THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 19, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
Edgartown Elementary School Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
2:25 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you for holding. I apologize for being late. The Clintons have just firmed up their plans for the evening, so I'll be able to tell you what they've been doing and what they plan to do for the rest of the day, on the President's birthday.
The Clinton family woke up late, enjoyed sitting at their inn. They've been spending the day, quite a lot of time together as a family, just lounging around, taking some walks. They had lunch and breakfast together, and the President has gotten some birthday calls from his brother and brothers-in-law, and his step-father. And that's pretty much what they're doing today. They've been reading some books. And this evening the Clinton family will go have a birthday dinner with the Vernon Jordon family at Vernon's place.
They will leave, by the way, around 7:30 p.m., so we'll probably need to assemble a pool out there around 7:00 p.m. -- Michael Teague.
Q Who else will be at the dinner?
MR. MCCURRY: That's it, just the two families.
Q Where is Vernon Jordan's place, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Not being familiar with the geography, I will say it's here on Martha's Vineyard. (Laughter.)
Q Any details on birthday presents?
MR. MCCURRY: They plan to exchange gifts tonight, so that will be tomorrow's exciting news. (Laughter.)
Q He hasn't opened any yet?
MR. MCCURRY: That is what I am told.
Q Mike, have they been alone at the house, just the three of them, or have they received visitors last night and this morning?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they've been alone for the most part. They get some traffic from time to time -- one of our aides out there will take any paperwork over that the President needs to see. The President did have a foreign policy update call from Sandy Berger in Washington. I forgot to ask the subject matter, but I think it was just a run-through of foreign policy issues.
Kept you in for a long time for nothing, right?
Q Mike, can you give us some details about these reports about the tie the President wore on the day that Monica Lewinsky testified?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any information on this tie. I suggest you contact the President's attorney.
Q What about the tie that he wore the night of the speech, Monday
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know who picked that tie.
Q Do you have anything more about possible travel next week?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any firm plans. If we make any plans we'll let you know.
Q You don't really want us to call his attorney about this tie, do you? (Laughter.) How about his valet?
MR. MCCURRY: I mean, if you're interested in that story.
Q Mike, White House reaction or presidential reaction to the calls from members of Congress -- Tom DeLay, Paul McHale -- for the President's resignation?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President believes that he has a significant amount of work that he needs to do for the American people, he was elected by the American people to do it, and he intends to proceed with that work.
Q Mike, how does the President feel about the editorials, which were not exactly birthday greetings?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not entirely certain that he's read them, so I don't have any feelings to share.
Q Are you surprised?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Mike, you said yesterday that the President was concerned that this whole affair might undermine his political clout for his domestic agenda here. How about overseas? Is he concerned --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe I said that yesterday.
Q Well, you said that he wanted to hit the road and start talking about things because people have been distracted --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I think he wants to -- I think he's interested in putting momentum back into that agenda he outlined in January in the State of the Union address. It remains to be a very good road map for what challenges the country needs to face as we look ahead to the 21st century, and I think, given the reality of the work that Congress will do when it comes back from its summer vacation, there will be a lot of work that the President will want to do to advance that agenda. They'll be right in the middle of budget consideration, and I think the President is determined to see that those things he has stressed and fought for in those priorities that are put forward are addressed as Congress goes to the end of the budget process.
Q He's got a long list overseas, too. I mean, he's got the stalled Middle East peace process, he's got the Asia crisis. Is he concerned that this might undermine his ability to operate on those fronts?
MR. MCCURRY: He has continued to do work on a number of foreign policy issues throughout the last days and weeks, including dealing with his counterparts overseas, and he's confident that he can continue to do that work effectively.
Q He's had a lot of expressions of support from overseas. What's his reaction to that?
MR. MCCURRY: He's gratified for the expressions of support he's received domestically and internationally.
Q Can you tell us anything more, a couple of days out now, about how the President's senior staff is feeling about being betrayed?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not -- I mean, everyone is individuals, and to the degree they want to share their feelings and emote, they can.
Q What about you?
MR. MCCURRY: I elect not to.
Q Mike, did you talk to the President today?
MR. MCCURRY: Have I talked to him today? No, I haven't. I've gotten this information relayed to me by Capricia, who's been relaying.
Q Mike, given the premise that anyone who is in the military who had admitted to or been found guilty of what the President admitted to would be required to separate from the service, does his admission affect his abilities as Commander in Chief to deal with these kind of situations?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it doesn't.
Q You were asked earlier about these calls for resignation by these Democrats and Republicans and you say he has a job to do. Can you be more direct in answering these calls other than --
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President is confident that he enjoys the trust of the American people who elected him, and he will continue to do the work he was elected to do.
Q Is there something more you can say to offset these calls to these specific critics?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not certain how widespread that sentiment is in Congress. If that sentiment is widespread I think it would be worth addressing. I don't think it's necessarily worth addressing now.
Q Based on what you're hearing from the Hill in terms of what people are saying publicly and what they're saying to you in phone calls, and based on what you're seeing at the grand jury, are you still confident that this thing is going to wrap up sooner rather than later?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I thinks there's ample reason to believe it will wrap up sooner rather than later.
Q Mike, you said yesterday you didn't think that Starr was going to subpoena the President again. What are you basing that on?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say -- I don't have any view of that. I said his attorneys don't believe that that's likely. That is their view.
Q But why?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure; that there's legal judgment, legal reason.
Q Did the President ever consider resigning in the last couple of weeks when all this has been --
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Did the President make more calls today that you know of? Yesterday we understand he made calls to Democrats.
MR. MCCURRY: None that have been reported to me. I think it's been mostly the birthday wishes he received from his family.
Q Mike, has the President expressed any concern about any long-lasting damage this may have done to the presidency? Has he talked about that?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not heard the President address that subject.
Q On what does he base the assessment that he enjoys the trust of the American people, and whether or not that trust has taken a hit?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we don't have -- we have two ways of measuring that. One is the expressions the Americans make when they vote. The second is the sampling of opinion that you all give us from time to time or that we get on our own. And I think that that speaks for itself.
Q Have you gotten anything on the comment line?
MR. MCCURRY: The comment line, yes, we've gotten a lot of support on that. I think that's not a statistically valid sample of public opinion because people who elect to call in generally call in because they are supportive of the President. So I think that -- I could gush about all the overwhelming support we've gotten on our comment line, but I'm not sure that that's a valid measure of public opinion.
Q Has the White House or the DNC on behalf of the White House done any polling since Monday night?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure they have. I'm not familiar with the results. But I imagine they would -- they poll most of the time.
Q Can you say more about whether the President -- you say he walked this morning -- did he go just with the First Lady or just with Chelsea, or did they walk as a family?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have -- I wasn't there so I can't report at all. The impression given to me was that they walked together as a family and they've been spending a lot of time together as a family.
Q Also about their meals, whether they took their meals together?
MR. MCCURRY: They did, I'm told.
Q Mike, will tonight's festivities represent the first time that the President and Mr. Jordan have spent a good amount of time with each other?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't want to say that -- I wouldn't want to give a categorical "yes" to that. I think they have seen each other. I think as several of you know, they've run into each other at various functions or events or at sporting events. I'm not aware that they've had any long conversations, but I think the President will enjoy spending this time with his friend on his birthday.
Q When was the last time they saw each other before yesterday?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't tell you that, I don't know.
Q -- time together since January?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that for a fact. I'd hesitate to say that.
Q How is the repair work going in the family?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's a private matter, and if they choose to say anything publicly about that, that will be their choice, not my choice.
Q Mike, I think we're duty bound to ask, how are the American people to know if the President is telling the truth from this point forward?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he spoke to them very directly and told them the truth when he spoke on the television the other night.
Any other questions, subjects?
Q Can you share any of their plans for the vacation? Does the President plan to golf, as he usually does? Anything like that?
MR. MCCURRY: It's kind of a day-by-day thing. As I indicated yesterday, I expect later in the week or after several days pass, they might spend more time doing the kinds of recreation they've done in the past up here.
Q Do you know if anyone else is going to be at the dinner, or is it just the Clintons and Jordans?
MR. MCCURRY: I've been told that it's just the two families together.
Q Mike, is a breakthrough close in the Africa bombings case? Obviously, it seems like there are leads there.
MR. MCCURRY: I'd refer you to the FBI on that. I don't want to hazard a comment on that subject. I think it's more appropriate for the FBI to give you an update.
Q Do you know if they're watching any of the news coverage of this --
MR. MCCURRY: I doubt it. I don't know for a fact that they're not, but I can't imagine they'd be spending time doing that.
Q Mike, since Vernon Jordan was a witness to the grand jury, the President has not been seen in public with him on the golf course. Is there a certain element of deviance in him embracing Vernon yesterday, partying with him tonight, that Ken Starr is not going to ruin the President's personal life?
MR. MCCURRY: He's spending his birthday evening with his friend. That's all I would read into that.
Q Mike, do you know whether the President has spoken to Diane Feinstein at all?
MR. MCCURRY: No, not that I'm aware of.
Q Has he talked to Monica Lewinsky --
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Brief the same time tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I'll try to get it around 1:00 p.m. tomorrow. I have to do it at 1:00 p.m., but maybe beyond tomorrow I can switch the time around. But I think you ought to plan to be here at 1:00 p.m. and I will be a little more prompt tomorrow.
END 2:37 P.M. EDT