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Interview With the President Excerpts From a Question-and-Answer Session With John Chancellor of NBC News

October 14, 1980


MR. CHANCELLOR. Mr. President, Ronald Reagan says if elected he's going to name a woman to the Supreme Court. What's your response to that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'd say he's privileged to make that promise. I understand that when he was Governor of California he made 600 appointments to judges, and only 12 of them were women. And he made three appointments to the Supreme Court of California, and they were all white males. Also, he promised to appoint, I think, an Italian American as judge, and he's still got 3 weeks to go.

I've had a good record on appointing women, as you know, and minority groups as well. I've appointed more women by far than all the other Presidents in this Nation combined in Federal judgeships, and I'll continue that process. But I think it is a mistake for a President to promise that in the Supreme Court appointment that it would be a particular kind of American. I'll consider all of them, and I'll continue to treat women fairly.

MR. CHANCELLOR. Mr. President, it seems to me you were not surprised when I asked you that question.


Let me ask you about the public opinion polls and how you feel about the state of the campaign right now. In the NBC poll among decided voters you're about 10 points behind. We do see evidence in that poll that it's going to come closer to that. Can you tell me how you think it's going to go for the rest of the campaign and how it will come out?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I'll win. We have 3 weeks to go from now, almost exactly, and I think the American people, as they approach the time of making this crucial choice will determine whether their own future, the future of their families and those they love will be most beneficially affected by choosing me or Governor Reagan.

So far, the campaign has been distorted to some degree by the inevitable debate about the debates, the conjecture about who is ahead or who's not ahead, and the charges and counter-charges between candidates. I think in the future, though, the difference on the issues will be much more significant among the voters, and because of that I think I'll win.

MR. CHANCELLOR. Mr. President, do you think that you've had a chance to get the issues across to the people and that your opponent has dealt with issues in this campaign? My sense of the campaign to date is that there has been a great deal of talk about competence and character, that your opponent is questioning your competence and that you've been questioning his character. How would you describe the campaign so far?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it's provided an inadequate means by which the approach on the issues between myself and Governor Reagan could be addressed. We've accepted five or six different invitations, for instance, for a man-to-man debate between the nominee of the Democratic Party and the nominee of the Republican Party. Governor Reagan has refused in every instance to carry on such a debate. I challenge him now in a very constructive way, not an adversarial way, to meet me under any circumstances on a head-to-head debate so that he and I can be cross-examined on how differently we see the major issues that affect the American people now and in the future.

So far, there's been too much attention given, perhaps by the news media and others, on the conduct of the debate, the charges and counter-charges, the status of the current public opinion polls, this kind of thing, who will debate whom and under what circumstances, and not concentrating enough on the basic issues of economics, defense capability, peace in the world, and other matters of that kind.

MR. CHANCELLOR. Do you think the next 3 weeks of the campaign will be better in these terms?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I don't think there's any doubt about that. There's a difference in the attitude of an American voter when they finally go to the polls to choose their President, compared to what it is in the early stages of a general election campaign, and certainly sharply contrasted with the attitude of a voter in the primary campaigns when the excitement of the campaign itself is important. It's an opportunity in the primary part of the campaign to express displeasure with existing circumstances, to, so-called, send a message to Washington, and so forth. But when you get down to the point of choosing the man who will sit in this Oval Office and make decisions that affect your life for the next 4 years and the integrity of the principles of our Nation, the status of the economic circumstances within which we raise our children and prepare for the future, the relationship between our country and other nations on Earth, that is such a sobering experience that I believe the American people will focus on these issues very closely and very acutely as the time for that choice approaches.

NOTE: The interview, portions of which were shown on the "NBC Nightly News," began at 3:30 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Interview With the President Excerpts From a Question-and-Answer Session With John Chancellor of NBC News Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251096

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