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Press Briefing by Mike McCurry

July 20, 1995

The Briefing Room

1:35 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: How might you all be today? I started -- I'm starting a little bit late because I wanted to touch base with some of our friends in London who are traveling with Secretary Christopher, Secretary Perry, and General Shalikashvili. And I will be prepared to take questions on that. But some very important announcements to begin today's briefing:

Born today, Matalin Mary Carville, will be known as Mattie; 21 inches, at 8 pounds, 10 ounces -- a size certain to confirm that it is a Democrat child -- (laughter) -- and not a Republican child. But, obviously, the President and the White House renders best wishes to --

Q: How's Dad?

MR. MCCURRY: Dad's doing fine. And you're correct to ask about Dad. We know Mary would be able to handle that under any circumstances; it's Dad that's probably having the toughest time coping with this happy news.

Q: Has the President phoned either father or mother?

MR. MCCURRY: That's a good question; I'll find out. I'm sure he will want to and that will probably happen later.

Second --

Q: Bosnia.

MR. MCCURRY: No. Second, travel plans. President Clinton will commemorate V-J Day by attending commemorations in Honolulu, Hawaii, during September 1st through 3rd. That marks the 50th anniversary of V-J Day, the end of the war in the Pacific and the end of World War II itself. A series of ceremonies and events designed to honor all veterans of World War II will also remember the air, land and sea battles of the war in the Pacific theater. There's more on that that will be available by paper and additional information will be coming out from the Commemorative Planning Committee. And are they putting that out at the Pentagon or here? Pentagon.

Q: Are any Japanese officials going to be there -- Murayama and --

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check. I believe they've been invited but --

MR. MITCHELL: The Secretary of Defense is hosting and he has invited his counterparts. I'm not sure who has accepted.

MR. MCCURRY: The Secretary of Defense has invited some of his counterparts and we do expect at some appropriate level that the government of Japan will be participating. And we will find out what that level is.

Q: Is the President participating all three days?

MR. MCCURRY: He's got event, I think, in that three-day period. There is a chance, I'll tell you for planning purposes, that he might arrive somewhat earlier. He'll be going there, if all goes well, from his vacation, although in these troubled times, vacation plans might always have to be adjusted.

Q: Is that a signal --

Q: Can you elaborate on that?

Q: What troubles exactly?

Q: Yes, would you like to elaborate on what you --

Q: The 14th has slipped until when?

MR. MCCURRY: I just was putting you on notice that August, as we all know in Washington, always ends up being a busier time than it ought to be.

Now, I will entertain your questions.

Q: Can you tell us anything about the discussions in London?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Anything else?

Q: What did the U.S. put on table?

MR. MCCURRY: Secretary Christopher, so far today, my understanding is, met with Foreign Secretary Rifkind. He just concluded, moments ago, a meeting with Foreign Minister Kozyrev of the Russian Federation. He's also talked, I believe, and met with the Spanish Foreign Minister. He's had discussions with the new French Foreign Minister De Charette, as well. He plans to meet Willie Klaus, the Secretary General of NATO later in the day.

Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili have been having some planning meetings, preparing for a trilateral meeting as the U.K., France, and the United States -- which I think occurs either this evening or first thing tomorrow morning. And then Secretary Perry also plans to meet with Russian Defense Minister Grachev sometime tomorrow.

I will tell you, based on all these discussions, and based on work that we've been doing here in the White House that we feel very encouraged that the United States and Great Britain are coming together on some ideas of how we could address the conflict in Bosnia. And we continue to deal with the French to address questions they have on some ideas that the President has put forward and that I believe Secretary Perry has talked about en route to London.

Q: What happens if the countries can't come to some agreement tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: It would be unfortunate for the Alliance, and it would be a setback in the effort to strengthen UNPROFOR in a way that it can continue to do its assigned mission in Bosnia, as they address the conflict.

Q: Does it make a withdrawal pretty certain?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think it makes it harder for various governments to continue to keep their troops on the ground in Bosnia.

Q: Would you describe --

MR. MCCURRY: Because the assumption would be that there has been not an agreement in the Alliance on how to strengthen UNPROFOR, how to make its mission there more effective, and how militarily to address the current offensive by the Bosnian Serbs.

Q: What's the stumbling block with the French?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not going to get into sensitive aspects of our diplomacy, but they clearly have got some ideas that they've talked about publicly, they feel strongly about it, and we have asked them questions about their ideas. And we have some different views of what would be more militarily effective in the view our top military experts in addressing the situation around Gorazde, around Sarajevo and elsewhere in Bosnia.

Q: Mike, you mention those specific French plans. Has the U.S. formally rejected them?

MR. MCCURRY: No, we have not -- there's never been a formal rejection. There's been a relentless quest for a unified position within the alliance.

Q: Mike, how do you plan to protect UNPROFOR if there were air strikes against the Serbs to avoid the taking of hostages?

MR. MCCURRY: It is, as General Shalikashvili and Secretary Perry said, one concern that we do have under discussion is the fact that there is U.N. personnel that is exposed some in the hands of the Bosnian Serbs, and we've seen past behavior by the Bosnian Serbs that would suggest that they might try to take advantage of that. That is a factor that has to be weighed and considered by the various governments that will be reviewing this issue at the London conference tomorrow.

Q: Do you see a way of avoiding a repeat of what happened in May?

MR. MCCURRY: It would -- there are ways that they can attempt to minimize the risk. There are steps they could take to deter the Serbs from conducting that type of outrageous behavior, but there will inherently be some risk with any option. You consider any effort to make UNPROFOR more robust, Mladic, Karadzic, and company have said they will respond by extracting a price from the U.N. presence or the humanitarian relief organizations that are present in Bosnia. That is just consistent with the despicable behavior of the Bosnian Serbs.

Q: If you're planning air strikes against the Serbs or any military action against the Serbs, how do you counter Mladic's and Karadzic's arguments that you are then becoming a combatant taking one side in the dispute?

MR. MCCURRY: The authority for conducting any effort in Bosnia is clearly set forth in the various U.N. Security Council resolutions that have been passed that authorize the world community to take necessary means to address aggression by whatever party is attempting to violate the territorial integrity of Bosnia Herzegovina. And that authority has been clear in all resolutions and reaffirmed in all resolutions passed by the U.N. Security Council.

Q: Then you don't consider this any change in the status of the UNPROFOR countries?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's a change in the status of UNPROFOR because it is an attempt to make UNPROFOR more effective on the ground to make its mission more militarily realistic.

Q: Karadzic apparently is saying that on June 8 he sent President Clinton a letter suggesting a Camp David kind of meeting and asking the President to get involved on a higher level. Do you know anything at all about that?

MR. MCCURRY: That report surfaced in early June, and we checked into it, and at the time were unaware of any such communication. In any event, it is silly, given the requirements that have been placed on the Bosnian Serbs by the world community, and the clear call by all in the world community for them to cease and desist their current offenses in and around the safe areas and elsewhere in Bosnia.

Q: So it's nothing the President had planned to get personally involved in.

MR. MCCURRY: I can reject that idea out of hand.

Q: Does that mean that the allies at this point are ready to accept the possibility that hostages might be held and might be killed, but would plow ahead regardless of that, and not be held hostage --

MR. MCCURRY: It is by no means accepted. We would absolutely find that appalling. But the hostages are currently being held in some sense that the Ukrainian contingent is being detained in Zepa; and elsewhere, Bosnian Serbs are detaining U.N. personnel. But that is a factor that is being weighed very carefully by those who are now involved in very careful diplomacy about what options we might pursue.

Q: Following up on that, what is President Clinton's opinion of air strikes that would go on, despite the fact that hostages were taken, then would continue?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has weighed very, very carefully recommendations from his foreign policy advisors and from his top military commanders. And we're now involved in some very intense diplomacy with our key European allies and with others to see if we can forge an approach that would be militarily effective. There are a variety of risks associated with anything that is done now by the world community to address the conflict in Bosnia in a more strenuous fashion.

But the question is whether we have to accept some form of risk of that nature in order to protect the innocent civilians of Bosnia and to respond to the mandates that the United Nations Security Council have placed on those who are charged with protecting Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Q: With respect to tomorrow's meeting, do Christopher and Perry have to check back with the President, once some course of action may be agreed upon? Or are they authorized to -- they know what the President's thinking is?

MR. MCCURRY: Based on the very important meeting that the President had with Secretary Perry, Secretary Christopher, General Shalikashvili and others two days ago, he has a lot of confidence that they understand his thinking thoroughly.

Q: Has the President been on the phone today with any world leaders?

MR. MCCURRY: Not yet. I wouldn't rule out the possibility he would be doing that later on today. I know that he has an interest in talking to President Izetbegovic. He might, in addition, want to touch base with Prime Minister Chretien, Chancellor Kohl. He will probably need to talk once again to President Chirac. President Chirac is now travelling in Morocco, I believe, so it might be more difficult to reach him.

Those are all calls that are not at the moment scheduled, but ones that the President indicated that he would like to make. Now, we'll give you, as we can, read outs on any calls that do occur.

Q: A spokesman suggested that it might be time now for the West to resume diplomatic efforts in order to reach a peaceful settlement, one would presume, on their terms. Is it still the U.S. position that the Serbs must give up territory in order to have a peace treaty?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's not only our view that they must give up territory, but the Bosnian Serbs have indicated that they are willing to give up some portion of territory that they have conquered in Bosnia in search for a peace settlement. That has been their view, and the question has been diplomatically over what -- how they can adjust the Contact Group proposal, the 5149 proposal, as a starting point or a premise for further dialogue. That's what the European negotiator, Carl Bildt, has been exploring in his diplomacy recently, and they will be reviewing the need for urgent efforts on the diplomatic front as they meet tomorrow.

Q: Must they now give up Srebrenica and Zepa?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, that is -- the status of those safe areas, under the original Contact Group proposal, would have had them as part of a portion of land that would be within the authority of the Bosnian government. So they clearly, if they use the Contact Group proposal as a starting point for the dialogue as we believe they should, that is the likely starting point that we would want them to assume.

Q: Is Gorazde one of those as well?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I think all of the -- I'm not an authority on the map, but I believe that all of the eastern enclaves are then joined into a corridor that links back through to Sarajevo so that there is a way in which you could have some freedom of movement between the eastern enclaves and Sarajevo itself.

Q: Do we have direct contact with the Bosnian Serbs? I mean, how are we finding out where they want to sue for peace and so forth?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have -- most of the information we have from them comes via the United Nations which has been in contact with them. We have on special occasions had some contact with the Bosnian Serbs, but none recently that I'm aware of.

Q: Well, they are going after the safe zones, so they don't respect the U.N. anymore.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they continue to have dialogue on a variety of issues with the United Nations, including keeping humanitarian routes open to Sarajevo via the Mt. Igman routes. They have been in discussion about the refugee situation arising from the fall of Srebrenica, and also given the situation, around Zepa. So they continue to have discussions both at the civilian level through Karadzic, and at the military level through Mladic. And those are as helpful as you can imagine they would be helpful.

Q: Mike, what, if any, role do you think Russian has at this juncture?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they are very important and critical participant in the Contact Group of nations, the five nations that have worked urgently to address the conflict and to bring diplomacy to bear and trying to bring the conflict to an end. The importance of the meeting today between Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Kozyrev underscores that. We would, of course, want to work closely with the Russian Federation in addressing this conflict and will continue to consult closely with them as we go through the days ahead.

Q: Is there any prospect at all of them, as it enters this London phase, if you will, of them hastening any resolution of this?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have -- we do believe and they acknowledge that they have some measure of influence on the Serbs, on the Serbs in Belgrade and the Serbs in Pale, and we have often asked them to use that influence. And I will leave it to Secretary Christopher's party to describe his meeting today. But it's safe to assume that, once again, we ask them to see what help they could be in the current situation.

Q: Can we move to the police speech?

MR. MCCURRY: Any more?

Q: Has Senator Dole called the President back today to confirm, firm up his answer on --

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. And I believe we anticipate Senator Dole saying whatever he wished to say on the schedule of the Senate.

Q: Mike, can you tell us --

Q: Can I just ask one more on Bosnia?


Q: Just in terms of planning and how things happen, tomorrow after the meeting, will there be an announcement with everybody involved in the meeting, and would -- let's say the U.S. contingent then come back and talk to the President on Saturday morning? What do you expect for the weekend?

MR. MCCURRY: I would just check with those of your colleagues travelling with the two Secretaries and with the Chairman because they'll be able to tell you the. The last I heard, the last information I had was that they were speculating on some type of chairman's statement that would issued under the auspices of the U.K. But that clearly could change depending on how the meeting goes tomorrow.

So I'd advise you to check directly with your colleagues. I know that they -- both Secretaries and the Chairman are going to be reporting in here, and the President is going to be following closely the nature of the deliberation. So he probably will have a fairly good readout of what's occurred at the London conference sometime prior to the weekend.

Q: But in terms of his own involvement or public profile on the question this weekend, have you got any sense of --

MR. MCCURRY: I know that I've given you some sense that he might be engaged in this today. We'll see how the meeting goes tomorrow, and then we'll see what further steps are necessary as a result of the meeting tomorrow.

Q: Can you tell us who the President was specifically referring to when he talks about those elected officials making the moral equivalency of either what the police did in Waco with what was going on in the compound or with incidents like the roundup with what went on?

MR. MCCURRY: The President -- I won't point fingers at particular members, but I'll suggest that there have been a variety of comments made by those participating in the hearings. I think you can intelligently sort those out and see who have been making arguments that would approximate the analysis of the President. Q: Henry Hyde said today on the record that the NRA has no

role, either official or unofficial, in the hearings. Is it still your position, as I believe you said, that the NRA is choreographing the hearings?

MR. MCCURRY: The NRA bought and paid for the congressional investigation that's underway here. They are clearly using this -- they are using these hearings for fundraising purposes, among others. They are using these hearings to advance their own objectives.

And it's basically the Republican majority has ceded to this very extreme special interest group the integrity of the United States Congress. And that's appalling. And it's flabbergasting that they would even proceed with these hearings without having figured out some way to segment out any participation by the NRA.

And the White House view is that several of the members today calling for a panel to examine the NRA's involvement in these hearings seems very much warranted.

Q: Mike, if that is the case, why have things, at least for the first couple of days, been going, one would say, in your favor? You've had some real strong testimony --

MR. MCCURRY: Because every once in a while the truth prevails. And we had a very -- we had a real dose of the truth yesterday. And as to Representative Hyde's comments,the New York Times reports today on a conversation that in case the chairman of the committee was well aware of the NRA's involvement prior to the trip they took to Texas in June.

So, clearly, there is a dispute as to what the facts are. That's why it seems all the more reason to have a panel that can really get to the bottom of this by putting people under oath and finding out what the true facts are.

Q: So do you think whatever the sponsorship or perversion in your view of how the hearings came about, they're actually being conducted in an appropriate way?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they've had some witnesses who are clearly providing some information about what life was like inside the compound. And the President addressed himself to that today, and there will be opportunity for appropriate questions to be addressed as the President indicated today.

But that's why it's so necessary for them to, you know,cut out this cancer that now surrounds this hearing as a result of the NRA hijacking the proceedings and choreographing the testimony that some key witnesses are to give.

Q: Mike, what kind of reaction has the White House received on the President's speech yesterday on affirmative action? And does the President believe this is a political plus for him?

MR. MCCURRY: It's -- in fact, it's so much of a soft ball, I'm not going to respond. (Laughter.)

No, we -- the President is very, very encouraged by a lot of the comments that we've gotten, including those who, I would say, were not necessarily the ones that you'd predict being the most enthusiastic. Clearly, there were a lot of enthusiastic comments about the speech yesterday.

But there were also people who clearly heard the President's argument yesterday and I think they were -- found compelling that you can protect these programs and, as he said, you can mend them so that they can continue to play a life in the American workplace. And even those that you might -- the thing I think that was so encouraging about the response to the speech was that, across the spectrum, you saw a very positive response from organizations that very often had been in conflict when it comes to questions like race and like affirmative action.

So people who are not naturally allies seem to give the President the benefit of the doubt. Now, on the far extreme right, you have candidates who want to take the President's job away from him. And you have, presumably, candidates who -- or people who are more in thinking the kind of extreme position on affirmative action, that we need to abolish all these efforts, that had negative reactions. But I guess that's not to be unexpected.

The thing that's so encouraging about the response is that they cross a broad spectrum. There seem to be some universally positive comments. And obviously, the editorial commentary has been very positive, and the President is appreciative of that.

Q: Are you counting the phone calls coming in? How are they stacking up?

MR. MCCURRY: We do, but I haven't. I did not check today and see what type of response there was of that nature. I can see if we've got some figures and put that together tomorrow.

Q: Mike, in the White House view, what is the relationship between what was going on inside the Branch Davidian compound and the way law enforcement agencies handled the siege and its conclusion?

MR. MCCURRY: That's a question that goes right to the heart of what I believe those who are most familiar with the facts are going to testify about. And I don't think it would be appropriate for me to enter into that. That goes to the judgment of what law enforcement officials felt was necessary in order to protect those who were in the compound, and to carry out their responsibilities as law enforcement officers. That's subject matter that is being testified upon.

Q: Do you see any sort of mitigating circumstances?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think that it's clear that the --I just, look, that is -- there will be sworn testimony on aspects of that. I just think it would be improper for me to try to recount that. There are people who are going to testify on behalf of the administration to exactly that point, because yes, there was a critical connection there. And they're going to describe exactly what it was.

Q: Mike, does the White House have any reaction on the House's vote last night on Mexico, in terms of cutting off aid? And also, the second part of that question is, is there any way for the White House to use its own authority to sort of overrule Congress on this one?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we concur with the statement that was put out by the Secretary of the Treasury last night. He indicated that we had a substantial concern and outright opposition to Congressman Sanders' legislation. And the President would note that, remember, we had bipartisan support for this package from the congressional leadership.

And that's important because, I think, to the President, because he had to act on his own authority to address the Mexican economic crisis. And because he did so with the support of the congressional leadership, he is now, I think, somewhat disappointed that there is an effort to second guess and Monday-morning-quarterback that decision.

The important thing is, the President was right. And what we did is now, in our estimation, working and helping put the Mexican economy back on track. But I will defer to Secretary of the Treasury Rubin to comment on it at greater length.

Q: Mike, does the President have any view about the plan of Senators Dole and Simon to greet Madame Cheng? Does he think that's appropriate?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, members of Congress can have those types of meetings or do the type of travel they often do when they go to Taiwan. But our view is the one that we've consistently stated; our policy on China is the one that we've stated. And we, ourselves, would have meetings that would be consistent only with our policy of having unofficial relations with Taiwan.

Q: Back to the senator's proposal -- does the Senate have to approve it also? And would the President veto it?

MR. MCCURRY: Let's see. I'm not sure where they are on congressional consideration. I'd ask you to call over to the Treasury; they can tell you more.

Q: Would the President veto it if it comes --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, if they take away our authority to pursue the economic recovery program that is necessary in Mexico because it's in our economic interests, I think the President would have substantial concern about that and would look at it and weigh the measure accordingly.

Q: Later today the House is also going to take up the agriculture appropriations bill that includes changes in food stamps and caps on WIC. Is he going to veto that?

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't checked on that legislation. I don't know enough about it to give the President's views. But I'll check and maybe you could ask tomorrow.

Q: Rescissions -- what happened yesterday that fell through, and where is the understanding today?

MR. MCCURRY: The latest I have in talking to our legislative affairs staff and Mr. Panetta's staff, who have been in very close contact within the last hour with the Hill, is that they're working hard on trying to get an agreement so we can move ahead with $16 billion worth of rescissions and a very substantial deficit reduction. We remain hopeful that that might occur, and might occur sooner rather than later.

Q: What's the holdup now?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's, as there often is in a critical piece of legislation, some sticking points at the end of the road that we're trying to unstick. Or get unstuck.

Q: Did the President see Gephardt and Daschle -- did the President see them earlier this week on Medicare and is he involved in a big Medicare ceremony on the Hill next week?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are a variety of discussions about budget that are underway. There is a commemorative event coming up fairly soon on the 30th anniversary of Medicare and -- of Medicare. And I believe the President is going to see, if I'm not mistaken, Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt tomorrow here. So we might talk a little bit further on that some time tomorrow.

Q: Has the President spoken to Wellstone and mostly Braun about the rescissions bill?

MR. MCCURRY: I know he spoke to Senator Wellstone. I believe we've had staff-level contact with Senator Moseley-Braun and others in the Senate as well.

Q: Mike, has there been a decision yet on whether or not Mrs. Clinton will lead the delegation to Beijing?

MR. MCCURRY: Not the last time I checked which was a day or two ago. I haven't heard of any final decision on that.

Q: When does he have to make a decision?

MR. MCCURRY: Prior to the departure. Prior to departure. (Laughter.)

Q: No, I mean, you've withheld the decision for quite some time.

MR. MCCURRY: Mary Ellen, when's the conference? In September, right?


MR. MCCURRY: September sometime.

Q: Mike, now that the President has made the affirmative action speech, does he have any other speeches in mind along this continuing conversation with the American people?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's had, as you know, these series of speeches that really tie together his argument about values that are important in our national life. They started with the speech at Gaston Hall on civility, they included the speech in Nashville, they included the speech recently on school prayer. And I would put yesterday's speech on affirmative action in that category. They were all remarks that I think had the President reflecting in a personal way on his own life experience and then, on the larger questions of values in our life as a nation and how they can be informed by the public debate on a variety of issues.

This is all -- to put into some kind of context -- these all address what the President has talked about over and over again, which is the anxiety many Americans feel as they look ahead to the 21st century. In an economy in which things are doing better, you're creating more jobs, but people don't quite have that sense of security. There are many aspects of insecurity that exist.

Q: But I think you're filibustering here. The question is --

MR. MCCURRY: No, no.

Q: -- is there another one in the series and what is it and when is it?

MR. MCCURRY: I want to answer the question, Rita, but I'm going to take an opportunity to lay out some stuff that might be helpful to people. Do you mind if I do that? Okay.

Q: We've heard this before.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, hear it again.

So he's going to take -- he's going to take these speeches and then, addressing some of the anxieties that people feel, then come back and link it up to some of the economic anxieties that people feel, which make the discussions underway and coming up soon about budget so important.

You know, if people they were thinking about why is my quality of life not going to be better and why am I worried about that and why do I worry whether my kids are going to have a better life -- it's not only those things that kind of impact the family and impact their sense of what's happening within their communities and what's happening to their own physical security because of crime or because of the erosion of morale values, but it's also -- you know, what's happens is they thing about am I going to have enough money for retirement, am I going to have enough income to put away enough for my kids college education -- those things are linked. And that sense anxiety that people feel is joined around those issues.

So in other words -- to answer your question -- they're going to link these speeches up, maybe tie them together and then link them directly to some of the coming fights over budget. And I suspect over the next couple weeks you'll see the President joining these arguments about values to some of the arguments about economics that are embedded in the fights over budget priorities that we're going to turn to next.

Q: Mike, there was a period when the President would express some frustration that he hadn't had a chance to do this kind of thing enough.

MR. MCCURRY: Say again?

Q: There was a period back last winter and spring when the President was said to be expressing frustration that he hadn't had the chance to do that kind of thing enough --


Q: To lay out those sorts of themes, make those broad -- how's he felt about what he said and the reaction to it? Has he felt he's kind of got some of this out of his --

MR. MCCURRY: He feels like he's getting down to the heart of the argument that he wants to make about America in the 21st century and about the difference sense that he has of what that future will be like when he looks at what he sees the Republican alternative looking like as we go into budget debates and as we hear -- begin to hear others emerging in the political debate that will inform part of the campaign next year.

I think he feels real comfortable that he's laying out an argument that is about both values and about the morale life of the country and about the need for growing this economy, joined together to address what he thinks are the central issues that are on the minds of many, many Americans. And that's important for him because he feels very rooted in his own personal life experience as he then addresses what he thinks lies ahead for the country as we think about the 21st century.

Q: Should we expect this next speech next week, or this any kind of time frame on it?

MR. MCCURRY: I think there will be a series of speeches that will take up some of the issues that relate to the economic security of Americans. And as I say, they will build on the series of four speeches that really talk about the morale life of the American people.

Q: Is he ever going to hold a news conference again?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Actually, we were just talking about that the other day. And we're trying to figure out how you work that in the schedule given the other things that we were doing, and we didn't see a lot of time on the calendar but we were thinking about maybe in a week or so.

Q: Could you give a sense of what he'll be doing tomorrow or just a general overview --

MR. MCCURRY: I refer to my colleagues at the end.

Q: Does the President see a role for George Bush in China and does George Bush see a role for George Bush in China?

MR. MCCURRY: I told many of you that the President, after the unveiling of the portrait, had an opportunity to visit with President Bush, they had a private conversation one on one. I only asked the President what subjects they covered. And since he did say that they talked about China I would need to go back with him and ask him that question. I'm not aware of any effort currently to employ the good services of the former President in any diplomatic fashion.

But to be absolutely sure of that I would like to ask the President.

Q: Is the President going to go to this Doug Wilder fundraiser?

MR. MCCURRY: Can I refer that question to Ginny Terzano who looked into that and has got the answer. I didn't have a chance to check on that. I believe he is, but check on that.

Q: The Republicans are planning to start advancing legislative proposals in amendments next week and affirmative action programs. How does the White House plan to counter that? And, also, this Gore board plan to add an additional classification, when are you going to come forward with that?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the President feels that he did a very good job countering those arguments yesterday by building -- by attempting to build a very broad argument that would lend support to affirmative action programs as they exist. I think he provided a very effective rebuttal yesterday to the argument that we have to abolish these programs and assume that discrimination is all done with in the United States -- that we have managed to address the issues of prejudice, the barriers that exist to advancement in careers and on the question of nurturing and providing equal opportunity, that somehow or other, you know, we waved a wand and we solved it and we can go ahead and abolish these programs.

That's clearly not the case. The Supreme Court made it clear that that's not the case in the recent Adarand decision, and I think the President laid out a pretty effective argument yesterday on why we need these programs and why we shouldn't, you know, now consign them to the ash heap of history as many in the Republican party would do.

I noted parenthetically in part of the reaction to the speech, there are some stories today about how there's now a very large disagreement developing in the Republican party over how to address the issue of affirmative action. I think some of those who are political candidates got well out in front arguing for elimination of these programs, while many of the leadership folks in the Republican party in Congress are saying, well, wait a minute, we need to have a more thoughtful view.

And I think the President's encouraged by that in some sense because he believes that perhaps in Congress there is a sentiment to try to find some common ground approach and that those who are using this as a political issue or as a wedge issue might somehow now be frozen off to the extreme in the dialogue which is where, clearly, the President placed them yesterday.

Q: Mike, getting back to rescission bill, at the beginning of the month, I understand Alice Rivlin sent a memo to agencies not to spend the money so it could still be rescinded. But is there a drop day, date under the Anti-involvement Act looming? How long can you keep that money afloat and still not run afoul of the law that says you've got to spend what's appropriated?

MR. MCCURRY: That's a good question. I'll have to take it because -- let's get Barry or someone to kind of outline at what point under the rescissions bill do you lose the effectiveness of the reductions themselves and at what point can they no longer -- at what point under law do you have to spend the money as appropriated by Congress.

Q: You've only got 70 days left in this fiscal year.

MR. MCCURRY: That's a good point, and a good question, and I don't know the answer so we'll get it. Thank you.

END 2:12 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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