News

October 12, 1999

PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room






                              THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release
October 12, 1999

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART
                             The Briefing Room

1:14 P.M. EDT

          MR. LOCKHART:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to the White
House briefing.  Questions.
          Q    Pakistan.  What do we know?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, we know from our embassy there and from
other sources that, clearly, there's a political crisis unfolding.  We are
trying to ascertain hard and certain information as we speak.  This is,
obviously, a fluid situation.  There are a number of rumors and reports
running around the city, and at this point we have not ascertained the full
extent of the situation.
          Q    Can it be characterized as a coup at this point?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think there's obviously a crisis unfolding.  I
don't think we have information available to us which would enable us to
characterize it that way.
          Q    Joe, has anyone in this administration in any way sought to
find any information on whether Pakistan's nuclear holdings have been
safeguarded through this?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, we have been talking at a variety of
diplomatic levels and trying to gather information.  I don't have any
particular information on that subject at this point.
          Q    Are there any concerns about the security of their nuclear
holdings?
          MR. LOCKHART:  No concern like that has been relayed to me.
          Q    Do we know where the Prime Minister is?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't have specific information on that.  I know
there are reports in the Pakistani media, but I don't have independent
verification of that.
          Q    Has anyone spoken with him?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't have any independent verification on his
location or if there's been any communication.
          Q    The Prime Minister dismissed the Army Chief of Staff.  Was
the administration aware that he was going to do that, or did they
recommend or encourage that at all?
          MR. LOCKHART:  No, I don't think there was anyone in the
administration that was aware of that move.  I think, as you know, there
were some conversations several weeks ago about keeping the Chief of Staff.
Nor was anyone in the administration aware of the events that have
precipitated this crisis today.
          Q    Do you think this had anything to do with the Kashmir
agreement reached with Sharif while he was here?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think that we're dealing with a very fluid
situation where the facts are unfolding, and I would caution everyone to
try not to speculate based on incomplete or pieces of information that are
coming in.
          Q    Are there any concerns that India might try to make an
aggressive move against Pakistan during this time of turmoil?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I haven't heard any comments coming out of
the Indians, or the Indian government.  I think that we -- obviously,
anyone trying to take advantage -- we would be concerned about anyone
trying to take advantage of any uncertainty in the current situation.
          Q    Has the President or anybody from the administration
contacted Prime Minister Vajpayee in India and asked him to show restraint,
in light of the current developments?
          MR. LOCKHART:  The President has not.  I'm not aware of the
diplomatic conversations between the United States and the Indian
government.  You might check at the State Department on that.
          Q    Joe, I wasn't sure what you said earlier.  Do you have any
concern about the control of any nuclear materials between civilians and
military in Pakistan?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Again, no concern has been relayed to me as
something the United States government is currently worried about.
          Q    What about Americans, Joe, and American facilities there?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think there are around 4,000 Americans in
Pakistan.  The State Department has issued a warning for them to show
caution and care in this moment and to stay close to home.  I have no
reports of Americans or American facilities that are specifically at risk.
          Q    Joe, is there any concern that the current political crisis
there could potentially swing towards Islamic fundamentalism?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think before we draw any conclusions, we want to
have more facts, so I will resist the temptation to go down any of these
hypothetical roads.
          Q    Do these events place into context the debate in the Senate
over the test ban treaty?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Only in the sense that it underscores the danger
in foreclosing the possibilities available to the national security team
and the President as far as moving forward.  It's an unpredictable world,
but I don't see any direct connection between what's going on on the ground
and what the Senate is currently considering.
          Q    What is the state of play in negotiations with  members of
the Senate on the treaty?
          Q    Can we go back to Pakistan?
          MR. LOCKHART:  There's plenty of time.
          The state of play?  There are ongoing conversations between the
Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership in the Senate.  The
President sent a letter yesterday seeking a delay on the vote based on our
national security interests.  I think that was a reasonable request from
the President, again, based on our national security interests.  And it's
our hope now that the Senate will do the same and delay the vote.
          Q    What more do they want?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Oh, it kind of depends on who you talk to.  I
think we've made clear that it's not in our national security interest to
go forward in this situation with a process that has not allowed for full
debate and examination of the issue, when the votes are not there -- as it
clearly stands now.  I think there are a number of senators on both sides
of the aisle who share that view.  The question now is, can the leadership
work out a process where we can move forward and delay the vote.
          Q    Is the President willing to take the next step?
          Q    You say that it would be bad to foreclose the possibilities
available to the President and the national security team as we move
forward.  Is there anything about delaying this vote until 2001 that would
foreclose those possibilities?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Not if the Senate takes up the request the
President made in his letter.
          Q    Meaning what?  That you'd hold hearings before 2001?
          MR. LOCKHART:  No.  I think that if they take up -- the President
made a simple request that they delay the vote, without a time frame
assigned to it.  And if they take that up, it won't foreclose any
possibilities.
          Q    Only a defeat would foreclose -- an outright defeat would
foreclose the possibilities --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, no.  I mean, clearly there are some who have
argued that we shouldn't take this up in any way, shape or form until after
the next election.  And that is something that the White House does not
feel comfortable with.
          Q    When the President refused to agree not to bring this up for
the rest of his term -- and I guess that means not -- he refused to agree
not to talk about it for the rest of his term -- that what your
understanding is?
          MR. LOCKHART:  No.  Again, I think you should go and ask those
who are seeking to impose these conditions exactly what they mean by them.
I can't decipher them all.
          Jim?
          Q    Yes, you say the White House doesn't feel comfortable --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Right.
          Q    -- with making some assurance that it goes until 2001.  But
if it comes down to it, I mean, in the interests of national security, the
President requested they delay the vote.  Now, if it's about to fail, in
the interest of national security will he go one step further --
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think it's in the national security of this
country to delay the vote, one, because I think it send the wrong message
if the treaty is defeated.  But I think it sends an equally dangerous
message if we indicate that under no terms, and in no uncertain terms, we
are not in the non-proliferation business from now until 2001.  So I think
the President put forward a reasonable request yesterday, which is based on
our national security -- delay the vote.  And it's our hope the Senate will
come back and take a reasonable position, delay the vote, because it is in
our national security interests.
          Q    -- send that message, Joe?
          Q    So he is not going to take that next step, is that what
you're saying?
          MR. LOCKHART:  The President made very clear in his letter
yesterday what he would like the Senate to do.  We hope the Senate will do
it.
          Q    Do you think those two things are equally dangerous, to have
the treaty voted down, or to have people know it's been put off?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think they both send the wrong message to the
rest of the world.  And if we say that under no circumstances, no matter
what happens in the world, could we possibly take this up, even if it was a
situation where U.S. leadership was desperately needed someplace in the
world, I think that sends the wrong message.
          Q    What circumstances are you thinking of that would require
you to take --
          MR. LOCKHART:  I can't sit here and tell you what's going to
happen in the world.  I think as you all know, things change in the world
that will require U.S. leadership in order to resolve problems around the
world.
          Q    That's what Democrats on the Hill are arguing -- we should
have some little stipulation that there might be some circumstances.  What
possible circumstances would require us to vote on the treaty next year?
          MR. LOCKHART:  You could have all kinds, and I'm just not going
to get into doing a hypothetical, but I think if you sit and you think hard
about it, you could come up with circumstances that might lead our
political leaders here to decide that it could be in our interest to
consider it next year.
          Q    Joe, there's a letter being circulated by Senators Warner
and Moynihan which says that not only should it be put off, but that it
wouldn't get taken up next year.  Does the White House object to other
senators signing that letter?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I haven't seen the text of the letter.
          Q    Well, Joe, you've said many times that you don't control the
schedule in the Senate --
          MR. LOCKHART:  That's correct.
          Q    -- and if Lott doesn't want it to come up, all he has to do
is not let it come up until 2001.
          MR. LOCKHART:  That is certainly his option.
          Q    So what I'm wondering is, in that circumstance, would the
President agree, since he doesn't want it to come up unless it has the
votes, would the President agree not to use this as a political issue --
not to criticize the Republicans for stopping --
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think if you listen carefully to what the
President said, he wants the politics taken out of this, and he has made
this case based on the national security interests of this country.  He's
taken the step forward and said that he believes that it's not in our
national security interest to have this vote today, and he believes the
Senate should delay.  And the Senate has to consider that, consider how
they want to move forward.
          Q    So why doesn't he just say that he and the Democrats will
not use this as a political issue and that might leave it --
          MR. LOCKHART:  The President has made very clear that he's not
interested in playing politics with this, he's interested in the national
security of this country.  He said it at the press conference on Friday.
          Q    Are you making a pledge that he will not use this --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Listen, I'm not going to play games here.  This is
a serious national security issue.  I know your instinct is to look and to
cover this on the politics.  The President made very clear his intentions
what he wants to do in the press conference on Friday, and it's as clear as
can be.
          Q    It's been announced that the Army Chief of Staff will
address the nation.  Does this change your assessment of the situation at
all?
          Q    I can update that.  We just ran a bulletin saying that the
fired Army Chief of Staff --
          MR. LOCKHART:  That's great, but --
          Q    -- says the Sharif government has been dismissed.
          MR. LOCKHART:  Okay, well, I haven't had the ability to get that
information independently, so I can't possibly comment on it from here.
          Q    Joe, on the treaty, does this setback to any extent limit
the President's other foreign policy maneuvers and elbow room?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know that the situation has been resolved,
but --
          Q    It's not going to get passed.
          MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think -- and again, we believe that the
right process with the right kinds of safeguards built in, we could get a
two-thirds majority in the Senate.  But that's not the issue today as we
speak.  The issue is whether we're going to have the vote or not.
          Q    Has the President done anything, made any phone calls today,
talked to anybody about getting the treaty taken off the table?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President made very clear his
intentions yesterday when he sent a very explicit letter to the Senate
Majority Leader.
          Q    But he didn't do anything today?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President made very clear yesterday
what he would like to do and it's now up to the Senate.
          Q    Joe, Democrats on the Hill think that the Republicans really
would rather have a victory over the President on this than anything else.
Do you share that view?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think it's unfortunate that we're even having
that discussion, that there is a debate going on here whether a political
victory over the President could be put on the same scale as the national
security of this country.  I believe that the President put forward a very
reasonable proposal to delay this vote based on our national security, and
it's certainly our hope here that Republicans and Democrats on the Hill
will respond favorably to it.
          Q    Joe, you just made reference to the right kind of safeguards
built in, the treaty should be able to get two-thirds.  Do you mean that in
the interim conditions, or could be attached to the treaty to assure the
doubtful or the --
          MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think we should have a process like we've
had on the last half dozen or so arms control treaties that have come
before the Senate.  The senators have a chance to take the treaty apart,
look at it, see if there's areas where they think there should be more
safeguards put in -- none of that can happen in eight days; that's clear --
so that as we move forward, whenever that is, we have a process that allows
for it.
          Q    Since those safeguards can't be attached if they change the
nature of the treaty, that would require renegotiation.  In effect, they
simply sometime just restate what's in the treaty already, but make people
feel warmer about it.  Do you favor those kinds of safeguards, the
feel-good safeguards?
          MR. LOCKHART:  We had a process in --
          Q    -- like withdrawal in six months, which is in the treaty in
the first place?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Let me get to my answer.  We had a process
underway where we worked closely with Democrats and Republicans on the Hill
and the chemical weapons treaty, where we addressed concerns.  That treaty
was ratified.
          Q    Joe, is your position then that the President is not going
to state that he will agree not to have it brought up next year, but if the
Senate, in their control of their agenda schedule, don't bring it up --
that's okay?
          MR. LOCKHART:  We don't get to control what the Senate brings up
and what the Senate doesn't bring up.  That's something that the two
leaders have to work on and come to some agreement on.  The position that
the President has stated, again, which I think is quite reasonable, which
is he doesn't think the vote should take place today.  The votes aren't
there.  There hasn't been a process conducive to a full examination of the
treaty and the benefits, and whatever concerns senators may have about the
treaty.  But we also don't believe that we have the luxury of making a
statement about what's going to happen.
          Q    Joe, do you have any reason to believe that these votes will
materialize in the next 15 months?  Do you have any indication that they
will?  Do you have anything --
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President, in his radio address,
stated very clearly that when the Senate takes a close look at this and
examines it again with an eye towards the benefits it brings and whatever
they want to add as far as safeguards, that we will -- that it will get a
majority.  I think the President believes, whether it's now or later, or
this Congress, the next Congress, this treaty will be ratified.
          Q    But how do you satisfy both of those conditions?  The
National Security Advisor yesterday said it would not be brought up again
if you didn't have the votes to ratify it --
          MR. LOCKHART:  That's right.
          Q    -- so how do you ever get the votes to ratify it unless you
bring it up and discuss it in the Senate?
          MR. LOCKHART:  By looking at this -- you don't have to go to the
Senate floor.  There are ways that senators can do this, however the
process moves forward.  But, ultimately, that's up to the Senate.
          Q    Joe, there are a lot of people, actually, who say that the
White House could have been doing that long before it even came up, and
that the President --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Oh, I'd love to have "a lot of these people," the
so-called "a lot of people," in this room.
          Q    These are people who come to meet the National Security
Advisor, who follow the issue a lot more closely than most anybody.
          MR. LOCKHART:  Right.  And again, to my -- I guess my message to
"a lot of these people" is that the President -- we spent a lot of time
negotiating this treaty.  We sent it up more than two years ago.  We -- the
President has spoken about this over and over again, as far as how
important it is, in two State of the Unions and various other addresses and
events in the Rose Garden.  Unfortunately, the Senate, in their own wisdom,
in the Foreign Relations Committee, couldn't find a day -- not one day
-- to put this on their calendar to discuss.  That is the way arms control
treaties get debated in this country.  That is how they get ratified in
this country.
          Q    There's a lot of background work, too, though.  It's not
just the Senate putting it on the calendar.
          MR. LOCKHART:  I understand that.  And a lot of background work
has been done.  The fact that it didn't find its way onto your radar screen
-- there were a lot of other things going on.  But there has been a lot of
work done on this, we have done.  Unfortunately, there was no time on the
schedule in the Senate.
          Q    Then why was the White House taken by surprise          ?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Taken by surprise by what?
          Q    That this whole thing blew up and became a political issue
--
          MR. LOCKHART:  Listen, we have made our point all along we
thought that it should be scheduled, but it shouldn't be scheduled in a
time frame of nine days.  As is clear at the end of eight or nine days,
that is not sufficient time to consider this in a comprehensive way;
therefore, the President believes that the vote should be delayed.  It's
clear as can be.
          Q    Why did you agree to an eight-day schedule if you can't get
it done in eight days?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think there was obviously frustration on the
part of CTBT supporters that they couldn't get this moving, that there was
no way to get this moving, they couldn't even get it debated.  We've made
the judgment now that there hasn't been enough time and that we are seeking
more time.
          Q    Right, but in the beginning you thought there would be
enough time --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Listen -- and we have made the judgment that it
has not been enough time and we are seeking more time.  That is all we're
seeking.
          Q    Right, but why did you agree to this schedule in the first
place?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, again, having -- looking back, we understand
that the eight or nine days is clear not enough time. There was nothing
else offered.  We are asking for more time now.
          Q    Joe, Senator Biden said today that the President basically
recognizes that it's not as a practical matter going to be brought up next
year.  Is he familiar with the President's thinking on this?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm not familiar with Senator Biden's comments.
          Q    Does the President, even if he doesn't want to rule it out,
does he believe that it probably would not --
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President understands that the Senate
and the Senate leadership are the sole proprietors of the Senate schedule.
          Q    Joe, how closely did you coordinate with key members in the
Senate when you negotiated the treaty, when the President signed the
treaty?  Was there any groundwork done then to find out where --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Of course there was.
          Q    And what did they tell you at the time?
          MR. LOCKHART:  We have kept the Senate involved through the
process.  We have kept -- through the process of negotiating the treaty and
when we sent them the treaty and we urged them repeatedly to take this up
and deal with it seriously.  The process that we were given was the one
you've seen.
          Q    No, what I'm asking you is, was the depth of their
opposition clear when you signed the treaty, or has something changed among
Republicans since then and you now face a different situation than you did
when you negotiated the thing to begin with?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm not sure I know the answer to that.
          Q    Joe, given what you just said -- the President and the White
House has publicly and privately urged them to bring this up -- will the
President and the White House continue to do that over the course of the
next year, or not?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know what decision they're going to make.
Ask me the question once they've made a decision.
          Q    Is the President going to continue to speak out and try to
build public support for this even if it's not --
          MR. LOCKHART:  The President is going to do what he judges is in
the best interest of getting the CTBT treaty ratified.  And right now I
just can't answer the question of what we're going to do until I know what
the Senate is going to do.

................

          Q    Joe, you're leaving the impression that you thought that
eight days would be enough time, and then realized later that it wasn't --
          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm not leaving that impression.
          Q    But you always thought that eight days wasn't enough time.
I guess I'm going to ask you again, why did you agree to that schedule in
the first place?
          MR. LOCKHART:  We said clearly from the first day that we ought
to do this in a way that was comprehensive and could examine, that eight
days wasn't enough.  But as far as I know, this was a take it or leave it
offer.
          Q    Would you explain to me why it wouldn't be much worse to
have the treaty rejected this week than to agree to wait a year?  I mean,
if it's rejected, it's gone.  If you wait a year, there's --
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think both send the wrong message to the world.
And we're very concerned about the message we send to the world.  We're
very concerned about the message we send to Russia and China, to India and
Pakistan, to Iran and Iraq.  And neither is something that we believe is in
our national security interest.
          Q    -- going to happen this week is going to send the wrong
message -- either option that they're considering.
          MR. LOCKHART:   No.  I think we can delay this and take this up
and have a process that the senators can agree on, and we'll see where it
goes.
          Q    But if it's delayed until after 2001, you said that also
sends the wrong message.
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think it sends the message that, no matter what
happens in the world, we have given up our leadership position on
nonproliferation.
          Q    Joe, you said a political victory over the President
shouldn't be held on the same scale as an important national security
issue.  In political terms, did the Republicans score a victory by
preventing 67 votes from coalescing for this thing?  I mean, was it a
political victory over the President?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm going to leave those of you who are much more
qualified than I am to judge that.
          Q    Joe, was there any effort, as there has been in past
treaties, to assemble past -- former Presidents, to assemble kind of
Republican eminences to come out to the Rose Garden, appear with the
President to make it --
          MR. LOCKHART:  I mean, I think there were a number of people from
both Republican, Democratic, and academic persuasions who went to the Rose
Garden.  You've had a number of people support -- in the national security
field who have supported this treaty.  So I don't think it's a question of
the leadership support not being there.
          Q    What about President Bush?  What about President Ford?  What
about President Carter?  Were they contacted?  Did you try to get them --
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think President Carter has stated publicly that
he supports it.  I don't know where President Ford and President Bush are.
          Q    -- deny that not delaying this for more than a year, that it
has nothing to do with the President's wanting to make this part of his own
legacy, or not wanting to back down to Senator Lott, all this speculation,
it has nothing to do with that, it's purely national security?
          MR. LOCKHART:  This is about the President pursuing an important
element of our national security.  I mean, we're in a situation where we
and our experts have made the judgment that we don't have to test and it's,
therefore, in our interest to constrain others from testing.  That's what
this is about.
          Q    Joe, if, as the President said with Prime Minister Chretien
in Ottawa on Friday, that this has become a political issue, how can any
amount of discussion turn the tide on this?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I mean, I think if you take that attitude, nothing
ever gets done in this town.  We find a way, every year, to pass a budget.
We found a way to come together in 1997 on the balanced budget.  We found a
way to come together in the middle of the campaign in 1996 on welfare
reform, minimum wage, Kennedy-Kassebaum.  I think where there's a will,
there's a way.
          Q    But given the level of rhetoric and distaste of the White
House among some members of the Republican leadership, can you expect that
those fences can be mended?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Oh, I'm sure that the same level of rhetoric and
distaste was there in 1996 and 1997.  We managed to get things done.
People who have been here are nodding approvingly.  (Laughter.)
          Q    He said last week that this year actually resembles 1995
more than some of the other years.  Was he trying --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Who said that, I'm sorry?
          Q    The President said that last week, that it resembles 1995,
when there was a government shutdown, more than some of the other years.
Was he trying to express concern that maybe this is headed for a shutdown?
          MR. LOCKHART:  No.  I think he believes there's still plenty of
time to work this all out.  I mean, 1995, and extended into 1996, was a
year where everything sort of broke late in the budget process, whereas in
'97 it was relatively early in the budget cycle that we were able to come
to broad agreement on the budget.  I don't think that the President
believes that we're going to face that choice.  But there's a lot of work
to do between now and the 21st.

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          THE PRESS:  Thank you.
                          END       1:48 P.M. EDT
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