Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Republican Party Fundraising Dinner in Detroit, Michigan

October 07, 1988

Thank you, John Engler and Randolph Agley, Charles Yob, Spence Abraham, and a real chip off the old block, Phillip Fisher. And thank you, Heinz Prechter, for that kind introduction and for the great job you and your team and everyone in this hall have done these past 8 years. You and Michigan came through for our party in 1980. You and Michigan came through, yes, in 1984. And I'd bet my bottom dollar you and Michigan will come through again when November 8th rolls around.

And that's even more true now that someone I know and respect came through for us and all America the other night. I have to say I wasn't surprised. Sure, the Washington establishment was betting against him, but I can tell you the smart money was riding on a great Senator by the name of Dan Quayle. I'll tell you, he got my vote. How about yours? [Applause]

Well, it's a real pleasure to be here for a tribute to a great Detroiter, a great Republican, a great American, Max Fisher. To put it simply, the man is a legend. He's been an adviser, a supporter, and a friend not only to me but to dozens and dozens of others who would not have made it very far without Max's guidance.

You all know that Max Fisher is an important man, but I'm not sure you know just how important. I remember when I was here at the Joe Louis Arena 8 years ago for a little party you all probably remember called the Republican National Convention. At that convention, I was honored to receive the Republican nomination for President, and after I finished delivering my acceptance speech, many of you crowded onto the podium along with my family, my friends, and Republicans who shared in that magical moment. I have to say it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Now, a friend of mine was sitting in a hotel lounge in California, watching the proceedings on television and feeling kind of moved, he said. And while he was watching, a fellow who was there turned to him and asked, "Say, mister, who are all those people up on the podium with Max Fisher?" [Laughter]
Well, I didn't really mind. After all, Max is one of the few men who's been around longer than I have. [Laughter] Max is a loyal, longtime Republican. In fact, he saw the light a lot earlier than I did. After all, it's no secret I used to be a Democrat before I saw the light—only when I saw the light I had to ask Tom Edison, "What in the Sam Hill is that thing, anyway?" [Laughter]

Max has always seen Detroit through its ups and downs, and he's lived to see his city fight back and move forward, in no small measure due to his efforts. And today he has every reason to be proud, because if you ask me, Detroit is America's renaissance city.

Max has seen them come and seen them go, like I have, and I'd wager that he was as impressed as I was by a certain speech given a couple of months ago in New Orleans. It was one of the finest pieces of oratory I've ever heard, given by one of the finest men I've ever known, a fellow by the name of George Bush.

Now, some people want to talk this year, I understand, 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 U.N., 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.

And that's the kind of competence we need as we move onward. Our party looks to the future—a future of continued growth, a future of expanded opportunity, a future of peace. And after watching the debate the other night, I know the Bush-Quayle ticket will continue the policies of peace and prosperity that have, as Dan said, made this great nation "the envy of the world." I hear some people say we've grown complacent, that it's time for a change. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are the change. We began it 8 years ago.

Let me talk a little about that change. We're in the 71st 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. Let me speak a second about those regulations. When I came in and sat in that Oval Office, one of my first chores was to name George Bush as the chairman of a committee to get into how we could reduce and eliminate many of the Federal regulations. Where was George? He was in charge of that commission that today—we estimate that today the regulations that had been reduced have resulted in a savings of 600 million man-hours a year that no longer have to be applied to government-required paperwork.

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. The result's 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 soon the American people will be investing in a new option for the American engine. I call it the George Bush turbocharger. [Laughter] And when that happens, all I can say is: Put the pedal to the metal, and watch America go.

We've been doing some work, too. And we don't just talk; we deliver. 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 when government intermediate-range nuclear missiles were pointed 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 liberals are singing the same song now they sang then, and it sure isn't "Don't Worry, Be Happy." [Laughter] It's more like "Please Worry, Be Miserable." [Laughter]

Remember the misery index? You get it by adding the rate of unemployment to the rate of inflation. Jimmy Carter invented it as a stick to beat Jerry Ford with in 1976. Well, during my predecessor's term that index rose from 13.4 percent in 1976 to 21 percent in 1980. And you know, he never brought it up in the 1980 election—I did. [Laughter] My friends, today it's less than 10 percent, and it's been shrinking faster than Walter Hudson, that 1,200-pound man in New York who just lost 700 pounds. [Laughter]

Now, if only we could get Congress to follow Walter's example and cut the fat out of their diet. [Laughter] And I want you to know when I'm talking here about this there are four of your Congressmen I know here in the audience—and we want them back in Washington—and present company is excepted from the things that I'm saying right here. I think we ought to put Congress on a diet: a diet called the line-item veto and the balanced budget amendment.

Yes, today we have peace and prosperity, and the liberals are trying to pretend those economic and foreign policy nightmares they gave us never happened. Well, they may think they've thrown the past down the memory hole, but there's a reason why the Republican symbol is an elephant. An elephant never forgets. And when you're talking about the "malaise" years, let me assure you the liberals—or let me assure the liberals, I should say, that I haven't forgotten and you haven't forgotten, and they can be sure the American people haven't forgotten either.

Still, you can hardly blame the liberals for trying to tell the country about how terrible everything is. After all, what issues do they have to run on? Take defense—they opposed the buildup of the military. They opposed the deployment of the missiles in Europe. They opposed the liberation of Grenada. They opposed the raid on 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 how proudly right now we'd both do every one of them over again.

Take crime—the liberals oppose the death penalty. They oppose it absolutely and in every case. We have fought to protect the noble men 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. And we say that a crack dealer with a machinegun who murders a police officer in the line of duty should give up his life as his punishment.

Now take the economy—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. That's the trend I'm most proud of, and that's what I see in this great State where the unemployment rate has fallen by a staggering 30 percent in just 9 months. And there's something else, something you don't often read in the newspapers. Today more Americans are at work. And the highest proportion of our labor force is employed than ever before in the history of this country. And job for job, the jobs we've created in our expansion pay better than the jobs that existed before our expansion began. How did we do it? By getting government out of the way and letting the American people do their thing, their stuff.

You know, in my job I visit many schools and factories, farms and communities around our country, and I get to see why our nation is so strong. Again and again I find myself remembering what General George C. Marshall said when he was asked why he was so confident that we would win the Second World War. Well, he said, "We have a secret weapon: the best blanketyblank kids in the whole world." Well, in our economy, we too have a secret weapon: the best blankety-blank men and women in the whole world. They're those kids that grew up since then. Yes, Michigan and America are going gangbusters!
The liberals are saying that they want to help the American middle class. And what they're planning to do for the American middle class is to tax them and tax them and then tax them some more. Well, if you ask me, the liberals are selling the middle class short. Every time the liberals 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.

Well, I say if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. And the problem is big spending. The solution is so simple only a liberal could miss it. [Laughter] We just have to spend less. What we've learned from hard experience—that big spending is as seductive as anabolic steroids. And I think 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.

Let me just say something about that. In this campaign, coming from one side, I'm getting sick and tired of hearing about my 7 years of deficit spending. The President of the United States can't spend a dime—only the Congress can spend money. And if we want to talk about the deficit and the Congress and all, in the last 58 years, the House of Representatives has been run by the other party 54 of those 58 years. And 48 of those 58 years, they've had both Houses of the Congress. And in the 50 years that ended in 1980, there had only been 8 years in which the budget had been balanced. And when some of us went public and complained about that and the deficit spending, we were told it was part of the Keynesian theory and it was necessary to maintain our prosperity.

Well, you know, they left out one part of the Keynesian theory. It's true he did say deficit spending by government, if need be, in times of recession to bring back the economy—stimulate the economy. But then he said, as soon as you've done that, you pay off the deficit and get back to balanced budgets. That's the part they neglected.

But to have the Congress so dominated-that's not checks and balances. The Democratic Presidents in these last 58 years-they've all had, except for a 4-year period, Republican Congresses that Republican—or Democratic Congresses—what am I saying? And the Republican Presidents in all of these years—they've only had Republican Congresses for 2 of their years and that was 2 years during Ike Eisenhower's term.

So, you've all got to do everything you can here in Michigan, and that means getting our message out for a tough-as-nails guy who's running a tough-as-nails race and will make a great Senator—Jim Dunn.

What it all comes down to is a clash of principles, of values, and 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're confident that we're right. We're confident that our cause is just. So, let us go then, Let's take our message of 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 let them know that we are the change. And that change will continue if the people go to the polls and do what they should and vote for that ticket of ours and for our House of Representatives, the Congressmen who are here, for our Senatorial candidates, and continue us in charge of this recovery that has been going on. And it is the longest sustained recovery in the history of the United States.

So, I thank you, and I thank again that citizen that you honor here tonight, Max Fisher.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 6:42 p.m. in the Renaissance Ballroom at the Westin Renaissance Center. He was introduced by Heinz Prechter, president of American Sunroof Corp. In his opening remarks, he referred to Senator John Engler, majority leader of the Michigan State Senate; Randolph Agley, president of Talon Corp.; Charles Yob, president of Industrial Belting Supply; E. Spencer Abraham, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party; Phillip Fisher, an investor, and Max Fisher, a philanthropist. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Republican Party Fundraising Dinner in Detroit, Michigan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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