Remarks at a Republican Congressional Luncheon

February 2, 1984

Thank you, Howard. I could have listened right through lunch. And I want to thank all of you, and after that kind of a welcome, I don't see how I can possibly get by with less than 42 minutes. [Laughter]

No, I'm delighted we're all able to be here today. In our jobs we work together day in and day out, but it's too seldom we get a chance to relax for a moment together like this.

Permit me to begin by giving every man and woman in this room my heartfelt thanks. For 3 years now, you've been giving me just what I needed -- advice at critical moments and support during some tough times and balanced judgment all the time. Howard and Dick and Ted and Paul and -- well, I'd better stop naming names, because I'll go on -- Bob Michel and Guy, Trent Lott -- all of you are among the most skilled legislators that I have ever known. And George, I believe that -- very firmly -- you're the best Vice President in our history.

I once said sometime after my marriage that Nancy's mother had ruled out, as far as I was concerned, had made it impossible to tell any mother-in-law stories. And I feel the same way about Vice President stories after watching him work for 3 years. [Laughter]

But, as Howard said, they told us 3 years ago, it couldn't be done and that Members of the Congress would never again work together to produce a program that would benefit not the special interests, but the American people. And we all remember the mess the country was in -- the soaring inflation, the high interest rates, the weakened defenses, and the loss of respect for our nation abroad. Just after the inauguration, I came across a quotation that summed it all up. ``When we got into office,'' President Kennedy once said, ``the thing that surprised me most was to find that things were just as bad as we'd been saying they were.'' [Laughter]

Well, I think in these 3 short years there has been a great deal accomplished here. Just before I came over here this morning, I was meeting with someone -- the title of Ambassador, but who serves in one of our -- the international organizations overseas, and on his way back to that particular assignment. And he told me how one -- I won't name the country, but one of his colleagues there from another country came up to him when he was newly appointed and just asked him whether he thought things were going to be different now. And our Ambassador said, ``Yes, they are.'' ``Well,'' he said, ``in what way?'' He said, ``When you kick us in the shins, we're not going to say `thank you' anymore.'' [Laughter]

But we still have our work cut out for us. We must use our restored strength to put world peace on a more secure footing. And soon I will forward a plan based on the recommendations of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, just one example of how we can promote democracy in these troubled regions. And here at home we must attack the deficits and simplify the tax code and make constitutional changes like the line-item veto and the balanced budget amendment. I think these are the Republican goals for 1984 and beyond.

And now let's take a moment to consider the Democrats. Tip O'Neill always complains about the way we cut taxes. But if the Democrats had been in charge, there wouldn't have been any tax cut -- none at all. They opposed the very idea of a tax cut again and again throughout the 1980 campaign. But if you look back over the years, the American people -- and maybe this campaign is a good time to remind them -- look back over the years, and you will find they aren't tax cutters at all. The tax cutting that has been done back through the years has been done by the Republican Party.

If they had been running the show, American families would still be suffering sky-high inflation and interest rates. The stock market wouldn't have set new records. The gross national product wouldn't have started growing again. And the American workers' real wages wouldn't have started climbing.

With them in control, our defenses would still be growing weaker while the Soviets grew bolder. Troops would have landed on Grenada, that's for sure. They just wouldn't have been American troops. And the Grenadians wouldn't have been applauding.

So, let's approach this election year with the high spirits and the sense of challenge that's such an important part of American politics. We can tell the people that, yes, America is back, but we're not satisfied with that. We're not resting on our laurels. Our challenge is to take freedom's next step, and this nation's future is at stake.

If we keep the Senate and the White House and remain strong in or even with the House, then America will go on to a new birth of freedom and prosperity, and all the world will benefit. If we lose, then all that we've worked so hard to accomplish will be undone.

We all know the elections will be hard-fought and close. Since a campaign flounders without ideas or intensity, let's make certain that we take the offensive. We must challenge our opponents on the line-item veto, push them on the balanced budget amendment, and challenge them on tax simplification. We must force them to stop gathering special interest endorsements and go to the American people. And we must make it clear that they don't want to cut spending; they want to raise taxes.

I promise to do all I can to see to it that we keep the Senate and gain strength in the House. And for the sake of our cause, let's all pledge to work together in a spirit of firm unity. For the good of the country, we must win. And I'm convinced that working together, we will.

Thank you, and God bless you. And now the words you've been waiting to hear from me: Let's eat. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 12 noon in the Senate Caucus Room at the Russell Senate Office Building. He was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker, Jr.