December 13, 1996
President Clinton announced more new members of his second term team this afternoon. He then answered reporters' questions. Here are some excerpts.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Today, I am pleased to nominate Bill Daley of Chicago as the new secretary of commerce, a man of rare effectiveness, a longtime civic leader, a prominent attorney and business leader. As special counsel to the President for the North American Free Trade Agreement, he coordinated our administration's efforts to forge a broad bipartisan coalition to pass that landmark trade agreement. He embodies the values of hard work and fair play, faith, and family that will serve him in very good stead as a secretary of commerce. When I took office four years ago, I established for the first time a national economic council to coordinate economic policy, to make sure we get the best advice, and a range of options, as well as new ideas.
Today, I am pleased to appoint Gene Sperling to be the assistant to the President for economic policy and director of the National Economic Council. Gene was my chief economic policy adviser in the 1992 campaign. He's been deputy director of the NEC since its creation. He has been central to the development of our budget, our tax, our education, our training policies. I rely on him heavily, on his knowledge and skill, his mind, and his heart. As all of you know, he certainly shows that the work ethic is still alive and well in America. Indeed, I made him promise as a condition of getting this appointment that he would adopt a dramatic new idea in the next few years: Sleep. We know that our economic future is increasingly dependent upon mastering the challenges of the global economy. Today, I am pleased to announce that I am appointing Dan Turillo to be assistant to the President for international economic policy. In his job, Dan will report to the heads of both NEC and the NSC, bringing, thus, even closer coordination between our foreign and our economic teams. He's represented the United States around the world as we have negotiated trade agreements as assistant secretary of state and deputy director of the NEC.
I'm also pleased to announce the completion of our foreign policy team. Our ambassador to the United Nations must be someone who can give a voice to America's interests and ideals around the world, someone who can work to reform the United Nations so that it costs less and is prepared to meet is new challenges, someone who can not only talk but who can also act affectively. All Americans have watched admiringly as Bill Richardson has undertaken the toughest and most delicate diplomatic efforts around the world, from North Korea to Iraq. Just this week, Congressman Richardson was huddled in a rebel chieftain's hut in Sudan, eating barbecued goat and negotiating the freedom of three hostages. Today, I am proud to nominate him to be our next ambassador to the United Nations, to serve in my cabinet, and as a principal on our foreign policy team. In addition to his already long list of foreign policy achievements, he has represented the people of Northern New Mexico for 14 years now as a member of the House Democratic Leadership and is one of our nation's most prominent and proud Hispanic leaders. Mr. Fournier.
RON FOURNIER, Associated Press: Mr. President, looking beyond today's announcements in your second term, can you tell us how you hope history will judge your eight years in office, what single accomplishment you'd like to be remembered for. And along those lines, would you share your thinking with us on the specific roles the First Lady will play in the next four years.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: That's enough for an hour. You've heard me say that I believe this time is most closely paralleled in our history to about 100 years ago when then we moved from the farm to the factory, from the rural areas to the city. We became primarily an urban manufacturing country. We are now a global leader, and the basis of all economic activity is increasingly knowledge and information and technology. I would like to be remembered as the President who prepared America for that future, who prepared America for the 21st century, where we had opportunity available to all Americans who were responsible enough to exercise it, where we lived with the diversity of this country and the diversity of the world on terms of respect and honor, giving everyone a chance to live up to the fullest of his or her own ability in building a stronger sense of community, instead of becoming more divided, as so many countries are, and where we continued to be the indispensable nation in the world for peace and freedom and prosperity. That is my vision of America in the 21st century. And when I'm finished, I hope people will add up all the things we did and say that is what they achieved. I have nothing to add to what I've already said about the First Lady, except that the State Department has asked her to undertake more efforts around the world, following up on the Beijing Conference, like the one she did in Northern Thailand recently, speaking out on behalf of the human rights dimensions of women and young girls around the world. And I expect she will do more of that. And I expect she will continue her interests in children and families and related issues here at home. But I have nothing else to say beyond that.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Mr. President, with Congress coming back into a new session, there seems to be indications they will take up two issues which are contentious, which you have opposed in the past, an amendment to balance the budget, a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, because I guess concern a few weeks ago amongst some of your aids by suggesting you could live with a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, and secondly, legislation that would ban a late-term abortion procedure, known as partial birth abortion. Could you tell us exactly what kind of language you could accept on both of those issues that would allow you to go forward and support those matters.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, there are two different things here. First of all, what I said on the balanced budget, I don't think--let me try to be clear here so I won't be misunderstood. I do not believe it is good policy or needed to have a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. I do believe it is good policy for America to pass a balanced budget plan now and to implement it. On the partial birth abortion issue, I would very much--I wanted to sign that legislation. When I first heard about it, I thought I would sign it, since I am generally opposed to third trimester abortions anyway and signed legislation to restrict them in Arkansas. The problem is I will say again there are a few hundred women every year who have personally agonizing situations where their children are born or are about to be born with terrible deformities which will cause them to die either just before, during, or just after childbirth. And these women, among other things, cannot preserve the ability to have further children unless the enormous size of the baby's head is reduced before being extracted from their bodies. This is a very painful thing to discuss. I have met six of these women. I will say again--three of them were pro-life Catholics. One of them was a pro-life Evangelical Christian. This is "not" a pro-life/pro-choice issue. To me, this is a practical problem. I believe that people put in that situation ought not to have Congress tell them that they're never going to be able to have children again. Now, I know there are just a few hundred of them, and I know that all the votes were on the other side. And I am well aware that there are several places in this country where major political headway was made against the Vice President and me and against some of our candidates for Congress and against others running for other things because of this issue, because it sounds so awful when you describe it that the politics is all on the other side. But one of the things the President is supposed to do is to look out for the few hundred against the many millions when the facts are not consistent with the rhetoric. And I'm just telling you, you know, Hillary and I only--we only had one child. And I just cannot look at a woman who's in a situation where the baby she is bearing against all her wishes and prayers is going to die anyway and tell her that I am signing a law which will prevent her from ever having another child. I'm not going to do it.