THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts) _______________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 28, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART
Edgartown Elementary School Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
11:15 A.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Good morning, everybody. Let me just spend a minute first on what's going on today, and then bring you up to date on a couple of other things. As of -- they are just hanging around the house this morning, have no plans to leave. The President most probably will go out by mid-afternoon to play some golf and they have no set plans for tonight. There's no fixed event that they're attending. They may go out, they may stay home. The pool will give you a better sense later on in the afternoon.
One other thing for today -- for those of you who have checked in, you'll see that the revised GDP numbers for the second quarter were released. They were revised upwards from 2.2 to 3.6 percent. The President is encouraged that the economy continues to grow strongly -- overall 3.5 percent for the first half of this year in a low inflationary environment. I think the GDP Price Index was at 2.1. We saw strong real business equipment investment and also a 14 percent rise in real exports. So, overall, very good news on the economy -- strong growth, strong economic growth with continuing low inflation.
We'll probably have a piece of paper sometime in the next hour from the CEA with some more words and some more statistics and that sort of stuff.
Other things: The President yesterday made a phone call to a proud new father, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, who on Tuesday had a baby girl, 8 pounds, 12 ounces. Both are doing fine. Close readers of Reliable Source will see that Dad is already back at work, which is where the President talked to him. I am reliably informed that this is Ethel Kennedy's 22nd grandchild. Mario Cuomo is running far behind, only his eighth grandchild, the third child of Secretary Cuomo. And, again, both, we're told are doing fine.
One other thing -- I inquired on the reading list subject yesterday, and the President has finished a couple other books, which I don't know that we had seen before on any list. One is a book called "Rough Justice," by Lisa Scottoline. And I'll give you -- I have, if anybody is interested, some stuff we pulled off the Internet on both of these books. You can look. But it is described as Scottoline clinches her title as the distaff Grisham with this gorgeously plotted novel based on a trial lawyer's worst nightmare. Obviously a mystery.
The second one, in the same vein, is called "Sacred, A Novel," by Dennis Lehane -- a dying billionaire Trevor Stone hires Boston private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro to find his missing daughter.
But I have these things and we'll make them available if people are so interested in finding out more about these books. I don't know what he's currently looking at, but I'll try to find out.
The only other thing is we have made available the First Lady's column, weekly newspaper column, that we got out of I guess The Washington Times this morning, which this week talks about some of the history of her vacations, what she likes to do and where it all started, and makes interesting reading for those who are interested in that subject.
I think that's about it. Questions.
Q Is the U.S. looking into this seismic event in Russia that you suspect might be an atomic test?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, we're aware of a seismic event that took place on August 16th. We have reached no conclusions on what that event is and it's still under review. But there have been no conclusions on what it might have been.
Q There's a Russian Ministry spokesman -- Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman quoted on the wires as denying that it was an atomic test. Do you believe that denial?
MR. LOCKHART: As I've said, we have not reached a conclusion on what the seismic event is and its exact nature, so we are not ready to conclude one way or the other.
Q Does it take 10, 12 days to figure out what a seismic event is?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there's various -- there are civilian, there are also other military monitoring abilities that we have, and we are currently reviewing it. I'm not an expert. DOD might be able to provide more technical expertise.
Q And it's taking this long --
MR. LOCKHART: We have not reached a conclusion on what exactly took place.
Q Have we asked the Russians for confirmation for any kind of on-site inspection and do you envision doing so?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into the dialogue that's going on between the U.S., the Russians and other countries, but it is currently going on.
Q Why can you not tell us?
MR. LOCKHART: Because we're discussing -- personally, I'm not aware of exactly what we've asked, but -- so I don't know if that particularly. But I don't think I want to go beyond that we're currently in conversations and dialogue with them.
Q When do you think the U.S. government will make a determination about what this event was?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have a guess or the expertise to know how long this takes.
Q Are you stating categorically that U.S. officials do not know what it was, or are they simply not saying yet?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm saying that we have not reached a conclusion on what the seismic event was.
Q Is there any White House reaction to the start today of Prop 209 taking effect in California?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the President's views on Proposition 209 are well-known, both from the campaigning he did and more recently the speech he gave at San Diego which launched the race initiative. The White House Counsel and Justice are continuing some consultations to review what our options may be, and I believe that we will have more to say soon. But we haven't finished that consultation process.
Q Would this be along the lines of a challenge in a higher court?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there are a lot of things they are considering, and when they reach conclusion we'll make that known.
Q Is the White House refusing to provide any documents requested in the Espy investigation?
MR. LOCKHART: There is a longstanding issue there. The White House has sought executive privilege on some documents. This is something that's been going on for months. The D.C. Circuit Court two months ago supported our claim and has sent it back to the District Court and we'll await the District Court's disposition.
Q Would you still describe the White House as cooperating with the investigation?
MR. LOCKHART: Absolutely.
Q Was there any contact between the President and Mr. Espy yesterday?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q Do you have any time frame on the District Court's -- any idea when they may act?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I just don't know. I know that they've had it back in their court for at least two months, and this has been well reported on through the process. But I don't know what their timetable is.
Q Can you give some idea of what kind of documents or how many or what the problem is or --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I don't know either the -- how voluminous this is. I know that they are papers -- it is executive privilege and they are papers that are concerned with the decision to accept the resignation, and the legal argument is over the ability to communicate with the President from his senior advisors.
Q Could it then have been part of the White House's internal investigation into the allegations against Mr. Espy?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm just not aware of what actually are in the documents. I just know that it is an executive privilege. I can try to get a little bit more on this, but I don't know how much more is available.
Q Has the White House looked into the reports concerning Fidel Castro's health? There were some rumors yesterday about it.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, there were some rumors, and our best guess is that rumors did circulate yesterday and did speculate, and I guess the best guess that we can have to where that started was that Havana Radio reported yesterday the death of a revolutionary hero named Rene Orley Sanchez Castro, and that may have set off what ensued yesterday afternoon. But we don't have any solid reports that there's anything to the other rumor.
Q Do you have any solid reports that he's fine?
MR. LOCKHART: I have nothing to indicate that he's not fine.
Q I understand that. Do you have anything to indicate he is fine?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I just don't know. You might have your State Department check on that more -- except your ace State Department person isn't there today, so never mind.
Q We have nobody at State today; she's here.
Q Anything on Michael Brown and is the President aware of the situation?
MR. LOCKHART: The President is aware, but I don't have any -- no official comment on his decision this morning.
Q We'll take unofficial.
Q Do you know if Sidney Blumenthal ask for White House permission to file that libel suit against Matt Drudge and AOL?
MR. LOCKHART: Mr. Blumenthal consulted with White House Counsel who informed him it was a private matter. I can also tell you that Mr. Blumenthal did talk to the President and the Vice President about this, who told them that they support him if he wanted to proceed along these lines.
Q He talked to them when, after this --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know when he talked to him. I presume it was sometime between the initial report and when the case was filed yesterday. But this -- again, the White House Counsel informed Sidney that this was a personal matter that he needed to pursue, and actually if anybody wants more on that, Bill McDaniel is his lawyer and I have his number if anybody wants to pursue that.
Q Bosnia -- things are really heating up and there have been threats of retaliation from SFOR for weeks, and it's been very clear that the President would be involved in that, in any decision made there, at least indirectly. How involved is he, and what's --
MR. LOCKHART: Obviously, the President remains informed as he would be anyplace on all national security issues. He's receiving a briefing every day and there were incidents today where SFOR troops basically went in to try to restore order from an internal fight that was brewing among the two Bosnian Serb groups loyal to the different leaders. But he is informed and will participate in decisions as needed.
Q Do we have any confirmation of any American injuries in any of this --
MR. LOCKHART: The only report we have is one soldier received minor eye injury, was struck by a rock.
Q Apparently, another was hit in the face with a two-by-four we're hearing. All this sounds like the kind of thing they've been saying all along that could lead to retaliation. Will he be involved in a decision to retaliate?
MR. LOCKHART: The President remains involved in our country's foreign policy, but I think it's important that all the parties there understand that they should not challenge SFOR and that we will hold the parties' leadership responsible for keeping their people under control. That's a message we've delivered before and will continue to deliver, and it's a serious message that should be heeded by all parties.
Q How do we hold them responsible?
MR. LOCKHART: We're continuing to work with both sides, and we won't tolerate either side inciting people loyal to their particular position to incite any violence against the SFOR troops.
Q Do we have any specific consequences in mind?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I would certainly, from this podium, wouldn't discuss what we had in mind.
Q Do you expect next week him to get involved in any of the fall planning, or will he just stay in vacation mode next week?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm actually not sure of the answer. I know that he's got some material that has been made available to him. Obviously, there are a number of speeches coming up in September that he needs to start thinking about. There are some issues -- I think Barry mentioned them yesterday that I think educational standards will come up next week and be discussed that we may need his involvement in, and so I don't know how to quantify that, but I think it is more likely next week with Congress being back and things beginning to start moving again, that there may be some more work required.
Q In that pile of things that he's looking at, is fast track among them?
MR. LOCKHART: Certainly is.
Q Can I go back to Bosnia for a second? Is this a bigger item on his radar screen than simply part of the national security briefing he gets each day? Has he been on the phone? Is he including that in the wide range --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't want to get into what his briefing is, but obviously Bosnia is a place where there's a lot going on, so --
Q More than just the briefing, is he on the phone?
MR. LOCKHART: I believe that at this point, what I'm aware of is constituted just with his briefing each day and he very well could be doing some other things, but I'm just not aware of them.
Q Any reaction to Ron Brown's son, Michael, acknowledging campaign contribution violations?
MR. LOCKHART: Didn't I just answer that one?
Q Yes, you refused to answer that.
MR. LOCKHART: No, I mean, the President is aware. He was watching television when it came across something.
Q Is he watching a lot of television?
MR. LOCKHART: He has been watching some television from time to time. Sometimes the news, sometimes other things.
Q Which does he like better? (Laughter.) News or the other things?
MR. LOCKHART: The other things. (Laughter.) I don't know.
Q Any word on the birthday gift?
MR. LOCKHART: The birthday gift. Do you really want to know? The birthday gift was a small sculpture. But you already knew that.
Q Yes, yes.
MR. LOCKHART: The birthday gift is a small sculpture made of clay, entitled: "Embracing Indians." It was made by a local Denver artist whose name I don't know, a Native American artist, and the First Lady -- remember the day they went out and had the spouses' lunch at a place called, I think Winter Park. She saw it at a local art store, thought it would make an excellent present, took it on to Air Force One unbeknownst to the President and hid it until his actual birthday.
Q She shops ahead, doesn't she?
Q How come you could find this out and Barry couldn't?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. (Laughter.) I'm just looking -- I can't find my notes -- I think that's all I know about it, though. I haven't seen it.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. (Laughter.)
Q Is it clothed?
MR. LOCKHART: Are we picking up these questions? Peter Baker of The Washington Post wants to know if the sculpture is clothed. I don't know, Peter. (Laughter.)
Q Are you going to start using our names to embarrass us so we don't ask these questions?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know.
Q Chip. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Are we all done? Oh, sorry.
Q Do you have any more information on the guest list last night, who was at the party? The pool report just said it was the usual cast, but I wonder who that was.
MR. LOCKHART: I didn't really check. I can try to find out some I can try to track down.
Q Did they take over the whole restaurant?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes? I didn't pay very much -- I didn't ask them very much about it, because the pool report seemed to -- I figured you might know who they were referring to.
Q I'd rather not guess.
Q Are we one hundred percent sure yet that he won't go to this race thing tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: One hundred percent sure he won't?
MR. LOCKHART: There's no plans to go, yes.
Q Are you referring to the event tomorrow in Oak Bluffs?
MR. LOCKHART: Tomorrow.
Q Do you have any reaction to the Big King burger --
MR. LOCKHART: Say again.
Q There's a rival to McDonald's now, Big King -- Burger King is doing a new big burger. I thought maybe the President might be --
MR. LOCKHART: I think I don't know about that one. (Laughter.)
Q You say he's not going to the conversation on race. What about the event in the afternoon for Dorothy West?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't heard that we're planning to attend that. I mean, obviously, I can check, but I haven't heard any talk about that. I saw something in one of the clips about the event, but I haven't heard that we were planning to go.
Is it a birthday party?
Q They're honoring Dorothy West, the Harlem renaissance poet.
MR. LOCKHART: Dorothy West. And there's a bunch of people coming in to come to this party tomorrow. It was in the story today about the President not the only one getting attention and drawing people to the Vineyard.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:36 A.M. EDT