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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 18, 1999
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY
                              JOE LOCKHART 
                           The Briefing Room            

2:10 P.M. EDT

MR. LOCKHART: One quick announcement. As you know, the President on Sunday will speak at Grambling State University. That speech will be coupled with his speech at the University of Chicago. The theme of that will be trying to put a human face on the dynamic and prosperous new economy here at home and around the world. At Grambling State, he will discuss the challenges facing parents in the modern economy, at a time when they often have less time to spend with their children, discussing as he's done in the past the tools that we can give parents in order to succeed at home and at work.

At the University of Chicago, the President will discuss the international economy, arguing for the great benefits to America of free and open trade, and, as he did in a similar speech in Geneva last year, making sure that all people are lifted up by the positive changes in the global marketplace.

Q Are they both commencements --


Q -- on the same day?

MR. LOCKHART: No. Chicago is -- is that in June? I think it's a couple weeks afterwards. But the two speeches are designed to work together. The Air Force commencement speech --

MR. TOIV: June 12th.

MR. LOCKHART: June 12th. The Air Force commencement speech I expect to focus on some foreign policy issues.

Q Will either of them deal with the new markets issue, somewhat?

MR. LOCKHART: I think -- I don't think that's the specific intent. I think he may talk a little bit about the initiative, but it is a broader speech in context.

Q Joe, when is the Air Force commencement?

MR. LOCKHART: I'll get the date for you.

Q On Sunday's speech, will that include proposals to protect against -- discrimination?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has talked about that in the past, and I'm going to leave it until later on in the week before I preview any specific proposals that will be in that speech.

Q Was the President saying anything different today when he said, "all options are on the table." Was there some nuance, new change --

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think so.

Q -- in terms of ground troops?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so. The President's policy from the beginning has been that we have military objectives which we can and will reach using the air campaign that's been ongoing, now, for some seven weeks. I think the Secretary of State, the President's National Security Advisor, and the President when he spoke to some members, have said that there are no options that are off the table, but the option we believe will be successful, that we know can work is the air campaign. And we're going to continue to pursue it.

Q Joe, is it still he has no plans to use ground troops, he has no intention -- that he still thinks the air campaign will --

MR. LOCKHART: The President believes strongly that the air campaign can and will succeed. It is having an effect. I think you'll see reports, you've seen reports today out of Belgrade that senior government officials are talking about wanting a diplomatic solution, trying to find a way out. It's because the campaign is working.

I think the message here, and it's a message the President has articulated repeatedly, is Milosevic will not outlast us. We will persist until we prevail. And that is something that the President believes strongly.

Q And does he still have no plans and no intention of using ground troops?

MR. LOCKHART: The President has no intention to use ground troops. The President believes that the air campaign will work, is working, and we'll reach our military objectives. But as he said today, he has taken nothing completely off the table.

Q So you're saying he has never ruled out the use of ground forces?

MR. LOCKHART: That's correct.

Q I was under the strong impression that the President has said that this is working, we don't need to use ground forces, there is no reason to consider the use of ground forces.

MR. LOCKHART: I think -- no, the President has said that he doesn't have an intention to use ground forces, he thinks the air campaign is working. He was asked a specific question this morning about whether he was rethinking that, and the answer was that while nothing is off table, what we need to do is continuing pursuing the policy that he has been pursuing.

Q He's saying he would use ground forces if he needed to?

MR. LOCKHART: He's saying that we'll persist until we prevail. And that's something he's said repeatedly.

Q Is he saying we'll persist with the air campaign until we prevail or he'll do whatever is necessary to prevail?

MR. LOCKHART: He is saying that we will do whatever is necessary, we will persist until we prevail. But the President strongly believes that we will meet our military objectives through the air campaign.

Q Well, aren't the British sending their Foreign Secretary here to try to put the pressure on the President? Isn't Tony Blair pushing --

MR. LOCKHART: I think the British can speak for themselves, but my understanding of that trip is to demonstrate how united we are.

Q In the past, when you've said no introduction of ground troops, you've added the phrase, "in a non-permissive environment." Is that still the case, or are you now dropping that caveat?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I think where we are on this is, we believe the air campaign will succeed. It is having an effect. I think you just have to look at the series of events out of Belgrade -- the various diplomatic maneuvers by Milosevic, the statements coming out today that they're looking for a deal of some kind -- to understand that it's having an effect. It'll continue, day after day, to continue to degrade his ability to repress Kosovo, and that's where we are.

I think the only thing the President did today, as the Secretary of State did some weeks ago, is say that nothing ever gets officially taken off the table, or is completely ruled out. But the air campaign is working and we're going to stick with it.

Q There are reports that the British government is urging that ground troops be amassed so that option that has never been taken off the table could be used at some point, then, that the forces would be there. Why is that not being done?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, right now we don't even have the -- assessed the updated assessment done, completed. That was something that we supported, and I think the entire NATO alliance has done. That will be done some time shortly. We'll take a look at that assessment. But certainly short of that, I think that would obviously be something you would want to look at before making any decisions like that.

Q The President said a couple of weeks ago that if there is like a situation of ground troops, that there will be open discussion for a while before that were to happen. Is that still going to happen?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, certainly. I think the President made very clear of the Congressional role, the role of involving them and seeking their support, and that remains the case.

Q Joe, when you were talking about the reassessments, there have been signals that the only real serious reassessment being done now is on a peacekeeping mission. Has the President asked for an assessment of ground troops in a hostile environment?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, we did this several weeks ago. There is an assessment ongoing of both the change -- any change in the dynamics for a peacekeeping force in a permissive environment, and also ground troops in a non-permissive environment. So that was asked for some weeks ago, and we await the results.

Q Joe, if the President and the Secretary of Defense are on the same tack, because the President said the U.S. will continue bombing Kosovo until the Yugoslav leader comes down and meets the five NATO demands. But at the same time, last week Secretary of Defense was -- too many missions, too little forces, and if the mission was too long, then the forces may lose their morale.

MR. LOCKHART: Too many missions, too little what?

Q Forces.

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think that's an accurate assessment of what Secretary Cohen said. I think what I saw of him saying was that we can't put a calendar or timetable on this, and we're going to keep going and stay at this until we've reached our objective.

Q Can you explain why you and the British have such a different opinion of how well the air war is going? They wouldn't be pushing for ground troops if they thought that the air war was accomplishing as much as you do.

MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to stick to why we think things are going well. You can ask them. I don't think we have a different opinion, though.

Q Joe, some weeks ago after a barrage of questions from us you did take the so-called semi-permissive option off the table and said clearly U.S. policy could only send troops in a permissive environment. Is that being reconsidered?

MR. LOCKHART: No. As far as our military people are concerned, they have yet to have been able to understand, or articulate to me, what a semi-permissive environment is. It's one or the other.

Q Well, short of Milosevic signing -- agreeing to an agreement, whether he signs it or not?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, it's one or the other.

Q So you're saying it's either permissive or not permissive?


Q There is no such thing as semi?

MR. LOCKHART: That's correct.

Q Well, have you taken the not permissive off the table?

MR. LOCKHART: No. There is nothing -- we believe that we are going to reach our goals here, and our policy now is to introduce ground troops into a permissive environment.

As the President said this morning, nothing can be completely ruled out, and things might happen in the future that make you re-evaluate the decisions you've made. But the decision, for now, and it stands, is our policy is that we're going to continue pursuing this campaign from the air until we've met our military objectives.

Q So on negotiations, for instance, are the Russians our only intermediary with Belgrade to try to find out if there is a deal possible?

MR. LOCKHART: I think there -- if you look at some of the talks that are going on, obviously Mr. Chernomyrdin is playing an important role here. But Mr. Ahtisaari from Finland is meeting with Strobe Talbott and Mr. Chernomyrdin today. He may play a role, with the blessing of the United Nations.

So I think there are certainly channels into Milosevic and Belgrade. The real question is whether they are listening, and whether they're going to do what they need to do to bring this air campaign to a halt. There are indications, as I mentioned, that there are those --

Q Like what?

MR. LOCKHART: There are senior government officials saying they're looking for a way out. And I think they're looking for a way out because the air campaign's having an effect. It can't be a very positive experience to have the full force of NATO coming at you every night, and then every day. And I think they understand and accept now that NATO will stay at this and will continue this until we've reached our military objectives. And the one concept that can be ruled out is that he'll somehow outlast us.

Q The bombing will stop when? When you see a signed sheet of paper?

MR. LOCKHART: The bombing will stop when we have acquiescence to the NATO demands.

Q Joe, in the President's comments today he said that we'll achieve our objectives one way or another. Have you all discussed and can you shed any light under what circumstances NATO may decide if the air campaign alone is not achieving the objectives --

MR. LOCKHART: I'm just not going down the road into hypotheticals and speculation. We believe that the air campaign will work. That's what we're basing our decisions, that's our policy, and that's where we are.

Q Are there still no signs or no evidence that you called it of any significant Serb withdrawals from Kosovo?

MR. LOCKHART: I have seen no signs.

Q And why shouldn't Milosevic see the release of the two Serbian prisoners this morning as some kind of gesture?

MR. LOCKHART: Milosevic can interpret it any way he likes. We didn't believe that there was any purpose -- or the Pentagon in making a recommendation to the President -- that there was any purpose in holding them any longer. It was a humanitarian step for these two soldiers, and it should not be interpreted as anything more than that. If Milosevic wants to twist this up into something that it's not, that's his business.

Q Why release them today instead of three weeks ago?

MR. LOCKHART: Because the President was waiting for a recommendation. The International Red Cross saw them Sunday, Monday, and that's one of the things they were waiting for before making a recommendation -- they made it and we decided quickly.

Q But you could have started that whole process before now. What is it about now?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, we accepted the recommendation of the Pentagon; the President agreed to their release. If you want further comment on that, I'd suggest you talk to them.

Q But you make it sound like it's a hands off kind of thing, you didn't have anything to do with it. The President just waited for a recommendation. The President actually started the process, did he not, by asking for a recommendation?

MR. LOCKHART: Sure, and he got one and he acted on it very quickly.

Q Why didn't he ask for it sooner, is the question.

MR. LOCKHART: No, he asked for the recommendation very quickly after the soldiers -- our servicemen were released.

Q Joe, just over at the First Lady's event a minute ago, she was talking about and some of the refugee experts were talking about how much earlier winter comes in this particular area of the Balkans, it gets cold by early September. Given that there is a natural run-up time to putting forces in place, is there a natural deadline by which policymakers are going to have to make a judgment the air campaign is working or not working?

MR. LOCKHART: I am not aware of any natural deadline. I think that, as the President has said, we are in this until we reach our military objectives. And there's just no way of definitively knowing in advance how much time that will take.

Q Joe, one of your conditions is the Serb forces should pull out of Kosovo. Does that mean all armed Serbs?

MR. LOCKHART: That means all Serb forces, yes.

Q Serb forces, so there's no negotiating room on that one?

MR. LOCKHART: It means all Serb forces.

Q Is the onset of winter -- is that part of the calculation now, since we are moving closer to that season?

MR. LOCKHART: It certainly makes life harder for particularly those who are still internally displaced to have to go through winter conditions. It makes it harder for the heroic efforts that are going on outside in Macedonia and Albania and other places for taking care of refugees. But the simple fact is we're going to stay at this and we're going to stay at this until we reach our objectives. And I can't stand here today and tell you that that will be this week, next week, or in what season of the year. But we have intensified this effort; we are going round the clock ; we are moving more assets into the region to continue that effort. And we are doing, and NATO is doing, everything we can to continue to take apart his military machine and ultimately change his calculation.

Q Joe, as far as the U.N. is concerned, where does the matter stand now with the Chinese and the Russians?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know exactly if there is anything before them in the Security Council. I think, again, though, we have always said that we would welcome any support from the U.N. for this effort.

Q The Fed left overnight rates unchanged and they now have a bias towards raising rates because of their concern about inflation. Does the White House share --

MR. LOCKHART: A bias to raise?

Q To raise rates -- yes, a bias towards higher rates. Does the White House share their concern about inflation and do you have a comment on their action today?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't comment on when they act or don't act. I know this is a new thing, to indicate bias. I think it's probably wise not to comment on that. And I think anything I said today on inflation would be construed as a comment on either of those things, so let's wait a week or so and then ask me again about inflation.

Q Joe, the Republican National Committee issued a statement this morning -- "Unfortunately, at last Wednesday's White House press briefing, when asked if the White House agreed with the American Psychological Association Psychological Bulletin study, recommending that some cases of pedophilia should no longer be considered as child abuse, Press Secretary Joe Lockhart refused to comment, saying, 'I haven't gotten to that issue yet; once we've had a chance to review it I'm sure we'll take a position.' Almost a week later, still no comment. Lockhart must be reviewing the subject."

Does this motivate you into another evasion, or not?

MR. LOCKHART: It motivates me not to call on you anymore.


Q Are you serious, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. And go ahead and tell your viewers, your listeners -- that will be fine. Call the RNC and fill them in -- I'm sure there's some more paper they can churn out tomorrow.

Q The President frequently invites newly-elected leaders to Washington, sometimes even before they take power. Will the President be invited the new Prime Minister of Israel to Washington soon?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think he needs to spend some time, put his Cabinet together, and that's the first priority for the Prime Minister-elect. I think the President, as he stated this morning, stands ready to do whatever the U.S. can do to be constructive in moving this process along and moving to final status talks.

I think the Prime Minister has indicated his interest in taking a trip to Washington, but I think it's down the road a little bit on when that will happen and under what circumstances. I think the important thing for the Prime Minister and the new government is actually putting the makeup and the composition of the --

Q What's down the road mean? I mean, is that like are you talking two weeks, a month?

MR. LOCKHART: I can't tell you. I know the process of putting the government together can take several weeks, so I wouldn't expect this to be anytime imminent.

Q Joe, there is a controversial story that came out of the New York Times last week, and the White House -- is there any validity to this, and is there any kind of cohesion now with the Vice President and the President? There's word that the Vice President's press office, as well as the Vice President's office, were very upset about this reaching out call to the New York Times.

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, let me address this. I think the reports of any problem are not accurate. I don't know about who's talking to who, but there was one person on the record and that was the President, and he accurately reflected his views. And those views are that he thinks the Vice President is a strong candidate. He thinks that he has a strong record to run on and he'll do well. He also indicated that having been through these campaigns, that there are fits and starts to all these things, and that's a fact of life.

He said in a press conference that you all attended, on the issue of -- it's sometimes hard for the Vice President to talk about himself and to, as he said, loosen up. Those are all matters of things that he has talked about. I think we believe that, especially in a town that thrives on third-hand, background -- deep background -- comments, it's always -- it's almost always better to speak directly and put on the record what your feelings are.

I know that based on some of the follow-up stories, there's some in the press who take the view of some of my colleagues on the staff here that having the President talk to the press isn't a good thing. But we'll try to keep that in check.

Q Oooh.

Q What do you think?

Q Who are you fighting for?

Q Who are those members of your staff --

MR. LOCKHART: No, no, no, not these guys.

Q Was it appropriate really for a Commander-in-Chief to talk about his second in charge is a stiff and stuffy type of person? I mean, seriously.

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, read what he said. It's very -- okay, well, then let me repeat what he said to you, and maybe you'll take a different perspective on it, which is -- and this is something the President said before, which is that the Vice President is someone who is incredibly talented, has a lot to offer, is warm and funny, and part of the challenge that anyone faces is projecting that. And that is something the President is very confident will come through as this campaign gets going. And I think the President feels very good, as he said in the article, about what's going on.

Q Joe, can I ask a question on another subject?


Q Thank you. Just days after you didn't answer my question about Mrs. Clinton's use of Air Force One at the taxpayers' expense, the Sunday New York Times had half a page headline, "First Lady's Perks May Also Be Pitfalls in a Senate Campaign," with Mayor Giuliani's campaign finance director declaring, "if she enters the campaign the cost of all those flights should be paid by her campaign." The Center for Public Integrity has noted, "her trips to date would clearly cross the line of a First Lady's duties. Should the taxpayer be paying for that?" Will you stonewall this again, or -- as you did last week?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the First Lady's travel is all appropriate and all appropriately paid for.

Q Joe, according to the India Globe --

MR. LOCKHART: The India Globe, for all of our listeners who are not subscribers.

Q -- India and Pakistan are celebrating the first year of nuclear testing. And also, India is about to launch a 3500 kilometer -- and Pakistan will follow, and the -- continues, and nuclear and missile testing race in South Asia.

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure about the last part there, but it's certainly not our view that the testing is something to be celebrated. I think we made our views quite clear on that, that that was a step in the wrong direction, a step away from and escalating -- potentially escalating an arms race. So I think as we come to the anniversary and this is a time of reflection of what is the right way, the right side of history to be on, rather than a celebration of being on the wrong side.

Q Joe, one last thing on Kosovo if I may. I thought General Clark had said that the assessment for what it would take to go in under non-permissive circumstances -- basically a ground invasion -- had been put on the back burner in favor of updating the assessment about what it would take for a peacekeeping force. That sounds like you're counting on a capitulation from Milosevic and not thinking very much about what you would need to do if that doesn't happen.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm not aware that one has been put off for the other. I think both of them are ongoing. And we'll look at the results of both of those assessments or the updates on the assessments.

We believe strongly that the air campaign will work, that the air campaign takes advantage of our superiority, takes advantage of all the work that has been done until now, taking out the integrated air defense and allowing us to go after the forces in the field. We believe that ultimately this will be successful. And that's where our efforts are placed now.

Q Joe, this morning the President referred to the air war instead of the air campaign. Should we now refer to it as air war?

MR. LOCKHART: No, you can use "campaign" or "conflict," either one. (Laughter.)

Q Was there anything about the President's timing to now refer to it as an air war?

MR. LOCKHART: No, there was not.

Q This may be a little bit below your radar screen, but I'm going to give it a try. You may know that a number of members of Congress last week wrote to the President complaining about a shortage of border patrol agents on the Northern and Southern border. And Congress mandated 1,000 new border patrol agents every year for a couple of years, but we're coming nowhere near that goal, especially on the Canadian border. Is it crisis enough that the President is going to get involved in this?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me put off the bulk of the answer. I actually had looked into that last week, but I don't have my notes on that. I can tell you, though, that this is a high priority for the President. We have more than doubled the budget for border patrol agents. We are continuing to train up and get border patrol agents to their posts and on the border. So I don't think there's any question about the President's commitment to this issue.

There has been some issue looking into the future about the best use of resources. And we take the view that we are training up a lot of border control agents as quickly as possible, and that funds should also be used for technology, and surveillance. But let me come back to you on some of the specifics of how many have been, and whether the mandate extends beyond next year.

Q Joe, I'd like to follow up on an earlier question. Given that we wouldn't want to engage in a winter campaign, and the President has said that ground troops are not off the table, is there concern here that they will have to come off the table pretty soon, since it will take a long time to put those troops in place, and then winter may be upon us? Isn't there a deadline for making that decision?

MR. LOCKHART: If there's a deadline, I don't know about it. And while it's prudent to always consider all of your options and stay updated, which we are, given the assessments that are going on, there's no change in our policy. The President believes we're going to get to where we need to get through the air campaign, and that we will get the conditions that we've laid out.

Q So if you're saying there's no deadline, that means that we wouldn't mind attacking Kosovo during the winter?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, this is not a question of "not minding" something. If this could have been over yesterday, and we could have gotten what our objectives done by yesterday, that clearly would be in the best interests of us, the people in this room, of people who like to speculate about this, and most importantly the Kosovar Albanian refugees -- who, you know, many have forgotten, but are still, a million of them, living outside the country.

So this isn't about what we mind and what we don't mind.

Q Joe, what does the White House make of the report that the IRS collections of unpaid taxes have fallen off, possibly because IRS collectors are being too nice?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me look into that, and it may be that Treasury's the best place to look into that, but I have not seen that report.

Q Joe, now that Carville has triumphed in Israel, will the President now adhere to the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, or will he refuse and risk Congress cutting State Department construction account?

MR. LOCKHART: The President has waiver authority in that case. I'm not aware that a decision has been made.

Q When will he adhere to this? I mean, they voted to --

MR. LOCKHART: The President --

Q -- relocate in Jerusalem, Joe.

MR. LOCKHART: My turn?

Q Yes. Yes.

MR. LOCKHART: Okay. When the President makes the decision, I'll let you know.

Q Joe, now that a few days have elapsed since the bombing of the embassy, the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and the President's spoken to President Jiang on the phone, does that minimize any worries at the White House that the Chinese would stand in the way of the resolution in the U.N. Security Council?

MR. LOCKHART: I think it's our view, and the Chinese in several fora have indicated their view, that if we get an agreement that meets the NATO demands, or the G-8 mirror of the NATO demands, that when it goes to the U.N., that they won't stand in the way.

Q How do you describe U.S.-Chinese relations today, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: I think both sides have a full understanding of the relative importance of the other country, as far as their own national interests are concerned. I think the bombing was obviously a tragic accident, and provided some difficulty. But I think both sides ultimately see the imperative of working toward as many areas of cooperation as possible.

Q Are you considering to send a special envoy to Beijing to soothe the anger in Beijing?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry, to do --

Q To send a special envoy to Beijing?

MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Joe, could you preview tomorrow? The President's trip to New York?

MR. LOCKHART: The President tomorrow will do --

MR. TOIV: First it's the Farley Building.

MR. LOCKHART: First he'll participate in the dedication of the Farley Building, and then he'll do -- is it DNC?

MR. TOIV: Yes.

MR. LOCKHART: A DNC lunch, and then return back. I expect that we might have something to say before we go. Right?

Q On?

MR. LOCKHART: On a domestic subject.

Q What's Thursday look like?

MR. LOCKHART: You're really testing me here.

Q And Friday --

MR. LOCKHART: And Friday? No, but I'll go Thursday. Thursday we'll go out to Littleton. I don't have a final schedule yet, but I expect the President to spend some time privately with students, parents, community leaders. But then I also expect him to do a public statement to a gathered group of students.

Q Joe, by any chance has President Clinton talked privately yet with Reverend Jackson?

MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Do you know if he's angry, still?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, that's privately meaning not in the context of the group up here, right?

Q Right, yes.


Q Does he know, does the President know that Reverend Jackson is supposedly angry about being left out?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, if I had to make a list of all the people who are supposedly angry at the President, I'd spend all day on it, so why don't -- we'll just leave it there.

Q Are you going to brief tomorrow, during the day?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so. What time do we get back?

Q We leave very early.

MR. LOCKHART: What time do we get back?

Q Oh.

MR. LOCKHART: Let me look at it.

Q Are you going tomorrow?


Q Well, then, you would -- because there's no press plane, the press corps is not going, so why wouldn't you --

Q Yes, but -- thank you, but he's not going. The press corps is not going.

Q Are these remarks only about -- tomorrow, or are there any --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think there's going to be anything beyond that, of newsworthiness.

Okay, thank you.

END 2:40 P.M. EDT