[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 24, 1998]
[Pages 610-613]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Announcing the Resignation of Counselor to the President and 
Special Envoy for the Americas Thomas F. McLarty  and an Exchange 
With Reporters
April 24, 1998

    The President. Last week, at the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, 
I saw again the profound change in the very character of the 
relationships between the United States and our neighbors to the south 
and the start of a true partnership based on mutual respect, mutual 
trust, and mutual reward.
    Two quiet revolutions were the catalysts for this change. The first, 
of course, was the quiet revolution of democracy and open markets in the 
Americas. The second quiet revolution was Mack McLarty, our Special 
Envoy to Latin America, who helped all of us to realize that the 
Americas must become a cornerstone of our prosperity and security for 
the 21st century.
    Mack has made over 40 trips to the Americas since he became my 
Special Envoy. He has earned the trust and respect, the friendship and 
affection of leaders from the Caribbean to Central America, from Canada 
to South America, who value his extraordinary combination of integrity 
and intellect, ability and civility. He helped to change the way we see 
Latin America, and just as important, he's helped to change the way 
Latin America sees us.
    Earlier this week, Mack told me of his desire to leave this 
administration at the end of June

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to return to his private life, to spend more time with Donna 
Kay, and with their sons, Mark and Franklin. It has been a 
day I hoped would never come, so I accept his decision with regret but 
eternal gratitude.
    As most of you know, Mack and I have been good friends virtually all 
of our lives. We've taken a lot of ribbing about Miss Mary's 
kindergarten, but she must have done something right. [Laughter] Hillary 
and I have been especially grateful to have Mack and Donna as friends 
for a long, long time, and especially in our lives these past 5\1/2\ 
years. Mack represents to me everything that is good and decent in 
public service; honesty and civility, fidelity and kindness aren't just 
words to him, they're a way of life.
    Just after I was elected President, I asked Mack to leave a long and 
varied and highly successful business career to be the White House Chief 
of Staff. It was a daunting task for people who were new to Washington. 
We had new ideas and new energy. We had all kinds of ideas about the new 
direction we wanted to take our country in, but we were also new to the 
strange and often arcane ways of this city.
    As Erskine Bowles has often said to me, from his own experience, 
it's a whole lot harder to start up an enterprise than it is to take it 
over and tune it up. Mack was there at the beginning. And as Bob Rubin 
has said so often, and I know he would want me to say on his behalf 
today, it was Mack that established a culture, in our White House and 
administration, of teamwork and decency which has continued throughout 
the years, and has been responsible for much of the success that we have 
    During Mack's tenure, we launched policies that helped to turn our 
country around, to bring our people together, to make our Government 
work again. Our party had been out of office for 12 years. Beginning 
with Mack's steady hand as we chose our first Cabinet, he helped to put 
in place a dramatic change in direction for our Nation. He organized our 
forces at the White House and was a driving force on Capitol Hill toward 
the passage of our economic plan that has helped to bring such 
unparalleled prosperity.
    It sparked a boom in investment; cut the deficit over 90 percent 
before the Balanced Budget Act was passed; invested in education and 
health care, in the environment, in science, and space; cut taxes on 
small businesses and 15 million people; and led to the creation of 15 
million jobs. He helped to secure the passage of the Family and Medical 
Leave Act, which over 12 million Americans have used when a baby is born 
or someone in their family is sick. He set the stage for the crime bill, 
continued our work that we began in Arkansas on education reform, helped 
us to fight and win major victories to open markets in this hemisphere 
and around the world through NAFTA and GATT.
    After he became my counselor, I asked him to tackle complex and 
important missions--from his work with the Vice President 
 to make the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta a success, to 
his efforts in the Gulf, to secure support for the Dayton Peace accord 
in Bosnia, to reaching out to the business community and other key 
constituencies, and to his truly historic service as Special Envoy to 
the Americas.
    He has pursued these many missions with grace and decency and good 
humor, earning the admiration and trust of a pretty disparate group of 
people, from Dick Gephardt to Trent Lott, from Tom Donohue at 
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to John Sweeney at the AFL-CIO, from 
Jesse Jackson to Ross Perot. Now, this does not surprise me, because 
as long as I've known him, he's always been well liked and well respected 
by everybody. And, frankly, I still resent it. [Laughter]
    Let me say to Mack and to Donna and to their fine sons, thank you 
for serving America. To his family, I thank them for lending Mack to me 
for a little while. For a long time now, we have been friends; now we 
know we are colleagues; now we know what it's like to fight and lose and 
win again on behalf of the American people. It has been a wonderful 
experience. And again, I say that Mack McLarty is a genuinely patriotic 
public servant in the greatest American tradition. And as is my 
commitment, I promised him that for once, he can have the last word.
    Mr. McLarty.

[At this point, Mr. McLarty made brief remarks.]

    Q. What are you going to miss the most about the White House?
    Mr. McLarty. Muy poquito, muy poquito [Very little, very little]. 
[Laughter] Probably, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], 
not having that energy, knowing that

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that first question is coming at a setting like this. [Laughter]

Prime Minister Sergey Kiriyenko of Russia

    Q. Mr. President, I take it you can work with the new Russian Prime 
Minister as you did with his predecessor.
    The President. Well, I'm looking forward to it. We have a high 
opinion of him based on our experiences with him, and the commission 
set up--we had with the Vice President and 
the Russian Prime Minister. I look forward to continuing that. It's 
helped us to resolve an enormous number of issues. I also very much hope 
that this will free the Duma up now to consider the START II Treaty, 
because if they will ratify it, then we can move on to START III and 
continue our effort of dramatically reducing the nuclear threat.
    So this is, I think, a good news day for Russia and for the United 
States. I look forward to seeing President Yeltsin  in Birmingham in 
about a month, and we'll have a chance to discuss these and other matters.

Latin America-U.S. Relations

    Q. Does Mr. McLarty's leaving signify an erosion of U.S. interest in 
Latin America?
    The President. Oh, no, not at all. It is true that I don't know 
anybody else who could get me to go down there 3 times in 12 months--
[laughter]--but I must say, every time I went I was more eager to 
return. And I think that through his efforts, as Secretary Albright 
said, the Government and the principals and, maybe in a fundamental way, 
even the American people have altered their notions of what our 
relationships with Latin America are and what they should be and what 
they can become. And so we will continue to even intensify our efforts.
    If you look at the agenda that we embraced at Santiago--which was, 
in no small measure, Mr. McLarty's work--it will require, just to honor 
the commitments we have made, a deepening effort in Latin America. It 
will require us to do more than we have done in the past.

Airlines Agreements

    Q. Mr. President, are you concerned about the impact on consumers of 
the agreements announced between the four major airlines, and will your 
administration look into possible antitrust violations in those 
    The President. Well, any decision like that, of course, is not one 
for the White House to be making. But I don't think we've had enough 
time to analyze it to know whether we have concerns or not, so I don't 
believe it's appropriate for me to make a comment yet because I don't 
know enough about it to make a good one.

Corporate Trends

    Q. Well, what about the trend in terms of the banks and so forth? I 
mean, the country is moving in that direction. Is that good?
    The President. Well, if it's being done to compete globally, and 
there's still adequate amount of competition so that consumers are 
protected in terms of price and quality, but American business becomes 
more globally competitive, then it's a good thing. If it is a function 
of there being an awful lot of money around in the economy today and 
it's just one of those periodic bursts of mergers which may or may not 
have a good effect on consumers and may or may not lend stability to our 
economy, then it's much more questionable.
    So I think that it requires a level of analysis about what is really 
going on here and why, that I simply haven't had either the opportunity 
to do or to get advised on by my folks. So I think it's something that 
should provoke a lot of comment and a lot of thought; experts around the 
country should be writing op-ed pieces for newspapers; people should be 
thinking through this, but--to help the American people understand it, 
because we've always had a native suspicion of bigness of all kinds in 
America. It goes all the way back to our beginning. It started with big 
government, and it's basically extended to all the large institutions in 
life. And Americans often feel that ordinary people don't have enough 
control over their lives anyway.
    So I think that there is going to be this questioning atmosphere, 
but I would just say, we need to analyze each one of these on their own 
merits and ask the questions that I just put out. I'm pretty convinced 
that I just gave you the right questions to ask; I just haven't had a 
chance to analyze it and have experts talk to me about it and work it 

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Response to Criticism

    Q. Mr. President, many House Democrats want to censure Dan Burton 
for the vulgar remark he made about you. What do you think about that 
remark, and what do you think should happen to him?
    The President. Well, the House is obviously the judge of its own 
affairs, and they should continue to be. And therefore, it's not 
appropriate for me to comment on it.
    Q.  But surely as a human being----
    The President. Well, as a human being, I learned that it's 
inappropriate for the President to let feelings--human feelings 
interfere with the job.
    Q. Sure it is. [Laughter]
    The President. We're going to have a--no, no, I'm saving all of that 
for Saturday night, Helen. [Laughter]
    Yes, but let me just say this. Go back to my Inaugural, this last 
Inaugural, and even before, when Dr. Schuller and others gave me that great passage from Isaiah. A 
President cannot repair the breaches in a country, cannot unify a 
country, and cannot lift its vision if he takes personally personal 
assaults. You can't do it. You just have to blow it off and think about 
something else.
    And, I mean, my advice, as I said--you asked me yesterday, I think, 
if I had anything to say to Mr. Burton, and I 
said, yes, I do--I hope he will vote the campaign finance reform bill 
now that it's finally going to be put on the floor of the Senate--of the 
House. And maybe we can get it on the floor of the Senate if we can pass 
it in the House.
    So I think that's the way we all ought to be. I can't further the 
public interest of America by engaging in that kind of debate. I just 
want to lift it up. I think that we all ought to just--we'd do a lot 
better in this town if we had less personal focus and more public focus 
of all kinds.
    Thank you.

White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

    Q. Speaking of Saturday night, sir, are you looking forward to 
having dinner with Paula Jones in the same room?
    The President. You know, we practiced all kinds of answers to this 
question--[laughter]--and most of them I think I'll have to give 
Saturday night. [Laughter] Thank you.

Note. The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Sergey Kiriyenko, 
former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and President Boris Yeltsin 
of Russia; and Rev. Robert Schuller. A reporter referred to Paula Jones, 
whose civil suit against the President was dismissed on April 1. A tape 
was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.