THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
2:00 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Hello, everybody.
Q What about the CNN report?
MR. MCCURRY: Let's just hold on for a second. What do you want to do first -- week ahead, other news of the day?
Q Let's do President testifies first.
MR. MCCURRY: The news? The news. I don't have any news.
Q There's a CNN report that the President's lawyers are either arranging or have arranged -- I'll defer to CNN for the accurate version -- for the President to give testimony.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with that. I can tell you only what I've been told by the Counsel's Office, that we anticipate that as has been true on every previous occasion, Mr. Kendall will work with Mr. Starr's office to try to ensure that the grand jury gets the information it needs. I'm not going to go further -- I'm not going to interpret the statement. That's what I was given to say and I can't interpret it.
Q The President will testify?
MR. MCCURRY: It doesn't say that. It says that they will try to ensure that the grand jury gets the information that it needs.
Q Is there any way to do that other than to have the President testify?
Q You mean the information from the President, correct?
MR. MCCURRY: Since I'm not in a position to know what information the grand jury needs I can't possibly answer that.
Q Are negotiations actively underway on how to do that, how to deal with that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if I can describe them as negotiations. We've told you in the past that Mr. Kendall remained in contact with Mr. Starr's office. I don't know the status of those discussions.
Q Has it come to a head now? Obviously there is a new chapter here.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether there is a new chapter or not. This seems to be kind of an endless saga in some ways.
Q You know that one of the questions has always been whether the President himself would either voluntarily or asked to under subpoena, come forward and give personal testimony. And we're asking whether this means, when you say give the grand jury all the information it needs, whether we're talking about the President doing it personally.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what the request of the President has been, but I know that if Mr. Starr is going to try to assure that the grand jury gets the testimony it needs -- or gets the information it needs, if that's what the information -- that's the source of the information they need and Mr. Starr's trying to work out with Mr. Kendall a way that they can do that.
Q Mike, the prosecutors have asked the President -- in fact, invited him several times to appear before the grand jury. Will the President appear?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I say again, Scott, we anticipate, as we have on previous occasions, that Mr. Kendall will try to work out something with Mr. Starr's office so that the grand jury or Mr. Starr gets the information that they need.
Q Well, the President has testified under oath a number of times in various investigations, but it's always been -- correct me if I'm wrong -- here at the White House on videotape or in some direct sense with the independent counsel. But he's not gone before a grand jury as Mrs. Clinton has. So is that the way you would suggest that they're trying to work it out?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't tell you what the status of discussions are that the lawyers are having. But as this statement from the counsel indicates, it makes very clear that Mr. Kendall is working with Mr. Starr's office to provide the information to the grand jury.
Q Are they trying to work out some sort of compromise so that the constitutional question of having a sitting President subpoenaed doesn't come up?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't presuppose that there is a constitutional issue that has arisen.
Q Is this a change of heart? Because, you know, just a month ago it was made plain by people close to the President that he had no intention of trying to help Ken Starr out by talking.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't recall myself ever having given that impression.
Q No, you didn't, but there were others who did.
MR. MCCURRY: -- I think we've said only that Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr have been in discussion on that very point. And I don't know that anyone was ever authorized to give you any indication one way or another what the outcome of those discussions were.
Q But you are saying something new today. You have to acknowledge that.
MR. MCCURRY: When I read that, it sounds new. Is it new? Very hard to say.
Q After seven months, why now?
MR. MCCURRY: After seven months, what?
Q After seven months of this investigation, why now?
MR. MCCURRY: Why what now?
Q Why is the President apparently actively negotiating with Ken Starr's office to talk?
MR. MCCURRY: I think for sometime Mr. Kendall had been trying to work out with Mr. Starr something that would help ensure that the information is provided that is needed, consistent with the President's view that we should cooperate. So I don't know that that is new.
Q Is there any change in what you said this morning, that you're unaware of whether a subpoena has been served?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't comment, Mark, on whether subpoenas have been issued. Since we don't issue the subpoenas, we don't comment on whether they --
Q You've commented in the past about subpoenas.
MR. MCCURRY: Not so. I mean, my recollection is we've always told you in the past that if people received subpoenas, it's up to them to tell you whether they've received subpoenas because we don't comment.
Q Well, you're the spokesman for the President.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't have any information one way or another on whether the President has received a subpoena.
Q Will you ask the President?
Q You don't have any information?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any information on that.
Q Will you ask the President whether he's received a subpoena.
MR. MCCURRY: I have asked his counsel and I don't have any information to provide.
Q They've refused to tell you?
MR. MCCURRY: They have kept me in a position to be honest when I say I don't have any information.
Q But don't you think the public should know if the President of the United States has received a subpoena?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether there is a -- there's a reason why subpoenas are covered by 6E and why it is covered by grand jury secrecy. Remember, let's go back -- if you're asking that question -- why grand jury proceedings are held in secret. They are held in secret in this country because the rights of individual citizens in this country are protected. We presume innocence. Now, you may not, but that's the way our system of law works. So grand jury proceedings are held in secret and deliberations related to grand jury proceedings are secret because we don't rush to the assumption that people are guilty merely because grand juries are meeting. Remember?
Q What is the White House Counsel's position on the constitutional question of whether a subpoena to the President could be enforced?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a hypothetical question and --
Q Well, it's getting less hypothetical every day. I mean, I think this is a legitimate question that they've had to consider -- if Ruff represents the institution of the presidency, can a subpoena be enforced in his interpretation of the law?
MR. MCCURRY: I assume that there will be many constitutional experts with many opinions. If the White House legal counsel has an opinion to render on a hypothetical question, I'll see if he wants to share it. He is a precise fellow and he generally likes to address distinct and separate matters of law that arise.
Q Is it a hypothetical question?
MR. MCCURRY: The way she posed it was, what generally is our position. And I'd have to go check and see.
Q Is it your position, Mike, that the White House is not going to tell the American people whether the President has received a subpoena to testify in a criminal case?
MR. MCCURRY: It's my position that we don't comment on subpoenas because subpoenas arise out of grand jury proceedings that are secret so they protect the rights of the innocent. That's my position.
Q Can you go back and answer the other question which is, has the President decided whether he will voluntarily come forward and testify? Forget subpoenas.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think I've indicated to you several times now that Mr. Kendall is going to try to work out a way with Mr. Starr that the grand jury gets whatever information it seeks. I think that statement speaks for itself.
Q Well, that suggests that both sides will have to agree on some procedure, work out with Mr. Starr, which is not to say that the President has agreed to come forward.
MR. MCCURRY: I will state and not infer. You can imply if you wish.
Q You are saying that a deal is not --
MR. MCCURRY: Did I get that backwards or is that the right way? I think I got that backwards.
Q Yes, well, we got the meaning.
Q You are saying that a deal is not done; there has been no agreement?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm very precise in what I've said and I've said it and I made it pretty clear. I'm not going to interpret it for you.
Q Should we try to call Mr. Kendall? I mean, is that a fool's errand?
MR. MCCURRY: The statement from the Counsel's Office said you should contact Mr. Kendall for any further comment, but I would prefer to say that if he has any further comment he'd probably be available to you. And I don't think he plans to be available because I don't think he's in town.
Q Well, was all of this negotiating prompted by a subpoena? I mean, is Mr. Kendall working on this because there is a subpoena --
MR. MCCURRY: I made it clear that I'm not going to comment on the status of subpoenas that may or may not have been issued.
Q Why should you refer us to Kendall when you know he isn't going to talk to us?
MR. MCCURRY: That's why I just said I'm not doing that right now.
Q Has the President been invited to testify before the grand jury in a form other than a subpoena?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, your news organization long ago reported that he had been, but I don't think I ever confirmed that.
Q Can you confirm it now?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not discussing the substance of deliberations between Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr because I don't know.
Q Well, why would they be negotiating a way to get information if he hadn't been invited to give any?
MR. MCCURRY: You know how rarely I comment on this and you know how rare it is that I say anything of merit. And having said it and having made clear I'm not going to interpret it further, let's move on to other subjects, shall we?
Q Well, Mike, do you have any information on whether the President is preparing to testify?
MR. MCCURRY: I have only the information I've already shared. Other subjects.
Q Well, you have said it after the fact.
Q Mike, for the cameras, could you give the White House reaction to the choice of Mr. Obuchi as Japan's next leader and whether you think he has the right stuff to implement the kinds of changes that being President has called for?
MR. MCCURRY: I think many of you know from my comments earlier today that we obviously know Foreign Minister Obuchi well from our former contact with him. He has now been designated by the Liberal Democratic Party as the likely candidate for Prime Minister. Since the official designation by the Diet has not occurred, we will refrain from any official comment. But I will say that should he become Prime Minister -- and we have every expectation that will happen, obviously -- we will certainly develop as close a working relationship with him as we enjoy with Prime Minister Hashimoto. We think it is very important, given the work that these two very important countries and economies do together in the world, that we have close working relationships with the government of Japan, and we very much look forward to that type of relationship with Mr. Obuchi if he is designated Prime Minister, and with his government.
It is very critical that the new government move quickly and with some measure of boldness to develop decisive action to address the problems of the banking system, and to restore robust domestic and demand-led growth to the Japanese economy. That is in the best interest of the Japanese people; it is in the best interest of the regional economy and the global economy. It reflects the views that we have long shared with the government of Japan out of our respect, but also out of our determination to provide stability and economic growth throughout the Asia Pacific region.
We look forward to Mr. Obuchi's economic action plans in the coming weeks. Some of the positions that he has announced in the past few days, particularly in the area of fiscal policies, seem to us promising. But it's important that those words be followed up with concrete action when he and his new government are in a position to do so.
Q Do you expect him to take any kind of action before he meets with the President? Will that be essentially the focus of their first meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't want to predict when they will meet. They will meet at a mutually convenient time. We, of course, anticipated an official working visit by Prime Minister Hashimoto that could not occur for all the obvious reasons, but we will look for a mutually convenient time and, hopefully, an early convenient time to meet with the new Prime Minister. There may be opportunities for high-level exchange of views with the government of Japan in coming days. There is, of course, an ASEAN -- ASEAN ministerial meeting?
COLONEL CROWLEY: ASEAN regional forum.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, an ARF meeting -- an ASEAN regional forum meeting coming up in Manila. It's unclear to us whether Mr. Obuchi will attend. He would normally attend as Foreign Minister, but if he does, Secretary Albright, who will be there, of course, will receive whoever is the highest ranking member of that delegation. That would be an opportunity, and a good opportunity, to exchange views.
Q Mike, could you comment on the meeting today I believe that took place between the Bosnian Croat leader and Sandy Berger?
MR. MCCURRY: Do you have the readout on that?
COLONEL CROWLEY: He met with the Secretary of State yesterday --
MR. MCCURRY: We'll check and see whether we've got anything. I don't have anything directly prepared on that. They had a good discussion at State yesterday with Secretary Albright. It's obviously an opportunity to review issues that are fundamental to the diplomatic approach we have underway in the Balkans. We'll see if he has anything further on that.
Q The Colombian President-elect is going to be in town next week. Are there are any plans to meet with the President?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll keep you apprised of that. We've got a keen interest in developments there and I know that there is some interest in seeing what level he'll be received here. And if we do develop something on the President's schedule, we'll let you know.
Q Mike, the Conference on State Legislatures and several other groups criticized the executive order on federalism the President signed in May. I want to ask, first of all, have aides advised that the implementation of that order be held up while it's reviewed, and --
MR. MCCURRY: What specific criticisms?
Q Well, the specific criticisms are that it repeals some of the powers to state and local governments that were specified in previous orders on federalism and more broadly assigns power to the federal government than, of course, the state legislators and other local officials would want. There are White House officials quoted as saying -- or administration officials quoted as saying, this was a mistake, we screwed up. Was it a mistake? Was there at least and accepted to be some lack of consultation with state and local officials and is the implementation of that order being held up for a while?
MR. MCCURRY: To go to the last part of the question, I think some of the criticism arises on the level of consultation. Those of you who know that we have been doing some work both in light of court decisions and also because of the President's views on the importance of some of these issues of sorting out responsibilities at various levels of government to do some work on the original Reagan era order on federalism -- the President, in the initial executive order that he issued on the subject, dealt with the question of unfunded mandates. And we had sought to update that executive order in light of some of the court decisions that have developed.
Now, we have had extensive consultation with state and local governments in the past, preparing for the previous executive order that we issued. I think it's fair to say that the people around here believe that extensive consultation with state and local government is the right way to go. So this recent order that was issued by the President we are going to delay for 90 days so that we can seek the views of organizations that represent state and local levels of government, take into account their views and then move forward.
Q Is that an acceptance -- if I could follow, there may be something to the claim that the protections for unfunded mandates was at least weakened in the President's new order, in fact?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I don't think this has to do with the substance of the order itself. It has to do more with the process by which it was promulgated. And I think that many of the mayors and the local officials that spoke to it indicated that they desired a greater degree of input. And we certainly want that, we want to reflect their views in the process and will take them into account.
Q Well, according to Congressman David McIntosh it does have to do with the substance and it's the unfunded mandates -- he's quoted as saying, he stripped the most basic protection accorded to the states.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we elect to disagree with Congressman McIntosh. And his view, if I might suggest gently, is not shared by a range of people who have looked at the question of how we address unfunded mandates in the original order. In any event, as we move on and take into account some of the court decisions that have occurred since then we've got to work to update those concepts of federalism. He's got a point of view and he's entitled to it, but it's not necessarily going to be shared by the President or by a range of state and local officials that we work closely with.
Q Mike, on page five of this week's -- of the White House transcript of your afternoon briefing on Tuesday of this week --
MR. MCCURRY: Here it comes. This is going to be interesting.
Q -- you were asked, and I quote -- Question: But are you leaving us? Mr. McCurry: I don't have any plans to. End of quote. Since you told us --
MR. MCCURRY: No, no. There was another part of that answer.
Q It's right here. Do you want to read it? It's right from your web.
MR. MCCURRY: Read the rest of the answer.
Q No, no. It says, "I don't have any plans to." The next time you say, "I don't know why the issue would arise." My question is this: Since you told us --
MR. MCCURRY: The front row here maybe will recall that I said -- if it wasn't reflected in the transcript -- I said, I don't have any plans that I plan to share at this time. Correct? Did I not say that? Mr. Hunt confirms that I said that. (Laughter.) We'll check why the transcript doesn't reflect that.
Q If you don't have any plans -- since you told us you had no plans, what happened on Wednesday that affected such a rapid development of new plans?
MR. MCCURRY: We demonstrate our capacity to make plans quickly.
Q What about that May letter to the President that's reported -- was that a non-planned letter?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I said -- I think I was very careful in saying I didn't have any plans to make any announcements, or I didn't have any plans that I could share. But I was not --
Q Somehow I missed that.
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't intend to mislead at all.
Q Mike, can I go back to the White House question? Are you saying you won't repeal this executive order, you're just going to sit on it and consult with the state and local governments?
MR. MCCURRY: As a technical matter, Paul, we have got -- since it had been issued, we have got to technically repeal it --
MR. TOIV: Not repeal it.
MR. MCCURRY: Set it aside. We have to put an executive order out that establishes a new effective date. So we delay by 90 days until mid November.
Q And also part of the executive order that you pretty well described was to consult more with state and local governments. They say you never did that in preparing this executive order, which they find rather ironic. Do you know why that didn't happen?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't tell you that. I think, as I said, that the belief here was that there had been extensive consultation on the previous order, but I think that, obviously, in agreeing that we would have an additional 90 days, we're more or less conceding that point.
Q Let me take another crack at this thing. Provide information that the grand jury needs, rather than that the grand jury wants. So the question is, who decides what information the grand jury needs? The grand jury?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, in theory, the grand jury, yes.
Q Mike, the word "needs" didn't try to suggest that Mr. Kendall would make a decision as to what was needed?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't take from any of my discussions with those that prepared the statement that interpretation.
Q Mike, you've suggested that the President may have something to say to the grand jury. Do you anticipate he'll have anything further to say to the American people?
MR. MCCURRY: I've talked to him about his views on that, and his views on that have been gone over, over and over again.
Q Will the President have any say in whether Larry Cockell will return as head of his detail, or is that a matter exclusively for the Secret Service?
MR. MCCURRY: It really is a matter exclusively for the Secret Service, although, in candor, we have certainly indicated and I've publicly indicated we have high regard for him and we look forward to his return to the detail. But it's really up to the Secret Service to make their best judgments on who they assign.
Q So if the President says that -- you've indicated that you want his return -- doesn't that mean that he does return?
MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily. I mean, the Service has to make its own professional judgment about what's in the best interests of fulfilling their legal mandate to protect the President. And I've seen some things reported that reflect some of their thinking, but I can't speak for them. You should really ask them.
Q Let me ask you, has the President been told that he will come back?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what he has been told. Someone told me earlier that he would not be on detail this weekend, but I don't know what the status is. You ought to check with him. I don't know whether they've told the President who is going to be on the detail or not.
Q Can you comment on the Tokyo -- criticism that Mr. Obuchi is a cold pizza and doesn't have enough leadership skills to reform Japan's economic system?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've seen various assessments, and in any vibrant democracy there will be different assessments of the capacity of leaders. We are certainly well aware of how that works here. But I think it's better for the Japanese people to sort out their own evaluations of the leadership. We would only suggest that we want to be in a position to work closely with the government of the new Prime Minister to do what we think is fundamental in pursuing the interests of both the people of Japan and the people of the United States. And first and foremost among them is a strong action to restore health to the Japanese economy and to put Japan in the leadership role it rightfully should have in the Asian Pacific region economically.
Q What specifically is the U.S. doing to provide any sort of technical assistance or any sort of help to revive their economy?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it wouldn't be accurate for us to suggest to the second most powerful economy in the world that they need technical advice from us. We have exchange of views with the government of Japan on what we think is the best interests of the citizens of the United States, what we think we can argue is in the best interests of the people of Japan, but we do out of that respect and for the sovereign decision-making that the government of Japan must make, pressing very hard and firmly our views on the need for economic action. And we certainly make our views very clearly and very firmly known. But we respect Japan's right to make those decisions and we have a high regard for the capacity of the leadership selected by the Japanese people to promulgate their programs.
Q Mike, the White House and the Treasury have long advocated that what Japan needs is a substantial and permanent tax cut to revive demand-led growth in the economy. Some on Capitol Hill think there's an inconsistency, that you recommend that for Japan but won't go along with something like that in this country, especially given the new CBO numbers. Do you find that an inconsistency?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't. Do we assume, then, that they argue that we should change macroeconomies with Japan and be in the same condition their economy is in now? I don't think they would make that argument. I think they would -- if you asked them -- would most likely prefer to see the kind of economic statistics we're enjoying here in the United States as against those that the people of Japan are seeing now in their economy.
Q Do you think that a tax cut is good for a country in recession, but not ours; is that the point you're making?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying that there are vast differences in the structure of the two economies and we think that there are things about the structure of the Japanese macroeconomy that argue for greater deregulation -- which, not coincidentally, we've done here -- greater transparency and openness when it comes to trade arrangements -- which, as you know, we have done here -- and greater attention to the need for banking reform. We have done much the same, as I was saying yesterday, when it comes to the area of savings and loans in which we face some of our own dislocations, but certainly not on the same order of magnitude as some of the problems that the Japanese banking system has faced.
So these are two very different economies, two very different political cultures, and we're trying to come together on the grounds in which we have some common interest. And they are strong, steady growth that raises the quality of living for the people of Japan and helps the people of Japan serve as an engine for growth and for economic renewal throughout Asia. So comparing apples and oranges will give you a very bad fruit salad.
Q Just following up on Scott's question, because, two parts -- one, you said the views the President has about talking to the American public have been gone over and over again. But what, again, if you could remind us. But, two, I'm wondering if he is going to be helping Ken Starr or at least offering some sort of testimony, would he then be able to at least offer that much to the public?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you're racing to a lot of conclusions based on something very precise that I've told you. And I know you have to do that, but I'd like to just stick in park with what I've told you -- that we've got Kendall and Starr in discussions; we've got Kendall trying to ensure that the grand jury gets the information it needs, and where that leads, since we know that you will have enormous interest in this in the days ahead, I'm sure we will follow every jot and tittle of it.
Q But the first part about --
MR. MCCURRY: The President's views haven't changed. He's addressed --
Q And that view is?
MR. MCCURRY: The same as he stated before.
Q We can say that there has been no resolution yet and there isn't anything going on today in terms of video or written questions and nothing immediate?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that has been reported to me.
Q Nothing has happened that we don't know about?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that has been reported to me. But as you painfully point out to me often, I don't know anything.
Q He's leaving.
MR. MCCURRY: You all missed his departure.
Q Hey, Mike, what does he think of Gephardt's comments that --
MR. MCCURRY: It says, the President was anxiously awaiting the pool because he had several items he wished to share on the status of Starr investigation, but no one was there. (Laughter.) "Where is Sam," the President asked. (Laughter.) Go figure. Sorry, guys.
Q Mike, what prompted the statement from Mr. Kendall today?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we've had -- I'll tell you this -- a lot of inquiries about the status of this matter. I think we wanted to make clear as best that we could, and, admittedly, this is not the best that you would always want, but I said I'd like to have something and I think those of us who have to answer your questions wanted something other than just "go see Kendall," since Kendall was not going to be available to you.
Q I think there are a lot of questions because the buzz down at the courthouse was that all of these things might be happening.
MR. MCCURRY: We were well aware of the buzz and we wanted something that would kind of like diminish the buzz as we went into the weekend so everyone could have a nice, quiet summer weekend.
Q Well, is this statement from Kendall -- you say that this statement could have been issued, and would have been --
MR. MCCURRY: This, by the way, is not a Kendall statement. This is relayed to me by Mr. Ruff.
Q Well, wait a second. Let me ask my question. Are you saying that the situation described in this statement, that's he's working with Ken Starr, could have been -- has been true for how long a period of time? In other words, this statement could have been issued last week, last month, or is it -- statement that's describes the situation that has just begun?
MR. MCCURRY: To me, it sounds remarkably like everything I've been saying for weeks and weeks. But, Helen, who's been here a long time, as Mr. Donaldson points out, detects in it some nuance that may be significant.
Q She's right.
MR. MCCURRY: I think that you all, being so learned in this matters, and being more proficient in your knowledge of this whole issue, much more so than I, can interpret it as you see fit.
Q We're going to miss your nuances.
Q I'm declaring it news and going on the air tonight. I'm going to call in and say, this is the old --
MR. MCCURRY: This is why they pay Sam Donaldson the big bucks, you know. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, what did you mean earlier when you said, "in theory," what the grand jury needs?
MR. MCCURRY: Because I don't know what the grand jury needs. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't speaking out of any direct knowledge of what the grand jury seeks.
Q Mike, were you indicating that, perhaps, this was something that Mr. Starr was seeking rather than the grand jurors when you said "in theory"?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I was giving myself some flexibility. Since I don't know the nature of the discussions between Kendall and Starr, I don't know what may have arisen in those conversations that Mr. Starr would have asked for, would have sought as a voluntary basis, versus what he might seek pursuant to grand jury proceedings. I don't know the status of that, as I've indicated several times here. So I just want to make sure that my answers are elastic enough to cover all the different possibilities.
Q Mike, could you alleviate my alarm here, because this microphone picks up people way in the back. How in the world did they miss you, because you're right next to the phone? Could you explain that mystery?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't explain that mystery for you.
Q They can explain it back here. People in the front row are always talking over you, Mike, and it gets lost. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Tina has a very good explanation. Sometimes the people in the front, pursuing their own interests --(laughter)--
Q We'll miss you, Mike. We really will miss you.
Q We have it on tape -- would like to hear it, we have you mumbling --
Q You have it on tape?
MR. MCCURRY: In fact, I think someone reported that I'd very carefully -- Bloom, who was sitting here, you can check with him -- he kind of said I mumbled that under --
Q He reported a distinct mumble?
Q There was a mumble.
MR. MCCURRY: That mumbling under my breath. Federal News had it right, Mr. Bedard reports. The stenos always get it right. I'll stick up for them.
Q Well, let's go see the boss.
MR. MCCURRY: He's gone. Oh, that was the helicopter landing. (Laughter.) You better go tell the boss what I just did. (Laughter.)
Q If the President is not willing to commit publicly at this point anyway that he will definitely offer testimony, could you share with us some concerns that he has if he waives that, in other words, what has made him reluctant?
MR. MCCURRY: That would put me in a position of commenting on what would appear to me to be conversations that have occurred Kendall and Starr. I'm not privy to those conversations. I don't know what Mr. Starr has shared of his concerns. I'm not going to speculate.
Q In the President's mind, the factors that he weighs as he has to --
MR. MCCURRY: -- speculate on what those concerns may or may not be, and it's Mr. Kendall's place to do so, if he wishes to do so. You all talk to him from time to time -- not always, I know, but -- (laughter) --
Q Hardly ever.
Q To follow up on that -- the nuance you were describing earlier -- there has never been a stated intention from the White House that the President would cooperate with the OIC's investigation.
MR. MCCURRY: That's not true. We've always indicated that the President prefers cooperation and has instructed people to cooperate. We've said that from the very beginning.
Q The President has always been willing to give his testimony to Ken Starr?
MR. MCCURRY: We've always been in the posture of saying that we wish to cooperate and we've -- with the legitimate purposes of the investigation.
Q You never put it that way --
Q The President said he had nothing further to say on this matter.
Q -- what they need.
MR. MCCURRY: Well --
Q The difference in this statement is that the President is now expressing a willingness. If a deal is not done, he's now expressing a willingness to cooperate.
MR. MCCURRY: I know you're going to try hard to wrench from these words that I gave you something that I can't give you. But I'm not going to give you more than what these words say, and they say very clearly what they say. And that's about it.
Yes, sir. I'm trying get to --
Q They do?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Yesterday, the Greek Foreign Minister made some harsh statements against President Clinton and you. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't know that I was the subject of his ire, but it was bad enough that he directed his very intemperate, disappointing, and undiplomatic remarks to the President of the United States.
Q Who's they?
MR. MCCURRY: The Foreign Minister of Greece. Those were remarks unbecoming a senior official of a close ally of the United States, and the remarks were inconsistent with what are otherwise close and warm bilateral relations we enjoy with the government of Greece. And certainly we hope that the Foreign Minister would revise and extend his remarks, because they were not appropriate.
Q -- about you word "conflict," apparently -- whether you described it as an invasion, or whether you merely called it a conflict. Was that --
MR. MCCURRY: Within my government -- my government was very well satisfied with my remarks.
Q Leftover question. Is the President going to support the latest Republican antidrug bill?
MR. MCCURRY: That's the bill that --
COLONEL CROWLEY: That the bill we have not -- it's the legislative proposal. We have not seen it yet.
MR. MCCURRY: It's the legislative proposal and it still has not come to us in a form that we can evaluate and give an opinion. Now, the general subject of our determination to fight drugs -- General McCaffrey has set forth our strategy very clearly and we think that's the right one.
Q Have we more formerly protested to Greece, or are you remarks the --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Through our Ambassador, the very talented and effective and capable Nicholas Burns.
Q What are these remarks?
Q And who did he --
MR. MCCURRY: I just gave everyone something to chase down for the rest of the afternoon. (Laughter.) That's what we call a Friday afternoon rabbit to chase, so you all can figure that out.
Q Will the Ambassador then protest it in Athens?
MR. MCCURRY: Through our embassy in Athens, we expressed our concern I think in a formal note.
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think he expressed them verbally.
MR. MCCURRY: He expressed them verbally to the Foreign Minister, and only after attempting to seek further clarification and understanding of these remarks did we issue the statement that I just gave you.
Q Well, what had you done?
MR. MCCURRY: This is remarks that he directed at the President and I responded on behalf of the President. I'm not even -- I'm not familiar with what he said about me, nor do I particularly care. But his remarks directed at the President are those that I just responded to.
Q Do Nick Burns and the Foreign Minister have a problem? This is about the second time, at least, that they had --
MR. MCCURRY: Sounds like they do now. (Laughter.) If not, I just created one. (Laughter.)
Q Was it something you said? Something the Foreign Minister said? Something the President said?
MR. MCCURRY: Foreign Minister Pangalos had some remarks that I just characterized and they amounted to accusing the President of the United States of being a liar on issues related to Cyprus.
Q And then you've now responded?
MR. MCCURRY: I have responded very directly and effectively, I might add. (Laughter.)
Q There goes that Athens vacation you were planning. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: That's right. I won't be going to see the Acropolis anytime soon. (Laughter.)
Q Have you checked with Senator Sarbanes on this?
MR. MCCURRY: We've had contact with the Greek American community and I think we have had some contact with Senator Sarbanes.
Q Did Senator Sarbanes tell them that he's not a liar?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have certainly alerted him to the remarks and explained very carefully our determination to pursue reconciliation with respect to Cyprus. And we think that our diplomatic efforts have been designed to help, and undiplomatic statements are not helpful.
Q Mike, the statement that you have from the Counsel's Office, reading the tea leaves as you do, would you say that this indicates Ken Starr's investigation is moving toward a conclusion?
MR. MCCURRY: If I were on "Burden of Proof" I could probably comment on this freely, but I'm not, and I'm not going to interpret it beyond what I've said.
Q Have you signed with "Burden of Proof"? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I think they have a very talented array of officials here. And the best I would ever get on that show is the double-deck in the back and they never talk to those guests anyhow, so why would I want to go? (Laughter.)
Q Mike, was the statement passed by the President before it came our way --
MR. MCCURRY: I checked myself with the President and indicated how I was going to answer that question, yes.
Q Did he approve?
MR. MCCURRY: He had no problem with the statement the counsel prepared.
Q I'm talking about the statement about the counsel, not --
MR. MCCURRY: He is familiar with that and thought that was -- had no problem with that approach.
Q Mike, is there still a daily strategy meeting regarding Monica Lewinsky?
Q I'm sorry, Mike, this is the statement on the --
MR. MCCURRY: One at a time.
Q Peter's question goes to the statement on the independent counsel or the statement on the Greek Foreign Minister?
Q Independent counsel.
Q I'm talking about your opening statement on the independent counsel.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, on the independent counsel. The President was not fully briefed on the remarks I just made, since they were extemporaneous, as you could tell. But he is aware of the situation and knew that we were going to respond diplomatically and knew that we would respond if we couldn't get satisfaction through diplomatic channels --
Q No, on --
MR. MCCURRY: What are we talking about? His question is about the statement I just made about the Greek --
Q I was asking you a question about the counsel, Mike.
MR. MCCURRY: The counsel?
Q He's talking about Ken Starr.
Q Your opening statement today.
MR. MCCURRY: Go back. Rewind. Peter, do you have a question? (Laughter.) Peter?
Q The opening statement today about the talks between Starr and Kendall, did that go by the President before it came to us?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. The statement that I gave you with respect to Mr. Kendall working with Mr. Starr to try to ensure that the grand jury gets the information it needs -- those answers to those questions that I gave I did run by the President, yes.
Q Did he suggest any changes in wording?
MR. MCCURRY: He was very satisfied with what the counsel prepared for me to deliver.
Q Mike, is there still a daily strategy meeting here at the White House regarding the Lewinsky investigation?
MR. MCCURRY: I think there is. I don't elect to go because I don't get into that subject often enough to spend my time there. But what they do is they get together and discuss what are the burning issues that you all are going to be pursuing that day.
Q Is the First Lady still playing a major role in the strategy talks?
MR. MCCURRY: I've never seen her in any of those meetings -- when I used to go -- and she doesn't attend now.
Q What role does Harold Ickes play?
MR. MCCURRY: I've never seen him at any of those meetings.
Q Does he have a relationship with the White House? What would you say his role is, vis-a-vis the White House today?
MR. MCCURRY: He's the President's friend and --
Q If you don't go to the meetings, how come you've never seen Harold in the meetings?
MR. MCCURRY: I used to go to the meetings regularly, and I just have elected not to go recently.
Q Is Mickey Kantor still in the picture?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has retained Mr. Kantor in his law firm as an outside advisor, and there have been some others who you all talk to from time to time who help on the outside. I'd certainly characterize Mr. Ickes as always trying to be helpful to the President.
Q Why do you say they meet to deal with our needs when you never tell us anything?
MR. MCCURRY: Since they never tell you anything, I kind of concluded it wasn't worth going.
Q Mike, how long have the talks between Kendall and Starr been going on, do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, when I first was asked long, long ago about the question of is the President ever going to talk to Starr about these matters -- and I gave much the same answer that I gave then -- I feel it had to have been months ago, certainly weeks ago.
Q No, this is new. Don't keep trying to --
Q Yes, don't try and pull the wool over our eyes.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not saying that -- what's new is all the buzz that we are attempting to de-buzz.
Q Okay, next week.
MR. MCCURRY: God, I love Tina. She always moves us back -- don't you want the Zubak readout? Someone asked for that.
Q Yes, I'll take anything I can get.
MR. MCCURRY: The President met with the Bosnia-Croat National Security Advisor --
COLONEL CROWLEY: National Security Advisor.
MR. MCCURRY: Right. That's what I said, the readout.
Q No, you said the President.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, Mr. Berger's meeting. Kresimir Zubak, the Bosnian-Croat Tri-President, had a 30-minute meeting with Sandy Berger, a very good meeting. They discussed the upcoming federation elections that will be held in Bosnia in the federation in September, how we can best support further implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, including promoting political pluralism. It's been something that we have actually been actively working with authorities there on. For example, we have been supporting the new political party which is Zubak's own political entity.
That's the New Croat Initiative Party -- that's part of the tripartite conglomeration that constitutes the new federation presidency under the Dayton Accords -- a good meeting, opportunity to review the status of implementation of the Bosnia peace agreement and an important meeting given the status and the ongoing concern we have about ethnic friction in the Balkans.
Week ahead. Then we can all go home, right?
Q One more try, Mike, on another subject --
MR. MCCURRY: Who are we waiting for?
MR. TOIV: We'll try for that statement after the House passes the patients' bill of rights, which will happen fairly shortly.
MR. MCCURRY: Fairly shortly, and then that's pretty much it, right?
MR. TOIV: They'll probably want to go home by 3:00 p.m.
MR. MCCURRY: The House is doing -- they got patients' bill of rights on the floor. If we get final action from the House I anticipate a statement from the President on that. With the exception of that, I think we're pretty well done for the weekend -- or done for today and then people traveling tomorrow.
Q Regardless of whether she's participating in any talks, is the First Lady still playing a major role in mapping strategy for the President in this matter?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, she obviously is a very valued and trusted advisor to the President, and the President loves her dearly. And obviously, she has got enormous influence as an advisor and in her own right as someone who addresses all the issues she addresses. But she is not, as you know, an active participant in the day-to-day work of the White House or the White House staff. She has all the different ways that she brings her incredible presence and her wisdom and her expertise to bear on the issues that she chooses to address. And what she talks to the President about as a spouse and as an advisor is between them privately. I don't know if I can characterize it any differently than that. And that's been the case the whole time I've been here at the White House.
Okay, week ahead. Saturday, July 25, the President's radio address has been recorded and we're going to have some paper to go with it, and we'll get out the embargoed text shortly.
MR. MCCURRY: As I said before, global climate change. And there is some news. But you can dispense with it with your embargoed text today.
Before the radio address is broadcast the President will depart for the U.S. Naval Station at Norfolk and he'll be happy to commission his first aircraft carrier. Is it -- it's got to be his first.
Q What's that speech on?
MR. MCCURRY: He's going to talk about readiness, talk about the integration of the military -- this is the 50th anniversary of President Truman's executive order which integrated the military and provided, not coincidentally, one of the most useful models of racial integration that exists in our society, in our culture, given what the military has been able to achieve. And the President will also talk about readiness and the status of our forces globally, the important role that we play with our forward-deployed presence around the world, and remarks that I think will be very appropriate for the commissioning of a new aircraft carrier that will last five decades or so.
Q Will he discuss the Kassebaum report?
MR. MCCURRY: The Kassebaum report? What's the Kassebaum report?
Q It's the one that says it's not a good idea to put boys and girls together in the barracks.
MR. MCCURRY: No. He'll leave that issue to Secretary Cohen. But Secretary Cohen is not going to address that issue tomorrow. Don't let me mislead you.
From there, the President will fly to Aspen for the program that I had indicated to you earlier. On Sunday, the President will attend a brunch for the DNC at a private residence, probably recreate in the afternoon, and fly to Albuquerque.
On Monday, there are guided tours that Mr. Donaldson will be offering to arrange through the Travel Office. And if you want close encounters with sheep, he can probably arrange that, too. (Laughter.)
MR. DONALDSON: Never be another "ewe." (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Is CNN still live?
MR. MCCURRY: Whew! All right. Monday, the President will participate in the third of our Social Security forums, sponsored jointly by the AARP and the Concord Coalition. That's going to take place at the University of New Mexico. And the focus of that will be, as I indicated to you earlier, going to be on the ways that you can increase the rate of return for the Social Security trust funds and examine the potential of market activity for the investment of some proceeds of the funds.
On Monday afternoon, the President will attend a reception at a local hotel there for the gubernatorial candidate, and then he returns to Washington Monday night.
Tuesday, no events during the day on Tuesday, but that evening he attends a dinner for the National Council of Senior Citizens. Do you know anything more about that?
MR. TOIV: Nothing more.
MR. MCCURRY: Just a dinner?
MR. TOIV: I assume he'll speak.
MR. MCCURRY: He'll probably no doubt address the issue of Social Security, which he had been spending time on the day earlier.
Wednesday, the President will address the NEA-AFT Congress, which will be meeting here in town. Thursday, he goes down to North Carolina for the river trip that I mentioned yesterday and returns to Washington that night. Friday he heads up to the Hamptons for the Hamptons program that I told you about before. The week ahead.
Q How's Wednesday's event any different than what he did Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: It sounds like it's not. It sounds like it's kind of a reprise of -- that group is meeting in town and he's going to use it to kind of put some kind of punctuation mark on the discussion that occurred at the forum out in Albuquerque.
Q What are you doing Monday, Mike?
Q No, no, no, no, that's not what I'm asking. Wednesday is the NEA-AFT. Monday, he just went to the AFT. I'm asking you what's the difference?
MR. MCCURRY: He's going to do some more on education and pick up on some of the things that he said today in the Rose Garden -- on standards, on the education initiative. We're going to keep coming back -- as you can tell, we keep coming back to health care, to education, to those things that are a central part of the President's program that he laid before Congress in the State of the Union address and keep reminding Congress of the utility of some of those initiatives that he's got there.
We are into a period -- I mean, if you haven't noticed, the Republicans don't exactly have their act together up on Capitol Hill. They're fighting each other on fundamental issues, and we've got a very clear program that we think has got strong support there and has the potential of strong bipartisan support. And the Republicans have been bickering amongst themselves on taxes, on every other issue under the sun. And particularly when it comes to budget policy they are very divided.
And we have a very coherent budget strategy that builds on the success of the balanced budget agreement, that puts the kinds of investments where the President thinks they properly should be placed -- education, which will grow the economy in the future; better health care coverage through Medicare for the elderly; doing the kinds of things that he's talked about constantly this year since the State of the Union address. And we're going to continue to press this Congress. It's too bad they're divided and they can't make progress on the Republican side of the aisle, but it's time to get going.
Q Mike, what are you doing Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: Here?
Q I presume you'll be here and not west?
MR. MCCURRY: We're not doing anything here.
Q The Vice President --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, the Vice President has got some things to say about -- the river that we will go visit Thursday was recommended by the President's American Heritage Rivers Advisory Commission. And the thinking of the President and the Vice President on that list of recommended rivers will be revealed to all by the Vice President on Monday.
Q Does he come back Thursday night and then leave Friday again?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Just a day trip.
Q What about Friday, do you know?
MR. TOIV: Friday, he leaves Friday afternoon.
MR. MCCURRY: At 4:45 p.m. he departs Andrews.
Q And, Mike, on the rivers thing, is he adding any rivers, do you know, to the recommendations, or is he just working with the recommendations?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we find out on Monday. I think he found it a compelling list provided by the Commission, but he's got the right to amend it or to add to it as he sees fit.
Q Is this campaign schedule on behalf of the Democrats this fall going to be about the same as it now, or is there going to be an upsurge in what he does?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you've seen -- I think it's safe to say you've seen in recent weeks there's been a gradual acceleration of some of his political appearances on behalf of Democratic candidates, and that's obviously going to happen in an off-year election year. And so, it will be consistent with some of the increase that you've seen.
Q So, gone for two days of a week, roughly, or more than that?
MR. MCCURRY: It works out roughly -- probably will be roughly that, maybe a little more as we get into September -- longer weekends, that kind of thing.
Q Does he feel in any way responsible for the dire financial straights of the DNC as a result of the '96 campaign?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he feels a good deal responsible for the success they've just announced recently. They've retired -- they've largely retired a $17-million debt and they're back in a position where they're going to compete somewhat effectively with the Republicans. Republicans are always going to out-finance Democrats. But a party that was deeply in debt after the 1996 cycle now is in a position to be competitive, as much -- as competitive as Democrats usually are when it comes to fundraising, given that we are historically out-raised and out-spent by the Republican Party. So I think he feels good about it.
You all know, because you gave us a hard time about it, how much fundraising it took to get to that point. But it was successful and we largely erased that debt. And a lot of the credit goes to Chairman Grossman and the people who have worked hard at the party on that, too.
Q Thank you.
END 2:51 P.M. EDT