THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON TO THE CITIZENS OF THE BRIDGEPORT
Sikorsky Memorial Airport Stratford, Connecticut
11:39 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Governor Curry -- that has a good sound, doesn't it? (Applause.) I am delighted to be here with Bill Curry and Joe Ganim and all these fine people -- your state officials behind me, Attorney General Blumenthal and others -- and especially with my good friends and allies, Rosa DeLauro and Barbara Kennelly. (Applause.)
Hillary and I were very pleased to be asked to come to Connecticut today to campaign for Bill Curry and, in a larger sense, to campaign for the change we're trying to bring to our country. If you will permit me, though, I'd like to begin with a few comments about what this day means for us as Americans setting an example around the world.
Today is a day of celebration for Americans as our leadership has helped to bring peace and democracy and the restoration of the democratic president of Haiti, as President Aristide goes home there. (Applause.) And I have to tell you that one person who wanted to be here today with us is on that plane going back because he has played a major role in the liberation of Haiti -- Senator Chris Dodd is back there today. (Applause.)
Today is a day of sorrow for America in our efforts around the world to bring peace because just yesterday, as Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their progress in peace in the Middle East, a young corporal named Nachshon Waxman was murdered by terrorists who are the enemies of peace in the Middle East. He was a son of Israel, but many of you may know he was also a citizen of the United States. And our prayers and our hearts go out to the people of Israel and to the Waxman family as we say to them, the United States will stand with you in the cause of peace in the Middle East. We have come too far to turn back and we must not let the wreckers and the killers turn us back today. (Applause.)
And this is a day of determination for America and the world as our men and women in uniform stand up again in the Middle East and the Gulf and say that Iraq will not be allowed to threaten its neighbors or to intimidate the United Nations in its work to make sure they never again have weapons of mass destruction. We will stay there until we are sure that the threat is gone. (Applause.)
What I want you to do today, my fellow Americans, as you must be filled with pride for the incredible work, the skill , the discipline, the bravery of our men and women in uniform from Haiti to the Gulf, is to understand that our overall strategy to increase our security -- a strategy that Sikorsky has played a major role in -- (applause) -- involves not just the effort to bring peace and democracy to Northern Ireland, the Middle East, to South Africa; not just our efforts to become more secure from weapons of mass destruction, as for the first time the missiles of Russia are no longer pointed at the American people; not just an effort to expand international economics, although all that is important, I came here today because I know and you know we can never be strong abroad unless we are first strong in the United States of America. (Applause.) In every state, every community, every neighborhood. (Applause.)
You know, as I flew over the beautiful Connecticut countryside coming down here in the helicopter, and I saw those fall leaves I came to love over 20 years ago, and I thought about how proud I was to be coming down here to campaign for somebody like Bill Curry, who was outspent and counted out, but never gave up because he wanted to be an agent of change to make life better for ordinary citizens; to have sensible programs to develop the economy; to have programs to reform the government and make it work again for average people; to give a tax break to people who deserved it.
I liked the way he won the primary, and I have to say I also really admire the way his principal opponent John Larsen came over and endorsed him and is trying to help him get elected. And I hope the rest of you will, too. (Applause.)
I want to talk to you today a little as a political rally and a little just as an old-fashioned visit about why this race here fits into what I'm trying to do as President and why we need your help. I went to Washington 20 months ago to try to change this country, to do some very basic things -- to bring the economy back, to make the government work for ordinary citizens, and to empower individual Americans to take responsibility for their own future. I offered the American people not so much a set of promises as a real challenge that we could compete and win in the 21st century; we could keep the American Dream alive if we had the courage to change. I asked people of all parties and persuasions to work with me to fight for the future.
It's been an interesting 20 months. (Laughter.) And what I want to talk to you about is this: As we come out of these elections I want you to think about the problems we found when we got there, the opposition we got from the leadership of the other party on every issue, the progress we made and the stakes in the future. After all, we confronted 30 years of serious social problems developing -- they didn't happen overnight -- the loss of jobs in our inner cities and rural areas, the terrible problems of the breakdown of families and communities, and the rise of crime and violence and drugs and gangs. This has been happening for three decades.
We confronted 20 years in which working people have been working harder and harder just to hang on, and wages have been stagnant. And we confronted 12 years of trickle-down Reaganomics, the economic theory that if you cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, loaded them up on the middle class, exploded the deficit, you could somehow spend your way into somebody's prosperity. Now, that's what we found. The last four years before I took office had the slowest job growth since the Great Depression. In the city of Bridgeport alone the average job loss was about 6,000 a year.
And so we set to work to try to make the government work for ordinary people, to try to turn the economy around. And I think it's fair to say that we've got a long way to go, but we made a very good start. (Applause.) You be the judge. You be the judge. (Applause.)
After seven years we passed the Family and Medical Leave law to give people some time off when their babies are born or their parents are sick. (Applause.) The Congress voted at long last to put America at the front, not in the rear, of taking care of its children by immunizing all the kids in this country under the age of two by 1996; -- (applause) -- to put 200,000 more children in Head Start programs; -- (applause) -- to provide apprenticeship programs for young people who get out of high school and don't go to college, but want to get good jobs; -- (applause) -- most important of all, to provide longerterm, lower interest rate college loans to middle class Americans so that everybody could afford to go to college. (Applause.)
Already, 20 million Americans are eligible to refinance their college loans, including about 540,000 people right here in Connecticut. (Applause.) We sent genuine welfare reform legislation to Congress that would invest in education and training and make welfare a second chance, not a way of life. And we gave 18 states a chance to find ways to put people to work and get them off the welfare rolls. We gave nine states a chance to try to find ways to cover all people with health insurance.
And I want to tell you, we didn't win that battle, but just remember this: It took seven years to pass family leave, seven years to pass the Brady Bill, six years to pass the crime bill, and we just started. Another million Americans lost their health insurance last year. We can find a way to give people their choice of doctors, to keep the cost coming down, and still cover all Americans. And we're going to keep going until we do it. (Applause.)
We passed the first serious assault on crime in a generation -- the Brady Bill, the assault weapons ban, the ban on handgun ownership by children -- (applause) -- 100,000 more jail cells for serious offenders, three strikes and you're out, and other things to strengthen laws against the victims of domestic abuse -- women and children -- and to protect the rights of victims in the criminal justice process. (Applause.) And we've provided prevention funds to give these kids who can still live a good life something to say yes to, as well as something to say no to. And the police officers asked us to do it. It was the right thing to do.
And just this week -- for all those naysayers who said that the money would never get out there to make a difference -- this week only two weeks after the crime bill was signed, we have already given funds to Bridgeport, Bristol, East Hartford and Norwich to hire more police officers this week. (Applause.)
When Barbara Kennelly and Rosa DeLauro and Senator Lieberman and Senator Dodd voted for the economic program, every Republican in the Congress voted against it. And they said that if we asked the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more and if we cut taxes on 15 million working families who were working 40 hours a week and had kids in the home and were still fighting to stay above the poverty line, and if we cut $255 billion worth of spending, they said -- the Republicans -- that the economy would fall and the deficit would explode; that the world would come to an end if we reversed trickle-down economics.
They said if 84,000 working people in Connecticut, who are barely above the poverty line even though they're working 40 hours a week and trying to raise their kids in a decent way, got a tax cut and we still cut spending, we brought the deficit down, the world would come to an end.
Well, we have now been here 20 months, and we have seen whether they are right. And what has happened? You heard Barbara Kennelly. The deficit's going down three years in a row for the first time since Truman. We have 4.6 million new jobs. The unemployment rate in Connecticut is a point and a half below what it was on the day I was elected President of the United States. (Applause.)
Now, believe you me, this is the beginning. We have a long way to go. There are a lot of people in the Bridgeports of America who have not felt this economic recovery. But what you have to decide is what is the best way to feel it. We have to bring investment back into our cities. I just signed a bill to set up banks in all the cities of this country to make loans to poor people who couldn't get them otherwise to put people in business and bring free enterprise into the cities. It has worked around the world; it will work in America. And we are going to do that. (Applause.)
We are designating cities around the country, giving them extra incentives for people to invest in these cities to put people back to work. The answer is to do more of what we are doing, not to turn around and go back the way we came from. If you want to bring Bridgeport back let's keep doing what we're doing and we will do that. (Applause.)
Now, my message to you is this: We're trying to change things, folks, and it's hard to do in Washington, but we've made a good beginning. Now, what are our opponents trying to do. Look what they did. Every one of them voted against reversing Reaganomics. Every one of them voted against college loans to the middle class. Most of them voted against the Brady Bill, the crime bill and family leave.
Now, at the end of this last congressional session, what did they do? In the United States Senate the Republican senators gained up and killed campaign finance reform; they killed lobby reform; they killed all the environmental measures that were there except the desert bill for California.
We had a bill to clean up toxic waste dumps, the Superfund legislation, and everybody in the country was for the bill. Made you kind of wonder about it. We had the chemical companies, the labor unions, and the Sierra Club -- they were all for it. They have never been for the same thing, ever. (Laughter.) The only people in America who were against the Superfund bill were the Republican senators. And why were they against it? Because they didn't want Rosa and Barbara and Joe Lieberman and Chris Dodd to be able to come back to Connecticut and say that they helped to clean up toxic waste dumps. There was no other reason. It was politics.
Now we know why they killed campaign finance reform and lobby reform. This week in The Washington Post it was reported that they killed campaign finance reform and lobbying reform on the weekend, and on Monday the leaders of the Republican Party in the House and the Senate got all the lobbyists together and they said -- it's quoted in The Washington Post -- "We killed campaign finance reform for you. We killed lobby reform for you. We share your values. So you give us money and don't you give the Democrats money, or else." That's what they did.
Now, what will they do if we give them power? Have you seen their "Contract for America"? They promise everybody a tax cut, mostly the wealthiest Americans. They promise huge increases in defense spending. They promise everybody everything -- a trillion dollars. And you say, well, how are you going to pay for this? And they say, we'll tell you later. (Laughter.)
Well, you know it's election year, folks. I'd like to make you a trillion dollars worth of promises, too. I could show you a good time with a trillion dollars. (Laughter.) We could have a lot of fun. That's real money. (Applause.)
But what happened when they did it before? They quadrupled the debt of the country. They sent our jobs overseas. We're going to have to cut Medicare, veterans benefits, the crime bill for police in the cities. And we're going to run this economy in the ditch if they get their promises. This is not a contract with America, it's a contract on America. (Applause.) You have been there; turn away from it. You know better than that. (Applause.)
So they have told us what they are going to do. They are going to give us their trickle-down economics of the 1980s. They are going to give their "politics of the enemies list" of the 1970s. They are going to gang up with the Washington lobbyists whose values they share, and run this country any way they please, and try to tell you what you want to hear, and give you a bunch of idle promises. We tried it before. It did not work.
We are moving this country forward. The economy's coming back. We're making the government work for ordinary citizens, and the Congress is looking for a message from the American people.
I say to you, what is this election about? It's about all those kids in the uniforms over there that provided the music. (Applause.) It's about what kind of future they're going to have. (Applause.) That's what this election's about. Are we going forward, or are we going back? Are we going to be united, or are we going to be divided? Are we going to vote for our hopes, or are we going to vote for our fears?
That is what Bill Curry represents here --everything we are trying to do. You have got to elect him governor. And you have got to say to America --(applause)-- we have tried what they are offering, and it failed. We heard them say what the President was doing was failing, and it has succeeded.
So let's keep on going into the future with our heads held high. I'm telling you something, folks, we are just a few years from the next century. And what will really count is whether every man and woman can live up to the fullest of their God-given capacities. That's what we offer -- the promise of challenge, the promise of succession, because we are doing what we can to make sure every one of you can be what God meant you to be.
Don't fall for the Republican promises one more time. We don't need to go back; we need to go forward.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END11:56 A.M. EDT