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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 14, 1999
                            PRESS BRIEFING
                             JOE LOCKHART

                           The Briefing Room

2:18 P.M. EDT

MR. LOCKHART: A couple of things. Let me do some travel announcements. On June 28th, the President will travel to Connecticut for a DNC lunch and travel to New York, New York, in the evening for a DSCC-DCCC event. June 30th, the President will travel to Chicago, Illinois, for a DNC dinner, and I expect another event to be added that day, which we'll provide some details closer to the date. July 13th, the President will travel to Miami, Florida, deliver remarks to the Communication Workers of America convention, CWA, followed by a Florida Democratic Party fundraiser. And on July 23rd, the President will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a DNC dinner, and then on to Aspen, Colorado, and will remain there through the 25th, for a DNC retreat.

Now, let me just --

Q Does he have to golf in Aspen?

MR. LOCKHART: You know, that altitude, even my drives go further.

Q Are all the meetings of the DNC? They're all closed, right?

MR. LOCKHART: At the retreat? No, no, they're all open, you all must attend. (Laughter.) I wouldn't know anything about Aspen that time of year, wrong class. (Laughter.) Someone explain to me what I said afterwards. (Laughter.) I know I'm in trouble with somebody, it's just a matter of time before finding out.

The President made a series of phone calls this morning, I just want to give you a brief rundown. Obviously, the group that was here before me talked about the call with President Yeltsin. He also spoke to President Havel, of the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Kostov of Bulgaria, Georgievski of Macedonia, the Prime Minister, and Prime Minister Vasile Romania. Each of those calls lasted, give or take a few minutes, about five minutes. They were calls thanking them for the support, for the cooperation and unity in the NATO operation. And also reemphasizing U.S. support for the Southeaster European economic initiative to help rebuild and reintegrate the region in the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict.

He also spoke this morning for about 15 minutes with President Chavez of Venezuela. As you know, President Chavez was in New York and Houston last week on a trip. They had hoped to have a chance to speak, but couldn't hook up during the week. The conversation focused mainly on some regional issues and cooperation on counternarcotics.

Finally, the President did speak this morning the Prime Minister Vajpayee about the situation in Kashmir. That lasted about 10 minutes. The President, for his part, encouraged the Prime Minister to continue to exercise restraint, respect the line of control and find a way to return to the direct talks through the Lahore process. I expect he will, sometime in the near future, reach out and speak to Prime Minister Sharif.

Q If we spent 20 or 30 minutes going over this Russian business with you again, will we get anything knew?

MR. LOCKHART: No, absolutely not. (Laughter.) Let's think domestically.

Q Joe, in the conversation with the Bulgarian Prime Minister, did the subject of Bulgaria's refusal to allow Russian military overflights come up and did the President ask them to persist in that refusal?

MR. LOCKHART: That has not been reported to me. I can check, but I don't think it did.

Q Joe, when will the White House disclose how much Mrs. Clinton's trips to New York are costing taxpayers? And why hasn't a time table for such a disclosure been made available yet?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know what you're talking about.

Q Mrs. Clinton has been traveling to New York repeatedly, she has not disclosed how much of that -- the White House hasn't disclosed how much of that is coming from taxpayer dollars.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it's clear that the trips that she has taken up there are covered under her official travel, as well as when the President does, and I'm not aware that there's any time table for disclosing anything else.

Q Joe, does the President have a news conference while he is in Europe?

MR. LOCKHART: He's got several. I think it's set for Wednesday, you'll probably have an opportunity on almost each day. There's a combination of news conferences with the leaders on several of the days.

Q There's one up in Bonn after the EU Summit, I see. But is there anything in --

MR. LOCKHART: There's one in France on Thursday. He'll come out and make statements, and there will be some questions. There's a variety of pool space for the week, so you'll have ample opportunity to put your appropriate questions to the President on this trip.

Q What about with Yeltsin, Joe? Anything --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any details on that yet.

Q And how long was that call to Yeltsin this morning?

MR. LOCKHART: About 15 -- oh, 23 minutes.

Q Joe, a 10 minute telephone call with the Prime Minister of India, Vajpayee, can you give a little more -- also any comments on the failed talks between India and Pakistan in Delhi?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we're disappointed that those talks were not more productive, but I think the President made the point that this is an issue that ultimately has to be resolved bilaterally. And it's important and I think he stressed the fact that we need to go back to the process of direct talks that were fostered at the Lahore Summit.

Q Joe, do you have anything on the Naval standoff between North and South Korea in the Yellow Sea?

MR. LOCKHART: It continues. (Laughter.)

Q It continues.

MR. LOCKHART: I think that -- and this is obviously something that's been ongoing for several days, South Korea has made their view well known here. I don't have much to add today to anything new, beyond it's something that we are watching closely.

Q Joe, the President was briefed by Senator Rudman on his report. What can you tell us about his conclusions, the President's impressions?

MR. LOCKHART: I can tell you that Senator Rudman will be glad to share his conclusions from that report tomorrow.

Q Where?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the where and when, we'll let you know. We'll put something out today, because I don't know what kind of public affairs apparatus they have.

Q Joe, the Washington Post reported in a page-one story that U.S. Army Chaplain John Walton was ordered to delete the word Jesus and confine his references to God. And my question is does the Commander-in-Chief, as a Southern Baptist, believe that any Christian chaplain should be ordered not to mention Jesus? And I have a follow-up.

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of that report.

Q It was in page one of The Washington Post. You read that paper, don't you?

MR. LOCKHART: I do read that paper, but I did not see that report.

Q Could I go on and ask this?


Q This page-one story in The Post also reported that at Fort Hood, the Army has recognized the worship of the Wicca witches, and assigned them a sight, as well as a chaplain. I was wondering, how does the President, as Commander-in-Chief, believe that his Army can have witch chaplains without having witch doctors commissioned in the medical corps? (Laughter.) He's the Commander-in-Chief --

MR. LOCKHART: Lester, I love the way you do that voodoo. (Laughter.)

Q That was my next question, Joe. Now, I've already asked the Pentagon, they're baffled. And we'd like to know what does the Commander-in-Chief have to say about this? (Laughter.) Has he -- have you seen the pictures of those people leaping around the bonfire? (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: Was that you? (Laughter.)

Q No, that was not me.

Q The President is going to address the International Labor Organization -- and also he's talking about child labor. Is he thinking of talking about prison labor and the merchandize made from prison labors and coming to the U.S.?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that that's going to be the focus of it. I think he'll be talking about labor standards around the world and there will be some news in that speech and we'll wait until Wednesday.

Q Rosa Parks tomorrow, what is the President expected to talk about tomorrow with Rosa Parks?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it's the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is one of the highest awards that any civilian can receive in this country. I think the President will take the opportunity, joined by the leadership of Congress, to recognize one of the true leaders -- civil rights pioneers in this country, and talk about, as we move into the next century, the invaluable contribution that she and some of her allies in the civil rights movement made to this country.

Q And, Joe, with that tomorrow, has he heard of any of these -- I guess, the factional in-house fighting about this race book, that some are saying that it's too strong and then others saying --

MR. LOCKHART: The so-called factional in-house fighting has not advanced since this morning.

Q Joe, does he intend to have discussions with leaders in Congress on any other issues tomorrow, or is just going to be --

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think there's any -- I think this is an event that will not lend itself to any other kind of discussion. We can all hope that the spirit of this event might lead someone like Senator Inhofe to reverse his wrong-minded position of holding up 150 nominations because of his discriminatory views, but that's probably just a pipe dream.

Q Have you gotten any response from Lott on that?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, we've had general discussions. And I think what marks the discussions here is that there really isn't a procedural problem here. We have done an excellent job in notifying Congress. We've used recess appointments very sparingly, compared to other administrations, and there is not a process problem here.

The process problem is a smokescreen for those who don't want to articulate what the real story here. And the real story here, put simply, is a -- prominent Republicans, and they have not been backed off this by their leadership, or by leaders who, either inside or outside the Congress -- believe that you should exclude someone from service in the ambassadorial rank because of their sexual orientation. It's that simple. It's not more complicated than that, and they can create as much smoke as they want on this. But you can't hide the fact that what Senator Inhofe is engaged in here is akin to ideological extortion. And we're just going to have to work through this.

Q Joe, do you have any comment on the Bob Woodward articles that have appeared yesterday and today in the Washington Post?

MR. LOCKHART: Didn't see those, either.

Q Thank you.

Q Joe, the Post reported this morning that, "President Clinton can't seem to restrain himself from publicly meddling in Gore's less-than-smooth campaign operation." Is the Post wrong, or will you, as his top media advisor, suggest to the President that this and Mrs. Clinton's running and using taxpayers' money to fly to New York are hurting the Gore campaign?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the Gore campaign is running very smoothly. Vice President Gore will run a strong campaign based on the contributions he's made to this administration, the ideas he has for the future --

Q The Post is wrong, then.

MR. LOCKHART: -- and the President always has good ideas and always expresses them in an appropriate way.

Q Thank you.

END 2:30 P.M. EDT