[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[June 2, 1998]
[Pages 863-867]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Reception in 
June 2, 1998

    Thank you so much. First, let me join in thanking Richard and Ginni for welcoming us 
into their magnificent home and this magnificent art gallery. [Laughter] 
You know, it's amazing how you use cliches year-in and year-out, and 
sometimes something happens that it gives whole new meaning. This lunch 
has given a whole new meaning to the Democratic Party as the party of 
the big tent. [Laughter] It's really very, very beautiful, and we're 
grateful to you.
    I want to thank all the Members of Congress who are here, all the 
candidates for Congress who are here; my great longtime friend Garry 
Mauro; and Jim Mattox and 
Ann Richards, who had to go. And I thank you, 
B.A. Bentsen, for being here, and thanks for 
giving us a good report on Lloyd.
    Ladies and gentlemen, what was just said about Martin Frost is true and then some. Right before I came up here, I 
was sitting down there,

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and Mary--[inaudible]--asked me about my dog, Buddy. I don't know if 
you've ever had a Labrador retriever, but they're smart, and they're 
loving, but, Lord, are they insistent. [Laughter] And about once a day 
my dog comes into the White House, to the Oval Office, and he'll go in 
the back room--he knows where all his toys are--and he'll sort through 
his toys, and he'll go get his ball, and he comes and throws the ball 
down at my feet. And you know, I could be talking to Boris Yeltsin on 
the phone--[laughter]--but he doesn't care. He just starts barking. 
[Laughter] The whole Federal budget could be an issue. Buddy doesn't 
care. He just starts barking. [Laughter] And he'll keep right on barking 
until I go out and throw that ball with him for a while.
    That's the way Martin Frost is about these 
events. [Laughter] If I'd had thought about it, I'd have called Buddy 
``Martin.'' But I say that out of real admiration, because somebody's 
got to do this work--somebody's got to do this work. In 1996 we would 
have won the House back if we hadn't been outspent in 20 close districts 
in the last 10 days, about 4 to 1. That's not an exaggeration. Now, we 
had a long way to come back, and we had to spend some money along the 
way, and it's not going to be that bad this time. But Martin 
Frost understands that.
    And this is a completely thankless job. In Texas, at least you can 
express your appreciation for him, you can 
support, you know. But he's out there helping people in Connecticut, in 
Colorado, in Washington, Wisconsin, and California. And it's a 
completely thankless job except to people who understand that the future 
of the country is in large measure riding on our ability to be 
competitive in a lot of these races. So I want to say--I make a lot of 
fun of Martin barking at me, but I love him for doing it. And I thank 
you, sir, for what you've done.
    I'd also like to remind everybody that this is not just an election 
year; it's an election in which there are high stakes and important 
issues. I have done my best to not only turn the country around but to 
do it with a Democratic Party that was rooted in our oldest values and 
pointed toward the 21st century. A lot of you in this room have helped 
me to do that. I'd like to say a particular word of appreciation to Bill 
White for what he's done as chairman of the 
Democratic Party here and what he did in my administration. And a thank 
you for over 25 years of friendship to my friend Billie Carr, who is just celebrating her 70th birthday, but she 
doesn't look it. And I love you for it.
    Keep in mind what people--what the Republicans used to say about the 
Democratic Party. In 1992, when I ran for President, I thought they 
might get away with it one more time. You know, they, after 12 years of 
stewardship of the country, we had to quadruple the national debt, and 
they said, ``Well, it's only because of the Congress,'' even though the 
Democratic Congress had, in fact, appropriated slightly less money then 
the Presidents had asked for in the previous 12 years. But they had one-
half the country convinced that we couldn't be trusted with the economy; 
we couldn't be trusted with the deficit; we couldn't be trusted with 
taxes; we couldn't be trusted with welfare, or crime, or the management 
of the foreign policy of the country, or anything else that amounted to 
anything to a lot of Americans.
    And when I presented my economic program in which then Treasury 
Secretary Lloyd Bentsen was spearheading in 
1993, a lot of the leaders of the Republican Party, including a certain 
Senator from Texas, said that if you do this, it will bring on a 
recession; it will increase the deficit. Well, we're about to have the 
first surplus since Lyndon Johnson was President, and it's not an 
accident that he was a Democrat, too.
    So the first thing I want to say is that all the people here who 
helped me--Mayor Brown, who was my drug 
czar; Bill was in the Energy Department; a 
lot of you just helped in the Congress and the administration--you 
should be proud of the fact that no one can now say, with the lowest 
unemployment rate in 28 years, the first balanced budget and surplus in 
30 years, the lowest interest rates in 32 years, the lowest welfare 
rolls in 27 years, and the lowest crime rates in 25 years, the biggest 
expansion of trade in American history--no one can say that the 
Democrats cannot be trusted with the economy or with social policy or 
with the safety of our streets.
    And all of you played a role in that. And I'm proud of the success 
that the country has had, but I think it's also important to say that as 
we look ahead we have to say, what else still needs to be done for the 
21st century? Because elections are always about the future, and the 
fact that you did a good job in the time you were given, all that means 
is that that's

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some evidence that you might do a good job if you get another term.
    So we have to continue to press our agenda for the future. And I'd 
just like to remind you that these are important things that affect 
every American. There are people up in Washington that want to spend the 
surplus before it's materialized. I don't want to spend one red cent of 
it until I know that we have saved the Social Security system for the 
21st century so we don't bankrupt our kids when the baby boomers like me 
retire. That's an important thing to do.
    I believe and I think you believe that we will never have the 
America we want, where everybody can participate in this prosperity, 
until we can offer every child a world-class education. That means we 
have to continue to work on our schools.
    We now can say that one of the achievements of this administration 
is we've now opened the doors of college to everybody who will work for 
it, with the tax credits, the scholarships, the grants, the work-study 
program, the AmeriCorps program. We've done that. Now what we have to do 
is to improve our public schools and give our kids the tools they need 
to succeed. We've got an agenda of smaller classes and more teachers and 
higher standards and computer technology for everyone. That's our 
agenda. And we're fighting, and there are differences between the 
parties on this issue.
    We have a health care agenda. We ought to pass the Patients' Bill of 
Rights, and I am impatient that it hasn't already passed through this 
    I was telling the folks around our table at lunch today, I did an 
event in Washington this week with a woman from Minnesota, a perfectly 
beautiful woman who came--I had never met her before--and she got up and 
talked about how she had a lump in her breast 2 years ago. And she asked 
her HMO to have it checked out, and they took x rays but no biopsy, and 
they said, ``You're fine.'' Two years later, the lump is still there. 
She paid for her own biopsy 5 weeks ago--stage two breast cancer. She's 
going to go in and have surgery, and they say, ``You can't have a breast 
specialist. You can only have a general surgeon.'' She makes 123 phone 
calls--123 phone calls--no satisfaction; finally hires her own breast 
specialist. And when she's under the knife, in surgery, she gets a call 
finally from the HMO saying, ``Well, we'll cover this procedure, but 
we're probably not going to cover your chemotherapy.''
    Now, I personally believe it's a good thing that we've gotten into 
better management of our health care resources. We couldn't continue to 
have health care costs go up at 3 times the rate of inflation. It would 
have consumed all the money in the country. But every change we adopt 
has to be rooted in basic values and the kind of decent things that 
allow people to build a life, build a family, and hold the society 
together. That's why we need the Patients' Bill of Rights. That's part 
of our agenda that we're trying to pass. And it's worth doing.
    And I think--if you look at how many people there are in America 
today that are retired early, some of them have been forced into early 
retirement, and they can't buy any health insurance. We've got a 
proposal that doesn't cost the Medicare Trust Fund one red cent to let 
people who are over 55 years of age, who through no fault of their own 
lost their health insurance, buy into it--or their kids can help them 
buy into it. At least they'll have access to some insurance. That's a 
part of our program.
    We've got an environmental proposal before the country that 
everybody in Texas ought to be for now, because you've been eating all 
this smoke from these fires that are the direct consequence of El Nino 
and the climate warming up. And we're going to have more of these unless 
we prove that we can continue to grow our economy while we reduce the 
things we do that heighten the temperature of the Earth.
    In the 1990's, in this decade alone, the 5 hottest years since 1400 
have occurred. This is not some bogus scare issue, this whole issue of 
climate change. We don't need to be panicked; we need to change our 
patterns of production in a way that will help us to grow the economy 
while we reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But also, parenthetically, it 
would be very good for the natural gas industry in Texas. But that's not 
why I'm saying it. It's the right thing to do, and we can do it and grow 
the economy. We have an initiative on that. That's good for the economy, 
not bad for the economy.
    And finally, let me just mention, if I might, two other things. I 
think it is unconscionable that we have not already passed comprehensive 
legislation to protect our kids from the problems that are associated 
with the fact that one-third, now, almost, of teenagers are smoking 
tobacco even though it's illegal. It's the biggest public

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health problem in America. More people die from tobacco-related 
illnesses than all other conventional forms of problems every year 
combined. It's illegal for every kid in the country to be able to buy 
cigarettes. We've got a program before the Congress that passed 19 to 
one out of a Senate committee, and we can't seem to get a vote on it. 
And they've promised to kill it in the House. I believe if we could pass 
it out of the Senate, we could pass the bill in the House, and we can do 
something historic for public health and for our children's future.
    And I don't understand why this is a political issue. Republicans 
have children just like Democrats. This is not a political issue; this 
is an American issue. And I hope you will make your voices heard and 
say, ``We may not understand every detail. We may not be able to write 
every line of this bill, but the American people are smart enough to 
know that we are either going to do something, or not.'' And I am 
determined in this Congress to see that we do something on this tobacco 
issue. We've been fooling with it for 3 years, and the time has come to 
    Now, that's what we're for. So we've got a good record. The things 
they used to say about us in Texas so most people thought they could 
never vote for us aren't true anymore. And we've got the best program 
for the future. And that's what you're contributing to.
    And I just want to leave you with this thought: Many of these 
Members of Congress and I just came from a neighborhood health center 
here in Houston, in Gene Green's district, where 
we met with Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, plain old 
white Anglo-Saxon Protestants like me, a lot of people that look like 
Houston and that look like America. We talked about the census. I've 
already said what I have to say about that. We just ought to get an 
honest count; we ought not to politicize it.
    But I was looking at that crowd today and thinking, this is the 
future of America, and in a world that is smaller and smaller and 
smaller--where we're only 4 percent of the world's population and we've 
got 20 percent of the wealth, so if we want to keep it, we've got to be 
dealing with the other 96 percent of the people--it is a godsend that we 
are growing more diverse, if we can get along with each other and avoid 
the kind of group think and group resentment that's caused so much 
trouble elsewhere in the world.
    And in some ways maybe that's the most important reason to be a 
Democrat today. My heart was rejoicing when the land of my ancestors in 
Ireland voted for the peace process that a lot of us worked very hard to 
bring to fruit. What did they have to do? They had to give up group 
resentments. You now have to read about Kosovo every day in the 
newspaper like you used to have to read about Bosnia. What's it about? 
Albanians and Serbs believing that they can't trust each other, and 
there is group resentment. That's what Bosnia was about. Fundamentally 
what's holding up the next step of the Middle East peace process? A lack 
of trust between the two groups. Fundamentally what happened in Africa 
when 800,000 people were slaughtered in a matter of weeks in Rwanda? 
Tribal resentments.
    I'm telling you, now that we have stripped off the veneer of the 
cold war, there's still some people that are just miserable if they're 
not hating somebody for something. And there are a lot of people who 
don't believe they matter unless they've got somebody to look down on. 
And then, to be fair, there are a lot of real problems out there that 
people have had for a long time that would make it hard for you if you 
were in their shoes to trust people who were different.
    Our ability to be a great nation in the 21st century consists in no 
small measure in our ability to live together here at home. So when 
people look at us, they do not see the same devils that are tearing 
their own hearts out. And if we want people to listen to us, in other 
countries, in other parts of the world, we have to be able to hold up to 
them a shining light of America where people are judged, as Martin 
Luther King said, by the content of the character, not the color of 
their skin, not their religion, not anything else other than whether 
they show up every day and do their best. That's another thing that our 
party stands for, and I'm proud of it. And God willing, with your 
efforts, the American people will ratify it this November.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:44 p.m. at a private residence. In his 
remarks, he referred to reception hosts Richard and Ginni Mithoff; Texas 
Attorney General candidate Jim Mattox; former

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Gov. Ann Richards of Texas; Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro; former 
Senator Lloyd Bentsen and his wife, B.A.; Representative Martin Frost, 
chairman, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; President Boris 
Yeltsin of Russia; and Mayor Lee Brown of Houston.