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Flying first class

For Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, the timing of President Clinton's return to Martha's Vineyard, Mass., after the recent missile strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan couldn't have been more fortuitous.

Like the president, Mr. Riley had planned to spend some time last month visiting friends on the resort island off Cape Cod.

But when Mr. Riley and his wife arrived at Ronald Reagan/Washington National Airport on the morning of Aug. 21, they discovered that Mr. Riley's airline reservation had been lost, and that there were no seats left on the flight they'd planned to take.

Luckily for the secretary, his good friend Mr. Clinton was returning to the island that day from Washington, where he'd traveled after announcing the anti-terrorist action.

Mr. Riley hitched a ride on Air Force One, and he used the travel time to brief the president on his recent activities to promote school safety, said Julie Green, the secretary's spokeswoman.

There are no free rides, though. Because it was not an official trip, Mr. Riley must reimburse the federal government for the equivalent of the cost of one first-class airline ticket, Ms. Green added.

Scandal reaction

The trip came just days after Mr. Clinton admitted his involvement with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky--an admission that prompted many television news programs to replay videotape of an informal press conference outside the White House in January that included Mr. Riley.

The secretary had joined other Cabinet members in a show of support for Mr. Clinton, who initially denied having a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. ("Business as Usual," Feb. 4, 1998.)

Soon after Mr. Clinton's Aug. 17 address acknowledging an inappropriate relationship, Mr. Riley said he and the rest of the staff at the Department of Education were focusing on their work.

"I'm pleased he came forward and took full responsibility for his actions," Mr. Riley said of the president in a prepared statement.

"I'm relieved we can now put this behind us so we can do our work," the secretary said.

He added: "The president's charge to the Cabinet all along was to maintain our focus on our work, and that's what I've been doing."


Vol. 18, Issue 1, Page 34

Published in Print: September 9, 1998, as Federal File
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