George Bush photo

Remarks at the Bush-Quayle Fundraising Dinner in Houston, Texas

October 31, 1991

Please be seated. And, Bob, thank you. Thank you for the superior and wonderful job you've done. You know, this is the very first event for the Bush-Quayle fundraising effort. And we wanted to start amongst friends, and we wanted to get somebody good, somebody effective to head this dinner. And I can't think of anybody better than Bob Cruikshank and all those up here and all those out there that have come through. It is wonderful beginning. And I'm grateful, and I know Dan is, to every single one of you.

I want to thank my Vice President, your Vice President and his marvelous wife, Marilyn. I can't begin to tell you of all the things he does. But I think the country now sees his substance and his value, and it's something I see every single day that I'm President as we take on a Congress that, frankly, needs a little leadership up there. I've heard him take the gloves off a little bit there, and that's fine. That suits the heck out of me.

I also want to say to Bob Mosbacher how grateful I am to have him at my side. I know all of you know him. Everybody in this room knows him as a friend. But I know him not just as a friend of longstanding but as an effective member of our Cabinet. And I can tell you, he is out there, domestically, and around the world promoting the American free enterprise system, looking after the interests of American investment, American jobs, here and abroad. And, Bob, I'm very grateful to you.

May I also thank Bobby Holt. Yes, Midland's out there somewhere. [Laughter] Holt is everywhere, and he's doing a wonderful job as our chairman, our national chairman, taking the role Bob Mosbacher had so successfully filled for us in the previous campaign.

Senator Phil Gramm, I agree with everything Dan Quayle said about him. I see him in action. And I'll tell you, when you have the minority in the Senate, when you have to play defense because of the numbers, you want a tenacious bulldog, free thinker, enterprising Senator at your side like Phil Gramm. I'm grateful to him every single day that I'm President.

I want to thank Willie Alexander for being with us, and Reverend Claude Payne, my pastor; Milo Hamilton, of course; and then the Aggies, the Texas A&M Singing Cadets. I don't know how they can still stay standing. This is about a 45-minute speech. Let's see how they do at the end of this one. [Laughter]

It's great to be back. Milo, one slight correction, you said I said, "There's so-and-so." I was looking at Red Adair, and I said, "There's that so-and-so." [Laughter]

You know, coming back here really does take you back in a sense to roots. I first became active in politics out in Odessa and Midland in `52 when I headed the Eisenhower-Nixon campaign, Barbara at my side. In '56, the same role. I think it was in that year that she and I conducted the very first primary that was ever held in Midland, Texas. Three people -- some of you have heard this story; it happens to be true -- three people voted all day in that precinct: Barbara, me, and one drunk that thought he was going to the Democratic precinct. [Laughter] And that's the gospel truth. [Laughter]

Then, I came down here to Texas, and early in the sixties I became Harris County Republican chairman. There, I think more than anyplace, Barbara and I first got a taste of what was to become a way of life for us. The party was small, very, very small in those days. And yet, the ideals and the ideas were sound: Fiscal sanity; people controlling their own destinies more; limited government; trust in the people; a compassionate, fair Government; strong defense; a country not afraid to lead. Those were some of the things that brought us together in this tiny party matrix 30 years ago in Harris County. And I must say, those are the same ideals that both Dan and I have, the same ideas that we believe in. Thirty years later, I still feel strongly about those principles and other fundamental principles that join us here tonight.

Lately, the opposition up there in Washington says we don't have an agenda. But I've noticed that their agenda for Congress is stopping our agenda for America. They are old thinkers, tired, old ideas, and all they want to do is block the agenda that I was elected to perform on by the American people. And I'm a little tired of it. You work your heart out for new ideas in trying to bring new systems to this country, and you face the old, same old tired liberal cliches in Washington, DC. We are pro-growth. We are pro-family. We are a pro-freedom agenda. And that is our agenda, to build a better America. And I wish we had more people in the Senate like Phil Gramm, and we'd be singing swiftly ahead, I'll tell you.

I was privileged to work with my dear friend, Hugh Liedtke, and others in starting two or three very small companies here in Texas. And I never forgot, and I never will forget that America owes to its small business men and women. That's one reason that, for over the last 3 years, I've fought against policies that would drive small business into the ground through Government mandates.

Every time you turn around, you've got some subcommittee chairman that's been there 30 years trying to mandate new benefits and tell some guy in Midland or Odessa how to run his life. And we're sick and tired of it. And next year, we're going to change it.

Dan Quayle has a committee trying to do something about overregulation. And you ought to hear them squirming over there in the House of Representatives, refusing to let him get his job done because they're thinking old, tired thoughts that the Federal Government ought to regulate every inch of your life. And we're tired of that one, too.

Look, I'll be the first to agree we need economic growth in this country. But we can't get it if Congress keeps piling on mandated benefits. Wonderful new programs designed by a subcommittee chairman in Washington, DC, telling everybody exactly how they're going to take their leave, what they're going to do about helping people in their neighborhoods. This isn't the way America ought to be operating. I have this wonderful sense that -- I get frustrated at times, but I've got this wonderful sense that we can change that next year by taking our message that the Congress has been around there too darn long, controlled by the same party. And it's time to change it.

Let me give you an example. I'm just getting warmed up because I heard George Mitchell on the television a few minutes ago. Now, let me tell you something here. [Laughter] Let me talk to you about an issue. I don't think there is anybody in this country, any fairminded man or woman who doesn't sympathize with someone who wants to work and is out of work. It's very easy to demagog on this issue. Nobody who has one grain of compassion likes to veto an unemployment compensation bill. But someone -- and I think I was the one elected to do this -- must consider the welfare of all the people in this country.

So, let me tell you what my position is on this unemployment compensation. Number one: I want to see the Democrats in the Senate lay politics aside and help those whose unemployment benefits have run out. Families are hurting out there. And I've said for months that I want to help them.

Secondly, I want a bill that, in helping them, does not burden every single taxpayer in this country, those that are working and those that aren't working. I don't want to see the budget agreement that Phil Gramm and others worked so hard to get into place, the spending caps on it, the only control that you as taxpayers have on a spendthrift Congress, I don't want to see it broken. And the only safeguard we have against more and more spending is that budget agreement.

Every time I turn around, the liberal Democrats want to bust the agreement. That would add to the deficit and eventually add to the tax burden of present generation's and the debt burden of future generations.

Number three on this same subject: We have a proposal before the Congress that extends benefits. It lays aside all this political rhetoric that you hear from these Democrats and get the checks in the mail to those families that are hurting and does it within the budget agreement. Bob Dole proposed that weeks ago. But the Democrats want to ram it down my ear in a political victory, and I'm going to veto their bill if they send it down in a way that's going to bust this budget again. Now, they can mark that one down.

I think it's a crying shame to play politics when people are hurting in this country. I really believe that. And they can get a bill signed by me tomorrow if they get going and send something down that lives within the budget agreement that we all agreed to, that they themselves agreed to. You tell me who's playing politics with that issue when people are hurting in this country.

It's not all negative. At times, we're able to persuade -- I remember how Lyndon used to talk: "Come reason with me." Wrench the guy's arm out of his socket. [Laughter] And he was working with control of both Houses of the Congress. I don't know how he'd do it today.

But sometimes we are able to persuade the opposition to cooperate, to join with us. I've reached out to the Congress. I don't believe there's a person in America that thinks I haven't reached out to the Congress, not always in a kind and gentle way, but always reached out to the Congress, trying to get something done for the American people and do it in a manner I was elected to do it. I was the one that was elected, Dan Quayle and I were the ones that were elected by all the people in this country. And the Senators have their responsibilities. Of course they do. But I think I have a responsibility to perform on what I told the people 3 years ago that I would do.

We did get the Clean Air Act through, compromise. Good, fair negotiation with the Democrats, amendments that employ free-market incentives and really do help the environment. We advanced the cause of property rights and home ownership with this HOPE, this homeownership initiative. We're broken down the barriers to employment of 43 million Americans with our landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which I was very proud -- emotional in signing last year on the South Lawn of the White House.

Other times we can do some positive things on our own. Just last week, I signed an Executive order to take the first steps in reforming our legal system. Dan Quayle's committee came up with some very sound recommendations, and I was proud to incorporate them into an Executive order. We're trying, frankly, to put an end to some of these outrageous lawsuits and monstrous settlements that scare every small businessman, every doctor, and everybody else in this country to death.

There's only so much of it we can do with Executive orders. We need liability reform legislation. And yet, that legislation is bottled up by these people I'm saying tonight are old thinkers. They just don't want to take on the pressure groups, the lobbies, the tough constituents that come together and try to get for the few that which the many are denied.

Americans want liability reform. And I'd like to see the Congress move out now and do something about it. Dan Quayle has been out there on the cutting edge of this, and I am 100 percent behind him.

And I might say that he's touched -- he referred to it -- touched a sore spot with some of the members of the ABA, the American Bar Association, when he called for legal reform. But he touched a nerve with a whole lot more everyday Americans who just plain stood up and cheered. He's done a great job on it, and I am very proud to have him by my side on this issue and all the other issues we're talking about here tonight.

The Senate did a good job in a bipartisan manner on the crime bill. But then it goes over to the House, and some of these old thinkers I'm telling you about are denying the changes that the American people so clearly spoke about in the Presidential elections of 1988. We've got -- you talk about these incentives to get jobs -- we've got some incentive in a transportation bill, a job-heavy transportation bill and yet a good one. We beat back some bad legislation. We've got a good one there.

In the State of the Union message, I said to Congress, "Hey, how about passing a transportation bill in 100 days?" That was 241 days ago, and they haven't got it down to my desk to be signed yet. I think the people are tired of this kind of old thinking, old politics.

One area where we don't need a lot of legislation, need some but not a lot, is in education. We have an initiative called America 2000, a concept designed to literally revolutionize our schools.

Lamar Alexander, David Kearns, coming together as a fantastic team there, rethinking, working with Governors, Democrats, Republicans alike, to redefine what we need to achieve educational excellence.

And you talk about an exciting concept, one that's gathering momentum and excitement around the country, it's that one. And fortunately, we don't need a lot of legislation because one of the key education committees that you have to go to is tired. Think how much money are we going to spend for this, how much money are we going to spend for that, programs that have failed.

It's not a question of money. It's not a question of that. We spent $190 billion in 1980 on education. We spend $400 billion today, and we're way back in the tail end of education around the world. It isn't good enough. And we've got to think anew. Give me more Senators like Phil, and give me more congressmen like Bill Archer, and by golly, you'll see the change in education that the American people want.

You hear about consumer confidence. Yes, there's a lack of confidence. And one thing that would change it right now is sound, forward-looking banking reform legislation. And we've got those proposals, and they've been gutted by partisan infighting. How I long for a Congress where we can at least take the offense on these important issues.

One subject that many of you know an awful lot about in this room, a national energy strategy. We need that from the Congress. It would mean jobs. It would mean increased production, and it would mean less dependence on foreign oil for our energy requirements.

And I am going to continue to support environmentally responsive access to ANWR, the Alaskan Refuge, for energy production. We need it. And if you're worried about caribou, take a look at the arguments that were used about the pipeline. They'd say the caribou would be extinct. You've got to shake them away with a stick. They're all making love lying up against the pipeline. And you've got thousands of caribou up there. And yet the same voices, the same voices are arguing against ANWR today. I mean, come on. [Laughter]

I want to see us reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and we can if we pass an energy bill, one like the one that came out of Senator Bennett Johnston's -- good Democrat on this issue -- and Senator Malcolm Wallop, came out of their committee.

You know, we hear a lot about economic growth. I've called for economic growth initiatives in three State of the Union messages, and a part of that, one part of the economic growth was a capital gains tax cut. So, what happens in Washington, DC? They jump up and down and scream, "This is a tax cut for the rich." Let me tell you, I'll make them a proposal right here tonight. I will take all the political heat that they can muster. Whatever country, however much demagoguery they can bring to bear on that issue, I'll take that heat if they will give this capital gains cut a chance. Because it will create jobs and get America back to work again. And it is not a tax cut for the rich. It is a jobs measure, a small-business-creation measure, a shot-in-the-arm-for-a-sluggish-economy measure.

History has already shown that it does not add to the deficit. The Treasury scores it as a plus, not a minus. It reduces the deficit. So, let the opposition carry on all they want. We've all heard it before -- good heavens, I'm 67, I've heard it for a thousand years -- "tax cut for the rich, breaks for the rich." Let's try something a little bit different than the mandated programs from Washington that offer people a lack of dignity and a lack of hope. And in the meantime, give the Americans a break. Give them some jobs. Get going with our motivation package.

Finally, it's time we got rid of a practice where a privileged few stand outside the law, where attending to the national interest takes a back seat to serving the special interests. And very frankly, it's time that the United States Congress started following the laws it imposes on every citizen in this country.

I gave the Congress a gentle nudge on this the other day, pointing out that with all the pious cries during those Thomas hearings, Congress, now, get this, has exempted itself from sexual harassment laws. Word of honor. Yesterday the Senate did take one step to put itself under the same laws that the rest of the people have to obey. But that's just not enough. It's time that those who make the laws, live by the laws that they make others live by. Now, that is fairplay, and it's long overdue.

And speaking of Clarence Thomas, I am delighted that he's on the Supreme Court. Men supported him overwhelmingly. Women supported him overwhelmingly. Blacks supported him overwhelmingly. But the liberals in the Senate didn't support him at all. And I'm glad that the people won out on that one.

When I hear the critics in Congress arguing about our priorities, foreign policy or domestic policy. I wonder where their priorities are. The "global marketplace" isn't off in Europe or Asia or in Africa. It's right here in our neighborhoods, in our businesses, in our schools. Take a look at our North American free trade agreement. It will have a monumental effect on the quality of life here in the United States over the next decade.

We're not doing this to be nice to Mexico. We're doing it because it is in the best interest of the workers and the people of the United States of America. Every billion dollars in new trade means 20,000 more jobs. A better-educated work force means higher quality products, which means more economic growth. The cycle continues, and growth means more jobs, more opportunity for everyone.

But the world beyond our borders affects us in other ways. And we've got to make a choice: Do we meet its challenges, or do we fall behind?

And yes, since I've been President, we have been called upon to meet one crucial challenge after another. And meet them we did, each and every one. From Eastern Europe to Panama to the Persian Gulf, to dealing with the Soviet Union as history unfolds before your very eyes, in all of these, it is America that stands as a beacon of freedom throughout the world. And our prestige around the world has never been higher than it is today.

I'm still on Madrid daylight saving, or something. My eyes kind of -- because yesterday I was in Madrid, and I helped open that Middle East peace conference in Madrid. But over there, I made a terrible mistake. I flipped on CNN, and I say that with respect to CNN guys down here. But I turned it on, and I saw one of the Democrat leaders, one of the elected Democrat leaders in the House of Representatives attack me for being at that historic conference. I could not believe the small-bore nature of that partisan criticism. Here you have a historic peace conference. You're bringing together people that have been hostile and wouldn't even have been in the same room at any time in their history. And this guy gets on and says I shouldn't be in Madrid for 36 hours.

Come on. We have a responsibility here. I have a responsibility to lead, and I'm not going to let Democratic, liberal carping keep me from leading.

If I had to get -- let me put it to you so you can understand it. Let me put it in Red Adair's terms, "If I'd have had to let Ted Kennedy tell me whether I could move a quarter-of-a-million troops to the Middle East or let Schwarzkopf move from St. Petersburg or Tampa to Saudi Arabia, Schwarzkopf would still be there. The troops would still be there, and Saddam Hussein would still be in Kuwait, maybe moving into Saudi Arabia. That's what was at stake. And thank God, I didn't have to listen to these carpers telling me how to run that war.

I'm getting warmed up for next year. [Laughter] I told them I was not going to do this until about March or April of next year. [Laughter] But they get under your skin for a while. I've reached out to this Congress. [Laughter] I really have tried. And I'm getting sick and tired, as the Congress winds up, of this partisan, liberal criticism. I can't wait now to roll up my sleeves and become a candidate. [Laughter]

My point is simply this: We live in an integrated world. And in that world, you can't neatly divide foreign policy from domestic policy. When I talk with foreign leaders about new markets for American products, is it foreign policy or domestic? When I meet with groups of Latin American leaders, as I did in Cartagena, to help try to keep drugs out of America's schools and neighborhoods, is that foreign policy or is that domestic policy? When Desert Storm reignited Americans' faith in themselves, was that just foreign policy?

No. It demonstrated our special role as the world's preeminent moral, political, economic, and military power. The pride that we felt in our fighting men and women, and in ourselves shouldn't be trivialized as something "foreign."

Anyone who says we should retreat into an isolationistic cocoon is living in the last century, when we should be focusing on the next century, and the life that our kids can have in that next century. They should know that America's destiny has always been to lead. And if I have anything to do with it, lead we will.

I'll tell you, yes, there are plenty of real problems out there all across our country. They're human problems where real people, real lives are at stake. Dan talked about the family, where families are ripped asunder. Tons of problems out there. But we are going to prevail because I firmly believe that the American spirit is alive and well.

In Texas or in Washington, I know we'll keep up the fight. And we will hold as our banner the frontier resolve and the commonsense ideals of those early Texans who built our great State. I am absolutely convinced, no matter what the obstacles we face in a partisan nature, that we can do something for the kids, that we can build a better America.

So, I want to thank you for being here with us tonight. It means a great deal in many, many more ways than I can possibly tell you, for Barbara and me to start this journey, this fundraising journey right here where we feel, what Bob talked about, a sense of love and warmth and friendship. That means an awful lot, whether you're President of the United States or still living around the corner.

Thank you and God bless each and every one of you. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:01 p.m. at the Sheraton Astrodome Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Robert Cruikshank, chairman of the dinner; Willie Alexander, former Houston Oiler; Reverend Claude Payne, Rector, St. Martins Episcopal Church; Milo Hamilton, emcee for the dinner; Senator Robert Dole; Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander; and David T. Kearns, Deputy Secretary for the Department of Education.

George Bush, Remarks at the Bush-Quayle Fundraising Dinner in Houston, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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