THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Hilton Head, South Carolina) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release December 30, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART, AMBASSADOR PHIL LADER, AND MS. LESOURD LADER
Centrecourt Conference Center Hilton Head, South Carolina
3:13 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Hello, everybody. Welcome to Hilton Head. I don't really have anything, but I'll hang around afterwards if you have any questions. But first I wanted to give you a chance to go over any of the things that may be of interest over the next couple days that the President will be doing, and also about Renaissance Weekend. And we're lucky to have Ambassador Phil Lader here today, the ambassador to the Court of St. James, and also Guy Smith, who will be helping all of us with any questions we might have. If you see him around, he'll be very helpful to you.
And again, I will hang around if there are any other issues once the Ambassador is done.
AMBASSADOR LADER: We welcome you all back to Linda's and my home town, and we hope you will enjoy the sunshine. Hopefully, the wind will die down and we'll get a little more warmth.
Most of you have been here some, if not many, years before, so let me simply reiterate a bit of what Renaissance is all about. This is the 30th Renaissance Weekend, founded in 1981. This is the 17th year. They were founded by my wife, Linda LeSourd Lader, and me as family retreats for innovative leaders. The participants over the years have grown from 60 families the first year; this year, as in recent years, there are multiple weekends in the course of the year. There will be five weekends this year. One here in our home town, where we have always had the New Year's weekend; February in Santa Fe; March in Charleston at Kiawah Island; Labor Day in Vail, Colorado; and back here at Thanksgiving.
Over the course of that period, the five weekends, some 1,100 families will participate in Renaissance weekends. This weekend there are almost 500 families here, about 1,500 people.
I believe this is the 14th year that the Clinton family has been with us. As you know, this is a nonpolitical and nonpartisan gathering of diverse dimensions. Eight of our past participants, or frequent participants, have run for President of the United States, four Democrats, four Republicans in the past. The one elected attracted considerable more media attention, and we appreciate your interest in this.
This year the programs are much as in the past. They range from matters of art and letters, sports, economics and investments, medical breakthroughs, science and technology, political issues, public policy, a whole range of personal issues. There are 356 programs running through noon on New Year's Day.
In terms of other dimensions, I would guess 85 percent, 80 percent of the participants this year are past participants. We always have new faces simply to challenge past understandings, to broaden perspectives. And if there is any central theme to the weekend, it is that all of us have a great deal to learn from each other.
Everyone, as you know, is required to wear a large name tag, except a head of state. That is the only exception we have made over the years. The name tag has the first name in large letters, surname in small letters, and just the home town, no designation of a particular job or title. Most everyone here is a national or regional leader in his or her respective fields, whether it be medicine, technology, art, science, whatever. And consequently, while they may be the featured speaker at a conference of their own specialty or of their own discipline, they may not be a household name to other individuals. And so a good leveler, if you will, is the fact that everyone wears name tags like this.
As to the President's activities, he is playing golf now, as you know. I think he is going to be relatively spontaneous over the weekend with the things in which he chooses to participate. This evening there is an oyster roast that people will be participating in. I suspect he will, but I don't know for sure. We talked just briefly about it when he arrived.
There is a series of programs throughout the day tomorrow in which he typically will participate. In the evening tomorrow night, my wife will probably be moderating a discussion with the President and the First Lady before the entire group. And then we'll see what other golf fits into the weekend before they head off to the Virgin Islands.
Well, I hope that gives some sense of the history and the plan for the weekend. I'd be happy to respond to any questions or be helpful in any way I can.
Q Can you tell us about tomorrow night's discussion, what it will be about? The theme, the topic?
AMBASSADOR LADER: The general theme is The Road Ahead, but I would say that's designated that simply so it gives us much latitude to let the participants talk about whatever they may want to talk about. And I suspect before he went out to play golf, he and Linda had a conversation about how they want to approach it tomorrow night. Last year, as you may recall, they just took questions from the audience for a couple hours. In other years, they've just gotten up and given very informal remarks. I wouldn't predict what tomorrow night will be like.
Q Do you expect that to be primarily a political discussion, a governmental discussion, or --
AMBASSADOR LADER: I don't know. The President is very much aware that probably fewer than 10 percent of the families participating in Renaissance Weekend are particularly engaged in politics or matters of government -- Linda has arrived so she can address what she plans to do tomorrow night in a minute. And so while I suspect the focus will be on issues of public policy or his thoughts for the country, spirits of the nation as he might understand them to be right now, but he also recognizes that probably 90 percent of the people in the audience have very broad interests beyond matters of public policy, and he may elect to talk about that.
Let me introduce my wife Linda and she can address your question of what you and the President and the First Lady plan to do tomorrow night.
MS. LESOURD LADER: As you must know, the President is playing golf right now, and I've just come from the residence, where our daughters got to walk Buddy, which was a big thrill for our 10-year-old. And we talked some about what they're going to do, and as you know, they're here to relax and to be with friends. Tomorrow night we will do what we did last year, which is have an informal question-and-answer time where people will submit some questions, and some of them will ask them, and we will field them, and they will be everything -- last year they were asked what they would like on their tombstones, so I don't think we'll have that one again this year -- everything from that to the more traditional presidential questions.
Q Could you describe what happens at the stroke of midnight usually?
MS. LESOURD LADER: Well, we're not as precise about the stroke of midnight as they are in Times Square. So we -- it's rather informal, but there usually is a countdown. There are people around a piano. And they go, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, so forth, and we get it within a few minutes, I'm sure. Then there is just what happens almost anywhere. There is Happy New Year and hugs and kisses, and of course throughout the evening at some point we sing quite a lot of songs, including, as my husband probably told you, Auld Lang Syne and God Bless America. It's very informal. It's relaxed and fun.
Q Linda, I understand from my colleagues who were on Air Force One with the President, that he lamented that Renaissance Weekend has now grown so big, there are so many people, it's no longer the intimate family retreat it started out as. Have you heard that from others? And what would you say to that?
MS. LESOURD LADER: We are pleased that so many people enjoy coming, but obviously the numbers for the New Year's Renaissance Weekend have grown. And we work hard to keep many of the panels small and to have different programs at the resort down the road, the Hilton. And so I think that there is still a lot of that coziness, but obviously when you have 1,300 people, it's not the same as 300 people. And that's why we have five Renaissance Weekends this year, and the other four really are very much as they always have been in the past, years back.
Q Could you talk about some of the seminars? I saw some intriguing topics, one being Things My Spouse is Wrong About, with a three-minute time limit. What other topics do you have that might be fun like that?
MS. LESOURD LADER: Do you want to come in on this? Okay, go ahead.
AMBASSADOR LADER: Well, for example, the academies this year, there are four academies where people spend half a day focusing on one subject. One is on the subject of virtue, and you have everyone from political, religious leaders, economists, writers addressing that.
You have another one, which occurred yesterday, on Men and Women, Changing Roles and Relationships in American Society. Another one on -- I can't remember the specific title, but essentially it's on lifestyles, diet and reversing heart disease and health.
One yesterday that was particularly interesting was on Legacies: My Families' Lessons for Life. And so participants ranging from Amy Tan to Esther Brimmer, whose father is head of the DC Control Board, talked about some of the family experiences they had in shaping some of their views of life today.
MS. LESOURD LADER: I'll just give you some of the topics for today. Starting at 8:00 a.m. this morning we had one on Global Climate Change, Renaissance Environmental Forum. We had Renaissance Travel, Way to Go, where we heard about everything from big game hunting to sailing the South Pacific to hideaways in Britain's National Trust Houses to competitive sailing.
We had another one on What Surprised Me Most About -- and then people get to talk about a lot of different things, including, let's see, life-threatening illnesses and many other topics, kids.
Then there's one on Questions of Values. We had another one that was a health forum, Daily Rounds. Another one on Capital Gains, Estate Taxes, and Other Polices Affecting Financial Planning at 8:00 a.m. in the morning.
Also, Reflections on Personal Blessings. We also had one on Talking Shop, where people talked about their own business careers. Another one called Renaissance Starters, Because Life is Short. . . . Another one -- people talking about the anatomy of the stock exchange, cross-cultural communication, the Mayo Clinic, the Nobel Prize, CEO performance --
AMBASSADOR LADER: And those are just the ones at 8:00 a.m. this morning.
MS. LESOURD LADER: That's at 8:00. I'm just going to go on, just to give you plenty of choices here.
At 9:15 a.m., among other things, we had Business War Stories, National Security Briefing, The Future of Managed Care, Managing Your Money, Perspectives On History -- we don't just tell them what my spouse is wrong about, we had another one on How We Met, or at least one spouse's version. In The Classroom, Improving Our Schools, Design Specs on Architecture, Fashion, Interior Design and Landscape Architecture.
A Women's Forum on Reflections On Turning Points in Life. Phil mentioned the academy on virtue, the education plan, how women's heroines have changed, the new media --
AMBASSADOR LADER: The one that I found most interesting this morning was on the new media. It was a fascinating discussion of some, pardon the expression, old media types and some new media types, Steve Brill and others going at both sides of it, talking about not only the technical sides of it, but how it's going to shape both your profession as well as the consumer attitudes towards the media.
MS. LESOURD LADER: Just so you know how much we talk about in a single day -- Reflections On The Single Life, Marketplace Matters, Medical Miscellany. Here's one for you: Morals, Manner, Shame and Today's Pop Culture; African American Leadership Issues; more environmental earth matters; What I Wish My Parents Had Told Me; Arts, Humanities, Inventions and Other 1997 Milestones; Romancing The Publisher, Insight For Perspective Writers; What I'd Do With A Million Dollars; Stories To Remember.
Then at lunch we talked about Life-Changing Advances in Science and Technology --
AMBASSADOR LADER: With two Nobel Prize winners.
MS. LESOURD LADER: Another one that was an interview, First Person, Last Word. So that's just this morning through lunch for today.
Any other questions?
AMBASSADOR LADER: You've worn us out.
MS. LESOURD LADER: I wore you out. Well, thank you and we'll be around if you need us.
AMBASSADOR LADER: Thanks.
MR. LOCKHART: Anything else before we go?
Q What's the deal on this shutdown of the Legal Defense Trust, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, as I hope you've all seen, the President has put out a statement. I think the Trust held a news conference today recounting the activity over the last six months. And I think the trustees articulated the difficulties in raising money in a structure in which that particular trust was set up, which barred soliciting money.
So I think they made the recommendation that, given the structure of the trust, that they thought it was time for it to shut down. And as the President's statement makes clear, he's now looking for guidance from Counsel on what can be done in the future in order to address the existing and the ongoing legal bills.
Q -- that suggest he's going to continue in some fashion to seek outside funds for that, just not through this mechanism?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it suggests that he's looking to the Counsel's Office for some advice on how to do it that falls within both the legal and ethical boundaries. But the ongoing -- both the accumulated and the ongoing expense is still there. So I think it suggests that he's looking for some advice in the near future on how to move forward.
Q Joe, did the trustees consult with the President before they made this decision to shut it down?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of the actual conversations back and forth, so I don't know if there was consulting or whether they just notified them. But I know that he was notified, I believe through Counsel's Office, so he knew that they were planning to make this announcement today.
Q Well, could you take that question and get back to us, see if he was consulted on that and whether he agreed to the decision?
MR. LOCKHART: Sure.
Q At the news conference, Joe, they said that -- there was confidence expressed that the President's friends will find ways to demonstrate their support. I presume you mean in some new endeavor that falls within the legal and ethical boundaries. What kinds of things are being considered? What would that likely be?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that's why he has asked Counsel to take a look at what -- if there's a different kind of trust or vehicle that can be more effective but also fall within the legal and ethical guidelines. And that's --
Q Specifically, the question of solicitation, for example?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think they articulated that that was a large problem with this. So I think that would certainly fall in one of the first things they take a look at as they prepare their recommendations for the President.
Q Joe, you said he still has ongoing legal expenses. What is the status of the insurance policy, which would pay for some of those expenses, and basically how large are the expenses?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think expenses are in the area of about $3 million. And I'll have to check on the insurance policy. I just -- I have to talk to Counsel on that; I don't know.
Q Does the President feel that the Charlie Trie incident or publicity after that contributed to these declines in donors?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we've spoken before about the general climate and the publicity that the campaign finance story has contributed over the last year. So I think that may be a partial factor. And I think it's -- again, as I think the trustees, who are in a much better position to articulate the actual workings, did today, I think another and important factor is what I've said about the way the Trust was structured and the inability to solicit funds.
Q Is the President concerned or worried that the support, financial support for his legal expenses has seemed to dry up?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, no, I think that this is one of the reasons why he's asked Counsel to look at what the options are moving into the future, because he does believe that it's important that these bills get paid in a timely way.
Q Joe, what about a government appropriation? Is that a possibility?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't heard that. I've heard no discussion or speculation about that.
Q Joe, what do you know about the President's plans for the next few days? Do you know anything specific that he's planning to do?
MR. LOCKHART: He's playing golf now.
MR. LOCKHART: With Alan Solomont, of the DNC; Les Moonves, head of CBS Entertainment; and the head of the Dana Corporation, Woody Morcott. I believe there's some dinner tonight -- it may have been the dinner that Ambassador Lader was talking about -- that they're planning to attend. It's at the Hyatt.
Q Is it here?
MR. LOCKHART: At the Hyatt. The dinner, I think it's in one of the ballrooms at the Hyatt.
And then tomorrow I think we're just going to have to take it as it goes. I think they will probably -- some combination of the three of them -- attend some of the sessions that are planned. And I think the evening is the only thing that they've really nailed down, as participating in the evening session. So it could be that they just go in and out of things tomorrow, maybe another golf session.
Q Does he have any specific plans in the Virgin Islands, things he's going to do? Or is he just going to veg out?
Q Joe, are you going to brief tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to try not to.
Q Joe, I'm sorry, I'm not a veteran of these -- but everything he does is closed press; is that true? Is there pool, are there photo ops?
MR. LOCKHART: No. Anything that happens within the Renaissance Weekend -- under the rubric of the Renaissance Weekend is closed and off the record. As you know, a lot of your colleagues are here as attendees. So any of those things are closed -- the dinner tonight, the dinner tomorrow night.
If he goes someplace else, like when he goes to play golf, obviously then we'll try to do it the normal way. My guess is that probably around lunchtime tomorrow I'll have a much better sense of what the day is and we'll try to let you know. But I think it will probably be pretty quiet and pretty private.
Q For selfish reasons, if these events in the evening tonight and tomorrow are closed and off the record, do you goodnight the pool and send them home?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, unless we have some expectation that he's going to go out. What we hope to do is treat this complex -- the way I understand the complex is you've sort of got the Hilton over here -- they're having a lot of fun trying to follow this in Washington now. The Hilton is over here -- he points to the back -- and then the Hyatt. And then just on the other side of the Hyatt is the residence. And we're all within walking distance.
So unless he wants to go some place off what we'll loosely call the complex, we'll treat it as on complex and we'll try to goodnight the pool as soon as we can.
Q Do you anticipate any work on the part of the President on such things as the budget, Bosnia, Iraq?
MR. LOCKHART: Obviously, the President will be in a position to do any work that's necessary. I do anticipate and hope that this will be treated, though, as a holiday. And to the extent that work is necessary, obviously he's got the support here that he needs to make any decisions. But, again, this is a time of rest and holiday for him. So, hopefully, the next few days will remain quiet.
Q Joe, I wonder if you could tell us why it is that the President does things habitually -- why he comes back to Hilton Head every New Year, why he's decided to go again to St. Thomas, why he went to Martha's Vineyard, why he doesn't do fun, new things, instead of doing the same thing all the time?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure it's any more complicated than he enjoys it. He's enjoyed coming here for more than 10 years. And I think -- you know, he enjoyed coming here before he was President and I think that he likes to think that he can still come down here as President and get the same kind of enjoyment and relaxation that he got before he came to the White House. The combination last year worked for them, as far as seeing old friends here and relaxing in St. Thomas. And I think they just, amongst themselves, decided that they just wanted to repeat last year.
Q Chelsea is along for the entire trip?
MR. LOCKHART: I think so. There may be some -- she may be going home early. I'm not quite certain of exactly what her plans are at the end, but she's coming down to St. Thomas with us.
Q Does she have a friend with her, as she has had on some vacations?
MR. LOCKHART: You know what, I didn't see anyone. No, I don't think so, because I watched them coming off.
Q What was the First Family's thinking in bringing Buddy along?
MR. LOCKHART: They like their dog (Laughter.)
Q What was their thinking in leaving the cat home? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: They love their cat, but the cat likes the White House.
Q How do you know, he's always on a leash? (Laughter.) How do you know he wouldn't leave if he had the opportunity? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I will take that one and the next time I see Socks, we'll address that.
Q What other than tradition attracts them to this weekend? Is it an opportunity to talk policy with diverse people, or what do you think --
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's as the Ambassador described it. It's an informal weekend where people can get together and share ideas. And, as all of you have followed them for long, it sounds like the perfect kind of weekend for the President. He likes to talk to people from different backgrounds, people who are innovative thinkers, leaders from different parts -- not just political leaders -- people from business, people from community groups. And it's something that he very much enjoys the process of. So I think that's why you've seen him here so often, and you'll probably see him coming here long after he leaves the White House.
I've got to go, I've got to walk the dog. (Laughter.)
END 3:35 P.M. EST