THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release September 4, 1998 3:10 P.M. (L)
PRESS BRIEFING BY
MIKE MCCURRY AND
DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR JIM STEINBERG
Dublin College Filing Center
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Steinberg is going to give you a sense of some of the meetings the President had with the Taoiseach and some of his other conversations in and around the events today, maybe do a little preview of the afternoon speech and some of you wanted a comment to kind of bring us to the end of this journey, which he will be happy to do. And I can take other questions if you have any.
MR. STEINBERG: Good afternoon and welcome to the only filing center that I've ever been in that serves Guinness, which is a positive credit to be given to those who organized this facility.
The President met this morning with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in a meeting which was largely just the two of them meeting alone, but they came out at the end of the meeting to brief the rest of us on their discussions. And it also gave some of the members of the Cabinet and the President's staff an opportunity to talk to their counterparts.
Today was a very important continuation of the work that we did yesterday. The events of yesterday were not only an opportunity for the President to speak on a number of occasions to the issues that are facing Ireland and Northern Ireland in the peace process, but also a chance to engage in a lot of very direct discussions with the participants.
During the course of the day the President spent considerable time yesterday with Prime Minister Blair. We had a chance to talk to all of the key parties. There were senior officials, obviously, engaged in discussions with their counterparts about next steps forward as we look forward to the meetings next week and the efforts to get the new Assembly underway. And not surprisingly, the discussions between Prime Minister Ahern and President Clinton today were focused to an important extent on the peace process issues, and particularly, sort of how do we build on the very important developments of last week, including the statements by Sinn Fein, the appointment of Martin McGuiness to work with the decommissioning commission, and the forthcoming discussions among the party leaders to try to sustain the momentum that's been developed over the last few weeks.
I think it's important to recognize that we would not be where we are now were it not for the efforts of the Irish. Because one of the important elements of the peace agreement was the vote in the referendum here in the Irish Republic to, in effect, repeal Articles II and III of the Irish Constitution which made constitutional claims with respect to Northern Ireland. And so there is an important element of a broader Irish history and an Irish political settlement, which was brought to bear here. And the overwhelming support of the people of the Irish Republic was a critical part of moving past the conflicts of the past 30 years and into the future.
The focus between the two leaders today was precisely on how to generate momentum not only on the constitutional issues which have got a lot of focus -- the setting up of the new executive and the like -- but also moving on the full range of issues that are involved in the peace agreement, including the security situation in Northern Ireland, issues like equality, policing and the development of economic potential of the region. And the issue of the economic opportunity is very much going to be in the centerpiece of the President's speech this afternoon.
I think that in addition to a discussion of the peace process, the Taoiseach asked to hear more from the President about the situation in Russia and its impact on the broader international economic situation. They also discussed briefly the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa. They noted in passing that the Taoiseach is on his way to China later this month, and that they intended over lunch that they hope to have a further conversation about the situation in China.
The Taoiseach thanked the President for U.S. efforts that have supported Irish membership in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, which is an important development. It really represents a different kind of approach and a spirit in the Irish Republic of greater involvement in international institutions, a greater role on the world stage, which we've seen as the President has noted in his remarks in things like greater involvement in international peacekeeping and the like; and the kind of leadership role that this new dynamic Ireland can play in the world.
They talked briefly about the educational partnerships that we are developing with Secretary Riley and his counterparts and the new Mitchell scholarships.
I think that we all feel after two days here that while there are very important obstacles that remain to making sure that the peace process stays on track, that there is a growing commitment not only by the people, but also by the leaders, to try to find pragmatic ways to deal with these issues. And the President and the Taoiseach, along with Prime Minister Blair, are committed to work very intensively in the coming weeks to try to help the parties find creative ways to move the process forward.
I think the other thing that's been apparent over the last several days is that what we have seen is really the indispensability of American leadership. The President's message in Russia, the importance of his coming there at a time of great difficulty, really shows that in a time of crisis -- although there are obviously risks associated with leadership -- that it's important for the United States to be deeply involved, to try to work as best it can to try to influence the course of events that have such a profound impact not only on the people of the United States and Russia, but on the world. And here, as you've seen over the past several days, that the United States, obviously in partnership with the parties and with the leaders of the two governments, is playing our continued indispensable role in support of the peace process.
That gives us an opportunity to sustain the American leadership. And the President has been talking about that as he goes back to Congress -- the importance of having support for things like the IMF funding, which will be an important priority when he returns to the United States.
So with that, let me take your questions.
Q On another subject, do you see the delay in the Chernomyrdin vote as a positive sign that maybe there's a compromise in the works and that when they do vote he may be confirmed?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, as you know, we are not taking positions on specific individuals or who should play what role in the government. But we do think it's important for Russia to move forward and to take some steps that it needs to do to deal with this very severe economic and political crisis that it's facing right now.
I think that to the extent that the leaders, the political leaders there can come together around a sound program that will deal with Russia's economic challenges, that that's a very positive sign. But in terms of how this comes out in terms of 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 towards putting a government in place?
MR. STEINBERG: I don't want to try to handicap the situation there. I mean, obviously, there have been intensive discussions. We think it's important for there to come together a consensus in Russia behind an effective program. To the extent that there are -- the leadership and the political figures are coming together behind a sound, solid program, that would be a positive sign. But I think it's too soon to try to predict at this stage whether this development could lead to that kind of consensus behind an effective working program. To the extent that this would lead in that direction, obviously, we would welcome that.
Q On the same subject, Mr. Chernomyrdin has declared that he would like to impose economic dictatorship in January and he's making noises that sound like he also wants to form a currency board, which Larry Summers has said is not such a great idea. What's your reaction to either of those ideas?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, one of the things I've learned a long time ago is that one should resist a lot of quick translations of Russians' expressions into American or English counterparts. And I think that the most important thing here is that we want to wait and see what specifically is intended by way of policies.
I think that the issues with respect to the Prime Minister -- the Acting Prime Minister's remarks, are things that what we will be looking for is whether this represents, for example, in the area of taxes, a serious effort to develop a disciplined fiscal policy, an effective tax collection system. There's some suggestion in the language that he used that that may be what he was hinting at.
But I don't really want to try to read behind the lines at this point. What we'll be looking for is how a government gets formed and what are the specific policies that it seeks to pursue. As you said, Larry has talked to a number of the policy issues there; I don't want to add anything further on that. But I think it would be premature to try to speculate on specific policies as a result of the remarks from Mr. Chernomyrdin today.
Q Scott Ritter continued to insist yesterday that high officials of the U.S. government put pressure on U.N. inspectors not to push certain inspections in Iraq. Does the U.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 for Ambassador Butler. He's made that point and it is something that we feel very strongly about. Ambassador Butler consults with all of the countries on the Security Council very frequently. He certainly consults with the United States because without the United States there would be no effective inspections of any sort. We have had conversations about timing and tactics on a number of occasions with Ambassador Butler, giving him our view about the most effective way to achieve the objective which I think even Mr. Ritter shares, which is how to get the inspections done.
The record is perfectly clear that because of the efforts of the United States, inspections which were being blocked by Saddam have gone forward. Last fall he tried to throw the U.S. inspectors out. Because of the efforts of the United States working with Ambassador Butler and the Council, we got the U.S. inspectors back in. Last winter he tried to block the inspections of the presidential palaces. Because of the efforts of the United States, because of the pressure we brought to bear, the palaces were inspected, other sensitive sites have been inspected, and Mr. Ritter was able to conduct some of those inspections himself.
We, obviously, have another standoff with Saddam now; we're working through that. But I would certainly say that whatever suggestions or discussions we've had with Mr. Butler are designed to promote the idea of inspections, not to impede them.
Q Well, you just cite history. Then the answer to my question is, no, you have not put pressure on the inspectors not to push certain inspections?
MR. STEINBERG: That's absolutely correct. We have not 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 that parsing this too much?
MR. STEINBERG: We have discussed with Ambassador Butler our perception of the most effective way to get inspections to go forward -- not any individual inspection, but more broadly, to make sure that we have --
Q Did you suggest that the time was then not propitious or right to push an inspection, for instance?
MR. STEINBERG: We have suggested with him the best ways 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 we have always suggested how we can contribute and work with him. We've obviously said, here's what we can bring to the table to help it get done, here's what makes us in the best posture to get it done. He obviously needs to look to us for being able to do that, and so to the extent that we have a view that we are able to make a more effective diplomatic argument at a particular time or another, we tell him that. But he has always made his own judgment about how that should be done.
And he needs the information from us about what we can bring to bear at any given time, what the array of circumstances are, how our diplomacy is going. And these are things that Mr. Ritter does not know about. Mr. Ritter does not know, for example, about the conversations that we're having with other partners in the Security Council, trying to marshal support. And so, in trying to make a judgment, which is ultimately Ambassador Butler's judgment about how to do his job, which is not any one particular inspection, but rather to sustain the whole system of inspections, he needs to take into account the judgment of his expert inspectors about what they see on the ground, and the information from his key supporters in the Security Council about how to get that done.
Q Is the United States suggesting, Jim, that more could be done by being less aggressive with Iraq?
MR. STEINBERG: No, I'm suggesting that in all matters of diplomacy, particularly where the ability to be effective is strengthened when we can act multilaterally and have the support of other actors that you have to take into account the timing and the circumstances. But it's not a question of more or less; it's a question of how and when.
Q Back to Russia. Did Mr. Chernomyrdin discuss in any of his long conversations with Clinton any of the specifics or details of this proposal he's made? And did the President express any opinion as to whether that was a good idea or not?
MR. STEINBERG: As far as I know there were not specific discussions. There were general discussions about the path of reform commitments or statements that Mr. Chernomyrdin made about not going back and the like. But I'm not aware in the discussions with Mr. Chernomyrdin of -- the discussion of specific ideas other than the need to deal with the fiscal situation, the need to deal generally with the situation with the banks, for example. But I don't think any specific proposals were made. I don't want to rule it out because I don't know that I have every bit of detail; but certainly to my knowledge, there were no specific discussions.
Q Does the President feel that his personal involvement would now be helpful in resolving the situation between India and Pakistan?
MR. STEINBERG: We are very actively and intensively involved in the issue of India and Pakistan and how to reverse the arms race and try to minimize the damages of these tests.
The President has had conversations with leaders over the past and I would not rule out the possibility of him having conversations or exchange of letters, for example, in the near future. I don't want to get into specifics, but it is something that the President has, in fact, himself, been directly involved in. And I, again, would not rule out further direct involvement in the coming short period of time.
Q When would you reach a decision about whether a visit would be useful?
MR. STEINBERG: I think that it's really too soon to say. I mean, I think that we are intensively engaged. I think you know that Secretary Talbott had meetings in New York yesterday with Jaswant Singh. I have not had a detailed readout of 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 to meet with Secretary Talbott and others who have been involved in these discussions. We'll at least have a better sense of what the situation is. But I don't want to predict at this point whether we are going to be making any decision -- except to reiterate that from our perspective right now the visits are on hold.
Q What will the President do with respect to IMF funding when he gets back, that he hasn't been doing up to now?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, I think that the President is going to continue his efforts to try to support that. We are in that time in the congressional season when people have to make the decisions that have to do with funding. There are a number of bills and vehicles that are around right now, so I think there is an opportunity for Congress to finally focus on this issue.
I think nothing can make a stronger case than the events of recent days about the importance of having the resources to deal with these situations to give confidence to the international community. And I know the President has been talking about that with the members of Congress who are on this trip. It's been an issue that he's discussed on a number of occasions with the congressional delegation and I think he will be addressing this both publicly and in individual conversations with members himself, directly upon his return.
Q Jim, does the President think that the IMF strategy that was adopted toward Russia the past several years he's been absolutely right on and he's been correct, and looking back, you wouldn't have changed it at all?
MR. STEINBERG: I think that nobody has 100 percent in hindsight. But I don't want to sort of suggest that there's nothing ever different that you could ever do that wouldn't make it better.
I think the basic thrust of the approach, which has been one of supporting reform, being in a position of trying to provide the needed resources, not only on the macroeconomic issues, but I think there's a tendency to forget how involved both the United States and the MDBs have been on the project-related activities, on supporting the development of infrastructure and helping to develop markets, on working with small entrepreneurs. The program is a lot more extensive than just the kind of structural adjustment assistance that we've seen in sort of the high-profile headlines.
Obviously, everybody can do something better, but I think the basic thrust of the efforts have been sound. And we continue to believe that if Russia adopts the kind of polices that will sustain the process of reform, then it can be put back on the path of growth.
Q Is there any concerns about any winner in Russia? Because I've heard potato crop was doing fairly badly and with the devaluation of the ruble it will be very difficult to import food. Is there any planning on relief measures or any planning that it will be needed?
MR. STEINBERG: I think there is a sensitivity to the fact that there are a high level of food imports in Russia and we are looking at the situation, talking to the Russians about the overall situation. I think it will be easier to make a judgment once we see in the coming weeks what kind of economic and political situation we're in. But I think there is a sensitivity to the fact that this will have a -- the change, the devaluation and the like could have an effect on the situation, particularly with respect to food.
Q Jim, if there's nothing to Scott Ritter's charges of appeasement, why is the U.S. response to this round of Iraqi intransigence so different from what it was some months ago when we sent carrier battle groups and other Navy ships to the region?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, I have a couple of observations about that. First, in response to the last round of challenges, we decided to reconfigure our forces in the region because 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 and withdrawing forces which imposed costs, obviously, on our military and had an impact; and that we wanted to have a posture that would allow us to retain significant capability in the region without have to constantly make specific deployments to deal with the crisis and then withdraw them when the crisis ended. So we have significantly greater fire power in important respects now in the Gulf then we had at the time of the last situation, which sustains a number of options for us.
Second, we are in the middle of this process, as the President and others have said. We have not ruled out any options in terms of the resolution of this. We have to use our best judgment about the best way to marshal the various tools and techniques that we have, including diplomatic efforts. I think you're going to see further activity in the U.N. Two weeks ago we got, in connection with the denial of the sanctions review, one of the strongest statements by the whole Security Council, unanimously, opposing the actions of Saddam.
We want to be in a posture where it is clear that what Saddam is doing is challenging not just the United States, but the entire international community. I think the statements of President Yeltsin while we were in Russia, his categorical opposition to what Saddam was doing, his belief that it was an offense against the Security Council, against Russia, not just against the United States, helps us be in a posture which maximizes the pressure on Saddam.
We're in the middle of this right now. It's by no means over, and we are pressing ahead with what we think are the best combination of tactics to try to get the inspection regime in place.
Q Jim, are you saying it's counterproductive to push a confrontation with Iraq until it's clear that multilateral action is possible?
MR. STEINBERG: What I'm saying is that we want to try to maximize the possibility of multilateral action without ruling out any options.
Q Has the Irish government made any statement to President Clinton or to anyone else in his group here about the missile attacks in Afghanistan and Sudan?
MR. STEINBERG: So far as I know -- and the only time that I'm aware of this having been discussed was in the one-on-one, so I'm reporting what the President told me, which is that the Taoiseach expressed sympathy and his understanding of what the United States faced in terms of the challenge. They obviously talked about the challenge of terrorism as being one that both countries are facing, and the need to deal with it internationally.
Q But there was no criticism of the government --
MR. MCCURRY: I can't say yes or no. I'm unaware of any comment to that effect.
Q What is your expectation from the visit of Dennis Ross to the Middle East next week?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that the two parties have requested that Dennis come out. The President felt that it would be useful, given the state of play and the fact that there clearly has been some movement -- but we have not reached a resolution to have Dennis out there to make a personal assessment. Obviously, there are few people who know the parties and the situation better than Dennis. And I think the President felt that, given that fact that the parties wanted Dennis out there and that he would -- that in terms of how we respond to the situation, we would be in a better position to do that based on Dennis's face-to-face conversations with the parties, that that's what he hoped to do.
Q Can we get to Mike before the President's starts?
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 the questions that you're about to ask.
MR. MCCURRY: All right, I've got the week ahead here. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, the President today made no mention of the investigation or of Ken Starr, something he'd done in the past. 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 suggests the President's aides or staff or someone is still pursuing a policy of condemning the independent counsel and trying to complain about the investigation. What is the President's thinking along the lines of the investigation?
MR. MCCURRY: The President's thinking is as he reflected it in his comments today.
Q Mike, the President is losing a lot of support today among Democrats, obviously. What is the President trying to do repair the breach with the Democrats?
MR. MCCURRY: He made a judgment about what is obvious. I'm not in a position to make that judgment.
Q Mike, what is the President doing? Is he calling 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 he is.
Q What is the President doing to repair the breach with Democrats? Is he calling Democratic leaders?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, he's, going back to when he was on the Vineyard, had extensive contact with Democratic leaders.
Q Has he been doing that while he's been on the trip, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: He hasn't had much time to do that on the trip, but he's had some conversations and will continue to do so in the future. I think the President clearly does not believe that that one conversation, one statement, one speech is going to be sufficient in addressing this matter the way he wants to, and he intends to keep addressing it both personally and, to the degree he needs to publicly, as he sees fit.
Q Mike, Senator Lieberman seemed to be begging the President to do more of what he called "healing the wounds of our 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 in healing.
Q Does he intend to do something more along the lines 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 House asked Lieberman to hold off until after the --
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that Mr. Bowles had a conversation with Senator Lieberman in which he said -- understood that he had deep concerns about this matter and wanted to address it. I think that Mr. Bowles inquired whether or not Senator Lieberman could hold off until the President was back home on U.S. soil. But the President didn't take any issue, as you know, with Senator Lieberman's statement.
The President has had an opportunity prior to the trip to talk to Senator Lieberman, and he sought him out principally to discuss arms export policy with respect to Russia and Iran. But they may have had an opportunity to talk about the matter Senator Lieberman addressed on the floor yesterday as well.
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 sometime prior to our departure.
Q Departure from where?
MR. MCCURRY: From Washington. From the United States.
Q This is a President who has clearly chosen his words very carefully with regard to this matter, so my question is, why did he say "I'm sorry" today, when he hasn't said it before?
MR. MCCURRY: David, you heard me the other day I don't believe it's the role of staff, on a matter that is as intensely personal and being dealt with in an intensely public way, for us to comment, spin, amplify, comment further. The President said what he said. It's heartfelt. And I'll just let it stand as for what it is.
Q How concerned is the President and the White House overall about this break in the Democratic ranks or that it might snowball?
MR. MCCURRY: I think as our statement indicated last night, it's always tough to hear criticism from a friend --from friends, plural.
Q Mike, does it not show a lack of respect for the President that members of his own party would criticize him while he was overseas on an international trip? And what does that tell you about --
MR. MCCURRY: On this matter, as the President indicated today, it would be hard to say anything critical that the President doesn't agree with because he feels that himself.
Q Does it disturb or concern the President that this issue continues to dog him on a foreign trip when he's trying to play a role in both Russia and Ireland?
MR. MCCURRY: The President's successfully doing the work of our nation here on the trip and doing what he set out to do on this trip, and he's not surprised that matters from back home arise. That's not infrequently the case when this President or any President travels abroad.
Q Senator Lieberman suggested that there are moral consequences to what the President has done and the way he's handled it. Do you or the President believe that their are moral consequences that the President needs to address now, that there's something he needs to fix?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that is surely the case. I'm not sure what that means, but it's surely the case.
Q What you just said indicates that either the President or you all all feel that he'll continue to address this. You said there's a need to continue to address it. But the other day, he said he wants to move on. Is there a plan for him to really --
MR. MCCURRY: Those are not necessarily contradictory ideas. He needs to move on with the work that he was 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 when he will go home. But that doesn't mean that the last has been said on this matter, because it clearly wouldn't be. It's clearly going to continue to be a clear focus of all of you in this room, of many in Washington, and to some degree to the American people.
Q Is there a concrete plan for him to say anything more in terms of a speech?
MR. MCCURRY: This is such an intensely personal thing, and the President is deciding for himself how to address these matters, and so there can't be any concrete plan that I'm aware of because the President is taking it one day at a time.
Q It is not a mistake to say that there was a change of tone, however, in the President's remarks this morning.
MR. MCCURRY: If you asked the President that question, I think that he believes his tone has been consistent on this, but it's been interpreted differently and variously by other people commenting on it. I think he believes what he said today is consistent with how he's addressed it in the past. But, surely, others would have a different interpretation, and I imagine that will continue to be the case.
Q But if I may, he said he was sorry today, and there was lacking any assault on the independent counsel.
MR. MCCURRY: He believes he's been clear on that all along. But others take a different view of that.
Q When we were at the Kremlin, the President said he'd reread his speech of August 17th and thought he had said what he wanted to say.
MR. MCCURRY: And he believes he's been just as --
Q Even knowing what Senator Lieberman and others have said, he still believes that he addressed it adequately on the 17th?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he knows -- I mean, it's clear that some people believe he didn't address it adequately. And I think the President understands that he has some obligation to address the concerns that they express. And he took very seriously, obviously, what Senator Lieberman had to say.
Q You said that the President is determining his own response. There was a report that there was a staff meeting here last night after the Senator's speech to determine what the response should be, and that there was a recommendation that he should respond.
MR. MCCURRY: There was a staff meeting in the pub at our hotel -- (laughter) -- but it dealt with nothing more than the 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 anyone that I'm on this trip with participated in. And my understanding is the President and the First Lady turned in almost immediately upon arriving here last night.
Q Mike, in his conversations with Democrats, have any Democrats told the President that he cannot count on their unified support in the event of impeachment hearings? And have any suggested that he resign?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any discussion of resignation with any Democratic leaders, and I don't believe any Democratic leader who has discussed this matter with the President has prejudged an outcome that would suggest the former part of the question.
Q Is he reconsidering his decision about not resigning?
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, let me be fair and spread it around.
Q He said that he's going to continue to talk about 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 talk about this for the remainder of his presidency?
MR. MCCURRY: That's probably going to be as much up to you as to him.
Q Mike, you said there was no discussion of resignation with Democratic leaders. Has there been any discussion of resignation at all with anyone?
MR. MCCURRY: None whatsoever.
Q Mike, with all this going on back home, what has 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 parallel universes we live in. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, the Post said that the White House is considering hiring a senior advisor to help --
MR. MCCURRY: I know nothing about that. I read that Post story today, and that's that universe back in Washington. I haven't heard any discussion of any of that on this trip, can't find anyone who knows anything about that. And as with many stories about this matter, someone somewhere has ideas that they're sharing with journalists that the rest of us don't seem to know anything about.
Q Does that mean that we can say, then, the President has not broached that with George Mitchell on this trip?
MR. MCCURRY: Senator Mitchell has been on this trip and they have had some opportunities to talk privately. What they've talked about privately is private, but I know for a fact they'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 not changed on that.
Q Speaking of the parallel universe, does the President feel that his ability to function in the universe of world leaders, either in Russia or Ireland, has been impeded on this trip by the other universe?
MR. MCCURRY: It clearly has not been, and I think the President takes some satisfaction at that.
Q What is the evidence of that?
MR. MCCURRY: He dealt with world leaders on this trip and confident that he continue to do good work in the interest of the American people as he fulfills his constitutional responsibilities.
Q As possibly your last briefing on a foreign trip, do you have any thoughts about what this has all meant to you?
MR. MCCURRY: I've got many thoughts on it. I'm not going to share them here.
Q Mike, Senator Lieberman raised the possibility of some sort of censure or sanctions. What effect would that have on the White House to do its job?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President very properly indicated that's not something that we should comment upon. That's within the province of the Senate and how they want to proceed and it's not something that the White House should pre-judge. We will have to continue to do our work in the executive branch to the best of our abilities. And the President's intent, clearly, is to continue to do the job he was elected to do and to do it to the best of his ability.
Q Why do you think there's this gap between what the President thinks he said and what other people think he said on saying he's sorry and asking for forgiveness?
MR. MCCURRY: You can all go -- some of your news organizations have -- and talk to Americans and find out what they think and see how you're reporting it and make those judgments for yourself.
Q Mike, in Moscow, the President added the word "forgiveness" to his official reaction to this. Today, he added the word "sorry." When discussing how to move this forward, does he discuss with the staff or are these his ideas for moving the explanation forward?
MR. MCCURRY: We tell him what the matters are likely to arise; he indicates to us how he intends to respond. And that's exactly what he did today. He responded exactly as he saw fit.
Q It's not based on the advice of staff to move it? It seems incremental, he's gone one step in each place.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't necessarily share that view myself, 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 to say it. And I think, given the nature of this matter, that's entirely proper.
Q Because this word "sorry" is really -- around the world today, I was wondering about -- whether the President explained to you before he went public with the word that he was going to pronounce that word.
MR. MCCURRY: The President said what he was going to 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 got it today, much as I anticipated he would answer it based on what he had said earlier. And as I say, I don't think that he feels it's inconsistent with the way he's addressed this matter, nor the way he will address the matter in the future.
Q Mike, the President at the Kremlin talked about returning to work and giving people their government back. I was under the impression that the White House felt that this had never impeded the President's ability to conduct his duties, that it had never distracted him.
MR. MCCURRY: Again, I'm not going to try to elaborate further on what the President said.
Q No, but you had told us, though, Mike, that he was not distracted, and that had been the consistent line.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't believe I said he hasn't been distracted. I said that he was not -- his ability to conduct the work of the presidency, although impacted by this matter, has not been negated by this matter.
Okay. The President is going to talk so we have to bring this, mercifully, to a conclusion.
Q Can I get back to Scott's question for a moment? You would disagree with the notion that as the pressure has 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 more analysts than journalists, so you can all analyze and interpret what he has to say to this. That's what you're in the business of doing.
Q It's true.
MR. MCCURRY: It's the truth.
Okay. Last question.
Q What will he be doing on Sunday, when he gets back?
MR. MCCURRY: He's down Sunday and Monday. And we'll try to post a week ahead for you, since we used up our time.
Q Following something that Steinberg said, would you expect the President to give a major address on the IMF, global economy when he gets back, or a series of addresses on this subject?
MR. MCCURRY: There's not one expected. I expect him to address that matter. Because of the urgency and need for funding for the IMF, I think that's going to be some of what in the course of the month of September, because of what will be under consideration in the appropriations process, will be very much under discussion. With what's happening in the world and world economy, I think you'll hear a lot about that in the time ahead.
Q The radio address -- what's the radio address?
MR. MCCURRY: The radio address will be on the economy. You all know that we had an encouraging employment report today; over 300,000 jobs, a third of which obviously was due to the GM factor. But the strength of the American economy in times of some parallel in the global economy is a subject that the American people have some interest in.