Bill Clinton photo

Press Briefing by Mike McCurry

July 13, 1995

The Briefing Room

3:11 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have several subjects to cover today, ladies and gentlemen, so I'll start with Benin. Let me provide you very quickly some points -- yes, Benin.

You all know the President had an extraordinarily good and productive meeting today with President Soglo. President Soglo was the first leader of his country to make an official visit to the United States. The United States and Benin had strained relations up until 1991, when Benin really began a very impressive transformation towards democracy. President Soglo was first elected in free and fair elections and since then there have been a continuing effort to democratize in Benin -- very impressive. In many way, Benin is a model of African nations that are making the transition to democracy, and that, among many reasons is why the President was delighted to welcome President Soglo here to the White House today.

Their discussion, which ranged over sessions in the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room and lunch in the Family Dining Room, included just a real review of the bilateral relationship we have, the cooperation that we've enjoyed from Benin on issues like the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Cairo Population Conference. Benin is, I believe, the only African nation that contributed personnel to the multinational force in Haiti. And for all of these measures of support, the President thanked President Soglo.

President Soglo gave a nice bear hug to Vice President Gore. Vice President Gore visited Benin last year, I believe. They had a good visit. They talked a lot about economics, the structural adjustment program that's underway in Benin that makes, in the opinion of the United States, a very attractive place for both U.S. investment and Western investment.

Vice President Gore, at one point in the conversation, suggested modeling some of the ongoing reform efforts in Benin on some of the work they're doing here in the United States to deregulate telecommunications. And there was an active discussion of that. President Soglo was very interested in that.

Secretary Perry, at one point when they were reviewing our military cooperation with Benin, suggested establishing a bilateral military working group, bilateral military commission that would promote military-to-military contact between Benin and the United States. That suggestion was eagerly embraced by President Soglo. And that, our understanding it, would establish the first such military cooperation commission in Sub-Sahara Africa.

They focused a lot -- President Soglo, at one point, was the chair of ECOWAS, which is the regional peace-keeping body in West Africa --

Q: Can we stipulate the rest of this?

MR. MCCURRY: And Libya and Nigeria were covered. They had a very special focus on Nigeria because of our concern of the recent extra judicial proceedings there. Both President Soglo and President Clinton agreed that should there be any summary executions or denial of justice further by the regime of Abacha, based on some of the recent arrests there, that that should prompt a swift response from the international community.

Q: Is that all you have on it? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: No, they also reviewed multilateral issues. They talked a lot about the status of Benin's membership at the United Nations, reviewed some of the institutional issues related there, reviewed democracy and human rights issues in the region, and had a range of discussion on some of the issues on our bilateral relationship.

Q: Do you know where Benin is? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Francophone Africa -- West Africa.

Now, the approximate reason for my late arrival here was so that I could tell you that the President of the United States moments ago signed a transmittal notice to the United States Congress which indicates his approval of the recommendations of the 1995 defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. He forwarded the commission's report to the Congress; also sent a letter to the chairman of the commission, former Senator Dixon, thanking the commission for its work, and indicating, albeit reluctantly, he had accepted the recommendations of the commission.

In approving the BRAC recommendations, as he did in 1993, the President noted that the recommendations meet important national security and budgetary goals. Although the commission's recommendations deviated substantially from the Defense Department's original plan, they are expected to achieve the objective of saving an estimate $20 billion over the next 20 years. These savings are essential to maintain the operational readiness and modernization of our military forces.

President Clinton stressed the administration's continuing commitment to treating fairly the dedicated men and women who work at these bases and the communities that have supported them. Using the same program that has helped the host communities since 1993, the administration will press for the successful reuse of the bases' valuable assets by the communities in which they're located.

The administration will assist with, first, transferring property so as to create the greatest number of jobs; second, dispatching task forces to help communities in transition and redevelopment; third, assigning of local transition coordinators to help ease the move as some of these jobs flow into the private sector; four, awarding economic development planning grants in some of the communities that are affected; and fifth, achieving fast track approval for environmental cleanup that will be necessary at some of these locations.

In some cases, the economic impact on states from base closure and realignments will be reduced. Case by case, there are some examples: Long Beach Naval Shipyard jobs are going to be transferred over to the Naval Weapons Station at Seal Beach. A number of functions performed by military units at McClellan Air Force Base in California will be moved to Beale and Travis. I believe that there are some similar transfers that will take place as a result of the change at Kelly Air Force Base and additional jobs transferred to Lackland Air Force Base.

We'll give you copies of the President's transmittal letter to Congress. In that, he placed very special emphasis on a July 8th letter that he received from the Chairman of the BRAC Commission, a letter to Deputy Secretary of Defense John White, and in that letter, Chairman Dixon made it clear that the commission's recommendations provide the Secretary of Defense authority to privatize in place -- privatize in place the remaining operations of Air Force logistics centers that are slated for closure both at McClellan and at Kelly Air Force Base.

The President stressed that Chairman Dixon's letter is an integral part of the BRAC Commission recommendations. In addition, the President wrote that should Congress approve the Commission's recommendations, but then attempt to restrict privatization options at either McClellan or Kelly, he would regard that as a breech of the 1990 base closure law.

The privatization plan that the administration will now implement at both McClellan and Kelly is fully consistent with the administration's broader program to make government more cost-efficient and to make the military itself cost-effective. The plan is also consistent with recommendations of the commission on roles and missions of the armed forces to privatize all existing depot level maintenance including all five Air Force air logistics centers.

The Defense Department has already started using this same approach, as I think some of you know, at Newark Air Force Base in Ohio. The BRAC Commission has recommended similar privatization plans be implemented at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

This I am all reading because we had a minor riot break out when some of you suggested there were embargoed copies of this piece of paper lying around. So I'm putting it on the record now so you all have it exactly the same time. I'm deciding how much of this I can spare you right now.

Q: Mike, could you maybe answer one question.

MR. MCCURRY: Hold on just a second. I think in -- the President obviously, as he indicated earlier in stressing his concern about the economic impact of these decisions, made it clear that had he not acted to look at the privatization impacts of some of these decisions that we would have faced, I think, a real -- a very real concern that the cumulative economic impact of some of the decisions in previous rounds of base closing efforts would have had a disproportionate impact on some states, California in particular.

There was really no prospect that the commissioners were going to reverse their course on the closing of McClellan, nor was there any serious chance that Congress was going to accept any new proposal for a new base closing effort, one that would be designed by the administration and would go to the Hill or one that would come from the Congress itself.

The only alternatives given that for the President were the plan that was presented by the commission, given the national security need for base closing. As the President indicated earlier, that substantial responsibility he has as Commander in Chief; he had no choice but to proceed with a pattern of closures that would meet the goals that we need both for our national security and for our budgetary priorities.

So that said, the Department of Defense in about 20 minutes or so will be doing a briefing with a lot more detail by Deputy Secretary White and others who are more familiar with some of the privatization aspects. But you've all heard from the President earlier today. I think you can safely say that he takes this action today reluctantly, but he takes it with some confidence that we have now made every effort to provide a credible estimate of what realistically can be achieved through privatization efforts, both in California and Texas.

Q: When did the President actually reach his decision?

MR. MCCURRY: He worked through the letters that he sent to Chairman Dixon, the wording of some of the final provisions of some of the documents that we're releasing today, in a meeting that occurred with Secretary Perry, Secretary Christopher, Leon Panetta, and others, just prior to his meeting with President Soglo.

Some of you may have noticed that the meeting, the arrival of President Soglo was somewhat delayed so that he could have an opportunity to take one last look at the material provided by the Pentagon, and to review some of the documentation that went forward. And he made some substantial changes in some of these documents, which is one of the reasons why he has just now signed, a short while ago, the official transmittal to Congress.

Q: According to the numbers the President now has, now many jobs will be saved at McClellan and Kelly, by his numbers?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the original DOD recommendation for McClellan would have maintained 8,700 civilian jobs at the base. And under the commission plan, as it was clarified by the President -- in fact, insisted upon by the President -- DOD will now be allowed to preserve those 8,700 jobs as DOD civilian jobs for five years. In other words, up until 2001, the level of civilian Defense Department employee levels will be the same as originally proposed by DOD.

I know that the 16,000 jobs at Kelly will be retained at the end of that same period, too. I'll tell you, in the case of McClellan, I've got some figures on how the privatization effort that we now envision would work in the following three-year period. During that period, those jobs may decline to no lower than 5,500. That's a level that will be achieved through privatization of the functions that are now being performed at McClellan.

The President has also directed the Defense Department to cooperate with the local community, in an effort to maintain as many of those 8,700 jobs in the area as possible, through community development initiatives and other efforts. That is, by the way, a large portion of this discussion is what John White would be doing. I'd really prefer for him to answer some of these specific questions because they're really going to go through in some detail exactly why the President has some confidence that we'll be able to keep these employment levels as indicated.

Q: Mike, for anybody listening to the President today -- I mean, he was so furious at the commission and essentially accused them of ignoring the mandate in the law to consider the economics of their decisions. It's going to be hard for people to understand how he could say he was so furious, and then yet go along with approving it.

MR. MCCURRY: Look, we have a political problem in this country, coming to tough decisions when it involves closing military bases. These are, for many communities, the economic life blood. And as we draw down the size of the U.S. military in the post-Cold War era, we've discovered that the only way to get this job done is through the device that was created by the Base Closure Act, which provides a sort of take it or leave it approach with these decisions.

The President would have become the first President and the first in these rounds of base closings to reject the work of the commission, had he sent it back to the commission or refused to accept the list. And that would have really jeopardized the ability to make those adjustments that are necessary both for our national security and for budget reasons.

I think this President, as he made very clear today, probably would have been willing to try to write a new base closing list, and go back to the list that was originally proposed by the Defense Department. He clearly felt that was a preferable work product. And he was greatly distressed, as he indicated earlier, that the commission departed so substantially from the recommendations of the Defense Department. That's the first time that's happened in one of these lists. I mean, this is the first time we've had major departures from the recommendations of the Pentagon. And that was a source of great concern and, I think some of you would probably say, irritation on the part of the President.

But this is the process that we have to get the work done. There is absolutely no guarantee the commission would have made any changes recommended by the President. In fact, we have some indications that they probably would not have made any changes if the President had recommended changes. And there's certainly no guarantee that the Congress and the President would have been able to come to an agreement on their own on a list of base closures that would have gotten the necessary reductions in levels, reductions in spendings, consistent with the need for military effectiveness in national security.

So the President, obviously reluctantly, proceeded with the decision that he announced today.

Q: Just to follow up, though. You're basically telling us that he thought it was a really bad product, and that even though the product was really bad, it was worth holding on to the process.

MR. MCCURRY: It was. It was a product that he felt would have been made much better if the commission had accepted the recommendations from the Pentagon. It's a process that's very important, that would have been jeopardized had he not accepted these recommendations. And it's a product that he believes will be made better by the administration's pledge and plan to privatize some jobs in Texas and California -- and California, in particular, because as he told you earlier, his concern is that it has suffered disproportionately from the effect of previous rounds of base closings.

Q: A question on that -- two questions. One, on the percentages he used earlier -- he talked about California having 15 percent of the military population, but then they took 52 percent of the closures. But what is that percentage of the closures -- 52 percent of how much? Because Dixon has said that California has not suffered the worst on a per capita basis, that there are at least two other states that have suffered worse than California.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the only figures I have, I think, are the same ones he used. I don't recall exactly what he did, but quoting from his letter to Chairman Dixon, he says the following: When the base closure rounds first began in California -- when the rounds first began, California accounted for 13 percent of the U.S. population, 15 percent of the Department of Defense military and civilian personnel, and almost 20 percent of defense contract dollars. Yet in the three base closing rounds, California suffered 52 percent of the direct jobs that were eliminated or relocated. And two of the deviations made by the commission, the recommendations to close McClellan and Kelly Air Force bases -- well, that doesn't affect the percentage number. But that's it.

So, in other words, the previous base round closings in California suffered 52 percent of the loss of jobs. And I think the estimate for this round is 42 to 44 percent. Now, that's something I think that White will have more on. So that's -- in other words, disproportionate given what the spending is as a percentage of population and overall aggregate spending by the Department.

Q: If you had -- just to use an example, if you eliminated two jobs and one came from California, then they've lost 50 percent, but it's not a significant number. And that's why I'm wondering what that 52 percent --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, this is a significant -- these are significant job reductions. As you all know, you've all seen the figures for both California and Texas. These are states struggling with very high levels of unemployment and there's just no way that you can say that these are not significant -- this is not a significant loss of economic activity in the state, and the President is arguing, a disproportionate one.

Q: My second question is where he gets whatever other advice he got on the economic situation in those states, because we talked to regional economic analysts in the Federal Reserve in both Dallas and San Francisco, and they both say that the Sacramento and San Antonio areas are experiencing very high job growth and they can easily absorb those losses and that it is not a significant economic hit in either area.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, good for you. (Laughter.) And we feel -- that would be encouraging to the President, then, because it would mean that our privatization efforts might be more likely successful as a result of that.

Q: Mike, the President complained somewhat bitterly about how political the Base Closing Commission itself was. Can you give us examples of the decisions to close bases and specific states and what politics he thought was being played there?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll say -- repeat exactly what the President said: "Read the report." And if you go item by item from the report, you can make your own judgments.

Q: Texas a Republican governor or Republican senator. That was the --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to attempt to go through the entire commission report.

Q: Well, does he have any evidence of this charge?

MR. MCCURRY: I think his feeling, as he indicated to you, is that there were politics -- I think I said this same thing earlier in the week -- there is a political element to these decisions made by this commission. You can look where jobs went to and where they came from, and you can look at the membership of the commission, and you can make those judgments.

The President, as he made clear, didn't impute any motives. The President said he didn't impute motives, but there's, as we would suggest, an element of politics in these decisions. And that's not necessarily saying that an element of politics is a bad thing, but that people are saying the President is making political decisions. The point that he is making is the commission is probably making decisions that were political as well.

Q: I think I'm on the same wavelength here. I wanted to ask specifically about his quote that there has been a calculated, deliberate attempt to turn this into a political thing. It seems to me he's accusing the commission. I just want to --

MR. MCCURRY: No, I think he was -- I asked him about that, and he was thinking more really, frankly, of those who were accusing him of having political motives.

Q: Did he ever think of the word "calculated" as pejorative. He meant that to be good? There's been a good calculated attempt to --

MR. MCCURRY: No, he said, look, people -- those who were suggesting that he had political motives were not those who share the President's political point of view. If I recall, some of them were Republicans, and if I recall, some of them would like to take this President's job away from him.

Q: Mike, the law does require that commissions consider the economic impact. It does not require the commission to consider electoral votes. So let me just ask plainly, is the President angry in part because California is central to his reelection chances?

MR. MCCURRY: No. Look, the President answered that question, and that's clearly the point that the President addressed earlier today. And he said, first and foremost what concerned him was the cumulative economic impact of these decisions on California. That's exactly the question he addressed in response to your questions earlier today.

Q: Does the President still think the Base Closure Commission would be an appropriate model for lobbying and political reform?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes -- I mean, in the aggregate on the whole, and in the aggregate of these decisions -- I'm saying yes, no, no, yes. (Laughter.) No, in the aggregate, the work of these commissions collectively has been a useful way to get done a difficult political job. Everybody understands it is tough closing those bases. It's tough for members of Congress to make decisions to cut bases. It's tough for a president to accept that. It's tough to have to ask communities to take an economic hit like this.

But you have to have a process in which it works. And in the aggregate, it has worked well. In fact, in this report, on balance, it has worked well. But there have been some specific departures. And the President obviously singled some out here in which the commission has departed from recommendations from the experts at the Pentagon. And those distress the President; and it distresses him because they are hitting communities and states that have been already hit very, very hard in previous rounds.

Now, is that partly because of concern of what the political fall-out from that is? Look, it would be disingenuous to suggest not. But on the other hand, the President could not have been clearer today in answering the question to you in that his concern is who's thinking about what these communities have already suffered as a result of base closings, and what's going to be done about it.

And I think, obviously, in the last several days, as he realized he was most likely going to accept the recommendations of the commission, he has been primarily focused on the privatization effort -- of what we realistically can do at McClellan in Texas to try to move these jobs into the private sector. And I know for certain that this President is going to be working very closely with the Pentagon to follow up on those privatization efforts as we go forward in the years ahead into the second term.

Q: I understand Secretary Cisneros has added a trip to his schedule this weekend, going to Long Beach, where they are appealing for some attention because of these base closures. Has the President asked other Cabinet members to go out to California and Texas, in particular, to kind of show solidarity?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't say that specifically he's done those two. I think in the briefing that the Chief of Staff gave members of the Cabinet, he stressed the importance of follow through after this decision, and making sure that these privatization efforts are successful. He said that any Cabinet agency that can lend a hand in the work of moving these jobs into the private sector ought to see what they can do to help.

Frankly, I do not know whether Secretary Cisneros' travel plans are related to that, but I can confirm that the Chief of Staff has encouraged Cabinet agencies to do what they can to help address the impact of these decisions not only in Texas and California, but in other communities losing jobs.

There are some communities -- as I think you all know the stories from Indiana, there are some communities that have embraced these closures and said, fine, we will make an effort to do it through privatization. So a lot of places where the federal government can work with these local communities to try to make the privatization effort successful.

Q: New subject.

MR. MCCURRY: One more? Okay.

Q: Has the President talked with the two senators from California, who were urging him to reject the commission's report, and has he brought them around on his point of view?

MR. MCCURRY: You know, frankly, I do not know that. There was some series of consultations taking place today. I believe that they were being done by White House staff. But as you know, the Chief of Staff was on the Hill earlier in the week to meet with members of the California delegation. I don't believe the President has been making any calls, mostly because he's been involved in the bilateral meeting with President Soglo.

Q: The tobacco state lawmakers say it's really outrageous that the FDA would try to make tobacco or nicotine a drug and they are saying the President either needs to rein in Dr. Kessler or call for his resignation.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think that's an exaggerated response to good work addressing the health and science implications of tobacco use. That's the responsibility of the head of the FDA, and that's what Dr. Kessler has been doing. Now, there are decisions that involve regulation. There are decisions that involve policy that will have to made down the road. But the President could not have been clearer earlier today here at the White House. Those discussions are at a very preliminary stage. He is anxious to see that we address these issues quickly, but it is premature in the least, as the President suggested, to say that any definite course of action has been determined at this point.

Q: Could I just follow up --


Q: Mike, would you -- is it possible that the FDA's recommendations as reported in the Times would be accepted? Do you leave open the possibility that the President would indeed support controlling tobacco like an addictive drug?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, that is speculative until we know what the FDA is going to actually recommend. Some have reported that there have been certain recommendations transmitted here. I don't know for a fact that that is true. I don't believe that that is true at this point.

Q: The President seems to suggest that there could be some sort of middle ground. In fact, he talks about the problem that Phillip Morris is even trying to come back with a big public relations campaign to stop the young kids from smoking as opposed to everybody -- make it a prescription drug. Can you answer the question the other way and say whether there is a possibility for some sort of agreement between the industry and the government?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure the President and the administration would be interested in any suggestions from the industry of that nature. But, again, I don't want to suggest that that has been decided. As the President told you earlier today, no recommendation has come to him, and no one has asked for his guidance yet in this process mostly because the discussions that have been underway between HHS officials and White House officials are still at a very preliminary stage. Although I suspect because there's been, you know, a lot of news reports on this now, that they might accelerate or we might try to bring the thing forward more quickly.

Q: On Bosnia, the President this morning said his immediate concern was to the humanitarian plight of the Bosnians fleeing Srebrenica. What specifically is the U.S. -- what options are you looking at -- air lift, dropping foods, supplies, helping in a humanitarian way the thousands of Bosnian Muslims?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they're looking at a combination of many of those. First and foremost and best would be the free movement of convoys and humanitarian relief supplies as has occurred often in Bosnia, usually at the sufferance of the Serbs, but at least with the approval of the Serbs in many cases. And that work has been going on in recent days. In fact, there have been a substantial work around Mt. Igman to try to get supplies into Sarajevo in recent days. So all of that will continue.

Air drops -- an air lift is a last resort when it's impossible to get things through on a land route. And a land route and free movement of convoys would be far preferable. And there is not -- I can't say there is an indication at this point that that would be impossible.

Q: The President said that unless we can restore the integrity of the U.N. mission, its days will be numbered. What did he mean by that --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the U.N. mission clearly has to be defined in a way that UNPROFOR can carry it out effectively and credibly and that may require changes. As the President indicated, we've been talking in recent days here about the deployment of the Rapid Reaction Force. That would certainly be one change that would be positive and would make more credible the U.N. presence in Bosnia.

Q: Is there a time frame for a decision to reach this days-will-be-numbered decision? I mean, is there a time frame you have to reach some decision? Is it pull our or stay in through the winter?

MR. MCCURRY: No, there's not a time frame. But it will be, you know, obviously, determined by what happens on the ground in many ways. That will be a subject of discussion at the United Nations that will likely go on for some time.

Q: What's the state of play with talks with the Europeans on preserving the UNPROFOR --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, Assistant Secretary Holbrooke has just concluded a round of discussions with the Contact Group related to the diplomatic efforts. But they also touched on some of the other aspects of the conflict. Those meetings, I believe, went on lat into the early morning today in London, and I think they were scheduling another session today. The State Department might be able to tell you a little more about that.

I don't rule out the possibility the President will have a discussion with President Chirac and Prime Minister Major in the days ahead.

Q: Is there some kind of commitment, though, at this point? Is the President anticipating the possibility of a withdrawal here?

MR. MCCURRY: No. To the contrary. We are anticipating, based on the discussion so far, a determined position by the British and the French and others to stay in Bosnia and do what they can do. But, clearly, as the President indicated, they have to -- from their view and from our view, too, they want to do successfully what they are tasked to do. And that may, you know, require looking very carefully at the U.N. mission.

Q: One more follow to that, Mike. The President said in Colorado Springs that the prospect of U.S. ground troops having to go in to aid in a withdrawal was remote. Is it still remote?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's been no request. Even given the events, the tragic events in and around Srebrenica, there have been no requests that would trigger the type of emergency response that the President said would be a remote possibility.

Q: Mike, when you say that they should look at what they can do, are you suggesting that they already can do less than they could do three days ago and that the whole mission may have to be redesigned?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it is perfectly obvious to say that when it comes to -- when it came to protecting the safe area of Srebrenica, they were not successful in carrying out the mandate.

Q: Do you think they could protect the other safe areas?

MR. MCCURRY: We're in the process of finding that out in some cases.

Q: Mike, is the President in favor of using force to protect the five other safe areas, as the French have proposed to do?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are aware of the statements that the French have made today and we will be supportive of our allies, but we will be supportive of our allies consistent with our own understanding of what the military resources available are and what the military mission should be.

Q: You mean it doesn't seem feasible, it doesn't seem possible to you?

MR. MCCURRY: We will consult with the French and learn more about exactly how President Chirac will propose to accomplish a fairly arduous military mission that he suggests.

Q: Mike, Senator Dole and Senator Lieberman both have said that they would support this emergency withdrawal only if it were run as a NATO operation with strict rules of engagement, not as a U.N. mission. What's the President's view on that?

MR. MCCURRY: I think our -- the President's feeling would be very similar to that. And most of the operational planning that's been done at NATO on extraction op plan 4104 is obviously done with NATO resources through NATO's integrated command. But at the same time, with close coordination with UNPROFOR on the ground, because UNPROFOR commanders on the ground in Sarajevo know where their units are and where their personnel displaced. There would have to be coordination in any event.

Q: Speaking of coordination, how close is the coordination with Congress on the Bosnia issue right now?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, members of Congress have made it clear that they're willing to take a much more dangerous course in the Bosnia conflict, one which would lead to, we believe, the instant involvement of American ground troops in the theatre.

Many members of Congress are proposing a unilateral lift of the arms embargo. In the view of President Clinton, that is a formula to drive the U.N. out of Bosnia and to drive the U.S. into Bosnia; it would Americanize the war; it would result in the instant deployment of U.S. ground troops in Bosnia and that we just don't see that, coupled with the fact that it would further enflame the conflict by encouraging the Bosnian Serbs to take advantage of their disparity in weaponry at the moment, it just seem a dangerous and misguided course of action.

Q: Mike, when you started this whole discussion you said that the U.N. mission has to be defined in such a way that UNPROFOR could carry out its duties effectively and credibly. And yet, you express skepticism about President Chirac's statement that the U.N. is going to have to get tough with the Serbs. How do you effectively carry out the mission unless you do that?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are many aspects to the U.N. mandate and the U.N. mission in Bosnia, ranging from enforcement of existing sanctions, resolutions and existing U.N. Security Council resolutions and obviously, in the provision of humanitarian relief. And in all of those things, the President believes that the United Nations ought to do its work and do its work effectively.

There are provisions made through the North Atlantic Council to seek military assistance from NATO in certain, prescribed conditions. NATO remember, is not available to freely conduct any type of military activity in Bosnia; its available only to do those things which the North Atlantic Council has authorized NATO military commanders to plan for. And some of the suggestions that are being made, frankly, fall outside the authorization that has come from the NAC in the decisions that the NAC has taken to date.

Q: Mike, on a multilateral -- the President repeated today that he favors a multilateral lift if needed. How is that any different from the U.S. doing it unilaterally? Wouldn't you still --

MR. MCCURRY: I kind of went through that yesterday but I'm happy to do it again. Multilateral lift means a concerted judgment is made by the international community at the United Nations that you'd lift the arms embargo. That would then presumably be accompanied by some determination by the international community on how that rearming of the Bosnian Muslims should occur. Either nations would be left to do it individually or nations would be left to do it jointly. But they would -- the important thing is they would take action together.

It is clear that a unilateral lift of the arms embargo by the United States would give us the unilateral responsibility of arming the Bosnia Muslims with all the danger that that entails. We would have to go in there with the arms. We would have to go in there with the trainers. We would have to go in there with the troops to protect those who were doing the training. And while that was going on, we would be dealing with Bosnian Serb attacks on various threatened points throughout Bosnia, not just in the eastern enclaves.

And we would be very likely involved in warfare against the Bosnian Serbs, to prevent them from slaughtering the Muslims in the meantime. So it is a formula for the United States of America to go to war against the Bosnian Serbs. And the President of the United States does not believe that that is in the vital strategic interests of this country.

Q: Yesterday you suggested that the two-key system might be one of the problems with the U.N. force over there. Is that one of the changes that the President is talking about?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any discussion that would change command and control arrangements for Bosnia.

Q: Would he be feasibility of the multilateral lift when he talks to Chirac and Major?

MR. MCCURRY: To review that discussion, our allies have made very clear, over and over again, almost to the point that they need not repeat it much, that lifting the arms embargo is something they would consider only as a last resort, and only if it's unavoidable.

Q: When is a last resort?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you need to ask the other governments that participate in UNPROFOR what their view of that is. But I can give you the shorthand answer. It's not likely to be any time soon.

Q: When would you anticipate that conversation to take place?

MR. MCCURRY: As I say, it could be in the coming days. We're attempting to do some contacts about when would be good times in the next day or so maybe.

Q: Mike, is there any thinking here that the United States ought to speed up the airlift and sealift that's moving a rapid deployment force --

MR. MCCURRY: The Pentagon briefed on that Tuesday. My guess is that they probably are covering that again today. They are underway with a lot of sealift already, and they're moving according to a pretty swift timetable, according the briefing they've already done there.

Q: -- President to suggest adding force to move more quickly?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they already have a lot of lift -- they've got things underway already, and they can tell you more about that over there.

Q: What's the latest thinking on the women's summit in Peking, and Gingrich's and other Republicans' threat to cut off funding for the U.S. mission, unless they move it out of China?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it is an important international gathering. It is scheduled for Beijing. There's been a great deal of planning by our own non-governmental organizations already, and a great deal of expenditure by them and by the U.S. government that would allow the delegation to make its trip to Beijing. I'm not aware of any serious discussion within the international community to change the location.

There is an issue involving Mrs. Clinton's participation, in that it remains undecided.

Q: Just for the record, the Chinese are demanding that the U.S. not permit any future visits by President Li of Taiwan. Will the U.S. make that commitment? And also, could you restate the one China policy?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. One more time. The United States has not changed, and has made no change in its position on China. We have a very clear policy, and that is that the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government of China. We certainly acknowledge the Chinese position that there is one China, and Taiwan is part of China. So we have a one China policy. It dates back to successive Democratic and Republican administrations for well over 16 years, governed by the three communiques, governed by the Taiwan Relations Act. And there has been no change in that policy for 16 years.

Q: Any guarantees on the visits?

MR. MCCURRY: It is the policy of the United States government that we do not have official relations with Taiwan. Thus, we would not entertain an official visit by President Li.

Q: What about a private visit?

Q: Would you consider granting him another visa? It seems as though the Chinese --

MR. MCCURRY: We consider visa requests on a case by case basis, and there's no pending visa request from President Li.

Q: Mike, he's been invited to come to Alaska in September.

MR. MCCURRY: No visa request pending that I'm aware of.

Q: What can you tell us about the CIA speech tomorrow? And will the President address any aspect of the --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President -- the world we live in now, as we talked about today, is a very complicated place that has new requirements for the intelligence community and there's a lot of new types of intelligence that are needed in the new environment of the post-Cold War era. That subject was addressed earlier this year in a presidential directive, Presidential Directive 35, that is being implemented very effectively by the CIA under the leadership of the new Director of Central Intelligence John Deutsch.

The President wants to review those efforts, discuss the important role that intelligence plays in foreign policy decision making in this post-Cold War era. He wants to simultaneously thank John Deutsch for his leadership and the creativity he's shown so far as our new Director of Central Intelligence and, more importantly, thank the employees of the Central Intelligence Agency and all the agencies of the intelligence community who are working in difficult times of change to adjust to the new role they play in meeting some of the foreign policy challenges we have.

So it is a chance, I think, for the President to help boost morale there. Certainly, he hopes it will help boost morale. It is also an opportunity for him to learn more about some of the technical and analytical capacity that these very impressive agencies have in this era of high-speed technology and rapid transmittal of information. So, in other words, a chance for them to show off some of the fine work that they do but also a chance for the President to thank them for their efforts.

Now, they've been through a difficult period. There are issues being raised about the conduct of the intelligence community many years ago prior to President Clinton's arrival here in Washington and I think he understands that there are very fine people who work in these agencies who do a good job and they deserve the Commander in Chief giving them a good vote of praise for the work that they do.

Q: Mike, has the President told the Democratic National Committee to knock off the fund solicitations that involve dinner invitations?

MR. MCCURRY: He's certainly put that program on hold while it is under review as to what is going on. The President made it clear to his staff he was not very happy about learning about some of the marketing activities that are underway. So, he's asked Leon Panetta and Harold Ickes to conduct a review of those solicitations and to make any changes necessary to satisfy him.

Q: Well, was this done without consultation with the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know, I'd have to check.

Q: Were any of the items in the catalog purchased and made good upon?

MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea.

Q: So, it's possible that somebody already did have dinner with the President for $100,000?

MR. MCCURRY: There are people who have had dinner in recent weeks with the President at our fundraising dinners who are clearly financial contributors. You were there at some of them. I remember seeing you there.

Q: I'm not talking about the large organized events.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think that was very secret. We made it very clear.

Q: I'm talking about the one-on-one dinners with the President and his Vice President for $100,000.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't even think that was one of the items that was offered. I think they talked about participating in fundraising activities that are consistent with the way political parties have raised political money in this town for some time. But that said, the President, I don't think, was very happy with the tone of the specific brochure that was being used to solicit funds, so they're looking very carefully at that document and they'll make any changes that are necessary.

Q: Mike, the statement that Fowler put out said that the President was unhappy, you may have used these same words, with the marketing of the presidency. Did he feel that he personally or the Oval Office and the White House was being marketed per se?

MR. MCCURRY: He just didn't feel the tone of that brochure was appropriate and it clearly was not.

Q: So, if they clean up the tone of the brochure, Mike, he'd have dinner with somebody for $100,000?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, we have just been to some fundraising dinners where he had dinner with people who give money to him and to the Democratic Party.

Q: We stipulate that. We're talking about these individual private dinners for $100,000.

MR. MCCURRY: We will continue to have to raise money in order to conduct a campaign in 1996.

Q: So he hasn't ruled out that. The only thing he's upset about is the marketing technique?

MR. MCCURRY: He has not ruled out fundraising activities for 1996, no, he has not. The question is how do you do them and what's the tone of the way in which you raise issues. And you've got to do that the right way.

Q: A week and a half ago the White House said on this topic that they're not going to unilaterally disarm now. Today you're saying that you're putting the program on hold. What happened?

MR. MCCURRY: I just indicated we're not going to unilaterally discontinue fundraising activities.

Q: I just want to make sure I understand what you're saying. You're saying that it's okay to sell dinner with the President as long as you do it in an elegant way?

MR. MCCURRY: No. Look, you guys, come on, be fair. You've got to raise money to conduct campaigns. You've got to raise money to run political parties. We don't have publicly financed politics in America with the exception of our national presidential campaign. And the primary campaign and the primary phase of the campaign is not publicly financed. So, candidates for president and political parties have got to raise money.

We've been raising money. You all know we've been raising money. We tell you about it when we do, and we do it very openly and we do it as much as we can from small donors. The large portion of the money that the President has raised to date has been through direct mail and from small donors from folks who are writing in $25-$30 dollar checks. We go after big donors, too. We usually have them at big dinners. You go to those dinners. You are there when the President talks to the people who are giving the money. We fully disclosed through the Federal Elections Commission those who are giving the money.

So, that's the way in which the activity occurs. We had one instance in which one tactic for raising money was a brochure was a brochure which was clearly wrong. And the President was made about it, and he said, don't do that. But we're not -- we are going to continually have to raise money. Those are just the facts of life.

Q: But what you're saying is your problem was not with what was being done, but simply the way in which it was being discussed, handed out?

MR. MCCURRY: A brochure that offered up things that -- it was just inappropriate. But we're not going to claim that we're going to stop raising money. I'm sorry, we're going to have to continue to raise money.

Q: The House Ethics Committee has decided not to pursue --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have a comment on that. That was obviously an internal review pursuant to House measures.

One last question here.

Q: Both Secretary Rubin and Leon Panetta have issued statements in the last few days questioning the motives of those who --

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, what the problem is is that it's now very clear that the National Rifle Association is paying for and writing the script of these hearings that are going to occur next week. And it's about time that the Congress started asking itself some very serious questions about who's running for, paying for these hearings on Waco.

This is, frankly, absolutely outrageous that the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is subcontracting legitimate congressional investigative work to the National Rifle Association. That is absolutely astonishing.

How about that? Is that enough for you? (Laughter.)

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 4:00 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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