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Special Event

White House Holds Last Lockhart Press Briefing

Aired September 29, 2000 - 1:57 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm being warned we have something going on at the White House.

Joe Lockhart's leaving. The president's at the podium, chief of staff's there. Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN PODESTA, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: ... that the same ain't true for the Republicans. Just this morning, in Tom DeLay's favorite newspaper, Joe is described as the "fiercely partisan" White House press secretary.

(LAUGHTER)

Let me tell you, they want him out of here.

It's not just that Joe is better at driving the Republicans crazy than just about anybody, it's that Joe gets results for the American people. Just yesterday, Joe was here whacking them for failing to get their work done, and you know what? It worked. They're so tired of hearing Joe label them a "do nothing Congress" that, last night, the Senate finally passed 24 bills.

Now, it's true they still haven't raised the minimum wage or passed a patients' bill of rights, but Joe finally kicked them into gear. Last night they passed the FHA Downpayment Simplification Extension Act of 2000. I know there are a lot of people who aren't usually in these briefings here, so for those of you who don't know what that is, that's simply an extension of the FHA Downpayment Simplification Act of 2000. And S-785, a bill for the relief of Francis Shonemeier (ph); and S-2289, a bill for the relief of Guy Taylor; and S-22, a bill for the relief of Tony Lara.

So we still don't have a Medicare prescription drug benefit, but thanks to Joe's bully pulpit we have S-893, a bill to amend Title 46, United States code to provide equitable treatment with respect to certain individuals who perform duties on vessels.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK) Actually, Congress did pass one measure of some significance yesterday that had nothing to do with pressure from Joe. They passed HR-4931, the Presidential Transition Act of 2000. Of course, the only reason the Republicans passed that was because it authorizes funds to move the president out of the White House.

(LAUGHTER)

And I think it's fair to say for those of us on the White House staff that if we got to vote a bill to keep Joe in the White House, that bill would have passed by unanimous consent. He's been tough, he's been funny, he's always been straight. I think -- I said to the staff this morning, I think you can't count on one hand the times Joe that has made a mistake here, despite the fact that you guys throw him fast balls on a day-in and day-out basis. So we are going to miss him, as I know the president is.

And now it's my pleasure to introduce the president of the United States.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, most people think Joe's leaving for purely selfish, monetary reasons. But the truth is he told me that I was no longer in enough trouble to make it interesting for him...

(LAUGHTER)

... that getting up every day and going to work and making policy and helping the Democrats, you know, it's boring him to tears. And he said he couldn't stand to be alone in his office crying anymore, and so he had to leave.

So I have one little gift for him, a memorial of our one and only day playing golf together. It happened a couple of weeks ago: Here's Joe.

(LAUGHTER)

And the captions is: "Joe, typical day as presidential press secretary, lost in the weeds."

(LAUGHTER)

"Unlike the press corps, I'll give you a mulligan."

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Let me say seriously, I know what a difficult job this is. And I know it takes a toll on everyone. And I know Joe spent a lot of time away from his wonderful wife and beautiful daughter who are here. I remember when I appointed him there was all this yapping about whether he was heavy enough to do the job.

(LAUGHTER) He leaves with gravitas and gravy toss...

(LAUGHTER)

... and a lot of gratitude. I know that I have a different perspective than the members of the press corps, but I've been following this business a long time -- a long time before I showed up. And I don't believe I've ever seen anybody do this job better.

I admire you, I'm grateful to you, I'll miss you, and I'll try to keep you bored.

Thank you, friend.

(APPLAUSE)

WATERS: Joe Lockhart is going away. He's leaving his job as press secretary of the White House. Nobody did it better, said the president. Joe Lockhart, was he heavy enough for the job? The president of the United States says he has "gravitas and gravy toss."

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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