THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
1:05 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: I start today with a very, very good announcement. We have some blessed news. We have a new addition to our ranks -- Liza O'Hanlon Harris, daughter of John Harris, of The Washington Post, was born this morning -- 8:45 a.m. this morning -- 8 pounds, 1 ounce; 20 inches long; sandy hair, as reported to me by some reliable sources at The Washington Post. From the President, every one at the White House, John, if you're watching, congratulations. You're in for a whole new set of issues and work. Trust me. (Laughter.)
I look forward to seeing you after a sleepless night sitting there, knowing what I know about what you're about to go through. But it's great news, and the President is very happy.
Q May I ask you -- would you disabuse the President of the idea that he has only one opportunity to talk to the press, when he's in a crowded room -- guests and so forth? Every time he wants to make a special announcement, he says, since this is my only opportunity to talk to the press. Does he really believe that?
MR. LOCKHART: Not even a baby could soften them up. (Laughter.) I'll disabuse him of that.
Q Yes, we're much too busy.
Q Would you let him know that he can come to the Briefing Room any time.
Q Any time, we're here.
Q Any time at all.
MR. LOCKHART: You guys are here any time during the day? Sure.
Q Would you say that's misleading on his part?
MR. LOCKHART: Sam, don't call me Miss Leading.
Q It is misleading the nation's mayors.
Q I'm not calling you misleading.
MR. LOCKHART: I know. I know. I'm picking up on our little routine yesterday. Not very funny -- didn't like it either time, so I'll drop that.
Questions, please. Let's get serious.
Q That was serious.
Q Joe, it has been since last April that the President has held a solo news conference. Could he possibly celebrate the anniversary of that by holding one this April?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll look at the April schedule and see if there's time.
Q Joe, am I correct in my assumption that --
MR. LOCKHART: A few minutes before we get serious, but that's okay.
Q This is serious, we're serious.
Q Am I correct in my assumption that President Clinton has a lot of respect for and gratitude to Maryland's Senator Barbara Mikulski?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Yesterday, she issued this statement, including the following quote: "What the President did was wrong, immoral and shameful. He has harmed his family, his colleagues and this nation by inappropriate behavior, and trying to hide it. Those wrongs are serious and only Mr. Clinton can put them right." How specifically, Joe, does Mr. Clinton intend to put them right?
MR. LOCKHART: I'd say that the President has said such and would take no exception to what she said. And as he's told you, he's working hard with his family.
Q How -- working hard with his family --
MR. LOCKHART: Working hard with his family and his friends to put things right.
Q Has he put it right for the nation, Joe? Does the President believe he's put this behind him and he's made it right with the nation?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has spoken directly with the country. He's apologized for his actions, for his behavior, for misleading, and he has gotten back to work, concentrating on the problems that face Americans every day, and that's what he thinks is the best thing he can do with his time.
Q While we're on this subject, on the 22nd of this month you were asked a question at a briefing which said, did the President know that Bumpers was going to raise the personal family issue. Your reply in part was, "No, not that I'm aware of. I don't believe that there was anyone here who, beyond talking about the general outlines of the case, knew how Senator Bumpers was going to approach the presentation." But in this morning's Arkansas Gazette, Senator Bumpers is quoted as saying that, White House lawyers came to his office, "I told them to sit down and I told them not to interrupt me because I wasn't going to change the sucker very much," -- meaning his speech. He read it, meaning the White House lawyer. They listened, they signed off on almost everything Bumpers said. How do you square that?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't because it's news to me. My understanding of the situation was that he said he had prepared something, that we would provide some information. And that's news to me.
Q Well, may I suggest then that people who briefed you misled you? If Bumpers is telling the truth in this article, as quoted, White House lawyers came to his office, they knew what he was going to say. And you represented to us that you didn't know of --
MR. LOCKHART: Sam, I would suggest that I didn't work hard enough in checking with all the lawyers, so I don't believe I was misled and if there is any fault here it's mine.
Q Has there been a final decision on whether or not the President's lawyers will call witnesses now that the House managers are going ahead with theirs?
MR. LOCKHART: No. No, I think the way the process is constructed, that decision is put off until we're in the next phase.
Q Is the White House satisfied with that opportunity as it exists in the process?
MR. LOCKHART: To make decisions afterwards?
Q Yes. Are you satisfied that you have the opportunity to make a defense, a further defense, should you feel it's necessary?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that there is some concern that we don't get a chance to do some discovery issues until after these witnesses have been deposed and potentially go to the floor. But I think there is in the proposal that was put through an element of discovery, time to look at what the issues are have been raised, and we look forward to using that at the appropriate time.
Q Are you saying you would rather be beginning the discovery process right now?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think we've said all along if this was a normal process, a legal proceeding, you wouldn't get to depositions before discovery. We also understand that this isn't a normal legal proceeding, it's a proceeding where the rules get made up on the go and are made up by whoever has 51 votes and that, right now, is the Republican Party.
Q So you wouldn't prefer to be doing discovery now -- which is it?
MR. LOCKHART: No, we would.
Q You would, rather --
MR. LOCKHART: We would rather, as I've said many days running, we'd rather go into the depositions knowing as much as the House managers know. We don't. But we also don't set the rules.
Q Joe, do you think we'll get an end to this trial by February 12th, like Mr. Lott said?
MR. LOCKHART: I think Senator Lott has said that that for him is a goal, but he acknowledges it can slip. I think there is some understandable anxiety among the White House team that the resolution is constructed in a way that provides a series of escape hatches so that the rules can be changed at any time, opening this up to new witnesses, new evidence and allowing this trial to go on endlessly.
Q Excuse me, on new witnesses is it not correct that Senator Daschle has to approve of calling new witnesses except for the President's lawyers, if they want to.
MR. LOCKHART: Under this resolution. But as we saw yesterday it takes only a majority vote to scrap this resolution and write a new resolution.
Q This resolution means that Daschle effectively has a veto over any Republican --
MR. LOCKHART: This resolution also makes it clear that motions are in order at the end of the process to write a new resolution that allows for new witnesses and new evidence. So there's small comfort there for those who believe that this trial should end soon.
Q So you're okay with the way it is now, the way -- the agreement that was reached yesterday; you're just worried that it might change again and slip back to some other --
MR. LOCKHART: We're worried by some of the provisions, particularly near the end of the resolution that could open this process back up. It could bring us to the floor like we were yesterday on a party-line vote that would allow an endless proceeding of new witnesses, new evidence, like we've seen throughout the process.
Q But as the process now exists, though, as Sam was pointing out, Daschle has a veto over that, does he not?
MR. LOCKHART: As it exists now, but the process also allows them to change the process as they go. Let me make another point, because I think it's important. This is about running a trial to potentially convict and remove the President. And we're making up the rules literally on the back of an envelope right now. I think if you watched the Senate floor yesterday, you were watching changes in front of you. That, I think, raises some issues about whether that's fair to all sides.
And I think what we need is a process where there's some certainty to all sides that no matter which way this goes, we'll reach some conclusion and, if it goes in a way that doesn't suit the majority, they won't rip up that envelope and write a new one.
Q Well, wouldn't a date certain actually hurt you because that would require an end to the trial, even if the White House wanted more time to defend the President should there be something damaging --
MR. LOCKHART: I think if you could construct something along the lines of what the Democrats were talking about, that could be an acceptable trade-off. If the rules were certain and the record that we were talking about was squared off, I think we would on balance see a trade-off for finding certainty, rather than constantly living in a world where as soon as things go well for us or turn in our direction, the rules get torn up and rewritten.
Q But you need an escape hatch for White House lawyers, do you not, in case something comes up that's damaging? So, if you have an escape hatch you've got to have an escape hatch for both sides.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if there is walled off the idea of what we're debating and what the record is that would be an acceptable trade-off position. But we don't. I mean, we've got a situation where it's vague and at anytime, anywhere, with 51 votes, anything can be admitted to the record.
Q Joe, you bring up an issue about the Constitution. Should there be more specific language in the Constitution to avoid in future times what some are calling an impeachment farce?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the Constitution is fairly clear on this issue about what the Senate's role is. The Senate's role is to handle impeachment and to convict and remove. There is nothing in the Constitution that says you can do half or two-thirds. And the framers of the Constitution put a very heavy burden on changing that document, and they did so for good reason. You need a super majority in the Senate -- you need an even larger percentage of states around the country to come together and make a decision on amending the Constitution. So I don't think the framers envisaged fundamental elements of the Constitution being changed by a majority vote on the Senate floor.
And I think some of the issues that we're going to grapple with over the next two weeks really go to are we attempting to rewrite some of the provisions, which I think are very clear in the Constitution, by a majority vote through a majority party. And I think it raises serious issues moving into the future about how future Presidents will be treated and how future impeachments will be handled.
Q Joe, in the only part of the media where the general public has a real chance to particular, talk radio and the Internet, there is a widespread report that NBC is suppressing Lisa Myers' interview with Jane Doe number five. Did anyone from the White House ask NBC anything about this, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: No, and I'd ask you to put it to NBC.
Q Joe, on the question of partisanship, yesterday you guys were basically saying that partisanship was over -- bipartisanship was over and so on and so forth. Why at this point, suddenly, with yesterday's activities, do you believe that this process was broken down?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we've been down this road before where we've seen bipartisanship and we've seen plaudits and speeches about how important it is. And when you get to crunch time it becomes partisan. And we have two days running now of the Senate taking votes along party lines, satisfying the majority on how they want to run this trial. I mean, I think it's self-evident that the Republican majority, now lacking the votes to remove the President, is using the simple majority they do have to extend this process for reasons that I think only they can articulate.
It's hard for me to really understand because, I think, as I talked a little bit about yesterday, there's a fundamental flaw in their logic as they articulate their case. On the one hand they talk passionately about needing witnesses, needing more evidence to make up their minds, to find the truth. But with barely a hesitation they make another argument, which is they need a finding of fact because they're certain the President is guilty and they don't want him to "get away with it." It's hard for me to reconcile those two views because they do seem mutually exclusive. You either need more facts to make up your mind, or you've made up your mind. And if you've made up your mind and want to do a finding of fact, then why do you need the witnesses?
Q Now, are you taking a harsher view of the partisanship question than Senate Democrats? Daschle yesterday said he didn't blame Lott for this and that he did not see this as a death blow to bipartisanship.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure that we're in a position to blame any particular senator. I guess -- my only guess as to why we perhaps take a slightly harsher view is we've got a little longer track record. We went through an entire process in the House where bipartisanship was promised and I don't think there is any objective observer who at the end of the day would say that we were treated with anything but partisanship.
Q Joe, what about Senator Feingold -- is he not a good Democrat?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he is free to express his opinions. He has voted in a way that he is comfortable with. We disagree with him.
Q So it's possible for a Democrat to vote with the majority and --
MR. LOCKHART: That's not the point I'm making. I think Senator Feingold can best explain his view. We're talking about on the motion to dismiss and on the procedures. We believe things have fallen down on partisan lines because -- particularly after the motion to dismiss vote with 44 Democrats, making clear that there aren't the votes to remove the President, there is an attempt here by the Republican majority to play out this process in a way that can inflict maximum political damage on the President. That was the game plan in the House and I think we're seeing some of that in the Senate now.
Q Joe, why are you being so open about this now? You've been kind of -- I'm talking about in the Senate. You've been reserved. Jim Kennedy had been reserved before. Now you are really doing it. Is there a frustration that maybe Americans don't understand that the Senate is as partisan?
MR. LOCKHART: I would highlight some of what Senator Daschle said. I think he has expressed some hope -- we have not given up hope. But if you look at -- and I would say that the comparisons are not parallel between what happened in the House and what has already happened in the Senate. But there are the signs now that we saw quite clearly in the House that this was more about politics than about anything else. And we don't believe that the American public has -- shares the belief that we should be using the impeachment process to pursue a partisan agenda.
And there are worrying signs over the last two days with three, or four, or five consecutive party-line votes except for one senator -- not a single Republican has come the other way despite -- and I have to tell you, you all have read the papers and watched them on television -- despite days and days and days of buildup that talked about grave doubts, about the need to call witnesses or the need to keep going with this trial. So it just has the feel.
Q But do you think that some of these closed-door deliberations that the Senate has opted for, in fact, is keeping the American people in the dark about the bipartisan tone that's going on?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again I think it's up to the Senate -- it's up to the Senate to decide what gets done in the open. It's going again to the issue of flawed logic, the same senators who argued so vociferously for closing the sessions where they actually debated, where the Senate did their duty and debated these motions, are now making the same argument that if they go ahead and videotape these things, they must be released to the public.
I'd suggest that when you have arguments that don't work together and kind of collide and they fundamentally defy logic, that the place to find understanding is politics. And I think that's what you're seeing here.
Q Joe, Monday is the first opportunity that the White House lawyers will have to cross-examine Monica Lewinsky. Are they looking forward to the opportunity to test her testimony?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think there's anybody here that looks forward to anything in this that extends this. The decision that the Republicans made over the last two days, rather than going directly to the articles and voting -- even though, if you listen to them, most of them have made up their mind -- so I don't think there is anybody here who is looking forward that extends this process.
Q But don't you think that you could make points and score points in the President's favor?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm sure that the lawyers will do a very professional and thorough job, and we'll all know the result of it probably Tuesday morning.
Q Do you expect the President to be in touch in any way with either Vernon Jordan or Sidney Blumenthal before they testify?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no idea whether he will be in touch with them, but the President is a lawyer and he'd know the propriety of discussing their testimony.
Q He does expect them to testify completely and truthfully?
MR. LOCKHART: He does.
Q What about White House counsel -- I mean, Sidney works here, White House aides who went to the grand jury did talk with White House counsel -- is that happening for this occasion, or is there a --
MR. LOCKHART: I think there is some time set aside for if anyone wants to go over issues with White House counsel. I don't know when and if that will be scheduled, but I certainly think --
Q What kind of issue would be appropriate -- is there any kind of line that is drawn, given that they are also going to be questioning him as part of this deposition?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know there is this line. You certainly know that the House managers saw it appropriate to sit down and have a cup of coffee with Monica Lewinsky. The White House counsel I think has a very good idea of the parameters of this case, the issues, the facts, and if they -- if Mr. Blumenthal or his lawyers want to talk with them, I'm sure that that would be an appropriate thing to do.
Q Is the President meeting with his lawyers today?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I know of.
Q General Zinni yesterday told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he did not think that any of the opportunity groups in Iraq could overthrow Saddam. Was the General speaking out of school, and should the U.S. government be funding local groups if they're not --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the General highlighted something that we've known for a long time, which is this is a very hard task. And we believe that if this is done the wrong way, it would be very counterproductive. And I think that's some of the things he focused on yesterday -- of the idea of taking money and rushing in and arming people before the proper work is done -- we actually be counterproductive and would destabilize rather than stabilize the region.
So we believe that we can go forward, work with Iraqi opposition groups, but we have to do it the right way. We have to do it in a prudent and effective way. And that might be a way that goes in a more deliberate pace than some of our colleagues on Capitol Hill believe is appropriate, but we're determined, and General Zinni is determined, that we do this in a way that is productive and long-term provides the Iraqi people the kind of government they deserve.
Q -- that we can trust -- do those groups feel they can trust the United States in light of what happened a few years ago when we didn't come to the aid of the opposition groups --
MR. LOCKHART: I think we have worked with a series of groups and we have enjoyed a good relationship, and again, we will be moving forward in a way that we believe in productive and prudent.
Q So you have no problem with Zinni's testimony.
MR. LOCKHART: No, I have no problem with his testimony.
Q So you're saying that Zinni was only saying that -- was only referring to the pace at which you can do this rather than the notion of doing --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm going to let the General's remarks speak for themselves. What I'm telling you is that I think he did highlight the important tactical issue of how you do this.
Q You don't think he attacked the notion of doing it at all?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't believe that there is a fundamental disagreement here, no.
Q What is your understanding of the potential of using 7,000 U.S. troops in Kosovo?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there's been no decision on that issue. We've said all along that we have no intention of putting combat troops in or sending any troops into a nonpermissive environment. If there is a post-implementation settlement that involves NATO forces, we will discuss that with our allies in Europe and here at home on Capitol Hill with Congress.
Q So there would be no putting U.S. troops in harm's way when there's fighting going on?
MR. LOCKHART: There's no discussion of putting troops into a combat situation. The post-implementation issue is something different. There's been no decisions on that. But if it is necessary to move forward with those discussions, we will again be talking with our allies in Congress.
Q Joe, you said there's no discussion of --
MR. LOCKHART: No decision.
Q No, but --
MR. LOCKHART: No discussion of combat forces in --
Q Right. But aside from that, would you rule -- is that something that would be ruled out?
MR. LOCKHART: Which thing -- I'm sorry, I want to be clear.
Q Ruling out the idea of putting U.S. troops in harm's way there.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think in what the Pentagon calls a non-permissive environment, that there is no discussion of, and I would rule out. As far as a post-implementation force, I can't rule that in or out.
Q Joe, according to India -- newspapers, high-level meetings are going on between U.S., India and Pakistan and discussing -- nuclear -- and other matters. Also, there's an article saying that they are making the way for a presidential trip in the region. Number one, can the trip still take place? And also, if this drama is in any way in the way of a presidential trip to India and Pakistan?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, let me tell you, I don't have any news for you on travel. But I do -- the President did talk to Prime Minister Vajpayee this morning for about 10 minutes. And let me tell you a few of the points that he made. The main reason for the call was to express his hopes for -- in the talks between Minister Singh and Strobe Talbott that are ongoing right now. He said that it is his belief that as the two worlds -- as the two largest democracies in the world, we should have a strong and productive relationship.
He expressed some disappointment that the relationship has not blossomed as he had hoped and that his goal remains to work through differences and move the relationship forward. In that regard, Mr. Talbott and his team are hopeful that progress can be made on the nonproliferation dialogue. The President expressed appreciation for the commitment to adhere to CTBT by next September. He believes it's a very important step on which to build. And he also, without going into a great deal, discussed the four areas of nonproliferation concern that have become much of the foundation of the discussions between the United States, India, and the United States and Pakistan.
Q Who called whom?
MR. LOCKHART: The President called the Prime Minister.
Q Is CTBT important for the President to visit the area or it's not real important, or it must be signed before --
MR. LOCKHART: I think regardless of any presidential travels, CTBT is important to our relations to the subcontinent, to our relationship with both countries.
Q Joe, back to this point about travel. Is there any consideration being given to postponing the Central America trip?
MR. LOCKHART: I actually hope to have some news on the Central America trip by the close of today, maybe tomorrow.
Q News connected to that question?
MR. LOCKHART: No, the schedule. Schedule.
Q But it's not changing?
MR. LOCKHART: I'll let you know once I have the schedule what the schedule is. I don't have it now.
Q But he is going? He is definitely --
Q Does the President, as a resident of the District of Columbia, agree or disagree with Julian Bond's statement that the new Mayor of Washington, "has been niggardly in his judgment."?
MR. LOCKHART: First off, I don't know that the President is aware of Mr. Bond's statement. And I don't think based on my reading of the newspapers stories that you've accurately characterized the issue.
Q Well, that's a direct quote from Bond. Does the President agree with it? Does he think that this poor man should be fired because he used a Scandinavian word? How do you stand, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: Quite nicely and quite easily.
Q Joe, going back to something that you said before, you said that the President doesn't like dealing with the impeachment trial issue. And how does it make him feel to have to face that issue when he has events like the U.S. Conference of Mayors -- stand up and applaud him at the end saying that they stand by him. How does it make him feel --
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President some time ago came to the conclusion that the best thing he can do both as far as doing his job and for himself if to get up every morning and do his job and work as hard as he can. And I think it reinforces him when he gets the kind of reaction that he gets both around the country and here. The President has always worked well with the mayors. He's very interested in the issues they confront on a daily basis. And I think the mayors as a group, both Democrat and Republicans from around the country, came to Washington, came here, to express their belief that it matters that he continue doing the job that he was elected to do.
Q What I'm trying to say is that he runs from it here, but he's slapped in the face with it elsewhere. How does he deal with that, though?
MR. LOCKHART: I answered that the best way I know how.
Q Joe, what's your reaction to the GDP numbers? Why do you think the economy is so strong and do you think the strength will continue?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the GDP numbers for the fourth quarter show remarkable strength in the economy. I think they are in large part a testament to the six-year economic plan that we're now -- we're seeing the results of, the fact that we've been able to lower the cost of -- lower the deficit, lower interest rates, we have lower inflation. We've increased investments. And you're seeing that in what was to many analysts stunning economic growth.
I think there are still issues out on the horizon that the President believes that we need to continue working on, particularly problems in Asia; exports in this report were flat. And we need to make sure the markets are vibrant and are able to buy American goods as we look into the future. But the economic news, as far as you can see, is good.
Q Given how unpopular this trial apparently is in the country, why do you conclude that it's politics rather that conscious that's driving the Republicans forward?
MR. LOCKHART: The only way I can answer that is sort of drawing on some political analysis. My take, and it's my take only, is from the beginning the people who have had the strongest voice among the Republicans are those on the far right and they believe, and they so state their belief, that the best politics for the Republican Party are the politics of attacking the President, trying to remove him; the politics of destruction. And they believe that's good politics. It is for them, and ultimately the American public, to make a final judgment, but that's how I'm comfortable asserting that this is about politics.
Q Joe, can I come back to the depositions next week? As I understand it, there is still going to be an opportunity for another floor vote as to whether those videotapes are going to actually be introduced in evidence.
MR. LOCKHART: Right.
Q Will the White House oppose that? If so, why?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we think -- to the extent that anybody listens to us up there -- that we've already seen what people will do with the videotapes. I mean, we started a small growth industry when the House Judiciary Committee -- you couldn't turn on a TV without someone hawking the President's grand jury testimony for $19.95, or $9.95, or check out this Internet site or that Internet site.
This is serious business. We don't need to turn the floor of the Senate into a spectacle. And I think, again, it's just hard to square those Republican senators who are now arguing forcefully that these must be made public, with their logic that their deliberations on this important issue must be kept private. Again, we defer to their judgment on this, so I'm not arguing that that decision was wrong. But the knee-jerk reaction that these must be made public suggests that our belief that this is about trying to inflict political damage on the President has some merit.
Q But you're still going to oppose that? The release of it?
MR. LOCKHART: To the extent that we get a vote, which we don't.
Q Joe, are you saying that these witnesses stand to inflict political damage on the President?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that the purpose -- one of the purposes of questioning these people is to put out information that the Republicans believe will cause embarrassment to the President, yes.
Q Do you know if President Clinton is going to visit Greece and Turkey in November, as it was reported extensively in the press?
MR. LOCKHART: I know that the OSCE has their summit planned for November. There's no decision on whether the President will attend that summit, so, therefore, I have no news on whether, if he does attend, there will be other stops on the trip.
Q Joe, who will be present specifically from the White House on Monday when Monica Lewinsky is deposed?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I had inquired on that subject just before the briefing and I could not get a definitive answer from our lawyers yet. Once I know, I'll tell you.
Q On the budget surplus, the CBO announced huge projected surpluses. This is going to undoubtedly unleash a flood of requests from Republicans in Congress -- even from some of the mayors who stood in the driveway and said, use it for cities. Why not use some of that budget surplus to plow back into programs or into tax relief?
MR. LOCKHART: Well. I think the CBO numbers, traditionally, have been less conservative than the OMB numbers, and if those numbers prove to be more accurate than ours, then we're in even better shape than we thought we were.
But there's a fundamental choice that we face right now, as policymakers. We spent the last 20 or so years piling up debt, this baby boom generation. And we now face the choice of whether we're going to pay down that debt, and pay down that debt in a way that will save Social Security and Medicare, or whether we're going to give ourselves something now, and ask our children and our grandchildren to pay that bill.
The President believes the best way to do this is to pay down the debt; save the solvency of Social Security through at least 2055 and, working with Congress, for hopefully another 20 years solidify Medicare; and then use what's left to meet some of the domestic and military needs that we face.
We believe that we have tax cuts that are targeted to long-term care, to child care and other issues. We also have, as part of the surplus, a 10 percent -- which is, in effect, a 10 percent tax credit, with the USA accounts, where we'll refund the money back to people to help with their retirement planning and pensions.
Q 11 percent.
MR. LOCKHART: 11 percent. It's getting better by the minute.
Q Joe, will the President remain rigidly with that formula, even if the numbers continue to change?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, we have found that the OMB numbers have been more accurate -- I think I'm safe in saying that -- than some of the numbers that have come from other sources. So we'll continue to use the more conservative numbers, because I think they have served us well.
But the President's priority, as he stated in the State of the Union, is to pay down the debt in a way that saves Social Security, saves Medicare, invests in retirement, and really does something that will, for future generations, help meet their burdens.
Q Joe, -- to the videotape question?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Are you saying that you oppose not only the videotapes from being shown on the Senate floor, but you would also oppose them from being put into the official record, which, of course, would mean their release?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that once they're put on the Senate floor, they're released. And I think a number of senators have already made it very clear, in the majority, that they plan to release them. And they say it with a certain smile and sparkle in their eye. And I think that should give you some hint about what their motives are.
Q Is Betty Currie relieved that she's not been called?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's safe to say yes on that one.
Q Joe, going back to the President's trip to India -- please can you clarify again, if this trip can take place before the President leaves office in two years, and also what is the main hurdle -- is he working hard for the trip to India like he did for the China trip?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it certainly is possible for the President to take a trip. I think the issues that we've talked about, as far as areas where we need to see some movement, are well-known. I mean, we've talked about adhering to CTBT by September of 1999; to commit to stopping the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons; commit to restraints on the deployment of nuclear-capable missiles and aircraft, and strength and control in exports of nuclear and missile technology. So it's -- I think the game plan is quite clear to how to move forward and strengthen the relationship. Under Secretary -- Deputy Secretary -- what's -- Deputy Secretary Talbott is there now and that's a demonstration of the importance that the President places on this relationship. And we're now looking to work together to make progress.
Q What is the President doing for the rest of the day?
MR. LOCKHART: The President for the rest of the day is doing his radio address about now. We'll let you know later. And he has some phone and office time. And then that's it.
Q Week ahead?
Q Hold on one second, Joe.
MR. LOCKHART: Almost.
Q Would the President want to be out of the country on the day on which the Senate voted on conviction or not?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, if we knew what day that was, it would make scheduling a lot easier.
Q If it's February 12th.
MR. LOCKHART: I think, all things being equal, no. But this open-ended process makes it difficult to plan.
Q So you're skeptical then it will be over by the 12th?
MR. LOCKHART: Certainly. I am skeptical because of the way the resolutions -- it's just not me just deciding I'm skeptical. The way the resolution is written, we really don't know where we're going in this process after Wednesday. The way resolutions have been done and written is you get -- you do the step by step. You get through an issue and you defer other issues. There's a certain logic to that to keep the process moving, and I'm not trying to be critical of that. But we don't know exactly what's going to happen after Wednesday. And I think there are enough holes in this resolution that it can be opened up with a simple majority and we could be here for a very long time.
Q Joe, just so I'm clear, you said you don't have a schedule for the Central America trip. But is it on?
MR. LOCKHART: Central America trip? Yes.
Q It is on.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. But I'll get you -- and when I get the schedule, I'll be glad to talk about it.
Q But, Joe, the restrictions they put on India trip were not place on China. Is there a distinction between the two, China and India -- why there is these sort of restrictions and conditions?
MR. LOCKHART: We approach all of our bilateral relationships as unique issues and opportunities.
Week ahead. Saturday, January 30th and Sunday, January 31st, the President and the First Lady will depart early Saturday for Camp David. They are expected to return to the White House early Monday morning. So I expect them to watch the Super Bowl there.
Q With selected friends and associates?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Monday is budget day. The President's fiscal year 2000 budget will be publicly released by the Government Printing Office at 8:00 a.m. The President will present his budget at an East Room ceremony at 10:00 a.m. Following the East Room ceremony, this President's budget team will hold a press briefing in Presidential Hall -- 450 OEOB, for those of you who haven't been clued in.
At 11:45 a.m. -- and then Cabinet Secretaries will be holding individual briefings at their departments through the afternoon.
The remainder of the President's schedule for Monday, at 4:30 p.m. he will address the National School Board Association.
Q What happened to 11:45 a.m.?
MR. LOCKHART: At 11:45 a.m. is the budget briefing over at President's Hall.
Tuesday, the President will travel to Boston and New York. In Boston he will discuss his school accountability proposals at an education event, at the Jackson Mann Elementary School.
Q Where is the school board thing on Monday?
MR. LOCKHART: The Grand Hyatt Hotel. That will be open press.
And he will also attend a DNC luncheon, expanded pool press for the remarks at the Boston Park Plaza. He will then travel to New York for a DNC dinner and will return to the White House late in the evening.
Wednesday, the President will address the AARP's annual legislative policy meeting to discuss his ideas on Social Security.
Thursday the President and the First Lady will attend the annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton. That's pool press. Later in the afternoon he will present the Malcolm Baldrige Awards at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Press TBD.
Friday, the President and the First Lady will host an event in the East Room to highlight the President's microenterprise development proposal.
Q What is that?
MR. LOCKHART: That is a very innovative program to invest in very small companies. And this is an issue that the First Lady has been quite involved in and has spoken out on at various times over the last couple of years.
END 1:46 P.M. EST