Address to Incoming House GOP Freshmen
delivered 10 December 1994, Baltimore, MD
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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio (2).]
Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. They asked me to "keep it short" because there's a lot going on, so: Don't screw up. Thank you very much for having me. It's been a pleasure.
Now, I'm overwhelmed. I really am. And you've taken me off my game here with these platitudes and introductions. I was just sitting here in my seat and some reporters from newspapers who have early deadlines came up and started asking me some questions. And among those questions was, "So you really think youíre responsible for all this don't ya?"
I said: "No, no, I really don't."
"Well what do you want? What role do you think talk radio played?"
I said, "No, look, you people in the press have got to understand something. This country is conservative. It has been for a long time. Get used to it. You tried to change it and you failed and tonight proves it."
I don't mean to be confrontational here. I really don't. But, my friends, I've gotta speak openly and honestly about this. To all of you in this room, the freshmen class of 1994 -- for me to sit here and actually think I had some serious, profound role in it -- you are the ones who took the risks. You are the ones who ran for office. You are the ones who raised the money. You're the ones who took the flak. Youíre the ones who took the heat.
Iím just a media guy who happens -- and this is a key and I think all of you should never forget this because these reporters who were asking me questions about talk radio were all trying to say in a roundabout way, that I took a bunch of brainless people and converted them to mind-numbed robots and everyday would send out code in my show that would force them to march to the polls on November the 8th and pull the lever I wanted them to pull. And the fact of the matter is thatís not what's happened.
There may be some talk show hosts who do that -- and there may be some talk shows. I don't think they're the majority. I think that the reason you're sitting here tonight and liberals aren't is that you understand that the American people are intelligent; they are aware; they care; and they know whatís going on, and they are not a bunch of mind-numbed robots. They may have been at one time and have awakened from it now.
And what happens on talk radio is real simple: We validate whatís in peopleís hearts and minds already. These people are living their lives conservatively. They care about what happens to their kids. They care about their own futures. To think that I came along and got people concerned about those things for the first time in their lives is ludicrous; and I mean this from the bottom of my heart. You guys are the ones -- and I mean that generically -- I'm in awe of you. You people, you took the risks. You are the ones who engaged the opposition -- for whatever reasons you were motivated to do so. (Those are individual and maybe some people had roles in it.) But you actually went out and did the work.
And I've learned something over the course of my life: that is that there's no harm in being honest in assessing your own role in your success. Too many people want to apologize for their success. Too many people want to overdue the humility. But I don't think you should because this is a profound achievement. You've been told it's historic -- and Iím not going to go into that -- but it really is. And I am just flattered beyond my ability to express it to even be considered a part of it by you. I am amused that the press is so concerned about me, but I am flattered beyond all of my ability to express to be here tonight and and to be spoken to and about as you all have. So please accept for me my heartfelt thanks as an American citizen for you doing what you've done and for wanting to do what you do.
One of the questions I was asked as the reporters were peppering me was, "Do you think Newt will moderate his stance now that he's the speaker of the house?" And I said, "Better not."
At this juncture I want to get into -- by the way I was told to give you some advice about the media. You don't know how small I feel giving you advice. But Iíll be glad to anyway since Iíve been asked to.
The first thing I would like to tell you, you're coming into the beltway -- inside the beltway -- and as we're all human beings, and we all are susceptible to human nature, and we all want to be liked; we all want to be loved; and you all want to live in surroundings which are not hostile. But inside the beltway for people like us this is not possible. And so sometimes to avoid the hostility, we say things and then begin do things designed to gain the approval of those who are hostile toward us. I want to warn you against it. I want to warn you: You will never ever be their friends. They don't want to be your friends.
Some female reporter will come up to one of you and start batting her eyes and ask you to go to lunch. And you'll think, "Wow, I'm only a freshman. Cokie Roberts wants to take me to lunch. Iíve really made it." Don't -- seriously -- don't fall for this. This is not the time to get moderate. This is not the time to start trying to be liked. This is not the time to start gaining the approval of the people you've just defeated. (No offense, Cokie.) I use "Cokie" generically. It could be anybody. I don't mean to single her out -- I really don't.
But in all candor, folks, it's a thing that I think is crucial, because a lot of people are looking for -- in the people that voted for you -- are looking for action. Everybody is euphoric, but if you stay, rock-ribbed devoted in almost a militant way to your principles, you'll continue to be sent back here until your term-limited out. And they'll love you for as long as youíre here. But if you start trying to get -- it's a simple trap. Everybody thinks that because you're conservative, you're an extremist. It's just in the bible, inside the beltway. So now -- that's the whole point of that question, "You think Newt will moderate his tone?" And the same thing about you, "Well you think these people they got elected, but now they're going to moderate themselves?" I would just urge you to avoid doing so.
They're are a couple things to look out for along the way that I've picked up primarily from the press. And I think that while there are exceptions to all of this, most of the press I call "willing accomplices to the liberal power base in Washington" -- be it the administration or whoever it might be. And right now the things that you care about most and the things that you've been sent here to do are being called, "A war on the poor." And thatís designed to get you to moderate, to maybe not follow through as you have intended to on welfare reform and other cultural issues. Because what you're going to do is, "Why it's cold hearted; its cruel to the poor; how dare you engage..." -- and these attacks may get personal. And as they get personal, they they get tougher and tougher to withstand; they get tougher and tougher to take.
Because I'll bet you individually, all of you are just like I am. Nobody who ever met me -- and there are exceptions to this too of course -- but nobody who ever met me, really hates me. Nobody dislikes me. And I'll bet most of you people are that way too. But, boy, you get out there and talk to liberals and you are all hated. We are all despised simply because you're conservative. They don't even know you personally. And if you think itís anything less than that, don't -- please don't. You, I think, now are going to be the targets.
I told the members of the press who were asking me, ďI think that for the next two years, you and Newt and whoever the presidential nominee is are going to be the recipients of the biggest media anal exam there has ever been in America history. Because Clinton's had his. He's had his and its get even time, folks. Because what you've done has angered, upset, the apple cart. They still haven't yet figured it out.
Illustration: three weeks ago, Washington Post, Jack Anderson column. I'm reading it in my home, minding my own business, offending nobody -- at that moment.
And, well, don't -- here's another thing: say what you believe with passion and bravado and you're going to offend half the people who hear it by virtue of statistics. You can't let that bother you. You gotta look at that as a definition of effectiveness. Now I'm not talking about personally offending somebody. I'm talking about offending them politically. Thatís gonna happen and you can't avoid it. And you have to learn to take that as some measure or some sign of success, because it means youíre doing something.
I'm reading this Jack Anderson piece and its all about secret meetings in the oval office and in Hillary Clintonís office about me. They're trying to come up with a liberal version of me. They're scouring America looking for some liberal host who can automatically end up on 660 radio stations. And I am saying if this were reversed -- if this were Nixon, the Nixon Whitehouse, and there was some liberal host out there with 660 radio stations and the Whitehouse was trying to find some answer to it -- can you imagine what they would be saying about it? Hardly anybody mentions this one. And I think itís amazing because it illustrates that they don't know what's happened to them. They think, they still think, in the Whitehouse....
Here's another illustration. The President's going to go help Boeing build airlines, so he can better understand what Americans...a guy who has never held a job in his life -- theyíre going to send him to the border patrol. They're going to have him ride around with New York cops. They still think that all this was PR from Reagan on down to now. People fell for slick marketing and packaging. Oh, it couldn't be the substance of ideas that happened here. Everybody knows that nobody thinks conservatives have a brain. They think that they can just pluck some liberal out of the sky and put him on the radio, and create a bunch of liberal mind-numbed robots. They haven't figured out that itís their ideas that beat them. They haven't figured out that itís the things they stand for that beat them. And you gotta continue to stand for them!
I heard on the way over here, by the way, that they've come up with a new nominee for surgeon general: Pee-Wee Herman, is....You don't think that would have happened if it weren't for the fact that you were all elected do you? This is a sensitive subject and I am not gonna mention it because she [Joycelyn Elders] got canned for it, but I'll tell ya, she said much worse than this. And she said far stupider things, like ďThe way to combat crime is with safer bullets, with safer guns.Ē
You've had such a profound effect. This election has had such a profound effect on everybody, and it has even on me. And I just hope and pray that the enthusiasm that you have when Vinn [sp?] says that he's never felt so moderate -- that's music to my ears, because it indicates that you people are loaded for "bear" [sp?] and itís easy to be loaded for bear now, and I know you canít wait to get started and believe me the country can't wait for you to get started.
I'm 43 years old, so I never claim to know from my heart what went on before I was born. But [within] my lifetime, I know that there has never been a group of people elected to Congress more closely tied to their voters, to their constituents, than in this election. They are paying more attention to what happens in Washington than they ever have because they have the ability to and because they are concerned. You look at all the polling data and people were sent to Washington to do specific things. And I urge you Godspeed, and pray for you everyday that you'll have the courage, and the temerity to go ahead and stick with it and get it done, because there are so many people pulling for you, praying for you, and hoping for you.
How are we doing on time? You know thereís been a lot of controversy.
[Audience Member: We don't want to cut you off.]
Well, I know but I donít I to overdo. Iím very cognoscente here. I share. Iím not very comfortable talking about myself....I donít do it very much, and so....
I have the Whitehouse drug test here. Did you know that the Whitehouse drug test is a multiple choice test? I was stunned. I was stunned....Well...you want to hear a sample question?
Complete the following verse: ďI am the walrus...."
A. you are the tax man
B. la la la la la la la la
C. where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
[Another question] "The best reason for not deploying troops to seal off the Mexican border is
A. cheap grass.
B. cheap cocaine.
C. more cheap grass.
D. All of the above.
11. Whatís your idea of a good road trip?
A. Lauderdale for Spring Break.
[B.] Colorado for a couple cases of Coors.
[C.] New Orleans for Mardis Gras.
[D.] Los Angeles for a haircut.
Only two moreÖ
[Another question] Which of the following is not a nark?
A. The FBI agent.
B. A DEA agent.
C. A customs agent.
D. Associate Attorney General.
13. Which of the following is forbidden from possessing a weapon?
A. FBI agent
B. DEA agent
C. Customs agent
D. Former Associate Attorney General
My friends, I'm gonna yield the podium here because I want to yield to my good friend Bill [Bennett], whoís meant more to me than practically anybody I've known in my life, as have all of you. I want to be honest with you about something because this has been a very heady thing for me tonight. I thought I was coming here to make some remarks, and Iím given these awards by the women freshmen and made an honorary member of the class.
And I'm very fortunate in that I have a radio show where I can do whatever I want to do and say whatever I want to say. I have the blessing of total freedom because I am a part owner of the program. First time in my career I've not worked with a boss, a program director who says you canít say that or you must say this. So I live with what I say, both in a programming and a market and a financial sense. And I have grown up in this country at a time where the real pioneers of the conservative movement were sweating and slaving in basements, and they were heaped with scorn and, they never enjoyed the power base that those of us who are alive to today have enjoyed.
Without the early pioneers of conservatism, the brilliant intellectuals and the foot soldiers all working together who had produced some of the most marvelous things to read, some of the most brilliant thoughts to digest, I wouldnít be where I am. And I never forget those who have really contributed to all the success that I've had. And I look at myself as simply someone who absorbs as much as I can, and then I have the freedom to simply replay it. And if I have an ability to do so in a way that makes it interesting to people who otherwise wouldnít care then thatís icing on the cake and itís a bonus.
But I really mean from the bottom of my heart -- and all of you out watching on C-SPAN -- that I stand here today and accept all these nice things that have been said about me because of everybody else who has helped to make me what I am, and who has provided me -- or have provided me -- with the tools that I have at my disposal everyday -- from the things I believe in my heart, to the ability to express it in a persuasive way.
Mr. Bennett has been crucial in this area. I do not have, for example, a college education. [I] could have. I just chose not to. I was in radio and loved it and thought a formal education was something that would tie me back and hold me [down]. And, frankly, Iím glad, because I probably would have gone to an institution policed by a bunch of liberal, tenured professors and I would have been all screwed up.
By the way, can I can I say something? Let me give you one more piece of advice. Please, whatever you do, leave some liberals alive. I think we should have at least, on every college campus, one communist professor and two liberal professors, so we never forget who these people are and what they stand for. We can always show our children what they were and what they are -- living fossils, ladies and gentleman. Keep them: living fossils.
But seriously, you have all have played such a role -- and you donít know it -- in making me what I am. I am thrilled and awed beyond my ability to express it -- to tell you how much I appreciate it and how much I love you for what youíve done, how much I hope that you have success.
And I'll be doing exactly what Iíve been doing right along with you. And I canít wait to get started myself, but thank you.
Youíre the ones who are the true heroes; youíre the true revolutionaries.
Donít get tired of hearing it because it's true.
It's truly historic and I'm just fortunate as I can be to be alive when all this happened.
Thank you very much for having me here. I appreciate it.
Research Note: Audio provided by Joseph Slife, Emmanuel College Communication Dept. (Franklin Springs, Ga.)
Image (Screenshot) Source: C-SPAN.org
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