[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[February 18, 1998]
[Pages 240-242]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Reception for Representative James P. Moran
February 18, 1998

    Thank you very much. First let me join, I know, all of you in 
thanking Dr. D'Orta for opening this beautiful, 
beautiful house to us tonight. It's especially nice for me to come back 
here because I was involved for a long time with Pamela Harriman and 
with her late husband, Governor Averell Harriman, and their good friend 
and former great support, Janet Howard, is here 
tonight. My mind has been reliving a lot of precious memories in this 
wonderful home.
    I'm also grateful to Dr. D'Orta for helping 
Jim Moran, who is one of the finest people I have ever known in public 
life. I'm here for him tonight for a lot of reasons, but if you think 
back to where our country was in 1992, when I was running for 
President--that the economy was weak, that we were growing apart 
economically, that our social problems were getting more severe, that 
our steps seemed more and more uncertain--and you look at where we are 
today, I can tell you without reservation that one of the reasons we're 
where we are today is that at very critical junctures, Jim Moran was 
always willing to stand in the breach and do what was right for our 
    In 1993, we passed our economic program to bring the deficit down by 
only one vote in the House. If Jim Moran had taken the easy way out, if 
he'd said, ``Well, there are a lot of people in my district who will 
attack me over this,'' we wouldn't be here tonight having this 
celebration. Just Jim Moran could have walked away and changed the 
future of the country. But because he didn't walk away, before we saved 
the first dollar from the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, the deficit had 
been reduced from $295 billion a year to $22 billion a year, over 90 
percent. That alone should get Jim Moran reelected for the rest of his 
life if he wants it.
    When we passed the Brady bill and the crime bill to put 100,000 
police on the street and ban assault weapons, the people in the NRA and 
their allies actually defeated a number of our Congressmen in the '94 
election by terrifying people and saying we were taking their guns away. 
But Jim Moran stood in the breach. We didn't win by many votes on the 
crime bill, and 5 years later, as we've now put over two-thirds of those 
police on the street and taken a lot of the assault weapons off the 
street, hundreds of thousands of people with criminal records or adverse 
mental health histories have not been able to buy handguns because of 
the Brady bill. This is a safer country. Crime has gone down for 5 years 
in a row in all major categories.
    In 1994, when the other party won the House and proclaimed that they 
had a revolutionary contract--we Democrats said, on America--
[laughter]--and they were prepared to shut the Government down to try to 
force me to accept that contract, the only way we were able to reverse 
it was that there were enough hearty souls in the Congress who said, 
``Wait a minute. There's something wrong with this picture. We are 
reducing the deficit. We're going to balance the budget, but we don't 
have to give up on our commitment on education or our commitment to the 
environment or our commitment to health care or our commitment to senior 
citizens or our commitment to trying to expand the circle of economic 
opportunity to the people who haven't felt anything in this recovery 
yet.'' And we said no.
    And in the face of the shutdown we defeated the contract on America, 
thanks to Jim Moran and the people like him who stood with me. If they 
hadn't done it, I could not have done it alone. So Jim Moran has done a 
lot of good things.

[[Page 241]]

    In 1997, we passed the balanced budget law, which, as Jim said, had 
the biggest increase in child health care in a generation, the biggest 
increase in investment in education in a generation, and still balanced 
the budget. This year we estimate the deficit will be $10 billion. But 
if we get fortunate, if the challenges in Asia with the economy don't 
slow us down too much, we'll actually probably balance the budget this 
year. And if we don't, next year we will because of the balanced budget 
I've submitted to Congress.
    None of this would have been possible if we hadn't laid the 
framework, the foundation. And Jim Moran was a critical part of that, 
because he realized that we had to be responsible with the deficit; we 
just couldn't go on having high interest rates and high deficit and 
quadrupling the debt every 12 years, but there was a way to reduce the 
deficit, reduce the size of Government, and increase our investment in 
the future of our children.
    And in the last 5 years, we sort have gotten America to working 
again. And I think people feel that. And now, as I said in the State of 
the Union, what we need to be asking ourselves, if the country is 
working well again what do we have to do now to look at the long-term? 
What are we going to do to prepare this country for the 21st century to 
make sure that it's as strong as it can be? And that's what we're going 
to be working on in this year--and again, why it is so important that he 
win reelection.
    If we have, as is projected, not only a balanced budget but several 
years of surpluses, the easy thing to do in an election year is to go 
out and promise the people a tax cut or some new spending program that 
sounds nice. I say we should do neither unless we pay for it, and all 
the surplus should be resolved until we have saved the Social Security 
system for the 21st century. That is very important. That is the right 
thing to do.
    We have 10 years left on the Medicare Trust Fund, but we have to 
reform Medicare for the 21st century. It's important how that's done and 
whether it's done consistent with our most basic values.
    We have the money, in addition, to continue to open the doors of 
college education to all; to lift the standards in education; to try to 
encourage schools in areas that are underperforming; to end social 
promotion but give children a second chance; to lower class sizes to 18 
in the first three grades; to rehabilitate 5,000 schools or build new 
ones in places where the kids don't have a decent place to go to school; 
to let people who are between the ages of 55 and 65 who don't have any 
health insurance buy into the Medicare system if they, or with help from 
their children, can afford to do so; to have the biggest increase in 
medical research in the history of the country to help us to solve the 
problems that are still facing us; to use the wonders of technological 
advances to deal with our part of the responsibility to fight climate 
change and global warming. We have all these challenges before us, and 
they're significant, but they are wonderful opportunities for us.
    Hillary has sponsored a project 
for the millennium--you know, we sat around and talked for a long time, 
and I asked her to think about what gifts we ought to give the 
millennium, and she calls her project, basically, ``Remembering the 
past, and imagining the future.'' And I talked about it in the State of 
the Union. We're trying to raise the funds and get the funds to save the 
Star-Spangled Banner--we need $13 million in restoration; it would be a 
tragedy if it were lost--to save the Declaration of Independence, the 
Constitution, and the Bill of Rights and make sure they're perfectly 
preserved; to get every community in the country to go out and save 
their own historic element. There's a house at the Old Soldiers' Home 
here in Washington, where Abraham Lincoln used to go to work in the 
summertime. The house is in terrible condition. It ought to be saved.
    But we also are imagining the future. That's what the medical Trust 
Fund is about. That's what our international space station is about and 
sending Senator John Glenn at the age of 77 back 
into space. Don't worry about him. He's in better shape than I am. He'll 
be fine.
    And that is what a lot of our challenges in foreign policy are all 
about. I'm going to try to pass a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty 
this year to discourage other countries from becoming nuclear powers and 
to slowly let the whole nuclear threat recede. And we have to do that. 
We are actively pursuing our peace efforts, from Bosnia to the Middle 
East to Northern Ireland. I'm about to leave on a trip to Africa, which 
I have looked forward to for a long time. Then I'm going down to Latin 
America, where every country in the hemisphere

[[Page 242]]

but one is a democracy. We are working hard on these things.
    One of the things that I want you to understand--I have not much to 
add at this moment to what I have already said yesterday in my speech at 
the Pentagon about the situation in Iraq, but I want you to think about 
this. There will never be a time as long as we're on this Earth when 
there won't be people who seek absolute, arbitrary, abusive power. This 
country was established by people who were fleeing absolute, arbitrary, 
abusive power. That's how we all got started. And we have been jealous 
about that from the beginning.
    One of the things we know is that the more open our global society 
gets, the more we can all get on the Internet and share information with 
people around the world, the more we can get on an airplane and fly 
around the world, the more we can hop from continent to continent to 
continent, the more we get in touch with each other, the more vulnerable 
we are to one another's problems and the more open we are to the 
organized forces of destruction.
    That's why I tried to take such a hard line against terrorism. 
That's why I tried to take such a hard line against the development of 
chemical and biological weapons and very small-scale nuclear weapons. 
Why? Because you don't want people to carry stuff like that around from 
airport to airport. You don't want to have any unnecessary exposure when 
people can get on the Internet and find a webpage that will tell them 
how to make a bomb like the bomb that blew up the Federal Building in 
Oklahoma City.
    We cannot make the world perfectly safe, but we have to do 
everything we can in our time to imagine what the security problems will 
be like when this young lady here is grown, and she has children of her 
own. That is our obligation.
    So what all of this is about at bottom, it is about what kind of 
world our children will live in and what we have to do, not to make it 
perfectly risk-free--we can't do that--but we have to do everything we 
possibly can to minimize the risks that we and our children and our 
grandchildren will be exposed to as we move into a globalized society 
where the organized forces of destruction will cause us enough trouble 
anyway, whether they're narcotraffickers, criminal syndicates, or 
terrorists. Anything we can do to minimize the chance that anyone will 
be able to put into play chemical and biological weapons against 
civilized people, wherever they live, we should do. That is the 
animating principle here for me.
    I am doing the best I can with a difficult situation, because I'm 
thinking about what we have to do to strengthen America and the world 
for the 21st century.
    We've got a lot to do. We're going to get a lot done this year. The 
thing I like about Jim Moran is that he will work with members of the 
Republican Party whenever they'll work with him in good faith. We know 
we're hired here to get things done for the American people, but we also 
know that when November rolls around, there will still be plenty of 
things on which we honestly disagree in good faith. What we want is to 
have honest disagreement and to see upright, honest, and truly 
courageous people like Jim Moran return to public office. America needs 
it. It's good for our future.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:03 p.m. at a private residence. In his 
remarks, he referred to Dr. Jim D'Orta, reception host.