THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:55 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Let me start with stating the obvious. We are certainly at the end of an era. We are at a time when we are losing someone who you all thought we'd never lose. And, Anne Gearan, I wish you Godspeed at the Supreme Court. (Laughter.)
Questions? Thank you. (Laughter.)
Q Joe, the funeral, there's going to be a state funeral in Ottawa, I guess, for Prime Minister Trudeau. Is the President going or will he designate someone else?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't heard any discussion of the President going, but I'm sure we will send the appropriate representative to that funeral.
Q On the Fujimori meeting today, anything --
MR. LOCKHART: President Fujimori met, as we discussed yesterday, with the OAS yesterday. Today, he spent the morning in a meeting, first, with the Secretary of State, and then over here for about 45 minutes with Sandy Berger, the President's National Security Advisor.
I think he received a consistent message from both Secretary of State Albright and from Mr. Berger, that we think he's going along the right path towards full democracy in the context of what the OAS has done and the work we have done along with them. The message that we heard was that he believed in the OAS process and we reiterated that we wanted to see this done as soon as possible.
Q Are you satisfied with what you heard?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's important that he understands that we need to work through the OAS process. He indicated that that was something he was committed to. And I think we certainly were clear in the idea that we think this should be done as soon as possible.
Q Joe, with respect to Serbia, if civil war should break out there, is the United States prepared to intervene militarily, or NATO? What is our military situation if this thing should break out over there?
MR. LOCKHART: I think those are the kind of hypotheticals that I learned long before today not to walk down. We've made very clear that we believe the Serbian opposition has won this election, that Milosevic should go. And we believe that his ultimate destination should be the Hague. But the results from the fair monitors of this, and those who are not under the thumb of the government, have been very clear that the opposition has won this election.
Q Joe, the Greek government has offered to send a delegation to participate in the recount in Yugoslavia. Does the administration find a particular need for a recount? Does it believe that's a way out of this? And would it send a delegation or encourage other nations to do so, as well?
MR. LOCKHART: I think as long -- I think anything done under the auspices of the election commission controlled by President Milosevic is inherently suspect. I think the opposition has made their decision, which I believe most countries who have spoken in support, that it is not needed to go to a second round, that the first round results were clear, and that Milosevic should go and respect the will of the people of Serbia.
Q But the opposition has said, if I'm correct, that it would be willing to subject itself to an internationally monitored recount of the first balloting, not the second balloting.-
MR. LOCKHART: (Takes a sip out of glass under podium.) Who did this? (Laughter.) Afterwards. (Laughter.) Okay, I'm not moving, I'm not touching anything. (Laughter.)
Q Vodka or gin?
MR. LOCKHART: Vodka, I believe. (Laughter.) Yes?
Q Can you take that?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't even remember what the question was. (Laughter.) Let's go someplace else. Yes? Let's go to the subcontinent. (Laughter.)
Q Well, again, India Globe reported the President was asked in California at a fundraiser if Pakistan should be declared as a state supporting terrorism. And also that because in India, across the border -- now, the President said that it is not -- but at some point we have to do it. Now, can you say that you are ready to declare Pakistan a terrorist --
MR. LOCKHART: I can't say that. I'm not aware of that conversation. I was at both of the fundraisers. I have to admit, one of them I was in the LazyBoy down in the TV room, so I wasn't watching him as closely as I should have been. (Laughter.)
Q -- but I have this from the group who sponsored the fundraiser.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, I was not privy to any of the private conversations the President may or may not have had, so I can't verify the substance of that conversation. But I don't have any news on that front.
Q The drink was ouzo or vodka? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm not sure. Hold on, let me taste to be sure. (Laughter.) I still have the bottle you gave me, there's about this much left.
Q Any comment on the Cyprus talks that have been completed in New York City the other day?
MR. LOCKHART: PJ, do we have anything on that?
MR. CROWLEY: I'll take the question.
Q Any concern here about the killings at the temple, and are you afraid that -- or are you concerned that those killings might actually wreck the peace process?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we are always concerned and condemn violence of any kind. I think the recent violence underscores the sensitivity of the issue, of Jerusalem, and provides even further illustration of how difficult this issue is. And we, as we always do in these cases, call on all sides to exercise restraint and respect for the difficulty of these issues.
Q Back to Peru. Was there any discussion in the meetings about the future of Mr. Montesinos in Panama?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that was reported to me.
Q And what about the coup? Was there any word on the military movements in Peru?
MR. LOCKHART: Again, not that was reported to me. The readout that I've given you is the extent that I have. I can go back and check.
Q So the discussion was only on the democratic reform --
MR. LOCKHART: What I'm trying to tell you is I've repeated to you everything that was repeated to me on the discussion.
Q Back on Jerusalem. Has the President tried to contact Mr. Arafat to try to ease this situation?
MR. LOCKHART: The President has remained in constant contact over the last many months with the parties, as has the team. I think they certainly understand our views. And I think what's important here is that we continue the process that is obviously ongoing. There were discussions yesterday, I believe, between the parties, to try to get to some sort of agreement.
Q Joe, but I meant would he try to contact Arafat, sort of, today, because it is Rosh Hashanah --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that the President intends to make a call, but if he does, we'll let you know.
Q Joe, continuing along that line of questioning. As this process has moved along, one of the optimistic signs people in the administration have pointed to is that there has not been an outbreak of violence, and that was an encouraging sign, many in the administration thought, that the process still had some momentum behind it. Does this spate of violence suggest that the momentum has completely slipped away and the process, itself, is slipping away?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think so. But I think we see it as a reminder of how urgent this process is and how important it is for the parties to use the remaining time that they have to try to work as hard as they can to find ways to compromise and to reach an agreement that can resolve these issues.
Q Joe, with the release of new architectural plans, Mayor Williams apparently added his voice to those asking the President to reconsider opening Pennsylvania Avenue. Has he re-thought it, and what's his current thinking?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think there were -- as you correctly reported, there have been some new ideas put forward. Secretary Summers had a meeting this week with Delegate Norton. Senator Moynihan met with Stu Eizenstat, the Deputy of Treasury, I believe. They have passed along the plans. They will take a look at them and we'll have more to say in due course.
MR. PODESTA: We want the podium.
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, you want the podium? (Sees the President behind Mr. Podesta.) Oh. (Laughter.)
MR. PODESTA: You know, here in the White House, we're obviously sorry to see Joe leave us. But I have to tell you all that the same ain't true for the Republicans.
Just this morning, in Tom Delay's favorite newspaper, Joe is described as the "fiercely partisan White House Press Secretary." (Laughter.) Let me tell you, they want him out of here. (Laughter.)
It's not just that Joe is better at driving the Republicans crazy than just about anybody. It's that Joe gets results for the American people. Just yesterday, Joe was here whacking them for failing to get their work done. And you know what? It worked. They're so tired of hearing Joe label them a do-nothing Congress, that last night the Senate finally passed 24 bills.
Now, it's true, they still haven't raised the minimum wage or passed a patients' bill of rights, but Joe finally kicked them into gear. Last night they passed the FHA Down Payment Simplification Extension Act of 2000. I know there are a lot of people who aren't usually in these briefings here, so for those of you who don't know what that is, that's simply an extension of the FHA Down Payment Simplification Act of 2000. (Laughter.)
And S-785, a bill for the relief of Frances Schochenmaier; and S-2289, a bill for the relief of Guy Taylor; And S-22, a bill for the relief of Tony Lara. So we still don't have a Medicare prescription drug benefit, but thanks to Joe's bully pulpit, we have S-893, a bill to amend Title 46, United States Code, to provide equitable treatment with respect to certain individuals who perform duties on vessels. (Laughter.)
Thank you, Joe.
Q That's good. You ought to keep him on and see what else he can do. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: That's a really bad idea, Bill.
MR. PODESTA: Congress did pass one measure of some significance yesterday that had nothing to do with pressure from Joe. They passed HR-4931, the Presidential Transition Act of 2000. Of course, the only reason the Republicans passed that was because it authorizes funds to move the President out of the White House. (Laughter.)
I think it's fair to say, for those of us on the White House Staff, that if we got to vote a bill to keep Joe in the White House, that vote would have passed by unanimous consent. He's been tough, he's been funny, he's always been straight. I think I said to the staff this morning, I think you can't count on one hand the times that Joe has made a mistake here, despite the fact that you guys throw him fast balls on a day-in and day-out basis.
So we are going to miss him, as I know the President is. And it's now my pleasure to introduce the President of the United States.
THE PRESIDENT: Most people think Joe's leaving for purely selfish, monetary reasons. But the truth is, he told me that I was no longer in enough trouble to make it interesting for him. (Laughter.) That getting up every day and going to work and making policy and helping the Democrats, you know, it's boring him to tears. (Laughter.) And he said he couldn't stand to be alone in his office crying anymore, and so he had to leave.
So I have one little gift to him, a memorial of our one and only day playing golf together. (Laughter.) It happened a couple of weeks ago. Here's Joe. (Laughter.) And the caption is, "Joe, typical day as presidential Press Secretary, lost in the weeds. (Laughter.) Unlike the press corps, I'll give you a mulligan." (Laughter.)
Let me say seriously, I know what a difficult job this is, and I know it takes a toll on everyone, and I know Joe's spent a lot of time away from his wonderful wife and beautiful daughter, who are here. I remember when I appointed him, there was all this yapping about whether he was heavy enough to do the job. (Laughter.) He leaves with gravitas and gravy toss. (Laughter.) And a lot of gratitude.
I know that I have a different perspective than the members of the press corps, but I've been following this business a long time, a long time before I showed up. I don't believe I've ever seen anybody do this job better. I admire you. I'm grateful to you. I'll miss you -- and I'll try to keep you bored. Thank you, friend. (Applause.)
MR. LOCKHART: You don't have to hang around for this part. You don't really want to talk to them. (Laughter.) I'm still on the clock. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You want us to go? Well, wait, I've got to do one thing. I have a gift for your successor, Jake. (Laughter.) (Holding a helmet with Jake's name on it) -- They're going to try to get even with you, and they're also going to try to get even for everything they couldn't get away with with Joe, so I thought you ought to have this. I hope you'll wear it to your first briefing. (Laughter.)
MR. SIEWERT: I worked enough on the Dukakis campaign not to put this on. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I won't put it on. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, can I ask you, I guess on a serious note, about the violence in Jerusalem, and what that might mean to the peace process, and whether you would like to contact Chairman Arafat to see what you can do?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm working on all that right now, but I think the less I say about it, the better. I may have something to say tomorrow, but I think today I'd like to say less and try to keep working.
Q What about the campaign? You seemed to be having an awful good time at that fundraiser a little while ago. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I was having a good time. It's easier for me when you don't have to run. It's easier. I'm having a good time.
Do the briefing, Joe.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Keep me out of trouble. Stay bored. (Laughter.) Bored.
MR. LOCKHART: I can do that.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. LOCKHART: Peter, I guess you have a question.
Q I've been dying to ask you this for a long time. What do you think of the future of the Human Genome Project and -- (laughter) -- is it true that you're entertaining job offers from that segment of the corporate community?
MR. LOCKHART: I was talking to my broker this morning -- (laughter) -- and he told me that even he was confused by what I said on the Human Genome Project. So, thankfully, I'm going to let those who follow me who understand a little bit more or are smart enough not to say anything when they don't understand what they're talking about cover that. But as I said to somebody yesterday, for all of you biotech investors on that day, I'm really sorry. (Laughter.)
Q Joe, is it true, now that you're gone, you're going to have a recurring role on the "West Wing"? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: They have enough hapless people already, they don't need me. (Laughter.)
Q Have they asked you?
MR. LOCKHART: No, they have not. I have enormous respect for what they do, I like their program. They even sent me something nice as a going-away present --
MR. LOCKHART: A director's chair, with my name on it. It's very nice.
Q What about the race book? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: April, now that you've had Bob and Mark, I think that qualifies as your posse. (Laughter.) I think the President spoke to that a few days ago -- I wasn't listening, so I don't -- (laughter.)
Q Joe, how really did the press treat you, and how did you like the press --
MR. LOCKHART: Do you want an honest answer?
MR. LOCKHART: No, we won't do that. (Laughter.) No, that's a good question. Let me take an opportunity to try to answer it.
I remember on my first day when I came in, Helen Thomas grabbed me and, with a knowing smile, said, you're feeling pretty good about this today, aren't you? And I said, well, I think so. I've wanted to do this for some time. I'm going to get to do it. I'm a little nervous, but I think it will be okay. She said, enjoy these briefings. You're going to come to hate them. Every Press Secretary does. It's an albatross. You're going to hate it.
And for once, I think I've been able to prove Helen wrong, and that's enough for my career. I have never stopped enjoying coming down here. I've lost some of my desire for all the preparation it takes to come down here and talk to you all, but I've never not enjoyed coming down and facing this back-and-forth. It has been fun, it has been a pleasure to work with each and every one of you.
I think -- I hope we have demonstrated a commitment and demonstrated that we understand what you do and we value what you do. And I leave probably having had cross words with everyone in the room, but have very positive conversations. And I thank all of you for that. And I think you should spend the weekend resting -- rest up, because on Funday -- on Monday --
MR. LOCKHART: -- fresh meat. (Laughter.)
Now, as long as I said Monday, if you will allow me, I'll go to the week ahead.
JOHN PALMER: Joe, I think that we all feel that we want to say thanks for accepting our late-night phone calls, treating us with a bit of respect from time to time -- (laughter) -- and helping us with various projects. And especially the staff, too -- your staff has been very good and very helpful to us, and we thank them as well as yo-year-old (Applause.)
MR. LOCKHART: Let me just tell you briefly what I said privately to my staff this morning, and I won't give you the whole story, but I did tell them this morning that the thing that I'm most proud of is them and the work they've done. I think we have distinguished ourselves as a staff that reporters who have been around for a while will remember this group and certainly everybody else in this building will remember it because of the great work they've done.
Now, the week ahead. I just looked down at this and realized that, in addition to the drink under here, they've also had some fun with the week ahead. (Laughter.) So, here goes. It turns out that this is not the week ahead for the schedule of the President, it is the week ahead for the schedule for me. (Laughter.)
Saturday, September 30, down until 2:00 p.m. No public schedule, but there is a photo release. It is Joe Lockhart shaking hands with Rick Lazio. (Laughter.) Who knew they could find that?
Q Was that on The Daily News? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Sunday, October 1, attend confession, ask forgiveness for all that lying to Terry Hunt. (Laughter.)
Monday, October 2, arrive at Elizabeth Arden Salon for deep tissue massage -- (laughter) -- seaweed wrap, salt glow, and pedicure. (Laughter.) 5:00 p.m., meet the mole at the private residence at the Watergate Hotel. (Laughter.)
Tuesday, October 3, 9:00 a.m., interview candidates for my own personal tae-bo trainer. (Laughter.) Afternoon, attend first meeting of "Spinners Anonymous."
Wednesday, October 4, shave. (Laughter.)
Thursday, October 5, 10:00 a.m., speech to Dallas oilmen's club. (Laughter.) 2:00 p.m., speech to Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association. (Laughter.) 5:00 p.m., speech to the National Association of HMOs. (Laughter.) 8:00 p.m., pick up new Ferrari at dealership. (Laughter.)
Friday, seminar at the Brookings Institution, entitled, "Art of the Apology in the Modern Political World." I will be representing the President. Other guests include Howell Raines and Jeff Gerth. (Laughter.)
And finally, Saturday, I'm going to Disney World. (Laughter.)
And I'm done. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 2:25 P.M. EDT