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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 4, 2000
                          PRESS BRIEFING BY
                            JOE LOCKHART

                          The Briefing Room

10:11 A.M. EST

MR. LOCKHART: I'm about to do something very bold. I'm drinking from Secretary Summers' glass of water. (Laughter.)

Q Wait, stop! (Laughter.)

Q You can't say you don't have hospitality around here.

          MR. LOCKHART:  What have the markets done?  (Laughter.)
          Okay, let me just, in lieu of a gaggle and a briefing today,

just run through the President's schedule. He's up on the Hill now, speaking to the Senate Democratic Caucus Issue Conference. The capable Mr. Siewert will provide a readout of that to the pool afterwards.

He'll go to commemorate and participate in the memorial service for Bob Squier at 10:50 a.m. His remarks will be available to the pool. The rest of the remarks are not available to the pool, but my understanding is that it's open, and those of you who want to go in for the whole service --

Q Who's doing the readout on the Democrats?

MR. LOCKHART: Jake. He's up on the Hill with the President.

He'll do the radio address --

Q On what?

MR. LOCKHART: The subject of the radio address is the administration's efforts to fight breast cancer, and what we'll be doing in our budget this year on that front. And that's about it.

Q He hinted today that he's got an Irish thing in the works.

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think so. I think he was saying that, obviously, we're at an important point here and that he is going to remain involved. But there's nothing particular beyond, at a variety of levels in our government, trying to convince all the parties of the importance of fully implementing the Good Friday Accords as the way to move to a new period in Northern Ireland.

Q What about Austria? He says that Secretary Albright will mention something. Is the U.S. going to make an official change?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, obviously, we expressed our concern quite openly to the Austrian government about those who perpetrate the kind of beliefs that have been articulated, and our view of their inclusion in a government. The Austrian government has gone forward now, and I do expect that sometime within the next hour or two, Secretary Albright will make a statement that will outline our government's response to that. So I'm going to leave it to her to do the specifics.

Q Joe, on the tobacco assessment, how will the White House or the administration come up with the number of these 18-year-olds who are smoking -- I mean, an exact number -- and then assess this penalty?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we will look at an industry-wide number. We certainly have good numbers on teen smoking. And we've set the goal of reducing teen smoking by half. And the penalty will be put in place, based on the tobacco industry not meeting that goal and based on how badly they don't meet the goal. And I think the assessment is $3,000 per smoker.

Q Those numbers are derived from survey data?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, we have very good data out of HHS and CDC each year that quantifies the problem we have and enables us to structure this penalty program in a way that will either provide for penalties to the tobacco industry or meeting our goal, which is certainly much preferable, because this is health policy rather than tax policy, of decreasing teen smoking.

Q What is the figure supposed to be cut from? In half, but what's the actual number, and is it through 2004?

MR. LOCKHART: It is supposed to be cut in half and will remain in effect until 2004. I don't have the exact number here of where it is now, but the goal is to cut that number in half.

Q What's the mechanism for collecting this money?

MR. LOCKHART: The mechanism is putting a penalty on tobacco companies.

Q You mean a tax or an assessment?

MR. LOCKHART: It will be an assessment for each, $3,000 for each. And the $3,000 as an annual assessment represents twice the lifetime profits the industry is expected to make from each child, that is before they become adult, before they become or are hooked on cigarettes.

Q But this wouldn't be a civil or criminal fine, would it?

MR. LOCKHART: This would be an assessment that the government levels on an industry.

Q Would you take 3,000 times the number of underage smokers and then divide it by the number of tobacco companies and each one would pay that amount?

MR. LOCKHART: Obviously, there is more work to be done on the actual mechanism, but we are looking at the industry as a whole. We want to work individually with the tobacco companies, so there is obviously some flexibility in how we do it. But the bottom line is the tobacco companies have indicated that they want to cut teen smoking; we believe that there ought to be a penalty in place to make sure they do because we have found in the past the tobacco industry doesn't always follow through on their word. And if their commitment to cutting teen smoking is true, they should have nothing at all to fear from this proposal. If their commitment is not one that's real, then I think we will see opposition to the proposal.

Q How do you know the tobacco industry is capable of cutting smoking in half? Is there some study that indicates that just through non-advertising to teens or just through some programs --

MR. LOCKHART: We have a variety of studies that indicate that the marketing practices of the tobacco companies have a direct link to teens smoking early. We know that teens are sensitive to price, which is one of the reasons we've proposed the 25-cent tax increase. So this is a multipronged effort to fight a real and quite serious public health problem in this country.

Q But all that could be true and they still may not be able to reduce smoking in half. Isn't that -- how do you know that even by doing --

MR. LOCKHART: It is certainly our belief that the tobacco industry, through their marketing practices, could cut teen smoking. They have acknowledged that they have set a goal to not have teens smoke. We think that if they take the appropriate steps, teen smoking will reduce. And if they don't, we think they should be penalized for it.

Q Well, last year's proposed 55-cent tax increase went nowhere. What makes you think that things are going to be different this time around?

MR. LOCKHART: I think this is certainly -- we've come at this problem in a number of different ways. I think this is a balanced approach and it is certainly our hope that lawmakers on Capitol Hill will take this proposal and understand the public health implications of it and understand that the public is demanding some action on this.

Q What about store owners that continue to sell cigarettes to underage kids?

MR. LOCKHART: There is an aggressive effort by some of the people who were standing just here a moment ago to fight that problem and that continues.

Q Could the tobacco industry simply not advertise or target their advertising toward teens, or should they actually advertise against smoking, try to actively discourage them?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, certainly, as good public citizens, it would be a contribution to our society as a whole if they took steps towards discouraging teens from smoking. But what we can address are their practices that market to young children. And the evidence is overwhelming that they have done so. And I think it's important that as we move forward and deal with this as a public health issue, we take the steps that are appropriate to make sure that that practice ends.

Q Joe, if a separate cigarette company could show that it's making best efforts to reduce teen smoking, would it be, A, fair, and possibly couldn't it raise due process problems to assess a fine on someone that says they're doing their best --

MR. LOCKHART: Obviously, there are some issues we will have to work out with the tobacco industry and we look forward to working with them.

Q Going back to this weekend, any more on when the President and the First Lady will go up to Chappaqua?

MR. LOCKHART: I expect the President to go up tomorrow. Hopefully, before this briefing is over, I will have a week ahead. But, if not, we will put it out on paper shortly. I expect the President to come back Monday morning.

Q Will he introduce the First Lady? Will he speak at her announcement ceremony?

MR. LOCKHART: The only thing that I know about the event so far is the First Lady is intending to announce her candidacy. The details -- the rest of the details of that event, I will let you know once they inform me.

Q Joe, also, in light of what happened in Illinois and Governor Ryan's decision, the President is being urged to suspend any federal executions. Is that something that the White House is contemplating?

MR. LOCKHART: I am not sure there has been a federal execution since the President has been here. I think --

Q There are some in line, though.

MR. LOCKHART: Let me say this. I think the President was certainly concerned by the issues raised by the Governor of Illinois and commends him for taking a serious look and making sure the system works properly.

We did receive a letter from Senator Feingold yesterday that's being reviewed by Counsel's Office now. Again, I think this is an issue that primarily and overwhelmingly is dealt with on the state issue. But we will look at any concerns that are raised by interested parties. But, again, it is not an issue that we have faced at the federal level, at least in the last seven years.

Q Well, but there are prisoners, there are federal prisoners who are under death penalty. And there are some, I think there is at least one, that is supposed to come up in the next couple months.


Q Is the President going to follow this recommendation that they review -- make certain that innocents have not been condemned to death? Is there some kind of review that the President is going to make?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, the letter from Senator Feingold came in yesterday. It is being reviewed by the Counsel's Office. If there are legitimate concerns that are brought to us, we will look at the concerns. But I can't predict anything beyond that until we have had a chance to study the issue.

Q So it is up to whoever -- the accused or the convicted people to come forward with --

MR. LOCKHART: No. I said that I couldn't answer the question. So you can try to supply answers, but I'm still not going to give one.

Q No, I'm just trying to find out what your answer is.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, you can take some time after and reflect on it.

Q Thank you. So you're not going to do anything?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I didn't say that. And I think my answer is we --

Q -- the Counsel's going to look at it?

MR. LOCKHART: The Counsel got the letter yesterday. I think I've made very clear in my answer that this is something that is of concern to the President as raised by George Ryan. I said that before; I said that yesterday. I don't have anything more to add.

Q Let me draw you out on the logic of the cigarette initiative. If cigarette manufacturers are responsible for underage use, are car manufacturers responsible for kids stealing cars and going on joy rides, or any abuse of their products?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any evidence that car manufacturers did anything to market the theft of cars to youth in this country. I have some evidence that cigarette manufacturers did.

Q But, certainly, Joe, though, alcohol is marketed very widely in ways that are attractive to children. So should there be, or will the administration propose, an assessment on alcohol?

MR. LOCKHART: Mo. I think we have -- there have certainly been a lot of efforts with the alcohol and spirit distillers industry to work together on reducing youth drinking. There's been -- you've seen a sort of sea change in this country on things where -- on drunk driving, where community groups, interest groups, working together with government and industry. We think on tobacco, this is a particularly serious public health question and requires this kind of response.

Q Joe, in this briefing you said there were some due process issues that are unresolved in this method of assessing the fines, it's not exactly complete. Will all that be spelled out in the budget, or in a precise legislative language you'll send to the Hill?

MR. LOCKHART: I think that there are obviously some things that we will work on with the industry as we move forward, so I don't expect everything to be in place. But certainly, the budget items, as far as the tobacco tax, the assessment on a pack of cigarettes, is clear. And let me get back --

Q Is it fair to say this is an evolving --

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think it is. Let me get with Bruce on, if you have any specific questions on the mechanism.

Q Well, without the specific number, is there a budgetary assumption related to the -- provisions? In other words, do you assume in the ten-year forecast that you're going to get some money related to that?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, obviously, when you do a budget, you've got to have some assumptions. I don't have them available to me now, and those will be available on Monday.

Q What does Monday look like? Comes back Monday morning?


Q Then he does the budget?

MR. LOCKHART: Does the budget.

Q And then he immediately goes off, or -- I mean, is there --

MR. LOCKHART: No, he makes a budget statement, and then there are, as is the custom, a number of officials from the White House will brief you on the budget. And then a number of the agencies will have their briefing as we move forward.

Q Then he'll go off? Then he goes off in the afternoon? I mean, I'm trying to find out if there's a big time span between him leaving the White House.

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think he goes almost immediately down to the Democratic meeting, which is in -- is it Homestead? Hot Springs? Yes, I think that's Homestead.

Q Obviously, the tobacco tax proposal is a sign that the budget will be fully paid for, continuing on the path of fiscal responsibility.

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has indicated that this budget will certainly heed the evidence of the fact that fiscal discipline has a direct relationship to the unprecedented economic expansion we're now enjoying, and we will continue on that path.

Q Chairman Arafat said yesterday, or asked yesterday, the United States if it would get involved in what he described as serious difficulties with Israel over the land transfer. Does the President have any reaction, or can you give us any update on anything that's been happening on that front?

MR. LOCKHART: I can't give you an update, only to say as I said yesterday, these land transfers have historically been difficult working through, but we do expect both parties to adhere to the agreement they've made, and to continue working toward a framework for a final agreement.

Q Does the administration have any comment as to whether or not the lands offered up by Israel are consistent with what they've agreed to before, are going to get involved --

MR. LOCKHART: We're certainly not going to engage in a public debate on this subject. Obviously, these issues need to be worked through the parties. We stand ready to help. Ambassador Ross has been there, is there, to help through this process, but I'm not going to get into public map drawing here.

I've got the week ahead. Saturday, February 5th, the President will deliver his weekly radio address at 10:06 a.m. The President and the First Lady will depart the South Lawn for New York at about 2:50 p.m.

Q Joe, is Chelsea joining them, by the way, or is she --

MR. LOCKHART: I really have no idea. I'd check with the First Lady's Office.

They will arrive around 5:00 p.m. with no public schedule for the remainder of the day.

On Sunday, the President will attend the First Lady's announcement of her Senate candidacy, 3:00 p.m. SUNY Purchase campus. No public schedule following the announcement. On Monday, the President will depart Westchester at around 8:30 a.m., returning to Washington. He will arrive at the White House at 10:10 a.m. to release the FY 2001 budget in a ceremony in Presidential Hall, open press.

Following the ceremony, the White House budget team will brief the press on the FY 2001 budget in Presidential Hall. The President will depart at about 10:30 a.m. to Hot Springs, Virginia, to address the House Democratic Caucus, which is closed press. Return to the White House at about 4:00 p.m.

Q Is he going by helicopter?

MR. LOCKHART: I think so. I heard a discussion about this on both ways a couple of weeks ago and I don't remember how they resolved it, but I think it's helo.

Tuesday, the President will present a Medal of Honor recipient at 2:30 p.m. in the East Room, open press. There will be a DNC dinner Tuesday evening at a private residence -- private residences, so maybe there's two of them.

Wednesday --

Q Is the Medal of Honor -- have you disclosed who gets it?

MR. LOCKHART: We have not. And it's not written here, so --

Q Doesn't that require an act of Congress, the Medal of Honor?


Q Is Terry still in the running? (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I'll tell you, the last 10 minutes haven't helped, but you never know. (Laughter.) We're not until Tuesday yet.

Q Oooh!

MR. LOCKHART: Actually, I think Brad Buckles' glass of water might be a nice peace offering. (Laughter.)

Wednesday, the President will travel to Texas for fundraising events -- McCallum, Texas. Also to Dallas in the evening, returning late at night.

Thursday, the President will release the economic report to the President. That's done by CEA. That's just a pool release, a photo on it, of Mr. Baily presenting the report to the President.

Friday, no public schedule. Saturday, the President does his weekly radio address, 10:06 a.m. Do we have travel Friday afternoon? Let me check on Friday, because there's something here I'm not sure of. Okay, we'll get back to you on Friday afternoon.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 10:30 A.M. EST