THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT RECEPTION FOR JOHN KELLY Washington Court Hotel Washington, D.C.
7:32 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, first of all, I'm here for several reasons. One is, whatever I've been able to accomplish these last eight years would have been impossible without the support of the Democratic members of Congress. And in some ways, their support when we were in the minority in Congress has been even more vital than when we were in the majority, because if they stick with me we can still do most of what we want to do for America.
As some evidence of how important this race is to them, we have one of the true leaders of our Democratic Caucus, Representative Nancy Pelosi, from California, is here. Thank you. (Applause.) And Representative Brad Sherman from California back there. (Applause.) Congressman David Minge from Minnesota was here. He just walked out. Is anybody else here, Tom? (Applause.) Is anybody else here? I don't want to make anybody mad. (Laughter.) I'm getting to you.
I also -- I want to thank Tom Udall, who took me around Santa Fe a few days ago. We had a wonderful time, and I actually got to do something I rarely do -- I got to shop a little. And I informed him that he took me to the right places and the women who live in my house are very happy with the selections he helped me make. (Laughter.) And I thank him for that.
The second thing is I feel deeply indebted to New Mexico. New Mexico voted for Al Gore and me twice, gave us strong support and has contributed immensely to the success of this administration. And Bill Richardson, who was here earlier, has done a fabulous job. Ann Bingaman served in the Justice Department with great distinction. (Applause.) Of course, John was an outstanding United States attorney, and Jeff Bingaman has been a leader on technology and environmental issues, on so many issues where what we're trying to do in the White House can only be done because he's been out there for years in the Senate doing the same things, even better. And I'm very grateful to you, Jeff Bingaman. Thank you. (Applause.)
Now, if John hadn't asked all the Georgetown people to raise their hand, I was going to do it, because the press which is covering this is always looking for the dark underbelly of these fundraisers --(laughter) -- there is always some sordid, hidden motive behind everything we're doing. And I just wanted to know what it is. (Laughter.) For the first time in 26 years, I am not on the ballot. And you all were about to have the DTs --(laughter) -- and so now you've got somebody to help. And I appreciate more than I can say all of our classmates for being here.
John was a year behind me at Georgetown. I met him 35 years ago. I liked him then, I admired him then, and I still do. And over the -- you heard him talk a little about his career -- I think we need more people in the United States Congress who spent big chunks of their lives helping people that most of the rest of us forget about; who know what life is like for people who will never be able to come to a fundraiser in Washington or even in Albuquerque. I think that's really important. (Applause.)
I also think he and -- are the kind of people we want to hold up as representatives of the Democratic Party in the new century. They represent everything that I think is the best about America. And the other thing I want to tell you is, he can win this race. (Applause.) In 1998 -- little known fact -- our nominee for this congressional seat in 1998 won the election on election day, and was defeated by the advance balloting in New Mexico, three weeks in advance, because it all moved to us in the last five days there. But he won, our guy won on election day. And we weren't in harness enough with the national mood until the last week, so that that's one more House seat we would have won had we been where we were on election day three weeks out. So he can win.
Now, in a larger sense, I want to say I know I'm kind of preaching to the saved here, but there are a lot of people here who have friends not only in New Mexico, but a lot of John's friends have come here from other states. Some of you have come from New York, and if you did I hope you'll vote for Hillary. (Applause.) Get a little plug there.
But I would imagine most of you watched the debate last night. I thought the Vice President did an outstanding job -- (applause.) But I want you to know what I believe. I believe when Al Gore says, you ain't seen nothing yet, it's more than a campaign slogan. I believe that the best stuff for America is still out there.
We spent an enormous amount of time in the last eight years kind of turning around the ship of state, and that can't be done on the dime like that. It's like a big ocean liner. You know, the Titanic hit the iceberg in spite of the fact that the crew saw it way before they did it, they just didn't see it in time to avoid the iceberg. It takes time to turn around. And we've done that. And now, virtually every indicator is going in the right direction.
Not just the lowest unemployment in 30 years, but welfare has been cut in half, we've got the lowest crime rate in 27 years. We had, last year, for the first time in a dozen years, we had a decline in the number of people without health insurance in America. A huge turnaround. And things are going in the right direction. But the question is, what do we do with all this?
You heard John tell you what he thinks we ought to do about it. What I want to say to you is, I've been here eight years and I'm not running for anything, but in America, our public life is always about tomorrow. That's why we're still around here after over 200 years. And we may never get a chance in our lifetime like we have now, to seize all the big opportunities, to meet all the big challenges, to build the future of our dreams for our kids.
And I believe I know better than any single American that in that endeavor, every last Senate seat and every last House seat matters. Every single one. (Applause.) And I hope -- I believe after last night the American people have more of an idea of what the genuine differences are. But let me tell you, I spent a lot of time not only living this job, but studying the respective positions of the candidates. And there's a huge difference in where not only our nominees for President, but our whole party is, on economic policy, on health care policy, on education policy, on environmental policy, on arms control and national defense policy, on what it will take to build one America that brings us together across all the racial and religious and other lines that divide us. Massive differences.
And the only reason I'm taking this time to talk to you is that every one of you will see hundreds of people between now and election day, and most of you have most of your friends among people who will never come to an event like this -- but they will vote, because they love their country, they want to be good citizens. They will show up and vote. But they will never have an encounter like this. They do other things with their lives. You need to be sure that every day you take every opportunity to tell everybody you really have a chance to talk with about what the choice is, what is the nature of the choice.
Last night you heard in the debate the discussion about tax policy. And the Republican nominee said to the Vice President, well, your tax cut leaves some people out. Well, our Democratic tax cut is only about a third of the size of theirs. But there's a reason for that. We think we have to save some money to invest in education, health care, the environment, and we think we've got to keep paying the debt off.
Now, keep in mind, if you pay the debt off, as opposed to continuing -- or returning to deficit spending, and getting into the Social Security surplus, which their plan inevitably will do -- when you add up their tax cut, the trillion dollars it costs to partially privatize Social Security without bankrupting it for the people who will be guaranteed their benefits, and all their spending promises, they go back to deficit spending.
Interest rates will be a point lower over the next decade under the plan John Kelly will vote for. Do you know what that's worth --$390 billion in home mortgage savings, $30 billion in car payment savings, $15 billion in college loan savings. God only knows how much in credit card savings. Lower business loans means more businesses started, more jobs added, more incomes raised and a higher stock market.
And it also means you get rid of the third biggest item in the budget. Interest on the debt is the third biggest item on the budget. Social Security, defense, interest on the debt, Medicare. And we'll get rid of it.
When I took office, they told me the deficit would be $455 billion this year, and we'd be spending almost 15 cents a dollar on the debt. We got it down to 12 cents. And we will have paid $360 billion of the debt off when I leave office. But this is something that the progressive party ought to be for, even though it sounds conservative. Why? Because we live in a global economy where we're competing for dollars; we need to free up money for the private sector to invest and create jobs, and keeping interest rates low is a broad-based, middle-class tax cut that benefits everybody.
How do I know? We've had the lowest African American and Hispanic unemployment ever recorded in America; the lowest poverty rates among those minority groups ever recorded in America. Are they too high? Yes, but we're moving them in the right direction.
Last year we had the biggest drop in child poverty since 1966, because we have a stable and growing economy. And now we've got to spread it to everybody. The point is, people have a choice to make here. To pretend that there's no choice is dead wrong. There is a clear choice. And you have to decide, since a lot of you here, since you could afford to be here, would get more out of their tax cut than ours in the first year, you have to ask yourself, why am I here. I went to Georgetown, I have to be, right? (Laughter.) No, I mean besides that.
And the answer is, you and everybody else in America will be better off if we focus tax relief where it's most needed, to help people deal with child care and long-term care and college education and saving for retirement. And if we keep those interest rates down and keep the economy going strong, where everybody will make more money.
It's not as if we haven't had a test run. We tried it their way for 12 years; we tried it our way for 8 years. The evidence is there. People need to understand the difference.
We have a very different health care policy. We're for the patients' bill of rights that really is a bill of rights, not suggestions -- and they're not. And to be fair to them, they say, well, this may cost too much on the health insurance premiums for small business employers, and it may cost the HMOs too much and they may raise health care premiums and they're too high already. That's their argument.
So the problem is, we have evidence. I put in a patients' bill of rights for everybody insured under the federal government -- Medicare, Medicaid, military, federal employees, and the retirees who get their health care under the federal government. Do you know how much it costs us? One dollar a month per premium. And their office, the Republican Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost for the general population would be less than $2 a month.
Now, I would pay $1.80 a month to know that if one of you goes out of this fundraiser, God forbid, and gets hit by a car, you can be taken to the nearest emergency room. You won't have to pass three on the way to get to the one that is covered by your health plan. And I think you would, too. This is a big issue, and it's a difference. (Applause.)
But there's a choice here. This Medicare drug deal -- I can't do a better job than the Vice President did last night. I thought he made a great show of it, because he said what our position is. But you need to know what's going on here. We've got the money to provide prescription drugs under Medicare. If we were starting Medicare today, would we do it without a drug plan? Of course not. But in 1960 -- Medicare was enacted when we were beginning our Georgetown careers, and medicine was about doctors and hospitals. Now, medicine may be about staying out of the hospital by taking medicine that makes you live longer and live better.
And every day there are older people in this country choosing between medicine and food. Now, we say, since Medicare is an efficient, popular, effective government program, let people buy into Medicare and get drug coverage. It also has, by the way, an administrative cost of about 1.5 percent, as opposed to 10 to 14 percent for most HMOs. So it's the most efficient way to do it. And let everybody who needs it have a chance to buy it. We'll give poor people, we'll pay their premiums. And then if people have catastrophic bills, over a certain amount we'll pay that, and everybody else will pay a co-pay and a monthly fee.
They say, let's don't do that. Let's phase it in over five years, cover people up to 150 percent of the poverty line, and then cover everybody else by letting them by an insurance policy. The problem is -- and I have to give it to the health insurance companies. As many fights as I've had with them I have to take my hat off to them. They've been scrupulously honest in this debate. They have been terrific. They have said, look, this is nuts, you can't design a health insurance policy that anybody can afford to pay for that will cover an acceptable amount of medicine. The insurance market won't do it.
Nevada has adopted the Republican plan. That's what they adopted. Do you know how many health insurance companies have offered drug coverage in Nevada since they adopted it? Zero -- none. Not one. Why? Because it won't work. I've got to give it to our adversaries -- evidence never phases them. (Laughter and applause.) You've got to kind of admire that.
But what's this whole deal really about? Do you know what it's about? It's about the drug companies. And they're not for this. And you may say to yourself, that doesn't make any sense, I'm in a business where the more customers I have the better I do. How could you be in the business of making drugs and not want to sell more of them? It's a good question, and here's the answer. Now, let me say, you don't have to demonize the pharmaceuticals to do this. I am proud of the fact that those companies are part of America. They have -- every single week they come up with some new breathtaking discovery. They provide tens of thousands of wonderful jobs to Americans, and I thank God they're in our country. You do not have to demonize them. But they're wrong on this, and let me explain why.
Here's their problem. It costs a fortune to develop these drugs, and then they spend a whole lot of money advertising the drugs. And they want to sell the drugs world-wide, but because Europe and Canada and everybody else is under price controls, they have to recover 100 percent of their development and their advertising costs from us. That's fine for me, I can pay it. And what they're worried about is if Medicare, all of a sudden, is representing millions of American seniors -- it's not price controls, they're just worried that Medicare will become such a big buyer, they'll have so much power in the market, that senior citizens in America will be able to buy drugs made in America almost as cheap as they can buy them in Canada.
And they're worried, therefore, that since they can't recover their costs anywhere else, that their profits will be drastically reduced, thereby undermining their ability to continue to develop new drugs and do all that. It's a legitimate problem. But surely to goodness, the answer to the problem is not to tell old people they can't have medicine they need.
Now, what's our position? Our position is we've got the money, take care of the people who need the drugs, keep them well, let them live longer, and then we'll help the drug companies figure out how to solve their problem. They're big, they're strong, they've got a lot of influence around here. We'll figure out how to solve this. (Laughter.) But, surely, the answer to the problem is not to deprive people of the medicine they need. This is crazy. We're right on this and they're wrong. It's a big reason to be for John Kelly. (Applause.)
I could go through the same drill on energy and the environment. And Jeff Bingaman could give a speech better than me. I could go through the same drill on education. Both sides are now for accountability -- that's good. I would like to point out that when we took office there were only 14 states with core academic standards, and we required it as a condition of federal aid. There are now 49. We tried to have a voluntary national test that could then be administered and judged and used as a basis of giving out federal aid, and the other side said no. So we required all the states to identify their failing schools and take steps to turn them around.
And what Al Gore wants to do is say, turn them around, shut them down or put them under new management. They say the answer to the need for more choice is to go to vouchers. We say the answer to the need for more choice is, since we don't have enough money in the school system as it is, since we only give 7 percent of the total budget -- it was 9 percent in the '60s. When we came to Georgetown, the federal government was giving 9 percent. It got down to nearly 5 when I took office, we got it back to 7. We've got the biggest bunch of kids in school ever and we know how to turn these schools around. So we say, create charter schools and other forms of public school choice, and let the kids go wherever they want to. But don't take the money -- that money -- out of the school system because we don't have enough money as it is. You need competition -- (applause.)
Now, and we say, and by the way, we ought to help them. So we ought to finance more teachers for small classes in the early grades. We ought to finance after-school and summer school and pre-school programs for everybody that needs it. And we ought to help them build schools or repair schools. And we've got a plan to build 6,000 schools and repair 5,000 a year for five years.
Why? Because they need help. You've got more kids than ever before, but a smaller percentage of their parents are property owners. And therefore, it's not like at the end of World War II, when even in Hillary's home town in Park Ridge, Illinois, which voted 4 to 1 for Goldwater, they had high school millages, because they wanted to make their schools good. And they could do it. It's different now.
So we say, accountability-plus. Big difference. Anyway, I could go through all these issues. If you -- on arms control, we're for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and they're not. I think that's a big difference. (Applause.)
So here's the deal. If somebody comes up to you on the street and they say, why should I vote for Al Gore -- if you live in New York, why should I vote for Hillary -- if you live in New Mexico, why should I vote for John Kelly, that incumbent congresswoman seems a perfectly intelligent, nice person to me -- you need to be able to say, look, we're not into personal criticism, we're not into personal attacks, we just want the American people to understand what the choice is.
I'm telling you if the people understand what the choice is and what the possibilities are, we're going to be fine. John will win if they understand what the choices are. Now, the money is important. Why? Last year, in '98, when we won seats in the sixth year of a presidency, for the first time since 1822, we got out-spent by $100 million. So you don't have to have as much money as they do. And we have too many positions that are against the money to have as much money as they do. (Laughter.) Just on the patients' bill of rights and the medicine alone -- we can't get there. But that doesn't matter. That doesn't matter. What matters is that you have enough to get your message out, and you have enough to answer the incoming fire. If you do and they have more, well, that's nice for them, but it's not fatal for you. So that's important.
But I am telling you, you have got to be able to say, not just with your checkbooks, but with your voice, why are you for these people. What difference would it make if John wins, or not? You need to be able to say, there are economic consequences, health care consequences, education consequences, environmental consequences, public safety consequences, and national security consequences.
And finally, there's a lot of one America consequences. One of the reasons I'd like to see him in the Congress is that I know how much he cares about Native Americans and about righting our relationship with the Native American tribes, not just in New Mexico, but around the country. (Applause.) We're for the hate crimes legislation, and they're not. We're for stronger equal pay laws for women in the workplace, and they're not. (Applause.)
But having somebody who knows and cares about what's happening to people on these reservations and in the vicinity is profoundly important. I went to Shiprock the other day with Tom, and we were talking about this at the Navajo reservation. And it's magnificent. God, it is so beautiful. It's magnificent. And the people are so impressive. But I was introduced by a 13-year-old girl that won a contest in her school and won a computer. And she couldn't log onto the Internet because her family didn't have a telephone. Over half the families don't have telephones. Over half the families don't have jobs.
And here we are with 4 percent unemployment. And they're stuck there because they made a deal with America over 100 years ago that said they'd give up their land and their mineral rights and everything else in return for the federal government meeting certain responsibilities in a nation-to-nation relationship. And, frankly, we took the money and ran. And ever since then, even though there have been a lot of well-meaning people involved, they've been kept in a kind of semi-dependency that has never, never been fair; it has never worked; and it's all the problems of the old welfare system times 50.
And if you believe, as I do, that intelligence and enterprise are equally distributed among all people, this is an unconscionable situation. I have done everything I could to turn it around. This New Markets legislation I think we will pass this time will help. But whether you live in New Mexico or not, whether you ever know a Native American or not, I'm telling you, as an American citizen this ought to be important to you. We need somebody who cares, who knows, who has worked among and understood these issues. This is profoundly important.
It is an important part of redeeming the promise of America that we keep working on this until we get it right. So you give people those answers and we'll win. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 7:58 P.M. EDT