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Excerpts of the President-Elect's News Conference Announcing the Nomination of Jack Kemp as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

December 19, 1988

...the Presidency, perhaps more than anything else, the campaign was how to - about how to create opportunity for America. And I believe that the philosophy that we articulated, a philosophy of lower taxes, of economic growth and of giving Americans the power to make their own choices about their own lives offers the most hope to the greatest number of people. And that's why, this morning, I am very proud to announce my intention to nominate as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development a man who has played a singularly important role in developing the vision of hope and growth for which we stand.

Jack Kemp is one of the premier architects of the opportunities society that we are trying to create and I'm convinced that he'll prove to be an enormously valuable addition to the Cabinet.

You all know his resume. He's now completing his 18th year as a member of the United States Congress, six of those years as chairman of the House Republican Conference, and before that, of course, he was one of the top quarterbacks in professional football.

But it's Jack Kemp's ideas that impress me the most and he was a driving force in Congress between cutting the tax rates in 1981 and to cut them again - cutting them again while making the tax code more fair in 1986. And the result, of course, has been the longest economic peacetime expansion in our history.

And now I'm asking Jack to bring these, his innovative solutions to the question of housing and to the pressing problems facing American cities. As a Congressman, Jack has already offered some promising plans -enterprise zones to create jobs and encourage investment in depressed areas, urban homesteading to allow public housing residents to gain a stake in their own communities and in their own futures. And I believe these approaches will work. And they constitute a new ray of hope for those left frustrated by decades of failed urban and housing policies - policies offered throughout the 60's and 70's - that created nothing more than dependency and sadly resulted in urban decay.

Jack Kemp is an idea man and I'm now asking him to apply his vision of opportunity to America's housing and urban development needs. I'm confident he will succeed. I look forward to working with him in creating hope for all Americans and now I'd like to ask Jack to say a few words and then - as we've been doing, I'll take some questions and then leave the floor to him to answer questions.

All yours. Welcome.

MR. KEMP: I'm honored to be here.

Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for appointing me as your Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. And particularly for the confidence you've showed in me.

It's an honor to stand with you, to serve in your administration and your Cabinet. And I look forward to helping you fulfill the mandate that you have to lead this country into the decade ahead.

You talked during your campaign about home ownership and jobs; you talked about opportunity for all people as the key ingredients of the American dream.

When thinking about the challenge ahead, I'm reminded of the beautiful words of Martin Luther King who 25 years ago in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize said that he accepted that prize with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind.

Well, Mr. Vice President, you, too, have an abiding faith in America, and I want you to know I have an audacious faith that together we can help recapture the American dream for our distressed inner cities and those who live in poverty and despair.

I'm excited about working in an administration that has pledged itself not only to some basic reforms but to some fundamental principles in the area of housing and urban economic development.

George Bush has reaffirmed the goals of the 1949 Housing Act to help create the conditions in America for every family to have decent and affordable housing. He recognizes the appalling tragedy of homelessness and joblessness.

He's asked for full funding of the McKinney Act and a private enterprise job-creation strategy for our nation's inner cities and urban areas.

George Bush said during his campaign that the basic challenge of our housing programs is affordability - for the poor, the elderly, particularly young families just starting out. I'm looking forward to helping George Bush fulfill these pledges.

I believe that we have a unique opportunity to forge new alliances that transcend color, ideology and even economic status. It isn't necessary to agree on everything, but it's absolutely necessary and possible, I believe, to gain consensus on a public-private enterprise partnership to wage war on poverty.

And if there's one philosophy that will drive the Department of Housing and Urban Development under George Bush's Presidency and under my stewardship it will be this: that we want to give people the ability to seize new job and opportunities for themselves, to make decisions about their own lives, to secure a better life for their children; and without any illusion about the challenge facing us, and with the recognition that government can't solve all problems, we will do everything in our power to uphold our American heritage as a nation, under God, that respects the rights of others, shows compassion for those in need and advances equality of opportunity to all.

Mr. Vice President, I'm honored to serve with you and look forward to fulfilling these pledges.


Problem of Homelessness

Q: Mr. Vice President, Mr. Kemp spoke of the tragedy of homelessness. To what extent do you accept the premise that Reagan Administration policies contributed to the problem of homelessness and in any case, given the budget constraints, what will your administration be able to do about homelessness?

A: Well, we're wrestling with the budget constraints right now. And they are real. They are very, very real. I am absolutely convinced that homelessness is not going to be solved by the Federal Government alone. And that's one of the reasons I'm glad to have Jack Kemp, who has this whole innovative approach to, not just homelessness, but everything dealing with - everything to do with urban development, at my side. What was the first part of it?

Q: Do you accept the premise that Reagan Administration policies exacerbated them?

A: No. I don't accept that. Yeah.

Q: [inaudible] if you could follow it up, Mr. Vice President, the increase in homelessness has been dramatic over the last eight years. And Samuel Pierce came with the mandate of ending many of the programs that [unintelligible] Why shouldn't the Reagan Administration bear responsibility for --

A: Listen, I think there's plenty of responsibility to be shared by a lot of people. Like when we changed, some parts of the homelessness have been adversely affected by changes in - in how the mentally ill are -are approached. There are some understandable restraints on just totals that the Federal Government can spend. But there's an enormous awakening out there to be accomplished in terms of what I sometimes refer to as the thousand points of light. It is not going to be solved by the Federal Government alone. And so I guess I - let me change my answer here and say everybody should bear responsibility - everybody, everybody, individual, everyone. Because it is a national shame and I want our Administration to do our level best to help solve it.

Resources for Problem

Q: [unintelligible] given the fact that there are going to be budget cuts [inaudible]

A: They are doing most of it now, Andrea. The private sector and the city governments and state governments are doing most of it. And that is a way that is going to have to continue. The Federal Government simply doesn't have the resources to solve this problem. But if their question is caring and finding innovative solutions, I've come up with a Secretary of H.U.D. who's going to do a good job on that.

Q: Mr. Vice President, some of the measures you talk about to give people choices involve tax - [inaudible] enterprise zones, rural development, child care. All these involve [unclear] changes in the tax table your first year in office?

A: I think they're going to affect us. Seek a lot of them, yes.

Q: According to the records of officials of A.T.B. [unclear] there are any number of different programs for housing in the Federal Government today in different departments, in different agencies. Why couldn't you bring all of these programs together? And also these programs involve the private sector because they get Federal aid now and then too. Why couldn't you put all of these programs under one house and one package and coordinate and save money and get the job done?

A: Well, Jack Kemp will be taking an innovative look at everything. I don't think you ever want to put private sector programs under the Federal Government, however. If you do that you - if you do that, you deprive them of the genius of diversity. Excuse me while I recognize you there first.

Kemp Political Agenda

Q: Mr. Vice President, Jack Kemp could be said to be the only one of your appointees so far who might have his own political agenda for the future. And I wonder if - if that concerns you at all. And I wonder if he has - has thought whether he'd renounce any plans to seek the Presidency in '94 or '96?

A: No. It doesn't concern me at all and Jack has shifted gears here to be a part of our team and so it never was discussed and it doesn't concern me. I mean I - I know him to be a man of total honor and integrity and I don't think he'd approach this with a - I know he wouldn't - with a separate agenda. So it really doesn't - yes, in the back.

Kemp's Role as a Critic

Q: What sort of assurance did you get from him that he has shed his critic's role?

A: I hope he hasn't shed it. Who's - who's beyond getting a little criticism from time to time - certainly not the President-elect. And I hope that he hasn't shed that. I want his -the objectivity of his judgment. And I -knowing Jack, I'll get it. And that is one of the reasons that I asked him to take on this job, too. Right here, yeah.

Building Homes for Homeless

Q: Mr. - Mr. Vice President, during the Reagan-Bush Administration, the Federal Government has stopped building houses the way it used to. And a lot of people feel that contributes to the homeless situation. Do you anticipate getting Congress [unintelligible] that the Federal Government will end up building more homes for the poor?

A: I think we're trying to find the most innovative answers. I don't know the answer -whether to build any homes at all - but I wouldn't say that I would be up for a massive Federal home-building program. I think Jack can explain that we have other ideas that I talked about in the campaign that I think would stretch the dollars further and that would provide more basic home ownership.

Pay Rise for U.S. Officials

Q: Mr. Vice President, a blue-ribbon commission has recommended a 50 percent pay increase for Cabinet members, Congressmen and other Federal officials. Do you support it?

A: I will be supportive of the President's decision. I am Vice President of the United States until the 20th of January. And I am not going to begin either getting out at where that decision is or criticizing it once the decision is made. And then, after I become President, maybe I'll have an unfettered view to do what was just asked about critiquing the decision. But I, I expect I'll be comfortable with what the President decides.

Baker Plan on Third World Debt

Q: The new study, Mr. Vice President, that suggests the Baker plan for dealing with third world debt needs to be revised, do you agree?

A: I think we should take a whole new look at it. Because parts of it are fine. The - you know, revitalization of the private sector in these - some of these countries. There is concern that the Federal lending - I mean the private institutions haven't loaned as much as they might. And so I do think that that should be - be subject to a major review which will include not just the Treasury, but our national security people because they've got enormous problems - particularly in -in our own hemisphere on third world debt.

Q: -- follow up -- Do you think some forgiveness of debt might be included in the revised plan?

A: You've got to be very careful of forgiveness of debt if you want future loans. So I think they've got to find a more versatile answer than simply compelling private institutions to write off their - write off the - the debt. I think that would dry up that third part of the Baker plan which is more loaned -loaning from private institutions.

Yeah, Kathy.

Outlook on Energy Secretary

Q: Mr. Vice President, one of the few posts still outstanding, Secretary of Energy -without talking personalities, can you tell us what you're looking for in an Energy Secretary and, for example, do the current nuclear problems cause you to look a little more in that direction now rather than - and for example, would you pick someone who does not have expertise in the oil industry?

A: Well, I think it's important that very top levels of that department you have, in either the Secretary or the Deputy, expertise in both the hydrocarbon field and nuclear. But right now, I'm leaning more towards the latter for the Secretary because of the - some of the problems we've been reading about and some of the needs to diversify our own energy base in this country.

I have long been in favor of the safe use of nuclear power. And I still feel that way. And we've seen that it is almost impossible to do anything in that area. And so a new Secretary that really had knowledge in that field would be - I think that would be extraordinarily helpful. You also have a military component that some do not focus on when you think of the Department of Energy. It is very, very important - and then you have a third thing - you have a research component in the Energy Department that is - I think there are more researchers and scientists - scientists - under - that come under the Energy Department than any other. So I want to find the top two that could be able to cope clearly with the nuclear side and also recognize that this country still has a tremendous dependency on the hydrocarbon side - on oil and gas. Tom.

Privatization of Housing

Q: Mr. Vice President, one cost of a number of past Reagan budgets has been privatization. You see this particularly in the housing area. We haven't heard much about you on -on this subject. What do you feel about privatization of housing programs and do you think that Federal housing projects should be - should be sold to the tenants at low cost?

A: One of the things that appeals to me about Jack Kemp as Secretary of H.U.D. is that we share each other's convictions in terms of tenant ownership and privatization and private ownership. And there are some great examples worldwide of how - how effective it is when a person owns his or her own home - own house. I happen to think it'd help in terms of strengthening family in this country. So I do - would like to think that our new Secretary will push in that direction and I'm confident he will.

P.L.O. Talks and Terrorism

Q: In terms of the beginning dialogue between Arafat and the United States, do you -would you hold Mr. Arafat responsible for every act of terrorism or military engagement of the P.L.O. or are you - feel that we have a good enough reading on those factions of the P.L.O. over which he has no control or that there may be certain circumstances under which a military action by his organization could be justified.

A: We would not start off by showing any tolerance of P.L.O. terror. And I don't care whether it comes from a faction of the left or from the center or right or wherever. I don't think that we should indicate any willingness to be tolerant of terrorism from the P.L.O. And I - I - I am concerned about it. I have been and will continue to be concerned about it. Yeah.

Pierce Record on Housing

Q: Is there some dissatisfaction in your mind with the job that Secretary Pierce has done for eight years? Is that a decision - is that a punish decision not to hold him over as you've held other Reagan Cabinet members?

A: No. The only Cabinet officers that were held over were three - the three most recent appointees. And there is no dissatisfaction. But one of the things that I said in the campaign was we wanted change and new faces. Here is a brand-new face. He'd never been in the Executive Branch before. But he brings in a tremendous - you'll have to understand they've been needling me about new faces, claiming Yeutter, of all people, did not have a new face. And - and so - so what we're -what we've got to do is at the end of a eight year - and I think Sam was in the Cabinet the whole time and we have great respect for him. But revitalization - thinking anew, new time. And that's what - that's what that change was about. And it was more in keeping with my general desire to make wholesale change in the Cabinet. This is the last one, Gerry, and then I really do have to run. Let Jack have it.

Spending Plans for Housing

Q: Mr. Vice President, you seem to be dancing around just how much your administration would - will spend on housing.

A: Yes.

Q: Would you talk about that?

A: I wouldn't have phrased it that way but that's exactly what I was doing.

Q: Would you just give us some bottom-line sense - is your plan to spend more on housing than the Reagan Administration has been spending? Or spend less?

A: We're getting into that right now. And some - you know, let me make a philosophical comment. I - Jack can expand on it because I expect he agrees - you don't show your determination to solve a problem by simply increasing Federal spending. There are other ways to skin a cat and I was asked that here about the - about the volunteer efforts and what others are doing. So we really haven't - I - gotten into the - the budgetary aspects of what we need to do in housing. But I don't - so I can't tell you whether it'll be totals of more money. There were certain commitments that I made that I will try to fulfill. And Jack referred to one of them appropriately in his statement and that was the McKinney Act and which directly impacts on Federal services to certain aspects of homelessness. But in terms of overall, Gerry, we just don't know that yet. And what we'll do is take a look at the Reagan budget, put the Bush priorities on it and then sit down in serious negotiation with the United States Congress.


Private Sector and Housing

Q: . . . From listening to the President-elect today, it sounds as though housing is going to go. Do you think it can all be done through these thousand points of light in the private sector?

A: No. I don't. I agree with George Bush that the idea of enlisting the voluntary sector of our economy and our country, the private sector of our country and economy and, of course, the public sector. I told my friends on Capitol Hill, both Democrat and Republican alike, I want to wage war on poverty, I don't want to wage war on Congress. I don't want to wage war on programs that can work.

And I don't believe we're going to balance the budget by cutting housing. I don't think we're going to balance the budget by letting unemployment go up. I don't believe that we're going to solve the budget problem unless we have healthy cities.

So, he has given me the opportunity to make my case in his Cabinet. I plan to make it in the Cabinet, not out on the street. But I want it known that you cannot balance the budget off the backs of the poor.

Cutbacks in Housing Budget

Q: Now if you are told by him, if you lose that fight in the Cabinet and he ends up cutting your budget, if that's the decision, can you live with that? Can you do your job that way?

A: Well, he has given me an opportunity to make my voice well known in those meetings. I have not met with Dick Darman. I would imagine they would not want Jack Kemp to have this portfolio in terms of what he has said both in his campaign as well as what he said here today in front of you all and then turn out and - or go out and have the budget for housing emasculated. I don't believe he will. And I don't think they're going to try to balance the budget off the housing budget.

Jerry. Then I'll --

Aspirations for Presidency

Q: Mr. Kemp, to what extent how does this appointment fit into the context of your Presidential attempt. That is, do you hope to use this position to be able to run for President? Have you ruled out running for President again at this point, or what?

A: Well, I haven't ruled out seeking office some day. Nor have I ruled it in. I decided to go to the Heritage Foundation and to the Institute for Free Enterprise Development and to give some speeches, and this is far more attractive, with all due respect.

Having said that, I hope - I hope to help George Bush be a great American President. I think he can be and will be. And as far as I'm concerned, he's going to be there for eight years. And what happens in the eve of the next century, I'm going to leave that to the future.

I think the most important thing I can do right now is to help him, be a good Cabinet member, be a good Secretary of H.U.D. and to unleash some of the incentive-oriented ideas that several of us on both sides of the political aisle and among some black, white and Hispanic groups want to try in those cities to make our inner cities - to restore hope, not despair but hope in our inner cities.

I'll go here and then come right over.

Acceptance of Housing Post

Q: Mr. Kemp, tell us a little bit about the evolution of this job offer. I mean, were you just - you'd already made up your mind to go to the Heritage and all of a sudden the Vice President called you and said, I just had a great idea, Congressman.

A: Well, no.

Q: Do you want to be at H.U.D.?

A: It wasn't quite that way. But that's, frankly, pretty close to it. I talked to a number of people in the Administration; told them that I wanted to go. And I think I told some friends in the press that I'd like to go to the National Economic Commission. And who better to talk a tax increase to death than Jack Kemp. That was my goal.

And several people called and said would you be interested in H.U.D. I said, no, unless - I put a comma behind my no. And I said, unless the Vice President wants to really go all out on some of these inner city ideas -urban development, economic development, housing, homelessness - I would be interested in having that type of a portfolio.

And he got the word back from the people I had talked to, and then he called me and said would you talk to me in the office. And I said yes. We had a long talk. And, frankly, I'm thrilled at the opportunity.

Dealing With the Homeless

Q: Congressman, both you and the President-elect have talked a lot today about the limitations of the Federal Government, given what can and should be done. To what extent do you really think that the problem of homelessness is going to be . . . changed in Jack Kemp's Department of Housing and Urban Development?

A: Well, my only comment about government was that I don't think government can solve all problems. And I think that fits the Bush philosophy. He recognizes, as do I, that we need a public-private partnership. And I think that is a good way of phrasing it.

Secondly, it wouldn't be Jack Kemp if I didn't tell you that I don't think there's a problem out there that can't be solved. I don't believe in utopia; I don't believe that we can cure all the problems, but I think it is a tragedy and an appalling tragedy that there is the extent of homelessness in America today - or joblessness, as I alluded to in my remarks.

So do I think there are solutions and answers? Yes. Do I think I have all the answers? No.

George Bush, Excerpts of the President-Elect's News Conference Announcing the Nomination of Jack Kemp as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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