THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
1:58 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, questions. Let's get right to it. Lester, why don't you lead off?
Q Thank you. Congressmen DeLay, Salmon and Weldon joined Dr. Laura and others at a news conference at the National Press Club this morning to oppose the effort of professors at Temple, Penn and Michigan who contended that adult-child sex should not be condemned as child molesting if it's consensual -- and I have a question -- does the White House agree with this professors or with these congressmen and Dr. Laura?
MR. LOCKHART: The White House isn't aware of the academic research that they've done. I'd need to --
Q It was published in the American Psychological Association --
MR. LOCKHART: It's sitting right on my bedstand. (Laughter.) I just quite haven't gotten to that issue yet. Once we've had a chance to review it, I'm sure we'll take a position.
Q One follow-up, Joe. Does the President agree with Baltimore's Mayor Schmoke, who was here today and is a close friend and ally of the President, in his statement that pedophilia is not a sexual orientation but is, "an inclination"?
MR. LOCKHART: Say again?
Q The Mayor of Baltimore says that pedophilia is not a sexual orientation, but it is an "inclination."
MR. LOCKHART: I would again have to look more fully at his remarks before I would render any kind of judgment.
Q When will you have looked so I can inquire again?
MR. LOCKHART: I would expect it to be early winter 2001. (Laughter.)
Q -- between U.S. and China where we stand today?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the situation, as you can see from the broadcast from there has calmed considerably. Ambassador Sasser has come out of the embassy and talked to some journalists. I think some of the protests we saw over the weekend have subsided and it's our hope that both sides can put this tragic accident behind us and return to concentrate on the important bilateral issues we have facing both countries, because it is ultimately in the self-interest of both countries.
Q Has the Chinese government calmed down to the level before this incident?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I mean, I think it's important that the message -- the sincere condolences and regrets that were expressed by the President and other high-level U.S. government officials have been communicated to the Chinese people through the state-run media. I think that is an important step forward. I think it is also important to focus on the fact that the Chinese government guaranteed security and safety for Americans and diplomatic personnel, and that's been done.
Q Are you saying that the events of the last week or so are going to have absolutely zero effect on such issues as China's accession in the World Trade Organization?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm saying that I think it's in the best interests of both countries to try to put this incident behind us and focus on what's manifestly in our interest. As far as WTO goes, I think you saw some positive comments yesterday from the foreign ministry there about their desire to move forward with this. We've been working on this for 13 years.
China's entering the WTO on commercially viable terms is something that's very important to the United States, as far as opening markets there. It's good for American business, it's good for American workers. And we believe that we can get past this and focus again on the important areas where we can cooperate.
Q But, Joe, after China has so kind of resolutely refused to accept the U.S. explanations of this bombing and encouraged and control these protest, I mean, is there any rethinking going on about the strategic partnership? I mean, that was an incredible reaction from someone who is supposed to be your strategic partner.
MR. LOCKHART: I think we will continue to focus on the issues where we can cooperate, where it's in our interest. And that hasn't changed. I think it's important to note that the Chinese government did provide security and fulfilled the pledge they made to keep safe Americans there. We understand the emotional outpouring that happened, but we do believe that we can move past the incident of last week and continue to work in areas that are mutually beneficial.
Q Has President Jiang signaled yet that he's ready to take a call from President Clinton?
MR. LOCKHART: The phone has not rung.
Q What is the status of the White House web site right now?
MR. LOCKHART: White House web site -- I have something on that. I think as I indicated this morning, I have a few more details. There was an attempt to break into our computer system, the system that operates the White House web page, Monday morning, May 10. Existing security procedures provided a response to the incident which included limiting public access to the system until an assessment could be made. The White House web site, the Internet service and external e-mail capability was disabled Monday at 8:00 p.m. The assessment has been completed and service has been restored for outside users. I think as I also said this morning, there will be a review of how this came to place done -- or led by the Secret Service.
Q Did you have an idea who the culprit was?
MR. LOCKHART: I would refer that to those who are going to be looking into those issues.
Q Why Secret Service?
Q -- not returning calls.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I honestly don't know how the jurisdiction gets decided on that, but that's what I've been told.
Q But is it because of some threat to the President?
MR. LOCKHART: No. No.
Q Joe, what are your early senses and feelings from Capitol Hill about Mr. Summers' confirmation?
MR. LOCKHART: I'll do something that's probably less based on private conversations, more based on just what I've seen as far as public statements this morning. I think there have been very supportive statements made this morning on Capitol Hill from both Democrats and Republicans about supporting Lawrence, Larry Summers as the next Treasury Secretary.
I think he is uniquely qualified and perhaps more qualified than any deputy to step into the top role than anyone who has been at Treasury. He has worked very closely both on international economics, on domestic issues -- from Social Security to IRS reform -- very much as a team and a partner with Treasury Secretary Rubin.
So I think when leaders in the Senate get the official nomination that they will move quickly, and I think will move positively.
Q When do you expect to send up the official nomination?
MR. LOCKHART: Very soon.
Q If he's not confirmed by July, when Secretary Rubin steps down, as you said this morning, would he then be named Acting Secretary, pending confirmation?
MR. LOCKHART: That's a good question, which I'll get an answer for.
Q Joe, back to the web site real quick. Was there any inconvenience for White House staffers, since you said internal e-mail was --
MR. LOCKHART: Sure, there was some inconvenience, but we're used to inconvenience.
Q Can you --
MR. LOCKHART: The internal e-mail -- there was some curtailing because of the system for e-mails being sent back and forth between the White House and outside parties.
Q Joe, do you expect the changes in Russia -- the fact that President Yeltsin has removed Prime Minister Primakov -- do you expect that to affect the dynamics of Russia's diplomatic efforts in the Balkans?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I wouldn't expect it to. I think Russia has played a constructive role over the last several weeks in looking for a way to -- or finding a way in working with U.S. and NATO allies to meet the conditions that NATO has laid out. Secretary Talbott, just today, met for several hours with the Special Envoy, Mr. Chernomyrdin, met for I think about an hour with the Foreign Minister. So I expect the diplomatic effort that has been ongoing since around the time of the NATO Summit will continue.
Q Was there any progress made during today's talks between Talbott and Chernomyrdin?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't tell you that -- I can't report to you any breakthrough, but I think it's important that the two sides continue to talk. They developed, as I understand it, out of today two working groups to look at both the military and civilian aspects of how an implementation of some agreement would work. There's conversations about how to draw up a precise timetable for withdrawal and also further conversation about the precise makeup of an international force. It's an ongoing conversation. I think in and of itself, they are useful that they are going on. But I don't have any breakthrough on the magnitude of some of the things we talked about last week.
Q Two follow-ups, on China and on Russia. On Russia, did the whole cabinet leave? There are two different reports -- or is it just Primakov?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I think my understanding of the way these things work is that the government, the cabinet is officially dissolved, but each cabinet minister is able to stay on an acting basis. So I have not heard that there have been any other -- anyone has left besides the Prime Minister.
Q And on China, a follow-up. Here in this country, will anybody be reassigned or will heads roll because of the tragedy?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any information about any reassignments or heads planning to roll.
Q Joe, can you say again, is the line of communication or the hotline open between the two Presidents?
MR. LOCKHART: It is. The President has communicated through a diplomatic note. There are different styles of communicating between the President and some foreign leaders. The President has not spoken that often with President Jiang by phone; it's often done through diplomatic notes, and there are some foreign leaders he speaks to on a regular basis. But the lines of communication remain open.
Q Joe, is the President making remarks tomorrow about human rights abuses in Kosovo? There's nothing on the week ahead. Maybe he's giving a speech?
MR. LOCKHART: He's giving a speech tomorrow at 10:45 a.m. at the National Defense University. The subject will be Kosovo, in particular stating and restating the case of why we're doing what we're doing and talking about what's gone on on the ground there.
Q Were you going to ever announce this, or was there some reason -- (laughter.)
MR. LEAVY: It's in the bins, back there.
MR. LOCKHART: What do you think, guys? I think I've got them now. Should I let it go, or -- (laughter) -- come on, Terry, let's go find it. (Laughter).
Q Wait a minute. You're on television. You can't do that.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not stuck here?
Q Are you guys hiring somebody new at the NSC --
MR. LOCKHART: No. There's a gentleman who I think you're familiar with, Lesley Dach, who has offered to come in and help for 30 days or so, just help us think through some of the communication aspects of Kosovo and the effort that's ongoing there.
Q Why 30 days?
MR. LOCKHART: Because that's what he had, that's what he could take off.
Q Joe, is The New York Times one of the papers that you read carefully?
MR. LOCKHART: Some days, but they use a lot of big words, so it's sometimes hard to understand. (Laughter.)
Q I'm thinking of that report that indicated that there was a reduction in the map-making, in other words, there were two map-making organizations that were pooled together and they ended up using maps that were outdated for this tragedy.
MR. LOCKHART: I actually didn't read that story very carefully, so -- but I would send you either to the Pentagon or to the Central Intelligence Agency.
Q Does the President expect in the last year and a half or two years of his term that there will be other Cabinet officials who have been around for a while who will want to leave, and would he discourage them from that, making his job more difficult?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think it makes the President's job more difficult. I'm certain that between now and the end, there will be some more movement in the Cabinet; it's natural. I think as the President is fond of talking about, he had somebody in in '95 or '96, a historian on cabinets, who told him that looking at all of the cabinets -- and this was in '96 -- over the 200-year history, this one's been remarkable for their tenure and their loyalty.
I think we have changed the average tenure quite considerably. You have people here who have been here from the beginning who have been committed. But it is the most natural thing in the world, especially for those who come to this town from outside this town to want to get back -- either get back home or get back to the personal pursuits of their careers.
I think the President, as I've said before, in a recent Cabinet meeting made it very clear that he wants to make sure -- and he told his Cabinet members that he wants to make sure -- that on the last day of office they're still coming to him with policy ideas, they're still responding to his policy ideas and we leave with the same sort of strength and momentum that we came with.
Q Joe, how does the White House read right now the emergency request for Yugoslavia campaign refugees and the Central American aid? What is your reading right now -- will we get a bill that the President can sign?
MR. LOCKHART: It's hard to say. I think there are some troubling signals from the Hill. The leadership has sent a message to the members that it's okay to put on extraneous pieces of legislation -- it's okay, whether it's environmental, or there's talk of this tobacco recoupment issues and other issues.
You know, I think we know from experience, and we remember and have been down this road before several times -- this is a true emergency, both Central America and the Kosovo operations. We ought to get this through. We ought to leave out other people's political agendas and pass it. There's a legitimate time and place to have these debates and it's not on this bill. And I think they -- despite having done this before, we still believe that the very important funding for this Kosovo operation should not be held hostage to other political agendas.
Now, on Central America, I know there's some talk of combining them and putting them together. And I think that's positive that we have some movement. But it's hard to understand how humanitarian money in the Kosovo package is deemed emergency and the humanitarian money in the Central America package is not emergency and should be off-set.
So I think these are both -- we've made the case that these are both emergencies, we should move forward with them. The very Kosovo operation depends on it and we need to get these bills down here and we need to have them down here clean.
Q Joe, how about the total amount? It seems like even the Democrats in the House are willing to go for potentially about $11 billion. Do you oppose them on this?
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I think for the first time in a while we're starting to move in the right direction. We shouldn't load this thing up. We don't need a bunch of military constructive projects that the Pentagon hasn't asked for, however much a vehicle wash for tanks may seem and how important it may seem to some. But we are beginning to move in the right direction here. The number is coming down. I think they're headed in the right direction, they should keep going.
Q Well, Joe, it sounds like you're saying that the veto bait is the riders, not the spending number.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm saying that the veto threat is on -- the message that they sent up specifically cited the riders, and I'm not going to get into a situation of answering complex hypotheticals about what if this happens, what if that happens. I think we've been clear.
You know, in one sense, from the funding it's going back in the right direction by getting smaller; but in another sense they seem to want to open it up to a number of extraneous political issues and that can't be seen as a positive.
Q Joe, I'm betting we'll have a settlement in Kosovo within 30 days. Does that make any sense to you?
MR. LOCKHART: I think Milosevic knows what he needs to do and I'm not willing to put a timetable on it.
Q Joe, someone in the administration is saying -- not in the administration, but some critics are saying that the administration is back-pedaling for not inviting the Reverend Jesse Jackson to the event yesterday. And some close to the PUSH operation are saying that it was a means of punishment because he pulled the three American POWs out. What is the administration's view on that?
MR. LOCKHART: The administration's view is that Reverend Jackson has played a very important role in the new markets initiative. You've seen the President has gone up to New York twice over the last two years to participate in the important conference the Reverend Jackson puts on. We expect Reverend Jackson will play an important role in the trip that the President announced. And all I can say is, for those who somehow hold those views, they're wrong.
Q But why wasn't he invited yesterday?
MR. LOCKHART: Yesterday's trip was highlighting CEOs, and bringing them down -- challenging corporate America to get more involved. I think Reverend Jackson plays an important role in this overall process, and will continue to.
Q Okay, but some are saying the word -- that the administration "stole" this from Reverend Jackson.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, you can use words like "punishment," you can use words like "stole," and you can be wrong.
Q Joe, is there any change at all in the administration's position on the banking bill, now that Treasury Secretary Rubin is leaving?
MR. LOCKHART: No -- hey, let me do one thing, because I have a note here, and as long as we're on -- people leaving, people going. I want to talk about someone who is staying. Congratulations to Clyde Robinson, 30 years on the job. (Applause.)
Where is he? Where is he? (Applause.) Now, the only question I have is, you work for GE and it took you 30 years to get a refrigerator back there? (Laughter.) Never mind. That's all.
Q Thank you.
MR. LOCKHART: We're all done. Thank you.
END 2:20 P.M. EDT