THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT ON "THE HOME SHOW" The Diplomatic Reception Room
11:49 A.M. EST
Q The President of the United States, ladies and gentlemen.
THE PRESIDENT: Gary.
Q Hello, Mr. President, how are you?
THE PRESIDENT: How are you. Glad to see you.
Q Pleasure to meet you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
? Q Thank you. Welcome to your own home. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Here we are.
Q By the way, have you done all your shopping yet?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I haven't even started.
Q Oh, yes, we know what you're going to get, though.
THE PRESIDENT: You do?
Q Well, it's bigger than a breadbox but smaller than a bus.
MRS. CLINTON: Now, don't give it --
? Q Oh, I'm sorry.
Q You know how these men are --
Q That's good -- what are you getting --
THE PRESIDENT: I accept. (Laughter.)
Q He seems very happy.
THE PRESIDENT: Hi Socks.
Q Can you give us any hints about what your plans are for a gift for --
THE PRESIDENT: No, I wouldn't --
Q We saw your last year's --
THE PRESIDENT: I have made a decision. Do you like that?
Q Well, somebody told us that you shop Christmas Eve, is that correct? Are you like that?
THE PRESIDENT: I do two things actually, though -- at least in the past I have. When we lived in Arkansas, I had a little closet that was just mine, and I shopped all year long for everybody that I knew. Just a little bit here and there and I'd travel around and -- and I shoved it all in the closet. And then about 10 days before Christmas, I'd take it out and organize it. And then I would find out what I hadn't done, and I then I'd go out the day before Christmas and shop.
Q Now, who did your wrapping, or did you do the wrapping?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the people who worked at the Governors Mansion did some of it, and then I did some of it. I did a lot of it myself. Chelsea and I would do a lot at the end. I'm pretty good actually.
Q Yes. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not bad.
Q I just hate it. I would walk a mile rather than wrap a package.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, at the end of the -- the last two or three days I get in the Christmas spirit in a big way, and I do a lot of that stuff.
Q Is that starting to build for you now? I mean, first Christmas in the White House as President.
THE PRESIDENT: But I'm really -- I've become like a little boy again around Christmastime. I don't want to sleep, I just want to do things.
Q This has really been a year for you folks, hasn't it? I mean, all the things that have been going on, the health reform, NAFTA, the Brady Bill. I mean, the list goes on an on, and it just seems you're just getting started. And the polls seem to reflect kind of a turnaround in their feelings about the White House and what the effort is here. It must give you a tremendous sense of pleasure.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, when we took office, you know, there was so much to be done and such a huge wall of cynicism that we had to pierce. And, you know, when you start really changing things, there are going to be a lot of broken things around and about. So we knew it would be tough, but it was really gratifying to come to the end of the year and to see these ratings come out saying that I had more success than any President in the last 40 years in the first year, and things like that. I think people are beginning to see -- well, the economy's getting better and the country's moving. I'm very, very grateful for it.
Q So it's going to be a great message this Christmas.
THE PRESIDENT: It's going to be a happy Christmas --
Q What do you like about it most? I mean, what's the highlight of Christmas for you -- if you had to pick one thing?
THE PRESIDENT: If I had to pick one thing, it would be our family's sort of renewed sense of togetherness -- it happens every year. Just the sense of gratitude we feel, it really kind of comes together -- we feel. We try to remember what Christmas is really a celebration of and it brings us closer together.
Q You come from a single-parent family, and I know that Christmas probably is a lot different for you now. How do you feel about those changes in your life? And how does it mean --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm just -- I'm very grateful. I'm extremely grateful to my mother, who was a widow three times in her life -- a very brave lady. And she did a good job for me and for my brother. We're grateful to her. And I think it's real important, as Hillary and I go across the country and try to get more families to stay together and more intact families and support more responsibility for fathers, to point out that there are an awful lot of single parents out there -- mostly women, but some men -- who have done a superb job, who've been fanatically loyal to their children, who've made great sacrifices for their children. If every parent in this country, whether there was a two-parent family or single-parent family, had the internal fortitude and the external skills to put their children first in their lives, the problems in this nation would drop dramatically in a decade. Ten years from now you wouldn't recognize this country.
Q I absolutely agree.
Q If we could just keep the spirit of Christmas going a little bit beyond New Year's, we'd have remarkable results.
We talked about earlier tradition. We talked about the food that you're going to share on Christmas Day and so forth, and we waited for you to arrive because I understand -- and we have a good source here -- that on Christmas Eve, part of the fun is doing carols and acting out roles. We heard that you're awfully good.
MRS. CLINTON: He's a good singer, too.
Q Is he?
Q Is he a good singer?
THE PRESIDENT: I love Christmas carols --
Q And you act out the parts in the carols, from what I understand. Somebody's the -- Rudolph and someone's --
Q What's one of his big hits?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, The Twelve Days of Christmas. You have 12 different things to do. So, that's a special --
THE PRESIDENT: I'm a very good partridge in a pear tree. (Laughter.)
Q Can you give us an example? (Laughter.)
MRS. CLINTON: We've never known quite how to act that out, so it's different every year.
THE PRESIDENT: Maids-a-milking, you know. Swans swimming. (Laughter.)
Q We'll be back with the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Q What is it, nine lords-a-leaping?
THE PRESIDENT: I can't believe I did -- yes -- (Laughter.)
Q We'll take a break and be right back as soon as we can remember them all.
Q (inaudible) -- (laughter) -- but they actually have, and then you had something that you wanted to present them with, didn't you?
Q Well, I do feel a bit like it's bringing coals to Newcastle to bring you a Christmas ornament after looking at all these gorgeous, gorgeous trees. But we did know that you have an official White House heart ornament that a lot of the quilters around the country had made. Well, we wanted to get into the act, but I know that a lot of ladies don't all sew, they don't all quilt. So we -- I tried to copy is the idea with a non-sewing one. And this is our little ornament for you.
Q That's -- little ornament. Take a look at it. All right, there it is and here we go.
Q Now, you're supposed to turn it around to the other side.
Q Turn it around.
MRS. CLINTON: Oh --
Q Oh, I remember that.
MRS. CLINTON: That's so neat.
Q Mr. President, if you can hold that real close over your shoulder --
Q they've got a shot of it --
Q I'll have to tell you that it was before this meeting, so I had to cut that out of a magazine. But, it was a nice picture.
MRS. CLINTON: Oh, thank you. We'll put that on our personal tree.
THE PRESIDENT: We've been collecting these ornaments, you know, for a very long time now.
Q And I know that the two of you have been giving a lot of thought to this thing your first year in the White House -- you're first Christmas in the White House. And I know you must have some special facts of things you might wish for the nation for the New Year and for the holidays. Would you like to start, Mrs. Clinton?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I just wish that the feeling of Christmas and the meaning of Christmas could find a place in the heart of everyone in the country, and that it wouldn't be just seasonal, but it would go on and on and help change the way we treat each other and live together.
THE PRESIDENT: My hope is that we will achieve more peace on Earth next year -- peace in the Middle East, relief of tensions in other places in the world, but mostly that the American people will find a way to bring peace to our own streets, our own homes, our own communities. Our nation is too violent; it makes a mockery of all the things we say we believe. It is turning the joy of childhood into a tragedy for too many millions of children. And I'm going to work real hard next year to have more peace on this piece of earth that we inhabit in the United States.
Q Well, I don't know how you can work any harder than you've worked this year.
Q With the surge in popularity, the people turning to the government to say please help us, it looks like we can't do this ourselves, are you going to feel much more bolder next year in terms of your campaigns and --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know if we can get anymore done than we did this year, but I think we can. I think we can move forward on health care, on crime and violence, and on reform of the welfare system to move more people into permanent jobs, which I think will strengthen families. Those are the three things we're going to be --
Q Two enormous jobs to tackle, but thank you so much for sharing this with us. We really appreciate here at The Home Show --
Q We wish you the very, very best holiday -
Q And thank you for sharing it with us.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you --
Q Merry Christmas.
END11:58 A.M. EST