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Interview With Don Lancer of KYW Radio, Philadelphia

October 31, 1994

Mr. Lancer. Good afternoon, Mr. Clinton.

The President. Hello, Don.

Mr. Lancer. Can you hear me?

The President. I can hear you fine. Can you hear me?

Mr. Lancer. Can you hear me, Mr. Clinton?

The President. Yes, I can hear you. Can you hear me?

Midterm Elections

Mr. Lancer. Yes. Good afternoon. You're in the State ostensibly to help Harris Wofford win election to a full term. He replaced John Heinz in a special election a couple of years ago, and he went to Washington on the matter of national health care, which we all know did not make it through the Congress this year. Polls have shown overall that the Democrats are not going to do that well in the election, come one week from tomorrow on the 8th. What's the reason for that? Why is it voters look so poorly on your party and its candidates right now?

The President. Well, first let me say I think the surveys all show that our prospects are looking up. But I think what happened was two things. There is a lag time between when you accomplish something in Washington and when people feel it in their own lives. There are still a lot of voters who have jobs, but they're worried about whether they'll lose them or they'll lose their health care or will they ever get a raise. It's a tough, fast-changing global economy, and a lot of people feel personally insecure. There are also a lot of people who are worried about crime and social breakdown. The other big problem is, when Congress is meeting and the Republicans are trying to kill everything, delay everything, talk everything to death, all of the focus is on conflict, process, failure. The American people don't know what's happened.

Now when the Congress has gone home for the last 2 or 3 weeks, you can sense a real movement out there. People sense that they've got a real fundamental choice here. If you look at Pennsylvania—you heard the quote there— we've had 86,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania. The economy is growing; the deficit is down. We've done things that the Congress had refused to address for years and years. We passed the family leave law to protect working people who have to take time off. We passed a law to expand Head Start, one to immunize children, one to give tax cuts for working families on modest incomes that have children in the home so they'll never be in poverty. We're making the Government work for ordinary people again. And we've expanded trade and promoted peace and security around the world. Russian missiles aren't pointing at Americans for the first time since the beginning of the nuclear age.

So when you look at that record and then you look at this Republican contract which promises to take us back to the eighties and would promise everybody a tax cut, especially for wealthy people, spend more money on defense and Star Wars, balance the budget—they'll have to cut Social Security and Medicare and do it steeply to pay for it. I just don't think the American people want that, and I don't think the people of Pennsylvania do.

Mr. Lancer. That is just my point, though. In recent polls—you keep talking about the recovery that's occurring, and I have no doubt that there is a recovery in certain parts of the country if they just bear that out. Here in the Northeast, however, there is no recovery; at least the perception is there is no recovery. There was a recent poll out by the Tarrence group that shows that only a third of Americans believe the claims of a recovery. My whole point to you, or my question to you is, why is it that this is the perception? It can't simply be because Republicans are trying to stonewall things in the Congress so there is gridlock?

The President. No, I think—well, I do believe that people have not gotten a lot of the information; I think that is true. But I think—keep in mind what I said first. I think a lot of people may hear that there are more jobs, but they may feel that their personal situation is not more secure. That is, they may think, "Well, I'm still not going to get a raise," or "I might lose my job," or "I might lose my health benefits." Another million Americans lost their health care last year. That's why Harris Wofford and I worked so hard to protect the health care benefits of working people and to try to change the law so that they wouldn't lose their health care.

So there is a lot of personal insecurity out there. But the point I'm trying to make to the American people is that we're making them more secure—that's what the family leave law was all about, that's what these efforts to improve the health of our children are all about, that's what the crime bill is all about—that our economic policy is working. So the issue is, do you want to keep working for something that is plainly taking us in the right direction, or do you want to buy this Republican snake oil, you know, "We're going to give everybody a tax cut and balance the budget and increase everybody's spending, and we'll tell you how we're going to pay for that after the election."

Mr. Lancer. Okay, let's assume we're headed in the right direction. What we in the Northeast would like to know is, how long is it going to take us to get there?

The President. Well, your unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is above the national average, but it's a point lower than it was when I took office. You lost 8,300 jobs in the previous administration; you got 86,800 more under our administration. They had 12 years; we've had 21 months. You want to turn around and give the guys that put you in the hole in the first place 2 more years, 4 more years, 6 more years? You gave them 12 years. We've been given 21 months, and we've turned it around.

Now, just because everybody hasn't felt it, that's not a good reason to stay home or vote Republican. They had 12 years, and we were in a big hole. We also had 20 years, through both parties, of stagnant wages and less secure jobs and losing benefits. And we have had 30 years of rising crime and family breakdown. We are at least addressing all these things for the first time. And it's pretty refreshing, I think, to have a Government that has taken on the tough problems instead of running away from them and that can at least show we're making some progress. And the worst thing in the world you can do is to say, "Okay, we gave you these problems—we had 12 years of the other party's politics and economics, we've got 20 years of economic problems and 30 years of social problems—and we haven't felt anything in 21 months. So we're going to go back to the people that got us in the hole in the first place." That's not good thinking. If everybody will just relax and look at the record, they'll vote for Harris Wofford, they'll vote for Mark Singel, and they'll vote to keep this country moving in the right direction so that all of Pennsylvania can feel the results of these efforts.

Mr. Lancer. All right, sir. But there have been changes in the way that those figures are tallied. Anyway——

The President. That's right, there have been changes. If we were living under the same figures the Republicans had, the unemployment rate would have gone down over 1 1/2 percent. That's right, you're absolutely right. The changes in the way the unemployment is tallied work against us, not for us.

Mr. Lancer. All right. We appreciate your taking time out from a very busy schedule today, Mr. Clinton. And thank you for joining us here on KYW News Radio this afternoon.

The President. Thank you.

NOTE: The interview began at 4:35 p.m. The President spoke by telephone from the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

William J. Clinton, Interview With Don Lancer of KYW Radio, Philadelphia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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