THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Los Angeles, California) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 14, 2000
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The St. Regis Hotel Los Angeles, California
12:45 P.M. PDT
MR. LOCKHART: Let me quickly give you some thematics from the speech and what I think you all should expect tonight. I'll try to walk through it a little bit, and I do hope that sometime in the next hour or so I can get some excerpts for you -- we're working on that now and I hope we can that done.
I think, as a general point, you'll find tonight's speech as, contrasted to some speeches that you may have heard in Philadelphia, will not really be something about rhetorical flourishes. This is a speech that's based on the facts, and it's based on the facts because we think the facts speak very well for the Democrats, for Al Gore, for Joe Lieberman, for all of the work that we've done over the last eight years.
I think probably the best way to look at is if the Republicans were trying to make their case through a made for TV movie, we're trying to do reality television and we think that will work for us.
I think the President will make the point that the last eight years and all of the progress economically and socially that we've enjoyed were not something that happened accidentally, but were the product of tough choices and leadership. He will highlight, obviously, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman in that light in the speech.
He will talk at some length about the unprecedented economic prosperity we enjoy in this country, but I think he will also make the point just as strongly that this is not just about economics. The President will make the point that America is more confident, that America is more hopeful and just eight years gone in this administration, we are more secure and free as a nation, and we are all of these things because we offered a vision in 1992 of how to turn this country and we've delivered on that and we've achieved the goals that we set forward.
I think, as far as the facts that you're going to hear, there will be a good bit on the economy, the unprecedented economic expansion, the historically low interest rates, inflation, unemployment, high homeownership, facts that I think you've heard us talk about through the years, but the President will bring it all together tonight.
He will also make a point of how all groups of Americans have shared in this prosperity as income levels have risen for the first time in a long time throughout all levels -- whether it be Hispanic Americans, African Americans, women. He will talk in areas beyond economics, he will highlight education, health care, welfare reform will be a big focus. He'll talk about our tax cuts over the years that have encouraged things from the child credit to the HOPE Scholarship, the proposals to try to make higher education more accessible. He'll talk about health care, environment, and he will mention our leading role in the world, in making the world a more secure and making the world a more peaceful place.
And then I think he'll move to talk a little bit about Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. I think the President understands fully that it's not his role to tell the American public who to vote for. It's no secret who he supports, but I think he'll try to put some things that he knows about Al Gore and Joe Lieberman in perspective and talk to the American public about things that should be important in this election and what some of the stakes are in this election.
Finally, he will make a special mention of the First Lady and his enduring interest in her race and the contributions he believes she will make as the next senator in New York State.
There will be some reflections near the end, you know, as he sums up the speech. As far as the enduring interest in how long it will be, all I can say is we have a new feature in the speech, so that if it goes to 11:30 p.m., the President has five jokes written in for Jay Leno fans and a top 10 list for David Letterman fans, just in case, so they don't feel cheated. (Laughter.) It was a joke, Mark -- it wasn't very funny, but you can join us if you want. (Laughter.)
Obviously, there has been a lot of talk about how long it is. I fully expect -- the only recent one to really compare this to would be Reagan or maybe Eisenhower's. I expect it to be shorter than both of those, which ran well over 50 minutes each. But I do expect that we'll get pretty close to that.
Q Has he been rehearsing today, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Let me give you a sense of what he's done today. He's been working on this over the last five or six days, much more intensively with each passing day. Yesterday was a day where we spent a couple of hours together working on it. But he also spent a lot of time between events and during the down time that he had.
Because he wanted to do some more work on it this morning, as you now know, he put off the two events he was supposed to do. He got up early this morning, worked on his own for a couple of hours and then I think about 10:30 a.m. or so got together with staff, talked through some of the changes he wanted to be made, did a rehearsal of it and I expect that he'll find a little bit of time later on this afternoon to put the finishing touches on it.
Q Joe, is he going to mention the Governor, Governor Bush by name? And is he specifically going to mention what the Governor said at the Republican National Convention?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't expect that the Governor of Texas will be mentioned in this speech. But I certainly expect that the premise that Governor Bush asserted at the convention, that somehow an unprecedented economic prosperity and good times in this country happened by accident will be challenged vigorously.
I think, further, the further statements made over the weekend, that America is worse off today than we were eight years ago will be laid as a completely absurd notion by the end of the speech. You know, the Bush family may be worse off than they were eight years ago, but I think the vast majority of Americans will argue that their lives have, as the President will say, become better because of the economic policies we pursued, the social policies we pursued and we are a more confident and hopeful nation today.
Q Other than that brief mention you made about all Americans sharing in the prosperity, is he going to discuss the diversity issue that was so prominent at the Republican -- and is he going to make up these events that he missed this morning?
MR. LOCKHART: I doubt -- we won't make them up here. I'm sure he'll have the opportunity to, between now and when Congress goes out, see these groups. I mean, we see many of them on a regular basis.
The President will talk about his commitment to diversity and one America. But he'll do it in the context of an eight year, even a lifetime, commitment that he's made. This isn't about a made for TV television show. This isn't about bringing in Motown bands. This is about a lifelong commitment to enforcement of civil rights, a lifelong commitment to inclusiveness, a lifelong commitment to making the government look like America. The President will reflect on the outstanding record that the Clinton-Gore team has achieved.
Q Is it safe to say, Joe, that he did most of his speech, himself?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think so, at this point. He had a real strong idea of what he wanted to do when we started this process, really now probably about two weeks ago. I think the speech writers were helpful in sort of bringing together some facts and figures, but I think over the last two to three days he has really taken the process and put it in his own voice.
I have a note here that says excerpts will be ready in 20 minutes. Jake, is this spin, like it will really be ready in 10, so they think we're good? (Laughter.) Good.
Q Joe, is he nostalgic at all as he goes to this? Is this a bittersweet time for him? This is part of the farewell to his party. In fact, it really is his --
MR. LOCKHART: You know, I've been asked that question several times over the weekend, and I really don't view this convention as a period of nostalgia for him. Because I think he views -- he thinks he has a very important role here and he's been energized by this role.
I think whatever nostalgia or wistfulness, as people call it, really goes more to the fact that down the road five or six months there will be a new President. And what the President has loved about this experience is the job and the work. I think there will be plenty of time between now and the election for him to weigh in for Democrats around the country. I think he's very much looking forward to tonight.
But he has reflected recently that what he'll miss most is the actual work and the job that he does every day. And I think we've got a lot more work to do -- we've got a big budget fight coming up in September, we have a number of international issues that are weighing heavily on the President now. So I don't think that he views this particular speech tonight as one that's a forum for waxing nostalgic.
I think when the speech is over you'll understand that he is acknowledging the particular moment in time that we're at. But this, as I said at the beginning, this is a speech based on facts and those facts speak very well for Democrats around this country.
Q Will he thank the party members, the delegates, the activists for sticking with him during the tough periods a couple of years ago and any of that?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he'll certainly thank them for all their help, without any particular reference to good times or bad times.
Q Joe, is it fair to say also that he has worked with the Gore campaign to make sure that what he says is --
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, this has been a collegial effort, as I am sure you know. They are working closely with everyone who speaks here. We have found that everything the President wanted to say and all of the subjects he wanted to bring up work very well with how they are looking at these four days, particularly at this point, you know, this point being the first night of the convention.
Q Joe, has he been briefed on the Russian nuclear sub?
MR. LOCKHART: I understand he had his normal national security briefing this morning, which would include the latest information on that.
Q And has he received any request for assistance?
MR. LOCKHART: No. We, through various channels, have made clear to the Russians that any assistance we can offer is available. That offer was reiterated in a previously scheduled phone call Mr. Berger had with his counterpart, Mr. Ivanov, and at this point there has been no request for our assistance. You know, we are following this closely and if the Russians are in a position where they believe we can offer some assistance, we will do that.
Q Have you taken any actions within the military to prepare for a possible request?
MR. LOCKHART: None that I'm aware of. That might be better put at the Pentagon.
Q Joe, was a U.S. vessel involved in this collision?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any information that would lead me to that.
Q Joe, the recent polling at the end of last week that my company and The Washington Post did showed that -- I'm sure others are going to show the same thing -- that Bush is hurt to a degree by the connection with his father, particularly with his economic policies, but to a much greater degree Gore is hurt by his connection to the President, even among people who approve of the President's policies.
Any explanation for why there is a difference there? Both are hurt, but Gore is hurt more by his connection than Bush is to his father?
MR. LOCKHART: I am sure there are historians hard at work right now for why the Dukakis lead in 1988 vanished as quickly as it did, and that's about as interesting as trying to analyze the polls between the two conventions.
I think the Vice President and Senator Lieberman have an important task ahead of them this week. They need to stand up and tell this country what their agenda is, specifically what they want to do in the future. And I think when we get to Thursday night they are going to answer all those questions. And I think that trying to look at a snapshot now before they've had a chance to go through the week I don't think offers much insight.
Q Joe, I didn't understand your statement that the President doesn't think it's his role to tell Americans who to vote for. That's all he's been doing for months.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the President has gone in a series of political events and some of the fundraisers he's done, he certainly made the case of the differences and where he is. But I think he believes that, you know, as he stands up and talks not only to the convention, but to the nation, that it's really Al Gore's and Joe Lieberman's job to say, here's why you should make the choice of the Democratic ticket and it's not the outgoing President.
But he does believe there are some things he knows from working with Al Gore and Joe Lieberman that the American public might not know, or might not know as fully, that he can share as some insight into why he is supporting them.
Q Joe, there was that event at the Roberts estate on Saturday which was billed, in some sense, as a farewell tribute to the President. There was the McAuliffe-hosted big thing at the MCI center a couple months ago. How many farewell tributes are we going to see of the President and is there any danger, in advance of this big appropriations battle in September, a number of other policy things the President would still like to get done, that he's going to be escorted off the stage and people will dismiss him?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we've found that we've got a swing in the stealing-the-spotlight to are-we-pushing-him-off-too-early. So you all have got to decide what's conventional wisdom. Let me know and I'll respond to it. But I'm going to get whiplash here.
Q But, seriously, Joe, in July, to have a farewell tribute to a President or whatever who is leaving in January --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think there will be any doubt that the President will be standing strong behind his agenda during the September appropriations battle. And if Republicans in Congress take some comfort in the fact that he's gone to a farewell dinner or two, then they will be making a pretty big mistake.
Q Joe, is anything new happening in mideast diplomacy? The Israeli foreign minister said that a summit is possible in September. Anything you can add to that?
MR. LOCKHART: I have seen the reports but I have nothing to add to it. I can't confirm that there will be any at this point. I don't have any information on U.S. participation or any discussions.
Q Joe, are the President and the Vice President playing something of a game of good cop/bad cop here? Will the President come out and attack Republicans tonight so that Al Gore doesn't have to?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think it's more rightly put as good cop/better cop.
Q Joe, in talking about the improvements over the last eight years, does the President hope the nation will remember what the economy was like when a Bush was last president?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President will say -- will remind people where we were in 1992. We had a ballooning deficit, we had an economy that had been in recession for some time at the time he was running for president. We had social problems with rising crime, rising welfare. We were drifting without a clear strategy for how we were going to move to the 21st century.
And what I think the speech, in large part, tonight will be about is how the President and Al Gore had a strategy, they put that strategy to work, passed laws, moved the country, changed the direction of this country and we are now sitting in a position of unprecedented economic prosperity, of unprecedented social progress and that all happened because we had the vision to do this.
I'm told that the President is speaking, so I'm sure you would rather hear from him than me, so take it away.
Q Thank you, Joe.
END 1:00 P.M. PDT