October 14, 1999


                              THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                              October 14, 1999


                               The East Room
2:04 P.M.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  Thank you.  In recent days, members
of the congressional majority have displayed a reckless partisanship -- it
threatens America's economic well being and, now, our national security.
     Yesterday, hard line Republicans irresponsibly forced a vote against
the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  This was partisan politics of
the worst kind, because it was so blatant and because of the risks it poses
to the safety of the American people and the world.
     What the Senate seeks is to abandon an agreement that requires other
countries to do what we have already done; an agreement that constrains
Russia and China, India and Pakistan from developing more dangerous nuclear
weapons; that helps to keep other countries out of the nuclear weapons
business altogether; that improves our ability to monitor dangerous weapons
activities in other countries.  Even worse, they have offered no
alternative, no other means of keeping countries around the world from
developing nuclear arsenals and threatening our security.
     In so doing, they ignored the advice of our top military leaders, our
most distinguished scientists, our closest allies.  They brushed aside the
views of the American people and betrayed the vision of Presidents
Eisenhower and Kennedy, who set us on the road to this treaty so many years
     Even more troubling are the signs of a new isolationism among some of
the opponents of the treaty.  You see it in the refusal to pay our U.N.
dues.  You see it in the woefully inadequate budget for foreign affairs and
includes meeting our obligations to the Middle East peace process and to
the continuing efforts to destroy and safeguard Russian nuclear materials.
You see it in the refusal to adopt our proposals to do our part to stem the
tide of global warming, even though these proposals plainly would create
American jobs.
     But by this vote, the Senate majority has turned its back on 50 years
of American leadership against the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
They are saying America does not need to lead, either by effort or by
example.  They are saying we don't need our friends or allies.  They are
betting our children's future on the reckless proposition that we can go it
alone; that at the height of our power and prosperity, we should bury our
heads in the sand, behind a wall.
     That is not where I stand.  And that is not where the American people
stand.  They understand that, to be strong, we must not only have a
powerful military; we must also lead, as we have done time and again, and
as the whole world expects us to do, to build a more responsible,
interdependent world.
     So we will continue to protect our interests around the world.  We
will continue to seek from Congress the financial resources to make that
possible.  We will continue to pursue the fight against the spread of
nuclear weapons.  And we will not -- we will not -- abandon the commitments
inherent in the treaty, and resume testing ourselves.
     I will not let yesterday's partisanship stand as our final word on the
test ban treaty.  Today I say again, on behalf of the United States, we
will continue the policy we have maintained since 1992 of not conducting
nuclear tests.  I call on Russia, China, Britain, France and all other
countries to continue to refrain from testing.  I call on nations that have
not done so to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  And I
will continue to do all I can to make that case to the Senate.  When all is
said and done I have no doubt that the United States will ratify this


     Q    Mr. President, hasn't the treaty rejection really wiped out our
moral authority to ask other nations around the world to stop testing?  And
was there -- do you think there was a personal element in the Republican --
a personal vendetta against you in the turn-down, Republican --
     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, to answer the first question, let me say I had
the occasion to run into three ambassadors last night, of nations that
strongly support the test ban treaty.  And they were concerned, they didn't
know what to say to their governments back home.
     And what I told them was that we were in a battle with the new
isolationists in the Republican Party.  They see this treaty against the
backdrop of the failure to pay the U.N. dues, and the failure to shoulder
some of our other responsibilities, the failure to pass a bill that would
meet our obligations to the Middle East peace process, and our obligations
to keep working with the Russians to take down their nuclear arsenal.
     But what I told them was the American people always get it right, and
we are not going to reverse 40 years of commitment on nonproliferation,
that the treaty is still on the Senate calendar, that it will be
considered, that we have to keep working forward, and that I have no
intention of doing anything other than honoring the obligations of the
treaty imposed on the United States.
     So I urged them not to overreact, to make clear their opposition to
what the Senate did, but to stay with us and believe in the United States
because the American people want us to lead toward nonproliferation.
     Now, as to the second element, there were a number of partisan
considerations, including some bad feelings between the Republicans and
Democrats in the Senate, because the Republicans  didn't want to bring this
up at all, and then they didn't give us a legitimate process when they did.
If you compare the debates here, one day of hearings here, with 14 days on
the Chemical Weapons Convention, over 20 days on the INF Treaty under
President Reagan, this was not a legitimate process.
     Now, I know some people made some personal remarks on the floor of the
Senate in the debate, but, you know, it's been my experience that very
often in politics when a person is taking a position that he simply cannot
defend, the only defense is to attack the opponent.  And that's what I took
it, as a form of flattery.  They knew they didn't have a very strong case,
and so they were looking for some excuse for otherwise inexcusable conduct,
and it didn't bother me a bit.  I think it only
exposed --
     Q    It wasn't revenge against --
     THE PRESIDENT:  No, I think it only exposed the weakness of their
argument.  I think that it had a lot more to do with what's going on in the
Senate and what they think will happen this year and next year.  But I say
that because if it did, that would be even worse for them.  I mean, the
idea that we would put the future of our children in peril and the
leadership of America for a safer world in peril for some personal pique, I
think is unthinkable.
     I just think when you've got -- sometimes, I've seen people when
they've got a very weak argument and they know they don't have a very
strong position, they think that maybe they can deflect the analysis of
their vote and their argument by attacking their opponent.  That happens
from time to time and you can't take it too seriously.


     Q    To what extent do you think that you and the White House bear
some responsibility for the outcome of the vote yesterday?  There have been
a lot of people heavily involved -- supporters of this treaty -- who say
the White House didn't begin an effective lobbying effort early enough.
And I wonder whether you also think that the year of scandal played some
role in that, that the White House was just unable to work on this in the
way it should have.
     THE PRESIDENT:  No.  For one thing, since I signed this treaty --
let's look at the facts here -- I've spoken about this 30 times or more.
We always start a big public campaign in terms of White House events and
other things.  Go back and look at this.  Look at NAFTA.  Look at the
Chemical Weapons Convention.  Go back -- when we know that we're on a
hearing schedule and we're going to have a vote, until we were given eight
or 10 days notice, we had no earthly idea there would ever be hearings,
much less a vote on this.
     So this whole thing came as a complete surprise to us when we realized
that we had eight or 10 days on a subject that we thought they had decided
in a very determined way not to bring up, because Senator Helms had made it
clear that he didn't want to bring it up, and he wouldn't even talk about
it until he disposed of two other treaties that he said were ahead of it in
his consideration.  We had no earthly idea that it was going to be on the
Senate calendar.
     So we did our best, we kept asking.  And we thought if we ever got a
yes, the yes would be like the yes we got on chemical weapons.  Yes, we can
have this vote in a couple of months, we'll have two or three weeks of
hearings.  If we had had a normal process, you would have seen a much more
extensive public campaign.  There was simply no time to put it together.
But I talked about this over and over and over again in many different
contexts.  And I think that, given the time we had, we did the best we
could.  And, besides that, once it became clear to me that they not only
were going to force this close vote, but that they weren't going to do what
they do in every single treaty where there's serious consideration --
namely, to allow the senators of both parties to offer safeguards, to offer
reservations, to offer clarifications, so that the treaty means something.
     If you remember, the only way we ever passed the Chemical Weapons
Treaty is when the Senate -- including Senator Helms -- participated with
us in a process that led to over 20 explicit safeguards and reservations.
That's what the Senate is supposed to do.  We said, ourselves, that we
thought the treaty required six safeguards that we hoped would be put on
it.  And they said, not only are we going to make them vote on the treaty,
we're not going to let you put your safeguards on there.  So I think that
ought to give you some indication of what was afoot here.  We did the best
we could with the time we had.
     Q    -- the criticism has been not the public lobbying effort, but
behind the scenes -- the sense that for a long time the Republicans were
lobbying against this treaty when the White House wasn't lobbying very
effectively on Capitol Hill.
     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but -- you know, first of all, I just don't
accept that.  They told us that they had no interest in bringing it up.  It
wasn't going to come up.  We had no reason to believe we could do it.
Before we can lobby the members, we have to have some sense that we're
lobbying them for something.  And every time you talk to somebody, they
say, well, that's not even scheduled, that's not going to come up.  And I
think the interesting thing is how many made commitments before they heard
any arguments one way or the other.
     Q    But, Mr. President, given the importance you've placed on this,
why did you wait until 5:15 p.m. yesterday to first call the Senate
Majority Leader?  And, as part of the same question, if you were the
government of China and publicly stated on the record that you're looking
to modernize your nuclear arsenal, why would you not take this now as a
green light to test, and will you do anything to try to convince the
Chinese not to do so?
     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me answer the first question first.  The one
thing I did not want to do, once it became obvious -- I had nothing to do
with the schedule the Majority Leader imposed on the treaty and I had no
advance knowledge of it, so I couldn't have talked to him before then.
     At that point, he had contact -- I believe he and his office -- he,
personally, and his office, had contacts several times a day with Mr.
Berger every day from then on out.  What we were trying to do was to
preserve the opportunity --just to deal with the question Helen asked in
the beginning, you know, if anybody was out there saying, well, this is
about President Clinton -- and we were trying to preserve the opportunity
for him and Senator Daschle to make an agreement so that the Senate could
do this, the Senate could put it off, could schedule hearings, could deal
with it in an orderly fashion.
     Then, as you may know, the night before the vote, Senator Lott and
Senator Daschle did, in fact, reach an agreement to put it off.  And
Senator Lott apparently was unable to convince enough of his caucus to
honor the agreement he had made, so he had to withdraw.  And it was at that
point that I called him to see if there was anything else we could do.
     But we were in constant contact with his office, and Mr. Berger talked
to him innumerable times.  I would happily have talked to him.  I thought I
was giving him some protection not to do it so that he and Senator Daschle
could make an agreement, and they could say the Senate did it out of a
concern for the national interest, because it was manifestly the right
thing to do.  And I think Senator Lott believes today that putting it off
was the right thing to do.  I'm sorry it didn't happen.
     Q    And the question on China?
     THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, China.  Let me say -- well, I will say again, the
Chinese have taken the position we have, that they won't test.  I hope they
will continue to honor it.  All I can tell you is, we're not going to test,
I signed that treaty, it still binds us unless I go, in effect, and erase
our name -- unless the President does that and takes our name off, we are
bound by it.  And we've not been testing since '92.  So the Chinese should
have every assurance that, at least as long as this administration is here,
we support nuclear testing.
     Now, if we ever get a President that's against the test ban treaty --
which we may get; I mean, there are plenty of people out there who say
they're against it -- then I think you might as well get ready for it.
You'll have Russia testing, you'll have China testing, you'll have India
testing, you'll have Pakistan testing.  You'll have countries abandoning
the nonproliferation treaty.
     The reason I wouldn't make a commitment to Senator Lott not to bring
this treaty up next year -- let's just put that out on the table -- apart
from the President's prerogative, constitutional prerogative, there is a
substantive reason.  Four years ago, we got all the countries that were in
the nonproliferation treaty -- even more than have signed the test ban
treaty, I think 176 of them -- and they say they're either not going to
develop nuclear capacity, or if they have it, they won't share it.  It's
very, very important.
     And a lot of the countries that were edgy because their neighbors had
nuclear capacity, or because they had nascent nuclear capacity, and they
wanted to develop it more -- they really wanted to know, was there going to
be a test ban treaty, so that if they stopped dead in their tracks they
wouldn't be discriminated against by people who were a little ahead of them
who could test.  And the United States took the lead in assuring them we
would continue to work until we got a test ban treaty.  So we did.  And
that's why I was the first person to sign it, not only because I believe in
the test ban treaty, but because I think it is essential to reinforce the
nonproliferation treaty.
     Consider how each of you would feel if you were running a country and
you thought you had the scientific capacity to develop these kinds of
weapons, and you had neighbors with them you felt threatened by.  But they
were a little ahead of you and they could test and you couldn't.
     So the reason I -- what I told Senator Lott was, I said, look, I
believe if next year we have indicates that three or four or five countries
are going to bail out on the nonproliferation treaty, I could come to you
and I could convince you that we should bring it up; and, therefore, I
cannot promise not to bring it up.  But, barring some international
emergency, I wouldn't bring this treaty up until I though we could get it
ratified.  To me it's not a matter of personal credit, it's a matter of
leaving in place for the future a framework that will maximize the safety
and security of the American people and minimize the prospect of nuclear
conflict around the world.
     So that's where it is.  I hope very much that people will see in the
steadfast determination of this administration, and of the American people,
the determination to stay on this path.  And I hope they will stick with
us.  I think if we ever have a President and a Senate not for this test ban
treaty then all bets are off, you will see a lot of testing and they will
bail on the NPT.  That's what I think will happen and we will be in a much,
much more dangerous world.  But we are not there today, and I hope I can
discourage people from going there.
     Mark, and then Sarah.
     Q    Sir, just as you had experts saying, advocating the ratification
of the treaty, the Republicans had experts saying that the treaty was
dangerous.  Why can't you accept the vote as a good faith expression of
that opposition, rather than as a partisan attack?
     THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, I have said every time that there were some
Republicans who believed that in good conscience.  The reason I can't
accept it as only a matter of conviction are the following reasons.  Number
one, they had a lot of people committed who didn't know very much about the
treaty, who were asked to commit before there was ever an argument made.
     Number two, the objections about the treaty essentially fall into two
categories.  One is that, notwithstanding the heads of the weapons labs,
the entire military establishment, and General Shelton's last few
predecessors as Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, and these 32 Nobel laureates,
there are people who say, I don't care what they all say, I just don't
believe it.  I just don't think that they can preserve the security of the
nuclear arsenal without testing -- even though we're spending $4.5 billion
a year, and we're going to spend more, and we're far more likely to be able
to do that than any other country in the world -- I just don't believe it.
     Now, my answer to them was, so we put an explicit safeguard in the
treaty which says, when we have evidence -- which we don't have now -- that
we cannot maintain the reliability of the nuclear deterrent, if at that
time it is still necessary for us to do so, then we will have to give
notice and withdraw.  That's what you have these safeguards for.  That's in
our supreme national interest.
     The other major argument against the treaty was that there can be some
cheating because you can't always be sure, for underground tests under five
kilotons -- and particularly under one kiloton.  The answer to that is,
that's true now.  And this treaty makes it more likely that we will catch
such things.
     That wasn't a good argument, because this treaty would give us over
300 sensors around the world.  And those sensors are far more likely to
pick it up.  This treaty would give us the possibility of on-site
inspections, something we don't have now.  And this treaty would give us
the possibility of marshaling a much sterner rebuke to any country that
violated it than we do now.
     There were other objections that were more minor, compared to these
two big ones.  That's why we offered these six safeguards, and invited the
Senate to offer more.  There were objections like this to the Chemical
Weapons Convention.  There are always going to be objections from the point
of view of the country that feels it's in the strongest position.  And
that's why we have a process, an orderly process in the Senate, to allow
the Senate to put these safeguards on.  I think that's what Senator Byrd
was saying yesterday when he voted present and condemned the process.
     Keep in mind, I didn't ask them to ratify the treaty as it was
written, I asked them to ratify the treaty with the six safeguards that
would address those two major objections and some of the others.
     Sarah, and then --
     Q    Do you think the American people agree with you on the fact that
we send armed soldiers to everyplace in the world where there's a conflict?
     THE PRESIDENT:  Do I think what now?
     Q    Do you feel that we, the American people, agree with the policy
that we send armed soldiers to other parts of the country when we're not
involved, but they're having an armed conflict, and we send soldiers over
there anyway?
     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, but I think --
     Q    Do you think the American people --
     THE PRESIDENT:  Let me say this.  I think that the safer we make the
world and the more we reduce the likelihood of war, the less likely we are
to send people there.  But, you know, this is another argument for
cooperation, however.  There's another point I'd like to make.  The heads
of the governments of Britain, France and Germany took the extraordinary
step of writing an Op-Ed piece -- we don't have any better allies -- they
took the extraordinary step of writing an Op-Ed piece asking us to ratify
this treaty and, in any case, not to defeat it.  This was also an amazing
rebuke to our allies.  We say, okay you guys are with us every time we need
you, the Gulf War, the Balkans, always in NATO, you're there -- but you ask
us to do something for your common safety, go take a hike.  You know, I
think that's a very tenuous position.
     If you look at what we did, we took a very leading role in trying to
stop the violence and promote the integrity of the referendum in East
Timor, a long way away.  The Australians, the New Zealanders, the other
countries in that region, they stepped right up and took the lion's share
the burden, they didn't expect America to do that.  They asked us to help
them with certain services that we are capable of providing, but they
stepped right up.  They looked to us and say, you know, keep leading the
world toward nonproliferation, we'll do this work with you.  We say to
them, go take a hike.  I think it was a very dubious decision.


     Q    Mr. President, one of the arguments that some of your closest
friends in the Senate make about this situation with the Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty is that the Republicans aren't just after that treaty or the ABM
Treaty, that really what they want to do is embark on the full dismantling
of all strategic arms controls; we've known it since the end of the Cold
     The Republican argument is that arms control is an illusion and a
delusion, that it lulls us into a false sense of security and that it
drains our will to maintain our military might.  What do you think of those
arguments?  What's your response to them?
     THE PRESIDENT:  Imagine the world we will live in if they prevail.  I
mean, imagine the world we will live in if they prevail.  That's what I
think of them.  I mean, look, are we more secure because we made an
agreement with the Russians to reduce our nuclear arsenals?  I believe we
are.  Are we more secure, given the economic and political tensions in that
area that we made an agreement with the Russians to take those nuclear
weapons out of Kazakhstan and Ukraine and Belarus?  I believe we are.
     Are we more secure because other countries are not testing nuclear
weapons and can only do so much in the laboratory?  I believe we are.  I
think these arms control agreements have created a climate in the world
which has helped to make us far more secure and helped to reduce the
likelihood that nuclear weapons will ever be used again.
     If the United States, with all of our wealth, all of our strength,
more nuclear weapons than anybody else, says we are so insecure that we
want more, more, more, what in the wide world could we ever say to the
Chinese, to the Russians -- who I hope will not be on their backs
economically forever -- to the Indians and the Pakistanis -- who have all
kinds of arguments, one against the other, and involving other countries --
to countries that believe we are too aggressive in the world already and
don't share a lot of our political or our philosophical views.
     You know, I'm glad you said that.  You're right.  They don't believe
that.  And they think we ought to go it alone.  It doesn't bother them that
we don't pay our U.N. dues.  It doesn't bother them that we're giving the
Pentagon money in their budget that the Pentagon didn't ask for and say is
not necessary for our national security, but they won't fund a decent
investment in diplomacy and helping to lift the world's poor in places
where people are trying to make democracy take root.  That we're not
funding our obligations under the Middle East peace process, our
obligations to help the Russians continue to dismantle their nuclear
weapons.  That's right.  And they do believe that.  And I go back to what
Mark said, there are -- I don't believe they're yet the majority in the
Republican Caucus, but they are a very, very potent minority.  And they do
believe this.  But I think they're wrong.  And the American people must
understand that this is one of the choices they now have to make.
     Q    Mr. President, you said imagine a world without these agreements.
Please give some examples of what you're driving at.  Because they say it's
going to be a terrific world without these agreements, that America is
going to be safer without the agreements than it is with them.
     THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, we're all tied in knots now over this
budget, right?  I mean, it's totally unnecessary, but we are.  We shouldn't
be.  Now, can you imagine if we had no arms control agreements, let's just
suppose we tore them all up tomorrow; nothing, no nonproliferation
agreement.  Then this same crowd would be coming in and saying, well, now
there's no nonproliferation agreements, you know, and here's a list of 12
countries that we think they have two scientists who can figure out how to
put together a small nuclear weapon.  And there's no Chemical Weapons
Convention, or Biological Weapons Convention, so they've got those labs
chugging right along here.
     And, therefore, we need you to increase the budget for all this to the
labs and the Pentagon by another $30 or $40 or $50 billion a year -- so,
I'm sorry, we'll just have to get out of the business of funding education;
we can't afford to invest any more in health care, the American people just
have to figure out what to do on their own.  It would totally erode the
fabric of our domestic climate.
     Meanwhile, what happens overseas?  Countries that could be putting
money into the education and health care and the development of their
children -- whether they're democracies or military dictatorships or
communist countries -- will be sitting there saying, well, you know, we'd
like to lower the infant mortality rate; we'd like to lower the hunger
rate; we'd like to lower the poverty rate; we'd like to raise the literacy
rate.  But look at what the Americans are doing, look at what our neighbors
are doing -- let's spend half our money on military.  It would be great for
people that build this stuff, but for everybody else it would be a
     Consider the Japanese -- coming out, we earnestly hope, of their long
economic slump; having honored, since World War II, their commitment to be
a non-nuclear state, and to spend a small percentage of their income on
defense.  What in the world would they do in such a world?  And if they had
to divert 4, 5, 6 percent of their gross national product to defense, what
kind of economic partner would they be?
     What would happen in Latin America, the area which has been the area
that was the greatest growth for us in trade?  After we have worked so
hard, you've got Brazil to renounce its nuclear program.  You've got former
adversaries working together in trade agreements.  What would happen if
they, all of a sudden, got antsy and decided, well, you know, we have no
national status;  our people, you know, we'll have the same elements in our
country saying we can't defend ourselves; we've got to have a biological
program, a chemical program, a nuclear program.
     I mean, you know, all this sounds good.  But the idea that the best
way for us to go forward -- since right now, at this particular moment in
history, we enjoy the greatest wealth and the greatest power, is to build
this big old wall and tell all of our friends and neighbors to go take a
hike, we're not cooperating with them anymore; as far as we're concerned
any might, might be an enemy; and anything you want to do with your money
is fine with us, because we have more money than you do, so whatever you
do, we'll do more.
     I think it will be a bleak, poor, less secure world.  I don't want my
children and my grandchildren, or your children or your grandchildren to
live in it.  They believe that; I will do everything I can to stop it.
     Q    Sir, isn't it wishful thinking for the Democrats to think they
can beat up on the Republicans next year over this treaty vote?  Yes,
public opinions show that most Americans do support the treaty.  But you
were not able, despite your 30-plus public appearances, you were not able
to light a fire under public opinion.  Can't the Republicans just walk away
from this without any damage, particularly in the post-Cold War era?  Isn't
it true that Americans just don't worry about the nuclear threat?
     THE PRESIDENT:  I think there is something to that.  But, you know, it
was interesting.  As I understand it, one of the reasons this came up --
from what my Republican friends in the Senate say -- is that the
Republicans were worried that the Democrats would keep beating on this next
year if they didn't bring it up and dispose of it this year, and they were
afraid it would be a political issue.  I never wanted it to be a political
issue.  I never wanted the Chemical Weapons Treaty to be a political issue.
I never thought this stuff would be a political issue.  I always thought
we'd have a bipartisan consensus to do what had to be done.
     So they may have made it a political issue now, and it may or may not
have any impact.  But I will say this.  I will say again -- I believe the
American people eventually -- I think they will stay where they are and I
think we'll eventually get this treaty ratified.  But it may be in every
democracy -- you know, the people decide what they care about.  I told
Senator Lott that I did not expect that this would ever be such a big
issue.  I think it might be now.  And the people have to decide.  This is
part of the choices a free people make, and it's an important choice and
we'll just see what they do.


                                 END                  3:04 P.M. EDT