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Briefing By Joe Lockhart from Camp David

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary (Camp David, Maryland)

For Immediate Release July 18, 2000

PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART

Thurmont Elementary School Thurmont, Maryland

12:20 P.M. EDT

MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, everyone. Sorry I'm a little bit late. Let me bring you up to date on what's happened since Mr. Crowley briefed you late last night. The talks continued at a variety of levels very late into the evening last night. The President, for his part, had two separate sessions with Prime Minister Barak; met with the team several times. Mr. Berger and Secretary of State Albright met with Chairman Arafat. The President's night, or, more accurately morning, ended at about 5:00 a.m. This morning, the President began with a meeting with his team at about 10:00 a.m. And at about 10:30 a.m. or so, began a bilateral meeting with Chairman Arafat.

On a scheduling note, let me just, for the White House people here, let you know that, as the discussions are continuing -- and I expect them to continue into the evening tonight -- rather than send the press plane out this evening at 8:00 p.m., which was the much more convenient and hospitable way to do it, we'll wait until tomorrow morning, just so you guys aren't -- the White House people aren't in the air 10 hours from someplace when and if we come out and say something about what's going on.

And I think for those who cover the State Department, the Secretary of State will stay here tonight through the evening and will not be traveling to London.

Q She's not traveling?

MR. LOCKHART: To London.

Q Could you tell us when the President wound up with the Prime Minister? In fact, do you know how long he spent, how much time he spent in those two meetings?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know cumulatively how much time, but I think the last meeting, the second bilateral, ended somewhere between 4:00 a.m. and 4:30 a.m., and the President spent some time with his team after that.

Q So, Joe, what you're in fact saying is that the schedule has -- that he's going to meet later than expected --

MR. LOCKHART: No, I haven't. No. In fact, we generally at the White House try to send the press plane out with enough time so people can get in and get checked in, and even sometimes get a night's sleep. I think, given the fact that we're going to be here this evening, it makes sense to put them on the same schedule as the President, so I expect them to leave roughly about the same time. We might send them out a little earlier, a little later, depending on how the airport wants to treat the two planes.

Q The President is still scheduled to leave tomorrow morning at 9:50 a.m.?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes.

Q Back in '78, President Carter instructed one of his aides to begin drafting a speech that he would deliver, instructing him to begin drafting at the beginning of the summit a speech that he could deliver in the event that it failed. Did President Clinton give any such instructions to any of his aides at the beginning or any time during the summit?

MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Joe, while we're at a contingency, if I could slip in a quick one, are there any contingency, if that's the word, arrangements being made for a signing ceremony? It being a possibility, are you preparing the appropriate room at the White House for that contingency?

MR. LOCKHART: I think given the fact that we've been through this a number of times and a number of different issues, there doesn't need to be much preparing. I'm confident that the team at the White House can, on a moment's notice, put something together.

Q Joe, what should we read into the fact that the President worked so late into early in the morning? What is the significance of that?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the significance of that is that as the President said in his own voice, these issues are as difficult as any as he's any confronted in a negotiation. Both sides have clear views of what's in their interests, and it is very, very difficult to try to bridge the gaps.

Q Joe, can you give us any sense of whether the atmosphere inside Camp David has changed, with just the next day or so --

MR. LOCKHART: I think people understand that there is not an open-ended or unlimited amount of time, so people understand the pressure that they're under, because the stakes are high here, and the issues are important. And I think that people have been at this now for quite some time, and a variety of people have been up most of the night for the last three nights, so I think you can expect that they're tired, but they're staying at it.

Q Joe, if the President is still scheduled to leave tomorrow morning, is it fair to say that both President Arafat and Prime Minister Barak are going to leave tomorrow, probably?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any information one way or the other on their travel plans. I don't know whether they have other plans for further travel or other activities.

Q Joe, do you expect an announcement prior to the President's departure tomorrow morning?

MR. LOCKHART: I expect that when the President leaves, we'll let you know where things are, and my sense is that sometime before he leaves, you'll probably hear from him.

Q Joe, you categorized before the reports from people outside the talks as being -- the majority of them being inaccurate. Overnight, there have been a lot of similar reports saying that the issue of Jerusalem is now being discussed. Would you categorize those in the same way --

MR. LOCKHART: I would say, without getting into that particular report, that the batting average of reports coming out of people who are not here has not improved. And I guess getting it right four out of 10 times gets you into the hole; same for baseball, but I don't know if that's so good in what we're talking about now.

Q Joe, did the President say there's nothing that stops the holding of further rounds of talks between now and the 13th of September between the parties?

MR. LOCKHART: You know, right now the focus is on the talks that are going on right now, and there's not a lot of people worrying about a theoretical possibility of other discussions.

Q Have there been any meetings directly between Barak and Arafat, or with the President and Barak and Arafat in the last 24 hours? Are there any plans for such --

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of in the last 24 hours. If one happens, I'll let you know.

Q Have there been any requests for other people to join the delegation, perhaps from Emmitsburg, in the last 24 hours, since we last asked?

MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of, no.

Q And on Emmitsburg, are those talks still continuing?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that they've begun -- done any discussions this morning; I haven't gotten a report. But my last report was they were continuing.

Q It could happen that the President will cancel or delay his travel to Japan; I mean, can you characterize this?

MR. LOCKHART: That involves both me speculating on a hypothetical question and I'll take neither.

Q Joe, what is this costing Uncle Sam, this process, every day here at Camp David? What's it costing?

MR. LOCKHART: In what sense?

Q Dollars.

MR. LOCKHART: Dollars. (Laughter.) Well, there's a limited amount of cost for having more guests than normal at Camp David, which is something that the State Department gladly foots the bill for. But I think I can't imagine there's an American who doesn't think that limited investment isn't worth the cost of it. As far as being able to detail it, I can't, and I'll say that it is a very small expenditure in relation to the expenditures that the U.S. government makes.

Q Joe, would the President be comfortable if the two parties came to an agreement on some of the issues; what you might consider a partial agreement if left unresolved -- some other issues for future discussions?

MR. LOCKHART: I think I'm going to not answer questions that start with "would" or "if" today.

Q Could I try -- maybe we can improve our batting average here. All right, the premise of the summit, right -- we all remember -- was it only the President -- reached the point where only the President could possibly bridge the gaps between the parties. So the issues are well-known. The issues are better-known, and there's been a lot of detail work.

Could only the President at this point finish the deal off, or if he has other engagements, can someone stand in his stead and at least keep the pot boiling long enough for him to come back or whatever?

MR. LOCKHART: Again, I just don't see the point in me speculating on things that I can't know at this point, and I'll tell you to the extent I can what I know, but I'm not going to speculate further.

Q Are there still 11 or are they 12 now -- the negotiators?

MR. LOCKHART: The number I saw was 12.

Q Twelve now?

MR. LOCKHART: I think they may be one short. But we'll check on the list.

Q Joe -- impact, and there's a lot of speculation on the Hill as to how much of a total -- and whether Israel may be pushing for too much in terms of what they need, their security needs -- the Israeli Cabinet members have gone to the Hill and met with members of Congress. Is the President sympathetic to the Israeli idea that they're going to need a significant infusion of cash in order to bolster their security?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me make two points on that. I think the President understands that the United States has a role to play as both the United States government and as an international leader as far as encouraging other countries to play a role in supporting the peace process.

The second point I'll make is that the President has committed to consulting closely with Congress; when and if this issue becomes relevant, he will do that. He, for instance, he spoke briefly with Speaker Hastert last night during one of the breaks between the meetings. He will continue to do that, and I think everyone should just hold their fire on what they think it should be, what they think it shouldn't be, until we've got something in place and we can actually look at what the real needs are.

Q What was the purpose of his call to Speaker Hastert?

MR. LOCKHART: To keep up the consultation process. He had made a round of calls at the beginning of this, and I'm not sure he hooked up with the Speaker as we were going out. But he just wanted to continue the process of keeping Congress informed.

Q On the summit itself?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes.

Q Did they talk about the estate tax or did they talk about Hastert's allegations about oil prices? Did any of those things come up?

MR. LOCKHART: What about oil prices? I didn't know --

Q The concerns last week that there may have been some things that Democrats weren't doing in order to help move that.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, they didn't talk about it, but let me take the opportunity to talk about it. There have been a number of missed opportunities by this Congress, as far as pursuing the President's alternative energy program. They haven't -- they cut funding on the next generation of automobiles, which the research for that, which can get cars soon on the road that get 80, 100 miles a gallon, all sorts of tax incentives for energy efficiency.

I think if you look at gas prices, there's an energy report out this morning that shows gas prices down another nickel nationwide. But that's no excuse for us to then take a pass one more time on a long-term energy policy. And I think if the Speaker is critical of the President, he needs to turn inward a little bit, look at his caucus and convince them that it's time to stop stonewalling on a very important energy issue.

Q Joe, what the Speaker was really critical about was this idea that the White House was aware of a memo that suggested that it was new EPA rules, its -- it's responsible for the hike in prices. Yet, still, went to the -- oil.

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, there were a number of elements and I think if you go back and look at everything I said, particularly in the Midwest, we discussed a number of factors that were involved in the price spike there -- but none of them added up to the .40 or .50 cent differential that was going on. And that's why the FTC is looking into it. And the FTC is satisfied.

Q Joe, if I could rephrase my previous question. Has the President ruled out accepting an agreement that falls short of dotting all of the i's and crossing the t's?

MR. LOCKHART: I think right now the President is focused on trying to get an agreement and we're not spending a lot of time speculating about what could be or might be.

Q Joe, can you give any explanation about the lack of meetings with Arafat? I mean, we have a summit where it appears that the one peak in the summit is not participating in meetings. How can you say in the last 24 hours that the parties are working when one of the principals is not meeting?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, you could make the case that -- you could turn that around and say, why hasn't the President met with Barak today. You've got to look at this as a whole. This is a negotiation where we make decisions based on what we think will help move the process forward. The President has spent an enormous amount of time with both of the leaders and will continue to meet with both of them as appropriate.

Q -- information -- situation where Arafat has declined meetings because of lack of readiness to deal, or has it just not arisen in the past 24 hours that there was a need for him to meet at the top level --

MR. LOCKHART: I think to give you a full explanation of the moment-to-moment meeting schedule would mean going into the substance of the talks, and I'm not willing to do that.

Q Since day one of this Summit, can you tell us how many times Barak and Arafat met one on one, if such a thing happened?

MR. LOCKHART: I think they probably had one formal and one informal.

Q Is the President planning to make a statement on legislative matters before he departs -- in other words, is there -- can we expect a departure statement on issues apart from the Summit tomorrow?

MR. LOCKHART: I wouldn't expect that at this point.

Q You would not.

MR. LOCKHART: No.

Q Joe, you said a couple days ago that there were no plans for the Vice President to come up here, and there were also no plans for the Vice President to replace the President in Japan. Has that changed at all?

MR. LOCKHART: No. But there seems to be a little less speculating among people who carry little notebooks around, so that's good.

Q Has the President considered the possibility that when he goes to Japan, Arafat and Barak will go to their countries, and come back in the beginning of next week?

MR. LOCKHART: If he has considered that, he hasn't discussed it with me. Yes. (Laughter.) If he's considered that, he hasn't discussed it with me.

Q I have three very short questions. Has the President spoken to Mubarak or any other leaders during this summit?

MR. LOCKHART: No.

Q The second question, in terms of reaching the G-8/G-7 plus Russia summit in time, when is the latest Clinton can postpone a trip from here?

MR. LOCKHART: I'd refer you to our schedule and the Internet that offers great flight times. I'm not going to do it up here.

Q But half an hour -- I mean, he doesn't have to go to Tokyo before Okinawa; technically speaking, to arrive at the summit, right? I mean, he has some leeway.

MR. LOCKHART: Should I tell him that? (Laughter.) Last question.

Q Now, you've gone on for sometime without substance about Emmitsburg and the other talks. Is there a possibility that the negotiators would stay here for the next couple of days while perhaps the leaders would return home for consultations and come back again? Do you know?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't, and no one has give me information that would lead me to believe that.

Q Joe, when is the next briefing?

MR. LOCKHART: Probably about 5:00 p.m.

Q In Camp David One, 1978, the relations between Begin and Sadat were so explosive that President Carter had to separate both of them for about 10 days. In only the last two days of talks they got together and they were able to -- an agreement. This time, having 24 hours, less than 24 hours, and they have not met, and definitely some deliberate attempt not to keep them together now because they are nowhere close to an agreement. So I would like your comment, I mean a comparison of that, and especially that President Clinton took one book on Camp David with him.

MR. LOCKHART: You know, the only part of that question that isn't steeped in your own assumptions is the fact that the President does have Bill Quandt's book. (Laughter.) So I will confirm that. I will confirm that he read the book, but on the first part, I'm just going to have to leave it.

Q Joe, do you have a response to President Putin's comments earlier today that the Russians and the Chinese will counter NMD if and when it is deployed?

MR. LOCKHART: I think President Putin has made his views well-known on this issue. He's discussed this with the President while we were in Russia. I expect we'll have a further discussion in the context of the G-7/G-8 meetings. I think for our part, the President is still awaiting a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense and will make his decision based on the four criteria that he's laid out.

Q How much information about the substance of a negotiation is being shared with you, and how are you getting that? (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: This is like a manhood question. (Laughter.)

Q The reason I ask is I'm curious -- it's one thing to say you're not going to go into the substance of the negotiations. But I'd like to know how much of the substance of the negotiations which you personally are privy.

MR. LOCKHART: I am privy to and an attendee of every meeting that goes on between the President's team that happens when I'm not standing here or trying to help you all. So you can assume that I know lots of stuff and I'm not telling you. (Laughter.)

Q Without going into detail, when or where, is there any dinner plan for Barak --

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, this evening?

Q No, tomorrow.

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, tomorrow. I don't know about tomorrow. Today is hard enough.

Q Can I ask you a question? Is the White House concerned that the GOP appears to be passing tax cuts that are very popular with voters in these --

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, it's very clear that the Republicans in Congress have decided to put aside their responsibilities and to play politics. They've made very clear that they want to get bills done, timed to their convention, so they'll have something to talk about at their convention. The Democrats, on the other hand, I think have a stronger candidate, so we don't need to do that. I understand their problem.

But as far as their bills, you have to look at them. And I think the Secretary of Treasury put out a very important analysis yesterday. What the American public needs to know -- and it's a very simple thing -- is the Republicans are doing two things here. One is, they're abandoning the fiscal discipline that brought us this prosperity; and, two, they are putting together a series of tax bills that the top 1 percent of Americans get 84 times the tax cut as an average middle-class American citizen.

So if they think that that's politically persuasive, they'll continue to push that; we'll continue to push our program of targeted tax cuts and fiscal discipline, and the voters will decide.

Q -- you, in particular, when you look at the new CBO numbers to up the ante a little bit, as far as --

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has put forward a very robust, but targeted, package of tax cuts. We've talked about a very important prescription drug benefit that the Republicans have walked away from, to date. And I think when it comes to -- if you want to compare CBO to OMB numbers, the past should give you some sense of who gets it right and whose projections are closer to reality.

Q Joe, if he pulled an all-nighter last night, is the President ready for an all-nighter tonight?

MR. LOCKHART: Sure.

Q Is there any sense of -- and the intensity of the negotiations might be picking up as we get closer to President Clinton's scheduled departure tomorrow? Has that, indeed, been the case? And what do you expect --

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, and more. Thanks.

END 12:40 P.M. EDT


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