Remarks at a Republican Party Campaign Fundraiser in St. Louis, Missouri
Thank you all, and thank you, Governor Ashcroft. And a special thank you to Senator Kit Bond and Senator Jack Danforth; Congressman Jack Buechner; our new State chairman, Tom Fowler—congratulations, Tom—and our outgoing State chairman, Hillard Selka. And congratulations to you, Hillard, for having done such a great job. And let me also say that a friend of mine asked me to pass on a hello to his brother, "Bucky" Bush. [Laughter] But I'm pleased to be here today to speak for a great team, our Republican candidates running here in Missouri this year, including Governor John Ashcroft, Senator Jack Danforth, our Republican congressional delegation and—since as Vice President he's already President of the Senate—for President George Bush.
In the last 8 years, as our administration cut interest rates to half of what they were and inflation to a third, as we set America on the path of the longest peacetime expansion in our history, and as we negotiated the first real reduction in Soviet and U.S. nuclear missiles in world history—as we did all this, no one has been a better ally in the Senate than Kit Bond and Jack Danforth. And as we've worked to restore a respect for basics in American education—mastery of fundamental skills, respect for bedrock moral values, an emphasis on achievement-no Governor has done more to blaze the trail than Governor John Ashcroft. And as we've fought a liberal mentality that said there was safety in weakness, as we've worked to restore America's strength, no delegation on the House side has been more steadfast in supporting us than the Missouri Republicans. I only wish we had a few more of them. [Laughter]
Yes, we've come a long way; and yet, my friends, I must tell you that everything we've done these last 8 years, everything, could be lost faster than you can say the Pledge of Allegiance. [Laughter] Our opponents this year are the masked marvels of American politics. Their every word covers the extreme liberal face of their agenda. When they say "opportunity," they mean "subsidies." When they say "closing the deficit," they mean "raising taxes." When they talk about a "strong defense," they mean "cutting defense spending." Yes, and yet hard as they try to hide, the liberals give themselves away when they say that if they're elected, "the Reagan era will be over."
What do you suppose they mean? [Laughter] 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 more than 17 1/2 million new jobs, reduced unemployment to nearly the lowest it's been in 14 years, 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-maybe you don't know the definition for that, "potential work force." That is everyone, male and female, from the age of 10 and up, in the United States. And a greater proportion of that work force is employed than ever before in the history of the United States of America. And you think about how many' people in the younger levels of that potential pool are still getting an education and so forth, and then stop to think that almost two-thirds of that whole pool is today employed here in the United States.
And yet our opponents say it's time for this era to be over. When we talk about rising real family income, they reply that family income is no higher now than it was in 1968. Well, first, they're wrong about that. By our best measurement it's 18 percent higher today than it was 20 years ago. But still, it's a strange thing for them to bring up. After all, do they really want us to remind people that between 1977 and 1981—I don't know why I picked those years— [laughter] —the after-inflation income of the typical American family fell by almost 7 percent, or that since then it's risen by more than 10 percent?
They dismiss our accomplishments in education. And again, that's strange. Do they really want to remind Americans that when they last controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House, the SAT scores—those scores for proving qualification to get into college—fell steadily, or that since our back-to-basics campaign got rolling around the country, those SAT scores, as they're called, have begun to rise again? And let me add, we won't be satisfied until they're back where they were at their peak and still going up.
They deride our war on drugs—stranger still. You wouldn't think they'd want us to remember that during the last liberal administration the Justice Department started to lose interest in narcotics cases. Each year it brought fewer cases, and convictions were down by one-third in their last year in office. Well, since we took charge, Federal narcotics convictions have more than doubled. And while the number of drug users soared during the last administration, it's dropping now. And earlier this year we got the best news of all: High school students are saying no to drugs, including cocaine, as never before. But as a certain lovely lady keeps reminding me, as long as even one American uses illegal drugs, that number will still be too high.
Incidentally, maybe I can tell you a little story that you might not know. That whole movement of Just Say No to Drugs—that started when Nancy was speaking to a group of schoolchildren out in Oakland, California, and a little girl stood up and said: "Well, what do we do? What do we say when someone offers us drugs?" Well, Nancy said, "Just say no." And today there are over 12,000 Just Say No clubs in the schools across the Nation.
Our opponents talk about the courts. But do they really want to remind the Nation of the kind of judges they have appointed in the past—or that we have worked to place on the bench judges and justices who are not just concerned about the rights of criminals but also about those of the victims of crime?
And our opponents talk about competitiveness. Do they want to remind people that when they were last in office, manufacturing productivity increases slowed to a crawl—or that since we came to office, productivity is up sharply, by over 30 percent, and that America is exporting more than almost any time in history?
As I announced earlier today, the Department of Commerce released the latest trade figures early this morning. I know that they've made Jack Danforth, who's been one of the Senate's leaders in helping us open up international markets, very happy. Yes, in July the trade imbalance dropped like a stone. So far this year it's down nearly one-fifth from the same period last year. Exports are up, imports down, and the American worker is tops in the world.
This year the liberal opposition has fielded candidates who don't know left from center. [Laughter] Many of them talk about reaching for the center; but on issues like national defense, as former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger wrote recently, too many of their candidates seem to believe that, and in his words, "the way to deter war is to be unprepared to respond." They would cut the B-1 bomber, the Midgetman missile, our Strategic Defense Initiative, and wipe out two carrier battle groups in our 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]
So, you tell me, when the liberals try to tell the American people they won't raise taxes, but fail to mention the new spending programs they've promised every liberal special interest group in Washington, are we going to stand by and let them get away with it? When the liberal leadership tried to portray themselves as the newly ordained champions of law and order, but forgets that they have to mention that they've given a virtual veto power over the Supreme Court appointments to fellow liberals like the Civil Liberties Union, are we going to stand by and let them get away with it?
Audience members. No!
The President. When the liberal leadership tried to tell the American people that they're the party of peace, but forgets to admit they jeopardized the chance for peace and tried to tie my hands in arms negotiations by favoring a nuclear freeze, cutting defense, and gutting SDI, are we going to let them get away with it?
Audience members. No!
The President. I thought you might object. [Laughter] I wonder how they believe that we got where we've gotten in the three summit meetings with the General Secretary of the Soviet Union if it wasn't by strengthening our defense and making it plain that we would continue to do so as long as it was necessary to remain— [applause] .
Yes, my friends, when our liberal opponents refuse to even whisper the "L" word and insist that "this election is not about ideology, it's about competence," they're just acknowledging that where they want to take America, America doesn't want to go. They know, as well as you do, and as well as our nation does, that the one issue, the only issue, that will matter after Inauguration Day is the issue of direction. Will we reelect peace and prosperity? Or will we play "Truth or Consequences" with trenchcoat liberals?
Now, let me say a word about a Bush administration, and it's very simple. There's one way that I hope it will be different from ours. If it hadn't been for a Republican Senate in our first 6 years, we wouldn't have accomplished half of what we did. If we'd had one these last 2 years, we could have done much more. But today, with the other party in control of both Houses, we face a monkey-wrench Congress determined to throw almost anything into the gears of government to gum up the works.
Some people say that having both Houses of Congress in the hands of the other party is a check on the President. But from what I've seen, when both Houses are in the hands of our opponents, there is very little a President can do to check them. That's why I've wanted a line-item veto—to help the President rein in Congress. But until the President gets such a veto, he must have at least one House in his own party if he's effectively to check congressional powers.
I hope that we can make sure that George Bush has more friends on Capitol Hill than he had on that Pacific island where he was shot down. You know, if you do know some people—and I know some that really honestly think that, the Congress being the way it is, that that's a part of our checks and balances. The people nationwide elect the President—the only office, that and Vice President, elected by the entire public. But then they turn around and let a Congress come in that is pledged not to let the elected President do the things he said he was going to do and for which he was elected.
And if it's checks and balances, isn't it funny that in the last 56 years, 52 of those years the Congress—or the House of Representatives has been Democratic? And 46 of those years, they've had both Houses of the Congress. I had that 6 that I mentioned. Now, isn't it strange? The only Republican President in these 56 years who had a Republican Congress was Eisenhower, for 2 of his 8 years. But the Democrats have had a Democratic Congress for Democrat Presidents for 34 years out of this period, where if they've had the Presidency for 34 years, they've had a Democratic Congress for 32. Harry Truman had 2 years of Republicans and never got over it. [Laughter]
Well, there's no better way to start helping George Bush in the way that I said than to return Jack Danforth to the United States Senate and to elect our Republican congressional candidates to the House. Now, nothing would please me more than for President Bush to have on Inauguration Day a gift—a Republican Congress. And I'd also like it if he knew that when he needed a view from a statehouse he could turn to a reelected Governor John Ashcroft.
Your slogan here is "Missouri is a Must," and it is. We must win Missouri this year f all those who stand for what we stand for are to be able to stop playing defensive ball in Washington. And that just doesn't mean just the top of the ticket. It means Governor Ashcroft. It means Senator Danforth. It means our congressional candidates—every one. So, here's my request to you—I enjoy saying this: Go out and win one for the Gipper.
Thank you very much, and God bless you all. And now I have to go back to Washington before it gets in more trouble while we're gone.
Note: The President spoke at 6:15 p.m. in the King Louis IX Ballroom at the Omni Hotel. Following his remarks, he returned to Washington, DC.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Republican Party Campaign Fundraiser in St. Louis, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/252529