Remarks to State and Local Republican Officials on Federalism and Aid to the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance
ladies and gentlemen, President Owens, thank you all very much. It's good to
have you all here in
like a story our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, once told when he
found out all but one of his Cabinet officers ranged against him on an
important issue. His story was about a man who fell
sound asleep during a revival meeting and didn't hear when the minister said,
``All of you who are on the side of the Lord, stand up.'' Of course, everyone
stood up immediately, except for this one man, who was still asleep. But the
preacher was only getting started and bellowed out, ``All of you who are on the
side of the devil, stand up.'' Well, at that the man woke up and standing as
straight as he could said, ``I didn't exactly understand
the question, parson, but I'll stand by you to the end. It does seem we're in a
hopeless minority.'' [Laughter] Well, as Republicans, you may be in a minority
in terms of numbers at this year's meeting of the National League of Cities,
but always remember, the ideals and beliefs that you stand for are the majority
beliefs in this
Now, I know you've heard from Beryl Sprinkel [Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers] here, and from Senator Baker [Chief of Staff to the President] and Frank Donatelli [Assistant to the President for Political and Intergovernmental Affairs], so I'll try to keep this brief. As Henry the Eighth said to each of his 6 wives, ``I won't keep you long.'' [Laughter] But there are so many issues before us that I want to cover.
first is federalism. I remember how the pundits snickered at that idea at
first. But those of us who have actually served at the State and local level
know it's not in
Now it's time for Congress to join us and pass a truth-in-spending initiative that requires that all legislation include a financial impact statement, detailing the measure's likely economic effects upon the private sector and State and local governments. Last month I sent to the Congress the Truth in Federal Spending Act of 1988. I hope you'll join with me and urge the Congress to promptly enact this legislation. We see the momentum of federalism in the move in States across our country to reform welfare. In my State of the Union Address, I said that some years ago the Federal Government declared a War on Poverty and poverty won. Instead of providing a ladder out of poverty, welfare became a net of dependency that held millions back. Instead of hope, we've too often bred despair and futility.
It's time, as I said to Congress, for the Federal Government to show a little humility, to let a thousand sparks of genius in the States and communities around this country catch fire and become guiding lights. You know, on the subject of federalism, I remember back when I was Governor; we had something that was a bit more common back then -- campus protests. And one thing the protesters would often chant was that we should give power back to the people. I guess they didn't realize how closely I was listening. [Laughter]
Yes, we've made tremendous progress with federalism, but all that progress and more could be destroyed by one bill that I vetoed last week, but some hope to pass over my veto. I'm talking about the so-called Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987. Equality before the law is the American standard. We can never allow ourselves to fall short. Discrimination is an evil, pure and simple, and cannot ever be tolerated. And there are already laws, many laws, on the books to protect our civil rights. We can ensure equality of opportunity without increasing Federal intrusion into State and local governments and the private sector.
truth is, this legislation isn't a civil rights bill.
It's a power grab by
does that mean? It means masses of new paperwork, random on-site compliance
reviews by Federal bureaucrats, and a field day for lawyers -- we'd see
lawsuits multiply faster than flies in springtime. The
as a reasonable alternative, I've transmitted to Congress the Civil Rights
Protection Act of 1988, which is designed to ensure equal opportunity while
preserving our basic freedoms. This bill properly addresses the Supreme Court's
decision in the
It's like the story about a Congressman sitting in his office one day when a constituent comes by to tell him why he must vote for a certain piece of legislation. The Congressman sat back, listened, and when he was done he said, ``You're right. You know, you're absolutely right.'' The fellow left happy. A few minutes later, another constituent came by, and this one wanted him to vote against the bill. The Congressman listened to his reasons, sat back, and said, ``You know, you're right. You're right. You're absolutely right.'' Well, the second constituent left happy. The Congressman's wife had dropped by and was waiting outside the office when she heard these two conversations. When the second man left, she went in and said, ``That first man wanted you to vote for the bill, and you said he was right. And the second one wanted you to vote against it, and you said he was right, too. You can't run your affairs that way.'' And the Congressman said, ``You know, you're right. You're right. You're absolutely right.'' [Laughter]
The inability of some in Congress to say no to special interests is right now the biggest threat to our prosperity and our democratic way of life. And that's why few election years will be more important than 1988. As you know, reapportionment comes up just 3 years later, in 1991. Having Republicans in State and local offices is the only hope we have of getting a fair deal, and that's all we're asking for: an end to the antidemocratic and un-American practice of gerrymandering congressional districts.
1984 there were 367 congressional races contested by both parties. In the
races, Republicans won half a million more votes than the Democrats, but the
Democratic Party won 31 more seats. In
Fahrenkopf and the Republican Party have challenged
the Democrats' gerrymandering in court, but ultimately it's in the State
legislatures that the battle for fairness must be won. And that's why
Republicans are going to have to campaign with all our heart and soul for
final note, if I may. It's on a subject that concerns State and local officials
and every American -- every citizen who cherishes our freedom and shares a
concern for our national security. I'm talking about the crisis developing in
House leadership, who played hardball to win the vote to cut off aid, now says
it won't accept responsibility for the destruction of the freedom fighters.
Well, if the freedom fighters are extinguished and Communist rule is consolidated
Well, I've spoken for long enough. I'm reminded of the quip that Henry Clay once made when one of his antagonists in the Senate, in the middle of a dull and lengthy speech, turned to him and said, ``You, sir, speak for the present generation. I speak for posterity.'' Clay interrupted him and said, ``Yes, and you seem resolved to keep on speaking till the arrival of your audience.'' [Laughter] Well, I won't do that today. I've said enough. Thank you all very much. God bless you all.
Note: The President
spoke at in Room 450 of the