October 15, 1999


                              THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 15, 1999

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART

                             The Briefing Room

12:07 P.M. EDT


   Q    Joe, on test ban, the President talked yesterday about the need,
perhaps the possibility of attaching reservations and understandings to the
treaty in order to make it more palatable to his opponents.  What will the
White House do in order to get that process going?  Will the White House
lead that process, can it lead that process?  Does it have --
     MR. LOCKHART:  The President made very clear in his conversations with
senators on Wednesday afternoon that, regardless of what they did with the
vote, that they should do hearings, they show move forward.  That is
traditionally the area where senators have an opportunity to weigh their
concerns, judge their concerns against the expert information that the labs
can provide and the Pentagon can provide and the White House and others can
     So I think if the Republicans -- I mean, ultimately, this will be a
bit of a test for them.  If their public rhetoric is meaningful, they will
move forward and want to look at this treaty, and want to look at the
issues.  If it is empty rhetoric, you will see no movement and you will
find that what we believe and what the President articulated yesterday is
true, that this was a partisan exercise that short-changed an important
constitutional prerogative and responsibility of the Senate in order to
demonstrate that they could defeat this treaty and ultimately put in the
particular circumstance of the procedural vote, put party loyalty above our
normally bipartisan national security interests.
     Q    Why would they want to take another look at it if they just
repeated it?
     MR. LOCKHART:  Because many Republican senators talked about the need
to look at safeguards and to look at things that -- to work through this
issue.  There were many of them who said, well, this isn't dead, we need to
-- but the treaty, as written now, we can't vote for.  They never really
took a look at it, though.  So we'll see if they come back to it.
     Q    Why wouldn't the White House lead that effort?
     MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President indicated yesterday that he's
going to continue to talk about this.
     Q    No, but I mean, why don't you lead the effort in sitting down
with him and working out finding out exactly what their objections are and
say here's what we could do --
     MR. LOCKHART:  Jim, I have to be candid here.  We tried to do that
last week.  As I mentioned to some of you over the last couple of days, we
tried to go up and brief senators.  Senators refused.  We heard from
senators that there's just not enough time to do this.  I'm not going to
get into private conversations on who said exactly what.  But we tried to
go up and do briefings and figure out what the concerns were.  And it all
-- it was peeling back different layers of the onion to find that there was
a partisan exercise going on, where the vote, or the treaty, was only
allowed out of committee -- out of Senator Helms' committee -- once he knew
he had enough votes to defeat it.
     And when it came to -- as I read in the paper this morning -- 90 --
this is from a Republican aide, an anonymous Republican aide -- 90 out of
100 Senators wanted this vote delayed, and the reason it wasn't delayed was
because a procedural vote on party loyalty was more important than what 90
percent of the Senate thought was in our national security interest.
     Q    Let me ask you just a question on the other side of that.  I
understand your point, the President's point, about the Republicans' role
in this.  Don't you also wonder if the White House did its homework
properly?  I mean, they offered you a take-it-or-leave-it deal, as the
President put it.  And you took the deal without knowing that you had the
votes to pass it.
     MR. LOCKHART:  There was -- listen, you can look at this in a vacuum,
or you can look at it in reality.  This -- we've been trying to get this
treaty up for two years.  We -- there was no one who wanted this done in a
week.  But there was no sense that this treaty was ever going to come out
of Senator Helms' committee.
     Now, having looked at where we were several days into this, almost
everybody with any sense in this town said, let's delay it.  Let's put this
     Q    That's my point.  Why did you take the deal?
     MR. LOCKHART:  Anyone -- there's -- sometimes you're given a choice
that is really no choice at all.
     Q    So you're saying several days after that, you realized that it
was a mistake, and that you wanted it --
     MR. LOCKHART:  That it would be a mistake to go forward and that --
what I'm telling you is that most people with sense in this town said we
ought to delay this, it's in our national security interest to delay this.
And from what I read in the newspaper today 90 out of 100 Senators, 90
percent of the United States Senate though the right thing to do was delay
this vote.  But we moved forward with this vote which has tremendous
national security implication to this country because 10 percent -- let me
finish -- 10 percent of the United States Senate thought we can't do this,
and we can't do it.
     There is a real ultimate irony in all of this which is that what this
really reflects is this titanic debate that's gone on over the last several
years within the Republican Party has finally been settled in favor of
fortress America, isolationism.  And the same week that the person who was
pushing it, Pat Buchanan, is leaving the party.  There is an irony in all
this.  But they have settled their issue, even though the vast majority of
their party thought we ought to put this off.
     Q    You're saying the Republican Party leadership has adopted a Pat
Buchanan foreign policy?
     MR. LOCKHART:  The vote that they took to move -- to not delay and to
vote this test ban treaty down reflects some decision within their party
that moves towards isolationism rather than engagement in the world.
     Q    Joe, you've been articulating the sense of frustration.  The
President obviously gave that impression yesterday during his news
conference.  I'm wondering if that signals any concern that major
legislative accomplishments are becoming increasingly elusive as his term
winds down.
     MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think the President addressed that directly
yesterday.  We've got business to do in the next two weeks on the budget --
next week on the budget.  And we don't have a choice.  We're going to get
this done.  We are going to continue to invest in education, we are going
to continue to put more cuts on the street, we are going to continue to
invest in protecting our environment.  It may take a little while for all
of this to catch up --
     Q    That's not coiling for a fight over the budget, as some
Republicans have said, looking to blame a shutdown on them?
     MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think the President was clear on this yesterday.
Our operating principle on CTBT was that the treaty was in our national
security -- I have seen some of the strangest punditry over the last 24
hours about somehow, we wanted to lose this in order -- so we could have a
fight or an issue.  That is absurd, ridiculous.  This is important for our
national security. We have seen the partisan politics entering foreign
policy in like no way, I think, in our history in the last few years.  It's
wrong, but the President wants to get things done.  He is not someone who
relishes confrontation, he relishes cooperation, and we're going to work
with Congress.  They've got -- on the budget, they've got to make a
decision.  They have yet to.
     We've got an example within the last day or so, which is they're
looking at doing some of the Medicare give-backs on '97, and you ask them
how they're going to pay for them, and they say, we're going to pay with
the surplus.  And you say, but you have seven other appropriation chairmen
who are using the same surplus, saying they're going to pay for their
spending.  This is going to get serious at some point.  Not yet.  You know,
we'll wait until the 11th hour, but we are going to get serious and we're
going to get something done.
     Q    Based upon what you just said, that the politicization of the
test ban treaty is simply wrong.  What's your opinion of the Vice President
now making it a campaign issue?
     MR. LOCKHART:  Listen, the Senate has spoken.  The Senate, very
clearly spoken, said that they've defeated the treaty.  This is now for the
public.  This is now in the public domain where the public will decide who
has got the right view on this.  So I think it's legitimate, it's a
legitimate part of the political debate.
     I'll be interested to see the ads of all the candidates who have taken
the position that we shouldn't test, but we shouldn't have a treaty so
others can test.  That'll be an interesting ad.
     Q    The Senate Majority Leader said that it's absolutely the wrong
thing to do for the Senate to vote based on public pressure.
     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I don't know that the Senate majority -- the
Senate majority fixed the process so public pressure couldn't be brought to
bear.  So I think that that's somewhat of a disingenuous comment.


    Thank you very much.
     THE PRESS:  Thank you.

                              END                  12:55 P.M. EDT