[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[December 1, 1997]
[Pages 1684-1686]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Dinner
December 1, 1997

    Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Governor. I want to thank 
Jeff and Andy for hosting this event tonight, and I thank all of you for 
being here. I just came in with at least three members of the White 
House staff. I think Ginny Apuzzo is already here, but I came in with 
Sandy Thurman, Craig Smith, and Richard Socarides. And if anybody else 
is here from the White House, I apologize for making an omission.
    Let me say to all of you, first, I really appreciate your being here 
tonight and your support for our party. Five years ago when I became 
President, I felt very strongly that our country needed a common, 
unifying vision to get us into the 21st century that included all 
Americans who were willing to work hard and obey the law, that 
guaranteed opportunity in return for responsibility, and that maintained 
the leadership of our Nation in the world.
    Five years later I don't think any serious observer could question 
the fact that our country is in better shape than it was 5 years ago on 
virtually every front. The economy is in the best shape it's been in in 
a generation. We have made genuine progress in resolving a lot of our 
deepest social problems. The crime rate is dropping in virtually every 
community in the country. The welfare rolls have dropped by more than at 
any time in history. We have begun to try to reconcile the demands of 
work and family, which is in some ways the central dilemma that people 
with school-age children face and with preschool children.
    And we have taken on a lot of issues that had not been taken on 
before: the dangers of tobacco to children, something Mr. Tobias has 
been on me about since long before he ever thought I could become 
President--[laughter]--the issue of having legal guns in the wrong hands 
and illegal guns getting into the country when they shouldn't, and also 
this issue of what it means to be inclusive.
    On World AIDS Day I think it's worth pointing out that we've made a 
lot of dramatic progress in how fast we're moving drugs from the testing 
stage to approval to market. The increases in investment across the 
board have helped to lengthen and improve the quality of life of people 
living with HIV and AIDS. And I still believe that we will be able to 
find a cure within the next few years if we continue to intensify our 
    Now, one of the things that I would like to say, since this is a 
Democratic Party fundraiser, is that there is a direct chain of events 
between your support of our efforts and the things which happen in this 
country. And if you go back over the last 5 years--and I won't mention 
many, but I'd like to mention just a few--and

[[Page 1685]]

you look at the areas where there has been a partisan fight and then you 
look at the areas in which there has been bipartisan cooperation, in 
both areas you can see the signal difference it makes to have a strong 
party representing the values that we represent.
    If you look at the partisan fights--I'll just mention two--in the 
'93 budget fight, we didn't have a single--a single--Republican vote, 
but before the Balanced Budget Act kicked in, we'd already reduced the 
deficit by 92 percent because of the work that we did, while increasing 
investments in medical research, in treatment, in education, in health 
care, and reducing the budget 92 percent--it was our kind of budget--and 
reducing income taxes on working families with incomes under $30,000.
    If you look at the crime bill debate we had in '94, we had a few--
and I thank God for them--we had a few Republican votes on a strategy 
which is now universally accepted as having a dramatic impact on 
lowering the crime rate: putting 100,000 police on the street, passing 
the Brady bill, passing the assault weapons ban, passing preventive 
programs. In the last session we actually got a lot of--a substantial 
amount of money through the Congress for after-school programs for kids 
who would otherwise be wandering on the streets or for work programs for 
kids who are out of school. Juvenile crime has not dropped as much as 
regular crime. The overwhelming percentage of juvenile crimes is 
committed between 3 o'clock in the afternoon and 7 o'clock at night.
    So that--on these issues, I think history shows we were right.
    Where there was bipartisan cooperation--I'll just mention two--in 
the welfare reform bill, because I had a party in the Congress that 
would back me, I was able to veto the bill twice when it tried to take 
guaranteed health care and food away from poor children in welfare 
families and because it lacked an adequate commitment to child care for 
people who were going to work. So when we signed the bill, I think it 
was a much better bill plainly because of the contribution our party 
    In the balanced budget bill last summer, which I am strongly in 
favor of, it is true that some of the more liberal members of our caucus 
didn't vote for it, but over two-thirds of the Democratic caucus voted 
for that balanced budget for a very good reason: It contained the 
biggest increase in child health since Medicaid passed in 1965, the 
biggest increase in aid to public education since 1965, the biggest 
increase in opening the doors of higher education since the GI bill in 
1945, and a huge increase in medical research through the NIH.
    So again I say, the parties make a difference because they bring to 
bear their views on public decisions. And if people didn't help them get 
elected, they wouldn't be able to do that.
    If you look at where we are today--I'd just like to mention one or 
two things. I believe that we are moving to deal in a more open way with 
this whole idea of what it means to build one America. The White House 
hate crimes conference could not have come at a better time. And if you 
look at some of the terrible things that Governor Romer has been going 
through in Denver, you see that it is a problem in America in more 
contexts than one. And I think that's very important.
    I hope that the appearance I made at the Human Rights Campaign Fund 
dinner the other night and the continuing strong support by many Members 
in Congress, some in both parties, for ENDA is again another 
manifestation of the fact that we are continuing to try to expand the 
barriers of our American community. I think it's very important that we 
continue to do that.
    If I might just mention three other things that are very much on my 
mind tonight that you may want to talk about, or not, as we visit--I 
have done my best to try to put America in a position to continue to 
lead the world and to deal with the new security threats and seize the 
new opportunities of the new century. I intend, therefore, to continue 
to try to get fast-track authority from the Congress because I think 
that we have to sell more of our products overseas. And I think only by 
selling more and by becoming more involved with other countries will we 
have the leverage to try to elevate international economic, labor, and 
environmental standards, something that I strongly support. I think we 
have to do it in a way that our party favors, which is to do more and 
more quickly for people that are displaced here at home.
    I think we have to take a very strong position, but a realistic one 
we can get other countries to sign on to, at the climate change meeting 
in Kyoto. The Vice President is going over there to present our views. I 
think this is a huge, huge issue and will be for at least another 

[[Page 1686]]

    This, in some ways, is the most difficult of all problems for a 
democracy to confront, because except if you live in a place that has 
had a lot of extreme weather in the last 5 years, you probably don't 
have any tangible evidence that the climate is warming more rapidly than 
it has in 10,000 years. But by the time we could all get tangible 
evidence, it would be too late to do much about it--first problem. The 
second problem is, this is not like the balanced budget, which will be 
done in 4 or 5 years or 6 years from the time we started. This is 
something we'll have to work on for 20 or 30 years, but we have to begin 
today. Democracies are not very well organized for this sort of 
challenge. But it is imperative that we do it. And I would implore all 
of you to do whatever you can to help us build public support for having 
an aggressive approach to climate change.
    One final issue I wanted to mention is this whole matter involving 
our dispute with Iraq. This is not about the United States and Iraq, per 
se, nor is it about an attempt to rehash the Gulf war. This is a 
question of whether we are going to establish in the world a regime that 
will limit the capacity of rogue nations and illegal groups to 
manufacture, store, disseminate, sell, or use dangerous biological and 
chemical weapons or small-scale nuclear weapons. I think it is 
imperative that we try.
    Now, you saw from what happened in the Tokyo subway with the sarin 
gas that it's hard to envision a totally risk-free world. But believe 
me, there are substantial things that can be done to minimize the chance 
that innocent civilians who travel the world and walk the streets of 
cities all across the world will be subject to that sort of thing.
    So when you see all this stuff playing out in the press, let me 
assure you that what I am thinking about is whether we can, as part of 
our responsibilities to the future, create a regime in which we will 
actually be able to say that--not that there may never be an incident of 
chemical or biological use by a terrorist group or a drug trafficker or 
something else but that we have done everything that is humanly possible 
to know where the stockpiles are, to limit them, and to minimize the 
chances that they can ever be brought into play against innocent human 
    This is a huge issue, and it will require enormous discipline by our 
country and enormous leadership by our country if we're going to 
prevail. And this is a case when--you know, I care a lot about 
economics, and I think that it's easy to demean it. The country is in 
better shape when everybody has a job who wants one. But this is one 
issue where economic interest in the short run cannot be allowed to 
override our solemn obligation to the future to try to minimize the 
chance that we'll have any of this in your future or our children's 
    Now, having said that, again I say the main point I want you to 
understand is, there is a direct connection between everything I just 
mentioned and hundreds of things I didn't and your decision to be here 
supporting our party. And this is a better country today than it was 5 
years ago because of the ideas, the values, and the efforts that you 
helped to make possible.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:50 p.m. at the Renaissance Mayflower 
Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado, 
general chair, Democratic National Committee; and Jeffrey Soref and Andy 
Tobias, dinner cochairs. He also referred to the proposed ``Employment 
Non-Discrimination Act'' (ENDA). The proclamation of December 1 on the 
observance of World AIDS Day is listed in Appendix D at the end of this