TOBACCO SETTLEMENT: Clinton Steps Up Pressure On All Sides
Over the weekend, President Clinton used two opportunities to lobby for passage of comprehensive tobacco settlement legislation. In a Rose Garden speech just after his return from Africa Friday, Clinton strongly suggested that tobacco companies support the bill to atone for marketing cigarettes to kids, the Media General/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. "With each new revelation of the strategies which have been vigorously pursued to market cigarettes to children, I think they have an enormous interest in trying to reverse the record of the past, to try to put this unforgivable chapter behind them and to start off on a new path," he said. Clinton also called on Congress to come back from its recess "with a renewed determination to actually pass legislation" (Mercer, 4/4). In his weekly radio address, Clinton credited state attorneys general and the Senate Commerce Committee for their "efforts and persistence," calling the tobacco bill produced under Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) leadership "a dramatic step forward." But he said the bill needs "tough penalties that will cost the tobacco industry if it continues to sell cigarettes to young people." Citing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey released last week that found rising smoking rates among teenagers, Clinton said, "It is time to hold the tobacco companies accountable. ... We're not trying to put [them] out of business; we want to put them out of the business of selling cigarettes to kids" (transcript, 4/4). The AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Saturday "was the third time this year that he used the national broadcast to push for legislation that would stop tobacco companies from doing business with American children (Sobieraj, 4/5).
And Down The Stretch He Comes ...
The White House confirmed yesterday that the president will travel to Northern Kentucky Thursday to discuss the tobacco settlement package and address the concerns of tobacco growers and manufacturers in the state, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. Andrew Martin, Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton's (D) chief of staff, said Clinton wants "to go to a warehouse and/or family farm situation" (4/6). The visit has raised skepticism, however, because in the radio address, Clinton argued that some of the provisions in the bill should be even tougher on the industry. Thus, local farmers are wondering how it may affect them. State Rep. Paul Marcotte (R) said, "Everything about Bill Clinton is political, and I don't have a lot of faith in him as a person." Tobacco farmer Bob Flaig said Clinton hasn't "said one good thing for the tobacco farmers," but Flaig said he would listen anyhow. The president has said he supports the provisions in the bill that were added by Kentucky Sen. Wendell Ford (D) to protect farmers (Winston, Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/6).
Clinton On McCain
In an interview in the current issue of Time magazine, the president was asked about the McCain bill. He responded: "While it doesn't go as far as we'd like in some areas, it's a huge step in the right direction. Speaker Gingrich said he wasn't going to let me get to the left of him on tobacco. I guess that means he's prone to do something, and that's good news. I think we can build on this momentum and that the issue is rocking along pretty well" (4/13 issue).