THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
TELEPHONE INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT BY STEVE HARVEY OF KKBT-FM'S "THE STEVE HARVEY MORNING SHOW" Oakland, California
(9:40 a.m. PST)
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Steve?
Q President Clinton.
THE PRESIDENT: How are you? We got cut off. I'm glad to hear your voice.
Q How are you doing? It's okay. How are you doing, brother?
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
Q Great. Glad you could call, man. Sorry we missed each other. You were in Los Angeles. I was supposed to meet you at an event. Sorry we missed each other.
THE PRESIDENT: Are you in New York?
Q No, I'm in Los Angeles right now. Hello?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I can hear you fine.
Q Oh, yes. No, I'm in L.A. right now. We were supposed to meet at an event a few weeks ago, and we got -- we missed our signal, so we didn't hook up. But --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm sorry you missed you.
Q That's okay. We got in today. My publicist told me that you're a big fan of mine. I just want to hear you say that out loud. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I am a big fan of yours, and I hear all the clapping in the background, so I want to please everybody for you. (Applause.)
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. That's all I needed to hear. (Laughter and applause.) You just pretty much made my whole career. (Laughter.)
President Clinton, we are fans of yours here, on The Beat. I cannot speak for the entire radio station, but I know I am. I have always been a fan of yours and your work and your community development towards the African-American community. I have one question for you. I want to ask you point blank, what can African-Americans and the Latino community expect from the Democratic Party in regards to education and affirmative action?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think first of all, you can expect them to build on the progress of the last eight years. Remember -- let's start with affirmative action -- remember, there was a lot of pressure to eliminate affirmative action, both from the Republican Party and from some court decisions, which required us to change it. And we took the position that we should mend it, not end it, and that's the position that Vice President Gore has steadily defended. I noticed in his third debate that he was the only candidate who would say that he was for affirmative action.
And I can tell you, we had long, long discussions about this. He believes strongly in it. And I believe virtually every one of our candidates for the Senate and the House does. I know that my wife, who is running for the Senate in New York, strongly feels that way, and I believe all the others do as well. So I think you can feel very good about that.
Q Now, also in terms of education for the same communities.
THE PRESIDENT: On the education issue, I think the choices are quite clear here. The Vice President and all the Democratic candidates, first of all, think that America ought to know our schools are getting better and our students are doing better. Reading scores, math scores, science scores are all up. In the last seven years, there has been a 500 percent increase in African-American students taking advanced placement courses, a 300 percent increase in Latino students taking advanced placement courses. The college-going rate is at an all-time high because we have pushed through the Congress the biggest increase in student aid, from Pell Grants, to work/study grants, to the Hope Scholarship tax credit in 50 years.
So what does Al Gore want to do? What do the rest of our Democrats want to do? They want to finish the job of putting 100,000 qualified teachers in our schools. They want to provide funds to poor school districts especially, and growing school districts, to build new school buildings and to overhaul others. They want to finish the work of connecting all the schools in the country to the Internet and all the classrooms. When Al Gore took on this project for our Administration in 1994, only 3 percent of the classrooms were connected. Today, 65 percent of the classrooms are, and 90 percent of the poorest schools have at least one Internet connection. So we want to do that.
He wants to provide universal preschool and more after-school programs for the kids who need it, and he wants tax deductibility for college tuition. Plus which, we have a Hispanic Education Action Plan that is designed to deal with the fact that the dropout rate among Latino students is still too high, and he has promised to build on that.
So we've got a very, very good education program. It's been our top domestic priority, and I think you can really depend on the Vice President to deliver. That's why both the major teachers' organizations have endorsed him, and a lot of other educators around the country, because they believe that we have a program based on the research and what the educators are saying.
And one final thing. He has got a good accountability program that we ought to identify failing schools, turn them around, or open them under new management. And all over America, you see these schools that were in trouble just a couple of years ago that are turning around. I was in a school in Harlem the other day where two years ago 80 percent of the children were doing math and reading below grade level, and today three-quarters of the kids are doing math and reading above or at grade level. That's after only two years. So we've got a program that's working out there at the grassroots. We need to bring it to all of America, and you can trust Al Gore to do that. He cares a lot about it, and you can trust the Democratic Party. It's our issue. We care about it.
Q Absolutely. Now, President, you were at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on yesterday. Three thousand supporters came out. We thank you for stopping by, lending your support to the campaign. We thank you for all of the work you have done over the past eight years. And we do applaud you in both of these directions, especially in terms of education and affirmative action. We appreciate you so much. We know you're busy, we know you're on a tight schedule. And hey, man, we just want to say thank you for calling.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Steve. Let me say, I wanted to go back to Watts, a place I've been visiting for many years now, to thank the people of Watts, of L.A., and of California for being so good to me and Hillary and Al and Tipper Gore these last eight years, and for proving that we could turn America around economically, educationally, environmentally, that we could provide more health insurance. And you know there's a lot of laboratories of success there.
But I also wanted to emphasize that in California and throughout this country, there are races for the Congress, for the Senate and the House, which are also terribly important. They are just as close as the presidential race. And if we can win a majority in the House and in the Senate, we'll be in a position to really pull this country together and move forward to build on the progress of the last eight years, to keep the prosperity going.
That's really why the young people of this country ought to get out and vote, because we have come so far in the last eight years, but all the best things are still out there. When Al Gore says, "You ain't seen nothing yet," that's not just politics. We can turn the country around and now we can make big, big strides in the economy, in education, in health care, the environment, and pulling this country together. But we've got to have the right leadership. And these House and Senate races are also very, very, very important.
Q Yes. Quickly, Mr. President, after it's all over, when the election is done and Gore is President and you finally, after eight very successful years, step down, what do you see yourself doing, man? What do you think?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I've got to be an ordinary citizen again and I've got to go out and make a living, so I'll do that. But what I want to do is find a way to be a useful citizen, in a way that does not in any manner interfere with the next President. Jimmy Carter has been a very great ex-President; he's done a lot of good. I think that I'm young enough that I could still do a lot of good, and I feel that I owe that to the American people and the people I've worked with all around the world -- in Africa and Latin America and other places.
But I want to take a couple months off to rest, consider what my options are, and then try to spend the rest of my life giving back in the public interest, because I have been very blessed. I've gotten to live my dreams, I've had a great life, and I just want to be helpful in any way that I can, and I'll try to find some good things to do.
Q Well, I'll tell you, President, after it's all over, my T.V. show ends on December 21st, and I've been working pretty much hard like a president myself. (Laughter). I say me and you, man, get a fishing boat and go on out there in the middle of the lake and do some bass fishing. I know you're from Arkansas; I'm from West Virginia. You know something about some fishing, I'm sure.
THE PRESIDENT: I do. I can still do that. (Laughter.)
Q We ought to hook up and go fishing.
THE PRESIDENT: It sounds like a good idea to me.
Q Steve and Bill on the boat. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: That's right.
Q Hey, thanks for calling, President. Thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you just tell everybody to go vote so we'll feel good when we go fishing instead of worrying about things. (Laughter.)
Q Well, you better believe that's what it's all about. We are pushing hard to get out and vote on this coming election, and we're going to do our very best to put Vice President Gore in office, because we can't take the other side. We just can't take it. We just can't take it. I will see to that.
Thank you for calling, President Clinton.
THE PRESIDENT: Bless you, Steve. Thank you.
Q Thank you. Absolutely. You all, one more time, the President of the United States, Bill Clinton.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Bye-bye.