Press Briefing by Mike McCurry
The Briefing Room
1:15 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. And it's so nice to welcome you here to the White House briefing room.
The President and Mrs. Clinton are looking forward to seeing you all at the White House press picnic this evening. I note that many of the press invited have not called back the Social Office to RSVP to the kind invitation of the President and the First Lady. And if you have not RSVP'd and you do plan to attend, anticipate a delay. We've got several hundred RSVPs. So it means there's going to be a big backlog if you try to get in. If you would like to try to do something about that situation, you might want to call the Social Office in advance of this evening's soire at 456-7787 to RSVP.
Also I'm told children -- the question came up yesterday if children are allowed to attend, and we're told that we've got so many folks that not. But if you had made other plans, see Evelyn Lieberman.
Q: Is the President going to attend?
MR. MCCURRY: He is, with great enthusiasm.
All right. Let's go on to the news of the day. Any questions?
Q: I believe you have a readout for us.
Q: Bosnia readout.
MR. MCCURRY: Bosnia readout. Bosnia. Well, the President's senior foreign policy advisors met in Tony Lake's office for about an hour this morning. They then went to the Oval Office and met with the President and the Vice President for 90 minutes. The advisors reported on many of the discussions that have been occurring in the aftermath of General Shalikashvili's trip to London, and also the discussions that have been underway between the United States and other governments in preparation for the meeting Friday in London that's been called by the United Kingdom.
The President stressed that forging a common approach with the British and the French is critical if we're going to achieve a principal U.S. objective which is strengthening UNPROFOR. Further progress in dealing with the conflict in Bosnia depends on a coordinated approach with our major allies, and the President has clearly determined to try to make a difference because the current situation is obviously unacceptable.
The President explored several suggestions from his advisors. He will consult further with Prime Minister Major and President Chirac in advance of the meeting on Friday.
I'll say it's not useful at this point for me to speculate on any possible military action in connection with strengthening UNPROFOR because there's a lot of speculation out there that, frankly, right now is inaccurate.
Secretary Perry and Secretary Christopher are on the Hill at this hour consulting with both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. They will obviously argue strenuously against a unilateral lifting of the arms embargo because that's a step that would both Americanize this conflict and give the United States unilateral responsibility for the devastating consequences of a wider conflict in Bosnia. And the foreign policy team has set another meeting for tomorrow; they will meet and continue to review the issues that are in play as we work to forge a position with the British, the French, and others.
Q: Have you written off Gorazde? I mean, not you, per se.
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q: Do you think it can be defended?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's being defended right now by a large contingent of Bosnian government forces. And there are, in addition to that, U.N. peacekeepers who are present -- I think several hundred U.N. peacekeepers are present.
Q: Haven't they been stripped of their arms by the government forces?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge.
Q: There's a wire report to that effect --
MR. MCCURRY: In Gorazde? Not to my knowledge.
Q: -- in Gorazde that the Bosnians have taken over the --
MR. MCCURRY: That's a report related to Zepa, is it not?
Q: No, Gorazde.
MR. MCCURRY: There's one on Gorazde?
Q: Yes, today.
Q: Isn't one of the options under consideration the aggressive use of air strikes to drive back the Serbs?
MR. MCCURRY: Air power may or may not have its uses. I'm just not going to speculate on what type of discussions are underway here now. In any event, to pursue a path that would achieve the President's objective of commonality with our key European allies, additional discussions are going to have to occur because, as you know from their public comments, there is not now consensus between the United Kingdom and France. And they've indicated that publicly, and the President feels it's very important to have a common position and there's going to be a lot of work that's going to go into trying to forge that position.
Q: So is the outcome of this meeting the President will await the outcome of Friday's meetings before he 'd be in a position to make any decision about what the United States might want to do?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think the President feels that there is a lot of work that we can do in advance of that meeting Friday to see if there's a prospect of forging a common position with the British and the French.
Q: Does he have an idea that he would be advancing for a common position?
MR. MCCURRY: He does have some ideas that we are now exploring within our own government, and at the proper time, as I indicated, he will consult with the French and the British leadership.
Q: Mike, does the President still have confidence in the so-called dual key for use of air power?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the dual key -- we've many times publicly said we have great concern with the operation of the dual key political -- particularly the chain of decision-making that runs up through the political channels on the dual key.
Q: Was that a yes or a no to that question?
MR. MCCURRY: That was an appropriately ambiguous answer. (Laughter.)
Q: Has the President spoken to Senator Feinstein?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge.
Q: If there was more robust U.S. air strikes, would that be conditional upon doing away with the dual key?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to get into that.
Q: Sort of following up on this, but today Sacirbey was on Capitol Hill and he specifically told reporters that the U.S. is considering more aggressive NATO force air strikes, but without the dual key. And he told reporters the U.S. does want that.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I've given you the correct status of the President's thinking working with his foreign policy advisors, and the importance the President attaches to having it a program for action in Bosnia that is shared by the British and the French. And that does not exist at this point.
Q: The key is would the U.S. be pressing Britain to adopt that particular --
MR. MCCURRY: The President has not had those consultations. When he does, I'll brief as I can on that.
Q: Has the President set himself some kind of deadline for coming to a set of decisions on what to do? This seems to be dragging on --
MR. MCCURRY: The President is addressing this matter with a great deal of urgency, devoting a lot of time to it, and is prepared to make adjustments in his calendar to put additional time into it if necessary. And it's all clearly done with the goal of trying to formulate some suggestions that we can review with the British and the French in advance of the meeting Friday.
Q: So by Thursday perhaps he'll have some kind of agenda?
MR. MCCURRY: That's the best timetable I can give you at this point.
Q: Are the Contact Group members or the U.N. or any group that the U.S. is associated with attempting to work with or in the same direction as Izetbegovic in trying to negotiate some sort of safe passage for the people of Zepa?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are discussions that Carl Bildt, the EU negotiator, has had. I don't know if they relate to safe passage of refugees form Zepa, but I can check on that, or, more appropriately, you can check with UNPROFOR. They've been doing some briefings on that; they can apprise you on the status.
Q: Is there any effort outside of negotiated -- is there any planning underway to try to protect the people who may end up in the next 24 hours fleeing from the Serbs so we don't see a repeat of the atrocities leaving Srebrenica?
MR. MCCURRY: There is a great deal of concern about that. There have been public condemnations from individual capitals from the United Nations and, in addition to addressing humanitarian situations, a lot of discussion about how to prevent what seemed to be clearly Bosnian Serb atrocities in the theater.
Q: Any discussion of the President making his case, whatever case, to the American people?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President recognizes that this kind of conflict has made a deep impression on the American people, and he has talked about it publicly, and I think he's fully prepared to talk about it again publicly.
Q: At any particular time?
Q: In what kind of forum?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's got -- I'm not going to suggest -- he's not going to do -- we wouldn't make a public presentation on Bosnia prior to having some sense of how we're going to proceed with the British and the French.
Q: Would you do it prior to talking to the British and the French?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I just said it would be more useful, I think, to conduct some diplomatic discussions with the British and the French. And I've given you some sense of how that's likely going to occur.
Q: -- the lifting of the arm embargo is going to happen anyway. So what kind of amendment would you like to attach to the --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we reject the notion that the arms embargo is going to be lifted in any event. We've got the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State on Capitol Hill right now, making a very strong argument against the United States taking the step at this very critical juncture in Bosnia of lifting the arms embargo. And the reason is, we believe that would further Americanize this conflict. It would put the United States in a position where we had driven the United Nations out of Bosnia, and driven ourselves into a very terrible conflict in which we would have, then, sole responsibility for the consequences of a wider and deeper war.
And we continue to make very strongly, as strongly as we can, the argument that that is just a nutty idea at this time. And we hope that the two Secretaries will be persuasive. The President will continue to press that case. And the President, as we've said, depending on the final formulation of the resolution, which is apparently undergoing some modification, we would have to seriously review it, consistent with all that we've said about the risk associated with a unilateral lift.
Q: When is the President going to be speaking with Chirac and Major?
MR. MCCURRY: At some point in the next several days. I can't pinpoint that for you; it's not decided.
Q: I'm sorry. You said you would have to seriously consider a resolution in light of the risk. Do you mean, consider it for a possible veto, or consider it for something you'd just ignore?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think if the President felt that the final version of any unilateral lift resolution or lift resolution, depending on how it was structured, jeopardized our interests and put the United States at significant risk, which we surely believe the current version of a unilateral lift would do, then he would be prepared to veto it. But there are discussions, we understand, underway in the Senate to modify that resolution.
Q: And which elements should be put into that kind of modification to be able to go with it?
MR. MCCURRY: It should be a multilateral lift as a last resort, if that's unavoidable; and following if it's unavoidable, a withdrawal of UNPROFOR, which is something that the United States is determined to try to avoid. In other words, if they modify the resolution to conform to the President's policy, obviously the President would support it.
Q: Yes, Mike, two questions. First, does the President intend to have this meeting with congressional members of Congress tomorrow -- the one that was supposed to be today, that got delayed?
MR. MCCURRY: Josh, that's uncertain right now. It's possible that that would happen; that's all I can say at this point.
Q: Secondly, when you talk about the President in consultations with the French and the British, does the President feel, at this point in time, that it's up to the United States to broker some sort of compromise with those two to take the lead on this issue?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President is, as I said earlier, determined to see if we can't forge a common position here. It's distressing any time we see two of our closest allies, particularly two of our European allies, in disagreement. I think the President is determined to see if there's not some way to bridge that gap and to forge a common position.
Q: Mike, is he going to see the British Foreign Secretary today or tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: He has no plans to at the moment. Foreign Secretary Rifkind has a program scheduled with Secretary Christopher. And then my understanding is Foreign Secretary Rifkind has to return to London in preparation of the Friday meeting. But we will monitor that and see how things develop.
As I said, the President does plan further consultations with Prime Minister Major.
Q: Does the administration all of a sudden see itself as a referee or an intermediary here between --
MR. MCCURRY: The United States see itself as a leader of the NATO Alliance. The President is conducting his diplomacy accordingly.
Q: Is he trying to bring Britain and France together in a direct way? Is that what he hopes to do in the talks?
MR. MCCURRY: We hope to forge a common position.
Q: Are you still considering the French proposal for U.S. transport helicopters?
MR. MCCURRY: I suggest you talk to the French government to see what the status of that proposal is. We've asked a number of questions about it, and there are a number of questions about certain ideas that come from the French that I think are still unclear to us.
Q: Are you still considering it, though? Are you still considering it?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we're considering a range of things relating to Bosnia. I'm not going to detail what.
Q: Well, yesterday you said you were.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we're considering a range of things related to Bosnia. I'm not going to specify what.
Q: Has the White House taken the legal position that Congress has the authority to unilaterally lift the arms embargo?
MR. MCCURRY: Mick, I ran through this yesterday. In the event that a resolution was passed which mandated a unilateral abrogation of the U.N. Security Council resolution, that the President then vetoed and then the veto was overridden, so that the U.S. Ambassador was, in effect, instructed by Congress to notify the U.N. Security Council that we were abrogating a U.N. Security Council treaty, that would, my understanding is, have to stand as a matter of law. That is, essentially, it doesn't require -- it would be the United States government taking unilateral steps as a matter of policy to abrogate an existing U.N. Security Council resolution.
We would so advise the U.N. that it was taken under duress because it was an act of Congress, and that we were complying with U.S. law. But it does not require a specific action that the Ambassador would have to take at the United Nations, other than notifying them of our intent related to an action by Congress.
Q: For clarification, the Friday meeting is definite now?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding at the moment is that the Friday meeting has been called. There are, I believe I had heard a report earlier today, 12 nations that are scheduled to attend. It's unclear to us at what level the participation will occur, although as we had said the last couple of days, Secretary Perry and Secretary Christopher are prepared to attend if the meeting is indeed held at that level. But I suggest the best thing to do is to check with the UK. They are the host of the meeting.
Q: What configuration is the 12 nations? That's not NATO or the Contact Group.
MR. MCCURRY: I believe it's -- my guess is, and this is only a guess; please check with the British -- but this would be at UNPROFOR contributors plus Contact Group. That would, I think, get you to 12.
Q: In terms of the U.S. military decision-making process, what military steps are next on the agenda, would it be fair to say that has to await the common position between France, Britain and the other allies?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it would be safe to say that the President is determined to try to forge that position, working with the British and the French.
Q: Mike, legalisms aside, if Congress forces a unilateral lift down your throat, what actually would change on the ground? Would the administration provide arms to Bosnia?
MR. MCCURRY: What would change on the ground? A whole lot of Muslims would die pretty quickly because the Bosnian Serbs would take advantage of that to take advantage of the disparity that exists in heavy weaponry.
Q: I'm talking about actions by the United States on the ground. Would we -- under that scenario, would the United States furnish arms to the Bosnian Muslims?
MR. MCCURRY: Our view has been it is highly questionable morally for the United States Congress to say that we are unilaterally lifting the arms embargo so that the Muslims can have a fair fight, and then not do anything to provide them exactly those armaments that we're talking about. There's some vague notion on Capitol Hill that perhaps they could get them from inventories of former Soviet Union stocks. Perhaps they could get them from Iran, I guess Senator Dole is saying.
But morally it would seem to us, given the likelihood of a very dire consequences to the Muslims that we would be duty bound to provide some type of equipment and training urgently. Now, once we're doing that on the ground in Bosnia, it's the view of this President and most of our military thinkers that those types of trainers would need significant protection, some type of protection force which would then have to be on the ground.
In any event, that decision by the United States Congress would trigger a decision by UNPROFOR to withdraw from Bosnia and then we would be in the position of having to commit ground troops to extract U.N. personnel from Bosnia. So one way or another, passage of a unilateral lift resolution is clearly a formula to put this country directly in the fighting in Bosnia with the use of U.S. ground forces. And the sponsors of that resolution on Capitol Hill ought be honest enough to make that clear to the American people.
Q: Are Perry and Christopher up there strictly lobbying against unilateral lift, or are they also soliciting views of what sort of military options members of Congress would support for strengthening UNPROFOR?
MR. MCCURRY: They are also soliciting views and providing as best they can some sense of what our dialogue with other governments has led to at this point.
Q: Which Republicans are they meeting with?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they were invited, if my understanding is correct, to participate in two separate sessions -- well, maybe I should correct that. Was it one session or two sessions? With Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans separately. I believe they are addressing both caucuses.
Q: Mike, just to clarify, last week when we were discussing unilateral lift resolution, you were saying that the President would veto such a resolution if it were overridden. Depending upon how it was written, he might ignore it on the grounds of his authority to conduct foreign policy was being trampled on. I'm not hearing you say that now.
MR. MCCURRY: And we just went through a discussion of what would happen if you lift it, I mean, if this was a resolution that lifted, instructed us to provide arms, instructed us to provide protection, or for those providing the arms. You get into a lot of different permutations of what might happen.
Q: Is there any set of circumstances under which you can see the President simply ignoring whatever came from Congress?
MR. MCCURRY: Simply ignoring and saying, well, you could say --
Q: Unconstitutional infringement.
MR. MCCURRY: You could easily say that it affects the President's ability to conduct foreign policymaking. The Congress could then very clearly do as they've done in the past -- withhold funding for the enforcement activity associated with the arms embargo. So there would then be a question of what the congressional prerogatives are related to appropriations.
Q: -- embargo now.
MR. MCCURRY: Say again. Oh, I know. That is existing law. The issue is lifting the arms embargo, as they talk about on the Hill. What does that entail? Does that entail us providing weaponry out of our inventory? Does it provide -- is this an act of Congress, a federal law, in effect, requiring us to dispatch U.S. military to train and equip the Muslims? These are all the types of questions that I think properly are not our questions. They should go to the sponsors of the resolution. But, clearly, we would have to faithfully execute the laws as passed by Congress.
Q: We are not now participating in any enforcement activities for the embargo, as you --
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. I believe that's restricted to maritime -- maritime activity.
Q: But we are involved in some other sort of interdiction, or are we?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you have to check -- it's been a long time since I looked into that, but that's been the -- there's some enforcement type activities that we were not constrained from.
Q: Let's assume for the sake of the question that you are involved in something. Obviously, it isn't much or we'd all know about it or you would know about it, one hopes. Why wouldn't the administration simply declare that that would stop and declare this administration in compliance?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't follow the question, Brit. Explain.
Q: In other words, if we are going to unilaterally lift, it means, presumably, that we would cease doing whatever we are doing in furtherance of the embargo. Why wouldn't we just do that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, unilaterally lifting, that's exactly the point. Unilaterally lifting the arms embargo is a make-believe world in which Congress will think that it's done something to address the problem in Bosnia so that they can go back to their constituents and say, boy, don't we feel good; we've done something today.
Q: Why don't you just let them do it if it doesn't do any harm?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, because it has -- that position, as we've said over and over again, taken by the United States Congress would drive the United Nations out of Bosnia. They've made it perfectly clear because it in a sense lifts the veil on the provision of arms -- no longer covertly, it could be done overtly -- to the warring parties. Both sides. On both sides.
Q: Why? Because the United States was then not engaged in whatever minor interdiction activities it is now engaged in?
MR. MCCURRY: The feeling has been the enforcement effort would collapse. There would be no way of preventing arms going from both the Muslims and the Serbs under those conditions.
Q: -- over that than we do over anything else.
Q: I want to follow up and take the opposite assumption from Brit, that we aren't doing anything. We're not doing anything. Have our allies suggested that they would attempt to prevent us --
MR. MCCURRY: We are not doing -- pursuant to an act of Congress, we are not doing some things in connection with enforcement of the embargo.
Q: But you are not enforcing it. Presumably, somebody else is. And no matter who wants to break the embargo, whether it's Iran or the United States, the other countries would be duty bound, would they not, to stop us? Have the French said they won't let us ship arms --
MR. MCCURRY: As a practical matter, if the United States lifts the arms embargo, the NATO enforcement effort, particularly the maritime effort in the Adriatic, would collapse. That is -- I think everyone is working from that common assumption.
Q: One thing in Congress, however -- there is increasing calls for them to end U.N. presence in Bosnia, and you might even wonder whether the Republicans might be passing this resolution as part of the pressure to get the U.N. out of Bosnia. Today, for instance, Strom Thurmond called the policy "a definition of stupidity." Again, with increasing calls to get the U.N. out of Bosnia, how strongly do you feel it should be there, and what's your reaction?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we feel -- we have said now over and over again, we feel very strongly they should be there because -- everyone is moved and troubled by the pictures, the distressing pictures of these refugees that are moving out of the safe areas and being shipped into Bosnia government-controlled portions of Bosnia. Now, how are those people going to be kept alive? How are we going to get them shelter, food, medicine?
The United Nations, working with nongovernmental organizations, has been doing that work. Now, if the United Nations leave, what are we going to say to those folks? You just lie out there in that field and you die and you rot? I mean, that effort now is keeping those people alive. There seems to be zero attention to those who are sponsoring this resolution to what the catastrophic effect would be of a pullout of the United Nations. The United Nations effort in Bosnia goes beyond the protection force that's there in a peacekeeping role. It includes the humanitarian effort, the work that's being done by the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees. And we're basically saying we're going to shut that all down because we're troubled that we haven't been more effective in dealing with the conflict itself between the warring parties. And that's just a formula for putting a lot of innocent civilians in a whole lot worse hardship than they're already in.
Q: Is what is being contemplated a change in policy? Because, like you said, a lot of people in this country seem to think your policy is nutty and a charade, and this fiction of neutrality when you have really tagged the aggressor. How long does that go on? And you are -- people are being killed every day in a monumental way. So my point is, are you going to continue this alleged policy of neutrality when people are being slaughtered?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's pretty clear that we're looking at new options related to our policy.
Q: If whatever you come up with would require the dual key system to be eliminated, what has to be done? Does the U.N. have to vote on that? How do you eliminate the dual key?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on that. There is a command and control system in place currently for the use of NATO air power and support of a request from the United Nations that involves separate decisions that move through two chains of command, and it's become known as the dual key. How that might or might not be modified under the hypothetical -- a hypothetical discussion of some change in the nature of allied air power use over Bosnia is idle speculation at this point.
Q: She's asking about a process, Mike, she's not asking about --
MR. MCCURRY: The process, whether it would involve separate decision-making at the North Atlantic Council and at the United Nations either, presumably, by the Secretary General -- most likely by the Secretary General, most likely by the North Atlantic Council.
Q: Mike, have you resolved that question that Gene raised yesterday about whether committing helicopters means you're committing ground forces?
MR. MCCURRY: They were going to be able to address that at the Pentagon today as they could. My guess is that they're not going to speculate on military action. And I can tell you, I actually showed General Shalikashvili some of the discussion in one of the newspaper accounts I saw today. And he just shrugged and said, that's not, to his knowledge, anything that's under consideration. So I just would caution you against --
Q: Which part was that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if I keep you guessing, then you'll question everything that you've read today, which is my point.
Q: Was Boutros-Ghali invited to this meeting Friday, or any U.N. representative?
MR. MCCURRY: I had heard earlier that there was some desire on the part of U.N. personnel to participate in it. But I refer that to the British government because they're the host and they will issue the invitations.
Q: Mike, the last two years, the U.N. has been telling the Bosnians it knows what is good for them better than they do. The Bosnians are now saying, after three years of disaster, get out; let us defend ourselves. Do we presume that they don't understand their own self-interests?
MR. MCCURRY: No, and we -- the reason that we want to consult very closely with the Bosnian government -- we had the Bosnian Foreign Minister here yesterday in good discussions with the national security advisors. They have not, as you will note, made that request to the United Nations.
Q: Mike, let me take one more try --
Q: But Mike, they have asked that the arms embargo be lifted.
MR. MCCURRY: They have not made -- to my knowledge, as of earlier today, not made any request of the Secretary General that the United Nations Protection Force be withdrawn from Bosnia.
Q: What about the arms embargo?
MR. MCCURRY: They've suggested -- they've obviously suggested it hasn't been performing effectively from their point of view. And who could dispute that? But they -- it's a separate request, it would be a separate issue if, as a sovereign nation, they submitted that formal request to the Security Council. And that's a formal step that is -- my understanding is that they haven't taken at this point.
Q: Would we be bound to honor that request, though, if they submit it?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Security Council would have to review its standing resolutions in effect in Bosnia in that condition to see how they should be modified. I'd have to check at the U.N. I'm not sure what that would entail.
Q: What about our position, specifically? Would the U.S. --
MR. MCCURRY: We are clearly involved in some very meticulous discussions about what we can do about the situation, and I think the Bosnian government knows that. I got a question earlier about something that the Foreign Minister said in connection with that.
Q: One more try on dual key. Various officials of the administration have said that the dual key system was a mistake to get into. They've said it was unworkable. One senior official yesterday on the record even called it insane. Is the administration taking efforts to get rid of the dual key system? And if not, why not?
MR. MCCURRY: What are we doing about the dual key? We don't think -- we obviously think it's not good. Some people who are diplomats are talking about it. I'd prefer to hear people who understand operationally how it works militarily talk about it, and they have expressed troubles about it.
Q: What's the bottom line of all of what you're talking about in there? What is it? I know you're going to strengthen UNPROFOR. But to what end? I mean, we originally began to try to provide relief --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, the reason to strengthen --
Q: -- that's all gone. Is the Contact Group peace plan still on the table?
MR. MCCURRY: The reason to strengthen UNPROFOR and make the U.N. presence more effective is, one, you can and it has in the past curbed the conflict itself and kept people alive by limiting the consequences of firing by one side or another, particularly by -- in the use of decisions around the safe areas, it has made them exclusion zones and protected the civilians who live in it. It does all the humanitarian work that I cited earlier.
The protection force itself helps protect those convoys, that humanitarian relief traffic that is important to get back and forth. It does so under great peril under many conditions. But most importantly, if they stay there and keep -- are in a position to limit that conflict, it gives the diplomatic efforts some time to move forward.
Now, there have been a lot of changes on the ground in Bosnia in recent days as a result of the fighting there. There are different notions of what that might mean for any effort to bring about a diplomatic settlement. There are some judgments that parts of these warring parties are crazy, but they're not crazy enough to think that they can stay at war forever and expect to have any prospect of reconstructing or rebuilding their country.
Q: Do you think there is a diplomatic solution possible? Do you, does the U.S. government see something in the past couple of days that gives you any help?
MR. MCCURRY: We continue to work very strenuously, both within the Contact Group and then through the auspices of the E.U. negotiator, Carl Bildt, who has been most recently dealing with the government in Serbia and dealing with others i pursuing the diplomatic path.
Q: Can we get to a new subject at all? Affirmative action. Has the President finalized his decisions on that?
Q: One more question on Bosnia.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q: If I remember, the position the President took during the '92 --
MR. MCCURRY: By the way, Mary Ellen is giving me some thing -- we've got some additional things. We are required to give a six-month report from time to time on sanctions enforcement. So we've got a good piece of paper that comes out. I guess it's going to be out later -- right after this on this. Always helpful to have this before the briefing. Yes.
Q: You might remember the position the President took during the '92 presidential campaign on Bosnia. That was strike and lift, basically. And he wants to --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that that was ever formulated during the course of 1992. I recall that associated with Spring of 1993.
Q: -- official position. Everybody knows about that.
MR. MCCURRY: Right.
Q: He was trying, after moving into the White House, to implement that part. And he has been rebuffed by the French President Mitterrand and Mr. Major, forced to modify his approach and -- Basically, those people are saying that it is not wise to step into aggression and to mass murder if our national interests are not involved. Now, you remember, too, that Margaret Thatcher and now Jacques Chirac are saying that --
MR. MCCURRY: Does this useful history lesson have a question at the end of it?
Q: -- that policy is wrong -- and it is creating all kinds of new disasters. My question is which side is the President on? Is he siding with Mitterrand and Major or is he siding with Chirac, Thatcher and --
MR. MCCURRY: I think that he is working with the government of the United Kingdom and the government of France to attempt to address the situation in Bosnia. Clearly, there have been different options that have been available at different points through the history of this conflict. There were a lot of options that were a lot different had certain decisions come out differently in 1991 when Yugoslavia began to split up. But I'm not going to retrace history and look at that.
If the question, what's the -- the issue on lift and strike was -- our position is that at some point, as a last resort, and the unavoidable circumstances in which UNPROFOR is withdrawn from Bosnia, it's our view that the arms embargo should be lifted multilaterally. And that view, to my knowledge, has not changed.
Q: It sounds like you might be considering going back to just the strike part without the lift part.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to get into that.
Q: Can you give us a read out on the affirmative action meeting --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, let's move on. The President had a good meeting with members of Congress, I think all Democrats; one Republican attended. They had a good review of the --
Q: Which one was it?
Q: Was Amo Houghton the only one?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, yes. And the President did, as he has done in some of these recent sessions, review some of the thrust of the remarks that he will make tomorrow, and the direction the review itself took. He got very good reaction and commentary from members of Congress, some of whom, I think, said on the way out that they looked forward to the President's remarks tomorrow.
Q: Has the President definitely decided exactly what he's going to say about whether he favors race and gender based solutions in all cases, or wants to move to some economic impact in some areas?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President's got a pretty firm idea of what he's going to say tomorrow. He's been giving people some sense of how those remarks will come out.
Q: Can you give us an idea of what the race and gender --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not going to preview his speech.
Q: Will the President or anybody at the White House talked with Jesse Jackson about the content of this before he delivers it?
MR. MCCURRY: The President intends to, if he has not already, call Reverend Jackson. I don't believe it's occurred yet, but they were going to track him down. The Reverend Jackson is in California, I think, as some of you know.
Q: Is this going to be in the nature of a detailed laundry list?
MR. MCCURRY: No, let me help those of you who have got to do an advance for tomorrow since I could be useful if I said the same thing I said Friday again.
He's going to give a broadly thematic address that goes to the heart of the question what's the right way to further our progress toward equal opportunity and social justice in this country. Affirmative action has been a very important tool in breaking down barriers and helping women and racial minorities move ahead in the American workforce. The President is determined to make the case to the American people that that effort has been important, has been successful and it needs to continue until such time we can say that the job is done.
But the job's not done yet, very clearly. And the President is going to talk about how you can take those programs, take that tool make sure it is still effective and make those changes necessary to make sure it's an effective tool to address discrimination and prejudice both in the workforce and in our society and create opportunities for Americans to get ahead. And he will, in addition to that, be releasing details on the several months long study that has been conducted of federal affirmative action programs. That will be a very detailed, comprehensive study of programs that exist in the federal government. And it will make some very specific recommendations on how some of those programs might be improved and might be made to work better.
But the President's remarks themselves at the National Archives tomorrow, I think, will attempt to address the American people in a way that helps them understand the importance of these programs in the life of our nation and why they should continue and why they should be made more effective.
Q: Will there be a briefing here as there was after the religion speech?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q: Who will brief?
MR. MCCURRY: Some type of briefing. I plan to have Mr. Stephanopoulos, Mr. Edley -- and are we going to bring Delinger over, too, or is that not clear? At least George Stephanopoulos, who has been the President's key point person and Chris Edley who has done a lot of the work on it. The two of them will be here tomorrow afternoon.
Q: Will the President cite any case of an affirmative action program that he thinks he has not been successful and should be eliminated or rolled back?
MR. MCCURRY: You'll find inside or throughout the report itself almost like a catalogue of federal affirmative action efforts. How they've worked, how they meet certain standards that the President has put in place on affirmative action and it's quite comprehensive. I don't want to suggest the President's remarks will be like that. I think the President wants to address broader themes so that Americans understand what we should to come together as a country and not use race as an issue to divide us.
QQ: What I'm asking is is there a single example, though, of an affirmative action type program or a program that comes under that banner that the President says was inappropriate and that he would be announcing the elimination of?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll talk about some aspects of these programs that are a problem, yes.
Q: Is this a report that we are going to receive? Who is the report to and from?
MR. MCCURRY: The report is to those within the administration who conducted the review, a memorandum to the President. It's a principle -- it's forwarded to the President by Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mr. Edley who actually conducted the review. There are obviously a lot of people who are cited in the document and who contributed to finally pulling it together from various agencies and from the White House itself.
Q: Does this stem from the Justice Department review of the Adarand decision?
MR. MCCURRY: That's right. That's correct. This is a rather lengthy -- the last, most current draft I've seen because they've had various charts and things they're adding into it -- it's about 97 pages long. It's fairly extensive.
Q: You were just saying releasing it. Do we get to see it?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, our intent is to release it tomorrow probably around 3:00 p.m.
Q: Is the President going to see Daliberti today?
MR. MCCURRY: -- deadline.
Q: Does the President recommend anything that would require legislation?
MR. MCCURRY: The reason for that by the way is because we've got a lot of our people are involved with -- George has been up on the Hill doing a lot of briefings on the Hill. We've got -- everyone involved in this has got very -- has very busy schedules over the last couple of days. And we also want, frankly, want to keep the focus on the President's speech because that puts all of this -- this puts this detailed study, puts it in the right context, we believe. And the President's remarks, we think, are important and deserve the bulk of the focus tomorrow.
Q: Is the President recommending anything that would require legislation?
MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to -- hold that question over for those who will brief tomorrow. I don't think so. I think most of these things are things that we can do within the Executive Branch to improve the performance and effectiveness of these programs. I am not certain whether any of the things that he suggests in there require any legislative acts.
Q: So, Mike, there would be some directives?
Q: Following up on that, basically you said that he will talk about some programs that are a problem. If that's the case, and that you would probably be directing the Justice Department to prepare for an avalanche of lawsuits dealing with these programs that might be a problem. Would you be doing that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, because the Justice Department has already taken steps to be in full compliance with the Supreme Court's decision in Adarand.
Q: In the case of federal set-asides, is it accurate to say that the President is going to set aside a portion of the federal contract monies to businesses in poor communities regarding such --
MR. MCCURRY: That's sounds like a good question for tomorrow.
Q: Mike, does the President hope that this action will dissuade Jesse Jackson from running for President?
MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea and it's not material to the results of the report itself.
Q: Why is he compelled to brief -- to personally brief Jesse Jackson?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, because Reverend Jackson is an enormous -- I mean, we've met now with leaders from all walks of life. We've met with various members of Congress, with civil rights groups, with private sector community, with others who are politically active who care about this issue. Reverend Jackson, suffice it to say, is an enormously important leader in the African American community in America. And it wouldn't make sense not to provide him that type of briefing.
Q: Doesn't he hope that Jackson doesn't run?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't believe there's any basis upon which, within the Democratic Party, someone should challenge this President for the nomination, of course.
Q: If I'm one of these angry white men out there, who feels that --
MR. MCCURRY: You don't look like an angry white male.
Q: -- who feels that affirmative action is working against me, what am I going to hear from the President that might make me feel better?
MR. MCCURRY: A good explanation of why you have common cause with those who are struggling to get ahead, who deserve economic opportunity. And you've heard the President, in a sense, address exactly that question before, if you recall his remarks to the California Democratic Party.
He gave a very specific, and I think quite passionate, appeal to why we have to understand the frustrations that exist in a country in which real incomes for many of those "angry white males," has not risen. The frustration that anybody would have, after seeing 20 years of decline in real wages is easy to understand. These are families that are struggling to make ends meet, and that provokes a lot of anxiety. And that anxiety is sometimes misdirected in believing that others are getting ahead when they're not getting ahead.
So I think the President would be -- my prediction is that he will be passionate and eloquent on that point tomorrow.
Q: Does he have any plans to meet with Richardson and whichever one of the guys is coming back with him, Daliberti or Barloon?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, to follow up on a conversation that he had yesterday with Congressman Richardson while the Congressman was still in Jordan, the Congressman indicated that they'd like to come by after they arrive at Dulles this afternoon. And my understanding is they're going to be here around 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., tonight.
Q: Are they invited to the picnic, too.
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q: Are they invited to the picnic?
MR. MCCURRY: No, they're going to just stop by the Oval for a brief --
Q: Will there be a photo opportunity?
MR. MCCURRY: No. We'll probably just have the stills go in because I know how anxious all of you will be to get to the picnic.
Are we ready to quit since I'm dying up here?
Q: Did the President see any of the Whitewater hearing today? And, second, does the White House have a position on Senator Murkowski's use of Mr. Foster's briefcase?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has been working on Bosnia and his affirmative action speech tomorrow. Today, to my knowledge, he has not seen any of the hearings so far. And I'm sorry, I'm unaware of what you're asking about Senator Murkowski.
Q: Senator Murkowski displayed and shook upside down the briefcase that was used by Mr. Foster, and Senators Kerrey and Dodd objected strongly.
MR. MCCURRY: Congressmen do photo opportunities every day.
Listen, one thing before we quit. Just so you know, we've had to file the Clinton-Gore Committee -- I'm stepping in until such time as we have a fully-fledged press person over at Clinton- Gore '96. So from time to time we'll advise you of things that you should know about from over there. They have filed their --
Q: -- to the government of France --
MR. MCCURRY: They have filed their first quarterly report for the '96 campaign committee that should be available from the Federal Elections Commission today or tomorrow.
It's going to show that the campaign raised a total of $9.338 million. Now, you can go compare that to what some of the folks on the other side have raised. And they have spent about $3.291 million, which leaves a balance cash on hand $6.296 million.
Most of the money that -- a large portion of that money that has been spent is in connection with some of our advertising that I've told you about in the past. There were 93,000 donors to the Clinton-Gore Committee during the 10 weeks in which it's been operational and raising money -- 86,000 of those donors were in response to direct mail solicitation. So, really these represent sort of small guy contributors, small guy and female contributors, so over three-quarters of the total donations to the committee coming from so-called small contributors.
The average contribution on the direct mail was $47 and the average contribution across the whole report is about $100.
Q: Mike, would you go through those numbers again? They don't quite seem to add up.
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q: Would you go through those numbers again?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'll tell you we've got a release we'll put out. We'll put out a release on it and it all adds up, in case I didn't get it right just then.
Q: What do you get for $47?
MR. MCCURRY: You get the satisfaction of participating in the renewal of America, change, restoring hope.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:00 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Mike McCurry Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/270051