Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Republican Campaign Rally in Little Rock, Arkansas

October 27, 1988

The President. Thank you all very much, and thank you, John Paul. And Mary Anne Stephens, Chesley Pruet, Ed Bethune, I thank you all very much. And it's great to be back in Little Rock and great to hear those seven bands, those terrific bands.

Now, you know, as President, a lot of important papers cross my desk. And one of them told me about some teams that are undefeated after seven games, nationally ranked, moving up, and that has some of the greatest football fans in the United States. I have to say the Arkansas Razorbacks and the UCA [University of Central Arkansas] Bears are my kind of teams.

Well, today I've come to Little Rock for a very special reason: because I want to talk to you about a friend of mine, the next President of the United States, George Bush. For 8 years, we've worked together to rebuild our economy, to get America on the move again, to make the United States once again the great arsenal of democracy, a light unto the nations, the champion of freedom around the world. For 8 years, George Bush and I have worked side by side in the White House, during times of crisis and times of historic triumph and achievements. I've come to know George Bush very well. I also know what is required to be President of the United States. I know who should be the man at the desk. And ladies and gentlemen, George Bush is that man.

Now, from top to bottom, from President to Congress to local office, especially here in Arkansas, this is what is at stake: The election this year is a referendum on liberalism. Yes, the choice before the American people this year is just as clear as it was in 1980 and 1984: a choice between, on the 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: the policies of limited government, economic growth, individual opportunity, a strong defense, and always "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America."

When Vice President Bush and I took office 8 years ago, America was in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But today America is in the longest peacetime expansion ever recorded in our history-71 months. Now, of course, the liberals still don't understand how we were able to get rid of their economic crisis, their "malaise"—that was their word, remember-their inflation, their gas lines. So, they're promising to reverse everything we've done.

Well, here's what we've done. We've cut taxes, slashed inflation by two-thirds, sliced interest rates in half. And since the economic recovery began, we've created over 18 million jobs. And in spite of what you might have heard from some people who are talking today, they were good jobs. More than three-quarters of them are the kind that pay better than $20,000 a year. And the unemployment rate in Little Rock has fallen by more than 20 percent, and statewide, real personal income is up by 16 1/2 percent. And today in America a greater proportion of our potential work force is employed than ever before in the history of the United States.

Now, I say that, but let me explain it to you how the statisticians look at that. Did you know that that potential employment pool, according to them, is everyone in the United States 16 years of age, male and female, all the way up. And 62.7 percent of that population have jobs today.

You and I and George Bush worked much too hard to cut your taxes to let our opponents come into office and raise them all over again. So, on November 8th go into the polling booth and do some negative campaigning of your own—the right kind of negative campaigning. Say no to new taxes, and say yes to the Republican ticket.

Now, what Vice President Bush and I have done with the economy is very important, and we must continue and expand. But what we believe in is much more than that. Our greatest treasure as a nation is our precious moral heritage, the basic values of faith and family that make ours a great nation. It's the power of the family that holds the Nation together, that gives America her conscience, that serves as the cradle of our country's soul. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the family is the bedrock of our nation.

George Bush believes that public schoolchildren should be allowed to open their day with a voluntary prayer, something the Federal courts won't allow. He believes that we must have judges who interpret the law, not rewrite it, and who care not just for the rights of criminals but have compassion for the decent citizens who are victims of crime. And the Vice President knows the importance to our nation and to our children of the values expressed in the simple words "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Now there's a new election before us, and I have little doubt that the people of the United States are going to do exactly what I did 8 years ago—they're going to choose George Bush. Do you know who led the task force that cut away excess Federal regulation, which saves American people and communities and States from 600 million man-hours of paperwork a year, making our prosperity and millions of new jobs possible? George Bush led that task force. Do you know who led the offensive against drug smuggling at our borders that just in the past year alone seized a record 70 tons of cocaine before it could reach our communities? George Bush. And when we needed to work with our allies to strengthen NATO, to counter Soviet intermediaterange nuclear missiles, who did I turn to to do the job? George Bush.

Now, today I don't think I need to review George Bush's resume or his heroism in war or his service to America in the Congress or the United Nations or China as Ambassador or as Director of the CIA. What I can tell you about is the man that I know personally—a man who's strong, decent, loyal, wise, capable, and compassionate and a man who has the qualities necessary to fill the office of the Presidency. That man is George Bush, and on November 8th, I hope Arkansas helps make him the next President of the United States.

Now, as for a certain Governor from a certain New England State—

Audience members. Booo!

The President.—I'd best let someone else do the talking. Former Congressman Ed Bethune said that he met this fellow 10 years ago, and he said his reaction was—and let me quote him now—"I have never met a person in my whole life who is more liberal."

But we have to give equal time, so here's the response: that it's wrong to use labels because ideology doesn't matter. [Laughter] Well, but I have to say, how can a man running for President of the United States look the American people in the eye and tell you that his ideology doesn't matter? Ladies and gentlemen, if he's saying to you that what he believes doesn't matter, isn't he really saying that what each one of us believes doesn't matter either?

And in fact, a lot of Democrats around the country are saying that their party leadership has swung so far to the left, so far out of the mainstream, that the national Democratic leadership has lost touch with the rank and file of the Democratic Party. Now, I'm a former Democrat, and I have to say: I didn't leave my party; my party left me. It left me when it went left. Now, whether it's their opposition to voluntary prayer in school, support for gun control, or the left-wing judges appointed in a State like Massachusetts, or a weak-kneed defense policy that only McGovern could love, their views can only be described by the dreaded "L" word: Liberal, liberal, liberal!

For example, the liberals recently proposed Federal child care assistance. But under their program, if you want assistance and wish to leave your child with his or her grandmother, the grandmother will have to be licensed by the Federal Government. Audience members. Booo!

The President. One of the congressional staff members behind that bill was asked by a reporter if this was true—that grandmothers would have to get a Federal license 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?

Audience members. No!

The President. The next thing you know, they'll say that grilling hamburgers is an environmental hazard. [Laughter]

But there's more. In this election, one of the candidates believes that no matter how horrible or brutal the crime, he opposes capital punishment.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. Is that what you believe? Audience members. No!

The President. Well, George Bush believes that for the most horrible crimes, like when a drug dealer murders a policeman in cold blood, that kind of dealer—or killer deserves and should receive the death sentence. And 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 and I stand behind them all the way.

You know, violent crime has fallen significantly since 1981 because George and I put criminals on notice. We said make a false move, and the next sound you hear is the clang of a jail cell door slamming shut. Of course, what happens in Massachusetts is a little bit different. In that State, and only in that State, first-degree murderers not even eligible for parole were let free on weekend passes, and some of them never bothered to return. Do you call that justice?

Audience members. No!

The President. I call it the most liberal prison program since Billy the Kid sprung the Lincoln County jail.

Now, these same liberals say that the only people in the United States who should be permitted to have guns are the military and police officers. Is that what you believe? Audience members. No!

The President. I didn't think so. So, on November 8th be sure to go to the polls and vote for George Bush and Dan Quayle. Just think of it as an act of self-defense.

Besides fighting crime and restoring our economy, we've made sure that once again America is respected in the world, our Armed Forces are strong, and our nation is at peace. We and our NATO allies stood firm in the face of Soviet missiles pointing at the heart of Europe and Asia. And Mr. Gorbachev got the message. He did business because he knew we meant business. And we still mean business.

But none of this, my friends, none of this could have happened if the liberals had their way. There would have been no INF treaty or rollback in Afghanistan or democratic revolutions around the globe. They opposed rebuilding our military defenses. They opposed the deployment of the missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet threat. They opposed the liberation of Grenada. They opposed the blow we struck against Libyan terrorism. They oppose our policy of helping freedom fighters fight communism and advance the cause of liberty around the world. But George and I did all those things, and I tell you proudly right now: We'd both do every single one of them over again.

Ladies and gentlemen, America needs the strength, the vision, and the true grit of George Bush and Dan Quayle. So, let's remember what Yogi Berra said: "It isn't over till it's over"—no complacency or overconfidence. We need you to work. We need you to vote. And if you would, I hope you'll help win just one more for the Gipper. But, really, let's all do this for America.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

[At this point, Representative Hammerschmidt gave the President a giant bumper sticker.]

The President. I know some of you out there can't read what this says. It says, "I'm a Bush hog." Hey, pig, sooey. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 10:36 a.m. at the Central Flying Service ramp at Little Rock Airport. He was introduced by Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Mary Anne Stephens, cochairman of the Arkansas Bush-Quayle Campaign Committee; Chesley Pruet, finance chairman of Victory '88; and Edward Bethune, chairman of the State Republican Party. Following his remarks, the President traveled to Springfield, MO.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Republican Campaign Rally in Little Rock, Arkansas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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