Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Republican Party Fundraiser in Chicago, Illinois

September 30, 1988

Thank you very much. And, Jim, I thank you for that introduction. And thank you, Mike Galvin and Dick Morrow. And I'd like to say hello to Congresswoman Lynn Martin, who happens to be the Congresswoman where my hometown is—or was. And my valued friend and old colleague, Howard Baker. And again, a special thank you to Jim Thompson for that marvelous introduction. Jim, you're a great guy and an even greater Governor and a man who gives new meaning to an old phrase—because unlike some Governors, Jim, you took the Pledge. [Laughter]

Now, they tell me I'm standing right in front of the pork bellies pit here. [Laughter] That's funny, I never knew Congress spent time in Washington—or in Chicago, I should say. [Laughter] They spend time in Washington—and spend it and spend it. [Laughter] Actually, I might have to revise my opinion of Congress if that were true, because anyone with half a brain knows that this is one of the world's great towns. A city that's home to Saul Bellow and Allan Bloom and Ernie Banks and yes, Number 34, Sweetness itself, Walter Payton. Let me tell you something about that town: It ain't no Second City!

Of course, it's not exactly the same place it was in the old days. I remember hearing about a fellow who was assigned to be a precinct watcher on election day here. He saw a fellow walk in and vote and walk out. And then the same fellow came in again, only this time with a different hat [laughter] —and voted. And then he came in again, only this time with a different sport coat on, and voted. And the first fellow went up to the precinct captain and said, "Hey, I think that man voted three times already." And the precinct captain said, "Three times? That's impossible. He's not even dead yet." [Laughter]

Seriously, it's a great pleasure to be here on the floor of the Merc because this is a place devoted to the future. And believe me, when you've had as much past as I have, you just love the future. [Laughter] Just think, only a few hours ago traders and brokers were waving their arms, screaming themselves hoarse, betting on the future. Come to think of it, they were a lot like the crowd in New Orleans during and after one of the finest speeches I've ever heard, given by one of the finest men I've ever known, a fellow by the name of George Bush.

Some people want to talk this year about competence. Well, I say, fine, let's talk about competence. I just happen to think that the youngest flier in the Navy with 58 combat missions, the Texas wildcatter who made his own way in the world, the Republican Congressman from Houston, the chairman of the Republican Party, the de facto Ambassador to China, the Ambassador to the United Nations, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Vice President of the United States has it just about wrapped up in the competence department. We've all seen what a brilliant job he's done in the past, and I can promise you he's going to do an even better job in the future.

Looking ahead to the future is something George Bush has in common with the people who work on this floor. It's also something he has in common with all of you and with the Republican Party as a whole. You know, it used to be that being a Republican in Cook County was a little bit like being Elliot Ness in "The Untouchables"— [laughter] —outnumbered in a big way. But more and more Chicagoans are beginning to realize that if you want to go with a future of opportunity, economic growth, and peace through strength, there's only one place to turn: the party of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party.

But I'm delighted to see so many new faces in this room, a sign of the change in Republican fortunes in Cook County. And of course, there are two fellows here who really have seen the light, men of vision and tenacity, Jim O'Grady and Ed Vrdolyak. They saw the light and came aboard, which is fine by me. It's no secret I used to be a Democrat before I saw the light, too. Only when I saw the light, I had to ask Tom Edison, "What in heck is that thing, anyway?" [Laughter]

George and our party look to the future-a future of continued growth, a future of expanded opportunity, a future of peace. I hear some people say it's time for a change. Well, ladies and gentlemen: We are the change. We began the change 8 years ago.

Now, let me talk a little bit about that change: We're in the 70th straight month of economic recovery. We've been dedicated to slashing taxes and liberating the American economy from the regulations and confiscations of the "malaise" years. When we came into office, families everywhere were reeling from tax rates that were sapping this nation's initiative. We took that money out of the grasping hands of the Washington bureaucrats and put it back in the wallets of the people from whom they confiscated it in the first place: the working men and women of America.

But you know, I have to interrupt myself right here with just a little anecdote from my previous days as Governor of California. I came into a situation there as Governor that was about the same as I came into in Washington a few years ago. But the difference between the two parties is evidence of this. We began to have surpluses, and about the fourth surplus was the biggest. And each time that we had a surplus, we gave it back to the people by way of the tax system. Well, this fourth one was big enough, and each time I would have to—I'd find out first that we were going to have a surplus so that I could go public and tell the people what we were going to do with it.

I had a Democratic legislature, and then they couldn't quite take on the people after they'd heard that I was giving them back the money. [Laughter] And this particular day, a leader—Democratic leader in the senate—stormed into my office and hit my desk. And he said, "Mr. President, giving that money back to the people is an unnecessary expenditure of public funds." [Laughter] I think that kind of sums up the difference between our two philosophies.

The result has been astounding. In the past years, we've seen an explosion of hard work and innovation across this country, people putting their shoulders to the wheel and shifting their entrepreneurial energies into overdrive. And now more Americans are at work today, an amazing 62.7 percent of all—this is what is considered to be the potential employment pool—of all Americans, male and female, from age 16 and up. And 62.7 percent of that group have jobs.

But we didn't stop there. We've gone to work ourselves on the educational system, encouraging the return to basics and demanding nothing less than excellence. Excellence isn't just a good grade: It's a philosophy that says, "You must do your best because that is what it means to be an American." Excellence—that's our goal, and we're going to get it!

We've gone to work on our judicial system, appointing 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 America's crooks on notice: Make a false move, and the next sound you hear is the clang of a jail cell slamming shut.

We've gone 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!

America has traveled such a remarkable distance in the last 8 years that the memory has faded of the economic and foreign policy crises that we faced when Vice President Bush and I took office. The last time so many things went wrong all at once was right after Mrs. O'Leary's cow decided to do the cancan. [Laughter]

Yes, let's take a little journey back to the years before George Bush and I were sent to Washington. In just one year, 1979, Iran, Nicaragua, and Grenada were all lost. Our Ambassador to Afghanistan was murdered by Communist gunmen, and that country invaded by Soviet troops. And add to that what was going on at home.

The misery index—which you determine by adding the rate of inflation to the rate of unemployment. And that had been invented in the 1976 election, and it was used by candidate Carter—or President Carter against Jerry Ford. He used this because the misery index was 13.4, and he said no one has a right to ask to be President with a misery index that big. Well, that was in 1976. In 1980 they never mentioned the misery index, after their 4 years, because it was now 21 percent.

Well, today it's less than 10 percent, and it's been shrinking faster than Walter Hudson, the 1,200-pound man in New York who just lost 700 pounds. Now, if only we could get Congress to follow Walter's example. Maybe you didn't hear me a moment ago. He's that 1,200-pounder who's lost 700 pounds—if we could get Congress to follow Walter's example and cut the fat out of their diet. I think we ought to put them on a diet, a diet called the line-item veto and the balanced budget amendment. Now, you know when I'm talking about the Congress this way, present company is excepted- [laughter] —and a lot of her kind that are there on our side.

Well, back in 1979, Americans were waiting in lines a mile long to buy gasoline. And a President went on television that year to blame it all on the American people, telling them it was all their fault. They were suffering from some kind of malaise. Well, it wasn't the American people: It was the guys in Washington who had the malaise. And come 1980, those guys felt the winds coming in off the lake, and those winds blew them all the way back to Georgia.

Today we have peace and prosperity, and the liberals are trying to pretend those economic and foreign policy nightmares they gave us never happened. They're singing the same song they sang back then, and it sure isn't, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." [Laughter] It's more like, "Please Worry, Be Miserable." [Laughter]

You can hardly blame them for trying to convince the country that good news is actually bad news. After all, what issues do they have to run on? Take defense—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 raid on terrorist Libya. They oppose our policy of helping freedom fighters advance the cause of liberty around the world. George and I did all those things, and I'll tell you proudly right now: We'd both do every single one of them over again.

Well, now they're trying to get elected, and so they say the Nation's defenses are safe with us. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I've been Commander in Chief for almost 8 years now, and I've studied their record and their positions. And based on my research, I'm going forth with a message for the American people: When they talk about a strong defense, I don't buy it.

They oppose the death penalty, even for a crack dealer with a machinegun who murders a police officer in the line of duty. George and I fought to protect the noble men and women who protect us, and that means the death penalty for these vicious killers. 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.

But the liberals, like their flagship, the ACLU— [laughter] —often seem to concern themselves with the rights of criminals and forget about the rights of the citizens those criminals prey upon. But now they want to get elected, and so they claim they're tough on crime. Well, I've examined that record, and we've all got to go out and tell the American people: When they say they're tough on crime, don't you believe it.

The liberals opposed our tax cuts, our tax reform efforts, our economic program that slashed interest rates in half and put America back to work. Now they say they want to help the American middle class. And what they're planning to do for the American middle class is to tax them. Well, the traders on this floor would understand what they're doing, and it's a message we all have to bring to our fellow Americans: The liberals are selling the middle class short.

The liberals have been slashing away at our nation's defenses while passing budgetbusting bills through Congress—$87 billion here, $23 billion there; and as Everett Dirksen might have said, pretty soon you're talking about real money. [Laughter] Every time they see a problem, they think a big government program run by bureaucrats in Washington is the solution—the same bureaucrats who do so much to stifle individual initiative and economic growth.

I brought with me to Washington a little memory of what I had learned about a gentleman who had a job in Washington. He sat at a certain place, and documents and bills and so forth came to his desk. And he decided which department they should go to and initialed them and sent them on. And one day a classified paper came to his desk marked "secret." And he initialed it and sent it on. In 24 hours it came back to him with a memorandum attached that said, "You weren't supposed to see this. Erase your initials and initial the erasure." [Laughter] Well, now the liberals are talking about fiscal responsibility and how they'll pay America's debts. Well, once again, we've got to go out to the American people with a message: Don't look to a big spender to pay America's bills.

There's a solution to the spending crisis. That solution is so simple only a liberal could miss it. [Laughter] We just have to spend less. But big spending is as seductive as anabolic steroids, and it's time the big spenders were disqualified. We can accomplish that by giving George Bush what he needs to do the job: a new Congress, a better Congress, a Republican Congress. And people in this area can help get the job done by reelecting a terrific first-term Congressman from the Fourth District. He's got a tough race, but he's a tough-as-nails guy: Jack Davis. Send him back there.

We're working hard to solve the drug crisis in this country, but we're facing some resistance. Guess where? With the liberals on Capitol Hill, that's where. The House has passed a drug bill with a lot of good and tough provisions. But now that bill is stalled in the Senate. I tell you this: If the Senate were controlled by Republicans today, we'd already have signed into law that drug bill, and dealers and users everywhere would know this country stands united behind two powerful words: zero tolerance.

What it all comes down to is a clash of principles, of values, of visions. The liberals look at this country and see problems, woes, gloom and doom. And you know, that's the kind of thinking that can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. We look at this country, and we see expanded opportunities, a glorious future, a future in which this nation is strong, protected by land and sea and air and, yes, space—courtesy of the Strategic Defense Initiative. We look to the future and see a nation healthy, a nation strong, a nation at peace. I know all of you want to send the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl. Well, on November 8th, the American people will be sending the gloom-and-doom liberal bears into hibernation. [Laughter] And why? Because they know that we are bullish on America.

So, let us go then. Let's bring our messages and our optimism to every man, woman, and child across this great State and across this great nation. Let them know that a vote for us is a vote for peace, a vote for prosperity, and, yes, a vote for the future.

And I think I've kept you from dinner too long. I just want to say a thank you to all of you not only for your warm reception but also for what you're doing. And God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 7 p.m. on the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He was introduced by Gov. James R. Thompson. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Michael Galvin, Illinois Bush/Quartic campaign finance chairman; Richard Morrow, chairman of the reception; Howard H. Baker, Jr., former Chief of Staff to the President; writers Saul Bellow and Allan Bloom; former Chicago Cubs baseball player Ernie Banks; and Chicago Bears football player Walter J. Payton. The President also referred to James O'Grady, Cook County sheriff, and Edward R. Vrdolyak, Republican candidate for Cook County Circuit Court clerk.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Republican Party Fundraiser in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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