[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 3, 1998]
[Pages 1972-1974]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Prior to a Meeting With the Economic Team and an Exchange With 
November 3, 1998

Hurricane Mitch

    The President. I'd like to begin by making a few comments about the 
tragedy that has been unfolding in Central America. Hurricane Mitch has 
already claimed thousands of lives in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, 
and Guatemala. Many thousands more are in urgent need of food and 
shelter. Across the region, communities have been devastated, bridges 
washed out, agriculture disrupted, schools and hospitals destroyed.
    These nations are our neighbors. They all have people who are a part 
of our country now. They are both close to our shores and close to our 
hearts. We must do whatever we can to help, and we will.
    Already, we have provided almost $3.5 million to airlift food, 
plastic sheeting, water containers, and blankets into the region. We've 
provided military aircraft and helicopters to get supplies to isolated 
areas, and deployed a disaster assistance response team to each affected 
country. We will be consulting with our friends in Central America and 
our people on the ground to see what more we can do in the days ahead.

International Economy

    Now I am about to begin a meeting with my economic team to discuss a 
range of global economic issues. Over the long run, if our economy is to 
continue to grow, the economies of our trading partners must also 
continue to grow. Yet a full quarter of the world's population now lives 
in countries with declining or negative economic growth. This presents 
to us the biggest financial challenge in half a century.
    Over the last year, we have pursued a comprehensive strategy to 
fight the financial crisis and to protect American jobs at home as well. 
Just last week, in an unprecedented step, leaders of the world's major 
economies agreed to create a precautionary line of credit to help 
countries with sound economic policies ward off crisis in the first 
    Japan recently committed substantial resources to repair its own 
banking system, an essential precondition to restoring growth there. The 
U.S., Japan, Canada, and several European nations have cut interest 
rates to spur global growth. And America, at last, made its contribution 
to the International Monetary Fund. Next week I will go to Asia, where 
we will continue to work with our Asian partners to spur growth, expand 
trade, and strengthen the social safety net, especially in the troubled 
    In the face of worldwide economic turmoil, the American economy 
remains the strongest in a generation. We are grateful for that. But to 
keep it going we must stay with the strategy that created the conditions 
of growth in the

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first place, that helped us to build this enduring economic expansion, 
and we must address the challenges of the global economy to make sure it 
continues to endure.

1998 Elections

    Q. Mr. President, since this is election day, what are your 
predictions for your own party?
    The President. I don't know. As I said before, there are an unusual 
number of exceedingly close races. I can never remember a time when we 
had probably eight Senate seats within a few points one way or the 
other, and it appears to me almost three dozen House seats within a few 
points one way or the other.
    So in large measure, it will depend upon who makes the effort to 
vote today. I voted. I presume everybody here has already voted or is 
about to. And my only message today is that every American who has not 
yet made the decision to go and vote, should do so.
    We are going to elect a Congress that will deal with the challenges 
of Social Security and where it can be reformed and how, for the 21st 
century; that will deal with the Medicare challenge; that will deal with 
the challenge of providing an excellent educational opportunity for all 
of our people. I hope we will elect a Congress that will finally pass 
the Patients' Bill of Rights, that will raise the minimum wage, that 
will deal with a lot of our other big-time challenges, including 
campaign finance reform.
    Q. How about your own survival? Is this a referendum on you?
    The President. I think this election is a referendum on all the 
hopes of the American people for the future, and their assessment of the 
present condition, and how we get from here to a better tomorrow. I 
think that's what it will be. That's what all elections are, and none of 
us know what is going to happen. That's the honest truth. None of the 
pollsters know; nobody does.

Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin

    Q. Mr. President, at this time of economic turmoil, what indication 
has Secretary Rubin given you regarding how long he intends to remain on 
the job? [Laughter]
    The President. You ought to ask him. We haven't discussed it in 
quite a while. He knows that I want him to stay as long as he's 
comfortable sitting in that chair. And I think all of us know there are 
a lot of things going on in the world today, and the United States has a 
special responsibility. I'm very pleased at the work we've been able to 
do under Secretary Rubin's leadership to stabilize the financial 
conditions, especially in the last couple of months, the consensus we 
seem to be developing among the world's leading economies and many of 
the developing economies about some long-term reforms in the financial 
system that will enable us to continue to have growth without the kind 
of boom/bust cycle that has caused so much heartache in so many of the 
Asian economies and in Russia, and the work we've done to try to keep it 
from spreading to Latin America.
    And he has played a critical role in all that, as well as in our own 
prosperity, the last several years. And I hope he'll stay as long as he 
feels that he can.

Hurricane Mitch

    Q. Mr. President, the Central American countries that are affected 
are all democracies. They're all emerging markets. And it's not only a 
job of reconstruction, which is going to be very expensive; it's getting 
them back on their feet. You have shown a lot of interest in Latin 
America. Would you be willing to lead a movement of European countries 
or pan-Asian countries that would also help, because there is going to 
be a tremendous amount of reconstruction needed?
    The President. We're going to be discussing that. I think there will 
be a lot of interest in the World Bank and elsewhere in trying to help 
put these countries back on their feet economically. But right now I 
think it's important that we focus on trying to help them with the 
    I mean, it's inconceivable to most Americans that a natural disaster 
would lead to the deaths of thousands and thousands of people. Keep in 
mind, all these countries are much smaller than we are. Imagine how we 
would feel in America if 7,000 people died in a natural disaster. And 
the combined population of these countries is so much smaller than ours. 
Virtually every family will be affected in some way or another.
    And so I would say, first of all, let's help them deal with the 
present crisis and deal with it as rapidly and as well as possible. And 
then of course we will be looking at what we can do to help them rebuild 
and return to normal life.

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President's Sixth Anniversary

    Q. This is your sixth anniversary. Has it been 6 years----
    The President. It is my sixth anniversary, isn't it? They have been 
6 very good years, very good years for our country. And as I tell 
everybody around here, even the bad days are good. It's an honor to 
serve, and my gratitude today is immense to the American people for 
giving me two chances to do this and for the good things that have 
happened in our country over the last 6 years.
    I think we can look back over 6 years and think, if you had known 6 
years ago that our country would be in the position it is today, I think 
we would have all been almost incredulous, but we would have been full 
of energy and hope. I think it shows that if you just get a good team 
together and everybody works like crazy, and the American people do what 
they do, which is to get up every day and do their jobs, that good 
things can happen.
    I'm just--I'm very grateful for these 6 years, and I'm grateful for 
the progress our country has made.

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White 
House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these 
remarks. The related memorandum of November 6 on emergency disaster 
relief assistance for Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala is 
listed in Appendix D at the end of this volume.