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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 19, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                   TO NEW YORK SENATE 2000 RECEPTION

                           Private Residence
                       East Norwalk, Connecticut

8:37 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you Rick, and thank you, Bruce. I'm so glad this worked out tonight -- this poor man would have had a heart attack -- (laughter) -- if I were still in Egypt; it would be the end of our relationship. (Laughter.) And thank you for opening this magnificent home to us. I only wish I could see it in the daytime, with all the lights shining in all the windows.

I thank you all for coming tonight. Several of you commented on the rather unusual schedule I've had the last five days. And I'm still standing. (Laughter.) I suppose I should be more careful about what I'm saying, because I probably won't remember it. (Laughter.)

Let me say, first of all, I'm really grateful for your support for Hillary, and I'm delighted that I could come tonight. She's in New York with Al Gore tonight, and you got me. I suppose I'm now the consolation prize. (Laughter.) I'm actually having the best time of my life. This is the first time in 26 years, in an election year, I have not been on the ballot for something, somewhere. Most days, I'm okay about it. (Laughter.) I'm having a wonderful time going out across America, helping candidates for the Senate and the House, and helping Al and Connecticut's own Joe Lieberman; and especially Hillary.

And in a way, I feel freer to say maybe what is on my mind than I might if I were, myself, a candidate. But I just want to make a few remarks.

First of all, this is an election that we ought to be enjoying. I think we ought to be enjoying it as a people maybe a little more than we are now, because the country is in such good shape economically and socially, without any immediate crisis at home, that we're actually in a position to have an old-fashioned citizens election, where we debate where we are, where we ought to go and what we should be doing to build the future of our dreams for our children. And the American people should feel good about that.

This election has been remarkably free of kind of intensely personal recriminations. There's been a little bit of it, and any of it is a little too much for me. But really you have two very clear choices for President and Vice President, for the Senate race in New York and basically throughout the country. And so what I thought I'd do tonight is just make a few remarks about that.

I've done everything I know to do over the last, as you pointed out, seven years and nine months -- I've got something like 93 days to go. (Laughter.) Everything I knew to do to turn the country around, pull the country together and move us forward. And I feel very strongly that these elections should be viewed as hiring decisions and you're primarily hiring people to make decisions.

Every time somebody comes to see me, it's a young person, says, I want to run for this, that or the other office, and they ask me should they do it. I say, well, you've got to be able to answer three questions. One, are you prepared to lose? Can you stand it? I've done it twice, it's way overrated -- (laughter) -- but it's important. Two, are you prepared to do what it takes to win? And, three, do you have a reason for running that's bigger than the fact that you'd like the job? Because people are hiring you to make decisions.

And one of the things, I get frustrated when I watch these presidential debates -- they're really not debates, they're actually joint press conferences in which maybe you get a chance to clarify your difference, but usually you don't. And what the voters need to know is, what do these people have in common, where do they differ and what are the consequences to me, my family and our country? That's really what you ought to be thinking about.

So I would just start by saying that the question in every election is not -- in this year, and in this century, certainly for the next 20 years I think will be not whether we're going to change, but how are we going to change. There is no status quo candidate in this election, not for President and not for any other position, because the nation and the world are changing at breathtaking speeds. A lot of you have been a part of that change, which is why you can afford to be here tonight. (Laughter.) But it's very important to focus on that. The issue is not whether we're going to change, it is how we're going to change.

I think it's quite important that we keep this economic expansion going, that we minimize any problems that come along in the future and that we break our backs to try to expand economic opportunity to the people and places that have been left behind. You might know, but the poorest parts of America are still the Native American reservations. It may be hard to imagine in Connecticut, where the biggest casino in the world belongs to an Indian tribe. But in 1994, I brought all the Indian chiefs in the country -- I invited them all, and most of them came -- to the White House for the first time since the 1820s. And we had people who flew down on their own airplanes; and we had other people where they had to pass the hat on the reservation to get up enough money to afford the plane ticket.

So I think it's quite important that we think about how we can keep expanding the circle of business owners and consumers to keep this going. But several of you mentioned -- at least three of you mentioned, going through the line, that you were friends with Bob Rubin. So I'll just start with that.

People ask me all the time, I go around the country, they say, what did you really do to change the economic policy? What new idea did you and Bob Rubin and Lloyd Bentsen, that whole crowd, bring to Washington? And I always have a one-word answer: arithmetic. We brought arithmetic to Washington, D.C. (Laughter.) Now, that may seem laughable to you, but that's a big issue in this election.

And I don't really think the debate has been formed as I think it should be in people's minds. The question is not -- it's partly who should get a tax cut. But the real issue, from my point of view, since I want to keep the economy going, is how big of a one can you afford? So it is true that the Republican Party tax cut is about three times the size of the Democratic tax cut. And because the Democratic Party tax cut is only one-third as big as the Republicans, it has to be tilted a little more toward people at incomes $100,000 a year and down.

But why is that important? Why is arithmetic important? Because if you spend a trillion and a half-plus on a tax cut, and a trillion dollars on partially privatizing Social Security, and several hundred billion dollars keeping your spending cuts, you're back in deficits. And once you get back to deficits -- we tried that -- you get higher interest rates and lower economic growth. The real reason that successful people who want a successful economy should support our approach is that if you keep paying down the debt, you'll keep interest rates lower.

And I had the Council of Economic Advisors do an analysis for me that said that the difference in the two economic plans could be a percent a year for a decade. That is $390 billion in lower home mortgages; $30 billion in lower car payments; $15 billion in lower college loan payments; way lower business loans, which means more investment, more jobs and a better stock market. It's arithmetic.

There is something else, I think, that's not become clear in these debates that I'd like to emphasize, because -- this is something Hillary feels very strongly about. Most people don't know it, but the third biggest item in the federal budget is interest on the debt. There is Social Security, defense, interest on the debt. If you pay the debt down, you evaporate the third biggest item in the budget, 12 cents on the dollar. When I became President, it was almost 14 cents on the dollar, headed to over 15. But we're paying the debt down now.

So if you pay it down and 12 cents of every dollar you pay in taxes goes away, then you have more for education, you have more for health care and eventually you have more for tax cuts and government is a smaller share of the economic pie under our approach than it is under theirs. This is very important. But people have to make up their minds whether they agree with this with or not. All I can tell you is, you got eight years of a test here, and you had 12 years of a test the other way, and I think our way works better. So I think we should keep changing that way. That's a clear decision people need to have. (Applause.)

The same thing is true on health care, on education, on the environmental policy. Let me just say that this is important to me. They say there are never any votes in the national election on it, but I think that it's very important that America have a good environmental policy, and I believe it will become more important in the years ahead as the global economy grows ever more intertwined and our resources are shared.

We have proved that you can have cleaner air, cleaner water, safer food, 90 percent of our kids immunized for the first time in history, set aside more land than any administration since that of Theodore Roosevelt, and grow the economy. Big decision in this election. Because they say our clean air rules are too tight for a good economy. They say they want to repeal my order setting aside 40 million acres of roadless lands in the national forests -- which the Audobon Society says is the most significant conservation move in 40 years. (Applause.) I don't want you to clap for that. I want you to understand there is a decision here, and the decision you make will have consequences and you have to decide how important it is.

We just had another test last week that proves that the 1990s were the warmest decade in a thousand years. A test on a polar ice cap proved that the 1990s were the warmest decade in a thousand years. Now, we have on the shelf technology today available that pays out in two years or less, which would enable us to grow the economy even more rapidly and reduce our contribution to global warming. Al Gore understands this, Hillary is committed to it, you've got to make a decision. If you think it's important, you can't pretend that this election doesn't have anything to do with that. It's a big, big issue.

If you drilled in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, something that we don't support, it would only be a few months' worth of oil for the American people. If, instead, you figure out how to get fuel injection engines, you get more mix fuel engines -- or we're very close to cracking the chemical barrier to biofuels, let me say what that is in plain language.

If you take farmers' crops and you make ethanol, it takes seven gallons of gasoline to make eight gallons of ethanol. That's why it doesn't work out very well now. But we have chemists in the labs, funded by your tax dollars today that are very close to figuring out how to crack the chemical resistance -- just like when we turned crude oil into gasoline. Once you break the resistance, you'll be able to make with one gallon of gasoline, eight gallons of biofuel. And it won't just have to be corn, it could be grass. It could be anything. Then we'll all be getting 500 miles to the gallon, in effect, and everything will be changed.

Now, there's a big difference here between the way we approach this. You have to decide. But you cannot assume that there are no consequences.

Same thing in education. I think it's very good to listen to these debates and know that both sides favor accountability. But you should know -- I mean, Hillary has been working seriously on education for over 20 years now. And the thing I want to tell you, the good news is we now know something we didn't know when Hillary and I started this over 20 years ago. You can turn failing schools around. I was in a school in Harlem the other day where, listen to this -- two years ago -- two years ago, 80 percent of the children were doing math and english below grade level; by any standard, a failing school. Two years later, 74 percent of the children are doing math and english at or above grade level. We know how to do this.

So our strategy is: identify the failing schools, have high standards and if they don't turn around, shut them down or put them under new management. It's not complicated. But we believe that if you're going to expect high standards, you ought to help fund more teachers in the schools, you ought to help fund modern school buildings, you ought to have after-school programs and summer school programs and pre-school programs for the kids who need it. Big difference.

It's one thing to say you're going to hold somebody accountable and another one to give them the tools to meet the accountability standard.

And the last thing I'd like to say -- I'll say a little bit about foreign policy, because you asked me to and because it's why I haven't had any sleep in five days. (Laughter.) But before I get into that, I want to say that there is one other thing I've tried to do. I have tried as hard as I could to get the American people to reconcile with each other across all this incredible diversity we have. This is the most racially and religiously diverse society we have ever had, and it is growing more so every day.

And I have tried to get people to say, hey, this is a good thing for us in a global economy. We should be glad that we're more diverse. We should relish and be proud of our differences. But we can only do that if we understand our common humanity is more important. That's the problem in the Middle East today. It's why we still haven't finished the Irish peace process. It's why they have tribal wars in Africa. You just think about it -- everywhere people think their differences are more important than their common humanity, eventually trouble ensues and grievances get piled high. And as we've seen in the Middle East, it's easy to have seven years of hard work chucked out the door in no time.

So that's why I've worked for a hate crimes bill and the employment and nondiscrimination act and why I want stronger enforcement of the equal pay for women laws and why we've tried to have the most diverse administration in history. And that again is a very important issue in this election. You've just got to decide how important you think that is. I think it is real important.

If somebody would only give me one wish for America on my way out the door, I would not wish -- if I only had one -- for continuing prosperity. I would wish for us to find some way to be one America, across all the lines that divide us. Because, hey, you're smart and so is everybody else who lives in this country -- you'll figure out how to deal with all the rest. But if you can't bring diverse people together in unity, then the rest of it eventually will fall to peoples' blindness.

So that's what I wanted to say. I'm glad for the good things that have happened in this country. I'm grateful that we've been able to be a force for peace and freedom throughout the world. I think I was right about the trade issue, and I appreciated you mentioning that and I wish I had persuaded more people in my party I was right, but time is on our side there.

But what you have to understand is, America's public life is always about tomorrow. That's why we're still around here after over 225 years. We are always about tomorrow. We're always a country that is becoming, always in the process of being something bigger and better and different; because we're rooted in some values that stand the test of time. That's what this election is about.

Now, the seat that my wife is running for was held by Robert Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- people that were important to New York and important to America; people that had good minds and caring hearts. I must say, of all the crazy things people have said in this election, the only one that has really kind of steamed me is when somebody says, well, she wouldn't be doing this if she weren't First Lady. I can tell you that for 30 years all she ever did was work for other people, other causes, other candidates, other things she believed in. And the truth is, if she hadn't come home and married me 25 years ago, she would have done this 15 years ago, herself. That's the real truth. (Applause.)

I have had the great honor of knowing hundreds of people in public life. One thing I'd like to say about that is that most of them -- Republicans and Democrats alike, conservatives and liberals alike -- were much more honest, much more hardworking and much more likely to do what they believed is right than you would believe if all you did was read the press accounts. Most people do what they think is right. That's why I urge the Democrats in this election to just posit that from Governor Bush on down, the Republicans are good people who love their families and love their country, and we just have different views here -- so people can get all of the cobwebs out of their heads and think about how this election was going to affect them.

Al Gore would be a good President because he makes good decisions. I saw that again in these two days when we were huddling over the Middle East crisis. He makes good decisions. You hire people to make decisions.

In the Senate, you need somebody who can work with other people and bring order out of chaos and set priorities, because you don't have the, sort of, power of the federal government working for you. You have to have somebody who can really think and who really cares about the right things and then can get things done.

I have personally never known anybody, ever, in all my years in public life -- and I've known several presidents, I've known scores of Cabinet members, I've known a couple of hundred people who have served in the U.S. Senate -- I have never known anybody who had the same combination of mind and heart and knowledge and ability to get things done than Hillary does.

I would be giving this speech today for her if we hadn't spent the last over 25 years together. I would do that -- because I'm telling you, if the people of New York vote for her, the ones who didn't vote for her will wonder why they didn't within a year.

So I am grateful to you. I think she's going to win. We can't let her be out-spent too badly in the last two and a half weeks -- (laughter) -- thanks to you, she won't be. And I think on election night you'll be very proud that you were here tonight.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 8:57 P.M. EDT