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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 15, 1998
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                              MIKE MCCURRY 

The Briefing Room

2:12 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: The President will now depart for New York City this afternoon -- or on Sunday afternoon. I think as he did last year, he's going to go up to the U.N. General Assembly meetings on Sunday. There's some possibility as we arrange his bilateral schedule, which is not complete yet, that we might have some of those Sunday night. We'll let you know.

The rest of the schedule on Monday is the same as previously announced. He addresses the U.N. at 10:50 a.m. on Monday morning, attends a U.N. luncheon at 1:30 p.m., participates in the Strengthening Democracy in the Global Economy Conference at NYU in the afternoon, at 4:30 p.m.

And then on Tuesday, he will have his bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Obuchi of Japan at the Rockefeller Family Estate in Terrytown. And we're still working on that.

Q Who are the others on the bilateral?

MR. MCCURRY: We're still working on that. But Obuchi is set and it's out of Manhattan, and they'll be back.

The other travel that is out and on the record that some of you know about already -- on Friday, September 25th, the President will travel to Chicago to attend a fundraising lunch for gubernatorial candidate Glen Poshard. And another event may be added to the Chicago schedule. He then goes on to California, Saturday, the 26th. He departs Palo Alto in the late morning for an event down near San Diego -- DNC lunch. Sunday, he departs LA in the morning for Texas. He's got an afternoon fundraiser for Gary Mauro in San Antonio -- and then back to the White House late in the evening on September 27th. Upcoming travel now dutifully announced so you can make your plans.

Other subjects?

Q Mike does the White House oppose the release of the videotape of the President's deposition or grand jury testimony? And if so, why?

MR. MCCURRY: It's really up to the House of Representatives to decide what to do with the evidentiary material they've been given by the Office of Independent Council. We had fully expected that the President's deposition before the grand jury would be released in some fashion, certainly the transcript. The House is going to have to employ the video however they see fit, and we just hope that it's not misused. But it will be up to the House to decide how to use it.

Q What are your concerns about misuse?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I can imagine ways in which it would not be properly used -- taking things out of context. However they're taken out of context might be in any number of ways.

Q You're saying you hope that it's not misused after its release, but you're not going to do anything to block the release of the tape?

MR. MCCURRY: Bloom, we can't. What we do? Tell the House -- I mean, it's going to be up to them to decide one way or another.

Q Mike, do you fear that the ads might be used in political campaigns?

MR. MCCURRY: Ads, I don't know anything about ads. What ads are you talking about?

Q No, I'm saying do you think that the videotape might be used in campaign ads?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. You'd have to ask people who might plan to use the material in that fashion.

Q Do you care that that could happen?

MR. MCCURRY: One could imagine that might happen.

Q Would that be misuse?

Q At various times Kendall has had, he said, good communications with Henry Hyde. Have you been asking for some kinds of restrictions on use?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. I'm not aware that we've asked that because I think as a practical matter they're going to do with it whatever they do with it.

Q Does the President have a new team, and who is paying them?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has got some folks that are going to assist with dealing with the referral that's coming from the Office of Independent Counsel. The President today is asking Gregory Craig to join the White House staff as Assistant to the President and Special Counsel, reporting to the President in connection with matters arising from the referral submitted by the Office of Independent Counsel to Congress. Mr. Craig will join Deputy Chief of Staff John Podesta, the Counsel to the President Charles Ruff, the President's personal attorney David Kendall in their representation before the House Judiciary Committee. Mr. Craig will quarterback the response to the referral.

Mr. Craig currently serves as Director of Policy and Planning at the Department of State. The President says in a statement, "I have known him for many years and have great confidence in his judgment and ability."

Q What does Craig do that Kendall, Ruff and Podesta don't?

MR. MCCURRY: Concentrates fully on the matters relating to the referral that's been made by the OIC to the House Judiciary Committee. Mr. Ruff represents the institution of the presidency as White House legal counsel. And Mr. Kendall will continue to be the President's primary attorney representing him on the personal matters that arise.

Q They have two more?

MR. MCCURRY: I think some of you know Steve Ricchetti and Susan Brophy, and they'll both be added to the team, helping work on this referral issue.

Q Will they be members of the White House staff?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they will technically be special government employees. Mr. Craig will clearly be Assistant to the President and Special Counsel.

Q Are Ricchetti and Brophy specifically tasked to work with the Hill?

MR. MCCURRY: They'll be working on the Hill. They're prior -- both of them served here at the White House and working in the legislative affairs area and they're specialists in congressional relations, among other things.

Ms. Brophy, by the way, is Ms. Brophy McGowan, the wife of our U.S. Ambassador to Portugal.

Q Does that complete the team, Mike, or are you still looking to complement it with other people?

MR. MCCURRY: I think there will be an effort to draw in as advisors, helpers, people who want to assist the President as he makes the case that needs to be made on the Hill. I don't rule out there will be some informal advisors. These are the people I think who are going to be more specifically identified as carrying a full freight as it comes to dealing with this matter.

Q How do you respond to the characterization that this amounts to a demotion for Mr. Kendall?

MR. MCCURRY: It's an addition to the President's legal representation in light of the fact that we now have the very somber responsibility of dealing with the constitutional process of an impeachment inquiry.

Q These people have foreign policy backgrounds it looks like, or experience. What does that say? Does that mean they're reaching out to --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, Greg Craig has a lot of backgrounds. He's obviously been a very smart, serious person, thinking through the long-range implications of our nation's foreign policy, but he's also a former law partner of David Kendall, very close friend of Mr. Podesta here on our staff. He's worked on the Hill for Senator Kennedy, has a lot of expertise and a lot of wisdom.

Q As you're reaching out to people with a broader, more political and international background --

MR. MCCURRY: We're reaching out to some people that will be assisting the President.

Q What do you say to Senator Murkowski's that the President deserves to reimburse the taxpayers for Kenneth Starr's costs over the past seven months because of his perpetuating --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know where he gets that. I saw that they had calculated somewhere in the last eight months they spent $4.4 million working on the Lewinsky matter, so I guess in the previous 46 months they spent $35.6 million that would now fall on Mr. Starr's tab, presumably. If there's a serious effort made in Congress to do that, we'll consider it when the time comes.

Q Doesn't the President owe the taxpayers something for this?

MR. MCCURRY: No, he does not owe the taxpayers that money.

Q Is the President unhappy with the defense, and the appearances of Kendall and so forth on talk shows?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has got confidence in his legal team.

Q How do you envision the American people reacting to possibly seeing the President's testimony with all the graphic language involved on their television sets?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that they've seen just about all there is to see on this. I don't think it will be of any greater shock or surprise than what they've already seen.

Q Well, Mike, does the President feel responsible in any way for the money that's been spent over the last eight months since January?

MR. MCCURRY: No. He has pursued perfectly legitimately the legal processes that he had recourse to, and we didn't instruct Mr. Starr on how to conduct his investigation. We would have been happy for him not to have spent any of that $4.4 million. So let's be real.

Q Well, Mike, if he had told the truth in the Jones deposition, none of this ever would have happened.

MR. MCCURRY: You have to rely on Mr. Starr to tell you whether that's true or not. I don't know whether that's true or not.

Q Mike, anything additional on the comments of Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt?

MR. MCCURRY: No. Nothing beyond what we told you yesterday.

Q Mike, on the question of executive privilege, apparently there are still questions being asked of Breuer, Mills, and perhaps Lindsey that the White House has refused to answer. They're still claiming executive privilege even though the court set that aside. Can you tell us where that stands?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't because it's a matter under seal, if I understand correctly.

Q Well, Mike, Senator Kerrey has suggested that President Clinton meet with Chairman Hyde to discuss speeding up the process up there. Do you think that's a good idea?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I know that our team of lawyers -- Mr. Ruff, Mr. Kendall, Mr. Podesta -- did meet with the Chairman, had a good meeting with him to go over what we understand about the ground rules as we proceed, and we'll see how things develop. I wouldn't want to rule that in, rule that out without talking to the President and his team, and particularly the new folks that are going to help him with representation with respect to this referral.

Q What are Ruff and Podesta doing now, meeting with the Senate Democrats?

MR. MCCURRY: Meeting with them, going over -- they meet regularly to go over pending matters with the caucuses up there, and obviously a lot of them have some of the kinds of questions that they have been posing. I'm sure Mr. Podesta and Mr. Bowles wanted to go through that.

Q Did Greg Craig go up there with them?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I know of.

Q Does Erskine Bowles have any role at all in this?

MR. MCCURRY: Sure, he's the Chief of Staff.

Q What is he doing in terms of this --

MR. MCCURRY: Making sure that the government of the United States continues to run, that all the things necessary to do the work that we do day in and day out on behalf of the American people occur. We've got one small fraction, a little slice of this White House that has to work on this issue. And the rest of us have to go about doing the job the taxpayers pay us to do. So he's got to run a government and make sure that we've got the right people appointed to do this. He supervises Mr. Podesta, who is his immediate Deputy. Mr. Podesta has got the portfolio of putting together this team. This team will work directly with the President as they do the work that lies ahead.

Q This Western tour, is that all fundraisers or campaign stops?

MR. MCCURRY: There will some other events to be announced.

Q Mike, why has the President chosen not to read the Starr report?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll ask him and see if he wants to provide an answer.

Q Mike, a number of major newspapers, including today the Chicago Tribune, have called upon the President to resign. The Tribune said that essentially the President has lost his moral authority and if he cared about anyone other than himself he'd spare the country the constitutional crisis that it's heading toward. How do you respond to that?

MR. MCCURRY: I think editorial writers are entitled to their opinion, newspapers are entitled to state their opinion. And the President is entitled to except or reject that advise as he sees fit.

Q If I may continue -- separate and apart from it being a newspaper editorial, how do you respond to the arguments that whatever the President has done, he's lost his moral authority and ought to now resign?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't agree with that. The President doesn't agree with that. And the President spoke quite eloquently to the overall matter last Friday.

Q Mike, are Daschle and Gephardt's requests at least under consideration at the White House to drop the legalisms --

MR. MCCURRY: The President made clear to you all on Friday that he's not employing any legalisms in wrestling with this matter, both personally and as he should as President.

Q But his attorneys are, Mike.

Q That's not fair because they're going out there representing him. They're not just free-lancing, they're representing the President of the United States, and they're speaking precisely to the --

MR. MCCURRY: John, they're asking a very narrow question about perjury. Perjury is a matter of law. They, as lawyers, answer that question as a matter of law. I can't think of anything that is more profound than the President admitting a mortal sin, asking for forgiveness, saying how he has wronged people. If anything, he has confessed to far worse than the narrow legal question his lawyers were being asked.

Q Which is why his critics --

Q -- question, sir, if I can. They may be answering a narrow legal question, but what we are hearing from these other senior Democrats is that their answer to that question is damaging the President politically. Is that strategy under review, and does the addition of Mr. Craig indicate a recognition that those statements by Mr. Kendall --

MR. MCCURRY: They're going to pursue their strategy and you'll see it unfold in the days ahead. I can't imagine that we won't be talking about this for many days in the days ahead.

Q But the problem that these leading Democrats and apparently some Republicans are saying is, our ability to help you at the White House stop impeachment hearings is constrained by your continuing to deny the President committed perjury. Is there not a recognition at least that it's boxing you in?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not a lawyer and I can't accept the premise that it's boxing us in. I don't know enough about the law -- the law related to perjury I think was sketched out in some abundant detail in the materials that we gave you last week, and I'm just not going to add to it.

Q So the answer to Gephardt and Daschle is no?

Q Is there any consideration of what Mr. Hatch is proposing?

MR. MCCURRY: There are lots of considerations and I'm sure you'll see this matter develop as the days go ahead.

Q Can you tell us something about the ministers that will be meeting with him, and is the President undergoing any psychological counseling in addition to --

MR. MCCURRY: That's asked and answered last week, and it will be up to the ministers to say what they want to say about the pastoral care that they are rendering. I don't think it's appropriate for me to do that. It's an entirely personal matter of the President.

Q Mike, the President has, as you've indicated, said just about everything. He's asked for forgiveness, that it was wrong, and a number of other things. It seems that members of Congress, including many Democrats, are saying, why doesn't he just go the next step and say, I lied.

MR. MCCURRY: I can't think of a way in which the President could have been clearer. He clearly let us all know that he was less than truthful, that he had a sexual relationship that was inappropriate. He testified exactly to that in front of the grand jury. I'm not sure what else it is that he's supposed to say. I'm not sure what kind of hoop you're trying to have him jump through.

Q Is the Gephardt and Daschle request under consideration here, or not?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what request you mean.

Q The request not to use legal terms in defending his perjury.

MR. MCCURRY: The President's already accepted that request. He's not going to use any legalisms, and he said that on Friday.

Q -- his lawyers no longer do that?

MR. MCCURRY: His lawyers are going to defend him against the narrow legal charge of perjury if they need to. And so far, there's not a proceeding in which that charge has been made.

Q -- the President being less than truthful and lying?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I'm not a semanticist. Ask Sissela Bok or someone.

Q Mike, you used that word very carefully just now. You said less than truthful; you didn't say lying. Is there a reason that you --

Q Do you have any comment on what the poll results have shown since last week --

MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't trust most of the polls I see.

Q Some of the candidates that the President is going to be visiting, particularly Roxanne Qualls, have come under attack for his visit. And some in Cincinnati are even suggesting that the President could be more of a help to such candidates if they stayed away. Has anyone made such requests to the President and --

MR. MCCURRY: You need to check with Craig Smith about the status. I think a lot of people want the President to come. They're enthusiastic about it; they see it as a positive thing. There may be some that see it as a negative thing. I think that individual candidates have to make that call as they see fit.

Q But does it worry the White House that people are saying that this is a distraction from their campaigns?

MR. MCCURRY: Not very much of a surprise, is it?

Q The Czech Republic President, Vaclav Havel, is arriving tomorrow. Can you give a little sense of what will be accomplished?

MR. MCCURRY: Sure. The purpose of the visit is to pay tribute to President Havel for his personal contribution to the advancement of democracy and human rights not only in Central Europe and the Visograd, but around the world. He's been an extraordinary voice for freedom and for the rights of human beings both in a capacity as a playwright, as a leader of the Charter 77 movement in his work within the civic forum, and then his very impressive leadership of the Czech Republic. And he obviously remains, I think, a very influential, important spokesman for political tolerance, civility, and justice in the world.

Obviously, we've got an extensive bilateral relationship with the Czech Republic that is consumed by many things, but the future of Europe is top of the list. We're going to discuss the Czech Republic's preparations for NATO membership, leading up to the historic summit next year. President Havel was obviously one of the first of many leaders in Central Europe to talk about the importance of integration and the promotion of democracy in Central Europe and the integration of the institutions of the West and the East as we divine a new future for Europe. And that will be, I would think, a key part of the conversation tomorrow.

They'll also talk about NATO-related issues, some of the contingency planning that has occurred within NATO with respect to Kosovo; be a lot of discussion about Bosnia, the elections there, and a range of things that have been very front and center with respect to Europe.

Q Mike, the President's initiative on race closes up shop on the 30th of this month. With all of this other stuff going on right now, has he had a chance to focus in on the PRI office?

MR. MCCURRY: He has, and let me tell you a little bit about that. This Friday, the President is going to meet with members of his Advisory Board on race. They're obviously concluding their service at the end of this month. There is already circulating within the administration at least the first initial draft of a report that the President would make on this subject. This meeting is going to be an opportunity for the board members to discuss with the President their experiences over the past year, what they've learned, what they intend to recommend that the President consider as he transitions the work of the initiative into what would arguably have to be a long-term effort on the issue of race in America, which is, I think, clearly, what we will foreshadow in the report itself.

After the meeting, the President will hold a public event with board members, at which Board Chairman John Hope Franklin will present the President with a report that recaps what the board members themselves have learned in the extensive effort they've made. They've been out around the country, meeting, holding hearings. I think the President obviously will thank the board members for their contribution. They're going to talk about the work the Council of Economic Advisors has done to bring some economic data into this discussion that's very powerful. And I think, in terms of news, that's where a lot of the focus will be at the meeting on Friday.

There will be some other -- a couple of other upcoming reports on race. On October 15th and 16th, the National Research Council will conduct a Race Research Conference in Washington D.C. -- that's the one that we had previously told you would kind of grow out or spin off of the work of the President's race initiative. The conference will be two days of discussions on commission papers with scholars, researchers, and academicians on health, housing, voting, and other issues -- a subject, to answer your question, very much on the President's mind.

Q Mike, a follow-up question to that. The President, when he embarked on the initiative, wanted this to be his legacy, and it started floundering. And some of the critics are saying that it got bogged down in the muck and mire of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. What are your thoughts about that?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's -- there hasn't been a lot of attention paid to it because I think the focus of a lot of coverage of the White House has been on the Lewinsky matter. That's correct.

Q Did I understand you to say that Greg Craig will report directly to the President, not to Ruff or to Bowles or Podesta? And does he have a particularly long friendship going back with the Clintons a long time?

MR. MCCURRY: He's known the President, according to the statement by the President, for some time. He does say -- he will report directly to the President. I think that's a way for Mr. Podesta to indicate that some of the reporting about his role in this was a little bit exaggerated because he's got a wide portfolio of things of which this is but one entry.

Q But so will then Chuck Ruff and Podesta report to him on matters related to the referral?

MR. MCCURRY: They'll all work together, and I think given the associations they have with each other, the road they've traveled in the past, I think they will work well with each other.

Q Can you give a breakdown of the tasks of Ricchetti and Brophy? Is one going to report to Democrats and the other the Republicans --

MR. MCCURRY: No, they will kind of adjust their own responsibilities as they see fit, but they both will concentrate their work, I think, on the Hill.

Q Given the unease over the types of questions that get asked at press conferences with foreign leaders, are you giving any thought to a general press conference?

MR. MCCURRY: I have given some general thought to that, but I think as a practical matter that's going to be more in the domain of my successor. This will be -- this is an occasion, and we always do press conferences when we have a foreign leader here. President Havel is here on Wednesday, and we'll see what we do in October.

Q Mike, has the President ever truly feared that his White House telephone was tapped by a foreign embassy?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, there is not much I can say on that, other than to say that we take a lot of very precise steps to assure that the President can conduct his business securely here.

Q Is there any concrete steps the administration can take in the face of this report of health care inflation doubling over the next decade?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the report from the HCFA actuaries itself outlines some of the cause and effect there -- what we've seen in the ratcheting up of health sector prices as the initial advantages and savings from managed care have sort of been wrung through the system. I would really leave it to that good discussion in their report. There is not, I think, anything, as far as government action, that is suggested. But finding efficiencies in the provision of health care to federal employees, for example, is something that we'll continue to do because that has a good effect; and finding other ways in which you preserve accessibility and quality simultaneously in a way that increases efficiency in health care delivery will be an important goal. But I think there are a lot of externalities that have affected the pricing in the health care sector and they are sketched out pretty well in the HCFA report.

Q Doesn't the patients' bill of rights threaten to exacerbate that --

MR. MCCURRY: Not at all. The added cost is something -- what did we say? Five to seven dollars a month or something in health care premiums for an average family, and that's, I think, well within what would be -- an average family could pay and would pay to get the kind of protections afforded. But our own Council of Economic Advisors have judged that to be a noninflationary impact.

Q Mike, this morning some women from the House Democratic Women's Caucus met with the First Lady. Afterwards, several of them spoke to the White House press corps and some said -- or one alleged that the White House press corps had spent too much time on the Lewinsky matter, not enough on policy issues. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. MCCURRY: They're entitled to have that opinion.

Q The Republicans are going to go full speed ahead on their $80 billion tax cut package and mark it up on Thursday. Given that 90 percent of it would not be funded by the surplus, or so they claim, is the administration at all reconsidering its view of that proposal?

MR. MCCURRY: No, we are going to hold steadfastly to the position that the surplus, whether it's $50 billion or $50, ought to be held aside and used -- until we have a long-term plan for the health of Social Security. The principle of Social Security first is one that the President thinks is necessary to keep in place because it keeps pressure on all of us to continue to look for long-term entitlement solutions before we begin to think of how to spend the surplus that might accrue.

And again, as the President said, we still, remember, have not even gotten to the end of this month, so we haven't realized that surplus. And I think the President -- you've heard him many times talk about how nice it would be just to enjoy and savor the experience of having a surplus before we start figuring out ways of dividing it up.

Q Reports today say that what North Korea launched a couple of weeks ago is actually a missile with longer range than previously estimated. Does the White House have any view on that, first of all? And second of all, will the President be talking about the North Korean threat when he meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff this afternoon, or theater missile defense generally?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are some -- the principal discussion today is no readiness. Missile proliferation, our concerns about proliferation issues generally could conceivably come up, but that's not the initial purpose of that meeting. What I can tell you, we have concluded about the North Korea launch is that they did attempt to orbit a very small satellite on August 31st. We've also concluded the attempt failed because of problems with the third stage of the rocket that they tested.

A lot of people have talked about how we assess whatever potential threat this poses. This is obviously a serious matter and it's one that, as the State Department indicated last week, we are going to pursue in the discussions that we have with the DPRK with respect to missile technology.

But I think that for us to see a proximate threat about the military capacity of the missile that would be launched, the North Koreans would have had to demonstrate two things that are not yet evidenced to us. First, they would have had to master the problems of dealing with third-stage technology, and there is some evidence that this third stage broke up. Two, they would have to master the unique and fairly daunting challenges of returning a re-entry vehicle back to land, re-entering the Earth atmosphere to hit a target without burning up. And given what they attempted to do, we don't think that that's something that was in the scope or parameters of the current program.

That's our assessment. We are obviously going to continue to monitor that carefully. And as the State Department indicated last week, we are going to aggressively pursue concerns we have about that program and related programs with respect to security issues undertaken by the DPRK as we continue the bilateral dialogue that's been announced.

I ended up overriding the President's -- the feed from the pool. So if any of you need that, they can come back and feed -- or they want to feed that as soon as it's available. Why don't we wrap up here rather quickly.

Q Reports from Brazil that the G-7 is acting in a concerted manner to form a currency stabilization package for the --is there any accuracy to those reports?

MR. MCCURRY: It is true that, as the President hinted yesterday, there is a coordinated effort by the G-7 underway to address some of the regional economic instability we've seen. But I think with respect to specific currency issues and specific countries, I'll defer to the Treasury Department.

Q How does the arrest of 10 suspected Cuban spies in Miami affect the White House's view of Cuba?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it doesn't change our view that as the lone communist holdout in this hemisphere, they pose a threat to the values and to the ideals that we in this democracy hold very dear. That has been true now for too long, and one only longs for the time in which that regime moves towards peace, towards democracy, towards respect for its neighbors, and we don't have to worry about the proximate threat it poses here in this hemisphere.

Q Mike, can you come back to the congressional team for just a second?

MR. MCCURRY: Real quickly because I really need to do this feed. Let's do one or two more. Yes, go.

Q Is there a leader of the team, and is that team Mr. Podesta?

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Craig, as I indicated, will be the quarterback of this effort to deal with the referral on the Hill.

Q Mike, Mills, Mr. Kendall, and Mr. Ruff did a series of media appearances over the weekend. Should we expect to continue to see them in the press doing appearances like that, arguing what the President's fate will be?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that will be up to the day-to-day judgments we make. We obviously are bringing some new people in; how they adjust the responsibilities of dealing with the press, we'll have to see.

Q Are you finding any difficulty on Capitol Hill with Democratic members being critical on other issues, on your policy issues such as say, fast track, in garnering support?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not up there right now, but Mr. Podesta and Mr. Bowles are, and I think they are going to try to talk about some of those other issues.

Q Is there concern, Mike, given the fact that fast track, you need a lot of Democratic votes to pass it, and there's a lot of people saying that's just pretty much dead?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, fast track is -- I mean, I've answered this question in the past -- it's a little bit mischievous for those who suggest that fast track ought to be front and foremost on the agenda now. We need to get the IMF funding dealt with. Bringing fast track up now, in the context of the coming election, is a highly political thing and designed to exacerbate some tensions that exist in the Democratic Caucus. I think that's pretty blatantly obvious to everybody.

Q Mike, on the subject of perjury, are the President's attorneys acting with the President's approval?

MR. MCCURRY: The President's attorneys are acting with the concurrence of the client, of course.

Q Mike, has the President been notified by the Arkansas bar that it's reviewing his status as an attorney --

MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check. I haven't heard that.

Q What's the format for the Havel press conference? How many questions per side?

MR. MCCURRY: Probably three, maybe four per side. Standard format.

Q Mike, on tax cuts, assuming the surplus wasn't touched, would the White House be willing to consider a more broad-based cut like the marriage tax cut, or are you just still only looking at the targeted cuts that you announced earlier in the year?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we -- look, we understand the desire to deal with marriage tax relief. We prefer targeted tax relief. We prefer the kind of tax relief we have put forward. We're realists here, and we understand that we have to work with this Congress and construct the kind of tax relief that makes sense. But the principle we bring into that discussion begins with the premise that we need to protect Social Security first.

Q Mike, to clear up something you said earlier --

MR. MCCURRY: Scott, you've had a couple of chances. Right behind you, and then we'll come back.

Q I just want to know if you have a set date for your departure?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm thinking about it. (Laughter.) Sooner rather than later. More rather than less. (Laughter.)

Q To clear up something you said earlier in the briefing and, in fact, something the President's attorney said over the weekend -- you said that the President had admitted to an improper sexual relationship. I don't know anywhere in the record that the President has described it as a sexual relationship. Is the White House moving this forward?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not moving it forward. I think the President was clear to all of you. I don't think there is any ambiguity in what he talked about when he talked about the kind of sin and the kind of grievous wrong that he has done. And in his grand jury testimony, at the very least he admitted to an improper intimate sexual relationship, if I understand correctly. So I don't think you're accurate when you say that.

Q He said sexual relationship in his grand jury testimony --

MR. MCCURRY: I wasn't at his grand jury deposition and I haven't seen the transcript, but he said -- he made it quite clear that he had some kind of sexual relationship.

Q Words of encouragement for McGwire and Sosa in the last two weeks?

MR. MCCURRY: The President actually got a chance to talk to Sammy Sosa yesterday, had a great conversation, and he was excited -- they were both excited to talk to each other. And I think it's going to be something blissful. (Laughter.) Maybe we can all spend some time thinking about that.

Q Has the President talked to the Brazilian leader sometime today by telephone?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check on that. I'll ask the NSC staff here.

Thank you.

END 2:40 P.M. EDT