George Bush photo

Remarks at a Bush-Quayle Fundraising Luncheon in New York City

November 12, 1991

Lou, thank you very much. My heavens, what a wonderful job you've done and these chairmen have done on this dinner. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, I'm touched at this warm reception but not half as touched as all of you have been. [Laughter]

I'll tell you, this is a wonderful, wonderful sendoff for us, and I am very grateful to you. I want to salute Rabbi Balkany and the Harlem Boys Choir, favorites of Barbara's and mine. They've been to the White House at least a couple of times since we've been honored to live there.

Let me just say about our Senator, Al D'Amato, we got some priorities coming up in 1992, but I think it is absolutely essential and, as far as I am concerned, priority to see this good man for New York elected back to the Senate. And I really believe in him.

I want to thank our Secretary of Commerce, Bob Mosbacher, and today, especially, Georgette. You heard Lou singing her praises for the job she did. I want to thank a couple of other veterans at the table here -- Wayne Calloway and, of course, Joy Silverman; Bill Powers, the driving force behind the New York GOP, our new State chairman in here. And again, I'll be in trouble if I go further. But I really think -- I want to thank all of you for this strong support.

Let me also say about the elections that took place on the 5th: it was a great day for the New York GOP and a great day across the river as the New Jersey legislature went clean sweep for the Republican Party. We picked up seats in both areas, both States that nobody dreamed we would win.

I want to especially welcome the leaders, now, of the New Jersey legislature: Haytaian and DiFrancesco, who are both here, I think. Anyway, if they are, please stand up. Right over here. These two guys are going to be running the State legislature now, one in the Senate and one in the House.

Some may have forgotten in the wishful thinking of the political coverage on the part of the Democrats, but Jim Florio, the Governor of New Jersey said, "The New Jersey election is a referendum on the Bush administration." So be it. We'll stand by that one. We're all for it, and thank you for what you guys did.

And finally, let me mention the other name here, Dan Quayle, back in Washington, doing a superb job trying to cut back these regulations and on the Competitiveness Council. He's served our country well as an advocate for economic growth, for sound foreign policy, as an ambassador for our interests abroad, traveling to these various countries and doing a first-class job. And he's even squared off with the American Bar Association. Quayle 21, lawyers 0. [Laughter]

I feel blessed -- and I really mean this -- and I think Lou and Wayne and others who have been to the White House know how I feel. I really am privileged to be the President, to serve this country at this terribly exciting moment in history, a moment when America and the ideals that we stand for has celebrated a string of successes around the world. And in the world beyond our shores we have grown accustomed to the dizzying pace of change.

And yet, here at home, and Al touched on it, we do have a Congress that, in my view -- and I think it's confirmed overwhelmingly by the surveys of the American people -- we have a Congress that is out of step with the times and out of touch with the heartbeat of the American people. They're pushing the same old, tired liberal agenda to a country that is hungry now to build on what we've done abroad and bring that to success here at home.

And this fall, the American people have seen Congress up close, and they've seen their inability to move when Americans demand action. They've seen this endless appetite for sideshows that have really kind of embarrassed our country here and abroad. They've seen the overindulgence in perks and privileges. And they've seen quote: their tax dollars at work. And I've got the feeling that when it comes to the Congress, the American people aren't feeling very kind and gentle.

And it shouldn't surprise anyone that the liberals that control the Congress -- and thank God we have people like Al fighting for our values every day in that body -- tell an entirely different story. They claim they can't act because we don't have an agenda. And you don't hear much about their agenda. The agenda of that liberal leadership is simply this: Take whatever legislation the President sends up to the Hill and knock it down; bury it in some obscure subcommittee and swear they never even saw it.

This country needs an energy bill. We are too dependent on foreign oil for our own interests. We've got a good energy bill, and they won't even let it be debated in both Houses of the United States Congress.

This is what we're up against. And I know it's a two-way street, and I hope the American people understand that I have tried to hold out my hand and work with the Congress, sometimes to the consternation of some of the Republicans in the House and the Senate. But I've tried to work with the Congress. I've extended the hand and said, "Let's try to do something for this country. Reach out. Deal in good faith."

And now the political season is upon us. The politics of '92 are just across the horizon here, and the rhetoric is heating up. But people are hurting in this country and Government, where it can, and where it can do it correctly, should try to help these people. And so I am going to keep on trying to work with the United States Congress and put the politics aside wherever possible because the country's business has to come first. But I am not going to be the javelin catcher for the liberals that run the Congress anymore. We're going to fight them when we have fundamental issues at stake.

It's not as if we haven't had some successes, and thanks to Al and his colleagues on our side of the aisle working cooperatively with the Democrats, we've had some. We can be proud of the Clean Air Amendments which for the first time enlist market mechanisms in service to our precious environment.

We should champion our child care bill. The other side wanted to warehouse our kids in a brave new child care-mandated Federal bureaucracy. Their answer: let some subcommittee chairman that's been there 30 years tell the mothers and fathers of this country what kind of child care they should have, what kind of child care they shouldn't have. And we put instead, through hard negotiations passed, a bill that puts choice in the hands of the parents and keeps those kids as close to the family as possible. And it's good legislation.

And yes, we should celebrate landmark civil rights legislation, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, a covenant to bring this country's 43 million disabled citizens into the American mainstream. And I'm proud of our administration's role, and our Republican Senators' role in passing this important legislation.

And now, on the other civil rights bill, I said, "Look, I want a civil rights bill. I do not want a quota bill." And we stayed with it. They thought they were going to ram the political decision down against me with the American people. I vetoed a bad bill. And now we have a civil rights bill that is good, that works against discrimination in the workplace, but is not a quota bill. And that's what you have to do. You've got to beat down bad legislation before you can get good legislation. And I'm going to sign that bill, incidentally. I will be signing that civil rights bill enthusiastically and very, very soon.

These successes, and I think they are successes, cannot obscure the fact that the rest of our agenda is still stuck in the maze, mugged by party leadership, locked into the tired, old liberal mind-set, and determined to try to go one-up politically.

Let me just mention our transportation bill. We've got a good Secretary of Transportation, as Bob Mosbacher knows, Sam Skinner. It's a job-intensive bill that puts Americans to work, improving our infrastructure, our roads. And I challenged Congress to pass that bill along with our comprehensive crime package in 100 days. That was back in March. The 100 days came and went in June, and now it looks like we won't see either one until January.

The American people deserve better than that. They're crying out for tough anti-crime legislation that protects the policemen out there and has a little less sympathy for the criminals themselves.

But the liberal leadership that control Congress don't want to act unless it's to expand the powers of the Government so that some subcommittee chairman or some staffer in that vast bureaucracy lays down another mandate on the American people and thus renders our businesses far less competitive all around the world.

Capitol Hill lives in a loophole of its own making. Time after time Congress exempts itself from the laws that others have to abide by. With all those righteous statements by the Senators beating up on Clarence Thomas, you wouldn't know, this is the fact, that Congress had exempted itself from the sexual harassment remedies that apply to private employers. And that's just one of more than a dozen laws that Congress does not apply to itself.

The American people aren't dumb. They sense -- may not know those facts -- but they sense there's something wrong. And I think the time has come for those who make the laws to live by those same laws.

If the Democrats who control the Congress don't heed the will of the people, the people may just do a little legislating of their own. That's what these term limits are about all across the country. That's why you see enthusiasm for term limits all across the country. People sense there's something wrong in the United States Congress. And they're tired of double standards, double talk. They want action. They want action to get this economy growing again. But they don't want phony action. They don't want a fix put on there by pledging some euphoric tax cut that may or may not have an effect on the economy and definitely could have an adverse effect on a deficit that is far too large.

And right now the signals are mixed. Yes, we had growth in the third quarter, not near as vigorous as anybody in this room or certainly standing at this podium would like. Inflation numbers, thank heavens, are good because high inflation is that stealth tax that hits every American right in the pocketbook. We're getting those fundamentals moving in the right direction. The interest rates are at a good low now compared to recent history. And I'm convinced we'll soon see these low rates kick in and boost this sagging consumer confidence.

I was talking to some businessmen earlier, and I'd frankly like to see the credit card rates down. I believe that would help stimulate the consumer and get consumer confidence moving again. But people are hurting. And they're hurting here in New York, and they're hurting across this country, and families trying to make ends meet, proud Americans trying to keep their dignity when they lost their jobs. And I don't know any American who sees this happening who is so callous that he cannot feel or she cannot feel a tug in her heart, who doesn't want to reach out actually and hold out a hand and try to help these people.

But the opposition sees this as a question of lost jobs. And the solution then comes in the form of a check. And we see it another way: As a matter of lost opportunity, as a chance to recapture dignity in the form of a paycheck. In short, we see the answer to unemployment as economic growth. As Lou would say, making the pie bigger so more and more people can participate.

Three times in 3 years I've called on the United States Congress to enact economic measures that I believe are sound, that would not exacerbate a deficit that is already too high, and that would help economic growth.

Three times in 3 years the leadership up on the Hill sent those initiatives into a liberal limbo up there. Tort reform is a good example, placing reasonable limits on some of these outrageous awards. These outrageous awards are rendering us noncompetitive in many ways.

New initiatives to increase savings and investment; IRA's that are tailored to boost home ownership and give the housing industry a needed boost; enterprise zones to spawn a new generation of urban entrepreneurs. Over and over again, I've sent those requests to the United States Congress. And yes, a capital gains tax cut which I believe, if it could be done without getting a lot of baggage on it coming out of the Congress, would unleash investment and get our economy moving again.

Two years ago, in November of 1989, we came close on capital gains. A majority in both the Senate and the House passed a package containing a capital gains tax cut. And it took a last-minute political maneuver by Senator Mitchell, the Democratic leader of the Senate, to block the passage. And he got that political victory. And 8 months later, our economy slipped into recession that we all have been worried about.

I'll make a deal with the Democrats: You give me the political rhetoric, you give me the political heat that you think comes from labeling the capital gains cut as a tax that benefits only the rich, and I'll bear that political burden. But give the economy a chance to see what would happen if we passed the capital gains reduction, because I believe it would help put us back to work. It's not an instant fix. It would help. It would stimulate growth. I think it would generate more jobs, short run at least, and the Treasury thinks long run it would generate income and ultimately bring in more tax revenue than it costs. But the leadership up in the Congress is making it extraordinarily difficult not just to do this one, but any of these initiatives that I've told you about.

Lou and I were talking about another thing here at lunch and Wayne Calloway -- we were talking about the link between domestic and foreign policy. Look at the way the liberals talk about foreign policy. Since I took the oath of office, the Nation has been called on to meet one challenge after another. It's been an exciting time of change in the world from Eastern Europe to Panama and to, yes, what Al was talking about, to the Persian Gulf.

And each time, America answered the call. Each time, America advanced the cause of freedom. Because we did, America stands today as the world's preeminent power: Economic, political, military, and this last one is important, yes, moral power. The moral beacon for other countries around the world.

And yet, we hear the political voices going up as we move into an election year, "Well, why does the President spend so much time on foreign policy?" I don't care what the second-guessers in the Capitol have to say. I am not going to apologize for one single minute that I devote to advancing our economic principles abroad or working for world peace. I'm not going to change because this is in the interest of everybody in this country.

When you hear some of this carping up on the Capitol Hill, you'd think we were back in the 19th century, isolated from the rest of the world by two oceans. Today the neat little boxes -- we label them "foreign" and "domestic" -- they're outdated, relics from an earlier era that don't describe the new world around us.

Think about the great questions of war and peace. If we succeed in making this a more peaceful world for your grandkids and ours, is that foreign policy or is it domestic? Will it eventually have a benefit for the taxpayer because we can do better in terms of defense spending, reorienting our priorities? Or are they two separate things?

Look at the crisis in the Middle East. Last month in Madrid we asked ancient enemies to come and sit down at the same table, to put aside generations of hatred for the sake of peace. And yet, one of the leaders on the Democratic side of the House of Representatives got up -- when I was in Madrid for 36 hours to convene this historic conference -- and got up and criticized me for being there. I'm very sorry, I am not going to change my ways because I believe we have an historic opportunity, and it's only the United States that can help bring peace to that troubled corner of the world.

Think about a problem plaguing this country, this city, this State, and many other cities: illegal drugs. When I convene a drug summit in Cartagena, Colombia, that helps work with them to stop the tidal wave of crack before it hits the streets of New York, is that foreign policy or is that domestic?

Think about the global economy. Liberals act as if the global marketplace is way over there somewhere in Asia or in Europe when it's really all around us. Consider this: Every additional billion dollars in new trade in manufactured goods, for example, means 20,000 new American jobs. And so when I go to The Hague, as I was there just this past Saturday, to make our case with the leaders of the EC to open up the European markets to American goods, particularly American agricultural goods, is that foreign policy or is that domestic policy?

We were talking about it up here again. And as you know I've postponed a trip to East Asia, as important as it is, to push for freer trade and open markets in Japan and Korea and Australia; Singapore we were going to. When I learned that Congress might stay in session past Thanksgiving recess, I thought I'd better change my plans.

You see, I saw that movie, "Home Alone" -- [laughter] -- and I owe it to the American taxpayer to make sure Congress never stays home alone. [Laughter] But that trip is going to be put back on because it's too important. You're not going to make me cancel a trip of that nature for pure politics. It's in the interest of the worker in this country. It's in our own selfish economic interest and our national security interest as well that we have good relations and improving relations with these countries.

Let me focus for just a second on one reason why an especially urgent piece of legislation should be passed. I'm talking about the extending the unemployment benefits. The Democratic leaders know that I've been ready since August to sign an extension, but to sign one as proposed by most of the Republicans in the Senate and House that lives within the budget agreement. We don't have to add to the ever-increasing deficit and still do what is compassionate and correct. They passed a bill. They wanted to embarrass me politically. I vetoed that bill. I said I'll sign one tomorrow if you'll live within the budget agreement like our proposal, but I think they want a political victory rather than trying to help the working men and women that are out of work and need extended unemployment benefits.

But I'm not going to change. We cannot knuckle under every time they come along with a new spending program that is going to mortgage every generation that comes and every person that is working. Ninety-four percent of the people are working and paying taxes, and some of those laid off are paying taxes. And I don't want to be the President that says to them, "Hey, we're going to help these people," then raise the taxes to pay for it or add to this already obnoxious deficit. Unemployed workers deserve this kind of support, but we need a change in the Congress if we're going to do it in a way that lives within the budget agreement.

I honestly believe that the American people are ready to move in a new direction. We've got real problems. I think they're tired of a lot of political talk, maybe from the White House, certainly from the Congress. But they're tired of hearing a liberal litany, tired of people that get up and just keep saying what's wrong with our country. There are some good fundamentals out there. And sometimes I get this sinking feeling that the Democrats believe that they can win only if times are bad. They have a vested interest in seeing us fail. And what a tawdry, negative way to view this, the greatest country on the face of the Earth.

You see, that's not our America. And if I become a candidate for President of the United States -- giving serious thought to that right now, and I must say this fantastic turnout and this sendoff you might say is kind of moving me over there. [Laughter] But I look forward to taking this case to the American people. This isn't a country that needs a quick fix. We need some confidence. We don't have to think that we can just spend our way into getting votes. We've got some grounding fundamentals out there that are moving in the right direction.

It's not our America, this pessimistic one. We're the America that's envied the world over. I wish you could go with me as we travel to some of these places. The America we know is right and decent and good. And Americans want leadership. I think the families out there want somebody that believes in family values and shares their faith and someone who will summon up the best in the American spirit to shape a new American century. I'd call it a new American destiny. This is a great time to be an American. It's a great time, as you look ahead, for the young people of this country, when you think of the big questions like world peace, questions of prosperity here at home.

And so that's our vision. Emphasize what's good. Put forward ideas that can change things for the better. Hold out your hand when people are hurting. But do not depart from the fundamentals to achieve short-term political gain. It starts right here, now, with all of you. And please stay involved in the political process. Because I am absolutely convinced that with your support we will succeed and make things better for the American people.

Thank you and may God bless the United States of America.

Note: The President spoke at 2:07 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of The New York Hilton and Towers. In his remarks, the President referred to Louis Gerstner, principal chairman of the luncheon; Georgette Mosbacher, Wayne Calloway and Joy Silverman, co-chairmen; William Powers, chairman of the New York State Republican Party; Rabbi Milton Balkany, Dean of the Bais Yaakev of Brooklyn, NY; and Donald T. DiFrancesco, President of the New Jersey State Senate; Garabed "Chuck" Haytaian, Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly.

George Bush, Remarks at a Bush-Quayle Fundraising Luncheon in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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