[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[June 8, 1998]
[Pages 911-915]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 911]]

Remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Dinner in New 
York City
June 8, 1998

    Thank you very much, ``Mr. Speaker''--has a nice ring to it, don't 
you think? [Laughter] Let me thank the very large number of House 
Members who are here or who have been here, in addition to Congressman 
Gephardt and Congressman Frost: Congressman Rangel and 
Congresswoman Lowey and Congresswoman 
Maloney, Congressman Pallone, Congressman Nadler, 
Congressman Hinchey, Congressman 
Ackerman, Congressman Engel. And Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher is here from California, where in the California primary 
she won 55 percent of the vote against nine Republicans. That's a good 
sign for our future.
    Let me tell you, in California, for those of you who don't know it, 
everybody just runs and all the votes get added up together, and the top 
voting Democrat and the top vote-getting Republican then run against 
each other in the fall. If I were the Republican in her race, I would reconsider.
    Let me also thank Judith Hope for her work 
for the Democratic Party, and Mayor Dowden, 
thank you for coming. We have two candidates here. I don't know if they 
were mentioned earlier, but Paul Feiner from the 
20th district and William Holtz from the 1st, 
thank you for running. We can't win if we don't have candidates. And for 
all of you that had anything to do with putting this event together, I 
thank you.
    I do want to apologize to Congressman Frost's mother for comparing 
Martin to my dog, Buddy. That's not exactly 
what I did. I said if I'd been thinking clearly I would have named my 
dog Martin, instead of Buddy--[laughter]--because Martin Frost is so 
insistent, it's just like a dog biting you on the leg; you know, until 
you do what he wants to do, he will not let go of your leg. And so here 
I am, and I'm honored to be here.
    Let me say to my long-time friend Chevy Chase, that deal on the Bosnian vowels is one of the funniest 
things I've heard in a long time. [Laughter] But you have persuaded me 
that it ought to be done. [Laughter] But I do want to make an 
announcement about it. I've worked a long time to eliminate deficit 
spending, too long to change course now. I'm also against deficit 
voweling. And therefore, we are going to have to reduce our vowels in 
order to increase our gift to Bosnia. [Laughter] And Chevy, you lost the 
lottery. We are taking your vowels. From now on, your stage name will be 
``Chv Chs.'' [Laughter] I will write your first note to that effect 
tomorrow. [Laughter]
    Ladies and gentlemen, I feel good about where our country is; I feel 
good about where our party is. I feel profoundly honored to be 
associated with all of these Members of Congress who are here tonight. I 
guess I would like to make just a couple of points.
    When I became President, I was not very interested in politics as 
usual. I had the same reaction to a lot of what goes on in Washington. 
It is so plainly and blatantly and nakedly political and so clearly 
divorced from the way ordinary people live out there in the country, 
that many of you expressed to me tonight when you walked through the 
    I was, in the words of one of my distinguished opponents, ``just a 
Governor from a small Southern State.'' But I did have these old-
fashioned ideas, and some fairly modern ones as well. I thought that, 
yes, we needed new ideas, consistent with Democratic Party's enduring 
values. But I also had this really old-fashioned idea that if somebody 
just sort of showed up in Washington and went to work every day and 
worried about how many things you could get done, at the end of a year 
or two you'd actually get a lot of things done; and that if we spent 
more time trying to pile up accomplishments for the American people, 
instead of pile up negative words on each other, we would get a great 
deal done indeed.
    And I have to say to you now, 5\1/2\ years into my Presidency, I am 
more optimistic today than I was the day I took the oath of office for 
the first time about the potential for this political system to do what 
needs to be done for the American people, to empower them to make the 
most of their lives in the 21st century, to create conditions of peace 
and security, to move us forward together. But it takes sustained 

[[Page 912]]

    Now, I look back on the last 6 years, and here is the story we can 
say--and if someone had told me this on Inaugural Day, I would have 
said, I'll take it proudly--because today we have the lowest crime rates 
in 25 years, the lowest unemployment rate in 28 years and 16 million new 
jobs, the lowest percentage of our people on welfare in 29 years, the 
first balanced budget and surplus in 29 years, the lowest inflation rate 
in 35 years, the smallest Federal Government in 35 years, and the 
highest homeownership rate in the history of the United States. That is 
the record of the Democratic Party at the eve of the 21st century.
    Now, yes, it is true, as Mr. Gephardt said and I've never hesitated 
to say, that Government did not do this alone. But in each case, 
Government had a role to play that was indispensable. The American 
people deserve the ultimate credit for anything that's achieved in this 
country; that is, first of all, in the nature of the democracy, and 
secondly, in the nature of essentially a private economy and a private 
society. But there is a role to play here.
    And it is critical to point out, if you go back to 1993, I don't 
believe any serious observer believes the economy would have come back 
as much as it has if we hadn't passed the economic plan, without a 
single vote from the other party and without a vote to spare. I don't 
believe any serious analyst believes that the crime rate would have come 
down as much as it has if it hadn't been for the economy coming back and 
for the passage of the crime bill and a commitment to put 100,000 police 
on the street and ban assault weapons.
    And I could go through the whole litany. So I'm very proud. As a 
Democrat, to be able to stand up here and say that this country is now 
working for ordinary Americans, based on these numbers, is very 
important to me. We have last year--it's working for all kinds--we have 
a record number of new Hispanic-owned businesses, the lowest black 
unemployment rate ever recorded. Last year, for the first time in 
history, there was statistically no difference between the African-
American high school graduation rate and the graduation rate of the 
white majority.
    These are stunning indicators of forward progress, and I'm proud of 
that. I'm proud of the fact that along the way we were also able to pass 
the Family and Medical Leave Act. And we cut taxes for families with 
modest incomes of under $30,000; it took 2.2 million children out of 
    I'm proud of the fact that we reformed the adoption laws, the child 
support laws, and the pension protection laws, helping tens of millions 
of Americans. I'm proud of the fact that we put a record amount of money 
into research, especially into medical research; that we opened the 
doors of college to everybody willing to work for it, with tax credits 
and scholarships and work-study programs.
    I'm proud of our national service program, AmeriCorps, that's given 
almost 100,000 young people a chance to serve in their communities. I'm 
very proud of the fact that, according to our Interior Secretary, Bruce 
Babbitt, we have now protected more land in 
perpetuity for the American people than in any other administration in 
the history of the country except those of Theodore and Franklin 
Roosevelt. All of those things are things we can be proud of.
    And what I am here to tell you tonight is we could do a lot more if 
we all start rowing in the same direction. No one can seriously say of 
the Democratic Party now, ``They are not a party of fiscal 
responsibility.'' No one can seriously say of the Democratic Party now, 
``They are not a party that believes in the primary value of work and 
family.'' No one can say we don't believe in public safety. No one can 
say that we can't be trusted with the foreign policy of the country and 
the national security of the country. All the negative things that our 
adversaries said about us for years and years and years have no currency 
in life at the present state of affairs.
    Now we have a chance and, I would argue, a profound obligation as a 
people, and for those of us who are Democrats, as a party, not to just 
try to coast along through this good time but to say, ``Hey, it's been a 
long time since we had a time like this. And no time lasts forever.'' We 
have a special obligation to take this moment of high confidence and 
real possibility to deal with the remaining challenges that the people 
of the United States face, the real long-term challenges.
    That's why I thank Mr. Gephardt and 
our entire caucus for saying that we should not spend the surplus we 
expect to accumulate this year until we first have developed and passed 
a plan to save the Social Security System, so that the baby boom 
generation doesn't bankrupt

[[Page 913]]

our children and their ability to raise our grandchildren.
    Over the next 2 years, we have to face the challenges that Social 
Security and Medicare present us. We had a very gripping conversation 
around our dinner table tonight about the enormous financial pressures 
on the health care delivery system here in New York, occasioned by the 
growth of managed care, the tightness of Government budgets, and the 
declining percentage of Americans who get health insurance with their 
work. We have to deal with these challenges. And you have to pick a 
party. The American people have to pick a party to deal with them in the 
next 2 years.
    We have continuing education challenges and huge debates in 
Washington where the Democrats have been strong in support of our agenda 
of smaller class sizes, higher standards, connecting every classroom to 
the Internet, better trained teachers, more after-school programs to 
keep kids out of trouble in the first place. Dick Gephardt is right: Yes, we have to punish people who 
misbehave; yes, we have to be tough on the gangs. We can't jail our way 
out of this crisis. We have got to find these children before they get 
in trouble and save more of our kids. And we know what to do about it. 
The question is, are we going to take this opportunity to do it? We have 
the means to do it, and we know what to do. The question is, will we do 
    We're just finishing a huge rough period, and we have a few more 
weeks to go, of El Nino, where the fires have been raging in Mexico; the 
fires have been raging in South America and in other places. There's a 
big story in the morning paper that, based on the first 5 months of this 
year, if present trends continue, 1998 will be the hottest year ever 
recorded since we have been measuring temperatures. Already we know that 
the 5 hottest years since 1400 have occurred in the 1990's. This climate 
change business is not just some--as some would have you believe--some 
academic theory.
    Now, on the other hand, there are some who would have you believe 
that we can't deal with the problem of climate change and global warming 
without essentially shrinking the economy. That's not true either, and 
that's a Hobbesian's choice we don't have to make.
    I am committed to dealing with this issue to prove we can improve 
the environment; we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions; we can stop the 
rapid pace of global warming and continue to grow the American economy 
if we do it in a responsible way. And if you have from now to midnight, 
I could give you 50 examples to win that argument.
    But the answer is not, as our adversaries on the other side do, to 
call these hearings in Congress and attack administration witnesses and 
attack environmental specialists and claim that global warming is some 
big academic conspiracy designed to break the economy of the United 
States. I'm telling you, the 5 warmest years since 1400 have occurred in 
this decade. We have lots of evidence.
    But the good news is, this is just like buying an insurance policy. 
We don't lose anything. If we change our course in a responsible way, we 
can continue to enjoy high rates of growth with less destructive energy 
practices. And I am committed to doing that.
    Let me just mention one or two other things. I want very badly to 
pass a Patients' Bill of Rights. The American Medical Association is 
supporting us; consumer groups are supporting us. On balance, the 
managed care movement was coming to America and, on balance, it started 
out as a very good thing, and it has done a lot of good things. We could 
not sustain an economy with medical costs going up at 3 times the rate 
of inflation every year forever; it was an unsustainable pattern.
    But any management technique that gets divorced from the underlying 
purpose of the enterprise will eventually get you into trouble. I don't 
care what your enterprise is; when you get technique over principle, 
you're going to get in trouble. And because of the things I mentioned 
earlier, we have a crisis there. And I think I can speak for every 
American, or nearly every American, that we want people who are sick or 
whose illnesses can be avoided to get whatever the appropriate amount of 
medical care is.
    We don't want to waste any money. We want the tightest management 
possible. But we cannot afford to see this great country where life 
expectancy has been going up, where the quality of life has been 
improving, where we now see laboratory tests on animals that are 
actually restoring severed spines and getting movements in lower limbs 
of animals, and where we identified two of the genes that are very 
important in forming breast cancer, and where we're just about through--
in the next 2 years, we'll finish this gene-mapping project so we'll 
actually be

[[Page 914]]

able to develop software to analyze all of our genetic problems and 
solve Lord only knows what other health problems--this is the last time 
we want to get into the business of basically stripping from our 
physicians and other health care professionals the ability to give basic 
care in a decent, humane, caring way. We can surely figure out how to 
manage as well as possible without doing that.
    Look, I could go through a lot of other issues. The bottom line is 
this--I do want to talk a little about two other issues--but the bottom 
line is this: We Democrats have an agenda. We're not trying to sit on 
these good times. There's not a single person here asking you to vote 
for them just because they've done a good job. If you think about it, 
that's pretty remarkable.
    There are people in New York City that care about the fact that the 
unemployment rate in America that's highest are on Native American 
reservations out in the high plains. There are Democrats from suburban 
districts with 3 percent, 2 percent unemployment that want to pass 
Secretary Cuomo and the Vice President and our urban empowerment zones to get investment 
back in the inner-cities and get the unemployment rate down in the 
highest unemployment areas of New York.
    Why? Because we have an agenda, because we believe that this is a 
time that comes along once in a generation. And if we just sit on our 
laurels and enjoy it, we'll be paying for it for a generation. This is a 
time when we have the confidence and the means and the knowledge to face 
the long-term challenges of America to guarantee that this will be the 
greatest country in the world for the next 50 years. That's what we're 
    And I just want to close with two issues. The first is the fact that 
the Democrats are committed to making a virtue of our diversity. We know 
that in an increasingly shrinking world, the fact that we come from 
everyplace, represent all religions, all races, all ethnic groups, all 
different kinds of cultural experiences and understandings, that if we 
can be bound together by a common set of American values, our diversity 
is the greatest asset we will take into the 21st century.
    And the second thing I would say is that we believe we have to be a 
force for peace and freedom and security. Chevy mentioned the speech I 
gave at the U.N. conference on drugs today. There were 40 heads of state 
there--this would have been unheard of just a few years ago--people 
saying, ``Nobody's big enough to solve this problem alone, and no nation 
is too small to make a difference. We're going to work together.''
    I ask you to support the decision I've made to go forward with my 
China trip. I hope you will support the efforts we're making to move 
India and Pakistan back from the nuclear brink. They are great nations. 
They can have a great future. We can work this out. But the answer is 
not to start another nuclear arms race on the Indian subcontinent. The 
answer is to find another, more constructive, secure way for both 
nations to be great nations and successful with their people and in the 
    I ask you to continue to support our efforts to fashion a peace in 
the Middle East and to assure you that the people there are still 
working on it, and we are moving. I thank those of you who helped me 
over 5 long years, with the result we celebrated with the Irish election 
in the last few days. I thank you for doing that.
    But this is the last point I want to make. We cannot go into this 
new world alone. You know, you may not agree--some people didn't agree 
with me when I sent the troops into Bosnia. Some people didn't agree 
with me when I went into Haiti. Some people didn't agree with me when I 
extended credit to Mexico--they turned out to be a pretty good risk, I 
might add--paid us back early with a big profit. And I haven't been 
right on every decision. But I am confident that the big decisions are 
    We need an alliance with Asian countries where we work not only for 
greater prosperity but for greater security and greater freedom. We need 
an alliance with our neighbors in the Americas where we work to make 
sure that this increasing prosperity lifts the fate of all people 
together. We need an alliance with Russia to build a democratic Russia 
that is also prosperous. We need to keep working in constructive 
partnership with the Chinese so that they will define their greatness in 
the 20th century in a more constructive way than many nations did in 
the--in the 21st century they will be more constructive than many other 
nations were in the 20th century. We need to bring Africa into the 
family of nations.
    In New York you think about these things. This is an argument we 
have to win in Main Street America. We are 4 percent of the world's

[[Page 915]]

population; we have 20 percent of its wealth. We exercise sometimes far 
more than 20 percent of its influence in matters of foreign affairs. We 
cannot continue to do it unless we are responsible members of the world 
community. We have to cooperate as well as lead.
    And that's what this is all about. It's about what your children and 
your grandchildren will live like in the 21st century. It's about what 
the world they have will be like. Those of you who are at least as old 
as I am, and those of you--a few of you are a little older--understand 
what I'm saying. A time like this comes along just every now and then.
    Chevy Chase mentioned the 30th anniversary of Robert Kennedy's 
death. This weekend I had the privilege of going to Congressman Joe 
Kennedy's home in Boston to gather 
with his mother and many of his brothers and 
sisters and Senator Kennedy. And we had a 
lunch with a lot of the people who worked for Robert Kennedy in his 
Senate office and his Presidential campaign. And I gave my weekly radio 
address on Robert Kennedy. For those of us who were just coming of age 
when he was killed, there were stunning parallels between what he sought 
to do and what we are now in the process of trying to do: bringing 
people together across racial and ethnic lines, trying to lift the poor 
up on a combination of self-reliance and decent support for successful 
parenting and childrearing, trying to be engaged in the world, but on 
terms that are consistent with American values. It's almost as if we've 
been given the opportunity to redeem the promise of our party and, in a 
larger sense, of our Nation, that kind of strayed and was divided for 
quite a long time.
    That's what this election is about. I'm telling you, we've got good 
ideas; we've got a good track record. We're not asking anybody to elect 
us because the status quo is fine. We believe we can do better in the 
21st century, and we want you to get out there and help us win these 
elections and win that House back so we can do that for America.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:45 p.m. at the Waldorf Astoria. In his 
remarks, he referred to Judith Hope, chair, New York State Democratic 
Party; Mayor James T. Dowden of Bridgewater, NJ; and comedian Chevy