Public Papers - 1989 - April
Remarks at the Associated Press Business Luncheon in Chicago, Illinois
Thank you all for that warm welcome. And my friend, Bill Keating -- friend from Congress days -- thank you for that most generous introduction. I also want to thank your able -- I don't know whether I should say leaders or deputies of the Associated Press. Lou Boccardi, sitting over here, and Jim Tomlinson -- and thank them and you for including me in this AP luncheon, given at the time of the Newspaper Publishers Association meeting. And I also want to say how pleased I am to be with you once again.
I've just come from Norfolk, a very moving ceremony paying tribute to the 47 young men that died in the turret aboard Iowa -- and it was indeed moving. And it made me once again realize how precious human life is and how sometimes you can't control things the way you'd like. And that leads me to just say a word about Terry Anderson, because in a meeting just now, in the greeting by Lou and Bill Keating, they brought up with me, once again, with this sense of urgency that all in the Associated Press feel about Terry Anderson -- the question of the hostages [in Lebanon].
And I just want to say, without being able to give you any good news, that we are concerned; we will follow every intelligence lead; we will go the extra mile to do what we can. And I vowed when I came into the Presidency not to talk about the burden of the Presidency, the loneliness of the job or the great toughness that nobody understands. I learned that from my immediate predecessor -- 8 years and I never once heard a call for sympathy or a call for understanding along those lines. But I will say that when you do take that oath of office you do feel perhaps a disproportionate concern for a fallen sailor or an individual held hostage against his or her will anywhere in the world. And so, we will continue to keep this question of these hostages on the front burner.
I know the news business is a serious and sometimes extraordinarily dangerous business. Mark Twain liked to recall that Napoleon once shot at a magazine editor. He missed him, but he killed a publisher. [Laughter] Twain says: ``It seems his aim was bad, but his intentions were good.'' [Laughter]
You all know Jefferson's tribute to the importance of the press: ``Were it left for me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.''
And now, despite the fact that there are days when I think that all we really need is a sports page -- [laughter] -- both of us, government and the news media, need one another; we owe each other a measure of respect, honesty, and integrity equal to the work we're engaged in.
It's been a little over 3 months since I took the oath of office, and I am pleased with the progress that we've made in a short time. And I'll say more about that shortly, but before I do, I'd just like to share with you some impressions of the past 3 months.
People often ask me, understandably, what's it like -- how the Presidency compares to the expectations you bring to it. I can sum up the thing that's made the deepest impression on me so far, in one word, and it's history, a sense of history all around you. And you can't live in the White House and you can't sit at the desk in the Oval Office, or upstairs in the office that I have now right next to the Lincoln Bedroom, without constantly experiencing the history of the place, without thinking of the Presidents we all know, but perhaps in a different light.
And I think of Washington, working to define the Presidency, to mix power and restraint in a way that created a Chief Executive consistent with democratic government. This Sunday I'm going to go up to New York to join in the ceremonies marking the 200th anniversary of Washington's swearing in. Each of those 200 years is lasting testimony to the solid foundation laid by Washington.
And I find myself thinking a lot of Teddy Roosevelt -- his limitless energy; his mental, moral, and physical toughness. I want the record to show it's not just that he was an elitist, like me. [Laughter] I think of his dedication to serve his nation, a dedication instilled in earliest childhood, this sense of service, and then, I guess most of all, his love of nature, passion for reform and preservation.
I think of Harry Truman, a man who spoke his mind, a practical problemsolver, a fighter who never gave up. And I learned that one the hard way, because I'm old enough to have bet 10 bucks on Tom Dewey back in 1948.
And there's Ike, Dwight Eisenhower, hero to a generation, a man who, once he became President, didn't appear to seek the spotlight. He understood the value of quiet, steady leadership and led this nation through a decade of growth and progress and prosperity.
And of course, I do think of the man that I served for 8 years, Ronald Reagan -- his commitment. People wondered: What was it? Why was he successful? It was his commitment to a handful of principles, a commitment to his beliefs, plus his great faith in the American people and then this unshakable optimism that he brought to the job. The opportunities open to us today, to my administration today, were made possible by the peace and prosperity that Ronald Reagan left as his legacy.
We used to hear a lot about the Presidency being too big for one man. Indeed, a very distinguished Washington lawyer wrote just at the end of the Carter Presidency, just as President Reagan was coming in -- there was talk, because of the frustration abounding, that what we might need is a parliamentary system. That talk stopped when Ronald Reagan became President. Different men, different methods, different circumstances -- proof, as I see it, that the Presidency is ample enough to accommodate the strengths and styles of our nation's rich political history.
In the past 3 months, these thoughts have framed my own approach in dealing with the pressing problems that confront us -- some of them decades in the making -- and in working to put the United States on a steady course for the decade ahead and the new century beyond it. I do not feel compelled or pressed because of a column here or a column there to reach out for something dramatic. The first step in every initiative that I've undertaken is to square our action with enduring American principles. Whatever the problem, we can count on public support so long as our policy and principles share a common root.
And these principles are: freedom for individuals, for nations -- self-determination and democracy; fairness -- equal standards, equal opportunity -- a chance for each of us to achieve and make our way on our own merits; strength -- in international affairs, strength our allies can count on and our adversaries must respect -- and at home, strength and a sense of self-confidence in carrying forward our nation's work; excellence -- the underlying goal in the collective efforts that we undertake, and accountability for the work we do; and in the workings of government, a firm sense of the responsibilities and powers of government and the private sector that lies beyond its limits.
My starting point has been a respect for American institutions -- for Congress, for the dedicated civil servants in the executive branch, for State and local governments, for the concept of public service -- and a firm belief in the constitutional powers of the Presidency. Each has its role; each can be enlisted in the work at hand. The emphasis is on cooperation, not confrontation, as the surest route to progress.
I've read more than a few news stories before and after the election -- you can remember them -- said that the new President and the Congress could not possibly work together after a bitter campaign that made cooperation impossible. I didn't believe that then, and I think we're proving it wrong now. When I took office, I told the Congress that the American people hadn't sent us to Washington to bicker. They sent us to govern, to work together to solve the urgent problems that confront us, and to shape the long-term strategies to ensure peace and prosperity in the future. I think the work we've done these past 3 months demonstrates the value of tough, principled negotiations between this administration and the Congress.
The bipartisan budget agreement that we worked out 10 days ago is a key example. That agreement -- ahead of schedule, on target with Gramm-Rudman, and with my ``no new taxes'' pledge intact -- is a strong first step towards dealing with the deficit problem and keeping our economy -- 76 straight months of expanding, uninterrupted growth -- on track. Difficult decisions lie ahead. I'm well aware of that, but the important first step, an important agreement, has been reached.
And of course, there's the accord we reached on Central America. The people of Nicaragua -- like their neighbors in the region, like people everywhere -- deserve to live in peace, with freedom. The United States is now speaking with one voice and standing behind a plan that will put the Sandinistas to the test. And this unity has encouraged leaders like President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica to support -- strongly support -- the U.S. policy. And the support of the leaders in that area, in Central America, those democratic leaders surrounding Nicaragua, is vital if we're to succeed.
And in 3 short months, we've made a good start coming to grips with issues demanding urgent attention and decisive action, and we've taken that action.
Action to stabilize the troubled savings and loan system -- the reform plan that I sent to Congress will restore stability and put the savings and loan system back on its feet in sound fiscal order. My plan guarantees that depositors will be fully protected -- they are today, and they will be in the future. The S L system must be reformed so that the questionable practices and outright illegalities that caused the crisis will not happen again. And those S L officials found guilty of criminal actions will be punished for the losses that they have caused. Last week the Senate passed my plan by 91 to 8, and I urge the House to act promptly and pass this S L reform bill with its central provisions intact.
Action to strengthen ethics in government -- the ethics reforms that I've sent to Capitol Hill this month will uphold honesty and integrity in government service, and they will apply an evenhanded ethics standard across all branches of government.
Action in the war on drugs, where we're advancing on all fronts -- education, treatment, interdiction, and tougher law enforcement -- the antidrug effort, even in these tight budget times, will receive almost billion in additional funding in 1990, a 21-percent increase in the outlays over what we'll spend in 1989. We've imposed a temporary ban on the import of certain semiautomatic rifles, weapons all too often used in drug-related killings. And we're tackling the drug epidemic in the District of Columbia, a test case for a full range of innovative antidrug measures.
Of course, dealing with problems that demand immediate attention is only part of the picture. We need to look to the long-term as well, to focus now on the kind of future we want to see for ourselves and our nation. And investing in that future is high on our national agenda.
First and foremost, that does mean improving education. Investing in the rising generation is long-range planning at its best. Our future in this technological age depends upon the qualities and capabilities of the American worker, and not just the most talented among us but each individual member of the work force. The seven-point program on education reform that I sent to Congress early this month will help us reward excellence, reach out to students most in need, increase choice, and introduce a healthy element of competition and accountability that will promote quality in our schools.
I have no intention of shifting the emphasis to Washington, away from the localities, away from the States, away from the diversity that is one of the hallmarks of our educational system. But I do want to use the White House as a bully pulpit to encourage excellence in every way and to encourage the private sector in every way. And I would say to you publishers here: I salute those of you who have already taken up the cause of education -- be it literacy or dropout rates or whatever it is -- you can do the Lord's work in no better way. The seven-point program is going to help us reward excellence, and you can do an awful lot as well.
Preparing for the kinder, gentler future I've spoken of means helping Americans cope with the changing nature of society, helping fundamental institutions like the family remain strong and prosper. We have big differences. We talk now about child care. I want the family to remain strong, and that's the guiding aim of my child-care initiatives: a tax credit proposal designed to expand the options of low-income families, keeping the ultimate choice of who will care for the children in their hands. One of my greatest concerns as President of the United States is the diminution, the denigration in some ways of the family structure. We in government must see that everything we do is aimed at strengthening, not weakening, the families.
Preparing for the future has got to mean protecting our environment. Teddy Roosevelt put it best when he said: ``I do not recognize the right to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.'' Roosevelt spoke those words almost 80 years ago. And now, a little more than a decade away from the 21st century, safeguarding our environment is a national and international imperative. And we've taken the first important steps. We've urged Congress to enact legislation enabling us to ban the export of hazardous wastes to nations where safe handling of those dangerous substances cannot be guaranteed. And in response to growing concern about global warming, the U.S. will work in concert with other nations to end the discharge of CFC's [chlorofluorocarbons] into the atmosphere by the year 2000. And in the case of this Alaskan oil spill, we've taken steps to ensure a Federal role that is strong -- a Federal role in oversight of the cleanup effort and to explore ways to prevent such spills in the future or to react more promptly if they should occur.
And finally, we've launched an initiative to strengthen the international strategy on Third World debt, which has already received broad international support from both the industrialized and the developing countries. We've set our course with this policy, and now I want to see this Third World debt a success on a case-by-case basis. I want to see us successful as we negotiate with Mexico, with Venezuela, and with other countries as well.
We've examined and I've made decisions on U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, Poland, Central America, and other problems and opportunities needing prompt attention. We have moved there. Within a few weeks, nearly all of the far-reaching and systematic defense and foreign policy reviews will be complete. And I've already made some decisions. Others, including arms control, will be forthcoming soon.
We're mapping strategies for a period of remarkable change in international affairs, change more wide-ranging and rapid than at any time in the postwar period. While we will lead, we also intend to consult and listen to our friends abroad and to consult and work with -- listen to the United States Congress. I've met with the leaders of 34 nations, renewing my acquaintance with many of them, establishing a working relationship with the others. Secretary of State Jim Baker has met once with Foreign Minister Shevardnadze of the Soviet Union. He will meet again next month in Moscow to continue that dialog. And as with the bipartisan agreement on Nicaragua, I will work closely on all international matters with the Congress. We have had several meetings already with the leaders of Congress to discuss, in a nonstructured way, consultation -- not only the process of consultation but we've begun it on individual areas around the globe.
Last Monday in Michigan I announced a new policy towards Poland in recognition of the positive changes taking place there. We'll be watching events in Poland closely -- the fate of Solidarnosc, the followthrough on the free elections promised by the Polish Government. Freedom is proving a powerful force in world affairs, a force for peace and stability. The United States must seize opportunities to strengthen and support developments that advance the cause of freedom, and we will do exactly that.
I think we've made a good start these first 3 months, and there's more to come. The completion of our defense and foreign policy reviews in late May, draft legislation for a new Clean Air Act, a new strategy to curb the increased use of lethal weapons by drug dealers and other criminals, and new initiatives to combat the problem of homelessness -- all are on the near horizon.
You know, some of my toughest critics are not in your line of work. Quite often, they're the kids, the children who write to me at the White House. I want to share with you a letter from a young seventh-grader from Torrance, California. He wrote asking me to take action on pollution, toxic waste, smog, littering -- and a very detailed list, if you will, of environmental concerns. And he says in his letter: ``I'm not saying you're doing a bad job, but could you put a little more effort into it?'' [Laughter] That letter was written on January 20, 1989 -- Inauguration Day. [Laughter] And I have no way -- maybe I ought to check on it as we go to California -- I don't know whether I've satisfied that guy or not. But I can say, I got his message. And as I said before, I'm a practical man; I like what's real. I'm not much for the airy and the abstract, and I like what works.
And there's a running debate now on what it takes to move a nation forward. Some will tell you it's ideology that matters. Some say it's a question of competence. And others say that issues are the issue. But the fact is, what it takes to move a nation can't be captured in one word. It's a matter of principles and performance, ideology and action on the issues. And this administration understands that the American people expect all of this and something more: They expect results.
And so, while I'm pleased with what's been done and what we've accomplished in these 3 months, there is a long road ahead of us. And I am optimistic that our reforms will produce lasting results, that the long-range planning we do today will pay off in the future, that our consultations with Congress will result in progress in domestic and international affairs as well. But most of all, this nation is ready to move forward to meet the central challenges that we face: keeping America free, prosperous, and at peace -- tomorrow and into the century ahead. Thank you very, very much.
Note: The President spoke at 12:17 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, during the annual conference of the American Newspaper Publishers Association. In his opening remarks, he referred to William J. Keating, chief executive officer of the Detroit Newspaper Agency; Louis D. Boccardi, president and general manager of Associated Press; and James F. Tomlinson, vice president and assistant to the president of Associated Press. Following his remarks, the President traveled to Bismarck, ND.