Remarks by the President at Luncheon for the Gay/Lesbian Leadership Council (9/27/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                              (Dallas, Texas)
For Immediate Release             September 27, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                          AT LUNCHEON FOR THE DNC

                             Private Residence
                                        Dallas, Texas

1:15 P.M. CDT

          THE PRESIDENT:  You've got to calm down now, we've got work to
do.  (Laughter.)  But I thank you for that welcome.  And I want to thank
Chuck and Jim for welcoming us.  This is a really beautiful place.  I love
the art, I love the architecture, I love the light.  This is the first time
I've ever gotten to give a speech under Betty Davis eyes.  (Laughter and
applause.)  I bet I hear about that one.  (Laughter.)

          Thank you, Julie and Kay.  I'd like to thank Ed Rendell for
agreeing, after he left the mayor's job, to do this old part-time job as
chair of the DNC.  And my friend of many, many years, Andy Tobias, who has
really done a wonderful job in more ways than most people know.  Thank you,
Elizabeth.  I thank Julian Potter, my White House liaison.  (Applause.)
And the others who are here from the White House today.

          I also want to thank Brian Bond, who is the Director of the Gay
and Lesbian Victory Fund.  And we have one very important candidate for
Congress here, Regina Montoya Coggins -- (applause.)  And, Molly Beth
Malcolm, thank you for being here, for getting on that -- (applause) --
what was that talk show you were on last night, taking up for our side?
That guy just talks louder when he starts losing arguments.  You hung in
there really well.  (Laughter.)  You did a good job.

          I want to say to all of you that this is an interesting time for
America, a time of enormous progress and prosperity, but a time of real
ferment, too.  And people are trying to come to grips with all the currents
of change that are running through America.  The Fort Worth City Council
voted to extend  discrimination protection to gays and lesbians --
(applause.)  Gay Dallas city councilman changes party.  (Applause.)  Good
deal.  Regina wants to represent the community, and the congressman says he
doesn't -- not sure he does.  (Laughter.)  It's a big deal.  We're debating
all these things.

          I'm honored to have had the chance to be President at a time when
all these issues were coming to the fore, and to have a record number of
members of the gay community in my administration.  We are fighting for the
hate crimes bill, and basically, we now have a bipartisan majority in both
Houses for it.  We've got all the Democrats but one and about, I don't
know, 12 or 13 Republicans in the Senate voted for the hate crimes bill.
And we have 41 Republicans in the House who voted with about 200 of our
crowd to instruct the conferees on the defense bill to leave it in there.

          I was asked just before I left Washington -- a couple of you
mentioned it to me -- that one of -- someone in the leadership of the
Republican Congress said that he didn't think this would get to be law this
year.  Well, if it doesn't get to be law, it's because the leadership
doesn't want it, because we've got a majority of the votes for it.  So I
would urge you do to whatever you can.

          There's been a sea change movement.  Gordon Smith, who is the
Republican Senator from Oregon and an evangelical Christian, gave an
incredibly moving speech in the Florida Senate for it.  I don't know if you
saw it, but there was a Republican state representative from Georgia who
gave a decisive speech in the Georgia legislature for the hate crimes bill.
And I don't know if you've circulated that, but it's an overwhelmingly
powerful speech.  And I think it could have, if we can get it around, an
impact on some more members in the House.  But we've got the votes; it's
just a question of whether the leadership of the Republican Party in the
Congress stays to the right of the country on this issue.

          The same thing is true of the employment nondiscrimination
legislation.  I actually hope that we might pass that this year.  There are
big majorities across the country for this.  It is not just a Democratic
issue.  It is not just a liberal issue.  It's not even just a gay rights
issue.  It's a fundamental fairness issue in America.  And we get a few
changes in the Congress, that will pass next time too, assuming the
election for President works out all right.

          So we're moving in the right direction.  But we're dealing with
this -- this election, in some fundamental way, I think, is a referendum
about whether the whole approach we've taken to our national problems in
our national life is the right one.  I ran for President partly because I
just got sick of seeing my country held back by the politics of division;
by a sense of political and economic and cultural entitlement, almost, on
the part of the people who had been running things for a long time, with
absolute confidence that they could divide the American electorate in ways
that made their opposition look like they were out of the mainstream and
not part of ordinary American life.

          And it seemed to me that it gave us bad economic policies, bad
social policies, ineffective crime and welfare policies, and a lot of hot
air and not much results.  So, when the people gave Al Gore and me a chance
to serve, we tried to adopt a unifying approach that would bring the
American people together, and that would not make choices that were
essentially phony.

          We believed we could cut the deficit and invest more in education
and the American people.  And, sure enough, it worked.  Today, before I
came here, I announced that we would have this year a $230 billion surplus,
the biggest in the history of the United States; that we would, when I left
office, have paid off $360 billion of the national debt.  Keep in mind, the
annual deficit was supposed to be $450 billion this year when I took
office.  So it's gone from $450 billion projected deficit to a $230 billion
actual surplus.  (Applause.)

          And yesterday we released the annual poverty figures which show
that poverty is at a 20-year low.  Last year we had the biggest drop in
child poverty since 1966; the biggest drop in minority poverty in the
history of the country since we've been measuring the statistics; 2.2
million people moved out of poverty last year alone; all income groups
experienced roughly the same percentage increase in their income.  But in
America.  And the bottom 20 percent actually had slightly the higher
percentage increase, which is good because they've been losing ground for
many years while working hard.

          So I think it makes sense to have economic and social policies
that bring people together.  And it's rooted in an essential Democratic
belief that everybody counts, everybody ought to have a chance, and we all
do better when we help each other.  It's not complicated, and it turns out
to be good economics.

          And it turns out to be quite effective social policy.  If you
look -- we said that we ought to put more police on the street, punish
people who are particularly bad, but do more to prevent crime in the first
place, and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and kids.  And, lo and
behold, it worked.  Now, that hasn't stopped people from fighting us,
because they're driven by ideology and control, not by evidence.

          One thing I respect about our opponents, they are totally
undeterred by the evidence.  (Laughter.)  I mean, in a way you've sort of
got to admire that -- I don't care what works, this is what I believe.
(Laughter.)  So what if they've got the longest economic expansion in
history and 22 million new jobs and the lowest minority unemployment rate
recorded and the lowest female unemployment rate in 40 years -- I don't
care, I still want to go back to running the deficit and having a big tax
          So what if keeping a half a million felons, fugitives and
stalkers from getting handguns, and not interrupting anybody's day in the
deer woods, and putting 100,000 police on the street has given us the
lowest crime rate in 27 years.  I still don't want to close the gun show
loophole and I want to get rid of the 100,000 COPS program.  That's their
position.  It's not just about guns, it's about police -- they do not favor
the federal program that is now putting 150,000 police on the street.  And
they have promised to get rid of it.  And I could go on and on.

          So what if 18 million Americans every single year are delayed or
denied coverage by an HMO when a doctor is pleading for it, I'm still not
for the patients' bill of rights.

          Now, I could just go on and on, but the point I want to make is
this election is about way more than gay rights.  I have a unifying theory
of how America ought to work -- I've tried to build one America.  I'm
elated when the Human Genome Project revealed we are all 99.99 percent the
same genetically.  (Laughter.)

          I've been touting to a lot of people this new book by Robert
Wright called "Nonzero."  He wrote an earlier book called "The Moral
Animal."  The essential argument of the book is that notwithstanding all
the depravity of the 20th century, and the Nazis and the communists, that
essentially society is moving to higher and higher levels of decency and
justice, because it's becoming more complex and we're becoming more
interdependent.  And the more interdependent people become, and the more
they recognize it, the more they are forced to try to find solutions to
their disagreements, in game theory parlance, which are nonzero sum
solutions as opposed to zero sum solutions -- those are where in order for
somebody to win, somebody has got to lose.

          It's not a naive book.  I mean, we're going to have a race for
President; it's a zero sum race, one will win, one will lose.  But the
general idea is that we ought to organize society in such a way that we
more and more and more look for solutions in which, in order for me to win
you have to win, too.  We have to find respectful ways to accommodate each
other so that we can honor our differences, but be united by our common

          So, for me, cutting the welfare rolls in half; adding a couple
million kids to the rolls of children with health insurance; being for the
hate crimes bill and the employment nondiscrimination bill; being for New
Markets legislation to expand opportunity to people and places left behind;
and continuing to get the country out of debt so interest rates stay low
and prosperity stays high, so the rest of the country is secure enough to
reach out to people who are different from them, which is easier to do when
you're secure than when you're insecure -- to me, this is all part of a
unified strategy.

          And I guess what I would like to ask you to do is to continue to
reach out and to keep working.  Never allow yourselves to be marginalized
or divided against your friends and neighbors.  Because the progress we're
making is because more and more people are identifying with our common
humanity.  As horrible as it was when young Mathew Shepherd was stretched
out on that rack to die in Wyoming, it got a lot of people's attention.
And when that police commissioner from Wyoming stood up and said, I was
against hate crimes legislation before, and I was wrong, the experience of
knowing this young man's family, knowing his friend, knowing what his life
was like, and understanding the nature of this crime and why the people
committed it has changed my life -- seeing his parents stand up and talk --
obviously, not exactly a liberal Democratic activist living out there in
Wyoming -- (laughter) -- talking about this whole issue in profoundly human
terms has helped to change America.  And they are trying to redeem their
son's life by making sure that his death was not in vain.

          And the American people are fundamentally good people.  They
nearly always get it right once they have the chance to have personal
experience, if they have enough information and they have enough time to
absorb it.

          Now, that's why, in this election, it's important that you keep
reaching out and understand that clarity is our friend.  I just get so
tickled watching this presidential campaign, maybe because it's interesting
for me; I'm not part of it now.  (Laughter.)  Except as I often say, now
that my party has a new leader and my family has a new candidate, I'm now
the Cheerleader-In-Chief of the country.  (Laughter and applause.)
But it's sort of like -- one week we read in the press that there is
something wrong with one of the candidates.  Then, the next week, oh,
there's something wrong with the other.  And let me tell you something.  I
totally disagree with that whole thing.  I think we ought to posit the fact
that we have two people running for president who are fundamentally
patriotic, good, decent people who love their country, but who have huge
differences that tend to be obscured by the daily and weekly coverage of
this or that flap.

          And sometimes, I get the feeling that the flaps are being
deliberately used to obscure the underlying reality.  Now, the underlying
reality is that these people have huge differences on economics -- huge.
And the Republican position would basically take an enormous percentage of
the non-Social Security surplus, roughly three-quarters of it, and spend it
on a tax cut.  Then, if you partially privatize Social Security, that's
another trillion bucks, you're into the Social Security surplus, and that's
before you have kept any of your spending promises.  That means higher
interest rates.

          We just got a study which said that the Gore plan would keep
interest rates roughly a percent a year lower, over a decade, and that's
worth -- there's some dispute about it, but somewhere between $300 billion
and $390 billion over 10 years in lower home mortgages, and $30 billion in
lower car payments, and $15 billion in lower student loan payments.  That's
a big tax cut.

          It also keeps the economy going.  There are huge differences in
economic policy.  Big differences in education policy.  Even though both
say they're for accountability, I would argue that the Democratic program
on accountability is stronger, because it says, we favor voluntary national
exams; we favor identifying failing schools, and then having to turn them
around, shut them down, or put them under new management.  So there are
real consequences here.

          And we favor, in addition to that, which they don't, putting
100,000 teachers out there to make smaller classes, and rebuilding or
building a lot of schools -- because you've got kids just running out of
these buildings, and a lot of school districts just can't raise property
taxes any more.

          There are huge differences in health care -- a patient's bill of
rights, Medicare drug program.  You know, all this medicine flap, it
obscures -- what is the underlying reality here?  The underlying reality
is, we have the money to give senior citizens who cannot afford it
otherwise a drug benefit through Medicare.  And our position is that we
ought to do it, and that over the long run, it will keep America healthier,
make lives longer and better, and keep people out of the hospital.  It's a
simple position -- that if we were creating Medicare today, there's no way
in the world we would do it without a prescription drug program.

          Their position is, we ought to do that for the poorest Americans
and everybody else ought to buy insurance.  Now, half of the seniors who
cannot afford their medical bills are not in the group of people they
propose to cover, number one.  Number two, even the health insurance
companies, with whom I've had my occasional disputes, if you've noticed,
I've got to hand it to them.  They have been perfectly honest in this.
They have said, we cannot write a policy that makes sense for us that
people can afford to buy.

          Nevada passed the bills that the whole Republican establishment
is for, and you know how many health insurance companies have offered
people drug coverage under it?  Zero.  Now, so the evidence is not there.
But like I said, I've got to give it to them.  They are never deterred by
evidence.  (Laughter.)

          Now, what's the deal here?  What's the real deal?  The real deal
is, the drug companies don't want this.  Why don't they want it?  You would
think they would want to sell more medicine, wouldn't you?  They don't want
it because -- I can't believe we just don't read these things -- they don't
want it because they believe if Medicare provides this many drugs to this
many seniors, they will acquire too much market power and require them,
through market power, not price controls -- there are no price controls in
this, this is totally voluntary -- that they believe they will have so much
market power, they will be able to get down the price of these drugs a
little bit and cut the profit margin.

          Well, we can argue about how much more expensive drugs are here
than drugs made here are in other countries -- and it's different from drug
to drug, but instead of getting into one of these sort of nitpicking deals,
let's look at the big picture.     The big picture is, you can go to Canada
and buy medicine made in America cheaper in Canada.  Why?  Because all
these other -- and Europe -- because they impose limits on the price.

          So we all, Americans, we have to pay for all the research and
development for the medicine.  Now, we've got great drug companies, we want
the drugs to be developed.  I personally think we ought to be willing to
pay a premium.  But I don't think there's a living person who needs the
drugs who should not be able to get them.  And we can do this for seniors
on Medicare now -- the fastest-growing group of people in America are
people over 80.

          So it's not just about gay rights.  It's about seniors' needs;
it's about kids' needs to be in decent schools; it's about what works to
make our streets safer.  And then, there are the environmental issues.

          Now, it's not like we don't have any evidence here.  We've got
the toughest clean air standards in history.  We've got cleaner water,
safer drinking water, safer food.  And we set aside more land than any
administration in history except the two Roosevelts, and now we've got the
longest economic expansion in history.  So that's the evidence, right?

          We also know, in terms of the present energy crisis, that we've
been trying for years to get this Congress to give tax credits to people to
buy presently available energy conservation technologies and products, and
that, off the shelf today, there are available products that would
dramatically increase the efficiency of our energy uses.  We've tried to
put more and more money into research for new fuels, new engines, fuel
cells, the whole nine yards, without success.

          What's their approach?  They still say, don't bother me with the
evidence.  You cannot grow the economy and improve the environment, so put
us in there:  We will reverse President Clinton's order setting aside 43
million acres, roadless acres in the national forests; we will review even
the national monuments, may get rid of some of them; we will relax the
clean air standards -- because you can't do it.  Don't bother me with the
evidence.  This is about the air gay and straight people breathe.

          What I'm saying to you is, this is a big deal.  I get so
frustrated because I wish -- that's why I hope these debates serve to
clarify this.  I mean, I know it's hard for them, because it's hard for
them to get up and say, I'm sorry, I just think we ought to have dirtier
air.  I mean, it's hard -- (laughter) -- I understand it's a hard sell.  I
understand that.

          But you've got to understand, there are differences here that
will affect the lives of real people, that will affect the kind of America
this young man grows up in.  That's what these elections ought to be about.
And I'm perfectly prepared to posit that they're all good people.  And I'm
sick and tired of everybody trying to pick them both apart.  That's not the
issue.  The issue is that people -- study after study, after study, after
study shows that people who run for president, by and large, do what they
say they will do.

          And, by the way, there was one independent study that showed that
in my first term, even before all the stuff I've done in my second term, I
had already kept a higher percentage of my promises to the American people
than the last five Presidents.  (Applause.)

          Now, you couldn't possibly win a Pulitzer Prize or a Niemann
fellowship if you said that.  But we ought to be better.  We do not need to
jump on our opponent's personally.  But we do need to make darn sure that
every single person knows what the differences are.  And these Congress --
I'm telling you, every House seat, every Senate seat is pivotally important
to the future of this country.  That's one example -- assume they are
honorable people in the Senate and the House and the people running for the
White House.

          One of them believes in Roe v. Wade, one of them doesn't.
There's going to be two to four judges on the Supreme Court coming up.  Why
wouldn't they each do the honorable thing, that is, what they believe is
right?  Now, we ought to have -- we've never had a time like this in my
lifetime.  We may never have another time where we've got so much peace and
so much prosperity, where people are secure enough to talk about a lot of
things we used to not talk about.

          I mean, let's face it.  Here we are in Dallas, Texas, having this
event, right?  Because America has come a long way.  Your friends and
neighbors have.  Your fellow citizens have.  This is a different country
than it was eight years ago.  So now we've got to decide, what do we
propose to do with all this?  You have friends all over the world.  Most of
you have friends in virtually every state in America.  I am imploring you
to talk to people every day between now and the election.

          Regina will win if people understand exactly what the choices
are.  The Vice President will be elected if people understand exactly what
the choices are.  Hillary will be elected to the Senate if people
understand exactly what the choices are.  And yet so much of what passes
for political discourse is designed to obscure, rather than clarify, the
differences.  Somebody doesn't agree with me, let them stand up and say
what they think the differences are, but let's talk about the things that
will affect other people.

          Most people I've known in politics have been good people who
worked harder than most folks thought they did, and did the best they could
to do what they thought was right.  But we have honest differences -- in
health care, education, the economy, human rights, gay rights, foreign
policy.  One side is for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the other
isn't.  You talk about something that could have huge consequences on your
kid's future.

          So I am imploring you.  I thank you for this money.  We'll do our
best to spend it well.  We need it.  They're going to out-spend us, but we
proved in '98 we could win at a $100-million deficit.  But there's some
deficit at which we can't win, because we've got to have our message out
there, too.  So we'll be less in the hole because of what you've done

          But you just remember this.  There are a significant number of
undecided voters -- that's why these polls bounce up and down like they do
-- and they're having a hard time getting a grip on the election, the
undecided voters are, partly because there's not enough clarity of choice.

          So I implore you.  You wouldn't be here today if you didn't have
a certain amount of political and citizen passion and courage, and if you
didn't have clarity of choice about some issues that are very important to
you.  So I ask you, take a little time between now and the election, every
day, and try to find somebody somewhere that will make a difference, and
give them the same clarity that you have.

          Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

                           END       1:42 P.M. CDT

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