I RECENTLY CAME across a copy of the first draft of Ronald Reagan's speech in Dallas accepting his party's nomination for a second term. Apparently it was discarded after his advisers reminded him that he is the president. For the sake of historians who will want a full record of his presidency, I have decided to make the contents of the draft available:
Mr. Chairman, convention delegates, and fellow citizens of this great nation:
It is with sincere appreciation that I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States. The trust that you have placed in me is gratifying, and I promise to live up to that trust.
Four years ago, the man who became president went before the nation to accept his party's nomination and promised an end to "'trust me" government." He said it was "once again time to renew our compact of freedom." He promised us "a new beginning."
The American people responded by giving him a resounding victory. They wanted a new beginning. They wanted a government that would live within its means, not mortgage their future. They wanted a government that would let them keep what they had rightfully earned, not treat them as if their purpose in life was to pay for a bloated bureaucracy. And they wanted a government that would protect their rights, not regulate them out of existence.
But where is that new beginning now?
The number of federal employes has jumped more than 23,000, almost wiping out the drop under the previous administration. Last year the government spent fully one- quarter of our nation's economic production, more than ever before in peacetime. Yet the current incumbent, who told his convention in 1980 that he would "reduce the cost of government as a percentage of our Gross National Product," now admi he won't bring that precentage down to what it was before he took office, even if he has four more years. Which is one reason the American people aren't going to give him another chance.
The administration blames Congress for busting the budget, but it is the president who proudly announced at his last news conference that he has increased welfare spending. It is the president who proposed an election year boost in Social Security benefits. And it is the president who has refused to use his veto, even as real spending has climbed 15 percent in four years, almost as fast as under his predecessor.
Indeed, as we get into the fall campaign, local bands probably won't know whether to play "Hail to the Chief" or "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" when the president visits. In 1982, he flew around the nation announcing pork barrel grants to help his party's congressional candidates; this year a stream of administration officials is already leaving Washington bearing gifts. (Divine providence may gie them what they deserve, however; when the head of the Urban Mass Transportation Adminstration recently journeyed to New Haven to publicize a $21 million grant, his train got stuck on the way.)
But the president has given us a new beginning in at least one area. "For decades," he said when he took the oath of office, "we have piled dificit upon deficit." For us "to continue this long trend," he added, "is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political and economic upheavals." His administration would act, starting that very day.
And act it did. Because of its failure to control spending, his administration has set new records for running up the federal debt. It has piled not deficit upon deficit, but huge deficit upon huge deficit. The total federal debt will have increased 50 percent in four more years if they don't take advantage of their opportunity.
The president did offer us a sharp break from the past on taxes -- or so we thought. Under the Carter administration, government was taking more than one-fifth of our incomes. It was taxing us, said the president as candidate, "into economic exhaustion and stagnation." When he took office he proposed an across-the-board reduction in personal income tax rates. And I cheerfully supported that cut, because I was convinced that restoring the incentive to work, produce, and invest was the only way to get our economy moving again.
But it seems the current incumbent never really believed his program. No sooner had people's paychecks reflected his tax cut than administration officials began plotting the first of four successive tax hikes, the last of which the president signed into law only weeks ago.
Then we've witnessed the spectacle of the president, vice president, treasury secretary, and party platform committee haggling over a no tax increase plank. Of course, the issue doesn't really matter, since I don't think the American people are going to give ths administration another chance to take more of their money.
There's another reason, though, that their promises don't matter. And that's because we can't believe them.
Need I remind you that it was the present incumbent who, in his State of the Union message to Congress in January 1982, said "I will seek no tax increases this year." And need I remind you that it was the very same president who pushed the largest tax increase in American history through the very same Congress just seven months later?
Need I remind you that it was the current incumbent who, in the fall of 1982, flatly ruled out any tax increase "unless there's a palace coup and I'm overthrown"? And need I remind you that less than a month later the very same president -- or at least, I think it was the very same president -- proposed a hike in the gas tax?
The party is proposing a host of new tax reductions, while the president is telling campaign audiences that he wants to ke us on the road to "lower tax rates." All I can do is quote the wise words of a prominent national leader four years ago: "We must take with the proverbial 'grain of salt' any tax cut proposed by those who have given us the greatest tax increase in our history." I'm sure I don't have to tell you who that leader was.
Finally, nowhere did the American people expect and deserve a new beginning more than in the area of federal regulation. But nowhere has their trust been more tragically betrayed by the current administration.
Many Americans are now finding the government getting on, not off, their backs. Take the person who wants to buy a new car. He's paying as much as $3,000 more because of "temporary" import quotas imposed by this administration four years ago, to fatten the wallets of the automakers.
Do you want to buy clothes? Do you use sugar? If so, you're also paying more because of the incumbent president's war on free international trade.
The president doesn't believe in free domestic trade either. Despite his promise to roll back regulations on agriculture, for example, he has actually expanded the "marketing orders" system that the government uses to control how much fruit, nuts and other crops farmers produce and sell. As a result, tons of food are thrown away or wasted every year.
To the critical position of chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the incumbent has appointed a man who apparently would like to return us to the good old days of trucking cartels, high prices, and poor service. Where the president has made good appointments, he has later worked against them when they have tried to introduce competition. This president even supports federal controls over who can make television shows!
Once elected, the president also decided to become our national nanny. As a candidate, he roundly denounced his opponent for ordering airbags into cars and setting state speed limits. But what did the same person do just last July? He ordered airbags into cars -- that is, unless, as he recommends, states prosecute people who don't wear their seatbelts. He also signed legislation to set state drinking ages. This is part of the "new and creative partnership" with state governments that he proposed two years ago? Perhaps the president should review the inaugural address given four years ago -- off-hand I can't remember the speaker's name -- which warned that "all of us need to be reminded that the federal government did not create the states; the states created the federal government."
Lastly, need I remind you and the American people that the most ridiculous monuments to bureaucratic aggrandizement in Washington, the Departments of Education and Energy, still stand? The best the administration could do was propose a "reorganization," which in Washington-talk means change the name but spend the money all the same.
Mr. Chairman, convention delegates, and fellow citizens. This nation needs results, not more rhetoric from a president who finds it easier to promise than act.
If you will give me the opportunity, I will act. Starting on my first day in office:
I will cut government spending. The American people control barely half of what they produce. We don't need another new beginning that means government continuing to grow, only a little more slowly.
I will reduce taxes. The average citizen works through the beginning of May solely for the politicians at all levels of government. Even serfs were allowed to keep more of their income.
I will remove the heavy hand of government from our lives. It is not enough just to block new regulations. I will roll back old ones.
Most important, I will mean what I say. When I say I oppose draft registration, I will eliminate it. When I say I oppose the Davis- Bacon Act, which sets artificially high wages for federal construction projects and ends up keeping minorities out of those jobs by catering to white-dominated labor unions, I will work to repeal it. And when I criticize the "intellectual elite in some far distant capital" who run our lives, I won't appoint those very same people to my administration.
We have a rendezvous with destiny. Together we can fulfill our dreams and meet the many challenges that lie ahead for this special nation, the last great hope of mankind.