Boston, Massachusetts Question-and-Answer Session With Newspaper and Television Reporters.
MR. FOELL. Hello, I'm Earl Foell of the Christian Science Monitor. With me today to interview President Jimmy Carter are Tom Ellis of Station WCVB-TV, Channel 5 in Boston, Jim Scott of WBZ, Channel 4, Mary Richardson of WNACTV, Channel 7, and Christopher Lydon of WGBH-TV, Channel 2. This program is being taped at Logan Airport on Saturday afternoon for broadcast at this thee.
SENATOR EDWARD M, KENNEDY
Mr. President, before we get into the heavyweight questions, I think a lot of viewers are interested to hear what you had to say with Senator Kennedy before and after the ceremony at the opening of the Kennedy Library.
THE PRESIDENT. We have always been friendly toward one another and have conversations about matters before the Senate and also about politics. But today we concentrated mostly on the impact that his brother had—his brothers, as a matter of fact on our Nation.
The first thing he did was to tell my wife that the bill on mental health which she has worked 2 or 3 years to accomplish was passed through his committee. That was the business at hand. And then we had about a 35-minute tour of the library itself, looking at John Kennedy's early campaign history, his naval career. They've got a beautiful letter in there from my mother that was written to him on her 70th birthday while she was a Peace Corps volunteer in India, which I appreciated.
And I thought the whole family was extremely gracious, and I believe this is one of the most beautiful sites for the commemoration of a President's memory and to hold the records that I've ever seen. It's a place that uses a large number of visual aids. It's a human sort of environment that people will thoroughly enjoy, and I believe it's a great addition to this community and, of course, to our country.
MR. FOELL. Tom Ellis.
1980 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
MR. ELLIS. Thank you, Mr. Foell.
Mr. President, first I'd like to welcome you to New England again and thank you for giving us this thee to ask a few questions.
There have been some political developments this week of significance, beginning with your good showing in Florida; the announcement by Senator Kennedy's people that they're about to form an organization, which most feel is tantamount to his formal announcement; the endorsement of Senator Kennedy by the Governor of Maine, the first Governor in the Nation to do that. And in view of all of that, plus the earliness of the primaries in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, I'm wondering how this will affect ,your own personal time table.
Can you tell us today that you will be a candidate for reelection?
THE PRESIDENT. I'll be making an announcement on December 4.
I was pleased with this week. The Florida results were very encouraging to us. And it was a pretty hot contest with a lot of secondhand involvement. I didn't go in to campaign, neither did Senator Kennedy, but our surrogates were there, a lot of enthusiasm, a fairly high participation. And I thought the 2-to-1 margin that we achieved was gratifying.
I think the thee that I'll spend in the next year on politics will be adequate, but, of course, as President, I won't have thee to campaign as I did in 1975 and 1976 when it was an absolutely full-thee job for me. But I look forward to it with a great deal of interest and anticipation and confidence.
HEATING OIL SUPPLIES
MR. ELLIS. One of the pressing issues here in New England—we've already had an early taste of winter—is the subject of number 2 home heating oil. We've heard you give assurances in other parts of the country that we will have adequate supplies of home heating oil this winter. The fellow I buy home heating oil from has been in business for 30 years, and he tells me that because of tight credit, allocations, and the price, quite a few of his customers won't have oil if we get a severe cold spell this winter.
I'm wondering if you can assure us here today in New England that we will have adequate supplies and that the people who can't afford to pay 90 cents a gallon for it will still be reasonably warm this winter.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We set two goals for ourselves late in the spring, when home heating oil supplies were very low, quite a bit below last year. The first commitment that I made in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at a townhall meeting, was that in October we would have 240 million barrels of home heating oil on hand in storage, ready to go to homes throughout the New England area and throughout the country by the end of October. We've already reached that goal.
Last year during a fairly severe winter, we had a total consumption, I think, of 233 million barrels. So, we've got enough home heating oil on hand.
The second commitment I made was to do something about helping families to meet the rapidly increasing cost of home heating oil. We took the initiative, went to the Congress quite early. As you know, OPEC has increased prices 60 percent since last December, and it's been an extraordinary burden on the entire Nation, and it's coming on homeowners in this winter.
We've not yet been able to get the bill through Congress, but we've been pushing it day and night. And I think the arousing of interest on the part of people in New England, particularly, and the rest of the country has caused Congress lately to begin to move. I can make a flat statement predicting—as sure as anything is in politics and government—that there will be a decision made by Congress to support the proposal that we made and that people will have the help for low-income families to meet the needs that are brought about by the increased cost of oil.
We are asking this year for $1.6 billion to help low-income families, and we are also asking the Congress during the next 10 years to allocate $2.4 billion per year. And I can assure you that the Congress will act favorably on this legislation.
MR. FOELL. Jim Scott.
MR. SCOTT. Mr. President, a followup to that question.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MR. SCOTT. If the Congress does act favorably and that action is late, say, at the end of winter this year, what will the people do? What happens in the interim?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are two different proposals that add up to the 1.6 billion. One is $400 million, which is being requested under a program that's been in existence ever since I've been in the White House. The first year I was in office, we asked for $250 million and got it. This money is allotted to families, primarily through the State government structure, Governors having a lot to do with it. That will be expanded from 250 million bucks to 400 million. And in addition to that, we're adding $1.2 billion more on to that to help the extraordinary price increase this year.
We've asked Congress to expedite the money as much as possible. Our proposal for the long run is to have the money come from the windfall profits tax, the tax on the unearned profits of oil companies, then to be put into reserve fund and used to pay for home heating oil. But since that windfall profits tax might be enacted later than we want to, we are asking the Congress in effect to expend that money out of the regular income tax collections, so that we won't have to wait for the windfall profits tax to go into effect. Later, we'll get the money through the windfall profits tax from the oil companies and repay the money that we borrow from general funds.
But to make sure that the families don't have to wait pending uncertain legislative decisions on the windfall profits tax, we'll go ahead and get that money out of regular funds for use in a timely fashion.
THE NATION'S ECONOMY
MR. SCOTT. Mr. Carter, inflation is the number one concern among many Americans, and apparently you've made it a priority. But how far will you go to curb inflation, and how lasting will your moves be?
THE PRESIDENT. The move is lasting, and I'm not going to back down in fighting inflation. And at my last press conference somebody asked me if I would stick with it even if it cost in political approval of popularity. I will.
I think in the long run our commitment to control inflation, which has been with us more than 10 years now—I'm the fourth President to have to deal with it-is a commitment that cannot be abandoned. We've had a concern that putting pressure to hold inflation down might hurt the poor and the working families of this country, who are the ones who suffer most from inflation itself. So, we focused our attention on very narrowly defined, targeted programs to maintain the employment opportunities for people in spite of our effort to control inflation. And we've been remarkably successful, more than we ever dreamed, as a matter of fact.
In the first 2 1/2 years that I was in office, we added a net increase of 8 1/2 million jobs in spite of very high inflation rates. And in the process, we've also made funds available for home construction, because we did not want the homebuilding industry to take a nosedive. In the past, as inflation and interest rates have gone up, the first ones to suffer were the homebuilders and the construction workers and families that need homes. But we've maintained that homebuilding rate at almost 2 million homes per year, and that rate is still holding up.
Last month, for instance, we built at a rate of 1.88 million homes per year in our country. So, we've held up job opportunities, we've held up homebuilding programs and, therefore, jobs, in spite of heavy inflation pressures.
We're going to stick with the control of inflation by doing some basic things—not wasting money, having tight fiscal policies, making sure that we cut out redtape and regulations from the Government, which holds down inflation. We've been very tight on the number of Federal employees in spite of increased services. We've cut Federal employees about 20,000, and we've tried to maintain throughout the Government a commitment toward holding the budget deficit down. In fact, we've cut the budget deficit almost 60 percent since I've been in office, about $36 billion. That combination is very difficult to maintain, but so far we've done a good job.
The last thing I want to say on a fairly lengthy answer is that it's a long-thee process. We cannot expect immediate reduction of inflation that's been with us for 10 years in spite of OPEC price increases; we can't expect miracles. And the second thing is that the American people are going to have to all do our share. In home heating oil, every homeowner is going to have to conserve energy, do everything they can to keep from wasting energy, which helps them personally, also helps our country.
MR. FOELL. Mary Richardson.
1980 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
MS. RICHARDSON. Mr. President, on the subject of a possible Carter-Kennedy contest.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MS. RICHARDSON. Does the fact that you are here with us today, that you have given 1 hour of your thee to local television, indicate that you're worried about your political standing in New Hampshire and in Massachusetts?
THE PRESIDENT. No. Chris has traveled with me a lot during 1976 and the campaign—even when my name wasn't even on the public opinion polls, I never was worried. And I was perfectly willing in 1976 to meet any candidate who wanted to run against me, and for a while, earlier than that, we thought that Senator Kennedy might be a very likely prospect. That doesn't bother me at all.
I've always made a practice, when I was Governor or when I was a candidate for President or since I've been in office, to take advantage of every reasonable opportunity to let my views be known to the public. And that's really what I want to do up here is to let the people of New England, who watch this program, know what we're doing about inflation, what we're doing about jobs, what we're doing about home construction, what we're doing about the energy shortage and home heating oil and so forth. And I believe that's the most important aspect of my relationship with you all.
I would hope that the political questions could wait until later, because neither of us are announced candidates, but, of course, the press is preoccupied with the subject and, I think, perhaps even more than the people are.
Last Saturday afternoon, I had a 2-hour telephone call-in show on public radio. I guess I got about 40 questions. There was not a single question about the political contest. The questions were about the things that government might do or not do that affect their lives. So, I think the injection of political questions almost invariably comes from the press, not by me.
MS. RICHARDSON. Of course, Mr. Carter, we are in Kennedy country right now, and there is an obsession with politics in New England, as you know. Being preoccupied with it, if I can be for one more question—
THE PRESIDENT. You might.
MS. RICHARDSON.—can you beat Senator Kennedy in Massachusetts in the primary here?
THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to predict that any more than he would he likely to predict that he could beat me in Georgia. I'll do well in Massachusetts, and I think I'll win throughout the country.
I think the Florida results are a fairly good indication. Florida is a cosmopolitan State in that people from all over the Nation move to Florida. And there were just flat predictions by everyone that Dade County, Miami area, would be heavily for Senator Kennedy. We carried the delegates in Dade County almost 2 to 1. And I'm perfectly willing to meet anybody who runs against me.
I'm an incumbent President. I ran against an incumbent Republican when everybody had a chance to run. I won the election. We've got a good record, and I think the people will ultimately decide not on the basis of personal popularity or charisma or speaking ability and so forth, but on the basis of whether or not a President in office, who's a Democrat, who's done an adequate job, to be trusted to lead the country 4 more years.
And I think the opportunity for me to go throughout the Nation and for the Cabinet officers and the Vice President and members of my family and others who are interested and tell the record of what we've done and what we anticipate doing for the next 4 years is an excellent opportunity. It'll be an educational process;it'll give us a chance to learn about problems that we haven't solved and ideas we hadn't thought about. and to realize the programs that are successful and those that are not successful.
So, I don't see the upcoming political campaign as a negative thing at all or one to be feared or one to be dreaded. As 1 said earlier, I look forward to it with great anticipation and confidence.
MR. FOEEL. Chris Lydon.
SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY
MR. LYDON. Mr. President, I have a question about the Kennedy legacy. You spoke at the library dedication of John Kennedy's inspiration in your own life. Some people have always thought you resemble him. I caught a suggestion in your speech that John Kennedy, were he alive, might be closer to the restraint in your own politics than to the expansiveness of his brother Ted.
My question is, is Senator Kennedy, by his name, any more worthy of the Kennedy legacy than you are?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think so. The family of Presidents is very small. And I have read a lot of history before I became President, certainly during the time I was planning to be President. Since I've been in the White House, I've become a much more avid history student, and I've seen and studied about the decisions that President Kennedy made under the most trying and difficult circumstances—when you're alone, when you bare no one to turn to, and that ultimately the question comes to you in the Oval Office on that desk and you have to make a decision, quite often late at night when nobody's there to advise you.
I've also seen, as a President—he was the 35th President; I'm the 39th President-that some of the decisions he made have affected my life as a President very profoundly. I mentioned a few of those in the speech I made today.
So, I feel a political kinship with President Kennedy that's very intense and also very personal. And obviously the name and the family relationship—blood kin-is a very strong and powerful force in the minds of American people and also certainly in the minds of those who are interested in politics and who will vote in 1980.
But I think as far as political alignment and relationship and the sharing of responsibility for having governed this country in the highest elected office in the land, I feel a very close kinship with President Kennedy also.
MR. LYDON. If I may follow. The point was bluntly stated in Massachusetts politics some years ago to the effect that if his name were Edward Moore, not Edward Moore Kennedy, his candidacy would be a joke. How far would you go in embracing that line with respect to the forthcoming Presidential contest?
THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't go along with that at all. That was his first political race and he was untested then. My assessment of Senator Kennedy's accomplishments and his ability as a leader is that he's excellent, and this is based not on his relatives or his family position, but on his own record.
I think he's done a good job as a Senator, and he's espoused programs with which I agree. And in most instances, the programs that I have put forward to the Senate for decision, those that were highly publicized, those that were controversial, those that were difficult and on which I took a public position, Senator Kennedy has supported almost without exception.
So, in my own relationship with him and the sharing of opinion on controversial issues and in his performance as a Senator, I think he's built a record that's very good.
There have been some areas where we disagree. I think as far as fiscal prudence is concerned, balancing the budget, holding down unnecessary spending, being cautious about what kind of new programs we've put forth that are very expensive, we are in sharp disagreement. Senator Kennedy is much more inclined toward the old philosophy of pouring out new programs and new money to meet a social need. He may be right. I disagree with him. I'm much more inclined to try to make existing programs work efficiently and start up new programs only when it's absolutely necessary.
I think in the matter of a commitment to our Nation's defense strength, I would be in favor of much stronger defense commitments than his record shows. And I think with those two exceptions, there is little real incompatibility between us in working for peace, in trying to meet the needs of unfortunate people, and moving to eliminate racial or other discrimination in our society.
I have found a complete ability to work harmoniously with Senator Kennedy. But he's got a record of his own, and I don't think he has to depend on his brother's reputation to give him the stature of a very good leader.
MR. FOELL. MR. President, you just mentioned not throwing money at programs.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MR. FOELL. I'd like to double back to your answer to Jim Scott's question for a moment. There seems to be some confusion still as to whether you were including all construction workers in the promise you made to the construction workers in San Diego, and, if so, what dollar figure might be put on the size program you have in mind for them and why this would not be inflationary.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, what we've tried to do is be firm and resolute in controlling inflation and, at the same thee, without wasting money or creating massive spending programs and so forth, to focus the effective Government funding and administration of programs to hold down unemployment to give people jobs.
For instance, when I became President, the unemployment rate among construction workers was between 15 and 20 percent. We added a net increase of a million construction jobs alone, and we cut the unemployment rate among construction workers by 40 percent.
We did this in various ways: local public works projects and Economic Development Administration projects. One of the most successful, for instance, has been the Urban Development Action program, UDAG we call it.
Through this program, we have put in about $6 billion and we've added over 400,000 jobs. Only one-sixth of that money is Federal money. The other fivesixths comes from private investment. But we've provided the incentive there to rebuild the deteriorating central cities of our country. We have slashed through redtape and government delay. And the Government never initiates these programs. It's initiated by local government and by private investors. They come to us with a proposal on very simple forms. We make a decision on that request within 60 days, and then a small amount of Federal money goes in there, a large amount of local money goes in, mostly from private sources, and people are put to work and people's lives are changed.
Housing programs become better, new facilities are built for the life of a city, transportation, otherwise, and that's the kind of effect we've had. That's one reason why we have such strong support, politically speaking, from the Governors and mayors of this country. We have made them full partners in the process. So, we've not created jobs in the construction industry by handing people jobs in government; we've created jobs in the construction industry and other ways by letting the private sector of our country, the free enterprise system, be given a free reign absent Federal obstructions and eliminating Federal regulations with just a small amount of taxpayers' money.
That's my philosophy of approach, and that's what I intend to continue. I can't guarantee that nobody will lose a job, whether the inflation rate won't vary at all. But within the constraints of controlling inflation, we will minimize the loss of jobs, as I described to the construction workers.
MR. FOELL. Tom.
MR. ELLIS. Mr. President, you mentioned defense preparedness, and we hear reports that our military strength is falling below what would be necessary to respond adequately to a military emergency. And in view of the recent squabble we had with Cuba over the presence of Russian combat troops, which seems suddenly to have subsided quite a bit, what do you see as an immediate step that needs to be done to strengthen our Armed Forces? Would it be reinstatement of the draft, an updating of the military?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, let me say that the military strength of the United States is the greatest of any nation on Earth. And there have been some trends upward by the Soviet Union which have concerned 'me and have also concerned my predecessors in office and are beginning to concern the Congress as well.
In the last 7 years, for instance—I was looking at some statistics the other day— Presidents, two Republicans and myself, have made recommendations to increase defense expenditures—$30
billion in total over 7 years, higher than the Congress has finally approved. I think that that trend has changed. This past year, for instance, that ended on the 1st of October, we had a 3-percent real growth, growth above and beyond the inflation rate. We'll have the same thing for 1980 fiscal year, which just began on the 1st of October.
We've tried again to eliminate waste and overlapping and to plan very carefully to put the defense investment where it will pay the richest dividends, by strengthening NATO, for instance, and getting our allies to come in and do the same thing we are. Those alliances are very important to us, and one American dollar, one American service person can be greatly magnified if we work harmoniously with our allies. We've strengthened the Navy, the Air Force, and now on strategic weapons. We're trying to go into new fields as well.
It's important to point out two other things, and I'll try to be brief. One is that my number one priority above anything else—above inflation, above jobs, above home heating oil, above everything else-is to guarantee the security of this country. That's number one, because we wouldn't have anything if this Nation ever becomes vulnerable to a successful attack or threat or blackmail from a foreign country. And I want to make sure that our Nation's defense commitment is so strong that any nation that might be tempted to test us militarily would realize that they are committing military suicide.
I also want to be sure that the people of this country understand that we are at peace. I'm the first President in 40 years where we haven't had a single American killed in combat in a foreign country. I'd like to go out of office, no matter how long I serve, with that record intact.
But the best way, the only way, I think, that we can preserve peace is to be strong. And as long as the Nation, ourselves, and our allies and our potential adversaries all know that our Nation is strong militarily and the will to defend ourselves, under those circumstances, we are likely to maintain peace for ourselves, and our allies. If we ever become weak and vulnerable or vacillate or divided from one another, that's when we are likely to have to go to war. And so, I have no apology to make for what we've done to try to strengthen our defense. I'm going to keep it up.
I might say that the percentage of our gross national product, what this country produces, that goes into military is very low, about 5 percent, much lower than it's been in previous years—we're more efficient now—and much lower than the Soviet Union puts in. They put in about 13 percent of their gross national product into defense, but still we're the strongest and we're going to stay that way.
MR. ELLIS. This is strictly a local or regional question that involves the General Dynamic Shipyard in Quincy, which has lost several recent shipbuilding contracts to firms from different parts of the country when we understood that they had submitted the low bid.
What is the bidding process? How is it determined who gets that bid.> And if the Government were willing to step in, for instance, and come to the aid of the Chrysler Corporation, would it also be willing, do you think, to step into the aid of a business that's important regionally as the General Dynamic Shipyard is to this economy here?
THE PRESIDENT. I have a special feeling for General Dynamics. After the Second World War, as a young naval officer, I was assigned as the only officer to Electric Boat Company then, which later became General Dynamics, to build the first ship our Nation built, a little small antisubmarine submarine. At that time, General Dynamics was building refrigerator bodies for pickup trucks. So, my history of navy yards and my interest is very strong.
I don't want to mislead you. As long as I'm in the White House, I'm not going to let politics, even the hope of getting votes in Boston, affect—or Quincy—affect the decision on contracts on what's best for our whole country. I don't interfere, for political reasons, in which military base is expanded or which one's closed down. There's a tremendous temptation to do that; I'm not going to do it. I made that clear during the campaign. I'm not going to deviate from it.
The decision on contracts at Quincy and other navy yards around the Nation are made on the basis of what's best for our country. Most recently, although Quincy lost a highly publicized contract, I understand that since then, they have gotten one equally as good—that's not quite so highly publicized when they got one. It's important to us to see the shipyards around the Nation be kept viable and open and to keep their labor force relatively intact—they can't be frozen-relatively intact, because if our country is ever threatened or needs to expand rapidly what our Navy is doing or repair our ships rapidly in time of war, we'll need those navy yards to be in operating condition and to have the skilled people there.
The contract decisions about Quincy were not made with any political considerations at all. When they lost a contract, it was not made on the basis of politics; when they got a contract later on, it was not made on the basis of politics, but what, in the opinion of our responsible defense officials, approved by me, was in the best interest of our country.
MR. FOELL. Do any of you want to follow up on that before we go to Jim? Jim, I guess you're on.
MR. SCOTT. Mr. President, you said that the number one priority is national security, of course. But how do you ease the minds of the Americans who see their dollar buying less, the ones who can't afford to buy the homes anymore, and the ones who have the general feeling that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. How do you ease their minds?
THE PRESIDENT. Jim, you know it concerns me that people's minds are not at ease. Mine's not at ease; I have challenges and questions and problems that I have to resolve as best I can. I think we've done a fairly good job so far, and I don't want people to believe, first of all, that controlling inflation is hurting the poor or the aged or the infirm or the unemployed. The people who suffer most from high inflation are the ones who are least able to afford it, the ones who can't change their income or can't move to a different community and who have to buy the necessities of life with a major portion of their total earnings.
Secondly, I don't want those people to feel that an adequate defense commitment is at their own expense. This is an extremely important thing, because in the past, at least, certainly in the Vietnam war, the ones who suffered most were the poor.
If we ever have any reason in the future to go to a draft system, I'm going to make sure that we do not give special privilege to a young person who's in college because the wealthy can put their kids in college, which they did during the Vietnam war, and the poor people are primarily the ones that go and fight. My oldest son volunteered to go to Vietnam, but most of the discrimination, in my opinion, in the draft in the last combat was against poor people.
The third thing is this: We've had tremendous improvements or increases since I've been in office in helping the life of those who are poor. I've already mentioned employment opportunities that have increased, housing has been extremely high. We've also had commitments made to education. For instance, we have increased, just the first 2 years I was in office, the Federal allocation of funds for education by 60 percent. And I would almost say flatly—there may be a few exceptions—that now if a young person reaches college age, if that person is motivated and is educationally qualified, that young person can go to college because we've expanded those opportunities so greatly.
I think this has got to continue. We have not cheated or deprived or ignored the people who suffer most. We have shifted, however, to an attempt to focus particular programs much more specifically on those who are deprived by letting programs be drafted in the Congress and passed to meet a particular need so that people who don't need these services don't get nearly as much of it as they used to.
So, our country is strong, not only militarily but economically, it's strong politically, and I hope and I believe that it's strong morally and ethically—that what we stand for is, indeed, an inspiration to other people throughout the world as well as reassuring to our own people.
There need be no fear on the part of anyone in this country that their needs which are presently being met will not be met in the future or that their needs will be ignored. They are an ever-present concern to me, to Senator Kennedy, to other Members of the Congress, and to the American people.
MR. SCOTT. A followup, Mr. President. As you travel about the country and go among the people, are you confident now that they believe in you and believe the things that you just said to me?
THE PRESIDENT. That's hard to say. No, I don't think there is an adequate degree of confidence in the strength of our country. I'm convinced that there is. But as I mentioned this morning in the Kennedy Library dedication, we had a series of things in the last 15 years or more that really shook the confidence of our people in our Nation, in one another, and particularly in government.
The Vietnam war was perhaps the most important single factor. The assassination of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., caused people to be deeply concerned about the societal structure in which we live. I would say the Watergate embarrassment and the deposing of an incumbent President caused Americans to doubt the integrity of their own Government.
And as far as the strength of our Nation was concerned, we've always thought that we were right, that our Nation fought noble battles, and we also thought that we would never lose. There are many people who doubt that the Vietnam war was a noble undertaking, and we lost; we didn't succeed in meeting the goals.
So, those kinds of factors, combined with 10 years of inflation and a realization that now we don't have as much to waste as we always thought we did-energy is a notable example—have caused us to stop and pause and say, "Where do we go next?" But in the going somewhere-next, we need not be afraid, because in spite of all those problems, our Government has survived; it has a basic integrity that's not going to be changed. We are sensitive about the needs of poor people and those who've been deprived in the past or have felt the rages of discrimination.
In addition to that, among the world of nations, we are reaching out. We've won new friends in the last few years that we never thought we'd get 15 or 20 years ago. Egypt, India, the People's Republic of China, Nigeria have moved toward us and away from the Soviet Union. So, we've been successful there.
And I believe that if we can resolve the energy question, which I think we can, and let people see that it's not an unpleasant experience or a great sacrifice or a permanent inconvenience when we save instead of waste, I think that our Nation can survive this present series of challenges, as we have for the last 200 years. I've got complete confidence in the people of our country and in the strength of our institutions.
MR. FOELL. Mary.
AMERICAN STANDARD OF LIVING
MS. RICHARDSON. Mr. President, you've been talking about inflation. This past week Paul Volcker, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, said that Americans must accept a lower standard of living if the inflation rate is to be controlled. Why should people be asked to accept a lower standard of living? Isn't that the job of government, to control inflation? And how can you ask people who had very little to do with the causes behind inflation to tighten their belts?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't agree with Paul Volcker. I think I know more about the people of this country than he does. I think I know more about the Nation than he does. And I'm not sure what he meant. In my own experience, in dealing with the people through the press and making an offhand statement, quite often a statement can be taken out of context and distorted from the intention of the speaker's that the speaker had when he made it. This may be the case with Paul.
If he meant that Americans can no longer avoid saving, then I think he's right. If a person measured a standard of living by saying, "I've got to be able to drive 75 miles an hour in a large, fancy, heavy automobile by myself," then he's right. Americans are already beginning to decide we've got to use public transportation when it's available, we ought to have three or four people in a car instead of one, we ought to obey the speed limit, and we're shifting toward smaller and more efficient automobiles. So, in that case he would be right. It depends on what the person thinks is a standard of living.
Let's take another example. I think in people's homes we're talking a lot about the cost of home heating oil. The average family can do more than I can. We're going to provide about $200 to help poor families pay heating bills during the winter. It'll pay a substantial portion of the increase in cost, but that family can do a lot more than that if they insulate their homes, keep the doors shut, put weatherization on the windows, if they hold their thermostats at a reasonable level. They can save a lot more than I've just described to you with their own actions. And people might say, "Well, I don't want to cut the thermostat down, therefore, my standard of living has been decreased."
So, I believe that the American people have a strength and the resiliency to take care of these changes in our lives when we do have limits that we didn't have before without lowering the quality of a life. I like to think about families who in the future will walk more and maybe ride bicycles more, maybe stay home more, maybe go on picnics more, or maybe drive a little slower. These kind of things cannot only be enjoyable instead of a pain, but they can also be patriotic at the same time.
So, there are ways to have a good life, even a better life without wasting so much. And if Paul Volcker meant that, I agree with him; otherwise I don't.
TAX CREDITS FOR ENERGY CONSERVATION
Ms. RICHARDSON. You mentioned weatherization, and, of course, here in New England that's very important.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, it is.
MS. RICHARDSON. At present there are no Federal programs, there are no incentives for multiunit buildings; in other words, buildings where there are apartments, townhouses. There are plenty of incentives for the homeowner. There are presently a million dwellings in Massachusetts. Half of those are multiunit dwellings, and yet there are no incentives for the owner of an apartment building, say, to begin a weatherization process. Do you have any plans to offer programs in that area?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, this proposal is in Congress now, and I hope it will pass. As you know, we had to walk before we could run, and a year ago, or 6 months ago, it was almost impossible to get any American citizen, much less the Congress, to agree that we really had an energy problem. But we did last year get tax credits for homeowners to insulate their homes and to get credit for it when they paid their income tax. I think about 9 percent of all the families in the United States took advantage of that opportunity last year.
My guess is that with higher heating oil brought on us by OPEC oil prices, that more families will take advantage of that in 1979 and even more in 1980. But that program should be extended so that renters of multifamily homes would benefit from the weatherization of their apartments. And I think we ought to let that program go forward. I believe the Congress will favorably consider that.
MR. FOELL. Chris.
SUPPORT FROM CONSTITUENCY GROUPS
MR. LYDON. Mr. President, 4 and 5 years ago you and I used to talk at rather great length about who was for you and against you in 1976.
In office, it has seemed that your relations have eroded with a lot of the core constituencies of the Democratic party, including the black leadership, union leadership, Jewish leadership, liberals, environmentalists, and others, particularly against Senator Kennedy in 1980.
What—in political terms that you and I have talked about before—what is the Carter coalition? Or do you think you can win without a constituency coalition, so to speak?
THE PRESIDENT. Chris, first of all, I wouldn't want the viewers of this program to be misled. The fact that you and I discussed this 3 or 4 years ago does not necessarily imply that we agreed 3 or 4 years ago.
MR. LYDON. No. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I would say that we disagreed more than we agreed. And I don't agree with your basic premise now. I don't think we've lost that constituency group or those groups. In some cases, maybe so.
Obviously when a President or a Governor or a mayor is in office, and there are disappointments by some people, there are programs that don't quite work, or when unforeseen or uncontrollable economic circumstances sweep across a city or a nation, the incumbent officeholder is the one to be blamed, particularly if there's no campaign underway. Then when the campaign takes place, like in Boston, or like it was in Massachusetts a year or two ago, in 1976, the people start saying, "Which one of these two people can I best trust?"
I would say, for instance, in Miami, where we just had a test vote a week or so ago, is a good example. I wouldn't say that it was an accurate mirror of the whole Nation, but there are heavy populations there of Jewish citizens, Hispanics, blacks, as well as others, and we did very well in all those constituency groups in a sharp, highly publicized test of political strength. I can't predict what will happen in the future, but I think that that shows that we've not lost those basic strengths.
And if you remember correctly, in 1976 I would say one of our most significant political victories was in Pennsylvania. All of the labor unions, the leaders and so forth, were for Senator Jackson. But we carried Pennsylvania overwhelmingly, because the workers, members of those unions and others, voted for me.
I think we've got a much better relationship now with the labor leaders and their members than we did during the 1976 campaign. They've gotten to know me; I've gotten to know them. They've seen what we've done. We've got an almost perfect record, I have as President, and my administration, on labor issues, that they've actually been able to observe for the last 2 1/2 years.
So, I wouldn't yield to anyone on the ability to attract those really valuable constituency .groups that you named.
MR. LYDON. A quick followup. I wasn't talking about sort of the grinding disappointments of everyday life, but, for example, the more articulate disappointment of the environmental groups, with your decision on the Tellico Dam, for example, who felt not just that it was a little disappointment, but they had misjudged your whole emphasis or that you had misled them.
THE PRESIDENT. Last year, among the coalition of environmental groups, I was given the award as the outstanding environmentalist in the Nation. And it was pointed out by them—not by me, but by them—that not since Theodore Roosevelt had there been a President who had done as much to preserve environmental quality and to protect the precious qualities of life of American people. Just a couple of months ago, I was given the Environmentalist of the Year Award by the Florida Coalition of Environmentalists.
On that one decision, I can't say that it attracted the approval of environmentalists. It was a difficult thing for me. I had fought that dam for 2 1/2 years. The Congress had passed approval of that dam over my opposition. They had already attached an amendment to a continuing resolution which I could not veto, perpetuating the Tellico Dam.
I was and am now interested in making sure that the Endangered Species Act is passed, and I believe that we picked up a lot of support that we would not have gotten because of that particular incident. Also, the small endangered fish had been transferred to another place where they are thought by the specialists to be presently protected.
In Alaska, for instance, in spite of congressional intransigence we have taken action, which is going to stand, to protect 115 million acres of valuable land from exploitation and destruction, perhaps. And I think that our environmental record is very good. I don't have any apology to make about that.
But a President has to make decisions that are close calls and which almost invariably alienate some interest group at that particular time. The totality of a record, though, is one that has to be assessed by a particular interest group, and sometimes I just have to say, well, that interest group will have to be against me. I'm doing what I think is best for this country.
MR. LYDON. Could I sneak in one quick local environmental question? You know we have enormously valuable fishing grounds off the Massachusetts coast on Georges Bank.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MR. LYDON. The Interior Department is still determined to sell oil-drilling leases on October 29 against some public and private suits in the State.
The question is why the Interior Department has not taken more formal notice of the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and why you, with the environmental sensitivities that you have or have had, have not spoken on that matter specifically.
THE PRESIDENT. If I had to choose between protecting the fisheries industry off Massachusetts or having oil exploration, I would say zero oil exploration. I would protect the fisheries industry, because it's permanent. That's not the choice we have to make. We can have both if it's handled properly.
We have very carefully assessed the regions on the Georges Bank and excluded from any leasing the most valuable areas, and I think Cecil Andrus, the Secretary of Interior, has done a very good job. I haven't studied the maps and the charts—I haven't been out there—but I trust him.
In addition, I believe, if I'm not wrong, that very well respected environmental leaders of Massachusetts have also approved what decision we have made, I believe, including the Members of the Congress, including Senator Tsongas and also Senator Kennedy.
So, I believe that we can have very carefully controlled exploration for oil and at the same time protect the extremely valuable, much more valuable fisheries industry.
U.S. FOREIGN POLICY
MR. FOELL. We've talked about defense, but we haven't talked about foreign policy on a broader scale, Mr. President. Both you and your foreign policy advisers have denied that there's going to be any impeding of your ability to conduct foreign policy because of the early start of the campaign.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MR. FOELL. What incentive does a leader of another country—let's take a PLO leader, for instance—have not to wait until he sees how John Connally might do in the primaries? What incentive does an Israeli leader have not to wait and see how Senator Kennedy. does in the primaries? What's to keep them from holding back?
THE PRESIDENT. It would be a mistake to think that our country is the only one that faces election or changes in leadership. This takes place all over the democratic world and sometimes in the totalitarian world as well, and it's a part of the political structure of foreign policy with which we have to live every day.
We have, I think, been successful this first 2 1/2, going on 3 years, in dealing with some problems that were longstanding, and we will not slow down our efforts to spread the beneficent influence of this country and other countries because of a campaign.
Panama, the most difficult political challenge I have ever faced in my life-it was more difficult for me to get the Panama treaty passed and implementation legislation than to be elected President. That had been dragging 14 years. The SALT II treaty, which we signed, that had been dragging 7 years under three Presidents. Mideast peace had been dragging for 30 years, and we finally brought the two major protagonists together in a spirit of harmony and genuine, growing friendship. Opening up Africa to the good influence of our country and on a reciprocal basis, this had been never done before. We've done this in the short time I've been in office.
All those efforts and others will be continued. The strengthening of NATO, the handling of the energy shortages on a worldwide basis, the alleviation of world hunger, the dealing with the difficulties of refugees from Southeast Asia, the maintenance of peace—those kinds of things will continue through any election interval in an undisturbed way. And I might say that the prospective opponents that I might have next year are not the kind of people that would make foreign policy a major issue.
I might say that in 1968, when an incumbent President was challenged, it was because there was a deep philosophical difference between the challengers and the incumbent over whether we should or should not stay in the Vietnam war. And because of that, President Johnson decided not to run for reelection.
We don't have that kind of difference now. There are no major, deep, philosophical differences that divide me from any potential challenger. So, I don't believe that our Nation's movement toward a better influence for our country to be strong and at peace with other countries will be a factor in the upcoming election.
I think that John Connally's statements are not the kind that would at)peal to the American people. I don't think the American people would seriously consider that as a viable approach to the Mideast problem.
MR. FOELL. Tom.
MR. ELLIS. Mr. President, you made a statement a few moments ago that 6 months ago, it was hard to get Americans convinced that there was an energy shortage.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MR. ELLIS. The CIA told us this past week that by 1981 or '82, after the recession, we would have another gasoline shortage.
My question is, if we know this far in advance that there's going to be a gasoline shortage, why does there have to be one? And why can't the administration take steps right now to head it off?
THE PRESIDENT. We are taking steps. In the first place, the gasoline shortages that did exist in California first, and then on the east coast, that was the factor that convinced American people that we had to move on energy and also was a great factor in convincing the Congress to move.
We have been trying to get authority to develop a standby rationing plan for gasoline ever since I've been in office. The Congress has not yet acted.
This week, this past week, for the first time, the Senate voted a rationing plan through. And we hope that this coming week, if things go well, that the House will also vote to give me authority to develop a standby rationing plan so that if we do have a serious shortage, we can put it into effect and go for rationing. I hope we won't need it.
If the American people will continue to conserve gasoline with their driving habits and other ways, then we won't have the gasoline shortage that the CIA predicted. I think we can get by without a gasoline shortage. I can't maintain here or guarantee people that we will never have a localized shortage of gasoline, but we are moving toward that.
The programs that we are putting into existence now through congressional action that will be permanent have as their number one emphasis saving, conservation of energy. The second emphasis is on developing energy supplies in our own country which are permanent, from growing plants and directly from the Sun, for instance. The third emphasis is on utilizing plentiful supplies of other kinds of energy in our country, from shale oil, from coal. And the last part is, of course, to develop more rapidly and more thoroughly and to use more efficiently those common supplies of energy, like oil and natural gas, which we've already known.
We've made good progress in all those ways, and I believe that we will not have any serious gasoline shortages if American people do conserve, if we have a standby rationing plan, and if we do move away from imported oil toward a heavier dependence on our own energy sources.
MR. FOELL. Jim, we have just a few minutes left.
REVEREND JESSE JACKSON
MR. SCOTT. Mr. President, you mentioned the bringing together of the Egyptians and the Israelis after a 30-year conflict.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MR. SCOTT. And now we are seeing Reverend Jesse Jackson going to both areas and talking to these leaders, most especially the PLO leaders. Could this be an embarrassing situation for you? Is it embarrassing for you?
THE PRESIDENT. I can't say that it's embarrassing. The most embarrassing thing that I can think of is for me as a President of a free nation to try to interfere with the right of an American citizen to travel to a country of his choice and to meet with foreign leaders of his choice. This is a free country, and I don't have any control over Jesse Jackson. And if I tried to constrain him because he's black or because he might talk to some unpopular person, then the next thing that I might want to do is to try to keep Jewish citizens from going to Israel. This is a ridiculous thing to get involved in.
He has a right to go where he chooses, to talk to whom he chooses. The foreign leaders have a right to talk to him. It's not embarrassing to me. And I think the thing that we have to depend on is the sound judgment of the American people ultimately to resolve a controversial issue of this kind. I've met with large numbers of Jewish citizens, large numbers of black citizens; they talk to me very frankly.
Jesse Jackson did not go at my instigation, he did not go to represent me, he does not represent me. I've got myself, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and Robert Strauss specifically charged with trying to bring about permanent peace in the Mideast, to protect the security of Israel, to let that nation live in peace with its neighbors, and to legitimately solve the rights or to honor the rights of the Palestinian people. I don't need private citizens to negotiate for me, and I don't permit them to. But they have a right to do as they choose as free people, and I would protect that right.
MR. FOELL. IS Mr. Strauss making headway?
THE PRESIDENT. I think so; I believe he's making as much headway as anyone can. But now we are really, for the first time, letting, to a maximum degree, the Egyptians and Israelis negotiate with one another, which is what we wanted from the beginning. We come in and help when they ask us to.
MR. FOELL. I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but our time is up. Mr. President, thank you for joining us today.
Questioning the President have been Tom Ellis of WCVB-TV, Channel 5 in Boston, Jim Scott of WBZ, Channel 4, Mary Richardson of WNAC, Channel 7, and Christopher Lydon of WGBH, Channel 2. I'm Earl Foell of the Christian Science Monitor. Thank you for joining us.
Note: The question-and-answer session began at 12:50 p.m. in the Volpe International Terminal at Logan Airport. It was taped for broadcast on October 21.
The transcript of the interview was released on October 21.
Jimmy Carter, Boston, Massachusetts Question-and-Answer Session With Newspaper and Television Reporters. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248138