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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 28, 1998
                             PRESS BRIEFING
                             BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

2:21 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: No other subjects? Good.

Q Does Colonel McDonough have a job here?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I believe so. I think he works at ONDCP, but you can check with General McCaffrey.

Q You read his piece in the Wall Street Journal?

MR. MCCURRY: Sure did.

Q Do you have a response? Does the President have a response?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether the President has seen it or not. I'd say two things about that. One, the President himself has said that his actions are indefensible and he wouldn't try to defend the indefensible, and would understand when people --

Q I can't hear you.

MR. MCCURRY: And the second thing I would say

Q No, let's hear the first.

MR. MCCURRY: -- is that I don't think that that accurately reflects the sentiment of most of the military uniform officers that I've talked to.

And it's in the transcripts so we don't need to go back.

Anybody else? Other subjects? Okay, thanks.

Q Well, wait a second.

Q He's retired. He can speak his mind.

Q Mike, why is the President apparently so interested at this point in settling the Jones case out of court?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything to add to what Mr. Lindsey told your pool yesterday, and I think he addressed that.

Q Wait a second, Mike. What Bruce was saying is it wouldn't be an admission of wrongdoing, the Paula Jones lawyer is saying it would be. Why do you guys --

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Lindsey addressed that yesterday.

Q Where will the President be getting the money to pay this off if he does go through with it?

MR. MCCURRY: I think let's wait and see if there is such a settlement before we speculate on things like that.

Q You said you checked. Does the President agree with his old friend, James Carville, on Mr. Carville's new war against Newt Gingrich that he declared yesterday?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that the President would state things in that fashion. What we have said to you, and would continue to say to you, is that we are now embarked on a constitutional process that requires solemnity and dignity. And that's how the President and the White House intend to comport itself.

Q You have said that, but does he endorse what Carville's doing, which has nothing to do with solemnity and dignity.

MR. MCCURRY: I'll come back to you.

Q Do you believe that settlement in the Jones case would change the President's exposure to questions like perjury, anything that's involved in the original case?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not a lawyer. I wouldn't know how to speculate an answer to that question.

Q No, I wasn't asking you personally. I was asking you if the White House believes --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that the White House has any corporate view on that question.

Q Well, why does the White House believe it's a good thing for him to settle?

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Lindsey addressed that yesterday. I don't have anything to add to what he said.

Q Well, he didn't really address that question.

MR. MCCURRY: He certainly did.

Q What did he say?

MR. MCCURRY: It's in the pool report.

Q What about solemnity and dignity? I mean, the President for some time now has dropped his own personal attacks on Kenneth Starr. They're absent from his talks. Would he endorse Carville and others going forward the way he did on Sunday?

MR. MCCURRY: The President chooses his words very carefully when he addresses this and says what he wants to say.

Q Mike, James Carville is not some distant figure from this White House --

MR. MCCURRY: No, but neither is he someone that's easy to control or to tell him what to say.

Q Does the White House approve of what Carville is saying, or not?

Q -- even bother to ask him?

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard people around here express those sentiments.

Q Why doesn't the President ask him to cut it out?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know.

Q Do you think that if the President asks through you for Carville to cease and desist that he would not --

MR. MCCURRY: We've asked and answered that question before on other subjects at other times when Mr. Carville has been similarly outspoken. You all know the answer.

Q So you're saying, even if the President didn't want him to, he'd continue --

MR. MCCURRY: Anything else?

Q What was the answer?

MR. MCCURRY: Same one I gave now.

Q You wouldn't repeat it for us now, would you?

MR. MCCURRY: Nope. (Laughter.)

Q Mike, the transcript records your very careful --

MR. MCCURRY: When you need a good, bizarre question, boy, I tell you, it's really helpful to have Lester Kinsolving. (Laughter.) Go.

Q No, I'm quoting you. It is a very careful and impressive statement: "I am very well familiar with the President's medical records since that was so extensively debated in the 1996 campaign. I have spoken to the President's physician. The President is not under any medical treatment for any psychiatric or mental condition."

Now, that being the case, isn't the sole alternative what Reuters News Agency quoted Angie Dickinson saying in Hollywood: Clinton has a very horny appetite, and I find that quite reasonable.

MR. MCCURRY: Is that a medical diagnosis, or was that a -- (laughter).

Q I wonder, would you agree, disagree, or give that an icy "no comment"?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar enough with Angie Dickinson to know whether she's been in a position to render such an astute and explicit diagnosis, but I doubt that she has any informed ability to make that decision.

Anything else --

Q She was with JFK.

Q Louder, Lester, louder.

Q What do we do? How can we regard this now, Mike? What can we do about it?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure you'll find something.

Q Chairman Hyde announced a couple things today. He said he's sending investigators over to Starr's office to take a look at what else they might have. And he also said that one of the subcommittees would look at the manner of what constitutes impeachment separate from the Lewinsky question. Does this reassure you about the bipartisanship?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the White House felt that Chairman Hyde presented the remarks he made today about the procedures that the committee will undertake in a very straightforward way and made it clear that he was giving opportunity for the minority to have its voice in the process, being very careful as they proceed and as they look at both the questions of the law that arise and the matters of process that their committee would naturally be concerned with. And I think that certainly actions are more important than words, but the reassurances given by the Chairman today were welcome.

Q Mike, have you had a chance to talk anymore with the President about the German elections? I'm curious about a couple of things -- one, how he feels about Kohl personally, since obviously they've shared a meal or two and are close. And also, Schroeder, some people see him as representative of the so-called third way in which Clinton is --

MR. MCCURRY: I think two things that can be said. In a period in which one of the most profound questions facing the future of Europe was the question of whither* Germany, and Chancellor Kohl presided over reunification and in that respect greatly enhanced the interest all in the West have in a peaceful and undivided European continent, which is a principal goal of U.S. foreign policy and a goal shared by most of our allies in Europe.

The President has enormous personal affection for Chancellor Kohl, growing through the years that they worked together. The President has deeply appreciated those times that Chancellor Kohl has personally reached out to him to render advice, counsel and support. And the President knows that our close relations with Germany do not depend on the relationships between leaders, but certainly the relationship he enjoyed with Chancellor Kohl will set the stage for what will continue to be a very close and fruitful partnership with Germany.

Mr. Schroeder is someone that the President has come to know well now after two meetings, in which they've discussed at length policy issues that are important to citizens of both Germany and the United States. I think that he believes that he will have a very close working relationship with Mr. Schroeder. The policies that he forms with respect to foreign policy I don't expect to change much, and there has, in fact, been a pledge of continuity with respect to foreign policy.

But I think the President will be very interested in engaging with someone who is also a believer in the role that progressive government can play in addressing the needs of people. And now and throughout Europe, you have a variety of younger, new generation, centrist leaders who are presenting a very positive case of what progressive government can do in the name of the people. I think the President will be delighted if Mr. Schroeder so chooses to include him in some of the discussions that have begun to emerge about that topic.

Q Just to follow up on what you said about Kohl, wasn't he the first one to actually recognize the breakup of the former Yugoslavia?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's a lot of history about the recognition of the government of Croatia that can be written in due course, but I don't think that's the issue that Chancellor Kohl will be most remembered for. He'll be remembered for, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the extraordinary work he did bring the two Germanys together as one country.

Q But still, in hindsight, do we think his legacy was so great?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to look in hindsight on matters related to the Balkans when we're talking about the profound role that Chancellor Kohl played in Europe and on the world stage.

Q There's a lot of talk about potential vetoes of the appropriations bills and even a government shutdown. Is the President concerned that this might work to the disadvantage of Democrats who in some ways need to get back on the campaign trail even more than Republicans?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that the President believes that fighting for the priorities that this party is putting forward, that he is putting forward as President, and that Democrats are advocating on the Hill, as we go into the final round of budget negotiations, the emphasis that we are placing on investments in education, in protecting our environment, in building better schools for our kids, and in keeping the basic elements of economic growth in place so the economy moves forward -- that is well worth making the fight, well worth staying here in Washington and using the budget process to articulate and advance those priorities.

Q But doesn't it -- just to follow that up -- doesn't it weaken his hand, the fact that Democrats really want to get out of town and maybe not do these battles?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's very clear, as you saw in the vote on the Republican tax cut bill, the Democrats want to be here, stand for those things that we are working together to do -- protecting Social Security, advancing our education agenda, protecting the environment. Democrats are making that fight here and I think they are pleased to be making that fight together in unison with the White House.

Q Mike, since the President has been so successful in his trips raising money for Democratic candidates, is he getting additional requests to appear at events?

MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check with our political staff. I think we've got a pretty booked calendar for the balance of the time this fall and I think people are happy to have the President's help both campaigning and raising money.

Q Mike, it is just a week ago today that the White House was braced with some trepidation for the release of the President's videotaped testimony. And I wonder with the hindsight of a week how things look to you now and whether you think that in some ways the worst of this has been weathered and the President's is on his way back.

MR. MCCURRY: It's so hard to predict the future on this matter and a lot of it depends on to what extent this continues to be a preoccupation of all of you and official Washington. We'll have to see.

Q Mike, just to follow, could you have predicted a week ago, considering what the White House sentiment was then, that things -- the landscape would look as it does today?

MR. MCCURRY: I think you could have predicted a week ago that the American public would have had a reaction that enough is enough and let's move on to doing the work that we were all elected and brought here to Washington to do. I think that was pretty easy to predict.

Q Any updates on hurricane tours?

MR. MCCURRY: No travel schedule to announce.

Q Mike, could you give us an update on the progress that might be being made on the White House effort to arrange a compromise with Congress that would avoid impeachment?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't. And I'm not aware that there has been any progress.

Q Mike, as far as doing the work that needs to be done, if it's not done by October 9, does that mean the President will shut the government down, or will you work under a --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's the Congress that has a responsibility under the Constitution to appropriate and they have not lived up to that responsibility because they haven't completed the appropriations process, and it is obvious now that they will not do so by the end of the fiscal year, Wednesday. We have signed a continuing resolution, and one would hope the Congress would fulfill its responsibility to do the appropriations that they need to do. And I think the President has made it very clear what issues need to be addressed to his satisfaction for those appropriations bill to be well received here.

Q But you're not saying he wouldn't sign another CR --

MR. MCCURRY: I think that we need to wait and see and see what kind of progress we're making. I'm not going to predict.

Q Mike, is the White House glad that the Vice President is going to a fundraiser for Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, even though her boss, the Governor of Maryland, knifed the President in Silver Spring and the subsequent fundraiser?

MR. MCCURRY: The President very much supports the support he's gotten from Lt. Governor Kennedy Townsend and is delighted that the Vice President is being supportive of her candidacy.

Q When the President was seeking office, he talked about making change his friend, and over the weekend he was talking about making adversity his friend. How does he intend to make adversity his friend?

MR. MCCURRY: I think you see him doing it each and every day as he addresses the questions that we face in the final budget deliberations with Congress and as he continues to do his work. He is addressing those priorities he believes he was elected by the American people to attend to, and he's been doing so steadfastly and will continue to do so.

Q Mike, back to what you just said about signing or not signing another continuing resolution -- is there some sort of test of what the Republicans need to accomplish before the President signs another one?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that we will continue to work with them to satisfy our budgetary concerns. We want to see this budget year end, and we want to see the President's priorities addressed satisfactorily as the Congress winds up its work. I don't want to speculate about how Congress is going to do its job. It's pretty clear they have not done their job to date by not finishing the appropriations bills that were due.

Q Is there any room for compromise on the IMF issue? Would the President veto anything short of $18 billion that you've requested?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't know how you would compromise something that is sort of a basic requirement of doing the work the United States needs to do with other multilateral lending institutions to address the global economic situation that we face. I mean, we'll have to look at whatever Congress passes, but it's well known in Congress what the requirements of the IMF are if they're going to meet its obligations in the year ahead. And I think the sooner we get on with that important piece of business, the better.

Q Tell us your plans. This is it this week?

MR. MCCURRY: Our plans --

Q You're leaving as the Press Secretary?

MR. MCCURRY: Assuming that Mr. Lockhart does well, I'll turn over the keys to him next week.

Q Does well on what?

Q Where are you going, Mike?

Q At the end of this week, you're no longer going to be the Press Secretary of the President?

MR. MCCURRY: That's correct.

Q By the end of the week?

Q What do you mean if he does well, in what? Is there a test or something? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. You've got to pass -- there's a whole secret qualification ceremony that you have to go through in order to stand here.

Q Do you have to be certified for this?

MR. MCCURRY: You have to be board certified. (Laughter.) You have to be murder board certified. (Laughter.)

Q Where are you going?

MR. MCCURRY: Where am I going? I don't know. I don't know. I'm not going to use --

Q Is he going to have any access to the President?

MR. MCCURRY: He's going to have all the same rights and requirements that you need in order to do the job well, and he'll do it very well.

Thank you very much everyone. See you.

Q Four more days and counting.

END 2:38 P.M. EDT