Q. Let me first thank you, Mr. President, for giving us this interview on the eve of this historic and first trip to Moscow.
The President. Well, I thank you for doing it.
Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev
Q. I'm asked to ask you the first questions. My name is Fritz Wirth of the journal Die Welt, and everybody else will introduce himself when he asks his first question.
In another interview a few days ago in Moscow, Mr. Gorbachev gave a remarkable characterization of your qualities as a politician, and he praised your realism. After three meetings and many talks one-to-one, how would you characterize Mr. Gorbachev, and what do you regard as his main qualities?
The President. Well, I think he's very forthright. We can get into discussions where perhaps we're disagreeing quite firmly, and yet there is no personal animus in that with him. I think he solidly represents his country. I have suspected sometimes that he, having been raised in that particular country from childhood, believes some of their propaganda about us. But as I say, we can debate and discuss, and I think he's very sincere about the progressive ideas that he is introducing there and the changes that he thinks should be made. But as I say, even if the discussion gets, well, pretty meaningful, there is no animus. When it's over, I think that there's actually a degree of friendship between us.
Human Rights in the Soviet Union
Q. Mr. President, I am Francis Unwin of Le Soir, Brussels. According to the State Department, we are moving toward an agreement that would allow American psychiatrists to visit Soviet mental hospitals to determine if dissidents are being imprisoned there. The Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights was quoted as saying that there seems to be a genuine interest in the idea of such a visit and in bringing the problem of abuse of psychiatry to an end. Do you think that a formal agreement could be ironed out during your visit to Moscow?
The President. I'm hopeful that it can. I think that some of these things with regard to human rights is not just trying to interfere with their internal affairs at all. But in view of the fact that our country is made up of people from all over the world—and I have used the term myself previously in discussing with them that when a man takes a wife, he doesn't stop loving his mother-and you perhaps are aware that Americans all retain a feeling of their heritage, even those whose grandparents or great-grandparents first came to this country. I think when Americans get acquainted with each other the first thing they inquire is, you know, what is your background. And Americans are accustomed to saying well, I'm this or that. And as time has gone on, most of us have to name three or four countries in our heritage if our ancestors came a few generations back. And the result of that is that in becoming closer and developing a relationship between the two countries we are affected by public opinion and by people in our country who resent if they think that in the land of their heritage people are being treated unfairly.
So, this is one of the reasons why I'm trying to impress upon the General Secretary that if we are to develop relationships, and better relationships in trade and so forth, that can be done better if there aren't elements in our country that believe that somehow the country of their heritage is—the government is being unfair to the people, because they still consider they have a ...
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