Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Republican Campaign Rally in Bowling Green, Kentucky

October 21, 1988

The President. Thank you, and thank you for that great music to the Bowling Green High School Band, the Warren Central Band, the Warren East Band, the Allen County Scotsville Band, the Muhlenburg Central Band, and of course the Western Kentucky University Marching Band. Let me say a special hello to Glen Campbell; President Tom Meredith; Bob Gable; a great former Governor of your State, Louie Nunn; and a great United States Senator-who, unfortunately, had to stay in Washington and battle for the things that are right today on this last day of the session—Mitch McConnell. And let me also say hello to a group I take a kind of personal interest in: the College Republican Club. It's great to be back in the Bluegrass State and here in Red Towel Territory.

You know, I watched a certain debate the other night. I don't often feel sorry for liberals, but I came close. Now, he may have been surprised at George Bush's strength, but you know something? I wasn't. I've worked more closely with George Bush these two terms than with any other member of the administration. I have seen him keep a cool head in hot crises. I've seen his leadership and vision. I've given him some of the most sensitive and difficult tasks that we've had, and he's never let me or the country down.

Audience members. Bush! Bush! Bush!

The President. All right. I once said that he's a great Vice President, but I know and I've seen that didn't come easily. George Bush is a man of action; he's a man accustomed to command. And the Vice Presidency doesn't fit easily on such a man. But George Bush is also a patriot. And so, he made it fit, and he served with a distinction that no one has ever matched.

George Bush knows the importance of the values expressed in the Pledge of Allegiance. He cares that the courts won't allow children in public schools to open their day with a simple, silent, voluntary prayer. He believes that we must have judges on our courts who interpret the law and don't try to legislate, and who care not just about the rights of criminals but about those of the victims of crime. And that's why the man I want to be the next President of the United States is George Bush.

Audience members. Bush in '88! Bush in '88! Bush in '88!

The President. Bush, '88. All right. But as I listened to George Bush and his opponent debate, I couldn't help thinking: The problem with those fellows on the other side is not camera angles or lighting. It's not whether this campaign is trying desperately to hide—or I mean, is likable or not. No, it is the very thing that I just said, that they've spent this campaign trying desperately to hide. When our liberal friends refuse to even whisper the "L" word and insist that this election is not about ideology, it's about competence—you missed me. [The President referred to a loud noise in the background.] I say, it's not about ideology, about competence; they're just acknowledging that where they want to take America, America doesn't want to go.

But you know, the American people always have a way of figuring out the facts. It kind of reminds me of a story. At my age, everything reminds you of a story. [Laughter] It was about one of our intelligence agents. And they were sending him over to Ireland, to a little village in Ireland, and there he was to make contact with another agent. They didn't know each other, so he had to have some method of recognition. So, he was told that when he got there and finally met this man he was to say, "It's a beautiful day today, but it'll be a better day tomorrow."

So, he made his way to this tiny village and decided the best place to start—he walked into the local pub, said 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 across the street." He said, "Then there's Murphy the farmer. He's just a half a mile down the road and on the left-hand side. And," he said, "my name is Murphy." And the agent said, "Well, it's a beautiful day today, but it'll be better tomorrow."

"Ah," 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 3 months trying to dress up their agenda in our clothes, but somehow nothing fits. 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. 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 to go forward with that change or to go back to the stagnant status quo of the past. Audience members. No!

The President. When George Bush and I took office, America was in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. High taxes and runaway regulations were driving America's families to their knees, pounding them with a 1-2-3 combination of inflation, economic stagnation, and unemployment. We turned that around. Since our expansion began, we've created over 18 million new jobs. That's more new jobs than Europe and Japan combined. Today we're in the longest peacetime economic expansion ever recorded. We're exporting more than ever before in our history. And a greater proportion of our potential work force and a greater number of Americans are at work today than ever before in the history of the United States of America.

You know, we hear so much about the unemployment rate. Well, of course, there are always going to be people between jobs or people that are just coming into the job market and so forth. That isn't the important figure. When I use that term "potential work force," that's what the statisticians use. Their definition is that everyone, male and female, 16 years of age and up, all the way to the top, including the retired people and all—that is their term, what they mean by their term, the "potential work force." And today, thinking of all of you who are still in school and all, but who are in that age group—the millions throughout the country—62.7 percent of that group have jobs today in the United States.

Between 1977 and 1981—I don't know why I pick those years— [laughter] —well, the real income of the typical American family dropped by almost 7 percent. Since 1981, the year we took office, the real family income has soared more than 10 percent. Yes, 8 years ago the last liberal administration turned the lights out on Main Street America. We've turned them back on, and with George Bush in the White House, they'll be on to stay.

Yes, think of what reducing the prime interest rate, as we have, by over half means to young families seeking to purchase a new home. Think of what reducing inflation to a third of what it was means to families 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. And think of what all this means to you. When you leave school, there'll be jobs and opportunities waiting for you. It's a good time to begin a career and maybe get married to that special someone and start a family. Perhaps now or in a few years, you'll want to start your own business. Well, it's a great time for that, too.

Audience member. Thank you.

The President. Well, thank you. You know that for every business that has to close up shop and quit today, six new ones go into business and start. Think of how lucky you are not to have graduated in the class of '79, when things looked so different. Think of how lucky you are to be graduating in our country and not some other one. Yes, what you heard in a recent debate I've often echoed in my talks with the leaders of many other nations—I've heard that, I should say, in those talks. Today the United States of America is the envy of the world.

Yes, we've come a long way in the last 8 years. But, my friends, everything that you and I and George Bush have worked for these last 8 years, everything, could be lost faster than you can say gun control. Our opponents talk about reaching for the center, but from the economy to national defense, they've taken positions that only McGovern could love. [Laughter]

Not long ago, former Defense and Energy Secretary James Schlesinger, who has served both in Democratic and Republican administrations, wrote that their ticket this year seems to be, in his words, "viscerally antimilitary." They'd cut out the B-1 bomber, the mobile MX, the Midgetman missile, our strategic defense against ballistic missiles, and eliminate two carrier battle groups from the 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]

Our opponents talk about wanting a conventional defense initiative to improve our conventional armaments—as if it were something new, and supporting it shows that they support a strong defense. What they never say is that we started the conventional defense initiative more than 4 years ago. The only difference between what they would do and what we're doing is that they want to cut the budget for the conventional defense initiative. You know, sometimes I wish that someone would tell our opponents that the men and women who fly the planes, stand guard at the outposts, and drive the tanks of the Nation are engaged in the deadly serious business of defending freedom. They're not in a game for left-wing politicians to play slight of hand with. We're too proud of the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America to let that happen.

It's the same old liberal agenda they're pushing: less defense, more big government. For example, as part of their so-called profamily agenda, they propose Federal child-care assistance. A little while ago, I told another audience that under this 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.

Audience members. No! Booo!

The President. After I spoke and said that, a reporter called one of the congressional staffers behind the 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 then here's the quote—"How else can you design a program that receives Federal funds?" Licensing grandmothers—can you believe it?

Audience members. No!

The President. But doesn't that tell all the difference between our philosophies?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. When they say "family," they mean "Big Brother in Washington." When we say "family," we mean "honor thy father and mother."

Hearing all this, maybe it won't surprise you that this year we have an opposition candidate for President whose appointees to his State's supreme court have been described, in the words of legal authorities who have studied their record, as, and I'm quoting now, "fervent proponents of the liberal social agenda committed to imposing it through judicial decree."

Audience members. Booo!

The President. They have opposed the death penalty and opposed mandatory sentences for drug dealers. They believe that directing teachers to lead classes in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. And they have already voted to strike down a ban on child pornography.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. Well, I've appointed very different Justices to the United States Supreme Court, and so will George Bush.

Now, our friends on the other side have promised that come January "the Reagan era is over," and they say their era will be just beginning. Well, let me ask you something. And could you give me an answer loud enough so they can hear it all the way to Boston? Come January, do you want Washington run by those whose only pledge of allegiance is to more government, more spending, and who have never let the taxpayers' dollars out on furlough?

Audience members. No!

The President. Do you want our foreign policy in the hands of those who criticized our rescue mission in Grenada and our strike on Libya and who always, always, blame America first?

Audience members. No!

The President. I guess what I'm asking is: Do you want the liberals in control in Washington?

Audience members. No!

The President. You just made my day.

Audience members. Bush! Bush! Bush!

The President. You know, despite what the press is saying, this election campaign is not over. The only poll that means a thing is the one on election day. And that's why it's so important for you to vote. It's disturbing to me that so many of America's young people now old enough to vote don't show up at the polls and vote. With so many years ahead, you have a big stake in the election. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of doing something I never thought an American President would be able to do. I spoke to students in Moscow about the glories of freedom. Think of it: Those students at the University of Moscow — only if they're very lucky and rise high in the Communist Party will any one of them have influence on the course of history that each American has by just walking into the voting booth.

So, let me ask you one or two more questions: This November, will you show up at the polls and vote?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. All right. Will you get your friends also to show up at the polls and vote?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. And will you vote for George Bush?

Audience members. Yes! Bush! Bush! Bush!

The President. So, I'd just ask you to take history in your hands and win one for the Gipper. And you know, you've let me know how you feel about Bush, but let me just say something else. All those other offices, for State offices, local, and those for the Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, and what must be done for them-just think of this: Most people just haven't caught on and aren't aware that in the last 56 years, the other party has had control of the House of Representatives for 54—or 52, I should say, of those 56 years. And they've had control of both Houses of the Congress for 46 of those 56 years. I was fortunate enough to have 6 years of the Senate on our side, or we couldn't have done the things that we've done. So, everything is important. It doesn't make any sense to send a President up there because you agree in what he has proposed doing and then continue to send people up in the Congress who are dedicated to opposing everything that he said he'd do.

Now, I'm going to take advantage of you and just have a little fun. I have a new hobby—again? [The President referred to a loud noise in the background.] [Laughter] This hobby is, I've been collecting jokes that I can prove are made up by the people in the Soviet Union and that they tell among themselves. I've even told a couple of them to Gorbachev, and he laughed. But most of them I couldn't tell to him; it wouldn't be tactful. [Laughter] But it shows they've got a great sense of humor, and they've also got a little cynical attitude about their system.

This one came up while we were there in the recent summit in Moscow. And the story, their story they made up to tell, has me in Gorbachev's limousine with him. And my chief of the Secret Service is in the car with me, and his chief security man is in the car with him. We're sightseeing, and we stop at a waterfall. We get out to look at this beautiful waterfall, and Gorbachev says to my Secret Service man, "Go ahead, jump. Go over the fall." And he said, "I've got a wife and three kids." So, Gorbachev turns to his own man and says, "You, go ahead, jump. Go over the fall." And the fellow does. Well, my man goes down around the rocks around the fall to the bottom to see if the other one needs any help or anything. Got down there and found him wringing out his clothes. And he said, "When he said that, when he told you to go over, why did you jump and go over the falls?" And the fellow says, "I got a wife and three kids." [Laughter]

So, thank you all, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 1:30 p.m. at the Western Kentucky University Arena. In his opening remarks, he referred to singer Glen Campbell; Thomas Meredith, president of the university; and Robert Gable, chairman of the State Republican Party.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Republican Campaign Rally in Bowling Green, Kentucky Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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