Jimmy Carter photo

St. Louis, Missouri Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents.

October 30, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Senator Tom Eagle;on, Congressman Young, Congressman Volkruer, Governor Teasdale, Mrs. Teasdale, Mayor Conway, all of my friends who've come here;

Do you think we're going to whip the Republicans next Tuesday? [Cheers] Right on. This is a 'beautiful crowd.

Yesterday, 4 years ago, I stood here in this same shopping center, and I talked to you about the problems that faced our Nation. One of the most serious problems at that time was that we had a Republican President in the Oval Office. You got rid of him. I thank you for that great improvement.

It is good to be back with you. I promised you then that if you would send me to Washington as President, we would have a foreign policy that represents the character and the high moral standards and the common sense and the sound judgment of the American people—I'm quoting myself—and that we would have a government that would not embarrass nor shame you. I tried to be honest with you about what I was and what I would try to do, and that's what I've done the last 4 years. I've kept my promise, and I hope now that you'll help me next Tuesday.

And I also told you that I did not know all the answers, but the changes that we needed to make in this Nation at that time would not be easy. You sent me to Washington, and you set me to work on making those beneficial changes. If it had been anywhere but Missouri, it would have been a close election. But you gave me a bigger majority than you had given any Presidential candidate since Harry Truman, and I thank you very much. You've got a good tradition. Do the same thing next week.

I have been very lucky to have your own Senator Tom Eagleton there to help me in the important fight for the rights of labor and for the cities and for young and old people who've been put to work. He was there in the fight against the ridiculous Reagan-Kemp-Roth tax proposal, which is the foundation, it's the foundation of Ronald Reagan's future economic policy. Business Week, which, as you know, is not a Democratic publication, said Ronald Reagan's Kemp-Roth proposal is completely irresponsible. It would result in an inflationary explosion that could wreck this country and would impoverish all Americans living on a fixed income.

Is that the kind of leadership you want in the White House for the next 4 years?


THE PRESIDENT. You're right. We don't want tax breaks for the rich instead of creating jobs and giving American workers the tools to compete.

We've tried to build not just for today and tomorrow but for the rest of this century, for your children and mine, for your grandchildren and mine, so that we can have a prosperous city here and a prosperous nation, a city and a nation of which we can be proud.

We've been able to project for you, working closely with your congressional leadership and your mayor and others, fighting for economic improvement in mass transit, so that this historic city can take advantage of the great traditions that you have here. And I am extremely proud of what is happening in St. Louis and this metropolitan area. You've done a great job.

We've had some economic setbacks brought about because OPEC oil nations increased the price of energy last year more than oil prices had increased since oil was first discovered in the 1800's. But because of what you have been able to do, 26,000 people in St. Louis have jobs today who did not have jobs when I was here and made my speech just 4 years ago. That's the kind of progress we'll continue for the next 4 years.

I believe, like all Democrats have believed, that working families know who is on their side in this election. From Franklin Roosevelt to Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, the Democratic Party is on the side of the working people of this Nation, and don't you ever forget it. For more than 50 years, the Democrats in the White House and in the Congress have fought for the rights of working people.

We enacted the minimum wage; the Republicans opposed it even when it was down to 25 cents an hour. We then raised it to 40 cents an hour—the first job I had; the Republicans did not think that working people, men and women, were worth 40 cents an hour. We have put into effect unemployment compensation. The Democrats were for it; the Republicans were against it. The Democrats were for social security; the Republicans were against it. The Democrats were for the REA, for electrification of farms; the Republicans, of course, were against it.

The Democrats were for Medicare; the Republicans were against it. And the man who led the fight against Medicare was Ronald Reagan, and he wants to be in the White House now. You've got to keep him out.

For the last 3 1/2 years, we have fought together for common situs, for labor law reform, and against the repeal of Davis-Bacon.

My opponent's views are changing very rapidly as the election day approaches, but they're a matter of record.

He describes people drawing unemployment compensation, and I quote him-listen—freeloaders wanting a prepaid vacation plan. That's the way he describes mothers and fathers who want to work, who had a job, who lose their jobs temporarily and compensate themselves by contributing to unemployment insurance-freeloaders wanting a prepaid vacation plan.

Last year when it was proposed to do away with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which protects workers safety and health, when somebody said, "Let's do away with it," Ronald Reagan said, "Amen."

This year he said, and I quote: "The minimum wage has caused more misery and more unemployment than anything since the Great Depression."

If you've been listening to the Republican candidate, then you know he's trying to wrap himself up in the mantle of great Democratic Presidents. But it happens every election year. Here's what Franklin Roosevelt said back in 1944 about how Republicans change their tune at election time. Listen to Franklin Roosevelt's words: "The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels. Now, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery," Roosevelt said, "but I'm afraid in this case, it's the most obvious common or garden variety of fraud."

And now the Republicans have the nerve to quote Franklin D. Roosevelt himself. John Kennedy predicted it back in 1960, when he said of the Republicans, and I'm quoting John Kennedy: "They're even beginning to say a few kind words about Franklin Roosevelt. Twenty years from now," Kennedy said, "they might even speak a good word about Harry Truman, but Harry Truman will never say a good word about the Republicans, and you can count on that." As you well know, John Kennedy's prediction came true.

And I want to predict another thing for you tonight, that 20 years from now Republican candidates will even be saying nice things about Jimmy Carter's second term.

I don't want to leave this subject too quick, because I kind of enjoy talking about it.

This year, in 1980, Ronald Reagan said, and I quote again: "Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal." Do you think that Franklin Roosevelt, the father of the New Deal, would want to be quoted by a man who said that about his program?

The Republican candidate also said in 1980, this year, and I quote him again: "I'm opposed to national health insurance. There is no health crisis in America." Do you think that Harry Truman, who first proposed national health insurance, would be rooting for that candidate today?


THE PRESIDENT. The Republican candidate in 1980 calls the food stamp program, and I quote, "a massive rip-off." Would Lyndon Johnson have liked the sound of that?


THE PRESIDENT. And the Republican candidate of 1980 says that we should threaten a nuclear arms race. Do you imagine that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who negotiated the nuclear test ban treaty, would have agreed with a statement like that?


THE PRESIDENT. Of course not. And neither would any of our Presidents since Harry Truman, Republican or Democratic, because all of us Presidents have known that our primary responsibility in this world is to control the terrible weapons of nuclear annihilation.

The most important issue of this campaign is the issue of peace. I'm committed to using America's great strength, yes, but not to get this Nation in armed conflict, but in the service of peace.

And I'm proud that we were able to bring peace between Israel and Egypt, the first peace between Israel and an Arab nation. And I am also proud that for the first time in half a century, for a full 4 years the United States of America has been at peace. And we're going to keep it that way the next 4 years with a Democrat in the White House.

No issue is more important, and no issue demonstrates so vividly the difference between my vision of what this Nation ought to be and that of Governor Ronald Reagan. Of course, I know that every American wants peace, and I'm sure my opponent does. But you must carefully consider the consequences of his habit of calling for the use of armed force. Every President who's served in the Oval Office has to serve during times of trouble somewhere in the world, challenges from one country to another. Since I've been in the White House, six or eight times armed conflict has broken out somewhere in the world.

In 1975 Ronald Reagan called for sending United States military forces to Ecuador and then to Angola later on. In 1976 it was Rhodesia and Cyprus. This year, so far, it's Cuba, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Let's make sure we don't have to find out what his choices are for starting armed conflict, with American forces, next year.

Let me comment here on the most important issue of all. Every President since World War II has sought agreement to limit nuclear arms—the test ban treaty under President Kennedy, the antiballistic missile treaty under President Nixon, the Vladivostok accords under President Ford, the nuclear arms limitation agreement negotiated over 7 years by my two predecessors and myself. Governor Reagan has never supported a single one of these agreements. Instead, he proposes to tear up the existing agreement and threaten a massive new arms race.

And he also says that when other countries like Libya try to develop their own nuclear weapons, that it's none of our business. During the debate this week, he flatly denied that he had ever said that. Yet the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Washington Star all reported what he said. Here's what the New York Times said on February 1st, 1980, and I quote: "Ronald Reagan indicated today that he believed the United States should not stand in the way of countries developing their own nuclear weapons, saying," and I quote Mr. Reagan, "'I just don't think it's any of our business.'"

I say that's wrong, and I believe that halting the spread of nuclear weapons to all nations, and especially to nations that harbor terrorists or may even engage in terrorism themselves, is our business. And with your help and support, our Nation will maintain that commitment to control nuclear weapons in the years ahead.

While we're here tonight let's continue to get the record straight. Governor Reagan is trying to blur other parts of his record too, because when that record is examined very closely by the American people, it's embarrassing for him.

On several occasions he strongly opposed grain sales to the Soviet Union. Then at the moment of truth, as Soviet troops marched in Afghanistan, he buckled, he shifted his position, he opposed the embargo. Overnight Governor Reagan became an election-year supporter of gain sales to Russia. This week we've seen him make some similar shifts.

All this year he made it crystal clear that he opposes the minimum wage, he wants it repealed. This week in the debate he tried to shift his position again. He still wants to undercut the protections of the minimum wage, but he's found a new way to go about it, by exempting millions of young workers from its coverage, by exposing millions of more workers to a new form of competition from a new subclass of workers working at substandard wages.

Let's look at what Governor Reagan is saying about social security this week. For years he had a habit of suggesting that the system be made voluntary. Now he denies this. Now he says, as he said in the debate this week, that social security is a bad investment for young people. That is absolutely untrue. In fact, a typical married worker with dependents, starting out this year at the age of 22, would get back 3 1/2 times more than they pay in and at the same time be covered for disability. And if the husband should die, the wife and the children would be covered, as you know, until the children reach the age of 18. That's an outstanding investment for Americans, and it's been the foundation of security for our people.

For years Governor Reagan opposed Medicare. He started in politics as a traveling salesman for the anti-Medicare lobby. All across this country he said that Medicare was socialism. That should not be too surprising. After all, he's the same person who said that the New Deal was based on fascism, who said that the minimum wage was the main cause of unemployment, who said that trees are the number one cause of air pollution. [Laughter]

This week in the debate he said that he never really meant to oppose Medicare. He said he just thought there was a better approach. That's a good excuse, as you know. But that's all it is, just an excuse.

Governor Reagan has become an expert in rewriting the history of his own record. This campaign scheme, as a last-minute operation, is political plastic surgery, and it's not going to work.

And finally, let me say this about the Presidency itself, because Missouri knows what the Presidency means. You know because you observed Harry Truman serve in the Oval Office under some of the most trying and difficult times in the history of this Nation.

The President of the United States is not only the servant of the present, but he's also the guardian of the future. His actions echo down through the years, in the judges he appoints, the regulatory board members he chooses, the agenda that he sets for the Nation, the tone and attitude that is engendered in the hearts and minds of the American people.

When he sits down as head of state with other national leaders, he must always be aware that his every word is weighed and measured, because his voice is the voice of America. He must be sensitive to the needs of other people, yes, around the world, yet adamant always in the protection of America's interests.

As Commander in Chief, the President has within his power to unleash the most awesome, destructive military force in the history of the world. If he's skillful and wise and moderate, it's a task, pray God, he will never have to perform.

I've been President now for almost 4 years, and I've made thousands of decisions, and each one of those decisions has been a learning process for me. Every decision I make leaves me better prepared to make the next one. What I've learned has made me a better President and will make me a better President in a second term. I consider myself to be in the mainstream of the Democratic Party and also in the mainstream of the bipartisan list of Presidents who served in the Oval Office before me.

Let me point out to you, like them, I believe that the United States must be a nation strong. The United States must be a nation secure. We must have a society that's just and fair. We must dare to struggle always, every day, for a peaceful world.

There have been many times of crisis and conflict during these years. In each case, I've had to make a decision as President, often alone. What are the interests of my country? What is the degree of involvement of my country? I've learned that the more difficult the decisions might be, the more likely it is that advisers and experts will be split. Some will advise, do this. Some will advise, do that. The final judgment must be made by the man in the Oval Office.

Sometimes it's a lonely job, yes; but with the involvement of the American people, like you, it's a gratifying job.

Each one of you faces a lonely decision next Tuesday in that voting booth. Your decision makes a difference. Remember, as I said on the debate night, if just one voter per precinct had changed in 1960, John Fitzgerald Kennedy would never have served as President of our country. If just a few more people, a few more Democrats had gone to the polls in 1968, Hubert Humphrey would have been President; Richard Nixon would never have served in the Oval Office.

And you in Missouri remember vividly how close the election was in 1948. If just a few Democrats, a few members of labor unions, a few students who were enlightened about the future, a few aged who were concerned about social security, a few working families who were interested in the minimum wage, had not gone to the polls in 1948, then Harry Truman would never have served his term as a President of this country.

I say, let's go on building a partnership, to stay strong, to stay secure, to raise high the banner of human rights and to keep our Nation at peace. For the sake of all we've done together in the past as Democrats, for the sake of all we can do in the future for a greater country, let's win a tremendous victory on Tuesday not just for me and Fritz Mondale, not just for the Democratic Party but for the ideals and the beliefs and the vision and the hopes and the dreams and the confidence in the strength of the Nation we love. If you help me, we'll have a great future together.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:20 p.m. at the North West Plaza Shopping Center.

Jimmy Carter, St. Louis, Missouri Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251853

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