Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Senate Campaign Fund-raising Luncheon for Linda Chavez in Baltimore, Maryland

October 15, 1986

Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here with you in support of a courageous and hard-working individual, the type of person you will be proud to have as your United States Senator—Linda Chavez.

You know, coming in this way, as we have at this time, reminds me of a little story. You know, as time goes on, more things do remind you of stories. [Laughter] This has to be an event back in ancient Rome. Now, I wasn't there in person, but- [laughter] —there were a group of Christians thrown into the Coliseum, and the hungry lions turned loose. And before the lions could attack, they were moving toward the Christians. One Christian stood up and said something, and the lions stopped their advance, laid down, never made a move. Well, the crowd was angry, and they threw rocks at the lions and shouted, and nothing would happen. And Nero finally called the Christian leader up to find out what he had said. And he simply said, "I just told them that there would be speeches after the meal." [Laughter]

Seriously, though, it is an honor for me to be here. Linda, as you are aware, used to work for me in the White House, and now she wants to work for you. Do us both a favor: Give her the job. She's worth it. Linda will follow in the tradition of outstanding Republican Members of Congress from Maryland: Mac Mathias, Helen Bentley, and Marjorie Holt—I've respected them all. And I'll miss Marjorie next year. But the COP has a great candidate to succeed her, State Representative Bob Neall. He's got some mighty big shoes to fill, but I know he can do it. Connie Morella is also running in the 8th district, and I hope you will send Bob and Connie to help me in Congress.

When Linda worked in the White House, and even before, she was an aggressive advocate for a strong, opportunity-filled America. And that's the vision that unites us. Linda, as a wife and mother of three, has a special stake in the future of Maryland and our country. Linda, for example, has a deep appreciation for the significance of education, not as a political issue, but as a crucial part of our children's lives. As a former teacher and the former editor of a prestigious academic journal, Linda knows that achieving excellence in education—and we should settle for nothing less—depends on getting the parents—break it?— [laughter] —depends on getting—that should have done it. [The President referred to an object dropped by a member of the audience.] [Laughter] [Inaudible]—the parents and the community involved, returning discipline to our schools, improving standards, and recognizing the importance of traditional values. She offers leadership, not easy answers; solutions, not slogans.

All this is in stark contrast to her wily, liberal opponent who still talks like Federal spending is the answer to just about every problem, and never seems to mention the Federal controls that come with those Federal dollars or just who, when all is said and done, pays the bill. Well, I think the days of the big spenders are over. The last thing America needs is another liberal Senator congenitally unable to say no to the special interest groups. This November 1 predict the voters all over this country, including Maryland, are going to give thumbs-down to the last remnants of the tax-and-tax and spend-and-spend crowd—sending them the way of the Edsel, the hula hoop, and the all-asparagus diet.

In these last 5 1/2 years we've struggled to overcome the legacy of the last decade, when liberals dominated American Government. It's time to close that sad, irresponsible chapter once and for all. In Maryland that means electing a Senator of the future, rather than an advocate of the failed policies of the past. Linda's opponent, as is clear from her voting record and from her positions in this campaign, still has this same tax, spend, and inflate mind-set. Her election to the Senate could well give control of that august body to the over-the-hill gang that gave our country murderous inflation, sky-high interest rates, business decline, ever-increasing taxes, and swelling unemployment. Does anyone really want to go back to those bad old days?

This is a make-or-break election. Losing control of the Senate will mean more than just economic hardship for our people. The safety of our neighborhoods and the security of our country are also at stake. Linda's opponent can't even get herself to vote for a limited use of the death penalty for certain drug-related murders. This permissive attitude is one of the root causes for the crime epidemic that plagues this country. And pardon me, but I think America has had about enough of this kind of lighter-than-air liberalism. As a United States Senator, Linda can be counted on to support the appointment of tough law-and-order judges. We don't need a bunch of sociology majors on the bench. We need strong judges who'll do everything they can within the law to protect you and your families, and to put criminals where they belong—behind bars.

Perhaps one of the greatest responsibilities of any elected official is to see to the security needs of the United States. Back in the 1970's, when Linda's opponent and the other disciples of weakness were running the show, they permitted America's military strength to erode. Do you know that on any given day half our military planes couldn't take off for lack of spare parts; half of our naval vessels couldn't leave port, either for lack of the same kind of parts or lack of crew? Linda Chavez was part of a team that has been rebuilding America's military strength. It would be hard to find a Member of Congress who more consistently opposed our efforts to meet America's security needs than Linda's opponent. Had her views carried the day during these last 5 1/2 years, we would have no B-1 bomber, no MX missile, no nuclear modernization in Europe, no modernization of our conventional forces anywhere.

Forty-eight hours after we came home from Reykjavik, however, some on Capitol Hill were already promising to take a meat ax and chop up America's Strategic Defense Initiative, which is exactly what Mr. Gorbachev is hoping that Congress will do. Let me state it plainly: It would be a terrible tragedy for this country and for our children's future if those on Capitol Hill opposed to SDI are allowed to hand over to the Soviet Union, free of charge, what we refused to hand over across the negotiating table in Reykjavik. SDI is America's insurance policy that the Soviets will begin living up to the arms control agreements that they've agreed to. SDI is one of the chief reasons the Soviets went to the summit and one of the primary reasons they'll come back again. SDI is the key to a world free of nuclear blackmail. Don't let liberals in Congress throw it away. And if we have a new Congress with leaders like Linda Chavez, we will never throw it away.

Today I urge the voters of Maryland and the voters of this nation to ask each of their candidates this question: Where do you stand on defending America? Where do you stand on SDI? Well, you know where Linda Chavez stands—squarely behind SDI. And I'm pleased to say that many Democrats on Capitol Hill are also standing with us. Where does Linda's opponent stand? Does she repudiate those trying to kill SDI, or does she stand with those who are trying to build a system that protects people and doesn't kill them—because that's where Linda Chavez stands.

With Linda Chavez on our team, and with the support of you, the people, America has made great strides in these last 5 1/2 years. The United States has again resumed its leadership role. The Western alliance is again united, unified, and confident. The forces of freedom are on the move. One thing I'm especially proud of: In these last 5 1/2 years, not 1 square inch of territory has been lost to communism. In fact, one small country, Grenada, has been returned to the family of free nations.

The future is up to us. Linda Chavez believes in meeting challenges, rather than ignoring them. In Central America, for example, Linda supports our efforts to provide our friends what they need to defend themselves against Communist aggression. Linda's opponent would by default, by doing nothing, permit that area to fall under Soviet domination. Linda's opponent actually voted against military aid to the fledgling democracy in El Salvador. I remember when we first came here—El Salvador struggling against the Communist guerrillas and how many people of the liberal bent were saying we should just turn our backs on that. We had no business trying to be of any help to them. And today they're a democracy. Linda's opponent actually voted against military aid, as I say, to that fledgling democracy. Had her view held sway, the people of El Salvador might be under the heel of a Communist dictatorship right now; the rest of Central America, perhaps even Mexico, might be in turmoil; and a flood of refugees could well be headed toward our southern border.

What we need is a Senator who will work to avert crisis, not perpetuate it—an individual with the knowledge, foresight, and courage to do the right thing now, so future generations of America can enjoy the blessings of peace and freedom. I know there's been a lot of talk lately that Linda didn't always believe these things. Well, I used to be an active member of that other party, too. You know, it reminds me of the story of the little boy who was selling puppies just outside a Democratic fund-raising dinner. And as the people came out of the dinner, he was holding up a puppy and giving his pitch: "Democrat puppies for sale. Anybody want a Democrat puppy?" And 2 weeks later the Republicans held a fundraiser in the same place. And one of the journalists saw this same lad outside selling Republican puppies. And he called him on it. He said, "Hey, 2 weeks ago those were Democrat puppies. What do you mean now they're Republican puppies?" The kid says, "Now they've got their eyes open." [Laughter] Well, we've got our eyes open now.

In the next 3 weeks, it behooves all of us to open the eyes of our fellow citizens as to what is at stake in this election. In Linda Chavez, we have a standard bearer to be proud of. An American of Hispanic descent, her life reflects the America we believe in—a land where every individual is free to follow his or her star, a land where people who work hard can go as far and as high as their talents will take them.

This year there's a race for Governor where two women are facing each other. Here in Maryland, two women are running for the Senate. This is a long way from the days of Ginger Rogers. [Laughter] Ginger Rogers' partner, Fred Astaire—he was getting all the credit. And suddenly he began to realize Ginger was doing the same thing on high heels and backward. [Laughter] Today Linda offers her talent, hard work, and dedication to the people of Maryland. And for Maryland's sake, and for our country's sake, I hope you do everything in your power to help her win. Maryland and America deserve the best.

And let me just conclude with another word about this thing of parties. I know that even in this gathering, and in this place, there must be many who have been, as we have been, members of the other party or who perhaps still are. But all across the country I've been speaking to groups in which that was true, because all across the country there are millions of fine, patriotic Democrats who are totally out of step with the liberal leadership of their party. And that's what we're talking about; not the rank and file that want the same things that we want—that want a limited government, that want freedom for the people, that want a strong United States, that want an end to make-work programs that waste our money and that don't provide.

Do you know that the method of discussing unemployment and employment in our country has to do with what is called the available labor pool? And that, in our country, is defined as everyone, male and female, from 16 years of age on up for the ultimate limit. And today 61.3 percent of that available pool is employed, which is the highest percentage in the history of our country.

And so when I was talking about our opponents, I'm talking about that leadership that still doesn't realize it's out of step with its own rank-and-file members. We offer a home for those rank-and-file members because they believe as we do in an America that offers freedom and opportunity—a united America. So, welcome aboard. I can't help but tell you how I reregistered. I discovered that I could no longer go along with the leadership, but I hadn't been able to bring myself to reregister yet. And yet the Republicans were all taking me for granted—I was speaking at their fund-raisers and so forth. And one evening speaking to one such gathering, a woman out in the middle of the audience stood up right in the middle of my speech and says, "Have you reregistered yet?" And I said, "Well, no, but I'm going to." She said, "I'm a registrar. [Laughter] Came right down the center aisle, put the papers on the podium, and I signed on and then said, "Now, where was I?" [Laughter]

But thank you all. And listen, you send these candidates that I've mentioned. But above all, we could not have accomplished any of the things that have been accomplished in these 5½ years if we had not had control of at least one House of the Legislature, the United States Senate. You send Linda there and make sure that we still have control of that legislative body.
Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:34 p.m. at Festival Hall. Following his remarks, he attended a reception for major donors to Ms. Chavez' campaign at the hall. He then returned to Washington, DC.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Senate Campaign Fund-raising Luncheon for Linda Chavez in Baltimore, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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