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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks at a Barbecue in Beeville, Texas

1989-12-27

Thank you all very much. Thank you, Dan, and thank all of you. We had a little receiving line a minute ago for a handful of people who did an awful lot of work on this marvelous get-together. And several of them said to me ``Thank you for being here.'' And my inclination was to say -- not just to them, but is to say to all of you: Thank you for doing this for me and for Jim. We're just delighted to be back here.

And I've been coming here -- I see my friend Will Farish, who has been my host here for a long time. And I don't know, I think it's almost 20-some years straight, and we haven't missed. And I don't intend to miss. And I'm just delighted to be back and have this really warm homecoming. Dan, thank you, sir, for your work on this, and Gary and so many others that pitched in and made it work.

Fernando, your prayer was lovely, and it says something about our country. And maybe it's an appropriate time of year to count our blessings. But I can tell you that you don't get into the job I'm in if you don't have a certain modicum of faith. If you don't believe that we are one nation under God, you cannot, in my view, be President unless you understand that fundamental conviction that Fernando Aleman spoke so well a few minutes ago. And I really feel it, and Barbara feels it. And we are blessed by family, and we are blessed by our faith. And it couldn't be otherwise in this particular job.

I might also say that we are lifted up by friends. And I get teased for picking up the phone and calling people and being a somewhat frenetic kind of a President. But I enjoy staying in touch with friends, and I hope I never will forget how I got to be President of the United States. A lot of it came through dedicated, loyal friendship, and a lot of it came from the political process, of course. But I wanted here to express my appreciation for the support that came out of this area. This is not a partisan political event, but I would be remiss if I didn't say I've not gotten immune to reading election returns. And I'm very pleased with the way things have worked. And so, thank you for this homecoming. Thank you for this warm reception.

I'm very sorry that Barbara Bush is not here. She is doing a superb job as First Lady, and she is in good health. I get asked that all the time. You know, there's a magazine, that I'm sure nobody here is too familiar with, called the National Enquirer. [Laughter] But apparently, they printed a story about her on the front page, and we have had more crazy letters and inquiries about her state of play. But since some of you were nice enough earlier on at this little receiving line that Dan worked out, that I would tell you she's in very good health. She feels just great, and she's kind of winding down her responsibilities as a grandparent. We have our Dallas twins charging around the White House, having been up there at Camp David with us. And she will meet me in Houston, which is no consolation to her because she wanted very much to come back here. But she did ask me to extend her warm best wishes. And I'll tell you -- but I've only been married for close to 45 years; in January, it'll be 45 -- I think Bar's doing a fantastic job for our country.

It is a pleasure to be, obviously, with Jim Baker. One of the great joys of my job is having people in our Cabinet -- he is the most senior, in the sense of protocol, the number one Cabinet official. And I can tell you this, for those civics teachers out here: I think it's very comforting, and I think it's very important for a President, to have people who will tell it to you exactly the way they see it, who will share any experience with the President, who will go the extra mile after the decision is made to support what the President decides. And in Jim Baker, we have somebody who is that kind of Secretary of State, and the respect for him all over the world knows no bounds. And I'm delighted he's here, and I'm delighted he's at my side every single day in Washington.

You know, he has a ranch over here just down the road called Rockpile. Believe me, it is. [Laughter] But once in a while, we can get him over here to Bee County, Goliad County, with Will. And so, Jim, I'm delighted you're with us today.

This, Dan told me, is to be an informal occasion. And what I really want to do is shake as many hands as possible while you get to chow down out there. And I won't reminisce much more, except to say that when I flew into Corpus Christi Naval Air Station today it was just about -- let's see, it was in the winter of 1943 that I first showed up there as an 18-year-old naval aviation cadet. And it was there that I got my wings. It was there that I got my first taste of Texas. And possibly, it was there that I made my determination to come back to Texas. The people over there in Nueces County treated me and the other kids over there just with a fantastic sense of hospitality. And so, I hope you'll forgive my feeling a certain sense of nostalgia. When I flew in there, and also as we flew past Chase coming over here in this magnificent helicopter, it did feel like coming home.

Just a couple of words: It is the end of the year, and in the Bush family, anyway, it's a time when we count our blessings. And I think we had a marvelous Christmas present when we got the word that Noriega, the drug trafficker, was in the Nuncio. And I am determined to bring him to justice. And we have to work with our friends in the Vatican, and we have to certainly work with respect with the new Endara Government in Panama. But I want to see this man who is under indictment brought to justice for poisoning the children of the United States of America and people around the world.

And I'll tell you something: That military operation was a superb effort in coordination. It worked far better than many would have thought possible: young kids dropping in at night and 2 o'clock in the morning in parachutes, and targets unknown, the darnedest coordination you've ever seen between helicopter gunships and little -- we call them Little Bird helicopters -- in the air all at the same time. A magnificent effort by the U.S. military. And when I hear people saying, well, things have changed so dramatically in the world today that that can make these hellacious cuts in our defense -- let me tell you, I don't think that's right. And I will not have that, because I believe we should keep a ready force that is able to defend American interests and American lives around the world.

But I was very pleased with the operation. Barbara and I are going over to the hospital in San Antonio on Sunday to pay our respects to those kids that are lying over there wounded. And I should say here and now: Of course we grieve at the loss of young American life. And frankly, I grieve at the loss of innocent Panamanian life, caught up in this battle. But at times, you have to make a decision: What is in the national interest? What is right? What is the right signal to send to the world?

And this one, in my view, worked out well. And now we will help. We will reach out to the people of Panama. We will do everything we can to lift them up, but most of all, to give them a shot at the democracy that some of us take for granted every single day in our lives. They are entitled now to freedom and democracy. And so, let's all pitch in and try to make it work.

These are fascinating times. Jim made brief reference to our meeting over there in Malta with Mr. Gorbachev. It was a good meeting. And the seas weren't particularly calm, but the meeting was very calm. And I see some great common interests that we have now with the Soviet Union. I don't believe we got a prognosticator in Bee County who could have predicted with any degree of accuracy the rapidity of the change in Eastern Europe. These are fantastic times of change. They are fantastic times of opportunity for individual liberties, for democracy and freedom in Europe.

And what Jim Baker and I are trying to do is to conduct the affairs of the United States in such a way so as to foster change and to foster freedom, but to do it in a prudent way so we do not invite some unforeseen action by some unpredictable party. And I believe it's working, and I'm most encouraged. And we will stand ready, as we have already, to help the people of Poland achieve their aspirations for democracy. Hungary is coming along in very good shape. And now we see the rapidity of change in East Germany and in Romania and in Czechoslovakia, and it's mind-boggling. But the point is -- the point that we Americans should remember -- is it's coming towards freedom and democracy and openness and respect for human rights. And it is these things that I think should give us particular joy at Christmastime. We have a lot to be grateful for.

On the domestic side, if I'm giving you a bit of a year-end report, I'd have to say there are certain frustrations. We've made some progress on the Federal deficit, and I'm determined to make more progress next year, this coming year, on the Federal deficit. I want to see the Congress move on an anticrime package because I want to see us support our police officers, whether it's the sheriff's department in Bee County or the police chief whom I just met or whether it's the big urban police force in drug-embattled New York or wherever. We ought to support them. And that means that the Congress ought to move forward with the anticrime legislation that this President proposed some 6 months ago. So, if you have any influence with your Congressman, tell him to get with it. Get moving; don't sit; no more excuses. Let's move that crime package through the Congress and support those men and women on the streets that are supporting us.

We're making some progress on the environment. You know, just coming from red fishing and fishing for trout outside of Corpus, it makes one appreciate the environment very much. And we've made some good, sound proposals that are not going to keep America from growing, not going to keep everything at a standstill, but will protect the wetlands. I have a new policy of no net loss of wetlands, and we have a policy of trying to clean up the air and to protect the environment for the generations to come.

And so, again, I would invite your support for these initiatives. They are bipartisan, I might add. We're getting strong support on both sides of the aisle. And so, I think we can move more forward on that.

The antidrug fight is on everybody's minds. And I know that this county -- Dan was telling me early on about the fight that Bee County is making, helping encourage young people to stay off of this substance abuse. And it's happening all over the country. I feel a certain frustration at times that it's not happening quicker. But I can tell you there are some very encouraging signs about the diminishing use of cocaine or some of these terrible narcotics.

And so, I will continue to fight in the calendar year 1990 for the total enactment of our national drug strategy. I think you'll find when the new budget comes out that it has rather adequate levels of funding to support the Federal effort. But I must say that it's not going to be solved at the Federal level alone, that a lot of it's going to be done right here at the county level, right here at the city level, or right here at the State level. And so, we are working hard with State and local officials and try to give the proper support in the antinarcotics field.

There are many, many other problems out there, but at this end of the year, I must say I'm finishing with a bit of a glow because I see the changes that are taking place. And it comes right back to that invocation that we heard here by Dr. Aleman. It comes back to the fact that we are the United States of America; we are one nation under God, we are tolerant, we are kind, we are trying to help others who have it less fortunate than we do. But there is no question when you go to Europe and talk to the leaders: It is the United States that stands as a beacon. When you go to South America -- we've got our difficulties; they may approve this or disapprove that -- but they know that we are the freest, the fairest, the most decent nation on the face of the Earth.

So, when we see this magnificent move towards democracy and freedom, I think all of us can count our blessings and say: God bless America. God bless the United States. And may I simply add, God bless all of you, and thank you for this welcome home. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:25 p.m. in the Bee County Coliseum. In his remarks, he referred to Dan Ouellette, former county Republican Party chairman; and Gary Roberts, president of the First National Bank of Beeville. Following his remarks, the President went to Will Farish's ranch, where he remained overnight.

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