Public Papers - 1991 - November
Interview With Don Marsh of KTVI - TV in St. Louis, Missouri
Unemployment Compensation Bill
Q. Mr. President, let's make some news. You've just talked to Mr. Dole, Senator Dole, you've got some news for us.
The President. Well, I talked to Senator Dole and Congressman Bob Michel, our leader in the House. I congratulated the Speaker, Speaker Foley, Chairman Rostenkowski of the Ways and Means Committee, both our leaders. And it looks like we now have at long last an unemployment compensation bill that will get money into the hands of those whose benefits have run out. And will do it without burdening every other taxpayer. By that I mean do it within the budget agreement.
So, it's good news. It's a compromise, but it's long overdue. And I now hope both the House and the Senate pass it promptly. And according to the leaders I talked to, and then their Democratic counterparts, they feel that it will pass.
Q. No doubt about the signature.
The President. No doubt about the signature if it stays the way this deal has been hammered out, absolutely.
Q. I want to talk to you about the economy, as I'm sure all the people who follow me will. Mr. Bush, since you took office, 25,000 Missourians have lost their jobs. Ron Brown, on the radio yesterday, said the least amount of economic growth of any administration since Herbert Hoover during your administration. That's a lot of heavy baggage to carry to '92, isn't it?
The President. Yes, any time the recession is upon you, and it's not now, but any time the economy is slow it's a problem. But I'm disinclined to listen to much that Ron Brown says, but what we're trying to do is get some people in the Congress, like the two Senators we have from Missouri, who understand what it takes to get this economy growing and will not continue to bust the budget agreement that we struggled to get -- in other words, spending too much -- and will pass some of what I've called upon to stimulate the economy and kick this job base.
And I'm a little more optimistic now about that. And there's been some good news recently. The credit card companies are apparently starting down on the interest rates. The interest rates are down to almost historic lows now. Inflation is still under control. But it needs a boost of confidence; that's what it needs.
Q. But interest rates are down, but nobody is buying anything. They're not buying houses. They're not buying cars. They're not buying anything.
The President. I know, and you could -- the rates would be very good for that. But I think it's strictly confidence. And I think that the fundamentals are getting better. They're not perfect yet. But it will kick in, and in the meantime, everybody's got to keep doing the best they can. But I can't go along -- and I mentioned this unemployment benefits bill -- and do it in a way that's going to make things worse. I want to make things better.
Q. Is the need for confidence the reason why you're so reluctant to use that ``R'' word?
The President. Which is the ``R'' word?
Q. The recession word.
The President. No, I'm reluctant to use recession because I don't think we're in recession. Some places are, and some people are hurting. But the definition of recession, or at least one of the technical definitions is, two quarters in a row of negative growth. We have positive growth in the third quarter, and I hope we will in the fourth quarter.
So I think it's -- tell somebody that you're not in a recession, and he's lost a job, and they don't believe you. And so what we've got to do is get them back to work. In this area some of the defense industries are getting clobbered. And part of the reason is we have prudently cut back on defense in some places. And we've been able to do it because of our enormous successes around the world. But any time you have a dislocation like this, we've got to be sensitive and try to help the workers.
Q. Did the election in Pennsylvania resensitize you to anything? Can you tell me what the message to you was from that?
The President. Yes, it did, and so did the elections in New Jersey. New Jersey Governor Florio said, ``This is a referendum on the President.'' And we swept both houses of the New Jersey legislature and have control when we're minority status.
Pennsylvania, we had a very good man in Dick Thornburgh, and the guy that ran against him was an incumbent Senator, appointed. And he ran on the fact that Thornburgh was a part of the problem but not him sitting in the Senate. And he did a very good job at that. And he said in his victory speech, ``I've sent a message to the White House and to the Congress.'' And the answer is, yes, he has.
Q. What is the message?
The President. Get the economy moving again and get more people back to work. And I'd like to say, get more people like the Senators from this State that want to do it in a way that is going to build the economy and not put further taxes on the people.
You had an education referendum the other day, and everybody said ahead of it people are willing to pay more for education. And yet the vote came out, they didn't want to raise taxes. And so, there's a good message in all of that. And my message is sound economics; try to get more people in Congress that will support the growth incentives that I have championed since the first day I was elected President. But it's pretty tough when you've got people who want to play politics with you.
Q. Let me change direction, if I can, because our time is limited. Everyone is talking about the Magic Johnson situation, the AIDS -- --
The President. Oh.
Q. The FDA, of course, is changing its rules now to speed work on perhaps an AIDS cure. Is the Magic Johnson situation likely to accelerate any Government involvement in solving the AIDS dilemma?
The President. I think what it does is accelerate the awareness of this terrible disease for all Americans. Certainly it has an impact on me. Magic has been on our Fitness Council. I want him to join the AIDS Council. I don't know whether he'll be able to do that or not, but he knows we want him on there.
I think it says to a lot of people, ``Behavior is important.'' Magic, himself, said that. And I think that, because of the sensitive and forthright way in which he handled it, he offers great hope. I also think that the Government is doing a lot. We're spending a tremendous amount of money on research, and we should be. People aren't quite aware of that yet -- far more per disease, per individual affected than cancer or heart disease. So much so that some of those organizations are very concerned.
But we've got to keep doing it. We've got to educate people, and we've got to show compassion for the victims of this disease. That's a health problem.
Q. I don't want to go too far in left field with this one, but our time is limited. We're doing something special soon on Pearl Harbor, of all things. A Navy veteran from the Pacific, can you reflect upon Pearl Harbor for a moment for us?
The President. I'll never forget the day it happened. I was walking across the school campus. And it just changed my life and the life of everybody then. The country pulled together like never before in our history, with the possible exception of World War I, but I'd say even like never before in our history.
There was an evil out there: totalitarianism. And we prevailed. And that spirit that existed in World War II was epitomized by Desert Storm. Different war, different scope, different duration, different body count, but that same spirit of the country coming together is what I remember about World War II.
Q. Just a couple of seconds. It's unfair -- don't answer if you don't want to. A lot of the veterans I've talked to think that the Japanese won that war, at least economically.
The President. I don't agree with that. And it's very easy for somebody that fought in that war, as I did, to go through what's now known as Japanese bashing. But that's not the way you approach something like this. They're democratic. They've got to let us into their markets more. One of the reasons I'm determined to go on this trip is to do a better job of getting them to open markets.
But I don't think this is a time for recrimination and anger. And you're talking to one that got shot down by the Japanese. So, I've been there, and I can speak with some perspective. But I can understand when competition is there, but the last thing we ought to do is do what some are suggesting and pull into some Fortress America, because my memory also goes back to the depression in the thirties when we thought we were going to isolate ourselves by being protectionistic. And what happened, you shrunk the entire job market.
Thank God we are exporting now, or a lot more people in Missouri would be hurting.
Q. Thank you very much. Our time is up.
The President. Nice to see you.
Note: The interview began at 4:20 p.m. in the Radisson Hotel, St. Louis Airport. In his remarks, the President referred to Ronald Brown, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. A tape was not available for the verification of the content of this interview.