Press Briefing by Press Secretary Mike McCurry, Assistant to the President for International Economic Policy Dan Tarullo and Chair of the Council on Environment Quality Katie Mcginty
New York, New York
2:45 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Let me describe a little logistically what we are going to do to you right now, and then I'll come up and do any other subjects you want. Principally, we've got a bunch of folks here who can talk about the various initiatives the President will put forward in his speech before the United Nations later today.
The President sees this as a great opportunity to talk about the progress in the last five years since Rio, and will have some very specific ideas that he'll share in a relatively short address this evening. To brief you on it, I've asked Katie McGinty, who is the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; and Dan Tarullo, who is Assistant to the President for International Economic Policy to brief. We've got some other folks who can help with specifics -- Secretary Wirth, of course, among others. And then I will answer any other questions you may have.
We've got fact sheets which you've now received. I'm hopeful that by 4:00 p.m. or so we'll have an advanced text that will hold up pretty well for this evening, which will make everyone's life easier. And we're getting that from the plane. The President, of course, is now en route from Arkansas here.
So with that, I guess Katie first, then Dan.
MS. MCGINTY: Good afternoon. The President will deliver a very strong address today that generally measures our progress since Rio and specifically is a strong call to action on the issue of climate change.
Rio, generally, the President will recognize that we have made progress since Rio. One, the presence of world leaders here, the attention that heads of state have been paying to these issues is demonstrable evidence that these issues are still of top concern.
Second, substantively, with U.S. leadership, we have made strong progress, for example, in protecting the oceans. The United States led the world to what we now have, a global ban on the dumping of radioactive waste at sea, a charge from Rio. The United States led the world now to agreeing to phase out what we call the deadly dozen, the 12 worst chemicals that wash off the land into the sea and kill fish. The U.S. also led the world now to a treaty that will sustainably manage fish resources which we know have dramatically been declining.
Population, another area where we have made significant progress. The Cairo Conference on Population that issued from Rio brought the world to a new understanding that women's empowerment, education, economic opportunity, health care need to be part of the package of things the nations of the world work on to take on the issue of rapid population growth.
But the President will very specifically recognize the real challenges that remain -- hemorrhaging losses of biodiversity, the species that are so critical to us in any number of ways; rapid clear-cutting and burning of the forest still a big problem for us.
Most specifically, the President will zero in on the issue of climate change. The President and Vice President both agree that from an environmental, economic, and national security perspective, climate change is an issue of enormous import to the United States. The President will state clearly that the science on this issue is clear and compelling: humans are changing our climate.
The President will also state clearly that industrial nations, including most particularly the United States, bear a special responsibility here. He will recognize that the United States, with just 4 percent of the world's population, emits more than 20 percent of the gases that are a problem when it comes to climate change. Having recognized that, he will declare definitively that this must and will change, that the United States will take this issue on as we work with others around the world, and specifically developing countries, to have them come on board as part of the solution, too.
To underscore the seriousness of purpose here, the President will make clear his intention, intensively to engage the American people in this issue as these summer months unfold, and indeed into the early fall, where the President will chair a White House conference on this issue to enable us to fashion a policy, a consensus among the American people, and have us present that then to the world community in Kyoto as these climate discussions come to their culmination.
The President's objective here is to build a consensus to enable the United States to achieve in Kyoto a strong American commitment to binding limits that will significantly decrease emissions of greenhouse gases.
Two final points: There has been much discussion about the targets and timetables, what are the specific numbers, and some criticism that we have not yet identified those numbers. The President welcomes the leadership and the attention and concern the European Community and others have paid to this issue, but we need to know when numbers are put on the table that we will be mobilized actually to achieve them. And in that regard, we're concerned that Europe, for example, has issued a report saying their emissions will actually increase by 8 percent by the year 2010. So we need to get realistic binding targets that we actually can and will achieve.
Last point: To bolster our efforts, the President will announce several very significant steps. First of all, he will underscore that the important clean air rules he announced yesterday are the first step on our climate effort. They put us on the right track because the technologies that will be used to achieve those clean air targets are the very same technologies that will help us reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Second, the President will launch today a campaign on a million solar roofs, to place solar panels on a million roofs around this country by the year 2010. There is a billion-dollar market for solar technology right now. It's estimated to increase to $10 billion. What the President is saying is that he wants U.S. companies to be in the lead in developing and deploying those technologies.
Related to that, he will have a comprehensive technology charge that he issues to his Cabinet, calling on them to delve into their resources, our national labs, our Department of Commerce, Department of the Army and the various military resources we have, technological opportunities to take on the climate challenge.
Third -- or fourth, the President will also announce a billion dollar package of initiatives with the developing countries to enable them to invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and pursue technologies that will allow them to have economic growth without polluting the environment -- again, paving the way for U.S. economic opportunity, U.S. technologies to fuel that economic growth.
And, finally, our Overseas Private Investment Corporation, OPIC, will announce today a new and rigorous set of rules through which they will analyze their investments to ensure that we are investing in environmentally sound technologies.
Taken together, all of these things will help put us on the right track to take on this climate issue, which the President and Vice President recognize as one of the most serious challenges that we do face today. Thank you.
MR. TARULLO: I don't have anything to add to Katie's presentation. I'm just available to answer any questions.
Q: Do you have a date for the conference?
MS. MCGINTY: We don't have a specific date to mention today, but it will be in the early fall.
Q: Mike, this, like race, sort of says, the President gets it, but the American people don't. Is that a politically sustainable position from which to argue for change in the environment?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I would make a distinction between these two issues: One is a deep personal issue that I think affects Americans in any number of different ways; the issue of global climate change is one that's driven by the science as we've come to better understand it. Remember, even a decade ago there was some disagreement about the nature of the science, but within this past year I think over 2,000 scientists have now come to some conclusion, and that requires a period of education so Americans understand that.
But I think it's easy for Americans to grasp the concept of beaches that they've enjoyed being under water, losing acres and acres of sensitive marsh land because of rising ocean levels, the kinds of temperature changes, extreme changes in weather that we're experiencing even today. So I think people will begin to understand that, but they need to understand that there is something that can be done about it, and they need to be -- it needs to be demonstrated to them that the cost of dealing with the problem are worth the benefit over the long-term of the kinds of policies that would be implemented jointly by the world community.
Q: Ms. McGinty, leaders of a number of the environmental organizations just had a press conference across town, and the thrust of all of their remarks was that, unless the President set a firm target and timetable tonight, that it would not break new ground and they would be very disappointed. Can you, just for the record, explain why you've chosen not to set, as part of your policy today, a firm target?
MS. MCGINTY: This presentation does break new ground. The President states clearly and unequivocally that the science is clear and compelling on this, states clearly and unequivocally that the United States will take this issue on, states clearly and unequivocally that we are going to work in Kyoto to a legally binding agreement that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is a vision for moving forward that, frankly, we haven't had from any country yet.
I want to come back to the point. It's one thing to just hypothesize about numbers and put them out there. That, frankly, is what happened in Rio five years ago. How many nations have actually met those numbers and those targets that were thrown out there? The President is serious about this issue, and that means before we just put a number out there, we want to make sure we have galvanized our resources so that we will achieve those very real emissions reductions.
The purpose of this engagement on this issue is not just for us to educate the American people. The President is going to be calling business to come forward, our universities and academic community to come forward to deliver solutions. This is about putting the package together, putting the ideas together and achieving real reductions in emissions.
Q: But when you say that the goal is to get realistic, binding targets, I take it you don't accept what the EU endorsed as a realistic target.
MS. MCGINTY: Even from a -- just practically speaking, when you look at the year 2005, it is impossible to achieve 15 to 20 percent reductions in that time period. We won't even have a framework until 1998. Then we need to try to ratify that agreement, which could be at least another year, maybe two. Then we need to pass implementing regulations, which could be another year, maybe two. All of a sudden it's at least 2004, and it's a little hard to believe that in 12 months' time you can achieve a 20 percent reduction in emissions.
So just looking at the practicalities of time, it doesn't add up. And I have to go back to the European Union's own analysis that came out this week. It's one thing to talk about 15 percent reductions in emissions; their analysis is that they will realize 8 percent increases in emissions.
This is not to criticize. We appreciate the concern and the leadership that's being shown. It's just to say that we want to do this with the kind of seriousness of purpose that says, we know that we will get there and we will have the technologies, the business community, academics and others mobilized to help us get there.
Q: By saying that the EU goal is unrealistic, is it a way for you to, in fact, avoid the tough decisions you will have to make?
MS. MCGINTY: No. And again, we do welcome -- and welcome the leadership, the commitment of the European Union, and sincerely hope that they are able to achieve that goal. The schedule I have just outlined I think makes it clear for the United States it is unrealistic. We cannot get there from here in that time frame.
Q: But they do not want 20 percent by 2005; they want 15 percent by 2010. So, I mean, that's not what you mentioned.
MS. MCGINTY: And some countries, 20 percent.
Q: Some countries, but that's not the official position of the EU.
MS. MCGINTY: Well, some countries it is 20 percent. In other countries outside of the European Union are also 20 percent by 2005. I think the position of the environment community, in fact, would be 20 percent by 2005.
Q: Where could the United States get by 2010? If you know you can't get there by 2005, where can you get by 2010?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, we do think we can achieve significant emissions, reductions in emissions. But the point --
Q: And quantify that.
MS. MCGINTY: The point, though, of this engagement -- mobilization of our labs, mobilization of the business community during the course of this summer and early fall -- is to fill in that blank. If we knew that answer, we could say that today. But the fact is that the President really wants to hear from labor, from the business community, from universities, what can we do.
Q: And why hasn't that been done in the last four years?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, it has been done in the last four years. But let's keep in mind, in the last four years we have been working towards the implementation of the Rio agreement which looked at what can we do by the year 2000. Now we've entered the next stage, at the U.S. insistence, by the way, to say that what we've done so far isn't sufficient, and the question now before us is what can we do beyond the year 2000. And so it's a new question that we are undertaking.
Q: You suggested a parallel between this situation and the ozone situation that was just resolved or begun to be resolved yesterday. The administration had an enormous fight over those regulations, and that will probably continue for sometime. Don't you think this is -- magnitude more complicated and difficult than that was, and given that, what do you see as the political outcome of this?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, let me say, first of all, that the connection here is that some of the technologies that will be used to achieve the new clean air protections that were put in place yesterday will have the simultaneous benefit of also reducing carbon dioxide emissions. One way that that happens, for example, is that some industries will choose to meet the new protections by switching from dirtier fuels to, for example, natural gas. Natural gas doesn't only have fewer particulates, which was one of the subjects of the President's action yesterday, it also has, or generates, less carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases. So the only point is to say that these goals are mutually reinforcing, and that the action yesterday is a significant help.
MR. TARULLO: Katie -- let me just add a couple of observations which I think are relevant to Katie's answers to several of your questions. First, it's important to bear in mind that none of the proposals that is out on the table right now from any source will solve the problem of global warming. All of these proposals are first steps in an exercise that ought to be defined by its success in creating a framework within which policies will be developed over the course of the next five, six, seven, or eight decades to combat the problem of global warming. It is a cumulative problem which will require a cumulative solution.
The second point which Katie has alluded to is that there is a variety of views among the nations of the world. Many of you were out in Denver. You heard the particular EU proposals. There are, as Katie indicated, proposals, particularly from the some of the island nations, which would go even further. There are proposal from other countries, or at least inclinations and instincts and expressions of position from other countries, that would go not very far at all. There really is a continuum that I think people haven't heard as much about.
The third point I'd make is that it was the United States, and specifically in the person of Tim Wirth, who is standing to my left, who really framed the issues last summer, who provided a framework that included talking about binding targets, included talking about the approaches that ought to be taken to achieve those binding targets, and included talking about the necessity for universality of participation in solving this problem.
I think when you take all three of those points into context, you see that this is really only an opening chapter which needs to be treated as such. It is not the final solution, no matter who proposes it.
Q: Yes, a couple of things. One is, in Kyoto -- or in the President's speech today, will we have any reference to the fact that unless the developing world signs up to some kind of agreements, then America is not going to play ball? And secondly, also, how does the American President plan to achieve -- educate people, American people, through advertising or something like that? And thirdly, when are you going to ratify the biodiversity agreements at Rio? You talked about hemorrhaging of wild life, but you haven't ratified that yet.
MS. MCGINTY: Let me take the third one first, which is, we will continue our discussion with Senator Helms on that matter, and I wouldn't want to predict a date, but we continue to try to achieve that objective. We did, however, sign the Biodiversity Convention, which was one of the very first directives that the President made in 1993, reversing the position of the previous administration.
On developing countries, the United States has articulated a framework on the climate issue overall that really has three elements. One is that we do need legally binding emissions limits. We've learned from 1992 that the voluntary steps have not proven sufficient. Second, we need flexibility in implementation so that we can employ the most cost-effective measures possible to achieve those emissions reductions. But third, and importantly, we have underscored that this is a global problem, and while industrial countries need to take the lead, developing countries must be part of the solution also. And we have proposed a framework that would envision the graduation, if you will, of developing countries into this issue as their economies become more robust, that they join us in being part of the solution here.
Your second question, just briefly, the President wants to engage the American people as intensively as possible. That might involve regional conferences of some kind. It may involve specific kinds of events with different groups that are part of this business -- labor, universities. We have not put the entire game plan together of what every element will involve, but this will be a very serious effort. The President will be deploying his Cabinet and, as he will say today, he and the Vice President personally will be involved.
MR. TARULLO: Three additional quick points on developing countries. First, it is, undoubtedly, the case that the developed countries are the source of most of the current greenhouse emissions. Secondly, sometime in the second to third decade of the next century, the developing countries -- what are now the developing countries -- will account for a majority of global greenhouse gas emissions. Third, whatever the source and the shifting sources of those emissions, the developing countries will be disproportionately affected by the phenomenon of global warming, because, when one moves closer to the Equator, the effects will be more concentrated and there will be less of a trade-off between benign and malign effects.
So I think if you put those things together, you see that there is an obvious interest in having developing countries involved. We cannot have a successful response over the medium-term without the developing countries and, ultimately, their interests are at the upper end of the interests we all share.
Q: At what level will U.S. representation be in Kyoto? Who goes?
UNDER SECRETARY WIRTH: Well, we will. The State Department will be the lead negotiator with a team from all of the different agencies --
Q: Is the President or the Vice President going?
UNDER SECRETARY WIRTH: I don't think any of those decisions have been --
MS. MCGINTY: That will come to us from the United Nations in terms of what the protocol will be and the level of representation. I don't know that that issue has been engaged yet or addressed.
Q: And can you get us to a billion on this AID --I can see 600 --
MR. HALE: Let me introduce the answer to that specifically by playing off of one of Dan's points. It is very clear that the concerns that he listed are very serious ones for developing countries. They are concerned that if we move forward to address climate change that it will perhaps restrict their own growth options and it will cause them to use scarce resources that might otherwise go into other forms of development.
The $1 billion initiative that the President is proposing today is designed to affect both of those points of view. The $1 billion is within the budget projections for the next five years -- $750 million of that is in grants and aid; another $250 million or so will be available through credit guarantees or loans which will try to promote smart investments, effective investments in the kind of technology that lets growth continue while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Q: What's mechanism by which these would be legally binding?
MS. MCGINTY: The treaty itself would be constructed so that its provisions become binding on signatories. Most treaties have been binding. You look at the Montreal protocol, for example. There are provisions in there that make it a binding obligation on countries to reduce these emissions. That means you take the treaty, you go home to your home parliament or your home congress, and you pass legislation which is binding on you to achieve whatever targets are in there.
When the Montreal protocol, which talked about ozone-depleting chemicals -- the treaty itself said -- the first iteration of it said you have to reduce them by 50 percent. The United States had to come home then from those negotiations, go to the Congress and pass legislation which is legally binding which has reduced emissions now not only by 50 percent, but the treaty has been amended; our legislation has been amended fully to phase out CFCs.
Q: Is there some kind of regime of monitoring and penalties for governments that don't meet the goal?
MS. MCGINTY: That would be negotiated as part of this as well, yes, that you would have some enforcement mechanisms that would be part of the overall regime.
Q: Also, if I could follow up on your comments about the European goals being unrealistic, do you understand their position? What makes the United States see this so much more clearly than somebody like Tony Blair or Helmut Kohl who are not regarded by the administration as unrealistic thinkers on most issues?
MS. MCGINTY: Let me be clear about that. The schedule I articulated is the schedule that the United States would have to deal with in this issue. For the United States, those numbers are not realistic. We could not achieve them, just given the legal steps we know need to go through before an emissions reduction regime would even take hold.
Now, for Europe, we are very hopeful that they can meet the targets they have set for themselves, and welcome their leadership in that regard. So it's a difference between what we know we would need to do here in the United States to begin to achieve those emissions reductions and whatever they may need to do in their own respective parliament.
MR. TARULLO: Let me add a couple of things on that score. So far as I'm aware, Katie, we don't -- we have not heard implementation plans or exactly how they would get to these targets. And those, I should add, were not discussed in Denver at all. A number of the leaders asked some of the European leaders whether they had specific plans, and those were not discussed.
Secondly, as I think many of you know, the target that has been offered by the European Union does not apply to each of their countries. Some countries would be able to increase emissions from 1990 levels; others would be decreasing from 1990 levels. In that regard, there has been fairly widespread acknowledgement that Germany occupies a serendipitous position in so far as 1990 was just about the time that East Germany was incorporated into Germany. East Germany, as you know, has a substantial amount of very inefficient, very high carbon-burning industry, which in the succeeding years has been transformed, obviously, just by the use of basic Western technologies and also by the fact that a lot of it was inefficient even with that energy utilization.
So the period from 1990 to today is a bit of an anomalous position -- or anomalous period, particular for Germany, and thus, to some degree, the discussion is about what the appropriate baselines are, not just about whether one is committed to reductions or not.
Q: Does the foreign aid use of this package represent any significant uptick in aid for those countries? And if so, what are the numbers?
MR. HALE: I don't think we can tell yet which countries will participate in the package in a way to tell which countries might be winners or losers in terms of overall aid as a result of it. What we believe very deeply, though, is that countries can have sustainable development and they can do that in ways that are much more effective in reducing greenhouse gases, and that many of our programs which currently invest in resource management -- tropical forests, for example -- can also use our funds much more effective in order to provide carbon sinks.
So what we believe in this package is that there will be net winners on both sides of the equation as we make this investment in the countries that AID works with.
The ODA -- one of the issues here, of course, is the shrinking amount of ODA. The most recent OECD figures show an increase in U.S. ODA from '95 to '96. And if you look at the budget projections over the next five years, the requests, as we anticipate them, will be slightly increasing.
Q: Katie, you talked about welcoming European leadership on this issue. But isn't what the European leaders are complaining about the fact that Americans aren't showing leadership when it comes to setting clear short-term goals for greenhouse emissions?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, if the only issue in climate change was to put a number out there, I guess that would be true. But the objective here, unfortunately, is much larger and much more complicated than that. How do we structure this agreement, for example, so that we make sure industrial countries are taking the lead, but that developing countries are also being part of this effort as well. The United States has articulated the framework for getting that done. How do we ensure that, as we take on this huge environmental challenge, we will have the economic resources to get the job done? The United States has taken the lead in putting that framework forward, joint implementation, emissions, trading.
How can we ensure that in the years after 2000 we will do better than we have in the years leading up to 2000? The United States took the lead there, too, and said, we need the legally binding treaty, not just targets, not just nice words --legally binding, realistic emissions reductions.
Q: What happens if the Chinese don't sign on to this agreement? Would you explain the scenario that would play out?
MS. MCGINTY: More days like we're feeling today. That's a very problematic scenario. China is already the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, behind the United States. If China continues to experience the rates of economic growth that they witnessed over the last several years, that means their emissions will continue to sky-rocket, particularly if they use coal, for example, to fuel that economic growth. So the upshot is that this job gets much more difficult if China, and, frankly, the rest of the developing countries, don't become part of the solution. In fact, we cannot meet the climate challenge unless developing countries become part of the solution.
That's where the President's leadership, also with this AID initiative, is so important. We want to help the developing countries to become part of the solution, but the bottom line is they have to be part of it or we cannot win on this issue.
Q: Katie, do you expect after he consults with business leaders and scientific leaders that we will know what his -- what he thinks is a realistic goal before Kyoto?
MS. MCGINTY: That certainly is the objective. And as you will hear him say today, we must and we will bring to the Kyoto Conference in December a strong American commitment to realistic and binding limits that will significantly reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. So the point of this effort is to put together the strategy that will achieve that goal.
Q: Will we know what the goals are when you're heading over there?
MS. MCGINTY: I believe that would absolutely be the case, but we'll see what the upshot of our effort is here.
Q: You had said that what you're trying -- what the goal is, is to not just have words. How can you explain to the Europeans, who what they really want are specific emission targets, that what you're doing today is not just mere words and rhetoric saying, we know best?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, the point of the effort we are launching is specifically to get to the point where targets and timetables, if you will, can be agreed in Kyoto; and further, targets and timetables that are realistic, legally binding, and that will achieve significant emissions reductions. We aren't there in terms of saying, today these are the targets and timetables we want, but the whole point of this very intensive engagement the President will be announcing is to get us to that place so we can have a successful result in Kyoto.
Q: But all you're doing is just pledging to do what the Europeans want you to do, which is to set targets?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, we are committed -- this isn't just a matter of the Europeans wanting us to do this. The United States has been part of this effort on climate change from the beginning. And this is our own initiative, the President and the Vice President saying, this is one of the most serious challenges we face and we can and we will, we must take it on. We'll work in partnership with the Europeans and other countries of the world to that end, but this is our commitment to part of the solution to this very grave challenge.
Q: Are you just saying that the debate is over entirely? I mean, it seems to me -- I'm no expert, but I see that there is still debate as to how intense the problem is and whether it really is that damaging, although there may be some increase in heat. It seems to me that you're just pushing aside all arguments on the other side.
MS. MCGINTY: The science is clear and compelling that humans are influencing the climate -- 2,600 scientists from around the world in the most intensive and heavily peer-reviewed effort ever undertaken over the last 10 years have brought all of the science on this together and have stated that unequivocally. Where they don't know is on the corner of 5th and Main exactly what will the weather look like on the 3rd of November in 2002; they don't know some of the micro effects with great precision. They do know on a macro level that the temperature will increase, that sea levels will rise, that diseases will spread on account of the fact that the temperature is warmer.
There are things they do know with certainty, and it's those things that we know with certainty that are more than enough to compel us to action. You are quite right that there are details about this -- the micro effects -- that they don't know with precision yet. But what we do know and what the President wants to underscore is that we do know enough and there is enough that is clear and compelling and not disputed that we need to take action.
Q: These solar home hot water heaters, what do these things cost, and what help can homeowners who are interested expect in terms of paying for them?
MS. MCGINTY: I'll ask David to elaborate on that, but one thing I do want to say -- there are costs, certainly every investment involves a cost. But I do want to underscore again there is currently a billion-dollar market for solar technologies. The United States leads that market right now, but there are many other countries that are closely in the wings. The projection is that the market for solar technologies will be $10 billion by the year 2010. So it's those opportunities that the President wants to seize by launching this initiative.
MR. SANDALOW: One of the goals is that the cost will come down over the course of the next decade and more. There are huge economies of scale in the production of these photovoltaic cells and these hot water heaters, and by launching a program to eliminate regulatory barriers and to assist with the purchase of these we hope we can bring these down to the point where they can be purchased by average homeowners around the country.
Q: If you needed one today, what would it cost you?
MR. SANDALOW: I would have to get the Department of Energy for that.
Q: Briefly, how much has American carbon dioxide emissions risen by since 1990, percentage, roughly?
MS. MCGINTY: I believe it's about 13 percent. The overall trend seems to be about a percent a year, and over the last decade it's been slightly more than that. So, roughly, around 13 percent.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you, everybody.
Other questions? Other updates?
Q: -- could you give us a readout, a statement as a reaction to the first line-item veto?
MR. MCCURRY: The President was very pleased with today's Supreme Court decision that turned back the challenge to the line-item veto. Obviously, the President intends to use this tool, that very valuable tool, for eliminating waste in the federal budget. He will use the tool prudently, use it appropriately, use it consistent with constitutional principles. But it is important for the President, nonetheless, to have access to a line-item veto that will allow him in specific ways to make it clear that the kind of wasteful spending by the United States government is over.
Q: What about the Internet decision?
MR. MCCURRY: On the Internet decision, the President -- obviously, the White House continues to study the opinion very carefully. There are aspects of it that the President wants to understand better. But as a general principle, the President believes, regardless of the Court's decision, we need to continue to work to protect parents who want to protect their kids from smut on the Internet. There are ways to do that that might combine technology, that might combine some new efforts on behalf of industry working together with policymakers to achieve that aim. But the ability to protect children from indecency on the Internet will be something the President will continue to address and will continue to find appropriate constitutional ways to do so.
Q: Is he hinting at a new initiative -- that last paragraph in the statement -- or has he said that before?
MR. MCCURRY: Next week the President -- it was not hard to anticipate that the Court might move in this direction. Next week I expect the President to convene a group of industry leaders, advocates for children, parents, others who have been proficient in the technology of the Internet, to talk about ways in which we might find solutions that will fit within the contours and laws defined by the Court.
Q: Mike, you said next week?
MR. MCCURRY: Tuesday. I expect to do something on that Tuesday.
Q: Would that be like a day-long conference or a meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's still -- we'll tell you more about it probably Friday. It will be a mini-conference on that subject.
Q: On line-item are there any particular appropriations bills that he sees yet that he might use?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you can easily imagine some, but I don't want to speculate in the hypothetical. We have not raised veto threats against much of the legislation working its way through Congress for the simple reason we want to continue to work with Congress to address the administration's concerns as this legislation is written and then rewritten in conference committee.
I think the fact that the President now has access to the line-item veto will certainly make the nature of some of those discussions and negotiations somewhat different.
Q: How about the B-2 bomber, for example?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to speculate on specific line items in that we are going to continue to work -- we give the Congress very detailed analysis of the legislation that they are considering and they know some of our specific concerns in Congress, and can how read the opinion of the court well enough to understand those areas in which the President might likely want to exercise the veto.
At the same time, the Court made it clear that there are ways that you could test the constitutionality of the line-item veto and for that reason the President must be on very firm legal grounds if he chooses to exercise the option of using the line-item veto.
Q: Mike, back to the Internet for just a second. Does the President right now think that the option lies -- since he is going to convene this conference next Tuesday -- in getting the industry to act, as compared to like Coats on the Hill saying what we need is to come back with new legislation?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we are going to want to look at that question, whether there are ways either through executive action or through legislation that conforms with the Court opinion, that you can, as a matter of policy, give parents the tool they need.
At the same time, it is our belief that within the industry itself the technology is moving quickly, the software is moving quickly, that there may be ways working within the industry or working with the industry that we could find a way to protect kids.
We've done that when it comes to television programming that parents might find objectionable for their children. We developed a rating system. I think the concept of a rating system with respect to some products available on-line on the Internet might be useful as well. Those are the kinds of questions the President would like to see addressed more fully.
Q: Doctor-assisted suicide?
MR. MCCURRY: The President was gratified by the Supreme Court's decision upholding his own personal view, and certainly upholding the view that the government argued in front of the court that says the states may ban physician-assisted suicide. The President believes that that decision is a victory for all Americans. It will prevent us from going down a very dangerous and troubling path on what is for many families a very difficult and agonizing issue.
Q: The story today that Florence Griffith-Joyner said she has not heard from the President about whether or not she is going to be continued on the Commission of Physical Fitness-- does the President intend to replace her with Jake Steinfeld?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President wants enthusiastic, dynamic members of his Council on Physical Fitness, and Jack Steinfeld will certainly be that. He is well recognized in the community. He has worked for a number of charities. His career professionally and his personal interests have been devoted to getting, especially kids, interested in physical fitness. And he's done a lot of work with organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, to promote that kind of concern.
That being said, given that the President wants energetic, enthusiastic members of the Council, the energy, enthusiasm that Flo-Jo showed in wanting to remain as a member is compelling enough to indicate that she should remain. And the President will seek to have her remain on the Council, even as we add Jack Steinfeld to the Council.
Q: Has anyone from the White House talked to her, I mean, today, to tell her that?
MR. MCCURRY: I know that our personnel office was attempting to reach her. They had had discussions. It is not unusual with a Council like this that serves at the pleasure of the President to rotate members from time to time, to change leadership positions from time to time. I expect that we will do that with this Council, but at the same time we made it clear to all the members that this is -- the ordinary course of business is to rotate people in and out of these positions.
There has been some discussions with Florence Griffith-Joyner's husband about her continued service. Those discussions will continue, but for now the President believes that she should remain as a member of the Council.
Q: Mike, Secretary Rubin sent a letter to Speaker Gingrich saying that the White House strongly opposes the House tax bill as it is now crafted. What is the purpose of that? Does that mean it is vetoed if it passes as it is?
MR. MCCURRY: We have a whole menu of ways in which we express administration opinions and indicate the kind of trouble the Congress will be in if they go certain directions. And the President's Cabinet member, and one as valued as Secretary Rubin, recommending a certain position is a way of alerting Congress to the deep concerns that we have.
I expect the President will have a lot more to say on the whole subject of the tax bill and what it ought to look like on Monday. The administration has been preparing its own ideas of what should be in a tax measure, looking ahead to the conference that will inevitably occur between the House and the Senate on a tax bill as they are reconciled. And the President thinks that that's a good entry point for the administration in bringing some of our ideas to the table. He expects to outline some more related to that on Monday.
I'm working my way into the week ahead as you can tell. I have an important -- this just in: We need to move some of the press out in five minutes. All right, that means I have to talk fast. Do we have the text here?
Q: What's the schedule tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Tomorrow the President will sign legislation related to drug-free communities at 9:45 a.m. I expect he will also have some things to say about the process that we will use to evaluate the recently negotiated proposed settlement on tobacco. He then has a conference call with members of LULAC, the Latin America constituency organization. He meets for lunch with the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, for a continuing discussion of our bilateral issues and also to preview some of the work we'll do later this year at the APEC meeting in November. And then, tomorrow evening, probably early evening, the President will depart for Camp David, where he and his bride intend to spend a long summer weekend --
Q: What about the Big Three automakers?
MR. MCCURRY: We could not get all the participants that we wanted in that meeting together tomorrow so we are postponing that.
Q: Are you saying he will have comments about the tobacco settlement, but the review is still going on --
MR. MCCURRY: He's going to address the question of how we structure the review of the settlement, what criteria will be measured as we evaluate it, and then what the timing and mechanism will be for the review -- a little more on the process that we'll use to evaluate the settlement.
Q: Which of those events tomorrow will be open? Howard and the conference call?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll do a readout on Howard. As I'm looking at it, I'm not sure whether there is a pool spray on that or not, but the initial event -- the bill signing and then his comments will be open for coverage. And then the satellite, I think we're making a feed of the satellite available.
Q: What's the earliest event?
Q: The tobacco will come at the end of the --
MR. MCCURRY: I think there will probably be some type of pirouette and get into that subject.
Did we do everything I needed to do? Anything else?
Q: The rest of the week?
MR. MCCURRY: The bilaterals are so far as I described them yesterday, if you saw the little text on that. Ann will come over after we're done with President Kim and do a very quick readout on those two bilats. They're expected to last about 20 minutes each and the issues are pretty much as I presented them yesterday.
Q: Do you expect nothing significant, major from either one?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think the conversation with Secretary General Annan is important because we need to do everything we can to enlist support of the United Nations for the legislation that's now been authorized in the Senate to provide payment of some of our U.N. arrears. And the President wants to describe some of that and encourage the Secretary General to be sympathetic to the goals of that legislation, which include to press for substantial administrative reform at the U.N. The President will take the opportunity to compliment the Secretary General on the effort he already has under way to reinvent the United Nations.
Q: And with President Kim, are you going to discuss the need for --
MR. MCCURRY: With President Kim, we will certainly discuss a range of security issues, specifically the status of the North Korean nuclear program, our efforts through KEDO, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, to provide assistance to the transformation of that program into peaceful purposes. We will no doubt review the humanitarian situation in the North. They will discuss that issue and China.
Q: As it relates to four-way talks?
MR. MCCURRY: Certainly they will discuss the status of the proposal that these two Presidents put together jointly for four-party talks and some of the working sessions that have happened here in New York relevant to briefing the North, the DPRK, on the proposal itself.
Week ahead next week. Monday, as I indicated, we are probably going to have some more to say about our thoughts on a tax bill. Tuesday, as I implied, we're going to do some things related to the Internet and commerce related to electronic technologies. Wednesday, I expect kind of a fun outing with respect to television -- or educational standards. The President will continue to make his case nationally.
Q: Where is he going?
MR. MCCURRY: He's going to go where he can enlist the support of some Major League baseball players.
Q: All-Star game?
MR. MCCURRY: No, no, the All-Star game is in Cleveland. I think we're going to go up to Camden Yards on Wednesday. That's being rumored.
And Thursday, we'll probably -- during the course of the week, we'll do some setup briefings for the trip. And the President intends to depart -- the current thinking is he will depart Saturday morning for Spain -- not leaving Friday night, but Saturday morning.
Q: Will we have a Fourth of July --
MR. MCCURRY: I expect to have the final schedule for the trip by tomorrow morning, we hope, so we can do a sign-up by tomorrow morning.
Q: Do you know when that trip ends and where?
MR. MCCURRY: The trip ends in Washington, D.C., probably either Saturday the 12th or Sunday the 13th.
Q: Do you know where he'll be coming from?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll be coming, I think, from Denmark.
Q: And radio address -- then we'll let you go.
MR. MCCURRY: Radio address. Given that the President had called for passage of significant campaign finance reform measures by July 4th, the President wants to again go to the subject of political reform, campaign reform, and try to move forward some of the discussion of the need for free television time that the President embraced not too long ago. He'll have some specific ideas on that, taping it during the course of the day tomorrow.
Q: And were you about to announce any additions to the trip --
MR. MCCURRY: No, no. I put a little gap in that schedule, which we're going to have to fill somehow or other. But I think we'll fill it tomorrow morning.
Q: Tomorrow morning, things will be settled --
Q: On the Fourth of July, will he now give some kind of a speech?
MR. MCCURRY: He might -- it's not clear yet. We might do something.
Q: Anything new on Mir?
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing new that we've heard. We continue to get updates relayed to us from NASA, but I'm aware that there has been any change in that.
Josh, how are we doing on the speech text?
MR. SILVERMAN: Shortly.
MR. MCCURRY: Is it coming through? We should have that in the next 20 minutes or so. And I think the President has looked at it -- my understanding is he's looked at it and it will be pretty good to write off of because it's going to be hard for him to tamper with the text so much since it's pretty nuanced. Katie read you a large portion of it already, so you're good to go on what she's got out there. But we will put out his text embargoed until delivery.
Q: The comments on the compelling science, is that any stronger than what he said before? Or is this --
MR. MCCURRY: That is stronger. It is stronger. It has been certainly in the course of administration policy-making on this, we have come to see -- we have suggested that the status of science is much clearer now than it's been. There are some within the industry that still dispute that heavily, but that debate is beginning to wind down now because of the effort that was make I think through the National Academy and others to draw together almost 3,000 of the world's leading scientists on this question, to come to some consensus. And the scientific basis has been very difficult for even the industry's advocates and supporters within the academic community to challenge that degree of consensus on the science.
Q: I thought he said that in Costa Rica, though, that the rain forest --
MR. MCCURRY: This is more of declarative, in a sense a more binding statement, given that we're doing it in the context of what we expect to present in Kyoto. We have said in the past that we think the science is clear -- we're now saying, not only is the science clear but that has implications as to what we're going to do.
Okay, see you all tomorrow. We'll do a briefing. We're going to have some other -- I think we're going to have
General McCaffrey maybe right after the event tomorrow, and we'll try to knock off early tomorrow.
Q: He's not going to make any news in this tobacco thing --
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's more of a process thing, but it gives people a good kind of update on where we are, and tell you what the timetable is going to be during the month of July as we do a review.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:47 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Mike McCurry, Assistant to the President for International Economic Policy Dan Tarullo and Chair of the Council on Environment Quality Katie Mcginty Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/270696