11/1/00 Interview of the President by April Ryan
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                  November 2, 2000

                        INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT

                              The Oval Office
                                    November 1, 2000

5:35 P.M. EST

          Q    We're in the Oval Office for this historic occasion, talking
to President William Jefferson Clinton, and we're at the desk where John
Kennedy Jr. used to run.  And, Mr. President, thank you so much for having
us this election get out to vote interview.

          THE PRESIDENT:  April, I'm glad to do it.  I think this is a
terribly important election.  It's very important that people go, and that
when they go, they understand the differences in the choices and the
consequences.  So I'm delighted that you gave me a chance to do this

          Q    Mr. President, there seems to be some problems as far as
your second in charge, Vice President Al Gore, for many people getting out
to vote, and particularly African Americans.  What would you say to those
African Americans who feel that the election is already decided through the
polls, and those who just feel that their vote just doesn't make a

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first, I would say to them that the
election is far from decided.  This is apparently the closest election
we've had since the 1960 presidential election.

          (Tape problem, interview starts over.)

          Q    We're in the Oval Office, sitting with President William
Jefferson Clinton on this historic occasion.  We're sitting at the desk
that John Kennedy Jr. used to run through, or crawl through as a child.

          Mr. President, thank you so much for this time, for this
post-election interview.

          THE PRESIDENT:  I'm glad to do it, April.  Thank you.

          Q    There is a get out to vote effort, a major effort right now.
African Americans, in particular, are said not to be as energized about
going to the polls, particularly for your second in charge.  Why is it so
important that African Americans go to the polls this time, especially
since they came out in big numbers for you, and there's such a difference
right now?

          THE PRESIDENT:  I think, first of all, it's important because the
election is terribly close.  You know, President Carter won by one percent;
President Kennedy won by less than one-half of one percent.  This promises
to be that kind of election, so every vote will count.

          Secondly, it's important because the differences between the two
candidates for President and the two parties are so great.  If you think
about where we were eight years ago, we had an economy in trouble, we had a
society that was divided, we had a political system that was paralyzed and
generally thought not to be very favorable to African Americans and other
minorities in our country.

          Now, eight years later, we've got the strongest economy we've
ever had, we've got a lower crime rate, a cleaner environment, and the
number of people without health insurance is going down, the number of
people doing well in school and going on to college is going up, things are
moving in the right direction.  And the American people are being given a
chance to keep building on that progress, or to embrace a completely
different approach that would reverse it.

          So I think if you care about health care, education, a strong
economy, if you care about civil rights, human rights, and all these
appointments to the Supreme Court and the other courts that are going to
come up, there's more than enough reason to vote in this election.

          And Al Gore has a lifetime record of support for civil rights and
for policies -- economic, education, health care, environmental policies --
that help ordinary citizens.  So I think it's a clear choice.  And I think
that, frankly, his role in this administration in the last eight years and
the ideas he's put before the American people should command the support of
the African American community and I believe the majority of the American

          Q    But many African Americans I've talked to often wondered why
have you not stood next to him on many occasions prior to the week before,
and not only that, why had you not gone to the churches and things like
that before this last week.  And many are concerned that they don't see you
standing by him as much physically to promote him, and they're really
wondering if your support is there for Al Gore.

          THE PRESIDENT:  My support is there.  I have done over 150 events
this year to help him and the Democratic Party and to help our candidates
for Senate and the House -- literally over 150 events.  I think, frankly,
it would have been inappropriate for me to be out there campaigning with
him.  I think it would have hurt him with some people, because as he said
in his convention speech, he has to run for President as his own man.  He
has to be elected on his own.

          And I've done what I could to be supportive.  I continue to do a
lot of events, and I'm going out to California in a day or so.  I'm going
to go home the last weekend to Arkansas, which is a small state, but these
small states could determine the outcome of the election.

          I'm going to make another stop in New York trying to help my
wife, and also help the congressional candidates and help him, and I may do
another stop or so.  I'm doing everything I can.  And as you pointed out, I
went out in the churches last weekend.  But when a President campaigns,
it's very important not to do it too soon, and it's very important to do it
in a way that you're being supportive of the people that are running.  So
it's kind of a delicate thing.

          I remember when President Reagan used to come to Arkansas to
campaign against me, and he was wildly popular in Arkansas.  It never
affected my standing with the people, even though we got some of the same
votes.  So if I want to have an impact on this election, I have to
concentrate on talking to the people who will listen to the reasons I have
for voting for the Vice President and our other candidates, and also do it
in a way that makes it clear to the American people that I am first doing
my job here in Washington.

          So I've tried to do it as best I could in coordination with the
Gore campaign.  But the people in this country should have no doubt about
my strong support for him and my believe that he will be a very good

          Q    Well, there are several issues that have come into play,
too, with Vice President Gore.  One, the veracity, embellishment.  And some
people are even wondering, especially Christians -- you know, the
pro-choice stance, as well as the issue of -- he is saying that gay couples
can stay together.  And this is something the administration, for eight
years you've dealt with, and no one really jumped up at that before, and
now everyone is becoming unglued, particularly Christians --

          THE PRESIDENT:  Let's talk about that.  First of all, I want to
talk about this veracity business.  I think it's a total bum rap.  Let's go
back to what gave rise to it in the debate.  They jumped on him after the
first debate because he talked about taking a trip to Texas with the
Director of our Emergency Management Agency, and it turned out the guy
wasn't on the trip with him.

          Now, he went, and the regional director of the agency was on the
trip, and he had taken 17 other trips with this director.  He went to
almost as many emergencies as I did these last eight years.  And I can tell
you, I don't remember who was on what flight.  So that wasn't an
exaggeration.  He took the trip, he went down there, and he just didn't
remember that the guy wasn't on that flight, he was on 17 other flights.  I
think that is crazy.  He never said he invented the Internet; another bum
rap.  He never -- and all these other things they say, you know, basically,
I think are wrong.

          I will say this.  The other day, 425 high-tech executives
endorsed him, including a man named Vin Cerf -- he sent the first e-mail
ever sent, Mr. Cerf did.  And he really was one of the fathers of the
Internet.  And he gave Al Gore the credit he deserved for supporting
legislation in the Congress that turned the Internet from a private
province of Defense Department physicists into the broad, commercial
network it is today.  So I think the exaggeration thing is wrong.

          Now, let's talk about the pro-choice issue.  I still believe that
Roe v. Wade was properly decided.  And we have worked to try to reduce teen
pregnancy, and therefore, to reduce the number of abortions.  Teen
pregnancy is at a 30-year or 40-year low in America, and the number of
abortions has gone down every year I've been in office.  But I do not
believe the answer is to go back and criminalize a woman's decision to have
an abortion.  I think we should keep the pro-choice position, and I don't
think that's immoral.  I think it's consistent with reducing the number of
abortions by reducing teen pregnancy.

          Al Gore and I helped to start a national campaign against teen
pregnancy, which had, I think, a very significant, positive impact on this
issue, and I don't think there's anything wrong with his ethics or his
morals on this issue.

          In terms of the gay issue, what has he said?  He has said that he
believed that gay people who live together in a committed relationship
ought to have access to the same sorts of legal protections that other
couples have.  What are they?  One of you gets sick, the other one ought to
be able to visit in the hospital during family visiting hours.  I know this
sounds like a little thing, but this is a big deal to people.  One dies,
the other ought to be able to leave property under the laws of the state.
If one of them has health insurance on the job, they ought to be able to
purchase health insurance for their partners.
          I personally believe -- and he believes there should be no
discrimination on the job, and we should pass hate crimes legislation that
covers sexual orientation as well as race.  Now, I personally don't think
there is anything wrong with that.  I think we've got to build a society
where, if you obey the law and you work hard and you pay your taxes and you
do like everybody else is supposed to do in America, you ought to be
treated fairly.  So I agree with the Vice President's position on that.
And I don't think it's anti-family.

          So all I can tell you is I support him on that.  He's got a great
civil rights record.  He's got a great record on the economy.  He's got a
great record on the environment.  And he ran the program for me that
reduced the size of government and increased the amount of money we had
left, to invest in health care and other things.  I just think that he has
earned the right to be strongly considered for President, based on his
lifetime of service and the difference between him and his opponent.

          And let me just say this.  You talked about the abortion and gay
rights issues.  Those issues may well be decided by the judges that the
next President will support, but certainly civil rights issues will be
decided by the judges that the next President will appoint.  We already
have a five-vote majority on this court for some very disturbing decisions
designed to restrict the ability of the national government to protect the
rights of the American people.

          And I really believe that if the Republicans win the White House
it will be more than Roe v. Wade that's changed -- I think you'll have a
Supreme Court that will drastically restrict the ability of the federal
government to advance civil rights and human rights and to protect the
public interest.  You can already see it from the decisions that they made
involving the Violence Against Women Act, striking down part of that,
striking down part of the Brady Bill that's kept handguns out of the hands
of half a million felons, fugitives and stalkers, striking down a bill that
Congress passed to prevent age discrimination.

          So I think there's a lot of evidence out there that this election
makes a difference.  I agree with the positions the Vice President has

          Q    You're a strong Democrat and you have some Republican
leanings.  But many are questioning if George W. Bush gets in here, a lot
of things will change, especially how you dealt with the issue of race.
Bob Dole -- I'm working on a private project and I talked about Dole, and
he said something tremendous about you.  He said you have changed the way
the President will have to deal with race issues.  And that was tremendous
for me to hear Bob Dole say that about you.  Does it scare you, listening
to some of the things that George W. Bush says, and seeing the polls today
-- George W. Bush, 47 percent, Al Gore, 41 percent -- seeing that
everything you've worked for, you and Al Gore worked for, would drastically

          THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I actually believe that Governor Bush would
be, if he were President, would be pretty good on immigration, because he's
from Texas, and in Texas the Republicans and the Democrats have a
relationship with the Mexican American community that I think would
translate into pretty good policies.  And I think he would be perfectly
nice to everyone.  His rhetoric would be unifying, but I think his policies
would be divisive.  He wouldn't say he supported affirmative action, even
as we changed it, in the debate.

          Q    Affirmative access.

          THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, that's a code word for being against action,
I think.  He wouldn't say that he would support hate crimes legislation.
And he did refuse to see James Byrd's family.  They don't support stronger
enforcement of equal pay for women laws.  There just are lots of examples
here where they have good rhetoric, but I think their policies are, in
fact, divisive.

          One of the things I've tried to do is to say that we can unite
the American people.  And these last eight years, rich people have gotten
richer, but poor and middle class people have had income gains for the
first time in 20 or 30 years.  We've tried to go forward together.  And
that's what I think Al Gore will work for, and why I think it's important
that he be elected.

          And, by the way, we're talking six days before the election, the
real polls are basically dead-even.  I keep up with them every day and this
is a dead-even race.  So it really -- how it comes out is really going to
be determined more on who votes.  And a lot of these polls assume a lower
turnout among African Americans and Hispanic Americans and other
first-generation immigrants.

          Q    Two years ago the big difference came when African American
minorities went to the polls.

          THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Look what happened to Georgia.  Let
me just give you two or three examples.  In Georgia we elected a Democratic
governor who was behind in the polls, and two African American state office
holders.  Why?  Georgia is 25 percent black, the African American vote was
28 percent of the vote.

          In South Carolina, our side won a governorship and  Senator
Hollings was reelected, when most people thought we would lose both.  Why?
Because the first time in history African American turnout equaled white
turnout.  In Mississippi, the Democrats won a governor's race that the
polls said they were six points behind in on Friday night before the
election.  Why?  Because for the first time, African Americans turned out
in equal percentages as whites.

          So if African Americans say, I want my vote to count as much as
anybody else's, and they show up in the same or greater percentages of
their registration as whites do, we'll win this race.  It's as simple as
that.  African Americans and Hispanics vote in the same percentages as
white voters vote, we have enough support in the black community to win the

          Q    You said something a second ago about James Byrd.  James
Byrd's daughter is in an NAACP commercial.  What were your thoughts about

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven't seen the commercial -- that's not
quite true -- I actually saw it in passing, but I didn't hear it.  I think
she was very hurt, properly so, about the way she and her family were
treated after her father was dragged to death.  The Governor didn't want to
have to deal with her.

          But what was really going on in Texas -- and people don't want to
say it, but we need to be plain about it in the debate.  Governor Bush did
not want to embrace the hate crimes bill that two-thirds of the people in
Texas supported, because it extended hate crimes protection to gays, as
well as to racial minorities.  And he was going into a presidential primary
and he thought he had the support of the religious right and all the
ultraconservative wings of the party.  He was their first choice.  And he
didn't want to make them mad, so he didn't want to see James Byrd's family
and he didn't want to lift a finger to pass that bill.

          As I said, even though Texas, which is a conservative Republican
state -- in Texas, two-thirds of the citizens thought there should be hate
crimes legislation and it should protect gays.  Most people in America, no
matter how conservative they are, do not believe that anybody should be
singled out for abuse of any kind.

          And so I think he made a terrible mistake and I think she was
very, very hurt by it.  And I think that's what that ad is about.  Now, I
can't comment on the content, I haven't seen the substance of the ad or
whatever.  But she was hurt and she was letting the American people know.
And I think it's a relevant piece of information for the American people to

          Q    Mr. President, thank you so much for time, and I have one
last question to ask.  Today in the news, it seems that Congress is going
to adjourn a couple days before the election.  What is going to happen to
your budget, finishing the unfinished work?

          THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, they'll come back after the election if they
do that.  I wish they'd stay and finish.  But I think what's happened is
now -- everyplace we could make an agreement, we did.  We worked with them.
On the three areas that are still outstanding, they basically -- the
Republicans -- kicked the White House and the Democratic Congress
representatives out of the room and made an agreement among themselves,
that is, on one of the bills dealing with immigration and other things, and
on the tax bill, on those two.

          On the Education and Labor bill we actually made an agreement
with the Republicans, and then the Republican leadership shattered the
agreement, because they said it didn't suit their special interests on a
worker safety provision.

          So what I think they're going to do is call a halt to this --
that's the rumor, anyway -- and then come back after the election, and
we'll go back to work.  But it's really sad because we could have easily
finished our work here.  All they had to do was to honor the agreement that
we made on Education.  We had gotten a very good Education bill that really
helped the children of this country.  And we had gotten a proper compromise
on the worker safety issue.  But they didn't want us to be able to do
anything to protect worker safety.

          So I'm sorry about it.  But this is a clear example of the kind
of choice people make.  That's the last point I want to make about this
election.  People need to think about it when they decide, am I going to go
vote, is it worth my vote, what am I going to do with my presidential race
-- most Americans, including members of the African American community,
have no way of knowing how many things I stopped from happening here with
the veto pen, with the threat of a veto.  You know, in addition to the
things we got done, we stopped a lot of things from being done these last
six years with the Republicans in the majority.  And if you have a
Republican in the White House and if the Republicans were to maintain their
majority, however slim, in the House and the Senate, there would be nobody
here to stop them.

          I think Americans need to think long and hard about that before
they vote in this presidential race.  Somebody needs to be here to restrain
excess in conduct by the people that are in control of the Congress,
because they're to the right of -- the people who control the Congress are
to the right of many Republicans in the Congress, and to the right of the
Republicans in America, never mind the independents and Democrats.  So
that's another good argument for Al Gore for President.

          Q    Mr. President, thank you so much.  And we hope to do another
interview with you, an exit interview, before you leave office.

          THE PRESIDENT:  You know, it's my job, I should probably be doing
a lot of exit interviews.  Thank you, April.

          Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

                            END         6:00 P.M. EST

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