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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 18, 1999
                             PRESS BRIEFING
                      JAKE SIEWERT AND DAVID LEAVY

                           The Briefing Room

12:20 P.M. EDT

MR. SIEWERT: Wolf, are you ready? Okay, good.

There are some milestones and anniversaries here that we celebrate at the White House, and today is one of them. It marks the end of an era, the Blitzer Era.

Q The what era?

MR. SIEWERT: The Blitzer Era. (Laughter.) And for those of you who've criticized us from time to time for taking a little too much credit for the strong economy we enjoy, we've heard you and we've taken a little harder look at some of the statistical correlations between the President's tenure and the strong economy we enjoy. And we've looked at a number of variables, and tried to come up with some stronger correlations between the good economic times the White House is fond of talking about.

And we've discovered some very interesting material. And if we could just take a look at this chart, here. You'll see here the Blitzer Index -- (laughter) -- is probably the most -- is the strongest correlation we found, between Wolf's tenure at the White House and the strong economy. The Blitzer Index, for those of you who don't know, is a combination of strong unemployment and low inflation.

And what we found is that as Wolf has been at the White House, the Blitzer Index has consistently dropped, showing a stronger economy. And, Wolf, we'd like to thank you for all your hard work in bringing that about. (Laughter and applause.)

Q Thank you. (Laughter.)

Q What about inflation?

MR. SIEWERT: That's interesting -- we'll have the scientists take a look at that. With apologies to Mr. Podesta, for whom we developed this trick a little while back.

Q Is this live on CNN?

Q No.

MR. SIEWERT: No. (Laughter.) But maybe it will be, I don't know.

I promised I'd just give a little bit about the vacation. Obviously, they -- and I misspoke this morning. They leave tomorrow, obviously, the President and the First Lady and the First Family leave tomorrow for Martha's Vineyard. They will be there for a little bit over a week. They may spend -- they will probably spend Friday, some time on Nantucket.

Q This Friday?

MR. SIEWERT: This Friday. And we will put out a full schedule --

Q What's the event?

MR. SIEWERT: there is an event there that I think will probably be pool press that is for the American Ireland Fund.

Q What is that?

MR. SIEWERT: That's a nonprofit fund that funds projects in Northern Ireland and Ireland, and it is essentially aimed at mostly educational projects and designed to foster greater understanding and cooperation between the two countries. They have agreed -- I think they're going to be funding some of the projects that Mrs. Clinton has been involved in through her Vital Voices project there.

Q This is fostering more understanding between Protestants and Catholics, not Americans?

MR. SIEWERT: Yes, exactly. And it's designed to foster more stability in the region as a whole.

Q Are you taking the whole press corps over there?

MR. SIEWERT: We'll let you know. We're finalizing a schedule and we'll put that out later today, a full press schedule. Although, I'm certain there will be updates over the course of the next week or so, and Joe will be with you on the first part of the vacation and be able to provide you updates as we move along.

Q Is that birthday party tomorrow, or what's going on with the birthday?

MR. SIEWERT: The birthday, I expect the President will celebrate his birthday on the Vineyard with some friends and his family.

Q Northern Ireland is tomorrow, or --

MR. SIEWERT: Oh, no, no, that's Friday, I said. That's Friday.

Q How about here, any celebration here?

MR. SIEWERT: We'll let you know. We sometimes have something with the staff where we get a chance to celebrate with the President; I don't know what the plans are. Sometimes it's a surprise, so maybe we should leave it at that.

Q Jake, does the First Lady have a political fundraiser on Nantucket as well on Friday?

MR. SIEWERT: She may. I will let you know later today, let you know what our plans are for that.

Q Jake, on the birthday, the first year we were allowed to join in, the First Lady had something for us over in the East Room. How about letting the press come in this year?

MR. SIEWERT: Well, we'll take that up with the authorities. I actually don't know what the plans are for tomorrow. I haven't gotten any notice. I haven't gotten my invitation, but maybe, I don't know, maybe I said something wrong up here.

They will leave the Vineyard on the 28th for East Hampton. And, as you know, over the course of that weekend, they'll be spending some time with the Democratic National Committee retreat that's planned for that weekend, and doing some events to help raise money for the Democratic National Committee.

They leave on that Monday, I believe it's the 30th, for Skaneateles in upstate New York. And we expect them to return to Washington, the Washington area, on Friday, September 3rd. So that's the vacation.

Q Jake, do you have any idea what events, if anything, that Mrs. Clinton might do that week in upstate New York?

MR. SIEWERT: Not yet, no. I mean, there are a number of things we're working on. I think, on balance, the vacation will be a vacation -- although, as you can already see, there will be some time that they spend with some Democratic National Committee events in the Hamptons, and there may be some other events. We'll let you know as they develop and as they're scheduled.

Q Jake, if Ken Starr were to step down, would the White House want the Justice Department to pick up the unfinished business, or one of Starr's deputies to pick up the unfinished business?

MR. SIEWERT: I don't think I'll celebrate the end of your tenure here by answering a hypothetical question. The questions about how best to handle such an eventuality are probably best directed to the Department of Justice.

As far as I understand, we have not received any formal notification here at the White House that Mr. Starr's plans have changed in any way, shape or form. If we do, then we'll probably have something to say. But we don't -- are not in the business of deciding that here. I suggest the Department of Justice should probably answer those questions.

Q But you did say this morning that you understood there had been some contacts between Ken Starr's office and the Justice Department on --

MR. SIEWERT: I mean, I've seen the reports that there have been some contacts. I don't know the nature of those contacts, and I expect that the Department of Justice is probably the best place to answer any questions about that, although they tend to keep those communications confidential.

Q Jake, just as a matter of principle, though, shouldn't somebody who's conducted such a prolonged investigation of a President see it through and be there when a final report is issued, so he can be accountable for it?

MR. SIEWERT: I think that's a judgment that others will make. I don't think, frankly, that we have much to add to that.

Q Jake, this could be addressed either to you or to David, AP is reporting today that the President of Taiwan is pushing for a missile defense system. What does the U.S. government think of that idea, and would the U.S. help build such a system?

MR. SIEWERT: That is best addressed to David.

Q Taiwan is a strong ally.

MR. LEAVY: I haven't seen those reports, Andrew, but our defense responsibilities for Taiwan are governed by the TRA. We'll certainly keep those obligations and be consistent with the spirit of the law, but I'm not aware of anything beyond that; I'll have to look into it.

Q Does that requirement include helping build a missile defense system?

MR. LEAVY: I'm not aware that they've asked for one. I haven't seen the report; so let me just leave it at that.

Q If China were to take military action against Taiwan, would the U.S. engage in military action against China?

MR. LEAVY: Well, Wolf, we got into this a lot last week. The Taiwan Relations Act spells out very clearly what the U.S. response would be. Any effort to resolve the issue of the cross strait other than peaceful means would be of grave concern to the United States, and I will leave that.

Q Do you want to define -- you would do it because of the grave concern?

MR. LEAVY: It hasn't been defined beyond what is spelled out in the law for the last 20 years or so, so I don't want to do that today.

Q Do you have any reaction to the report from North Korea that the North Koreans are willing to negotiate a missile program with other countries?

MR. LEAVY: I didn't see those reports, and as you know, we've been engaged with the North Koreans on a number of fronts. We had, I believe, the fourth or fifth installment of the four-party talks, which are designed to bring a final armistice to the peninsula. On the margins of those, Chuck Kartman, who is the Secretary of State's Special Envoy to these issues, had some bilateral discussions with his North Korean counterparts.

We certainly welcome the dialogue. As you know -- and the President said this when he was in Seoul last year -- that there are two paths for the North Koreans to take. There's a path of engagement, of cooperation and of dialogue that can move the economic capabilities and the commercial exchanges between North and South, between the United States and the North forward, or there's a path of more confrontation and potentially more violence, and we hope that the North will choose the former. We're going to continue to make that clear and engage them on this front.

Q Would the U.S. be willing to compensate North Korea for dismantling or eliminating its missiles?

MR. LEAVY: I don't have anything on that.

Q David, what more can you tell us about these Iraqi reports that they took a number of civilian casualties in the area outside of the no-fly zone?

MR. LEAVY: Well, there's no evidence that I'm aware of that we killed any Iraqis yesterday. I don't think that we need to prove every propaganda ploy by Saddam Hussein. He has continued to threaten our pilots, both over the North and South. He remains a threat to the region. Here is a man who has used chemical weapons against Iran, against his own people. He's invaded Kuwait. He has fired scuds at Israel. He has recently called for the overthrow of moderate governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

So it's clear he's a threat to the region, to international stability. It's clear that he needs to be contained. We will do that. Our planes will continue to fly the no-fly zones and attack any military targets that are part of his integrated air defense system that threatens their safety.

Q Were there any targets that were hit outside of the no-fly zone?

MR. LEAVY: You'll have to go to the Pentagon for that. I don't want to comment on the operational details.

Q Are you trying to confirm whether you've killed any civilians?

MR. LEAVY: I did look into it, and no one has any evidence that any Iraqis were killed. On John's question, it's better put at the Pentagon.

Q On Iran? The report that Iran is contributing more to terrorist operations?

MR. LEAVY: Yes, I do have something on that. Well, you know, Iran is on the state-sponsor-of-terrorism list. We have not seen, or I can't confirm, any increase in their support for, I think the report was Palestinian terrorist groups. But we've repeatedly said that we hope that Iran will stop their support of these kinds of activities.

Q Is discussion -- is Taiwan's discussion of missile defense prudent, or does it further ratchet up the tensions in that region?

MR. LEAVY: Well, Andrew, again I haven't seen the report, so I'm a little reluctant to comment more specifically. As we said last week, the best way to reduce tensions, to avoid accidents, to avoid miscalculations, is to have the two sides re-engage in a dialogue. We've urged both the people on Taiwan and the PRC to do that. We think that's the best way to move forward.

There is a cross straits dialogue that can help reduce the tensions. And as I said, there's a framework here that has benefitted all three sides -- the people on Taiwan, the Chinese, the United States. That's the framework where these kinds of discussions should be held.

Q David, there's a large anti-government rally in Yugoslavia planned for tomorrow. What kind of support is the United States giving the opposition forces there?

MR. LEAVY: Well, if you remember, when the President was in Sarajevo he announced $10 million of seed money that will go to the opposition. It will go to independent media, to NGOs, to the labor movement in Serbia. This follows on -- I think it's close to $17 million over the last two years that we've provided for the Serbian opposition.

I don't think that there's any specific assistance to this one rally, although I'd take note that over the last several months, since the end of the conflict in Kosovo, there has been a wide range of -- a wide range of Serbian society who have come out and called for new leadership in Belgrade -- the Serb Orthodox Church, former military officials, local mayors, have all called for a change in regime. That's something we certainly support.

As you know, the President has made clear on a number of occasions there's not going to be any reconstruction aid that's going to go to Serbia while Milosevic is still in power, so we hope that the momentum will continue, that his isolation will make clear that no one is going to benefit in Serbia until there is a change in regime.

Q Isn't there a particular person who is palatable to the administration to become president -- somebody like Abramowitz, who was here meeting Mr. Berger last week?

MR. LEAVY: Well, it's not for us to choose who the new leadership should be or what path of democracy the Serbian people should take; it's rightly for them to decide. Clearly, there needs to be a change. Abramowitz, Draskovic, Djindjic, the other leaders who are calling for new leadership have our support. We think there is a vast majority of the Serbian people who want to support new leadership, who want to live normal lives, who want to have independent media free of propaganda, who want to have the freedom to worship, who want to have the freedom to associate with whoever they want and avoid the bloodshed and the trauma and the violence that Milosevic has brought on the Serbian people.

So I don't think it's for us to pick one leader or another, but to support the movement in its entirety.

Q Can I ask if there have there been any other high-level meetings between administration officials with Serbian opposition leaders? And are the days of Holbrooke-Milosevic meetings over?

MR. LEAVY: Well, Abramowitz was invited to the Sarajevo Summit at the invitation of President Ahtisaari of Finland. I think that Bob Gelbard, who is the President and Secretary of State's Special Envoy to the region, who is moving on to Indonesia but who has worked very hard on this issue, has met regularly, as other U.S. government officials have, with Serbian opposition.

I'm not aware, David, of any specific meeting in the last several days, but we have contacts and we'll continue to make clear that there is support in the international community for a change in regime.

Q -- rule out any further meetings with Mr. Milosevic?

MR. LEAVY: I can't imagine what business we have to conduct with Mr. Milosevic. His place is in the Hague with the rest of the war criminals.

Q Anything new on Turkey? Any new developments?

MR. LEAVY: Nothing beyond what I talked about this morning. I can just run down my notes of what we have, so everyone who wasn't there is current. As you know, our embassy continues to coordinate the U.S. government's response to the crisis in Turkey. They're working with U.S. AID and the Pentagon officials who are there on the ground. The President has made clear that he wants a robust U.S. response to the devastation.

Yesterday evening, an AID team of 70 people who we talked about -- this includes five dogs, five trucks and close to 56,000 pounds of equipment have departed for Turkey. They're due to arrive there at 9:00 a.m., local time, about 2:00 a.m. our time, to begin their work. Our embassy is also working with the Turkish government to determine what would be the most useful way to address the problem of the oil fires that are currently raging there.

Part of the Fairfax team that's part of the AID contingent have some fire fighting capabilities, so they're going to lend their expertise to that. There's also a need for some medical supplies. I believe AID has offered supplies for close to 10,000 people, and they're also dispatching some water and sanitation experts to help with the issue of potable water needs.

Q If there is a missile defense under consideration for Taiwan, you would know about it, wouldn't you?

MR. LEAVY: Well, I'm not aware of any development.

Q You're not aware of anything in that connection?

MR. LEAVY: I'm not aware of anything in that connection. I'm not aware of the reports that Andrea mentioned --

Q You are aware of the reports?

MR. LEAVY: -- not before the briefing, and again, our defense responsibilities for Taiwan are governed by the TRA, and --

Q That isn't the point. Would the American people be informed if we decided to go ahead with a missile defense?

MR. LEAVY: It's a hypothetical, Helen, that I don't want to comment on, because I haven't seen the reports. I haven't checked with any of the senior policy makers here. I think it's unwise for me to speculate on just one press report.

Q As far as you know, there is no such thing in the works?

MR. LEAVY: That's right. As far as I know, there's no such thing in the works.

Q On Turkey, still no reports of American casualties?

MR. LEAVY: That's right.

Q David, on Los Alamos, I know we talked about it yesterday, but isn't it at least possible that Wen Ho Lee could have been targeted because of his race?

MR. LEAVY: Steve, I really have nothing more to say beyond what I said yesterday.

Q If he had been targeted, though, let me ask you this. What would the White House think of that? How would you react to that?

MR. LEAVY: Again, let me just repeat one final time, it's a Justice Department investigation. Those questions are best put to the officials there.

Q You're really going to let that hang out there? That it could be possible?

MR. LEAVY: Helen, we talked about this yesterday. I really don't want to rehash old ground. There's an ongoing investigation.

Q And there is a charge out there.

MR. LEAVY: There is an ongoing investigation. It's being run by the Justice Department and the FBI. That's the appropriate place for these kinds of matters to be handled. It's not for the White House to impose its investigative opinions on the Justice Department. I think that's wise. It's not appropriate for us to do that. You wouldn't want us to do that. It would be counterproductive to do that.

These kinds of questions are legitimate questions. You should put them to the officials in charge of the investigation.

Q I'm sorry, this is not a question of the Justice Department. It's a question here. An American official is charging that because of a man's racial -- whatever he is, is being charged. I mean, how can you let that stand?

MR. LEAVY: Well, again, we went through this in painful detail yesterday. Let me just go through it one more time.

There were massive security violations that Mr. Lee was involved in. Secretary Richardson thought that there should be disciplinary action taken. He took that. That was the right course of action.

There are charges of espionage at the labs, more broadly. The Justice Department and the FBI are looking into those. It's not for the White House to comment about ongoing investigations. We don't do investigations here, the Justice Department does. If you have questions, and they're legitimate, you should ask them.

Q How about if we put the question this way: if a person were targeted for an investigation because of their race or ethnicity, would that, for any particular violation, would that be a matter of grave concern to the White House?

MR. LEAVY: John, it's a hypothetical question that I don't feel comfortable answering. Let me just say this broadly, though. The Justice Department wouldn't be spending the resources and the time and effort looking into this matter if they didn't think there was due cause.

Q All right.

Q Would you ask the President to answer that question?

MR. LEAVY: Helen, it's not appropriate for us to comment about ongoing Justice Department matters.

Q It is appropriate to answer a charge from an American official, former American official, on that level, in terms of a man's race.

MR. LEAVY: Well, again, the person in question was dismissed for security violations, full stop. The Justice Department and the FBI are responding to allegations that there may have been espionage at the labs. They're going forward. If they didn't determine that there was sufficient evidence to go forward on this, I'm sure they wouldn't dispatch the time and effort and resources and manpower that they have on this case.

Is that it? We're good?

Q No, let me ask one other one on China. Have these tensions between Taiwan and China in any way impacted the potential for talks on China entering the WTO? Where is that?

MR. LEAVY: I don't think the talks have restarted. President Clinton is going to meet with President Jiang on the margins of the APEC trip in New Zealand in a couple weeks. I'm sure that WTO and Taiwan and human rights and other issues will be on that agenda. But, certainly, from our view, the recent tensions between the two sides haven't impacted WTO at all.

Q Are there going to be talks preliminary to the meeting between the two Presidents on the trade issue?

MR. LEAVY: Not that I'm aware of. Not that I'm aware of. Do you know?

Jake reminds me that Under Secretary of Commerce David Aaron was in Beijing several weeks ago on broader trade issues, not specifically WTO.

Q So there are no plans for talks, then? Because it's been said that there would -- that trade talks would begin --

MR. LEAVY: I'm not aware of any resumption of talks.

Q Jake, was the President disturbed to learn this morning that his remarks on gun violence yesterday triggered an angry response from the NRA?

Q Triggered? (Laughter.)

Q Is he planning to fire back at them? (Laughter.)

MR. SIEWERT: That ad was hypocrisy, pure and simple. The National Rifle Association has spent more time and money trying to repeal and undermine this nation's gun laws that they now are trying to say we're not enforcing. So I don't really know what that's all about. I can tell you it's misdirection.

The President has made perfectly clear where he stands on this issue. He's for stronger gun laws. We've won passage of several gun control measures. And we're taking some steps now to do what we can in a Congress that seems intent upon slowing this process down and passing some further common-sense gun measures.

Q Do you support Janet Reno's proposal that gun owners should be licensed?

MR. SIEWERT: The President has talked about that at some length. What we're focused on right now is what we think maybe we can get through Congress, if they're willing to come along a little bit and listen to the will of the American people. But we have made perfectly clear that we support stronger gun measures and we got a bill through the Senate that we think does quite a bit to strengthen the gun laws. And, frankly, it's hard to understand why the NRA is against a provision that would simply keep criminals from buying guns at gun shows and do more to keep guns out of the hands of children, as well.

Q Conversely, what does the President think of the NRA's "Project Exile" that they were talking about today, where felons caught on possession of a gun or trying to buy a gun get an automatic five years in federal prison; a drug dealer caught with a gun gets an automatic 10 years in federal prison.

MR. SIEWERT: We have actually strengthened -- we have stepped up prosecution for --

Q What does he think about that idea?

MR. SIEWERT: I'll have to take a look at those specific proposals. Most of the times that the NRA has proposed any stronger gun laws, it's been an effort to undermine existing gun laws. It's some sort of effort to displace a law that actually is working -- like the Brady Law, the assault weapons ban -- and try to find a way to weaken it by putting something else in its place. We've seen -- even as we go through this process of trying to enact the fixes that we have seen in the gun laws today in the Senate bill, they're trying to weaken -- make it more possible for criminals and others to buy guns at pawn shops right now.

Q On the face, that would seem to be a pretty strict regulation.

MR. SIEWERT: Yes, but the key with the NRA is that the face of it is never the face of it. There's always hidden language in the details that weakens existing gun laws. We saw this in the legislation, they worked very hard with their allies in the Republican House to put in the House bill. They call it gun control legislation but, in effect, it is an effort that weakens a lot of the existing gun laws.

And they've done that in the House and they've sought to delay this vote, they've sought to delay the appointment of conferees. We're asking for action from the House. The President couldn't have been more straightforward on this yesterday. We want the House to come back, and as students are going back to school, to take action and pass some common-sense measures.

The President has said we could do more, but apparently Congress isn't even willing to do the simple things that are necessary. We have stepped up prosecutions of serious gun crimes at the federal level, and we've actually been working very closely with state and local officials to prosecute some of the gun crimes that we've detected through the Insta-Check program and the NICS program, as well.

Q Do you have any numbers to back that up, that you've stepped up prosecution?

MR. SIEWERT: Prosecutions of serious gun crimes are up 25 percent. Those are crimes where the sentences are for five years or more. And we've increased funding for state and local law enforcement by more than 500 percent, primarily through our COPS programs, and putting more officers on the street who can enforce the law. And we've been making sure that state and local law enforcement officials have the best information that we have to help them trace guns. But a lot of times, those prosecutions obviously happen at the state and local level.

Q Do you have the hard numbers? When you say up 25 percent, they've gone from what to what?

MR. SIEWERT: Well, the number of gun criminals who are doing time in state and federal prisons is up 25 percent since this President took office. So that it's from about 20,000 in 1992 to more than 25,000 today. And the number of serious gun criminals who are in federal prison is up by nearly 30 percent. So we've focused on putting serious -- putting gun criminals behind bars and putting them behind bars for sentences that will last some time.

Q What are the hard numbers on the federal --

MR. SIEWERT: I'll take a look at -- it's up 30 percent, nearly 30 percent. I'll see if I can get you the actual numbers.

Q Do you see the gun culture ever changing in this country the way that tobacco culture has changed over the years?

MR. SIEWERT: Well, we certainly hope so. I mean, that is exactly what the President has embarked upon, is an effort to kind of convince -- to convince Congress, first of all; but, more importantly, the entire American culture. Although, frankly, the American people are way ahead of Congress on this issue. The NRA ought to spend a little less time advertising and a little more time surveying what the American people already feel about this issue.

I think that the events in Littleton and in Georgia, and more recently in California, have been a wake-up call to the American people and they want some serious action. The President has said, as recently as yesterday, it's not going to be the entire solution, we're not going to stop every crime. But we know that these gun laws work and we ought to do what we can to enforce them and to strengthen them.

Q Any reaction to the letter that Trent Lott and Dennis Hastert sent the President yesterday on urging him not to veto the tax cut bill?

MR. SIEWERT: Well, our views on that are pretty well-known. We're not talking -- I think the longer this tax bill that the Republicans have passed is out there, and the closer that the American people take a look at it, the more they find that it's riddled with special interest provisions; that it's seriously targeted away from the middle class, and towards those who've benefitted most extensively during the past six years; and, more importantly, it threatens Social Security and Medicare.

And I saw in there, in that letter, that they're claiming that they've done more for Social Security and Medicare. But, in fact, they've put aside a certain amount of money for Social Security, but they haven't said what they're going to do with it. And they haven't committed to putting it into reducing the debt. And they haven't dedicated a single dime towards Medicare yet -- although they pay lip service to it, but they haven't yet put any new money into Medicare.

And, in fact, the tax bill would cause a sequester -- as Jack Lew has pointed out, and others on our budget team -- that would actually mean cuts to existing Medicare benefits, from current levels -- at a time when a lot of other Republican leaders are coming to us to say, these Medicare cuts are too harsh, we ought to do more to fix Medicare, and we ought to do more to help providers provide quality health care.

So that letter is not going to change a single thing about what we think about their tax bill and its impact on our economy, and on Social Security and Medicare.

Q Did you say that they're not -- the money that they're reserving from the Social Security surplus would not go to paying down the debt? That their lockbox doesn't --

MR. SIEWERT: Well, I think they've reserved that money. They've reserved that money. But they haven't specifically dedicated it to debt reduction in a way that ensures that the money will actually be used to pay down the debt over the length of the 10 and 15 years that we've been talking about. Whereas, the President's plan firmly commits that money to debt reduction and to putting us in a better position to meet obligations that we already have to people who are going to retire, as the baby boom retires.

Q How much negotiating room does the President have on the size of the tax cut? You're saying $258 billion right now, maybe $350. I've heard that the cutoff may be somewhere around $450, that's the compromise position.

MR. SIEWERT: Well, I don't know where -- that certainly would not be a number that we've talked about around here, because what we've done is, as the President said, added up the numbers and seen what we have to work with. And once you take care of Social Security, you take care of national defense -- which Republicans also want to do -- you take care of Medicare, there really isn't more than about $300 billion left for tax relief.

And that's the number that we've focused on. We've explained how we would use that money. We're obviously open to discussing with them exactly how we would shape a tax cut within that parameter, but once you get over $300 billion, you really put yourself in a position where you're not making the kind of commitments to Social Security and Medicare that are necessary.

Q What can you tell us about tomorrow's education --

MR. SIEWERT: Tomorrow, the President will be talking about the impact that some of the current demographic changes that are occurring in America will have on the education system and why that means that we should do more to prepare our educational system for the future.

And I think he'll make perfectly clear that our focus should be on creating stronger, better education in America rather than providing these big tax cuts the Republicans want.

Q What's the setting for that, Jake?

MR. SIEWERT: I believe that's over in Presidential Hall, here at the White House.

Q With Secretary Riley?

MR. SIEWERT: Do we have a time? Also known as 450.

Q Doesn't the White House have any opinion on Ken Starr's possible departure? For instance, might the President be happy to see him go?

MR. SIEWERT: We don't get terribly excited about possibilities here. We'll wait for the facts.

Twelve thirty p.m. tomorrow.

Oh, yes, the American Ireland event? I'm sorry, I said it was pool; it's print pool. And that is on Friday in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the setting for Moby Dick.

Q Can we get the audio of it?

MR. SIEWERT: Yes, we will have the audio available.

END 12:55 P.M. EDT