George Bush photo

Remarks at a Fundraising Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Susan Molinari in Staten Island, New York

February 28, 1990

Thank you very, very much for that warm Staten Island welcome. Thank you all. Please, be seated. Susan, thank you for that warm welcome back. And let me say to those citizens of this marvelous part of New York, I was deeply touched, and I believe Susan was, when we rode in from the landing zone out here, to see the kids in the streets. And I want to thank everybody involved with this visit: first off, the firefighters that were there to greet us; the police officers, who do so much for every one of us, regardless of the politics, every single day; and then the kids that turned out. And I learned something long ago -- it isn't George Bush; it's the Presidency. And I wish you all could be in that beautiful black limousine with Susan and me and just see the respect for the institution, the job, really, that I'm proud to hold. It was very, very moving for us, just as this welcome back is very moving for me.

I'm delighted that our able State chairman is with us, Pat Barrett, the guy that did it all in business and then rolled up his sleeves and put something back in the system by taking on this enormously important organizational job as chairman of the State party.

I had a chance a minute ago to visit with one of my dear friends and supporters, who was one of his predecessors, George Clark, who's here today someplace, too.

And I want to pay my respects to Olga Igneri, Richmond County Republican chairman, and Fred Pantaleone [Kings County Republican chairman], from over across the way -- I've known for a long time, and another great party leader. Mike Long, the State Conservative Party chairman, is here, and we're grateful to him. And I'm so pleased to be with another young old friend of mine, Nelson Rockefeller; I want to see this guy involved in politics, too. I keep telling him that, but he's -- [applause]. But of course we're here today to salute the 14th Congressional District's next Representative, and I'm talking about the one in blue here, Susan Molinari. It's essential that she be elected.

And I also would be remiss if I didn't at least mention -- [laughter] -- another Molinari, one of the outstanding leaders on Capitol Hill, who is now back home to stay, tearing them up right here at home, Guy Molinari, my friend. And what a job he's doing, and I will always be grateful to him.

Deputy Borough President Jim Molinaro is also here today, and I salute him -- a man I've known a long time.

But one more word about Guy. He was there very early on for me. And this room is full of a lot of politicians -- a lot of statesmen out here, too, I see -- but there's some politicians out here. And you never forget how you got where you're at. And Guy Molinari was at my side long ago when the going was tough and the pollsters had it figured out just about the way they had figured out Nicaragua. [Laughter] And so, I'm proud that he's here with us.

The Silver Fox sends her best. She didn't want to put her hairdo up against Guy Molinari's, so she stayed home. [Laughter] Sorry about that.

But look, the only reason we're kind of imposing on you before lunch is that this is the first stop on a cross-country trip -- on our way to California as soon as I leave here, talking to Californians about some of the things Susan mentioned -- fighting drugs, fighting crime -- issues which certainly concern all New Yorkers, and I want to mention them to you today, too. I'll also be meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan on Friday and then again on Saturday morning to discuss another important issue. It's an issue of concern to everybody in this country and certainly in this dynamic area: the American competitiveness in the Pacific Rim.

It's been -- well, I guess Susan touched on this -- almost 25 years since a President came to Staten Island -- President Johnson dedicating the bridge. And today I'm here to talk about another bridge, a bridge to the future, an election that will determine whether Staten Island gets the experience and leadership and independence that it deserves, the election of the next Congresswoman from New York: Susan Molinari.

So, here I am in the middle of the battle right here in New York, where one of the great contests of 1990 will take place. A lot at stake -- there's been a lot of money spent on both sides, a lot of press attention. But I'm not here to talk about the Trumps. [Laughter]

You know, I'm here to talk about this congressional race. And look, you know it and I know it and the people know it here: Guy has left some big shoes to fill. But I can think of no one better to do the job than Susan. And this isn't kind of Johnny-come-lately because Barbara and I have known her for a long, long time. Like her dad, Susan is going to have that hands-on leadership the voters have come to expect from the name Molinari.

Speaking of names, I'll tell you a true story. Susan found a scrawny little mutt on election day 1988. We were all waiting for the returns to come in, but the dog wasn't doing well, and they didn't think it would make it. But it was a good dog -- loyal, cautious, prudent, some would say timid -- and it pulled through. I still can't figure out why Susan named the dog George. [Laughter] But she did. And being a female pup -- [laughter] -- she'll have it even tougher. Life ain't easy for a girl named George. [Laughter] Let me give you a little serious, political, inside advice, one single word: puppies -- worth 10 points, believe me. [Laughter]

I understand that Susan's opponent is charging that she'll do nothing but follow in her father's footsteps. That's a marvelous endorsement as far as I'm concerned, a very good endorsement.

But look, she's established it here -- an independent, tough leader -- the determination, the understanding, and the experience to get the job done. And when she was 27, she was already making history: youngest member ever elected to the New York City Council, first Republican elected from her district, the only Republican elected to the council -- and she beat her Democratic opponent for reelection 3 to 1. Susan is the new generation of leadership. And she's been tested. She has been tested. During her tenure as minority leader on the council, she's held her own as the toughest "minority of one" that anybody's ever seen.

The effects of her leadership will be felt for many years. She opened the door for other Republicans to follow. She gave this party a voice where, literally, there was none. A great bipartisan leader, she proved that the only fair system is a two-party system.

Her opponent says that she can't possibly be effective in Congress because she's not in the majority party. Poor guy, he doesn't understand that there's a direct correlation between effectiveness and experience, between effectiveness and leadership, between effectiveness and independence. And Susan is the only candidate in the race with all three. Plus she has something else -- a friend in the White House. And that's not going to hurt her a single bit.

The Republican leadership needs her in Congress because they need her drive, they need this initiative, and they need this experience I've been talking about. And I need her because we agree fundamentally on the issues: a strong economy; schools and streets free from drugs and violence; a clean, safe environment. We both agree that we need action on these issues and that we need it now.

Drug abuse -- we had a little receiving line down there for some of the heavy hitters or heaviest lifters or whatever it was, I don't know. [Laughter] But more people came through the line: "Don't give up on the fight against drugs." I'm not about to. Drug abuse is a threat to all America, and it's an especially threat here, I'm told, right here in Staten Island. Only a few miles from here, remember the name Everett Hatcher, a veteran DEA agent brutally murdered by cocaine cowards. In the days after his death, his wife put the blame for his death squarely on the shoulders of the so-called casual drug users. We have to win the war on drugs for Everett Hatcher and all those who have given their lives to free America of drug abuse. And we will. And we are making progress, and I need Susan to help out on the legislative side of things.

One of the most vital issues -- and she's been talking about that in the campaign -- is the protection of our planet. Staten Islanders face some of the toughest environmental problems in this country, and Susan will fight, and fight hard, to reduce those air toxics and urban smog.

Right now, we have clean air legislation that I sent up to the Congress. It's strong. It's the toughest revision of the Clean Air Act that's been proposed in a long, long time. And the legislation is up there in both the House and the Senate. I think Susan will take the oath in time to make a difference. We've laid down what I would call a fairminded compromise to help clean up our air and yet not throw everybody in Staten Island out of work in the process. We've got to be able to grow, and we've got to be able to protect clean air and protect our environment. And that's what I'm fighting for, and that's what I want her help on in Washington, DC. What I want to see is break this stalemate. Let's protect our environment for decades to come. We've already shown we can get the lead out. And now, let's finish the job.

Susan gets action on the environment. You know, when that Exxon spill left sludge on the shores of Staten Island, she got the company officials into her office. By the time they left, the company had agreed to the Molinari nine-point plan for cleanup. And that is tough, effective leadership, and that's what I call results.

There's another result we ought to briefly talk about, and that's the result of 9 years of Republican leadership at the Federal level: lower taxes, the greatest economic expansion in history. And we've got to keep this economy strong so we can keep America strong. Susan and I believe that holding the line on taxes is the key to making America competitive in the global marketplace. She and I know we can outproduce and outmarket and outsell everybody else if we can keep the taxes low on the American working man and working woman and business people. I am going to keep my word and keep those taxes down.

Susan understands what the voters want, because like Staten Island, she does have a proud heritage and this brilliant future I've told you about. Let me tell you a story. Eighty-six years ago, a battered steamer pulled into New York Harbor, and a 6-year-old boy -- one of 14 kids -- and his mother stepped off onto Ellis Island, ready to join his father and siblings after leaving their home on the coast of southern Italy. Looking across the harbor to the Statue of Liberty, little Bob Molinari took the oath of allegiance and became an American. Years later, that small boy became a successful businessman. He taught his five children the value of education and of hard work. He held down three jobs, put himself through night school, and then decided that it was time to give something back to this new land that had given him so much. He entered public service, serving Staten Island tirelessly in the State assembly.

Guy says that his dad was terribly proud of the United States; then he added, "and he never let us forget it." Guy felt the same way about education, about being an American, about his service to his country. When he was sworn into office not far from here, he, too, took his oath at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. The light that glows from the huge statue's torch shines over Staten Island -- and beside this great community she stands, looking forward to the world and to the future. Now the time has come for Susan Molinari to lead Staten Island forward.

America has given her a lot. I bet she'd agree with that -- a wonderful family, an education, and the opportunity to be the best that she can be. And so, now, like her granddad and her father before her, she wants to give something back, some of the blessings that America has given her. She cares about this country, and she has served you, the people of Staten Island, well. And it is a time now, in this very important seat, for a new generation of leadership.

Your future and that of your children are precious. They're very precious, indeed. We need experience, we need independence, we need honest leadership for a strong Staten Island, of course, and a strong United States. We need her kind of total commitment. And that's why I came up here to tell you we need Susan Molinari in the United States Congress.

Thank you all. And God bless you, and thanks for the welcome back.

Note: The President spoke at 12:44 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at Shalimar Hall. Following his remarks, he traveled to San Francisco, CA.

George Bush, Remarks at a Fundraising Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Susan Molinari in Staten Island, New York Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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