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White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart Previews President Clinton's Speech For Democratic National Convention

Aired August 14, 2000 - 3:43 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We are turning our attention on White House spokesman Joe Lockhart over at the St. Regis Hotel, where the western White -- or White House is located today, the president's headquarters. Joe Lockhart is speaking to reporters.

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I paid for this microphone. I want the mote.


LOCKHART: OK, Let me quickly give you some thematics from the speech and what I think you all should expect tonight. I'll try to walk through it a little bit, and I do hope that some time in the next hour or so I can get some excerpts for you. We're working on that now, and I hope we can get that done.

I think, as a general point, you'll find tonight's speech, as contrasted to some speeches that you may have heard in Philadelphia, will not really be something about rhetorical flourishes.

This is a speech that's based on the facts, and it's based on the facts because we think the facts speak very well for the Democrats, for Al Gore, for Joe Lieberman, for all the work that we've done over the last eight years.

You know, I think probably the best way to look at it is if the Republicans were trying to make their case through a made-for-TV movie, we're trying to do reality television, and we think that'll work for us.

I think the president will make the point that the last eight years and all of the progress economically and socially that we've enjoyed were not something that happened accidentally, but were the product of tough choices and leadership.

He will highlight, obviously, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman in that light, in the speech. He will talk, at some length, about the unprecedented economic prosperity we enjoy in this country, but I think he will also make the point, just as strongly, that this is not just about economics.

The president will make the point that America is more confident, that America is more hopeful, and just eight years gone in this administration we are more secure and free as a nation, and we are all of these things because we offered a vision, in 1992, of how to turn this country around, and we've delivered on that, and we've achieved the goals that we set forward.

I think, as far as the facts that you're going to hear, there will be a good bit on the economy, the unprecedented economic expansion, the low -- historically low interest rates, inflation, unemployment, high home ownership -- facts that I think you've heard us talk about through the years, but the president will bring it all together tonight.

He will also make a point of how all American groups -- all groups of Americans have shared in this prosperity, as income levels have risen for the first time in a long time throughout all levels, whether it be Hispanic Americans, African-Americans, women.

He will talk in areas beyond economics. He will highlight education, health care. Welfare reform will be a big focus.

He'll talk about our tax cuts over the years that have encouraged things from child -- the child credit to the HOPE scholarship, the proposals to try to make college -- higher education more accessible.

He'll talk about health care, environment. And he will mention our leading role in the world in making the world more secure and making the world a more peaceful place.

And then I think he'll move to talk a little bit about Al Gore and Joe Lieberman.

I think the president understands fully that it's not his role to tell the American public who to vote for.

It's no secret who he supports. But I think he'll try to put some things that he knows about Al Gore and Joe Lieberman in perspective and talk to the American public about things that should be important in this election and what some of the stakes are in this election.

Finally, he will make a special mention of the first lady and his enduring interest in her race and the contributions he believes she will make as the next senator in New York state.

There will be some reflections near the end, you know, as he sums up the speech. As far as the enduring interest in how long it will be, all I can say is we have a new feature in the speech, so that if it goes to 11:30 the president has five jokes written in for Jay Leno fans and a top 10 list for David Letterman fans just in case so they don't feel cheated.

It was a joke. It wasn't very funny, but you can join us if you want.


Obviously there's been a lot of talk about how long it is. I fully expect -- I mean, the only recent one to really compare this to would be Reagan or maybe Eisenhower's. I expect it to be shorter than both of those, which ran well over 50 minutes each. But I do expect that we'll get pretty close to that.

QUESTION: Has he been rehearsing today...


LOCKHART: Yes. He -- let me give you a sense of what he's done today. He's been working on this, you know, over the last five or six days, much more intensively with each passing day. Yesterday was a day where we spent some -- a couple of hours together working on it, but he also spent a lot of time between, you know, events and during the downtime that he had.

Because he wanted to do some more work on it this morning, as you now know, he put off the two events he was supposed to do. He got up early this morning, worked on his own for a couple of hours, and then I think about 10:30 or so got together with staff, talked through some of the changes he wanted to be made, did a rehearsal of it. And I expect that he'll find a little bit of time later on this afternoon to put the finishing touches on it.


QUESTION: Joe, is he going to mention the governor, Governor Bush, by name? And is he specifically going to mention of what the governor said at the Republican National Convention?

LOCKHART: I think -- I don't expect the governor of Texas will be mentioned in this speech, but I certainly expect that the premise that Governor Bush asserted at the convention, that somehow an unprecedented economic prosperity and good times in this country happened by accident, will be challenged vigorously.

I think further, the further statements made over the weekend that America is worse off today than we were eight years ago will be laid as a completely absurd notion by the end of this speech.

You know, it may -- the Bush family may be worse off than they were eight years ago, but I think that the vast majority of Americans will argue that their lives have, as the president will say, become better because of the economic policies we've pursued, the social policies we pursued, and we are a more confident and hopeful nation today.

QUESTION: Other than what brief mention you made about all Americans sharing in the prosperity, is he going to discuss the diversity issue that was so prominent at the Republican, and is he going make (inaudible)?

LOCKHART: I doubt -- we won't make them up here. I'm sure he'll have the opportunity to between now and when Congress goes out to see these groups. I mean, we see many of them on a regular basis.

The president will talk about his commitment to diversity and one America, but he'll do it in the context of an eight-year or even a lifetime commitment that he's made.

This isn't about a made-for-TV television show. This isn't about bringing in Motown bands. This is about a life-long commitment to enforcement of civil rights, a life-long commitment to inclusiveness, to a life-long commitment to making the government look like America.

The president will reflect, I think, on the outstanding record that the Clinton-Gore team has achieved.


LOCKHART: Yes, I think so, at this point.

WATERS: That's Joe Lockhart, White House spokesman at the St. Regis Hotel here in Los Angeles giving us the Cliff's Notes of the featured speech tonight. That of President Clinton will be less a rhetorical flourish and more about the facts, which will speak for themselves, according to Lockhart. And as a result, Americans are more confident, hopeful, just and free. It will be a defense of the Clinton-Gore years.

One curious thing you may want to watch for tonight: The president will talk, in Joe Lockhart's words, "a little bit" about Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. The president speaks tonight.



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