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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 27, 1999
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                            Hay Adams Hotel
                            Washington, D.C.

8:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, David and thank you, Vic. I'm glad the know you still have to pay some political dues for the price of going into private life. (Laughter.)

Let me say, I'm honored to be here for David Bonior, and the most important thing I can say to all of you is, thank you, Because you know it's important that he be reelected or you wouldn't be here. I do think it is worth pointing out that he represents the kind of district that is pretty reflective of America -- it could go either way. And he always has a competitive race because they spend a lot of money against him and they try to say things that will turn the voters against him and convince them that he's something he isn't.

Dave and Judy go home every summer, they knock on thousands of doors, they actually talk to people. I know that if you give money to a lot of candidates, one of the things you want to know is, now, if I really back this person, is he or she going to work hard. This guy kills himself to fulfill his responsibilities to his country and to his party in Washington and to his district back home. And he does as good a job in as difficult a situation as anybody in the United States.

The other thing I want to say is that I am in a unique position, having worked with him for nearly seven years now, under some of the most difficult conceivable circumstances with very hard issues, to tell you that he is a great leader who is both loved and admired. Some of the people in the other party, they seem fond of electing people that they can then be terrified of, so they have to be browbeaten into doing whatever it is they want to do. This guy is followed because he is respected, admired and loved by people who sometimes don't agree with him on every issue.

The last point I want to make is this. We are very close now to returning a majority of the House of Representatives to the Democrats. We can't lose any seats, and we've got to win some. And we certainly don't want to fool with a leadership team that is working and is producing for our party and, more importantly, for our country.

The most important thing in politics is to have, first of all, the right ideas; and then, secondly, the right people. And I define the right people as people who understand how ideas affect real peoples' lives and identify with them, and then have the courage to fight for them.

One of the things that David didn't say, that I think he ought to take a lot of credit for back home -- in a district of prudent, conservative Americans -- is that when I came into office the deficit was $290 billion. We just got the final numbers on last year's budget. We had a $123 billion surplus. We paid $140 billion down on the debt in the last two years. If I had run for President in 1992 and I had told you, vote for me, I'll turn this $290 billion deficit into a surplus, we'll do it two years in a row and I'll pay $140 billion on the debt -- you would have said, you know, he's a very nice young man, but he's totally delusional and we should send him home. (Laughter.)

Now, that reduction, on average, for the average American family, has been worth $2,000 savings in home mortgage payments, a $200 savings in car payments and a $200 savings in college loan payments. So the average American family has gotten a $2400 tax cut, in effect, from responsible economic policies brought to you by our party. And it's not just the President. None of this would have happened if we hadn't had the votes in for the '93 economic plan and if David and Vic and others hadn't been up there whipping it. We did not have a single vote to spare and the Vice President had to break a tie in the Senate and turn the country around.

And for that reason alone, in a district that thinks of itself as a moderately conservative district, I wouldn't give away a man without whom it would not have happened. This country's economic recovery was sparked by our commitment to that and by enacting it and David Bonior deserves an enormous amount of credit for it and I'm very grateful to him and I thank him. (Applause.)

The second point I want to make, only because a lot of you run in the circles of our friends, is he was too modest in the litany he gave. And I say this because, again, I say, I could have done none of this without his help and others. But here are the real numbers. This country now has the longest peacetime expansion in history. If it goes on until February, it will be the longest economic expansion in the history of America, and we didn't have a war during this. It's unthinkable.

The highest homeownership in history, and here are the numbers: we have the lowest unemployment rate in 29 years, the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years, the lowest poverty rates in 20 years, the lowest crime rate in 30 years, the lowest teen pregnancy rate in 30 years, the first back-to-back budget surpluses in 42 years, with the smallest federal government in 37 years. Now, that is a record that you ought to be able to run on in any congressional district in America and be very proud of. (Applause.)

And I'll close with this, this is by far the most important point. The real issue before the American people -- and Senator Bradley and Vice President Gore are having a town meeting right now in New Hampshire while we're here -- the issue is not whether we're going to change, of course we are. The world is changing, it's practically moving under our feet. The question is, how are we going to change. Are we going to, on the one hand, take a u-turn and go back to the policies that got us in so much trouble in the first place -- which is essentially what all the people running for the other party's nomination advocate on economic and social policy. Are we going to forget what got us here in the first place and forget about things that will maintain our economic prosperity. Or are we going to build on what has happened, to take advantage of this moment to meet the big challenges of the new century.

This is the first time in my lifetime that our people, as a people, have had a chance to essentially build the future of their dreams for their children. You know, the last time we had an economy that was about this good was in the 1960s -- we had the civil rights crisis, we had the Vietnam war. Now we have no excuse. But a nation is no different from a business or a family or an individual. You are most vulnerable to making a mistake in life when you think everything is peachy-keen. Because it's easy to just relax, it's easy to get distracted, it's easy to do something that's in the short-term selfish interest that doesn't deal with the long run.

The challenges this country faces is no different than the challenges that you have seen in your businesses, in your families and in your lives. When things are really good, it's hard to muster the vision, the will and the focus to do the right, big things. That's what the candidates should all be questioned about this year.

The most important reason for his candidacy and his leadership is so we can save Social Security for the baby boom generation; so we can modernize Medicare and put a prescription drug benefit; so we can radically improve the education of the largest and most diverse group of kids in the country's history; so we can bring prosperity to the people and places that still haven't felt it; so we can keep on until we pay down the debt completely for the first time since 1835; so we can stop all these assaults on the environment and prove that we can clean the environment and grow the economy at the same time; so that we can meet our responsibilities in the world.

David is an internationalist, and Gerald Ford spoke so passionately today about the importance of a bipartisan commitment to our global responsibilities, which means do what it takes to continue to fight for peace and against ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo; continue to support the Irish peace process; continue to support the Africans, who want to stop further tribal wars; continue to work for peace in Northern Ireland; continue to work for peace in the Middle East; continue to work against the proliferation of nuclear weapons; continue to work for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; continue to work against terrorism.

This is an important part of our future. If you don't think that all this stuff we're enjoying could be interrupted tomorrow by a collapse of the international economic system, by a rise in global terrorism, by America walking away from its responsibilities to peace in these important areas -- think again. So I say to you, this is an important part of it.

And the last thing I'll say is, we Democrats, we may have lost a lot of votes over the last 30 years because we believe in one America, without regard to race or gender or religion or sexual orientation. But if you look at the way the world is in turmoil today and if you look at the horrible, though isolated, instances of hate-related violence in America today, I think you will agree that it's pretty important that we hang in there together.

Dave Bonior has a big heart, a good mind and a steel spine. He will fight a buzz saw for what he believes in. And that's why the people who follow his lead both respect him and love him. You did a good thing in coming here tonight; but we've got a lot of work to do between now and next year at this time. If we do it, we're going to have a lot to celebrate. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 8:50 P.M. EDT