[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1994, Book I)]
[February 1, 1994]
[Pages 160-162]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Announcing the Nomination of Deval L. Patrick To Be Assistant 
Attorney General for Civil Rights and an Exchange With Reporters
February 1, 1994

    The President. Good afternoon. For tens of millions of Americans the 
Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has historically 
embodied what is best about our country. It's helped us to keep the 
promise of our Constitution, to provide to every American equal 
opportunity and equal protection under the law, regardless of race or 
gender or disability. Because of our pursuit of equal treatment under 
the law, we've made a lot of progress in this country in the workplace, 
in the schools, in the voting booths, and in the courts. But there is 
still much more to be done. We need a strong and aggressive Civil Rights 
Division and a strong and compassionate advocate for freedom and 
fairness at the helm of that Division.
    Today I am proud to nominate Deval Patrick to be Assistant Attorney 
General for Civil Rights. I believe he is uniquely qualified to lead 
this Division in this decade. He's been chosen because he has 
distinguished himself as a lawyer whose wise counsel, keen negotiating 
skills, and mastery at litigation are held in the highest esteem.
    He's fought successfully against discrimination and for civil rights 
for his entire life, both professionally and personally. He understands 
that the law is a tool to help real people with real problems. He's here 
with his family today, having come a long way from his childhood on the 
south side of Chicago through a distinguished academic and professional 
career of which any American could be proud.
    The quest for civil rights gives life to our highest ideals and our 
deepest hopes. For his entire career Deval Patrick has played a role in 
that struggle, and he has made a real difference. Therefore, I know he 
will perform in a very outstanding manner in his new role as Assistant 
Attorney General for Civil Rights.
    Mr. Patrick?
    Attorney General? [Laughter] I don't know what order he's in.
    Mr. Patrick. Stick with me.
    The President. That's the idea.

[At this point, Attorney General Janet Reno and Mr. Patrick made brief 

Assistant Attorney General Nominee

    Q. Mr. President, conservative groups are already attacking Mr. 
Patrick, the same groups that attacked Lani Guinier, saying that he is 
the ``Stealth Guinier.'' How are you going to sell this nomination and 
make sure that your view of his record gets out accurately?
    The President. Well, I think that this nomination may be about those 
groups and whether they're proceeding in good faith. That is, you know, 
before those groups said, ``Well, we don't object to Lani Guinier's 
career as a lawyer. We just don't agree with her writings about future 
remedies.'' So now when they say ``Stealth Guinier,'' what they mean is 
that both these people have distinguished legal careers in trying to 
enforce the civil rights laws of the country. I hope that Mr. Patrick 
would plead guilty to that.
    And the truth is, a lot of those people are going to be exposed 
because they never believed in the civil rights laws, they never 
believed in equal opportunity, they never lifted a finger to give 
anybody of a minority race a chance in this country. And this time, if 
they try that, it's going to be about them, because they won't be able 
to say it's about somebody's writings, about future remedies. If they 
attack his record it means just exactly what we've all suspected all 
along, they don't give a riff about civil rights.
    Well, those of us who care about civil rights were elected by the 
American people to take care of them. That's what we intended to do.

Death Penalty

    Q. Mr. President, do you agree with his argument that the death 
penalty is racially discriminatory against blacks?

[[Page 161]]

    The President. Do I agree? He's made that argument in court. I don't 
agree with that, no.
    Q. A 1987 Supreme Court case.
    The President. No.
    Q. Have you talked with him about----
    The President. But I think the most compelling evidence that was 
introduced to support it, as I've said many times as a supporter of 
capital punishment, is that the race of the victim seems to determine 
the outcome of the verdict. There's a lot of evidence--the Supreme Court 
actually did not reject that evidence. They just said that that was not 
sufficient to outlaw the penalty as a constitutional matter. And I have 
repeatedly said I think that every State prosecutor ought to examine 
that. If there is evidence--every State ought to look and see, is there 
evidence that there's a disparity in the application of this penalty 
based on the race of the victim. If there is, States ought to take steps 
to try to do something about it.

Health Care Reform

    Q. Mr. President, Senator Dole says that your staff shouldn't go 
around calling people liars just because they disagree with them on 
health care. Is this exchange beginning to escalate out of hand?
    The President. No. I don't know what he's talking about. I'm sorry, 
I can't--I don't----
    Q. Well, he's talking about the reply that your office put out to an 
article about the Clinton health plan in the New Republic last week, 
which goes in several places to say that they are blatant lies. He was 
addressing it specifically to Mr. Magaziner.
    The President. Well, I hate to use that word, but the New Republic 
article was way off base. And the New Republic didn't make total 
disclosure about the source of the article.
    But I think Senator Dole was quite conciliatory at the Governors' 
Association today, and I have certainly tried to be constructive. And I 
know it may make better news for you all to drive a wedge between us, 
but it's better for the American people if we work together and tone our 
rhetoric down.

Northern Ireland

    Q. On a foreign policy matter, sir, Gerry Adams says the time has 
come for the United States to weigh in on the Ireland question. You had 
spoken in the campaign of becoming more involved or having the United 
States more involved in trying to find a peaceful solution there. Will 
you take a more aggressive stance toward trying to promote a peace 
settlement in Northern Ireland?
    The President. Well, when I spoke about that in the campaign, we 
didn't have the evidence that we now have that the British and the Irish 
Government would take the steps that they have taken. Let's be fair. The 
people that have to resolve this are the Irish and the British, and 
since that campaign, I think it's astonishing what's been done. The 
joint declaration is something the United States very much supports.
    I did believe that by giving Mr. Adams this visa, this limited visa 
to come here, that we might have a constructive role in pushing the 
peace process, which is why I did it. And I think that was an 
appropriate thing to do. But I think we should also support the work 
being done by the Prime Ministers of both Ireland and Britain in 
pursuing the peace.

Health Care Reform

    Q. Senator Rockefeller today said that he thought you were being a 
little bit too conciliatory to your good friends the Governors on health 
care, and he thought that maybe Mrs. Clinton could bring you back. 
    The President. Well, Senator Rockefeller made a big mistake today. 
He's a wonderful man, but he made a big mistake. He read a press report 
and assumed it was true, I mean--[laughter]--or fully accurate. That is, 
he read a report of someone else's characterization of what I said and 
assumed it was fully accurate. And the people who were characterizing it 
obviously were characterizing the conversation in the light most 
favorable to their position.
    I don't mean that the press misreported it. I mean the press 
reported it accurately. But that's what they do. When you have private 
conversations with people, they often characterize it in the light most 
favorable to their position. I think that's what happened.
    I didn't say anything differently in that meeting than I have said 
repeatedly, which is that we are and we should be flexible on the size 
of the alliances--that's already been said by Secretary Bentsen--and 
that in order to have a health care plan which passes muster in the 
Congress, we have to have some way of showing how much taxpayer money is 
at risk over a 5-year period. That's required of every bill passed by 

[[Page 162]]

    That's all I said, and I think the interpretation of it--while I 
don't dispute whatever they said, I think that the folks who 
communicated that to the press were doing it in the light most favorable 
to their own position. I understand that; that's fair game. But I would 
caution Senator Rockefeller to not think that I'd left his position. In 
many ways he's the heart and soul of this fight for health care. And if 
we change positions, he and I, we're going to try to do it together.
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 3:38 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White