THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
MR. LOCKHART: Good evening, everyone. If any of you want to ask any questions of someone who is willing to put their name and face on their answer.
Q Mr. Lockhart, do you have any new information about when the President might return to the United States so that he can resume the discussions at Camp David.
MR. LOCKHART: Terry, could you turn that thing off? (Laughter.) I mean, we're in the 21st century. (Laughter.)
No, I don't have any new information as far as when the President will return. I think as I alluded to on Air Force One on the way here, we're doing some -- a little bit of juggling on the schedule to move some things up so that if we needed to get back and get some work done on Sunday at Camp David, we would be in a position to.
I think, Jake, at the first briefing announced that the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Mori will happen tomorrow morning a little bit earlier. We're looking at some other things, but there are obviously some things that are fixed that we can't move, so we're looking at some of the things that we can move.
Q Are you talking more about leaving, like, Saturday night, or staying until Sunday?
MR. LOCKHART: No, at this point we haven't come to any conclusion, so I don't have any definitive information, except that there were some things like the bilateral that were without much difficulty we were able to flip earlier.
Q Blair was to be on Sunday?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, and we're talking to them about either doing it earlier or doing it sometime tomorrow within the context of the G-8 meetings.
Q Joe, it's your understanding the President wants to get back to Camp David as soon as possible?
Q How about the address to the American troops? Can that be moved up to Saturday morning?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that we can move that, but it's certainly one of the events we're taking a look at.
Q It's your understanding that the President wants to get back to Camp David as soon as he can, as soon as he -- back in Washington area?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, it depends on what's going on there. The Secretary of State has been meeting with the parties throughout Thursday. They will have discussions when they wake up today, on Friday. So we will rely on reports we get from the Secretary of State and her team on what the status of the discussions are before we make a decision on when we return there.
Q Has the President, himself, had any direct contacts with any members of the parties, leaders or negotiators?
MR. LOCKHART: No, the President has gotten a couple of reports today from his National Security Advisor, Mr. Berger, and has relied on those reports.
Q How is the President feeling? Is he awake and alert at this point, negotiating the world peace?
MR. LOCKHART: He's tired, but he's enjoying his time here. I think you all saw him at -- or the pool saw him at the bilateral meeting with President Putin. He's in good spirits. You know, this is his eighth G-8; he comes now as sort of the veteran of the group, he enjoys the time he gets to spend with the other G-8 leaders and has looked forward to this for some time.
Q Joe, is the President -- President Putin that might play on the North Korean issue, that might play into his missile defense decision?
MR. LOCKHART: Not having a chance to have a discussion with the President -- I mean, that was probably a better question for a previous briefer. All I can tell you is that the President has made quite clear what his criteria is in making this decision; he awaits a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense and will make his decision soon.
Q Joe, you talk about the President -- this being his last G-8 and the fact that he came in as the new kid on the block --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that given the events in Camp David, it probably cuts down on the amount of time for reflection or nostalgia. But I think the President comes here having accomplished an enormous amount. I think, as previous speakers have indicated, when he first came to the G-8 summit, it was the first time in a decade that the summit -- other leaders were not chiding the American leader for the budget deficits. He has turned -- we have turned the economy around in a dramatic way, changing both -- changing our fiscal policies to the benefit of the American people. So I think in the sense that he has a chance to look back over the last eight years, I think it's a period of time and a group that focuses attention on the accomplishments of the last eight years.
Q Has the President made any calls to any of the other leaders outside his group today about the Middle East --
MR. LOCKHART: No. He's been -- he arrived, went directly to the speech he gave this morning, came back, had a very short period -- I think less than an hour of down time -- and began his meetings in preparation of the G-8 and then the G-8 meeting. So he has not --
Q Joe, is the President trying to take some time out to deal with domestic things -- Republicans have put on his plate with these tax bills. Doe he know what he's going to do yet? -- veto next week when he gets back, he's not going to pay any attention to this -- Camp David or --
MR. LOCKHART: For those who are interested in the President's view of the Republican fiscal attitude, I would draw your attention to the radio address he's going to give tomorrow which will deal with that. I think we have spent the bulk of last week dealing with Camp David, but the President will stay engaged on domestic issues. I think the American public has a right to know that the Republicans are spending the projected surplus at a rate like it's a fire sale. I think they have a right to know that these are projected surpluses; they're taking steps that no family would take with their own family finances, taking us potentially back to the kind of fiscal policy that had the rest of the world chiding us at international events instead of praising us, as is the case now.
And I think the public has a right to know that these are tax breaks that are designed, built and promoted to help the most wealthy of Americans. If you look at the Treasury Department projections, you'll find that a middle class person, with all of these tax cuts, which they say are just a down payment costing $850 billion, will get a middle-class person less than $200. If you're in the wealthiest group of Americans, you get $18,000 a year. That's $18,000 for those who have done the best over the last seven years, and less than $200 for the majority of Americans, working families, in the middle class.
Q Can you tell us --
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I can't speculate. Who knows when they'll send them? But I think it says something about what the Republicans are doing. They've designed a tax package that has more to do with politics than anything else. They've made it clear that they want to get it to the President before the Republican convention because they think they've got an issue. I think that says something about what Republicans in Congress think they can get done and what they shouldn't get done, because they obviously didn't design getting a patients' bill of rights, gun safety legislation, minimum wage, prescription drugs before their convention. They just wanted to do symbolic tax packages.
I think it also says something about how they believe
Q Joe, has the President been briefed about reports that Prime Minister Barak now accepts the U.S. plan for dividing Jerusalem?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me extend the news blackout to an international edition by saying, the President knows full well the positions that he has taken, the positions Prime Minister Barak has taken, the position that Chairman Arafat has taken. I would suggest that as a general point, those outside of Camp David, and speaking from the region, have a less developed sense of what's going on at Camp David than they might like you to believe.
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