THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MICHAEL MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:50 P.M. EDT
Q Quick question for you, Mike. We were here last Friday with charts. I think it was hidden taxes last Friday. And the President also talked about the Medicaid cuts driving people out of their houses and so forth. Is this going to be the subject of the radio broadcast, and can we expect more of these attacks on the plan? Is this one of the theories?
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you, everyone. First, before I answer that, Larry Haas has got some of the folks who've helped from OMB, Treasury and HHS here. And any of you who are interested in talking to them at any greater length, why don't you go out that door into the driveway.
The answer to the question, no, the subject of the President's radio address tomorrow is domestic violence, as we've indicated earlier.
Q On that score, why is the subject tomorrow domestic violence? The President has already met with victims, has made a speech, he's declared Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Why?
MR. MCCURRY: We did do that just a short while ago. I think it's true to say that the President has watched concern grow about domestic violence and, with candor, in the aftermath of the verdict in the O.J. Simpson case.
I think he is worried that many American women believe they have to face the tragedy of domestic violence alone and that there is no one there to help. And the point that we are trying to make as a result of the provision in the Crime Bill passed last year as the result of the Violence Against Women Act provisions which the President talked about recently, there is a concerted effort on the part of the federal government to lend assistance to local law enforcement on behalf of that issue.
So he will address that tomorrow. He will not specifically reference, but certainly that creates the environment in which many women are now today worried about whether or not anyone is concerned about the violence they face at home. And that motivates the President as he thinks about wanting to deliver the radio address tomorrow.
Q Mike, I take it the President has decided to speak about race in America on Monday morning.
MR. MCCURRY: The President on Monday at University of Texas at Austin will lay out in a philosophical way some of the things that he thinks are suggested by the recent debate and discussion in this country about the subject of race. Again, these are affected by the climate in which the President will speak. It's the day of the march here in Washington. It's in the aftermath of a very highly publicized verdict in a trial on the West Coast. That all creates a climate in which the President has thought a lot about the subject of race, continued work that he has been doing in most of his adult life -- since he was governor in Arkansas.
He wants to find those ways that he can address the subject in a way that brings Americans together at a time in which increasingly there's concern about polarization between the races in our society.
Q Mike, when it wasn't going to be -- or when there was a chance it wasn't going to be on Monday, you said, because the President wants to make sure that he's thought about this enough, talked about it enough. So now it is going to be Monday, could you give us some sense of the method by which he's preparing for the speech? What is he doing? Is he reading, is he talking to people?
MR. MCCURRY: He's doing a little bit of all of that. There was some concern -- he wanted the opportunity to reflect on the subject and think through what he wanted to say. You all know the President has had a very busy schedule in the last several days and has been doing a number of things here. He wanted to make sure he had time to devote himself to that subject before he spoke about it, because on that subject he speaks very much from the heart. And his own preparation, in a sense, has to be very personal. He's had time to do that.
Again, as I said yesterday, though, he's not planning what I would describe as a major policy address, this is really more of a way to talk in a philosophical vein about what obligations Americans have to each other, whether they are white, whether they are people of color, how they can come together and address some of the very profound divisions that do exist in our society. And I think, given that it is the day of the event here in Washington, he will probably put it somewhat in that context, that the notion that people will take responsibility for their own lives and their own communities is a positive thing, and I think he will want to suggest, as I suggested to you yesterday, that something positive can come out of the fact that many people with very good intentions are coming here to Washington to stand up on behalf of the need to bring Americans together.
Q Will he propose any solutions, any initiatives that -- another commission to study the --
MR. MCCURRY: No, again -- I will say again, this is not a speech designed to be a policy speech that lays out prescriptions where the government has responsibilities. In a sense, the President has been doing that. This is embedded in the work that we've done on the budget, on the programs that we've been fighting for on some of the economic issues that we've just heard discussed here, which have a disproportionate impact on the economic status of people of diverse backgrounds in our society.
But, first and foremost, race relations in America are about matters of the heart and about matters of personal relations between individual Americans. And that's something that is not always a government responsibility. So, in that sense, I would not look for a long list of what the government's role in this is. You've heard -- when it comes to government policy, you've heard the President earlier this year on the subject of affirmative action in which there is a government --
Q Well, whose role is it, really, to lead on this subject?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's leaders' responsibility to lead
Q Like Farrakhan?
MR. MCCURRY: -- and I think that's what the President is going to attempt to do on Monday.
Q Mike, the fact that the speech -- that the Million Man March is also on Monday, does that argue in favor of -- did that argue in favor of the President giving his speech then or is this more coincidental?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President had sought a venue where he could discuss this subject. I indicated to you last week that he wanted to do so. This was a good time to do it because it was a venue in which I think the President thinks he can cast those remarks in a proper vein, but it is a day in which there will be enormous attention to that subject because of the coincidence of the march here in Washington.
Q Mike, you've also said on several occasions that the view of the White House on this particular march is that you're in favor of its goals, but you have a great deal of concern about the leaders of the march. The sponsors have now held a news conference -- yesterday and said -- one of them, Leonard Muhammad, I think, was saying that even if participants don't actually say so, just the fact that they're being there is taken as an expression of support for Louis Farrakhan and his policy.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President very much doubts that is the case. I think even those who made those remarks yesterday later in the day indicated that was not necessarily the case. In any event, nothing about the President's expressions on this subject should be read as an endorsement of anything that Reverend Farrakhan has said. As I've said repeatedly here, those are divisive, racially-polarizing, gender-polarizing remarks that don't do anything to elevate civil discourse in this country.
Q Is he talking about that on Monday? Will he express his displeasure toward Farrakhan?
MR. MCCURRY: I imagine he will address the need to bring Americans together and to shun those who advocate hate.
Q But, Mike, you've been really careful not to let the "Farrakhan" cross your lips from this podium --
MR. MCCURRY: I've said repeatedly here that the words of Minister Farrakhan are repugnant. I've said that many of the statements that he's said are disgusting. And I think that what you just said is not true.
Q Does he think that the country is not aware of the division that seems to be hardening, and does he want to expose that or --
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President is concerned about -- there is, as reflected in a very interesting series that The Washington Post had just over the last several days -- a great deal of misinformation on this subject amongst Americans. And the level of knowledge, the depth of understanding of the conditions in which the races coexist in America is not profoundly deep. And there is a lot of misinformation. I think the President hopes to put some of that in context, but ultimately to speak to what individuals can do and what their personal responsibilities are and ultimately what the responsibilities are of those who are entrusted with the leadership positions that they have; obviously, the President included.
Q Mike, on Bosnia, how much was Defense Secretary Perry speaking for the administration?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, he made -- Secretary Perry made very clear he was expressing his own view as Secretary of Defense about the duration of a deployment in Bosnia. Now, I'd be quick to say that his thinking is not unlike those of many of the other senior foreign policy advisors who are working on the problem. But they need to get together at the proper point in addressing specificity in any deployment plans for a peace force in Bosnia. We can't do that until such time as we have a peace settlement.
I think the President today will be working more on the issue what can we do through our negotiating team and through the coming proximity talks to advance the prospects for peace. That's step one.
Step two is then how best do you enforce that peace. And we clearly will follow through in our commitment to participate. But the exact contours of that participation will develop as NATO looks at the contingency planning they're doing.
Now, the Pentagon has been very good this week about briefing on where that stands. NATO has now adopted some overall parameters for -- what are we calling those Mr. Johnson --
MR. JOHNSON: Concept of Operations.
MR. MCCURRY: -- the Concept of Operations the North Atlantic Council addressed earlier this week, which is a five-stage mission plan. And they will build that off of the NATO operational plan that was already existing for a withdrawal operation you know, 4104 --
You'll hear a lot coming out of military sources and folks in NATO and folks in the Pentagon about what types of units are involved in that. But those are all things that we, in a sense, know already because we know a lot about logistics and command and control and other aspects of a deployment like that.
This is -- will be a very complicated mission and the critical element, of course, for most Americans, will be who will be there on the ground helping these parties enforce the peace. And that is, in effect, the hardest question to answer right now while we await the final contours of the peace settlement that has to come from the negotiating table. And remember, the negotiations now are not scheduled to begin for at least another two weeks --
Q But you're unhappy with the people at the Pentagon talking out of school, you say.
MR. MCCURRY: No. I'm unhappy when anyone suggests that the President has decided something, or made certain decisions about deployments, when they've yet to be made. They can't be made until they fit into an overall plan. And the President has been very precise about this in his conversations with members of Congress. He said, we need to be absolutely certain every aspect of this mission is carefully thought through and that all the correct planning has been done. And they are in the process of doing that planning. It is not complete yet.
No one should -- no one in our government should suggest otherwise. Although, I think in fairness, and in fairness to -- I think Ken Bacon made this point very effectively earlier in the week -- some of the planning will build off of the work that's already been done at NATO in the past on other deployments in Bosnia. So some of it we do know and we've got some specificity about it. But its aspects of this mission will have to come together as we know what the final contours of the peace -- what that will be.
Q Mike, there a report out of Port-au-Prince that the Prime Minister of Haiti has submitted his resignation because of a dispute over the terms of the IMF loan he negotiated. Is the White House aware of that and do you have any comment?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's been speculation on that in recent days and I will check into that. We will see if we've got any further reaction on that.
The Vice President will be in Haiti this weekend to mark the one year anniversary of the restoration of democracy. You heard the President say last night that we certainly have come a long way in the year since President Aristide returned, but we've got a lot of difficult work ahead to do. The international community is supporting the transformation back to democracy in Haiti. We are building on the prospects for peace and for democracy in Haiti, but the job is by no means complete.
Q Is the Vice President likely to challenge Aristide's government about these allegations that they're turning the other way and turning the other cheek to political violence or perhaps even sponsoring it themselves?
MR. MCCURRY: He will not need to because the President -- the subject may arise, but the United States government, working with the government of Haiti, has made it very clear that any act of violence, any murder, anything that needs to be addressed by proper law enforcement ought to be pursued, and those guilty ought to be brought to justice. We've made that point often to the government of Haiti. We've worked with them, using experts from our own government in how to professionalize their own capacity for law enforcement.
That was indeed one of the tasks that was left with the multinational force following the insertion of U.S. forces over a year ago.
Q On the Pulitzer Peace Prize today, do you have any assessment, and --
Q It's Nobel.
Q Nobel, sorry. Do you have any assessments and what does that do for Chirac's standing in the world for U.S.-French relations?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't. I don't know how the two relate.
Q Any reaction to the prize?
MR. MCCURRY: Any reaction? The Pugwash Conference has a known role in evaluating issues relating to nuclear disarmament. And obviously the Nobel Peace Prize winners are to be congratulated.
Q Can you confirm a story that was in the Journal this morning, saying that the administration had told the Ex-Im Bank and the World Bank not to fund the Three Gorges project?
Q Hogwash, huh?
MR. MCCURRY: No, Pugwash.
Q It was supposed to be in a memo by Sandy.
MR. MCCURRY: No, it's in the Journal article, and I can tell you -- I can confirm a large portion of that account. The NSC did conclude that the United States government should not offer commercial assistance to the Three Gorges project because of concerns, environmental concerns related to the project. We have opposed that, based on those concerns at the World Bank, and we've done that in other cases in the past. And we believe that we should have a consistent policy, and that's one of the things that was argued in the memo.
And in general, our position would not prohibit private sector involvement with the project. But I think as a matter for the United States government policy, we will refrain from assistance to the project.
Q Just a follow up -- could you give an example of another project that you guys have done this with?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't, but David will track one down for you, won't you? He willingly said yes.
Q What the status of the Fed nomination?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't checked on it recently. I don't know. I don't know that there's -- I have not heard of any recommendations going forward to the President. But when they do, I'll let them know. He most likely has by now.
Q Did the President tape his radio address?
MR. MCCURRY: He most likely has by now.
Q Do you have a text, Mike, on the --
MR. MCCURRY: How have we been doing on putting that embargoed -- they've been holding embargoed -- have you guys been holding the embargo?
Q Oh, we've been good.
Q Very good.
MR. MCCURRY: All right, well, we'll try to make life easier. Let me do two quick things that I wanted to do at the outset, but we had some special guests today. First, I just want to point out that Dr. Lee Brown, over at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is unveiling some public service announcements, part of a national campaign encouraging young people to "Stay Drug-Free. You Have the Power," say these advertisements.
But you might want to call over to the Office of National Drug Control Policy and see if you can get copies of the PSAs. The White House appreciates the cooperation of the major television networks which have agreed to run the spots, and obviously, prevention programs, education efforts are a large part of our overall drug control strategy.
Item the second, at the EPA today, they had a very interesting -- those of you who have been covering or writing about environmental protection and regulatory issues will be interested in a little seminar they had with four very prominent authors. Philip Howard, who is the author of "The Death of Common Sense," David Osborne, who wrote "Reinventing Government," Tom Peters, author of "In Search of Excellence," and Gregg Easterbrook, who wrote "A Moment on Earth," all of whom have been, I think fair to say, advocates of regulatory efforts to protect the environment, but all of whom say that this current effort by Congress to attack environmental protection policy will lead to a real degradation of our nation's environment.
They say in the statement, "We are all authors of books expressing skepticism regarding government regulation," parenthetically, and you all know that; you've heard them on those subjects often. But their statement goes on to say, "But we are not skeptical about the need for strict protection of the environment, we believe that some current proposals to roll back environmental protection go too far." So you might want to find out more about that.
Q The speech tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: The speech tonight. For those of you who didn't catch my gaggle gaggling on it earlier, it will be about the need for economic growth and for forecasts that don't generate numbers that help the policy, but for policies that generate numbers that meet the forecasts. That's the argument broadly that the President will make. What he'll say is, we are pursuing economic policies that are helping our nation's economy grow, that we believe that is a central part of the President's strategy and vision of a higher performance, higher wage economy in the 21st century, and then he will go on to say -- make, essentially, five points. One, we must finally balance the budget. We got to do that. That's part of his plan. It's embedded in a lot of the discussion we've already had here today.
Secondly, that we've got to seize new opportunities that exist in the global economy. And he will, in a sense, continue some of the discussion that he's had this week as we talked about Mexico and NAFTA and the work that flows out of the trade policies this administration has pursued.
Third, that we need to continue to change government, continue the effort to reinvent government. And he'll talk to this audience of business executives about the work that we have done to reform regulation of the private sector, taking 16,000 pages out of the federal code of regulations so that we can free the private sector to stimulate growth.
And then finally, he's going to make a very strong pitch to the need to continue investments in education. The President believes increasingly that there is a direct correlation between higher education and higher incomes. And that's why he is adamant that in these coming budget negotiations this Congress preserve the kinds of investments in education that would help people find their way to higher wage jobs as we look ahead to the 21st century. And this argument, he believes, will be particularly resonant in a group of corporate executives, who themselves often argue exactly the same premise.
How about that?
Q What's he doing tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: That was just it.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:10 P.M. EDT #120-10/13