PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 16, 1996
JIM LEHRER: Next question is for President Clinton, and it's from - yes, ma'am? Yes?
CHESSIE SANDERS: Hello. My name is Chessie Sanders, and my question is do you feel that America has grown enough and has educated itself enough to totally cut out affirmative action?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, ma'am, I don't. I am against quotas, I'm against giving anybody any kind of preference for something they're not qualified for. But because I still believe that there is some discrimination and that not everybody has an opportunity to prove they are qualified, I favor the right kind of affirmative action.
I've done more to eliminate programs - affirmative action programs that I didn't think were fair and to tighten others up than my predecessors have since affirmative action has been around, but I have also worked hard to give people a chance to prove that they are qualified. Let me just give you some examples. We've doubled the number of loans from the Small Business Administration, tripled the number of loans to women business people - no one unqualified. Everybody had to meet the standards. We've opened 260,000 new jobs in the military to women since I've been president, but the Joint Chiefs say we're stronger and more competent and solid than ever. Let me give you another example of what I mean. To me, affirmative action is making that extra effort.
It's sort of like what Senator Dole did when he sponsored the Americans With Disabilities Act that said to certain stores, "Okay, you gotta make it accessible to people with wheelchairs." We weren't guaranteeing anything - anybody anything except the chance to prove they were qualified, the chance to prove that they could do it.
And that's why I must say I agree with General Colin Powell, that we're not there yet. We ought to keep making those extra-effort Affirmative Action programs the law and the policy of the land.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole.
MR. DOLE: Well, we may not be there yet, but we're not going to get there by giving preferences and quotas. I supported that route for some time, and again, I think it gets back to experience - a little experience, a little age, a little intelligence. And I noticed that nobody was really benefitting except a very small group at the top. The average person wasn't benefitting. People who had the money were benefitting. People who got all the jobs were benefitting.
It seems to me that we ought to support the California civil rights initiative. It ought to be not based on gender or ethnicity or color or disability. I'm disabled. I shouldn't have a preference. I would like to have one in this race, come to think of it. But I don't get one. Maybe we can work that out. I get a 10-point spot.
This is America. No discrimination. Discrimination ought to be punished, but there ought to be equal opportunity. We ought to reach out and make certain everybody has a chance to participate. Equal opportunity, but we cannot guarantee equal results in America. That's not how America became the greatest country on the face of the earth.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I have never supported quotas. I've always been against them. They don't favor equal results. But I do favor making sure everybody has a chance to prove they're competent. The reason I have opposed that initiative is because I'm afraid it will end those extra effort programs.
Again I say think of the American With Disabilities Act. Make an effort to put a ramp up there so someone in a wheelchair can get up. You don't guarantee that they get the job, you guarantee they have a chance to prove they're competent. And as I've said, this is not a partisan thing with me. General Powell, Colin Powell said the same thing. He fears that the initiative would take away the extra effort programs.
No preferences to unqualified people, no quotas, but don't give up on making an extra effort till you assure everybody has a chance to prove they're qualified.