THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release November 5, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO ARKANSAS CIVIC LEADERS LUNCHEON
Statehouse Convention Center
Little Rock, Arkansas
1:21 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I'm really glad to see you.
(Laughter.) I bring you greetings from Hillary and our all grown up
daughter, who are otherwise occupied in New York today. (Applause.) And
she's doing very well, and I'm proud of her. I think she's going to win on
I want to talk today about today and tomorrow. Nostalgia will have to
wait. I do want to thank people who are up here on this stage for their
friendship. I thank Mark Pryor for taking on this campaign and for getting
involved in public life in our state, carrying on his great family
tradition while his daddy becomes an ivy league egghead. (Laughter.) You
notice, I was the only one who was dumb enough to do that before I ran for
office; David waited until afterward.
I want to thank Vic Snyder, who has been a great friend and supporter
of mine in Congress and a great representative for this district. It's
been my honor to vote for him every time he's been on the ballot.
I want to thank James Lee Witt and Rodney Slater. They have
represented our state so well in the Cabinet, they have represented our
country, they have done superb jobs and I'm very proud of them.
We have a few other Arkansans in the crowd. I can't see everybody
because the lights are real bright. But I saw Ken Smith and Jim Bob Baker
out there. They've also done very well by our administration and there may
be others. But I'm really -- and Janis Kearney, I think, is here, who --
she keeps up with what I do every day and some day when I want to write my
memoirs, I'll be able to read what Janis said I did and so when you read
the book, it may be what she said instead of me because I can't remember
anything anymore. (Laughter.)
But I want to thank all the people who are here. I want to thank
Carol Willis (phonetic) who has been down here working and who has been at
the Democratic Party all these years and has done such a great job.
(Applause.) And I want to thank my buddy, Dale Bumpers. I finally got
over being mad at him for leaving the Senate. (Laughter.) You know, Dale
and Dave and I couldn't quite calibrate our respective schedules and
biological clocks so we could go out together. But I sort of envision a
remake of the Three Amigos movie, where just get on horses and ride out of
Washington and thank hallelujah we survived it all.
Look, I want to talk about this election a little bit. Arkansas is
close. Polls say we're a couple points behind. The people in this room
could carry this state for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, if you want to bad
enough. And I just want to say a few things. I appreciate what's been
said but our public life is always about tomorrow and, yet, yesterday is an
indicator of tomorrow.
As near as I can see, the case that the other guys are making is,
well, the economy is better, crime is down, welfare is down, the
environment is better, education is improving, more people than ever are
going on to college, we've got a decline in the number of people without
health insurance for the first time in 12 years. So what we need to do is
bag all those policies and do something entirely different.
And among other things, now that we've got this surplus, I'm going to
give it all back to you right now, and then some. Now, as nearly as I can
see, that's the campaign. And I don't think people understand that.
Because, as Vic would say, they run these ads on prescription drugs, and
I'll say more about that in the patients' bill of rights and all that. Why
is that? Because they know that they've got a lot at stake in this
They know there are big differences, and they know that the voters
understand what the differences are and what the consequences are that Al
Gore and Joe Lieberman will be elected and the Democrats will win the House
and the Senate. Therefore, there has to be a lot of muddying of the water.
And it's a lot easier to muddy things up than it is to clarify them.
Plus which, I think a lot of people kind of have forgotten what it was
like eight years ago. And sometimes it's harder to make a good decision in
good times than it is in bad times. There are younger voters that will be
voting in this presidential election that don't even remember what it was
like eight years ago; even if they tried to think about it, they would have
no memory of it.
So here's what I would like you to say to people for the next three
days. The people in this room can carry this state for Al Gore if you want
to bad enough. And this state could literally determine the outcome of the
election. There are about 15 to 20 states that are literally within three
points one way or the other. And no one knows what's going to happen, but
what will happen is, the people that want it bad enough will win. That's
what's going to happen.
Now, you know they want it bad enough because they don't like what
we've done on issues where the majority of the people agree with us, and
you know that they'll show up because they have been out a long time. So
you've just got to decide whether you think this is worth fighting for;
because if you do, we'll win.
Here is what I would like you to say to people. First of all, the
Republicans believe that former President Reagan is the source of all
wisdom. He said you should decide whether to continue the party in office
based on whether you're better off today than you were eight years ago.
So, by the Reagan test, Al Gore wins. (Applause.)
But the real issue is, do you want to continue this prosperity and
extend it to people and places that have been left behind? Now, look, I
want -- I've never heard this as clearly explained as I think it needs to
be. And the previous speakers talked about it a little bit, but I want you
to think about it.
People ask me all the time, they come up to me, and every time I go
someplace in the country, they say, oh, Mr. President, you've had such a
nice, good eight years and you've had such a good economy; what great, new
idea that you and Bob Rubin and Lloyd Bentsen bring to economic policy in
Washington? And I always answer with one word: Arithmetic. (Laughter.)
You know, when I'd normally tell them I was from Arkansas and I had been
governor 12 years and I always found arithmetic was good -- I didn't need
algebra, calculus, trigonometry. Arithmetic. We made the numbers add up.
And what getting rid of the deficit did was to drive interest rates
down, make it cheaper for people to borrow in the private sector. It
ballooned the stock market, increased investment in business. It created
over 22 million new jobs. And we did it in a way -- this is the most
important thing to me -- it was good for everybody. Poverty went down;
average income went above $40,000 for the first time in the history of the
country. We all went forward together. But it starts with arithmetic.
Now, you can argue that Governor Bush and Al Gore have different tax
plans and which one is better. Most people in Arkansas would be better off
under the Gore plan in the short run, because it's more tilted toward
middle class working people. But forget about that. Let's just look at
the cost. And you can certainly argue about the Social Security plan,
about whether it's good or bad to privatize Social Security. Let's forget
about that for just a minute.
The projected surplus is $2 trillion. That sounds like a lot of money
-- just say two. I don't think it will be that big, by the way, because
this Congress put a lot of pork barrel spending in to get themselves
re-elected, which I don't think they'll be successful in doing, and I
certainly hope not. (Applause.) But give the Republicans their number,
Now, the Republican tax cut costs one point three. But because you're
not paying down the debt as much, it has extra interest costs. That's
another $300 billion. So it's really one point six. Now, they have
admitted that their privatization of Social Security plan costs a trillion
dollars. And as the Vice President said, you can't spend the same money
twice; you can't give the same money to young people to put in the stock
market and then give it to those of us who are over 50, when our Social
Security checks are do. So that's another trillion that has to come out of
the surplus. So that's one point six and one.
And then they promise to spend some money, about half a trillion
dollars. That's point five. Here's the big issue in this election
economically: one point six plus one plus point five is three point one,
and three point one is bigger than two. (Applause.) Now, I'm telling you,
this is not rocket science.
You get by all the romance and all the rhetoric, somebody up there has
got to have arithmetic. We brought arithmetic back to Washington. The
Republicans forgot about arithmetic for 12 years. They quadrupled the
debt, and they want to go right back to the same economic policy they had
before. And it's higher interest rates, which means trouble for all of
Do you know, the average -- the first people in America would pay on
$100,000 mortgage today are saving $2,000 every single year in lower
interest rates because we got rid of the deficit. It is estimated that Al
Gore's plan will keep interest rates 1 percent lower for a decade. Why?
Because he pays off the debt.
Now, you know what that's worth? Three hundred and ninety billion
dollars in lower home mortgages, $30 billion in lower car payments, $15
billion in lower college loan payments lower credit card payments; lower
business loans, which means more businesses, more jobs, higher income and a
bigger stock market. That's how the rich get richer and the rest of us do,
too. (Laughter.) Arithmetic.
Now, I'm telling you, you cannot go back to deficits without having
higher interest rates and hurting ordinary people and weakening the overall
economy. So you've just got to tell people this. You can't -- you know,
things are going along so well, they say, it's your money -- which of
course it is, the whole deal is yours. That's what the election is about.
So things are going along so well, they say, let's just take it all
now. And here is the Vice President, that they criticize for telling
people what they want to hear, and he said unh-uh, we're going to first pay
down the debt, then we're going to take what's left, and we're going to
invest in education, health care and the environment, and give the American
people a tax cut we can afford, for child care, long-term care, the cost of
college tuition and retirement savings. That's what we're going to do.
But why are intelligent and very wealthy people like Bob Rubin still
for Al Gore? Because they know they're better off with lower interest
rates and working people having jobs and consuming and keeping this economy
Now, you can explain that to people. Anybody can understand that.
You can't have a tax cut this big, a Social Security privatization program
this big, and promise to spend this kind of money when there is not that
much money. And the Gore-Lieberman plan is to pay down the debt, invest in
the education of our children, in health care, in the environment, in
national security, the things we have to have, and give the people a tax
cut we can afford. We'll all be better off.
And you've just got to ask people: do you remember where we were
eight years ago; do you want to build on this prosperity and extend it to
others, or do you want to reverse it and go back to the previous economic
program? It's not like we don't have a test here. We tried it our way for
eight years; before that, we tried it their way for 12 years. Our way
works better. Vote for Gore. You can say that, and people will understand
what you're saying. (Applause.)
The second thing I want to say is, this country is not just better
off. This is a better, stronger, more united country. And I think it's
worth pointing out that there were specific, serious policies of this
administration that contributed to that.
The crime rate is at a 26-year low. Why? Because we've got 100,000
police on the street, we're putting another 50,000 on the street. The
Brady bill kept guns out of a half million felons and stalkers, and no
matter what our friends at the NRA say, there hasn't been a single hunter
miss a day in the deer woods or a single sports shooter miss an event in
Arkansas, not one, not one single day. (Applause.) It's just all a bunch
of hogwash. But people are safer.
The environment: the air is cleaner, the water is cleaner, 43 million
more Americans breathing clean air. We have safer drinking water, safer
food, 90 percent of our kids immunized for the first time. And we've set
aside more land for permanent preservation than any administration since
Theodore Roosevelt almost 100 years ago. And the economy got better, not
Now, health care. I remember their guy was saying all the time, you
know, you had eight years, you didn't do anything on health care. And I
thought, there you go again. (Laughter.)
When we took office, Al and I, Medicare was supposed to go broke last
year. Broke, out of money, kaput, busted. It's now good for 25 more
years. And we've added preventive care for prostate cancer and for breast
cancer. We have revolutionized care for diabetes. The American Diabetes
Association said what we did was the most important thing since the
development of insulin.
We've got the number of people without health insurance going down for
the first time in 12 years, because of the Children's Health Insurance
Program we insisted be in the Balanced Budget Act.
Now, there's a difference here, and I'll come to that. What does Gore
say? Pass a real patients' bill of rights, pass a Medicare prescription
drug program that all our seniors can afford to buy in to. Give all our
kids health insurance and insure as many of the working parents as we can
afford to insure.
Education. I notice that the Republicans have quit saying there is an
education recession. So every now and then -- usually the facts have no
impact on them. I almost admire that about them. (Laughter.) Never mind
the facts, they know what their line is and they just say it. But they
have kind of quit saying that.
But look at the facts here. The dropout rate is down; the high school
graduation is up; the college-going rate is at an all-time high, thanks in
part to the biggest expansion in college aid in 50 years. (Applause.) But
his is important: the math, the reading and the science scores are up;
there has been a 300 percent increase in the last three years in African
American and Hispanic kids taking advanced placement tests.
We have 800,000 kids now in after-school programs that weren't there
before we took office. We've got, thanks to the leadership of our
Education Secretary, Dick Riley, all but one state have academic standards
now against which they measure their kids and systems for identifying
failing schools and turn them around. So the schools are getting better.
Yes, the work is done by the schools and, yes, most of the money comes
from the states. But the way we have spent this money has made a
significant contribution to the continuing improvement of education in
So what's their answer to that? Change it all. It's not like you
don't have a choice here. People need to know what the choice is. On
crime they have committed to repeal the 100,000 police program. They say
never mind the fact we've got the lowest crime rate in 26 years, the
federal government has got no business doing that. Al Gore, he wants to
put 50,000 more police on the street and keep going until America is the
safest big country in the world.
On the environment, Al Gore wants to build on what we've done, and
he'll do even better because the economy is stronger. They want to repeal
my order setting aside 40 million roadless acres in the national forests
and to weaken the clean air standards. If you want to do that, you should
vote for them, if you really believe that I've hurt the economy so bad.
But if I was trying to hurt the economy with the environmental policies I
have, I've done a poor job of it. (Laughter.) I made a pure mess of that
if I was trying to mess the economy up with my environmental policy.
On health care, they're against the patients' bill of rights, against
the Medicare drug program, against our program to expand coverage. Oh,
yes, they run these ads and they say, we're for a patients' bill of rights,
too. What they don't say, because they can't afford to say, we're for as
much of a patients' bill of rights as the HMO lobby in Washington will let
us be for -- which means it's a bill of suggestions, because if you get
hurt you can't sue.
On the Medicare drugs, they say, we're for Medicare drugs, too. What
they don't say is, we're for as broad a plan as the big drug companies will
let us be for -- so they don't lose their monopoly position. And who cares
if they leave half the seniors out who needs these drugs.
You need to tell people this. They have a choice. But if they want
every senior in this country to have access to medicine, if they want a
real patients' bill of rights, if they want to keep improving the
environment as we grow the economy, if they believe that we ought to be
making, for example, fuel out of farm products and biomass -- let me just
tell you, the reason ethanol never caught on, even though we had a plant in
Arkansas way back in 1980, is that it takes seven gallons of gasoline to
make eight gallons of ethanol. But the Department of Agriculture is
funding research that I believe will bear fruit in the next couple of
years. And when it happens they will crack the chemical mystery and it
will be just like when you turn crude oil into gasoline. Then you'll be
able to make eight gallons of ethanol and you won't even have to use corn
-- you can use rice hulls, you can use hay, you can use any kind of biomass
fuel with one gallon of gasoline. And when that happens, we'll all be
going around getting 500 miles a gallon. Now, Al Gore will fund that and
push that and they won't. You can choose.
But you talk about something that could revolutionize life for
America's farmers, change everything in rural America and in rural
Arkansas, that's it. So that's what Gore wants to do. They think we can
drill our way out of the energy problem we've got.
And in education, they want to repeal our commitment to put 100,000
teachers in the classroom. They say the federal government shouldn't be
doing that. All I know is that when we passed class size standards in
Arkansas in the early grades, the achievement of our children went up and
it is happening all over America. (Applause.) We have the biggest number
of kids in the history of our country and we need more teachers in those
So you've got a choice. If you want to take down the 100,000 police
and take down the 100,000 teachers and not have a real patients' bill of
rights and not have a Medicare prescription drug program that helps all of
our people and not have a tax deduction for the cost of college tuition and
weaken the environmental standards, you've got a choice. But if you kind
of like having safer streets and a cleaner environment and knowing your
national government is supporting school reforms that work and helping more
people get access to health care while we grow the economy, you've got to
vote for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman and you need to tell the American people
We've got these two big questions. Do you want to build on the
prosperity and keep it going, do you want to build on the social progress
and keep it going? And there's huge choices.
And the third thing I'd like to say is this -- and James Lee said
this, it really meant a lot to me. You know, I've watched Rodney and James
Lee for the last 20 years and now they're maybe the two most popular people
in the Cabinet. You know, James Lee is from Yell County, Rodney is from
Lee County. And I think, you know, one of the reasons that they do so well
is they came from little towns and they learned to talk to people instead
of talking governmentese and they understand human nature. (Applause.)
And here's James Lee Witt up here giving you a civil rights speech
about how he has changed FEMA. (Laughter.) But what he proved is that
FEMA could be both competent and reflective of America. And the truth is,
the more reflective of America it got, the more competent it got.
Now, that's the third big issue. You know, I tried to make every
American, even when they and, on many occasions, I'm sure you, disagreed
with some particular decision I made, I tried to make people feel at home
with the White House, to know that I was pulling for ordinary Americans,
that everybody -- everybody -- in this country interests counted, with the
White House, with the Cabinet, with the decisions that were made.
And I think it's really important that we keep moving forward to build
one America. That's why I'm for this hate crimes legislation and for
employment nondiscrimination. That's why I'm for stronger equal pay laws
for women. That's why I think it's important that the Supreme Court
continue to protect civil rights and human rights.
This is a big deal in this election. They're against the hate crimes
legislation. They're even against our attempts to strengthen the equal pay
laws for women. And most people believe the only issue at stake in the
Supreme Court is a woman's right to choose. That's not true. That's at
stake, by the way, and it will certainly change depending on whether Al
Gore wins or loses this election. You can go to the bank on that, because
there will be at least two appointments in the next four years.
But something that could have a more profound effect on America is
that there is already a majority of 5-4 on that court, that is determined
to limit the ability of our national government to protect and advance the
civil rights and basic public health, safety and welfare of the United
States of America. Already, they have invalidated a provision of the Brady
law because it required local folks to help us check criminal backgrounds.
They invalidated a provision of the Violence Against Women Act -- the
Violence Against Women Act -- because it required local government to do
something to support our enforcement of that.
And in the last couple of weeks, they invalidated an anti-AIDS
discrimination law. Now, these are bills we even got the Republicans in
Washington to vote for. The Supreme Court is to the right of the
Republican Congress already. You have got to think about this, and you've
got to talk to people about this. People need to understand this is a big
Now, it ought to be a happy election because nobody has to say
anything bad about anybody else. Near as I can see that the Vice President
has never one time questioned the character or the integrity of his
opponents. I wish I could say the same thing for them about him. But it
still hasn't been too bad an election. The only problem is, people are
fixing to go to the polls and there is still not absolute clarity about
what the choice is, what the consequences are to real people and their
And look, this is a -- I don't know if we'll have another election in
my lifetime where we've got so much prosperity, so much social progress,
the absence of crisis at home, the absence of threats to our security
abroad. And I just want to echo one or two things that Dale Bumpers said.
First, let me say a word about Joe Lieberman. I've known him for 30
years. I met him when he was running for state senate and I went to law
school, in Connecticut. More than anybody else in the Congress, I think he
clearly understands the approach that we brought to the country in 1992,
whether you call it the new Democratic approach or the DLC approach or
whatever. Basically, it was the idea that we would stop making false
choices in Washington and try to unify our country. We could bring the
deficit down and increase investment in education. We could be
pro-business and pro-labor. We could be for a clean environment and for a
But you've got to be disciplined to do that. And he understands as
well as anybody that the real appeal of our opponents in this election is,
it's your money, let's just take it all now. Even though, as Dale Bumpers
said, it hasn't materialized yet.
And they want to talk about spending all this surplus right now. It
reminds me of those letters we used to get in the mail from Ed McMahon, you
know, the sweepstakes letter: you may have won $10 million. If you went
out and spent the $10 million, you should vote for Bush and Cheney. If
not, you should vote for Gore and Lieberman. (Applause.)
And what Dale said about the Vice President is absolutely right. But
let me say, I think I know something about economic policy. And I hope
I've learned something about decision-making and about the world at large.
It matters whether you know about these issues. It matters how hard you
work. You know, this is a job, it's not just a media event every day.
It's a job.
A lot of reasons that these things have piled up, these good, positive
changes is that every day, we had all these folks in the White House and
all these folks in the Cabinet and Al Gore and I, we were working. We
treated this like a job. We showed up and we worked like crazy for eight
years. I got the gray hair to prove it. We worked at it.
It matters whether you work hard and it matters whether you can learn
and whether you're curious. And it also matters what kind of experience
you have. John Kennedy said the presidency was preeminently a place of
decision-making. Al Gore makes good decisions.
When he had to come off the campaign trail a few days ago, we had all
that trouble in the Middle East and we were sitting in this room and for
about 30 minutes he was asking questions from the various members of our
national security team. I thought to myself, I would feel absolutely
comfortable, under any circumstances, with any crisis in the world, knowing
that this man had to make the call, and that's a big deal. Because it's
still a world with real challenges out there.
So, good man, good decisions. I think he will be a great President.
And you know as well as I do that if everybody understood the differences
and the positions like I just explained them to you today, we'd win. Do
you have any doubt of that?
Okay, so I'll say again, you can win this election in Arkansas for Al
Gore and Joe Lieberman if you want to bad enough. And you just think about
what we've got. We've got a chance, as Dale said, that at least in my
lifetime we've never had. And we may not have it again in our lifetime, to
literally build the future of our dreams for our kids.
So you just go ask people three questions. Do you want to keep this
prosperity going and extend it to the people who have been left behind? Do
you want to build on the progress of the last eight years? Do you want to
keep doing it as one America, keep bringing people together? Do you want
to vote for somebody who is experienced and solid and proven, who will work
hard, who knows a lot, who understands the future? You just have one
choice. It's not close. But it needs to be clear.
You've got two days to make it clear. Please, go do it. You'll be
proud you did for the rest of your life.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 1:42 P.M. CST