CLINTON: Secondly, we're out here working hard as a party, as a White House, and me personally as president to pass the McCain- Feingold bill, which would put an end to these problems and modernize this system.
So I think that's quite important.
Now, I do not believe you will ever get the politics out of politics. That is -- and that's not bad. I think, you know, people who fight for candidates and who help them and who help parties will be people that -- that the people who represent them want to hear from and want to maintain access to. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. That's the way the system works, and I don't think anyone should imply that your first obligation once you get elected is to stop talking to the people that helped you get there.
But I think that we've got to improve the system. And I understand why the cynicism is there.
But again I will say I'd ask you to look -- way, way over 90 percent of all the people who gave money and way over 90 percent of all the people who gave -- of all the money that was raised -- is clearly consistent with the law in both parties, as far as I know.
I mean, I have not -- I can't really speak for the Republicans, but I'd be astonished if that were not so. I would be astonished if it were not so.
So there is no pattern and practice here of trying to push our system over the brink into corruption.
What happens is there's a race to get as much money as you can to keep from being buried by the other people and to make sure you can get your own message out, and at the edges, errors are made. And when they're made, they need to be confessed, and they need to be -- and we need to assume responsibility for them. And that's what I'm trying to do up here today.
But I can't say, Devon, in response to your question that I know that any of these people who gave insufficient answers to you did it in a deliberate or deceptive way, because a lot of times, people just ask questions and they don't have all the answers, and they're trying to cooperate and don't do such a good job.
Sorry, go ahead. I promised you the question.
QUESTION: The National Coalition on Health Care has issued a wonderful report. It's the largest consumer organization on the subject. They say that 58 million people -- 60 percent of those people were against the present health system as being totally inadequate and they don't have faith in it.
Now, we heard last year a lot of stuff about how people were satisfied with the most wonderful health care system in the world. Well, apparently that's baloney, according to this report.
And a lot of talk being done about preserving Medicare, but Medicare won't do it. It won't go all the way to take care of the people in this country. And this report shows that they simply cannot meet the big bills of hospitals and doctors.
Aren't you going to try again this year with Hillary to devise a good health -- national health care program for this country?
CLINTON: Well, I -- I read that report, and I found it very interesting. But I think what that report was saying -- and again, I don't want to read between the lines, all I did was read a news column on it -- but I can tell you what I got out of it. And then let me respond to your question.
What I got out of it was -- people said, well, I may feel good about my doctor or my local hospital, but I'm worried about the security of this system.
I'm worried about whether if -- if managed care controls everything, whether I'll lose any control over important decisions affecting my life.
I'm worried about whether if I lose insurance here, that I can take it there. And what I think we have to do is to recognize that our society -- and I think we've played a role in it here, but I think the whole system deserves credit for it -- we've done a much better job in holding down inflation in medical care and bringing closer the general rate of inflation. There's some indication iv's going up again, but I hope we can keep it down.
But we -- and we have done a better job of some other things, like ending the 48-hour delivery rule and all that. But we have not -- or the 24-hour delivery. But we have not done enough to increase access to affordable care for people who don't have coverage, to deal with the problem that there are still a lot of children in working families that are poor who aren't covered and to deal with the fact that there are people who are unemployed -- and even though we just made it legal for them to carry their insurance with them, when the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill passed last year -- they can't afford to do that.
So in my budget, we will have, in effect, an unemployment health insurance plan to help people, families who have insurance, keep it when they're employed. And I intend over the next four years to work very hard to try to find other ways, as I said, in a step-by-step way, to allow people affordable access to this system. It will never be completely stable for everyone -- anyone -- until everyone at least has affordable access to it.
And one final person over there...
QUESTION: Mr. President, --
CLINTON: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Mr. President, Mr. President, both Israel and Syria seems willing and ready to come to the negotiating table and they both want American diplomacy as an honest broker. Prime Minister Netanyahu will come to Washington next month. How will you act together to energize this track and reach comprehensive peace in the Middle East, which is clearly a top priority of your administration?
CLINTON: Well, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Chairman Arafat, King Hussein and President Mubarak are all coming here in the next couple of months. And I must say again how much I appreciate the agreement reached on Hebron and the other understandings reached between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat and the fact that, so far, things seem to be being implemented in an appropriate way and going all right.
There will never be a comprehensive peace in the Middle East until we resolve this matter with Syria -- between Syria and Israel -- and that requires the willingness of the parties. What our experience has been -- mine, the secretary of state, Secretary Christopher and now Secretary Albright and Mr. Ross and our whole team has been there -- that when both parties want to make peace, no matter how far apart they seem, we find a way to get there.
If they're not sure it's time to make peace, no matter how close it seems to an outsider, we don't seem to be able to bridge the gap.
So you can be sure that that will be a major focus of our discussion -- whether we can find a way to work together. Yes.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you Medicare reform plan was criticized for relying too heavily on savings squeezed from health care providers. Why shouldn't Americans who can afford to pay higher Medicare premiums pay them?
CLINTON: Well, let me respond to the criticism. First of all, in my health care reform proposal I supported higher income -- increases in Medicare premium to demonstrate that we could balance the budget, meet the Republicans halfway and put ten years on the life of the Trust Fund without a premium increase.
If we're going to have a longer term Medicare reform I never said that I would rule that out. But I didn't want to rule it in. I presented a budget that was consistent with my priorities and I'm prepared to meet with Senator Lott and discuss that and other issues. But I presented the budget that I thought was the best budget to achieve our objectives. You've been trying to stand up all this time, go ahead.
QUESTION: When you are finished here, Mr. President, Senator Thompson is expected to go to the Senate floor to discuss his committee's investigation into these fundraising issues. I'm wondering if you would like to say something to him regarding White House cooperation and the possibility of looking into Republican fund raising as well?
CLINTON: I have instructed everybody here to fully cooperate with him. My new counsel, Mr. Ruff, is going to meut with Senator Thompson and the appropriate people and we will be fully cooperative. I think that's very important.
And on the question of the Republicans, I just want him to be fair. I think it's very important to be fair and even-handed, because I am confident that any investigations will reveal what I said. That the vast majority of people who give, do so well within the law and with the best of motives. They really believe in what they're doing, on both sides. And what we need to do is find out whether there are any systematic flaws here that need to be addressed and address them.
But in the end I'm telling you, no matter what this hearing uncovers, in the end if you want to get rid of the -- if you want to turn cynicism back into skepticism, you have to pass McCain-Feingold or some other acceptable campaign finance reform. Mr. Cannon, I'll take one more question from you.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in Chicago the day you gave your acceptance speech at the convention you unveiled a plan where -- in which homeowners would not have to pay virtually any capital gains taxes. We haven't heard much about it since then and my question is: Is that going to be in your budget -- that proposal -- and will you go a little further if the Republicans want to do a little more on capital gains?
CLINTON: The answer is yes, my homeowner's exemption -- capital gains exemption is in the budget.
CLINTON: Everything I talked about at Chicago is in the budget. And the capital gains issue has never been a particularly high priority with me, because I've never seen it demonstrated as a big engine of economic growth overall and because I thought the previous -- and, as you know, this is nothing new -- that the proposal that the Republicans made in their budget I thought was entirely excessive and would really almost squander money by having it be retroactive.
But what I've -- I have tried to practice what I preach here.
I want to keep our powder dry, and I want them to keep their powder dry. I will present a budget, but I know what my priorities are. I know what theirs are on the taxes.
And that what we need to do is to meet each other in good faith. This and on all other issues can best be resolved by an early attempt to work through to a balanced budget agreement.
Thank you very much.
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