Jimmy Carter photo

Cleveland, Ohio Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fund-raising Reception.

September 16, 1980

It's delightful for me and very gratifying for me to come back to this beautiful home of Milt's and Roslyn's. I've visited them in their other home in Austria. Rosalynn's been here, as you well know, and some of you have attended all three of these events, which have been very gratifying to us and very helpful to us.

We have had kind of a social problem with the Wolfs. We wanted to return their hospitality and have them to the White House. We didn't know if they were prepared for roughing it after living here in this community. [Laughter] But with their genuine sacrificial nature, they condescended to come and be with us at the White House, and that was indeed a delightful thing for us.

They've also been at the White House for some notable events, and we were with them for a notable event. Also I want to say that it's important to us to have strong support from many of you, and I hope that in this year 5741 [Jewish New Year] you'll help me be reelected President again.

I'm very glad that Dennis Eckart is here. It's hard to envision anyone taking Charlie Vanik's place, but when you have a bright, young, aggressive, successful, sensitive political leader on the horizon who can serve this district for many, many years in the future, I hope that you won't forgo an opportunity to give him every possible support in these next few weeks as well. Dennis, good luck to you.

I just came from Mary Rose Oakar's district. I always feel at home there. She is indeed one of the sterling leaders of our country. She's a person who represents, in my opinion, the essence of America. She's looked upon as being kind of a symbol of the heterogeneity of our society but still the unity of the different ethnic groups in our country that comprises a major element of our strength. We've never been afraid of differences among us. We've always been very proud of preserving the heritage that makes us individually unique, and at the same time we've been able to meld ourselves together in kind of a mosaic that's both beautiful and very strong. And I'm grateful for Mary Rose for being one of my good and close friends.

In her district, the best speech that was made was by Howard Metzenbaum. It really did reassure me that my judgment is sound. He pointed out to the audience that of all the United States Senators-and there are a hundred of them, as you know—that he had the highest percentage of support for the President's proposals of all the Senators. That shows my judgment is good, and, Howard, I'm grateful to you.

In 1976, when I was here before, Howard was with me and also John Glenn. I just got off the phone with John, coming in here. He gave me exactly the same message he gave Milt Wolf to show his staunchness and his integrity. He said he was sorry he couldn't be here. He missed being with me to show his support and being with his friends—all of you. And the next time I come to Ohio to campaign he'd be at my side to let everyone know that he was giving me his full support in my reelection campaign. So, I'm very grateful to the congressional delegation that you have now and to those that you will have in the future to work with me in Washington.

I'm just going to say two things tonight, and I'll be fairly brief. I'm concluding a 2-day campaign effort in Corpus Christi, Texas, and in Houston, in Atlanta and its environs, and also in Greenville, South Carolina, and that area, and now, here. And I'll be going back to Washington tonight to be with Rosalynn later on this evening.

It's been a very exciting trip, and I tried to make two points almost everywhere I've been. One is about the Presidency itself.

I have the highest elective office in the world and one that's most revered by the 240 million or so people who live in this country. We know that the shape of our Nation is decided to a major degree in the Oval Office, working with other leaders like those I've already acknowledged here who serve in the Congress. The decisions that come to the Oval Office are very difficult ones. The answers are not easy to find. The problems are the greatest of all in our country.

If the answers are easy or if the problems are soluble or if the obstacles can be overcome anywhere else, they never come to the Oval Office. They're solved in a person's own decision or within a family structure in a home or in a county courthouse or a city hall or State legislature or a Governor's office. They don't come to me. But the ones that get there are crucial.

This election in 1980 is a decision, not just between two men who have the sharpest possible differences in attitude toward major issues and basic political philosophy, two parties which are further apart now in their platforms than I remember since I've been alive—but also the Republican nominee and his philosophy, as expressed in the platform, is a radical departure from what the Republican Party has stood for in modern times.

I was at Milt and Roslyn's home, the Embassy in Austria, when we negotiated the SALT II treaty. Eisenhower was for nuclear arms control. All the Republican Presidents since then were for nuclear arms control. Every Democratic President since Truman have been for nuclear arms control. To give up the thought that we could have so-called nuclear superiority-because when you adopt a policy of nuclear superiority, it means that you cannot negotiate mutual and balanced restraints or reductions—and for us to abandon the hope or the prospect of having nuclear weapons controlled in our own country, in the Soviet Union, and particularly among those nations that don't have nuclear weapons yet, that is indeed a radical departure in the prospects for peace in the future.

I don't want to be misunderstood. I'm not insinuating that my opponent is for war and against peace. But it's important for Americans to make a judgment on whether we should have this departure become part of our Nation's philosophy and commitment. I think it would be a devastating change. A President has good advisers—the best. I can make my choices from anywhere on Earth. I would put my Cabinet choices up against any Cabinet that's ever served this country—men and women of sound judgment representing our Nation accurately. But I've also learned that the most difficult decisions, the ones of most vital consequence to our Nation's well-being are almost invariably those on which my advisers divide almost equally, some saying yes, almost an equal number saying no. The ultimate decision has to be made in the Oval Office and in a proposal made to the Congress that requires congressional action or an executive decision by me.

After the Camp David accords were hammered out, almost exactly 2 years ago, at Camp David, there was a delay in carrying out the mutual commitment by Begin and Sadat and myself that there would be a Mideast peace treaty. You remember this well. We met, a small group in the Oval Office. I told them that I had gotten up quite early that morning, and I had decided to go to Jerusalem and to Cairo to make one last effort to bring about a treaty between the two nations. I don't believe any of my advisers agreed at first, because it was such an obvious public thing, and the failure would be so highly publicized around the world. But I felt that it was crucial not just to Israel and to Egypt and to the Mideast neighbors but also crucial to our country to have stability there and to have, for the first time since Israel was founded, the strongest, most powerful, most influential Arab country certify a commitment to peace.

And now when I see tourists traveling back and forth between Cairo and Alexandria and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and see the negotiations being carried on between Ambassadors assigned because those two nations recognize one another diplomatically, and see trade slowly building up, the Foreign Minister of Israel being wined and dined in Cairo just this week, and seeing that people facing each other across a negotiating table instead of across barbed wire, it sends a thrill through my heart, for the Presidency itself ultimately depends upon a person, with good advisers, including many of you in this room, who want to shape our Nation and what it is.

And the other thing I want to mention to you is the future, the Presidency and the future.

The future of this country will be decided on November 4. I don't say that in derogation of my opponent. It's a fact, because what happens the next few years, the next 4 years, with a possible reelection prospect in 1984, will shape the road that our Nation will follow for the rest of this century. Will we have a deep, continuing commitment to democracy, to freedom, to human rights, to civil rights, to the honoring of principles of compassion and concern among the people who've not been quite so fortunate as we? Will there be a choice of administrative officials, regulatory officials, justices on the Supreme Court, judges on the Federal bench, compatible with the principles and ideals that permeate your life or not? That judgment will be made on November 4.

Will we be able to build upon what we've accomplished in the last 3 years with Howard Metzenbaum's help and with Rose Oakar's help in energy or will we not?

Three years before I became President, our oil imports from the OPEC nations increased 44 percent. Since I've been in office, although we had some delay in passing all the legislation, oil imports have decreased 24 percent. Today and every day this year our country is importing from overseas 2 million barrels less of oil. We recognize the importance of this economically, because we not only import oil, we also import inflation and unemployment. But there's another strategic element here that ought not to be forgotten.

Who will be the next Secretary of Energy? Who will be the next Secretary of State? Who will be the next Secretary of the Treasury, to make those basic decisions about who will influence our Nation's foreign policy? Will the oil companies again have their fingers intimately entwined in the shaping of policy, or will the American consumer who has just recently found an equal voice in the Congress, as Howard Metzenbaum well knows, continue to shape the policy for our country? This is crucial to you and to every family in our Nation.

We have not damaged the energy industry in this country. This year, 1980, we will drill more oil and natural gas wells than any year in history, and you'll be surprised, perhaps, to know that this year we will produce more American coal than any year in history. And we're just on the verge of taking advantage of this base or foundation that we've laid to completely revitalize the entire American economic system.

I have a philosophy that I believe that you, most of you, would share. I think the intrusion of the Federal Government into the free enterprise system of our country ought to be minimal. I believe in intense competition, and as I believe in the worth of an individual human being and the freedom for that individual, I also believe in the freedom of our competitive business and financial system.

We have made great strides. We've changed the relationship between Government and industry more in the last 3 1/2 years than ever before since the early years of the New Deal. We've deregulated the airlines, deregulated trucking, deregulated the financial institutions. This is extremely important to us. And at the same time we now are ready, as we have been successful in the 1970's, in the late years, in having an energy policy evolve. We never had one before; now we are ready to devote the 1980's to building on that foundation, with economic and diplomatic freedom, yes, but also to make sure that the American workers have up-to-date, modern, efficient tools and factories with which to work. Nobody knows more vividly than do I, than the steel industry, the automobile industry, the coal industry, and others. We are suffering from change, which is inevitable, and we don't want to stop change. Americans have never been afraid of change. And now to take advantage of that change, which is inevitable, is part of the American character.

I've been in a couple of factories just recently, and I'll be brief about this. Last week I was in a little factory in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, a steelplant. The Federal Government helped to get it started, put up a $12 million guarantee on a loan. It won't cost us a nickel. The plant cost $140 million. We formerly shipped scrap iron and steel overseas. It was processed and made into steel rods and things, and we bought it back. They take scrap metal and make high quality steelrods. A 3/8-inch rod comes out of that mill 18,000 feet a minute. They bind it up into bundles that weigh about a ton each and sell it. Half the total product of that mill is now going to the People's Republic of China. Every worker in that plant, including the president, produces more steel per year than in any other steelplant on Earth. And we can take that American produced steel and ship it halfway around the world to China cheaper than the Japanese with their most modern plant can produce steel and ship it a few hundred miles. That's the kind of thing that's the forerunner of what's going to happen here.

Coincidentally—not coincidentally-that plant produces every ton of steel with 30 percent of the energy used in most of the steelplants in our country. That's the kind of thing that can be done.

I went to a textile mill in South Carolina today. The same sort of modernization, using an old building by the way, is keeping Americans at work. The last 2 years—this is a strange thing, but interesting-the last 2 years with a new textile policy we have increased American exports-listen to this—of textiles $2 billion, and we now import 800,000 yards of textiles less than we did 2 years ago.

Tomorrow I'm going to sign a textile agreement with the People's Republic of China and three other agreements. We've got a billion new friends in China to whom we can sell American products and who will be our allies and friends in other matters, not military yet, not military perhaps in the future, but trying to keep stability in that part of the world. This is the kind of thing that portends a good future for Americans, if we have the competence and the unity and the commitment and the dynamism and the vision that's always been a characteristic of the people who live in this blessed country.

The OPEC nations all put together have 6 percent of the world's energy reserves. We've got 24 percent here waiting to be tapped. And some of the coal that can't be burned efficiently now without very expensive scrubbers will in the future be made into clean-burning oil and gas under a tremendous investment that will inevitably be made with the windfall tax funds in synthetic fuels. Ten times as many homes now use solar power as did just 4 years ago.

When I was in Corpus Christi, I pointed out that our trade with Mexico is three times as much now as it was 4 years ago-unbelievable statistics. We're selling them 10 million tons of American grain this year, just to one country, and it's growing. Mexico, you might be interested in knowing, is the third most important trade partner that we have now.

The last point I want to make is this: With this confidence and strength in our country we can extend the benefits overseas. For 8 years before I became President, the commitment to American defense in real dollars went down, down, down. Since I've been in office we've reversed that trend. Every year since I've been there we've increased in real dollars, above and beyond inflation, our investment in American defense. It's still very modest, about 5 percent of our gross national product. But it's paying dividends, because with that strength we have been able to maintain peace, and we've been able to extend that peace to others, including the Middle East, which I've already mentioned to you. That must continue.

But American strength does not depend just on defense budgets. The best weapon that a country can have is one that's never fired to kill another human being; and the best soldier that we can have is one that never dies in war. Our country is at peace, and to keep our Nation at peace, through strength, is important to me and you.

I remember 1968, when America had a decision to make: Nixon versus Humphrey. Humphrey ran a courageous campaign; I'm sure many of you helped him-not enough—and he narrowly lost. It was a turning point in our Nation's history. In 1960 if 28,000 people in Texas had voted the other way and just a few thousand in Illinois, John Kennedy would never have been President. This is another one of those crucial election years.

I'll do all I can. Fritz Mondale, who speaks for me, will do all he can. The Cabinet will work hard. My wife will work hard. My children will work hard. But the outcome of the election will depend on people like you who have been blessed with material benefits and great influence among your friends and neighbors, and with an insight into what our Nation is and what it has been and what it can be, that perhaps is well above average. And I hope that you will join me and Fritz Mondale in this next few weeks in bringing about a victory not because of a personal sense or desire of gratification for myself, but because I genuinely believe that our Nation is at a turning point. And I want it to turn or continue on the same good road toward strength, humanity, compassion, concern, progress, education, a better life, a better industrial commitment, more freedom, more unity, and a continuation of peace.

That's what's at stake, and that's why I'm so deeply grateful to all of you for joining in with me in shaping the future of the greatest nation on Earth.

Note: The President spoke at 7:02 p.m. outside the home of Ambassador Milton Wolf.

Jimmy Carter, Cleveland, Ohio Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fund-raising Reception. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251177

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