Public Papers - 1991 - September
Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Senatorial Candidate Dick Thornburgh in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Please be seated, and thank you all for that wonderful warm welcome back. Let me first salute the Members of our congressional delegation. I know Larry Coughlin came in with us, and I'm told that Curt Weldon and Don Ritter are here. I can't see too well beyond the glare here. I'm proud to be up here with Joe Egan, who is the candidate for mayor of Philadelphia. And I'd love to see him win that race, and I hope you'll all support him. And I see one of Dick's former fellow Governors and one of my great admired friends, and that's Governor Mike Castle of Delaware here, coming across the border. Mike, welcome, and thanks for being here.
Let me just say a word about Arlen. He's doing exactly what he should do. This is very important work. He couldn't join us tonight. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee, as you all know and should take pride in. He's there for the Thomas hearings. And before we go any further, let me just say that what I've seen over the past few days from Judge Thomas makes me more confident than ever that I've nominated the best man for the Supreme Court. And he deserves to sit on that High Court.
Parenthetically, I watched the opening presentation that he made to this committee, and I got kind of choked up listening, as I did at Kennebunkport when I nominated him. And I called Barbara, picked up the little button that rings right over to the house there, and she said, ``Quick, I'm watching Judge Thomas.'' So, I called her to remind her to do that, but if you haven't seen it and you have any of those crazy VCR's, play it back. It really bespoke a lot about values in our country. And I think we saw the decency and honor of that man right there in those few minutes where he made that presentation.
I want to salute also two that came up here with me, two Cabinet-level officers: Ed Derwinski, the Cabinet Secretary for the Veterans Administration, and then Governor Bob Martinez, who is leading our fight on narcotics, on drugs, both of them here and give them a welcome. [Applause]
And of course, our party leaders, Anne and Elsie and Herb. It's always a pleasure to be with them. I'm just recovering from the way Elsie Hillman, and to some degree, Anne and Herb also, killed me when I was running for President. Dick, be careful of these now, they're going to wear you out. But they're good. They're the best, and you're lucky to have such good party leaders here.
I'm kind of the entre here, leaving and afraid you're going to have broccoli later on. So, what I'm -- [laughter] -- going to do is to just give a few comments, because along with Ed and Bob Martinez, we're off to a veterans event back in Washington. I do bring Barbara's love and affection. And if I might say something that might sound a little prejudice, I am very proud of Barbara Bush and the work that she's doing for literacy in this country. And, she's a darn good First Lady, and she is as strongly convinced that Dick Thornburgh is the man for the job as I am. And so, you'll be seeing her up here campaigning. I guarantee that. She loves Ginny, and she sends her love. And I expect you'll see her on the campaign trail.
But I'm here tonight -- this is called brief remarks you'll be happy to know -- to just say a few words about Dick. Seven weeks to go until election day, this race, compressed into that timeframe, is a sprint right from the beginning to the end, which is just over the horizon. That, I believe, is important. Dick comes out of having done a fantastic, substantive job for the whole country. And he earned the respect of the country. And I believe people are relieved to have a short timeframe for this election. But I believe the fact that he's come here from Attorney General, he knows how to campaign in this State, he's had a great record as Governor of this State, means that he will win that Senate seat. And boy, do we ever need him in the United States Senate.
And I think when it's all over, and you all are better analysts of your own politics than I am, but if you had to go through a bunch of words, one that would come to my mind is trust, trust of the people of this Commonwealth. And I believe that's going to come through loud and clear.
I will say that there's a certain sadness amidst this celebration tonight, and it is a celebration, due to the absence of a man that many of us in this room knew as a friend, all of you I expect. And I'm talking about Senator John Heinz. When this State lost him we lost a man whose integrity and ethic of selfless service inspired us all. My heart still goes out, as yours does I know, to Teresa and those wonderful boys. But it's a tribute to the candidate that we champion tonight that when this party faced the daunting prospect of selecting a successor to John Heinz, the first name, the one that came forward with this resounding support was Dick Thornburgh.
It is no mystery. Just go back and take a look at the record. As Governor, he fought hard for the working men and women of this State. When he took office in '78, Pennsylvania strained beneath the weight of what had become a chronic deficit and suffered a crisis in that word I use, in public trust. Dick came in and he took action. He cut the bureaucratic bloat. He cut taxes on individuals and business to spur growth, economic growth. He restored integrity to a State government that had been plagued by corruption and scandal. When he left the statehouse in 1986, he left Pennsylvania in enviable good health; a State government with a budget surplus of 0 million and a State making the difficult economic evolution from the smokestack era to the age of high-tech.
His next contribution, as we all know, came on as what I just referred to as the national level. As the Nation's number one law enforcer, he turned his crusade against corruption into a war on white-collar crime. He fought to make life tougher on the criminals and a bit easier, this is the compassionate side, a bit easier for the victims of crime that are scarred by crime and scarred by violence. Let me just cite one recent statistic that Bob Martinez, our Drug Czar, and I were talking about coming over here: Over the past 18 months, drug use in this country is down by 11 percent. And I really firmly believe it's because of Dick and others like him that we are really beginning now to win this war on drugs. And I salute him. He never gave up, never said that it couldn't be done.
He took care of the law enforcement side. We've increased to something like -- an almost a 75-percent increase in the number of Federal prosecutors, and nearly doubled the number of prison beds. And he expanded initiatives like this Asset Forfeiture Program that I think many of you have heard about, to prove the old adage that ``crime does not pay''. It's a marvelous program, and it's working. Under this program, last year Federal law enforcement officials seized more than half a billion dollars in ill-gotten gains and turned over 0 million of that amount to State and local governments to wage the fight against crime and drugs right on the local level.
And for Pennsylvania and for the Nation, Dick Thornburgh fought tirelessly, as I mentioned, for decency, for decency in government and the dignity of the individual. And again, I think these qualifications make him the clear choice for the United States Senate.
Permit me one personal note, one that I believe relevant in a very real way to Dick's approach to public life. Many of you know how Dick led the effort to pass last year's civil rights legislation. He referred to it, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Dick and Ginny and their sons know firsthand what it means to triumph over disability. At the age of 4 months, tragedy struck Peter Thornburgh in the form of a near-fatal head injury. Every day since, he's waged a battle using all of his ability. The Thornburghs pulled together as a family, triumphed over hardship, held fast to hope. As a dedicated public servant but also as parents, they and I know how much it meant for them to help welcome Peter and 43 million citizens with disabilities into the American mainstream as we passed that act.
And when I saw this kid up here tonight, I said, thank God Dick Thornburgh took the leadership in the Americans for disability act. This kid's got a future, a real future. You could tell it when you heard that performance up here.
So, the guy's been tested. He's mastered some of the most difficult challenges that government has to offer. He pulled Pennsylvania out of that economic tailspin, and he's done battle against society's criminals and the drug traffickers. And now he's ready for the toughest assignment of all, going to Capital Hill without combat pay. [Laughter] And believe me, that is a challenge. In a world where the pace of change seems constantly to accelerate to me -- and I'm not in a Congress-bashing mood tonight, I'm not really warmed up -- [laughter] -- Congress seems inert. They go after me on the domestic agenda, and yet they refuse to take up and support the new proposals that this country needs. Their domestic agenda is to attack my domestic agenda -- [laughter] -- and that's not good enough for the United States.
And so, we need more people that understand the fundamentals that I've talked about here tonight. And Dick will become a key Member right from the day he is there because of that magnificent service in the Cabinet of the GOP shock force, trying to shake things up, working for things he believes in, trying to get something done, and shake loose that Democratically controlled logjam of the legislation that he helped shape and that we both believe in. It's Republican legislation that's been gathering dust on the desk of the Democratic leadership. And I'd like to see more like him in the Senate, enough Republicans to swing the Senate firmly back so we have control and can at least take the offense on legislation, at least bring to a vote the things that I was elected to try to perform on. Get moving on this domestic agenda.
America's seen now what the Democrats do when they control both Houses, and it isn't a pretty picture. It's simply not a pretty picture. And I really think the time has come to get control of the Congress, certainly to get control of the United States Senate. And this race, this first race that will have an effect on 1992 elections, is absolutely critical. So, look at the big picture, as well as what's best for Pennsylvania, and you'll also then conclude once again that Dick Thornburgh is the right man for this job.
You know, they asked me -- the charge is leveled against me, sometimes in kindness and sometimes with a little edge to it, that I'm interested in foreign affairs. I expect the whole world is: When you see the change that has taken place, the crushing of aggression that Saddam Hussein brought to bear on Kuwait, see the remarkable changes that have taken place in Eastern Europe and democracy in our own hemisphere and what's happening in the Soviet Union, monumental changes. So, I plead guilty; yes, I'm interested in that. But there's something wrong when we can push the foreign forces out of Kuwait, but we can't even get our domestic programs through the United States Congress. We need more people that look at these issues the way you and I do.
And we've known for a long time that our party is really the party of the American ideals. But more important, we stand as the party of ideas. And I just think that we need to get moving. We've got a great child-care program with choice in it. We've passed a good clean air bill. We've done other things in the Congresss in the environment that I would have to thank them for, for their cooperation in getting them passed. But we're stalled on a lot of ideas. I want to see more tenants turned into home owners in this public housing across the country. I want to see more ways to enlist the ingenuity of the marketplace to clean the air and provide new sources of energy. We've got a good energy program. Dick knows this well as head of our Domestic Policy Council. He helped shape the energy program and the transportation bill.
So, when he talks about agenda, that's what he's talking about. And our problem is, it gets stalled in an old-thinking United States Congress. We want to clear the path, though, through this maze, and I really believe we must succeed in creating more opportunities for individuals and families to shape their own destinies and to secure their own freedom.
And so, it's not just that Barbara and I are friends of Dick and have total confidence in his decency and in his integrity, but it's more than that. It's that we really believe and I really believe as your President that he can do more to shape this legislative agenda and help get this country moving than if he hadn't been in Washington and if he hadn't been the great Governor that he was of this Commonwealth.
So, it's a great pleasure for me to be here to salute him, to urge you all on. I don't know how much money you gave to come have this meal. I don't know how good the meal is going to be. But I know you're here for a good cause, and believe me, do everything you can in the last 7 weeks to send this good man back to Washington as a Member of the United States Senate.
Thank you, and God bless all of you. And let me just say as I end, this comment: If you get the feeling I'm enthusiastic about the job that many of you helped me get into a few years ago now, you're absolutely correct. I love this challenge. I love every single day going to that Oval Office and going to work. But it would be one heck of a lot better if we had this great man in the United States Senate.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 6:47 p.m. at the Hotel Atop the Bellevue. In his remarks, he referred to Representatives Lawrence Coughlin, Curt Weldon, and Don Ritter; Joe Egan, candidate for mayor of Philadelphia; Governor Mike Castle of Delaware; Senator Arlen Spector; Clarence Thomas, nominee for Supreme Court Associate Justice; Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Edward J. Derwinski; Bob Martinez, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; Anne Anstine, chairman of the Pennsylvania State Republican Committee; Elsie Hillman and Herb Barness, State Republican committeemen; Dick Thornburgh's wife, Ginny, and son Peter; former Senator John Heinz and his widow, Teresa; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.