Radio Address to the Nation on New Year's Eve

 

December 31, 1988

 

My fellow Americans:

 

Tonight we celebrate the coming of a new year, a time of expectation and promise. I believe it's going to be a very good year indeed. Our economy is healthy. Our defenses are strong. And our policy of peace through strength is paying off in spades. In 6 weeks time, the Soviet Union is due to pull its remaining forces out of Afghanistan. I'm confident the Soviets will stick to their timetable and be out by the 15th of February, which will then be a great day for world peace.

 

I'm also confident about 1989 because in just 3 weeks George Bush will be sworn in as the 41st President of the United States. And a superb President he's going to be. He has handled skillfully the selection of his Cabinet, and the transition process is proceeding well and smoothly.

 

So, the news is good this New Year's Eve. Of course, we still reel in shock and horror from the bombing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and we extend our sympathy to the bereaved. Now, if, as seems likely, our terrorists have crawled out of their hole to threaten American lives, I can promise them this: The pledge we made to seek out the truth and punish the guilty is a sacred one which George Bush shares. Indeed, President-elect Bush knows as thoroughly as anyone in the world today the nature and problem of terrorism. As chairman of this administration's task force on terrorism he oversaw a report that is the toughest statement to date on the need for strong action -- including, when warranted, military action -- against terrorists. That report ought to be giving some people sleepless nights right about now.

 

That crime aside, however, there is little to disturb us about the overall state of the Nation as we join together to make merry and sing ``Auld Lang Syne.'' But still, during these days, when you turn on the television or read through the newspaper, you might get the idea that what faces George Bush upon his assumption of the responsibilities of the Presidency of the United States will be nothing but a series of impossible choices, heartaches, and just general trouble. Now, I'm sure most of this talk is simply evidence that we're about to go through a change of leadership, a moment in time that does funny things to people, particularly in Washington. For some, this is a time to put in their bids on the agenda of the future. For others, this is a time for the jitters because they try to imagine what the future will bring and find it a little confusing.

 

These jitters have been overcome with courage and vision in both the United States and Canada as the way has been cleared for an historic new free-trade agreement to take effect tomorrow. And I want to assure you, as we do take this time together to look ahead, that there is not a single major problem facing this country today that cannot be solved when we come together to solve them. What it takes is the political will to solve them -- rather like a successful New Year's resolution.

 

Now, here are a few New Year's political resolutions I think could be accomplished in 1989. I think we should resolve to keep within the Gramm-Rudman targets and eliminate the deficit entirely by 1993. I'll be telling you more about our budget for the next fiscal year over the next few weeks, but let me just say that this new budget represents a serious and dedicated effort to produce a realistic plan for meeting our responsibilities to reduce the deficit, maintain our defenses, and help the needy. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: All this can be done without raising taxes. Higher taxes mean slow economic growth, and economic growth combined with budget realism is the key to eliminating the deficit. George Bush's lips have been eloquent on this subject, and it sure would be a great new year if we continue the progress we made this year, putting an end to those mammoth continuing resolutions and work with a real budget again.

 

We can continue to improve relations with the Soviet Union in 1989 if we remember that the key to improved relations thus far has been our strength and resolution. We must remain sober in our estimation of our negotiating partners and without illusion; we know about their goals and aims. Whether we're talking about bilateral relations with the Soviet Union or efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement in the Middle East, the lesson is the same: To achieve further reductions in international tensions, the incoming administration will need appropriate levels of defense spending, not to mention support from Congress for their foreign policy initiatives. Trust me, I know.

 

Have a very Happy New Year. And until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 9:06 a.m. from the Annenberg residence in Palm Springs, CA.