Remarks at the Annual Republican Senate/House Fundraising Dinner

May 16, 1985

Thank you, John. I thank you all very much, all of you, for this wonderful evening and the privilege of being here. I must say that I was a little disturbed -- nostalgia had seized me with the presence of Bob Hope here, and, then, when Drew Lewis introduced him, instead of me doing it -- you see, back in Hollywood, when you did many benefits for worthy causes, if you didn't sing or dance and you were asked to appear at one of those, you'd always say, ``Well, what can I do?'' and someone would always say, ``You can introduce someone else.'' [Laughter]

So, that was a function of mine; I've done it many times. As a matter of fact, I remember one night when there were seven of us standing there and lined up to introduce Nelson Eddy, singing ``Shortnin' Bread.'' [Laughter]

But all I can say is, it's great to be back in the United States of America. Now, if you see me glancing over in this direction a lot, it's because after my experience at Strasbourg I keep expecting the left side of the room to walk out. [Laughter] The truth is I never realized I had such a moving effect on leftwingers. [Laughter]

But I want to set the record straight and say now that there's absolutely no truth to the rumor that Bob Dole and Bob Michel have asked me to speak before a special session of Congress.

This may be called the President's Dinner, but it's really your dinner. For the second year in a row, you've made this the most successful fundraising event in the history of the Republican Party, as you've been told. And to all of you here tonight who've given so generously, you have my deepest gratitude. Your continued support is essential if we're going to keep America on the right track, growing stronger, braver, and freer every year.

A lot of you know Ed Rollins, and many of you will be working closely with him in the coming months. And I just want to take this opportunity to say what an outstanding job Ed has done over the years working to make our hopes and ideals a political reality.

Ted Welch, Drew Lewis, and Jack McDonald, you've done a superb job making this event possible. To the Members of the House and Senate who are here tonight, don't think I don't appreciate what it's like out there in the trenches. It's gotten to the point where you can't even have an operation in peace any more without Bob Dole calling you in for a vote. [Laughter]

Special thanks should go to Bob Dole and Bob Michel for their outstanding leadership on the Hill. We saw an example of that leadership last week when, as John told you, the Senate passed an historic bill to turn the tide of runaway congressional spending.

And now, Bob Michel has a somewhat different situation to contend with. I understand now that House proceedings are televised. Tip O'Neill is getting to be known as the J.R. Ewing of Washington, DC. [Laughter]

Maybe the House Democrats have been in power so long they've forgotten the basic courtesies due their opponents in a democracy. Suppose we just teach them a few manners in 1986. [Laughter]

But we're up against a tough challenge in this next election. Being right doesn't automatically or immediately translate into political might, without a lot of hard work. We are bucking an historical trend in midterm elections, but that's nothing new to us. For the last 4\1/2\ years, we've been bucking the historical trend, and we've been winning with spending and tax cuts, tax reform, strengthened defenses, and support for democracy around the world.

But then we were bucking a 4-year trend when we came into office, just by feeling good about America. They said these things couldn't be done, but we're doing them. And that's the main reason, I believe, that in 1986 we're not only going to keep control of the Senate but build a winning coalition that will break the liberals' paralyzing grip on the House.

The American people will see that they have a choice between the party of action and the party of stagnation, between a party of doers and a party of do-nothings. Take the budget, for instance. The budget debate has been completely revolutionized. The question isn't any longer: Can government spending be cut? Today the only question is: How much and where?

Have you ever stopped to think that this is really about the first time that you have ever seen the two parties, and today the only difference between them is the argument about what should be cut, but both agreed that government spending should be cut.

The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a budget that will shrink the deficit, prepare the way for tax reform, and help put our economy on a growth path through the end of the decade. The Senate Republicans have shown that they have the right stuff to make tough political choices by doing what everybody agrees has to be done -- cutting spending. By putting the needs of the country above any short-term political interest, our Senate Republicans have shown courage and leadership, and the country will thank them for it.

It awaits to be seen whether the Democrats in the House are up to this challenge. Will they shrink from this great moment and retreat into excuses and partisan politics? The Democrats have been talking about deficits for years. The coming budget vote in the House will be the measure of their sincerity. It'll signal to the country whether they'll cooperate in the business of running this country or if they're determined to reduce themselves to the role of spoilers, detractors, and negativists.

If the Democrats in the House can't bring themselves to cut wasteful Federal spending, there's always another option: Give me what 43 Governors already have -- a line-item veto. I'll take the political heat; in fact, I'll enjoy it.

Some Democrats, in their effort to torpedo any constructive budget compromise, are proposing drastic cuts in defense that would seriously threaten our country's national security and tax increases that could strangle our economic prosperity. We had a referendum on that idea last November. The American people overwhelmingly rejected it. We've already compromised greatly on defense by agreeing to freeze spending at last year's levels with only an adjustment for inflation. Now, this was not an easy decision. There's no question about it, this will temporarily slow down our vitally needed defense buildup at a time when the Soviet Union is pouring unprecedented amounts of resources into their offensive military arsenals. But I've been assured that if I feel our national security is imperiled, I can come back to Congress for supplemental appropriations. Our leaders in the Senate have assured me of that. And if the Congress persists in making further reductions which could jeopardize our negotiating position in Geneva, I may take them up on that offer.

As I said, there are still a few people, also, who want to raise your taxes. There are also a few people who still claim the Earth is flat. [Laughter] As far as we're concerned, those questions were answered a long time ago -- both of them. In case the taxaholics have any doubts left, however, I want to show them this. This is a letter given to me by Representatives Connie Mack of Florida and Beau Boulter of Texas, with the signatures of 146 Republican Representatives who have pledged to support a veto of any tax increase, no matter how cleverly it's disguised. I carry this letter all the time. [Laughter] I sleep with it under my pillow. [Laughter] Whenever the job gets a little tough, I take it out and read it. And it really does make my day. [Laughter]

I'm determined that 1985 is going to go down in history as the year of tax reform and further rate reductions. This will be the year when that colossus of waste, unfairness, and inefficiency known as our tax code will finally be cleaned up.

We stand at the threshold of a new golden age of economic achievement and technological discovery. But a complicated and tangled tax code, along with unproductively high income tax rates, keep the door to progress partially closed. That's why we will be very soon announcing our tax reform plan to lower income tax rates, make our tax system fairer and simpler, and ensure that America is the sunrise industrial power of the 21st century.

Everywhere I went on our recent trip to Europe, I repeated one simple yet profound message: Freedom works. Except for a few people on the far left-hand side of the aisle, the response was extremely enthusiastic, especially among young people. Of course every time I started talking about individual freedom and human dignity, the Communists stood up and walked out of the room. I suppose they were just rushing off to greet Daniel Ortega, who seemed to be following me in most of the countries where we were.

And I notice that many in our House of Representatives had second thoughts about their vote to block aid to the freedom fighters when Mr. Ortega immediately flew off to Moscow for what looked like a victory celebration. Mr. Ortega, of course, was looking for another installment on that almost $2 billion in military and economic assistance the Soviets and their friends have been pouring into Nicaragua to prop up the brutal Communist regime there.

Sooner or later we are all forced to shed whatever illusions we may have had about the nature of Communist regimes. Let's only hope that this time it isn't too late for those brave Nicaraguans who are battling to bring freedom to their suffering country.

I hope Congress will change its mind. I still think that we can together rise above partisanship and do what we know is right, and I think every American knows in his heart that supporting freedom and democracy is right. I'm convinced that last month's vote against the freedom fighters in Nicaragua will be remembered as only a short, shameful episode -- an exception to our great country's historic allegiance to the cause of freedom and human rights.

So, our agenda these next few months is full. I am reminded of a story about Winston Churchill near the close of the Second World War. He was visited by a delegation from the Temperance League and chastised by one woman who said, ``Mr. Prime Minister, I've heard that if all the whiskey you have drunk since the war began were poured into this room, it would come all the way up to your waist.'' Churchill looked dolefully at the floor, then at his waist, then up to the ceiling. And he said: ``Ah, yes, madam. So much accomplished; so very much more left to do.'' [Laughter]

Yes, we have much left to do and with your help we are going to make it happen. We have begun no less than the renewal of the American dream, and we are not going to stop until that dream of hope, faith, and opportunity becomes a living reality for every American. That's the vision that guides us; that is the vision that the Republican Party is working toward. And to paraphrase John Paul Jones, we have only just begun to fight.

Thank you. Thank you all from the bottom of an awful lot of hearts in this room -- those Representatives and Senators that you've met, myself, Nancy, George, and all of us. We are deeply indebted to you.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:45 p.m. in Hall A at the Washington, DC, Convention Center. He was introduced by Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania.