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Public Papers - 1992 - November

Remarks at a Senate Republican Leadership Dinner Honoring the President


Thank you for that wonderful welcome. Dan, thank you for those kind remarks. Please be seated. Well, thank you. I kind of had mixed emotions about this night, whether to -- coming to something that would be a wake and something sorrowful and sad, or something like it's turned out to be, at least in my view, something upbeat and very positive. So I'm glad to be here, and Barbara's glad to be here.

I'd like to pick a little fight with the members of the Senate wives, because Barbara has enjoyed that work and being with them so much, you've created a bit of a monster. You've given her a whole new self-confidence which is -- [laughter] -- some of you thought she was never lacking in self-confidence. But nevertheless, now she's getting ready to shift gears. And my advice to those of you who are her friends, and I think you all are: Give her a wide berth, which is what I'm trying to do around the White House there, because she's a bundle of energy, shifting gears from the present into the future. That's the way it ought to be. But tomorrow we head off for a little vacation, get a little rest, and think about what has been and then what's about to be.

But first I want to thank Bob Michel and the House leadership. Newt's here and others, I'm sure, we can't see. But I think the Senate was very broadminded in inviting you all over here tonight. [Laughter] But it has been a joy to work with the House leadership. Sometimes you have to do stuff by being negative, and during this time of being President, why, we've had to accomplish some things by keeping bad things from happening.

Both in the House and the Senate there has been a remarkable show of unity. It put individual Senators and individual Congressmen in a difficult position, because sometimes they had to sublimate their passions a little bit in order to stay with the overall good or stay with the party, and it has not been easy. That is something, though, that I want to just thank everybody for, because the record was superb. And I think by beating back, against tremendous odds, some lousy legislation, we ended up with getting good legislation.

I'm afraid in the campaign, in the process, we were accused of being against people because of having to take a stand for fiscal responsibility. But nevertheless, I think on the bottom line we came out and did the right thing. I am very grateful to the leadership on both sides, the House and the Senate, for all of that.

A word about the Vice President: Nobody could have asked to have a better Vice President at his side than I had with Dan Quayle. He has been absolutely superb. He's worked hard. He's worked with the Senate particularly, but also the House. Then in the campaign, he was tireless; Marilyn, sometimes at his side, sometimes on her own, doing a superb job not just for ourselves, for this ticket, but for some in this room and so many that aren't here that the Quayles worked for and helped. So, Dan, I will be eternally grateful to you, and I just wish you all the best in the future.

In terms of the Cabinet, I don't think anybody could have been blessed with a better Cabinet. The problem I've got is that I wasn't able in the campaign to get into focus the enormous accomplishments of the men and women that are here tonight in our Cabinet. They have done a superb job. I don't want to start clicking it off, but I know Lou Sullivan is here. What we've done in leadership in preventive medicine, for example, and doing things that really are making a wonderful contribution to mankind are going to be recorded, I believe, in a favorable way. And Lou has been magnificent.

I see Carla here. Heaven's sakes, what we've been able to do in the free trade areas, standing up for free and fair trade, is a remarkable contribution. I just hope that it comes to fruition, certainly on the NAFTA, in the next term. I know we're going to keep working right down to January 20th on the Uruguay round. You want to help Third World countries? Well, the way to help them is through trade, not the aid programs that have failed. That's exactly what she and Nick Brady, who's with us tonight, and Barbara Franklin, who's with us tonight, and a lot of others have been working on in terms of free and fair trade. So we've got an awful lot to be grateful for.

I think we've had a good record of stewardship. Manuel Lujan is here. I think when history is written, why, we're going to have a very proud record in terms of stewardship of the national parks and the great heritage that we want to leave to our kids.

Ed Madigan's here. My heavens, you look at agricultural America, it's done pretty darned well in a very, very difficult time. And yet, for some reason, I wasn't able to get that in the proper focus.

But anyway, I'm omitting many friends that are here in the Cabinet, but I am very grateful to this outstanding group of leaders. I was telling Lamar Alexander, who's with us tonight, one of my real regrets is that somehow, given the hue and cry for change and change, and the hue and cry about how everything is wrong with the country, we never got in focus the fact that we have literally made suggestions as to how to revolutionize the education in this country, to elevate it to have the same quality for K through 12 that we have for college. And it just didn't connect. But that program and that zeal that Lamar brought to the program certainly will be recognized.

So again, with the fear of omission, I will stop, but just simply say thank you for a fantastic Cabinet and a very sound record and all of that.

I want to tell Bob Kasten and Senator Seymour, both Senators Kasten and Seymour, the regret I feel about their demise. They worked awful hard. They've been great Senators. They were caught up in a whirlwind; they were caught up in both States in something that was beyond their own control. And they worked hard. Many Senators here went out and helped both of them. But I have great regret about that because the Senate is going to be deprived of the committed leadership and stewardship of both those Senators. In fact, we might ought to give them a little round of applause and thank them for what they have done.

I am always going to be grateful to the Senate leadership. The support has been superb. I mentioned earlier, sometimes when you're in the White House, you take a position that you feel strongly about, and you put various leaders in a difficult position. Clearly we did that to various Senators here from time to time. But I want to single out Bob Dole, because this is a remarkable leader, a remarkable -- [applause]. It's well-known that he and I went head-to-head in tough primary days long ago. But the beautiful thing is -- and I think it speaks -- anybody that studies government can learn from all this. Here's a guy that took on this role of leader and working with a President with whom he had done combat in the past, but subsequently we became, again, fast friends. But he never ever put his own personal agenda ahead of the agenda of the President, and that's kind of the way it ought to work when you have the White House.

But the lovely thing about it is the way he has conducted himself subsequent to, as Winston Churchill said, receiving ``the Order of the Boot'' that I have received. I thought the speechwriter that wrote that, that I delivered last Saturday, was a little harsh in his assessment of what happened to me. Then I thought, ``Well, listen, being in the company of Churchill ain't all bad.'' So I gave him a little raise and sent him back to Kentucky Fried Chicken. [Laughter]

But nevertheless, I was watching Bob very carefully, and I've watched others, and the tendency when there's a defeat of this magnitude and of this hurtfulness and of this enormity is to criticize, to find somebody to blame. Regrettably some Republicans and certainly many Democrats have fallen into this marvelous second-guessing track, figuring it all out and analyzing to the detriment of somebody else and to tearing down somebody in order to ooch yourself up a little with your wisdom. Not Senator Dole. From the minute the election results were in, he has been courageous in standing up against the common wisdom, saying nice things about the President and Dan and Barbara and all of this.

In addition, he's shown where the leadership really is now in this country in terms of party. It can be in Bob Michel over in the House, but because of the numbers, it's more apt to rest on Bob Dole's shoulders. I think people understand it. I think they respect the way he has assumed, without arrogance, without any kind of bitterness, a significant leadership role to hold our party together so people can look to him and look, of course, to the results that will be coming out of the Senate, and then under Bob's leadership, that will come out of the House.

The idea that this party has seen its demise -- and I love these little analysts, these media that I tried to annoy and failed. [Laughter] To hear them analyze it all, you'd think that history had been indelibly writ, that the party is out of here. I don't believe it for one single minute.

The thing that I've admired and respected about Bob is the way he has, without arrogance, taken on this mantle of leadership that he has earned through his years as leader up here on the Hill and said, ``Look, we're here to do battle. We're here to do what's right for the country. We're going to be with you when we think you're right, and we are going to stand on principle when we think you're wrong.'' That's exactly the way it should be. And I can tell you, it's made it an awful lot easier for us as we contemplate a future without politics but look over, obviously with some distress and some angst, over what has transpired one week ago tonight.

So, Bob, there is no way that we can ever adequately say thank you to you. But you watch, the country is going to say it in plenty of ways in the troubled and tough days that lie ahead. So I'm grateful to you. I didn't want to come here, but I'm sure glad I did, because it gives me a chance to say thanks to so many friends in this room.

Don't worry about the Bushes. We are looking ahead now. I didn't think we would about a week ago today, but we're doing it. And we'll count our blessings when we get back to Houston on January 20th for all the friends that have supported us so much.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 7:46 p.m. in the East Hall at Union Station.

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