Press Briefing by Jake Siewert (10/26/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release               October 26, 2000

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JAKE SIEWERT

                       The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:45 P.M. EDT

          MR. SIEWERT:  Welcome to the White House briefing room.  The
President is sending two letters to the leadership of Congress right now,
as we speak, outlining some serious problems we have with some work that is
ongoing on the Hill today on the budget.  That includes the first letters
on the tax package, which the President spoke about yesterday.  We had
offered to try to find some middle ground on a tax package that we could
sign.  That package has been developed almost exclusively by Republicans in
the last couple of days.  We had been working with them earlier on a couple
specific provisions, but the overall shape and size of that tax package is
deeply flawed, and the President will outline his objections to their plan
and move forward on that.

          As we said yesterday, we have problems with the school
construction provisions there.  We think that the proposal put forward by
Nancy Johnson and Charlie Rangel is a better way to go.  On the health care
provisions and long-term deductions, and on the pension provisions, as well
as some problems with the Medicare provider givebacks, which are overly
weighted towards the  managed care industry and not to teaching hospitals
and disabled and others.

          Q    Does he say he would veto the Republican plan?

          MR. SIEWERT:  He does.  In fact, the President made clear that
unless he received a more balanced tax package that was aimed at middle
class families and their problems, that he would have no choice but to veto
that bill.

          He also sent a letter outlining objections that we have to the
bill that's moving forward to fund the Commerce, Justice and State
Departments.  We outlined some of the problems that we have on that bill,
particularly on immigration, where they have failed to provide meaningful
relief to Latino and immigrants who are living in a state of limbo right
now.  This bill would restore some sense of fairness and equity to our
immigration laws, but the provision that they put in there is deeply flawed
and doesn't cover all the immigrants that it should.

          In addition, the bill leaves out hate crimes legislation that had
broad bipartisan support in two Houses, and also includes a provision that
would gut the Department of Justice's effort to pursue tobacco litigation,
to ensure that tobacco companies are bearing the responsibility for the
cost of tobacco related illnesses.

          The President has a couple other objections to that, some of
which I've addressed here before, including special interest provisions
that would undermine our effort to encourage community-based low-power
radio, something that a lot of Christian groups have spoken up in favor of,
but strangely enough, the Republicans seem to want to undermine that and
have attached a rider that would prevent the FCC from licensing new
low-power FM radio stations that would provide more diversity on radio
around the country.

          So, again, the President says it's unfortunate that Congress has
moved forward on both these bills at this time, and that he will have no
choice but to veto them.  And it's particularly troubling at this late
stage in the budget process that Congress seems to prefer a path of
partisanship to one where we could maybe find some compromise, work
together, and try to get things done before the election, before Congress
goes home.

          Q    It sounds like the President wants to get it all his way.
Where is he willing to give in?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, I think I've outlined some of the areas where
we agreed to work together with Congress in the past.  The foreign op's
bill is an excellent example of a place where we were able to work out our
differences on international family planning.  We struck a compromise there
that we think works, provides some balance, and leaves some flexibility to
a future administration.  We also were able to work together with
Republicans and Democrats on a debt relief package in that foreign op's
bill that we think is a balanced one and that funds our obligations under
the G-8.

          So we think, at least in the foreign op's bill, we were able to
compromise with the Republicans, and working with Democrats in a way that
allowed us to move forward.  We are looking forward to getting that bill
and signing it.  We've signed some bills, some of which we had problems
with, some of which we didn't like.  They weren't perfect, but we thought
it was important to get those bills done and get them behind us.  The
agricultural bill has some very important measures for farmers and
ranchers.  It has some problematic provisions.  But we've indicated that
we're willing to sign that bill, despite the fact it's not everything we
want it.

          So that's just a -- that's not true, but we're going to insist
upon our priorities in this Commerce and Justice bill, as well as in the
tax provision.  We want a balanced package that meets the basic test of

          Q    Have you been holding on to the Treasury-Postal bill, which
contains another tax provision until you could see the package?  Does that
mean you're going to sign that, or not sign that?

          MR. SIEWERT:  No, I think we'll continue to hold off until we see
a tax package that we can sign, and so we can make a judgment on that.
I've said before, and I'll say again today, that that bill is one that we
want to look at in the context of the overall budget.  Because it contains
tax provisions that are extraneous to the bill itself, we want to look at
what Congress has done in other areas -- in minimum wage and on tax cuts --
more generally before we make a final judgment on that.  There's some
apples and oranges on that bill, and we want to be able to look at the rest
of the oranges before we decide what to do with the apples.

          Q    But you have until Monday to act on that bill, and these
other bills may not be --

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, we'll see what happens.  I mean, Congress has
a couple more days to try to fix these things, get them right, talk to
maybe some Democrats on the Hill, instead of talking amongst themselves;
talk to the administration about how to remedy some of these provisions.
And maybe over the next couple days, through the weekend, we can begin to
remedy some of the problems and balances in these bills.  But, as I said,
it's late in the game, and it should be a time where we try to work
together, try to strike compromises, and try to talk to each other and,
frankly, they're not talking to the Democrats on the Hill.

          The Democrats have some ideas on what they would like to see in
these bills.  They ought to sit down with them, try to hammer out an
agreement on the tax bill particularly -- that's something we've been
telling them for a long time now -- that they ought to figure out a way to
get a minimum wage bill that also has pension provisions that Democrats
like, also has pension provisions that strike the right balance and has
health provisions that will work.

          So, they haven't done that.  They've met amongst themselves and
tried to decide what they think the President wants, but we'll decide that.

          Q    Jake, what are the specific objections on the school
construction issue and the long-term care issue within the tax bill?

          MR. SIEWERT:  The school construction dramatically underfunds the
initiative.  It's substantially less than the initiative that we had
proposed, and doesn't provide as much in terms of coverage for construction
and modernizing schools.  Our proposal would cover 6,000 schools; their
proposal would cover far less.  We're still looking at the numbers there,
but we shouldn't sacrifice a lot of the schools that need modernization,
need new construction just because Republicans want another piece of the
tax bill, that they would rather bulk up rather than put a sizeable piece
in the school construction.

          We also object, obviously, to the provisions there on Davis-Bacon
and Congressman Johnson from Connecticut, who is one of the top-ranking
Republicans, actually worked with Charlie Rangel on a bill that we think
strikes the right balance on that issue and others.

          Q    And on long-term care?

          MR. SIEWERT:  On long-term care, that is structured as a
deduction in the Republican bill.  We think it should be structured as a
credit.  It's a fairly arcane difference, but we think it would just be
more effective that way and would work better.

          Again, there was a bipartisan proposal that had been put together
in that area, and we think that -- it's just strange that they wouldn't go
along with something that had been hammered out between the two parties and
just include their own provision.

          Q    And as a credit, it's more expensive to the Treasury than a

          MR. SIEWERT:  Right.  And, frankly, they've trimmed back a lot of
proposals that we're interested in, in order to make more room for
proposals they're interested in.  We understand that, but that's why we
need a little give-and-take.  That's why we need to talk to each other as
we move forward.  The President made an offer yesterday, sent a letter
along, and they decided to go it their own way.

          Q    The tax cut package is actually three bills that were voted
on as one.  Do you think it might be a solution to separate those out,
particularly since small business and minimum wage is in one bill and that
is something that you have been pushing for?

          MR. SIEWERT:  They also I think have included the provider
givebacks in this legislation, now the way it's structured.  We're not
terribly concerned about the form of these bills.  What we're concerned
about is the substance of what they do.  We're happy to sit down and talk
to them about what their top priorities are and what our top priorities are
and try to work something out.

          Q    But the way it's structured now basically if you don't get
what you want -- and in a few other areas, you're willing to --

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, then they have to get back to the drawing

          Q    -- willing to see the whole thing go down?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, again, they've made a decision on how to
proceed here.  We have given them an outline, yesterday in the letter,
yesterday in the President's statement, of what the President's priorities
are.  They make their own decisions about procedure.  But they've actually
structured it in such a way that all these necessary provisions that are
important, like minimum wage, provisions that would help shore up some of
the problems in Medicare that were created by the '97 Balanced Budget bill,
are tied to some provisions that, frankly, we think are extraneous.  So
they've lumped them all together, they're all in the same boat and all
suffer the same fate.  That was a decision that they made, and they're
going to have to assess where they are now on the Hill and what they think
they can get done while they're still in town, and try to make a decision
on how best to proceed.

          Q    Did the President insist that this work get done before the

          MR. SIEWERT:  We don't see any reason for them to come back after
the election.  We've been saying much of what I've said here today for a
long time now, and there's no reason why we couldn't sit down and hammer
this out in the course of the days and hours ahead.  We've done that in the
past.  There's no reason why we couldn't do that now.  It's just a question
of will power, not time.

          So we want the work done now, we want the work done before the
election.  We don't see any reason for anyone to go home and campaign on
what they haven't done.  We want them to campaign on having made some

          Q    But now you've got leverage.  Afterwards, after the election
you wouldn't.

          MR. SIEWERT:  I don't know about that.  We always have a fair
amount of leverage here, and the President will be using the bully pulpit
in the days ahead to explain why it's important that Congress gets its job
done, and we'll expect some progress on some of these issues.

          Q    Jake, the only thing that actually has to be done are the 13
appropriation bills, and there is a deadline on that FSC provision.  There
had been word that if this gets vetoed, the only thing that they would act
on in the tax bill is the FSC replacement regime, and nothing else.

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, that's an area actually where we did work
together -- on the Foreign Sales Corporation tax provision?  We need to get
that done       because of an agreement with the EU on how to correct that.
And so we definitely want to see that worked on.

          Obviously, the appropriations bills have to get done before
Congress gets home.  As usual, they're a little behind on that work and
they're running up against their own election date.  But there's no reason,
as I said, why we couldn't get that work done.  And there's actually no
reason why we couldn't get the tax provisions and the Medicare provisions
done as well.

          A lot of people in both parties want to see help for teaching
hospitals, help for some of the managed care industries, some help for the
disabled that's in that bill, and we would like to see if we could finish
that off.

          Q    Picking up on that, there have been reports for the last
year of HMOs dropping out of Medicare.  Why is there a specific objection
by the administration to Republicans setting aside a good portion of the
giveback to HMOs so they can reserve those people who they have dropped

          MR. SIEWERT:  We actually don't think that there's any problem in
providing some money for the managed care industry.  We think it's
unfortunate that Congress was not willing to provide some of the patient
protections that would have been important through a patients' bill of
rights.  But, actually, the legislation they have doesn't really contain
the sort of solid assurances we need that managed care companies would keep
patients under Medicare.  And that's one of the corrections we would like
to see to that bill, is that there is more of an assurance, more
protections, that managed care providers that are participating in these
plans actually protect patients that are in them.

          Q    Jake, why is the President going to California?

          MR. SIEWERT:  The President will travel to California as I think
John Podesta announced yesterday in some meetings he had with California
press that the President will go out there sometime next week, November 2nd
or 3rd, to help Democratic candidates out there, all the candidates that
are on the ballot, from Al Gore to some of the senators and congressmen and
women that are running out there, and challengers.

          So we'll go out there to try to explain why we think it's
important that Californians choose Democrats in the fall election.  We'll
probably be doing some more travel.  I don't have any more announcements on
that now, but I expect that toward the end of next week the President will
probably be out of Washington and around the country a bit.

          Q    Is the President responding to concerns from the Governor
that Democrats may be doing very poorly in the state --

          MR. SIEWERT:  No, I know he spoke to the Governor about the
importance of that, but we had been planning to go there at some point for
some time.  I think we cancelled the trip at one point because of some
foreign policy business and we had wanted to get back there.  But the
President has been working with a lot of the members in California on their
races and challengers.

          There are four or five very close races that are very important
to us.  The President, as you know, has raised money for Mike Honda who is
running in the seat there; for Susan Davis who is running in San Diego;
Adam Schiff, who is running in the L.A. area, and Jane Harmon is also
running there.

          Those are just some of the races that we think are important; but
those are races that we hope to play a role in when we go out to California
next week.  This had been scheduled long before.  We've been talking about
this for a while now, but we finally finalized the date yesterday.

          Q    Did you talk to the Vice President?  Has the Vice President
talked about this schedule?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I don't know, I did not --

          Q    Did the President talk to the Vice President?

          MR. SIEWERT:  He talks to him all the time.  I don't know whether
this came up.  But we obviously have consulted with the Vice President's
staff about our travel schedule, and we'll continue to do so.  I would not
-- I think just to get at your question, this is something that had been
scheduled for a while, and primarily is meant to build some support for
some of the members that are running in House and local races there.

          Q    So what kind of -- specifically what kind of events will he
do?  Will he do fundraisers and public rallies?

          MR. SIEWERT:  We're still working that out, but we'll work with
the coordinated campaign in California and --

          Q    Will there be some open events that aren't just fundraisers?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Oh, yes, I expect there will be, but we haven't
finalized our arrangements yet.  But I expect that we'll find a way to
speak to people from a cross-section of California society.

          Q    So to make this clear, is he going out there --

          Q    Is the emphasis on helping state candidates as opposed to Al

          MR. SIEWERT:   I think -- John said yesterday that we were
particularly interested in some of the House races out there.  I think many
of you have reported that there are four or five very close races, where
Democrats have a very good chance of picking up seats, and that's something
that we want to focus on.  I don't think Senator Feinstein needs our help
right now, and the Vice President seems to be doing pretty well there, too.

          Q    Is that an indication of where exactly you're going to be
going, these four districts, Honda, Harmon ---

          MR. SIEWERT:  We haven't said the exact places of those visits

          Q    Is he even going to mention Gore in his speeches?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I've never seen the President speak at a political
event where he hasn't mentioned the Vice President, but I expect he'll be
talking about other candidates as well.

          Q    Jake, there are 12 days left.  What else is the President
going to do in this time to help the Vice President win?

          MR. SIEWERT:  We'll continue to work with their campaign, and
we'll probably, as I said, have some more travel that will be geared
towards helping the Vice President and the rest of the Democratic ticket.
There may be other events that come up in the next couple days, while we're
still here in Washington, or events, and we'll try to let you know about
that.  I think I said the other day that he's been taping some radio spots
and scripts that might be helpful to energize Democratic voters around the

          So while we're here and while we're working and while we're
trying to get Congress to do its work, we'll probably be in our spare time
doing a little bit of work around the margins to help the Vice President
and other Democrats.

          Q    The radio scripts and stuff, could you speak more about
that?  Are they targeted, or what?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, this is something we've done.  If you want to
look at one particular campaign where we thought this was very useful,
Mayor Street in Philadelphia, his campaign, the President actually taped a
radio script for that race that was actually very highly effective in
turning out the vote.  He was a sort of underdog in that race.  He ended up
getting extraordinary turnout among Democrat voters, helped him win that
race.  So we find that that's a fairly time-efficient way to get the
President involved in a race and let his view be known.

          But, essentially, what a radio script is, is something the
President tapes quickly and then the campaign pays for it and they use it
however they see fit.  But we work with them on what to say and how they'll
use it.

          Q    Can we get a list of those from the White House?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I don't know that we'll provide a comprehensive
list, but we have been taping some of those and we'll probably continue to
do so.  But we sort of work with the individual campaigns on when and how
to release those.

          Q    How many does he make?  How many does he plan to make, or
has made already?

          MR. SIEWERT:  More than a dozen, less than a thousand.

          Q    Do you have any reaction to the suicide bomb in the Middle
East and the approval of this law on the House floor to hold the financial
support to the Palestinians?

          MR. SIEWERT:  We certainly -- that was a very unfortunate
incident.  There does, on the whole, appear to be somewhat less violence
over the past couple of days, and we hope that trend continues.  As I've
said many times here, there's too much violence, too much bloodshed, and
it's vitally important that we see a clear reduction in the violence over
an extended period of time.

          We've seen some improved security coordination among both
parties, and we're going to continue to do what we can to help foster
better cooperation and urge both sides, as the President has in his calls
with Chairman Arafat and the Prime Minister, to do what they can to
implement the Sharm el-Sheikh accords.

          On that congressional action, that was simply a sense of the
House resolution.  We don't think it's particularly useful or helpful.

          Q    How do you think it's going to affect the efforts of the
White House?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I think people should understand on all sides that
this is simply a House resolution, it doesn't have the force of law,
doesn't come to the President for signature.  And we here in the
administration don't think it's particularly useful.  So others should
probably make that judgment, but they should understand that it's a
symbolic gesture by the House.

          Q    Did the White House lobby against that coming to the floor?

          MR. SIEWERT:  We made clear that it was --

          Q    You lobbied against the Armenian resolution coming to the
floor.  You worked with the Speaker to make sure that wouldn't even come to
a vote.  Did you --

          MR. SIEWERT:  I don't know.  We made clear for a long time now
that we didn't think that was a particularly useful way to conduct business
up there.  And we think that -- we've urged both sides through out
diplomatic channels and through the President, personally, to end the
violence.  And we're doing everything we can, and we don't think that
resolution really furthers that goal.

          Q    Do you believe that resolution undermines the U.S. role in
the Middle East?

          MR. SIEWERT:  No, but I think it is important that people
understand that it's simply a sense of the House resolution, doesn't have
the effect of law.

          Q    What is the U.S.'s position on Iraq request to pay for oil
exports in Euros?  Are you opposed to this?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I've seen some stories -- I'll have to check on
that a little more, but I think any notion that Iraq has anything to gain
by cutting back its supply of oil is short-sighted.  We've said that Iraq
has an interest in sustaining its level of supply for its own purposes and
that we should continue to work that program through the -- continue the
U.N. program that governs the sales.

          Q    What about the specific request for it to be paid for in

          MR. SIEWERT:  I'll check on it.

          Q    Jake, the Israeli Foreign Minister is coming next week to
the country.  Do you expect that he will have talks here in Washington?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I don't know.

          Q    -- is going to New York next week --

          MR. SIEWERT:  We'll see.  I don't think that's part of our --

          Q    Where do you stand on the possible visit by Barak and

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, as you know, the President has encouraged
Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak to fully implement Sharm
el-Sheikh.  Both sides have agreed to take concrete steps to reduce the
violence and they're both interested in finding a path back to the
negotiating process.  We remain focused on seeing Sharm implemented.  There
was, as you know, three tracks envisioned at Sharm, and we are primarily
focused on the first and second track at the moment; trying to, one, end
the violence and, two, put in place a fact-finding mechanism that we've
been working with the U.N. on and other parties.

          But eventually -- we have said for a long time that we need to
find a way back to the political process and the President has raised that
as a possibility.  But I think it's clear that we need to do more right now
to end the violence.

          Q    According to some officials from Israel, maybe Prime
Minister Ehud Barak is going to think twice about the possibility of coming
out after this first suicide attempt, or bomb.  Do you think it can maybe
delay the possibility of --

          MR. SIEWERT:  It's hard to delay -- we haven't set any timetable
for that or any schedule.  What we're focused on right now is urging both
sides to fully implement the security arrangements that were envisioned at
Sharm el-Sheikh and do everything they can to reduce the violence in the
streets there.

          Q    Is the President inviting any religious leaders, ministers,
to the White House in the next few days?  Is he going to visit any black
churches on Sunday?

          MR. SIEWERT:  We may have some leaders in tomorrow --  I'll let
you know as those plans gel -- to talk about the budget issues that are
before us and some of the other issues that are under discussion in the
country now.  The President will probably be going to church on Sunday, but
we haven't finalized our plans yet.

          Q    Is the President staying here this weekend?  I guess it's
kind of strange; it's next to the last weekend before the election.  Is he
not out there because he wants to work on the Mideast, or what's the
reason, why is he staying here?

          MR. SIEWERT:  The President is focused on doing what he does as
President, which is doing the business of the country.  We have,
unfortunately, a Congress that seems intent on going home without having
finished its work.  And we're going to stick around here and try to make
sure that we get our work done and get -- that they get their work done and
that we can strike a reasonable compromise on the remaining items in the

          The President's been out on the campaign trail all year, has
done, as I said before, close to 300 different events    -- fundraisers,
other types of events -- over the course of the year, and we expect we will
do some more.  Mr. Knoller informs me that he's raised $100 million.  I
can't vouch for that number, but -- personally --

          Q    -- I'll vouch for it -- (laughter.)

          MR. SIEWERT:  Okay, duly noted.  But he's been busy, trying to
help Democrats all year long.  But we also have some important work to do
here, and we'll be around this weekend to make sure it gets done.

          Q    On the important work, you're trying to wrap up the budget.
In previous years, the budget fight has given you a lot of political
momentum, particularly the '95 fight and the fight before the '98
elections.  Are you frustrated this year that it's totally off the nation's
radar screen, apparently, that nobody seems to really care about it?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I'm sure you care, Alex, though.

          Q    I do.  (Laughter.)

          MR. SIEWERT:  Just wanted to make sure.

          Q    Only because of my job.  (Applause.)

          MR. SIEWERT:  Okay.  We'll let your bosses at Dow Jones know.
(Laughter.)  The President is -- no, the President's pleased with how the
budget's going so far.  We've actually made a lot of progress on the debt
relief piece, on the Interior bill, where we created a great new program to
protect the environment and give states and localities the opportunity to
preserve more open space.  We were pleased at how we were able to work out
this family planning, restore money to the NEA, and do some other things
that the President thinks are important.

          But we have a lot of work left to do, and we'll keep at it.  But
I don't think -- we're in this for a couple more days now, hopefully, not
more than that, and we're going to continue to focus on getting what we'd
like to see done.

          Q    Jake, a defense intelligence analyst resigned yesterday, and
there's several reports now that the NSA sent out a warning about a
potential terrorist attack.  Based on what the President has been briefed
about the USS Cole attack, does he believe that the intelligence community
in any way dropped the ball in alerting various military assets in the
region that a terrorist attack was coming?  Does he have any particular
message to send to the victims' families that they should not fear that the
intelligence community dropped the ball?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, as I think I said yesterday or the day
before, I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment on intelligence
matters.  The Pentagon is conducting a review in this area, and we'll wait
to see the full results of that review before making any final judgments.

          Q    And there was no specific intelligence on the Cole?

          Q    Osama bin Laden is calling a holy war or Jihad against the
United States and the region now.  He's talking the same language as the
military dictator of Pakistan, because he also told the New York Times in
an interview and an advertisement in the India Globe that the holy war or
Jihad against India.  And  Osama Bin Laden calling the same thing.  So do
you see any of these terrorist groups are playing the same games in the

          MR. SIEWERT:  I'd have to look at what the Prime Minister of
Pakistan said, General Musharraf, President Musharraf, before I make any
comment on that particular --

          Q    The report that the President sent to the Hill on Colombia,
does that include the human rights certifications for 2001?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I don't know.  I'll check on that.

          Q    Jake, you said the President would sign the agriculture
spending bill, in spite of concerns that you've had. Several ambassadors
from many trading partners, the EU, the Japanese I think also, have written
the President suggesting a  veto over the Byrd amendment.  Have you
responded to those concerns, and what do you say to them?

          MR. SIEWERT:  This is on steel?

          Q    Yes.

          MR. SIEWERT:  We're taking a look at that.  We have some concerns
about that, but the President plans to sign the bill.

          Q    What, if anything, leads you to believe that the Republicans
would be willing to sit down and renegotiate a tax package this close to
the elections?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, if they want to go home and talk about -- I
think that if they want to raise the minimum wage, if they want to go home
and tell their constituents that they cut taxes, they want to go home and
tell their constituents that they made it easier for them to save for
retirement, if they want to go home and tell Americans that they did some

things to make it easier to buy health insurance, then they ought to get
their work done.

          Q    Could they just as easily say they wanted to do all that,
but the President vetoed the bill?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I think the President has a lot of credibility when
it comes to budget matters.  I think we've proven that every fall.  The
American people trust him to protect their interest, protect their
priorities, and in every other fight we've had with Congress on this, I
think people have given the President's view a great deal of credence, and
I don't think this year will be any different.

          Q    Do you think possibly the President is wrong about the
voters' priorities, and that's why so many people are supporting George W.

          MR. SIEWERT:  So many people?

          Q    At least half the population.

          MR. SIEWERT:  I don't -- I mean, I can't imagine that I would get
drawn into that particular political campaign at this podium.  (Laughter.)
No, I mean, the President knows what the priorities of the American people
are.  He spends a lot of time thinking about it, spends a lot of time
trying to assess what makes sense for the country, and we think we have --
we think that Americans want to see action on school modernization, they
want to see action on making their schools more accountable, they want to
see action on trying to treat immigrants more fairly, and they want to see
some action to help reduce class size and give students a better chance of
learning.  Those are issues, most of which we've fought in the past and won
on, and we're going to continue to fight this year.

          Q    Quick foreign policy question.  The foreign operations bill,
I believe there's language limiting future aid to Peru to more rapid
development of democracy there.  Can you explain the language and what the
administration is trying to accomplish through that?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Have we gotten that bill?  I don't think we've
gotten the bill.  I've seen the reports about that language.  We're
obviously going to take a look at it.  Our position on Peru is pretty
well-known.  We want to have the OAS continue to work with the government
and the opposition on a free and fair election.  We take what President
Fujimori said at face value, that he wants to move forward and resign and
provide for free and fair elections.  I have seen the reports on the Peru
language, but we haven't gotten that bill yet and we'll have to take a
closer look at it.

          Q    You said that you will sign the bill, so it's implicit in
that statement that U.S. aid will be conditioned upon the rapid development
of the overturned democracy in Peru.

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, that's an important priority for us, is the
development of democracy and of a new free and fair election.  We're
working with the OAS on that.  The Secretary General has been in Lima over
the last couple of days working with both parties there.  But I haven't
seen that specific legislative language.  We're going to have to take a
look at it.

          Q    On Northern Ireland, the President wrote a column about the
situation there some time ago, the situation with the police and these
various issues are cropping up again.  Is there any thoughts the President
has on the situation there?

          MR. SIEWERT:  We issued a statement yesterday on the steps the
IRA was taking.  The President was encouraged that they have allowed a
second round of inspections of their armed cache, and I think that Prime
Minister Blair is in Northern Ireland today working on that, and we're very
committed to ensuring that everyone does what they can to fully implement
the Good Friday Accords.

          Q    For years the leader of North Korea has been characterized
by U.S. officials as unpredictable, erratic, strange, rogue.  All of a
sudden now, after Secretary Albright goes there and there have been all
these reports that maybe he's not so bad after all, that he's not a madman.
What's the U.S. take?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I have never called anyone a madman from this
podium.  I think we made some substantial progress in the discussions that
Secretary Albright had there.  I don't want to get into a personal
characterization of another foreign leader here, but we did some good work
there.  The Secretary is due back in Washington today.  I expect she will
have a chance to talk to the President in the next couple of days.  She had
a brief conversation with him when she was in Seoul, but we want to hear a
more detailed report from her.

          She'll be back later today.  We want to hear how President Kim
Dae Jung assessed that situation and want to continue to work with the
South Koreans in fostering the President's sunshine policy.  But we'll
focus on the issues and what we can get done there on the substance.  Her
meetings in Pyongyang were substantive and positive and we're looking
forward to a fuller briefing on that.

          As you know, the missile program was discussed at some length,
along with issues of terrorism, human rights and the need for steps to
reduce tensions on the Peninsula.  Those are all important issues and ones
we're going to assess before we make any decision about when the President
goes there.

          Q    How long will that take, do you think?

          MR. SIEWERT:  An indefinite period of time, but shorter than a

          Q    Indian Americans across the United States are very thankful
to President Clinton and your office for issuing the statement on Diwali
today --

          MR. SIEWERT:  I'm going to celebrate right now.  Nanda has
invited me to a celebration and you're all invited.  (Laughter.)

          Q    They're a bit disappointed that there was no celebration at
the White House which you just said, but --

          MR. SIEWERT:  I think Nanda has offered to host one later today,
and you, personally, will receive an invitation.  I'm going to go back to
my office and write it now if Terry lets me leave.  (Laughter.)

          Q    What I'm asking, really, does the President know about this
statement, because it did not carry his signature.

          MR. SIEWERT:  Yes, he does know about it.  But we'll make sure
that occasion is properly marked.

          Q    The Indian Globe carried it on the front page.

          MR. SIEWERT:  Good.  Excellent.  We love The India Globe.

          Q    Jake, when are we going to get some more details on exactly
what the President is doing next week -- where he's going to be, when he's
going --

          MR. SIEWERT:  We'll try to get some of that tomorrow.  I don't
know that we'll have all our plans scheduled.  I think the President will
be in town through the weekend, and after that we'll try to let you know a
little bit more tomorrow.

          Q    Just one more, on Mexico.  The Attorney General -- opened an
investigation for corruption against former President Carlos Salinas.  Do
you have any comments?

          MR. SIEWERT:  No, I've seen those reports, but I'll have to check
and get back to you.

          THE PRESS:  Thank you.

                           END   2:17 P.M. EDT


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