THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Lowell, Massachusetts) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 20, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN MEEHAN RECEPTION Grand Ballroom DoubleTree Riverfront Hotel Lowell, Massachusetts
8:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for that wonderful welcome. Thank you for coming out to help Marty tonight. I told him that now that he had all this support and has raised all this money, we needed to go find him an opponent. (Laughter and applause.) Seems a shame to waste all this energy and support and enthusiasm, you know. (Laughter.) It's a good thing there aren't many more votes he can cast against me. (Laughter.)
Let me say, first, how honored I am to be here. I want to say about Marty in a moment, but I also want to thank Richie Neal for being here and for representing Massachusetts so well. He's a wonderful man. (Applause.) And for supporting the efforts that we made with the Irish peace process, which, in the beginning, to put it mildly, were somewhat controversial.
I want to thank Senator Kennedy. We've spent most of the day together. We flew here today. (Applause.) In an uncommon act of sensitivity, he flew to Missouri today for the funeral of the Governor of Missouri, who was our nominee for the United States Senate; you probably know he died tragically in a plane crash with his son and one of his closest aides. He was my neighbor and my very close friend. When I looked out today and I saw Ted and Vickie at the funeral, I thought: What a great thing to do. I say this every chance I get. But whatever I have accomplished as President, so much of it would never have been possible if Ted Kennedy hadn't been there with me every single step of the way -- (applause) -- and I cannot thank him enough. (Applause.)
You know, we have a lot of fun together. Today, I taught him a new card game so I could beat him. (Laughter.) And he was convinced I didn't play fair, just because I won and he lost. (Laughter.) You know, he's going to get the last laugh, though, because when he came to the Senate, I was in junior high school -- (laughter) -- and when I leave the White House, he'll still be in the Senate, thank goodness for our country's sake. (Applause.)
I would also like to thank someone in this audience for coming here tonight. I was particularly glad to see Niki Tsongas. Where are you? Niki, are you here? She was in the other room when I was here. I was really delighted she was here. (Applause.)
And I want to thank Marty's family for coming tonight at a difficult time, beginning with his wonderful mother. Mrs. Meehan, thank you for being here. Thank you. Bless you for coming tonight. (Applause.)
Marty and Ellen and their beautiful baby and Marty's mom and the whole Meehan clan met me outside, and I understood how he had been elected. (Laughter.) Frankly, there are so many of them, he doesn't really need you. (Laughter.) But I'm delighted that you're helping him anyway.
I wanted to come here -- as Senator Kennedy said, I've been to a lot of different communities in Massachusetts. I've tried to, in this course of my service as President, beginning in the '92 campaign, I've tried to make the whole state, to really spend time out in the state of Massachusetts to see every part of it, and to have a chance to thank the people of this state. No state has been better to Bill Clinton and Al Gore than the state of Massachusetts, and I'm very grateful. (Applause.)
You heard Marty say that when I became President, unemployment here was 7.5 percent; last month, it was 2.4 percent -- the lowest in 30 years, down two-thirds from 1992. (Applause.) So, I want to have a serious talk here, just for a minute about this election coming up, what it means to you, your children, your grandchildren and the future of our country. I want to ask you to take some time, a little time every day, to talk to other people about it.
I know that Vice President Gore and Joe Lieberman are well ahead in the polls in Massachusetts. But you can help them in New Hampshire. You may know some people in -- (applause) -- if we win this time in New Hampshire, I think it may be the first time the Democrats have ever won it three times in a row. But they ought to be with us. New Hampshire is a lot better off than it was in 1992. It's a lot better off. (Applause.) And they've been very good to me, too.
You might have some friends in Pennsylvania, one of the battleground states, or Ohio, a lot of the other places where this election could go either way.
I had the opportunity -- gosh, when was it -- yesterday -- to appear before the Senate and House Democrats, and I said that we should view ourselves from here until election day as "The Weather Caucus," because if we make things clear -- that is, if people understand with clarity the choice before them and the consequences of the choice, we will win. If they make things cloudy, we'll have a hard time winning. So they will be for cloudy, we'll be for clear. What does that say about who you ought to vote for right there. (Laughter and applause.)
So I just want to take a minute or two, because everybody here has friends who will never come to an event like this. Isn't that right? Every one of you has friends that will never come to an event like this, but they will show up on election day. You have friends in other states where the election could go either way who will never come to an event like this, but they will show up on election day.
And I just wanted to tell you. We've now heard all the debates and the candidates are kind of going into the homestretch and sometimes it's easy to lose the forest for the tree. And, you know, I care passionately about this election, not just because of my more than passing interest in the Senate race in New York. (Laughter and applause.) And I might add another kind thing Ted did -- he went to Buffalo with Hillary the other day and spoke to an Irish group, and he practically had her with a brogue by the time he got through. It was fabulous. (Laughter.) And not just because I'm so devoted to Al Gore and all that he's done, and not just because Joe Lieberman has been a friend of mine for 30 years; but because when the Vice President says we've come a long way in the last eight years, but you ain't seen nothin' yet, I actually believe that.
And I'm not running for anything. That's not just political rhetoric. I've worked as hard as I know how to turn this country around and pull this country together and move us forward, to fight off the most bitter partisan attacks in modern American history and just keep on going. And it's worked pretty well. And I think you will all agree with that. (Applause.)
But never -- never in my lifetime have we had at the same time so much economic prosperity, social progress, national self-confidence, with the absence of domestic crisis or foreign threat to our security. It has not happened in our lifetime.
Now, when you get a situation like that, you have an obligation as a free society to build for the future, to seize the big opportunities, to deal with the big challenges, to make the most of them. And I'm telling you, the only thing that ever bothers me is when I see, well, people think that they kind of like both these candidates and maybe there is not much difference and maybe we should give the other guy a chance or this, that, or the other thing, and after all -- and things are going along fine, who could mess this up. (Laughter.) You know, you hear a lot of this talk, don't you? Don't you hear this talk -- people talking -- and what I want to say to you is that we ought to be happy about this election, because you have two people we can posit. They're good people, they love their families, they love their country, and they will pretty well do what they say they'll do if they get elected.
But make no mistake about it, there are great differences in the candidates for president and vice president, for the Senate and for the House, that will have profound consequences. And you've got to decide. And I'll just tell you a few of them.
First of all, I've listened to all these debates, so let me tell you what this election is not about. This election is certainly not about one of us being -- one of our candidates being for big government, the other one being for less government.
Let me tell you what the facts are. Now, we had a hard time getting those facts into these debates, because they're so inconvenient for the other side. And I admire that about the Republicans; the evidence does not faze them. (Laughter.) They are not bothered at all by the facts. (Applause.) And you've got to kind of give it to them. Ask Richie or Marty or Ted. Don't take my word for it. The evidence doesn't faze them. They just sort of show up and do it anyway. They know what they're for.
But here are the facts. Under this Democratic administration, government spending is the lowest percentage of national income it's been since 1966. Tax burden on average, middle-income Americans is the lowest it's been in more than 20 years. Now, the size of the government is the lowest it's been since 1960, Dwight Eisenhower's last year in the White House, the year you elected John Kennedy President of the United States. That is the size of the federal government. Those are facts. (Applause.)
So when you hear our Republican friends talking about how we're for big government, ask them: Where have they been the last eight years? And if you hear somebody who acts like they believe it, fill them in on the facts. This election is also not about how our side can't get bipartisan action done in Washington, so we need a Republican to rescue us, to give us bipartisan action.
Let me just run through a little of the bipartisan action. Once we made it clear to them that we weren't going to let them shut the government down, abolish the Department of Education and have the biggest education and health care and environmental cuts in history, and once you made it clear to them that you wouldn't support them if they kept doing that, we got a bipartisan welfare reform bill, a bipartisan balanced budget bill that had the Children's Health Insurance Program, the biggest expansion of children's health care since Medicaid in 1965.
We got a telecommunications bill that's created hundreds of thousands of jobs in America. We got an extension of our bill to put 100,000 police on the street; we're now working on 150,000. We got a bill to put 100,000 teachers in the schools; we're already a third of the way home there -- all in a bipartisan majority.
So if somebody says to you, I've got to vote for the other guys because they're against big government, or they're for bipartisan solutions, you say, hello, stop, facts. Do a fact check here. It tickles me. The Republicans are seeking to be rewarded for the harsh partisan atmosphere they created. (Laughter.) We made a mess of this; the Democrats will work with us. Give us the White House and we'll behave. That's their argument.
You should say, I don't think so; that's not necessary. We get plenty of stuff done on a bipartisan basis. Ted Kennedy works every day. Marty Meehan's got this campaign finance reform bill with Chris Shays. Our problems is not bipartisanship, our problem is that the Republican leadership in the United States Senate and in the campaign for the White House are against campaign finance reform. One hundred percent of the Democrats and a lot of the Republicans are for campaign finance reform. Isn't that right? (Applause.)
So that's what it's not about. Here's what it is about. One other thing it's not about. It's not about change versus the status quo. Al Gore is not the candidate of the status quo. If anybody running this year ran on the following platform -- vote for me and I'll do everything Bill Clinton did, I would vote against that person. Why? Because the world is changing dramatically.
So the issue is not whether we're going to change, it is how we're going to change. Are we going to keep the prosperity going and build on the changes in the last eight years that are working, or are we going to reverse course? That is the question. And that's the way you've got to frame it. It's not whether, but how, we're going to change.
Now, look, here's the deal on this economic business. Our tax cut, I admit, is only a third the size of theirs -- our candidate's tax cut. But most people making under $100,000 do better under ours than theirs. Now, why is ours only a third the size of theirs? Because we learned the hard way in the 12 years before we got here that if you give it all away before it comes in, you may wind up with a lot of red ink on your hands, and you don't want to do that again. (Applause.)
So, we say, let's have a tax cut we can afford for college tuition deduction, for long-term care for the elderly and the disabled, for child care, for retirement savings, for giving people incentives to invest in poor areas in America. But let's save a little money for education and health care and the environment, and let's keep paying this debt down, because this is a case where fiscal conservatism is socially progressive.
If you keep interest rates down, the average family is already saving a couple thousand dollars on home mortgages because we've kept interest rates lower by getting rid of this deficit. If their plan passes because the tax cut is so big, $1.5 trillion, and on top of that, they've got a $1-trillion plan to partially privatize Social Security -- you're already in deficit once you do that, by the way -- then, they're going to spend several hundred billion dollars over and above that, and I can tell you, their estimate of the surplus is too big, we're going back into deficit. That means higher interest rates.
Our tax cut for everybody is lower interest rates. If you take Gore's plan and you keep paying the debt down, interest rates will be a point lower for a decade. Do you know what that's worth to you? Listen to this: For a decade, $390 billion in lower home mortgages, $30 billion in lower car payments, $15 billion in lower college loan payments, lower credit card payments, lower business loan payments, means more jobs, more business expansion, higher incomes, a better stock market. Our tax for everybody, in addition to the specifics, is lower interest rates and getting rid of the debt. (Applause.)
Now, I'll tell you something else. The third-biggest item in the federal budget is interest on the debt. Every last dollar you pay to the federal government, it begins with .12 going out for interest going out for the debt. Because when they had the White House, they quadrupled the debt in 12 years. We quadrupled the debt in 12 years over the previous 200-year history of this country. And I'm getting rid of it, thanks to them, and their voting for me, and we want to keep getting rid of it. (Applause.)
Now, so here's another interesting thing. If you have eight years of a Gore-Lieberman administration, government spending will be an even smaller percentage of income than it will be if you get the Republicans in. Why? Oh, yes, we'll spend more on education. We'll spend more on health care. We'll spend more on the environment. But we're going to get rid of that .12 on the dollar you're paying on interest on the debt. They're going to keep paying that, and you're going to have higher interest rates.
Now, look, we tried it their way for 12 years, and they want to go try it that way again. They want to say, look, the Democrats have got things in real good shape now, so let's go on a real tax-cutting binge and try it our way one more time and see if it works better the second time around. That's what this election is about.
Listen, this is a big deal. People have to understand this plainly. It's not like we haven't tried it. You've tried it our way for eight years and you tried it their way for 12 years before that. And that's all this is. You cannot make a $1.5 trillion tax cut, several hundred billion dollars' worth of spending and a $1-trillion Social Security privatization plan fit into the money that's there. We're going back to deficits, high interest rates, less investment in our future, less economic growth. Ask people if they really want to take that chance.
If you want to keep the prosperity going, you better stay with Gore and Lieberman, and Kennedy, and Meehan, and Neal, and our crowd, because that's where we're going. This is a big deal. (Applause.)
Now, I won't go into as much detail on the rest of this, but the same thing on every issue. On education, both sides say they're for accountability. The difference is, we believe if you're going to hold schools accountable for the performance of their children, you ought to help them succeed -- with preschool and after-school programs and more qualified teachers in the early grades and modernized schools.
And they say, we don't need to do that, let's just test the kids and see what happens and take the money away if they don't do well. We think we ought to help empower the schools to do well. We know how to turn around failing schools now. There's no excuse not to do it now. All we have to do is to develop the system, invest in it, reward it. Big difference. They're not for any of those specific things I just said.
On health care, we say we ought to have a patients' bill of rights that's real, and we ought to have a Medicare prescription drug program, because if we were creating Medicare today, we would never have it without drugs.
In 1965, when Ted voted for Medicare, medical care was about doctors and hospitals. Today, anybody that lives to be 65 in America has a life expectancy of 82. The young women in this audience that are still in their childbearing years, thanks to the human genome project, will soon be bringing home from the hospital babies with a life expectancy of 90 years. (Applause.) Now, that's the good news.
But it means you're going to have to totally re-imagine the aging process. Within a few years, 80 won't be all that old. We will think of it as, you know, sort of late middle age. (Laughter.) But it also means we've got to keep people healthy. We've got to keep people strong. And pharmaceuticals are an important part of that. So we have the money now, if we don't squander it, to take care of the pharmaceutical needs of our senior citizens -- not only to lengthen life, but to improve the quality of life, to keep people out of hospitals, to minimize their institutional time in life.
This is a big deal. And we are for a Medicare program that does that. Why? Because Medicare is simply a financing mechanism that has a low administrative cost and can serve everybody. They're for serving about half the people that need it, and telling everybody else they've got to get private insurance.
The insurance companies -- you know, Ted and I, we've had a lot of fights with the insurance companies. They ought to get a gold star for this -- they keep telling us, you can't write a health insurance policy for this. The health insurance policy -- this is another case where the Republicans are not fazed by the evidence. The insurance companies, which are usually with them on everything, have told them: Hey guys, you can't write an insurance policy that people can afford that's worth having.
So why don't they want to do it? What in the wide world is wrong with giving all the seniors access to the medicine they need? Did you ever meet a politician that didn't want more votes? Did you ever meet a business person that didn't want more customers? Why do the drug companies not want more customers?
See, you never hear this in the debate because they don't have time to go into it, but you need to know this. This is a huge deal, the difference in the Democratic and the Republican prescription drug plan. The drug companies spend a lot of money developing the drugs and advertising them. And every country but the United States where they sell the drugs has price controls. So they've got to get 100 percent of the cost of developing the drugs and advertising them from you when you buy them. And then, it's real cheap just to make another pill so then they can sell them in Canada or Europe or wherever and make a lot of money.
Now, I am not demonizing the drug companies. I would still rather have them in America. Wouldn't you? I mean, they're great. They uncover all these medical miracles and they provide tens of thousands of wonderful jobs. And they've got a problem, because they think if Medicare is buying for all the seniors, they'll have so much market power, they can get drugs made in America for Americans almost as cheap as Canadians can buy drugs made in America. And they're afraid it will cut them so low that they won't have the money to make new drugs and to advertise them.
Surely, the answer is not what they posit -- to leave half the seniors who need the medicine behind. That's not the American way. This is a big deal now. This is a huge deal. A big difference between Gore-Lieberman, Meehan, Neal, Kennedy, our crowd, and their crowd.
My view is, let's solve the problems of America's seniors. We've got the money to do it. And the drug companies have plenty of money and good lobbyists and they can come down to Washington and we'll figure out how to solve their problems. But we've got the cart before the horse if we say, I'm sorry, here's half the seniors that need medicine, we can't give it to them because the drug companies are afraid they won't get enough money for their advertising and development costs. Let's take care of the seniors, then take care of the drug companies. That's our position. It's the right position. It is the moral position. It's the right thing for America. (Applause.)
Now, you can go through every other issue -- crime, the environment, every single other issue. And there are significant differences. But you ought to be able to tell people now what the economic differences are, what the health care differences are, what the education differences are. You ought to be able to tell them. It will affect you, your children, your grandchildren, and the future of this country.
I can also tell you, having worked with him for eight years, and having had some experience now with the presidency, it is fundamentally a deciding job. Oh, there's a lot of work. Harry Truman said -- I felt like this in the Middle East the last couple of days -- Harry Truman said that his job largely consisted of trying to talk people into doing things they should do without him having to ask them in the first place. (Laughter.) And to some extent, that's right.
But the President also has to decide. Who are you going to put on the Supreme Court? Who are you going to make Secretary of State? Who are you going to make Secretary of Defense? Who will be Secretary of Education? Who will be Secretary of Health and Human Services? What will you send to the Congress? How will you deal with the first major foreign crisis you have? What is the future of arms control? How will we deal with terrorism and biological and chemical warfare? This is a deciding job. And that's the last point I want to make.
Al Gore makes good decisions. He is smart, he knows what he's doing, he's tough, he has good values, he makes good decisions. (Applause.) So I'm just asking you to take a little time every day between now and the election. This thing is tight, and it is tight partly because things are going well and it's easy to blur the distinctions.
I'll close with the thing that's most important to me. If somebody said to me that my time on earth was over and I got to leave America with one wish, what would my one wish for America be, believe it or not, it wouldn't be for continued prosperity. After what I've been through with the Middle East and Northern Ireland and the Balkans, growing up in the South that was segregated as I did, what I would wish for America is that we could be one country, united across all the various differences in this country.
This is such an interesting place to live now. America is getting more interesting every day as we grow more racially and religiously diverse. But it's really important. The only way it's interesting is if we think we respect our differences, but we think our common humanity is even more important.
And there are all kinds of issues that come up all the time where these values are at stake. I think campaign finance reform is one of them. Why? Because it basically will equalize the power of people's votes. I think stronger enforcement of equal pay laws for women is one of them, because it gives equality to the dignity of work. (Applause.)
I think the hate crimes legislation is important for obvious reasons. (Applause.) And you know, the truth is -- you kind of got a little of that in the last debate -- the truth is, we're on one side of those issues and they're on the other. And I think that we're on the side of one America. And in a world that's getting smaller and smaller, I think we're on the right side.
So I want to say to you, I'm very -- I'm so grateful for what you've done for me -- for my family and my administration. Nobody's been better to us than the people of Massachusetts. I am grateful -- (applause) -- I am grateful for the chance I've had to serve. I am profoundly grateful that there are wonderful people like Marty Meehan who are willing to present themselves for public office and serve and do what they do. I'm grateful for that. (Applause.)
But in America, our public life is always about tomorrow. And the tomorrow that counts now is election day, November 7th. Now, you just remember: Clarity is our friend. If the American people clearly understand what are the differences in economic policy, in education policy, in health care policy, in the environment, in crime, and in one America.
How will it affect me, my family, my community, my children, my grandchildren. How can I build the future of my dreams for our kids. If they really are clear on that, we're going to have an enormous celebration on election night. But a lot of this work now will be done by word of mouth, one by one.
So you just remember that every day between now and the election. Most of the people you know who will show up and vote will never, ever, every come to an event like this. So you tell them a little bit about what you heard tonight.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 8:29 P.M. EDT