View Header


                     Office of the Press Secretary
                         (Wyandotte, Michigan)          
For Immediate Release                                    August 27, 1996
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY
                      GENE SPERLING, JOE LOCKHART,
                            AND MIKE MCCURRY
                     Bacon Memorial Public Library
                          Wyandotte, Michigan                          

2:25 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything to begin with. I'd like Gene Sperling, who is here and who just had a wonderful reunion with his Mom who is in the back, who is, herself, an educator, I believe -- have Gene see if he can walk you through some of the material we passed out earlier and the President's challenge that he has just unveiled. And then Joe's here if you've got any other questions. And I can wrap up on the rest of the world.

MR. SPERLING: Yes, I do have the pressure of my Mom here, who was an educator and did many -- was a 3rd-grade teacher, after school tutoring. So I'll have both a critic and fact check of my presentation when we're done.

I think the President has had several educational initiatives that we've done. I think this is as important and I think inspiring as any of them. The United States is not at all below par compared to other countries in the world. We still rank in reading second or third in the world. But we have great variation in our country, and when we put ourselves up to the higher standards of the national education test, it turns out that around 40 percent of our 4th graders are not reading at a basic level.

This is as important as anything because what all of the evidence shows and what all of our common-sense shows is that from 1st to 3rd grade you are learning to read. For the rest of your life you are learning from reading. If children are not reading by 3rd grade it is not like just being bad in one course, it's not like being behind in one course. People spiral down in every single thing they're doing. And so that is why it is a very worthy national objective to reach children early and to target them with individualized attention.

Our proposal, as you see, really has three parts. First we focus on parents as first teachers. If you ask anybody -- if you just ask them blankly without any departmental issues, what is the one thing they would do to make sure every child is reading by 3rd grade, they would say, make sure they have a parent who is well-educated, who knows how to teach their child language skills and reading, and someone who will work all the time. And so that is our main focus.

And this proposal -- this first part of the initiative is $300 million. And that is a Challenge grant initiative, it would go to two types of winners. One would be the kind of local award winners -- and that could be like the program the President had in Arkansas, the HIPPE program, or the Parents As Teachers program in Missouri. The program in Arkansas helped disadvantaged parents, some of them were themselves illiterate, but still helped them on how to run through with their children 15, 20 minutes a day, a program so that even the most educationally disadvantaged parent could be a good first teacher to their child and get them ready to read.

The second types of winners would be more national organizations, and the President very much wanted to use the major non-profits and to inspire them to provide more of a national-regional network. And these could be groups like the Urban League or the PTA and they could compete for these grants.

So this is a way of providing seed money and capital to many of the people who are doing inspiring things out there now, but to raise their profile and let them expand and build on their successes.

I'll skip for a second and say that also, within our balanced budget -- and this is not a new initiative, but it is worth mentioning because it very much fits in -- we've committed to a major expansion on Head Start and reaching one million children by the year 2002.

Q What is it now?

MR. SPERLING: It's at 750,000 now. And if you look -- there's a one-pager in the back which really shows that by reasonable increments of around 400 million a year, which is about the pace we've been at, we can reach a million children and reach children even earlier and put more of a focus on basic learning sound, literacy skills even at that early age.

The heart of where the funds in this new proposal is, is in a individualized tutoring initiative after school, before school, over the summer. And that's part of the proposal costs, $2.45 billion. One billion of this is already in the budget and is a redirection of national service funds. National service already, even independent of this initiative, believed that when they did their evaluation their greatest success has been in helping young children read. And we list here one of the examples in Simpson, Kentucky, where an entire second grade had their grade levels raised almost three grades through tutoring from National Service volunteers.

The other $1.45 billion will be part of the pay-fors that we will go through. But that is new net money, and our obligation is when we have new net obligations outside of our balanced budget that we will present a specific offset, and I will go through that momentarily.

But let me tell you what the vision of this is. The vision of this initiative is not just that a National Service volunteer and a reading specialist go out to a school like this and by themselves alone, seek to put together a 40 or 50 people in a tutoring corps. The vision of this is that an inspired PTA at this school, an inspired PTA at another school perhaps, a library program, an inspired nonprofit, they come together with a community initiative and they apply to the state. And each state already has a council on national service, an independent council. The council and the education departments for each state would jointly award to the recipients. So, again, the notion is the community, the schools, have to come together and want to do this.

Now, what you'd see in a lot of places and if you talked to a lot of teachers is they do want tutors for their children, they are willing to spend the extra time. What they're not able to do on their own is spend the time to round up volunteers, to provide them, those volunteers, the training they need. And so what this does is where there's an infrastructure available from the community it, in a sense, gives them two, three, four full-time staffers who can run the program. And what all of the evidence shows is that the programs that are organized programs, where the volunteers have an incentive to keep coming back, where they receive training in reading skills themselves and that they're part of an overall program. Where you have programs like that you have great success.

And what we have done is, we have funded enough so that we believe we could reach -- in just the federal involvement alone -- 20,000 of the 50,000 elementary schools in the country. The 20,000 that have the greatest needs in this area. But that is not our goal. Our goal is to hit all 50,000 and we believe that initiative is out there. That's why we think the Parents As Teachers Challenge grant, with other initiatives that we have, that we can reach that.

A lot of that will have to come through mobilization of the private sector. Secretary Riley has done a great job over the last couple of years with his Read Right Now proposal, his family involvement; he has signed companies up where they agree to let their workers tutor, where they agree to let their workers take time off for student-teacher conferences, things like, for example, Pizza Hut, providing a program with people where companies may be providing incentives to students, rewards if they go through the reading program.

No one should think that we think even the 30,000 reading specialists and volunteer coordinators alone can do this. It can be a major help. And with presidential leadership, we think it could be a tremendous step forward in this area.

I know there's a lot of background materials. If there is anything I would read there, I would read the first -- page six and seven, on why Americans need a child reading initiative. It goes through and -- if I handed out one other thing I would have handed out the analysis that was done at the request of Texas Instrument, called Can All Children Learn to Read at Grade Level By The End of Third Grade. And the beginning of this article goes very -- what this really shows is that the in 1st grade the inability to read and be at that reading level may lead to tasks not getting in on time, it can start to affect the self-esteem of a 1st grader. By 2nd grade there's already an assumption of reading. By 3rd grade most of the basic skills is over and the assumption in every single other thing you do is that you can read. So if you're taking a science course the assumption is already there you can read. So targeting this particular thing, starting with parents, starting -- focusing on what you can do at pre-school, and then having a national effort, really can make a big difference.

This article, which is long, but I'd be happy to make copies for people, really goes through -- it's very interesting. Texas Instrument asked several professors in the Texas area to study would it be possible to ensure that every child in the Dallas public schools could be at reading level by 3rd grade. And they marched through how it is incrementally possible.

I would say the following: If you look at the success stories in the back, which I think are very inspiring and I think it's very inspiring and I encourage people to talk to the people running these programs -- what you'll find is these programs do work. I think the major issue of controversy is the cost of having the individual tutors. And I think that if you have a national effort like this, the notion that you could have a paid tutor for every child who needs it just may be too difficult.

And so if we're really serious about this, I don't think we have any choice but to have this kind of mobilization of a kind of a reader's corps or a tutor corps in an organized way. There are ways that we can implement it. As many of you remember, when the President did his work-study announcement, he talked about increasing the requirements of work-study students who would do community service. In the program in Texas, the Read-Read program in Texas, which is an excellent program with tremendous success, they use work-study students quite a bit, so that these students are actually being paid to come and they have tremendous results with many disadvantaged and second-language students.

Let me say something on the pay-fors. First of all, let me just explain because I think that you're going to hear the President obviously talk about a lot of initiatives this week, let me just explain what our terminology will be and where we're coming from on this.

The President, as you know, proposed a balanced budget plan back in June of 1995. When we were going through the negotiations with the Republicans we agreed that we would have our plan certified by CBO as balanced within seven years. And both the initial presentation that opened the government and then our formal Fiscal 1997 presentation was certified by the Congressional Budget Office as a plan.

There are many initiatives that you may hear the President talk about which are not new initiatives. They are part of that balanced budget plan. For example, the next round of empowerment zones, or the President is talking a lot about the idea that when you lose health care people who -- I'm sorry -- lose their jobs, in addition to unemployment insurance should have health insurance at the same time. Those are all proposals within our balanced budget. So when we say it's paid for within our balanced budget that's what we mean.

The commitment that we made to staying with a balanced budget discipline is that whenever we have a new cost, a billion dollars in new net cost, we put forward a billion dollars in new net savings, so that we are always keeping our balanced budget discipline. We have done this with every initiative. And our initiatives have not been maybe as big or as expensive as some people might have liked, but this is the reality of staying with responsible balanced budget discipline.

When we did the HOPE Scholarship, and its $7.9 billion in additional net cost, we paid for that with specific pay-fors, as you recall at the Princeton speech. When we did the school construction initiative, the same.

This week we will have a few proposals which will have cost outside of the budget. The total for those proposals you will hear this week -- and I'm only giving you the details of one -- but the total cost of those will be $8.456 billion. So what --

Q Over how long?

MR. SPERLING: Over -- in the current budget window, which is Fiscal Year, which is still 2002. So within the balanced budget context, which is reaching a balanced budget by the year 2002.

So all of the savings you see on this page here are the savings from now until Fiscal Year 2002. So the cost of our initiatives between that time is $8.456 billion. What we're doing today is laying out the full savings there, and we've tried to provide a fairly, I hope, simple paragraph on each with the exact amount of cost.

Now, the proposal today, as I mentioned, has net costs of $1.75 billion. The overall cost is $2.75 billion. A billion of that is redirected from the existing budget for national service. So the net cost is $1.75 billion. The net cost of the new proposals will be $8.45.

These offsets my guess would be interesting to a few of you, mind-numbingly boring to most of you. I would say, I will mention two, and I'd be happy to take questions either after this or, if Mike thinks there's time, from the mike. The two I think are worth mentioning is the one that's called the sale source rule.

There's been a lot of discussion in this country from a lot of budget experts, from a lot of people in all walks that if we're going to be so tough on the budget we need to be tough on the corporate subsidy side, too. And there are a lot of corporate subsidies that have been created over the years that maybe, while not in any way with bad intent, really cannot be justified. And when we're out there squeezing savings from Medicare and other programs that affect low income people, we have to make sure we're looking closely at all sides.

The sale source rule is a rule which benefits not exporters, but exporters who also have a multinational component in another country. It does not benefit exporters generally; it favors some U.S. exporters over others. But most importantly, it has not existing economic justification. It was a rule that was put in over 70 years ago when there was a fear that when people had property, had merchandise sold in other countries it would be double-taxed in an unfair way. And so we said automatically, without any economic analysis, that if manufacturing company A made something costing $1 million, and then their subsidiary overseas sold it for $1 million,, you just assumed $500,000 of that was foreign profits and $500,000 was U.S. profits. The same company who sold the same amount but simply did not have their own subsidiary selling it there would have paid taxes on $1 million of exporting.

Now, all that this provision does is say that, just like you would expect in these situations, the company will pay the profit where the real source of the profit is. If all of the profit was in the United States, then the United States income -- then it will be treated as United States income.

Again, there is no economic justification for this anymore. It is 70 years old, it was done before we had 50 different treaties with 50 different foreign countries dealing with double taxation. It will not make everybody happy, but I think it is the type of savings we have to make in this balanced budget context.

The second one --

Q Did you propose this before?

MR. SPERLING: We proposed -- what we did was we are eliminating it. We proposed reducing the 50 percent rule to 25 percent previously. When we were looking for the additional savings, it was our feeling that it was better to -- our initial feeling was, because this would be a total of a $9 billion cost to the effected companies, that it was better to phase in generally.

But because so many of the other unjustified subsidies in this area might affect some of the same companies, we thought it was better to take all the savings from this one, because this is the one that actually discriminates between U.S. exporters, while others, such as the foreign sales corporation benefit -- that benefits all U.S. exporters equally. So we are now not having any special set-aside for this, at all. And that is why there's the extra $5.3 billion in savings.

The second one I would mention is the corporate jet subsidies. Today a commercial airlines -- Delta, United -- they are charged a ticket tax, 10 percent ticket tax, and that ticket tax ensures that they are paying their full share of the cost for air traffic control. So imagine a specific jet -- a specific jet is owned by a commercial airlines, it has a 10 percent ticket tax, it pays its full weight. That jet is now bought by a private concern, a corporation. It no longer pays the ticket tax, it pays a 17.4 cent non-commercial fuel tax, which covers only 25 percent of the cost.

So this same jet gets the exact same services, the exact same air traffic control services that it always did -- only now it gets, essentially, a public subsidy that it did not get when it was a commercial jet. And all we are doing here is saying -- is reducing that subsidy by half. It is not taking it away completely, we are trying to make sure that this type of thing is phased in, does not have a significant negative impact. We do not think that it should. It amounts to $225 per flight. Again, none of these things will be popular, a lot of these things will have people that are unhappy.

But this is the real world of paying for specific savings. I guarantee you, when you're in the real world, when you're not just assuming $147 billion of growth or $80 billion of extra revenues or loose caps, everything is tough at this point, everything affects somebody. And this is the type of thing we have to do if we want to make room for things like this literacy initiative.

Q Gene, this revenue is paid into the trust fund, the airport airway trust fund? Are you saying that the President is going to use the offset of airport safety --

MR. SPERLING: What it would do is it would -- well, there's two things. One, the most important thing for us doing this proposal is to show that when we have an overall balanced budget plan we have not added a billion dollars in spending -- just a second -- we have not added a billion dollars in spending that is not offset by a billion dollars in savings.

Now, if you're asking if there was a stand alone bill, a stand alone bill, could this be used? Yes, it could conceivably be used in the sense that -- not that this money wouldn't go into the trust fund, but it would relieve general revenues that are already in.

But the most important element of these specific savings is to show that when we have an overall balanced budget plan, when you have $1 billion in extra spending you have $1 billion in additional savings. Our goal is not to do each of these as a stand-alone. Our goal and the President's goal has always been to have a comprehensive balanced budget initiative. And so what we wanted to do is protect the integrity of that overall balanced budget plan. And that is why when we have additional spending we have specific offsets.

Q Is there any thought being given to a pilot program in Washington, D.C. where the schools are in dreadful state?

MR. SPERLING: Well, there is a -- I mean, we'd like to do this nationwide. If you're focusing on the 20,000 schools that are most in need, you know that a significant amount of Washington, D.C. schools would be eligible for this. One of the success examples we list here is a Washington example.

And I just want to make another point, too. When we do the applicants it does not have to be the school district specifically. We understand that there are some communities where the leadership in the school districts is not up to par, but where there are inspiring leaders and libraries and non-profits. We want to empower whoever it is on the local level who can come forward with the best plan to show that they can do a tutoring -- after-school and before-school tutoring initiative that will give individualized attention from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade.

Q They don't even know enough to apply.

MR. SPERLING: Well, I think that we have -- let me say that I think that Eleanor Holmes Norton does a very good job of making sure that when we're doing things that we keep the District interests in mind. And I think we would absolutely want this to work in the District. And again, this is where we can reach children. We can reach them early -- 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade.

Again, the Dallas public schools is a rough -- is a challenging public school system with a lot of disadvantaged youth, a lot of second-language youth. And the fact that the analysis there is that they could reach every child if they had -- and I'll tell you the combination -- more teacher involvement, more of the parent education that we talked about, and the individualized tutoring.

And I also want to say that what this initiative shows is that there is direct correlation between the hours of time that the students are tutored individually. In other words when they do a control group that gets 60 hours over a year and one that gets 100 hours over the year, there is a significant difference in the right way. Those that get 100 hours of individual tutoring gain more at the grade level than those who get less.

And what this also showed is that many kids need differing amounts. For some, an hour a week can do it to get them up. Others need more intensive efforts. But what they tried to show is even without the heroic type of examples like the Simpson County in Kentucky, where a whole group of second graders go up 2.8 grades in a single year -- even without those heroic examples, the increase of a half a grade a year, from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade in these tutoring programs, can get the average student who now would be under the level over the level by third grade.

Q Gene, some reporters are already beginning to satirize these radio spectrum sales as the ultimate panacea, where the radio waves seemed to be -- the same ones seem to be up for sale over and over and over. Have you reached the point of reselling the same radio waves?

MR. SPERLING: No, no. Everything we have has been -- everything we have is the right scoring from CBO and OMB. There is no exaggerated scoring. And, believe me, if there had been an easy -- if there was a $500 million spectrum in this deal, which was, interestingly enough, an area that nobody thought was commercially viable until the FCC started getting so many can-we-use-it permits that they realized that the technology had changed enough that they could start auctioning.

So I'm just saying, even this $500 million here, a little bit came at the very end. But, no, I understand what you're saying. I think that this was a new avenue for offsets, but I will say that we're pretty much at the end.

I will also say, on the other side, these things have tended to auction higher than either OMB or CBO have predicted. But again, we have only taken the scoring from OMB and CBO. The FCC has had more optimistic scoring, and so we do not have anything like where, for example, assuming you could get $34 billion from something that CBO scores at $12 billion like some other people do.

Q So this $8.5 billion -- so far we have only been told about one thing that this $8.5 billion covers.

MR. SPERLING: That's right. And I'd get in huge trouble with Mike if I mentioned anything else.

Q How many other things, though, would it be?

MR. SPERLING: I don't want to say.

Q How many?


Q Gene, how many are tax breaks and how many are spending --

MR. SPERLING: I'm not going to -- I don't want to foreshadow our future initiatives. What we wanted to do was have one presentation of our offsets, and we'll announce the new initiatives as we announce the new initiatives.

Q But they'll all be announced by the end of his speech.

MR. SPERLING: That's right. That's right. This is to give for the new initiatives -- the new net costs for initiatives will be announced this week.

Q Any of this, can you do on your own in the administration? Can you enforce the fees or does everything have to go through Congress?

MR. SPERLING: I think that most of these things would have to go through Congress, absolutely.

I know everybody, as always, wants to focus on the offsets since you haven't seen a lot of them in the last few months from the other side. But I do want to say that this initiative and this focus is a very bipartisan initiative. And so the question that I usually get when we do these is, do you think this could pass? I think the chances that this America Reads challenge could pass is very high.

And just let me give you an example. George Bush, Jr. in Dallas, in Texas, has announced a desire to try to get kids reading by 3rd grade using $43 million of Goals 2000 funds for their reading initiative. Governor Wilson is using Goals 2000 funds for reading initiative. The superintendent Rudy Crew of the New York City schools has an initiative specifically to have kids reading by 3rd grade.

I think this notion of the importance of reading by the 3rd grade has a lot of bipartisan support. I don't want it -- and I think we'd like to say from the beginning, we think this would be a bipartisan effort. We think there are bipartisan success stories all over the country.

If you look at the parenting proposal, one of the best success stories is the one Mrs. Clinton and the President did in Arkansas, but it's also the one that Governor Ashcroft and Governor Bond focused as Parents as Teachers in Missouri. So I think there is a lot of bipartisan support for this.

Q Gene, how big is AmeriCorps now in people? And what would this more than doubling of the funding do to the size of AmeriCorps?

MR. SPERLING: AmeriCorps has around 25,000 trying to get to 35,000. They are making a commitment to redirect their funds. They clearly are hoping to get expansions at least enough so that -- if you look at our current path for national service, it assumes a steady level of increases each year.

But they are making a commitment in any case to redirect whatever their funds are. And it will be very much easier if there's an increase in funds, but to redirect those funds toward this initiative. And that is because they were finding this was being their best success. When they did their evaluation, when Harris Woffard came in and looked at where they were having their most success, they felt it was in helping young children read.

Q Was it 30,000 more in addition to the 25,000 now?

MR. SPERLING: We would hope -- First of all, let me explain. In terms of the cost, the bulk of the volunteer coordinators would come from national service. And that's 200 million a year. The other 1.45 billion is the net new cost. That net new cost would go to having reading specialist who would be paired with the volunteer coordinators. These reading specialists would work to train tutors to actually be there when the tutoring sessions are going on so that there is a clear professional there at all points.

That is -- so that is what the cost of all that is. We hope the national service will continue to expand and so that they can redirect this without necessarily taking away the other things they're doing for example on helping in emergencies or helping FEMA. But they are making a commitment to redirect their funds -- $200 million, whatever the situation is.

MR. MCCURRY: Two last questions.

Q I have a question. Although you have paid for these offsets, how would you answer the question or the charge that this really is in a lot of ways a traditional, liberal kind of program -- big government operation, federal directing states like any other of these programs?

MR. SPERLING: I'll tell you exactly. First of all, look at how this money flows. We give money to the states. The state education department and a non-partisan, private-sector oriented national service council together take applications from community groups.

So let's think about this. The federal government is giving money to the states and local community groups -- volunteers, private sector people are coming together in a challenge. And what we're doing and what is very different from a big government approach is we're precisely saying we can't do it all. But we are saying is for that inspired PTA out there, for that inspired group of people who want to do the right thing and come together and have a good plan, they apply to their state and get basically what could be full-time staffers to help them do that. That is very different from a directed federal proposal.

The parenting education proposal -- Parents As First Teachers -- funds non-profits, could fund even collections of organizations that could include religious organizations that are out there helping to create national networks on how to help children be their teachers. This is again something that Governor Bush and Governor Wilson are talking about. This is bigger than any big government, little government deal. This is something that everybody who's responsible for young children is realizing.

And as to the pay-fors, even if you look in Senator Dole's plan, while there's not much specifics, there is pretty much a universal understanding that the corporate subsidy side has to be looked at -- not out of any desire to punish corporations, not out of any desire to, you know, call this corporate welfare or anything -- simply because when you're trying to have the benefits from a balanced budget you have to look broadly across all areas where there is federal government spending or revenue impact, and do so fairly. And you have to make a value choice and you need to put the value choice out to the American public specifically. We are specifically putting out the value choice that we are willing to cut unnecessary, outdated corporate subsidies to help fund an army of tutors to ensure that every child is reading by 3rd grade.

Q Are these proposals that you guys discussed in Clinton's budget proposal? Do the Republicans know about these offsets? Is this something that's been discussed before, because they seem familiar.

MR. SPERLING: I think there's a mixture. I think the Hart-Scott-Rodino reform has -- I think there's some bipartisan support for that. I think there may be one or two. But basically you have your list and you go to your next painful list of offsets when you're looking for something, and that's what we did here, as we do all the time.

Q Do you want to explain why there are no proposals to maybe cut spending on the discretionary side or eliminate programs?

MR. SPERLING: Oh, on the discretionary side? The reason why we didn't focus on the discretionary side was because we have very tight caps in discretionary spending. And we have been very critical, for example, of the other proposal because they simply keep assuming unimaginable spending cuts on the discretionary side. If I gave you $8 billion of discretionary savings, your answer should be, well, that's just saying how you can get a very small portion of the huge amount of non-defense discretionary savings we have to get over the next seven years.

So we felt that the honest way to do this was to look more on the -- mostly on the mandatory side, where you could have additional savings. Because on the discretionary side we still have to meet a very tough burden of doing significant cutting of unnecessary parts of government and we felt that we're really pushing the limit on the non-defense discretionary side.

MR. MCCURRY: We're going to load the buses in about 10 minutes or so. Any issues, questions?

Q Mike, the Wall Street Journal has done a couple stories on a legislative proposal to some of the tobacco industry's liabilities. What is the White House reaction?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've seen those articles and we can well imagine in the environment in which the President has just made a historic announcement related to tobacco that there could be discussions taking place about how the industry could respond, how states might respond. But our view remains the same. The President has announced a set of policies that can reduce tobacco use by minors by one half over seven years. The FDA has promulgated a rule that would help make sure that that health care policy is a success. And the President and others, on behalf of the administration, have long indicated it would be far preferable to have statutory language would accomplish that objective that would not be tied up in courts, as opposed to the regulation that we have now promulgated.

But the test for us would be does any discussion, does any proposed legislation, does any idea of a arrangement meet the President's health care tests and would it protect kids and would it accomplish the objective that the President had outlined?

Q Are you saying that you'd still entertain some efforts to avoid these --

MR. MCCURRY: The President, when he announced the rule the other day, said that if we could achieve through legislation that would go into effect immediately those policies that he outlines by approving the rule, that would be preferable; because that would be immediate, as opposed to something that might be litigated for some time to come.

Q Mike, if this is as described, does it sound like something the President would support?

MR. MCCURRY: As it is described it would have a ways to go before it would meet the specific test the President has put forward. But, obviously, we will see what develops out of any discussions that take place.

Q Is the President going to watch Mrs. Clinton's speech tonight, interact with her in any way?

MR. MCCURRY: The President's current schedule calls for him to be making his own speech around about that time, but since we're running a little bit behind, that might change depending on how the afternoon develops.

Q Would you think that the First Lady is going to talk about this program tonight --

MR. MCCURRY: I think, based on what the President has told me, the First Lady has worked very hard on her speech and she wants it to be about those things that she has cared about for most of her life: children, families, America, and her own family and her own husband.

Q Mike, would the President think it's a good idea for the government to approve a billion dollar donation from Libya to the Farrakhan organization?

MR. MCCURRY: Our views on individual Americans and their involvement with that government are defined by the sanctions that we have in place and we would expect American citizens to honor their obligations under United States law, which prohibits economic transactions involving the government of Libya that are not sanctioned by licenses issued through the Treasury Department.

Q And so a waiver would be unlikely from this administration?

MR. MCCURRY: That's a Treasury Department question.

Okay. That's it, and I'm sorry that we had to cut you short on this, but we had a couple of other things going on, and we'll catch you at the next stop.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 3:03 P.M. EDT