On Friday, February 28 candidate for U.S. Congress David Larsen, joined by several close friends and associates, attended the annual New Jersey Reagan Day Dinner organized by Assemblyman Jay Webber and held at the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel in Morris County. The event is a tribute to the late Ronald Wilson Reagan – arguably the greatest U.S. President in our lifetime – whose administration set the stage for the longest period of peacetime economic growth in our nation’s history
This year’s gathering was attended by close to two hundred elected officials, private citizens and grassroots activists keenly interested in fostering the limited government conservatism that was the hallmark of Reagan’s presidency. The keynote speaker was none other than former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, who played a decisive role in launching the Reagan agenda. In 1981, Congressman Gramm co-authored President Ronald Reagan's economic program and organized the "Reagan Democrats" supporting economy-boosting tax and spending cuts and military build-up that won the Cold War.
In 1984, Gramm became a United States Senator. He authored the Gramm-Rudman Act that placed the first binding restraints on federal spending and was credited as being the "heart and brains" of the successful effort to prevent Hillary Clinton's government takeover of healthcare in the early 1990’s.
Mr. Gramm’s did not give a prepared speech but, instead, spoke straight from the heart, sharing numerous anecdotes that illustrated his journey from Blue-Dog Democrat to Reagan Republican. Phil Gramm first met Ronald Reagan in 1976 when Reagan was running in the Republican primary against President Ford. Gramm was running in the Democratic primary. Although both men lost their respective elections, they became close friends. After Reagan became President, then Representative Gramm was one of his strongest supporters on the other side of the political aisle.
Gramm recalled the time he and thirty other members of Congress were invited to the White House to discuss their support of legislation strongly favored by Mr. Reagan. Gramm was the only Democrat among them and many of the Republicans were already looking to compromise on the bill.
Reagan went around the room, asking each Congressman how he felt about the proposed legislation. “I can’t remember who that first person was,” Gramm said. “But he said liked the program but his constituents had this problem and that must have sounded good because by the time Reagan came around to me about 90 percent of the guys in that room has used this problem with their constituents. I told the president my fear is that if we start changing things we lose the moral high ground and how will we stop, how will we know when we’ve bought the 218th vote.”
Reagan sat there for several minutes then said to the room, “I was confused; I thought this was about country, not constituents.”
At that point, the President rose from his chair and left the meeting room.
“The next day we voted,” Gramm explained, “and not one person in that room cast a vote against the Reagan program,” Gramm said. “If one person has voted differently, the program would have failed, and who knows but history might have changed and the Berlin Wall would still be standing.”
When asked for his thoughts about the event, David Larsen replied: ”President Reagan’s words were not some glib one-liner but came from the heart of a true patriot. This IS all about the Republic and what is necessary to preserve liberty for ALL Americans – as opposed to doing what so many career politicians have done and continue to do as they try to hold on to political office for life. Well, as far as I’m concerned, I stand with Mr. Reagan: It isn’t about them or the special interest groups to whom they pander – it’s about our country and what we make of it for future generations.”