Transcript: Clinton meets the press
June 25, 1999
Web posted at: 6:15 p.m. EDT (2215 GMT)
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Good afternoon.
Earlier today in a speech at Georgetown University I
discussed the opportunities now before our nation. Before I
take questions, let me just take a moment to recap what I
believe is America's agenda in the coming months. Our trip to
Europe advanced America's ideals and interests. Working with
our partners, we won an agreement to ban abusive child labor
everywhere in the world, took new steps to strengthen the global
economy, agreed to triple the debt relief provided for many of
the poorest nations and to strengthen democracy and reform in
We also worked together to put in place the building blocks
of peace in Kosovo and to put the Balkans on a shared path to a
prosperous, united future.
I will meet with the region's leaders later this
summer to give the process further momentum.
I met with Kosovar refugees who are planning to return home.
They thanked America and our allies for giving them a chance to
reclaim their lives on their native land.
I also met with and thanked some of the American air men and
women who achieved this success and with some of our and other
NATO troops who are going into Kosovo now to make sure we win
the peace. They know that they're doing the right thing and I am
very proud of all of them.
While America is enjoying success abroad, it is important
that we keep pushing forward on our challenges here at home.
This is a time of great hope for our nation. Yesterday, we
learned that the American economy grew at a 4.3 percent in the
first three months of this year.
America plainly is on the right track.
But we will be judged by what we do with this opportunity --
whether we seize it or squander it in petty bickering and
There will be plenty of time for politics in the
months to come. The summer should be a season of progress. We
should start by acting quickly on issues where most lawmakers --
Democratic and Republican -- agree: legislation to let disabled
Americans keep their Medicaid health insurance when they go to
work; an increase in the minimum wage; campaign finance reform;
a strong and enforceable patients' bill of rights.
I was heartened that earlier today, the House overwhelmingly
passed legislation making sure that foster children are not cast
out in the cold when their time in foster care ends. This is a
vital issue -- one that Hillary has championed for many years,
and I am very pleased by the House action.
Then we must turn to broader ways (ph) -- (OFF-MIKE) in some
ways more difficult challenges facing our nation. First, we
have a duty to maintain the fiscal discipline that has produced
our prosperity, and use it to strengthen Social Security and
Medicare for the 21st century and to pay down our national debt.
On Tuesday I will propose the detailed plan to
modernize Medicare, cutting cost, improving service and helping
senior citizens with their greatest growing need: affordable
Second, we must widen the circle of opportunity by investing
in education while demanding accountability and insisting that
the Congress keep our commitment of last year to finish hiring
100,000 more teachers to lower class size in the early grades.
Third, in two weeks I will be joined by corporate, civic and
political leaders of both parties on a four-day tour of
America's new markets -- the places in our country which have
not yet felt the surge of our prosperity -- to mobilize the
private sector to bring jobs and growth to our poorest
neighborhoods and to build support for our New Market
Initiative, to give tax credits and loan guarantees to those who
invest in America on the same terms we give to those who invest
in developing the economies overseas.
And fourth, in the wake of the tragedy at Littleton, we must
continue to meet the challenge of youth violence. Hillary and I
are developing a national campaign on youth violence, working
with parents, educators, the entertainment industry and others.
But we also must make sensible steps -- take
sensible steps to take guns out of the hands of criminals and
away from children. We can't expect young people to stand up to
violence if Congress won't stand up to the gun lobby.
I proposed, and with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President
Gore, the Senate passed, the measure to close the gun show
loophole. The Senate also passed legislation to require child
safety locks, to ban large ammunition clips for assault weapons,
to ban violent juveniles from owning handguns as adults. Two
weeks ago the Republicans in the House blocked that measure.
They would even weaken the current law by letting criminals
store their guns at pawn shops.
Now there is still time for Congress to act. The Republican
leaders could appoint legislators as negotiators to craft a bill
that includes the tough Senate provisions. I hope they will do
that and send me a strong bill. Plainly, the country wants
Again I say, this is sort of like the Patients' Bill of
Rights. It's really not a partisan issue anywhere but
I hope they will send me a strong bill. If they
send me one that weakens current law, I will send it back to
them and keep working until we get the job done right.
Now, this is, admittedly, an ambitious agenda but it can all
be done in the coming months. I will use all the powers
available to me as president, working with Congress and with my
executive authority. I will summon the citizens of our country
to help us to solve these problems.
This is a good time for America, but we will be judged by
whether we make the most of it. I look forward to making the
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
Mr. President, despite the end of the war there is still a
new wave of violence and terror in Kosovo. Only this time, it's
Serb homes that are being burned, Serb stores that are being
looted and Serb civilians who are being killed.
Are you alarmed by what's going on there? And why is NATO
letting this happen? Can't NATO do more to stop it?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, NATO is not letting it happen.
We're doing what we can to stop it and I am concerned about it.
I'm not particularly surprised after what they've been through.
But we signed an agreement with the KLA in which
they agreed to demilitarize. The leader even asked the Serbs to
come home. And we are deploying our people as quickly as can.
Obviously, the more we -- if we could get all of our people
in completely and then get them properly dispersed around the
country, we'll be able to provide a far higher level of
protection. And I think it's very important. And for those
people who lose their homes, they're entitled to have them
rebuilt along with everybody else, and I intend to do that.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you covered the waterfront on
domestic issues you think are very important, but there is the
question of racism. And I understand there's a report in the
White House, already in second draft, and it's supposed to be a
political hot potato and therefore you're hesitant to make it
CLINTON: Oh, no, that's not what's going on. There is a --
there is a draft of a book that I wanted to produce and asked
for help on from Chris Edley (ph) and from others on our staff
and not on our staff, several months ago. And Chris (ph) gave
me his draft, then the staff looked at it and talked about where
it was or wasn't consistent with present policies we are
They gave it all to me. I was involved for the
last three months with the conflict in Kosovo. And what really
happened is that I want to do this right. I think all of you
know how important this whole race issue is to me. And it's
been amplified in its potential future import because of the
problems we see involving race and ethnic and religious problems
around the world.
So I want to make sure that when we put this document out it
is in the form of a book which can be useful and have something
to say, and move the conversation and the efforts beyond where
we were in the presidential initiative on race.
So you shouldn't draw any conclusions other than that I want
to be personally involved in it, and I simply haven't had the
time to give it the effort that it deserves.
QUESTION: Is there a (OFF-MIKE) they're in (OFF-MIKE)?
CLINTON: Oh yes, to some extent it's based on the panel's
hearings. It's based on very long conversations I had with the
people that worked on the draft for me, with Mr. Edley (ph) and
Terry Edmonds (ph) and others.
And we had some long, long sessions. I went
through everything I wanted in the book. I went through some
things I wanted to emphasize more than were emphasized in the
year that the panel was publicly meeting and we were having the
But I think it's very important, but it's got to be first of
all mine. It's got to reflect what I believe and where I think
we need to go. And secondly, it needs to move the ball forward
a little bit. There's still a great deal of interest in this.
Those of you who covered the speech this morning at Georgetown
will remember that the young woman from Alabama who introduced
me talked about how the initiative on race got her involved in
something in her local community. Another one of the
presidential scholars, when she walked by me this morning said,
I want to know how I can get involved, and I'm still interested
So I think there's still a great deal of interest in this in
the country, and maybe especially among our younger people. And
I just want this book to be very good. So, you shouldn't --
yes, there's some differences of opinion among the people who
had input in it.
But that's not what's caused us not to put it out. What's
caused us not to put it out is that I have not had the time to
give to it and to be very careful and relaxed and thoughtful
about how I say what it is I want to say to the country about
QUESTION: Mr. President, this morning -- and again just now
-- you made references to a summer of progress and you were
calling for bipartisanship to try to accomplish things in the
next few months. I'm just wondering with the 2000 campaign
obviously heating up and growing in intensity, do you feel
there's more of an urgency to act right away, within the coming
CLINTON: Well, I think -- for one thing I think it would be
to everyone's advantage to continue to make progress. As I
always tell Republicans and Democrats, no matter how much we do,
there will still be plenty of things on which there is honest
disagreement over which the next election can be fought. That
is just in the nature of things.
That's healthy. That's good. That's the two-party system in
But we are all hired by the American people to work here day
in and day out, week in and week out, and we make a grave
mistake -- and it's almost never good politics to do the wrong
thing, that is, to take a pass on making progress when you can
CLINTON: And this is a very unusual moment where we have
sustained prosperity -- the longest peacetime expansion in our
history. We've gone from having the biggest deficits in history
to having the biggest surpluses in history. And yet, we have
these looming demographic challenges of Social Security and
Medicare and we have these big issues that are right before us
now -- the ones that I mentioned on which there was basically
So I think that it would be good for America and therefore
good for everyone involved if we go ahead and do this. And I
think that, obviously, the closer you get to the election,
perhaps the more difficult it will be. But I expect -- I'll
make a prediction here -- I expect that we'll get some good
things done in the year 2000 before the Congress recesses
finally for the election then.
I expect to keep working right up to the very end, and I
think that we will continue to make progress. But the most
important thing is the attitude of the main players in Congress,
insofar as Congress has to play a role in this.
QUESTION: Mr. President.
CLINTON: Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in the wake of California
Christopher Cox's study of spying in the U.S., and specifically
Chinese attempts to spy, you asked your Foreign Intelligence
Advisory Board to look into this and it came back with a central
recommendation to separate the nation's nuclear labs from the
QUESTION: Your energy secretary seems to be resisting that.
Ask me, sir, -- tell me, sir, how you feel about it.
And let me ask you once again, do you still maintain that you
were not told anything about these Chinese efforts to spy at the
nation's nuclear labs during your administration, sir?
CLINTON: Let me ask -- let's go back to the first question.
There are two separate questions. I read Senator Rudman's
report, I thought it was quite interesting and had a lot of very
helpful analysis of how this problem developed. And there were
actually two separate organizational recommendations that they
made, in the alternative -- either that the labs could be put
under an independent board or that the labs should be taken out
of the present hierarchy of organization because of the culture
within the committee.
The Rudman group talked a lot about the culture of the labs
and its resistance to oversight.
He said another alternative might be to take it out from
under the present organizational structure and make it directly
answerable, the labs directly answerable to the secretary's
office. And he posed those things in the alternative.
I have asked our people to look at it, I've talked to
Secretary Richardson about it. I think everyone recognizes that
he has worked very hard to deal with the underlying security
issues, which are the most important things. And I think we all
just ought to try to get together and work out what the best
organizational structure is, and I expect that we will be -- I
expect to have a chance to talk to him about that and to work on
But I think the Rudman report was a service to the country
and I think that Bill Richardson's doing a good job on trying to
implement the security measures that are necessary. He's being
very, very aggressive.
Now, on the second question, I went back, I've been
interested in this question, and I went back and looked at
exactly what I said. Let me -- let me go back to what the facts
First of all, there has been a 20-year problem with lax
security at the labs.
And what I said was that I didn't suspect that any actual
breaches of security had occurred during my tenure.
Since then, we have learned of the off-loading of the
computer by Mr. Lee from the secured computers into his personal
computers. That's something we know now that I didn't know
But I think my choice of wording was poor. What I should
have said was I did not know of any specific instance of
espionage because I think that we've been suspicious all along,
and I think I -- I have to acknowledge I think I used a poor
word there. I think "suspicion" is -- we have -- we have been
suspicious all along generally. We did not have any specific
instance, as we now do, of the off-loading of the computer.
But I also want to emphasize that I took no particular
comfort in that, because what we have here is a -- what I
learned in 1997 was that there was a general problem of very
long standing with the security at the labs, and I issued the
executive order in early '98 to clean it up, and Secretary
Richardson's been working on it since then.
And I think we've made a lot of progress since then.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) I'd like to ask you about Medicare and
your plans that you're going to be announcing next week. This
is a program that tens of millions of Americans depend on, and
yet in 15 years it will be effectively bankrupt.
And you're about to propose a, what could be a
very costly additional benefit in the prescription benefit. Why
are you going to do that, sir? Isn't that going to make the
problem worse, not better?
CLINTON: No. For one thing, let me remind you that we have
taken a lot of very tough positions to reform Medicare since
1993. When I took office, Medicare was supposed to go broke this
year. And now it's out to, what is it, 2015 or something. So
we have taken a lot of important positions already. And as a
matter of fact as I'm sure you're all aware, a lot of the health
care providers, particularly rural hospitals, nursing homes,
home health providers, disproportionate share hospitals --
that's funding for the -- folks listening to us, that's
basically inner city hospitals and teaching hospitals that have
a whole of poor folks they take care of who aren't reimbursed.
A lot of those people believe that our savings are too great.
But we've taken some very tough actions to try to lengthen
the life of the Medicare trust fund.
When I make my proposals on Tuesday, there will be more to
lengthen the life further; to make sure that we get through the
first quarter century and maybe more of this, of the new century
with Medicare alive and well.
But if you look at the long run, I think it's
important that we propose a prescription drug benefit because
life expectancy is going up, drugs are being constantly
developed which help to improve the quality as well as the
length of life, and if they are properly taken, they can
actually reduce long-term hospitalization and other medical
Now it is absolutely true that if we design this wrong, it
could wind up being a lot more expensive than rosy scenario
But if you look at my record here over the last six and a
half years, I've tried to be quite conservative in my budget
projections and quite responsible in handling the budget of the
country, and you will see that, I think, reflected in the way I
make this proposal, including the prescription drugs.
I don't really think there's any alternative here. You've
got 15 million Americans, seniors out there, without any kind of
coverage for their medicine.
You've got millions and millions of others with an adequate
or highly expensive coverage, and I just -- I really believe
that this is the most significant health care need that senior
citizens have today.
CLINTON: And I believe that over the long run that proper
availability, properly priced of prescription medicine will
actually not only lengthen lives and improve the quality of
lives of our seniors and improve their security, their state of
mind, but it will also long, long term save medical costs
because it will keep people out of hospitals and out of more
QUESTION: What is your strategy now, Mr. President, for a
comprehensive campaign finance reform -- to really make it pass?
CLINTON: Well, I think the best strategy is to get, you
know, a clear majority of the House of Representatives to demand
that it come up and then try to put enough pressure on to get
the Senate leaders to let it come up.
Basically, the Republican leadership in the Senate has said
that they're just not going to permit it to come up because they
don't want their people who vote against it to have a recorded
vote on it. They don't want to run the risk that they've got
enough of their folks that would vote with all of ours.
All of our people are for it. We've got 100 percent of the
Democrats in the Senate for it. And so, what I think we have to
do is to keep it on the front burner enough so that the
discomfort level rises high enough that an actual vote is
All I've really asked for here is a vote. If we'd
just get a vote on the bill, I will be very well satisfied and I
think it'll come out just fine.
QUESTION: Can I ask a political question? When Vice
President Gore announced officially for president he chose a
date when you were going to be out of the country. And
according to Mrs. Clinton's supporters, if she announces her
exploratory committee in the next couple of weeks it would be at
a time when you've got a commitment to go out to South Dakota.
Do you think your personal behavior has made you something of
a liability to those who are running? And did you take any --
take it personally when Vice President Gore made his
announcement and seemed to set himself so clearly separate from
you when it came to issues of family?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I thought, as I have said
repeatedly, I thought the vice president had a great
announcement. And what he really said in his announcement -- I
actually heard it, so I don't have to have it characterized for
me -- what he said in his announcement was that he had had more
experience than anybody running, which is true; that he would
put forward more specific ideas about what he will do if he were
elected president than anyone has to date, by far, which is
true; and that the choice before the American people was whether
we would build on the progress that we've made for the last six
years or turn around and go backwards, which is what I think the
real choice will be before the American people.
So I approve of that. And as far his doing when I
was out of the country, I thought that was a good thing. Very
often, you'd be amazed how many times over the last six and a
half years we have planned for certain announcements to be made
by the vice president when I was out of the country because that
way it gets -- I mean, far be it from us to try to maneuver the
press -- but he gets more ...
... he gets ... he gets better coverage and I get better
coverage when I'm out of the country, and he gets better
coverage. So I thought that was a good thing.
And I think on the general point, what I have noticed over
now more than 30 years since I first began to volunteer as a
young man in politics, all politics, all elections are about the
And all candidates are judged on their own merits. And I
believe that is the case here. But I think that the American
people know that the country's in good shape and that not only
our economic policies, our crime policies and our welfare
policies, but our family policies are good for their efforts to
raise their children.
And the best thing that I can do it seems to me is
to do the right thing by country, to just keep working at being
a good president, and they'll do fine.
QUESTION: Not be with Mrs. Clinton when she campaigns?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, she hasn't made a decision to
announce to run for the Senate. This is not what's going on
here. And as a practical matter logistically and legally, as a
practical matter, she has to have an exploratory committee to
continue to talk to people in New York about this. That's all
this is. She has not made a final decision to run yet. So I
think that's a whole different issue, and I think that you
should look at it in that context.
QUESTION: Mr. President, considering what's going on in
Kosovo now, and now that you've had a chance to meet with the
refugees in Macedonia on Tuesday and you've heard the depth of
the hatred that they feel for the Serbs, and you've heard of the
brutality to which they were subjected, is it not asking the
impossible for the Serbs and the ethic Albanians to live in
peace in Kosovo?
CLINTON: Well, I don't they could do it without a lot of
help in the short run. And I think that -- you know, I was asked this
question earlier, slightly different question.
I think that the first and most important thing is for us to
get the whole KFOR force in there, all 50,000, as quickly as
possible, properly deployed to maximize security. Then I think
we've got to get people busy doing positive things, rebuilding
their homes, reestablishing their property records,
reestablishing their schools. You know, we've got to give them
something to think about on a daily basis that is positive.
Then I strongly believe we need to give them the help they
need to try to work through this emotionally and
psychologically, spiritually, morally. I think a lot of these
children are going to need the mental health services, and I
hope that we can get them.
I think that we need to bring people in who have been through
I had a long talk with Elie Wiesel about this after he came
back. You know, he went over and toured the camps for me and
talked to the people.
I think that there are people who went through the Holocaust
who can help a lot. I think there are people who have been through
South Africa and the Peace and Reconciliation Commission and 300
years of what those people went through there who can help a
lot. I think we need to be quite imaginative about, once we get
the building blocks of security and the building blocks of
reconstruction in place and the building blocks of civil society
in place, then I think we need to be quite imaginative about the
human, spiritual dimension of this.
And I will do my best to be supportive. I've talked to Rev.
Jackson about this, about the importance of bringing in
religious leaders from all the -- not only from the Muslim and
the Orthodox states to come and work together and work people
through this, but perhaps others as well. So, there are lots of
things that we need to do.
Can it be done? I believe it can be done. It's going to
take a lot of courage and it's going to take some time.
Go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: Mr. President, while we're talking about this
subject and planning a future for the country, it seems to me
that one of our big issues is parenting.
It causes divorces and it causes unhappy children and the
break up of families. Is there any way that we can design a
national program to correct or to educate people to be better
CLINTON: Well, you know, it's interesting, on the -- to go
to your point -- when Hillary and I decided that we ought to
have this grassroots campaign to try to protect children against
violence, and we began to talk to Pam (ph) (OFF-MIKE) who
started the Mothers Against Violence movement in Washington
State and others, one of the things that we learned obviously is
a lot of young people wind up being, especially really troubled
young people, can often be almost strangers in their own homes.
And we assume that people ought to just know how to do the
most important jobs in life, and they're very often reluctant to
ask for help.
But I think one of the things that we have to try to do is to
develop the kind of supports that parents need to do a better
job. And it's a much harder job now than it used to, especially
since the average parent is away from his or her children for 22
hours a week more than was the case 30 years ago. So I do think
that we need to do some more.
Most parents, however, want to do a good job --
really, really want to do a good job. And I think when you
start with that, one of the things that I hope very much will
come out of this whole movement against teen violence is more
efforts in that regard. Of course, that's one of the reasons
that Hillary wrote her book a few years ago, and she knows more
about that than I do; and then of course, one of the reasons
that Vice President and Mrs. Gore have those family conferences
every year, starting before he joined the ticket with me back in
The short answer to your question is yes, we should do more
to help parents do a good job.
Go ahead, Susan, and then John.
QUESTION: Mr. President, a lot of Medicare beneficiaries are
enthusiastic about the idea of the new prescription drug
benefit, but perhaps less enthusiastic about paying higher
premiums to pay for it. Should Medicare beneficiaries themselves
be prepared to get some -- to endure some pain to get some gain?
Should they get prepared to pay high premiums? And especially
should higher income Medicare beneficiaries pay means-tested
premiums that are higher?
CLINTON: Well, I -- let me just -- if I give you all the
details of my program too soon, you won't cover me Tuesday, and
then I'll be bereft.
What we should do is first of all make sure that
the integrity of the basic system is strengthened, because there
are a lot of seniors who depend upon it. And from my point of
view, that means making sure that it's good for at least another
quarter century. So that's the first thing we need to do.
And to do that, we're going to have to bring in more
pressures from competition and other things to modernize it.
Then we should offer a drug benefit, but we should do it, to
go back to the former question I was asked, your question, we
should do it in a way that we're quite clear that it won't and
can't break the bank; that we'll be able to monitor its cost and
see how it's going.
And as to the other measures, you know I've been publicly
open to that option since 1992.
But I think that I want to ask you to wait until Tuesday for
the details of the program.
Go ahead, John.
JOHN KING: CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sir, we're told that next week the administration
will announce that the federal budget surplus is even larger
than you had previously projected. Given that and given your words today about
bipartisanship, do you think now it might be possible to tackle
Medicare and Social Security reform and perhaps reach out to the
Republicans and open the doors to a larger tax cut than you have
CLINTON: First, I'm not against tax cuts, I'm not against
giving the American people some of this money back from our
present prosperity right now. The question is, what kind of tax
cut? Who benefits from it? How should it be designed? And how
should it be handled to guarantee that we're going to take care
of first things first: strengthen Social Security and Medicare,
paying down the debt, continuing to secure the health of the
Keep in mind, what produced the surplus was the strength of
the American economy, the fact that we had the will to do the
very tough things in 1993 and that we followed it up with a
Balanced Budget Act in 1997.
So my plan has tax cuts. It has -- the USA
accounts are worth literally hundreds and hundreds of dollars to
most families every year. They could be worth a quarter of a
million dollars to a family over their lifetime. The most
progressive inducement to save in the history of the country.
We have tax cuts fully paid for already for long-term care,
for child care, for school construction, for investing in the
inner city. So I'm not against tax cuts.
We have had tax cuts in the past, big tax cuts for tuition
tax credits for college, the Hope Scholarship tax cuts, tax cuts
for worker and families with modest income, the child care tax
credit, $500 per child. We've had lots of tax cuts, I am not
opposed to that.
What I want to do is to make sure that before we go off and
start cutting taxes by some arbitrary large amount, we take care
of first things first.
We need to know that we're going to modernize and strengthen
Social Security for the 21 century, that we're going to
modernize and strengthen Medicare for the 21st century, and that
we're going to do it in a way that will enable us to continue to
pay the debt down. There will still be money for a tax cut, and
a sizable one.
Will I work with the Congress on that? Of course I will. If I want to pass it, how -- I have to work with them. They're in the majority. Of course I will. But first things first. We've got to get our priorities in order here.
The American people plainly expect us, first of all, to keep
the economy going. And the best way to do that is to send a
signal to the markets that we've resolved Social Security, we've
resolved Medicare, and we're paying the debt down. That is the
most important thing we could do to guarantee long-term economic
So -- and secondly, the only other point I want to make is, I
do not believe that it is responsible to have a tax cut if the
impact of the tax cut plus the defense increases that we have
had to adopt, plus the highway expenditures that the Congress
wants to adopt, is to cut education or cut health care or cut
our investments in the environment.
So, there's enough money to do all these things and to do it
really well with great discipline, but we have to have our
priorities in order.
QUESTION: Mr. President...
CLINTON: Yes, go ahead (OFF-MIKE). I'll call on everybody.
Keep going. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Mr. President, two-and-a-half years ago in your
inaugural you said you wanted to help the nation repair the
breach. And this morning again, you called for greater
cooperation in Washington. But it seems apparent, for many
people, you personally remain a polarizing and divisive figure
in national politics. I was wondering if you have ever
reflected on why, as Mrs. Clinton, I think has sometimes noted,
throughout your career, you've always seemed to generate such
antagonism from your opponents.
And do you assign any responsibility to yourself for what
this morning you described as the rancorous mode in Washington
CLINTON: Since I have been here, I have tried to work as
well as I could, in an open fashion with members of both
parties. I actually have developed quite good personal
relationships with some Republican members of Congress. But as
you know, from the beginning, from 1991, and especially after I
was elected, particularly the right wing -- you know, I've been
accused of murder and all kinds of things.
And it seems almost that the better the country did the
madder some of them got. Now, what I think is, we have a new
speaker. And I think he wants to work with me to get things
And I've had a very cordial relationship with him.
I had a nice talk with Senator Lott just last week. And all I
can tell you is, I don't think much about yesterday. I keep
telling everybody that works for me: We have no right to harbor
anger, to keep -- that people in positions of public
responsibility are not permitted to have personal feelings that
interfere with their obligations to the public.
And I am -- I would start tomorrow with any member of
Congress who wanted to work with me on anything to do something
that I thought was good. You know, and that's all I can tell
you. There's not a single member of Congress that I wouldn't be
willing to work with to do something that I felt was good for
And I think that's what the American people want us to do.
And all I can you tell is -- but it is true -- I think generally
in our country's history, the people who are progressive, people
who try to change things, people who keep pushing the envelope,
have generally elicited very strong, sometimes personally
hostile, negative reaction.
CLINTON: You read some of the things people said about
President Roosevelt, you know, in retrospect because of the
magnificent job he did and because of the historic consequences
of the time in which he served and what he did for America, we
tend to think that everybody was for him. That's not true. And
some, you know, people say these things.
I think you just have to dismiss them and go on. You know,
we -- and all I can tell you is that we in the White House, we
try -- and I hammer this home all the time -- you know, we don't
have to like everything people say about us, but it can't affect
in any way shape or form what we're prepared to do in working
That's the way I feel. People in positions of responsibility
owe the public -- owe the public -- their best efforts every
day. And they have no right to let their personal feelings get
in the way. I try not to do it and I would hope others would
do the same.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Mr. President, normally when the United States
wins a war, that victory is accompanied by a surge of approval
for the commander in chief. The war in Kosovo has not produced
that sort of bounce for you. As a student of the polls, what do you think they're trying to tell you here?
CLINTON: First of all, I don't know that we know that yet.
I just don't know that we know that. And the important thing
for you to know is that I did what I thought was right for the
United States and for the children of the United States and for
the future of the world.
And I'm not responsible for anything but that, including the
responsibility -- including the reaction of some after it was
over and we turned out to be right about what would and wouldn't
work. That's -- it's totally irrelevant. It's just -- Abraham
Lincoln once said in a much graver time that if the end brought
him out all right, it wouldn't matter what everybody said
against him. And if it didn't, 10,000 angels swearing he was
right wouldn't make any difference.
So, I have tried to do what I think is right for my country
here. I believe that the young people of America are likely to
live in a world where the biggest threats are not from other
countries but from horrible racial, ethnic and religious
fighting, making people very vulnerable to exploitation from
organized criminals, drug runners, terrorists, who themselves
are more and more likely to have weapons of mass destruction no
matter how hard we work against it.
CLINTON: So I think anything I can do to reduce terrorism,
to reduce the ability of terrorists to have weapons of mass
destruction, or to stand against racial and ethnic genocide and
cleansing is a good thing for our future.
I -- so, you know, that's all I can tell you. I did what I
thought was right. I still believe it was right. And I'll keep
working to make it work out. And the public and the members of
the other party and others, people can react however they like.
I just have to do what I think is right and that's what I'll do.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Sir, in advancing your agenda, you talked about
the need for bipartisanship. But don't you have a problem with
They say: Bill Clinton doesn't have to face another
election, we do. And they want to run against a do-nothing
As an experienced political pro, don't you have some sympathy
CLINTON: I do, except -- I have a lot of sympathy for them.
But, first of all, not Democrats believe that. Now you see a number in the House and I think probably a majority in the Senate do not agree with that.
But I think you -- you have to first of all say, "What is
our obligation here to the American people?" Our obligation is
to work for the welfare of the country.
Secondly, I think that no where half the responsibility so
far rests on them for the current atmosphere. I mean, they
tried on the -- we tried on the guns, we tried on the -- on a
lot of other things, on campaign finance reform, we're trying on
many other issues. So I think that I wouldn't overestimate the
extent of that.
But secondly, just as a -- you know, if you look in 1996
where we got a lot done for America that year.
We didn't "just" beat the Contract on America; we actually
did a lot of good things for America. The Democrats made gains
in the Congress in 1998 against all the odds, against all the
weight of history. We got -- we've passed a big education
budget at the end of 1998, 100,000 new teachers, and had a
program to run on, and the Democrats were rewarded against all
So my view is that if you believe that government
has a role to play in our national life, and you accept the fact
that there will be honest and legitimate differences between the
two parties on outstanding issues, no matter how much we get
done, you're better off doing what you can -- what you believe
in -- so you can go tell the people you did that.
And then say: But look what still needs to be done. Look
what still needs to be done. Elections are always about
So I think that -- I can only tell you that I think both in
terms of what is right and what -- for the American people --
and what is the best politics, we should keep trying to move
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) tobacco litigation, you had said in
your State of the Union -- sorry -- you had said in your State
of the Union address that the Justice Department was going to
bring a federal case against the tobacco companies.
But what we're hearing is that the Justice Department has
serious reservations about that case. Are they close to being
resolved, those reservations? And when do you expect the case will be dropped?
CLINTON: Well, I hope so. Let me just say this. I would
not have announced it in the State of Union address if I hadn't
had a clear signal from the Justice Department that they thought
there was a legal basis to proceed. We knew if we needed
statutory authority to sue under Medicare, a further act of
Congress to sue under Medicare on exactly the same grounds all
the states have already sued that were covered under Medicaid.
That in this Congress given the power of the big tobacco in
this Congress, it would be hard to get. So, we worked for a
year or more with the Justice Department on this. Arguing back
and forth about whether it could be done. We -- I and my
administration, we were prepared to do this way over a year
before I announce what I did in 1998. Maybe as many as two
years, I just don't remember exactly what the time frame was,
but it was quite a long while that we wanted to do this.
And so, I did not make the announcement in the State of the
Union address until I believed at least that the Justice
Department felt that while it would be complicated, big, and
difficult, that we could -- that we did in fact have a cause of
action, and we could bring it. So that's all I can tell you. And I don't know any more.
QUESTION: Mr. President, a question about polling statistics
on your domestic issues. Recently -- or, quite frankly, your
numbers have been tracked on certain issues showing that core
groups, people who have supported you in the past, have now
fallen off. Do you fear, sir, that perhaps you are beginning a
disconnect with the American people? And how can you possibly
lead in Congress on the legislative agenda that you've outlined
if you don't have the backing of your core groups? Thank you.
CLINTON: Well, for one thing, the only polls I've seen show
overwhelming public support for the Patients' Bill of Rights,
for closing the gun show loophole, for the other common sense
gun initiatives -- overwhelming support.
There is public, strong public support for campaign finance
reform, there's overwhelming public support for the gun
legislation. In some of these issues, like the Patients' Bill of
Rights, for example, the support is almost uniform among
Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
So I don't know what issues we're pushing, as it
happens, that the public agrees with the Republicans and
disagrees with us on. I recognize that the public was
ambivalent about Kosovo, but they were ambivalent about Bosnia
and Haiti and a lot of the other things that I've done in
foreign policy, helping Mexico when they were in trouble. But I
think the president hires on to make the tough decisions and the
controversial decisions too.
You know, the Democrats stayed, when we were in much worse
shape in '93 and '94, the Democrats stayed because they believed
we were right. We knew that when we cut the deficit $500
billion and we were all by ourselves and we didn't have any
Republican votes it wasn't going to be popular and you could,
you know, characterize it, but it was the right thing for
America. And look at where our economy is today.
So I think, you know, no matter what the polls say, you just
have to get up every day and do what you think is right, and
that's what we're doing and I think we've been borne (ph) out.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: I've got a follow to that. The polls are also
showing that, although people do acknowledge that they're doing
better in the economy and that they're doing well personally,
they show a deep concern for the nation's moral fabric. And
actually that concern seems to be growing.
What responsibility do you personally take for that? And
what can you in the White House do to address these moral
problems that seem to cropping up more and more in the polls?
CLINTON: Well, I think people are worried about -- I think
the most important thing on that is what happened -- the
shattering effect that Littleton had.
In terms of what happened to me in the impeachment issue, I
did what I could by telling the American people what I was going
to do, that I was going to go back to work, being the best
president I could be, and I was going to go back to work to
repair my family life. I worked a very hard for a year to do
that, and the public, at the time, had a strong response to
that. That's all I can do and that's what I have done. I've
done that very faithfully.
So I don't think that's what's going on. I think people are
worried when they see, you know, the fabric of life still under
great strain, in spite of the fact that we have quite a lot
amount of prosperity.
And I think what we all have to do is to ask ourselves what
can we do to reinforce the ability of families to raise their
children, to teach them right from wrong, to increase the
chances that they'll be able to live strong, whole lives?
And I believe, therefore, that there is, in that
sense, a moral component to the debate we're having over guns.
I mean basically, we know -- let me just give you one example
-- we know from the experience of the Brady bill that if we do
background checks, thousands of people at gun shows, thousands
of people who shouldn't buy guns won't get them. Now, we know
I think that's a positive moral value. The people
on the other side essentially say: Yes, but we don't want to be
inconvenienced. And when people see inconvenience elevated over
the life of a child in this context, I think that causes some
We know that in the case of the patient's bill of rights that
it -- people think it's a moral issue if they need to see a
specialist; if they need -- if they get hurt in an accident and
they can't go to the nearest emergency room. They know that.
And when they see, in effect, someone else's convenience
elevated over that, I think that's a problem for them.
So I think that there are lots of -- this is a complicated
thing. But I -- my own view of that is what we have to do is not
pretend that the government can solve all the moral questions --
not evade what people have to do personally in their own lives
for their own families -- but neither can we take the dodge that
the government has no responsibility.
That's why what I -- I tried so hard after that Littleton incident, and that's why I'm so disappointed in what Congress did in the House on this gun issue. Because I tried so hard after that Littleton incident not to play politics, not to point the finger at anybody, not to say, oh, well, it's this or that or the other thing, you know. I went to Hollywood. I challenged the entertainment community, even though they had done far more to try to be -- to try to move the ball forward than anybody in the gun community until the gun manufacturers started helping, and they've done a good job, too, a lot of them.
And I still believe that people think that there's too much
everybody for himself and if people can get away with what they
do because of their position, they'll do it.
And, you know, I think what I tried to do was to acknowledge
that to whatever extent I had done that it was dead wrong, and I
was going to spend the rest of my life trying to rectify that,
which is all anybody can do.
And that's why -- and I think most people accept
that. They would rather have somebody do that than go around
trying to give a lot of speeches about how good they are and
then open the door for the gun lobby to run the Congress.
So, you know, you just have to make up your own mind about
that. But I think that -- what I think is important is, that we
stop trying to figure out how to make points against one another
by saying I'm better than you are. You know, I was raised in a
family that would have given me a whipping if I had done that as
I was raised to believe that we were supposed to try to
humble in our personal search, but aggressive in trying to help
our neighbors. That's the religious tradition I was raised in.
Now, I get the feeling that people say now what we should do
is be arrogant about how good we are and the heck with our
I don't agree with that. I think we'd be better off with the
former tradition. And I think it has deeper roots in American
life and is more consistent with what we should be doing.
QUESTION: Mr. President, wartime presidents, even the great
ones -- Lincoln, Wilson or Roosevelt -- all discover that wars
never went exactly the way they planned it. In Kosovo, what
surprised you or went away that you didn't expect? And what
lessons did you learn in Kosovo?
CLINTON: The bombing went on -- I had two models in my mind
on what would happen with the bombing campaign. I thought it
would either be over with in a couple of days, because Mr.
Milosevic would see we were united, or if he decided to sustain
the damage to his country, that it would take quite a long while
for the damage to actually reach the point where it was
It took only a little longer than I thought it would, once we
got into the second model.
But I was surprised about some of the things. I was
surprised that it took -- I was surprised on the one hand that
we only -- that we lost no pilots.
was surprised by that. I was surprised that we
lost only two planes and no pilots.
I know that from your point of view there were a lot of
civilian casualties, but that's because you got to cover them as
opposed to covering the civilian casualties of the Gulf War. If
you talked to any military person that was involved in both
conflicts, they will tell you that there were far, far more
civilian casualties in Iraq. I mean, many more by several times
I was a little surprised that we had the number of problems
that we did in maintaining our allied unity given the enormous
pressures that were on some of our allies. And I think that
gives you some indication about the depth of conviction people
had that this was right.
And let me just say this, I think one way to
understand this -- I almost never see this -- but let me just
say -- I say one way to understand this about why we all did
what we did when we did, even when a lot of folks thought we
were crazy, or at least thought we couldn't prevail, is I don't
think I can (OFF-MIKE).
Now, I was -- I am very surprised -- I was surprised and
heartbroken that the Chinese embassy was hit because of the
mapping accidents. That did surprise me. I had no earthly idea
that our system would permit that kind of mistake. That was the
biggest surprise of all.
But let me just say one other thing, I think that when you
look at this conflict and you seek to understand, well, why did
President Clinton do this? Why did Tony Blair to this? Why did
Jacques Chirac and (OFF-MIKE)? Why did the Germans get in there
with both feet so early given their history and all this? I
think you have to see this through the lens of Bosnia. And
people (OFF-MIKE) in Bosnia where we had the UN in their first
in a peacekeeping mission, they (OFF-MIKE) try it for four years
of, you know, 50 different diplomatic solutions -- all of those
different maps; all of that different argument. And in the end
of it all, from 1991 to 1995, we still had Srebenica.
We still had, you know, and when it was all said and done, we
had a quarter of a million people dead and 2.5 million refugees.
CLINTON: And I think what you have to understand is that we
saw this through the lens of Bosnia. And we said, we are not
going to wait a day, not a day if we can stop it. Once we knew
there was a military plan, they had all those soldiers deployed,
they had all those tanks deployed, you know, we knew what was
coming, and we decided to move. So, yes, there were surprises
along the way. I'm terribly sorry about the embassy.
We made our report to -- I've gotten a report, and the
Chinese got -- I made sure the Chinese got essentially the same
report I did. We didn't put any varnish on it. And I'm sorry
about it. But our pilots on the whole did a superb job, and we
did the right thing. And I hope that the American people as
time goes on will feel more and more strongly that we did.
QUESTION: Mr. President, there's one issue that you didn't
raise in your list of domestic priorities, and that's
agriculture. As you know, the agricultural economy is not doing
Some say it's in a death spiral. Senate Democrats
have tried to add a $6 billion aid package to agricultural
appropriations. Now the Senate Republicans have written you a
letter asking you to acknowledge the crisis and set a dollar
amount for what you think might be needed to keep those farmers
on the land this year.
CLINTON: Well, we're working on that. Last year, you know,
at the end we got about that much money, about $6 billion in
emergency appropriations last year for the farmers. And it is
quite bad this year, and we are going to have to give them some
more support, and I intend to do it.
I just want to point out, when this Congress passed the
Freedom to Farm Act, I warned them that there was no safety net
in there, and that it would only work as long as farm prices
stay at an acceptable level.
And I think what we have to face now is whether or not this
is another emergency -- from the point of view of the farmers,
it's a terrible emergency. It's a crisis; we have to deal with
it. But from the point of the view of the Congress, what they
have to face is, is this just -- is this the second year of an
emergency who do they have a fundamentally flawed bill. And if
the answer is the later, can we handle this with emergency
legislation or do we need to change the law.
And if the answer is the latter, can we handle this
with emergency legislation or do we need to change the law? But
if you're asking me am I going to recommend more help for
America's farmers, the answer is yes, there is no other
alternative. This would -- there were a lot of good things in
the (OFF MIKE) farm bill. It gave more freedom to farmers, it
gave more opportunity for conservation reserve. It had more for
rural development. But it had no safety net and it was obvious
to anybody that ever fooled with agriculture for several years,
that sooner or later this was going to happen, and it happened.
And it was as predictable as the sun coming up in the
morning. And I think it would be terrible to let thousands of
more farmers go under, under these circumstances.
QUESTION: Which one?
QUESTION: Thank you. As the first lady considers a possible
Senate bid in New York, she's made a number of, an unusual
number of campaign style appearances in the Empire state, using
government jets at taxpayer expense. I wanted to ask you if you
thought that was an appropriate expenditure of taxpayer money?
And if you think the privilege should continue once, or if, she
finally does announce her candidacy?
CLINTON: Well, part of how she travels is determined by the
Secret Service. She is willing to do is -- first of all, in the
exploratory phase, and if she should become a candidate, she
will fully comply with all the federal rules and regulations
that govern her.
But part of how she travels is determined by what the Secret
Service says. And you'd be amazed how many times in the last
few years we wanted to take the train to New York, for example,
and hadn't been able to do it.
So these are legitimate questions that we take quite
seriously, she takes seriously, and we're trying to work through
them as best as possible.
Yes, sir, in the back.
QUESTION: How do you want to be remembered in abroad as a
leader who wanted to shape (ph) America's face among other
nations? How do you want to be remembered in the Balkans, in
Eastern Europe, where people have strong feelings about America,
different kind of feelings?
And pardon me for asking that, do you expect if someone
somewhere once would put a price tag on your head, just as the
State Department were offered $5 million to get Mr. Milosevic,
given the controversy that NATO leaders might also have
committed war crimes by bombing vital infrastructure in the
QUESTION: Thank you.
CLINTON: Well, first of all, we have not put a price on Mr.
Milosevic's head for someone to kill him. We have offered a
reward for people who can arrest and help bring to justice war
criminals because of the absence of honoring international
extradition rules in Serbia. So let's get that clear. No one
is interested in that. United States policy is opposed to
assassination, has been since Gerald Ford was president
officially, and I have rigorously maintained it. So, we don't
try to do that to heads of state.
Now, so, that's the first thing. Secondly, NATO did not
commit war crimes. NATO stopped war crimes. NATO stopped
deliberate, systematic efforts at ethnic cleansing and genocide.
And we did it in a way to minimize civilian casualties.
Our pilots were up there, I'm telling you, there
were days when they were consistently risking their lives
because the Serbs were firing at them, the shoulder-fired
missiles in the midst of highly populated villages, and the
pilots did not fire back and take them out because they knew if
they missed, they would kill civilians.
Yes, there were civilians killed. But I will say again, if
you compare the civilian loses here with the loses in Desert
Storm, it's not even close. They did a magnificent job. They
were brave. We tried to minimize casualties.
Every target we hit was relevant to the essentially the state
machine of terrorism that Mr. Milosevic was running.
And finally, I'm not concerned right now how I'm being
remembered. I'll be remembered when I'm gone. Right now I'm
not gone, and I've got lots to do.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You're just back from
the G-8 summit meeting, Cologne, Germany. And next year you're
going to Okinawa, Japan, for another summit meeting. Okinawa is
the home of a huge U.S. military presence in Japan and the Far
East. And I'm wondering if you try hard and resolve all the
major issues pending between the U.S. and Japanese governments
about the U.S. basses in Okinawa, most importantly the
relocation of the Futemma Air Base before you go there next
year. Thank you.
CLINTON: Absolutely. I don't want to go over there now with
all these things hanging out. I hope they'll be all resolved.
Let me say I think it's a very exciting thing, and I
congratulate Prime Minister Obuchi on having hosted this
conference in Okinawa. It's very unusual, in a way, for a leader
to do that -- to take the conference so far away from the
capital city. And I think it's very far-sighted. I hope it
will be good for the people and the economy of Okinawa. And I
hope to goodness we'll have all the outstanding issues resolved
by the time we get there.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) that you plan to live in New York once
you leave the White House. I'm just curious what you would say
to the people of Arkansas -- the people who have supported you
and who helped you run for president?
Should they feel used or abandoned in any way?
CLINTON: No. No, let me say this, I have made it clear what
I intend to do, and what I intended to do from the beginning,
what I intend to do is to divide my time between, as I said in
my interview with CNN in Europe, I intend to divide my time
between Arkansas and New York.
I intend to spend at least half my time at home
when I'm not traveling and doing other things, because I've got
a library and a public policy center to build and I want it to
be great and I want it to be a great gift to my state. I've
worked quite hard on it and thought a lot about it. And I think
that -- I think the people at home will be quite excited about
it when they see what we're going to do and will be thrilled by
it. And I won't be home so much I'll be under foot, you know,
I'll just be -- but I'll be there quite a lot.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Northern Ireland (OFF-MIKE). On
Wednesday the deadline looms. And I was wondering whether or
not, if the IRA does not sign up for disarmament in time for
Wednesday's deadline, whether or not -- or a deadline -- or a
timeline is established for disarmament, will Gerry Adams still
be allowed to come to the United States and raise funds?
And secondly, do you have any personal words that you'd like
to express to the people who are about to undergo another
marching season where it's been a very volatile and bloody
situation at times?
CLINTON: I would like to answer the second question, first.
The people of Northern Ireland a majority of both communities
voted for the Good Friday accords. They voted for peace, for
de-commissioning, for universal acceptance of the principle of
content. In American terms, that's majority rule. They voted
for new partnerships with the Irish Republic. And they voted
for self government. They were right when they voted for that
agreement. It's still the right thing for the future of
So, I would ask those who marched and those who are angry at
the march to remember that.
I don't want to answer your first question for a simple
reason. I have been in intense contact with Prime Minister Blair
and with Prime Minister, the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
As you know, I have invested a great deal in the
process of peace, and I don't think we have a great deal of time
to resolve this complicated issue. It's politically and
emotionally complicated. But I just would ask all the parties,
the only thing I want to say about it publicly now, if it
doesn't work out, there'll be plenty of time for you to ask me
all the other questions, but I'm still banking that we'll get it
to work out.
But I think everybody needs to think about how far we've
come, all the things that are in the Good Friday accords. The
fact that the public, Catholic and the Protestant public voted
for them. And ask, no matter difficult these issues are, how in
goodness name we could ever let this peace process fall apart.
This is a very, very serious period, and I do not want to say
anything that would make it worse.
And in the days ahead, I intend to do whatever anybody thinks
I can do to save it. But I hope and pray it will be saved.
Because the Good Friday accords were good when the people voted
for them, they're good today, and the differences, though they
are profound, are as nothing compared to the cost of losing it.
QUESTION: In the wake of the books by George Stephanopoulos
and Bob Woodward, I was wondering if you think that you can find
anything close to a candid or frank conversation with aides, or
for that matter, lawyers these days, and whether you believe
that this makes you a more isolated president as a result of
CLINTON: Well, I don't feel isolated. I knew -- you all are
having at me pretty good here today.
And that's one of the reasons I'm still here because I
haven't been isolated, neither from the American people at large
or from a wide and large network of friends.
I haven't read either book and I haven't read the excepts of
the book, Mr. Woodward's book in the Washington Post, so I can't
comment because I don't know exactly what was said, and I think
it's better for me not to comment on something I haven't read.
Yes, sir, the gentleman in the back.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you've been very much involved in
the last few weeks in an attempt to create a
Balkan-reconstruction program. Many people, including yourself,
have referred to the Marshall Plan after World War II as kind of
a comparison to what you want to accomplish.
And yet you and administration officials have
insisted that Serbia cannot be involved in this until Milosevic
is out. Given the nature of the Balkan economy, which is a very
integrated area with the electricity networks, the
transportation networks, the Danube River, which is a unifying
force which unites the entire region, isn't it folly to try and
conduct a program of this nature by excluding Serbia, and really
economically impossible? Without Serbia as a part of the
picture, you cannot really get the whole economy moving.
And secondly, is there not a danger -- I realize that you
have said that the reason for excluding Serbia was to try and
get the Serb people to reject Milosevic.
But isn't there a danger that they may indeed coalesce around
Milosevic, feeling themselves as victims, and support him in
spite of his own personal character simply because of the
bitterness towards the west after the bombing and the sanctions,
and now what they feel is disappointment over the
CLINTON: Well, to answer your question, first of all, I
don't think it's folly or impossible to think we could have a
Balkans reconstruction plan, a southeastern Europe
reconstruction plan without Serbia, but it would be terribly
unfortunate and more difficult.
What will happen is that new networks will be formed and the
relative importance of Serbia will be diminished if they're not
a part of it, but it will be much more difficult and it will be
Now, having said that, what the Serbian people decide to do,
of course, is their own affair. But, you know, they're going to
have to come to grips with what Mr. Milosevic ordered in Kosovo.
They're just going to have to come to grips with it. And, you
know, they're going to have to get out of denial. They're going
to have to come to grips with it.
And then they're going to have to decide whether they support
his leadership or not; whether they think it's OK that all those
tens of thousands of people were killed and all those hundreds
of thousands of people were run out of their homes and all those
little girls were raped and all those little boys were murdered.
They're going to have to decide if they think that is OK.
CLINTON: And if they think it's OK, they can make that
decision, but I wouldn't give them one red cent for
reconstruction if they think it's OK. Because I don't think
it's OK and I don't think that's the world we're trying to build
for our children.
So I think it's simple and I'm (ph), you know -- look, I met
with Mr. Milosevic in Paris, I shook hands with him, I had lunch
across a table from him, it was a delightful and interesting
lunch. And I thought: Well, you know, maybe he had some
distance between the extreme activities of the Serbs in Bosnia.
And then he went right out and did it all over again, and I mean
with people directly under hi control.
And I do not believe we should give them any money for
reconstruction if they believe that is the person who should
lead them into the new century, I do not, and I will not support
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) question please. You said that earlier
that you would not be averse to cutting taxes, and yet your
budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office, actually
raises taxes overall by some $50 billion over five years.
Why is this in an era of surpluses?
CLINTON: Well, now, what are they counting? They're counting all the money from the tobacco tax that we used to pay for the...
QUESTION: All of that.
CLINTON: Well, that's -- I believe that you have to have a
very generous interpretation to reach that conclusion. You look
-- we're getting 11 percent of the surplus on the U.S.A.
accounts, as a whole, 11 percent. We have in addition to that,
you've got the long term care tax credit. You've got the child
care tax credit. You've got the continuing funding of all of
the education and child tax credits that we had in the previous
budgets. And my guess is, to get to that, they have to not
count the continuing funding of the tax cuts, but count the
continuing extension of tax increases that will have to have
extenders as new revenues. I can't imagine how they got it
We did have a large cigarette tax increase in there because
were trying to depress teen smoking.
And we were trying to get funds to use to deal with the
health consequences of what is a virtual epidemic among young
people. But I am for the tax cuts.
And I will go back to the answer before. I've got
new tax cuts in this budget and I will work with the Republicans
on it. But we should not -- we should not pass up this chance to
save Social Security, to save Medicare, to give the prescription
drug benefits, to pay the debt down, which will keep the economy
stronger and keep people with more jobs and higher incomes.
Then we can talk about the tax cuts.
And if Mr. King is right and we have some more money, then we
can talk about that. But let's deal with first things first.
Thank you very much.