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President Bill Clinton -- March 27, 1997

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the mass suicide in California?

CLINTON: Of course, all I know is what I read about it this morning and then what I saw last night, reported. It's heartbreaking. It's sickening. It's shocking. I think it's important that we get as many facts as we can about this, and try to determine what in fact motivated those people, and what all of us can do to make sure that there aren't other people thinking in that same way out there in our country, that aren't so isolated that they can create a world for themselves that may justify that kind of thing. It's very troubling to me. But I don't think I know enough to be, to make a definitive comment about it.

QUESTION: Mr. President, switching gears on another subject, the Democratic party emerged from this most recent election, and in the aftermath of all of these fund-raising problems, it seems to be in pretty bad shape financially. Enormous debt that they can't repay. What, if anything, can you do about this, and how much responsibility do you have to try to get the Democratic party back in shape?

CLINTON: Oh, a lot. And I have been doing a lot, and I will do more. We knew that we'd have to spend -- last year, when it became obvious that our congressional candidates were going to be outspent massively, we did everything we could to raise quite, a good deal of money at the end. But the committees and the Democratic committee went into debt with money that they could legally borrow in the hope of trying to be competitive, and they actually did a pretty good job. They were still outspent, I figure, in the last ten days, two weeks, probably four or five to one, in all the contested races.

But, we knew that would happen and we knew it would take some time to pay it back. But I'm not particularly concerned about it. I think we will pay it back. And, it was, it was, I thought, important. You know, we were at the -- keep in mind, we were at the bottom of the barrel in November of '94. And in 1995 we did a good job, I think, of building our party back and of showing what the clear differences were between the two parties. And the previous leadership of the party deserves a lot of credit. We got up to a million small donors. And they're coming back now. They're beginning to make their contributions, and that's very encouraging. So, I think we'll get there. I'm not that, you know, I'm not particularly concerned about it. We made a deliberate decision to kind of downplay the Inaugural and not to try to tie too much of that to fundraising. So, we're going to have to work harder this year. But I've been doing some work, as you know, and I will continue to do more.

QUESTION: Do you think Governor Romer has second thoughts about some of the changes that previously eliminating contributions from subsidiaries of foreign companies and also non-U.S. citizens? He seems to be having some second thoughts about some of those proposals you made over the past few months.

CLINTON: Well, let me say, I still don't believe -- I think on balance it's better policy to say that people who can't vote shouldn't contribute. In terms of the subsidiaries, the real problem there is, is the law says if the money is made in the United States it can be given in the United States. The problem is, how do you ever know that? And, so, I think that he was trying to bend over backwards to get us off on the right foot. But what I, you know, I'd be willing to talk to him about it.

But the main thing is, we're just going to have to get together and work hard and rally our troops and remind them of what we're trying to do here, how we're trying to balance the budget, what we're trying to do for education, what we're trying to do to move the country forward and get the, you know, get the efforts going. And we've have several successful events this year. We just have to do more. And we knew, you know, what you have to do in a, after an election, when we saw all this third-party money and all these other things coming down the pike, we wanted to give our members of Congress a chance to be competitive, and so we undertook to do so, and I'm glad we did. But we're just going to have to work double hard now to pay the money back. We'll do that. We'll pay our debts, and we'll make our budget this year.

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you receive any updates from Ambassador Ross or the vice president and the prime minister?

CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: And what have they been?

CLINTON: Well, Ambassador Ross had a very good meeting with Chairman Arafat, and he's proceeding now on his trip. And, I don't have anything else to tell you. But he was encouraged by the response of Chairman Arafat to the matters that we discussed here before he left.

Now, I started the day this morning with physical therapy and a talk with the vice president in China, which was also good therapy. And, he said to me that in every aspect his trip had gone quite well and better than he had anticipated, and he was anxious to get back and give me a report on all the issues that we are concerned about.

But I think the trip has been a real validation for our strategy of engagement with China, of taking our agreements, our disagreements, our matters of common interest, our matters of concern, directly to them. And he is very pleased with the results so far, and I certainly am very pleased with the work he's done, with the speech he gave on human rights and with all the work that he's done in China so far. I'm encouraged about it. I think the trip is, has been well worth making.

QUESTION: Have you seen where Janet Reno gave Louis Freeh a ringing endorsement this morning, every confidence in his leadership at the FBI?

CLINTON: Well I, as I said, of course, she works with him every day, and that's why I said yesterday what I did.

I was troubled by the headline in the New York Times story, but I did not know the facts. And I think it's important for me not to assume that someone has done or failed to do something that's adverse to the national interest before I know it's true.

And she's the one that has to make those calls. And as she said in her comments, the system that we have -- the president appoints the director of the FBI, but the FBI is a part of the Justice Department. It's a part of the justice system.

And whenever you have dual responsibilities in the government, you're going to have some time when you've got to make a close call. And I still don't know -- as I said, I just literally don't know. I could actually tell you whether I agreed or disagreed if I knew what -- if and what information had not been forthcoming to the National Security Council.

I do believe that there should be a -- that doubts should be resolved in favor of disclosure to the National Security Council of essential national security information. But the attorney general has to resolve those things and I trust her to do it. And so, what she said is fine by me.

Copyright © 1997 Federal Document Clearing House



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