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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 3, 1999
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                          Private Residence
                          Washington, D.C.

7:54 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Let me begin by saying that I'm really here for Sydney. We are running -- we are running on the same ticket this year. We're trying to get elected to the Congressional Spouses' Caucus. (Laughter.) He's my guy, and I'm with him until the end of time, so here we are. (Applause.)

I want to thank Representative --

Q Can't see you.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, can you see me now? I'll step in. How's that?

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Good. You never saw Jane; she actually was here. I wasn't -- (laughter) -- you may all think I mimed all those previous speeches.

I want to thank Nancy Pelosi and Brad Sherman, and Congressman Baca for being here, and all those who were here before to show their support for Jane. I want to thank my good friend, Molly Raiser -- I think -- Skye was reminding me; I think the fundraiser I had in this house in 1992 was the very first one I had outside my native state of Arkansas. So we're all heavily indebted to this wonderful home and its occupants. (Applause.)

I want to say that I'm profoundly honored to be here tonight, because Jane Harman is exhibit A of why the Democratic Party is now the true majority party in the United States. She represents a very difficult district, and she is proof you can be pro-family and pro-work. She's proved you can be pro-environment and pro-growth. She's proved you can be pro-labor and pro-business. She's proved that all the things that Republicans used to say about us, that they made votes and got elected time after time -- and there are a lot of people in here, including Gerry Ferraro, who have been the victims of these sort of cardboard-cutout, preconceived, bogus campaigns that were run so effectively for more than a decade.

They don't work anymore. And one of the things that I feel very blessed to have done -- maybe just because I have an accent -- is to help liberate the Democratic Party from its vulnerability to those kind of attacks.

But I'm telling you, Jane Harman proved, in getting elected and staying elected, and doing the right things and taking tough votes, that we could build a new majority in this country, and that the results would be good.

And I want to say -- since she said what she did -- I think one of the underappreciated things that all of us, the Democrats, have been able to do in the last few years is, in spite of the economic difficulties that we had to overcome, we've not only produced big budget surpluses; we actually have passed an awful lot of progressive social legislation. There are over 2 million fewer children in poverty; over 20 million people have taken advantage of the family and medical leave law; over 5 million poor people have gone to college with the HOPE scholarship tax credit. I could go on and on and on -- 90 percent of our kids are immunized against serious childhood diseases; 2 million kids, now, have been insured under the Children's Health Insurance Program; by the end of this year, I think it'll be 4 million.

And that's where America is. This is not a mean-spirited country. This is just a country that wants to help people who are disadvantaged move into the middle class without breaking down middle-class economics or values. This is a country that wants everybody to have a chance. And Jane Harman represents that.

And she and Sydney have been great friends of mine. I had -- one of the best days I've had as President was the day that Sydney took me through his wonderful factory in California, and I talked to all of his hundreds of employees. And we had a great day.

But I'm here because Jane Harman, to me, represents not just someone who's been my friend and has helped me politically, but what the Democratic Party embodies, and why we can win in 2000, and in the years ahead.

More important than that is, I want her to win, because when I'm gone I trust her to do the right thing. And that's very important. You know, I don't feel wistful; I don't even feel particularly sad about having to leave office at the end of my term, even though I love it and I'd probably do it forever if the Constitution didn't stop me. (Laughter.)

But I do want you to think about this, and I want you to know why I'm going to do -- I'm not on the ballot this year, and I am going to do more events like this than I have ever done in any year. And I have already done more than any previous President has ever done. And I want you to know why: because I think so much of what we've done over the last seven years is to turn this country around, get it going in the right direction, and give the American people the confidence that we can build a more just, a more decent, a more humane society, and play a more constructive role in the world, and still do well.

And in fact, the more we do the right things, the better we're likely to do economically. And it's been a big job, turning this huge ship of state around. Now, as I said in the State of the Union the other night -- I don't want to talk about the specifics tonight; I'd just be singing to the choir.

But I want you to think about this -- and Jack Valenti will identify with it, and so will Lloyd Hand. Our country has had the longest economic expansion in history; virtually every social indicator is going in the right direction; there is a very high level of confidence that we can do whatever we set our minds to do; and we have the smallest amount of internal crisis or external threat we've had in my lifetime. Never in my lifetime has this happened.

Now, the last time it almost happened was in the early '60s, which was the previous longest economic expansion in our history. When President Kennedy was killed -- I disagree with all these people that date the start of American cynicism and all that to the assassination of President Kennedy. That's not true. People are rewriting history; President Johnson did a fine job in taking over, and President Kennedy's family was supportive, and the country rose above that, and we were moving forward.

When I finished high school in 1964, we had low unemployment, low inflation, high growth, high expectations, and most people believed that the President and the Congress would find an orderly, legal way to meet the civil rights challenges of this country, to meet our responsibilities in the Cold War, and to move on to greater heights. And a lot of people, frankly, just took it for granted, and didn't see a lot of the big challenges there in the way that they might. Plus which -- time and chance intervened.

All I know is, when I finished high school everybody in America thought we were headed in the right direction, no interruptions ahead. Two years later, we were divided over Vietnam; we had riots in the streets. Trying to meet both obligations undermined our economy. It has taken us 35 years to get back to the point, as a nation, that we were then.

I'm not saying to you this as a President or a Democrat. As a citizen, as an American, I have waited for 35 years for my country to be in a position where we could build the future of our dreams for our children, and be genuinely good neighbors to people around the world. And we have tools to do it, now, and the absence of clouds that were not there 35 years ago.

That's why I'm here; that's why I'm going to do more of these things. Because people tend to get in trouble -- individually, in families, at work, and as nations -- in two kinds of circumstances -- and anybody that's over 30 here will identify with both. One is, you tend to do really stupid things when you get mad and hurt, and exhausted because you can't sleep, because you're so mad, hurt and exhausted.

The second time when you make a lot of mistakes is when you think things are going so well, there are no consequences to what you do, and so you don't have to think and plan and look ahead and deal with the big stuff. That is what we face today. Democracies are great in times of crisis; we were hell on wheels in the Depression. We were great in World War II. We had a remarkable constancy all during the Cold War, notwithstanding the fact that we had disagreements over the details.

What are we going to do now with all this? That is the great question. I trust Jane Harman to not let us forget that we're going to double the number of people over 65 in the next 30 years; to not let us forget that the children of this country are growing more numerous and more diverse, and they'll either be our greatest asset or a big drag on the world we're trying to build.

You know, I trust her to deal with these big things that I talked about in the State of the Union address. And I trust you to continue to support that. When you go home tonight, and you think about how many more times somebody's going to ask you to show up at one of these things this year, you think about how many times you'd rather be doing something else. You think about how tiring this gets.

You just remember this -- especially those of you that are around my age: we have waited for 35 years. And we must make sure the American people -- in this presidential race, in these congressional races, in everything we say and do -- dominate the conviction of America to make the most of this moment.

Thank you. (Applause.)

END 8:05 P.M. EST