Clinton Accuses GOP of ‘Hostility’ to Vital Government Programs
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton accused congressional Republicans today of attitudes and spending targets that display ``outright hostility″ to needed government programs. He said their spending cuts ``appear to me to target children″ in order to pay for upper-income tax cuts.
He countered a House GOP challenge to produce a seven-year plan for a balanced budget by saying he’ll stand on the budget he’s already sent to Congress. ``I am going to wait now until they do their constitutional duty,″ he said, and produce one of their own.
While he was drawing those sharp political lines at a new conference, he then said there should be a stop to the early campaigning for the 1996 presidential election; three Republicans already have declared candidacy, with more to come.
Clinton said the world is safer and the economy stronger since he came to office. ``I think that’s a pretty good record, and I’m willing to put it up against all that kind of name-calling,″ he said.
When a questioner reminded Clinton that he’d promised the most ethical administration in history, he said that for all the investigations, there had been no proven wrongdoing by him or his Cabinet members.
Clinton faces an investigation over Whitewater, his Arkansas land dealings, and the financing of his campaigns for governor there. ``We live in a time when the first thing people call for is a special counsel,″ he said. ``... I’ve told the American people that I didn’t do anything wrong, and I’ve told them the truth,″ he said.
There are investigations under way involving three Cabinet members, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, resigned Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, and Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros.
Clinton said proliferating investigations and special prosecutors hurt the government’s ability to attract talented people to Washington.
``Is this really the way we should be running a democracy?″ he asked.
Clinton said if there is to be a cleanup in Washington, there should be reform of the lobbying laws.
Clinton also said he was confident the Russian parliament would ratify the START II nuclear disarmament treaty.
He said for years there have been gloomy predictions about what the U.S. Congress and other legislative bodies around the world would or would not do.
``In the end, the democracies normally end up doing the right thing and moving forward on these issues,″ Clinton said.
He said the need to resolve the issue was one reason it is important to keep up relations with Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s government.
Clinton said the United States was developing contingency plans under which U.S. troops could help withdraw U.N. peacekeepers from Croatia if President Franjo Tudjman follows through on plans to oust them after their mandate expires at the end of the month. At the same time, however, Clinton said he continues to work to avoid ``a long-term commitment of American ground troops″ in the former Yugoslavia.
The president took questions for nearly 45 minutes, a broadcast and televised session tinged by politics, despite his suggestion that politics should wait until later.
Clinton has said he will seek a second term in 1996; Republicans are mobilizing to use Democratic opposition to the rejected balanced budget amendment against him and senators who said no.
Sen. Bob Dole, the Senate Republican leader and an undeclared candidate to challenge Clinton next year, has accused him of abdicating the responsibility to chart a way to balanced budgets.
Clinton retorted that Dole has been in Washington for 30 years, and ``when I got here policies supported by his presidents and deficits run up by his presidents had given the country a $4 trillion debt.″
He said he’d already cut deficits, reduced the size of government, and still maintained programs for the future, especially those affecint children.
The president said he wants to work with the Republicans to solve problems, and let the campaign wait. ``I think we should relax and do it,″ he said.
Later, asked whether he might face a challenger for renomination, Clinton hedged but said he hoped it wouldn’t happen. ``I don’t expect it, I don’t not expect it,″ he said. ``I hope there isn’t. I think it would be a mistake for the Democratic Party.″
On other issues, Clinton said:
_He talked with Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell before the Colorado senator switched from the Democratic Party to become the 56th Republican in the Senate earlier today. ``I wish he hadn’t done it,″ Clinton said, adding that he had no reason to believe there would be any other Democratic defections.
_He hasn’t drawn any conclusions yet on whether changes are needed in affirmative action programs, which are under Republican assault. Clinton has ordered a review of such requirements. But he questioned effectiveness of rules that set aside some federal contracts for minority-led companies. ``It’s difficult to draw a conclusion that they even do what they were intended to do in the first place,″ he said.
_There has been no date set for a summit meeting with Yeltsin in Moscow, but only because of ``scheduling complications″ and he intends to proceed with it.
_Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo is ``moving in the right direction″ to deal with the economic crisis that ``turned out to be more difficult and more thorny than originally had been thought.″ Clinton committed U.S. backing for loans to shore up the Mexican peso.