IT'S a real pleasure to be with Senator John Tower and to meet my good friends here in Longview and have an opportunity to answer your questions. So, why don't we get going?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do. But we're making a lot of headway; I think we're closing the gap. With the 4 days that I'll be in Texas, I think we have an opportunity to do better than we thought maybe a month ago. And we might give
them a real tough go; we're sure going to try.
Q. [Inaudible] in this campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, the fact that the economy is doing so well, and that I can say that our policies, my policies, have been very successful, eliminates the economy from any contest as far as my opponent is concerned, because he didn't have anything to do with it. I think our policies, my policies, were very successful in taking us out of the worst economic situation we've had in 40 years. So, my opponent has moved into some of the other issues--defense, foreign policy--which I'm delighted to challenge him on because I think we're right, and he's wrong. So, I think that's where we're--
Q. Mr. Reagan says you are changing your policy in connection with Panama.
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I don't think we've changed the policy at all. I may have been a little imprecise at one point, but we haven't changed the policy. Mr. Reagan wants to discontinue the negotiations and lead to more riots, more bloodshed, antagonizing 309 million South Americans, and inevitably leading to doubling or tripling our military forces in the Panama.
I think that's irresponsible. Our policy is one of negotiation that will seek to maintain our operational, our defense capability in the Panamas, and will, under no circumstances, give away anything involving our national security. I don't think that's an issue that we're going to lose. We're on the right side, and he's on the wrong side.
Q. Do you believe Mr. Humphrey may be your opponent?
THE PRESIDENT. I think to a large extent it depends on what happens in Pennsylvania and the word I got on the plane was that Carter was leading 36 to 26 over Jackson. If Carter wins in Pennsylvania, I don't see how the smoke-filled rooms and the Democratic Party can take it away from him.
Q. Would you rather face Mr. Humphrey or Mr. Carter?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't really think it makes any difference. We'll win in November anyhow.
Q. Mr. President, is the country ready for a woman Vice-Presidential candidate?
THE PRESIDENT. I think there could be a possibility of a woman Vice President. We have a lot of very talented women in this country, and I think it is premature to say what the Vice-Presidential nominee might be. But over 50 percent of the population are women, and so there must be a lot of talented gals that I think could qualify.
Q. Mr. President, you are in beef country here in Texas at the present time. What about the possibility of limiting meat imports to the United States?
THE PRESIDENT. We're in the process right now, and have been for the last several months, of negotiating import quotas with the major countries that are traditionally the importers into the United States. We expect to get an agreement that I think will provide for a good trigger point, and a good quota limitation, and hopefully within the next few weeks or a month we ought to be able to achieve that. And I think that will protect our beef producers.
REPORTER. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Nice to see you all. Thank you.