THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Palo Alto, California) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release April 15, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT GORE AT DNC DINNER
Historic Greystone Mansion Los Angeles, California
9:55 P.M. PDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Tipper and I are so glad to be here, and you throw a great party. (Laughter.) It's a beautiful place and great food, great fellowship. I've had a great time here this evening and I just want to say thanks to everybody for being a part of it.
I also want to thank Steven and Jeffery. This DreamWorks team really does everything right. And congratulations again on this year's success at the Academy Awards ceremony. And Kevin Spacey is here, congratulations to you, Kevin. (Laughter.)
To Ed Rendell and Joe Andrew, the two leaders of the Democratic National Committee, I want to speak for them in thanking everybody for helping the committee. And I just want to say a few words and then I want to present my friend, President Clinton.
Those of you who have answered the request for help time and again remind me of the reason why I've devoted so many years of my life to public service. When I came out of the Army as a disillusioned young person, I thought politics would be the last thing that I ever did. And I became a reporter for seven years, and I asked my editor not to assign me to any stories that had anything to do with politics.
And my disillusionment came from the string of assassinations, the Watergate scandal, the whole Vietnam tragedy -- a lot of the things that all of us experienced back during those years.
But what changed me really was two things. First of all, Tipper and I started our family, and when our first child was born -- sometimes for a young man that's a transforming experience. Men mature more slowly than women. (Laughter.) Up through the age of 52 is all I can document, personally -- (laughter) -- but it goes at least that far.
But the second thing that happened to me was, I got some promotions and started covering city hall and then state government. And I saw men and women who worked hard all day and then rolled up their sleeves and came in to try to make the community a better place. And I see people here who work hard all day -- very successfully, I might add. But here it is at evening time and you've been willing to stand up once again to make our country a better place, and I thank you for that.
I don't think you can overstate or overestimate how important that is. Again, just harkening back to my own personal experience, I grew up in a family where my mother and father were involved with public service, and as a kid I had the privilege of watching my father in debates in the Senate and sometimes in international fora. But what was really accessible to me later on in my life was seeing my neighbors argue for more money to the schools and more community policing and measures that were very easy to understand that would have results that were tangible. And -- and here's my point -- I saw what they were up against.
I don't care what level of democracy you are operating in, there are special interests who are going to be on the other side, arguing for the status quo. It's hard to overcome the inertia. When you're fighting for the right outcome, it is difficult to get it done.
I wrote about a lot of struggles in the local city government in Nashville, Tennessee and then the Tennessee government, state government. And I began to let myself -- even though I was supposed to be totally objective in writing the stories, I began to, in spite of myself, root for the good guys, as I identified them. And then I decided I wanted to get in the ring and help them out myself.
I have the feeling that a similar motivation has brought many of you to the point where you're willing to get involved in this big fight that we're having this year. And some of you have watched as Bill Clinton has led our country against special interests, these last seven years. He and I faced a lot of opposition when we tried to change the status quo. And it's worth remembering how bad that status quo was: deficits that wouldn't quit; a quadrupled debt; policy paralysis; diminished hope; high unemployment; high crime rates. I used to say in the campaign of '92 -- he and Tipper have heard me say it a million times -- everything that should have been up was down, everything that should have been down was up.
But after very hard, difficult, partisan struggles, we were able to really turn the direction of our country profoundly. And of all the criticisms of Bill Clinton that I've heard, the one that rings the most hollow of all is that he has pushed small ideas, little proposals.
They haven't been paying attention, because we've turned the biggest deficits into the biggest surpluses; we turned a triple-dip recession into the strongest economy in the history of the United States; the crime rates have been falling; communities have been getting stronger; investments in education and health care and the environment have all increased dramatically; our industries are number one in the world again; living standards are higher; African-American and Latino unemployment rates are the lowest in history. And on almost every challenge that our country faced seven years ago, you've seen not little ideas but big ideas advanced to bring big changes, and big improvements.
And I can't tell you, as I'm out there running now, the wind at my back is the fact that people believe that we're headed in the right direction, that our country is better off today -- and they want to see the prosperity continue. They know we have a whole lot of big challenges remaining, and you do, too.
But once again, the struggle is with some short-term perspectives and special interest advocates who actually believe that all this surplus that's been built up ought to just be squandered on a risky tax cut that would take the entire surplus and a trillion dollars, besides -- put us right back into deficits, stop the pay down of the debt and actually start building it up again.
It would be like a bunch of investors in your industry saying, well, let's get rid of the team that made "American Beauty" and get the ones that made "Howard the Duck" -- (laughter) -- because eight years ago -- I hope I'm not stepping on anybody's toes here -- (laughter and applause) -- but eight years ago it was a mess. Things are better.
And I want you to know this. I want to say this to this group. I'm strongly in favor of campaign finance reform. I'm for McCain-Feingold, I'm for complete public financing of elections for federal office. But we are not going to stand aside and leave the American people who depend upon those who are willing to fight for them -- we're not going to leave them defenseless and let the other side take over for lack of trying and fighting and winning.
And you're making it possible for us to tell the truth about what's needed in our country. And the American people don't want to see the next three justices of the Supreme Court appointed by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and the nominee of the other side who is beholden to them. (Applause.)
The American people don't want to see an approach to violence in this country that says let's have more concealed weapons and more protections for gun manufacturers. They want more protection for children and families against gun violence. (Applause.)
They don't want to see money siphoned away from public schools at a time when we need to do more and have higher standards and higher investments and drain it away in private school vouchers. They want to see revolutionary progress in our public schools and they want teachers treated like the professionals they are with smaller classes and adequate pay, universal preschool, modernizing of the schools. (Applause).
They don't want to see somebody in charge of environmental policy that has made his state the worst polluted state in America and fired all the environmental protectors and replaced them with lobbyists for polluters. They know that we've got to take on the challenge of clean air and clean water and also the global challenges, like global warming, that actually will give us an opportunity to create a renaissance in American industry by building the new technologies that the rest of the world is screaming out for. We ought to be making and selling those technologies here.
And they want to advance the access to quality health care. They don't want it run by somebody whose state is the worst in the nation where uninsured people without health insurance is concerned. And, above all, they don't want an economic proposal that was rejected 99 to nothing by the United States Senate, because Republicans don't support what Governor Bush is proposing.
And, finally, they want to continue the efforts that all of us have been proud to see undertaken in these last few years to bring people together across the barriers of race and ethnicity and religion and sexual orientation and gender, to establish real mutual respect for our differences in America. And then, on the basis of that respect and deep understanding, transcend those differences to embrace the highest common denominator of the American spirit.
These last seven-and-a-half years have been a wonderful opportunity to work for good things. And of all the good things I could say about President Bill Clinton -- and I could tell you about the many, many times when I have seen him, especially in the early years, nearly buckle under the pressure of this office, but never do so. As I say this, I don't want to pretend that I know how heavy his burdens have been, because there is no other position like the one that he has held on our behalf.
But I've been close enough to it to see firsthand that those burdens are very heavy. And when you lift one and dispense with it appropriately, you don't have a chance to just kick back and relax and say, oh, I'm sure glad I've done that one right, because here's the next one. Some of you all who are executives of some of the largest entertainment companies in the world will face some decisions every now and again that are bet-the-farm decisions, bet-the-company decisions.
A President of the United States faces about six or seven of those every day, literally. I am proud to tell you that this man has worked his heart out to make this country a better place. (Applause.) And you know that. You know that. You know that. You don't know the half of it; but you know that.
But the main thing I want to say is this. Just in strictly personal terms, the highest compliment I can pay is to say he is really a good friend and he knows what friendship is all about. And I'm proud to introduce to you the President of the United States, my friend, Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Well, first of all, let me say that this is an easier speech for me to give than the one the Vice President just gave because I'm not running for anything. (Laughter.) So I was thinking, well, what should I say. And I asked Al, I said, is there anything special you want me to say. He said, nothing special; just get up there and say, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Gore. (Laughter and applause.)
I actually -- and I will proceed to tell you why I actually think that's not an unrealistic litany there.
Let me also say that the --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- amendment that I came back to you.
THE PRESIDENT: He said, oh, yeah, put Clinton in there somewhere. (Laughter.) Actually, you know, I've gotten so gray, I tried to get Jay Leno to come in and give the speech tonight, but he turned me down. (Laughter.)
I wanted to say to you that -- I really, our friends over here in the media, they do a good job of covering this presidential campaign. But they are obsessively interested to find even the slightest difference of opinion between the Vice President and me. And I discovered another one just tonight, when he was up here bragging on "American Beauty." Now, I loved "American Beauty." I love Kevin Spacey. I actually liked "Howard the Duck." (Laughter.) And I just, you know, in the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I ought to make it. (Laughter.)
I want to thank David and Steven, and Jeffery and Marilyn, Andy and all the DreamWorks folks, and all of you who are here tonight. I talked to Hillary right before I came in here, and she said to tell you all hello. And many of you have helped her, and I thank you, those of you who have done that, for doing so.
I want to thank you for helping me and Al and Tipper before, and in this election. And I want to be brief, because I know you want to hear Sarah sing, and I do, too. But there are a couple of things I can say that I think are meaningful.
It seems impossible to me that it's just two weeks away from -- or six weeks away, excuse me -- from eight years ago, from June the 2nd, 1992, when I won the primary in California and knew I would be the Democratic nominee. And then it's 12 weeks away from the time when Al and Tipper and Hillary and I were in New York, eight years ago, and we started this long odyssey together -- got on a bus and started one of our bus tours.
Today, I got up at 5:15 a.m. and went into the Sequoia National Forest to make the Grand Sequoia National Monument, to protect the remaining 34 groves of Sequoia trees for all time. (Applause.) Now, that sort of thing I got to do today, because Al's running and I have more time to do those things. (Laughter.) But it's the sort of thing we have done.
We have now set aside more land under national monuments, the Clinton-Gore Administration has, than anyone. I just loved it. So I want to say, first of all, thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve, to make a difference. Because if it hadn't been for our friends in California and particularly for a lot of people in this room, I am not sure we could have done it.
I thank you for the support you are giving to the Vice President and Tipper tonight and for our party. I'm very grateful for all the leaders, present and past, of the National Democratic Party who are here. And I just want you to think about three or four things real briefly.
First of all, when Al and Tipper and Hillary and I moved to Washington to the White House, to the Vice President's residence, we really did have a different idea about the way the country ought to work. We had a vision of an America in which every responsible citizen had opportunity without regard to their income or background, in which every law-abiding citizen was part of one American community in a 21st century world growing closer together, not further apart, where America was the central force for peace and freedom and prosperity. That's what we believed we had to do.
And to get there, we thought we needed a unifying and forward-looking set of initiatives. Now, Al talked about that. The record speaks for itself. What I want to say to you is -- notwithstanding the fact that I'm not running, and therefore more prone to look backward than forward -- that is, after all, what you hired us to do. When you hire a President and a Vice President, you hire them to win for America.
And America is always about tomorrow. And I want you to know that even though I am not on the ballot, in many ways the election of 2000 is more important than the elections of 1992 and 1996. Why do I say that? Because we have worked so hard to turn this country around and get it going in the right direction. And we are now at a point where as a people we could literally make the future of our dreams for our children -- the stuff that the Vice President was talking about.
We could finally prove forever we could grow the economy and make the environment better. We could have universal preschool, universal access to college, and 21st-century schools in between. We could really help people to balance work and family in ways that are not possible today. We could do more than we could possibly imagine today to make globalization and high technology work for ordinary people, not just the people that are paying to be here tonight, but the people that served our meal as well.
And it all turns on this election. And the truth is, this election ought not to be close. And the only reason it is, is that elections are about more than records, qualifications, and issues, and because people sometimes lose their concentration when times are good.
I like the way things are going in this country now, but I'm telling you, things could be a lot better. Things could be a lot better -- but only if we build on the platform that we're standing on right now. That's the first thing I ought to say: in the 2000 election, if you like the fact that the country's been turned around, you have to believe that the 2000 election is just as important, if not more important, than the two that preceded it.
The second thing I want to say is -- the Vice President can't say all things he ought to say about himself. But in the entire history of the United States, no one who has ever served in that position has had remotely as much positive impact on America, as Vice President, as Al Gore has. Not even close. (Applause.)
And I was thinking about -- he talked about all the hard decisions. I can still remember every conversation we ever had at our weekly lunch where he would say, you know, I don't know how you're going to make these decisions, but I'm quite sure that decision making involves some sort of mental and emotional muscle. It's just like working out. And the more hard decisions you make, the easier they'll get. So you've just got to jump off the board, decide what's right and do it.
And when we made the decision to take on the budget deficit, and we knew we could risk political destruction for it -- because everybody in the other party opposed us -- he was right there early. We made the decision to take on the gun lobby in a systematic way for the first time in history; to take on the tobacco lobby; to take on the unpopular issues of Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. He was there, always there, always early.
Yesterday the Russian Duma ratified START II, the nuclear arms reduction treaty, which will now enable us both to dramatically reduce our nuclear arsenals, in no small measure because he has managed a major part of our relations with Russia for eight years, now. (Applause.) And we just recently saw the announcement coming out of Detroit that we're going to have cars, before you know it, making 70 or 80 miles a gallon, running on dual-fuel cells. He has managed our partnership for new generation vehicles for almost seven years, now.
We have the smallest federal government in 40 years because he ran our reinventing government program. I'm going to have this conference on the digital divide, starting in East Palo Alto Monday. When we became President and Vice President, only about three percent of our classrooms were connected to the Internet. Today, over two-thirds are, thanks to the fact that he has led our effort to connect the schools, and to give rates that the schools could afford, even the poorer schools. (Applause.)
So we are friends and I am biased. But what I just gave you are not my opinions, but facts. So, number one, it's an important election. Number two, I'm worried because people sometimes lose their concentration when times are good. Number three, he is the most qualified person in my lifetime to seek this job, I believe.
And the final thing I want to tell you is this: There are big differences. You know what they are. But if someone were to ask me to go back over the last eight years and to look ahead to the next eight years and say, well, what is the most important thing of all? I would say, the most important thing of all is for us to keep striving to be one America. That's why I have worked so hard to try to help end the racial and religious and ethnic and tribal wars of the world that the United States has tried to be a force for peace all over the world. That is why we have worked so hard for the Hate Crimes Bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, an end to racism, equal pay for women, all those things -- because the American people are really smart. And if they can be free of the demons that bedevil people all over the world, we are going to do just fine.
I was in Atlanta the other night to celebrate John Lewis -- Congressman John Lewis's sixtieth birthday. We were reliving the thirty-fifth anniversary of the march at Selma. And I was talking about John and how the most important thing that he did was not just to win the passage of the civil rights laws but to lead a movement to forgive everybody that had oppressed him, and, in so doing, to liberate us.
You know, we are all -- all of us -- are guilty from time to time of defining our importance in life with some negative reference to somebody else -- I had a bad day but at least I'm not them; on my worst day, I would never do that and be like them. Not a person hasn't done that. But at least we've never made a political program of it in our party and I'm proud of that and I'm proud of being a Democrat. (Applause.)
So you've got the best qualified person. You heard him go through the issues and you agree with him on the issues. We've got great people running for the House and Senate, one of whom I have a particular interest in. But you have to believe in the larger issue. You've got the chance to build the future of your dreams for your children and your grandchildren, because of the conditions that exist in this country today. Therefore, this election is as important, maybe more important than the two that came before it.
And I'll leave you with this story. Al talked about it a little in his remarks. When we celebrated in February the longest economic expansion in American history, we got the economic team in, everybody is patting themselves on the back, you know, and we were all feeling like we were smarter than we probably are. And I said, well, when was the last longest economic expansion in history? You know when it was? 1961 to 1969, when we were young people.
I graduated from high school in 1964. President Kennedy had been killed, the country united behind Lyndon Johnson. Inflation was low, unemployment was low, growth was high, productivity was booming. Optimism was rampant. Lyndon Johnson was clearly going to be reelected.
And even though there was a serious civil rights challenge, we -- basically, most people I knew, felt it would be solved in the Congress and the courts with peaceful demonstrations. Even though we were sort of involved in Vietnam, no one I knew at that time thought it would tear the country to shreds. And everybody was just pretty casual about where we were and we just took our prosperity for granted and we thought we could get rid of poverty and everything else without a great deal of effort and concentration.
Four years later, I graduated from college in Washington, D.C., two days after Robert Kennedy was murdered, two months after Martin Luther King was murdered, nine weeks after Lyndon Johnson said he couldn't run for president again because the country was ripped right down the middle over Vietnam. We had riots in the streets and within just a few months after the 1968 election, the longest economic expansion in history was history.
I say that not to be a downer, because I am probably the most optimistic person, congenitally, maybe even naively, and more optimistic than I was the day I became President. But I say that to remind you we dare not break our concentration or relax our commitment just because times are good.
And forget about being president. I say this to you as a citizen. I have waited for 35 years for my country once again to be in the position it was in when I was young, to build the future of our dreams for our children.
That's what this election is about, that's why he should be president. You will never get a chance in your lifetime to vote for someone as well qualified again. I certainly wasn't when I ran. You will never get a chance in your lifetime to ratify a direction and to accelerate the pace of change that is clearly working.
If you really think about it, you are not ever going to have any clearer choices. But when you think it doesn't matter, when you get tired, when you wish somebody wouldn't call you again between now and November, you remember the story I told you about the last longest economic expansion in American history and take a deep breath and bear down, because the best is still ahead of us.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 10:25 P.M. PDT