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Remarks at a Luncheon for Representative James H. Maloney in Danbury, Connecticut

September 11, 2000

Thank you. Wow! [Laughter] Well, first of all, that's the best talk I ever heard Jim Maloney give. It was amazing. [Laughter] I thought two things when he was giving that speech: The first thing I thought is, that's the speech everybody ought to be giving around America this year; and the second thing I thought is, if he keeps giving that speech, this election won't be nearly as close as the last one was, if you guys help to get the message out. Thank you.

Let me say, I'm honored to be here with Jim and Mary and what he referred to as the delegation from his family. I thought Lew Wallace gave a great speech, too. We ought to give him—[applause]—it was a very good speech. Thank you.

I want to thank your attorney general and my law school classmate and friend of 30 years Dick Blumenthal for being here, and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and Comptroller Nancy Wyman, thank you. Did I say it right?

And I want to thank the mayor of Danbury for making me feel welcome here. Thank you, Gene. Where are you? Thank you, Gene Eriquez. And Ed Marcus and John Olsen, John Walkovich, I want to thank all them. And I'd also like to, on a point of personal privilege, one of the most talented people who ever served on my staff and one of the most valuable to me, personally, is a young man named Jonathan Prince, who has now gone off to do well. But he's from Danbury. He and his parents are here today. Jonathan, where are you? Give him a hand. He did a great job. He's here somewhere. [Applause] Thank you.

I also want to thank my longtime friend Mayor Joe Ganim from Bridgeport for coming over here. He and Gene and I took a picture together. We took a picture together, and they whispered to me that most mayors, unlike Presidents, aren't term-limited. [Laughter]

Let me say to all of you, I am having a great day today. I started off today, Hillary and I were in Washington at the White House, and we went up to Westchester County, where we now make our home. And we did an event at a Jewish community center on the Federal Trade Commission report today on violence in the media, pointing out that a number of entertainment companies—by no means all of them; we don't want to paint with too broad a brush— but a number of them actually have been advertising these violent movies to the same kids that they say shouldn't go see them.

And Senator Lieberman and Vice President Gore talked about it yesterday, and I think Joe is going to testify before the Congress sometime this week, in the next few days, about it. But we had a wonderful time, talking about the future and the challenges that families at work face, and succeeding at work and succeeding at raising their children, which is the most important work of all.

And then I came up here to be with you, and I'm going back to New York, and we're going to do, I think, three or four more things today. [Laughter] And I'm going to—Hillary and I are going to end up tonight at a dinner honoring the efforts that we made, along with several others in a bipartisan way, to deal with the so-called Nazi gold issues in Switzerland and get the wealth returned back to the people who needed it. So, it's a great day.

This is an interesting time in my life. My family has a new candidate. My party has a new leader, and I've become the Cheerleader in Chief of America. [Laughter] And I like it. [Laughter]

I guess what I would like to tell you is, as someone who is not running for office—for the first time since 1974, I'm not going to be on the ballot—I, too, believe what Jim Maloney said. And the most important thing to me to try to get across to the American people is, yes, we've had a great year. This has been a terrific run. And I'm grateful, not just for the economic prosperity but for the greater sense of unity that the country has, for the social progress we see in crime and welfare and teen pregnancy and a whole lot of other indicators, showing our country is coming together, for the change in the American political climate now, away from the kind of just dripping venom that dominated so many elections of the last 20 years. I'm grateful for all that.

So what I want you to understand and believe is that the best is still out there, because we have spent a great deal of time these last 8 years just trying to turn the country around, to dig it out of a mountain of debt, to dig it out so that the interest rates could come down and so that people just in their private lives could go about making America the success it ought to be, changing the crime policy, changing the environmental policy, changing the education policy, changing the health care policy. But a lot of the biggest, best things are still out there.

At least in my lifetime, we have never had a period where we had so much progress and prosperity with so little internal crisis or external threat. I think Jim told me when I came in that Theodore Roosevelt was the last President to come to Danbury and spend any time. And I like Theodore Roosevelt. [Laughter] If he were alive today, he'd be a Democrat, too. [Laughter]

You know, Roosevelt governed at another magic time. He inherited the Presidency as the youngest man ever to be President, when President McKinley was assassinated shortly after his reelection in 1900 and was inaugurated in 1901, and shortly after that, he was killed. So Teddy Roosevelt inherited the Presidency and did, I think, a very good job with it, in dealing with a time that is probably more like this time in historical terms than any period in the middle, because we were moving from an agricultural to an industrial society and we had to redefine our sense of national community and what our obligations were to one another. How were we going to take in that huge wave of immigrants that came into America at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century; how were we going to deal with this huge influx of people who couldn't make a living on the farm anymore but wanted to make a living in the factory? But a lot of them were children, and a lot of them were working 12 and 14 or 15 hours a day, and there were all kinds of abusive conditions there.

And in the first Roosevelt era, we began to come to grips with our responsibilities to immigrant populations living in difficult situations in the slums, our responsibilities to end child labor in the most abusive labor conditions. And we began to be aware of the capacity of the industrial revolution to damage the environment. And Teddy Roosevelt became our first great environmental President by meeting the challenges of the moment.

And then when—ironically, there was a brief interruption because after he left office, his designated successor, William Howard Taft, was elected, the person he wanted to succeed him, but he turned out not to be a progressive. So Woodrow Wilson got elected, with a little help from Theodore Roosevelt, and we had 8 more years.

But then what we were trying to do was interrupted by war and then by depression and then again by war. And so Franklin Roosevelt had to build this sense of unity out of all this adversity. But in a funny way—I used to talk to my grandfather all the time about the Depression. One thing, it's almost a purging effect, total adversity has on you, because you don't— it's not like you have all the options in the world. You got up in the morning. You tried to figure out how to keep body and soul together, and you know you've got to change something, because if you keep on doing the same thing, you'll be in the same hole.

However, when things are going very well, your opportunity for error increases because you have lots of options. And that really is what's going on in this election. You've got to decide what you want to do with the most truly astonishing moment of prosperity and social progress and national security in our lifetime. You have to decide.

And people ask me all the time, you know, for a year and a half or 2 years, "Do you really think that Al Gore is going to win?" And I always said, yes, and I always believed it, when the polls weren't nearly as good as they are today, because I knew the underlying conditions of the country were good. I knew that he was a good man. I knew he had played a terrific role in the building of what we have done. But I also knew that he was thinking about what we should do in the future. And when he picked Joe Lieberman to be on the ticket with him, it proved that he was thinking about what we should do in the future.

People ask me all the time if I think Hillary is going to win. I tell them, yes. And I do, and I always have, but I do for the same reasons.

But the truth is—I meant precisely what I said when I said, if Jim keeps giving that speech and you all keep giving him enough money to make sure people hear the message—[laughter]—and make sure people hear the message, the race won't be as close as it was last time, because that's where America is and where America wants to go.

But I'm telling you, this is not exactly your standard political speech, but the truth is, I've been doing this a long time now—[laughter]— and I have nearly got the hang of it. [Laughter] And I have observed that very often, an election is determined not so much by who the two candidates are but by what the people think the election is about. Now, I'll get serious a minute.

If the people believe the election is about how much they can get for themselves today, right now, never mind tomorrow and never mind my neighbor, we're going to be in a tough fix, folks, and especially if they talk nice about it, you know? [Laughter] "I would like to raise the minimum wage, and I would like to have a Patients' Bill of Rights. And I know all the seniors need prescription drugs, and half of them will be left out if we only take people at 150 percent of the poverty line. I'd like to do all that, and I feel really terrible that I can't. But I've got to keep dishing out this tax cut money." [Laughter]

Now, you're laughing, but times are good. And a lot of people say, "Well, what could be wrong with that? I could use the money." So I'm telling you—you hear me now—it's good that you gave him a check, but it's not enough. You've got 60 days here, and every time you see somebody, you need to talk to them about this election. Every day, when you come home from work or when you end your day, if you are a homemaker or whatever you do, you ought to ask yourself if you've talked to one or two people about the decision that we have to make as a people in this millennial year.

Because I'm telling you, there are profound economic and educational and health care and environmental and criminal justice and what I call one America—how we're all going to live and work together—issues, that there are honest differences—big election, big differences. All the best stuff is still out there. The other side wants to blur over the differences and emphasize how appealing their tax cuts are.

We want to have tax cuts, too, very badly, actually, in the area of the marriage penalty or giving kids—families a tax deduction for their children's college tuition, long-term-care credit for elderly and disabled family members that you have to take care of, making it easier for people to save for retirement. We've got quite a nice tax package, but theirs is 3 or 4 times bigger than ours.

But there's a reason theirs is 3 or 4 times bigger—because we don't want to get rid of this whole surplus. We think it's a good thing that we're paying the debt down. We know that we need some money to invest in education and health care, in science and technology, in the future of America. We know we may have some emergency come up. We know we may have some defense crisis develop, where we need to give our military even more than we anticipate. We know that over 10 years we might have a recession and the money might not all come in.

So we can't make the expansive tax cut promises they can, and that may obscure the fact to the voters that we actually have, as Jim said, quite a good tax cut package that we strongly believe we can still pass in this Congress, if they want to do it. But I think they'd rather have the issue, because they want it to look like we're sort of the, you know, the curmudgeons that won't give the average Joe a break, and the country's rolling in dough, and it's their money, and the other side is going to give it all back to them.

Let me just remind you, that rhetoric quadrupled the debt of the United States of America in the 12 years before I took office with Al Gore. And we have worked very hard—we've worked very hard to turn that around. A lot of Members of Congress gave up their seats after 1993 because they voted to turn it around. And we'd better think a long time before we play games with our fiscal discipline and our ability to pay down that debt.

Let me just give you one example. They talk all the time about tax cuts. If you did everything they're talking about, you passed all the tax cuts they've advocated and all the one's they're rolling out and all the one's their nominee for President rolled out and then you pass their Social Security privatization plan, which costs another trillion dollars, nearly—and that's before they pay for Star Wars or any of their other spending—no, seriously, before they pay for any of that—and you compare that to the Gore-Lieberman-Maloney positions—now, listen, hear me here—you can—interest rates under our approach would be one percent lower a year for a decade. Why? Because we're going to keep paying down the debt until we get America out of debt for the first time since 1835, and they'll have to stop doing that, because they're going to spend so much money on the tax cuts and the privatization program. They're going to spend all this projected surplus, and then some.

And when you do that, interest rates will go up, and the market will react accordingly, and the economy will be weaker. Everybody will have their tax cut. I don't know how much good it will be if the economy gets weak. But let me say this—I had a study done—you know how much a one percent reduction in interest rates for a decade is worth? Three hundred and ninety billion dollars in home mortgages, about $900 a year on a $100,000 mortgage—I don't want to mess this up—$30 billion in car payments, and $15 billion in student loan payments. So that's a $435 billion tax cut the American people get for paying for a strong economy and getting rid of the debt and saving some money to invest in caring for the needs of all Americans.

You know, we believe, our party does, that all these people in these pretty uniforms that served our lunch here, we believe that they ought to have the same chance to send their kids to college that I have to send my child to college. We believe they ought to be able to make a living. And if they need child care, they ought to have it. And when the time comes to raise the minimum wage, we ought to raise it. And that's what we believe.

We believe the rest of us are going to make more money when the average Americans are all out there working, making a good living, and able to support their children. So I'm just saying to you—I realize I'm preaching to the choir, but what I'm really trying to do here is to drive home the imperative of your taking some time every day to talk to your fellow citizens.

Most of you are more interested in politics than most of your friends. Is that right? Isn't that right? Every one of you has friends who— even the Congressman's in-laws, I'll bet, have friends. [Laughter] I used to have an uncle— let me tell you, I had a great uncle I buried a couple of years ago. He was 91 years old, and I loved him like he was my own father. And he was my total barometer about how I was doing when I was Governor. This guy had about a sixth grade education and about a 200 IQ and total recall of events that occurred in the 1930's.

And I called him one time to ask about something. He said, "I don't care about politics." He said, "I wouldn't care about you if you weren't my nephew." [Laughter] And so whenever I needed to know how I was doing, I called him, and he was better than any poll I ever took. [Laughter] So I'm telling you, you all know people who—they think they're too busy. They're too preoccupied with their lives. They don't think about this all the time like you do. They've never been to one of these political fundraisers. They've never heard their Congressman give a speech like this, and they may never get a chance to.

And it may be that the only direct fleshand-blood contact they ever have with anybody asking them to think about this is with you. Otherwise, it's just some secondhand experience with the television ads or the debates for President or whatever.

Now, I've done everything I could to turn this country around. You know there are big differences in this election. I hope you believe me when I tell you, as good as the last 8 years have been, the next 8 years can be better. And we can keep building on this if we decide that we're going to use and not abuse what is a truly unique moment in our history.

But the members of the clergy who are here will tell you that throughout human history, people have been more likely to make a mistake when things were so good than when things were full of adversity and the options were clearer. So I implore you. This is a good man representing you in Congress. He is a good man, and he deserves to be reelected. And I want Joe Lieberman to be the next Vice President, and I believe he will be.

But believe me, you can make a difference here. You can make a difference if every day— you just look at how many people there are in this room—if every one of you talk to three people every day between now and November, it's enough to turn the entire margin—that would be far more, by the way—if every one of you talk to three people between now and November, that would be far more than the victory margin he had in the last election. Far more, right?

Now, I'm telling you, it's your country—and if you know anybody in New York, I wouldn't mind you talking to them either. [Laughter] If the American people really believe this is a magic moment, if they really believe that together we can build the future of our dreams for our children, if they understand clearly what we're for and what we're not, then Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, Jim Maloney and Hillary, the whole crowd, they'll win.

Clarity, clarity and focus are our friend. You've got to bring this message clearly into focus for people who might never come here but who are going to be just as affected by the decision we make as a people in November as you are. So you cared enough to come here for Jim. Care enough to talk for him, every day for the next 60 days, and help us build America's best days.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:25 p.m. in the Amber Room Colonnade at Western Connecticut State University. In his remarks, he referred to Representative Maloney's wife, Mary; State Representative Lewis Wallace, Jr.; Edward L. Marcus, chair, Connecticut State Democratic Party; delegates to the 2000 Democratic National Convention John Olsen and Joseph Walkovich; former Special Assistant to the President and Presidential Speechwriter Jonathan Prince; and Republican Presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush of Texas. Representative Maloney was a candidate for reelection in Connecticut's Fifth Congressional District. The President also referred to a September 11 Federal Trade Commission report entitled "Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries."

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Luncheon for Representative James H. Maloney in Danbury, Connecticut Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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