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Clinton tells DNC to remain optimistic about 2000

September 24, 1999
Web posted at: 4:55 p.m. EDT (2055 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Warning the Democratic National Committee's plenary session in Washington Friday that "it's a long time between now and November of 2000," President Bill Clinton said Democrats should "be of good cheer and proud because America is a better place than it was in 1992."

After thanking the committee for its hard work in the 1998 midterm election and confirming that he will move Saturday to name Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell as the new DNC chair, Clinton told the group that the Democrats' "strategy had been validated" during his term in office but warned the party must continue to move forward.

Clinton
President Clinton spoke to the DNC Friday  

"Don't fight with people when they say we need a change. Tell them we certainly do," Clinton said. "The question is not whether we're going to change, but what kind of change we are going to make. And are we going to change based on all the good things that are going on in America now, or would we instead take a u-turn and go back to the stuff that got us in so much trouble before the vice president and I came here."

Clinton also will attend a dinner with the DNC Friday night as the party's annual fall meeting in Washington continues through Sunday.

Touting the country's long economic boom, Clinton joked that perhaps the economy has been doing so well for so long that Americans couldn't remember what it was like when it was bad and "and tended to give everybody good ratings on the economy -- Bush, Hoover, the whole crowd."

But he urged the party to fight the "collective amnesia" and help Americans understand the differences between Republican tax rhetoric and the events of the 1980s, when Republican administrations cut taxes but ran up record budget deficits.

"After 12 years, we had quadrupled the debt of the United States of America," Clinton said. "Sen. Dale Bumpers used to say, 'If you let me write a couple billion dollars worth of hot checks, I'll show you a good time, too.'"

The president warned that most of America hasn't yet gotten interested in the 2000 elections and warned that early polling isn't always and accurate forecast of the ultimate outcome.

"In June of 1992, you know where I was in the polls? Not behind -- third, third. This is not a horse race. You don't collect any money if you show," Clinton joked. "Then the elections started for the real people... And the American people nearly always get it right. That's why we're still around here after all this time."

Although Clinton did not mention Vice President Al Gore by name, the president was clearly referring to polls showing Texas Gov. George Bush handling beating the Democratic front-runner.

"It's September. I feel like I've been going through this campaign all my life. And I'm not even running in it," the president kidded before telling his party that the people still expect his administration and Congress to make progress on such issues as Social Security and Medicare reform, Education and paying down the national debt.

He defended his veto of the Republican tax cut plan and said the Republican presidential hopefuls should be grateful because he was saving them "a red face in 2000."

"Every one of their presidential candidates is out there telling us that they want to spend more money ... and every one of them are for this tax bill that I vetoed, " Clinton said. "And if it became law, they'd all be stuck. Every one of their campaign speeches would be bogus. Because there'd be no money to pay for all these things they're out there promising the voters."

Clinton also pointed to the Democrats' support of the patients' bill of rights and closing the gun-show loop hole as key issues in election 2000.

"There are still too many people getting killed (by) people that have mental health problems walking around with guns... We can make this the safest big country in the world. And the American people will make that decision in the next election by the decision they make," Clinton said.

The speech marked Clinton's last address to the DNC meeting as the party leader and president. According to press secretary Joe Lockhart, next year's fall meeting will be focused on the party's nominee for 2000.

Written by Janine Yagielski

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Friday, September 24, 1999

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