[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[September 27, 1997]
[Pages 1256-1259]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1256]]

Remarks at an Arkansas State Democratic Party Reception in Little Rock, 
September 27, 1997

    The President. Thank you very much. Gosh, I'm glad to see you. Thank 
you, Chairman Gibson, Congressman Berry. You know, Marion Berry had me 
in his home and to coon suppers so many times I was practically paying 
part of the property tax down there. [Laughter] Then I got him to come 
to Washington to work, and he thought he'd gone to a foreign country. 
[Laughter] Now he's going to be there when I'm gone. [Laughter] And he's 
still doing that poor country boy routine, you know. He's just milking 
it for all it's worth. [Laughter] He's a good man and my dear friend, 
and I'm proud that he's my Congressman.
    And Congressman Snyder, I'm glad to be the first constituent. I 
voted for you, and I just have one question. How come I don't ever get 
the newsletter? [Laughter]
    You know, Vic Snyder is an unusual man. He was in the Marine Corps, 
and sometimes I think he has more courage than is good for him. He's 
always sticking his neck out. And he's got a medical degree and a law 
degree, and sometimes I think he knows more than anybody ought to have 
to carry around. [Laughter] But I am very, very proud that we have sent 
a person of his caliber to the United States Congress from this 
district. And you should all be proud of him. So I thank you for that.
    And, Bynum, I thank you for organizing this, and I thank all of you 
for being here for the Arkansas legislature. When we had the tornadoes 
down here and I came down to look at Arkadelphia and College Station and 
fly over the parts of Benton that were hurt so badly, afterward I had 
about an hour, and I invited the legislators to come out here and see me 
at the airport. And there was a whole bunch of stuff going on--I didn't 
dream anybody would come. And more than half of you showed up, those of 
you who are legislators here. And I heard something from the Arkansas 
legislators I never thought I would hear as long as I lived. About 30 of 
them said, ``We really miss you.'' [Laughter] I thought I would never 
hear it.
    And then I made a mistake--I made the mistake they teach you in law 
school 101. They said, ``Never ask a question you don't know the answer 
to.'' I made a mistake. I said, ``Why?'' [Laughter] And they said, 
``Because we could have so much fun when you were here because whenever 
it got going too far you would always stop us, and now we have to be 
responsible, and we have to do the right thing for the State of 
Arkansas.'' [Laughter]
    But I think our legislators have done the right thing for the State. 
And because of the term limits law, all of you know that more than 50 of 
the seats will turn over. And that's really why we're all here.
    I tell you, I've learned a lot of things in the last 5 years, and 
most of them have been utterly wonderful. Hillary and I have had a 
magnificent experience. Our daughter, thanks to the media and others, 
was permitted to have about as normal a childhood as you could have in 
Washington, living in the White House. And she's off at college now, and 
when we took her to Stanford, the student speaker to the parents got up 
and made the following remark--she said, ``I don't want any of you to 
worry, your children will miss you--in November''--[laughter]--``for 15 
minutes.'' [Laughter] So she's having a great time.
    And our country is in better shape than it was 5 years ago when we 
started this odyssey. And I guess what I would like to say to you is 
that the country works best when there are two parties with different 
views that are both strong that are required by the dynamics of the 
situation to make principled compromise.
    You heard what Vic said, that balanced budget we signed is a great 
thing for America. But I want you to know that the Democrats made some 
critical contributions to it without which it never would have happened. 
Number one, in 1993, without a single Republican vote, we took the tough 
vote on our economic plan, and the deficit had been reduced by 87 
percent before the balanced budget act was passed. That's why we could 
pass one with all the good stuff in it, and you should never forget 
    Number two, what else did the Democrats put in? If it hadn't been 
for us, there never would have been $24 billion for children's health to 
give 5 million children, almost all of them

[[Page 1257]]

in lower income working families whose parents don't have health 
insurance on the job, the coverage of health insurance and the dignity 
and security their families deserve. We put that in there.
    The third thing we did--which I think 30 years from now will live, 
along with the fact that we finally balanced the budget for the first 
time since Lyndon Johnson was President, will live as the enduring 
legacy--we literally can now say because of the HOPE scholarship, the 
$1,500 tax credit for the first 2 years of college which covers the cost 
of tuition and fees at most of the community colleges in the country, 
because of the tax credits for the junior and senior year of college and 
graduate school and adults going back for job training, because you can 
now have an IRA you can withdraw from tax-free if you spend the money on 
education or a health insurance policy or to buy a first home, because 
we've got in the last 2 years 300,000 more work-study positions, and 
because we've got the biggest increase in Pell grants in 20 years, we 
can now say, finally, this country has opened the doors of college to 
every person in the country who is willing to work for it. And I'm proud 
of that, and you should be proud of that. And that was what our party 
put in there.
    And it was our party that overwhelmingly supported the family and 
medical leave law and that got the minimum wage law raised for the first 
time in a very long time and in so many other ways. And it was our 
party, standing united, these Members of Congress behind me, that 
enabled us to stop the contract on America from going into effect in 
1995, even after the Government was shut down. So it matters. There are 
differences that are honest in these parties, and it matters what we 
    There is another thing that Vic Snyder said that I don't think we 
ought to dwell on too much, but it bears repeating. There's a difference 
in the way we do our business, too. There is a difference in the way we 
do our business, too. And I came to Washington sick and tired of the 
politics of personal destruction. And many times over the last 4 years 
it has broken my heart to see how people tried to put all of you on 
trial and our whole State on trial. And I went back in my own mind to a 
chilling phone call I got in 1991 from a man who was kind of a friend of 
mine in the other party who said, ``We can make people believe anything 
about Arkansas. You're the only guy that can beat us. If you run, we'll 
take it out on them.'' And they were as good as their word.
    But you did not weaken, and I kept smiling and Hillary kept smiling, 
and the country kept doing better, and the people that were doing that 
just got madder and madder and madder and madder. But on the other hand, 
and against all odds after all you've been through, you came through, 
and you voted for me overwhelmingly again last time. And I am more 
grateful than I can say. But I want to tell you something else. It 
matters who holds these positions. It matters who is in the legislature.
    You know, I was a voter. I voted against the term limits amendment. 
I used to joke with people that whenever John Miller walked in a room I 
was in, if there were 100 people in the room, the knowledge of State 
government doubled when he walked in a room. [Laughter] I used to say to 
people--I used to talk about the people that had been around there a 
long time, and we'd fight sometimes, but I always thought it was a good 
thing to have elected citizens with the real power reins.
    And now we have to be sensitive because all of our newer members are 
going to have to rely more on permanent staff people, and they're going 
to have to listen more to the lobbyists because they'll have information 
they don't have. And so we're going to have to work hard to make 
adjustments. There is no such thing as a perfect system.
    But we need good, knowledgeable, hardworking, honest people to 
present themselves to serve in the legislature more than ever before. 
And if there is any good thing about it, we'll have to go to people and 
say, ``Look, you know you don't have to take your whole life doing this 
because we've got these term limits now, but your State needs you to 
step forward and serve.''
    And then I want to see the Democrats out there running positive 
campaigns. Vic and Marion will tell you, when I was pleading with all of 
our Democrats to vote for the balanced budget--because of the things 
that were in it, because it had integrity, it was a good Democratic 
budget, and I was sick and tired of seeing that Democrats were the party 
of tax-and-spend, when we took the deficit down all by ourselves--I 
argued the following: I said, ``Look, when I became President, what did 
you hear

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at every election about our party? What did they say? They said we were 
weak on national defense. They said we didn't really support a strong 
foreign policy. They said we couldn't be trusted to manage the economy. 
They said we were weak on crime and weak on welfare.'' I heard it all 
like a mantra, over and over again.
    Well, they can't say that 5 years later, because our economy is the 
strongest it's been in a generation; because we have advanced the cause 
of peace and freedom around the world; because we have the lowest--
biggest drop in welfare in history and the smallest percentage of 
Americans on welfare since 1970. After 20 years of immigration of poor 
people coming to America, we still have the smallest percentage of 
people on welfare since 1970. And the crime rate's dropped 5 years in a 
    So what is the subject? The subject is, how are we going to organize 
this country so that everybody has a chance to live up to his or her 
God-given capacities? How are we going to organize our lives so that 
people can work and still do their most important job, which is to raise 
their children properly? How are you going to balance the demands of 
work and family? How are we going to grow the economy and preserve the 
environment? Those are issues that require people with our kind of 
values and our kind of interests and our kind of insight. And the future 
depends upon that.
    I pledged when I went to Washington I would change the Federal 
Government. I would make it more active but smaller, and give more power 
to the States. And we have done that. Now, if the States have more power 
on everything from education to welfare and a whole range of other 
issues, it then becomes even more important who is in the legislature.
    So I'm telling you--I'm glad you're here. We need the money. 
[Laughter] I'm glad you're here. And I should point out that this 
fundraiser is completely consistent with the State law, and if we 
finally get Congress off the dime and pass the McCain-Feingold bill, all 
the limits here would be way under that bill. So this is the kind of 
thing that is good for America. I'm glad you're here, but I need two 
more things.
    We need, number one, we need good candidates to come forward. And 
secondly, we need you to work to win. And let me just ask you for one 
more thing, and I'll be home to help. We must not--we must not--lose the 
seat now held by Senator Dale Bumpers in the election. And there are 
some really wonderful people who have either already made up their mind 
to run or who may yet decide to run. I ask only one thing, that they 
have a good, honest, positive debate, that they bring their best ideas 
forward, that they not cut each other up, and when it's all over--you 
remember how you felt and how I felt on the morning after the election 
when I had won this overwhelming victory, and yet for the first time in 
the history of the State of Arkansas a Democrat had lost a Senate seat. 
I don't want that to happen again, and we don't need that to happen 
again. I cannot be effective without a sufficient number of Democrats in 
the Senate.
    I want you to be in a good humor about this. This country is in 
better shape. And don't worry about us. And the tougher it gets up 
there--I always know, the better America does, the worse they will try 
to make it. [Laughter] It drives them nuts. [Laughter] They just hate 
it, you know. And I don't understand it. I always thought we should be 
happy when people had jobs. [Laughter] I always thought we should be 
happy when the country was at peace. I always thought we should be happy 
when people were advancing peace and freedom, and we were actually 
marching forward and facing our problems.
    But you know, there's a lot of wonderful people in Washington, and 
then some of it is like another country. [Laughter] And they'll be shed 
of me soon enough. They ought to just relax. [Laughter] Let us do our 
job. Let us go on.
    Remember what I said--this was not a one-shot deal, my Presidency. 
It was a miracle; nobody thought it was going to happen. [Laughter]
    Audience member. I did!
    Audience member. We did!
    The President. First--in the beginning, only my mother and my wife 
thought we were going to win. [Laughter] Even my daughter and I had 
doubts. [Laughter] But it's part of something bigger. It's got to be 
part of something bigger. You have to understand, there are fundamental 
differences about how we view the future. So that if you like what we've 
done, keeping Marion and Vic in office is a part of it; electing people 
to these vacancies in the legislature is a part of it; holding Senator 
Bumpers' Senate seat is a part of it. You have to see this as a part of 
our life's work. This is part of what we are as citizens.

[[Page 1259]]

    Three years from now, I'm going to come home. We're going to have a 
library. We're going to have a lot of fun. I'm still going to be a 
citizen. I'm still going to care about this. And I want you to care 
about it.
    Audience member. We all want to hammer 'em----
    The President. So thank you for being here, but hammer 'em--hammer 
'em. That's a good idea.
    God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 3:45 p.m. on the grounds of Ray Winder 
Baseball Field. In his remarks, he referred to Bynum Gibson, chair, 
Arkansas State Democratic Party; and John Miller, Arkansas State