Remarks at a Luncheon Sponsored by the Senate Republican Policy Committee

January 24, 1984

It's a pleasure for me to be here this afternoon. This is the third time that I've had lunch with you, and today's occasion, I know, will be just as informative and enjoyable as the first two.

By the way, Howard Baker and Senator Tower called to remind me to bring $5. [Laughter] Leave it to them to make sure we show the rest of the Congress there's no such thing as a free lunch. [Laughter]

But I want to thank Howard and John and all of you for your vital work in the Senate. Howard is not only the first Republican majority leader in more than a quarter of a century; I think we all agree he's one of the most effective majority leaders in history.

If I was still in the business I used to be in, I'd sit down now. [Laughter]

But your chairman, John Tower, has always advocated discipline for government and freedom for the individual. And in all the long history of our Republic, no one has ever done more to see that America has the defense that she required.

Time and again, Howard and John have given me the benefit of their knowledge, judgment, and understanding of the Senate. And whatever successes our administration has enjoyed, these two Senators deserve a big slice of the credit.

This January makes it 36 months since our party won the Senate and regained the White House. Thirty-six months -- that's just a short span in the life of a nation, but I deeply believe that together we've changed American history.

Think back to that crisp January day, back 36 months ago: inflation in double digits, prime interest rates at the highest level since the Civil War, economic growth disappearing. At the same time our defenses were weak. As John has pointed out so often, from 1970 to 1980 real defense spending dropped more than 20 percent. Military equipment was growing obsolete; real military pay was too low; and morale among our uniformed men and women was sagging.

In foreign policy America had become known the world over for hesitation, vacillation, and self-doubt. And our great nation stood by as if paralyzed while the Soviets amassed a vast military might, then began to intimidate our allies, fuel regional conflicts, and prop up tyrannies. And when Americans looked to their leaders for encouragement, they only heard about a so-called national malaise.

Well, in the past 36 months, the world has seen an American miracle. Time has marched on, but instead of growing older and more tired -- I'm not talking about me now -- [laughter] -- our country has recaptured the vitality, self-confidence, and courage of the youthful nation that she still is.

Last month the Producer Price Index increased by only two-tenths of 1 percent, and by only six-tenths of 1 percent for all of 1983. That's the best record in 19 years. And just this morning we had more good news. For calendar year 1983 the Consumer Price Index went up only 3.8 percent, and that's the best record in more than a decade.

The prime interest rate is barely half what it was when we took office. Factory orders, retail sales, and housing starts are up. The stock market has come back to life -- a little nervous at times, but back to life. Real wages are rising, and America is leading the world in technological revolution, even more far-reaching and profound than the Industrial Revolution of a century ago.

Unemployment is dropping at the fastest rate in more than 30 years. Last year alone, more than 4 million Americans found jobs. And today, some 103 million Americans are at work; that's more than ever before in our history.

In the military, morale has soared as we've been giving the men and women in our Armed Forces good pay, good equipment, and the respect they deserve.

In foreign policy, the world knows once more what America stands for: the freedom of mankind. From Central America to Africa to the Middle East, we're working to support democracy and produce peace. In Lebanon, the peace process has been slow and painful, but we've made genuine progress. In Europe the NATO alliance has held firm. In our dealings with the Soviets, by strengthening our defenses and showing the world our willingness to negotiate, we've laid the foundations for a lasting world peace. And on an island in the Caribbean, we set a nation free.

Now, there's a story, and it's a true story and I know I've told it to some of you, but I know not all, and I hope the rest of you haven't heard it because I want to tell it. It comes from Grenada. A young first lieutenant marine who pilots a Cobra was in Grenada and then moved on to Beirut. And he sent a message back to the Armed Forces Journal not too long ago. He said that in Grenada, every news story he noticed contained the words and the phrase that Grenada produces more nutmeg than any place in the world. And this was so regular in all the stories he decided that it was a code. And he was going to break the code. And he wrote back to say he'd succeeded.

He had broken the code, six points in breaking that code. Number one, Grenada does produce more nutmeg than any other place on Earth. Number two, the Soviets and Cubans were trying to take Grenada. Number three, you can't make eggnog without nutmeg. [Laughter] Number four, you can't have Christmas without eggnog. Number five, the Soviets and the Cubans were trying to steal Christmas. [Laughter] And, number six, we stopped them. [Laughter]

Well, a moment ago, I called the turnaround in America a miracle. And, now, I don't mean a miracle like a magic trick; I mean a miracle of determination, hard work, and teamwork. All that has been accomplished, we've accomplished together. Believe me, down on Pennsylvania Avenue, Capitol Hill sometimes looks more like a mountain. And I don't like to think how hard it would have been to push our programs over the top without Republican control of the Senate. In fact, I think it would have been impossible.

In 1984 nothing matters more than keeping the Senate. And I pledge to do all within my power to see that we do just that. In the meantime, we still have plenty of work cut out for us: attacking the Federal deficit, getting inflation and interest rates down still further, wringing waste and fraud out of government, and so much more. Where we have honest differences you can count on me to be a willing listener and a genuine partner.

Of course, there'll always be room for improvement in the way we do our job. But for the sake of the country, we must get the job done. Working together, we will.

And I thank you, and God bless you all.

And, now, Howard, here's my $5. Let's eat. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 12:33 p.m. in Room S-207 of the Capitol.