Remarks at a Reception for California Gubernatorial Candidate Kathleen Brown
The President. Thank you very much. Why don't we just vote right now? [Laughter] You do that for 30 more days, and you're in like Flint. That was terrific. Thank you, Kathleen. And thank you, Governor Bayh, for your leadership.
You know, I really resent Evan Bayh. He's young and handsome, manages to avoid controversy and stay popular. And he's done a lot better as head of the Democratic Governors than I did when I was there. [Laughter]
Gov. Evan Bayh. Well, that's because I have a great President helping out.
The President. Not only that, but he's a wonderful tribute to our party, and he has a terrific future.
I came here tonight to speak for Kathleen Brown. I want to thank the members of our administration who are here, the members of the Cabinet. Their presence here should tell you how important we think this race is.
I was listening to Kathleen speak a moment ago, and I want to just tell you a few things from the heart about this. First of all, I declared for President 3 years ago today. At the time I was Governor; I had just been reelected to a fifth term, two 4-year terms, three 2-year terms. I was happy as a clam at home. I got into the race basically because I didn't want to see our victory in the cold war be squandered in the aftermath, because I didn't want to see America move to the 21st century not able to compete and win, and because I didn't like the fact that our country was coming apart when it ought to be coming together.
And when I began that race, most people thought I needed my head examined because the incumbent President was over 70 percent approval in the polls. My mother thought I could win; that's about it. [Laughter] That's about it.
I say it to make two points. One, in the moment the polls are not as important as the public official, the candidate, and the conviction. And secondly, the choice that Kathleen Brown just posed to you is a choice we're going to have to be making over and over and over and over again, until we get out of what we got ourselves into over a very long period of time.
And all along the way, at various times, the choice will be more difficult for people. But when I look at what her opponent's tried to do to her out in California and how he's tried to sort of define her, it's classic Republican politics. And they're very good at it. Let's not kid ourselves. They are very good at demonizing their opponents, at turning their opponents into aliens, and making people at the local Kiwanis Club think that they wouldn't share a piece of apple pie with their opponents. That's what they're good at. That's how they stay in.
They always think that, given the contentious and divisive nature of the way people communicate and the way they are communicated to today, they can exalt blame over responsibility, they can exalt division over unity, they can exalt fear over hope. That's what they believe. Once in a while we prove them wrong, when we can communicate with discipline and conviction and persistence and when we are not ground down.
I'd have come over here tonight just to hear her give that speech, because now she's got me in a better humor, too. [Laughter and applause] I'm telling you.
So you heard it, and it's the same thing everywhere. I mean, I ran for President because we were in the midst of 30 years of social problems, 20 years of economic problems, and 12 years of the kind of stuff she's going through now, where the leadership of this country would always tell the American people what they thought they wanted to hear. They would talk tough and get the image that they are tough—Presidential, national message—and they would act weak. They would talk like our parent and then act like our child, telling us exactly what we wanted to hear as if it were tough medicine and then writing us a check and never worrying about who was going to pay the bill. Now, that is what has happened for 12 years. And always escaping responsibility by placing blame. Now, that is exactly what they have done. And that's what you see in California.
I just want to say something personally to the people of California. I may not have an opportunity to say it out there. I've been to California about a dozen times since I've been President, would have been once more if it hadn't been for the events in Haiti that kept me away from going out there for Kathleen a few days ago. I love the place. It's a fascinating place. And everything that America has everywhere is also there.
They have had two huge problems. One is, since they're the biggest State in the country economically, when we had a recession, they got hit harder with it. The second is that with about 12 percent of our population, they had 21 percent of our defense investments. So that when we cut defense in this country at the end of the cold war, starting back in '87—that's when defense peaked—it was absolutely predictable that it would have double the impact in California that it would have anywhere else because of the concentration and that the impact might be highly weighted in high-wage jobs. Therefore, turning it around takes a little more time because the hit was bigger there.
And so I went all over California in that election trying to figure out what was going on in southern California, what was going on in northern California, what was going on for the farmers, what was going on in the inland empire, what was going on in San Diego—how were the border problems, the immigration problems going to be aggravated and exacerbated and people's sense of insecurity going to be reinforced by all these terrible economic problems. If you had 150 different racial and ethnic groups in Los Angeles County, that meant that it could be the beacon of the whole future for the United States, but how were they going to get through all the tensions that would be caused by the economic contraction of the moment until we could turn it around.
I have really given a lot of thought to this. And when we put together an economic strategy, it was pretty simple. It was: reduce the deficit; increase investment in education, training, and new technologies; expand trade and investment; and try to empower individuals and communities to succeed, which means that the places that are in the worse shape need some extra help.
How did that play itself out in California? Well, we removed restrictions on $35 billion worth of high-tech exports where California has a decided interest greater than any other State in the country. We spent hundreds of millions of dollars, as Kathleen said, on defense conversions, helping to turn bases over to local communities so they could get businesses in there to put people to work and actually investing with companies in new technologies of the future. I visited the Rockwell plant out there, and you were there, too, the day we went there to talk about that.
When the earthquake came, when the fires came, we were there with emergency aid in a hurry. We rebuilt the world's busiest highway quicker than anybody thought we could by literally reinventing, to use the Vice President's term, the way we spend the money out there.
In spite of all this talk about immigration, it was our administration that for the first time recommended and got through Congress Federal assistance to pay for the criminal justice costs of illegal immigrants. We increased by 30 percent, by 30 percent, the amount of aid— in a tough time when we were reducing spending overall, we increased by 30 percent the amount of money going to California to deal with their costs of immigration, 30 percent over what happened when the previous President was here and the present Governor was a Member of the United States Senate. That's what we did. That's our record on that issue.
We have done a number of other things. We are backing Senator Feinstein's desert bill. Last weekend we turned the Presidio over to you so you folks can do something great with it. We are doubling the border guards for enforcement on the border. We have worked hard for California. We're selling California rice to Japan for the first time in history.
I met a walnut farmer last month from California said, "It just kills my farmer friends because they're all Republicans, but they have to admit that you have done more for us than any President in the last 30 years." So we are working for California.
Now, I say that to make this point—and why it's so important that you're here—all that can still be washed away by the deliberate, concerted effort of our opponents to place blame over responsibility, division over unity, fear over hope, can wipe away all the details and all the facts. And what you have to do to help Kathleen Brown win is to contribute now and then talk and work between now and the election, to prove that what really counts is what will build that State.
I'm really proud of the fact that in 20 months we have made a good start on bringing this country back. But don't kid yourself, it's just a good start. I'm proud of the fact that we have 3 years of deficit reduction in a row for the first time since Truman; we're going to the smallest Federal Government since John Kennedy was President—the Republicans badmouth the Government, but we shrunk it with no help from them; that there are 4.3 million new jobs in this economy; and that for the first time in 9 years the United States was rated a couple of weeks ago by the panel of international economists as the most productive country in the world. I am proud of that. But it is just a beginning.
You look at what is happening in California, and you will see the combined impact of 30 years of social problems, 20 years of economic problems, 12 years of neglect and a disproportionate impact of the defense cutback. The people out there cannot be blamed if they are still frustrated and full of anxiety. That is not their fault. It is our job to tell the people of California that Kathleen Brown and Dianne Feinstein are builders, people who are trying to make things better and that they should not be diverted from the urgent task of building the country and building the State.
If I might just say a word about crime, Kathleen's already said that. You know, a picture of Kathleen Brown and Jerry Brown and Rose Bird is not worth near as much as the assault weapons ban, 100,000 police, 100,000 jail cells for criminals, thousands and thousands of prevention programs, and a tougher approach to crime. And I'll tell you something else, I know something about this; I started out as attorney general of my State. I have a different position than she does on capital punishment, but our crime bill had 60 different specific statutes on that. She supported our crime bill, and he didn't. Who are we kidding with these ads about who's weak on crime or not? She had the record when we needed it.
So I say to you, you have to make up your mind. You can cheer tonight, but tomorrow all those ads will still be out there on television, and everybody will be writing about this as if it's a horse race instead of a fight for the spirit and the soul of that State and what happens to the future of little children. And you have to decide whether you feel some sort of personal responsibility to affect the outcome.
I'm telling you, it is a wonderful place. It has enormous potential. This country will never fully recover until California recovers. And we have work to do. And the people out there cannot be blamed for voting on what they know. That's the way all the rest of us are, too. We can only act on what we know. We can only see the world through the prism of our own experience. And while all of us have been up here working for them, the other guys have been out there talking about us. So now when the Congress goes home, the election should be our friend because we can go tell the truth. And what you have to do is make a personal commitment to do that.
The economic plan that Kathleen Brown has outlined will help to do what only the State can do to rebuild California. The Federal Government and a partnership that we are building between the private sector and the Federal Government cannot do it alone. There must be State initiatives. There will always be in California things that can only be done by people who know the problems the best, who understand the opportunities most clearly. The economic strategy that I have outlined cannot fully succeed anywhere without aggressive leadership at the State level to rebuild the economy. And believe me, we can continue to make progress on education and training; we can continue to build this economy; we can drive down the crime rate; we can make progress on immigration. But to do it, it's going to require a tough, disciplined, concerted, long-term partnership between the White House and Washington and the people who live and work in California, starting in the statehouse in Sacramento. That's what this election is about.
So the country has a big interest in who wins here—not the political system, not the political pundits but the welfare of the average man and woman and child all across America. You just heard her case for why she should win. Let us exalt hope over fear. Let us exalt unity over division. Let us prove that responsibility still beats blame in commonsense America by making sure that no voter goes to the polls in California unaware of the real facts.
Thank you, and God bless you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 6:45 p.m. at the Sheraton Carlton Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Rose Bird, former justice, California Supreme Court.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Reception for California Gubernatorial Candidate Kathleen Brown Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218181