THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT RECEPTION FOR REPRESENTATIVE TOM UDALL Washington Court Hotel Washington, D.C.
9:58 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mark. Thank you, Jill. I'd like to thank some other members of Congress who have joined us tonight. Representative Nancy Pelosi, from California, thank you for being here. (Applause.) I don't know if they're still here, but I saw Representative Nick Rahall from West Virginia -- (applause) -- and Representative Brad Sherman from California. Thank you, Brad. (Applause.) And I know Brian Baird, from Washington, was here and has left. But I want to thank all of them.
You know what I was thinking about when I was getting ready to come up here? Look at all the young people. People say they're worried about American politics? Folks, it's 10:00 p.m. on Friday night, and we've got all these young people at a political rally. (Applause.) I mean, this country is in good shape, I'm not worried about anything, you're doing great.
Let me say very briefly, it's late, I want to tell you, first of all, why I'm late here. Starting about 2:00 p.m. today, my schedule was knocked an hour off and I haven't caught up since -- for a very good reason. After several days, the deep, profound, grass-roots demand for the people of Serbia for democracy resulted in Mr. Milosevic tonight publicly acknowledging that his opponent, Mr. Kostunica, has won the election for President. (Applause.)
I say that to say the great lion's share of the credit belongs to the people of Serbia who, first of all, showed up with a 75 percent turn-out, after we had been told for years and years that they were listless and divided and wouldn't show up -- 75 percent of them showed up, and in an environment that is somewhat less than congenial.
And then they had a leader, a leader who has often publicly disagreed with me and our policy, who is a patriotic nationalist of his country, but who believes in the rule of law and the primacy of the democratic process. And Mr. Kostunica has prevailed in a quiet and dignified and persistent way. It's a great tribute to the people who stood up for freedom in Montenegro and Croatia and all of the other countries of the Balkans and southeastern Europe. And I do believe that it's very important that the United States and our friends have stood for eight years now against ethnic cleansing and the killing of innocence and the end of freedom there.
What we stopped in Bosnia and what has gotten started, what we reversed in Kosovo and what has gotten started I think were pivotal to this. And so for freedom loving people everywhere, this is a night to celebrate, a night of joy, a night of gratitude. (Applause.)
So even though it's late and we've been working on this and the troubling situation in the Middle East -- which I hope and pray will get better over the weekend -- I'm, therefore, a little tired and perhaps only marginally articulate. (Laughter) I hope you will indulge me for a moment.
I'm also honored to be here because I like the Udall caucus. (Laughter.) When I was a boy, a young man in college, the age of many of you; and later, when I was a young person starting out in public life, and a teacher, profoundly interested in the environmental movement -- which really took hold in America in the early 1970s -- the Udall caucus in America then was Stuart Udall, who was President Kennedy's Secretary of the Interior, and Mark's father, Mo Udall, one of the best, ablest and certainly one of the funniest people ever to serve in the United States House of Representatives. (Applause.)
We were talking about when I had the great honor of giving Mo the Medal of Freedom. I thought to myself, I can't put this in the citation, but one of the reasons I want him to have it is if we laughed more in Washington, we'd get twice as much done, we'd have fewer headaches, fewer ulcers and we might actually understand how fortunate we are to be an American and that we have the chance to serve in public life. Mo Udall always made us laugh.
And when I got here, my staff would tell me repeatedly all the jokes I couldn't tell because they weren't presidential. (Laughter.) So I learned to make people laugh by allusion, like I just did. (Laughter.) Now you're all imagining every funny joke you ever heard that you can't tell in public. (Laughter.) So that's another great thing we owe to the Udalls.
And it is true that Mark and the whole crowd, they jumped on me about the Grand Staircase Escalante, what some people call Red Rock, in southern Utah. And as Jill said, it's true that Tom and I went to Shiprock, to the Navajo Reservation. And if you have never been there, let me just say, to be able to land on a clear, beautiful day in a helicopter, to fly just above the rock and then land and see the breathtaking beauty of the ancestral home of the Navajo is one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had.
I'm also here tonight because I think Tom and Mark are committed to seeing that our country makes a sustained, long-term effort to have the proper relationships with the Native American tribes of this country. (Applause.) Among the people who came with me tonight is Lynn Cutler, who has been my liaison to Native America. Since I've been President -- and she's done it in my second term, she has done a brilliant job. We have become obsessed with this issue. I know I'm preaching to the saved, by and large, here; we've made a lot of progress, but we've got a long way to go. We've got a lot of good things in the Interior bill this time for the Native American tribes, and I want to thank the Democrats who are here, and Tom in absentia and Mark, especially, for the work that has been done to do that.
You know, I was introduced by a perfectly beautiful 13-year old girl at Shiprock, thousands of people. And this young woman had just won a big prize in her school, this big academic contest. And the prize was an up-to-date, modern laptop computer. That's the good news. The bad news is she couldn't log onto the Internet because she lived in a home without a phone line -- like over half the other people who live on the reservation at Shiprock.
So I am grateful for the commitment that Mark has, that Tom has, to closing the digital divide, as well as to protecting the environment and the other issues he mentioned -- prescription drugs for seniors, improving education.
I normally -- I'm going to relieve you of this because the hour is late, but normally when I speak to groups like this I try to emphasize how important it is for those of you who are here to go out and talk every day to those who are not here between now and the election, about what is at issue, what the differences are between the two candidates for President and those for Vice President, the candidates for Senate and Congress, and what the consequences of the election are to real people.
And I normally go through the economy and education and health care, and really try to explain it so people like you can go out -- you know, every one of you has a lot of friends who will vote in the election who never come to an event like this. Therefore, because they don't do that and they're good citizens, but less political, they are more likely to be undecided voters. And this election could literally be decided based on what somebody says to somebody else about why they ought to make the decision that you hope they'll make.
Now, I'm not going to go through all that tonight because it's late and because I'm so tired I'm afraid I'll make a mistake. (Laughter.) What I do want to do, however, is use one example, because there are so many young people here. I want to talk about the environment.
Now, when I became President in 1992, I went all over the country saying, look, we need a unifying theory of our national politics. If you want to get rid of the deficit and turn the economy around and clean up the environment and improve health care and have the country come together, you can't be pitting these good things against one another. So you have to be able to reduce the deficit and increase investment in education. You have to be able to be pro-business and pro-labor. You have to be able to be pro-economic growth and pro-environmental protection. You have to be able to say people should be proud of their ethnic and their racial heritage, their religious differences, and believe that their common humanity is the most important thing.
I remember a lot of people here -- not all, but a lot of people here who were used to talking about politics saying I was either being naive or disingenuous because politics was about having big cleavages in the electorate. And I said, not where I come from. And if we'd just run our politics the way we try to run our lives, we'd do better.
So we set about trying to improve the environment. Now, eight years later, the air is cleaner, we have the toughest air regulations ever to try to get bad particles out of the air; the water is safer, both the water generally and drinking water, in particular; the food supply is safer. And we have set aside more land in perpetuity -- including Red Rock, Grand Staircase Escalante -- than any administration except that of Theodore Roosevelt. And it wasn't bad for the economy, was it? (Applause.)
So there's a choice. So Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, and Hillary in New York -- (laughter and applause) -- and Mark and Tom, they say, look, we want to keep growing this economy, but we've got to keep improving the environment. And, furthermore, we have to make a much more aggressive effort to deal with the problems of global warming. We just had another test two weeks ago in a big icecap, which documented conclusively that the 1990s were the warmest decade in a thousand years. And even all the -- virtually all, not all, but virtually all the oil companies now acknowledge that global warming is real, we have to deal with it. So we want to do that.
Now, here is a choice. Every single year I have been President that our friends in the Republican Party have been in the majority, every year we fight these brutal battles over anti-environmental riders. We win just about all of them, but it's hard because the Republicans, sometimes they want the anti-environmental riders so much they offer the Democrats a bunch of money hoping they'll vote for the bill; and continuing to assert, this is terrible for the economy, all this environmental protection the Clinton administration does.
One of the things I kind of like about the Republicans is that evidence has no impact on them. (Laughter and applause.) No, I'm serious. I mean, we were laughing, but you've got respect somebody whose political convictions are so strong that even when it is demonstrable beyond any shadow of doubt they're wrong, they stick with it. You kind of have to like that. (Laughter and applause.) Don't bother me with the facts, man, I know what I think and I'm going to -- (laughter.)
Now, this is a huge deal. A huge deal. Why? I'll just give you a few examples. This is a big deal. And every Congress seat and whether we win the House back, and every Senate seat and this presidential race is important. And I'll just deal with the environment. Why? Because their candidate for President -- go back and read all the stuff that was said in the primary. They think I've gone way overboard on this clean air deal, it's just terrible for the economy, it's going to be unduly burdensome.
Let me tell you something. You talk to the kids that are here, I'll bet you they can tell you this. Do you know what the number one cause of children missing school in America today is, millions of school days a year? Asthma and breathing problems, all over America.
But this is a choice you've got. And if you agree with them, if you think that we just can't achieve a sustainable, an acceptable level of economic growth, if you think we'll never bring economic opportunity to Indian country unless we weaken our commitment to air quality, you can be for them. But if you would like to believe that we can live in harmony with nature, and the last eight years are good evidence of it, you ought to stick with us. (Applause.)
I'll give you another example. The Audubon Society says that the executive order I issued setting aside 43 million roadless acres in our national forests was the most significant conservation move in 40 years. Their nominee for President says that he will reverse it if elected. Well, it's not like you don't have a choice here. And you can get on either side, but don't pretend there's no difference. There is a clear choice.
I'll give you another example. You heard Mort talking about Grand Staircase Escalante. I've made ample use of the power of the President enshrined when Theodore Roosevelt was President almost a hundred years ago to protect important lands through national monuments. We set aside a million acres around the Grand Canyon the other day just to protect the watershed. (Laughter.)
Their nominee says if elected he will review all my designations and may undo some of them. I actually don't know if he's got the legal authority to do it, but you get the drift. There's a significant difference here. (Laughter.) There is a difference here.
I don't know if you heard the presidential debate the other night. I thought the Vice President did a really nice job, a good job. (Applause.) But there was one issue on which I thought they both did a good job in stating their positions with great clarity. And that was on whether, because of the current energy situation and the higher prices, that it's time to get off the dime and go drill the arctic national wildlife refuge and get the oil.
Now, Governor Bush pointed out that there is a lot of oil out there and he thought it could be drilled without environmental incident. Now, let's look at the facts, look at all the oil spills you've seen, everything else. He might be right. They would spend a lot of money, they would try not to do it, nobody would intentionally mess up the environment. He might be right.
But he might be wrong. Because in any human endeavor none of us are free of error, no endeavor is free of accident if you do it long enough. But he might be right. But he might be wrong. Vice President Gore pointed out that there were other ways to increase domestic energy production, number one. Number two, there was a world of oil out there that was going to drilled anyway and natural gas around the world, not subject to the OPEC pricing system that was going to be brought on line.
And, number three, we had not even scratched the surface of our ability to use presently available energy conservation technology. Not even scratch the surface. (Applause.) That beyond that, we were going to develop fuel cells, fuel injection engines, mixed and blended engines. And if we ever crack the chemical mystery of how to really convert any kind of biomass into fuel -- which those of you know right now, it takes about seven gallons of gasoline to make eight gallons of ethanol -- but the chemists that are working on this through research funded by your federal government tell us that if they can do the equivalent of what was done when crude oil was cracked and the refining process was made possible, they can do that with biomass fuels, you'll be able to make eight gallons of biomass fuel with one gallon of gasoline. Then we will be getting the equivalent of 500 miles to the gallon. All this is out there.
So Al Gore said, look, why take a chance on an irreplaceable national treasure when if we drilled it it's just -- if we got all our oil of there it would last, what, six months? A few months anyway -- when we can get more energy out of sensible conservation available now. The higher mileage engines are about to come on line. And pretty soon we'll have different kinds of fuels, anyway. And that's what we ought to do.
They both forcefully, clearly, articulately made their case -- and there is a difference. Now, I think they're right, and I think they're not. But the main thing is you can't let anybody you know show up to vote without understanding that there are going to be huge consequences to the way you live. Same thing is true in education, same thing is true in health care. And it's not just seniors and medicine. It's a lot of other things, as well.
The same thing is true in the right to privacy. The same thing is true in how we're going to build one America. Everybody is now for one America. You never see people using divisive rhetoric in national politics anymore, and I am proud of that. And I give the Republicans credit for not using words that wound anymore. We shouldn't demean -- words matter. And I'm glad they've come closer to our position.
But underneath the words, we're for the hate crimes legislation, and their leadership is against it and they're going to kill it -- (applause) -- unless I can figure out how to save it. And if you can figure out how to save it and you'll help us, the Democrats, believe me, we'll be trying until the last day we're here to put it on, to pass it. We've got a bipartisan majority now. There are enough Republicans, including another cousin of Mark's who is in the United States Senate, who every now and then kind of drifts off to the Udall side of his family and votes with us. (Laughter.) I won't call his name because I'm afraid it will hurt him, I don't want him to be run out of the Republican caucus. (Laughter.) But they're not for that.
They're not for the employment and nondiscrimination legislation that says that gays shouldn't be discriminated against in the work force. They're not for our legislation to strengthen the enforcement of equal pay laws for women, still a huge challenge in our country. We had the lowest female unemployment rate in 40 years, but we still have a big pay gap for doing the same kind of work, and it's wrong. You have all these young women here, you're looking forward to getting out of high school, going to college, getting out of college, going to work. Why should you be paid less than a man if you do the same work with the same responsibility? It's been illegal for 35 years, but we don't enforce it. (Applause.)
Anyway, you get the drift here. This is not a personality contest. I think we should posit that our opponents are good people who love their families, love their country and will do their dead-level best to do what they think is right when they get in. They have told us what they think is right, we sometimes have trouble unpacking it. But if you look with great clarity on this environmental issue, you can be under no illusion that there will be dramatic differences depending on how this election comes out.
And everybody you know between now and election who will never come to something like this, but would never consider missing the vote, you better talk to. Because we need Mark Udall, we need Tom Udall. We need to have a Senate that has a lot more people who think like us. And we need to win this presidential race. And we will do it. (Applause.) The good news is, the American people get it, in general. They want this election to be about the issues. They have a sense that this is an extraordinary opportunity. And that's the last thing I'll say.
Al Gore sometimes says, you ain't seen nothing yet. And I guess when somebody running says that, it sounds like a campaign statement. I'm not running for anything, and I believe it. I have done my best for eight years to turn this country around. (Applause.) I've done my best to turn the country around, pull the country together and move the country forward. But it takes time to turn a country around, to get all the indicators going in the right direction.
Maybe once in 50 years does a great democracy find itself with prosperity, social progress, national self-confidence, the absence of domestic crisis or external threat. This just doesn't happen where all this stuff happens at once. We've got a chance for you young people to actually build the future of your dreams. But we have to decide. We have to choose. We cannot pretend that this is not important.
And I'm glad you came here. And I guess in any election year, Mark and Tom and their families could pull out this kind of crowd at 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night. (Laughter.) But this election year, you mark my words, this is a big deal.
I was 18 once, the last time we had low unemployment, high growth, low inflation. We had a civil rights challenge, but we thought there would never be riots in the streets and it would all be resolved in Congress and the courts. And we sort of kind of drifted off and got our attention divided and found ourselves kind of embroiled in Vietnam. And then before you know it, it had divided the country, we had riots in the street.
Dr. King was killed. Senator Kennedy was killed. President Johnson, who had done so much for civil rights and to alleviate poverty and so much to help education, had a country so divided he said he wouldn't, and probably couldn't, run for reelection. And before you knew it, the last time we had an economy like this and a sense of possibility, it was gone like that.
Now we have to concentrate. And we have to argue. We don't have to be mean, we don't have to be negative. All we've got to do is be clear, honest and energetic. The best is still out there. You need to go get it.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 10:24 P.M. EDT