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Exchange With Reporters

March 02, 1994

Health Care Reform

Q. Mr. President, what do you think of the polls that show that your health care—going down the drain—you may not be——

The President. That's not what they show. One of the polls shows the serious concern level going up. How could it be otherwise? Look at the millions and millions and millions of dollars that have been spent by interest groups to trash the plan, people that don't want to assume any responsibility for their employees, people that don't want to assume any responsibility for providing basic health care, and people that think they can get just a little better deal.

It's no accident—I will say this: We've tried for 60 years to join the ranks of the rest of the world and give everybody good health care in this country, and it's no accident that it hasn't happened. It's because change is difficult and the people who are doing well in the present system devote a lot of money and time to stopping the change.

But I'm still actually pretty optimistic about this because what happened is, every time I get a chance to speak to the American people about it, support goes back up, like it did at the State of the Union. Then we go through a long period of where nothing is happening in the Congress and everybody is kind of maneuvering for position legislatively and we're being attacked. And we don't have as much money to spend as those who are spending money against us on the ads and all that sort of stuff. So these things will happen.

The thing that encourages me is I talk to more and more Members of Congress that seem to have a very practical attitude about this and want to find a way to give everybody health security, some system of guaranteed insurance on health care without taking away the good things that we have now. And that's what we're going to do. And I actually feel, based on my conversations with Members of Congress and the impact that we still get whenever we go out and talk about this specifically, like when we went to Connecticut and talked about the medicine, a good feeling about it.

There is nothing I can do in the short run to overtake the fact that I don't have as much money to run television ads as the health insurance industry.

Q. So you are going to get a plan—you think you will get——

The President. Oh, absolutely. I think that Congress will do this. They know it's important. They know it's the responsible thing to do, and I believe we'll get a good plan out of the Congress. But it's going to be—you know, this is a long and painstaking process. The legislative process is just about to begin, and a lot of people get frustrated, and they want results now, and they hear all this stuff in the air. So you're going to see the polls go up and down, but in the end, it's clearly a major concern of the American people, and they want us to do something, and they want to provide health security. And I think we'll get it done.

Japan-U.S. Trade

Q. Mr. President, is the reauthorization of Super 301 a warning shot to the Japanese?

The President. First of all, we haven't made a final decision about how exactly to proceed on that. But what we are trying to do is to— since the framework agreement may well not be carried out, we have to figure out what our options are to proceed now. But let's wait and see what we do on that specifically. I wouldn't— warning shot—I don't want to characterize those things. We're trying to move the markets. We're trying to open the market to American products, but to the rest of the world's products and services as well.

Ames Espionage Case

Q. Mr. President, all these revelations in the Ames spy case seem to suggest a much more massive penetration of the U.S. intelligence community than earlier had been suggested. How deep did this go? How widespread is the investigation? And how concerned are you about ongoing covert operations that could endanger the lives of U.S. agents and those who work with them?

The President. Well, I think what I should say now is that we put a very high priority on this over the last several months, and we're doing our best to get to the bottom of it. And we will proceed to do that. In the meantime, we're going to do our best to secure Americans who are working to represent their country. But I can't say any more than that now. I think that you can be confident that we are doing what we should be doing to find out everything we need to know.

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Are you somewhat resigned to the fact that it doesn't look like you're going to be able to get Mideast peace talks going anytime soon?

The President. No. Mr. Arafat said that he would join the talks here in Washington, but I know he's under a lot of pressure at home, and I understand that. The only thing that I would say to the Palestinians who are pressuring Arafat not to resume talks is that that is the surest way to hand a victory to the madman who killed all the Palestinians in the mosque. Why should they do something that would hand a victory to the extremists on both sides?

But he is under pressure. We are working on it. I talked firstly to Prime Minister Rabin. We've been in touch with Mr. Arafat. I'm hoping to have a conversation with King Hussein today, and I've talked to President Mubarak, and we're all working on this hard. But I think that they want to come back. And I am not resigned to the fact that it won't happen.

Q. Do the pressures realistically mean you've got to wait a while? I mean, you had hoped to resume—or to start the talks this week.

The President. Well, we'll see. We'll see what the timing is. But I think we can get them back on track. I think Prime Minister Rabin's speech and the steps he's taken were a good beginning, a really good beginning on his part. and we'll just have to see what happens. But again I say, if the peace talks don't get back on track, then we are rewarding the damage and the death wreaked by the extremists. We don't want to do that. We want to keep going. And you know, these ethnic and religious difficulties are very deep and profound, but you just have to keep working at them. And we got some good news yesterday on Bosnia, and we just keep working at these things and do our best to try to bring them to a successful conclusion.

Hugh Rodham

Q. Are you supporting Hugh Rodham?

The President. What? No, what did you say? I couldn't hear you.

Q. Oh, I'm sorry. Are you supporting Hugh Rodham in his campaign?

The President. Well, I don't—first, he hasn't filed. And secondly, we don't know if he's got any opposition in the Democratic primary. I'll be out there in the fall helping all the Democrats. But that's a decision for him to make. He's got to make that decision. I can't make it.

Herschel Friday

Q. Did you want to say something about Herschel Friday, your old staff member?

The President. Well, he was a friend of mine, you know, for 30 years. He did remarkable work in my State. I used to make fun of him for flying just back and forth from—to Little Rock. And he lived a very full life, was a good man and a great citizen. And Hillary and I talked about it this morning and our thoughts and our prayers are with Beth and his family.

Q. Are you going back there, sir?

The President. I don't know. I don't know what the facts are yet. I just heard about it this morning. I actually—right before I went to work early this morning I heard about it.

NOTE: The exchange began at 11:20 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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