THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release January 16, 2001
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:45 P.M. EST
MR. SIEWERT: A couple things to start. Just wanted to detail for you
the efforts that we're making in El Salvador, to help respond to the
earthquake there. The President called President Flores on Sunday to
express our sympathies and offer assistance as necessary. Disaster
personnel from USAID were in San Salvador at the time of the earthquake,
coincidentally, and so they immediately began coordinating with the
National Emergency Committee, the Salvadoran Red Cross and the U.S. Embassy
to assess the extent of the damage.
Teams of U.S. specialists from Costa Rica and Miami, including
specialists from the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, U.S. military
personnel from the U.S. Southern Command arrived on Sunday, right away, to
assist in the relief efforts. That was a USAID plane that flew down to San
Salvador with the team and relief supplies.
So the combined U.S. personnel in the area are assisting the
government of El Salvador in improving relief coordination, establishing a
command and control system for a search and extraction, and helping the
government of El Salvador institute a system to prioritize and task air
The President spoke to President Flores. Secretary Albright has been
in touch with her counterpart, too, about what we can do to help. And we
are working with them on an ongoing basis to deal with this problem. The
ongoing assistance at the moment is valued at about a quarter of a million
An update from the President's exam, physical exam on Friday. During
that exam last Friday, January 12th, as we told you then, a lesion on his
back, suspicious for skin cancer, was excised. The pathology results that
were read this morning confirm that the lesion was a superficial, basal
cell skin cancer. Pathologists noted that the margin of the lesion
appeared clean, which indicates that the lesion had been totally removed.
In addition, at the time of the biopsy, the President elected to have
the tissue around the lesion treated superficially with a technique called
scraping and burning, in the event that the lesion was to be confirmed as
The risk of recurrence of basal cell skin cancer is low; but the risk
of developing a new lesion in the future is increased over the rest of the
population, due to the fair skin years of sun exposure. So he'll be seen
again in four to six months by a dermatologist, and if there's no evidence
of new lesions at that time, he'll be followed up on an annual basis.
As I think Dr. Connie, or one of the dermatologists told you on
Friday, this is a relatively common form of skin cancer -- 800,000 to a
million cases a year. The lesion was removed, so while the President, I
guess it could be said, had skin cancer, that has been removed and he no
longer has it. So that is that.
We're also issuing a statement shortly on the report on Persian Gulf
-- the analysis of -- the health consequences of the Gulf War, which will
come out shortly. PJ has a copy there, that he's modeling, as well. That
provides an overview of background, clinical programs, research and
investigations that we've undertaken in that regard to help understand some
of the consequences of health problems that have been associated with that.
And that is all I have for you.
Q What is the President's speech about tomorrow, in Little Rock?
MR. SIEWERT: The President will talk tomorrow about -- he wants to
thank the people of Arkansas for supporting him over the years and talk to
the legislature, in particular, about the good work that he had done with
them before he left, and now as President, to help the state of Arkansas.
But, obviously, the President has a deep and abiding commitment to
Arkansas -- his home state and he wanted to thank the people there for
helping make it possible for him to be the President of the United States
and serve his country over the last eight years.
Q Jake, to any extent does the President believe that his
presidency has been a double-edged sword for the people and state of
MR. SIEWERT: I think the President feels as though Arkansas has
benefitted tremendously during his administration. The economy of
Arkansas, which was like the rest of the United States -- in a bit of a
slump in the late '80s and early '90s -- is doing dramatically better. And
more people in Arkansas work than ever before, the incomes have risen there
and there's been a great deal of economic development. We were able to
secure funding for some of the key priorities, including transportation
priorities, thanks to the work that Rodney Slater has done. And a lot of
the Arkansans that he brought with him to Washington -- James Lee Witt,
Rodney Slater and others -- have excelled in their jobs here.
Q If the presidency has been so helpful for Arkansas, what is the
White House explanation of why they didn't vote for Al Gore?
MR. SIEWERT: I'm not going to get back into an analysis of who voted
for whom, when, but the people of Arkansas obviously made their own
decisions about who they wanted to support in the election. But they
overwhelmingly supported President Clinton in '92, again in '96. They
elected him Governor a number of times, elected him Attorney General. He
appreciates their commitment, their sticking with him throughout the years.
Q Jake, did President Clinton act on Governor Davis's request that
three natural gas firms be ordered to supply natural gas to PG&E?
MR. SIEWERT: I'm not going to comment on the specifics of any
proposal. The parties in the California electricity situation have at
several times asked us to play a convening role, and the White House,
Treasury and Energy have done that. Now the parties are looking at a
proposal that's on the table. They're working through the details. It's a
serious situation, and they themselves have to come up with some sort of
solution. To the extent that we can facilitate that, we're available to do
so, but we see this mainly as a discussion between the parties to the
dispute, which I told the NSC sounds suspiciously like an answer about the
Mid East peace process. (Laughter.)
Q Speaking of which -- (laughter.)
MR. SIEWERT: But I think the reality is that the parties have a great
deal of work to do amongst themselves. The federal government has a
limited role. Obviously, the FERC has a role, but that's an independent
agency, and Secretary Richardson has taken some steps to ease the crunch
there. But we are basically in the role of convening the parties to come
up with some sort of solution amongst themselves.
Q So he hasn't answered the request by the Governor, asking him to
intercede, or is that --
MR. SIEWERT: No, we've not.
Q How do you see Saturday morning?
MR. SIEWERT: We're still working on some of the details with the
President-elect's team, but I think that the President will have an
opportunity to see the President-elect before the ceremony here. We'll
work out some of those details, and then they'll proceed to the Capitol.
The new President will be sworn in, and we'll head off into the sunset.
Q Are you all packed?
MR. SIEWERT: I am packed. You're welcome to come up and inspect my
office. I think after yesterday, I'm ahead of the curve.
Q Have you got a job?
MR. SIEWERT: You know, thinking about it. I have some ideas, but --
Q Which plane is he going to take from Andrews? Has that been
determined yet? The big 747 or something smaller going into White Plains?
MR. SIEWERT: I don't know, actually. I assume that we'll take
whatever plane is traditional for ex-Presidents to take, but that's
something we'll work out with the Bush team.
Q Do you know if President Clinton will be making a live radio
address on Saturday?
MR. SIEWERT: That's an issue we're still discussing. I expect he
will deliver a radio address. Whether it's taped or live is something we
haven't quite decided yet -- on the rest of the schedule that day
Q Does the White House have any insight into what's going on into
the Congo? There have been reports that Laurent Kabila has been shot
during a coup attempt.
MR. SIEWERT: We've seen those reports, but I can't confirm them.
You'll have to -- I can't confirm those reports. We've obviously seen
Q Jake, can you give me a sense of what the meeting between George
W. Bush and President Clinton will be like on Saturday morning? Where
might it be, what will they be talking about?
MR. SIEWERT: I think this is traditionally a relatively -- it's not a
working meeting, by any measure. This is a relatively informal social
event where the First Family welcomes the new First Family, and they have a
chance to see each other at the White House before the ceremony itself up
at the Congress. But it's not meant to be substantive in any way, shape or
form. That's what the meeting that was held last month was designed to do.
Q Will the President be going back to Arkansas when he leaves?
MR. SIEWERT: No, I've already made pretty clear the President is
going to Chappaqua that day, flying probably to JFK and then continuing
Q Is it your understanding that they drive up to the Capitol
together in the same limo?
MR. SIEWERT: I understand that's the tradition.
Q The new one?
MR. SIEWERT: I don't know, actually, whether we'll get a chance to
use the new limo. But I guess we've been using it already, so no reason
why we shouldn't.
Q As long as you raised the Middle East, is it your understanding
that Dennis Ross won't be going back any more, and that he is pretty much
off the radar screen now, in administration efforts?
MR. SIEWERT: Dennis is never off the radar screen. (Laughter.) No,
we're continuing to consult with the parties, through the various channels
that we have available to us. The parties, themselves, are in direct
contact, and they met today to discuss both security issues and the
political process. We think it's important for them to continue these
As you said, travel by Dennis Ross remains on hold. We believe it's
important for the process to continue. The issues are well known by both
sides, and we expect that the President's parameters that were put forward
has helped narrow the differences somewhat, and narrow the debate.
Although they -- ultimately, they, themselves, need to decide whether they
want a bridge and how to bridge those differences.
But we believe it's critical that they do so. The United States,
whether under this President or the next one, will remain engaged in that
process. And it's important that they do so because, ultimately, a just
and comprehensive peace is critical to resolving tension in that region.
And that's in the U.S. interest. The incoming team will obviously have to
make it's own decisions about how to proceed, but for the moment, we remain
engaged, and we'll continue to discuss with the parties -- their own
discussions amongst themselves.
Q Has he been getting a lot of farewell messages, and is he going
to leave his successor some sort of note?
MR. SIEWERT: I actually haven't asked him. I expect he will leave
some sort of note. But he has been getting an overwhelming number of
last-minute notices, gifts and a lot of heart-felt notes from his staff,
people who have seen him over the years. It's making packing up even
harder, because the gifts and notes keep flowing in, just as we're trying
to pack them up.
Q What kind of gifts?
MR. SIEWERT: Oh, he's got some very nice photos and things. But he's
gotten a number of different things. We usually keep those fairly private.
Q Jake, Stephen Colbert, Senior White House Correspondent for the
Daily Show. Will the President be making any more statements today?
MR. SIEWERT: The President I expect will be making a statement this
afternoon, and you're invited to attend that.
Q Will he be available for one-on-ones?
MR. SIEWERT: He will not be available for a one-on-one with the Daily
Q Could you at least ask?
MR. SIEWERT: We could check. (Laughter.) I don't know --
unfortunately, you know, D.C. Cable -- and I'm a long-time subscriber to
D.C. Cable -- doesn't carry the Daily Show, as you may or may not be aware.
So he may not be familiar with the show.
Q Make sure he knows it's Stephen Colbert, not Stephen Carell,
okay? That's C-o-l-b-e-r-t. He'll see me.
MR. SIEWERT: Okay.
Q Can you talk about what exactly happens on Saturday? Is there
ever a point in which the staff of both your administration and the Bush
administration is here, overlaps at all? How does that work?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, I don't know how many of their staff -- you might
want to ask Mr. Hunt or someone else who's witnessed one of these in the
past. (Laughter.) It's just a factual statement, nothing intended by it.
I expect that their staff -- some of their staff probably comes with
them for this visit, but I think it's a very limited amount. Most people
will be at the Capitol. There's a very small number of staff here that
will be on hand just to help with that event, and the press's interest in
covering the comings and goings here that morning.
But most of the staff, of our staff, will have checked out at that
point and be on their way home or out to Andrews.
Q You're going with the President?
MR. SIEWERT: I expect to accompany him as he leaves town.
Q What will you do in New York, when you get there?
MR. SIEWERT: What do I do in New York? (Laughter.) That's a good
question. I don't know, maybe go to the city.
Q Get on a train.
MR. SIEWERT: Yes, come home --
Q Does he go anywhere -- from JFK, does he go directly to
MR. SIEWERT: I expect that he will go directly from New York to
Q From the airport, or is he going into Manhattan to do any --
MR. SIEWERT: I think he's planning on just going straight
-- we'll let you know all the final details. But the plans at the moment
call for him to go from JFK to Chappaqua, directly.
Q Could I ask you, also, on pardons, that issue is still up in the
air. Do you anticipate now, as we get closer -- have you gotten a better
idea of what he's going to do, in terms of pardons? Are there a lot of
pardons he's going to -- is he going to put it until the very last minute?
What can we expect?
MR. SIEWERT: I think he's looked at a lot of pardons, at a lot of
petitions. Whether we actually grant a number of them and what number we
grant is something that I'll have to leave until we actually make the
announcement. I would not expect anything today, but it could come at any
time after that, up until Friday.
Q Has he ruled out pardons for the Whitewater figures,
MR. SIEWERT: I'm not going to comment on any of the specific cases
until we make a final decision.
Q What about monuments?
MR. SIEWERT: We are reviewing a number of monuments that were
recommended by Secretary Babbitt, including Pompeys Pillar, in Montana; one
in Arizona; a couple in the Virgin Islands. Most prominently, the Missouri
Breaks, which figured very importantly in the Lewis and Clark expedition.
So I think we'll have something to say on that before we leave. It
could be any day now, but I wouldn't expect that we'll announce that
Q The staff that he's taking, will they go into the Washington
office, or New York?
MR. SIEWERT: The President will have an office in Washington for just
a short transition period, over on Jackson Place, as President Reagan did.
He will also have a staff in New York. I expect that there will be some
people in both offices, but we have not signed on the dotted line on office
space in New York. So in the short-term, people will probably be working
out of Washington. Although, they're trying to arrange some temporary
space in New York.
Q A lot has been written about the President's environmental
legacy. And some recent reports have sort of suggested that early on in
his administration he wasn't as engaged on that issue. Do you acknowledge
that and what can explain sort of his --
MR. SIEWERT: I think anyone who looked at -- I mean, first of all,
the President has from day one spent a lot of time with Vice President Gore
talking about issues that were critical on the environment. The speech he
gave at the State Department, early on in this administration, about
climate change was a very thoughtful speech and one he could have given
today, it's worth looking at. He made that remark to an event that Ted
Turner sponsored, I believe, in late '93 or early '94. And it's worthwhile
to look back at that, because it's some of the same challenges we're
talking about today.
Also, he, from the very beginning of this administration -- whether it
was the work out in the spotted owl and the very difficult work that went
around -- that summit that we had out in Oregon, has been committed to
finding a way to protect the environment and protect economic growth. That
was something he talked about throughout the campaign and something we
worked very hard on in the early days, particularly around the northwest
Q The employees that former President Clinton will have, will they
all be employees that he will get as a result of -- that a certain amount
of staff that a former President gets? Or does he plan to form a company
of his own and just employ them personally?
MR. SIEWERT: Actually, I'll refer you to his new team on that when
they get in place. But I think that you can expect that there will be some
people who work at the library, which is a separate entity, some people
will work at the office of the former President and some people may work
for him in different capacities one way or the other.
Q Can I ask you about the procedure on Saturday? Is he actually
going to leave from the White House to the airport? Or what is he --
MR. SIEWERT: No, he attends the inaugural ceremony.
Q From there to --
MR. SIEWERT: He leaves from the Capitol, traditionally, and then
proceeds to Andrews for his final flight.
Q He's not coming back to the White House?
MR. SIEWERT: No, after he leaves it's not -- it's really his to
Q How long does he stay in New York?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, he lives there now, so I assume he'll stay as long
as he wants. (Laughter.) No, he expects to take up residence there, and
live there. That will be his permanent residence, and after that, you'll
have to check with someone else about his comings and goings. But I'm not
in a position to comment on those now.
Q Jake, anything you can tell us about his sayonara message on
Thursday, and has a final press conference been ruled out and, if so, why?
MR. SIEWERT: I think the address on Thursday night will be relatively
short. The draft I looked at ran about six or seven minutes. He wanted to
take this opportunity to thank the American people for their support over
the years, for helping him become the first Democrat since FDR to serve two
terms, and for giving him a chance to serve the country. And he'll comment
on some of the good work that he's been able to do, along with the American
He'll also take an opportunity to look a little bit forward, some of
the challenges we face in the new globalized world, one that really has
become more interdependent in the last 10 years, and probably comment a bit
on the importance of America remaining engaged in the world and continuing
to play a leadership role.
Q And a press conference is ruled out?
MR. SIEWERT: A press conference. We had kicked around the idea of a
press conference, but the President is awfully busy -- it's a huge
commitment of time. And he's been regularly available, here and there,
including last week. I think he took about 10 questions, more than I would
have liked, behind the Oval. But we did not really have the time, given
that he's packing up, trying to do a lot of meetings, and trying to finish
up some work.
Q Jake, if I could just return to the Middle East one last time.
Are you saying that the clock has now run out on even the prospect of a
MR. SIEWERT: Well, the parties -- in the end, the parties will make a
decision about what they want to agree with -- agree to or not to agree to,
on their own time frame. They continue to talk, and I'm not going to rule
anything out, as long as they continue to talk. But that's up to them to
make that decision. We remain available to help them in the process, and
we continue to talk to them about the President's parameters, and what we
could do to narrow the differences between the parties.
But they're focused on their discussions right now, and we'll do --
I'm not going to try to limit those discussions in any way. But obviously,
there's a very short timetable, and that makes it exceedingly difficult.
But, ultimately, that's their decision, not ours.
Q Will there be anything resembling a State of the Union in these
final days, a message?
MR. SIEWERT: I would not expect a State of the Union.
Q There's no obligation to send one up?
MR. SIEWERT: There's no obligation in the Constitution. I believe it
says from time to time that the President shall provide information. He's
obviously not planning a full-scale address, and I don't know of any
written address that's in the works.
Q Jake, the spokesman for the President-elect George Bush has said
that any final days deal the President signs -- executive orders or makes
any deals -- will be under -- will be reviewed by the new administration
-- under the law legally or politically can be possible?
MR. SIEWERT: Sure, they can review everything that we did, but the
reality is I think that they'll find that there's a good public policy
underlying most of the decisions we've made here over the last couple of
years, some of which were finalized in the last month or so.
But whether it's the rule to protect workers in the work place or the
rules to protect national forests from new road building, we think that
those are worthy public policy objectives, and should be allowed to stand
on the merits.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:07 P.M. EST