THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JAKE SIEWERT The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:25 P.M. EST
MR. SIEWERT: I'll start with a quick travel announcement and move on from there. The President, on January 17th, will travel to Little Rock, Arkansas, and he will, in Little Rock, address a joint session of the Arkansas General Assembly, and the rest of that schedule is TBD. But he will be returning to Washington that evening.
I think this will give him a chance to thank the people of Arkansas who have supported him throughout the years, and to look forward to the work that he'll be doing down there in conjunction with his Presidential Library, which the plans are underway for. And he'll probably see some old friends.
That means that the President and Mrs. Clinton will travel to New York, following the Inauguration on January 20th, and they will remain overnight that evening in Chappaqua. We'll provide you with more details as those become available.
Q Both of them will leave?
MR. SIEWERT: Both of them will leave, yes.
The President is also making an announcement today regarding export controls on high performance computers. There is actually a call underway shortly -- for those of you who want to rush back to your booths and get on that -- with John Podesta, Bill Reinsch and others, to run through the details of that -- Rudy DeLeon.
But the overall importance of that announcement is that we are revising our rules on a regular basis now -- this is the sixth time we've done that -- to reflect the realities of a rapidly changing marketplace. And the President has asked Congress to actually make it easier to do that. We've had some success in changing the way in which that's done, but we want to ensure that American companies are not left behind by controls that belong to another era.
At the same time, we want to ensure that we protect the national security of the United States and ensure that we are not putting high-performance computers in the hands of companies that might misuse them. So that call is under way shortly. You can call Ms. Engebretsen, "the Tiger," up in Upper Press if you want to get on that.
Thirdly, we are pleased -- and we don't get to say this every day -- that Senator Jesse Helms, Senator Biden and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have indicated their willingness to release the next payment of arrears that were authorized under the Helms-Biden legislation. That payment of $582 million will allow the U.N. to pay the bulk of the funds owed to other countries for troop contributions to peacekeeping.
This move builds on the fine work that Ambassador Holbrooke has done, along with Secretary Albright and others, at the United Nations, and it will go a long way to putting the U.S.-U.N. relationship back on track.
I think that's it in terms of announcements. Oh, Sandy is speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. That's in New York City. And you can contact either Don Mitchell at the NSC or the Council on Foreign Relations in New York to get more of the details of that speech; but that will be an opportunity for him to discuss his recent article in Foreign Affairs: "A Foreign Policy For The Global Age." And Mr. Gelb will preside over those events.
Q This is the President's speech?
MR. SIEWERT: No, Sandy Berger's speech -- will be speaking in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations, and give an opportunity to sum up some of the success we've had here in the Clinton administration on managing new global challenges in a new Information Age.
Q What's the latest on Dennis Ross? When is he going?
MR. SIEWERT: That trip -- he initially delayed that trip for one day for scheduling reasons. Chairman Arafat is in Tunis today for a meeting of Arab foreign ministers. He has now put the trip on hold, given security meetings that are happening now at various levels in the region.
As you know, the CIA Director was in Cairo over the weekend, met with security officials from both sides to discuss how to improve the situation on the ground. At this point, Dennis still plans to travel to the region, but we have not set a revised date.
Q Isn't that a sign, though, that it's not looking very hopeful that anything can be accomplished before the end of the Clinton term?
MR. SIEWERT: We're looking right now at whether we can see some reduction in the level of violence. It's going to be important. It's very hard to imagine, as we've said before, that we could see any serious negotiation, let alone a conclusion, to some of these discussions with the serious level of violence in the region.
Q That's what caused the postponement?
MR. SIEWERT: Initially, it was scheduling. But now, given that there are security talks going on in the wake of Mr. Tenet's visit, we are looking to those security meetings and seeing how we proceed based on our analysis of those.
Q But, Jake, effectively, you've given up any hope of any sort of an agreement and any sort of a statement of principles, even?
MR. SIEWERT: We will make a judgment based on where we are at the end of those discussions. But the President has said he's committed to working until the very last day. We, I think, have 10 or so days left to continue our work on this and the President is committed to doing everything he can to help narrow the gaps between the parties. And As he said in his speech on Sunday, it beats packing up. So he'll keep working at it and until the last day, we'll do what we can. He'll make a judgment after seeing how some of the discussions go on security matters about what our next step is.
Q Barak has said that there might be a Presidential statement that he would welcome and the Palestinians said they would welcome that as well, just to get a blueprint down that could be something to move forward from in the Bush administration.
MR. SIEWERT: Honestly, we're going to do everything we can to move the process forward, but I don't want to get into the hows and wherefores of that right now. Dennis has put the trip on hold, but we are looking at how the security discussions move forward before making any decision about what our next steps are.
Q The President put the trip on hold, didn't he? I mean, it wasn't Dennis, he didn't make --
MR. SIEWERT: Obviously, we've been consulting. The President talked to the Prime Minister and the Chairman in the last couple days and we'll make a decision when we see how those security discussions play out.
Q Jake, the President has said now -- said privately, and his negotiations -- and he said it publicly, I believe, Sunday night, that when he goes, his proposals go with him. Is he simply accepting a fact of life there, or does he think it's just simply a good idea that they disappear with him?
MR. SIEWERT: I think that's simply the reality. A new administration will have to make new decisions and new -- make their own assessment of how to proceed, and the President is just indicating what common sense tells all of us -- that when the President leaves, he takes with him the discussions that he's made. It's up to a new administration to make steps -- make any overtures after that.
Q There's no continuity in American foreign policy?
MR. SIEWERT: No, certainly there's a lot of continuity. We've been consulting heavily with --
Q -- picking up the ball, didn't he, from the --
MR. SIEWERT: We don't want to prejudge how the next administration will proceed -- that we've been consulting with them all along, I think they understand where we are. They have a lot of opportunities to build on some of the work that has been done. But that's a decision that they will make. But I think that people in the region understand that the President is involved in these discussions intensely himself, and that a new administration will have to decide how they want to treat the ideas that the President shared with the parties and with the public on Sunday.
MR. CROWLEY: It's also the rules that we've had at Camp David that if there is an agreement, fine; if not, then the parties are not bound to what they have put on the table at any particular time.
Q Jake, regarding the President's comments in Chicago last night. Does he truly believe that "the only way they" -- the Republicans -- "would win the election was to stop the voting in Florida"?
MR. SIEWERT: I think, yes, the President said what he believed, that when all the votes are counted, now by the press, that it will show that Al Gore may, in fact, have received more votes there. I think that's relatively an uncontroversial statement at some level. At the same time, the President said that he accepts the court's ruling and he understands the importance of the rule of law and that we are all going to accept what the Supreme Court said and move on.
Q But the comment last night was about Republicans. Does the President believe Republicans stole the election from Al Gore?
MR. SIEWERT: I think the President said that he disagreed with the court's ruling, but that he understood the wisdom of accepting it.
Q The only way they could have won is by stopping the vote count and then --
MR. SIEWERT: Well, I guess we'll see what the facts are. I mean, that's up to the media now at this point to sort through what the ballots that weren't counted said and whether that statement is true. But I'll let you assess that on your own.
Q Does he think that the election was -- that Bush's election was thus, invalid or illegitimate?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, I think he said that we have to accept what the court ruled and, obviously, a new President will be sworn in. He also said that -- you know, we've met with President Bush and we're working very hard to ensure that he has every opportunity to succeed in the job.
Q Does he think that should be the admonition to the American people, to accept what may have a dubious --
MR. SIEWERT: He thinks it's very important that while he disagreed with the court's decision -- and he said so publicly a number of times, he told the pool that on the way back from Ireland -- that it was important to accept it.
Q But, Jake, what he said was that the only way they won the election was by stopping the voting counting. And also Ari Fleischer has just said that there is a time-honored tradition of President's leaving office to be respectful to their successors and that he hopes that President Clinton will follow that tradition. Do you think he broke with that tradition last night?
MR. SIEWERT: No, I don't think so. I think there are very strong feelings about the way in which the aftermath of this election was conducted. There was obviously a very strong legal effort made by the Bush legal team to stop the count. And that was their prerogative, to fight that in court. The court ruled in their favor and the President said he accepted that.
At the same time, he thinks that, obviously, if all the votes had been counted, we might have seen a very different result. I'll leave that up to you to assess as you look at those votes yourself, in Florida -- I know a lot of media organizations are doing that.
But the President has met President-elect Bush and wished him well, and given him advice. He's instructed all of us to cooperate in the transition. At the same time, he made perfectly clear he disagreed with that court's decision.
Q On this big decision that he has on whether to take Socks and Buddy --
MR. SIEWERT: There are no developments on the Socks-Buddy peace process today.
Q What is the story here? Why can't he take them both?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, I think the President -- I'm not going to say much beyond what I said yesterday. The President has tried, worked pretty hard on this, and there's nothing new on that today. But I'll let you know if we --
Q They get along here, don't they?
MR. SIEWERT: We've got a lot of space here, and maybe that makes it easier.
Q Could we just ask you for on-camera purposes, what are the parameters of this peace process? (Laughter.)
MR. SIEWERT: It's a family matter, probably best not discussed on camera. But the President said he's worked to try to get them to get along, and we'll let you know if we succeed in that effort.
Q But is there a discussion of a separation, perhaps a Socks stays in New York and --
MR. SIEWERT: There are a lot of different options, a lot of different options. We haven't made a final decision.
Q Does he have a preference of a pet?
MR. SIEWERT: No, I'm not going to get into that here. I don't think so.
Q They fight like dogs and cats.
MR. SIEWERT: I was instructed that the pet peace process was moribund today.
Q Yes, but there's little doubt that Buddy is his favorite these days. (Laughter.) I mean, he's not even-handed on this, is he?
MR. SIEWERT: We're not playing favorites here. I mean, the dog is a regular here in the West Wing. You've probably seen him. I understand he wanders back here from time to time in search of God knows what.
Q Why doesn't Chelsea take her own cat?
Q If Dennis Ross isn't doing anything -- (laughter.)
Q Chelsea can't have a cat at Stanford?
MR. SIEWERT: I don't know, actually don't know what the rules of the dorm are there. But, look, they'll work this out one way or another. We'll let you know.
Q -- hopeful?
MR. SIEWERT: We are very hopeful. (Laughter.)
Q -- to the last day of the administration? (Laughter.)
MR. SIEWERT: To the last day of the administration, we're going to keep working on it and see what we can do.
Q Jake, is there some decision by the U.S. to sell F-16 fighters to Chile?
MR. SIEWERT: The Chilean Air Force has awarded the F-16 first place in a technical evaluation, and the Chilean government and Lockheed Martin have begun negotiations to arrive at a final contract. Negotiations of that type generally take two to six months, and cover topics such as final purchase price and the like. So we will work during that time period, through the Department of State and Defense, to comply with congressional notification requirements specified by the Arms Control Export Act.
So we've been -- the Speaker of the House, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee must be notified before the sale. But Congress has an opportunity to weigh in here, and the NSC will review and approve the proposed notification to Congress.
Q Is any of this new?
MR. CROWLEY: It was the Arms Export Control Act.
MR. SIEWERT: Arms Export Control Act, AECA.
Q Is any of this new? Like, is it recent that they just approved this, or is there --
MR. SIEWERT: I think the negotiations are underway, in the wake of the first round of what the Chilean government has decided.
Q But it's not like it just happened yesterday?
MR. SIEWERT: The agreement was on December 27th, yes, that the Chileans entered into.
Q Jake, on clemencies, do we expect anything this week? Or maybe next week?
MR. SIEWERT: I wouldn't expect anything this week. We may have something next week. The President has promised to review additional clemency proceedings and we'll let you know when we have anything new to say on that. But I don't expect anything this week.
Q There have been some published reports about possible sites to be dedicated as national monuments. Can you rule any in or out at this point?
MR. SIEWERT: At this point, we have received seven recommendations from Secretary Babbitt. He forwarded two more recommendations just yesterday, one in Arizona and one in New Mexico. The President will make decisions on those shortly, obviously, in the next 10 days. And we'll let you know how those play out.
At the same time, he is considering one additional one that we've developed on our own, which is a monument in Idaho that covers an internment camp, a Japanese internment camp, one of 10 that we'd like to work with the congressional delegation and local officials on.
For those of you who asked about the Arctic refuge, the President does not intend to designate that as a national monument. We oppose efforts to drill in ANWR and he vetoed a budget bill in 1995, in part because it would have opened the refuge to oil drilling. But we believe, actually, after consulting with our environmental team, that the -- ANWR has something that some of the other areas we looked at does not have, which is legislative protected status, which is actually higher than that conferred by the monuments.
So, unlike those that we've already moved to protect, there is specific legislation that was passed, I believe, and signed into law at the end of the Carter administration, which confers a higher degree of status, a wilderness status, to that land and specifically prevents oil drilling there.
So we're not convinced that giving it a monument status would give it any additional legal protection. So Congress is going to have to act on that and Congress has steadfastly opposed efforts to open ANWR throughout Democratic and Republican control in the Senate. So we think it's very unlikely that Congress will allow the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be opened for drilling. They defeated it in the '80s and '90s and we think they'll continue to oppose that and we think that's the right course of action. This if very pristine wilderness area and shouldn't be an area where there is new oil drilling.
Q And, yet, Jimmy Carter seemed to think that monument status would go a long way to protect ANWR.
MR. SIEWERT: We've taken a close look at that. I mean, we take that argument seriously, but we've taken a close look at it and decided that the wilderness status that's conferred by the legislation that was passed in the '80s, the Alaska Lands Act, actually confers a higher degree of status, according to our analysis of it than a monument would.
A monument is, after all, an executive action that could potentially be reversed by a new administration; whereas the congressional designation is legislation that has to be reopened and subject to a full congressional debate, subject to filibuster, and it would be very hard to open it up to drilling, given the narrow split between -- that exists in Congress today.
Q Does the incoming administration -- have they indicated they do want --
MR. SIEWERT: Yes, they have said that they're interested, at least exploring it. We strongly oppose that. Obviously, that's something that they will be free to try to do. But they're going to have to go through Congress to do it, and we don't think Congress would be wise to open that area to drilling.
Q Jake, as the President leaves office, there still looms the possibility of the IOC bringing indictment. Is the President preparing for this or have -- thinking this may happen? Is he doing anything to prepare?
MR. SIEWERT: I think you should probably check with his lawyers on that. I don't know that he, personally, is involved in that effort. But you should check with his outside counsel on that.
Q What did -- I came in late -- what happened to Linda Chavez yesterday, through this whole process, what does that say to you about Bush's governing style, if anything?
MR. SIEWERT: I don't know. I mean, there are plenty of pundits on TV to discuss that. I don't know that we're necessary to weigh-in on that. There are lots of other people well-qualified to discuss that, and I don't want to do that from this podium.
Q Is there a decision yet on whether there will be a State of the Union or a farewell address?
MR. SIEWERT: We're getting there. We thought we had one piece of business for you today, the decision to travel to New York on the 20th, and we're going to drip this out in bits and pieces. (Laughter.) But that's all I've got today, at least. So we're going to New York, and that's one decision that I'm ready to share with you. But we're considering some options there for next week.
Q Has he decided not to have a news conference?
MR. SIEWERT: No, we haven't made a decision not to have a news conference. But that's another thing that's kicking around somewhere in the decision-making process. We'll let you know if we have something final.
Q Have they signed a deal yet? I mean, have they closed on the house?
MR. SIEWERT: No, I don't believe so, but I'll double-check on that. I think they were planning on doing it sometime before the 20th, but I don't think it's been concluded yet.
Q Would you let us know?
MR. SIEWERT: Absolutely.
Q And on the office space up in New York, as well?
MR. SIEWERT: Yes, we'll let you know on that. I don't know what the time line is on that. He obviously looked at some places that he liked. He's got to make a decision, and then there's a legal process, bidding process.
Q Thank you.
MR. SIEWERT: Thank you. We'll be back on Friday.
END 1:47 P.M. EST