WASHINGTON -- President Clinton, making a renewed pitch for ratification of a treaty banning chemical weapons worldwide, beseeched the Senate yesterday to pass it, warning that failure to do so would put the United States "in the company of pariah nations."
"America took the lead in negotiating the Chemical Weapons Convention, first the Reagan administration, then the Bush administration," Clinton said.
"America should stand with those who want to destroy chemical weapons, not with those who would defy the international community."
The vote is scheduled for April 24, five days before the treaty takes effect, with or without U.S. approval.
Two-thirds of the Senate must vote affirmatively for it to pass.
Opponents, led by North Carolina Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, have pledged to attempt to derail ratification with a series of amendments.
Helms and other conservatives assert that the treaty is impossible to verify, will allow America's enemies access to U.S. anti-chemical weapons technology, would impose hardships on American chemical makers -- and might actually facilitate the proliferation, instead of the elimination, of chemical weapons.
Clinton said yesterday that those fears are misplaced.
"We should all understand what's at stake," he warned.
"A vote for any of these killer amendments will prevent our participation in the treaty."
The president's comments came at an impromptu White House news conference.
Other matters he covered included:
The budget: In contrast with the barbed election-year rhetoric that emanated from the White House last year, Clinton sounded a conciliatory tone when discussing negotiations on a possible budget deal -- even to the point of praising selected Republican leaders by name.
"The progress we've made so far is encouraging and I'm hopeful that a bipartisan, balanced budget agreement can be reached," he said.
"There is no question that serious differences remain, but if each of us is willing to compromise our sense of the perfect, I know we can reach an agreement that advances the greater good and we can both do so without compromising our deeply held values."
April 19: Without elaborating, Clinton said that heightened security measures would be in place today, the anniversary both of the bloody storming of the Branch Davidians' compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993 and of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.
"I would hope that rather than viewing these actions with trepidations, the American people would be thinking of the families of [Oklahoma City] victims," he added.
"And I would hope that they would be in our prayers."
Whitewater: The president said he was "not worried at all" about Whitewater figure James McDougal's suggestions that he possesses damaging information on the Clintons.
"I just got sick and tired of lying for the fellow," McDougal said of Clinton after being sentenced Monday to three years in prison.
"We did not do anything wrong," Clinton said yesterday.
"We had nothing to do with all these business matters that were the subject of the trial."
Newt Gingrich: Asked his reaction to former Sen. Bob Dole's lending the House Speaker $300,000 to pay a fine levied by the House Ethics Committee, Clinton quipped: "I was thinking of calling Senator Dole this afternoon. You know, Chelsea's about to go off to college. It's pretty expensive."
The president, who faces ethics inquiries of his own, steered clear of the Gingrich affair: "This is a matter that has to be decided by the House."
Pub Date: 4/19/97