THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE WASHINGTON DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE PRESIDENTIAL GALA Washington Convention Center Washington, D.C.
11:15 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. First, let me say a special word of thanks to Scott Pastrick for this wonderful dinner and all those who worked on it. To Roy Furman for agreeing to take on this enormous responsibility in the Democratic Party. I don't think the first time he came to my attention or, rather, I came to his, he hosted me in his office -- if he had known then that he'd wind up on this stage tonight, I'm not sure he would have done it, and I thank him. Like so many others, he came into the leadership of this party because of the campaign of 1992.
I thank my dear friend David Wilhelm for his leadership and all of those who work in the vineyards of the Democratic Party. I thank David especially for what he said tonight. Many of the beneficiaries of the efforts we make today are people who may not even understand entirely what we're doing and they don't have an organized force in the Congress.
I thank the leadership of Congress. Let me say without hesitation that I have literally been awestruck at the demonstration of courage repeatedly by the leadership and by many of the freshman and by many in between in our party in the United States Congress. You know -- and you ought to give them a hand tonight. (Applause.)
You heard that the Vice President, of course, broke the tie the other night in the Senate on the economic program. What you ought to know is that I was furiously working the phones, and a couple of Senators -- Senator Murray from Washington was not well, and so we thought we had enough votes to pass the bill and so she stayed home in bed. And then two of the people we thought would vote for it said, well, I won't let it die, Mr. President, but if the Vice President can break a tie, that's okay with me.
So, we were there at the end. And right before the vote came down to the end with the time running off, the Vice President sent a note to Senator Mitchell, our Democratic leader, and he said, "George, I'm wavering." (Laughter.) But conviction overcame him at the end, and so here we are tonight with a big crowd instead of an empty house. (Applause.)
Let me say to all of you that a lot of speeches have already been made tonight and the entertainment was marvelous -- Little Texas and Whitney Houston and my good friend, Kenny Gee, who let me play with him in the campaign. (Applause.) That was the biggest thrill I got in the whole election. I tell you, I always liked Kenny Gee because I was running third in the polls when he agreed to play with me in the campaign. (Laughter.)
This has been a great night for us and a great night for our party. I want to remind you that we are engaged on a great struggle to change this country. A year and eight months ago I entered the race for president when no one thought the incumbent could be defeated and few thought I could be nominated. And I didn't have any idea how it would come out. I just knew that I had a couple of simple convictions. I felt very strongly then that we were not doing what it takes to compete and win in a global economy; I felt very strongly then that we were not facing up to the honest problems we have at home; I felt very strongly that too many people in public life were telling people what they wanted to hear today instead of thinking about how we ought to live tomorrow. (Applause.)
Those things drove me into the race and they produced in the end, thanks to all of you, a remarkable change in the course of American life. But the details are always more difficult than the rhetoric. Governor Cuomo used to say frequently that we campaign in poetry, but we must govern in prose. And as my daughter likes to remind me of that great slogan the kids are all saying today, "Denial is not just a river in Egypt." (Laughter.) So, when you move from rhetoric to reality, sometimes the going gets tough. I couldn't believe it, we have been ranted and raved against, this administration; as you know it's all tax and spend. But we've cut more spending than any administration in history and more than the ones before us. And that's a fact. (Applause.)
And they say, well, only the Democrats are voting for this program. But let me tell you, look at the alternatives. In the House of Representatives there was a Republican alternative with no taxes which slashed the middle class, slashed the working poor, slashed the elderly just above the poverty line, and more Republicans voted against it than Democrats voted against our program. In the Senate there was a Republican program, four months late, which took $100 billion less off the deficit and was tougher on the middle class and the poor. And in the Finance Committee, the other party that goes around saying "it's spending, stupid," you know that great slogan of theirs, guess how many spending cut amendments were offered by the Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee? Zero. Not one.
I say that because it is up to every one of you to go home and tell the people of this country the truth. This is not going to be easy, but it is working. You heard the Vice President, you heard David Wilhelm talk tonight. If anybody had told you on election night in November that by the middle of June unemployment would be below seven percent, we'd have 755,000 new jobs, a 20-year low in mortgage rates, a six-year high in housing sales, a nine-year high in construction employment, the Family Leave Bill, the MotorVoter Bill, the Biodiversity Treaty, a new policy on choice, the most diverse administration in history, an appointment schedule contrary to what you may have heard ahead of the last two administrations, you would have felt pretty good about that on election night. And you ought to feel pretty good about it tonight, because this country is on the move. (Applause.)
But never forget this. That sounds good and compared to the last two administrations it may be, but we've just been here five months and the changes we are trying to make are not in place. We still have to do the economic program and health care and national service and welfare reform. We still have to pass a program that says to people who work 40 hours a week and have children in their homes, you're not in poverty anymore. We still have a lot of work to do. And the things we're doing have still not affected most Americans. We still don't have a serious program for defense conversion, but we're working on that. We've got an airline industry in trouble we're trying to help resuscitate and move forward. We've got all kinds of jobs in this country we have still got to create.
We have problems in this country that government has overlooked for so long we pretend they're not even there. People say to me I am so glad that the federal government could help to break up the terrorist ring in New York, or that once again we stood up for our values last weekend. But never forget, in this the capital city of this country 24 people were killed last week. We have got a lot of work to do, my fellow Americans. And I'll tell you something. It may not always be easy and sometimes it may be ragged, but you've got an administration in this town that gets up and goes to work everyday and thinks about the problems and the promise of the average people of this country. (Applause.) And we will continue to do it as long as you keep us here. (Applause.)
Thank you and God bless you all. Thank you. (Applause.)
END11:22 P.M. EDT