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Public Papers - 1992

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Rotary Club Dinner in Portsmouth, New Hampshire


The President. Thank you all very much for that welcome back. Thank you, Cliff. Thanks to you and Bill and Don Reeves and so many others. Captain Mark, thank you, sir, for that lovely blessing. And you have a wonderful way here of making a person feel at home. I can't pronounce the name of the river; I've been crossing it for 66 years. But nevertheless -- [laughter] -- I would like to remind people that it's been many, many times they've gone across that river. And there's something about the air here. A hurricane that is designed to hit Portsmouth knocks the hell out of my house in Kennebunkport -- [laughter] -- and I would like to speak to the Rotarian meteorologist as soon as this is over.

But thanks for the warm welcome. Hugh Gregg asked me to deliver his speech tonight. [Laughter] For those of you who will remember 4 years ago, he delivered my speech 4 years ago. But you've heard once again the story of my last visit here, and you wondered, well, was it the broccoli that did it? And I appreciate Harry out here working it out, and it is great to see so many friendly and familiar faces, neighbors and friends that I've gotten to know over the years.

Captain Mark, you were very nice to mention Barbara Bush, who believes in your work very much, has taken a leadership role in that cause, that wonderful cause that she do the Lord's work. I'm very sorry that she's not here. And if you really want to make my day, please don't ask why she didn't come. Everybody is talking about, ``Where's Barbara? We miss her very, very much.'' I told her I didn't need her, I was not going to throw up. [Laughter]

You guys, you talk about -- hey, look, it was the 24-hour flu. How many people here have had the flu? And I bet none of you have done it quite so dramatically. And I'd like a loan because it cost a lot to dryclean a suit over there in Japan. And the Prime Minister had a nice expensive one, used to have a nice expensive one. [Laughter] Sorry.

No, it's been a great day and an exciting day. One horrible disappointment, I was not able to stop by and see Evelyn Marconi at Geno's Coffee Shop. She is a longtime supporter of flag and country, and I'm sorry we missed her there. Glad that she's all decked out and here with us tonight. Bill, thank you again, sir, for arranging all this, and I'd say to you and the committee, on relatively short notice, given -- I think you heard about it probably the day before Christmas. Then that period between then and New Year's, obviously, there's other pursuits. Then this thing has just been a wonderful, warm response here.

May I salute the Governor, of course, Judd Gregg, my campaign manager here, my friend of long standing, a quality Governor, a decent guy. I am so proud to have his support and the support, of course, of my dear friend Hugh Gregg as well.

I'm glad that Bob Smith is at my side. He came in and took over for another friend and supporter, Gordon Humphrey, who is with us tonight. He is doing a superb job for you all, for this great State. Regardless of party, he's in there strong for the principles you believe in, in the United States Senate. I'm glad he's here. And of course, Bill Zeliff, with whom I campaigned when he was first elected, doing a superb job in the Congress. So, you have a great delegation. I might also mention two other New Hampshirites not with us, both leaders, one in the Senate now, Warren Rudman, a strong supporter, and of course, my friend Governor John Sununu, who served this country with great distinction and this State with great distinction. So, I'm proud to have the support of these leaders.

I think you've got to hand it to Yoken's and the incomparable Harry MacLeod. Who would have held a reservation for 4 years? [Laughter] Hey, listen, I hope with this crowd I don't have to tell you that I haven't just today discovered New Hampshire. This is, Judd reminds me, the fourth time that I've had a meal at Yoken's. And that ain't discovery time. I mean, that's good eating time. And I know it when I see it, and I like it. And I'm glad to be back on the seacoast.

Cliff Taylor pointed it out, and he said, well, a lot has happened in those intervening 4 years between the time I stood you up and the time I got invited back. Let me just put it in a rather broad, ideological perspective. Our world was locked back then, less than 4 years ago, in an enormous struggle, in an ideological struggle, in what you might call a nuclear standoff between superpowers. And I think about the problems we face in this State, the problems we face in the Nation about the economy.

But let's not lose sight of our blessings. I happen to think that it's a good thing that my grandchildren and this little guy over here can grow up in a world with less fear of nuclear weapons. And I am very, very proud of my predecessors in this great office for President who have brought this about, and I'm proud of the record of our administration in help bringing about the changes that we enjoy in this world today. We have a lot to be grateful for. And world peace is one of them.

You know, 4 years ago the world was literally under siege. And today, look anywhere; look to our south; look over in Eastern Europe; look at the Commonwealth, meaning what used to be the Soviet Union, and you'll see that freedom is on the march. The Berlin Wall and the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union itself, all vanquished, not by force, not by force but by history's most powerful idea: the love of freedom.

Today, the cold war is over, and a great victory for this Nation, our principled United States of America, the Nation we cherish, and a triumph to people everywhere who look to us and will continue to look to us as the land of liberty, the land of the free. And believe me, everywhere you go in the world they see that it is only the United States that is the leader for freedom and democracy and market economies and, indeed, for peace.

I can't help but note on this evening that one year ago, one year ago today, our commitment to liberty, our commitment to international law was put to the test. Saddam Hussein, who never in my view felt that we would use force -- I think he thought that the Vietnam syndrome was with us forever -- he miscalculated twice. One, he didn't think we'd use force, and secondly, he felt if we did use force, he could have some kind of a standoff with the men and women of the U.S. military. And he was wrong on both counts. He mistook a voice of protest and a handful of editorials and a couple of speeches in the Congress for the United States lacking the will. And he was dead wrong. Aggression was set back, and our country came together with a pride that we hadn't had since the end of World War II. And I am very grateful for that.

I don't know a single American, regardless of party or philosophy, liberal or conservative, who doesn't in his heart of hearts or her heart of hearts celebrate the changes that have taken place and, really, the hope, the hope they bring to the entire world.

But I also know that it is very tough to focus on what's happening thousands of miles away when things are tough here at home, and when the company work force shut down. Bill and I were talking about this today, about the hardship for some of the families in this State. Something else, the fear that some have, some that have jobs, they lack the confidence they'll have them tomorrow; the worry that families have on the economic front. It's very hard when you have these concerns and these worries to take a look at the big picture and say, ``Well, we ought to be very thankful for a world at peace.'' And I understand that.

Hard times have come to this State. A guy at a luncheon today -- I sat next to some of the workers at one of the plants, and he asked me a question that you might expect would be an easy one. It wasn't; it was a tough one really. But he said, ``If you could leave one message from your visits here in New Hampshire today, what would it be?'' And I thought about it. Should I tell him it's for fighting crime, or should I tell him about world peace, or should I tell him about our education program? And what I told him, and what I hope has happened today, is that I told him we care. We care. Privileged as I am to be President, Barbara and I are not isolated from the feelings of people in this State that are hurting. And that, I think, is an important message. Friends have to know, and I think it's important to the people that are hurting that their President knows and the President cares. And in this case the President is going to do something about it.

Now, we're getting back into the swing of the political season. And you're hearing a lot of people jumping all over me. I know where New Hampshire is. I know what the values of the families are in New Hampshire, and I hope we're practicing them in the White House as a family. I understand what joins the people of this State together.

And you're going to hear all kinds of cheap promises coming out of deep left field, past the running track, up against the fence in the left field, offering a quick fix to a troubled economy. And my appeal to you today is: Resist it. Do not listen to those that want to enlarge the deficit and in the name of that try to make this economy recover.

I have offered growth incentives, growth proposals for 3 straight years. Now we're going to take those, build on them, look into that lens, and tell the American people 2 weeks from now this is what it's going to take to get this economy going, how we're going to stimulate investment, how we are going to stimulate savings, how we are going to keep this Federal deficit under control as best we can, and how we can do it without this tax-and-spend philosophy you're hearing about every single day in this State.

I vowed I would come over here tonight and be calm, but I'll tell you something, I'm a little sick and tired of being the punching bag for a lot of lightweights around this country yelling at me day in and day out. And I'm sick of it. If they want a fight, they're going to have one. I mean it.

If they want to do something for the middle class, rich against poor and all that, pass the incentives that I'm talking about. It will get this country and this State back to work. That's my challenge to them, and that's going to be the challenge to the entire Nation. I'm going to try and work my heart out to do my level-best. And I hope I've dispelled with the idea that we don't care, because we certainly do.

You hear a lot about the talk of the domestic agenda. We've got a good one. We've got a child care bill, and it passed finally, that says hey, let the parents choose. Let's keep the families strong. Let's not mandate all these benefits from Washington, DC, whether it's a health program or a child care program. Let's strengthen the family by giving them the opportunity to decide what's the best way to deal with these kids.

We have a new education program, transcends party lines. We got together with the Democratic and Republican Governors; we adopted the strategy, six education goals, not to be dictated from Washington, six education goals. Starts from be ready to learn -- that means Head Start, and that was one Washington can help -- ends up with you're never too old to learn. That means old guys like me learning to use a computer, and some of you other old guys around here going over to the library maybe and reading a book. It wouldn't hurt any of us. [Laughter]

But it means you got math and science, volunteer tests to let your kids know how they're doing. It's a wonderful new program, and it revolutionizes the schools. And it does it without setting a lot of mandates from these subcommittee, tired subcommittee chairmen in Washington, DC, that haven't had a new thought in the 50 years they've been sitting there.

I'm getting a little tired of this. I hate to unload on you again. Last time. I heard two of the Democrats get up the other day and they said, ``Heck with holding the line on the budget deficit. Forget about it. We're going to propose spending billion more Federal money.'' If you haven't discovered it, that's your money. Comes right out of your pocket whether you're working or not around here. Federal money, billion. Forget the one constraint we have and that is the caps on spending that are in that budget agreement, just forget it, and then we'll spend our way back to prosperity. That is not going to solve the economic problems of this country.

What is? Carefully defined incentives to increase investment, to increase research and development, to build so we can be competitive in the educational field so that people can save, use some incentives to save, use incentives to build some strength under a person's home. A home is one's castle, and one of the reasons there's lack of confidence, families see the value of their homes going down. I saw mine blown away up here, but nevertheless -- [laughter]. No, they see the values going down, and there are things we can do on that. And so, let's do what will help, not do what sounds good for garnering votes in a hotly contested primary on the Democratic side of the agenda.

Then there's another point. Sorry I came to this one because I will get wound up. I'm talking about protection. I'm talking about the siren's call from the extreme right and the extreme left in the political spectrum saying, ``Look, people are hurting, and what we're going to do about it is go back to isolation and protection.'' You want a recipe for disaster? That is it. We will shrink this economy. We will throw 35,000 more people out of work in New Hampshire, and we will be cutting off our nose to spite our face.

The answer is to expand markets. And what our trip to Asia was about was not managing trade. You get a lot of egghead academicians writing, ``This guy's deserted the free trade.'' That's not the case. All I'm saying is, look -- and I saw it today in the workers I saw -- we can compete with anyone, but we need fair access to the other guy's market. And I am not going to stay home and keep from fighting to open these markets. I'm going to keep on doing it until we are successful.

And for those that want us to pull back into some isolationism a la the 1930's, take a look at world history. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see what that led to. The United States, as long as I am President, is going to stay involved and continue to lead around the world.

What I really want to do is try to take the leadership that I think and hope we demonstrated in Desert Storm, that lifted the spirits of this country and brought this country together unlike any time since the end of World War II, brought it together, and take that now and apply that to the domestic economy to get the support from the American people for incentives that will give us that vibrance and that feeling of optimism that we, the American people, pride ourselves on.

And I believe we can do it. And one of the reasons I do is I think there are some sound things in place now. Yes, there are some people hurting; unemployment is too high. Inflation is pretty good. Interest rates are down. Inventory is not bad. The market is saying, hey, things are going to be looking better. And I'm always one who likes to see the glass half full and not so pessimistic and half empty. And that's the way I am.

No, I've listened to what the people of this State have to say one way and another. And today it was an excellent visit back to this State that I believe I understand, whose heartbeat I feel. And I would just encourage you all to avoid the quick-fix bumpersticker slogan that tells you there is some easy way. There isn't an easy way, but there is a sound, sensible, economic approach. And I believe that what I have suggested and will continue to work for is the answer.

You've got to stimulate investment to create jobs. You've got to stop that slide on real estate values so that you increase home sales. You've got to give Americans confidence that the cost of health care, providing for the kids' education, and raising a family are affordable. And I will be unveiling a national health care program, but believe me, it is not going to have a lot of mandates or turn to some foreign country for an example. We have the best quality health care in the world, and I don't want to diminish that. What I want to do is make it more affordable for everybody.

And then we've got to be able to compete. Whatever it is, whatever the fix is, it must make us more competitive in the global economy. And fifth and finally, and maybe the most important, you've got to control the most unproductive end of our society, and that is Government spending. We have got to keep the caps on and enforce them on wasteful Government spending. And I need more people like these Congressmen to help me do just exactly that.

And in conclusion, let me say this, just a couple of confessions to friends. And this will go to the Democrats who may have been smart enough to join Rotary, too. [Laughter] No, but I really mean this one from the heart in the sense that some things, at least the way I look at this -- and again, I'm concerned in this country about the decline in family. And I don't want to be preachy or lecturing, but Barbara and I talk about this a great deal.

In the first place, I'm pretty proud of her. When she hugs a baby or teaches somebody to read, why she's saying something. But what I will continue to try to do as President is to look at the legislation and say, does this help or does this diminish family? The longer I'm in this job, and I say this to you as a friend, the more convinced I am, Cap, maybe you understand this, that family and faith are terribly important ingredients for being President of the United States. I believe it. I feel it very strongly.

Obviously, I believe in the separation of church and State, but I understand from having been tested by a little fire what Lincoln meant when he talked about spending some time on his knees. We are one Nation, under God. We are a strong, free Nation that believes in certain principles. Barbara and I have tried very hard to live up to those kinds of principles and those kinds of values.

Now I need your help to continue in that effort to help make things better for the people of New Hampshire and the people all the way across this State. And whether you vote for me or not, may I thank you for this unforgettably warm reception. I'll never, never forget it.

May God bless you all. Thank you very much.

Q. Mr. President, I know you're a little pressed for time, but we normally end with a couple of questions.

The President. Does that mean two?

Q. If I limit it to two.

The President. Sure.

Q. A couple of questions?

The President. Yes.

Q. We have a microphone set up somewhere up front here. Yes, right there. Step right up to the microphone, Bob.

The Economy

Q. Mr. President, welcome to the southside of the Piscataqua River. This question, we are in a political year and a recession year. How can we get both parties together to solve the recession problem?

The President. In the State of the Union Message -- frankly, it's tough. You put your finger on why. We're in a competitive political year, all kind of weird dances going on out there. And that's the way it always has been and probably always will be.

But I think the economic problems are serious enough, and I think the answers are clear enough, that what I will try to do as President is say in the State of the Union Message: Look, here's what I think it will take. Now, let's lay it aside for just long enough to pass a program. And then if you guys got one you think is better, come on we'll talk about that and debate it and negotiate it. And if I've got some additions that I think would help but can't put into this first go-round and get done, why, we'll debate all that. We'll go back to our political posturing and yelling at each other and making outrageous claims about each other.

But the American people deserve that politics be put aside right after that State of the Union Message to get something done that's going to stimulate this economy and help the families in this country. And I'm going to try it. And I'll give it my level-best shot, and I hope you'll find that there will be some cooperation. Things can happen in the Congress if they make up their mind they want to move. I know Bob Smith will tell you that. And I know Warren would. And I know Bill Zeliff would tell you that.

So, this idea that you have to have endless subcommittee hearings and have to defer and bow to some other committee that has jurisdiction, the American people are a little bit tired of that. They want congressional action, and I will do my level-best to see that they get it.

Who's got the last one?

Q. Mr. President, lower interest rates are great to get the economy going again. If I could refinance my home at 8 percent it would save me almost 0 a month. Unfortunately, like many New Hampshire homeowners our property values have dropped, and because of that banks won't approve our refinancing because we don't have the 20 percent equity that we need.

Now, as a country we've given loan guarantees to Israel, Russia, and other countries around the world. What do you think about the possibility of giving loan guarantees to middle class Americans like myself so that banks could then approve our loans, we could refinance at a lower rate, and then put that mortgage money back into the economy at little or no cost to the Government?

The President. We have Government financed loans that I hope are of some help. I will be making proposals in this State of the Union, again, that I hope will do what you're talking about, put some value under the person's largest asset, and that is the home. And there are ways to do that. One of them is through the IRA system, for example. So, listen carefully and see if what I propose won't be a long step.

Whether we can do what you're asking or not, I've said I want to hold the line on spending and keep it within the caps. I'd have to, to be honest with you, know exactly what the total cost that would be if that was applied nationwide. I think we're talking about jillions of dollars. But I think there are ways to put value under a person's major asset. And you're right, the decline and the pessimism has come because real estate has been so slow.

Now, if we're honest with each other, I think you'd admit and I certainly will, that some of the lenders in the real estate business, whether it's S L's or banks, made loans that they might not ought to have made under more prudent, cautious times. And we got away from our standards. So, I think that there's plenty of blame to go around on all this, and one result of that has been some excesses in the regulatory field.

And some of the bankers and some of those savings and loan people are saying, ``Wait a minute. These regulators come in and scare the heck out of me and my loans,'' and they pull back. So, we're trying to do a better job on the regulation front, not to be reckless, not to be accused of going back into some S L crisis again but try to have reasonable balance. On the one hand protecting the financial institutions, seeing that they're safely and prudently run, and secondly, on protecting the rights or the well-being of the borrower, the guy that needs to do what you're talking about, to refinance or whatever it is.

So, we're making a little progress. I'm not satisfied we've gone far enough. But where I agree with you is, let's get some value under a man and woman's major asset. And that major asset is a person's home. You talk about strengthening the family, homeownership, that's one of the things we're working hard to get through instead of these massive Government projects, homeownership. That's a good way to strengthen it, and what you're suggesting makes a good deal of sense in terms of strengthening the family and in strengthening the assets.

So listen, that's two. I'm heading back to DC to see my dog and my wife. Thank you all very, very much.

[At this point, Don Reeves presented a gift to the President.]

The President. Thanks so much. May I make one correction here? First, thank you very much for this picture of the Harbor Light and Nubble Light, and that means a lot. And I, as you know, love this coastline. But I said, I was going home to see my dog and my wife. [Laughter] May I, with your permission, may I change the order. I just don't want to have any misunderstanding. [Laughter]

Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:37 p.m. at Yoken's Restaurant. In his remarks, he referred to Portsmouth Rotary Club president William Holt and members Clifford Taylor and Don Reeves; Capt. Mark Weaver of the Salvation Army, who led the dinner prayer; Harry MacLeod, owner of Yoken's Restaurant; Evelyn Marconi, owner of Geno's Coffee Shop; and former Senator Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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