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Full Text Of Robert Dole's Speech To The National Governors Association

By The Associated Press

Dole: Governor Thompson, thank you very much. I wish I could be there with you but we're getting ready to move out in the mid-West.

There are so many people in that room that I watched on C-SPAN that I've turned to over the years for advice and encouragement and I've worked with many of you from both parties, both sides of the isle and no one has more respect for your achievement.

You have seized the initiative from the federal government and built a record of accomplishment and I'll be meeting with some of you. I hope later on this week I'll be in Wisconsin and Minnesota and Ohio and Michigan and I know for a fact that, you know, I'm now citizen Dole, I'm not a member of the legislature. I'm in the private sector and I have just as much respect for governors as I had then because you make it happen.

America's governors are breaking the welfare cycle with time limits and work requirements. You are challenging educational mediocrity, the school choice and achievement testing. You are bringing efficiency to Medicaid and returning sanity and compassion to the maze of child welfare programs and you are finding innovative ways to preserve our water and air without counter-productive federal meddling.

And states are now cleaning up 20 more -- 20 times more contaminated sites than the federal government under Superfund. And I know the focus of this year's conference is juvenile crime and drugs. And these are the big issues of American life. The safety of our people and the character of our children. They concern not just the wealth of our nation but it's meaning. They put our energy and ideals to the test. Juvenile crime is the hurricane just off our shore. And already we see the leading edge of mindless violence and kids that once stole hub caps now rape and murder. No fear of punishment, no respect for life, no guilt and no mercy.

Experts call them "superpredators," and we are told that each generation is three times as violent as the one before. Thirty-five percent, as everybody there knows -- 35 percent of all violent crime is now committed by criminals under the age of 20.

Now I think the response of our society must be rock-solid resolution -- bipartisan, if you please. We cannot flinch. We cannot compromise with chaos. And as president, I will work with the states to fight a real war, not just a war of rhetoric, against juvenile crime. And I know this is primarily a state responsibility, but violent teen predators should be prosecuted and sentenced as adults. They should not be automatically released at the age of 18 or 20. The records of violent juvenile criminals should not be erased when they become adults; they should be made available to the public on the same terms as adult offenders. And that record, through an instant check, should prevent them from buying a gun for the rest of their lives.

Now these measures are important for what they will achieve, but they're also important for what they affirm about our society. We are a nation in which liberty is ordered by law. We are a nation that will defend its standards and keep its word. But this cannot be all we say, because each of these killers, just a few years before, was a child desperately searching for an adult to guide and love them.

We are forced to ask some deeper questions, and I know you've all done this, because you all understand it as well or better than I do. How is it that dreams die before life has even begun? How can hearts so young become so hard? What does it say about a country that is afraid of its children?

And we know where the explanation starts: The failures of families have left a moral and spiritual vacuum at the core of children's lives. A moral compass is always a gift of a caring adult, and families transmit values that can defeat violence. In the long run, the best anti-crime program is the renewal of family life in America.

This means we must transform a welfare system that undermines marriage and encourages illegitimacy. This means we must use our bully pulpits to demand a popular culture free from casual brutality, a culture that preserves a safe harper -- safe harbor of childhood.

And this means we must applaud and encourage the return of men to their responsibilities as fathers. And this means we must find creative ways, when families fail, to reintroduce mentors and models into the lives of young children -- coaches, teachers, clergy, Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Drugs are a companion crisis, fracturing families and contributing to crime, and here the source of frustration is not only the problem itself, but the gains we have squandered, the ground we have needlessly lost.

In the 1980s, a tough, bipartisan, universal anti-drug effort to cut drug use to the lowest levels in decades -- and it worked. Yet most of this hard-won progress has been reversed in the short span of about three years, because here are the records. They're not my records, they're the records. Since 1992, marijuana use among 13- and 14-year-olds has soared 145 percent. LSD use among high school seniors has doubled. Overall drug use among youth rose over 50 percent in just 1993 and 1994. And on the issue of drugs, progress can never be permanent, because every student reaching the age of tough choices must be taught to say no. The battle must be renewed with every academic year. Even 36 months of mixed messages, as we have seen, can leave children vulnerable to forces that can destroy their future -- or end their lives, in many, many cases.

And I don't want to be particularly partisan, but again, it's a fact: From this administration, we have heard both condemnation and legalization, but mostly we have heard silence. Now -- now we can expect the rippling effects of rising drug abuse: the decline of education and productivity, the rise in health costs and crime rates, the spread of teen pregnancy and AIDS, the expansion of poverty and homelessness.

Both drugs and juvenile crime contribute to a feeling -- shared by about 70 percent of Americans -- that our nation is on the wrong track, that we're drifting toward danger and decay.

Now we know our nation has great resources of innovation, charity, and renewal. We see it in every state and every community. We have seen it overcome hazards and hardships in the past. But just when our need is greatest, our federal government seems paralyzed by old rules and old thinking and old habits of control. It shows no sense of urgency. It seems content with inertia. And I think that our system of federal waivers is a symbol of this problem.

And I know that a year ago, because I had the pleasure of speaking also, the president was there. Did a good job; made a good speech. And he also promised welfare waivers, from that moment on, would be granted in 30 days.

But now we have the figures. The average waiver takes about 210 days; some take over 400 days. As of last month, the administration was sitting on at least 28 applications from 17 states. And some waiver proposals, as you know, are so heavily modified that they barely resemble the original. And some states have been so frustrated, they have simply withdrawn them. Waivers are still required for programs that have already proven successful in other states. Thirty-day approval has proven to be an empty pledge.

Now let me give you an up-to-the-minute example. After several promises to sign a waiver to approve Wisconsin's welfare reform, the president has sort of backed off and back tracked, because now we hear once again -- yesterday -- that there will be a delay in its approval. And it just seems to me -- and again, I'm just trying to be objective, because there are Democrats and Republican governors who have worked on these programs -- these delays must end. This is not a debate about ideology.

These reforms are approved in each state by legislators and governors of both parties. They are shining proof of bipartisanship. I think the problem is one of attitude, the attitude that every improvement in America must beg for approval from Washington, the attitude that states are just waiting to betray their own people in what someone referred to as a "race to the bottom."

The stakes are high. Will states have the flexibility to confront dependents and family breakdown and crime? Will we encourage major reforms of education, welfare and criminal justice in the states? And we should not be trying to create a more efficient version of a system that has failed. And that's the point I want to make. If it's failed, we ought to junk it.

As Tommy Thompson mentioned, I carry around this little copy of the 10th Amendment. It's not a Democratic amendment or Republican amendment. It's been around a couple hundred years. It's number 10, part of the Bill of Rights, Amendment number 10. Twenty-eight words. And it simply states that unless the federal Constitution gives the powers specifically to the federal government or denies it to the states of Wisconsin or Nevada -- Governor Miller -- then it belongs to the states and belongs to the people.

Our Founding Fathers, who I think had a great deal of wisdom, thought over 200 years ago, they were concerned about a concentration of power in a central government. They wanted power to stay in the hands of the states where possible, and in the handsof the people.

And so why do we -- let's not try to keep trying to improve a failed system. Our states deserve freedom, not just waivers. You must be given power -- power, not just permission. Our problems are too urgent for inertia. And federalism is not only a tradition of our Constitution, it is the source of energy and creativity our nation needs at this moment.

And so I would say to the president -- we get along fine; we were both on sort of different programs last night and both had good things to say about each other from a personal standpoint. We don't agree philosophically on many things, but we can still be friends in the sense that we do speak to each other and have worked with each other.

And I hope the Congress will pass a tough welfare reform bill, not just any welfare reform bill. And I challenge the president to finally sign a welfare bill and make those waivers a thing of the past. I wish we had the bill that passed the Senate by a vote of 87 to 12 when I was the majority leader -- 87 to 12. Fifty-four, I think, 53 Republicans, and 30-some Democrats. Bipartisan. A good, strong welfare reform bill. But the president vetoed it.

So I would again say to the president -- he's going to speak, I understand, following my remarks -- give the states the power and authority to chart their own paths from dependence to hope. And I think there are goals that Republicans and Democrats can share. We must confront the forces of chaos, and we must strengthen the sources of hope -- families and communities and neighborhoods. We need a federal government that embraces the diversity of your reforms. We need a federal government that trusts your compassion and your competence.

And let me just pause here, if I can, for a second. I remember Governor Thompson, who's been one of the leaders in welfare reform, as many others have in the audience there, speaking to a group of Republicans one day in my majority leaders office. And some of our Republicans were having difficulty turning loose because the government had the control so long they wanted to keep the entitlement, they wanted to do this, they wanted to do this, they wanted a maintenance effort, which is probably all right, but it was much too high at the time.

I remember what Governor Thompson said to them, I think in a moment of frustration. He said, "Who do you think I am? I get elected by the same people you do. Nobody's going to go without medical care in the state of Wisconsin. Nobody's going to go without food in Wisconsin. Nobody is going to be left out in the state of Wisconsin, as long as I'm governor of that state." And I think he could talk for any -- speak for any succeeding government.

So I've always felt that governors were closer, closer to the people; they better understood the problems. Legislators in both parties are closer to the people. And this is a clear case where I think the 10th Amendment ought to apply. We ought to send this back to the states. And I think a federal government that understands and encourages a vast and untapped promise in energy and the wisdom of American life will make it work.

So I would just say finally, I, again, as a private citizen, appreciate your kind invitation. And thank all of you for what you do on a daily basis to renew this country. And I know this is -- we're in the political season, and I know it's difficult for some to understand that we can do anything in a non-partisan or bipartisan way. But I believe there is still time, if we all agree and all have pretty much the same goal. We don't want watered down welfare programs going back to the states that will have to be corrected next year, the next year and the next year. We want to give you the opportunity you deserve. We want to give you the opportunity your constituents deserve. That's what it's really all about. It's not about Bob Dole or President Clinton or governors. It's about the people we serve. And we care, and we are

compassionate, and we do reach out to people in both parties. So let's move ahead. Let's put the 10th Amendment to work. In addition to welfare, let's end Medicaid back to the states. Let's give the governors, the legislators this opportunity, this challenge that I'm certain everyone in that room will be able to meet.

Thanks again. Thanks for letting me speak. God bless America. Hope to see you all soon.

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