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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner Honoring Representative Robert H. Michel


Thank you all. Please be seated. We may never get to eat. Thank you all. Thank you, Joe. And the great thing about having the speeches before dinner, they're normally shorter, and I will try to follow that pattern. But I want to first thank Joe Rodgers. What a job he did for the United States as our Ambassador in France. And also, he has always been in the front line of helping the solid, sound Republican causes. Joe, thank you for suiting up again.

I want to thank Guy Vander Jagt, the chairman, and his cochairman, Ed Rollins. I'm delighted to see members of my Cabinet here and, of course, so many members of the House leadership: Newt [Gingrich] and Mickey [Edwards] -- well, I'm going to get in trouble if I keep going, but many of them right up here, and then out there in the audience. Let me thank the NRCC faithful -- that's you, putting up the money, hanging in there through good times and bad. And I'm delighted to see this wonderful turnout to support this worthwhile cause.

And then, finally, recognize the man of the night, our honoree, Bob Michel. He is our leader, and he's a longtime friend of mine. I served with him up on the Hill. I played baseball with him on the Republican baseball team. We had winning seasons in those days. [Laughter] And he knows the Congress inside-out. He is our leader, as I say, a key player in working with this President. And it makes a difference; it makes a difference if you have a leader that you can pick up the phone and talk to and get advice from and then know that you'll also have support up there. And so, he is a keen ally, a strong player. And I'll tell you, we are going to hit the ground running when the Congress comes back next year. And I'll be counting on him in the future, as in the past.

You remember the big Presidential dinner they had last spring? I made the best-dressed list, but I would only want you to remember Bob Michel's sportcoat at that dinner. [Laughter] He is a shoe-in to make it. And here he is conservatively clad for this one.

I'm glad to be back here -- a little bit spaced-out. I'm on Malta standard, but I want you to know that it is a pleasure. And I thought I'd say just a word or two, not to bore you with the details on the meeting but just a mention of the atmosphere, because I think the meetings did capture the imagination of a lot of the world.

I'll tell you that at NATO -- I was very pleased with the reaction from the solid NATO partners we have. And whatever the weather in Malta, I can tell you the weather inside was relaxed. There were some moments when we would disagree on things, clearly; that's what those kinds of meetings are about, I guess. But I was able to talk in a straightforward manner with Mr. Gorbachev with no rancor. I think we did establish good lines of communication, and I think in an era of rapid change -- and we certainly are living in that -- it is important that we have good lines of communication. I made clear to him that it was not our role as the United States and as a leader in the NATO alliance to seek to exploit the changes in the events taking place in Eastern Europe but really only to assist the forces of freedom and reform that are emerging there. And I was very up-front with him on the differences, particularly the differences in our own hemisphere.

We are going to be the first hemisphere that is truly, totally democratic. And our goal is to assist countries that are moving in democracy's way. And we find that we have some differences obviously with, certainly, past performance of the Soviets and, regrettably, I'm afraid, in the future. But we're going to keep on working this. I was up-front with him about the destabilizing flow of arms into the region from nations that are receiving Soviet support. And both of us, though, agreed that we do not have to sacrifice candor in order to build up a better relationship.

There is no question that progress was made at Malta. It wasn't a meeting where we were going there to cross the ``t's'' and dot the ``i's'' on some kind of an arms control agreement, but progress was made. I think, in a sense, we've got an agenda out there now, an agenda that, if we can fulfill it and follow through on it, will strengthen the peace and provide a solid base for future advances.

We agreed to accelerate the timetables for reducing arms. And that means we're going to have to do our part, not just the United States but our alliances. I want to see a conventional force reduction. We have it on the table. It's a good one. It calls for disproportionate reductions -- fewer U.S. troops coming out than Soviet. But the Soviets, in principle, are agreed. Now we've got to move that forward because I believe that kind of an agreement will really enhance the peace. We agreed to set the timeframe for a summit meeting here in the United States next June. The general agreement was out there, but we pinned it down until the last of June.

We agreed to move forward in trying to forge a closer economic relationship, in light of the positive changes that are taking place in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union. We know it's a long way to go. They have not been blessed with the wonders of the free economic system we have. They don't know what free markets are and convertible currencies and all the things that we, obviously, take for granted in the United States. But as long as these changes, these democratic changes, keep moving inside the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, I think the United States ought to be out there trying to help -- not in some kind of a superior manner but trying to say, ``Look, here's what works.'' Let us get in there and try to assist if we possibly can.

And I might say when Mr. Shevardnadze [Soviet Foreign Minister] said -- before our meeting somebody said, ``Do you want the United States to bail you out?'' And to the man's credit, he said, ``No, we don't want a bailout.'' That's good because we don't have any money anyway. [Laughter] So, I was delighted that he had that attitude.

No, but I look at Malta as a hopeful step in a new relationship. The first step in the next decade and the new world that is taking place each passing day -- it's got to be a new world of freedom. And make no mistake, the progress that I think we set in motion there at Malta would not have been possible without the steadfast support of the American people and, certainly, the steadfast support of those leaders that we have up here on this stage tonight, those leaders in the Congress -- Jerry [Lewis] and Duncan Hunter and Bob and Mickey and Newt and Guy Vander Jagt -- and I mean that.

When you go to a meeting of this nature, there's trepidation. People wonder whether you're going to -- you know, how it's going to come out. But if you know you have strong friends that will tell you exactly what they feel -- they who have been elected by their own constituencies -- it gives the President a great deal of confidence. And I am grateful, again, to our Republican leadership in the House of Representatives.

I'm pleased to share that report with all of you, especially given Bob Michel. This is one time I don't have to ask will it play in Peoria. I can say that his politics have been playing there a long time. And we are in close touch on this.

You know, what is it? Less than a month -- this is a little hard to focus on -- less than a month from now, we're going to begin a new decade, the last in this century. And I think all of us feel a natural inclination to look ahead, to think about the changes that a new century can bring. Barbara and I, we're heavy in the grandchild business these days, with 11 of them, and you can't help but see any one of them running around there that your focus doesn't shift to what kind of world are they going to be living in. And there's more than that natural impulse at work. Each day brings new change, from Warsaw, Budapest to Prague, Berlin -- new evidence that the love of freedom, freedom that sometimes you and sometimes I take for granted, is gathering force.

And so, I'm a lucky person to be President of our great country in these very exciting times, times that are exciting for every American, for people all over the world who cherish now the freedoms that we've enjoyed for years. And they're exciting times, I think, for our party. We feel that our values on these issues are triumphing; but they're values that we have stood for a long, long time, values that have kept America free and prosperous and at peace, values that help create the conditions for that new world of freedom that is unfolding before us.

I am convinced that the American people will continue to look to us, look to leaders like Bob Michel and his fellow Republicans in the House, to keep this country on course in these times of change. And let me say right now to all the loyal members of the NRCC: The 1990's will bring a new world. We've all seen the grim spectacle -- voices struggling to be heard, a minority trampled by unbridled power -- the decades-old fight against oppression. Yes, I'm talking about Republicans in the House of Representatives. The tide is turning, though. [Laughter]

The tide is turning. People didn't think freedom would come to Berlin. [Laughter] But change will come to Capitol Hill. And I'd like to think that here the days of one-party rule are over. So, our message is getting -- [applause]. And I think our message, thanks to Bob and Newt and others, is getting through: the party with ideas, with experience, with the answers to the questions we face in the decade ahead. And there's no greater goal than the one that inspires everyone here tonight to build support in mainstream America into majority status in the House. And when that day comes -- a proud day for every Republican, from the House leadership right on down to the rank and file -- we'll have the NRCC to thank for its tireless efforts.

It's been a great pleasure to be here tonight. I hate to leave before Bob Michel sings, but that's just one of the breaks, you know. [Laughter]

God bless you, and God bless the United States. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:04 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the J.W. Marriott Hotel. Representative Michel was minority leader of the House of Representatives. Following his remarks, the President and Mrs. Bush attended a Toys for Tots party in the hotel hosted by lobbyist Roy Pfautch.

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