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For Immediate Release
July 30, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE LUNCH
437 Rush Restaurant
2:30 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for being here today. I'm
delighted to be in this beautiful new restaurant. One of the owners of
this restaurant, Phil Stefano, is a good friend of mine, and in honor of my
coming he went to Rome. (Laughter.) I don't know what it means, but it's
probably a pretty good choice. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Senator Dick Durbin, one of the finest human beings
and one of the bravest people and one of the most eloquent people who have
served in the United States Congress in my adult lifetime, since I've been
covering. He is an extraordinary human being, and I'm grateful that he is
my friend. And I thank him. (Applause.)
Thank you, Mr. President Middleton, and thank you, Fred Baron, Leo
Boyle, Anthony Tarricone, all the other members of the ATLA for being here
today. I want to thank all the candidates who have come here today. And I
know -- Fred told me you already introduced them, but this is a very
interesting group of candidates. We have Ron Klink and Debbie Stabinow
running from the House of Representatives for the United States Senate.
And they can both win, and they should win if you help them. (Applause.)
I saw earlier Deborah Simm and Ed Bernstein. I think Brian Schwitz
(phonetic) is here. We have a whole slew of House candidates. One of
them, John Kelly from Mexico, went to college with me, so I have a
particular interest in seeing him make good. (Laughter.) But he was also
a distinguished U.S. attorney. But we have this incredible group of people
running for the House. They can win the majority. And now we have an
extraordinary new senator from the state of Georgia, Zell Miller, who will
be running for election in November. And believe me, we can win not only
the House, but the Senate as well if you give them enough help.
And a number of you have helped the Senate candidate that I care the
most about, in New York -- (laughter) -- and I want to thank you for that.
And if you haven't I hope you will, because it's a big old tough state.
And they're trying to take us out, and I think she's going in, with your
help. So I hope you will and I thank you very much for that. (Applause.)
Let me say, normally I don't speak from any notes at these events, but
I want to do it today for a particular reason. You make a living making
arguments, persuading people, knowing what's on people's minds,
understanding the predispositions that they bring to any given
circumstance. And this is a highly unusual circumstance, so I want to talk
to you about it today, because with the conventions of the Republicans in
Philadelphia, the Democrats in Los Angeles, we're beginning to have this
election in earnest.
The first thing I want to do is to say a simple thank you -- you've
been thanking me, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for being so
good to me and Hillary and Al and Tipper Gore for these eight years. I
want to thank you for supporting the civil justice system, and when it was
threatened, the Constitution of the United States. I want to thank you for
supporting ordinary citizens, the people who can't afford to come to
fundraisers like this, but work in places like this; people who can't
afford to hire lobbyists in Washington to plead their case. And I want to
thank you again for supporting the candidates here and those who are not
here who can help to give us a new majority in the Congress.
The second thing I'd like to say, with some humility, I guess, is that
your support has been validated by the record of the last eight years.
This country is in better shape than it was eight years ago; it's stronger
than it was eight years ago. (Applause.) And people are better off than
they were eight years ago.
And as Senator Durbin said, yes, part of it is economics. We have the
longest economic expansion in history and the lowest unemployment rate in
30 years, and strongest growth in 40 years, the highest home ownership in
history -- all of those statistics. But it's more than that as well. This
is a more just society. We have the lowest African American and Hispanic
unemployment rate ever recorded, the lowest female unemployment rate in 40
years; the lowest single-parent household poverty rate in 46 years. We
have rising scores among our students in schools; the first time in history
the African American high school graduation rate is equal to that of the
white majority; the highest percentage of people going on to college in our
We have cleaner air, cleaner water, safer food. We set aside more
land in the lower 48 states than any administration in history except those
of the two Roosevelts. And we proved that you could improve the
environment and the economy at the same time. The welfare rolls have been
cut in half, the crime rate is at a 30-year low. Gun crime has dropped 35
percent in the last seven years. So it's about more than money. It's
about who we are as a people and how we live together.
Many of you who I met earlier mentioned my work in the last couple of
weeks on the Middle East peace process. I've been very honored to be part
of making a more peaceful world, from the Balkans to the Middle East to
Northern Ireland; trying to reduce the threat of terrorism and weapons of
mass destruction and trying to build a positive set of relationships with
countries throughout the world. And America is better positioned than it
was eight years ago.
Now, here's the most important thing. Now what? What are we doing
with this prosperity? That's my answer and your answer, but how do we get
it to be America's answer? What are we going to do with this remarkable
moment of prosperity? Will we use it as a precious, once in a lifetime
gift to meet the big challenges and seize the big opportunities of this new
century? Or will we do what often happens in democracies when things are
going well, and break our concentration and sort of wander through this
The outcome of the election, who wins, depends on what people think
the election is really about. Now, on our side, we've got people led by
Vice President Gore who have brought America back and who have great ideas
for keeping this positive change going. On their side, they have people
led by their presidential and vice presidential nominees who are speaking
in very soothing, reassuring ways about compassion and harmony and
inclusion. Gone are these harsh personal attacks that dominated their
politics from '92 to '98.
You watch their convention, I bet butter wouldn't melt in their mouth
for the next few days. (Laughter.) It is appealing as a package, and a
terrific marketing strategy. But that obscures the differences between the
candidates for President, the candidates for Senate and Congress, and
fundamentally the different approaches between the two parties. And it is
just what they mean to do, because on issue after issue, this ticket is to
the right of the one that Al Gore and I opposed in 1996.
So this election -- you just need to know three things about it. It
is a big election, there are big differences, and only the Democrats want
you to know what the differences are. What does that tell you about who
you ought to vote for? (Laughter.)
It is a big election. But a lot of people don't think so. Story
after story after story that our friends in the press write indicate that
people aren't sure what the differences are between the candidates for
President -- do they have different approaches to crime and gun safety; do
they have different approaches to the economy; do they really have
different approaches to health care. They both seem like compassionate
people, who could mess this economy up anyway -- I mean, it's so strong.
And maybe there aren't any real consequences, and so maybe we should give
the other side a chance. We had it for eight years.
Now, how many times in your own life -- if you're over 30 years old,
every person in this room over 30 at some point in your life has made a
mistake, not because your life was so full of difficulty, but because
things were going along so well you thought there was no penalty to the
failure to concentrate. A lot of you nodding your head, that's true, you
know that's true. If you life long enough you'll make one of those
And countries are no different than people. Things are going along
well, they kind of relax, feeling good. I'm glad everybody is feeling
good. But wouldn't it be ironic if, as a consequence of the good feeling
of America now, and our yearning to sort of have everything come out all
right, that the people that made the decisions and paid the price were
punished for the error they helped to bring about? Now, that's basically
the issue in this election.
And so I say to you, I don't blame our friends in the Republican
Party. If I were them I would be trying to obscure the differences between
us, too, because it's the only way they can win. (Laughter.) I mean, it's
a good strategy. And they're doing it very well. And they've got a great
package and they just hope nobody ever unwraps the package to look and see
Now, this is America and people should do whatever they think they can
do to get elected. But if that happens, and if the electorate goes into
the polling place in November without knowing what the real differences
are, that's our fault, not theirs. You can't blame them for trying to get
elected. They want back in in the world's worst way. And all those
interest groups that are behind them want back in in the world's worst way.
And you know some of the things they want to do if they could get the White
House and the Congress, don't you? And you can't blame them. They're just
doing what they're supposed to do, they're trying to win.
And the American people almost always get it right, almost always --
for over 220 years now, if they have enough time and enough information to
make a good choice. That's our job. And that's your job. Because you
make arguments for a living, so you are uniquely positioned to influence
the outcome of this election, not so much by your money, as by your insight
and your persuasiveness and understanding. And you have to take it on.
Let me just give you an example. What you've got to convince people
of is, look, an election is a decision, it's a choice. And choices have
consequences. If you like the consequences of your choice, you should vote
for that person. But let's just look at some of them. Number one, on
economic policy. The goal ought to be to keep this recovery going and
spread its benefits to more people, right? Okay. What's our policy? Our
policy is, stay with what works. Keep investing in America's future -- in
education, in science and technology and health care. Keep paying down the
debt. Get us out of debt, so the interest rates will stay low. Save
Social Security and Medicare for the baby boom generation, and add a drug
benefit to Medicare, and give the people a tax cut we can afford and still
do that stuff -- for college education, for long-term care, for child care,
for people with a lot of kids to save for retirement. Have a tax cut, but
don't let it interfere with our obligation to invest in our children's
education, to save Medicare and Social Security and get us out of debt.
What's their side? They can say it better. Their side is, hey, it's
your money, we've got it, it's a surplus, we want to give it back to you.
That's the problem with the Democrats, they never saw a program they didn't
like. It's your money, we're going to give it back to you. And they
propose to spend at least from the taxes they passed in the last 12 months
to the one that their candidate for President is advocating and is in the
Republican platform, over $2 trillion in tax cuts over the next 10 years.
And they say, well, so what, we're supposed to have a surplus of $2
trillion. Now, never mind the fact that that, number one, gives them no
money for their own spending promises.
Did you ever get one of those letters in the mail from Publishers
Clearinghouse, Ed McMahon? You may have won $10 million. Did you go out
and spend the $10 million the next day? If you did, you should support the
Republicans this year. If not, you'd better stick with us. You better
stick with us. (Applause.)
Folks, that money is not there yet. That money is not there yet. If
we invest this year in education, and we say we want to spend this much
next year, and the money doesn't come in, we don't have to spend it. But
if once you cut taxes, it's gone and it's pretty hard to get a bunch of
politicians to come back in and raise them again because the money didn't
materialize. So you've got to tell people that.
Look at your friends and say, listen, if I ask you to sign a contract
right now, committing to spend every penny of your projected income over
the next 10 years, would you do it? If you would, you should support them.
If not, you'd better stick with us. Keep this economy going.
I got an economic analysis last week from a professional economist
that said that Vice President Gore's economic plan would keep interest
rates at least one percent lower, at least one percent lower, than his
opponent's plan over the next decade. Do you know what that's worth --
$250 billion in home mortgage savings, $30 billion in car payment savings,
$15 billion in student loan payments. That's a pretty good size tax cut,
and besides you get a health economy and you get America out of debt. It's
a huge difference. People don't know it. It's up to you to make sure they
Let me just take one or two others. In health care, we want to
lengthen the life of Medicare and Social Security. We want to add a
Medicare drug benefit that all of our seniors can afford, We want a
patients' bill of rights. On those three issues they say no, no, no, no
lengthening the life of Medicare and Social Security. Indeed, one of the
tax cuts they passed this week would take five years off the life of
Medicare. No patients' bill of rights with the right to be vindicated if
you get hurt. No Medicare drug benefit that all of our seniors can afford
who need it.
On crime, we say put more police out there and do more to take guns
out of the hands of criminals and kids; specifically, close the gun show
loophole, mandate child trigger locks, don't import large-capacity
ammunition clips to get around the assault weapons ban. And the Vice
President says -- and I agree with him -- make people who buy handguns get
a photo ID license like people who buy cars, showing that they passed a
background check and they know how to use the gun safely. (Applause.)
They say no, no, no, no. Instead, have more people carrying concealed
weapons -- in church, if necessary. That's their record and their
position. Now, that's a clear choice. People don't know that. Did you
see that survey last week of suburban women voters who care a lot about
this issue? And they had no idea what the differences were.
Now, the chief political argument is that the head of the NRA said
they'd have an office in the White House if the Republicans win. But what
I want to tell you is something more profound. They won't need an office
in the White House because they'll do what they want to anyway, because
that's what they believe.
Look, I think we have got a chance here to get away from this politics
of personal destruction. We should say that our opponents are honorable,
good, decent, patriotic people and we have honest disagreements with them.
The only thing we disagree with is they're trying to hide the
disagreements. So let's tell the American people what the differences are
and let them decide. And whatever they decide, we can all go on about our
business and be happy with our lives because democracy is working. But we
can't if they don't know.
Let's look at the environment. We say we should have higher standards
for the environment and deal with the problems of climate change, and we
can improve the environment and the economy at the same time. And they
don't believe that, basically. And one of the specific commitments made by
their candidate in the primary -- something they hope all you forget, they
hope you have selective amnesia about the Republican primary -- but one of
the specific commitments made was to reverse my order establishing 43
million acres that are roadless in our national forests, something the
Audobon Society said was the most significant conservation move in the last
40 years. Now, they're on record committing to repeal that.
So there's a difference there. People need to know what the
differences are, and if they agree with them they should vote for them. If
they agree with us, they can vote for us. But they ought to know.
I'll give you a couple other examples. Hate crimes legislation:
we're for it, their leadership is opposed to it because it also protects
gays. Employment nondiscrimination: we're for it, they're against it.
Raising the minimum wage: we're for it, they're against it. More vigorous
civil rights enforcement and involvement: we're for it, they're against
Now, all the big publicity is about, in the last few days, an amazing
vote cast by their nominee for Vice President when he was in Congress
against letting Nelson Mandela out of jail. And that takes your breath
away. But Mr. Mandela got out of jail in spite of that congressional vote.
Most of the congressmen voted to let him out. He became president of South
African and the rest is history.
I'm worried about the people now whom I've tried to put on the Court
of Appeals who are African American and Hispanic, who are being held in
political jail because they can't get a hearing from this Republican
Senate, and their nominee won't say a word about it. (Applause.)
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Southeastern part of the
United States has never had an African American, but it has more African
American citizens than any other one. I've been trying for seven long
years to fix it, and they've blocked every one. They are so determined to
keep an African American off the court that they have allowed a 25-percent
vacancy rate on the Fourth Circuit -- just to keep an African American off
There are two now I've got up there. They could prove me wrong. Give
them a hearing and confirm them. In Texas, I nominated a man named Enrique
Moreno from El Paso that the Texas state trial judges said was one of the
best lawyers in West Texas, a guy that graduated at the top of his class at
Harvard, came out of El Paso and did that. He got the highest rating from
the ABA. And the Texas Republican senators said he wasn't qualified. And
by their likes, he's not qualified because he's not a guaranteed
ideological purist vote.
And the leader of the Republican Party in Texas, now the leader of the
American Republican Party, all he had to do was say, give this man a
hearing, this is wrong. But not a peep.
So let's worry more about Moreno -- Mandela took care of himself just fine
-- and the people in the Fourth Circuit and the other people. This is a
Now, I'm sure they have principled reasons. They really want somebody
on the Court of Appeals. They think it would be a better country if people
toed the ideological line. I have appointed the most diverse and the
highest rated group of judges in the last 40 years, and I didn't ask them
what their party lines were. (Applause.)
Now, that leads me to the last point. I think the last place where
there is a clear choice is choice, and civil rights enforcement and the
civil justice system. (Applause.) The next President will make two to
four appointments to the Supreme Court, almost certainly. The Vice
President has said where he stands on this. Their nominees are both avowed
opponents of Roe v. Wade and their nominee for President said the people he
admired most in the Supreme Court were Justices Thomas and Scalia, those
that are the most conservative.
Now, I'll bet you anything nobody gets up and gives a speech about
this in Philadelphia. But it's a relevant thing. It will change the shape
of America far beyond the lifetime of the next presidency.
So I say to you -- and I'm not attacking them personally, these are
differences. And I don't even blame them for trying to hide the
differences because they know if the folks find out, they're toast.
(Laughter.) I don't blame them. (Applause.) But I have worked so hard to
turn this country around. I have done all I could do. And I don't want my
country to squander the opportunity of a lifetime, the opportunity of a
generation to build the future of our dreams for our children. That's what
I want. (Applause.)
And I think what's best for America is Al Gore. That's what I really
believe. (Applause.) He's done more good in the office of Vice President
than anybody who ever held it. We've had some great presidents who were
vice president; none of them did remotely as much for America as vice
president as he has, from casting the tie-breaking vote on the budget to
casting the tie-breaking vote for gun safety in this year; from managing
our downsizing of the government to the smallest size in 40 years to making
sure that we pass an e-rate in the Telecommunications Act that can make
sure all the poor schools in this country could hook up to the Internet;
from managing a lot of our environmental programs to managing a lot of our
foreign policy with Russia, Egypt and other countries.
There has never been anybody who has had remotely as much influence as
Vice President as he has. And, therefore he is, by definition then, the
best qualified person in our lifetime to be President.
The second thing you need to know is there is a big difference in
economic policy. I've already said that, but if you want this thing to go
on -- everybody who wants to live like a Republican needs to vote Democrat
this year. (Laughter and Applause.) Now, if you want it to go on, you've
got to do it. (Applause.)
And the third thing that you need to know about him is he understands
the future. He understood the potential of the Internet to carry the
Library of Congress when it was the private province of Defense Department
physicists. Don't you want somebody like that in the White House when we
have to decide who gets a hold of your medical and financial records that
are on the Internet?
He understands the potential of the Human Genome Project and this
whole biomedical revolution. Don't you want someone like that in the White
House when we have to decide whether someone can deny you a job or a
promotion or health insurance based on your gene map?
He understands climate change. People made fun of him 12 years ago.
When we ran together in '92, they made fun of him. Now the oil companies
acknowledge that climate change and global warming are real and it's going
to change the whole way our children live unless we deal with it. Wouldn't
you like someone in the White House that really understands that? You need
somebody that understands the future. It's going to be here before you
And the last thing I'll say -- it's what you already know or you
wouldn't be here -- this is the most diverse, interesting country we've
ever had. We're going out into a world that's more and more
interdependent, where we have obligations to people around the world that
we must fulfill if we want to do well ourselves. And I want someone in the
White House that will take us all along for the ride -- and he will.
Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 3:01 P.M. CDT
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