THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 26, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY BARRY TOIV
Edgartown Elementary School Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
11:50 A.M. EDT
MR. TOIV: Good afternoon -- no, no, no, sorry -- good morning.
Q Just barely.
MR. TOIV: Let me make a few announcements. First, we will have a briefing on the Russia-Ireland trip on Friday morning, at 11:30 a.m., back at the White House. It will be piped in up here. Briefers will include Sandy Berger, Gene Sperling, Jim Steinberg, Larry Summers, and Steve Sestanovich, who is the Ambassador-at-Large for the Newly Independent States.
Q That will be on camera at the White House?
MR. TOIV: Yes, that will be on camera, and I think there's a good chance that you all will be able to ask questions as well. I don't want to promise that for sure, but that's what it says here.
With respect to that trip, the President will visit Omagh in Northern Ireland during the visit. This, of course, is where the bombing took place. Details of that are being worked out.
It is just about down to zero the chance that he will go to Armagh, which was under consideration. It's not zero, but very close to it.
Q And why is he going to Omagh?
MR. TOIV: He wants to go to Omagh to express his sympathy, his condolences for the families there and for that community who lost so many loved ones, and he also sees this as a way of continuing to support the peace process, to make it clear that those who would use violence to stop the peace process will not succeed. And so he wants to go there and provide his support to the people of Northern Ireland.
Q The dates of the Northern Ireland trip?
MR. TOIV: The current schedule is September 3rd he'll be in Northern Ireland and I don't think that that has changed. But, again, the details of the stop are being worked out.
Q Is there a schedule out on any parts of it yet?
MR. TOIV: I don't think we have a press schedule out yet, no.
The third thing is that the President is declaring a disaster today in Texas which I believes applies -- we'll have paper for you -- I believe that's going to apply to Val Verde County. Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles talked today by phone with Governor Bush to inform him of that, and the President is -- either has or will very shortly sign whatever paper he needs to sign to effect that.
Q Is that the flooding?
MR. TOIV: Yes, that's for the flooding in Texas.
Q -- FEMA will --
MR. TOIV: Yes. As I understand it, it will be primarily for individual assistance, but I don't want to prejudge the paper that FEMA gives us because that could change. That's for tropical storm Charlie, of course.
Let me talk a little bit about tomorrow's trip by the President. Right now -- this is still being nailed down, I think, but I think for you all, it looks like the press plane will depart at 8:15 a.m. Again, that's a little fluid, but that should give you some idea. And you'll return here at 3:00 p.m. And the event itself is at 10:30 a.m.
The event is going to take place at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, and we expect an audience of at least several hundred. I think the tickets are being given out by local officials. The President is going to, as I said yesterday, will talk about the issue of school safety. He'll also highlight the police corps program which is a program that provides scholarships -- college scholarships to students who go on to become police officers. And we'll have more details on that for you tomorrow, of course, but this is a program that, as I understand it, did not originate in this administration, but that we have sought to expand. And I think we'll have a number of people there who will be able to talk about that program.
Among the participants in the speaker program, in addition to the President, will be Congressman McGovern and the Mayor of Worcester. And I suspect there will be others, but I can't -- I'm not in a position to announce any others yet.
Q Barry, how longstanding has this invitation been from the Congressman? It's being characterized in the local press as a longstanding invitation.
MR. TOIV: I was asked that yesterday and I did not get an answer to that. Let me try and take that and get a more definitive answer for you on that.
Q Is there a possibility that weather might interrupt the planned trip tomorrow, that weather could cause a cancellation?
MR. TOIV: That's always true.
Q Well, is there a heightened possibility of that?
MR. TOIV: I don't know. I mean, I see conflicting weather reports. I saw a pretty good weather report this morning on local TV, but who knows. We are -- if weather prevents us from doing it, then we won't do it. That's generally how it works. And we'll try to give you as much warning as we can, if that happens. But we're always optimists about the weather.
Q Is it possible he might go back to Washington from Worcester if the weather is bad here?
MR. TOIV: I have heard no consideration of anything like that.
Q Barry, is that police scholarship program the modicum of news that you were talking about yesterday?
MR. TOIV: No, there will be other news.
Q -- local participants? We've heard that there's an English teacher from one of the elementary schools.
MR. TOIV: We'll have that for you tomorrow. I'm sure there undoubtedly will be local individuals who will participate in the event, but I don't think we'll have that information for sure until tomorrow.
Q What is this hall?
MR. TOIV: It was actually described to me as comparable to, on Worcester scale as opposed to Boston, comparable to Faneuil Hall. It's not a -- it's a public hall.
MR. TOIV: Right, exactly.
Q How will you measure the success of his speech? What are you hoping for? Is got to be more than highlighting school safety.
MR. TOIV: Mark, can you tell me how many events like this we've done? I don't think I've quite been asked that question. Can you get back to me on that? This is one in a continuing -- long, continuing series of events intended to highlight the President's agenda in the Congress. And, of course, one of the most important elements of that is protecting our children from violence, and this event will focus on that with, as I said, the school safety issue, and also highlighting the police corps program, which is an excellent way by which the federal government encourages outstanding students to think of police work as a career and they might not otherwise do that.
Q With Governor Romer and Minority Leader Gephardt now calling for more of an explanation, more of an apology, more of something to get him over this hump, do you expect -- can you absolutely rule out that the President won't take this opportunity tomorrow to say something about his personal crisis?
MR. TOIV: I've heard no consideration of that.
Q What is the reaction to Governor Romer's and particularly to the Minority Leader's comments?
MR. TOIV: Well, as I understand it, what Congressman Gephardt said was that the Congress has very serious constitutional responsibilities with respect to this issue, that it should be approached completely without partisanship, and that members should not prejudge the facts. And there's nothing there that I can see to disagree with.
Q I think he used the word "reprehensible," if I'm not mistaken.
MR. TOIV: Well, I think that's a judgment that he has made.
Q Doesn't it concern the President somewhat --
MR. TOIV: Well, the President has spoken to that -- himself to that issue.
Q How has he -- what do you mean he's spoken to that issue? You mean when he --
MR. TOIV: Last Monday night.
Q But did he with members of Congress who feel that this is reprehensible? How is he doing that? Has he done anything more than those telephone polls --
MR. TOIV: I haven't talked to him about how he feels about those comments.
Q Has he talked to any members of Congress since he's been here?
MR. TOIV: I think he's been on the phone some with some people, including members of Congress.
Q Could we find out who?
MR. TOIV: Don't have that.
Q Could you find out?
MR. TOIV: I'll give it a try.
Q Did he talk to Gephardt?
MR. TOIV: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Also, has there been a unusual number of Democratic congressmen that have been invited on this Russia-Ireland trip?
MR. TOIV: I don't know the answer to that. I know there are a number of members who have been invited. When it comes to Ireland, particularly, there are always a large number of members who are interested in traveling -- and who can blame them? But I don't know that there's an unusual number who will be on this particular trip.
Q Have the G-7 financial officials had a conference call on Russia, do you know?
MR. TOIV: I don't know the answer to that. You might check with the Treasury Department.
Q Are there any plans for a meeting? I mean, the Russian financial crisis has --
MR. TOIV: Well, I don't know -- there are no plans that I'm aware of for any such a meeting, but Russia is in a difficult situation, nobody said that this would be easy and tough moments are to be expected. But we need to put this in context. Over the past seven years Russia's economy has undergone an extraordinary transformation and the process of change is always difficult. But there are no shortcuts in restoring market confidence and the next steps are up to the Russians. And now more than ever, it's critical that they get their fiscal house in order and establish policies on the ruble, on government debt and the banking system that will lead Russia back to financial stability.
Q Is it still possible --
Q Will there be any advisors from the administration going to Russia ahead of the President's trip to discuss the economy there? Is Larry Summers going?
MR. TOIV: I'm not sure who is going. My understanding is that there's a good chance that one or more officials will be there. You ought to check with Treasury on that -- well, actually, I should have that. I don't have anything definitive on that, but my understanding was that there's a good likelihood that an appropriate -- at least one appropriate official would be going over there on the trip to talk about those issues.
Q I understand that Sperling is going. My question is, is someone going before the President.
MR. TOIV: I'll need to check on that for you.
Q How does the President view the labor difficulties of Northwest Airlines and is he ready to intervene as he did in the American Airlines strike?
MR. TOIV: As you know, the 30-day cooling-off period expires Friday night at midnight, and the President strongly encourages the parties to continue negotiating and to work out their differences at the bargaining table.
Q Barry, can you give any confirmation -- being held by the Egyptian government?
MR. TOIV: No, I can't help you on that any more than I did yesterday. To tell you the truth, my guidance is that you need to check with the Egyptian government.
Q Is he going to play golf this afternoon?
MR. TOIV: Not as far as I know. I think today they're going to spend the day at home, hanging out, relaxing, reading. Oh, speaking of reading, I have a list of books here that the President brought with him while he was spending time here. Anybody interested it that?
Q It would be very interesting.
MR. TOIV: Let me just go through these. A book entitled, "Good Work," which is a mystery set in Los Angeles, written by Michael Connelly. "The Burning of Washington," subtitled "The British Invasion of 1814." That is a literal title. Anthony S. Pitch is the author. I believe he's a U.S. historian. And the President has always -- or at least since he's been in the White House always been intrigued at the burning of the White House, and he's never read a complete account of that, so that's why he got a hold of this book.
"Eureka Street," which is by Robert McLiam Wilson, which is a novel set in modern Belfast, around the series of cease-fires during this recent period. And the book, actually, I saw out when I was there, which is a book about science and religion, about integrating science and religion, which attempts to show that, as I understand it, that science and religion are not incompatible. The title is, "The Marriage of Sense and Soul." The author is Ken Wilber.
Q Barry, you have the head of the Democratic Party saying in that his speech Monday was inadequate. Doesn't the President feel he needs to come back to this issue?
MR. TOIV: Look, the President is getting advice from a lot of quarters, from people he has a great deal of respect for, including Governor Romer, although I don't know that Governor Romer has talked to him directly. But --
Q Could you take that question?
MR. TOIV: Sure, sure. But I guess the point is that if the President chooses to address this issue again in some manner, that will be his decision. And he's certainly getting a lot of advice from one -- from a lot of quarters, and he's got to consider that himself and make any decision on that. If and when he makes that kind of decision, we'll let you know.
Q Did he get advice yesterday from Walter Cronkite?
MR. TOIV: I don't know.
Q But to your knowledge, he has not made such a decision to address --
MR. TOIV: Correct.
Q Has he ruled that decision out, Barry? Has he ruled that decision out as to whether to go back and make another explanation?
MR. TOIV: I think I just said that he's hearing -- he's getting a lot of advice, and if he makes a decision -- I didn't rule it out. I don't think I ruled it out. I'm not sure what you're --
Q Has he ruled it out?
MR. TOIV: Well, clearly not. I think I tried to make it clear that if he chooses to -- I certainly left open the possibility that he will choose to do that. But I'm not trying to suggest in any way that he's made a decision to do that or even that he's headed in that direction. I was just trying to tell you that he's getting a lot of advice and he's got to sort that advice out himself.
Q Did he get any advice from Walter Cronkite yesterday on this topic?
MR. TOIV: Just got that question, and I don't know is the answer.
Q Barry, any reaction to Sudan's decision to file a lawsuit against the President for the bombing in Khartoum, for the air strike in Khartoum?
MR. TOIV: I don't have a specific reaction to a lawsuit. I was not aware of that. But I'm certainly well aware of the complaints that have been made by the government of Sudan. I guess I just have to say that we have to consider the source a little bit. This is a government that has supported terrorism in the region. They've lent support to the Eritrean Islamic Jihad, Ethiopian terrorist organizations, al Itihad and other armed organizations. So we have to keep all that in mind when we consider the comments that have come from that government.
Q Anything on that Cape Town blast? Have you learned anything more --
MR. TOIV: We're going to have a statement on the violence in South Africa and Uganda, actually, shortly -- probably right after I finish up -- a statement by the President. But I don't really have anything new beyond that, I mean, in terms of conclusions or anything like that. The investigation is being done by the South African government and we're trying to help and cooperate with that. But it's their investigation and if there are any conclusions to be drawn, they'll draw them.
Q Barry, back to Russia. Is there still a chance to save Russia from economic collapse? Are you confident that that can be done, or is it getting too late?
MR. TOIV: I guess I'd go back to my previous answer. It's a difficult situation and it's a difficult process. But, yes, absolutely. If Russia can take the right steps, take the steps that they need to take, and if they work with both their internal governmental and financial institutions, as well as with international institutions, and most importantly, take the significant steps that they need to take, then, yes, they can experience a recovery. But it's not going to be easy and nobody ever suggested it would be.
Q Back to Worcester. Are there any -- the program you talked about is a national program?
MR. TOIV: That's true.
Q Is there any new local program that you're going to be highlighting --
MR. TOIV: I know that Massachusetts has a very strong program connected to the federal program. I don't have details on that yet. You might check with state and local officials on that, but I'm hoping that we'll have more information on that tomorrow as well.
Q On the trip to Worcester, you said that it was an invitation. I'm just wondering, since the White House has already said that the Clintons are using this vacation to work on their marriage and healing, that the President's off, why would he interrupt that to go to Worcester for an event that seems to have no immediacy?
MR. TOIV: Well, A, it does have immediacy. Congress is coming back very shortly, and the President wants to take every opportunity he can to make sure that Congress understands his priorities for the fall. Beyond that, I don't think that this is going to interfere with the healing process that's going on.
Q Will he outline his priorities for the fall?
MR. TOIV: I think that you'll hear him in general terms talk about those priorities. I think the primary focus will be the issues that he's going to talk about there. But I think that you'll hear some talk of the priorities for the fall.
Q Is the First Lady going?
Q What specifically will this event relate to, what bill in Congress?
MR. TOIV: Again, we'll have more on this tomorrow. I think the police corps has -- there may be an appropriations issue involving the police corps, but they're certainly related appropriations issues with respect to crime and education that I'd be surprised if those don't come up.
Q You said yesterday the First Lady was unlikely to go. Is that still -- she's not going?
MR. TOIV: Right, unlikely to go. I don't have a definitive answer on that, but very unlikely.
Q Back to Governor Romer and Gephardt. Are you folks concerned that nearly 10 days after the message, that there hasn't been an effort for prominent Democrats to rally around the White House and the President at this point?
MR. TOIV: Look, individuals are going to express their views and they're doing that. We're certainly aware of those views and, again, I've tried to make clear the President takes seriously the advice he gets from people he respects.
Q What about the fact that the criticism hasn't subsided -- in fact, in some cases it's increased? Is that something that you folks were anticipating or prepared for at this point?
MR. TOIV: I don't think we were anticipating one way or another.
Q But the White House has made clear that the President and his staff have reached out to congressional Democrats, to party leaders. They're certainly not reaching back. Is that at all a concern for the President? In a lot of cases, they're not only not reaching back, but they're distancing themselves.
MR. TOIV: I don't know that that's entirely true. I think there have been some good conversations with members about these issues and I'm not going to go any further in characterizing them, but there have been good conversations.
Q What about the Vice President? Back in January he went out on the road and gave a real barnstorming speech, stem-winding speech -- and he's not taking -- not addressing that issue at all.
MR. TOIV: I don't know whether he plans to address this issue further; I'd have to check on that. Or we could check with the Vice President's Office. He's certainly expressed his strong support. Obviously, he's been, like the President, on vacation, and so -- but he did take time out to express his strong support, as I understood it, during my vacation.
Q Does the President think he needs to rebuild his credibility and his stature as President since his admission a week ago Monday?
MR. TOIV: The President's primary focus is going to be what it's always been, and that is going to be to focus on the agenda he has to support the American people on issues like education, on health care, on the environment. Those are the issues that he's going to focus on. He's going to continue to do his job as President to see that important initiatives in those areas are given serious consideration and hopefully approved. That's what he's going to focus on.
The American people -- I think that's what the American people want him to do, and that's what he intends to do.
Q Is the President sorry for what he's put the nation through?
MR. TOIV: Look, the President expressed his thoughts on that issue.
Q Is there anything from Libya on the Lockerbie --- from The Hague?
MR. TOIV: Yes. As I understand it, the Libyans have written a letter, I think to the U.N. -- let me find that. Libya sent a letter to the President of the Security Council informing him that they're studying the proposal. But, frankly, this is not a response, as far as we're concerned. This proposal accords with what they've said that they would agree to in the past, and we see no reason for delay on Libya's part.
As you all may know, the Security Council is reviewing a resolution calling for Libya to hand over the suspects for trial before a Scottish court sitting in The Netherlands, and suspension of sanctions. This proposal is non-negotiable and mandatory. Libya must comply promptly. Libyan study of the proposal is no reason to delay passage of this resolution in the Security Council.
Anything else? Okay.
END 12:20 P.M. EDT