NEWSMAKER: PRESIDENT CLINTON
The Differences Between Himself
During the course of his Newsmaker interview with President Clinton, Jim Lehrer explored the differences between Clinton and his Republican opponent, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.
A RealAudio version of of this NewsHour segment is available.
In his Newsmaker interview with Jim Lehrer, President Clinton discusses:
- re-election and his first term
- negative politics and Whitewater
- the differences between himself and Bob Dole
- his stake in the Congressional elections
- Dick Morris and the role of consultants
- his move to the center
Sept. 12, 1996:
Experts examine the economic plans of Bob Dole and Bill Clinton.
Browse NewsHour coverage of the general election.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, what's the fundamental difference between you and Bob Dole?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I think there are perhaps two or three. One is you could see in our convention speeches I want to build a bridge to the future, and he said he wanted to build a bridge back to the past. I believe we're better off when we work together to create the conditions that give people the tools to make the most of their own lives. I think he believes normally you're better off when you're on your own. He said specifically at the convention--he took my wife's and her book on when he said it doesn't take a village. Well, I think it does take a village. I think his life is evidence that it takes a village. I think that the whole story of his life is the support system that goes beyond individual and family endeavor and has other people coming in to help make the most of your own life. And I think that's Bob Dole's story, and I know it's mine. I mean, I know all of us politicians, we'd like for people to believe we were born in a log cabin we built ourselves, but it's just not true. It's not true. You know, if you look at--so let me just give you an example.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I guess the clearest example was the first bill I signed as President, the family and medical leave law. Sen. Dole tried to kill that bill with a filibuster in the Senate. He led the opposition to it, he and Newt Gingrich, and then after it passed, he said he still thought we'd made a mistake. Well, 12 million times families have used that family and medical leave law to take a little time off because of the birth of a baby or the illness of a parent or the serious illness of a child, and they didn't lose their jobs. And that was ‘93 when I signed the law. Here it is ‘96. We've got 10 ½ million new jobs. Every year we set a new record for small business formation.
So I believe we did the right thing there. The crime bill--Sen. Dole filibustered, led the fight against the crime bill which imposed the death penalty on drug kingpins and had three strikes and you're out because they didn't agree with a hundred thousand police on the street because the NRA didn't want the assault weapons ban, and because they didn't want any prevention programs trying keep these kids out of trouble in the first place. I just disagree with that. So those are just two examples of how our world view is different. I believe my job here as President is to give those families, those working people, those aspiring students, those DARE officers trying to keep kids off drugs in the first place, those communities trying to make their streets safer, or people trying to make their environment cleaner, if it is an appropriate thing for the national government, I think we should, should give them the tools they need to make the most of their own lives.
JIM LEHRER: Now he said Saturday, he said this before, he repeated it Saturday, that he saw the major difference between the two of you as your government, that you believed--to use your term--the national government has a role--he believes that you believe the national government has more to do in people's lives than he does.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I think that's right, different things, but, but keep in mind the Republicans, they always have condemned the national government, they make a living condemning the national government, but they can't bear to be without it. I mean, they spend their whole time, you know, trying to take it over.
They've got these vast think tanks and this whole array here of people who are perfectly miserable when they're not in the national government, even though they don't think it ought to do anything. And let me just give you an example, though, of, again, I say look at the family leave law. Look at the Brady bill. Sen. Dole and Mr. Gingrich led the fight against the Brady bill, a simple five-day waiting period to see if you've got a criminal record. Well, 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers couldn't get handguns because of the Brady bill. I think it ought to be extended to people who beat up their spouses and kids. And all these hunters still have their weapons, all the sportsmen still have their weapons. Now, was I right, or was he right? But we reduced the government more than they did. We reduced the government more than it was reduced by President Reagan or President Bush, 250,000 fewer people, 16,000 fewer pieces of legislation, hundreds of programs eliminated. I don't like loaded, big government. I'm not here defending government.
My job is not to defend government. It's to advance the cause of the American people, but I believe there is--at critical junctures there is a critical role for government to play in helping people to make the most of their own lives. And I've guaranteed those opportunities. I also think that when it's appropriate, the government should impose more responsibility, whether it's tougher punishment, tougher child support collection. You know, we've increased child support collections by 40 percent by going after people who've crossed state lines to evade their child support. 35 percent of all the child support cases where there are delinquent payments are across state lines. Should the federal government be involved in that? I think so. I think it's been a good thing.