Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Senator Slade Gorton in Spokane, Washington

 

October 31, 1986

 

The President. Well, thank you all very much. And thank you, Slade, for that most kind and generous introduction. And the --  --

 

Audience member. We love you, Ron!

 

The President.  --  -- our master -- [applause] -- and the -- I love all of you. Now, our master of ceremonies, Joel Pritchard, and former Congressman -- and I'm sorry that the schedule didn't call for me getting here in time so that I had to miss the Yakima Indian dance. And before I begin let me say thanks to some great bands: the Washington State University Band, the Central Valley High School Band, the Eastern Washington University Collegians, and the Percussionauts. And let me also mention three members of Washington State's A-Team in Washington, DC: Senator Dan Evans and Representatives Sid Morrison and Rod Chandler and, of course, the State chairman of the GOP, Dunn Jennifer. And to those here who might have crossed the line from Idaho, I just want to say that you have a tremendous United States Senator, Steve Symms. And I hope you'll reelect him.

 

Audience member. You bet we will!

 

The President. All right. Now, I can't help but see the young people here in this audience. And I have a special message for you from my roommate. She said when it comes to drugs, please -- for yourselves, for your families, for your future and your country -- just say no.

 

Well, it's wonderful to be here in the other Washington. And you know, as I often say to my staff when we're taking off in Air Force One, it's great to get out of Washington, DC, and to get back where the real people are, as Slade said. Now, you probably know that I couldn't do this much traveling when Congress was in session, as Slade Gorton will tell you. That's because some of those folks back there need watching. [Laughter] Now, I'm not assailing the institution of the Congress; I respect it mightily. But there are some there that in their approach to business reminds me of the three fellows that came out of a building one day and found they'd locked themselves out of their car. And one of them said, ``Get me a wire coathanger. I'll straighten it out, and I can fix it so I can trip the latch and we'll get in.'' And the second one says, ``You can't do that. Someone will see us and think we're stealing the car.'' And the third one said, ``Well, we better think of something pretty quick, because it's starting to rain and the top's down.'' [Laughter]

 

But that story says so much about how the tax-and-tax, spend-and-spend policies left our country just a few years ago: negative growth, double-digit inflation, the highest rates since -- and get ready -- the highest interest rates since the Civil War. And so, as part of the 1980 cleanup crew for the worst economic mess since the Great Depression, Slade Gorton and I headed for Washington. Well, we cut government growth. We slashed regulations, cut income taxes almost 25 percent. And today we're enjoying one of the longest economic expansions in history. The prime interest rate has fallen by two-thirds. Mortgage and auto loan rates are down. Inflation has plummeted from more than 12 percent to 1.8 percent. And we've created in just a little less than 4 years over 11\1/2\ million new jobs. That's more new jobs than Western Europe and Japan combined, put together, in the last 10 years. Now, you know when we started that economic program that led to all of this, there were a lot of critics. And some of them were pretty hostile, and some of them were making fun of us and all of that. I really realized that our plan, though, was working when they stopped calling it Reaganomics. [Laughter]

 

Just days ago, we learned that the figure that represents the country's economic growth -- GNP, the gross national product -- and some other indicators show our economy gathering momentum for even more growth, higher take-home pay, and more new jobs. And more recently, we learned the trade deficit in September declined for the second month in a row and is down now 30 percent lower than its peak. Now, this is particularly good news for our manufacturing industries. And we also learned that September sales of single-family homes were up over 10 percent. And just this morning, we learned that the Nation's leading economic indicators were up four-tenths of 1 percent in September. Now, there are three more indications that we're headed for more prosperity. And I'm determined to see that those who still are not sharing fully in our nation's prosperity do so. And I give you my pledge: Neither Slade nor I will be satisfied until this expansion reaches every sector of our economy and every home in America and until every American who wants a job has a job.

 

And to broaden our expansion, I signed into law last week the most sweeping reform of the tax code in our nation's history. For more than 80 percent of Americans, it means a top rate of 15 percent or less. But wouldn't you know it, even before this fair share tax plan reached my desk, the Democratic leadership in Congress was saying they wanted to break faith with the American people and turn the tax reform into a tax increase. You know, the truth is those folks never met a tax they didn't like. [Laughter] And when it comes to spending your hard-earned money, they act like they've got your credit card in their pocket. And believe me, they never leave home without it. But you, the American people, know the truth: We don't have a deficit because we're taxed too little; we have a deficit because the Congress spends too much. Isn't it about time the Congress started protecting the family budget instead of fattening the Federal budget?

 

You know, when I see what's been happening there, back in our Nation's Capital, it reminds me of a story. You'll find out that when you get to my age, a lot of things remind you of stories. [Laughter] This happened to be a Democratic fundraiser at a downtown hotel. And when the people came out of the hotel, there was a kid selling puppies. He had puppies, and he was saying, ``Buy a Democrat puppy. Buy a Democrat puppy.'' Two weeks later the Republicans held a fundraiser in the same place. When they were coming out, there was the kid with the puppies saying, ``Buy a Republican puppy. Buy a Republican puppy.'' And a newsman remembered him from 2 weeks before, and he said, ``Hey, kid, you were here 2 weeks ago selling those pups as Democrat pups. Now you're back here selling them as Republican pups. How come?'' The kid says, ``Now their eyes are open.'' [Laughter]

 

But, ladies and gentlemen, we've come now to an issue that transcends in importance even all the other crucial matters that I've mentioned: my most solemn duty as President, the safety of the American people and the security of these United States.

 

Audience member. Stay tough, Ron!

 

The President. And here, too, because of the support of a Senator like Slade Gorton, we've been able to restore America's strength. There is nothing I'm prouder of in this job than the 2 million young men and women who are in our military forces. And you know, the arguments that rage and how many people on the other side, politically, back in Washington, are always trying to whittle down the defense budget -- well, let me tell you about those young people in uniform. If we must ever ask them to put their lives on the line for the United States of America, then they deserve to have the finest weapons and equipment that we can produce. And we're going to see they get them.

 

And by the way, all of you in the Spokane area have a special reason for pride. Just 2 days ago airmen from Fairchild Air Force Base walked away with the trophy at the Strategic Air Command competition. So, as Commander in Chief, I'd like to give them a special salute.

 

You know, you find out some things about my job. I got to Washington, and then I found those young men, those marines, for example, at the helicopter and everything, would always salute. And I was an officer in World War II. In civilian clothes, I know I'm not supposed to salute, so I'd try to nod and say hello and hope they'd drop their hand. But they wouldn't; they kept it up there. And one night over at the Marine headquarters, I said to General Kelley, the Commandant of the Marines -- I told him about this. And I said there ought to be a regulation that even though if I'm the Commander in Chief, even though I'm in civilian clothes, that I can return a salute. He taught me something. He said, ``I think if you did it, no one would say anything.'' [Laughter] So, I salute every time I see a uniform. [Laughter] Well, because of our young men and women in uniform, things have really changed around the world. You know, America used to wear a ``Kick Me'' sign around its neck. Well, we threw that away, and now it reads, ``Don't Tread on Me.'' And today every nickel-and-dime dictator around the world knows that if he tangles with the United States of America, he'll have a price to pay. One other thing I'm especially proud of: After 6 years of this administration, not 1 square inch of territory in the world has been lost to communism, and one small country, Grenada, has been set free.

 

And finally, there's another special issue. We remain committed to our decision to move ahead with our Strategic Defense Initiative against ballistic missiles, SDI. Today we're dealing with the Soviet Union from a position of strength, and it was SDI that brought the Soviet Union to the bargaining table. Let me pledge to you: Our goal is to keep America strong, to save the West from mutual nuclear terror, to make ballistic missiles obsolete and, ultimately, to eliminate them from the face of the Earth. And, incidentally, in doing that, so there's no confusion, while SDI is not a protection against anything other than the ballistic missiles, I mean to include ridding all nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth. SDI is America's insurance policy to protect us from accidents or some madman who might come along, as Hitler did or a Qadhafi -- [laughter] -- or just in case the Soviets don't keep their side of a bargain.

 

The record on Soviet treaty violations is clear. We can either bet on American technology to keep us safe or on Soviet promises. And each has its own track record. I'll bet on American technology any day. Now, I knew there were those who had their doubts, but flying back from Iceland a few weeks ago, I knew the American people would support firmness with the Soviet Union. So, I couldn't come here today without thanking you, each of you, for that support.

 

Now, in a crowd like this, I know there must be a number of Democrats and --  --

 

Audience. No-o-o!

 

The President. Yes, now, wait a minute! Wait! Wait! Going across this country, I've seen millions of fine, patriotic Democrats who have come to realize that their leadership is totally out of step with their beliefs. And since we're outnumbered in the House of Representatives, if it hadn't been for the support of some of those Democrats like those who might be here today, we couldn't have achieved what we've achieved in these programs. Now, as you may know, I used to be a Democrat myself until I learned that the liberal leadership of that party had become completely out of step with the hard-working and patriotic men and women who make up the Democratic Party.

 

With all these bands here that I recognized, I have to tell you a little personal story because it kind of fits in right here. I was a drum major of the Dixon, Illinois, Boys Band. And we were invited to a neighboring town to lead their Memorial Day parade. Well, we didn't exactly lead it, because in front of us was the parade leader on a big white horse. And we're going down the street. And the band is playing, and I'm pumping the baton. And he turned and rode back down the line of the parade to make sure everthing was coming along all right. And pretty soon, I began to think the music was sounding faint -- [laughter] -- and I glanced over my shoulder. He had come back up and caught up just in time to turn the band to the right down an intersection. I was walking up the street all by myself. [Laughter] And that's what happened to the Democratic Party. The party had turned to the right; the leadership is still walking to the left.

 

But you know, in this thing of changing parties, though, I know how tough it can be to break with tradition. But remember, there's a great example set for us: the great statesman, Winston Churchill. As a Member of Parliament, Winston Churchill changed parties, and he was criticized for it. But he gave an answer that says it all. He said very simply, ``Some men change principle for party, others change party for principle.''

 

And that's what the election here in Washington State is all about this year: principle. Slade Gorton is a man of principle and integrity, a man who is devoted to his State and the people he represents, one of the Nation's most respected and effective Senators. You know, every time Slade walks into the Oval Office, I can't help thinking of another great Senator from your State, Washington: Scoop Jackson. And like Scoop, when Slade sits across a table from you, he has the courage and honesty to tell you what he believes, whether he agrees with you or not. I've seen him in action, making a reality of Scoop's longtime dream of a home port for the Navy at Everett. And, believe me, he's about the most effective fighter any State has on Capitol Hill.

 

A perfect example is the issue of selecting potential sites for a nuclear waste repository. Slade has told me about his deep concern for the health and safety of Washingtonians, particularly as it relates to this issue. On this point, Slade has gotten the ears of everyone back in the Nation's Capital.

 

Audience member. Way to go, Slade!

 

The President. Now, as you know, there were plans to begin work at Hanford this fiscal year. Well, Slade, working with Dan Evans and Mark Hatfield, persuaded the Congress to adopt a provision that stops the drilling of an exploratory shaft for 12 months. And Slade has alerted me that some people have suggested that this administration might intentionally circumvent the law. Well, that's the kind of thing that touches my temperature control. [Laughter] And let me tell you that I will see to it that the law on this issue is followed to the letter, and let no one tell you differently.

 

I also remember how, for 3 years, Slade and I and Scoop Jackson worked together for a stronger America. Slade's opponent [Brock Adams] has a different goal. He's joined the most liberal elements in the Congress in opposing our strategic defense against nuclear ballistic missiles. Even after I returned from Iceland, he said he was -- in his words -- ``dead against SDI.'' Well, we're dead set against a weaker America. We're going to keep our insurance policy for peace. With Slade Gorton in the Senate, we're going to negotiate for peace from a position of strength.

 

And the choice here in Washington State couldn't be clearer. Slade Gorton was a leader on the team that brought America back. Slade's opponent was an all-star player on the team that got us in the mess in the first place, and he hasn't changed his uniform yet. So, please, on election day, keep our team on the field. Go to the polls. Get everyone you know to go there, too. And send Slade Gorton back to the Senate.

 

Before I leave all this subject of strength and everything, let me just explain, if I could, for some who might not understand -- and I've come across many people who don't understand -- SDI and what the whole proposal is about. We don't believe that the world should go on with a policy of mutual assured destruction, in which our only defense against nuclear missiles is to have so many on each side that both sides are afraid to start the fight. We believe that if there is a defensive shield that can make those weapons obsolete we should put that in place, but not put it in place while we have our great arsenal of nuclear offensive weapons. In Iceland and since then, my proposal to the Soviet Union was that when we come to the point that we have developed and know we have this defensive shield then they and the United States come together. We agree to eliminate all offensive nuclear weapons, and we, in return, give them the same shield we have so that we can live together with no suspicion that each other might be cheating.

 

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the eyes of America are on you and your great State. Will you choose the Democratic leaders, who in 1980 weakened our nation and nearly brought our economy to its knees, who raised your taxes and announced their plans to pursue --  --

 

Audience. No-o-o!

 

The President. Or will you give us a chance to send the cleanup team of 1980 back to finish?

 

Audience. Yes!

 

The President. Now, you've gotten ahead of me a little bit here, because I thought I'd conduct an informal poll and you would speak up loudly and let all America hear. For example: Do you want to go back to the days of big spending, high taxes, and runaway inflation?

 

Audience. No-o-o!

 

The President. Do you want to return to policies that gave us a weak and vacillating America?

 

Audience. No-o-o!

 

The President. That's good to hear. [Laughter] Now, would you rather have low taxes, low inflation, and low interest rates?

 

Audience. Yes!

 

The President. Would you rather have an America that is strong and proud and free?

 

Audience. Yes!

 

The President. Do you want Slade Gorton as your Senator from the great State of Washington?

 

Audience. Yes!

 

The President. You just made my day, and you didn't make Slade a bit unhappy, either. [Laughter]

 

But important as this election will be to me, it'll be even more important to you, and especially to you young people, for this will shape our nation's future. Every poll shows that the age group from 18 to 24 has the highest percentage of any age group in being supportive of what we're doing. But now, I have another poll return, also -- so, when you go out of here, I'm going to send you on a mission -- that is also the age group that shows the lowest turnout for voting at the polls. So, go out of here not only determined to vote yourselves but buttonhole every friend in your age group that you can and tell them the only way to be a good citizen is to get to those polls and vote. Exercise your sacred right as an American. Participate in shaping history itself by going to the polls. You know, at the beginning of World War II, General George C. Marshall was the Chief of Staff of the United States Army. Someone asked him, as we went into that terrible war, if we had a secret weapon and, if so, what it might be? And General Marshall said, very simply, ``Yes, we have a secret weapon. It's just the best blankety-blank kids in the world.'' Now, I've been seeing your generation on campuses all across the country, in high schools that I've visited, those young people in the military and all, and I can assure you if George Marshall were here today he would say, your generation -- you're the best blankety-blank kids in the world. I had to say blankety-blank and not what he said, but generals are different than Presidents in what they can say. [Laughter]

 

Well, it's time to go now, but before leaving --  --

 

Audience. No-o-o!

 

The President. Yes. I've got to go over and visit Steve Symms in Idaho. But before leaving, I would just like to say that people my age deeply believe that it's our duty to turn over to you young Americans the same freedom and opportunity that our parents and grandparents turned over to us when it was our turn to take charge. And speaking for other generations, those between my generation and yours: All of us feel that same way. Now, there've been times -- just a few years ago was one of them -- when we have been careless and things have slipped for America. But we've always gotten back on track, as we are now. And so, I pledge to you, that that's what we want to do, and we're going to turn over to you that kind of a free and opportune-offering society here in America. When we look at you and see your openness and your enthusiasm for America and for life itself, believe me, it gives us heart.

 

So, when you go to the polls, win one for Slade Gorton, win one for your future, and win one for America's future. And I can't resist saying it: Win one for the Gipper! Thank you all, and God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 10:41 a.m. at the Spokane Coliseum. He was introduced by Senator Gorton. Following his remarks, the President met at the coliseum with major donors to the Washington State Republican Party. He then traveled to Twin Falls, ID.