THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Tokyo, Japan) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 20, 1998
PRESS GAGGLE BY JOE LOCKHART The Okura Hotel Tokyo, Japan
8:42 A.M. (L)
Q What we really want to know, Joe, is what President Clinton -- what he thought about that woman asking that question about Monica Lewinsky?
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, he didn't think anything of it.
Q Was he expecting a question like that?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Was he really? He didn't look like it.
MR. LOCKHART: They had indicated that they thought the subject would come up in one way, shape, or form -- the hosts. I mean, they basically said that if one of the guests didn't, they thought it was just such a big issue that they would raise it in some way. They didn't tell us how, but -- so he was not surprised. He was expecting it.
Q We were.
MR. LOCKHART: I've talked to some people already this morning, but I expected to be asked about whether he watched and all that stuff, so we checked in this morning. The President did not watch any of the live coverage of the hearings in Washington. He said that in watching a news broadcast, that he saw one short clip from the hearings but didn't watch any of the extensive coverage that I guess is going on back home.
Q What news program did he watch?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it was some CNN International headlines thing where they mentioned it as well as some other things.
Doug Sosnik, who is the traveling chief of staff, went over and gave him a briefing, a normal briefing. He gave him a several-minute briefing on what he had been told about what was going on. The President at the time was working on his speech and indicated that he wanted to continue working on the speech.
Q What time was this?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it was around seven.
Q In the evening?
Q No, 7:00 a.m.
MR. LOCKHART: This morning, yes. I talked to Doug about 7:05 a.m. and he had already done it.
Q The President indicated he didn't want to hear more about it.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, and we'll probably try to give a fuller briefing later in the day, because I know he'll see you all late in the day.
Q Is it not expected for the President to talk to any of his attorneys, including Mr. Kendall or Mr. --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't expect that that will happen today. I'll let you know if it does, but he did not want a full briefing back from Washington.
Q A little off the subject, but why is Doug on this trip and not Podesta?
MR. LOCKHART: Podesta was never going to be on this trip. Maria was. Maria went with the Vice President because she had the most APEC knowledge of what the trip was, but then the Vice President went straight back. Doug was on this trip already; he just moved up to fill in for her.
I watched sumo wrestling, by the way. I had my choice this morning, and sumo wrestling was -- it ends quicker. It's good conflict, but it just ends quicker. (Laughter.)
Q How would you compare sumo wrestling to Ken Starr's performance?
MR. LOCKHART: Can I look at it from a fashion sense? (Laughter.)
Q Well, Clinton has claimed he likes sumo wrestling.
Q Joe, what's the status on the questions?
MR. LOCKHART: They're working on it. They will get them up there.
Q Isn't it missing the point to not get the 81 answers up before the committee started the questioning, because --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think if the committee needed them for that purpose, they would have articulated that need. The one sense that I got talking to our people back in Washington this morning was that the news of the hearings today was not the case that Ken Starr made but was the exoneration of the President in the areas of the Travel Office, the FBI files, and key aspects of the Whitewater case.
It's astonishing that this news has been held by the independent counsel for so long and only released to the public this morning -- well, their morning, our morning, I'm confused. I can't figure out what day it is.
Q What are you saying the motive is for that?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that that's a good question to put to the independent counsel. But otherwise, from what I've been told, this is just a rehash of information that was previously sent to Congress.
Q But wasn't that the point of this?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure what the point of it was.
Q What can you tell us about what the President will do later today? He's got the business speech this morning and then a block of time in the middle of the day.
MR. LOCKHART: Business speech this morning. He will do a lunch, small lunch with the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues. The President will bring some of his people traveling with him. We'll get you a list.
Q Is that a restaurant thing?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, at a restaurant.
Q Do you know what area, or is it the point to get out and see some of the city?
MR. LOCKHART: I can tell you for GUIDANCE PURPOSES, RATHER THAN REPORTING PURPOSES, it will be in the Ginza section of Tokyo, I think. But for the reasons we just sometimes do OTRs, it's not articulated on the schedule.
He'll then do the bilat --
Q I'm sorry, can I back up one second. Is the reason he's having that lunch because Obuchi wanted two events with the President?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think the President and the Prime Minister very much wanted to spend some time in a less formal setting than the formal bilat.
Q So it's in exchange for the hot springs.
MR. LOCKHART: You'll remember that when we were back in the states, back in New York, the President and Prime Minister wanted to spend some time together up at the Rockefeller Estate, but because of weather we couldn't get there.
Q It's not meant to be.
MR. LOCKHART: But it will be today. So they will have their more formal bilat later in the afternoon, then an expanded bilat. Then they will come out at some point and say a few words, take a question or two, and then we're off.
Q Are we to take it from everything you've told us this morning about the President not watching the live coverage and just getting a normal briefing and so forth, there is no sense of gravity, no sense of seriousness here about what's unfolding in Washington?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me address that this way. The President believes this is a very important trip. The future of the Japanese economy and the Asian economy has a real impact on the lives, the wages, the livelihoods of Americans. That's what he's choosing to focus on. That's what he's choosing to spend his time and energy on. And if others decide to focus their time and energy on other issues, that's their prerogative.
Q Is the President satisfied with what he's hearing from Iraq on the second day that the inspectors are back to work?
MR. LOCKHART: I have not gotten a report that indicates anything one way or the other on that. I'll check a little bit more into that, but I'm not sure that we're going to get a definitive sense from UNSCOM this quickly, within a couple of days.
Q Joe, would it be right to think that the Japanese are tending to want to put the focus of their discussions with Clinton on security issues more than the economic side?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think there will be discussions on both issues. There is an appropriate time and venue for discussion of both issues. There are important security issues that exist in this relationship, and there are also important economic issues. I think the President did a little bit of both last night, which indicated what's on the Japanese people's mind. I think the speech this morning will be more focused -- will certainly be focused on the economy, but I expect that through the day, as they go through the bilats, the security issues will also take on some prominence.
Q He'll brief the Prime Minister on the North Korean mission?
MR. LOCKHART: I certainly expect that to be a subject of conversation. I believe the NSC person, Mr. Pritchard, who is responsible for that is here and will have some time to talk to the President.
Q Joe, is there going to be any kind of briefing later today?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to try to go over at 11:00 a.m. with very little to say, but because everybody is here --
Q To the filing center?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Around 11:00 a.m., sometime after the Chamber of Commerce speech. And what I'm going to try to do -- this is just a terrible day for timing -- is have a couple of the experts on Japan and people who will be in the bilats stay behind and take the press plane to Korea so that they can either brief at the filing center or on the plane, so that when you land in Korea tonight you will have some readout -- which will leave us slightly short on Air Force One, but we will have -- Sandy will at least be there, so I will be able to get some sort of readout for the pool.
Q Do you know when the President is going to meet with Ambassador Kartman, who is back from North Korea?
MR. LOCKHART: I am not aware that he is going to. I don't know that he's here.
Q There was wire copy --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, there was some report yesterday. I don't think he's here.
Q Why is he not going to the DMZ on this trip? Is that just because he's been there before?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think we're going to a training facility, which we think would be an interesting way to highlight some of the work that's being done.
Q Are we on schedule to leave at 9:45 a.m.?
MR. LOCKHART: As far as I know. I've got to go upstairs to my meeting, and we're going to go over and see him in about 20 minutes. We'll probably run a little late. Actually, he's been up for a while, so we may actually leave on time.
Q Do you know what time he got up?
MR. LOCKHART: It was certainly before 7:00 a.m. because when Doug went over he was working on his speech.
Q Which speech was it? This morning's speech?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Thank you.
MR. LOCKHART: You're welcome.
END 8:53 A.M. (L)