WASHINGTON — FORTY children came calling Feb. 20 at the White House for an extraordinary television talk session in which they peppered President Clinton - and daughter Chelsea - with questions that were curious, serious, and often touching.
"What do you do for fun around here?" asked one youngster.
"What are you going to do to end homelessness?" queried a 12-year-old with no home to call her own.
From a 13-year-old with the AIDS virus: "President Bush took $350 million away from AIDS research. I want to know if you're going to put that back."
And in the simplicity that can come only from a child: "A lot of people across the world are fighting and killing each other. I want to know if there's anything America can do to stop it."
"I know it's hard to be young now," Mr. Clinton told the youngsters. "When I was your age it was a lot easier to be a young man. We worried about liquor and cigarettes. Nobody worried about guns and drugs. "
Earlier in the day, Clinton used his national radio address to challenge critics of his $500 billion recovery plan to offer better alternatives or "don't waste the people's time anymore."
In his radio address, Clinton said some critics have complained that the $250 billion in proposed cutbacks contained in his plan are too steep and others say he is not slashing enough.
"To all I say the same thing: Give me real cuts," Clinton said. "I won't raise taxes without cutting spending. Tell us exactly where you want to cut, and I'll gladly listen."