Press Briefing by Joe Lockhart (9/15/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

Immediate Release                        September 15, 2000

                              PRESS BRIEFING
                               JOE LOCKHART

                     The James S. Brady Briefing Room

1:00 P.M. EDT

     MR. LOCKHART:  I have no announcements.  I have a week ahead, if
there's anything that keeps me from doing the week ahead right away, ask.
Oh, by the way, I do have one announcement.

     At 3:15 p.m. we'll have an on the record, on-camera briefing with
Bruce Riedel and Rick Inderfurth, who will give you everything you need to
know about today's meeting with the Indian Prime Minister, and answer all
of your questions.  That is a subtle hint that I will not be taking
questions on this subject.

     Q    Can you say something now for the evening papers how the talks

     MR. LOCKHART:  The talks, as far as I understand it -- I haven't
gotten a read-out since they've broken up, so we'll have to wait until Rick
and Bruce come down.

     Q    Joe, does the White House take issue with the characterization of
the President's remarks yesterday on the Wen Ho Lee case as a rebuke of the
Attorney General, of the Justice Department, of federal investigators?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think I said yesterday it was not a rebuke of any
particular person.  I think the President made clear today that it was not
-- that he did not view his remarks as directed toward the Attorney
General.  The President believes very strongly in her, the job she's done
and in her abilities.

     There are questions, though, as he said, that should be answered, and
we hope they will be.

     Q    Joe, is the President making calls on the Mid-East, at all?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Not that I know of.  As you know, we had a chance to
meet personally with the leaders on a multiple basis just last week.  He
spent some time this morning with Secretary of State Albright, who was just
up in New York talking to some counterparts that are involved in this
process.  And Mr. Berger has a meeting this afternoon.  So I don't know
that there are any calls, but there are certainly a lot of conversation and

     Q    Mrs. Albright has said the U.S. will take appropriate action if
Iraq invades Kuwait.  Do you see the situation there escalating?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I think that there have been, over the course of
the last 10 years, periods of muscular rhetoric coming from Saddam Hussein.
I think what should be quite clear to him is how deeply committed we are to
continuing our policy that contains his ability to threaten his neighbors
and reconstitute weapons of mass destruction.  He has had times where he's
miscalculated, but he should not miscalculate our resolve.

     Q    Joe, is the President getting any closer to making a decision on
whether he will tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think, as he said this morning, we're working very
hard on energy issues as a whole, monitoring the overall oil market
closely.  The market is still digesting the OPEC production increase.  OPEC
has had some comments on their own in the last, I think, 24 hours on this
subject.  As far as further steps, I think the President said all options
remain on the table, but there are no decisions.

     Q    Meaning that -- if I could follow up, meaning that option of
tapping the reserve remains on the table?

     MR. LOCKHART:  It's certainly one of the options.

     Q    Joe, yesterday a House committee approved the 9010 debt
reproduction plan with a bipartisan vote.  Are you concerned that this
might take on a life of its own because it's so hard to vote against, and
that you guys might get boxed into a corner?

     MR. LOCKHART:  No, I don't think so.  I think, very clearly, there's
no party to these discussions that's more committed to fiscal discipline at
the White House and the Democrats in Congress.  Our budget met that goal,
but it's clearly now a last-minute gasp on the part of House Republicans
and Senate Republicans to try to find a gimmick that gets them out of the
box they've put themselves in.

     The interesting part of the box they've put themselves in, through
their tax policy and their spending plans, is in order to get out of the
situation they're in they're now having to repudiate their presidential
candidate.  This program that they've put forward directly rebukes the
economic plan that Governor Bush has put forward as the central part of his
platform and the central reason that he thinks people should vote for him
to make him the next president.  House Republicans don't really think that
that's such a great argument anymore based on this.

     We're going to go ahead, we're going to go forward and work with
Democrats and Republicans alike.   I think, unfortunately, the spirit of
cooperation and compromise that we heard here on Tuesday has not been
followed through on.  They went through, have passed and moved on a number
of appropriation bills without working and consulting with the White House.
This will only slow down the process, because I think they know where we
are on the appropriations bills.

     But I think what they need to know and I think what they do know,
ultimately, is that we didn't get to a position of the strongest economy in
our history by coming up with a gimmick and a slogan.  We got through hard
decisions and fiscal discipline, and after seven and a half years, we have
no intention in the next six or seven weeks of abandoning that on the basis
of House Republicans or Senate Republicans trying to get out of a box.

     Q    So the President would veto a 90 percent debt reduction?  Is that
what you're saying?

     MR. LOCKHART:  If you're talking about the lockbox, I think it's quite
interesting that they -- I mean, they didn't pass a piece of legislation
that said there will be 90 percent of the surplus.  What they did is they
passed a lockbox which unfortunately doesn't have the strength of the
lockbox that the President has advocated on Medicare and on the Social
Security trust fund and some of the surplus.

     But they're moving in the direction that says that debt reduction is
the priority, rather than risky tax cuts that go primarily to the most
wealthy in this country than they're moving in the right direction.
They're moving in the direction of the President and the Democrats in
Congress.  Where they're moving away from, though, is from their own
presidential candidate.

     So it remains to be seen how committed they really are to this.

     Q    With the change in today's schedule, any chance you're talking
about a news conference in the future?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I hope not in the next two weeks.  (Laughter.)  It's
too much work.

     Q    Why?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Yes, I am proud to announce today that on October 2nd,
the President will hold a news conference in the East Room.  (Laughter.)

     Q    Jake?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Jake?  (Laughter.)  No, I don't know.  The schedule is
pretty booked I think over the next couple weeks.  But I think he's anxious
to spend some more quality time with you all, so I think we'll do that.

     Q    Does the President's decision on tapping the reserves depend on
how well this increase, OPEC increase works?
     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I think it's part of an overall energy policy.
Any decision like that will have to reflect what's going on in the
marketplace and what the -- whether we believe that this is at risk of
becoming a crisis for the country.  The ways and criteria for using the
SPRO are fairly straightforward and clear; and it's just not something you
do on a whim, because you feel like doing it.  You have to look at a number
of factors.

     But the current situation, as far as the price and availability -- and
I think really what we're talking about here is availability -- has to be
taken into account.

     Q    And that is an ongoing review now, a very active review?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Yes.

     Q    If the President were to trigger the reserve, how quickly would
additional heating oil supplies be available?

     MR. LOCKHART:  That's a question that I don't know how quickly it
would be, but it would certainly, you know -- it could put a significant
amount of oil in the marketplace, but I don't actually know what the lag or
lead time is.

     Q    So it's your judgment at this point, Joe, that it hasn't reached
a crisis level where it needs to be drawn down?

     MR. LOCKHART:  We've reached the judgement that this is something that
the President is concerned about.  It's something we've taken a look at.
There are a number of steps we have taken.  We have worked very closely and
I think you've seen the results as far as OPEC goes, as far as production.
You've seen the work we've done on the northeast -- northeastern home
heating oil reserve.  There are a number of other steps that have remained
bogged down in Congress.

     But beyond that, there are a variety of other steps that could be
taken, and those options remain open.

     Q    Joe, on Wen Ho Lee, what sort of follow up review is the White
House considering?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, there were some discussions yesterday  between
the White House staff and the Justice Department.  I think as the President
-- get it today, he will take an opportunity at some point to talk to the
Attorney General.  I don't know what form it will take, but I think we're
looking for some sort of process that can look at the narrow question that
the President posed about holding someone pretrial, you know, without the
possibility of bail.

     I think he put into perspective today many of the important issues
about what is crucial here is finding out what happened to the tapes,
looking at a very serious national security violation by the gentleman in
question.  But there are questions about the legal issues surrounding the
pretrial bail, and the timing of the bail hearing versus the arguments made
in the bail hearing and the arguments made subsequently in the plea
bargain.  That needs some examination.  I think he was fairly clear on

     Q    Is he considering, though, appointing some sort of outside

     MR. LOCKHART:  The conversations haven't gone that far.  I know that
there was some very helpful advice provided on editorial pages about how we
should do this -- the very same pages that provided exactly the opposite
advice some months ago.  But I think we'll ignore the editorials and rely
on our own counsel.

     Q    Joe, do you think -- the President said he doesn't think racial
bias was a factor here.  Do you think that just an atmosphere of hysteria
may have been a factor in --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I'll tell you, we take these kinds of issues very
seriously.  And I think when there are troubling questions, we think there
should be answers.  And I think the President was very clear on what the
American people deserve.  And it's certainly our hope, although it is not a
hope that we genuinely believe anything will be done about, that others
will take some time and do some examination.

     I think there was a climate of -- a very difficult climate that was
generated in this town when this story came out, a climate generated by
some very explosive and near-hysterical investigative reporting, a climate
that was fueled by explosive comments from political leaders, including
members of Congress.  And I hope everybody takes a moment, looks at how
they handled this situation, and looks to see if in the future they can do
better -- just as I think the executive branch will do.

     Q    Joe, do you believe that the media reporting and the explosive
atmosphere that you've described affected the prosector's decisions on
which charges to bring and how this case was --

     MR. LOCKHART:  That would be a question you would have to put to the
prosecutors, and they will stand up, I'm certain, and answer their
questions.  It's certainly my hope that those who wrote the stories will
also be willing to stand up and talk about their motivations and whether
there is anything they can learn in the aftermath of their reporting.

     Q    What about the question of an apology?  The judge raised the fact
that he could not apologize for the executive branch, but he could
apologize for what he thought had happened in his courtroom.  Is there any
thought being given to contacting Mr. Lee and making any kind of formal

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think given the limited and the proper role, and
hands-off role that was played here by the White House, there is no
discussion of that.

     I think the President's obligation, as he addressed directly yesterday
and then again this morning, was when questions are raised, when they are
legitimate questions, when people are troubled by things -- and he, indeed,
is troubled, himself, by some of these questions -- we should look at it.
We should look at it and see what it is we can learn from this experience
and see if anything needs to be done to improve in the future.

     Q    So who should apologize in this case here?  Is Mr. Lee due an

     MR. LOCKHART:  I'm in no position to make a judgment on that.

     Q    Joe, can you clarify something I think you said this morning?
The President, when he had the opportunity, I guess, to talk about this
earlier but chose not to talk about it until yesterday, you suggested that
the press would have jumped on him if he had made a statement earlier --

     MR. LOCKHART:  No.  I think, quite rightly, the President -- again,
we're looking at a very narrow band of issues here in this case, and we
shouldn't loose sight of that.  But there were -- he had an understanding
of the reasons for holding this gentleman without bail, and within the last
week or so -- and I think, as he said this morning, it is a very high
standard in this country, as it should be.  I think he said that we often
lean in the other direction on this, for good reason.

     The questions are generated, the specific questions are generated from
the fact that between a bail hearing on one day and three or four days
later, those reasons seem to have dissipated in a plea agreement, as far as
the risk of -- posed by allowing the gentleman before a trial out of

     So I think he has a general, as I think most Americans do, high
standard, and always a sense of unease when someone is being held without
the possibility for bail.  And in this question -- the questions are
generated and derived from, just in the last week, you know, the difference
between where they were from the bail hearing and where they were in the
trial, or the plea agreement.

     Q    But it wasn't a fear of an adverse press reaction that kept him
from speaking out earlier?

     MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think the -- I think what I was referring to
yesterday, and I think he touched on a little bit this morning is, that
there were certainly -- and the little that he knew about this -- there was
a case made for why they had to go in this direction.  And I think that you
would all understand, and would have, I think, had a field day reporting,
if somehow he tried to intervene in this case, as somehow being politically

     Q    Could the President -- does the President think he could have
done anything to sort of calm the hysteria you described earlier?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, let me tell you something, because I happened to
be around here during that period, and I think most of you who talked to me
on a variety of bases, heard a pretty clear and consistent message, which
is -- and particularly with some news organizations -- that we believe that
you were out ahead of yourself.  There were a lot of people jumping to a
lot of conclusions, and we ought to sit back and make suer that we know all
the facts.

     So I don't think that in this particular case that, at least from this
particular podium in this particular building, we'll take the blame for
creating whatever sort of environment we were in, in this case.  And I
would suggest that those of you who didn't talk to me during that period
talk to your colleagues who did.

     Q    Joe, on the issue of tobacco, there's an AP story out quoting
Jake saying that the White House is looking at reconciling both our public
health goals and our concerns for communities that rely on growing tobacco.
What is going on behind the scenes on this issue?  Is there some thought
about trying to help the tobacco farmers?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, there has been a longstanding commitment as part
of the administration to make sure that as we do deal as aggressively as we
can with our public health issues, that tobacco farmers aren't the ones who
pay the price or are left behind.

     You will remember in the settlement proposals that we worked out, and
subsequently fell apart, with the tobacco companies, there was a large
provision for help and transitional help for tobacco farmers.  I understand
that there is continuing work on that and sometime soon we might have more
to say.

     Q    Joe, it's understandable that Prime Minister Vajpayee was
exhausted today and there is certainly good reason for not having a news
conference.  But did the President ever think about maybe just going ahead
with the news conference and coming out alone to talk to us today, given
that his schedule is so packed and --

     MR. LOCKHART:  You mean all by himself?

     Q    All by himself.

     MR. LOCKHART:  With nobody else standing there?

     Q    Nobody else.  (Laughter.)

     MR. LOCKHART:  Oh, I don't think he thought about that.  (Laughter.)
As I think you well know, there are scheduling issues here.  In order to
stand up and do a full-blown news conference, we'd need more than the 15 or
20 minutes to prepare for that.  As hard as it is to believe, we do prepare
for these things.  And there was no way to re-jigger the schedule to do

     Q    What's the week ahead?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Thank you.  Saturday, September 16th, the President's
weekly radio address will be broadcast live at 10:06 a.m.  As background,
the President in his radio addressed, broadcast live from the Washington
home in Washington, D.C., President Clinton will announce a new initiative
to improve nursing home quality nationwide?

     Q    Can we put a camera in there, Joe, a pool camera?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I'll check.  Now, was this word "background" like I
wasn't supposed to say that?  Or I was supposed to say it on background?
(Laughter.)  I said it.  There we go.  There's that decision.  (Laughter.)
We'll put a camera in, but it's on background.

     Later that morning, the President will join the Prime Minister of
India in a dedication ceremony for the Gandhi Memorial in Northwest
Washington, D.C.  That evening, President Clinton will make remarks at the
Congressional Black Caucus Dinner at the Washington Convention Center.

     Sunday, September 17th, the President will travel to Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania.  He will participate in a ceremony for the National
Constitution Center.  As promised earlier, that is something -- this is an
important event in Philadelphia.  I think some of you who have traveled
with us for a while have talked to former Mayor Rendell who, this is a very
important project, has worked on.  The President has helped him in this
project, so I think he wants to go celebrate an important milestone for the
City of Philadelphia and an important historical monument for our country.
I expect his remarks to focus on that, and that alone.

     The President will also make remarks at a New York Senate 2000 brunch,
returning to Washington that day.  That evening, the President will host an
official dinner for the Prime Minister of India.

     Monday, no public schedule.

     Tuesday, the President will speak at a fundraising reception for Heidi
Heitkamp for Governor of North Dakota, at the St. Regis in Washington.
That evening, the President will speak at the Kennedy Center prior to a
premiere performance of a theatrical production entitled, "Truth To Power:
Human Right Defenders Who Are Changing The World."

     Wednesday, September 20th, the President will make remarks at the
Church of God in Christ Annual Bishop Conference at the Renaissance Hotel
in D.C.  We will also host an official working visit for Prime Minister
Amato of Italy.

     Q    What's the format of that church remarks?

     MR. LOCKHART:  It's a speech.  It's not in a church, it's in a hotel.
It's a gathering from around the country of this church.  The President
spoke to them, I believe, in 1992 in Memphis on the campaign, if my memory
is correct.

     The President, that evening, will speak at a dinner for the
Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a reception for New Hampshire Governor
Jean Shaheen.

     Q    Where are we, Thursday night?

     MR. LOCKHART:  That's Wednesday.  Thursday, the President will visit
Flint, Michigan, as part of his initiative to bridge the digital divide and
create digital opportunity for all Americans.  This is also a travel
announcement; this has not previously been announced.

     In Flint, the President will highlight the importance of ensuring that
new information and communications technologies are accessible to people
with disabilities.  The President is traveling to Flint to highlight
several model programs that provide access to information technology for
people with disabilities and increase their ability to get a job and
acquire new skills.

     Friday, September 22nd, President Clinton will speak at the dedication
ceremony for the State Department.  The building is officially being
renamed that day the Harry S. Truman State Department Building.  That's one
for us.  (Laughter.)  What is the score now?  Five to one, six to one?

     Saturday, September 23rd, the President will do his Weekly Radio
Address.  He will leave that day for the California trip that's been
previously announced and do the fundraising schedule that's been previously

     Q    -- for digital divide event in Michigan or any
other --

     MR. LOCKHART:  Not that I know of, but I can check on that.  I don't
know that we've done that.  Who's that?  Oh, it's April.  Yes?

     Q    Joe, the CBC tomorrow night, we understand it's supposed to be a
love fest.

     MR. LOCKHART:  Hope so.  (Laughter.)

     Q    What is the President expected to say?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President will use this opportunity to talk
about all that we've accomplished over the last seven and a half years with
his allies within the CBC, the challenges that face us.  And, hopefully, he
will provide a good warm up for our Presidential candidate, who will also
speak at the dinner.

     Q    What about the race book?

     Q    Yes, thank you.

     MR. LOCKHART:  Wait a second, if this isn't an unholy alliance, April
Ryan and Mark Knoller join forces.  (Laughter.)

     Q    Yes.

     MR. LOCKHART:  If that's going to be the case, I'm overmatched.

     Q    No Joe, seriously, seriously.

     MR. LOCKHART:  I'm leaving.

                        END                      1:25 P.M. EDT

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