[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[September 9, 1998]
[Pages 1548-1551]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Florida Democratic Party Luncheon in Orlando
September 9, 1998

    The President. Thank you so much. Thank you, Jim Pugh, for all the 
work you've done on this dinner and lunch and for helping Buddy through 
this long campaign. And thank you, Governor Rossello, for everything 
you've said and for your leadership of our Democratic Governors' 
    I'd like to thank the Members of Congress who are here, Peter 
Deutsch, Rob Wexler, Corrine Brown, and your State party chair, Mitch 
Ceasar. And especially I want to thank Buddy and Anne MacKay for years 
and years and years of devoted service to the people of Florida and for 
taking on this campaign and seeing it through to what I predict will be 
a victory that will surprise some but not me. And I thank them.
    I came here today to talk to you about what we've done together in 
the last 6 years and what's at stake in this election. I think the 
people of this country have a serious choice to make in November between 
progress or partisanship, between people or politics, between unity or 
    You have been very good to me here in Florida--to me and to Hillary 
and to the Vice President and our administration----
    Audience member. We love you, Bill!
    The President. ----and I'm very grateful to you. You have been 
astonishingly kind and generous to me today. And I will never forget it. 
If God lets me live to be an old man, I will never forget what Buddy 
MacKay said today from this platform when he could have said nothing. 
And so I hope you will just indulge me for a minute while I say that I 
thank you for that.
    I have been your friend. I've done my best to be your friend, but I 
also let you down. And I let my family down, and I let this country 
down. But I'm trying to make it right. And I'm determined never to let 
anything like that happen again. And I'm determined--[applause]--wait a 
minute, wait a minute. I'm determined to redeem the trust of people like 
Buddy and Anne, who were with me in 1991--a lot of the rest of you were, 
too--when nobody but my mother and my wife thought I had a chance to be 
    When I was over at the Hillcrest School--Buddy and I were over there 
a few minutes ago, and I was shaking hands with all these little kids 
out there. And this kid that reminded me a lot of myself when I was that 
young--he was bigger than the other students and kind of husky--he said, 
``Mr. President, I want to

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grow up to be President. I want to be a President like you.'' And I 
said--I thought, I want to be able to conduct my life and my Presidency 
so that all the parents of the country could feel good if their children 
were able to say that again. I'll never forget that little boy, and it's 
a big guide for me.
    So I ask you for your understanding, for your forgiveness on this 
journey we're on. I hope this will be a time of reconciliation and 
healing, and I hope that millions of families all over America are in a 
way growing stronger because of this. But I'll tell you one thing that I 
hope you won't let happen. There are a whole lot of people, in 
Washington especially, or who write about this, who would like for 
this--once again would like for something going on in Washington to be 
the subject of an election in November, instead of what's going on in 
the lives of the American people. And I want to be open with you; I want 
you to understand these have been the toughest days of my life. But they 
may turn out to be the most valuable, for me and my family. And I have 
no one to blame but myself for my self-inflicted wounds. But that's not 
what America is about. And it doesn't take away from whether we're right 
or wrong on the issues or what we've done for the last 6 years or what 
this election is about.
    So what I want to say to you is, you've been kind and understanding 
to me today. I hope you'll tell your friends and neighbors that I'm 
grateful and that I'm determined to redeem the trust of all the American 
people. But don't be fooled, not for a minute, not for a day. Elections 
are about you and your children and your communities and your future. 
And I was looking at Buddy up here today, thinking, you know, how many 
people in how many places in this country would be well served to have 
somebody as profoundly decent and committed to doing the right thing as 
he is in any office in the land.
    This is a big issue for Florida. What really matters is what 
decisions would the Governor of Florida make that would affect you. You 
take this HMO bill of rights--we're trying to pass one in Washington. 
Suppose we don't pass one. There is still a huge percentage of people in 
Florida that are in HMO's. Forty-three HMO's in this country have 
endorsed our plan. Why? Because they're out there treating people right 
already, and they think you ought to be able to go to an emergency room 
if you're hurt, the one nearest to you and be reimbursed, not be taken 
across town. They think if you need a specialist, you ought to be able 
to get one. They believe if you have medical records, they ought to be 
private. They believe if your employer changes HMO's in the middle of 
your pregnancy or your cancer treatment, you ought not to have to switch 
doctors. And they believe if these rights are there, you ought to have 
some way to enforce them. Now, that's what this is about. Now, the vote 
for Governor of Florida could determine whether people in this State get 
those protections. That's what the election is about.
    We heard Buddy talking about education. We've got an education 
opportunity in this country with the diversity of our kids, but we also 
have an obligation. The States have constitutional responsibility for 
education. The vote for Governor of Florida will determine what kind of 
education our children get.
    You heard him talking about the gun issue. I was, I guess, the first 
President ever to get into a public squabble with the NRA over the Brady 
bill and then the assault weapons ban. I was sort of sad about it; 
actually, I had worked with them from time to time when I was Governor 
of Arkansas. But we were in the business of letting politics and 
rhetoric get in the way of children's lives. This is a better country 
because we passed the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban. And you've 
got this loophole in Florida--and this is about politics as opposed to 
principle. No one possibly could believe that if you need a check on the 
background, the criminal or mental health history of somebody who can go 
into a gun store and buy a gun, that you shouldn't have that on any gun 
purchase. It doesn't take that long.
    Now, these are big issues. A quarter of a million people have not 
been able to buy guns because of their criminal history since the Brady 
bill passed. How many people do you think are alive because of that? So 
your decision in the Governor's race in Florida will have an effect on 
    And we're all here because we know all this, and I guess in a way 
I'm preaching to the choir again. But I wanted to say, as much as I have 
been touched by the wonderful reception you've given me today, as much 
as I hope you'll share what I said to you today with your friends and 
neighbors, never forget you come here as citizens, with the 
responsibilities of citizens. And

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we go forward from this room because we know that our individual lives 
and our family lives cannot be all they want to be unless our 
communities, our State, and our Nation is all it can be.
    I go back to Washington to work on--with only a very few weeks left 
in this congressional session--an enormously important agenda for this 
country. And let me just give you three or four examples of what really 
the election ought to be about, because it will chart the future of the 
country for years ahead.
    On October 1st--and I am counting the days--we are going to have the 
first balanced budget and surplus we've had in 29 years, and it's going 
to be amazing. Now, there are already people who say, ``Well, it's 
election year. Let's give people a tax cut.'' Well, let me remind you, 
we have 16 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 30 
years, the lowest percentage of people on welfare in 29 years, and the 
first balanced budget in 29 years, and the highest homeownership in 
history, and the lowest inflation rate in 32 years because we didn't 
squander money. We kept at it until we eliminated the deficit. That got 
interest rates down; that led to huge investment and an explosion in the 
markets and the country going forward.
    Now, if we spend this money because we estimate that we'll have 
surpluses for years ahead, what happens to our other obligations? You 
know, pretty soon the baby boomers will start to retire--I say, pretty 
soon, starting in about 13 years, 10, if you take early Social Security. 
I'm the oldest of the baby boomers. We're the biggest group of 
Americans, the people between 34 and 52, in the history of the country 
until the kids that started school last year. We finally have a bigger 
group of kids in school, which every Florida school district with a 
bunch of trailers out back of the regular building knows. [Laughter]
    But before that, there was us, the baby boomers, the children of the 
World War II generation. Now, when we retire, at present rates of work 
force participation and birth rates and immigration rates, there will 
only be about two people working for every one person drawing Social 
Security. We'll all be eligible for Medicare. And I'm telling you, it is 
a mistake for us to go out and have an election year gimmick to please 
people, no matter how pleasing it would be with a tax cut, until we know 
we have saved Social Security for the 21st century in a way that does 
not require us to maintain our retirement by lowering the standard of 
living of our children and grandchildren. It is important, and we ought 
to be tough about it.
    And by the way, it's also good in the global economy for America to 
be strong and set an example. You see with all the gyrations in the 
stock market last week, a lot of you probably said, ``Well, I hadn't 
noticed any companies going broke, and I haven't noticed any companies 
making windfall amounts of money. It looks like the economy is just 
growing steady. Why is the market jumping up and down?'' And then when 
you read the articles they say, ``Well, it's because of what's going on 
in the global economy.''
    So I say to you, the United States, as Alan Greenspan said the other 
day, cannot be an island of prosperity in a sea of distress. Thirty 
percent of our growth has come because of global growth, our expanding 
trade. In Florida, you know that. Buddy and I, we've done export events 
here in Florida with very impressive businesses here selling all over 
the world.
    Now, the United States has an obligation to try to keep global 
economic growth going, to help the countries when they get in trouble, 
if they'll help themselves--if they'll help themselves--and to create an 
environment in which growth can occur. One of the things we have to do 
is at least pay our dues to the institutions like the International 
Monetary Fund that can put money into these countries that are 
reforming. And it's in our interest.
    You know, we've got a lot of farmers in the Midwest and the high 
plains who are really going to have a hard time this year because in 
Asia, where the countries have had difficult economic problems, they 
can't afford to buy our food anymore. And it's led to big drops in farm 
    So I ask you to support, number one, an economic program that saves 
Social Security first, and don't fool with this balanced budget until we 
actually achieve it--we ought to look at the black ink just for a day or 
two before we start to give it away--[laughter]--and number two, 
fulfills our responsibilities to the global economy; and number three, 
recognizes that over the long run we can't grow this economy and become 
what we ought to be and be one country with all this diversity you have 
in Florida and throughout the country unless we have

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a commitment to have a world-class education that's available to every 
single child.
    Now, we have a national plan that will help Florida, for the first 
time, to help to build or expand or remodel 5,000 schools, to have 
smaller classes in the early grades, to have safer schools, to have 
better reading programs, to hook up all of our schools to the Internet. 
But in the end, I will say again, it matters who is Governor. And if you 
think about Florida's long-term history, if you look at the record that 
Lawton and Buddy have made for the last 8 years, I hope you'll encourage 
everybody in this congressional delegation to put partisanship aside and 
vote for our education agenda, but even if it all passes, in order to 
have the maximum impact it matters who the Governor is.
    And unless we can prove that America can be one out of all these 
many cultures--to echo what Governor Rossello said--we're not going to 
have the America we want. And we won't be able to do that unless we 
achieve in education.
    So, balance the budget; save Social Security before you spend the 
surplus; meet our obligations to stabilize the international economy, 
because it's the right thing to do morally and it happens to be in our 
interest; give us a world-class education; pass the Patients' Bill of 
Rights on the national level and at the State level; prove that we can--
big issue in Florida--prove that we can grow the economy while improving 
the environment. Forty percent of our lakes and rivers are still not 
safe to swim in. We still have places with safe drinking water needs. As 
you have seen in Florida, climate change and the warming of the planet 
is real. We have to prove we can deal with these things and grow the 
economy. I'm so grateful for the chance that we've had to be involved 
together in recovering the Everglades. There are ways to do these things 
that will promote economic opportunity and still improve the 
    There are lots of other issues coming up in Washington. We're 
finally going to get a chance to give the Senate one more chance to pass 
campaign finance reform. And I hope we do that. You know, you've done it 
in Florida. Every single member of our caucus in the Senate supports it. 
They are determined to kill the bill through a filibuster. But we 
finally passed a good campaign finance reform bill through the House. I 
thank the House Members here from Florida for supporting it. We've got a 
real chance in the Senate.
    And all this ought to be dealt with in the next 3 weeks. And if it's 
not, the voters ought to deal with it in November--choices, choices, 
choices. Elections should be about you and your children and your 
future, not what somebody else tells you they ought to be about.
    Again, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support 
you've given to all of us. Let me thank you for your kindness to me 
today. Let me thank you most of all for supporting Buddy. But let me 
challenge you: This is a big, fast-growing State that is a model of the 
future of America; don't you let a single, solitary soul you know get 
away without voting in November, because the future of America is riding 
on it.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:52 p.m. in the Lake Ivanhoe Room at the 
Orlando Marriott Downtown. In his remarks, he referred to Jim Pugh, 
event chair; gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay of Florida 
and his wife, Anne; Gov. Pedro Rossello of Puerto Rico; Hillcrest 
Elementary School student Marcos Encinias; and Gov. Lawton Chiles of