Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Dinner for Gubernatorial Candidate Kathleen Brown in San Francisco, California

October 22, 1994

The President. Thank you so much. I'm just I was listening to Kathleen give that curious, can you hear me in the back of the speech—— room? [Applause] Good.

Audience members. Louder, louder.

The President. I know, there's something wrong with the sound system, isn't there? Can someone turn the sound up? There's something wrong with it.

Well, I'm sorry, you'll just have to listen. [Laughter]

I was thinking when Kathleen was speaking that I was glad that she didn't run against me in 1992. And then I was thinking when she was speaking, we will now know what happened when "Mrs. Wilson" gets a lot of write-in votes from Modesto on election day.

You know, I really looked forward to this, to coming out to California and giving you a progress report, talking about what this election is all about. I care a lot about this Governor's race. I used to be a Governor. In some ways it was the best job I ever had. At least I had an easier time defending myself. [Laughter] The truth is, I wouldn't trade this for anything.

But if you will bear with me, even in this festive atmosphere, I want to talk tonight pretty seriously to you about what is at stake in these national elections, including Senator Feinstein's race and the congressional races, and then why what is at stake here in California is just like that and why, even though it's a different issue and a different race, what is underlying the contest is the same and why you have to make the same decision. And I want to do it because, after all, for the next 2 weeks and some odd days, you need to spend more time talking to the people who aren't in this room than the people who are if you want to make a difference in this election.

When I was elected President, thanks in no small measure to the overwhelming support of the people of the State of California, I went to Washington determined to do everything I could to rebuild the American dream and to bring the American people together, to make sure that we move into the next century able to compete and win, to make sure that our children are not the first generation to do worse than their parents, to make sure that all this incredible diversity we have in America was the engine of our strength and unity, not the instrument of our undoing. That is why I wanted to be President. And I went there hoping, because I was determined to take our Democratic Party in a different direction, that the Republicans would at least meet me halfway, or would you believe 5 percent? [Laughter]

Well, we've been there 21 months. And here are the facts: We have made a real start in making the Government work for ordinary Americans, in bringing the economy back, in making the world more peaceful and more secure for Americans to live and to grow and to flourish in. And in this election we do not pretend that there is nothing left to be done. We ask only that the American people look at what has been done, look at what our opponents have done, look at what they offer for the future. We ask them not to go back to the dark days of trickle-down economics and divisive social policy but to go forward into the 21st century with confidence.

I got tickled, the Republican House leader, Mr. Gingrich, in a rare moment of candor the other day said that his whole—that their whole mission in life, all of them, the Republicans in Washington, the leaders, was to make sure Americans thought I was the enemy of normal people. Well, you know, the truth is he's done a pretty good job of that in a place or two. [Laughter] I thought to myself, now, what does that mean? I understand it partly because I grew up in the South, like a lot of you who are immigrants to California from that part of America. And I mean, I was raised on that kind of politics. If you couldn't think of anything to be for and you wanted to get in, just demonize your opponent. And if people are mad and angry and upset about something else, maybe they could just transfer all that onto the election. And just like a kid in a snit on a playground, if you make a decision when you're mad, normally you don't know what you're doing. So you run the risk of being for that which you're against and being against that which you're really for.

Now, that's the risk in the California Governor's race, that's the risk in the California Senate race, and that's the risk in these Congress races all over the country. If you can get people all mad and then transfer their anger and frustration to somebody with a "D" beside of their name and make them the enemy, then you wind up doing that which you would not do if you were thinking.

It reminds me—you know, one of the primary jobs of any parent is to try to raise their children not to make important decisions when they're just stomp-down furious. And in my part of the country—you know, I was born in a little town in south Arkansas about 20 miles from the Louisiana border. And I don't know how many of you have ever been down there, but there are a lot of Cajuns in Louisiana who literally came from Acadia before and populated the State. And they developed a special way of speaking and even a sort of a hybrid language and an incredible body of humor. And when I was a young man, I used to make a habit of collecting these Cajun jokes. But I remember one which illustrates what we are in danger of seeing happening in this election if we don't turn it around and get people to thinking and not just feeling anger, a story about these two Cajun fellows named Rene and Jacques. And Jacques walks down the street, and he meets his friend Jean. And Jean says, "Jacques, I always see in your pocket your $5 cigars. And they ain't there today. Why ain't they there anymore?" And he said, "You know, that no-good Rene, every time he sees me, he says, ‘Hey, Jacques, how you doing?' He hits me in the pocket. He ruins my $5 cigars." He said, "Yes, I understand that, but how come you replace the cigars with dynamite?" He said, "Don't you know the next time he does that, you'll get killed?" He said, "Yeah, I know that, but I'll blow his hand off, too." [Laughter] You think about that. That's what's going on here. That's what's going on here.

We have made a beginning for a change in having the National Government honor work and family. That's what the family leave law was all about, so people could take a little time off when their kids were born or their parents were sick without losing their jobs; in immunizing 2 million children under the age of 2 by 1996; in expanding Head Start; in giving 19 States permission to try their own plans to move people from welfare to work with dignity; in giving tax cuts to 15 million working families with children, so nobody who works full-time will raise their children in poverty. I think that's a pretty good beginning.

We've made a major, major start in developing a system of lifetime learning and training, so people don't stay unemployed for a long time and so young people can live in a world where they may have to change work seven times in a lifetime.

We've signed just a couple of days ago the new elementary and secondary education act, which cuts off—[applause]—there are some educators here. You know why the educators are clapping? Because this act recognizes that all the real magic in education occurs in the classroom. And instead of having the Federal Government send a check to California with a string on it 3,000 miles long, accompanied by a gazillion rules, this act says: Here are the standards you must meet, here are the people you must help, here is the money; you figure out how to do it and be accountable for it. We're going to empower you to educate our children.

In our budget we changed the system of student loans to save $4.3 billion in tax money, to cut student fees by $2 billion to enable 20 million Americans over the next couple of years to have lower interest, longer repayment options on their student loans so everybody can borrow the money to go to college who needs it in this country. And I think that's a pretty good beginning. And I don't think it's bad for normal Americans.

We passed the crime bill and the Brady bill, and they tried to stop us. The Republicans cussed the Government for years. You know, that used to be how they made their bread and butter. Before immigration and crime, there was how bad the Government was. But they never shrunk it because all their crowd wanted those jobs in Washington. Also they knew if they ever made it smaller they wouldn't have anybody to kick around anymore.

So we made it smaller, the Democrats. We reduced the size of the Federal Government, already more than 70,000 fewer people working in Washington bureaucracies than when I became President. And when our plan goes through, it will be the smallest Government since John Kennedy was President of the United States.

And here's the really important thing: What did we do with the money? We gave it to you to fight crime. It's going to California; it's going to New York; it's going to Texas; it's going to Montana. It's going back to the grassroots of America to hire those police officers, to have those prevention programs, to build those prison cells, to give the American people a chance to be safer on their streets. That's what we did with the money. I think it was a pretty good swap. I wish they'd helped us do it.

Now, when we lowered the Federal deficit 3 years in a row for the first time since Truman and exploded opportunities for trade and exports for California and a lot of other places and increased our investment in education and training and provided for increased incentives for people to put free enterprise into isolated urban and rural areas, 4.6 million new jobs—in 1994 we've had more high-wage jobs come into this American economy than in the previous 5 years combined. Is California slower than the rest of the country at coming back? Yes. Why? Well, you had the earthquake, and you had 21 percent of America's defense budget. So it's taking a little longer. But your unemployment is one percentage point lower than it was when I became President. And I'll say a little more about the things we've done to try to make sure that 1995 and 1996 are even better years for California. The point is not that we have done everything that needs to be done, but we are plainly moving in the right direction and the country is better off than it was 21 months ago.

Now, we did it in a different way, too. I don't think this was abnormal. I have more than twice as many women and more than twice as many minorities in my Cabinet as ever served any other President. I didn't think that was abnormal. At this point in our Presidency, we've appointed more than twice as many women, more than twice as many African-Americans, and 3 times as many Hispanics as well as more Asians to the court than all the three previous Presidents combined at this point in their Presidency. But since our judicial appointees have a higher percentage of them rated well-qualified by the Bar Association, I don't see what's so abnormal about that. Why shouldn't the bench look like America? Why shouldn't the administration look like America?

And let me ask you this. Is the fact that Russian missiles are not pointed at your children for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age an abnormal thing? I think that's pretty good. I think it's a good thing for America that we reached agreement with China not to export missiles that are dangerous. I think it's a good thing that we're making progress there. I think it's a good thing that we are contributing to peace in the Middle East and we helped the South Africans with their elections and we're contributing to peace in Northern Ireland. I think it's a good thing. I think it's a good thing that we did not let Saddam Hussein again become an aggressor. And a good thing—I think it's a good thing that President Aristide went home to Haiti.

Do we still have problems in this country and in this world? You bet we do. But we are moving in the right direction. The last thing in the wide world we need to do, because there are people who have not yet gotten a raise or people who still feel insecure in their jobs, because another one million Americans lost their health insurance last year and they're all in working families——

Audience member. What about 186?

The President. ——because of all these things, there are problems. So what's the answer? Turn around and go back where we came from? I don't think so. Give it to the people that haven't tried to solve the problems? I don't think so.

Audience member. Help us out on 186.

The President. You, look——

Audience member. Help us out on 186.

The President. Do you want to give this speech?

Audience member. No, but I——

The President. Do you know the first thing about manners?

Audience member. We need your help.

The President. Let me tell you something, I made a statement about it yesterday and if you will just be quiet, I'll talk some more. But I cannot talk if you're going to talk.

I tried to solve the health care problem in a way that I thought was right. If the people want to solve it in California, you can do it. [Applause] Thank you.

Now, what's all that got to do with this election? You think about it. What did they do? I want you to know what they did, because it's just like what the Governor is doing here. If you like the fact that we passed family leave and the Brady bill and the crime bill and the college loans, their leadership fought against every one of them, and now they're coming back to people and saying we ought to do something about crime and all the other problems in America.

They had their chance, and they were against them all. At the end of the legislative session, they blocked campaign finance reform, they blocked lobby reform, they killed the Superfund bill. You know, the Superfund bill cleans up toxic dumps. In the Superfund bill we had chemical companies, labor unions, and the Sierra Club wanting to pass it. I never saw those folks for the same thing in my life. I never thought they would be for anything. Do you know who was against the Superfund bill? Slightly more than 40 Republican Senators. That's it. And do you know why? Because they would rather have left the poison in the ground than let Dianne Feinstein come home to California and say, "I helped to clean it up." That's the truth. That is the truth.

And now they've got this contract. I want you to see if you can remember if you've ever heard this before. Here is their deal—you heard Senator Boxer's litany here—"Let that crowd run the Senate and make Mr. Gingrich the Speaker, and here is what we'll do for you"— this is great, this sounds great—"here's what we'll do. We'll give everybody a tax cut, and if you're rich we'll give you a huge tax cut. And we will revitalize Star Wars, and we will increase defense spending, and we will balance the budget." Does that sound familiar? And what happened the last time we did that? We exploded the deficit. We face cuts in Medicare, veterans benefits, everything else. We ran the economy into the ditch and sent our jobs overseas, and it'll happen again. You have to say no, no, no, no, no. No!

Audience members. No! No! No!

The President. The cynicism of these people, it's unbelievable. It's unbelievable.

I've got to tell you about one more filibuster. They tried to filibuster the California desert bill. They almost got that done, and finally, there were some Republican Senators who cared enough about the environment and were so overcome with embarrassment at what the rest of them were doing that they bailed out and broke the filibuster. But it was weird. We had a guy from Wyoming leading a filibuster against the California desert bill so he could help that guy from Texas buy the California Senate seat. [Laughter] I mean, it was amazing. That's what was going on. That's what goes on up there. You've got to say no to that.

Now, what's that got to do with this race? Kathleen and I were talking about it the other day. Listen to this. Five million Americans who live in California benefit from the family leave bill; 1,650,000 Americans who live in California will be eligible for lower interest college loans. The crime bill will bring another $900 million to California for 10,200 police officers, among other things. Over 2 million California families got tax cuts. And they fought it all.

Now, if you look at what's happened in California since I became President—I didn't come out here and point the finger at Governor Wilson. I just sort of said, "These folks are in trouble, and I ought to help." The first thing we did was to take off all the controls on a lot of high tech exports so we could sell more.

And California benefited more than any other State from that.

And then we started a program that the previous administration had literally refused to start, to help places where bases had closed or where companies had lost defense contracts to do defense conversion. And California has gotten more than one-third of all the defense conversion money given out by the Federal Government in the last 2 years to help rebuild this economy for the 21st century.

When the earthquake came along, you wound up with $11 billion. And unlike the last earthquake in northern California, this time the Government paid for 90 percent of it from Washington, not 75 percent, because we knew that you needed the help. And we did it in record time.

They talk about immigration. What have we done? We are cutting spending overall, and yet we increased funding to help the States deal with immigration costs by a third. We doubled the border guards along San Diego's border. We have for the first time paid for some of the criminal justice costs. And we have paid to ship some people who have been convicted of crimes out of the country. And your Governor calls my effort pathetic? He made the problem happen when he was in the Senate. And when he came back here and he had his President in Washington, he never issued a peep for more money or a peep of blame or responsibility. Never.

And when I took office, I knew this was a problem. I didn't care if you had a Republican Governor. You could have had somebody in the "purple party" for all I cared. You had a problem. And I have tried to help you solve it. The Attorney General has been to southern California. We have also started dealing with the sewage problems down there. We have done a lot of other things. We never sought to place any blame on anybody else. We were just trying to help. That's what Governors should be doing, building people's lives, building the economy, building people's future. That's the kind of partner I would like to have in Sacramento so we could do even more things. Now, you think about that. You think about that.

What else has happened since our administration came in? Well, we're selling California rice to Japan for the first time in history. We got enough shipbuilding contracts to NASCO at San Diego to save 4,000 jobs, and the Livermore labs just got a $2 billion research contract to help to build a high tech future here. I never thought of trying to blame somebody else. I just knew you needed help and you had great resources and it was time to start moving forward. And that's the kind of Governor you need.

I want to say one thing about this immigration proposition. You know, I also came out against it yesterday. But I want to talk to you about this. I want to make two points about it. And I want—again, remember, you've got to spend the rest of this election talking to people outside this room. I want to make two points about it. Number one, I have really tried to help you with this problem, and we are making a difference. But why should we punish the kids because we're not smart enough to figure out how to stop their parents for coming here looking for work? And what does it do, really, for your treasury if kids are out of school so they'll be free to get in trouble? What does it do if kids don't go to the clinic so they'll be free to communicate diseases and other problems to other people? I don't know that you're going to save a split nickel on this deal.

Now, let's solve the problem. We already deny welfare benefits to immigrants who are not here legally. There is a problem in the work place; there is a problem in enforcement. Let us go after it in a responsible way. It is a legitimate problem. When people don't have jobs themselves, they don't want someone else having a job who didn't even wait in line like all the other immigrants do every year to come here in a legal fashion. There is a problem. But this problem was largely created by politicians in previous years who wanted this to happen. And a lot of them are now trying to benefit from the very situation they created, and that is wrong. That is wrong.

Now, let me say something else. If you've got a bunch of friends who are going to vote for that anyway, you ought to still talk them into voting for Kathleen Brown. And here is the argument you ought to use. Why in the wide world would you vote for Pete Wilson because he says he's for that if you are? Why would you waste two votes on that proposition when one will do just as well? [Laughter]

Now, listen to this. What is the argument against Governor Wilson? What is Kathleen Brown's argument? That she represents vision and energy and ideas and she has a plan for the future. Not that the last 4 years would not have been challenging, no matter who had been Governor. There was defense cuts coming; there was a recession in the economy. What is the charge? Not that there were tough times but that the response was inadequate. It didn't reflect energy and compassion and leadership and planning.

Now, if this election turns on an issue that will be over on the morning of November 9th, you will be giving another 4 year contract, this time with an explicit permission to lift not one finger to solve the real problems of California or to help build its future. That would be a mistake. That would be a mistake.

So tell your friends, "Look, I'm not for this thing. I wish I could talk you out of it. But if I can't, don't shoot yourself in the foot and vote twice when once will do." [Laughter] If you make a mistake on this, you're going to need a Governor even more than I do. You need a good Governor. Go do it right. And every time you worry about it and you get frustrated, you think about the story I told you about the guy that swapped cigars for dynamite. It happens all the time.

Now, let me close by just saying this. Let me tell you what I really think will turn this election. I think it depends what frame of mind the people are in when they wake up on election day. This is an old-fashioned election, right? Hope versus fear, the future versus the past, plan versus a wedge. That's what this is about. And you cannot blame people for being exercised and frustrated and angry. Most people in California have not felt the benefits of the recovery, in spite of the fact that we have put billions in here, every last thing I could think of to do. A lot of people have not felt it in their lives. They still feel uncertain and insecure.

We have social problems in this country, the crime, the gangs, the drugs, the guns; this stuff has been building up for 30 years. Most hourly wage earners have had stagnant wages in America for 20 years. California has been through this trauma. These problems have been with us. And for 12 years we had this trickle-down economics approach and this divide-them-andconquer social policy approach, which I have had 21 months to work on. Now we're making a good start, but we have a ways to go before people can feel it inside.

So you have got to leave this room and do two things. One is, if you can give her some more money so she doesn't get blown away on television, you ought to do it. The second thing is to go out and talk to people about what this election is really all about and get them to unload all their frustration and their anger and try to get them to relax. And get them into a conversation, get them into a dialog.

What I really think you ought to do is go out there and try to turn the lights on in California. If the lights are on, if people are up, if they're looking to the future, they will vote for Kathleen Brown because she's got a plan; she's got energy; she symbolizes the future. Turn the lights on! Turn the lights on! Turn the lights on!

Thank you, and God bless you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:53 p.m. at the Fairmont Hotel.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Dinner for Gubernatorial Candidate Kathleen Brown in San Francisco, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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