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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 1, 1997
                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                               Hotel Carlton
                              Washington, D.C.            

10:16 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Governor, Senator Bayh, Lieutenant Governor Kernan, Senator Kerrey, Senator Torricelli. Ladies and gentlemen, first, thank you very much for being here for Evan Bayh tonight. You could probably tell that -- you might have told a lot of things looking at that. You could probably tell we were good friends. When you heard him speak you might have been thinking there is Joe DiMaggio; why is he introducing Lou Gehrig? (Laughter.)

And then he started talking about what was on Jefferson's gravestone -- I thought, my God, it's not -- bad enough that he's younger and better looking. Now he's about to write my epitaph. (Laughter.) But I was spared.

Evan and Susan Bayh have been very close friends of Hillary's and mine for a long time now. I do remember when he was elected the youngest governor in America, a position that I once held. And I remember how well he served. I remember when Senator Kerrey and I used to sit in the governors meetings and think about how crazy things were in Washington, and we couldn't imagine how people lived and worked here, what strange decisions were made.

We don't have any excuse for being here, Senator Kerrey and I. (Laughter.) Senator Torricelli was always in the Congress -- he didn't know any better. (Laughter.) We were actually out there in the real world with Evan Bayh. And here is he about to jump off the same cliff.

I want to tell you seriously that, you know, you meet a lot of people in this business and most of them are good people, honest people. They work hard, they try to do the right thing. Governor Bayh is one of the most extraordinarily talented and fundamentally decent people I have ever met in more than two decades in public life now.

He also gets things done. He ran a great state, had a good economy, advanced the cause of education, had the biggest drop in welfare rolls of any state in the United States with a compassionate and common-sense welfare reform. And he embodies what I believe our party, and indeed our country, ought to stand for on the edge of a new century.

I have spent a lot of time these last five years, with varying degrees of success -- I'm grateful for that which we've had -- trying to get our nation to grasp the nettle before us, to do the things which need to be done in this dramatically new time to get us into a new century with the American Dream alive for everybody who is responsible enough to work for it, and with our country coming together as one America when so many other people around the world are divided, and to maintain our leadership in the world for peace and prosperity and freedom.

Evan Bayh embodies the kind of America I am trying to move us toward. I believe he will win next November. I believe he will render great service to our country. I believe you will always be proud that you were here on this night about a year before the election. And I hope that, together, those of us -- we four in this room that either are now or I think soon will be serving in the federal government -- will be able over the next three years to continue to move this country forward, based on what we believe in -- building up, not tearing down; bring together, not dividing; embracing the future, not the past.

I've spent a lot of time in the last year going back to read American history. I was glad to -- I love to go around with Senator Torricelli, we make a pretty good dog-and-pony show and I'm always learning something from what he has to say. But I love the reference to the American Revolution and the beginning of our country.

I really think that our country has been blessed by enormous political endurance. No other great democracy is as old as we are now, partly because we've had the good sense to maintain in various guises a two-party system that had consequences because the parties embraced different ideas with different consequences for the American people; and partly because one of our parties always, against all the fears and reluctance of the moment, embodied the idea of the nation and was willing to embrace the logical extension of plain meaning of the American Constitution in each new time.

In the beginning, it was George Washington and John Marshall and their heirs. In the Civil War, a new party, the Republican Party, was required to stand up for the idea of the Union, and the logical extension of the Constitution that slavery could not coexist in a country dedicated to the proposition that all of us were created equal. And that was the position the Republican Party occupied through the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, during which time they reflected great credit on America and did great things for America.

From the time of Woodrow Wilson to the present day, our party, the Democratic Party, has more clearly, more unambiguously, more consistently embodied the idea of the nation and extending the Constitution in its logical meaning to the challenges of the moment -- from the end of the Progressive Era through the Depression through World War II through the beginning of the Cold War under Harry Truman, through the New Frontier and the Great Society down to the present day.

I don't think anyone questions the fact that our country is stronger today than it was five years ago because we have worked hard -- not always succeeding, but succeeding far more often than failing -- to bring to the country a new direction consistent with the age-old meaning of our obligation to form a more perfect union.

I am very proud of that. I am enormously grateful for the chance that I have had to serve. And I am very comforted that someone of Evan Bayh's quality would present himself to serve in the United States Senate, to join Bob Torricelli and Bob Kerrey and our other hardy band, who often stand alone against some honest philosophical differences and some downright political chicanery from time to time, for what I believe is necessary to move us forward.

I wish we had more like him; then I could get Bill Lee confirmed as head of the Civil Rights Division. I wish we had more like them; then you wouldn't see mainstream judges with impeccable credentials held up purely for political reasons. I wish we had more like him; then we could see the right kind of entitlement reform, and the right sort of policies to enable our people to balance work and family, and the right sort of policies to expand trade, but help people who are left behind put their lives together and become a part of the American mainstream again.

But it's a good thing for our country that Evan Bayh is presenting himself for the Senate. I think he'll be elected. And I think he'll do just as good at that as Joe DiMaggio was at baseball. (Laughter.) Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)

END 10:25 P.M. EST