The President's Radio Address
Good morning. As I speak to you this morning, I can look out on Grand Teton National Park in the Rocky Mountains where my family and I are enjoying our summer vacation. We're looking forward to exploring both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks over the next several days. The beauty of these mountains is absolutely breathtaking, and their tranquillity is good for the soul.
We could all use a lot more peace and quiet in our lives and in our society these days. So today I want to talk about our progress in reducing the violent crime that has shattered the lives of too many Americans for too long.
Just a year ago this week, we ended 6 years of partisan stalemate in Washington by pushing a tough, sweeping crime bill through the Congress. Narrow interest groups on the left and the right didn't want the bill to pass, and you can be sure the criminals didn't, either. But every major law enforcement organization in America fought hard for the crime bill, and so did I, because it puts Government firmly on the side of the people who abide by the law, not the criminals who break it.
Already the crime bill is making a difference. So far, we have awarded community policing grants to put 24,000 new police officers on the street. And we paid for it with the money saved by reducing the size of the Federal bureaucracy to its lowest level since John Kennedy was President. Already there are 150,000 fewer people working for the U.S. Government than there were the day I became President.
The assault weapons ban and the Brady bill have stopped thousands of criminals from getting their hands on deadly weapons. We're giving States more help in building prisons to keep serious offenders behind bars longer. And we're giving communities funds for prevention, to give our young people something to say yes to as well as something to say no to.
Although it's far too early to declare victory, aggressive efforts like these and aggressive efforts by local police departments to expand community policing and crack down on drugs and gangs have helped to reduce the murder rate this year in Chicago, New York, New Orleans, and several other major cities. In fact, the crime rate is down overall in almost every area in America.
The crime bill has also given prosecutors tough new penalties to use against violent criminals. The death penalty can now be imposed for nearly 60 Federal crimes, such as killing a law enforcement officer and using weapons of mass destruction resulting in death. Prosecutors are using this statute to seek the death penalty in indictments in the Oklahoma City bombing just now.
And just this week, a violent career criminal in Iowa named Thomas Farmer was sentenced to life imprisonment because the crime bill says to repeat offenders, when you commit a third violent crime you'll be put away and put away for good, "three strikes and you're out."
Until this week, Thomas Farmer had been a textbook case of what's wrong with our criminal justice system. He committed one violent crime after another and each time was paroled long before his sentence was up. In 1970, he murdered a doctor and drew a 20-year sentence, but he was paroled a few years later, even after he tried to escape. In 1979, he was sentenced to 25 years for armed robbery. Two years later, he murdered a fellow inmate and was sentenced to an additional 10 years, but the State paroled him yet again. And last fall he went on a crime spree, robbing two supermarkets and threatening to kill an employee who was taking too long to open the store safe.
No wonder law-abiding Americans are fed up with a system that lets too many career criminals get out of jail free. If Thomas Farmer had been convicted in State court again, he might have been out on the street again in less than 3 years. But our "three strikes and you're out" law slammed that revolving door shut. Thomas Farmer has made a life of violent crime; now he will pay for the rest of his life behind bars where he belongs.
Thomas Farmer was the very first career criminal we put away under the "three strikes and you're out." But he will not be the last. Federal prosecutors already have another 16 "three strikes" cases pending around the country, including three convictions that are awaiting sentencing now.
One year ago, we overcame deep partisan differences and bitter partisan opposition to make "three strikes and you're out" the law of the land. Now it's time for Members of Congress to do that again, to put aside demands for ideological purity and give the American people the reforms they want, the reforms they need, the reforms they need in welfare, the reforms they need in other areas of our Government. And these reforms clearly include the antiterrorism legislation I sent to Congress after the Oklahoma City bombing.
It's hard to imagine what more must happen to convince Congress to pass that bill. Yet partisan politics has blocked it in the House of Representatives. I call on the House to pass that antiterrorism bill when they return so we can continue to make all Americans safer.
Because of the crime bill passed a year ago, the people of Iowa are safer today, and a career criminal who haunted them for decades is off the streets for good. I'll keep doing everything in my power to ensure that those who commit crimes are caught, those who are caught are convicted, those who are convicted are punished, and those who have made a life of crime spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
The American people deserve a justice system that reflects our values and a Government that fulfills its first responsibility, to keep Americans safe.
Thanks for listening.
NOTE: The address was recorded at 7:21 p.m. on August 18 at the Rockefeller residence in Jackson Hole, WY, for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on August 19.
William J. Clinton, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/221412