Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Reception for Representative Rush D. Holt in Princeton, New Jersey

August 23, 2000

The President. Thank you. You know, if I had any sense of fairness at all, I'd tell them to turn this off. [Laughter] But I'm not going to. [Laughter]

I want to thank Robert and Lisa Stockman for having us here at this truly beautiful, beautiful home and for getting us all together and for supporting Rush. I want to thank all of you for coming here tonight, the officials, the union and teacher leaders, and other leaders, and just the citizens who believe in this good man.

I know you've been here a long time, and I won't keep you long, but I want to say two or three things. First of all, I really like Jon Corzine a lot. You know, when he was running in the primary and they kept carping about how much money he was spending, I thought, well, at least he's not spending all this money to give himself a tax cut. [Laughter]

The reason I really like him is that he thinks that these young people that served you tonight ought to have the same chance to send their children to college he has. That's what makes him a Democrat. And I think he will be a terrific United States Senator. He's got good ideas, and he's not afraid to tell you what he thinks, and he doesn't care if he disagrees with you, me, or anybody else. He's just out there telling you exactly what he thinks. And we need people like that in the United States Senate. I admire him.

Also, I want to tell you, I've got a lot of interest in these Senate races—one in particular, near here. [Laughter] I hope you'll help her, too.

I like Rush Holt. And I was in Princeton earlier this afternoon, and I was walking up and down the town, and I was shaking hands with people. And when I came out of the hotel after I went in and took about an hour to do a little rest and get some work done, I came out, and there was a couple hundred people out there. So I went over and shook hands with them, and we started talking about Rush Holt, and a couple people said, "I really want you to help him, and why are you here," and all that kind of stuff.

And I just started talking, and it occurred to me that I ought to say to you one of the things I said about him. I want to talk in a moment briefly about the big issues of the campaign, but I spent a lot of time thinking about the future, about what America will be like 10 or 20 years from now. If we had any success in the last 8 years, it was largely the credit of the American people. But the role we were able to play—we, the whole administration and our allies in Congress—I think it was in no small measure because before I asked the people to vote for me for President, I actually thought about why I wanted the job.

And that may seem—don't laugh, because a lot of people run without thinking about it. [Laughter] The White House is a nice place to live; Air Force One, you don't have all this airport congestion the rest of you are going through. [Laughter] But you're all laughing— Rush, that joke you told was really funny. [Laughter] But really, I think it ought to be told by somebody like me who is not running again. [Laughter] It was funny. [Laughter]

Anyway, so I actually—I thought about it. So I spent a lot of time thinking about the future.

And when we—my whole goal was, when I ran in 1992, was to have an America at the dawn of a new century where opportunity was genuinely alive for every responsible citizen, where we were more like a community coming together across all the lines that divide us, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, even party.

You know, if you think about it, as the world grows more and more interdependent, we have to find ways to work together. And we'll be more and more rewarded when we can find ways to work together where everybody wins, where we have honorable compromise, or we come up with heretofore unthought-of solutions that allow us to both live with our convictions and our interests and recognize the legitimacy of other people.

And if you look around this whole world today, a lot of the problems that exist out there are existing because people are still bedeviled by the oldest problem of human society, the fear of the other—people who are different from them—and the sense that we can only matter in life if somehow we've got somebody we can look down on, you know. "I may not be the smartest star on the planet, but at least I don't have a double-digit IQ like that guy." And how many times have you been guilty of that? I have. "Well, I did something I'm not particularly proud of, but at least I'm not like that guy," you know? [Laughter] Or, "at least I'm not a Republican," or, "I'm not a Democrat." [Laughter] How many times have you done that?

But the truth is, the world is growing more interdependent, so we have to find a way both to fight for what we believe in and not give up what we believe in and still find a way to respect the common humanity that makes all this worth doing.

So, against that background, what I tried to do when I came in was to get America to that point where we were once again leading the world for peace and freedom and prosperity and security, so that we could then take on the big challenges of this new era.

And the last two State of the Union Addresses I devoted to those big challenges, knowing that we could make some progress now. But for a lot of the greatest things that America could achieve, because we've turned the country around, it would have to be done by others after I was gone.

But if you think about it, I want us to stay on the far frontiers of science and technology, but I want us to protect our values. I want us to bridge the digital divide, but I want us to protect our values. I want everybody to have access to the Internet, but I think you ought to have to get permission before that means they have access to your medical or your financial records.

I want with all my heart for the human genome project to give every young mother a little card that had their child's genetic map so that— I predict to you within 20 years, newborns in America that don't die of accidents or violence will have a life expectancy of 90 years—maybe before then—because of the miraculous advances. And I want that. But I don't want anybody to be able to get ahold of your little gene card and use it to deny you a job or health insurance.

I want to maximize the development of all these scientific developments, but I know, in addition to all the good things that happen, the organized forces of destruction will take advantage of these same revolutions.

I was thinking the other day—I went to the show that they have in Chicago every year, the information technology people do, and they're showing all the new products. And the people from Motorola gave me a little hand-held computer that had a keyboard and a screen, and I could get the news, and I could send Email. My hands were too big to work the keyboard. And it was plastic, no metal in it, so it would go through an airport metal detector. Same thing may mean that terrorists will be able to have plastic bombs with chemical and biological weapons. I want someone who understands that.

What's the point of all this? What I was telling those people in Princeton today, in the town, is that Rush Holt is the only physicist in the Congress. [Laughter] And even Republicans who may not agree with every vote he cast ought to think long and hard before they replace him. Most people who get elected to the United States Congress are like me; they're lawyers. But we need somebody that really understands this stuff. You need someone who really understands all these big future issues, because I promise you, in spite of all the good things that have happened the last 8 years, the greatest benefits to America of the work we have done are still out there if we make the right choices, both to seize the opportunities and deal with the challenges. And he has a unique contribution to make to you and to America. That's a big reason you ought to go out and fight for his reelection.

Let me make just one other point. I'm glad you came here, and I thank you for giving him your money. [Laughter] But it's not enough. Here's why. The great challenge in this election that will determine whether Jon Corzine is your Senator, whether Rush Holt is your Congressman, whether Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are elected, is really what the American people believe the election is about and whether they understand the differences on those subjects, between the choices they have.

So I say to all of you, every one of you has friends who aren't as into politics as you are, both here in this congressional district or in the State, or even beyond the borders of the State. Every one of you has friends who aren't diehard Democrats. Every one of you has friends who really haven't started thinking about this much yet, or have just kind of a vague notion of where all these candidates are. You work with them. You go out to dinner with them on the weekends. You worship with them. Maybe you play golf or you bowl with them, or you go to your kids' soccer games with them. Every one of you has friends like this. And I am telling you, the election will turn on what the people think it's about.

That's why Rush said this election is about the issues. Why did Vice President Gore do so well in his speech? Because he got up and he gave a version of a State of the Union Address. Yes, it was beautifully delivered, and yes, all the other things he said about his family, his values, and his role for the last 8 years, and all that was very well done. But the reason it worked is, he said, "If you vote for me, here's what I'm going to try to do for and with you."

Now, there are just a few things I want to say to you tonight to hammer this home. There are huge differences between our nominees for President, Vice President, our candidates for the Senate and the House, and our parties on a number of critical issues. And let me just mention three or four.

Safety—public safety: The crime rate is at a 25-year low; gun crime has dropped 35 percent since we passed the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban. The leaders of the other party and most of their members opposed them both. The previous administration vetoed the Brady bill. We lost a lot of Members of Congress in '94. We lost a dozen because they stood up and voted with me on these gun safety issues and because the gun owners, the sportsmen, the hunters, they hadn't had time to see that all these scare tactics were wrong.

Now, this is a huge issue. We also put 100,000 police on the street, which helps us to catch criminals but, more importantly, helps us to prevent crime in the first place. And now we're putting another 50,000 police on the street. Now, the leaders of the other party oppose that, too. The nominee of the other party said the other day he'd get rid of the 100,000 police program—and presumably means he certainly won't continue the 50,000 extra. [Laughter]

We want to close the gun show loophole where—and do background checks there. We want handguns to be sold with child trigger locks. We want to ban the import of these big ammunition clips that can then be put on guns here to get around our assault weapons ban. That's what we believe. That's what we believe. And we think more police in community policing situations will help lower the crime rate further.

I'm glad crime is at a 25-year low, but I doubt if there is a person in this room that thinks America is safe enough. And I won't be satisfied until this is the safest big country in the entire world. This is a huge difference. There are massive consequences to public safety. Their answer is, "punish people more"—which we've been doing pretty steadily for 25 years, but until we did what we did, the crime rate wasn't going down—"punish people more and have more people carrying concealed weapons, even in houses of worship." That's their position.

Now, this is different. This will have real consequences to you. And every person you know ought to know what the difference is. If they agree with them, they should vote for them. But they ought to know. And we shouldn't pretend now that both parties are talking about inclusion and reaching out to everybody—that's good. You know, the Democrats made fun of the Republicans at Philadelphia because they had to go gather up people off the street to look like we do normally—[laughter]—but I didn't do that. You may think I just did, but— [laughter]—look, I think that's progress. And I think we should thank them for it, that they no longer think that the way to get elected is to demonize all of us—I think that's good— and to divide us. But there are still differences; so that's one.

Education: You heard Rush talking about a big part of our program. We want to hire 100,000 more teachers for smaller classes in the early grades. And we want to train teachers better. And we just announced a program to basically let teachers teach off a lot of their student loans if they go into fields where there's a shortage or areas where there's a shortage.

We want to help school districts like those in New Jersey with all of these housetrailers, like the ones I saw today, get a discount so they can build 6,000 more schools and then repair 5,000 a year over and above that over the next 5 years. They don't think that's a national responsibility. They're not for that.

We believe that we ought to give more aid, but we're for higher standards. We say you ought to identify these failing schools and turn them around or shut them down and have a public school choice/charter school program. And we have lots of evidence. In Kentucky, where they've had this same system I'm trying to go national with—we did start requiring schools—States to identify failing schools 4 years ago. But Kentucky went all the way, and now— I was at a school the other day where over half the kids were on the school lunch program. It was a total failure 3 1/2 years ago. Today, it's one of the 20 best grade schools in Kentucky. I've seen this all over the country.

I was in Harlem the other day in a school that 2 years ago had 80 percent of the kids reading and doing math below grade level. Today, 2 years later, 74 percent of the kids reading and doing math at or above grade level. You can turn this around.

Their view is, we're all wet about this, and we should just cut a check to the States and let them do whatever they want to with the money. This is a big difference here. This is not an idle difference, whether we have more money for teacher training, more money to get math and science teachers, whether we say, "Okay, we'll give you more money, but we want after-school programs, summer school programs, mentoring programs, every eligible kid in Head Start. Turn the failing schools around or shut them down."

This is not idle. This is a significant thing. If you believe, with the largest and most diverse school population we've ever had, that giving all our kids a world-class education is a very big issue for America, we have different views of this, and that will have consequences to what kind of America you live in.

You already gave Rush his applause line on the Patients' Bill of Rights, but I'll just mention this again. The reason I feel so passionately about it is, I support managed care. Hardly anybody will say that anymore. But let me remind you what it was like in 1993. When I took office, for the previous 10 years medical costs had been going up at 3 times the rate of inflation. It was about to bankrupt the country. So to say we should manage our resources better— that's all managed care really means.

The problem is that we've gotten to the point where there's more managed and less care, because the companies have already picked what you might call the low-hanging fruit in the management system. That is, the easy decisions have been made. And so now, if you want to keep controlling costs, somebody comes up and they need to see a specialist, or you want them to go to only the approved emergency room or something, even if they've got to go past two or three other hospitals, which happens all the time in America, or they have to apply for a certain procedure that may or may not be covered, the people that work in the lower levels of the managed care companies know that they will never get in trouble for saying no.

If you're 30 years old and you've got a college degree and you're making a modest salary and you're a first-level reviewer, you know that nobody will ever fire you for saying no. Don't you? And you just hope that somewhere up the line, someday, somebody will say yes if that's the right decision. And so the practice of medicine has basically been subject to reverse plastic surgery here in a lot of these cases.

So that's why we're for this. This is not complicated. So if you vote for Jon and Rush and Al and Joe and Hillary, you get—you don't get people that want these managed care companies to go broke. You don't get people that say, "Throw all the money you want to. Don't oversee doctors and whether they're wasting your money." You don't get all that. What you get is people who say, "Any institution, if left without any limits, is capable of forgetting its fundamental mission. The fundamental mission is the health care of America. That's what this whole thing is about."

But it's a huge difference here. They think the ultimate nth decision should be left with the companies. We think it should be left with the physicians and the patients. And even when they change, they say, "Okay, we'll agree with you as long as the companies can't be held responsible for what they do." Well, that's not a Patients' Bill of Rights; that's a patients' bill of possibilities. [Laughter] This is a huge thing. This will affect the way millions of people live. We're not talking about something idle here. We're talking about millions of lives.

Last issue, the economy: It concerns me that basically—as Rush said, in '93 they all said my economic plan was going to wreck the country, and they wouldn't be held responsible for the results—absolutely not. And I hope the American people will take them at their word, as I said the other night. [Laughter] But now they say, "Oh, this whole thing happened by accident. You couldn't mess it up if you tried, and there are no consequences. Vote for me—vote for them. What difference does it make?" They say what really matters is, what are you going to do with the surplus, and they say, "The surplus is your money, and we're going to give it back to you." And that sounds good and doesn't take long to say. [Laughter] It's a good line. "It's your money, and I'm going to give it back to you."

Now, here's the problem with that. What do we say? What do they say? You heard Rush talking about it. We say, "Well, first of all, we've got to take care of Social Security and Medicare, because when all these baby boomers retire there's only going to be two people working for every one person drawing, and we don't want it to bankrupt our kids and their ability to raise our grandchildren. So before you just go plumb off the handle here, what are you going to do when the baby boomers retire? Make sure you're not going to have Social Security and Medicare in a fix so that their retirement doesn't burden their children and their grandchildren." And we say, "And by the way, if you do that, we'll also pay the debt off, which will keep interest rates low." And we say, "We ought to save some money to invest in education and health care and the environment and science and technology." We're for a tax cut, for marriage penalty relief. We're for changes in the estate tax. We're for things the Republicans say they want. We're for some changes there. We're for also helping people like the folks that served us here tonight with college tuition tax deductions, child care increases, longterm care tax credit, savings for retirement.

But all of ours cost way less than half theirs because we've got to have some money to invest, because there might be emergencies we can't foresee, and oh, by the way, this is all a projected surplus. It has not come in yet. Their argument reminds me of those letters I used to get in the mail, back when I opened my own mail—[laughter]—those sweepstakes letters from the Publishers Clearing House. Ed McMahon writes you a letter saying, "You may have won $10 million." [Laughter] You ever get one of those letters? [Laughter] Now, if you went out the next day and spent the $10 million, you should support their economic program, because that's what it is. You should do that. [Laughter]

Ask Corzine; he knows more about the market than I do. I'm glad that the market has more than tripled. I'm glad that we've made more millionaires and more billionaires than ever in history, together, as a people. I'm glad of that. I hope it keeps on going, but this is projected income.

You think about how much money you think you're going to get over the next 10 years. Would you give it all away today, saving nothing for education, for health care needs, for family emergencies? What happens if you don't get the raise you anticipate or if your stocks don't get the return you think? You wouldn't do that.

That's their position. Spend it all now. It's your money. Take it back. [Laughter] Now, our plan costs less than half theirs and will keep— the Council of Economic Advisers says it will keep interest rates at least a point lower for a decade. Do you know what that's worth? Two hundred and fifty billion dollars in home mortgages, $30 billion in car payments, $15 billion in college loan payments. In other words, it's worth another $300 billion in tax cuts to keep interest rates low.

Now, you've got to explain this to people who haven't been thinking about it. We cannot give the entire projected surplus away in a tax cut. It's not there yet. It may not all be there. You can't know what the emergencies are, and it's wrong not to invest in education. It's wrong not to invest in health care and the environment, and it is certainly wrong not to prepare for the retirement of the baby boomers and keep getting this country out of debt. And people have to understand that.

We've all had a good time tonight. But if you don't remember anything else I've said, remember this: Every day, you find one or two people, every day between now and November, if you have to call them on the phone halfway across the country, you find one or two people, and you ask them to support Rush and Jon and Al and Joe. And you tell them, look——

Audience member. And Hillary. [Laughter]

The President. ——and Hillary if they live in New York. If they live in New York, you tell them that, too. [Laughter] And you tell them—and they say why—say, "Here's the difference in economic policy. Here's the difference in health care policy. Here's the difference in education policy. Here's the difference in crime policy." If we had another 30 minutes, I could go through 10 other things. But those things matter.

People have to understand. This will affect your life. This will affect your children. This will affect whether we make the most of a magic moment in our country's history. It will even affect whether we have the resources to continue to lead the world to a more peaceful place. I plead with you.

I'm coming back to where you are. This is the first time in 26 years I haven't been running for anything. [Laughter] I'm going to be a citizen activist. But I know one thing. We may not have another chance in our lifetimes to build the future of our dreams for our children. And if we make the right decisions, that's exactly what we're going to do. You've got to be committed personally to leaving here and making sure that every one you know understands exactly what the choices are. If you do, they will make the right decision, and it will be great for them and, even more important, great for America.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:10 p.m. at a private residence. In his remarks, he referred to reception hosts Robert and Lisa Stockman; Jon S. Corzine, candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey; and Republican Presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush of Texas. Representative Holt was a candidate for reelection in New Jersey's 12th Congressional District. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Reception for Representative Rush D. Holt in Princeton, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




New Jersey

Simple Search of Our Archives