THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:12 A.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Let me start today with a correction of a mistake I made on Friday. Yes, as hard as it is to believe. I talked about a meeting on Thursday on Africa and our Africa agenda. I was actually confusing two events we're doing within a couple of days of each other. Thursday we'll actually have some leaders from the region, particularly finance ministers and some experts in the field here in Washington that the President will meet with, continuing our ongoing dialogue and engagement with Africa.
The following Tuesday we do the event that I described, the teleconference to the conference that is going on in Tanzania. So Thursday is an event here; the following Tuesday is the event that I thought was on Thursday.
Q You mean a week from --
MR. LOCKHART: This Thursday we do an event here at the White House -- no, it's at the Convention Center. And then the following Tuesday we do an event where we will -- the President's image will be beamed into Tanzania where a meeting on the Burundi peace process is ongoing.
Q The event on Thursday, is the President involved?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Okay, the President's schedule today. The President, at 11:25 a.m., will speak at the Hispanic American Achievement ceremony. At that event, in addition to being honored with the LULAC Lifetime Achievement Award, the first time that award has been given, the President will take the opportunity to talk about how Hispanic Americans have fared positively during the Clinton-Gore administration; will also talk about efforts we're going to take this year to reach out to make sure this year's census is as accurate as possible.
There are a number of statistics from the last census that indicate that about 8.5 million Americans were not counted, another 4 million Americans were double-counted. So we're going to -- the President will talk about some efforts that we're taking, particularly in schools because children are disproportionately not counted, to make sure that people fully participate in this year's census.
Q So they're going to have children in the schools counted or --
MR. LOCKHART: No, they're not going to count in the school, because, obviously, the count is done at home, but they will go into schools -- there is something like a million -- actually I'll get the number, but there is an extensive effort to go in and make this as part of the curriculum to make sure kids know and can talk with their parents about participating fully in the census. And also we'll have a number of people going out, Cabinet secretaries and others, to schools to beat the drum on this.
For the rest of the day -- at 1:30 p.m. today the President will do an on-line interview with CNN.com. I believe it's the first of a kind for a President with an on-line service. And later in the day, at 5:30 p.m., the President will have an important meeting with about 20 members of Congress who are coming down to talk about WTO and China.
You all remember that the President talked with the congressional leadership about this when they came in several weeks ago. This is the first of four meetings we'll hold this month with members to discuss how we move forward, how we get a positive vote on WTO and China, how we begin to build a positive working relationship with members on both sides of the aisle on this issue.
So that is the President's schedule today.
Q This is bipartisan?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. There's about 10, about 20 members coming in. I think about 10 and 10, as far as the breakdown.
Q What time is that again?
MR. LOCKHART: At 5:30 p.m.
Q On the on-line interview, is that actually the President doing this? Is he sitting somewhere doing this live?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. The President will sit with an old colleague of yours, Mr. Wolf Blitzer, who will ask him a couple questions and then take some questions from the on-line participants in the CNN.com web page.
Q Will it be put out to us?
MR. LOCKHART: You'll probably see in on CNN. But we'll certainly have a transcript.
Q How long will that be?
MR. LOCKHART: Twenty, 30 minutes.
Q I'm sorry, is it live, Joe? Or is it for Wolf's show later?
MR. LOCKHART: No, it's live, certainly, on CNN.com. You'll have to talk to CNN about what other services they'll be putting that out on.
Q The meeting today, is this an effort by the President to convince undecideds, or who exactly is coming? Or is it sort of a rally of the troops type of thing?
MR. LOCKHART: Probably more the latter. I think it's back -- Congressman Dreier, Congressman Matsui, who have generally been taking the lead on this, will be in this meeting. It will be primarily people who have supported free trade efforts and I think they'll spend a good part of this meeting discussing how to move forward and what steps to take to build support for this.
I think by the end of the month, as we have four of these scheduled, we'll certainly be talking to those who are on the fence and making the case to those who in the past have opposed some free trade efforts.
Q What's the President doing on Northern Ireland and the Middle East?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, the President remains engaged on this. On Northern Ireland, he made a series of calls last week. There obviously was some progress made, particularly with the new Chastelain report. But a lot of hard work remains. And on the Middle East, clearly, we know today that on the Palestinian track, that deadline won't be met. But I think we've seen a commitment from leaders on all sides to continue this process to get to a comprehensive peace. And that's the most important thing.
Q Any more details on the Internet summit tomorrow? How many executives are coming, what companies are represented and how long the meeting will be?
MR. LOCKHART: I expect the meeting to start a little bit after 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, probably go an hour and a half or so. The President will be joined by Secretary Daley, Chief of Staff John Podesta. I think there will be some officials from the NSC also there.
I don't have a list -- I know there will probably be about 20 executives, both CEOs and chief technology officers from a number of companies and from the academic community. I think this is an attempt to both review everything that has been done -- as you know, there's a little more than $2 billion in the budget, about $1.7 billion -- sorry, for next year -- about $1.7 billion in FY 2000 to look at protecting our computer assets. But I think they will also spend some time talking about the current situation and seeing if there is more we can do, if we've shared all the information that needs to be shared, and how we go forward in light of a number of events over the last few weeks.
Q About the census and Hispanics, the Hispanics and the ethnic community has been heavily under-counted in the '90s. Would you know, and if you don't, would you get us the figures, how much of the U.S. census budget has gone to outreach those communities, the Hispanic communities throughout the country to really get the message that they need to be counted -- we find that there is very little, if anything, that is being done --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, actually, I think that's part of the reason that we're having this event today and part of what the President will talk about, because I think we are doing quite a lot. There are more than 1 million of the Census 2000 teaching kits that have already gone out to schools. And we know where the under-counting happens -- it's primarily in lower income, Hispanic, African American and Native American. So we're doing quite a lot to go out and make sure that the message gets out that the census is important and there are real consequences for communities that are under-counted.
I think you'll find that we will also make use, with the exception of congressional reapportioning of statistical sampling that allowed us to know how we under-counted in 1990. We had an energetic debate last year on this subject. We know how to count properly. There are members of Congress who, for whatever reason -- and they can articulate them, themselves -- argued against a proper count. So now we have to work within the system, where we spend quite a lot of money to make sure that we reach out to communities that have been traditionally under-counted.
Q Joe, about this Hispanic event today, you say you're going to outline the accomplishments of the administration for Hispanics. Why do you think that's necessary now?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has reached out to a number of communities. This has been an excellent time, as far as looking at various groups in society, as far as reducing income inequalities and increasing educational and other economic opportunities. And I think this is a good time, with the LULAC group here and others, to highlight what's gone well over the last seven years and what challenges remain.
Q Are you concerned at all about losing significant Hispanic vote to George W. Bush in the November election?
MR. LOCKHART: I think George W. Bush has got his own problems to contend with, and we will continue to make the case on what this administration has done.
Q Is the President traveling this week at all?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q -- the weekend?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no travel plans for this week.
Q On the issue of Vieques, the President reached an agreement with the government of Puerto Rico that was announced on the 31st of January, and one of the main elements of the agreements was that the Navy was going to resume some limited operations in Vieques. Now, over the weekend the Navy apparently has decided to suspend at least plans for some maneuvers that were scheduled for next month. Is the White House or the administration undertaking any measures to clean up the range so that the maneuvers could resume?
MR. LOCKHART: I hadn't seen the report about any delay or repositioning. I would suggest that you ask over at the Pentagon on that.
Q Have you seen the report that a Mexican drug cartel is offering $200,000 for any people who kill border patrol agents of the United States?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't seen that report, no.
Q Joe, some of the groups invited to this Internet security meeting tomorrow are concerned about the prospect of more government intervention into these kinds of matters. Is this on the table, as far as the President is concerned?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we have worked very well with the industry on a wide range of issues, as far as the Internet -- both e-commerce and e-commerce security and security overall among computers. So I would say that if this was the first time this group ever sat around the table with the President, there might be some -- that would be something that would concern people. But these people, by and large, either themselves or their companies have sat and talked to the President, with Secretary Daley, with the Vice President. The dialogue has been open and vigorous over the last seven years and we've done quite a lot.
So I think that in any ongoing dialogue, concerns get raised from time to time, but I wouldn't expect that to dominate the discussion because we have worked very closely with them to, how do you wrestle with the question of providing security without providing too much government intervention.
Q Well, is that among the options that the President will discuss or that Mr. Berger or anyone else at the table will discuss for the administration's side?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think the ideas that we've already put forward, the ideas we'll put tomorrow will be seen as how the government can serve as an ally both in protecting the federal resources that we have and in trying to help in the private sector. I haven't heard any serious concern expressed here that there's any real concern about regulation within the industry.
There's different approaches that have been put forward within the industry that are not always the same, but I haven't heard any of that real concern.
Q Senator Leahy introduced his death penalty legislation on Friday. Among the things he calls for is DNA testing of all federal inmates on death row and more money for better defense of future death row inmates. And he said, you can be for the death penalty and still be for this legislation simultaneously. Any comment from the administration on --
MR. LOCKHART: I think he makes a good point, which is you can be for the death penalty, but you can also take great steps to make sure that it is implemented properly. I think on first blush the ideas put forward by Senator Leahy make a lot of sense. We are going to be reviewing that. We will take some formal position sometime in the future, but he makes -- very good point that these things aren't usually exclusive. In fact, those who advocate capital punishment and the death penalty I think have a higher responsibility to make sure that it's done properly.
Q There's a new poll out today that shows that for Americans, sprawl now ranks equally with crime as one of their concerns, and among some groups it's even a greater concern than crime. Is that something the administration has been looking at and trying to address, and how do you see that issue playing out for the rest of the year?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not familiar with the poll, but if you look at the proposals the President has put out over the last year or two, with the Vice President, as far as managing growth and providing communities, local communities, with the tools they need to manage their own growth, you'll see that that's been a priority for this administration for several years.
Q Joe, this group of Internet CEOs, people who are coming, was this previously scheduled before the events last week with the cyber hackers, or was this as a result of that?
MR. LOCKHART: No. We have a process whereby we have been engaged in a dialogue with high-tech companies, with Internet companies, going over the last couple of years, and we meet with them periodically. It is sometimes the President, sometimes the Vice President, sometimes just Secretary Daley and some of the staff here.
I think given what's gone on over the last few weeks, it made sense to the President to bring this group in, to not only take the opportunity to look at the long-term plans that we have put forward, including the budget that he just sent to Congress, but also to see if there's anything we can do in the short-term as far as what the government is doing, as far as what the industry is doing, particularly in the area of sharing information, to make sure that we're doing everything we can to protect both the federal assets, but also private assets.
Q There was some report saying that this was one of a series of meetings, but they just decided to devote this to the cyber hacker issue.
MR. LOCKHART: If you looked at the schedule before the middle of last week, this meeting was not on it yet, but it made sense given the events of last week to get the meeting on, to get the group together.
Q Joe, the violence in Kosovska Mitrovica, does it suggest that NATO may have to consider partitioning certain regions of that province?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so. I think it suggests that the problems that exist in Kosovo and in the region are serious and real. It suggests the important work that KFOR does, and I think it argues for continuing the commitment we've made. And I think they're looking at how the KFOR troops are deployed there and making some changes there. And the political directors will meet this week to address that issue. Jim Dobbins, from our side, will participate in that meeting in Kosovo. But I don't think that it suggests that there needs to be a partition. In fact, I think those who argue that are wrong and have a particular point of view on this subject.
Q But doesn't it also suggest that the best that KFOR can hope to do is to keep these people apart from each other? Doesn't it suggest that they'll never be able to work together and live together? And if they can't, how do you ever build a stable --
MR. LOCKHART: I think it suggests -- I would caution anyone from trying to find deeper meaning other than there are real problems that have to be worked through. And that's what this process is about. And we reject the idea that over time you can't have a Kosovo the way the people of Kosovo would like it to be, and that somehow you have to buy into the idea that some Serbs have put forward, that the only way to move forward is partitioning. We reject that idea.
Q What about the idea that the KLA, despite the agreement, seems to still exist as some sort of fighting force?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't seen that specifically mentioned, but I think we have to work hard on both side of this issue and that's what K-4 is trying to do.
Q Joe, on an infinitely lighter note, today is Valentine's Day. Are there any special plans by the Clintons to mark the occasion?
MR. LOCKHART: If they have special plans they have not shared them with me. I think the First Lady will be returning today. She will certainly be here this evening, and they have the evening off.
Q If I could just come back to that for a second, will the President send any kind of message to the Kosovo -- to the Albanian leadership, to the former KLA fighters to say that you better live up to the terms of the agreement that you signed?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President and his representatives have sent a clear message throughout the process that all sides need to live up to the agreements they've made.
Q But it's a message that doesn't seem to be getting through or being adhered to.
MR. LOCKHART: I think certainly you can look at a particular isolated incident and draw conclusions; I'd caution you against drawing broad conclusions from this particular town. But there is no doubt that we have sent the message and will continue to that all sides need to live up to agreements made.
Q Is there any evidence that Milosevic is trying to stir up, or keep the pot boiling?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that -- I can't point to any particular incident. There are certainly those who oppose the efforts to have an autonomous Kosovo. But we'll continue to work to make sure that that can happen.
Q On China, many of the members of Congress who are concerned about the permanent NTR have expressed concerns about losing the leverage from the annual vote. Is the President willing to consider anything that would allow members to vote every year on certain aspects of China's conduct?
MR. LOCKHART: To get into the WTO I think the rules are quite clear, that we need to move forward on permanent normal trade relations. We think that the benefits of getting the sort of concessions that the Chinese have provided in order to get in are quite real. This is a market that's essentially closed to U.S. business and U.S. products, that will be opened by going forward. That's why we support China's ascension into the WTO; that's why we will argue over the coming months that it is overwhelmingly a positive development that that market gets opened. I mean, this is a one-way street right now and we're proposing to make it a two-way street.
Q Joe, on the MD-80 situation, is the President getting updates on that? And, specifically, there was some reporting over the weekend that these jack screws that are so much under scrutiny right now were manufactured in China and the FAA doesn't have the authority to inspect these parts manufacturing plants. Anything being done on that?
MR. LOCKHART: I had not seen that specific report. The President has been getting updated regularly on what's going on with the NTSB. I know the NTSB put out a statement over the weekend about the status of their investigation, but I'm not aware of any problem as far as China is concerned on this.
Q On the Colombia issue, the financial aid, is there any -- what is the status and the possibility of really getting Congress to act?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there's a lot of support in Congress for the program that the President has put forward with the help of General McCaffrey. We'll continue to make the case for why that is in our national security interest to fight the narcotics trafficking in Colombia and beyond. And we're quite hopeful we'll get that through this year early in Congress.
Q After the certification process, you mean?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into a schedule. Obviously, Congress will have to decide where they are. But this is an issue that the President has spoken with the Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House on.
Q Joe, does the administration have an alternative plan now to convert those plants that Moscow has decided not to convert to civilian use? There was a story in the paper yesterday --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I saw something over the weekend. We obviously embrace the objectives of the core conversion plan, which would end the production of plutonium from three nuclear reactors. There is some discussion now on how you do that and on the cost. I think we're somewhat skeptical of some of the cost estimates that we've seen -- that we saw over the weekend, but overall, we're going to continue to work with the Russians on this program because we think the overall policy goal is something that is in our national security interests.
I'm sorry, I've got an announcement here that I was supposed to read. The President, as we said, will be holding a press conference on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m.
MR. LOCKHART: East Room. If you would like a seat you need to call Jenni by 3:00 p.m. tomorrow. Thank you. I will check on the time.
END 11:36 A.M. EST