Exchange With Reporters Following Debate Preparation With Former Senator George J. Mitchell in Chautauqua
The President. Hi.
Q. Good morning.
The President. "X" marks the spot? [Laughter]
Q. Are you ready for some kind of a surprise from Mr. Dole? Everybody is talking about he may have a surprise.
The President. I expect he will.
Q. Do you?
Q. How high are the stakes here?
Q. Do you have one?
The President. No. No, I'm just—I did better yesterday. I had a—I was better in the golf in the beginning and better in the debate at the end.
Q. Did you finally beat George Mitchell?
The President. Well, I don't know. Maybe I got him to a draw, anyway. He's hard to beat.
Q. A lot of people think these things are not ever won on the substance but on people's memories of a defining moment. Are you looking for a defining moment?
The President. Not especially. I think the most important thing is—my belief is that people would like it if it were genuinely enlightening and if we were talking more to them in terms of answering the questions. And I'll do my best to try to make it helpful to the people who watch. And that's kind of what I'm focused on, making sure that when it's over they have a really clear idea of what I want to do, how it relates to what we have done in the last 4 years, how much better off the country is today than it was 4 years ago, and what we still have to do. That's the kind of thing I want to talk about. I want it to be essentially a positive thing. There will be, obviously, some clear contrast between Senator Dole and me, but my belief is that people want us to try to talk about building the future, and that's what I'm going to try to do.
Q. Mr. President, does the memo from Mr. Freeh say that there's no——
Q. Mr. President, how high are the stakes for these debates? It's kind of stopped the campaign momentum for a moment. It's got you focused. How high are the stakes for you and for Senator Dole?
The President. Oh, I think it's a very important debate because if a lot of people watch it, you know, it could affect their views. But I think the main thing for both of us is to go be ourselves and do the best we can and let the people draw their own conclusions. And if you start calculating all the other things, I think you just—it throws you off. You've just got to show up and do your best.
Press Secretary Mike McCurry. Thank you, Mr. President.
Q. Sir, there's another—the FBI——
Q. Mr. Freeh's memo—does it say there's no clear leadership in the drug policy, sir?
Q. [Inaudible]—the buildup leading up to it, though.
The President. Oh, well, it's inevitable, isn't it? I mean, you know, it's inevitable. It's a moment in which the American people have a chance to see us both, and that's a good thing.
FBI Files of White House Passholders
Q. Sir, what can you tell us about this FBI file story?
The President. I don't know anything about it other than what I saw in the paper today. I know nothing——
FBI Report on Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Q. How about the Freeh memo? Does it really say that the administration has shown no leadership in the drug war?
The President. No, the Freeh memo, as I said, it was a memo by Mr.—Louis Freeh to me arguing that the country had never organized—the Federal Government had never been properly organized in terms of who had jurisdiction to do what in the drug war. And that's basically what it's about. And he argues for a reallocation of—he argued for a reallocation of authority, and I thought argued quite persuasively that we needed a way to coordinate this. The Vice President reviewed this as part of our reinventing Government review, particularly as it related to the drug czar.
And one of the reasons I wanted a general who had worked on drug interdiction in as drug czar is to try to—to create a greater sense of coordination between what the domestic law enforcement agencies, the military, and all the people involved on the prevention and treatment side do together. And this is a problem that's been noted for—the first evidence we had goes back to President Johnson. And we're doing— we're trying to get all the people involved in it now to work together more closely than ever before. And I think General McCaffrey is in a unique position to get that done because of his—what he was doing before he became the drug czar. He was the head of the Southern Command, which meant he had responsibility for working with all these countries' military to try to stop drugs from coming into our country in the first place.
But this has been—this issue has been debated literally going back to the Johnson administration. I've seen documents on it going back to then. And I believe what we're doing now will get us better results than we've had before. And I think that we have to try to do this in a way that recognizes that all these agencies have other legitimate and conflicting interests. So it's very difficult to have, for example, all the domestic and all the foreign issues related to drugs under one particular agency, but it is important to have them all coordinating and working together instead of at cross purposes, which is something people have complained about from the inside of this, literally going, I know, back to the Johnson administration. So we're trying to work it out, and we've tried to respond appropriately.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the Plaza at the Chautauqua Institution. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.
William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Following Debate Preparation With Former Senator George J. Mitchell in Chautauqua Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/221814