Public Papers

Remarks to the Community in Springfield, Missouri


Thank you all very, very much. Thank you very much. And let me just say to Governor Ashcroft how appreciative I am for that rousing introduction. And let me tell you, it's a joy to be back. I keep showing up in this marvelous part of the country.

I understand that I owe a vote of gratitude to Ben Parnell, a leading, most respected Democrat who gave an outstanding talk here; to Hal Gibbs, a former leader in the Perot organization who is now suited up and working hard for us. And I'm grateful to him, grateful to both of them. To an old friend, Johnny Morris, the only thing I feel deprived of is I can't go by that marvelous outlet here and enhance your economy -- [laughter] -- because I love fishing and I love the outdoors. And I respect Johnny Morris as one of our leading environmentalists in the entire United States. He's sensible, and he speaks for the sportsmen all across this country.

And of course, seeing modestly sitting in the front row over here my old, dear friend whom Barbara and I respect and love, who's been with us at Camp David, with whom I campaigned 4 years ago, Moe Bandy. I'll tell you, it's a joy to have him here. And I also want to pay my respects to the Congressman. I haven't seen Mel Hancock; maybe he's not with us. But he's a great Representative for this area. And of course, I was privileged to ride in with Don Gann, who is the neighboring State rep, a man that serves with John Ashcroft with such distinction in the capital.

So let me on with the business at hand. John has set the course and set the agenda for today's comments. These trips today will take me to six different States.

Two weeks ago in Detroit, I presented to the American people my Agenda for American Renewal. It is a clear-eyed look at what's wrong with our country and also what's right about our country. I offered a comprehensive, integrated approach to win the new global economic competition so that by early in the next century, the world's first trillion economy will be found right here in the United States of America.

Last week, I discussed in detail how my vision of our future differs from that of the opponent. The differences simply could not be deeper. The stakes, as John points out, the Governor points out, could not be higher. Basically, it comes down to this: My opponent believes that Government planners can manage the economy better than the workers and small-business men and women who actually make it grow. I respect Government, but I don't put my faith in it. I put my faith in the tax-paying, hard-working men and women of America.

The first shot out of the box Governor Clinton says that he wants to raise taxes that will kill jobs. I want to see them cut to help Americans create jobs. Governor Clinton wants to increase -- he's already said this -- increase Federal spending by at least 0 billion. I want to cut it by that and more. I want the differences to be clear and sharp. And then the American people, then you will make a choice.

You know, the American people are interviewing two men for the same job. Now, you know me. My record is on the table, over the years. You know its shortcomings; I admit I've made mistakes. And I hope you know my record's strengths. And in my agenda I've told you what I intend to do to build on that record. I have spoken from my heart about the great optimism that I feel for this Nation, how I know we can rise above our challenges today and achieve an even better tomorrow.

My opponent has taken a very different path. He hasn't hesitated a minute to try to tear down everything we've accomplished for 12 years, to find everything he can about what's wrong with America. While I've been talking about ideas, he and his people have admitted publicly that their focus is on the negative, on what's wrong. For month after month, Governor Clinton has persisted in attacks on me; persistent, unrelenting, and many very personal in nature. Frankly, he has distorted my record, and his campaign cochairman even called me a racist. And this week the Governor unveiled, for the first time in this Presidential race, negative campaigning, negative television advertising, first one of this campaign.

So far, right up to today in Springfield, I have resisted the urge to focus on Governor Clinton's record. Frankly, I have felt that Americans want a positive debate. But I must tell you, I am very tired of the distortions, tired of the half-truths. The stakes are too high to let America be deceived by a negative campaign. So today, for really the first time, I have chosen to lay it on the line, talk about my opponent's record, talk facts, talk about the record in Arkansas, the Governor's record. And that means explaining the Grand Canyon that separates his rhetoric from the reality of his record. You need to know this because our country's future is literally on the line. You need to know whether you can trust Bill Clinton to take America where it needs to go in the next 4 years. Because once you buy what he's selling, there's no refund.

I hear candidate Clinton is up in Michigan today talking about debates. Well, I propose a debate for him today: candidate Clinton versus Governor Clinton. You see, we've all heard what candidate Clinton says he can do for America. But that's very different from what Governor Clinton has done to Arkansas, to the good people of Arkansas. And I want to stress this: My argument is not with the people of Arkansas, it is not. They are good, decent, hard-working people. Frankly, they deserve treatment better than they've received from Governor Clinton. So here we go.

Let me begin with an issue of concern to every American, every fairminded American: civil rights. Governor Clinton says, and I quote, ``Everybody knows I have the best civil rights record.'' His words. His modesty overwhelms me. [Laughter] But how does his record stand? Some of you may know that in 1968, when I was a Congressman from Texas, I supported the Fair Housing Act. It wasn't popular with some of my constituents. Times have changed, of course, and nowadays 41 States have laws banning housing discrimination, 41. But Arkansas is not one of them, even though my opponent has been Governor for 12 years. Forty-six States have human relations agencies that safeguard citizens against discrimination, but not Arkansas under his leadership. Forty-eight States have basic civil rights laws that ban discrimination and guarantee equal opportunity, but not Arkansas. That's right: Arkansas is only one of two States in America without a civil rights statute.

Candidate Clinton likes to talk about my 1990 veto of the Democratic Congress' quota bill. I did veto that bill, and I'll veto any other quota bill that the liberals cook up. I am for civil rights. And I am against quotas. That is not a contradiction. So last year, after tough negotiations with Congress and beating back two attempts to ram down my throat and the people's throat a quota bill, I did proudly sign a major civil rights bill without resorting to quotas. In addition, I fought for the Americans with Disabilities Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation in 30 years, that brings those with disabilities into the mainstream and gives them as shot at the American dream. And I'm proud of it.

What about Governor Clinton? Even though his party enjoys overwhelming control of the Arkansas Legislature, Governor Clinton has still not brought a civil rights bill to the people of Arkansas. So when you hear the candidate Clinton's rhetoric all across this country about civil rights, Governor Clinton's record just does not stand up.

Now, consider another issue: economic fairness. You know, candidate Clinton is playing the old game that liberals love to play, class warfare: divide Americans, rich from poor, one group from another. And he's good at it. Candidate Clinton is very good at that, using the same tired, twisted, partisan statistics to explain how the poor can only get richer if the rich get poorer. According to candidate Clinton, the last 10 years have been a nightmare. Well, I've got news for him. It is not true. The Urban Institute back in Washington is not usually sympathetic to me, but listen to what they had to say about the 1980's: ``When one follows individuals rather than statistical groups defined by income, one finds that, on average, the rich got a little richer and the poor got much richer.'' Now, that's the truth. Our policies of cutting taxes have spurred growth for all Americans.

Yes, we've got tough times now. But it's fair to look at the whole record. And candidate Clinton doesn't think this is a fair result. He doesn't think it's fair. It's maybe because Governor Clinton doesn't have much experience with tax fairness in his own State. Governor Clinton has more than doubled -- if you want a horror story, listen to this -- he has more than doubled Arkansas State spending since 1983. And he has paid for it by raising the taxes that hurt poor and working families the most. My opponent has raised and extended his sales tax repeatedly, and he has opposed removing that tax from groceries. Governor taxes -- ``Governor Taxes'' -- sorry. [Laughter] Freudian slip. Governor Clinton raised taxes on beer and started taxing mobile homes, too. And he more than doubled Arkansas' gas tax to 18/2\ cents per gallon. Governor Clinton even taxed food stamps until the Federal Government forced him to stop. And as if working families in Arkansas did not have enough problems, he's even tried to tax child care.

When it comes to taxes, Governor Clinton can't seem to get enough. Last year, he signed the largest tax increase in Arkansas history. I signed a tax increase once, and I've regretted it ever since. I admit it when I make a mistake. And therein lies the difference. Let me quote from an article in the Arkansas Gazette on all of this. ``In the Clinton era,'' it says, ``the State tax system has become more and more regressive. It has become, step by step, a pretty bad system, stacked against the ordinary taxpayer and consumer, stacked for the rich and special interest.'' End of quotation. Now, that's been his tax policy in Arkansas. Look at what it did to that State's economy -- a wonderful State, but look what it did to the economy. The per capita income, for example -- that's the bottom line for working men and women, how much income on average each of them have -- well, at the end of the 1980's, Arkansas ranked 48th in the Nation, per capita income, only about 73 percent of the national average. And that was even lower than the 75 percent in 1980. The poor people have been going backwards under this man. And what about all those good manufacturing jobs that candidate Clinton talks about? Well, average hourly earnings for Arkansas manufacturing workers ranked 47th in 1980. By 1989, they had dropped to 50th.

Now candidate Clinton says he wants to do to the American economy what Governor Clinton's done to Arkansas: Arkansas taxes, Arkansas income, Arkansas jobs. And I don't think he's kidding. I wish he were. Candidate Clinton wants the biggest tax increase in history. He hasn't even got there yet, and he's proposing the largest tax increase in history. And that's not even counting his payroll taxes for training and also those that would be required under his health care plan. And that's not fair. That simply is not fair for every working man and woman in America.

Another issue, one near and dear to the hearts of every American, rural and urban, and that's crime. Candidate Clinton likes to talk tough. You'll hear him criticize me about Federal aid to State and local law enforcement. But in fact, since 1989, we've proposed a 59-percent increase in Federal spending to fight crime. You'll also hear candidate Clinton make some pretty impressive claims about crime control in Arkansas. Wrong. Wrong again. Not. [Laughter] Candidate Clinton, meet Governor Clinton. During the 1980's, the Nation's overall crime rate during the eighties actually declined. But not in Arkansas. In fact, Governor Clinton's State had the biggest increase in overall crime rate in the entire Nation, nearly 28 percent. Again, this is not fair to the good people of Arkansas.

What about violent crimes? Arkansas' violent crime rate went up more than 58 percent, one of the worst records in the entire Nation. Why? Well, I've got a few hunches. Arkansas ranks near rockbottom in every important per capita law enforcement expenditure: for prisons, 46th; for judicial and legal systems, 50th. And when it comes to spending for police officers, Arkansas ranks 49th. And in Arkansas, when the prison door slams shut on a convicted criminal, he knows it won't be long before it opens up again. As incredible as it sounds, as incredible as it sounds, most inmates in Arkansas serve less than one-fifth of their sentence behind bars. That's the worst record in the entire Nation. The people of Arkansas deserve to walk their streets without fearing that some crazy convict is going to ruin their lives, some guy let out of jail far too early.

Now, contrast the situation in Arkansas with what we've been doing on the Federal level. Most Federal inmates serve at least 85 percent of their full sentence. And I think it's pretty simple: If you take liberties with the law, you're going to lose your own liberties for a long, long time. When you look at Governor Clinton's record on law enforcement, it's not surprising that last week, the Fraternal Order of Police in Little Rock gave me their endorsement for President of the United States of America. And that is the verdict of the police officers in Governor Clinton's own backyard. They agree with me. You do not coddle criminals; you stand up for the law-abiding citizens in this country.

I'm really enjoying getting this record out here. Now let's look at another contrast. It's been 11 long months of his hammering me. And we're just starting today right here Springfield because I want the American people to know the truth. I want them to know the facts. I want them to know the truth.

Let's look at another contrast between candidate Clinton's rhetoric and Governor Clinton's record: with children. In his new book, candidate Clinton says that America has failed to provide its children with either the best education or adequate protection from violence. That's what the candidate says. Now how about the Governor? Look at the facts. During the 1980's, Arkansas fell from 47th to 48th place in the percentage of adults with a high school diploma. Arkansas' rankings on its primary college entrance examination, known as ACT, have declined overall. Twenty-eight States use the ACT as their primary college entrance test. The New York Times recently reported that in 1979, Arkansas ranked 20 out of those 28. The State's latest available ranking is down to 25th out of the 28.

And we know that more than three-quarters of Arkansas high school graduates require remedial instruction when they get to college. It's not fair to them. Think about it, 75 percent of Arkansas college students spend their first year of college relearning what they missed out on in high school. Now these are bright, dynamic young people. And they deserve better than a failed education system. And when it comes to the percentage of adults with a college degree, Governor Clinton's Arkansas still ranks 50th.

Now, when it comes to protecting children from violence, you should know this: My opponent's record is, in one word, appalling. The facts are not pretty. But America should listen to the facts. During the 1980's, the death rate of American children 14-and-under improved dramatically across the country. But in Arkansas, it got worse. The State ranked 49th in 1989. In the late 1980's, Arkansas' rate of violent deaths for teenagers soared at 3 times the national average. And over the decade, child abuse reports shot up 130 percent. Now, behind that statistic are tales of heartbreaking tragedy. The young people over in Arkansas deserve to have their hearts healed.

Now, it's hard to believe that Governor Clinton was unaware of what was going on. Throughout the 1980's, study after study contained detailed findings and recommendations; a cry for help, if you will. And he even commissioned some of these studies himself. In 1990, his own department of human services reported that ``frequent and widespread'' official failures had placed the children of Arkansas in, again a quote, ``imminent peril.'' Still Governor Clinton did nothing. And finally, a group of child welfare advocates took the Governor to court. They filed a Federal class action naming him as lead defendant. And on June 8th, less than 4 months ago, my opponent finally settled. And now candidate Clinton promises to crack down on violence against children.

Now to what Johnny Morris is famous for and that Governor Ashcroft can take great pride in, the environment. I love to hike. I love to camp out. I love to go fishing. I like to go hunting. And you've heard me talk about the importance of protecting the environment many times. But to me real eloquence is action, and I have acted. There's our historic Clean Air Act, cutting acid rain in half, we did that. We banished offshore oil rigs from sensitive beaches on both coasts and added a billion dollars worth of new forests and parks for our children to enjoy. In the past 3 years, our Environmental Protection Agency has assessed more than half of all the civil penalties and criminal fines in the history of EPA, more than 0 million. To those who spoil our lakes and air we are saying: Mess with our children's health and you will pay.

Those are facts. And that is the record, a record I am very proud of on the environment; a sound, progressive record. But candidate Clinton calls America's environmental record since 1989 a disaster. And he promises, quote, ``real environmental policy'' that will, again quote, ``challenge Americans and demand responsibility at every level.'' My advice: Let's take candidate Clinton at his word. Demand that candidates run on their records. I'm prepared to do that. We've got a good record to take to the American people, the people of Missouri. I'll stand by my record. Now, let's see if he can stand on his. And again, I'm going to be very, very factual.

Earlier this year, my opponent was asked to name a single Arkansas law that exceeds Federal environmental standards. He couldn't do that, not one. The Governor has accepted generous campaign contributions, free plane rides from Arkansas' powerful chicken industry. And the industry is the ultimate source of, and I'll put this as delicately as I possibly can, fecal coliform bacteria, which pollutes hundreds of miles of Arkansas rivers. Governor Clinton did create an animal waste task force to deal with the issue. But the task force subcommittee was headed by a chicken executive. And they decided that controls on what they call ``chicken litter,'' unquote -- [laughter] -- should be purely voluntary. It's hard to keep this clean, but I'm telling you the record is bad over there. But I guess with Governor Clinton, some things do run thicker than water. [Laughter]

Last year, the Institute for Southern Studies released an extraordinarily detailed, State-by-State study of environmental quality and progress. And let me quote the Institute's research director: ``In the areas of policy -- laws passed, not task forces or commissions set up to study a problem -- Arkansas was 50th, the worst in the Nation.'' Arkansas residents want clean air and clean water. They're sportsmen just like you all are, just like I am. They love the outdoors just like you do and just like I do. And they should not be last in the entire Nation.

And finally, let's talk about health care. As you might expect, my opponent and I have two vastly different approaches to the problem. I want to use competition to expand coverage, preserve quality, drive down the costs. And candidate Clinton's plan could eventually bring our health care system under the control of the Federal Government. Until last month, candidate Clinton pretended that his plan wouldn't cost a dime. But then someone at USA Today got him to admit what I've been saying all along: His plan would require a new payroll tax. And I say small business does not need any more taxes. Let's do it my way. A new payroll tax will kill jobs, especially in the small businesses that we're looking to to create the new jobs we need in this country. It'll cut wages.

But since we're talking about our records today, consider this, too. Candidate Clinton says, ``Health care should be a right, not a privilege.'' And yet, under Governor Clinton, Arkansas has one of the Nation's worst health insurance crises. More than 42 percent of Arkansas workers, the second highest percentage in the entire Nation, don't even have employer-paid health insurance. And the New York Times says a full 25 percent of all State residents have no health insurance at all. Candidate Clinton now says America, quote, ``can't afford 4 more years'' without a solution to our health care problem. And I totally agree with that. But Governor Clinton took a long time to come around. Early last year, in his fifth term as Governor, he finally signed a bill to provide bare-bones coverage to people who have gone uninsured for more than a year.

And so there you have it. Nothing personal, just the facts. And next time you hear candidate Clinton promise to be a progressive change agent for the entire United States, think of civil rights and taxes in the State he's left behind. Think of crime and child abuse and education in that great State of Arkansas. Think of the environment that he's neglected, the health care problems he's ignored. Think about all this the next time candidate Clinton says he will do for America what he's done for Arkansas.

It is true we're having a big debate about America's future. But first you have to learn who's really on the other side. And you have to know: Is it the words of candidate Clinton or the actions of Governor Clinton? We've seen over the last 9 months that candidate Clinton appears willing to say anything to anyone. But the record of Governor Clinton proves that it doesn't matter what the candidate will say to anyone, because he won't deliver. So either way, whether it's candidate Clinton or Governor Clinton, I believe that Bill Clinton is wrong to be President of the United States of America.

You know, I feel better now, because when I started this morning, I explained how for months Governor Clinton has distorted my record. And I sat there through primary after primary, one assault by another -- not all by Governor Clinton, I might add, joined by a handful of other guys that have fallen by the wayside -- and I'd made a decision. I was President; I was trying to do something to help this country. And I chose not to fight back until now, because I believe Americans want action from their President. And I believe they want positive ideas, want real solutions to our challenges.

But I simply cannot let Governor Clinton's distortions go unanswered. His own record must be exposed because look at what is at stake. This man has the gall to go around America and promise the moon, when on issue after issue, the sky has fallen in in his own backyard. I say Arkansas deserves better. And I mean that. I say America deserves better. And I say America deserves more than learning what's wrong; we need to know what works to build a safer and more secure future for these kids over here. And this is what I offer in this campaign: experience, character, and ideas that are right for America.

My agenda contains 13 specific actions that I'm going to fight to accomplish in the first year of my second term, with all those new Congressmen that are coming in as a result of the confusion and disarray in the House. And I'm going to get them done. I'm going to get these things done with your help, because America has what it takes to win the economic competition, to win the peace. So let's get on with the job.

And thank you for this exceptionally warm welcome, this Missouri welcome. And may God bless the greatest country on the face of the Earth, the United States of America. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 8:53 a.m. in the University Plaza Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to John Morris, chairman, Bush-Quayle Outdoors Coalition; entertainer Moe Bandy; and Don Gann, Missouri State legislator.