Remarks at the White House Correspondents Association Annual Dinner

April 22, 1987

The President. Thank you very much, Norm Sandler. And since I've been in this office for a while longer, and you're just starting, do you mind if I make a suggestion? Might make things easier for you. On August 8th write down what you did. [Laughter]

Then, of course, Bill Plante -- outgoing. Here we are, Bill, both outgoing presidents. [Laughter] Since you're doing it a little ahead of me, I hope you won't mind if I come around later to find out what it's like in the outside world. [Laughter] I know we share some experiences by way of our office. I understand that a gentleman from Maryland some time ago wrote you recently registering a complaint and suggesting that there should be a button on TV sets that we could press and make your camera bounce billiard balls off your head. [Laughter] I don't want you to take offense -- I wouldn't push that button for anything in the world, Bill -- [laughter] -- but I was so fascinated by his high-technology abilities that I'm putting him on the Federal Communications Commission. [Laughter]

And you know, of course, that we're just back from California. We introduced Howard Baker to ranch life. We put him in the saddle, and he really took to it. He told me he'd never been so excited by anything, that just sitting in that saddle made his heart race. Next time we're going to put the saddle on a horse. [Laughter]

But a lot happened while we were gone. Texaco declared bankruptcy, Senator Simon declared for the Presidency, Gary Hart did both. [Laughter] Then we had that little thing with the Japanese. Jim Wright and I agreed that there are three things we must do to balance the trade deficit. We can't remember what they are. [Laughter] Also, last week Amy Carter was in the news. [Laughter] I'd always thought that if she rebelled it'd mean she'd become a Young Republican. [Laughter]

And we've still got that spying problem at our Embassy in Moscow. You have to use a child's magic slate to communicate. I don't know why everyone thinks that's such a big deal. The Democrats have been doing the budget on one of those for years. [Laughter] But the Soviets have really gone too far. It's no secret that I wear a hearing aid. Well, just the other day, all of the sudden, it went haywire. We discovered the KGB had put a listening device in my listening device. [Laughter]

And I know a lot of you have been having some fun with my advancing years. You even tied my recent surgery to my age. Well, I got to be honest with you, I had that same operation when I was young, and it felt so good I wanted to have it done again before I was too old. [Laughter] But I am aware of my age. When I go in for a physical now they no longer ask me how old I am, they just carbon date me. [Laughter]

Incidentally, I've got a news item for you: We have a spinoff from our star wars research. It's a helmet for me to wear at press conferences. [Laughter] All I do is push a button, and it shoots down incoming questions. [Laughter] You have to admit, though, that my attitude is better than linebacker George Atkinson's when he was with the Oakland Raiders. Someone asked him what the players' reaction would be if the press box blew up. He said, ``We'd have 30 seconds of respectful silence and then continue with enthusiasm.'' [Laughter] Now, honest, I don't feel that way -- maybe once in a while. [Laughter]

I'm sure we get exasperated now and then with each other, but that's just the friction of freedom. You know, when I first got to Washington, I tried to establish a relationship with Tip O'Neill. And we were doing pretty well, and then one day I picked up the paper and read something that really prompted me to call him. And I said, ``Tip, I thought we had a good relationship going, and then I read this news story.'' And Tip said, ``Well, old buddy, that's just politics. After 6 o'clock, we're friends.'' I started wearing a watch that was permanently set at 6 p.m. [Laughter] I'll start wearing that watch again if you'll do the same.

You know, in spite of our disagreements, I have a positive opinion of reporters. And I think it all goes back to one of my favorite reporters, Ernie Pyle. During World War II his columns about ``your boys,'' as he called them, were devoured in the homefront. His books were bestsellers. His understanding of ordinary soldiers was clear and heartfelt. He himself was a victim of the war, killed by enemy machinegun fire. He once wrote: ``There is a good deal of gaiety in wartime, humor and exuberance still exist.'' Our soldiers are still as roughly good-humored as they always were, and they laugh easily, although there isn't as much to laugh about as there used to be. Well, if we keep the need for humor to be important parts of our jobs as correspondents and politicians, maybe we can get through the daily battles without losing our spirit or temper or perspective. I think this would be good for both the press and the Presidency.

Nancy, would you like to join me up here for -- please? I know it's getting late, dear, but it's not often that we have so many people who have written about us and -- [laughter] -- broadcast about us all together in one room like this, and I thought you might like to say a few nice words to them. [Laughter] They're all from the press and radio and television. Maybe just a friendly little greeting would do. [Laughter] How about just a word or two -- something friendly -- even one kind word.

Mrs. Reagan. I'm thinking. I'm thinking. [Laughter]

The President. Seriously, my friends, as always, we've had our share of laughs tonight at one another's expense, which is as it should be in a city where the issues are important and the passions run so deep. Maybe the fun and good nature of evenings like this is a good place to start.

Mrs. Reagan. So, thank you for your hospitality, and thank you for inviting us. Thank you.

The President. Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:20 p.m. in the International Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel. He was introduced by Norman D. Sandler, White House correspondent for United Press International and incoming president of the White House Correspondents Association.