Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Dinner in Miami, Florida

October 15, 1994

Thank you very much. There's nothing left for me to say. [Laughter] You know, Hillary kind of got into that zone that sometimes you get into, and she was just hitting on all cylinders. And I felt very much like I did the first time I ever gave a public speech as an elected official over 18 years ago. I went to a Rotary Club installation banquet in south Arkansas as attorney general. And it was the first time I'd ever spoken since I'd been elected, and I was nervous as a cat. There were 500 people there; we started at 6:30. Everybody got introduced in the whole crowd, except three people; they went home mad. [Laughter] And I got introduced to speak about a quarter to 10. And the only guy more nervous than me was the guy introducing me, and he said, "You know, we could stop here and have had a nice evening." And when I heard Hillary hitting her stride, I thought, we ought to stop here, we'll have a nice evening. [Laughter]

Let me say, first, to Hugh and to Carol, thank you, thank you so much not only for this evening but for all the days and all the nights that you have helped to advance the cause of the Democratic Party and of our administration and all the things that you have given to your country out of a genuine desire to make things better for other people. I thank you so much, and I'm honored to be here in your home tonight.

I want to thank the Members of Congress who are here, Senator Daschle, who was here, and Congresswoman Meek and Congressman Hastings, Congressman Torricelli, who's come all the way from New Jersey, and say how very glad I am to be here. I want to echo the sentiments of my wife about my fine brother-inlaw; I may have a little more to say about that in a moment. And I want to thank my longtime friend Bob Graham. You know, I told somebody not very long ago, someone—I don't even know how the conversation came up, but it got around to the fact that I'd known Bob Graham a long time. And this person who was talking to me had not known him a long time and was marveling about how much money he had raised as chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. I said, "Well, it doesn't surprise me because he gets more done than anybody I know, and secondly, he's had me at every crossroads in the United States at these fundraisers." [Laughter]

I was a Governor for a good long while. Some days I wish I still were—[laughter]—but rarely. I served with 150 American citizens, men and women, who were Governors. And I can say without any qualification that he is one of the 5 ablest people I ever served with as a Governor out of that 150. But he has a weakness that I also have, apparently, and that is that on occasion, we're better doers than we are talkers.

And the crowd we're running against are a whole lot better talkers than they are doers. And part of the reason is, they have more time to think about what they're going to say because they spend so little time worrying about what they're going to do.

And I must say, just for example, our friends here in Florida—I didn't carry Florida in the last election, but I worked hard to do a good job for Florida. We've worked hard not to let Hurricane Andrew be forgotten. We've worked hard to get Homestead rebuilt and regenerated and revitalized. We worked hard to save the space station and the space program, which is so important to central Florida; to settle the American Airlines strike, which is very important down here. Florida was one of the States that got permission to slash through all the Federal rules and regulations to try to find new and innovative ways to control health care costs and cover more people without health insurance and to reform the welfare system and to move people from welfare to work. And that's just a beginning.

I'd also remind everybody, with Mr. Torricelli here, that until I really got behind the Cuban Democracy Act, along with Democrat Torricelli and Democrat Graham, we couldn't find the Republicans and where they were on that legislation or what they were doing.

So I don't know if any of that will register in this election, because they talk very well. But I want you to think tonight about what you can do in the next 4 weeks, maybe in a nonfinancial way, in the States in which you live to change the outcome of the election, or in the cases where we're winning, to reinforce the outcome of the election.

You heard Hillary make the case, but the fact is, I ran for President to be a different sort of President. I did not expect that the environment in Washington would be as partisan as it turned out to be. I never dreamed I'd see grown people actually get up and willfully kill bills that they themselves were for, just to make sure that nobody else got credit for helping. I thought that was something that children did in a play yard. I didn't dream grownups would do it, and I sure didn't dream that anybody could get away with doing it.

I wanted to go to Washington to get this economy going again, to get our people together again, to make that Government work for ordinary citizens again. And I think we've made a good start. We have brought the deficit down; we've got the economy up. When Bob Graham cast the decisive vote on the economic plan— all the Republicans voted against it, and they said, "If this thing passes, the economy is down the tubes; if this thing passes, we'll lose jobs and the deficit will go up." Well, they've been telling us that fairytale for 12 years. We tried it their way for 12 years, and they quadrupled the national debt and drove the economy in the ditch. We changed our policy, we reversed trickle-down economics, and we've had 4.6 million jobs and 3 years of deficit reduction for the first time since Harry Truman was the President of the United States.

When we tried to pass family and medical leave, they wanted to filibuster it. They said it would be bad for small business. Well, we passed family and medical leave, we joined over 100 other countries that had already done it, and guess what? We've had record new incorporations of small business and record small business profits. It hasn't hurt anything, but it's helped a lot of working people to be home when their babies were born or their parents were sick. That's the truth.

When we changed the whole college loan program to lower the interest rates and string out the repayment terms so that every middle class person in this country could afford to go to college, not a single one of them helped, not a one, zero. But we kept going, trying to make this thing work.

Then we got to our trade initiatives, and we actually had a bipartisan effort on NAFTA, and I thought, "This thing is turning around." And then late last year, the Senate voted 95 to 4 for a crime bill; the Republicans voted 42 to 2 for it. So we finally got it through the House, and we brought it back to the Senate, and we were going to have a vote on the final crime bill. It was really very much like what I campaigned on for President and what they voted for a year ago. But instead of being 42 to 2 for it, they were 38 to 6 against it. Why? Because it was close to election, and they cared more about defeating an administration initiative to make our streets safer than they did making the American people safer. So if they had had their way—2 weeks ago I signed that crime bill; we have already released funding for 250 more police officers for Florida, 95 of them in Dade and Broward County alone—if they had had their way, they wouldn't be here. But they are here; they are here. And there will be more.

So you have to make a choice in this election, not just to contribute but what you're going to do in the next 4 weeks. We're bringing the economy back; we're making the Government work for ordinary people; we're moving into the future. Are there still things to be done? You bet there are. There are still jobs to be created. There are still people who are working hard and never get a raise. There are still problems in our inner cities and isolated rural areas. There is still a new trade agreement that we have to adopt. We still have to have the Summit of the Americas and try to create a whole new explosion of economic opportunity in our backyard. We've still got to pass welfare reform. We still have to address the health care crisis. Another million Americans lost their health insurance this year; almost every single one of them was a worker or the child of a worker. So yes, there are problems. But we are clearly moving in the right direction.

And the alternative is about as stark as it can be. Look at what happened in the last week of the Congress. You all know what the filibuster is; if a bill gets filibustered it means it takes 60 Senators instead of 51 to pass it. In the 1800's, we had an average of one filibuster every 6 years. In the 1900's, we've had an average of one filibuster a year. In the last days of the Congress, there were four filibusters on four different issues on one day. Why?

They filibustered the Superfund bill to clean up the waste dumps of the country. You know, it's the only bill I ever saw that everybody was for. The chemical companies were for it, the labor unions that worked for them were for it, and the Sierra Club was for it. I thought there must have been something wrong with it; everybody was for it. The only people in America who were against it were the Republican Senators. Why? Because they would have rather denied a Democrat the opportunity to say from a platform like this, "I helped to clean up toxic waste dumps," even if they had to leave the poison in the ground. Nobody else was against it.

They killed campaign finance reform. They killed lobby reform. They killed a bill they've been crowing about for years, saying they wanted it, that would have required Congress to live under the same laws that Congress imposes on private employers. I always thought that would be a great thing for Congress to pass. And if ever there was a bill that every Republican ought to hallelujah to, that was it. But they killed it. Why? Because they didn't want anybody else to say they had a role in that.

Now you have to decide not just where the check goes but what you feel in your heart about what you want for your country. I'm telling you, it's time to turn the lights on in this country. We've got to get people out of this idea that everything's going wrong and things are bad. The economy's coming back; we're assaulting our problems; we're moving into the future with confidence. The only thing that can derail us is rewarding the kind of misbehavior we saw in the last week of this session of Congress, and we have to stand up to it. And you have to decide.

What about their Contract With America? Have you seen it? It's a trillion dollars in promises: "We're going to balance the budget and increase defense and revitalize Star Wars." And when you say, "How are you going to pay for it?" they say, "We'll tell you after the election." It's just like what they did before, a trillion dollars' worth of promises. How will it be paid for? You know how it will: exploding the deficit, sending our jobs overseas, cutting Medicare, not funding those police officers you need here to fight crime and drugs and gangs. That's what will happen. And we'll have this economy in a ditch again just like they did last time if you ratify the contract, not those of you in this room but everybody you know in this country. This contract on America is nothing more than the second verse of trickle-down economics. We tried it; we saw it; it did not work.

So the choice is clear: Are we going forward, or are we going to go back? Are we going to give in to all this sort of naysaying and negativism and all the things they say? You know, they talk about how liberal and out of step the administration is. If you had a Republican administration that cut the deficit, presided over an expansion that produced 4.6 million new jobs, got tough on law and order, and began to clean up some of this country's most serious problems, they would be asking you to canonize them, wouldn't they? I don't want you to canonize me. I just want you to vote for good people for Congress so we can keep going forward and facing our problems and moving into the future.

You know, this is a very exciting time to be alive. Look at what happened in Haiti today.

Look at the progress we're making in the Middle East, even in the face of the terrible murder of that young Israeli soldier. Look at the progress in Northern Ireland. Look at the progress in South Africa. Look at the fact that all these heads of democratically elected nations are coming here to south Florida to the Summit of the Americas and they want to build a new future with us. This is a wonderful time to be alive and to be seizing this incredible array of opportunities.

And what we have to do is just simply to say in the next month: We have thought about this; we have seen it. We have a path to the future that is working and a ticket to the past that didn't work the first time. We will take what works and say no thank you to people who want to play on our fears, divide us against one another. While the Democrats are seeking to empower people in the new direction we are seeking, they just want to grab power. We're going to say, no thank you, let's build tomorrow and make it better than today.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

I want you to clap one more time for Bob Graham. This is a plaque which recognizes the fact that he has done a much better job than anybody who ever held this job before him. And you've already heard that this is the first time we've ever been able to give the maximum contribution to 19 of our Senate Democratic candidates. And it's because, like everything else he ever did, Bob Graham got the job done. Thank you very much. [Applause]

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:50 p.m. at a private residence. In his remarks, he referred to dinner hosts Hugh and Carol Westbrook and Florida senatorial candidate Hugh Rodham.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Dinner in Miami, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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