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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 6, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                          AT AFL-CIO RECEPTION

                           Private Residence
                            Washington, D.C.

8:50 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Well, first of all, madam, I want to thank you for letting all these fairly scruffy characters come in your home. (Laughter.) Many of us are well accompanied, though. (Laughter.)

You know, I was thinking, we had Morty and Linda and John and I up here talking -- this is an introduction that looks like America. We span these vast ethnic gaps. We had an Irish-Catholic and Irish-Protestant at the end. (Laughter.) Thank you, Morty, and thank you for having us here and thank you for being such good friends to me.

You know, I really believe in this issue. John and I worked very hard together to beat that initiative in California a couple of years ago. And we raised money and you all spent it very well. (Laughter.) And intelligently -- I mean that, intelligently. And you won. And I think you'll win again.

But I just wanted to say a couple of things about the environment in which this debate will take place. One is, I will never be able to thank you enough for the support that you've given to me and the Vice President, Hillary, our whole crowd these last eight years. It's been a joy.

One of my objectives when I became President was to take away the ability of our friends in the other party to demonize us just for being what we are, for being the progressive party. And I was determined I would take away the budget issue, I would take away the crime issue, I would take away the welfare issue, I would take away the foreign policy issue. And I would do it in a responsible, progressive way, but that we would not be vulnerable on these things anymore.

And I was determined that if we could turn this economy around, the Republicans would never be able to make a lot of hay with their sort of knee-jerk, anti-union propaganda. And I think it's pretty well happened. There are no votes in America for running against people because they organize themselves into labor groups to protect the interests of their members and their families and working people at large. There is just not any votes in that anymore. Anybody that responds to that kind of stuff anymore, they weren't ever going to be for us anyway.

I hope that I have helped you not only on the specific things we fought for and the specific things we stopped from happening, but in changing the climate in America so that America's labor leaders and rank and file men and women in the unions can not only feel proud of the organizations they're a part of, but feel that they're not going to be looked at in some prejudiced and unfair way by their fellow citizens. And I think we're just about there.

I also have to say I think your own leadership deserves a lot of credit for that. I think you deserve a lot of credit for that, John. I think all of you have been so smart in the way you've taken the issues that you care about to the American people.

I think that if you look at how the parallel issue was defeated in California two years ago, basically what you made sure of was that everybody knew what it really did, not what they said it did, and understood what the consequences of its passage were. And I think that's the same way you've got to be to win in Oregon; but I think it is also a metaphor for what this whole election ought to be about.

The reason that I felt good about the presidential debate is that I thought the Vice President not only acquitted himself well, but had an opportunity to clearly state his position and what the differences were on several issues. The reason we had a good convention is that we had a chance to clearly state not only where we were eight years ago and where we are now, but exactly what we would try to do if the American people ratified the progress of the last eight years by electing Al Gore and Joe Lieberman and all of our candidates to the Senate and House that we hope will win.

So that's the only other thing I would say. I think that we now know that the American people feel secure enough that even if they're not sure we're right on certain things, they will give us a hearing. And we know that we want clarity on the issues and the choices and the consequences far greater than our opponents. They want to kind of fuzz the issues and the differences. What does that tell you about where the American people would be if they understand not only this issue, but the issues in the presidential race and the congressional races.

So I would just like to urge you all to be of good cheer. You know, for the first six months of this year, I was a little lonely, I was kind of like the little happy camper -- (laughter)-- going around the country telling everybody not to worry, it was all going to be all right, everything is going to be fine; the underlying circumstances were good, our candidates were good, it was going to be all right. Now, it looks like it's going to be all right. (Laughter and applause.)

But we've got to be clear here. We've got to be very disciplined. We're often arrayed against greater money, but we've all learned -- they out-spent us $100 million two years ago, and we won anyway, because we had clarity, people understood what the choice was, what the consequences were, they had a fair grasp of what was at issue.

If the people in Oregon have a fair grasp of what is at issue in this, you'll win here just like you did in California. And if they have a fair grasp of what is at issue in the presidential races and the pivotal congressional races, we'll do just fine there, too.

The only other thing I'd like to say on a purely personal note is that a lot of you have gone out of your way to help Hillary in New York, and it means more to me than I will ever be able to say, and you will be very, very proud of her when she gets elected.

Thank you, and bless you. (Applause.)

END 8:58 P.M. EDT