Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Howard H. Baker, Jr.

September 12, 1984

Thank you very much. And thank you, Bill. I think it's a great pleasure for all of you to have a distinguished humorist like Bill Buckley here to chair this event. He isn't a Carl Reiner, but -- [laughter] -- Karl Malden, maybe. [Laughter] But this is quite an assembly. I know there are dozens of Senators and Representatives, and I believe that virtually the entire Cabinet is here, which explains why Mike Deaver has gone to sleep already. [Laughter]

We're all here to pay our respects to Howard Baker, and the occasion is billed as a ``roast.'' Now, to the uninitiated, that has nothing to do with the entree -- [laughter] -- as the guest of honor will find out. I must confess I'm not much of a roaster. I believe that if you can't say something nice about a person, you shouldn't say anything at all. So, in conclusion -- [laughter] -- --

No, I've been a long admirer of the cool, calm, collected way that Howard approaches things. Just Monday, we had a leadership meeting there in the Cabinet Room, and Howard took over almost immediately -- [laughter] -- in his calm way. And he said, ``Here it is Monday, and tomorrow's Tuesday, and the next thing it's Wednesday. Half the week's gone, and we haven't done a damn thing.'' [Laughter]

But he's won a place in history. He made the world safe for snail darters. [Laughter] And he told me on the steps of the Capitol, at the time of the Inaugural 4 years ago, he said, ``Mr. President, I want you to know I will be with you through thick.'' [Laughter] And I said, ``What about thin?'' He said, ``Welcome to Washington.'' [Laughter]

But he's done everything he can to help me. I asked for a 30-percent tax cut, and he gave me 25. Some people might say you came up a little short, Howard. [Laughter] Now, I'm not going to go into that kind of joke. [Laughter] But here's a man with a distinguished career that he's had in the Senate. He is a lawyer of distinction and will be returning to Tennessee, and the thought has come to me -- the United States Supreme Court. We could use a ``little'' justice. [Laughter]

All I can say is that whoever succeeds you in the Senate leadership, Howard, is going to have a mighty big camera bag to fill. [Laughter] Howard has done what I think most of us would agree is the impossible. He has made Lowell Weicker and Jesse Helms work together like a team -- ``The Bad News Bears.'' [Laughter] So, Howard, if I may just say one serious word tonight, it is ``goodbye.'' [Laughter]

But then I must add, and this time in real seriousness, Howard Baker has been a true friend. He's been a lion in support of the cause which unites us. And you will be missed more than you know, and I'm not going to let myself think about it, because it hurts too much. But thank you, Howard. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 7:58 p.m. in the International Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel.