Remarks to the McClellan Air Force Base Local Redevelopment Authority and an Exchange With Reporters in Sacramento
The President. Thank you. Please sit down, everybody. Well, thank you. I know you've been meeting, and I don't want to take a lot of time because I want to spend most of my time just listening to you. But I've had a chance to talk to Congressman Fazio and Congressman Matsui, and Leon and I were visiting with them earlier. I know that this last year has not been easy for you and I have—frankly, it has not been easy for me to try to help you because Congress has fiercely opposed my efforts to try to privatize more of the maintenance operations more easily, as I'm sure you all know.
But we are still committed to making this work, and I am convinced we can make it work. I believe that the potential of this base is very great. I feel as strongly about that as I did when we decided to undertake this course, and we will do everything we can under the law to help you. My main purpose in being here today is to find out if there are things that you think we can do that we haven't done, and we're anxious to get after it and do more.
I know that you know all this, but I think that it's worth recounting that we have taken some steps in the last few weeks that I believe will help: say that the DOD will maintain the microelectronic center, keeping the commissary and the base exchange open, providing about $4 1/2 million to retrain 1,500 civilian workers, providing some more money for the casting emission reduction program, which I'm very interested in because of the idea of developing environmentally friendly ways of providing for casting metal parts I think is a very important thing. It has enormous potential for a significant sector of our economy. And of course, I know that you know that the Department of Energy is going to provide $800,000 for your nuclear reactor facility for research on treatment for inoperable brain tumors, which is something that's acquired a lot more interest in the last couple of years because there seemed to be so many of them.
And there are other things that we can do, I'm sure. I'm committed to doing them. I just wanted to come here and kind of get an update from you, tell you that I understand some of your frustrations, particularly on putting up more business for this privatization in place. We have worked very hard for it, and we have been, frankly, frustrated that people who say they believe we ought to privatize everything don't seem to be interested in helping us on this. But I'm not discouraged, and I'm prepared to go on and do everything I can. And as I said, I mostly just want to hear from you and get whatever ideas you have. And I thank you for giving me the chance to be here.
TWA Flight 800
Q. Mr. President, can we ask you for just a second to give us an update on TWA 800?
The President. Yes. I got a report already, one report from James Lee Witt whom I asked to go up there and try to kind of coordinate things and make sure that we were doing everything we could be doing for the families as well as make sure that all of our group was working together with the State and local people.
I think it's important to say that I believe progress is being made in the investigation, progress is being made in identification and recovery. But again I would say—I read the news reports this morning, and the important thing I want to emphasize at this moment is that we must not draw a conclusion until we're sure that the conclusion is supported by the facts. And I cannot say that I've learned anything today which enables me to give you a definite conclusion about the cause of the accident.
But right now I'm very concerned about just getting all the evidence we can collected and dealing with these families and making sure that they're treated in the most humane way and that they get their answers as quickly as possible. So those are our priorities. We're working on them. I do not have a definite answer at this moment.
Q. Mr. President, there seems to be some confusion about whether or not chemical residue of some kind was found on remains or on debris removed from the aircraft. Can you clear up that confusion, sir?
The President. Well, I think the confusion would be what the evidence supports. There is some—traces of some chemicals have been identified, but in the way that they were identified, though, I believe—the stories that I read implied, I think, more than the evidence supported at the moment. And I'm not criticizing anybody because we're all desperate to find an answer to this.
But based on the reports that I have read, and I'm getting regular reports on this both orally and in writing, I cannot tell you that the evidence establishes a cause of the accident. So finding various traces of things may indicate that something happened, and it may not. But right now, the people we have looking at this have not drawn a firm conclusion that's been relayed to any of us.
Q. How long do you think it will take to make an analysis of it?
The President. Well, I don't know, but they're working very hard on it. I mean, believe me, we don't have another priority. So as quick as we can find something out, you'll know it.
Q. [Inaudible]—Senate on welfare—[inaudible].
The President. What did you say?
Q. [Inaudible]—Senate on welfare—[inaudible].
The President. Well, I think they adopted two good amendments today. But I think the question that you ought to ask yourself in evaluating that bill, including the amendments that were adopted, which I favor, is does this weaken the protections we give to children in our country? That's the major issue to me.
A lot of the savings in the welfare bill actually have nothing whatever to do with welfare. They're just part of the budgetary calculus of the overall balanced budget plan. They're necessary to finance the tax cuts and the other things in their plan. And so I just don't want to do anything that hurts kids.
They adopted two good amendments. I applaud them for doing it. The bill's going to go to conference. I'm going to keep working with them, and we'll see if we can all agree on something that is acceptable. The actual provisions of the bill that apply to welfare per se are much better and basically pretty good, including putting several billion dollars more for child care.
The savings in the bill that I don't agree with, except for the voucher—the absence of giving the States the option to provide some assistance for people who run out of their time limits are for their children. That's the only welfare issue that I'm aware of that's still hanging out there. The rest of the issues basically relate to budget cuts that will affect poor working people, as much as anything else, and their children.
A lot of these food stamp cuts will affect poor working mothers, minimum-wage mothers and their children. Or the cuts to legal immigrants are likely to affect people who come to this country and may be middle class, may be even upper middle class, but then through no fault of their own, after paying taxes here for years, something happens to them that affects their children, they get in a car wreck, they get cancer, they get mugged. These are things that happen to people who live anywhere in the world, and they can happen to people here.
So I'm concerned about the impact of some of the provisions of this on children. But I still believe—since it's getting better, I'm optimistic we can make it even better in the conference, and I'll just keep working at it and try to get it done.
NOTE: The President spoke at 3 p.m. in the Commanders' Air Room at McClellan Air Force Base. In his remarks, he referred to Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta.
William J. Clinton, Remarks to the McClellan Air Force Base Local Redevelopment Authority and an Exchange With Reporters in Sacramento Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/223127