|For Immediate Release||September 4, 1998|
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Steinberg is going to give you a sense ofsome of the meetings the President had with the Taoiseach and some of hisother conversations in and around the events today, maybe do a littlepreviewof the afternoon speech and some of you wanted a comment to kind of bringusto the end of this journey, which he will be happy to do. And I can takeother questions if you have any.
MR. STEINBERG: Good afternoon and welcome to the onlyfilingcenter that I've ever been in that serves Guinness, which is a positivecreditto be given to those who organized this facility.
The President met this morning with the Taoiseach BertieAhernin a meeting which was largely just the two of them meeting alone, but theycame out at the end of the meeting to brief the rest of us on theirdiscussions. And it also gave some of the members of the Cabinet and thePresident's staff an opportunity to talk to their counterparts.
Today was a very important continuation of the work that wedid yesterday. The events of yesterday were not only an opportunity forthePresident to speak on a number of occasions to the issues that are facingIreland and Northern Ireland in the peace process, but also a chance toengagein a lot of very direct discussions with the participants.
During the course of the day the President spentconsiderable time yesterday with Prime Minister Blair. We had achance to talk to all of the key parties. There were seniorofficials, obviously, engaged in discussions with theircounterparts about next steps forward as we look forward to themeetings next week and the efforts to get the new Assemblyunderway. And not surprisingly, the discussions between PrimeMinister Ahern and President Clinton today were focused to animportant extent on the peace process issues, and particularly,sort of how do we build on the very important developments oflast week, including the statements by Sinn Fein, the appointmentof Martin McGuiness to work with the decommissioning commission,and the forthcoming discussions among the party leaders to try tosustain the momentum that's been developed over the last fewweeks.
I think it's important to recognize that we wouldnot be where we are now were it not for the efforts of the Irish.Because one of the important elements of the peace agreement wasthe vote in the referendum here in the Irish Republic to, ineffect, repeal Articles II and III of the Irish Constitutionwhich made constitutional claims with respect to NorthernIreland. And so there is an important element of a broader Irishhistory and an Irish political settlement, which was brought tobear here. And the overwhelming support of the people of theIrish Republic was a critical part of moving past the conflictsof the past 30 years and into the future.
The focus between the two leaders today wasprecisely on how to generate momentum not only on theconstitutional issues which have got a lot of focus -- thesetting up of the new executive and the like -- but also movingon the full range of issues that are involved in the peaceagreement, including the security situation in Northern Ireland,issues like equality, policing and the development of economicpotential of the region. And the issue of the economicopportunity is very much going to be in the centerpiece of thePresident's speech this afternoon.
I think that in addition to a discussion of thepeace process, the Taoiseach asked to hear more from thePresident about the situation in Russia and its impact on thebroader international economic situation. They also discussedbriefly the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa. They notedin passing that the Taoiseach is on his way to China later thismonth, and that they intended over lunch that they hope to have afurther conversation about the situation in China.
The Taoiseach thanked the President for U.S. effortsthat have supported Irish membership in the Conference onDisarmament in Geneva, which is an important development. Itreally represents a different kind of approach and a spirit inthe Irish Republic of greater involvement in internationalinstitutions, a greater role on the world stage, which we've seenas the President has noted in his remarks in things like greaterinvolvement in international peacekeeping and the like; and thekind of leadership role that this new dynamic Ireland can play inthe world.
They talked briefly about the educationalpartnerships that we are developing with Secretary Riley and hiscounterparts and the new Mitchell scholarships.
I think that we all feel after two days here thatwhile there are very important obstacles that remain to makingsure that the peace process stays on track, that there is agrowing commitment not only by the people, but also by theleaders, to try to find pragmatic ways to deal with these issues.And the President and the Taoiseach, along with Prime MinisterBlair, are committed to work very intensively in the coming weeksto try to help the parties find creative ways to move the processforward.
I think the other thing that's been apparent overthe last several days is that what we have seen is really theindispensability of American leadership. The President's messagein Russia, the importance of his coming there at a time of greatdifficulty, really shows that in a time of crisis -- althoughthere are obviously risks associated with leadership -- that it'simportant for the United States to be deeply involved, to try towork as best it can to try to influence the course of events thathave such a profound impact not only on the people of the UnitedStates and Russia, but on the world. And here, as you've seenover the past several days, that the United States, obviously inpartnership with the parties and with the leaders of the twogovernments, is playing our continued indispensable role insupport of the peace process.
That gives us an opportunity to sustain the Americanleadership. And the President has been talking about that as hegoes back to Congress -- the importance of having support forthings like the IMF funding, which will be an important prioritywhen he returns to the United States.
So with that, let me take your questions.
Q On another subject, do you see the delay in theChernomyrdin vote as a positive sign that maybe there's acompromise in the works and that when they do vote he may beconfirmed?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, as you know, we are not takingpositions on specific individuals or who should play what role inthe government. But we do think it's important for Russia tomove forward and to take some steps that it needs to do to dealwith this very severe economic and political crisis that it'sfacing right now.
I think that to the extent that the leaders, thepolitical leaders there can come together around a sound programthat will deal with Russia's economic challenges, that that's avery positive sign. But in terms of how this comes out in termsof individuals, that's something that's for the Russian people.
Q Just the fact that they've delayed the vote,does that signal a compromise that might move them towardsputting a government in place?
MR. STEINBERG: I don't want to try to handicap thesituation there. I mean, obviously, there have been intensivediscussions. We think it's important for there to come togethera consensus in Russia behind an effective program. To the extentthat there are -- the leadership and the political figures arecoming together behind a sound, solid program, that would be apositive sign. But I think it's too soon to try to predict atthis stage whether this development could lead to that kind ofconsensus behind an effective working program. To the extentthat this would lead in that direction, obviously, we wouldwelcome that.
Q On the same subject, Mr. Chernomyrdin hasdeclared that he would like to impose economic dictatorship inJanuary and he's making noises that sound like he also wants toform a currency board, which Larry Summers has said is not such agreat idea. What's your reaction to either of those ideas?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, one of the things I've learneda long time ago is that one should resist a lot of quicktranslations of Russians' expressions into American or Englishcounterparts. And I think that the most important thing here isthat we want to wait and see what specifically is intended by wayof policies.
I think that the issues with respect to the PrimeMinister -- the Acting Prime Minister's remarks, are things thatwhat we will be looking for is whether this represents, forexample, in the area of taxes, a serious effort to develop adisciplined fiscal policy, an effective tax collection system.There's some suggestion in the language that he used that thatmay be what he was hinting at.
But I don't really want to try to read behind thelines at this point. What we'll be looking for is how agovernment gets formed and what are the specific policies that itseeks to pursue. As you said, Larry has talked to a number ofthe policy issues there; I don't want to add anything further onthat. But I think it would be premature to try to speculate onspecific policies as a result of the remarks from Mr.Chernomyrdin today.
Q Scott Ritter continued to insist yesterday thathigh officials of the U.S. government put pressure on U.N.inspectors not to push certain inspections in Iraq. Does theU.S. government continue to insist that it did not do that?
MR. STEINBERG: I'll make two points on that, Sam.One, as we have said all along, these decisions are decisions forAmbassador Butler. He's made that point and it is something thatwe feel very strongly about. Ambassador Butler consults with allof the countries on the Security Council very frequently. Hecertainly consults with the United States because without theUnited States there would be no effective inspections of anysort. We have had conversations about timing and tactics on anumber of occasions with Ambassador Butler, giving him our viewabout the most effective way to achieve the objective which Ithink even Mr. Ritter shares, which is how to get the inspectionsdone.
The record is perfectly clear that because of theefforts of the United States, inspections which were beingblocked by Saddam have gone forward. Last fall he tried to throwthe U.S. inspectors out. Because of the efforts of the UnitedStates working with Ambassador Butler and the Council, wegot the U.S. inspectors back in. Last winter he tried to blockthe inspections of the presidential palaces. Because of theefforts of the United States, because of the pressure we broughtto bear, the palaces were inspected, other sensitive sites havebeen inspected, and Mr. Ritter was able to conduct some of thoseinspections himself.
We, obviously, have another standoff with Saddamnow; we're working through that. But I would certainly say thatwhatever suggestions or discussions we've had with Mr. Butler aredesigned to promote the idea of inspections, not to impede them.
Q Well, you just cite history. Then the answerto my question is, no, you have not put pressure on theinspectors not to push certain inspections?
MR. STEINBERG: That's absolutely correct. We havenot put pressure on UNSCOM. We've discussed timing and tactics,we have not put any pressure on UNSCOM.
Q Well, excuse me -- timing tactics. Is thatparsing this too much?
MR. STEINBERG: We have discussed with AmbassadorButler our perception of the most effective way to getinspections to go forward -- not any individual inspection, butmore broadly, to make sure that we have --
Q Did you suggest that the time was then notpropitious or right to push an inspection, for instance?
MR. STEINBERG: We have suggested with him the bestways to orchestrate pressure to allow inspections to go forward.But we have never suggested that he not visit a particular site.We have always said that the choice of sites is up to them and wehave always suggested how we can contribute and work with him.We've obviously said, here's what we can bring to the table tohelp it get done, here's what makes us in the best posture to getit done. He obviously needs to look to us for being able to dothat, and so to the extent that we have a view that we are ableto make a more effective diplomatic argument at a particular timeor another, we tell him that. But he has always made his ownjudgment about how that should be done.
And he needs the information from us about what wecan bring to bear at any given time, what the array ofcircumstances are, how our diplomacy is going. And these arethings that Mr. Ritter does not know about. Mr. Ritter does notknow, for example, about the conversations that we're having withother partners in the Security Council, trying to marshalsupport. And so, in trying to make a judgment, which isultimately Ambassador Butler's judgment about how to do his job,which is not any one particular inspection, but rather to sustainthe whole system of inspections, he needs to take into accountthe judgment of his expert inspectors about what they see on theground, and the information from his key supporters in theSecurity Council about how to get that done.
Q Is the United States suggesting, Jim, that morecould be done by being less aggressive with Iraq?
MR. STEINBERG: No, I'm suggesting that in allmatters of diplomacy, particularly where the ability to beeffective is strengthened when we can act multilaterally and havethe support of other actors that you have to take into accountthe timing and the circumstances. But it's not a question ofmore or less; it's a question of how and when.
Q Back to Russia. Did Mr. Chernomyrdin discussin any of his long conversations with Clinton any of thespecifics or details of this proposal he's made? And did thePresident express any opinion as to whether that was a good ideaor not?
MR. STEINBERG: As far as I know there were notspecific discussions. There were general discussions about thepath of reform commitments or statements that Mr. Chernomyrdinmade about not going back and the like. But I'm not aware in thediscussions with Mr. Chernomyrdin of -- the discussion ofspecific ideas other than the need to deal with the fiscalsituation, the need to deal generally with the situation with thebanks, for example. But I don't think any specific proposalswere made. I don't want to rule it out because I don't know thatI have every bit of detail; but certainly to my knowledge, therewere no specific discussions.
Q Does the President feel that his personalinvolvement would now be helpful in resolving the situationbetween India and Pakistan?
MR. STEINBERG: We are very actively and intensivelyinvolved in the issue of India and Pakistan and how to reversethe arms race and try to minimize the damages of these tests.
The President has had conversations with leadersover the past and I would not rule out the possibility of himhaving conversations or exchange of letters, for example, in thenear future. I don't want to get into specifics, but it issomething that the President has, in fact, himself, been directlyinvolved in. And I, again, would not rule out further directinvolvement in the coming short period of time.
Q When would you reach a decision about whether avisit would be useful?
MR. STEINBERG: I think that it's really too soon tosay. I mean, I think that we are intensively engaged. I thinkyou know that Secretary Talbott had meetings in New Yorkyesterday with Jaswant Singh. I have not had a detailed readoutof that, so I can't give you a lot of detail. And that, I think,will affect our judgment.
Certainly, after we return there's an opportunity tomeet with Secretary Talbott and others who have been involved inthese discussions. We'll at least have a better sense of whatthe situation is. But I don't want to predict at this pointwhether we are going to be making any decision -- except toreiterate that from our perspective right now the visits are onhold.
Q What will the President do with respect to IMFfunding when he gets back, that he hasn't been doing up to now?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, I think that the President isgoing to continue his efforts to try to support that. We are inthat time in the congressional season when people have to makethe decisions that have to do with funding. There are a numberof bills and vehicles that are around right now, so I think thereis an opportunity for Congress to finally focus on this issue.
I think nothing can make a stronger case than theevents of recent days about the importance of having theresources to deal with these situations to give confidence to theinternational community. And I know the President has beentalking about that with the members of Congress who are on thistrip. It's been an issue that he's discussed on a number ofoccasions with the congressional delegation and I think he willbe addressing this both publicly and in individual conversationswith members himself, directly upon his return.
Q Jim, does the President think that the IMFstrategy that was adopted toward Russia the past several yearshe's been absolutely right on and he's been correct, and lookingback, you wouldn't have changed it at all?
MR. STEINBERG: I think that nobody has 100 percentin hindsight. But I don't want to sort of suggest that there'snothing ever different that you could ever do that wouldn't makeit better.
I think the basic thrust of the approach, which hasbeen one of supporting reform, being in a position of trying toprovide the needed resources, not only on the macroeconomicissues, but I think there's a tendency to forget how involvedboth the United States and the MDBs have been on theproject-related activities, on supporting the development ofinfrastructure and helping to develop markets, on working withsmall entrepreneurs. The program is a lot more extensive thanjust the kind of structural adjustment assistance that we've seenin sort of the high-profile headlines.
Obviously, everybody can do something better, but Ithink the basic thrust of the efforts have been sound. And wecontinue to believe that if Russia adopts the kind of policesthat will sustain the process of reform, then it can be put backon the path of growth.
Q Is there any concerns about any winner inRussia? Because I've heard potato crop was doing fairly badlyand with the devaluation of the ruble it will be very difficultto import food. Is there any planning on relief measures or anyplanning that it will be needed?
MR. STEINBERG: I think there is a sensitivity tothe fact that there are a high level of food imports in Russiaand we are looking at the situation, talking to the Russiansabout the overall situation. I think it will be easier to make ajudgment once we see in the coming weeks what kind of economicand political situation we're in. But I think there is asensitivity to the fact that this will have a -- the change, thedevaluation and the like could have an effect on the situation,particularly with respect to food.
Q Jim, if there's nothing to Scott Ritter'scharges of appeasement, why is the U.S. response to this round ofIraqi intransigence so different from what it was some months agowhen we sent carrier battle groups and other Navy ships to theregion?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, I have a couple ofobservations about that. First, in response to the last round ofchallenges, we decided to reconfigure our forces in the regionbecause we were concerned that this pattern that was developing-- that is Saddam would challenge, he would ultimately give in --was leaving us in a situation where we had to keep deploying andwithdrawing forces which imposed costs, obviously, on ourmilitary and had an impact; and that we wanted to have a posturethat would allow us to retain significant capability in theregion without have to constantly make specific deployments todeal with the crisis and then withdraw them when the crisisended. So we have significantly greater fire power in importantrespects now in the Gulf then we had at the time of the lastsituation, which sustains a number of options for us.
Second, we are in the middle of this process, as thePresident and others have said. We have not ruled out anyoptions in terms of the resolution of this. We have to use ourbest judgment about the best way to marshalthe various tools and techniques that we have, includingdiplomatic efforts. I think you're going to see further activityin the U.N. Two weeks ago we got, in connection with the denialof the sanctions review, one of the strongest statements by thewhole Security Council, unanimously, opposing the actions ofSaddam.
We want to be in a posture where it is clear thatwhat Saddam is doing is challenging not just the United States,but the entire international community. I think the statementsof President Yeltsin while we were in Russia, his categoricalopposition to what Saddam was doing, his belief that it was anoffense against the Security Council, against Russia, not justagainst the United States, helps us be in a posture whichmaximizes the pressure on Saddam.
We're in the middle of this right now. It's by nomeans over, and we are pressing ahead with what we think are thebest combination of tactics to try to get the inspection regimein place.
Q Jim, are you saying it's counterproductive topush a confrontation with Iraq until it's clear that multilateralaction is possible?
MR. STEINBERG: What I'm saying is that we want totry to maximize the possibility of multilateral action withoutruling out any options.
Q Has the Irish government made any statement toPresident Clinton or to anyone else in his group here about themissile attacks in Afghanistan and Sudan?
MR. STEINBERG: So far as I know -- and the onlytime that I'm aware of this having been discussed was in theone-on-one, so I'm reporting what the President told me, which isthat the Taoiseach expressed sympathy and his understanding ofwhat the United States faced in terms of the challenge. Theyobviously talked about the challenge of terrorism as being onethat both countries are facing, and the need to deal with itinternationally.
Q But there was no criticism of the government --
MR. MCCURRY: I can't say yes or no. I'm unaware ofany comment to that effect.
Q What is your expectation from the visit ofDennis Ross to the Middle East next week?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that the two parties haverequested that Dennis come out. The President felt that it wouldbe useful, given the state of play and the fact that thereclearly has been some movement -- but we have not reached aresolution to have Dennis out there to make a personalassessment. Obviously, there are few people who know the partiesand the situation better than Dennis. And I think the Presidentfelt that, given that fact that the parties wanted Dennis outthere and that he would -- that in terms of how we respond to thesituation, we would be in a better position to do that based onDennis's face-to-face conversations with the parties, that that'swhat he hoped to do.
Q Can we get to Mike before the President'sstarts?
MR. MCCURRY: Jim's glad to do some more.(Laughter.)
Q Are you prepared to take questions --
MR. STEINBERG: No, I am not prepared to take thequestions that you're about to ask.
MR. MCCURRY: All right, I've got the week aheadhere. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, the President today made no mention ofthe investigation or of Ken Starr, something he'd done in thepast. And yet there is a Washington Post story which suggests -- MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, I can't hear you, Sam.
Q There is a Washington Post story that suggeststhe President's aides or staff or someone is still pursuing apolicy of condemning the independent counsel and trying tocomplain about the investigation. What is the President'sthinking along the lines of the investigation?
MR. MCCURRY: The President's thinking is as hereflected it in his comments today.
Q Mike, the President is losing a lot of supporttoday among Democrats, obviously. What is the President tryingto do repair the breach with the Democrats?
MR. MCCURRY: He made a judgment about what isobvious. I'm not in a position to make that judgment.
Q Mike, what is the President doing? Is hecalling Democrats --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll come back, Scott.
Q Mike, why did the President say "I'm sorry"today?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he said he's sorry because heis.
Q What is the President doing to repair thebreach with Democrats? Is he calling Democratic leaders?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, he's, going back to when he was onthe Vineyard, had extensive contact with Democratic leaders.
Q Has he been doing that while he's been on thetrip, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: He hasn't had much time to do that onthe trip, but he's had some conversations and will continue to doso in the future. I think the President clearly does not believethat that one conversation, one statement, one speech is going tobe sufficient in addressing this matter the way he wants to, andhe intends to keep addressing it both personally and, to thedegree he needs to publicly, as he sees fit.
Q Mike, Senator Lieberman seemed to be beggingthe President to do more of what he called "healing the wounds ofour national character" before the Starr report goes to Congress.Does the President believe or intend to do something more?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is a firm believing inhealing.
Q Does he intend to do something more along thelines of what Senator Lieberman --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he did today.
Q Is that the end of it?
MR. MCCURRY: I just gave you the answer to that.
Q Was the report correct that the White Houseasked Lieberman to hold off until after the --
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that Mr. Bowles had aconversation with Senator Lieberman in which he said --understood that he had deep concerns about this matter and wantedto address it. I think that Mr. Bowles inquired whether or notSenator Lieberman could hold off until the President was backhome on U.S. soil. But the President didn't take any issue, asyou know, with Senator Lieberman's statement.
The President has had an opportunity prior to thetrip to talk to Senator Lieberman, and he sought him outprincipally to discuss arms export policy with respect to Russiaand Iran. But they may have had an opportunity to talk about thematter Senator Lieberman addressed on the floor yesterday aswell.
Q When did the conversation occur?
MR. MCCURRY: Prior to our departure.
Q Let me rephrase it -- where was this from?I've lost you.
MR. MCCURRY: All I know is that it was sometimeprior to our departure.
Q Departure from where?
MR. MCCURRY: From Washington. From the UnitedStates.
Q This is a President who has clearly chosen hiswords very carefully with regard to this matter, so my questionis, why did he say "I'm sorry" today, when he hasn't said itbefore?
MR. MCCURRY: David, you heard me the other day Idon't believe it's the role of staff, on a matter that is asintensely personal and being dealt with in an intensely publicway, for us to comment, spin, amplify, comment further. ThePresident said what he said. It's heartfelt. And I'll just letit stand as for what it is.
Q How concerned is the President and the WhiteHouse overall about this break in the Democratic ranks or that itmight snowball?
MR. MCCURRY: I think as our statement indicatedlast night, it's always tough to hear criticism from a friend--from friends, plural.
Q Mike, does it not show a lack of respect forthe President that members of his own party would criticize himwhile he was overseas on an international trip? And what doesthat tell you about --
MR. MCCURRY: On this matter, as the Presidentindicated today, it would be hard to say anything critical thatthe President doesn't agree with because he feels that himself.
Q Does it disturb or concern the President thatthis issue continues to dog him on a foreign trip when he'strying to play a role in both Russia and Ireland?
MR. MCCURRY: The President's successfully doing thework of our nation here on the trip and doing what he set out todo on this trip, and he's not surprised that matters from backhome arise. That's not infrequently the case when this Presidentor any President travels abroad.
Q Senator Lieberman suggested that there aremoral consequences to what the President has done and the wayhe's handled it. Do you or the President believe that their aremoral consequences that the President needs to address now, thatthere's something he needs to fix?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that is surely the case. I'mnot sure what that means, but it's surely the case.
Q What you just said indicates that either thePresident or you all all feel that he'll continue to addressthis. You said there's a need to continue to address it. Butthe other day, he said he wants to move on. Is there a plan forhim to really --
MR. MCCURRY: Those are not necessarilycontradictory ideas. He needs to move on with the work that hewas elected by the American people to do -- he's doing that.That's what he's doing on this trip; that's what he's doing whenhe will go home. But that doesn't mean that the last has beensaid on this matter, because it clearly wouldn't be. It'sclearly going to continue to be a clear focus of all of you inthis room, of many in Washington, and to some degree to theAmerican people.
Q Is there a concrete plan for him to sayanything more in terms of a speech?
MR. MCCURRY: This is such an intensely personalthing, and the President is deciding for himself how to addressthese matters, and so there can't be any concrete plan that I'maware of because the President is taking it one day at a time.
Q It is not a mistake to say that there was achange of tone, however, in the President's remarks this morning.
MR. MCCURRY: If you asked the President thatquestion, I think that he believes his tone has been consistenton this, but it's been interpreted differently and variously byother people commenting on it. I think he believes what he saidtoday is consistent with how he's addressed it in the past. But,surely, others would have a different interpretation, and Iimagine that will continue to be the case.
Q But if I may, he said he was sorry today, andthere was lacking any assault on the independent counsel.
MR. MCCURRY: He believes he's been clear on thatall along. But others take a different view of that.
Q When we were at the Kremlin, the President saidhe'd reread his speech of August 17th and thought he had saidwhat he wanted to say.
MR. MCCURRY: And he believes he's been just as --
Q Even knowing what Senator Lieberman and othershave said, he still believes that he addressed it adequately onthe 17th?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he knows -- I mean, it's clearthat some people believe he didn't address it adequately. And Ithink the President understands that he has some obligation toaddress the concerns that they express. And he took veryseriously, obviously, what Senator Lieberman had to say.
Q You said that the President is determining hisown response. There was a report that there was a staff meetinghere last night after the Senator's speech to determine what theresponse should be, and that there was a recommendation that heshould respond.
MR. MCCURRY: There was a staff meeting in the pubat our hotel -- (laughter) -- but it dealt with nothing more thanthe fine quality of Guinness as served here in the Emerald Isle.
Q So answer the question. What about it?
MR. MCCURRY: None that I participated in or anyonethat I'm on this trip with participated in. And my understandingis the President and the First Lady turned in almost immediatelyupon arriving here last night.
Q Mike, in his conversations with Democrats, haveany Democrats told the President that he cannot count on theirunified support in the event of impeachment hearings? And haveany suggested that he resign?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any discussion ofresignation with any Democratic leaders, and I don't believe anyDemocratic leader who has discussed this matter with thePresident has prejudged an outcome that would suggest the formerpart of the question.
Q Is he reconsidering his decision about notresigning?
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, let me be fair and spread itaround.
Q He said that he's going to continue to talkabout this. Can you say when he's going to continue on it?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I can't. I don't know.
Q And can you say -- is he going to have to talkabout this for the remainder of his presidency?
MR. MCCURRY: That's probably going to be as much upto you as to him.
Q Mike, you said there was no discussion ofresignation with Democratic leaders. Has there been anydiscussion of resignation at all with anyone?
MR. MCCURRY: None whatsoever.
Q Mike, with all this going on back home, whathas the effect been on the President to have all of this support,this adulation here in both Ireland and Northern Ireland?
MR. MCCURRY: It's just a reminder of the paralleluniverses we live in. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, the Post said that the White House isconsidering hiring a senior advisor to help --
MR. MCCURRY: I know nothing about that. I readthat Post story today, and that's that universe back inWashington. I haven't heard any discussion of any of that onthis trip, can't find anyone who knows anything about that. Andas with many stories about this matter, someone somewhere hasideas that they're sharing with journalists that the rest of usdon't seem to know anything about.
Q Does that mean that we can say, then, thePresident has not broached that with George Mitchell on thistrip?
MR. MCCURRY: Senator Mitchell has been on this tripand they have had some opportunities to talk privately. Whatthey've talked about privately is private, but I know for a factthey've talked a lot about Ireland.
Q Coming back to the question of resignation --early on, the President said in answer to a question, "Never,"when asked if he might consider it. Is that still his view?
MR. MCCURRY: I am confident his attitude has notchanged on that.
Q Speaking of the parallel universe, does thePresident feel that his ability to function in the universe ofworld leaders, either in Russia or Ireland, has been impeded onthis trip by the other universe?
MR. MCCURRY: It clearly has not been, and I thinkthe President takes some satisfaction at that.
Q What is the evidence of that?
MR. MCCURRY: He dealt with world leaders on thistrip and confident that he continue to do good work in theinterest of the American people as he fulfills his constitutionalresponsibilities.
Q As possibly your last briefing on a foreigntrip, do you have any thoughts about what this has all meant toyou?
MR. MCCURRY: I've got many thoughts on it. I'm notgoing to share them here.
Q Mike, Senator Lieberman raised the possibilityof some sort of censure or sanctions. What effect would thathave on the White House to do its job?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President very properlyindicated that's not something that we should comment upon.That's within the province of the Senate and how they want toproceed and it's not something that the White House shouldpre-judge. We will have to continue to do our work in theexecutive branch to the best of our abilities. And thePresident's intent, clearly, is to continue to do the job he waselected to do and to do it to the best of his ability.
Q Why do you think there's this gap between whatthe President thinks he said and what other people think he saidon saying he's sorry and asking for forgiveness?
MR. MCCURRY: You can all go -- some of your newsorganizations have -- and talk to Americans and find out whatthey think and see how you're reporting it and make thosejudgments for yourself.
Q Mike, in Moscow, the President added the word"forgiveness" to his official reaction to this. Today, he addedthe word "sorry." When discussing how to move this forward, doeshe discuss with the staff or are these his ideas for moving theexplanation forward?
MR. MCCURRY: We tell him what the matters arelikely to arise; he indicates to us how he intends to respond.And that's exactly what he did today. He responded exactly as hesaw fit.
Q It's not based on the advice of staff to moveit? It seems incremental, he's gone one step in each place.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't necessarily share that viewmyself, but I think the President has said what he wants to say,in the way he said it, in the time and place that he chooses tosay it. And I think, given the nature of this matter, that'sentirely proper.
Q Because this word "sorry" is really -- aroundthe world today, I was wondering about -- whether the Presidentexplained to you before he went public with the word that he wasgoing to pronounce that word.
MR. MCCURRY: The President said what he was goingto say and he said it, and that seemed --
Q When he said to you that he was --
MR. MCCURRY: He answered the question when he gotit today, much as I anticipated he would answer it based on whathe had said earlier. And as I say, I don't think that he feelsit's inconsistent with the way he's addressed this matter, northe way he will address the matter in the future.
Q Mike, the President at the Kremlin talked aboutreturning to work and giving people their government back. I wasunder the impression that the White House felt that this hadnever impeded the President's ability to conduct his duties, thatit had never distracted him.
MR. MCCURRY: Again, I'm not going to try toelaborate further on what the President said.
Q No, but you had told us, though, Mike, that hewas not distracted, and that had been the consistent line.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't believe I said he hasn'tbeen distracted. I said that he was not -- his ability toconduct the work of the presidency, although impacted by thismatter, has not been negated by this matter.
Okay. The President is going to talk so we have tobring this, mercifully, to a conclusion.
Q Can I get back to Scott's question for amoment? You would disagree with the notion that as the pressurehas mounted on the President, especially from fellow Democrats,he's been more and more explicit in terms of apologizing?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, he has said what he has to say.You are all journalists, if not news analysts -- or maybe moreanalysts than journalists, so you can all analyze and interpretwhat he has to say to this. That's what you're in the businessof doing.
Q It's true.
MR. MCCURRY: It's the truth.
Okay. Last question.
Q What will he be doing on Sunday, when he getsback?
MR. MCCURRY: He's down Sunday and Monday. Andwe'll try to post a week ahead for you, since we used up ourtime.
Q Following something that Steinberg said, wouldyou expect the President to give a major address on the IMF,global economy when he gets back, or a series of addresses onthis subject?
MR. MCCURRY: There's not one expected. I expecthim to address that matter. Because of the urgency and need forfunding for the IMF, I think that's going to be some of what inthe course of the month of September, because of what will beunder consideration in the appropriations process, will be verymuch under discussion. With what's happening in the world andworld economy, I think you'll hear a lot about that in the timeahead.
Q The radio address -- what's the radio address?
MR. MCCURRY: The radio address will be on theeconomy. You all know that we had an encouraging employmentreport today; over 300,000 jobs, a third of which obviously wasdue to the GM factor. But the strength of the American economyin times of some parallel in the global economy is a subject thatthe American people have some interest in.
Briefings - Sept 4th
Press Briefing By Mike McCurry and James Steinberg
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