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Clinton Proposes Bridge To 21st Century

Pres. Clinton

CHICAGO (AllPolitics, Aug. 30) -- Pledging to "build a bridge to the 21st century," President Bill Clinton accepted his party's nomination in a forward-looking speech which outlined an agenda for a diverse but united American family.

"Tonight, let us resolve to build that bridge to the 21st century, to meet our challenges, protect our basic values and prepare our people for the future," said Clinton. (576 WAV sound)

His hourlong speech, more State of the Union than partisan political address, featured a recitation of past accomplishments and focused on a laundry list of future intentions, including better educational opportunities, targeted tax cuts and a balanced budget. While a bit flat at times, the victory speech, aimed directly at political moderates, pointed toward the future, drawing a sharp contrast with GOP rival Bob Dole's acceptance speech in San Diego, which at times seemed locked in the past.

"Hope is back in America"

Hillary & Chelsea

"Hope is back in America -- we are on the right track to the 21st century," Clinton said. "Our strategy is simple but profound: opportunity for all, responsibility for all, a strong American community where everyone has a place and plays a role."

The president heralded the accomplishments of his administration, while he appealed for a unified country that found strength in people's differences. Clinton claimed to have "changed the old politics" of "blame," and he attempted to head off what some think may be a negative campaign: "This must be a campaign of ideas, not insults," he said. (448K WAV sound)

He reeled off a host of legislative achievements -- quite a few GOP-inspired -- which he said had brought America back to life after 12 years of Republican mismanagement: 10 million new jobs, a minimum wage hike, health insurance reform, a revolution in welfare, the line-item veto, an end to unfunded mandates on state governments, tax cuts for small businesses, the family and medical leave bill, expanded college loans, and passage of the Brady bill.

Which bridge will it be?

Clinton & Gore

Tying his policy initiatives to the theme of common goals, he said the real question facing voters was whether to look ahead or back in time, to "build a bridge to the future or a bridge to the past." For him, the answer seems clear.

Clinton, who sometimes seemed more policy wonk than president, applauded increased funding for research, technology, breast cancer research, super-computing technology, and the development of AIDS drugs. But he said more needed to be done to prepare Americans for the challenges of the new century.

"It takes a village"

That effort depends on people working together for better education, safer streets, worker training, strong families and communities. Yes, he said, "It takes a village," reprising a line from Hillary Clinton's speech Tuesday.

The speech seemed carefully designed to appeal to a broad coalition of people inside and out of the convention center -- liberals concerned about the safety net and centrist Democrats concerned about austerity and military strength.

Clinton celebrated the fall of communism, decried terrorism, called for a cleaner environment, and expressed tolerance for gay Americans. In a dig at GOP rival Dole, the president dismissed the idea of the missile defense system, calling it squandered money.

The voice of reason

Cue Baloons

He cast himself as the voice of reason and restraint against tax-cutting candy advocated by Dole. The Dole-Kemp economic agenda, he said, would cause "huge cuts in the investments we need" and "explode the deficit," causing even bigger "cuts" in Medicare, education and the environment than Republicans have proposed.

"Do we really want to make the same mistake again?" he asked. Doing so would raise interest rates, lower economic growth, court recession and "start piling up another mountain of debt," he asserted.

A more promising tax strategy, according to Clinton, is a litany of targeted tax breaks designed to help students and families afford colleges, along with tax credits and incentives to businesses that hire welfare recipients. Those kinds of efforts are the key to economic growth, the president suggested. All his tax incentives and credits, Clinton declared, were fully budgeted, "line by line, dime by dime." (320K WAV sound)

"Tonight let us proclaim to the American people, we will balance the budget, and let us also proclaim we will do it in a way that preserves Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment," Clinton declared. (288 WAV sound)

The Clintons

Don't bet the farm

"We have an obligation to leave our children a legacy of opportunity, not debt," the president said. "We should not bet the farm, and we certainly shouldn't bet the country." Just give him a Democratic Congress, Clinton said, and budget battles would disappear.

"As long as I am president, I will never allow cuts that devastate education for our children, pollute our environment, end the guarantee of health care under Medicaid, or violate our duty to our parents under Medicare. Never."

While broad in scope, the president's message crystalized a theme visited frequently by convention speakers this week in Chicago: America as a diverse but cohesive family.

Declared Clinton: "That is why we must say loud and clear, if you believe in the values of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaraton of Independence -- if you are willing to work hard and play by the rules -- you are a part of our family."

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