Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Get Out the Vote Rally in Oakland, California

November 03, 2000

The President. Thank you. Good morning.

Audience members. Good morning.

The President. Thank you for the wonderful welcome. We've got people all the way back here, two or three blocks, people all the way down there, two blocks, even people who are separated from the rest of us, way back in the back. Hello back there.

I first came to Oakland in 1971. I liked it then, but it is amazing the progress that has been made, and I want to thank all of you for making this a magnificent city. I also want to thank my good friend Governor Gray Davis, who has done a wonderful job leading this State and been a great partner to me and such a strong supporter of Vice President Gore.

Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante. Thank you, Attorney General Lockyer. Thank you, Senator Barbara Boxer, for what you do in Washington. And Congressman George Miller, thank you for the work you've done, especially for the environment. Thank you, Secretary Norm Mineta, former California Congressman, the first Asian-American ever to serve in the President's Cabinet, and a great, great friend of mine. Thank you, Mayor Jerry Brown, my friend of now over 20 years. He's made me think about my next career. Maybe somebody will let me be a mayor somewhere; I like this. I like this.

I must say, too, I want to thank one person who is not here, Barbara's predecessor, Ron Dellums, a great friend of mine. Look at this building here. If I had known retired public officials could get buildings like this, I might have retired years ago. Look at that. [Laughter] It's a beautiful, beautiful building and a fitting tribute to Ron, who did such a good job for you and for our country.

I want to thank the Speaker, Bob Hertzberg, who is here; and the State Board of Equalization member, John Chung; your California State party chair, Art Torres; and all the other officials who are here.

But let me say a special word of thanks to Barbara Lee. What a job she has done in the Congress! We've worked together on so many projects affecting Oakland, from the harbor to housing to education to health care to base closure and renewal. And boy, she's done a good job. And I really am impressed with the fact that she has also shown an interest in dealing with the AIDS crisis, not only here but in Africa and throughout the world. The United States needs to be a leader in dealing with that, and so I thank her for that.

I also want to say, more than anything else, a simple thank you to the people of Oakland and northern California and this entire State. You have been so good to me and Hillary and Al and Tipper Gore these last 8 years. I couldn't have become President without you. I couldn't have succeeded without you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

You know, one of the things that concerns me about this election is, especially for younger voters, I'm afraid a lot of people will go to the polls or maybe even not go because they now can't remember what it was like 8 years ago. The unemployment rate in California was 9.7 percent. Today, it's about half that. It's a different country than it was 8 years ago. The society was divided. There were riots in L.A. The crime rate was going up. The environment was deteriorating. The number of people without health insurance was going up. People were giving up on our schools. And the political system in Washington seemed tone-deaf to you and to ordinary Americans all across this country, from all walks of life.

Well, we've worked hard to change that. Today we got some more good economic news. For the second month in a row, the Nation's unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, the lowest in 50 years—30 years. Wages and incomes continue to rise across the board. I want to say more about that in a minute, but listen to this. The most important thing about our recovery is that for the first time in 30 years, everybody's been part of it—everybody. Yes, the rich got richer, but so did the middle class, so did working families. The poverty rate is the lowest in 20 years. Child poverty dropped 30 percent. We're moving forward together. Listen to this. Eight years ago, the Hispanic unemployment rate was 11.8 percent. This morning, we learned that it dropped last month to 5 percent, the lowest on record. African-American unemployment is half what it was 8 years ago, also the lowest on record.

But America is always about tomorrow—always. And in just a few days, we're going to have another election and another choice. And it is so important for the success of the direction of this country and our candidate that we do well here and that everybody who can vote, does vote.

What I would like to say to you all today— I know I could just give you one applause line after another, and we could have a great time. But I believe that this election is every bit as important as the one in 1992. And I know that every one of you who is here today has a lot of friends, some of whom live here in Oakland; some live in Barbara's congressional district; others may live in the districts that we're fighting hard to win. We have a chance to win five in California, if we work hard at it.

And so you've got a lot of friends who will never come to an event like this, don't you? Most of you have tons of friends who have never been to hear a President speak or a Governor or maybe even never been to a city council meeting; they don't do this. But they love our country, and they care about your community. And if they believe it matters, they will show up and vote. And if they understand the choice and the consequences, they will vote for our side.

So what I want you to do is just let me take a couple of minutes to tell you what I would tell you if each of us were alone in a room together and you said to me, "What's this election about, anyway?" Now, listen to this.

You heard what Gray Davis said. Are you better off than you were 8 years ago? That's the first question. But the most important question is this: Do you want to keep this prosperity going?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Do you want to extend it to the people, to the neighborhoods, to the places that have still been left behind?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Then you only have one choice: Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, and the Democrats. Why? Because they want to build on what is working. They want to keep paying down the debt. They want to invest in education and health care and the environment. They want to give families a tax cut we can afford, for child care, for long-term care for the elderly and disabled, for college tuition, and for retirement.

Now, why is that important? Why in the world would a President come to Oakland, with the reputation of being a liberal Democratic city, and say we ought to pay the debt down? I'll tell you why. Because in the modern world, where money can run all across the globe in the click of a mouse—a trillion dollars crosses national borders every day—to have conservative budget policies makes it possible to have liberal progressive social policies. Why? Because the best thing we can do for you is guarantee that you've got a job and to have low interest rates for car loans, for college loans, for home loans, for credit card loans, for business loans.

Now, here's the issue. Look, this is simple math. Al Gore has come before you and said, "Look, I'd like to give you a bigger tax cut, but this is all we can afford. But it will take care of college tuition, long-term care, child care, and retirement savings. I can't do more because we've got to have some money to invest in education, health care, the environment, and the national security of the country, and because we've got to keep paying the debt down."

Now, the surplus is supposed to be $2 trillion. I doubt if it will be that much, but let's just give our Republican friends that. And forget about the zero. Let's just say 2. That's the surplus, okay? Now, they want to spend over threequarters of that on a tax cut and the interest costs. It's $1.6 trillion—that's their tax cut. And most of you would actually get more under Al Gore's tax cut than theirs. And when I get out of office, I get more under theirs, but it's not right. [Laughter]

So 1.6. Now, listen—arithmetic, okay? So we start with 2. Then, they want to give 1.6 for the tax cut. Then, they want to privatize Social Security. And that's real expensive. It costs $1 trillion. Why is that? Because if all you young people take your payroll out of Social Security and put it in the stock market, and all of us who are older retire, they've still got to pay us our benefits. You can't just make this money up. I mean, you've got to come up. So, 1.6 and 1. And then they have promised some spending, about $500 billion. So you add it up: 1.6 plus 1 plus .5 equals 3.1. That's the problem with their economics: $3.1 trillion is bigger than $2 trillion.

Now, what does that mean in Oakland? I mean, look at all these buildings here. Somebody had to borrow the money to build these buildings. Somebody's got to make the mortgage payment on these buildings. Somebody's got to make enough profit to pay the payroll for the people working in Starbucks and McDonald's and all these other stores up and down here. If you vote for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, interest rates will be lower for you on your home mortgage, on your car payment, on your college loan payment, on your credit card payment, for the business loans. It means more jobs, higher incomes, a better stock market. We'll all keep doing better together.

You don't have any choice. If you want to build on the prosperity, you've got to vote for Gore and Lieberman and the Democrats.

Now, question number two. We're not just a better-off country; we're a better country. The crime rate is down. Drug abuse among young people is down. The number of people without health insurance in this country is down for the first time in 12 years, thanks to the Children's Health Insurance Program. The environment is cleaner—much cleaner: 43 million more Americans breathing clean air; cleaner water, safer drinking water, safer food; 3 times as many toxic waste dumps cleaned up as in the previous 12 years under the 2 Republican administrations, and more land set aside in perpetuity than any administration since Teddy Roosevelt, almost 100 years ago. It's a cleaner environment.

And the schools are better. You know, I hear people talking about an education recession. Here are the facts. In America, in the last 7 years, for our children across all races: Math scores are up; science scores are up; reading scores are up; the dropout rate is down; the college-going rate is at an all-time high. Thanks to Al Gore and the E-rate program—6 years ago, there were only 3 percent of our classrooms hooked up to the Internet; today, 65 percent are. Ninety percent of the poorest schools in America have at least one Internet connection today. We're moving in the right direction.

Now, here's the issue. You want to keep building on the progress of the last 8 years?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Then you just have one choice: Al Gore and Joe Lieberman and the Democrats. Why? Because they want to build on health care progress, a Patients' Bill of Rights, Medicare drugs for all of our seniors, health care for all America's children, more neighborhood police force, cleaner energy future, funds to help you with school construction, 100,000 teachers, universal preschool and after-school for all the kids who need it, and a way of identifying failing schools and giving them the money to turn every single school in America around that's not teaching our children as they should be— every single one. That's why Bob Chase, the president of the National Education Association, is here with us today.

So if you want to build on that, you only have one choice. Why? Because the Republicans, from top to bottom, have committed to repeal the 100,000 police program. I had two chiefs meet me at the airport today to tell me how much they have benefited from this program. They are going to get rid of it.

They promised to repeal the program to put 100,000 teachers in our classes. They are against Federal funds for school construction to build or repair schools. They are against the real Patients' Bill of Rights, against Medicare drug programs to serve all of our seniors, against higher environmental standards. They promise to reverse a lot of what we have done in the environment.

So you've got to go out and tell people, if you really want to build on the progress of the last 8 years, you just have one choice.

Audience members. Al Gore!

The President. And let me tell you the last thing that matters, and to me, it's the most important of all. We've got to keep coming together as one national community, as one America. Look around this crowd today. We're growing more and more diverse in every way, and it's good for America. In a global society, it positions us well to do well with all other nations and regions of the world. It also makes life more interesting, don't you think? [Applause] We're all different. We can appreciate and celebrate our differences, as long as we affirm our common humanity.

How have we done that? Well, we supported affirmative action, hate crimes legislation, employment nondiscrimination legislation, raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women, civil rights, and a court that supports civil rights, human rights, and a woman's right to choose. That's what we have done.

Now, on all these issues bringing us together, our friends in the Republican Party have a different view. They disagree with us on every issue I just mentioned. So if you want to keep building one America, you only have one choice.

Audience members. Al Gore!

The President. So I want you to go out the next 4 days, call people you know, if you have friends or relatives in these battleground States. Call people you know who live in all these congressional districts. Talk to everybody you know in Oakland and say, "Look, there are three things you need to think about. Do you want to keep this prosperity going or do you want to risk reversing it? Do you want to build on the social progress of the last 8 years or do you want to take it down? Do you want to keep building one America or go back to the politics of division?"

Look, just look at what happened in the last week of Congress, where the Republican leadership walked away with no education bill, no hate crimes legislation. They took down the education bill because one lobby group didn't want us to put into effect a worker safety rule. And they took the whole thing down.

Now, when people talk about bipartisanship, let me just tell you something. Al Gore and I have worked for bipartisanship. We have a bipartisan majority today for a minimum wage increase, for campaign finance reform, for an education bill that every American can be proud of, for the hate crimes legislation. We can't pass it, not because we don't have bipartisanship but because the Republican congressional leadership is too far to the right and too tied to special interests.

And that's another reason to vote for Al Gore. I think we're going to win the House and the Senate. But if we don't, someone needs to be doing what I've done for the last 6 years, which is to stop extremism in Washington, DC, and you certainly only have one choice: Al Gore.

You know, I got a good laugh in Los Angeles at the Democratic Convention when I reminded people what Harry Truman said, which is that if you want to live like a Republican, you've got to vote Democratic. [Laughter] But you just think about—go out and talk to the young people who have the largest stake in the future. Remember where we were 8 years ago. Think where we are today. If you want to build on the prosperity, if you want to build on the progress, if you want to keep building one America, there's only one choice.

Audience members. Al Gore!

The President. He's been the most effective Vice President in our history. He is a good man. He makes good decisions. He will be a great President. And he needs your help in the President's race and in all these races for Congress and the Senate. You can do this.

Look at this crowd. There are thousands and thousands of people here. You could contact easily over 100,000 people in the next 4 days if every one of you just took 10 people, 15 people, everybody you see. Go out and tell them we want to keep the prosperity going, keep the progress going, keep building on America.

Thank you, Oakland. God bless you. Bring it home.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:30 a.m. at the City Center. In his remarks, he referred to State Attorney General Bill Lockyer of California; Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland; and Speaker Robert M. Hertzberg, California State Assembly.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Get Out the Vote Rally in Oakland, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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