THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Aboard The 21st Century Express) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 26, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY, BRUCE REED, AND JOE LOCKHART
Aboard The 21st Century Express
12:25 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: This is not bad. All right, a couple of program notes from this morning. I talked to the President a little bit about the train trip so far and how he's enjoying it, and he obviously is loving every minute of it. He says, "It's my idea of heaven." He says he "loves the romance and sense of history of being on a train." The picture of President Truman -- two pictures, actually -- a magazine cover that's on the wall of his parlor car and a picture of President Truman during his 1948 whistlestop with a very young Lyndon Johnson in the background, he points out to everyone who comes on board. So he's having fun showing off the car that he is actually using.
He says -- I asked him what's his sense of the value of being on a train like this. He says, "The train takes you through some backyards and small towns. I feel like I'm seeing the people I'm working for." He's been hopping out of his seat when we pass some of these crossings and occasionally going outside and waving at people if there's an especially large group there, and then also waving to them from the car.
The only other item of note I have, just moments ago when he got on board he signed the official form from the Democratic National Committee addressed to Party Secretary Kathleen Vick, that will, in fact, allow his name to be placed in nomination at the convention Wednesday night.
Q So he's really going to run? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I asked him, are you certain you want to do this and he smiled, and Bob McNeely, our photographer said, "Well, there goes the senior tour."
Beyond that, I think the main thing -- you want to ask a little bit about the announcement he just made. I've got Bruce Reed here.
Q Can I ask Bruce a question? Bruce, last summer when you did this cop-killer event in I think it was in Chicago, Schumer's office told me that those bullets have not ever been manufactured.
MR. REED: There are currently no -- no bullets on the market that can -- that would fail to meet a performance standard, but it's certainly possible that one could be manufactured. Police organizations are quite worried about the possibility.
If I could just explain the difference. Under current law, a cop-killer bullet is defined by its composition, what materials it's made of, and based on a complicated formula. It is banned if it presumed that it would go through a bullet-proof vest. What we have said is that the best way to keep police officers safe is to have a simple performance standard that would actually measure whether a bullet penetrated a bullet-proof vest.
Q Is there anybody who's threatening to manufacture a bullet like that? Is there a specific company that you have in mind?
MR. REED: Well, a couple of years ago there was a big flap because someone I believe in Atlanta went public and said that they were about to market one, that they had invented a new kind. Then it turned out to be a hoax. But it's certainly possible and we think, better safe than sorry.
Q And how is what you introduced today any different than what you did in Chicago?
MR. REED: Well, the major announcement for today was the extension of the Brady Bill to cover domestic violence, misdemeanors. The other three items are all legislation that the President has sent forward in the past -- a ban on cop-killer bullets based on a performance standard; a fix for the recent Supreme Court decision, the Bailey case, which made it more difficult for prosecutors to go after drug dealers who use a gun in the commission of a crime. The Supreme Court changed the definition of use so the gun act had to be actually actively employed in the commission of a crime. Our Justice Department has argued that the standard should be possession of a gun. And this would be a very valuable tool to prosecutors because they can seek a much stiffer sentence if they can demonstrate use of a gun.
And then the third thing that is legislation we've introduced before, is to fix the Lopez case, which is a 1990 law, a gun-free law that was struck down by the Supreme Court because the legislation failed to demonstrate a sufficient nexus with the commerce clause. And so it's a fairly straightforward fix.
But the most important announcement is about the extension of the Brady Bill. And maybe I could just say a word or two about that. There's also a handout -- I don't know how many of you have gotten it.
Q Bruce, your handout says in that bill that Lautenberg offered this bill and it passed the Senate unanimously --
MR. REED: Right.
Q -- and that the Republican leadership in the House has not brought it up. Is that the same piece of legislation?
MR. REED: That's right. And it passed unanimously in the Senate a few weeks ago, after some stalling on the part of the leadership. But the House leadership seems determined not to bring it up.
Basically, the importance of this step is that four out of five crimes are misdemeanors, not felonies. So the vast number of domestic violence convictions don't get covered by the Brady Bill.
Q Has the Republican leadership refused -- have they told you they won't bring this up?
MR. REED: Well, as with most gun measures that are opposed by the NRA, this one appears to be dead on arrival in the current House.
Q What do you estimate is the scope of the problem? How many misdemeanor domestic violence people are likely to use a handgun in a crime?
MR. REED: Well, in 1994 there were 88,000 reported incidents -- excuse me, not reported incidents -- 88,000 estimated incidents of domestic violence with a firearm.
Q Nineteen eighty-four?
MR. REED: Nineteen ninety-four, sorry.
Q Do you have anything that lists the hard information on how many misdemeanor domestic abuse assaults there have been in terms of convictions, so you can kind of show that to say how many people would be ineligible for weapons, for handguns?
MR. REED: The crime victim survey show that there are about 1.7 million annual incidents of domestic violence. But the FBI, which tracks reported crimes, doesn't break these down by the category of domestic violence. So I can't give you a precise number. But, again, as I said, there are four times as many misdemeanors as felonies.
Q That 1.7 is actually reported, it's not prosecuted?
MR. REED: It's not -- it's estimated, not reported. And, yes, not prosecuted.
Q How many people would this affect? I mean, if you know that there are 88,000 cases reported where they use a gun in domestic violence, how many of them who have been convicted of a misdemeanor and would now be ineligible if this passed?
MR. REED: Well, as I said, today the FBI couldn't give you that statistic.
Q And we don't know how many are repeat, either, right? I mean, it could be one guy coming after -- or one woman coming after her husband four times with the same gun?
MR. REED: Right.
Q Would it only affect people convicted of domestic violence who use a gun in the domestic violence?
MR. REED: No. Anyone who is convicted of domestic violence, either misdemeanor or felony, who tries to go buy a gun would no longer be able to buy a gun.
Q It could be much greater than 88,000?
MR. REED: Sure.
Q And you don't have any --
MR. REED: Can't put a hard figure -- and, again, with the -- the Brady Bill is useful not only for the number of criminals it actually stops from buying a gun, but the number of people it deters from buying a gun in the first place. So just because the latest survey shows that we've got 60,000 felons, fugitives and stalkers in the first two years of the Brady Bill, there's probably a larger universe of felons, fugitives and stalkers who didn't bother to try to go buy a gun.
Q I think that's a little confusing on one point. Did the Lautenberg amendment actually call for expanding the Brady Bill like this, or would that have done something else?
MR. REED: Yes.
Q So this is identical to what Lautenberg --
MR. REED: Essentially, yes.
Q Do you know of any states that already passed such laws?
MR. REED: I think that California has something very similar to this. I'm not one hundred percent sure, but I think this is roughly modeled after that. But I can check for you.
Q Bruce, can I just double-check the progress of this bill in the House -- who sponsored it, did it go through committee, it's marked up, it's ready, it's just waiting?
MR. REED: Yes, Torrecelli sponsored it and --
Q Marked up?
MR. REED: No. Well, it hasn't gone anywhere in the House.
Q Just introduced.
MR. REED: Right.
Q But how do you know that it's -- it's been blocked in what way? How has it been blocked?
MR. REED: Well, there's been no movement.
Q I know, but when was it introduced?
MR. REED: Earlier this year.
Q Was there an attempt to attach it to the Brady Bill upon initial passage or --
MR. REED: No. The Brady Bill passed in '93, which was not -- there's been one extension of the Brady Bill since the passage of the Brady Bill, the Crime Bill in 1994 added stalkers as a category.
Q Is the NRA actually against this?
MR. REED: The NRA opposes the Brady Bill, so they naturally oppose any extension of the Brady Bill.
Q Are you -- on the misdemeanors, it would only be misdemeanors involved in some kind of domestic crime?
MR. REED: Correct.
Q Only those.
MR. REED: Right.
Q And that four out of five number, was that of domestic violence or --
MR. REED: That's a general figure -- that applies to all categories of crimes.
Q Bruce, yesterday Sarah Brady's organization, Handgun Control, Inc., released what they called updated figures on the effect of the Brady Bill and they say now 102,000 felons, et cetera, have been prevented from buying handguns. Does the administration view and endorse those figures? Do you have reason to believe that's accurate?
MR. REED: They used a different sampling approach. They went to different states, they used a slightly different method. We've no reason to doubt their figures, but the official administration estimate remains 60,000.
Q On the cop-killer bullets, wasn't that part of some other legislation that got cut out by the Republican Congress either on the Crime Bill or was it in terrorism?
MR. REED: What happened on cop-killer bullets, the cop-killer bullets nearly passed in the House Judiciary Committee, but two Republican freshmen changed their vote and ended up killing -- they went back, changed their vote --
Q It was connected to something else, right?
MR. REED: I think it was in the terrorism bill.
Q So why do you think it will pass on its own now?
MR. REED: I'm not making any predictions about its ability to pass in the current Congress, but it's the right thing to do and we're going to keep pushing for it.
Q And this is a top priority for Clinton's second term should he win one?
MR. REED: Absolutely.
Q Why did he not address it before?
MR. REED: Cop-killer bullet he endorsed --
Q No, the extension of Brady.
Q When the Lautenberg bill came up, did you issue paper in support of it?
MR. REED: I think the Justice Department has issued official paper. We didn't make a -- we didn't do a event and the President hasn't spoken to it.
Q Is there a statute of limitations on your proposal? That is, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor can you be -- a gun forever?
MR. REED: I think it remains on your record.
MR. MCCURRY: Let me ask Joe Lockhart, he's got a couple of political notes.
Q Is it a lifetime ban just for a conviction of a misdemeanor?
Q How long would you be banned from owning a gun, just --
MR. REED: There's no statue of limitations.
MR. LOCKHART: Just by way of political background, the trip here in Ohio is the 14th time the President has been here. To Michigan is the eighth time; Indiana will be the second. Tomorrow in Royal Oak the President will receive the official endorsement from the National Association of Police Organizations, which is the second largest police group in the country, representing 185,000 police officers.
Q What was Salinas?
MR. LOCKHART: Salinas was the International Union of Police Associations.
Q Mike, are you going to let us see the car at any point?
MR. LOCKHART: On the issue of the NRA that Bruce was talking about, the NRA and Senator Dole support the insta-check system, and have opposed the Brady Bill. And Dole, himself, has opposed the Violence Against Women Act. I think yesterday they responded to questions about this in saying that they oppose the idea of misdemeanors -- the Brady Bill being extended to misdemeanors.
And, in fact, on Violence Against Women, it was 16 years ago today on the Senate floor when they were debating violence against women that Bob Dole said, "The federal government has no business getting into the treatment of domestic ills of this nature in any event." So I think there's a pretty clear contrast between the position of the NRA, Dole and --
Q Could you read that quote again?
MR. LOCKHART: Sure. I have it, I can get you a copy. "The federal government has no business getting into the treatment of domestic ills of this nature in any event."
Q Well, you're not saying he's for spouse abuse?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q What is the level of coordination between what the President said at the Academy today and what Sarah Brady is going to say in her address to the convention? How closely tied -- have you spoken to each other?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know about the conversation, but I think Sarah Brady has worked up what she wants to say and she's an expert on this issue.
Q Bruce, is there a point at which the President parts company with Sarah Brady with respect to gun control?
MR. REED: I think the gun measures that we support are the ones that we've endorsed.
Q But the President said today that he's a strong supporter of the right of Americans to own guns, and so that would be in conflict with Sarah Brady's view on the subject, is it not?
MR. REED: They're very supportive of the work that we've done. We worked side by side to pass the Brady Bill, pass the assault weapons ban. We've worked side by side with Sarah and Jim Brady and every major police organization to try to pass the legislation we've talked about here today.
Q But to the extent that Sarah Brady advocates a ban on handguns, the President parts company --
MR. REED: We have not supported all the measures.
Q Joe, what was the context of the Dole quote?
MR. LOCKHART: They were debating the Domestic Violence Prevention and Services Act of 1980, which was providing a $65 million grant. I can get you the transcript of the floor debate, but Dole was opposed to providing the grant on the basis that the federal government shouldn't be involved in domestic issues like this.
Q Did the grant pass? Did the bill pass?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it did, yes. I'll double-check it for you.
Q Just on a point of logistics, is anything that's happening on the train going to be beamed into the convention hall tonight?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, we may, we may not. We'll see later on in the day.
Q You guys were testing the helicopter yesterday, right?
MR. MCCURRY: We told some of you earlier, we have national technical means at our disposal on the train and we've been playing with it up there in the cabin and we'll see what happens.
Q Does this mean it's not working yet? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No, it means that I'm just going to keep you in suspense.
Q Mike, change of subject. Richard Jewell's mother this morning arranged or had a news conference where she called on the President, appealed to the President to clear her son's name, saying, "Mr. President, you are head of the Justice Department, please -- you are the protector of all people's right, do what you can." Has anyone called Mr. Jewell or talked to anyone from White House? Do you have any reaction?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we will be getting a briefing from people who are following that issue. The President, to my knowledge, is not aware of those remarks. I'd refer you to the Justice Department for further comment.
Q Mike, what does the President think of Bob Dole's position in general to expand the use of the military to fight drugs?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President -- first of all, Mr. Dole, himself, expressed grave reservations about that idea when he announced it yesterday. And there are many experts who have concerns. We have a very strong interdiction program involving use of U.S. military resources, and we also use defense intelligence resources in the war against drugs. The President is confident that those who are working hard to fight the drug trafficking -- and, indeed, he is among them because he's raised this issue and fought for greater global cooperation in the war against drug trafficking -- are confident that the use of military resources as they are currently designed is an appropriate part of our drug control strategy.
Q The Washington Post a couple of weeks ago reported that drug interdiction, the National Security Council prioritized it -- dropped it from third to 29th in its list of priorities. Is that true?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't know that that is true, I'd have to check on that. But it is a very high priority for the President. And this President just recently took steps against the government of Colombia. I'd say if you look at drug fighting cooperation and the way in which we use our resources, both diplomatic and military, we have extensive cooperation with the government of Mexico. We have extensive cooperation with the government of Mexico in part because the United States has been of assistance to the government of Mexico as it restores health to its economy. That's one of the benefits -- not only the fact that we have made money on the economic assistance package to Mexico, but we have actually found a more cooperative climate for things like combatting drug trafficking.
Q Mike, don't you think this is a scenic place for a presidential press conference?
MR. MCCURRY: I think this is an excellent location for a briefing by the Press Secretary. (Laughter.) We had a question earlier. We are going to take the pool up so you can see the car and get a little sense of the flavor of it.
Q Are we going to have some kind of access to him on this trip?
MR. MCCURRY: You just have been watching him every stop along the way, which I think is great.
Q No, no. Access meaning --
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, Karen.
Q Is that answer -- the answer then is no?
MR. MCCURRY: It's an answer, as always, I take things into advisement.
Q The President seemed to be throwing in the towel on the CNN interview on trying to -- youth drug use.
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely not.
Q If you could think of something good --
MR. MCCURRY: No, as he made the point that there are many of his opponents criticizing his efforts who fail to come forward with any plans of their own and, in fact, fight the President in doing what he wants to do. He is for safe and drug-free schools. He has tried to get funding for those initiatives. He is very concerned that some of the proposals from the opponent and the opponent's party would lead to decimating cuts in our drug-fighting strategies. There could be up to 40 percent cuts in drug treatment, drug-control strategies, if we pursue the type of budget plans that have been put forward on the Republican side.
Q Mike, can you talk a bit about how the President has been preparing for his speech? If he's writing on the train --
MR. MCCURRY: He has been meeting from time to time with some of his speechwriters and exchanging drafts, and he is doing a very extensive amount of rewriting himself on it. He has got a very clear sense of what he wants to say and he is now trying to make it as compact as possible.
Q When did he start it --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, in a sense he started working on it when he decided to write his book because his book was very much a part of the thematic architecture that he will use to structure the speech tomorrow night. In fact, I think the effort that he put into writing the book was a very important part of preparing himself for the argument he wanted to make. You can see clearly from his presentations yesterday he has got a very well-developed sense of the argument he wants to make to the American people. And what he wants to do now is fine-tune the structure of that argument and to excite people about the specific ideas he has for reaching the destination that he describes when he talks about America in the year 2000.
Q How long a speech will it be?
MR. MCCURRY: It will be long enough.
Q If we've read the book and heard the speeches on this trip, are we going to feel like we've heard it all before at the convention?
MR. MCCURRY: No, you will feel like you've got a good sense of the direction he is going, a good sense of how the President would lead this country in the 21st century, and you'll get some more specific ideas Thursday on how precisely he will do that.
Q Can we get a heads up on the educational literacy initiative of tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, you can get heads up first thing tomorrow morning.
Q Dole-Kemp people were passing out a statement that Columbus never got its money for community policing. Do you know anything about that? I think it was like $2.8 million -- they said they never got their police. *
[* Columbus, Ohio was awarded $4,406,382 in COPS funding to put an additional 82 officers on the streets.]
MR. REED: I don't think that's right, but let me check.
Q Mike, how many guests does the President have on board now?
MR. MCCURRY: How many guests? On any given stop we've got people from place to place, we pick up folks and some folks ride along the way. We estimate we've had about on any given leg about 150 of all of you; we've got about 50 local guests. The only people riding with him, of course, are Chelsea and Chelsea's friend.
But we pick up -- like, for example, Senator Glenn is with us now, some of the Ohio state political people who joined us at the last leg. And we've got about 75 staff, communications specialists, all the normal people who travel when the President travels. So a total party of about 275, on average; it fluctuates from leg to leg.
Q Will Dimitrios and Nick Theofanis be riding all the way to Chicago?
MR. MCCURRY: The President just asked us that question and I did not know the answer. I think they are getting off at some point. But we've got a -- Lorri McHugh, we've got a local hero request, if you can come and work that out.
Q Mike, can you say more about the costs of this whole extravaganza?
MR. MCCURRY: I gave out the figures yesterday. The Clinton-Gore campaign is responsible for $113,000 under its share of the contract for the train. Obviously, it's considerably more expensive than that to do what the White House always has to do to support the President of the United States of America when he travels, but we'd be doing that whether we were on Air Force One or on train. They have done a good job of accommodating the national security and command and control moves of the President while he's on board the train. And, of course, a very, very large part of the cost is all of you, but you, thankfully, pay for that.
Q Could you get us a total cost figure, by any chance?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have a total cost figure. But Clinton-Gore portion is $113,000.
Q The 275, did that include us or does that not include us?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, that is inclusive of the press and it's been higher than that and lower than that, depending on the legs.
Q Mike, when did Clinton first start working on the book, so we have a sense of how long he's been thinking --
MR. MCCURRY: He started working on it in -- started thinking about it during the course of 1995. He actually started to accumulate his own ideas and think about an outline in November of 1995, he tells us. But those of who know of his work on it knows that more effort went into it in recent weeks. And, of course, he was working on it right up through his recent vacation in Jackson Hole.
Q Mike, on this question for tomorrow, is tomorrow's policy going to have any budgetary impact, or not?
MR. MCCURRY: The question is, is there budgetary impact. No, today's extension is really, as a matter of law, there are local law enforcement and some federal law enforcement costs associated with an expansion of that, but they can be accommodated within the budgetary structure of those law enforcement agencies.
Tomorrow when the President talks about literacy, he will have a specific initiative that requires some adjustment to the President's balanced budget plan. What we will do is lay out for you tomorrow the way in which the President will pay for a number of the ideas that he will be developing Tuesday, Wednesday, and in his speech Thursday. The total cost of that within the structure of the whole federal budget is about an $8 billion shift of resources that needs to be paid for by doing some new things and adjusting some other forms of spending. And we'll have a briefing tomorrow that tells you how we pay for it. But we'll hold back the details on how we would spend it until the President's speech Thursday night.
Q Will he be watching any of the convention night --
MR. MCCURRY: He may be able to do that. He has been able to see C-Span and I believe CNN and pick up some other signals from the train, and if he has an opportunity he'll probably watch some of it.
Q How do you pull in cable signals on a train?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again.
Q How do you pull in cable signals on a train?
MR. MCCURRY: We've got a little --
Q National technical means.
MR. MCCURRY: -- gizmo up there, national technical means. We've got a gizmo on top of one of these trains.
Q Mike, of the 100,000 issue, police on the streets, the President seems to imply that they are already here.
MR. MCCURRY: No, no. As we have said over and over in briefing after briefing, we have funded 100,000. We have got budgeted, appropriated I think up to 44,000 now, of which many communities are in the process of putting the officers actually on the streets. We're careful to say that that is obviously the budget goal which the President fought for and preserved and protected. And those officers will be in the line of duty in coming years as communities train and equip people to do community policing. Community policing is not necessarily the same as local law enforcement efforts. It requires in some cases training, and they can begin and do that training when they get the funding.
Q How many are employed now on the streets --
MR. MCCURRY: 44,000.
MR. REED: Money has gone out for 44,000.
MR. MCCURRY: Money has gone out for 44,000. And in some communities they have got -- they do rotation and they bring people into training exercises, so at any one time the number that actually patrol could conceivably be less than that. But they have got the ability -- the community has got the ability to put the people in the streets if that's the way they are deploying their resources.
Q Mike, on the war on drugs, Dole said the President slogan is "Just do Nothing."
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, that's -- you should bring -- Mr. Lockhart is more than happy to respond in kind to something so outrageous.
Q How would you respond to that?
MR. MCCURRY: I stay clear of things that are nonsensical. (Laughter.)
Q Since when?
Q Could I get some clarification on the Brady Bill. You're not really -- the Brady Bill is a five-day wait, right? I mean, what you're expanding when you say expand the Brady Bill --
MR. REED: We're extending the categories of people to whom it applies. It's still five days.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:55 P.M. EDT