correction on speaker, page one
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release              October 19, 2000

                              PRESS BRIEFING
                               JAKE SIEWERT

                     The James S. Brady Briefing Room

1:17 P.M. EDT

          MR. SIEWERT:  First of all, as you can see, this is David
Stockwell's last White House briefing.  As you all know, David is an Army
Lieutenant Colonel.  We borrowed him from the Army about a year ago to be
one of our spokesmen at the National Security Council.

          COLONEL STOCKWELL:  Hooah!

          MR. SIEWERT:  In addition to being a public affairs officer, he
is also a cavalryman, and his armor branch has tapped him to be the Deputy
Commander of the famed 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the Black Horse Cav,
that serves as the opposing force at the Army's National Training Center at
Fort Irwin, California.  The opposing force at Fort Irwin, or OPFOR, as the
Army calls it, provides the competition for Army units that rotate out to
the desert for critical training that helps the Army maintain its
world-class readiness.

          As you read in the paper yesterday, David will once again get to
don black beret, get sand in his boots, and engage in a different kind of
combat than the type that occurs in this briefing room.  (Laughter.)  We
wish him well.  We'll have cake in the office after the briefing is over.
(Applause.)  Thank you, and good luck.

          He is a nice person.

          Q    We all get berets, too?

          MR. SIEWERT:  You may.  Black berets.  That is it in terms of
formal announcements from this podium.  (Laughter.)  But I would be happy
to take your questions.

          Q    A readout yet on the Bangladesh visit, specifically the
extradition treaty?

          MR. SIEWERT:  No.  The meeting is ongoing as we speak.  As you
know, the President invited the Prime Minister during his visit to
Bangladesh, the first American visit ever, to come to Washington.  We're
grateful that she was able to arrange her schedule because of the unusual,
extraordinary demands on the President this week, and she was able to
extend her stay by a day so that the President could go to Norfolk and
attend the ceremony there.

          She will also be seeing Secretary Richardson while she's here,
the Attorney General, Acting Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and Acting
Secretary of Defense DeLeon, while in Washington.  But we'll arrange some
sort of readout after that meeting.  We're still working out some of the
details on that.

          Q    Jake, is there a limit on the length of another CR that the
President's willing to sign?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I think that we have told Congress that we don't
think the current system is working very well.  These week-long extensions
don't seem to have sped up the pace of the work that Congress is doing on
the budget.  They haven't paid any more attention to what they need to do
on the budget, what they need to do on education, what they need to do on
minimum wage.  So we are looking at shorter and shorter time frames.  I
think after this CR, which I think will go through next week, early next
week, I think we'll be looking at -- we'll take it one day at a time.

          Q    Jake, I know the President's going up this afternoon to kind
of spur things on, but what's your explanation as to why the budget process
feels so dead right now?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, I think that question is best put to leaders
on the Hill, who I read in the paper today are spending most of their time
reading novels and kicking around their districts rather than finishing up
their work.  The President doesn't understand why anyone would want to go
ahead and campaign -- go home and campaign when they have nothing that
they've accomplished this year.  They ought to stay in Washington, get
their work done, start funding some of the education priorities that we've
outlined, and start doing some of the critical work that's been languishing
all year, like school    -- improving school construction efforts, raising
the minimum wage, enacting a real patients' bill of rights, and doing
something on prescription drugs.

          But that question's best addressed to the leaders of Congress,
who have adopted a somewhat lackadaisical style here at the very end of the
fiscal year.

          Q    So your half of the equation -- I mean, couldn't you be
doing --

          MR. SIEWERT:  We put a budget up in February, very detailed,
explained exactly what we'd like to get done.  We met our obligations under
every deadline that we ever do.  And that budget's been up there literally
since February.  The President spelled out in great detail what he wanted
done this year, and we've talked about it endlessly.  We don't write the
laws.  They write the laws, and they have an obligation to finish their
budget up.  We've given them extensions.  Now we're midway through a month
into the new fiscal year, and they still have only passed a smattering of
the bills that were due this year.

          Q    How many are left?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I think we've signed four now, and we have a couple
-- we have another that we're prepared to sign next week.  But they
literally have not done half the work that's required for this fiscal year.

          Q    Is it possible to get it done by election day?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Oh, we certainly think so.  There's no reason why
they couldn't get it done.  They could have gotten it done last month.

          Q    You say you want to get things done, but isn't the President
going up today actually, in fact, going to polarize things even more?  I
mean, what they say is, you guys aren't compromising at all.

          MR. SIEWERT:  They actually have moved some way towards the
administration position on certain issues.  But at the same time, they seem
to have found new money, without funding key priorities.  We're not
interested in money for money sake.  There's a lot of spending in there
that we think, frankly, is wasteful, it's dedicated to particular members'
projects and not dedicated towards programs that are proven that are
effective -- programs like reducing class size, programs like school
construction funds, that we think would be more effective in improving
education.  We don't need to see a lot of new spending just for the sake of
spending money.  What we'd like to see is spending on effective programs.

          Now, we've been perfectly clear on what we'd like to see come out
of the budget, and the Republicans have to bear some of the responsibility
for not recognizing earlier on that they were going to have to compromise
and meet us halfway.  Earlier in this year they passed bills that, frankly,
bear no relation to the bills they're working on now that were purely
symbolic.  And so now at the 11th, or really the 13th hour, they're coming
to us and saying, well, we'd like to resolve some of these differences.
But it's been a long time coming and there are still a lot of real
negotiating that can be done so that we can get balls that we can sign.

          Q    What are some of the compromises that you gave?  What are
some of the big compromises that you guys --

          MR. SIEWERT:  Frankly, we're signing an agricultural bill that we
have some deep reservations about.  But it's late in the year.  We think
farmers need the help that this bill provides.  They met some of the
requirements that we laid out, they put in some of the money on food
safety.  But that bill is flawed, it's deeply flawed.  But the President's
going to sign it because farmers need that money, ranchers need that money.
We need to do something about some of the crises that's gripped farm
country in the last couple years.

          But there are things in that bill that are, at worse, missed
opportunities or in some cases, a step backwards on Cuba.  We don't think
that the provision in there -- our people to people contact, is a smart
one.  We think that the provision to lift some of the embargo on the food
to Cuba frankly could have been stronger.  And there's more pork in some of
these bills than we would like to see before we sign some of them.

          But we've signed some bills and will continue to sign some bills
that we think aren't perfect, but we're not going to compromise on core
priorities like school construction, like the class size effort, like the
COPS program and like some of the environmental programs that we've asked

          Q    When is he signing the agricultural bill?  Today?

          MR. SIEWERT:  We haven't received it yet.  It just passed the
Senate last night and it hasn't been sent up, so we haven't been able to
make the judgment on when we would sign that.

          Q    The President has shown complete reservations on this Cuban
provision.  The Cuban government itself, Fidel Castro is marching the
streets of Havana protesting, and the President said without the financing
of the U.S. banks --

          MR. SIEWERT:  Even Republicans, who support that bill, like
Senator Roberts from Kansas, who want to see more agricultural exports to
Cuba, have indicated that this bill is only a start, and not a particularly
good one at that, and they're hoping to fix it in years to come.

          The financing provisions are too cumbersome for smaller farms,
and we don't think it does quite enough to help farmers that could benefit
from exporting food to Cuba and to other countries and around the world.
It's not a perfect provision, but on balance that bill has a lot of other
good things in it that we think are worthwhile, and we're going to sign
that bill.

          But we don't think that it's a step forward to create a bill that
purports to lift some sanctions and doesn't really provide the mechanism
for American farmers or ranchers to sell their goods in Cuba.

          Q    If it weren't for the power, the political power of the
Cuban American community, would the President want to go all the way and
change the relationship with this anachronistic regime?

          MR. SIEWERT:  We have -- our policy on Cuba is unchanged.  We
continue to support some effort to reach out to the people of Cuba, but we
don't want to do anything that would enhance the power of a regime that
threatens its own people, that represses its own people and I think the
President's been perfectly clear on that.

          Q    Does he feel that way on principle or --

          MR. SIEWERT:  Yes.

          Q    Not political expediency.

          MR. SIEWERT:  Yes, on principle.

          Q    Do you think lifting the embargo will be beneficial for
Castro, not for the Cuban people?

          MR. SIEWERT:  We're not certain that there will be much improved
agricultural exports from the United States under this.  Obviously, those
are decisions that people in the marketplace will make about whether or not
they think that they can arrange the financing under the provisions in this
law that could actually help them export food to Cuba.

          But the financing mechanism is pretty cumbersome for smaller
farmers; it may be that the larger conglomerates that are interested in
making sales to Cuba can find a way to see those sales go through.  But we
think that if you're going to try to do something that we think is
worthwhile on improving exports to Cuba, you ought to do it in a way that
actually makes sense and is effective.

          Q    What's the President sense of compliance by each party with
the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement, and is he in touch with any of them?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I don't believe that he's made any additional calls
today.  I mean, there's no doubt that the past several weeks have left
emotions very raw and a lot of tension on both sides in the situation that
remains very volatile as we can see today.

          As I said this morning, no one should expect to see total calm
restored in the short term, but we recognize that both sides have taken
some steps to implement the agreement at Sharm.  They've both issued
statements calling for an end to the violence.  The Gaza Airport has been
reopened and some of the internal closures between Palestinian controlled
areas have been lifted, along with some of the international passageways
between Gaza and Egypt and the West Bank and Jordan have been reopened.

          There have been some trilateral security meetings that
potentially could bear some fruit in restoring some calm in the area.  But
this is going to be a day-by-day process, and we expect both sides to
remain vigilant in complying with the agreement and taking further concrete
measures to implement it.

          Q    What about this Russia-Iran arms agreement?  Some senators
say that you haven't provided them with information that they've requested.

          MR. SIEWERT:  This is the allegations that are being --

          Q    -- Al Gore --

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, there's an implication that this is a secret
agreement.  That's simply not true.  We distributed a fact sheet to
reporters on the ground at the time in 1995.  We also briefed the House
International Relations Committee at the time.  So if members of Congress
have some problem with their briefings, they ought to look to themselves.
I mean, we offered a briefing, the briefing was provided by some of the
relevant parties there.  And I think there's no doubt that some of these
hearings right now are more about the election season than about the real
substance here.

          Q    Jake, coming back to Bangladesh, the Prime Minister met with
Attorney General Janet Reno this morning.  Now, what she's asking the
United States government to deport three retired -- military officers, the
killers of her father and the founder of Bangladesh.  Number one.  Number
two, she's also asking the President to make all the illegal Bangladeshans
in this country legal.

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, as I said, this meeting is still ongoing.
We'll provide some sort of briefing afterwards.  On the extradition issue,
we have indicated an interest in putting a treaty in place that could
govern those kind of requests.  I don't want to comment on the individual
cases, but we've asked them for some information, and that's just recently
been provided to the Department of Justice.  So I expect the Department of
Justice will work with the government of Bangladesh on such a treaty, so we
can put that in place.  That's something the President said in March that
he was willing to do.

          Q    Jake, something from earlier this morning.  The grass-roots
groups that went to the polls for President Clinton in years past in full
force don't seem to be as strong in their convictions to go to the polls
for Vice President Gore November 7th.  What is President Clinton planning
on doing to get the black vote out, the Latino vote out, the Asian American
vote out, the grass-roots vote out?  What is he planning on doing?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I think you can expect to see the President out and
about between now and the election.  We've already been, as you know, to
many of the so-called battleground states.  We've been in Florida recently;
we've been in Pennsylvania recently; we've been in some states that are
pretty hard-fought this year, like Washington state, and others.  We've
been to New Jersey, and we've been doing some events that -- obviously,
we've been doing some fundraising events, but we've also done -- the
President's been to some events that are meant to energize core Democratic
voters.  We did some in Florida, some in Seattle recently where he met with
ministers and talked to them about the importance of voting this year.

          But I think you'll see more.  I think you'll see the President
around the country, not just doing fundraising -- it's kind of late in the
year to do that -- but as the election approaches, I think he'll be doing
more work to energize voters and remind them of the importance and what's
at stake here.  And what's at stake, for those of you who have seen some of
these debates, it could not be more clear.  We have a choice between a
candidate who understands the importance of doing something about racial
profiling, who understands the importance of putting members -- justices on
the Supreme Court that are committed to civil rights, understands the
importance frankly of affirmative action, and you have another candidate
who didn't seem to understand exactly what affirmative action is or what it
does the other night in the debate.

          Q    But Jake, a follow-up to that.  Clearly, a couple of years
ago, President Clinton went to a black church in Baltimore.  The church got
in trouble because the President talked about going out to the polls.  It
was state versus church, and they got in trouble for tax purposes.  And you
don't see that this year.  He went out to make a full-fledged effort to get
the African American vote then.  What's happening now --

          MR. SIEWERT:  We actually met -- I'll run through the schedule
with you later, if you want -- but we've met with ministers in Washington
state just this past weekend; we've met with ministers in Michigan; we've
met with a lot of people who make a difference in these elections.  And the
President had a very large rally in Jacksonville, Florida, when he was
there recently, to energize voters, and I think you'll see more of that in
the days to come.

          We're talking to the Vice President's campaign, we're talking to
the Senate and congressional campaigns, and we're making some final
decisions now about the President's schedule. And we'll let you know when
we have those, but I think you can expect to see the President talking to
Democrats about the importance of voting in this election.

          Q    Jake, why is it that three weeks before the election, the
President's roll still is not clear, that you're still talking to the
campaign about what it is --

          MR. SIEWERT:  No, I think his role is clear.  I think what's not
clear is where exactly it will be.  But that's an assessment that campaigns
always make at the end about where the President can make a difference,
where you want to spend your time and your resources.  And that's, frankly,
something that, one, you want to keep a slight element of surprise about,
to the extent we can do that around here, and two, you want to be able to
make sure that your resources are being -- your time and money is being
spent in a place that are more beneficial to all the campaign -- candidates
that are running.

          Q    What exactly is his role as the White House sees it?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I think the President is indispensable in laying
out the differences between the Democrats that are running for Congress,
for Senate, and for the presidency, and the different policies they
espouse, and frankly, the policies that are being espoused by the
Republican presidential nominee and a lot of his -- a lot of people running
for congressional campaigns.

          But the President is going to go out and talk to Democrats, but
talk to the people of America about the importance of continuing to make
progress on the economy, on welfare reform, on crime, on all the issues
that he's been focused on over the last eight years.  And I think you'll
see a lot of them.  Pack your bags, get ready.

          Q    Why is it, Jake, that the President has only done a single
campaign rally with the Vice President since the convention?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, I think the President will play a role in
energizing Democrats, but frankly, every campaign usually tries to spread
out its resources to hit as many different places as they can, to put
different people in different places so that you can echo and reinforce the
message that the front-runner -- the presidential candidate is putting out

          Q    Jake, is the President at all worried about getting out the
vote --

          MR. SIEWERT:  No, we're focused on it, though.  I mean, we're
always focused on ensuring that we have the strongest possible Democratic

          Q    The rally that was in Jacksonville that day, was that more a
rally for Corrine Brown than for Vice President Gore?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I think it's very hard to distinguish those things.
I mean, if you heard the President's speech, he talked a lot about the Vice
President's vision for America, what Al Gore wants to do in moving the
country forward.  And if you listened to the speech he gave in Denver,
frankly, the speech he gave in Seattle over the weekend, which was to a
large group, those were about the importance of the issues that the Vice
President, as leader of the party, as leader of the ticket, as top of the
ticket this year, where he wants to take the country and how he wants to
move the country forward.  And that's -- I've heard a lot of these speeches
and that's the focus of what the President usually talks about in these --

          Q    The actual events themselves --

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, we structure our events a lot of times in a
way that makes sense for whatever candidates requested us to come into the
state.  But we have more requests than we can honor and we're making
judgments now about which requests we meet and which requests we meet and
which requests we don't meet, and who, frankly, will pay for the President
to travel, because those are, as you know, complicated issues that are
heavily litigated by campaign lawyers and the like.

          Q    -- is it explicitly cast as an event to campaign for the
Vice President --

          MR. SIEWERT:  I think that if you talk to -- I'm not the expert
on this, but if you talk to a campaign election lawyer, someone who spends
a lot of time worrying about finances, you tend to have -- they tend to
want the President or other people to go out and campaign for the
Democratic ticket.  That makes it a little bit easier for the Democratic
campaign committees to pick up the tab and not take money away from -- the
Vice President probably wants to use some of that money on advertising.
But that's better put to the DNC and others.

          Q    You're three weeks out from the elections.  Vice President
Gore and George W. Bush are in a toss-up.  Wouldn't it be a serious thought
for the President to step in to help him?  Is the President a hindrance or
a help at this point, three weeks out with this toss-up?

          MR. SIEWERT:  The President has been out on the campaign trail.
You're welcome to join us out there, April, anytime you want.  (Laughter.)
And he's been talking to voters about why they should vote, and this is no
great mystery, why he thinks Al Gore should be the next President of the
United States, and why --

          Q    -- together.

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, that's because you make decisions about where
to go and you want to spread your resources around a little bit and make
sure everyone is not in the same place at the same time.  Frankly, it's a
little bit better for the President to be in Seattle one day while the Vice
President is in Michigan.

          Q    In light of all the demonstrations in many of the Arab
capitals, and a lot of the anti-American sentiment that is exhibited over
the last week or so, does the President now consider his having pointed
publicly to Arafat as the reason for Camp David having failed been a
mistake now, given that everybody knew at that time and it's obvious now
that Arafat did not want to compromise over the issue of Jerusalem an this
was an issue not only of importance for Palestinians, but also the entire
Arab world -- so that the U.S., at that point, became something different
than an honest broker?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I think -- look, there's no doubt that the
negotiations in Sharm el-Sheikh proved that the President continues to play
an important role as honest broker.  So a lot of really criticism before he
went to that summit from people who said that the President has no role to
play anymore -- and, if anything, his willingness to talk to everyone, to
talk to all sides there and to be heard by them cannot be disputed now that
that summit is over.

          And, frankly, I'm not aware of any reassessment of the effort we
made at Camp David to try to narrow differences between the parties.  The
President has said himself that we made real progress on those issues, and
both sides recognize that we're never closer to a final agreement than we
were at the end of that.  We've expressed some disappointment that we
weren't able to reach a final agreement there, but the President gave you a
pretty frank and honest assessment of where he thought the talks had gone
after that, and I think that he felt that that was important.

          Q    The issue of pinpointing Arafat -- I mean, prior to that, it
was considered that there would be no comment --

          MR. SIEWERT:  In Sharm el-Sheikh, there was a considerable
willingness on the part of King Abdullah, President Mubarak and Chairman
Arafat to meet with the President to try to work through these issues, to
try to restore calm in the areas. And you would have to ask them, but
obviously, they considered him eminently worthwhile.  They considered their
time well-spent to sit down with the President and try to hammer out some
of the differences they had here.

          Q    Jake, there is an interview out the President did with The
Advocate Magazine, in which he seems to suggest there is some parallel
between what he went through during the impeachment and the travails that
many gay and lesbian people face on a daily basis.  Does the President
think that's a strong parallel?  Are the two things --

          MR. SIEWERT:  I haven't asked him.  I actually didn't    -- I saw
the interview; I think the President was simply expressing the point of
view that, as occasionally said to you, that he feels that he got some
pretty rough treatment around here over the last couple of years, some of
it well-deserved, as he said, result of his own personal mistakes, but he
probably understands the same sort of -- some, but not all, of the
treatment that gays and lesbians occasionally get.

          Q    The President has until October 30th to sign the
Treasury-postal bill.  Is there any plan in the White House to hold off
action on that until you see what a final tax cut package looks like.

          MR. SIEWERT:  I don't know about plan, but I think John Podesta
said the other day that we take a look at progress that Congress has made
on all sorts of fronts -- on the budget, on the minimum wage, on other
fronts before we make a final judgment and how we treat that bill.

          Q    Why are they linked?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, because they, frankly, have added some stuff
on to that bill, like the telephone tax, which we're willing to support,
but is not our top priority.  We want to see what other kind of action
they're willing to take before we sign that particular bill.  And we want
to look at the budget and the work that Congress has done in its entirety,
not in a piecemeal way.

          While we've been willing, as I said, to sign some bills, that we
would -- that we don't necessarily think are perfect.  We want to make a
judgment on that particular bill, looking at the bigger picture -- looking
at what they've done on school construction, for instance, on other tax
breaks that we think are important before we sign one tax provision that
was attached to one appropriations bill.

          Q    Then you might not sign that if there isn't enough action --

          MR. SIEWERT:  That's a real possibility.  But that's something
that we're going to assess when we see the entirety of the work Congress
has done this year.

          Q    The present position of significant narcotics traffickers
centered in Colombia -- we were waiting to have also the name of Mexican
companies.  Do you know why the President didn't make this time the
announcement of this?

          MR. SIEWERT:  I don't, but I'll check on that and get back to

          Q    What kind of action would they have to take?  I mean, would
it have to be --

          MR. SIEWERT:  Well, we've made pretty clear -- we sent a letter
up on that particular bill that we'd like to see action on new markets tax
legislation, we'd like to see action on the school construction tax
incentives, we'd like to see action on the minimum wage.  We don't
understand why they've placed such a heavy priority on certain tax
provisions, and such low priority on others that would be of more benefit
to American families.

          Q    Is it and-or?

          MR. SIEWERT:  Oh, I think we'll make a judgment looking at the
entire picture, not looking at one particular bill.

          THE PRESS:  Thank you.

          MR. SIEWERT:  Thank you.

                            END  1:44 P.M. EDT


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