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Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine

February 21, 1996

1996 Election

Q. Pat Buchanan said today congressional Republicans shouldn't cut Medicare and veterans' benefits. Do you agree?

President Clinton. Good for him.

Q. What's your reaction to what happened last night? There seems to be a split in the Republican Party.

President Clinton. Well, first of all, I'm very gratified by what happened in the Democratic primary last night. I haven't seen the final numbers, but we may have made history there, even for an incumbent President without appreciable opposition, compared to anything that's happened in the last 50 years if the vote holds up. And we had a good turnout, too. And I think that's evidence that what the American people really want is someone who will take a positive approach to the future, bring us together, and come out with the continuing movement, continuing ideas that will bring us together and move us forward.

So I'm satisfied with the election, and I'm going to let the Republicans and the pundits deal with their business. You know, this country doesn't need another pundit, and I need to go on and be President.

Q. Are you surprised by the Republican outcome, Mr. President?

President Clinton. I had no—I didn't know what to expect. Since I didn't know what was going to happen, I couldn't be surprised.

Q. Do you regard Mr. Buchanan as too extreme to be a mainstream candidate?

President Clinton. I regard this whole process as one for the Republicans to work out. I'm going to be President and go out there and tell the people what I'm trying to do and what I would do if given a greater opportunity to do it. And I'm not going to get involved in their business or yours. That's your business and theirs.

Ukrainian Aircraft

Q. A question for Mr. Kuchma. Mr. Kuchma, are you commenting at all on the allegations that aircraft from state-owned factories in your country have gone to the Cali cartel for their use?

President Kuchma. First of all, it was owned not by the state but by a company. And I think that the aircraft not only of Ukraine but of all other countries are used on the same basis all over the world. They are used on the basis of leasing.

And I think that the Colombian side should take all the responsibility on that, and in fact, I have instructed so that to find all the reasons and all the deepest backgrounds of that issue, though I don't think there was any blame on our side.

I think that international mechanisms should be worked out so that we face less issues of this sort of misusage of aircraft and so on and so forth. So we are always asked this sort of question only after their usage, but we have to do everything possible to prevent this usage and so that to avoid this sort of asking. Though according to our information, our aircraft are not involved in this sort of affairs.

President Clinton. Thank you all. Have a nice day, you guys. You have a decent day outside. Why don't we have a national recess? [Laughter]

[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]

President Kuchma. I would like to add one thing to that question, that our Secret Service has addressed yours so that you consider this issue together.

President Kuchma's Visit

President Clinton. Let me say to our friends in the Ukrainian press, it's a great honor for me to have President Kuchma here. The United States is strongly committed to a sovereign, independent, prosperous Ukraine.

I admire the difficult and courageous steps that President Kuchma and Ukraine have taken toward democracy and economic reform. I know this has been a difficult time, and I want to see the world community, including the United States, do everything possible to support Ukraine in its efforts to maintain democracy and to restore real prosperity and opportunity to the people.

President Kuchma. It's a pleasure to listen to such nice words addressed to Ukraine and its people. And I'd like to confirm the only thing that from the very beginning the United States have always been a guarantor for economic and political transformations in Ukraine, the guarantor for building and shaping all the civilized, democratic society in Ukraine. This is our priority assignment, and we are happy to be together with the United States in this respect.

Thank you.

NOTE: The exchange began at 11:20 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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