View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 29, 1999
                         PRESS BRIEFING BY
                            JOE LOCKHART

                         The Briefing Room

1:20 P.M. EST

MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, everyone. I'll just give you some brief scheduling information. As you know, the President returned at about -- what was it -- 11:30 a.m. He had a meeting with John Podesta, his Chief of Staff. About 10 minutes ago he went into a meeting with his foreign policy and military leadership to get a briefing on the operation in Kosovo. That I expect will last probably for another 45 minutes to an hour. We'll try to get you some readout of that when it's done.

An addition for tomorrow's schedule -- the President will attend the portrait unveiling ceremony from Secretary Warren Christopher at the State Department. The ceremony will begin at 1:15 p.m. and be held in the Franklin Room on the 8th floor. Coverage is TBD at this point.

The President, following the ceremony, will return and do his Social Security event in the Rose Garden at about 2:30 p.m

Q What is the President's assessment of the effectiveness of the campaign to date? There are stories that U.S. officials are disappointed to some extent that the campaign has resulted in what it has resulted in.

MR. LOCKHART: I haven't heard any indication from any of the Pentagon officials, nor do I think anything has been reported to the President suggesting disappointment. I think General Shelton was on one of the talk shows yesterday, talking -- expressing satisfaction to date. But I think both General Shelton and Secretary Cohen have taken some pains to try to do a commentary or scorecard at the end of every day.

We have military objectives, we have entered a new phase in expanding the targets in that military campaign. And we will continue this campaign until we have met the objectives.

Q The stories to which I refer suggest that some officials at least belief that by this time Milosevic might have turned around, might have sued for peace, might have knuckled under.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we've always said that one of two things would happen; he would make a choice which remains open to him to embrace peace, or we would continue this operation to make sure we degraded his ability to make war.

Q Joe, are the Kosovars better off?

MR. LOCKHART: Are the Kosovars better off? Well, I think they're certainly -- you have to look at this with some perspective, that goes back to last week, to last month, to last year. President Milosevic waged an aggressive war punctuated with atrocities through 1998, until tough diplomacy backed by the threat of force backed him down into an agreement, which then some months later he came out of compliance with.

We found that even during the discussions of Rambouillet some of this activity continued. We saw 30,000 troops massing on the borders. We saw a clear intent to continue this sort of offensive repression of the Kosovar Albanians. And the choice we look at now, and I think the reason they as a group are better off, is that this was done in the past with impunity. This week the NATO operation, poised and acting against the Serbs and President Milosevic, is being done at a price. And it's being done at a very high price, and it's being done at a price that he's feeling more and more every day.

Q But Kosovars are paying a price now, as well. There's a mass exodus underway.

MR. LOCKHART: There's certainly no doubt that there is. We've seen tens of thousands of refugees moving out of that country, even within the last day. But this is a price that -- everything we know about Milosevic and the Serbs -- that they were going ahead with this. And we were faced with a choice here, which was, do we act or do we not act? And we think by acting, we will make him pay a price, that he is paying a price, that is a price that he will not be able to sustain.

Q Joe, some critics are suggesting that by the time air power does what it's going to do, there won't be any Kosovars left in Kosovo.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think you find there's a lot of internal displaced people. There are some refugees. But I think if you look back both to some of the examples from Bosnia and from what we found from last year, many of these people -- and it is certainly our objective that these people who have left will be able to return.

Q Well, Joe, isn't there a point at which we move into the realm of we had to destroy the village in order to save it? I mean, isn't there going to be a point where you're going to have to step things up, introduce ground troops to try to -- before he achieves his objectives before we've achieved ours?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think so. I think what we're doing now is -- particularly now that we've moved into a new phase -- is increasing the price, widening the target list, going after his ability to launch and implement these offensive operations.

But again, we are in what could be the early part of this. And it's -- as much as we'd all love to rush to judgment, and at the end of each day declare winners and losers, that's just not the way this works.

Q Still no ground troops? Still no ground troops?

MR. LOCKHART: Absolutely no change.

Q Joe, several officials have said that it would take several hundred thousand troops on the ground for several years to have any impact. Is that an official estimate?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't know about the length, but I know that last year when NATO did an assessment of a ground troop option, pre-October, that certainly the numbers are accurate.

Q NATO did an assessment of what it would take to do what?

MR. LOCKHART: To implement a ground force option. And this was along with a series of other contingencies and options. And I think those numbers are roughly in the right ball park.

Q Well, Mr. Berger said yesterday that was not the way to go.

MR. LOCKHART: That's correct.

Q Does the President feel that also?

MR. LOCKHART: The President feels that -- the President, the military leadership of this country, NATO, the political leaders of NATO believe we can accomplish our military objectives through the air campaign that is ongoing.

Q Sandy Berger, if I could follow up on this -- Sandy Berger used exactly the same language that General Shelton used yesterday. That clearly suggests that there has been some discussion of this, if only to dismiss it as an option that is too expensive.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, as I said, the assessments were done late last year. And I have not heard any discussion about going beyond the current military air effort.

Q There has been no discussion even to say we're not going to do this because it's too much? I mean, officials don't even take up the suggestion --

MR. LOCKHART: Jim, when I say that I haven't heard any discussion it means I haven't heard any discussion.

Q As part of the second phase of the air campaign, are the allies using A-10s and other ground --

MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to leave those sort of operational details to the Pentagon.

Q Joe, when you say that the refugees --

Q Are you concerned that the Primakov mission tomorrow, any concerns that he might get Milosevic to agree to a peace plan that the U.S. or NATO doesn't find --

MR. LOCKHART: No. I think, as we've said all along, the Russians throughout this process have been constructive partners with us, through the Contact Group, through discussions in the Rambouillet peace talks. We do have a fundamental disagreement on the use of force which is now ongoing. We've also said that those who have influence, that we welcome those who have influence on Belgrade who will take a message about what it is they need to do in order to end this allied air campaign could be constructive.

Q Are you certain that he's going to be taking that message?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm certain that Secretary Albright has spoken to him several times over the last few days and she has very clearly made the case of what our position is and what the allies position is.

Q She spoke to Primakov?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry, in her discussions with Ivanov.

Q But is there some concern that he may deliver a very different message, which is, hold out, we will support you?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we have made our position very clear. I think the Russians have been constructive in this case. They know full well what our position on the allies are.

Q Will the U.S. government be in direct touch the Primakov before his meetings in Belgrade?

MR. LOCKHART: If that happens, we'll let you know.

Q Joe, has the President been in touch with General Wesley Clark? And what is General Clark saying about the introduction of ground troops?

MR. LOCKHART: The President talked to General Clark Saturday, I believe, and I think if you look at what General Clark said Sunday on television -- Friday, I'm sorry -- what he said on Sunday he was very clear that we speak with one voice in this administration.

Q Joe, President Clinton has talked a lot about ethnic cleansing and explaining why these air strikes are necessary. Do you know how many ethnic Albanians have been massacred by Serb forces in Kosovo?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it's impossible to get a firm number on that. We have increasing reports, as people come across the border, of atrocities, of men being separated from their families, of executions, of towns being burned down, people being told to leave within hours or face execution. But, again, it's impossible, but there clearly an increasing number of these reports and we find them credible.

Q How about prior to the air strikes? Do you have any -- was it, like, a couple thousand ?

MR. LOCKHART: I think, prior, we -- in 1998, there were some 2,000 people killed, and 250,000 ethnic Albanians displaced.

Q Joe, is the --

MR. LOCKHART: Let me go to Bob, then I'll come back up.

Q Thanks. What sort of discussions have there been about a humanitarian airlift of any sort -- food, medicine, shelters, to be put along the border states?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, there's actually been quite a lot of discussion. We, as many of you saw, we appropriated about $25 million in December and January for Albania and for the humanitarian effort. We are working closely -- I think on Friday, about $8.5 million was drawn down to send over for the immediate crisis that they're facing. There will be a -- UNHCR's convened a donor meeting tomorrow that the United States will participate in in order to raise more funds.

And I think, as it has been described for me, the situation on the ground is -- there's probably a sufficient number of supplies for right now, but they're starting to plan for what could go on longer. For those of you who are interested in, particularly in these issues, I think the State Department has a briefing planned for later this afternoon with their export.

Q Who's coordinating that, Joe? Is the U.S. coordinating the humanitarian effort?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, It's being done by UNHCR. But the U.S., as always, is taking a strong role in supporting that.

Q Senator Levin said that he thought the air campaign could go on for weeks and weeks. Is that a proper assessment?

MR. LOCKHART: The air campaign will go on until it's met its military objectives, or President Milosevic has seen the wisdom in embracing a peaceful solution to this that provides autonomy and self-government for the Kosovar Albanians, and a credible implementation force that allows them to live of repression.

Q Can we return to Primakov for a second?


Q Is there any contemplation of a change in NATO operations while he's in Belgrade?

MR. LOCKHART: I have no reason to believe there will be a change in the operations. I will say that there have been some people, some diplomatic operations that have gone in, and clearly they can figure out a good time and a bad time to go.

Q Given Primakov's record in failing to convince Saddam Hussein to accept an agreement before the Gulf War, and given his relationship with the U.S. government and other NATO allies since then, does the U.S. government think he's the right man to try to bring a diplomatic solution to this problem?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the U.S. government feels that those who have influence in Belgrade, those who have influence with President Milosevic, who can take a clear message of where NATO and the United States government stands and what President Milosevic needs to do to end this bombing campaign should deliver that message.

Q There are reports that Belgrade will be targeted, the city of Belgrade. Are they accurate?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into any of the operational detail.

Q May I just follow that up? Is Milosevic, himself, a target?

MR. LOCKHART: Again, I'm not going to get into the operational detail.

Q Could you explain what the President talked about to the pilot that was shot down, as well as the para-rescue team --

MR. LOCKHART: I have not talked to the President about that conversation. My sense, in talking to him beforehand, was that both sides would prefer that kept private. But let me reiterate what the President said publicly, which is that all Americans can be proud of both the heroism and bravery of the pilot and those who rescued him.

Q Joe, is the cause of that crash being kept secret for operational reasons?

MR. LOCKHART: The cause of that crash is best discussed, and the details and the operation, at the Pentagon.

Q Joe, do you know how long he was on the phone with him, with the pilot?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't.

Q Joe, the President obviously is hearing these reports and watching the coverage on television of this exodus from Kosovo. To what extent does he feel growing public pressure to change the mission and broaden the mission beyond what he's already undertaken?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President feels very firmly that we have a military objective, we have a military plan and we need to keep that going until we've met our objectives.

Q He feels he can address the issue on the ground with air alone, at this point?


Q I was wondering if we can go in and rescue a shot-down pilot, why can't we send people in to nab Milosevic and send him off to Brussels or The Hague for a war criminal trial?

MR. LOCKHART: Because what we're trying to do right now is reach either through the military air campaign that's going on now, or through President Milosevic himself coming to the conclusion that peace is a better option.

Q He's obviously not, Joe. Obviously, he's doing what he intended to do all along.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, let me make two points there. One is that -- I think part of your question is correct, when you say obviously he's doing what he was going to. He was going to do this; we know he was going to do this. But we're going to make sure that he continues to pay such a heavy price that he either concludes that the price is too high and he needs peace, or we degrade his ability to do this and to continue doing this. And I think you'll see from reports of people coming out, and reports from some of the KLA, that they already believe that his abilities are beginning to be inhibited.

Q Joe, if I could follow up. When the President spoke with President Yeltsin as the air strikes were being contemplated, just before the air strikes were being -- we were told that one of the things the President told President Yeltsin was that he had an assessment that just as several days of bombing in Bosnia convinced Slobodan Milosevic to come to Dayton and accept an agreement, now the threat or the actual bombing would convince Slobodan Milosevic to --


Q The question is this: Was the President misled by his advisors on how --

MR. LOCKHART: No, the President has known all along, and I think those of you -- as you did, who covered Bosnia -- will remember that that went on for 12 days, before President Milosevic saw the wisdom.

I mean, again, I would encourage everyone to stop trying to write the conclusion of this story at the end of each day. This is a phased military campaign, a systematic assault on President Milosevic and the Serbian military, to either force him to embrace a peaceful solution, or degrade his ability to launch these sort of offensive military operations. And this, as any systematic operation, this will take time, and we will continue doing it until our military objectives are met.

Q But in the Bosnia operation, there were not pressures that are present now. There were not calls for ground troops by senior members of the Senate of both parties, and others --

MR. LOCKHART: I'd suggest if you went back to Bosnia, you'd see some competing pressure. You'd see problems, humanitarian problems, and you'd see calls for other action.

Q Well, let me just check. You've said it, but if we went back to the President's objectives, as he enunciated them here in the briefing room, you said there were three. Are those still the objectives of the air strikes, or have they been widened, expanded?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I think that clearly the objectives, as we launched this, took in mind that at some point in time, Milosevic can come to the conclusion that peace is a better option for the Serbian people. But as long as he doesn't, we will continue this military operation.

Q -- on the borders. What is NATO doing to protect the borders of Albania and Macedonia from the Serbs pouring over? And there are some on the ground that think that can't be accomplished without ground troops.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, as you know, there are some forces in Macedonia. But primarily the main function at the borders now is a humanitarian one with the refugees coming over. And should -- as we've said, and I'm not going to get into any specific detail here -- but as we've said, widening this conflict would be a mistake for the Serbs and President Milosevic.

Q Are there enough forces on that border --

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into what assets are there and what they can and cannot do.

Q Just to follow up on this point, is the U.S. aiming now to do something for Albania and Macedonia to help them accommodate this influx of refugees?

MR. LOCKHART: I think one of the things I was talking about was we have drawn down some money over the weekend to help with this process and we will work very closely with UNHCR in making sure that they have the ability to manage this massive outflow.

Q Joe, how is the President feeling about arming the KLA now?

MR. LOCKHART: I think our position is still the same, which is that we have spent a good bit of time and effort to try to demilitarize, rather than to raise the level of arms in Kosovo and Serbia. And we will continue with that in the context of the discussions that went on in Rambouillet and in the context of the ongoing air offensive.

Q Joe, what was the trigger for moving into phase two? What made the difference?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think Secretary General Solana was fairly clear on this on Saturday when he talked about needing to take steps against the air defense system before they could move into a new and wider phase.

Q Joe, so you're now saying that air defenses have been weakened enough to go in and --

MR. LOCKHART: I think you can draw conclusions based on what he has said and what the NATO military leaders have said.

Q Isn't this the most dangerous phase of the operation, now that you're going in at lower altitudes and slower speeds --

MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to leave those questions for people more expert than I at the Pentagon.

Q Joe, did you say --

Q -- defining the military objectives in terms of what can be achieved by air power. But clearly, the larger policy objective has to be to end the ethnic cleansing. What happens if it becomes evident that air power alone isn't sufficient?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we believe that we can make the price high enough, again, for Milosevic and the Serb forces either to come to the conclusion that they need to embrace peace, or that we can degrade and destroy his ability to do it.

Q Joe, in the Bosnian War, there were many more Muslims massacred, perhaps 200,000, which is about 100 times more than have been massacred during the Kosovo offensive. And yet, at the conclusion of that war, Milosevic was brought to Dayton and treated with the respect that's accorded a head of state, and signed the peace agreement. Now he's apparently killed 2,000 people, and President Clinton and Gore are both calling him a junior league Hitler. How do you reconcile that? And secondly, if he does sign a peace agreement, how do you treat him when he comes to the bargaining table, like a head of state, or like a junior league Hitler?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, it's clearly in the interests of everyone in Kosovo and Serbia that we reach -- and as we've always said -- we always, and spent many months, at times to criticism from the crowd that I look at now, that we used diplomacy, and we preferred a peaceful solution. We still do that, but it's not one where we're going to allow him to act with impunity.

Q Joe, if I could just follow up on that interesting notion. If Milosevic did quit Kosovo and did sign Rambouillet, is he not a war criminal anymore?

MR. LOCKHART: Whether he's a war criminal or not is subject to the international tribunal, and that is a legal question which, if there is evidence, it should be taken there.

Q But would the United States pursue that, even though he acquiesced?

MR. LOCKHART: If there is evidence that's available down the road I'm certain that that evidence would be provided to the appropriate authority.

Q How could his signature mean anything, then, on a document --

MR. LOCKHART: We are well into double, if not triple, hypotheticals. So let's deal with what we know.

Q There are officials who raised the prospect that he might be treated as a war criminal. Secretary Cohen and others have suggested this.

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, as did I.

Q And if was treated, though, as a war criminal, what incentive should he have for an agreement if he's only going to be brought to a war crimes tribunal?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the incentive he has for an agreement is to forestall what he's seeing each and every day.

Q Can I follow up on Mary's question, that was a brilliant suggestion? Why is NATO, in effect, willing to destroy Yugoslavia, Kosovo, whatever, rather than capture -- the restrictions we have are against killing a foreign leader, but not capturing and sending to The Hague.

MR. LOCKHART: It's not one of the stated military objectives.

Q But it's a brilliant suggestion.

MR. LOCKHART: Duly noted.

Q Joe, if you felt that Primakov had some influence over Milosevic, wouldn't it have been best to try and work that Primakov angle before the bombing started, maybe even delaying it a day to talk to Primakov about that?

MR. LOCKHART: There have been wide-ranging conversations. Russia is part of the Contact Group. We're very involved in a very constructive way with the very intensive and tireless efforts to bring a peaceful solution -- a peaceful solution that all sides could agree on -- the Russians, NATO, Kosovar Albanians -- except Milosevic and the Serbs. We stayed in constant contact with the Russians both at the presidential level -- as I have reported from here, the Vice President talked to Primakov; Secretary of State and Secretary Cohen to their counterparts.

So I think it's somehow naive to think that something more could have been done before. Everything was done both within the NATO Alliance and by the United States government to bring this to a peaceful solution. And the fault and guilt for where we are now lies only one place.

Q Joe, is there a concern that not only the Russians, but some of our NATO allies, may not have the stomach for a sustained air campaign of indeterminate length?

MR. LOCKHART: Everything that I have heard indicates to me that our Alliance is strong and unanimous in moving forward with this military campaign.

Q Is the President making any calls now to foreign leaders along these lines? What is he doing besides meeting with --

MR. LOCKHART: The President spoke to a series of our NATO allies on Saturday. I expect that sometime in the next day or so he will probably be back in touch, as does his appropriate national security officials -- Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense. We are staying in constant touch. And as I said, there is strong and unified support within the NATO Alliance for pursuing this policy.

Q In his conversations with the Italian Premier -- would you characterize those conversations as that -- is that country just as strongly behind this operation as the other --


Q Do we believe -- that Primakov got an $800,000 payoff from Iraq?

MR. LOCKHART: As Mr. Berger stated yesterday, he is not aware, nor am I, of any evidence to support that.

Q Does the President have any plans to go to Europe -- go to Brussels or even go to Aviano or anything to review the troops, or anything like that?

MR. LOCKHART: No. We have a trip scheduled for Europe for June, but I'm not aware of any plans to travel there before that.

Q Joe, do you think, as Senator McCain suggested over the weekend, that not even threatening the use of ground troops has encouraged Milosevic to try to ride it out, we've made a mistake maybe by not even at least threatening to use them?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think that we're in a situation now where there is much utility in making threats. We are pursuing a massive and punishing air campaign against Milosevic, and I think he gets the message every day.

Q Joe, would the United States commit itself to substantial plans to rebuild Kosovo --

MR. LOCKHART: That is a question for somewhere down the road that I can't address today.

Q Do you plan to send ground troops, or do you not?

MR. LOCKHART: As the President has said, as the Secretary of Defense has said, as the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of State have said, they have no intention of deploying ground troops.

Q Joe, can you say that there has been or there is no contingency planning for the use of ground troops?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any. You can put that question to the Pentagon, but I'm certainly not aware of any -- beyond what I've so referenced as assessments from pre-October last year.

Q Joe, it seems to me the NATO spokesman said over the weekend that if Milosevic just stopped hostile activities on the ground, that that would cause the air war to cease. Is that right or doesn't have to do that and embrace some kind of a peace agreement?

MR. LOCKHART: I didn't see that. And I think we've been very clear on what needs to be done. I didn't see that remark, but I think we've been pretty clear on what we believe needs to be done.

Q Joe, has anyone from here been in direct contact with Primakov since the Vice President spoke to him when his plane turned around?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think anyone has spoken directly to him since that conversation. I can check. I know that the Secretary of State has been speaking to her counterpart.

Q Why wouldn't the Vice President speak to Primakov before a mission like this tomorrow?

MR. LOCKHART: Because I think we believe that the conversations that are going on at the Secretary of State's level with Mr. Ivanov are appropriate and useful.

Q The French are sending a delegation to Belgrade. Is that helpful?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of that development, so I can't comment on it.

Q Joe, let me just be clear about that. If he stopped all hostile action today in Kosovo, the bombing campaign would continue until he actually accepted a peace framework?

MR. LOCKHART: We have made very clear publicly, privately, that he needs to cease his offensive, embrace a peaceful solution that accepts real autonomy and self-government for the Kosovar people, and allows them to live free of repression.

Q Joe, when you said earlier that the Kosovars, after this done, you hope would be able to return to their homes, there were reports that they're being stripped of their IDs, their passports, anything that links them to Kosovo. What does that suggest to you?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, it suggests to me a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Serbs. And it's the reason we find ourselves in the situation we're in now, late in the first week of a military campaign.

Q Joe, I understand that Primakov, following his talks in Belgrade, is going to Bonn. Is there anybody from the U.S. government that will also be in Bonn in those discussions?

MR. LOCKHART: Actually, I wasn't aware of that. So I don't know what the purpose of that trip would be. I mean, clearly, we have diplomatic representatives there, but I don't know about his travel plans.

Q So, Joe, just to be clear, if he stopped attacking Kosovo tomorrow, you would continue bombing him? If he did nothing else, stopped attacking Kosovo tomorrow, did nothing else --

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, we can have this debate for the rest of the afternoon. I believe that President Milosevic knows what he needs to do and that's what's important.

Q Is there any particular reason why the President went to Camp David yesterday? Does he need rest or --


Q He just felt like it?

MR. LOCKHART: He just felt like it.

Q Joe, the German Defense Minister used the word "genocide." Are we using the word "genocide" here?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me check, because I think "genocide" has some legal ramifications to it. It's clearly that there is an intensified and very offensive campaign of atrocities that come across -- the reports come across daily as people leave. But let me check on the actual term.

Q Does this mean four or five different -- you say one of your goals is to have independent state set up. Does this mean four or five different independent --

MR. LOCKHART: No, actually, it is not our goal to have an independent state. It is our goal that we -- it is our policy that Kosovo remain part of Serbia, but with the autonomy, self-government and freedom that was enjoyed before 1989, when it was stripped from them.

Q Will it now be, Joe, an added condition for peace, that the Kosovar refugees allowed back in the country are repatriated?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm just not going to get into drawing up a prescription on a daily basis for Milosevic and what he needs to know. We think he knows what he needs to do and I think that's sufficient.

Q -- question and a question back here saying that the policy clearly must be to stop ethnic cleansing, whatever you said. That's why we keep asking -- are the goals still the same as the President enunciated them, because they were limited? They were very limited goals.

MR. LOCKHART: The goals remain the same.

Q Joe, if it's clear to Milosevic would you make it clear to us?

MR. LOCKHART: I believe I have. And if I'm somehow deficient in saying it, saying it again and again I don't think is going to help.

Q Joe, was the President pleased or saddened that his good friend, Mayor Schmoke, and the Baltimore Orioles participated in that "glory to Comrade Fidel" rally thinly disguised as a baseball game, and denounced by so many free Cubans? And I have one follow-up. (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: I can't wait. (Laughter.) The President supports the people-to-people contacts with Cuba, which this falls within that category.

Q Do you believe it was responsible journalism for the Washington Post --

MR. LOCKHART: It's getting better. (Laughter.)

Q -- yesterday to give 87 paragraphs and 110 correct spellings of his name to Matt Drudge, whom you have refused to talk to or even about?

MR. LOCKHART: Would you believe I didn't read it? (Laughter.) No, I can't tell a lie. I read the first couple paragraphs and lost interest, so --

Q But do you think it was irresponsible --

MR. LOCKHART: Did you see how much money he makes, though? I'm in the wrong line of work.

Q That was not in the first paragraph, Joe. (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: I know. I said the first few. (Laughter.) Sometimes, these very large numbers draw -- it's kind of like pictures, you get drawn to them. (Laughter.)

Q Don't you think since they deal with Matt, that you ought to, Joe, rather than this lofty no-comment and refuse --

MR. LOCKHART: I think if I get to the point where what I have to deal with is what those of you define as what I have to deal with, I'm in pretty bad shape, so -- I get to draw some lines.

Q On the Internet, there are reports that -- another topic entirely from Yugoslavia -- there are reports that the White House website crashed over the weekend. Are they true? How long was it down? Was it hacked into?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me find that, because I do have a piece of paper on that, I think -- no, I don't, so I'll have to make it up.

Q Has your computer system been infected with the latest virus?

MR. LOCKHART: No, that's what I do have a piece of paper on. We -- no, we don't -- I do have it someplace in here, and I will find it. On the e-mail virus, there was a memo that went around to all of us to be careful for it. But we don't use the same operating system that, I think, is most affected by this.

Q So you haven't had this virus that replicates and sends 50 messages of a pornographic nature to somebody else?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, Sam, I didn't say that, but -- (laughter) -- no, no, no, no. Stop. Sorry, I found them. We did have problems on the White House website over the weekend due to increased volume. The site was never down, but I know that there were a lot of people trying to get in that couldn't because of the increased volume, and it was running very slowly.

There were some reports that there was an intrusion into the White House network. I have no information that would lead me to believe those are correct, but we have asked, because there have been some people making claims, that the Secret Service to investigate. But we have no evidence that we can see that there was any compromising of the White House website.

Q Joe, you said earlier, I believe, that you were getting reports that Milosevic's military effectiveness in Kosovo had been inhibited.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think you've seen from -- there are things that I've seen from the NATO briefings that have talked about the ongoing campaign. There have also been some reports of people coming out, which I think have been on television, people from the KLA who have talked about their belief that this campaign is inhibiting.

Q So some of the refugees are reporting that --

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure if it's refugees. I think it may be some KLA people. But this has been something that we've picked up independently from -- or not independent, non-independently from some of the television coverage.

Q Joe, have you read these reports that Yugoslavian TV and movie theaters are showing reruns of the movie "Wag the Dog"?

MR. LOCKHART: I saw that on television.

Q Do you believe it?

MR. LOCKHART: Do I believe it? Yes. I mean, I believe what I see on television some days. (Laughter.)

Q Joe, what do you make of the fact that the bombing seems to have caused the Serbian people to rally around Milosevic more than they had been before? And does the President plan on any more addresses --

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I'm not going to make any judgments based on what an authoritarian state without a free media tells me I'm supposed to think about them.

Q Joe, on the subject of speaking out -- you said Friday that he hadn't said everything he was going to say --

MR. LOCKHART: No, and I think he will continue to talk on this subject. I don't have any plans for him, that I know of, that he'll speak today. But I assume that, particularly tomorrow at a ceremony that honors Warren Christopher, that this subject may come up, particularly given the important work he did in Bosnia and some of the lessons that we've learned from that.

Q Joe, the reports out of Belgrade did not come from totalitarian media, they came from Western correspondents who attended a large rally yesterday, which those correspondents --

MR. LOCKHART: Right. I didn't mean to suggest all the reports. My suggestion was that the people there, what they have access to is what the state would like them to see without a free media. And my point is that I'm just not going to attach --

Q But, Joe, some of them did say that they have access to the Internet, they have access to CNN, so they have some concept, but they still seem to be rallying around Milosevic. And I was curious -- do we have any plans to address that, with the President addressing the people or --

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think both the President and the Secretary of State have taken -- with the recording of messages to the people of Serbia -- have addressed that. But again, it's difficult for me to attach too much importance or credibility, given the lack of democratic discussion, debate and media.

Q When this operation was being planned, was that one of the issues that was taken into account, the impact on public opinion in Serbia? And if so, what was the advice given to the President on its likely impact?

MR. LOCKHART: I am not aware that that was widely discussed, and I don't know what impact it would have. I mean, this is a military campaign that is designed to meet military objectives.

Q Well, but it's a military campaign with political goals, and political ramifications. And what you seem to be saying is that one important political ramification was not considered.

MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not saying that at all. I just said I don't know how widely discussed it was.

Q Back to the White House website. Do you know why volume particularly increased over the weekend? And also, why would the Secret Service be investigating --

MR. LOCKHART: Because that's what my piece of paper says. Let me find out why it's in the purview of -- my guess is that if it's some sort of potentially criminal act aimed at the White House, that the Secret Service is the appropriate place to work. As far as why on the volume, I'm not sure.

Q It could have been comments, probably comments on Kosovo?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we don't really take that large a volume of public comments. It could be just an increased -- people wanting to get on and see the statements by the President and the various --

Q What does the comment office tell you about the public reaction on Kosovo?

MR. LOCKHART: I haven't checked.

Q Joe, can you give us an idea of how the President spends his day, at this point? I mean, how much of his time is spent on Kosovo? And which way does he do it -- does he review targets and how hands on is he?

MR. LOCKHART: I think he's had a daily briefing from his military and national security team, which includes reviewing the operation for the previous day and looking at the operation for the day, which includes targeting. He spends a good bit of time being updated on the phone by his National Security Advisor, and talking both to foreign leaders and to his military and the political leaders in NATO. So it's hard to do a typical day because there's no such thing as a typical day. But he is spending a good bit of his time on this.

Q Shouldn't he have something to say to the American people every day during time of war, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President feels very strongly it's important to communicate with the American people. He has spoken out every day since this operation began and I think we will continue to speak at the appropriate time and the appropriate level.

Q Is this interfering at all with formulating domestic policy? Because you don't have legislation yet on the USA accounts, on a specific Social Security plan to submit to the Hill. And Medicare is being --

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think it interferes at all. I think you'll find that domestic policy often goes with the rhythm of the congressional calendar. They have a two-week recess now, so this traditionally would have been a time of less activity on the domestic front. But we will continue to speak out. We have an event tomorrow that will be speaking to some important domestic parts of the President's agenda. And we will continue working to the point where Congress returns and we continue moving forward.

Q Do you have any time that you will, or any day that you will submit legislation on the Social Security plan, nail it down? There's a difference between talking about Social Security in a general fashion and giving something to Congress and saying, this is what we want to do.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think what we've told you is that we will have a some specific ideas on reforming the Medicare system. That is something that I think you'll see fairly soon after Congress returns. On Social Security, we continue to work with Congress. As we've said all along, we want to do what's in the best interest of getting a long-term fix for the Social Security system and that hasn't changed.

Q Thank you.

END 2:00 P.M. EST