Public Papers - 1992 - September
Remarks to the Christian Coalition Road to Victory Conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia
The President. Thank you, Dr. Pat Robertson. Thank you. Thank you very, very much for that welcome. I'm delighted to be here. Thank you. I am just delighted to be here. Pat, thank you for this rousing welcome and this warm introduction and the friendship. I tell you, it's a joy to be here with you.
I want to salute the leadership. My respects, of course, to Dede Robertson, who's made us feel so welcome here in this short time, and the family. Some of you missed out on this, but I was embraced by the Robertson family with these wonderful kids and grandkids. So you have a nice way of making us feel at home. Thank you very much.
May I salute my comrade-in-arms in Washington, Senator Warner, who's with us tonight. He's doing an awful lot of work for all the things we believe in. I want to salute the members of the board of this Christian Coalition and also to thank Reverend Sweet. And I understand that Dan Burton was here or is here. And here he is sitting right here -- didn't see him when he first walked in -- a great Member of the House. You know, if we had more people like Dan, we wouldn't be saying ``Clean House!'', I'll tell you. May I salute Senators Mark Earley and Ken Stolle.
It is said of some groups that they haven't got a prayer. Well, tonight I'm pleased to be with an audience about whom that will never be said. [Laughter] I am delighted to be here in the heart of America's evangelical community. And in recent weeks, you and I have been accused of focusing our energies on what has been called a narrow, irrelevant topic, the American family. Well, I believe it is our critics who are guilty of tunnel vision, because in my mind the family is at the center of America, a source of strength for us as individuals and for America as a nation.
So when I talk about the importance of family, I don't mean to suggest that we should somehow go back to the days of Ozzie and Harriet. Nor do I pass judgment on the kind of family you live in, whether both parents work or just one parent, or whether you're a part of a single-parent family. Families are not measured by ``what kind'' but by ``how close.''
I talk about the American family because of something I learn every single day in the Oval Office. When confronting the problems of America, it does no good to attack symptoms. You have to go after the root causes. Ask any mayor, any Governor, any teacher, and yes, any minister, any preacher, and they'll tell you the exact same thing: The one sure way to make America more safe and secure is to make our families more safe and secure.
What are the pressures on the families today? You know them well: schools with low academic standards, young people not learning traditional values that can steady them in an uncertain world. The coarseness of our culture is reflected on some of the most outrageous television shows. The scourge of drugs and violence, these are real issues that Government must address. So I will not be driven away from discussing ways to strengthen the family by those who claim the topic unimportant. Strengthening the family must be a national priority, and it will be as long as I am President of the United States.
If we care about the family, and we all do, then we have to care about the economy, because today one major threat to the American family is a weak economy. And I want to talk about that tonight. Today, family budgets are stretched by rising health care costs. Low-income families are hurt because too often welfare encourages dependency, not personal responsibility. When a mom or dad loses a job, the impact is felt first right at home. So if we care about family, and we all do, we have to figure out a way to make sure that America in the 21st century is more than a military superpower, but we are also an export superpower and an economic superpower.
That's why yesterday in Detroit I laid out my Agenda for American Renewal, a comprehensive plan to create by the early part of the 21st century the world's first trillion economy. With that kind of dynamic growth, we will be able to address all our challenges here at home and take some pressure off our families who are struggling today.
Now, here's where we start. Right now in our factories, one out of every six manufacturing jobs is tied to trade. On our farms, and this may surprise you, on our farms 1 in every 3 acres that we harvest will be sold abroad. America's future lies in building on our strengths to become the world leader in trade.
My opponent spends his energy talking about our weaknesses. He claims, and I quote, that ``America is somewhere south of Germany headed for Sri Lanka.'' He talks about how we're ridiculed around the world. I wish my opponent could see the people of Germany and Eastern Europe whose eyes brighten at the simple word ``America.'' We helped in the reunification of Germany, and they all know it.
I wish my opponent could see what's going on in American factories and businesses despite all our challenges. Don't forget this fact: If you want to talk to the world's most productive workers, you don't buy a ticket to Japan or Germany. You go to Tulsa or Tampa or Tempe. The most productive workers in the world can be found right here in the U.S.A., and we should never let the opposition tell us differently.
I have faith that if we open foreign markets, our workers will satisfy the demand for our products. So my agenda starts with a global trade strategy, to build a network of new free trade agreements not just with Canada and Mexico but with Chile and other Latin American nations, as well as the emerging democracies like Hungary and Poland.
America alone can take advantage of our influence to create unique opportunities for our people. You know, while some say America should turn away from the world economy, I say let's reach out. After all, the American worker will never retreat, and we will always compete. In my view, we will always win. We are the best, and we ought to keep reaching out to help people here at home.
But understand, developed economies need developing minds. That's why this Agenda for American Renewal takes aim at a second critical challenge: preparing our children for the new century ahead. That's going to require, literally require, a revolution in American education.
Dr. Robertson told me that you heard from our distinguished Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, today. He's taking this message for America 2000, this change in education, all across our country, and I strongly support him. Competition works in our economy, and I believe it's time to bring some competition to the classroom. I know, as I say, that Lamar was here today, and I'm sure he talked about our ``GI bill'' for kids. I hope he did. It would give ,000 scholarships to low- and middle-income parents so that they can choose the school they want their children to attend.
My opponent says he supports a variety of choice in education. But if you look close, real close, he wants parents to choose between public schools, public schools, and public schools. I want to go further. I support the public schools; I want to go further. Whether it's the public schools across town, though, or the private or religious school right across the street, I believe parents, not the Government, should decide which school is best for their kids.
I was a beneficiary of the GI bill many years ago when I got out. They didn't say to me you can't only go to a State school, or you must go to a religious university or whatever it is. What happened there, these kids coming out of the service were given the GI bill, and they could go to the schools of their choice. It strengthened every single university. The same thing can happen now at the K-through-12 level, and that's what we're talking about here.
Now, the third component of my Agenda for American Renewal: helping America's businesses sharpen their competitive edge. Small businesses create two-thirds of all new American jobs, and they are the first to turn change to advantage in a fast-moving economy. Pat Robertson is a businessman and a darn good one. He'll tell you what holds back business in America today, three things: regulation, taxation, and yes, litigation. And I want to cut them all.
You know, America has become the land of the lawsuit. If you fall off a ladder these days, a trial lawyer will be there to catch you before you hit the ground. [Laughter] Each year consumers and companies now spend up to 0 billion on direct payments to lawyers. Japan doesn't do it. Germany doesn't do it.
Just yesterday, and John Warner knows this, just yesterday we had a bill before the United States Senate, the Congress, to reform our product liability laws, to try to finally do something about these outrageous lawsuits. We had more than enough votes, as John will tell you, for passage of the bill. We had well over 50 percent. But the liberal leaders of the Congress heard from their friends the trial lawyers, who twisted a few arms, and when they were finished, we could get 58 votes, not the 60 we needed. We couldn't even get the liability reform up for a vote. The people's will was frustrated by the liberal leaders in the Congress. ``Clean House!'' is my motto.
I don't think that's right. And while the trial lawyers may not like it, I'm going to keep fighting to reform our legal system. I believe as a nation -- I really feel this -- that we've got to sue each other less and start caring for one another more.
That brings me to the fourth part of the agenda: providing economic security for all Americans. You know, in the past 4 years, we've done so much to bring peace to the world, but our victory is not complete until we have peace of mind at home. Whether your collar is blue or white, or whether you till the farm or work on the assembly line, Americans today worry about health care. They wonder if they can afford it, and they worry that they might lose it.
Again, we have two alternatives. My opponent offers a plan that would have Government set prices and could eventually lead to having 13 percent of our gross national product under the same people who gave us the House post office. Now, that isn't good enough.
I used to say that the system would give us the efficiency of the House post office and the compassion of the KGB, but I don't say that anymore because I'm getting a lot of Russians mad. They're writing letters saying, quit knocking the KGB. [Laughter]
But I have a very different approach, and it's a better approach. You cut the costs by going after the root causes of health care explosion; one of them, medical malpractice. Encourage small businesses to pool their coverage, their insurance coverage, driving down the price. Use the principles of the marketplace to make sure that when it comes to medicine, the intense pain only occurs at the doctor's office, not a month later when you get the bill at home. [Laughter]
America can have no spare people if we're to compete in the next century. So the fifth part, then, of our total agenda must mean an America that leaves nobody behind. Welfare as we know it simply has to change. Today's welfare drains taxpayers of hard-earned dollars and recipients of hard-to-replace dignity. But now, States like Wisconsin are taking the lead, and they're saying, enough is enough. With our help, they're experimenting with programs that reward work and the learning -- call it Learnfare -- leadership, personal responsibility. We desperately need a welfare system that encourages families to stick together and for those fathers to stick around.
The sixth part of my agenda for America will bring change to one of the most change-resistant institutions in America, the Government. Think about the family budget in 1955. Back then the average family spent 5 percent of its adjusted gross income on Federal taxes. Today the figure is almost 24 percent. Many moms and dads are forced to spend less time with their children so they can feed Uncle Sam's voracious appetite. My opponent has a boundless enthusiasm for Government, and he offers already at least 0 billion in new spending and 0 billion in new taxes. And that's just for openers; that's just to start. And I take a different approach.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. I believe that the Government is too big, and it spends too much of your money. That's why my agenda includes a new idea to drive down the deficit by giving you, the American taxpayer, the power to earmark a full 10 percent of your Federal tax dollars for one purpose and one purpose only, to get down the national debt.
The same people that don't like the line-item veto and the balanced budget amendment don't like this idea. But they've had their day. Now let's try these new ideas to do something about the deficit that's mortgaging the future of the young people in this country.
So this is the outline, a broad outline of this agenda for America, and it's filled with other ideas. Many are well underway; others are new. But all represent a serious response to the economic challenges of this new age, an answer to the questions being asked around America's dining room tables. I have diagnosed the problem, I think, properly; have offered specific solutions. Not all of them are popular. And I'm asking for a mandate so that we can put my ideas into action immediately and get this economy moving again.
For now, at least, my opponent's chosen a very different strategy. Rather than talk about what he wants to do for America, he spends a lot of his time and his energy belittling my ideas and playing on fears. One example I want to talk about: ways to limit the growth of Federal spending, which every expert will tell you must be done. But instead of offering any spending restraints on his own, Governor Clinton simply goes around saying, ``Watch out, senior citizens. Watch out, veterans. Watch out, disabled Americans,'' the same old scare tactics that they use every 4 years, and it's not going to work.
My administration has strengthened Social Security. I've said I'm not going to mess with it, and I haven't, and we aren't. We stood beside our veterans. And we signed the law, and I'm very proud of this, that brought disabled Americans at long, long last into the economic mainstream. I am not going to let Governor Clinton frighten Americans by telling them these scare stories that crop up by the liberals every 4 years.
And yes, I believe America deserves a serious discussion on the issues, issues like how to renew our Nation by spurring economic growth so that we can help strengthen our families. I'll talk about ideas that deal not just with our immediate challenges today but will build a safer and a more secure America tomorrow.
So let my opponent do what is safe and politically balanced, and I'm going to keep trying to do what is right for our great country.
Before I leave, let me just say how deeply I support all the work you're doing to restore the spiritual foundation of this Nation. And I say this: The longer that Barbara and I are privileged to live in the White House, the more I understood what Lincoln meant when he said he went to his knees in prayer. I commend you. I join with you in committing to uphold the sanctity of life.
Matthew, chapter 6, verse 21, reminds us, ``Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'' And our treasure is with America. With our renewal agenda and your efforts out there in those grassroots, we are joined in a crusade to create an American future that is worthy of its proud past.
Thank you for this exceptionally warm welcome. May God bless this great Nation, the United States of America. Thank you all very, very much. Thank you.
Note: The President spoke at 8:20 p.m. at the Founders Inn and Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to Pat Robertson, president, Christian Coalition; A. George Sweet, pastor, Atlantic Shores Baptist Church; and Mark L. Earley and Kenneth W. Stolle, Virginia State senators.