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Public Papers - 1992

Remarks to the Kentucky Fried Chicken Convention in Nashville, Tennessee


The President. Thank you, John Cranor. Thank you very much. Thank you, John and Kitty, and president Kyle Craig, and John Neal, Charlie Middleton, and all the other franchise leaders. It is, indeed, a pleasure to be here. I want to salute the man that walked in with me, one of the truly great leaders that has ever been in the United States Senate, now in private business, but my dear friend and really a real statesman, Senator Howard Baker, who's with us here today.

Well, we're getting down to the wire. And you know, in this campaign we've been to many States, towns large and small in every corner of this great Nation. Yet I still have one burning question: Where the heck is Lake Edna? [Laughter] Just kidding. Steve Provost works with me -- and was with this company -- is at my side, and he gave me all the advice, all the hints about this fantastic get-together here.

But my friends over here in the national media, and I use that term advisedly -- [laughter] -- want to know exactly -- oh, I love that bumper sticker, ``Annoy the Media. Re-elect Bush'' -- [laughter] -- and everybody knows what it means. I appeal for amnesty to these guys, particularly the guys that are doing the heavy lifting, you know who you are over here, and the photo dogs and others. If you want to join me in taking out your wrath on the media, which is a little dangerous because they have the last word, I suggest we look at the faceless talking heads on those Sunday morning talk shows, those Republicans and Democrats who have written me off long ago. We're going to show them next Tuesday.

But I do believe that these friends in the media want to know exactly why I stopped by this convention, and I'll tell you the real reason. You see, just last week all the pollsters and pundits said the election was over. The media carried stories about my opponent planning his transition, all but measuring the drapes in the White House. So I came here today because I heard you were experimenting with home delivery and I want to give you my address: 1600 Pennsylvania. [Laughter] And when we call for delivery you can reach us there any time because, I don't care what all the pundits say, Barbara and I don't think we'll be moving out until 1996. So you've got our number.

Next Tuesday, in all seriousness -- and I appreciate what your president said because this is a serious subject, the election, a privilege really -- next Tuesday we will all participate in this great ritual of democracy. The choice that you make that day will cast its shadow forward in history. I came here today to talk with you hard-working businesswomen, businessmen about the choice you face.

My opponent says this election is about change, and with that I agree. But being in favor of change is like being in favor of the Sun coming up tomorrow. Change is going to happen. The real question is not who is for change but whose change will make your life better and make the world safer.

Over the past 4 years, we have seen change of almost Biblical proportion. For 50 years we stood up for freedom; we stood up for a policy of peace through strength. Today, at last, at long last, the cold war is finally over. Our kids grew up crawling under desks in those duck-and-cover drills in the sixties. During the Cuban missile crisis we stood on the brink of armageddon. And in the eighties families huddled together in fear to watch that TV movie, remember, ``The Day After.'' Always the shadow of the cold war lingered right outside our window. You talk change, well, all that has changed. Our children and our grandchildren go to sleep tonight without that same fear of nuclear war.

But do we feel like celebrating? Well, not exactly. There's work to be done right here at home in America, creating new industries and better schools, certainly more affordable health care. Whose philosophy should we follow? Well, the cold war was won not by tanks, not by guns but by this simple idea called freedom. Across the globe people are coming to understand that government is not their superior, not their savior; it is their servant. In the midst of a global economic slowdown, we are proving once again that freedom works. Despite all our challenges, our economy is growing faster than Japan and Germany, faster than Canada, clearly faster than Eastern Europe.

But here's the irony. At the very moment when the rest of the world is moving our way, my opponent Governor Clinton wants us to move the old way, move their way. Governor Clinton likes to say he is, quote, ``different.'' [Laughter] Okay. No, different than the old tax-and-spend liberals. But if you look at the details, you see nothing different at all. He talks of the power of the marketplace, but promises 0 billion in new taxes, more than Mondale and Dukakis combined. Most of those taxes will be paid by small business and the middle class. He says he wants to cut the deficit, but he calls for at least 0 billion in new spending. All those billions just begin to pay for all the promises.

Let me give you one timely example. Last night, Governor Clinton was in New Jersey making another promise. He called for a national offensive against AIDS. He called, though, for a massive increase in Federal funding and creation of an AIDS czar in Washington. Well, what Governor Clinton didn't mention is that he has done very little for AIDS at home in Arkansas. He didn't say that this year we spent .9 billion on AIDS, a 118-percent increase since I took office. More Federal resources are devoted to research and prevention of AIDS than any other disease including cancer, 10 times as much per victim of AIDS as per victim of cancer, far more than spent on heart disease. Yes, AIDS is a national tragedy. But we don't need a bureaucratic czar in our Nation's Capital. We need more compassion in our hometowns, more education, more caring.

A President has to set priorities because it's your money that we're talking about. And if you look at Governor Clinton closely, you see a philosophy where bureaucrats in Washington carve out the exact same programs to try and solve problems facing people in Nashville or Nashua or anywhere. You might call this old-fashioned idea trample-down economics: Tramples down business with these deadly new mandates and regulations, tramples down individual initiative with higher taxes, and tramples down the dreams of people with the power of that bureaucracy, the power of bureaucrats. In this age of global transition it will not work, and I think most Americans know it.

It doesn't make sense that restaurant owners will somehow get richer by giving more of your money to the IRS.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. It doesn't make sense it will get the deficit down by giving Government more money. He uses the word ``to invest.'' The Government doesn't invest. Private business does. Give them more money to spend. At a time when every organization is decentralizing power, why turn back to a central bureaucracy in Washington?

Yet, saying this isn't enough. We've got real problems here in America. You see them every single day in your communities. You hire high school graduates who can't figure out how to run the cash register. You strive to give your people health insurance, but the cost just keeps going through the roof. Those of you who run restaurants in the cities see the problems of crime and drugs and poverty right up close, firsthand. So it's not enough to criticize the old way. Government must find a new way to help.

I'm a conservative, and to me being a conservative means to renew, to reinvigorate what has always made America great, and that is the power of the individual. During this campaign many have sought to portray the choice between, quote, ``activist Government'' and a trickle-down approach to Government. But the real choice is not between activism and passivity. The real choice is between a liberal bureaucratic Government that seeks to impose solutions on everybody else and a conservative activist Government that gives individuals, businesses, and families the means to make their own choices through competition and economic opportunity.

Let me give you a couple of specific examples. Start with education. Governor Clinton worked with me when we set for the first time in history six national education goals, first time in history. I give him credit for that effort; he was very active in it, deserves credit. But as a candidate for President, Governor Clinton has adopted the agenda of the status quo. He wants to pour more money into the same failed education system, a system where funds are controlled tightly by central bureaucracies, where powerful unions, the teachers union, the NEA, block real reform, and where we spend as much per pupil as any nation but Switzerland. But we don't get an adequate return on our investment.

But tinkering with the system won't do it. It is my view it simply will not get the job done. So I want to put power in the hands of the teachers themselves, not the union. So I want to use competition to improve our schools. Our ``GI bill'' for kids provides scholarships for elementary and high school students so that every parent, rich and poor, can choose the best schools for their kids, public, private, and religious. Somebody asked me, won't that make the public schools worse? Where it's been tried, in Milwaukee and other places, it doesn't. The public schools that aren't chosen do what you have to do: compete and do better.

And it isn't a violation of church and state. It's like the GI bill; the money goes to the families. It does not violate church and state. It's a good idea. It's a new idea. And we ought to try it.

Now, you see the same differences in health care. Governor Clinton has offered three plans in this campaign. One said to all of you, either offer care on your own or pay a new payroll tax, at least 7 percent. Now, many experts said it was a backdoor way to get Government directly involved in running health care. Now Governor Clinton wants to control the price of health care by setting up a big board in Washington, DC, to set prices. And I say Government cannot lower prices by fiat; only competition can. Government doesn't need to tell you what doctor to see. And we don't need to inflict small business with any more mandates from Washington, DC.

But we've got to do something about health care. So here's my alternative, and I'm convinced with the new Congress we can get it through: Offer tax incentives for small businesses so that you can afford to buy health care on your own. Let small businesses pool the coverage so you can get the same price breaks as AT T or IBM. For people who are too poor to pay taxes, we will give vouchers so that they can choose the care they want. Freedom, putting people over bureaucracy, these are the principles that we offer.

My opponent trusts Government to choose the best place for child care. I fought for and won a new law that gives low income parents the freedom to use Federal money for child care wherever they want to, whether a government center or a church. And when it comes to deciding where your child spends the day, rich or poor, it doesn't matter, Government should not limit your options. Parents ought to have the freedom to do what they think is right.

My opponent thinks Government can pick the industries of the future with your money. I talk about cutting capital gains and investment tax allowances, giving first-time homebuyers a tax credit, because you know what to do best with your money, better than any bureaucrat.

Governor Clinton says that it's okay that we have Members of Congress who serve decade after decade in Washington. I trust America's judgment, so I want to limit the terms of Members of Congress and give Government back to the people.

Now, when you look at the election in these terms, you see a clear choice. Governor Clinton dreams of expanding the American Government. I want to work to expand the American dream. I offer an agenda for helping people by giving you and your families the power to make your own choices, shape your own destiny. We call it the Agenda for American Renewal. It's a comprehensive, integrated approach to fixing our schools, reforming our health care, right-sizing Government, and creating here in America the world's first trillion economy.

My agenda includes 13 priorities for the first year of my second term, but 3 dwarf all others. First, America needs jobs, not in a while, not tomorrow but now. This week new numbers came out indicating that our economy grew at 2.7 percent last quarter, the sixth straight quarter of growth. It's a long way from the depression that Governor Clinton talks about. But look, we must do better. We don't need higher taxes so that Government can put more people to work. We need incentives to grow, to cut Government redtape and make more credit available so that you can put more people to work.

While we are strengthening small business, we will open new foreign markets for our products by winning congressional approval of our free trade treaty with Canada and Mexico. The bottom line is this: More trade creates more high paying jobs for all Americans. They make the charge that free trade agreements will ship our jobs overseas. My question is: If that's the case, lower labor rates is the determining factor, why isn't Haiti the industrial capital of the world? Decisions are made on other things. We will create more jobs with opening up export markets.

Our third priority is health care. I already mentioned some of my ideas, but the need for action is urgent. We simply cannot control the deficit, we simply cannot make our companies even more competitive until we make health care more affordable and more accessible for you and all your workers.

Those are the three. As we're working on these priorities, we'll be working on others. One special priority is to reform our crazy legal system. It's gotten out of hand. I'm sure many of you fear the customer who will try to rip off the system by sticking you with a frivolous lawsuit. America now spends up to 0 billion every year on direct payments to lawyers. People say, ``So what?'' As the Wall Street Journal said this week, ``If we could devote just some of that money to productive activity, we could do far more for our economy than all the Government investment that Governor Clinton promises.'' For our economy, for productivity, for our national sanity, we must sue each other less and care for each other more. It is a crying shame when your neighbors can't coach Little League because of a frivolous lawsuit, or someone sees a victim along the side of the highway and doesn't dare stop because he or she remembers a case of where a lawyer came on and said, ``Oh, you shouldn't have moved that person, and we're going to sue you.'' We can't do that. We are a caring country. We've got to put caps on these outrageous liability claims.

We also, obviously, we must reduce this deficit, but not by raising taxes but by getting ahold of spending, cutting spending. We need a balanced budget amendment. We need a line-item veto so the President can cross out frivolous expenditures. This one isn't easy, but we need to cap the growth of the mandatory programs. Set Social Security aside, except Social Security, but get ahold of the growth of those mandatory programs that make up two-thirds of the President's budget. And we need a check-off on your tax return so each taxpayer can earmark up to 10 percent of his taxes to be used for nothing but getting the debt off our children's shoulders.

We have simply got to restore hope to our inner cities. And so I will work with the new Congress to get tougher crime laws, to battle more on this drug problem -- we're making some progress there but we've got to do better -- to reform the welfare system and to attract and keep business. All using this principle of putting faith and power not in bureaucracies but instead in real people. And perhaps most important, we will reform and right-size Government, subject it to the same discipline as every other large organization in America.

Now, that then is our agenda for America's renewal, and it builds on the foundation we've laid for the last 4 years. But it's what I've been talking about on the campaign trail and what I will fight for in my second term. Obviously you must be thinking, well, it sounds great, but what will be different? After all, today there is a gridlock in Congress, gridlock in Washington. If people want arguments and shouting, they can turn on their TV talk shows, but they expect and deserve better from their elected officials.

I understand this, but I really believe we have an historic, unique opportunity before us. After next week there may be up to as many as 150 new Members of Congress from both parties, all who have heard the same rumble of discontent across our land. So I plan to use the time between November through January to meet with all the new Members of Congress and to shape a legislative package in a way that will guarantee swift passage. The time to move for a new President, with no politics over the horizon, and a reelected President, is early in the first term. Politics aside, sit down with Democrats and Republicans and get the people's business done fast.

We will set deadlines for decisions, and we'll meet them. We'll put aside partisan politics, as I tried to do in the very first term -- and we did get some very good things done early in the first term -- and we'll abandon this politics as usual. When we confronted Saddam Hussein we saw that when America turns its attention to a problem, we can do literally anything. We can mobilize for war. We can mobilize for hurricanes. Let's mobilize for our economy and get this country moving again.

If we need to, we'll go beyond Washington. Already our America 2000 education reform effort involves parents and teachers and business leaders in over 2,000 communities, and this will be a model for other efforts. America's desire for positive change requires building new coalitions and taking advantage of grassroots power, and we will.

That then is my action plan. But what about Governor Clinton? In June, he promised to present his 100-day plan even before the election. That's 4 days away. No plan, no plan has been sighted yet, and the reason is simple. You're more apt to see a UFO than you are his plan. [Laughter] The reason is simple: The numbers, his numbers, just don't add up. He's promised too much. His new congressional friends want to raise the ante even higher, and the result will be more spending, a bigger deficit, continued gridlock.

My agenda offers an alternative. We can break the gridlock without breaking the bank. A vote for our philosophy is a vote for change that really matters; a vote for change that builds on our strengths, not accentuates our weaknesses; a vote for a philosophy that is right for your businesses, right for your families, right for America.

Let me wrap up now with a word about character. Listen to the words of Horace Greeley. He said, ``Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing; only character endures.'' I think that as you look back in history, hopefully now, I think that's especially true in the Presidency. Character matters, not just because of the plans you make but the crisis you never foresee.

A couple of weeks ago my Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, gave a speech that didn't get a lot of attention. But he made an objective case that the world is still very uncertain. He said, and I quote, ``The next 4 years may be far more challenging, far more difficult, the problems far more complex internationally than the problems we've just come through the past 4 years.'' We don't know where the next crisis will occur. But we do know this: When the next crisis happens, the entire world will look to the American President. They will look to his experience, and they will count on his character, on his word of honor.

What is character? How do you define it? I'm not sure. But a friend of mine says it's acting alone the way you would act with a million people watching. As President you're never more alone than at times of a crisis. While nobody may be watching in the Oval Office, millions here and abroad will feel the impact of your judgment.

It is easy, in the aftermath of Desert Storm, to portray the decision to go to war as an easy one, but it was not. Think back. It was not uniformly popular. The Democratic Congress had spent much of the fall parading experts who said we'd get into another Vietnam. They said a war would kill any hope for peace in the Middle East. What really got to me was the charge that I didn't care about the numbers of body bags that were coming back from the sands of Kuwait. The vote in the Congress was not overwhelming. Many said, let's give sanctions more time. But I made the tough decision, a decision to go to war, because I knew it was right, not because I knew it was popular.

I remember well the cold, rainy February day at Camp David when the ground war to liberate Kuwait began, and how fervently I prayed that our plans would work and our young men and women would return home victorious and alive. This, then, is an awesome responsibility, to ask our young men and women to knock early on death's dark door -- is a responsibility I believe I have fulfilled with honor and duty and, above all, integrity.

That is your call on November 3d. Then the polls and the pundits don't matter any more. God bless them, it's all up to the people. When you enter that voting booth, please ask yourself three commonsense questions: Who has the right vision for America's future? Who can lead us through this global transition? And which candidate has the character? Who would you trust with your kids? Who would you trust in a crisis?

Ideas, action, character. I have tried very hard to demonstrate that I have all three. So I ask for your support on November 3d.

Thank you, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:40 a.m. at the Opryland Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to John M. Cranor III, president and chief executive officer, Kentucky Fried Chicken; Kyle T. Craig, president, KFC - USA; John R. Neal, president, JRN, Inc.; Charles W. Middleton, president, KFC of Elizabethton; and Steven D. Provost, Assistant to the President and Chief Speech Writer.

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