THE PRESIDENT. [I.] Mr. Cormier [Frank Cormier, Associated Press] has the first question tonight.
Q. Mr. President, I don't want to ask a soft or flabby question because, as you know, your associate John Ehrlichman has suggested that news conferences really are not all that important because we tend to ask that type of question too often.
So I want to submit one for the Ehrlichman Award this evening.
THE PRESIDENT. As long as it is not soft and flabby.
ENDING THE WAR IN VIETNAM
Q. Mindful that ending the war was one of your major campaign themes in 1968, mindful that our bombings in Indochina now are at a 5-year high, according to the Pentagon, mindful that troops are still coming out but even more are going into Thailand and the 7th Fleet, I wonder if you can say with any confidence that you can end the war by January 20 of next year?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Cormier, we have made great progress in ending the war and particularly in ending American involvement in the war.
Since you have recounted the record to an extent, let me recount it also from the positive side.
When we came into office, there were 540,000 Americans in Vietnam. Our casualties were running as high as 300 a week, the cost was $22 billion a year. We have taken out 500,000 men since that time.1 Our casualties have been reduced 95 percent, down to 2, that is too many, but from 300 to 2. As far as the cost is concerned, instead of $22 billion a year, it is down to $7 billion a year.
1 On June 28, 1972, Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler announced the President's decision to withdraw additional United States troops from Vietnam. Mr. Ziegler's statement is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 8, p. 1110).
As far as the situation on the negotiating front is concerned, instead of being in a position where we did not have a positive offer on the table, we have made what Mr. Brinkley of NBC characterized last night as being a very constructive offer, one in which in return for an all-Indochina cease-fire and the return of POW's and an accounting for all of our missing in action, that we would stop all military activities in Indochina and we would withdraw all Americans, all those that remain, within 4 months.
Now, having reached this position at this time, we believe that that is an excellent record. The only thing that we have not done is to do what the Communists have asked and that is to impose a Communist government on the people of South Vietnam against their will. This we will not do because that would reward aggression, it would encourage that kind of aggression and reduce the chances of peace all over the world in the years to come, and it would dishonor the United States of America.
RESUMPTION OF PARIS TALKS
[2.] On the negotiating front, we 'have informed the North Vietnamese, after consultation with the Government of Vietnam, that we will return to the negotiating table in Paris on April [July] 13, Thursday; we have been informed by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong, that they, too, will return on that date. We have returned to the negotiating table, or will return to it on the assumption that the North Vietnamese are prepared to negotiate in a constructive and serious way. We will be prepared to negotiate in that way. If those negotiations go forward in a constructive and serious way, this war can be ended, and it can be ended well before January 20. If they do not go forward on that basis, the United States will continue to meet its commitments. Our bombing, as far as that is concerned, our mining, is for the purpose only of preventing Communist aggression from succeeding, to protect the remaining Americans, 40,000 or so, that are still in Vietnam, and to have some bargaining position in getting our POW's back.
One last point with regard to the POW's: I know that every American is concerned about these men. I have been somewhat concerned about them. I will only say that I have had some experience, and a great deal of experience as a matter of fact in this past year, in dealing with Communist leaders. I find that making a bargain with them is not easy, and you get something from them only when you have something they want to get from you. The only way we are going to get our POW's back is to be doing something to them, and that means hitting military targets in North Vietnam, retaining a residual force in South Vietnam, and continuing the mining of the harbors of North Vietnam.
Only by having that kind of activity go forward will they have any incentive to return our POW's rather than not to account for them as was the case when the French got out of Vietnam in 1954 and 15,000 French were never accounted for after that.2
I shall never have that happen to the brave men who are POW's.
2 The number referred to by the President is an estimate of French Union forces unaccounted for in Indochina after the cessation of hostilities in 1954. The French Union forces included French Metropolitan, French Foreign Legion, French colonial, and Vietnamese troops. All French Metropolitan prisoners of war were accounted for.
GENERAL LAVELLE'S ACTIVITIES
[3.] Q. Mr. President, before you ordered a resumption of the bombing of North Vietnam, General Lavelle authorized or initiated some unauthorized strikes there. In your view, did this affect any diplomatic negotiations going on at that time, and are you concerned that you apparently didn't know about it for several months?
THE PRESIDENT. It did not affect the diplomatic negotiations. As a matter of fact, a meeting took place, a private meeting, between Dr. Kissinger and the negotiators in Paris on May 2, during the period that General Lavelle's activities were being undertaken,3 and you can be very sure that had the North Vietnamese wanted any pretext to complain about, they would have complained about that particular matter.
3 The bombing raids carried out by forces under the command of Gen. John D. Lavelie were ended March 8, 1972.
The White House later stated that the President was referring to the private arrangements leading up to the May 2 meeting rather than events of that particular day.
As far as this is concerned, as Admiral Moorer testified today, it wasn't authorized. It was directed against only those military targets which were the areas that were being used for firing on American planes, but since it did exceed authorization, it was proper for him to be relieved and retired. And I think that it was the proper action to take. And I believe that will assure that that kind of activity may not occur in the future.
EFFECT OF MINING AND BOMBING
[4.] Q. Mr. President, on May 8, at the time of the mining of the harbors in North Vietnam, your assistant, Dr. Kissinger, predicted the mining would result in the drying up of supplies and the major offensive should be over around July 1. Is that estimate still valid, and if so, do you have a timetable for the withdrawal of the support troops who have gone into the naval and into the air bases around Vietnam to support the South Vietnamese during this offensive?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Jarriel [Tom Jarriel, ABC News], to date the effect of the mining and also the bombing of the military targets in North Vietnam--particularly the railroads and the oil supplies--the situation in Vietnam has been completely turned around. I was looking at some news magazines that came out the week before the mining was ordered, and I noted that each one of them has as its heading, "The specter of defeat in Vietnam." That was the situation when we started it.
It has been turned around. The South Vietnamese are now on the offensive. It is not over. We expect, perhaps, some more North Vietnamese offensive, but I believe that now the ability of the South Vietnamese to defend themselves on the ground, with the support that we give them in the air, has been demonstrated. Their ability to defend themselves in Anloc and Kontum, and now in the area of Hue, is an indication that Vietnamization, as far as their ground activity is concerned, has proved to be a successful action. Now, as far as the future is concerned, I have already indicated that we will be returning to negotiations in July. That is the important area to watch at this time, as well as the battlefield. And as far as any future announcements are concerned, that will depend upon progress at the negotiating table and on the battle front.
DIKES AND DAMS AS TARGETS
[5.] Q. Mr. President
THE. PRESIDENT. Mr. Rather ['Dan Rather, CBS News]. I remember your name. [Laughter]
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. I remember yours, too. [Laughter]
The background of this question is your own statements made down in Texas, among other places, saying that you had not sanctioned and would not sanction the bombing of the dikes and dams in North Vietnam, because you considered it an inhumane act because of what it would do to civilians.
Within the past week there have been reports of eyewitnesses--one of these reports came from the French Press Agency, and another, I think, was the Swedish Ambassador in Hanoi--eyewitnesses claiming to have seen American planes hit dikes and dams.
The question is, has such bombing occurred? If so, what steps are you taking to see that it doesn't happen again?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Rather, we have checked those reports. They have proved to be inaccurate. The bombing of dikes is something, as you will recall from the gentleman who asked the question in Texas,4 was something that some people have advocated. The United States has used great restraint in its bombing policy and, I think, properly so. We have tried to hit only military targets and we have been hitting military targets. We have had orders out not to hit dikes because the result in terms of civilian casualties would be extraordinary.
4 See Item 134 [4.].
As far as any future activities are concerned, those orders still are in force. I do not intend to allow any orders to go out which would involve civilian casualties if they can be avoided. Military targets only will be allowed.
SOUTH VIETNAMESE EFFECTIVENESS
[6.] Q. Mr. President, last year, or at least early this year, General Abrams relayed to you his belief that the South Vietnamese could now hack it on the battlefield. The invasion from the North occurred, and we responded with bombing.
When do you realistically think the South Vietnamese can do it alone without massive firepower from us?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Semple [Robert B. Semple, Jr., New York Times], I think that is being determined and also demonstrated at this time.
First, as far as the ground activities are concerned, they are being entirely undertaken by the South Vietnamese. American ground combat action has totally been finished in Vietnam. As far as Americans in Vietnam are concerned, this war is over in the future for any future draftees. No more draftees will be sent to Vietnam.
As far as air action is concerned, as General Abrams or any military man will tell you, as they have told me, air action alone, without adequate fighting on the ground, cannot stop a determined enemy.
What happened in this case was that the North Vietnamese launched a massive offensive with huge tanks, bigger than those against which they were arrayed, with new and modern weapons. In order to provide an equalizer, and it was needed, we provided air support.
But I should also point this out, something that has been little noticed, 40 percent of all the tactical air sorties being flown over the battlefields of South Vietnam are now being flown not by Americans, but by South Vietnamese.
So we see the South Vietnamese not only doing all the ground fighting, but increasing their ability to do the fighting in the air.
Finally, the success of our airstrikes on the North and on the battlefield, the success in turning this battle around hastens the day when the South Vietnamese will be able to undertake the total activity themselves.
I am not going to put a date on it. I can only say the outcome of the present battle, how badly the North Vietnamese are hurt, will determine it, but I am very optimistic on this point.
VICE PRESIDENT AGNEW
[7.] Q. To change the subject and not to be flabby, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. You would never be flabby.
Q. Thank you, sir.
Isn't it time you told us, will Agnew be on the ticket?
THE PRESIDENT. I know that that is a question that is very much on the minds of the delegates who will be coming to Miami in August. I will announce a decision on that, my views on it, well before the convention so that the delegates will know my views.
As far as the Vice President is concerned, my views with regard to his performance are the same that I reflected rather generously in my interview with Mr. Rather in January of this year.5 I think he has done a fine job as Vice President. I have very high confidence in him.
5 See Item 1 [4.].
But the decision with regard to the Vice Presidency will not be announced until before the Republican Convention, in good time for them to make their own decision.
JOHN CONNALLY'S ROLE
[8.] Mr. Horner [Garnett D. Horner, Washington Evening Star].
Q. Mr. President, what role do you foresee in the future months after he returns from his present trip and after the election, for John Connally?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Horner, first the reports that we have had on Mr. Connally's trip have been excellent. I think that his trip to Latin America--and incidentally also the trip that Dr. Arthur Burns has made to Latin America--came at a good time and allowed the Latin American heads of state to express their views just as vigorously as did Mr. Echeverria 6 when he was here in this country. That is what we want, candid, vigorous talk between the heads of state in the American hemisphere.
6 President Luis Echeverria Alvarez of Mexico paid a state visit to the United States on June 15 and 16, 1972- See Items 200, 201, and 203.
Also, the discussions he is presently having in Australia, in New Zealand, in Southeast Asia, India, Pakistan, and so forth, and later in Iran, I know will be helpful. When he returns he will not undertake a permanent Government assignment, but he has agreed to undertake special Government assignments at that time. I have one in mind, a very important one, but I cannot announce it at this time. I will announce it when he returns and when he reports to me in San Clemente.
[9.] Ms. Cornell. [Laughter]
HELEN THOMAS (Mrs. Douglas B. Cornell, United Press International). Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. I said Ms.
Q. Thank you.
Can you tell us what took you back to the Paris peace table and would you support a coalition government, formation of a coalition government, or would you discuss it in Paris?
THE PRESIDENT. It would not be useful to indicate the discussions that took place in various places with regard to returning to the Paris peace table.
Let it suffice to say that both sides considered it in their interests to return to the Paris peace table. We would not have returned unless we thought there was a chance for more serious discussions and more constructive discussions than we have had in the past, although I must be quite candid and say that we have been disappointed in the past with regard to these discussions. We have had 149 plenary sessions and no significant results. I do not believe it would be particularly helpful, in a news conference, to negotiate with regard to what we are going to talk about at the conference. That is a matter that we will negotiate with the enemy.
As far as a coalition government is concerned, no. We will not negotiate with the enemy for accomplishing what they cannot accomplish themselves and that is to impose against their will on the people of South Vietnam a coalition government with the Communists.
However, we will be constructive, we will be forthcoming. An internationally supervised cease-fire, a total withdrawal of all Americans within 4 months, a total cessation of all bombing--these, we think, are very reasonable offers, and we believe the enemy should seriously consider them.
ARMS CONTROL AND WEAPONS DEVELOPMENT
[10.] Q. Mr. President, hardly had you signed the arms control agreements in Moscow than your Administration asked for new money for new strategic weapons. Some of your critics are saying that this is almost a deception giving the Pentagon what it wants, namely concentration on developing quality weapons. Will you try to dispel this contradiction?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Morgan [Edward P. Morgan, ABC News], the problem with regard to arms control is that we do not deal with it in a vacuum. We have to deal with the problem as it affects the security of the United States. Now, first, let me say that if we had not had an arms control agreement, a limitation of ABM's and a temporary limitation for 5 years on certain classifications of offensive weapons, I would--and I am saying this conservatively-have had to ask the Congress of the United States to approve an increase in the defense budget for nuclear strategic weapons of at least $15 billion a year on a crash program. Reason: Had there been no arms control agreement, the Soviet Union's plans called for an increase of their ABM's to 1,000 over the next 5 years. The arms control agreement limits them to 200 as it does us. Had there been no arms control agreement, the Soviet Union had a program underway in the field of submarines which would have brought them up to over 90. The agreement limits them to 62.
Had there been no arms control agreement-and this is the most important point in the terms of offensive strategic weapons, the Soviet Union that has now passed us in offensive strategic weapons-they have 1,600, we have roughly 1,000-they would have built 1,000 more over the next 5 years. Now, under those circumstances, any President of the United States could see that in 5 years the United States would be hopelessly behind; our security would be threatened, our allies would be terrified, particularly in those areas--and our friends like the Mideast-where the possibility of Soviet adventurism is considered to be rather great.
Therefore, the arms control agreement at least put a brake on new weapons. Now, with regard to the new weapons that you refer to, however, let me point out they are not for the next 5-year period. We are really talking about the period after that. And they are absolutely essential for the security of the United States for another reason: Because looking at this not in a vacuum but in terms of what the other side is doing, Mr. Brezhnev made it very clear that he intended to go forward in those categories that were not limited.
Now, in fairness to him, he also said, and made it very clear he made it perfectly clear, I should say--he said that he expected that we would go forward. Now, under these circumstances, then, for the United States not to go forward in those areas that were not controlled would mean that at the end of the seventies we would be in an inferior position, and no President of the United States can take the responsibility of allowing the United States to be the second most powerful nation in the world, not because of any jingoistic idea, but because if we are in that position, our foreign policy, our commitments around the world would be very, very seriously jeopardized.
Now the most important point I have saved for the last and that is this: I think these agreements are in the interest of the United States. I think that they are very much in the interest of arms control and therefore in the interest of world peace. But, they are only a beginning; they are only the foundation. Now, what we have to do is to really go forward with the second step. That is why the phase two of the arms control limitation, which we hope will begin in October provided the Congress approves the ones that we have before them at the present time--phase two, which will be a permanent arms control agreement on all offensive nuclear weapons--this is the one that we think can have far greater significance even than phase one.
Phase one is the break-through, and phase two is the culmination. And phase two, if we can reach agreement with the Soviets--and it will take long and hard bargaining--but if we can reach it, it will mean, then, that we not only hold our arms budgets where they are, but that in these new programs instead of going forward with them on the basis presently projected we will be able to cut them back.
That is our goal, and I think we can achieve it provided we approve phase one and provided we continue a credible arms program because, believe me, the Soviets are not going to agree to limit their future programs unless they have something to get from us.
[11.] Q. Mr. President, in consideration of your argument on our need for offensive weapons, why then do you insist on development of the costly B-1 bomber when in fact the Soviet Union has shown little interest in the bomber force in recent years and as far as we know has no new bomber force on the drawing boards at this time?
THE PRESIDENT. Each power, the Soviet Union and the United States, must have those forces that are needed for its own security. We basically are not only a land power but a land and sea power. The Soviet Union is primarily a land power with certain definite requirements. Having that in mind, we believe that the B-1 bomber is, for our security interest, necessary.
As far as the Soviet Union is concerned, the fact that they are not developing bombers does not mean that they do not respect ours. And I would say, too, that had we not had our present advantage in bombers we could not then stand by and allow the Soviets to have a 1,600 to 1,000 advantage in terms of missiles that are land based. So, our bomber is an offset for that.
[12.] Q. It was made perfectly clear to us this week that you would be less than overjoyed if the Senate should attach a 20-percent social security increase to the debt ceiling extension bill which expires tomorrow night. It looks like that might happen tomorrow. I wonder what you see as the consequences, and what you could do about it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, there should be an increase in social security. There has been an increase in the cost of living, and I have favored an increase in the social security. The problem with the 20-percent increase which the Senate will consider is what it does to the Social Security System, and also what it does to the cost of living and to future taxes in this country.
We must realize that if a 20-percent social security [increase] is passed by the Senate and by the Congress, that the increased payroll tax to pay for it will completely wipe out the tax reduction that was given to middle-income and lower-middle-income wage earners in 1969. That is a question that the Congress has got to address itself to.
If, on the other hand, the Congress passes the 20-percent increase in social security and does not finance it adequately, it will seriously jeopardize the integrity of the social security trust fund, and it could be highly inflationary which, of course, will hurt most the social security people, the retired people.
So these are considerations that have motivated me in expressing concern. It is not that we do not want an increase in social security. It isn't that we do not want as high an increase as possible. But the increase must be a responsible one. It should be funded. And the Congress, if it does not fund it, would be doing something that would not be in the interest of retired people, who would be faced with an increase in the cost of living.
THE VICE PRESIDENT
[13.] Q. Sir, I know you have said that
you don't care to discuss politics until after the Republican Convention, which has to make you kind of an unusual man in Washington, but in your answer a while ago regarding Vice President Agnew, I gained the impression that he may be a one-term Vice President. Am I correct in that?
THE PRESIDENT. Certainly not, no. As I said to Mr. Rather--I cannot reconstruct it exactly, he probably can--but in any event, as I said to him in that program, Mr. Agnew had conducted himself, I thought, with great dignity, with great courage, some controversy--which is inevitable when you have courage--and that under these circumstances, since he was a member of a winning team, I did not believe breaking up a winning team was a good idea.
That was my view then, that is my view now. However, the final decision, as I indicated in my answer a few moments ago, will be deferred until before the Republican Convention, and I will make it in time for the delegates to know what my views are.
[14.] Mr. Theis [J. William Theis, Hearst Newspapers and Hearst Headline Service].
Q. Mr. President, with all the shifts in the economy, unemployment seems to be stalled at just under 6 percent. What plans do you have to do something about that?
THE PRESIDENT. We have been making great strides on the employment side, as you know, Mr. Theis: 2,300,000 new jobs since the new economic policy was announced on August 15. We expect that the rapid expansion of the economy, which most economists agree is taking place, is going to reflect itself in reducing unemployment rolls, not as fast as we would like, but in reducing them, through the fall and winter months.
As far as additional actions are concerned, we do not contemplate any at this time, except that we are going to continue those policies that have resulted in the economy growing at a rate of 5 1/2 percent in real growth, and that have resulted-- and this is perhaps the most important number to those who are employed, the 80 million or so--have resulted in the wage earners of this country getting off the treadmill.
For 5 years before we arrived here in 1969, wages had gone up but the wage increases had been almost entirely eaten up by price increases. The most significant thing that has happened since the new economic policy is that we have cut the rate of inflation down so that it is half of what it was in 1970, from 6 to 3 percent. Wages have continued to go up, even though at a lower rate, but real, spendable earnings of 80 million wage earners have gone up 5 percent. That is as compared with going up at the rate of only one percent a year in the sixties. It is this kind of progress that is good.
On the other hand, I am not a bit satisfied with the fact that unemployment is at 5.9 percent, and we are continuing to explore other means of trying to bring it down faster.
BOMBING AND THE PARIS PEACE TALKS
[15.] Mr. Lisagor [Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News].
Q. Mr. President, a clarifying question on the bombing, please. You have said that the sole purpose of your bombing and your mining, in your May 8 speech, was to protect the 60,000 American troops there. Did I understand you to say, in answer to an earlier question, that that bombing is now contingent upon the release of the prisoners? And I would like to ask an additional question that is slightly related: Were there any conditions attached by each side to the return to the Paris peace talks?
THE PRESIDENT. No, there are no conditions attached to either side. We are going back to the talks prepared to negotiate without conditions, which we think is the most constructive way to obtain results. For example, the condition--I assume this is the implication of your question-there was no condition that if we would go back to the talks we would stop the bombing. We do not intend to. We will stop the bombing when the conditions are met that I laid out in my May 8 speech.
In my May 8 speech, Mr. Lisagor, as you recall, I laid down three conditions. I said that we were bombing military targets in the North, that we were mining the harbor, and that we were doing so for three purposes: to prevent the imposition of a Communist government in South Vietnam, to protect our remaining forces in South Vietnam, which were then 60,000, and, in addition, for the purpose of obtaining the release of our POW's.
Those are the three conditions that we have as far as the bombing is concerned.
But we are prepared to negotiate on those points with the enemy. We have no desire to continue the bombing for one moment longer than necessary to accomplish what we consider to be these very minimal objectives.
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT DECISION
[16.] Q. Mr. President, do you regard capital punishment as cruel and unusual, and do you think steps should be taken to reinstate it?
THE PRESIDENT. I was expecting that question tonight, but as you know, the Court just handed down its decision,7 and I immediately got hold of Mr. Dean, Counsel to the President, and I said, "Send it over to me." He said, "There are nine opinions."
7 William Henry Furman v. Georgia (408 U.S. 238).
Now I try to read fast, but I couldn't get through all nine opinions. But I did get through the Chief Justice's.
As I understand it, the holding of the Court must not be taken at this time to rule out capital punishment in all kinds of crimes. This has dealt apparently with crimes at the State level and will apply to 35 States in which we do have the situation where capital punishment does apply.
It is my view that as far as cruel and inhuman punishment is concerned, any punishment is cruel and inhuman which takes the life of a man, or woman, for that matter.
On the other hand, the point that I wish to emphasize is this: In the case of kidnaping and in the case of hijacking, Federal crimes, what we are trying to do is to prevent the loss of life.
I recall the situation at the time of the Lindbergh kidnaping. I recall that kidnapings were sort of par for the course then. Any wealthy family was a possible subject for kidnaping.
Kidnaping has been substantially reduced. Now some experts will say that the deterrent of the Lindbergh law was not what did it. Something had to have that effect. Therefore, I have said in the past and I do not retreat from that now, I believe that capital punishment is a necessary deterrent for capital crimes of that type as far as the Federal jurisdiction is concerned--kidnaping and hijacking.
As far as the Court's decision is concerned, except for three of the judges who based their decision on the Eighth Amendment, which rules out cruel and inhumane punishment and as far as the Court's decision is concerned, I do not understand it necessarily to apply to these Federal crimes. I would hope that it would not.
I have expressed my views and I will also say, of course, that we will carry out whatever the Court finally determines to be the law of the land. But I would hope that the Court's decision does not go so far as to rule out capital punishment for kidnaping and hijacking.
[17.] Q. Mr. President, in light of the attempted assassination of Governor Wallace, have you changed your thinking at all on the need for Federal laws controlling the sale of handguns?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, my thinking has not changed. I have always felt there should be a Federal law for the control of handguns. As you will note, Mr. Kleindienst testified to that effect earlier today and he did testify to that effect after checking my own position on it.
The problem there is to write the law, the legislation, in such a way that it is precise and deals with that kind of handgun which ought to be controlled. And I am referring now to the Saturday night specials. These are ones where you would have Federal jurisdiction because many of them come in from abroad and, being imported from abroad, it would be particularly a matter for Federal control.
I believe, however, that the legislation, if it is therefore precisely written--and we have been cooperating with the Senate committee, particularly with Senator Hruska, in attempting to work out the proper language--that the Congress should pass such a law, and I will sign it, ruling out Saturday night specials, which I think is the major source of this kind of crime you speak about.
THE SUPREME COURT
[18.] Q. Mr. President, do you consider the Supreme Court now to be in balance or do you think it needs another dose of strict constructionism if that occasion should arise?
THE PRESIDENT. I have expressed myself with regard to the Court on previous occasions, but I feel at the present time, that the Court is as balanced as I have had an opportunity to make it. [Laughter]
I have been interested to note that there have been several five-to-four decisions, but let me also say--and the Chief Justice was in to see me the other day and we talked about a number of things-let me also say that of the people I have appointed to that Court, and each one of them will bear this out, I have never talked to them directly or indirectly about a matter before the Court.
I had a pretty good idea before they went on how I thought they might think, but sometimes they have ruled differently, because lawyers never agree.
[19.] Q. Mr. President, sir, since you have taken care of many of the problems with Peking and Moscow and had some agreements and now you seem to have made great progress with the war, I wonder what areas of the world you would like to work on next?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't want to go to the Moon. [Laughter]
EVALUATION OF BOMBING
[20.] Q. Mr. President, the history of American bombing of North Vietnam indicates that it has served to hinder negotiations rather than stimulate negotiations. Why do you think it is going to work now in view of that history?
THE PRESIDENT. I am not sure that my evaluation of the history is the same as yours. My own view is that we have tried every device possible over the past 3 years to get negotiations going. We have withdrawn forces, we have made very forthcoming offers, we have wound down combat activities on our part, and the result has been simply an ever increasing intransigence on the part of the enemy.
Believe me, it was only as a last resort that I made the very difficult decision of May 8, knowing how much rode on that decision, but having made that decision, I think it was the right decision. And I think the fact that our summit meetings went ahead despite that decision, the fact that we are going back to the negotiating table despite that decision, indicates that it may be that those who feel that a strong hand at the negotiating table is one that results in no negotiation may be wrong.
It has always been my theory that in dealing with these very pragmatic men-and we must respect them for their strength and their pragmatism who lead the Communist nations, that they respect strength, not belligerence but strength, and at least that is the way I am always going to approach it, and I think it is going to be successful in the end.
THE VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION
[21.] Q. Mr. President, in the middle of May, Vice President Agnew told a number of reporters that he thought it was totally unrealistic for anyone to imagine a Republican convention nominating a Democrat like John Connally.
Can you tell us if you discussed that statement with him and if you knew he was going to make it?
Finally, if the answer to that question is no, can you give us your reaction to it?
THE PRESIDENT. I did not discuss it with Vice President Agnew. I almost said "Vice President Connally." But I did not discuss it with the Vice President. I would say in terms of political evaluation, he, of course, is correct. A Republican convention or a Democratic convention tends to nominate members of their own party to their high offices.
Now, as far as Secretary Connally is concerned, however, I think we can only say that he is a man who has served his country extremely well in national office, as Governor of his State, and then as Secretary of the Treasury. I certainly hope that in the future he will serve this country in some capacity.
I am not going to go further, though, on the Vice Presidency. I have expressed my views with regard to Vice President Agnew and I will at the proper time inform the delegates of my views.
PRESIDENTIAL PRESS CONFERENCES
[22.] Q. Mr. President, this is kind of an in-house question, but I think it is of interest.
THE PRESIDENT. You would not ask an "out-house" question, would you? [Laughter]
Q. I am not sure what an out-house question is.
THE PRESIDENT. I know.
Q. Nevertheless, I think this is of interest to our viewers and listeners and readers, and that is that you seem to have done very well tonight, you are certainly in command of this situation, and yet this is the first time in a year that you have been willing to meet with us in this kind of forum.
What is your feeling about these types of press conferences?
THE PRESIDENT. It is not that I am afraid to do it. I have to determine the best way of communication and also, and this will sound self-serving and is intended to be, I have to use the press conference--I don't mean use the reporters, but use the press conference--when I believe that is the best way to communicate or inform the people.
Now, for example, I had to make a decision-it may have been wrong--but I concluded that in the very sensitive period leading up to the Peking trip and the period thereafter and in the even more sensitive period, as it turned out to be, leading up to the Moscow trip and the period immediately thereafter, that the press conference, even "no-commenting" questions, was not a useful thing for the President of the United States to engage in.
I felt I was, of course, on television enough in that period anyway, if that was the problem. As you know, I have met the press, not perhaps as often as some members of the press would like, or maybe as often as I would like, but I have met them in other formats than the televised conference.
The other point that I should make is this: I know that many members of the press have been discussing the press conference and they feel that perhaps the President, this President, is tempted to downgrade the press or downgrade the press conference. I am not trying to do that. It is useful, it is important. It requires hard work in preparing for it, I can assure you. But I think I can best put it this way: Every President has to make a decision when he enters the office about his relations with the press and about his job. I mean, I am as human as anybody else, I like to get a good press. But on the other hand I had to determine, and I did determine, as I am sure most Presidents do, that what was most important at this time was for me to do a good job because the stakes were so high, particularly in foreign policy, and also in some areas of domestic policy.
Now, if I do a good job, the fact I get bad press isn't going to matter; if I do a bad job, a good press isn't going to help. When November comes, the people will decide whether I have done a good job or not and whether I have had so many press conferences is probably not going to make a lot of difference.
I trust I can do both because it is essential for a President to communicate with the people, to inform the press who, of course, do talk to the people, either on television, radio, or through what they write.
I hope perhaps in the future we can avoid the feeling on the part of the press that the President is antagonistic to them. I can't say whether the President thinks the press is antagonistic to him, but that is another matter.
MR. CORMIER. Thank you, Mr. President.