Bill Clinton photo

Exchange With Reporters Following the National Equal Pay Day Observance

May 11, 2000

[The exchange is joined in progress.]

Forest Fires in Los Alamos, New Mexico

Q. ——beyond the usual response which is low interest loans and to actually rebuild the community?

The President. First of all, we're examining all that now. I want to know what the facts are. The Forest Service for a very long time has had these controlled burns, but we have to look in to it to see what the real facts are and what the responsibility of the Government is. And the rule here ought to be the "do right" rule: Whatever the right thing to do is, is exactly what should be done.

Right now we should be focusing on doing everything we can to minimize the damage of the fire and protect the lab assets, deal with the human problems, protect the lab assets. But as we look to rebuild, I think we ought to ascertain the facts and just do what the right thing to do is. That's going to be my policy. And I just don't know about the facts now to be absolutely sure, but as I do, I will be for bending over backwards to do the right thing. That will be my policy.

Elian Gonzalez and Asylum Law

Q. Should Congress put into law whether a 6-year-old boy—or what age a child should be able to, of his own free will, seek asylum in the United States? Because, of course, it's not in the law right now.

The President. It's not in the law. Well, traditionally, the courts have ruled on these things based on the facts, and there have been certain presumptions about people who were above or below a certain age. And this decision, like others, has been governed by the assumption that a person below a certain age should be spoken for by a parent if the parent is a fit parent. Whether clarifying legislation will be needed, I think no one ever thought so before now. And I think we all ought to just sit and see what the Court of Appeals says and what happens, and that court decision may clarify whether we need legislation or not.

Forest Fires in Los Alamos, New Mexico

Q. Have you now been assured that the laboratory is safe?

Q. Are you going to march on Sunday?

The President. Well, they've taken extraordinary precautions. They've taken extraordinary precautions.

Am I going to what?

Million Mom March

Q. Are you going to march on Sunday?

The President. Well, I'm going to do something to support them. What I want to do is be supportive and do nothing to take away or distract from it. I'm going to do my best to help them. And we have a plan for a way that we—Hillary and I both want to be very supportive, and we will.

Gun Safety Legislation

Q. Do you believe that will motivate Congress——

The President. I don't know, but it ought to, because that's another one of those issues which is far less partisan out in the country than it is here in Washington. It's like this equal pay issue.

Q. ——seeing all those women, all those people down there, will that motivate Congress to get this legislation through?

The President. It might or it might not. It depends upon whether the Members of Congress feel the human impact, which to me is the most powerful thing, and also realize that there are more and more people who care about this issue. It's becoming what I call a voting issue, because that's the thing that very often motivates Congressmen who feel torn, want to do something, but are afraid to do it because of the political implications. Most of the polls you see on issues don't mean anything to them, because the real issue is whether this issue affects how people vote.

And I think if a couple hundred thousand people show up here and several hundred thousand more at these sites around the country, it ought to send a signal that we want America to be a safe country and commonsense gun measures is a part of the strategy. And that, plus just the human impact of the stories, there's a chance it will break through and help us break this logjam. I hope and pray that it will.

Elian Gonzalez and Asylum Law

Q. Any suggestion——

The President. What?

Q. Any suggestion as to when a child might be of his own free will?

The President. I want to wait. I may want to comment on that later, but I think we should, in all fairness, let the Court of Appeals issue their ruling, see what the state of the law is, and then make some sort of judgment about whether legislation is required.

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani

Q. Any reaction to the Giuliani news yesterday?

The President. Well, I wish him and his wife and their children well on the health front and on the domestic front. I think that's all there is—all anybody should want. People in public life have challenges and difficulties like people in other kinds of life do.

And I've always had a good personal relationship with Mayor Giuliani. It's not been affected by the fact that I think my wife would be a better Senator. And on this, I think everybody in New York and everybody in America ought to be rooting for the human side of this to work out. We should wish him well in his struggle over his illness. We should wish that family well. We should want the best for their children, and we should want some space for all of them, out of the glare of publicity, to work their family issues out. That's what I want, and I hope he gets it.

NOTE: The exchange began at 1:10 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to Mayor Giuliani's wife, Donna Hanover, and their children, Andrew and Caroline. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary did not include the complete opening portion of this exchange. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Following the National Equal Pay Day Observance Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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