Thursday afternoon, April 13
N. Christian Anderson III, The Orange County Register, Santa Ana, Calif., ASNE president, presiding: Good afternoon everyone. Mr. President, last year when we were in San Francisco I said that I hoped you could be here with us in Washington in the year 2000, and you said, ďAsk me, man.Ē So I did. And here you are.
This the sixth time that President Clinton has spoken to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Each time he has offered us thoughts about a major issue of our time and of his administration. Mr. President, we are extremely honored by your willingness to join us again, and very appreciative, as well, of your willingness to take questions from the editors after your remarks. Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.
Thank you very much, Chris. And thank you for asking me again ó I think. Iím delighted to be here, and Iím glad you said it was the sixth time. I knew I had been here more than half the time, but we were talking on the way in about how, when you live a busy life, memory fades. Iíve enjoyed these six occasions, or at least the previous five, and I think Iíll enjoy this one.
I was asking myself on the way over here, ďWhy am I doing this? Iím not running for anything.Ē And I read the vice presidentís speech to you and the jokes that he made, the joke he made about Chris and The Orange County Register. I was so delighted, and surprised, to carry Orange County, I didnít care whether the newspaper was for us or not.
But I am delighted to be here. I want to talk today primarily about the present debate over the budget and tax proposals on Capitol Hill. But Iíd like to say one thing very briefly, at the outset, about the census and to ask for your help.
Because the census is, at its core, information about who we are as a democracy, I would imagine everyone in this room is particularly interested in it. The information, especially from the long form, helps hometowns do everything from design mass transit systems to provide 911 emergency services. The census helps us to calculate cost of living increases for Social Security, military retirement and veteransí pensions. It serves as a foundation for a variety of economic surveys, including the monthly jobs report, and itís important in the calculation of the Consumer Price Index.
So far, about 3 out of every 5 census forms have been returned. That means about 40 percent have not. We want everyone to count. So, Iíd just say anything you can do to help encourage the people who read your papers to fill out their census forms, every one of them, would be very much appreciated.
More than 35 years ago, President Johnson spoke before the American Society of Newspaper Editors ó at a time, superficially, not so unlike this time. Unemployment was low. Inflation was low. Growth was high. The economy was humming in the middle of what was to prove to be the longest economic expansion in our history to that point. It lasted from 1961 to 1969.
President Johnson spoke of our obligation to look beyond the moment, to think of America as what he called ďa continuing communityĒ ó to see how decisions affect not only todayís citizens, but also their children and their childrenís children ó ďto build for tomorrow,Ē he said, ďin the immediacy of today.Ē I think thatís a good way of capturing what it is I believe we should be doing today ó building for tomorrow in the immediacy of today.
It was very different seven years and three months ago when I came to office. The economy was in trouble. Society was divided. Politics appeared to be paralyzed here. I had a vision of 21st century America, and a road map I thought would help get us there. I saw an America where the American dream of opportunity was alive for every person responsible enough to work for it; an America strong, of strong communities with safe streets, good schools, a clean environment; and national community, which not only respected, but celebrated our diversity and found even greater hope in our common humanity. And I saw an America still leading the world toward peace and freedom and prosperity.
We had a strategy to achieve that vision, one rooted in opportunity, responsibility and community. The road map included economic reforms; education reforms; welfare reforms; health care reforms; reforms in criminal justice; reforms in environmental policy; greater efforts to strengthen the combined roles of work and family in the modern world; efforts to support our American community through community service; and initiatives in foreign policy against wars rooted in racial and ethnic conflicts, against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and for peace processes all across the world ó efforts to build new partnerships in Asia and Latin America, to advance the cause of world health and to relieve the debts of the poorest countries in the world.
We also had an idea to reform the role of the federal government to make it smaller, but more empowering and more aggressive in creating the conditions and the tools within which people could make the most of their own lives.
Strengthening the economy, of course, was key to realizing our vision. Doing that made all the rest of this possible. Our strategy was quite simple. We wanted to pursue a course of fiscal discipline; the greatest possible investment in education, and technology, science and other things that would advance our objectives; and to expand trade in American products and services around the world.
Now, we are in the midst of the longest, strongest economic expansion in history, with 21 million new jobs, the lowest poverty rate in 20 years, the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years, the lowest female unemployment rate in 40 years, the lowest African American and Hispanic unemployment rates on record, the highest homeownership in history. We also have the lowest crime rate in 25 years. Gun crime is down 35 percent since I took office. We have cleaner air, cleaner water, fewer toxic waste dumps, greater land preservation in the lower 48 states than in any other period, except the presidencies of Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt.
Twenty-one million people have received the benefits of the Family and Medical Leave Act. One hundred fifty thousand young Americans have earned money for college by serving in AmeriCorps. Two million children, with 2 million more on the way, have been given health insurance under the Childrenís Health Insurance Program. For the first time in our history, 90 percent of our children are immunized against serious childhood diseases. In our schools, test scores are up and college going is up. And America has been a source of support for peace and freedom from the Middle East, to Northern Ireland, to the Balkans. We have done it with the smallest federal government in 40 years.
In the course of all this, the nature of the economic debate has changed radically. If I had come here the first time I spoke with you and said, give me a few years, and we will eliminate the deficit, run three surpluses in a row for the first time in half a century, double our investment in education, and weíll have tax relief for middle-class and lower-income working people, including the earned income tax credit, the Hope Scholarship Credit, the child tax credit, and weíll actually lower the tax burden on average American families ó and according to the Treasury Department, income taxes for a typical family of four are the lowest percentage of income they have been since 1965 ó if I had said that ó and I had said, now, give me a few years and the main question weíll be debating is what weíre going to do with our surplus ó you would have been forced to write editorials complaining that the new president was slightly deranged, but he seemed like a pretty nice fellow.
Nonetheless, that is now the subject of debate in Washington ó what to do with the surplus. I think the question really is a larger one: What do we make of this moment? Do we believe, as President Johnson believed when he came here in the early í60s, that we should plan for tomorrow in the immediacy of today?
To me, the answer to that question is clear. We should be looking at our long-term challenges and opportunities, the ones I outlined in the last State of the Union address.
We have the challenge of the aging of America. The number of people over 65 will double in the next 30 years. There will be only two people working for every one person drawing Social Security, at present rates of Americans maturing, immigration and retirement. We can extend the life of Social Security beyond the expectancy of the baby boom generation, and we can extend the life of Medicare and add a prescription drug benefit so that baby boomers, when we retire, are not a burden to our children and their ability to raise our grandchildren.
We have the challenge of expanding opportunity for all the children of America, the most racially and ethnically and religiously and linguistically diverse group of children ever in our schools. We can give every child a world-class education and, now, unlike 15 years or so ago when we started the education reform movement of the late 20th century, we actually know how to do it. We know that all children can learn; we know what strategies work; and we have evidence, abundant evidence all across the country.
We have the challenge of securing the long-term health of America. I believe to do it we ought to continue to pay down the national debt and make America debt-free for the first time since 1835.
And I believe we have the challenge of extending economic opportunity to people and places that have not been part of this recovery even yet, which is the heart of my New Markets Initiative.
We have the challenge of continuing to help people balance work and family, and eliminating what is still a scourge of child poverty in the United States.
We have the challenge of proving that we can meet our environmental challenges, including global warming, and still grow the economy; the challenge of making our country the safest big country in the world; the challenge of accelerating our leadership in science and technology and spreading the benefits of it not only across America, but to every corner of the earth; the challenge of continuing to lead the world toward peace and freedom and continuing to build one America here at home.
Now, I think thatís what we ought to do with this magic moment of possibility.
In large measure, the decision about what to do and whether we continue on that course is what the budget debate in Congress is all about and what the election of 2000 is all about. There are those who say, even if the tax burden as a percentage of income is the lowest itís been in 35 years for most Americans, we still ought to give some of this money back to the American people. We can do that, but I believe the tax cuts should be responsible and targeted to help working families raise their children, provide for long-term care for their parents, for college tuition and better child care.
I think there should be incentives to wealthier Americans to solve our common problems, for example, to invest in new technologies to help us combat global warming and promote environmental protection; to invest in our global vaccine initiative to help eradicate AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria from the world; and especially to invest in the poor areas of America, which have not yet fully benefited from our recovery.
We can do all that, and it will actually reinforce our efforts to meet our long-term challenges. But I believe the budget now being debated in Congress and put forward by the majority takes us in the wrong direction and risks safeguarding this unique moment in our history, primarily because the tax cuts that are proposed, in the aggregate, would take us back to the policy that I have worked for over seven years to reverse.
I vetoed their tax bill last year because it would have ended the era of fiscal discipline that has served our economy so well. This year, Congress is working on last yearís tax bill page by page, piece by piece. In separate measures, it has already voted to spend, in the aggregate, nearly half a trillion dollars, more than half the surplus. And we donít know how much is on the way because their budget, unlike the projections I try to do, only covers the next five years rather than 10 years.
Last year, their tax cut cost about $150 billion over five years, but it would have exploded to nearly $1 trillion over 10 years.
This year, from Capitol Hill to the campaign trail, weíre hearing positive statements about investing in health care and prescription drug coverage and education. But after a $1 trillion tax cut ó and I believe the one theyíre running on this year is even bigger ó there will be no room left for these investments, or for saving Social Security and Medicare, unless weíre prepared to go back to the bad old days of deficits.
Congress has a responsibility now to show us how all these separate proposals add up ó how the choices made today will affect our ability to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Before we talk about massive tax cuts that would derail our hard-won economic prosperity, I say, again, we should put first things first.
First, we should strengthen the solvency of Social Security and Medicare. These two programs represent the bedrock of our commitment to seniors, and to millions of Americans with disabilities. Fiscal responsibility has been the foundation to keep these programs strong.
When I came to office, Medicare was projected to go broke last year, 1999. We have taken action to put Medicare and Social Security on a better path to the future. Just last month, the Social Security trustees announced that the economy has now added three years to the life of the Social Security trust fund. It is now solvent until 2037. The Medicare trustees announced that Medicare is now solvent until 2023 ó 24 years beyond where it was projected to be in 1993. Thatís the strongest Medicare has been in 25 years.
Now, to be fair, there is a consensus in Congress that we should use the entire Social Security surplus for debt reduction, and that is a good thing. But my budget goes one step further. Itís an easy step, I believe, but one the congressional majority has not yet embraced. Debt reduction produces interest savings. Rather than using those savings to pay for an exploding tax cut or a spending increase, my budget locks away the interest savings from the Social Security surplus to lengthen the life of Social Security to at least 2054. This would cover all but the most fortunate baby boomers. Iíd have to live to be 108, to run out the Social Security trust fund.
My proposal also lengthens the life of the Medicare trust fund to at least 2030, by investing a significant portion of the surplus while also making Medicare more competitive and efficient. For example, weíd allow seniors to shop around for health plans that meet their needs. If they find a plan that saves money, theyíd pay a lower Medicare premium. This would increase competition, giving us better quality and lower costs. We would also modernize Medicare by creating a voluntary prescription drug benefit, something we plainly would provide if we were creating Medicare today.
Medicare was created at a time when it was basically designed for acute care, for hospital and doctor costs. Today, the average person who lives to be 65 has a life expectancy of 83. The crying need is for chronic and preventive care. And, today, unlike 35 years ago, pharmaceuticals can very often dramatically increase not only the length, but also the quality of life.
One of my problems is that the budget, pushed by the congressional majority this year, would not extend the life of Social Security or Medicare by a single day. It is very important that everybody understands this. Itís one thing to say youíre saving the Social Security surplus and not spending it. That does not add a day to the life of the trust fund. It does help you pay down the debt, and I like that. Iím glad we have bipartisan, virtually unanimous support for it. But if you really want to solve the problem of the aging of America, you have to take the interest savings that come from paying down the debt, from Social Security taxes, which all of you are paying in excess of what weíre paying out every month, and put them into the trust fund, so we can take Social Security out beyond the life of the baby boom generation.
The second thing we ought to do is to stay on course to eliminate all of our publicly held debt by 2013. By the end of this year alone, we will have repaid $300 billion of our national debt. This is having a real impact. For our economy, itís set in motion a virtuous cycle of reduced interest rates, more capital for private investment and more people investing in new businesses and new technologies.
For families, debt reduction has meant more money ó on average, $2,000 less in home mortgage payments every year for the typical family, $200 less in car payments, $200 less in student loans ó than would have been the case had we not reduced the debt. That amounts to a sizable tax cut for American families. We need a fiscally responsible budget, not one that risks economic growth and makes it impossible for us to continue to pay down the debt.
Third, we need to continue to invest in key priorities that are clearly essential to our future: education, health, law enforcement, science and technology. The budget proposed by the Republican majority has nearly a 10 percent average cut in virtually all domestic priorities. This would lead to serious cutbacks in everything from reducing class size to cleaning up toxic waste dumps, to putting more police on our streets.
Furthermore, the budget is based on the assumption that the cuts will grow even deeper over time. This is very important for all Americans to understand. It is one thing to propose all these programs that cost money, and quite another to say, but we have to have a tax cut first, and, somehow, Iím sure it will work out.
We tried it that way before, and it didnít work out. If you have a $1 trillion or bigger tax cut over a decade ó plus, keep in mind, their proposed defense spending increases are even bigger than the ones Iíve proposed, and Iíve proposed an increase in defense every single year Iíve been here, and theyíve never failed to fund that ó then youíre either going to have to drastically cut all these programs ó education, health, the environment ó or go back and start running deficits, or a combination of both.
In other words, as I found out the hard way when I put together the budget in 1993, if youíre going to be fiscally responsible, sooner or later arithmetic intrudes on politics. And this is very important. Far be it from me to tell you how to do your job, but I hope that arithmetic will be part of this yearís campaign debate as well.
The proposal, from my point of view, defies common sense. The argument is over. We had a test run. We had 12 years of their proposals ó do the big tax cuts first and it will all work out. Then we had eight years of arithmetic in public policy. And I think if you compare the results, the argument should be over. Our commitment is to fiscal discipline and to investment to move the country forward.
Still, in spite of all this hard evidence, later today the Republican majority will vote on a budget resolution that is loaded with exploding tax breaks and untenable cuts in critical investments. It will take us back to an approach that failed before and will fail again; back to ideas that didnít work before and wonít work now; back to putting Medicare and Social Security on the back burner, instead of up front where they belong.
So I say, again, we cannot afford to veer from the proven path onto a trail of unmet obligations, unrealistic cuts and unnecessary giveaways. We canít squander the moment by squandering the surplus. We canít go back to the rosy scenario of the 1980s. The new scenario bases tax cuts we canít afford on the assumption that unrealistic spending cuts will be made ó at the very time theyíre out there in the election season telling us they want to spend more on education and health care and the environment.
But the bottom line is this: The choices Congress will make this spring are fundamentally the choices that Americans will make this fall. What are our priorities? Will we maintain our commitment to fiscal discipline? In a larger sense, what is our vision? There is room in the vision I have outlined for the best ideas from both parties. When we have determined to do it, we have worked together: in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which passed both Houses by big majorities from both parties; in the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which passed both Houses by big majorities in both parties; in the fundamentally education budgets of 1998 and 1999, which passed both Houses by big majorities in both parties. We can do this, but we have to make up our minds to stay within the framework of what has served us so well for the last several years.
When I started, I quoted President Johnson, ďWe should build for tomorrow in the immediacy of today.Ē I told you that when he spoke those words in the early í60s, it was in the full flush of what was at that time the longest economic expansion in history. In February, when we celebrated the longest economic expansion in history, I asked my economic team when the last longest expansion was. They told me it was í61 to í69. I got to thinking about that. We tend to think about yesterday, I suppose, as we get older. But while I think we should keep focused on the future, we shouldnít forget the past.
There is a tendency, when youíre in the middle of a boom like this, to think that you have to do nothing to shore it up, that it will last forever and that there are relatively few consequences to whatever you decide to do or not to do. So, indulge me just for a moment before I take your questions, and let me remind you of what happened during the last longest economic expansion in history.
Johnson was here, speaking to this group in the early í60s, about the time I graduated from high school in 1964. Unemployment was low. Inflation was low. Growth was high. Vietnam was somewhere in the outer range of our consciousness. No one expected the country to be rendered by that conflict. No one really doubted we would win the Cold War, because our ideas were superior and our values were superior. And, at the time, we had a serious civil rights challenge, but most people believed, in the optimism of the moment, that it would be solved in Congress and in the courts in a peaceful manner.
A year later, we had Bloody Sunday in Selma. Two years later, we had riots in the streets. Four years later, I was here in Washington graduating from college, two days after Robert Kennedy was killed, two months after Martin Luther King was killed, and nine weeks after Lyndon Johnson said he couldnít run for president anymore because the country was split right down the middle over the Vietnam War. And so we had a presidential election with three candidates amidst all the turmoil of the moment, and in a few months, the longest economic expansion in American history was over.
If I seem insistent about this, itís because ó not as president, but as a citizen ó I have waited for 35 years for my country to have the chance to build the future of its dreams for our children, and to have the kind of positive role in the world I believe we can now have. I have worked as hard as I can to turn the situation around and get us pointed in the right direction. And I just donít want us to do anything to squander this moment, as it was once squandered before in my youth.
We have a chance that none of us may ever see again in our lifetimes. We have to make the most of it for our children.
Thank you very much.
Anderson: Thank you, Mr. President. The presidentís time is very limited, but he has graciously agreed to take three questions. So, letís begin with Margaret, please.
Margaret M. Sullivan, The Buffalo (N.Y.) News: Mr. President, first of all, as a New Yorker, although Chappaqua is a few miles from Buffalo, where Iím the editor of The Buffalo News, I wanted to say welcome to the neighborhood.
Yesterday, Vice President Gore answered a question before this group about whether he would, if elected, use the power of the presidency to pardon you in relation to the investigations being pursued by the independent prosecutor. He said you had said that you would not accept such a pardon by your successor. It turns out you didnít exactly say that yourself, not publicly. So, we seem to have a rather public forum here. Would you request or accept such a pardon?
Clinton: The answer is I have no interest in it. I wouldnít ask for it, and I donít think it would be necessary. I think itís interesting that you would ask that question without going through the facts here. Let me remind you that there was a truly independent review of the whole Whitewater matter ó which was concluded four years ago, in 1996, by a predominantly Republican law firm for the Resolution Trust Corporation ó that said neither my wife nor I did anything wrong.
If you want to know whatís really been going on, you have a good book here, Mr. Toobinís book; and you have the Joe Conason and Gene Lyons book, which explains how this all happened. There are independent counsels, and then there are special counsels. The independent review was over in í96. So, I wonít be surprised by anything that happens, but Iím not interested in being pardoned.
During the House Judiciary Committee hearings there were five prosecutors, former prosecutors, including two Republicans, who said that no prosecutor would even entertain bringing any kind of criminal charges against an ordinary citizen like this. But something has fundamentally changed in the last seven years about how the counsels were appointed and who they were and what their priorities were. And no one has written the full story yet. I can imagine why you wouldnít ó particularly given the way a lot of this has been covered.
But the answer is, no, I donít have any interest in that. I donít want one, and I am prepared to stand before any bar of justice I have to stand before. But I would like just once to see someone acknowledge the fact that this Whitewater thing was a lie and a fraud from the beginning and that most people with any responsibility over it have known it for years.
Brian K. Stallcop, The Sun, Bremerton, Wash.: Mr. President, you spent the last several minutes talking about what I think you hope will be your legacy as president. I wonder if you would think ahead five years from now, when you open your presidential library and all the living presidents are there with you. Will there be a wing in your presidential library to your impeachment trial, to that whole era of your presidency?
Clinton: Yes, weíll deal with it, and I will deal with it. Itís an important part of it. But I have a slightly different take on it than many of you do ó or at least than the Washington media does. I made a terrible personal mistake. I think I have paid for it. I settled a lawsuit that I won. I won that lawsuit, remember? I settled it anyway, because of the political nature of the people who were reviewing it. I gave away half of my lifeís savings to settle a lawsuit I had won because I wanted to go back to work being president. And we now know that the questions asked were asked in bad faith, because they knew the answer and they knew it had nothing to do with the lawsuit ó something hardly anybody ever points out. So, I think Iíve paid quite a lot. I struggled very hard to save my relationship with my wife and my daughter. I have paid quite a lot.
But on the impeachment, let me tell you, I am proud of what we did there, because I think we saved the Constitution of the United States. First of all, I had to defeat the Republican revolution in 1994, when they shut down the government, and we beat back the Contract on America. Then we had to beat it in the impeachment issue. Then we had to beat it when I vetoed the tax cut last year. Then the voters had their verdict in the 1998 election and in the 1996 election.
But as a political matter, Iím not ashamed of the fact that they impeached me. That was their decision, not mine. And it was wrong. As a matter of law, Constitution and history, it was wrong. And I am glad I didnít quit, and Iím glad we fought it. And the American people stuck with me, and I am profoundly grateful.
That has nothing to do with the fact that I made a terrible mistake, of which I am deeply regretful. But I think that an average, ordinary person reviewing the wreckage left in that would say that I paid for that. And I should have paid for it. We all pay for our mistakes.
Iíll deal with the impeachment. But you have to understand, I consider it one of the major chapters in my defeat of the revolution Mr. Gingrich led that would have taken this country in a very different direction than itís going today and would have changed the Constitution forever, in a way that would have been very destructive to the American people.
Edward L. Seaton, The Manhattan (Kans.) Mercury: I want to turn to the news events of today. The attorney general has set a 2 p.m. deadline for the Miami relatives to turn Elian Gonzalez over to his father. Is your administration prepared to send federal marshals in to make that happen?
Clinton: Well, first of all, let me say this: Attorney General Reno has done her best to try to resolve this in a peaceable way. This has been a very painful situation for her, personally, because she was the prosecuting attorney in Dade County for 12 years. She knows a lot of the people involved in this, and she went there to try to handle this, personally. She hopes, and I still hope, it wonít come to that. Since sheís on-site and events are unfolding almost by the minute, I think I should let her address what weíre going to do and when weíre going to do it. I think thatís the best thing to do, because I havenít talked to her today about it.
The issue here for me is the rule of law. We have a system. If you donít think itís right, then you can say we ought to change the laws. But we have a legal system, and it has been followed. The decision that Elian Gonzalezís father is a devoted and fit father and it is proper for him to make decisions for his minor son was ratified in a District Court and is now on appeal to a Court of Appeals. None of the courts have granted any kind of interim relief, which would justify opposition to the plain rule of law. So, to me, this case is about the rule of law. Iíve done everything I could to stay out of it, to avoid politicizing it. But I do believe that it is our responsibility to uphold the law, and weíre doing our best to do that.
Tom Koenninger, The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.: Mr. President, this organization, ASNE, takes pride in receiving constructive criticism from its readers. As a reader of Americaís newspapers, I would like to offer you the opportunity now to provide your constructive criticism. And Iím speaking of newspaper and wire service coverage, not broadcast media.
Clinton: Well, the only difference between me giving you constructive criticism and somebody writing a letter to the editor to give you constructive criticism is that what Iíll get for my constructive criticism is a bomb on the head. I realize Iím not running for anything, but Iím not totally dumb here.
Koenninger: This is your last opportunity, though, to address us.
Clinton: No, itís not my last opportunity, itís just the last opportunity Iíll have when anybody will pay any attention to me. Itís ironic, you know, when I can say what I think, nobody will care anymore.
I think the most I should say ó I think itís hard to run a newspaper today in an environment in which youíre competing with television news, Internet news, radio news, and entertainment, which abuts on the news, and all the lines are being blurred, both the technological lines and the categorical lines.
I think there is a special role for the old-fashioned newspaper in daily life, although itís interesting that the papers that are being made smaller, more readable, are also put on the Net. I think thatís very good. I think you ought to maximize that. But it seems to me that one of the things that you have to fight against that Iíve often felt happened here over the last seven years is getting stuck in a place that amplifies the sensational and the emotional, which carves out a certain market share in the short run, but may undermine the fundamental purpose of a newspaper over the long run.
I think itís really quite challenging to run a good, old-fashioned newspaper, where youíve got the news stories on the front page, and the editorial opinion on the editorial page, and you donít really mix the two. You donít try to get caught up in a given point of view on a big story, and then have to keep grinding it and pushing it, no matter what, because thatís whatís driving the place youíve marked out for yourself in an increasingly competitive market.
I donít know what the answer to that is, but Iím an old-fashioned person. I hate to say this ó itíll get me in trouble with the networks, and I need the exposure still ó but because of my schedule, usually my only source of news is the newspaper. Iím sort of a troglodyte media person. I actually sit down and read the papers. Normally, Iím not home at the time of the evening news, so I watch CNN a lot because I can get it any time of the day or night.
But I have thought about their dilemma. The networks also have real challenges. And I think this whole communications revolution, which I think on balance is an exceedingly positive thing, runs the risk of giving people more information than they have ever had before without adequate perspective or framework or balance or background or back-and-forth.
I still think the editorial and op-ed pages of newspapers ó where the editorial pages may be consistent and forthright, but youíve got people on the other pages with different opinions or even writing about subjects different from the ones editors have time to write editorials about ó are great. I think theyíre very helpful.
The thing I worry most about is that people will have all the information in the world, but they wonít have any way of evaluating whether itís true or false, or, even if itís true, how to put it in proper perspective. Thatís what I consider to be the single most significant challenge presented to all of you by the explosion of media outlets and competitive alternatives in the Information Age.
On balance, I think itís a plus. People are smart, and they nearly always get it right, which is why our democracy is around after more than 200 years. They nearly always kind of get it right if they have enough time. But still, Iíll just give you an example. When the full sequencing of the human genome is announced in a few months, how much will it cost you to run a long series on exactly what that is, what its implications might be, how it came to be, and where weíre going from here? How many people have to read it for it to have been worth the investment? What opportunity costs did you forego? Then, when things start to happen, spinning out of the human genome, how are you going to deal with that?
Thatís just one example. I think newspapers actually are going to become more and more important again, because so much of what people will have to absorb about the new century will be advances in science and technology, and thatís very hard to put into the time constraints of an evening news program, and I think they will have all kinds of political and social ramifications as they unfold. So, in a funny way, even if you feel beleaguered now, the nature of what is unfolding may make newspapers ó and old-fashioned newspaper work ó more important in the next few years.
The information revolution and the changes in media structure have presented you with a lot of very difficult challenges. If I were you, rather than asking me what my criticism is, Iíd try to have an organized, honest discussion about how the fundamental purpose of the newspaper can be maintained and still make enough money to stay afloat. Somebody needs to organize and give perspective to all this information and opinions, all the stuff weíre flooded with. I think itís very, very important.
I wish I were in your position. I wish I could do it, because many times Iíve thought about how hard it is for you. I wish you well, because itís really important. People need more than facts. They need to know the facts are accurate, and they need to understand in some perspective about what it means and where itís all going.
Thank you very much.
Anderson: Mr. President, on behalf of all of these troglodytes, thank you so very much. One more little bit of trivia, and that is that every year you have been in this country, you have come to this convention during your eight years in office. Weíre very grateful for that and for the time youíve spent with us today.
Clinton: Thank you.
Anderson: Ladies and gentlemen, please continue with your lunches while I make some introductions. It is my privilege this afternoon to honor the editors who have worked so tirelessly on behalf of our organization this past year. I think some of our successes are evident in this convention in so many ways, and they would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of the folks here at the head table. They are the people who answered my call to become committee chairs, and I have to say that they have been superb.
The first person I want to recognize is the chair of this yearís Convention Program Committee, Karla Garrett Harshaw of the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun. I told Karla that one reason I selected her was because, as the week would be winding down and various things had gone wrong, I knew that she would still be smiling. And she is. Youíve seen so many of the results of her outstanding work and the work of her committee. We still have some more ahead. From my standpoint, we could not have had a more tireless or creative person working in this role, and, as my kids know, we have a saying at our school, much is asked and more will have to be given. So Karla, thank you. Thank you very much.
The rest of the folks did an awful lot of work this year, as well. Starting next to Karla are Sharon Rosenhause, The American Editor; Earl Maucker, The American Editor; Frank Denton, Coverage and Content; Wanda Lloyd, Diversity; Ken Bunting, Education for Journalism; Judy Pace Christie, Ethics and Values; Paul Tash, ending two years as chair of Freedom of Information; and Jane Amari, Interactive Media.
Continuing on my left are Tim McGuire, a guy who was responsible for circulation, also known as Membership; Jeannine Guttman, Management and Human Resources; Thom Greer, who stepped in in the middle of the year as chair of Nominations, upon the death of Ted Natt; Dave Zeeck, Partnerships and Diversification; Sandy Rowe, Writing Awards Board; and Greg Moore, International, who is doing double duty this year as convention press chair, as well. Please join me in thanking this great team.
There are three other editors who have assumed important roles at this convention, and I want to add them to our recognition. Mark Vaschť chaired the Floor Managers; John X. Miller was editor of The ASNE Reporter; and Marty Kaiser chaired the Election Judges. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Again, we want to thank our sponsors who are responsible for more than 10 percent of ASNEís annual income. It is such crucial support, and we are very grateful for it. Today, we want to especially thank our luncheon sponsor, Tribune Media Services, represented here by David Williams, president, and vice president, Walter Mahoney.
I also want to recognize someone who is really important to me, personally. Tonight, Freedom Communications will sponsor the reception, and Iíd like you to recognize my boss, Sam Wolgemuth.
For so many years, 50 of them to be precise, a very special person gave the gift of humor, at the same time prodding some deep thought, to the readers of our newspapers. Truth be told, he gave some of us who are maybe a little cynical at times a bit of escape from our daily trials, as well. Here is Gregory Favre ó heís not the guy Iím talking about ó 1994-95 president of this society, with a tribute to that man.
Gregory Favre, The McClatchy Co.: As Chris said, 50 years ago a little guy in a zigzag sweater, named Charlie Brown, entered our lives and brought a bunch of his friends with him. The funny pages and the world of comics have never been the same since. Now, 50 years later we are here to celebrate the life and the genius of the man who created Charlie and his gang, Charles ďSparkyĒ Schulz. From a less than modest beginning of seven clients, Peanuts ultimately appeared in 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries, reaching an audience of 355 million and giving birth to a billion-dollar industry. Add to that TV specials and a Broadway show and even space modules bearing the names of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
What a wonderful ride for five decades for a man who never forgot what it was like to be a kid, who understood so well the fears and the hopes and the dreams and the imaginations of children and was able to capture those emotions day after day. As President Clinton said of Mr. Schulz, ďFor 50 years his keen eye, his good and generous heart, and his active brush and pen have given life to the most memorable cast of characters ever to enliven our daily papers.Ē As Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes said, ďIt may seem strange that there are no adults in Peanutsí world, but in asking us to identify only with children, Schulz reminded us that our fears and our insecurities are not much different when we grow up.Ē Charlie Brown never could kick that football. He hit only one home run in 50 years. And that little redheaded girl remained a dream, but he never gave up hope. It has been said that, like Charlie Brown, Charles Schulz never did become a successful flyer of kites. What he did do was bring a little bit of the gospel, a little bit of psychology, a little bit of philosophy and a whole lot about the human condition into our pages. Cathy Guisewite of Cathy put it this way, ďHe gave everyone in the world characters who knew exactly how all of us felt, who made us feel we were never alone.Ē His images and his words his gentle humor and his wisdom will echo in our hearts and in our minds for years and years to come.
Shortly after Mr. Shultz announced that he would stop Peanuts, a friend asked whether I thought he should print the classics. At that moment I remembered those great lines from Harper Leeís book, ďItís a sin to kill a mockingbird. Ö [They] donít do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.Ē It would be a sin to kill Peanuts, because all it does is bring us joy and wonderment and a daily smile in a world filled too often with tears ó a world in which Lucy would do a landslide business at her sidewalk psychiatric stand.
So, let Charlie Brown and his gang live forever, entertaining generation after generation with a universal message, and let the memory of Charles ďSparkyĒ Schulz live forever with them. We owe them, and we owe him nothing less.
Now, before we see a tribute video on Mr. Schulz produced by his syndicate, United Media, ASNE takes this opportunity to present to the Schulz family a token of our appreciation. Mrs. Schulz is unable to be with us today because she is not traveling during this period of mourning, but we will hear from her in a moment on the video. Accepting for the Schulz family is Sid Goldberg, senior vice president and general manager of United Media. Sid, this is a token of our appreciation. The nib on this pen was used by Mr. Schulz to draw Peanuts. It says ďCharles Schulz, 1922-2000. His pen brought joy to millions. April 13, 2000, ASNE.Ē Please accept this for the Schulz family with our great, great appreciation.
Sidney Goldberg, United Media: Gregory, thanks for those wonderful remarks. This will find a good home at the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Favre: May we have the video, please?
Video presentation (not transcribed)
Anderson: Thank you Gregory. Thank you Sid. Clearly, Charles Schulz is an inspiration to generations, and I think you for that warm and wonderful way for us to remember him.
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