Remarks at a Senate Campaign Rally for James Abdnor in Sioux Falls, South Dakota


September 29, 1986


Thank you very much. Well, thank you, Governor Janklow, distinguished members of the State legislature, and ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate you all coming out this afternoon. And a special thanks to the Aberdeen Central High School choir. These young people, all of them -- well, this group trekked all the way to Washington to perform at the Inaugural only to be thwarted by the cold weather. Who would have thought that in Washington, with all the hot air that blows in that town, cold weather could be an obstacle? [Laughter]


Well, I'm glad we finally got a chance to get together. I'd like to send a special greeting to someone who couldn't be here with us. She's been active in South Dakota politics for longer than I've been around -- well, maybe not quite that long. But we miss Donna Oddlund and wish her a speedy recovery from her surgery.


Being here brings back memories. I remember coming here in 1980 to ask for your support, and you came through beyond our highest expectations. You not only helped elect our ticket but to make certain the job got done right, you sent Jim Abdnor to Washington. It's a pleasure for me to come here once more, this time in support of one of the most hard-working and decent men I have ever met in public office -- Jim Abdnor. And I hope you'll do all you can to see that he is reelected to the United States Senate.


When we got to Washington 5\1/2\ years ago, our country was headed for economic catastrophe, as your Governor has told you so eloquently. The liberal policies that dominated American Government during the last decade were about as good for America as Mrs. O'Leary's cow was for Chicago. [Laughter] We needed more than just a change of leaders, we needed a change of direction -- and that ain't easy. It reminds me a bit of a story about the chicken and the pig, who decided to go into town and look for a job in the city. And they spotted a sign in a restaurant window that said, ``Ham and eggs $1.50.'' And the chicken suggested they go in. And the pig refused. He said to the chicken, ``For you, going in is just a contribution; for me it's a total commitment.'' [Laughter]


But together, with the total commitment of a team of responsible public officials like Jim Abdnor, we've turned around a desperate situation and put our country back on track. Today our country has enjoyed 45 months of economic growth. I visit you today sorely aware that even in the midst of our country's growth and expansion, some parts of our economy continue to struggle. And that's why today I'm naming Alan Tracy, who comes from a Wisconsin farm family, to a new position: my Special Assistant for Agriculture, working with me in the White House to make sure the views and interests of family farmers are always a part of our decisionmaking.


Here in the Grain Belt, we know too many farmers were encouraged by the Federal Government and by high inflation to expand and make investments that now have put them right behind the eight ball. Land, unfortunately, was one of the sanctuaries in the time of inflation, and property prices rose way beyond the norm. Well, we had to do something about inflation. But -- of course that reduced those inflated prices and left many farmers, who had obtained credit on the basis of the inflated value, the security that the land offered -- that security had been vastly reduced. And it has been a very definite economic problem for them. The Federal Government, although it was run by a different bunch in those days, helped get these folks in trouble. And we're not going to pull the rug out from under them while they're struggling to get back on their feet.


I've discovered that there are a great many things that we've been doing that people aren't aware of, and particularly people in agriculture. Our administration is providing more direct support for America's farmers than that provided by the last five administrations in Washington all put together. It is about $26 billion this year alone. Here in South Dakota, we've spent over $2\1/4\ billion in these last 5 years. But the answer, in the long run, is not more subsidies or more controls. Coming from rural America, I understand: Farmers don't want another government program; they don't want to live on subsidies; what they want to do is make an honest, legitimate profit.


And we are, with Jim Abdnor's support and guidance, taking steps that offer hope for American agriculture. The first step is opening up world markets to our products. Sometimes it's difficult to get tough with our friends in other countries, but that's what we've had to do. And they're beginning to get our message. It's either free trade and open markets for both sides, or it's no deal. We're taking steps to pressure our allies to pull back from subsidizing their own agriculture, so that when the American farmer competes, it's on an equal footing. These things are being done at a time when the value of the dollar is being brought into line with other currencies, permitting Americans to meet the competition on a level playing field. Finally, American farmers no longer have to fear being singled out to bear the brunt of a foreign policy maneuver. We've made a commitment: As long as any American is permitted to do business with the Soviets, there will be no grain embargo.


Our economic recovery program has started to pay off for America's farmers by cutting their production costs. Interest rates, energy prices, and inflation -- murderously high when we took office -- are down, way down. The last thing farmers or anyone else needs now is the return of control in the United States Senate to the big taxers and big spenders who will open the cage and turn the inflation monster loose on America once again. And that's why the November election is so important for you and for the country. What you have in South Dakota is a classic choice between a responsible leader working for the long-run interest of his country and constituents versus a compulsive spender, the kind of razzle-dazzle liberal who put our country in the soup in the first place.


I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, and I know why Jim Abdnor loves rural America. He sees it as a way of life. He identifies with the people who work in the granaries, the shops and garages, and in the fields. He has worked and sweated for a good portion of his life, especially the last 6 years, for the people of America's heartland. There's a sign on my desk in the Oval Office that reads: ``There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit.'' Well, that reminds me so much of Jim. He never cared who got the credit, only that the job got done. And I can't believe in November the people of this State are going to trade in a workhorse for a showhorse. And today is a perfect example. I was going to make my remarks with Jim Abdnor sitting here on the platform. He could have been here in the spotlight, but instead he answered the call of duty. He's back in Washington protecting the taxpayers from last-minute raids and looking out for the interests of South Dakota. I have to believe the people of this State want another 6 years of that kind of devotion.


In just one term, Jim has written and been the original sponsor of seven bills that became law, and has passed more than 50 amendments. He's stood up and said no to the interest groups who have full-time professionals in Washington trying to get their hands in your pockets. Jim, in fact, has won the Watchdogs of the Treasury Award eight times straight. The Chamber of Commerce gives him high marks, and the National Federation of Independent Business has named him a ``Guardian of Small Business'' -- every year he has been named this that he has been in the Senate.


Now, I understand that Jim's opponent tries hard to portray a different image here in South Dakota than he does in Washington. It is sufficient for me to say that Teddy Kennedy has supported our administration more often than Jim Abdnor's opponent. And a few weeks ago, I was out in California, and I couldn't help but notice that some of the chic group from the industry I used to be in, there in Hollywood, had gathered at one posh Malibu home to raise huge sums of money for ``left-leaning Senate candidates.'' Well, Jim's opponent may be the choice of that flash-and-glitter crowd, but come November, he's not going to be the choice of the people of South Dakota. Jim is as different from one of those lighter-than-air liberals as anyone can be. He's been a farmer all his life. He's one of only two farmers on the Senate Subcommittee of Agriculture Appropriations, and his friends and neighbors back home are never far from his mind.


I'm pleased to tell you that I've advised Jim, who's been very concerned about this subject, that the United States Department of Agriculture will make advanced deficiency payments to farmers under the Target Price Program this fall, if Congress will work with us to make room for them in next year's budget. Now, earlier this year, Jim got an amendment to a bill passed that allows farmers unable to plant due to flooding and excessive rain to keep their advance deficiency payments rather than have to return money already invested in seed and fertilizer. He is the author of a bill now on the verge of passing that will revolutionize national water policy and development. Instead of pork barreling, buying votes, or playing to the crowd during an election year, Jim's bill is a true example of responsible reform. With user fees and cost-sharing provisions, he is seeing to it that Federal water development continues, even in an era of budget cuts. Well, I could go on, but you get the picture. Jim Abdnor works hard, he deserves your votes.


My friends, this election will not only determine if our country continues to move forward, but also whether it will remain safe and secure. When Jim's opponent and his liberal colleagues dominated American Government, our military strength was permitted to decline. Communism was on the offensive, and even our friends began to wonder whether or not they could rely on America. Today, with Jim Abdnor's support, we have rebuilt America's defensive strength. We've ferreted billions of dollars of waste and fraud out of the system we inherited. And that's why you've seen so many news stories on the subject. I delight in being able to tell my fellow citizens, face to face, that when you've seen those stories about $400 hammers and so forth: That is what has been going on, and the reason you've read about it is because we've discovered it and done something about it.


One accomplishment I feel especially good about: We've made certain that all those who serve this country now know how much we appreciate the job they're doing. We have restored America's pride in those who wear the uniform of the United States military. God love them, they deserve it. And I hope you agree with me that we cannot ask those brave men and women who defend this country to put their lives on the line unless we're willing to give them the top-quality weapons and equipment they need to get the job done and come home safely.


You know, we landed out here at the National Guard Airport, and I have to say just one thing that's different. I saw those rows of planes. Well, they weren't there before, just a few years ago. And what planes we did have, on any given day 50 percent of them couldn't get off the ground for lack of spare parts or crew. Well, today the Western alliance is strong, and the forces of freedom are on the offensive. And another thing I'm proud of: In these last 5\1/2\ years, not 1 square inch of territory has been lost to communism. In fact, one small country, Grenada, has been brought back into the family of free nations.


But liberals, totally out of touch with mainstream America, would cut our military strength and put the United States back -- pull it back from our international responsibilities. They're waiting in the wings, ready to act if they recapture the United States Senate. I say a weaker America is not a safer America. And I say when we negotiate with our adversaries, we should do it from a position of strength.


I suppose you've already all heard -- I was able to announce just a short time ago in Kansas City -- that two Americans are on their way home right as of now: Mr. and Mrs. Nick Daniloff.


This coming November, the people of South Dakota have the opportunity to do a great service to their country. Along with voting for Jim, you can also help by casting your ballot for Dale Bell, who will do a great job. He'll do a great job representing you in the House of Representatives. And, my, will he find targets there.


Now, I know this is purely a State matter, but as a former Governor, I can't help but tell you that I think George Mickelson is going to make South Dakota a great Governor. And he has a tough act to follow. I know how proud all of you are of Bill Janklow. He's been a leader in the truest sense of the word. Bill, Jim, and these other fine South Dakotans demonstrate why the country is turning to the Republican Party for leadership. We share the vision of a free, opportunity-filled America; and our standard bearers are solid men and women, people you can trust.


Again, I'd like to thank you young people who entertained us here today with your beautiful music. It is special for me to meet America's young people because they're what this is all about: the kind of country we will leave them -- that's what's at stake in this election. You know, back in World War II, we were all so proud when someone asked General George Marshall what was our secret weapon? And General Marshall, in rather stern language, said, ``Just the blankety-blank best kids in the world.'' Well, I think if the General were around now, he'd find another generation that he could say that about.


All of us who are grown up -- and I've been that for a long time -- the most important thing you can do for their future is reelect Jim Abdnor. He has been a champion for South Dakota and in the cause of a strong, proud, and free America. And by reelecting Jim Abdnor, we can prove to these young people that nice guys don't have to finish last. I hope you help me make sure the nicest guy in the Senate finishes first. Thank you, and God bless you all.


Note: The President spoke at 3:15 p.m. in the Sioux Falls Arena. He was introduced by Gov. William Janklow. In his remarks, he referred to the release of Nicholas Daniloff of U.S. News & World Report. Mr. Daniloff had been arrested on charges of espionage in the Soviet Union on August 30. Earlier, the President attended a reception for major donors to Senator Abdnor's reelection campaign in the arena. Following his remarks at the rally, the President returned to Washington, DC.