THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON NOMINATION OF AMBASSADOR BILL RICHARDSON AS SECRETARY OF ENERGY, AND RICHARD HOLBROOKE AS AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS
The Rose Garden
10:08 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Senator Bingaman and Congressman Becerra, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you all here today as I announce my intent to nominate Ambassador Bill Richardson to become our Secretary of Energy, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to assume the portfolio of America's Representative to the United Nations. I'm especially pleased that their families could join me and the Vice President, and as you can see, our entire national security team.
Over the last two years, Bill Richardson's experience, energy and tenacity have made a real difference in advancing our interest in the United Nations and around the world. With diplomatic skills honed in one of the most diverse congressional districts in our country, negotiating ability tested in some of the toughest hot spots on our planet, and a personal touch evidenced from his first day on the job, Bill Richardson has brought creativity and drive to our leadership at the U.N.
He has served the Secretary of State and me by tackling some of the toughest negotiating challenges from the Congo to Zaire to Afghanistan. He helped to rally the international community to speak and act as one in the crisis in Iraq. Today, the international inspectors are back on the job, working to end Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons threat -- thanks in no small measure to his efforts. He has been a vigorous and articulate proponent of our engagement around the world and the importance of leveraging that engagement by living up to our United Nations obligations.
In short, if there's one word that comes to mind when I think of Bill Richardson, it really is energy. But that is hardly the only reason I am appointing him to this job. (Laughter.) For 14 years representing New Mexico, an energy-rich state that is home to two of our national Department of Energy labs, and his long service as an active member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he has gotten extensive, firsthand experience in issues ranging from deregulating the oil and gas industries, to promoting alternative sources of energy, to ensuring that energy development meets tough standard of environmental safety. I thank him for his willingness to serve.
Let me also say that Secretary Pena has left a very impressive legacy upon which to build. I appreciate his five years of service to our nation as both Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Energy, where he surprised, I might say, even his greatest admirers with the speed with which he mastered the incredible complex issues of the Department and the leadership he demonstrated in supporting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, in coming out with an electricity deregulation plan that will safe consumers $20 billion a year, in helping to open all kinds of opportunities for energy conservation and a clean energy future for America.
Let me also thank him as Secretary of Transportation for his service there in advancing mass transit more than at any point in recent history, and for opening up our air commerce with 40 other nations.
With Congress' support, Bill Richardson will do his part now to secure our energy future, at a time when that is inextricably bound up with our obligation as Americans to do our part to deal with the problem of climate change, and our obligations as Americans to build a secure future for our country that allows economic growth and protection of the planet.
I believe that this challenge will require the greatest energy from our labs, from our scientists and technology, from an Energy Department that can work clearly with the private sector on what plainly will be one of America's most important priorities for years and years to come.
Ambassador Holbrooke, my new United Nations designate, is already a familiar face all around the globe. His remarkable diplomacy in Bosnia helped to stop the bloodshed, and at the talks in Dayton, the force of his determination was a key to securing peace, restoring hope, and saving lives. His ongoing service in the Balkan region has helped to keep Bosnia's peace on track through some difficult moments.
He has helped to advance our efforts to break the stalemate in Cyprus, and he's worked to diffuse the alarming tensions and violence still brewing in Kosovo. His expertise rests on an outstanding career of diplomatic service, from his early days as one of the youngest ever Assistant Secretaries of State for Asia, an area where he has continued to be actively involved and which is very important today. Then he worked as my Ambassador to Germany and as Assistant Secretary of State for Europe.
His long experience in the private sector has given him a keen eye for the bottom line, economically and politically. He will help us to shape a U.N. that is leaner, more efficient, better equipped, that fulfills the best ideals of its founders and meets the challenges of the 21st century.
Ambassador Holbrooke understands, as do all the members of our national security team, the important role the United Nations can play in supporting our goals around the world -- pursuing peace and security, promoting human rights; fighting drugs and crime, helping people lift themselves from poverty to dignity and prosperity. Our nation will always be prepared to act alone if necessary, but joining our strength with our U.N. partners, we maximize our reach and magnify our effectiveness while sharing costs and risks.
In a world where developments beyond our borders have dramatic implications within them, from rogue states seeking nuclear weapons and chemical and biological weapons to pollution corroding the atmosphere, international cooperation is clearly more important than ever. I urge Congress to send my legislation, therefore, without unrelated issues to live up to our legacy of leadership, and pay our debt to the United Nations.
In closing, let me say that the Vice President and I feel very fortunate every day to have such a strong national security team -- men and women of vision, of judgment, of commitment. We have worked closely together to make sure that our nation remains the world's leading force for peace and freedom, for prosperity and security.
The line-up I announce today maintains that exceptional standard. I thank all of them for their willingness to serve. I especially thank Ambassador Holbrooke and Ambassador Richardson for their willingness to take on these important new tasks.
And now, I'd like to turn the floor over to them.
AMBASSADOR RICHARDSON: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, members of the national security team, Senators Bingaman, Congressman Becerra, friends and family. Mr. President, thank you for honoring me by nominating me to a second Cabinet position, the first in the foreign policy area as your U.N. Ambassador, and now as your Secretary of Energy in the domestic arena.
Mr. President, as an Hispanic American, I thank you for your commitment for being the most prolific appointer of Latinos of any President. Your leadership in this area is unquestioned.
In the foreign policy arena, one often talks about strategic partners. I want to thank my most important strategic partner, Barbara Richardson, for her assistance. (Applause.)
Mr. President, let me also say that I've enjoyed the enormous support of the Vice President, whose friendship, commitment and support has always been there. And I thank him.
During my tenure as U.N. Ambassador, Mr. President, I have seen your leadership produce breakthroughs on NATO enlargement, Northern Ireland, China, and a host of other instances where your personal intervention made a difference. On Iraq, I saw your policy of diplomacy backed by force make a difference with Secretary General Annan in easing the tensions there. Today, Mr. President, America is the foremost player on international economic issues because of your domestic leadership on the economy in creating one of the most successful peacetime economies in history.
Mr. President, I, too, leave the best job in government -- U.N. Ambassador -- to assume a challenging post at Energy. Let me just briefly say something about the United Nations. I am convinced the United Nations is good for America, and good for the world. It has advanced America's interests in Iraq, in Kosovo, on the subcontinent, on refugees, on human rights, on creating democracies. Under Secretary General Kofi Annan's leadership, the U.N. is reforming itself and responding to many challenges. As the President and Secretary of State have often said, we must pay our dues at the U.N.
To my 184 Ambassador colleagues at the U.N., and the thousands of U.N. staff members, you have my unqualified support and admiration.
I very much look forward to leading the Department of Energy as it carries out its important and diverse missions. The Department must continue its leadership on energy issues because a healthy energy sector is a critical element of a vibrant and growing U.S. economy. The Department's ability to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile will support your efforts, Mr. President, to security a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a treaty made all that more important by recent events.
Finally, the Department's Cold War legacy of environmental cleanup must proceed successfully in many communities around the country. The national labs play a critical role in this effort. The Department of Energy's many talented and dedicated scientists will support these efforts, especially in the area of technological advancement so important to the nation's success in the 21st century.
I'm excited about this challenge. I look forward to working within the administration on a host, a variety of these issues.
I want to thank also a great national security team -- Secretary Albright, Secretary Cohen, Sandy Berger, George Tennant, Joe Ralston, Leon Fuerth -- they're terrific. It's a great, cohesive, important team.
And speaking of energy, Dick Holbrooke will be a great U.N. Ambassador -- a great negotiator, a great strategist, and a great human being.
Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
MR. HOLBROOKE: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Albright, Secretary Cohen, Sandy Berger, Ambassador Richardson, Erskine Bowles, General Ralston, many friends and family, thank you.
When I was about 8 years old, my parents took me to a striking new complex that had recently been built on the East River in New York. These buildings, my father said, would become the most important in the world; they would prevent future wars.
My father did not live to see how his dream for the U.N. dissolved in the face of the harsh realities of the Cold War and the inadequacies of the U.N. system itself. But I never forgot the initial visit and my father's noble, if overly idealistic, dream. Despite its many problems and failures, I still believe in the importance and even necessity of the United Nations.
It is, therefore, Mr. President, with the greatest humility and pride that I accept your invitation, the Senate willing, to rejoin the administration as your Ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. President, you, the Vice President, Secretary Albright, Sandy Berger, Leon Fuerth, Strobe Talbott, and the rest of your magnificent national security team are committed to improving the United Nations, to making it more responsive to the demands of the post-Cold War world and to working closely with Congress to solving the extremely important problem of the arrears.
I am proud to follow in the footsteps of my friends, Madeleine Albright, Bill Richardson, Tom Pickering -- each of whom set such a high standard of excellence in this post. I'm especially pleased that I will be working for and with Secretary Albright and Sandy Berger again; and for the first time in the Executive Branch with Secretary Cohen, who I've had the privilege of knowing as a friend since he entered the Congress in the 1970s.
I am deeply honored to be part of Madeleine's team at the State Department, which she leads with such distinction. I'm equally pleased to rejoin my dear friend of over 20 years, Sandy Berger, who's been so masterful in guiding the national security system, the National Security Council, through a period of great challenge. And what an enormous honor it is to be serving again in the administration with Vice President Gore, a friend for so many years, whose support has meant so much to me and my family.
I also want to thank my colleagues at Credit Suisse First Boston for supporting me and putting up with the fact that from time to time -- perhaps more than they wished -- I was absent from my duty to them as I took on special missions for Secretary Albright in the last two years.
It will not be easy for my wife, Kati, and me to follow Bill and Barbara Richardson, who have left such a vivid mark on the United Nations and New York. The energy and intelligence with which they carried out their tasks will long be remembered. And Kati and I will remember their friendship to us.
We are especially fortunate -- and I particularly -- that we now have a Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, a remarkable, international civil servant. He and I and our wives have been friends for many years, and I look forward especially to especially to working closely with him.
My friends have always meant a lot to me, and I owe many people a great deal. It's not possible to thank them all this morning, but I do thank those of you who came down from New York to join us. I hope Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, you'll permit me to introduce those of my family who are here -- and most of them are: My mother, Trudi Kearl, who, like my father, came to this country in the late 1930s from a Europe on the verge of war. My parents-in-law, Andre and Ilona Marton -- Andre is here, Ilona is not -- who, as the only journalists who with access to the outside world in October of 1956, sent the last unforgettable reports from Budapest as the Soviet tanks cracked down on the freedom fighters on the streets of Budapest, and then were smuggled out of Hungary with their two young daughters by the American Embassy. My wonderful step-daughter, Elizabeth Marton Jennings and her uncle Andrew; and my own sons, the pride of my life, David Holbrooke and Anthony Holbrooke -- both now television producers -- for all of you I will say, great television producers, in New York. (Laughter.)
Two people could not be here today, my step-son Christopher and my wife, Kati, who were unable to get back in time from Colorado. Everyone who knows me knows that I would not be here today or gotten through Dayton without the support and love of Kati. I simply cannot adequately express what I owe to her or what she means to me.
In closing, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, I am humbled and moved by the opportunity to serve again, as part of a team and an administration that is writing a magnificent record of American leadership and dealing with the challenging new agenda in the post-Cold War world, and redefining America's role in the world along the lines of the items that the President mentioned a moment ago. With the consent of the Senate, I look forward to working with you again, although I sometimes feel that I never entirely left.
Thank you. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, are you softening your policy toward Iran? Are you softening your policy toward Iran? Did you find a new rapprochement?
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with the remarks made yesterday by Secretary Albright. We talked about them extensively before she made her speech. What we want is a genuine reconciliation with Iran based on mutuality and reciprocity, and a sense that the Iranians are prepared to move away from support of terrorism and distribution of dangerous weapons, opposition to the peace process.
We appreciate the comments that were made by the President several months ago, and we are exploring what the future might hold. We have not changed our principles, our ideas, or our objectives. We believe Iran is changing in a positive way and we want to support that.
Q Are you contemplating a gesture, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I think Secretary Albright's words should stand for themselves right now. I thought it was a fine speech and an important one.
Q Mr. President, do you have any plans to resurrect tobacco, perhaps in the House? And how?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, yesterday many of the Republicans senators who I called -- and I talked to 10 of them yesterday -- said that they had been approached by Senator Lott about the prospect of putting some sort of special group together of four Republicans and four Democrats and maybe having them try just in a matter of a few days to come up with a bill they thought would actually not only pass the Senate, but could be written into law. And if that's a good-faith effort they're willing to make, that's certainly one option that I would consider.
But I don't intend to continue -- to stop fighting for this. I think it's obvious to everybody in the world what happened. This bill was voted out of the committee 19 to 1. Some of the people who voted for it in the Republican Caucus then did not vote for it on the floor, even though every major amendment which was adopted to the bill was sponsored by a Republican senator. And I think it's pretty clear what happened.
They may believe that the $40 million in advertising by the tobacco companies changed public opinion irrevocably and permanently, and, therefore, it's safe to walk away from the biggest public health obligation that this country has today. I don't believe that.
But even if the politics have changed, the merits haven't. One more day will pass today when 3,000 more children will start to smoke even though it's illegal to sell them cigarettes, and 1,000 of them will have their lives shortened because of it. And for us to sit here and do nothing in the face of evidence which has been mounting during this debate -- the Minnesota case, during this debate, gave the freshest and in some cases the most vivid documentary evidence of all from the tobacco companies themselves that they've known about the addictive qualities of nicotine for years, and that they have deliberately marketed cigarettes to children for years, even though they knew it was against the law to do it, because they needed what they call "replacement smokers."
Now, the bill is simple in its outline and clear in its objectives. And in terms of the complications of it, many of those were added by the people who now are criticizing it.
So, on balance, I think the case is still so overwhelming that we ought to keep working on it, and I'm prepared -- you know, I've been working on this for years. When we started, most people didn't think we'd get as far as we have, and I don't think that we intend to stop until we prevail. And sooner or later we will, because it's the right thing to do.
Q Sir, how will you finance this child care initiative and other things that were contained in that bill without ruining the budget?
THE PRESIDENT: We can only finance -- we can finance that part of it which is within our own budget, and that part of it which was dedicated to -- which would had to have been financed by the states and which was within a menu of things that we supported that the states could spend it on won't be financed unless the states get the money some other way. And I think that's unfortunate, because I think that would be a good expenditure of some of the money.
Keep in mind, most of the federal money was designed to be spent on -- directly on health care -- on medical research, on smoking cessation programs, on programs designed to deal with the consequences of the health problems that are directly related to smoking in this country. And that was, of course, a part of the Senate's decision in killing it.
I think it's important to point out also that there were -- that this bill is temporarily dead because of the unusual rule of the Senate that requires 60 percent, not 51 percent, of the Senate to pass on any bill other than the budget if somebody objects to it. So for all the $40 million in spending -- and as reported in the paper today, all the commitment to run the same ads all over again in November to protect the Republican members who voted with them -- they still could only muster 43 votes. And two of those votes were people who wanted a better provision for the tobacco farmers and essentially supported the bill.
So, essentially, what you've got is 41 people denying the American people and denying the huge majority of the United States Senate, including a number of Republicans, the right to pass a tobacco bill, and ask the House to do the same to protect our children. That's not a long way from success. And that means that each and every one of the members of the Republican Caucus who voted for that was in a way personally responsible for the death of the bill.
It's not all -- it's dead today. It may not be dead tomorrow. And it's not dead over the long run because the public health need is great. I've never quit on anything this important in my life, and I don't intend to stop now. There are too many futures riding on it, and I think in the end we will prevail.
END 10:33 A.M. EDT