THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
11:55 A.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Sorry to be a few minutes late. We'll try to get through this quickly because I know many of you will be going on up to Baltimore. Let me do a couple of announcements. First, travel announcement -- the President will travel with the Vice President to Little Rock next month to participate in Gore 2000 events. This is the first in a series of trips and events the President will participate in on behalf of Gore 2000. In addition to the Arkansas trip, the President has four dinners upcoming for Gore 2000 -- on August 10 and 2nd, and on September 22 -- I'm sorry, two on August 10th and two on September 22.
Q Can you give us location?
MR. LOCKHART: Those are Washington, I believe.
Q What's the date of the Arkansas --
MR. LOCKHART: Details of the Arkansas trip, the President will depart for Arkansas early on Friday, August 6, and will overnight in Little Rock. On Saturday the Vice President and the President will participate in an evening Gore 2000 fundraiser at the State Convention House. An additional fundraiser may be added to the evening schedule. Overnight in Little Rock, return to Washington Sunday afternoon.
Secondly, and in response to some of the questions yesterday on some of the details of Prime Minister Barak's visit, I expect Prime Minister Barak to arrive tomorrow around 2:00 p.m. I expect the President and the Prime Minister will make statements before they go into their meeting, so sometime shortly after 2:00 p.m. they will go over to the residence to hold a private meeting, just the President and the Prime Minister. That meeting will take place in the Yellow Oval. As it's in the residence, there will be no coverage. I expect we'll release a photo of it, though.
I expect that meeting to go for roughly three hours. Prime Minister Barak will return to this side of the building for a meeting with Vice President Gore. Then he and the President will spend the evening together at Camp David.
MR. LOCKHART: Overnight. Friday --
Q The statements are before they meet?
MR. LOCKHART: The statements will be maybe out on the South Lawn or someplace. Before they go in, they'll do a statement and if you throw a question at them, they just might answer it if they like the question.
Q But it won't be a formal arrival ceremony?
MR. LOCKHART: Correct, it will not be that. It will be some derivative of that.
Q No press conference afterwards?
MR. LOCKHART: No. Correct, no press conference afterwards.
Friday, the Prime Minister will meet with Secretary Albright for breakfast, will also meet with Secretary Cohen during the day. He will spend the weekend in New York City, returning here Sunday night for a working dinner here at the White House.
On Monday, there will be an expanded meeting between the President and the Prime Minister --
Q It's an official --
MR. LOCKHART: Official dinner, sorry. Official dinner.
Q Full coverage, all that stuff on Sunday night?
MR. LOCKHART: Sunday night, it will be normal dinner coverage, I assume, in the speaking parts, but we'll let you know.
Q Is that a state dinner without the state --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q So it's the whole thing?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q And what is Monday?
MR. LOCKHART: Monday will be -- I don't have a time or details on the coverage, but it will be an expanded meeting between the President and the Prime Minister and their key advisors. I expect that to be a substantive meeting on the wide spectrum of agenda items they have between them.
I think as far as the meeting that will take place tomorrow -- the meetings -- from the President's point of view, he first wants to welcome the Prime Minister here to the United States and have a chance to both deepen the personal relationship that the two have and to listen to the ideas that the Prime Minister will be bringing on his vision for moving the Middle East peace process forward. I don't expect any substantive breakthroughs from tomorrow. I think it's more a chance for the President and the Prime Minister to spend a good part of the day together, to discuss the various ideas before them.
Q Well, what could possibly be a substantive breakthrough? I thought these guys are on the same side of the table here.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm trying to -- for those who will expect some substantive breakthrough, I'm telling you today you're not going to get it.
Q Does the Thursday meeting include a news conference?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have the details yet of Monday, haven't sorted it through.
Q The Israeli schedule suggests there would be a presidential news conference on Monday.
MR. LOCKHART: That's a good idea.
Q It shows up on their schedule, but not on yours?
MR. LOCKHART: We don't have our schedule yet. Terry, I do week ahead on Friday. That's the tradition here.
Q I'll give you a copy of their schedule that will tell you what's going to happen.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, good.
Q What does the U.S. think of the remarks so far from Barak, which is that he wants the U.S. to butt out of this situation?
MR. LOCKHART: I think you've seriously mischaracterized the statements, but the statements as spoken and as written, I think the U.S. agrees with. The U.S. government has always believed that our role should be not one that tries to impose plans on the party, that allows the parties and is necessary for the parties to come together in agreement. We believe that our traditional role is to facilitate and to try to play the role as a broker. But it's up to the parties to come to an agreement.
I think our role at times has become more hands on, particularly recently as the level of mistrust between the parties grew. But it's certainly our hope and I think there's some early evidence that the parties can build a relationship of more trust where we can play the traditional role that this government has normally played.
Q Barak also said in these interviews in The Washington Post and The New York Times that it may not be a good idea for him to use up all of his domestic political capital to fully implement the Wye River Accord, and instead to save that and go right to final status issues, having made the analogy of a woman delivering two or three times, let her just do it once, it's a lot easier.
MR. LOCKHART: Triplets?
Q Yes. Well, what do you think of --
MR. LOCKHART: As I said I think the last time -- the U.S. government expects the parties to live up to the agreements that they've agreed to, but certainly if the parties -- embedded in the Wye agreement is solving some interim issues to get to final status talks. If the parties can agree to move to the issues that face them in final status talks and can work together to move there, that would be something that we could support.
Q Not to put words in your mouth, but the President may be going to take a step back away from this issue?
MR. LOCKHART: No, the President has remained closely engaged in this process since the day he took office, but the President believes that he should engage in this in whatever the most appropriate and effective way he can. I think as I've just indicated, in the last year and more, the level of distrust between the parties meant that our role in a hands-on way increased. But I think the President has always made very clear that this is something for the parties to work out in the region.
Q How would you describe the President's optimism and his general expectations about the overall peace process compared to, say, two months ago?
MR. LOCKHART: I think as the President has said publicly, that the Israeli people made a statement about their desire for reaching a peaceful solution to the issues that face them and the President hopes that the parties in the region can build on any good feeling that may exist between the parties and move forward, implement Wye and move to final status talks.
Q How do you feel about Barak's statement that the CIA should play a less hands-on role in dealing with security issues on Gaza and the West Bank?
MR. LOCKHART: I think as you will remember, both parties expressed a desire to have the CIA play this role, and it goes to the issue of trust between the parties. Again, our overall view is that the parties, themselves, need to come to agreement, need to implement an agreement. We will step in in areas where both parties believe it is useful for us, but we take no negative sense from the Prime Minister's statement and hope that a sense of trust between the parties can develop so that our role can be less hands on.
Q But at the same time, Joe, if one of the parties now believes that the CIA shouldn't play that role, whereas both parties did back in October, then that's okay with you, is what you're saying?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think -- my sense of what the Prime Minister was trying to make a broader point there about what -- how the parties in the region need to step up to this process and what the role of the U.S. is in that process. And on that broader point there's no disagreement.
Q To follow up, did I read correctly that the First Lady was going to be present in these meetings?
MR. LOCKHART: No. It's the President and the Prime Minister.
Q She's not going to take part in any of the meetings that they have together?
Q Camp David?
MR. LOCKHART: The President and the Prime Minister will meet privately tomorrow. I don't have the Camp David schedule -- yes, they'll have -- Camp David will include spouses and I assume the dinner Sunday will.
Q What about the Monday meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have details of the Monday meeting.
Q Coverage at Camp David?
MR. LOCKHART: White House photo.
Q Sorry if you've gone over this before, but if you say this is a meeting for them to get to know each other better, how much do they know each other?
MR. LOCKHART: I think they have talked before, but I think -- I chose my words carefully at the beginning by saying that both the Prime Minister and the President want to deepen the personal relationship they already have.
Q Joe, you just said they should implement the Wye agreement and then move on to final status talks. But when Wolf asked you about Barak's idea that maybe you should not implement the Wye River kind of piecemeal and move directly to final status talks, do you have an objection to that?
MR. LOCKHART: I would have -- our government would have no objection if both parties agreed that they could move forward. Without both parties agreeing, we believe that both parties should implement the components of Wye that they agreed to.
Q What is the status of the review that -- you may have answered this -- the review that President Clinton asked his legal advisors and others --
MR. LOCKHART: Ongoing, and I don't expect it to be resolved before -- in the next few weeks.
Q You know what I was talking about?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I think there's a little sign on the back of your head that's saying --
Q Barak comes here with extraordinary expectations. Does the President see a danger in that?
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I don't think he's focused too much on the expectation game. He knows how important these issue are, how difficult these issues are. He's worked them seriously and in an intense way over the last six and a half years. I think he does sense a new spirit here that if all parties work in good faith and diligently over the coming days, weeks and months, an opportunity to resolve many of these issues.
Q Joe, so has the U.S. decided to take more of an observer role, more of a laissez-faire role in the talks between Israel and the Palestinians?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't want to prejudge. We have an important meeting coming up that will go through the weekend with the Prime Minister, ending Monday, and I'm not going to stand here today and try to predict or prejudge the results of those meetings.
I will say the U.S. will continue to play the most constructive role we know how, and we believe -- have always believed, at least, in this administration -- that the best role we can play is one as a facilitator, a broker, and that a lasting peace can only be forged when all parties believe it's in their interest. A lasting peace cannot be forged when it's imposed from an outside source, including the United States government.
Q So you have not yet fully embraced the Prime Minister's suggestion that it would be better for the U.S. to step back a bit, but you may do so at the end of this meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, given the context in which he said it, we can see the wisdom of his remarks.
Q Will you brief after the three-hour session tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: We will figure out something. I mean, obviously, this is not going to be a session that involves aides or advisors. We will try to get a debrief from the President and figure out a way to provide some of the highlights to you.
Q Joe, Northern Ireland, they're entering another critical 24-hour period. What role do you expect the President to play in trying to save the Good Friday Agreement and what's his message to Ulster Unionists who still remain dissatisfied with the government's proposals?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think both what he may do and what his message is hasn't changed, which is, the President remains ready to intervene in any way that he believes will move the process forward, that the parties believe will move the process forward. He has spent a good bit of time on this in the last several weeks. And, again, his message is the same for both the Unionists and the Nationalists, that we have come too far in this process, there is too much at stake to allow the issues that still divide them to bring this process down.
Q Has he made any phone calls, joe?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll let you know if he does.
Q The Senate has already rejected several Democratic proposals related to the patients' bill of rights and it's probably prime to reject a few more. Where does that leave you now? Would you be willing to consider any of the Republican proposals as they come up now on this?
MR. LOCKHART: The Republican proposals, as Jim put down, are woefully inadequate. They don't provide real protection; they don't provide the kind of coverage that the President believes is necessary. And I think ultimately, as we look forward to next month and recess, the Republicans, as they go back to their districts, are going to have some pretty tough conversations to have when their constituents ask them why the interests of insurance companies and their profits seem to take precedence over the real concerns of patients around the country.
Q Will he veto this as it's shaping up now?
MR. LOCKHART: That's what we've been saying all along, and I don't see any reason to change that.
Q Joe, on Gore, when did Gore ask the President to participate in these political events, and why does the President feel it's necessary to become directly involved at this early stage in the campaign?
MR. LOCKHART: The idea of the President helping as far as the fundraising operation is something that was discussed -- I've heard it as early as the beginning of this year. I think as anyone who watches the process knows, candidates spend much of this year trying to raise the resources they need to compete effectively in the primaries and caucuses next year. And the President stands ready to help in whatever way he can, and this is certainly one important way he can help the Vice President.
Q Does it have anything to do with the fact that Bush and Bradley have both raised surprisingly large amounts of money? Is that why the President's stepping in now to --
MR. LOCKHART: No, we had always planned to do, to participate in the fundraising effort. And I think when we get t the point when people start voting and you all have to watch other people and stop talking about it, the Vice President will have the resources he needs.
Q Are you doing it sooner than you would have?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Joe, if I could follow that up, the Vice President -- there has been talk of some need to establish himself, apart from the President, to put some distance between himself and the President, and, yet, now he's having the President raise funds for him. Is that basically an acknowledge of the challenges that he faces in this --
MR. LOCKHART: Your question acknowledges all of the senseless chatter that's going on in this town. And we have had a plan to help the Vice President, as far as fundraising and in other areas. We're going to follow that plan.
Q Joe, I've got a question about the Vice President here. What do you know about his plane being approached by other aircraft?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know anything. That's news to me.
Q The story is in a couple of papers this morning, although I can't find it on the wires.
MR. LOCKHART: I hadn't heard that.
Q Joe, is the President inclined to ask Alan Greenspan to serve another term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's too early for me to either speculate or provide any news on that subject.
Q Joe, do you have any update on the President's involvement in the India and Pakistan conflict or the agreement was signed here in the White House between the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan? Also, according to the newspaper -- including the New York Times, Washington Post -- that Pakistan's army had its fingers on the nuclear buttons and they can -- taken anytime. And there's the Pakistani army widely quoted in Pakistan saying that. And, also, tomorrow, for the first time in 15 years, Indian-Americans are having a demonstration in front of the Pakistan Embassy asking that President Clinton that the way U.S. and NATO is putting Yugoslavian leader on the War Crimes trial, the Pakistan Prime Minister and army which is responsible for mutilating and mistreating the Indian soldiers, cutting their fingers and all that, they should also be on the War Crimes --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have anything on the last thing. I'll say on the first issue, the President remains through both -- himself and his advisors continue to watch closely the situation there. You know, we've obviously had some good news with the direct discussions between the Indian and Pakistani military leaders and we've seen withdrawals from the area here. But it's something that we will continue to watch.
Q Prime Minister Sharif said yesterday the international community should now turn its attention to the Kashmir conflict, he'd like the international community to turn its attention. These are two nations that almost came to a full-scale war, have nuclear capabilities, et cetera. Should some priority be made for this conflict, for this dispute?
MR. LOCKHART: Obviously, given -- to those of you who had to work not this weekend, but the past weekend -- given the President's schedule, understand the priority the President puts on it. But I think ultimately the President's view is that this is an issue that has to be worked out bilaterally. We made important steps in the last year as far as bilateral discussions between Pakistan and India, and we should build on those. This was not a step in the right direction as far as the activity that went on here, but ultimately this issue has to be solved bilaterally.
Q Just to follow the question, the Pakistani army and the Pakistani government is split and they are divided on the issue of Kashmir. And also, according to some reports in Pakistan, the army may take over anytime if the conflict between the two continues.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into internal Pakistani issues. I'll only say that the President has worked constructively with both governments as far as trying to defuse the situation here.
Q Does the President still believe that photo IDs for handgun owners still has zero chance of passage in Congress? And has there been any discussion between the President and the Vice President that maybe Gore's idea was dismissed too quickly?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think the Vice President's idea has been dismissed at all, so it's certainly not been dismissed too quickly. The President's view is in this Congress the idea of more far-reaching gun control legislation has very little chance of passing, which is why, from a tactical point of view we should focus on getting through what the Senate passed in the House.
As far as more far-reaching ideas, the President was impressed with the package that the Vice President put down, but as is the case in elections as opposed to legislative activity, the Vice President's talking about what he will do as President, and that's something down the road, hopefully with a different Congress.
Q Well, is he for photo IDs even if it's far-fetched at this moment?
MR. LOCKHART: The President believes that there is merit in that. He's talked about a registration system, but again as far as the President is concerned, these are issues for down the road, because with this Congress, we're not going anyplace on issues like that.
Q Well, that is a pretty lukewarm endorsement of the Vice President's major proposal on gun control.
MR. LOCKHART: No, it's not, because I stood here on Monday and endorsed it, and I stand here today. It's a solid package of ideas that the President agrees with. And I can't find another way to do that.
Q Why didn't he ever do it?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, it has something to do with looking at the Congress.
Q Joe, on the patients's bill of rights, you said that Republicans would have to go home and face, I guess, the wrath of voters. Is it the White House view that --
MR. LOCKHART: No, the wrath of their constituents.
Q Oh, constituents -- that this issue is going to come back potentially in the fall and you're hopeful that --
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's our view that eventually, we're going to have a patients' bill of rights, and eventually we're going to have a real patients' bill of rights. I can't tell you when that will be, but this issue isn't going away.
Q Joe, back on Gore's -- Clinton's appearances for Gore, there is an effort by the Gore campaign on the one hand to separate himself, to distinguish himself, and then these joint appearances will link the two of them closer together, and there's all this speculation about whether there is tension or not. What's your take on their relationship right now?
MR. LOCKHART: My take on their relationship is, it's very strong, as it has been for seven years. The Vice President obviously has to go out and tell the American public what he wants to do as president, and part of that process is going to be talking about the great success he's had with President Clinton over the last seven years as far as turning the economy around, reducing the crime rate, getting people off welfare.
The Vice President was an important partner of the President's all through that. But more importantly for the Vice President and because that's what elections are about, as you've heard from the President, is people wanting to know what you're going to do into the future. That's what he's doing right now and he's doing a good job of it.
Q If I can follow on that, Vice President Gore declined an invitation to speak to the DLC, which President Clinton talks to today. Why shouldn't that be just seen as something of a diversion or at least Vice President Gore trying to find some other way to get his own message across and not tying himself --
MR. LOCKHART: I think that should be seen as, you should look at where he is today, and if you look at the calendar, there's a little thing called the Iowa Caucuses. That's how that should be seen.
Q -- this particular fundraiser, did the Vice President request this?
MR. LOCKHART: This is an idea in conjunction with our staff and the Vice President's staff.
Q Joe, will the Vice President speak to the kids from Columbine, or will he not be in town tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: I would check with his office. I honestly don't have the answer to that.
Q What time is the Columbine event?
MR. LOCKHART: It's in the morning; I don't have the time in front of me, but it's in the morning.
Q Back on the gun control issue, do you mean to say you don't expect any gun control measure to pass?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't expect anything that goes far beyond what the Senate passed. There are some ideas that the President has proposed, there is ideas now that the Vice President has talked about that go well beyond, and I think the President has acknowledged in this environment they will not pass this Congress. But we certainly believe that there's a real chance that what the Senate passed can be passed in the House, and we can get this done this year.
Q Joe, are there any plans for the President to raise money for Hillary?
MR. LOCKHART: I think as I've said when asked this question a number of different ways that the President will -- if the First Lady decides to run for the Senate, he will help her campaign in whatever ways are appropriate.
Q Joe, what is your assessment, or the administration's assessment about the African Growth and Opportunity Act passing?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we have strong bipartisan support for it. I think the President's commitment to Africa is well-known. I think we've put together the right kind of package that mixes debt relief with investment incentive and incentive for democratic reform. We've recently seen the positive impact of U.S. diplomacy in several areas in Africa, so it's certainly our hope that as the President said in his statement today, that we can move forward with this bill and get it passed.
Q Following up, Joe, is he going to make any type of major announcements or any statements in regards to this report Friday, I guess?
MR. LOCKHART: He put a statement out today in regards to that.
Q I know, he put a statement out. On other issues he comes out on the South Lawn or speaks out there. Will he do a kind of speech focusing primarily just on this since --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any additions to the schedule now, but I would not read that as any lack of commitment to this issue, judging by the President's travel and his previous statements on this issue.
Q Does the White House have any doubt that Mrs. Clinton is running for the Senate?
MR. LOCKHART: The White House is not in the business of speculating on the prospects of exploratory committees and what comes after that.
Q Is Mrs. Clinton telling the President anything about her chances --
MR. LOCKHART: If she is, I'm not telling you.
Q -- said that they're going to appoint conferees to the juvenile justice bill later this week. Would the White House insist on only the Senate bill or is it possible that within the compromise it might get worked out there, that the few provisions come off you might still get a good gun bill out of the --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, they have not even appointed their conferees yet. This is something we've been calling now for weeks to get going on this. We think the Senate bill offers modest initiatives that will really help and it's hard to see how watering down that is in anyone's interest. So I think our view is that we want to see the House take the view that the Senate took.
Q Are you hearing anything today from the American Institute in Taiwan about the Taiwan government's statements on China? And how worried is the President about the situation in the Taiwan Straits?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the -- let me find that, because I do have something on that. The outgoing director of the American Institute, Mr. Johnson, had a farewell call with President Lee and stressed the U.S. commitment to the one-China policy and the strong support for the productive cross-strait dialogue. I think we've made our views on this subject clear. And I understand that there are reports that there is a statement from President Lee that the Taiwan cross-strait policy is unchanged.
Q Was that meant to communicate the message, cool it, to the Taiwanese?
MR. LOCKHART: No, it meant -- this was on outgoing call, but it's a statement that reflects what we've said publicly.
Q Is there any concern on your part that Lee was escalating tensions between China and --
MR. LOCKHART: No, it was part of the process of -- the diplomatic process of the outgoing call that just reiterated what we've said publicly.
Q So Lee's statements earlier this week were like -- caused absolutely no raising of eyebrows or no increased concern here at all?
MR. LOCKHART: I will say that we saw the remarks and reiterated what our policy is.
Q -- Lee said the policy is unchanged --
MR. LOCKHART: I will check the reports. That's just the report that I saw.
Q Could you explain again why the U.S. believes in the one-China policy, why doesn't it believe that Taiwan's government is being undermined by China --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we have a longstanding policy on one China, which was reflected in both the Taiwan Relations Act and the three U.S.-China communiques.
Q -- on the one China policy, do we believe that Lee has backtracked on this and now --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I am telling you that there was a diplomatic conversation that reiterated our policy and there are some reports that he has said that the Taiwan cross-strait policy is unchanged.
Q China has warned Taiwan that they are playing with fire, that Chinese military may enter Taiwan --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I have no comment on that.
Q Did he misinterpret it? I'm just trying to figure out what happened.
MR. LOCKHART: And I'm not in the business of interpreting other people's comments so I'd have you go to them.
Q Was he mis-reported?
MR. LOCKHART: That's a question you should put directly to them.
Q No, but the fact that you went and asked him what he thought, what it was -- so what happened?
MR. LOCKHART: I didn't say that.
Q What did the President say when he heard that the biggest manhunt, or one of the biggest manhunts in this country had ended? What was his reaction to that?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President, as we said in our statement yesterday, congratulated law enforcement agencies for the important cooperative work they did in bringing this suspect into custody.
Q Joe, can you go one more time please back to the President's meeting Sharif? I understand that Americans were celebrating 4th of July, Independence Day, and long weekend, and all with their families, and then this man calls the President -- I'm coming to Washington. The President said, we're all busy here, but anyway he was here. Why he was not welcome in the White House, but across the street -- I understand is the first time, maybe in the history of the White House, the President had to walk from the White House to meet --
Q It's not the first time at all.
Q But at the same time, the Prime Minister requested the President that I want to have a picture with you in the White House, and he came in the morning at 8:00 a.m.
MR. LOCKHART: Hold on a second. Let me dispense with this. You clearly want to make trouble where there is no trouble, so let's move on.
Q Joe, on the Social Security lock box, what is the state of play on that? Does the White House agree in any way with the Republicans that they found some middle ground on this as seemed to be indicated after the meeting the other night.
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think we still believe that the lock box that we put forward, which actually extends the solvency of Social Security is the right way to go. The problem with the Republican lock box is although they've agreed with the President's view that some of the surplus should be used for strengthening Social Security, they have so loosely tied it up in their lock box and that does not provide adequate protection. So we're going to continue to talk to them on this.
Q One of the things that happened yesterday when Chairman Archer announced his tax cut was that he said that there are a number of plans to reform Social Security that would cost in the neighborhood of $1.3 trillion, leaving $600 billion to fix Medicare.
MR. LOCKHART: I think that, without getting into the actual numbers because I don't have them here in front of me, I can tell you on the President's principle is, we are not going to sacrifice Social Security reform to provide some sort of Medicare fig leaf in a manner that justifies a huge tax cut.
Q Do you have -- where is your plan on Social Security, and can you tell us what the approximate cost would be?
MR. LOCKHART: What's the number on Social Security? Let me come back to you, Jim, I'll get it for you. I just don't have it here.
Q Can I ask one more question on China? How are we grading this as a -- is this a crisis right now? Will there be any efforts by anybody more senior at the White House to find out what's going on?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me say that you all do the grading on crises. We go about the foreign policy of this country and I'll let you grade it.
Q China's making very belligerent statements towards Taiwan as a result of this. I'm trying to figure out how seriously we view this. They're basically threatening -- implying war over --
MR. LOCKHART: I think you may be overreading that, but I'm just not going to get into trying to grade this issue.
Q Listen, we are involved there in terms of the security treaty.
MR. LOCKHART: We certainly are.
Q And does it apply if they pull away -- if Taiwan pulls away from China?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals here.
Q This isn't hypothetical, this is real.
MR. LOCKHART: It is.
Q Are we concerned that they --
Q You can't just dismiss these things.
MR. LOCKHART: Anything else?
Q Well, are we concerned that they -- a longstanding policy without consulting us?
MR. LOCKHART: We have discussed this with both parties. We have reiterated what our policy is.
Q Joe, do you believe that the Taiwanese have changed policy? Are you saying you believe they have not -- is that what you're saying?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm saying that there are reports now of a statement that indicates that Taiwan's cross-strait policy is unchanged.
Q And that's the one-China policy?
Q What have they told you?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into private diplomatic discussions.
Q -- a statement you discussed making --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into private diplomatic conversations.
Q Could you please answer why he's not welcome in the White House, the Pakistani President? The Pakistani people are asking that.
COLONEL CROWLEY: The Prime Minister came to the White House for a brief meeting with the President to introduce his family to him, prior to his trip to new markets.
MR. LOCKHART: The Prime Minister was here in the White House. The Prime Minister is welcome in the White House. Try again tomorrow.
END 12:30 P.M. EDT