THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
December 8, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT VICTORY 2000 EVENT
3:38 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. First, let me say to my great
friend, Vin, to Laurel, thank you for having me here. It took me a little
while to get to Nebraska. (Laughter.)
I was at Offutt and I told the crowd, I said, one of my, sort of,
critics said, it'll be a cold day when the President comes to Nebraska.
(Laughter.) So I just picked a cold day and showed up. (Laughter.) And
I'm very glad all of you came. And I'm glad that this wonderful home has
been opened to us -- and previously, a few months ago, to Hillary,
something for which I'm very grateful. I expect some of you where here
that night, and I'm very grateful for that.
I want to say congratulations to Ben and to Dianne; it's great news
for me. You know, I served with both Ben Nelson and Bob Kerrey when I was
a governor. I had a hard time getting a promotion; I was a governor for 12
years. (Laughter.) And I never got bored with it; I'd be happy if I were
doing it, still. But we served together and I was thrilled when Ben
genuinely mustered the courage -- both of them, together -- to run.
I've been through that deal, where you run for something and it
doesn't work out. And then it's all very well, everybody else is telling
you run to again, but they don't know how bad it hurts when it doesn't work
-- (laughter) -- and the sort of pain threshold you have to cross to gather
yourself together again. And they did it and I really believe he'll be an
excellent senator. And we need people representing our party in Congress
who have a sense of compassion and who are progressive, but who can be
trusted to manage the economy, as well.
Because the thing that we have proved, I think, in the last eight
years -- and I'm coming to Bob Kerrey on this -- is that the most
progressive social policy begins with a good economic policy that keeps
interest rates down, lets the private sector grow, creates jobs with low
unemployment, makes it possible for people to borrow money to start or
expand businesses, to pay for college loans or car loans or credit cards or
That's why we've got over two-thirds of the American people in their
own homes -- over 70 percent in Nebraska -- for the first time in the
history of the country. Because we've had a combination of -- we had a
good progressive policy on health care, on education. We had a balanced
policy on crime. But it started with an economic policy that would work.
And when you put it all together, we wound up with more economic progress
and social progress than the country has had, certainly, in our lifetime.
So I'm very grateful for that. But, in order to do it, you have to
have the right balance of people in the Congress, and certainly
representing our party. So I'm glad he's going to Congress -- to the
Senate, and he's going to have a partner in the new Senator from New York,
which I'm also very proud of. (Laughter and applause.)
Bob Kerrey and I served together a long time ago. We've been together
in a lot of places. We were even at the Indianapolis 500 once. You
remember that? Nineteen eighty-six or '87, a long time ago. And we've
been friends a long time. I had very mixed feelings when he announced that
he wanted to retire from the Senate. I was happy for him, because I think
he's got a truly exciting opportunity, which I believe will still keep him
in the spotlight in national political life, at least I hope it does. I
was sorry for the people of Nebraska and sorry for the United States
Senate, because the Senate will be a poorer place. (Applause.)
When I was a young man, in college, I worked in the United States
Senate. And it was a time that was very contentious and quite partisan in
some ways. We were having all the civil rights and the Vietnam War battles
of the late Johnson years, when I went to work in the Senate. But the
Senate was a place where there were eight or 10 or 15 people that
everybody, without regard to their party, respected and thought, you know,
these people talk -- they weren't carrying the party line. They weren't
just trying to hurt somebody. They were standing up there, saying
something that they really believed would make America a better place.
Even if they didn't agree, no one really believed that they were just
motivated by kind of blind partisanship or power grabbing or manipulation.
They believed it was right.
And I think Bob Kerrey has been that kind of Senator. He's been
willing to disagree with everybody, including me -- (laughter) -- if he
thought it was right. But the main thing is, he's kept us debating issues
that we ought to be talking about. And the real problem with all this
intense partisanship -- and by the way, with the exponential cost of
campaigns, and what it does to both sides -- is that it tends to freeze
people into yesterday's position, at the very time they should be debating
what tomorrow's position ought to be. Well, Bob was always thinking about
what tomorrow's position ought to be.
And America is always about tomorrow. And that's the last point I
want to make. You know, it's gratifying for me for people to come up and
say, oh, I feel like I got a leg in the grave, and people say, oh, I'm
going to miss you and all this, and thank you for it. (Laughter) But it's
been an honor to serve. I've loved it. Even the bad days were good. I
would do it all again tomorrow in a heartbeat.
But what I want to say to you is, the most important thing is that we
do the right things, that we have good ideas, good values, work together,
do the right thing.
If we hadn't been doing the right things in the last eight years, I
could have given the same speeches, and the results would not be the same.
It's not about talking, it's about doing the right thing. So that's
another reason I'm glad you're here today. And I want to ask you to keep
supporting the direction that our party has taken, generally represented by
those of us who are standing up here, because the country desperately needs
-- and basically even people who don't know they do, agree with the
direction that we've taken in the last eight years.
About two-thirds of the people support what we're trying to do; they
just can't bring themselves to vote for us in an election. (Laughter and
applause.) That's the truth. That's the truth. And so this is very
important, because I've worked as hard as I could to get the country turned
around. It's been 50 years since we've paid down the debt three years in a
row. (Applause.) If we keep going -- if we keep going, in somewhere
between nine and 12 years, depending on what judgments are made by my
successors in the Congress and the White House, America could be out of
debt for the first time since 1835. And I can't tell you what that means.
In a global economy where we compete for every dollar with people all
over the world, and where, so far, we've been doing so much better than
everybody else -- we keep buying more than we're selling -- to pay that
debt off guarantees a whole -- all these young people here, we'll give them
20 years of lower interest rates, a stronger economy, higher productivity,
a whole different future. That's just one example.
So I'm going to try to be a good citizen, and I'm going to try to help
work on the things that I worked on as President as a private citizen, but
to do it in a way that doesn't get under foot of the next President. And I
have loved doing this. But the most important thing is that people like
you stay active in our party and keep pushing us to be thinking about
tomorrow. Just keep pushing us toward the future, keep moving and keep
reaching out like a magnet.
And, again, I would like to thank Ben, I would like to thank Bob
Kerrey for the eight years that we have worked together, President and
Senator, and the many years of friendship before that. I want to thank
Peter Hoagland, who came down from Washington with us today, for the years
that we worked together when he was a congressman from Nebraska.
I want to say to you that the best days of this country are still out
here. We've had eight good years; but if we build on it instead of reverse
it, it's just going to get better.
But keep in mind, I will say again: it's more important that the
people be pushing toward tomorrow than who has a particular office. As
long as we're open to the proposition we have to keep working and we have
to keep working together; everybody counts; everybody deserves a chance; we
all do better when we work together. That's what the Democrats believe,
and if we keep doing it we're going to be just fine.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 3:47 P.M. CST