Excerpts of the President-Elect's News Conference in Little Rock
Q: Governor, you said that you wanted to end the cold war between the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. There are a number of issues, though, on which there are disagreements. Senator Mitchell expressed some concern about cutting back Congressional staff. There are disagreements over the line-item veto.
Sam Nunn in particular said that he does not support changing the current policy on gays in the military and that you should be concerned about those people who are not gay and who have given up their privacy rights to be in the military.
Will you appoint a commission, as Bob Dole has suggested? Will you wait until hearings are held, as Sam Nunn suggested? What timetable do you foresee in letting this go forward? And do you anticipate Congressional approval for changing the Uniform Code of Military Conduct?
A: Let me answer all three of those questions you raised. First of all, with regard to staff, the Congress and Senator Mitchell and the Speaker may want to comment on this, but the Congress took a cut last year and the White House staff exploded in the last four years.
So I'm going to get out there and set an example. I'm going to cut 25 percent from the White House staff, and continue to work with Congress. I hope we can keep on a downward trend there, so that in the end we'll wind up with more or less the same pace. But they did take a cut last year, while the White House continued to expand the White House staff.
With regard to the line-item veto, I thought the Speaker made an intriguing suggestion for a line-item veto which is functionally almost identical to the way the line-item veto works in this state. That is, I can line-item veto a bill here and the Legislature can override it with a majority vote but they have to do it by a separate vote, so that there is a great deal of focus on the issue at hand, and you can't just bury something of questionable merit in a big omnibus bill. And I think that is at least a good place for us to begin discussion.
Now, on the issue of gays in the military, I've made no decision on a timetable except that I want to firmly proceed, and I want to do it after consulting with military leaders. I've made no decision about what structure to follow. And I would like to say that I think that Senator Nunn's point is the most compelling one, although it affects primarily those who are in situations where they don't have a lot of personal privacy. Very often people who have been in the military a long time have living quarters which give them a far higher level of personal privacy.
My response to that is twofold. One is we know there have always been gays in the military, and we know, according to the study which was released near the end of the campaign, that it costs the United States taxpayers about $500 million to get fewer than 17,000 gays out of the military over the last 10 years.
And so the issue therefore is not whether there are gays in the military. It is whether they can be in the military without lying about it, as long as there is a very strict code of conduct, which if they violate it would lead to dismissal from the service or other appropriate sanctions.
There is a great deal of difference between somebody doing something wrong and their status, condition in life. So I expect there to be a very, very strict code of conduct here, which would lead to very firm and swift appropriate action, but I have not decided precisely how the consultative process should proceed or on what timetable I should proceed.
Bosnia and Vietnam
Q: President Bush said this morning that he is -- this is a quote -- "shifting gears to the new Administration, and we're referring all questions to them." With that in mind, would you tell us if you would intervene militarily to get relief supplies into the former Yugoslavia, and what you would do to recognize Vietnam? Would you really withhold recognition until they clear themselves of any sort of suspicion, which is what you seemed to suggest last week?
A: Well, let me say first of all, they are trying to shift gears to us, and I appreciate that. But when it comes to foreign policy, I will remind you that one of the questions I was asked yesterday by one of you is whether I thought President Bush should send Mr. Baker back to the Middle East before Jan. 20, and I said that was entirely his decision and if he decided to do it, I would support it.
So, I would reiterate that as to both these foreign policy questions.
Now, I think there are many options that we have in dealing with the problem in Bosnia and the potential problem on Kosovo that are short of sending troops in, but beyond where we have been now. And I don't want to foreclose any of those options by anything I say now. I won't become President until January, and I want to have those options available.
With regard to the recognition of Vietnam, I think that what the American people clearly would insist upon is that there has been the most extensive and good-faith possible effort to have the fullest possible accounting on the P.O.W.-M.I.A. issue before recognition. That has been my position consistently, and I don't intend to change that.
Q: Was Mrs. Clinton at the table with you last night?
A: She was.
Q: Stayed the whole time?
A: Stayed the whole time. Talked a lot. Knew more than we did about some things. I think they would agree with that.
Aides Who Disagree
Q.You said that you want to end the ban on gays in the military, and you also just said that you would not rule out Senator Nunn or somebody else who disagrees with you on that question. How could you achieve the former goal if you had a Defense Secretary who disagreed with you, and what do you say to those who say that calls into question your commitment to lifting the ban?
A: Well, because I intend to press forward with that in an expeditious way early in the term, just like I said. I mean, I don't -- I wouldn't preclude -- I expect I'll have a lot of people in my Administration who will be implementing policies they may not entirely agree with, but they think -- even those who disagree have told me there are better ways and worse ways to do this. So you know, I would have a, I would eliminate a lot of gifted Americans from serving in my Administration.
William J. Clinton, Excerpts of the President-Elect's News Conference in Little Rock Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285623