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Informal Exchange With Reporters on Arrival in Brownsville, Texas

October 02, 1984

Q. Mr. President, Walter Mondale says that you should look into these charges against Donovan; and if there's anything to them, he should resign. What's wrong with that?


The President. Well, first of all, let me make a statement.

Q. Please.

The President. You asked a question yesterday, and there was no time, and it was not the place to answer that. I thought that probably during the day, there would come an opportunity to answer. There didn't. So, let me just make a statement.

Your question had to do with Secretary Shultz.

Q. And who's responsible for Lebanon, sir.

The President. Who was responsible for Lebanon. Secretary Shultz had acknowledged a responsibility himself on the air on Sunday. That was typical of George, and I appreciate it very much. But the answer to the question is, I am responsible, as I said that I was on the previous tragedy. I was responsible—and no one else—for our policy and our people being there.

Q. But shouldn't.—

Q. On that same subject, sir.—

Q. — the President be held accountable, sir?

Q. On that same subject, the old saying, you know, "You fool me once, my fault. Fool me twice .... "But the U.S. has—

The President. These terrorist activities—

Q. — three times now.

The President. These terrorist activities have been going on worldwide and taken place against our allies. They've taken place against Arab States, the Greeks, the British, the French, ourselves. And obviously there is an international effort going to try and find a way to apprehend, to prevent these things from happening. But how do you without knowledge beforehand of what a target is going to be or why someone, who with no regard to who they kill, is going to kill themselves in an effort to do this?

We're doing everything we can to finally try to get an international movement that can give us better protection—

Q. You were pretty tough on Mr. Carter in 1980, when the Iranian hostage situation happened. And now this has happened to us three times.

The President. No, Bill [Bill Plante, CBS News]. There, a government with whom we had relations, a government allowed this to happen. There was no war or anything else with regard to the hostages. And all I criticized the previous administration about was for our abandonment of the Shah and our allowing what happened to happen. I think it is a blot on our record.

Q. But you say you're responsible, sir. But are you to blame for lax security?

The President. We are doing our utmost to provide security—

Q. But it wasn't enough.

The President.—at all of these places.

No, it wasn't. And it wasn't because the threat had been while we were in a much less protected place, and we moved ahead of schedule into this place where the defenses were only about 75 percent complete.

Q. Mr. President, you say that you take responsibility, but shouldn't the people who actually made the decisions be held accountable?

The President. No, I'm not going to deliver somebody's head up on a platter, which seems to be the request of so many when things like this happen.

Q. So, there'll be no blame-finding here, sir?

The President. No, we've had an investigation. There was no evidence of any carelessness or anyone not performing their duty.

Q. Is the case closed, as far as you're concerned, sir?

The President. Yes—

Q. Can we ask you about Donovan, sir?

The President. Well, the case of terrorism will never be closed.

Secretary of Labor Raymond J. Donovan

Q. Walter Mondale says that you should immediately have someone investigate these charges, and if there's anything to them, Donovan should step down completely and resign. What's wrong with that?

The President. Well, he has already had a complete investigation of a great many charges—this through a grand jury—and he does not know, nor do any of us know, what is in the indictment or what he's being charged with. But I'm going to then—there isn't any point in taking a great many questions on this—I'm going to say one thing about this. There is a tradition in the law of our land that's as old as this country, that you are innocent until you're proven guilty. And Secretary Donovan took the step voluntarily of absenting himself and taking a leave of absence without pay while this issue is revolved—or resolved, and I accept that and I also—

Q. But how does it look having a Cabinet officer under indictment? There's hardly any precedent for that.

The President. I don't think there are many precedents for all the attacks and assaults that have been made on so many people of our administration, with allegations and charges that were without any foundation in fact and which were later revealed as having no foundation in fact; the people were cleared. There's a kind of a lynch atmosphere in that. Now, I can't say that about what has taken place here, and I can't comment. It is, again—it's before the courts. It is now a matter of law, and so I won't comment further on that—

Q. Well, Mr. President—

The President.—except to say that he— remind all of you—he is innocent unless proven guilty.

Q. Do you think it might be politics? He says it's politics.

Q. Do you believe this is political, if partisan politics are to blame?

The President. I'm not going to comment on that. That would be violating what I just said. It's before the courts. It's before the law and—

Q. Well, Secretary Donovan commented on it. He seemed to believe there's some kind of political vendetta here.

The President. He is the man who's charged, and I'm not going to comment.

Q. Why do you—

Q. Mr. President.—

Q. Will this hurt you politically? I mean, the Democrats say this is part of the sleaze factor. Will this hurt you politically—the Donovan case?

The President. The only sleaze factor that I've seen in all of the things that have been going on in these 4 years, if there is one, is on the other side, with their baseless charges and accusations that have all been proven false.

Q. Mr. President, how long will Raymond Donovan remain as Labor Secretary?

Q. How can you say you still have confidence in his integrity when you don't know what's in the indictment, sir?

The President. I'm going to wait and see what the courts decide.

Q. How long will he remain your Labor Secretary, sir?

Q. Have you talked with Mr. Donovan, sir?

The President. I have not had a chance to talk to him.

Q. Why not?

The President. You know where I've been and what I've been doing.

Q. No telephone?

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. to reporters assembled alongside Air Force One, which had just landed at Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

Ronald Reagan, Informal Exchange With Reporters on Arrival in Brownsville, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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