THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 25, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY BARRY TOIV
Edgartown Elementary School Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
12:03 P.M. EDT
MR. TOIV: Good afternoon and welcome to Martha's Vineyard. Let me tell you a couple of things. First of all, the President this Thursday will travel to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he will join Congressman Jim McGovern and address the issue of school safety. A sign-up sheet I'm told is going to be up on the easel here any minute, but we need you to give us your response by 3:00 p.m. in order to be able to do the usual thing.
Q Will it be piped in?
MR. TOIV: Yes, it will be piped in.
Q Mike -- I'm sorry, what is your name -- Barry. (Laughter.) Just kidding. Was this planned all along or did you all just dream this up while we were here, and what's the purpose of the visit outside of talking about school safety?
MR. TOIV: It's been under consideration for some time. And as you know, the President, during his vacations, frequently addresses one issue or another. He did it last year, and Congressman McGovern invited the President over to Worcester to visit his district, and so we decided that this would be a good opportunity and the President is happy to do it.
Q What's he going to say about school safety in general?
MR. TOIV: Well, there will be a modicum of news which I will try to save for Thursday.
Q Is it an outgrowth of the shootings, though, that sort of thing?
MR. TOIV: Yes. Yes, that's right. There will be some focus -- not entirely, but there is some focus here on the school violence that we've seen in recent months.
Q During his speech he spoke of the need to refocus the nation on his agenda. Is this the beginning of that effort? Can we look on it that way?
MR. TOIV: Well, look, the President, before and now, is always focused on his agenda and he is going to continue to do that.
Q He did specifically say the need to refocus. Should we not look on this as the beginning --
MR. TOIV: The President has been focused and continues to be focused on his agenda, and this is just a continuation of that.
Q How about the rest of us who may not have been?
MR. TOIV: Well, that will be up to you. But Thursday we're going to give you -- Thursday you'll have an event that we think will be important to the American people, but I'll leave to you how you handle it.
Q -- from Martha's Vineyard?
Q Will he do any fundraising while he is there?
MR. TOIV: No.
I think we're looking at morning, but I don't really have any other details yet.
Q What kind of venue will he be addressing, a large crowd --
MR. TOIV: I don't have any of those details yet.
Q When did the Congressman invite him to come?
MR. TOIV: I don't know the answer to that. I'm not sure if it was before we got up here or since we've been up here.
Q Yeltsin phone call?
MR. TOIV: Anything else on the event?
Q Yes. Is the First Lady accompanying him?
MR. TOIV: I doubt that. I don't know for certain, but I doubt that. When she vacations, she vacations.
Q Is this the only off-island event before he returns to Washington on Sunday?
MR. TOIV: That's the only one I'm aware of, yes. I don't anticipate any other.
Q Are you aware that meteorologists say that may be a very difficult day in this area?
MR. TOIV: The trip is planned. Obviously we always -- I've just been handed this hurricane update. (Laughter.) It still seems to be down in North Carolina.
Q You could always change the event to storm safety instead of school safety.
MR. TOIV: We're flexible.
Q When you say it's a good opportunity -- it's a good opportunity for what?
MR. TOIV: To address the issue of school safety.
Q Anything about the audience at this event?
MR. TOIV: I don't know yet what the audience is going to be.
Q Still looking for one? (Laughter.)
MR. TOIV: I don't have those details. It's two days away, that's a long time for us -- for planning.
Q But is it open or closed event?
MR. TOIV: I don't know if it's going to be indoors or out, so -- I mean, I don't have the facts yet on the event. We're going to put out an advisory, actually, this afternoon which hopefully will have more details as to -- and hopefully will have more information for you on the specifics of the visit.
Q But you think it's at least going to be at a school?
MR. TOIV: I would not be surprised, but I don't know that for a fact.
Q You've got a school here. (Laughter.) You could save a lot of money.
MR. TOIV: But Congressman McGovern didn't invite the President to -- whose district is this -- he invited him to his own district.
The other matter is the Yeltsin phone call, which took place this morning, lasted about a half hour, and the purpose of the call was to both talk about the important developments of the past few days and to discuss preparations for the summit meeting next week.
Both Presidents reaffirmed the importance of a clear, decisive strategy for tackling Russia's economic crisis. President Yeltsin stressed that this will be the top priority of the new Russian government.
On the summit, the Presidents talked also about the important international and bilateral issues they'll be addressing, including nonproliferation, Iraq's compliance with its U.N. Security Council obligations, and Kosovo. And also, with respect to the air strikes of last week, the President reviewed the events leading up to the U.S. actions last week, and the dangerous threat posed by Osama bin Ladin to the United States.
Q Did Yeltsin follow the path of Dan Coats and Arlen Specter and change his mind on that, or is he still angry?
MR. TOIV: The President's agreed that they would discuss it further at the summit.
Q Do we know whether Yeltsin expressed personally to the President his unhappiness?
MR. TOIV: President Yeltsin and President Clinton agreed that they would discuss it further at the summit.
Q Who initiated the phone call?
MR. TOIV: We did.
Q Barry, there are reports out of Washington that Starr's looking at an abuse of power entry in his report because of reports that Clinton used his government lawyers for personal use. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. TOIV: No. I think Mike has already suggested to you that we have no idea what will be in that report, so we have no way of commenting on it.
Q Can you address the issue of the use of lawyers, Ruff and others, to handle his personal --
MR. TOIV: No, I'm not going to address that.
Q But these are reports that are coming out that the report will focus on abuse of power. Do you think that that's a legitimate case to make by the independent counsel?
MR. TOIV: I'm not going to get into that, and we have no way of -- there's nothing for me to react to. We have no -- we don't really have any knowledge of what's going to be in that report.
Q Does the President have any plans to address the Lewinsky matter at any time during the next week or two before Russia, for instance, or even during Russia?
MR. TOIV: No, no plans.
Q Do you have any other plans today or tomorrow?
MR. TOIV: I wouldn't rule out his getting out of the house -- maybe today and tomorrow.
Q Do it before the rain.
Q Would the President at least be willing to answer any questions about the speech he gave or does he feel like that's what he said and that's it?
MR. TOIV: Well, unless you guys are not planning on never asking any questions about this again, we all assume that he will be getting questions about this in the future, and presumably he will answer them.
Q When is the next news conference, Barry?
MR. TOIV: The next news conference? We don't have one scheduled yet.
Q -- the summit?
MR. TOIV: I wouldn't rule it out. I certainly wouldn't rule that out. I hope we'll be putting out a schedule soon for the summit.
Q Barry, anything new on the Pakistan claim that a cruise missile landed on their territory?
MR. TOIV: No. I would just repeat what Mike said yesterday and refer you over to the Pentagon on that.
Q What are they doing in there, I mean, in this cloistered environment? Can you just give us a sense of what actually is taking place?
MR. TOIV: I was there this morning. They're basically hanging out, vacationing. Maybe I could rerun the stuff I said last year.
Q Yes, but the atmosphere is a little different, isn't it?
MR. TOIV: Well, I didn't talk about the atmosphere.
Q Would you like to?
MR. TOIV: No. It was fine when I was there.
Q Were they watching television --
MR. TOIV: No.
Q -- at the house?
MR. TOIV: I was -- the call took place in another little house there that he uses as an office, and I saw Mrs. Clinton there briefly, too. I didn't see a TV there, but I don't really know.
Q Barry, do you know anything further about the strategy of this session and what President Clinton is going to hope to accomplish?
MR. TOIV: I'm sorry, this session of Congress, you mean?
Q This session -- you said President Clinton and President Yeltsin had something going on.
MR. TOIV: Both Presidents said that they were --
Q -- the strategy of that and what do they hope to accomplish.
MR. TOIV: Both Presidents said that they are very much looking forward to the summit, and to seeing each other. And I think Mike went a little bit yesterday into some of the issues that they hope to discuss, and I just did, myself. They hope to discuss the issues of nonproliferation, Kosovo, Iraq and, of course, the state of the Russian economy and the steps that the Russian government needs to take to address their problems.
Q Will Vice President Gore be accompanying Clinton, or are there any other people who will be added to the delegation that were not before, any other change in the planning of the summit at all?
MR. TOIV: No. Not that I'm aware of.
Q Barry, has there been any response from Libya to the latest U.S. offer for trying the suspected bombers of Pan Am 103?
MR. TOIV: I don't have anything new on that today from what Mike said yesterday.
Q Barry, the President is going to talk about school safety on Thursday. Assuming that's a crime and education event, the Republicans in Congress have not been willing to give the President anything that he wants on crime and education, and until this last week and a half, the President has been very tough in saying, well, then I'll just veto whatever you send me that doesn't have what I want. Does he feel his hand weakened at all going into September in the appropriations process?
MR. TOIV: No. The President is very much looking forward to September when he hopes that Congress will take the right attitude towards the initiatives that he has proposed -- investments in education and in fighting crime, as well as others. The President is right where he has been on those issues.
I think when you talk about veto, I believe the only -- I could be wrong -- I think the only bill he has specifically said he would veto is the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. But there are veto threats at various levels on a number of those appropriations bills, and the President intends to fight very, very vigorously, as he has every year, for his initiatives, and we expect that Congress will be wise enough in the end to provide appropriate resources for the investments that he has asked for.
Q -- he still has the leverage to push this to the brink?
MR. TOIV: He has the leverage he's always had, which is -- first of all, the American people support him on these issues, and secondly, he carries a very big pen.
Q Barry, is there any reaction to reports that bin Ladin forces twice planned to assassinate the President overseas?
MR. TOIV: Say again?
Q There are reports that bin Ladin's forces twice planned the assassination of the President.
MR. TOIV: Yes, I'm not going to -- I've seen that and I'm not going to get into security issues.
Q You wouldn't say that the President has lost some leverage -- the question was whether he still has the same pull on the Hill.
MR. TOIV: Look, the President always wants to work with the Congress to obtain the initiatives that he has proposed. And he always seeks to do that. By the same token, he stands ready to take whatever action he needs to take if the Congress is not interested in supporting those initiatives. This is true every year and we come down to September every year and we have the same discussion -- how is the President going to get the Congress to provide the funds that he's asking for, and every year, however difficult the struggle might be -- sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not -- we come away pretty satisfied.
The President is going to continue to fight for his initiatives in education, fighting crime, the environment, health care, health research and we're very optimistic about obtaining the kind of investments that the President believes are necessary in the American people.
Q Barry, is there any reason why he hasn't golfed yet?
MR. TOIV: No, but I expect that he will before the week is out.
Call the pool.
Q Barry, are there any contingency plans in case Hurricane Bonnie comes up here today?
MR. TOIV: I think it's a little premature to be talking about that. Obviously, as you saw last week, the President can be transported anywhere he needs to be transported at any given time. But that's not something that we're focused a great deal on right now, because it's way premature to be thinking about that. I wouldn't want to alarm unnecessarily people who actually live here.
Anything else? All right.
END 12:21 P.M. EDT