View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 6, 1994
                      REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT,

The Rose Garden

11:17 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everyone. Today, with deep regret, I accept the resignation of the senior member of our economic team, Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen.

I first began to think about asking Lloyd Bentsen to join our administration and to be a part of our economic efforts to restore economic opportunity in America, to restore the fortunes of the middle class, to give poor Americans a chance to work their way into the middle class when we talked on a bus going through Texas in 1992. I had known and respected him for many years, but we'd never really had a long and detailed discussion about what was happening in America, about the number of people who were working hard and still falling behind, about the growing inequality in our country among hard-working people. He made a profound impression on me that day and in all the days since. And I thank him for his outstanding service for a job very, very well done.

Lloyd Bentsen likes to say that you can serve your fellow men and women in many ways -- as a healer, a teacher, a preacher -- but you can never touch as many lives as in public service. He has given more than half a century of his life to public service -- as a pilot in the Army Air Corps in World War II, flying combat missions over Europe; as a county judge; as a congressman; as a businessman; a United States senator and distinguished member of the Senate Finance Committee; a contender for president; our party's nominee for vice president; and finally, as a very outstanding Secretary of the Treasury. He has served in every capacity with dignity and distinction. By any stead, he ranks as one of the outstanding economic policymakers in this country since World War II.

As Secretary of the Treasury his work has touched nearly every field of accomplishment of this administration -- making our economy work again for ordinary Americans, restoring discipline to our budget, helping private enterprise create new jobs, expanding trade, passing the Interstate Banking Act which saved billions in regulatory costs, ensuring greater tax fairness in our tax code through giving a tax break to 15 million hard-working American parents. And he's also made the Treasury Department a full partner in our fight against crime and drugs.

The results are there for all to see -- the biggest deficit reduction in history, the biggest expansion of trade in a generation, over five million new jobs in this economy on this Christmas than there were two Christmases ago. And this year, more high-wage jobs into this economy than in the previous five years combined. The earned income tax credit has given 50 million Americans who live in hard-working families with modest incomes more money in their pocket and a greater chance to have a fair deal in America.

Beyond all this, however, I also have to say that I have valued Secretary Bentsen's good counsel and his unfailing good spirits. He represents the best tradition of American public service and of Americans working together for the common good. He fights hard for what he believes in. He treats his adversaries with respect, something all would do well to follow. And at the end of the day he has worked hard to find common ground for the common good.

If you know very much about Lloyd Bentsen you know that the word "retire" sounds like an oxymoron in his vocabulary. He's not saying farewell to active life -- he is going home to Texas, to the private sector that he loves and knows is the heart and soul of our economy. He wants to spend more time with B.A. and with his family, including his three children and his seven grandchildren, whom the latest was born just last month.

He has promised me that he would come back here on a regular basis to be part of a seasoned kitchen cabinet to try to help steer this administration through the challenges and seize the opportunities of the next two years. And I appreciate that very, very much. But I want you to know, Mr. Secretary, I loved having you here every day and I'm really going to miss you. Thank you. (Applause.)

SECRETARY BENTSEN: Mr. President, thank you very much for those kind words. Oh, Mr. President, the sun always shines on Bentsen. (Laughter.)

I have really enjoyed serving you. I'd made up my mind that when my Senate term finished that I would not run for reelection, and I decided that I would coincide my service as Secretary of the Treasury with that one. And I so told you in September. I want to thank you for the opportunity you have given me to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. I also want to thank the dedicated professionals in Treasury who have contributed so much in their support and in what they've done.

Let me say, throughout my tenure, this President, President Clinton, has given me unprecedented access. He's let me be a part of it and working with him to accomplish his goals. He's recognized that economic security is a critical underpinning for national security. And he made Treasury a regular participant in the Senate process. I know that Bob Rubin is going to have that same access and that ability to affect economic policy that I had.

I must tell you a story. Back in Arkansas, when the President asked me, he said, "Who do you think I should appoint as Secretary of the Treasury?" And I said, "Bob Rubin." And he said, "That's funny," he said, "Bob Rubin told me you." (Laughter.) And ever since, Bob Rubin has insisted he had more influence with the President than I did. (Laughter.)

Bob is a man of integrity and of honor. He has a broad knowledge of our programs and our problems, and he has the ability to sit down with Congress and work things out. An excellent choice, Mr. President.

There are few nations that I see around the world who offer their citizens so many opportunities to serve and succeed in both the private and the public sector. Our economic and our political system gives those with day-to-day, hands-on experience in the free market the unique opportunity to enter government service, apply that knowledge on a national scale. It likewise allows them to turn around and take the experience of governing back to the private sector, the force that really drives our economy. And that's what I'm doing.

You bet I'm not retiring, Mr. President. I think you rust out before you wear out. (Laughter.)

I say in a very real sense I have lived the American Dream. I was born and reared during the Depression on a farm in south Texas. I've had a business career, a public career. I ran for the second highest job in the country, and I've served in your Cabinet. I know of no other way that you affect more lives, hopefully for the better, than you can in public service. So it's been a privilege to work for my country, as a civilian and as a soldier. And it reflects how strongly I believe in the American system.

Mr. President, I have worked to try to make a difference over these years from increased retirement security for the elderly to increased access to health care to lower-income women and children. And I think we advanced that health care debate this year substantially, and I'm confident that legislation improving our system will prevail.

It's been a great time to be Treasury Secretary, and it's a great time to be bowing out as Treasury Secretary. You couldn't see the economic flag flying any higher. If I sat down and wrote the numbers that I wanted, we could not write better numbers than this President has brought about. We've got the best numbers that we've seen in 30 years.

I believe history will show that we have made the economic future of our children and our grandchildren more secure by the politically difficult actions that you have taken. And with this President's leadership, we did so many things that the people said we couldn't do. We cut that deficit over two years by $87 billion. More than 5 million new jobs added to the economy. Inflation low. Business inventories going up at record rates. We've shrunk that federal government. We're growing faster than our trading partners. We've opened up markets with NAFTA and with GATT. And we have encouraged economic and political change around the world. And maybe the greatest achievement is that prosperity has been brought about, and this nation has had peace.

And I want to thank all of you in the press. I've enjoyed our relationship most of the time. (Laughter.) I've tried to make myself available and to talk straight with you. And I always said, ask me enough times when I'm going to be out of here and one day you'll get it right. I may be even in touch with some of you, because when you go into business, it doesn't hurt to have friends in the media.

And, finally, most of all, I want to thank B.A., the best partner any man could have had over the 51 years we've had. Together, we're going to return to Texas, and we're going to return to the private sector, to our family, to our friends and to our roots.

Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as Secretary Bentsen implied, I have now taken both his and Bob Rubin's advice on who should be the Secretary of the Treasury. Before joining our administration, Bob build a brilliant career at Goldman, Sachs and Company where he manifested a concern for the well-being of all Americans, including those who live in our great cities who yearn for more opportunity than they have.

He has helped our administration to do something that had never been done before -- to have an economic team that really works together as a team, with talent and with discipline, and with a common vision.

Forty-seven years ago, President Truman created the National Security Council, so that officials in foreign policy and defense could work together. With Bob Rubin's leadership, we have created a National Economic Council, so that our economic policymakers can work together for the good of the American people. He's the consummate honest broker who brings economic wisdom, common sense and common decency to every one of our challenges.

To borrow a famous phrase from the Treasury Secretary: "I know Lloyd Bentsen. Lloyd Bentsen is a friend of mine." And Bob Rubin will be a worthy successor to Lloyd Bentsen.

Bob. (Applause.)

MR. RUBIN: Mr. President, thank you for the graciousness of your introduction. It's something that I will remember and remind you of from time to time when we have our various discussions.

I welcomed the opportunity to join the administration two years ago because I truly and sincerely believe that this country was in economic crossroads, that if we faced and dealt with our problems, we could have a robust and healthy economic future, but if we did not, that our economic future was likely to be unsatisfactory as far as the eye could see.

In that context, I have been privileged, deeply privileged, to be part of your economic team as you have faced and dealt with tough economic issues, many of which have built up over a long period of time. I won't repeat the decisions you have made; you and Secretary Bentsen recited them. As you know, they were all decisions that required great political courage. They were politically tough and they required working your heart out to implement them, to effectuate legislation, and to get done what you wanted to get done.

Much has been accomplished to promote sustained growth in the short-term and to position this country for productivity and economic health in the longer run. But, Mr. President, as you constantly remind us, much remains to be done, especially with too many Americans not yet feeling the benefits of the strong recovery now underway.

Mr. President, I don't believe, and I know you don't believe, that this country can be all that it should be for any of us unless it works for all of us. So, Mr. President, I believe as you believe that we must deal with the problems of our public education system, the problems of our inner cities, the problems of our everworsening income disparity, and the challenge of strengthening and expanding the nation's middle class. I welcome the opportunity to continue to work on these matters as a member of your economic team.

As you have said so often, there are no easy answers to the tough questions of economic policy. And all of us on the economic team have been proud of your absolute insistence on real numbers, no gimmicks, real measures that recognize the costs and the trade-offs, and fiscal responsibility. I am exceedingly proud and, Mr. President, all of us were very proud when at some internal meetings over the last few days, you said that the test to apply to our decisions going forward, as in the past, is to do the right thing, to be fiscally responsible, to let the people know what we've done and then judge us accordingly.

Beyond that, Mr. President, as you said, your economic team has, in fact, worked as a team, with cohesion and mutual support -- an unusual phenomenon in Washington. That culture is a tribute to your vision; to Mack McLarty, the Chief of Staff and the culture that he created at the White House; and to Leon Panetta and his carrying on of that culture. It is also a tribute to the really extraordinary people that you've picked to be members of your economic team and, more generally, to be in this administration. When I'm asked what are the big differences between having been in the private sector and being in this administration, the first answer I always give is the quality of the people and the way that they work together.

I am committed, Mr. President, to working with my successor at the National Economic Council, to reinforce this new institution and its culture and to continue working with its truly outstanding staff.

I and all of us will miss Lloyd Bentsen enormously -- both as a professional and as a friend -- although we undoubtedly will be calling on him frequently for advice and guidance. As great as his contributions have been in ways that were visible, I think they have been equally great in ways that were less visible -- his quiet, good judgment, his advice to all of us, and the enormous support he gave to making the NEC concept work.

Lloyd, we have been friends for a long time, and you have been a great public figure. And it's hard to imagine Washington without Lloyd Bentsen.

Finally, last night, my wife, Judy and I had dinner, and we talked about how serving in this administration has not been an easy way of life for us; it involves a lot of personal disruption, but how it has been a great opportunity to work on many of the critical issues at an important moment in our country's history.

Again, Mr. President, I thank you for that opportunity and I commit myself to do all that I possibly can to help you carry forward with your mission in the years ahead. Thank you. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Let me just say that during the period of time between Secretary Bentsen's leaving and when Bob is finally confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury, Frank Newman will be our Acting Secretary of the Treasury. He has been a distinguished member of Lloyd Bentsen's team. He put together a very distinguished career in banking before joining the Treasury Department as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance, and I thank him for his willingness to serve.

In closing, let me also just say a special word of thanks to the families of these two people -- to Judy Rubin, to B.A. Bentsen, and to their families for the extraordinary sacrifice that public service entails today. This is in many ways a sad farewell, but it is also a celebration -- a celebration of the success of the leadership of Lloyd Bentsen; the success of the idea of a national economic partnership and a team; and the success of our continued commitment to move forward with Bob Rubin's leadership until we finish our job, until we have really opened up the doors of opportunity to the American middle class, to those who are working hard and deserve it and deserve a better future.

Thank you all, and good-bye. (Applause.)

END11:37 A.M. EST