THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
1:46 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Two quick things. One announcement which should ease your life a little bit: The Northwest Gate is scheduled to reopen to passholders and appointments on Tuesday, October 27. It has been completely redesigned.
Q Are we going to have a champagne opening?
Q Will the President be there? (Laughter.)
Q Can I cut the ribbon?
MR. LOCKHART: We were looking for something to do tomorrow, right? Helen, I think given your arrival in the morning, you may be the first to come through the Northwest Gate.
Q Can I cut the ribbon?
MR. LOCKHART: Anyway, it says here it's been redesigned -- completely redesigned to provide easier access for guests, press passholders, and staff members. So that is the news on that front.
The President also will sign five bills today. There won't be any coverage or statements. They range from the H.R. 4284, the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Act, to the H.R. 2886, the Granite Watershed Enhancement and Protection Act, and several more like that. These are all --
Q What is the Mahatma Gandhi --
MR. LOCKHART: This authorizes the government of India to establish a memorial on federal land in D.C.
MR. LOCKHART: Because it's the right thing to do and Congress approved it.
Q You mean foreign dignitaries will now have memorials in Washington?
Q And we don't even have one for Martin Luther King.
Q That's right, Helen. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Obviously you should take that message to Congress.
Q Joe, where do we stand on Kosovo now? Is the progress sufficient at this point?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it's impossible at this point to take a snapshot. There are, I understand, nine KDOM teams out and assessing the progress. We have our air verification regime in place looking at the progress we've made. It appears that General Clark's meetings with President Milosevic may have had some impact, because we do see a lot of movement. But we want to make sure that that movement is real and it's real withdrawal and not reconfiguration. And the NAC will be in a position to make a final assessment tomorrow when they meet.
Q What do you mean by "final assessment" -- whether he's complying sufficiently to prevent NATO air strikes?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, they're going to look -- as you know, they postponed -- they suspended for 10 days. Tomorrow is the end of the 10 days. They have been watching closely. We've seen progress in a number of areas, from the cease-fire to the political to humanitarian access, which has moved forward significantly. We've seen sort of a mixed bag on the troop movements. Again, we see a lot of activity today. We are getting reports every few hours. And the NAC will meet tomorrow to make an assessment.
Q But you haven't answered what "assessment" means. You've just said that tomorrow is the 10th day.
MR. LOCKHART: Right.
Q And you say an assessment will be taken?
MR. LOCKHART: That's right.
Q Is it safe to assume you mean that the assessment will be made as to whether he's complied sufficiently so that the bombing is not necessary?
MR. LOCKHART: What they will be deciding is the compliance and, as importantly, whether there's a clear intent to stay in compliance.
Q So it could be an extension of the deadline, in effect?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't predict what they will do tomorrow, but they will meet tomorrow.
Q Will the planes be ready to take off tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think as we've said from the beginning, we are ready -- NATO is ready to act when NATO needs to act. But we are in a situation now where we're looking closely through KDOM and air verification on the level of compliance, and that's what the focus is.
Q What is the President's day like and is there anything new on the birthday celebration?
MR. LOCKHART: Nothing new on the birthday celebration. He, for all intents and purposes, has the day off, but he will --
Q Why isn't he playing golf then?
MR. LOCKHART: He's already had a national security briefing today; I expect that before the day is over he'll get another. He also -- I think he'll also, given the fact that we're now about a week from Election Day, I expect him to be on the phone making some calls on that front. But otherwise, it's a day off.
Q What kind of calls?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he'll be talking to some political leaders. I think the focus for Democrats and probably Republicans over the next seven or eight days is on get out the vote, what we can do. And I think he'll reach out to some leaders sometime today on what we can do.
Q Can I ask you something on Kosovo for a second? What's the point of having a deadline if, at the end of the "deadline" you don't really have to have met what you're supposed to have met; rather, you just have to be showing some sort of movement in the right direction?
MR. LOCKHART: You're making some assumptions in that question that I don't share.
Q What assumption is false?
MR. LOCKHART: They have looked -- they suspended for 10 days. They've worked closely in all of the areas of what would be compliance. Over the weekend, General Clark saw President Milosevic and gave him some precise ideas of what he needed to do. And I think tomorrow, rather than trying to preview today or take a snapshot today, we'll wait until tomorrow and they'll make their decisions.
Q At the time that this deal was originally worked out, Sandy Berger said that there were some very specific benchmarks, like there had to be troops back in barracks, there had to be explicit troop withdrawals. I mean, you're not saying that those have taken place, and yet you are saying we might give them some more time.
MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not saying that we might give them more time; I'm saying they're going to meet tomorrow and they're going to look at precisely the benchmarks that Sandy Berger talked about. But that's going to happen tomorrow. It's not -- and it's not going to happen today. And I'm not in a position to preview what they might do tomorrow based on the information that they'll have tomorrow. That's an issue for the NAC and they'll discuss it tomorrow.
Q What are these two national security briefings about?
MR. LOCKHART: One is, the President receives a regular national security briefing on the issues that his foreign policy staff believes he needs to know about. I expect before the day is over he will probably get a specific update on the situation in Kosovo.
Q I didn't understand. You said the President was going to make some calls to political leaders about what you can do on get out the vote efforts. What could the President do on get out the vote efforts?
MR. LOCKHART: The President has, if you've listened to the speeches over the last 10 days or so, that he's made, whether they be fundraising or political events, he's focused on the importance of being engaged, the importance to getting out and actually going to the polls, focused on -- he's obviously, over the last two or three months, talked about the agenda. But as we get closer to the election, I think more of the emphasis is placed on actually motivating people to get out to the polls.
Q Joe, how should we interpret the fact that it's only just a little bit more than a week before the election, but the President is taking the day off today?
MR. LOCKHART: I think you should look at what he's done over the last month and what you all have done and following him around and realize that he deserves a day off from time to time.
Q But is this a time that his comeback -- he feels confident enough now about what's going on that he doesn't have to go out and do anything?
MR. LOCKHART: Wolf, I don't think I'm going to say anything up here on this issue that's going to get on Inside Politics today. (Laughter.) He's taking the day off. It's that simple.
Q I'm sure you already have.
MR. LOCKHART: I've made the promotion, though. Watch it every day, 5:00 p.m.
Q Thank you.
Q Peru and Ecuador signed a peace agreement. What's your reaction to that?
MR. LOCKHART: Peru and Ecuador. Was that signed today?
MR. LEAVY: We'll have a statement later on that.
MR. LOCKHART: As you know, the President has been quite involved in this. I think it was two Fridays ago that he received the two leaders. The U.S. is a guarantor of the peace process there that's been going on for some time. And as Mr. Leavy suggests, we'll have a statement later in the day.
Q Joe, the President has been pushing for minorities to get out and vote. Is this considered a make-or-break group for him with a lot of these elections throughout the country?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think you've got 435 make-or-break elections for every member of Congress, and the President has been clear that he wants to do what he can to help Democrats who share his agenda on a wide range of issues from health care to Social Security to the environment to education -- help them turn out their voters and help return more Democrats to Washington.
Q But he wants majorities to vote as well as minorities to vote?
MR. LOCKHART: Absolutely. I think if you look at his statements over the last week or so, he has been very clear in encouraging everyone to get out to vote.
Q Joe, could you tell us a little more about the CIA role in the Middle East? Will it be overt or covert? And if it's overt, won't that change the whole nature? And could you tell us whose idea it was, please?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me talk for a minute about this, because this seems to be an issue that's not altogether new, but the attention it's getting seems to be new. The CIA has been involved in the Middle East since 1973 on the issue of Sinai disengagement. They were involved in the Camp David Accords. They were involved most recently before this in the Sharm El-Sheikh Summit in their real role in combatting terrorism in the region.
So I think their role here is that of an honest broker and facilitator rather than an on-the-ground enforcer, but --
Q Will they wear name tags? I mean, will they still be -- (laughter) -- I mean, it's so hard to figure out what they will be doing.
MR. LOCKHART: I can't give you any specific detail on the actual logistics of this beyond I think they will play an important role, but it's not a role that's new. I mean, there has been -- there was some talk over the weekend that this was an unprecedented role for the CIA, and I think we'd dispute that. However, we do look forward to any member of Congress who wants to talk about this. We look forward to hearings they will hold and to testifying, laying out our point of view.
Q Joe, has the CIA been in a position before where it's supposed to give its imprimatur as to whether an agreement is being followed or not?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if you look at -- to just take one issue in particular, U.S.-Soviet arms control agreements, the CIA has played an important role in giving an overt assessment of whether either side is complying with the agreements. So I think --
Q The CIA is doing that for the U.S. government. What the CIA is doing in this case is saying to the Israelis and the Palestinians, "yes, you are" or "no, you are not" complying by the security -- have they ever done that before?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if you look at some of the work that was done by Director Gates involving Indian and Pakistan, you'll find that we have done this kind of work for third parties to help reduce tensions, to help facilitate a process that promotes peace and stability.
Q James Woolsey and others have been making the point that the CIA, in effect, in its usual capacity of gathering intelligence and making estimates for the President, will in effect be looking at its own conduct and its own actions here and making an assessment, to some extent, as to how well it's done. And the question is, how impartial can it be about judging itself?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we believe that, again, this is a proper role and that they can play the role as a facilitator or honest broker as both sides try to implement the agreements they reached on Friday.
Q Senator Shelby yesterday seemed to have a serious problem with the fact that it seemed to be so open -- it's sort of her question about name tags or whatever -- and already today security guards, an Israeli security guard has been killed; yesterday a Palestinian boy was killed. And there is concern that we're stepping into the situation trying to mediate, you know, these two sides.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think questions emanating from the Hill are legitimate and we look forward to addressing them at the earliest possible date that they can put a hearing together.
Q Are the CIA operations in other areas of the world going to be jeopardized because more manpower will be utilized in this operation?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Last week the White House hosted a major oil conference here. There were 15 major oil company executives about the central Asian oil policy. There are mixed signals that are coming out about that meeting, whether or not -- oil will end up in Black Sea or coming down through -- can you give us, on the record, what is the real picture, what did take place last week?
MR. LOCKHART: I can tell you that the Deputy National Security Advisor, Jim Steinberg, hosted a meeting on October 22nd with U.S. companies that are either now producing oil in the Caspian region or anticipating that production soon. Mr. Steinberg stressed our sense of importance of the multiple pipelines from the Caspian, running an east-west orientation. He stressed that the Bosporus Straits, which run through the center of a city of 12 million-plus, cannot serve as a long-term outlet for the major new volumes of oil. Our sense was the oil companies agreed. He also said that the United States government -- recognition that no pipeline can be built unless it makes commercial sense for the companies participating.
Q So what did the oil company executives say? What was their reaction?
MR. LOCKHART: There's obviously no decision, but our sense was there was some agreement with the points that Mr. Steinberg made.
Q Is the Clinton administration prepared to pump in billions of dollars into the Brazilian economy?
MR. LOCKHART: As we've said over the last month or so, the Brazilian economy is very important to the hemispheric economy. We have also said that it is subject to the contagion of financial crisis that's happening on the other side of the world. We've been in intensive talks on what we need to do in order to avoid that. But there have been no specific decisions yet made on what role, if any, the U.S. government will play.
Q Do you expect an announcement this week on the IMF package?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't anticipate yet when that might happen.
Q Who's going to make the decision?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we're working with international financial institutions -- the IMF, the World Bank -- as well as the Brazilian government.
Q The President, of course, is entitled to take a day off, but I wonder, with just a week to go before the election, why he has so few plans to be on the road campaigning for Democratic candidates. Just, I guess, Friday this week and half a day Thursday.
MR. LOCKHART: As we've said many times, we think the President has worked tirelessly for Democrats throughout this season. Most important is pursuing policies that we share as Democrats and being successful in pursuing those policies. It's an example of the best politics is good policy.
Q Congress isn't in town. Why isn't he --
MR. LOCKHART: As we've also said over the last three or four months, and I've said to almost everybody in this room one on one, and it sounds like you want me to repeat it again here, we want to do what's best for candidates around the country. And if that's helping them raise the resources so they won't be outspent as much, we'll do that -- if that means holding events here. We want to do what's most helpful, and it's our view, with a lot of candidates around the country, is it's not productive to, two or three days before the election, come in and have them have to put up with all the disruption that a presidential visit causes, and that's something we've been saying now for months.
Q Joe, the murder of this doctor in upstate New York, other than the FBI coming in to investigate, is there any federal role contemplated in terms of stepped-up security or anything else?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there is a federal role here, and I don't have a detailed list of what we can do. I know there are a number of agencies, federal agencies involved in the investigation, and I think the Justice Department is the best place to get that from.
Q But that's the only federal role contemplated in terms of investigating the killing, as compared to anything else?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think at this point that's where the focus is. I'm not aware of any other steps, but let me look into it, because there may be something more on that.
Q Joe, a House subcommittee has not scheduled hearings on the history of impeachment. Does that satisfy the White House desire to hold hearings on the actual standards for impeachment?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that that falls a little short. Everything else that's been done so far on this has been done at the full committee level with everyone participating, and we think we need to do more than to go over a history lesson. We have said from the beginning there needs to be some reasonable standard. I think it can be useful as far as it goes in looking at some of these issues, but I'm not sure that the way it's structured will allow for a full discussion of standards. We can always be surprised, but from what we know about the way it's structured, it appears that it may fall a little bit short of what we were hoping for or expecting.
Q Why do you continue to say you want standards in advance of looking at the evidence when, in fact, the last time this was done, in 1974, the Democrats controlled it, Congressman Rodino, did it just the other way around. What's different now?
MR. LOCKHART: You can slice that argument any way you want, about '74, to work it. I think that they have tens of thousands of pages of evidence to look at and to review. They have done that. What they haven't done is looked at what the standards are, what approaches --
Q -- '74.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think that everything that happened leading up in '74 you can equate to what's happened this time.
Q All right, but I'm asking you what the difference is.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think in '74 you had the kind of access to the material that you have now in the process. And I think there is not, as far as we know -- actually we don't know where they're going to go as far as further investigation. But it does strike us that they should, whether they did it in '74 or not, spend some time on looking at the standards. And that's been our view from the beginning.
Q In the documents released in the Paula Jones case today, we learned that the Paula Jones lawyers in December sought to subpoena Secret Service personnel to testify, but the Justice Department and the Treasury Department quashed those subpoenas and the judge, Susan Webber Wright, supported that. Did the White House know at that time that Secret Service personnel were subpoenaed by the Paula Jones lawyers, and did the White House play any role in getting Treasury and the Justice Department to --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware -- I didn't ask specifically about that today because I hadn't seen that story. But I'm not aware of any role, and I can look into that for you, but I'm not aware of any role.
Q Is there any --
MR. LOCKHART: I certainly didn't know about it.
Q Is there any assessments -- from the President's standpoint, what's the assessment of the document dump that was made available today?
MR. LOCKHART: We have no assessment.
Q Joe, the documents show that the President's lawyer, back in January, objected to giving Ken Starr even a videotaped copy of the President's deposition. Doesn't that somehow contradict what the White House was saying at the time about wanting to fully cooperate with the Starr investigation?
MR. LOCKHART: Say again?
Q The documents that Wolf was referring to also showed that the President's lawyer, Bob Bennett, objected back in January to giving Starr the videotaped deposition.
MR. LOCKHART: When in January?
Q Late in January, end of January. Doesn't that contradict what the White House was saying at the time, or just a few weeks before that, about wanting to fully cooperate?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of the connection between the two. We've obviously provided thousands and thousands of pages of documents to the independent counsel, and if he feels there's material that he needs to look at that he hasn't, he just should make the case to us.
Q But why would the President's lawyers object to just giving over a videotape that had been taken a few weeks earlier?
MR. LOCKHART: That was a tape that was involved in another case that had its own dynamic, and I think, if anything, what we should learn from what's gone on in the last eight months is that anything that goes to the independent counsel's office will, at some point in time, be made public, whether it's through a leak or through a document dump.
Q Joe, you folks put out an eight-page statement after the President signed the omnibus bill last week. Much of it talks about issues the President had with various parts of the bill. I don't see anything in here about the Communications Decency Act renewal that's in there, as far as new restrictions on Internet pornography. What's the administration's position on that part of the bill?
MR. LOCKHART: I'll have to look into that and get back to you.
Q Joe, on the violence that we see in the Middle East in the aftermath of this agreement, I wonder how the White House feels about what's happening inside Israel and the West Bank right now.
MR. LOCKHART: We condemn all violence and we condemn those extremists who work against the interest of peace. But what we shouldn't lose sight of is the extraordinary steps that were taken last Friday, where both the Palestinian and Israeli leaders stood up and made very difficult and tough choices, but tough choices that will promote the cause of peace in the region, which is in both of their interests.
Q Can you explain to us -- the President, I think, at Church on Friday night suggested that the Wye Plantation deliberations were part of his own personal path of atonement. What did he mean by that?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, actually, I didn't see that and I saw it in the paper, so I asked him this morning what the particular connection was. And he said that in the aftermath of the events of this year and what he talked to you about at the Prayer Breakfast, he really promised himself that he would do several things. One is recommit himself and take the extraordinary efforts that he was going to need to take to heal the wounds he caused within his family. The second, as he said, was to take extraordinary efforts in his job to make a difference, to make a long-lasting difference that people could feel and would be important to people.
And he particularly cited the big issues, the ones that can really make a difference. In talking to him today, he cited really bearing down in the budget process and getting the things he thought were important. And in this process, too. He invested an enormous amount of time and it was not without some risks of failure, given the amount of time he put into it. So that was really the connection, that he wanted, in the aftermath of all this, just to make sure that he did everything he could on the big issues to take the extraordinary steps to --
Q With all due respect, I would assume if this other thing, topic A, had never come up, you would argue the President would work very hard on these big issues and would try to do what he thinks was best on these big issues. What difference does it make now that he feels a need to atone? What are you saying, now that he feels a need to atone, oh, he's going to work twice as hard?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm saying that in his view the way things connect up is, in the aftermath of all this, he decided that he would not lose the opportunity to make the extraordinary efforts, whether it be with his family or whether it be with his job. And that is what he meant by what he said.
Q Joe, back to the Bosporus, the Turkish government says it's going to slow tanker traffic through the Strait in 1999. And it's well known that the U.S. and Turkey are working closely together to establish -- they share a pipeline policy.
MR. LOCKHART: This is an international law issue that the State Department is in a better position to answer than I am.
Q Joe, getting back to Susan's much earlier question, this is a President who has thrived on working ropelines and hand-to-hand campaigning. For whatever reason he's not doing it this time, is he not disappointed? This is the last shot he'll have a chance to do this until he maybe campaigns for his successor.
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President is focused on doing what has the optimal value for Democrats around the country, and that's what we're doing.
Q Doesn't he miss --
MR. LOCKHART: Are you asking me, would he not like to go out and do an event with some screaming Democratic supporters for Chuck Schumer or something like that? Sure, he would. But we've made the decision, and he agrees, that there's a more effective way to do that and we've been pursuing that strategy since the middle of the year, and we're going to continue to.
Q I know you've been asked this, but it takes on added meaning, again, a week before the election. To what extent does the Lewinsky scandal play a role in this campaign style of his?
MR. LOCKHART: This is one of the reasons that I addressed this question as many times as I have -- maybe not from here, but in conversations with all of you, or most of you. This is something -- this is a decision we made back in May or June and it has to do with doing the best we can to elect Democrats, and not with any other side issue. And I've been saying this to anyone who has asked for months now.
Q Joe, you're not --
MR. LOCKHART: I've also been saying that I predicted that a week before the election I would be standing up here doing exactly what we're doing right now, which is what we're doing.
Q But, Joe, you're not claiming, I presume, that the Lewinsky scandal has not had an impact at all in terms of the President's decision-making as to whether his being interjected into a race helps or hurts individual candidates?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm trying hard not to be a political analyst here. What I am saying is that earlier this year we came up with an idea of how -- the best way we could campaign to help Democrats around the country, and nothing that's happened subsequently has changed the formulation. I mean, that's a yes and no, I guess.
Q But he'd go somewhere if there was an SOS, wouldn't he? If a candidate said, please come?
MR. LOCKHART: Sure. I can't rule out that there will be some travel where someone feels like a visit from the President might turn the tide. It's eight days and we sometimes don't know what we're going to be doing the next day.
Q Joe, from Kosovo this morning there was a report of a funeral of an 11-year-old boy, and the Serbs were firing on the family. The observers came along and they declined to give them cover. And one of the observers said, we weren't supposed to take sides. Well, what in the world are we doing there? Why are we going to bomb somebody if we haven't taken sides?
MR. LOCKHART: Mary, I think you need to look at what the observers are and what their roles are. These are not people who are armed; these are people who are sent in as verifiers. And as horrific and as heinous as this act was, it does mark the need for both dealing with the short-term cessation of hostilities and moving the troops out, but also looking to the future and creating an environment where people can live without repression and without fear, and creating an environment where the issues of self-rule and political dialogue can be open and discussed.
Q Don't we know whose side we're on? I mean, for heaven's sake.
MR. LOCKHART: What we're on is we're on the side of promoting peace and stability in the region.
Q If soldiers are firing on the family at a funeral, I mean, how does it promote peace not to help them?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, I think you have to look at what -- you're talking about observers here who are sent in as verifiers of compliance. And if you take a step back and you look at all the international community has done up until now, I think you'll see that we are doing something.
Q Do observers have weapons?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q What's the health-related announcement on Wednesday afternoon?
MR. LOCKHART: Let's see, do I have anything on that? There will be a health-related announcement on Wednesday afternoon. (Laughter.) No, I don't.
Q Does it have anything to do with AIDS and the black community?
MR. LOCKHART: I might have some idea of what it is about, but I can't talk about it from here right now. Thanks, April.
Q Is that part of a strategy you telling us about that you had decided last June to pursue to elect Democrats -- announcements, these Rose Garden ceremonies, these --
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's more closely --
Q It's the Ford strategy.
MR. LOCKHART: It's more closely what I said, that sometimes the best politics are pursuing successful policies.
Q Could you just elaborate on the goals of tomorrow's Social Security roundtable?
MR. LOCKHART: Did I get anything on that? Let me come back to you on that.
Q Joe, on the impeachment standards issue, some Republicans are now pointing out that in the case of three federal judges who were recently impeached, no standards were set beforehand. How do you answer them?
MR. LOCKHART: We're not talking about federal judges here.
Q On to what happened yesterday, that was a poignant example that many Americans are still very upset with the President, calling him Pinocchio and walking around with cigars and things. Did he see that and what is the administration's thoughts?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know whether he saw it and if 100 people showing up outside an event represents what America's feelings are, then Americans have their right to express their feelings.
Q Joe, the President of Colombia, Mr. Pastrana, is going to start tomorrow, the state visit -- actually the first one in two decades. What are the issues? What are the expectations at the White House? And what are the issues that they're going to be talking about?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, he'll be here -- he arrives tomorrow, will be here Wednesday and spend some time with the President. There's a wide variety of issues, including strengthening our relationship. The President has been here before, but I believe it was as the President-elect, when he visited the President. We'll discuss deepening and broadening our joint strategy on counter-narcotics. The President will get an update on the efforts to build a peace process in Colombia. And there are some issues of mutual or bilateral economic concern that I'm sure will be on the agenda.
Q What are the expectations that the White House --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the primary expectation is to build and strengthen the relationship between the two countries. This will be the President's first trip here in his new office, so that's the primary expectation. Again, we'll discuss some of the issues that I've just laid out, but that's what we hope to get accomplished.
Q Thank you.
MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.
END 2:20 P.M. EST