Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a White House Briefing for Conservative Political Leaders

July 05, 1988

I can't top that. I might as well just— [laughter] . Well, thank you all very much, and welcome to the White House complex. White House complex—that's what our opponents have after 8 years out of power. [Laughter]

You know, for 8 years, this White House has been guided by your vision and your ideals. And what an 8 years it's been—so much achieved in so many areas. It reminds me of what a Hollywood great, Sam Goldwyn, one of the founders of MGM, once said when he got worked up about a script. Sam Goldwyn had a way with words. He said, "That story is wonderful. It's magnificent. It's prolific." [Laughter] Well, "wonderful, magnificent, and prolific" describe the 8 years of what the press never tires of saying is the most conservative administration to come to Washington in generations. Well, of course, for some of us a generation is forever. [Laughter]

We all remember the inflation and stagnation that the taxes, the spending, and regulations of liberalism gave America in the late seventies. We remember how the liberals used the sign of failure to tell us that America needed more of their old, bitter medicine. Imagine, less than a decade ago, some in this town were saying seriously that the way to make America grow and the way to get people back to work harder was to raise taxes. And we remember that somehow our leaders had lost sight of a faith, a basic fundamental faith, that has guided Americans since that day more than 200 years ago when a small group of men, meeting in Philadelphia, signed their names to a document that began, "We, the people." Yes, it was a faith in the people they had lost, a faith in the basic goodness, decency, and wisdom of the American people and what our founders called the American experiment.

We conservatives brought that faith back to Washington. And today America's in the longest economic peacetime expansion on record. More people have been at work this year than ever before on record. We are in an entrepreneurial boom unlike any the world has ever seen. That boom has produced a technological flowering that is unmatched not only in the world but in world history.

Conservative writer George Gilder has pointed out that in the entire Industrial Revolution productivity increased by a factor of 100. Already microelectronics have skyrocketed the productivity of information-based industries by more than a million. No wonder America is exporting more than ever this year, and no wonder that when you look at the potential employment pool in the United States—and that's everyone, male and female, 16 years of age and up—think of it, everybody in the United States over the age of 16, including retirees and everything else, that pool, the proportion of it that is at work is higher than ever before in our history—63.6 percent of them are employed.

But that isn't all that putting our principles to work has meant for this nation we love. It's meant judges on the Federal bench across our country who know that every criminal is not a victim of society and that equal justice means justice for the victims of crime. It's meant a Federal Government that knows that the true measure of quality in education is in a simple, yet profound question that our good friend [Secretary of Education] Bill Bennett asks over and over again, to the great consternation of the National Education Association. He asks, "What works?"

Well, it's meant an administration that is fighting for the rights of families, for the rights of parents to protect their children from the evils of drugs and pornography, and for the rights of the unborn. It's meant waging still other unfinished battles to put work into our welfare system, to make choice a part of our system of education, and to allow God back into our classrooms. He never should have been expelled in the first place.

And it's meant, around the world, an America that once again stands up for its principles, that has embraced a forward strategy for freedom, that will proclaim the gospel of democracy and liberty from every mountaintop, and that in this world, this dangerous place, knows that the one road, the only road, to peace is through American strength.

We've come so far. Who would have believed when I took the oath of office 7 1/2 years ago that, almost for the first time since the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union would today be pulling out of a nation, Afghanistan, and not clothed in victory?

And still, my friends, all we've done, all we've achieved, all the promise for the future that we've opened up for our nation could be lost in just a few months. Our opponents are putting together a campaign that is subtle and clever. The American people understand what liberalism means and don't like it. So, our opponents plan to go to the voters incognito. They're putting on political trench coats and sunglasses- [laughter] —will never, even in the lowest whisper, mumble the "L" word again. [Laughter]

Yet how other than liberal would you characterize a Governor who, in the last 5 years, increased his State's spending twice as fast as the Federal Government's and more than a third faster than the average for all the other States? You know it's bad when a State legislative leader in his own party says, "There hasn't been any will to control spending" in the Governor's administration. And what do you call a Governor who raises taxes $115 million and declares it a victory? Out and out liberal!

Yes, all that the American people need to do is a little comparison shopping to see the truth. Our opponents' candidate has fought for weekend furloughs for dangerous convicts, including drug dealers. Our candidate has led the fight against drug smugglers. Their candidate favors abortion on demand; our candidate is pro-life. Their candidate has opposed requiring the Pledge of Allegiance and allowing prayer in schools. Our candidate-well, he and I both find it hard to believe that anyone could take these positions.

It's no secret who I believe should pick up the lease around here in January. Again and again these past 8 years I've admired George Bush's strength. Again and again his leadership has been a key to our successes.

In 1983 deployment of Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe was in doubt because so-called peace groups in several NATO countries opposed it. George Bush, at my request, flew to Europe. And one stop was Royal Albert Hall in London, where a well-known British leader of the opposition to deployment stood up and said he had children and grandchildren. Couldn't we stop deployment for their sake? The Vice President replied that he also had children and grandchildren. And he, too, wanted a world safe from war. But to achieve that world tomorrow, he said, NATO must be strong today. And after he spoke, the tide in Europe shifted, and thanks to him, deployment went forward.

And here at home, while his opponent has vetoed mandatory prison sentences for drug pushers, George Bush stands in the front of our battle against illegal drugs. With quiet strength, he brought together agencies that had rarely cooperated. And the result of his and other efforts has been tons of cocaine and marijuana seized and almost three times as many Federal drug prosecutions last year as there were in 1980.

Yes, this is the kind of man I want to follow me, someone who'll take our battle forward, who will speak our gospel truly, and will do the work that is yet to be done. When the Chief Justice asks the next President to solemnly swear to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, the man I want taking that oath is President George Bush.

My friends, we have—you and I—given America a new era of hope, a new age of promise, and a new dawn of opportunity. Around the world people look to our nation and what it stands for today. Dare we turn back? Dare we sit on our hands? And how do we tell the freedom fighters that America will no longer care? How do we tell all those who pray for peace that the policies that brought the first agreement to reduce and eliminate an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles are policies of the past? And at home, how do we tell the millions who have escaped poverty in record numbers that our nation will return to the policies of the seventies, policies that sent the poverty rate soaring? And how much attention has been given to the fact that for the first time in all these years the number of people living under the poverty line is going down instead of every year going up? How do we tell families that those who sat in the Nation's driver's seat in the late seventies are back behind the wheel?

Several years ago, I said to you that we could spark a great prairie fire that would sweep across this nation and the world. Well, by golly, we have! Others would like to extinguish the flame of hope, but if we stand together, it won't happen. America will know a new morning of growth, and the world will know a new birth of freedom.

So, it's up to us. In reality, it's up to you. We've got to send our man there to the White House, yes, but also let's send him what you sent me when I first came here. It's gone now, after 6 years, but that was a Senate, one House of the Congress. The House of Representatives has been in the Democrats' hands for all but 4 of 56 years. And one Democratic President had a Republican Congress for 2 years—Harry Truman. One Republican President had a Republican Congress for 2 years—Dwight Eisenhower. Then I did have, fortunately, those 6 years with one House at least. And without it we never could have attained all that we did in our economic recovery or in our buildup of strength, and that's very evident in what is going on now in these 2 years where they're back in control in both Houses.

So, let's send a President who's saying the things we believe, and then let's see if we can't send a lot of people up here with him that will not be working against his doing those things that he told us he wanted to do. Well, I know I can depend on you, and thank you all very much. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 1:31 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a White House Briefing for Conservative Political Leaders Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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