Directly challenging some of the presidential campaign themes of California’s Republican governor, President Clinton told a cheering crowd in Monterey on Monday that immigration, affirmative action and welfare are not responsible for the economic distress of the middle class.
In a day that strongly resembled a Labor Day campaign kickoff in a state crucial to his re-election hopes, Clinton said the answers to stagnant wages lie instead with a higher minimum wage and more education and training programs for workers, two initiatives the White House has advocated against Republican opposition.
And he reminded his listeners to remember their roots.
“We should never ever permit ourselves to get into a position where we forget that almost everybody here came from somewhere else and that America is a set of ideas and values and convictions that makes us strong,” Clinton said to cries of support from more than 10,000 people.
Clinton came to dedicate California State University at Monterey Bay, which is opening on the site of Fort Ord, an Army post that was closed last year.
Clinton did not mention California Gov. Pete Wilson by name. But he stepped squarely onto the turf of Wilson, who has based much of his campaign for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination on a crackdown on illegal immigration and an end to racial preference programs, as well as budget-cutting and tough laws against career criminals.
Clinton conceded the country has too many illegal immigrants, an overhaul of welfare is needed and some affirmative action programs have to be changed. But, he said, “that’s not the real reason for the middle class economic anxieties.”
In a jab at Wilson, he said: “We’ve done what we could to close the borders and send people back. But you know what? This is a nation of immigrants. Most of us do not have ancestors who were born here.”
Today, the president plans to teach a history class at the Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Selma, Calif., before flying back to Washington.