[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[October 5, 1998]
[Pages 1736-1737]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1736]]

Remarks at a Unity '98 Luncheon
October 5, 1998

    Thank you very much. Let me begin by saying that we decided, Tom and 
Dick and I, after we found ourselves in the minority in 1995 and we were 
facing the Republican contract on America, that if we stayed together, 
that our policy positions could prevail and that what we wanted to do 
for the country would be much more difficult to do but that we could 
still get a lot of it done.
    And we had that terrible experience of the Government shutdown in 
late '95 and '96. But after that, when the American people made their 
voices heard, we had a good election in '96. We had a balanced budget 
agreement, which closed the remaining 8 percent of the gap in balancing 
the budget, but importantly, should give us a balanced budget for years 
and years to come, with a lot of our priorities in it, including health 
care for 5 million kids and the widest opening of the doors of college 
since the GI bill. None of that would have happened if we hadn't worked 
together. And I could not have done any of it if it hadn't been for the 
Democrats in the House and the Senate. I think that's very important.
    We are seeing the potential of a replay of that now, as we get 
closer and closer to the election and the feelings of the American 
people become apparent. In a few days I'll get a chance to sign a higher 
education bill which has a big drop in the interest rates on student 
loans and a program to provide mentors for inner-city kids in their 
junior high school years or middle school years that will include a 
guarantee of access to funds to go to college, if they stay out of 
trouble, stay in school, and learn.
    These things would absolutely be impossible in the present array of 
Congress with the Republicans in the majority, if we weren't working 
together. So there is a substantive benefit to that.
    Now, let me say, where we are now is a position that I think is 
virtually unprecedented in 150 years. In 150 years of American political 
history, the President's party in the midterm elections nearly always 
lose, and in the second term of the President, I don't think there's an 
exception. But we are on the verge of having an exception, and I would 
like to tell you why, and why I think your investment is well made.
    Normally, these midterm elections have a big fall-off in voter 
turnout. And that is the assumption and, indeed, what our opponents are 
literally working for and hoping for and praying for, because a lot of 
the people that vote for us would never be able to come into a home like 
this except to maybe serve lunch. And it's a big hassle for a lot of 
them to vote; you know, they have to worry about child care and the job 
and getting to vote and all that.
    When I was in Philadelphia with Peter and others a couple of days 
ago, a friend of mine from New Jersey came over and brought me a survey 
that had just been done in New Jersey asking people if, in the current 
climate, they were more or less likely to vote in the midterm elections. 
Fifty percent said they were more likely; 10 percent said they were less 
likely. Fifty percent of the Republicans said they were more likely; 49 
percent of the Democrats--I mean, 49 percent of the independents; 57 
percent of the Democrats said they were more likely to go and vote.
    So what is important for us is we don't have to run a negative 
campaign. All we have to do is say, you know, what their agenda is. Our 
agenda is, first of all, to see America lead in heading off this crisis 
in the global financial system, beginning with funding the International 
Monetary Fund contribution so we can keep the economy going at home. 
Secondly, don't spend the surplus now on a tax cut just before the 
election or right after the election; save the Social Security system 
first. Thirdly, continue education as our first investment priority. 
Fourthly, pass this HMO bill of rights, which, interestingly enough, has 
more than three-quarters support of the American people without regard 
to party--it's a uniform issue across the board--which they killed. And 
then, obviously, the other things that we believe in, including 
protecting the environment as we continue to grow the economy.
    But if we run on the strength of the economy and our responsibility 
in the world economy to keep America's economy strong, on the education 
issue, on the saving Social Security first,

[[Page 1737]]

these issues are very, very powerful, and they stand in stark contrast 
to the evident priorities of the majority in Congress.
    So we actually have a chance to do something never before done here, 
but it will not happen unless, first of all, we stay together and, 
secondly, we have enough funds to get our message out. We don't have to 
have as much money as they do. We'll never have as much money as they 
do. But we have a chance to do something literally without precedent in 
20th century American political history, just by doing the right thing. 
It's not even complicated. We just have to stand up there and fight for 
what is evidently in the interest of the American people.
    And that is what your investment will be used to do. And they'll do 
it right. I've never seen the Democrats more well focused on how to do 
this business and how to be there in the last 10 days of the election 
when very often--and to give you an example, in 1996, when we picked up 
several House seats and lost two Senate seats in what was a very bad 
rotation for us--the next three rotations, by the way, are good for us 
in the Senate elections. We've had three that were terrible, in terms of 
we always had more seats up than they did; we had more people retiring 
than they did. But in '96, when we picked up a few House seats, lost two 
Senate seats, we were outspent in the close races the last 10 days, near 
as I can tell, 4 to one, or more. That will give you an idea of the 
level of disadvantage here, and it also might explain why they killed 
campaign finance reform this year. But we can do this. And we can do it 
simply by doing what is right for America. It's not a complicated 
strategy. There's no twist and turn to it. It's very straightforward 
and, I think, self-evident.
    So I feel good about where we are, good about where we're going, and 
very grateful to all of you, because the American people need stability 
and strength and a clear message on this economic issue, on the 
education issue, on the Social Security issue. And I think if we give it 
to them, we're going to be just fine, and it's going to be quite 
surprising to a lot of the pundits. But none of it would be possible if 
you weren't willing to come here today and do your part and then some, 
and we're very grateful.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:20 p.m. at a private residence. In his 
remarks, he referred to Senator Thomas A. Daschle and Representative 
Richard A. Gephardt. A tape was not available for verification of the 
content of these remarks.