THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Camp David, Maryland) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release July 14, 2000
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART Thurmont Elementary School Thurmont, Maryland
5:20 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Okay. Let me bring you up to date since we last spoke, just a few hours ago. This won't take long.
Since I was here last, the President has had two bilateral meetings; first with Prime Minister Barak, at the President's cabin, on the back patio. When that was complete, the President took a short walk over to the cabin where Chairman Arafat has been staying for a bilateral meeting there.
The President then met with his team briefly. He's now currently preparing to record his radio address, which is on a domestic subject. Then he'll, no doubt, have more activity tonight, but I don't have any of that confirmed yet.
Q -- bilaterals, anyone else sitting there?
MR. LOCKHART: Translator with -- interpreter with Arafat. I think the Barak meeting today was one-on-one.
Q How long?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll double-check. I don't have the times on it. Some of the Barak meetings have had note-takers. But this one, we can double-check.
Q -- the expert group, if I can call it that, groups -- did they keep meeting? Do you know how long they went?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know if each and every one is still meeting now, but I understand that they were all meeting today. I expect that sometime in the next hour or two they will all break, report back to their own delegations, report to us on any progress they may have made today.
Q Joe, what's the reaction to the report that the Palestinian officials or sources are saying that Dennis presented a proposal last night that they believe was too much -- too similar to what the Israelis were proposing, and they didn't like it, threatened to walk out and then the President then -- -- proposal had been given to them by --
MR. LOCKHART: I think commenting on that would break the basic tenets of the news blackout. Those of you who have to report, even in a news blackout, will just have to take your chances.
Q Joe, wait a minute -- say anything you don't want to confirm or deny --
MR. LOCKHART: I think that's what I said.
Q -- Arafat has not met again --
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Joe, can you provide a little more information about this meeting with the Palestinian leaders and Secretary Albright? I mean, this -- or did they provide specific information that the Secretary wants to take --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the information, in their point of view, they've made quite clear, because I think they've been available to the media this afternoon. But I think the Secretary wanted a chance to go and talk to them. She had a good meeting, she listened carefully to their point of view. I think Chairman Arafat thought it was important, thought that this was a good idea for her to take this time to listen to their point of view.
I think they laid out their concerns at how -- on why it was necessary to bring about a genuine peace. Again, I think they are quite able to articulate their own point of view. I think Secretary Albright spent some time explaining why we have the arrangements we do here at Camp David, talked a little bit about the task at hand in terms that I think you've probably heard from her before the negotiations started -- talking about neither side getting 100 percent; how these are the most difficult issues that the parties face, which makes this very difficult, very hard.
And as they work through these issues, this process is bound to get harder as they move along. I think she also made the point that this is a very important process for all parties involved, and we believe it's important that people do what they can to support the process. Yes.
Q To divert for one second. Is the administration pleased with the tobacco verdict in Florida, $145 --
MR. LOCKHART: The administration doesn't take a view on private lawsuits, but our view about the tobacco industry and their behavior is quite clear, based on the actions the Justice Department is preparing to recoup money based on our cooperation with states, as far as trying to change their marketing practices and their targeting of children. So without commenting specifically on this particular case, we have always believed that the tobacco industry is responsible for the way they have marketed and produced their products.
Q -- the verdict, such a substantial sum, gives you a little bit more of a moral boost or a little bit of a --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know this is about how we feel or a boost in spirits, it's about a very serious, probably the most serious public health issue we have in this country, with more than 3,000 kids starting to smoke every day; a third of them will die early from it. And we think we need to continue to address this issue. In many ways, we're doing it on a number of fronts, as are some people who are private litigants.
Q Joe, on that subject -- talk that if this type of punitive damage goes through, that it will cost the industry jobs and families could lose primary sources of income. What do you say about the concerns of working families who may have their livelihoods just taken?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we worked in good faith with the tobacco industry to try to reach a settlement and they walked away.
Q Do you still believe that the news blackout is expected by both parties in the negotiations?
MR. LOCKHART: I think -- there are certainly some people who are writing things that may or may not be sourced from people who know what they're talking about. But I think, by and large, the substance of what's going on there is remaining in Camp David.
MR. LOCKHART: Let me do this one. I was not able to nail down -- I know that there will be a shabbat dinner. I was not able to nail down the details and all of the different attendants. I hope to get something and I'll let the pool know this evening.
Q Can you explain -- one meeting between Bark and Arafat. Why are they not talking to each other?
MR. LOCKHART: These negotiations go on at a number of levels, they have a logic unto themselves. And I think in order to reach an agreement, there has to be work done at all levels.
Q -- delegation said that they came basically to see Mr. Arafat. And he had the intention to come back and try to see him again. What do you think about that?
MR. LOCKHART: Depends when they come.
Q Not now?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we've been relatively clear on this. I think the meeting today was a good one. I think both sides expressed satisfaction with it. But our main focus is on what's going on at Camp David, for obvious reasons.
Q Joe, did all three of the -- the three leaders that we saw on CNN, like two days ago, the three leaders that were so-called opposition leaders, did they all three meet with Albright today or was it only two of them, as we --
MR. LOCKHART: I know the group was six or seven people. I don't know -- six? I think they came out and all talked to the press.
Q -- it there?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll check afterwards for you. I think Richard knows.
Q Has there been other -- you said he's going to be working on his radio address, delivering his radio address. Have there been other things that the President has had to attend to today, beyond the Middle East peace talks?
MR. LOCKHART: There's been a variety of subjects. The President's Chief of Staff is up here. For instance, as many of you know, the House took steps on the foreign operations bill, with decidedly mixed response from us as far as some of the things they did. There were some good things in there, there were some bad things. So there was a discussion this morning, separate and apart from what we're doing here about what we might do and what we can do. So that sort of work continues.
Q -- peace talks?
MR. LOCKHART: He's been in touch with a few people, but I'm not going to get into the substance of those, that are not Camp David and domestic.
Q Will the informal format extend possibly to the United States presenting proposals --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think I'm going to get into the format for any proposals that may or may not, because I think whether you write them down or you speak them orally, that gets to substance. The answer was not present -- your question.
Q Do you know why?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Does the administration have any response to the flag issue that's going on in the schools right now?
MR. LOCKHART: The first I heard of this was at the briefing this morning. And without any editorial comment from me on some of the things that have happened here this afternoon, I looked into it. There is a no-flag policy, which makes some sense as far as the meeting rooms, for the talks which has served us well in the past. But in checking with protocol, that really only extends to rooms where there will be meetings or plenaries and clearly does not extend to meetings where press are being worked out of.
So having looked into it and having seen that the spirit and the letter of this agreement doesn't really apply here, we have put the flags back up. They are back up.
Q Did the negotiators observe any kind of religious service today at any time?
MR. LOCKHART: I didn't talk to them specifically about that, nor did they communicate that to me. I'm certain that they followed whatever the normal pattern is.
Q Joe, there's no change in the President's schedule in terms of staying here tonight and through the weekend?
MR. LOCKHART: No, he'll be here tonight, and we'll let you know as we move.
Q Joe, could you tell me more about -- you say you put the flags back up. Are you talking about at Camp David, because some people --
MR. LOCKHART: Now, let me provide you with the facts here, because there's been very little discussion about the facts, and a good bit of grandstanding based on rumors and fantasy. There are two rooms here, and I know this will be a big story in your paper tomorrow, so let me give you the facts.
There are two rooms here where the Palestinian press are working out of, where the Israeli press are working out of. There were two miniature flags that when they went around and were setting them up, someone saw the flags, took them down under the no-flag policy, which again has a solid and logical foundation, diplomatically. Now, I know there was a lot of fuss made. There wasn't a lot of checking to see what the facts were, but fuss is a lot more interesting than facts. But once I checked on it, and checked that this clearly didn't extend to rooms where the press was working, we put the flags back up.
Q Joe -- ask a question. First of all, we haven't written anything on this, that's why I wanted to get the facts from you. But, secondly, I was going to ask you if the flags were taken down at Camp David and are now being put back up, as well as this building, in this room.
MR. LOCKHART: There's nothing that was -- there's nothing else that's happened here, except for those two rooms where the press is working. All the other flags that were in this building remain there. I understand that the flag out front doesn't fly when school is out, so --
Q -- taken down theirs --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I don't know that there was a flag in the room where the plenary was located, but we have a policy for these discussions, which I think does make sense, that in those meeting rooms, there are not flags. But whether things were taken down, I don't know.
Q This is the kind of detail that you apparently can offer us. Any more on the golf cart fiasco? (Laughter.) In terms of who was involved, and --
MR. LOCKHART: I think I'll stick right where I am --
Q Was there a movie shown last night up at Camp David --
MR. LOCKHART: There was some late-night bowling that -- I told some people -- that didn't involve any of the delegations, and just involved a lot of inept bowlers.
Q Any weekend activities planned? No off-campus -- there is no fun at Camp David?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure anyone is describing this as fun.
Q Joe, I've got to try this again. You can say it's substance. The U.S. position traditionally has been in situations like this that at some point, if they feel it's the wise thing to do, they will present bridging proposals. Now, if you can't say whether the U.S. has begun to do this, does the U.S, at this event, which would not be unusual, reserve the prerogative, or the right, or whatever you want to call it, the tactic of presenting bridging proposals?
MR. LOCKHART: We certainly would not eliminate any diplomatic initiative or effort that might help move the process forward. I'm just not going to discuss any of those efforts or any of those options.
Q -- deteriorated between Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak since we're going more into talks, or is it still friendly? How would you characterize it?
MR. LOCKHART: To the extent that I have witnessed something, I have witnessed it firsthand, I haven't witnessed a deterioration.
Q Have you heard about any tensions between the parties? I mean, in the morning, you told me that --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, these are very, very difficult issues, so I've heard about a lot of tensions between the parties. There are tensions every day when you're trying to work through these difficult issues. I just think it's better left up at Camp David and not detailed here.
Q Today, were there any tensions?
MR. LOCKHART: There are tensions every day, as I said, when you're working through these issues.
Q Is Chairman Arafat packing up his bags?
Q -- walk out of the summit?
MR. LOCKHART: I didn't see any luggage today. (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 5:35 P.M. EDT