View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 6, 1998
                         BACKGROUND BRIEFING
                        AMERICAN AND BRITISH

                          The Briefing Room

5:42 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: We will be briefing on a modified background rule. This is the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman. I am the President's Official Spokesman. This is a senior U.S. official, and this is a senior British official. We'll make him a senior U.S. administration official. I'm sure that's all clear to you. It remains to be seen whether you'll use anything that they say anyhow. (Laughter.)

But let me turn it over to these two colleagues first and then we'll continue on.

SENIOR BRITISH OFFICIAL: Thank you very much. I'll be very brief. It's been a very spirited and I think productive discussion that's been going since 2:00 p.m., so it's been going on for four hours. I just wanted to say briefly what the Prime Minister talked about in one of his interventions. He said that he thought there were three key tasks for the government and for center-left governments generally to recognize. One was that, as a result of globalization, it was essential that domestic governments held to fiscal and monetary prudence. Second, that there was a role for government, but this was not in extensive economic regulation but in empowerment with the equipment of the individual to make the markets operate better. Thirdly, that we have to construct a tax and benefit system which was sound and which helped to make work pay.

And there's extensive discussion about how, given this economic deregulation, the globalization of markets, we had to have government intervening to underpin effective and functioning civic society. Thank you.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. My colleague noted that there was a spirited discussion that began at 2:00 p.m. It took place in the Blue Room of the White House. I think there are about 19 participants. And the discussions ranged from the economy to social issues.

The President spoke about both the economy and social issues. He said that the only reason that we have been elected -- meaning both himself and the Prime Minister -- is that people are yearning for a new social contract. By that the President meant something more than making the economy work, although he stressed that that was the predicate for all else. What was needed was a greater sense of belonging to one nation, which is a phrase used by the Prime Minister and also a phrase by the President in the State of the Union.

The President, as he did in the State of the Union, spoke about strengthening our nation for the 21st century and talked about the need for an empowerment strategy for the Information Age based on education and training. And I think that's where I'll leave it right now. Thank you. And we're going to get back to the discussion.

Q I just have a quick question. What do radical centers do when there's an economic downturn? I mean, you said making the economy work was a predicate for this, was there any discussion, or is there going to be any discussion about -- what do you do, go back to being the old Democrats or -- I mean, what do you do when there's an economic downturn?

SENIOR AMERICAN OFFICIAL: Well, I think there was talk about the need to avoid returning to the old strategies by maintaining the economy in a prosperous way right now, and also making sure that during this period of peace and prosperity that we use this time to try and resolve some of our social tensions, which are not all resolved purely by economic policy.

SENIOR BRITISH OFFICIAL: Thank you very much.


THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: A couple of other notes, the President and the Prime Minister will tape the President's standard Saturday radio address in a short while. We intend to provide an embargoed text of that once it's transcribed, which will be embargoed customarily as we do it until 10:06 a.m. tomorrow morning, Eastern Standard Time. And I believe there will be video of that the White House will make available, too, for broadcast organizations that are interested. We also, for radio, will feed it customarily as we feed it.

A little bit about -- they are taping this, by the way, in the Map Room, which is on the ground floor of the White House. For most of the 19th century it was used I think for laundry and for kitchen service and such, but after Pearl Harbor President Roosevelt turned it into the operational nerve center for the conduct of World War II, and it is akin to the Cabinet war rooms that Churchill had on Whitehall. In fact, it was actually modeled exactly on that because U.S. military officials were familiar with that setting and they wanted a secure place here in the White House where President Roosevelt could receive updates on war conditions and battle reports and track the progress in the war.

The name derives from -- they had on two sides -- on the east side the European theatre, on the west side the Pacific theatre. And there is now in the room the very last map on the day the war ended that was used by President Truman, and also I think on the other side of the room a map that was the last map that President Roosevelt saw before his death.

The subject of the radio address will be not only the extraordinary partnership that these two leaders have and the close relations between the two countries, but they will spend consider time talking to what we hope is an international audience about the importance of the work the two have done together and that the two nations are doing together with respect to the situation in Iraq.

And with that --

Q When should that be available?

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: It will take -- it usually takes us about an hour or so to fully transcribe. So if they tape around 7:00 p.m., most likely around 8:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m I think.

Q Has the President ever previously recorded a radio address with another foreign leader?

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: He did do a joint radio address with President Mandela. I'm not sure when that was. We can get you the date of that.

Q Are they still going to go to Camp David, because presumably the British will only see it in the dark?

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: They're going up early evening, I guess. And they are looking forward to the time in this splendid mountain retreat together -- that facility having been named by President Roosevelt until it was renamed by the Prime Minister last night.

Anything else before we --

Q Is the President --

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: It looks like you've had enough of this two-day extravaganza; particularly the British look a little peaked.

Q Was the President familiar with the text of Mr. Kendall's statement before it was read?

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I doubt that he was familiar with the text; I think he was aware that Mr. Kendall intended to make the remarks. But he's been otherwise occupied during the course of the afternoon.

Q How long is the radio address?

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: It's traditionally -- when we do it it is about five minutes, and I think it looks -- it's not going to be much longer than that because it is about a page and a half. About six minutes.

Q Will we have copies?

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: What we can do, as soon as we get it we will figure out -- where do you all retire to at that point?

Q You could give it to us now.

THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Yes, but they might change as they go along.

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Our custom is not to put out the advance text of that because of the textual deviation of the President.

Q Do you have a week-ahead yet? And if not, can you do a quick one?

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: We've got a week-ahead. I think we put it out. Any of my staff listening who can come out and help me at this moment, that would be nice.

Q Mr. Kendall said that it appeared some of the leaks had stemmed from Ken Starr's office, but clearly there are a number of people who are familiar with the testimony, including witnesses, lawyers for the witness. Why focus in on Ken Starr's office anyway?

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, I don't want to go into that matter at any great length here in this setting, but I think I'll leave it to Mr. Kendall, who has described in his letter the issues that he intends to raise in front of the court, the reasons why he thinks it's proper to direct the focus in the direction that he's placed it.

Q Do you have a list of the participants in --

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Yes, I thought we had put that out. Let me check. Why don't you grill my colleague here for a second and I'll double-check.

THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: On our side it was the Prime Minister, Jack Straw, Alan Milburn, Helen Liddell, David Miliband, Geoff Mulgan, Gavyn Davies, myself, Jonathan Powell, Tony Giddens. The President was there, the Vice President -- is that it?

When I said myself, that meant me. (Laughter.) Yes, as opposed to anybody else. I know you're having difficulty with language these days.

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: The President's Official Spokesman is not as brave as the PMOS.

THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I have to tell you, it was a lot more interesting than they made it sound. (Laughter.)

Q Could you give us your gloss on what -- because we don't seem to have got very much so far.


Q I want to know why it took four hours to do what -- (laughter).

THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: It was very free-wheeling and it built on the Chequers discussion, which was in November. A lot of it was at the kind of philosophical level. And it was really these two questions: how do modern economies prosper in the new global economy; how do we devise policies that bring about social inclusion, the whole one-nation agenda. And there was a lot of discussion -- the guts of the discussion really were about whether there can be common solutions across nations, but addressing what are essentially domestic policies. And also a lot of discussion about, you know, how the center and center-left can become the dominant political force in the next period of history in the way that the right was the dominant political force in the last period of history.

And it's really about the how the left of center addresses problems which merely in their addressing in the past have risked the accusation of pandering to the right. So what are the kind of radical ways of addressing issues like crime, law and order, welfare, the economy, business -- those areas that traditionally have been seen as the territory of the right, how do we make them our territory and in a language and with policies of substance that differentiate from the right.

Q Did they talk about how little you can save by welfare reform?


Q Is there anything likely to spin out of this in terms of ongoing work between the two?

THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Yes. They were not sort of sitting around saying, you know, let's write each other's budgets or let's write each other's legislative plans for the future, although there was a lot of kicking around of the sort of --I mean, President Clinton, whose sort of programs that they've implementing on the -- particularly in the job creation program -- there was a lot of discussion about specifics on education, and that took up a lot of the discussion.

But there will certainly be further discussions of this nature. And I think that -- I mean, the Prime Minister does think it is an important sort of political question as well. I won't deny that a lot of the discussions were political in their nature.

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: One point I know that the President was keen on was using some of this conversation to inform some of the work that he will present when we are in Birmingham later in the year for the G-7, G-8; because I think the President applauds the Prime Minister's intent to focus that generically on some of the job creation issues that he's identified for that agenda. The President's intent was to use part of this discussion to inform his own thinking as he thinks about the presentations he'll be making during that conference.

Q Did universal health care come up at all?

THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: No. The other thing it was about, as well -- I mean, this whole sort of -- as a kind of political communications exercise, how do you actually make this notion of the third way resonate with people and make them realize that it's something they -- I mean, I think we acknowledge that that's something we've not been able to do, but that's something that we want to do and there was a lot of discussion about that kind of thing.

Q In the press conference this morning, there was no mention, I think, of Iran. And I just wondered whether both of you had something to say about whether the subject of Iran came up, has come up at any stage over the last two days and, if so, in what context? And given that the two governments approach this situation from a slightly different position, whether there's any reconciliation or compromise or movement on the different positions vis-a-vis Iran in this visit

THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, in fact, we briefed yesterday the fact that they did discuss Iran yesterday over lunch. And I won't deny that it's one of the few areas where there is a sliver of difference between us. But that's -- the positions as you know them were stated and there was nothing of substance taken forward on that.

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Did you ever get a sliver in your finger? They're awfully painful sometimes.

It did come up and I think in addition to exploring the differences that exist with respect to U.S. sanctions law -- and you recall that we told you yesterday they did spend some time on ILSA, the Iran Libya Sanctions Act, which is the governing U.S. statute. I think they also did assess -- exchange views on the nature of the current regime in Iran and the degree and possibility of moderation by President Khatami.

Q What other slivers have you been having, apart from Iran?


Q Is it?


Q What about Helms-Burton?

Q Cuba?


THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Unless I -- I actually confess, I don't have a thorough read-out of the Prime Minster's breakfast with the Vice President this morning.


Q A sliver-free environment?

THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: That was -- no, that was all -- and the Vice President, can I tell you, because nobody has yet written this, paid yet another tribute to John Prescott.

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: You're really trying to flack Prescott.


THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: There is some recognition, we believe, on the part of the EU that Ambassador -- excuse me, Undersecretary of State Eizenstat's work to explore ways in which we can bring more commonality to our efforts to achieve peaceful change in Cuba have been making some degree of progress. The President recently extended the waiver under the Helms-Burton act, citing some of the work that the EU has done. He reported at some length to our Congress about things that have been done to encourage peaceful, democratic change in Cuba. And that's the basis under our law that he can extent the waiver for six-month increments.

Q Is neither side worried that this kind of love-in might choke off the Europeans a bit? I mean, I haven't heard much mention of EMU, which most of the rest of Europe regard as the big development of this year. I mean, it does look like Anglo-American alliance, pretty much old style, with Europe, as far as Britain is concerned, very much a second place.

THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: No. I think that doesn't -- I mean, you know, we're in the United States and he's been talking to President Clinton and, you know, we've been briefing about those discussions. And, indeed, Europe did figure largely both in the discussions with the President and the Vice President and in the meeting with the money guys on the night that we arrived. And on that, I mean, there's not much about our position that isn't stated publicly that they know about.

And I think as well, you know, we have said -- we said right at the start that the Prime Minister does not believe that we have to choose between relations with Europe or a good relationship with the United States. The two are interdependent. And the European Union, we have -- we've been saying as well, I think he said it again in the speech this morning, that one of our big strategic achievements has been to have a much more positive, constructive, engaged relationship with Europe.

But what you call a "love-in" is in fact an important relationship between two individuals and two countries, which has been strengthened by this visit.

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN. Out of gas. All right. Thank you all. Thank you for bearing with us as we did this joint format, but it worked exceedingly well. I'm not going to try it with any other country on the face of the earth, though. (Laughter.)

Q Can we call you the official Siamese spokesman joined at the briefs? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I must say, I've learned valuable techniques in watching my colleague the last couple of days that I'm sure will become useful in the days ahead.

END 6:01 P.M. EST