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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks at a Reception for Supporters of the Annual Republican Congressional Fundraising Dinner


Welcome, everybody, for many a return engagement. And Barbara and I are delighted to have you here. Once again, we're in your debt. First, let me single out our chairman of tonight's dinner, under the theory that you get a busy person to get in and get the job done. The committee, the blind committee -- because nobody wanted to take the blame nor the credit -- said, ``We'll go get Howard Baker; we'll try.'' And sure enough he accepted, and sure enough I think tonight we have the most successful dinner ever.

And just to guarantee that -- as I walked up here, I'm sure you wondered what the deep, dark secret was that Howard told me -- that thanks to the generosity of Armand Hammer, to the tune of 0,000, that we're now over the top and going strong. So, Armand, my great vote of thanks to you.

And that is a very nice supplement to what so many others have done, either through wearing out the telephone -- guys like Jack McDonald, my old colleague in the House, who I understand is modestly standing back here but should be hanging from the rafters because of his performance, probably the leading ticket seller or participant in that manner, according to Howard. And then, of course, Carl Lindner and Dwayne Andreas -- just stars in this, and I am very grateful to them. But in the same vein, I'm grateful to every single person here, you who did the heavy lifting out there and most of the work. So, thank you all very much because this comes at an important time in what we feel could be an historic year.

The dinner I hope will be fun if we can see each other across a rather intimate ballroom over there -- [laughter]. But nevertheless, it's marvelous. Let me just say a word about it, and I really should defer to Don Nickles, who's our superb chairman on the Senate side, and Guy, on the House side, and, of course, the National Committee weighing in in a great way on all this, too. And I want to thank them. But they are better to comment on the day-to-day political activity.

But you know the litany: The party in power loses seats in an off year, historically. Well, we want to change that. And I had a report from both Senator Nickles and Congressman [Guy] Vander Jagt when I met in the Cabinet Room with the leadership of the party this morning on the Hill -- our Hill leadership -- Dole, Michel, et cetera. Without kind of putting too optimistic a spin on it, the Senate report was very strong, and the House report -- where everyone knows we have a great difficulty because of the locking in of incumbency -- even there, Guy was able to give us a pretty upbeat report.

And I can tell you I'm going to try to do my share. The Vice President has been magnificent -- Dan Quayle -- in what he's been able to do in helping candidates raise money. The recruitment, I think I can say without putting words in the mouths of these two, has gone well. The party under Lee Atwater and Mary Matalin is pitching in. Jeanie Austin doing a good job on that as well. So, the team is together, and the importance of the year is enormous.

I don't want to overlook the Governors' races because they are key when you look at this concept of redistricting that we're going to have to grope with in the years ahead. And we have some very key Governors' races out there. And the Republican Governors Association has been active and strong in doing their part.

So, we're getting the assistance, and we're getting the financial support, thanks to the approach that many of you have taken to this. But again, the election is important. I know Howard Baker is probably better able to speak to this than anybody else here. But the difference between controlling one body in the Congress and not is night and day in terms of how a President can operate. And Howard saw it when he so effectively led the Senate majority when he was Senate leader. And you could move the agenda. The President would campaign on certain things, and then he'd be able to at least be sure they were considered.

The way it is now in the Senate, as Don knows, we're playing -- our leader is doing a superb job. Bob Dole is just outstanding, and he and I are working very closely together for the same objectives. But the problem is, with the numbers the way they are, it is very difficult to get our agenda placed ahead of their agenda. And the result is we're often playing defense and trying to amend a proposal that's far different philosophically than what we would have proposed in the first place.

So, we're keeping working on it, and I'm very pleased that we've been able to get some things done. Sometimes you measure progress by keeping bad things from happening. And I don't know what's going to happen at 6:15 p.m. on our veto override. We've got a technical bill up there that has a technicality that even some of our own Republicans are having difficulty with. But we've been very lucky that the vetoes have been sustained and not overridden. We may take one on the chin here today or in the next few days on another issue.

But generally, the Republican side has stayed together enough to be able to negate very unhappy legislation. Now I'd like to take that a step forward this fall and make it a more optimistic process, where we can take the offense and get done the things that join us all together as Republicans, and those who come from a more conservative side of the ledger when it comes to the free economy, free market, and all of those kinds of points.

I might -- just looking around the room, I know of the interest of so many here in the international aspects. I just would say a word on the summit meeting that we had with Gorbachev. I was very pleased with it -- not that we solved all the problems, the tough problems of the Baltic States. We're different. I told him very candidly and very frankly and, indeed, at an open press conference, sitting side to side. We could talk about our differences without rancor and without people getting all upset with each other the way it used to be.

We've got differences on the Baltic States, and I'm very pleased that now he's back there talking to the three leaders of the three Baltic States. And I'm hopeful that that can be resolved so we can get a dialog going and get the economic blockade lifted and then move forward in these areas that are very important not just to Gorbachev and the Soviet Union but in my view to the United States. And I'm talking about a freer, more open trading system where we can interact with each other more on the economic side, because I firmly believe that is in the interest of our country. And I know it is in the interest of markets and of an economy that has got to change and will change. But the more we interact with them, in my view, the more dramatic the change and the sooner the change can come.

And so, the meeting with Gorbachev was a good one. We made some progress on a lot of subjects. One near and dear to my heart -- they accepted our proposals that lead to a ban on chemical weapons, which I think is a very civilized thing to be talking about in the year 1990. And I just wanted you to know that the tone of these meetings were quite different than anything that has transpired before, although the last Reagan-Gorbachev summit did have a very good climate, too.

The man is facing enormous problems at home. It is my view that we need to keep our eyes open, that we need to keep our country strong, that we don't want to be naive in the treatment with any country. But I just thought that you ought to know that the mood of it was good, and I think it will lead to an understanding on questions such as the Baltic States or a unified Germany being a full, participating member in NATO or whatever the question was. It's a wonderful challenge that so many of you -- that all of you, really -- have given me and, I would say, to the star of Wellesley, too, to represent this country at this very special time in our history. We like -- I won't speak too confidently for Barbara -- but we like every single minute of it. [Laughter]

It's a challenge, it's a great challenge, and I will never forget how we got here. And we got here just exactly through the generosity and commitment of people in this room, just as other future Senators are going to get to the Senate as a result of that same generosity, just as a wide new group of new courageous young Congressmen are going to get to the Congress for the same very reason.

So, once again, our heartfelt thanks to you for what you're doing. Thank you. And I look forward to seeing you all, I think, at a large dinner later on. Thank you for making it such a success.

Note: The President spoke at 4:37 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Jack McDonald, Carl Lindner, and Dwayne Andreas, members of the President's Dinner leadership committee; and Lee Atwater, Mary Matalin, and Jeanie Austin, chairman, chief of staff, and cochairman of the Republican National Committee. Mrs. Bush spoke at the Wellesley College commencement ceremony. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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