Remarks at a Fundraising Luncheon for Senator Alfonse M. D'Amato in New York, New York

April 18, 1986

You've done that. Thank you. [Applause] There are no words properly to thank you, but just from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all very much. And Al D'Amato, Senator, I thank you. Thank you, John Bierwirth. It's wonderful to be here in New York today and very good to see all of you -- some old friends and now some new.

I know you're about to lunch, and I don't want to take too much time up here. I want to be direct and get to the heart of my message and then take my seat. I considered starting with humor -- something like it's a pleasure to be here and give a little help to D'Amato -- [laughter] -- after all, that's what he gives me in the Senate. [laughter] Then, you know how every once in a while a line from a song will get in your head and you just can't get them out. They keep going over and over again, kind of way up here. That was happening to me -- you say ``D'Am-a-to'' and I say ``D'Am-a-to.'' [Laughter] It reminded me of how Harry Belafonte said, ``Let's call the whole thing off.'' [Laughter]

You know the fact is, it's as tough for the Democrats to find an opponent for Al as it is for batters to find a Dwight Gooden fastball. Actually, there's a similarity between the two. Dwight is ``Dr. K,'' and as far as I'm concerned Al D'Amato is Senator ``A-OK.'' And I'm hoping that you'll help send him back to the Senate for another 6 years. We need him there, and I need him there. One reason is obvious: We need more Democrats in the Senate like Custer needed more arrows. [Laughter] Nothing against my friends and colleagues in the other party, but at this time in our history it is the Republican Party that is the party of ideas, the party of the entrepreneur and the small businessman and businesswoman, the party of the poor and those who are struggling for a chance, and the party of a great and once almost forgotten part of America -- the great middle class of this country.

Senator Al D'Amato has helped us represent all of these groups and individuals, which is to say he's helped us represent America. Back in 1981 when it wasn't easy, when the sophisticated advice in this State and the smart money in Washington said don't do it, Al D'Amato supported the tax cuts that put our economy back on its feet. It wasn't easy, but Al took the position because it was the right and the just thing to do. The economic explosion that followed the tax cuts has created millions of jobs since 1982, including nearly half a million in the State of New York. Senator D'Amato showed a lot of courage, and I thanked him. I said, ``Al, I don't know how to thank you.'' And he said, ``I can think of a few ways, Mr. President.'' [Laughter] He even had a list. [Laughter] And I've told my aides, ``Try to get him when he isn't prepared.'' [Laughter] Well, they're still trying. [Laughter] That was the meaning of the 4 a.m. call last night, Al. [Laughter]

Al D'Amato has fought a sometimes lonely fight for adequate and realistic defense spending. And I must say that in this fight, he has managed in his own inimitable way to serve the national interest while enhancing economic prospects on the local level. Al has shown an impressive knowledge of and concern about the readiness and the size of our naval forces, for instance. In the past few years, he's worked closely with the Secretary of the Navy to make sure that our ships have sufficient and widely dispersed home porting, the better to defend a large continent. He did this out of patriotism and an eagerness to protect his country.

But -- and very seriously -- there are two areas where Al D'Amato's leadership and total -- that is total -- commitment have made a major and immediate impact. And everyone in Washington would agree with me on this, especially the First Lady. I'm referring to the problems of drugs and crime. It's no exaggeration to say that Al D'Amato came to the Senate absolutely livid about what the peaceful, decent, law-abiding citizens of his State had to put up with in terms of crime. He and I have discussed this a number of times, and it's clearly an issue he feels very passionately about. And he hasn't just talked; he's done something.

He cosponsored the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which put tougher penalties on drug trafficking and provides pretrial detention for dangerous criminals. He wrote a provision of the act which strengthens the Government's ability to seize the assets of drug dealers. And this provision, by the way, is now being used by U.S. attorneys throughout the United States. He successfully fought for hundreds more drug enforcement agents and customs agents to help fight in the battle against drugs. Al agrees, as my wife Nancy does, that a big part of the war against drugs is teaching children to resist the pressures of their friends and the neighborhood and teach them how to say no. He's joined with the law enforcement community to bring drug prevention to the classrooms and neighborhoods of New York.

And I want to mention a special program that Al has begun. It's called ``Coaches, Kids, and Chemicals.'' In February, 180 sports coaches and parents and teachers made their way through the snow out to Long Island to meet and see if they couldn't fight the drug problem together. And I know that Carl Eller is a part of that program. I know also that he's here in this room today. And, Carl, would you stand up and take a bow? [Applause] I've always thought there's nothing that can't be done if the people, the American people want to do it. Al thinks there's nothing that can't be done if the great and good people of the Empire State want to do it. So, I'd say the street thugs and the drug dealers had better beware while Al D'Amato and friends are on the case.

Inevitably, Al D'Amato and I haven't agreed on everything. There are issues in which he hasn't seen things as we did. But we've also always agreed on a great deal. And we're Republicans; we share the same party and the same heritage, and there's nothing more that -- or there's, I should say, there is more that unites us than could ever divide us. We share to a certain extent a worldview.

Our nation faces some great challenges over the next few years. And I think the historians of the future are going to look back on the eighties as a watershed era, a time when America faced a lot of tough issues -- and partly because it had no choice. This is the decade that reminds me of Lincoln's ``Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.'' We face the question of the national economy: Should we keep it expanding and creating jobs, or do we want to go back to the depressing limits of the past? Al D'Amato and I agree; the answer is go for growth. We face the central diplomatic challenge of our time: how to deal with Soviet expansionism, with imperialism, and terrorism. Al D'Amato and I agree: To preserve the peace we need a strong and unsurpassed Armed Forces.

We face a direct and explicit military and political challenge in Central America, a challenge involving communism and its ambitions. Al D'Amato and I agree that to protect the peace you have to protect democracy, and that means protecting those who fight for democracy. And I want to thank you, Al, for proving once again the other day when you voted for aid for the Nicaraguan freedom fighters that you can face the hard choices and make the hard votes. I know it isn't easy. But it's better than easy; it's right.

Now, I'm not going to look, but is he getting out his list again? [Laughter] I want Senator D'Amato with me in Washington for the remaining years of my term, and I want Senator D'Amato there representing the good people of New York for 6 more years. Do you think you can help? [Applause] Well, that's wonderful, and you're all wonderful. Be good to the Senator here and send him back. And please work hard for all the Republican candidates for the House and the State and local office. And I ask you to rally behind your candidate for Governor, Andy O'Rourke.

I thank you, all of you. It's been good to be here, and it's been fun. So, my thanks, and God bless you all. Oh, by the way, there's another issue in which Al D'Amato and I agree. Like Al, I love New York! Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:15 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to John Bierwirth, president of Grumman Corp; Dwight Gooden, pitcher for the New York Mets; and Carl Eller, former professional football player.