News

October 5, 1999

PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room







                              THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release
October 5, 1999

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART
                             The Briefing Room
1:03 P.M. EDT

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          Q    Joe, is the administration committed now to a vote on this
treaty, or are you prepared to pull it if it looks like it's going down?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, Senator Lott is the person who runs the
Senate Floor.  He's, for reasons that I articulated yesterday, thrown this
on in a rather peculiar way, but the vote's next Tuesday and we're going to
work as hard as we can between now and next Tuesday.
          Q    Senator Lott is saying that you've been calling for this for
two years, and now that he's called it to the Floor, you say, well, wait a
minute here.
          MR. LOCKHART:  Listen, I think anyone who is an objective
observer here will agree with us, that after two years of pushing for this,
to be told you have now nine days to make your case on something that is as
important as this, is rather peculiar.  I'll leave it -- he can explain his
reasons.  They are not convincing.
          Q    He's explained his reasons as being a response to the White
House making this a political issue, given Senator Biden to try to attach
it as an amendment to a bill, planning on making it a campaign issue next
year and said, fine, you want to play the game that way, we'll bring it to
the Floor.
          MR. LOCKHART:  Listen, I'd love to see his evidence.  I know the
Democrats on the Hill rightfully have made the case to him that after two
years of inaction, it was time to move on this.  Now, I think Senator Lott,
it's incumbent on him to explain to the American public why his management
of this issue is different from previous Republican leaders and previous
Democratic leaders of the Senate, who allowed for full hearings and a full
and open debate on the floor.  It's -- we would be very interested in
hearing that explanation.
          Q    Joe, why have you failed to get anybody on board?  Any --
you know, the Chairman of the Armed Services, the Foreign Relations
Committee, the Majority Leader.  What's wrong here that they're not buying
your message?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I think -- you know, you all just sat
through a very detailed briefing that made a very strong argument.  So I
would suggest that the Majority Leader can articulate for himself what his
reasons are.  We're working with Senators.  We'll have some of the people
you talked about down here at the White House for dinner tonight.  We will
make the case to them.  We will make the case in the coming week that the
vast majority of scientists believe this; the vast majority of military
experts in this country agree with this.
          All we can do is make a very simple case that we don't test
because we don't need to.  We should try to constrain the rest of the
world, the people who do need to if they want to produce a modern nuclear
force.  This is a basic question about the nuclear future and our safety.
And we think we have a very strong case, and we're going to continue making
it.
          I think -- I think -- let me turn the question around a little
bit, though.  If the Majority Leader's case was so strong, then why does he
have to do a hit-and-run process?  Why does he have to say, well, we have
to do this within the next nine days, and there really aren't time for
hearings?  I'd suggest it exposes the weakness in their case, and if there
are politics here, I think the politics are on the other side.
          Q    But their point is that until you can verify -- until you
can guarantee that you can monitor every low-yield nuclear explosion around
the world, now is not the time.  It --
          MR. LOCKHART:  John, let me take --
          Q    -- to give up our deterrence, or to give up the potential
for future development.
          MR. LOCKHART:  -- let me take the point directly:  their point
makes no sense.  If we don't have a CTBT, we don't have the ability to do
on-site inspections.  We don't have the sensors around the world.  We don't
have the deterrence of breaking a treaty.
          So what we have now is, we've got some people arguing that ---
let's go ahead and keep this moratorium, because -- agreeing that we don't
need to test, because of our technological superiority, but let's let
everybody else test.  We shouldn't do anything that keeps nations like
China, Russia, India, Pakistan, from testing.
          It's hard to refute an argument that has no logical underpinning.
I am at a loss for words, because it's hard to argue with this.  It doesn't
make any sense.
          Q    But are you confident that the 321 monitoring stations and
the on-site inspections will allow for verification?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Listen, we -- the CTB has strong verifications.
This is not about trust.  This is about trusting and verifying.  There --
it is difficult today -- it is not like, if we don't put this treaty
through, we have a magic solution to all low-level testing.  It is
difficult today -- we should recognize that problem, and we should move to
strengthen our ability to do it.  I mean, there's part of this argument
that is circular, that -- it's very difficult to refute, because it doesn't
make any sense.
          Q    But, again, it comes back to the point that if you can't
guarantee verification -- even with this treaty -- is this the prudent time
to ratify the treaty?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Listen --
          Q    Or should the United States wait until the technology is
more sophisticated?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, listen, I don't know of any technology that
gives you 100 percent capability.  What I do know is the argument that
they're making now is that they are basically accepting the fact that we
don't need to test because we have a stockpile stewardship program that
allows us to keep our superiority, to keep our deterrent without testing,
but we shouldn't do anything to restrain China.  We shouldn't do anything
to restrain Russia.  We shouldn't do anything to restrain India.  We
shouldn't do anything to restrain Pakistan.
          And from the same group of people, the very same group of people
who stood up on the Hill and lectured people endlessly about the Chinese
nuclear threat and what they got and what they didn't get, to make the
argument now that we shouldn't take a very positive, forward step to
constrain their testing makes no sense.
          Q    Are any of the President's guests tonight opponents of the
treaty?  Can you tell us who he's having in?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think Senator Warner has said things that
indicate that he would have trouble supporting the treaty.  We hope to be
able to convince him and change his mind.  He will be at the dinner and
there will be some others.
          Q    Joe, the President kidded yesterday that you were offered a
choice of whether to take this vote now or not have a vote and that you
chose to take it.  Why did you do that?  Why not wait maybe until earlier
next year or when you might have some more time?
          MR. LOCKHART:  We had no indication that the Senate would ever
bring this up.  Again, this goes to the basic tenants of the Senate taking
on their constitutional responsibility.  It had been sitting in the Senate
for two years.  There had never been a single hearing.  We had had the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying over my dead body will I have a
hearing on CTBT.  Here's an issue that the vast majority of the American
public supports.  There is nobody out there in Lafayette Park today holding
a demonstration, saying, let's have more testing.  There's nobody there.
There's a reason.
          The reason is that the vast majority of the American public, the
vast majority of the experts, the vast majority of the scientists say that
we don't need to test, that it will make it a safer world if CTBT is
ratified.  Now, Senator Lott has his own reasons which he can articulate
for why this is being done in a way that no other Senate Majority Leader
has ever handled a major arms control treaty.  He can articulate them.
          But we need to make the best effort we can to try to convince
senators of the value of this treaty and the importance of this treaty.
          Q    There are polls that indicate that the American people want
to stop testing?
          MR. LOCKHART:  There was something in the paper this morning from
a group that said 82 percent of the American public support the
ratification of the Conventional Test Ban Treaty.
          Q    Why isn't nine days -- if nine days isn't enough, then how
many days would be enough?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think if you look at arms control treaties in
the past, they've been on the Floor anything between five, 15, 20 days.
There have been dozens of hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee and other committee hearings.  And I think to try to do it within
a week says something about the case that opponents have against the
treaty.
          Q    What's your head count?  How many votes do you think you
have?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't have a head count.  The President will
meet with some senators tonight.  He'll continue talking to senators.
He'll continue making the public case.  And we'll see where we are by next
week.
          Q    You were about 15 shy yesterday.
          MR. LEAVY:  We'll fill this out.
          MR. LOCKHART:  Yes, I'll have a list as soon as it's ready.
There are some people who are -- you know, adding, and I don't want to put
out an incomplete list.
          Q    Can you tick off what the President's going to do in the
next two or three days, what this full-court press is going to consist of?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I think the dinner tonight is important.
It's not just the President.  We have all levels of the government, from
the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense, will be appearing in
public, meeting in private, testifying on the Hill.  You saw a group of
distinguished experts talk to you within the last half-hour.  Sandy Berger,
as I said to you this morning, will be meeting with arms control groups who
are supportive and will want to generate public support.
          I think you'll see the President will be here tomorrow,
surrounded by perhaps the most distinguished group of experts on this
subject ever assembled, and others, making the case for why it's in our
interest.  He will continue talking about this, and we will continue making
the case.
          Q    Joe, can you put this in some sort of historical context?
There are those -- and maybe it's a grand overstatement to say so, but
given the import of nuclear weapons, there are those who compare this vote
to the vote at the end of Woodrow Wilson's term on the League of Nations.
If this treaty goes down, it is comparable -- just as important as, maybe
even more important than, that defeat.
          MR. LOCKHART:  It's hard for me to find the perfect historical
comparison.  But I think -- let me do it this way.  There is no more
important vote, as far as our future, and our safety.  Moving ahead will
provide for a safer and more secure world.  Voting this treaty down will
create new and very real threats to the American public; will allow states
without modern nuclear programs to test, move their programs forward, and
be a greater threat to our security and our lives.
          Q    What's the event tomorrow?
          MR. LOCKHART:  He's got some people coming in.  I'll give you
some more on that later today.
          Q    Joe, has he been talking to any foreign leaders about his
struggle over this domestically?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Not --
          Q    Is there anything that they --
          MR. LOCKHART:  -- not in particular.  I mean, I imagine later in
the week, when he meets with Prime Minister Chretien, that the subject will
come up.  But as far as I know, he's not engaged other leaders.
          Q    Do you know where former Presidents stand on this treaty?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I know that Mr. Bell gave you some sense of
the origin of the test ban.
          Q    I'm talking about living Presidents.
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think President Carter has spoken in support of
it.  I don't know where President Ford is.
          Q    And President Bush?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Oh, he supported the moratorium, so it would stand
--
          Q    A nine-month moratorium.
          Q    It was a temporary --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Yes, well, it would stand to reason if he thought
we didn't need to test, that it would be a good idea for others to
constrain their testing.  But I'll leave it to the former President to
articulate his own view.
          Q    Yes, one of the arguments is that -- and Senator Kyl made
the argument this morning -- that you can't really rely on computer
simulations until you've had several more years of tests in order to make
sure that the computer simulations are accurate.
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I think Senator Kyl should avail himself to
the experts of the Department of Energy, at the National Laboratories, at
the Pentagon, at the Joint Chiefs, within the scientific community, and
within the arms control community.  I think upon reviewing all of the
information available, his view might be somewhat different.
          Q    Joe, you mentioned Sandy Berger meeting with some of the
outside groups?  Is there going to be any effort to sort of get the public
involved in any type of media campaign or some way to --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Not that I know of.  I mean, I think that the
groups, for better of worse, these are not groups that have the resources
of, say, the insurance companies, and we all can see from activities today
what their access is and what they're able to do.  But I think they will
make the case to the American public, as the President will, that this is
manifestly in our interest, but I don't know of any $50-million campaign,
like tobacco companies ran when they didn't like a piece of legislation.
          Q    Is the President considering an Oval Office address?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President is considering getting this
message out in any way that's possible.  We'll look at all different ways,
but I haven't heard any discussion of that or any decision that he'll be
doing that.  But I'm not ruling anything out at this point.
          Q    Joe, how optimistic are you guys that he can win on this, or
are you resigned to not getting it?
          MR. LOCKHART:  We're certainly not resigned to anything here.  We
believe we have a very strong case.  We are now in the second day of this
effort. I think -- when you look at the newspaper, there are strong
editorial support, there's strong support in all areas except in some
places in the Senate.  We will continue to work with senators and groups
and on a one-on-one basis.  We think that this argument is so strong and so
compelling that -- and we know that we can change minds and we can convince
senators to support it.
          Q    Do you have any sense that there are votes out there which
will be negative only because it's Bill Clinton that's the President and
they're just so anti-Clinton and --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Let me just address that because I've seen that
suggested.  I think if there is a single senator out there who thinks their
own partisan differences with the President's and their own feelings about
the President is more important than the future of this country, it's time
for them to go get another job.



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                          END       1:28 P.M. EDT