|QUESTIONS & ANSWERS|
March 5, 1999
JIM LEHRER: The news conference. It was a joint one with Mr. Clinton and the Italian prime minister. Here are some excerpts from the 45-minute session. The President was asked what he would say to Italians who think yesterday's acquittal of Marine Captain Ashby was unjust.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: To me, the important thing now is that the United States must clearly and unambiguously shoulder the responsibility for what happened. Our presence in Italy, our air operations, our training operations were the context, the environment in which this horrible thing occurred.
I think the things that we can do are, first of all, to work closely with the Italians, as I've said to, make sure that we have done everything we can to reduce the prospect to zero that something like this will occur again and that our Italian counterparts agreed with that and would agree with the changes; secondly, that we do what is appropriate by the families, and there was a modest cash settlement given to each of the victim's families shortly after the accident to deal with immediate expenses. And under Italian law, they file claims, have them adjudged by the Italians, and then we pay 75 percent of those claims under our agreement. And the third thing is to do everything we can to have a just disposition of the cases that are now going through. And I'm committed to all three things.
I will do the best I can. I also think it's very important -- I don't know that my words could ever ease the pain of someone who lost a child or a parent or a sibling or a spouse and that -- in that terrible accident, but at least it's important for the people of Italy and for those families to know that the United States is not trying to duck its responsibility and that we are heartbroken and horrified by what happened. And we're going to do our best to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again. Larry?
LAURENCE McQUILLAN, Reuters: Mr. President, more than 70 million Americans watched Monica Lewinsky's recent television interview, and a number of people are buying a book that she's put out. I'm just wondering, do you have any thoughts on it that you can share with us that perhaps might bring closure to this?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: What I hope is that she will be permitted to go on with her life, and I hope it'll be a good life. And I hope that the efforts that I have made and that I continue to make every day at home and at work will bear fruit. And I hope that all the people who have been hurt by this, including totally innocent people who have massive legal bills, will get the help they need. And I'm determined to do what I can to help them. But the important thing is that the American people are virtually screaming at us to get on with their lives and their business and to do their business. And I'm going to do my best to do that, as well as I possibly can.
REPORTER: We have a crisis in trade, and Italy somehow feels to be a target within the U.S.; so what can you say to reassure Italians, and what actions are you going to take, because the public opinion is rather upset?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The great struggle every serious country faces is how to reap the benefits of the astonishing revolution in technology and the globalization of the economy and to minimize the disruptions so that you can have some sort of stable family and community life. Now, what we had to do when I took office was to get rid of this terrible deficit we had, which kept interest rates high for us and too high for you and was taking too much money out of the global economy and to focus on some areas where we really needed to do better with our own economy. And it is true that we are blessed in this country with a very dynamic system.
Of the 18.1 million new jobs we've had, almost 17 million of them were created in the private sector, they were non-governmental jobs. An enormous percentage of them were created in small businesses. Now, let me just say a word on the trade issue. First of all, the specific issue you mentioned must feel strange to Italy since the Italians have not really been at the forefront of this decade-long dispute between the EU and the United States over the banana issue. It's not really about bananas; it's about rules. I'm trying now, right now, to get the United States through the authority of the Congress, to take the lead in further market opening measures.
I have done my best to keep our markets open during this very difficult period for the Asian economy and for much of the Latin American economy. We had a record trade deficit last year. I thought that, except for where I thought our laws were being violated, like in steel, that we were having steel dumped, I felt that we should try to do that, that that should be our contribution because we were doing well. We ought to try to help these countries as much as we could. But we cannot maintain an open trading system, which I am convinced is essential for global prosperity, unless we also have rules that are abided by.
JIM LEHRER: The two leaders said they also discussed efforts to broker a peace agreement in Kosovo.