Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Senator Don Nickles in Norman, Oklahoma

October 24, 1986

The President. Thank you all very much, and thank you, Don. And I just have to say, with regard to that 4 more years, the Constitution has something to say about that. But I'll tell you what; I'll settle for 2 more years of a Republican Senate.

I appreciate this opportunity to be with you, and I can't think of a more inspiring place to meet. Here we are on the home turf of two real winners: Don Nickles and the University of Oklahoma football team. Now, Don is no Brian Bosworth [Linebacker for the University of Oklahoma football team]. How could there be more than one Boz? But Don is an Oklahoman that all of you should be proud of. He's been scoring points for you and for your State in the Nation's Capital. I'm here today to ask you to do me a personal favor: For Oklahoma's sake, for America's sake, please do everything you can to reelect Don Nickles to the United States Senate.

And by the way, I want to offer a great big thanks to the University Band, to the Muskogee High School Band, the McAlister High School Band, and Ponca City High School Band. Thank you very much. And also, I appreciate very much something we didn't have when I was playing football in college. Would you believe it, the cheerleaders then were always males? Your football players don't know how lucky they are. [Laughter] I can't help but see and recognize the young people here in this audience, and I have a special message to you from my roommate. She says when it comes to drugs, please, for yourselves, for your families, for your future, and for your country, just say no. I want to tell you Nancy's impressed me so much with that, that the other day in Iceland, even though it didn't have anything to do with drugs, I found myself just saying no.

But getting back to why we're here today, there's another great winner with us. And so, there's one other thing I'd ask you to do: Put Henry Bellmon back in the Governor's chair. The people of Oklahoma should take advantage of this great resource. I'm speaking of my friend, Henry Bellmon. As Oklahoma passes through a critical time, it's more important than ever that the State utilize the experience, the wisdom, and the contacts that years of public service have given Governor Bellmon. Henry Bellmon has seen government operate from both a local and a national perspective. He's had the kind of hands-on experience that is so crucial for Oklahoma. But most important, Henry Bellmon is the one man in Oklahoma today that has developed, over his distinguished political career, the kind of national contacts—from Wall Street to the Silicon Valley—that can help get Oklahoma turned around and headed into a bright and prosperous future. His experience, his courage and savvy, will do the job for Oklahoma. He'll be as good a Governor as Don's been a Senator, and that's saying a lot. And at the same time, when you think of him, send up there to the State capital to help him, Tim Leonard as Lieutenant Governor.

Now, I feel a special bond with Don. First of all, we both got to Washington at about the same time. And prior to our arrival, the liberals had totally dominated American Government, controlling both Houses of the Congress, the Presidency, and all the departments and agencies. You might say Don and I were part of a cleanup crew. The tax-and-tax and spend-and-spend crowd had been on a binge that left our country with murderous inflation, sky-high interest rates, ever-increasing taxes, business decline, unemployment, and unprecedented national uncertainty.

Don and I, together with you the American people, went to work cleaning up the gigantic mess that we had inherited. It was a little like the job Noah had after the animals left the Ark. Well, it was a challenge, but with the commitment and hard work of a team of dedicated elected officials—Don Nickles has been a real champion on that team—we've put America's economic house in order and opened the door to growth, opportunity, and jobs. We've come a long way, and if we stick together, nobody, but nobody, is going to turn us back.

Now, I fully appreciate that a few areas of the country, including Oklahoma, are facing some tough economic challenges right now. That's all the more reason to send Don Nickles back to the United States Senate. There isn't a harder working member of that august body than Don. He's on the job every minute, watching out for your interests. In fact, he has one of the highest attendance records in the entire Congress. He's been a leader, for example, in the efforts to keep our domestic energy industry alive and kicking. He's been a major force to repeal the Fuel Use Act. And along with Senator Gramm of Texas, Don has introduced the oil and gas revitalization bill. And just recently, he was able to obtain an additional $3 million for hydrocarbon research right here at the University and the OU Energy Center.

That liberal gang we replaced 5 1/2 years ago used every problem—like the ones confronting the energy business—as an excuse to increase Federal spending, raise your taxes, and expand the power of the Washington bureaucracy. Well, Don's approach is fundamentally different. Don and our team are not trying to create more jobs for the bureaucracy in Washington; we want more jobs created by a thriving private sector right here in Oklahoma. That's what Don's working for. He's so well thought of that his Senate colleagues made him the chairman of the vitally important Energy Regulation and Conservation Subcommittee. And by the way, if the Republicans lose control of the Senate, he would then, of course, be replaced, and very likely he would be replaced as head of that powerful subcommittee by Senator Howard Metzenbaum.
Audience. Boo-o-o!

The President. The last thing our economy needs is the last thing the energy industry needs is to have someone who is anti-oil and anti-free enterprise elevated to such power. You can stop that disaster before it happens by reelecting Don Nickles to the United States Senate. [Applause] I was kind of hoping you'd say that.

Don's been working overtime on behalf of Oklahoma's ranchers and farmers. These are hard times for many farmers, and with Don's energetic support, we've been trying to help them get out from under. Last year Don pushed through his farm protection and flexibility plan, allowing farmers to maximize farm program benefits without losing their average base. With his Landowner Protection Act, he's helped to change farm credit policy, thus curtailing farm foreclosures, whenever and wherever it's realistic to do so. This administration is determined to stand by our farmers in this difficult period, and that's why we've spent more—believe it or not—to help the American farmer than was spent by the last five administrations all put together—some $26 billion this year alone. This, of course, is short term. This is help for an emergency situation. In the long haul, we know the farmers want profits rather than subsidies. And together, we can see to it that American agriculture makes a profit and that it's run by farmers and not Federal bureaucrats.

One of the gifts the liberal establishment gave farmers and the rest of the American people during the last decade was an ever-increasing tax load. Between 1976 and 1981, the Federal tax take doubled. For the farmers, the owners of small businesses, there was one especially odious tax: the estate tax. By the time we took office, it was getting so high that, in many cases, families with family businesses or farms were unable to pass on to their children what they'd spent a lifetime building. Well, with Don Nickles' help, we slashed that tax and, with an across-the-board reduction in the tax rates, we turned off the Federal tax vacuum. And we're wiping out the inheritance tax for surviving spouses. And then, we indexed the tax rates so you wouldn't automatically be pushed into higher and higher tax brackets by getting a cost-of-living pay raise to keep pace with inflation. Most people didn't realize what was happening to them. They would get a raise that was only meant to keep them even with the cost of living. But the income tax is based on the number of dollars you earn, not their value. So, you'd be pushed into higher and higher brackets and wind up poorer than you were, because you were paying an increased income tax. We've wiped that out, and we're going to keep it wiped out. Now, Don was a champion in these battles, and at the same time, his opponent fought us all the way.

Now, 2 years ago—or 2 days ago, I should say, I signed into law one of the most far-reaching tax overhaul and rate reduction bills in history. Don has pledged to oppose any efforts to increase the tax rates, increases that would undermine the progress this legislation represents. Don's taken and signed the taxpayer protection pledge; the voters deserve to know where his opponent stands. What you've got here in Oklahoma is a classic race between a big taxer and spender versus a responsible leader who thinks it's better to protect the family budget than to fill the Federal budget. You know the big taxers kind of remind me a bit of a lady who had a pretzel stand in the foyer of a large office building. And there was one gentleman, a very compassionate man, who would come by every day and put a quarter down on the plate, but never took a pretzel. And every day, the same thing, and this went on for a long time. And then one day, he came through with his quarter and put it down, and the woman grabbed him by the arm. And he said, "I know you want to know why I put the quarter down and never take the pretzel." She says, "No. I just want you to know that pretzels are 35 cents now." [Laughter]

Well, the tax-and-tax and spend-and-spend crowd took the American people for granted too long. That over-the-hill gang, and Don's opponent was right there with them, came close to wrecking our economy. Well, they're waiting in the wings to come back with tax bills blazing. Come election day, you can head them off at the pass and let them know that the days of high taxes, high inflation, and high interest rates are over. And you can send that message special delivery. As a matter of fact, Don Rickles [Nickles] will deliver it directly and personally to the United States Senate. The differences in economic philosophy between Republicans and Democratic leadership in this election are no less dramatic than the contrast in their approaches to the safety of our neighborhoods and the security of our country. The liberals who bottled up our tough anticrime bills for years have now begun to climb aboard our campaign to rid America of the scourge of drugs. But there's much more to be done in this area. We need to back up our new drug legislation, which I will sign shortly, with strict enforcement, perhaps stiffer penalties, and no-nonsense judges. Now, you know, a Democratic Senate would have a veto power over my judicial appointments. That's another vital reason to keep the Senate in responsible, Republican hands and another reason to reelect Don Nickles. If the Republicans lose the majority, the chairman of the all-important Judiciary Committee will be Teddy Kennedy.
Audience. No-o-o! Boo-o-o!

The President. Now, you know, on issues relating to national security, Don's opponent, like the liberal leadership of his party, is totally out of step with the people of Oklahoma. He voted to freeze the United States into a position of nuclear inferiority vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. And if he had his way, there would have been no need to negotiate in Iceland, because we would have had no MX missile, our strategic defense research would have been curtailed, deficit [defense] spending would have been slashed, and we would have had no leverage. You know, just a few minutes ago, over there, back in the corner there, there seemed to be Iceland being replayed all over again. And it indicated that there has been—and I mean this seriously—a great misunderstanding about what our Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI, is really all about and what it means.

Negotiating is important, but it must be from a position of strength. This was never more clear to me than it was in Iceland. There was immense pressure to sign an agreement, to give up hope for developing a defense against ballistic missiles, simply to have a trophy to wave. But with Don and a lot of good people like him backing me up, I was able to stand firm for a safer, more secure future. Americans realize that no deal is better than a bad deal. And it wasn't really so hard. The answer to a lot of problems is, as I told you, just say no. Well, we're working for the day when we can just say yes to a good agreement. I'm confident with all the progress we've made, that yes day will come sooner than anyone expects. And when it happens and we're able, for the first time, to reduce the number of nuclear weapons threatening mankind, it will be a result of the realism and commitment of solid individuals like Don Nickles, individuals who understand that peace through strength is not just a slogan, it's a fact of life.

And now I'd just like to interrupt my regular remarks for a second to answer one of the signs that has been held up several times over there, because I'm sure it is the result of a legitimate misunderstanding. The sign indicates that the SDI, that defense program, would be equal to a first strike of nuclear power. Now, let me just tell you, you know, that this nation—and for a number of years now—has participated in a treaty called the ABM treaty which, in effect—well, it's been termed "the MAD policy," for mutual assured destruction. And that's what it means: that our safety is dependent on having so many nuclear missiles on each side aimed at each other; that each side, it will be presumed, will never resort to a strike. So, some people have thought that when we come along with a defense that could prevent those other missiles from hitting us, that that would, in effect, be saying that we're striving to prepare for a first strike—to be able to defend ourselves, but shoot missiles at the other fellow.

Well, let me tell you what our offer was and has been from the first. I know that if we start it, if this system succeeds and we can put it together, and we just started with our missiles—offensive missiles—to put this in effect. I could see where an enemy would be tempted to a first strike in order to prevent us from getting the capacity for a first strike. But from the very first, our proposal has been to the Soviet Union, and made again in Iceland, that if and when such a system is developed, we will ask them to join us in watching the testing, and then we will join in both sides eliminating all nuclear missiles at the same time we share the defensive system. The whole objective is peace, not arms superiority for the sake of conquering someone else.

Now, today the United States has again resumed its leadership role. The Western alliance is unified and confident. The forces of freedom are on the move. And one thing I'm especially proud of: In these last 5 1/2 years not i square inch of territory has been lost to communism. In fact, one small country, Grenada, has been returned to the family of free nations. What we're doing is laying the foundation for a new era of peace, prosperity, and freedom. And you know, it's a unique experience for me to be here in support of Don. He's the youngest Member of the United States Senate, and I'm, well, I'm a little older. [Laughter] Don symbolizes the new, positive, forward-looking leadership this country needs to carry us into the next century.

You know, it wasn't that long ago, just looking back a few years, when there were those who were counting America out. Our best days were behind us, they said. Word from Washington was that we should lower our expectations, because we'd never be able to live as well again as we had been in the past. Well, don't ever believe that. America will be a land of enterprise, opportunity, and hope, a shining light unto the world, as long as her people are free and her leaders have the courage to do what is right. Now, Don Nickles is a little older than many of you here, but he's like so many of the young people that I've met all over this country. On campuses like this, in workplaces, and on military bases—this generation is the best this great country has ever produced. You aren't coming in second best to anyone. I'd like to tell you a little story. I don't know whether they still—or mention this in history. Back when World War II started, General George Marshall was the Chief of Staff of the Army. And someone asked General Marshall, did the United States have a secret weapon, and, if so, what was it? And General Marshall said, "Our secret weapon is just the best blankety-blank kids in the world." I think if George Marshall were here today, he'd be saying that about this generation.

Now, it's all important to feel as you do. And let me just say one other thing: I know that here in this place I couldn't be speaking to an audience like this that did not have some participation in it by Democrats or people who had been Democrats and had changed as I did. Because I was a Democrat for a great part of my adult life, and then I guess I discovered what Winston Churchill had said in the British Parliament when he changed parties. He said, "Some men change principle for party, and some men change party for principle." There are millions of Democrats all across this country, good patriotic citizens who have found themselves and are finding themselves totally out of step with their leadership. That's why so often in my remarks I mention that I was criticizing the leadership. They're still going down that same old road.

These band members will be able to recognize—I remember when I was the drum major of the YMCA Band in Dixon, Illinois. And we were asked to lead the parade on Decoration Day, Memorial Day, in a nearby town. Well, there was a marshal of the parade on a big white horse out in front of us, and so we just followed him. And the band was playing, and I was pumping that baton and so forth. But he, the marshal, rode back down to make sure everything was coming along in the line of parade. And pretty soon, I thought the music was beginning to sound a little fainter, and I turned and sneaked to look around. The marshal had arrived back just in time to turn the band to the right. I was walking down the street all by myself. [Laughter] And that's what's happened to the Democratic Party: The leadership is walking down the street all by itself; the party has turned to the right.
So, now—

Audience. We love you, Ron!

The President. I don't know what she said.
Senator Nickles. We love you, Ron!
The President. Hey, I love all of you, too. And you know, now I've got to tell you one thing about—you might be interested to know that in the various age groupings in our society those from 18 to 24 are the largest—I should say, have the largest percentage supporting us. But I want to send you away with one message: I hope you'll go out of here as missionaries, because that same age grouping, 18 to 24, has the lowest average percentage of going to the polls and voting on election day. So you not only go out of here determined to vote, but to everyone you can buttonhole, tell them the most important thing in this free system of ours is that right to go there to the polls and vote. And now, none of us up here will be mad if, when you tell them to vote, you also add to vote for Don Nickles, Henry Bellmon, Mickey Edwards, and Jim Inhofe. Your votes will make a difference.

This has been wonderful to be here with all of you, and I'm just sorry I've got to leave here for a place called Florida. But God bless all of you. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:07 a.m. in the University of Oklahoma sports arena. He was introduced by Senator Nickles. Earlier, the President attended a reception for major donors to Senator Nickles' reelection campaign at the Sheraton Century Center Hotel in Oklahoma City. Following his remarks at the rally, the President traveled to Tampa, FL.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Senator Don Nickles in Norman, Oklahoma Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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