[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[June 8, 1998]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]
Remarks at a Reception for Gubernatorial Candidate Barbara B.
Kennelly in Westport, Connecticut
June 8, 1998
The President. Thank you. Thank you very much. Let me first thank
Martha Stewart for having us here. I had a
wonderful time going through this wonderful enterprise, and I love the
food. And I know it's all supposed to be light, but if you eat enough of
it, it's still--[laughter]--it was a wonderful, wonderful lunch.
I think of the great following Martha has
throughout the country; there's no telling how much she's broadened my
base today by giving me a chance to come here. [Laughter] There will be
millions of people listening to me that never paid any attention to me
before, just because I came here today. And I'm very grateful.
I want to thank two Members of the United States Congress from
Connecticut, who are not up on this platform but are out in the crowd,
for being here today and for their service for you and our Nation,
Congressman Maloney and Congressman Rosa
DeLauro. Thank you for being here, so much,
thank you. I thank our Democratic Party chair, Ed Marcus; your great attorney general and my old classmate and
longtime friend, Richard Blumenthal, I
You all know I owe Connecticut a great deal. I mean, I came to law
school here; I met Hillary here; I worked in Joe Duffy's campaign in
1970 and did a little work for Joe Lieberman. I've made friends that are still friends of mine forever.
I actually have known both your Senators now for nearly 30 years. I knew
them when all three of us were young, ungray--and frankly, most of our
friends would have been astonished to know how any of us turned out.
[Laughter] And being friends with them has been a great experience. I've
loved in later years being--especially, serving with Joe Lieberman in
the Democratic Leadership Council. You all know how grateful I am to
Senator Dodd for chairing our Democratic
Party at a particularly challenging time. I also appreciate the fact
that Chris Dodd will still play golf with me, since Barbara Kennelly no
longer has time to play golf with me. [Laughter] So I'm very thankful
I'm going to tell you a story today. I'm going to do something
highly impolitic involving Barbara Kennelly. This is impolitic but, as
God as my witness, it is true. Last summer Barbara Kennelly called me,
and she said, ``I want to talk to you about running for Governor.'' I
said, ``Okay.'' I said, ``Do you want me to tell you what you want to
hear, or do you want me to be honest with you?'' She said, ``I want you
to be honest with me; we've been friends a long time.'' So Barbara
Kennelly came to Martha's Vineyard, where Hillary and Chelsea and I were
on vacation, and we went out and played golf together, and then Barbara
and her son came and had dinner with Hillary
and me that night. And we talked about this. And I said, ``Barbara, I
was Governor for 12 years, and I loved it. A lot of people thought I ran
for President because I was bored being Governor. I was happier on the
day I left than the day I showed up. [Laughter] I loved the job.''
But I said, ``It is almost an unwritten rule of American politics
that if the economy is good, you can't beat an incumbent Governor unless
he does something real dumb.'' You've virtually got to have a lobotomy,
and you can still get reelected if the economy is good if you're
Governor--no offense to Governor Rowland, I
didn't mean that he had. [Laughter] I didn't mean that. I didn't mean
that. [Laughter] No, I didn't mean that. No, I'm serious, I didn't mean
that. I told her the truth. I said, ``This is like rolling a rock up a
hill, if the economy is good.''
But she said, ``Look,'' she said, ``I can be reelected to Congress,
and I love my job. But I'm concerned about my State. How many times do
you have good times? And you should do more with good times, not less.''
And it made a profound impression on me. We sat there and talked. And
like I said, this is all very impolitic, what I'm telling you, but you
need to know the truth. She knew what she was getting into. And she
said, ``You should do more with good times, not less. You shouldn't take
the easy way out just because times are good, because as a practical
matter, when times are good, if you've got the right kind of leadership
you can get things done that you can't get done
in tough times. So I'm going to run anyway, and I'm going to do my best
Now, the first thing you need in a Governor is strength of
character. Anybody who would take on those odds just because she
believes in you and your future and what kind of future your children
have deserves serious consideration and support from the Democrats of
Now I want to give you a second reason that you ought to support
Barbara Kennelly in this race. Our country is doing pretty well now, and
I am gratified beyond measure that in the last 5\1/2\ years we have
worked hard together and worked with the American people. And we now
have the lowest crime rates in 25 years, 16 million jobs and the lowest
unemployment in 28 years, the lowest percentage of our people on welfare
in 29 years, the first balanced budget and surplus in 29 years, the
lowest inflation in 32 years, the smallest Federal Government in 35
years, and the highest homeownership in the history of the United States
of America. I'm proud of that. [Applause]
What I want to say to you is it didn't happen by accident, and our
role in it--that is, our administration and the National Government's
role--came after the people voted in 1992 to take a different direction,
to move out of this old debate between those that said Government was
the problem and would mess up a two-car parade and should go away, and
those who said we just want to defend the old status quo Government. We
wanted to do something different.
We had a whole different economic philosophy. We thought we could
actually reduce the deficit and balance the budget and still invest more
in education, in the environment, in health care, and the future of our
people if, at the same time, we were expanding trade and creating more
markets for American products. That was our strategy. I'd say, on
balance, it's worked pretty well.
But it was different. It's important that you know it was different,
and it was extremely vulnerable to attack because it was different. And
the first big test of the strategy was the vote on our economic plan in
1993. My now-Treasury Secretary, Bob Rubin, who was then my economic
adviser, and Lloyd Bentsen, the then-Treasury Secretary, came to me and
said, ``We have talked to the financial markets; we have talked to Mr.
Greenspan; we've talked to all these people; we believe we'll never get
out of this recession unless we take at least $500 billion off this
deficit so we can drive interest rates down and make investments more
attractive and free up capital. You've got to do it, and you've got to
make some tough decisions. And you're going to have to do some things
that are very unpopular.''
And we put that economic plan before the Congress. And Barbara
Kennelly was in the Congress; so was her opponent. And everything you just clapped for was riding on what we
did, because the crime rate is down because of our crime bill, but it
wouldn't be down this much if the economy weren't better. The welfare
reform rates are down because of welfare reform, but they wouldn't have
come down as much if the economy hadn't been better. Everything was
riding on it--all of our education initiatives--everything.
It passed by one vote in the House and by one vote in the Senate. If
Chris Dodd had said no, if Joe
Lieberman had said no, if Rosa
DeLauro had said no, and if Barbara Kennelly
had said no--just one of them--all those numbers I just read you, that
you clapped for, would probably not be on a list that anyone can say
Everything was hanging in the balance. And everybody that got up to
vote for it knew it was unpopular. Why? Because not a single, solitary
member of the other party voted for it. They were terrifying people.
They said if the President's economic plan passed, everybody's taxes
will go up; the economy will go down; we'll have a terrible recession;
the deficit will get bigger.
Everybody's forgotten about all that now. Why have you forgotten?
Because they were wrong. [Laughter] I have no more elections to run, so
I'm not asking you to do anything for me. [Laughter] Just once, I'd like
to see people really know what happened and reward those who were right,
and at least hold accountable those who were wrong.
So you know what happened in the ensuing 5 years. So what happens
now? States all over America have more money than they had in a long
time. And in 1994, the Republicans went out and told everybody how
terrible we were and what an awful thing we had done, how we were going
to bankrupt the economy. They won the Congress, and they got a majority
of the Governorships, and they were wrong about
everything. And because they were wrong, they've all been reelected ever
since because the economy has been good. That's the truth.
Now, I believe when you think about what you're going to do with
your prosperity, you have a key decision which helped to bring about
your prosperity, and the two people running were on opposite sides--all
I can tell you is, when it would have been very easy to walk away,
Barbara Kennelly stood up, stayed hitched, and Connecticut and America
are better places today because of it. And that's a good reason to vote
Here's the last thing I want to tell you; this is the third reason
to vote for Barbara Kennelly and to work for her and to talk to people.
And again, I say this having been a Governor for 12 years. I know
something about this job. When I read you the laundry list of
achievements, I said we had the smallest Federal Government in 35 years.
That's true. Part of the reason it's smaller is that we've gotten rid
of, for example, two-thirds of the regulations the Department of
Education imposed on States for education funds. We say, here's the
purpose; you decide the how's. We did a lot of that, because I had been
a Governor, and I realized the Federal Government couldn't micromanage
all the how's, but I always thought it was legitimate for them to tell
me what the money was supposed to be spent on if they sent me the money.
Now, because of the changes we have made and are making now, the
next Governor of Connecticut will have unique tools to deal with some of
the long-term challenges you face. Connecticut is one of the most
interesting States in America. You have overall one of the highest per
capita incomes and two or three of the poorest cities. You struggle with
trying to build a community of people and bring people together and give
Now, in the next 4 years you will have an unprecedented opportunity
to do the following things: Because of the Balanced Budget Act passed
last year, the next Governor will have an unprecedented opportunity to
add children, poor children, to the ranks of those with health insurance
because of what Congress--what the Democrats demanded to be a part of
that balanced budget plan. So it really matters who the Governor is,
because the Governor will decide what are the components of this effort,
how will we do this. It matters how important it is to the Governor. And
it matters how much of that kind of experience the Governor has. That's
one thing. Children, whether they--often it may be the difference in
life or death for them. It certainly may be the difference in how
healthy they are.
Secondly, if we pass tobacco legislation to protect our children
from the dangers of tobacco, we will be sending back to the States
substantial amounts of money. One of the things the States will have to
decide to do is how much money to invest in increased child care for
working people on modest incomes. This is a huge deal. If you want all
the folks in the lower income neighborhoods of the big cities of
Connecticut to stay off welfare and go to work, if you want people to
work for modest wages even in times when they don't have a lot extra
left over at the end of every pay period, and you want them to be
successful parents, you want to want your State to do more to help them
have affordable, decent child care. Who do you think is more likely to
make the right decisions about what kind of child care ordinary families
have with their children?
Representative Kennelly. Me! [Laughter]
The President. I'll give you three more examples. I'm going to go
back tomorrow--I guess it is--I think it's tomorrow--but sometime in the
next few days I'm going to sign the transportation bill. And that
transportation bill has a lot of money in it that will go to States to
help move people from welfare to work, literally pay the transportation
bills. One of the biggest problems we have in getting poor people who
are on welfare to go to work is that very often the jobs aren't anywhere
they can walk to, and they don't have cars, and they may not be able to
afford or even have access to transit. There's a lot in there. So it
really matters. If you want the welfare reform to work and you believe
that people should work if they can, but you want them to be successful
parents, it matters who the Governor is.
And the last thing I can't say enough about is education. Barbara
mentioned it. But we still have enormous challenges. She mentioned the
Internet. I gave a speech at MIT last Saturday about how we can make
sure we make democratic--not party, small ``d''--make democratic the
gains of the technological revolution. We have to hook up every
classroom to the Internet. We have to make sure that all of our children
have access to the benefits of the technology
revolution. We have to make sure there are smaller classes in the grades
when kids start out, especially if they have--they don't have the
support at home that they need.
All these things will matter. So you've got education, welfare,
child care, health care. If you do these things right, you can bring
Connecticut together; you can lift the State up; you can go forward into
the 21st century together. It will matter a lot who the Governor is.
So I can tell you, she's got the strength of character to serve.
When the whole future of the country's economy and Connecticut's was
riding on the line and we didn't have a vote to spare, she stood right
there, toe-to-toe, knowing what a price she could pay. And when you look
at what powers will be there for the Governors in the next 4 years and
what you want from Connecticut, I don't think there's much of a
question. Barbara Kennelly deserves your support, and I thank you for
being here for her today.
Thank you, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 2:50 p.m. in the studios of the ``Martha
Stewart Living'' homemaking television program. In his remarks, he
referred to Martha Stewart, host of the reception and the television
program; State Democratic Party Chair Ed Marcus; and Gov. John G.
Rowland of Connecticut.