Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Senator Paula Hawkins in Tampa, Florida

October 24, 1986

The President. Thank you very much, and thank you, Paula, for that more than kind introduction. And all of those good things you were saying about me, you left out one name: Paula Hawkins was in there on all those things, too. Well, I'm delighted that here today with us the Pinellas Park High School Band, the Seminole High School Band, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneer Pep Band. It's wonderful to be back here in Florida and here in Tampa, in the district of one of Congress' staunchest supporters of lower taxes, a stronger defense, and getting tough on criminals: Congressman Mike Bilirakis. And he didn't come alone. Sitting there with him is Congressman Andy Ireland, Bill McCollum, Bill Young, and Connie Mack. That's kind of an A-Team. [Laughter]

Well, the history books tell us that one of the first visitors to Tampa was Ponce de Leon. He was looking for the Fountain of Youth. And, no, it's not true that I was with him. [Laughter] If I had been, I'd have seen that he found it. [Laughter] I can't help but see the young people here in the audience and those young people in those bands. I have a special message for all of them from my roommate. [Laughter] It's the same message you've heard from Paula Hawkins so many times. When it comes to drugs, please—for yourselves, your families, for your future, and your country—just say no. Well, I want to tell you that Nancy and Paula have impressed me so much with that that the other day in Iceland, even though it didn't have to do with drugs, I found myself just saying no. [Laughter]

But it is wonderful to be back here in Florida. You know, as I said to my staff when we were taking off in Air Force One, it's great to get out of Washington and back where real people are. Now, I couldn't do this as much when Congress was still in session. There's a certain element among them that—well, Paula and I and the gentlemen I just mentioned down here, we feel we have to stay in town to keep an eye on them. I'm not reflecting on Congress as an institution; I have a great respect for it. But most of us must be aware that there are some elements there that need watching. Those elements—I'm reminded of them in a little story about three men who came out of a building to get into the car and found they'd locked themselves out. And one of them said, "Well, get me a wire coat hanger. I can straighten it out, and I know how to get in." The second one said, "You can't do that. Someone will see you and think we're stealing the car." And the third one said, "Well, we'd better think of something fast, because it's starting to rain and the top's down." [Laughter]

But it's really great to be back on the campaign trail. It almost feels like 1980 all over again. [Applause] No, the—

Audience. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. —the Constitution says that can't be. But I'll tell you what: I'll settle for 2 more years of a Republican Senate. But 1980—that was the year you sent Paula Hawkins and me to Washington to clean up a mess like this country hadn't seen in years. The tax-and-spend crowd had sent inflation and interest rates sky-high, while economic growth was left in the dust. Military weakness and indecision had made America a punching bag for every nickel-and-dime dictator around the world. And when it came to soaring inflation, economic stagnation, and unemployment, the liberal crowd gave us a lot of talk about how we, the American people, were to blame. They said we were suffering from malaise. Do you remember that? And then they told us the answer was to lower our expectations and accept a new era of limits.

And no one said that louder than Paula Hawkins' opponent. In 1980 he [Gov. Robert Graham] told the Democratic National Convention that America should accept that it had entered—and these are his words—"the twilight of the petroleum era." "Face it," he said, "there is not enough food or freedom or compassion to go around." Well, it was time, he said-again in his words—"for a period of austerity." Well, to meet the challenges of this period, he said—and again I'm quoting-"We're going to need Senator Kennedy, Governor Jerry Brown, and all the wise warriors" of their party.
Audience. Boo-o-o!

The President. And as for what Paula Hawkins and I were saying about cutting taxes and bringing America back, well, he had just had one thing to say about that-here's what he said: "simple-minded." You know, hearing that kind of lighter-than-air liberalism, I can't help but think that if you liked Jimmy Carter as President, you'll love Bob Graham as Senator. Paula's opponent and the Washington liberal crowd would like you to believe that the last 5 1/2 years happened by accident. They'd like you to forget that inflation is at the lowest level it's been in 20 years; that interest rates are at the lowest level in 9 years and they—are you ready for this—they had been higher than at anytime since the Civil War; that we've created more new jobs in the United States since our recovery began, these 46 or 7 months, than Europe and Japan combined had created in the last 10 years. And this year there are more Americans at work and a greater proportion of Americans working than ever before in the history of our country. The potential employment pool of everyone that might possibly be considered as employable in our country is everyone, male and female, from 16 years of age up all the way. And today 61.3 percent of that potential pool is employed. And there's never been that kind of a percentage in our nation's history.

Now, some of these things I've said they want you to forget, but I've got a feeling you're not going to forget. Remember, the liberals are just itching for a chance to raise taxes in Washington the way Paula's opponent has been raising taxes here in Florida. When it comes to raising taxes he's a real pro. He's got lessons that even the Washington crowd could learn. [Laughter] But after all, thanks to Paula's help in Washington, they're out of practice raising taxes; and [gubernatorial candidate] Bob Martinez will teach them to kick the habit in Tallahassee, too. But Tip O'Neill spoke for the entire Washington tax-and-spend crew last year when he said, and I quote: "Should the American people pay through the nose by taxation? The answer is yes." Well, come November, the American people will be going to the polls and saying, loud and clear: "Sorry, Tip, the answer is no."

You know, the truth is the liberal Democratic leaders never met a tax they didn't like. [Laughter] And when it comes to spending your hard-earned money, they act like they've got your credit card in their pocket. And believe me, they never leave home without it. [Laughter] Well, you're the people who pay the taxes, and you know that we don't have a deficit because we're taxed too little. We have a deficit because Congress spends too much. And it's about time they took care of the Federal budget and left the family budget alone. You know, for 5 1/2 years, whenever I've needed help in cutting taxes and passing our program for rebuilding America's strength, I've known that I could count on the support in the Senate of Paula Hawkins. The votes were close at times, and the battles were hard. And there were many that, without her, we couldn't have won.

Some of them had to do with an issue that Paula Hawkins and I feel strongly about, and I bet you do, too; that's keeping America strong and proud and peaceful and free. Now, as you've just been told here today, and as you know', I just recently returned from Iceland. That meeting was a breakthrough in our discussions with the Soviets. We're no longer talking about arms control; we're talking about arms reductions, possibly even elimination of ballistic missiles from the face of the Earth. And that's an historic turnaround for the Soviets, and it wouldn't have been possible without the help of Senators like Paula and the firm support of the American people, whose hard work and support enabled us to rebuild our military might. The American people know that the only way to negotiate for peace is from a position of strength.

We came closer in Iceland to real arms reduction than ever before, but Mr. Gorbachev decided to make all of our progress hostage to his demand that we, in effect, kill our Strategic Defense Initiative.
Audience. No-o-o!

The President. I had to remind him of my pledge to the American people on strategic defense against nuclear missiles, that in America you give your word and that stands up no matter what the time or place. SDI is our insurance policy to protect us from accidents or some madman that might come along or some country that develops ballistic missiles, now that we all know how to make them, or in case the Soviets don't keep their word.

You know, not everyone understands that. Frankly, Paula's opponent is on record as saying that he supports something less than full funding of SDI. Well, Florida doesn't need a Senator who wants to reserve judgment on our security insurance policy. Just a few days before I left for the meeting, the liberals in Congress were working to cut funding for SDI as far as possible. As I was about to go to the bargaining table with the Soviets, they were trying to take away one of the things that got the Soviets to that table in the first place. But then the Blame America First crowd has been trying to cut defense for years without getting a thing in return. Thanks to Paula's unwavering support, we've made great progress—with the liberals kicking, screaming, and fighting us all the way—in rebuilding our military strength is where we've made that progress. There's been nothing vague about Paula's commitment to a strong defense. And with her help, we've revitalized the Western alliance. And I'm happy to report that after 5 1/2 years, not 1 square inch of property has been lost to communism. In fact, one small country, Grenada, has been brought back into the family of free nations.

Let me, if I could, just say something, because a great many people aren't quite sure or don't really understand the SDI proposal. And I'm going to interject here something about it. It is our effort—right now we are abiding by a system that was passed a number of years ago called the MAD policy, for mutual assured destruction. And what this meant—must be an echo in here [the President referred to shouting from the audience]. I asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff one day if it wasn't possible that we, with our technology in this country, couldn't come up with a defensive system that could start erasing those missiles as they came out of their silos and that could give us a shield to protect us.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. They decided that we had that technology, that, yes, possibly, this could be done—probably it could be done. And so we've been researching. And there have been numerous breakthroughs, and we're all very optimistic. But I also, at the same time, said that if we developed such a system and we're sure that it would work, we couldn't just start in with our own offensive weapons and theirs and start to install this, to deploy this system, because this would be an invitation to attack before we had it deployed. Because our opponent would think that we were trying, now, to protect ourselves and, at the same time, be able to destroy them. So, I said when and if we have that system—and I said this in Iceland when we were there, to them—I said we, when it is ready and it looks like that we've found it, we will sign a treaty with you that both of us are going to eliminate all our ballistic missiles and we will share this defensive system with you. I'm sorry those jokers left the room before they heard that.

And now, let me add something else. There's nothing I'm prouder of than the 2 million young men and women who make up the Armed Forces of the United States. And if, God forbid, we should ever have to ask them to put their lives on the line for the United States of America, then, believe me, they deserve to have the finest weapons and equipment that money can buy. And with Paula's help, we're going to do that. It's because of those young men and women and the quality of the weapons they carry that every nickel-and-dime dictator the world over knows that if he tangles with the United States of America, he will pay a price.

Well, I've talked a lot about Paula Hawkins' support for what we've done, and, as I said, we would never have made it this far without her. But let me talk for a few moments about her leadership. Paula Hawkins has one of the most impressive records of leadership in the entire United States Senate. Take just one area: drugs. Before Paula Hawkins went to Washington, you could hardly find a Senator with a serious interest in drug abuse. Paula Hawkins changed that and, together with someone else I know, put drug abuse at the top of the national agenda. And almost single-handedly she made it a Federal offense to sell drugs on or near a school. Paula has been the best general the United States Senate has had in the battle against drugs.

Now, to hear some people talk now you'd never know it, but she's had to fight some hard battles. Yes, the liberals who bottled up our tough anticrime bills for years have begun to climb aboard our campaign to rid America of the scourge of drugs. We have much more to do in this area, and we'll need to back up the new drug legislation with strict enforcement, perhaps even stiffer penalties, and the kind of no-nonsense judges that we will put on the bench unless we're denied the chance by a Democratic majority in the Senate—I have to have their approval of any judge that I appoint. We need the Republican Senate. We need Paula Hawkins. Well, I'm happy to report to you that I'll shortly sign a drug abuse bill that would never have been on the agenda before Paula was a Senator. I'd hope that I may be able to bring it here and sign it here, but I think someplace there in the bureaucracy they're playing games. It's all been passed already, but somehow they just haven't put it together enough for me to get my name on it.

But Paula's been a leader on many issues. She championed using diplomacy against drugs as well as issues like missing children and child abuse. Who can forget her courageous leadership against child abuse—and you know, if she hadn't said it about me, I was going to say it about her—or removing limits on Social Security COLA's and on establishing the voice of liberty for the oppressed nation just 115 miles from our shores, Radio Marti. Some Senators make a difference on just a vote or two. In her work against illegal drugs and for children, she's making a difference for an entire generation. Paula Hawkins is unique and irreplaceable.

You know, I've discovered about myself that every once in a while something reminds me of a story. It's always happening. [Laughter] Well, right now, Paula reminds me not of a story but of an actual happening in one of our major cities, a thing that happens all too often. This story has to do with an accident, a man lying there injured in the street. A crowd had gathered around; a woman was bending over, administering to him. And a man came along and elbowed his way through the crowd, shoved the woman aside, and said, "Here, let me take this. I've had first aid training." And she meekly stepped back, and he knelt down and started all the things that he'd learned in first aid training. And after a time, the woman touched him on the shoulder and said, "When you come to that part about calling the doctor, I'm right here." [Laughter] Paula Hawkins is a fighter for Florida. Send her back to Washington, because that's where she fights for Florida. Florida and America need her there.

Now, there's someone else that I hope you'll elect: Bob Martinez, Bob Martinez and his running mate as Lieutenant Governor, Bob Bradley. Now—say, two Bobs there. I bet you your opponents are going to start referring to you as the Bobsey Twins. [Laughter] Well, if they do, just pick it up and go with it. [Laughter] Well, Bob has been a leader in business. He has experience. He's been a leader for Tampa. He's ready to lead Tampa—or lead Florida, I should say. You know what kind of a leader he is. Here in Tampa he cut taxes while improving services. Under his leadership, Tampa was named among the 10 best places in America for entrepreneurship, for starting a new business, and for building the jobs and technologies of America's future. Bob Martinez understands that the key to America's future and Florida's future is not more and more taxes, but well-managed growth with more and more jobs and more and more opportunities for everyone. Under Bob Martinez, Florida will be, more than ever before, the American dream State.

Now, you know Bob's opponent. He wants to write the next chapter in the history books of Florida. He wants to call that chapter Tax and Spend in Tallahassee. Well, that's the kind of liberal chapter that the people of Florida don't want. So, elect a Governor for the future of Florida: Bob Martinez and his running mate. You know, one thing I like about Bob Martinez is that, like me, he was once a member of the other party. Now, I know there couldn't be a meeting like this without there being a number of Democrats in the crowd, especially in these times. Throughout the United States, crisscrossing as I have done, I know there are millions of patriotic Democrats who are totally dismayed with the liberal leadership in their party today. And believe me, those of you who are or once were and have changed, as Bob and I did, believe me, you're welcome. I wouldn't be President today without your help, and I hope you'll help Bob and Paula, too.

I know it's tough to break with tradition. But I remember what Winston Churchill, as a Member of the British Parliament, said when he changed parties. And he was criticized , and he said, "Some men change principle for party and some change party for principle." These many patriotic Democrats I'm talking about know that the leadership of their party has turned in a direction they just cannot follow. Well, all I'm asking of the people of Florida is to remember that the people you elect will help determine the future—America's future. So, before I go, let me conduct an informal poll. I won't mind if you speak up so loud that all America can hear you. Do you want to go back to the days of big spending, high taxes, and runaway inflation?
Audience. No-o-o!

The President. Do you want a weak and vacillating America?

Audience. No-o-o!

The President. Would you rather have low taxes, low inflation, and low interest rates?
Audience. Yes!

The President. Would you rather have an America that is strong and proud and free?
Audience. Yes!

The President. Do you want Paula Hawkins as your Senator?

Audience. Yes!

The President. Do you want Bob Martinez as your Governor?

Audience. Yes!

The President. You have just made my day, and you didn't hurt their feelings at all. [Laughter]

Well, I've just one other thing I want to mention here: I'm so pleased to see and talk, as I said in the beginning, to so many young people who are here today. They're what this campaign is all about—that we of older generations, and my generation, can look at them and see how well they deserve—as they do. I've seen them all over the country, on campuses, and just three campuses yesterday and the day—well, just yesterday, as a matter of fact. And to see them—and I told them many times, and enjoy telling them, that they remind me of what George Marshall, as Chief of the Army Staff, said at the beginning of World War II when someone asked him if we had a secret weapon and what was it? And he said: "Yes, we have a secret weapon. It's just the best blankety-blank kids in the world." I think he'd say it about today's young people, too. But I just want to give one caution to all of those young people here. It isn't just enough for you to go out and vote. You, the age from 18 to 24, among the voters, is the highest percentage supporting us. But you also have the highest percentage who don't go to vote. So, when you go out of here, buttonhole every friend you've got and shame them into going to the polls on November 4th.

Now, some people have noted that this is my last campaign. But this campaign is not about me; it's about you and your future. People my age have in mind, as I said, that our responsibility is to see that when it comes your turn to take over we turn over to you the same freedom, the same great opportunity that the preceding generations have turned over to us. And that's what we've sworn to do, and that's what we're going to do.
So, thank you all, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 5:17 p.m. in the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida. He was introduced by Senator Hawkins. Prior to his remarks, the President attended a reception for major donors to Senator Hawkins' campaign and Mr. Martinez' gubernatorial campaign at the Sun Dome. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Senator Paula Hawkins in Tampa, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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