QUESTION. Do you find it easier to concentrate here than in the East?
THE PRESIDENT. It depends on what the subject is. I think the main advantage of a place like this and Camp David and Florida, all of which I use, is that moving from place to place changes the perspective, so that you aren't in a rut, you don't think in a way that is noncreative. Of course, that doesn't mean that if you are hemmed in, in one place, that it is impossible to create.
I have found that generally when I write a speech or something like that, I have to sit in one place, and usually this is not too pleasant. You get out--all this business that you write better when you are looking out at the ocean--
Q. That is not true?
THE PRESIDENT. Not at all true. A beautiful place is a place to, well, to clear the mind, and there needs to be a pause in all the heavy concentration. But when it comes to making important decisions or it comes to writing something that has to be precise, there is no substitute for just sitting in a bare room--a reporter does it with a typewriter--and that is to sit and think and have no distraction. That is the way it affects me.
Q. You have your advisers here, you have your Cabinet members, you have your Counsellors here. I wonder if you feel you can get away here from that isolation booth that you were talking about yourself?
THE PRESIDENT. It is particularly good for them, for one thing. I mean, staff people are terribly overburdened, Cabinet people and the rest. They, of course, more than I, have no control over their schedules. They have to go to the cocktail parties and dinners and so forth, and they move in the same circle; they talk to the same people.
Now, out here, of course, they tend to-but whether it is Kissinger or Ehrlichman or Haldeman or Finch or any of these people, when they come to California or Florida, they break out of that; they break out of the usual patterns.
Q. Are you able to break out and feel less isolated here, do you think?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do, because I know different people in different places. And, of course, when I am in a place like Camp David, then I break out because I am really by myself there. People are around and I can use them, but when you are sitting in an office--it is always a compulsion to be on the phone and have somebody in. In other words, you have got to have a schedule. That is particularly true when you are in Washington.
Q. I was just going to ask you a kind of a personal question. I am coming from Saigon, Cambodia, and other points east to move to Washington. What kind of advice would you have for a returning American coming back after 14 years, as to what to look for in the United States?
I am just wondering what would be your suggestions to somebody like myself as to what to watch for in the United States, as an amateur American coming back to one's own country?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would by all means not spend too long a time in Washington. What your tendency will be is to come back and sit down in Washington and be surrounded by your friends in the media and, of course, the political world, and so forth. That will not give you a perspective that is really broad enough.
It is very important to get that perspective because they are the people who affect millions of others around the country. I would get on a plane or in an automobile and drive around the country and get some feel of it.
I think some of the reporters these days who are doing that are doing a lot for themselves and a lot for good reporting. Take a fellow like Dave Broder.1 He has been moving around the country. He goes to places like Tennessee and Evansville and Oregon, as you know, and, writes his reports, and that has been a custom for a couple of others.
1 David S. Broder, a reporter for the Washington Post.
That is what I would do, if I were you. Don't just come to Washington and have whatever views you do have either completely changed or just driven in.
I think my conviction--and I base that not on any recent discovery, but after having been in Washington as a Congressman, as a Senator, and as a Vice President, and also having lived in New York far 6 years and in California is that this is a very diverse country, which is all to the good, and it is very important to get around and circulate.
We tend to generalize about youth, generalize about the race problem, generalize about what people think of the political issues, in all respects, and many times the generalizations are correct. I think one of the reasons sometimes those who report the news may sometimes miss what the national mood is is that they are talking too much among themselves--and by that I mean people who think like them, who read the same things.
Q. What is the national mood now, do you think, Mr. President, going into this fall, this school year?
THE PRESIDENT. I am unable to give an answer to that yet. I can answer it better within a month. One thing I know is that moods change in a very volatile way these days. That is another factor that is new in American politics because of television, instant news, instant appraisal of events; you will find that there is a very great change. A very great change may take place before you know it.
You take Gallup's polls which he prints from time to time on what is the number one issue. You will find that that changes dramatically almost month to month. Usually changes occur over a period of 3 or 4 years. That is the other thing. Don't ever assume that what you think today is the big issue is going to be the big issue tomorrow.
I constantly have to tell my staff, "Keep checking, checking with Congressmen, Senators, but also with people generally in the country."
Of course, that is one of the benefits you get from the mail. The mail's only usefulness is not the number but the moods, the changes that occur.
For example, naturally, the overriding interest in the war, the war in Southeast Asia, the possibilities of becoming involved in something in the Mideast, all of these are concerns that will always be number one or number two. In other words, the great issues are basically war and peace, the pocketbook and all of its ramifications-that is prices, taxes, Government spending, and the rest--and finally coming up very hard and fast and going up and down, depending upon what the latest news story is, is the whole issue related to order and justice--
Q. Civil disturbances?
THE PRESIDENT. Civil disturbances, but in a much broader context, and I include in that the problem--let's put it this way: The problem of race, race problems, those are not new. First, we have them in very great degree because of the history in this country. But they are all over the world, and they are among races. You don't have to look at the United States; you can find them in Britain; you will find them in Southeast Asia.
Q. Within the same countries?
THE PRESIDENT. Within the same countries and between various peoples. Race problems are not new and neither is the generation gap. That is not new.
What is the major concern today is how those problems will be handled, whether they will be handled in an orderly process, under our constitutional procedures, which we have usually recognized in the past should be the way, or whether people will resort to and whether society will generally accept, at least be resigned to, resorting to means outside the constitutional processes. This is the great issue of our time.
Q. What do you see in the future? Do you see a long period of civil disturbance, a long testing period?
THE PRESIDENT. We are keeping our fingers crossed, but I think that it is not insignificant to note that, despite all the dire predictions, this summer has not been the hot summer that we had expected. It has been terribly hot from the standpoint of the weather, as you know. Yet, after the tragic experiences of 2 years ago, last summer and this summer have been less.
Q. I was thinking of the revolutionaries as much as anything.
THE PRESIDENT. The revolutionaries is something else, because that is something which is a new and growing development in the United States and all over the world. Again, we have got to see this in terms not just of our own problems. That is why when we look at America's problems we say, "It is something we do." It may be. We may be contributing to it-our society.
But every foreign leader that I have talked to, in which there is supposed to be a free society, has the same problem. You have got it in the Philippines; you have it in Japan. You have got it, of course, in every industrial country of Eastern Europe and all over Latin America.
Q. In your visit throughout Southeast Asia last year, this is one of the things you discovered. You said, Mr. President, that two of the issues are the Middle East and the other being Southeast Asia, in the mail and in general response patterns that you feel about the United States. What are you saying in reply to those, for example, about the chances for something developing in the way of peace in Southeast Asia and the Middle East?
THE PRESIDENT. There is nothing new to report in that respect, except that we are continuing our support of the cease-fire initiative in the Mideast, recognizing that it is fraught with difficulties on both sides. But, on the other hand, when we consider that initiative, what we have to recognize is, as difficult as it is, look how much worse it would be if it had not been started.
Q. What about the chances of peace in Southeast Asia?
THE PRESIDENT. As far as Southeast Asia is concerned, there again, we, of course, are awaiting the beginning of some discussions in Paris with Xuan Thuya 2 returning.
2 Xuan Thuy was the chief North Vietnamese delegate at the Paris peace talks.
Q. Do you expect new developments in Paris with that return?
THE PRESIDENT. I would predict nothing. Based on the past record, I would expect nothing.
Q. For how long a period?
THE PRESIDENT. That is just exactly the point. I wouldn't even project or predict. But I would say that as far as we are concerned, we have a new ambassador there, we are prepared for any expansion of the discussions to break the deadlock, expansions in terms of considering new initiatives.
Q. Are there any new initiatives that you are thinking about, sir, now?
THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't discuss at this point. We have none at this to discuss, except that I have pointed out that our negotiators have great flexibility and we have, over a period of a year and a half, made one new initiative after another. All of those are on the table. But in order to negotiate, of course, it doesn't mean that the movement must all come from one side. It takes two to make a deal, and I would not overlook the fact that we now must see what the other side's attitude is.
I don't say this with any prediction that anything is going to happen, because that is very dangerous in this field.
Q. One more question about Pads. Would you expect any effect on the other side to result from the Vice President's talk in the last week about a commitment by the United States to the Government of Lon Nol and Cambodia?
THE PRESIDENT. When we talk about the other side, I think that the dope stories and also the judgment of what are supposed to be the experts, if this or that or the other thing is going to affect their negotiating position--all of that really means very little.
When you go back and look over that, I am sure most of the columnists and commentators would not like to be reminded about what they said and wrote. That is not criticism of it. The point is, the other side is not predictable, just as we may not be from time to time.
I would only suggest that at this time, as we have often said as far as we are concerned, we are in a very flexible negotiating position. We have made that point over and over again. Now we shall see whether the other side is interested in one, too.
Q. Mr. President, there was a suggestion the other day about the possibility of the United States putting military forces in the Middle East with a view toward keeping the peace under U.N. auspices, perhaps. Could you say anything about that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I would not comment on it at this time. I do not believe that suggestions of that type, well intentioned as they are, are going to be particularly helpful at a time when the Jarring mission is going forward.
Right now we have a cease-fire. We have at least the beginnings of the possible talks, and now for people from the outside, whoever they may be, in Government, out of Government, to make this suggestion or that suggestion as to where we move without knowing all the facts, I don't think would be particularly helpful. So I will not comment on it.
Q. Overall, Mr. President, how would you describe your own feelings with regard to the Middle East situation now? Are you optimistic? Are you expectant?
THE PRESIDENT. Neither optimistic nor expectant in the traditional sense of those words. Because if you say you are optimistic, that means we expect that it is going to succeed; if you say you are expectant, it means that I think there is some new development that is going to occur.
All I say is that the Middle East situation is one that, prior to the cease-fire, had no hope; since the cease-fire, it has some hope.
Now that does not mean that we should be overly optimistic or overly expectant that this is going to work out. We have to recognize that what we are confronted with here is a situation that did not result over the past 10 years or 15 years; it goes back for thousands of years--I mean the difficulties between the Israelis and their neighbors.
So, consequently, when you have those deep differences, those deep passions, those are not settled quickly. And to talk optimistically renders no service to either side and no service to the American public.
However, as far as we are concerned, we believe we have made some progress. Because, after all, there is a cease-fire. People aren't being killed now. And as long as that goes on, it looks better than it was. That is as far as I would go.
Q. Mr. President, can that situation be settled without the help of the Four Powers, do you believe?
THE PRESIDENT. I won't speculate on that. The Four Powers have indicated that they are willing to help. Let's just let it stand there. We won't say whether it will or will not be settled, because that again gets down to all the parties involved.
Q. Do you think the chances for peace are better, Mr. President, in the Middle East or in Southeast Asia?
THE PRESIDENT. That kind of speculation would not be useful. Both areas are, of course, areas where we are very hopeful that we are on a course that will bring peace and keep peace.
I would only say that they are quite different in one respect: In Southeast Asia, the United States is now embarked on a program which will lead to the withdrawal of our forces and their replacement by South Vietnamese. So far as the United States involvement is concerned in Vietnam, peace is certain; as far as the Mideast is concerned, we cannot speak with certainty due to the fact that the differences between various parties involved are so deep.
On the other hand, there is hope. They are quite different, the two areas. In Southeast Asia, at least we have a course now there that looks toward an American withdrawal and the assumption by the South Vietnamese of the defense of their country and, of course, with our logistical assistance.
Q. Speaking of American withdrawal--
Q. Will Americans stop fighting there by a specific date?
Q. I was going to ask you about the Hatfield [amendment]--what your views are on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that has been well covered by Mr. Ziegler. As I have said on many occasions, setting any deadline in regard to when American forces will withdraw, if that is to be done, it should be accompanied with another paragraph, in any such resolution, immediately breaking off the Paris talks. The negotiator has no reason to stay in Paris in the event there is a deadline, because the other side might as well wait for us to get out.
But what little chance--and I am not exaggerating the chance, because there is some--but what little chance there is for negotiation is completely destroyed by setting a deadline. That is one of the reasons why we don't have one. We have our ideas as to how this will be done. Setting deadlines is not going to be helpful.
Q. There is a political deadline in this country. In 1966 you made what is now a very famous prediction about the outcome of the congressional elections. Can we ask you to repeat on that performance?
THE PRESIDENT. I am not ready to, yet I don't make the predictions until we get quite closer. About the first of October might have some ideas.
But I was able to make those predictions because I had traveled extensively around the country in a political capacity. haven't done that this time. I, of course haven't really had much time to study these contests. But whether I will get to the predicting stage this year remains to be seen. Maybe I will leave that to the Vice President because he will be closer to the scene than I will.
Q. Speaking of the Vice President, can you conceive in 1979 of having anyone else as your running mate Agnew?
THE PRESIDENT. That question, of course, is always asked. It is kind of surprising that the record never changes. The needle gets in a rut and goes over and over again. Of course, this is a premature question. As far as the answer is concerned, I would say the Vice President was a great asset to our ticket during the campaign. He has been a very strong Vice president. He has done a very effective job in his travels abroad and in the United States.
[Those present at the interview said the President went on to say it was too early to make predictions about himself or the Vice President in 1972.]