THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts) ______________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 5, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART
Edgartown Elementary School Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
12:00 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Good morning. I'm going to try to get through this quickly in the interest of Wolf Blitzer's travel plans. A couple of logistical items. The much anticipated press party, as many of you have heard by now, will happen tonight, starting at 6:00 p.m. at the Hot Tin Roof. Is that right? Hot Tin Roof. For your guidance, I expect the President will probably come by about 7:30 p.m., give or take half an hour or so, and stay around for a while.
On Sunday, on the subject of logistics, we'll be leaving the island I think about 10:30 a.m. or so. I think the press plane will leave shortly thereafter. Michael Teague, you can talk to him about the arrangements, but what he told me was he would just have a system where everyone could drive their cars in and we'd leave 15 to 20 minutes after the President does. But get with him if you've got some logistical questions.
Q That's a.m.?
MR. LOCKHART: A.M., yes, in the morning. The President has a private thing he will be doing Sunday afternoon back in Washington.
Q Is that something we'll need a travel pool for or is that at the White House?
MR. LOCKHART: It's not at the White House so there will be a travel pool. I think it's about 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon and then done by -- I don't think it will take more than an hour.
Q Is it social in nature or is it --
MR. LOCKHART: It's social in nature.
The only other thing is, tomorrow, as you know, the radio address will be live. It will be on the complex here. And I think the bulk of the radio address, he'll talk about the important event of the day tomorrow, the funeral of Princess Diana. I can tell you that, for your people who are doing all the stuff in London, two pieces of information -- the President does plan to get up early tomorrow morning and watch; and about 8:45 a.m. local time in London, the First Lady will make a short statement basically designed to convey both hers, the President's, and the American people's condolences to the British public. It will be done at the Ambassador's Residence. There's a pool there all worked out, and she'll do that before she goes off to the official ceremonies.
Q When you say get up early, do you know how early?
MR. LOCKHART: By 6:00 a.m., because I think that's when the actual Westminster Abbey service begins.
A couple things that have come out of Washington today -- the OMB midsession review came -- it was released within the last hour by OMB. Larry Haas is happy to help you out on the specifics. We were trying to get a copy of it up here; there is, apparently, many pages, so we don't have it yet. The headline number is 2002, a $63 billion surplus, and it also details the amount of savings that we'll have over the next 10 years, based on the balanced budget agreement, which are in excess of $900 billion. It also goes into some of the economic forecasts that we have.
Again, we'll try to get it up here for anyone who is interested, and Larry is available.
Finally, there is a CEA statement from Janet Yellen on the jobless numbers. As you saw, the numbers came out at 4.9, which, given the UPS strike, basically made it statistically unchanged from the previous month of 4.8. We have a statement; we'll be releasing it in the back.
There will be some personnel announcements -- a couple of ambassadors, I believe. We'll try to get those as early as we can.
The last thing before I do the week ahead, there is a memorial service tomorrow in Washington. I believe it's at the National Cathedral and being sponsored by the British Embassy. Ambassador Richardson will be attending for the U.S. and he will be doing a reading at the service.
Now, the week ahead. Week ahead -- tomorrow, radio address, I think I've done. Sunday, the President departs here, goes to Washington; no public events. Monday, the President will do back-to-school education event at the Four Seasons Elementary School in Gambrills, Maryland. Tuesday, the President will give a speech at American University -- internally, being sort of builded as back to work, talking a little bit about some of the things we've done this year and some of the items that we'll be working on in the months of September and October. I don't have much more on that. I may be able to get more tomorrow.
Q Talk about an agenda --
MR. LOCKHART: I wouldn't -- I don't believe it's going to be something that lays out five or six things like that. I think it more of here are some of the issues we're going to be working on. But that's still in the works and we'll get more -- probably Monday we'll be able to give you a sense of that speech.
There are two DNC events that evening that the President will attend.
Wednesday, the President will give a speech at the White House in the East Room on trade. You can expect fast track to be part of that speech. Wednesday night, on the South Lawn, is the Congressional picnic.
Thursday, September 11, the President will attend an -- will do an environmental event; site TBD, obviously someplace outside the White House. Friday, no public schedule. Saturday, radio address. It's not clear whether it's live. He may record it Friday; I don't know the answer. And the President will attend Saturday night the Congressional Black Caucus dinner, sometime on Saturday night.
Q There are rumors in the stock market that Greenspan is resigning. Can you debunk that?
MR. LOCKHART: No information on any change in Chairman Greenspan's status.
Q Would you know if there was going to be a change?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it would be likely that he might inform the White House he was planning to change his status.
Q Joe, how much work has the President done on fast track this week?
MR. LOCKHART: This week? There has been an enormous amount of work being done back in Washington. I think I was informed that over 100 Members of Congress have been consulted in the last week.
As far as the President's time, I don't know how to delineate -- how much work is on that. It's certainly been an issue that's come up several times in the daily reports he's been getting, so he's certainly aware of what we're doing and is fed back some information, but I can't quantify how much work is -- but it is certainly an issue that's going to be right on top of the agenda as we go back to work next week.
Q Joe, what do you think about the Vice President's questioning that's going on, not of the Vice President, but about campaign finance and the Vice President. How is it going for the Vice President?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't had a chance to watch it up here, being busy preparing for this important event.
Q You haven't heard anything back from the White House?
MR. LOCKHART: I'd refer you to our team that deals with that more directly for a better reaction than I could give from here.
Q The First Lady departing this evening -- could you sort of once again sort of set the stage for what she's doing and the importance of --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, the First Lady will go tonight. As I've said before, she was invited because of her special association with Princess Diana and because of the admiration that Princess Diana had for her. She'll go this evening, attend the event, the service at Westminster Abbey tomorrow. She will also lunch at an event put together by the Prime Minister and Tony Blair and as I've already mentioned, she'll take a few minutes to issue -- to talk to the British people, to express her personal condolences, the President's and the condolences of all the American people to a country that is going through enormous grief right now.
Q When did the President decide to devote his radio address tomorrow to Diana, besides the obvious -- what was special about his relationship with her? He didn't know her very well, they only met a couple of times.
MR. LOCKHART: I think like many people, some who have met her, people who were close friends with her, people who have never met her, there is an admiration for the humanitarian work that she did around the world and for the way she touched the lives of the people that she saw in hospitals, the people she reached out and touched, and also touched the lives of a nation. And in fact, I think if you look beyond Britain, she touched the lives of many people around the world, and I think tomorrow is a day that the world will be focusing on this.
Q There are reports the President was disappointed that Diana's funeral was not a state event and so he could not go. There are also reports that there was considerable disappointment by other members of the White House staff, some who wanted to accompany the First Lady. Are those reports true?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Have you spoken to the President about his feelings going back to work after the longest vacation of his presidency?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he's looking forward to getting back to work, but I think there was much speculation by people in this room, press and staff, on whether the President would get through -- would take the full three weeks.
Q It's not over yet.
MR. LOCKHART: We're pretty close. But I think he really has enjoyed it, I think he really has had a chance to relax and spend some time thinking and recharging his batteries. So I think he's looking forward to getting back to work. He's immensely enjoyed the time here, and I think it's -- I think he thinks that it was very useful for him to take this break, this extended break, for him -- almost three weeks.
Q Has he spent any time, Joe, in the last few days, sort of gearing up for that? Any additional briefings or phone conversations?
MR. LOCKHART: You know, I can really only judge it by my time here, but yes, it has -- the workload has gotten a little bit bigger. I still wouldn't describe it as intrusive. Obviously, there have been events in the world that have needed his attention over the last three or four days that were not as pressing -- the same the first week. But I think that given the proximity of the things that are coming up next week, there has been -- he's been slightly more involved on a daily basis in some of these things that we'll face next week when we get back to Washington.
Q Joe, you mentioned that fast track would be one of the things on the top of the agenda. Could you sort of prioritize the domestic agenda, the order of importance for him?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't prioritize them because that's not how we do it, but let me talk about some of the issues. There are issues that we'll face and, in no particular order here. But obviously, the President has made it clear that education is at the top of his list and we face next week some votes on one of the key elements of the President's educational reform plan, testing -- demanding high standards and a voluntary system of national testing. That's one. Fast track is another. We will be using this fall to build support for giving the President the authority he needs to negotiate free trade agreements.
We will also be using this period to be talking about the global climate change as we move toward December in Kyoto. A couple of other issues that we'll be dealing with are, you have seen the statements of Senators McCain and Feingold about their intent on bringing, one way or the other, campaign finance to the floor sometime in September. We will be working hard on that because of the President's commitment to get some bipartisan and comprehensive campaign finance reform.
Finally, there is the broader issue that we will be beginning work on which is entitlement reform. I think December is the month where, at a minimum, we will need to appoint our members to the Medicare Commission, and that's an issue that you will see us spending time and effort on in the fall. It's certainly not an all-inclusive list, but those are things that will be coming up by virtue of our commitment to the issue or by virtue of the legislative calendar or, in the case of global climate change, the Kyoto Conference in December.
Q What about the race relations initiative? You had mentioned that. He's promised to do something every month and he's got the Little Rock event in September. Is he doing anything else?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, and that's obviously one that's going to play out over the fall and over the next nine to 10 months as we move forward on the President's plan to start a national dialogue on race relations in this country. In September, his advisory board will meet. I believe it will be at the end of the month. I don't think the date is firm, but it's sometime after Little Rock. And he'll have the important event of -- the Central High anniversary is central to racial issues, through the whole breaking down of segregation in America. So I think that will be a very important event.
Q Joe, what about tobacco?
MR. LOCKHART: Tobacco. We will be in a position sometime over the next couple of weeks to -- the President will receive recommendations from his team, Bruce Reed and Secretary Shalala, and sometime in short order, the President will make known what his -- will articulate his view and vision of the tobacco settlement.
Q You don't think that will be as early as this week?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't want to rule out next week, but it's something that -- it would be more accurate, I think, to look at it sometime over the next couple of weeks.
Q Do you think like with fast track the President will be proposing legislation to implement the tobacco settlement, or do you see a less defined proposal coming --
MR. LOCKHART: You know, I'm not sure of that. I'm not sure whether -- I think what we will be offering is the principles of what we need to support the global tobacco settlement. Whether that ultimately evolves into a piece of legislation, I don't know the answer to that.
Q What about this report that the White House has given Bill Weld the green light to come out swinging in his effort to get a hearing and get confirmed as ambassador?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that I would characterize it as "come out swinging," but we certainly think that it's his right to come out and publicly state the reasons why it's important that he ought to get a fair hearing. I think as the reports indicate, there were some discussions of trying to do this in a less public way, but we're at the point now where we think the best thing for the Governor to do is to go out, meet with senators and talk publicly about why he'll be an excellent ambassador to Mexico and why it's important for the Senate to give him his day and give him a fair hearing.
Q What is the strategy? Is it to pressure Helms to change his mind, or to circumvent him?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the strategy is to play on one of the oldest principles of American thought, which is that you ought to be fair. And to be fair to someone, you ought to give them their day to talk about why they would be an ambassador -- you can vote against me, you can vote for me, but you ought to give me a hearing. So the strategy is to make that case and I think it's a compelling argument and it's a difficult -- defending the argument of no hearing is very difficult and becomes even more difficult, faced with public discussion.
Q Does the White House believe it's possible to change Helms' mind on this?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, with -- will Jesse Helms stand up and vote for Bill Weld? We hope so. Do I have an expectation that that will happen? Probably not. But will he stand up and insist and dig in and say, no hearing? I think given our sense of -- our political sense of fair play, yes, we can move towards the day where he'll stand and give him a hearing.
Q Did the President consider a recess appointment in the case of Weld?
MR. LOCKHART: I think one of the items to try to avoid a public confrontation on this was a recess appointment.
Q And was rejected by -- the idea?
MR. LOCKHART: That's correct.
Q What would the White House think of the idea mentioned by some lawmakers of adjourning by October 31 and only passing the things necessary to keep the government moving, forgetting about fast track, forgetting about campaign finance, just passing appropriations bills?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we have a lot of important things on our agenda and we hope to do as much as we can before Congress leaves. And I certainly think the Congress will want to get as much done as they can and not simply think that all they need to do is pass appropriations bills. I mean, there's obviously other things that will be going on at the committee level, so some things may not come to the floor for passage. But we expect progress on a number of issues.
Q Back on Weld can you explain why Senator Lott or Senator Helms would have veto power over a recess appointment? I thought the whole point of a recess appointment was that the President had sole authority to do that on his own.
MR. LOCKHART: Certainly, the President has the authority and we have the authority to exercise it when we think it's appropriate, and we clearly didn't think it was appropriate.
Q So what role did Senator Helms or Senator Lott play in that decision?
MR. LOCKHART: We made a judgment that at this point we didn't think a recess appointment was -- I'm not going to get into private conversations here, but we did make a judgment that a recess appointment wasn't appropriate, and we're going to move forward and Governor Weld is going to make his case.
One thing -- if you do get a chance, the people here at the school, led by their principal, Mr. Jerome, have been terrific to us, and I would encourage all of you, if you see him around the hallways today to thank him for their kind hospitality. (Applause.)
END 12:25 P.M. EDT