[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[July 9, 1998]
[Pages 1203-1207]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1203]]

Remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Luncheon in 
July 9, 1998

    Thank you very much, and welcome. Michael, I would say, with family 
like this and support like this, you have an excellent chance to win.
    I want to thank all of you for coming today in support of Michael 
Coles and his wonderful family. I want to especially thank the mayor and 
the Governor and all of the State and local officials who are here, and 
my good friends, the mayor's predecessors, Maynard Jackson and Andrew 
Young, for coming.
    I feel a great deal of gratitude to Georgia for many things. In 
1992, when I started running for President, Zell Miller was about the 
only person besides my mother and my wife who thought I could win. 
[Laughter] And then, I didn't win in New Hampshire, where I had one or 
two minor obstacles--[laughter]--and an opponent who lived 5 miles from 
the State line, and they said, ``You know, if Bill Clinton doesn't get 
40 percent in Georgia, he'll have to withdraw; he's toast; he's 
history.'' And I said, ``Now, Zell, I don't want to put any pressure on 
you.'' [Laughter] So we got 57 percent in the Georgia primary in 1992. 
And there have been a lot of wonderful experiences since, and I am very 
grateful for this State.
    I'm grateful for people like Maynard and Andy, who have been friends 
of mine and my wife's for many, many years. I'm grateful for Bill 
Campbell's leadership. I can honestly say that I know quite a bit about 
being a Governor. I was a Governor for 12 years. One of the great honors 
of my life was when my colleagues once voted me the most effective 
Governor in the country. I'm saying that not to brag on myself but to 
establish my bona fide for what I am about to say.
    In my experience, I believe that what Zell Miller has done as 
Governor of Georgia has affected more people more personally, 
positively, than the work of any other Governor with whom I have worked 
in the last 20 years.
    I also want to say, when I'm a very old man, if the Lord lets me 
live that long, and I'm thinking about--over the high points of my 
wonderful career for which I'm very grateful, in the late of the night, 
one of the things I will always remember is Zell Miller's voice at the 
New York convention in 1992. I can give that speech about the house his 
mama built better than he can. [Laughter] But it captured the heart of 
America and the heart of what we're all about.
    When we were sitting here at lunch, I went around the table before I 
came up, and I said, ``Can you folks--how are we going to win this race? 
What do you want me to say? How is this going to work?'' And they all 
gave me their ideas. And I don't know if I can add anything to what's 
already been said. Very often, since I became President, I always get to 
speak last. That's a great honor. But very often, it's that sort of 
situation where everything that needs to be said has already been said, 
but not everyone said it.
    I think maybe there is something I can say. What do you need to win 
a race like this? To convince voters in what is clearly an American 
battleground State for the future, where Atlanta now is home to more 
foreign companies than any other city in America, where you have in this 
city really everything that you can imagine the future being about in 
America, but where in the State the parties are pretty evenly divided 
and the philosophies are pretty evenly divided, and the races have a way 
of being agonizingly close, as I have found in my joy and 
disappointment. What can I say?
    Well, you have a good candidate who has demonstrated his character. 
Through overcoming adversity, he's demonstrated that he understands the 
American economic system through triumphing in it. He has built a great 
family, which is the most important thing for anyone to have in life. He 
has the guts to challenge incumbents who are going to have tons of 
money, which is evidence of courage in public life.
    But what I would like to say to you is that we have to convince 
moderate Republicans and independent voters that what happened in 
America in the last 6 years and what happened in Georgia in Zell 
Miller's tenure was not an accident and was directly related--not that I 
am responsible for every good thing that's happened in this country or 
not that he's responsible for every good thing that's happened in

[[Page 1204]]

Georgia--but there is a connection between the ideas that leaders have 
and the policies that are pursued and the consequences in the lives of 
    It's not just that Zell Miller is a good man with a lot of energy 
and a lot of courage, and he was brave in the Marine Corps, and he gives 
a great speech; the HOPE scholarship was, in fact, the right thing to 
do. It was the right thing to do. And what I can tell you from my 
experience is--I was a Southern Governor; I listened to the Republicans 
bad-mouth the Democratic Party from can till can't, from dawn until 
dark, year-in and year-out, forever and a day. And that time I ran for 
President, I had umpty-dump people in Arkansas who had voted for me 
repeatedly for Governor who never thought they would vote for a Democrat 
for President. Some of them didn't vote for a Democrat even when it was 
me--[laughter]--after voting for me repeatedly, because Republicans had 
done a great job of sort of doing reverse plastic surgery on the 
Democrats. You know, they'd say, ``You can't vote for them; they can't 
handle the budget; they can't handle this; they're weak on foreign 
policy.'' You know that whole litany. ``They want to take your money and 
give it to people on welfare; don't believe in work.'' I can give that 
speech better than they can give it, too. I've heard it so many times. 
[Laughter] And they still milk that old cow every chance they get.
    And when 1992--I wanted to take the Democratic Party in a new 
direction based on its oldest values. I believed that we could unite the 
country and move it forward, that we could build that bridge to the 21st 
century based on opportunity and responsibility and a sense of 
community. And we set about doing things that really were different. We 
had new ideas on the economy. We said we believe it's possible to cut 
the deficit and balance the budget and still have money to invest in 
education and in science and technology and building the future. We 
believe it's possible to expand American trade and still care about 
preserving the environment and the standards of our working people.
    We believe it's possible to be tough on crime but to be smart, too, 
and to find ways to keep more kids out of trouble in the first place. We 
believe it is possible to move people from welfare to work but not to 
ask them to hurt their children; to empower people to move from welfare 
to work by saying, ``Yes, if you're able-bodied, you have to do it. But 
by the way, there's got to be a job there and there ought to be child 
care and you ought not to have to neglect your role as a parent to do 
your role as a worker in this society.''
    We believed that America could be a force for good in the world and 
still help the economic interests of our country. We believed we could 
have a smaller Government that was more effective, that worked on 
empowering people to make the most of their own lives. And we believed 
that we could build one America, across all the lines that divide us, 
because what unites us is more important than what divides us. And if we 
could ever learn to appreciate our differences instead of be afraid of 
them, we would be a very great country, indeed.
    Now, that's what we believe. Now, after 6 years--and again, I say I 
do not believe that I, my party, or Washington, DC, is responsible for 
every good thing that's happened in America; most of the good things 
that happen in a free country happen by the billions and billions and 
billions of decisions that ordinary people make every day on their own. 
But what the President does and the policies that are pursued are not 
unrelated to what happens in the country. They have an impact.
    And I am profoundly grateful that you gave me the chance to do this 
job, and I am very grateful that, after 6 years, we have the lowest 
crime rate in 25 years, the lowest unemployment rate in 28 years, the 
lowest inflation rate in 29 years, the lowest welfare rolls in 29 years, 
the first balanced budget and surplus in 29 years, and the highest rate 
of homeownership in the history of the country. I'm proud of that, and 
you should be, too.
    Now, that's not a reason to let Michael Coles--and I can't run for 
reelection. And if I could, it wouldn't be a reason to reelect me. I 
remember once I was about to run for reelection after I had been in 10 
years, and I asked a guy at the State Fair once--we were having 
Governor's Day--and this guy came up in overalls and said, ``Are you 
going to run for reelection?'' And I said, ``Yes, I might. Will you vote 
for me if I do?'' He said, ``I will; I always have.'' And I said, 
``Well, aren't you sick of me after 10 years?'' He said, ``No, but most 
of my friends are.'' [Laughter] And I said, ``Well,'' I said, ``Don't 
they think I've done a good job?'' He said, ``Yes, but you drew a check

[[Page 1205]]

every two weeks, didn't you?'' [Laughter] He said, ``That's what we 
hired you to do.''
    So what's that got to do with this race, where we are now? I'll tell 
you what it's got to do with it. Number one, it's some indication that, 
if the ideas we had in the past were right, that the ideas we're 
advocating for the future may be right as well, and what we are trying 
to do in education with smaller classes and modernized schools and 
computers in all the schools and higher standards, that these things are 
important. Because no one in the world believes we have the best system 
of public education in the world. And everyone knows we have the best 
system of college education in the world. And we will never be what we 
ought to be for every American child until our elementary and secondary 
education system is also the best in the world.
    You take health care. We're having this big debate over the 
Patients' Bill of Rights. I pleaded with the Congress to pass it, and I 
thought for sure they would. Now, the health insurance companies, a lot 
of them are against it--but not all of them, I might add. Most people 
are in managed care plans today. I have never been one of those that 
attacked managed care.
    When I became President, health care costs were inflating at 3 times 
the rate of inflation. It was unsustainable. It was going to break every 
business in the country that tried to provide health insurance for their 
kids. It was going to consume the whole economy. We had to do something 
to slow down the rate of inflation. On the other hand, any system taken 
to extremes is subject to abuse. I don't care what system it is.
    The genius of the American Constitution is the limits it places on 
all of us in power. And whenever we forget that, we do so at our peril. 
That is the problem with managed care today. People still ought to be 
able to get an emergency room when they need to go. They need to be able 
to see a specialist when they need to see a specialist. They need to be 
able to appeal these decisions when they need to be able to appeal them. 
And that's what the Patients' Bill of Rights is all about. So that's an 
important issue.
    We have all these exciting ideas about how we can grow the economy 
while doing a better job at preserving the environment. Look at these 
wildfires that your neighbor down in Florida has been suffering. I'm 
going down to Daytona, when I leave you, to thank the firefighters down 
there. Florida had the wettest few months in history in the fall and 
winter; then they had the driest few months they had ever had; then June 
was the hottest month they had ever had; hotter than any July or August 
they had ever had.
    The 5 hottest years on record since 1400 have all occurred in the 
1990's. And 1998 is going to be the hottest of all if trends continue. 
Now, we have two choices. We can do what my--as my leaders of the other 
party do in Washington, which is to deny that this climate change is 
going on, deny this is a problem, and say we're going to go right on and 
do everything just like we've been doing it. If it rips the sheet, we're 
going to do it, and everybody else is just, you know, like Chicken 
Little. Or, we can face the evidence and say: Do we have to give up 
economic growth to change our energy use patterns, try to cool the 
climate, try to be more responsible? And when you look at the evidence, 
the evidence is plainly, no, you can grow the economy, at least as 
rapidly as we've been growing, with a different energy strategy and 
without having the heavy hand of government regulation do it if you just 
give business and citizens the incentive to do what is plainly there 
before them to do.
    These are huge decisions. What I want to tell you is, if you like 
those statistics I just read off, the ideas we've had in the past are an 
indication that the ideas we have in the future may be right.
    The third point I want to make is this: I do not expect this man, if 
he gets elected to Senate, to vote with me on every issue. I want him to 
only do so when it is consistent with his conscience and when he 
believes it's the right thing for the people of Georgia. But I believe 
he thinks enough, like all of you do and like we do, to know that we 
will be building a future based on progress not partisanship. And that's 
the last point I want to make. Look at the record of the alternative.
    I am grateful that the Republicans worked with me to sign the 
Balanced Budget Act last year. But don't you ever forget that 93 percent 
of that deficit was reduced--it was 93 percent gone on the day I signed 
the Balanced Budget Act because of a bill that every single one of them 
voted against in 1993 to get it started. Don't forget that. They said we 
were going to wreck the economy.

[[Page 1206]]

    When we said, ``You know, it seems to me that if somebody's got a 
criminal record or a serious mental health history, they ought not just 
to be able to walk in and buy a handgun,'' even in Arkansas, where 
nearly everybody's got a gun, why, they accused me of the awfullest 
things you ever heard. They said, ``Oh, the world was going to come to 
an end.'' And one of the reasons they won the Congress in 1994 is 
because I disagreed with the NRA over the Brady bill and the assault 
weapons ban. And it wasn't just in the South; they took out a 
Congressman in New Hampshire, too. In 1996 I went back to New Hampshire 
where I started, and I got a bunch of those hunters together. And I 
said, ``Do you remember what they told you in '94?'' I said, ``Well, as 
of today, there have been 80,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers who 
couldn't buy handguns because of the Brady law.'' I said, ``Now, if 
there's a single one of you who lost your hunting rifle because of what 
I did, I want you to vote against me for reelection. But if you didn't, 
then they lied to you, and you need to get even.'' [Laughter] And in 
Republican New Hampshire, they got even, and I'm grateful. [Laughter]
    I say that because we actually view the world in different ways. 
You've got to understand. Somehow--I talked to Zell on the way in here--
those of you who are in this room, we have to be able to reach out to 
the voters who don't follow politics as closely as you do, and say, 
look, there are consequences to these ideas. This is not just about 
whether the President can give a good speech or Michael Coles made a lot 
of money or--even though I admire him enormously, it's not even about 
whether he overcame all that adversity from his terrible accident. It's 
also about whether we're doing the right thing for America's future.
    And you know, when times are good like this, most people tend to 
relax, and you want to say, ``Gosh, I just want to go out and sit in the 
Sun. I went through the seventies; I went through the eighties; I lived 
through all this tumult. I'm making money; the stock market's up. Leave 
me alone; I don't want to have to think about this. [Laughter] I'm going 
to vote for the person that looks nicest on television, makes me feel 
good--[laughter]--promises me to keep taxes down. And just don't bother 
me.'' [Laughter]
    I had a great-uncle one time, who just died at 91, who had about a 
fourth grade education. He said, ``All I want you to do is keep the 
brooks clean so I can fish and make sure there's plenty of birds in the 
air and animals in the woods in hunting season. And otherwise, just 
leave me alone.'' [Laughter]
    There's a lot of people who feel that way. But let me tell you, any 
person living in Atlanta knows that this is a very dynamic world. You 
see what they're going through in Asia now economically. You know about 
all the ethnic and racial and religious tensions all over the world. If 
you've looked at the demographics and you know what happens when the 
baby boomers--and I'm the oldest of the baby boomers--when we retire, 
what we're going to do, the pressures we're going to put on the Social 
Security system and the Medicare system--we have big, long-term 
challenges in this country that we have to face. It is easier to take 
the long-term challenges on when you're doing well. We have the 
confidence in this country to do well.
    And Georgia ought to have the confidence to vote for somebody like 
Michael Coles for the Senate. We ought to say, ``Look, we've got the 
confidence to do that. Here's a guy who has done all these other things 
right in his life, and he's a doer. You know, get out and do things, and 
it will be for progress, not partisanship. I think I'll take a chance 
and do it, because this is a time when we have the opportunity to deal 
with these long-term challenges.'' And I want you to go out and tell 
people that.
    I'm telling you, I've been in Washington 6 years, and I only have 
2\1/2\ years to go. Then I can go be a real person again just like the 
rest of you. But what we need is progress over partisanship. What we 
need is people who are willing to take a chance to deal with the long-
term challenges of the country. What we need is people who understand 
that we cannot lead the world to a better place unless we are becoming a 
better country at home, that we can always do better.
    Our Founders left us a charge that is a permanent mission--it's 
never finished: to form a more perfect Union. I think that any one of 
the Founding Fathers, here today, could read about this man, his family, 
his work, his values, and say, ``That's the kind of person we had in 
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:10 p.m. in the Marquis Ballroom at the 
Marriott Marquis Hotel.

[[Page 1207]]

In his remarks, he referred to Georgia Senatorial candidate Michael J. 
Coles; Mayor Bill Campbell and former mayors Maynard Jackson and Andrew 
Young of Atlanta; and Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia.