THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:10 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: I have no announcements, so, Kevin, why don't we start with you?
Q I have a foreign policy question.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, I'm ready.
Q What were you really thinking when you arranged Ohio State? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Let me say for the record that I wasn't involved in that decision, so it's hard to know what went into that. But Mr. Leavy, why don't you take that question? (Laughter.) I'll leave the book here, but I don't know if it's going to be helpful. Come on. Come on, why don't you take that.
MR. LEAVY: Well, Kevin -- (laughter.)
Q Do you need me to repeat it? (Laughter.)
Q I think Sandy didn't hear. I'm more interested in the modalities behind your thinking when you arranged Ohio State.
MR. LEAVY: Well --
MR. LOCKHART: Do you need -- do we need to remind people what happened there?
MR. LEAVY: I don't think so.
MR. LOCKHART: Why don't you go into the event a little bit.
MR. LEAVY: I don't think so, Joe. Actually, it was an effort to better communication our foreign policy goals and visions to the American people that, I think, went a little off-kilter. But the low point was, about a week later the late Meg Greenfield wrote an editorial about the public affairs fiasco in Ohio State. So 10 days, two weeks later, it still had legs. But we broke through, I guess, is the -- enough said.
Q So you considered it a success?
MR. LEAVY: Well, I'm not sure a success, but --
MR. LOCKHART: It got on the news. (Laughter.)
MR. LEAVY: Yes, it broke through. It broke through.
MR. LOCKHART: Anybody else?
Q Another foreign policy question. David, you recently admired Randy Mikkelsen's jacket here. We were just wondering, who gives you your clothing advice? Is it Jamie Rubin? (Laughter.)
MR. LEAVY: Well, after the Capitol Style piece on Jamie's clothing, I don't think I should go there. But we actually have a lot of very fine tailors in the White House. (Laughter.) That's one of the -- I think it was in the Garry Aldrich book, that we actually have yet to see -- the tailors in the basement.
MR. LOCKHART: David, I think you have a question from the gentleman from Salon in the back.
Q We were just wondering if you had comments to our previous story?
MR. LEAVY: Aww, that is low. That is low. (Laughter.) That is low.
MR. LOCKHART: What story? Just say, "no comment," and get out of that. (Laughter.)
MR. LEAVY: No comment.
Q David, is it accurate that you only just got your driver's license? (Laughter.)
MR. LEAVY: That is true. That is true. Actually, my car broke down the day I graduated college, and I haven't had a car or a driver's license -- and I haven't had a license for eight years. My new employer said I'd be driving out to work every day, I had better get a license. So I snuck out last week and got my driver's license. And I have -- after this fun exercise, I can give everyone a briefing about the DMV and the ups and downs of the D.C. government.
Q And your new driving ambition?
MR. LEAVY: Good, good, good. (Laughter.)
Q David, is Sandy okay with you leaving like this? (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: If I can quote one of my heroes, Richard Nixon: We're not going to have David Leavy to kick around anymore. (Laughter.)
Q David, can we just still call you on Saturday mornings just for fun? (Laughter.)
MR. LEAVY: Absolutely. Well, I haven't told Sandy this, but one of the things that I'll miss the most is the 6:30 a.m. prep call that we do every time that Sandy is on one of the Sunday shows. We get up early to go over the morning papers. And that's always a fun exercise for me.
Q -- spontaneous exchange. (Laughter.)
Q David, I have a question for you. We heard your name mentioned on the hit series, "The West Wing," and we're wondering if that signals you have a future in Hollywood.
MR. LEAVY: Actually, it's funny -- I just heard that Christian Slater has been signed up for a four-series arc as NSC spokesman, so I'm going to be talking to him. (Laughter.) I won't tell you who is going to play the National Security Advisor, because I still have a couple more hours before I get fired. (Laughter.) But, yes, it is Brad Pitt.
Q Do you think they chose Christian Slater based on -- following the current spokesman of the NSC?
MR. LEAVY: Well, Matthew McConaughey was busy. They couldn't get him, so they -- (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Any of you guys want to say something serious about Mr. Leavy before we go?
Q I would like to say something serious. Here's a fellow who does respond when you call and you page early in the morning or late at night, and that is always appreciated by reporters. We may not --
Q As opposed to the rest of you guys. (Laughter.)
Q We may not get a lot of information, but we get a call-back.
Q He's talking about Hammer there, isn't he? (Laughter.)
Q Yes, we really appreciate it. (Applause.)
MR. LEAVY: It's been a privilege and an honor, but a couple of thank-yous while I have the podium. To Joe, who gave me a lot of trust and taught me a lot about how to deal with the press and to manage a --
Q He did? (Laughter.)
MR. LEAVY: He did.
MR. LOCKHART: Particularly you, Helen.
MR. LEAVY: But he has got the best judgment of anyone I've ever worked with. So, thank you Joe.
To Jim, who I wouldn't be here -- I wouldn't have had last job at the State Department or my current job here without him, so I owe him a lot. And he's taught me a lot about foreign policy. He's also the smartest guy I've ever worked with, and I'm sure I'll hear that again, but that's true.
Q -- Sandy? (Laughter.)
MR. LEAVY: John, thank you. You've brought me in and made me a part of your team, which has been great and you've been a good friend and I appreciate all the leadership and everything that you've showed me over the last years.
I don't know if you remember this, but actually, Scoop and I were one of the first guys into the White House back in -- about a half-hour after the President was inaugurated in '93 --
Q We remember. (Laughter.)
MR. LEAVY: -- and we were running around -- all the Bush people had left and we were the first Clinton people, and we were running all around in the Oval and we went down to your office as staff secretary. We were in there, literally, with our feet up on your desk and you walked in and you were like, "what are you guys doing here?" And you threw us out. (Laughter.)
So, thank you to you.
Q He did the same thing to the press.
MR. LEAVY: To all my office colleagues, to Mike Hammer and Lindsey Huff and Matt Gobush, really great bunch of guys and gals. It's been such a great team and great friends, and they do so much for you that you don't see behind the scenes, so thank you.
And last, but not least, to Sandy. What can I say? You give me so much -- so much trust and confidence and friendship, and taught me so much about everything. I owe you so much for what you've done for me.
We've joked around about Ohio State, but I still remember -- I'll always remember coming into your office the day afterwards, really, really upset and down. You looked at me and said, you know what, no one bats 1,000. You go out there and let's do today's work.
So I owe you so much, Sandy. Thank you for everything. You are a great leader and have done so much for the foreign policy of this country. So much of what we do from this podium with all the press every day is sort of abstract, trying to explain these issues, but we really do affect people's lives and make the world a better place. And you have done so much in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, to make this a better world. And we shouldn't forget that. So thank you for everything. (Applause.)
MR. PODESTA: I'm just going to introduce Sandy, but I just want to say that with all this knowledge and training and skill, experience, I'm really looking forward to America's new reptile shows on television. (Laughter.) I think it will be a really exciting experience. But the National Security Advisor -- Mr. Berger.
MR. BERGER: Your batting average did go up after Ohio State. It had to. (Laughter.) There was no place to go except up. Of the 17 or 18 spokesmen that the NSC has had over the last seven years, you know, I think David certainly is in the top 50 percent. (Laughter.) When I asked David to be the NSC Spokesman, which was around the time of that episode, I think there were a few people who said, you've got to be kidding; this guy is 27 years old and he will not gain the respect of the press and he's not a foreign policy guru, and so what are you doing here?
And I believed, and turned out to be more than vindicated, that David had both the intelligence and the integrity and the drive to do a terrific job for the administration, for the President, for the NSC, for me, and for you. And I think over the past two years, he's more than risen to the occasion, grown enormously, done a terrific job for us. Always been very aggressive about trying to represent your needs to us. And if we haven't always been responsive, it's not his fault -- it's our fault. And I will -- even though it's fun to kick David around, the fact is that I will miss him very much. And I have enormous gratitude for what you've done. Thank you, David. (Applause.)
MR. LOCKHART: There's way too much love in this room, so let's get back to the hostility. (Laughter.)
Let me just say, to finish this off, and I'll be very brief -- that when I came on, you all know my vast experience in foreign policy and the vast reservoir of knowledge that I drew on, which was exactly zero, and David and his team, every single day, were very helpful and guided me through a number of very tricky issues in a way that I think we represented the President and the U.S. government around the world in a commendable way, so I thank you.
I also, because my job is to move to the future, see someone in the back -- I think I see him staring at his shoes. I can't see that far. Is that you? We actually -- yes, there we go -- (laughter) -- we actually have a very fine replacement to complete a very good team. And I can't call him Colonel anymore, but P.J. Crowley will begin, I believe, next week and will do a fine job. I think you all know him and know that your needs will be met quickly and efficiently, with the -- what do you call an ex-Colonel?
MR. CROWLEY: Mister. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Mister -- Mister Crowley. (Laughter.) So there we go. Questions?
Q I have a question. What assurances has this government gotten from Pakistan that the President's going to be safe and his party are going to be safe and secure on this visit, in light of just another, you know, killing in the last 24 hours of that lawyer?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I really can't get into the details of the President's security, only to say that we have a number of dedicated individuals whose role and job it is to protect the President, and they will do that.
Q What about Pakistan? Have they given assurances the President will be safe?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm not going to get into the private discussions on security between the governments. But we believe that the President will go in and, without getting into any details, will be protected.
Q What about the relationship between the Pakistani government and the Taliban? There's some -- is there not, does that not add to the heightened concern over his visit?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we have a number of issues that we're going to press, as far as democracy, nonproliferation, the fight against terrorism and the support of terrorism, and we will press them while we're there.
Q Doesn't this have any effect at all on this visit? I mean, doesn't it change the -- or make the kind of solemnness of it even more --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think it underscores, if anything, underscores the need to press for openness, democracy, constitutional rule. And those are points that we were already planning to make, and we will make while we're there.
Q But does it make it seem like that the day that those things will happen is --
MR. LOCKHART: You know, listen, I think it's impossible to draw any conclusions based on the information we have now. This is obviously a cowardly act and a terrible tragedy for those involved, which we condemn. But at this point, I don't want to draw any further conclusions from that.
Q The President had no second thoughts about this, in view of -- not in terms of his own personal security, but the whole fact of what happens to the defense lawyer?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we have a number of issues that we need to press while we're there, as far as the overall security of the region. And we intend to do that.
Q Well, and the President doesn't think that there is any perception that this gives an imprimatur from the U.S. on that government?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we -- for anyone who is under that perception, they would be wrong, and we will go to great lengths to make sure that that perception is dispelled.
Q Do you think there is rule of law in Pakistan right now?
MR. LOCKHART: We think that obviously the constitution has been suspended. And we have been pressing the Pakistani government to return to democracy. We'll continue to do that.
Q So "no," is the answer?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, with the constitution suspended, it makes it difficult to answer that question affirmatively.
Q Joe, about a half hour ago, the President said he's been given encouraging signals that perhaps the White House and Congress may be able to reach agreement on the minimum wage. Can you tell us what he was talking about?
MR. LOCKHART: I wouldn't want, right now, to be in the position that the Republican leadership in Congress is in. There are 10 million working Americans right now who deserve a raise, and they understand, for those who couldn't stay up until 11:00 p.m. at night when the Republicans pushed this through, they'll have to answer to the timing of that, but when they woke up this morning, they saw that they're not going to get their raise because the Republican Party's more interested in providing help for special interests as far as repealing overtime protections, giving a tax cut that we can't afford, and that wildly and disproportionately helps the top 1 percent of earners in this country, and they want to understand why.
I think this is an election year. I think there are, of those 10 million, there are people who, on both sides of the aisle, will be making their case to those voters, and they don't have a good answer right now. So I think after sort of looking at what the reaction to this is, they may have some pause to see if they can't get this done in another way.
Q But, Joe, couldn't the argument be made that the House gave the President exactly the increase in the minimum wage that he wanted, and if people don't get it, it's because he's going to veto it?
MR. LOCKHART: No, because I think anyone who understands the House and understands how the rules work will see that they rigged this vote, that this wasn't a serious vote, it wasn't on the level. And whether their motives are they want to do another tax giveaway to the top one percent of earners, or whether they don't want the minimum wage at all and are just playing political games, the bottom line is the same: the way they wrote the rule, they're going to deny 10 million Americans a $1 raise over the next two years, and that's something that they've got to be able to articulate. And I think as they go around the country and go back and talk to their constituents, they'll find that their arguments don't work outside the Beltway. The special interests don't carry much sway outside the Beltway. The top earners who will get the lion's share of the benefit don't help very much with their constituents, and we may see a change of heart.
Q Joe, when the President said "encouraging signals," is he saying the reaction, political reaction, or from actual members?
MR. LOCKHART: Combination of reaction. The President and the staff here have been in discussions with members of Congress, and we'll just have to see where it goes.
Q Would you seek to change this legislation in the reconciliation committee, or where would you --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know how this will be done in conference. There's obviously two different bills. The House and the Senate have it within their power to do what the President's asked, which is to pass a straightforward, $1 raise over two years, and we'll see if they do that.
Q Would the President consider something between the Republican tax cut and the Democratic tax cut that was offered? Is there some middle ground --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think there's a lot of middle ground there, only because, first off, this is billed as a tax cut to help small business. While the Democrats have provisions that are quite generous to help small business, the estate tax provisions, the pension provisions are not designed to help small business. Nobody believes that. Nobody outside a small group of people on the Hill -- it may be hard believing the things that they write and the talking points that they're reading off of. But nobody in the real world believes this bill, as written, has really anything to do with small business.
When it comes to tax cuts, we've been clear on this: We are not going down the road that the Speaker of the House has articulated, that they're going to pass their tax cut from last year piece by piece. We need to see how it adds up, how you're going to pay for it and what its effect will be on important programs like education, the environment, Medicare, Social Security. We are not going to squeeze Social Security and Medicare for tax cuts that we can't afford, and we're not going to allow them to eviscerate spending on things like education and the environment.
We had this debate last year; we had this debate the year before. Their tactics have changed, but their overall goal hasn't. And if they think they can do this piece by piece, and hold things like minimum wage and 10 million working Americans hostage over this, they're wrong.
Q Joe, now that large parts of Charles LaBella's memo have been published, will the President simply ask Janet Reno to release it to the --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't expect the President to get involved in that.
Q Are you totally opposed to any reduction in the estate tax, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: We have actually passed raising the ceiling, on a graduated basis, for the estate tax, which is going up every year through the next five or six years, I don't know the exact. But I think it'll be up well over a million dollars before too long. If they want to come down with a plan that targets this the proper way, so it doesn't exclusively go to the top earners, in a way that's affordable, you know, we can have a discussion. But we're not going to move forward in a way where they just take last year's tax cut, pull out the staples, and try to pass it page by page.
The public -- we had a debate on this. The public rejected it, the Democrats rejected it, and we will -- if they try to do it again this year, we'll reject it again. And I expect it will become a major issue in the campaign, because you've got Democrats who will be running against Republicans for House seats or gubernatorial seats. And the presidential candidates couldn't be further apart.
There is a candidate who represents fiscal discipline, and doing it the right way, and the other candidate who says we ought to just do a big tax cut and worry about how we pay for it later.
Q But Joe, that debate will be "who killed minimum wage increase"? Can't they say, the President vetoed it; he's the guy that killed it.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, sure, they can say anything they want. They say a lot of things that aren't accurate. But I think the public understands -- if you want to ask the public, who's committed to working families in this country, the President or the House leadership? I'll take that debate anytime. And I think they'll understand.
And we're going to get this done. We're going to find a way through the year to get it done. And if it takes another six months to get it done, or if it takes another five months, there will be some explaining that will be required from the House leadership on why they held this up. This is not over. We expect that before the year is over we'll have a minimum wage hike without the tax giveaway provision. And it's just a question of who stood in the way and who got it done?
Q Why do you expect you'll get that? I mean, they're just going to cave? You're indicating here you're not going to allow any of these tax provisions --
MR. LOCKHART: I expect as the year goes on, the incentive for getting this done will increase and increase. And I don't accept the idea that there will be anyone who will buy the fact that the Republicans were for raising a minimum wage and the President blocked them. That's just -- it is not believable. It does not reinforce or work with any of what's gone on for the last seven years in this country. And I think if they somehow believe that this is their -- those who don't want to raise the minimum wage, but don't want to get blamed for it, I think this is going to fail.
Q Can I ask you -- the vote on the tax cuts was 257-169. Are you concerned that that many Democrats joined with these tax cuts? You've been portraying it as a partisan bill. What were those Democrats doing voting for those?
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, no, I think certainly people know where we are on this, so I don't think there's any undue concern. I think the Democratic Caucus, as a whole, solidly supports a clean bill. They were thwarted from being able to vote on a clean bill by the rules, and we know the leadership controls the rules committee and the rule, and when they get a chance to vote on it, I think there will be a solid vote. And I think you will find that there's that many and more Republicans voting for it.
Q That still doesn't answer the question, why they voted for these Republican, as you are characterizing them, tax cuts.
MR. LOCKHART: Because I think -- listen, you'll have to ask them, and you'll have to ask why, given the situation where the will of the House was thwarted -- listen, a majority of the House, Democrats and Republicans, want to vote on a clean bill. They've being denied that chance. And if the Republicans want to come clean here and make this a real up or down vote, that you ought to put it on the floor and we'll see what happens.
Q Joe, going back to the LaBella report, the report charges that there was sort of sufficient grounds to investigate the President, the First Lady and Vice President Gore on fundraising irregularities.
MR. LOCKHART: I would go back to the first, second and third time you did this story two years ago. I don't have anything new on it.
Q Can I ask one other question?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q In light of the fact that campaign finance reform has become a big issue in these elections and the whole issue of soft money and the Vice President has said that he's willing not to use any soft money if the Republican nominee does the same thing --
MR. LOCKHART: A pledge the President made.
Q Okay, but why not the President sort of set an example and stop raising soft money and send --
MR. LOCKHART: Because we're already going to be out-spent in this election. And we all see -- look at what happened between the Republican candidate. The candidate who went out and broke through all the limits raised whatever -- $70 million -- was able to go out and -- I mean, look at some of the ads he put on the air. I mean, there were some preposterous claims made. But you get enough money and you put it on the air, and it has some value.
We're already going to be out-raised. Democrats need the resources. These are the rules of the game. But there is a difference between the parties -- the Democratic Party, every single member of the House and Senate, has voted for McCain-Feingold or for Shays-Meehan. The Republican leadership, although there's Republican support for it, the Republican leadership has thwarted that at every stop.
So if there is a battle here for who wants to change the system. The Democratic Party has an excellent record. They want to change things. If voters are for that they should vote for them. Or if they're for the status quo, and because there is certainly a case to be made on the other side, you have some excellent leaders in the Republican Party who have articulated that case.
Q Joe, I want to ask you one specific question about the LaBella report, one allegation in there -- that the President and Mrs. Clinton failed to inform the Democratic National Committee that Charlie Trie was raising foreign money --
MR. LOCKHART: Again, that is something that was reported two years ago, and you can go back to the reports you did on it then.
Q But can you simply respond to -- I mean --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not going to respond to recycled information here. We responded very openly several years ago when these things first came up and I don't have anything new. There's nothing new about that and I've got nothing new to say.
Q What is new is, apparently, details from this memo, which have not been seen before, which said that there was a pattern of conduct worthy of an investigation. I mean, that is new information. Can you at least react to that?
MR. LOCKHART: That is not new information. That was leaked in the press before. Go back and look. The only thing I'll say is the Attorney General made her decision based on the facts, the evidence and the law.
Q The President signed the Child Abuse Protection Act law this morning -- why did he feel it was important to do now?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, it's an important piece of legislation. I think Congresswoman Tubbs Jones was here; I saw Congressman Lazio here. Senator DeWine, Senator Leahy. It's an important piece of information that allows and provides the funding for communities to go out and take care of abused children. This is an issue that -- there are some 9,000 reports a year of child abuse in this country, and it's something we need to do more on. I think the President was very happy to sign this and commended the leadership of a bipartisan group of members of Congress to get this done.
Q Secretary of State Albright had a strongly worded editorial in Wednesday's Washington Post regarding Chechnya and Russia. My question is, with our condemnation of what's going in Chechnya, their condemnation of the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, NATO expansion, and now possible Russian arms sales to China, are U.S.-Russian relations experiencing some kind of new post-Cold War low?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to try to rate year by year. We clearly have mutual interests, as far as promoting economic development and democracy in Russia, that we worked very hard at; security issues, arms control and the denuclearization of Russia. We also have problem areas, which we work hard to make our case -- Chechnya, certainly, at the top of that list right now. But we continue to work with the government. We will continue to work with the democratically elected, the new government, when they come in and try to work through these problems.
Q Is there concern, though, particularly now, the coziness of the relationship between China and Russia?
MR. LOCKHART: I've not heard expressed to me any particular concern here. I think we do have concern on Chechnya and we've made that case quite strongly.
Q A lot of the Irish leaders will be in town next week. Any reason to think there will be more than just conversations at the margins, or if there could be any real progress in the situation?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not in a position to predict progress, but the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister set out a framework for discussions to try to get Good Friday back on course, and included in that was the idea that the leaders would all be here and would have access to the President. So I do expect them -- the President to talk with the leaders. But I'm not in a position now to predict any sort of progress or what might come of it.
Q Please indulge me with one more question on this LaBella stuff. The LA Times report also said that the Department of Justice had a White House photo of the Vice President at a meeting looking through documents, in which the meeting was largely held to discuss the implications of hard versus soft money. Would you be willing to release that photo?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know anything about the photo.
Q Obviously, it would be in our archives, it could be looked up, we know the date of the meeting.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay. Well, I don't have any reason to believe that photo will be released.
MR. LOCKHART: We have worked with all parties, whether they be on the Hill, whether they be at the Justice Department in these inquiries. We've been very forthcoming. If there are further inquiries, we will be forthcoming, but we're not going to respond to every request that you all have.
Q Will you be forthcoming to release the picture?
MR. LOCKHART: I think I've answered the question.
Q German officials are saying they're getting pretty close to reaching a consensus among European nations on their candidates to head the IMF, and they expect some kind of formal endorsement on Monday. Does the administration consider this a positive development? Is it ready to say what it thinks --
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I think as I've said through the week, I'm not going to provide color commentary through the week as a consensus develops. We're looking for a European candidate who has consensus support in Europe, who has support in the developing world, a gentleman or a woman
who has got maximum stature. We will make a judgment at the point where there is consensus behind a candidate.
Q Beyond the issue of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and gasoline prices, there's been growing talk on the Hill of possibly repealing the .4.3 gasoline tax that was enacted in 1993, maybe opening up some new areas for drilling and help domestic industry. Do you have any --
MR. LOCKHART: I've heard -- you describe it correctly as talk. There is not a proposal, and Chairman Archer has spoken out forcefully against this idea. I think any time you look at a tax provision, you have to balance the overall questions of fiscal discipline, and in this particular case, the impact on the Highway Trust Fund. It's very important that we continue to make the investment in both new construction and infrastructure repair on the highways that are very much needed.
So we'll be happy to look at a proposal when and if one is developed, but my guess is, with the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee having spoken out against it, it's not going to move very far on the Hill.
Q Given that Lott called it yesterday "the Gore tax," the Vice President cast the tie-breaking vote for the .4.3 tax, that this is basically politically motivated, or do you think it's --
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, if Senator Lott wants to get into an extended debate on economics and what the last seven years held, and the tie-breaking votes that the Vice President had, I say let's go for it, and let's have it now, because if it wasn't for the Vice President's votes in the Senate, if it wasn't for the Democrats, we wouldn't have reduced the deficit; we wouldn't have created 20 million jobs; we wouldn't have lowered interest rates; we wouldn't have the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years; we wouldn't have the highest investment in three decades. So if they want to have that debate, I think we can pick a time and place, and we'll show up.
Q Joe, on minimum wage, where is the evidence that the President's willing to compromise? If the House Republicans gave him the minimum wage increase that he wanted, why can't he go along with some of the tax breaks they want?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, if their tax break's designed to help small business and they have a way to pay for them within the context of fiscal discipline, we'll be willing to look at it. What they've put on the table has nothing to do with helping small business. And I think any independent observer would reenforce that.
Q So you're saying if they drop the estate tax -- the remainder would have been acceptable?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think they're also going to have to take a look at some of the worker provisions that are in there. There's no reason in the world our raising the minimum wage is somehow a magic formula for rolling back overtime protection for workers. I mean, it's like giving somebody a raise and then taking away a large bit of their income. That doesn't make any sense.
Q And one more on Pakistan. Would it be accurate to say that the U.S. Secret Service is confident it can adequately protect the President during his visit in Pakistan?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it'd be accurate to say that I don't discuss the President's security, and that I would put that question to the Secret Service.
Q But that's an assertion you're always willing to make wherever he goes, and it just seems odd you phrase your response that way.
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think the assertion that I always make is that the President's protection is one subject that I don't ever talk about, and that I leave the Secret Service to address.
Q Shouldn't the American people be able to assume that the President wouldn't go somewhere that the Secret Service didn't think they could protect him? I mean, that's --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not trying to disabuse anybody of any assumption one way or the other. I'm just trying to not go down the slippery slope of discussing the details of his security.
Q On Monday in Ohio, the prescription drug -- are we seeing anything new there? Or is that -- of yesterday?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President is going to take the opportunity to get out of Washington and make the case where -- in an area where people understand the importance of a prescription drug benefit, where people in that area have some firsthand knowledge of the, you know, the injustice of people a few hours -- and actually, in Cleveland, a few miles -- away in Canada, who get cheaper prescription drugs, American-made prescription drugs. And I think he'll use this opportunity to make the overall case to try to help build support and get Congress moving on this.
Q Do you know what kind of audience he'll be speaking to?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's an audience of primarily seniors.
Q Has the Pakistan government given -- you know the Secret Service is not going to discuss it, either.
MR. LOCKHART: Right. I did know that. (Laughter.) And I knew you knew that, too.
Q So this is a lot of baloney you're giving us, you know --
MR. LOCKHART: No, it's not -- that I would dispute.
Q Has the Pakistan government given any assurance --
MR. LOCKHART: I think that that is a subject that I'm just not going to get into here. I think the question that Mara raised was accurate, was the right question. I think you can expect that we're not going to go off into a situation that poses unmanageable risks. But I'm just not going to get into any assurances that have been given, and any details of the security for the President's visit.
Q How long is he going to be in Pakistan, and what is he going to do?
MR. LOCKHART: We're still working that out. We'll let you know.
Q Is it an airport thing --
MR. LOCKHART: We're still working out. We'll let you know.
MR. LOCKHART: Good.
Q You mean you do not know at this point what he's going to do in Pakistan?
MR. LOCKHART: I do not know finally what he's going to be doing, and I don't want to tell you something in progress, because then when it changes, that'll be a good story for you.
Q Well, it could change in view of the situation today?
MR. LOCKHART: On Saturday, March 11th, the President's weekly radio address will be live, Saturday morning, 10:06 a.m. Eastern time. No further public events on the President's schedule for Saturday.
Sunday, the President will address --
Q The radio address, the topic again was what? Fiscal --
MR. LOCKHART: I expect the President to discuss some budget issues and the importance of remaining fiscally disciplined for the continuation of the longest expansion of our economy in American history.
Q Might he touch on minimum wage?
MR. LOCKHART: He might. Is there any interest? I mean, is it more likely? Will you do a story, will you put him on tv if he does?
MR. LOCKHART: Okay. Minimum wage, two lines.
Sunday, the President will address the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference at the Washington Hilton Hotel, 12:35 p.m. Open press in the International Ballroom.
Monday, the President will travel to Cleveland and Chicago. I think we've talked about Cleveland; Chicago, he will attend the Women's Leadership Forum Saxophone Club fundraising reception at Stefani's Restaurant. Following the reception, the President will attend a DNC dinner at a private residence, print pooler. The President will depart Chicago at 10:05 p.m., arriving back at 12:30 a.m.
Q That first event in Chicago is -- what's the press availability on that?
MR. LOCKHART: Pool.
Tuesday, March 14th, the President will present the National Medals of Science and Technology awards in a ceremony in the East Room at 2:45 p.m.
Wednesday, the President will attend a DNC fundraising dinner in Baltimore at the Harbor Court Hotel in the evening, 8:35 p.m., pool press. I expect also that we'll -- there will be other events in the week that we'll give you some more details on, on Monday.
Thursday, the President will speak to the St. Patrick's Day luncheon at the Capitol Rayburn Building, the Speaker's lunch. Later that afternoon, we will have our India trip press briefing here in the briefing room. And also the President will welcome the NHL champion Dallas Stars to the White House at 5:00 p.m. The President that evening will attend the American-Ireland Fund gala dinner at the National Building Museum.
Friday, March 17th, the President will be presented with the traditional shamrocks at the shamrock ceremony in the Roosevelt Room, 2:45 p.m. Later that evening, the President will attend a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House. I expect, as I mentioned earlier, there will be some meetings during that day. We'll try to provide you some details sometime later next week on what we expect there. For all of you taking the press plane, you will depart Friday evening for India.
Saturday, the President will do his radio address live at 10:06 a.m., and will depart at approximately noon for India.
END 12:50 P.M. EST