Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in Cincinnati, Ohio

September 16, 1996

The President. Thank you very much. Thank you. Mayor Qualls, I am delighted to be back in Cincinnati, and I thank you for making me feel welcome again. And I thank you for doing such a good job as mayor. And Representative Mallory, that's the most unusual welcome I ever had, but I liked it. We may have to have a training session to get that down and use it in some other places.

I wonder if you're all in such a good humor today because the Bengals won yesterday. I think that may be it.

Audience member. We love you, Bill!

The President. Thank you.

I want to say a special word of thanks to Senator John Glenn for flying down here with me and for being an absolutely wonderful United States Senator for Ohio and for all the United States. Thank you, John Glenn.

I thank the leaders of the FOP. Thank you, President Gil Gallegos, for that wonderful statement. Thank you, Pete Ridder. Thank you, Jim Pasco, the executive director of the FOP; Steve Young, the president of the Ohio FOP; and Mike Tenore, the trustee of the Ohio FOP. I am very proud to have the endorsement of an organization representing 270,000 rank and file members of law enforcement who put their lives on the line every single day for the rest of us. I thank you for it. As Gil said and as Pete said, for 4 years I've worked hard to stand with the police officers of America, and I am profoundly honored that they decided to stand with me for 4 more years. And I thank them very much.

Folks, I want to talk to you just a moment about what I hope we'll do in those next 4 years to make our streets safer and to make our children's future brighter. Everybody knows now—I hope they do anyway—we've been out talking about where we are now compared to where we were 4 years ago. We pursued a strategy of opportunity for everyone, responsibility from everyone, and an American community that includes every person without regard to race or gender or income or background. Everybody that's willing to work hard and play by the rules should be part of our American community.

This strategy is working. The economy is much stronger. The economy in Ohio—the unemployment rate has dropped from 7 percent to 4.8 percent. It's the lowest in nearly 8 years in the country as a whole. Our auto industry is number one in the world again for the first time since the 1970's. A lot of people in Ohio are part of that ranking, that number one ranking. We have 10 1/2 million more jobs. Wages are rising again for the first time in a decade. On October 1st 10 million American workers will get an increase when the minimum wage goes up. And I'm happy about that.

Yesterday I was in Iowa on a farm in Indianola, and I met, as I often do when I'm out and around, another of the 12 million American working parents who've gotten to take a little time off when a baby was born or a parent was sick without losing their job because of the family and medical leave law. And that's made us a stronger nation.

Twenty-five million Americans—25 million Americans can be helped because the Congress finally passed the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill that says you can't lose your health insurance just because someone in your family's been sick or because you changed your job. Forty million Americans—because of the pension protection act of 1994, 40 million retired and still working Americans had their pensions protected, and I am very proud of that. I remember well when they weren't protected 10 years ago and how many people lost their retirement.

So it is clear that we are moving this country on the right track. The things—as the Vice President used to say—the things that ought to be up are now up, the things that ought to be down are now down; 1.8 million fewer people on welfare than 4 years ago, child support collections up 40 percent. What should be up is up; what should be down is down. This is good.

These things did not happen by accident. These things happened because we had a different philosophy of how the White House and Washington should work. I had never worked in Washington, except as a college student, until I became President. And I didn't like what I saw. There were too many people spending their time asking, "Who can I blame for this problem?" and too few people spending their time asking, "What are we going to do about this problem?" So we asked that question: What are we going to do? And then we proceeded to do it.

And I can tell you that I hope that's what this election will be about. I hope we will have 50 days of people putting forth their best ideas about what are we going to do—ideas, not insults. How are we going to build the country? How are we going to build that bridge to the 21st century that we can all walk across?

Mostly I want to talk to you about law enforcement today, but I want you to think just briefly about how we're going to keep this economy growing until everybody who is willing to work can participate in it. And I'll just mention three things.

Number one, we have to continue the work of balancing the budget, but we have to do it in a way that protects Medicare, Medicaid, education, the environment, medical research, and other scientific research and technology. That is important. John Glenn has devoted an entire public career to it, but it's a huge thing.

We have some people here in their wheelchairs today. For the first time because of medical research in the last few weeks, laboratory animals that had their spines severed have had nerve transplants that gave them movement in their lower limbs for the first time ever. This is important. We have to keep investing in this.

Our space program is helping us to unlock mysteries of the environment, mysteries of health care. We're sending two unmanned space missions to Mars at the end of this year. We will learn some things about Mars but more importantly we'll learn a lot more about Earth, because we have continued the space program that John Glenn pioneered. We dare not turn our back on research and technology in the future.

And for all you young people in the audience who really understand computers, I'll just give you one more. I'll just give you one more. We just joined in a research project with IBM to build, within the next couple of years, a supercomputer that will do more calculations in one second than you can go home and do on your hand-held calculator in 30,000 years.

So we have to balance the budget, but we have to keep investing in things that take care of people who need it and that invest in our future, that grow our economy, and spread opportunity. We ought to have a tax cut, but it ought to be a tax cut that's focused on the needs of childrearing and education and health care and buying or selling a home. And we ought to pay for it so we can still balance the budget.

We ought to continue to work until we have the finest educational system in the world for everybody. Every 8-year-old should be able to read; every 12-year-old should be able to log in on the Internet; and every 18-year-old in America ought to be able to go to college. We ought to guarantee that 2 years of college are as universal as a high school diploma.

I want to say that again. I want you to understand exactly what I propose. I propose to make 2 years of college, a community college degree, in 4 years only just as universal as a high school diploma is today by giving a tax credit, a dollarfor-dollar reduction on taxes of up to $1,500, which will cover the average tuition costs at any community college in the country. And then beyond that, saying that if you go to college, no matter what your age or what kind of program you're in, a 4-year program, a graduate program, you name it, you ought to be able to deduct the cost of the tuition from your taxes up to $10,000—everybody. That will make a big difference to America.

The third thing we have to do to build this economy is to make sure we have enough jobs in the places where there haven't been any jobs yet. We now have a welfare reform bill that says to poor people we will take care of your children's medical care, nutritional needs, and when you go to work we'll give you child care; but now the income check you used to get if you're able-bodied, after 2 years you've got to be working for that check. That's a good thing if there's a job there. Now we have to put the jobs there. That's a big part of building our bridge to the 21st century.

So we have to build a bridge to the 21st century that leaves us a stronger community, and I will just, again, mention three things briefly. Number one, the family and medical leave law has helped a lot of people, but it can only be used in emergencies or for childbirth. I favor a narrow expansion of it which says people ought to also not lose their jobs if they need a little time off from work to go to a regular parent-teacher conference or take their children or their parents to the doctor. I think that's important as well.

John Glenn—we talked a lot about the environment. The air is cleaner; our food is safer; we cleaned up more toxic waste sites in 3 years than were cleaned up in the previous 12. Let me just give you one chilling statistic. In spite of all that, 10 million American kids still live within 4 miles of a toxic waste dump—10 million. In 4 more years, we're going to double the pace at which we're doing the cleanup, clean up the 500 worst ones so we can say these children, wherever they live, they're growing up next to parks, not poison. That ought to be a part of the bridge we build to the 21st century.

We want to be part of a world that's growing ever more peaceful and prosperous, and that means that we have to work hard to face the new problems of the 21st century. We have to finish the old problems that we've dealt with.

We have now got all the countries in the world but three agreed to a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, no more testing of nuclear weapons. But we now have to fight terrorism. We have to fight drug running. We have to fight organized crime. We have to fight the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons. Senator Glenn and I tried to pass the Chemical Weapons Convention to protect our soldiers and our people from the kind of attack the Japanese people had in the Tokyo subway from a terrorist group. We didn't get it for political reasons. But we're going to get it first thing next year to make this a safer country in a newer world.

Now, all that will not make any difference unless we can make our streets safer. The children of this country ought to be safe at home, in school, on their streets, in their play yards. I get asked all the time, "Well, how do you define success in the war against crime? There will always be some crime." Yes, there will. These folks in uniform, they'll always be in some risk. Yes, they will. The crime rate has come down for 4 years in a row for the first time in a long time. I'm proud of that. But it's still too high, and we all know it.

You know how you'll know that we've whipped this problem? When you go home from work in the evening and you flip on the evening news, if the first story is a violent crime story, instead of saying "what else is new," you are absolutely shocked and appalled. When that happens, you will know that we're on the right side of the crime problem.

But we're moving in the right direction. The 100,000 new police officers supporting people in a community working together, they're making a difference. Since 1994, we've already funded about half of those. We have to finish the job. It's a major point of contention in this election. And it's very important.

We have put tougher penalties on the books for repeat offenders, especially, and violent offenders so the police don't do their work and see it undone by the laws that are on the books. We don't believe that police should be easily outgunned by gangs on the street. That's why we took the assault weapons off the street and passed the Brady bill and why we're against the cop-killer bullets.

We passed the "three strikes and you're out" law. For people who commit three serious crimes, no more parole. It's working. It's working. We're indicting people, convicting people under it. And it's working. We expanded the death penalty to include drug kingpins and police killers because I thought it was important and justified in those circumstances. The 19 assault weapons we took off the streets had only one purpose, to kill other people.

When we passed the assault weapons ban and we passed the Brady bill a lot of good people who voted for those bills were defeated in 1994 in their race for Congress because the interest group that was against them went out and told good, God-fearing people from Ohio and Arkansas and other places that the President had gone off the deep end, and he and the Congress had voted to take their guns away, put their guns in danger. Well, they got a lot of votes with that line in 1994. But they got a big problem in 1996.

Audience member. Yes, they do.

The President. They got a big problem because, you see, what they didn't tell their people was that we also protected 650 different hunting and sporting weapons from being regulated or confiscated by Government authorities. So now two hunting seasons have come and gone, and not a single hunter in Ohio or Arkansas has lost their weapon. They did not tell the truth. But a lot of criminals don't have assault weapons, and 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers could not get a handgun because of the Brady bill. We did the right thing. They were right. They're safer. And we need to stay after it.

And that's why we should ban these cop-killer bullets. The same crowd is against banning copkiller bullets. I don't know why. You know, like most people from my home State, I spent a little time when I was a boy living on a farm. I lived in a town where you could be in the woods within 5 minutes. I've been in the woods in every season you can imagine. And I have yet to see a deer, a duck, a quail, a wild turkey wearing a bulletproof vest. I do not see it. [Laughter] We ought to ban the cop-killer bullets and protect these people.

We passed the Violence Against Women Act to try to help deal especially with problems of domestic violence. All over the country police departments like the one here in Cincinnati are training people to be sensitive to that. I met a young officer in the Nashville police department who grew up in a family with five children where they had a lot of problems. And he's devoting his entire life to helping police departments all over America deal with this problem as well as his own. And after one year of focusing on this problem, they cut the death rate in Nashville in half—in one year.

We now have a hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE— I've got it on my—and we now have had over 45,000 calls to that hotline this year from people who are asking for information to try to minimize that kind of violence. We can turn that around, too, with citizens helping us on the hotline and helping their local police departments. We can change the circumstances under which too many Americans have lived for too long. You do not have to put up with unacceptable rates of crime and violence. That is the message of this day.

But I want to go back to one other thing Gil Gallegos said. This administration is not responsible for any of these ideas. We got all these ideas from law enforcement people themselves. All we did was listen and act. All we did was take what was working and try to go national with it. All we did was to try to empower the people who live in communities all over America who are sick about crime and violence to do something about it. That is all we have done. That was our job. We did it. Now you have to help, too.

But we cannot expect the police officers to do all of this, and we cannot expect to jail our way out of this problem. You heard Gil say that. We've also supported zero tolerance for guns and drugs in schools. We've supported things like school uniforms and tough truancy laws and curfews. We've supported an effort to mobilize another one million Americans to work in citizens groups, to work with local police departments. We got the cellular telephone industry to donate thousands and thousands of cellular phones to help these community neighborhood watch groups support the police; they cannot do it alone.

And most of all, we have to realize that we have to give our children some things to say yes to as well as some things to say no to. They're entitled to schools that are open after hours. They're entitled to recreation opportunities. They need those summer jobs. They need opportunities like AmeriCorps. They need those good, positive things. That's why we fought for the drug education, the gang prevention programs, all of these other things.

You know, I don't know how many little kids have told me what an impression their D.A.R.E. officer made on them at the school. We know now that one of the reasons we've got a real problem with youth drug abuse is that, going way back to 1990, young people began to get the idea again that this was not dangerous. Well, that's wrong. It's not just illegal, it is dangerous. They can kill children. They can destroy their ability to concentrate. For young women, they can undermine their ability to bear healthy children. And we need everyone in the community supporting law enforcement officers, getting that message out to our children, to every child, no matter where he or she lives. It is important.

General Barry McCaffrey, a four-star general, was appointed to lead our war on drugs after he led our troops south of the border and did so much to keep drugs from coming into America. His strategy is targeted at doing those things which will keep drugs away from our children. We've proposed the largest antidrug effort in history, and I hope Congress will give us the extra $700 million we asked for, so that we can do everything possible to really, effectively turn these trends around and make sure that we have drug use going down, not just among adults, which it is—cocaine use has dropped by a third among adults in the last 4 years— we have got to get drug use going down among our children. We can't have these kids out there believing they are not in danger when they are, and you have to help.

Let me say that in the next 4 years one thing we have to focus more on is the violence caused by gangs, which is also often related to drug dealing. Over and over and over again, we hear stories of totally innocent children who just happened to be standing on the wrong street corner, happened to be walking in the wrong neighborhood, happened to be going home from school at a bad time, totally innocent children killed because of gang wars. We see kids going into gangs just to protect themselves because they're afraid if they don't they won't be safe on the street and in their neighborhood. And we have got to break this.

We have on the books an antiracketeering statute that had a lot to do with breaking the Mafia. It's called the RICO law. This morning I met with Attorney General Reno at the White House, and she reported that we have more than doubled the number of gang-related prosecutions to nearly 40 percent of all the prosecutions brought under this RICO law this year. These are making a big difference, but they're complicated cases. They take a long time. We're going to have to extend the statute of limitation, to make maximum use of it, from 5 to 10 years. But you know, we give the Government 10 years to make a bank fraud case, it seems to me they ought to have at least that long if an innocent child is gunned down on the street by a gang.

Let me just say one other thing. Last week in Colorado I announced a program I'd like to reiterate. I believe it is very important that we get more States to test prisoners and parolees for drug use and to provide more drug treatment in prisons and to revoke parole if people violate it by using drugs. We have a law on the books which says we will help States build prisons if they promise not to let violent criminals out too soon. I propose to amend it to say, you also have to give drug testing to parolees. That will keep them straight and keep them from returning. Sixty percent of all the heroin and cocaine used in this country—60 percent of all of it—is used by people who are involved with a criminal justice process right now. We need to help them. But more important, we need to protect the rest of our kids and our communities by saying, "Parole is a privilege, and you can't have it if you go back to drugs." And I hope you will support us in doing that.

So that's my program for the future: Do more to break the gangs; ban those cop-killer bullets; drug testing for parolees; improve the opportunities for community-based strategies that lower crime and give our kids something to say yes to. There are a lot of things to do.

The final point I want to leave with you is this: These people up here are doing everything they can. And unlike a lot of folks, we have shown—or rather, they have shown, we know how to bring the crime rate down. But they can't do it all by themselves. They need us to support them. I am honored by their support today. And all I can say is, go back to what Senator Glenn said: If you will give us 50 more days, we'll give you 4 more years of making our streets, our homes, our schools safer.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:45 p.m. at the Cincinnati Music Hall. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Roxanne Qualls of Cincinnati; State Representative Mark L. Mallory; and Pete Ridder, president, Fraternal Order of Police Queens City Lodge #69.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in Cincinnati, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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