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PRESIDENTIAL VACATION PRESS BRIEFING
SPEAKERS: JOE LOCKHART, SENIOR ADVISOR FOR SPECIAL PROJECTS
LOCKHART: Given the fact that we're so late today I'll try to be as brief as I can -- and the weather is so nice outside. The President is going to be staying around the residence and the grounds for the better part of the day. He may go out later on tonight for dinner. We'll let you know, but there is a lid until 7:00 p.m., and I think, in reality, that will be closer to 8:00 p.m. once we -- but we'll keep you updated as the evening goes on.
QUESTION: What will Mrs. Albright be telling the Israelis in light of what happened today?
LOCKHART: I think -- let me give you some logistical information. I think the Secretary, at this hour, is making a statement from her location in Prague, and the State Department will be doing a briefing at 2:00 p.m. I think they are in the best position to characterize much of the conversations that have been going on back and forth. I think there's been a lot of conversations between the State Department and the Israeli government to determine the state of where things are right now. So I think they will be in a better position.
But I think that primarily, to answer your question. She will echo what the President said today, that the opponents of peace, the terrorists, can't be allowed to rule the day.
QUESTION: Are the Israelis seen as in any way helping to poison the atmosphere with the ways in which they have not carried out the peace process -- carried out the terms of the peace process -- for example, continuing to withhold money and they put another clamp-down on the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- are they seen as contributing to the non-cooperative atmosphere?
LOCKHART: I don't know that that is the focus of where we're -- what we're talking to them about today. We are determining -- we are trying to determine exactly what happened there today. And I think when she goes there next week she'll have broad-ranging conversations with all of the parties in the region. And I'll leave it to her either today or when she goes out to address that.
QUESTION: Is there any possibility she will not go there next week? Is there any indication whatsoever this trip might be delayed?
LOCKHART: No. My understanding is, as the President said, that she will go as planned.
QUESTION: Joe, the President said many of the same things after the July 30th bombings, essentially about the need for a secure environment for Israel. Is it the U.S. position that Arafat -- there is still much more Arafat can do to provide a secure environment?
LOCKHART: Well, I think the words have been we need to see actions, and we continue to send that message on the issue of security.
QUESTION: So the answer is, yes -- that Arafat, there is more he can do and must do?
LOCKHART: I think there have been ongoing conversations -- as you know, Mr. Ross was in the region. But I think, but, yes, there's more that can be done.
QUESTION: Is there more that the Israelis can do?
LOCKHART: I don't know.
QUESTION: I don't mean to deal with --
LOCKHART: I understand.
QUESTION: -- not to deal with the security situation, but to deal with the kind of political pressures that are on Arafat.
LOCKHART: I don't want to characterize or go into any greater detail.
QUESTION: Joe, what did the President mean when he said terror will not be tolerated? What recourse does he have in mind that the United States could possibly have against these terrorists?
LOCKHART: I think what he was talking was in reference to that we shouldn't let terrorists, the opponents of peace, try to kill the peace process. I don't know if there was any specific recourse that he was speaking of there. I think it was in the context of that we need to continue the work that's been going on now for a long time to move this peace process along and not let the opponents of peace rule the day.
QUESTION: Anyone else besides Netanyahu the President wants to speak to today? Will he talk to Albright, for example?
LOCKHART: I don't know that. I know that, as he said, he did try to call the Prime Minister and he was at the hospital, and I will try to let you know if they do hook up today.
QUESTION: -- Albright visit -- has that been confirmed by the Israelis and Palestinian Authority, they've signed off on it, they'll receive her?
LOCKHART: Yes, the trip was announced last week, I think.
QUESTION: Well, reiterated in the wake of this?
LOCKHART: I can tell you as far as I know, the trip is going forward.
QUESTION: Joe, earlier this morning the State Department had said it was reevaluating her trip, and now, Clinton has said it is going forward, so it sounds like the White House definitely wants to make this a clear sign that the reason the trip is going forward is not to get the peace process derailed. What exactly is the White House saying about this trip?
LOCKHART: I'd refer you to exactly what the President said. And I think he was very clear on that as why the trip should go forward.
QUESTION: Joe, walk us through essentially on how did the President hear about the incident, and then what happened, who did he call. Give us some sense of process.
LOCKHART: I'll be as helpful here as I can, but what I don't know is whether he had the TV on this morning or not. But I know that Sandy Berger called, I believe, around 9:45 a.m., 9:50 a.m. They spent about 30 minutes on the phone. Sandy -- the President had some additional QUESTION:uestions. I think Sandy and I believe Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and some others talked to him again at about 11:40 a.m., 11:45 a.m. for 10 or 15 minutes.
During this time, the President attempted to place the call to the Prime Minister, but he was unavailable because he was at the hospital, and then the President came down and talked to the pool.
QUESTION: Why is the natural -- why is the automatic reaction to a situation like this to say that the Palestinians need to do more about security? That's part one of the question. Part two, does this not assume that the terrorists came from a Palestinian-controlled area?
LOCKHART: Again, I wasn't trying to assume anything. The QUESTION:uestion was, is there more that can be done on security, and I think that the position has been that, yes, there can be. But I'm not in a position right here and now to make any detailed description of what's gone on there today, because I'm just not. And I think -- that's why I prefaced everything by saying that the State Department will be in a better position at 2:00 p.m. because they have been involved in the back and forth.
QUESTION: -- of what you said, the President himself called explicitly for the Palestinian Authority, both on its own and with the Israelis, to do more to show that terror would not be tolerated. So John's QUESTION:uestion implies to what the President said -- he singled out the Palestinians to do more. Does that mean that you have any sense that they are necessarily responsible for this attack?
QUESTION: And there is no evidence yet that they came from the territories or did not come from the territories?
LOCKHART: I don't have any evidence one way or the other.
QUESTION: Has the President talked to anyone else? Has he talked to Gore about anything in the last few days?
LOCKHART: Not that I know of, not this morning that I know of.
QUESTION: One of the outcomes of Ross' visit was three in the signing panel -- the U.S., the Israelis, the Palestinians --do you know if that panel is going to be invoked --
LOCKHART: I don't know. I think that's better put to Jim Foley who will be out at 2:00 p.m.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary intend to continue with plans to introduce the U.S. proposals for confidence-building that were basically put on hold after the last bombing in the end of July that Dennis Ross was going to --
LOCKHART: I think she's planning to go forward with her plans to visit the region to try to move on the peace process.
QUESTION: Well, in that answer, are you answering in the affirmative, then -- yes, she will go ahead and present the U.S. proposal for confidence-building measures?
LOCKHART: I don't -- I think that she will go forward. I don't have any specific knowledge of precisely what she's doing. And again, I would refer you over to the State Department.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the speed or the volume or the tenor of the Palestinian Authority's reaction to the word of the bombing today?
LOCKHART: No, mostly because I am not aware of it.
QUESTION: Do you know if the President has access to satellite TV at his compound, or if he has to rely on the local cable TV?
LOCKHART: I don't know the answer to that. I do know about the jigsaw puzzle, though. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: How did the President find out about the Justice Department starting to take a look into Vice President Gore --
LOCKHART: To tell you the truth, I don't know who made a call, but he received a call from a staff person.
QUESTION: Do you have logistical information on First Lady's departure tomorrow?
LOCKHART: No, I'm working on that. I talked to her office this morning. I think they're fairly close to having a logistical advisory ready, and as soon as they have it I'll get it to you guys.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on what he might be doing tomorrow?
LOCKHART: Tomorrow? No.
QUESTION: Is this laid-back schedule today a result of what's going on in the Mideast, that he feels like he needs to be around the phone, not on the golf course, or is it just coincidence?
LOCKHART: No, I think he had planned to stay near the house today.
QUESTION: The British Embassy has planned a memorial service for Saturday in Washington. Do you know who will represent the administration there?
LOCKHART: I don't know. I'll find out, though. I had heard that there was going to be something Saturday I think at the Cathedral, and I don't know the representation, but I will find out and we'll put something out.
QUESTION: Joe, what's the White House feeling on this call in the Senate for some sort of U.S. proclamation on Saturday, an update?
LOCKHART: We think it's a perfectly appropriate call by the Senate, and we support this -- it's a call for making Saturday a day of mourning.
QUESTION: Will the President -- is he going to take any official action along those lines?
LOCKHART: I'm not sure. But we certainly support the effort and think it's completely appropriate.
QUESTION: Do you expect the President to mention the funeral in his radio address on Saturday?
LOCKHART: I don't know.
QUESTION: It's live, right?
LOCKHART: It's -- as of now, yes.
QUESTION: Joe, are you concerned at all by reports that the tobacco deal may not even get a hearing this year?
LOCKHART: A hearing in Congress? Well, it's not a complete surprise. I mean, Congress is only scheduled to be in for what may be as little as seven-day weeks, and this is a complicated piece of business that crosses several committees on both sides of the House. So it's not really a surprise that this may -- the congressional and legislative part of this may slip to next year.
QUESTION: Given the extent that this is an ongoing -- you are still reviewing it -- I mean, you assume that there still life to it, even --
LOCKHART: Yes, oh absolutely. Absolutely. And again, it wouldn't be -- it is not surprising to us if it does slip to next year, and we don't view that as negative or harmful to the ultimate success of passing legislation.
QUESTION: Has the President done any work on this while he's been up here, or do the meetings with the Bruces happen once he gets back?
LOCKHART: I know he spent five minutes with C. Everett Koop; that's the only time I know that he's worked on it. And I think Bruce Reed, Bruce Lindsey, Secretary Shalala will be ready shortly after his return, to present recommendations.
QUESTION: Is there a target date for some kind of announcement?
LOCKHART: There's no specific date. I would expect it to be within the first couple of weeks after the President returns. Thank you very much.
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