[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[July 9, 1998]
[Pages 1210-1215]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Dinner in 
Miami, Florida
July 9, 1998

    Thank you very much. First let me thank my friend Dick Gephardt for 
his leadership of our party in the House of Representatives, for his 
wonderful remarks tonight. I thank Martin Frost. We were together in 
Texas, Martin's home State, a couple of weeks ago, and I was trying to 
be helpful and funny at the same time when I said that I named my dog 
Buddy, but I had considered naming him after Martin Frost because Martin 
Frost is like a dog with a bone; when he asks you to do something, you 
might as well just go on and say yes, because it's the only way to get 
him to let your leg go. [Laughter] And he has had a very thankless

[[Page 1211]]

job, which he has performed magnificently for our people, and I thank 
him for that.
    I thank all the Members of Congress who are here tonight from 
Florida and from around the country, and the leaders of Florida in our 
Democratic Party here, including Buddy MacKay and his newly announced 
running mate, Senator Dantzler. I'm delighted that they're here, and I'm 
for them, strongly.
    Mayor Penelas, Attorney General Butterworth, Commissioner Crawford; 
and we also have here the mayor of Akron, Ohio, Don Plusquellic. I don't 
know what he's doing here, but I'm glad to see him. [Laughter] He's a 
good friend of mine, and I'm delighted that he and his wife are here. He 
may be running for Congress in Florida for all I know. But I'm glad he's 
    I'd like to thank the Paxsons and all the other major sponsors of 
this event tonight. And Sylvester Stallone, thank you for having us at 
your home and for giving me those boxing gloves. I can use them. 
[Laughter] I think I have established that I can take a punch; now the 
time has come for me to deliver a few. And I would like to have a few.
    Let me say to all of you in this magnificent home tonight that I 
always love coming here, and I feel so deeply indebted to the people of 
Florida and especially to my fellow Democrats, because it was in 
December of 1991, at the Florida Democratic Convention, that I won the 
first victory of any kind when I was out trying to become the nominee of 
my party. And in 1996, you brought Florida back to a Democratic 
candidate for the first time in two decades, when your State voted for 
me and for Al Gore. And I'm very grateful to you for that, and I thank 
    I want to make a brief case tonight. It's late, and all of you know 
that my family and many members of our administration just got back from 
China. And they say if there's a 12-hour time difference, it takes you 
12 days to get over it. I don't know about that, but for the last four 
nights, sometime between 9 and 10 o'clock, I hit the skids. And I'll be 
all right; so if I fall asleep up here in this speech, if you'll just 
wait about 5 minutes, I'll be fine, and I may go on to 3 in the morning 
after that. [Laughter]
    But I've given a lot of thought to what I might say tonight. You 
know, a lot of you come to a lot of these dinners, and you wonder--I 
wonder, what could I say that would really animate all the people that 
were here, that would make them say, ``Boy, I made a good investment 
tonight, and I want to go out and talk to my friends and neighbors about 
this tomorrow, and I'm still going to feel good about this in October, 
and I want to talk about it some more''?
    You know, when I was in China, I thought it was so fitting that, 
after I was given this incredible opportunity on your behalf to speak 
for the American people in China and to try to listen to the Chinese 
people and their leaders, that I was coming home for the Fourth of July. 
It was a wonderful feeling to think about, being on Air Force One, 
having worked as hard as I could to press America's cause, our 
interests, our values, our desire to have a genuine, constructive 
friendship with the Chinese in the 21st century, and that I was coming 
home for the Fourth of July; that Hillary and Chelsea and I would be 
able to see the fireworks on The Mall from the White House and celebrate 
with a lot of people who work hard all year for us.
    So I was thinking, what is this election about? You know, I'm not on 
the ballot, and I can't run anymore. I'm here for others and for things 
in which I believe.
    In 1992, when I started running for President, I believed that our 
country was in trouble and that Washington was paralyzed by partisan 
politics and old ideas. I wanted to try to modernize our party and come 
up with some new ideas without violating our most deeply held 
principles. And I've tried to do that. I tried to stick with the things 
that made us a great party and the things that made us a great country: 
opportunity for all, responsibility from all, an American community of 
all people. And I said to the American people, if you will elect me, 
here are the policies I will pursue in the economy and welfare and 
education and crime, health care, foreign policy.
    As Dick said, I would never say that I, as President, or our party 
were completely responsible for a lot of the good things, all the good 
things that have happened in this country in the last 5\1/2\ years. I 
appreciate very much what Bud said about the telecommunications bill, 
because we worked very hard to create opportunities there. But I will 
tell you this: There is a connection between the decisions made by the 
leaders in this country and the consequences that flow from them and the 
options that are available to Americans. And there are profound

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differences between the two parties in the House of Representatives 
about whether we've been right and what we should do going forward.
    And when I was coming home and I made a list of all the things I'm 
grateful for for America--I mean, I'm very grateful for all of us that 
we have the lowest crime rate in 25 years, the lowest unemployment rate 
in 28 years, the lowest welfare rolls in 29 years. We're having the 
first balanced budget and surplus in 29 years. We have the lowest 
inflation in 32 years, the smallest Federal Government in 35 years, and 
the highest homeownership in the history of the United States. I am 
grateful for that.
    I am grateful that we're giving 5 million children, who couldn't 
afford it otherwise, health insurance; that we have the highest rate of 
childhood immunization in our country's history; that we've proved you 
can clean the environment and grow the economy. The air is cleaner; the 
water is cleaner; the food is safer; there are more toxic wastes cleaned 
up. We've made a big step toward helping to save the Everglades and 
protect Yellowstone Park from a gold mine and done a lot of other things 
to try to prove that we can have a healthy economy in America and honor 
our responsibilities to the environment.
    And you should know, when you're asking yourself, ``What am I doing 
here?'' number one, that I think the evidence is we were right on the 
economy. And Dick Gephardt and these other Members here supported us, 
and the other party said that if my economic policy were implemented, it 
would lead to a recession in America. Well, we now have some evidence; 
we know they were wrong.
    I think we were right on crime, to try to put 100,000 police on the 
street and to stop selling handguns to people with criminal records and 
mental health histories. And they went out there and told everybody we 
were trying to take guns away, but I think they are wrong.
    I think we were right to say, okay, we're going to require able-
bodied people to go to work if they're on welfare, but we're not going 
to punish them in their most important job, which is taking care of 
their children. So we're going to give them money for child care, and 
we're going to support their kids with health care. I think we were 
right. And I think that's one of the reasons we've got the lowest 
welfare rolls now in 29 years. And there was a difference of opinion on 
this between the two parties.
    I think we were right to say we're a nation of immigrants, and we 
ought not to discriminate against immigrants who are here legally. We're 
proud of that. And we had a difference of opinion on that.
    When I was up at Daytona Beach today, I saw a lot of young 
AmeriCorps volunteers from all over America who had come here to help 
fight these fires, young people who were giving up a year or two of 
their lives to serve their country in local communities and earning 
credit for college. I did AmeriCorps because I thought it would help us 
to make one America in the 21st century if we got more young people 
serving in their communities, dealing with people that were different 
from them in terms of income and background and race and religion, and 
proving that people who worked together and learned together and served 
together can live together, because we then appreciate each other's 
differences instead of being afraid of them. And we know that we've got 
more in common than we have dividing us.
    I think we were right to set up that AmeriCorps program. I saw those 
kids today, happy, proud after fighting those fires, and I realized we 
had a big difference between the two parties on that. They thought it 
was a waste of money. Well, I think we were right, and they were wrong.
    And I think that--I say that not to be partisan, because I'm 
grateful for the handful of Republicans that supported us on the crime 
bill, that supported us on our immigration position, that support our 
education position, but because I think it's important that you 
understand this is not just another dinner where you pick your 
politician and take your choice and listen to a speech. There are real 
differences and ideas with real consequences for the life and future of 
America. And you can see it in the last 5\1/2\ years.
    And if you look up the road, which is more important, you can see 
more. And again, I'm not here telling you that we deserve credit for 
every good thing that's happened in the country. But it's not an 
accident, and we had something to do with it. And I'm proud of what we 
did, and I think our ideas were right.
    But every election--as I learned when I was a Governor, every 
election is about the future. I'll never forget, after I had been 
Governor 10

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years, I was thinking about running again for another term, and every 
year in Arkansas we had this great State fair. And I would go out to the 
fairgrounds and have Governor's Day at the fair. And I'd sit in a little 
booth, and anybody in the State could come up and talk to me about 
anything they wanted.
    And this guy came up to me one day in overalls, and he said, ``Bill, 
you going to run for Governor again?'' And I said, ``Well, I might. If I 
do, will you vote for me?'' He said, ``Yeah, I guess I will. I always 
have.'' And I said, ``Well, aren't you sick of me after 10 years?'' He 
said, ``No, but nearly all my friends are.'' [Laughter] And I said, 
``Well, don't you think I've done a good job?'' He said, ``Yeah, I do, 
but you drew a paycheck every 2 weeks, too, didn't you?'' [Laughter] He 
said, ``That's what we hired you to do. Why do you want credit for 
    So I say to you--I mentioned all these things about the record only 
to point out that there are differences between the parties. But if you 
look ahead, there's first a question of attitude. You know, when times 
are good after they haven't been so good for a while, we're tempted to 
just relax, especially in a place like Florida, and kind of sit in the 
sun. But this is a very dynamic time in which we live. There are lots of 
changes going on. And if you think about the confidence the American 
people have now, it seems to me self-evident that, as Mr. Gephardt said, 
this is a time when we ought to be saying, ``Hey, what are the remaining 
challenges facing this country as we move into the 21st century, and 
what should we be doing about them now?'' And that, I would argue, is 
the most important reason to support the candidates who are here and our 
congressional committee.
    And let me just give you a couple of examples about the future. 
Number one, in the House of Representatives, only our party is clear and 
unambiguous that we don't want to go around spending this surplus until 
we have saved Social Security for the 21st century and fixed it so the 
baby boomers don't bankrupt our children and our grandchildren.
    You know, sometimes I think I'm lost in a funhouse in Washington; 
people start talking about spending a surplus that hasn't materialized 
yet, after we have punished ourselves for 29 years of profligate 
spending. We have a Social Security challenge out there because the baby 
boomers are a very big group--and I'm the oldest one of them, so I know. 
And none of us, people I grew up with in my hometown, most of whom who 
are middle class people, none of them want to think they're hurting 
their children or their children's ability to raise their grandchildren 
by having Social Security become unbearably expensive. We have to reform 
it in a way that keeps the country together and moves the country 
    The second thing we have to do is to give America the best system of 
elementary and secondary education in the world. No one doubts that we 
have the best college education system in the world, and no one doubts 
that we do not have the best elementary and secondary education system 
in the world. We have some money to do something about it now. And we 
have a program in Washington: smaller class sizes, modernize schools, 
5,000 new and improved schools--big deal in Florida, where you've got 
school district after school district after school district, with 
people--kids going to school in trailers because they've grown so much--
connecting all the classrooms to the Internet, higher standards, reading 
programs for children so they can all read independently in English by 
the end of the third grade.
    We have an agenda there. If you look at how the Republican majority 
in the House has voted in their committees on the budget, they have 
consistently voted against our education agenda. They don't want to do 
any of it, and they want to undo some of the things we've done. It's a 
choice you have to make.
    If you look at the environment, which is very important to me--look 
at these wildfires in Florida. You know what the background of it is; 
most of you know. In the fall and winter, you had 4 of the wettest 
months--the 4 wettest months consecutively in the history of Florida, 
followed by 3 or 4 of the driest months in the history of Florida, 
followed by June, the hottest month in the history of Florida--ever--
hotter than any July or August ever in Florida's history.
    When I was in China, I was reminded that one of the reasons we have 
weather records going back hundreds of years is that the Chinese weather 
people, what we now call the meteorologists, have literally been keeping 
detailed records since the 15th century. And we now know that the 5 
hottest years recorded since the 1400's all have occurred in the 
1990's--every one of them. Last year was the hottest

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year ever recorded. This year is going to be hotter if present 
temperature trends are maintained through December.
    Now, the overwhelming opinion of scientists is that the climate is 
getting warmer at a rate that is unsustainable. The overwhelming 
evidence is that we can slow it down without slowing down the growth of 
the economy. Why? Well, greenhouse gas emissions, CO2 
basically warm up the climate. A third of it comes from automobiles and 
trains and trucks and other travel. A third of it comes from buildings, 
residential and commercial. A third of it comes from factories and 
    In every case, there is presently available technology--or in the 
case of automobiles, now-being-developed technology--that will 
dramatically cut these emissions, slow the rate of climate change, and 
move our children and grandchildren's Earth away from potential disaster 
without hurting the economy.
    So I presented a program to the Congress of tax incentives and 
investment, nothing in the way of regulation to slow down economic 
growth; every bit of it rejected by the Republican majority. And they're 
now trying to pass a bill to stop me from even doing what is now legal 
to do to try to protect the economy for our children and grandchildren, 
in spite of the overwhelming majority opinion of scientists all over the 
world that this is happening and the commonsense experience of people 
like those firefighters in Florida.
    The first time I met Mr. Stallone was last summer up in 
Massachusetts at a party for a friend of mine, and he said--I'd never 
met him before--and he said, ``You know, I think I have seen the climate 
change, just because I'm outside every year--every day for the last 10 
    Now, you have to decide. They act like it's an act of faith to 
destroy everything I'm trying to do to raise the awareness of the 
American people about this major environmental issue.
    When I was in Shanghai speaking to the American Chamber of 
Commerce--this is hardly a liberal Democratic group, the American 
Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai--I got two rounds of spontaneous 
applause, and one of them was when I asked them to work with the people 
of China so that they could take a different route into the future in 
terms of their energy use, so we could save the planet, and that we did 
not have to pollute the environment of China by seeing them make the 
same mistakes we'd made to grow economically. And the business people 
starting applauding. Why? Because they knew I was telling the truth, and 
because they've seen it with their own eyes in China, because the number 
one health problem of the children there are lung problems, bronchial 
problems, because of air pollution.
    If you look at something that's closer to home in Florida, I'm 
really proud of the fact that we had what I thought was a bipartisan 
commitment to invest lots of Federal money in the Everglades to help to 
save the Everglades. It was part of our bipartisan balanced budget 
    But in this year, as the present Republican majority prepares their 
budget for next year, they have so far rejected my call for more 
investments in the Everglades, and they have cast some votes which imply 
that they're going to walk away from the commitment made last year to 
save the Everglades. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas once said, ``The 
Everglades is a test; if we pass, we get to keep the planet.'' So far, 
Dick Gephardt and the Democrats pass the Everglades test. And the 
members of the other party, this year, have so far flunked it. It's not 
too late, and I hope this dinner will send them a message to shape up 
and do their part on the Everglades.
    But these--I say this to you because I wasn't a particularly 
partisan person when I went to Washington. I was a Governor. I was used 
to working with Republicans and Democrats. I was a Democrat by heritage, 
instinct, and conviction, but I wanted people to work together. And I 
thought I could learn something from everybody. The atmosphere in 
Washington is too partisan, and we have blinders on--some of the 
decisionmakers not doing what is plainly in the long-term best interest 
of this country.
    So I'm here today for these people because they will choose progress 
over partisanship, not because they all agree with me all the time. 
Every Member of the Democratic caucus in the House here tonight, every 
single one of them has disagreed with me about something that I felt 
fairly strongly about. I don't ask them all to be rubber stamps for me. 
All I ask them to do is to be builders, not wreckers; unifiers, not 
    And so I want--when you leave here tonight, I want you to leave with 
some of these issues that I have raised in your mind. If you want a 
health care bill of rights and you want us

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to be able to have managed care but still protect the quality of health 
care, if you want high-class education and you want the National 
Government to do its part, if you don't want us to squander this 
balanced budget until we have fixed Social Security, in short, if you 
want us to build the country for the 21st century and put progress ahead 
of partisanship, then you have made a very good investment here tonight.
    And when people ask you tomorrow morning or a month from now or 2 
months from now, why you did it, tell them you did it because you wanted 
the schools to be better, because you wanted health care to be better, 
because you wanted the environment to be protected, because you wanted 
to build your country for the 21st century. And if you prevail, and if 
they prevail, I promise you this country will be a better, stronger 
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 10:30 p.m. at a private residence. In his 
remarks, he referred to Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay, candidate for Governor of 
Florida, and former State Senator Rick Dantzler, candidate for 
Lieutenant Governor; Mayor Alex Penelas of Metro-Dade County; State 
Attorney General Bob Butterworth; State Agriculture Commissioner Bob 
Crawford; Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic of Akron, OH, and his wife, Mary; 
and dinner cohosts Lowell (Bud) Paxson, chairman, Paxson Communications 
Corp., his wife, Marla, and actor Sylvester Stallone.