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Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Senator Phil Gramm in Houston, Texas

December 07, 1989

Thank you, Phil. I'll admit it: These days I'm a little nervous when I give a speech on December 7th -- Pearl Harbor Day, I think. [Laughter]

To our dear friend Wendy Gramm and the Secretary of the Treasury, Nick Brady, and to Dr. Bill Bennett, who's waging the fight against narcotics for our country; to Chairman Atwater, the able chairman of the Republican National Committee; and to our able State leaders, Fred Meyer and Penny Butler, Tom Loeffler -- pleased to be with you all. And of course, it's a great pleasure to see my friend Lee Greenwood again and Chuck Norris, with whom I campaigned. We campaigned with both of them, and so many other celebrities here tonight.

And I want to say a special hello to the members of our terrific Republican Texas congressional delegation. To them, I would simply say, my condolences for going from one House of Pain to another. You know, the only thing better than being introduced by Phil Gramm is hearing Phil Gramm being introduced by Moses. [Laughter]

And Chuck, it's a great pleasure to see you again, "Long John Silver" -- and that'll be a tremendous success, I know.

But it's always good to come home to Texas. And actually, I'm happy to say that Houston was just selected as the site for the next economic summit. In 1990, the world's economic superpowers will all convene here. I thought I'd show off my hometown, and I hope you don't mind, but it's going to be a tremendous meeting here.

As you know, I've just returned from what many have called a saltwater summit with Mikhail Gorbachev. Others have called it the schmooze cruise. And as usual, reality is somewhere in the middle. Our meeting was a positive, productive, hopeful step toward a new American-Soviet relationship. Our talks ranged widely and offered a glimpse of what all of us have hoped for for these 40 years -- a more stable, more peaceful world. With the support of the American people and with the solidarity of the alliance, the promise of a new world of freedom is within our reach. May it be fulfilled in our lifetime.

I offered a number of ideas to Chairman Gorbachev. And I suggested that we work to complete a trade agreement, which would lead, then, to most-favored-nation status for the Soviet Union by the time I meet with him next year, at the end of June, here in the United States. I proposed that we work to sign a new treaty in 1990 to dramatically reduce conventional forces in Europe. You're aware of our proposal where we take out 30,000 troops and the Soviets close to 200,000. And I suggested we accelerate the START process and speed the ban on chemical weapons.

Now, tensions have been reduced. But there was one area where we differed, one area where I had to speak firmly and frankly, and that was on Central America. There can be no misunderstanding here. Whatever the Sandinistas have told the Soviet Union, we know for fact-certain that arms are going from Nicaragua into El Salvador. And we also know that Fidel Castro continues to export revolution not just into El Salvador but into other countries as well. Such activities in Nicaragua and Cuba weigh heavily on U.S.-Soviet relations. And we want to be the first hemisphere -- our hemisphere -- free of that burden. We want this to be the first hemisphere made up of entirely free, democratic countries.

And we support freedom everywhere. Just last week, democracy was challenged in the Philippines. And we stood with President Aquino then, and we continue to stand with her and with democracy now. We must not let the democratic process be overthrown by revolution and by military takeover.

I really feel in my heart that the meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev was a success, a chance to improve an important relationship. But tonight, Malta somehow seems far away. It's great to be home among so many old friends, here at the Super Bowl of political fundraisers, and to have a chance to say a few words about a very close friend, one of the best friends that Texas has ever had, Senator Phil Gramm.

I've known Phil for a lot of years, and I know that when a problem needs attention -- when good policy needs to be created, or misguided policy needs to be changed -- Phil is always the first one out of the blocks. Willing to take the political risk for the public good, he brings courage to Capitol Hill. And there's no better evidence for that than the story of how Phil got his start as a Republican.

You heard it mostly from Chuck Heston a minute ago. In 1983, you know, Phil was a Democratic Congressman, justifiably proud of his work on the 1981 budget -- rebuilding national defense, reordering government priorities. He risked a lot to push that budget through, and because of that, he was stripped of his seat by the liberal Democrats controlling the process there on the House Budget Committee. So, he changed parties, and in a real profile in courage, he resigned from Congress to allow the people of his district to judge him and his actions. And he won reelection on Lincoln's Birthday as the first Republican Congressman in the history of the Sixth District of Texas. And because of his views and his strong principles, he appealed to Republicans and Democrats then, just as he does now. We were glad to have him, and America was lucky to get him back.

And let me tell you how personally I feel. We were even luckier to have Senator Phil Gramm when, last winter, my administration set out to make new progress on a number of fronts: education, the environment, the fight against drugs and crime, and a balanced budget. And we made progress, and Phil Gramm has been with me, consulting, leading -- he's been with us every step of the way.

Because education is the path to a brighter American future, we convened the first education summit in American history. We called for greater choice and increased accountability while promoting and rewarding excellence. Phil Gramm understands the value of good education. He cosponsored our Educational Excellence Act.

We've also worked hard to preserve all of the facets of our precious environment. We've proposed the first reforms to the Clean Air Act in over a decade, working to balance economic growth with environmental protection. And Phil understands that balance, and he's helped us craft economically efficient market incentives for our clean air proposal. Here in Texas, he's been a leader in the Federal and State program to preserve Galveston Bay. He's supported legislation for an international treaty banning offshore dumping in the gulf. And he's worked to clean up the Rio Grande River. Phil Gramm is making sure the great State of Texas preserves what's hers.

But we must preserve another precious resource -- our children. There is no greater threat to the health of the American mind and the American family than the poison of illegal drugs. So, our administration is working to win the fight against drugs. I've saluted Bill Bennett for his courageous work, and I want to say this: Phil Gramm understands that fight. He's been on the front line from day one. He was there as Bill Bennett crafted our widely accepted national drug strategy to toughen enforcement, limit supply, and shut down demand. But it will be a long war, and that's another reason that we, you and I, need Phil Gramm in Washington.

In many ways, our fight has been delayed unnecessarily. You see, I sent a tough, strong crime package to the Members of Congress last June. Our Texas congressional delegation supports it. Our distinguished Senator, Phil Gramm, supports it. But we need action on that package -- we need action now. And I hope that Congress, when they come back, will pass this critical legislation early in the next session to take back America's streets. We owe it to the young people of this country.

We'll also need Phil for another tough fight. This administration is committed to get that deficit down, committed to a balanced budget, and Phil Gramm understands how to balance a budget. He's fought budget-busting irresponsibility by creating landmark budget-balancing legislation -- the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings legislation -- by helping us fend off tax increases, and by encouraging the kind of incentives that continue to create an average of over 200,000 new jobs a month -- every month -- for the last 84 months of this recordbreaking peacetime economic expansion. You see, Phil understands prosperity. He helps create it every day that he's working in the United States Senate.

The Senate needs him because, as you know, this man is very smart. Last spring, when I was flying with Phil on Air Force One on my way to going to the Aggie commencement address -- [cheers] -- I see he's brought along the reserves -- he offered to trade his A&M tie for my basic, elitist, ivy-league striped tie. I thought that was a pretty shrewd trade on my part until later, when I found out that Phil went off to the Tarrant County Republican Women's Club and sold off my tie for $1,000 dollars. [Laughter] With that kind of savvy in Washington, there is no doubt that we'll be able to balance the budget.

Just the other night, I was reading a Christmas story to a couple of grandkids. And when they asked me who the Three Wise Men were, I said, of course, Gramm, Rudman, and Hollings. [Laughter] I'm not so sure about that third wise man.

Thanks to that landmark legislation, in 3 of the last 4 years government has actually gotten smaller compared to the private sector of our economy. The deficit as a share of gross national product has been cut roughly in half. The discipline that this legislation imposes on Congress is absolutely crucial to our long-term efforts to balance the Federal budget deficit. And I know that Washington will never find a stronger advocate for a disciplined, balanced budget than the Senator from Texas, Phil Gramm.

You know, there's a story that Phil's half-brother tells that when Phil was a little guy, he started a neighborhood army of a half a dozen kids. One day, the smallest of the group ran crying to Mrs. Gramm. The other boys were corporals or captains, and they were working this young private pretty hard. When Phil's mother called in Colonel Gramm and told him to fix the situation immediately, Phil said, "Yes, ma'am," turned around, promoted the private to second lieutenant, and promoted himself to major general. [Laughter]

Like I said, he's smart, a smart man -- a man who understands power and how to use it to improve education and the environment, to win the fight against drugs, and to balance the budget. But even more important, Phil Gramm knows how to empower other Americans -- all Americans. "The largest beneficiary of a program for economic freedom," he said recently, "is not the person who already has a piece of the pie but the person who wants the opportunity to get one."

I need and Texas demands and America deserves his bold, courageous leadership to make the right things happen on Capitol Hill. He's a Senator who knows what it means to serve his constituents and his country, and every day he's in the Senate he serves them ably, compassionately, and well.

It's my pleasure and it's Barbara's pleasure to have been with you here tonight. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 8:09 p.m. in Astro Hall at the Houston Astrodome. In his remarks, he referred to Senator Gramm's wife, Wendy Gramm; William J. Bennett, Director of National Drug Control Policy; Fred Meyer, Texas Republican Party chairman; Penny Butler, Republican national committeewoman from Texas; former Representative Tom Loeffler; country music singer Lee Greenwood; and actors Chuck Norris and Charlton Heston. In the morning, the President traveled to Denver, CO.

George Bush, Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Senator Phil Gramm in Houston, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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