THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 10, 2001
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT LUNCHEON HONORING SENATOR MAX BAUCUS
Caucus Room Restaurant
1:00 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Max, I thank you for what you said. But
you were entirely to generous to a person who can't run for anything
anymore. (Laughter.) I thought, wow, I wish I had that on tape four years
ago. (Laughter.) And in terms of going to meetings without cue cards,
look, when you're dealing with a guy from Montana who knows who Sisyphus
was, you can't carry your cue cards, right? (Laughter.)
I want to say, first of all, how honored I am to be here. I like
Max Baucus a lot, and I respect him. And I want to say just a few words
about that, but I also want to join in what you said, because this is maybe
one of the last public occasions I'll have to say it in Washington, D.C. I
don't think there's any way for me to explain the to rest of you what
having Tom Daschle as a leader of our crowd in the Senate has meant to me
and to the United States of America. (Applause.) And I do agree that his
leadership had a lot to do with the fact that we were able to pick up five
seats. And I was honored to work with him, and he's been great.
And I also think you were right about my good friend, Harry Reid.
You know, Harry Reid never lifts his voice, he talks real soft. And pretty
soon you're looking for your billfold. (Laughter.) He is such a good man
and so effective, and I am very grateful to him.
Mary Landrieu and I have been friends for many, many years, as
she's from my neighboring state of Louisiana, which has been very good to
me and whom I'm very grateful. And I'm thrilled that she got elected to
the Senate and has done so well. And I am especially proud of Maria
Cantwell because Maria Cantwell is one of the people who gave up her seat
in 1994 that turned the miserable economic condition of this country and
that terrible deficit around. And she got beat because of it. (Applause.)
And she did whine around, she went out and made a bunch of money and went
on with her life. And then she ran for the Senate.
And they have this unusual system in Washington State -- they
actually count all the votes. (Laughter and applause.) And when they were
counted, she was a senator for Washington. And we are thrilled.
(Applause.) And I'm very proud of her. And you mark my words, she's going
to have a big impact on this country, and she has, I think, a well-deserved
chance to serve.
I kind of am partial to this new crowd of senators. It got me in
the Senate Spouses Club, that's true, where I intend to be a very vigorous
member. I may run for President of the Senate Spouses Club. (Laughter.)
Some of you may have seen this in the paper, but I can't help
mentioning it again, since Max said something about deregulation of the
airlines. Hillary and Chelsea and I for eight years have gone to Foundry
Methodist Church here in Washington, and the minister there is a great guy.
So he says, I want you to come give a little talk on Sunday. I said, what
do you want me to say? He said, just talk about whatever you want. So I
said, well, I'm going to stand up and thank the church for everything
they've done -- and I had this whole long list of things they've done, it's
a wonderful place. So I had this list of things.
And I walked into church and they gave me a program, and I see
that I am giving the sermon and the sermon has a title. And the title of
the sermon is, Reflections and Anticipation. So I get up and give my
little talk and I thank them all for everything I want to thank them for
all. And I said I didn't know what I was talking about until I got here
and read it in the program, but do you want to know what my anticipations
are? I anticipate my Christian spirit will be sorely tested by a return to
commercial air travel. (Laughter. I anticipate being disoriented in large
rooms for several months because when I walk in, nobody will play a song
So, anyway, I gave them a few anticipations. I anticipate that
Terry McAuliffe will still ask me to help raise money for the Democratic
Party -- and I hope he will. (Applause.) Thank you.
But to get back to the main event here, I'm here for a lot of
reasons. First, I love Montana. I was a governor for a dozen years, and
-- former Governor of Montana, Ted Schwindler, was one of the best friends
I ever had in the Governors Conference. And in 1985, Hillary and Chelsea
and I went to Montana before the governors met in Idaho and had what maybe
was the best family vacation we ever had. It is the most spectacularly
beautiful place I believe I have ever seen anywhere in the world. In 1992,
we actually carried Montana, maybe because Ross Perot got so many votes.
But anyway, for whatever reason, I was proud to have those votes in the
Secondly, I believe that Montana is -- first of all, as you saw
in these last elections, we lost both the Congress and the governor's race.
It was a pretty closely divided state, and we have a real chance there, I
think, to bring the Democrats back. But the key to that is Senator Baucus
winning reelection. Now, the people of Montana know he's done a good job,
but I'm not sure they know just how good a job he has done. And I want to
talk about that, because I'm interested in the country, and I'm not running
for anything anymore.
But the reason I always liked Max Baucus is he cared about ideas,
he cares about things. And he also cares about how things are going to
work. He's not just a talker. He cares about whether something will work
or not. He had -- last summer, I think it was, he had an economic
development conference in Montana and then set up an action group to
implement the ideas that they came up with. That's not something senators
But a lot of rural parts of this country, and a lot of people
that have depended on natural resource-based economies have not done all
that well in this economy. And the farmers have been having a terrible
time in the last two or three years. And the ones that get a lot of
payments based on the way the old farm bill dolls the money out, when we
come out with the emergency appropriations, they're getting by. But it's
really been tough out there.
So Max actually decided to do something about it. And I think
that makes him a better legislator, because if you think about how
something's going to work, you're more likely to vote for the right kind of
bills and draft them in the right way. And I am particularly interested in
I also am interested in the fact that he wants to bring the
benefits of high technology to people in rural America, to small
communities, to the Native American reservations, to the schools. This is
a big deal. I really believe we can skip a whole generation of economic
development in places that have been badly left behind in this country if
we get the technology out there in the right way and train the people to
use it. (Applause.)
And the third thing that I want to say is, even after the 20th,
he'll be the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee. They're going
to write tax legislation that will have an impact on this economy. They're
going to deal with Medicare reform and the question of whether and in what
form the seniors of this country will get a prescription drug benefit under
Medicare. They're going to continue to deal with trade.
And you heard him say it, so I'll just say thank you back. I did
my best at least to create a consensus within the Democratic Party on all
the big issues, and then to work with the Republicans wherever we could.
And this year we actually had the best year, in some ways, we've ever had.
We passed the China trade bill, the Africa Caribbean trade bill. We passed
the most massive debt relief for poor countries in the world, if they'll
put the money -- if, but only if, they'll put the money back into
education, health care and development in their own countries. We lifted
the earnings limit on Social Security. We passed the largest bill in
history -- thank you Mary Landrieu and others -- to buy land and preserve
it for all time to come. Permanent funding has never been done before like
this. And we passed the best education bill we've ever passed.
When I -- four years ago we weren't funding any kids in
after-school programs. This year the federal government will fund 1.3
million children in after-school programs, to learn and stay off the street
and out of trouble. And I was yesterday in Chicago in a school that's
getting some of that money.
So we had a great, great year. But there's a lot of big
questions that have to be faced about the whole issue of globalization.
And I've talked ad nauseam about this. I went to England and gave a speech
with Tony Blair about it, and I don't want to bore you with all of it
again. But let me just say that the growing interdependence of people on
this increasingly shrinking planet, and the explosion of population --
almost a hundred percent of which is supposed to be in the poorest
countries of the world -- and the phenomenal explosion of wealth in this
country, which has helped everybody -- yes, we've got more billionaires and
more millionaires, but we also have people in the lower 20 percent of the
population the last three years had the biggest percentage increase in
If you look at all that good and all those storm clouds, we've
got to work out a new agreement with other wealthy countries about how
we're going to continue to expand trade and how it's going to work in a way
that lifts the lives of people everywhere. And if we don't, then you're
going to see a lot of these countries' democracies themselves under stress.
How are we going to do it in a way that helps everybody? And
when a country has a non-economic problem and they're a big trading partner
of ours, what are we supposed to do about it? That's another thing this
Congress did for which I'm very grateful -- the Plan Colombia program. You
know, it may or may not work, but if we lose the oldest democracy in South
America because the narco-traffickers and the guerrillas have teamed up,
that's not a good omen for the 21st century.
These are big questions. Do you want somebody, to go back to
Max's term, who doesn't have to look at his note cards. This guy thinks
about these kinds of things all the time. And he understands how these big
sort of trade issues affect people in Montana. He understands why it's
important to have sustainable economies in other parts of the world so they
can buy the products that people in his state want to sell. And he can
connect it all to what he's trying to do to help empower people at the
grass-roots level to make a decent living, get a good education and hook
into the technology of the 21st century.
We need people like this in the Senate. We need people who read
things and think about things. I tell people all the time, the main reason
I'm for campaign finance reform is so people like Max and Harry and Mary
and Maria and Tom won't have to spend quite so much time at fundraisers
like this, because if you're from a little state and it costs you a lot of
money to run, by the time you run all over the country -- especially if
you're on a crowded airplane -- you're too tired to read a book or call the
guy that wrote an article that struck you as interesting, or meet with a
bunch of people who have got a new idea.
That's why Max Baucus -- and from my honest opinion now -- this
is all the Montana-specific issues -- but when I think about America, to
have somebody like him in the most important position our party can have on
the Senate Finance Committee, who has read and thought about these issues
and tried to make some sense out of them, and who thinks about how the big
things translate into the practical daily lives of ordinary citizens,
that's a big deal for a democracy. And the more complicated the world gets
and the more we'll have to process all this information and make decisions
in a hurry without knowing everything, the more you're going to need people
like Max Baucus in positions of responsibility.
So I thank you for helping him today and I hope you'll help him
all the way through to the election next year. Thank you very much.
END 1:14 P.M. EST