empty podium for debate

Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate at Columbia University in New York City

March 28, 1984


Senator Gary Hart (CO);

Reverend Jesse Jackson (NC); and

Former Vice President Walter Mondale


Dan Rather (CBS-News)

RATHER: Good evening and welcome. For a year that was supposedly so politically predictable, 1984 has turned out to be anything but. With that in mind, with the New York primary less than a week away, with the Pennsylvania primary less than two weeks away and with the field of Democratic candidates whittled down now to three, we believe this to be a good time to try to sort some things out, try to shed some light on the developing campaign.

Around this table we hope not to get pat answers, not to get prepackaged responses. We hope to have meaningful straight talk, a dialogue among three men who aspire to one of the highest honors and the most responsibility that the people of the United States can bestow.

The fundamental responsibility of the President is to lead. With that in mind, we selected as our theme for tonight - leadership. That is the thread with which we hope to knit together this debate.

Now, gentlemen, I'll ask each of you the same questions. You'll have the opportunity to reply. If you find yourself in disagreement with your opponents, we will certainly try to make time for that as well.

Now you've already shaken hands, so let's come out debating.


Chief Weakness

Q: Mr. Hart, the first question to you. We all know that knowing one's strength is important for a leader and understandably you and the others have talked a great deal about your strength during the campaign. But it's also important to know your weaknesses. What do you consider to be the one main weakness of you as a person?

HART: Well, in terms of my qualifications for President, I would like to have spent more time in the past 10 years traveling around the world becoming acquainted with foreign leaders. I have had an opportunity to do a good deal of that, I think some 20 countries, twice to the People's Republic of China and once to the Soviet Union. And I've made a point particularly of locating those leaders who will be the leaders of the 1980's and 90's in their political party and in their nation. and in that experience I have begun to realize that this country is in fact changing and the world is changing, our policies of the past are not working.

I would have hoped over those 10 years that the duties of the Senate would have permitted more of that international contact but I think what I have certainly prepares me for the Presidency.

Q: Mr. Jackson, what do you consider to be your main weakness as a person?

JACKSON: I suppose the greatest weakness has been the inability to get to the broad American public the idea of going on the offensive relative to the problems, as opposed to defensive ways.

For these past few years we have struggled so diligently to raise the issues of social justice in ways of being inoffensive and a lot of times, for example, trying to get this nation to see the advantage of enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. We haven't been able to do that. I really don't think I have but I keep struggling to that end. Our policies relating to the third world have been inadequqte and insensitive. I've struggled diligently during this campaign to get more focus on South Africa, for example. and third-world problems and seemingly it's difficult to break through. I feel some need to keep pressing these issues and raising them and somehow I feel that I have not yet been able to accomplish that.

Q: If I may, Mr. Jackson, the question that we hear as a person less than a politician. As a person what do you consider your principal weakness?

JACKSON: Well, to that extent my personal weakness is my inability to get my basic points across. And of course it comes down to the inability to communicate in one level adequately to get the views out. I think, Dan, that when you raise a question like what our weaknesses are, I spend so much time on maximizing my few strengths. I don't have a lot of dialogue about my weaknesses.

Q: Mr. Mondale?

MONDALE: I would think that one of my most difficult problems is that I've been in public life for a long time. I was elected Attorney General - became Attorney General - in 1960, served as Attorney General, served 12 years in the Senate, four years as Vice President of the United States - and you pick up a lot of scars. And while I personally believe that that experience is indispensable to effective leadership - that going through these battles are important to the training, to the sure-footedness necessary for your future - I would say up until this time I've been unable to effectively argue that case.

People still believe that you're tied to the past. I do not think that's the case at all. And that is one of the difficulties I have. I hope to overcome it. I think I am, but it's one of the difficulties that I face.

Asking Sacrifice

Q: To unite a people, to unite a country, the essence of leadership, part of it, at least, is to be able to get individuals to sacrifice for the greater common good. Let's talk about sacrifice. I ask you, if you will, to be specific. What would be the principal sacrifice that you would ask of individual Americans if elected President, Mr. Jackson?

JACKSON: I suppose, inasmuch as I think that our future is built around developed minds, as opposed to guided missiles, I would go straight to education. And for young people, it means the commitment to put education over entertainment as a basic life style - to teach them that the laws of convenience lead to collapse, the laws of sacrifice lead to greatness. And one of our problems now is that in addition to a crisis in opportunity - whereas Mr. Reagan's cutback on Head Start and food stamp programs and breakfast and lunch programs - young America is still watching an average of five hours of TV a night. The same kind of sacrifice that makes us winners in the Olympics and the motor skills can make us winners in the academics and the cognitive skills.

And so the sacrifice really begins in young America. That is to say that we must fight for opportunity, which is what the Government can afford, but effort must always exceed opportunity. The greatness to become doctor, lawyer, nurse, judge, architect, builder, lies in the willingness to engage in short-term pain for long-term pleasure.

Q: Mr. Mondale, what would be the first sacrifice you would ask about?

MONDALE: One of the examples that I would like to see repeated all over this country was one that I was involved in. A few years ago the Chrysler Company was going broke. Management-labor was growling at each other, the Government was watching from the sidelines. As Vice President I worked to get them together, and it was really a thrilling experience because it's something they wanted to do but never did. The labor, the workers gave up $1.3 billion in wages. Management, for example, Mr. Iacocca worked for $1 a year. The American people extended a loan of over $1 billion. Everybody put something in the pot. And out of it came one of the great success stories of modern times.

All through the American economy we have industries that are very important to our future - steel, rubber, basic industries which are in trouble. And as President of the United States, I'd like to get everybody together to cooperate, to put something in the pot, to forgo some short-term benefits in order to make everyone of those fundamental industries totally competitive in the world again. And that means competition.

Q: Mr. Hart, do you agree with that as the principal sacrifice?

HART: I would state it differently. In a period of transition and change, what the nation has to do is forgo its individual special benefits and interests and unite behind the national interest. I'll come to the Chrysler instance because Fritz and I have a fundamental disagreement as to whether or not that was the pattern, as to what ought to be sacrificed.

What we have fragmented is this society in a period of plenty. And as we have benefited, as the entire pie has grown, people have carved out their special slice of that pie. And then the pie quit growing in the 1970's.

It led to the whole period of bailouts, not just Chrysler but Lockheed and others. And what we didn't have at that time was political leadership which said to people, not just company by company, Lockheed, Penn Central, Chrysler: "We're going to step in. We, the Government, the taxpayers, are going to step in and bail this company out."

What we didn't have was the anticipation of the tremendous tides and changes in the world. International competition, the decline of our own industries, the shift of our own base from manufacturing to services.

And because of that lack of leadership we're now in a terrible bind, and this President is dividing this country even further.

I don't think the Chrysler bailout is the proper pattern for the kind of sacrifice this country needs. If that package had been presented as an entire industrywide agreement, perhaps, but it wasn't. It was a failed company poorly managed. Its workers would have been protected under other management.

And I think it was an instance of trying to patch up a leaking boat of the past rather than pull the ship of state out of the water and overhaul that boat altogether, that ship altogether. I think we're going to have to have a President who will say no to individual interests, including some of those constituency interests in the Democratic Party, and identify with a clear national vision what is the national interest and say to the American people, "You must unite behind this national interest if our country is to make it."

Q: Mr. Jackson, I gather you disagree with that?

JACKSON: I think that we have to deal with the extremes. On the one hand, if a leaking boat has 600,000 American jobs in it, that's a boat worth saving. There must be enough flexibility to relate the specifics with the principal. The principal should be not to go around just bailing ships per se, but one with 600,000 jobs in it is worth saving.

On the other hand, when Chrysler was saved that was not the obligation. Therefore you did not have shared sacrifice. To that extent, Chrysler has now made a profit and Iacocca is a hero. But there are 15 plants still closed, there are still 22,000 workers without their jobs. Chrysler still has 2,200 dealerships, less than 10 are owned by blacks or Hispanics. And so once they made their profit, there was no obligation to lift the boats stuck at the bottom.

Q: Senator, you had your hand --

MONDALE: Yes, one point: Chrysler is the highest percentage minority employees of any member of the auto industry. And one of the reasons I worked so hard to try to save that company was the appeal by minority leaders around that if that went down in cities like Detroit, and so on, the best employer that they had was going to lose out. And so I think that it was very important from that standpoint as well.

I wanted to make another point, however, with respect to Senator Hart: Senator Hart's position on this - like so many other things - is that when Chrysler needed help, he voted against them because he wanted to do more. But the fact of it is Chrysler needed help right then. Some of us stood up and made the difference.

The second point I wanted to make is that when we talk about sacrifice, some people have already sacrificed terribly in this economy with their jobs, with unfair taxes, with the retreat - and they, middle- and moderate-income Americans, have taken it on the chin from this Administration, while other industries have made out just impressively.

And one of the key fights about who was going to sacrifice and whether it was going to be fair in America was the windfall profits tax. That's where - in that issue we were talking about whether a quarter-of-a-trillion dollars that the American people were paying would go to big oil or whether it would be part of the public treasury to be used for public purposes.

Only eight Democrats voted with big oil, and one of them was Gary Hart. I think that's a good example where sacrifice and fairness was at stake, where we should've stood up to powerful interests and one of my opponents did not.

HART: Well, I have to respond to that if I may. Vice President Mondale doesn't always characterize the record accurately. The crisis this country faced in the 1970's, as you all recall, was our over-reliance on foreign supplies of oil. The Carter-Mondale Administration tried desperately to figure out what a policy should be, and that included, among other things, a tariff on imported oil. I was one of the 13 that voted for that and are now being attacked for it. But also, what we needed to make ourselves independent of foreign supplies of oil was production in this country. I proposed, as opposed to a Carter windfall profit tax, a 100 percent tax on existing oil supplies. The major oil companies, as Fritz Mondale knows, desperately opposed that, and also in that package, incentives for production of new supplies so this country would not get itself into war in the Persian Gulf, which I thought was the Carter-Mondale policy in the 1970's.

MONDALE: I've got to have one comment on that, if I . . .

Q: Mr. Jackson?

JACKSON: On the one hand, when Gary is willing to forgo certain specific crises - a crisis, by definition an emergency situation, must be spoken to specifically. But our auto, steel, electronics, rubber, textile and agricultural industry is in trouble. Since it's the backbone of our nation, it's worth a bailout. On the other hand, what is the obligation to the bailed out? If they get a tax break there must be an obligation with that break to reinvest in this economy and re-industrialize this economy and retrain this work force. If they're bailed out with our loans and bailed out with our tax breaks and then ship our jobs to cheap labor markets abroad, that indeed serves limited interests.

Therefore, if we allow these companies to take our tax dollars, our consumer dollars, and then acquire and merge and get these interest-free loans, on the one hand, take our jobs to cheap labor markets in South Africa, Taiwan, Singapore, on the other, then we just have jobs in a very limited sense. There is no future in that. Jobs are not enough even for minorities. For everybody to have a job - that is not enough, you know, we have to have some capacity to produce and have self-respect and self-government. I do not look forward to everybody being employed with a Japanese or European boss. What makes a superpower a superpower is the ability to produce and consume and distribute jobs as well.

Q: Gentlemen, I do want to move on to something else. Mr. Mondale - briefly, you wanted to respond?

MONDALE: Yes. This is a typical response by Gary Hart, because when the vote was needed as to whether a quarter of a trillion dollars of the public's money would go to big oil or remain in the public treasury, Gary Hart voted with big oil. Then he said, but I've got another plan. But another plan doesn't mean anything. It's known as a get-well amendment in the trade. After you've voted wrong, you introduce an amendment that has no hope, to get well. And we all know what it is when we needed him on one of the most fundamental issues of our time - the biggest deliberate transfer of public wealth to a big special interest - he voted with only eight Democrats to permit it.

HART: Mr. Rather, Mr. Mondale knows better than that. The amendment was offered beforehand - a 100 percent tax on existing oil supplies - higher than the Carter- Mondale Administration - and incentives to make this country independent of Persian Gulf oil. No, I have laid out an energy policy in this campaign and Vice President Mondale has not.

MONDALE: Yes I have.

HART: What he has said is we'll continue to rely on Persian Gulf oil and if necessary sacrifice American lives in a fight for that oil. I don't think we ought to lose American lives fighting for someone else's oil. Because a war in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf - all we'll get is war and we won't get oil. And we'll lose a lot of American lives in the process.

MONDALE: Don't worry about Walter Mondale and American lives. I'll stand strong on that. The issue that we were talking about is why you voted to give a quarter of a trillion dollars to big oil.

HART: No I didn't.

MONDALE: Somehow, then, The Congressional Record is a fraud, because you're recorded as one of eight Democrats to transfer a quarter of a trillion dollars --

HART: No, that was not the vote and you know it wasn't.

MONDALE: It wasn't? Everybody else thinks it is.

HART: Well, everybody doesn't think it is.

Q: We want to come back to domestic policy in a moment.

JACKSON: We can solve that through commercials.

Q: No commercial or other breaks in this broadcast, as we said in the beginning. Let me move on to foreign policy.

Incentives to the Soviets

Q: Effective leadership also means getting things done in the world as well as at home, particularly with the Soviet Union. Now President Reagan yesterday challenged you to tell us what incentive you expect to use to get the Soviets to the bargaining table - I'm reading from here because I want to get the quote from President Reagan direct. "Good will and sincerity will get them a smile and a glass of vodka. What incentives would you use to get them - the Soviets - to the bargaining table?" Now that's the quote from President Reagan, and I'd like to have a specific from you. What incentive would you use, Mr. Mondale, to get the Soviets to the bargaining table.

MONDALE: This is a classic example of why Mr. Reagan has to be removed. The fact of it is that we're building everything. We're building a B-1 bomber. We're building MX, we're building cruise missiles, we're building Tridents, we're building Pershing missiles, we're building ground-launch missiles, submarine- launch cruise missiles. We're building every conceivable kind of weapon, and we're spending, the defense budget, in excess of anything that makes sense or anything that's necessary to our defense.

There is an incentive. As different as is the Soviet system from ours - and it is profound - the incentive is that with a reasonable defense, they don't want to be destroyed and incinerated any more than the United States wants to. And past Presidents, from Kennedy, through Nixon, through Ford, through Johnson and Carter - everyone of them was able to make progress in arms control until this one.

Now here we are well beyond the third year of this Administration, all arms control talks broken off, a serious arms race under way. For over 25 years his theory is that arms control is weakness, when, in fact, sensible arms control is strength and essential to our survival and he's believed that an arms race leads to arms talks. What he has proven is that an arms race leads to an arms race. He has made this a less safe world and we need a President who knows what he is doing. On this, the most important issue of our time, the control of nuclear weapons.

Q: Mr. Hart, do you agree as to the principal incentive to get the Soviets to the bargaining table?

HART: Well, I don't think just rehearsing the record answers the question. I think the answer to the question is reasonableness. And that's not being exercised by this Administration.

The Soviets do have a self-interest in reducing nuclear weapons. We have to offer them a negotiating posture which demonstrates that we are willing to give up something for equal value on their side.

Fritz is right. This Administration has not done that. What it has done is use its bargaining posture as political rhetoric in an effort to increase hostility between ourselves and the Soviets. It wants to build every weapon.

Statements by key Administration officials indicate that they don't want to have any bargaining at all which is the Reagan position going into the 80's. Until they get the MX, until they get the B-1, until they get all the weapons systems. The Soviets are prepared, in my judgment, to achieve an interim agreement in Europe on the INF talks, intermediate range nuclear force talks, holding down or reducing SS-20's in exchange for a freeze on our deployment or perhaps reduction and I as President would be prepared to offer that agreement to them.

They tentatively accepted an agreement like that in 1982 and it was torpedoed, so far as I am able to tell, by this side. I think this country is strong enough to bargain. I think as we modernize and reform our conventional forces, which I support and have proposed in great detail, that takes enormous pressure off the nuclear deterrent as our principal bargaining position or our principal strength.

I think as we negotiate down nuclear weapons, we defend this country and its allies by the modernization and reform of our own military institutions and those of our NATO partners.

Q: Specifically, how do you intend to get the Soviets to the bargaining table, and a specific answer to President Reagan's statement?

JACKSON: The Soviets have a - I was waiting for one. The Soviets have a neutral interest in survival. The Second World War we lost about a half-million; they lost about 22 million people. They understand death real well. The Soviets are alive tonight because we decided not to kill them. And we're alive because they decided not to kill us.

We have no defense, it's simply deterrent. We are trusting each other without even talking with each other.

Since we have the capacity to overkill them many times and they want to live, that's the basis of mutual interest - a mutual desire to live. We need leadership that will step in the gap. We can kill you, you can kill us. Now let's focus on the ways to live, a peace policy: trade, agriculture, technology, reduce the tensions and then the moneys that are now being used in capital in tested killer weapons can be used to make our societies more profitable and more abundant.

And to me that's when we move from arguing about which is the latest strength of missiles as to who has - to begin to use leadership capacity to meet with the Soviet leadership any place, any time of day or night and meet until we get a new direction. When we get that new direction, we reduce the need. I cannot reconcile the raise in the military budget as Mr. Mondale and Mr. Hart want to do. You cannot have missiles in one hand and doves in the other. You must make a judgment. I choose to fight for a peace policy.

Freeze is the most important citizens' initiative in modern times to tell their Government that they'd had enough of flimflammery and to get on with the crucial issue of arms control. I was first, I was early, I was consistent and I know what I'm doing.

Q: Mr. Mondale. I'm sorry.

JACKSON: . , , didn't fall for that is because he may have been slow and that you were slow on coming out of Vietnam, and slow on the invasion in Grenada, and slow on the second primary system, which is impeding progressive progress in the South .

So the issue is not about who has a given weakness in a given point in time in my judgment. The issue is how can we deal with the Soviet Union. What must we have. We have - we inherit the capacity to destroy them. And their leadership, the capacity to destroy us. We inherit the negative. What shall we do with this power. Shall we reinforce it, shall we get bigger bangs for the buck or shall we, in fact, have the vision to go another way.

Q: Mr. Hart, if you will, a quick response, please.

HART: I'd like to respond because Vice President Mondale knows better than to say what he's saying.

MONDALE: I know exactly what I'm saying, Mr. Hart.

HART: Let me speak if I may. Thank you. While Vice President Mondale was generally silent through '81 and '82 on the issue of arms control, a number of us, including myself, were working out proposals that not only sought to halt the arms race but reverse it, including sharp reductions in the multiple warhead land- based systems which the Carter-Mondale Administration was promoting for four years, and build in crisis management, end proliferation of nuclear technology.

And the Carter-Mondale Administration, over the Nuclear Regulatory Administration's objections, sold enriched uranium and nuclear technology to India - that's increasing proliferation.

That SALT proposal was put forward before the freeze. There were those of us who were promoting a broad-based arms control agenda that, in fact, went farther than the freeze. And I sought throughout '82 and '83 to incorporate that freeze into that agenda.

Vice President Mondale knows that very well. He also knows that he is no more committed to arms control than I am.

Nuclear Arms

Q: Gentleman, I'm sorry. It's that point, I want to follow up on a question. Please. President Reagan has consistently refused to say that the United States of America would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in Western Europe. Are you willing, tonight, to say that we will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in Western Europe? Mr. Jackson.

JACKSON: I will be willing to say that we should not be the first to use nuclear weapons. I think that we have the time right now to make decisions the day before, so there will not be a day after.

That's why our leadership, while we still yet have time, must aggressively seek to meet with the head of the Soviet Union and avert that mutual disaster.

Because if we use it first, they have the capacity to respond. It's back again to mutual destruction, to mutual annihilation. So to me, first becomes irrelevant when both of us are simply six minutes away, or less, from destroying each other.

Q: Mr. Hart, are you willing to make that commitment?

HART: My recollection is that no administration has made that commitment, including the Carter- Mondale Administration and it's for this reason: We are not prepared at the present time to defend ourselves with conventional forces in Europe. We and our allies. Reverend Jackson and I disagree on the defense budget. I would like to be able to cut it 25 percent or some arbitrary amount myself. I don't think we can take the finger off the nuclear trigger in Europe or anywhere else without modernization of our conventional forces, not only ours but those of our allies as well. When that happens we will not have to rely on the nuclear deterrent and I will be prepared to say that we will not use it first.

Q: But you're not prepared to say that now?

HART: Not at the present time.

Q: Mr. Mondale.

HART: I wouldn't rule it in either.

MONDALE: What we need to do is to move away as quickly as we can from what's the first-use doctrine. That's what you're talking about. But to do that we need to have a conventional deterrent in Western Europe which is adequate. That's the reason that Kennedy and all the Presidents over the years have used the first-use doctrine. McNamara, Bundy and others have talked about the happy fact that we now have the state of the art, which, if we had strong leadership from the President, to strengthen the conventional deterrent in NATO very soon, over the next few years, we could drop what is a very embarrassing and dangerous doctrine called the first-use doctrine and that's why I have solidly supported that strong increase in conventional deterrent in order to drop the first-use doctrine.

Committing Troops

Q: Let me follow up on that phrase "conventional deterrent." Setting aside our traditional commitment to our traditional allies in Western Europe, where in the world is there anyplace in the world where you are prepared to commit America's conventional forces including ground troops? Mr. Hart?

HART: Well, a number of places. They're already committed in Europe under the NATO agreement, and I would fulfill that agreement to the fullest. That doesn't mean that we can't rearrange our relative burdens under that arrangement - under that alliance - and I have proposed some ways in which that can be done by agreement and by negotiation over a period of time. We have treaty obligations to the security of Korea. I think those have to be recognized. We have treaty obligations to the defense of Japan. We have treaty obligations to Australia and other nations. I am prepared fully to honor those treaty obligation.

There are others that have been around for a long time that may or may not deserve our continued support. We'd have to look at those. We have to defend this nation and its vital interests. That has been a moderate mainstream position since World War II and all Presidents, Republican and Democrat, have been prepared to meet those as I would as well. We cannot permit Soviet offensive systems in this hemiphere. President Kennedy was the first to state that doctrine and I would fully support that.

But I don't think the issue is where we would fight. The issue of leadership, if I may say so, is also to know when not to fight. I have disagreements with Vice President Mondale on this question. I think some of us learned a lesson from Vietnam and that is military might in the third world is not always going to work. That's why I opposed continued presence of our marines in Lebanon, why I fundamentally disagree with Vice President Mondale on continued military presence in Central America.

You have to know if you're a leader in this country not only where to commit your forces but where not to commit your forces.

Q: Mr. Mondale, he suggests you did not learn the lesson of Vietnam but keep in mind if you will, the question is, where in the world other than Western Europe are you prepared to commit American ground troops?

MONDALE: Let me respond to his question and then I'll get back to yours. The fact of it is that there is a lesson to be learned from Vietnam. I was late in opposing that war, and I've admitted it - it's the worst mistake in my life.

I'm proud of the fact that I spent five years fighting that war, and I would say the problem with the Reagan Administration is that they didn't learn anything, which is why we're in Central America the way they are today.

And I think the problem with what you're saying is that you learned the wrong lesson. The fact of it is that there is a proper role for American power in the world, that the toughest task of Presidential leadership is the sophisticated, knowledgeable use of that power.

Unlike what you suggest in Central America in your ads where you talk about me wanting to go out and kill American kids, the fact of it is I have been a strong and powerful opponent of this President's policies in Central America.

I have come out against the covert action in Nicaragua. I've been against Big Pine and all the military actions in Honduras. I've been for very strong and severe restraints on aid to El Salvador conditioned on human rights and the end of those death squads, I've been the strongest proponent of the Contradora negotiations, which bring about nonintervention and the rest. My policies are strong and solid. Where I differ from you is your position of just pulling the plug and walking out of there.

I think, for example, Honduras has some legitimate rights to military assistance and some technical trainers and advisers. I disagree with you, for example, when you say that if the Persian Gulf explodes, the allies are on their own.

In the Middle East, where we have these dreadful problems in perhaps the most dangerous area in the world, we simply cannot get into a position where the world's largest supply of oil and the tinderbox of the world is - that if there's trouble they're on their own. What we will do - certainly force ought to be the last resort and not the first resort, but what we do ought to be matters that we work out together and we ought not to forego anything and imply to the Soviet Union that there's an area of great importance we are not involved.

And I did it that way because the one area not mentioned by Gary Hart was that Persian Gulf. I believe that we've got to work with our allies, with our friends in the Middle East, Israel and so on, to make certain that the American interest in stability and keeping that area out of the reach of the Soviet Union is kept in mind by the world.

Q: All right, so you would commit there. Mr. Jackson, where in the world would you commit U.S. troops other than Western Europe?

JACKSON: It would be determined, based upon where our national interests were threatened. Given where we are now, there are no winnable nuclear wars, so I would put that in a box. Those troops in Western Europe now can in fact be reduced. We ought to be more aggressive in mutual reductions policy between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

We cannot have the $300 billion a year military budget, pay $150 billion a year to defend Japan and Europe and 6 or 7 percent of our G.N.P. or Japan - both for the use of about 1 percent, Europe about 3.3 or 3.5 - and in fact bankrupt our own economy in that process.

I would go a step further. At this time if we are more aggressive with a human rights policy based upon mutual respect and reciprocity using economic leverage and technology and education, we have less need to confront. By and large what we're doing with our conventional forces are - is - intervening in third-world matters using our forces as in Grenada, as in Lebanon or as in Honduras as opposed to using aggressive diplomacy.

I would think in the Middle East that if, say that we have such great friends in the Persian Gulf - and we do - we have a great friend in Israel - and we do - leadership must reconcile our friends.

We cannot, in the Middle East, keep running with the rabbits and hunting with the hounds. Leadership must expand the Camp David accord. That's a peace as opposed to an irritating war policy there. This nation has the power to reconcile warring factions there, get an understanding proving that there are more advantages in trading with Israel than fighting Israel and we can use less conventional forces and use more mental and spiritual forces.

Palestinian Rights

Q: I want to pick up on your mention of the Middle East and Mr. Mondale, you mentioned it and I believe you did as well, Mr. Hart.

Q: Do you believe that the Palestinians have a right to what they would consider to be their homeland? Mr. Mondale.

MONDALE: Ah, the only way that that's ever gonna be handled is under the Camp David accords. The Camp David agreement provides that among other things the parties will negotiate a solution to the Palestinian problem in all of its aspects. This begins, in my opinion, with a strong strategic cooperative relationship with Israel, something I've supported all my life and as a public leader. It involves not trying to prenegotiate those agreements and, above all, it requires that King Hussein show the courage of President Sadat and sit down and negotiate.

Q: Specifically, Mr. Mondale, do you believe the Palestinians are entitled to something that they would consider to be their homeland?

MONDALE: No. No. No. I oppose a homeland. I want to make it clear. I oppose a homeland because the Camp David accords, in my opinion, provides the only responsible resolution of this dispute and Israel is a signator and has agreed to negotiate. Hussein refuses to sit down.

JACKSON: The Palestinians deserve a homeland just as other nations deserve a homeland. It should be a nonmilitarized state that allows the people, the Palestinian people, to engage in self-government and self- development. So long as we ignore that basic right and that basic quest we can only prepare for war in the Middle East as opposed to peace.

And that's where leadership really comes in. It is that realization that we must face the fact, Israel deserves the right to security within internationally recognized boundaries. The Palestinians likewise are a distinct people who likewise deserve a homeland. We furthermore must normalize our ties with the Arab world. Our nation is the only nation at this point that has authority to convene those warring factions. But so long as our leadership becomes weak-kneed in the face of that challenge, we'll not have peace in the Middle East.

Q: Mr. Hart do you agree with that?

HART: Reverend Jackson and I agree on an awful lot of things, including how this party ought to structure itself and open itself up. One fundamental disagreement we have, however, is in the region of the Middle East. A problem, Jesse, with the formulation that you've suggested is that there are rabbits and hounds. And the problem is the hounds are out to destroy the rabbits.

Now if everyone in the region was a rabbit, I think we could treat them equally. But there are nations surrounding Israel, as you well know, whose solemn pledge, and of course the organized entity of the Palestinians, the P.L.O., has a solemn covenant to destroy the state of Israel.

I think we can, in fact, achieve some resolution of the Palestinian issue, autonomy or whatever. But only after the other nations in the region are willing to abandon that commitment to destroy that one nation.

JACKSON: Our nation has the capacity to bring about that abandonment because we have the ability to change the course. You know, Jesus made a very interesting observation about this enemy business, whether you talk with your enemy or not.

Jesus said we should do something more radical than that. We ought to love our enemy. What was the wisdom of that? If you love your enemy, number one, you observe your enemy. Two, you might neutralize your enemy. Thirdly, you might convert your enemy. Fourthly, you may have done something to help make your enemy your enemy.

You never approach a negotiation self-righteously. But rather with an open mind. We must reconcile warring factions there and not contribute to terror by not facing facts.

HART: But the way we love our enemy is not to sell the Saudi Arabians F-15 aircraft as the Carter- Mondale Administration did. And -

Q: Mr. Hart, I'm awfully sorry for the interruption but we do want to move along, but Mr. Mondale has something you ought to respond to and it will give you a brief chance as well.

MONDALE: Incidentally, a sale which you said you would approve had it been presented procedurally different and which I opposed in the private councils of the Carter Administration. But I want to make another point. I want to make another point. There's a lot of hypocrisy in the Middle East about this Palestinian problem. When the Palestinians tried to take root in Jordan they were bombed and many of them slaughtered by that Government. They didn't want them around.

When the Palestinians then moved to Lebanon and tried to take root there, the Syrians and the others kept moving them out. And so what they always say is solve the Palestinian problem and Israel you handle it. It's your problem. Don't get involved. If no one else'll get involved, they put it all on Israel's lap.

Israel, through Mr. Begin meeting with Sadat, agreed in a solemn agreement that if someone would sit down them, Hussein, that they would sit down and negotiate a range of problems including the solution of the Palestinian problem in all of its aspects. They've agreed to do that. Unfortunately, no one other than Sadat has agreed to sit down and I do not think that we can impose nor would I impose a solution on Israel in the absence of the willingness of Hussein and others representing their country to sit down . . .

JACKSON: I just mustered this. What's happening is that the 40- or 30-year history of pain and agony is so great, with the Palestinians not really appreciating Jewish suffering and anguish, and Jews in many instances not appreciating their anguish and suffering. There is too much hurt between the two for them to ever sit down and assume an initiative.

And this is where America's leadership comes in. My interests there at one level is America's national interest. What can we do to create a peace right now where there is war. Neither of them have the strength as they rehearse the bloodshed and destruction to each other. We have the - who would have thought that Egypt and Israel could have been at the bargaining table?

Neither had the strength to come to that table. There was too much bloodshed, too much agony, hurt and pain. Our leadership has the ability to negotiate it. I could convince Arabs that they have more long-range interests in trading with Israel than in fighting with Israel, that they have - they are next-door neighbors and they indeed must go another way.

We might as well quit preparing for terror because it's unstoppable. We might as well stop talking, stop the no-talk policy and begin to talk. And then act and change things. Suppose we couldn't have talked with Egypt because Egypt and Israel had been in a war? We would not have Camp David to brag about. Somebody had to believe and then act. And that's leadership.

Q: I do want to move along, and I remind all of you the time is beginning to grow short. Senator Hart, I'm going to give you a chance to speak last on this as you haven't had your time to respond, and then we'll move on to another question.

HART: Two brief responses. I'm puzzled when Vice President Mondale says he doesn't want to pull the plug in Central America. We don't have a plug inserted except for the Reagan exercises of military forces. We have no agreement to permanently station military forces in Honduras. There is no commitment of American forces in that region, so to say we're going to pull the plug if we withdraw the troops that are deployed there for exercise purposes is to misunderstand the fundamental commitment we have there.

No.2, in the Persian Gulf. I cannot believe that this country is going to sacrifice young American lives fighting for oil in the Persian Gulf if we can make ourselves independent. Now I have said consistently that this nation can back up our oil-importing allies at sea and in the air if they want to fight for oil in the Persian Gulf if it gets cut off. But I can't believe that Vice President Mondale is prepared to send American people - young men - in there to fight for oil for West Germany.

MONDALE: Can I say two things?

Q: Shall we move on to the next question? Yes, however, I believe in the nature of what Mr. Hart said, that you should have an opportunity to respond.

MONDALE: I'm inclined to agree with that. I found it rather peculiar that we were talking about the Middle East and suddenly we ended up in Honduras, which I didn't know was a part of the Middle East.

Now the fact of it is that no one has opposed Reagan policies more than I have, and you've run ads saying I'm supporting Reagan and that a lot of kids are going to get killed down there, when I'm totally opposed to the presence of combatants down there.

We have a modest military assistance program for Honduras, a democracy that deserves that help, that is under threat, and I wouldn't pull the plug on that kind of help. That's right. I do not want America just to withdraw without any interest at all in that isthmus, which is important to us.

Secondly, why do you run those ads that suggest that I'm out trying to kill kids, when you know better?

I'm a person who believes in peace. We just talked about the Camp David accords. I was a central part of the negotiations that brought peace between two nations that had fought four wars over 30 years and Mr. Begin credited me with being the spirit of Camp David.

I believe in that process. All my life I've fought for peace. All my life I've been opposed to any kind of use of American force that isn't totally justified and sensible under the circumstances. And to run ads as you've run them - to run ads as you've run them suggests that there's something about my policies that will lead to the death of American boys. I think you ought to pull those ads down tonight.

HART: This is crucial to this election, because I would answer by asking you a question. Why have you questioned my commitment to arms control and civil rights when you know that I have just as much commitment to both of those as you do. The ads illustrate a point. This country cannot deploy young Americans in every trouble spot in the third world and expect to solve that problem.

MONDALE: Who is proposing?

HART: You did in Chicago.

MONDALE: In every place in the world? Really?

HART: You argued in Chicago that we should keep . . .

MONDALE: No, no . . .

JACKSON: Tomorrow the issue will be this rat-a-tat-tat without dealing with direction. The fact is the reason why they are having this kind of kinship struggle is that there is such similarity in policies. It's a matter of both going in the same direction - just a little slower. That's all it is. And so it's interesting to know that one was for disarmament and the other - both are for arms control.

But then it's interesting that while we would jump back to Central America, for example, then back to the Middle East, another jumped to South Africa, for example, and if we're to have foreign policy that America, now, is in disgrace.

It's South Africa's number one trading partner. We are in disgrace having helped to make or facilitate a loan to South Africa. If I were President, I would not like another American corporation to go to South Africa. Those that were there would have a timetable to come out - unless there's a new formula, and a formula for peace. That is, enfranchisement of the people, investment - disenfranchisement, disinvestment. Let's discuss the whole world and put this matter in some perspective and get off each other's backs.

Q: Mr. Jackson, I'd love to do that - we don't have time this evening. As you know, we are committed to two- minute summations from each of you at the end, and we intend to make good on that commitment. Very quickly, and I emphasize to you we unfortunately have time only for very fast yes or no answers to the following questions.

Gun Control

Q: Mr. Hart, Gun control. Do you favor it or are opposed?

HART: I've opposed Federal gun control laws.

Q: Mr. Jackson?

JACKSON: I favor gun control. In those areas - in the rural areas where they hunt rabbits, having guns is all right, but in urban America they hunt people. We need to go another way.

Q: Mr. Mondale. Do you favor or are opposed?

MONDALE: Yes, I favor control of the so-called Saturday Night Specials - snub-nosed guns that are only used to kill police and each other - for concealment. There's no conceivable excuse for their use.

Budget Amendment

Q: One other. Do you oppose or favor a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget? Mr. Hart?

HART: Strongly oppose it.

Q: Mr. Jackson?

JACKSON: I strongly oppose it.

Q: Mr. Mondale?

MONDALE: I strongly oppose it. Reagan's trying to use this to protect himself from the worst imbalanced budget on earth.

Candidate Changes

Q: Gentlemen, last question before we get to your summation, and I do ask you to be brief because we are running very tight on time here. Running for President is a quintessentially and peculiarly American experience and a great honor. One of you at this table may wind up to be the next leader of this nation in a perilous time. In recognition of that, has it changed you in any significant way as a person? And if so, how? Mr. Jackson.

JACKSON: It has changed me to the extent that I have a greater appreciation of the need to reach out. I've grown up on the short end of the cash system in this country, and thus, I've spent a great deal of time on civil rights and overcoming oppression.

But as a leader of the broader American public, American life really is not a blanket of one piece of unbroken cloth - it's really a quilt of many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes bound by a common thread. All of it fits somewhere.

And so, the extent of which I've been involved in this campaign, it has challenged me to grow and to reach more for the locked out and to reach deeper for the boat stuck to the bottom.

So my appreciation of North, West and South, East and the extremes of our country has really increased.

Q: Mr. Hart, again and I must plead for brevity.

Mr. HART. My fundamental belief in the strength and purpose of the American people and their character has been enormously strengthened in the past year. The founding people that put this country together believed that our strength wasn't in Washington or with our politicians, but with the common sense and good judgment of the American people.

The past year I've found the enormous wisdom that that contains. I think this country's going to make it not just because of its political leaders but because of our people, primarily.

Q: Mr. Mondale.

MONDALE: I guess I've traveled this nation, the last few years, almost more than any living American and one quickly becomes aware of how much Americans want to trust again, how much they'd like to have this country really work without having their hearts broken, how they would like to believe but how they're reluctant to believe because they've had that heart broken so many times in the past. And I'd like to be the person who restores their faith.

Q: Gentlemen, you have drawn for turns on the closing two-minute summation last response. Mr. Mondale, you drew the first to speak.


MONDALE: The night before I was sworn in as Vice President of the United States I had what they call "the briefing." It was in a secret - top secret - environment. A lot of it must remain classified, but I can say this. In that secret meeting they told me that I would be in the chain of command and had to be ready in case of a nuclear attack. They told me about the need to be close to someone within minutes who could help me if I needed to make the decision in the case of the incapacitation of the President.

For four years that person was never more than minutes away except in unusual circumstances. Even when I went fishing he was nearby. And the reason was, as they told me, that I might be called at any time in the middle of the night - anytime - and told that Soviet missiles were coming in and I might have 10 minutes, eight minutes, maybe less to decide whether I would fire our missiles or not.

My whole life I fought to avoid the moment when the President, or someone in his behalf, would have to make that deadly choice. It could mean the end of the human species. On Tuesday ask which of us you think is best prepared and most committed to freeze these God-awful weapons, to press ahead for arms control and the reduction of those risks and lead us towards a safer world. Vote on Tuesday as though your life depends on it because it might.

Q: By Tuesday, you mean in the New York primary. Mr. Jackson.

HART: The great Democratic Presidents of the past, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and others are but those who realized that times have changed, that this country could not stand still and could not go back.

I believe the mid-1980's are those periods - represents that period of change. I don't believe the leadership that guides this country forward can be leadership that is cautious. I believe it must be like those great Presidents - leadership which is bold. I'm running for one simple reason and that is because this country needs new leadership, a new agenda, a break with the politics of the past and the old arrangements.

This country cannot afford to stand still and it certainly can't move farther back into Ronald Reagan's past or even the past of the Democratic Party. But the American people believe as I do that to preserve and cherish traditional values, we must adapt the changing circumstances.

Then I think they'll vote for that new leadership here in the New York primary and in the fall in 1984. I believe this candidacy does represent the best chance to remove Ronald Reagan from office, which is the very least we owe the American people for a fair and just and compassionate society, and if indeed, we want to have a chance to end that nuclear arms race.

The policies of the past are not working in the 1980's. We cannot have leadership which merely promises to repair and patch up the old arrangements. This country must be bold. We are a nation that has survived for 200 years because we were willing to innovate and to change our industrial base, our education systems, our job training programs, our opportunities for minorities and women, to clean up this nation's environment, to build the best education system in the world, to have a foreign policy based upon a helping hand and Democratic ideal and not mere military deployment.

I believe we must eliminate Ronald Reagan from the White House and I believe the American people are looking for that kind of bold and innovative leadership which the Demoratic Party has always provided this country at critical periods of change in our past and that's why I ask for your help.

RATHER: Thank you Mr. Hart, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Mondale. We conclude this debate now.

Presidential Candidate Debates, Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate at Columbia University in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285600

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