THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
1:13 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Let me start today on a personal and sad note for the President and the First Lady. As the President's statement indicated, they were both deeply saddened by the loss of their friend and many of us here at the White House, Dan Dutko, who was killed in a very untimely accident. He was a friend of the President, friend of the Democratic Party, someone who we all knew very well here at the White House. And again, our thoughts and prayers are with both his wife and his two children.
Q Was the President with him on Saturday?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I think he was at one of the events Saturday in Aspen. I'm not quite sure which one, but they were out there for that event.
Q Joe, the President spoke today about the importance of eating vegetables before you have the dessert when he spoke about Medicare. Has he offered in sufficient specifics what those vegetables are? Has he laid out the hard choices about Medicare sufficiently to tell people what those hard choices are?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has laid out a very detailed Medicare plan that offers savings, modernization, a new prescription drug benefit, with details for how much it will cost and how we'll pay for it. I think it's important, though, as he said, to put first things first -- to make sure that we have Social Security and Medicare extended, strengthened, modernized, with this historic surplus we have, before we get into trying to pay for -- to use the food metaphor -- the dessert.
Q About the President's trip to Sarajevo, what specifically does he hope comes out of the trip? What does he hope to accomplish there?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think before he gets there, starting tomorrow we'll have the donors' conference, so there will be some money for immediate needs in Kosovo. But I think what the President and the other EU leaders and world leaders hope to accomplish is to get together to focus attention on Southeastern Europe.
You remember back to the President's speech in San Francisco earlier this year, where he laid out his ideas for Southeastern stability, democratization, prosperity in Southeastern Europe. And I think the leaders will get together, talk about their plans, and as importantly, listen to the leaders from the region talk about their plans for deepening democracy and rebuilding in that region.
Q Joe, follow-up? Any chance the leaders will issue a statement calling for the ouster of Milosevic?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the President has made it very clear -- and I think one of the things you'll notice first off at this meeting is who's not there. The President has made it clear, and I think most of the leaders there agree, if not all of the leaders agree, that there is no role for reconstruction, for help for Serbia as long as Milosevic is in power.
This could be the shortest briefing in history. (Laughter.)
Q Joe, on Russia?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me talk about vacation.
Q Are you going on vacation?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Does the administration feel that the Yeltsin administration is doing enough to get corruption under control and adopt market reforms in Russia to make the country suitable for American investment and --
MR. LOCKHART: I think if you -- the best way to look at that question is to see how we've dealt with the IMF and how the IMF is dealing with Russia. We believe that they have taken some steps, but there's still more work to do, and the way the money is structured now is, the Russians need to demonstrate actions and commitment to reform in order for the money to come available. So that -- it's sort of an ongoing formula for answering the question, that they have to demonstrate and they have to make the hard choices as far as their banking system, the transparency of their financial systems, the market reforms they need to take in order to continue to receive aid.
Q Joe, the IMF has a board meeting scheduled on further loans to Russia tomorrow. Will the United States vote in favor of that?
MR. LOCKHART: I'll leave it until the meeting tomorrow. I'm not going to make any announcement on that today.
Q There have been various meetings between U.S. officials and Chinese officials that have gone pretty well for once. Can you say, has there been any definitive -- is there a definitive date to start talks on WTO again?
MR. LOCKHART: There's no definitive date that I know of. As far as I know, the Chinese have not changed their position. Our position remains the same, that we look forward to reopening discussions to get a commercially viable agreement for China's entry into WTO, but there has been no firm date set for that.
Q Do you think that the U.S. and China are getting closer to --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, obviously we're anxious to do that. We want to move forward with it. It's a decision the Chinese need to take. The question is probably better put to them, but it's our hope that as we continue to work across-the-board on a series of issues, that we can move forward with WTO.
Q The administration's tried to separate the trade and the human rights issues with China, but is it helpful to have the Chinese cracking down on this religious sect at the time when you're trying to seek support for the WTO and NTR?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that we have made our position quite clear with the Chinese on issues of human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly. As recently as this weekend, the Secretary of State made these views known to her counterpart, the Chinese Foreign Minister. We believe that China should live up to the obligations that they undertook in signing the U.N. Covenant on Human Rights, which includes freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
Q Does this crackdown have an impact on the trade measures that --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we're going to continue to move forward. We think it's in our national interest to try to get a deal on WTO on terms that are commercially viable and are in the interest of American business, American working families, and we will continue to make our case on a broad range of human rights issues.
Q Joe, did Albright mention this as a matter of course the way she mentioned human rights in every meeting, or did she mention this specifically with relation to the --
MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is that she mentioned it specifically.
Q Regarding Stepashin, just run through if you would for us what you feel are the key issues to be addressed with him while he's here in Washington meeting with the Vice President and the President.
MR. LOCKHART: I think there are no surprise issues. The Vice President and the Prime Minister will discuss economic reform in Russia, trade and investment, security issues including arms control and nonproliferation, and they'll also discuss some space cooperation issues.
Q Will they talk about the U.S. request to curtail Russian spying in the United States?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any information on that.
Q What does the President think of Senator Kerrey jumping ship and going to the Republican side on the tax cut?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the President has made his views well-known. He doesn't believe we have the ability to provide for the kind of exploding tax cut that the Republicans have put forward, and he respectfully disagrees with Senator Kerrey's assessment of the situation. I think --
Q Did he know he was going to?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I think he met with the Senate Finance Committee Democrats -- a week ago Monday? -- about a week ago. And Senator Kerrey made his views known, and I think he was probably -- he is the lone Democrat on the committee who believes that the Republican package is possible.
But I think, if you're looking for some evidence that the plan doesn't work, all you have to do is look at what went on yesterday in the appropriations process. The Republicans are talking about, even before enacting their tax cut, having to go to smoke and mirrors and accounting gimmicks of emergency spending on things like the census in order to fund government. Then they want to take the next step and say, well, let's have a trillion-dollar tax cut.
The numbers don't add up, and they only add up for the Republicans on one of two ways. One, they're willing to go back to deficit spending, which is unacceptable to the President and unacceptable to most economists. And I think from Wall Street to the Fed, people have weighed in on the problems with their plan. Or, if you look at their numbers, they'll have to -- if they keep up with the President on defense, which we think is the minimum we need to spend, we'll have to have 50-percent cuts in domestic spending. Well, that's unrealistic. It's not going to happen.
We can see that it's not going to happen by just looking at what they're doing now. They're trying to find any gimmick they can to keep government going because they're not willing to stand up and say, here are the programs we want to cut. So it's just unrealistic that they'll go into the future and look at 50-percent cuts in government spending.
Q What do you think about the conditional tax deduction, you know, saying that the House Republicans --
MR. LOCKHART: I think about as much of it as the House Republican leaders did and the honest ones who said it was a gimmick to get them enough votes to get it off the floor. It is not a realistic plan. It doesn't address the problems of Social Security and Medicare, and it's probably more of a political statement than anything else.
Q -- a letter written by Congressman Torricelli and Congressman -- both are Democrats -- asking the President to appoint a special envoy on Kashmir for the U.S. to mediate, number one. Number two, what is the situation now in Kashmir after signing --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of the letter, but I think we've made our views well-known that we believe that the parties need to resolve this between them, that the U.S. is not seeking a role as a mediator here.
As far as the situation on the ground, we're pleased that the line of control has been reestablished, and the situation has deescalated somewhat. But as far as the U.S. role, I think the President is willing to be involved to encourage the parties to speak directly, but this is something that the two parties have to work out between them.
Q Joe, also after the President and Prime Minister Sharif signed an agreement in Washington the 4th of July, Pakistan put a white flag, means peace -- behind the white flag, I understand according to reports -- that militants are still fighting and they're saying they will not leave the area, it's not up to President Clinton, nor Sharif.
MR. LOCKHART: I think that there clearly is still some conflict, but I think it's important to note that through the leadership of the leaders in the region, the line of control has been reestablished. And that's a positive step.
Q Could I follow that? Several congressmen -- they were speaking at an Indian-American concert dinner last week. They called on the President to do more to stop the fighting -- and also, they called upon the President to visit India this year.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, the President, as he's made known, wants to travel to the region, continues to want to make a trip to the subcontinent, but I don't have any announcement of when that will be.
Q Speaking of trips, would the President be interested in visiting Vietnam this year?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't expect the President to visit Vietnam this year. Whether he would be interested in it or not is another question. (Laughter.)
Q Next year?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, let's try to confine ourselves to this year.
Q Why is the President going to spend a few days on vacation in New York, and while there will he help Mrs. Clinton do any campaigning?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think there's two components -- well, let me do the whole vacation. They will spend roughly nine days in Martha's Vineyard. That's obviously a place that the Clinton family loves. They've spent the last several years there. They are able to relax and enjoy themselves there. They'll spend a couple of days in the Hamptons. There will be a DNC component to that. And then there will be in upstate for several days. I think being from New York and familiar with the region, it's a beautiful place, and they will enjoy it immensely.
Q But that's vacation or --
MR. LOCKHART: That's vacation.
Q Will they come back to Washington between any of those segments, or is it all one right on top of the other?
MR. LOCKHART: It's all one right on top of the other. I don't expect them -- unless there is some intervening event.
Q How did they decide on the Finger Lakes?
MR. LOCKHART: I think they were looking for a place to go to spend the rest of the vacation beyond Martha's Vineyard. There are a lot of people who recommended this part of New York and they're very much looking forward to spending some time there.
Q Do you know anything about where they'll stay or the nature of the -- and why this particular location in New York?
MR. LOCKHART: They'll be staying at a private residence of a friend and a supporter, as they will in Martha's Vineyard. And I think they're looking forward to the beautiful scenery and the relaxing atmosphere.
Q Any public events --
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I know of.
Q Are you suggesting it has nothing to do with Mrs. Clinton's potential campaign?
MR. LOCKHART: Did I suggest that? I didn't suggest that, did I? I didn't suggest that.
Q Does it have to do with does she want to get to know -- I mean, it seems reasonable -- does she want to get to know the state a little bit better?
MR. LOCKHART: We can go round and round on this, but you're not drawing me out. I'm sticking with these two lines.
Q Is it part of her listening tour?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I think it's part of her vacation, and I think she's --
Q Is she going to make her announcement while she's --
Q -- anything public --
MR. LOCKHART: I have no information beyond what I've given you.
Q Joe, do you have anything on --
MR. LOCKHART: Back to India, please. (Laughter.)
Q Any comments on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed by the Senate and now in the House -- and how far this Hate Crimes Prevention Act will go?
MR. LOCKHART: Is that our legislation? I'm sorry, I know that we have a piece of legislation that the President proposed in 1997, and has been trying to get through Congress. Is that --
MR. TOIV: They passed it in the Senate.
MR. LOCKHART: They passed it in the Senate -- okay. I'm sorry. I just wanted to make sure it was the one. I mean, obviously we're very pleased. The President has spoken out, starting with the conference we had over at George Washington University in 1997, and has thought that this was a particularly high legislative priority, particularly with some of the incidents we've seen around the country. And I think it's time that this goes to the House, and they move quickly to provide the kind of protections that are needed -- even without the incidents that we've had, but all the more important given some of the things we've seen.
Q Joe, can we go back to the question of emergency spending? Aside from the census, which is a slightly different case -- I know your views on that -- what is the administration's general view of going to the surplus and using emergency spending to fund various --
MR. LOCKHART: Our view is that these should be true emergencies, unexpected or non-recurring events, that are difficult to plan for and that are as it sounds, emergency spending.
You'll remember that we have put up two significant emergency spending bills in the last two years that have been loaded on to -- the one on Kosovo this year, and the emergency spending at the end of last year, which the President felt it was necessary to sign to get the emergency funding that he needed.
Q What about veterans' care? Do you consider that an emergency?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we've sent up a budget amendment that's offset. So I think that fits within the budget. It's an additional $1 billion, but it's offset so that it doesn't involve emergency spending.
Q And the money would reach veterans just as fast?
MR. LOCKHART: Sure, I mean, it would go through -- but it would go through -- I mean, there is not an emergency spending bill on the floor right now. They're just talking about now finding a way once they're done with this to -- basically, they're using emergency spending to fix all the holes that are in the appropriations. They can't do it and provide -- and move into the future the way they've talked about. And it is -- it doesn't even come close to passing the laugh test, when Republican leaders say that they didn't know that they had to do a census this year. We've done one every 10 years since 1790. And I know they haven't been in charge of Congress, at this point, for four or five decades. But everybody knows we do a census every 10 years so it's no surprise.
Q But this is the first year that they're doing essentially two censuses.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, even if they were only doing -- we had argued that they only have to do one, but whether they do one or two, they still have to do one. And that's $3 billion which they should have accounted for -- which they did account for and they just found a creative way to turn the rules inside out, so that ultimately they can continue to fund government and then find a way to provide for a large tax cut, a tax cut they can't pay for.
Q Yesterday, a group of Democrats proposed $10 billion in emergency spending for farmers. Why not do that by way of appropriations?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we think that on agriculture, there are some serious issues flowing out of the Freedom to Farm Act. We've had -- I mean, we've had poor prices coupled with a series of natural disasters and droughts -- things that have really put farmers at risk. And it's our view that we should take a serious look at Freedom to Farm, and to see what we can do as far as dealing with some of the structural problems in agriculture.
Q But that's the long-term. What about short-term? The Democrats and the Republicans want to do something long-term, but Democrats are saying we need $10 billion now --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we continue to want to take a look at some of the structural problems in the short-term, and we will address as we move further down the process whether there's a need for emergency funding.
Q The Democrats suggested yesterday that they had the support of the President and the White House on this. I gather that you're not quite willing to give --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think we have to look at some of the structural issues that flow out of Freedom to Farm, and as we move down the year -- if that does not get done, we may have to look at emergency spending.
Q Does it appear here that if you open the door to raise on the surplus, then everybody has equal spending?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the issue here is -- I think I stood here about a month ago and said, when they came out with their tax plan, and said it's an elaborate shell game. And at some point, everything is going to be put on the table and you're going to see that the game is up. Well, yesterday, the game was up for them. They had to move. They were at a point in the appropriations process where they had to actually put numbers on things. So what we found is that they are willing to spend against the surplus next year, which they have already spent on a nearly $1-trillion tax cut in order to fund government this year, only illustrating that their plan going out over the next 10 years just doesn't add up.
Q Joe, the going --
MR. LOCKHART: When did you join us, April? (Laughter.)
Q I've been listening. Anyway, as far as the vacation, going back to the vacation, have the Clintons ever split up the vacation like that before, and if so, could you tell us when and where?
MR. LOCKHART: I think they did. Some part -- they went to a couple parts in the West --
Q They went to Aspen --
Q Tetons, didn't they -- Wyoming, Jackson Hole.
MR. LOCKHART: This was slightly before my time, but I do understand that they have done multiple-location vacations. I think back in '95 or '96.
Q What kind of reading is he expecting to take up? Is he going to --
MR. LOCKHART: Big, thick books.
Q Is he going to write a big, thick book while he's there?
Q -- August. Sarajevo is just sort of overnight, and then Congress is leaving about the 9th?
MR. LOCKHART: Congress leaves at the end of next week, probably Thursday or Friday. The President will continue working up through about the 19th, and then he and the First Lady will take the rest of the month off.
Q Do we have a lot of travel in between?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so. We don't have a foreign trip. I think we have -- I know we have a couple of day trips that I don't think we've announced yet, but -- yes, we've got Arkansas and then at least another one.
Q The ABA.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay. So it's probably three or four days that we'll be out.
Q Did the Democratic National Committee pay for the Clintons' travel to the Hamptons, and do the Clintons pay for their own travel to New York? Or is that part of her exploratory committee?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, they pay -- there's a budget here that pays for their vacations. Travel to the Hamptons will be covered, presumably, by the DNC, as always, under the political rules. But the vacation itself is paid for out of the vacation fund they have, and travel budget.
Q Thank you.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes?
Q Is the President still expected later on in the year to go to Greece and Turkey?
MR. LOCKHART: The President has a number of foreign trips for -- with the balance of this year, most of which we haven't announced yet.
Q Joe, how much is the travel budget?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have the slightest idea. Enough to take two and a half weeks.
END 1:35 P.M. EDT