Jimmy Carter photo

Interview with the Hearst Newspapers Task Force

July 22, 1976

The questioners were William Randolph Hearst, Jr., editor in chief; Donald 1. Rogers, economic editor; J. Kingsbury-Smith, national editor; Marianne Means, Washington columnist; and William McCullam, chief editorial writer.

Hearst. First of all, thanks for coming.

Governor Carter. I am glad to come.

Hearst. We very much appreciate it and I don't want to forget to congratulate you on the sweep you made of your party and the cleaning up you did. It is a hell of an accomplishment. It must be really unique in American political history.

I bet you, as well as we, are bothered with the fact that a lot of people seem to be unsure of where you stand on some issues. They quote you, sometimes, that you say one thing one day and then the opposite the next day, but—and then—politicians—hell's bells, you are not the first one to do it.

I am going to try and give you a question. For example, you have said that you expect to balance the budget by 1980 and hold inflation under 4 percent. At the same time, though, you actually supported the Humphrey-Hawkins bill, which I think Mr. Hawkins himself estimated will cost $40 billion annually, and Teddy Kennedy expanded. And the national health program, which ought to go another $50 billion or more. Pretty near $100 billion annually.

How do you propose to spend that much more money and balance the budget? We have all been through the English thing. I am scared, as a businessman.

Governor Carter. The Humphrey-Hawkins bill, as it was originally introduced, I did not support it. As you know, it is still in committee at the House and Senate. As the Humphrey-Hawkins bill has been amended—I don't know whether you kept up with it or not, we have—it presently calls not for a flat 3 percent total unemployment rate at the end of 18 months, but a 3 percent adult unemployment rate at the end of 4 years, which is about a 4 1/2 percent unemployment rate.

Also, we believe—by we, I mean myself and a large group of economic advisers, including some that you might know, the members of the conference board, Mr. Summers Klein, he heads up the Wharton School of Business and is one of the top economists of the world, a Nobel Prize winner, and three or four others—that is, 8 or 10 others.

We have made projections that with the 4/2 percent unemployment rate at the end of the first term, 4 years, and with a normal growth and gross national product of 4 to 6 percent, and it is presently running at a rate in excess of that, that the inflation rate could be about in the neighborhood of 4 to 5 percent.

That we could meet all of my own commitments on expenditures and have a balanced budget as you described. This projection has been confirmed by the Wharton School of Business, and I think there is a unanimous agreement among those who advise me on economics, no matter how liberal or conservative, that it is a good and reasonable suggestion.

I have never adopted any sort of health plan that was equivalent to the Kennedy-Corman bill. I think I am the only Democratic candidate who did not. I do favor comprehensive health care, phased in over a period of time, I would say 3 to 4 years. It would involve a heavier emphasis on prevention of disease, a much heavier use of non-physicians to deliver health care and better distribution of health care throughout the country, not just in the more affluent communities.

We now spend $550 for every man, woman and child in this country on health care and I would guess that the total health care package would not be substantially in excess of that expenditure. It might be derived from different sources in some areas but it wouldn't be a $40 or $50 billion increase in health expenditures.

Hearst. You don't favor that?

Governor Carter. No, sir; I don't. We have also a commitment to have careful long-range planning, to reorganization of the structure of government, to adequate financing of new programs that are put forward with the 5 year projection of cost of service to be run to different recipients on the correlation between the business, between labor and agricultural communities of government.

I would have, I think, an ability to manage a government in a businesslike way, as you manage your own newspapers and other periodical producaction, as [I did as] Governor of Georgia. And I think that the projections are reasonable that we made.

Hearst. You couldn't just get into, "It costs money, only ..."

Governor Carter. I wouldn't do that. Any new programs put forward by myself, with the Congress, I would estimate as accurately as possible the cost for at least a 5 year period and provide financing when the program was put forward.

Smith. I have a question on the subject of foreign policy which relates to nuclear weapons. It is in three parts:

Under what circumstances would you, as President, order the use of strategic nuclear weapons?

Do you think that the United States should, if necessary, risk its own nuclear destruction to save Western Europe from Soviet military conquest, and do you foresee any circumstances on which we would be justified in resorting to first strike with nuclear weapons, strategic or tactical?

Governor Carter. I don't know the answer to those questions. I think it would be inappropriate to spell out precisely what circumstances might prevail that would cause me to use atomic weapons.

The only general response I can give is that if I was convinced that the security or existence of our own nation was threatened, under those circumstances I would use atomic weapons.

The agreements that we have in Europe are binding on us; they have been agreements that have been ratified by the President, past Presidents, and the Congress and the American people and our NATO allies, of course.

Although we have substantial control over the nuclear weaponry in Europe, the use of atomic weapons in Europe would certainly not be contemplated by me without agreement of the nations who would be most directly affected by retaliatory actions using nuclear weapons on the Soviet Union.

I certainly couldn't imagine us using nuclear weapons in Europe without Germany and Austria and perhaps France approving their use.

There again we are committed, along with European nations, to the balance of power being maintained with nuclear weapons as a major factor. We can't equal the Soviet Union now in the number of troops or tanks or airplanes in Europe, and never have since the Second World War was over; and the stand-off strength between us and the Soviet Union on nuclear weapons, where both of us have substantial overkill capabilities, is a major deterrent to war in Europe.

If there was a massive invasion in Europe by the Soviet Union, I think the likelihood would be that atomic weapons would be used. My own belief is that limited nuclear war would be unlikely. I have read some of the statements made by Soviet leaders, and I think their commitment to limited nuclear war is very doubtful.

We have predicated a lot of our new weaponry acquisitions on the premise that we need to have both first-strike capability and also retaliatory capability with a presumption that massive strategic attacks on population centers would not follow. That certainly is a possibility but I think a doubtful one.

Preemptive strike, again, would only be used, just to keep my answer deliberately in very general terms, if I was convinced that the existence or the security of our nation was threatened.

Rogers. Governor Carter, you have addressed the problem of housing, both public and private, at various times during the campaign. I wonder if you could be specific about some of your plans for housing and, more specifically, the problem that seems to be present for young people. My three young sons inform me that young Americans feel quite turned off. They feel they will never be able to afford to buy a home. Prices are so high and the requirements of down payments are so tough.

Do you have any specific plans for meeting this problem?

Governor Carter. Well, I think so. I have three sons, all of whom are married. One lives in a rented apartment in Atlanta; one lives in a private home that they purchased in Calhoun, Georgia, and another one lives in a mobile home in Plains that they bought. So, there again, I have the same acquaintance and knowledge of the housing problem that you have derived from your own children.

I think there is no industry that I can think of in the country that would have a more greatly magnified beneficial effect on employment and general stimulus of the country than housing. Here we have suffered because of an inadequate commitment on the part of the federal government to constraints and predictable housing policy.

We have got developers who would like to build homes, and 600,000 construction workers who want to go back to work, and lenders who want to lend money for better housing. But I think last year we only completed about 1 million housing units, whereas normal would be 2 million per year, and the goal established by Mr. Nixon before he impounded housing funds was 2J4 million per year.

So, the dormancy there, lack of aggressiveness, is derived to a substantial degree by an unpredictable federal housing policy. I think, again, we could spend money in housing to a minimal degree and have greater magnified beneficial effects in the guarantee of mortgages by public and private guarantors. If this was constant and predictable, this would help a great deal. It has been pretty well subverted lately.

I also favor the reconstitution of some that have been successful; 202 housing for older people, for instance. Then the renovation and subsequent sale of homes in downtown areas. Several cities have done this quite successfully. Baltimore has a very good program where they have reconstituted housing at an average cost of $12 to $13 a square foot and subsequently sold the housing for families and have a long waiting list.

It costs about $27 to $30 a square foot for urban renewal projects to build a housing unit. I think that would be a good investment of funds.

In addition, I think we need to buikl some low cost rent units. When I came home from the Navy in 1953 I didn't have any money, and I had three little children, the oldest of whom was in the first grade. I moved into the government housing projects, cinderblock housing in Plains. It is still there.

My rent was $31 a month, and the first year, 1954, I didn't make enough net profit to pay my house rent. I made less than $300 the first year.

I know how much it meant to me just to have a place to rent. I think we ought to construct low cost rental homes or apartments.

The other point is that I would favor some sort of interest subsidy. We could set a level, I don't know exactly what level should be maintained. I would say 7 percent as an arbitrary figure. So, that on a long-term mortgage for 25 years or more or less, that any excessive interest charges that would accrue from government policies or worldwide economic circumstances would be absorbed by the federal government so that a family could purchase a home with a reasonably sure knowledge of what the monthly payments would be.

Those are some of the things that could be done. They are not extraordinary, not radical. Most all have been tested. The major element would be the predictability and sureness and constancy of it. I think this would help a great deal.

Rogers. Would you describe that as an open-end mortgage, so to speak, with the government picking up the lag?

Governor Carter. Yes, sir.

McCullam. I would like to open up the subject of the balance of power. Possibly we can start by—I would like to get your opinion on the usefulness of the United Nations as it is now operating.

Do you feel it is fulfilling the function for which it was founded? Do you feel it still merits our support, financially and morally, in view of some of the things that have occurred there recently, which are disgraceful, at least in my opinion, or is there a better alternative? Is there something else that could be created to replace it?

Governor Carter. I think that, contrasting the present function of the United Nations with its original concept in 1946, it has not measured up to the expectations.

The idea was that the United Nations would be a viable organization with a relatively small number of sovereign nations negotiating in the General Assembly for a unified purpose, and for the Security Council to be the entity that would effectuate those agreements.

I don't think anybody anticipated that in the 30 years following the establishment of the United Nations that we would have 100 new nations formed. I think we had about 50 in the beginning, and now we have 150 nations, almost all of which are in the United Nations.

So, the U.N. has deteriorated into a debating society. [Its members] often realizing that their decisions will not be carried out have become irresponsible.

The Security Council is almost entirely a negative entity where vetoes prevent decisions from being consummated.

I have a strong belief that the United Nations should be continued, that we should give it our support, that if it were not there it would be advisable to create a similar organization from scratch.

I think under Mr. Moynihan [former U.N. Ambassador], we saw very vividly the possible use of the United Nations as a forum to express our ideas. I think he was ill advised on some of the things he said but I think he was a very vivid advocate of his, and the nation's purposes, and the politicians wanted the United Nations as a forum for the expression of ideas.

I think we could strengthen the United Nations considerably. I would, first of all, put the person that I thought was the best diplomatic official in the United Nations.

McCullam. Can you suggest any name?

Governor Carter. No, sir; I wouldn't suggest names. But I would like to have someone that I thought would have a worldwide acceptance as being a superb spokesman for our country. I would also make sure that the world would know, and make sure it was accurate, that the United Nations Ambassador spoke for me as President and for the Secretary of State so there would be no semblance of doubt that this was the voice erf the United States when a major statement was made.

I would strengthen our relationship with the other members of the United Nations by dealing bilaterally with the smaller and developing nations of the world. I think we have neglected the Third World nations and arrived at a point where, on a showdown vote on a controversial issue, we can get much more than 20 or 25 percent support from other nations of the world.

We have not prepared ourselves adequately for international conferences on matters concerning population, freedom of the seas, food supplies, environmental questions.

I think we have treated the United Nations as a debating society and therefore, in our treatment of it in that respect, that is all it is.

McCullam. We seem to come out on the short end of the stick time and again, because the United Nations is used as a propaganda agency by our ideological enemies in this world, and they outnumber us, and outvote us; they pull outrageous stunts time and again for propaganda purposes. And it just seems to me that when we try to play the game straight, we are bound to come out the loser, always. And it just seems to be going down all the time that way.

Smith. I think that is getting into a speech.

Governor Carter. That may be inevitable, but I don't think so. Part of the fault is ours. We have relegated it to that in international affairs and I think in doing that we contributed to the quality you describe. It may be that my assessment is more sanguine than is justified, but I would make a major effort as President to elevate the importance of the United Nations, still retaining, of course, a veto power within the Security Council to make sure they didn't carry out any actions that were contrary to the best interests of our country.

Means. The polls tend to indicate that you may have trouble with the Catholic voters. Why do you think this is, and what do you intend to do about this? Do you intend to have a special meeting with the Catholic hierarchy, as Mr. Kennedy did in 1960?

Governor Carter. My polls do not indicate that, but there is a general feeling that------

Means. The polls have been published.

Governor Carter. In the post-election analyses, following Pennsylvania and Ohio and Illinois and other states, we have done very well among Catholic voters. In several states we have done better among Catholics than Protestants. But we do have a problem, the Democrats do, primarily, because of the abortion plank of the platform and also because I happen to be a Southern Baptist and I think there is some concern about my own religious beliefs.

Yes; I do intend to meet with the members of the Catholic hierarchy to discuss these matters with them. I think, in general, my own stands on issues of public importance are compatible with theirs.

I would personally have written the Democratic Party platform plank differently on the abortion issue. I have spelled out very clearly my position on abortion and I have no objection to repeating it.

But we recognize the potential problem and I think my stand on the abortion problem is very well compatible.

Means. You think that it is more important than the so-called cultural gap between your religions?

Governor Carter. I can't tell which would be the most important cultural gap. As I campaigned around the country, I haven't detected any lack of support or concern among Catholics as a group. The only group with whom I have had very serious difficulties in the primaries has been the Jewish voters. I always come out very short among Jewish voters as I campaigned, primarily, I guess, because one of my major opponents was Senator Jackson who has very strong support there.

At this point, because of some of the statements of some of the Catholic leaders, some of them as you know refused to give the benediction during the convention because of the platform, we do have a problem. Last night on the phone I was making arrangements to meet some of the Catholic leaders.

Means. In August?

Governor Carter. Either August or before.

Hearst. With some 6.8 million, close to 7 million unemployed, my subject is illegal aliens in this country. They figure millions of them. It's high; the AP has a story here in Christian Science Monitor, 8.2 million illegal aliens now in the country of which at least 3.5 million are holding down jobs.

We can't go on brooking illegal acts, can we? Have you given any thought to that among your other problems?

Governor Carter. Yes; I have, I have talked to the governors, for example, of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and California in particular and as you know, the governors of New Mexico and Arizona are both Spanish-speaking governors, Castro and Apodaca.

There is a general feeling of frustration or despair about solving that problem. You have two directly conflicting elements in the problem. One is the illegality of the entry into our country and the competition among undocumented workers competing with citizens of our country on the one hand and the other one is that some of these families have been here 15 or 20 years and they are citizens in every sense except the legal sense and they always have been welcomed by employers; not just those who want to cheat them but those who have depended on them.

The only approach I know is one that has been put forward almost unanimously by the people I have discussed and Congressman Rodino, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has this under his responsibility.

And that is to recognize to some degree, or document to make legal, the working of those who are already here or put it off at some date, and then to put on the employers the responsibility of not giving employment to others, and that there be a fairly heavy criminal or civil penalty for an employer who gave a job to someone who did not have the proper documents.

I don't know of any alternative to that. I don't know if you can go into Los Angeles and root out 2,000 or 3,000 undocumented workers and move them back to Mexico.

Means. A bill to do that has been pending in Congress for a long time and cannot seem to get passed.

Governor Carter. I realize that. I don't know what leadership has been derived from the White House.

Means. You think that can make the difference?

Governor Carter. It's possible.

Hearst. Couldn't we spend more money in the Immigration Department and at least stop the flow?

Governor Carter. I don't think so. I have talked to the governors that administer the affairs of those states and also talked to some of the people in the border patrol, border patrol supervisors. There is such a tremendous area involved, and if you notice the Rio Grande River, it's not an obstacle. You can walk across it almost anywhere. I think that that's a possibility, but it's not an adequate one.

Smith. Governor, how do you intend to pay for what you plan to do in the job creation, health, energy, and social welfare fields and by what specific measures do you plan to bring about a balanced budget in 1980?

Governor Carter. I tried to address that earlier in my first answer. I can't give you any sure response. In the first place, I am going to administer the affairs of government in a tough, I believe, competent, businesslike way.

I am going to reorganize a structure of government to make sure that we don't have the present ineffective administration. I am going to institute zero-base budgeting the first week I am in the White House as an executive decision. This does not require action by the Congress.

It's a budgeting technique I used throughout my term in Georgia effectively. Others have documented it now. The effectiveness does not depend on the scale or scope of its production, no difference if it's a state or city.

[With] unzero, you have overlapping or duplication of programs. [With zero-base, you have] elimination of the obsolete; automatic reassessment of priorities on an annual basis.

I would also proceed with the requirement as I expressed earlier that as we initiate new programs there has to be a long-term commitment to their financing. Congress has to face the fact that we cannot continue to spend money in new programs without providing new mechanism for payment.

I think this would be a conservative approach to government, and I think, advisable. We have got to have some inevitable increase in revenues built in, as you know, that always occur on an annual basis, and those increases in revenues would be allotted by me to areas where I thought the need was greatest.

There [has] been in the past, I think, an ability to correlate low unemployment rates with relatively low inflation rates. Historically, they have gone more hand-in-hand than they have been in contravention, one to another.

But I can't give you a specific answer in addition to proper management and screening out of old programs. I will give you one specific example that I think is important just to illustrate the point.

We have 72 agencies in the federal government responsible for physical health care. I think 37 responsible for mental health. We have Medicaid and Medicare in another one. Neither one of those agencies are related to health.

As we implement a health program in the country over a 3 or 4 year period, commensurate with that would be a reorganization of health care. If we put in a perfect bill for comprehensive health care in this country and kept the existing organizational structure, administrative structure, that would almost mean it would be ineffective and costly.

So to define responsibility would be a great help. I can only refer back to the analysis advice I have gotten from economists who helped me at Harvard and MIT, at the Wharton School in Pennsylvania and in the conference board and I believe that unanimously they agreed that under normal circumstances that we can carry out all the programs that I have made and have the budget balanced by the time you have described.

Rogers. Governor, it looks as though inflation is going to return with a vengence during the last half of this year. Both food prices and the already mandated energy increases. Assume that you are going to be facing double digit inflation when you take office, what would be your immediate plan to counteract that?

Governor Carter. I don't believe that we will have as high as a 10 percent inflation rate by January, but the inflation rate is going up. I recognize that.

I don't know how to answer your question with that supposition. If we had a 10 percent inflation rate what would I do?

Rogers. Let's say 8 or 9 or somewhere. A higher inflation rate.

Governor Carter. I think at the beginning the only inevitable commodity that's going to increase in price is food.

I believe that historically, over a long period of time, the demand for food as contrasted with the world's capacity for production is going to increase the price of food no matter what we do. I think our country might benefit as being the only major country now in the world that has assured export capability.

Of course when we export food on a world market, prices are going to go up. That's built in. I don't think we can do anything about that.

There obviously are ways to help control inflationary pressures by controlling the supply of money.

Here, I think that the Federal Reserve Board Chairman, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, the Treasury Secretary and myself, plus at least the Finance and Ways and Means chairmen in the Senate and the House would have to try to jointly control [that] through tax measures and through available supplies of money on inflationary prices.

I would personally like to have standby wage and price control authority. I doubt that I would ever use it. But I would like to have the authority that existed 4 or 5 years ago. I think this would probably help and be a restraining affect.

A constraint on governmental expenditures would certainly become a much more heavy factor, and I think this would probably affect the rapidity of effectuating a health care system, among others; if the inflation rate was that high.

There would be another factor and that is the expenditure of federal funds for capital improvements, rapid transit systems, highways. I would have to make a tradeoff there between job availability and inflation.

The general presumption that I have and still maintain is that until we get down in the neighborhood of 5 percent unemployment plus or minus a half percent, that could only be judged as the time approached, that the efforts to increase employment would not have a—would not be a major factor on an inflation rate.

Commodity supplies would be one additional source of high inflationary pressures. I don't think that this is going to be a major factor at the end of this year. I personally would like to build up reserves over a period of time of the scarce commodities.

As you know we have out of the 15 crucial commodities, mostly metals, 12 of them are heavily dependent on imports which over a period of time an adequate reserve of those would help us stabilize those.

If I went into office with the kind of circumstances that you described, that would not be a major factor.

Rogers. Energy costs will go up, too, this fall?

Governor Carter. I think there is a possibility on a worldwide basis, energy prices may come down in the future, no way to assure this.

McCullam. Would you resume this business of a balance of power? Would you in a general way address yourself to this situation to the extent of saying, for example, what the American public could reasonably expect our posture to be in this situation in a Carter Administration? How would you handle this confrontation with Russia? What about B-l, bigger Navy, all this kind of thing? Just a general discussion of this theme I think is very important.

Governor Carter. Well, my background and my education are in the military. I was a graduate of Annapolis and did some graduate work in the Navy.

I consider the foremost responsibility of any President to be the guaranteeing of our nation's security, of freedom from the threat of successful attack or blackmail and the ability to carry out our foreign policy and meet our commitments to our allies.

I would be deeply committed to that proposition.

I think that there is a great deal of waste in the defense establishment. We have had too much of diversification of the role of the Defense Department.

There is hardly a single function now carried out by civilian agencies that is not duplicated by the Defense Department itself.

I think we have too many different military bases overseas, about 2,000; too many troops overseas in some areas of the world. We have, I think, too much emphasis on new weapons sometimes when the need for those weapons is not correlated with the effectuation of a long-range foreign policy.

I don't personally favor the construction of the B-l bomber at this point I will keep the project alive in the research and development stage, but I would not finance it at this point. I might change my mind when I am completely acquainted with the secret information that I don't have. At this point I don't favor that.

I would try to build about one Trident submarine per year. I think we are getting into a dangerous position with respect to the Soviet Union on that naval strength.

The Soviet Union has made a major commitment in recent years to get away from a confrontation with too many weapons and maybe by the use of surrogates and they have committed themselves to worldwide influence to the naval forces.

They have had a rapid escalation in the strength of their navy. It is basically a land-locked nation, and to perform a certain function in naval control they require more ships than we do for coverage of the world's seas. I don't think we are in that vulnerable position now.

The Soviet Union does have superior ship-to-ship missiles and they are beginning to challenge us now by putting out their first aircraft carriers.

I have a deep belief that our most important strategic element in the entire defense mechanism of our country is nuclear-powered submarines. They are almost completely invulnerable to missile attack and their deterrent value is superb.

With the MIRV missiles we have now, we have a vast security strength [compared] to the Soviet Union. They are overcoming that superiority by their own missiles.

I think the amount of money we could save as compared to present projections would be in the neighborhood of 5 percent, $5 billion or $7 billion.

I think we have got an overly costly personnel system in the Navy and other Armed Forces now, more admirals and generals than we had in the Second World War when we had 11 million people in uniform. In our instructional force there is an extraordinary number of instructors, less than two students per instructor are in the military now.

There is excessive duplication among the different services for the same function. We have got in addition to that, I think, a very costly commitment to duplication of weapons systems.

I would be very cautious about military cutbacks. I think that we have seen the percentage of our gross national product going into defense drop substantially and I think the percentage there is not excessive. But the figure that I have used throughout the campaign after some fairly careful analysis about a year ago is roughly a $5 to $7 billion savings.

Hearst. Largely personnel.

Governor Carter. Personnel, unnecessary weapon systems.

Means. Could you discuss your overall campaign strategy, what states you expect to put together in the South, how you expect to appeal in the big industrial states like New York and California, where you were not as impressive in the primaries as some others?

Governor Carter. We had a fairly impressive showing in states where we campaigned. Our poll results now show that I am ahead in all parts of the country. This can change very rapidly and we are not taking anything for granted.

I will be meeting with Senator Mondale beginning this weekend. Our staff has begun extensive discussions today in South Carolina. Senator Mondale is going to join them tomorrow and be there all day Saturday, to spend next week with me, and he and I primarily through staff work will divide responsibilities among the different parts of the country between us, himself and his wife, and myself and my family.

I don't intend to yield any state in the country to the Republicans. We might lose some states. I am sure we will. But we are not going to write off any of the parts of the nation.

I had a break, for instance, in California. I am within one or two points of Ford in Michigan, and in general we are in a very good and strong competitive position at this point We have not had any poll analysis to show how the results of the convention affected the public attitude toward me, the selection of Mr. Mondale, and the unity that resulted from the convention itself.

I will begin to campaign aggressively around Labor Day and go all out with me and my family, Senator Mondale, his family, and all the reasons that we have to win.

I will work just as hard and campaign as aggressively as I did in the primaries. And plans are just as thorough and meticulous as they were when we approached the primary elections.

As far as the issues are concerned, the issues will be determined to some degree by the identity of the Republican nominee.

Means. Assume it is Ford?

Governor Carter. I think there the complete absence of leadership capabilities as demonstrated by his service in the White House will be a major factor, the inability to deal with things that affect our country, lack of purpose, equivocation, work in Congress. These kinds of issues would obviously be important.

I think that in general the Democratic Party platform is one that I would espouse. There are a few things in it that I don't agree with completely, but in general that would be a good thing to run on.

We are making plans to correlate our effort also very thoroughly with Democratic candidates throughout the country, for the Congress, governors, U.S. Senate, and in some instances for legislative races like in Ohio and New York. For instance, this is being done through the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in Washington and our own campaign in Atlanta, and Senator Mondale will run his whole campaign out of Atlanta.

I think our proposals for government reorganization, welfare reform, tax reform, comprehensive planning on health care, transportation, agriculture, and so forth, would be specific issues that would be attractive to the people of the country.

Means. You struck a theme of justice in your acceptance speech. Would you elaborate on that. Will it be major?

Governor Carter. It is a theme that exists in the minds of the American people and therefore will be important in the campaign. A lot of people feel that they get cheated in the allocation of government services, in the administration of criminal justice, and in the income tax system, in their access to government, in job availabilities. They feel that there are those that benefit from welfare programs that ought to be working, and justice in its general sense is a very important element.

Means. Isn't it a way of reminding them of Watergate?

Governor Carter. To some degree. I personally don't feel that it is completely advantageous to raise the question of Watergate. I would like to avoid that if possible. I have not yet discussed this matter with Senator Mondale. I did not know what was going to be in his speech and he did raise the question. And I think it is a political mistake.

Smith. On the question of the Middle East, how would you go about achieving an overall peace settlement in the Middle East? How would you guarantee the right of Israel to exist? And if Israel were in grave danger of being destroyed by invading forces, would you favor American military intervention to save them?

Governor Carter. Obviously the first question is one that nobody has been able to answer yet. How do you go about an overall peace settlement?

Smith. You have said that you were in favor of it.

Governor Carter. I am. I think in the first place I would let Israel know, their neighbors, the Arab nations, know, and the world know that our commitment to Israel was unequivocal.

I would never waiver on that commitment, and that we would provide them with adequate military and economic aid so they could defend themselves, preserve existence and identity as a Jewish state and hopefully be strong enough to deter any potential aggressor against Israel.

I would not send troops to Israel. I have never met an Israeli leader, President or previous Prime Minister, or any defense leaders or foreign executives who ever advocated under any circumstances the sending of American troops to Israel.

I think that we should pursue aggressively the general provisions of the United Nations Resolution 242, and I think we ought to use whatever influence we have through the Soviet Union and directly, with Arab nations through our own friendship with them, through trade agreements, and through other means to get them to recognize Israel's right to exist and to be willing to declare a nonbelligerency status against Israel.

The resolution calls for the Arab nation to negotiate with Israel directly and I think that would be a matter that we should seek. In the absence of that willingness on the part of the Arab nations, we should offer our services as an equal third party, as was the case in the Sinai agreement, which I thought was a good step forward.

Ultimately, of course, Israel will have to withdraw from major portions of territory captured by them in the 1967 war. That should be done on a quid pro quo basis. There are some exceptions that I would personally recognize. One is I don't think that Israel is going to relinquish to the Syrians direct control of the Golan Heights overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the valley there. I would not And I think that Israel is going to be reluctant, and I would support their reluctance, to relinquish control again of the Christian and Jewish Holy places in Old Jerusalem.

The legitimate interest of Palestinians is probably the most important aspect of the Middle East settlement. They ought to be recognized. Automatically there ought to be territories ceded for the use of the Palestinians. I think they should be part of Jordan and be administered by Jordan. I think half the people in Jordan are Palestinians themselves. And that would be my own preference.

The Middle East situation is in a state of flux and fluidity, and I think we ought to take advantage of every opening we have in the present involvement in Lebanon and Syria as the countries change drastically, of possibilities that Israel and Lebanon might share some common purposes that weren't recognized here. Difficulties in countries dominated by the Soviet Union is something we ought to exploit. We have done that successfully in the case of Egypt.

As far as having a secret conclusion, I just don't have it. I would believe that ultimately, if Israel and the surrounding countries would trust us, know about our complete commitment to the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state in peace; if that was a premise on which everyone made decisions, I would like to involve as many nations as I could in the conformation of an ultimate settlement.

I have seen from my own personal relationships with some of the leaders that quite often their private willingness to yield on a controversial issue greatly exceeds their public willingness to yield on that same controversy, and that is understandable because they want to keep as many negotiating points as they can.

We ought to be constantly probing for some mutuality of purpose there. I would not be adverse to a step-by-step approach if it was the only alternative. I think overall, though, a better possibility would be a comprehensive approach.

I think that the Geneva Conference might possibly be reconvened in the future, if all other possibilities break down. The major possibility is there that the participation by the Palestinians, which Israel objects to very strongly, and I think the Arab countries ought to make that a requisite. Also the Soviet Union ought to be a party to the conference.

Smith. May we give our editors an opportunity to ask you questions. This is Jack Leary, editor of the Albany Times Union.

Leary. Governor, if New York City or any other American city should suffer financial collapse or was approaching that stage during a Carter Administration, what kind of help could they expect from the White House?

Governor Carter. I spelled out a fairly comprehensive attitude toward the cities of our country both in my speech to the Mayors Conference in Milwaukee this past month, and also in my discussions with Mayor Beame which I believe were highly public. I think the No. 1 economic crisis in our country is derived from the breakdown in older urban metropolitan centers.

We have got New York City as a test case and, obviously, Albany, Buffalo, and other New York cities, Elmira, and others, share the same problems. And I have promised that immediately following the election if I am successful in being elected President, I would meet with Governor Carey, with Mayor Beame, and certainly be glad to meet with other metropolitan leaders in New York State, to work out a joint approach to urban problems.

We now have several serious obstacles to the resolution of these needs. In the first place, there is no predictability about the degree of participation on the part of the federal government in education, social problems, health, transportation, law enforcement, pollution control, and this would help a great deal.

As a governor, I know that I can't tell 6 months ahead of time what is. going to be required from my state. As I prepare my budget, it would extend 18 months in the future. I would like to freeze or approximately maintain the constant level, the participation of the state and local governments in the cost of health care and welfare cost, reduce substantially the contribution of local governments and over a period of time reduce also the contribution of state governments on a percentage basis, maybe by holding their present dollar level constant.

I personally believe that revenue sharing money should go directly to the cities. That it should be used for programs that would apply to matched federal funds. This would let revenue sharing money to be used for human needs.

As we have housing programs financed in part or wholly by the federal government, and also law enforcement programs and others, I would like to insure that the federal money goes where the need is the greatest. In the past we haven't had this assurance, and quite often suburban areas that are more articulate and better organized and more influential have taken by default a major portion of the benefit derived from programs that were initiated in downtown urban areas.

I think we can learn a great deal from cities like Savannah, Georgia, which has reconstituted the downtown areas of their own communities when they were destined for destruction 15 or 20 years or more. I mentioned earlier the rebuilding or renovation of downtown housing areas.

Another thing that can be done that would help would be to try to encourage through tax incentives or otherwise, investments in the downtown areas. Now we have got a problem of trying to move the central city unemployed people out in the suburbs to work. I think with the persuasion of the White House and possibly some tax incentives that industry would be encouraged to stay in the downtown area. Transportation allocation would help a great deal also.

I think there is a lot that city governments can do. It took me about 15 minutes longer to get here from the airport than we had projected earlier because on a five or six lane street, there ordinarily—in downtown New York this morning, one lane was open for traffic. You have got parking on both sides of the street, double parking on both sides, with permanent parking on the outside and temporary parking on the next level. There's a lot that can be done now. Those are some of the things that can help alleviate the problem. I think the long-range policy that can be used by business or industry or labor, is for local or state governments to make their own plans, put forward to show what the federal government was going to do in those necessary elements of human life, would be the greatest single step to be taken. ...

I would like to point out to you something that you already observed. I don't claim to know all the answers to the question, and your questions have been very probing, which I appreciate. But those involving the problems in the urban areas, the resolution of the Mideast crisis, the solution of the United Nations failures, are questions that will be addressed to me as President, and I welcome the opportunity to deal with them. And I don't claim to know all the answers now. But I think I have a good sense of the attitudes and the hopes and dreams and the fears that are concerns of the American people as much as any political figure that has ever been elected President.

I have worked among the average American citizens and have a great deal of confidence in their judgment. I think to the extent that the American people can be involved in the evolution of our commitments...

McCullam. Governor, that's a tremendous statement you just made and it provokes me to ask a question that I ask with a great deal of temerity, because I think this is a question the American people would like to ask.

Can you, would you put your finger on any one motivating factor that led you to this tremendous leap or aspiration on your part? What was it that motivated you to seek the Presidency?

Governor Carter. I am deeply concerned about our country. I don't consider myself uniquely qualified to be President. But I had a sure sense throughout the campaign that among those who were running, that I was the most qualified to deal with these questions. I know my motive is good. I don't have any selfish aspirations in government. And I am sure that the other candidates had the same sense of their own purposes.

I had a very sure sense of trust of the common sense and judgment and the high moral character of the American people, and I think to the extent those characteristics can be mirrored in our government, I think it can strengthen us tremendously.

When we have a foreign policy directive in the absence of participation by the American people or Congress, and when it is put forward by the President and Secretary of State in a vacuum, even if it is a proper policy and right decision, we are weak and other nations recognize that weakness.

When President Nixon or Ford or Secretary of State Kissinger have laid down an ultimatim to the Soviet Union about Angola and to the Cubans after Angola without the support or participation of the people or the Congress, the world knows that we were speaking with a hollow voice. And I think that's one of the things that I could bring to the Presidency.

I don't have any obligations to any special interest group. I have never made a secret agreement with a single person or group about anything. And if I am elected President I will be elected on that basis.

Any time I meet with a group who represents a special interest or otherwise, teachers, labor, industry, Jewish leaders, black leaders, motor truckers, miners, it is open. And if I make any sort of promise to them, it is made known to the news media.

I don't ever intend to go into the White House with any obligations to anyone that might constrain me to making a proper judgment. I have a sure feeling that I can work harmoniously with the Congress.

A few weeks ago, I went to Capitol Hill for the first time and the response among congressmen was overwhelming. I think they are so eager for strong, aggressive leadership in the White House. I think I understand, having been a governor, the proper relationship that should exist between the President and the Legislative Branch.

I am a businessman. My background and orientation has been toward the free enterprise system, business. And the last thing I mention is that I have a unique experience in dealing with disadvantaged people. I grew up with them.

I never have been hungry myself. But my neighbors and friends and playmates and schoolmates were black, some of them; they were poor and working people and I have a sure feeling I think of their legitimate needs.

And I thought a lot about my acceptance speech. I don't know if any of you read it, but I expressed in that speech some of my concerns about nations. I have confidence in myself. I don't think I am proud or elegant. I am a good leader, have proven my executive leadership as governor.

Hearst. Governor, I would like to say that I think you got a "bum rap" for the reputation for ducking questions. You have been very, very helpful.

Governor Carter. Thank you.

NOTE: Interview conducted in New York City.

Jimmy Carter, Interview with the Hearst Newspapers Task Force Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347632

Simple Search of Our Archives