THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||November 3, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT PHOTO OPPORTUNITY
The Cabinet Room
11:30 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I'd like to begin by making a fewcomments about the tragedy that has been unfolding in CentralAmerica. Hurricane Mitch has already claimed thousands of lives inHonduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Many thousands moreare in urgent need of food and shelter. Across the region,communities have been devastated, bridges washed out, agriculturedisrupted, schools and hospitals destroyed.
These nations are our neighbors. They all have peoplewho are a part of our country now. They are both close to our shoresand close to our hearts. We must do whatever we can to help, and wewill.
Already, we have provided almost $3.5 million to airliftfood, plastic sheeting, water containers, and blankets into theregion. We've provided military aircraft and helicopters to getsupplies to isolated areas, and deployed a disaster assistanceresponse team to each affected country. We will be consulting withour friends in Central America and our people on the ground to seewhat more we can do in the days ahead.
Now I am about to begin a meeting with my economic teamto discuss a range of global economic issues. Over the long run, ifour economy is to continue to grow, the economies of our tradingpartners must also continue to grow. Yet a full quarter of theworld's population now lives in countries with declining or negativeeconomic growth. This presents to us the biggest financial challengein half a century.
Over the last year, we have pursued a comprehensivestrategy to fight the financial crisis and to protect American jobsat home as well. Just last week, in an unprecedented step, leadersof the world's major economies agreed to create a precautionary lineof credit to help countries with sound economic policies ward offcrisis in the first place.
Japan recently committed substantial resources to repairits own banking system, an essential precondition to restoring growththere. The U.S., Japan, Canada, and several European nations havecut interest rates to spur global growth. And America, at last, madeits contribution to the International Monetary Fund. Next week Iwill go to Asia, where we will continue to work with our Asianpartners to spur growth, expand trade, and strengthen the socialsafety net, especially in the troubled countries.
In the face of worldwide economic turmoil, the Americaneconomy remains the strongest in a generation. We are grateful forthat. But to keep it going we must stay with the strategy thatcreated the conditions of growth in the first place, that helped usto build this enduring economic expansion, and we must address thechallenges of the global economy to make sure it continues to endure.
Q Mr. President, since this is Election Day, what areyour predictions for your own party?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. As I said before, thereare an unusual number of exceedingly close races. I can neverremember a time when we had probably eight Senate seats within a fewpoints one way or the other, and it appears to me almost three dozenHouse seats within a few points one way or the other.
So in large measure it will depend upon who makes theeffort to vote today. I voted. I presume everybody here has alreadyvoted or is about to. And my only message today is that everyAmerican who has not yet made the decision to go and vote, should doso.
We are going to elect a Congress that will deal with thechallenges of Social Security and where it can be reformed and how,for the 21st century; that will deal with the Medicare challenge;that will deal with the challenge of providing an excellenteducational opportunity for all of our people. I hope we will electa Congress that will finally pass the patients' bill of rights, thatwill raise the minimum wage, that will deal with a lot of our otherbig-time challenges, including campaign finance reform.
Q How about your own survival? Is this a referendumon you?
THE PRESIDENT: I think this election is a referendum onall the hopes of the American people for the future, and theirassessment of the present condition, and how we get from here to abetter tomorrow. I think that's what it will be. That's what allelections are, and none of us know what is going to happen. That'sthe honest truth. None of the pollsters know; nobody does.
Q Mr. President, at this time of economic turmoil,what indication has Secretary Rubin given you regarding how long heintends to remain on the job? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You ought to ask him.
We haven't discussed it in quite a while. He knows thatI want him to stay as long as he's comfortable sitting in that chair,and I think all of us know there are a lot of things going on in theworld today, and the United States has a special responsibility. I'mvery pleased at the work we've been able to do under SecretaryRubin's leadership to stabilize the financial conditions, especiallyin the last couple of months, the consensus we seem to be developingamong the world's leading economies and many of the developingeconomies about some long-term reforms in the financial system thatwill enable us to continue to have growth without the kind ofboom-bust cycle that has caused so much heartache in so many of theAsian economies and in Russia, and the work we've done to try to keepit from spreading to Latin America.
And he has played a critical role in all that, as wellas in our own prosperity, the last several years. And I hope he'llstay as long as feels that he can.
Q Mr. President, the Central American countries thatare affected are all democracies. They're all emerging markets. Andit's not only a job of reconstruction, which is going to be veryexpensive; it's getting them back on their feet. You have shown alot of interest in Latin America. Would you be willing to lead amovement of European countries or pan-Asian countries that would alsohelp, because there is going to be a tremendous amount ofreconstruction needed?
THE PRESIDENT: We're going to be discussing that. Ithink there will be a lot of interest in the World Bank and elsewherein trying to help put these countries back on their feet
economically. But right now I think it's important that we focus ontrying to help them with the present.
I mean, it's inconceivable to most Americans that anatural disaster would lead to the deaths of thousands and thousandsof people. Keep in mind, all these countries are much smaller thanwe are. Imagine how we would feel in America if 7,000 people died ina natural disaster. And the combined population of these countriesis so much smaller than ours. Virtually every family will beaffected in some way or another.
And so I would say, first of all, let's help them dealwith the present crisis and deal with it as rapidly and as well aspossible. And then of course we will be looking at what we can do tohelp them rebuild and return to normal life.
Q This is your sixth anniversary. Has it been sixyears --
THE PRESIDENT: It is my sixth anniversary, isn't it?They have been six very good years -- very good years for ourcountry. And as I tell everybody around here, even the bad days aregood. It's an honor to serve, and my gratitude today is immense tothe American people for giving me two chances to do this and for thegood things that have happened in our country over the last sixyears.
I think we can look back over six years and think, ifyou had known six years ago that our country would be in the positionit is today, I think we would have all been almost incredulous, butwe would have been full of energy and hope. I think it shows that ifyou just get a good team together and everybody works like crazy, andthe American people do what they do, which is to get up every day anddo their jobs, that good things can happen.
I'm just -- I'm very grateful for these six years, andI'm grateful for the progress our country has made.