[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1994, Book II)]
[November 5, 1994]
[Pages 2010-2015]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Rally for Democratic Candidates in Oakland, California
November 5, 1994

    Thank you very much. It's nice to be back in Oakland. Thank you. 
Thank you. Senator Boxer, thank you for your leadership in the Senate, 
for your energy, your enthusiasm, your passion, your friendship. 
California is richly blessed to have Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein 
in the United States Senate. Congressman Stark; Congresswoman Woolsey; 
Mayor Harris; a spe-

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cial word of thanks to my friend, the chairman of the House Arms 
Services Committee, your Congressman, Ron Dellums. I wish every one of 
you who live in Ron Dellums' district had the opportunity to travel to 
Washington to watch him in action, to see the way he balances the best 
of politics: the way he passionately sticks up for what he believes in 
and still runs his committee in a fair way, the way he is unfailingly 
decent and fair to people who disagree with him, people who are in other 
parties, people who are on diametrically opposed sides of the issue. 
That is the best of American politics. We ought to get back to it, to 
treating each other with respect, to building up this country.
    Folks, before I get into my speech and give you a lot of chance to 
cheer again--[laughter]--I'm going to ask you to do something that 
normally we wouldn't do at a Democratic rally. And I want you to be very 
quiet and listen to me for a minute, because this is important.
    One of the worst things that's going on in our country today is this 
incredible meanness of spirit that is being promoted among people who 
differ with each other. And I want us to set that aside just for a 
moment while I make this announcement. A few moments ago today, 
President Reagan announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer's 
disease. And when he said that, it touched my heart in a particular way, 
because I went to visit him after I was elected President and he talked 
to me for a long time. It was a fascinating conversation, but once in 
the middle of the conversation he said, ``You know, I forgot what I was 
talking about, and it really makes me mad.'' You know, we've disagreed 
on a lot of things over the years, all of us have, with Mr. Reagan. But 
he always fought with a sense of optimism and spirit. And in the days 
since he left the White House, I have to say that he's been willing to 
put partisanship aside to stand up for our country. He helped me on the 
trade agreement with Mexico. He stood up for the assault weapons ban, 
for the Brady bill. He and his wife stood up against Oliver North in 
Virginia. They were capable of putting aside partisanship. And so, 
having nothing to do with any of those issues, I want every one of you 
in this room now to give Ronald Reagan a hand and wish him well and 
Godspeed as he deals with this illness. [Applause]
    Ladies and gentlemen, I come here with all these fine nominees of 
the Democratic Party, with my good friend Insurance Commissioner 
Garamendi, with Lieutenant Governor McCarthy, with so many others who 
are here, to ask you to think about your future. I come here on behalf 
of Dianne Feinstein and Kathleen Brown. I can put in a couple of 
sentences why I hope they will both win on Tuesday.
    First, let me tell you about Senator Feinstein. I've been watching 
the scene in Washington for a long time, although I never worked there 
before 21 months ago. In 21 months, only 21 months, Dianne Feinstein 
has, as a freshman Senator, sponsored the biggest wilderness bill in 
American history, the California desert bill, which I signed last week; 
sponsored a bill that requires every school in the country getting 
Federal aid to have a zero tolerance for handguns, which will do more to 
get guns out of our schools and make our kids safe than anything else; 
and taken on the powerful NRA, which is trying to get revenge on every 
single person that had the courage to vote for the assault weapons ban. 
No one has done anything like that in my lifetime in that short a period 
of time.
    Now, if 21 months with that kind of results doesn't get you a 6-year 
contract, I don't know what could commend the voters--or Dianne 
Feinstein. I don't know what else you could do.
    What is the campaign against her? A hundred percent negative ads by 
someone who says, ``I moved to California in `91. I bought myself a 
Congress seat. Eight months later I started running for the Senate. When 
I ran for the Senate, I lost my own congressional district in the 
Republican primary, but that doesn't matter. I'm just running against 
the other person. You don't have to know anything about me.''
    Are you going to vote for somebody who produced for you or somebody 
who is playing to your fears? Vote for somebody who worked for you, who 
will work for you in the future, who cares about you; not someone who 
cares about the job, someone who cares about what the job can do for 
    And with Kathleen Brown, it's a simple choice, really, isn't it? You 
have a builder and a blamer. You know, very often blamers make you feel 
better. Sometimes when we're frustrated and we're down and we want to 
get angry and we want to lash out, a blamer makes us feel better. They 
give us somebody to be mad

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at. And they want you to vote mad this time, folks. They do want you to 
vote mad.
    Now, as a parent, the older I get the more I realize the wisdom of 
my mother who raised me. As soon as your children get old enough to 
understand, the first thing you try to tell them is never, never make a 
decision when you're mad. How many of us were told on our mother's and 
father's knee, ``When you're mad, count to 10 before you say anything''? 
How many times did we find ourselves so upset we were incapable of 
taking our parents' advice, and so we started talking at about 2 instead 
of 10? And every single time we did it, we regretted it. And if you do 
it this time, you will regret it. Don't regret it. Vote for a builder, 
not a blamer. Vote for Kathleen Brown. Give California a better future.
    You know, you have a simple choice on Tuesday. If you vote your 
anger, your fears, your frustrations, you will be voting for a crowd 
that is committed to take us back to what they did before, to the 
trickle-down economics of the 1980's, to the neglect of our most 
profound problems. Or you can vote to keep going forward.
    Sure, we've still got problems. But let me ask you this: 21 months 
ago, when California and the rest of this country sent me to Washington, 
you did with a commitment to rebuild this country, to make Government 
work for ordinary people, to bring the economy back, to try to make a 
more peaceful and prosperous world for us to live and work in and for 
our children to bring the 21st century in with. And even though we've 
still got problems, folks, this country is in better shape than it was 
21 months ago. Yesterday unemployment figures came out, a 3-year low in 
California, a 4-year low in the United States. We're going in the right 
direction. Let's don't turn back now.
    I have been dedicated to making this country strong. What makes a 
country strong? Strong families, strong communities, strong schools, 
safe streets, good jobs, a strong foreign policy that makes us more 
secure, more prosperous, and promotes peace and freedom. We're making 
progress on all fronts. We're getting stronger. Let's don't give in to 
our weaknesses. Let's stand up for our strengths.
    And we are getting stronger together. In the Government and the 
country of my dreams, there is room for all of us. We reach across all 
lines. Everybody's got a seat at the table of America. This is the most 
diverse and still the most excellent commitment that this administration 
has made, more than any other. We have people from all walks of life, 
from all backgrounds, of all colors in the administration, moving 
America forward together, and we ought to keep doing it just that way.
    You know, when I took office, we were dealing with 30 years of 
accumulated social problems. You know it as well as I do. We see it 
today in the violence, the gangs, the guns. We see it sometimes in 
heartbreaking pictures, like those 10-year-old boys that dropped that 5-
year-old to his death at the highrise in Chicago. But they did not 
happen overnight. They have been building on us for 30 years.
    We were dealing with 20 years of accumulated economic problems for 
ordinary Americans: the stagnation of wages, the frequent loss of jobs, 
the constant threat of losing your health insurance, your retirement, 
and other benefits. This has been building up for 20 years.
    For 12 years, the American people attempted to address it with an 
entirely different theory of politics and economics. We called it 
trickle-down for short, but the basic idea was you could increase 
spending in some areas, cut taxes, especially for the wealthy, sit on 
the sidelines, and let nature take its course. Well, it didn't work. In 
the last 4 years before I took office, we had the slowest job growth 
since the Great Depression. And we were not doing what it took to 
compete and win in the 21st century, to make it an American century, to 
guarantee the American dream for all these children that are up here in 
this audience today.
    That is the fact that we face. And I took office saying, look, 
folks, there had been a big debate about the role of Government. I don't 
think Government is inherently good or bad; it is a reflection of us. 
The question is, what should it do, and what should we do? In my 
judgment, the obligation of our Government is to create opportunity, to 
empower people to take advantage of it, and then to insist that you, as 
individuals and communities, assume the responsibility to take 
yourselves together into the future and to live up to the fullest of 
your God-given capacities.
    Now, our opponents believe--and I must say, this year our opponents 
in the other party represent a more extremist point of view, on the 
whole, than in any time in my experience. They say that Government is 
inherently bad, that any-

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thing it touched it makes worse. I don't know how they explain Social 
Security or Medicare; I don't how they explain the student loan program; 
I don't know how they explain a lot of things. But they say, ``Anything 
the Government does is worse. Therefore, if anything good happens while 
Mr. Clinton is President, it happened by accident or in spite of what he 
did.'' And they say, ``Since we're not going to do anything anyway, it 
doesn't matter how outrageous our comments are, because we're probably 
kidding; we won't do anything.''
    Now, in a cynical time, this has appealed because people say, ``It 
doesn't make a difference.'' Well, folks, where I come from, they say if 
you find a turtle on a fencepost, it didn't get there by accident. So 
you tell me, you tell me if we have made America stronger for strong 
families. I believe it made a difference when 4.9 million Californians 
were protected by the family and medical leave law so they could get a 
little time off when a sick baby or a sick parent was there. And I think 
it made a difference when 2.1 million California families got income tax 
cuts because they were working hard with kids in the house and they had 
modest wages and we didn't want them in poverty.
    I think it made a difference when we immunized all the kids in this 
country under the age of 2 by 1996--that will make a difference to the 
future of our families. I think it made a difference when we said people 
who are dealing with AIDS are part of our family and we quadrupled 
housing funds, we doubled research, we fully funded the Ryan White Act. 
I think that made a difference and made us stronger.
    I think it made a difference when we expanded Head Start and when we 
changed the way we give money to the local school districts to take all 
these Federal rules and regulations off and said, ``We now think all 
kids can learn without regard to their color or their income; go ahead 
and teach them all and have high expectations for all of them and let 
them all rise up. We're not going to segregate them anymore and tell 
them they can't learn because they're poor.''
    I think it will make a difference as we set up national systems of 
apprenticeships for young people who don't go to college but do want to 
be in good jobs. I think it will make a difference when we qualify 20 
million Americans for lower cost college loans so that everybody can 
afford to go to college and stay there.
    Here in the bay area, I think you know it makes a difference that 
our national service program is making it possible, over the next 3 
years, for 100,000 young Americans to serve their country, to solve 
community problems, and earn the money to go to college. I think that 
makes a difference.
    I think our streets will be safer because of the Brady bill and the 
crime bill, because of the police, the punishment, the prisons, the 
prevention, and the assault weapons ban. I think it will make a 
difference, and I think you do, too.
    I think it makes a difference that we reduced our deficit and 
increased our investment in new technologies and defense conversion. I 
think it makes a difference that we reduced the size of the Government 
and gave all the money to people to fight crime in their neighorhoods. I 
think it makes a difference. And you know something? It did. It did. 
This economy has produced 5 million jobs in the last 21 months. This 
year, we had more high-wage jobs coming into America than in the 
previous 5 years combined.
    I think it makes a difference that you had an administration that 
said we're not going to sit by and watch California just die because of 
the base closings. So we're going to give the Alameda Naval Station to 
the Port of Oakland so they can build it up and create jobs and go 
forward. And we're going to invest--we're going to make the Presidio a 
national park. We're going to invest in laboratories like Stanford and 
Livermore. We're going to create the high-wage jobs of the future. We're 
going to rebuild shipbuilding. We're going to keep the airline industry 
afloat. We're going to do things that help California and help America. 
We're going to sell our computers from California all over the world. 
That has made a difference. Don't tell me that we're not stronger and it 
doesn't make a difference. It does make a difference.
    I hear them; they say it doesn't make a difference. I think it makes 
a difference that for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age, 
there are no Russian nuclear missiles pointed at these children here. 
That makes a difference. I think it makes a difference that North Korea 
says they won't be a nuclear power. I think it makes a difference that 
we're expanding trade to Mexico and building friendship instead of 
enmity. I think it makes a difference that

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we have democracy and freedom in Haiti again. I think it makes a 
difference. I think it makes a difference that our young men and women 
in uniform went to the Gulf with lightning speed to stand up to Saddam 
Hussein. And it makes a difference that the United States is involved in 
peace in the Middle East and in Northern Ireland and in helping South 
Africa to make its elections and its democracy a success. It does make a 
difference. They are wrong when they say the Government is inherently 
bad and it doesn't make a difference.
    So what is it that they want? Well, for America, they want their 
contract. Their contract is--oh, listen, it sounds good. Here we are 
just a few days before the election; it's like music to your ears. It 
says, ``The Government is really bad, so we will give everybody a tax 
cut, but almost all of it will go to people in the upper 2 percent of 
incomes. But we'll give the rest of you a couple of bucks so you don't 
boo so loud. And then we will have a big increase in defense, and we 
will bring back Star Wars. And we will balance the budget.''
    So we said to them when they said this was their contract, ``Well, 
what does this cost?'' ``A trillion dollars.'' Now, folks, even in big 
old California, a trillion dollars is real money. [Laughter] I could 
take every one of you out on the town tonight for a trillion dollars and 
have money left over. We could have a good time on a trillion dollars. 
``Well, how are you going to pay for this trillion dollars?'' we asked. 
They said, ``We'll tell you after the election.'' [Laughter] That sounds 
familiar: ``We're going to raise spending, cut taxes, balance the 
budget; we'll tell you later.''
    Now, here's the facts, folks. I've been fooling with these budgets 
for 2 years. I have given you 3 years of deficit reduction for the first 
time since Truman; I know something about these budgets. I know 
something about these budgets. And here's what is going to happen. If 
they win the Congress, here is what happens.
    In order to keep their promises to balance the budget, cut taxes, 
increase spending, they have to cut everything else 20 percent across 
the board: Social Security, college loans, Medicare, you name it, the 
farmers in the valley, everybody--anybody that gets any help, 20 percent 
cut. That's $2,000 per Social Security recipient a year. And then they 
say, ``Well, oh, no, no, no, we didn't say we would cut Social 
Security.'' They didn't say they wouldn't do it, either. Okay, if you 
take Social Security off, then you have to cut everything else 30 
percent, a 30 percent cut in college aid, in Medicare, in everything 
else. It will eviscerate some of the things that keep this country 
    Now, there's always the chance that they're kidding. That's what 
happened last time; they were kidding. So they'll just give you the 
goodies, and they won't pay for it. Then what will happen? The deficit 
will go up; we'll start shipping our jobs overseas again; we'll put the 
economy in the ditch again. Tell them, ``No thank you on your contract. 
We want a strong America, not a weak America. We want to be strong, not 
    And in California, what is their program? Their sole program is, ``I 
don't have any program for the future; I want you to give me a contract 
for the next several years based on a vote you're going to take, so I 
don't have to do anything. I want you to vote for 187 and vote for me 
because I'm for it,'' they say, ``and give me a 4-year contract. And I'm 
not going to tell you what I'm going to do. I just want you to be mad, 
vote for 187, and give me a paycheck for 4 years.''
    Now, what is wrong with 187? Let me ask you to think about this. 
First of all, it is not wrong for you to want to reduce illegal 
immigration. And it is not wrong for you to say it is a national 
responsibility, not just a State responsibility. And Senator Boxer and 
Senator Feinstein and I, we tried to work with the Governor, without 
regard to party, to deal with this issue. We have nearly doubled the 
border guards in San Diego. We have nearly doubled the number of people 
convicted of crimes we have sent back home. We have given money for the 
very first time to pay for the costs of imprisonment. When we are 
shrinking the Federal budget, we have given a one-third increase to the 
State of California in the money we're giving you to deal with the costs 
of immigration. We should do more. But folks, we have done a lot, and 
the crowd before us didn't hit a lick at it. We have really tried to 
    Now, we need to do more, and we will. But 187 puts the cart before 
the horse. In fact, it puts the cart way out there so the horse can't 
find it. [Laughter] One-eighty-seven says, ``Let's be real mad and take 
it out on the kids. Let's don't let any of these kids go to the health 
clinic.'' But they might get sick, and then they might make everybody 
else sick that lives around

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them. ``Oh, we'll worry about that later. We're mad now.'' One-eighty-
seven says every teacher has got to be a police officer: ``Go check all 
these kids, and if you find a kid who's in an undocumented family, just 
put them out on the street.'' And we say, ``But we've already got enough 
kids on the street. We need the kids on the street to come back and go 
to school, not the other way around.'' But they say, ``No, no, no, we'll 
worry about that later. We're mad now. We want you to be mad now and 
worry about that later.''
    So, that's what's going on. They've got a contract that says, 
``Here's a trillion dollars' worth of promises; take this sweet thing 
now, worry about the details later. Here's this 187; be mad now, worry 
about the details later.'' Folks, if you want to build, not blame, 
you've got to worry about the details now. You've got to care about the 
kids now. You've got to think about the future now. Let's build, not 
blame. Let's do the right thing. Let's vote for Kathleen Brown and 
Dianne Feinstein and against 187. We can do it. We can do it.
    You know, I want you to think about this. You heard what Kathleen 
said when she closed her speech about turning the lights on in 
California. This whole deal, all across America and certainly here, this 
whole election--these elections are so close in so many States, this 
whole thing will come down to the spirit that is welling up inside the 
voters of this country on election day. This whole thing will come down 
to that.
    Do you know what an election is like? It's like everybody has equal 
power. And you might imagine that you wake up on election morning and 
you're looking at the television, and the movie on the television is the 
story of America. And you've got this remote control in your hand. You 
can push ``forward,'' you can push ``fast-forward,'' you can just leave 
it fixed, or you can push ``reverse.'' What they hope is that you'll 
stay home and then a bunch of folks will push ``reverse.'' What I hope 
is you'll say, ``This is my movie; I'm pushing `forward.' This is my 
movie; I'm pushing `forward.'''
    My fellow Americans, this election is something that is outside the 
normal course of American history. In the depths of the Depression, when 
one in four Americans was out of work, our great President, Franklin 
Roosevelt, told the American people, ``The only thing we have to fear is 
fear itself.'' These people who our opponents say--our opponents say in 
this election, ``Well, even though the Democrats are facing our problems 
and we're making progress, we want you to vote your fears and give us 
    Look at what the Republican Presidents, the great ones in the past, 
said. Teddy Roosevelt said the credit belongs to the person in the 
arena, the person who is trying to deal with the problems of the day. 
These folks say in this Senate race--this says, ``Punish the people in 
the arena. Put me in, and I won't try at all.'' That's the complaint.
    You look at what that greatest of all Republicans, perhaps our 
greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, said: ``With malice toward none; 
with charity for all  .  .  .  let us move on to finish the work we are 
in.'' These folks say, ``We're going to have malice toward anybody who 
gets in our way and tries to stop us from finishing the work we're in, 
and keep everybody in a turmoil from now til kingdom come so we can be 
in office.'' President Lincoln said that we had to be driven by the 
better angels of our nature. They say, ``If we can keep people in a foul 
mood, we'll be home on election day.'' President Lincoln said our 
Government was of, by, and for the people. They say, ``If we can just 
keep people mad enough, they'll stay away from the polls, or they'll 
vote for us. We'll go back to Government of, by, and for the organized 
interests and the favored few.''
    Folks, that is the choice here. It is a deep and profound thing. It 
goes way beyond all the details. This cynicism, this negativism, this 
country never got anywhere on this. These kids are here today because, 
for more than 200 years, every time we had a pivotal choice to make, we 
voted for the future. Every time people tried to get us to go back, 
every time people tried to divide us, every time people tried to get us 
to vote our fears, every time people tried to get us to be angry, we 
said no, this is America. This is the greatest country in human history. 
We are one nation under God, together, going forward. You do that, and 
we'll be home Tuesday night.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 4:28 p.m. at the Harry J. Kaiser Convention 
Center. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Elihu Harris of Oakland,