Celebrating the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt at his “Little White House,” President Clinton said Wednesday that FDR would have been on his side in fighting efforts to cut aid for the needy or retreat from America’s obligations abroad.
Marking the 50th anniversary of Roosevelt’s death, Clinton said the key to raising Americans’ stagnant wages is through education. He warned Republicans he will not sign any tax-cut bill unless it helps pay the costs of education.
“Education is the fault line in America today,” Clinton said in his most direct statement yet on what he’ll demand in a tax bill. “Those who have it are doing well in the global economy. Those who don’t are not doing well.”
Clinton spoke in front of the white clapboard cottage in Warm Springs, where Roosevelt sought relief from the paralysis of polio and where, on April 12, 1945, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 63.
“He led us from the depths of economic despair through a Depression, to victory in the war, to the threshold of the promise of the postwar America he unfortunately never lived to see,” Clinton said.
It was Clinton’s first trip to Warm Springs, and he said he’d always wanted to visit the memorial to one of America’s greatest political leaders. “My grandfather thought he was going to go to Roosevelt when he died,” the president told reporters on Air Force One.
Framed by the white pillars on the front porch of Roosevelt’s Little White House, Clinton said FDR would have welcomed the debate about the role of government, in which many Republicans are trying to dismantle the liberal foundation that he laid.
“And so I believe if President Roosevelt were here, he would say, ‘Let’s have a great old-fashioned debate about the role of government and let’s make it less bureaucratic and more flexible,”’ Clinton said.
He said Roosevelt would say, ‘Let’s put a sense of independence back into our welfare system.’ But he would also say, ‘Let’s not forget that what really works in life is when people get a hand up, not a handout; when Americans go up or down together.”’
Clinton worried that if Roosevelt were alive today, “he would see a country encrusted with cynicism. He would see an insensitivity on the part of people who say, ‘Well, I made it, and why should I help anyone else. …’
“That was not Franklin Roosevelt. He was not cynical, he was not angry, he was not insensitive, he did not believe in division and he certainly was not confused.”