Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Senator Mack Mattingly in Atlanta, Georgia
October 8, 1986
The President. Thank you very much. If they'd have done that in Hollywood, I might have stuck around. [Laughter] Well, thank you all very much. And thank you very much. We have to have Mack Mattingly back there, because we'd be lost without that smile in Washington. I want you to know that the fellow you see standing before you considers himself one lucky man. You see, this is my second visit to Georgia in just less than a week. I guess you could say that, like an old sweet song, I've got Georgia on my mind.
And it's good to be in the home State of a member of the Cabinet, our Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jim Miller. He was going to be here today, because this is his home, but just like Mack and the others, he had to stay there to keep counting when they start talking budget, as they're talking in the Congress. Somebody's got to watch them. But I thank you, State Chairman Paul Coverdell, for allowing me to be here to campaign for Guy Davis and the entire Republican ticket and to commend the Georgia GOP for all the fine work it's doing.
You know, one of the pleasures in visiting Georgia is that I get to tell stories that folks up in Washington don't always understand -- stories that involve a little southern humor, like the one of the Yankee who was driving down through the South and -- --
Audience member. Talk louder!
The President. What? Louder? He was driving down through the South, and there was an accident. And the southern gentleman whose car he'd hit got out of his car, and he got out. And neither one of them were hurt, and the cars weren't too badly damaged. And then the southerner, with true southern hospitality, said, ``You look a little shook up. Wait a minute.'' Reached back in his car and came out with a bottle and said, ``Here, take a slug of this. I think it'll make you feel better.'' So, the Yankee did, and then he was urged to do it again and take another one. He said, ``Really, it'll settle your nerves.'' And so he did. After about the third time, why, he got a little guilty feeling and said to the southern fellow who'd been so kind, ``Look,'' he said, ``I'm drinking it all here.'' He said, ``Here, you have a drink. You just going to stand there?'' And the southerner says, ``Yes. I'm just going to stand here until the police come.'' [Laughter]
Well, it was good to take off on Air Force One this morning -- good to leave behind the big government and special interests of Washington -- to come here to Atlanta and the real America: the America of hard work, patriotism, and the kind of peaches that just don't grow along the Potomac. But it was a matter of great importance that brought me, a matter that will directly affect the lives of every Georgian and, indeed, of every citizen of the United States. For what happens in this great State on election day will help determine the kinds of jobs that you and all Americans can get, the taxes we pay, and the kinds of schools our children and grandchildren will be able to attend.
This brings me to a man that I have the feeling happens to have a few friends here today, a certain United States Senator by the name of Mack Mattingly. Mack Mattingly is a hard-working man of integrity and one of those rare figures in our public life who's more interested in results than headlines. Like me, Mack spent most of his life in the private sector. He knows what it means to earn a paycheck and meet a payroll and raise a family on a balanced budget. I guess that's one reason that Mack and I have become such good friends. He has a quality that some would call old-fashioned, but that I just have to believe is more important today than ever. That quality is called character. And don't you believe it's important to keep character in our government? [Applause] And a second reason that Mack and I have become good friends is that we were elected in the same year, 1980. And ever since, we've worked side by side to revive our economy, rebuild our defenses, and restore the American spirit. I've relied on Mack in the battle to balance the Federal budget by passing the line-item veto. And we're going to keep on trying until it gets done. Forty-three Governors in this country have it; the President should have it. In the more than a hundred years since the line-item veto was first proposed, no one has come closer to getting it passed than Mack. And I just have to believe we need Mack Mattingly back in the Senate, so we can finally get the line-item veto and restore common sense to the budget process once and for all.
I want to tell you, having been a Governor myself, I've been shocked. This country's budget process at the national level is a mess. Congress has had 8 months to come up with a budget and has failed to do so. And now, we're 8 days into the new fiscal year. Now, hours before my meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev, the House Democrats are trying to tie my hands with restrictive language on foreign policy issues -- issues that should be decided at a negotiating table with the Soviets, not at a congressional committee table. I could look across the table in Iceland in a couple of days at a man who could be sitting there thinking: If they had their way, he doesn't have to negotiate with me, he'll just wait for Congress to get him what he wants. I call on the House Democrats to act on the budget now. They should act responsibly, they should stop playing politics and jeopardizing the success of our Icelandic talks.
In the crusade against drugs, Mack has proven invaluable, passing legislation that authorizes the President to withhold funds from any country not cooperating in our antidrug effort. And I want you to know that Mack's wife, Carolyn, is the founder and president of the bipartisan Congressional Families for Drug-Free Youth. Carolyn and Nancy have traveled and worked together in this crusade against drugs. And Carolyn, Nancy wanted me to be sure and say hello.
And so it's been, throughout these nearly 6 years -- in all the great battles and accomplishments -- Mack Mattingly has been right there working for Georgia every day. And back in 1980 when Mack and I were elected, the American economy was the worst mess since the Great Depression. Government was everywhere: running up taxes, causing inflation, raising interest rates, and taking bigger and bigger shares of your earnings. To get big government off your backs and out of your pockets, we slowed government growth, slashed needless regulations, and enacted an across-the-board personal income tax cut of nearly 25 percent. Then we indexed taxes, making it impossible for inflation to push you into higher and higher tax brackets ever again. Congress was sitting back and knew, until the indexing took place, that every time a worker got a cost-of-living pay raise that didn't make him any richer; just kept him even with the growing inflation. But the number of dollars determines the bracket of the income tax that you're in. And so, he would wind up poorer because he'd wind up paying more income tax, even though he hadn't improved himself one bit.
Now, critics dubbed our plan Reaganomics and predicted economic ruin. Let's look at what's happened instead. Inflation has fallen from more than 12 percent to less than 2 percent. Interest rates are down. Mortgage rates are down and housing starts are up, helping industries like timber. And just listen to this: During these nearly 4 years of economic growth, we've seen the creation of more than 11\1/2\ million jobs in the United States. Now, that is more jobs than Western Europe and Japan put together have created in the last 10 years. You know, I could tell our economic program was working when they stopped calling it Reaganomics. [Laughter] In the midst of this economic expansion, it's true that certain sectors of our economy had lagged behind -- sectors like farming, for example. But I pledge to you today that I will not rest, and Mack will not rest, until every region of our country and every sector of our economy share in the national prosperity.
Perhaps the most important aspect of our economic efforts involves all that Mack and others like him have done to promote growth by giving our nation a comprehensive tax reform -- a tax reform that will make our entire tax system simpler and fairer and enable some 8 out of 10 Americans to pay Federal income taxes of 15 percent or less. Sounds pretty good to me. How does it sound to you? [Applause] Now, the Democratic leadership has been saying that once our tax reform program is in place, the rates will be raised to pay for more spending. Well, that would be an intolerable breach of faith with the American people. We didn't achieve this historic tax reform to have it undermined by the big taxers. I pledge today to oppose any effort to raise the tax rates and negate the hard-fought progress that we've made, and I'm calling on all Members of the Congress to take that same pledge. Ask them to do something that I know Mack's more than happy to do himself. Ask them to take that pledge on tax rates -- that they will be held at 15 and 28 percent for individuals and 34 percent for the corporations.
And if I could add something here, in the House of Representatives, your fellow Georgian, Newt Gingrich, is a leader in the fight against any tax increase. And Pat Swindall was among the first to take the pledge. They're great Representatives for Georgia and the country. And I wonder if you'd do me the favor of sending Joe Morecraft and Portia Scott to join them?
In foreign affairs, Mack and I've worked to make America strong and respected once again. We've begun the rebuilding of our nation's defenses. In the Navy alone, we've gone from fewer than 480 battle-ready ships to more than 550, well on the way to our goal of 600. And we've seen morale soar among our men and women in uniform as we've provided them with the pay and training that they've always deserved. You know, if I could interject something here -- as we landed today at Dobbins Air Force Base and saw those fine service families, it occurred to me that you here in Georgia have always treated our Armed Services with esteem, even when some in other parts of the country thought it was somehow unstylish or old-fashioned. The good people of this great State have never been ashamed of the flag. And, my friends, isn't it good to have the rest of the country join you again in treating our men and women in uniform with respect? [Applause] It's still a difficult and dangerous world, but with Mack's help -- especially as chairman of the subcommittee that handles military construction -- we've made America stronger and better prepared to deal with it. And something else -- I just have to believe that every nickel-and-dime dictator and terrorist knows that if he chooses to tangle with the United States of America, he'll have to pay a price. And those young people that I mentioned a moment ago, they are the peacekeepers. And would you be interested in knowing something? We have the highest percentage of high school graduates in uniform that we have ever had in the history of this country, even when we had the draft.
Restored prosperity at home, renewed strength and self-assurance abroad -- this is the story of the past 6 years, the story in which Mack Mattingly has played such a central role. And now Mack faces an opponent who wants to undo that story, who wants to take us all back to the days of self-doubt and weakness -- back to the days of tax and tax and spend and spend. To tell you the truth, when I even think about the record Mack's opponent has put together in Congress, it sort of touches my temperature control. In 1985 Mack's opponent voted against me almost two-thirds of the time, substantially more than any other member of the Georgia delegation in Congress. For example, Mack's opponent voted for a budget that would have eliminated tax indexing and done away with the third year of our tax cut -- in short, a budget that would have made your taxes higher.
And listen to this: In 1982, every member of the Georgia delegation voted in favor of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution -- except one. So, let me ask you: Which one is Mack's opponent? [Laughter] That's right, the one who voted wrong. In the early 1980's every member of the Georgia delegation voted in favor of strengthening our defenses by building the much-needed B - 1 bomber -- except one. Which one is Mack's opponent? The one who voted wrong. Earlier this year, Georgia Senator Sam Nunn and Georgia Congressman Richard Ray led the effort to send aid to the freedom fighters of Nicaragua, brave men and women who are struggling against Communists for the liberty of their homeland. Every member of the Georgia delegation voted for that aid -- except one. And who do you suppose is Mack's opponent? The one who voted wrong.
Well, it's happened again and again and again. On 147 different occasions, Mack's opponent was the only member of the Georgia delegation to cast the wrong vote. Put his record together and a clear profile emerges. Mack's opponent wants more big government. He's voted to make America weaker. And believe me, he wants the Government to take more of your money. He's out of step with our administration, but more important, he's out of step with Georgia, and he's out of step with you. Come to think of it, Mack's opponent has voted against our administration just about as often as Teddy Kennedy has. You wouldn't want a Senator who's as liberal as Teddy Kennedy, would you?
The President. You know, less than 2 weeks ago I spoke in Michigan and Nebraska, and not long before that in Alabama and Louisiana. And everywhere I've gone, I've seen something that touched me, something that gives heart to all who can still remember the self-doubt and weakness at home and abroad that marked so much of the sixties and seventies. Today, here in Atlanta, I see it again. Call it confidence, self-assurance, what you will. It's a renewed understanding that, for all our faults, ours is a nation of goodness and greatness; that despite our mistakes in the world, we've stood for human freedom with greater consistency and courage than any other nation in history; that if only we have faith, if only we look not to government but to ourselves, we can create a new and lasting era of opportunity and prosperity. And come to think of it, what I've seen has a name. It's called love of country.
You can feel this new spirit everywhere. Right here in Georgia, there's an especially moving story of neighbor helping neighbor in the best American tradition. In the north Georgia town of Gainesville, population 15,200, virtually the entire community has come together to help seven motherless boys hold their family together. When Terry, the oldest O'Kelley boy, was only 15, his mother died. When his father disappeared, Terry and his brothers moved in with their grandfather. Terry dropped out of high school to work 70 hours a week at a poultry plant to keep the boys together. But when their grandfather died, the four youngest brothers had to be committed to foster care.
Then Jack Hodge, a local poultry distributor, came to the rescue. He persuaded creditors to reduce or forgive the boys' debts. He launched a fund drive at his church. And when the boys' trailer was gutted by fire, Jack Hodge and dozens of volunteers donated their time and skills to build the O'Kelley boys a four-bedroom house. In Terry O'Kelley's words: ``Six months ago, we didn't have a friend in the world. Now we have more friends than you can shake a stick at.'' And as Jack Hodge said: ``I'm not running for office, but I believe it's a duty to help people if you can.'' Ladies and gentlemen, will you join me in welcoming two authentic American heroes, Terry O'Kelley and Jack Hodge. Would you stand up, please? O'Kelley -- say, you boys wouldn't happen to be Irish, would you? [Laughter]
This American sense of can-do, this sense that with a little gumption the future can be made better -- this is what Mack Mattingly, and I believe our nation, stands for. And so it is that I ask you to cast a vote that will help me to be the President you elected me to be. But even more, I ask you to cast a vote for yourselves, for your children, and for your children's children. You know, I'm so delighted when I come to a rally like this and see all these young people that are here because whether they know it or not, they're what these elections are all about. We of my generation have to pledge to them that when it comes their turn to take over, they're going to take over a country that has as much freedom and opportunity as we had when we started and took over.
My friends, send your Republican slate into the offices, the statehouse, and to the Congress. And I ask you, send Mack Mattingly back to the United States Senate. Thank you very much, and God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke at 3:58 p.m. at the Omni Coliseum. Earlier, the President attended a reception for major donors to Senator Mattingly's reelection campaign at the coliseum. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.