Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner in Somerset, New Jersey

June 22, 1995

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin by joining with Al and Tipper and Hillary and thanking tonight's dinner chairs, Al Decotis, Lew Katz, Ray Lesniak, Jack Rosen, and Bob Raymar. They were terrific, and so were all of you. Thank you for your remarkable help.

I am also delighted to be here with two of my former colleagues, former Governor Brendan Byrne and former Governor Jim Florio. I thank them and their wonderful wives for coming tonight. I'm glad to see them.

I want to say something selfish. I think New Jersey did a good thing for New Jersey by reelecting Frank Lautenberg. But we needed him back, and I saw it today on the floor of the Senate. And this country needs Bill Bradley, and you must, you must send him back to the United States Senate and the United States.

I have always loved coming here. I have been, frankly, rather astonished from the beginning of my campaign that the State of New Jersey was so good to me, beginning way back in 1991 when I was a stranger from a small southern State, as my former adversary, Mr. Bush, used to say. And every time I came here I always felt at home. I felt that I understood the people. I felt a certain kinship.

And when we began our general election campaign here with the bus tour and then ended up in the Meadowlands and then New Jersey—I have heard it a thousand times—always closes Republican, but it didn't close enough to take the State away from the Clinton-Gore ticket—I was profoundly grateful.

And now I come to say to you, I thank you for this remarkably successful dinner. It will enable Terry McAuliffe and Laura Hartigan and all of our finance staff to continue on their goal of financing our campaign next year and this year so that I can devote my energies to being President and to running in a responsible way. And you have done a very great thing. But I also want to tell you that we need your help, beginning tomorrow morning, to talk to everyone you can about what is really at stake in this election.

I have to tell you that there are differences now in Washington more profound than the partisan differences even of the last few years and certainly of the last 50 years. There are also opportunities to work together. And which way we take in the next few months will be determined in part by what the American people say. And whether we keep going forward or take a huge lunge off center will be determined by how the American people vote in 1996.

I want to say to all of you that I never could have dreamed when I started this that our partnership, the one Hillary and I have enjoyed with Al and Tipper Gore, would have been as remarkable as it has been. I thank Tipper for her tireless advocacy for the interests of mental health and women and young girls and so many other things that she has fought for. And I have said this repeatedly, but I believe with all my heart that Al Gore will go down in American history as the most influential and productive Vice President in our country's history.

The other day we had the White House Conference on Small Business in Washington. There were 3,500 delegates there, and I think we had only appointed about 300; the rest were elected from their States, and well over half of them were Republican. And all they had been—a lot of them had just been fed this sort of propaganda, this steady stream of propaganda people put out. And the Vice President got up and introduced me, and we talked about our reinventing Government program.

We reminded them that we had increased their ability to write off their capital expenses by about 70 percent, that we had offered a capital gains tax for small businesses, and that we had reduced regulations dramatically and we were about to reduce 16,000 more—and we brought them out, the 16,000 regulations—including half of the paperwork regulations of the Small Business Administration. And these people, a lot of them were literally dumbfounded. They didn't know whether to believe it, because that's not what the propagandizers had been telling them for 2 years. But it was true. They liked it. And we ought to be the candidate of small businesses in 1996, thanks in large measure to Al Gore. And I thank him for that.

Hillary and I began this day publicly at Arlington National Cemetery, doing something else that is a symbol of what the choices in 1996 will be all about. We dedicated a memorial, the groundbreaking of a memorial to the 1.8 million American women who have served in our Armed Forces but have never been recognized before. In our administration, we have not only promoted things like family and medical leave and child care for people to move from welfare to work but greater investment in medical research affecting women, greater access to mammograms, a greater commitment to the future of women's health. But I was able to announce today something I am very proud of: Since our administration has been in office we have opened 260,000 more positions and different roles for women in the United States military. I am proud of that, and I hope all of you are as well.

The Vice President gave you a summary of the record of our administration. It's led to lower inflation, lower unemployment, more jobs, and a better future. But this is still a troubled time for our country, and we are trying to decide which way to go, with all the challenges we face in a confusing time, that I believe has far more hope than fear ahead for America. I ran for President because I wanted to restore the American dream of opportunity for those who would behave responsibly and because I wanted to bring this country together. I was sick and tired of seeing politicians exploit the differences of race and religion and region and income and background among Americans, to drive wedges between us for their own personal benefit. And I still believe that's what we ought to be doing in your Nation's Capital.

Today, because of the November elections, you can ask Senator Lautenberg and Senator Bradley, we are back to debating first principles. Things that we used to take for granted are no longer taken for granted in the United States Congress. There are a whole group of people in this Congress who believe that all of the problems of America are personal and cultural, and if people would just get up every day and behave themselves there would be nothing wrong in this country, and therefore we don't even need a Government.

There are those of us who believe that some of these problems are economic and social and that of course they're personal and cultural— if people don't behave, there's nothing you can do for them—but that we are going up or down together, and we need a partnership in this country.

That is a fundamental debate. And if you want to know the difference between a Republican and Democrat in Washington today, it is largely around that issue. Are the problems just personal and cultural, or are they personal, cultural, and political and economic and social?

There are people today in Washington who believe that the Federal Government is absolutely worthless except for national security, and therefore, the most important thing to do is to balance the budget as quickly as possible; it doesn't matter what else you cut. Then there are those of us who honestly believe we should balance the budget but believe we have an education deficit as well and believe we have to do this in a way that will grow the economy, create jobs, raise incomes, and reinforce the partnership between business and Government that ought to exist.

There are people in Washington today who believe the environment is a nice thing and people who think right will protect it but that the Government should do nothing to protect it. You heard the Vice President say a committee of the House today voted to allow blanket offshore oil drilling all over the United States. You don't know the half of it. That is just scratching the surface. But they honestly believe the Government has no role in trying to protect our common natural resources. And then there are those of us who believe that we can find ways to protect the environment and grow the economy and that if we want this country to be around for our grandchildren and our grandchildren's grandchildren, we had better protect the environment while we are growing the economy.

There are people in Washington today who believe that the only answer to crime is to lock more people up for a longer period of time and that things like the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban are a ridiculous infringement on the right of everybody else to do whatever they want to do and that what we really should do is do nothing but take everybody we ever catch and lock them up, throw the key away, and forget about everything else. Then there are those of us who believe that fighting crime is a more complicated thing and that the best thing to do is to prevent it in the first place, like dealing with any other problem, and that we ought to listen to law enforcement and work with them.

And I'm telling you, folks, these are big, profound debates. And that's really what this election is all about. There are those of us who believe that you can be passionately in favor of life and still be for a woman's right to choose. And they don't believe that. So—and don't kid yourself, that's what this fight over Dr. Foster was all about. It was not about my right to choose a Surgeon General, it was about a woman's right to choose. It was not about whether he was capable of being a powerful role model for young people. He's one of the few people in America, one of the very few people in America who enjoyed a prominent social and economic position, who gave years and years and years of his life to reaching out to poor children and telling them they should not have sex when they weren't married, they should not become pregnant as teenagers, they should not get on drugs, they should not be violent, they should stay in school.

He went into poor tenements in Nashville, he rode dusty country roads in Alabama to bring health care to women and children who did not have it and would never have seen a doctor. One of his patients said that he had personally talked her out of having an abortion. But because he had observed the constitutional right to choose, he wasn't pure enough, he wasn't politically correct enough for the people who are trying to create a brave new world in Washington with a stranglehold on the other party. And you better stand up against it and help us fight against it.

These are big choices. Now we both want to balance the budget. That's good. They want to do it in 7 years, with a huge tax increase. We say, if you do it in 10 years, have a smaller tax increase targeted to education, you can increase investment in education and medical research and technology and our economic partnerships; you don't have to cut Medicare so much that you really hurt older people who don't have enough to live on as it is. You can have a decent, humane budget and still balance it if you do it in the right way, not the wrong way. That's the difference between us.

They think the most important thing to do in the area of crime is to repeal the assault weapons ban. Jim Florio gave his governorship for it, and if I have to give the White House for it, I'll do it. It will be over my dead body if they do that. [Applause] Thank you.

Let me just say one thing in closing. We can do this one of two ways. We can fight, or we can work together in good faith. Something happened to our whole country when that bomb blew up in Oklahoma City. It was an awful, heartbreaking, wrenching event, and it shook this Nation to the core. And we lost some of the edge that we felt for those who were different from us and who disagreed with us.

We were all a little less willing to demonize people with whom we simply disagree.

And then something good happened to this country when that brave young Air Force pilot, Scott O'Grady, survived for 6 lonely days in Bosnia and was rescued. And we saw what was best about America. And nobody cared if he had an Irish or a Polish name or if his skin was black, brown, or white. He had done something very brave and profoundly good that didn't have much to do with the kind of partisanship that covers so much of what is done in Washington.

And it was in that honest spirit that I offered the Republicans a balanced budget that the Democrats and the rest of the country, in my judgment, can in good conscience support; that will grow and not shrink the economy, and build up, not tear down, the middle class; that will help people to move from welfare to work, not just throw innocent children off of welfare. That is the spirit that I am trying to capture.

It was in that spirit that I agreed to have that conversation with the Speaker of the House up in New Hampshire a few days ago. I tell you, my friends, I did not sign on to be President just to say no, just to divide the country, just to try to prove I can be more clever than they are in these political debates. But I will not back down from my commitment that we have to grow the economy, build the middle class, reach out a helping hand to the poor, be fair to those who through no fault of their own need some help, preserve our environment, and bring this country together. I am telling you, that is the most important thing we have to do.

You know, one of the greatest honors of being President is being able to represent you when I go to other countries. I just was in the Ukraine in the beautiful city of Kiev, and I spoke outdoors at the university. There were tens of thousands of people there. And all along the road, four and five deep, people were there waving their American flags, cheering as Hillary and I rode by. And you know, I looked at her and I said what I always say, "They're not cheering for me. They're cheering for America, for what we are, for what we represent, for the hope that they feel."

Many of you have supported our administration's efforts in trying to make peace in the Middle East. They haven't asked "me" to do that, they have asked "us" to do that. Many of you have been involved in our efforts to try to help support the peace process in Northern Ireland. They didn't ask "me" to do that, they asked "us" to do that. America—that's what they think "we" are—bringing people together, bridging differences, moving forward.

There is no country in this world better positioned for the 21st century, better positioned to hand down our dreams to our children than the United States. But now we are back to debating first principles in Washington. We thank you for your financial investment tonight, but we ask you for your voice. We ask you for your labors. We ask you for your passion. We ask you for your heart. We are going to have to fight and debate and struggle to make sure that in this season we make the right decisions.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:56 p.m. at the Garden State Convention Center.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner in Somerset, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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