Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Luncheon in Englewood, New Jersey

June 30, 2000

Thank you. Well, thank you very much, Jon. Thank you for running. I'm going to say more about it in a moment. I'd like to begin by thanking Hilary and Orin for having us in their home. What a beautiful, beautiful day this is, not too hot. It's been real hot in Washington. And I want to thank all of you for coming. Some of you, I think, are here because you're Jon's friends. Some of you are here because you're good, loyal supporters of the national and the New Jersey Democratic efforts. And I hope all of you are here because you believe in what's at stake.

I want to say, I've never had a chance to say this in his district before, but I am very impressed and grateful for the work that Representative Rothman is doing in the House of Representatives, and I think he's great, and I thank you for doing it. And I'm glad Bob Janiszewski and Ray Lesniak are here. They were for me for President when my mother was the only person in America who thought I could run. [Laughter] And I lost my voice and couldn't even talk, and no one knew who I was. It's very hazardous to lose your voice when you have zero name recognition. [Laughter]

Senator Baer, thank you for being here. And Assemblyman Zisa, thank you. And Assemblywoman Weinberg, I thought that was great about you representing Sharpe James. That was really good.

Reverend McKinney, thank you for the prayer. It got me in a good frame of mind. And I thank all of you who worked on this event. And I'd like to say, Mr. Mayor, I'm glad to be in Englewood. It's a truly beautiful city, and we're delighted to be here. And you've got to forgive Senator Torricelli; we've got to pass that bill today.

It's actually quite important, what's going on in the Senate today. We have a chance to reach a bipartisan agreement to assist the democratic movement and the antidrug movement in Colombia in a way that, contrary to what the critics say, does not in any way, shape, or form involve America in the civil war down there but gives us a chance to save the oldest democracy in Latin America. And most of the cocaine and most of the heroin that flows into the bodies of the young people in America comes out of Colombia. They have lost control of approximately one-third of the land. And you've now got some people down there that are willing to risk their lives, and they literally have to risk their lives. We've had 500 police officers murdered in the line of duty in the last couple of years in Colombia by the drug traffickers and their allies in the guerrilla movement. That's, anyway, what they're doing, and it's very, very important. And I'm very grateful.

I'd like to make just a couple of points today. You know, I do have a passing interest in that Senate race in New York, and I've got a passing interest in this one in New Jersey and in Senator Robb's election in Virginia.

I think that—people ask me all the time who is going to win. I told them, Jon, I thought you were going to win early. I told them that you were the nominee; I thought you would be Senator. People ask me, and I say I think Hillary's going to win. I do. When Al Gore was 18 points behind in the polls, I said I thought he would win. I did then, and I do now.

But I want to talk about what's underneath that, because that's what's really important. Because when you leave here today, people may ask you why you came, and you could obviously say that, well, Orin harassed you and you wanted to do some event—I've got this written down— you were dying to do something that was devoid of social cachet. [Laughter] That's why—when I ran for President—that reminds me of what President Bush said; he referred to me as a Governor of a small southern State. And I was so naive, I thought it was a compliment. [Laughter] And I still do.

So I'm glad you're doing this event devoid of social cachet. Maybe you did it because you didn't want Deborah to call you any more. [Laughter] But maybe you did it just because you love Jon and Joanne, but somebody is going to ask you. And as grateful as we are for your money, I think it's fair that—I believe that you can do just as much good if on every conceivable occasion between now and November you take the opportunity to talk to people you know about why you're here, why you wrote this check, why you're doing what you're doing.

And if I might, I'd just like to offer a couple of observations to build on the remarks Jon made. And I hope they will be taken somewhat seriously since I'm not running for anything. Most days I'm okay about it. [Laughter] For the first time since 1974, there is an election coming and going I'm not a part of—except I'm becoming the surrogate-in-chief for Hillary, for her, so she can campaign.

But let me just say, to build on what Jon said—in 1992, when I was elected, everybody knew what we had to do. The economy was in the tank. All the social trends were going in the wrong direction. Washington was divided in a pitched battle, and the Democrats and the Republicans seemed to operate according to kind of a rule of combat that went something like this, "I've got an idea. You've got an idea. Let's fight. Maybe we'll both get on the evening news."

And it's hard—you ask Mr. Rothman there what it's like. If he gets in a fight, he can make the news. Even the President sometimes can't get on the evening news unless you're in a pitched battle. I remember one of the most important days of my Presidency, to me personally, was the day I signed the bill creating the national service program AmeriCorps for young people. And I knew it was a big deal. And we had all these kids in this volunteer program that had been a model for what we did march up there with me. And Senator Kennedy was there, and I had the pen that John Kennedy used to sign the Peace Corps Act.

And in 4 years we had 150,000 young people serve their country in community service in AmeriCorps. It took the Peace Corps over 20 years to reach the same number. And yet, the visibility of the Peace Corps was greater than the visibility of AmeriCorps because the people that night decided this was a good news story, what did it belong on the evening news for? So I understand this. But it didn't make any sense to me because I thought the country was in trouble.

So we all knew what we had to do. We had to fix the economy, and we had to try to change the crime policy, the welfare policy, the education policy of the country, and we had to try to have the Government work in a different way. And we had to be engaged in the rest of the world in a different way.

And so we brought this whole set of ideas there, Al Gore and I and the rest of our crowd, and lo and behold, most of them worked pretty well. And I'm very grateful for that. I am profoundly grateful that I had the chance to serve. I am so grateful that we've got over 22 million new jobs and the lowest welfare rolls in 32 years, the lowest crime rates in 25 years, the lowest African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates ever recorded, and the lowest female unemployment rate in 40 years, the lowest poverty rate in 20 years. I'm grateful for that.

But the issue that we face is, now what? And I guess what I would like to say to you is that I believe what a nation does with its prosperity is just as stern a test of its judgment, wisdom, and character as what a nation does in adversity. There's nobody here today, over 30 years old at least, who cannot recall at least one time in your life when you made a fairly significant mistake, either personally or professionally, not because things were going so badly but because things were going so well you thought there was no penalty for the failure to concentrate. If you live long enough, you'll make one of those mistakes.

And the thing that really bothers me about this election—I listen to people talk about this election—I had a friend of mine from Chicago spend the night with me a couple of nights ago. He's 41 years old. He wasn't particularly political before I became President. We got to be very close. None of his friends are politicians; they're not active in the Democratic or the Republican Party. He's just tearing his hair out. He says, "All these guys I run around with, they don't think there's very much difference between these two guys. And they sort of say, they seem kind of nice, maybe—it's like your fraternity had it for 8 years, maybe we should give it to their fraternity for a while."

So the first and most important thing I want to say to you is, this is a big election. I've been following this stuff since I was a boy. Not in my lifetime, not one time, have the American people ever had this much economic progress, this much social progress, this much national self-confidence with so little internal crisis or external threat. We don't know whether this will come along again in 50 years. We don't know if this will come along again in 100 years. And the pastor there will tell you that nothing lasts forever.

Now, when you're in a tight, and I've been in a few in my life, that kind of keeps you going—thank God this can't last forever. [Laughter] But neither does anything good. Nothing lasts forever. And I submit to you that those of us who are of age will be judged and held at quite a high standard on the question of what we do with our prosperity, what we do with this magic moment? That's what this whole election ought to be about.

And I believe the reason that Jon has done so well is that people say, here's this guy that could be off making a gazillion dollars and laying around 3 days a week, and he actually cares about whether poor kids get a decent education and whether parents have a safe place to make a home and all that other stuff. I mean, this is a big deal.

What do you think we should do with this prosperity? Now, in elections, very often the answer depends upon what the question is. We've got a leg up if people really believe that's the question and if they understand what a very, very serious moment this is for our country— first one I want to make.

The second thing I would like to tell you is that we don't have to run a negative campaign this year. We can just run a campaign on the issues. I think for 20 years we've had too many of these really hateful campaigns where one candidate would be trying to convince the voters that his or her opponent was just one notch above a car thief. You've seen a lot of those, and maybe participated in a few. But this year we've got a gift here. We can say, look, let's assume, from the Presidential candidates to the Senate candidates to the House candidates, everybody is honorable and good. And let's just look at where we differ on what we should do with our future. And I'm just here to tell you, there are real differences, and I'll just mention a couple.

First of all, on economic policy. The Republican—Governor Bush and the Republican congressional program ought to have a lot of appeal in New Jersey because there are a lot of wealthier people here. And basically, what they say is, "Vote for me, and I'll give you a $1.5 trillion tax cut, 3 times what the Democrats will give you—more than 3 times. And I'll partially privatize Social Security, and you will do well with that." But you should know that when you do that, all of us who might take our 2 percent out, somebody's got to fill that up to keep this program from going broke. So, that will cost another $1 trillion over the next decade. But it sounds good.

Their message is, "You couldn't mess this economy up with a stick of dynamite. Nobody's going to mess it up; it's on automatic. Information technology is surging ahead. Biomedical technology is surging ahead. This thing is rocking along. Nobody can mess this economy up. Vote for me, and I'll give you your money back." That's basically their message.

Our message is, we don't think that this economy happened by accident. We think it happened by prudence and discipline and vision. And we'll give a more modest tax cut, keep paying down the debt to save Medicare and Social Security for the baby boomers, and we think we've got to invest in America—Mr. Corzine's theme. We've got to give all our kids a world-class education. We've got to make sure we can grow the economy and preserve the environment. We've got to deal with the health and other challenges that families face. There's a whole bunch of investment issues out there.

Now, their argument is, "Hey, I'm trying to give you money. Have you been listening to me? This is a good economy. I'll try to give you a bunch of money." That's their argument. Our argument is—well, I'll just ask you this. Don't answer out loud but think to yourself. What is your projected—do you have an opinion of what your projected income is for the next 10 years? Have you thought about that, what you think you will actually make in each of the next 10 years? That's what all these proposals are based on—you need to know that— our projected income.

So what do you think your projected income is going to be for 10 years? Now, what's your level of confidence that that's your projected income? How would you feel—let's assume all of you have a level of confidence over 50 percent—how would you feel if I asked you to come up here right now and sign a contract committing to spend all your projected income for the next 10 years? That's what the Republicans are asking you to do. And I don't believe I'd have many takers. That's what they're asking you to do.

And let me just point out this: If by continuing to practice prudence, we keep interest rates one point lower, that's worth $250 billion in lower home mortgages alone. That's a $250 billion tax cut just for home mortgages. That doesn't count student loans, car loans, business loans, and all the economic benefits attendant there. So that's a huge issue.

I think Jon's right. I think we're right. I think—and I think we have certain responsibilities to people who haven't fully participated in this economic recovery. We've got the biggest bunch of school kids in our country's history. They are the most diverse group ever. They're our meal ticket to the future, if we can prove they can all get a world-class education. These are big issues.

We differ on a Patients' Bill of Rights. We differ on the Medicare drug benefit. We differ on the nature of environmental protection that we should have. We differ on so many issues. We differ on whether we should take extraordinary efforts to ensure equal pay for women for equal work—big issue for our people. The average woman is still working 17 weeks a year longer for the same income as the average man in America, for all of the progress we've made. So there are real differences.

And the last point I want to make is this. It would be interesting to see if this is true in New Jersey. Most of the Republicans don't want you to know what the differences are, and that's a dead giveaway about who would win if the people knew what the differences were.

And so, here comes Jon, riding in on his horse—the guy has never run for office before— actually committing the unpardonable sin of saying exactly what he thinks, even when it gets him in trouble, and trusting the people to get it right. And what my experience is—and I encouraged him one time. I knew he was getting a little weary from the cost as well as the strain of the primary campaign, and I said, "Look, what makes democracy work?" This is why this campaign finance reform issue is important.

"What makes democracy work? When the people have enough time and enough information— and they need both—they nearly always get it right." Otherwise, why would we still be around here after 200 years? People nearly always get it right.

So this big election, there are real differences. If the voters know what they are, I think they will make the right decision.

I just want to make two final points. I want to say a word for the Vice President; then I hope people may ask you about that. I just want you to know, I believe I know him better than anybody outside his family now, after 8 years. And there are four things I want all of you to know about that, four reasons I think he should be elected.

Number one is, our country has had Vice Presidents who have done great things as President: Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman. Lyndon Johnson gave us the civil rights legislation and the Federal aid to education and Medicare. But our country has never, not in over 200 years, never had anybody who made nearly anywhere near as much difference in a positive way as Vice President as Al Gore. He is by far the most positively impactful Vice President the country ever had. It's not even close. And I've spent a lifetime studying the history of my country and the institutions of National Government.

From breaking the tie on the economic plan in '93, to running our employment zone programs to bring economic opportunity to people and places left behind, to ramming through a telecommunications provision to guarantee that the poorest schools in America could be hooked up to the Internet—something I learned coming to New Jersey when I saw the benefits in some of the schools here—to managing a lot of our relations with Russia and Egypt and South Africa, no Vice President ever had remotely as much responsibility or done as much good.

The second thing I want to say to you is, he shares Jon's economic philosophy. We don't believe we should go to the American people and say, "You guys figure out your projected net income. Now, let's sign it away for 10 years right now." Because it's all projected; you might get it, and you might not. And we don't want to get back into deficits and high interest rates and give away all the money we need to be investing in our future.

The third thing I want to say is this: You need somebody in office—another argument for Jon—you need somebody in office in 2000 that understands the future. Let me just give you a couple of examples. You see where we announced the human genome sequencing last week? I had to study that stuff for a year just so I'd understand what I was saying at the press conference last week. [Laughter] It's the most fascinating thing I've ever studied in my life. And I really do believe that those of you who are young enough to still be having kids, I think that it won't be 10 years before American children will be born with a life expectancy of somewhere around 90 years. Within 20 years, I'm confident American children will be born with a life expectancy of 100 years. Anybody who lives to be 65 today has a life expectancy of 83. It's going to change everything.

But people will know that all this genetic information is somewhere in somebody's computer. Don't you think that you ought to have the right to say yes before somebody gets to it, and that people shouldn't be denied jobs or promotions or health insurance because of their genetic profile? And don't you think we ought to have somebody in the White House that really understands this stuff?

Or, you take the Internet. When I became President, there were 50—50 websites on the World Wide Web in 1993. There are now 10 million—50 to 10 million. Now, Al Gore understands this as well as anybody in American life. All of our medical and economic information is going to be on somebody's computer. Don't you think you ought to have to say yes before somebody gets your financial information or your medical records, and don't you think somebody ought to be President who understands it?

And the last thing I'll say—and it's the thing that I really love about Jon, because life's been good to him, and he didn't go around being sanctimonious about being successful. I can't stand these successful people who want you to believe they were born in a log cabin they built themselves. And you've all heard a lot of that.

We need a President and we need a Congress who understand the future, who will keep the economic prosperity going, but who also want us all to go along for the ride. That's what the hate crime legislation is all about. That's what the employment nondiscrimination is about. That's what the appointments to the Supreme Court are about. Twenty cases decided this term by one vote—20 by one vote—20. And the next President gets between two and four judges. So whichever one of them gets elected, it's going to change the balance of the Supreme Court. For you to pretend otherwise is to be living in a dream world.

And I think we ought to have a President and I think we ought to have a Senator from New Jersey and New York and a Senate and a House that think we all ought to go along for the ride. When you really strip it all away, that's basically why most of us are Democrats. We know we're lucky.

Shoot, man, people ask me, in the toughest days of my Presidency, weren't there days that I regretted it? I said, regretted it? Are you kidding me? Another turn in the road and I could be home doing $200 divorces and deeds and stuff. [Laughter] This is the cost of doing business. The Republicans have decided to impose a certain cost of doing business if you want to be a Democrat and be President. I wouldn't take the world for it. I've had a wonderful time.

But I'll tell you what, on the good days and the bad days, I wanted everybody along for the ride. And that's another thing about this prosperity, we need to take everybody along. That's what Jon will do, and that's what Al Gore will do.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:47 p.m. at a private residence. In his remarks, he referred to Jon Corzine, candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey, and his wife, Joanne; luncheon hosts Hilary Bollon and Orin Kramer; Hudson County Executive Robert C. Janiszewski; State Senators Raymond J. Lesniak and Byron M. Baer; State Assemblyman Charles (Ken) Zisa; State Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg and Mayor Sharpe James of Newark, NJ, Corzine campaign cochairs; Rev. Calvin McKinney, president, General Baptist Convention of New Jersey; Mayor Paul Fader of Englewood; Senator Robert G. Torricelli, chair, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; luncheon cochair Deborah Lynch; and Republican Presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush of Texas.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Luncheon in Englewood, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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