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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 3, 1999
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY
                              JOE LOCKHART

                           The Briefing Room

12:05 P.M. EST

MR. LOCKHART: Kris had a few things he wanted to say to you. There's a couple of things that have been sort of bothering him for the last couple months about some of the work that you all have done. And, well, I just thought I'd bring him here today and we'd sort of hash it out. Kris? (Laughter.)

Q Personnel announcement?

MR. ENGSKOV: This is a dangerous room to be in with Joe Lockhart --

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Okay, let's get serious. What's on your minds today?

Q Why is Kris here today?

MR. LOCKHART: I just invited him because I hadn't seen him in a while --

MR. ENGSKOV: We haven't been together in almost three or four hours.

Q Maybe he could tell us what the President is really like. (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: Kris, don't you have something to do? (Laughter.) Boy, that was a bad idea. (Laughter.) Okay.

Q Is the President giving an interview today or tomorrow?

MR. LOCKHART: He's got a couple of things that are long-term. I don't expect you'll see them for several weeks.

Q Long-term?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, so you shouldn't expect a transcript. Sort of beginning of some year-end stuff.

Q Joe, could you give us a sense of what the administration's thinking and timing is on Vieques?

MR. LOCKHART: As we've said for some time now, the Department of Defense, led by the Secretary, has been working to come up with a recommendation to give the President, working internally at the Pentagon and externally with the people of Vieques. I believe that that recommendation is close to being finalized. It could come here as early as the next couple of hours. And when they have finalized that recommendation, they will be talking about it over at the Pentagon.

Q You mean the report is here now?

MR. LOCKHART: No, it is not. The recommendation is not here now, but my understanding is they're close to finalizing the recommendation, and it could come over as early as this afternoon.

Q -- act quickly on it, Joe. Has he been briefed on it already? Does he know generally what the direction is?

MR. LOCKHART: I think he's been briefed through the process. There is some work that's being done today that he will need to get a fuller briefing once it comes over. But he's generally aware of the dialogue that's been going on between the Pentagon and Puerto Rico.

Q The events in Seattle, they indicate that there are people that are a little less enamored with this whole free trade agenda and that we may be moving, instead of towards a greater globalization, towards a situation where governments and nation states again become viable entities who have to look out for their nation's population, rather than some kind of a free trade formula set on from the outside.

MR. LOCKHART: The question involves a completely false choice. Nations will always remain entities that are responsible for looking out for the well-being of the people they represent. Nothing's going to change there. I think the President has made the point that free trade benefits all nations; and we are moving into a period where those benefits will be shared around the world, and also into a period where we should look at components like the environment, like labor issues, as part of it.

I think what this week shows is -- and, again, let me speak about -- want to talk about the people who are outside the hall -- for the vast majority of them who were there to represent, peacefully, a legitimate point of view, how important it is to people around the world to be heard and to be involved, and for the process to be transparent. And that's what the President spoke to, and that's what the team that remains in Seattle is working very hard to obtain.

Q Joe, on the one hand, the President said there should be a greater opening for labor and environmental issues -- but there's also the question some nations feel that protecting their agricultural production, not being totally dependent on the international market for feeding their people is also a very important value, whereas the United States, in that respect, goes on the free trade --

MR. LOCKHART: I think agriculture is of particular concern to us because of the distorting export subsidies that many countries around the world, particularly in Europe, engage in. And we believe that markets should be open, and that American farmers should have a right to compete on a level playing field with farmers anywhere American farmers should have a right to compete on a level playing field with farmers anywhere around the world. And that's a point -- I think we've made some progress on that this week. But we think it's a very important point, and a very important agenda item, for this round.

Q Can you tell us where we are out there right now? Is there an agreement on a working group, on labor? Is there an agreement on a way to start the round --

MR. LOCKHART: Right now there is not an agreement. They're working very hard. I talked to the team probably about 30 minutes ago. Many of them worked through the night, and they're going to continue to work through the day. We have a number of issues that remain outstanding, that the U.S. feels strongly about, and we're going to stay at it until we get an agreement.

Q Is a working group one of those issues, as well? There's not agreement on that?

MR. LOCKHART: There is not an agreement on that, no.

Q Joe, you said earlier today that some of the President's comments were taken out of context. But why shouldn't people feel that the overall gist of what he had to say was tailored to somewhat appease environmentalists at the --

MR. LOCKHART: I think that would show a superficial and short-term look at the President's approach. Look at what he said, starting back in 1992. Look at the speech he gave in 1998 to the WTO -- certainly not at a time where people were protesting in the streets in Seattle. I mean, the trade issue is one that has taken prominence for many Americans this week, because of the WTO meetings, because of the activities out in Seattle. But go back and look at the speech he gave in 1998 in Geneva, and you'll see a consistent commitment -- both to free and open trade, but a consistent commitment to working with our partners around the world on issues involving the environment and labor.

Q Joe, he said specifically to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he said that core labor standards should be part of every trade agreement. And then he said that he would favor a system in which sanctions would come for violating any provision of a trade agreement, right after that. How's that not a direct support for --

MR. LOCKHART: Because I think you have to look at the whole answer. And I was sitting right with him when he gave the whole answer. And he talked about how what we want to do first is get a trade -- a working group to look at this. That's what our goal is now. And then as we move into the future, we want to find a way that labor and environment comes at the core, and that if you look into the future, how all agreements need some enforcement. He didn't get into any specifics. He's got no new proposal on how to --

Q He says, sanctions. He says very specifically, I favor a system which sanctions would come for violating any provision of a trade agreement.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, that's certainly -- and he wasn't talking about --

Q It's very specific.

MR. LOCKHART: No, it's not very specific. In fact, it's very general and very broad. And that is the way he meant it, because I've discussed this with him. He did not mean to put forward -- and I'm not going to get into "he didn't mean to" -- he didn't put forward new thinking there. It reflects where we are about what we need to do now. And eventually, the point he was making near the end that you've quoted back was a very broad point about how you have to have ways, no matter what the issue is -- you know, whether it's a tariff or competitive issue -- there's got to be some enforcement.

Q Joe, as you know, there are a lot of issues at play in the Middle East. There always are, of course. But do you see the President meeting with or speaking to the leaders involved there, anytime soon?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't want to try to speculate on the future. The President always has remained quite engaged since he became President in the Middle East peace process, at times on a day-to-day basis; at times, leaving it to Ambassador Ross, Secretary of State Albright and the others on the team who have been working on it.

Suffice it to say that the administration works on this every day. He has spent over the last month or two a good bit of time, both in face-to-face meetings and on the telephone with leaders on this process, and he'll remain engaged as appropriate. I've got no reason to know of anything in particular that might broaden or narrow that as we look over the next few weeks.

Q Joe, do you have any comments on the position of President Zedillo of Mexico to suspend his visit to --

MR. LOCKHART: Our understanding is they called us late last night to let us know that they were postponing the trip, and explained the provisions in their constitution that both the lower and upper house need to approve presidential travel. I know that there is a budget battle going on now and I think President Zedillo made the right decision to stay and work that through rather than come through.

I think the President was looking forward to the visit. They spoke yesterday before this decision and indicated he was looking forward to the visit, and I expect it to be rescheduled soon.

Q Given the space considerations on the Mall, what's your reaction to the proposal to build a monument to Martin Luther King, Jr.?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the -- obviously, space considerations aside, this is an idea that is overdue; and I think the President and the administration support finding an appropriate way to honor one of the leaders of this century.

Q -- this being the first civilian to be honored like this?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think, again, as we look back over the century and we look at those who have changed many of our lives, Martin Luther King is certainly a leader in the generation, someone who deserves to be honored.

Q Joe, can we expect the President to make some recess appointment soon? And can you tell us how many possible recess appointments the White House has notified the Senate about?

MR. LOCKHART: I can't tell you how many. I can't give you a time table. But I do expect the President to use his constitutional authority, in some cases, on recess appointments. I do expect him also to meet the commitments and tradition we have with the Senate in informing them in advance.

Q Can I just follow up on that? Can you respond to Senator Inhofe's threat? He says if the President goes ahead with five nominees he considers, and are considered controversial, he may go ahead and try and block all judicial nominees next year?

MR. LOCKHART: I think Senator Inhofe should take a moment, read the Constitution and understand that he's a senator and the President is the President.

Q Joe, the tabloid newspaper, the National Enquirer, on its front page today has a suggestion that the First Lady is demanding a divorce. Without the use of profanity, what is the White House response to this and has there been any discussion?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't generally respond to tabloids and I don't plan to start now. If there is anyone in this room who has done any reporting on the subject and has a specific question to ask, you should ask it. If there is anyone in this room that just wants to find a cheap side way to report this story, you're going to have to work harder.

Q Joe, many in America are wondering on the state of their marriage once Mrs. Clinton moves to New York and starts running for the U.S. Senate, officially running -- officially, officially running for the U.S. Senate. He's going to be here, she's going to be there. And last week you said, we'll see if he goes to New York. What will be the state of --

MR. LOCKHART: What do you mean, he'll go -- of course he'll go to New York.

Q No, I asked you will he be spending a lot of time in New York and you said, we'll see.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I mean, you know, listen, the President has a day job which keeps him very busy and he will be focusing the majority, the vast majority of his time next year on doing that. So, obviously, he'll be here and around the country, both doing the policy work and promoting the policies that he'll lay out in the State of the Union. But, also, it's a political year. He'll spend some time --

Q Is there a date for the State of the Union?

MR. LOCKHART: No. Okay. I think there is one, but I'm being told I can't announce it. Anyway, he is also looking forward to spending some time in New York, both as a place in the future where he'll spend some time, and also doing whatever is appropriate to help New York Democrats who may be running for office.

Q So the state of the marriage is good, then?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, very good.

Q Joe, to go back to the Mexican situation, in the conversation, they spoke about the Juarez issue. What did they say about this?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President, for his part, just noted the excellent cooperation between the United States government and the Mexican government on this issue, as far as the FBI and other agencies that are helping, and committed to extending that cooperation, as appropriate, into the future.

Q Joe, has the OMB and the USDA come to an agreement on food donation for 2000, food donation to other countries? Apparently, there's been a conflict and it's affecting agriculture prices?

MR. LOCKHART: I have no news on that. We can check on that and see if there is anything we can get for you.

Q During the President's visit to Little Rock next week, is he going to have any meetings concerning his presidential library? And, generally, how is that coming along?

MR. LOCKHART: We're at the point -- I'm not the expert on this; the experts are in Little Rock, who have been working on it. But I think the President has thought through some of the sort of architectural and that sort of issues -- he's working with designers and architects. And they certainly haven't made final decisions on that, but it's something he's thought through, about how he wants to organize this physically, and then also how it, content-wise, will be structured.

My guess is, given the Little Rock business community's stake in this, that he'll probably talk to them a little bit about it in the speech. I don't know that the speech will be -- that that's the purpose of the speech. But I certainly think, given the business community's interest as a business generator in the downtown area, that he'll spend some time talking to them about it.

Q Joe, is the President still contemplating a trip abroad around the 14th of December?

MR. LOCKHART: I have no travel announcements to make at this time.

Q Is it conceivable that the Seattle meeting is going to extend beyond today? Is there talk?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry, is there talk?

Q Yes.

MR. LOCKHART: No one -- I haven't heard any of that talk. But I also know that they don't have an agreement yet, so I don't -- you know, these talks sometimes go very late into the night and early into the morning, so I've got no way of knowing what their hard deadline is.

Q This morning you were very emphatic that there was no trip.

MR. LOCKHART: Nothing's happened between this morning and now, except for the cameras that are there, and you know how you can take things.

Q Well, what's going on?

MR. LOCKHART: There's no trip. There's no trip. If we change our minds and develop a trip, we'll let you know. There's no secrets here. I mean, there's nothing we're trying to spring at the last minute.

Q Joe, regarding the fact of Roger Clinton playing a concert in North Korea on Sunday, does that complicate the U.S. policy towards North Korea in any way?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so. I think the -- we support the South Korean policy of promoting cultural exchanges. It's consistent with their policy, and represents nothing more than a cultural exchange.

Q Given the report by CBO today, does the White House believe that the budget caps, which have become somewhat superfluous -- that either they should be raised, or perhaps eliminated altogether?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we're -- as I said earlier in the week, we're beginning our look at the FY 2001 budget. Part of that process will be looking at this question, and there's no decision that has been made.

Q This morning, Joe noted the 20 million jobs and --

MR. LOCKHART: I was hoping someone would ask. (Laughter.) Sir?

Q Why should Republicans not take equal credit, along with the President, for what they feel is their seven-year effort to restrain what they feel is Mr. Clinton's natural tendency to spend more than they would like?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, they -- you know, that is rhetoric. That comes off of a page of talking points. It doesn't reflect reality. The reality is, under the previous administrations we quadrupled the national debt. When the President got here, he said that we were going to change the policy. He put forward a proposal that turned our fiscal policy around, away from deficits and toward the surpluses we have now, with some tough decisions. And the Republicans not only voted against it, they predicted doomsday. They predicted a depression.

Now, as we moved forward, we got cooperation in 1997 on the balanced budget amendment, and there's plenty of credit to be shared in that effort. But, overall, the tough decisions that had to be made in 1993, the very difficult political decisions to turn this around were made by the Democrats in this city.

Q But, Joe, the President's first 1993 budget proposal would have continued deficit spending.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we didn't get into a surplus until last year. But the bottom line is, in the absence of a chart, if you took deficits that were going like this -- what the President's proposal said is, we're going to go like this. And we're going to completely change direction. And that's what we did.

And right now, you have the ultimate validation of the wisdom of that strategy. The debate is over. There's nobody who can argue credibly on the other side that this was the wrong strategy. We have 20 million jobs that have been created in less than seven years. We have more people employed in this country, right now, than at any point in our history. We have the vast majority of these jobs being above the median pay level.

So you have good jobs being created for more people. You have more job creation in this administration than in any other administration in our history. Now, that is a combination of the right economic strategy and the hard work of the American public. The productivity increases have a lot to do with the strength of our economy. The high-tech revolution has a lot to do with the strength of our economy.

But if you look at the fiscal policy -- that works to keep interest rates down, inflation down, employment high -- the strategy that the President and the Vice President laid out in 1993 was validated today 20 million times.

Q Joe, back to Puerto Rico for a moment? Could you just give me a sense of what was the President's hope for this policy recommendation that you're expecting to see from --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, the President has said all along that he wanted the Pentagon to reach out and engage in a dialogue with the people of Vieques, and to find a solution that addressed both the legitimate concerns of the Pentagon and our military, and the legitimate concerns of the people of Vieques. And without the recommendation here, I'm not going to get into the specifics of what they have in mind. But they will -- you know, when the recommendation is ready, they will detail the thinking of their decision.

Q Joe, when he gets this recommendation, I understand he will sign it soon?

MR. LOCKHART: I expect when we get it, you know, he'll have something to say, probably with a piece of paper, relatively quickly.

Q Joe, back to the library just for a second. What are the President's plans for acknowledging and disclosing contributors, donors to the presidential library?

MR. LOCKHART: You will have to talk to the library, the people who are running that process. I don't know at this point what their plans are.

Q Have you discussed it with him, about his --

MR. LOCKHART: Not with the President, no.

Final escort for Old Executive event leaving outside door now. And I mean, now.

Okay, sorry.

Q I just wanted to know if the President read the transcript of the debate, or did he see a video of last night's Republican debate?

MR. LOCKHART: No. We were up honoring America's Mayor, Ed Rendell, last night which was a lot of fun for the President, a lot of fun for the mayor, for America's mayor.

Q Did he see part of the video or --

MR. LOCKHART: No. We didn't get back last night until after 11:00 p.m. So unless he's tuned it in this morning somehow, if it's being replayed someplace, he didn't get a chance to see it.

Q Thank you.

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I have the week ahead. Do you want the week ahead? Sorry, forgot. That's what they just handed me.

Saturday, December 4th, the President's weekly radio address will be broadcast at 10:06 a.m. No other public events for the President on Saturday.

Sunday, the President will host the annual Kennedy Center's Honors Reception here at the White House, 5:40 p.m. in the East Room, in house pool coverage. Following the reception, the President will attend the Kennedy Center Honors Programs at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 7:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Again, in town travel pool coverage.

Monday, the President will participate in a Human Rights Day event in Presidential Hall at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building, open press. The President will host a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in the Cabinet Room on Monday afternoon, that's closed. And later in the evening, the President will attend the Annual Congressional Ball here at the White House, which is also closed.

Tuesday, the President will meet with the new NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, at 9:30 a.m. Later in that evening, the President will attend a fundraising reception for Senator Tim Johnson at the Westin Fairfax Hotel, and later attend a Keep Hope Alive reception at the Hotel Washington, 8:30 p.m. Both of those are pool press coverage.

Wednesday, the President will meet with President Kuchma of Ukraine in the Oval Office. Later that evening, he will participate in the annual Pageant of Peace Tree-Lighting Ceremony on the Ellipse, 5:00 p.m., open press.

Thursday, the President will make remarks at the Digital Divide Conference at the Department of Commerce, about 10:00 a.m. Coverage is still being worked out. Later in the day, the President will address the Senior Regional Appointees meeting in Presidential Hall in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building, 11:45 a.m., open press.

Q Senior what, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: Senior Regional Appointees meeting. These are people from around the country from the agencies -- from the SBA regional people. They come in once a year; generally, the President speaks to them, as well as a bunch of other administration officials. Friday -- I'm sorry, I missed one -- later that evening, the President will attend a DNC Millennium Gala at The Washington Hilton Hotel, which is open press.

Friday, the President will travel to Little Rock and address the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce at the Statehouse Convention Center. Following that address, the President will travel to the Arkansas Delta Region, West Memphis and Earle, as part of his continuing commitment to revitalize the economic development in that region.

That evening, the President will travel to Orlando and overnight. Saturday, the President will broadcast his weekly radio address at 10:06 a.m. and will speak to the Florida State Democratic Convention in Orlando. In the evening, the President will travel to Fort Lauderdale to attend a fundraising reception for Congressman Hastings, and then to Miami to attend a fundraiser at the Biltmore Hotel, returning to Andrews late that evening.

Q What time do you return?

MR. TOIV: Late in the evening, Helen.

Q -- radio address?

MR. LOCKHART: This week I expect the President to talk about the remarkable move -- people from welfare to work, and some new initiatives to spur further movement.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 12:30 P.M. EST