George Bush photo

Remarks to Campaign Staff Members and Political Supporters

January 21, 1989

Thank you, Governor Sununu. And let me say at the outset -- I'm sure you all know John Sununu, but I am very grateful that he has agreed to -- having just left the Governorship of his State -- to be our Chief of Staff. And I know he'll do a superb job over there. In fact, he already put me to work this morning signing things. The Republic is still in reasonably good shape, I think, but I signed a bunch of stuff and -- [laughter] -- looked official in there.

And it is a wonderful feeling. We have a tremendous -- Barbara's not here. And I called her on the phone a minute ago, and I said, "Bar, are you coming over to the State Department -- going to the State Department?" She said, "We have 240 family members coming here at 12 o'clock, and you'd better be back." [Laughter] So, she's not here, but we have one representative: the singing and dancing star the other day at Bar's, Noelle Bush from Miami. You get over there. I don't want to be upstaged. [Laughter]

But look, I will be very informal because I look around the room and see just so many people from here, from Puerto Rico, from out in the Pacific and all 50 States; people that have made it possible for me to take on this new responsibility. And people say to you -- we had a press group over at the White House. I took my mother over there to the Oval Office, and then we took some questions from the press. And they asked a very appropriate question that seems very obvious: But has it all sunk in yet? And I guess the answer is: When you spend the first night in the White House and then when you go to work in that Oval Office, it does sink in, but it sinks in in a wonderful way.

I opened the top drawer of my desk now -- a beautiful, historical Presidential desk -- and here was a really lovely, warm note from my predecessor, which I think demonstrates more than the continuity. It says a lot because it said a lot about our own personal friendship, and it said a lot to me -- though he, the modest, now former President, would never say it -- but a lot of how I got the chance to be in this job. And so, it was emotional, and yet it had a very nice steady feeling to it: that the Presidency goes on. I heard, when he got to California, that President Reagan said he left me a note over where the underwear goes -- [laughter] -- or wherever that top right hand drawer, but I haven't found it yet. I'll have to keep looking. [Laughter]

But I wanted to come over and thank the movers and shakers of the Team 100 -- Larry Bathgate of the National Committee, and Mel and Joe and Wally Ganzie -- Mel Sembler and Joe Zappala, Wally Ganzie -- who these three I single out with some trepidation in this room because there are various other stages along the way to the White House. Each and every one of you came out and did disproportionately more than his or her share. Bobby Holt is here, who has blossomed forth from being not only one of the classic arm-twisters and -- [laughter] -- persistent fundraisers, but now his new horizons are frightening in that he was kind of running parades and running all kinds of marvelous events -- [laughter] -- to save the Republic. And I'm very grateful to him. I don't know that Penne Korth is here, but she was our peripatetic -- I've just learned what that means -- [laughter] -- everywhere, never lets up, always around cochairman. And she did an outstanding job as well.

But to each and every one of you, really, I am very, very grateful to you. A serious note -- I said some of it yesterday, perhaps with less specificity than I will when I address the Joint Session of the Congress in early February. And what I wanted to say is: Yes, the problems are big out there. There's no question of it. And I did single out the Federal budget deficit yesterday. I talked about the new relationship with the Soviet Union. But let me just say a word on each.

I'm convinced that if we approach it properly with the Congress, without rancor, that we can get it done. I know it's not going to be easy, and I know they're not going to accept even some of the fundamental premises upon which I was elected. I'm sure of that. But I also know that with Governor Sununu at my side coming out of the political process, and with me in a sense a creature of Congress as well, that we're going to try. And I think maybe we can make the headway that the American people are really properly demanding in terms of addressing ourselves to this one fundamental remaining problem.

I put the trade deficit in a different category because I think if we get demonstrable progress on the Federal budget deficit that will send a psychological signal to world markets that will help us enormously in terms of the expense of interest, for example, on the Federal debt. So, we're going to start, and we're going to reach out. And on Tuesday of next week, we're going to have our first meeting with the bipartisan leadership -- House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans -- to start addressing this. We're not expecting miracles, but I want them to know we are going to try. I'm going to try to do that which I said, in that speech on the west front of the Capitol, I wanted to do.

And then the second point -- we're standing in this spectacular building which George Shultz so ably led and that now will be led by my friend of such long standing, Jim Baker. And somebody -- there was an editorial in the Times the other day that said the Vice President -- or the President-elect has been dealt a good hand on foreign affairs. I think that's true. We've got some tough problems in our own hemisphere. We're got some problems we're watching very carefully in Africa. We've got problems in the subcontinent in terms of nuclear proliferation.

So, you've plenty of problems to go around. But because of the reestablished credibility of the United States, because our word is seen as good, because our determination is not doubted, I think I have been dealt a very good hand. And I salute, obviously, President Reagan and men with whom I worked, women of ability in the trade areas or in the defense areas or wherever is it, because I think I come in with a stronger hand now, and I think the horizon is bright. I'd talk to kids in the campaign, and I'd tell them, listen, if I were in your shoes, I'd be optimistic that I might grow up in a land less afraid of nuclear holocaust, less worried about regional conflagration, more optimistic about human rights worldwide.

So, the agenda, though fraught with some problems, is one that I look forward to tackling. We already had a first meeting -- Governor Sununu and Brent Scowcroft and me -- this morning. We met first with the Director of the Central Intelligence and one of our regular briefers, and then Bob Gates, the new Deputy over there, joined us. And you begin to get the sense where we should start, what areas we should tackle first, and again going right back with the Congress, trying to do a better job in letting them understand.

The President has a unique responsibility. I am concerned about the erosion of Presidential power, particularly in the field of national defense and foreign policy. But I want to work with Congress. They want in on the takeoff -- fine. I've got to make the decision. I have constitutional responsibility, and they have theirs -- largely in the purse strings and whatever -- and responsibilities there. But again, we're going to approach it with openness, with firmness, but with a spirit that, look, we really should try to return to the Vandenberg days of partisanship stopping at the water's edge.

So, this challenge, this one of foreign affairs and working so Noelle back here can grow up in a world much more peaceful, so the kids don't have to worry quite as much about the tensions that perhaps their mom and dad had to do, is a good one. And we're ready for it, and we're putting together a first-class team.

Lastly -- again, thank you -- but lastly, this morning Barbara and I, having attended I think it was 14 events last night -- [laughter] -- there's somebody behind the scene. You say, who's responsible for this? [Laughter] I looked around and can't find anybody. The only body that's come close to taking credit is Bobby Holt, and he even jumped sideways on me there a time or two at the end of the 12th event the other night. But so, we got home last night -- I say "home" -- we did, climbed into bed. And I -- nervous guy, you know, tension and work -- my system working on the 6 o'clock call. So, they got the coffee. And I looked out the window of the White House, and here were people all over the darn place. [Laughter] They'd spent the night there, literally, in the cold, some of them later coming through the receiving line with their blankets. And some of them had been there for 12 hours, staying out there. Some of them got there -- I know one -- I said, "What time did you get there?" And he said, "4 o'clock." He's near the end of the line, so I don't know whether that means you had to be there before 4 o'clock, but a lot of them literally had spent all night long there. And they came to the White House, and they were thanking us for giving them this fantastic opportunity to spend all night -- [laughter] -- outside when it got colder than the devil. But there is something wonderful about that. It made a tremendous impression on both Barbara and me. I should have known it because we see the lines along here all the time -- probably out there right now if the place is still open for the tours. But it said something wonderful about the stability, the continuity, and the greatness of the United States.

Thank you. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:12 a.m. in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the State Department. In his remarks, he referred to John H. Sununu, Chief of Staff to the President; Laurence E. Bathgate, finance chairman of the Republican National Committee; Wally Ganzie, Mel Sembler, and Joe Zappala, members of the State Election Committee; Bobby Holt and Penne Percy Korth, cochairmen of the American Bicentennial Inauguration Committee; Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; and Robert Gates, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

George Bush, Remarks to Campaign Staff Members and Political Supporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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