Bill Clinton photo

Remarks on the Employment Report and an Exchange With Reporters

May 05, 2000

The President. Good afternoon. In a few moments I will depart for a meeting with the Senate Democrats in Pennsylvania, where we will discuss ways to keep our economy strong and our Nation moving in the right direction.

Before I leave, I'd like to share the latest good news about our economy. This morning, we received the news that we have achieved 3.9 percent unemployment. That is the lowest peacetime unemployment since 1957. That was the year the Dodgers last played ball in Brooklyn.

Most Americans have never lived in a peacetime economy with unemployment as low as it is today—indeed, its lowest rate overall in over 30 years. Over the last 7 years, our Nation has created 21 million new jobs, cut the unemployment rate almost in half.

I just want to make the point again that this is clear evidence that our economic strategy works, fiscal discipline, more investment in education, technology and training, the expansion of markets for American products and services. It's given us the lowest unemployment rate for African-Americans and Hispanics ever recorded, the lowest unemployment rate for women in more than 40 years, strong wage growth among all income groups.

The American people deserve the lion's share of the credit for this historic achievement. But we have a responsibility to stay on the path that got us here, the path of fiscal discipline, debt reduction, expanded trade and increased investments in our future. I hope we will do that. This is a happy day for the people of the United States. Thank you.

National Rifle Association

Q. Mr. President, what did you think of the video done by the NRA some time ago?

The President. The NRA video? I haven't seen it. I thought you were great in mine.

Q. Put that in writing. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, we don't know if your——

The President. No, I really haven't seen it. I'll be glad to comment on it once I see it or know what's in it. But I haven't seen it.

Q. You haven't read about it?

The President. I heard about it, but I haven't—the one where they're—oh, do you mean the film where they say they're going to have an office in the White House? Did they make that video, or was it just video by someone else? I thought they were trying to keep that a secret until after the election.

What I think about it—I don't know that they think that Mr. LaPierre will literally have an office here if President Bush—Governor Bush gets elected President. But I do believe that it's clear, from the record of Governor Bush in Texas and from the statements and from the increased visibility of the role of the NRA in the Republican National Committee, that whatever is done on this issue will only be done with their approval. They will have unprecedented influence here if the American people should decide that that's what they want.

But you know, that's what you have elections for. You can—I can believe that without thinking anything bad about Mr. LaPierre or about Governor Bush. I think they may just really agree that we shouldn't close the gun show loophole or ban the importation of large-scale ammunition clips.

Q. Do you think it's going to be a——

The President. Let me just say—let me remind you, the previous Republican administration was not for the Brady bill, and they weren't for the legislation banning cop-killer bullets. That's just the way they think.

But I think one of the reasons I'm glad the Million Mom March is occurring is that it at least raises the possibility that Americans who disagree, who believe that we can have commonsense gun safety measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children, without having something that they believe is destructive gun control, those people may vote on these issues this year.

But the American people need to understand, this is one of the four or five big choices before them, and they'll just have to decide, and that all the NRA did was to commit the truth. I mean, they told the truth, and what they said was right.

"I Love You" Computer Virus

Q. Mr. President, I don't know if your office has been affected or infected in any way, but what does this "I love you" computer virus say about the world, our society, et cetera, and how maybe even one person can affect it and create chaos?

The President. Well, it says that—first of all, we've been very fortunate; the Government has fared well here. But it says that we've got a lot more work to do to protect all these systems in the private sector, and the Government has to keep working, too. It says that as we become more interconnected, in an open way, that we become—as we reap the benefits of greater interconnectivity, we become more vulnerable to the disruptive forces that would seek to— either for bad design or just to provoke chaos— to take advantage of it, and we just have to keep working on this. But I'm very gratified that the fundamental governmental systems seemed to have been unaffected here, and we just have to keep working on it.

Usama bin Ladin

Q. Mr. President, the State Department, the other day, issued an international report on terrorism. And also, this was the last of your administration, sir, and as Usama bin Ladin is still at large, so what do you have to say about international terrorism and all the——

The President. You mean about bin Ladin still being at large? Well, we're doing our part to change it. And I hope we'll be successful.

Interest Rates

Q. Mr. President, on the economy, are you afraid the Fed's going to raise the rate in response to the numbers?

The President. Well, I think that these numbers have to be seen in terms of yesterday's numbers. Yesterday's inflation figures were quite encouraging, and I think they show that—core inflation at something like 2.4 percent, and I think the overall inflation rate will come back toward that, now that the oil prices are moderating. So I think that should be quite encouraging, not just to the Fed but to all Americans and to American business—that basically the productivity of the work force, continuing to be fueled by information technology, has enabled us to have an amazing amount of growth and low unemployment, at quite modest levels of inflation. And so that's encouraging to me, and I think the facts speak for themselves on that.

Thank you.

Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

Q. What did you think of the Vieques operation?

The President. Well, it went pretty well, I think. They did a good job. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:12 p.m. on the South Grounds at the White House, prior to his departure for Farmington, PA. In his remarks, he referred to Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president, National Rifle Association; and Usama bin Ladin, who allegedly sponsored the 1998 bombing attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on the Employment Report and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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