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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 28, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                           Private Residence
                            Washington, D.C.

8:08 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I'll tell you what, I'm glad he clarified that. (Laughter.) He got into that next husband deal, I thought there were going to be three surprised people here -- (laughter) -- me, Hillary and what's-her-name. (Laughter.)

Anyway, let me say, first of all, I want to thank all of you for coming; and thank Beth again for her incredible generosity -- she and Ron have been so wonderful to open their homes to people who share our causes. Unlike maybe most of the people in this room, I've actually been to Montana several times. In 1985, we had one of our best family vacations ever there. And I think it may be the most beautiful place on the Earth; it is certainly one of the most magnificent. And it deserves to have a magnificent, big, strong senator, and we're about to get one here. (Applause.)

I loved the place. I felt immediately at home. It's so much like the place I grew up and the people I grew up with. But I have to tell you, this thing that Brian did with the prescription drugs and taking the people to Canada and then to Mexico, it really painted a picture of what we're up against.

And what I'd like to say is something you all know, but, this is a very important election. And maybe I can say it with greater authority since I'm not on the ballot. There are profound differences between the two parties, starting with our candidates for President, our candidates for the Senate, our candidates for the House.

And the most important thing that most voters need to know about who is probably right, is that only the Democrats want you to know what the real differences are. There was a great article in the newspaper the other day -- you can't believe everything you read in the press, I know -- but since our Republican friends didn't deny this, we can assume it's true. They have actually hired pollsters. They're so afraid of this prescription drug issue they have hired pollsters to tell them what words and phrases they should use to convince you that they're for giving affordable prescription drugs to our seniors, even though they're not.

That's what was so bizarre about this. They didn't hire pollsters to convince them how to talk about something they're for; they hired pollsters to try to tell them how to talk about something they're not for. I never saw anything like it in my life.

Now, just last week, or a couple of days ago, anyway, the United States Senate voted on this issue. And on a party line vote, they voted against the position that he and I hold. If we change Senate seats in Montana, that will be a switch of two -- they'll lose one and we'll gain one. And I could give you example after example after example.

But let me say, all over America and rural parts of the country, over half of our elderly senior citizens don't have any kind of medical coverage for medicine. If we were creating a Medicare program today, of course we'd have a prescription drug coverage. If I asked you to go in that room with a pencil and piece of paper and design a medical program to ensure all the seniors in America what would it cover, every one of you would put prescription drugs down on it.

The only reason there is no prescription drug coverage in Medicare is, in 1965, health care was about doctors and hospitals. There had not been the pharmacological revolution we had seen. Prescription drugs were not used basically to keep people out of the hospital -- which saves money over the long run, I might add -- and to lengthen and enhance the quality of life. And the only reason it hasn't happened since then is every year but one, until this administration, the government was in debt and we couldn't afford to take on new programs.

Well, now we're looking at a $1.5 trillion surplus over the next 10 years, after we save all of your Social Security and Medicare taxes to pay the debt down and stabilize Social Security and Medicare. And for, roughly, 12.5 percent of that -- 15 percent, something like that -- we can provide prescription drugs at an affordable rate on a voluntary basis to all the seniors in this country. And we ought to do it. (Applause.)

You know, this has been a great week for America. We announced a $211 billion surplus in the budget this year, the biggest one we ever had. I will now have had the privilege of paying off about $400 billion of the national debt when I leave office. And, even more profoundly important, we announced the sequencing of the human genome. But this is just the beginning, mapping these 3 billion genes, looking at all the different patterns. It's just the beginning.

And what will happen is, we will discover the genetic flaws that give people Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, every different kind of cancer, the things that make some people more prone to heart disease and others more prone to strokes. And the more we discover, the more important medicine is going to be, and the more we're going to be able to lengthen life and increase the quality of life.

Anybody that lives to be 65 in America today has got a life expectancy of 82. That's stunning. I predict to you that children born within a decade will be born with a life expectancy of 85 to 90. This is stunning. Within 20 years, children will be born with a life expectancy of 100. Your body is built to last about 120 years. All of us that don't, like me -- (laughter) -- do things like too much stress or we don't eat right or whatever. This is going to change everything.

And it is, I think, a stern test of our judgment and our character what we do with this prosperity we've got. And I think one of the things that we have to do is take care of the aging of America, the baby boom generation is getting older. And we can't do it unless we do the prescription drug program.

You know my first love is education. I've worked hard on it. There is plenty of money left to do education. Should we give some of the money back to the people in a tax cut? Absolutely, there is plenty of money left to do that. But we have no higher priority, in my judgment, than making sure that we have done right by the seniors in this country, and that we have paved the way with the prescription drug program. This man symbolizes that. There are a thousand other issues that we'll be voting on.

But you just remember this. When you talk to people about the elections, say, well, you know, I went to this party for this fellow, Schweitzer. He's from Montana and he's doing these crazy things for these people to prove to them we're getting the shaft on prescription drugs for seniors. But what it says is, he wants to do something with our prosperity. He wants to do something for people who need help, not just for those of us who can afford to come to an event like this. And he wants to do something to make America a better, stronger, more united place.

If he wins, it will go like a rifle shot across America. And if we don't succeed in getting this done between now and November, because they think their phrases that the pollster gives them will substitute for deeds, you can be sure if he gets elected it will happen, and it will be a much better country.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 8:16 P.M. EDT