THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The James S. Brady Briefing Room
11:06 A.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Good morning, everyone. The President is enjoying a well-deserved day off today. He has one meeting, that you might actually see Shimon Peres coming or going. He was here at 10:30 a.m. He's in the United States on a private mission, came by to see the President. He will be traveling to New York tonight to be honored at a dinner at the Waldorf, where the Secretary of State will give the keynote address -- or the honoring address, or whatever it's called.
Other than that, it's a very quiet day for the President.
Q Are we going to get the list of overnight guests?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think we'll get that today; my guess is tomorrow. Sir.
Q Joe, was the President glad that 50 Democrats and Connie Morella voted only present, rather than against, Representative Woolsey's anti-Boy Scout bill?
MR. LOCKHART: Didn't have a chance to discuss that with him, so I don't know.
Q How does he stand on that bill?
MR. LOCKHART: I think I answered that question on Friday. I'd refer you to my transcript.
Q In other words, he was opposed to the bill?
MR. LOCKHART: I answered that Friday, so you can go back and look.
Q Joe, USA Today is reporting that the U.S. intelligence officials have obtained a thousand-page instructional manual on how to conduct terror. Some say it may give the U.S. insight into Osama bin Laden's tactics. Do you have anything on that?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I can't comment specifically on that report. But I can say, as has been said before, that Osama bin Laden's organization, and others, are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the training techniques they use, which requires the kind of response that I think you've seen from this government over the past few years.
Q On Peru, do you have any reaction -- reaction from the President about the situation in Peru?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we think that this was an important step that we welcome from President Fujimori to return to full democratization. This is something that we've been calling for since the last election and working through the context of the OAS. I think there's a lot of hard work that has been done. We believe that this is a step in that direction and we call on all parties involved in Peruvian society to work towards a peaceful transition and work towards a democratic election.
Q Does the Army's role in getting to that election concern you at all?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure it's entirely clear what that role is, but I think what's important for us is that we continue to work through the context of the OAS toward full democratization. This is something we've been working for now for months.
Q Has the President contacted any official from Peru?
MR. LOCKHART: No, our contacts have been through the embassy there, with Peruvian officials. The President has not had any discussions that I'm aware of.
Q Has the President talked to Janet Reno yet about the Wen Ho Lee case, or has he scheduled that meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no information on -- I don't believe he's spoken to her. I don't know when they'll have a chance to talk, but I expect that will happen.
Q Do you think it will be this week?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I'll let you know when it happens.
Q On that subject, are White House officials taking a particular message up to this meeting in New York today with various Asian Americans to discuss the Wen Ho Lee case and their concern about the way it was handled?
MR. LOCKHART: Not necessarily to that meeting. These are a series of field hearings. This is the third field hearing. And it's mostly, as you can tell by the makeup of the group, looking at Asian Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and health issues that those Americans are particularly concerned about. There's been some discussion within the context of this organization about Wen Ho Lee and I'm certain, if it comes up at the meeting today, there will be some discussion there. But that's not the primary focus.
Q What meeting is that?
MR. LOCKHART: There's an Asian-American commission that is holding discussions around the country -- they had one in Los Angeles, one I think last week here in Washington, there's one scheduled in New York. I think there was some suggestion in some reporting that they had put this meeting together in order to deal with issues involving Wen Ho Lee. That is not accurate. But to the extent it comes up in the discussions there, I'm sure they, I'm sure they will entertain the questions.
Q Some of the folks who are participating in the field hearing today are quoted as saying, or have been reported to have said that the administration at the last field hearing in Los Angeles actively -- some officials, unnamed -- actively encouraged them speaking out against the Wen Ho Lee case.
MR. LOCKHART: I think that question was raised to the people who run the commission, to the commissioners this morning at a press conference, and they said that that was not the case.
Q Joe, what was the President's reaction to the fourth time, as I understand it, that the Justice Department is investigating the Vice President's fundraising?
MR. LOCKHART: His reaction to what?
Q Well, what was his reaction to it? I mean, how many Vice Presidents have been investigated four times for questionable fundraising?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there is an ongoing investigation at the Justice Department, and because it's ongoing, it wouldn't be appropriate to comment.
Q Joe, does the President plan to drop his demand for an amendment to H/1B that would be amnesty for about 500,000 illegal immigrants?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the answer to that. I know there has been some activity on that at the end of last week and this week, but I'm not sure where that's gone, so let me check and come back to you.
Q Mr. Lockhart, Al Moses, the Special Envoy of President Clinton, of Cypress and the question to comment on a statement by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan for the creation of two political entities. Cypress stated that's my government's position, as well. Is this express the position of President Clinton?
MR. LOCKHART: What was in it? What was his statement? I'm sorry, what was in the statement?
Q The statement was, by Secretary General of the United Nations, he is talking about the creation of two separate political entities in Cypress. And he replied, Mr. Moses, this is my government's position, too, as well, exactly. My question is, is this express also President Clinton position?
MR. LOCKHART: I think before I said anything on that I'd have to look at the entirety of that statement.
MR. CROWLEY: Our position on Cypress is very well-known and has not changed.
MR. LOCKHART: The position that I have articulated many times from up here hasn't changed. If there's anything in this statement, which I can't quite see, we'll look at it.
Q One follow-up. Otherwise, do you still have the same policy about -- of Cypress?
MR. LOCKHART: The policy has not changed.
Q Joe, talk for a moment on Peru -- in the American meeting has reported that Fujimori called for new elections under pressure of this government. Was there any pressure from the United States to force Mr. Fujimori to call for new elections?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I think to be accurate here, the OAS has worked in conjunction with the United States as a member to move, in the wake of the flawed elections earlier this year, towards something that was full democratization. And to the extent that that effort has succeeded, then we welcome the move that was announced.
Q Mr. Vladimiro Montesinos, the head of the intelligence service of Peru, according to earlier stories, he was working I think in the '80s or '70s with the CIA. That is true?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any comment on that.
Q Joe, has anyone at the White House ever requested Air Force transportation for overnight guests?
MR. LOCKHART: What do you mean by --
Q Air Force plane to bring overnight guests in, by Air Force plane?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Joe, you're a very perceptive and well-informed person, and you certainly --
MR. LOCKHART: Lester, flattery will get you absolutely nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. (Laughter.) In fact, it might get you one of the seats all the way in the back. (Laughter.)
Q Wait a minute, wait a minute, Joe, I haven't gotten my question.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm waiting.
Q And you do have contact, close contact with the Vice President's campaign. Could you confirm or deny the rumor that if Mr. Gore wins -- and that's a big if -- he's planning to have as your successor Adam Clymer? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: That's what I'd call a real big-time idea; but I can't confirm or deny it. (Laughter.)
Q Do you have an idea of when the documents are going to be released?
MR. LOCKHART: I think our time limit was in a couple of weeks on the classification, but when the work is done is probably the best answer.
Q Joe, the talks in New York on the Middle East?
MR. LOCKHART: I think contacts continue, but I don't have anything specifically to report. The parties who were discussing have left New York, have gone back to the region, but I understand that there are continued contacts.
Q -- mentioned that the talks would continue soon in the region. Do you have anything on that?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any announcement on that.
Q Joe, the Ways and Means Committee last week I think unanimously passed this idea of devoting 90 percent of next year's surplus to paying down the debt. Have the President's views changed on that at all? Is he thinking he's going to have to agree to that?
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, if in the bottom of the 9th inning the Republicans have finally realized that debt reduction is the right policy and they want to repudiate everything they've done up until this point this year, then they're moving in the right direction. We certainly meet their test in the budget the President puts up there, and if they want to do something that both pays down the debt, meets the long-term and real issue of whether you can do this over the next 12 years, and invest in our priorities -- like class size, school construction, other education issues, health issues -- then I think we'll have a lot to talk about.
Q Well, does that specific plan do that? Does it leave enough room to meet the priorities on your list?
MR. LOCKHART: What we don't know is what they have yet to put on the table. They've got tax provisions that are not clear, that we were not interested in playing games and having gimmicks where you take tax provisions and sort of defer the cost of it for one year so they can fit within their gimmick. That's not how we've gotten to the point of restoring fiscal discipline in this town.
And the other important thing is we don't know how susceptible they'll be to their basic instincts of loading these things up with pork, like they've done over the last couple years. If they're willing to stand back and say, let's do the right investments for this nation, as far as education, lowering class size, rebuilding our schools, health, environment, then I think we're going to get work done pretty quickly.
But if they're going to go about the business that they have followed over the last few years, of loading up a bunch of bills with pork, and then saying there isn't enough for education, then we're going to have a problem.
Q If the Senate passes Chinese PNTR tomorrow, will the President make an announcement after that?
MR. LOCKHART: I expect we'll find some occasion for the President to react to a very important vote in the Senate tomorrow.
Q Joe, Friday apparently was the last day for black farmers to file in on this class action suit -- excuse me. First of all, is the President aware of what's going on, and is the Department of Ag making a request of --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, the President is updated on a fairly regular basis and, you know, he gets a weekly report from each of the agencies that he reads quite closely, so I expect -- I don't know if there was one this week, because I haven't taken a look at that yet, but I think he has been kept up to date on the state of that, those negotiations.
Q He met with John Boyd not too long ago, last year, about this whole situation. Is he planning on another meeting maybe, since this thing is starting to come to a head now?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of, but I'll check into that.
Q Also do you know, the Treasury Postal Bill is going to be on the Senate floor this week, and the Democrats have dropped their objections to putting it on the Floor. Does that mean that the President may be willing to sign it, even though it doesn't have the funding for IRS that --
MR. LOCKHART: There are problems with that bill, not just the restructuring IRS. There was -- I mean, we all remember the great theatrical hearings that took place about trying to make the IRS a more effective place, or, as some people thought, trying to embarrass the IRS. And now we've come to the time where you've actually got to appropriate some money to follow through on the important changes they're making, and the Republican majority has decided to under-fund that.
But there's also problems with counterterrorism. We talked a little bit at the start of this briefing about the issue of remaining vigilant around the world to protect our interests on counterterrorism, and they've under-funded that. So I think there is some problems with that bill, and it's hard to see how that bill, at this point, is acceptable.
Q Thank you.
Q Joe, both Nat Hentoff --
MR. LOCKHART: This is what the President does to me all the time. I just wanted to do it once. (Laughter.) Someone yelling, thank you, and I'm going, yes, one more, let's just take -- (laughter) -- and I'm about to get what he normally gets.
Q Both Nat Hentoff, as well as an emigre from Mauritania deplored --
MR. LOCKHART: Don't think I need the book for this one.
Q -- the comparative lack of expressed concern for 300,000 black slaves in Mauritania and more in Sudan. And I'm wondering, did the President hear any expressed concern about this outrage at the Black Caucus, and did he express any interest in it when he met with the Black Caucus?
MR. LOCKHART: I think you all saw the dinner Saturday night; I didn't, so I don't know. Thanks.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:20 A.M. EDT