THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:58 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Let me do one thing, which is -- there are some people who have to catch the press plane, so for the purposes that I'm going to go through a few housekeeping things. Any of you who have additional questions, I will not be insulted if Steve, who will stay out here, stays behind and answers some of those questions, so thanks.
Okay, I'm going to try to be quick, because I know some of you have to be out at Andrews by 2:30 p.m. Let me just tell you a little update on the federal role on the fires that continue to burn in the West. As I mentioned yesterday, there was a request from the State of Idaho. I can tell you today that the President today declared a major disaster exists in the state of Idaho and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in that area struck by wildfires on July 27th, beginning on July 27th, that are continuing. There are nine counties affected. We'll have a piece of paper available to you at the conclusion of this briefing.
The Marine battalion from Camp Lejeune has deployed today. And one other note. There are, in total now, 61 members of AmeriCorps that have been specially trained for this kind of effort that are now deployed in the area -- another example of the important AmeriCorps involvement in things like this and the achievement of that program.
Secondly, you all know that we're all big in the Clinton administration on announcing milestones and anniversaries. I just, for the record, want to note that this is the first time in seven years that the Atlanta Braves are not in first place in the Eastern Division of the National League. You will notice that the New York Mets are. (Laughter.) Sorry, Sonya, eat your heart out. (Laughter.) Oh, and you too, Steve -- you Southerners.
Anyway -- and I have a Week Ahead, but if you have other questions, we'll try to get through them quickly.
Q Any reaction to Bush's comment on NMD announcement?
MR. LOCKHART: I saw something; I think his comment generally said that he supported deferment. He made a comment about us not leading on national security issues. I think those comments reflect his political position right now, rather than the facts. I think if you look -- if you go and talk to objective analysts, they'll continue to say that we have the finest fighting force in the world, and our American leadership is -- has been continued and sustained throughout the last seven and a half years.
Q Is there an advantage, actually -- you, the President said, you all made clear -- delay was technological reasons, but is it sort of a blessing in disguise? Sandy referred to the fact it gives the next president more time to try to placate the Russians and our allies who have doubts about it, and also it gives the next president time to try to sell this to the American people.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't --
Q Was there always some unease at having to go ahead, being pushed into a decision that really the next president was going to have to live with?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think obviously there's a balance here, and it's somewhat of a balancing act that balances the threat versus the technology within the criteria that the President laid out, and I think the President made quite clear in his speech this morning, that while we're at this point, this decision made the most sense.
As far as the consequences and opportunities that that leaves the next president, I don't think that that was central to the decision-making. There are always consequences to a decision; but I don't think that that was a central part of trying to come to this decision about providing further flexibility. I think if we were faced with a different set of facts that would have warranted another decision, that's the way the President would have gone.
Q Joe, is the administration issuing a warning this afternoon, concerning more Firestone tires? There was one report that it might be coming out about 1.8 million new tires.
MR. LOCKHART: I think there will be some news, if it hasn't already been released, from the Department of Transportation on that front as far as an advisory from the National Highway Safety Transportation Authority -- Administration. Not bad. That's called the best kind of guidance. It's in Jake's hand, and not in my book here.
Q Why is -- is the President shortening his trip?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, let me do that. I meant to do that. The President and the First Lady will travel to Skaneateles tonight. They will spend tomorrow -- they are returning tomorrow evening to Washington. The reason for that is, Chelsea had originally planned to go to New York with them.
I think the Africa trip, the day trip to Colombia and a little bit of a head cold has led her to decide she'd rather just stay around the house here in Washington this weekend, rather than getting back on the plane and going up for another trip. Given that, I think the President and the First Lady wanted to be able to spend some time with her this weekend, will now kind of split the difference, go up, spend two days in New York and then come back Saturday night so that they'll have Sunday and Monday here in Washington.
Q Mr. Berger mentioned that Secretary Cohen saw the President on Tuesday. Are there any other consultations you can tell us about on the last couple of days with Secretary Albright or others on the NMD matter, and can you give us any other tick tock on precisely when the President made the decision?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have precise tick-tock. I think P.J. might be able to help you later this afternoon if you want to check with him. I know that Mr. Berger has been involved with all of the interested parties through the week and up and to including yesterday. But as far as the President, I think Sandy laid out that he did spend some time with Secretary Cohen on Tuesday.
Q Senator Lott is saying that the Clinton administration is engineering another train wreck and setting the stage for another government shutdown in the fall. How would you respond to this?
MR. LOCKHART: I think Senator Lott needs to find some excuse for the fact that they're behind in their work once again on appropriations. We have a number of priorities that we want to proceed. I think you'll find if you look at Congress over this year, the first eight months were devoted to making sure that the special interests got taken care of. September will be about the people's interests.
We should be able to get that done in September; we don't need to go beyond that. We certainly don't need to shut the government down. I think the Republicans will need to articulate why all of a sudden they're so worried about this.
Q Is there a planned meeting between the President and Majority?
MR. LOCKHART: I know that the President will meet with the Democratic leaders next week. As far as a bipartisan meeting, I can't predict, but I certainly wouldn't want to rule that we would do one early in September.
Q What's the subject of the President's radio address? Can you tell us?
MR. LOCKHART: Part of his legislative agenda.
Q Joe, is the President coming back to D.C., or is he going to Chappaqua?
MR. LOCKHART: No, he's going to D.C. He's coming back here to the White House Saturday evening, and will spend Sunday and Monday here at the White House.
Q Does he have any events planned, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: Sunday and Monday, no. They are days off.
Q And do you have any details on the meetings he will have up in New York?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't. But let me -- I'll tell you what I do know about the week ahead. And if you don't mind, I'll just go right to that.
Friday, the President, as I indicated, will go to Skaneateles. The arrival this afternoon will be open. He will make some brief remarks about how great it is to be back in that area. There will be a reception this evening in Syracuse, and then they will go to Skaneateles and spend the evening.
The President has no public schedule during the day tomorrow. In the evening, he will make remarks at a fundraiser and reception for the First Lady, then return here; no public schedule for Sunday and Monday.
Tuesday, the President will meet with the Democratic congressional leaders on our legislative agenda. Following the meeting, the President and the congressional leaders will make a statement calling on Congress to make progress on key priorities for America.
The President will then travel New York City and remain overnight. From Wednesday, September 6th through Friday, September 8th, the President will participate in the United Nations Millennium Summit, expected to be the largest gathering of heads of state and government ever held.
The President will address the opening plenary session on September 6th. We will remain overnight obviously Wednesday. Thursday, we will continue our participation in the summit and remain overnight. Friday, the President will, in addition to the Millennium Summit, speak at a New York Senate 2000 reception and dinner in New York City. Where we sleep that night is to be determined, whether we come back here Friday night or Saturday. Not known at this point.
Thank you very much. Oh yes, and very important. Please be sure that everyone is tuned in at 8:00 p.m. this evening to your local public television station for Washington Week in Review this evening, starring Sonya Ross. (Laughter.) He did it. That was Jake. You saw it. Thanks.
END 2:10 P.M. EDT