Remarks at a Victory Rally for Senator Charles S. Robb in McLean, Virginia
The President. Thank you. Thank you so much. You have already answered one of my questions—[laughter]—and that is whether you were going to take this laying down or whether you were going to stand up and fight for the future of your State.
I am so delighted to be here with all of you, and I'm glad to see Lieutenant Governor Beyer here tonight and all of the other local officials. Toddy, you did a terrific job introducing us, and you ought to be better known than we are. Thank you. And I'm glad to be here with my good friend Senator Robb and with my good friend Lynda and their children. You know, we have been friends a long time. And we have seen a lot of things happen in this country. And Chuck Robb and I, during most of the eighties, were Governors. You heard Toddy talking about what he did for education here, how hard he worked to build Virginia's economy.
I want to say two things about our common experience because it really will craft what the differences are in this race. And whether you can get this across to the other voters in Virginia will determine what they do. The first thing was that all during the eighties, we thought, Chuck and I and a number of others, that the Democratic Party had to change, that we had to be identified with mainstream issues, that we had to reach out to a broad base of supporters, that we could never give up our devotion to the rights of individual citizens, to the obligation to fight for equal opportunity, but that we also had to be prudent in spending for economic growth, tough on crime, and facing the relevant problems of the country. That's how we got into the whole Democratic Leadership Mainstream Forum group, to try to move this country forward beyond left and right and beyond all the partisanship that had paralyzed Washington, DC, for too many years.
But the other thing that both of us had to do, even to make a career in public life, was to fight against what has been the brilliant strength of the Republicans, particularly the Republicans on the right, for many years now, and that is that they are better talkers than we are and—and listen to me now—and they raise more money than we do to turn their opponents into aliens. Right? [Laughter] How do they do that? They do that by exalting fear over hope, by exalting blame over responsibility, by exalting division over unity. That is what they do. And they are brilliant at it. They sort of try to turn you into a space alien. I tell people—and they are devoted to it. And they are brilliant at saying one thing and doing another.
So Chuck Robb and I, for most of our lives, tried to change two things: We wanted to change the Democratic Party from a left-right debate to a forward-backward debate, to broaden our base and move forward; and we wanted to break the stranglehold that the national Republican Party had on ordinary Americans because they were not acting in their interest; they just told them what they wanted to hear and demonized their opponents. Now, here in this election, you see it all being played out again here in Virginia and throughout the country.
Three years ago today, I announced for President. And I must say, my mother was the only person who thought I could win that day. [Laughter] The incumbent President was over 70 percent in public approval. But what I didn't like was that we had won the cold war and we were in danger of losing the peace, that the economy was going down, the country was becoming more divided. I did not want my child and the children of this country to grow up to be the first generation of Americans to do worse than their parents. I saw an opportunity for this country to enjoy peace and prosperity, to build a unity out of our diversity, to move into a relationship with the rest of the world unknown in all of human history if only we had the courage, the wisdom, and the good oldfashioned common sense to line up our problems and take them on one at a time and go on into the future. That's why I ran.
And I had these grand dreams that I would come to Washington and not only be able to move the country forward but that we would launch—people like Chuck Robb and others and I would launch a new bipartisan debate where people of good faith in both parties would argue about what ideas would best take America into the future and would wind up cooperating on the important issues of the day to move the country forward, knowing that at election time, there would always be enough to argue about. [Laughter]
Well, let me tell you what has happened instead. We came here with America suffering from terrible social problems, crime, violence, drugs, family breakdown. They had been developing for 30 years, folks. We came here with America suffering from serious economic problems where many, many wage earners were working longer and longer and longer and never getting a wage that kept up with inflation and often losing jobs and taking lower paying jobs because of the pressures of a global economy.
And we came here after 12 years in which Presidents of the other party had talked tough about our problems but acted soft. They railed about the deficit and quadrupled the debt. They railed about the Government and put their folks in all the Government jobs they could get. They talked tough about crime, but all they did was talk. Every single issue was talk.
We've been here 20 months, folks. And now the Republicans are saying, "Well, if your problems aren't all solved, it's just because the aliens have taken over Washington." [Laughter] Isn't that right? "They don't share your values. They're for big Government." You know all the things they say.
Well, look at the record. We have made a good beginning that matters to America. The next time you hear their space invaders speech—[laughter]—you ask them this: Well, how do you explain the fact that we have passed the biggest deficit reduction package in history, the largest number of spending cuts in history, and tax rates went up only on the top 1.2 percent of our people; that we made 90 percent of the small businesses in this country eligible for a tax cut and reduced taxes on 15 million working families to keep them out of welfare and in the work force; that while were cutting spending, we increased investment in education and training and new technologies and defense conversion; we expanded trade by more than any comparable period in 35 years.
And what has that produced? They said the sky would fall. You remember? The same crowd that is campaigning against Chuck Robb said the sky would fall. Well, instead, we have 4.3 million new jobs, 130,000 in Virginia alone; 330,000 families in Virginia alone were eligible for income tax cuts; 600,000 people in Virginia alone, today, already eligible for lower interest college loans. We've had 3 years of deficit reduction in a row for the first time since Harry Truman was President. And we have reduced the size of the Federal Government already by more than 70,000—270,000 over 5 years. The Federal Government will be the smallest that it has been since John Kennedy was President. That is the record of this administration.
Now, that is why Chuck Robb pleads guilty to voting for that economic plan: It produced for the people of Virginia. Republicans and Democrats got those jobs. Republicans and Democrats got those tax cuts. Republicans and Democrats will get those lower interest college loans. It was good for the people of Virginia.
Chuck Robb hates deficit spending. And when I reeled off all this to him in private, he said, "It's a good start, but you've got to keep going." [Laughter] The difference is the other guys want to go back.
Let me give you the second example. We have made a good start in fighting the crime and the social problems that are gripping America: 100,000 more police on the street; 100,000 more jail cells for violent criminals; "three strikes and you're out"; the assault weapons ban, over the opposition of the NRA. And we've made a start in making Government work for ordinary Americans again.
Now, what have they done?
Audience members. Nothing!
The President. They have done—oh yes, I wish that were the answer. [Laughter] I came to Washington with all my dreams that we'd be able to work together. The first week I was here, I was told by the leader of the other party in one of the Houses of Congress—listen to this—I was told, "You're going to have to pass this economic plan without one single, solitary vote. It doesn't matter how you change it. We're not going to vote for any tax increases on the wealthy. And if it fails, we'll be able to blame you. And if it works, we'll attack it and call it a tax increase anyway," which is exactly what happened. But he said, "No point in you even talking to us. You won't get a vote." So I sort of waited 8 months; we passed it anyway. They said the sky would fall, and the economy is booming.
Then last year they voted 42 to 2 for the crime bill. Last year they voted for the assault weapons ban; they voted for prevention programs—all those things they call pork, they voted for, they sponsored a lot of them—42 to 2. Why? They did not believe the House of Representatives would pass it.
So then, when the crime bill comes back this year in the Senate—I want you to understand what you're thinking about doing here, what the consequence of this race is—all of a sudden, all of those prevention programs they voted for, they sponsored, that on an annual basis they were spending more on in their bill than in the one we finally passed, they went from 42 to 2 for it, to 6 to 38 against it. Why? Because they were told the objective was not to lower crime but to hand a political defeat to the administration and to the Democrats. That's why.
Let me give you another example. On health care, when I introduced the health care bill, I said, "Look, I don't have a monopoly on truth. You may have a better idea." And I was so happy. I thought, finally, we're going to get there because 24 members of the other party, 24 Republican Senators, were on a bill that would have provided coverage for everybody and would have controlled costs. So, anyway, so they had 24 Republicans on this bill. So I said, "Great, we're going to get health care." That's right. I said, "We're going to get health care." And I thought, they'll have ideas; we'll have ideas; we'll get together and we'll work out a deal. We'll have health care—24. By the time the bill got to the committee process, do you know how many of those 24 were left? Zero. Why? Why? Why? Because—because—don't take my word, take their word. Republican Congressman says, in print, "We were ordered not to cooperate on health care." Republican Senator says, in print, "We have killed it. Now the trick is to keep our fingerprints off of it"— in print; Republican idea person says, in print— passed it out, proud of it—to the Republicans, "The one thing you must not do is pass any health care reform. It will help the Democrats too much."
Now that is what we are facing. That is the national context in which you must see this election. But far more important than that is they have now told us what they will do. They have put their contract out. And what is it? Trickledown economics; eighties promises; a trillion dollars worth of unfunded promises, $1 trillion.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. I'll tell you what that contract is. It's a contract on America's future. It's a contract on our deficit reduction. It's a contract on Medicare. It's a contract on paying for the crime bill. It will take us right back down the road that we were on before if you do not change the direction of the country. So I say to you, let's don't quit. We have made a good start in 20 months on 30 years of social problems, 20 years of economics problems, and 12 years of neglect.
I want to say something else. If you say, "I want the same thing from Chuck Robb today that I did when I voted for him for Governor: I want a mainstream, progressive, bipartisan, commonsense effort to move this country forward"; if you say, "I am sick and tired of this demonization; I am sick and tired of this distortion of a good man's record and a good man's life and a good person's public service"; if you say, "I will not reward people who talk tough, just tell me what I want to hear, pander to my every whim, and act weak when they have power; I will instead reward people who make tough decisions and think about my children's future, and Chuck Robb has done that every day he was in public office from the first day I elected him"; if you say, "We don't want to demonize our opponents either, but we have values, too, and we can read the rules, too, and we know that one of the rules that sometimes the other side forgets to mention in their litany of values is ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness"'—let me tell you something, the people of this State are good people. They are good people, regardless of their party or their background or their experience. They can only vote in this election based on what they know, what they see, what they feel.
Now, let me end where I began. We've made a good start in 20 months on 30 years of social problems, 20 years of economic problems, 12 years of neglect. But most people have not felt it yet. And while we have been working, they have been talking, blaming, dividing, turning us into aliens.
You, you can decide whether we go forward or backward. We've moved the economy; we've taken a serious step on crime; we've begun to make Government work for ordinary people again. They have put out their contract on America. They want more of trickle-down economics, more of inequality, more of division. You can decide.
But the voters who are not here at this rally tonight can only vote based on what they know. There is a mountain of money raining down on them at home tonight while you're here with us, coming through the television screen, playing on people's paranoia, their disillusionment over the years, their frustration, their cynicism. You have to break through it. And you can do it.
But paying to come to this rally is not enough. You've got to talk at work. You've got to talk on the weekends. You've got to talk to your friends. You've got to talk. You've got to work. You've got to walk. Do not take this lying down. Do not take this lying down.
This is your State. It is your country. It is your children's future. Go take it back. Thank you, and God bless you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 7:53 p.m. at the McLean Hilton Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Lt. Gov. Don Beyer of Virginia and Toddy Puller, Virginia House of Delegates member and widow of author Lewis Puller.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Victory Rally for Senator Charles S. Robb in McLean, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218188