Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Campaign Fundraising Luncheon for Senator Pete Wilson in Irvine, California

August 23, 1988

Thank you for proving what I have always said to people when they inquire about Orange County: I've said it's where the good Republicans go before they die. [Laughter] Pete, thank you very much for those kind words, Reverend Moomaw and the other guests here on the top shelf. Two friends of mine who work for me at the White House are with us today. They brought the cake in—Chris Cox and Dana Rohrabacher. I know that both Chris and Dana, when they go to Washington in January, will be outstanding additions to the Congress and will serve our nation well. Also I want to thank Congressmen Bob Badham and David Dreier who have both been tireless supporters of this administration.

Now, before we begin, I should set the record straight. To most of you, it must seem pretty obvious that I came here today to show my support for Pete Wilson's reelection in this critical race. Actually I just dropped in hoping to get a little birthday cake. [Laughter] The truth is that I had a special reason for wanting to be here for this occasion. You see, I was very moved at my own 55th birthday when President Abraham Lincoln showed up and said a few kind words. [Laughter] Now, for some people, turning 55 is something of a milestone. Not for Pete—he still gets carded in bars. [Laughter] And, Pete, I have to tell you, I'm impressed by the size of this party. I was told that this would be just an intimate gathering of a few of your closest personal friends. [Laughter] I haven't seen so many people at a birthday party since I left the movie industry. [Laughter]

But Pete Wilson is a man with a lot of friends, and with the tremendous work that he does every day for the State of California , Pete Wilson deserves to have 27 million friends—working people, senior citizens, entrepreneurs, families—every person who believes in a California that is beautiful, safe, and prosperous. That's who Pete Wilson works for. Pete Wilson is a Teddy Roosevelt Republican who wants to conserve the natural beauty and resources of our land and who also wants a strong America that maintains a strong presence abroad. He has been a leader for environmental protection, working to preserve millions of acres of California wilderness, working for the conservation of wild rivers and the protection of our shoreline. I know he would agree with Teddy Roosevelt, who said that "A grove of giant redwoods or sequoias should be kept just as we keep a great and beautiful cathedral."

Well, on the Armed Services Committee, Senator Pete Wilson has been a strong voice for California and for the Nation. He has been an important part of our efforts to revitalize America's defenses and restore what another Roosevelt so accurately called "the great arsenal of democracy." Pete Wilson knows that a strong America is essential to world peace and vital for maintaining everything that we've accomplished in international affairs, especially our improved relations with the Soviet Union, which have produced the first treaty in history to eliminate an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles.

Now, I think I should interject here that there are some people that worry that perhaps I'm being taken in. No, I learned a Russian proverb which I have repeatedly cited to the General Secretary Gorbachev in our discussions: Dovorey no provorey. It means: Trust, but verify. And he's gotten so tired of hearing that that I'm now using an American one to let him know where I stand: Trust everybody, but cut the cards. [Laughter]

Well, Pete Wilson knows that a strong America is essential to world peace and vital for maintaining everything that we've accomplished in international affairs, as I say. Yes, we have improved those relations, as I just pointed out. Now, while the liberal opposition opposes the B-1 bomber, the MX, and our Strategic Defense Initiative, Pete Wilson knows that peace flows from strength and that a return to weakness would jeopardize all that we've achieved and that that cannot be allowed.

One of the most important issues, one that touches the lives of so many people, is the problem of crime. The physical and emotional wounds that are inflicted by violent criminals can take a lifetime to heal. Whole neighborhoods can be destroyed by hoods, thugs, and drug dealers.

Crime is not a statistic: It is an outrage and a sin, and it must be fought. Pete's opponent, like so many of the liberal Democrats on the ballot this year, just can't seem to understand that the way to fight crime is to put the criminals in jail and keep them there. To protect our communities we need tough laws, strict sentencing, and no-nonsense judges. We need Pete Wilson who has always fought for strict drug enforcement, not someone who worked to liberalize the prohibition of illegal drugs and who spent most of his career as an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. In fact, Pete's liberal opponent even opposed the crime victims' bill of rights, while Pete Wilson helped lead the successful effort to pass it. You know, ever since I was Governor, I've felt that liberals need remedial instruction on the subject of crime. So, f any liberals are listening, let's try it one more time: Criminals are not victims, and victims are not criminals.

In the Senate, Pete has been a champion for law and order. He has helped pick strong judges for the Federal bench and worked vigorously for their confirmation. When new vacancies occur on the Supreme Court, Senator Pete Wilson will continue to support strong men and women to fill those seats, while his liberal opponent would be on the opposite side. Just remember that when the people of California turned out one of the softest chief justices in the Nation, Pete's opponent was on the wrong side: the far left side. I think you'll agree with me that the judicial policy of these liberal Democrats is strictly for the birds and has no place in the United States Senate.

Four years ago today, I accepted for the second time my party's nomination for President. A few things have changed since then. America has become even stronger. The world has become even more peaceful. And, oh, yes, the economy today is even more prosperous than it was four years ago. And why shouldn't it be? With our progrowth economic policies, things just keep getting better every year.

But one other thing has changed. In 1984 our opponents—wrong-headed as their policies may have been—at least ran in the clear light of day. They ran as the liberals that they were. They told the American people what they believed and what they'd do: cut defense and raise taxes. But that's changed. The first sign of this deceptive strategy came in 1986, when many of their liberal Senate candidates ran Stealth campaigns, avoiding the tough issues and using the language of conservatism to conceal their true beliefs. Well, in 1988 we're seeing this kind of covert liberalism at the national level and to an extraordinary degree. When challenged to say where they stand on the issues, their response is: Ideas don't matter, policies don't matter, ideology doesn't matter. For them, winning this election is all that matters, no matter what they have to say, or not say, to do it. In some ways, I can hardly blame them. If they told the truth, their campaign slogan would have to be: Malaise—we did it before, and we can do it again! [Laughter]

But, no, the message from our liberal opponents is: You can take prosperity for granted. It's time for a change, so take a change [chance] on us. Well, that's sort of like someone telling you you've stored up all the cold beer you could want, so now it's time to unplug the refrigerator. [Laughter] But no more than with a refrigerator, you can't unplug our progrowth economic policies and expect things to stay the same. And the funny thing is that sometimes our liberal opponents will even admit it. They like to say that beginning next year the Reagan era will be over.

Well, that's right. Vice President Bush and I, working with Senator Pete Wilson and others, have given America the longest peacetime expansion on record. The country has created over 171/2 million new jobs. Inflation is low; employment is at an all-time high. The unemployment rate recently hit a 14-year low. And, yes, if our opponents are elected this era of record prosperity will be over. But I've got news for the liberals: It's not going to happen.

There's an old saying that an optimist sees the donut, while a pessimist sees the hole. But what about our opponents? They point at the hole in the donut and say they can fill that hole by reversing the policies that made the donut in the first place. [Laughter] They point at swiss cheese and say they can fill the holes in swiss cheese by reversing the policies that gave us cheese in the first place. They point at peace and prosperity and say they can expand the peace and prosperity. How? By reversing the policies that gave us peace and prosperity in the first place. My friends, the choice is between people pushing an absurd line like that and our team, which promises to continue what's working and to keep America changing for the better. And with a choice like that, I just don't see how we can lose.

While Pete's opponent opposes the balanced budget amendment and has supported high taxes, Pete Wilson has worked diligently for fiscal responsibility and as a defender of the taxpayer. Pete supports Gramm-Rudman, the balanced budget amendment, and, yes, the line-item veto, which 43 Governors have. He has supported the policies that have brought record employment in California and brought the unemployment rate to its lowest level for over a decade and a half. Let's keep Pete Wilson in the Senate and keep California and America working.

The Republican Party has shown America who talks and who delivers. We've shown them that our team can produce results today, tomorrow, and on into the next decade because our philosophy is sound and our policies work. If the 1988 election is a question, the answer is this: America is not going to trade away our winning team for third-stringers with a weak defense, a foreign policy of errors, curveball campaign promises, a set of policies to be named later, and billions of dollars in higher taxes.

Well, just last week, Pete and I were at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. And I can tell you, our party is strong, unified, and ready to work for a victory. I'll be crisscrossing the country for our ticket. And California, this year especially, will be one of the truly critical States. With your tremendous support, I feel confident that when I return to my ranch I'll have Pete Wilson representing me in the Senate. And with what I saw in New Orleans—I saw a real chance that Pete may be part of a Republican majority in the Senate. And wouldn't that be a nice gift for President George Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle?

Well, Happy birthday, Pete! Your present will arrive this November. [Laughter]

I'm going to do something that wasn't planned right now. I'm just going to—you know, I'm sort of addicted to stories, and Pete tempted me when he mentioned stories in—my latest hobby is collecting stories that I can absolutely establish are told by the citizens of the Soviet Union among themselves. And it reveals they got a great sense of humor and a little cynical approach to their present system. But I came home from the Moscow summit with a new one that caught up with me on the way home. I hadn't heard it there, but one of our security detail had.

And he said the story that they were telling among themselves had me in a limousine with Gorbachev. And I had the head of our secret service unit with me, and he had his head security man with him. And we were sightseeing. And we got to a waterfall, and we all got out to see the beautiful waterfall. And Gorbachev said to my man, "Well, go ahead, jump. Go over the fall." And my man said, "I got a wife and three kids." So Gorbachev turned to his man and said, "Jump, go over the fall." And he did. Well, my man scrambled down the rocks around the fall.

[At this point, a glass of water was accidentally tipped over.]

Oh! That's the waterfall! [Laughter] He wanted to see if he could be of help.

[Laughter] And he got down there and found the fellow wringing out his clothes. He'd gotten over safely. And my man said to him, "Why did you do that when he told you to jump and go over the falls?" And the fellow said, "Why, I got a wife and three kids." [Laughter]

It does demonstrate the difference between the two systems. But, well, believe me: Do everything you can. Send this man back there. For 6 years, I had a Republican Senate and a Democrat House of Representatives. But, at least having that one House, we couldn't have had the recovery that we have if we had not had that one House. The difference now, in these final 2 years, with both Houses in Democratic hands, is so apparent. And when you stop to think that out of the last 56 years the Congress of the United States has been dominated by the other party—for 46 of those 56 years, they've had both Houses of the Congress, and for 52 of the 56 years, they have had the House of Representatives. Every Republican President, except for a 2-year period under Ike, has had a Democratic Congress. Every Democratic President, except for 2 years during Harry Truman's term, has had a Democratic Congress.

I think it's time for us to prove that we have a right to be represented all the way around. And so, let's go after them this time and make it work. Send Pete back there. And thank you all, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 1:31 p.m. in the International Ballroom at the Irvine Hilton Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to Reverend Donn D. Moomaw, pastor of the Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, CA; C. Christopher Cox, former Senior Associate Counsel to the President, and Dana Rohrabacher, former' speechwriter for the President, who were campaigning for seats in the House of Representatives; and Representatives Robert E. Badham and David Dreier.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Campaign Fundraising Luncheon for Senator Pete Wilson in Irvine, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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