[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book II)]
[August 30, 1993]
[Pages 1405-1407]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting on Flood 
Relief and Hurricane Emily
August 30, 1993

    The President. Let me say, I asked that James Lee Witt to come in 
this morning to provide to me and to the Vice President and to our 
senior staff a briefing on Hurricane Emily and what provisions we're 
making to be ready for that and as well as to give me an update the--how 
we're handling the aftermath of the flood damage in the Midwest. And as 
you know, there was more flooding in Iowa yesterday.
    So those are the two things we're going to be talking about, and I 
thought I would maybe just let Mr. Witt say a word or two and then you 
may have a couple of questions.

[At this point, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Witt made 
brief remarks.]

Middle East Peace Talks

    Q. Mr. President, changing the subject for a second. The 
Palestinians and the Israelis appear to have some historic breakthrough 
involving perhaps mutual Israeli-PLO recognition. If the Israelis and 
the PLO recognize each other, will that result in the U.S. resuming its 
dialog with the PLO?

[[Page 1406]]

    The President. Well, first, let me say I am very much encouraged by 
what is happening there and very hopeful. The administration has worked 
hard to facilitate it. But ultimately, whatever happens will have to be 
done by the parties themselves. If there is a new and different 
landscape in the Middle East, then I might be willing to entertain some 
questions. But I can't say now. I can't answer your question now. It's 
hypothetical, and it would only interfere with the discussions now going 
on. I don't think it's appropriate for the United States even to 
consider its own position here until the parties have a chance to work 
out a resolution of this.
    Q. But the U.S. did have intervention in this, didn't it? I mean----
    The President. Oh, absolutely. I don't know if I would call it an 
intervention, but we've certainly worked hard to be a handmaiden or 
whatever the appropriate term is----
    Q. So you are involved?
    The President. We are involved, but our position has not been at 
issue here and should not be discussed until the parties themselves 
worked out their differences.


    Q. Mr. President, Senator Dole suggested the prospects for NAFTA 
would be better were you to take it up to the Senate first. Do you 
    The President. Yes, I think I do. At least my preliminary--I haven't 
talked to Mr. Daley about this or to the congressional leadership. But 
if you mean by that there's a far greater likelihood that today that 
NAFTA would pass in the Senate than the House, that's clearly correct.
    Q. What's going to be your strategy for winning over the House 
Democrats? David Bonior says that 75 percent of them right now are 
against NAFTA.
    The President. Well, not all of them have reached a position on it. 
And I want to do two or three things. First of all, as I told the 
Governors when I met with them in Tulsa, I'd like for all the Governors 
who support this to ask their Members of Congress to take no position 
until they actually read the agreement and see the implementing 
legislation itself.
    Remember, my position, going back to 1992, was that I was not for 
the NAFTA agreement as originally concluded but that I would support it 
if certain conditions were met. Those conditions have been met as far as 
our agreements with the Mexicans. We still have to have a training 
program, but we're going to have the first trade agreement in history 
that's got strong environmental requirements and that has Mexico 
committing to raise its minimum wage as its economy grows.
    So these are very encouraging and very different things. So my 
strategy for Democrats and Republicans who have not declared for but 
have not adamantly planted their feet in cement against, would be to ask 
them to read the agreement and wait until they see the implementing 
legislation, because that will tell them where we're going with the job 
training, and then make a judgment. And I think if that happens, we can 
prevail because, again I will say, Latin America is the second fastest 
growing part of the world. Mexico is just the beginning of this process. 
And I think it means more jobs for Americans. And I think I'll be able 
to persuade----
    Q. Should Bonior remove his hat as your whip, and----
    The President. No. I think that's a decision that the leadership in 
the House has to make. You know, Presidents and their Members of 
Congress are going to differ on some things. I heard the other day--I 
don't know that this is true--but I heard that so far, the Democrats in 
the Congress have voted for me more consistently than the last two or 
three Democratic Presidents. I have not checked that. That's just what I 
    Q. You don't believe that, do you?
    The President. I think yes, I think they have with remarkable 
consistency and very high percentages. But I think that we have an 
honest disagreement here. He has worked his heart out for me. This is 
the first issue on which we have disagreed. I think he's wrong; he 
thinks I'm wrong. I think in the end that my position will prevail.

Hurricane Emily

    Q. I want to get this question--the people in the Carolinas are 
remembering still in their mind not only the devastation, of course, but 
the response of the Federal Government after--that they consider that 
largely a nightmare as well. What do you say to them to let them know 
that you're prepared, well prepared, in case it does, of course, hit 
    The President. I would say two things. First of all, we're here 
looking at this map today

[[Page 1407]]

trying to get ready. That's what we're doing here. And secondly, if you 
look at the way FEMA and the Agriculture Department and the other 
Departments handled the flooding in the Middle West, it's obvious that 
while we don't control what Mother Nature does, we're going to be on top 
of it with all the resources and effort that we can possibly marshal as 
quickly as possible.

Note: The President spoke at 11:13 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the 
White House. In his remarks, he referred to William M. Daley, Chairman, 
NAFTA Task Force. A tape was not available for verification of the 
content of these remarks.