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Remarks at a Rally for Mayoral Candidate John F. Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

October 29, 1999

The President. Thank you.

[At this point, there was a disruption in the audience.]

The President. I'll make you a deal. I'll ignore them if you will. We observed their free speech rights. Do you think they will observe ours?

Now, let me say, first, to all of you——

[The disruption continued.]

The President. Come on. Now, wait a minute, folks. I know something about this. You all relax here. I know something about this. They got their say. Now you give me mine, and you all think about where we are. Come on, let's go. That's actually——

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. Let me say this. That's actually a very—don't boo them. That's actually a very serious issue. That's actually a very serious issue that we're working very hard on. Unfortunately, like so many serious issues that I have to deal with, it can't be solved by emotion at a rally. But it's an important issue that is worthy of the concern of the people of Puerto Rico and the people of the United States, and therefore, I appreciate their being here.

Let me say to all of you, I think that you know, every one of you, how much I have loved this city and how grateful I am to you and to the people of Pennsylvania. In 1992 and 1996 and 1998 and 1999, no place in America has been better or kinder to me and our administration and my family than the city of Philadelphia. And I will never forget that.

I want to thank your mayor for his leadership and his friendship. I thank the city council president. I thank chairman and Congressman Brady and Congressman Fattah and Congressman Borski, three wonderful people and great Members of the House of Representatives. I thank my great friend Senator Ted Kennedy for being here today.

You know, in a long and richly textured life in public service, I've had a lot of wonderful moments. But when Ed Rendell called me and told me that I was the first Democrat to equal President Kennedy's victory margin in Philadelphia, I was very moved.

Senator Kennedy's family lost three of its sons to public service, the President, Robert Kennedy, his oldest brother Joseph in World War II. But I can tell you this: Edward Kennedy has redeemed the sacrifice of his family in service to the people of Massachusetts and the people of America. He is one of the finest and ablest and most productive people in the history of the United States Senate.

Now, I want to thank all the other people who are here who have done so much for John Street, the religious leaders, the labor leaders— nobody ever says this from a podium—I want to thank the fundraisers, the people in the business community and others, who stuck by John Street when people said they wouldn't do it and gave him a chance to be competitive.

You know, I remember once when I was running for office in 1984, and President Reagan came in to campaign for my opponent. And I was—and he was very popular in my State. You remember, he was getting reelected by a big margin. And he came in, and he campaigned against me, and then he got 62 percent in the election, and so did I. And it made me always a little apprehensive. So I want you to know I come here not as President to tell you how to vote, but I hope you will listen to me as someone who has tried to be a good friend to Philadelphia, to talk about why.

You know, I'm not running for anything anymore. I kind of hate it, but I'm not. And I want you to listen to me not about how but why. I have the whole rest of my life to try to be a good citizen and give back to the American people for all of the chances they've given me to serve. And I have some things that I wanted to come to Philadelphia to say to all of you in this hall, because the harder you work between now and Tuesday, the bigger the margin of victory will be—and to those beyond this hall, who may hear or see or read about what we say here today, who may be still trying to make up their mind.

First thing I want to say is, I follow this race very closely in the press, and I know something about—I think—the fact that you can't always tell what's going on, exactly, from what you read, you know? Now, John Street—so I read that there was this campaign for mayor of Philadelphia, and the Democrat was a very good man, but he didn't have any vision, and he wasn't very charismatic. And I don't know who they were talking about, but that guy that introduced me had vision and charisma when he was up here speaking a few minutes ago.

But I want you to listen to my argument, because if you think that our administration, if you think that Bill Clinton and Al Gore have been good for the people of Philadelphia, what I want you to understand is, none of it would have been possible if we hadn't had a partnership. And when I ran for President in 1992, and the people of this city and this State voted for me, I said—and let me say, times have been good for a good long while now, so a lot of people don't remember what it was like before the Clinton-Gore administration or before Rendell and Street. They don't remember. So let me remind you.

It was a time of severe economic distress. It was a time of deepening social division. It was a time of political drift, and the whole enterprise of Government had been discredited in the eyes of many people. So I said, "Give me a chance, and I will pursue some new ideas designed to give opportunity to everybody, to challenge every citizen to be a responsible citizen, and to create an American community of all people, and to give you a Government that is smaller, that actually does a good job for you in what we're supposed to do, which is to empower people and families and communities to control their own destiny and seek the future of their dreams. Now, it was just an argument, just like when you voted for Rendell and Street. It was just an argument. You took that chance on them. But it's not an argument anymore. The evidence is in. And what I want to say to you is, when people say you ought to throw all this away, let me remind you of what they're saying.

In America, we have 19 1/2 million new jobs, the longest peacetime economic expansion in history, the highest homeownership in history, the lowest unemployment rate in 29 years, the lowest African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates ever recorded, the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years, the lowest poverty rates in 30 years, the lowest teen pregnancy rates in 30 years, the lowest inflation rates in 30 years, the first back-to-back budget surpluses in 42 years, the lowest crime rates in 32 years, with the smallest Federal Government in 37 years. You took a chance, and you were right in 1992 and 1996.

Now, in Philadelphia, in Philadelphia, after years of deficit spending, under this administration you've got seven balanced budgets in a row. You have the first job growth in Philadelphia in 30 years. You have declining crime and welfare rolls. You have people working together across racial lines. Look around this place today. So I say to you—and Ed Rendell has said that John Street's the most qualified person ever to run and that he couldn't have done anything he's done as mayor without him.

Now, just because you've done a good job doesn't mean you're automatically entitled to an election. I remember I was running for Governor for the fifth term, and I'd been in 10 years. And I went out to the State fair in my home State, and this old boy in overalls came up to me and said, "You gonna run again?" [Laughter] And I said, "Well, if I do, will you vote for me?" He said, "Yeah, I guess so. I always have." [Laughter] And I said, "Well, aren't you sick of me after all these years?" He said, "No, but nearly everybody else I know is." [Laughter] And I got hurt, and I said, "Well, don't you think I've done a good job?" He said, "Yeah, but you got a paycheck every 2 weeks, didn't you?" [Laughter]

So it's not enough, but you've got to think about it before you throw it away. And one of the things I will say about the job John Street has done is, it is evidence of what he can do and where he will lead the city. So if he says to you—if he says to you, we ought to invest in education; if he says to you, we've got a plan to make our streets safer; if he says to you, we ought to take Congressman Fattah's mentoring program, his GEAR UP program, which says to middle school kids, if you stay in school and you learn your lessons, here's the money you can get to go to college, and every one of you can go; if he says to you he's going to do these things, at least you have some evidence that he will. And it's a whole lot of evidence, 8 long years of evidence, success, and progress and change in people's lives.

And let me say, he talked about the tax issue. Well, what he didn't say that I want to tell you is, they're lowering taxes. And we've cut taxes in Washington. But what we said is, we will cut taxes, all right, but we want to make sure that tax cuts are fair, that the working poor get the biggest break. We want to make sure that we don't get the budget out of balance because financial help is critical to social progress. The Democrats ought to be the party of fiscal conservatism because when you've got low interest rates and balanced books, you have more jobs, higher wages, lower mortgage payments, lower car payments, lower college loan payments, and a better future.

Now, John Street understood that before a lot of members of our party did, that by making Philadelphia fiscally conservative and paying its bills and making sure people knew that they could do business here, he was doing something progressive to create jobs and give people a chance to build their own lives, to bring some money into the city coffers and the State coffers, so we could invest in people and their future. So that's the position we're in in Washington.

They wanted to have a tax cut that could throw away the whole surplus that wasn't attributable to your Social Security taxes. And I said, "We can't afford it." Now, they can't even pay the bills without the tax cut, without getting into the Social Security. You've got the same debate here.

Now, who are you going to believe? I think you can believe the guy on tax cuts, number one, John Street has a plan for modest tax cuts, and number two, he's balanced the books for 7 years. I don't think it's even close. It's not even close, who you're going to believe.

On the education issue, they say they're for vouchers, because they feel bad that a lot of poor kids don't get a good education. Well, I feel bad about it, too. And if I had given up on the public schools, I might be where they are. But let me tell you something. We know if you give parents and children a choice of where their kids go to school, we know if you impose high standards and you have accountability, and then you help failing schools, we know if you give every kid who needs it an after-school program and a summer school program—so, yes, don't just promote them whether they know anything or not, but don't blame them if the system is failing them. Give them the after-school programs. Give them the summer school programs. Give them the opportunities they need.

We have evidence, evidence that that helps more kids more quickly than the voucher program, which takes needed money away from the schools when there is not enough in the first place. There is evidence about this.

So if you have evidence on the main issue of education, and you have evidence on the main issue of tax cuts and fiscal responsibility and the economy, what is the deal here? [Laugher]

Let me tell you, I read some of these editorial arguments. They say, John Street has done a great job; we wouldn't be here without him; give him a gold watch and send him home. Well, let me tell you something. This is a young, vigorous, brilliant, committed public servant. You heard him up here today. You heard him up here today. His heart is on fire for the children and the future of this city. He has all the experience in the world.

And I say, remember what it was like before. Remember how far we have come. Reward his record because it's in your interest to have somebody who can produce that record do what he talked about doing in your future from this podium today.

Now, I'm telling you, there is a difference in the way we approach it. Today I signed another continuing resolution to keep the Government in Washington open for another week because Congress still can't pass a budget because they can't figure out what to do. They want you to believe they're for certain things, but they don't want to pay the price for being for them. And I'm trying to say, let's put party aside and at least pass a budget. John Street's proved he could do that.

I want them to do that in Washington. I want you to think about this. I've, on purpose, not given you a big, whoop-dee-doo political speech. I want you to think about the arguments. What will it say to the people and the children of Philadelphia if on Tuesday, the message coming out of the election is, "Well, old John did a good job, and boy, he had some good ideas about the future, but I had something else to do, and I couldn't be bothered to vote, so he lost." What will it say?

You think about this in your churches on Sunday when you're talking to people about their responsibilities. What will it say? How will you ever say—how will you say to these little kids here, you work hard now and you do a good job and you might grow up to be mayor or Governor or Senator or President, because you will be judged on the job you do? What will it say if you stay home or anybody you know stays home, after the job this man has done, and you don't elect him the mayor of this great city? Don't you do that.

And what will it say—what will it say if the message coming out of the normally Democratic wards is: Well, he's done a great job, but the other fellow sang a good song? [Laughter] And I want to give him that. I think he's run an adroit campaign. I compliment him. My hat's off to him. And I know something about singing a good song. I've sung a few myself over the years. [Laughter] But in the end—in the end what matters is, can you stand and deliver?

What message will it send to the children of this city and their future if, after the record this man has amassed, the competence he has demonstrated, the character he has demonstrated, the leadership he has demonstrated, and the program he has outlined—which is plainly in the interests of the people of this city—he is not elected?

I'm telling you, you have a great opportunity here to lift him up on Tuesday night and say, "We are proud of what we have done these last 8 years. We are proud that we did it together across all racial and religious and neighborhood and income lines. We are proud we did it together, and we are proudly going into the future with someone we trust and we know can lead us to a brighter tomorrow."

Thank you, and God bless you. Help him, now.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:20 p.m. at La-Salle University. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Edward G. Rendell and city council president Anna Verna of Philadelphia; and Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Rally for Mayoral Candidate John F. Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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