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Press Briefing by Mike McCurry

June 02, 1995

The Briefing Room

1:30 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: I can well imagine that many of you would like to know everything you need to know about Bosnia. There's not much that I can contribute to the story that the Pentagon has not already said at this point. Obviously, the President is very concerned, is following the developments very carefully. I'll tell you at the outset that he will briefly make some remarks to a small pool that we're putting together right now prior to his event at 2:00 p.m. But he doesn't plan to do much more than to say that he is following these developments carefully. He's had some conversations today related to Bosnia that he will tell you about. And our policy on Bosnia remains in place and he's firm on how to proceed.

Q: Well, is the door open --

Q: What is the policy? You've got members of Congress saying that they don't understand it at all.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it is not hard to follow. The President is determined not to commit U.S. ground forces to the conflict in Bosnia to participate in the U.N. peacekeeping mission. And apparently, for that position he is suffering from some criticism. But he's willing to accept that criticism.

Secondly, we will continue to participate with NATO in enforcing relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. We've been doing that very effectively. And third, we will continue to press for a diplomatic solution to this conflict because the President remains convinced that the solution to the conflict in Bosnia is not on the battlefield, it's at the negotiating table.

Q: Excuse me, Mike, the President is not being criticized for saying that he's not going to commit ground troops, he's being criticized for saying that he has changed his policy and is going to send, perhaps, commandos in or others to help reposition U.N. troops.

MR. MCCURRY: I beg to differ. There are those who suggest that we should unilaterally lift the arms embargo. And if the United States unilaterally abrogated its commitments to the United Nations, we would take on some responsibility to train and equip those that we were arming. I don't know how you would do that if you didn't have troops on the ground.

Q: There's no question, however, the majority of congressional criticism is over the President's change in policy, his willingness to possibly use troops to help NATO reposition. Is the President willing to live with that criticism and ignore the sentiments of Congress in that regard? Does he plan to ask for any kind of congressional approval before he might commit troops?

MR. MCCURRY: The President is convinced, as he indicated at the Air Force Academy that those extensions of the policy we've made as it relates to helping UNPROFOR units that are in trouble will be extracted if that involves temporary use of ground forces for redeployment or reconfiguration; that that remains an important policy because it is very important to our closest allies n the NATO Alliance, specifically Britain and France. And he is willing to take that criticism and to answer that by making the case that that is, if anything, a moral obligation we have to those who do have troops on the ground in Bosnia who might come under peril.

And I stress again, however, as we've said, that the United Nations needs to address the parameters of the U.N. mission in Bosnia, needs to determine how those forces should be configured, needs to decide what adjustments might be made. That will the subject of the U.N. Security Council meeting this afternoon that Ambassador Albright will attend on behalf of the United States. And that would be the decision-making that would generate to NATO any requests for assistance that might involve U.S. resources or material.

Q: But to the specific question whether or not he would seek congressional authorization for any military activity?

MR. MCCURRY: The President, as I've said several times in recent days, would consult closely with Congress and we would seek the support of Congress because we think the policy is the right policy.

Q: Well, when you say support, that doesn't mean a vote, though?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes -- we've handled that a couple of times.

Q: In light of the amount of criticism and comment that what you've characterized as an extension of your existing policy has generated, I wonder if the President is thinking about being more aggressive in his efforts to discuss his Bosnia policy, describe, explain his policy. It would seem clear that the members of Congress are reading the political atmosphere in the country as being one that would profoundly oppose commitment of ground forces, even for what you describe as an extensive existing policy. I wonder if it occurs to the President that maybe he needs to say more by way of bringing the public along with him. It's not his favorite subject.

MR. MCCURRY: The President has addressed this twice this week, and the administration has testified often on Capitol Hill on this subject. Various senators and congressmen have indicated that they will ask for additional testimony from the administration, which the administration is happy to provide, because we think what we're doing in connection with Bosnia is exactly right and consistent with U.S. interests. The President publicly has spoken on this on many occasions over the last two and a half years, and will continue to do so.

Q: Mike, can you explain the practical difference between not committing U.S. ground troops to take part in UNPROFOR, and committing U.S. ground troops to help UNPROFOR fight its way out of the enclaves or do whatever it has to do to redeploy?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are a number of possible differences. Being part of an ongoing mission as a troopcontributing nation has different responsibilities associated with it in the eyes of the United Nations, different requirements, participating as an element of a NATO force under NATO command and operations that are temporary in duration and designed for specific purposes have a much different operational configuration. And so there's a vast difference between that and the ongoing UNPROFOR mission in Bosnia. And again, I'd stress that the President has made clear we wouldn't contribute ground forces to that type of ongoing operation, even though there are those in Congress who now suggest maybe we should do exactly that.

Q: Mike, to follow up, though, if you think that the difference is the ongoing nature, the fact that one is temporary and one is --

MR. MCCURRY: There are many, many differences, as I just said.

Q: Why do you think that after the experiences in Vietnam and everything else that the United States has gone through that anybody believes when somebody says, this is only a temporary commitment of troops, that that really is what it is?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, because the President -- people, if they are familiar with the situation in Bosnia, they are familiar with the -- there have been instances in which individual peacekeeping units have run into trouble in specific locations and there's a discussion underway now about whether or not that ought to be addressed in the configuration of the overall U.N. mission. That is a totally different set of circumstances from historical precedence that you just mentioned, and I don't think that they bear any relationship to each other.

In any event, the President, as the Commander in Chief, has the responsibility to make sure that the missions that he approves have got the type of configuration that have the best possibility of success, that have limited duration, an exit strategy associated with the deployment, and an operational plan presented by military commanders that meets the types of requirements that the President properly ought to bring to bear in that type of decision.

Now, that said, again, let's remember what the chain of decisions will have to be here. First, the U.N. Security Council, beginning this afternoon, will take up the question of what is the configuration of the UNPROFOR mission currently and whether any of the four proposals from the U.N. Secretary General ought to be contemplated as they review that mission. That could then conceivably, but not necessarily, involve requests that would then go to the North Atlantic Council that would involve NATO elements.

Now, those are all highly speculative developments. We'll have to see how that unfolds as, in coming days, the troopcontributing nations and the participants in UNPROFOR and NATO activities in Bosnia review suggestions from the French and then, at the end of next week in Brussels, the NATO defense ministers meeting at 16 review the defense plans that have been put in place connected to the UNPROFOR mission in Bosnia.

This is a series of decisions that have to be looked at very carefully, and if any of them ultimately involve any use of U.S. forces, the President, as Commander in Chief, would have to review those specific requests for U.S. assistance very, very carefully.

Q: Is the U.S. offer now on the table at the U.N. Security Council to offer to assist in the reconfiguration?

MR. MCCURRY: No. What is on the table is the President's stated willingness in his Air Force Academy speech to consider that type of request should it come from NATO as generated by the United Nations, and that we are, as I just spelled out in the --

Q: Well, it has to come first from the U.N., though, doesn't it?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the United Nations would have to make decisions about the scope and parameters of the U.N. mission in Bosnia. That would then -- either would or would not generate specific requests for NATO, which has been doing a lot of the enforcement activity on behalf of the United Nations in and around former Yugoslavia. And then any requests of that nature might involve specific requests that the United States would consider and that the President would consider.

Q: It doesn't sound like it's very quick action.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, those are some critical decisions about how the U.N. mission in Bosnia is configured. Now, those -- we are dealing with a story today, I know, but that story involves a part of the U.N. enforcement activity in Bosnia that has not been the subject of some of these discussions of the last several days.

Q: Mike, the President and others in the administration have made clear that we would not put ground troops in the usual sense into action in Bosnia because of the belief that the United States' vital interests are not engaged there. Why is it not also true that we would not commit troops to some rescue or repositioning operation for a mission that doesn't involve our vital interests? What's the difference? Why is it okay to do the one and -- and what are the vital interests at stake?

MR. MCCURRY: The situation is different because there are vital U.S. national interests at stake when we think of our commitments as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, as we think about the commitments we have to those of our allies that do have troop contributing elements on the ground in Bosnia, and as we look at the overall pattern of activity involved with enforcing relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. Those are different activities than the specific peacekeeping operation in Bosnia, itself.

For example, the President considers it in the vital interests of the United States to have deployed U.S. troops in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia to prevent a spillover of this conflict within the Balkans, an historically-troubled region and one in which you can see a number of our interests at stake as we look at the possibility of a wider conflict in that region. So those are the types of questions that he intends to look at carefully.

Q: I understand, but NATO is carrying out this socalled peacekeeping operation --

MR. MCCURRY: No, UNPROFOR is carrying out the mission and NATO assists UNPROFOR.

Q: But the fact of the matter is that it is all in support of the same idea, the U.N. operation. And how is a guy at home looking at this, who may have a son at stake or a daughter, going to distinguish between these very fine points that you're talking about, that it's important for us to stand with NATO and our NATO allies, but not to the extent of sending in troops because that's U.N. and not NATO and so on? Do you think that really adds up to a convincing case either way?

MR. MCCURRY: I think you can imagine any parent concerned about a loved one, a son, who might be in this region who would share concern about a young British son or a young French son or a young Canadian son facing peril in Bosnia as a result of an international peacekeeping effort sanctioned by the world community. I think, reasonably, Americans can understand the importance of that, and they also understand historically how important our alliance with the European nations have been. This is, after all, the alliance that, by and large, won the Cold War and has produced enormous dividends for the American people, the European people and the people of the world.

Q: You're basically saying this is aimed at NATO?

Q: I think you just touched on this, but how much is the credibility of NATO as we know it today on the line in the way the President's decisions are being driven on this?

MR. MCCURRY: I would suggest when it comes to former Yugoslavia that the performance of NATO in support of U.N. activities in that theater has been remarkable and done with enormous courage by those would participate in it.

Q: I'm sorry, I don't think you answered the question.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think credibility is at stake when it comes to NATO's efforts on behalf of the U.N. mission in former Yugoslavia.

Q: What about U.S. credibility within NATO?

Q: The NATO allies have been flying these combat air patrols over Bosnia daily for months. Today, the Bosnian Serbs presumably decided to fire a surface-to-air missile and shoot an F-16 down. What does that say to the Clinton administration about the response of the Bosnian Serbs to what's been going on over the past week and last week's NATO air strikes?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it is one more piece of evidence in a wanton and irresponsible way they continue to violate the behavior that would be expected of any member of the international community that expects to live in that community among civilized nations in some sense of harmony and some sense of peace. In other words, it's further evidence that by their behavior, the Bosnian Serbs are making them outcasts and international pariahs.

Q: Mike, would the President define temporary in temporal terms, by months, a date certain, seven months, ten months?

MR. MCCURRY: -- would define a duration of any mission consistent with those types of criteria indicated earlier.

Q: Mike, does the White House --

Q: Wait, wait --

MR. MCCURRY: Duration of mission and mission specific. It involves what the operational plan is as developed and presented to him by military commanders and it's -- no sense in speculating on what temporary is. But temporary is not part of a permanent U.N. peacekeeping operation on the ground.

Q: Mike, does the White House have any word of the fate of the pilot?

MR. MCCURRY: The information available to us is the same information that's been made available by the Pentagon.

Q: Mike, they didn't say, and this is an hour later. It's a pretty simple question.

MR. MCCURRY: The information we have is the same information they've already briefed on over there.

Q: Do you have any update on the Frasier talks?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't, other than that they have met and that the only readout that I'm -- available is the one that they've been giving over at the State Department.

Q: To follow up your answer to Wolf's question, is the U.S. and are the NATO allies contemplating any more extensive pattern of NATO air strikes if this is an example --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on operational plans of NATO at this particular moment.

Q: And also -- can I just follow up? You mentioned congressional consultations earlier on. Just a little while ago Senator Dole was complaining that he's not been consulted on Bosnia at all by the White House and says he got one call from the Joint Chiefs of Staff asking him not to criticize but that no information has been forthcoming.

MR. MCCURRY: That's not my -- my information is that the National Security Council staff has been in contact with his staff rather frequently. And, as you know, he's been traveling, if I'm not mistaken.

Q: You said the President has had several conversations on Bosnia today. Can you tell us with whom?

MR. MCCURRY: He'll provide a little more on it, but he has a conversation with at least one foreign leader, yes.

Q: Mike, how much does the shooting down of this plane and the pilot and the situation -- how much does that increase the whole tension, the whole problem here with Bosnia and the United States?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, it is true each and every day that NATO pilots, and specifically, U.S. pilots participating in NATO operations have been flying missions over former Yugoslavia, that they have been in harm's way. This has been the situation that they've dealt with for a long time. And with great courage and with great skill they've met the challenge that has been presented to them. Now, there's been an escalation in that challenge today, but we're determined to go ahead and --

Q: Have they been shot at --

MR. MCCURRY: There have been instances of that in the past, in fact, in recent days -- NATO broadly defined. But in any event, that is something that -- they are already deployed there with the knowledge that they are in harm's way. Anytime you are running that type of mission in that type of theatre, you are facing danger.

Q: That being the case, Mike, does this instant not illustrate what a lot of people worry about, which is how easily once your forces are deployed in area, however non-belligerent their role may be said to be, how easily they can become ensnared in the fighting and how easily something could happen that would require the United States, for reasons of national pride or whatever, to respond militarily and to be drawn into the conflict?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the type of danger they face and the type of contingencies that you have to plan for have not changed based on the incident today. Those have -- a large part, that type of possibility is something that NATO has had to face ongoing throughout the long duration of Operation Deny Flight.

Q: Mike, after the President meets with Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili, will anybody brief here?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll have to let you know later on. It depends -- I think most people here know the contours of that meeting. It's a briefing on what the various conversations have been prior to the departure of the General and Secretary Perry for Paris for the meeting that's coming up. And in that sense, they're going to share some information and some thoughts on what type of position they'll be in during those discussions in Paris. So I'm not sure there will be a lot to add at that point, but if there is we'll figure out a way to get that out.

Q: Might the U.N. be making any decisions today, or is this just a beginning of a several day or week-long process?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, it's pretty much as I indicated earlier. It's a series of decisions that would have to be reached both by the United Nations and NATO, and there are additional meetings scheduled for Brussels towards the end of next week.

Q: But nothing on the table at the Security Council today?

MR. MCCURRY: They face immediately the four suggested recommendations of the Secretary General, and they -- I'm not sure if they're -- we'll have to check with USUN to see how they intend to deal with those recommendations or if they're actually taking decisions on those today. I'm not aware necessarily that they're going to have any final decisions today.

Q: What will be the President's charge to the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, in the case of the meetings in Paris this coming weekend, they'll listen very carefully to the French proposal. He's had discussions with President Chirac, so we have some sense of the contours of the suggestion, but the meeting has been called at the request of the French to review ideas that they would wish to put forward. There will, of course, be an exchange around other elements and issues associated with NATO participation in UNPROFOR.

Q: Mike, are you able to shed any light on this rapidly changing reports about the hostages being released?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not able to shed any light on that.

Q: Mike could you come back here after a while?

MR. MCCURRY: The President of the White House Correspondents Association has asked to be recognized. Maura, having recognized you once already, I will go to Carl.

Q: Noting your comments about specific and temporary and some of the words you're using, and noting also the President's comments in the interview in Billings, it almost sounds like you're trying to reassure people after Wednesday's speech that, well, it isn't quite as imminent, it isn't quite as much. Are you responding really to the political outcry here, or are you just trying to redefine it, or is it really nothing has changed?

MR. MCCURRY: No. The President is reemphasizing -- we're reemphasizing exactly what he said in the Air Force Academy speech on Wednesday, when he made it very clear that, one, he had no pending requests before him; and two, in any event, nothing was going to change the fundamental premise of our policy related to Bosnia, that U.S. vital strategic interests are not sufficiently engaged to warrant the dispatch of U.S. ground forces to Bosnia as part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Q: But you're not denying that in the speech Wednesday things changed a little bit and there was a tremendous outcry over that?

MR. MCCURRY: There was a great deal of press attention to it and there has been predictable suggestions otherwise from members of Congress. But that's not necessarily a surprise to us. And what we're doing is reemphasizing exactly those things that the President said in his speech on Wednesday.

Q: Do you think today's incident is going to exacerbate that situation? Certainly that's going to bring home to a lot of Americans that Americans are in harm's way already over there and could be in greater harm's way.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. You're suggesting that those who have been critical of the President's speech on Wednesday will now say, based on this incident today, that somehow or another we should cut and run out of the NATO Deny Flight operation. I don't whether they will make that argument or not. I'll just have to see.

Q: May I change the subject just temporarily?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, and then we'll come back --

Q: I f I could just ask a budget question.

Q: I gave Carl --

MR. MCCURRY: We're going to be here a long time. You can be patient and just wait for a second.

Q: Has the President ordered a second budget to be written, or not?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, do we want to do some more on Bosnia and I'll come back to that question? (Laughter.) I'd prefer to do one complicated topic at a time.

Q: The President is making a complicated argument about vital interests, where they are and aren't at stake. And just to clarify this, you're saying that our vital interests are not at stake when it comes to stopping Serb aggression or preserving the territorial integrity of Bosnia; but they are at stake when it comes to preventing NATO from being humiliated further militarily in Bosnia. Is that what you're saying?

MR. MCCURRY: That's not a question, that's an editorial comment. Let's come back to the budget question. I think I was real clear and tried to explain the best I could the different natures. And the President has spoken to this. We can get you the transcripts in the past when he's talked very directly about those interests of the United States that are engaged in helping in the conflict in Bosnia. We have said often that they are largely humanitarian and trying to help keep people alive and they're aimed at trying to get people to stop killing each other. That's been the nature of our involvement there.

Q: this new involvement that he's talking about now.

MR. MCCURRY: The new involvement that he suggested in his speech, as he indicated, goes to some solemn treaty obligations that we have to NATO allies. I think I was pretty clear about that.

Let's come to your question --

Q: It's just that I'm getting some conflicting --

MR. MCCURRY: You want to do one more Bosnia question? Okay.

Q: Will the United States present the U.N. its plan for potential military options, or is the White House waiting for them, the U.N., to tell the White House what it wants?

MR. MCCURRY: The United States -- the President indicated he would respond to requests that would come to the United States from NATO. Now, those would be generated by any potential change in the U.N. mission. That would have to be decided by the Security Council. And obviously we participate in all those discussions in one way or another. But it would really be a U.N. discussion that would then go to NATO. NATO would generate some requests based on some of the op plan contingency discussions they've already had. And then we would have specific requests we might consider.

Q: And one other question. Is the White House open to retaliation for the downing of the jet today?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm going to speculate on that.

Okay, budget. What was the question again?

Q: The issue has been raised as to whether or not the President is going to propose a new budget plan which gets us to a balanced budget in 10 years or something like that. And then some people in the administration say, no, it's not really a budget plan; he may just respond piecemeal to Republican proposals. And others have said, well, parts of it may look like a budget. What's the --

MR. MCCURRY: That's funny. I remember a briefing last week where I believe I said all of those things. (Laughter.) And I stand by every word I said. (Laughter.)

I indicated, actually -- seriously -- did indicate last week that the President is determined to engage with the Republicans in Congress as this budget process moves forward. It's very likely that he's going to have some specific ideas that he wants to put forward.

And it's no surprise, therefore, that he's been with his advisers thinking of ways that those proposals might be presented, and the ways in which they all fit together and relate to each other, since they involve, you know, balancing the budget is not difficult if you think about it. It involves arithmetic -- you add and you subtract. And there are clearly places in which the President would add. And there are clearly places he would subtract. And our arithmetic is a little bit different from the Republicans in Congress. But the goal is the same -- the equation, the equal sign, points towards a balanced budget. In the President's view, achievable within a decade.

Q: When do you think he'll decide on what he's going to send to Congress?

MR. MCCURRY: That's the question of timing. And how the President interjects those ideas is obviously an important part of the strategic approach that he will take. And that's his decision and he'll let you know when he's decided.

Q: Last week you indicated on this subject that the President had not really decided how he would advance what ideas he came up with, whether piecemeal, whether all at once. And so has his thinking on that moved any since last week or are we about the same place as far as he's concerned.

MR. MCCURRY: He's, I think it's safe to say, his thinking has moved forward, and he's got a better sense of how he's going to proceed. But it will be for him to tell you at the proper time.

Q: Well, I know, but we're looking at a day when there are public reports, published reports that say that what would amount to at least in policy terms, broadly speaking, a whole budget is being developed. So the question is, is that how he'll present it, or has he decided? If he hasn't decided, just say he hasn't decided.

MR. MCCURRY: If I read the Post article carefully, I think it did not say that. It said that there might be two different ways of proceeding. You might proceed with, here's a whole game plan that you would pursue; you might proceed with individual discussions of specific functions within the budget as you go through the appropriations process. I think the President's still looking at how best you make that intervention so that you achieve the goal.

Q: But have we now -- just for the record, have we returned today to the status quo? I mean, feel free to say bingo, if it's true. (Laughter.) Are we now back where we were last Monday night before the Rose Garden --

MR. MCCURRY: I'll tell you, that's so long ago I forget even where we were then.

Q: We were at a counter-budget in less than 10 years.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, no, I mean, that's the variant of the question that Brit just asked. I mean, the President's going to come forward at some point. A budget is a budget, and things have to hang together, and you have to know the number here. And one part of the budget under one function is going to affect the budget somewhere else in a different part of the function. And so you have to -- you have to have some sense of where the bottom line is going to be. But as a question of tactics, how do you engage and how do you present that is something that is part of the great mystery of life in the budget process.

Q: Have you at all revised the Alice Rivlin memo where you would be going into more of a cut and invest type of approach?

MR. MCCURRY: I suggest that thinking has evolved well beyond there. Look, another point I make here, we also have to -- I think it's fair to say on our part that we have to decide how to best present our ideas in the context of what the Republicans are doing. They've got -- they come back into session next week. They've got a very tough job ahead in reconciling the differences that exist in their two different versions of budget resolutions. On the one hand, the Senate budget resolution would increase taxes substantially for lower income workers. The Senate --the House version of a budget resolution would give a big tax cut to the wealthiest Americans. And those two may or may not be reconcilable. So, we'll be watching very carefully their deliberations as they reconcile those two versions of a resolution. And the President will be thinking about when best to put forth some of his own specific ideas.

Q: There is a growing consensus that at least there is much greater concern of recession now than earlier, after the last couple of weeks of bad economic news and today's bad numbers. Is the President going to use that as an argument against severe budget cutting? It was suggested at one point by some of his people that that's a reason not to present a balanced budget.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has often said that decisions about the budget, fiscal decisions related to federal spending, do have economic impacts. And his chief aim as President has been to seek measures that grow the economy and raise the incomes of individual Americans. And the news today, while it is a matter of concern and suggest that there may be some bumps to a soft landing, still indicates that you can achieve, with the right type of policies, you can achieve growth with low inflation. Budget decisions can have an impact on that. And the President has suggested that and suggested that, as he looks at the issue of a balanced budget, keeping in mind the overall performance of the economy as one of the factors that has to be considered.

Q: Does the President have a reaction to Bob Dole's comments in Los Angeles about the entertainment industry?

MR. MCCURRY: The President is actually on the -- well on the record on many of the same subjects. He's spoken back over time. I mean, he obviously has said a little bit last night in his Town Meeting about it, but he spoke on May 20, 1995 at the Character Conference in much the same fashion, sharing many of the same concerns that Senator Dole expressed. He was interviewed on 60 Minutes at one point earlier in the year; said some things in a CNN interview; if you go back to the State of the Union, he addressed this issue specifically; addressed in a radio address back in the first year of his term; spoke on it at a fundraiser in Hollywood. You might gather I just conveniently have a little document here.

Q: Is this about who gets to be the subject and who gets to be the predicate of a sentence -- it means that they agree? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't suggest the President agrees entirely with what Senator Dole said yesterday, but the concerns that they address, which is -- the President would take it, I think, a little bit differently from Senator Dole. The President -- you've heard the President say this a lot, that with the rights that come to Americans, including 1st Amendment rights of freedom of expression, come responsibilities. And those responsibilities can also apply to industries that have an obligation to think about the moral and spiritual life of the nation and how they impact that moral and spiritual life. The President has suggested that, and well on the record.

Q: For the record, has the President listened to much of the gangsta rap or has he seen Natural Born Killers, or some of the examples of the --

MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea. It doesn't strike me as the normal fare that he enjoys.

Q: Well, he criticized last night, explicitly, Senator Dole for not having seen some of the stuff he was talking about. I was wondering if the President --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't recall -- I don't believe he said that.

Q: No, I'm sorry, you're right. He was talking about the cuts, but others have criticized Dole for that, so --

MR. MCCURRY: He did not say that.

Q: What did he disagree with, though? You said he disagreed with some of the things Dole said.

MR. MCCURRY: No, he suggested -- he didn't say anything about Senator Dole, as far as I know. But he did suggest that those that those, as he has done -- they criticize those who've got enormous influence on the popular culture of our country, they also have responsibility to address other instances of violence or language that contributes to violence. And the only thing he suggested was that if you're speaking out against entertainment products that may contribute to more violence in our culture, that, gosh, you've got to at least think about the contribution that assault weapons make to violence in our society. And it makes some sense to employ a single standard in that respect. And he suggested that it would be good if people who are concerned about these issues address both sides of the equation, and violence from whatever source it is generated.

Q: Mike, on two subjects. Most Favored Nation status in China and also the amendment sanctions of Taiwan. Do you have anything on those?

MR. MCCURRY: I will tell you -- on the second subject, I do not expect anything to be announced by the White House any time soon. On the question of Most Favored Nation status for China which expires by June 3, it is our intention to put out an announcement in a very short while -- in fact, we can probably have it ready immediately at the conclusion of the briefing -- that just says what the President has in a sense already said and some of the President's advisors have said, that he will extend most-favored nation status for China. My understanding is Ambassador Winston Lord will be briefing at the State Department -- at what time?

MR. MITCHELL: 3:30 p.m.

MR. MCCURRY: -- at 3:30 p.m. today to review that decision which comes, of course, on recommendation of the Secretary of State as required by statute.

Q: The President has taken a lot of credit for the turnaround of the economy. Now that it seems that the economy may be slipping into a recession, is the President concerned about how that's going to affect --

MR. MCCURRY: I think they'll give us credit for that. (Laughter.) No, I think he is concerned, and we have said that as a matter of concern, and the President continues to pursue policies that will try to keep the fundamental strength of the U.S. economy in place. And we hope that whatever bumps there are in the soft landing in the economy, that there will be over time, persistent and sustainable growth in the economy in the end.

Q: Does the President -- concerning Bosnia, does the President have any plans in the near future to address the American people about our interests in Bosnia?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it will be a subject that he will be addressing at appropriate occasions in the coming days. I'm not aware of any single planned event, but I can imagine that it's a subject he will return to as he talks about the nature of the threat that exists to U.S. security in the post-Cold War era, as he addressed in much the same fashion as he did at the Air Force Academy the other day.

Q: Have you said what the radio address is on tomorrow?

Q: Is the radio address on Bosnia tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not certain of the subject yet. They were still going to do some work on that later on.

Q: Mike, coming back to a question that Brit asked earlier and the one that Richard asked, too, essentially, if is he at all concerned that this complicated and rather nuanced policy is in any way being misinterpreted willfully or misunderstood. Shouldn't the President take an opportunity to explain it in his own words?

MR. MCCURRY: He did and he will. I mentioned he will return to it. And as I said earlier, the administration will willingly testify on Capitol Hill to walk through the parameters of it.

It is -- this is one of the most vexing and most troublesome conflicts that has emerged, I would suggest, in 20th century history, certainly in the era of the post-World War II era, the numerous factions and the divisions within the factions on Bosnia fighting each other, the implications for the other Former Republics of the Federation of Yugoslavia, how they all intersect and interrelate is enormously complex question. And it is no secret at all that the diplomacy involving managing that conflict has been difficult. It was difficult for the prior administration; it's been difficult for this administration. In some sense, as the breakup of the former Yugoslavia began to occur in 1991 there were some decisions made at that point that limited the options that are available now. Just about every expert would, I think, agree with that.

With that said, what you have to do is to see what you can do, with the President's parameters of his policy very clear, that we are not contributing ground forces as combatants in that conflict, to try to fight a war on behalf of the party that's been agreed, and not to participate in the ongoing U.N. peacekeeping mission there; to participate and to assist the allies who are participating on the ground with the type of activity we've pursued in NATO; and then ultimately to patiently work as we have been working as a member of the Contact Group to try to advance any possible diplomatic solution. Those are the primers of a policy that, I think, the President is very comfortable with and convinced that the American people support.

He detects no where in the American public a strong sentiment to dispatch enormous force to the region to try to win a war on behalf of the party that been agreed. And there are suggestions from his critics, even today, that that's what he should do.

I think he's just determined that that's not the policy he will pursue and I think he's very comfortable that he has the support of the American people in that. He was gratified, for example, at the Air Force Academy speech, that he got considerable applause from those who know a lot about the capacity of U.S. military, as he outlined his policy. So I think he's very comfortable that his policy is the right one, and he's more than willing to defend it.

Q: Mike, are we to assume with what you've just said, given the complexity of the policy, that this act today will go unpunished by NATO or anyone?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, say again.

Q: Will this act today go unpunished by NATO --

MR. MCCURRY: I said earlier, and I will continue to say, this is not a moment for idle speculation about further action. And I will not do that because it would not be appropriate and it would not be prudent.

I am told that the President wants me to stop briefing so he can make his remarks, if you don't mind.

Q: Where and how?

MR. MCCURRY: The pool needs to go to the Rose Garden. There will be 10 minute delay, then the meeting with the NCAA Champions will begin after that.

Thank you.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:08 P.M. EDT

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

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