THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Edison, New Jersey) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 2, 1997
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE SUPPORTERS OF RUTH MESSINGER FOR MAYOR
Sheraton New York New York, New York
7:25 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Now, I'm a little hoarse, so you're going to have to bear with me. And I'll try to be heard in the back. I won't be as funny as Al Frankin -- (laughter) -- because I don't want to be driven from office. (Laughter.) But I thank him for being here tonight and for always being there for me. Thank you, Al. (Applause.)
I thank our friends, Peter Yarrow and Judy Collins, for performing at one of the -- at this event. I thank all of you for being here.
Let me begin by saying from the bottom of my heart, I am profoundly grateful and will be to my last day on this earth to the people of this state and especially the city of New York for the wonderful support you have given to me and Hillary, the Vice President and our administration. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
I look out at this sea of people here tonight from so many different racial and ethnic and religious backgrounds, somehow bound together across all your differences by a common concern for the future of your children, and this is what distinguishes Democrats in this time -- a common understanding that if we want all of our kids to do well, including our own, we have to go forward together. (Applause.)
And I want to tell you tonight -- I want to tell you tonight why I'm here. I know why you're here, you have a vote in New York. (Laughter.) You're entitled to know why I'm here.
I'm here for three reasons. Number one, in 1991, when I first started running for President, the borough president of Manhattan endorsed me. (Applause.) Now, that may seem like a smart decision in 1997 -- (laughter) -- but let me remind you, in 1991, when Ruth Messinger endorsed me, most people in New York didn't know who I was. (Laughter.) A lot of people in New York couldn't find my state on a map. (Laughter.) Other people pointed out it was only about as populous as Brooklyn and what did I have any business running for President for? (Laughter.)
And then, when I got into the race, there were a lot of people who said that I shouldn't be President, and others who said, well, even if I could be President I couldn't be elected, and she ought to leave me. And there were lots of times when it would have been more comfortable for somebody who was the borough president in Manhattan to be somewhere else. But through all the times, when I was going through my own particular New York Marathon in 1992 -- (laughter) -- she stuck by me, and I'm standing with her tonight and I'm proud to do it. (Applause.)
Now, there is a second reason. The second reason I'm here is that I am very proud to be a Democrat. (Applause.) And I am proud to be a part of a party that has a broad tent and is inclusive and welcomes all kinds of people. We heard for years that if they ever gave us the range of any executive authority we'd be soft on crime, foolish on welfare, we would wreck the economy, raise taxes and mess up the foreign policy of the country.
Well, five years later, the country is stronger around the world, we've advanced the cause of peace and freedom, we have the best economy in a generation, 3 million fewer people on welfare, the environment is cleaner, the schools are better and we're opening the doors of college to all Americans. I think they were wrong, the Democrats were right, and I'm proud to be here as a part of that. (Applause.)
I would also like to say -- and in that connection, let me say I am especially pleased to see the people who contested the Democratic primary for mayor here. The fact that Ruth's former opponents are here says a lot about their character and their concern for the people of New York. And I thank them for being here. (Applause.)
Here's the third reason, and it's the most important, because the third reason relates to you. After all, this election is not about me or any big Republican leader who may have been here. It only matters to those of you who live here, to your children and your children's children and the future. So I was thinking to myself, and I had been thinking about this for weeks because I care a lot about Ruth and I knew when she got into the race it would be a hard race. And I knew there were good reasons it would be a hard race, so I said to myself, if I were a citizen of New York, knowing what I know about way the world works and what's going on in our country, why would I vote for her? What are the good reasons?
Well, let me begin by saying I think it's a good thing that crime has come down in New York, and I don't think any Democrat should criticize any legitimate effort that brought it down. After all, remember, the first aggressive community policing and the first drop in the New York City crime rate began when David Dinkins was mayor. (Applause.) Don't forget that.
Now -- wait a minute -- so, if in the last four years there's more community policing, more sophisticated deployment of law enforcement resources, if people aren't getting hassled on the street as much, there's not as much crime and less violence and people are less likely to get hurt, that is a good and noble thing. That is an American ideal. That doesn't belong to either party. And I am proud that our party in Washington, over the opposition of the Washington Republicans, came out for the Brady Bill, for the assault weapons ban, for putting more police on the street, for doing things that would help to bring the crime rate down. (Applause.)
Now -- and I believe with all my heart that there is a bipartisan, American consensus now that we ought to keep pushing more police officers on the street, working with communities, preventing crime from happening in the first place, catching people when they do something wrong as quickly as possible, making the streets safer. Now, having said that, every election ought to be about tomorrow. What about tomorrow?
There are three things I want you to think about. Number one, while the crime rate has gone down in this country and in New York City substantially in the last five and a half years, crime among people between the ages of 12 and 18 has not gone down so much; in some places not at all.
The second fact about that is, most crime by juveniles is committed between 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon and 7:00 p.m. at night. Why? Because they're out of school, not at home, and mama and daddy are still at work.
Now, it is my opinion, having been involved in law enforcement now for more than 20 years, that the most serious proposal put forward in any of the elections occurring in this election year likely to deter juvenile crime and lower the crime rate is Ruth Messinger's call to keep all the schools in New York open after school hours. (Applause.)
Second reason -- I heard you amen-ing when Ruth was talking about the schools -- if you really want a safe society, you must a well-educated society. New York is blessed by having a phenomenally diverse population, people from over 100 different racial and ethnic groups in your school system. But they're all kids with minds given to them by God and they can all learn. They can all learn. But they deserve good schools with high standards, high accountability, adequate investment, and, yes, we ought to do some more in Washington. And I'm going to do my best to help the cities alleviate the over-crowding problem, to repair these schools and build new facilities. We've got to do that. (Applause.)
But I just got back from Chicago, where Hillary and I went because they opened up the town to her one day -- it's my wife's hometown -- to celebrate her 50th birthday. (Applause.) And let me tell you that not so many years ago, Chicago had by common consent, the worst schools of any major city in America. They were shut down every year by a strike, whether there was an issue or not. And that's all people knew about them. In the last four years, the people of Chicago, led by a mayor who put education first, have begun to literally revolutionize their schools. They have mandatory summer school for children who don't perform. They hold kids back if they don't pass an exam to go on to high school. (Applause.) But they don't just punish kids, they give all children a chance to succeed. New York City should give every child a chance to succeed. Ruth Messinger cares about that. (Applause.)
The third thing I want to say is this. I am very proud of the fact that our economic policies have led to over 13 million new jobs, an unemployment rate below 5 percent and the best economy in a generation. I'm proud of that. But it bothers me that there's still too many people in America who have not felt the economic recovery. I have done what I could to provide special tax incentives for people to invest in inner cities, to set up new banks for people to loan money to people who couldn't get money in any other way to start their own businesses, to do other things that would rebuild the economy of areas where the unemployment rate is too high.
But anybody who's ever worked in this field will tell you that the federal government cannot do this alone. You have to have state support. You have to have local support. You have to be able to work with the private sector. And you have to try new ideas. Believe me, no one has fully solved this problem. So I say to you I believe if I were mayor of New York City I would say my three priorities are, I'm going to get the unemployment rate down to the national level, I'm going to fix our schools, and I'm going to give these kids something to do after school to keep them out of trouble in the first place and keep the crime rate going down. (Applause.)
Now, this ought to be a positive experience for you and a positive election, and so I say to you --
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just say this. Wait, wait, wait. I believe in his right to free speech, more than he believes in mine. (Applause.) So we let him talk a little bit. If you want to talk to me, go out there. Don't mess with the mayor's race. She doesn't deserve this. (Applause.)
Who do you believe --
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say something. While he's on his way out, let's talk about AIDS a minute. Let's talk about this. You all be quiet and listen to me. This AIDS issue is a serious issue. But you never get to the facts if you're just screaming. And I can't win a screaming match today. (Laughter.)
You might be interested to know, if you thinks it's important, that we have dramatically increased spending on AIDS research -- (applause) -- dramatically increased spending, while I was cutting other things and balancing the budget, dramatically increased spending on AIDS treatment; that the new drugs dramatically approved much faster under my administration than ever before have lengthened the life and the quality of life of people with AIDS. (Applause.) And in terms of research, we are spending today more than twice as much per person with AIDS -- with a fatal case of AIDS -- in research than we are women with breast cancer, and more than eight times as much as men with prostate cancer. I think we have done a good job on this issue. I'm proud of it, and I think you should. (Applause.)
Now, secondly, since we're here about the mayor's race, who do you think is more likely to care more about the AIDS issue as mayor of New York?
AUDIENCE: Ruth! Ruth!
THE PRESIDENT: Now you've got a day and a half. You've got a day and a half. I want to ask you to do something. I was glad to come up here tonight. I don't have a vote. You have a vote. I won't be here on Tuesday to drag people to the polls, but you can. So think about the next day and a half and say: I'm thinking about the future of New York. I'm worried about the kids, and I want them off the streets and doing something positive after school. I'm worried about our schools and I want them to be the best in the country. And I know we've got to try something new and innovative if we're going to cut the unemployment rate from 10 percent to 5 percent. And Ruth Messinger has a plan to deal with all three. I believe I'll help her.
Go out and do that, and have a good Tuesday. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 7:42 P.M. EST