Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Republican Campaign Rally in Raleigh, North Carolina

October 21, 1988

The President. Thank you very much, and, Governor Jim, thank you very much. And a very good morning to all of you. And having had a few minutes here to look at some of the signs, there's a lot of talent here that could be used on political commercials. And a special hello to Jim Broyhill and Jim Holshouser, Jesse Helms, Jack Hawke, and Jim Gardner.

You know, it's a real pleasure to come here to Raleigh and drive in the gold spike for Express '88, the train that'll take us all the way to victory on November 8th. It's quite a treat for an old hand like me because I remember when being a Republican in North Carolina felt like being Gary Cooper in "High Noon"— [laughter] —outnumbered in a big way.

That reminds me of a story—when you're my age, everything reminds you of a story. [Laughter] You know, in those previous times, there was a Tarheel who was running for office as a Republican. And he was out in the rural area, and he saw a farm there and decided to step in and do a little campaigning. And he announced who he was to the farmer, who said, "Well, wait right here till I get Ma. She's never seen a Republican before." [Laughter] But while he was gone getting Ma, the candidate looked around for something. He thought he'd give them a little speech and looked for something in the nature of a platform. And all he could find was a pile of that stuff Bess Truman took 35 years getting Harry to call fertilizer. [Laughter] And there he was, ready to speak, and when they came back, he gave them a little Republican pitch. When he was finished, the farmer said, "That's the first Republican speech I ever heard." And the candidate said, "That's the first time I ever made a speech from a Democratic platform." [Laughter]

Well, that's in the past now. North Carolina is a leader, a pathfinder, as this country travels down the road toward the future. And I'm here to help that future along, from the statehouse to the courthouse. Because what North Carolina has been teaching this nation is that the future has an honest face, a good face, a conservative face. It's a future in which a responsible President will deal with a responsible Congress that seeks to enhance our strength at home and abroad. And that, my friends, means a more conservative Congress. And on November 8th, that goal will be met when the great people of North Carolina go to the polls and send great congressional candidates like Tom Fetzer and Lyons Gray, Ted Blanton and Charles Taylor to Washington.

It's a future of peace through strength, and prosperity through liberty, personified by the man I believe will be the next President of the United States: George Bush.

The opposition can say that ideology and values don't matter. The opposition can try to hide what they believe. Wasn't George Bush right when he said that the opposition is over there in left field, they're out of the mainstream of American politics, and their policies can only be described by the dreaded "L" word: Liberal, liberal, liberal! [Applause]

Now, from top to bottom, from President to Congress to local office, especially here in North Carolina, this is what is at stake. This election this year is a referendum on liberalism. 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, policies of tax and spend, economic stagnation, international weakness, accommodation, and from Grenada to Libya, always, always "blame America first"; and, on the other hand, the policies of limited government, economic growth, individual opportunity, a strong defense, firmness with the Soviets, and always, always, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States."

When we took office 8 years ago, America was in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We turned that around, and since our expansion began, we've created over 18 million new jobs. That's almost 2 1/2 times as many as Europe and Japan combined. We've reduced the unemployment rate to a 14-year low and presided over the greatest flowering of new businesses and new technology in the history of the world. And today a greater proportion of our potential work force is employed than ever before in the history of the United States of America.

Let me explain something that perhaps many of you might not be aware of. You know, the figure for the rate of unemployment-well, of course, there are always people between jobs or looking for a new one, or new entrants into the job force—but that isn't the figure that counts. The so-called potential employment pool in the United States is considered to be everyone, male and female, from age 16 on up, all the way. That is what they consider the potential pool. Well, for the first time in our history, 62.7 percent of that body of citizenry are employed in jobs in the United States today.

Look at Jim Martin's North Carolina. The economy grew at a rate of almost 6 percent in 1987; the lowest yearly unemployment rate in 9 years; and last year, over 120,000 new jobs statewide. And for the first 9 months of 1988, the unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since 1973. In fact, several corporations from a well-known State up north—it's a place called Massachusetts- [laughter] —have been moving some of their business and operations out of the Northeast and down here to the Research Triangle. Now, how's that for high-tech Tarheel know-how? [Laughter]

Of course, you know that the Research Triangle Park is also home to one of our most distinguished Americans. And just this week—I know he is here in the place today—he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. And he's with us here: Dr. George Hitchings.

And now, what we've done with the economy is very important, and it must continue, 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 and that gives America her conscience and that serves as the cradle of our country's soul.

I've often said there really are only two things the liberals don't understand: the things that change and the things that don't change. [Laughter] The economy, technology-these things change. But America's basic moral and spiritual values—they don't change.

Now, let me just give you an example of the difference between our values and theirs. The liberals recently proposed a Federal child-care assistance program. Sounds all right so far. But under their program, if you want assistance and wish to leave your children with their grandmothers, the grandmothers would have to be licensed by the Federal Government. Audience members. Booo!

The President. Now, one of the liberal congressional staff members behind the bill was asked by a reporter—after I said that the first time—was that true? And the reply came that, well, of course, it's true. After all—and here's his quote—"How else can you design a program that receives Federal funds?" [Laughter] Licensing grandmothers—can you believe that? [Laughter] The next thing you know, they'll say that barbecuing ribs is an environmental hazard. [Laughter]

Another area where we differ is crime. We've appointed serious-minded judges who respect the Constitution and know the meaning of the word punishment. Violent crime has fallen significantly since 1981 because we put criminals on notice: Make a false move and the next sound you hear is the clang of a jail cell door closing. George Bush and I also believe that a crack dealer with a machinegun who murders a police officer in the line of duty should receive the death penalty. 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.

But what about the liberals? They oppose the death penalty. They oppose it absolutely and in every case. And sometimes they seem to care more about the rights of criminals than the rights of victims. And if you ask me, we don't need to see the job of the police made any tougher by the kind of furloughing of first-degree murderers, even those ineligible for parole, that we've seen in the State of Massachusetts. That State has the most liberal prison program since Billy the Kid sprung the Lincoln County jail. [Laughter]

Besides fighting crime and restoring our economy, we also went to work on our nation's defenses. We're once again respected in the world. Our Armed Forces are strong, and America 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.

Now, I know that, here and there, there have been some people concerned that maybe our making some progress with them means that I've turned somehow inside myself and perhaps not being as watchful as I should be about our Soviet neighbors. And that's not true. I just have one slogan that guides me. It's an old American slogan: Trust everybody, but cut the cards. [Laughter]

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 that Soviet threat. They opposed the liberation of Grenada. They opposed the raid on terrorist Libya. They oppose our policy of helping freedom fighters advance the cause of liberty around the world. Well, Vice President Bush and I did all those things, and I tell you proudly right now: We'd both do every single one of them over again.

And there's something else we've done that I'm particularly proud about. And that's pushing ahead in our efforts to protect the United States and the world from the threat of a nuclear attack by means of our program called SDI, the Strategic Defense Initiative. Now, a lot of the research into SDI goes on around here in the Research Triangle area. And, ladies and gentlemen, we've been so successful, so wildly successful, in our research and advances that we've slashed an incredible $46 billion-that's almost half—off the projected cost of our most promising freedom. And that's with funding levels I barely consider adequate to the task ahead. All I can say is one word: Wow! [Laughter] Let me assure you of this: SDI is no fantasy—it's a reality. And it's going to shape the future as long as there's a Republican in the White House.

But there's even more that we must do. We must go to battle to take the Hill-Capitol Hill, that is. You know that, like many of you, I'm a former Democrat. And it's often said that the once-proud Democratic Party of F.D.R. and Harry Truman is dead and gone; that the Democratic Party has been taken over by the left; that the departure from the mainstream, which we began to see at their 1968 convention, now defines the party at the national level, especially the liberal leadership in Congress. But there's something you should know. The party of F.D.R. and Harry Truman couldn't be killed. The party that represents people like you and me, that represents the majority of Americans—this party hasn't disappeared. The fact is, we're stronger than ever.

You see, the secret is that when the left took over the Democratic Party leadership, we took over the Republican Party. We made the Republican Party into the party of working people; the family; the neighborhood; the defense of freedom; and, yes, "one nation under God." So, you see, the party that so many of us grew up with still exists, except today it's called the Republican Party. And I'm asking all of you to come home and join me.

I say come home because the liberal leadership in Washington has replaced the idea of checks and balances with a philosophy of adversarial government. Now, when they lose in the national election, they fight a political guerrilla war for the next 4 years to block the policies that the American people have chosen at the ballot box. That's what the liberal Democrats have been doing in Congress for the last 8 years. Keeping the liberal Democrats in control of Congress is a certain formula for governmental gridlock and political paralysis.

Let me take an opinion poll of my own. When you vote Republican at the top of the ticket, will you also make sure to vote for the "Tiptop Tarheel Seven": Howard Coble, Alex McMillan, Cass Ballenger, and once again Tom Fetzer, Lyons Gray, Ted Blanton, and Charles Taylor? [Applause] And will you make sure to vote for a great guy who's running for Lieutenant Governor, Jim Gardner? [Applause] Will you make sure to cast your ballot for Sam Wilson for attorney general? [Applause] They all need you, and America needs them. Remember, it takes the President and Congress working together to move America forward. So, if we have to ride two horses at once, shouldn't they both be headed in the same direction? [Applause]

So, that's what's on the line this year and why the thousands of you here today—each and every one of you—have a responsibility to get the truth out all across the Tarheel State. Ladies and gentlemen, America needs the strength, the vision, and the true grit of George Bush, Jim Martin, and the "Tiptop Tarheel Seven." Express '88 is ready to leave the station, and it's time to tell all of America to come aboard.

Now, I'm going to stick my neck out here and say something that maybe would have you think I'm sticking my nose in your business. But having been a Governor for 8 years, and having had the advantage of the line-item veto—which I used 932 times and was never overridden once—I have a suggestion for all of you: Get these people I've mentioned here by name in office and get to the point where you can add a little something to your Governor's power and give him, first of all, the right of veto itself, which he presently does not have. And then you can stick that other line in front of it about "line-item" also. So far we haven't been able to get it.

Let me just say to you here—you know, I'll go back to something else. I've got a nasty habit now and a new hobby. It isn't a part of the speech, but I just can't help—I am collecting jokes that I can find are written by people in the Soviet Union, and they are told among themselves. And it reveals a great deal about their sense of humor, but also about the sort of cynicism with regard to their system. And every once in a while—before I leave and get some people like you together, I like to tell you one of those jokes. I told a couple to Gorbachev, and he laughed. [Laughter] But there are some I can't tell him; it would be tactless to tell him. [Laughter]

But one I did tell him—and I'll repeat to you—is this joke has an American and a Russian arguing about their systems. And the American said, "Look, I can go into the Oval Office and pound the President's desk, and say, 'Mr. President, I don't like the way you're running our country.'" And the Russian said, "I can do that." The American said, "You can?" He says, "Yes. I can go into the Kremlin, in the General Secretary's office, pound his desk, and say, 'Mr. General Secretary, I don't like the way President Reagan's running his country.'" [Laughter] Well, thank you all, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:05 a.m. at the Raleigh Civic Center. He was introduced by Gov. James Martin. In his remarks, the President referred to James Broyhill, former Senator from North Carolina; James Holshouser, former Governor of North Carolina; Senator Jesse Helms; Jack Hawke, chairman of the State Republican Party; James Gardner, candidate for Lieutenant Governor; and Representatives Howard Coble, J. Alex McMillan, and Cass Ballenger. Following his remarks, the President traveled to Bowling Green, KY.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Republican Campaign Rally in Raleigh, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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