THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JAKE SIEWERT AND P.J. CROWLEY
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
10:45 A.M. EDT
MR. SIEWERT: I'll stick around if you all have any questions. There's no week ahead, obviously, and the President will probably spend the weekend in Camp David, and then participate in the usual events on Memorial Day, along with the national moment of remembrance. And then he's off to Europe on Monday evening. But if there's anything else outstanding -- I think P.J.'s coming in, too.
Q This will probably be a P.J. question, so --
MR. SIEWERT: Well, let's go find him.
Q Mr. Crowley?
Q I have a question. Is there any reaction to the situation in Peru, after the election board made its decision?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we deeply regret the decision by the Peruvian electoral authorities not to accommodate the well-documented concerns of the OAS observer mission. We think even a brief delay would have been helpful. Obviously, we're going to continue to consult with our OAS partners. It's clear to us that free, fair and open elections are a foundation of a democratic society, and without those, it's obvious that our relationship with Peru would be affected if the government proceeds in this fashion.
Q So you're -- are you telling the government to postpone, also?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we have supported the OAS efforts that a brief delay in order -- that the OAS can effectively monitor this round of elections. Without this monitoring effort by the OAS and others, we're not in a position to judge these elections to be free, fair and open, and as such, we would not be in a position to in any way legitimize them. And we believe in free, fair, open elections and democratically elected governments and, without that, obviously we'd have to evaluate with our OAS partners what the appropriate consequences would be.
Q Speaking of free and fair elections, what's the outlook for Zimbabwe's elections? And also, what's the outlook for the fact that they've legalized the land seizures this week?
MR. CROWLEY: No one wants to ask about the very excellent parliamentary elections in Suriname that went forward.
Q It's news that they have a parliament. (Laughter.)
MR. SIEWERT: You're right.
Q That's the kind of wisdom that years at the White House --
MR. CROWLEY: The parliament of Zimbabwe passed a constitutional amendment in April that suspended certain property rights, et cetera. Bottom line, we're still looking for the Mugabe government to respect the rule of law. We had an effective conversation this week with President Mbeki on the situation in Zimbabwe, and we clearly hope that arrangements can be made for free and fair elections there. The National Democratic Institute released a report on May 22nd that current conditions do not allow credible democratic elections to go forward in Zimbabwe. So we remain concerned about it and remain engaged.
Q Can I go back to Peru? One more. Not to belabor the point, but does this mean that if they do have the elections on Sunday, the U.S. will not recognize them? Or will the U.S. take any actions --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we continue -- there are still, even though the OAS has given a very firm statement that under current circumstances and with the current decision of the electoral authorities in Peru, that it cannot effectively monitor these elections, we continue to support the OAS in its effort. It's still not too late for the government of Peru to reverse course.
Obviously, we continue to believe that even a brief delay will allow the OAS to be able to put a credible process in place to evaluate these elections, and without that we have the same kind of concerns that the OAS have, that this can in any way, shape or form be judged as free and fair. So, we continue to support the OAS efforts, and we continue to call upon the government of Peru to reevaluate the electoral authority decision.
Q Jake, what are the usual activities that the President's going to take part in on Monday?
MR. SIEWERT: The ceremony at Arlington. We'll have a full schedule out later today.
Q Do you expect a departure statement, or any kind of statement on Monday about the trip?
MR. SIEWERT: I am not necessarily expecting a departure statement on the way to Europe. But we'll let you know if that changes.
MR. CROWLEY: I have no information on that. If he did, it probably would not be related to our stuff.
MR. CROWLEY: It would probably not be related to our stuff. I think he's leaving at eight o'clock at night, I don't know what --
Q Well, he might have an occasion earlier in the day --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, you obviously have Memorial Day --
Q Bill signings -- what bill signings --
MR. SIEWERT: We are signing -- I think it is nine bills today, and we'll have a list of those for you. Some are just pretty pro forma. There's a couple that are mildly interesting, and we'll provide some information. I'm not expecting signing statements on any of them.
Q No signing statements? Is there any coverage of any of the bill signings?
MR. SIEWERT: I don't believe so, no. Although, we'll probably make some White House photos available.
Q Is he not signing any bills today? But before he goes on the trip?
Q Can you define -- is he --
MR. SIEWERT: Not that I'm aware of --
Q Is he returning without signature?
MR. SIEWERT: No, not that I'm aware of.
Q Jake, does the President think adequate sanctions were taken by the Defense Secretary against Ken Bacon?
MR. SIEWERT: Sounds like a Pentagon question.
Q Oh, I see.
MR. CROWLEY: Question again? (Laughter.)
Q Does the President think that adequate sanctions were taken by the Defense Secretary against Ken Bacon, sending him a letter of -- expressing disappointment?
MR. CROWLEY: I'm not aware that the President was briefed on the action taken by the Secretary of Defense. I think the President has full confidence in the Secretary of Defense's management of his staff and the Pentagon, and supports the judgment of the Secretary of Defense to take the action that's appropriate. But I don't know that President's been briefed.
Q Have you heard about the management technique involving the letter of disappointment in the past?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, from some experience at the Pentagon, letters of admonition are a well-used -- pretty routine and well-used method of communicating to an employee about his or her performance. So it is, within military circles, done on a regular basis.
Q Do you have any in your file?
MR. CROWLEY: Pardon? (Laughter.)
Q On another subject, do you expect a bilateral with Mr. Barak when the President is in Berlin?
MR. CROWLEY: It is my understanding that Prime Minister Barak will be a participant in the Third Way meeting. Obviously, they will have a chance to talk. And I'm sure that, as they would normally do, they will use the opportunity to remain up to date on circumstances in the Middle East. By the same token, I think the Secretary of State has been in communication with the Prime Minister virtually every day, so I think we have a pretty good sense of what's going on on the ground.
Q Any communication with the President and Barak in the last few days?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
Q But are there any formal pull-aside -- I mean, if you can have a formal pull-aside -- but formal bilaterals at this --
MR. CROWLEY: I'm not aware of any formal, but obviously the President, as they move through the Third Way meetings, will have a chance during breaks to have brief conversations. But I don't think it would be formal in nature.
Q Do you know who's sponsoring it, in terms of financially? Last time, I think NYU sponsored the one in Italy. Do you have any idea --
MR. CROWLEY: I don't, no.
Q For Jake, on the patients' bill of rights, conferees emerged from the meeting with Democrats saying it's stalled? Any comment on that? Progress -- patients' bill of rights?
MR. SIEWERT: Yes. I mean, the President obviously thinks it's wrong that they can't resolve their differences. We had a very strong bipartisan majority in the House. There's no reason why we can't come to some accommodation on getting meaningful managed care reform this year, and he urges the conferees get back to work. I think he spoke quite extensively about this yesterday. There's no reason why there can't be some compromise here that helps move the cause of the patients' bill of rights forward.
Q Thank you. (Laughter.)
Q I'm sorry, Jake.
MR. CROWLEY: I kind of like this. This is very orderly, we alternate questions.
Q When Thabo Mbeki was here earlier this week, the President -- it was said that the President made comments that he really wants to go to Africa before the end of his term. What is the feasibility of that in these last few remaining --
MR. CROWLEY: The President has stated publicly that he wishes to go to Africa. That is under active consideration, but there are no specific plans at this point.
Q Is it true that he really wants to go to Nigeria? He wants to go to Nigeria and South Africa?
MR. CROWLEY: Those are two fine destinations that I'm sure when we find room on the schedule, would be under active consideration.
Q Any active concerns or active involvement of the United States in Sri Lanka? Obviously there's some very shaky stuff going on there.
MR. CROWLEY: You'll have to help me out. Secretary Pickering is in the region now, and I believe plans a stop in Sri Lanka, but I just don't know if he's there yet.
Q Why don't you discuss Suriname? (Laughter.)
Q Because nobody asked. What about those --
MR. CROWLEY: There were excellent parliamentary elections in Suriname and we congratulate the people of Suriname for their free, fair and open elections.
MR. SIEWERT: One last announcement for the record here, which is, today is Mark Bernstein's last day, and I think you've all --
Q Oh --
Q Aww --
MR. SIEWERT: -- benefited enormously from his good judgment and cooperative manner, and we're going to miss him a lot around here. And as you know, Christine Anderson, who has done an outstanding job running the Lower Press Office -- there he is -- (applause) -- so Mark is off to an urban jungle and greener pastures, and we look forward to having Christine take his place. (Applause.)
Any remarks? He's celebrating his last day by going to the beach --
MR. BERNSTEIN: I'm going to the beach. (Laughter.)
Q You look ready.
MR. SIEWERT: -- so we'll see you in Assateague. That's it. Thanks.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 10:53 A.M. EDT