[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 2, 1998]
[Pages 1956-1960]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Interview With Hispanic Journalists
November 2, 1998

    Q. We will begin with a statement by President Bill Clinton.

1998 Elections

    The President. Buenos dias. Good morning, everyone. And thank you 
for giving me this opportunity to address so many Hispanic-Americans and 
Latino media markets all across the United States, Puerto Rico, and in 
18 other Latin American countries.
    I'm glad to have the opportunity to discuss important issues with 
esteemed journalists from four major Latino radio networks: Radio 
Bilingue, MetroSource Network, CNN Radio Noticias, and Radio Unica.
    Tomorrow is election day in America. It is no ordinary election. It 
is, instead, an election that will determine whether we as a nation 
focus on progress or partisanship for the next 2 years. It will 
determine which direction we take into the new millennium. It will be 
determined by who comes out to vote.
    Our country is doing well now. I am very grateful to have had the 
opportunity to serve these last 6 years and grateful that we have the 
lowest unemployment rate in 28 years, the smallest percentage of people 
on welfare in 29 years, the first surplus in 29 years. I'm grateful that 
poverty rates are dropping among all Americans and minority Americans. 
I'm very grateful that we have record numbers of new Hispanic-owned 
businesses, for example. But I think we all understand that a great deal 
of work still needs to be done in education, in health care, in child 
    We Democrats, we're running on an agenda of a Patients' Bill of 
Rights for all our Americans in health management organizations so they 
can have their health care decisions made by doctors, not accountants. 
We're running on an increase in the minimum wage. We're running on an 
aggressive program to improve our schools, with 100,000 more teachers 
and 5,000 new and rebuilt schools that are modern and good. We're 
running on a reform of the Social Security system so we can save it for 
the new century, and so much more. We also have run forthrightly on an 
open immigration policy and

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one America. And we have fought the Republicans on all these issues.
    I hope very much that we'll have a good turnout on Tuesday. I'm 
looking forward to this interview. But I will say again, these races are 
very, very close. There are almost three dozen close House races that 
could go one way or the other. There are seven close Senate races that 
could go one way or the other. And we need a strong turnout.

Hurricane Mitch

    Now, before I turn it over to the journalists to ask questions, I'd 
also like to say just one other word. Our prayers here at the White 
House go out to the citizens of Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, El 
Salvador, and Guatemala, who have suffered so much as a result of 
Hurricane Mitch and are trying to put their lives back together.
    The United States is determined to help. We have provided over $2 
million in funding for food, medicine, water, and other supplies. Two 
airlifts already have arrived with sheeting for shelter and food. 
Another airlift will take off today. In addition, foreign disaster 
assistance teams have been deployed to all the affected countries to 
coordinate our aid relief efforts, and we'll be looking at what else we 
can do. This is a terrible tragedy for the people of Central America, 
and we will do what we can to help them to recover.
    Now I'd be happy to take your questions.
    Q. Good morning, Mr. President.
    The President. Good morning.

1998 Elections

    Q. At least 30 million Hispanics in the United States are anxious to 
know if their hopes will be supported by the Government. When there is 
an election, we are accustomed to hear all kinds of promises, and the 
election passes, and we are already accustomed to all kinds of 
frustrations. Will there be any difference this time, Mr. President?
    The President. Well, first of all, let me say that you have some 
evidence here. If you look at my record as compared with the record of 
the Republican Congress, you know what the issues are. We passed this 
year in our budget--because we refused to go home without it--a Hispanic 
education action plan to put more money into schools with high Latino 
populations, to reduce the dropout rate. There's a big difference in the 
dropout rate of Hispanic children in America as compared with all other 
groups. It was a huge victory for us.
    We have continually fought for improved citizenship and 
naturalization activities to reduce the naturalization backlog. The 
Republicans have fought to delay naturalization and to complicate it. We 
have fought hard for a more accurate census, because millions of Latinos 
were not counted in 1990. The Republicans have fought for a system that 
will ensure that millions of Latinos will not be counted in 2000.
    We have appointed a record number of Hispanic-Americans to positions 
in the Cabinet, in judgeships, in other places throughout the 
administration. We have fought to establish the North American 
Development Bank to help to deal with the economic and environmental 
challenges along our border with Mexico. We have fought to put more 
money into education to open the doors of college wider than ever 
before, to put police on our streets, where we have the lowest crime 
rate now in 25 years, to help our children deal with the challenges of 
crime and drugs, and to give them strong programs after school so that 
they can stay off the street and in school and learning.
    So if you look at what we've done, if you just take this Hispanic 
education action plan, we have an increase of nearly $500 million 
targeted to help our Latino children stay in school, learn their 
lessons, and then go on to college. We have over $170 million committed 
to reducing the naturalization backlog.
    So these are not just idle campaign promises. In the closing days of 
this last session of Congress, on October the 21st we confirmed a 
Hispanic-American to be United States Attorney for the District of 
Arizona, to be the Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to 
be the Commissioner on Children and Youth in Families in the Department 
of Health and Human Services, to be on the Equal Employment Opportunity 
Commission, many other jobs, including a couple of ambassadorships.
    So I'm not just talking something for the election here. There is a 
huge, huge difference in the positions of the Democratic and Republican 
Parties in the Congress on issues that are vital to Hispanics in 
    Q. Good morning, Mr. President.
    The President. Good morning.

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Republican Campaign Ads/Voter Turnout

    Q. First of all, I was born in Honduras. I want to thank you very 
much for your words of encouragement to my Central American brothers. 
This is the worst tragedy in this century, and we're looking forward, 
all of you, to your support and your leadership in helping our countries 
build back. Thank you so much.
    Now, sir, tomorrow, November 3d, is the sixth anniversary of your 
first election as President of the United States. According to the 
latest polls, there are some very closely contested elections tomorrow, 
as you said, especially in key States such as California, New York, 
Illinois, Florida, and Maryland, States which have large Hispanic 
    The Hispanics backed you strongly in the Presidential elections of 
'92 and '96, and also in the midterm elections of '94. The Republicans 
have been running ads attacking you on the Monica Lewinsky issue. Do you 
feel these attacks on your personal conduct will cut down the attendance 
of Hispanic voters tomorrow or diminish their normal strong support for 
you and your party?
    The President. I think it depends overwhelmingly on how people react 
to them. But just consider what the argument of those ads is. The 
argument of those ads is that voters, Hispanic voters and others, should 
punish completely innocent Democrats. In other words, they're saying 
punish someone else for this.
    And ultimately, the argument is, they're telling the voters they 
should punish themselves. They should say, ``Vote for us, even though 
everything we're doing is not good for you; and don't vote for them, 
even though they will vote for modernized schools and 100,000 teachers; 
they--the Democrats--they will vote for a Patients' Bill of Rights; they 
will vote to raise the minimum wage; they will vote to save Social 
Security; they will vote for a fair, complete, and accurate census.''
    Now, the argument of the Republican ads is you should forget about 
all that, all those things that are about you, and play our partisan 
political game here in Washington. And that's basically been what the 
Republicans are saying. I don't think the American people will buy that.
    But what Hispanic voters need to understand is that the stakes are 
high here: the Senate seats in California and New York; any number of 
House seats in California; there are House seats up in Colorado, in New 
Mexico; a Senate seat and House seat up in Nevada; and the enormously 
important Senate race in Illinois, where Senator Carol Moseley-Braun has 
made a remarkable comeback in the last week; the elections in Florida; 
the elections in Maryland. And I could go on and on. There are about 
three dozen House of Representatives seats at issue here. Many, many of 
them have substantial Hispanic populations. There are seven or eight 
Senate seats at stake here, and several of them have substantial 
Hispanic populations; and then, of course, all these Governorships.
    So I would say, this election ought to be about the American people 
and their children and their future and whether or not we have done a 
good job for them and whether or not our ideas are best for the future. 
They would like it, the Republicans, to use their $100 million financial 
advantage in contributions to get everyone to forget that they have 
killed the Patients' Bill of Rights, killed the minimum wage increase, 
that they have killed legislation to protect our children from the 
dangers of tobacco, that they killed the campaign finance reform, that 
they killed the school modernization initiative, and get people to buy 
into their Washington power games.
    I think the American people know that my administration has been 
about people, not politics, about progress, not partisanship. And I 
think this election is very much worth voting in. But a decision not to 
vote is also a decision about what will go on here in Washington, DC, 
just as a decision to vote is.

California Proposition 10

    Q. Good morning, Mr. President. It's quite an honor for me to take 
part in this conversation this morning. My question is as follows: The 
California children and families initiatives, which is known as 
Proposition 10, is to create programs for pregnant women and very young 
children, will be funded by cigarette smokers by paying a 50-cent tax 
per pack of cigarettes. Many in Los Angeles view this as another way to 
``attack'' minorities as a proportion of people who smoke tend to be 
greater among minority groups.
    In your view, what are the long-term benefits of passing this 
proposition, and how would you convince the Latino community that this 
measure will actually be working in their favor?

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    The President. Well, I think there are two things I would say about 
that. The only argument against raising the cigarette tax ever is that 
it disproportionately affects low-income people, because if all kinds of 
lower income people, working people, smoke, it will take a higher 
percentage of their income to pay a 50-cent-a-pack tax.
    But consider the benefits. First of all, it will reduce smoking 
among young people, which will prevent more people starting. And we know 
now 3,000 young people a day start to smoke, even though it's illegal 
for them to do so, and 1,000 will have their lives shortened as a result 
of it.
    Secondly, because the people are voting directly on this initiative 
in California, they are deciding, as they vote, how that money must be 
spent. So it would be illegal to divert the money to any other purpose. 
Therefore, you know that the health care of the people of California--
and disproportionately the Hispanic population of California needs more 
money invested in health and education activities--you know that's where 
the money will go because that's what the initiative says. And under our 
law, if the people vote for it, they have a guarantee of how it will be 
spent. So you don't have to worry about what the legislature does, what 
the Governor does, what anybody does. You get to decide, okay, if I'm 
going to pay this, this is how I want it spent. And your vote will do 
    So those are the two arguments I think in favor of that initiative. 
I know that both my wife and I have worked with the people who put that 
initiative on the ballot and we trust them. We think that they're good 
people, and they certainly are trying to do something that will improve 
the health care and the future of the Hispanic children of California.


    Q. Mr. President, in this campaign, we haven't listened to any 
immigration agenda talks too much. Politicians don't talk too much about 
immigration. Is there any reason for that, or is there something going 
on that we don't know?
    The President. Well, I'm very happy to talk about it. As you know, I 
have worked very hard to reverse anti-immigrant provisions of the law. 
We now have reversed almost all the anti-immigrant provisions of the 
welfare reform law, just as I said I would do. We have beat back anti-
immigrant legislation in other areas here. And I am working very, very 
hard to reduce the backlog that we have in the naturalization and 
immigration process, which I think is very, very important. So from my 
point of view, the whole issue of how to deal with immigration is very 
    I have also tried to get changes in our law or changes in Justice 
Department policy to let immigrants stay here who came here under 
difficult circumstances many years ago and would otherwise have to now 
turn around and go back. So I want to see America continuing to have an 
open and fair and welcoming process for legal immigrants, and I believe 
that that's an important issue.
    I also think that's an important issue that all the voters should 
consider in this election, because it would be hard to find an issue on 
which the parties have differed more than the Democrats and the 
Republicans on the issue of immigration for the last 4 years. And I 
would hope that everyone who cares about this issue would think that 
that issue alone is a justification to go out and support our Democratic 

1998 Elections

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Some closing thoughts about the 
importance of tomorrow's election?
    The President. Well, again, let me just say that tomorrow the 
American people will decide on the Congress that will take us into the 
21st century. They will decide whether it's a Congress that wants to 
represent all the American people and work for one America or a Congress 
that will continue to try to divide the American people in ways that 
undermine our ability to unite and to go forward. They will decide on 
whether they want a Congress that supports a Patients' Bill of Rights, 
that supports 100,000 teachers and smaller classes and modern schools, 
or a Congress that opposes those things; a Congress that supports an 
increase in the minimum wage, or one that opposes it; a Congress that 
supports protecting our surplus until we have saved Social Security for 
all the seniors in this country in the 21st century, or one that is 
still committed to squandering the surplus and endangering our economic 
strength in the long run so that we can't do what we should do on Social 

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    Now, these are big decisions. For Hispanic-Americans, you also have 
clear choices in terms of our commitment to a decent, fair, equitable, 
and accelerated process of immigration and naturalization, and their 
policy, which is to slow it down, make it more difficult, and do things 
which, in my view, are unfair to immigrants coming to this country.
    So there are clear choices here, and I say again, a choice not to 
vote is just like a vote for someone you don't agree with. This is a 
very, very important election, and I would just urge all of you to talk 
about it today and to go and vote tomorrow. Your vote is your voice.

Note: The interview began at 9:40 a.m. in Room 415 of the Old Executive 
Office Building. Journalists participating in the interview were: 
Eduardo Carrasco, MetroSource Network; Jacobo Goldstein, CNN Radio 
Noticias; and William Restrepo, Radio Unica. A Radio Bilingue journalist 
did not participate in this interview but had a separate one in the