Public Papers

Remarks to the Community in Nashville, Tennessee


The President. Thank you very much for that warm welcome. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Hey, listen, how do you ever adequately -- please be seated, and let me just say what a joy it is to be here today. I don't know how I possibly can begin to thank these fantastic entertainers that are standing up with me right now, I'll tell you, Baillie and the Boys, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Paul Overstreet, and Mark Chestnut; of course, Lee Greenwood and Chet Atkins and, oh, there's so many. Naomi, thank you for being with us all day long, and, Crystal, thank you for appearing with me. It really makes a tremendous difference. It really brings the crowds alive. And I'm grateful to each and every one of you. And, Goober, your jokes were all right, too. [Laughter] And thank you.

May I salute Roy Acuff. My heavens, what an inspiration he's been to all of us in this country. And as President, you get to do many wonderful and happy things, and one of the things I've enjoyed the most was when I had the honor of presenting to Roy the most prestigious award we have for the arts, the National Medal of the Arts, up at the White House. He deserved it, and he's a fine, fine, fine legend in his own time.

You know, I don't know whether Naomi or Crystal are still speaking to me, or Ricky Skaggs, who was with us on this trip. But as far as I'm concerned, this is a wonderful day, traveling all across the width and breadth of this great State. I can't think of a better place to finish this swing than right here at the Mecca of country music.

You know, last week on one of the networks there was a story asking why country music had become such a big part of national politics. I won't speak for any other politicians, but I love country music. Leave politics aside, I love it because country music loves America. I don't start listening -- listen to this crowd -- just at election time. I listen to it every night of my life, and I love it. I can flip on 98.7 on the dial at Washington, DC, and all the cares of all these talking heads and media freaks and everybody else go flying out. It is wonderful.

May I salute Howard Baker who's with us here today. Congressmen Sundquist and Duncan; and of course, our great Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander.

It's a funny thing, who was it, Naomi talked about family. I get a funny feeling that some on the opposition camp want to have us stop talking about the fundamental importance of strengthening the American family. But I'm not going to stop talking about it because we must find ways to stand for the values of family and faith. Sometimes those values like family and faith become unpopular, a little out of sync in some places. But never, never here and never in country music. It's always there. Country music reminds us that for all our faults, America still is the very best, the finest country on the face of the Earth.

We've had a lot of difficulties, but I don't like it one single bit when I find somebody trying to be President and the only way he can get there is by tearing down and talking down the United States of America. I want to talk it up. I believe in our country. I am very proud.

To listen to Clinton and Gore, they don't think foreign affairs or national security is important. I am proud of how we helped win the cold war so that our children can sleep without that nightmare of nuclear war and nuclear weapons and dream the sweet dreams of peace.

I am proud that when Saddam Hussein stuck his forces across into Kuwait that we were the country, we were the ones, the sons and daughters of Tennessee, that said, ``No way. You're through. You're out.'' Right there we showed that courage is a fundamental part of the American character. We are not going to forget what those men and women did, no matter how the other side tries to move the debate away. We're going to stay with the pride that we feel in this country.

I'm not going to get into the one subject that's racing all around the politics, but let me just put it this way: I am very proud that I served my country in the uniform of the United States of America. I hope it has made me a better Commander in Chief. And I hope it has made me a sensitive one, because the toughest decision that a President has to make is to commit somebody else's son or daughter into combat. I think that experience has been extraordinarily useful.

But now what we've got to do is to take the leadership that helped shape the entire world, that brought an end to the cold war, that brought democracy to countries all across the world who have lived behind communist tyranny, and say, now take the leadership that did that and change things dramatically here at home. That's what the debate is about, and that's what the election is about.

We can feel the impact in our neighborhoods now as we take this message of hope and economic opportunity all across the United States of America. You see, what I must do now in the last 5 or 6 weeks, whatever we have left -- should be able to tell you right down to the hour; it's been that kind of a year, but -- [laughter] -- we've got two entirely different views as to how to respond to the challenge. Beneath all his rhetoric and all of his talk of partnership and new ways, Governor Clinton basically offers America more of the old way, more Government, more spending, more redtape, more middle class taxes.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. You know, I had the honor, coming in here, to call a real legend on the phone, Minnie Pearl, beloved daughter of Nashville. Leaving the politics aside, Barbara and I just love her, and we wanted to just wish her good health. Ronald Reagan used to describe the liberal spending programs as being something like Minnie Pearl's hat: ``They look great, but they have all these big price tags dangling from them.'' [Laughter] And so that's the way I look at the Clinton program.

I don't think we can afford that kind of a program of tax and spend. And yes, I believe that Government can do good things. But fundamentally, I believe that the key to renewing America won't be found in some Washington bureaucracy, but right here, right here in the heartland of America, in places like Nashville, Tennessee.

So in this campaign we're talking about turning the power, giving the power to the American people. I want to break down the barriers, bureaucratic barriers, to world trade, so that we can create more jobs for the American workers. I want to get rid of all of these crazy lawsuits that keep mothers and fathers from coaching Little League, these lawsuits that keep doctors from practicing medicine. As a nation, frankly, we've got to sue each other less and care for each other more.

With the great leadership and help of Lamar Alexander, I want to give parents, not the Government, the right to choose their kids' school, whether public, private, or religious.

But most of all, we've got to get the Government under control by cutting Government spending and cutting taxes, because I believe that you can spend your money better than any Government subcommittee or Government bureaucrat. So we've got some big differences. I believe Governor Clinton, just to put it mildly -- I'm an objective observer here -- I believe Governor Clinton's ideas are wrong for America. That is the bottom line, and I've got to take that case to the American people.

A couple of hours ago, over at Austin Peay University, I challenged Governor Clinton to a debate, the last four Sundays of this campaign, four nationally televised debates. I said that I'd be flexible about the format, but I believe that the American people deserve to hear our ideas because only they can make the right choice in November. I hope that the Governor will respond and accept. We've been hearing a lot about him. I've seen all those chickens out there at these various events. [Laughter] I didn't know whether they were talking about the draft or the pollution in the Arkansas River.

Look, I know, I don't pretend to be the world's greatest debater. I didn't go to Oxford. I know, I know I'm not very good on statistics. This guy's got more statistics than there are problems. [Laughter] But what I do have is a fundamental commitment to values and hopefully some character to go with it.

Something else I have is faith in the American people, faith in all the beauticians and bartenders and Boy Scouts and great singers. I believe that America will win the economic competition if Government just gives these people the tools and then gets the heck out of the way and lets America get the job done.

I'll tell you what really gets me about this. I don't want to get wound up here, these guys have lots to do -- but it burns me up right in the bottom of my gut to hear Governor Clinton talking about this country being a nation in decline. He says we're south of Germany and a little north of Sri Lanka. Well, he ought to open his eyes and look around the world. We are the most respected, the fairest, the most decent country on the face of the Earth. Thank God I don't have to get reelected by going around tearing down the United States of America.

I wish Barbara Bush were here. Not only does she keep me in line, but I think she's been the greatest First Lady we've had. I'll tell you something; I'll tell you why we're going to win this election: We really care. We have been honored -- I say we, the both of us -- to live in this wonderful White House, the symbol to countries all around the world of freedom and democracy. We've tried very, very hard to keep the public trust, to honor the office that we've been privileged to hold.

Now I'm going to ask the American people: Let us finish this job. Let us have this economy recover. Let's offer hope and opportunity to all Americans. Give me 4 more years to finish the job.

Thank you, and may God bless our great country. I can't do it as well as Lee Greenwood, but God bless the United States. God bless the U.S.A. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:20 p.m. at the Roy Acuff Theater. In his remarks, he referred to entertainers Baillie and the Boys, the Oak Ridge Boys, Paul Overstreet, Mark Chestnut, Lee Greenwood, Chet Atkins, Naomi Judd, Crystal Gayle, George ``Goober'' Lindsey, Roy Acuff, and Ricky Skaggs.