Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 25, 1998
Remarks by the President
at the White House Correspondent's Association Dinner

The Washington Hilton Hotel
Washington, D.C.

10:26 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. McQuillan, Mr. Powell. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

As you know, I have been traveling to other lands quite a lot lately, and I just want to say what a pleasure it is for Hillary and me to be here in your country. (Laughter.) Since I arrived here -- (laughter) -- I've been awestruck by the beauty of your landscape, the spirit of your people, the color of your native garb. (Laughter.)

Now, the crowds who greet me here are not quite as adoring as in other nations I've visited lately -- (laughter and applause) -- but they seem occasionally friendly, nonetheless. I've even sampled some of your indigenous cuisine -- your hamburgers, quite tasty, sort of a meat sandwich. (Laughter.)

It appears that democracy is thriving here. There are regular elections, contested with vigor, honored by some -- (laughter and applause). In the legislature, persistent coup attempts so far have failed to upend the balance of power. (Laughter.) You have a lively, independent press, confident in its judgment and bold in its predictions. (Laughter.) And persistent, I might add.

Yes, this Washington is a very special place and Hillary and I will never forget our visit here. (Laughter and applause.)

Now, as I have come to do on these tours, I want to take just a few moments to reflect on our shared history. The past decades, indeed centuries, are filled with regrettable incidents. Mistakes were made. (Laughter.) Injustices were committed. And certainly the passive tense was used too much. (Laughter and applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I regret so much: I regret our long neglect of the planet Pluto. (Laughter.) It took until 1930 -- 1930 -- to welcome Pluto into the community of planets, and that was wrong. (Laughter.) And I am so sorry about disco. (Laughter and applause.) That whole era of leisure suits and bean-bag chairs and lava lamps -- I mean, we all had to endure the cheesiness of the '70s, and that was wrong. (Laughter.)

Then there's the Susan B. Anthony dollar. (Laughter.) It did look too much like a quarter. And that was wrong. (Laughter.) The expression, "happy campers." Oh, it was cute the first couple of times, but it got real old real fast. (Laughter.) I recently used it at a Cabinet meeting, and that was wrong. (Laughter.) Pineapple on pizza -- some things are just wrong. (Laughter.)

I'd also, in this moment of cleansing, like to take just a moment to reflect on past treatment of the White House press corps. I apologize for the quality of the free food you've been served over the years. (Laughter.) At the price, you deserved better. It was wrong. (Laughter.) For many years when the space that is now the briefing room in the White House was a swimming pool, reporters had to tread water for hours on end. (Laughter.) And that was wrong --sort of. (Laughter.)

And I'd really like to apologize for all the information you've had to attribute to anonymous sources over the years. Of course, that apology has to be off the record, and for that I am truly sorry. (Laughter.) But now that we have put the issues of the past behind us, I really would like to thank you for inviting me to tonight's dinner. This is the night I get to poke fun at you. That is my definition of executive privilege. (Laughter and applause.)

Now, I'm at a little bit of a disadvantage this year. I've been so busy I haven't read a newspaper or a magazine or even watched the evening news since the Pope went to Cuba. (Laughter and applause.) What have you been writing about since then? (Laughter.)

I hardly have any time to read the news anymore. Mostly, I just skim the retractions. (Laughter and applause.)

I've even stopped watching McCurry's briefing -- I mean, he never answers a single question. (Laughter.) I don't know how you put up with it. I've told him again and again and again he can answer any question he wants. (Laughter.) What has he told you about that? (Laughter.)

Seriously, I have been looking so much forward to seeing all of you this weekend. I just want to know one thing: how come there's no table for Salon Magazine? (Laughter.)

One of the things I like about this dinner is that as big as it is, it's a lot smaller and more intimate than the White House Pundits Dinner. (Laughter.) I don't have anything against political pundits, mind you. Some of my best friends used to be political pundits -- and some political pundits used to be my best friends. (Laughter and applause.)

Really, I'm just here to warm the audience up for Ray Romano. I feel ambivalent about it. He's the star of a show called, "Everybody Loves Raymond." Everybody loves Raymond? I can't stand a guy with 100 percent approval rating. (Laughter.)

I do want to congratulate the winners tonight, Earl Lane and Andrew Smith, Mike Frisby, Ron Fornier, Peter Maer. I'd like to say something to Mike Frisby -- now that you've won this award, I think you ought to slow down, work a little less, try to enjoy the finer things of life. (Laughter and applause.)

And to Ron Fornier -- you know, I honestly believe Ron Fornier is the only person who came to Washington with me from Arkansas who hasn't been subpoenaed. (Laughter and applause.) But the night is still young. (Laughter.)

I'm also happy to see that Peter Maer is getting an award tonight for his excellent work. I was worried, since he was nearly mauled by a cheetah on our Africa trip, you probably ought to be given the Purple Heart. .....Come on, could you write a joke about Peter Maer? (Laughter.)

It was reported on our trip that Sam Donaldson scared away a herd of elephants with his distinctive voice. (Laughter.)

That is not fair. Elephants are very smart. The elephants knew Sam works for Disney -- they thought he was trying to round them up for a new theme park. (Laughter and applause.)

This has been an extraordinary few months for the White House press corps. It's no wonder you've been swarming around the White House, there's nothing to cover on Capitol Hill. (Laughter.)

Now, listen to this. All over, TV executives are asking, what can possibly fill the gaping hole on Thursday night once Seinfeld goes off the air? I've got it -- Congress on C-Span. Now, there's a show about nothing. (Laughter and applause.) Not that there is anything wrong with that. (Laughter.)

There are barely 40 days left in the 105th Congress as of tonight. This is a Congress with nothing to do and no time to do it in. (Laughter.) But there will be one news item coming out of Capitol Hill next week. I met with Senator John Glenn recently to decide who should be the next distinguished member of Congress hurled into the far reaches of the universe. (Laughter.) And we have our man. Godspeed, Dick Armey. (Laughter and applause.)

On Tuesday, Speaker Gingrich is holding a press conference to proclaim that Tony the Tiger is not selling Frosted Flakes to children. (Laughter.) Last week he said the movie, Titanic, glorified smoking. I couldn't believe it. This week he'll accuse it of glorifying drowning. (Laughter.)

For all of you who do not live in Washington, let me ask you to make some allowances for all of us tonight. This is a unique and rather unsettling moment in Washington. I'm not the only one is who is anxiously awaiting the release of Steve Brill's new magazine. I have an advance copy here. See? It's called, "ConTENT." (Laughter.) Now, why would anyone want to call a magazine about the news media that? Oh, McCurry says it's called, "CONtent." Why would anyone want to call a magazine about the news media that? (Laughter and applause.)

Anyway, you might be interested in what's going to be in the first edition. I have it here, the table of contents: Makeover tips, by John King. (Laughter.) George Mitchell writes about the prospects of lasting peace between Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer. (Laughter.) Six lip-smacking summertime recipes for harvest burgers, by David Brinkley. (Laughter.) A retrospective; CBS news from Murrow to Molinari. (Laughter.) Buddy got what he deserved, by Maureen Dowd. (Laughter and applause.) Here's an article called, waiting in the wings, co-written by Al Gore and Brian Williams. (Laughter.) I think they're both going to make it. Here's Lanny Davis's review of "Spin Cycle" -- he liked it. (Laughter.)

Now, I've got to say one thing. You know, this book, "Spin Cycle," it implies that this kabuki dance between the White House and the press is some kind of a recent phenomenon. That's not true. It is a cherished part of our history. Just in preparation for tonight I had the National Archives send over some yellowed transcripts to make this point. For example, here's some good news from the Hoover administration: Housing starts were up in the third quarter of 1931. (Laughter.) Said a senior advisor to the President, "These Hoover bills reflect a commitment to private initiative instead of paternalistic big government. The President is proud they bear his name. (Laughter.)

Then in 1814, a White House official disputed the idea that the burning of the White House was a setback for the Madison administration. (Laughter.) "Yes, fire did consume the mansion," he said, "but it was in desperate need of renovation anyway -- (laughter) -- and this salutary effort by the British actually saves us time and taxpayers' money." (Laughter.)

Here's one from the Jefferson administration in 1804. A spokesman for Vice President Aaron Burr asserted, "People don't kill people, guns kill people." (Laughter and applause.) Way back in 1773 a spokesman for Samuel Adams asserted unequivocally that the Boston Tea Party was not a fundraiser. (Laughter.) "No one paid to attend, there was no quid pro quo," he said. "The party was just a town meeting for colonists to get to know each other and discuss
details of the new tax law."

Well, we've been at this a long time. Helen ought to
know, she was there. (Laughter.)

Let me say one serious thing: Helen Thomas is not just the longest-serving White House correspondent. One of the reasons she got that award tonight in her name is that she's still the hardest working -- the first to show up in the Press Office every morning about 5:00 a.m., five days a week, for nearly 40 years. And I dare say tonight is the first time she has ever been completely scooped. By my calculation, she's had about 10,000 mornings, thousands of notebooks, thousands of ballpoint pens, thousands of cups of coffee -- sometimes brought to her by White House staffers --never has it compromised her yet.

For all of us in the White House she is a rock; for everyone here tonight, obviously a symbol of everything American journalism can and should be: the embodiment of fearless integrity, fierce commitment to accuracy, the insistence on holding government accountable. All of that in the spirit of the First Amendment and the free press it protects.

Helen, by tradition, you always get to ask the first question at the press conference. This has been a rather long opening statement, but to honor the tradition tonight you can ask me anything you want. But remember, in an even older tradition, I don't have to answer. (Laughter.)

Thank you and good night. (Applause.)

END 10:43 P.M. EDT

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Office of the Press Secretary




March 18, 1999



THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, members of Congress, my fellow Americans. I want to thank you for your invitation to come have dinner with 2,000 members of the Washington press corps. Amazingly enough, I accepted. If this isn't contrition, I don't know what is.

I know you can't really laugh about this. I mean, the events of the last year have been quite serious. If the Senate vote had gone the other way, I wouldn't be here.

I demand a recount.

This is just the beginning of my week with the press. Tomorrow I've got a press conference, and then the Gridiron Dinner the day after that. You'd think I was selling a book. Now, I know it's been a long time since I had a press conference, but I remember it well. All those questions that day about the nomination of Zoë Baird.

Look, you can probably tell I'm a little nervous, being around all these reporters tonight. So if you will forgive me, I'd like to employ a method that has worked pretty well for me over the last year.

("Hail To The Chief" is played. Announcement is read: "Ladies and gentlemen, the "Prime Minister of the United Republic of Karjakador, Shoreb Arnsvat.")

THE PRESIDENT: Your Excellency, welcome to the United States. The podium is yours.

(The "Prime Minister" speaks in foreign language.)

THE PRESIDENT: Your Excellency, without my headphones, I have no idea what you just said. But it sounded very much like words of praise. I want you to know that they mean more to me than I could possibly express.

[The "Prime Minister" replies.]

THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that, as well. Now, your Excellency, this is just a dinner with the press. Tomorrow is the real press conference. I look forward to seeing you there.

Now, I know that the press corps has been busy preparing questions for me. So I've been working on the answer. Never mind the questions, here are the answers.

Yes, Helen.

She was first, Sam.

I'll get to you, Sam.

Not yet, Sam.

The longest peacetime expansion in history.

No, I didn't watch it.

No, I haven't read it.

Your Excellency, why don't you just have a seat right there, just listen to the translation and I'll ask you to join me again if I need some cover.

Now, I know there's been a lot of interest in the future political career of the First Lady. I honestly don't know what she'll decide, but I can tell you this. Yesterday at breakfast, she was complaining that it is impossible to get a decent bagel in Washington.

By the way, what is a schmeer?

["Prime Minister" whispers to him.]

Oh, with Cream cheese. Thank you.

And you know, the Vice President's been busy, too. When I was in Central America, I turned on C-Span and I saw the Vice President talking about how rough it is to travel on airplanes these days -- the delays, the lost baggage, the disgusting meals. Al, I didn't know it was that bad on Air Force II.

I think he's due for an upgrade.

Aren't you glad Garrison Keillor is here? I welcome you, sir, to Washington, where all the lobbyists are strong, all the politicians think they're good-looking, and all of the lawyers are above average.

I was going to make jokes about the House Republicans tonight, about the managers. It wouldn't be fair, they're not here to defend themselves. They're all at the Taliban Correspondents Association Dinner.

You know, the House managers were really unhappy with the Senate verdict. In fact, they're appealing it to the judges in the Holyfield-Lewis fight.

This is a pretty tough time for the right wing. The President of the Council of Conservative Citizens had to resign because of his alleged ties to Bob Barr.

Now, look, as I have often said, politics aside, this is truly a great moment for America. Since I took office, more than 18 million new jobs. Opportunity --

PRIME MINISTER: [laugher] Oh, Bob Barr! Funny!

THE PRESIDENT: He and I liked it better than you did. Anyway, as I was saying, in spite of all this prosperity, there are some pockets of our economy that have really been hurt by change. For example, now that the trial is over, we have a responsibility to do something about the growing ranks of dislocated pundits. You know, in this era of technological change, the average worker will change jobs seven times. And now we know that for a full 50 percent of them, one of those jobs will be a short stint as a panelist on MSNBC.

?My friends, when their time in Washington is up, we simply must help displaced pundits make the most of the opportunities of the 21st century. This is a challenge best met at the state level.

So I propose a new relocation grant, to move Washington's pundits out to our 50 states, the laboratories of democracy -- to give them new, fresh, vibrant opportunities to torment our nation's governors -- from Trenton to Tallahassee and Albany to Austin. I also want you to know that I am absolutely firmly committed to passing the long overdue pundit's bill of rights:

You have the right to a fresh danish in the green room, the right to interrupt others, the right to shout down Chris Matthews -- I think that's an obligation, myself.

And never, never should you have to make the painful choice between the beat you cover and the talk show you love.

Now the cable networks have to fill 24 hours with 24 minutes worth of actual news. That's pretty tough. Anyway, here are a few of the better ideas for new shows:

"MSNBC In Crisis."

"Inside the Politics of Burden of Proof."

"Totally Subpoenaed Videos."

But, just for you tonight, we got our hands on a preview of cable news' next really big show. Here it is, look on the video screen.

["Punditubbies" video is shown, featuring Bob Novak leading a round-table discussion with the Teletubbies].

I'll explain it to you later, your Excellency.

Well, there has been some real news this week. The DNC announced it will hold the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. But what you may not know is that the Los Angeles Planning Committee insisted on some minor changes in the convention format. For example, the Democratic candidate must start his acceptance speech by thanking the Academy, and saying what an honor it is just to be nominated.

In addition to the red-meat rhetoric as usual, there will be a fabulous vegetarian plate prepared by Wolfgang Puck.

Tough questions will now be handled by stunt doubles.

There'll be a fundraiser at Grauman's Chinese Theater.

And, basically -- even after it's over -- in Hollywood, Oscars will still be bigger than the convention. Speaking of the Oscars, everybody's got his or her own pick for Best Picture. Now, I like some in particular, but none of these were nominated. But there were a lot of pictures about Washington this year, and I think they deserve a little consideration.

There was "Leaving Los Alamos." "

You've Got Subpoenas."

"Throw Momma in the Grand Jury."

One of my favorites, the prequel to "Star Wars," "The Robert Fiske Story."

And "Saving Private Life."

Now that this speech has gone on long enough, I know we should work together to bring it to closure. So I want you to let me say something, just for a moment, serious. There are three journalists here tonight from Radio Free Asia who sought to cover my trip to China last year, but had their visas canceled by the Chinese government. I was pleased to sit for an interview with them before I left, and took the opportunity to say that China had made a serious mistake.

This, of course, is part of a larger problem, because around the world, still, journalists are barred, harassed, imprisoned, sometimes even murdered, for the crime of seeking and speaking the truth. When leaders in China or anywhere else do this, it is a cause for dismay. And what leaders everywhere must realize is that a robust and independent press actually strengthens a nation. It promotes debate, and in a free society, given enough time, the people pretty much always get it right.

Together we must continue to state forcefully our belief that free expression and independent journalism are absolutely essential to building better societies, and protecting the rights of all people. In the daily push and pull of our jobs and lives, we should never lose sight of that one goal, which I know every person in this room shares, not only tonight but every night.

All in all, this hasn't been too bad. I'd do it again. In fact, I'm dumb enough to do it again tomorrow. So I'll see you tomorrow in the East Room. Look for me -- I'll be the guy without the red sash.

Thank you, and goodnight.

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Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release/ May 1, 1999

Washington Hilton
Washington. D.C.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Stewart, Susan, Brian. You all were pretty tough on the Times for boycotting this dinner tonight. I understand they wanted to protest the increasingly circus-like atmosphere. Why are they doing it? I'm the guy who shows up every year and gets shot out of the cannon. (Laughter.)

You really made me feel like I'm on the downhill slide -- Brian Williams spent all this time dumping on the Vice President. (Laughter and applause.)

I know that this dinner has gotten out of hand in recent years, but I see a lot of familiar faces out here. And I want you to know that I really appreciate all these Hollywood celebrities inviting the work-a-day Washington press to join them tonight. (Laughter.)

Now, you know, I on occasion have my differences with the New York Times. But they've taken a principled stand. (Laughter.) And I support them. In fact, I feel so strongly about it that I challenge the Washington Times and the Weekly Standard to follow their example next year. (Laughter and applause.)

I know there was some talk about my not coming this year, and I admit, the thought did cross my mind. (Laughter.) But then I heard if I didn't attend, Aretha might not attend and that would break Brian's heart, because we couldn't bear the thought of having Scott Pelley sing, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." (Laughter.)

I hope you'll all enjoy Aretha -- and I love her and I will certainly enjoy it. And I want to see you later -- I like to come here because there are those other parties later on. Now, last year, Sid Blumenthal swore he could get me into the Vanity Fair party. (Laughter.) What a difference a year makes -- (laughter) -- this year I have to take him. (Laughter and applause.)

I love seeing all the White House correspondents in this room tonight. For me, it's a rare treat to see you outside the White House gates. Get used to it. (Laughter.) You know that the National Park Service is planning this long-range plan to relocate the White House briefing room to a larger facility, outside the West Wing -- which is too bad. I mean, Helen was just starting to get comfortable. (Laughter.)

She's still mad about the last time the White House briefing room was moved -- when the Capitol moved to Washington from Philadelphia. (Laughter.)

But, look, this is going to be hard on us, too. It's going to be really hard on the White House if they move the briefing room because then the leakers will have to start dialing 10-10-321. (Laughter.)

Speaking of big moves, I saw yet another journalist commenting today that if Hillary runs for the Senate she'll have to deal with the New York press, and that will be hard, because they're even meaner than you are. I want you to know something -- we are not scared of them, we're scared of the co-op boards. (Laughter and applause.) Have you ever seen one of those applications? I've been filling one out -- look, here's my answer to some of the questions. You tell me what kind of chance we've got.

Question Two. Anticipated employment? Unknown. (Laughter.)

Question Three. Anticipated earnings? Unknown. (Laughter.)

Question Five. Current residence? Public housing. (Laughter.)

Outstanding debts? Williams and Connolly. (Laughter.) And the House Democrats. (Laughter and applause.)

I know these are really busy times for all of you in the press corps. I appreciate your hard work. But what I really appreciate is all the commentary. I hope the NATO commanders videotape this morning's briefing by retired General Howard Fineman. (Laughter.) I wonder how in the world the allies ever managed to pull of D-day without "Talk Back Live." (Laughter.)

Press coverage has really changed a lot over the years. You know, during the 100 Years War, the European press corps didn't even start second-guessing until 1370. (Laughter.)

Now, just imagine if today's press corps covered yesterday's wars. Here are a few headlines. Paul Revere's warning: "Too little too late." (Laughter.)

Lincoln speaks at Gettysburg: "Fails to articulate exit strategy." (Laughter and applause.)

Teddy Roosevelt leads charge up San Juan Hill: "GOP divided." (Laughter.)

McArthur to Philippines: "I shall return — refuses to set specific timetable." (Laughter and applause.)

This is the last White House Correspondents Dinner of the millennium. Frankly, I'm surprised you see any news value in all this millennium stuff. I mean, after all, we've known about it for 1,000 years now. (Laughter.)

I think history will record that the world spent the last days of this millennium compiling lists. You may have seen a list compiled by the Newseum of the top 100 news stories of the century -- everything from putting a man on the moon to the polio vaccine, ranked in order of importance.

I don't mind telling you, I made the Newseum list — something about the events of last year, number 53 -- 53! I mean, what does a guy have to do to make the top 50? (Laughter and applause.)

I came in six places after the invention of plastic, for crying out loud. (Laughter.) I don't recall a year of 24-hour-a-day media coverage on the miracle of plastic. (Laughter.)


Ladies and gentlemen, I think it's really good for us to step away From the work we do for an evening and laugh a little. But I hope you'll forgive me if I sort of stop it now and say a few serious words, for these are not usual times. While we've got a lot to be grateful for, in rising prosperity, and falling unemployment, poverty, welfare and crime -- you all know we have real challenges.

All Americans are still hurting for the families of Littleton, and seeking ways that each of us can help to give our children less violent, more wholesome childhoods. And our thoughts are in Kosovo, where America and our allies are engaged in a difficult struggle for freedom and human rights, and against the destruction of other human beings because of their ethnic and racial heritage.

The roots of violence at home and ethnic cleansing and racial hatred abroad are of great complexity and difficulty. But we know that our country is strong enough and good enough to meet these challenges.

There was a reference to this before, but I want to say a special word about the three servicemen and their families. Our prayers have been with them for the past month, and there are indications that they may soon be released to Reverend Jackson and his interfaith group. We certainly hope that this will occur.

But let us remember tonight also what is at stake for more than a million other people who have been involved in Kosovo -- a very great deal. What is at stake there, what was at stake at Bosnia, and what will doubtless be at stake elsewhere in the world in the years ahead is whether Mr. Milosevic's vision of ethnic cleansing, with its uprooting, its raping, its killing, its destroying every record and remnant of culture and history -- or our democratic vision of ethnic tolerance and political pluralism, of affirming our common humanity -- whether his vision or ours will define the beginning of the 21st century. On this there can be no compromise and, therefore, our determination must be unwavering.

I thank you, the White House correspondents, for making the donation to help the refugees of Kosovo. That is a welcome and valued contribution. So are the reports you and your colleagues file every day, often at great personal risk for those in the region.

As our prayers are with our military personnel and our allies tonight, they're with the Kosovars -- indeed, with all innocent people who are caught up in this grievous affair. I again ask Mr. Milosevic to let the Kosovars come home, with the Serb forces out, and an international force in to protect all the people, including the Serb minority who live in Kosovo.

And I ask the American people to remember what it is we are fighting for: a world in which the dignity of humanity counts for more than the differences of humanity. For human differences, when celebrated but contained, can make life a lot more interesting; but when unleashed as weapons of war soon make it unbearable.

The 20th century has seen altogether too much of this. If we and our allies, indeed, if you and I as citizens, and each in our official capacities, all do our job, the world of our children will be better. It will be not only more prosperous, but more peaceful; not only more diverse, but more unified; not only more human, but more humane. Let that be our prayer tonight and our determination.

Thank you very much and God bless you. (Applause.)

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Vice President Al Gore

Remarks to The Gridiron Club

Capitol Hilton, Washington DC

March 19, 1994



[The Vice President is delivered to the podium on a handtruck, unloaded and signed for by the President of the Gridiron Club.]

Good evening Mr. President and Mrs. Clinton, Tipper,

Gridiron members, distinguished guests, and fellow stiffs.

Despite what you might be expecting, I won’t bore you this evening with a lot of plodding details about our environment or the information superhighway or reinventing government. Tonight I am going to bore you with my humor.

It is a great honor and my great pleasure to address you this evening. And in the interest of promoting recycling, I’m pleased to announce that the speech I am about to deliver tonight was first used by Walter Mondale in 1978.

The truth is I’ve been working on this speech for weeks, trying to make it more spontaneous.

I know that, at long last, tonight is my chance to rectify my reputation as a kind of a stiff, humorless guy. If you’re ready for it, this evening I am prepared to break out of my confining, miscast image to show the world that Al Gore can be loosey goosey, wild and crazy.

Want to see it again?

By now, I’ve just about heard them all:

"Al Gore is so stiff, racks buy their suits off of him."

"If you use a strobe light, it looks like Al Gore is actually moving."

"Al Gore is an inspiration to the millions of Americans who suffer from Dutch Elm Disease. "

"Al Gore is so boring, his Secret Service code name is ‘Al Gore’."

And every time I hear a new one, I always have the same response: "Very funny, Tipper."

So in an attempt to escape that demeaning ridicule and re-claim my dignity, I ran for Vice President.

I accepted Bill Clinton’s offer with his assurance that ours would be a real partnership. And it has been. So when people ask me what it’s like being number two at the White House, I tell them: she seems to enjoy it.

Let me say I have a terrific relationship with the First Lady and great respect for her role and ability. I appreciate how she and the President have gone out of their way to allow me to contribute. Just last week she called me personally to ask "Al, how well do you cook low-fat American?"

But my greatest contribution to this administration may be my position as the President of the United States Senate. The other day I suddenly realized: every time I vote, we win.

For too long, the Vice Presidency has been the object of ridicule. But each day, I am reminded anew of the important nature of my job. Just a few feet from the Oval Office is the celebrated Square Office of the Vice President. On the desk in that office sits a red phone. And I know that any at time, I can reach for that phone, pick it up and immediately be put on hold.

There’s the thrill I get whenever I travel on Air Force Two, looking out the window and seeing that guy give the propeller a good, hard spin.

And then of course comes that moment during my weekly lunches with the President, when he turns to me and utters those historic words, "You gonna finish that?"

In the past year, I’ve taken on the environmental and technology issues that will affect every American in the next century. Because as Vice President, it’s only natural for me to be thinking about the year 2000.

I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that running for president one day would fulfill a dream. My father’s dream.

It’s no secret that I ran for president in 1988 -- although it seemed like a secret at the time. Before I announced my candidacy, I resigned from all the discriminatory clubs to which I belonged. And to this day, I am no longer a member of the Hair Club for Men.

Back in the 1988 campaign, I was accused of feigning my southern roots. Let me state here and now that while I may have attended school here at St. Albans, my heart has always been in Tennessee. Nobody loves the Grand Old Operetta more than me.

Speaking of southern culture, a few weeks back I heard the President mention something about Astroturf in his pickup truck. A very funny and clever line, Mr. President. Let me remind you that I’m the baby boomer on this ticket who admitted to using real grass.

In fact, if there is any tension at all in my relationship with the President, it stems from the fact that I’m a fourth-generation Tennessean on both sides and he gets to be called "Elvis."

But I am well-aware that my political career hinges upon your success. That’s why I’m hard at work on my new book, Career in the Balance.

One criticism we hear in the White House is that we have never fully made the transition from the Clinton campaign mode. But I’m here to say we’ve proven them wrong! Now we are clearly in Dukakis campaign mode.

Lately, the White House damage control team has been working round the clock, stirring up new business.

I was going to make a few jokes about the Whitewater investigation going on right now. Until Lloyd Cutler told me you’d all be subpoenaed.

But to be honest, there’s a lot I don’t understand about the Whitewater matter. Let me see if I can get this straight: they’re investigating a real estate deal where the President lost a ton of money more than fifteen years ago. What’s next? An investigation to see if the Carter campaign rigged the 1980 election?

But that’s the way it is on Capitol Hill these days. It’s so cold, people are huddling around Bob Dole for warmth.

Things must be pretty bad if George Mitchell is actually leaving office with the thought that he might prefer spending his time with George Steinbrenner and Marge Schott.

That’s why I’m so glad the Gridiron imported a Republican from outside of Washington to address the club tonight. I am genuinely pleased to welcome Governor Bill Weld back to Washington. Bill is the rarest kind of Republican. The kind from Massachusetts. A Republican from Massachusetts is sort of like a "moderate" from Iran.

Nevertheless, he managed to get himself elected. Of course, he had a small advantage in that race: his opponent virtually was a moderate from Iran.

Governor Weld has successfully cut taxes in Massachusetts but doesn’t come to Washington to ask for praise and glory. He comes to here to ask for federal money and grants.

You know, there are so many effusive editorials about the work Bill Weld is doing in his home state. I’d like to say I’ve read them all but who has time to read The Wall Street Journal every day?

Bill first got involved in Massachusetts politics by accident. It began when his family’s estate in Cambridge got so large it was designated as its own legislative district.

I met Bill many years ago, although I’m not sure even Bill remembers it. I was sitting in a car stopped at a red light when a stranger pulled up and asked, "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?"

Like Bill, I know what a privilege it is to address the Gridiron. Back where I grew up, it was every child’s dream to one day address the Gridiron Club. I know it sounds crazy but that’s how it was at the Fairfax Hotel. So the invitation to address this room tonight is especially meaningful to me and I thank you again for the honor.

Actually, it’s the culmination of many honors and I am grateful for them all. The honor to serve this president and work with him side by side, day after day. The honor to follow in the footsteps of my father to represent the people of Tennessee. The honor to stand before so many of my good friends here tonight with Tipper by my side and my father watching on. The honor to make my children proud of me.

And if I can continue to make my three girls and my little boy proud of their father -- not just now but years from now when I’ve finished my work in public life -- that would be the greatest honor of all.

Because, ladies and gentlemen of the Gridiron, if there is one lesson I’d like to pass along to my children, in fact, to all children, it is this: here in America any child can grow up to be Vice President of the United States -- no matter how small a state your father was elected senator from.

Thank you and good night.

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Remarks of Vice President Al Gore
to the Gridiron Club
Washington, DC
March 15, 1997



[Vice President is introduced. Spotlight hits him. He is at his seat on the dais and on the phone. He looks up, stunned. A long moment passes.]

Uh, let me call you back.

[He hangs up, walks to podium]

I’m sorry. I’m confused. My staff told me this event was community outreach.

In any event, thank you, Senator Thompson, for your very funny remarks. I’m glad that the Gridiron Club finally approved the $4.9 million it took to write it.

And thank you also, Secretary Shalala, for a funny speech. Donna has assumed Bob Reich’s place in the Clinton-Gore administration: furthest from the right and closest to the ground.

And thank you, Muriel, for your kind introduction. And thank for mentioning the Gore presidency that took place when President Clinton was inaugurated in January nearly five minutes late. You know, a lot of you in the press corps missed that story. But that was a very special five minutes for me, for my family -- and if I may be so bold -- for America.

Historians will look back fondly on the Gore Administration. I believe that when they write about this period, they will record that during the Gore Administration, our country was at peace, at home and abroad. Inflation remained low and the economy boomed -- 3.1 new jobs. There was less crime on my watch than any other Presidency in the 20th century -- Democrat or Republican. We made America’s streets safer with two new community police officers, Bob and Duane.

Partisan bickering gave way to bipartisan harmony that lasted the entire term. In fact, if you listened closely, it was almost as if patriotic hymns echoed from West Steps of the United States Capitol. By the end of the term, a chant began in Washington and soon swept westward: Five more minutes! Five more minutes!

Incidentally, I have just announced that my Presidential Library to hold my papers, has been selected. It’s a shoebox in Nashville.

I didn’t expect to be here tonight giving this speech. But because of the President’s injury, doctors advise us he’ll be out for six to eight fundraisers. During my weekly lunch with him on Tuesday, I asked if he was looking forward to speaking here tonight. He said, "Al, I’d rather fall down a flight of stairs and undergo painful knee surgery."

Ironic, isn’t t it?

Yesterday, just before he went into surgery, the President asked me to fill in for him. And, of course, I said "no." When he pressed me, I said, "Mr. President, I don’t have to do this. My counsel advises me there is no controlling legal authority that says I have to do this. Let me repeat: My counsel advises me there is no controlling legal authority that says I have to do this.

I can honestly say that I did not want to be here. Why would I? After the month I’ve had, I knew I d be in for a pretty hard time tonight. I could just hear Fred Thompson using all his Hollywood skills to cut me down to size. I imagined all the ways the Washington media elite might chew me up and spit me out. I spent some time pondering all the hurtful barbs, the snide remarks, the acid-tongued insults, the shots to below the belt. And you all did a pretty good job.

But you missed a couple.

[He pulls out a piece of paper from his inside pocket]

  • If Al Gore had only called 1-800-COLLECT, he would have saved Democratic donors up to 44 percent.
  • By the year 2000, Al Gore wants to connect all Americans to the Solicitation Superhighway.
  • What’s the difference between Al Gore’s press conference and Sugar Ray Leonard’s last fight? After fifteen minutes, they mercifully stopped the fight.
  • How does Al Gore thank Democratic contributors? Ohmmmmmm.
  • Al Gore would have been here earlier, but his motorcade was speeding -- and was pulled over by a controlling legal authority.


God, I miss those stiff jokes.

But the truth is, we’ve got to reform the campaign finance system. And I’d like to issue a special challenge to Senator Lott. Senator, us Democrats have upped our standards for campaign finance regulations. Senator Lott, up yours!

Here’s an example of the Democratic party’s reforms, From now on, we’re requiring every contributor who mails us a donation to include a self-addressed stamped return envelope.

Both parties must be open to these kind of new ideas. Here’s another: ask Ed McMahon to host a Presidential Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Every person in America would find an envelope that reads, "You may already be an Ambassador."

Or an idea borrowed from tort reform: loser pays.

Or an idea borrowed from the health care debate: single payer. Steve Forbes comes to mind.

Or we could ask the 100 richest Americans to pay for the whole campaign, and then give them huge tax breaks in return. Oh, I’m sorry Dick [Armey], that’s the Republican plan.

I was discussing all these ideas with the President just a few moments ago. He’s doing great and recovering fast. His surgery required only local anesthesia -- not the general anesthesia that was administered to me before my press conference twelve days ago. And now it’s my pleasure to introduce, by videotape, the President of the United States.

    Good evening. I wish I could be with you tonight but obviously, I'm in no condition to do a stand-up routine. Instead, I get the best of both worlds: I get to speak at the Gridiron Dinner, but I don't have to be there.

As I sit here in the hospital, I want you to know that tonight, I feel my pain. I'd like to thank my doctors, led by Dr. Marino -- or, as I call her -- the "repairer of the breach." When I got to Bethesda, I asked my orthopedic surgeon if we could just clone my good knee instead of repairing the bad one. But he reminded me that government doctors were recently banned from doing human cloning. Whose dumb idea was that?

Now while we’ve put a stop to further research on human cloning, it’s too late to do anything about the research we’ve already done. So in the interest of full disclosure, tonight I am declassifying these photographs.

I initiated cloning research last November as I was contemplating loopholes to the 22nd Amendment.

[slide: photo of President Clinton holding the Bible as President Clinton is sworn in.]

Here I am last January at the IFOR meeting.

[Four Clintons on IFOR podium.]

I asked my staff to find a golf partner for me who wouldn't let me win. [President playing golf with himself.]

Here's a picture we thought about running last year in a campaign commercial.

["President Dole" delivers State of the Union address with two Newt Gingriches sitting behind him.]

Here's a picture from a press conference we held. Finally, reporters asking relevant questions.

[President fields questions from a horde of Clintons.]

And in one of these research projects, I had a real life Elvis sighting.

[President greets Elvis in Oval Office (al a Nixon)]

And of course, I will never forget this stirring day of myth and destiny.

[President Clinton shakes hand with young "Boy’s Nation" Bill Clinton (al a JFK/Clinton shot)]

....And neither will I.

So you can see why it was so important that we stop this research before it got out of hand. I really do wish I was with you tonight. No really! I do! Because I don't believe it's inherently craven for people in politics to meet with those of you in the press. I don't believe that just because a person is a journalist, they should be automatically barred from spending time with the President. Being President is an inherently lonely and isolating job. I wish I could be there right now. Talking with you. Exchanging ideas. Having coffee. I enjoy these occasions very much. Thank you for all your good wishes. And if I stay off the steps, I'll see you next year.


Seeing him in the hospital sure is sobering. It’s moments like these that I remember I am just one kneecap away from the Presidency.

But in closing, I’d also like to be serious for a moment and thank you for what you do. I honor your work. The job of the press is to hold public officials feet to the fire. Our system works best when the press works hardest. It works best when those of us sometimes on the receiving end of criticism understand that, no matter how harsh the criticism, this is the way we learn from the past in America -- from a vigorous press, vigorously pursuing the truth. So thank you for doing your job -- just like you did at my press conference the other week.

By the way, I’m proud of that press conference. And I promise I’ll never do it again.

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