President Clinton urged the nation's men Saturday to join him in pledging to "never, never lift a hand against a woman," and chastised the Republican-led House for attempting to restrain Administration efforts to protect battered women.
In his weekly radio address, Clinton noted that as Americans followed recent news events, issues of domestic violence against women and children have vaulted into public awareness and divided the nation.
Though he avoided directly mentioning the trial and acquittal of O.J. Simpson on the charge that he murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, Clinton seized on the public debates in the aftermath of the verdict to decry spousal abuse and call for support of his programs to combat it.
"For too long, domestic violence has been swept under the rug, treated as a private family matter that was nobody's business but those involved," Clinton said. "Now everyone knows it is cowardly, destructive of families, immoral and criminal to abuse the women in our families."
Despite heightened awareness of the problem, congressional leaders are not doing enough, Clinton said. The House "has voted to cut $50 million from our efforts to protect battered women and their children, to preserve families and to punish these crimes."
He praised the Senate for agreeing "with me to fully fund the Violence Against Women Act," a provision in his anti-crime package that calls for longer jail terms for spousal abuse and increased federal funding for police, prosecutors and shelter operators who assist battered victims.
Delivering the Republican response to the President's address, Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico rejected Clinton's criticism of GOP budget cuts, saying they are necessary to improve the overall economy.
"America's budget deficit is growing at a rate of $482 million a day, but President Clinton won't support the balanced-budget plan because he says balancing the budget in seven years is too fast," Domenici said. "It's not too fast for the unemployed, or underemployed, who can't get good work because of the deficit's stifling effect on job creation."
Clinton called domestic violence "one of the two biggest problems facing our country," noting that racial division is the other. The White House has said Clinton will deliver an important address on race relations Monday in Austin, Tex.
Clinton noted that Justice Department figures show nearly a third of all women murdered in the nation were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends. Domestic violence "is prevalent, unforgivable and sometimes deadly," he said.
Government policy will not solve the problem, he said. In an appeal "directly to the men of America--not just as President, or a father or a husband, but also as a son who has seen domestic violence firsthand," Clinton asked men to join him in preventing domestic violence.
He cited his own childhood, during which he witnessed his stepfather, Roger Clinton, abusing his mother. As a teen-ager, Clinton intervened to stop the abuse, and he has often pointed to his action as a reason his stepfather stopped beating his mother, Virginia Clinton.
"The real solution to this problem starts with us, with our personal responsibility and a simple pledge that we will never, never lift a hand against a woman for as long as we live," Clinton said.