View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 5, 1996
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

The Oval Office

2:00 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. During our first term in office, the Vice President and I were blessed to work with a remarkable national security team. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright, Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch -- all very bright, forceful, strong-minded individuals who came together as a team to advance America's interests and values around the world.

Today the fact that our nation is at peace, our economy is strong, and we are making real progress in seizing the opportunities, meeting the challenges of the 21st century -- these things are due in no small measure to the teamwork, vision and leadership they gave to the American people. The Vice President and I and every other American owe all of them a great debt of gratitude.

Now as we embark upon a new term, our responsibility is to build on the strong foundation laid in the last four years, to make sure that as we enter the 21st century America remains the indispensable nation, the world's greatest force for peace and prosperity, for freedom and security.

Today I am pleased to announce the new national security team I have selected to help us meet that responsibility: Secretary of State-designate Madeleine Albright; Secretary of Defense-designate William Cohen; Director of Central Intelligence-designate Anthony Lake; National Security Advisor Samuel Berger. Each of these individuals has remarkable qualities of intellect, energy and leadership. All are committed to work together as a team that will rise above partisanship and rise to the challenges of meeting the opportunities, of dealing with the challenges that we all face.

The challenges are many -- terrorism; the threat of weapons of mass destruction; drug trafficking; environment degradation; ethnic, religious and racial conflicts; dealing with the sea changes occurring in Asia and elsewhere throughout the globe. But the opportunities are even greater -- working toward a Europe that for the first time is undivided, democratic and at peace; building a new partnership with a democratic Russia; meeting the challenge of change in Asia with strength and steadiness in a way that advances freedom and prosperity; extending the reach of peace and freedom in the Middle East and Africa; opening more markets in Latin America and strengthening the democracies that have taken root there.

These new people who will form the new national security team -- they have the experience, the judgment, the vision to meet the heavy responsibility and the high privilege of leadership.

By virtue of her life and accomplishments, Madeleine Albright embodies the best of America. It says something about our country and about our new Secretary of State-designate, that a young girl raised in the shadow of Nazi aggression in Czechoslovakia can rise to the highest diplomatic office in America. She watched her world fall apart. And ever since, she has dedicated her life to spreading to the rest of the world the freedom and tolerance her family found here in America.

During her four years as our Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright's steely determination has helped to advance our interests and our ideals around the world. She knows firsthand what it means for America to be the indispensable nation. And I know firsthand that Madeleine Albright has the instincts, the intelligence, the skill, and the strength to lead American foreign policy in this time.

Time and again I have benefitted from her judgment and counsel on issues from Bosnia to NATO, and many, many other difficult areas. The American people have also benefitted because of her special ability, forged during her tenure as a teacher at Georgetown, to explain why American leadership is more important than ever and to get the job done.

Bill Perry has done a remarkable job in preparing America's military for the challenges of the 21st century and in carrying out all other aspects of the Secretary of Defense's job, which include running the largest and most complex organization in the nation's government. The bottom-up review he completed has decreased the size of our forces, while increasing their readiness capabilities and technological edge. From Haiti to Bosnia, from the Persian Gulf to the Taiwan Strait, through Bill Perry's leadership, we have demonstrated that our men and women in uniform remain the best-equipped and best-trained fighting force in the world.

Earlier I had the opportunity to pay tribute to the contributions of Secretary Christopher. I want to say again how much I appreciate what he has done. But today, I also want to thank Bill Perry for being one of the finest Defense Secretaries in the history of the United States. I thank you, Bill, and I will miss both of you very much.

Bill Cohen is the right man to build on these achievements -- to secure the bipartisan support America's Armed Forces must have and clearly deserve. He served in the United States Congress for 24 years, including 18 in the Senate. There his name became synonymous with discipline, intellect, creative independence and deeply help principles.

While serving the people of Maine, he has also served every American through his determination to find common ground on difficult issues. He brought fresh ideas and thoughtful analysis to his work on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He helped craft the START I Arms Control Treaty with Russia that we have entered into force, and played a key role in legislation that reorganized and strengthened our military command.

Now the Senate's loss will be our administration's gain. I thank Senator Cohen for his willingness to cross party lines to make sure that America's security is there in the 21st century.

Just about every morning these last four years, the point man of our foreign policy team, Tony Lake, came into this office to brief me on the state of the world, and to tell me what he thought I should do about it. It's been a great comfort to me and a great benefit to the American people to have Tony Lake just down the hall, and to bring the power of his mind, the toughness of his character, the strength of his integrity to bear on the most difficult challenges we face. In moments of crisis, in times of triumph, he has always been at my side.

Let me thank John Deutch for the remarkable job he has done on behalf of our country at home and abroad -- first, as the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and then in a difficult time as Director of Central Intelligence. He has done an excellent job, and I thank him. Thank you, John, for your service.

I can think of no more powerful proof of my commitment to carry on John Deutch's work of maintaining a strong, successful intelligence community than asking Tony Lake to take the helm as Director of Central Intelligence, and a member of my Cabinet. Our intelligence informs just about every foreign policy decision we make. We cannot do without it. And while it will be hard for me to do without Tony Lake just down the hall, I am grateful he will be working the halls at Langley and leading our intelligence community into the 21st century.

Sandy Berger has also served just down the hall these past four years. He's been a good friend and advisor to me for a lot longer than that. In fact, we have known each other since we were about half our present age. I hate that. (Laughter.) I have looked to him for advice and counsel on foreign policy and on many other issues, as well, over the years.

As Deputy National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger has helped to pull together our foreign policy team and given it direction, guidance, and shared purpose. I believe we have to have these things to move forward on the interests and values of the American people.

As National Security Advisor, he will bring to the job not just the ability to work hard and to work well, but the vision and sense of our larger purpose that is necessary to meet the challenges our nation faces. I am pleased, and the American people are fortunate, that Sandy Berger will be serving as my National Security Advisor.

And before I ask each member of the new national security team to say a few words, starting with the Secretary- designate, I'd like to thank the one member of the team that will not be changing for a while, as long as his tenure lasts, and that's General Shalikashvili. Thank you, sir, for your remarkable service to America.

And now Ms. Albright.

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Mr. President, I am deeply honored by your decision to nominate me for Secretary of State. During the past four years, under your leadership and that of Vice President Gore, we have had a skilled and successful foreign policy team. I am confident, as I look at my colleagues today, that you have assembled a first-rate team for the next four.

To Secretary Christopher, I want to express my gratitude on behalf of all of us who have worked with you for your steady nerves, prudent judgment and great wisdom. I can only hope that my heels can fill your shoes. (Laughter.)

I am also pleased beyond measure that President Clinton has asked, with my enthusiastic support, that my close friend, Strobe Talbott, stay on as Deputy Secretary. And I've asked him to begin work immediately as head of my transition team.

To my daughters, Alice, Katie and Anne, who is here, all I can say is that all your lives I've worried about where you were and what you were up to. Now you will have the chance to worry about me. (Laughter.)

To my colleagues in the Department of State, I hope I can communicate even a small measure of the excitement and determination that I feel. Together with the men and women of our Armed Forces -- the finest military in the world -- we have a job to do: to defend American interest, maintain key alliances, forge new friendships and ensure for the American people a future of steadily increasing prosperity and steadily decreasing danger.

To America's friends and allies abroad, I say that the future depends on our keeping our commitments to each other. We live in an era without power blocks in which old assumptions must be reexamined, institutions modernized and relationships transformed.

If we are to master events rather than be mastered by them, we must be forward looking in our thinking and flexible in our tactics. But we need not and must not diverge from the core values of democracy and respect for human dignity that have long guided our nation and made American leadership not only possible, but welcome in so many parts of the world.

To members of Congress, I offer an open door and open communications. As someone who has worked on Capitol Hill, I understand that the task of defending the expenditure of dollars overseas is not an easy one, especially now when the Cold War is over and nuclear weapons no longer target our homes. But if American leadership is to continue, we must always make the effort to explain clearly the who, what, when, how and especially the whys of U.S. foreign policy, and we must commit the resources needed to meet our fair share of obligations and responsibility.

Finally, to President Clinton, I say again, thank you. As you have said, I was not born in this country. Because of my parents' love of democracy, we came to America after being driven twice from our home in Czechoslovakia, first by Hitler and then by Stalin. Because of this nation's kindness, we were granted political asylum, and I have had the opportunity to live my life among the most generous and courageous people on Earth.

The story of my family has been repeated in millions of variations over two centuries in the lives no only of immigrants, but of those overseas who have been liberated or sheltered by American soldiers, empowered by American assistance, or inspired by American ideals. As the history of this century and the story of my life bear witness, the United States is, as the President has said, truly the world's indispensable nation. It is our shared task, with the help of friends from around the globe and of God, to uphold this proud standard in the years immediately ahead and into the next century.

Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Senator Cohen.

SENATOR COHEN: Mr. President, and Mr. Vice President, when I announced my retirement from the Senate back in January, I had looked forward with a great deal of enthusiasm to the new challenges I might face as a private citizen. And until a few weeks ago I had no idea that the challenges might include further public service. At that time, President Clinton talked to me about his vision of a bipartisan approach to our national security policy, and he asked if I would consider being part of a very strong team to put that vision into place.

I must say that my entire congressional career has been devoted to pursuing a national security policy that is without partisanship. And so the scenario that the President had presented to me was one that I could look forward with great enthusiasm to supporting. I think there is legitimate debate over specific spending issues and other types of programs within our national security apparatus, but our policy at all costs must be unified when it comes down to those crucial moments when the nation is in need.

As Vice President Gore has often said, in democracy consensus itself is a strategic asset. And to the extent that I could make a contribution in helping to forge such a consensus, that I'm eager to serve in one of the most demanding positions in our government.

The team of Secretary Christopher -- I want to commend Secretary Christopher for his indefatigable efforts in the Middle East in particular, but for being such an outstanding Secretary of State.

Secretary Perry, I cannot praise you enough. I think that, without question, you've been one of the finest public servants we've ever had in this country, and I consider it a distinct honor to be following in your footsteps, as large as they are.

Director Deutch and I have worked together while I was serving on the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee, and I must say that he has made an enormous contribution to our intelligence community.

Each of them, and in combination as a team, have laid a foundation for the capable management of these issues. And I look forward with great anticipation of being part of a new team that will consist of Ambassador Albright, Sandy Berger and Tony Lake, to forge a truly bipartisan consensus on the security of our nation and that of our allies.

During the last four years I've had the opportunity to work with President Clinton in a constructive basis to try to resolve issues of great importance of our nation, and in the past four weeks I've gotten to know him even better. And I might say that the President is providing clear and strong leadership in a changing and, as Ambassador Albright has just indicated, still a very dangerous world. And I want to say that I'm deeply honored that he's asked me to help formulate and implement his policies in the coming years. And I particularly want to commend him for his willingness to reach across the aisle to send a very strong signal to the people in this country that he is dedicated to a bipartisan approach to the security of this country. And I think he is to be commended for what I consider to be a very bold and exciting move. Thank you very much, Mr. President. (Applause.)

MR. LAKE: Four years ago when President Clinton appointed me as his National Security Advisor, I remember thinking to myself as we stood there in Little Rock that as a long-time Red Sox fan it was going to be a novel experience to work on a winning team. (Laughter.) And I'm grateful to all of you for making that so.

Today, looking back on the five years now I've been privileged to work with President Clinton, I'm very grateful to have had and to continue to have the chance to serve a President and a Vice President that I so admire and that have accomplished so much. And I look forward to working with my friends here, Madeleine and Bill, and especially my friend, Sandy Berger, my talented deputy and successor.

When the President and I discussed a few weeks ago the prospect of my becoming Director of Central Intelligence, I was, to put it mildly, very enthusiastic. Over the last four years I've launched my mornings and I have finished my evenings with the briefs and analyses of the intelligence community. And I firmly believe that in the post-Cold War world the role of the CIA is more important than ever -- in defending Americans against the threats of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; in explaining clearly the activities of governments in an ever more complicated world; and in giving the President the unvarnished facts on which he conveys wise decisions in a time of change and promise.

I have tremendous admiration for the men and women of the intelligence community. In particular, I want to say and emphasize what a wonderful job John Deutch has done over almost the past two years now in leading that community. His shoes are large, both figuratively and literally, and I am very much welcoming the challenge of following in his footsteps. Now, this is a size triple E job and I look forward to it very much.

Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. BERGER: Mr. President, I am both honored and grateful for your confidence and this unique opportunity to serve. As the President indicated, I have had the pleasure of knowing the President for many years. My respect and admiration for his vision and his leadership have only deepened with time and proximity.

I also want to thank the Vice President. Your role in shaping American foreign policy over the past four years has been decisive time and again. And I look forward to his continued leadership and my partnership with his able National Security Advisor, Leon Fuerth, over the next four years.

I'm also very grateful for the unique partnership I've had with my friend, Tony Lake. Over the past four years, he has set the very highest standard for me to aspire.

I am delighted to be part of this team. It brings diverse talents and seasoned judgment to the challenges America faces with a strong sense of America's national interests and a deep commitment to America's values.

Mr. President, I believe it will serve you and the nation well.

Finally, let me say that I believe the President has laid a very strong foundation over the past four years for meeting the challenges and opportunities of this new chapter in America's great journey: Working with our allies to create a united and democratic Europe for the first time in history, built around a strong and expending NATO and a partnership with a democratic Russia; reconciling our geography with our history by building our indispensable link to the east, as a great Asia-Pacific power; prudently, but proudly seizing the inescapable reality that America today is the indispensable force for peace in the world, whether in Bosnia, the Middle East or elsewhere; sharpening our focus on the web of new security challenges -- terrorism, drugs, rogue states and the environment; and embarking on the historic work of creating a new international economic architecture for expanding trade and creating American jobs in the global economy.

Mr. President, I look forward to working with these very talented people, and with the continued patience and love of my wife and my kids, to help you fulfill your vision over the next four years. Thank you. (Applause.)

Q Mr. President, what do you say to those individuals who were on your list to become one of these Cabinet Secretaries? What do you say to them now that they haven't gotten the position? And part two of that question is, we thought your doctors told you not to talk. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: They did, but they made a little change in my medication and I was -- my voice was working enough today for me to do this announcement. And, you know, you and I, we're partners, too, and I had to give you something or you were going to go crazy. So I was able to speak enough.

To the other -- I say to them that I thank them for being willing to be considered. I thank them for their service to our country and I ask them to support the decision I've made. I made the best decision I could, and I believe it will serve America well.

Q Mr. President, many Republicans on Capitol Hill especially are outright hostile to the United Nations. Here you are now naming our U.N. Ambassador to be the Secretary of State. Do you, and should you, perhaps, expect a smooth confirmation process?

THE PRESIDENT: I do. There is no question that Ambassador Albright is supremely qualified for this job. And the people on the Hill know that I believe the United Nations is an important organization. The United States has taken the lead in reforming it. And we, in general, and Ambassador Albright and Secretary of State Christopher, in particular, have taken a good deal of heat for trying to reform it. And we have pressed ahead.

But that doesn't mean we don't need the United Nations or that it doesn't do a world of good; it does. It is important and it's going to get more important, and the United States had better be there playing its part if we expect it to do what we think should be done in the world.

Q Mr. President, was Ambassador Albright picked because she's a woman or in spite of? And, also, who will be her role model -- Kissinger or Christopher? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: The second question should be hers to answer. Let me say I'm very proud to have had the opportunity to appoint the first woman Secretary of State in the history of America; I'm proud of that. But it had nothing to do with her getting the job, one way or the other. She got the job because I believe, amid a list of truly outstanding people, she had the best combination of qualities to succeed and to serve our country at this moment in history. And she proved it to me not only by her service in the United Nations and by her ability to speak to America and the world about what we are and what we stand for, but also in the quiet counsels that we've had over the last four years over some of the most difficult problems imaginable. And that's why I decided to name her.

Q Mr. President, Mr. Cohen has a reputation as a bit of an independent and somebody who goes against the grain in his own party. Are you concerned that he might do so in your administration?

THE PRESIDENT: No. (Laughter.) But let me say, I think anybody who has been in this administration would tell you that we go out of our way to follow a process which encourages people to be independent, to speak their mind, to argue for new ideas, to break new ground. In fact, everybody knows that we are in the process every day we're here of breaking new ground -- of creating, if you will, a new conventional wisdom for the 21st century. And we're not there yet. So I think a man with a creative, independent, inquiring mind is just what is needed for this team.

Senator Cohen and I have talked about that a lot. There's a difference between being a senator and a Secretary of Defense. But I don't -- when I appoint people, I expect them to speak their mind and tell me what they think. Then we'll get together, we'll make a decision as a team, and then we'll all carry it out and do our jobs.

Q Mr. President, can I follow up on Helen's question? You're flanked by a woman and a Republican -- want to have a Cabinet that looks like America --

THE PRESIDENT: We're getting close. (Laughter.)

Q Given that -- that's a good point. Given that, how can you say that the fact that she's -- the Ambassador is a woman had nothing to do with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, because -- she got the appointment to the United Nations because I thought she'd be a good Secretary General. As much as a I enjoy appointing women --

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Ambassador. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: As much as I -- you don't want that job, do you? (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: She does speak French, though.

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I do speak French. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: As much as I enjoy appointing people who had not previously -- who represent groups of people who've not previously been able to serve, I owe it to the United States, to all the American people never to make any appointment of someone I think would not succeed. And in this case, I'm appointing Madeleine Albright because of the work she has done for the last four years and the opportunity it has given me to see her perform.

Yes, I told you I wanted a Republican in the Cabinet. But the most important thing is that the national defense of the United States be secured and that we continue to adjust to the changes of the new era.

I would never have asked Senator Cohen to join the Cabinet solely because he's a Republican. It would have been folly. I think he is uniquely well-qualified at this moment in history for the reasons I said.

So, am I glad that I have a Republican in the Cabinet? Yes. Am I proud that I got a chance to appoint the first woman Secretary of State? You bet I am. My Mama is smiling down on me right now. (Laughter.) But that is not why I appointed her. And that is why she will succeed. And I hope she will be an inspiration to the young women all across our country and all across the world, so that everybody will be able to have a chance to live up to the fullest of their abilities.

Thank you.

Q Mr. President, what effect do you think having Senator Cohen will have on your relations with the Senate?

THE PRESIDENT: I hope it will be good.

END 2:30 P.M. EST