View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 10, 1998
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                             JOE LOCKHART 

The Briefing Room

1:45 P.M. EST

MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, everyone. Questions from the press corps?

Q Is the President going on the trip?

MR. LOCKHART: As I told you this morning, the President is very much looking forward to the trip and he still is scheduled to go. But we're watching things around the world, particularly in Iraq, closely, but at this point the President is scheduled to take the trip.

Q Can you give us any readout on this meeting with the defense officials this morning?

MR. LOCKHART: Only that the meeting lasted for about an hour and a half. He met with both his national security team, people from the Pentagon, the Secretary of State, and they had a broad discussion of the options that we've discussed both diplomatic and military that remain on the table.

Q On Sunday, the President asked them to go back and develop some more information, some more options. Does the President now have everything that he needs to make the decision, or are they back out developing more?

MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is that this is a process that's ongoing. No decisions have been made.

Q You said both diplomatic and military options were discussed. I thought this morning you said it was military.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I knew from the arrival of Secretary Cohen and General Shelton, because they arrived just as I was going into the gaggle. I subsequently was informed by NAC that Secretary of State Albright was there and that it was a broader discussion than as described this morning.

Q If President Clinton decides to take action either unilaterally or with other countries, are United States forces in a position now to be able to carry out any of those orders? And would the President have to be in Washington if there were any military strike against Iraq?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into what we need to do to take decision -- I think I described for you in the last couple of weeks that there was a reconfiguration of forces earlier this year to allow for swift activity if needed. But I'm not going to get into the specific decision-making here.

Q Would he have to be in Washington?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to speculate on that.

Q Is there anything on the diplomatic front that could bring this crisis to an end?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that there are both public and private diplomatic efforts ongoing, but I think we need to make clear that the international community is not in a position to negotiate with Saddam Hussein. He needs to be in a position to listen and to understand that the international community, as Kofi Annan says, views this as a flagrant violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Q Would the United States encourage a diplomatic mission from the U.N. or from some third country?

MR. LOCKHART: I think that there are both public and private channels. I would repeat, though, that this is not a situation where we're looking for a negotiation. There's nothing to negotiate.

Q You keep repeating that refrain of public and private. What's going on publicly on the diplomatic front?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think you have seen people who have gone, who have spoken, who are in Baghdad, who have spoken to Iraqi government leaders and I think have delivered the message. I think Kofi Annan over the weekend delivered a very clear and unambiguous message about how he believed that this was a flagrant violation. So I think the international community is speaking clearly and with one voice.

Q You're talking about negotiations being out of bounds. Is there somebody who's trying to negotiate and --

MR. LOCKHART: No, not that I'm aware of.

Q Is the President making any phone calls?

MR. LOCKHART: The President has made a couple of calls today. He may make some more. He spoke to Prime Minister Blair and he spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I think around lunchtime today.

Q Why?

MR. LOCKHART: He's making calls and consulting with our allies on the situation in Iraq. Obviously, I think in the Netanyahu call we can assume that they had some discussion of the peace process. But his calls today are primarily on consulting our allies on Iraq.

Q Joe, since the four congressional districts with the largest number of Clinton appointees and employees, whose representatives Morella, Moran, Wolf, and Davis, all voted for the impeachment inquiry, and they were reelected by margins of 60-83 percent, my question is, if, as the White House seems to suggest, the American people want to put possible presidential perjuries behind us, why do you believe these four were reelected so overwhelmingly, along with a Republican House and Judiciary Committee majority?

MR. LOCKHART: They probably got more votes than their opponents.

Q You'd like to duck this in other words -- gracefully?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think that that was a good way of answering it.

Q You said that the President is looking forward to the trip. Is he going to leave on Saturday as scheduled?

MR. LOCKHART: I think, given the flip we talked about yesterday on Guam, the latest thinking is sometime on Saturday, yes.

Q And then return when?

MR. LOCKHART: That's what we're working on now. We're trying to figure out some of the logistics on the back end. But our primarily purpose is to try to get everybody back with enough time for people who are traveling for Thanksgiving to have the time to do that.

Q Given the fact that you just said there is no chance for negotiations, and given the fact that Iraq is still defiant, does that mean that these phone calls -- the President is mainly garnering support for a military strike? And does he feel he already has the authority to act militarily, even if some of the allies, say, don't go along?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think he's using this as an opportunity to consult with our allies on a situation that obviously is of great importance to the international community.

Q Does he plan any other calls?

MR. LOCKHART: I suspect he may have some calls this afternoon, but I'll let you know -- or one of us --

Q Why is he taking so long to come to a decision?

MR. LOCKHART: I think we said on Sunday that he received a briefing, was looking for some more information to work through some of these options. That process would take several days.

Q Does he think he has an option to go bomb a country?

MR. LOCKHART: That process will take several days and we are working through that process.

Q Is it accurate to say, Joe, that if Saddam Hussein does not allow the U.N. weapons inspectors to resume their jobs that a military strike is inevitable?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into what options the President may choose, except to say that all of them remain on the table. I'm not going to get into a timeline.

Let me say that we have made clear that our policy is to limit and reduce the ability of Saddam Hussein and Iraq to reconstitute their weapons of mass destruction and to deliver those weapons of mass destruction and to threaten its neighbors. This is not an abstract threat. Saddam Hussein and Iraq is a country that's invaded Kuwait, launched Scud missiles at its neighbors, used chemical and biological weapons on both its neighbors and its own people. So this threat is real.

Now, we believe our policy is the most effective way to do this, to pursue the policy, through an aggressive and intrusive UNSCOM regime, as well as sanctions. The sanctions remain in place, but Saddam Hussein has taken steps to reduce the ability of UNSCOM and the monitoring regime. So we will look at options and keep them on the table that allow us to pursue our policy.

Q Are you confident that the amount of force currently in the Gulf is enough to carry out the options the President is considering? And given the fact that right now it's really more of a Cruise missile strike or a few bombers, I mean, if you were talking about a significant military strike --

MR. LOCKHART: Beyond what I've said about reconfiguration of forces, I don't want to get into operational details.

Q Joe, what would the goal of a military strike be?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, what I think what I've said is I'm not going to discuss -- as I said yesterday, I'm not going to discuss the rationale for a decision that hasn't been made. But I think my answer about what our policy is goes to what our objective with Saddam Hussein and with Iraq is.

Q Is the administration under the impression that if an air campaign begins, UNSCOM is finished, there's no chance that inspections will begin again?

MR. LOCKHART: Our objective and preference is that Saddam Hussein reverse course and this can be done in a peaceful way, and allow UNSCOM to resume their aggressive monitoring regime in order to pursue our policy of limiting his ability to reconstitute his weapons and threaten his neighbors.

Q Joe, if I could just finish this line, if I may. If there is a military strike would one of the goals be to remove Saddam Hussein from power?

MR. LOCKHART: That question started with "if" so I'm not going to answer.

Q Let me ask this question about purpose of attack another way. There was hesitation on the part of U.S. military leaders back in January and February to strike for fear that you would not accomplish the objective of severely degrading his ability to manufacture or deploy weapons of mass destruction. Today the Secretary of Defense said that would once again be our goal, to significantly degrade his capability. Have we made a different calculation now than we did in January and February about the ability of military strikes to degrade that capability?

MR. LOCKHART: To answer that question would get into the options that the President is considering. Again, they go beyond military and include diplomatic, and I'm just not in a position to do that here today.

Q Back in January and February, the President went over to the Pentagon and made a speech about possible military action -- he sent Sandy Berger and the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense to Ohio State. Before there would be any military strike this time, would you expect that there would be this lead-up, this prelude to any kind of action?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think we're going to do Ohio State again. (Laughter.)

Q Don't you think there ought to be some fair warning to innocent people?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has discussed this -- will discuss Iraq in the future and will effectively make the case both to the American public, to Congress, for whatever option he chooses.

Q Before or afterward?


Q Before or afterward?

MR. LOCKHART: I think he said some things, and I think he will make a case -- an effective case -- whatever option might be employed. And I'm not committing to before or afterwards.

Q Do you have any comment on the Dalai Lama's meeting with President Clinton? And will you please explain about the U.S. government's position on the dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me read a brief statement that attempts to read out the meeting. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, was welcomed at the White House this afternoon, where he met with the President, the Vice President, and the First Lady to discuss Tibet. President Clinton expressed his strong support for efforts to foster a dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama and his representatives to resolve differences. The President welcomed the Dalai Lama's commitment to non-violence and his efforts to initiate a dialogue with the Chinese government. The President reiterated the strong commitment of the United States to support preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, linguistic heritage and to protection of human rights of Tibetans. The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of strong U.S.-China relations.

Q What sort of subsequent action is the President going to take?

MR. LOCKHART: I think in the meeting they discussed how best to increase the trust between China and Tibet and how to best move forward to establish a dialogue for both sides to resolve issues. The President reiterated his deep and abiding interest in Tibet. I expect the President, in his meeting next week with President Jiang, will discuss a wide array of issues, which may include this issue.

Q Will the U.S. encourage this dialogue to happen as soon as possible?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has spoken while in China and has spoken positively about encouraging a dialogue.

Q Joe, can you state for the record why the meeting was billed as a meeting with the First Lady?

MR. LOCKHART: Because the First Lady had an interest in meeting with the Dalai Lama and the President thought it was appropriate for him to drop by.

Q Was it billed as such because of the sensitivity of China about the President meeting --

MR. LOCKHART: I think I'll stick with the first answer I gave.

Q What is the President's view on the national controversy now raging over whether the DNA proves or fails to prove that his presidential predecessor and namesake fathered a child with Sally Hemmings? And I have a follow-up.

Q I want to hear this answer. (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: April, you're not helping. (Laughter.) What's your follow-up so I can not answer all of them in a small package. (Laughter.)

Q I just want to know, does he have a view on this and does he --

MR. LOCKHART: As I said last week, he has not expressed a view to me.

Q What was his reaction to the Weekly Standard's suggestion that just such a DNA link could prove Toni Morrison's contention that he is America's first black President?

Q Oh, come on. (Laughter.)

Q It's a well respected journal that raised this issue.

MR. LOCKHART: And he answered it to April.

Q He answered it to April? How?

MR. LOCKHART: Not quite in the specifics or in the way you raised.

Q What was his reaction to Toni Morrison?

MR. LOCKHART: He actually answered that question in an interview with April, and I'll get you the transcript. I didn't attend the interview.

Q Joe, when did you learn that the President was to be interviewed by the Justice Department on the campaign finance inquiry?

MR. LOCKHART: A few moments after the interview ended.

Q And did you express to Mr. Kendall or to Mr. Ruff or to the President your displeasure at being kept out of the loop on that matter?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I thought that given the way we've done this in the past on the interviews either from the independent council or the Department of Justice has worked adequately. And I was satisfied that I was informed in a proper way.

Q Are there large holes in his schedule from now forward that you don't know anything about -- what he's doing?

MR. LOCKHART: I know what I think I need to know about his schedule.

Q For a number of days now the Turkish government dismissed the board of director of the theological school of the ecumenical party in Constantinople. But so far, there's no U.S. reaction. I'm wondering, the President Clinton -- what the President feels about it since it's a move against the --

MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry -- if you could just repeat the question.

Q The question is that for a number of days, the Turkish government dismissed the board of directors of the theological school of the ecumenical party in Constantinople. But so far, there is no immediate reaction by the U.S. government, and I'm wondering how President Clinton feels about it since that move is against the --

MR. LOCKHART: Okay, P.J.'s giving me one or two. (Laughter.) We're looking into the situation and have been in touch with the government of Turkey. (Laughter.) Sorry.

Q What was number two? (Laughter.)

Q Where was the meeting with the Dalai Lama? And did you say how long President Clinton was in?

MR. LOCKHART: About 90 minutes --

COLONEL CROWLEY: It was in the Map Room. They started with the First Lady event.

MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry. The 90 minutes was the other meeting. This happened in the Map Room. I think the Dalai Lama and the President met -- excuse me -- and the First Lady met for 10 or 15 minutes. The President dropped by. The meeting went on for about another 30 minutes.

Q The Vice President was 90 minutes?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm sorry. I was thinking about the meeting with the President and his foreign policy team. That was 90 minutes. I don't know the length of the Vice President's meeting.

Q Did the Dalai Lama ask the President to pass on any message to Jiang Zemin next week?


Q Well, he mentioned about the subsequent effort that the President made.

MR. LOCKHART: They obviously, from what I've told you, they talked about the effort to foster a dialogue, but I'm not aware of a specific message.

Q Will the White House seek, or does the White House desire that the Judiciary Committee broaden the scope of its investigation to include an investigation of the Office of Independent Counsel?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm aware that the committee, through Representative Conyers, is already looking into some of those areas. So I don't know that the White House needs to communicate in any way with them. This is something that Representative Conyers is doing.

Q Is that something the White House would encourage? Would you like to see the impeachment inquiry broadened to cover the OIC, as well?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we have from time to time expressed some concerns, but it's more appropriate for the committee to look into the issues that they think are important.

Q -- on the committee are circulating a memo or have a memo with some talking points defending Ken Starr. What does the White House make of that?

MR. LOCKHART: I think from time to time we've also discussed the problems with the partisan nature of this inquiry and the judiciary committee's activity. I don't think the discovery of some talking points that try to buck up Mr. Starr does anything to disabuse of our opinions.

Q Well, why is it any more partisan for the Republicans to have talking points about Starr than it is for Congress to be investigating him?

MR. LOCKHART: My view is Representative Conyers has raised legitimate issues and we'll see where he goes on that. I don't know to the extent he'll get cooperation on the question of talking points to try to boost the image of Mr. Starr. I can't make any final judgment. But what I'm saying is it doesn't do anything to disabuse us of the idea that they're getting serious in the committee and it's becoming less partisan.

Q There's talk of asking Lindsey to testify. What is the White House view of that and would he cooperate?

MR. LOCKHART: We will take a view of that if there is a request. We seem to go round and round on this and it's a revolving door between a big group of witnesses -- one witness, now maybe some more. It's probably best to let others speculate and we will deal in reality.

Q You've got a hearing next week. How much progress is there, what can you tell us about where they now stand on answering the 81 questions?

MR. LOCKHART: I can't give you too much more than I gave you yesterday, except that they're working on it. They will answer the letter in a timely way.

Q Has the President reviewed them, Joe?

Q Before the President goes out of town?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes -- unless he looked at them in the newspaper -- as someone pointed out to me, they were printed there. He has not had a chance to sit and talk to his lawyers yet and review them in a real way.

Q Joe, you said, "they will answer." Do you mean the President or the lawyer?

MR. LOCKHART: The President. The President. The letter was addressed to the President. I assume that --

Q How will he answer it if he feels that he shouldn't? Will he say, it might incriminate me, or what? What does he anticipate will be the form of the answer?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not in a position to tell you what the answers are before they're the answers.

Q Will he answer before next week's hearing, will he answer before Ken Starr --

MR. LOCKHART: All I can tell you is that we're trying to do this in a timely way. I can't give you a timeline for that.

Q Do you know if the President watched or read about yesterday's impeachment hearing, and specifically, some of the statements by the Republicans signaling a strong desire to move forward with this, despite the election?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think he watched. I talked to him this morning and this subject didn't come up. So I don't think that he paid any special attention to yesterday as opposed to any other day.

Q What about more generally the White House reaction to that? I mean, were you surprised at all by what you heard yesterday?

MR. LOCKHART: There is some element of surprise that people came out charging so hard. This was supposed to be a hearing where they looked at the history of the impeachment and they looked at -- what we wanted were the standards of impeachment. So it was somewhat surprising that it seemed to -- from the very start, we heard strong statements judging the evidence already and people telling, before they'd even had a chance to listen to the scholars, deciding and announcing what they were planning to do.

Q Does that mean you don't think there's going to be a fair result?

MR. LOCKHART: I think we have looked for a fair, constitutional, expeditious process. We haven't seen a lot of evidence of that.

Q Joe, until now, the thinking was among Democrats that the only way to avoid impeachment was to go for some sort of censure, and that that was a middle ground because many Democrats didn't want to let the President off scot-free, but didn't want to impeach him either. Has the election or yesterday's hearing changed at all the calculus?

MR. LOCKHART: This really is something that they're working through on the Hill. The President has said that this is something out of his hands and the committee and the House as a whole is going to have to work through this.

Q Is the President still willing to accept whatever punishment is meted out?

MR. LOCKHART: That's a hypothetical. I can't answer that without knowing what it is.

Q Do you remember any attempt by Republicans on the Judiciary Committee in 1974 to investigate Leon Jaworski?


Q Joe, have the White House lawyers put together a witness list for the hearings?

MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of. I know that there are some options available to the Office of the White House Counsel, as far as the hearings go -- and I have checked on this -- I'm not aware of any decisions of whether they will choose to exercise any of those options.

Q Do they intend to cross-examine Starr?

MR. LOCKHART: I think that fits in the "I don't know." I know that there are various options available to them. I don't know that any decision has been made on whether they'll exercise them.

Q The President in today's speech made a couple references to the foreign exchange market, noting how large it is at $1.5 trillion. And he seemed to be expressing some reservations, saying that the foreign exchange market dwarfs underlying trade flows and can swamp countries. Is he thinking of regulating the foreign exchange market in any way? How should we interpret his comments today?

MR. LOCKHART: I think you should interpret them in the broader context of what he said both to the Council of Foreign Relations and the IMF -- that we are looking in the long-term to build a new financial architecture, but in the short-term, I'm not aware of any discussion of any intrusive regulations on the foreign exchange market. I think he has talked about, as a statement of fact, the amount of money that moves around the world now as a reality in the global economy. But I think his comments about foreign exchange and issues like that are more broadly seen in the need to build a more transparent and effective financial architecture for the 21st century.

Q Can I boil the question down -- are you saying that he sees a need for regulations on the foreign exchange market, or not?

MR. LOCKHART: Again, I think you should put it in the context of the speech that I know you watched very closely -- the speech was both to his Export Council and, as you know, to some students who are very interested in trade and trade missions. So I think that's the context you should see it in.

Q Should we expect, Joe, any new initiatives at the APEC meeting regarding taking a step forward toward this new architecture, or is it pretty much more of the same --

MR. LOCKHART: I expect that he'll have some news to make there, but I don't expect that we'll do very much previewing before we go.

Q Go where?


Q Joe, earlier today you said the President would talk to Newt Gingrich to say his good-byes and I guess his thank-yous or whatever at the appropriate time. When is the appropriate time for the two to talk?

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I'm sure the President and the Speaker will find some time, and when they do it, then I'll say it's the appropriate time.

Q Joe, we talked about the President not having reviewed the Judiciary Committee's questions, the lawyers have not submitted a witness list. Is it the White House's intention to be ready to go on the 19th, or are you going to ask for a delay?

MR. LOCKHART: I have no reason to believe that the White House will ask for a delay on the 19th and I have no reason to believe that to the extent there will be participation from the White House we won't be ready.

Q -- to understand the President did not make any decisions on Iraq at the meeting this morning?

MR. LOCKHART: That's my understanding.

Q You do not anticipate any decisions today? And would you anticipate that he has to meet with that same core group again?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to anticipate further meetings. I'm not going to give you a timeline on the decision-making process. But I did go to authoritative sources to find out before this briefing whether decisions had been made, and I've been informed that they haven't.

Q Has he been briefing members on Capitol Hill about --

MR. LOCKHART: There has been ongoing discussions of the situation in Iraq basically throughout the year, actually. And I think we are keeping members, particularly those in leadership positions and important committees, up to date on what are thinking is.

Q Are the U.N. inspectors still there?

MR. LOCKHART: I think your best place to go -- to UNSCOM for that specific information, but there are -- there have been some who left, but there are some there. But as you know, their effectiveness has been severely curtailed by Saddam Hussein's decision to not allow them to do their work.

Q Can I follow up on that? Is it safe to assume the U.S. and the other countries will evacuate their nationals and all of U.N. personnel before any military action?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to speculate on a question like that.

Q The Chinese government has opposed the visit of Bill Richardson to Taiwan and also the meeting between the Dalai Lama and the President and the Vice President. What is your view on that?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of either of those expressions of opposition, and I'd really need to see them before I commented on them.

Q Joe, what is the President doing Thursday and Friday, and when are there going to be briefings related to APEC?

MR. LOCKHART: I think we're going to try on Thursday -- right? Thursday, hopefully in the morning, for APEC. We have events for both days. I will, hopefully, be ready hopefully for Thursday, by the end of today to announce the event. But he'll be out doing something both days. We're just putting the finishing touches on some of them.

Q In town?


Q And when will we know when we're leaving?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, as of now, the President will leave sometime on Saturday, I believe.

Q Afternoon or evening?

MR. LOCKHART: I think probably later in the day. And we're still working on the press charter part of this. As you know, we've made some changes and I've asked them to come back to me and figure out what the new schedule is. And, hopefully, they can do a schedule if not by the end of today, by tomorrow.

Q Mrs. Gore is already in Honduras?


Q I understand you people announced another $10 millon to the $7 million you had already announced would be given to Central America? And my next question, I understand she is going to be calling the President this afternoon to give him a firsthand report of what she's seen.

MR. LOCKHART: Right on one. Another -- Mrs. Gore has announced today the federal government will provide an additional $10 million to help the people of Central America deal with Hurricane Mitch. There is a press release available from her office on that. Mrs. Gore will talk to the President, but I understand that that's now going to happen tomorrow. We'll let you know. I think we're trying to work out a way where you can listen in as she briefs the President on the relief effort there.

Q Congressman Miller has written a letter to the President concerning General Pinochet. He says the Clinton administration is not cooperating with the Spanish authorities on this indictment. And human rights groups here actually are pushing for an indictment of Pinochet here for the car bomb deaths in '76, about 10 blocks from here. And I'm wondering -- and they say the administration's anti-terrorism policy has been shelved when it comes to General Pinochet. I'm wondering what cooperation the administration is giving to Spanish authorities and whether there is an active investigation by the Justice Department of General Pinochet for those deaths.

MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is the Justice Department and the FBI continue to vigorously pursue this investigation to try to bring people to justice. Again, we believe that the Spanish extradition case is a request now between the government of Spain and the government of the United Kingdom.

Q Congressman Miller says that we have a lot of documents that would be helpful to their case and we're not being forthcoming with those documents.

MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is -- first off, I haven't seen the Congressman's letter, so I'm somewhat restrained in commenting and will go and try to take a look at it. But as a rule on this, we've tried to make as many of these documents available as possible. But we will see the letter.

Q If Idi Amin were traveling and were grabbed, and if Fidel Castro were traveling and were grabbed, would you support them being extradited? Or do you think that they are less --

MR. LOCKHART: Helen, help me out, please.

Q Thank you. (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.

Q Is there a wager on the game this weekend?

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, yes, there is a wager on the game. The President and the Vice President have wagered five pounds of their best barbecue -- Arkansas and Tennessee -- on the game. The President was overheard to comment last night that he's quite confident that he will be the recipient of this year's barbecue.

Q Joe, are you going to be gaggling tomorrow?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I'll be around, but I don't think so.

END 3:20 P.M. EST