Do you want to do week ahead and then we'll call it quits? If I can find it. The week ahead. Tomorrow the President's radio address is live; the subject you know from your embargoed briefing that you've had. Tomorrow night the President attends the 200th anniversary concert of the President's own U.S. Marine Corps Band. Looking forward to that; we'll get a little advance taste of that at the picnic this afternoon. Nothing on Sunday.
On Monday the President will join the First Lady at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian for the announcement that will kick of the First Lady's American Treasures Tour that I told you about yesterday and that you got a release about from the First Lady's Office. The first announcement will be about The Star-Spangled Banner, which hangs in that very museum, and that event kicks off this tour that the First Lady will be conducting over the course of next week, sponsored by the White House Millennium Council to highlight our priceless historic and cultural sites and bring attention to the need to preserve them for future generations.
Q Is that the 8:00 a.m. event?
MR. MCCURRY: Do you have a time? See if you've got an exact schedule.
Monday evening, the President attends a dinner for the New Democrat Network, which is a group that Senators Lieberman and Breaux have helped put together that sort of coalesces some people who are interested in the dynamic center, the Third Way, the dynamic center.
Q It's a fundraiser?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if it's a fundraiser or just a dinner. It's got to be a fundraiser of some sort. (Laughter.)
Q Get real.
MR. MCCURRY: It doesn't say fundraiser, but I can't imagine that it's not.
Tuesday the President and Vice President will discuss the Y2K problem at the National Academy of Sciences -- Y2K, 2000, Y2K -- I've heard it called something else I thought was a clever name.
Q What was it?
Q Armageddon. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No, something -- so if you want to figure out what elevator you don't want to be stuck in on January 1, 2000, be there at 10:30 a.m., National Academy of Sciences, 10:30 a.m., Tuesday morning.
Wednesday the President will participate in an event that will focus on health care issues.
Thursday the President will hold a working visit with President Constantinescu of Romania. Later in the day, he'll probably participate in another domestic policy event. We'll have more for you on that next week.
MR. MCCURRY: Thursday evening is a DNC dinner at a private residence.
Q Is that a fundraiser?
MR. MCCURRY: Friday -- it's a gathering of strong supporters of the Democratic Party for a vibrant discussion of the message of the New Democratic party.
Q Cronies and cash.
MR. MCCURRY: And he'll probably collect some money too.
Friday we'll have the annual visit from the Girls' Nation, and I think the President travels later -- I think they're also doing that day a reunion of the class of Boys' Nation people that were here with President Clinton when he was then the young YMCA boy governor who shook John F. Kennedy's hand 35 years ago.
Q Are you going to recreate the photograph?
MR. MCCURRY: It would be a little bit hard to do.
Q Somebody's missing.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. It will take Mara a while to figure that one out. Okay, later in the day, the President will travel to Arkansas where he will spend the weekend. That's primarily family time, although he's going to do some work for the Arkansas Democratic Party while he's down there and help out Blanche Lambert Lincoln, who's running for the Senate.
And on Sunday the President will have a down day and then later travel to New Orleans. So those of you who are traveling with him will be having a free evening in New Orleans Sunday night, is that correct?
MR. TOIV: Probably not free.
MR. MCCURRY: Probably not free. Maybe I ought to break my tradition of not going on these trips.
Q What will the President be doing?
MR. MCCURRY: Two days in Arkansas and two days in New Orleans.
Q Does the President have Sunday night events in New Orleans?
MR. MCCURRY: No. He's got -- I think he's got a down day -- he's got down time when he gets there. He gets over there -- he'll probably will get there too late to do anything fun, though, right?
And then he speaks -- obviously, the next day he speaks to the American Federation of Teachers -- we've told you about that before -- and do some fundraising, too.
Q Does he come home that night, or do you stay?
MR. MCCURRY: He comes back Monday -- he comes back that Monday night.
Q Do you know what time Friday he leaves, approximately, for Little Rock?
MR. MCCURRY: Late afternoon, I had heard.
MR. TOIV: The Star-Spangled Banner is 8:00 a.m.
MR. MCCURRY: Eight a.m., Star Spangled Banner, Monday morning.
Q Why is the First Lady coming to Baltimore and only spending 45 minutes and answering no questions?
MR. MCCURRY: She's on part of this tour, this bus tour, and she's got a lot of stops, many miles to travel and lots of things to see.
END 2:35 P.M. EDT