Gerald R. Ford photo

Exchange With Reporters on Arrival at Sarasota, Florida.

February 28, 1976

WE HAVE had one of the finest days that I have ever experienced in politics. It started with just a tremendous meeting in Miami, and it has ended with 14 stops, and here we are in Sarasota. It is delightful to be here in Skip Bafalis' district.

I think it is one of the outstanding days I have ever spent in my political life, and I thank everybody. They have been great. The weather has been good by Washington standards. So, it is great to be here. Go ahead.

REPORTER. Mr. President, you said today that you will have nothing to do with Castro's Cuba. Does that mean there is no chance for normalization of relations as long as he is in power?

THE PRESIDENT. When you look at the fact that he took the initiative to try and upset the problems in Puerto Rico, when he took aggressive action in Africa some 4,000 or 5,000 miles from Cuba where he sent 12,000 mercenary forces, I see nothing but an aggressive, anti-freedom movement. And so, under Fidel Castro, unless there is a 180 degree turn, I can't imagine any change from what I said this morning.

Q. Do you expect a victory next Tuesday, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I am very optimistic.

Q. Mr. president, under the present funding system, the State of Florida's interstate highway system won't be completed until almost the year 2000. Would you consider changing that funding formula?

THE PRESIDENT. We are working with the Congress in trying to accelerate some funding in the interstate system, and I think Skip Bafalis and others have worked on trying to get some extra money down here in this area. I hope we can move more rapidly. I think we can, and I will try to work out something.

Q. Mr. Reagan has said this is a time for leadership not tied to the Washington establishment. How do you respond to that?

THE PRESIDENT. The Washington establishment has achieved peace. The Washington establishment under my leadership has accomplished the recovery from the worst recession. We are licking the problem of inflation. We are achieving more employment. We are licking the problem of unemployment. I think at least the White House is making substantial progress in winning the battle against economic difficulties at home, and we are making substantial headway in achieving peace with strength overseas.

Q. Mr. President, is your son engaged? And what would you think of a daughter-in-law like Chris Evert?

THE PRESIDENT. I think Chris Evert is a very lovely young lady. She is tremendous. I think she is not only attractive but she is superior in the tennis area.

Q. Are you going to play tennis?

THE PRESIDENT. I am going to try to play some.

Q. In your foreign policy, sir, doesn't it hurt the national security of the United States by enlisting public support in the foreign policy when your opposing challenger says he would fire the Secretary of State if he got the chance?

THE PRESIDENT. We have a good foreign policy. It has achieved peace. It is a foreign policy that will continue peace through strength. We have the highest military budget in the history of the United States, and we achieve peace through strength. I believe our policies are sound, good. We have peace and will continue peace.

REPORTER. Thank you.

Note: The exchange began at 9:03 p.m. at Sarasota/Bradenton Airport. In his remarks, he referred to Representative L. A. (Skip) Bafalis.

Gerald R. Ford, Exchange With Reporters on Arrival at Sarasota, Florida. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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