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Clinton Leaves Decision on National Missile Defense System for Next PresidentAired September 1, 2000 - 1:06 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: If there's an upside to being a lame- duck president, with less than five months left in office, it may be the option of leaving some uncomfortable decisions for the next guy.
As you may have seen live today on CNN, President Clinton did just that on the issue of a national missile defense system.
CNN's David Ensor joins us now with the details.
David, what did the president not decide?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The president did not decide whether to start deployment of a national missile defense system, a limited system that the Clinton administration has had in the research and development stages for quite some years now, which would protect the United States -- it's designed to protect the United States -- against incoming missiles from an enemy such as a North Korea, an Iran or an Iraq; a limited attack.
He decided not to go ahead, for the moment, with a deployment in -- on a remote Alaskan island of a radar installation. That was going to have to be the first decision that would be made. And if he wanted to have this system up and going by 2005, he was going to have to make that decision right about now.
He decided that the testing has not gone that well. He's not ready.
Here's some of how he put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line on this decision is this: because the emerging missile threat is real, we have an obligation to pursue a missile defense system that could enhance our security.
We have made progress. But we should move -- we should not move forward until we have absolute confidence that the system will work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ENSOR: That confidence is lacking because some of the recent tests have not gone all that well. Of three major tests, one was completely successful. The other two had problems, and the kill vehicle did not hit the dummy missile that was supposed to be coming towards it.
So that is why the decision has been delayed for the next president. Now, one possible next president, George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, put out a statement in which he said: "Now they are leaving this important, unfinished business for the next president, and I welcome the opportunity to act where they have failed to lead by developing and deploying effective missile defenses to protect all 50 states and our friends and allies."
So, clearly the Republicans are going to be saying that this is a bad decision by the president, and saying that they would go ahead with a much more robust national missile defense system and do it quickly.
By contrast, Vice President Gore's campaign endorsed the president's decision; said it was a wise one, and that at any time in the series of 16 or so tests that are now scheduled, the next president can decide to go ahead.
David Ensor, CNN, live at the White House.
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