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Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Orange County Republicans at a Target '82 Fundraising Reception in Costa Mesa, California

August 20, 1981

The President. Thank you very much. Stu [Spencer], that's going to be a hard act to follow. [Laughter]

Well, I am delighted to be back here, and I've had a day in which it's just fitting that I should be here in the place that I've often described as "where the Republicans go before they die." [Laughter] And the victory that Stu spoke of in those two pieces of legislation, the budget cuts and the tax program—I think I have to confess now, you all know that I once was a Democrat and that all these years, you see, I've been a subversive agent in the Republican Party— [laughter] —because I remember my first vote as a Democrat. And I voted for a Democratic platform that called for reducing the size and cost of the Federal Government, eliminating useless bureaus and agencies, turning authority and autonomy back to local and State government, and reducing the cost of government. And finally, after all these years since 1932, we're making good on that Democratic promise.

But, no, I'm delighted with the victory. But I have to be honest and say, you did that. You've no idea what it was like in Washington—not that I'm that familiar with the place, even after 8 months—but there was such a flood of phone calls, there was such a response from the people. That's what silenced the voices of the special interest groups and got the bipartisan victory that we had. And it was bipartisan, and it was a wonderful thing to see. And now, of course, that's only the beginning. Now we've got to make it work. And we still have more budget cuts to go in the off years, the years yet to come, to bring government down to the proper share of the gross national product that it should be. I think if we all stay together, we're going to do it.

And now, I'd like to talk a little bit about the purpose of this meeting and thank you all for being here. I've talked a lot about restoring federalism, putting us back to where we are a federation of sovereign States and not 50 administrative districts of the Federal Government. And to do that, you have to have governments at the State level that are willing to accept those responsibilities, as well as the sources of revenue to help pay for them. And this meeting is gathered to start raising what must be the campaign fund for the legislative and the administrative races, but this is particularly for the legislative races here in State government.

When you stop to count, 80 assemblymen, assembly persons, will be up for election, and we have 31. If we hold our own, we only need to get 10 of theirs to have a majority. And in the Senate, there will be, out of the 40 senators, there will be 20 up for reelection. Six will be Republican and 14 will be Democrat. We have 17 now. If we hold our own, all we have to do is get four and we will control the Senate.

Now, how important is that? Let me just tell you something. Only one year while I was Governor did we have a majority in both houses of the legislature, and it was barely a one-vote majority. But in that one year where we could create the majority in the committees by being the majority party, in the criminal justice committee of the Assembly, 41 crime-fighting bills came out of that committee to the floor where they were successfully voted into action in California.

Just recently you saw where that same criminal justice committee, now in the hands of the other party, killed in committee several crime-fighting bills. We found, if they ever get to the floor, then Democrat and Republican, out there in the open, they have to vote for them. But they can be killed in that committee, and they were.

Now, those same crime-fighting bills, just like the 41 in our time, those same crime fighting bills can come back again if in '82 we get the majority. And then it'll be a Republican majority in the committee and those bills will reach the floor and they'll become tools that we need to restore law and order here in our neighborhoods and in our cities and our homes. So, I hope that you will all do everything you can to get that legislative majority and then, of course, to get the administration that goes with it.

Now, there is another little thing that I'd like to mention. You'd be interested to know that a former Supreme Court Justice of California, who's now Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, is the fellow that talked the Japanese into lifting their boycott on California fruits—Bill Clark. And he's doing a great job. But while that was going on, Carol Hallett and her colleagues there on the Republican side in the Assembly have been doing, I think, the greatest amount of work in getting some common sense into the program to aid the farmers who've been beset by this pest and who should not be in the position that they're in now. And they are the ones that are getting some practical work done, and I think that that's another reason why Carol and all those colleagues of hers deserve your support.

But I'm not going to go on talking more now about this, because this is the first time back here. This morning I started the day by helicoptering out to the Constellation. And there on that great carrier—and it is great, the crew of several thousand—I saw a display of planes being catapulted off into the air, and planes coming back and landing, and bombing and firing practice off the ship, and finally met with most of the ship's crew. And I have to tell you it was one of the most thrilling experiences. All of this talk that there isn't morale there—the sentiment among those young fellows out there on that is, "Okay, so we're not the biggest navy in the world anymore, but we're the best." And that's the way they feel.

Now, that was enough to start the day. I tell you, it was a really yankee-doodle day so far. But now to come to Orange County and here, and I want to do something we used to do when I was Governor now and then when we got together. I know I haven't got very much time because there's still another place to go yet, but rather than me going on with a monolog here, you must have wondered about a few things that happened in Washington, and now you've got a chance to hear it from the horse's mouth. [Laughter] Why don't we have a little dialog, and if you've got some questions, at least for a few minutes that remain, why don't you fire away?

Q. Have you been doing any horse riding?

The President. Am I doing any horseback riding? Yes. Yes, I am. At the ranch, of course. Every day. There in Washington, believe it or not, I have found out—I said that I was going to restore the cavalry. [Laughter] I didn't have to. At Quantico, just 20 minutes away from the White House, they've got a stable all filled with horses. And every once in a while, I slip away on one of these long summer afternoons, before the afternoon's quite over, and go down there for a horseback ride with the Marines. So I am. I'm doing some riding.

Q. Mr. President, will you return to California to participate personally in the gubernatorial and senatorial races?

The President. Well, I would like to help, but not in the primaries. [Laughter] I learned that as the Governor of California. Yes, I want to help, here and every place that I can.

Q. Mr. President, are you aware that if we use acupuncture for the senior citizens, we don't have to cut their benefits and we can still provide very good treatment for patients?

The President. Well, you're asking me now for a medical opinion, and I've learned better than to answer that. [Laughter]

Q. [Inaudible]
The President. Yes, we can run with the White House. Is there one that you'd want back? I mean is there one that you'd want me to send back to you when I'm finished? Will somebody get that? I'd be happy to run it.

Q. The Libyan situation is on everybody's mind.

The President. The Libyan situation is on everyone's mind. Well, it's very simple. We have annually held Sixth Fleet exercises in the Mediterranean. And you hold them-and other countries do, too—hold them in a certain portion of the Mediterranean. And that is opposite what is called the Gulf of Sidra. Now, the Gulf of Sidra is a great indentation in the coast of Africa. And we all know the laws about what are territorial waters and what are international waters open to all. But Qadhafi has drawn a line from the two points of land farthest out straight across that Gulf. It's as if we drew a line from the tip of Florida over to the Rio Grande River, the border of Texas, and then said, "That whole Gulf is our water. That's not international waters."

And so he has said that is the line. Now, in the last couple of years, for whatever reason, I don't know, our Navy has been ordered to hold its maneuvers, but to stay on the other side of that line and not challenge that. And I was given the briefing on the maneuvers before they were held, quite some time ago. And these are international waters. And I approved the idea that, while we don't want to be provocative or anything else, good Lord, we send our ships into the Black Sea, just as the Russians send theirs into the Caribbean to establish the fact that they are international waters. So, the exercises properly required crossing, to a certain extent, that line. And as I say, it's still international waters, and I approved that—that we would do that.

Now, we were aware that there might be some harassment, because for the last couple of years, Libyan planes have come out and harassed not only our planes out in international waters but French planes, and in one instance or two have even fired. Whether they were firing directly at the plane or not, we don't know, but this was the kind of harassment tactics they were following. And in the briefing the question came up with regard to if they actually became hostile and fired on our forces' ships or planes, what would our response be in these maneuvers? We notified everyone in advance that we were going to hold the maneuvers, and there was only one answer to that question. If our men are fired on, our men are going to shoot back.

So, they shot back, as you know. [Laughter] And there's been a lot of talk, and the press has been very concerned, because 6 hours went by before they awoke me at 4:30 in the morning to tell me about it. And there's a very good answer to that. Why? If our planes were shot down, yes, they'd wake me up right away; if the other fellow's were shot down, why wake me up? [Laughter]

They tell me our dialog is over, but there is a lady, and no lady has asked a question yet.

Q. What would your answer be to [Governor of California] Jerry Brown, who is now writing his white paper and stating that the Federal Government—[inaudible].

The President. What was that? I didn't hear all of that.

Q. Jerry Brown is writing a white paper on Medflies [Mediterranean fruit flies] and blaming it on the Federal Government.

The President. He's blaming Medflies on the Federal Government? [Laughter] I'd be very interested in seeing that paper. I haven't read fiction for a long time. [Laughter]

This has to be the last one, I'm sorry, because I want to come down and say hello to some of you.

Q. Mr. President, what is your next most important program?

The President. Next most important program? Well, of course, we go back to the implementing of what has been passed, this economic recovery program. I would think, however, it has to be now, and this goes with another campaign promise, the restoring of the integrity of social security. And in contrast to what some people have tried to say, I promised, and this still holds, we have to restore that integrity. In 1977 they passed the biggest single tax increase in our nation's history in the payroll tax for social security. And the President told us then that that had made social security safe and sound financially until the year 2030. And as it now stands, the social security fund will be out of money before 1982 is over. So, something obviously has to be done.

But again, I will repeat the promise I made during the campaign that is in contrast to all the things that have been said about our proposals for social security. We will restore the integrity, but we are not going to endanger the checks that are going to those people dependent on social security. They're going to continue to get their checks, and there's no intention on our part to stop that.

This is awful hard to stop here. [Laughter]

Q. What can we do for you?

The President. Well, as I've said before, you've done it already with that program. But just keep on supporting what I think is a 180-degree turnaround in government to bring it back to the proper size and to give back to the people a bigger share of their own earnings with the tax reductions. And we believe that this program will stimulate prosperity, create jobs. That's what it's designed to do. It isn't a step backward at all. It's a step forward toward ending this round that we've had of the excessive interest, of the excessive inflation.

And already there are evidences—I don't know whether you saw this, but the other day Bethlehem Steel took out a full-page ad, kind of addressed to us, that on the basis of this plan which is yet to be implemented-they're going forward with three-quarters of a billion dollars in modernization and expansion of plant to get back their place in the world steel market.
Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 5:05 p.m. at the South Coast Plaza Hotel. Following the reception, he returned to the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Orange County Republicans at a Target '82 Fundraising Reception in Costa Mesa, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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