THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT NEW DEMOCRAT NETWORK DINNER Westin Fairfax Hotel Fairfax, Virginia
9:20 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I have here in my hand a Mont Blanc pen left on this platform, I presume, by Simon, -- (laughter) -- who could not afford one of these when he worked for me. (Laughter.) I am really proud of you -- (laughter) -- and I thank you, you've been great. This is really wonderful. (Applause.)
Now, I don't know how well the rest of you know Senator Lieberman. I think I know Senator Lieberman reasonably well -- 30 years worth of reasonably well. And, normally he's so laid-back and so buttoned-down and so controlled. And that's the image of the whole New Democrat crowd. But when he gets in front of a New Democrat group, he becomes positively ebullient. (Laughter.) I mean, you could mistake him for Chris Dodd up here, the way he was talking. (Laughter and applause.) It was amazing.
Listen, this deal he did tonight is a big deal -- getting the disclosure of these secret committees is a big deal for America, and we thank you. This is great. (Applause.) And this could really influence the outcome of some of the elections this year, and more importantly, it could ratify a principle that we all, in both parties, say we believe in, which is full disclosure. So now we're going to be given our chance, and it's a great thing.
Let me -- I thank all the rest of you for coming. I want to say, Joe, of all the nice things you said about me, you know, when we started in '93, we carried the economic plan by a vote -- just a vote. As Al Gore says, whenever he voted, we won -- in both Houses. And I want to pay special tribute to those of you who were there then, and who were part of the whole idea base of the New Democratic movement. And I want to say a special word of appreciation to my friend and neighbor of many years, Dave McCurdy, who was a big part of that. I thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you.
We have all these people running for office today -- I guess I want to say a few words about all of them. And I'll come back to that. But let me begin by saying that I hope this group will stay together after this election. And I hope that it will become a constant vehicle to merge politics and policy in the best way.
In Washington, we have too many people who do policy, but don't do politics. And then we have people who do politics, but don't do policy. And really it only works if you do both. There's nothing wrong with politics; I've always sort of enjoyed it. (Laughter.) And I think I've embarrassed a lot of people because I'm not ashamed of it. I love politics, I love the system. If it weren't a pretty good system, we wouldn't be around here after over 200 years. It's really nothing more than saying you like people, you're interested in what they have to say, and you think everybody counts. But we need a place where people can be brought together with their ideas and their legitimate political aspirations.
And I said this when the DLC had its sort of every- decade meeting to figure out the charter for the organization up in Hyde Park the other day. But let me just remind you what the New Democrats have wrought in the last seven years.
In addition to the dramatic turnaround in the fiscal picture of the country that Senator Lieberman mentioned, we had the Family and Medical Leave law; welfare reform; 100,000 police; the Brady Bill; doubling the Earned Income Tax Credit; going from one to 1,700 charter schools in this country; all the trade initiatives, including now over 280 separate trade agreements; the empowerment zone program and the reinventing government program, both of which were strongly pushed by the New Democrats, which the Vice President led; and, of course, my personal favorite, national service, where now 150,000 young people have followed Alan Khazei and City Year's lead to go out across this country.
And they built a great, broad bipartisan support -- former Senator of Indiana, Republican Senator Dan Coats had a great article in the Hill newspaper yesterday talking about how he changed his mind about AmeriCorps, that we were never interested in supplanting the civic sector of our society, but wanted to strengthen it and support it. And that's exactly what the national service has done. So you can be proud of that.
In this year alone, we've had the Africa-Caribbean Basin bill. We are about, I believe, to pass the China trade bill. We have the bill to help Colombia, which I strongly believe is a New Democratic measure. We took the earnings limit off Social Security. And we still have a chance, in addition to passing this campaign finance measure, to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit again; to pass the New Markets legislation, which has broad bipartisan support; to do more to close the digital divide and reduce hate crimes in our country; to pass Senator Landrieu's great initiative to permanently set aside massive funds to protect precious lands along our coasts and throughout the country forever. And we've got this possibility for paying the country out of debt, for the first time since 1835. That's pretty good. (Applause.) That's pretty good.
But what I want to say to you is our continued progress depends upon ideas, continuous movement, and good politics. And that means, among other things that the people who are here tonight who are up for reelection have to be helped. And you're helping them here, but I don't want you to stop here. I'll just mention a few.
First of all, Governor Nelson from Nebraska back there. Most people say we couldn't hold Bob Kerrey's Senate seat, but he's going to hold it. And I served with him for many years, as governor. I have enormous respect for him. He will be a genuine New Democrat in the Senate. He needs your help to win.
I think in some ways, the ultimate test of whether you can combine fiscal conservatism, social liberalism, and astonishing personal courage, will be whether Chuck Robb will be reelected in Virginia. And I think you can help him. (Applause.)
Debbie Stabenow is going to give us a seat in Michigan. But she's in a hard race, and she needs your help. (Applause.) Cal Dooley has to fight in every election he ever runs in. (Laughter.) And he spent a lot of time with this New Democratic network. I just want to say one thing about Cal.
He spends a lot of time that he doesn't have to spend, working on getting us all together for trade; working on getting us all together for the New Democratic network. Whenever they need any of us to get together, and all the rest of us will come when we're asked, Cal's there doing the asking. He comes from a tough district; they've been very supportive of him, and very understanding, but he needs and deserves your help. Because all the times he's been out here working to get us together -- and half the time to do things we should have done on our own without his having to ask us -- he could have been home getting votes. So I want you to help him. He needs it. (Applause.) Thank you.
I want to thank all the rest who are here. I want to mention one or two others. But I thank Adam Smith, and my Congressman, Vic Snyder, who's here; and Bob Etheridge, my longtime friend from our education days; and Loretta Sanchez, who made Orange County safe for Democrats. (Laughter.) And Jim Davis, and John Larson, and Ron Kind, and Jim Moran, and my good friend, Harold Ford. And I want to say a special word of thanks to Rush Holt. Now Rush Holt is the first guy to represent his district in a century or more. And he's the only scientist we have -- serious, serious scientist in the Congress. We also had a great science teacher, Bruce Vento, from Minnesota, but he's retiring this year.
You know, I just announced the human genome, and we're all talking about how we have to preserve privacy of medical records, and we've got a thousand decisions to make. This Congress is going to be -- Joe told that joke about me organizing a DLC chapter on Mars -- (laughter) -- but let me just tell you, we're all laughing about this, but I believe some of the most serious decisions Congress will have to make in the next decade will relate to science and technology.
Now, we can get all the money we need from Democrats or Republicans for the National Institutes of Health, because we all want to live forever. And I say that not in a bad -- that's good, that's not bad. I don't say that in a critical way. When I'm gone from here, I'll probably be writing you all letters, asking you to put more into it as I get older. (Laughter.)
But there are a whole range of other issues. Should we try to find out if there was life on Mars, or should we be determining what's in the black holes in outer space, or should we be shifting another few hundred million dollars to explore the deepest depths of the ocean, because we now know there are forms of life there that we had not even discovered yet, that might have all kinds of answers? Should we do them all? If so, what do we have to take money away from?
I'm telling you, this is a big deal -- Rush Holt is really important to the Congress. He's a serious scientist who actually knows stuff that the rest of us just give speeches about. (Laughter.) And he had the guts to run in a district where nobody else would run because they thought there wasn't any way a Democrat could get elected. So he also is a test of whether our ideas can sway people who otherwise were not reachable by us. And I want you to help him. He deserves to be reelected, and I want him to be reelected. (Applause.) Thank you.
And finally, of course, I want you to help the Vice President, because I want you to make Bill Daley look like a genius. (Laughter and applause.) He is, but I want him to look like one.
You know, I just want to say a word about this. First of all, there are a lot of people who, if they had a job like Secretary of Commerce, would try to find some way to say no if they were being asked to run and do another political campaign. He could say, well, I've already been in the Cabinet once; what else can I do? And he didn't say no. And that means a lot to me.
Because I can tell you, all the stuff we talked about, and a lot of other issues that you know well -- including what kinds of people get appointed to major positions from the Supreme Court to the Cabinet to many other things -- are hinging on the outcome of the presidential race. And how well a lot of our friends out here run in their reelection campaign will turn in some measure on this presidential race. And Bill Daley said yes, and I'm proud of him. And it's going to be a better campaign, and a winning campaign, in no small measure because he did.
I just want to remind you, very briefly, of some things. I know you know this. And I had a chance to talk about this in my press conference a little today. I worked real hard for the last seven and a half years, with the help of a lot of good people in this room, in Congress, and those in my administration who'd been introduced, like Secretary Caldera, to kind of turn our country around, get it going in the right direction, give the American people a lot of self-confidence that we could move forward and we could move forward together. And now we really do have this unbelievable chance to kind of write the future of our dreams for our kids.
But I get the feeling that there are people kind of approaching this election in a less serious vein, who basically act as if -- and a lot of you have done this, a lot of you in the high-tech sector have done this -- but a lot people act like this economy's rocking along so good, you couldn't mess it up if you tried; you could take dynamite to the New York Stock Exchange, and it wouldn't mess it up; you could do whatever you wanted, you couldn't mess it up -- and that maybe people ought to just take their tax cut and run, and just kind of enter an area of good feelings, and just see what happens. And I just don't believe that.
I think any of us who are at least 30 years old -- I've said this 1,000 times, I'm going to say it one more time -- anybody in this room at least 30 years old can remember at least one time in your life when you made a mistake, not because things were going so badly for you, but because things were going so well, you thought there was no penalty to the failure to concentrate. And that is how we're going to be measured this time. Are we going to concentrate? Are we going to bear down? Are we going to really, really cherish the extraordinary opportunity we have here?
And I think that there are four simple arguments for Al Gore's election. First of all, his service as Vice President, from breaking the tie on the budget in '93 to breaking the tie on the common-sense gun safety legislation in 2000, to running the Rego program to the empowerment zones, to the technology partnership for the new generation vehicles, to managing big chunks of our relationships with Russia, South Africa, Egypt, and many other places.
We have had a lot of Vice Presidents who made great Presidents. Thomas Jefferson did, Theodore Roosevelt did, and Harry Truman did. But we've never had anybody serve in that job who was as great in that job as Al Gore. Never, not one person in the history of the republic has ever done that. (Applause.) And that counts for something. It really matters that he's had this experience, that he knows these things.
The second argument is, now that I'm going out into private life, it's just purely selfish, but I'd kind of like to see this expansion continue for a little while. (Laughter.) And I know that he will follow economic policies more likely to keep the expansion going -- because we'll keep paying down the debt; we'll keep interest rates down; we'll keep investing in our future; he'll keep expanding trade, keep doing the things that have to be done.
If you take all the non-Social Security surplus and give it away -- all of it right now, projected for the next decade -- in a tax cut and in the partial privatization transition costs of any privatization plan, and in the spending in other defense and other spending plans proposed by the Republicans, it's all gone. All the surplus is gone.
Now, if I ask all of you, what's your projected income over the next 10 years, and you tell me, and I say, do you have a high level of confidence, you say, yes, and I say, good, come here and sign the contract to spend it all tomorrow, you would think I had lost my mind, wouldn't you? There's not a person in this room that would sign a contract tomorrow obligating you to spend your entire projected income over the next 10 years. We do not need to risk going back to the old days of deficits and high interest rates, and weak economic performance because of that. That's the second reason that we ought to be for Gore.
And the third reason is that he understands the future. And that's important. I'll just give you just two examples. With this incredible human genome announcement this week -- it was stunning. You know, I've been reading about this stuff for a year just so I would understand it when I made the announcement yesterday. (Laughter.) Now, you're laughing, but it is the most fascinating thing I have ever studied in my life. It's unbelievable. But we have serious questions here. Do you believe that as we give up more and more of our genetic information so we can find out how to stay healthier, we should be denied jobs on the basis of it? Or promotions, or access to health insurance? That's a big question, isn't it? Don't you want somebody who understands how to help you work through all that?
I had a guy tell me the other day that Al Gore was talking to him about the Internet 12 or 15 years ago, and saying that someday it would all be on all the -- the Library of Congress would all be on computers and we could all get it, and that's what it is -- along with the Encyclopedia Britannica. Pretty soon, all of our health and financial information is going to be on somebody's computer. I think you ought to have to give permission before somebody else gets it. Wouldn't you like to have somebody who both understands that, and wants to keep the high-tech economy going and growing, and keep this a fertile ground for new companies to start, being President?
Everybody now admits we're having global warming. When we started talking about it five years ago, we had a House subcommittee that thought it was a subversive plot to wreck the American economy. My only defense was, if I was trying to wreck the American economy, I had done a poor job of it.
You know, the first lunch I ever had with Al Gore, the very first one after we took office in the White House, he brought in his little chart showing me how there was more greenhouse gases being put in the atmosphere in the last 30 years than in the previous 500. But you know what? Eight year later, it's the conventional wisdom. People made fun of him eight years ago; it's the conventional wisdom now. He was right.
Don't you think we ought to have somebody that understands this, going into a future that -- somebody that can shape our children's future? If we don't do something about this, it's going to flood the sugar cane fields in Florida -- I mean in Louisiana -- it's going to flood the Everglades in Florida. It's going to change the whole pattern of agricultural production in the Midwest. I think it's important. I want somebody plotting the country's future that really understands this stuff.
And the final thing I'd say is, we're Democrats because, whether we're more conservative or more liberal on this or that spending issue, or this or that crime issue, we're inclusive. We want poor people along for the ride. We want middle-class people to have a chance to catch up with everybody else. We want everybody's kids to have an education. And we're not for demeaning people because of their race, their religion, their sexual orientation, or anything else. And I want somebody as President that I absolutely trust to take us all along for the ride. (Applause.)
So we actually made America a better place, and you guys have just gotten started. All the good stuff is still out there to be done, but you've got to win now to do it then.
Thank you, and bless you. (Applause.)
END 9:44 P.M. EDT