President Clinton Delivers State of the Union AddressAired January 27, 2000 - 9:18 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Good evening.
The U.S. Constitution says simply this: "The president shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. In a few minutes, that's precisely what Mr. Clinton will do once again, probably for the last time.
Tonight, the president will spend more than an hour outlining several new policy proposals, including tax cuts and gun control. We will bring you the president's speech live as well as the Republican response. This year's speech is in marked contrast to last year's, which came in the midst of Mr. Clinton's impeachment trial in the Senate.
To look ahead to what we can expect tonight, let's first go to CNN senior White House correspondent John King -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the one new proposal, the biggest new proposal we have not heard about in the week leading up to the State of the Union. the president, we're told by sources in the administration, will propose a new gun licensing program. Under the program, we're told the president will ask Congress to endorse legislation that would require anyone looking to buy a handgun to first get a background check as required under the Brady Bill and then to take a gun safety course. Only then could you get a photo I.D. from your state, allowing you to purchase a handgun. Now if a state decided not to participate in that program, there would be a backup federal program. That's sure to be among the controversial items now. The Republican Congress has been reluctant to embrace the president's gun control agenda.
Also in the speech tonight a new tax cut plan from the president -- $350 billion over 10 years, a very different targeting approach than the Republicans have.
And look for the president to pay tribute to his vice president roughly a half dozen times. Mr. Clinton tonight in his final State of the Union Address trying very much to help his handpicked successor.
BLITZER: OK, John, stand by. The president has arrived on Capitol Hill, where members of the House and Senate are now in place. Also in the chamber, the joint chiefs of staff, and ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic corps here in Washington.
CNN's Congressional correspondent Bob Franken is there as well -- Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's sort of the milling around that goes on now. As you could see just a moment ago, a few of the senators had already arrived.
Wolf, we already had Republican preaction to the president's speech and the president's plans. The Senate Budget Committee has just put out a news release, pointing out that in the last 31 days, according to them, the president has already come up with 43 different spending programs, combined with the prescription drug benefit they say that the president proposes spending $343 billion a year. And they say, if that is the case, if the president speaks for 90 minutes tonight, he'll spend about $4 billion a minute. What's more, they say, that the president will be spending more money than the government can print it. They say that the government prints about $266 billion a year.
So if you think that the Republicans are going to just say, yes, sir, Mr. President, we appreciate everything you're saying --they aren't even waiting for him to speak.
BLITZER: And they're gearing up for a relatively long speech, Bob. But as you well know, they're used to this by now.
FRANKEN: Yes. If we're talking about long speeches, the president doesn't have to make another one. The president can be expected to speak quite a bit longer than the 90 minutes.
BLITZER: All right, as we await the president's arrival in the House chamber, let's bring in our analysts, Jeff Greenfield and Bob Novak. They join us from Manchester, New Hampshire, where they're covering next Tuesday's first-in-the nation presidential primary. And Cynthia Tucker of "The Atlanta Constitution." She's at the CNN Center.
Bob Novak, you've seen a lot of these State of the Union addresses. You've seen all of the president's, President Clinton's, State of the Union addresses. Is he ready tonight for the anticipated reaction that the Republicans are going to give him in this presidential election year?
ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: I think so. The Republicans tonight, Wolf, are not very enthusiastic about this. A lot of them were wondering if they could send staffers to be warm bodies in the seats, because they don't want to sit through this.
You know, Congress really isn't in session right now. Congress is seldom in session, but they're certainly not in session right now.
When I first came to Washington, believe it or not, Wolf Blitzer, General Eisenhower was president, and he used to give this State of the Union speech in the middle of the day, and it was a laundry list of items, although I think there's been a little regression, because -- by Clinton on that, as far as the laundry list goes. But the point was, it wasn't this big media event with an attempt, I think, a very studied attempt, to make it a pep rally for Vice President Gore's campaign.
BLITZER: And Jeff Greenfield, a lot different Republican leadership now. Newt Gingrich is not the speaker. It's Dennis Hastert, who is the speaker. The Republicans are going to be much more cautious in dealing with the president's proposals this year, knowing that the House and the Senate, if you will, are up at stake.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Sure, the Republicans have the narrowest majority in the House I think in decades. They have many more open seats to defend than the Democrats. There's got to be real concern.
But I think we ought to point out that the movement of the State of the Union speech from an actual government event to primetime show is bipartisan. I remember John Kennedy's first speech was in daytime. I remember it was Ronald Reagan who began to use the technique of peppering the gallery with heroes. Remember Lenny Scutnic (ph), the hero of the Air Florida crash, to the point where they are now called Scutnics. We asked before the State of the Union, Who are the Scutnics this year? Who are the heroes that the president will summon from the gallery as, if you pardon the expression, props to make his political point?
So this is just another example of what old-timers like Novak and me regard as the degeneration of a once interesting bit of government business into a television show.
NOVAK: Of course at one time, Wolf, before the -- before it was changed by I believe Woodrow Wilson the president sent the manuscript up to the Hill in a -- with a messenger. And Thomas Jefferson started that. He said, you don't have to go up there. Thomas Jefferson was a great president.
BLITZER: Cynthia Tucker, as you take a look at what's happening in Washington right now, certainly what's happening in New Hampshire, getting ready for this presidential campaign that's already under way, but it's going to get into full force, and you look at this outgoing president, isn't it far to call Bill Clinton already a lame duck.
CYNTHIA TUCKER, "ATLANTA CONSTITUTION: Well clearly, his power is diminished, because this is his last year in office. But it's also clear from the laundry list of items he's going to present the, very aggressive program he's going to present tonight, that he's not going to go away quietly. This man will miss very much being president. He also clearly regrets the tarnish that has been left on his legacy. So we will see a man who will find every opportunity to very aggressively engage. Foreign policy, by the way, will continue to give him the opportunity to do that over the coming year.
BLITZER: And as you're speaking, Cynthia, we see the first lady arriving in the gallery. She's going to be, of course, with the invited guests. Among those, sitting to Mrs. Clinton's right will be Hank Aaron. You can see Hank Aaron, the baseball legend, who is there among those applauding right now, and of course daughter Chelsea has come back from Stanford University. She will be right next to Mrs. Clinton. And next to Chelsea Clinton -- you don't see her right now -- yes we do, barely, to the right of the picture, is Julie Faudi. She's one of the U.S. soccer team players, the co-captain of the women's World Cup soccer team. She's there.
Let's bring in John King. John -- you're over at the White House -- let's talk a little bit about some of these guests that Mrs. Clinton and the president have invited.
Tony Mauser -- he's the father of one of the Columbine High School victims -- what is all that -- what is that about?
KING: He is, as Jeff Greenfield said, one of the special guest, goes back to the Reagan administration. The president will ask him to stand, ask Congress to applaud, ask Congress to remember the tragedy of Columbine High and then push very controversial gun controls. The president looking to improve the political climate as he pushes, again, gun control proposals, very unpopular with most of the Republicans, who are in the majority in the Congress.
Hank Aaron on hand for the president's remarks on race relations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the acting ambassador of the diplomatic corps.
BLITZER: All right, that's Bill Livingood (ph) -- he's the sergeant at arms -- introducing the president of the United States.
John, you were saying?
KING: Also on hand, among the guests, Hank Aaron, the baseball legend there. The president will salute him as he discusses his effort to improve race relations in the United States.
You see members of Congress applauding here.
And there is a woman from Tennessee up there in the box. That's Al Gore's home state. The president will ask her to stand as he discusses the problems of elderly Americans that he says, the president says and the vice president, in his campaign says, deserve a prescription drug benefit as part of the Medicare program.
BLITZER: Bob Franken, this shot that we're seeing from the rotunda, I don't remember seeing this in years past. Is this a new camera angle we're getting now?
FRANKEN: Well, the Republicans, actually, were the ones who have been responsible to allow more cameras in the House chambers than there used to be. And this is just one of them. We now have artsy coverage of the State of the Union message.
By the way, if you listen real closely, you can hear a lot of people, a lot of people on that floor thinking, gee, I hope I get re- elected. There's going to be real fight for control of the House of Representatives this year, and the Republicans and Democrats have just now what amounts to six-vote split. This is the deputy sergeant at arms, who is waiting to introduce the next people -- let's listen.
BILL LIVINGOOD, HOUSE SERGEANT OF ARMS: Mr. Speaker, the president's cabinet.
FRANKEN: The ultimate announcement, by the way, will probably be made -- here comes -- you can see Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the members of the cabinet coming in.
By the way, Wolf, this would be a good time I think to talk about a conversation you and I had with a cabinet member who was left behind. As you know, one is always left behind. This year, it's going to be Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. That is in case some sort of terrible disaster occurs, and the entire roomful of people would be wiped out. One person would be left to become the president of the United States . This year, it's Bill Richardson.
You and I had a conversation recently with one of them who'd be left behind. And he said, this is something they take very seriously. He stayed at his home, and there was an entire national security force who came over and gave him a complete briefing of what it would be like if he suddenly had to become president of the United States. There was somebody with a black code box there and a variety of different codes. It really surprised him a lot.
BLITZER: And just to clarify, Bob, the deputy sergeant of arms, Mr. Ovari (ph) has been introducing the cabinet. Once the president is ready to walk into the chamber, he'll be introduced by the sergeant at arms, and course we see members of the cabinet, including the Attorney General Janet Reno, walking in.
As you see these pictures Jeff Greenfield, what's going through your mind right now?
GREENFIELD: Well, one of the things that goes through my mind -- we were talking about how much of a television event this is, is that when the president is introduced, you'll see him coming down one of the aisles shaking hands. Those House seats are not assigned permanently. And There are some Congressmen and women who are known to have gone into the chamber hours early, bringing food and paperwork so they can be sure to be on the aisle to shake hands with the president, to get their face on national television. I don't think that's what the founding fathers had in mind exactly with this, but that's what happens in a television age.
BLITZER: Alexis Herman, the Labor secretary, giving a hug to Madeleine Albright. We see the treasury secretary, Lawrence Summers, standing by as well.
And, Bob Novak, as you see Andrew Cuomo, last year, he was the designated member of the cabinet who did not go. He stayed away, as Bill Richardson, the Energy secretary, is staying away this time. You have been watching these kind of state of the union addresses for a long time. Is this just symbolic that one member of the cabinet doesn't go, or is this something that is relatively serious?
NOVAK: They take it seriously. If it's like Alan Gary (ph) novel, and the whole thing blows up. The sad part about it, Wolf, is that Secretary Richardson is a member of the cabinet who was running hardest for vice president. So it's ironic that he's left out, because if anybody wants the exposure, it would be Mr. Richardson.
Mr. Cuomo is perhaps is the second most political person in the cabinet, and he's running for -- probably running for governor in New York, But he's here tonight, very much in evidence. We also have, for one of the first times, the apparent Republican of -- candidate for the Senate for New York sitting in the president's box. So that's unusual.
GREENFIELD: I think you mean Democratic candidate.
NOVAK: Democratic candidate, I mean, sitting in the president's box.
GREENFIELD: I thought you had a scoop there, Bob.
NOVAK: Well, it's just a Freudian error.
GREENFIELD: But it is true, Wolf. You know, this night is particularly rife with politics. We saw Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York a few minutes ago. He's largely credited, or blamed, depending on your politics, with persuading Mrs. Clinton to think about entering the race. Andrew Cuomo, son of a governor, who was once thought of as a serious president contender. Maybe he's on the way up the so-called greasy poll. I mean, it's a night of statesmanship fused inextricably with politics.
TUCKER: That's absolutely right. I'm thinking of the fact that Hank Aaron was mentioned, and he's there in particular because the president is going to make some remarks on strengthening race relations in the country. Well, we all know that Bill Bradley has been hammering Al Gore on the campaign trail about that, saying the Clinton administration hasn't done nearly enough to strengthen race relations. Clearly, the president not only wants to remind the audience that that's his legacy, but also to give Al Gore a little bit of strength on that subject as well.
BLITZER: Cynthia, we're looking at Lloyd Benson, the former Treasury Secretary, the former senator from Texas, 78 years old. He's sitting with Mrs. Clinton in the gallery. He's 78. He suffered a stroke in 1998. He's one of the 10 guests the first family has invited to join them.
There's Tipper Gore, the vice president's wife.
Jeff Greenfield, you were about to say something?
GREENFIELD: No, I think -- I mean, it just is another indication -- one of the things about Washington even in a partisan age is that there are -- there's a certain amount of comity (ph) that -- here's Lloyd Bentsen, who was a United States senator for many years, he ran with Michael Dukakis for vice president, he had presidential ambitions of his own.
There you see Bob Michel (ph) who spent decades in the House. He was minority leader, and the year he decided to step down was the year the Republicans took the House, so he -- I think he got to be speaker symbolically for one day and is also a symbol of a kind of less conservative, more -- less ideological kind of Republican Party that Newt Gingrich took over from when he took the Congress.
NOVAK: That's a good point. But of course, it's even -- just to underline what you're saying, Jeff, if Bob Michel had decided to stay on, he couldn't have been speaker because Gingrich would have run against him and would have defeated him without question.
I was very interested to see Charlie Rangel there awhile ago, because Charlie, like most of the Democrats in the House, they've got the draperies already picked out and the carpets cut for their new chairman's offices, because they really believe they're going to take control of the House of Representatives for the first time in six years. I think it's going to be very close though.
BLITZER: John King, I know that you know this White House well. We're told that only minutes ago the final draft of this speech was given to the president.
BLITZER: And that they were working on it all day. I was over at the White House earlier today for a briefing, and as I was walking in, the actor Rob Lowe from the TV show "West Wing" -- he was walking in with his wife as well. He was going to be seeing the president rehearse the speech. Tell us a little bit about how the president prepared for this evening.
KING: He spends most of the past week going over his drafts. The president is known to rip up the work of his speech writers and go over and over and over. At one point this morning they were joking that they were going to have an intermission the speech was running so long. They say now it is down to about 65 minutes, although they do expect it will run a lot longer than that because of the expected applause here.
A remarkable political moment for the president. Last year when he gave this speech it was in the middle of the impeachment trial. Now the president trying to shape his legacy. He wants it to be defined much more by achievement than impeachment, so we will get the trademark laundry list of policy proposals -- many critics of that approach. They say the president should focus on big ideas, but he will propose several new politically popular measures, trying not only to improve his policy legacy, but also to cast his shadow shadow over the 2000 presidential and congressional elections.
BLITZER: And one other point -- Bob Novak, I think you wanted the say something -- but all of us remember that first State of the Union address, the first address the president gave to that joint session of Congress, they were writing the speech and putting it in the teleprompter even as he was already shaking hands inside the chamber.
NOVAK: As John said, this does seem on the surface a regression away from the thematic speeches of 25, 30 years ago to this -- to return to the laundry list. But that is -- it is not just a mindless change by the president. This is the Clinton strategy to have these poll-tested small government initiatives helping the people here, helping...
BLITZER: Stand by, Bob, stand by, Bob.
The sergeant of arms.
LIVINGOOD: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.
BLITZER: The president followed by Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, and Dick Gephardt, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives from Missouri.
Bob Franken, you have seen many of these entrees by the president into this chamber. There does seem to be enthusiasm inside.
FRANKEN: Right. It's almost like the president is walking past a group of high fives as he makes his way to the podium. What's interesting tonight is not only that the president will make these proposals, but the possibility that some variation of these might be passed, prescription drug benefits, some form of gun control, that type of thing which is really ironic when you consider this is election year and many believe there could be paralysis, but here you have not only a fight for the presidency, but fight for control of Congress, particularly the House of Representatives.
And the members in the Republican Party who control Congress would really hate if at the end of the year the presidential candidates on the Democratic side could turn to them and say that this was a do-nothing Congress, so there is really an atmosphere for compromise. We're hearing Republican leaders now saying that they too would like to have a prescription drug benefit. They too have their own proposals for minimum wage. They too would like to discuss gun control, et cetera.
Of course, the devil is in the details and that's where we're going to see many of the legislative fights this year. This of course is a much different atmosphere than last year. We were just beginning with the Senate trial. The president had been impeached. Now that is all behind. This year there is actually a discussion of policy without undercurrent like there had been for so many times in previous years.
GREENFIELD: Wolf, this is Jeff Greenfield. You notice the president was accompanied by Strom Thurmond, the president pro temp of the Senate, the longest serving senator. Just a quick point, when Strom Thurmond was born, Teddy Roosevelt was president. When Strom Thurmond entered the United States Senate, Bill Clinton was 4 years old. If you want a kind of living tableau of continuity, that is not a bad one.
TUCKER: I was listening earlier, Wolf -- this is Cynthia Tucker in Atlanta -- to Bob Novak talking about the regression to a laundry list of proposals. He's absolutely right. And I have never been a big fan of Clinton's State of the Union speeches for just that reason.
However, we do have to point out that this is not a time when there are any huge issues facing the nation and I suspect if George W. Bush were giving this speech tonight he, too, would resort to a laundry list of smaller proposals like education, simply because the Cold War is over; we're at peace; we're in a time of prosperity. What else do you talk about?
NOVAK: But I would guess, Cynthia, there would not be as many because there still is a difference between the Republican and the Democratic parties ideologically. Even if the Republicans are a little afraid to buck the president, they would have a much smaller agenda and a less comprehensive agenda.
TUCKER: Well, I would agree that George Bush certainly would probably have a shorter speech.
BLITZER: The president is going to be introduced now by the speaker of the House. He's giving his speech, the State of the Union, his report to the vice president and the speaker, Dennis Hastert. The applause continues. He will be formally introduced, and then the applause will begin once again.
GREENFIELD: Wolf, did you notice that Speaker Hastert weighed the speech in his hands as though to say to the president, just how long is this? They had a little joke about that.
BLITZER: Senator Leahy of Vermont joked when he walked in, we'll see you in three hours. He said, I don't think it's going to go on that long.
He's looking up in the gallery where the first lady and the invited guests...
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Please be seated. Thank you. Thank you.
KING: Wolf, there's a moment in this speech when the president pays tribute to the speaker, that his effort to strike a bipartisan tone. He applauds the speaker for his help on what the president calls a new market initiative, bringing aid to areas passed by, by the booming economy.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States.
CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you, please be seated. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, honored guests, my fellow Americans: We are fortunate to be alive at this moment in history.
Never before has our nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity and social progress with so little internal crisis and so few external threats. Never before have we had such a blessed opportunity -- and, therefore, such a profound obligation -- to build the more perfect union of our founders' dreams.
We begin the new century with over 20 million new jobs. The fastest economic growth in more than 30 years. The lowest unemployment rates in 30 years. The lowest poverty rates in 20 years.
The lowest African-American and Hispanic unemployment on record; the first back-to-back surpluses in 42 years; and next month America will achieve the longest period of economic growth in our entire history.
We have built a new economy, and our economic revolution has been matched by a revival of the American spirit: crime down by 20 percent to its lowest level in 25 years; teen births down seven years in a row; adoptions up by 30 percent; welfare rolls cut in half to their lowest levels in 30 years.
My fellow Americans, the state of our union is the strongest it has ever been.
As always, the real credit belongs to the American people.
My gratitude also goes to those of you in this chamber who have worked with us to put progress over partisanship. Eight years ago, it was not so clear to most Americans there would be much to celebrate in the year 2000. Then our nation was gripped by economic distress, social decline, political gridlock. The title of a best-selling book that year asked: "America: What Went Wrong?"
In the best traditions of our nation, Americans determined to set things right. We restored the vital center, replacing outdated ideologies with a new vision anchored in basic, enduring values: opportunity for all, responsibility from all, a community of all Americans.
We reinvented government, transforming it into a catalyst for new ideas that stress both opportunity and responsibility, and give our people the tools to solve their own problems.
With the smallest federal work force in 40 years, we turned record deficits into record surpluses and doubled our investment in education. We cut crime with 100,000 community police and the Brady law, which has kept guns out of the hands of half a million criminals.
We ended welfare as we knew it, requiring work...
... requiring work while protecting health care and nutrition for children, and investing more in child care, transportation and housing to help their parents go to work.
We've helped parents to succeed at home and at work, with family leave, which 20 million Americans have now used to care for a newborn child or a sick loved one. We have engaged 150,000 young Americans in citizen service through AmeriCorps, while helping them earn money for college.
In 1992, we just had a road map. Today, we have results.
But even more important, America again has the confidence to dream big dreams. But we must not let this confidence drift into complacency, for we, all of us, will be judged by the dreams and deeds we pass on to our children.
And on that score, we will be held to a high standard indeed, because our chance to do good is so great.
My fellow Americans, we have crossed the bridge we built to the 21st century. Now we must shape a 21st-century American revolution of opportunity, responsibility and community. We must be now, as we were in the beginning, a new nation.
At the dawn of the last century, Theodore Roosevelt said, "the one characteristic more essential than any other is foresight. It should be the growing nation with a future that takes the long look ahead."
So tonight, let us take our look long ahead and set great goals for our nation.
To 21st-century America, let us pledge these things:pledge these things: Every child will begin school ready to learn and graduate ready to succeed...
... every family will be able to succeed at home and at work, and no child will be raised in poverty.
We will meet the challenge of the aging of America. We will assure quality affordable health care at last for all Americans.
We will make America the safest big country on Earth.
We will pay off our national debt for the first time since 1835.
We will bring prosperity to every American community. We will reverse the course of climate change and leave a safer, cleaner planet.
America will lead the world toward shared peace and prosperity, and the far frontiers of science and technology. And we will become at last what our founders pledged us to be so long ago: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
These are great goals, worthy of a great nation. We will not reach them all this year. Not even in this decade. But we will reach them.
Let us remember that the first American revolution was not won with a single shot. The continent was not settled in a single year. The lesson of our history, and the lesson of the last seven years, is that great goals are reached step by step, always building on our progress, always gaining ground.
Of course, you can't gain ground if you're standing still. For too long, this Congress has been standing still on some of our most pressing national priorities. So let's begin tonight with them.
Again, I ask you to pass a real patients' bill of rights;
I ask you to pass common-sense gun-safety legislation.
I ask you to pass campaign finance reform.
I ask you to vote up or down on judicial nominations and other important appointees.
And again I ask you -- I implore you to raise the minimum wage.
Now two years ago -- we taught a balance of seesaw here...
... two years ago, as we reached across party lines to reach our first balanced budget, I asked that we meet our responsibility to the next generation by maintaining our fiscal discipline. Because we refused to stray from that path, we are doing something that would have seemed unimaginable seven years ago. We are actually paying down the national debt.
If we stay on this path, we can pay down the debt entirely in just 13 years now and make America debt-free for the first time since Andrew Jackson was president in 1835.
In 1993, we began to put our fiscal house in order with the Deficit Reduction Act, which you'll all remember won passages in both houses by just a single vote. Your former colleague, my first secretary of the treasury, led that effort and sparked our long boom. He's here with us tonight.
Lloyd Bentsen, you have served America well and we thank you.
Beyond paying off the debt, we must ensure that the benefits of debt reduction go to preserving two of the most important guarantees we make to every American: Social Security and Medicare.
Tonight -- tonight, I ask you to work with me to make a bipartisan down-payment on Social Security reform, by crediting the interest savings from debt reduction to the Social Security trust fund so that it will be strong and sound for the next 50 years.
But this is just the start of our journey.
But this is just the start of our journey. We must also take the right steps toward reaching our great goals.
First and foremost, we need a 21st century revolution in education, guided by our faith that every single child can learn.
(APPLAUSE) Because education is more important than ever, more than ever the key to our children's future, we must make sure all our children have that key. That means quality preschool and after-school, the best- trained teachers in the classroom, and college opportunities for all our children.
For seven years now, we've worked hard to improve our schools with opportunity and responsibility, investing more but demanding more in turn. Reading, math, college entrance scores are up.
Some of the most impressive gains are in schools in very poor neighborhoods.
But all successful schools have followed the same proven formula: higher standards, more accountability and extra help so children who need it can get it to reach those standards.
I have sent Congress a reform plan based on that formula. It holds states and school districts accountable for progress and rewards them for results.
Each year, our national government invests more than $15 billion in our schools. It is time to support what works and stop supporting what doesn't.
Now, as we demand more from our schools, we should also invest more in our schools.
Let's double our investment to help states and districts turn around their worst-performing schools or shut them down.
Let's double our investments in after-school and summer school programs, which boost achievement and keep people off the street and out of trouble.
If -- if we do this, we can give every single child in every failing school in America -- everyone -- the chance to meet high standards.
Since 1993, we've nearly doubled our investment in Head Start and improved its quality. Tonight, I ask you for another $1 billion for Head Start, the largest increase in the history of the program.
We know that children learn best in smaller classes with good teachers. For two years in a row, Congress has supported my plan to hire 100,000 new, qualified teachers, to lower class sizes in the early grades. I thank you for that, and I ask you to make it three in a row.
And to make sure all teachers know the subjects they teach, tonight I propose a new teacher quality initiative to recruit more talented people into the classroom, reward good teachers for staying there, and give all teachers the training they need.
We know charter schools provide real public school choice. When I became president, there was just one independent public charter school in all America. Today, thanks to you, there are 1,700. I ask you now to help us meet our goal of 3,000 charter schools by next year.
We know we must connect all our classrooms to the Internet. And we're getting there. In 1994, only three percent of our classrooms were connected. Today, with the help of the vice president's E-rate program, more than half of them are, and 90 percent of our schools have at least one Internet connection.
But we cannot finish the job when a third of all our schools are in serious disrepair.
Many of them have walls and wires so old they're too old for the Internet.
So tonight, I propose to help 5,000 schools a year make immediate and urgent repairs, and again, to help build or modernize 6,000 more to get students out of trailers and into high-tech classrooms.
I ask all of you to help me double our bipartisan GEAR-UP program, which provides mentors for disadvantaged young people. If we double it, we can provide mentors for 1.4 million of them.
And let's also...
Let's also offer these kids from disadvantaged backgrounds the same chance to take the same college test prep courses wealthier students use to boost their test scores.
To make the American dream achievable for all, we must make college affordable for all. For seven years, on a bipartisan basis, we have taken action toward that goal: larger Pell Grants, more- affordable student loans, education IRAs, and our HOPE Scholarships, which have already benefited five million young people. Now, 67 percent of high school graduates are going on to college. That's up 10 percent since 1993. Yet millions of families still strain to pay college tuition. They need help.
So I propose a landmark $30 billion college opportunity tax cut, a middle-class tax deduction for up to $10,000 in college tuition costs.
The previous actions of this Congress have already made two years of college affordable for all. It's time to make four years of college affordable for all.
If we take all these steps, we will move a long way toward making sure every child starts school ready to learn and graduates ready to succeed.
We also need a 21st-century revolution to reward work and strengthen families by giving every parent the tools to succeed at work and at the most important work of all: raising children. That means making sure every family has health care and the support to care for aging parents, the tools to bring their children up right, and that no child grows up in poverty.
From my first days as president, we've worked to give families better access to better health care. In 1997, we passed the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP, so that workers who don't have coverage through their employers at least can get it for their children.
So far, we've enrolled two million children. We're well on our way to our goal of five million. But there are still more than 40 million of our fellow Americans without health insurance -- more than there were in 1993.
Tonight, I propose that we follow Vice President Gore's suggestion to make low-income parents eligible for the insurance that covers their children.
Together with our children's initiative, think of this, together with our children's initiative, this action would enable us to cover nearly a quarter of all the uninsured people in America.
Again, I want to ask you to let people between the ages of 55 and 65, the fastest growing group of uninsured, buy into Medicare.
(APPLAUSE) And this year I propose to give them a tax credit to make that choice an affordable one. I hope you will support that as well.
When the baby boomers retire, Medicare will be faced with caring for twice as many of our citizens, yet it is far from ready to do so. My generation must not ask our children's generation to shoulder our burden. We simply must act now to strengthen and modernize Medicare.
My budget includes a comprehensive plan to reform Medicare, to make it more efficient and more competitive. And it dedicates nearly $400 billion of our budget surplus to keep Medicare solvent past 2025.
And at long last, it also provides funds to give every senior a voluntary choice of affordable coverage for prescription drugs.
Life-saving drugs are an indispensable part of modern medicine. No one creating a Medicare program today would even think of excluding coverage for prescription drugs. Yet more than three in five of our seniors now lack dependable drug coverage, which can lengthen and enrich their lives. The millions of older Americans who need prescription drugs the most pay the highest prices for them.
In good conscience, we cannot let another year pass without extending to all our seniors this lifeline of affordable prescription drugs.
Record numbers of Americans are providing for aging or ailing loved ones at home. It's a loving but a difficult and often very expensive choice. Last year, I proposed a $1,000 tax credit for long- term care. Frankly, it wasn't enough. This year, let's triple it to $3,000.
But this year, let's pass it.
We also have to make needed investments to expand access to mental health care. I want to take a moment to thank the person who led our first White House conference on mental health last year, and who, for seven years, has led all our efforts to break down the barriers to decent treatment of people with mental illness. Thank you, Tipper Gore.
(APPLAUSE) Taken together, these proposals would mark the largest investment in health care in the 35 years since Medicare was created -- the largest investment in 35 years. That would be a big step toward assuring quality health care for all Americans, young and old. And I ask you to embrace them and pass them.
We must also make investments that reward work and support families.
Nothing does that better than the Earned Income Tax Credit, the EITC.
The "E" in the "EITC" is about earning, working, taking responsibility and being rewarded for it.
In my very first address to you, I asked Congress to greatly expand this credit, and you did. As a result, in 1998 alone, the EITC helped more than 4.3 million Americans work their way out of poverty toward the middle class. That's double the number in 1993.
Tonight, I propose another major expansion of the EITC, to reduce the marriage penalty, to make sure it rewards marriage as it rewards work...
... and also to expand the tax credit for families that have more than two children.
It punishes people with more than two children today.
Our proposal would allow families with three or more children to get up to $1,100 more in tax relief. These are working families, their children should not be in poverty.
Thank you. Thank you.
We also can't reward work and family unless men and women get equal pay for equal work.
Today -- today, the female unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 46 years. Yet women still only earn about 75 cents for every dollar men earn. We must do better by providing the resources to enforce present equal pay laws, training more women for high-paying, high-tech jobs, and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Many working parents spend up to a quarter, a quarter of their income on child care. Last year, we helped parents provide child care for about 2 million children. My child care initiative before you now along with funds already secured in welfare reform would make child care better, safer and more affordable for another 400,000 children. I ask you to pass that. They need it out there in America.
For hard-pressed middle-income families, we should also expand the child care tax credit. And I believe strongly we should take the next big step and make that tax credit refundable for low-income families.
For those -- for people making under $30,000 a year, that could mean up to $2,400 for child care costs.
You know, we all say we're pro-work and pro-family. Passing this proposal would prove it.
Tens of millions of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. As hard as they work, they still don't have the opportunity to save. Too few can make use of IRAs and 401(k) plans. We should do more to help all working families save and accumulate wealth.
That's the idea behind the individual development accounts, the IDAs. I ask you to take that idea to a new level, with new retirement savings accounts that enable every low- and moderate-income family in America to save for retirement, a first home, a medical emergency or a college education.
I propose to match their contributions, however small, dollar for dollar, every year they save. And I propose to give a major new tax credit to any small business that will provide a meaningful pension to its workers. Those people ought to have retirement as well as the rest of us.
Nearly one in three American children grows up without a father. These children are five times more likely to live in poverty than children with both parents at home. Clearly, demanding and supporting responsible fatherhood is critical to lifting all our children out of poverty.
We've doubled child support collections since 1992, and I am proposing to you tough new measures to hold still more fathers responsible. But we should recognize that a lot of fathers want to do right by their children but need help to do it.
Carlos Rosas of St. Paul, Minnesota, wanted to do right by his son, and he got the help to do it. Now, he's got a good job and he supports his little boy. My budget will help 40,000 more fathers make the same choices Carlos Rosas did. And I thank him for being here tonight.
Stand up, Carlos. Thank you.
If there is any single issue on which we should be able to reach across party lines, it is in our common commitment to reward work and strengthen families. Just remember what we did last year: We came together to help people with disabilities keep their health insurance when they go to work, and I thank you for that.
Thanks to overwhelming bipartisan support from this Congress, we have improved foster care. We've helped those young people who leave it when they turn 18. And we have dramatically increased the number of foster care children going into adoptive homes. I thank all of you for all of that.
Of course, I am forever grateful to the person who has led our efforts from the beginning and who has worked so tirelessly for children and families for 30 years now, my wife Hillary. And I thank her.
If we take the steps I've just discussed, we can go a long, long way toward empowering parents to succeed at home and at work and ensuring that no child is raised in poverty.
We can make these vital investments in health care, education, support for working families, and still offer tax cuts to help pay for college, for retirement, to care for aging parents, to reduce the marriage penalty.
We can do these things without forsaking the path of fiscal discipline that got us to this point here tonight.
Indeed, we must make these investments and these tax cuts in the context of a balanced budget that strengthens and extends the life of Social Security and Medicare and pays down the national debt.
Crime in America has dropped for the past seven years -- that's the longest decline on record -- thanks to a national consensus we helped to forge on community police, sensible gun safety and effective prevention.
But nobody, nobody here, nobody in America believes we're safe enough. So again, I ask you to set a higher goal. Let's make this country the safest big country in the world.
Now, last fall, Congress supported my plan to hire, in addition to the 100,000 community police we've already funded, 50,000 more, concentrated in high-crime neighborhoods. I ask your continued support for that.
Soon after the Columbine tragedy, Congress considered common- sense gun legislation to require Brady background checks at the gun shows, child safety locks for new handguns, and a ban on the importation of large-capacity ammunition clips. With courage, and a tie-breaking vote by the vice president, the Senate faced down the gun lobby...
... stood up to the American people and passed this legislation.
But the House failed to follow suit.
Now, we have all seen what happens when guns fall into the wrong hands. Daniel Mauser was only 15 years old when he was gunned down at Columbine. He was an amazing kid, a straight-A student, a good skier.
Like all parents who lose their children, his father, Tom, has borne unimaginable grief. Somehow he has found the strength to honor his son by transforming his grief into action. Earlier this month, he took a leave of absence from his job to fight for tougher gun safety laws. I pray that his courage and wisdom will at long last move this Congress to make common-sense gun legislation the very next order of business.
Tom Mauser, stand up. We thank you for being here tonight. Tom.
Tom. Thank you, Tom.
We must strengthen our gun laws and enforce those already on the books better.
Federal gun crime prosecutions are up 16 percent since I took office, but we must do more. I propose to hire more federal and local gun prosecutors and more ATF agents to crack down on illegal gun traffickers and bad-apple dealers. And we must give them the enforcement tools that they need -- tools to trace every gun and every bullet used in every gun crime in the United States. I ask you to help us do that.
Every state in this country already requires hunters and automobile drivers to have a license.
I think they ought to do the same thing for handgun purchases.
Now, specifically -- specifically, I propose a plan to ensure that all new handgun buyers must first have a photo license from their state showing they passed a Brady background check and a gun safety course before they get the gun. I hope you'll help me pass that in this Congress.
Listen to this. Listen to this. The accidental gun rate -- the accidental gun death rate of children under 15 in the United States is nine times higher than in the other 25 industrialized countries combined.
Now, technologies now exist that could lead to guns that can only be fired by the adults who own them. I ask Congress to fund research into smart-gun technology to save these children's lives.
I ask responsible leaders in the gun industry to work with us on smart guns and other steps to keep guns out of the wrong hands to keep our children safe.
You know, every parent I know worries about the impact of violence in the media on their children. I want to begin by thanking the entertainment industry for accepting my challenge to put voluntary ratings on TV programs and video and Internet games. But frankly, the ratings are too numerous, diverse, and confusing to be really useful to parents.
So tonight, I ask the industry to accept the first lady's challenge: to develop a single, voluntary rating system for all children's entertainment that is easier for parents to understand and enforce.
The steps I outline will take us well on our way to make America the safest big country in the world.
Now, to keep our historic economic expansion going -- the subject of a lot of discussion in this community and others -- I believe we need a 21st-century revolution to open new markets, start new businesses, hire new workers right here in America: in our inner cities, poor rural areas and Native American reservations.
(APPLAUSE) Our nation's prosperity hasn't yet reached these places. Over the last six months, I have traveled to a lot of them -- joined by many of you and many far-sighted business people -- to shine a spotlight on the enormous potential in communities from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta, from Watts to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Everywhere I go, I meet talented people eager for opportunity and able to work. Tonight, I ask you let's put them to work.
For business, it's the smart thing to do. For America, it's the right thing to do. And let me ask you something -- if we don't do it now, when in the wide world will we ever get around to it?
So I ask Congress to give businesses the same incentives to invest in America's new markets they now have to invest in markets overseas.
Tonight, I propose a large new markets tax credit and other incentives to spur $22 billion in private-sector capital to create new businesses and new investments in our inner cities and rural areas.
I also -- because empowerment zones have been creating these opportunities for five years now, I also ask you to increase incentives to invest in them and to create more of them.
And let me say to all of you again, what I have tried to say at every turn. This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. Giving people a chance to live their dreams, is an American issue.
Mr. Speaker -- Mr. Speaker, it was a powerful moment last November when you joined the Reverend Jesse Jackson and me in your home state of Illinois and committed to working toward our common goal, by combining the best ideas from both sides of the aisle. I want to thank you again and to tell you, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with you. This is a worthy joint endeavor. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)
I also ask you to make special efforts to address the areas of our nation with the highest rates of poverty: our Native American reservations and the Mississippi Delta.
My budget includes a $110 million initiative to promote economic development in the Delta and a billion dollars to increase economic opportunity, health care, education and law enforcement for our Native American communities.
Now, in this new century...
We should begin this new century by honoring our historic responsibility to empower the first Americans. And I want to thank...
I want to thank tonight the leaders and the members from both parties who have expressed to me an interest in working with us on these efforts. They are profoundly important.
There's another part of our American community in trouble tonight: our family farmers. When I signed the Farm Bill in 1996, I said there was great danger it would work well in good times but not in bad. Well, droughts, floods and historically low prices have made these times very bad for the farmers.
We must work together to strengthen the farm safety net, invest in land conservation, and create some new markets for them by expanding our programs for bio-based fuels and products. Please, they need help. Let's do it together.
Opportunity for all requires something else today: having access to a computer and knowing how to use it. That means we must close the digital divide between those who've got the tools and those who don't.
Now connecting classrooms and libraries to the Internet is crucial, but it's just a start. My budget ensures that all new teachers are trained to teach 21st-century skills, and it creates technology centers in 1,000 communities to serve adults.
This spring, I'll invite high-tech leaders to join me on another New Markets tour to close the digital divide and open opportunity for our people. I want to thank the high-tech companies that already are doing so much in this area, and I hope the new tax incentives I have proposed will get all the rest of them to join us. This is a national crusade. We have got to do this and do it quickly. (APPLAUSE)
Now, again I say to you, these are steps. But step by step we can go a long way toward our goal of bringing opportunity to every community.
To realize the full possibilities of this economy, we must reach beyond our own borders, to shape the revolution that is tearing down barriers and building new networks among nations and individuals, and economies and cultures: globalization.
It is the central reality of our time. Of course, change this profound is both liberating and threatening to people. But there is no turning back. And our open, creative society stands to benefit more than any other if we understand, and act on the realities of interdependence.
We have to be at the center of every vital global network as a good neighbor and a good partner. We have to recognize that we cannot build our future without helping others to build theirs.
The first thing we have got to do is to forge a new consensus on trade.
Now those of us who believe passionately in the power of open trade, we have to ensure that it lifts both our living standards and our values, never tolerating abusive child labor or a race to the bottom on the environment and worker protection.
But others must recognize that open markets and rules-based trade are the best engines we know for raising living standards, reducing global poverty and environmental destruction, and assuring the free flow of ideas. I believe as strongly as I did the first day I got here the only direction forward for America on trade, the only direction for America on trade, is to keep going forward. I ask you to help me forge that consensus.
Now, we have to make developing economies our partners in prosperity. That's why I would like to ask you again to finalize our groundbreaking African and Caribbean Basin Trade Initiatives.
But globalization is about more than economics. Our purpose must be to bring together the world around freedom and democracy and peace, and to oppose those who would tear it apart.
Here are the fundamental challenges I believe America must meet to shape the 21st-century world.
First, we must continue to encourage our former adversaries, Russia and China, to emerge as stable, prosperous, democratic nations. Both are being held back today from reaching their full potential. Russia by the legacy of communism, an economy in turmoil, a cruel and self-defeating war in Chechnya; China by the illusion that it can buy stability at the expense of freedom.
But think how much has changed in the past decade: 5,000 former Soviet nuclear weapons taken out of commission; Russian soldiers actually serving with ours in the Balkans; Russian people electing their leaders for the first time in 1,000 years; and in China, an economy more open to the world than ever before.
Of course, no one -- not a single person in this chamber tonight -- can know for sure what direction these great nations will take, but we do know for sure that we can choose what we do. And we should do everything in our power to increase the chance that they will choose wisely to be constructive members of our global community.
That's why we should support those Russians who are struggling for a democratic, prosperous future; continue to reduce both our nuclear arsenals; and help Russia to safeguard weapons and materials that remain.
And that's why I believe Congress should support the agreement we negotiated to bring China into the WTO by passing permanent normal trade relations as soon as possible this year.
I think you ought to do it for two reasons. First of all, our markets are already open to China. This agreement will open China's markets to us. And second...
Second, it will plainly advance the cause of peace in Asia and promote the cause of change in China. No, we don't know where it's going. All we can do is decide what we're going to do. But when all is said and done, we need to know we did everything we possibly could to maximize the chance that China will choose the right future.
A second challenge we've got is to protect our own security from conflicts that pose the risk of wider war and threaten our common humanity. We can't prevent every conflict or stop every outrage, but where our interests are at stake and we can make a difference, we should be and we must be peace-makers.
We should be proud of our role in bringing the Middle East closer to a lasting peace; building peace in Northern Ireland; working for peace in East Timor and Africa; promoting reconciliation between Greece and Turkey and in Cyprus; working to defuse these crises between India and Pakistan; and defending human rights and religious freedom.
And we should be proud of the men and women of our armed forces and those of our allies who stopped the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, enabling a million people to return to their homes.
When Slobodan Milosevic unleashed his terror on Kosovo, Captain John Cherrey was one of the brave airmen who turned the tide.
And when another American plane was shot down over Serbia, he flew into the teeth of enemy air defenses to bring his fellow pilot home.
Thanks to our armed forces' skill and bravery, we prevailed in Kosovo without losing a single American in combat.
I want to introduce Captain Cherrey to you. We honor Captain Cherrey and we promise you, captain, we'll finish the job you began. Stand up so we can see you.
A third challenge we have is to keep this inexorable march of technology from giving terrorists and potentially hostile nations the means to undermine our defenses.
Keep in mind, the same technological advances that have shrunk cell phones to fit in the palms of our hands, can also make weapons of terror easier to conceal and easier to use.
We must meet this threat by making effective agreements to restrain nuclear and missile programs in North Korea, curbing the flow of lethal technology to Iran, preventing Iraq from threatening its neighbors, increasing our preparedness against chemical and biological attack, protecting our vital computer systems from hackers and criminals, and developing a system to defend against new missile threats while working to preserve our ABM missile treaty with Russia. We must do all these things.
I predict to you, when most of us are long gone, but some time in the next 10 to 20 years, the major security threat this country will face will come from the enemies of the nation-state: the narco- traffickers, and the terrorists, and the organized criminals who will be organized together -- working together with increasing access to ever more sophisticated chemical and biological weapons.
And I want to thank the Pentagon and others for doing what they're doing right now to try to help protect us and plan for that so that our defenses will be strong.
I ask for your support so they can succeed.
I also want to ask you for a constructive bipartisan dialogue this year to work to build a consensus which I hope will eventually lead to the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. (APPLAUSE)
I hope we can also have a constructive effort to meet the challenge that is presented to our planet by the huge gulf between rich and poor. We cannot accept a world in which part of humanity lives on the cutting edge of a new economy and the rest live on the bare edge of survival.
I think we have to do our part to change that with expanded trade, expanded aid and the expansion of freedom.
This is interesting: From Nigeria to Indonesia, more people got the right to choose their leaders in 1999 than in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell. We've got to stand by these democracies, including and especially tonight Colombia, which is fighting narco-traffickers for its own people's lives and for our children's lives. I have proposed a strong two-year package to help Colombia win this fight. I want to thank the leaders in both parties, in both houses for listening to me and the president of Colombia about it.
We have got to pass this. I want to ask your help. A lot is riding on this. And it's so important for the long-term stability of our country and for what happens in Latin America.
I also want you to know I'm going to send you new legislation to go after what these drug barons value the most: their money. And I hope you will pass that as well.
In a world where over a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, we also have got to do our part in the global endeavor to reduce the debts of the poorest countries so they can invest in education, health care and economic growth. That's what the pope and other religious leaders have urged us to do, and last year Congress made a down-payment on America's share. I ask you to continue that. I thank you for what you did and ask you to stay the course.
I also want to say that America must help more nations to break the bonds of disease. Last year in Africa, ten times as many people died from AIDS as were killed in wars. Ten times. The budget I give you invests $150 million more in the fight against this and other infectious killers. And today I propose a tax credit to speed the development of vaccines for diseases like malaria, TB and AIDS.
I ask the private sector and our partners around the world to join us in embracing this cause. We can save millions of lives together and we ought to do it.
I also want to mention our final challenge which, as always, is the most important. I ask you to pass a national security budget that keeps our military the best trained and best equipped in the world, with heightened readiness and 21st century weapons; which raises salaries for our servicemen and women; which protects our veterans; which fully funds the diplomacy that keeps our soldiers out of war; which makes good on our commitment to our U.N. dues and arrears. I ask you to pass this budget.
I also want to say something, if I might, very personal tonight.
The American people watching us at home, with the help of all the commentators, can tell from who stands and who sits and who claps and who doesn't that there are still modest differences of opinion in this room.
But I want to thank you for something, every one of you. I want to thank you for the extraordinary support you have given, Republicans and Democrats alike, to our men and women in uniform. I thank you for that.
And I also want to thank especially two people.
First, I want to thank our secretary of defense, Bill Cohen, for symbolizing our bipartisan commitment to national security.
Thank you, sir.
Even more, I want to thank his wife, Janet, who more than any other American citizen has tirelessly traveled this world to show the support we all feel for our troops. Thank you, Janet Cohen. I appreciate it. Thank you.
These are the challenges we have to meet so that we can lead the world toward peace and freedom in an era of globalization.
I want to tell you that I am very grateful for many things as president. But one of the things I'm grateful for is the opportunities that the vice president and I have had to finally put to rest the bogus idea that you cannot grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time.
Now, as our economy has grown, we have rid more than 500 neighborhoods of toxic waste; ensured cleaner air and water for millions of people; in the past three months alone, we've helped preserve more than 40 million acres of roadless lands in our national forests; created three new national monuments.
But as our communities grow, our commitment to conservation must continue to grow. Tonight, I propose creating a permanent conservation fund to restore our wildlife, protect coastlines, save natural treasures, from the California redwoods to the Everglades.
This Lands Legacy endowment would represent by far the most enduring investment in land preservation ever proposed in this house. I hope we can get together with all the people with different ideas and do this. This is a gift we should give to our children and our children for all time, across party lines.
We can make an agreement to do this. Last year, the vice president launched a new effort to make communities for liberal -- livable.
Liberal -- no. No.
Wait a minute. I got a punchline now.
That's this year's agenda. Last year it was livable, right?
That's what Senator Lott's going to say in the commentary afterward.
To make our communities for livable -- this is big business. This is a big issue. What does that mean?
You ask anybody that lives in an unlivable community and they'll tell you. They want their kids to grow up next to parks, not parking lots. The parents don't want to have to spend all their time stalled in traffic when they could be home with their children.
Tonight I ask you to support new funding for the following things to make American communities more liberal -- livable.
One -- I've done pretty well with this speech, but I can't say that... (APPLAUSE)
One, I want you to help us to do three things. We need more funding for advanced transit systems.
We need more funding for saving open spaces in places of heavy development.
And we need more funding -- this ought to have bipartisan appeal -- we need more funding for helping major cities around the Great Lakes protect their waterways and enhance their quality of life. We need these things, and I want you to help.
Now, the greatest environmental challenge of the new century is global warming. The scientists tell us the 1990s were the hottest decade of the entire millennium. If we fail to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses, deadly heat waves and droughts will become more frequent, coastal areas will flood, and economies will be disrupted.
That is going to happen unless we act. Many people in the United States, some people in this chamber, and lots of folks around the world still believe you cannot cut greenhouse gas emissions without slowing economic growth.
In the Industrial Age that may well have been true. But in this digital economy, it is not true anymore. New technologies make it possible to cut harmful emissions and provide even more growth.
For example, just last week, auto makers unveiled cars that get 70 to 80 miles a gallon, the fruits of a unique research partnership between government and industry. And before you know it, efficient production of biofuels will give us the equivalent of hundreds of miles from a gallon of gasoline.
To speed innovation in these kind of technologies, I think we should give a major tax incentive to business for the production of clean energy, and to families for buying energy-saving homes and appliances and the next generation of super-efficient cars when they hit the showroom floor.
And I also ask the auto industry to use available technologies to make all new cars more fuel efficient right away.
And I ask this Congress to do something else: Please help us make more of our clean-energy technology available to the developing world. That will create cleaner growth abroad and a lot more new jobs here in the United States of America.
Now, in this new century -- in this new century innovations in science and technology will be key not only to the health of the environment but to miraculous improvements in the quality of our lives and advances in the economies.
Later this year, researchers will complete the first draft of the entire human genome: the very blueprint of life. It is important for all our fellow Americans to recognize that federal tax dollars have funded much of this research, and that this and other wise investments in science are leading to a revolution in our ability to detect, treat and prevent disease.
For example, researchers have identified genes that cause Parkinson's, diabetes and certain kinds of cancer. They are designing precision therapies that will block the harmful effect of these genes for good. Researchers already are using this new technique to target and destroy cells that cause breast cancer. Soon we may be able to use it to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's.
Scientists are also working on an artificial retina to help many blind people to see; and, listen to this, microchips that would actually directly stimulate damaged spinal cords in a way that could allow people now paralyzed to stand up and walk.
These kinds of innovations are also propelling our remarkable prosperity. Information technology only includes eight percent of our employment, but now accounts for a third of our economic growth -- along with jobs that pay, by the way, about 80 percent above the private sector average.
Again, we ought to keep in mind government-funded research brought supercomputers, the Internet, and communications satellites into being.
Soon researchers will bring us devices that can translate foreign languages as fast as you can talk, materials 10 times stronger than steel at a fraction of the weight, and -- this is unbelievable to me -- molecular computers the size of a teardrop with the power of today's fastest supercomputers.
To accelerate the march of discovery across all these disciplines of science and technology, I ask you to support my recommendation of an unprecedented $3 billion in the 21st Century Research Fund, the largest increase in civilian research in a generation.
We owe it to our future.
Now, these new breakthroughs have to be used in ways that reflect our values. First and foremost, we have to safeguard our citizens' privacy. Last year, we proposed to protect every citizen's medical records. This year, we will finalize those rules. We have also taken the first steps to protect the privacy of bank and credit card records and other financial statements. Soon I will send legislation to you to finish that job.
We must also act to prevent any genetic discrimination whatever by employers or insurers. I hope you will support that.
These steps will allow us to lead toward the far frontiers of science and technology. They will enhance our health, the environment, the economy in ways we can't even imagine today.
But we all know that at a time when science, technology and the forces of globalization are bringing so many changes into all our lives, it's more important than ever that we strengthen the bonds that root us in our local communities and in our national community.
No tie binds different people together like citizen service. There is a new spirit of service in America, a movement we have tried to support with AmeriCorps, expanded Peace Corps, unprecedented new partnerships with businesses, foundations, community groups.
Partnerships, for example, like the one that enlisted 12,000 companies which have now moved 650,000 of our fellow citizens from welfare to work. Partnerships to battle drug abuse, AIDS, teach young people to read, save America's treasures, strengthen the arts, fight teen pregnancy, prevent violence among young people, promote racial healing. The American people are working together.
But we should do more to help Americans help each other. First, we should help faith-based organizations to do more to fight poverty and drug abuse and help people get back on the right track with initiatives like Second Chance Homes that do so much to help unwed teen mothers.
Second, we should support Americans who tithe and contribute to charities but don't earn enough to claim a tax deduction for it.
Tonight, I propose new tax incentives that would allow low- and middle-income citizens who don't itemize to get that deduction. It's nothing but fair, and it will get more people to give.
We should do more -- thank you.
We should do more to help new immigrants to fully participate in our community. That's why I recommend spending more to teach them civics and English. And since everybody in our community counts, we've got to make sure everyone is counted in this year's census. (APPLAUSE)
Now, within 10 years, just 10 years, there will be no majority race in our largest state of California. In a little more than 50 years, there'll be no majority race in America. In a more interconnected world, this diversity can be our greatest strength. Just look around this chamber.
Look around. We have members in this Congress from virtually every racial, ethnic and religious background. And I think you would agree that America is stronger because of it.
But you also have to agree that all those differences you just clapped for all too often spark hatred and division even here at home.
Just in the last couple of years, we've seen a man dragged to death in Texas just because he was black. We saw a young man murdered in Wyoming just because he was gay. Last year, we saw the shootings of African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Jewish children just because of who they were.
This is not the American way and we must draw the line.
I ask you -- I ask you to draw that line by passing without delay the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
And -- and I ask you to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Finally, tonight I propose the largest ever investment in our civil rights laws for enforcement, because no American should be subjected to discrimination in finding a home, getting a job, going to school or securing a loan.
Protections in law should be protections in fact.
Last February, because I thought this was so important, I created the White House Office of One America to promote racial reconciliation. That's what one of my personal heroes, Hank Aaron, has done all his life. From his days as our all-time home run king to his recent acts of healing, he has always brought people together. We should follow his example and we're honored to have him with us tonight. Stand up, Hank Aaron.
I just want to say one more thing about this, and I want everyone of you to think about this next time you get mad at one of your colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
This fall at the White House, Hillary had one of her millennium dinners, and we had a very distinguished scientist there. He was an expert in this whole work on the human genome. And he said that we are all, regardless of race, genetically 99.9 percent the same.
Now, you may find that uncomfortable when you look around here.
But it's -- it is worth remembering. We can laugh about this, but you think about it. Modern science has confirmed what ancient faiths have always taught. The most important fact of life is our common humanity.
Therefore, we should do more than just tolerate our diversity. We should honor it and celebrate it.
My fellow Americans, every time I prepare for the State of the Union, I approach it with hope and expectation and excitement for our nation. But tonight is very special because we stand on the mountain top of a new millennium. Behind us we can look back and see the great expanse of American achievement, and before us we can see even greater, grander frontiers of possibility.
We should all of us be filled with gratitude and humility for our present progress and prosperity. We should be filled with awe and joy at what lies over the horizon. And we should be filled with absolute determination to make the most of it.
You know, when the framers finished crafting our Constitution in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin stood in Independence Hall and he reflected on the carving of the sun that was on the back of a chair he saw.
The sun was low on the horizon. So he said this: He said, "I've often wondered whether that sun was rising or setting. Today," Franklin said, "I have the happiness to know it's a rising sun."
Today, because each succeeding generation of Americans has kept the fire of freedom burning brightly, lighting those frontiers of possibility, we all still bask in the glow and the warmth of Mr. Franklin's rising sun.
After 224 years, the American Revolution continues. We remain a new nation. As long as our dreams outweigh our memories, America will be forever young. That is our destiny. And this is our moment. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.
BLITZER: The president speaking for almost 90 minutes, about an hour and a half, the longest of his addresses before a joint session of Congress.
Mr. Clinton had just shook hands with the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, who said to him -- we could overhear him here -- saying, "I'm looking forward to working with you."
The president now going into the crowd, in the joint session, in the House chamber. Democrats were enthusiastically applauding, Republicans, intermittently. The president, by my count, after several dozen specific initiatives that he was proposing a very ambitious agenda for eighth year of his presidency, insisting the time was now to go forward, trying to show that he is not going to be a lame duck by any means, also saying that the state of the union, in his words, is the strongest it has ever been.
John King, our senior White House correspondent, you were watching, you were listening. Were you surprised at how many specific proposals Mr. Clinton came up with?
KING: Not surprised. That has become a Clinton trademark. Wolf, this the president's final State of the Union Address. He was determined to make clear he did not intend it as farewell address. The president laying out a very detailed policy agenda, some of it familiar from year's past -- the patients' bill of rights, an increase in the minimum wage. He retinkered his tax cut proposal, adding $100 billion. So it's now $350 billion over 10 years. The president, as he pushed his own agenda, also working in tributes to the vice president, and to his wife, not only the first lady, but now a Senate candidate.
The question now, Will the Republican Congress go along? But even if it doesn't, the president served notice he wants to be very active in this campaign, at one point saying, this Congress has for too long ignored what he believes are the nations priorities. The president there reaching out congressional Democrats who want to be in majority, when the new president next year delivers a joint address to Congress.
So the president vowing to be very active. Now we will see in the months ahead the test of just how much political strength he has in his final year in office.
BLITZER: And, John, we can see the president was congratulating Congressman John Kasich, who just had twins with wife, and the Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott escorting him out of the House chamber. Bob Franken, for those of our viewers who keep count, 128 rounds of applause during those nearly 90 minutes of the president's State of the Union Address.
KING: Well, it's an entirely different atmosphere from last year, Wolf. Last year, the president was still consumed with the scandal. He had not -- just begun a Senate trail. This year, there is almost a sense of relief that there is no discussion about that any more. He now can stick to the issues. And, of course, the question, as John pointed out, is how the Congress will deal with these issues. Many of the ones that the president laid out are, at least in name, quite popular -- education expansion, Medicare, prescription drugs, patients' bill of rights, that type of thing.
But the Republicans have a different emphasis. For instance, when it comes to education, we will hear from Republicans over and over. The president talks about more federal control. The Republicans want the control to be at the state and local level. This is always a big dispute. When it comes to a patients' bill of rights, the Republicans insist they want to very seriously limit the right of patients to sue, and the Democrats and President Clinton want to expand that right. There are differences, but at least they agree on the principle issues that they want to present.
BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, you were watching. Did the president effectively use the gallery, his invited guests, to underscore some of the points he was making in his speech?
GREENFIELD: Yes, and I think no president can fail. I mean, I don't mean to be cynical, but when you bring military heroes and victims of terrible events, there is no partisan division there.
One quick point I would like to make, for several years, when the president has made speeches like this, very long, in this case, I think breaking indoor record, a laundry list rather than a theme, people him, the press and some political observers, and invariably, the public reaction to these speeches is positive, not just because it often is when a president speaks, but because I think over the years, the president has figured out, in a political sense, how to appeal to the public with relatively small-scale projects, declaring the era of big government is over, but constantly offering packages of federal money to help very specific issues involving mostly the middle and working class. It happened in 1996. It happened during impeachment.
And so I think whatever the disappointment that the president speaks at great length and without them fanatic unity, these speeches have political punch, and I think this one will, too.
BLITZER: Bob Novak, did the president succeed in putting the Republicans on the defensive tonight?
NOVAK: To a certain extent, because these are all poll-tested ideas. Wolf, I was counting -- I might have missed some because my attention span is not all that great. But, I counted 61 separate proposals, almost all of them requiring additional spending, about 61 proposals require congressional action. I rather think there were more.
Now, you have often -- I have often wondered what would happen if you had a liberal president, and he is a liberal president, with an unlimited purse. That is not the restrictions that even Lyndon Johnson and all the Democratic presidents since Roosevelt have had. And this is what you have, you have an attempt, I think, by the president to through the offices of government to establish a utopian society, where there are no failures, everybody succeeds, there is no discrimination, and if there is, the government will step in and prevent it.
BLITZER: Cynthia Tucker, the president has proposed many of these initiatives in the past, they have not gone through Congress. What makes you perhaps think that this year they have a better chance of getting through, a political election year in the United States?
TUCKER: Well, some of them do not -- certainly not all of these initiatives will pass. In fact, this would be a very, very busy agenda even if it were a Democratic Congress and not a Republican one. But, the Republicans are at risk on some of these proposals because they are so very popular.
Education, the stress that the president put on spending in education. Well, most taxpayers don't mind having federal funds spent on education. Social Security, Medicare, the very same thing. The most -- the newest idea perhaps was -- and perhaps the most controversial one was the president's proposal on new handgun legislation, licensing for handguns. That is going to be a very controversial proposal on the Republican side. But conversely, it has broad appeal, especially among women.
BLITZER: OK. Cynthia Tucker and everyone else stand by. We have to take a quick break.
When we come back, we'll get the Republican response to the president's State of the Union address. Stay with us.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
|CLICK HERE FOR TODAY'S TOPICS AND GUESTS|
CLICK HERE FOR CNN PROGRAM SCHEDULES
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.