[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 3, 1998]
[Pages 497-500]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the Legislative Agenda and an Exchange With Reporters
April 3, 1998

    The President. Thank you very much. Before I read my statement, I'd 
like to make a brief comment on a momentous event which occurred during 
my trip to Africa, back here. The Vice President turned 50, and I hope all of you noticed the increased 
gravity and maturity of his aura. [Laughter] I personally am greatly 
relieved. Not long before he turned 50, as I told him when I called him, 
an elderly lady came up to me, and she said, ``I think you and that 
young man are doing such a good job.'' [Laughter] And it's nice to have 
a middle-aged team now at the White House.
    The Vice President. She was very 
elderly. [Laughter]
    The President. Let me say, Hillary and I are delighted to be back 
from what was a wonderful trip to Africa. We are working hard to 
strengthen the bonds of the African continent that I am convinced is in 
the midst of a renaissance, where political and economic liberty is on 
the rise.
    I only wish every American could have been with me every step of the 
way to see, first, Africa, not only its problems, which are profound, 
but the energy and intelligence and determination of the people. I also 
wish every

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American could have had yet one more opportunity to see how a very 
important part of the world sees America, still as a beacon of equality 
and freedom and hope for opportunity.
    Today we learned that the unemployment rate in the first quarter of 
this year, averaging 4.7 percent, is the lowest it's been since 1970--28 
years. While there will be ups and downs, our economy continues to be 
one of the strongest in history. Over the past year we've seen the 
strongest wage growth in 20 years; inflation is still low; homeownership 
now at a record level. As we approach the longest peacetime expansion in 
our history, this is a springtime of hope and opportunity for the 
American people.
    Our economy is the product of the hard work, the creativity, the 
innovation of our citizens, and the ingenuity and drive of our 
businesses. But also it is the fruit, as the Vice President said, of the 
comprehensive economic strategy we have pursued since 1993, a strategy 
for the new economy.
    The coming months will now test our Nation. It will determine 
whether we will maintain our discipline and pursue our priorities to 
strengthen our country for the new century. We can make this a time of 
action as well as a time of abundance, to secure our prosperity well 
into the future, to widen the circle of opportunity so that all 
Americans have a chance to reap the rewards of economic growth.
    First, we should go on and balance the budget this year and do it in 
a way that continues our investment in our people and their future. With 
projected budget surpluses of $1 trillion over the next decade, I am 
pleased that Members of Congress of both parties have joined my call to 
reserve every penny of the surplus until we save Social Security first. 
This is very significant. I compliment the leadership of both parties. 
It will strengthen our Nation.
    At the same time, as we live within a balanced budget, we must 
invest to create prosperity for the future. Many times I have said that 
in the new economy, education is the leading economic indicator. We will 
continue to lead the world only if our children receive the world's best 
education. In that context, I am very concerned that the budget plan now 
working its way through the Senate will squeeze out critical investments 
in education and children.
    I believe America must address the challenges before us. Class size 
for our children--we must hire 100,000 new teachers so that we can 
reduce those class sizes. We must spur school modernization to make our 
classes smaller and our schools safer. We must invest in pathbreaking 
scientific research that will lengthen our lives and promote prosperity 
into the 21st century. And we must make those investments which will 
make credible our call for higher standards and higher performance in 
our schools. The budget now being drafted by Congress simply does not 
meet these urgent national priorities.
    I'm also determined that highway spending, though it is quite 
important and though our budget provides for a very impressive increase 
in investment in highways and mass transit, must be--such spending must 
be within the balanced budget and should not crowd out critical 
investments in education, child care, health care, or threaten our 
budget discipline.
    In the coming months I look forward to working with Congress in 
cooperation with lawmakers of both parties so that America stays on the 
path of both fiscal discipline and targeted investment, a balanced 
budget that is in balance with our values and our long-term interest in 
the future. That is what has brought us this far since 1993. We should 
not depart from that strategy now.
    Finally, I am determined to seize this historic opportunity to pass 
bipartisan legislation to protect our children from the dangers of 
tobacco. This Congress can be the Congress that saves millions of 
children's lives. I want to say that we seem to be making some progress 
on that, with the vote in the Senate committee, but there is an enormous 
amount of work still to be done. And I hope during this working recess 
the lawmakers of both Houses and both parties will be talking to the 
folks back home about the tobacco legislation and will come back here at 
the end of this month with a renewed determination to actually pass 
legislation that will get the job done.
    Our economy is the strongest in a generation; our social fabric is 
on the mend; our leadership around the world, as we saw on the trip to 
Africa, remains unrivaled. But our history and our heritage tells us 
that we can do better and that our success depends upon our constant 
effort to do better. The American people want us to use this sunlit 
moment not to sit back and enjoy but to act. We were hired by the 
American people to act. If we do so, in the 21st century the American 
dream will be more powerful than ever.

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    Thank you.

Independent Counsel's Investigation/Tobacco 

    Q. Do you have any comments on reports that Kenneth Starr is being 
urged to indict Monica Lewinsky and name you as a co-conspirator?
    Q. On the tobacco deal, sir, how concerned are you that one or more 
of the tobacco companies might walk away from this proposed settlement? 
And do you believe that you need their cooperation, both so that there 
is money for your budget priorities and so that you can win restrictions 
on cigarette advertising?
    The President. Well, the latter is of greater concern. That is, 
their agreement or lack of it would influence the way Congress would 
have to raise the money, through raising the price of cigarettes to 
deter more consumption and to raise the funds for the health care costs 
of tobacco and the health research and the other things that I believe 
should be funded out of this settlement. But on the advertising, of 
course, that could be a concern because of the governing legal 
    But I still believe that the incentives are there for the tobacco 
companies to do this. With each new revelation of the strategies which 
have been vigorously pursued to market cigarettes to children, I think 
they have an enormous interest in trying to reverse the record of the 
past, to try to put this unforgivable chapter behind them, and to start 
off on a new path. So I still believe that in the end we will achieve an 
agreement which will convince them, or which they will be convinced will 
be in their interest.
    The advertising issue is the more important one from a legal point 
of view, but I think we'll get there because they have now, with this 
evidence continuing to mount up about the deliberate strategy which was 
followed, they have a big interest in pursuing it.
    On the other matter, you know, I'm not going to comment on that. I'm 
going to try to do what the Supreme Court said I should do, which is not 
to be in any way deterred by this, and I'm going on with my business; 
others will comment on that.


    Q. Mr. President, Moody's debt rating service earlier today issued a 
warning about Japan's sovereign debt. The United States has repeatedly 
urged Japan, with little apparent success, to try to jump-start its 
domestic economy. Do you see any signs that the Japanese Government is 
now ready to take actions that would help bring it into recovery?
    The President. Well, the Prime Minister keeps moving forward in ways that then the market 
seems to believe are insufficient. And we have obviously urged 
aggressive action because we want the Japanese economy to grow. We think 
the Japanese economy is the key to stability and growth in Asia, and we 
have always wanted a strong, healthy Japanese partner.
    Japan is a great democracy; they've been a great partner for us; 
they've been a great engine of economic growth for many years, until the 
last few years. There may be some momentary disruption because now you 
have some business leaders speaking out in Japan, but it appears to us 
on the outside of this that there is an ongoing struggle between what is 
now the articulated view, not only of the United States and others but 
of the business community in Japan, about the direction that country 
should take and the entrenched resistance to that in the permanent 
government bureaucracy that followed a different strategy with great 
success in previous years. And I think we need to be both respectful but 
firm in urging the Japanese to take a bold course.
    Prime Minister Hashimoto is an able 
man, and he understands the economy, and I believe he wants to take such 
a course. What has to be done is that the people within the permanent 
government there, which have always enjoyed great power, have to realize 
that the strategies that worked in the past are not appropriate to the 
present. They have to make a break now in some ways that's not so 
different from the break that we made in 1993. You simply can't stay 
with a strategy that is clearly not appropriate to the times and expect 
it to get the results that are needed for the country.
    But Japan is a very great country full of brilliant people who have 
a great understanding of economics. And as I said, I think the 
Prime Minister understands this and is 
willing to take risks and wants to do it. And he's got this raging 
battle going on, and I have to hope that the forces of the future will 
    Thank you.

[[Page 500]]

Note: The President spoke at 10:08 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto 
of Japan.