Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 5, 1998


The Cabinet Room

12:25 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good day, everyone. I am glad to be joined here by members of the Medicare Commission. In a few moments we will talk for the very first time about what we have to do as Americans to preserve Medicare, a system that has served our country so well for 33 years now. It's more than a program; it is a way we honor our duty to our parents and build a future for our children. It has been one of the great achievements of American society in the 20th century.

We've already done a lot in the last few years to strengthen Medicare: The balanced budget will extend the Medicare trust fund for at least a decade; $20 billion has been saved by reducing fraud abuse and mismanagement in the system; we're giving people on Medicare a wider range of health plan choices and preventive services, including mammograms and diabetes management.

When Medicare was first passed into law, President Johnson said -- and I quote -- "It proved that the vitality of our democracy can shape the oldest of our values to the needs and obligations of changing times." I'm confident that the Medicare Commission will help us to build a new consensus to meet the challenges of a new era, strengthening Medicare for the 21st century and giving our people the security they need to thrive.

I'd like to thank Senator Breaux for agreeing to chair the Commission. He has a longstanding record both in his work on the Aging Commission and the Finance Committee -- the Aging Committee and the Finance Committee -- of working to develop consensus on important issues affecting our senior citizens.

I'd also like to thank Congressman Thomas for his leadership on this issue and on the Commission. He is well-known for his expertise on the Medicare program. He shepherded the Medicare provisions in the Balanced Budget Act through, and helped to assure that we could achieve bipartisan agreement on these reforms. And for that I am very, very grateful.

So I'd like now to give the Vice President and Senator Breaux and Congressman Thomas a chance to say a few words.

Q Mr. President, are you upset by the leaking of your Jones deposition -- or did your people actually do the leaking?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say, the court has made it absolutely clear that it is illegal to leak or to discuss it. And I think, Mr. Donaldson, I should follow the law. And so I don't have anything else to say. I know you've got to ask the question, it's your job. But I'm going to just do my job. That's what I'm doing here. And I'm going to follow the law. That's what I wish everyone else would do.

Q Sir, you never answered the important questions that I think a lot of people out there would like to hear you on.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I believe I have given all the answers that matter. And I don't have anything else to say at this time. I'm just going to go back and do my job.

Q -- do you stand by the facts in the deposition as reported by the newspaper?

SENATOR ROCKEFELLER: Do you care what Medicare is?

Q We all care, sir.

Mr. President, it says in the deposition as reported that you asked Betty Currie to see if she could help Monica Lewinsky get a job.

THE PRESIDENT: For one thing, I haven't read the article. For another thing, I don't know whether the article is accurate or not. Finally, whether it is or not, it is against the law. The judge has ordered us neither to release such materials or to discuss them. Somebody in this case ought to follow the law. I intend to be that person, so that I can go back to work about these things. I have nothing else to say.

Q Things have gotten very personal between you and Kenneth Starr, Mr. President. It seems to have gotten very personal between you and Kenneth Starr, Mr. President. I'm asking a question not about the deposition.

THE PRESIDENT: Sam never quits. He never quits.

Q Do you think Kenneth Starr is out to get you, Mr. President? It seems to have gotten very personal.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

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