Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Campaign Fundraising Dinner for Senator David K. Karnes of Nebraska

July 11, 1988

Ladies and gentlemen, the first order of business tonight is for me to express my deep gratitude to each of you for coming here to help make possible a matter of national importance: the election of Dave Karnes to the United States Senate. You see, when it comes to the next Senator from the great State of Nebraska—well, let me put it like this: The best man for the job is already there.

But greetings to the members of the Nebraska congressional delegation with us tonight—Congressman Doug Bereuter of the First District, Congressman Hal Daub of the Second District, and Congresswoman Virginia Smith of the Third District—and to Governor Kay Orr, who will view this wonderful event on television back in Nebraska. Kay, I just have the feeling that, come election day, the people of Nebraska are going to confirm your wisdom in appointing Dave Karnes to the Senate. And special greetings, of course, to Dave's wonderful wife, Liz, and to their daughters—I see the four of them right here—Korey, Kalen, Kara, and Laurel. I don't know whether a romance between a man in his seventies and a little girl of four has much of a future— [laughter] —but when I said hello to Laurel just a few moments ago, well, I took one look into those big brown eyes and just plain lost my heart. [Laughter]

But we came here this evening to talk business, and that's just what we'll do. Back in 1980 America faced a crisis. We had all the usual trappings of government, but no real leadership. If was sort of like one of my favorite stories. This had to do with a fellow that applied to the zoo for a job. And they interviewed him and all and finally told him, yes, he could have the job. And when he came in in the morning, they said, "But I tell you, we lost our ape, and you'll have to take his place in this ape suit just until the next one arrives that we've sent for. And then you'll be at your regular job here in the zoo." Well, he got into the suit, and they said, "You just get in the cage and just kind of move around. There's a rope in there you can swing on and stuff and entertain the children." [Laughter] So, he did.

Well, he kind of got carried away with it after a while, with the children all looking at him and so forth. And finally he was swinging on that rope, and he swung too far—up over the top of the cage and dropped into the lion's cage. And the lion came roaring at him and jumped on him. And he started screaming, "Get me out of here! Save me! Help me! Get me out of here!" And the lion whispered, "Shut up, or you'll get us both fired!" [Laughter]

Well, as I said, America faced a crisis. The month when George Bush and I took our oath of office, inflation stood in double digits. The prime interest rate hit the highest point since the Civil War. And economic growth was disappearing. It didn't matter where you came from, whether you were a man or a woman or black or white, if you'd scrimped and struggled and saved to send your children to college, the 12.4 percent inflation rate was slamming shut the doors of opportunity. If you had a dream of owning your own home, inflation and interest rates were closing those doors of opportunity. And for working men and women who needed loans to start their own business and for farmers who needed loans to plant their crops, 21 1/2 percent prime interest rates were closing the doors on their dreams too.

At the same time, our defenses had grown weak. Real spending on defense had dropped, and research and development had been cut back. The Navy had fallen from nearly 1,000 battle-ready ships to under 500. We Americans watched as the Soviets amassed vast military might, then intimidated our allies and fueled regional conflict.

I'm convinced that in 1980 America faced one of those historic choices that comes to a nation only a few times in a century. We could continue our decline, perhaps comforting ourselves by calling it inevitable, or we could realize that there is no such thing as inevitable and choose instead to make a new beginning. Well, we made that new beginning. And with the help of a Republican Senate, we cut the growth of spending. We eliminated needless regulations. We reduced personal income tax rates. And we passed an historic reform called tax indexing: Government can no longer use inflation to profit at the people's expense.

Perhaps many of you didn't realize, paying your income tax in those inflationary days, that your purchasing power was going down; your money was worth less. But because the numbers of dollars were increasing-if you were getting adjusted somehow that way, your tax was based on the number of dollars, not on their value. And so, the Government profited, and you were worse off than you were before you got, say, a cost of living increase.

Well, today our nation has one big program to help every American man, woman, and child; and it's called economic recovery. In foreign policy, we've let the world know once again that America stands for political, religious, and economic freedom of mankind. And by restoring both our military strength and a firm sense of national purpose, we've achieved an historic agreement with the Soviet Union: the INF treaty. This treaty eliminates an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles for the first time ever.

Now America faces another crucial election, one that will do much to set our course for the entire decade of the 1990's. The choice is simple: We can go forward with George Bush and Dave Karnes, or we can go back with, well, those other fellows. [Laughter]

Back to higher taxes. Now, I know that other fellow claims he won't raise taxes. The truth is he just did. And not only has he hiked taxes as Governor of Massachusetts but in the last 5 years he's increased Massachusetts State spending at double the rate of Federal spending. He spent every dime and more of the revenue generated in his State by the Reagan-Bush recovery.

Back to weaker defenses—the likely Democratic nominee—has proposed cut after cut in the Pentagon budget, cuts that would undermine or eliminate crucial systems and lower morale among our men and women in uniform. Of course, that other fellow is trying to make it look as though he's for a strong defense, but when it comes to defense, the Democratic nominee is a sheep in wolfs clothing. Already, the truth about the Democratic nominee's record is beginning to be recognized.

And when the voters fully understand the difference between the shiny image and the tarnished reality, well, there's another story that sort of explains what it's going to be like. That's the one about the railroad engineer that got up one morning on the wrong side of the bed. His shoelace broke when he tried to put his shoes on; got down to the breakfast table, the coffee was cold; had trouble then getting his car started. He was running late. And then, when he finally got to the yards, started the train and pulled out, looked down the line only to see another train coming toward him at full speed on the same track, turned to the fireman, and he said, "Have you ever had one of those days?" [Laughter]

Well, I'm convinced that, for all those who want to take America back to the days of tax and tax, spend and spend, election day 1988 is going to be one of those days. You do agree, don't you? [Applause]

The way forward is the way of low taxes. And believe it or not, with our tax cuts, the total revenues the Government obtained from those lower rates began to go up and is still doing that. The way forward is, as I say, low taxes, high growth. And it's the way of a strong America, dedicated to the expansion of human freedom. It's the way of Republicans like George Bush and Dave Karnes. We need to have a Republican Senate so that our accomplishments of the last 7 1/2 years will not be undone. You know that many of our achievements came when we had our fellows in control of the Senate—just that one House. Well, I want to help George Bush have a Senate that he can work with.

Dave Karnes has already proven that he's a winner. He was 1 of 15 Americans selected from more than 18,000 who sought application to serve as a White House fellow in 1981. Impressed with Dave Karnes' performance, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development asked him to stay on as Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary. He's been a member of this administration, and I must say we were proud to have him. And now, during his time in the Senate, he's stood with us on vote after vote, working to keep America strong and our economy growing.

Given his background—Dave manages the family farm and continues to do so even to this day—it's no surprise that Dave has taken the lead on crucial farm legislation. He's promoted farm legislation that's fiscally responsible, market-oriented, and fair. And he's worked tirelessly to help our rural communities. And Dave is absolutely determined to see to it that America's family farms—and, yes, the values they represent-will be there for future generations.

Family farms and the values they represent-this brings me to the subject that's perhaps most distinguished Dave Karnes in the United States Senate: his unshakable commitment to family values. Dave has pressed for innovative measures in education. As the father of four daughters, and with Liz's interest in education—she's on the school board in Omaha and worked for Barbara Bush on literacy projects—education is high on Dave's list of priorities. Dave has supported antipornography legislation, and Dave has worked to pass tough antidrug legislation. He believes with Nancy and me that the time has come for America to just say no to drugs.

I know this is going to be a tough campaign, and so does Dave Karnes. And that's why we need your help. But I do want to let you know that the momentum is on Dave's side. He was down in the polls when this campaign first began—down by some 40 percent. But the people of Nebraska have gotten to know Dave Karnes, and they've grown to like him. And the latest poll, taken by Dave's opponent, shows that he is closing fast.

That's the kind of spirit I like. You know, it reminds me of reading about a poll about another candidate in January 1980. [Laughter] It was taken at the National Press Club luncheon here in Washington on the eve of the primary season. Jimmy Carter got a large number of votes, and so did Teddy Kennedy. But there was one candidate on the Republican side who got so few votes from the wise men of Washington that it wasn't even reported in the lineup. I'm not going to tell you who that was— [laughter] —his initials happen to be RR. So, I have a hunch that being underestimated could turn out to be Dave's secret weapon. What it comes down to is this: The people of Nebraska can count on Senator Dave Karnes to defend freedom, to defend America, to defend the American taxpayer, and to defend the American family.

It's like I said at the beginning: When it comes to the next Senator from the great State of Nebraska, the best man, Dave Karnes, is already on the job. He's exactly the opposite of a Democratic State senator in California when I was Governor. We came to a year in which we had a surplus of $850 million, and the question was what to do with it. And I said, let's give it back. And we did. We worked out a system to give it all back to the people. And one day, that Democratic senator stormed into my office, and he expressed the philosophy of his party. He said, "Giving that money back-that's an unnecessary expenditure of public funds." [Laughter] So, that's the way they think about it. When I said earlier, tax and tax, and spend and spend, that isn't something we invented. One of them, at the height of the New Deal, proudly expressed that was the policy of their party: tax and tax, and spend and spend.

Well, some changes have been made, and we're going to keep on making them. You just send Dave back here where he belongs. And I thank you all. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 5:57 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the J.W. Marriott Hotel.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Campaign Fundraising Dinner for Senator David K. Karnes of Nebraska Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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