Bill Clinton photo

Press Briefing by Mike McCurry

March 27, 1996

IBM Conference Center

Palisades, New York

1:05 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: Questions?

Q: No.

Q: Yes. Yeltsin?

MR. MCCURRY: Yeltsin? He's the President of the Russian Federation.

Q: Right. Can you tell us, Mike, what the President -- of Yeltsin's -- (inaudible) --

MR. MCCURRY: He did not say that. That's an inaccurate portrayal in a news account today in the Washington Times. The President suggested to President Yeltsin that in a time when there are presidential elections underway in both the Russian Federation and the United States, it was important to manage issues in our bilateral relationship so they would have a positive impact on the relationship and not a negative impact. And he cited as one example the issue that we have been in discussion with concerning poultry exports and said that was an example of an issue that had to be managed effectively to reduce tension. And President Yeltsin agreed that that type of issue should be dealt with through the Gore-Chernomyrdin channel.

Q: Should we not interpret that as meaning a positive impact for their respective campaigns?

MR. MCCURRY: You should not that interpret it in that fashion because the discussion quite clearly referred to a positive impact on the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia.

Q: To their mutual political advantage?

MR. MCCURRY: There was no discussion of their mutual political advantage. It was about the nature of the relationship and the need to manage issues so no issue would be blown out of proportion and have a negative impact on the relationship.

Q: Is it accurate to say that President Clinton supports Yeltsin's bid for reelection?

MR. MCCURRY: It's accurate to say the United States supports those who advocate reform in Russia, and we stand with those who support reform.

Q: Mike, -- that was a -- simultaneously.

MR. MCCURRY: The Washington Times appears to be illegally in possession of a classified document.

Q: What you're saying is that the document itself is --

MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm just saying the news account I don't think accurately interpreted the information that was in the document.

Anything else before we go? We're moving out of here pretty quickly.

Q: Mike, I just walked in, I don't know -- Montana? Is the President getting updates from Panetta?

MR. MCCURRY: The Chief of Staff has been getting updates from the Department of Justice and then the Chief of Staff passes on any critical information to the President.

Q: And has the President asked Reno and Panetta, because of Ruby Ridge and Waco, to -- cautious, not cautious? Had he given any advice? Has he --

MR. MCCURRY: No, the President just wants to be assured that the situation is being effectively managed.

Q: Why are you rushing back to Washington? Is something going on back there?

MR. MCCURRY: No, we're not rushing back, we're just following --

Q: There's an hour of time here that you've gotten rid of. Is there a reason for it?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think so. I think we're following the same schedule we had.

MS. TERZANO: He's shaking hands with the governors and doing --

MR. MCCURRY: They're going to do photos and do a couple of other things here. He's following the schedule that we had planned.

Q: Oh, okay. You are going to stay until roughly 2:00 p.m.?


Q: Well, he's running ahead of schedule.

MR. MCCURRY: He's a little ahead of schedule, but we'll probably leave here --

Q: There's nothing pressing back in Washington --

MR. MCCURRY: Nothing pressing that I'm aware of, no. He's got an event tonight on his calendar, but we'll be back in time for that.

Q: Is there another principals meeting scheduled there in China, after yesterday's?

MR. MCCURRY: There will be additional discussions on China, but I'm not aware of any meeting scheduled at this time.

Q: Do you have any reaction to Jesse Helms inviting the --

MR. MCCURRY: I heard about that earlier today, and I think they were being passed out in Washington. David Johnson might have more on that.

Q: Mike, who did you say Panetta was getting briefed by on the Montana standoff?

MR. MCCURRY: Justice.

Q: From Justice? From Reno herself?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I think they've had -- some of the law enforcement people have been involved. I'm not sure who he talked to yesterday. It may have been Jamie, but I can double-check.

Q: Has the President issued any instructions to pass on to Justice?

MR. MCCURRY: No, he's just asked that we be kept apprised of developments.

Anything else?

Q: Anything else you want to tell us?

Q: When the President said that the history and English standards have not really succeeded -- I mean, he previously had supported national standards. Today he's moving away from national standards?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he talked about -- there's been a lot of discussion in the years since 1989 and the summit in Charlottesville about how you actually set standards. And standard setting -- you'll see a good discussion of that issue -- we haven't had the transcript from Riley out yet -- Secretary Riley on the way up gave your pool a good synopsis of our view of standards.

Standards can be national standards, but as the President suggested today, they have to derive from discussions at the grass-roots level between teachers and parents and administrators. They have to be built at the community level, discussed at the state level, and reinforced with expert analysis at the national level. So all of these things go into play in setting standards. And it is true, as the President said, that they've had more success in setting specific standards for the math and science than they have in other areas.

Q: But, I mean, he would like national standards, right? He said that he wanted Palisades and Pasadena --

MR. MCCURRY: They set up a discussion -- well, a couple things. They began this discussion in many ways in Charlottesville, but as this administration wrote the Goals 2000 program we also went hard at the question of what type of national standards should apply. The President referenced the commission that Governor Romer first chaired and now Governor Engler works on with the governors, and there's been a lot of follow-up work on that.

But it is not uniform national standards to my knowledge have been advocated by the President or those who have been working on education reform. They've talked more about how you incorporate those standards that are set at the local state level, and then how you inform them with the expert analysis that comes from experts at the national level in education.

Q: I walked in late -- I know what you told the pool earlier about the Washington Times story. Has the White House asked the FBI to directly investigate the source of the leak and to pursue a criminal investigation?

MR. MCCURRY: The provision of classified documents to nonauthorized sources is a violation of federal law, and it will be up to law enforcement officials to investigate any wrongdoing.

Q: You have -- since you know about this, have you directed the FBI to make this a priority, to make sure --

MR. MCCURRY: It is always a concern of the federal government, and appropriately of law enforcement officials if there's a violation of the National Security Act.

Q: Whose decision would this be if this were to be investigated? Would it be the FBI?

MR. MCCURRY: The FBI normally looks into that type of thing, so you may want to direct an inquiry there.

Q: You maintain that the two leaders were not talking about their individual elections, but just better relations?

MR. MCCURRY: You will recall in Egypt I briefed you all and told you that they compared notes during their discussion on their respective political campaigns, but the specific discussion that's referenced in this news story today is about the Presidents agreeing that issues that might arise during the course of the campaign years in both places need to be effectively managed so they don't have a negative impact on the relationship.

Q: Are you going to test us on this?

MR. MCCURRY: It feels like I should be. Class.

END 1:15 P.M. EST

William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Mike McCurry Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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