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Public Papers - 1990 - January

Remarks to the Republican National Committee


Mr. Atwater. See, Mr. President, they understand you're the best chairman this party ever had. [Laughter] Ladies and gentlemen, the leader of our party and the best chairman this party has ever had, President George Bush.

The President. Thank you all. And this has been a nostalgic return for me because, as Lee generously pointed out, I was chairman of the Republican National Committee years ago. And so, when I went back up to the fourth floor, it was like Yogi Berra said: deja vu all over again -- [laughter] -- and it was a nostalgic return -- everything familiar. Some things never do change, except, of course, the Muzak. [Laughter]

I just wanted to come up here and really just, at the beginning of this year -- we planned to do it at Christmastime -- and I wanted to come up here and say thank you for all you've done to build and strengthen this party. And I appreciate it very, very much. We are, and proudly remain, the party of Lincoln, the Republican Party. And I am very grateful for the terrific support that you have given our administration -- all of us, all Departments.

Needless to say that 1989 was the first year of new leadership -- I'm talking about our very able chairman, Lee Atwater, and Jeanie Austin, too -- both of them doing an outstanding job all around this country. And I am totally confident that when we look back after the upcoming elections, the work that they are engaged in and that you all are engaged in will clearly pay off.

This has been a year of tremendous excitement and achievement around the world, too, a remarkable time of change. And when we started the year and our work together by my declaring ``the day of the dictator is over'' -- words, I believe, from the Inaugural Address -- who imagined that the peoples of Eastern Europe would so swiftly vindicate that call? Who imagined that Vaclav Havel would start the new year by addressing the Czechoslovakian people not as a playwright but as the President of his country?

And in our own Western Hemisphere, democracy has spread from one country to another. But at the beginning of my term -- not counting Chile, which has now had democratic elections -- but at the beginning of the term, there were still three holdout dictatorships in Latin America. And thanks to the sacrifice and the courage of our American fighting men, today there are only two. And we're starting the new year with a free Panama -- one more step towards a hemisphere that hopefully will be one day totally free, totally democratic.

I wish all of you could have been with me -- or maybe I don't. [Laughter] Some of you might be like me. Seeing these kids in the hospital down in San Antonio the other day, it was just inspiring -- 19-year-old, 20-year-old, with this marvelous, marvelous attitude and approach towards their mission -- the desire to go back -- lying there in these hospital beds, wounded, some of them very, very seriously. But it was an amazing New Year's present for both Barbara and me. And I can't tell you how grateful I am to them and to our military for this superbly executed, highly complex operation down there.

The year offers us tremendous challenge and opportunity on the domestic front, as well as in the foreign policy field. But to make the most of it, we must get action from the United States Congress. And so, I would take this opportunity to call on Congress to pass our clean air legislation -- our proposal, if you will, to harness the power of the market to fight acid rain and air pollution. And I call on the Congress to pass our anticrime package to make the streets safer, a step that Congress should have taken long ago and that they can now take when they return that will really bolster the fight against narcotics.

And finally -- there are many other initiatives -- but here today I'd like to call on Congress to act responsibly in favor of growth and opportunity and to lay aside all the political rhetoric and to go ahead and do that which the majority of the Congress said they want; and that is to cut the capital gains tax, to reestablish a capital gains differential, because that will mean jobs and opportunity for more Americans.

So, those are three areas domestically that we will be pushing for. There will be others, but those are three that I think the Congress should adopt as priority. We've got a great big job ahead of us this year, a full agenda, and each of you is critical to our efforts. In fact, the work of the national committee will be in much clearer focus nationally because of the congressional elections that are coming up.

I understand that Lee, generous fellow that he is, gave you a couple of days off at Christmas and New Year's. [Laughter] Hopefully, time to spend with your families, time to recharge the batteries. But now we're back and you're back, and we need you. We need you to face up to the challenge of 1990. The work that you're doing here is reflected in the field, and I've heard so many good reports from Republicans around the States about how the national committee is really backing them. People who see get this sense that the party is on the move. And with such a team, I am confident that this will be a great year -- a Republican year.

Barbara joins me in wishing you the very best. Like Margaret Alexander, we know the new year will be prosperous -- [laughter] -- and a great success. I wish she'd lighten up just a little, though. I'll tell you, I'm getting tired -- and so is everybody else -- helping on this money-raising. But we want to continue -- [laughter] -- we want to continue -- finance section quieted over here. [Laughter]

No, but we're very grateful to you. And I think I find in my job -- sometimes -- we don't adequately say thanks to those that are doing a lot of the heavy lifting. So, that's really what this little sojourn is all about: to express my confidence in Lee Atwater, my confidence in Jeanie Austin, my confidence in each one of you who is working to strengthen the Republican Party. It's going to pay off, you watch, in the elections of 1990. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:50 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the Capitol Hill Club. In his remarks, he referred to Jeanie Austin and Margaret Alexander, cochairman and finance director of the committee.

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