THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT RECEPTION FOR REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS MOORE Frederick Douglass Museum Washington. D.C.
8:08 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. First of all, I would like to thank all of you for being here today. I want to thank Dennis and Stephanie for presenting themselves to the people of Kansas, and for giving the people of Kansas a chance to send a Democrat to Congress who represents what the Republicans say they're for. (Laughter.) And I really appreciate that.
I'd also like to say, I thank the members of Congress who are here, but I am particularly grateful to Jim Slattery and Peter Hobran, who are here, because without them, I wouldn't be here, because they helped me turn this country around in 1993 and 1994 -- and I thank them for that. (Applause.)
Now, after Secretary Glickman sort of threw down the gauntlet -- (laughter) -- I completely forgot what I was supposed to talk about because I wasted two minutes back there thinking about whether there was anything I could still do to him. (Laughter.) Now, I'm at a loss. There's a lesson in that somewhere. (Laughter.)
Actually, I was thinking that I kind of resented that Al Gore has gotten all this credit -- (laughter) -- for naming Joe Lieberman to the ticket. I mean, I know it's a big deal to have the first Jewish vice presidential nominee. But, I mean, come on, now, look at American history -- that is nothing compared to the first Jewish Agriculture Secretary. (Laughter and applause.) I mean, just with a decision I destroyed one of the great stereotypes in American life -- (laughter) -- nobody thinks Jewish farmer is an oxymoron anymore. (Laughter.)
Not only that, if those Republicans would have listened to Dan and me back in 1995, we wouldn't have had to have all these bailouts the last three years with the farmers because of their Failure to Farm Act that I warned about back then -- which is just one of the reasons Dennis ought to be reelected, because he'll have a chance next year to rewrite the farm law. And I hope it will be done in a way that really supports the farmers of this country -- all the farmers of this country, without regard to where they live, what they produce or how big they are. And it's very important that we have people who have Democratic values and the understanding of agriculture that anyone from Kansas has to have in order to serve in the United States Congress.
Let me just say a word or two very briefly. I realize that I'm preaching to the saved here -- I'll explain that later, Dan. (Laughter and applause.) Glickman and I get a lot more leeway since we're not on the ballot. (Laughter.) It's amazing what you can say. (Laughter.) Let me tell you this one story. John Corzine, who is our nominee for senator in New Jersey, and who spent like $38 million of his own money winning the nomination, got up and -- Rush Holt and I -- he may still be here -- I did a deal for Rush Holt the other day in New Jersey, in Princeton.
So John comes to the event, and we were elated to see him. He's a great friend of mine, has been for many years. So this Corzine, a candidate now, gets up and tells the following story, as a candidate. He said, you know, I spent almost $40 million getting nominated, so I was convinced that everyone in New Jersey knew who I was -- everyone. So he said, I was campaigning the other day in a nursing home and I went up to this lady and I said, ma'am, do you know my name? And she said, you know, sonny, I don't, but if you go up to the nursing station, they'll tell you. (Laughter.)
I told him, I said, John, that's not a bad joke, but you need to let me tell that. (Laughter.) Until you get past the election, I don't believe I'd tell that one again. (Laugher.)
So, anyway, here we are. Let me be serious just for a moment. This is a different country than in it was in 1992. The country is in better shape. We have done it by a combination of new ideas and old-fashioned values. I was down in Texas the other day with my first Treasury Secretary, Lloyd Bentsen. And I said to him something which is true -- people, now that I'm about to leave office, they come to me all the time and say, what great new idea did you bring to the economic policy process in Washington? People ask me questions like that all the time, you know -- what great new sweeping reform? And I always have a one-word answer: arithmetic. We restored arithmetic. That's what the Democrats brought back. And those of us in the heartland, we still think two and two ought to add up to four.
So I'm profoundly indebted to people like Steny Hoyer, who helped me turn this budget deficit around. And last week, we had a couple of announcements -- let me just mention the announcements we had last week. Last week the annual report came out which showed that the government budget -- which was supposed to be $455 billion in the hole this year when I took office, that was the estimate -- will have a $230 billion surplus, the biggest in history. It showed that poverty figures were the lowest in 20 years; the biggest drop in child poverty in 34 years; the biggest recorded drop in Hispanic and African American poverty in history.
And, furthermore, it showed that, for the first time in a dozen years, there were actually more people with health insurance this year than there were last year, thanks largely to the Children's Health Insurance Program that the Democrats insisted be part of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. (Applause.)
What's that got to do with the House race in Kansas? I'll tell you exactly what. Those of us who have been here for the last eight years, or who were part of any segment of it, worked very hard to turn this country around. And the economy is going in the right direction, the crime rate is going down, the welfare rolls have been cut in half; the school dropout rate is down; the college-going rate is at an all-time high.
Now, with the change in the trend lines on health insurance, every single major social indicator is going in the right direction. And notwithstanding all the troubles around the world today, this country has been an unmitigated force for peace and reconciliation across racial and religious and ethnic lines on every continent in the globe.
Now, the question is, what do we mean to do with this? Have all the problems gone away? Not on your life. There are still big challenges out there and there are still great opportunities out there. And I said this over and over again -- there are a lot of young people in this audience tonight, so I want to make this point, and maybe you will avoid this -- there is nobody in this room tonight who is over 30 years old who has not made at least one mistake in your life of some significance, not when times were really tough, but when times were going so well you thought you didn't have to concentrate. Now, that is the big challenge in this election.
Things are going well, people feel good -- I want everybody to feel good. Not only that, our Republican friends, after we beat back the Contract on America, and we beat back their attempts to shut the government down, and we beat back several other of the more extreme things they tried to do, they now sound more like us than ever before. It's really encouraging. I don't mean to put it down, the rhetoric is important. But if you strip the rhetoric away, there are huge differences between what our policies would be -- differences in our economic policies, our education policies, our health care policies, our commitment to grow the economy and preserve the environment. And there will be big differences in our farm policies next year -- when i'm not around, but I think that our crowd will be sticking up, as I said, for farmers of all sizes, from all parts of the country.
There will be differences in how we'll deal with the challenge of the aging of America. The fastest growing group of people in America are people over 80. Within just a few years, there will only be two people working for every one person drawing Social Security. We'll have to re-imagine the whole nature of getting older in America, what it means; how we're going to work and what we're going to do. And it is really, really important. The one thing I have learned, every single House seat and every single Senate seat is important.
And when I made the comment I did about Dennis at the beginning I was not just kidding. Every time I go out into the country and I listen to our friends in the other party speak, I normally don't have much objection to what they say. They talk about being fiscally conservative. They talk about being compassionate. They talk about this, that and the other thing. All I can tell you is that this guy does that. And he has had a remarkable impact in a short time.
He is widely respected in the House. You look at all the House members that have come here tonight. Believe me, every one of them had something else to do. He must have a dozen House members here, including one of the most senior and most respected and important leaders in the House, Steny Hoyer. And I'm just telling you, it really matters. When a person like Dennis gets elected from a district like his district in Kansas, and then does everything that he hired on to do, keeps his word and serves well, that person needs to be reelected.
And this country has huge challenges to face. You know, when Al Gore says the best is yet to be -- I mean, some people probably think it's a campaign slogan, but I'm not running for anything and I have to tell you, I believe that. Because the country is kind of like a big ocean liner, you know -- you just can't turn it on a dime. That's how come the Titanic hit the iceberg. (Laughter.) They saw the iceberg, but they didn't see it in time to turn it around.
So we got turned around. And we're going in the right direction. But all the far horizons are still out there. The young people in this audience, the young women in this audience, when you have your first children you'll come home from the hospital with your baby and with a little gene card, made possible by the Human Genome Project. And it will be a little scary, because it will tell you every little problem in your child's genetic make-up. But it will also tell you what you can do to minimize the impact of those problems, maybe even thoroughly correct them, surgically or with medicine. And within a decade, I'm convinced that young women will be bringing babies home from the hospital that have a life expectancy of 90 years. If you can just remember, 10 years from now look back and see if I was right.
Dan Glickman has worked so hard on research on biofuels and we're just that close in cracking the chemical mystery that will allow the efficient conversion of biofuels, so that instead of taking seven gallons of gasoline to make eight gallons of ethanol, you'll be able to do it with one gallon of gasoline. Then everybody will have the equivalent of 500 miles to the gallon. And when you put that with fuel cells, alternative fuel vehicles, mixed fuel vehicles, it will radically alter the future of our country.
It is clearly the most effective thing we could be doing to change the energy future of America and to make ourselves more secure. Because if we pumped all the oil that was available to us that's on land owned by Americans, it wouldn't keep us going very long. The only way to have a secure energy future is to take available energy conservation technologies and the development of alternative fuels and different kinds of engines, and go into the future in a whole different direction. We can do that. That's going to all happen while you're around.
But we still have these big questions. We've got the most diverse student body in history, and the biggest one. Can we give them all a world-class education? What is it going to mean to be 85 in 20 years, and how is it going to be different from now? And it better be different, unless we want it to financially burden the country in an awesome way.
How are we going to deal with the fact that AIDS, TB and malaria now kill one in four people around the world, and we need those people to be our trading partners. What are our responsibilities to alleviate the debt of the poor nations of the world? I think they're quite heavy.
I had a meeting today -- I never thought I'd see a meeting like this in the White House. We had in the White House today John Kasich; Connie Mack; Representative Baucus, a Republican from Alabama; Senator DeWine; Senator Lugar; Congressman Leach -- all these Republicans -- and Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Pat Leahy -- we had our whole crowd there. We had David Sapperstein, a rabbi friend of mine who is one of the most liberal religious advocates in Washington, sitting three seats down from Pat Robertson. (Laughter.)
Why were they there? Because they believe that we have a moral obligation to alleviate the debt of the world's poorest countries. And they know if we do it in a way that allows them only to spend the money on education and health care, those countries will be stronger, better partners for us; it means less war, less famine, more prosperity, less bloodshed for the Americans of the future.
And as soon as we walked out that door, the leadership of the other party in the House attacked me and attacked us all. Now, when you get to the right of Pat Robertson, you're working at it. (Laughter.) You're working at it. And they worked at it.
Meanwhile, Dennis Moore has worked at your business. He deserves to stay in. And it will be an important signal about whether our country is really rewarding centrist, moderate, progressive, unifying politics. That's what got us where we are, and that's what will take us into the future, if we make the right decisions on election day.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 8:23 P.M. EDT