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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 2, 1999
                            PRESS BRIEFING
                      BARRY TOIV AND DAVID LEAVY

                          The Briefing Room

1:20 P.M. EST

MR. TOIV: Any questions?

Q Yes, what is the President doing today?

MR. TOIV: The President is doing nothing today. He's down.

Q Nothing? And he said he had to get back to work?

MR. TOIV: No, he came back because he -- he and the First Lady came back because they've got busy schedules the remainder of the week, and they decided to come back a day early. But I don't think we ever -- he may be doing some work over there in the Residence, but he's over in the Residence.

Q Is he reading any of those books that he bought?

MR. TOIV: I believe I gave the pool last night the name of the book he's reading at the moment. It was not one of the ones he bought yesterday.

Any other significant questions?

Q Did he re-up his AmEx card? (Laughter.)

Q Has he been reading the newspapers?

MR. TOIV: Well, yes -- on the card, he has received his new American Express card. We're just not sure whether he received it before he left on the trip or not. But he has received it, and he won't leave home without it.

Q Shameless. (Laughter.)

MR. TOIV: As if they haven't gotten enough publicity.

Q Does he only have one credit card on him? I mean, he didn't have another one he could have used?

MR. TOIV: I don't know, Mark. Apparently that's the one he was carrying.

Q Who did he borrow the money from?

MR. TOIV: Don't know the answer to that one, Mark.

Q Has he paid it back?

MR. TOIV: He didn't ask the pool for it? It didn't come from the pool?

Q Well, they don't let us in the bookstore when he goes in there.

MR. TOIV: That's true. I don't know.

Q Who takes care of those issues, like making sure that he has current American Express cards and things of that nature?

MR. TOIV: He does.

Q He gets it in the mail, and he answers -- he opens his own mail saying William Jefferson Clinton?

MR. TOIV: I don't know if he answers the mail himself, but he carries the card and he will replace it in his wallet, I'm sure.

Q Does he call that 1-800 number to activate it? (Laughter.)

Q Does the President want the Independent Counsel statute to expire?

MR. TOIV: I'm sorry -- as you know the Deputy Attorney General is going to address that issue today on the Hill. The President concurs with the judgment of the Justice Department that the statute should not be renewed, that --

Q Why?

MR. TOIV: -- that its flaws outweigh its benefits. And he has come to that conclusion by observation of the statute's implementation over the past several years.

Q He does not believe it should be rewritten and enforced in a different form?

MR. TOIV: No, he's come to the same conclusion that the Justice Department has come to, and that large numbers of members of both parties in Congress have also come to.

Q Did you find out, Barry, whether he thinks he made a mistake when he signed it?

MR. TOIV: Well, I'm not going to second-guess a decision that was made back then. But this is the conclusion that the Justice Department has come to at this time. And they will be able to give you a fuller explanation of their views and why they came to this conclusion.

Q Barry, did the Attorney General consult him specifically on this subject?

MR. TOIV: No, not directly, but the Justice Department did consult with Mr. Ruff.

Q Who then consulted him?

MR. TOIV: Well, Mr. Ruff -- I'm not going to get into discussions between Mr. Ruff and the President, but Mr. Ruff was aware of the President's views.

Q Did they talk about it? They must have discussed it.

MR. TOIV: Yes, I think they discussed the issue.

Q So the Justice Department came up with this position after knowing what the President's preferences were?

MR. TOIV: I think they were aware.

Q Would you take the question of whether the President feels he made a mistake in 1994 when he signed it into law? Would you try to ask him?

MR. TOIV: Yes, I will take that question.

Q Barry, here's another one. You're talking about this in sort of dry, clinical language, but there's nothing you or the Justice Department can say about that statute that wasn't said by the Republicans before. What we'd like is a little discussion that maybe they were right; maybe all of us, the press and this White House and the Democrats and the Hill were wrong to ignore those complaint. We're just looking for a little bit of a more human face on this discussion about this issue, because it's an important one. Are you able to talk to us about it in that way?

MR. TOIV: : I've already --

Q What about these complaints for years of the Republicans that this thing was out of control? All the words that your allies now use? Were those people right or not?

MR. TOIV: Well, I think that -- the decision at this time is based on the implementation of the law since it was reauthorized several years ago, that the President signed into law. And that's what it's based on. I think the decision at that time was based on information available at that time and that was the decision.

But it's been -- the way it's been implemented over the last several years has made it clear that the flaws outweigh the benefits.

Q Where should -- if there were any future complaints about ethical behavior within this administration, where would those be sent?

MR. TOIV: Well, I think that the Deputy Attorney General is going to address that issue today in his testimony. I'm not sure if he will have any specific proposals, but I think that -- but obviously that's an issue that does need to be addressed at this point, if the law is not reauthorized.

Q And what would President Clinton's words be to the Attorney General and her staff on whether they are -- issues are brought to them? Does President Clinton guarantee Attorney General Reno that she has the authority to --

MR. TOIV: I think we need to address that issue when it becomes time to address that issue, when the -- as they're doing that, discussing that on the Hill. The Deputy Attorney General is going to talk about this issue, I believe. I don't know specifically what he will say, but I think that he will address the need for a process that ensures the ability to have independent investigations.

Q I thing what Carl was asking before was, did the President only become aware of the shortcomings of the law was when it was directed against him? Or is it that the President feels that the way that Ken Starr has used the law shows problems he wasn't aware of before?

MR. TOIV: I'm not going to get into any particular investigation, but I think it's fair to say that there have been a number of investigations, and not only one since the act was reauthorized.

Q Would those investigations include --

MR. TOIV: In fact, there are some that continue since before it was reauthorized.

Q Would those investigations include the Espy investigation, the Cisneros investigation and the Starr investigation?

MR. TOIV: I'm not citing any particular investigations. I think everybody knows -- I mean, I don't have to stand here and give you a list of how many investigations there have been, as well as those that exist from prior to the reauthorization.

Q Would those three investigations be in the category --

MR. TOIV: I'm not going to -- no, I'm not going to address any specific investigations.

Q What happens to them, though?

Q Barry, has the President already sat down with Bob Bennett to talk about the testimony he may give on the President's behalf, or does he plan to do that?

MR. TOIV: I don't know. I'll have to check on that.

Q What happens to the investigations? Are they -- do they all go out of business?

MR. TOIV: I would rather the Justice Department answer that question. I mean, that's not a question for me to answer, because we don't run those investigations.

Q Iraq?

Q I mean, when the law expires --

MR. TOIV: I understand your question, Helen, but it's probably not a question for me to answer.

Q Well, is the President's view against extending the Independent Counsel -- is it a personal view or is it a policy decision?

MR. TOIV: It's a policy decision.

Q So it has nothing to do with the fact that he was targeted by the Independent Counsel, appointed under the law?

MR. TOIV: It's a policy decision based on his observation of how the law has been implemented.

Q Barry, there have been a lot of calls over the weekend, including from Democrats, for the President to be more forthcoming on Juanita Broaddrick's charges. Can you tell us whether it is the President's position that he had no sexual relationship with Juanita Broaddrick -- or, as some White House aides have been whispering, that he did have one, but it was consensual?

MR. TOIV: Well, as you're aware, the President's attorney has addressed this issue, and we don't have anything further to add to that.

MR. TOIV: But, Barry, his comment could be read as either one. When he says the charges that he assaulted her are false, that could either mean nothing happened or it could mean it wasn't assault. Which is it?

MR. TOIV: I don't have anything to add to his comment.

Q Why is the President speaking through his attorney on this issue when there is actually no reason -- I mean, there's no legal pending matter? Why is he --

MR. TOIV: I don't have anything to add to his comment.

Q Could it be that the President plans to sue Ms. Broaddrick?

MR. TOIV: I don't have --

Q I mean, these are pretty serious charges. If they're false --

MR. TOIV: I really don't have -- I really don't have anything to add to Mr. Kendall's comment.

Q But, Barry, don't you see that by you staying silent and by the President continuing to, as some would say, hide behind this one-sentence statement by Kendall, it looks like he's dodging this very important issue. Polls are showing that most Americans find her charges credible. I mean, is he still going to have a press conference this month? Don't you think it's going to come up at the press conference? I mean, eventually doesn't he have to address it?

MR. TOIV: That's up to you all.

Q How about the UNSCOM? Have you got anything new on our role and spying -- using it as a spy mechanism?

MR. LEAVY: We talked a lot about this this morning. But let me just say that our efforts in Iraq were concentrated on supporting UNSCOM's mission of disarmament. And as I talked about earlier, Iraq was under an affirmative obligation to comply with the Security Council resolutions. They didn't do that. They continued to develop a program of weapons of mass destruction. They lied, they cheated, they blocked, they obstructed the UNSCOM inspectors at every turn. And UNSCOM had to develop its own indigenous intelligence capability to thwart that concealment effort. Member nations were obligated to comply. Forty did so, including the United States. And we provide information and technology.

Q But that's not the question. That's not the question, David. Did any of the United States' personnel, working under UNSCOM auspices, did they file Report A with UNSCOM detailing operations and then file Report B back to the United States that contained additional information based on additional operations or observations they made that was not disclosed to UNSCOM?

MR. LEAVY: Let me just say this, John, I'm not going to get into the details or the modalities of UNSCOM and how they did their operation.

Q I'm not asking details, I'm asking if they provided the United States government with information that was not provided to UNSCOM?

MR. LEAVY: I know, I know, but let me just -- let me just finish. Again, this is an intelligence operation at its core. And I'm not going to get into the modalities about how UNSCOM did its job or its mission. We briefed all appropriate UNSCOM officials.

Q On everything?

MR. LEAVY: Again, I'm not --

Q They were aware of all of our activities?

MR. LEAVY: We briefed all the relevant UNSCOM officials. And beyond that, I'm just not going to get into the modalities of --

Q So are they not telling the truth when they say they didn't know?

MR. LEAVY: I don't think anyone's saying based on one press report that they didn't know, or yes they didn't know. What I'm saying here is, one, our efforts were concentrated on supporting UNSCOM's mission of disarmament. Two, all relevant UNSCOM officials -- excuse me, we briefed the appropriate UNSCOM officials.

Q Does that include Butler?

MR. LEAVY: Again, we briefed the appropriate UNSCOM officials. I'm just going to stay there.

Q How about this simple question? Did UNSCOM know everything that the U.S. knew?

MR. LEAVY: We briefed the relevant UNSCOM officials. And that's all I can say about that. My answer is we briefed the appropriate UNSCOM officials, and I just have to leave it there.

Q David, is the Post story inaccurate?

MR. LEAVY: I think that there are some inaccuracies in the Post story.

Q What are they?

MR. LEAVY: Well, that's the reason why I didn't want to get into the details. I mean, you guys, look, this is an intelligence story at its core.

Q It sure it.

MR. LEAVY: I mean, this involves a U.N.-mandated operation to uncover weapons of mass destruction. Let me just finish this point. Let me just finish. Mark, as I said earlier, it was the obligation of member nations to contribute information and technologies to help support this operation. The reason we had to do that was because Saddam was hiding, concealing, obstructing, undermining our every turn. And now -- I can't get into the details of the intelligence operation of how UNSCOM did its job.

Q They said they were blocking the work because it was staffed by spies, British and American spies. So there was this -- you know, you say that you needed to block or undo the concealment, but they're saying they're concealing because UNSCOM was staffed with spies. And you're not denying that.

MR. LEAVY: Well, I think it stretches logic and credibility to say that Iraq wasn't developing a weapons of mass destruction program that was going to be targeted at American interests and American forces in the region. That is clear. We know that from their own people.

Q Nobody is saying that.

MR. LEAVY: That's true, but the question was --

Q No, the question was, Saddam has said that there were U.S. spies doing things above and beyond the UNSCOM mission -- above and beyond the UNSCOM mission, and that's why he was not cooperating. Is it true that there were U.S. spies doing things above and beyond the UNSCOM mission?

MR. LEAVY: John, our efforts in Iraq were concentrated on supporting UNSCOM and their mission of disarmament. You guys, that's all I can say on this one, really.

Q Can I ask about Iran, before we keep going on and on with this?

MR. LEAVY: Let's just stay on this -- run this dry.

Q David, the impact of a story like this and quotes like this serves to destroy U.S. credibility in an operation like this, doesn't it?

MR. LEAVY: I don't think it's the U.S. credibility that's in question here. We have serious interests in Iraq. We've got a government that has attacked its own people, used chemical weapons on its neighbors, fired SCUDs at Israel; that if anyone has any doubt that it's still a threat, look at what Saddam has said in the last couple of weeks about lashing out against Kuwait and Turkey. This is a repeat offender, and I don't think we should be on the defensive about containing this threat.

Q Dave, none of that is at issue. The point here is that back in August, Iraq made a formal claim to the United Nations that the U.S. was spying on them, and they stopped cooperating with UNSCOM at that time. Is it not possible that the U.S. got caught spying and that's what basically resulted in the death of UNSCOM's weapons inspections? Do you flatly deny that?

MR. LEAVY: Well, look, I think we all know that we have our own national means of gathering information. That's part of our job. That's part of the application of our interests abroad. And I'm just not going to get into the details of our intelligence operation, you guys. Now, we deal with this every week, every month about questions like this. And I've talked about -- I talked about them, so I can't move it any farther.

Q If that's the position now, why didn't you say that then when you had the question, you can't address it, rather than just flatly denying it as you did when these questions came up again and again and again. Numerous official government spokesmen said what they're charging is not true. Now you say, well, we can't get into that.

MR. LEAVY: I would have you go back and look at the transcripts and you can see what we said and what we didn't say. But what I'm saying today, from this podium, is our efforts in Iraq were concentrated on supporting UNSCOM's mission of disarmament, period, full stop.

Q David, when you said that you briefed -- you said you briefed all appropriate officials, did you brief them on what you were doing or what you were finding?

MR. LEAVY: Look, beyond that, I'm not going to get into details of how UNSC0M did its job.

Q David, when you say that we contributed technology to help UNSCOM, did we contribute any technology that did not directly assist UNSCOM?

MR. LEAVY: You guys, again, I'm not going to get into the intelligence capabilities or how UNSCOM did its job.

Q Well, considering that Saddam was able to make this claim, is it in retrospect possibly a mistake that intelligence officers were included in this? That's not a detail of the --

MR. LEAVY: Well, but the premise of that question -- really, I've said what I can on this issue. We can go around and around, but the fact of the matter is there is a real and present danger in Iraq. We had a U.N.-mandated operation that called on member states to support that, that's what we did. And beyond that I'm just not going to get into the details of that.

Q Do you think U.S. credibility means anything in the world?

MR. LEAVY: I think it does. And I think if you look around the world -- whether it's in Kosovo or the Middle East or Northern Ireland or Ethiopia and Eritrea -- people look to the United States as the honest broker, the only country that can bring its political and economic and military power to bear on resolving these crisis.

And, as the President said in his speech on Friday, we have a preeminent role in the world and part of our responsibility is to act as a peacemaker and to act as a responsible member of the international community and that's what we did. I don't think has any bearing on U.S. credibility at all.

Q And you don't think deception of the U.N. falls into that category?

MR. LEAVY: Look, as I said, 40 nations contributed to UNSCOM. And they wouldn't -- UNSCOM by itself is a unique situation. No time before had the U.N. had to develop its own intelligence capabilities. So of course it gets a little murky and it gets a little complicated and we can't get into the details; but that's the nature of the business and we wouldn't have had to do it if Iraq didn't live up to its obligations.

Q But the United States has said consistently, Saddam Hussein should be judged by his actions, not his words. Did the United States use the entree it received through UNSCOM to conduct intelligence operations above and beyond what was agreed to?

MR. LEAVY: I don't think that anyone ever said that he shouldn't be judged on his words. His words are just as dangerous, if you look back at the Army Day speech he gave a couple weeks ago, he called on the overthrow of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, he lashed out and threatened Kuwait and Turkey. So I think his words and what he says is something that we shouldn't ignore.

Q David, is there an investigation -- is there at least an internal investigation of why we got caught? (Laughter.)

MR. LEAVY: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Were the appropriate UNSCOM officials briefed truthfully and completely?

MR. LEAVY: I have nothing more on this -- really, I don't.

Q David, the problem now is that moving forward around the world Saddam Hussein appears to have been at least partly justified in his actions of last fall. Moving forward, how do you hold together a global coalition to support the containment policy?

MR. LEAVY: You know, again, I take issue with the premise. But let me just say this -- and I said this earlier this morning -- if anyone underestimates the threat Saddam poses, they should look back at what he said the last couple weeks.

Q Nobody is saying that.

MR. LEAVY: Right, but let me just finish out the point. He remains a -- Bob's question was on keeping the coalition together. He has called for the overthrow of the governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He's lashed out at Turkey and Kuwait. If anybody knows the threat that he poses, it's the people in the region and his neighbors. And I think that we will move deliberately to continue to contain the threat, but also move in the long run for a change in regime.

Q Can we move on to Iran?

Q How can the words "honesty" and "spy" jive when you're talking about credibility issues? Those two words just are on opposite ends of the spectrum from each other.

MR. LEAVY: On what?

Q "Honesty" -- the words "honesty" and "spying."

MR. LEAVY: Part of our responsibility in government and part of our job to protect the national interest is to use our power, our technology, our ability to safeguard American interests and I don't think that's a secret to anyone in this room and shouldn't come as a surprise.

Q David, are you concerned that next time the U.S. gets accused of spying, say, by the Serbs, when the U.S. officials are part of a U.N. group, that the U.S. is going to lack credibility in denying such charges?

MR. LEAVY: I don't think this speaks to U.S. credibility. And we've lost sight about what the issue is here. The issue is a threat and we're trying to contain that threat based on our own national interests.

Q Iran, can you confirm that the eight prisoners -- the eight were executed? And can you give us any --

MR. LEAVY: Uganda?

Q Yes -- and any details about the Americans, were the others killed?

MR. LEAVY: Again, I can't get into the details about exactly what happened. Let me just say, though, that the protection of American citizens is paramount. We are doing our utmost to work with the governments in Uganda and the Congo to identify the perpetrators. We will certainly work tirelessly to apprehend those responsible and bring them to justice.

But, as I said earlier, I can't get into numbers and names, just because those details haven't been confirmed yet.

Q It was widely reported that eight were killed, two Americans and --

MR. LEAVY: Let me leave it at that. I'd push you over to the State Department for -- there's privacy issues about informing next of kin and there's some discrepancies on numbers and the information. So I just want to be careful on that.

Q David, what would you say to Americans considering going on gorilla watching expeditions right now?

MR. LEAVY: We actually issued what's called, I'm told -- let me just get it here -- a warning message which strongly urges American citizens to postpone their visits to Uganda's gorilla parks because of the current security situation. So that's what I would say. Warning message.

Q Did our government receive any kind of a warnings or any kind of intelligence indicating that this might be a threat to Americans, or anyone else, traveling in this region?

MR. LEAVY: That's a good question. I don't know, let me take that.

Q Barry, a question about the Barbara Walters interview tomorrow night. Apparently, Monica Lewinsky is going to apologize to both the First Lady and Chelsea during this interview -- or has, at least, on tape. Do you think that this will bring an end to the whole ordeal, so to speak?

MR. TOIV: I think I can safely say "no" to that. But I don't really -- beyond that I don't have any comment on --

Q Do you think it was appropriate for Monica Lewinsky to apologize?

Q Will the apology be accepted?

MR. TOIV: I don't have any comment on the interview.

Q Barry, did the behavior of the Independent Counsel in the Iran-Contra probe play any part in the decision not to renew -- to be against renewing the statute?

MR. TOIV: I've really answered that question already. I've answered it deliberately in a broad way and I'm not going to get into specific investigations. It's not appropriate.

Q David, do you have anything to tell us about reports that a KLA delegation is coming to Washington before the talks resume in France?

MR. LEAVY: Yes, as I think it was reported this morning, Ambassador Chris Hill has traveled to Pristina. He's met with a number of the Albanian delegates who came to France several weeks ago. And we have initiated discussions about some members of the KLA and others coming to Washington. But, beyond that, I don't have any details.

Q Barry, the President's going to be meeting with the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses. Are they going to bring up the issue, by any chance, of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, because that's a hotbed of contention, especially within the CBC right now?

MR. TOIV: I don't know if that's going to be one of the issues discussed. It's an important priority for the President, of course, but I don't know. I'll have to check and see whether that specifically is going to be listed on the agenda.

Q Okay. Because you said earlier that it was going to be dealing with issues from the State of the Union address, and that was one of them.

MR. TOIV: Right. Well, yes, that's right. What I said was that there are -- that there is a lot of -- there's a great deal of commonality between the agenda that the Democrats on the Hill are going to put forward and the agenda that the President announced in his State of the Union address -- saving and protecting Social Security for the future, reforming and protecting Medicare for the future, using the surplus to buy down the debt, quality education, classroom size -- reducing classroom size.

In fact, as you all know, there's a very important bill on the floor of the Senate this week, an important opportunity for the Senate this week to endorse the completion of the President's classroom size proposal by authorizing 100,000 teachers. We got the first stage of this last year, and that's an important bill, and that will be discussed -- that's an important opportunity with the Ed-flex bill that's on the floor in the Senate. That's an issue that will be discussed.

Health care, the patients' bill of rights, getting an effective and strong patients' bill of rights is another issue that will be discussed. I know that those are issues that will be addressed -- raising the minimum wage, also. And I will check and see on the other one.

Q How about fast track, or is that kind of dead?

MR. TOIV: No, the President -- as you know, the President believes we need to renew traditional trading authority. We need to find ways of making sure that that happens in a way that protects people's concerns about the environment and about working people. And we will continue to work towards that.

Q Do you think that's possible this year to pass?

MR. TOIV: Don't know yet.

Q Barry, you've told us to expect one big booming voice vote in the affirmative tomorrow on the agenda. What's the point in going? And if it's too much like a glowing pep rally, do you alienate Republicans?

MR. TOIV: What I said was that's what happened last year. I don't know what the -- you'd have to ask the -- since this is their meeting, you have to ask them the exact manner in which they're going to conduct the vote tomorrow.

Q Well, but what's the point of him going?

MR. TOIV: The point of him going is to help give momentum to an agenda that will accomplish a great deal for the American people this year if the Congress moves on it.

Q Barry, do you see the Republicans' Ed-flex bill as a trojan horse on the education issue, or do you think it's a legitimate piece of legislation that can be worked with and maybe the President could adopt?

MR. TOIV: Well, the legislation itself, we certainly support the concept, the President supports giving flexibility to local school districts. We do believe that the bill as proposed ought to be strengthened with greater accountability measures. But it is a concept that we're supportive of.

We do believe, though, that there's something even more important -- in fact, I would say far more important to accomplish, and that's why an amendment is going to be proposed in the Senate this week -- and that is to provide for 100,000 teachers so that we can reduce class sizes, particularly in the early grades. We think that that's a higher priority. It's why the President has already spoken out so strongly in support of the amendment that will be proposed in the Senate. I'm sure it's one of the things that will be talked about tomorrow. And that's the direction we would like to see the bill go in.

Q Barry, what do you fear -- what is it that you fear that states and local communities would spend this money on, if not teachers?

MR. TOIV: Well, this is -- I think you're mixing up issues. In the Ed-flex bill?

Q Yes, I mean you're saying you want a certain amount set aside and you want teachers to get -- 100,000 new teachers or towards that goal. If that didn't pass, why is it you're concerned that the money wouldn't go towards teachers but would go to other purposes?

MR. TOIV: What money? This bill does not contain money for teachers, as I understand it.

Q Well, is it a block grant?

MR. TOIV: Well, as I understand this bill, it's a bill that takes a number of federal programs and allows flexibility, allows school districts to have certain flexibility with how they use the money in certain federal programs and to move from one program to another -- as I understand it. I mean, I'm no expert on this.

But this has nothing to do with providing additional teachers or additional monies, is my understanding of this bill. And what we're saying is, providing greater flexibility is important, but providing greater flexibility is important, but what's even more important is providing the resources and providing the requirement of hiring additional teachers.

Q Well, does that issue have to be linked to the Ed-flex bill for the President to sign it?

MR. TOIV: Well, this is an opportunity. I mean, we think that that's a much higher priority, and that's why we think it ought to go first. This is obviously the first education bill the Congress is considering. And we think that the President's class size initiative, which has a great deal of support and which they approved the first stage of last year, we think that that is a much higher priority and it ought to go first.

Q Well, are you saying it ought to go first --

NR. TOIV: Alongside. I mean, it would --

Q -- but you're not saying that you would reject an Ed-flex bill necessarily that didn't contain the teacher initiative, are you?

MR. TOIV: Well, in terms of the Ed-flex bill -- hopefully when this bill comes to the White House, it will be in a form that is acceptable. But we also have to look at the Ed-flex bill itself. And we'd like to work with the Congress to provide for greater accountability measures.

We need to make sure that the waivers that are provided under the bill actually are working and if you provide waivers that have not worked to improve student performance, that those waivers shouldn't be extended. But if you -- so you need to provide some accountability for those waivers. And this has been -- this is something that the administration has discussed with the Hill. And we hope that as the bill moves along that regardless of the teacher issue, that they address that issue, as well.

Q Just to clarify, Barry, you think teachers are a higher priority than buildings or computers or whatever --

MR. TOIV: No, we're saying teachers are a higher priority than providing additional flexibility, although we do support providing additional flexibility.

Q Barry, do you foresee any chance that the President might change his mind and decide to comment more than he has already on the Broaddrick matter?

MR. TOIV: I think I've already said that I don't have anything to add to the comment that's been made.

Q The President's Social Security framework has drawn criticism by both the Congressional Budget Office, as well as Congressional Research Service. Is the White House in any way reexamining the way this is structured? Is there any concern at all about that plan?

MR. TOIV: No, we certainly want to work with the Congress on this issue, but we believe that the President's proposal is the best way of ensuring that we use the surplus to buy down the debt, to reduce the debt, and also to secure Social Security through the Social Security trust fund through the year 2055.

We also need to do the same for Medicare, devote 15 percent of the surpluses over the next 30 years to secure the Medicare trust fund. It is through -- for another 10 years, through 2020. It's fortunate that there is -- there seems to be bipartisan support for using 62 percent of the surplus in the coming years to shore up Social Security. Unfortunately, so far we have not heard anything positive from the Republicans on the issue of Medicare and the surplus. And we are certainly looking to hear some more positive notes from that side on that issue.

Q Well, the Congressional Research Services concluded that the plant would only set aside, I think it was, 7 percent of the surplus over -- what do you make of these differences?

MR. TOIV: We disagree. And obviously -- look, the technical score keeping issues on this, as an old budget person, you could go in circles on the technical score keeping issues from now until next week. I won't punish you with that. But we believe that our proposal makes sense, that it's the best way to protect Social Security for the future. The President, as you know, wants to work with the Congress in a bipartisan way on additional reforms to provide for 75-year solvency of the trust fund. But we believe that our proposal works and it makes sense. And it helps Social Security in the short run and the long run. And that's what we're -- so that's the proposal that we're sticking to.

Anything else?

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 1:55 P.M. EST