Remarks at a White House Briefing for Senior Staff on the Congressional and Gubernatorial Election Results


November 5, 1986


Well, thank you all very much. Based on my previous experience, I ought to quit right now. [Laughter] And I thank you, George and Don and Mitch and Haley. With the Mets coming in next week to the White House, I sort of thought it'd be a good idea if we got our own championship team together. And as I look out upon all of you, I sort of thought it'd be a good idea -- not only that, but you've served such long hours and with such unstinting devotion. You who have, through your own dedication and sacrifice, made it possible for us to change our nation's history. I can't help but thinking, they're amazing. And you are amazing. So, the first order of business for me is to simply -- my friends -- and we've been through enough together for a real sense of friendship to develop, haven't we? My friends, I thank you.


Now, before turning to the works of the next 2 years, a word about the results of yesterday's election. First, my congratulations to all those who won -- Governors, Senators, and Representatives, Republicans and Democrats -- and my condolences to those who lost. Overall, yesterday's election brought fairly good news, though we lost the Senate. We realized many gains in other areas. We won unprecedented victories in governorships, gaining eight -- resulted in Republican Governors serving more than half the population for the United States. And additionally, against overwhelming historical odds, we kept our base in the House of Representatives virtually intact. The rest of the story is we came up short on keeping our Republican majority in the Senate. We did so because we lost six cliffhangers in which our candidates each received 49 percent or more of the vote. Now, this is not the outcome we sought. But our agenda remains unchanged, and I look forward to its attainment.


We traveled 25,000 miles. We worked with candidates, took our message to the people, and demonstrated our commitment to the major issues. I think it's worth noting that, even in this hotly contested race, we enjoyed widespread support on the issues that we campaigned on: our economic policies of low taxes and spending, judicial nominees who are firm with criminal wrongdoers, and a strong defense, especially SDI. So, in a sense, our message -- that same message of limited government and a firm foreign policy that we enunciated from our first day of office -- did get across and continues to get across. So, I want to take a moment to personally thank the many, many people who made this effort possible. In addition to all those in this room who have done so much, I want to extend to all the candidates, to all the volunteers and staffs of the party and candidates, my heartfelt thanks. As I say, the political spectrum continues to move in our way. All our candidates, their staffs, and volunteers can feel heartened by this.


To all those on Capitol Hill, I look forward to Congress' return. By then, the election will be behind us, and hard work and bipartisan cooperation will be ahead. You have my pledge to seek solutions where problems exist and progress where barriers may arise. In a word, the challenge now before us is simply this: to complete the revolution that we have so well begun. Three aims must be met: We must make America more prosperous, more productive, and the world more peaceful.


My first aim, a more prosperous America, involves a redoubling of our efforts to get big government off the backs and out of the pockets of the people themselves. The spending restraint that we've pushed for so unceasingly ever since 1980 must finally be achieved. And that means permanent structural reform of the entire budget process. This town was kind of shaken up to discover that we were serious about the line-item veto and the balanced budget amendment during our first 6 years. Well, we've seen to it that the line-item veto and the balanced budget amendment have received serious consideration in the Congress. And serious opinion has already begun to shift in favor of both these reforms. Even so, you can take it from me: Washington ain't seen nothin' yet. We can achieve these two reforms. So, let's go after them.


As budget reform enables government to become more productive, we'll need to foster still greater productivity in the private sector if America is to go on competing in the global marketplace. We'll do all we can to keep regulation down and capital formation up, so that high technology can flourish and make American agriculture and traditionally -- or traditional industry more innovative and competitive. And now we have our new corporate and individual tax rates. No less a figure than Prime Minister Thatcher of the United Kingdom has commented that, at 28 percent, the top American individual tax rate will be lower than the lowest British individual rate. We intend to protect those low rates, to recognize them for what they are: the greatest spur possible to entrepreneurial growth. At the same time, we'll keep in mind that 50 percent of our gross national product is accounted for by services. So, we'll be looking at ways to achieve greater productivity in services of all kinds, from financial services to transportation to government to health care. And if I could interject something here: With inflation under control, I just have to believe -- and I'm sure you agree -- that the time has come to get the cost of health care under control.


And something else: Nothing represents a heavier drag on our productivity than drugs and crime. Drug abuse destroys families. It keeps young people from getting the education they need and means that tens of thousands of adults are often absent from the workplace, are demoralized and sick at heart. The loss to the economy can be measured in the billions of dollars, but there's no way to measure the loss to the country of all those ruined lives. Crime likewise exacts a toll from us, a toll of lost and destroyed property, high insurance rates, and mounting burdens on police and other law enforcement officials. But perhaps the heaviest toll is the toll of violence, personal injury, and fear. So let's carry out our pledge to the people. Let's win our crusades against drugs and crime, because a productive America is an America that's kicked the habit and put criminals behind bars where they belong.


I have to just tell you a little experience out there on the road. In virtually every big rally that we held in the last days of this campaign -- this is a little something encouraging. You know, not too long ago, Nancy was speaking to a school class in Oakland, California, and a girl asked a question. She said, ``Well, what do we do when someone offers us drugs?'' And Nancy said, ``Just say no.'' Well, out on the road -- because there were hundreds and hundreds of young people at every one of these rallies, very much present, and I would always try to recognize their presence there. And then I told them that I had a message from my roommate that she wanted delivered to them. And I would tell them that for their own sake, for the country's sake, for their family's sake, and for their future -- with regard to drugs -- just say no. And in this limited time these young people in every rally would come to their feet, and in many instances would say the ``no'' before I got to it and then would chant: ``Just say no! Just say no!'' It was very heartwarming, and I found out that since that answer to a question in Oakland there are more than 10,000 Just Say No clubs among our young people across the country.


Well, our third aim is as straightforward as a phrase I used again and again during the campaign: peace through strength. And you know, after using these words before audiences across the country, I just can't help thinking that for this administration peace through strength is more than a policy; it's a promise, a promise we've made to the people and a promise we intend to keep. Hope alone can never lead to agreement with the Soviets. We must maintain our military preparedness and push forward with new technologies -- and, yes, that means SDI. So, the bridge to real arms reduction and a just peace rests on two girders: military preparedness and the pursuit of advanced technologies like SDI.


Well, in brief, then, this is our agenda. Now, of course, there are those who say it cannot be done. You'll remember they first said that back at the beginning of the second term. And that was before we'd enacted all aid for the freedom fighters in Nicaragua, achieved progress toward genuine arms reductions at Reykjavik, and passed the most sweeping, far-reaching reform of the tax code in history. There's one nice thing about it, you know, when you haven't been around the town too much and then you come here. You discover that some of the things you can't do can be done.


Well, the truth is the voters reelected us in 1984 to keep the revolution alive -- not just for 2 years, but for 4. And believe me, if you'd been out on the campaign trail with me hearing all those chants of ``4 more years!'' you'd know just how much the country is with us. I told them that I assumed that they were suggesting I live 4 more years and I was in favor of that. [Laughter] There's much more work to be done: State of the Union, budget preparation, and arms negotiations. There are those who will continue to harp upon the obstacles, who dwell upon what they consider the certainty of failure. The only real certainty is that if we do nothing, nothing will be achieved. To those who say it cannot be done, I'll only say this in reply: The only thing that cannot be done is to allow the stirring challenges that face us to go unanswered. For 2 years more, my friends, let us make history together.


Thank you for all you've done. God bless you.


Note: The President spoke at 1:47 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his opening remarks, he referred to Vice President George Bush; Donald T. Regan, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff; Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., Assistant to the President for Political and Intergovernmental Affairs; and Haley Barbour, Special Assistant to the President for Political Affairs, who also spoke.