THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
12:15 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon. Let's go right to the week ahead. I have no announcements. Questions? For anybody who missed this morning's gaggle, the President will be back at 2:20 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room. He will make an announcement on an advance in safety for America's air travelers, with an agreement between the airline industry, the unions that work in the airline industry, and the FAA, to more accurately report in a timely way safety concerns and safety violations to help build a better record, all of this in response to the Vice President's commission that looked at air safety and set goals for this country, going into this new century.
He will also, at the top of that announcement, remark on the news that was in this morning's paper that the pharmaceutical industry now would no longer spend enormous amounts of money in opposing the President's proposal on prescription drugs within the Medicare program, and would drop that opposition and, hopefully, work with us to enact a program that the public overwhelmingly believes is long overdue and is needed as a real and affordable benefit within the Medicare program.
Q Joe, on the FAA, would you describe that as a whistle-blower agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, obviously, it depends on how you define that. But I think there's an element of that in it. I think it will allow people who know of safety problems to come forward without risk to themselves if they do it in a timely way and within the system -- without risk to themselves. And I think obviously builds a much broader knowledge base as far as safety concerns.
I think there are some European airlines that have done this. I think American Airlines has done a pilot program here in the United States that's been very successful. And we think working together in this way will provide a much-needed and increased sense of a lot of safety issues. It's sort of -- in very short terms, you don't need to wait for a serious accident to understand safety concerns, you can do things in a preventative way.
Q Who would they report to?
MR. LOCKHART: The system will be within their own companies, working in conjunction with the unions and the FAA.
Q Joe, what is the political significance --
MR. LOCKHART: Who has a tape recorder on? It's slightly annoying to hear it back as I speak. I'm not that interesting to hear twice. Okay. Thank you.
Q What is the political significance of the drug companies change of heart? How will it affect the dynamic of the legislative process this year?
MR. LOCKHART: I think you all remember if you watched last year, there was a very aggressive and costly campaign run against the President's proposal that grossly distorted the facts and sought to generate opposition to the President's program, not on the facts, because the facts tell too good a story, but on playing on people's worst fears. I think with the change -- with where the country is, with the change of mind of the drug companies, with the President aggressively pushing this proposal, it raises the very real possibility that in this legislative session, we can provide a modern Medicare program with a real prescription drug benefit.
Q Joe, are you concerned that they're just trying to take the heat off as we head into the State of the Union here and might go back to their old ways after the 27th?
MR. LOCKHART: If that's their strategy, doing it in a way like this, in a very public way, I think that would go beyond cynicism, and I don't think any group that did that would be seen as a valid voice in any public policy debate. I think they've made clear what their intentions are. We want to see and talk to them and find out exactly what they can do to promote the President's proposal, but I think even in a town as cynical as this, it would be hard to imagine that an organization like this, that would be their motives.
Q Do you foresee the need for any sort of price controls as you implement a prescription drug benefit?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President's proposal that he put forward last year, and he'll talk about more this year, is the right way to go, and that's our proposal.
Q I'm sorry, I'm left in the dark with that answer. Was there a price control proposal last year?
MR. LOCKHART: No, there wasn't.
Q Okay, so there will be no price control proposal this year?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into the specifics of this year's proposal because there's a time and place for that. But the President put forward a plan last year, and I think you can look at that as some sort of guide of what we'll go for this year. There are a lot of people who called it things that it wasn't and put a lot of money behind it, but that doesn't mean you spent $10 million calling it something that it is that something. And I think he has a solid proposal that the public supports, and it now appears that the drug industry supports.
Q The representative of the drug industry -- I think the chairman -- are speaking for the drug industry. Have they have a meeting with White House officials in the last month or two getting ideas?
MR. LOCKHART: We have been exchanging ideas non-stop with the drug industry. We meet with them on a fairly regular basis. It is an important industry in this country; we want to know what they think and I think they have an interest in knowing what we think. And I think even in the time when they were running these ads, which we were very forceful in denouncing for the liberty they took with the facts and the truth, we kept the lines of communication open.
Q Is there a change of venue for the Mideast talks from Shepherdstown? There's some sort of doubt that they're going to be held there?
MR. LOCKHART: I know that they will start next Wednesday, and I expect by the end of the day the State Department to make an announcement on where.
Q Is there a problem?
Q Will the President be there at the beginning?
Q Is there a problem?
MR. LOCKHART: There is not a final decision on some of the logistics, and as soon as they're ready they'll put an announcement out.
Q Will the President be there on the first day? I know he's due to head to the West Coast.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I expect the President to attend these talks in a way that will probably approximate the last weeks. We'll go when we think it's useful, when we think we can help the parties work through issues, and that's a decision that will be made on a day-by-day basis.
Q If we can just come back to the prescription drugs, the drug companies have made it very clear that they would like to have this administered through a third party, which would compete for Medicare beneficiaries, not negotiate with the federal government. Does that jibe* with what you've been thinking about or is that somewhat at odds?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know enough about what their position is. I know that we have put forward a proposal on prescription drugs that is in conjunction with some reforms to make the Medicare system more competitive. So we'll be -- I'll be interested, and I think those who are working on the policy here will be interested in hearing their ideas, and certainly much more useful in an environment where we're having civil discussions rather than trading charges, to understand their viewpoint.
Q Is that something the President would support? It sounds very much like the current Medigap program, only an expanded version.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that that was in the President's proposal, so I don't know that it would be something we can support, but we're certainly willing to listen to the concerns and issues they want to bring to us.
Q Joe, why is it not payola when the government provides television networks millions in remuneration for reviewing the scripts of some of their programs for antidrug messages, and then it's not announced at any point during the program that the government is not identified as an advertiser which, in effect, it could be considered --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure I even know what the definition of payola is or how it applies here, but let me just tell you what I know about the program. First off, this program that General McCaffrey and the Office of National Drug Policy engaged in is something that's been public. He discussed this at a congressional hearing last year.
Secondly, you all know that there was legislation passed that provides for a government paid-for antidrug messages on the television networks, on radio networks, in newspapers, at a preferred rate. Thirdly, there was an arrangement reached between the people who do the drug policy ads on the networks to work through alternative ways to get the message out. This is something that we believe is worthwhile to try to find innovative ways to get the message particularly to young people about the dangers of drugs.
This is something, obviously -- the network people wanted to do it because they participated in this and it was done in a way that did nothing to impinge on the creative process that provides us with the primetime shows that I think have been mentioned in relation to this.
Q But, Joe, if I could follow that, there was no acknowledgement of the government's involvement, the government's review of scripts in any of the television show.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, Wendell, if this is a serious issue I'd say you put it to your bosses and everybody else's bosses here understand that.
Q You don't think it's deceptive?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't. I don't think -- I think there is a real benefit to getting the message out. There was no sense here of the government playing a role of what you can say and what you can't say. It was a sense of partnership between the government that wants to get an antidrug message out and I think some businesses that think it's in their interest to get an antidrug message out. And as far as sort of theological questions for the entertainment industry, I suggest you put the questions to the entertainment industry.
Q Joe, is the White House interested in a similar approach on other matters that the President has put before Hollywood executives, like gun violence or other inappropriate --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we're interested in working, and we have worked very closely with entertainment officials. This is a particular situation because we do have this pot of appropriated money that goes to antidrug advertisement that Congress and the President have decided is a worthwhile use of taxpayers money.
This particular program I think is the result of looking for other ways to get the message out that allows networks in a robust advertising environment to sell to other people where they can make more money.
Q Is there any studies that can be cited --
Q If I could follow, is that yes, is that no, or --
MR. LOCKHART: I think I said that we work with people on a wide variety of issues, but on this particular instance, I don't know of any other program where we're doing issues, but on this particular instance, I don't know of any other program where we're doing this kind of thing as far as buying advertisements with the networks and working closely with them on any other issue.
Q Is that --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm trying to be clear here. We work with industries on, whether it be teenage violence, we work -- we do things like PSAs. We work with them to encourage them to work with us in a partnership. There's no other issue that I know of where we have a relationship like we have when we're actually buying advertising time like we do on drug policy.
Q Would you want to do that in the future?
Q When you buy it, it's labeled.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I mean, I think we want to -- there are important ways and innovative ways to get messages out, but I don't know that that's even been considered.
Q Joe, even though you may be doing the Lord's work in this and everybody wants to reduce drug use by young people, can you see the precedent that's being set here whereby the government reviews scripts and there is --
MR. LOCKHART: John --
Q Let me finish -- and there is a financial incentive for the networks to come up with scripts that the government approves, even though it may be for a good cause, and therefore, should it, at the very least -- the church-state thing here, as you can see -- at the very least, should there be some kind of disclaimer at the end of these programs saying something like "this has been approved by the" --
MR. LOCKHART: Based on, what I think you're asking in the question, it would probably be just as wrong for us to dictate what kind of disclaimer is going to be on. These are all legitimate questions. I understand the basis of them, but I think you're asking in the wrong place. I think you should go to -- we believe that this is a proper arrangement; otherwise we wouldn't have gone forward with it. And I think the networks who are involved also believe that. But I don't think I can state my views more clearly here, and I think most of these questions should be asked someplace else.
Q Let me see if I can ask a question that you can answer here. From your side of the bargain, it's obvious what the networks get out of it, from your side of the bargain, are the messages contained within the programs as effective as they are in a PSA? Do you have anything that backs that up?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we've got teenage drug use down, I think 13 percent.
Q Do you have any studies that you can cite --
MR. LOCKHART: I think certainly the basics of understanding communications will tell you that the more ways you can get a message across, the more effective it's going to be. And we have overall information that is positive on teenage drug use. We've certainly got a lot more work to do, but I don't have a study here that tells me that this works any better than anything else.
Q Joe, Russia has issued a new nuclear doctrine on its first strike that would allow it to use a first strike against -- quote -- "an armed aggression that seems to threaten the very existence of the Russian Federation." This is a departure from their previous doctrine which only allowed a first strike in case of an attack by another nuclear power. Presumably, this is something that they could use against Chechnya. Do you have a reaction to this?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I understand from reports that there has been a new national security doctrine released or issued by the Acting President. It is something that we look forward to getting a chance to review, but have not fully reviewed yet, so I'm going to defer comment on it.
Q But if it were to --
MR. LOCKHART: That's an "if" question, and I'm not going to answer on something so important.
Q Are you aware that the U.S. congressional delegation led by Senator Daschle will visit India, Pakistan and Nepal? Now, if they are carrying any message from the President for any of the countries, or especially for the -- Pakistan?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't expect that they're carrying a specific message from the President. Our messages we deliver in a much more direct way.
Q Did the Russian government inform us of this change of policy on first strike?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the answer to that.
Q How are we getting the document? Did we ask for it, or did --
MR. LOCKHART: We get it through the appropriate diplomatic channels --
Q And did we ask for it?
MR. LOCKHART: We're getting the document. I think they probably have it, but they haven't had a chance to review it.
Q Joe, can I come back to legal drugs one more time here? Even very well-managed health maintenance organizations, private insurance -- experience prescription drug increases in double-digits every year. So are we getting into a potential situation here where the costs are going to start to run out of control, particularly now if the drug companies feel that they have more access to a market that can now afford their drugs and continuing developing drugs for that market, and some drugs that cost $10, $20, even $30 in administration -- the costs could easily start ratcheting up.
MR. LOCKHART: It could, but I think the overall approach that the President has laid out is one that introduces enough competition within the system that we'll be able to save money and guard against escalating prices.
Q Can you foresee a situation in which you may have to cap certain costs, not allow certain drugs, maybe have some sort of schedule or demand generics in certain cases?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, at this point, I am not going to speculate on what may happen in some hypothetical situation. The President has a solid proposal on the table. It is getting increasing support, which is why we're talking about it here today. And that's the approach the President thinks we should take.
Q Joe, on the aviation agreement, do you know what kind of previously unavailable information will now be accessible? New sources of data was one of the --
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's more the accumulation of information, sort of -- kind of what many in the industry might consider a minor safety violation that they don't necessarily want to report because a negative impact to themselves -- that if a lot of people are reporting it, it could provide trends and patterns of information that allow those who are charged with airline safety and maintenance and things like that to see a problem before it becomes a disaster.
Q Joe, can I try once more on this drug control policy program? Are you suggesting that, in effect, compensating the networks for drug messages contained in entertainment programming, not acknowledged at any point, whether proper or not, is a matter for the networks to defend and that the government has no responsibility in this matter?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think you've got to look at this, if you want to look at it fairly, in the overall context, rather than in a sentence of compensating for -- you know well what the system is, where there is a fixed amount of money that the government has appropriated for these advertisements and that are budgeted, and we go ahead and put these ads on, I think which have proved effective. But there are other ways in order to get that message out, and this is an innovative idea to reach the same message we're trying to get out, reach the same people in a slightly different way. And it is ultimately about the results that we achieve.
And, again, if there are those in the entertainment community or the network community that have qualms with this arrangement, then this is something that we're certainly open to discussing, but it's ultimately an arrangement that we're comfortable with, and that up until this morning's newspapers, the networks were comfortable with.
Q Would you be comfortable with the networks saying, this message was inspired by the Drug Office of the White House?
MR. LOCKHART: If the networks want to --
Q It should be labeled, really. Otherwise --
MR. LOCKHART: Let's try to keep this about questions and answers and not opinions. If that's an idea the networks want to bring to us, our door is open and we'll have a discussion about it.
Q Well, we wonder why. You know, this is real interference with scripts.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, no, I don't think it is. But I think if you want to satisfy the concerns, you should talk to the people who write the scripts, you should talk to the people who put the shows on the air who --
Q We're talking to the White House, which --
MR. LOCKHART: And I'm giving you the best answers I can here.
Q Joe, just to make sure I understood your previous answer about how this applies to other programs, so in terms of guns or youth violence or whatever, you don't have anything similar to this where you're reviewing scripts and then some kind of remuneration?
MR. LOCKHART: Take a step back here and try to -- I'll go through it again. We have a particular program out of the Drug Policy Office here which Congress appropriated money for, which provides for antidrug advertisements with the networks. Now, there is an arrangement there because it's done at a rate that is not at the rate that Pepsi Cola advertises at.
Within this arrangement, they have worked out a way where in some cases rather than going and doing the ads, they get credits for antidrug messages that get through in the programs. And again, I think this is an issue that we're comfortable with. It serves the purpose of getting the message out in a number of different ways the networks, as participants and as part of this program, are comfortable with and I assume the entertainment companies that they work with are comfortable with. But if there are those who are uncomfortable, they should talk about it. We can have a debate, and we'll see where it goes.
Q Why is it not propaganda, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: Pardon?
Q Why is it not propaganda?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not standing here saying that it's not. It's getting a message across that I think the public -- that the government, Congress, the President agrees is important to get out to the public about the dangers of drugs. Now, you've got to go and define your words when you say that, so define the word for me.
Q The word is, if not surreptitiously, at least pushing forward an idea without acknowledging that that is your goal, to set forth --
MR. LOCKHART: We have acknowledged our goal. We have acknowledged that our goal, as we've sat with industry executives on a number of subjects, and drugs is certainly one of them where we've said we want the industry to stop glamorizing drug use. We want the industry to send a positive message on the dangers --
Q Why not leave it up to the industry to decide how they're going to do it?
MR. LOCKHART: We do leave it up to industry, and this is one program here. Listen, let's go on to the next thing because we're not getting anywhere here.
Q How is it consistent with the White House message of discipline to be proposing breaching the spending caps?
MR. LOCKHART: First off, we haven't proposed anything on that. Our budget will come out in February and we'll have more to say about it then.
Q So the story is not true?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll have more to say about it then. I think if your specific question is to the spending caps, the spending caps were made a mockery by the Republican majority in 1999 as they blew through them with a combination of pork and emergencies that would have the American public believe that we didn't know that the Census that we've been doing since 1790 was coming up in the year 2000.
I can guarantee you that we will produce a budget for 2001 that's fiscally disciplined, that builds on the fiscal discipline of the last seven years, that's turned this country around from an economy mired in deficits to an economy that's prosperous in an era of surpluses.
Q Would any future caps have any meaning since these have been reached in fact and then will be probably abandoned?
MR. LOCKHART: The spending caps certainly have no meaning to the Republican majority, but we will stay with a philosophy that preaches fiscal discipline, and our budget will meet that test.
Q Just to follow up one more, didn't the President propose another $5 billion in spending at the very end of the budget talks last year that had to be offset? Wasn't there about $5 billion in spending --
MR. LOCKHART: There was additional spending that we proposed during the budget negotiations, and every dollar that we proposed spending for, we had an offset for.
Q Joe, two questions. According to an intelligence report, Chinese influence in the Panama Canal Treaty will be a danger to the U.S. national security, number one. Number two, Dr. Henry Kissinger is supposedly a friend to the President and advisor behind the curtains, but now he's saying that most of the President's policy has failed, the foreign policy.
MR. LOCKHART: Let me take the first one, which is I obviously can't get into a particular piece of intelligence, but I can tell you with no uncertainty and no doubt that the United States does not believe that a Hong Kong company controlling -- running the ports, loading and offloading ships at the Panama Canal poses any threat to the United States or to our national security, and that is an unequivocal statement.
On the second question, I didn't realize that Henry Kissinger was a behind-the-curtains supporter of the administration. He is a voice in foreign policy, one of many. And if he believes that the foreign policy has been a failure, I think we've achieved an awful lot in the Middle East, an awful lot in Northern Ireland, an awful lot in the Balkans as far as promoting peace. We have 5,000 less nuclear weapons than when this President took office, through our work with the Russians. That's a record that is certainly one to be envied, and perhaps that's what's at the root of the comments.
Q Without getting into any specific levels, does the President think that the concepts of caps, of statutorily imposed limits on spending is a good one?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President believes that fiscal discipline is important. I think the President believes in tough budget rules that Congress takes seriously is important. But I think if you look back on 1999, you'll find that the Republican majority shredded these caps, disregarded them, found every gimmick in the book to get around them. And we're not particularly interested in having a long debate about gimmicks, we're interested in having a real budget with real tough budget rules that produces the kind of fiscal discipline that's part of the foundation of the economic prosperity we enjoy.
Q Just to follow that up, what do you mean by tough budget rules?
MR. LOCKHART: I mean rules that don't make a joke out of the process, where people stand up and talk about the Census being something that we couldn't have foreseen, and that is an emergency. That's what I mean.
Q Back to the FAA for a second, and I know we'll learn more about this later. You earlier said there will be a system for reporting within the companies. How does that -- is there some sort of national clearinghouse as well? Is that envisioned in this agreement? Will the companies all pour the information into a common --
MR. LOCKHART: I think that will be the FAA component of this, where they are able to centralize the information so that if there is a trend or if there is some pattern of either violations or things that happen, that on a national level, not just within one airline, you can spot the problems. I'd go to FAA for the actual -- the mechanics of that, but that's at the root of the potential solution.
Q Joe, just because the Republicans shredded the budget cap last fall, why did that give you license to say, well, the bar is open, everyone is going to show up on the budget data this year. Why not just say this is an isolated incident, we're going to go back under the caps again.
MR. LOCKHART: What I'm telling you is, the budget is due in February, and we'll talk about where everything shakes out on the budget just before then as we always do. But I do need to make the point when you ask about it that they, with the Republican majority this year, they were not adhered to from day one and openly. I mean, the Senate Majority Leader said very clearly that they were going to bust through the caps because they were meaningless to them.
Q The reason we keep hammering at it is because we haven't heard a clear statement saying that we're going to abide by the caps in Fiscal Year 2000 --
MR. LOCKHART: And I'm telling you, it's Fiscal Year 2001 budget's due in February and we'll talk about it then.
Q Joe, how is the President doing with the new chief in Moscow on global issues of peace --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I mean, the Acting President Putin is someone who the President has met with on a number of occasions, and we obviously have areas where we work very well together, areas of partnership. We have some areas of disagreement, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue that's ongoing as we lead up to however the Russian people decide what their political future is going to be and who is going to be at the helm.
Q One more. Does the White House have any particular view on Michael Jordan coming back to Washington? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: If there was a tax break to propose to ensure that happened I'm sure we'd find it. No, obviously, that's an exciting prospect for the Capitol City to have the preeminent figure in basketball thinking about coming here and working.
I think it also says something, on a more serious note, about the kind of commitment the people like Abe Pollin have made to this city. I mean, I think it's no secret that -- and this is something the President believes very strongly and we've talked about -- there's no secret that he could have taken this team out of downtown and had it been an immediately much more profitable enterprise. But people like Abe Pollin, people like Lew Katz in New Jersey, who have committed to cities and helping to revitalize cities should be applauded for their work. And the prospect of someone of his stature becoming part of that effort I think is exciting for Washington.
Q One more on the drug issue. The President has been pretty tough on the pharmaceutical companies for the last number of months, if not year. What kind of tone will he adopt now in public statements about this, now that they seem to --
MR. LOCKHART: I think, obviously, you'll see it today. This is an encouraging move, but we'll want to see how strongly they will get behind this. But, obviously, we're in a much better environment when the drug companies recognize where the American public is and are out of the mode of spending a lot of money to try to distort a proposal because they don't think it's in their interest.
Q Week ahead.
MR. LOCKHART: Week ahead. Saturday, January 15, the President's weekly radio address will be broadcast live at 10:06 a.m. The President's subject will be civil rights, and some of the things we'll be doing on enforcement as we move into the budget season.
As a special note, the President has a special guest, Ms. Charlotte Filmore will be attending the radio address. Charlotte is 100 years old, and made two wishes at the end of last year. One was to meet President Clinton in person to thank him for all the good work he's done, and to make it to the year 2000 so she could say she lived in three centuries. Tomorrow her two wishes will fulfilled.
That's it for Saturday. There's nothing on Sunday. Monday we will continue our tradition of Martin Luther King holiday as a day on, not a day off -- a day the President will participate in the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday of volunteering community service event at the Boys and Girls Club of Washington. That will be at 10:30 a.m. He'll do some service work and then make some remarks, which will be open.
Q Painting, whatever?
MR. LOCKHART: Something like that.
On Tuesday, January 18th, the President will travel midday to Boston, Massachusetts, and address a local community group about his anticrime agenda. That's 1:40 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. Later that evening, the President will attend a fundraising dinner for the DNC at a private residence, print reporter coverage; will return that evening.
Wednesday, as I think I mentioned earlier, we anticipate the Middle East talks, Israel and Syria will resume. We'll let you know closer to the date the President's participation in that. He will also that evening have a meeting with the Crown Prince of Bahrain and will attend a fundraising dinner at the Corcoran Gallery of Art for the DNC.
Q What's the location of the talks?
MR. LOCKHART: Trick question. It's not written down here, I don't know.
Thursday, no public schedule. Friday afternoon the President will travel to Los Angeles, California, to attend a DNC dinner; will overnight in Los Angeles and return to Washington on Saturday afternoon, following a brunch Saturday morning.
Saturday, the President will again do his radio address live at 10:06 a.m. And that's it.
Q No Chappaqua next week?
MR. LOCKHART: No, not now.
Q One last question. There was a news story that came up that Holbrooke has warned the Indonesian generals against staging a coup. Why is he doing that?
MR. LOCKHART: Because we believe in democracy and not coups.
END 12:53 P.M. EST #154-01/14