THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
1:58 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the White House briefing. I checked just before coming out and the lawyers advised me that the letter has not been sent and will not be for a little bit of time. And I will let you know once it's been sent. I expect it sometime today.
Q What will it say?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. We'll find out.
Q Do you know if it will be accompanied by a personal appearance?
MR. LOCKHART: What do you mean, personal appearance?
Q I mean, in other words, will one of the White House lawyers actually go --
MR. LOCKHART: I think the letter will probably address that fact and I don't want to prejudge the letter.
Q Will copies be made available?
MR. LOCKHART: We will check with the lawyers to see if it's a letter that they feel is appropriate to release.
Q Does that mean you guys haven't decided yet whether you're going to go up?
MR. LOCKHART: It means they haven't shown me the letter. If they've written it, they haven't shown it to me.
Q But do you know if they've made this decision, and what the decision -- you don't know?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know where they are in the process.
Q Are you aware of what's in the memos that --
MR. LOCKHART: No. No, I'm not. I think, as you know, the memos have been the subject of some conversations, much reporting, but I don't, and I don't think anyone here at the White House has had the ability to look at it.
Q Well, how do you feel about Judge Norma Holloway Johnson's decision to allow the Democratic and Republican staff members to see a copy of the unredacted memo?
MR. LOCKHART: That's obviously a decision between the Congress and the court, and I don't think we have a view one way or the other on it.
Q How about the way in which it is being released, in that they can have a staff person come in and see it, but not take notes, that kind of thing?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that --
Q Do you feel some measure of protection from that?
MR. LOCKHART: Not really. Having not seen the report, just employing whatever wisdom you can glean from being around here for a while, the idea that something new and explosive, as some people in the media have -- or some people on the Hill have described this as potentially being, remaining a secret for as long as this memo has been around is kind of hard to believe. But I say that with the full disclosure that I haven't seen it, nor has anyone here.
Q Joe, we've been reporting that LaBella was the person who actually went to the committee and said that there was material in there. Does that change your view of whether or not the committee was running off on a wild goose chase, the fact that the man who actually wrote the report was saying that there were things in there that suggested criminal wrong-doing?
MR. LOCKHART: No, because I think if you look at how he testified when he testified in an open hearing, I think he was pretty clear on what his views were. And to in the eleventh hour or a week or so before you're supposedly supposed to wrap up, open up a whole new line of questioning, again, we can't glean the motives for this beyond that they seem starkly political.
Q If I could follow up, isn't it hard to characterize this as a partisan move when it's somebody who is working in your own Justice Department?
MR. LOCKHART: I've heard many people talk about the career people there, and I don't think they normally talk about them as far as Democratic or Republican. He testified in an open hearing before the Burton Committee. You all made your judgments then on how serious and how important the work that Mr. Burton was doing, and we made our judgments also. So I don't see anything that's happened since we were here talking about this yesterday that's changed our view.
Q So are you saying that he is partisan?
MR. LOCKHART: No, absolutely not. I think he made his views known. I would suggest that it's the timing now of the committee going off in this direction which suggests they're pursuing something other than a search for the truth.
Q So you're saying that it wasn't that LaBella just came to them; it's that the committee knew about this already --
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I'm saying that I don't know what the sequence of events are because the committee hasn't said. And I've seen a lot of reports that turn out in the end not to be the case.
Q Joe, is there any concern at the White House based on some of the comments coming off the Hill that this inquiry could go into next year now? Or do you all think you might get a fairer shake in the next Congress?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we've said time and time again that this White House, the majority of Congress it seems, and definitely the majority of the American public wants to find a way to put this behind us. The Republicans spent the year of 1997 with this as agenda, putting forward, first and foremost, investigating the President. The Democrats put a different agenda forward, and the public made its decision.
It is up to the Republicans. They do control the House by virtue of the majority they control. If they want to put this over until next year and make this again the lead point in their agenda, they are free to do that. I don't think it's in the country's interest to do that, but it's something that's out of our control.
Q Do you agree with what Mr. Gephardt said today, that the process is in chaos, the committee is in chaos?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we rely on people like the Minority Leader to provide us with the best intelligence of what's going on up there. And when he says the Hill is in chaos, we tend to believe him.
Q And what about from what you all see? I mean, you're watching it like everybody else.
MR. LOCKHART: I would say we're at a loss to understand what's going on, and I think we believe that the politics are in play here. We just don't quite see the strategy that's going behind that.
Q Will you agree with this effort to get either the incoming Speaker or the outgoing Speaker to take a more forceful role in directing the process?
MR. LOCKHART: I think anyone who can step in and get control of this process would be welcome.
Q Well, which is -- in the past, you would complain about how Gingrich was kind of operating Henry Hyde like a puppet on a string, and that he was actually exercising --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think --
Q -- too much control. Which do you prefer?
MR. LOCKHART: I think Congressman Gephardt has articulated that pretty well. I think we're now looking for someone to come forward and tell us, as a simple matter, what the schedule is. On one hand, we hear that they want to be wrapped up by next week; on the other hand, yesterday they launched a brand-new part of this investigation, an investigation which, mind you, other committees on Capitol Hill have spent 18 months looking at. So this isn't something simple, where you just say, well, this will take us a day, we'll take a quick look at this.
Q Right. But are you saying you want Gingrich to exert leadership now?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm saying it's not our position to dictate who does, but we accept the wisdom and the judgment of Representative Gephardt when he says the Hill is in chaos right now.
Q Joe, if it does slip into the next Congress, wouldn't that be good for the President, since the Republican majority in the House is smaller in the next Congress than in the current Congress?
MR. LOCKHART: From where I stand right here, I have trouble seeing what would be good to keep this subject hanging around.
Q If the impeachment process does spill over into next session, would that derail or sidetrack bipartisan efforts in reforming Social Security, or Medicare reform, or even patients' rights?
MR. LOCKHART: I think clearly we have demonstrated that, despite what some in the Republican Party want to focus on, we have the ability to focus on the people's business. We will continue to do that. We welcome Republican support on reforming Social Security, getting a patients' bill of rights, improving public education, campaign finance, raising the minimum wage. We can't do this without them. We look forward to moving that agenda forward.
They have to make choices. They have to make choices about what the Republican Party's about, what the Republican Party wants to project to the public. And right now, I think the message the public is seeing is that it's about investigation, it's about scandal. But only time will tell.
Q Do you think venturing into campaign finance, the committee doing that at this time, is in part an effort to put pressure on Attorney General Reno to appoint independent counsels?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me refer you back to my answer that there are politics at play here, but we're not smart enough to figure out what they are.
Q Joe, if you and the Democrats think that this scandal isn't playing well with the public, why not just let the Republicans continue to take the heat and let them extend it?
MR. LOCKHART: Because the President came here to do business. He has important business to do. This isn't about people here in the Beltway; this isn't all about politics. It's about the country and the future of the country. And I think the clear message that the American public, whether it was on Election Day or any day, are sending is, let's figure out a way to wrap this up.
Q Joe, what do you think or expect is coming out of this meeting with the Prime Minister and the President? Also, how much money do you think is the U.S. going to commit during this meeting for Pakistan?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, you got a good preview from the Prime Minister and the President of what they hope to talk about, and you'll get a good postscript from some of the people in the meeting, so I won't try to venture to guess.
Q The recent layoffs at Boeing and Kellogg's today seem to indicate that we're about to reap the whirlwind of the international financial crisis. Is the White House thinking of maybe looking again at the somewhat rosy prognoses which come out regularly from this office regarding the U.S. economy in the light of that crisis? And is there a concern that maybe between now and the year 2000 things in the United States could get worse before they got better?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me just repeat for those of you who haven't had a chance to see what the President said. He spoke directly to this issue and talked about his concern, particularly with Boeing. I think they have announced an additional 20,000 layoffs. The President -- this is testament to the commitment and the time the President has spent on working through the difficult issues of the global financial crisis, particularly the economic crisis in Asia and the economic slowdown.
The President has spent an enormous amount of time trying to work through restoring growth in that region. We've done a lot of important work. We've taken a lot of steps forward. But he has always said that there are industries -- probably the first one that was hit in this country was the agriculture industry, but also aerospace people -- who rely on exports and rely on foreign countries' ability to purchase these products.
So that's why the President has spent so much time on the international. I think closer to home, the Department of Labor has already begun work with Boeing, particularly in the three states that will be hardest hit, which I think are Washington, California -- California, Washington, and Kansas -- with their version of the rapid response teams to help ease the transition here, and we will continue to work closely with them.
Q Joe, the President, when he talked about this at the e-commerce meeting the other day, made reference to Alexander Hamilton and Hamilton's Report on Manufacturers -- a rather unusual statement for really any President to make in the last 20 or 30 years. I was just wondering -- at that point he said also that he and Secretary Rubin had been concentrating on the issue of the international financial system as a priority. I was wondering if you have any of his most recent thinking with regard to what is to be done to establish order in the chaos on the international markets.
MR. LOCKHART: I think what I would do is refer you to the transcript that should be coming out shortly, because he did in his own words directly address that.
Q Are you criticizing Boeing at all for laying off 20,000 workers?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I mean, I think it's unfortunate that Boeing has had to take this step, but we do recognize the marketplace in which Boeing operates. I think Boeing has worked closely with the machinists' union and there are certain industries -- the aerospace one in particular -- that are sensitive to the Asian market and the downturn that's gone on there.
Coming back, I don't think I addressed directly -- I don't think that there is anything here that changes our fundamental view on the strength of the U.S. economy. The U.S. economy remains strong. We have strong growth, as evidenced by the latest GDP numbers. We have a strong, vibrant labor market. We have low inflation. It is a strong economy, but that doesn't mean that we don't need to remain vigilant in our work in the international financial areas.
Q What are these rapid response teams doing?
MR. LOCKHART: Basically, the rapid response teams work with company and state officials and affected employees to coordinate immediate job placement assistance and financial assistance to workers. And I'm told that that process is already under way, even before the announcement.
Q And that's at Boeing?
MR. LOCKHART: That's from the Department of Labor, working with Boeing and the employees and the machinists' union.
Q Is there a specific sum of money that's involved to help these workers who are being laid off?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have a specific number. You might check with the Labor Department. But this is something that they have worked very hard, particularly when there are displacements within particular communities, to go in and try to provide immediate help.
Q Now, the President also said that the NEC was working on some sort of merger review. What was that?
MR. LOCKHART: The NEC has been for some time, for several months now, looking at mergers in general or in the abstract, and their view and impact on our economy and our competitiveness. That work is ongoing. I think Janet Yellen sometime during the summer previewed some of their thinking on that. But I expect some sort of interim report within the next few months. But this -- let me stress on this effort -- it's not in response to any particular merger. It's certainly not in response to something that's happened in the last few weeks, because it has been ongoing for months.
Q In principle, does the President think this merger between Exxon and Mobil is a good idea or a bad idea?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President expressed to you in his own words that on particular mergers he's somewhat constrained by what he is able to say as far as the regulatory process that these mergers have to go through. But he did express a view that I think I expressed yesterday in general about mergers and competitiveness and their impact on consumers.
Q Joe, talking about Boeing, is the President ready to lift the sanctions -- military sanctions against Pakistan? And also, what is the future of the $650 million Pakistan paid for F-16s?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that's about the question you asked me a few minutes ago. I'll give you the same answer. Good try, though.
Q Joe, it looks like there's been a breakthrough in Northern Ireland today where the North-South bodies, there's an agreement between Trimble and the Unionists and the Nationalists up there. Has the President played any role in this, and would the eight parties coming here on Monday and Tuesday, do you expect any kind of mini-summit to take place?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, the President continues to be active both through his staff, through -- on an informal basis with Senator Mitchell. I mean, I think you know that Senator Mitchell was there on private business and took the opportunity to meet with many of the leaders. And the President very much looks forward to meeting the leaders next week at the meeting of the National Democratic Institute's awards evening where the leaders will all be there.
I'm not aware that there's any plans now to bring them together or bring them here, but obviously if something develops on that front we'll let you know.
Q But did he have any personal involvement in the days leading up -- because Gerry Adams had asked specifically for the White House to once again kind of kick-start this.
MR. LOCKHART: Again, I think through Senator Mitchell, Mr. Berger, Mr. Steinberg, the people who have worked hard on this, and the President -- I can't get into the details of any particular activity, but we've remained very engaged in this and very committed to helping the parties work through the important issues for implementing the Good Friday agreement.
Q In any of his conversations here today with Democratic congressional leaders, did the President discuss any specific mechanisms for reforming Social Security? And also, was there any discussion in any of these groups of the impeachment proceedings?
MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is there was no discussion of impeachment. I think there was a pretty extensive conversation of Social Security. I think I'll leave it to Gene to -- I wasn't in the meeting, so I'll just defer to Gene that question because I'm not sure how specific they got in the conversations.
Q On Social Security, however, Joe, Chairman Archer is again urging the President to come up with a specific plan for saving the system now. Will he do that?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I have nothing new to add. Maybe Gene will have something more prophetic for you at 3:00 p.m. But again, we're looking to find a long-term solution; we'll do what we believe is in the best interests of providing a long-term fix.
Q Has President Clinton seen the report that the Park Service put out today on renovations at the White House including a big underground parking and a new press center --
MR. LOCKHART: I doubt it. I doubt it.
Q -- and a new indoor family den and recreation center?
MR. LOCKHART: I doubt he has. Somebody gave me one, which, to tell you the truth, I didn't get a chance to read. But I do understand that there are some implications 20 years down the road -- I hope none of us in this room are here then. (Laughter.) For the record.
Q Helen -- (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Wolf, that was uncalled for. You should leave.
Q God willing she'll still be here.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Anyway, but my understanding is there are some implications for press, how the press is housed here and what little I saw indicated that they wanted to do something that more closely mirrored the kind of facilities that they have up on the Hill for Capitol Hill reporters. But most importantly, it's my understanding that people from the Correspondents Association have been involved in this process since it started in 1996.
Q The question was more about has the President seen plans. It's significant renovation, a different flow of tourists, a lot of underground parking --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that he's seen these plans, but I know he has been involved in the past in looking at some of the options because I think the President and the First Lady have strong feelings about how the building is accessible to the general public. I don't know specifically if there were particular ideas he had that got incorporated in the Park Service, but I know in the past I've heard him talk about this.
It's obviously a proposal that will be implemented long beyond his tenure. But I know that he has expressed an interest in it in the past.
Q What kind of input did you have on access by the press to the West Wing, and what does this White House feel about our access to this portion of the building as opposed to putting us under the West Drive?
MR. LOCKHART: I am not the best person -- I think Stewart Powell is the best person now to go to. I know he's been dealing with people on the staff here.
Q But I'm asking what the White House --
MR. TOIV: She's asking whether we were consulted --
Q What input does your office have with the Park Service on what kind of access the White House would like us to have.
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I'm sorry. Again, it's not me that's been doing this. I know there have been people before in the past -- Lorrie McHugh was very involved in this. I think Amy worked on it, and Jennifer is working on it now. But we have, obviously, argued to get you the kind of facilities that are slightly upgraded from the ones we see now.
Q I'm asking about access.
MR. LOCKHART: What particularly on access, I'm sorry?
Q Does this White House have a philosophy on whether we should be in this portion of the West Wing with access --
MR. LOCKHART: I think, if you look at the plans, I think you'll find that A, you obviously have access to the suite upstairs and there's nothing that's going to happen, I think, that's going to change that. And, B, you will continue to have access to this room and to some expanded rooms in other areas. Beyond that, I don't really know very much and I suggest you take it up with Jennifer.
Q Amnesty International has asked the United States to clarify its position on the Pinochet case. So what is your position? Do you agree with those who think that the time has come to create a precedent for people who badly abuse human rights, and show that there's no place to hide in the global world? Or, do you think there should be made an exception, and why?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that the views I have expressed over the last week to 10 days have been pretty clear and I don't understand the need for clarification. I would gladly, if you have an address, I will send them the transcript.
Q Would you repeat them?
MR. LOCKHART: Certainly, I'd be glad to read exactly what we've said here. "The United States condemned the abuses of the Pinochet regime when it was in power, and played a very supportive role in encouraging Chile's difficult transition to democracy. The United States is committed to the principles of accountability, as evidenced by our unfailing support of the international criminal tribunals of Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
"The record of the United States of seeking to hold accountable those who abuse human rights is strong. Different countries, when emerging from authoritarianism and conflict, strike different balances between justice and reconciliation, and have done so without sacrificing the principle of accountability.
"South Africa, for example, had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There was a different model in Bosnia, where we sought to prosecute war criminals. There is no one right answer to how a country should balance these demands. It is important to support democratic countries in their efforts to strike this balance. While it is vital to promote accountability, there may be different ways to accomplish this goal."
Again, as we said, we have not expressed a view on the litigation that's going on both internally in the United Kingdom and between the United Kingdom and the government of Spain.
Q Will the President be asking the Prime Minister of Pakistan to help bring Osama bin Laden to justice?
MR. LOCKHART: Again, I think the President outlined the areas he will be talking about, and we will have some people in here available after the meeting to discuss actually what happened.
Q Joe, on the Pinochet thing, you have said here from the same podium that the United States is working with the Spanish government, and that the President believes in releasing documents as long as they don't affect national security.
MR. LOCKHART: Again, as we've said, we have worked with them. Given the interest in this case, the President has asked for a review of the documents, and we will declassify, as much as possible, as we can consistent with our laws and with our national security interests.
Q It sounds like you've pretty much gone out of your way to be as helpful as you can to Spain, right? Because it was a judgment call as to whether you would declassify or not.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we're working through that process now. And that is in the context of a process and a philosophy that the President has employed for the six years since he's been here, to provide as much information as we can consistent with our laws and our national security interests.
Q I think that could be interpreted as supporting Spain's position.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I am not going to interpret. I am going to tell you that we have not taken a position, that this is something for the United Kingdom and the government of Spain, that they are working out. But I have tried to give you some sense of what our philosophy here is, on the broader question.
Q Now the review that you're talking about, that the President ordered, is separate from the passage of documents to the government of Spain, is it not? That was under a mutual legal assistance treaty. This -- you're saying the President is ordering a review with an eye toward releasing them to us?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, to the public, but it would certainly include any relevant legal authority that's interested in this matter.
Q Do you have a view on China's new crackdown on dissidents?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry. I didn't hear the question.
Q Do you have a view -- does the U.S. have a view?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that we deplore the detention and arrest of Mr. Xu and Qin, and that view and feeling has been communicated directly through our Embassy in China. We're not aware of any crimes that the two gentlemen have been charged with. We believe that peaceful political activities of this kind, and other forms of peaceful expression that they've been involved in, are fundamental human rights and should be protected by all governments. We call on the Chinese government to ensure the protection in these cases of Mr. Xu and Mr. Qin.
Q Joe, does this violate the Human Rights Convention that China signed with great fanfare from the United States?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I believe that has been signed, but not yet ratified. I certainly think, upon ratification, that --
Q Ratified by China?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, by China.
Q So as far as you're concerned, they're not bound to it yet?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, it has not been ratified, so -- there are certainly things that we've signed that we await ratification on.
Q What does this tell you? I mean, when they signed this, you made certain concessions to them and said it was a great step forward. Does this sound like they have no intention of living up to the agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that we have communicated very clearly with the Chinese government that we deplore this kind of activity.
Q Is there a plan for us to do anything beyond that, beyond just, sort of a statement deploring it? I mean, top-level communications.
MR. LOCKHART: Again, we will continue to watch this and, again, we have called on the Chinese government to be responsive. I'm not aware of anything beyond that at this point.
Q I think there might be a problem with a previous question. You said the President did not speak about impeachment with any of the Democrats here. Did he speak about censure with any of the Democrats here, particularly Gephardt? Did he talk about censure?
MR. LOCKHART: No. Impeachment I use as a broad thing that includes 95 percent of what we talk about.
Q Is there a point at which the President, or the
White House, might want to be more publicly out on that, the
subject of censure, given that you're now much more willing to
criticize the Judiciary Committee for what they're doing, you're
no longer sort of this neutral,
MR. LOCKHART: I never felt like we were unable to express our opinions -- we've certainly filed things with the committee. I don't see these things as going hand-in-hand and I don't see the view -- I don't sense that the view has changed here, that we believe that this is in the hands of Congress and it's more appropriate for members of Congress to discuss this than for people here at the White House to do it.
Q Is there a tacit sort of signal, though, that the White House can send, or is sending, to Gephardt or the Democrats --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, it wouldn't be tacit if I talked about it up here.
Q In terms of the President's willingness to accept certain --
MR. LOCKHART: Again, I don't see it as something that would be productive for us to engage in, whether it be openly, tacitly or in any other way at this point.
Q What about on Social Security, Joe? One of the biggest hurdles for you all, if you are going to develop any plan, is trying to bridge the gap in your own party. What incentive is there for either side, or what argument is the President making to the --
MR. LOCKHART: I think there is broad incentive for all parties to be part of a process that reforms Social Security and provides a long-lasting benefit that Americans have come to expect and need in many cases.
Q What incentive is it for them to give up their idea of reform?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we're in a situation now -- and I'll leave it to Gene to get into more details because he will be here soon -- where we're trying to cull the best of ideas from all sides, without a sense of ideology or party affiliation. And we're going to try to put together the best ideas to put together the best package.
Q What's the White House view of Fidel Castro's announcement making Christmas a permanent holiday in Cuba?
MR. LOCKHART: I'll tell you in a second. (Laughter.) We welcome any move responsive to desires of the Cuban people to exercise their free practice of religion. Obviously, this is a move to be welcomed and it is something and I think the people of Cuba deserve and appreciate. We'll just have to see if the arrival of Santa Claus brings any kind of the human rights and political freedoms that we've been calling for, for so long.
Q The Vatican issued a statement saying that the whole world would notice this and would -- the international community would take note of this, implying that it's another indication that Castro is opening up. Do you agree with that?
MR. LOCKHART: Speaking for the United States government, we noticed and we welcome. (Laughter.)
Q Joe, is there any response to Barbara Battalino's suggestion yesterday that she would take a presidential pardon, she would like a presidential pardon?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Why did the White House and the other Democrats settle on HMO reform as sort of a top issue, or an initial issue to push next year, over all the others? Did you get consensus on it more easily or why was that issue --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there is already some bipartisan consensus around getting effective HMO patients' bill of rights. It's an important issue for the tens of millions Americans who have now moved into managed care and we believe that there's some momentum coming out of the end of 1998 which can carry forward to 1999. I think there will be some new members of Congress who can, in large part, say that they're there because they made a very effective case with their constituents in the election year, that we do need a patients' bill of rights. We think that the atmosphere is right to move forward.
Q What can you tell us about Steve Grossman's future at the DNC?
MR. LOCKHART: I can tell you -- is that announceable? I can tell you that Mr. Grossman informed many of us over here today that he'd be leaving as the Chairman of the DNC for personal and family reasons. The President and the First Lady accept those reasons and applaud Mr. Grossman for the fine work he did in helping Democrats around the country in this season where we defied all historical trends as far as how Democrats -- or how parties in the White House do in midterm elections.
And I think the President and First Lady believe that Mr. Grossman is in large part responsible for that incredible effort.
Q Do you want Roy Romer to stay on as Chairman of the DNC?
MR. LOCKHART: Sure.
Q Will he be staying on as Chairman of the DNC?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. It's certainly a choice that ultimately rest with Governor Romer, but we're very pleased with the work he's done there and hope he continues.
Q What's your reaction to the FEC auditors' suggestion or recommendation that the Clinton-Gore campaign repay $7 million for issue ads?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't go much beyond the statement that Mr. Sandler and Lyn Utrecht put out yesterday, what they said. But judging from my own experience, being involved in the campaign, the Clinton-Gore campaign was very careful to follow both the letter and spirit of the law. Lawyers were involved at all points in the process in the development and production of these ads. And we disagree with the interpretation that the FEC has taken on the law.
We, as you well know, have a long-stated view and belief that something needs to be done about reforming the campaign finance system, that something needs to be done about the excess of soft money in the system. And I guess it's our hope that those in the party opposite who are raising problems with this and other campaign issues will join us next year rather than -- join us in trying to pass campaign finance reform rather than trying to defeat it.
Q Joe, on that question, how about the Dole campaign and the Republicans? Do you think they also obeyed the letter and the spirit of the law?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know exactly what their process was. I don't know if they were as careful as the Democrats were. It's a judgment that only they can make.
Q But based on the ads, which you saw.
MR. LOCKHART: Again, that is really a question, I guess, for their counsel to defend.
Q On money matters, Joe, has the President --
Q I wasn't asking you to defend it.
MR. LOCKHART: No, to defend whether they are or not. I can't offer a legal judgment.
Q Would there be such a need for campaign finance reform had you all followed the interpretation of the law the FEC has now laid down?
MR. LOCKHART: No, we believe we followed the law. I think if you use that argument, especially in this last cycle, there was a lot more spending from the Republicans using issue advertisement than there was from the Democrats. But we believe that this -- given the rules of the road as they are written now, this is completely legal and acceptable.
Q --they're saying you're trying to stretch those rules of the road, and now we need reform because we've stretched those rules of the road.
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, no, we don't accept that. We think that what we need to do is tighten up the law and change the way campaigns are financed and limit the ability of soft money to influence the process. And we have tried that before, and we will get back into business when Congress comes back and try it again.
Q Joe, on another money matter, can you tell us whether the President has paid Paula Jones yet?
MR. LOCKHART: You would have to check with Mr. Bennett. I don't know.
Q And do you know where that money will come from? Will it come out of his own pocket?
MR. LOCKHART: I believe Mr. Bennett has addressed that issue, but I'd suggest you go and talk to him about that.
Q Secretaries Cohen and Albright and Sandy Berger are briefing lawmakers on the Hill on Iraq today. What's that about? Are we headed for another possible military confrontation?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I would suggest that this is a regular session where Mr. Berger and the Secretary wanted a chance to go up and keep the leadership of the appropriate committees and the leadership of the Senate informed of where we were in this process. So I wouldn't read too much into --
Q Where are we in this process?
MR. LOCKHART: UNSCOM is back in Iraq. They are in the process of testing the compliance level of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And we are in the process of looking to see whether they will be effective in doing their work. And the meeting --
Q And do we have any -- I'm sorry -- do we have any assessment of the compliance level --
MR. LOCKHART: I can't draw any conclusions for you at this point, but the purpose of the meeting is to bring the leadership in the Senate up to date on where we are in the process.
Q Inspectors are working without blockage now? Have there been any reports of that?
MR. LOCKHART: I would refer you to UNSCOM for details, but my understanding is there are inspectors back doing their work. But I think UNSCOM is in a better position to offer an assessment -- a more comprehensive assessment.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.
END 2:33 P.M. EST