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Public Papers - 1991

Interviews With NBC Owned and Operated Television Stations

1991-11-20

Interview With Doreen Gentzler, WRC - TV, Washington, DC

The Economy

Ms. Gentzler. Most of the local stories that we've been covering lately seem to be related to the troubled economy: State and local budget shortfalls and the big budget cuts that are resulting; unemployment; business bankruptcies; the stock market. Yet, you've indicated that you'll wait until January to talk about economic proposals. Why wait, Mr. President?

The President. I'm not waiting to talk about it. We've been trying to get through the Congress growth proposals that I think would or would have had a very good effect on the economy. I've got a package of about six or seven items, some of which are job-intensive, like the transportation bill. But, no, I'm not going to wait on that. What I think I will do, though, is at the time of the State of the Union, put it all together and challenge the Congress to do that which in my view they should have done some time ago.

I'm concerned about it. People are hurting. And I think we have to do something. But it's not a question of complacency. It's a question of not being able to get through the Congress the very things that I think would help the economy.

Legislative Initiatives

Ms. Gentzler. Some of your critics right now are charging that your administration doesn't really have a coherent economic policy. How do you respond to those critics?

The President. Well, that's true because we're getting into a political season, and it's true that the critics are saying that. But they don't look at the proposals that we have made: IRA's and capital gains reduction and a good transportation bill. We have several other things that make up for a good package.

But the problem is, we're caught in a political year. I'd love to see IRA's for first-time homebuyers. That would stimulate the housing business. But we haven't been able to get it through. So, I think we have to just guard against the political charge, look at the fact, and the fact is we've got good ideas that I've challenged the Congress to act on. They haven't done it.

So what we've got to do now is use this time to gather up our position on all of these things, repackage, maybe add to it, be concerned about this economy. And then, with the whole Nation watching, when the Congress comes back, say, ``Now, look, here's what we must do. Now, you should support the President. Let's lay politics aside now for a little bit, even in an election year, and try to get something done that will help the people that are hurting.''

So that's that approach. But I think you're right. I think you're accurately reflecting the attacks on me that come every single day. I'm used to that, but I think much more important than political attacks is: Can't we get something done to help people?

Statehood for the District of Columbia

Ms. Gentzler. Mr. President, you have said that you oppose statehood for the District of Columbia even though the District gets about 86 percent of its revenue from local residents and businesses. Why do you oppose statehood for the District?

The President. Because I think of Washington as a Federal city. I'm not going to change my view on it. I think it was set up as a Federal city. I think that's the way it should be -- disproportionate Federal Government participation here -- and I think the relationship we've got with the city government is good. You've got a good mayor. We're trying to work with her, and I don't think we need statehood for the city. And that's been a constant position.

Ms. Gentzler. The mayor is asking for statehood.

The President. Oh, I know she is, and so are many of the predictable Senators. But I don't think that was the way the whole system was designed. And if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

AIDS

Ms. Gentzler. All right. Mr. President, what is your administration doing about AIDS?

The President. We've got the best research program going on AIDS. I'm glad you asked it, because we are spending a tremendous amount of money on AIDS, much more per capita on AIDS than we are on cancer, on heart disease, the biggest killers. In fact, so much so that some of those illnesses, the people that are advocating more care are saying, ``Hey, you're disproportionately engaged here.'' So the one thing is, we've got a great research program right here, the National Institutes of Health, under Dr. Fauci and Dr. Broder and others. So that's very, very positive, and we're making pretty good strides if you heard Fauci the other day.

We also are going forward in an educational sense, trying to teach people that AIDS can be controlled -- sometimes, not always -- by behavior. It is one disease where a person's individual choice can make a difference whether that person gets the disease or not. That's not true in the inadvertent poisoning, say, from a blood contribution. But you're seeing efforts being made now to be sure that that blood supply is clean as possible. So that's a helpful approach to be taking on AIDS.

So, I think we're on top of it. We're moving the drugs to market faster, and we're getting criticized by some on that. But I think that's a good approach. It's a tough one, and I think the President should -- and I'm trying to show the compassion I feel for the victims of this disease. But I think most people realize behavior is important. Stop doing those things that bring AIDS upon you. And I think that's a good message, too.

The Redskins

Ms. Gentzler. All right. Mr. President, before we say good-bye, anything you want to say to Redskin fans in Washington?

The President. I hope I've made amends for my indiscretion for rooting for the home team, which I consider -- I have to stay with that position. I'm not going to flip on that one. And who knows, maybe they'll meet again. Having said that, when I was doing my mea culpa with your associates there, I did it from the heart: One, respect for Joe Gibbs; and secondly, I'm caught up, as everybody else around here is, in the excitement of this undefeated team. It's good for the community. It's good for the country as a matter of fact. So put me down as a fan most of the time. [Laughter]

Ms. Gentzler. All right. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

The President. Good to see you back.

Interview With Chuck Scarborough, WNBC - TV, New York City

Mr. Scarborough. Good morning, Mr. President. Thank you for joining us today and taking some of your time out for us.

The President. Thank you, sir. Nice to see you.

'92 Presidential Election

Mr. Scarborough. Good to see you, too. Mr. President, I'd hoped to begin this interview by getting your reaction to whatever decision Mario Cuomo made about running for President, but he's still being coy. He is not, however, shy about blaming your administration for New York's economic mess. So perhaps there is some bit of wisdom you'd like to share with him to help him make his decision?

The President. No, I had better stay out of that one, Chuck. Nice try, though. [Laughter] But that's a matter -- you know, there are all kinds of people running over there, and let them make that determination. And then I will confidently take on whoever wins what will be some hotly-contested primaries. But I had better stay out of fine-tuning the New York situation.

Mr. Scarborough. The Democrats though, both announced and unannounced, are apparently drawing a bit of blood in their sniping at you on the economy -- --

Mr. President. Yes.

Mr. Scarborough. -- -- and on domestic issues. And there are close associates of yours who are eager for you to get your campaign officially underway, to declare your candidacy, to get your team organized, and to attack aggressively the economic problems that seem to be making you vulnerable. Why haven't you organized your campaign yet and gotten it together?

The President. I think it's a little easy -- I'd make a distinction between having a total campaign organization in place and attacking aggressively on this economy that's sluggish and that's causing enormous hardship and concern to people. I'm going to keep pushing for the growth package that I have and that I've had before the Congress for a long time; and then, come to the State of the Union, add to it, and present to the Nation, eyeball to eyeball, what I think is best and say, ``Hey, let's set politics aside and let's get something done for the people.'' So there's one thing.

In terms of the reelection, I think you'll be seeing my coming out with some top people for the campaign quite soon: who to run it, who to support the person running it. And then the campaign organization will be fleshed out very quickly after that. So I make a distinction between the two, but I can see why people are linking them. And you're right, I'm under fire every day. You've got a lot of Democratic candidates, and they're trying to blame the President for everything and attack. Fortunately, the people know that, if you refer to these endless numbers of surveys, that the Congress has to share a little responsibility. In fact, the people say most of it.

So, I'm going to keep trying to help people with the economy, and then we'll have a vigorous, strong campaign. And that will help, Chuck, because I think it will deflect, the campaign organization in 50 States will help deflect some of this intensive criticism coming out of the Democratic National Committee and resonating through the candidates.

John Sununu

Mr. Scarborough. Are you getting good advice from your Chief of Staff, John Sununu?

The President. Yes, I'm getting good advice from him. Very good.

Mr. Scarborough. I ask that because there's a published report today in the New York Times saying that those closest to you are getting ever more discontented with him, even your staff and your own family. Your children are derisively calling him Governor ``Nunu,'' according to the Times, and Barbara has turned against him.

The President. That's all crazy.

Mr. Scarborough. Is it?

The President. Yes, it is. It is not true. Do we call him ``Nunu''? Yes, I do. My boys do and do it with affection and have since 1988 when he had a large part in my being elected. But that's an affectionate thing. But I saw that piece. And, Chuck, where they get these mischievous inside-the-beltway things, I do not know. My wife has great affection for John, great confidence in him. And so, it's this time of year. And the guy that wrote that story, they love this inside stuff. I mean, they thrive on it. The country doesn't care about that. They say, ``What are you going to do to help me? I'm out of a job. I need help.'' And it's there that we're trying to do better. And it's there that I'd like people to concentrate on our suggestions. And maybe that would get the Congress to move on some of them.

Terrorism Investigation

Mr. Scarborough. Let me shift gears over to Pan Am 103, the terror bombing of Pan Am 103. Last week, two Libyans were indicted for the bombing of that plane that killed 188 Americans, in total 270 people. The families of those who were lost don't think the buck stops with Libya. They are persuaded that Iran and Syria were deeply involved in the bombing of that airplane, and they are suspicious that your administration is not blaming Iran and Syria because you don't want to interfere with the peace process in the Middle East.

The President. That's an erroneous assumption. A lot of people got way out front blaming Syria early on. And let me say that the intelligence community and the Justice Department have done a superb job of trying to get to the bottom of this. It was like searching for a needle in a haystack. And they found the needle in an enormous haystack.

Mr. Scarborough. So there's no evidence linking Iran or Syria to the bombing?

The President. No. And Iran is not involved in the peace process. You might remind the people that are saying that. Syria is. And a charge has been, as you properly state, by some of the families, well, there's some covering up to keep Syria, and that's not the case. We are going to get to the bottom of all of this. But I think most people that have looked at the indictments and looked at the evidence -- and I've looked at the evidence -- give great credit to those that have done this detective work. And it's not just here; it's in Scotland, and it's around the world.

So, I'm satisfied that we're on the right track. But if there's any further links to be examined, this Justice Department will pursue them.

Mr. Scarborough. Mr. President, thank you very much for your time.

The President. It's very nice of you to do it this way.

Mr. Scarborough. It's been a pleasure.

Interview With Tom Randles, WTVJ - TV, Miami

The President. Hey, Tom. Can you see me?

Mr. Randles. Yes, I can. Good morning, Mr. President.

The President. Good morning, sir. I see you loud and clear. Hear you and see you.

Haitian Refugees

Mr. Randles. We here in South Florida have a very special interest in a story that continues to unfold as we speak, the flow of Haitian refugees from Haiti to the U.S. The State Department says it does not feel these people, who have risked their lives to come here, will be persecuted when they're sent back.

On the contrary, Mr. President, we're hearing stories from Haitians who fled Haiti that their lives are in jeopardy. In some cases, they've been beaten, they've been threatened, their homes burned -- all because they supported democratically elected Jean Bertrand Aristide.

How can your administration continue to stand by a policy that says it's okay to accept certain ethnic groups because of tyranny in their homeland, but not Haitians?

The President. I don't think that we would deny people who are genuinely politically prosecuted entry. The law provides for that. The law also provides that people fleeing economic chaos do not automatically get entry. And there's another side of it, Tom. And that is that when you see the boats heading out, two layers on a little sailboat like I saw, maybe on a channel that you represent -- I'm saying I don't want to have a policy that acts as a magnet to risk these peoples' lives. And those people that were turned back by the Coast Guard, in accordance with policy, diffused out into the countryside.

So we've got a policy. It is a fair policy. It does make a distinction between economic refugees and political refugees. But let me assure you, it is not based on some race or double standard. If the Cubans started out, a new Mariel boat lift started out, the same thing would happen. It is consistent policy.

Mr. Randles. So in effect, you are saying that, in fact, if Fidel Castro should fall or things should drastically change in Cuba and we see a wave of Cubans, a huge wave of Cubans coming to our shores, that your administration will change its policy and the doors to the United States will be shut for these people as well?

The President. No, that we already have a policy that says we are not going to do what happened in Mariel, people were going to be sent back if they're economic refugees. Now, if somebody can prove -- and they have proper procedures for this -- that there's political persecution, that is something different.

Frankly, I think if Castro fell, you would see the exodus going the other way. I just think that he's swimming totally against the tide, whereas in Haiti they're at least trying to go the democratic route. And we're trying to work with the OAS to restore democracy, even though Aristide is -- there's a little controversy surrounding him. But he was elected. He ought to be restored. And we are supporting sanctions in the OAS to get him restored. But if Castro -- it probably would go the other way, Tom.

Mr. Randles. Mr. President, why not, at least temporarily, relax, perhaps, our country's emigration policy just temporarily until Mr. Aristide is restored and allow these people to come to our shores?

The President. Well, because we have yardsticks for whether it's political persecution or economic persecution. And those yardsticks should be followed.

What I'm confused about a little bit is, what's going to be the final determination on Aristide at home in Haiti? Our position is, he was elected, and he ought to go back. And we are working with the OAS to that end, and we have sanctions in place to that end.

But I don't think that there's any reason to change the policy because I do think if it's political persecution by some of these bullies that threw out Aristide, those people can seek asylum. But if you have just the whole country turning out for economic reasons, and the economy of Haiti is a disaster, we just can't handle that. So that's the moral underpinning of this policy.

Fidel Castro

Mr. Randles. We also have a great deal of interest in what happens in Cuba. We talked about it a little bit earlier, specifically the fall of Fidel Castro. What does your administration believe will actually happen to him? What is the most likely scenario, and what kind of time frame do you think we're talking about here?

The President. I believe in the fall of Fidel Castro because I don't think that that country can be the only country, not just in this hemisphere, but one of a handful around the world, to be staying with the totalitarian model, in this case Marxist model, when all of the other countries are going to the other way.

So, I have confidence in the will of the people in Cuba. And I can't tell you how it's going to happen, but Castro will not survive this. The people will take matters into their own hands at some time. Now, he runs a very cruel and intrusive security force against the people, not allowing elections, not allowing democracy, tough on human rights. So I'm not saying it's easy, but I just think the tide is so inexorable that he won't be around. And I can't give you a time frame on that, but I'm not going to change American policy. We are not going to lighten up. We are going to stay with it.

Mr. Randles. All right, Mr. President, thank you for joining us.

The President. Nice to see you, sir.

Interview With Linda Douglass, KNBC - TV, Los Angeles

Ms. Douglass. Mr. President, good morning.

The President. See you, hear you, loud and clear, Linda.

Ms. Douglass. It's much earlier here than it is there.

The President. Yes, what are you doing up so -- no, no, wait a minute -- it's 7:30 a.m. out there, isn't it?

Ms. Douglass. [Laughter] I understand you've completed a lot of your day by this hour back in Washington.

The President. 10:30 a.m. I get to the office at 7 a.m., walk in the door at 7 a.m.

The Economy

Ms. Douglass. Admirable commitment. Let me ask you off the top, sir, about the economy again. I want to go back to some of the earlier questions. Analysts from Wall Street were quoted all over the place yesterday as the market was fluctuating wildly, once again, quoted as saying that there was concern about a perceived lack of leadership on your part in solving the economic problems. How do you react to the ongoing criticism that one hears from Republicans and businesspeople in Wall Street who are obviously concerned about the instability in the economy?

The President. Well, I'm concerned about it, too. And I think it's sluggish. I think there are some reassuring signs, like unemployment and inflation. But these can change. So what I've been trying to do is to get a growth package through the Congress for the last 2 years. I've challenged them as recently as the State of the Union message to move forward on something like the highway bill that would really help. I believe capital gains would help. I believe IRA, changing the IRA laws for first-time homebuyers would help. But I'm up against a Congress that wants to do it some other way.

So when I hear the charge, I can understand because people are hurting. People need the Government to do what it can. It's not going to be totally done by Government. But Government has an important role, and I share the frustration that some feel about inactivity. I think they also see that the Congress is in this in a big way and unable to go forward. I'd like them to go forward on what I think is a sound growth package. I think it would really help. I think it would help in California. Because as we move back on defense spending, everybody, all the opposition, is saying we ought to, in fact, some of them wanting to go much faster than I do on that. There's going to be economic hardship. So we ought to have growth. We ought to have job creation. That's why I still come back to the, especially for your State, this concept of a lower capital gains rate. I think it would stimulate new business.

Ms. Douglass. Mr. President, today Democratic candidate, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, will blame part of the country's economic woes on greed on the part of corporate executives. He complains that CEO's make an average of 85 times more than their lowest-paid workers and would eliminate the possibility of deducting as a business expense any executive's salary that is more than 25 times that of the lowest-paid worker. Are high executive salaries a problem, in your estimation?

The President. I can't imagine anybody can deduct his salary as a business expense. I mean, you pay tax on the salary. But I think it sends a signal when they're way out of whack. I think it sends a signal to the family that's hurting, ``Wait a minute, what's going on here?'' But I don't know what he's proposing. I haven't heard the Clinton proposal, and I don't know what Government should do about setting salaries or setting labor rates or setting relations between the employer and the employee. I just, I don't believe that's the function of Government. I'm not sure that's what he's proposing. But, yes, when people see, when somebody is hurting and they see an extraordinarily high salary, I think it causes discontent.

Ms. Douglass. Do you blame any of the policies of the Reagan administration for today's economic problems?

The President. No, but I blame the increasing Federal deficit and increasing Federal spending on everybody in the past. I mean, I have my responsibility to bear for that; Congress has a responsibility. But I do think that these extraordinarily high deficits, which result from well-intentioned legislation passed in the sixties, some of it, is a problem that we have to address. And we've tried to do that by a very unpopular budget agreement that put caps on spending. And now what I'm trying to do, Linda, is to hold the line on this spending. Because every time I turn around, in the side door, over the transom, comes new spending proposals by this Congress. And I have to sometimes say no to popular-sounding legislation.

'92 Presidential Election

Ms. Douglass. Mr. President, you know that the Democrats are going to have several televised prime time debates during the primary season which will give them an opportunity to complain about you at length on prime time TV. Would you welcome prime time primary debates on the Republican side if Pat Buchanan and David Duke challenge you for President?

The President. No.

Ms. Douglass. And would you participate?

The President. No. I have no plans to participate. I've got some responsibilities to run the country, and I'll keep doing that. And then we'll concentrate -- I assume there might be a couple of debates in the general election although we haven't addressed that yet. I don't want to run against other Republicans. I want to try to lead this country and try to straighten out some of the problems that exist. And so I don't have any plans to do that. And I don't know what the Democrats are doing, other than knocking me, which is standard fare, and we expect that. I mean, that's what -- they all gang up and see who can say the nastiest things and yell the loudest.

What the people want, I think, is something a little different. They know there's a political year, but I think they want to see some action by the Congress and a little less name calling. So, I'm going to continue to reach out to Congress and try to help people. Your State is hurting, and I think some of the proposals I have made can help. So, we'll keep trying to work for it.

Ms. Douglass. Thank you very much, sir.

The President. Nice to see you. Thanks.

Interview With Bill Stuart, KCNC - TV, Denver

Mr. Stuart. Good morning, Mr. President. This is Bill Stuart in Denver.

The President. How are you?

Mr. Stuart. I'm fine. How are you?

The President. Good, Bill.

The Economy

Mr. Stuart. Mr. President, at the end of the Gulf war your approval rating, your popularity was so high that some suggested, I think only half jokingly, that we forego the '92 election because you would win so easily; why spend all that money? But since the end of the war, your popularity has eroded somewhat. Our News 4-Denver Post poll shows that 54 percent of Coloradans now approve of your job, the job you're doing; down considerably. Why do you think your popularity has eroded since the end of the war?

The President. I think it's the economy. I think people are hurting in this country. I think they'd like to see more action out of Washington, DC, although the whole answer doesn't lie in Washington. But there's things Washington can do, and the President has to bear his share of responsibility for some of that; not all of it, because I think Congress is in this. And I think the same surveys you talk about seem to put more of a burden on the Congress.

So I think when people are hurting, and they are, they say, ``Hey, what's gone wrong? What's happening? Why isn't the President doing more?'' I think it's some of that. So, I have to get out and make clear, here's a growth package that would have helped this economy if Congress had moved. Then, in the State of the Union, here's some new ideas and a package. Take my case not to Congress but over their heads to the American people and make clear that people understand I am engaged, that I'm concerned, and I've got good ideas for helping solve the problems.

I think I've got the latter right now, and I'm trying to stay totally engaged. But I think that's what it is, Bill.

Mr. Stuart. Fifty-one percent of the Coloradans surveyed in this latest poll say they'll spend less this Christmas season than last, indicating a real crisis in confidence. Is there anything you can do in the short run to turn that around?

The President. Well, it's difficult. Because if you talk too optimistically about the economy, you send an unrealistic signal. If you talk too gloomily, you get people discouraged. I tried to say the other day I think there are some interesting fundamentals out here: Inflation being way down and interest rates being way down, way down, are good in terms of what the consumer can go out and buy.

But I don't want to sound naive about it. I don't want to act like there are no problems there. The economy is sluggish, and we're trying, through the proposals I've made on growth, to get it moving. So, there's a delicate balance. And I think more than anyone else in the country, obviously, that if the President misspeaks or sounds euphorically optimistic or overly pessimistic, you send the wrong signals to a skittish market and to the people.

So, I'm trying to say, look, we're in tough times; they're going to get better. The fundamentals are pretty good, but I recognize that people are hurting, and here's what I want to do about it. Let's do something about the IRA's to stimulate homebuying. Capital gains that would stimulate new businesses and jobs. A transportation bill that would create jobs on the infrastructure and just get the message across better.

Public Opinion and Incumbents

Mr. Stuart. You mentioned Congress just a minute ago. Sixty-eight percent of the people we talk to say things are on the wrong track in Washington, going in the wrong direction. That doesn't seem to bode well for any incumbent, whether he's the President or a Senator or a Congressman, does it?

The President. Not particularly, no. I'd like to see them change control of the Congress, and then I think we could really get something done. And I'll be taking that case in the election to the American people. One party has controlled Congress for, you know, 40 out of the last 45 years or something, and I think it builds up an insensitive bureaucracy. And I think it just makes Congress less effective -- pass laws for everybody else but not for themselves -- and I think people are tired of that.

But I don't want to just sit here blaming Congress. I mean, we're in this together. I think most of the American people know I've tried to hold out my hand to Congress. I'm getting a little tired being the javelin catcher out there from the concerted attacks that are kind of orchestrated out of the Democratic National Committee for a lot of old, tired ideas that have been tried and failed.

So I've got the politics over the horizon, but more important is: How is that family doing out there? And they're hurting, and we've got to help them.

'92 Colorado Elections

Mr. Stuart. Let me follow up on that, talking about Congress. Do you plan to campaign in Colorado next year for the Republican candidate, whoever he or she may be, running against Senator Tim Wirth? How important is that Colorado seat to you?

The President. Well, I've always done that, and I expect I will. I can't make a pledge that I'll be in Colorado. I would expect it's such an important State, I would expect I would. And I'll be working hard for the Republican candidates and, undoubtedly, for myself and taking the case, the whole case, to the American people. And it'll get clearer then. It's fairly clear when you see these endless polls, you know, the President against whoever it is. But I'm not complacent about it, and I shouldn't be. As long as somebody is out there, Democrat or Republican, that needs help and we're not doing our part back here, whether it's Congress or the administration, we've got to do better.

Mr. Stuart. Mr. President, our time has run out, I'm told. Thank you very much.

The President. Nice to be with you, Bill. Thank you, sir.

Interview With Warner Saunders, WMAQ - TV, Chicago

Mr. Saunders. Mr. President, good morning. I'm Warner Saunders, and welcome to Chicago.

The President. Glad to be with you, sir, this way.

Mr. Saunders. Well, I have tried to contact as many people as I possibly could since I found out that I had this assignment, and I asked them what they would ask you. And this represents, this line of questioning, of course, represents, hopefully, my best effort and theirs.

The President. Fire away.

AIDS

Mr. Saunders. What is your position on the use of condoms and the distribution of clean needles to IV drug users to help stop the spread of AIDS?

The President. I have not been in favor of a Federal clean needle program, and I am not in favor of a Federal condom distribution program.

Mr. Saunders. There are people, of course, who say that there's almost -- --

The President. I am in favor of helping -- --

Mr. Saunders. -- -- no way of stopping this.

The President. Well, I don't think I'd be that pessimistic. We're doing a fantastic amount of research on AIDS, and I think when you talk to the top researchers at NIH, you'll find they are somewhat optimistic. We can get the drugs to the market quicker. We can do better on education. Because you see, Warner, AIDS is one disease where a person can control, to some degree, whether you get it or not. And behavior has a lot to do with it. So, I think we can do a better job in that area, too. I noticed Magic Johnson had something to say about that the other day, and I was very interested because he's coming onto our National AIDS Commission.

Urban Legislative Programs

Mr. Saunders. And, of course, that's a big step forward in this whole health issue.

Let's move a little bit to the issue of the cities themselves. The ghettos of this country certainly are becoming a cancer to the society, and many people believe that here in Chicago the administration doesn't view the problems of the poor, the problems of the ghettos as important as international problems. What is your reaction to that criticism?

The President. Well, I think that's an erroneous observation. But look, I can understand when you have fantastic levels of street crime in some of these heavily impacted districts that people are saying, ``Help!'' Actually we've got a good national drug strategy. We've got a good crime bill, if I can ever get it out of the Congress. We're starting a brandnew education 2000 program that helps educate these kids: Give people a better shot in the schools and give them a chance to pull themselves out.

So, I think we've got good programs, but I think they hear this charge, we're more interested in world peace, but I think a President has a responsibility for both, frankly. Maybe -- --

Mr. Saunders. Is the Congress, Mr. President, the stumbling block in getting these kinds of programs to the people who are hurting inside of these poor communities of our great cities?

The President. I think, to some degree, I think the Congress should be blamed. In other words, Warner, we've got an unacceptably sluggish economy, and I've made some proposals that in my best bet would help them. And I can't get it through a Congress that is controlled, both Houses, by another party. I was elected to do certain things, and I've done some of them. But we need to change that a little bit, I think.

The Economy

Mr. Saunders. You know, I was just with a group of car dealers last night, and they are really hurting. And so I told them that I'd be speaking with you this morning. And after they stopped laughing, I said, ``No, really it's going to happen.'' [Laughter] And they said, ``Well, ask this guy why is he downplaying the seriousness of the economic downturn?'' Are you downplaying it?

The President. I don't think so. I'll tell you there's a delicate balance though. A President has a unique pulpit, not only in this country but in the world. And you don't want to talk the country into a deep recession. So when I point out that interest rates are low, historically low, or where inflation is low, acceptably low, these are good things preparing us for recovery.

I don't want to emphasize just the bad things to talk us into a depression. And I don't want to emphasize only the good things to make those car dealers think I'm out of touch. But I do think for car dealers, hey, look, interest rates are getting down there. This wouldn't be too bad a time for a family, if it had the confidence that it would have a job tomorrow, to go out and purchase cars. So, I'm trying to find that right balance without being euphoric or without being pessimistic.

Civil Rights

Mr. Saunders. On the issue of civil rights, I talked with a number of civil rights leaders last night, both black and white. And one of the most conservative of them said something, and I quote here, ``It appears there is little difference between the platform of David Duke and the policies of George Bush, minus the -- minus KKK, Nazi history -- that Bush is against affirmative action, integration and the poor who are on welfare.'' What's your reaction, Mr. President?

The President. The guy's got it backwards. If it was a guy, maybe it was, I don't know who.

Mr. Saunders. It was a guy.

The President. Well, he's got to go back and do a little research. We're going to sign a bill, a civil rights bill. I can't imagine -- and I'm getting attacked from the Nazi down there for signing this bill. What I didn't want was a quota bill. I don't believe in quotas. I don't think most blacks or whites or Hispanics believe in quotas. And I fought back an attempt to ram a quota bill down the throats of the American people. Maybe that's what the person is thinking of.

But I'm the guy that's going to sign this one. I'm the guy that sponsored and worked hard for the best civil rights legislation in this century, and that's the Americans with Disabilities Act that helps others. So I think I would just refute the charge, coming from a frustrated leader who clearly is frustrated. But I think we've got a good record, working hard to support education, black colleges, many thing of that nature.

So you take a few shots in this business.

Mr. Saunders. Mr. President, thank you.

The President. It's nice to be with you, Warner. Thank you, sir. Good questions. Tell the people that you got it from you did fine. I don't know about the answers; the questions were good.

Mr. Saunders. Thank you again.

Note: The series of interviews conducted via satellite began at 10:17 a.m. The President spoke from Room 459 of the Old Executive Office Building. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these interviews.

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