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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                            (Houston, Texas)
For Immediate Release                                 September 27, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                          Hyatt Regency Hotel
                             Houston, Texas

7:52 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I appreciate what Mayor Rendell said, once again illustrating the complete accuracy of Clinton's third law of politics: whenever possible, be introduced by someone you've appointed to high office. (Laughter.) But I loved it.

I want to thank all of the people who are responsible for this wonderful evening tonight. Jess and Betty Jo, thank you so much; Bill and Andrea. Thank you, Garry. I thank my friend of nearly 30 years, Billie Carr, for being here tonight. And I thank all the state legislators and party officials, and especially Representatives Max Sandlin and Sheila Jackson Lee, who make my life so much easier in Washington.

I thank Lloyd and B.A. Bentsen for being here tonight. I want to tell you, I just was with another group over at John Eddie and Sharon William's house, and I said, people are always asking me, we had all this great economic news, and they're talking about how brilliant my economic advisors were, how brilliant Lloyd Bentsen was, and how brilliant Bob Rubin and all the others were, and they said, what great new innovation did they bring to Washington? I always say, what they brought to Washington was arithmetic. (Laughter and applause.)

Lloyd and I tell them, where we came from, we weren't very smart and we thought the numbers had to add up, or it wouldn't work. (Laughter.) Sure enough, it worked out all right, and the prosperity our country enjoys today is in no small measure because of the service that Lloyd Bentsen rendered to our nation. And I thank you so much. (Applause.)

I want to thank my longtime friend, Governor Mark White, for being here. We were colleagues together back in the long ago, when we were working on improving our schools, and I think the children of Texas are still benefiting from a lot of the work you did, way back then. And I thank you for being here tonight, Mark. (Applause.)

And I want to thank the entertainers. I have special feelings about all of them. Red Buttons and I were together in Los Angeles, at an event that we did for Hillary right before the Democratic Convention started. He was funny then, he was funnier tonight. And I was thinking, I wonder if I can tell those jokes when I'm not President anymore. (Laughter.) Or will I have to wait until I'm 81? (Laughter.) But he was great, I loved it. The last time he spoke, I wrote down some of the jokes. Tonight I didn't even bother to right them down. I know I can't tell them until I get out of office. I let it go. (Laughter.)

I want to thank my friend, Mary Chapin Carpenter, for being here. What an immense talent she is. And she's been so generous to me and to our party over these last eight years. I'm very, very grateful to her. And I want to thank Billy Ray Cyrus. I, too, will never forget the day we were on the train together going from West Virginia to Kentucky. He told me his father was a local Democratic official, and that even though he'd enjoyed some success in life, he had not strayed from the path his father blazed. We had a great day on that train, and I'll never forget it. (Applause.)

And I did ask for that song. Every time Billy Ray Cyrus sings "Achey Breaky Heart," it reminds me of one thing I heard Tina Turner say one time, singing "Proud Mary," which was her first hit. When she sang it to us in Arkansas, it was about 25 years after she recorded it, and the crowd was cheering. And she said, you know, I've been singing this song for 25 years, but it gets better every time I do it. (Laughter.) That's the way I feel about him. He was great tonight. Let's give them all a hand. (Applause.) Thank you.

There are people in this room tonight that I first met nearly 30 years ago. There are people in this room tonight that I haven't yet met, and I hope to shake your hand. Most of the people in this room tonight I met 28 years ago, plus, probably -- almost 29 years ago, are probably immensely surprised my life turned out the way it did. (Laughter.)

But we have been friends all this long time. And fate had it that the first time I ran for President I had to run against two guys from Texas. And now here I am going out with another nominee of the Republican Party from Texas. And throughout it all, I have really treasured the people who have supported me and Hillary and Al and Tipper Gore, and what we tried to do. There's a very large number of Texans who have actually participated in our administration and served in one capacity or another, and the warm welcome I've always received here.

So the most important thing I could say to you tonight is a simple thank you. I have loved it every time I've been here. I'm grateful, and I'm glad we tried to win it, even when we couldn't. It's been a joy, and I thank you for that. (Applause.)

Now, I want to amplify a little on what Ed Rendell said. I'm working as hard in this campaign as I ever have, and I'm not running for anything. For the first time since 1974, I'm not on the ballot. Most days I'm okay about it. (Laughter.) I tell everybody, now that my party has a new leader and my family has a new candidate, I'm the cheerleader-in-chief in America, and I'm glad to do it.

I'd just like to take a couple of moments tonight to ask you to think about the future. I am very grateful that our country is better off today, by virtually every measure, than it was eight years ago. And I am grateful for whatever role I and our administration had in it. But I am quite sure that the stakes in this election, though very different in 2000 than 1992, are every bit as high, perhaps higher. And if you'll just give me a couple of minutes, I'll try to tell you why, because I want to ask you to do something about it, even beyond the contribution you've made tonight.

When I ran for President, I know the American people took a chance on me. My opponent, the incumbent President, used to refer to me as, after all, just the governor of a small southern state. And back in '92, I was so naive, I thought it was a compliment. (Laughter.) And you know what -- after all this time, I still do. (Applause.) So I can imagine how many people in 1992 went into the polling place saying, my God, can I really vote for that guy? He's 46 years old, and may not be old enough to be President. He's just been the governor of that little bitty state, wherever it is. All the Republicans just say terrible things about it, and every now and then the media helps them along a little bit. Maybe I shouldn't do this. Oh, it's a big chance. I just wonder how many people went in there and said, oh, heck, I'm going to do it anyway.

But, come on, it wasn't that big a chance, because the country was in a ditch. I mean, we knew we had to change, right? (Laughter.) Now, it's different. Now we have peace and prosperity, the absence of internal crisis, or looming, looming external threat to our existence. And people sort of feel like they're free to do whatever they want with this election.

I don't agree with that. I think I can say that, maybe with greater conviction and credibility, because I'm not a candidate. I can't say it much better than I did out in Los Angeles, but I want you to know that all my life I have hoped that my country would be in the position it's in now, with prosperity and peace, where we're coming together, not being driven apart; and where we're not up to our ears in debt anymore, and we've actually got the chance to build the future of our dreams for our children. When Al Gore says, you ain't seen nothing yet, I know it seems like a campaign slogan, but I actually believe it. I believe it, because it took a good while for us to turn this country around.

I announced today that this year we'd have a surplus of $230 billion this year, the biggest in the history of the United States. (Applause.) That by the end of the year, when I leave office, over the last three years we will have paid down $360 billion on the national debt. We will have reduced the debt by that much. Now, if I had come here in 1992, and said I want you to vote for me and we'll balance the budget in 1997, and then in '98, '99 and 2000, we'll run surpluses, and by the time I leave we'll pay off $360 billion of the national debt -- keep in mind, that year, the deficit was $290 billion, projected to be $455 billion this year. We had $4 trillion in debt. We were spending almost 14 cents of every dollar that you pay in taxes just paying interest on that debt. So if I said, hey, vote for me and I'll begin to get us out of debt, you'd say, you know, he seems like such a nice person, it's too bad he's imbalanced. (Laughter.) Nobody would have believed that. Arithmetic.

Now, we also know that, as the study showed yesterday, poverty's at a 20-year low. Now all income group's incomes are increasing more or less the same percentage terms. Last year we had the biggest drop in poverty every recorded for Hispanics and African Americans. We had a 34-year -- the largest poverty drop for children in 34 years. Two million people moved out of poverty this last year alone. Median income for Americans exceeded $40,000, for the first time in history. In real dollar terms, after inflation, the average family's income has gone up $6,300 since 1993. (Applause.)

Now, this is not just about money. You heard Ed Rendell talking about it -- it's not just about money. One of my other laws of politics is, whenever you hear a politician tell you this is not a money problem, five will get you ten they're talking about somebody else's problem, not their problem. What do I mean by that? Work and a decent income gives dignity to life, structure to families, pride to children, and the room -- the emotional, as well as the financial space, to do the other things that we really care most about in life.

So I want to say that I don't think all these things that have happened were an accident. We had a different economic policy, a different education policy, a different environmental policy, a different health care policy, a different crime policy, a different welfare policy, a different foreign policy. And we had a different policy about what kind of country we were going to be, and whether I was going to bring this country together across the racial and religious and other lines that divide us, or keep on playing the politics of divide and conquer. And I choose unity, and I think it was the right decision. That's the Democratic decision. (Applause.)

So here we are, all dressed up, and where are we going to go? I just want to say two things about it. Number one, even though there is no apparent internal threat and external crisis, there are big challenges out there. And we can now meet them, because we're in shape to meet them. We were handcuffed from meeting them eight years ago. I'll tell you what some of them are, and what we can do.

We've got the biggest and most racially, ethnically, religiously diverse group of school kids in the history of our country. We can give them all a world-class education. We actually know how to do it, and there are examples in virtually every state where it has been done, against all the odds. But if we want it, we have to have what I would call a standards-plus approach. We've got to have high standards and accountability. But we've also got to be able to invest in modern schools, in Internet connections, in smaller classes and well-trained teachers, and after-school programs for the kids that need it.

But if we're willing to do it, and have accountability, we can get there. We have to decide. I think we'll pay a terrible price if we don't do it. If we do it, we will be the country of all those in the world best prepared for the global Information Age, because of our diversity.

Second thing, we've got to get ready for the aging of America. You live to be 65 in America today, your life expectancy is 82, highest in the world. (Applause.) Pretty soon, the fastest growing group of people in the world -- Lloyd's going to live to be 120, but -- fastest growing group of people in the world in America are people over 80, in percentage terms. The young people in this audience that have not had their children yet, when you have your children, if you have them over the next 10 years, starting within a couple years, young mothers will bring home from the hospital with their babies a little genome card that will be the inevitable result of the sequencing of the human genome, which I'm very proud was completed during my tenure.

And I'm proud of the support we gave it, although a lot of countries worked on it and its been worked on for years. But anyway, this little card that will say, now, your little girl or your little boy has the following genetic makeup, and there are the following problems in the gene map of your baby's body which may, for example, make it more likely for your child to develop Parkinson's disease, or Alzheimer's, or breast cancer. But if you do the following 10 things, you can cut the risk by 80 percent. That's going to happen.

And then, pretty soon after that, they'll figure out a way to fix the broken parts of the gene, so that it won't be any time before the young people here, when they have their babies, will be bringing home children who have a life expectancy at birth of 90 years. Now, that's the good news. But when the baby boomers retire, there's only going to be two people working for every one person drawing Social Security. And I think I can speak for my generation when I say, one of our nightmares is we don't want our kids to go bankrupt or be unable to raise our grandchildren because of our retirement. So we have to protect and save and extend the life of Social Security and Medicare, and add that prescription drug benefit, so that old age will be good and full and active as possible, but not a burden on our children and grandchildren. Huge challenge -- every advanced economy in the world facing it.

What are we going to do about global warming, and how are we going to keep getting enough energy to do what we have to do? Will we have to have more energy in the world? Of course, we will. Will we have to conserve more? You bet we will. Can we do both, and protect and improve the environment? Absolutely.

I'll give you one example. We've been funding research at the Agriculture Department on how to make ethanol energy-efficient. The problem with all these biofuels is it takes seven gallons of gasoline to make eight gallons of ethanol. But we're right on the verge of a chemical breakthrough that is the equivalent of what happened when crude oil was cracked chemically so that it could be refined and turned into gasoline or heating oil.

And when that happens, you'll be able to make eight gallons of biofuel off any Texas farm from one gallon of gasoline, and when that happens, it will be like getting 500 miles to the gallon. We're also very close to fuel cells, to alternative energy sources, which will dramatically change the future of transportation.

So, can we grow the economy, have enough energy and improve the environment at the same time? You bet we can, but not by accident. We'll have to decide. Now, those are just three issues. I could mention a zillion more. But we have to decide.

And the thing that has bothered me about -- it bothers me about all elections, but it really bothers me now, because people have got to really think about this -- everybody kind of knew what the deal was in '92. So if you had a lot of that kind of smoke and mirrors coverage, and it was this issue this week, underlying it, everybody knew what the deal was -- were we going to change or not? And in '96, everybody knew what the deal was -- has Bill Clinton done a good enough job for us to extend his contract? That was the issue. Were we going to build a bridge to the 21st century we could all walk across?

Here we are in the 21st century. We all walked across it. Now where are we going, now that we're on the other side? And we have the freedom to decide. And I will say again, sometimes it's harder to make a good decision when times are good than when they're bad. There's not a person in this room tonight over 30 years old who has not made a doosey of a mistake at least once in your life, not because your back was against the wall, but because things were going so well for you, you thought you didn't have to concentrate. That is a condition of age I can say to everybody that's been there. Countries are no different. We have to decide what we are going to do with this moment of prosperity.

Last point -- there are real differences. We don't have to bad-mouth the Republicans, and they don't have to bad-mouth us. They might feel like they do, but they don't. And I'll say again what I said in Los Angeles. I wish we could just all stand up and say, look, why don't we say between now and November 7th, we will posit that our opponents are good, patriotic, God-fearing people, who love their families and love their country, and will do what they think is right. And why don't they posit the same things about us, so that we could get about the business of making an intelligent choice which requires us to understand what the differences are.

Here's where you come in. There are real differences here, and they'll affect the lives of everybody in this room, and especially the young people. And they will determine whether we will make the most of a kind of a chance a country gets maybe once every 50 years to build the future of our dreams for our kids.

Look at the economic choice. Do you like where we are, and what we're doing? The Democratic plan is to have a tax cut that's focused on long-term care, child care, college education deductions, and retirement savings; that's small enough to let us invest in education, health care and the energy and national defense and other issues we have to deal with, and still get this country out of debt in 12 years, so we can keep interest rates coming down, keep the economy going. (Applause.)

Their plan is to spend three-quarters of the non-Social Security surplus -- and we all agree that we shouldn't ever spend the taxes you're paying for Social Security again, except for Social Security -- that's what they say. They want to spend three-quarters of it on a tax cut, that a lot of you here would get more money out of than ours; otherwise -- if you could afford to pay the ticket tonight, you'd get more money.

          -- but they're going to guarantee everybody who's 55 or over

-- which next year will include me -- and they're going to give us what we'd be entitled to anyway. Well, obviously, if you take the money out, you've got to put it back in, right? So there's a $1.6 trillion tax cut. Then there's a $1 trillion payback to Social Security. Okay, you've already spent all the non-Social Security surplus and some of the Social Security tax. And this is before you factor in government spending going up at not only inflation, but inflation plus population growth, which is done for 50 years; before you change the rules so that upper-middle class people don't have their income taxed away by something called the alternative minimum tax, just by raising their income. That costs another couple $100 billion. Before you allow for any emergencies -- and we spent $30 billion on the farms in the last four years, because the farm prices have been so low. In other words, they're taking us back to deficits.

But the good news is, you get a nice quick hit, if you're in an upper-income group, of a nice tax cut, and then three or four years later, you say, oh, my goodness, we're back in the soup again. And then what happens? Interest rates will be higher. My Counsel of Economic Advisors says that our plan will keep interest rates a point lower, every year for a decade. Do you know what that's worth to an average person --10 years worth -- $390 billion in lower home mortgages, $30 billion in lower car payments, $15 billion in lower college loan payments, from lower interest rates. Never mind what it does for business. More loans, more jobs, more investment, and a better stock market.

So you've got to decide. If you want the money now, if you want to take the money and run now, you should be for them. If you like what's happened in the last eight years, you want us to take advantage of this to deal with the big challenges, to give a tax cut we can afford, and get this country out of debt for the first time since 1835, you should be with us. But no American should be under the illusion that there is not a stark, clear choice that will affect the lives of our children. And that's what this election ought to be about. (Applause.)

You take health care. We're for a patient's bill of rights. At least for me, not because I'm against managed care. I was for managed care. When I became President, inflation in medical costs was going up at three times the rate of normal inflation. It was going to bankrupt the country. But the problem with any management system is, sometimes it forgets -- any system -- why you organize it in the first place. The point is not to make the most money you can. The point is to make the most money you can and spend the least money you can, consistent with the real objective, which is the health of the American people covered in the health care plan. (Applause.)

Now, this is a big deal. You know how many people in America today have health care their doctors recommend for them delayed or denied, every year? Eighteen million people. Now, if we pass a law that said, you've got a right to see a specialist if your doctor says so,; if you get hurt you've got a right to go to the nearest emergency room, not one clear across town that happens to be covered by the HMO; if you change jobs, but you're undergoing a cancer treatment or you're pregnant, you can stay with the same doctor until your treatment's over; if you get hurt by a bad decision, you've got a right to sue -- that's our patient's bill of rights. And it covers everybody.

Their patient's bill of rights leaves about a 100 million people out, and they have fought the right to sue. Well, without the right to sue, it's a patient's bill of suggestions, not a patient's bill of rights. (Applause.) Now, so we're for it, they're not.

Why aren't they for it? Well, the health insurance companies don't want it, and they're trying to scare us by saying that it will cost a lot of money. The problem is that their own Congressional Budget Office says it costs less than $2 a month for insurance policy. Wouldn't you pay $1.80 a month to make sure that if she gets hit by a car going out of here tonight, she can go to the nearest hospital? And a month later, if the doctor says she needs a specialist, and an accountant says she doesn't, she gets to see the specialist? I'd pay $1.80 a month for that. It's the right thing to do. (Applause.)

But we're different. We're different on this Medicare drug issue. Don't you be fooled by all the smoke and mirrors here. Let me tell you what -- our position is simple. People are living longer. The older you get, the more medicine you get. If you get the right medicine and right amounts at the right time, you live longer and you live better, and eventually you save money because you stay out of the hospital.

Their position is -- their stated position is, we can't afford to have a Medicare drug program that's voluntary, but available to all seniors on Medicare, so we want to pay for people up to 150 percent of the poverty line, and help other people by insurance, health insurance for medicine. And the Democrats just want a big government program. Well, look. Medicare is not a big government program, right? We financed it. The doctors are private, the nurses are private, the health care is private, and the administrative cost is under 2 percent. It works.

Now, what's the real difference here? Their program would not help half of the seniors who need to be in this program, because they can't afford to buy the medicine the doctor says they're supposed to have. Why are they really against it? Because the drug companies don't want it. Now, that doesn't make any sense, does it? Why wouldn't the drug companies want to go and sell more medicine? Most people in business like to increase their sales, not restrict them. Why is that? Because they believe that if the government has this health insurance that covers medicine, that we'll buy so much of the medicine that we'll be able to use our market power -- this is not price controls, our market power -- to keep the price of the medicine down. And they charge a lot more for medicine made in America, in America, then they do in Canada, or Europe, or anyplace else.

And so the Republicans want to say they want to help everybody, so they say, well, you can get insurance if you're over 150 percent of the poverty line. The problem is -- and here's -- with all the fights I've had with the health insurance companies, I take my hat off to them. They have been scrupulously honest in this. The health insurance companies have told the Republicans in the presidential race and in the Congress that they cannot write a policy that people can buy, that this is not an insurable thing, and that in order for them to write a policy they can justify, the premiums would be so high, nobody would buy it.

Now, the state of Nevada -- the amazing thing about the Republicans is they keep pushing this, in the face of all the evidence. I kind of admire that. Evidence has no impact on them. (Laughter.) You know, this is about conviction. Never mind the evidence. Yes, the Democrats got rid of the deficit, but we still want to cut these taxes until there's nothing left.

This is really serious. The state of Nevada passed a plan just like this. You know how many insurance companies have written insurance for medicine for seniors in Nevada since they passed the plan that the Congress and their presidential nominee recommend? Zero. Not one. Why? Because the insurance companies know this is not an insurable deal. That's why it ought to be done under Medicare.

Now, why don't they really want to cover everybody? Because they want to keep the prices up. Now, let me be fare, I'm not trying to demonize them. There's a reason they want to keep the prices up -- because it costs a lot of money to develop these drugs. We spend a lot of your tax money developing medicine, and they spend a lot of money. And they know that if they can recover 100 percent of the cost of developing these drugs from you, then they can sell them cheap in Canada and Europe and still make a profit, and they won't let them charge that much over there.

Now, I'm sympathetic. I'm proud of our pharmaceutical companies; they do a great job. But I'll be darned if I think they ought to be able to keep American seniors who need medicine to stay alive and lengthen their lives and improve the quality of their life, away. And it's a big difference in these two parties, and I think we're right and they're wrong. And the American people ought to understand that difference. And you ought to help them understand it between now and the elections. (Applause.)

So these are just three examples -- the economy, the patient's bill of rights, Medicare drugs. There are significant and important differences on education, where we favor putting 100,000 teachers in the classroom to lower class sizes. We favor a school construction program to help lower the cost of building new schools and repairing old ones, and they're opposed to it. Both sides favor accountability, but ours is accountability-plus. There are differences on every single issue like that.

There are big issues. The next President's going to appoint between two and four justices on the Supreme Court. These people -- assume they're good people and they believe what they say. They believe very different things about how the rights of the American people should be defined. And since they're both honorable, we have to assume that they will make appointments to the Supreme Court consistent with their convictions. It would be wrong to assume anything else.

So what does all this mean for you? It means you have got to go out of here -- every one of you has got friends that live in Max Sandlin's district, or one of these other districts where there's a tough fight in Texas. Every one of you has friends who live in states that could go either way in this presidential election, and every one of you knows a lot of people who have every intention of voting, but have never come to a fundraiser, have never come to a political event, have never met the President or anybody running for President, but they want to be good Americans and they're going to show up on election day. But they follow all this static that goes back and forth. I mean, I can hardly keep up with it, you know?

One week we're being told that Governor Bush has done something dumb and bad, and blah, blah, blah; and then we're being told, well, maybe the press is getting to tough on him, so the next week they really dump on Vice President Gore, and they give it to him. And then the American people are told, oh, he's done something terrible, blah, blah, blah; and the Democrats and Republicans, they jump which every way the press is going, they're happy or sad, so they all jump in. And the truth is, most of it doesn't amount to a hill of beans. The stuff I'm talking to you about is where the rubber hits the road. There are real differences that will change the lives of the people in this country, depending on the choices made. (Applause.)

So I can't do this to everybody, but you can, and if you made up your mind -- you look at how many people are in here -- if you made up your mind that every day between now and the election you were just going to talk to one person and explain why you were here, why you feel the way you do, and what a phenomenal opportunity we have, it would be breathtaking.

In our lifetime, we'll see babies born with a life expectancy of 90 years. We will see people cure Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and maybe even get to reverse Alzheimer's. We'll find out what's in the black holes in outer space, and the deepest depths of the ocean, which may be even more surprising to us. People will be driving cars that get 80 to 100 miles a gallon, or maybe even more if the biofuel thing works out.

We'll figure out how to deal with these frightening prospects of terrorists with chemical and biological weapons, allied with narco traffickers, and all the problems. The problems will still be there. But I'm telling you, the main thing is, we ought to stick in this election and fight for clarity because we have a candidate for President and Vice President, we have candidates for Congress, we have a party with a record of eight years proving two things above all: We understand the future and we'll fight for it; and it's more important to us than anything else that we go forward together.

We believe everybody counts, everybody ought to have a chance, we all do better when we help each other. I was raised on that. And as modern as the Internet world is, it's still the best lesson you can take into politics, every single day. If you get clarity out there in this election, I'm not a bit worried about how it's going to come out. You make sure everybody understands it as well as you do, and we'll have a great celebration on November 7th.

Thank you and God bless you.

END 8:28 P.M. CDT