[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents Volume 31, Number 17 (Monday, May 1, 1995)]
[Pages 689-694]
[Online from the Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

Interview With ``60 Minutes'' on CBS

April 23, 1995

    Steve Kroft. Thank you, Mike. Mr. President, you said this afternoon 
that our one duty to the victims and to their families is

[[Page 690]]

to purge ourselves of the dark forces which gave rise to this evil. Can 
you bring the country up to date on the status of the investigation?
    The President. Well, as you know, another person was arrested today, 
and the investigation is proceeding aggressively. I have always tried to 
be very careful not to reveal any evidence and to let the Justice 
Department, the Attorney General, and the FBI Director decide what 
should be released when. But I can tell the American people we have 
hundreds of people working on this. They are working night and day. They 
are doing very well. We are making progress.
    Mr. Kroft. You said immediately after the attack that we will find 
the people who did this, and justice will be swift, certain, and severe. 
If it had turned out that this had been an act of foreign-sponsored 
terrorism, you would have had some limited but very clear options. You 
could have ordered bombing attacks. You could have ordered trade 
embargoes. You could have done a lot of things. But it seems almost 
certain now that this is home-grown terrorism, that the enemy is in fact 
within. How do we respond to that?
    The President. Well, we have to arrest the people who did it. We 
have to put them on trial. We have to convict them. Then we have to 
punish them. I certainly believe that they should be executed. And in 
the crime bill, which the Congress passed last year, we had an expansion 
of capital punishment for purposes such as this. If this is not a crime 
for which capital punishment is called, I don't know what is.
    Ed Bradley. Mr. President, this is Ed Bradley in New York. There are 
many people who would question our system of criminal justice today in 
the United States--in fact, many people who have lost faith in our 
criminal justice system. With so many people languishing on death row 
today for so many years, how can you say with such assurance that 
justice will be certain, swift, and severe?
    The President. Well let me say first of all, it's been a long time 
since there has been a capital case carried through at the national 
level. But our new crime bill permits that. Now, when I was Governor, I 
carried out our capital punishment laws at the State level. We just 
pursued the appeals vigorously. I do believe the habeas corpus 
provisions of the Federal law, which permit these appeals sometimes to 
be delayed 7, 8, 9 years, should be changed. I have advocated that. I 
tried to pass it last year. I hope the Congress will pass a review and a 
reform of the habeas corpus provisions, because it should not take 8 or 
9 years and three trips to the Supreme Court to finalize whether a 
person, in fact, was properly convicted or not.
    Mr. Bradley. But without a change in the law, you think that is what 
will happen?
    The President. It may not happen. We can still have fairly rapid 
appeals processes. But the Congress has the opportunity this year to 
reform the habeas corpus proceedings, and I hope that they will do so.
    Mike Wallace. Mr. President, Mike Wallace. Are we Americans going to 
have to give up some of our liberties in order better to combat 
terrorism, both from overseas and here?
    The President. Mike, I don't think we have to give up our liberties, 
but I do think we have to have more discipline and we have to be willing 
to see serious threats to our liberties properly investigated. I have 
sent a counter-terrorism, a piece of legislation to Capitol Hill, which 
I hope Congress will pass. And after consultation with the Attorney 
General, the FBI Director, and others, I'm going to send some more 
legislation to Congress to ask them to give the FBI and others more 
power to crack these terrorist networks, both domestic and foreign.
    We still will have freedom of speech. We'll have freedom of 
association. We'll have freedom of movement. But we may have to have 
some discipline in doing it so we can go after people who want to 
destroy our very way of life.
    You know, we accepted a minor infringement on our freedom, I guess, 
when the airport metal detectors were put up, but they went a long way 
to stop airplane hijackings and the explosion of planes and the 
murdering of innocent people. We're going to have to be very, very tough 
and firm in dealing with this. We cannot allow our country to be subject 
to the kinds of things these poor people in Oklahoma City have been 
through in the last few days.

[[Page 691]]

    Mr. Wallace. People are wondering, Mr. President, if you're going to 
close down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to regular 
traffic. There are barriers there, of course, all the time. But there 
are those who suggest, particularly because of the man who tried to 
shoot up the White House, that maybe Pennsylvania Avenue itself should 
be shut down.
    The President. Well, I hope that they won't have to do that. I hope 
that ways can be found to make the front of the White House secure 
without doing that, because millions of Americans go by Pennsylvania 
Avenue every year and see the White House and the overwhelming number of 
them are law-abiding, good American citizens, and I hope they won't have 
to do that.
    Mr. Wallace. Lesley Stahl has been out in Michigan with the Michigan 
militia for the past 24 hours. Lesley.
    Lesley Stahl. Mike. Mr. President, what I kept hearing from the 
militia men there--and I gather this is true among all these so-called 
patriots--is the Waco incident. It seems to be their battle cry. It's 
their cause. They say that the Feds went into a religious compound to 
take people's guns away. They say no Federal official was ever punished, 
no one was ever brought to trial. I'm just wondering if you have any 
second thoughts about the way that raid was carried out?
    The President. Let me remind you what happened at Waco and before 
that raid was carried out. Before that raid was carried out, those 
people murdered a bunch of innocent law enforcement officials who worked 
for the Federal Government. Before there was any raid, there were dead 
Federal law enforcement officials on the ground. And when that raid 
occurred, it was the people who ran their cult compound at Waco who 
murdered their own children, not the Federal officials. They made the 
decision to destroy all those children that were there.
    And I think that to make those people heroes after what they did, 
killing our innocent Federal officials and then killing their own 
children, is evidence of what is wrong. People should not be able to 
violate the law and then say if Federal law enforcement officials come 
on my land to arrest me for violating the law or because I'm suspected 
of a crime, I have the right to kill them and then turn around and kill 
the people who live there. I cannot believe that any serious patriotic 
American believes that the conduct of those people at Waco justifies the 
kind of outrageous behavior we've seen here at Oklahoma City or the kind 
of inflammatory rhetoric that we're hearing all across this country 
today. It's wrong.
    Ms. Stahl. But, Mr. President, there are tens, maybe more--tens of 
thousands of men and women dressing up on weekends in military garb 
going off for training because they're upset about Waco. Just what--
despite what you say, we're talking about thousands and thousands of 
people in this country who are furious at the Federal Government for 
what you say is irrational, but they believe it.
    The President.  Well, they have a right to believe whatever they 
want. They have a right to say whatever they want. They have a right to 
keep and bear arms. They have a right to put on uniforms and go out on 
the weekends. They do not have the right to kill innocent Americans. 
They do not have the right to violate the law. And they do not have the 
right to take the position that if somebody comes to arrest them for 
violating the law, they're perfectly justified in killing them. They are 
wrong in that.
    This is a freedom-loving democracy because the rule of law has 
reigned for over 200 years now, not because vigilantes took the law into 
their own hands. And they're just not right about that.
    Mr. Kroft. Mr. President, you have some personal history yourself--
    The President. I do.
    Mr. Kroft. ----with right-wing paramilitary groups when you were 
Governor of Arkansas. You considered proposing a law that would have 
outlawed paramilitary operations. Do you still feel that way? And what's 
your--what, if anything should be done? Do we have the tools? What 
should be done to counteract this threat?
    The President. Well, let me say, first of all, what I have done 
today. I've renewed my call in the Congress to pass the antiterrorism 
legislation that's up there, that I've sent. I have determined to send 
some more legislation to the Hill that will strengthen the hand

[[Page 692]]

of the FBI and other law enforcement officers in cracking terrorist 
networks, both domestic and foreign. I have instructed the Federal 
Government to do a preventive effort on all Federal buildings that we 
have today. And we're going to rebuild Oklahoma City.
    Now, over and above that, I have asked the Attorney General, the FBI 
Director, and the National Security Adviser to give me a set of things, 
which would go into a directive, about what else we should do. I don't 
want to prejudge this issue.
    When I was Governor of Arkansas, this is over 10 years ago now, we 
became sort of a campground for some people who had pretty extreme 
views. One of them was a tax resister who had killed people in another 
State, who subsequently killed a sheriff who was a friend of mine and 
was himself killed. One was the man, Mr. Snell, who was just executed a 
couple of days ago, who killed a State trooper in cold blood who was a 
friend of mine and servant of our State, and got the death penalty when 
I was Governor. One was a group of people who had among them women and 
children but also two men wanted on murder warrants. And thank God we 
were able to quarantine their compound. And that was all resolved 
    But I have dealt with this extensively. And I know the potential 
problems that are there. I don't want to interfere with anybody's 
constitutional rights. But people do not have a right to violate the law 
and do not have a right to encourage people to kill law enforcement 
officials and do not have a right to take the position that if a law 
enforcement officer simply tries to see them about whether they've 
violated the law or not, they can blow him to kingdom come. That is 
    Mr. Kroft. One of the things, or one of the most frightening things 
about this whole business, has been the fact that most of the materials 
that this bomb was made from are readily available. Great Britain, for 
example, has placed some controls over the concentrations of certain 
chemicals and explosives in fertilizer, for example. Are there things 
that can be done to eliminate availability and the accessibility of 
ingredients that can turn deadly?
    The President. There may be some things that we can do both to 
eliminate them or to make it more difficult to aggregate them or to make 
sure that the elements will be identified in some way if they're ever 
used in a bomb so people know they're far more likely to get caught. All 
these things are being discussed now, and that's what I've asked the 
Attorney General, the FBI Director, and the National Security Adviser to 
make recommendations to me on.
    Members of Congress have various ideas and have made suggestions. 
Law enforcement people and other concerned folks around the country 
have. They're going to gather up the best ideas and make these 
recommendations to me in fairly short order.
    Mr. Bradley. Mr. President, do you think that what happened in 
Oklahoma City is an isolated incident carried out by a handful of people 
or is part of a larger, more coordinated effort involving a larger 
network of these groups?
    The President. I don't think the evidence that we have at the 
present time supports the latter conclusion. And I think we should stick 
to the evidence. Just as I cautioned the American people earlier not to 
stereotype any people from other countries or of different ethnic groups 
as being potentially responsible for this, I don't want to castigate or 
categorize any groups here in America and accuse them of doing something 
that we don't have any evidence that they have done.
    I do want to say to the American people, though, we should all be 
careful about the kind of language we use and the kind of incendiary 
talk we have. We never know who's listening or what impact it might 
have. So we need to show some restraint and discipline here because of 
all the people in this country that might be on edge and might be 
capable of doing something like this horrible thing in Oklahoma City.
    Mr. Wallace.  To follow on Steve's question, Mr. President, no 
longer does terrorism have to be state-supported. There's terror on the 
cheap now. It cost the World Trade Center bomber, we understand, 
conceivably $3,000, $4,000 for all of what was involved, including the 
rental of the van. And today, I learned, that it's about $1,000 worth 
for the explosives and the van and so forth in

[[Page 693]]

the Oklahoma City bombing. What do you do about terror on the cheap?
    The President. Well, you're right about that. And of course, the 
same thing could be true of the terrible things they've been going 
through in Japan. But the nations of this world are going to have to get 
together, bring our best minds together, and figure out what to do about 
    We have been working hard to try to get the legal support we need to 
move against terrorism, to try to make sure that we can find out who's 
doing these kind of things before they strike. But I do think there are 
some other things that we can do.
    At one point people thought we couldn't do anything about airplanes, 
but we made some progress, significant progress, because of things like 
airport metal detectors and other sophisticated devices. And we'll 
tackle this. We'll make progress on this. We'll unravel it. But it is 
true that in a free society that is very open, where technological 
changes bring great opportunity, they also make it possible to do 
destructive things on the cheap--to use your phrase.
    So we're going to have to double up, redouble up our efforts and 
then figure out what to do about this. But we'll move on it, and I am 
confident that I'll have some further recommendations in the near 
    Mr. Wallace. CBS News has a report--or had a report, late this 
afternoon; I don't know whether you're familiar with it--about a man by 
the name of Mark Koernke, from the Michigan Militia, who apparently sent 
a fax, a memo, to Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas, who held onto it 
for awhile, and finally sent it to the NRA. And then the NRA held it--
and it was important information, apparently--held it for 24 hours 
before they sent it on to the FBI. Can you shed any light on that?
    The President. No. I can't shed any light on that. I don't want to 
do or say anything that would impair our investigation in this case. And 
I have urged other Americans to show that kind of restraint, and I must 
do so as well.
    Mr. Kroft. Mr. President, do you think that we are a violent nation, 
that violence is part of the American way of life?
    The President. Well, we've always had a fair amount of violence. But 
organized, systematic, political violence that leads to large numbers of 
deaths has not been very much in evidence in American history except 
from time to time. That is, we're a nation--we're still a kind of a 
frontier nation. We're a nation that believes, indeed, enshrines in our 
Constitution the right to keep and bear arms. A lot of us, including the 
President, like to hunt and fish and do things like that. And then, of 
course, the number of guns in our country is far greater than any other, 
and a lot of them are misused in crimes and a lot of them lead to 
deaths. And there are a lot of knives and other weapons that don't have 
anything to do with guns that lead to death.
    So we've had a lot of crime and violence in our country, but not 
this sort of organized, political mass killing. And we have got to take 
steps aggressively to shut it down. And I'm going to do everything in my 
power to do just that.
    Mr. Wallace. You asked--I'm sure you asked yourself--we ask, why 
did--why did these people do it? The director of the Terrorism Studies 
Center over at the University of St. Andrew in Scotland says that these 
attacks, he expects, are going to be increasingly brutal, more ruthless, 
less idealistic. For some, he says, violence becomes an end in itself, a 
cathartic release, a self-satisfying blow against the hated system. 
Little that can be done about that, if indeed the man's right.
    The President. Well, I think two things that could be done--these 
are things that you could help on. For all those people who think that 
they are going to have a self-satisfying blow against the system, I wish 
they could have seen that young woman that I stood by today who showed 
me the picture of her two young boys that are dead now or those three 
children that I saw today whose mother died last year of an illness who 
lost their father--he still has not been found. I wish they could see 
the faces of these people. There is no such thing as a self-satisfying 
blow against the system. These are human beings, and there are 
consequences to this kind of behavior.
    The other thing I think we could do, in addition to showing those 
people, is to ask the American people who are out there just

[[Page 694]]

trying to keep everybody torn up and upset all the time, purveying hate 
and implying at least with words that violence is all right, to consider 
the implications of their words and to call them on it.
    We do have free speech in this country, and we have very broad free 
speech, and I support that. But I think that free speech runs two ways. 
And when people are irresponsible with their liberties, they ought to be 
called up short, and they ought to be talked down by other Americans. 
And we need to expose these people for what they're doing. This is 
wrong. This is wrong. You never know whether there's some fragile person 
who's out there about to tip over the edge thinking they can make some 
statement against the system and all of a sudden there's a bunch of 
innocent babies in a day care center dead.
    And so I say to you, in America, we can be better than that. The 
predictions of the expert in Scotland don't have to be right for 
America. But we're going to have to examine ourselves, our souls, and 
our conduct if we want it to be different.
    Mr. Wallace. Final question--do we see too much violence in movies 
and television in the United States?
    The President. Well, I have said before, I said in my State of the 
Union Address, that I think we see it sometimes when it's disembodied 
and romanticized, when you don't deal with the consequences of it. I 
think--when a movie shows violence, if it's honest and it's horrible and 
it's ugly and there are human consequences, then maybe that's a 
realistic and a decent thing to do. That movie ``Boyz N the Hood,'' I 
thought, did a good job of that.
    But when a movie--when movie after movie after movie after movie 
sort of romanticizes violence and killing and you don't see the human 
consequences, you don't see the faces of the mothers and the children 
that I saw today, the husbands and the wives, then I think too much of 
it can deaden the senses of a lot of Americans. And we need to be aware 
of that.
    But it's not just the movies showing violence. It's the words 
spouting violence, giving sanction to violence, telling people how to 
practice violence that are sweeping all across the country. People 
should examine the consequences of what they say and the kind of 
emotions they are trying to inflame.

Note: The interview began at 6:03 p.m. from the Oklahoma State Fair 
Arena in Oklahoma City. The President was interviewed by CBS 
correspondents Steve Kroft, Ed Bradley, Mike Wallace, and Lesley Stahl.