Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Fundraising Brunch for Senatorial Candidate Susan Engeleiter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

November 02, 1988

Thank you all very much, and thank you, Susan. And before I start, let me say a special thank you to Steve King; Don Stitt; Mike Grebe; a great Governor, Tommy Thompson; and a great United States Senator, Bob Kasten.

I'm here today to ask everyone in Wisconsin who plans to vote for George Bush and against far-out liberalism in the White House to also vote against far-out liberalism in the Congress and to make sure that the next United States Senator from Wisconsin is Susan Engeleiter. Susan represents everything that for more than a century has made Wisconsin a model for the Nation. In fact, the Republican National Committee named her one of the 10 best legislators in America, and my guess is she's in the running for the number-one slot. And it's not just her own national party that praises her; USA Today said she was "one of the people to watch for 1988." And even Charles Kuralt on CBS News—and I don't very often find reason to quote CBS News- [laughter] —but I will now—said that, "By any standards, she is incredibly well-qualified."

Yes, it's true what they say. Susan Engeleiter is a Wisconsin original. But she's more than merely qualified on one critical issue after another. She stands with George Bush, and her opponent stands with a certain liberal tank driver. [Laughter] Here in Wisconsin, Susan has fought for lower taxes, including for keeping the capital gains tax low. Her opponent believes taxes should be raised.

Let me pause here and say a word about a lower capital gains tax, an idea that a certain liberal has been trashing lately. In 1978, against cries like that, Wisconsin's late Congressman Bill Steiger guided a cut in the capital gains tax into law. He won more cuts 3 years later. What happened? In 1983 the venture capital raised in America had skyrocketed to 100 times what it had averaged over the 5 years just prior to the 1978 cut. Not everyone from Massachusetts may grasp what that means. But a few years ago, a retiring liberal Senator from that State said that, like the Governor, he had opposed cutting the capital gains tax and voted against it, but that it—and here are his words—"did more for the economy of my State than anything I did" in Congress. Yes, a lower capital gains tax means more good jobs at good wages. Maybe it takes retirement to put sense into liberals. [Laughter]

Now, Susan has been a leader in the fight against crime, and in particular against drugs. She led in reforming welfare, and the Nation has in many ways followed her. And she's for a strong defense. Meanwhile, both her opponent and the head of that ticket are tax-and-spend, antidefense liberals. Now, they'd be the worst thing for America's defenses since Pearl Harbor. Together, they're a textbook example of why the liberals are cruisin' for a bruisin' from the American people this year.

The problem with the other side is not camera angles or lighting. It's not whether their candidates are likable or not. No, it's the very thing that they've spent this campaign trying desperately to hide. When our liberal friends refuse, until the last week of the campaign, even to whisper the "L" word and insist that this election is not about ideology, it's about competence, they're just acknowledging that where they want to take America, America doesn't want to go.

But, my friends, we're making some progress. After all of these months and all of this time, George's opponent has finally come out of the closet. He has finally embraced the "L" word. He has confirmed that the American people—or what the American people have known all along: He's liberal, liberal, liberal! And come next week, the American public will say no to the Massachusetts liberal who preaches higher taxes, big spending, and a weak defense.

Yes, the American people always have a way of figuring out the facts. It reminds me of a story—at my age, everything reminds you of a story. [Laughter] This one has to do with an agent in one of our central intelligence agencies, or services. And they called him in and told him that he was to contact another agent who was in a small town in Ireland. And the man's name was Murphy. But he was to identify himself and make contact when he met him by saying, "Tis a beautiful day today, but it'll be better tomorrow."

So, over to Ireland he goes, into this little town, and figures the pub is a good place to start. So, he hoists himself up to the bar and says to the bartender, "Where would I find Murphy?" And the bartender said, "Well, if it's Murphy the bootmaker you want, he's in the second floor of the building across the street. And if it's Murphy the farmer you want, he's a half a mile down the road in the farm on the left. And my name is Murphy." And he said, "Well, it's a beautiful day today, but it will be better tomorrow." "Oh," he says, "it's Murphy the spy you want." [Laughter]

Well, you know the facts, and so do the American people. Our liberal friends have spent the last several months trying to dress up their agenda in our clothes—and now in Harry Truman's clothes or F.D.R.'s clothes—but somehow nothing fits. [Laughter] When they say "opportunity," they mean subsidies. When they say "reducing the deficit," they mean raising taxes. When they say "strong defense," they mean cut defense spending. No wonder their favorite machine is the snowblower. [Laughter] They talk about it being time for a change. Well, where have they been the last 8 years? We are the change; we began it 8 years ago. And the choice this year is go forward with the change or go back to the stagnant status quo of the past.

When we took office, America was in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. High taxes and runaway inflation—or regulations, I should say, had driven our economy to its knees with a 12-3 combination of inflation, economic stagnation, and unemployment. We turned that around. Since our expansion began, we've created 18 millions new jobs. That's more new jobs than Europe and Japan combined. And today we're in the longest peacetime economic expansion ever recorded. We're exporting more than ever before in our history. And more Americans are at work today than ever before in the history of the United States. And just yesterday the Milwaukee Sentinel reported that your city has its lowest unemployment rate in more than a decade. Now, that's a record to be proud of. Think of what reducing mortgage rates by over a third, as we have, means to families seeking to buy a new home.

Think of what cutting inflation to a third of what it was means to families who are seeking to protect their life savings. And think of what our tax reduction program has meant to families, most of whom now pay a top rate of 15 percent. Yes, what you heard in a recent debate, I've heard echoed in my talks with the leaders of many nations: Today the United States of America is the envy of the world.

We've come a long way in the last 8 years, but, my friends, everything that we've worked for these last 8 years, everything, could be lost faster than you can say the Pledge of Allegiance. [Laughter] Our opponents say they're in the tradition of F.D.R. and Harry Truman, but from the economy to national defense, they've taken positions that only a McGovern could love. [Laughter] No, they're not Truman, and they're not Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

We've achieved arms agreements with the Soviets and a new warmth in relations, not through weakness but through our policy of peace through strength. You'd think our liberal friends would have learned from that. But not long ago former Defense Secretary James Forrestal—or Schlesinger, I should say, wrote that their ticket this year seems to be, in Secretary Schlesinger's words, "viscerally antimilitary." They would cut the B-1 bomber, the MX missile, our strategic defense against ballistic missiles; and two supercarrier battle groups would be eliminated from our Navy. In fact, what they plan for the Navy is so bad that by the time they get through Michael may have to row the boat ashore— [laughter] —that is, if Herb [Kohl] doesn't sink it first. [Laughter]

Yes, it's the same Carter-Mondale liberal agenda they're pushing: less defense and more big government. For example, as a part of their so-called profamily agenda, they support Federal child-care assistance. Now, a little while ago, I told an audience that under this proposal, their proposal, if parents want assistance and they also want to leave their child with his or her grandmother the grandmother will have to be licensed by the Federal Government.

After I spoke, a reporter called one of the congressional staffers behind that bill and asked if it was true—that grandmothers would have to get Federal licenses to take care of their own grandchildren. And the reply came, yes, of course, it's true. After all—and here's the quote—"How else can you design a program that receives Federal funds?" Licensing grandmothers—can you believe it? [Laughter] But doesn't that tell all the difference between our philosophies? When they say "family," they mean Big Brother in Washington. When we say "family," we mean honor thy father and mother.

And look at crime. The top of their ticket and their candidate for Wisconsin's Senate seat both say that no matter how horrible and brutal the crime they're opposed to capital punishment. Well, George Bush and Susan Engeleiter believe that for the most horrible crimes, like when a drug dealer murders a policeman in cold blood, that kind of killer deserves and should receive the death sentence. If you ask me, there are no Americans braver and no citizens more precious than the men and women who guard us: our State and local police. And George Bush, Susan Engeleiter, and I stand behind them all the way.

By the way, you've heard that George's opponent says he's on your side. But you know better. In the Governor's 1989 budget, State debt is projected at some $10 billion, nearly double the debt when the Governor took office. And what did this debt buy? Well, here are the words of a leader of his own party in the State legislature: "Not only has this been the worst spending spree in Massachusetts history, we have almost nothing to show for it in better services, just a bigger payroll and a huge pension liability .... "Yes, George Bush is the one, and the only one, who's on your side. And that's not negative campaigning: That's the truth.

Now, our liberal friends have promised that come January the Reagan era is over and their era will be just beginning. And, yes, that's the choice. From top to bottom, the election this year is a referendum on liberalism. Yes, the choice is just as clear as the choice in 1980 and 1984: It's between, on one hand, liberal policies of tax and spend; economic stagnation; international weakness; and always, always blame America first; and on the other hand, what we believe—limited government, a strong defense, firmness with the Soviets, and always, always "I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America."

You may have guessed, I feel strongly about giving George Bush a Congress where he has more friends than he had on that Pacific island where he was shot down during World War II. Ours is a system of three equal branches of government. Two branches, Congress and the President, are chosen by election, and the third branch, the court, is chosen by the other two. When you vote for a candidate for the Senate or the House, you're voting for the direction of the country and the world as much as when you vote for President. Yes, we've accomplished much these last 8 years, but we could have accomplished even more, including, I believe, balancing the budget, if both Houses of Congress had been friendly. So, shouldn't we ask: If we must ride two horses, Congress and the President, across every stream, doesn't it make sense to have them going the same way?

Susan Engeleiter and George Bush are going the same way. And come to think of it, that's my way, too. All three of us are for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and a line-item veto for the President. And all three of us are for holding down spending and for telling the liberals, read our lips: No new taxes! And when it comes to the people of Wisconsin, all three of us are on your side.

George Bush and Susan Engeleiter will give Wisconsin and America a team of distinction and experience. Few people enter the Senate with as much experience as Susan has or with as distinguished a legislative record already behind them. And few understand the needs of America's families as well. She'll be the only mother with growing children in the Senate, and I believe the Senate could use a mother's perspective as well.

So, in closing, I'd just ask you to take history in your hands. As Yogi Berra once said: "It ain't over till it's over." If I lived in Wisconsin, I would vote for Susan Engeleiter. I'm asking that anyone who has voted for me or will vote for George Bush to also pull the lever of Susan Engeleiter.

And let me pause here and say something that—because of some of the campaign rhetoric that's been going on about the Federal deficit and who's to blame. I've heard myself identified—with it being mine. Well, I think you all should know the President of the United States under the Constitution can't spend a dime. Only Congress can spend money.

And as a matter of fact, the law is such that the President can't even save money. If some of our Agencies and Departments, in carrying out the programs passed by Congress, should come to the end of the year with a surplus, they have to go out and find a way to spend it. We can't have some economies and then have a savings there to apply to the deficit.

But what I really want to tell you is—and point out—in the 50 years up and through 1980 the Congress of the United States, both Houses, was in the hands of the Democrats for 46 of those 50 years. And in those 50 years, there were only 8 scattered years in which the budget was balanced. For a half a century, they were carrying out—and I remember making some speeches when I was a citizen against this, and something should be done about it—and the reply always was the deficit spending maintains our prosperity. And we don't have to worry about it. We owe it to ourselves.

So, whose deficit is it? Because then, beginning in 1965 when President Johnson's War on Poverty began—which poverty won— [laughter] —in the 15 years from there to 1980, the budgets of the United States increased to five times what they had been; and the deficit increased to 52 times what it had been in that first 50 years. So, a great important thing is we've had gerrymandering every 10 years because they've been in the saddle. And the time has come for us to get back on the track and continue in the way we've been going. And I just have to tell you that I think you have a very great addition—in a small package—but a great addition to the United States Senate in this young lady who is your candidate.

And I trust that you're going to—well, let me put it to you this way: I just ask you as our other Senator responded, or said a moment ago, on this. Let me just put it this way: On election day, yes, go out there and win one for the Gipper!

Thank you and God bless you.

[At this point, Susan Engeleiter gave the President a shamrock.]

Could I just say something here about this? I'm half Irish, too. [Laughter] The other part is English and Scotch. But I just can't help but telling you—and you can take this with you, for I'm going to take this with me.

I was visiting Ireland and my father's ancestors' background and community and so forth, and then found myself on Castle Rock, where St. Patrick erected the first cross. And the young Irish guide was taking us through the old, ancient cemetery. And we came to one tombstone, and he proudly pointed it out. And the tombstone was inscribed: "Remember me as you pass by. For as you are, so once was I. But as I am, you too will be. So be content to follow me." [Laughter] And this had proven too much for some Irishman who had scratched on the stone underneath: "To follow you, I am content. I wish I knew which way you went." [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 10:44 a.m. in the Regency Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. He was introduced by Susan Engeleiter. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Steven King, former chairman of the State Republican Party; Donald Stitt, current chairman of the State Republican Party; and Michael Grebe, national Republican committeeman. Following his remarks, the President traveled to Berea, OH.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Fundraising Brunch for Senatorial Candidate Susan Engeleiter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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