Remarks at the National
Convention of the American Legion in
The President. Thank you very much, and thank you, Commander Comer. And a special thank you, as well, to my good friend, Tom Turnage. Before I get started, let me say a word of thanks to you, commander.
the last few years we have fought, with too little success, I'm sorry to say,
to get Congress to honor a moral obligation, as well as an obligation to the
peace and freedom of our children in this hemisphere, and give strong and
consistent aid to the freedom fighters in
We hope that with your help we might still convince this Congress to do what's right. But if not, it will be in spite of the day-and-night work of your commander and of many Legion members. The leadership by the Legion and your commander in our fight against the odds may be less heralded in history than the service so many of you have given on America's fields of battle; but on it, too, hangs the future of our beloved land. And so, if you'll permit me, now, before I get going on my talk, as President and Commander in Chief for the Nation, I salute you!
Legionnaires, friends, it's with some nostalgia that I come to you today. We've met so many times during the years of my Presidency. We've worked so long and hard together. And now we're nearing the end, and this is my last appearance as President before you. I won't say last appearance, period. After all, once I'm out of office, I'll have some time on my hands, and maybe you'll want me back.
But today, as I look back on all the battles we've fought together, on all the victories we've won, on all we've done for this great and glorious land that we love, I can't help feeling that the battle isn't over, indeed, that the details of the debate have hardly changed in these 8 years.
Yes, 8 years ago, I appeared before you to outline the disaster that had befallen our Armed Forces and the danger this posed to peace throughout the world. I've spoken often in the years since of the ships that couldn't sail and planes that couldn't fly for lack of trained mechanics and spare parts. But as I told you 8 years ago, such waste was only part of that national calamity.
had an administration in
and again, around the world our predecessors had shown not the slightest grasp
of the fundamentals of strategy and national interest. They faced challenges as
sensitive as those any postwar administration has faced -- in
any one of these items was bad enough, but add them
all up and you find something even worse. An administration from the party of
Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John Kennedy had, incredibly, lost faith
in the place of
they came up for a fitness review in November 1980, and the American people
gave an overwhelming verdict on this liberal ideology of decline and retreat.
The American people remembered a great general at the
I came to your convention 8 years ago, I pledged to restore
Equally important, more vessels are now ready for action. In 1979, 26 of the Navy's ships were past due for an overhaul. For the last 2 years, none has been. We strengthened the Army, giving it new and better tanks; new and better helicopters; new and better air defense, including Stinger missiles; new and better equipment of all kinds, including modern antitank weapons as well as improved armor for our own tanks. And we have increased the Army's size by two active divisions and two National Guard divisions. And the Air Force today has better planes for every mission, from tactical air support to transporting troops.
the pledge I'm proudest of keeping is the pledge I made to our young men and
women in the services. Today, once again, Americans honor those who wear the
uniforms of the
Let me stop here to tell you something that was passed along to me recently. You may remember that the head of the Soviet Armed Forces, Marshal Akhromeyev, visited our country several months ago. And during his stay, we took Marshal Akhromeyev to visit our newest supercarrier, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. We thought it would be a valuable education for him.
And so he saw that magnificent ship go through its paces. He watched our superb aircraft perform. All in all, he spent a day on one of the technological wonders of the world, a floating airfield his navy has nothing to equal. And yet you know what he said [he] was most impressed with when he was through with that visit and his visits to our other military installations? -- our enlisted men and women. I was told that he couldn't get over the fact that we had them doing work that the Soviets would reserve exclusively for officers -- in many cases, very superior officers. And he couldn't believe that our enlisted people were so self-assured in speaking up when asked a question, so articulate in giving their replies, and so ready to add their opinions.
know, it reminds me of what General George C.
the way, when I say I'm proud of the pledge we've kept to our men and women in
uniform, I mean those whose service is passed as well.
I addressed you 8 years ago, I pledged not only to rebuild
And let me read to you one other pledge I made then, and here it is: ``Once we have the defense programs to reverse the trends now in favor of the Soviet Union, we must strive for arms limitation agreements that will further that security, including significant arms reductions, so long as they are equitable and based on strict reciprocity.'' That's the end of quoting myself.
actually, I didn't read that for your benefit, but for the benefit of my gang
on the platforms back there. They keep saying that the INF agreement I signed
with Mr. Gorbachev -- the first significant, equitable, and reciprocal
yes, we have come a long way these last 8 years, you and I, working together
for freedom and peace. And our reward is that from
still hear the voices of the liberal ideology of decline and retreat. Again the
hit list for cancellations or delays includes the MX, the B - 1, a new Trident
missile, and the surface Navy -- this time, two carrier battle groups they'd
like to see done away with. To that they've added nearly every major new
weapons system to become prominent on the scene since the last liberal
administration went to its reward, including the Midgetman
missile, the Stealth bomber, and our Strategic Defense Initiative. And they've
added that they will start a unilateral
on the other hand, these voices say that they will build up our conventional
defenses, including development of a so-called conventional defense initiative.
What they fail to mention is that our conventional defense initiative is
already well underway. For example, if it weren't for laser-guided munitions,
part of any conventional defense initiative, we would not have been able to
stage our successful strike against Qadhafi's
When it comes to defense, the liberal agenda hides behind heroic rhetoric. But this liberal agenda is no Superman; It's no Clark Kent. It's Jimmy Olsen trying to impress his date. [Laughter] The liberals like to talk about judgment and strategy, but where is the judgment and strategy in what they've endorsed? For example, they've praised me for negotiating the INF treaty, but opposed deploying the missiles that made that treaty possible. Did that show sound judgment? They want to conclude more arms reduction treaties, but would cancel or delay the weapons systems on which successful negotiations will depend. Is that a plausible negotiating strategy? They profess their devotion to NATO, but would diminish the role of the very nuclear forces that NATO needs to deter the Soviets. Does that make any sense as military strategy?
Audience members. No!
The President. Their proposed ban on flight testing missiles and underground nuclear testing amounts to nothing more or less than the planned obsolescence of our strategic deterrent, abandoning the strategy that has kept the peace for decades. And by cutting way back on SDI research, as they would do, they would abandon the only alternative to that decades-old strategy. Does that show judgment, strategy, or even plain old common sense?
Audience members. No!
The President. And by the way, some
liberal critics of SDI support aggressive development of a ballistic missile
defense for another country,
Audience members. No!
The President. I'm speaking to an
educated audience. [Laughter] Recently former Secretary of Defense James
Schlesinger wrote that the liberal agenda seems, in his words, ``to suggest
that the way to deter war is to be unprepared to respond.'' Yes, it comes down
to this: After 8 hard years rebuilding
Audience members. No!
The President. Goofy strategic plans and Donald Duck-like lectures telling us that whatever goes wrong is our own blankety-blank fault? Or do we want to keep advancing up the road of strength and determination and peace and freedom?
Audience members. Yes!
The President. Now, this is my final plea to you today, on this, our last meeting of my Presidency. Let us make sure that the Nation moves forward in strengthening the foundations of peace and freedom in the years ahead. The world is watching us. The ages are watching us. After all, we're Americans; and we have a mission.
now before I go, I just have to say one last thing to you. I know that there
are people that, with our dealings with the
Thank you all. God bless you all.
Note: The President
spoke at in the Exhibition Hall at the