Remarks at the Annual Convention of Concerned Women for America

 

September 25, 1987

 

Thank you all very much, and believe me, welcome to Washington. [Laughter] It's wonderful to see you all here. Makes me feel as if the reinforcements have just arrived. I have to tell you that back there, and hearing those songs before I came out, put a lump in my throat. And I was trying to control that when I came in, and you just enlarged it. [Laughter] I want to congratulate you on your fourth national convention. In just a few short years you've become the largest politically active women's organization in the Nation.

 

A lot of the credit, of course, has to go to one woman. She's one of the powerhouses on the political scene today and one of the reasons that the grassroots are more and more a conservative province. Because of her, the great majority of women once again have a voice in the issues of the day. You can no longer be ignored by the media or by their elected representatives. Beverly LaHaye is changing the face of American politics, and she deserves our thanks and congratulations. [Applause]

 

You know, thinking of this convention brought back to mind one of my favorite stories about Calvin Coolidge. Some of you may know that after Cal Coolidge was introduced to the sport of fishing by his Secret Service detail -- [laughter] -- it got to be quite a passion with him, if you can use that word about Silent Cal. [Laughter] Anyway, he was once asked by reporters how many fish were in one of his favorite angling places, the River Brule. Coolidge said the waters were estimated to carry 45,000 trout. And then he said, ``I haven't caught them all yet, but I sure have intimidated them.'' [Laughter] Well, there are only 535 Senators and Congressmen up on Capitol Hill. And as Beverly might say, we haven't caught them all yet, but we've sure got their attention.

 

One of the things we're going to keep their attention focused on is -- well, you might say it's making sure that justice is done, that Justice Bork is confirmed by the Senate as our next Supreme Court Justice.

 

Now, I'm going to talk about him a little bit here, but I feel like I'm preaching to the choir. [Laughter] The Wall Street Journal called Judge Bork, and I quote: ``the most qualified American alive to serve on the Supreme Court.'' And I think his testimony, which was completed last Saturday, demonstrated that to the Nation. The American people saw not only a brilliant legal mind at work but also a wise man who was prudent and fair, a man of careful consideration and deep learning.

 

Before the hearings began, there was a lot of talk by certain interest groups to the effect that Judge Bork was a political ideologue. On TV's across the Nation, those who tuned into the hearings saw something very different indeed. They saw a judge who impressively argued against ideology -- and that is, against the current fashion in some legal circles that says a judge should bend the law to suit his own political agenda. We've had too much of that already. Judge Bork clearly spelled out his philosophy: that a judge should keep his own views from interfering with an interpretation of the laws and the Constitution according to the intentions of those who enacted them, consistent with precedent. In other words, a judge should interpret the laws and not make them. [Applause] Well, I was going to start the next sentence with ``I think.'' I'm switching. [Laughter] I know you'll agree we need more judges like that.

 

Now, before the hearings, these same interest groups also argued that Judge Bork was outside the mainstream. But recently, in an article on the op-ed page of the Washington Post, President Carter's White House Counsel, Lloyd Cutler, threw that canard out the window. I have a hunch that maybe the Post was thinking they would get a different view than they got when they accepted his op-ed piece. [Laughter] Mr. Cutler wrote of Judge Bork, and I'll quote again: ``His views were and are widely shared by justices and academics who are in the moderate center.'' Well, it's clear now that the charges that Robert Bork is too ideological are themselves ideologically inspired and that the criticism of him as outside the mainstream can only be held by those who are themselves so far outside the mainstream that they've long ago lost sight of the moderate center.

 

And there's one subject I wish the hearings had dealt with more thoroughly, and that's crime. Nearly one-third of the Supreme Court's docket is devoted to criminal cases. As a judge on one of our nation's most important appellate courts, Judge Bork has handed down tough but fair decisions that have not only protected the rights of the accused but the rights of the victims, as well. And they've been too long ignored. And I know you'll agree: our Constitution requires no less.

 

And if people want a measure of how the American public feels on the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, they should ask this organization about the 72,000 petitions, pro-Bork petitions, that have flooded in over the last 3 weeks -- with more coming in all the time. Now, I don't usually make predictions. I've always been a little superstitious about that, but in this case I feel confident that reason will prevail over politics. So, I'm going to make this prediction: Not only that Judge Bork will be confirmed, but that he will go down in history as one of the finest Supreme Court Justices our nation has ever known.

 

And now, even though I'm going to change subjects here, I'm still preaching to the choir. [Laughter] The next item on our agenda -- and nothing we've done in the last 6\1/2\ years has been more important -- is the survival of freedom in Central America. Believe me, I know how much your organization has done in that cause: setting up schools, medical clinics, and farms to help refugees fleeing Communist oppression; $4 million worth of clothes in one shipment alone. And over the last few years, you've been vital in getting the message out to the American people. But this is the crucial moment, now is the time we must redouble our efforts to make sure that the hope for freedom in Nicaragua is not betrayed once again.

 

In the latest issue of Public Opinion magazine, they printed the results of an extensive polling of American attitudes towards Central America. And the numbers make it very clear the message is getting across. The American public recognizes the great danger posed by an aggressive Communist government in Nicaragua and, by a large majority, favors continued aid to the Nicaraguan freedom fighters battling to liberate their nation from Communist tyranny. Of those who had an opinion, a huge majority described Central America as ``very important to the defense interests of the United States.'' And they agreed that the situation in Nicaragua is a threat to the security of the United States. Huge majorities believe there is a danger of Nicaragua becoming another Cuba, an aggressive Soviet outpost exporting revolution to its neighboring countries. And that is the real problem: Communist Nicaragua is, in fact, a Soviet beachhead in the Americas.

 

And on the subject of aid to the freedom fighters, the numbers were impressive. Asked the question: Should the United States aid the rebels to prevent Communist influence from spreading to other countries in Central America? -- 58 percent said yes, and only 29 percent were opposed. Well, I can tell you, aid to the freedom fighters must and will continue. The American people want it, justice demands it, and it's the only way to make the Marxist-Leninists in Managua sincerely talk peace. In the months ahead, as the Central American peace progress -- or process undergoes its inevitable complications, it'll be even more vital to keep the central issue before the American people: democracy in Nicaragua. We can accept nothing less.

 

Only with freedom and democracy in Nicaragua will there be true peace and a chance for real, lasting economic development in Central America. Anything short of true democracy in Nicaragua will at best bring only a false peace to Central America. The wound will fester, and the infection will break out once again. Remember back when they were trying to tell us in certain areas of the media that Castro was the George Washington of Cuba? [Laughter]

 

There's only one fair path to peace: free and fair elections open to all. Now the Sandinistas have promised to end all censorship. Well, that's a good beginning, and we must hold them to it. But it's only a beginning. The next steps are obvious: Open up the jails and let the thousands of political prisoners free; let the exiles come home; allow freedom of worship, free labor unions, a free economy; dissolve the so-called neighborhood watch committees; and give the people of Nicaragua back their basic human rights; and last, but not least, send the Soviets and the Cubans home. Anyone who demands anything less of the Sandinistas, anyone who does not insist on true democracy in Nicaragua, is not serving the cause of peace. We'll not be satisfied with mere show, with ``Potemkin'' reforms. Until these conditions are met, democratization will be no more than a fraud. And until they're met, we'll press for true democracy by supporting those who are fighting for it.

 

Well, I've talked long enough -- [applause] -- I know, but I'd like to leave you with one thought. In this bicentennial year, I keep being drawn back to George Washington's first Inaugural Address. He said: ``There is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness.'' America will prosper, America will succeed, he was saying, only so long as she is good. For the ``propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained.'' He reminded his countrymen that there is something more at stake here than our own advantage, and that something is the ``preservation of the sacred fire of liberty'' which he said was deeply, finally ``staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people.''

 

These words ring just as urgently true today, perhaps even more so. And it's individuals and groups like yours who have responded to that sense of urgency, who've taken up Washington's call, who will keep America good and therefore prospering. Working from the grassroots through all the branches of government, it is people like you who are keeping that sacred fire of liberty alive.

 

I've said many times before and will repeat again before I leave here -- you may call it mysticism if you will -- but I have always believed there had to be some divine plan that put these great continents here in the Western Hemisphere between the two great oceans to be found by people who had such a love of freedom and a desire for that kind of freedom in their hearts that they would uproot themselves from their homelands and, from every part of the world, come here to create this country. And the other day I received a letter; a line in it so eloquent from a man that I have to quote it. He said: ``You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Japan, you cannot become Japanese. In Turkey or Greece or anyplace else, you cannot become one of them. But everybody or anybody from every corner of this world can come to the United States and become an American.''

 

I thank you all, and I God bless you all. And I ask His blessing on all of you. And then I'm just going to leave you with one little thing about some of those other parts of the world. I have become a collector of stories that are told among the people of the Soviet Union, that reveal that they have a sense of humor, but also some cynicism about their present system. And I've collected quite a number of them, and they're just wonderful. And one that I think is kind of interesting is the question that was asked in school over there about how do you tell a Communist? He said, ``Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin.'' And how do you tell an anti-Communist? ``It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin.'' [Laughter] Thank you very much.

 

Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the Arlington Ballroom at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, VA. Beverly LaHaye was president of Concerned Women for America.