THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN PERSONNEL ANNOUNCEMENTS The Oval Office
3:16 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Today I want to announce some changes in personnel in the White House that will add strength and vitality to this White House and to our administration.
In the coming months, this White House faces a series of major challenges that are critical to the American people. In Congress, we're seeking to pass the first major health care reform in history; a sweeping crime bill; a significant trade bill; a reemployment act; lobbying and campaign finance reform and welfare reform. We're seeking to pursue our continued efforts in economic reform and deficit reduction, producing now 7,000 jobs a week. Overseas we face serious issues well-known to all of you. We've embraced an agenda that is not only daunting, but profoundly important to the American people. To meet those challenges, here at the White House we must use our people as wisely as possible, matching their talents to their responsibilities.
More than a month ago, my Chief of Staff, Mack McLarty, started some discussions with me on ideas that he had for a better deployment of our people. These provided the basic framework for the decisions I announce today. I came home from D-Day determined to proceed with these changes. He and I worked with the Vice President and others on these recommendations, which I am pleased to announce today.
Today, I'm naming Mack McLarty as Counsellor to the President. He has been and will continue to be my closest and most trusted personal adviser. His new role will permit him to spend much more time as my personal representative to the people who are so important to the success of this administration's efforts, Democrats and Republicans in Congress, constituent groups of all kinds, friends who helped to bring me to the White House.
In addition, I am asking him to assume greater responsibility in shepherding our legislative program through Congress, including GATT, health care, and welfare reform, and to help lay the groundwork for summits this year with the Latin and Asian leaders.
Mack McLarty has served this country ably and well as Chief of Staff for 18 months. He was reluctant to take the job, and I will always be grateful that he did. He selflessly agreed to serve the country, and I would say he has a record he can be proud of.
We had the most productive first year of working with Congress of any administration over three decades; the sparking of an economic recovery; three years of deficit reduction for the first time since the Truman presidency; breaking gridlock on the Brady Bill, family leave, assault weapons and other issues; progress in pushing historic plans for health and welfare reform. He's run an open White House, treating others and their ideas with unfailing courtesy. He has, in short, delivered with the decency, integrity and goodwill that has endeared him to many good people here and throughout the nation. And I thank him for his service.
I am delighted today to say that Leon Panetta will succeed Mack as White House Chief of Staff. Over the past year and a half, he has been a pillar of strength for our administration. In the early days he was a prime architect of the economic strategy, an integrated plan that reduced the deficit and laid the foundation for sustained economic growth. Then he took the lead in formulating and gaining passage of that deficit reduction package, the largest in the history of our republic.
He will go down in history as the Budget Director who began to slay the deficit dragon.
In an hour of tightening budgets, he also found ways to fund many of my initiatives to put people first -- education, job training and technology. He's worked closely with the Vice President in reinventing the government. He's been an innovative adviser in drawing up a host of domestic policy. And he has been a skillful manager of the more than 500 people who work under his leadership at OMB.
As the good citizens of Rome have learned, he also speaks pretty good Italian.
No one in Washington has a better understanding of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue than Leon Panetta. And no one has earned greater respect at both ends.
I am also announcing today that I will nominate Alice Rivlin to be the next Director of the Office of Management and Budget. She has been a superb deputy at OMB. She's played a major role in helping to run that organization and in chairing the President's Management Council and in gaining congressional approval of our budgets.
She brought with her to this administration a long and distinguished record. She was, of course, the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, serving there for more than eight years. And she's written path-breaking studies of fiscal policies while at the Brookings Institution. Economists have recognized her leadership and her brilliance, electing her in the past as President of the American Economic Association.
In short, OMB will continue to be in very good hands.
Finally, I want to announce a shorter-term assignment. For the past year I have drawn heavily upon the counsel of David Gergen. He has been a wise and steady voice for bipartisanship, for moderation, and for an effective government. It has been widely understood that he anticipates returning to the private sector in the next few months. I have asked David to stay on for the remainder of the year and to concentrate his full energy in the foreign policy arena.
On several occasions in the past, and more and more in recent months, I have found him helpful in the formulization, conceptualization and the communication on national security matters. I now want him to play a larger role, joining my team as a principal adviser in this field. Other members of our foreign policy team have expressed their enthusiasm, and David has graciously agreed to serve as a special adviser to both the President and the Secretary of State.
Taken together, I believe these appointments will produce a stronger, more energetic and a unified team for the administration and for the daunting challenges ahead.
I thank all of them for their willingness to serve. I'd like now to ask them each in turn to make a few remarks, beginning with Mr. McLarty.
MR. MCLARTY: Mr. President, first, thank you for your very warm and your very generous words and comments. But most importantly, thank you for your continuing friendship.
It has indeed been a privilege for me to serve in what our younger son described as an awesome responsibility. And there is some clarity in youth in terms of the responsibility of a chief of staff assignment. It is meaningful to serve in any White House. It is particularly meaningful when you have an opportunity to serve with someone that you have a deep affection for and respect for and a friend of longstanding. It is particularly meaningful also to serve at a time when I think most would agree is an important period, a crucial period, in the life of our country and indeed in history.
I am very proud of our accomplishments during the first year. We laid a very firm foundation that the President has already spoken of from which to build.
Nineteen-ninety-four is a different year. It is a year that has a full and a complicated legislative agenda. It is a year where we approach midterm elections. It is essential, I have felt for sometime, that we put the strongest possible team on the field in this critical year, and that we put people in positions that best suit their talents and abilities and their strengths.
I look forward to the new challenges and opportunity in a role that frankly is very similar to the role I played during the transition and the Cabinet selection with now-Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who was Managing Director of the transition and the Cabinet selection.
I certainly look forward to working with Director Panetta, someone I have admired for a number of years and have gained a great deal of affection for since we had the opportunity to get to know each other personally and work closely together day to day.
Alice Rivlin will clearly be a strong and splendid OMB Director. And Mr. Gergen, I'm sure, will handle with grace and poise and acumen and vision his new assignment at the State Department while continuing to counsel the President.
I would be remiss if I did not express my gratitude for the President's confidence in me and for our friendship and for the warm hand that both he and Hillary have extended to Donna and me as we have moved from our home state. And I certainly would be remiss if I did not underscore that the Vice President and Tipper have made that move and that transition much easier and much smoother than it otherwise would have been.
We have thoroughly enjoyed our tenure in Washington, and we look forward to doing so in the months ahead. And I look forward to hopefully making a meaningful contribution in my new role as Counsellor to the President of the United States.
DIRECTOR PANETTA: I am very honored by this opportunity to serve as the President's Chief of Staff here in the White House. It is an awesome responsibility, but it is a responsibility that I am prepared to accept and to fulfill.
About one-and-a-half years ago, I was nominated to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget, was approved by the Senate for that position. At the time, people told me that that was one of the toughest jobs in this town. And it is. They tell me now that this job is the toughest job in town. And I think it is, too.
Nevertheless, I accept this challenge. And the reason I accept it is because, as the son of Italian immigrants, they taught me to believe very deeply in what this nation is all about, in our system of government, and to respect not only the office of the presidency, but the presidency itself. In particular, I am proud to work for this President, because he, in essence, fulfills and is trying to fulfill the dream of people like my parents, that they wanted to give their children a better life.
For 30 years, I have dedicated myself to public service. Now I have the opportunity to help direct the Office of the Presidency, and to try to make it serve the President in an effective and efficient manner. It will not be easy. Changes will be made in consultation with the President, but they will be made in the spirit of making the best use of the talent and abilities that are here.
I have never worked with a brighter, more hard-working group of individuals as we have here in the White House. And I need their support, I need their cooperation.
If I could just take a moment to make a couple of tributes -- personal tributes. One, to my personal staff, some of which have been with me since I came to Washington. And to all of the staff and personnel at the Office of Management and Budget. They are, without question, one of the most professional organizations in government. They have served me well, and with loyalty, and I know that they will provide the same service, the same loyalty to Alice, who I am sure will be a successful Director of OMB.
I want to also pay tribute to my wife, Sylvia, and my three sons and my family. Because their continuing support and love is something that I've been able to have in the past and I will need in the future -- particularly in this job.
I also want to pay tribute to Mack McLarty. Mack took over as Chief of Staff and went through a difficult shakedown period. But he did it with decency, with leadership, with grace and in the end was able to provide very effective leadership in achieving some very important successes for this administration. And for that, we are all grateful and the nation is grateful. He is the most decent and dedicated public servant I know. And I will need his guidance and his counsel in his new position.
In the end, regardless of the positions we take in government, the challenge, I believe, is to work together to improve the lives of ordinary citizens. That is the fundamental goal of this President and of this administration. I am honored to serve at this time in history as we try to deliver on that commitment. It is a goal that I will pursue as Chief of Staff.
MS. RIVLIN: I am pleased and very grateful that the President has expressed confidence in me and my ability to step into Leon Panetta's shoes and lead OMB. I've learned an enormous among working with Leon. He's been a very effective Director of OMB, and it is, as he said, a very exceptional staff of very bright, dedicated people, most of them career civil servants who have worked very hard to make the Office of Management and Budget function.
I believe that over the last 18 months we have put together an economic plan that is working. I am delighted to be able to work to further take the next steps in whatever the President wants to do to further that cause.
I'm mostly pleased to be the first woman to hold the position of OMB. Fortunately, we're running out of firsts, and that's one of the few remaining. (Laughter.) There are a whole lot of pictures on the wall in the Conference Room and they're all males -- (laughter) -- and I'm glad that mine may be up there, although the Senate has to speak first. But I am just delighted to have this opportunity and very grateful to everyone, and I look forward to it.
MR. GERGEN: Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, if I may, I'd like to join in the salutes to Mack McLarty. He is one of the finest men I've had the opportunity to know in public life. And I know both of us will enjoy the continuing and deepening friendship as well as a continuing professional relationship.
I think many will look back and say that here was a man of honor, here was a man who ran an open White House, that respected the views and talents of others. Here was a man who helped the President preside over one of the most creative and productive periods in the modern presidency. I think he can leave this office with pride, and I know he leaves with a great deal of affection from the rest of us who have the opportunity to serve with him.
Mr. President, if I may, I would also like to congratulate you on all three of the other selections here today -- Mr. McLarty as Counsellor, Mr. Panetta as Chief of Staff, Alice Rivlin as the new Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I believe, Mr. President, you have put the right people in the right place at the right time, and I think you have chosen wisely, and that they will serve you well.
As you said, Mr. President, I am anticipating that my tenure in this administration is coming toward a close. My wife certainly thinks it's coming toward a close. (Laughter.) And I thought that this job I was in would be my last assignment here. But when you asked, Mr. President, if I would take on this additional responsibility in foreign policy, I wasn't sure I was the right person in the right place. Frankly, I don't pretend to be an expert on all of the issues of foreign policy, but if I can add an extra voice and an extra dimension to the very fine team you have already assembled, then that will be a privilege to do so, and I look forward to carrying out that responsibility.
But, most of all, I want to tell you, Mr. President, I think you've assembled in the other people here a very fine team, and I congratulate you on that.
Q Mr. President, despite musical chairs, this may be viewed as a repudiation of your team and what you've had so far in the presidency.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I long ago gave up trying to determine how it's viewed by other people. All I can tell you is, I think it's a real tribute to Mr. McLarty that he came to me several weeks ago and suggested that we consider this, and even mentioned Leon's name to me, and we began to talk about it. I think the job of the President is to make the White House as effective as possible, which means you have to use the people at their highest and best use. I think that's what I'm doing. I also think it's -- someone might have questioned the decision in light of the successes that have been chalked up. I think we have done a good job with a huge agenda, I think it's getting bigger and more complex. I think that this is the right thing to do at this time, and I think it will pay off. That's all I can tell you. My job is to do the best I can by the American people and let others do the interpreting.
Q Mr. President, recently there was documented in Bob Woodward's book a lot of criticism of Mr. Panetta from your political advisors. And I guess one question is, how do you feel about that criticism of Mr. Panetta's economic policies? Will there be a tension now between your political staff, and how do you feel about the decision to have yet another of your close Arkansas friends take a step either out or down? Sideways?
THE PRESIDENT: He's not going anywhere. He's my closest friend. And I don't want to get into that. I can win that argument. But I can't comment on Mr. Woodward's book. I don't -- documented may be too strong a word, but I think that everybody who's worked with Leon Panetta has a great deal of respect for him. I thought that the transition debates we had over economic policy were good, helpful and appropriate. We were trying to turn a country around after going 12 years in one direction.
He will go down in history as the OMB Director that did, I think, virtually the impossible: not only produced the biggest deficit reduction package in history, the first two budgets to be adopted on time in 17 years, three years of deficit reduction in a row for the first time since Harry Truman, the first reduction in domestic spending, discretionary spending in 25 years. But in spite of all of that, substantial increases in Head Start, job training, other education investments and new technologies -- the things that I ran to do -- bring the deficit down, get the economy going, invest in people. So I think -- he's clearly done what I wanted to do. I signed off on those decisions, I think he's done well, and I think he's done it with a very effective management style. I feel a high level of confidence in him.
Q Mr. President, I'm not clear on what you're trying to fix. What wasn't happening --
THE PRESIDENT: He is a former Republican -- and I'm a Baptist. We set -- store and deathbed conversions. (Laughter.) To me, that makes him even more valuable as a Democrat. I'd like to have more people do the same thing.
Q Mr. President, what are you trying to fix? What wasn't happening that you want to happen?
THE PRESIDENT: I think you should let our words speak for themselves. I was trying to think of how I could characterize this. This is really an attempt to do exactly what I said -- find the highest and best use for talented people of goodwill who just want to serve their country. And this shows you what a sports -- I don't like all the time politicians making sports analogies -- but 50 years ago, the Army had an all-American backfield of Doc Blanchard and Glen Davis -- and one was called "Mr. Inside" and one was called "Mr. Outside," reflecting that they had different skills, but they were both all-Americans. But I think that's what we have today, and I think it's the best thing for the country, and I think in the weeks and months ahead, we'll see it proved out.
Q Mr. President, one of the criticisms of you is that you've tried to do too much. Are you changing your style?
Q Who's next? (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END3:16 P.M. EDT