|For Immediate Release||May 12, 1999|
3:48 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. I'd like to welcome all of you here today, especially the families of the people who are at the center of this announcement, and members of the Cabinet, members of the Congress, Mr. Greenspan, ladies and gentlemen.
For six and a half years now, I have worked hard to build an economy that gives all of our people a chance to prosper and to live out their dreams. When I took office in 1993, it was a time of record deficits, high unemployment, decades of stagnant wages. It was clear then that we needed to make difficult and too long deferred choices.
So we put in place a new economic strategy rooted in the realities of the emerging Information Age. By now, the elements of that strategy are tiresomely familiar to those of you who have been a part of this -- fiscal discipline, investment in our people, expanded trade. But the results are plain -- over 18 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment and inflation in three decades, the strongest economy in a generation, perhaps ever, ushered in by new technologies, the productive energies of the American people, and sensible policies.
In 1992, I told the American people I would focus on the economy like a laser beam. The first step was to establish within the White House a National Economic Council, modeled on the National Security Council, and then to pick Bob Rubin to lead it.
As the first chair of the National Economic Council, Bob forged a true team and built an enduring and vital institution, now ably led by his successor, Gene Sperling.
Four years ago, when Secretary Bentsen resigned, I appointed Bob to be Secretary of the Treasury. Alexander Hamilton, our first Treasury Secretary, insisted that the United States pay its debts and practice fiscal prudence. That then controversial proposal gave the new nation a chance to grow into the powerhouse it is today. b has been acclaimed as the most effective Treasury Secretary since Alexander Hamilton, and I believe that acclaim is well deserved. I thank again the members of Congress who have come here, both Republicans and Democrats, in testament to that.
He has upheld the highest traditions of the office. He has merged old-fashioned fiscal conservatism with new ideas to help all Americans benefit from the new economy, and to maintain and enhance America's leadership in the world economy. He understood the importance of fiscal discipline and the accountability and the impact that it would bring -- not only low interest rates, but also intangible economic confidence, both of which have brought us more jobs, more businesses, higher wages, lower mortgage rates and a rising standard of living for all Americans.
He cares very deeply about the impact of abstract economics on ordinary people. I can tell you that for all these years, he has always been one of the administration's most powerful advocate for the poor and for our cities; for the investments that we put into the empowerment zones; for the earned income tax credit; for the community development banks and the Community Reinvestment Act; and for the New Markets Initiative that I was out promoting in Atlanta yesterday.
He has also tried to help our friends abroad when they needed it, knowing that our friends and trading partners need to do well if America is to do well. We were reminiscing in the Oval Office just a moment ago about the night just before he was appointed Secretary of the Treasury when we decided we had to give assistance to Mexico. At the time, I think 11 percent of the American people thought we were doing the right thing. But since then, I think almost always, the American people have concluded that Bob Rubin's recommendations have been the right thing for our country.
It's no secret to all of you who know him that Bob has been pining for private life for a long time now, and I have been pleading for all that long time for him not to pine too much. But two weeks ago, he told me that he was ready to go. I will miss his cool head and steady hand, his sharp mind and his warm heart. I also want to put him on notice that I expect him to show up here regularly for the next two years until we're done for lots of free advice.
I used to joke the Bob Rubin came to Washington to help me save the middle class, and he'd stayed so long that by the time he left he'd be one of them. (Laughter.) He just wants a little time to prove me wrong. But I thank him from the bottom of my heart for being a true patriot and a true friend.
To carry forward our economic strategy, I will nominate Larry Summers to be the next Secretary of the Treasury. He is brilliant, able, a critical part of our economic team during the entire life of this administration, therefore, deeply knowledgeable and more than ready to help steer our nation through the strong and sometimes turbulent currents of the new economy.
Rarely has any individual been so well prepared to become Secretary of the Treasury. For the past six years he has been a senior official at Treasury, first Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, and then for four years as Deputy Secretary. He has always been Bob Rubin's partner in many, many ways -- working with him to balance the budget, to strengthen Social Security, the reform the IRS, to build a stronger economy at home and abroad.
He has a close working relationship not only with Chairman Greenspan, but with key finance ministers and central bankers around the world. He has the rare ability to see the world that is taking shape and the skill to help to bring it into being.
I will also nominate Stu Eizenstat to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. I have known him now for well over 20 years, since he was President Carter's Domestic Policy Advisor. He has served our administration very well in several positions -- Ambassador to the European Union, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, and most recently Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.
Of all the people on this platform today, the person making the greatest sacrifice for the national interest is Secretary Madeleine Albright. And I appreciate her presence here and the absence of tears in losing the man as able as Stu Eizenstat. (Laughter and applause.)
Stu has handled many of our nations most difficult missions over the last six years, from our successful efforts to lift food and medicine sanctions on trading partners -- or non-trading partners -- to the struggle for justice and compensation on behalf of the victims of the Holocaust, an endeavor he will continue.
I would like to say a special word of thanks to him for all the many missions he has undertaken, but especially for the work he's done in the Holocaust area. He has done it better, more energetically, more completely and with greater sensitivity for all the elements involved than I think any other American could have. And not just Jewish Americans and other survivors and family members of survivors of the Holocaust around the world, but all Americans should be grateful for this unique contribution he has made to making the American Dream real.
With his legendary grasp of policy and the art of practical government, his long experience, his stamina and his steady judgment, he will be a vital, full member of our economic team.
Our economy continues on its remarkable path, but we must press forward with the strategy that has brought us thus far. We have a lot to do to strengthen Social Security and Medicare in the months ahead to maintain our fiscal discipline and begin to pay down this debt; to renew our public schools so that they can play the role that they must play in preparing all of our people to succeed in the economy we are working to build; and to bring economic opportunity where it is still not in sufficient supply in under-invested and rural areas in America.
With a steady strategy and now a strong economic team, I am confident we can enter the 21st century stronger than ever. But I would like to say that more than any other single citizen, Bob Rubin deserves the credit for building all the teams we've had with all the members, because he started with his National Economic Council. No one had ever made it work before. No one had ever made it really a priority to bring together all the strands and all the economic actors -- to bring together the State Department and the Treasury Department and the Commerce Department and the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and a lot of other things most Americans had never heard of.
He brought it all together; he got us to work as a team. He worked for a consensus. He was always honest with me in presenting disagreements, and he built a spirit and a belief that we could actually make this economy what it ought to be for our people. That will be his enduring achievement, along with the fact that everybody believed as long as he was Secretary of the Treasury, nothing bad could happen.
Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Rubin. (Applause.)
SECRETARY RUBIN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: You're not used to this.
SECRETARY RUBIN: No -- thank you all. For whatever reason, the President has always found that joke about my becoming a member of the middle class a lot funnier than I have. (Laughter.) On the other hand, I know some wonderful jokes about punctuality, so -- (laughter) -- life cuts a lot of different ways -- now that we've sort of leveled the playing field.
Let me first thank all of you for coming here and for being with me and being with us in what is, for me at least, a very moving and in some ways, very difficult moment.
It really has been a remarkable period since the President first took office six and a half years ago. It's been remarkable for the country and it's been remarkable for each of us who has had the opportunity and the privilege to serve in this administration. For me, I can say it's been a truly extraordinary experience -- personally, professionally, and with respect to what we have all, working together, accomplished.
My view, Mr. President, you and the Vice President have repositioned our country with respect to fiscal discipline, with respect to leadership on international economic issues that are so critical to our economic well-being, and to the many other issues which, in their totality, have contributed so much to the economic conditions of the last six and a half years, and to positioning our country for the years and decades ahead.
And I think it is particularly important that you have done so much to give the least well-off a real opportunity to join the economic mainstream. I think history will show that the President and the Vice President have accomplished this by consistent pursuit of a sound and sensible strategy and by what Larry Summers likes to call "enormous seriousness of purpose." Time and again, the President was faced with tough decisions, the kind that he described to you with respect to Mexico. And he made those tough decisions in the face of very difficult circumstances.
It has been an enormous privilege for me to have the opportunity to take my 26 years of experience in the private sector and to bring them to deal with the issues of the country and to succeed my friend, Lloyd Bentsen, as Secretary of the Treasury.
Coming from Washington to Wall Street has given me a new appreciation of the diversity of views in our country and the enormous diversity of life experiences in this large country. It has also given me a greatly deepened and broadened understanding of many issues and how our government works.
From the very beginning, Mr. President, you have emphasized team work. You did that in setting up the NEC, which is now so ably chaired by Gene Sperling, and in choosing members of the economic team. I think it is unambiguously true that we have accomplished a lot more because we worked together. It is very hard to leave, because I feel deeply committed, very deeply committed to this administration, to the people with whom I've worked, to the issues -- with respect to which so much has been accomplished.
But this almost six and a half years has been all-consuming, and I think it is time for me to go home to New York and to do whatever I'm going to do next. In doing so, I am absolutely confident that this administration will not miss a beat with respect to the economic issues.
Mr. President, you and the Vice President have been our true policy leaders through this whole period. The economic team is extremely strong going forward, with many collective years of experience working together on the issues that face this country, on the issues which this administration will be dealing.
At Treasury we will have a new Secretary, subject to the will of the Senate, who is one of the truly outstanding people that I have known in my life . Larry Summers is someone I have known for many, many years, and he possesses an extraordinary combination of great intellect, deep experience in the broad range of issues that he deals with, and an acute, practical common sense, as well as a very good sense of humor about himself -- and we both share that, because we both laugh at Larry. (Laughter.)
It's really been one of the great pleasures of being Secretary. (Laughter.) Almost as funny as Alan Greenspan's jokes at our breakfasts about yield curves, which not everybody would appreciate, but Larry at least finds amusing, and I try to understand.
In any event, Larry and I have been true partners through this whole period and has been a wonderful, wonderful partnership.
Let me also say that I am absolutely delighted that Stu Eizenstat, who I've also known for a long, long time, is coming to Treasury to serve as Deputy Secretary, again subject to the approval of the Senate. Together, Larry and Stu as partners will provide strong leadership for what is truly an outstanding group of people, the people of Treasury -- career and non-career. And I have no doubt they will continue to be tremendously effective in meeting the many important challenges of their mission with respect to building the economy and with respect to law enforcement.
That mission and the mission of the administration and the economic arena more generally will continue to pose many risks and many opportunities over the period ahead. And I think that that need for action will create the opportunity for major accomplishment.
Let me conclude by saying that what I will miss most are the people that I've worked with in the time that I've worked here -- the people at the Treasury, the people at the White House that is now so ably managed by John Podesta, the people at the other agencies with whom I've worked so closely. I've had the good fortune throughout my life to be involved with outstanding institutions, and I think there is no question that by any standard, this administration has extraordinary people -- extraordinary in their abilities, extraordinary in their personal capacities, and extraordinary in the way that they work together.
Most importantly, I want to thank Judy, my parents and my children for their understanding, their support and their good advice throughout a period that has affected all of our lives.
I will continue to serve with full enthusiasm for the issues and full commitment until I step down, which I would expect to be sometime around the 4th of July. Then I will leave with great respect for the President, great respect for the Vice President, and with a very good feeling about what has been done during these past six and a half years, about my own experience, the strength of the economic team going forward and the potential for important accomplishments.
Again, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for the opportunity to serve. Thank you. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: This is not an easy act to follow.
Mr. President, I am deeply honored by your intention to select me to follow Secretary Rubin as Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. It has been an immense privilege for more than six years to work with you, Vice President Gore and the entire economic team that you, and working with Bob, built.
In the first months in office you put in place a core economic strategy, built on fiscal discipline and macroeconomic stability, on support for open markets all around the world, and on investments in all of our people, so that all have an opportunity to share in the prosperity that we can build. Today, we know that strategy has paid off -- in the lowest unemployment and inflation in a generation, in fast growth in American standards of living, the restoration of American economic leadership, and the longest peacetime economic expansion in the history of our nation.
I count myself very fortunate to have worked at the United States Treasury under two Secretaries -- first, Lloyd Bentsen and then Bob Rubin. Secretary Bentsen set the Treasury on the right course, emphasizing deficit reduction, cooperation for growth around the world. Secretary Rubin has seen the Treasury and the global economy as a whole through enormously challenging times with a steady hand.
I cannot begin to describe how much I have learned from Bob Rubin. His unwavering determination to do the right -- and not the expedient -- thing, his balanced judgment, his commitment to teamwork have been an inspiration and an example to all of us who have worked with him.
It's been my great privilege to work closely with Bob as he has addressed issues that range widely, from international financial crisis to better service at the IRS; from eliminating the budget deficit to assuring that every American has the right kind of access to capital; from ensuring the strength of our financial institutions to meeting key law enforcement challenges, like protecting our borders. In these areas and so many others the right course has been set and the challenge is to carry on.
Mr. President, your administration and this country are fortunate in the remarkable group of talented people, both career staff and your political appointees, who work at the Treasury Department and in its bureaus. It is an honor to work with them. Subject to the will of the Senate, I look forward to continuing to work with them and to work in partnership with Stu Eizenstat. You said it so well -- to so many, Stu Eizenstat is the embodiment of what the word public service means. He will be an enormous asset for the Treasury Department.
Nothing substantial in public policy, probably in life, is ever accomplished without many people working together. Confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to working closely with other members of your economic team through the National Economic Council and enjoying the outstanding leadership that Gene Sperling continues to provide in carrying out your economic vision. I look forward to continuing Treasury's excellent working relationship with the Federal Reserve and to working closely on a bipartisan basis with members of Congress on the full range of issues that we face.
Finally, I'd like to thank the people who made it possible for me to be here today: my teachers, my parents, my wife, my children, Pam and Ruth and Harry. Mr. President, thank you for this opportunity. (Applause.)
UNDER SECRETARY EIZENSTAT: Mr. President, Secretary Albright, Secretary Rubin, John, members of the Cabinet, members of Congress. Mr. President, I'm greatly appreciative of the confidence you've placed in me by making this appointment. I've been privileged to serve you at home and abroad and your administration in a number of different roles. But of all of them, I've felt particularly privileged to work with my longtime, dear friend and colleague and your great Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. She's been an inspiration and leaving her side will be very difficult.
I've also come to appreciate both as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and Under Secretary of State the tremendous national resource that we have in our career Foreign Service, both here and abroad. They serve their country remarkably well and with far too little recognition. Leaving them will also be very difficult.
Subject to the will of the Senate, I look forward to working with Larry Summers as his deputy and partner. He has long been recognized as one of the great economic thinkers of our generation. But he's also demonstrated during the global financial crisis the vision, the sound judgment under fire, and the courage which have earned him worldwide acclaim.
It is also a particular privilege to work at a Treasury Department shaped by Secretary Robert Rubin, who will be remembered, as the President said so well, as one of the most successful and influential secretaries of the Treasury in all American history.
I look forward to the same partnership with Larry as Larry enjoyed with you, Bob.
I also appreciate, Mr. President, your willingness to continue to permit me to lead the administration's efforts related to Holocaust Euro asset issues and property restitution where I will continue to work directly with Secretary Albright and the State Department.
I've learned from my various positions in your administration, Mr. President, that one of our most fundamental strengths and sources of influence around the world comes from the strength of our economy, which you, Vice President Gore, Secretary Rubin, Deputy Secretary Summers, Gene Sperling and others have helped create. The great American job machine is the envy of the entire world.
I take it as our essential mandate to do everything possible to continue the remarkable economic performance which the Clinton-Gore administration has given the American people and, indeed, the world at large. This means keeping American companies competitive by opening markets abroad and preparing our workers for the challenges of a new millennium.
Permit me, Mr. President, to end by expressing my love, affection and appreciation to my family, as Larry has done to his -- my wife, Fran, my son, Jay; and daughter-in-law, Jessica; and her mother, Lisa; the two grandchildren whom Jay and Jessica have given us, Menachem, 22 months, and Bracha (phonetic), four days -- her first White House event, Mr. President. (Laughter.) My son, Brian; his fiancee, Erin; my dear mother, Sylvia; my mother-in-law, Sarah Taylor. And only our fathers are missing, but I feel their presence very strongly here -- for their unstinting love, their support, their devotion, and their sacrifice during my public service.
Thank you again, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 4:25 P.M. EDT
What's New - May 1999
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