January 25, 1996 – A day to digest State Of The Union messages – this time from President Bill Clinton who emphasized that the economy was stronger than it was two years earlier, but in a concession to reality, Clinton gave Republicans an olive branch.
President Clinton :”I want to work with you, with all of you, to pass welfare reform. But our goal must be to liberate people and lift them up, from dependence to independence, from welfare to work, from mere childbearing to responsible parenting. Our goal should not be to punish them because they happen to be poor.
We should — we should require work and mutual responsibility. But we shouldn’t cut people off just because they’re poor, they’re young, or even because they’re unmarried. We should promote responsibility by requiring young mothers to live at home with their parents or in other supervised settings, by requiring them to finish school. But we shouldn’t put them and their children out on the street.
And I know all the arguments, pro and con, and I have read and thought about this for a long time. I still don’t think we can in good conscious punish poor children for the mistakes of their parents. My fellow Americans, every single survey shows that all the American people care about this without regard to party or race or region. So let this be the year we end welfare as we know it. But also let this be the year that we are all able to stop using this issue to divide America.
No one is more eager to end welfare. I may be the only president who has actually had the opportunity to sit in a welfare office, who’s actually spent hours and hours talking to people on welfare. And I am telling you, people who are trapped on it know it doesn’t work. They also want to get off. So we can promote together education and work and good parenting. I have no problem with punishing bad behavior or the refusal to be a worker or a student, or a responsible parent. I just don’t want to punish poverty and past mistakes. All of us have made our mistakes, and none of us can change our yesterdays. But every one of us can change our tomorrows.
And America’s best example of that may be Lynn Woolsey, who worked her way off welfare to become a congresswoman from the state of California.
I know the members of this Congress are concerned about crime, as are all the citizens of our country. And I remind you that last year, we passed a very tough crime bill — longer sentences, three strikes and you’re out, almost 60 new capital punishment offenses, more prisons, more prevention, 100,000 more police. And we paid for it all by reducing the size of the federal bureaucracy and giving the money back to local communities to lower the crime rate.
There may be other things we can do to be tougher on crime, to be smarter with crime, to help to lower that rate first. Well, if there are, let’s talk about them and let’s do them. But let’s not go back on the things that we did last year that we know work; that we know work because the local law enforcement officers tell us that we did the right things, because local community leaders who have worked for years and years to lower the crime rate tell us that they work.
Let’s look at the experience of our cities and our rural areas where the crime rate has gone down and ask the people who did it how they did it. And if what we did last year supports the decline in the crime rate — and I am convinced that it does — let us not go back on it. Let’s stick with it, implement it. We’ve got four more hard years of work to do to do that.
I don’t want to destroy the good atmosphere in the room or in the country tonight, but I have to mention one issue that divided this body greatly last year. The last Congress also passed the Brady Bill and, in the crime bill, the ban on 19 assault weapons. I don’t think it’s a secret to anybody in this room that several members of the last Congress who voted for that aren’t here tonight because they voted for it. And I know, therefore, that some of you who are here because they voted for it are under enormous pressure to repeal it. I just have to tell you how I feel about it.
The members of Congress who voted for that bill and I would never do anything to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms to hunt and to engage in other appropriate sporting activities. I’ve done it since I was a boy, and I’m going to keep right on doing it until I can’t do it anymore. But a lot of people laid down their seats in Congress so that police officers and kids wouldn’t have to lay down their lives under a hail of assault weapon attack — and I will not let that be repealed. I will not let it be repealed.”
In other news – The OJ Simpson trial was grinding on. The Defense team were getting ready to enter the battle. The questions were being raised over blood drops and their location. Jurors were not slated to hear Simpson on this day.
All that, and a lot more, crammed into this broadcast of the CBS World News Roundup for January 25, 1995