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Interview With the President Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Editors and News Directors.

August 10, 1979

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's a pleasure to have you here. I always hate to interrupt Jody. [Laughter] If you've got him sweating, I don't want him to stop.

One of the most enjoyable and also the most productive things that we've done since I've been in office is to have these meetings with editors and news directors from around the country. We've scheduled them every 2 weeks, and we have anywhere from 30 to 65 people at each session.


I know that you're eager to get to the questions of me, but I'd like to cover one subject first. You've heard a lot about the windfall profits tax. You're going to hear a lot more about it in the future. It's extremely important to our Nation for this tax bill to be passed by the Senate. It's already been passed by the House in a fairly responsible fashion.

It's designed, first of all, to give us an opportunity to develop new sources of energy; secondly, to improve our rapid transit systems in their various forms; third, to guarantee equity, because without the windfall profit tax, there would be enormous unwarranted profits going to the oil companies which they have not earned. And the last—and the most important thing, perhaps, of all from a humanitarian point of view—is to give aid to low-income families who will be impacted, no matter what else happens, by the rapidly increasing price of oil and other energy forms.

We will present to the Congress either before or by the time they return from their working recess a specific proposal. But we are advocating that in this coming fiscal year that $1.6 billion be allotted to the poor families .of our country, and in the following years, $2.4 billion per year—$1.6 billion this first year, $2.4 billion from then on. The only legitimate source for these funds is the windfall profits tax. And my hope and my expectation is that an aroused public will insist upon a fair action by the Congress to pass this tax itself.

We have varied needs for it, but this is one that will be put forward on its own when the Congress returns. We've obviously got the other elements of the energy program to pursue when the Congress returns, the SALT treaty to be ratified after the Congress returns, hospital cost containment, and other items of legislation.

I would be glad to answer your questions about these or any other subjects if you have questions to ask.



Q. On the windfall profits thing, if it gets a compromise, if it is accepted with a compromise, do you anticipate that the compromise would give you the amount of money you need to get all of these programs through?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, if some of the compromises that have been passed in the House of Representatives should prevail, then the windfall profits tax is adequate. They, I think, unwisely made the tax terminate in 1990. I think it would be better to have the tax be permanent, because many of the energy production projects will be very long-range in nature, and they should have an assured source of funding beyond the year 1990. However, they did increase the percentage of the tax from 50 percent to 60 percent. They made some other changes. But, in general, I would say that the net income from the windfall profits tax, as passed by the House, was equivalent to what we proposed originally.

The Senate Finance Committee has mentioned some exceptions to the windfall profits tax that would gut the tax. For instance, a change in the definition of certain kinds of oil and exclusion for so-called small producers would mean that the tax would lose forty, fifty, sixty billion dollars below what we advocated. This would certainly not be acceptable.

There is some talk among some of the Senate leaders, "Well, we'll pass an inadequate bill in the Senate"—which I think is irresponsible—"and then in conference committee we will work out the differences." I think that's a dangerous game, and I would personally oppose that.

I think the Senate ought to pass an equivalent tax to what I proposed, which is what the House proposed, because there would be no area, if the Senate passed an inadequate tax, to bargain without having substantial reductions below what we need.


Q. Mr. President, one of the topics you touched on in your historic address to the Nation had to do with national confidence.


Q. And I'm wondering if you still feel that you can provide that confidence. The polls have been brutal with you. And it is perhaps the key issue in many people's minds, confidence in the White House, confidence in the administration, confidence in Washington. Will you address that question?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the lack of confidence is very broad. There is a lack of confidence of people in themselves. There's a lack of confidence in what their quality of life will be in the future, compared to the present and the past. There's a lack of confidence in many institutions. The press and the Congress are two, by the way, that are lower than confidence in the White House. And there's a lack of confidence in the President, which does concern me very much.

I believe that this absence of confidence is unwarranted. Our Nation is prosperous. Our Nation is at peace. Our Nation has a fine prospect for the future. Our Nation is the strongest on Earth economically, militarily politically. Our alliances with our friends around the world have never been any stronger. We have excellent and improving relationships with the doubtful nations of the world-the black, the poor, the new, the brown, the yellow nations—who in the past have been active enemies of ours. We have the highest reserves of energy of any nation on Earth. I think we have 24. percent of all the energy reserves known to mankind, whereas the OPEC countries all put together only have less than 5 percent, for instance. So, there's no real identifiable basis for an absence of confidence.

But it's a fact that the people have not only lost confidence in themselves now and in the future, lost confidence in our institutions, lost confidence in our Government, the free enterprise system, the press, and so forth, but they have an increasing inclination toward divisiveness.

This is the first time in history that I know about when our country has been faced with discomfort or inconvenience or more tangible and far-reaching adverse impacts on human life, without having at the same time a threat to our Nation that was cohesive in its implications. Obviously during the First World War, the Second World War, our country was bound together because we were threatened militarily. During the Great Depression, when people were inconvenienced with massive unemployment and so forth, we were bound together with an economic threat to our country. Now we don't have that tangible, identifiable threat. The threat to our national security that does actually exist from a shortage of oil supplies and an increasing and excessive dependence on foreign oil is hard for the American people to see or to quantify or to accept.

So, when this kind of thing happens, without the binding effect of an identifiable, tangible threat, but with an inconvenience, people tend to grasp for a temporary advantage to the exclusion of others. And I think that this is something that must be first identified and addressed, as I've tried to do so far and as I'll continue to do with my travels and speeches around the country. And secondly, we need a tangible achievement to show the strength of our country, which I've outlined is there. And I think dealing with the energy question is the best and most important test of this kind.


Q. Mr. President, so much has been said in the last few weeks about your position regarding the Palestinians, PLO, Israel, and so on and so forth. Most of the answers have been coming through the Secretary of State. I wonder if you could tell us in your own words what your position is on the creation of a separate Palestinian state—

THE PRESIDENT. I'm against it.

Q. —your position on the PLO, et cetera.

THE PRESIDENT. I'm against any creation of a separate Palestinian state. I don't think it would be good for the Palestinians. I don't think it would be good for Israel. I don't think it would be good for the Arab neighbors of such a state.

I do believe that we must address and resolve the Palestinian question in all its aspects, as was agreed to by Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat and myself in writing at Camp David.

I do believe that the Palestinians should have a right to a voice in the determination of their own future, which is also specified and agreed to by Begin, Sadat, and by me at Camp David in writing.

I will not deal with the PLO unless they do two things: accept the right of Israel to exist, which they've not yet been willing to acknowledge, and accept the fact that U.N. Resolution 242 is a document binding on them. They've got to accept 242, accept the right of Israel to exist. This is a commitment we've made. We've never deviated from it. We're not going to deviate from it.


Q. Mr. President, most folks in South Carolina have accepted nuclear power development as a must. My question is, our people are deeply concerned, and our Governor Riley, who's your friend, are deeply concerned if we're being adequately protected. We don't want to become the Nation's dumping ground. And our highways are becoming—we are fearful of the hazardous conditions of the transit of so much material going to and from—both Barnwell Allied Nuclear and the Savannah River project are in my backyard, 40 miles away, so you can understand how I feel.

THE PRESIDENT. And they're also, as you know, on the Georgia line. [Laughter]

Q. Right. What's needed, to you?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I've been involved in the nuclear world since the early 1950's, when that was my profession, working as a student and also working as the senior officer of the precommissioning crew of the second atomic submarine ever built. At that time I had extensive training on how to handle nuclear materials, the limitations and capabilities of nuclear power, and the problems with the disposal of waste, and also the problems with the proliferation of nuclear explosives, how one might take nuclear waste or byproducts and, through reprocessing or conversion, change them into explosive materials.

Since I've been in office, I think we've addressed for the first time in 35 years the question of the handling of waste, and the Congress has passed a very fine law which we are implementing fully on controlling the proliferation of nuclear explosives.

The incident at Three Mile Island has been one that's brought to the consciousness of the American people the need to reassess for safety purposes design of nuclear powerplants, the technology of the operation of nuclear powerplants, the training of personnel who operate the nuclear powerplants, and also the supervision by the Government of the private operators of nuclear powerplants.

When the Kemeny report is made to me by the end of this month, I will assess it very thoroughly. I will obviously carry out the recommendations of the Kemeny report if they're at all practical, and I'm sure it would be a practical recommendation. At that time I think it would be incumbent on me as President to explain to the American people the situation that does exist with nuclear power.

There is no way that our country can close down nuclear powerplants. And I think it would be ill-advised to terminate the construction of nuclear powerplants that have already been approved. We now derive, I think, about 16 percent of all of our electricity from nuclear power. And in some areas, like Chicago, for instance, they get more than 50 percent of all their power from nuclear powerplants, electric power. So, it is an important element in our energy economy. We need to assess very thoroughly the capabilities and problems. The American people need to be as well educated as possible. And I, as President, working with the Congress and with the private sector, need to make sure that we take steps to even increase the safety that presently exists.

As far as the waste disposal is concerned, we have been working since I've been in office on this very complicated subject with the Congress and with others. We don't have a final solution yet. Things that had been considered in the past as the best disposal possibilities have not proven to be well-advised. One of the earliest ones was dumping in the oceans. That was stopped years ago. Another one is the burying in the ground, like at Hanford Works in Washington. Some of the containers have ruptured, and some of the nuclear materials have gotten into the underground water supply. But I think that this can be a question that's resolved.

You happen to come from the State that's been in the forefront of production of nuclear materials, with the Savannah River plant and with the Barnwell site that was designed for the disposal of wastes and for reprocessing originally. I don't know the final answer on that yet.

The other thing I'd like to say is that we have an international nuclear fuel cycle evaluation study that we initiated in the economic summit conference in London in 1977. Its report will be completed this year. It's been a report evolved by the representatives of more than 50 nations, including the Soviet Union, South Africa, all of the Western allies and so forth. And I would guess that when this report is completed that it would be at the forefront of our agenda when we have our economic summit conference next year in Venice.

Conventional energy was in the forefront of the summit conference in Tokyo. My guess is that nuclear power in all its aspects would be in the forefront next year. So, there's an international move toward the resolution of this question. And I think I've given you too long an answer. But it's a complicated subject, and I'll try to—


Q. Mr. President, while imported fuel, imported oil is a big problem, imported steel in Pittsburgh is a big problem.


Q. We have the trigger-pricing mechanism. But if we do get into a recession, capital orders will fall, and that could be a continuing, worsening problem. Has the administration planned anything to deal with imported steel and how it would impact a very basic industry?

THE PRESIDENT. f can't say at this point that we have a plan evolved that could be put into effect. We consider the trigger-mechanism process to be working very well. It has enough flexibility in it to accommodate anticipated changes brought about by worldwide shifts in productivity and economic growth. Bill Miller is well acquainted with the steel industry. And I think you know that the results in American production and in profits for the steel industry have been well served by the present trigger mechanism that's been put into effect. We've done this with a minimum adverse reaction from our trade allies, including Japan.

So, we'll monitor the situation. If it appears to be running into a problem, we'll use the flexibility inherent in this system and modify it if necessary. But I can't tell you that that is not needed at this point. We will be prepared for it if the time should come.


Q. Mr. President, the grain miller strike in Duluth-Superior has effectively shut down that port. And it's compounded the problem that's been caused by the boxcar shortage. Although the strike itself has not caught national attention, the Governor of Minnesota has felt it was serious enough to send a telegram asking for a Taft-Hartley injunction. I think that was turned over to the Labor Department, and they turned thumbs down. Does the administration see any point if that strike continues that at some point that Taft-Hartley might become a possibility?

THE PRESIDENT. That's always an option.

I think you know that the Taft-Hartley law has very tight constraints on its own implementation. You have to be able to prove in court, for instance, that the national security of our Nation is threatened. I don't remember the exact legal language, but that's one of the aspects of it.

Ray Marshall, who's quite well acquainted with the Taft-Hartley Act and its provisions, has consulted with the White House staff, my legal staff, and also with the Justice Department, and decided at this point that implementation of the Taft-Hartley Act is not justified.

We hope that the strike will be resolved quickly, and we'll continue to monitor the situation. But at this time we don't think the Taft-Hartley implementation is advised.


Q. Sir, assuming that you are going to seek renomination and given the crisis of confidence, so to speak, that I think you alluded to earlier, what sort of case would you make, sir, for your own renomination and reelection? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. That's a lot of assumptions. [Laughter]

I don't know how to answer that question. I'd rather wait until later on this year to make an announcement of my own decision. I think if I decide to run again, I would have a good chance to get reelected.

Q. On what basis—if I may follow up, sir, on what would you pin your strategy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are only two bases that I think are legitimate. One is the record of my own administration and the description to the American people of future achievements or actions that I think would be well-advised for the next administration. I think we've got a good record.


Q. Mr. President, could you tell us what plans are being made to help the Chrysler Corporation?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I can expand any further on what Bill Miller said yesterday. My own suggestion is you get a copy of his statement. I approved this approach to the Chrysler problem. The staff in the White House and also several of the agency heads, including Cabinet officials, evolved a series of options for me. We had a meeting here in the Oval Office, and I approved the plan that Bill Miller described yesterday.

It involves two or three elements. One is a maximum dependence on the free enterprise system, including the lending institutions and Chrysler itself and others involved, to resolve this problem; secondly, that any role of the Federal Government would be adequate, but minimal, and that the Federal Government and its investment would be protected well. And I'd say the third element would be a sharing of responsibility among all those involved of any sacrifice that would be inherent in the process. I think that what Bill Miller described is adequate, if we can get the coordinated approach that he has described.

For instance, one example about sacrifice: If the Chrysler top echelon—I don't mean the four or five, but several thousand who are at the top level in earnings in Chrysler —would forgo projected salary increases and fringe benefits and bonuses, this involves tens of millions of dollars in itself. And 1 would think that that would be one of the kinds of things that could be done within Chrysler without decimating the company or putting it on its knees.

We look on Chrysler as a very important part of our national economy, including both productivity and the provision of jobs. But I think that's about the best I can describe in general terms. But the specifics have already been spelled out by Bill Miller.


Q. Mr. President, one of the most pressing problems in New England is the prospect of very high prices and perhaps low availability of heating oil. What are the reports that you get, and what plans are you contemplating to help the situation?

THE PRESIDENT. I think we'll meet our goal of the 240 million barrels of oil to be in reserve by the end of October. Last year I think we had 233 million barrels in reserve and the years before that a less amount. But we've advocated the high figure just in case there is an extremely severe winter. So, the reserves, I think, will be there, and we are monitoring this daily and have no reason for concern. There are a series of options that I can execute if we start falling behind the progression toward reaching that goal.

As far as price is concerned, I can't control the price that OPEC sets. They have increased their prices in the last 6 or 8 months alone 60 percent on basic crude oil. And of course, products from crude oil have increased an equivalent amount. What we are doing to compensate for this is to advocate to the Congress special aid for low- and middleincome families that would help them pay the extra costs that are inevitable. I think the answer in the opening statement that I made would be the best

answer for that. I need not repeat it.

MS. BARIO. Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I'll take one more question.


Q. Yes, sir. If a member of the news media outside of Washington came to this town and read the newspaper or listened to reports on radio and television, he might think that the nomination of Moon Landrieu might be in trouble. Would that be an accurate observation, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. No. No, I don't think that's accurate at all. And I hope you don't get all your impressions of Washington by reading the local newspapers. [Laughter]

Moon is an honorable man. He went out of the mayor's office with the highest possible esteem of his own people whom he had served. All of his actions, both as mayor and since he's been mayor, have been well known and highly publicized in the press.

He'll go through the normal confirmation proceedings. The questions that have been raised about his involvement in the real estate business, since he got out of mayor, will be completely answered. And I have no concern about this at all. I trust him, and he will be an excellent Cabinet officer.

I am very glad that you are here. If you don't mind, I would like to get a photograph with each one of you individually before you go to lunch. And I think it might be best to—do we have a photographer here? I'll stand right over here by the door, and if you all will just come by on your way out and let me shake hands and thank you for coming individually. And we'll get a photograph and send it to you.

Thank you.

Note: The interview began at 11:30 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Patricia Y. Bario is a Deputy Press Secretary.

The transcript of the interview was released on August 11.

Jimmy Carter, Interview With the President Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Editors and News Directors. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250237

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