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Interview With Richard Brown of KGO - TV in San Francisco, California

December 17, 1991

The President. Richard, can you hear me?

Q. Yes I can, Mr. President. Richard Brown in San Francisco.

The President. I see you and hear you, loud and clear, sir. Go ahead.

Q. I don't know whether being fourth or fifth would be better in this round of interviews, but -- --

The President. In baseball it's considered the best. Clean-up, clean-up hitter.


Q. Let's begin by talking about AIDS. Mr. President, drug users now represent the number one risk group for AIDS. Now, if we want to save lives, why not support the distribution of clean needles to drug addicts to prevent the spread of AIDS?

The President. Because I think, in a sense, that would encourage the drug habit. And so, I don't approve of that. I don't think that's the answer. I think education is the answer. I think the research that we are doing here at NIH and all across the country will prove to have the eventual real answer. Just as they discovered an antidote through the Salk vaccine to polio, I am confident that we'll get one on AIDS. It's a little ways down the road. I worry that that would encourage drug use when we are trying to educate people off of drug use and treat those who have the addiction so that they won't use drugs. That's the reason I feel that it's not a good idea.

Q. What about condoms to teenagers now?

The President. Look, it's dealer's choice. Let them try it out there. You asked me my opinion, and I can add to it: Would I want this as a national program, something at the Federal level? No. Excuse me.

Q. What about condoms to teenagers, Mr. President?

The President. Well, again, dealer's choice, but not for me, and not for the Federal Government. What I want to see is education. I don't think that just passing out condoms, giving up on lifestyle, giving up on family and fundamental values is correct.

Indeed, I must tell you, I'm worried about it. I'm worried about so much filth and indecent material coming in through the airways and through these trials into people's homes. I think the American people have a right to be protected against some of these excesses. While people have a right to a fair trial, I think the American people have an overriding right to let those matters be decided behind closed doors.

In terms of just national passing out condoms to people, I am not in favor of that. But I am in favor of teaching values that normally were taught in history by the family, by others pitching in, in schools and other places, to instruct and to encourage people to lifestyles that can prevent AIDS or can prevent pregnancy. That's what we need.

Q. Mr. President, do you think that Magic Johnson's admission that he's HIV-positive is going to encourage you and the administration to kick in more money for AIDS research?

The President. I don't think it's a question particularly of more money. Federal funding for research is up under our administration, and I'm very proud of that. But we have a very good research team, headed by Dr. Tony Fauci and others out at NIH, and though they could use more money, and I'll take a look at that in the Budget, they are not saying to me our research is starved out because of lack of funds.

So, it's a question of doing as much as the Federal Government can, and taking pride in the fact that we've done more than anyone in the past, but we've got to find the answer to this question. And again, I'm somewhat optimistic about that, having had a thorough briefing the other day.

I'll tell you what Magic's willingness to engage himself in this national commission will do: It will teach people that wayward lifestyles or just kind of unsafe sex at random is not the way it ought to work. And I think he'll be witnessing to that, and I think that can have a great influence on young people in this country. I think it already has, as a matter of fact.

The Economy

Q. Let's talk about the economy for a couple of minutes, Mr. President. Big corporations are now saying that they're restructuring, that these layoffs that they're going through are permanent. If that is the case, and The New York Times suggests that it is, what is the Federal Government going to do to adjust to this and to get people working again?

The President. New jobs. New jobs and new industries. And, you know, I keep coming back to it, and I think some of the people in your area understand it better than others do across this country: One thing that would help -- not entirely solve the problem -- is a capital gains tax reduction. Japan taxes it at 1 percent, Germany at zero. And we are asking our people that start up businesses to create new jobs, to go into the ball game with their hands tied behind their back.

So, let the Democrats and the liberals tell me that this is a tax cut for the rich. I think it would do just exactly what needs to be done for those people whose businesses are shifting and whose businesses are changing and who lose a job because of changes in industry.

That's one area. We've got some proposals for IRA's to stimulate the economy that we've had to the Congress, and I'll try again on those. We've got a new highway bill tomorrow that won't solve the problem that you're talking about, the white-collar worker thrown out of work, but will help stimulate this economy by substantial amounts of Federal spending for construction projects.

So, there's a lot of things working. I've accelerated $9.7 billion in Federal spending that would have been spent way back in the end of the year, and that will have an effect. But the answer is for those people that you talk about, is job retraining and new opportunities, which means economic growth.


Q. Mr. President, one final question. How about a Marshall plan for education, to get education moving?

The President. Please define what you mean by that.

Q. What we basically are trying to do in education is to try to move it along, to try and get it going again. And people are saying, "Well, we need some help from the Federal Government." And the Federal Government seems to be encouraging it, but yet doesn't seem to be indicating there's any money available for it.

The President. Well, in the first place, Federal spending for education is way up. In the second place, Federal spending for education represents about 6 or 7 percent of the total money. Historically, and properly in my view, education spending is closest to the people. It's at the local school board level, the community level, and indeed, the State level. The Federal percentage is something like 6 or 7 percent, and it has gone up.

Overall spending for education has gone from something like $115 billion 10 years ago to about $300 billion or over. I believe it's over that now.

So, to those who say the answer is spending, they ought to take a look at our America 2000 education program which simply says this: Working cooperatively with Democrats, Republicans, Governors, we've defined six national education goals. And now what we're doing is saying the way to get those goals implemented is through a program called America 2000 that literally reorganizes and revolutionizes American education. And it is a good program. It is getting tremendous support in all of these States, including the State of California.

So, I think the Federal Government is out front and leading. I don't think we ought to preempt the San Francisco schools. I don't think we ought to come in and say, "Okay, here's your curriculum, here's your mandatory test, here's exactly how you ought to run your business."

I think we've got the role defined properly, and I think it's adequately funded, though I wish we had more for it, and I know it's going to be a success.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Merry Christmas to you, Mr. President.

The President. Same to you and your family, and thanks a lot, and to all the people that listen to your program. Thank you very, very much.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The interview began at 2:06 p.m. The President spoke via satellite from Room 459 of the Old Executive Office Building.

George Bush, Interview With Richard Brown of KGO - TV in San Francisco, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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