Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Senator James Abdnor in Rapid City, South Dakota
October 29, 1986
The President. Thank you. And, Jim, thank you for that most generous introduction. My thanks also to some bands that have been making beautiful music: the Central High Band, the Douglas High Band, and the Stevens High Band. You know, it's an honor to be here today in Rapid City, not so far from the places that President Theodore Roosevelt used to visit back around the turn of the century. Teddy told me how grateful he was that I'd suggested he come here. [Laughter] But it's an honor also to share this platform with so many of South Dakota's finest: with your Governor, Bill Janklow; your next Governor, George Mickelson; your senior Senator, Larry Pressler; your former Congressman, Clint Roberts; and the next Congressman from this great State, my friend, Dale Bell; and the man South Dakota is about to reelect to the United States Senate, Jim Abdnor.
And would you forgive me if I say a special word to a young man seated out there in the audience? Not long ago, a third grader at the Cleghorn School mailed me a letter asking me to visit his class for show-and-tell. [Laughter] Well, time wouldn't permit. I wasn't able to go to the class, so the class came here. And greetings, then, to my young friend, Kent Powell, and to the entire third grade class from the Cleghorn School. And to all the young people here in the audience, I have a special message to you from my roommate. [Laughter] When it comes to drugs, she's asked me to please tell you -- for yourselves, for your families, for your future and your country -- just say no. [Applause] Thank you.
Well, it's wonderful to be here in Rapid City. And you know, as I often say to my staff when we're getting into Air Force One and taking off in Washington, it's great to get out of Washington and get back to where the real people are. Now, you probably know I couldn't do this much traveling when Congress was in session, as Jim Abdnor will tell you. That's because some of those folks need watching. [Laughter] Now, I'm not complaining about the institution of the Congress; that I respect very much. But it's just some individuals there. There are some of them that in their approach to doing government business remind me of the three fellows that came out of a building and found they'd locked themselves out of their car. And one of them said, ``Get me a wire coathanger. I can straighten that out, and I can get in and trip the handle and get the door open.'' Second one says, ``You can't do that. Somebody will think we're stealing the car.'' And the third one said, ``Well, we'd better think of something fast, because it's starting to rain and the top's down.'' [Laughter]
But that story says so much about how the tax-and-tax and spend-and-spend policies left our country just a few short years ago: negative growth, double-digit inflation, the highest rates since -- and get ready -- the highest rates since the Civil War. And so, as a part of that 1980 cleanup crew for the worst economic mess since the Great Depression, Jim and I headed for Washington. We cut government growth, slashed regulations, and cut income taxes almost 25 percent. And today we're enjoying one of the longest economic expansions in our history. The prime interest rate has fallen by two-thirds. Mortgage and auto loan rates are down. Inflation has plummeted from more than 12 percent to 1.8 percent. And we've created over 11\1/2\ million new jobs in a little less than 4 years -- more jobs than Western Europe and Japan combined have created in the past 10 years. And you know, when we started that economic plan for recovery and expansion, there were a lot of people critical of it back there and making fun of it and so forth. And I could tell that the plan was working when those people stopped calling it Reaganomics.
Now, just days ago we learned that the figure that represents the country's economic growth, the gross national product, GNP, and some other indicators show our economy as gathering momentum for even more growth, higher take-home pay, and more new jobs. In short, we're headed for prosperity. And I'm determined to see that those who still are not sharing fully in our nation's prosperity do so. And I give you my pledge that neither Jim nor I will be satisfied until this expansion reaches every sector of our economy and every home in America and until every American who wants a job has a job.
To broaden our expansion, I signed into law last week the most sweeping reform of the tax code in our nation's history. For more than 80 percent of Americans, it means a top tax rate of 15 percent or less, and that's why I call it Tax Cut II. But wouldn't you know it, even before this fair share tax plan reached my desk, the Democratic leadership in Congress was saying that they wanted to break faith with the American people and turn tax reform into a tax hike. You know, the truth is, those people have never met a tax they didn't like. And when it comes to spending your hard-earned money, they act like they've got your credit card in their pocket. And believe me, they never leave home without it.
The American people know the truth: We don't have a deficit because we're taxed too little; we have a deficit because the Congress spends too much. Now, isn't it about time they started protecting the family budget instead of fattening the Federal budget?
The President. The contrast between us and the leaders of the other party is just as apparent when it comes to judicial appointments. Now, you know the President appoints the Federal judges, but they can't be a judge until they've been approved by the United States Senate. I began appointing Federal judges to be approved by people like Jim Abdnor and the Republican Senate. The Federal judiciary has become tougher, much tougher, on criminals. Criminals are going to jail more often and receiving longer sentences when they get there. And over and over the Democratic leadership has tried in the Senate to torpedo our choice for judges, and that's where Jim can make all the difference. Without him and the Republican majority in the Senate, we'll find liberals like a certain fellow from Massachusetts deciding who our judges will be. And I bet you'll agree: I'd rather have a Judiciary Committee headed by Senator Strom Thurmond than one run by Teddy Kennedy any day. [Applause]
You know, thinking of those things and those types, there was a Democratic fundraiser at a downtown hotel. And when the people were coming out of the fundraiser, there was a kid with some puppy dogs. And he was holding them up for sale, and he was saying, "Buy a Democrat puppy. Buy a Democrat puppy.'' Two weeks later the Republicans held a fundraiser in the same place. People were coming out, and there was the same kid with the puppies, saying, ``Buy a Republican pup. Buy a Republican puppy.'' And a newspaperman that had seen him there 2 weeks before said, "Hey, kid, wait a minute. Two weeks ago you were trying to sell those pups as Democrats. Now you're selling them as Republicans. How come?'' Kid says, "Now they've got their eyes open.'' [Laughter]
But, ladies and gentlemen, we've come now to an issue that transcends in importance even all the other crucial matters that I've mentioned: my most solemn duty as President, the safety of the American people and the security of these United States. Here, too, because of the support of men like Jim Abdnor, we've been able to restore America's strength. There's nothing I'm prouder of than the 2 million young men and women in our military service. And there are some people who the only savings they would try to recognize is to try to reduce the spending by the Defense Department. Well, let me tell you: If we ever have to ask those young men and women to put their lives on the line for the United States of America, then they deserve to have the finest weapons and equipment that we can produce. And with Jim Abdnor's help, we're going to see that they get it. Because of our young men and women in uniform, things have changed a little around the world. You know, America used to wear a ``Kick Me'' sign around its neck. We threw that sign away, and now it reads, ``Don't Tread on Me.'' Today every nickel-and-dime dictator around the world knows that if he tangles with the United States of America he'll have a price to pay. And one other thing I'm especially proud of: After 6 years of this administration, not 1 square inch of territory in the world has been lost to communism, and one small country, Grenada, has been set free.
Finally, there's another special accomplishment. We remain committed to our decision to move ahead with our Strategic Defense Initiative against ballistic missiles, the SDI. Today we're dealing with the Soviet Union from a position of strength, and it was SDI that brought the Soviet Union to the bargaining table. And let me pledge to you: I pledge to you our goal is to keep America strong, to save the West from nuclear terror, to make ballistic missiles obsolete, and ultimately to eliminate them from the face of the Earth. SDI is America's insurance policy to protect us from accidents, or just in case -- well, or any madman who might come along, like a Hitler or a Qadhafi, or just in case the Soviets don't keep their side of a bargain. The record on Soviet treaty violations is clear. We can either bet on American technology to keep us safe or on Soviet promises. And each has its own track record. I'll bet on American technology any time.
Now, I knew that there were those who had their doubts, but flying back from Iceland, I knew the American people would support firmness with the Soviet Union. So, I couldn't come here today without thanking each one of you for that support. And I also want to make an announcement. Secretary Shultz and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze will meet next week in Vienna. These meetings will be a followup to the discussions Mr. Gorbachev and I had at Reykjavik, Iceland, 2 weeks ago. I have directed Secretary Shultz to tell Mr. Shevardnadze the proposals we put on the table in Iceland remain on the table and we're ready to take up where we left off in Reykjavik. We want to confirm and build on the agreements reached there. We hope the Soviets are prepared to join us to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons. And I believe this is a unique opportunity for progress if the Soviets are willing to move forward.
Now, I know in a crowd like this there have to be some of you who are Democrats. And I want you to know -- [laughter] -- yes, yes, there are. I've been all across this country, and I know that there are millions of patriotic Democrats who are totally out of step with the leadership of their own party. And I want you to know that during these past 6 years as President, I've relied again and again upon the support of Democrats like those who would be present here. I thank you. And as you may know, I used to be a Democrat myself until I learned that the liberal leadership of that party had become completely out of step with the hard-working and patriotic men and women who make up the Democratic Party. Now, I know how tough it can be to break with tradition, but I remember what Winston Churchill said when he changed parties. He was a Member of the British Parliament, and he changed parties and was criticized for doing so. And Winston Churchill said, ``Some men change principle for party, and others change party for principle.''
Here in South Dakota the choice couldn't be any clearer. Jim Abdnor has voted to cut your taxes and keep America strong. He's a man who stands where he says he stands. And then there's Jim's opponent [Thomas A. Daschle], who talks moderate at home but votes liberal in Washington. Whether the issue is national defense or highway funding, the people of South Dakota deserve better than a man who votes against the views and interests of his constituents and then tries to alibi his way out of it. Jim Abdnor is one of the most effective Members of the entire Senate, the original sponsor of 7 bills that have become law, the author of more than 50 amendments. The list of his legislative achievements goes on. Just today, Air Force One landed on a new runway at Ellsworth Air Force Base. It was built to accommodate the B - 1's Jim has worked so hard to bring here -- B - 1's that Jim's opponent voted to cripple by cutting their funding. And in coming days, I'll be signing into law Jim's water development bill, a bill that breaks a more than decade-long stalemate in water development projects built by the Corps of Engineers.
Well, this, then, is what it comes down to. In Jim's opponent you have a man who would vote to raise your taxes, vote to weaken our defenses, and vote to take us back to the grim days of the seventies. But in Jim Abdnor you have a Senator with 6 years of experience in the Senate at getting things done for the people of South Dakota. He is a Senator who believes in peace through strength; a Senator who led the fight to cut your taxes and create new jobs; and a Senator who believes in the goodness and decency of the American people and, just as you heard up here, in the greatness of this nation. My friends, let's come together to see to it that this once -- just this once -- the nice guy finishes first. Ladies and gentlemen, the eyes of America are on you and your great State. Will you choose the Democratic leaders who in 1980 weakened our nation and nearly brought our economy to its knees, who raised your taxes and have announced their plans to do so again, who oppose our efforts to pursue a defense to protect us from attack by nuclear ballistic missiles? Or will you choose to give the cleanup crew of 1980 a chance to finish the job?
Now, just to be sure where you stand, I thought I'd conduct an informal poll. Speak up loudly so that all America can hear you. Do you want to go back to the days of big spending, high taxes, and runaway inflation?
The President. Do you want Ted Kennedy controlling the confirmation of Federal court judges?
The President. Do you want to return to policies that give us -- or gave us a weak and vacillating America?
The President. That's good to hear. [Laughter] Now, would you rather have low taxes, low inflation, and low interest rates?
The President. Would you rather have an America that is strong and proud and free?
The President. Do you want Jim Abdnor as your Senator from the great State of South Dakota?
The President. Thank you. You just made my day, and you didn't hurt Jim Abdnor's feelings a bit. [Laughter]
You know, my name will never appear on a ballot again, but if you'd like to vote for me one more time, you can do so by voting for Jim. But important as this election will be to me, it will be even more important to you, and especially to all you young people, for it will shape our nation's future. Now, every poll shows that the age group between 18 and 24 has the highest percentage in support of us and what we're doing. But now, I want you to listen. Every poll also shows just as clearly that in that same age group there is the lowest voter turnout. So, to you young people: Exercise your sacred right as an American; participate in shaping history itself by going to the polls and casting your vote. And when you leave here, not only are you going to vote, but button-hole your friends and neighbors in your age group and tell them they have to vote too. You know, at the beginning of World War II, when we were going into that terrible war, General George Marshall, who was the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, was asked if the United States had a secret weapon and, if so, what was it? And he said, ``Yes, we do have a secret weapon. It's just the best blankety-blank kids in the world.'' Well, I've been around this country and on campuses, and I've been in schools. And I've seen our young people in the military and all. And I want to tell you, if George Marshall were around today, he would say you are the best blankety-blank kids in the world.
Well, it's time to go now, but before leaving -- --
The President. Yes. I'm due in Colorado. But before leaving, I'd just like to say that people my age deeply believe that it's our duty to turn over to you young Americans a country with the same freedom and opportunity that our parents and grandparents handed to us. And every generation between mine and yours in this room -- we all have the same pledge. That's what we're going to do: to give you the kind of America -- sometimes we've slipped a little over the years when some of those people I've talked about before have their way, but we always come back. And right now, here again, it is that kind of a country. And when it's your turn to take charge, that's what we're going to turn over to you. When we look at you, we see your openness, your enthusiasm for America and for life itself, and it gives us heart.
My friends, in casting your vote for Jim Abdnor, you'll be winning one for yourselves, for South Dakota, and winning one for America -- and, yeah, you'll be winning one for the Gipper! Thank you all, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 2:50 p.m. in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. He was introduced by Senator Abdnor. Following his remarks, the President met with major donors to the South Dakota State Republican Party at the center. He then traveled to Colorado Springs, CO.