Clinton Addresses Millennium Bug -- Not Too Loudly

  • Share
  • Read Later
President Clinton this morning warned the country about the danger of computers running amok come January 1, 2000, saying that although there could be serious problems, there's no need to panic. Indeed, the President's mixed message illustrates his dilemma -- if he ignores the millennium bug, he seems out of touch; if he dwells on it too much he opens himself to charges of not having done more sooner, and risks sowing panic. Stung by Republican complaints that he hasn't addressed the Y2K problem, Clinton said he'll ask Congress to approve a "Good Samaritan" law to encourage corporations to share Y2K information and, if Y2K-compliant, to declare that their products are bugproof. "If ordinary citizens believe they are being told the full story, they'll be far less likely to act in ways that could themselves hurt our economy," Clinton said during a speech at the National Academy of Sciences.

The tricky part of the White House's Y2K political problem will be telling everyone there's no need to stockpile canned food -- while being alarmist enough to prod business leaders into action. "The consequences of the millennium bug, if not addressed, could simply be a rash of annoyances, like being unable to use a credit card at the supermarket," Clinton said. But the worst-case scenario? He added: "It could affect electric power, phone service, air travel, major governmental service." Not to mention Vice President Gore's presidential ambitions.