Carolina Journal; Interview with Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas
A production of the South Carolina Educational Television Network.
Tonight on Carolina Journal of Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas Lt.. Is our guest.
Good evening everyone I'm Tom Fowler. Tonight we will continue our series with candidates and potential candidates for president. Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas is considering a run but has not formally announced. He now serves in his fourth term as governor of Arkansas. On the second person in Arkansas history to be elected to four terms Arkansas all passed its education improvement act over a year before South Carolina. Governor Clinton has served as chairman of the National Governors Association and chairman of the Education Commission of the states. He's married has a child in public school. As a graduate of Georgetown University Yale Law School and he's a Rhodes scholar. This interview was taped Saturday. Friday night Governor Clinton spoke to an alumni meeting of the leadership South Carolina in Columbia. Welcome to South Carolina. Thank you I'm glad to be here. You have not formally announced the president thanking about that should you make that decision what would be key factors.
Well the reason I haven't announced yet. Are there the reasons are basically two. One is I don't know whether you can be a governor a sitting governor and run for president and keep faith with the people at home. Governor Cuomo decided he could not. Governor Dukakis decided he could. But not since Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 has a sitting governor been elected president because of the kind of crazy system we have the Iowa caucuses the New Hampshire primary and then of course Super Tuesday should help to rationalize that a little bit and then you're coming on the Saturday after the Tuesday so I'm trying to work that out. And the second question is Is it too late there are eight candidates in there some of them been in for two three four years. I'm working going around the south talking to people telling people what I feel needs to be done what I think the Democratic Party should stand for in 1998 getting a response and at the same time working feverishly at home to try to solve some of our problems and to reconcile that first question. You know you've got to know that you can keep faith with the folks who put you in a position to run first place.
What are the people telling you Michael.
Well I've asked the people to write me or call and say what they think and ask him to write me if they disagree or if they agree. And the mail is running about 6 to 1 in favor of running now which is a little surprising to me because we do have some serious problems all the states in the middle of the country and especially in the southern portion of the middle of the country or in real tough shape. Budget wise economically and otherwise so I think it's very gratifying to me that that kind of support has been there.
You mentioned Super Tuesday we face a unique year in presidential campaigns with the first time we have a Super Tuesday in the potential it holds for the South to decisively affect both party's nominating process. What about Super Tuesday what are your thoughts on that and whether that will be the decisive factor and the power the south will hold because of that.
I don't think anyone knows because all the southern states are different it's not necessarily a given is that that North Carolina and Arkansas will vote the same way. Are that in the next Saturday following South Carolina and Virginia will vote the way everybody else did. Some of the primaries are open some are closed that lead to different results in 84. Some of the primaries have local elections and others don't that will determine how many moderate to conservative white independent voters vote in the Democratic primary as opposed to the Republican primary. We don't know how Jackson is going to do. What percentage of black voters will vote for him what percentage of black voters will consider another candidate. So I think that the truth is that no one knows but it certainly will enhance the attention that the candidates give the south and that it will enhance the amount of learning the non-southerners do about the South. Last year I chaired the southern girl Policy Board and we issued the Commission on the future of the south report as we do every six years. I want everybody who wants to be president to know as much about our region as I do it as I learned last year. And the Democrats simply can't win the White House without carrying the south. The numbers aren't there so I think that in no matter who wins or loses or no matter whether or not the results are decisive the fact that the process will unfold on Tuesday and then again to a lesser extent on the following Saturday guarantees that the Democratic leadership will know about the South in a way they've not had to know about in a long time.
Do you believe the front runner following Super Tuesday will be the nominee.
I don't know. I don't know because I think the likelihood is that he will but it depends on how far in front. It depends a lot of things. I think the more interesting question is whether or not the media exposure and the political writers interpretation of the results of Iowa and New Hampshire will narrow the choices of the South in Super Tuesday. To me that's the more interesting question because if that happens then the whole purpose of Super Tuesday could be undermined because people will be eliminated by the failure to get exposure. After I were in New Hampshire. So somebody will be eliminated who might run very well in November in the south in the general election.
What would be the game plan of a long shot candidate one not merely current front runner categories. That game plan from Iowa to Super Tuesday.
Well I think first of all if you're in our last or next to last you have to have a message you have to know what you believe the national government should do what you're calling people of the state and local level of the what you think the fundamental purposes of the national government are how you want the people to relate to it. Reagan wrought a minor revolution in American politics by giving people a different theory of what the government should do and shouldn't do. If the Democrats are going to come back in we have to demonstrate what we want to be done. And if you enter late or almost last you've got to have that message if you are first it can be like I want to present student body to say well nobody else is in this race I'd like Allah. And I think that it's been my experience at least over time that that the most important thing in politics is not money not organization those things flow from the innate appeal that a candidate or the candidate's message has. And I've been working hard on trying to simplify the extraordinarily complex problems we face and to explain that to people the way I see it. I hope I can get their assent. And that's important to me whether or not Iran I think it's very important the American people come to grips with these massive potential and actual economic and social problems we have and reach some conclusions about the responsibility of our country to deal with them.
Why don't you pick the one you think is the toughest most troublesome for our country. Give us an idea of what you like about it.
Let me say I think really there are two and I think they. You can't deal with one without the other. Our country is now in the final stages of a kind of a curious period of expansion and recession at the same time we became the largest debtor in the world last year. We've had big trade deficits big government deficits. We are increasingly unable to compete in some areas of the world economy. Japan now has most of the money in the world. Seven of the biggest banks. We can't rely on farmers to buy us out anymore even India exported rice and wheat in world markets for the first time in 1985. And if we want to continue to be a leader in the world in terms of our standard of living which is a precondition of our leading the world politically militarily. We have to have better economic policies and we have to have better people policies. And I think both of them have to be premised on a frank admission that we can't say the national governments are evil. We do have a role for government in our lives. The old Democratic coalition talk about what government should do for people. President Reagan came in talking about what government does to people. I think that we Nasheed be talking about what government has to do with people. I think we have to frankly say that the American government has to work more with other countries to solve problems abroad. We can't do it alone. And within the United States people have to work together more we've got to rebuild a sense of community and we have to say to people you cannot assert that you have a right to anything from the government without accepting a corresponding responsibility. So in capsule form that's what I think the framework for the debate is to promote economic growth by developing the capacity of our people and by for motoring growth abroad that's where we have growth at home. And if you want to ask any specific question about trade or currencies or in our relationship with Pan our adult illiteracy or welfare reform all things I work on education reform. I can answer them all within that framework. But that's what we have to say. We're going to be for growth growth is the source of our strength. Growth at home growth abroad to do it we have to do a much better job of developing our people in their capacities. We have to do a much better job of working with other countries to make sure that we can open the channels of growth. Right now what we've been doing for five years is slowly but surely closing off our markets closing off the Japanese have refused absolutely to assume their responsibilities. The Latin American countries which used to be great markets for us are totally burdened by debt they'll never pay off. And we've gotten the world in a terrible fix. And the chickens are about to come home to roost next prez it's going to have a very tough job but I think it's doable.
Why do you think we're moving to an economy where we are consuming things and paying for it with debt that other nations produce with money other nations lend us. What would you do if you were president to turn around this spiral spiral downward.
First of all it's not all bad. Let's talk about what is not all bad about it. It's obvious that some of it's bad. If we are a big powerful country with a strong market and we can get some things less expensively abroad then we can hear things which enable our lower income people especially to have a higher standard of living. It's not all bad for us to have a market that we're not totally saturated with the whole production and that can be good. The problem is that we have want to consume too much and been willing to go totally into debt for it and then ask our children and grandchildren to pay for it. And as a consequence we have invested too little in our own productive capacity so that Europe Japan the newly industrialized countries and Asia all have higher productivity growth rates than we do. And so what we need to do is to slowly because we can't do it overnight. Reduce the government deficit bring down interest rates keep the value of the dollar down and adopt policies which disk encourage investment for the long run at the expense of some short term consumption so that we can get higher productivity growth rates at the same time. We've got to enable the rest of the world to grow. So that they'll provide markets for us. If you get an arms control agreement with the Russians It has integrity. They can spend less on the fence. So can we. They'll buy more of our foreign products if we can work this trade problem we got out with the Japanese they can help us finance a third world debt and they should consume more at home means more markets for the United States less imports from Japan because they'll use more of their own thing. If you can resolve the Third World debt problem in Latin America they will export fewer soybeans and less steel which hurts us and they'll import more of our products. Those are the kinds of things that have to be done.
Do you think it's possible for Japanese leadership with their constituency at home to do something which is going to be in our benefit as far as trade reducing their trade surplus not just in our benefit it's in theirs.
I mean they're still acting like they were a poor little country you know that. That has to save everything it can save can't allow other people to consume it all has to keep artificial barriers up to trade and it's and their country. The barriers to trade in their country are not responsible for most of our deficit no more than 20 percent of our trade deficit with Japan is really is attributable to the barriers they've got. But they need to open those barriers. They need to let their people consume more. And if they don't then the whole system's going to come down around their ears keeping money the way they got as rich as they are is because we all the rest of us open our markets to them and because they work hard to develop their people's capacity we need to learn from them. About working hard in developing our people's capacity they need to learn from us. That once you become a great power economically you have to invest your money around the world you have to promote economic growth around the world and you can't just keep it all to yourself. So we're going to have to work very hard to bring them into a constructive partnership. Otherwise the two of us fallen out could provoke a war out recession which would hurt us and hurt them where everyone would be the loser.
There are renewed fears of an economic collapse we're seeing in that Newsweek at a major article which they had a number of the buzzwords depression collapse crash with experts quoted. Is this a self-fulfilling prophesy or are we at that brink or is this media hype.
A little of both a little of its media hype because we have certain undergirding set for the world economic system we didn't have in the 20s when everything fell apart. On the other hand I think we ought to be frankly willing to face the fact that we could have a severe worldwide recession. We're just teetering now. Our country has a lot of serious problems our dollars got a 40 year low against the end after being overvalued for four and a half years it's now in danger of being undervalued. If our dollar goes much lower no one will buy it abroad no one will invest in American currency. We won't be getting any foreign money to finance our government debt in our private borrowing. The only way we can do within is either to reduce the deficit. Of course I favor or print more money which means inflation and even higher interest rates. And if we get out of here things get out of hand here and if we keep falling out with the Japanese then what you could do is just put the brakes on the economy worldwide and we'd have a terrible terrible situation. Now I think the more important question is how do we avoid this. How does somebody look at this program tonight that never thinks about the economic problems of Argentina or Brazil or only knows that Japan sells us more than they buy from us. How do they relate all this personally to this. And that's what I've been trying to do. We got to somehow convince the American people that we have to get our own economic house in order and we have to work out these problems with other countries. And we've got to really go to work on developing the capacity of our people whether they're poor black children in rural Arkansas South Carolina are the brightest kids from the suburbs and outside Detroit Michigan we have got to develop the capacity of our people. And if it is now in everyone's interest not just parents interest that the capacity of all the children in this country is developed. It's in everyone's interest that America promote economic growth around the world because that's what gives us growth at home. That's the message the Democratic Party has to preach.
And if we pretend that all of our problems were caused by somebody else somewhere else it can be solved by bad mouth and somebody else somewhere else. We're just in a terrible disservice to the American people.
There's another aspect of our society's nature today we have the the PTL scandal we have the Rand gate or contra gate we have arrests and probes on Wall Street. Are these an indication of a failure of moral leadership or of a downgrading of our moral fabric in this country.
Well first of all I think obviously they're an indication of a failure of moral leadership. But I think it's important not to read too much into it.
I don't like people who wear the hair shirt of the you know they take one thing that happens and then I make it into a big deal that there are some terrible things going on in this country today. It's crazy when we need more investment capital for example and we need to reward success. That you've got General Motors given the management people a big increase in giving the workers no increase in the stockholders no increase when a company is losing money that's nuts. On the other hand you have companies like Nucor Steel they got a mill in South Carolina mill in Arkansas sharing all their profits with the worker so that a lot of good things going on. Yes it's terrible that you had the PTL scandal but you also had the lowest divorce rate in the country. Last year you had the high school dropout rate going down teen pregnancy rate among black kids has been going down for three years. A lot of evidence that where there's a local effort drug and alcohol abuse is going down among kids. So I think that we're beginning to pull back together as a country. And I think the president should be talking about making the good things happen and we shouldn't overstate this I think the Iran gate thing was stupid and wrong. But we've had governmental abuse like that before and probably will again. It's important not to say the system is rotten the system is capable of solving the problems and unleashing the energies the American people if we push it in the right direction.
As a random contra story unfolds what does that say to you about the way President Reagan ran the shop.
That he made two errors in his second term and the way he organized the White House era Number one it was in not keeping up with the details enough. You can overdo it people say Jimmy Carter overdid it it was too involved in too many details. But you have to have a pretty good grip on the big things and that's a big deal. So we should know more about the second error maybe even more important the first is that he did not organize his team in a way that compensated for his own weaknesses in the first term he was very successful politically because Jim Bakker was his chief of staff. He was a good middle of the road moderate sensible practical Republican who covered Reagan's excesses if you will his ideological excesses by not letting people who agreed with the media logically go too far. He protected the president in his second term Donnel Reagan didn't do that for him. And I think one of the most important things any president can do and I'd like to see this forthrightly discussed in the campaign whether Iran or not and I bet you never will be is to say to people. Here's how I'm going to try to organize a White House and one of the key things is going to be here's what I'm not very good at so I need somebody in the administration who's good where I'm weak. The only really only way a president strengths can flower is if someone else is protecting his weaknesses and the successful White House organizations have done that. If you go back to Nixon's time one of his big problems was he had all those guys around him who had the same mindset he did and really not trusting people and thinking the worst in people. And nobody had any kind of sense of humor if you eat at Will Rogers in the White House staff of Richard Nixon. It had Will Rodgers in the top four or five positions in the White House. Will Rogers would have said when Watergate was brought up are you kidding me. And he probably said some other things I can't say on television. And it might not have happened. So that's those are the two things I learned from reading it. He didn't protect himself from his own weaknesses. He didn't know enough about the details of important policy.
You mention President Carter's penchant for detailed he's been criticized for that. President Reagan's been criticized for not giving enough attention to detail. What is your style.
My inclination is probably to get into too much detail. I spend hours reading but what I try to do is to do it at times when I couldn't be in contact with others. Like when I'm traveling or early in the morning or late at night or something I think one of the things that Jimmy Carter did well was to relate to people one on one. And when he got into the White House he spent too many hours. And I say this sport and I say this respectfully but he spent too many hours reviewing the paperwork alone and thinking through and making policy decisions alone instead of sort of using the resonance of personality and personal relationships to inspire a lot of people who could have implemented his policies protected him better and build support for him around the country. Jack Kennedy was a master at that and he read a lot and quickly. But he also ran his White House sort of like he often said that he and his chief of staff were the hub of a wheel and all of his aides were spokes and then they radiated out more. So I think that you have to you have to work hard to master the details of things I think maybe President Carter got too involved in too many issues. But your priorities what you set your priorities you got to have a grasp of them. Then you have to find a way to to reach out to the country involve them.
One of the present cars parties was resolved the Middle East situation the crisis there. Recent news accounts say that there is perhaps the beginnings of an Israeli Jordanian talks with an international conference and there is also news account saying that could split the unity government and Israel over that issue of international conference in discussing the West Bank issues. What are your feelings on that on that long running difficult issue. The National Conference in resolution the West Bank.
Well first of all let me say what I think our priorities should be and order in the Middle East. And they will eventually run together. I think first of all we have to realize it's a very volatile divided region which has been fighting over for a long period of time. And that at any given time there are different capacities and states to reach agreements so our first priority is to try to keep anything from happening keep something bad from happening. Secondly we've got to try to keep the state of Israel secure. Thirdly we've got to try to resolve the problem and make something good happen if we can. The death of Anwar Sadat was a terrible tragedy for the prospects of ultimate peace in the Middle East. Because he was the only person in the region that had the political leverage not only within his own country but in reaching out to others to try to bring it together. I think now it is obvious that there has to be some report between Jordan and Israel if there is any hope of a permanent solution. The problem is in the last six years. The internal politics of Israel has changed and the factions have sort of hardened. So I would encourage them to talk and I think they ought to talk. And I think that we they've got to reach out to the Jordanians and we should support that recognizing that the unity government might come apart at the seams over and that if it goes too far we have to remember that before we can make something good happen we've got to make Israel feel secure in its existence. And we've got to try to keep anything worse from happening. You look at what's happened in the Lebanon and you can see sort of the darkest side of what happens with you if you forget about keeping bad things from happening and start working on just taking initiatives in a medical conference last week in Charleston South Carolina physicians packed a hall to hear the latest about AIDS research and what that disease is to do in this state.
People are beginning to get very worried about that they say to the states and nationwide if you were president what would you do as an initiative to confront this problem.
Well I think President Reagan's a surgeon general has given us some pretty good guidelines. I would first of all try to reach a decision about whether the federal government was spending enough money on research and development.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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- Interview with Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas, who was in his fourth term as the state's governor and was considering a run for the democratic nomination for president.
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Interviewee: Clinton, Bill, 1946-
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South Carolina Network (SCETV) (WRLK)
Identifier: N00580 (SCETV Reel Number)
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- Chicago: “Carolina Journal; Interview with Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas,” 1987-05-02, South Carolina ETV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 16, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_41-881jxfq8.
- MLA: “Carolina Journal; Interview with Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas.” 1987-05-02. South Carolina ETV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 16, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_41-881jxfq8>.
- APA: Carolina Journal; Interview with Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas. Boston, MA: South Carolina ETV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_41-881jxfq8