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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release July 31, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT DSCC LUNCH
Hyatt Regency Westshore
2:04 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you
for your warm welcome and I want to thank Bill Nelson for his introduction.
It's amazing how, if you've sort of got one leg in the political grave,
people think you're doing a better job. (Laughter.) Let me say how
delighted I am to be here.
I remember well the first time I came to a fundraiser in Tampa in 1992
early, early, early, early. Some of you were there then. (Applause.) And
I particularly appreciate it because at that time, my mother was the only
voting American who thought I could win. (Laughter.) And a lot of things
have happened in the last eight years and some odd months, and I have been
very honored to serve. And I thank you all for coming today.
I first want to acknowledge Congressman Jim Davis. He's doing a
wonderful job for you in the House and he's a real treasure. He's been a
stand-up guy. And for someone without a lot of seniority, he has both had
a big impact and he's been willing to cast brave votes, and I'm very
grateful to him. (Applause.) And even though the light is blinding my
weakening eyes, I think I see Sam Gibbons out there. And I thank you, sir.
I want to thank Mayor Grecco for his warm welcome. I have loved my
visits with him here. I'm like Jim, I like to see a person who likes his
job. If there's anything I can't stand is to hear somebody in public
office complain. You know, nobody makes us take these jobs. You've got to
work like crazy to get them and as soon as you give one up, somebody else
wants it. So he never made any pretense of the fact that he loves this
city and he loves his job, and he's been a dream to work with.
I'd like to thank Ben Hill Griffin and Chris Hoyer and Jim Wilkes for
chairing this event and for harassing the rest of you to give money to it.
I'd like to thank Buddy MacKay for coming over here with me today and for
the brilliant job he's doing as our Envoy to the Americas, and the
leadership that he showed in passing our trade bill on the Caribbean Basin
earlier this year. We can be very proud of that. (Applause.)
I thank the other people here who are running for Congress. We just
need five more seats to win the House, and maybe we saw a couple of them
here today. And I thank Bob Poe for chairing the Democratic Party here.
This is going to be a good state, I think, for us in November if we do the
Most important of all, though, I want to say that I'm honored to be
here for Bill Nelson. I've known Bill for, I don't know, years and years
and years, a long time. And he and Grace have been friends of Hilary and
mine for years. They and their children came other the White House and
stayed with us one night. And we stayed up later than we should have,
talking. And we've had the opportunity over the years at various
encounters to get to know one another, and I think the world of both of
them. And I think that we need more people like them in Washington, people
who are civil and decent and reasonable and caring, and not just in
election season, not just as a part of a marketing strategy, but because
they think it's the right thing to do. And he's been an absolutely superb
insurance commissioner, and he would be a superb United States senator.
Let me say to all of you, it has been the great -- obviously -- the
great honor of my life to serve as President. I can't believe all the time
that's passed. When I ran for President, I did so against all the odds,
when no one thought I could win, because I believed the country was going
in the wrong direction and was coming apart when it ought to be coming
together. And I thought that the Washington political system was never
going to serve America well unless it got shaken up and changed.
And if we have had some measure of success up there, I think in no
small degree it's because Al Gore and I went up there with a set of ideas
for specific things we wanted to do, rooted in the values of creating
opportunity for every responsible American and creating a community in
which all Americans feel a part, in a world where we're still the leading
force for peace and freedom and prosperity.
Now, even though we faced intense partisan opposition at almost every
turn of the road, it turned out the ideas worked pretty well for America.
You know, when I passed the economic plan in 1993, without a vote to spare,
only Democrats voting for it, to bring the deficit down, Al Gore breaking
the tie vote in the Senate -- as he says, his record since we've been there
is a lot better than mine; whenever he votes, we win. (Laughter.)
I remember how our friends in the Republican Party said, oh, it would
be the end of civilization as we knew it. My terrible, terrible economic
program was going to bankrupt the country, it was going to weaken the
economy, we'd have a terrible recession, the deficit would get worse --
this was from a crowd that had quadrupled the debt of the country in 12
years, telling me how bad I was. And then, lo and behold, it didn't work
out the way they said it would.
By the time we got ready to pass the bipartisan balanced budget
amendment in '97 all the hard work had been done. And we got more than
two-thirds of both parties in both Houses to vote for that. And now we've
had, as all of you know, the longest economic expansion in history, that's
given us over 22 million new jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in 30
years, and the highest home ownership in history, and greater social
justice -- lowest child poverty rate in 20 years, lowest minority
unemployment rate ever recorded, the lowest female unemployment rate in 40
years, the lowest rate of single-parent household poverty in 46 years. So
we're moving in the right direction.
This thing is going as it should.
But the big question in this election is, what do we propose to do
with our prosperity? That is the big issue. And I think that, as Bill
Nelson goes out across this state, between now and November, whether he
wins or not -- and I believe he will -- depends in no small measure on what
people believe the election's about. You might ask yourself just quietly,
what do you think it's about? The only trouble we've got in this election
right now anywhere in America is the confusion that exists about what the
differences are between the candidates for president, Senate, Congress and
the two parties.
There was a big story in one of our major national newspapers the
other day, the American people are not sure there's much difference in
economic policy. A big story in one of the other newspapers about four
days ago about an interview system with a lot of suburban women who wanted
more gun safety legislation had no earthly idea what the difference between
the two candidates was.
And I say that because I think there are three things you need to know
about this election. One is it's a huge, profoundly important election,
just as important as the election in 1992. Why? Because what a country
does with its prosperity is just as stern a test of its judgment, its
values and its character as what it does with adversity. You didn't have
to be a genius to know we had to do something different in '92.
I'll never forget when Hillary gave me that little saying that
somebody gave us that said the definition of insanity is doing the same
thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So you didn't
have to be a genius to figure out we had to change.
So now we are at the time in our history, maybe unique in our history,
when we had this unique combination of enormous economic prosperity,
improving social progress, welfare rolls cut in half, crime at a 25-year
low, teen pregnancy down, every social indicator going in the right
direction. And we don't have a domestic crisis or a foreign threat
sufficiently grave to distract us. What are we going to do about it?
That's a big issue.
The second thing you need to know about the election is that there are
big differences. And the decisions the voters make in all these races will
have significant consequences in how we live our lives and what we do with
our prosperity and what kind of people we are. And then the third thing
you need to know is that in this election year only the Democrats want you
to know what the differences are -- (laughter) -- which is a pretty good
indicator of who you ought to vote for.
Now, what do I mean by that? Well, on our side, led by Vice President
Gore, we've got a group of men and women who want to keep our prosperity
going by getting this country out of debt, continuing to invest in
education and in the future of our economy, having affordable tax cuts and
providing drug coverage for our seniors on Medicare.
On their side, their main argument, as near as I can tell is, we want
to be inclusive and compassionate and spend the whole surplus on tax cuts,
but be nice about it while we're doing it. And actually, their argument is
easier to sell than ours. Their argument is, hey, this is your money,
we're going to give it back to you; wouldn't you like to have it?
Now, then there are all these issues they don't talk about. So what I
would like to tell you is what I honestly believe the differences are
because I want you to share them with your friends and neighbors who would
never come here. But it's very important. No point in having an election
if the people don't know what the differences are and don't understand what
the consequences are. And I'll just start with the economy.
Their side says we've got this big projected surplus and we're going
to give it back to you in tax cuts. And, as I said earlier today, every
one of these tax cuts sounds good. And they're doing it -- they're smarter
this year -- this year's tax cut -- last year was just one big, omnibus
bill. This year, they're doing it salami style, passing a little along so
they all sound good. But when you add them all up, and especially you put
the new ones they're committing to in Philadelphia, it's the entire
proposed surplus. So every one of them looks good, but it's kind of like
going to a cafeteria. Every time I go to a cafeteria, everything I see
looks good, but if I eat it all, I'll get sick. Think about it.
So that's their position. Their economic policy is, let's do what we
did before; who cares if we go back to deficits? And they'll spend it all
on tax cuts before they even keep their own spending promises, never mind
what emergencies come up. Our position is different. It is, hey, let's
remember how we got to this dance today. We got here by getting rid of
this deficit, getting interest rates down, getting it where people could
invest and grow the economy. So let's keep paying down the debt, save some
money back to invest in education and to lengthen the life of Medicare and
Social Security, so when the baby boomers retire they don't bankrupt their
kids, and provide a prescription drug benefit for seniors on Medicare.
Let's have a tax cut and focus it on paying for long-term care, for
college, for child care, helping working people with a lot of kids, and
helping people with their retirement. Ours costs 25 percent of what theirs
does and does way more good for 80 percent of the people.
And then -- we say -- then let's save several hundred billion dollars
of this projected surplus and let the next president and the next Congress
decide what to do over the next several years as we see whether the money
comes in. Now, this -- I can hardly tell you how important this is.
We've worked really hard to get this country turned around, to get
this economy going. And their position is, let's spend all the projected
surplus. Did you ever get one of those letters in the mail from Ed
McMahon, you know, from the Publisher's Clearinghouse? "You may have won
$10 million." (Laughter.) Did you go out and spend that $10 million the
next day? (Laughter.) If you did, you should support them in this
election. (Applause.) But if you didn't, you'd better stick with us. If
you want to live like a Republican, you've got to vote for the Democrats
this year. (Laughter and applause.) This is important. This is a big
Now, the second issue, education -- what's our program? Our program
is that we should take the limited federal dollars we have and spend it on
more teachers in the classrooms, training those teachers better,
modernizing and repairing schools -- because you know here in Florida how
many schools you have -- right here in Tampa, I've been to a school, a high
school right here in Tampa, just full of house trailers behind, back. We
need to help deal with this issue.
We want to help people go to college. And we want to say to schools
all over America, school districts, you've got to turn these schools around
or shut them down. No more failing schools.
Now, here's the good news -- student performance is going up. All
over America failing schools are turning around. I was in Spanish Harlem
in New York City the other day in a school that two years ago had 80
percent of its kids -- listen to this, now -- 80 percent doing English and
math below grade level -- two years ago. Today 74 percent of them are
doing English and math at or above grade level -- in two years.
I've been in schools in Columbus, Ohio, and rural Kentucky, all over
America that were failing that are turned around. Without regard to the
racial or economic backgrounds of the kids in the school. We know how to
do it. That's our position.
Their position is, the federal money investment in education should be
spent on block grants and vouchers. I think we're right. You have to
decide. But we have some evidence that our plan works. And in the
economy, we've sure got all the evidence we need -- all you've got to do --
we tried it their way for 12 years, and our way for eight years -- compare
our eight years to their 12 and make up your mind.
In crime, let's talk about that. Our position is more police on the
street, do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and kids.
And they said when I signed the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban --
they terrified all these hunters and said I was going to take their guns
away and how awful it was -- I heard all that stuff all over America. It's
one of the reasons we lost the House in 1994. When I went back to New
Hampshire in 1996, where they beat one of those congressmen, I said, you
know, you guys beat your Democratic congressman up here because he voted
for my crime bill. And if a person in this audience -- and I got all these
hunters together -- I said, if one of you missed a day in the deer woods, I
want you to vote against me, too, because he did it for me. But if you
didn't miss a day in the deer woods, they didn't tell you the truth and you
need to get even. And our margin of victory in New Hampshire went up by 12
percent in four years. (Laughter.)
This country has a lower crime rate than we've had in 25 years. Gun
crime has gone down by 35 percent. So what do we say? We say, let's put
more police on the street in the high-crime neighborhoods; let's close the
gun show loophole in the background check law, which you voted to do in
Florida, overwhelmingly; have mandatory child safety locks; and stop
importing these large-capacity ammunition clips which allow the
manufacturers to get around the assault weapons ban. That's what we say.
What do they say? Throw the book at anybody that violates the law and
have more people carrying concealed weapons, even in church. Now, you have
to decide which side you agree with. But it's not like you don't have any
evidence here. We tried it our way and we tried it their way. And crime
goes down more our way.
Now, the third thing I would like to say something about is health
care. I said, we're for adding a voluntary prescription drug benefit to
Medicare. They are for making people buy private insurance and subsidizing
it for people up to 150 percent of the poverty line. The only problem with
their program is even the insurance companies say there is no way to have
stand-alone health insurance for prescription drugs.
Nevada passed a program just like the ones the Republicans in Congress
passed, and not a single solitary insurance company would offer the drugs
because it won't work and they didn't want to participate in a fraud. Now,
this is a huge deal in Florida, but it's a big deal all over America for
the elderly, the disabled.
Our program is for the drug users; theirs is for the drug makers. It
is not a complicated thing. You just have to decide how important this is
and whether you're willing to pay the price of our seniors never getting it
if you don't support the Democrats. And you need to go tell people in
Florida. We're for a patients' bill of rights and they're not.
Let's take the environment. I've worked real hard here on a program
that would balance all the interests to save the Florida Everglades. I'm
really proud of it. The Vice President worked hard on it. We really have
labored to try to support you in what you're doing in Florida. And we
saved a lot of Yellowstone Park from a gold mine, and we set aside more
land in perpetuity in the lower 48 states than any administration in
history except those of the two Roosevelts. And we proved, I think, that
you could have cleaner air, cleaner water and safer food and still have a
stronger economy, because we raised all the environmental standards. We
just did it in a sensible way.
Now, what's their position? Their position will be to weaken that
direction, to repeal -- one specific commitment they've already made is to
repeal my order setting aside 43 million roadless acres in the national
forests -- the Audubon Society says it's the most significant conservation
move in the last 40 years; they say they'll get rid of it. And they'll
allow oil drilling in some places where we haven't. And apparently,
they're committed to weaker regulations on the chemical industry.
Now, I've done everything I could to create jobs and be pro-business.
But I think we've got to be pro-environment and pro-business. And you just
have to decide which side you want to be on and what you think the best
thing is for America. And these are the kinds of questions people have to
The same thing is true with regard to one America. One of the things
that I want to do is make sure that we're all going along for the ride
here. We're for raising the minimum wage for people that can never afford
to come to a dinner like this, but may be serving it. I think it's
unconscionable that it's still below what it was in 1982 in purchasing
power terms when we've got 4 percent unemployment. It's just wrong.
Nobody ought to work full-time for a living and have kids that are still
below the poverty line. It's wrong. (Applause.)
But they're not for it. Now, they're sort of being quiet on it now
because the last time they fought me on it four years ago they said it
would cost jobs, and we created 11 million jobs since we passed it. So
they really don't have a justification anymore. They can't -- they're kind
of embarrassed to say they're not for it, but they're not for it yet. If
we turn up the heat between now and election, they will get it. But it's a
We're for hate crimes legislation and they're basically not for it.
Oh, a few of them are, but the leadership is not and the nominee is not
because it protects gays. Well, I think everybody ought to be protected
from hate crimes, which is a crime, an assault on you just because of who
you are. But you can decide whether you agree with that or not.
And there will be a big impact on the courts. The next President will
appoint two to four judges on the Supreme Court, and the Senate will have
to decide whether to confirm them or reject them. This is a huge decision.
Their nominee says his favorite judges are Justice Thomas and Justice
Scalia, by far the most conservative judges on the Court. That's what he
said. And so you have to decide, because there will be big consequences.
So if you just go back, here we are with this -- a whole future before
us, with all these opportunities up there, and you should be happy. We
don't have to have one of these negative campaigns like we used to have for
20 years that mostly brought to us by their side, trying to convince you
that whoever their opponent was was just one step above a car thief.
(Laughter.) I recommend we just call time out and say everybody running
this year is a good, patriotic American; they are men and women who love
their families and love their country, and will do what they think is
right, but they have honest disagreements. They disagree over economic
policy and educational policy and health care policy and environmental
policy and crime policy and civil rights policy, and what it means to be
an American citizen and what kind of individual rights you should have as
guaranteed by the Supreme Court. And we want to have a debate over that.
Now, their strategy is to blur all that. I'll be very surprised if
you hear anybody say this week at their meeting what I just said to you,
even though I have tried to be exceedingly faithful to the differences
between the two parties. And their strategy is to talk about compassion
and all -- it's a brilliant strategy. It's a pretty package and they're
hoping if they wrap it tight enough, nobody will open it before Christmas.
(Laughter and applause.)
And what we've got to do is try to make sure that the American people
open the package in September and October, so they will know. I trust the
American people, they almost always get it right; otherwise we wouldn't
still be here after over 200 years. And if everybody understands exactly
what the choices are, and the Vice President doesn't win or Bill Nelson
doesn't win, we'd be all right about that. But the truth is, if everybody
understands exactly what the choices are, Bill Nelson will be the next
senator, Al Gore will be the next President, we will win the House of
Representatives. Why? Because our economic policies, our educational
policies, our health care policies are right for the country. Because the
idea of building one America not just with words, but with deeds, and
giving everybody a chance to participate in this brilliant future of
science and technology, and this global economy is the right thing for the
country and the right thing for our children's future. That's why.
I'm telling you, as much, as many good things that have happened in
the last eight years, believe me, all the great stuff is still out there.
But there are big challenges. Look at Florida's school kids, how diverse
they are. If you want this country to be where it ought to be, every one
of them has got to be able to get a good education. We have to figure out
how, when all those baby boomers retire and the average 65-year-old can
look forward to living to be 83, we're going to manage that without
bankrupting our kids and grandkids.
We have to figure out how to make the most of this scientific and
technological revolution. One of the reasons I want Al Gore to be
President, apart from my personal relationship with him, is that I have
studied very hard the impacts of the information technology revolution, the
impacts of the genome revolution, what's likely to happen over the next 10
years -- it seems to me that you want somebody that can make the most of
the computer revolution and still protect your financial and medical
records, and not let somebody get at them unless you say okay.
It seems to me you want somebody who can help make the most of this
scientific revolution without letting somebody deny you a job or promotion
or raise or health insurance because of your little gene map. It seems to
me we ought to have somebody in the White House that understands the
And I know we ought to have people in the Senate who have the values
and the judgment, and just the way of operating that Bill Nelson does.
Believe me, I've done everything I could to turn this country around, and
the only thing now we have to decide is, what is this election about. If
people really say, this election is about what shall we do with this moment
of prosperity, how can we meet the big challenges and seize the big
opportunities out there, Bill Nelson will be just fine.
Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 2:32 P.M. EDT
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