KANTOR ON CLINTON
AUGUST 28, 1996
Mickey Kantor has known Bill Clinton for 18 years and knows him pretty well. He explains what he sees as the strengths of the President and what his significant achievements in office have been.
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ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yes. I'm here with Mickey Kantor, Secretary of Commerce. He was also chairman of the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign. Thank you for being with us, Mr. Secretary.
MICKEY KANTOR, Secretary of Commerce: Elizabeth, good to see you. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You first met Bill Clinton in 1978 or 1979, as I understand it, and you went back to California and said you've met--you'd met somebody who was going to be President of the United States. What did you see?
SEC. KANTOR: Commitment, connection to people, tremendous talent, a vision of where the country should go. He was talking about health care reform, welfare reform back in those days. Now that's eighteen, nineteen years ago. The fact is this is someone who knew what he wanted to do, knew where the American people had to go and had a plan.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But you had been dealing with a lot of very talented people. You'd worked for Walter Mondale and Jerry Brown, and a lot of people who were not bad in the category of politicians. What was different about Bill Clinton?
SEC. KANTOR: Well, it was interesting. He seemed to combine all the best features--Walter Mondale's connection to people and the way people connected to him, or Jerry Brown's--frankly thoughtfulness and Jerry's Brown's ability to create ideas and intellectualism. Bill Clinton had both of those things. You know, it's interesting, Alan Cranston's sense of history, even though, when I met President Clinton he was a very young men, the fact is I'm not alone in that. Almost everyone he's met over his lifetime comes away astonished by the kind of talent they find in him.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What's the source of it, do you think? What's it come from? Some people say he has this inordinate desire to be loved and, and that it comes from that.
SEC. KANTOR: Well, unlike the rest of us, of course--we all like to be loved. The fact is that I can't tell you because he had a mother who worked hard, grandparents who raised him, but I think he always had the sense of himself, his ability to articulate issues, his ability to connect to what was going on around him and in the larger sense of the country. The fact is that whether it was in law school or at Oxford, whether it was in--when he worked for other candidates, 1972, uh, he was down in Texas, working for George McGovern, the fact is everyone came back enamored of him, thrilled with his talent, absolutely floored by what he thought and how he thought it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We've been talking tonight with different people who have known him about his qualities and the question of leadership, his abilities as a leader and how they've changed has come up. I talked with Sec. Reich earlier about this, and I want to ask you a question I asked Sec. Reich. Where have you seen leadership in a way that--where you--where you saw it really exemplified in the past four years?
SEC. KANTOR: When you show real leadership, the pressure has to be on, a lot has to be at stake, and you have to personally get involved. And one thing that clearly comes to mind was the end of the Uruguay Round. That was a large trade agreement in the history of the world, 117 nations, negotiations had been going on eight years. We'd only been in office about nine and a half months. We were at a crucial time. The President got on the phone with John Major, Helmut Kohl, Francois Mitterrand, and literally convinced them through the power of his arguments, the power of his logic, through his determination to move frankly the world economy forward, which would not only help us but help them as well, that they should come on board, and we should reach agreement, and we did. It was a spectacular performance because at that point many people were betting that we couldn't finish up that negotiation successfully.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How has the decision-making changed? There was a lot of talk about how it was difficult for the President to make some decisions early on and that he took on too much and other things that you have heard and maybe experienced. What's changed since then?
SEC. KANTOR: Part of it is focus, discipline, picking priorities. You know, he is so bright and able and wants to do so much. He sees so much that needs to be done that in the first few months I think of the administration he, he wanted to go out and try to solve everything at once. Uh, I think with stepping back with some reflection, some time, he realized that what he had to do is pick priorities, move carefully through them, make sure that we restored a domestic economy, impacted world markets, did something about education, which we did, Goals 2000, School to Work, as you know, AmeriCorps, or the National Service Program, and preserved the environment for our future. And he has done all of that. We have a great record not only to build on politically--that's one thing--but to build on for the next term and to move into the next century to launch America into the next American century.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Trade has been such a big part of this last four years. You, of course, were the trade representative before you were secretary of commerce. What kind of pressures do you anticipate in the next--if Bill Clinton wins the election? What do you anticipate what will be the pressures from labor for some changes in our trade policies? There seems to be somewhat of a revival in the labor movement.
SEC. KANTOR: I think we're coming together on trade policy frankly. I think we all understand that Bill Clinton's philosophy in trade is very close to and consistent with what labor wants. Bill Clinton believes that we should keep our markets open to the products and services of others but we should have equal access to their markets as well. A level playing field, fair trade, that's what we've tried to do with 200 trade agreements in 43 months, led by President Clinton. In 1995, we had the greatest increase in exports that any country has ever had in all of human history. That's because the President showed leadership and American workers responded, and American business had the confidence he'd stand behind him. All of that came together and it restored domestic economy to really push this country forward, and we'll have to continue that in the second term. The President, I don't think there's ever been a President who understands how to better connect domestic economic success and competitive productive capacity with impacting world markets. Globalization is a reality. We have to compete and win, and he understands that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for being with us.
SEC. KANTOR: Elizabeth, thank you very much. I appreciate it.