[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[May 3, 1998]
[Pages 673-676]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Dinner in 
Beverly Hills, California
May 3, 1998

    Thank you very much. There may be one person in America, Dick 
Gephardt's 90-year-old mother, who wants 
to call him ``Mr. Speaker'' worse than I do--but no more than one. 
    Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for hanging in there these 
last couple of years. You have no idea, those of you who may not follow 
this on a daily basis, how many good things happened since the 1994 
elections, when we lost the majority, because we had a large, strong, 
united minority that on many occasions made common cause with a brave 
band of Republicans who would stand with us to continue to move this 
country forward. In some ways, that's a harder thing to do. And Dick 
Gephardt also led in that effort, and 
I'm very grateful to him for that.
    Thank you, Martin Frost. I thank all the 
members of the California delegation who were introduced. I thank 
Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis and our State 
Democratic chair, Art Torres, for being here as 
well. And ladies and gentlemen, I thank all of you, especially 
Eli and Edye, thanks 
for having me back at your house.
    You know, Martin Frost got up here and sort 
of made that offhand remark about how this was the largest amount of 
money that we had ever raised at a private home. And I thought if you 
got here in time to take a tour, you know it hasn't been a fair fight. 
    I think I should repeat something I said. I once went to 
Marvin and Barbara Davis's home and I walked down that beautiful spiral 
staircase, and I said, ``You know, this place makes the

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White House look like public housing.'' [Laughter] That's sort of how I 
feel tonight. And of course, the White House is public housing. 
[Laughter] And I thank you for letting me and my family be tenants for a 
little while. It has effective rent control as well. [Laughter]
    Ladies and gentlemen, I've had a wonderful time tonight. It's been 
great to see so many of my old friends and meet some people I haven't 
met before. I want to thank you for many things. I want to thank you for 
being so good to me and to Hillary and to Al Gore and to our 
administration. California has had a very special role in our public 
life, as all of you know. I want to thank you for being here for these 
folks tonight. And I want to ask you to try to in the next few months 
find every opportunity to put your voice where you've put your 
investment tonight, because we have a case to make to the American 
    When I took office, I believed that the most important thing I could 
do is to throw off sort of the dead hand of history that I thought had 
paralyzed Washington, to try to move our country forward and galvanize 
our party's energies to think about what we wanted America to look like 
in the 21st century.
    Many of you have heard me say this before, but I'm going to say it 
again; I believe at every age and time, America has to reaffirm three 
great missions. We have always to deepen the meaning of liberty, to 
widen the circle of opportunity, and to strengthen the bonds of our 
national Union. That's an interesting thing to do in this day and age, 
when there are still vestiges of fairly profound discrimination against 
some Americans; when, in spite of all of our economic opportunity, there 
are still places in inner cities and isolated rural areas, Native 
American settlements on reservations around the country where the spark 
of enterprise is still not reached; and where we now are becoming more 
and more diverse than we ever have been before, in every conceivable 
way. And we are clearly the most diverse democracy in the world in terms 
of people that actually live in elbow range of one another. In addition, 
for more than 50 years now, we have had both the responsibility and the 
opportunity to try to lead the world toward greater peace and freedom 
and prosperity.
    So that's what we set about doing in 1993, and with only Democrats 
voting for us, we passed an economic program which had reduced the 
deficit by 92 percent before the first red cent was saved by the 
balanced budget amendment that was adopted in the Congress--the balanced 
budget plan.
    Now, we have today the lowest unemployment rate in 28 years, the 
lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest consumer confidence in 30 
years, the highest homeownership in history, the lowest welfare rolls in 
27 years, the lowest crime rolls in 24 years--lowest crime rates. And 
I'm very grateful for all that. But I say something to all of you that 
you know well because of where you live: we are living in a world where 
the ground is constantly shifting, where the future is coming quickly on 
us, where ideas are the currency of economics and politics, and where I 
think we have an obligation to use this magic moment not to bask in the 
sun but to bear down and deal with the long-term challenges of the 
    We will never have a time, probably in the lifetime of any of us 
here, where we have more opportunity to deal with the long-term 
challenges of America because of the good times. And that's what we 
ought to do. And that's what this election is all about.
    We're doing our best, believe you me, to get a lot done in this 
session of Congress. We're trying to pass the health care bill of rights 
for consumers. Over half of our people are in HMO's now. We're trying to 
allow people who are retired, forcibly or otherwise, who can't draw 
Medicare and don't have any health insurance, to buy into it. We're 
trying to pass a dramatic improvement in our schools by going for higher 
standards, funds to help schools be repaired and remodeled, hook up all 
the classrooms in the country to the Internet by the year 2000, have 
smaller classes in the early grades. We are doing our best to try to 
meet the challenge of climate change and to do it in a way that 
generates new jobs and new technologies, by helping us to grow the 
economy as well.
    We've got a lot of things to do. We're trying to protect our kids 
from a dramatic and troubling increase in young people beginning to 
smoke when we know it's illegal to sell cigarettes to teenagers, and we 
know 3,000 kids start smoking every day, and 1,000 will die early 
because of it.
    We've got a big agenda. I'm going to do my best to pass it. All of 
us are committed to it. We're having a little trouble in Washington, as 
you know if you've been listening to the hot air burn its way off the 
newswires in the last

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few days, but we'll get a lot of this done. But make no mistake about 
it--there will be a lot to do after this election.
    And what I would like to do is to spend the last 2 years of my 
Presidency taking on these big issues that will shape our country in the 
21st century, that require someone to be able to stand there and take a 
position who clearly has no political agenda. I can't run for office 
anymore--unless I go home and run for the school board or something. 
[Laughter] I can't do that. But in order to shape the future in a way 
that creates opportunity and brings us together instead of divides us, 
it's very important what the texture of the Congress is. It's very 
important what the values of the Congress are.
    You think about the long-term challenges of this country. Let me 
just mention two or three. We ought to, in 1999, reform Social Security 
for the 21st century and make it easier for people to save for their own 
retirement, because hardly anybody can live on a Social Security check 
alone. But on the other hand, we don't want to scrap the program 
altogether, because half of our senior citizens today would be in 
poverty if it weren't for Social Security adding to their income.
    In 1999 we ought to reform Medicare for the 21st century. We should 
do that. You all know what the problems are. I'm the oldest of the baby 
boomers. When our crowd gets fully in the retirement pool, there will 
only be about two people working for every one person drawing Social 
Security. The present system is not sustainable.
    Now, if we're going to change it, it's important we change it with 
the right values in mind. We ought to make a serious commitment in 1999, 
in my opinion, to a long-term plan to preserve the environment, to 
reduce global warming, and to do it in a way that will permit us to 
continue to grow the economy.
    If you look at what Californians have done--the California voters 
have consistently voted, every time they have had a chance, to clean up 
the environment. And every time they vote for it, there's this huge 
campaign which says, ``If you do this, you will shut the economy down.'' 
And it's been wrong every time. For 28 years, ever since we adopted the 
Clean Air Act, every time the United States of America has adopted an 
environmental position, we have been told it was going to hurt the 
    Since I've been President, we've made the air cleaner, the water 
cleaner, the food safer, and every time, the economy kept getting 
stronger. If you do it right, we can do this. But we have a big long-
term challenge here that we ought to address in 1999.
    We still don't have the kind of education system we need, and we 
still don't have a system of lifetime learning. We know that the average 
person will change the nature of his or her work seven or eight times in 
a lifetime. We've got to create a system in America where our elementary 
and secondary education is second to none, and then where an adult in 
the work force, no matter what their level of education, can always go 
back and learn a new skill. And we haven't done that yet.
    And finally let me say, we still have a big agenda in the world. 
Dick Gephardt mentioned part of it. I hope we'll get it done this year. 
But, you know, I think most of you are proud of the fact that we saved 
who knows how many Bosnians from dying when we stopped the war in Bosnia 
and helped to implement the peace. I'm glad we replaced the military 
dictators in Haiti and gave democracy a chance there. I'm glad that we 
have worked for peace in Ireland, and I'm hoping and praying the 
referendum this month will come out all right. And the Secretary of 
State starts another round of intense efforts in London tomorrow on the 
Middle East peace process. I'm also proud of the fact that we have built 
enormous new trade relationships with our free allies in the Americas 
and in Asia.
    But we can't lead the world if we don't even want to pay our way. 
And because of an unrelated political dispute in Washington today, we're 
over a year late paying our U.N. dues. Because of an unrelated political 
dispute in Washington today, we can't get America's contribution for the 
International Monetary Fund.
    Now, most Americans don't know what the International Monetary Fund 
is, and that may be why our adversaries think they can get away with not 
funding our part of it. But 30 percent of the 15 million jobs we've 
gotten in the last 5 years have come from trade. Thirty percent of that 
trade is in Asia. Our trading partners in Asia are in trouble today, and 
the International Monetary Fund helps them. But they don't just write 
them a blank check, they only give them money if they agree to adopt a 
plan that will get them out of the trouble they're in.

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    Now, I haven't always agreed with every decision the IMF has made, 
and you haven't always agreed with every decision I've made. But you 
don't pick up your cards and quit voting if you don't agree with 
everything I do. And we can't pick up our cards and walk away and not 
pay. And this directly affects the prosperity of the people of 
California. We would not have seen the Californian economy come back as 
much as it has, had it not been for exports to Asia. And we owe it to 
the future of this country and to our children to pay our way at the 
IMF, to pay our way at the U.N., and to say, we do not expect to lead 
and not set a good example. Yes, we want to lead the world for peace and 
freedom and prosperity, but we expect to set a good example.
    These are big issues. And I can just tell you, yes, I am a Democrat, 
and I'm proud of it. And I'm proud of where our party is now, and I'm 
proud of what's happened. But I'm not running anymore. I'm thinking 
about what my grandchildren's America is going to look like. And I'm 
going to do my best to get these big, big things taken care of for you 
in the last 2 years of my Presidency. But it cannot be done unless we 
have people of good will who are thinking about our children and our 
grandchildren, instead of how they can cut a wide hole through a spirit 
of cooperation in Washington and raise the heat and turn down the light 
for some temporary political benefit.
    That's not what we're about. That's not what our administration has 
been about. And I'm telling you, the three candidates who were 
introduced tonight and the Members of Congress who are here and their 
leaders who are here, if you give us a chance, we'll deliver on those 
things, and our country's future will be more secure. And you will know 
you did it.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:07 p.m. at a private residence. In his 
remarks, he referred to Representative Martin Frost, chair, Democratic 
Congressional Campaign Committee; Lt. Gov. Gray Davis of California; Art 
Torres, chair, California Democratic Party; and dinner hosts Eli and 
Edythe L. Broad.