[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[February 6, 1998]
[Pages 184-193]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom
February 6, 1998

    The President. First, let me say that it's been a real pleasure to 
welcome my friend Prime Minister Blair here to Washington with the 
entire British entourage. It continues a great tradition of partnership 
between our nations, anchored by common values, driven by common vision, 
eager to meet the challenges of this new age.
    Today we'll pay tribute to that heritage with a visit to the FDR 
Memorial. Earlier in this century, President Roosevelt and Prime 
Minister Churchill led the community of free nations that prevailed in 
world war. Now, on the eve of the 21st century, the Prime Minister and I 
seek to shape the peace in a world that is rich with possibility and 
promise but still not free from risk.
    We have a very similar outlook on preparing our own countries for 
the future. And if I might just take a moment to talk about the latest 
economic news, the strategy we are both working is to prepare all our 
people for the information age and the global economy. Today we have new 
evidence that that strategy is working here. In the last month America 
had 358,000 new jobs, over 1 million in the last 3 months. We are 
approaching 15 million new jobs in the last 5 years with the lowest 
unemployment in 24 years. Wages are rising, inflation is low. The role 
of Government has changed. We have the smallest percentage of these new 
jobs in the

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public sector and the highest percentage in the private sector in the 
United States since the 1920's. By maintaining fiscal discipline, 
opening more markets, investing more in our people, we will continue to 
expand opportunity and promote prosperity.
    We also share a common view of the changes that are occurring in the 
world and a belief in the importance of working together to harness them 
to the benefit of our people. We've reviewed our progress in building an 
undivided Europe; welcoming Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland into 
NATO; forging strong relations with the new democracies there, including 
Russia and Ukraine; helping the parties in Bosnia to fulfill the 
requirements of the Dayton peace accord.
    Both our nations agree we should take part in a follow-on security 
presence when the SFOR mission ends in Bosnia in June. We reaffirmed our 
determination to combat modern cross-border threats like terrorism and 
the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
    On Iraq, we stand together. Saddam Hussein must know that we are determined to prevent him from 
threatening his neighbors and the world with weapons of mass 
destruction. The Prime Minister and I would both prefer a genuine 
diplomatic solution.
    The best way to stop Saddam from developing an arsenal of nuclear, 
chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them is to 
get the inspectors back to work with full and free access to all 
relevant sites. But let me be clear: If Saddam does not comply with the 
unanimous will of the international community, we must be prepared to 
act, and we are.
    On Libya, 10 years later, we haven't forgotten the victims of the 
bombing of Pan Am 103 in the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland, or their 
loved ones. We will not rest until Libya complies with the requirements 
of the world community and surrenders for trial in the United States or 
Scotland the two Libyans accused of that 
brutal crime.
    We addressed our commitment to advance the cause of peace, and I 
welcome Britain's efforts as President of the European Union to spur 
greater cooperation in the Middle East peace process.
    I also commend the Prime Minister for his courageous steps in 
cooperation with the Irish Government to promote a climate of confidence 
and hope in Northern Ireland. The multiparty talks provide the best 
chance for a real solution to that conflict. I urge all the parties to 
show the vision and the forbearance and the determination to succeed. I 
unequivocally condemn the recent sectarian killings and beatings and 
threats. Nothing worth having in Northern Ireland can be accomplished 
through violence. I told the Prime Minister that we will continue to do 
all we can to advance the cause of peace, and of course, I asked for and 
received his advice in that regard.
    The recent financial crisis in Asia demands action from the 
international community. On our increasingly interconnected planet, 
trouble in the far end of town can easily become a plague in our own 
neighborhood. We agree that every affected nation must take 
responsibility for implementing tough reforms and that other nations, 
when they do that, when those nations that are affected do their part, 
other nations should support helping them through the International 
Monetary Fund.
    We also looked at ways that we could work together to benefit our 
people at home. As President of both the European Union and the G-7, the 
United Kingdom will host two important summits in Birmingham this May. 
The Prime Minister has told me he wants these summits to take action 
that really will make a difference in our people's daily lives, that 
lift their horizons and their dreams, stepping up our efforts to combat 
drug traffickers, and helping every child to grow up in a safe 
    Shielding our planet from the threat of global warming and bringing 
our people the benefits of a growing economy and a clean environment are 
important to us as well. It's also important that we give our people the 
tools to make the most of their lives through world-class education and 
training; help people to move from welfare to work--and I applaud the 
efforts that the Prime Minister is making on that--give them access to 
the wonders of the information age--that's something we talked about 
yesterday at the Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland--and dealing 
with the question of how to provide greater security in the retirement 
years when the baby boom generation retires.
    We finally know that our two nations must continue to work and to 
lead the world for security, prosperity, and peace. In 1942, in the 
midst of the Second World War, President Roosevelt sent a message to Mr. 
Churchill that said as follows: ``When victory comes, we shall stand

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shoulder to shoulder in seeking to nourish the great ideals for which we 
fight.'' Today, on the verge of a new century and a new millennium, that 
prediction has proved right. America is proud to stand with the United 
Kingdom and with Europe and to work with its leader, Prime Minister Tony 
Blair, to build an even brighter future.
    Thank you. Mr. Prime Minister, the floor is yours.
    Prime Minister Blair. Thank you, Mr. President. And can I begin by 
saying how grateful we have been for such a wonderful and warm welcome 
here in the United States of America.
    As the President has just indicated, we discussed obviously a range 
of different topics. At top of the list, of course, was the situation in 
respect to Iraq. And what we agreed was that we had to do three things 
in particular. We have first of all to make sure that our own public 
opinion was properly educated as to why it's so essential that the U.N. 
inspectors are able to do their work, the amount of weapons that they 
have already uncovered in the 6 or 7 years that they have been doing 
this task, and why it is therefore absolutely essential that Saddam 
Hussein is brought back into line with U.N. Security Council resolutions 
and the inspectors can go about their tasks unhindered.
    We, ourselves, a couple of days ago in Britain, published a document 
where we listed precisely all the various weapon finds the inspectors 
have made. And when you go through that list and see all the various 
attempts there have been to try and prevent the inspectors carrying out 
their functions, then I think people can understand why it is so 
necessary, so important for us to be prepared to take whatever action is 
necessary to ensure those inspectors can go back in and fulfill their 
    Secondly, though, in relation to Iraq, it is important that we 
stress all the time, of course we want a diplomatic solution, but it 
must be a diplomatic solution based on and fully consistent with the 
principles that we have set out. The question of whether there is such a 
diplomatic solution rests ultimately with Saddam Hussein. He has the 
choice. He can bring himself back into compliance with the agreements he 
entered into, and then that diplomatic solution can be fulfilled.
    Thirdly, however, we have of course to prepare in case diplomacy 
cannot work. In view of the situation, we in Britain have been looking 
at our own military readiness in case a diplomatic solution does not, in 
the end, prove possible. We have decided to base eight Tornado GR-1 
aircraft in Kuwait, with the full agreement of the Government of Kuwait. 
These are ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft. Their deployment is 
a precautionary measure, and it will take place over the next few days.
    So all the way through, in respect to Iraq, we've agreed that we 
must educate; we must engage in diplomacy; but we also must prepare.
    In respect of Ireland, I want to place on record yet again my thanks 
to the President for all the support he has given us in searching for a 
lasting and peaceful political settlement in Ireland. As I've found when 
I've addressed many Members of Congress, the Senate here in Washington, 
there is tremendous interest in the United States of America in this 
process, and there is a great, much-appreciated willingness on your part 
to have that process succeed.
    It isn't going to be easy. These things never are. But we do believe 
that we have the best chance that we've had for many generations to 
secure peace. And I wanted to emphasize yet again to you our total and 
complete determination and commitment to find a peaceful way through. 
With good will and with proper cooperation and with some trust on all 
sides, I think it is possible.
    And I thank the President for his condemnation of those sectarian 
killings that have so disfigured the process over the past few weeks. 
And I say yet again, what we must ensure is that those random, brutal, 
unjustified acts of violence perpetrated by a small minority must not in 
the end frustrate the wishes of the overwhelming majority of people in 
Northern Ireland to secure a peaceful and stable future for themselves.
    We discussed, of course, the Middle East peace process and Bosnia 
and our commitment there. We discussed, as the President has mentioned a 
moment ago, the global economy, the Asian crisis, and what measures we 
should take in order to ensure that such crises are mitigated and do not 
happen again.
    We also laid out for the President and his colleagues our strategy 
as President of the European Union, our commitment to ensure that 
monetary union is successfully launched, our commitment to the 
enlargement process bringing into the European Union those countries in 
Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

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    And we discussed as well, and agreed, that it was important that 
Europe strengthened its relationship with Turkey and that we build a 
strong relationship with Turkey--between Turkey and the European Union 
for the future.
    As good and interesting as anything else has been also the 
possibility of exchanging ideas, ideas about how government meets the 
economic and social and political challenges of the future. As I said in 
my speech this morning at the breakfast hosted by the Vice President, 
there is a new Britain being shaped today. It is a Britain of 
confidence, dynamism; it is a Britain that is proud of its past but is 
not living in it and is shaping a future of which we can be proud, also. 
And I think in exchanging ideas and in seeing how much there are common 
themes and common ideas for government between us, we can gain strength 
in Britain and the United States from that partnership and relationship.
    Finally, I would like to say personally how tremendously grateful 
I've been, as I say, not merely for the warmth of the welcome extended 
to us here but for the great comradeship and partnership between the 
United States of America and Great Britain that I know will strengthen 
and strengthen evermore in the future.
    Thank you.
    The President. Thank you. Now, here's what we're going to do. We're 
going to alternate; so I'll call on an American journalist, and the 
Prime Minister will call on a British journalist. Of course, you're free 
to ask whomever whatever you please.
    Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International].

Witnesses in Independent Counsel's 

    Q. Mr. President, despite the ongoing investigation, you've felt no 
constraint in saying what your relationship with Monica Lewinsky is not, 
was not. So it seems by logic that you ought to be able to say here and 
now what was your relationship. Her lawyer says--called it 
``colleagues''; is that an apt description?
    The President. Well, let me first of all say, once again, I never 
asked anybody to do anything but tell the truth. I know about the 
stories today. I was pleased that Ms. Currie's lawyers stated 
unambiguously this morning--unambiguously--that she's not aware of any unethical conduct.
    But this investigation is going on, and you know what the rules for 
it are. And I just think as long as it is going on, I should not comment 
on specific questions, because there's one, then there's another, then 
there's another. It's better to let the investigation go on, and have me 
do my job and focus on my public responsibilities, and let this thing 
play out its course. That's what I think I should do, and that's what I 
intend to do.
    Q. Why leave people in the dark?
    The President. Well, I am honoring the rules of the investigation. 
And if someone else is leaking unlawfully out of the grand jury 
proceeding, that is a different story. I am going to do--I have told the 
American people what I think is essential for them to know about this 
and what I believe they want to know. What I'm doing is going on with my 
work and cooperating with the investigation. And I do not believe I 
should answer specific questions. I don't think that's the right thing 
to do now.
    Prime Minister Blair. Michael [Michael Brunson, Independent 
Television Network].

Personal Integrity and Public Responsibility

    Q. Is it not time, though, to drop the pretense that this is simply 
business as usual? Have we not seen, with the allegations that 
surrounded the British Foreign Secretary but to a much greater degree 
yourself, Mr. President, that this does affect the conduct of public 
business? And far from dodging the point, as you did, Prime Minister, 
yesterday when you were asked about the private lives of public figures, 
should you not both be saying that the public have the right to expect 
the very highest standard in the private lives of public politicians?
    Prime Minister Blair. Well, Michael, I hope we do that, but what I 
would say to you is that what is essential is that we focus on the 
issues that we were elected to focus upon. And in the discussions that 
we have had over this past 2 days, we've been focusing on issues like 
Iraq, where we are considering if diplomatic solutions fail taking 
military action. We've been focusing on the peace process in Northern 
Ireland that gives the chance for the first time in generations, after 
centuries of conflict, for people to find a way through. We've been 
focusing on the problems of the world economy, that if they're not 
tackled could have a serious impact on the living standards of people 
here and people in Britain, as well as people out in Asia.

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    These are the important questions for me, schools, hospitals, crime, 
living standards, jobs that people want us to focus upon. And I believe 
that it is absolutely essential that we stay focused upon those things 
and that we deliver for our people what we were elected to deliver. Now, 
that is what I intend to do, and I think that that is, in the end, what 
the British people would expect me to do.
    The President. Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press].

Situation in Iraq

    Q. Mr. President, switching to Iraq, the Prime Minister said that 
you had to educate the public about Iraq. But I think the American 
public is largely in the dark about what to expect about a military 
attack on Iraq. Are you talking about something that lasts a day or two, 
or something that lasts for weeks or months? And on a diplomatic note, 
you've got France and China and Russia opposing this. Boris Yeltsin says 
that it could lead to world war III. What gives Britain and the United 
States the right to go it alone on this?
    The President. Well, you asked about five questions there in one. 
Let me try to unpack it. First of all, the most important thing, the 
best thing that could be done, what we hope will happen, is that there 
will be a diplomatic solution to this which will result in the 
inspection teams from the United Nations being able to return and have 
unfettered access to the appropriate sites, because--the Prime Minister 
I think put out a paper just a couple of days ago pointing out the 
incredible work that's been done by the inspection teams. That's the 
best thing.
    Now, whether there is a diplomatic solution or not is entirely up to 
Saddam Hussein. If he decides that he wants 
to continue to have the freedom to rebuild his weapons program, then I 
believe that the clear mandate for the world community, based on not 
only the resolutions of the United Nations but the danger this would 
present to the interest and values of the United States, the people of 
Great Britain, the people of the region, is to do what we can to weaken 
his ability to develop those weapons of mass destruction and visit them 
on his neighbors.
    You know I never discuss operational plans. I wouldn't do that. I 
think the important thing is that you know that I don't want this. 
Nobody wants this. We want a diplomatic solution. It's up to him.
    The second thing I would say is, the Secretary of State has been working very hard in the last several 
days, has traveled, as you know, widely. I have been on the phone a lot. 
I believe there is more agreement than at first it appears about the 
necessity to push this thing through to the end.
    And I will continue to talk with President Yeltsin and President Chirac and 
others, but consider the alternative. After all, this man is the only 
repeat offender around with chemical weapons. He used them on his own 
people. He used them on the Iranians. And I believe it's a very serious 
thing. And I think that the American people will understand that.
    Q. World war, as President Yeltsin said?
    The President. I don't understand what chain of circumstances would 
lead to that development. I don't believe that will happen.
    Prime Minister Blair. Peter [Peter Riddell, London Times].
    Q. On Iraq, you said we need to educate, Prime Minister. It isn't 
entirely clear what the objective of military action would be. Is it 
intended as a punishment for Saddam Hussein? Is it intended as a 
substitute for the work of the weapons inspectors to strike? Or would it 
continue until Saddam said, ``All right, I'll let them in.'' And also, 
you've announced the deployment of some aircraft. Is there any intention 
to deploy ground troops at all, British ground troops?
    Prime Minister Blair. No, the deployment that we have made is the 
deployment that I have described of the aircraft. And in respect to the 
objectives, well, the objectives are very clear. That is to ensure 
either that the weapons inspectors can come in and finish their task or 
that the capability that Saddam Hussein undoubtedly has and wants to 
develop for weapons of mass destruction is taken out. And it is 
absolutely essential that what we do is focus upon the best way possible 
that we can do that.
    Now obviously, as the President was saying a moment or two ago, it 
is not sensible or serious to start discussing the details of the 
military options available to us. But the purpose of this the whole way 
through, the reason we are in this situation, is because he has been 
developing weapons of mass destruction. The only barrier to that has 
been the inspectors. If the inspectors are prevented from doing their 
work, then we

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have to make sure by the military means of which we are capable that, 
insofar as possible, that capacity ceases. And that is the objective. 
And it's an objective that I think is fully in line, as I say, with the 
original agreements under which Saddam Hussein undertook--remember, he 
agreed--he undertook to destroy any weapons of mass destruction 
capability, whether nuclear, chemical, or biological. Now, he's in 
breach of that. We've got to make sure that he complies one way or 
another with it.
    The President. Larry [Larry McQuillen, Reuters].

Paula Jones Civil Lawsuit

    Q.  Mr. President, just to go back to the controversy that's been 
surrounding you lately. There have been various reports that in some 
ways have come to be accepted as fact. And I just want to give you an 
opportunity. One of them is that in sworn testimony to the lawyers for 
Paula Jones, that you changed your version of your relationship with 
Gennifer Flowers. And I just wondered if you can tell us, I mean, do 
    The President. Let me just say this, again, even though the judge's 
order has been routinely violated by the other side in the case--the 
judge has issued strict orders in the 
case that covers everybody, including me, not to discuss it. I can tell 
you this--and I'm confident as this thing plays out it will become more 
apparent in the future--if you go back, I told the truth in my 
deposition with regard to that issue, and I also did in 1992 when I did 
the interview, which I think was rerun the other night, the interview 
that Hillary and I did on ``60 Minutes.''
    You just have to know that, and I think it will become apparent as 
this case plays itself out that I did in fact do that, but I am not 
going to discuss that. The judge has given us strict orders not to 
discuss anything related to that case. The other side has violated it on 
a regular basis. I don't intend to do that; I'm just not going to do it.
    Prime Minister Blair. John [John Sopel, British Broadcasting 

Situation in Iraq

    Q. Prime Minister, Mr. President, is it possible for you to launch 
an attack if you don't have on board the French, the Russians, the 
    Prime Minister Blair. I think, John, you have to distinguish very 
carefully between what of course are, I accept, varying degrees of 
enthusiasm or commitment for the military option, with the complete 
unanimity there is in the world community that Saddam Hussein has to 
comply with the resolutions and that his capacity to develop weapons of 
mass destruction must be halted.
    Now, it is difficult for us to see--and for me to see, quite 
frankly--that if you take that as the position, how diplomacy, unless it 
is backed up at least by the threat of force, is ever going to work and 
succeed. But it would be wrong, I think, to think that either, for 
example, our French or our Russian colleagues were not absolutely 
insistent that Saddam Hussein comply with these resolutions, and they 
are making diplomatic efforts in order to ensure that that happens. I 
wish those efforts well, provided they are fully consistent with the 
principles that have been set out.
    It is just that we take the view--and I think experience teaches us 
that this is the only realistic view of Saddam Hussein--that unless you 
back up whatever diplomatic initiatives you're taking with saying quite 
clearly, ``Well, if diplomacy doesn't work, the option of force is 
there,'' then those diplomatic initiatives are unlikely to succeed. But 
it's important that we realize that it is in that area that any 
difference lies, not in the insistence of the world community that he 
must come into line with those U.N. resolutions.
    The President. Peter [Peter Maer, NBC Mutual Radio].

Paula Jones Civil Lawsuit

    Q. Mr. President, your spokesman this morning described to us, in 
his words, a very dangerous environment following these alleged leaks. 
What's your own assessment of the legal atmosphere? And we understand 
that your attorneys are planning to take some action about this. What 
action do they intend to take?
    The President. I think you should talk to them. I don't want to 
comment on what they're going to do. They're fully capable of speaking 
for themselves and for me in this case.
    Q. And your comment, sir, on the effect of the leaks?
    The President. I don't have anything to add to what has already been 
said about that.

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    Prime Minister Blair. Bill [Bill Murphy, Press Association].

Clinton-Blair Relationship

    Q. Can I ask the Prime Minister, you could have come here and simply 
talked about serious politics, but some people are being struck by the 
warmth of the personal statements of support that you've given to the 
President. Could I ask, have you ever considered that that might be a 
politically risky strategy? And could I ask the President, have you 
appreciated those comments from Mr. Blair?
    Prime Minister Blair. To be quite honest, Bill, I've said it because 
I believed it and because I think it is the right thing to do. And I've 
worked with President Clinton now for some 9 months as British Prime 
Minister. I have found him, throughout, someone I could trust, someone I 
could rely upon, someone I am proud to call not just a colleague but a 
friend. And in the end, you either decide in politics, when you're asked 
about people, you're going to say how you actually feel or you're going 
to make a whole series of calculations. And my belief is that the right 
thing to say is what you feel.
    And I happen to think, whether this is my place to say it or not, 
that if you look at the American economy, if you look at the respect 
with which America is held right around the world today, if you look at 
the standing and authority of the President, it's a pretty impressive 
record for anyone.
    The President. You ask do I appreciate it? No, I--[laughter]--he 
should have come here and jumped all over me. [Laughter]
    Prime Minister Blair. Do you want me to come back in now? [Laughter]
    The President. Of course I do. But you know, I think it's also a 
testament about--there's been--a lot of people bandy about the word 
``character'' in sometimes loose and uncertain contexts. I think, the 
people who stand up and say things that they believe, when it would be 
just as easy to walk away, show a certain kind of character that I think 
is essential in a public leader. And I'm very gratified that Tony Blair 
has done that, not only for personal reasons but because I think it will 
strengthen his authority as a world leader.
    Yes, go ahead, Mike [Mike Frisby, Wall Street Journal].

Possibility of Resignation

    Q. Mr. President, all these questions about your personal life have 
to be painful for you and your family. At what point do you consider 
that it's just not worth it, and do you consider resigning from office? 
    The President. Never. You know, I was elected to do a job. I think 
the American people know two or three things about me now that they 
didn't know the first time this kind of effort was made against me. I 
think they know that I care very much about them, that I care about 
ordinary people whose voices aren't often heard here. And I think they 
know I have worked very, very hard for them. And I think they know now, 
more often than not, the ideas I had and the things I fought for turned 
out to be right in terms of the consequences for the American people. I 
think they know all that.
    And I'm just going to keep showing up for work. I'm going to do what 
I was hired to do. And I'm going to try to keep getting good results for 
them. The pain threshold, at least for our side, being in public life 
today has been raised. But to give into that would be to give into 
everything that I've fought against and what got me into this race in 
1991, to try to run for President in the first place.
    I have tried to bring an end to this sort of thing in our public 
life. I've tried to bring the American people together. I've tried to 
depersonalize politics and take the venom out of it. And the harder I've 
tried to do it, the harder others have pulled in the other direction. 
That doesn't mean I'm wrong. And I would never walk away from the people 
of this country and the trust they've placed in me.
    Prime Minister Blair. Robert [Robert Peston, Financial Times].

United Kingdom Domestic Reforms

    Q. This morning you said that the U.K. faced 2 painful years. Could 
you expand on what you meant by that?
    Prime Minister Blair. Yes. As I was saying to people this morning, I 
mean, there are some very tough decisions that we have had to take in 
order to deal both with the structural budget deficit with the inflation 
that was back in the system that we inherited when we came to power, and 
with an educational and welfare system that, frankly, is just nowhere 
near where

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it needs to be for the 21st century. And making those changes is going 
to be tough.
    Welfare reform isn't going to be easy. It will be unpopular in 
certain quarters. Taking the measures to cure the budget deficit has 
been hard when people want more money spent or more public services. And 
we're saying, ``Look, we can't go on. We'd have a higher level--debt 
levels and borrowing; we've got to act.'' So we've taken the action on 
interest rates and giving the Bank of England independence. We've cut 
the structural deficit. A balanced budget is something we'll be able to 
talk about on the other side of the water as well, in a few years' time.
    We're putting through a massive program of reform on education and 
welfare. But it will be tough, and it will take us some time to get it 
through. But as I said this morning, I am an unashamed long-termist. I 
believe in making sure that the decisions that we take aren't based on 
the next day's headlines but are based on where we really want the 
country to be come years down the line.
    And particularly when we're facing such enormous global economic 
challenges, we can't afford either to lose a grip on monetary or fiscal 
prudence or to leave our education and welfare system in the state 
they're in. So, yes, it will be tough, but it will be worth it in the 
    The President. Let me just make one comment to support something the 
Prime Minister just said, when he said he was an unashamed long-termist. 
In a funny way, when societies change as fast and as much as our 
societies are changing today, when the pace of events and their variety 
make it more difficult to predict what will happen next week or next 
month, it is even more important to be oriented toward the long term, 
because you have to figure that, if you lay in a structure of 
opportunity for a free people, they'll get it right and they'll overcome 
all these unpredictable developments in the meanwhile. That's why I 
think the approach that he has taken is so wise and so right, not only 
for Great Britain but for any other country as well.
    Yes, Mara [Mara Liasson, National Public Radio]. Go ahead.

Rightwing Conspiracy

    Q. I'm wondering if you could elaborate on something that the First 
Lady said recently about a rightwing conspiracy who's working against 
you. Could you explain how that conspiracy works? And specifically, are 
Linda Tripp, Ken Starr, and Monica Lewinsky part of that conspiracy?
    The President. Now, you know I've known her a long time, the First 
Lady, and she's very smart. And she's 
hardly ever wrong about anything. [Laughter] But I don't believe I 
should amplify on her observation in this case.
    Q. Do you agree with her?
    Prime Minister Blair. Yeah, Adam [Adam Boulton, SKY News].

Personal Integrity and Public Responsibility

    Q. One of your common shared themes you keep on telling your voters 
is this matter of their rights go with responsibilities. Now, you, as 
elected leaders, have extraordinary rights and privileges, yet you seem 
to be saying that there's no extension of responsibilities as far as 
personal integrity is concerned. Is that what you're really saying: If 
you're delivering on the job, the big picture, it doesn't matter what 
you get up to in your private life?
    Prime Minister Blair. No, nobody is saying that you don't have 
obligations of personal integrity. Of course that's right. But what we 
are trying to say to you is the responsibilities with which we were 
asked by our people to discharge, those responsibilities are in the 
issues where we can affect them as leaders of the country.
    If you go to Britain today and you talk to the British people--and I 
do ask--it just could be that sometimes you guys in the media are not in 
exactly the same place as a lot of public opinion in terms of the 
priorities people have. But if you go out there and you talk to British 
people and you say, ``What do you want this new Labour government to 
do,'' they will talk to you about ensuring we don't have boom and bust 
but that we have steadily rising living standards. They'll talk about 
job security. They'll talk about the state of their schools. They'll 
talk about the national health service. They'll talk about the welfare 
system and the crime in their streets. They'll talk about security in 
old age. They will talk about these things, and they will care about 
these things. And they will expect us to deliver those responsibilities. 
And of course, it's a great privilege for us to occupy the positions 
that we do. But in the end, the judgment that the people make of us is a 
judgment based on what we said that we would

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do and whether we fulfilled the promises that we made. And that's 
certainly what we intend to do.
    And I do think also that people understand and want political 
leadership that addresses these fundamental questions in a way that 
means something to them. When I was at the Montgomery Blair High School 
yesterday with the President and the President got up and addressed the 
young men and women and the teachers and staff and the parents that were 
there and started going through the education program that he was 
unveiling and had formed part of the State of the Union Address and 
everything, some of those things in terms of class sizes and new 
technology in the schools were very familiar to the British contingent 
here as things that we're trying to do in Britain.
    I mean, the enthusiasm and the delight with which those things were 
greeted, because those people knew that in the end that's what they 
elected their President to do; that's what they elected me to do. And 
those are the things that they want from us, and we've got to make sure, 
all the time, that we're focusing on that big picture. And you know, 
whatever other issues come along and distract us, in the end, the 
judgment of history upon us will be pretty poor if those weren't the 
things that when we go to bed at night we're thinking about, those 
weren't the things that we're worried about and concerned about 
throughout the entirety of our society, because those are the things 
which really make a difference to their lives.
    The President. Go ahead, Wolf [Wolf Blitzer, Cable News Network].

Monica S. Lewinsky

    Q. Mr. President, Monica Lewinsky's life has been changed forever. 
Her family's life has been changed forever. I wonder how you feel about 
that and what, if anything, you'd like to say to Monica Lewinsky at this 
    The President. That's good. [Laughter] That's good. But at this 
minute, I am going to stick with my position of not commenting.

U.S. Aircraft Accident in Italy

    Q. While relations with--between Britain and the United States 
appear to be splendid right now, there is a darkening cloud over the 
relations with Italy. The Prime Minister, the President, the Defense 
Minister has issued some very harsh statements about the accident the 
other day when a low-flying Marine plane severed a cable and the car 
fell. There's a lot of anger. Some people in Italy are even asking for 
the closing of the Aviano base. What do you have to say to them?
    The President. Well, first of all, what happened was horrible. And 
when I heard about it, I was very shaken. As you know, there was a 
period of a few hours there where it wasn't clear how many people had 
died and where there was another whole gondola suspended, where many 
more people could have died, and thank God they were rescued. The whole 
thing has been an agony for the people of Italy--there were a 
substantial number of Germans killed--and, I'm sure, for the pilot of 
the plane and the people in our military base in Aviano, where I have 
been on more than one occasion.
    I can tell you what I think should be done. I called Prime Minister 
Prodi, and I told him that I was heartsick 
about it, that I would make absolutely sure there was a no-holds-barred 
full investigation of what happened, that the Italians would be kept 
fully informed and be a part of it, and that we would work with them in 
every way possible to make sure that they knew that we tried to get to 
the bottom of it and to handle it in the appropriate way.
    You know, in our military every year--I say this to the American 
people all the time, but let me just say this. It is an inherently 
dangerous business. Now, we don't know what the facts are here; maybe 
somebody made a careless mistake. We don't know. I do not know what the 
facts are, and I will not render judgment until I do. But we lose about 
200 people every year in military service in America on training 
exercise or otherwise on duty. And those planes fly very fast. And I 
don't know what the description of the mission was. I want to wait until 
I see exactly what the facts are. But we--it is inherently more 
dangerous than I think we think from time to time.
    Now, I told the Prime Minister of Italy, and I'll tell you: I will 
do everything I can to find out exactly what happened and take 
appropriate action and to satisfy the people of Italy that we have done 
the right thing. I understand why they are hurt and heartbroken and 
angry. And they are entitled to answers, and we'll try to give them to 
    Go ahead, the gentleman in the back. I promised one more. Last 
question, go ahead.

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Situation in Iraq

    Q. Mr. President, do you believe that airstrikes alone are going to 
remove the threat of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons from 
Saddam Hussein? Is that a fair thing to expect from military action, 
should push come to shove in the Gulf?
    The President. Well, there have been many thoughtful public pieces--
a lot of very thoughtful articles which have been written about the 
limits, as well as the possibilities, of any kind of military action. I 
think the precise question should be--that I should have to ask and 
answer--is could any military action, if all else fails, substantially 
reduce or delay Saddam Hussein's capacity to 
develop weapons of mass destruction and to deliver them on his 
neighbors. The answer to that, I am convinced, is yes. I am convinced 
there is a yes answer there.
    But you have to understand that those are the criteria for me. I've 
told you before, I don't believe we need to refight the Gulf war. It's 
history. It happened. That's the way it is. I don't believe we need to 
get into a direct war with Iraq over the leadership of the country. Do I 
think the country would be better served if it had a different leader? 
Of course I do. That's not the issue.
    The issue is that very sharp question, if the inspection regime is 
dead and therefore we cannot continue to make progress on getting the 
stuff out of there in the first place, and then--keep in mind there are 
two things about this regime. There's the progress on getting the stuff 
out of there in the first place, and then there is the monitoring 
system, which enables people on a regular basis to go back to high-
probability sites to make sure nothing is happening to rebuild it.
    So if that is dead, is there an option which would permit us to 
reduce and/or delay his capacity to bring those weapons up and to 
deliver them? I think the answer to that is yes, there is an option that 
would permit that.
    Do you want to ask one more question?

Personal Integrity and Public Responsibility

    Q. Prime Minister, as a man who understands the pressures of public 
life and also a friend and a religious man, I wonder what words of 
advice and support and comfort and sympathy you might have been able to 
offer personally to the President during these difficult times when he's 
under investigation?
    Prime Minister Blair. That's what, in the British media, is called a 
helpful question. If I can--I don't presume to give advice at all. All I 
think that is important, which is what we have managed to do, is to 
discuss the issues that we set out and listed for you. And as I say, I 
think we would be pretty much failing in our duty if we weren't to do 
that. And I've actually noticed since I've been here and I've talked to 
many people here, that there is, of course, huge concern at the moment 
at what is happening in Iraq; there's huge interest in Britain, in the 
new government, and what we're trying to do in Northern Ireland. And, 
you know, I think the best thing is for us to concentrate upon those 
issues for the very reasons I've given, that that's what we were elected 
to do, and that's what I intend to do. And that's what President Clinton 
is doing, and I think he's quite right.
    The President. Thank you.

Note: The President's 155th news conference began at 11:08 a.m. in the 
East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Pan Am 103 
bombing suspects Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah; 
Betty Currie, the President's personal secretary; and U.S. District 
Judge Susan Webber Wright.