Jimmy Carter photo

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

May 19, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you very much for coming to the White House to see us. Bill [William Shipp, Atlanta Constitution], how are you doing? How are things in Atlanta?

What I'd like to do just for a very brief period of time is to outline a few of the items that are involved in my duties, both in the Congress and internationally, and then answer your questions.


We've lately been trying to deal satisfactorily, and within the complete bounds of the law, with the question of Zaire and the invasion of Zaire by Katanganese who came in from Angola.

We have a very limited role to play there. We are involved in providing some logistical support for removing, because of humanitarian reasons, some of the nationalists-nationals who are located in the Kolwezi area. The French and Belgians, with the support and participation of the Mobuto Zairian Government, are attempting to evacuate those nationals whose lives are endangered. We are providing support only in the noncombat zone. The nearest approach, I think, to Kolwezi by our airplanes is about 200 kilometers.

This would be a limited involvement. We've consulted very closely with the Members of Congress, and I'm sure that it will be successful.

We've also been approaching the Congress on some other foreign policy matters this year. Two major ones that have already been resolved are the Panama Canal treaties and the sale to the Mideast countries of arms.

We've also decided to ask Congress to terminate the Turkey arms embargo, which I consider to be a crucial decision for the strengthening of ties between Greece and NATO—between Turkey and NATO, between Greece and Turkey, and to help us resolve the Cyprus issue.

We will be preparing—I've spent a lot of time preparing for a NATO conference here, the last days of this month. It will be much broader in scope than previous NATO conferences. The heads of the nations will be here with me, around this very table at times, and will analyze the long-range thrust of the NATO defense agreements and resolve some issues that have arisen among us and which ordinarily are addressed through bilateral conversations between me and other NATO government heads of state.

Congress is dealing with the budget and with the energy question. We hope that we'll have an early resolution of the natural gas pricing and deregulation proposal which has been the most difficult issue of all. That will still leave the question of the crude oil equalization tax, which is to be decided by a separate committee, at least from the Senate point of view.

We have civil service reform proposals now in the House and Senate. As far as legislation goes, I consider this to be the most important issue in reorganization effort. We're trying to make the bureaucracy and the Federal Government more responsive and more manageable.

As I've said several times, it's much worse than I thought it was before I got here. [Laughter] And I think that to give very dedicated career civil servants an opportunity to do a better job and to be rewarded when they do a good job, and also to encourage those who aren't performing well to perform better, to give our managers authority among the personnel, civil service, will be a major step in the right direction. This is in the Post Office and Civil Service Committee in the House, and the Government Operations Committee in the Senate. And we are spending a lot of time getting ready for this vote, which I hope and expect to be favorable.

We've got many other issues at stake. I think in order to save time, since I came in here a little bit late, I'll answer your questions, and then address more directly those questions that are very important to you.

I might say, before I take the first question, that I have enjoyed being President. [Laughter] It's a full-time job, I've discovered. But there are pleasant working conditions, as you can see. I don't have to ride very far to get to work. I think it's kind of brought our family together. Rosalynn has been an equal partner with me in many ways. And she's presently involved to a major degree in building up volunteer work in the improvement of the quality of life in our communities, around the country, of all sizes. She's studying Spanish and has made two or three trips to Spanish-speaking countries to the south with great effectiveness, I think.

And I've got a superb Cabinet. There's not a single member of my Cabinet that I would want to change. And my hope is all of them will stay here as long as I'm in the White House. I've got a good staff, solid.

So, I've enjoyed the job, and I never got up out of bed yet that I didn't look forward to the day. Sometimes I've been disappointed after I got up. [Laughter]



Q. Mr. President, may we have your personal reaction to the trial of Yuri Orlov in the Soviet Union?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. The State Department, with my approval, has issued a statement on this subject. We are deeply disturbed about this action by the Soviet Union, which in my opinion subverts the spirit of the Helsinki agreement concerning human rights. Orlov was a Soviet citizen who organized a group to monitor compliance with the so-called third basket in the Helsinki agreement, which was signed not only voluntarily but with a good bit of publicity on the part of the Soviet Union.

We are concerned about the severity of the sentence, the secrecy of the trial, and the apparent abuse that Mrs. Orlov suffered during the conduct of the trial. We've expressed our concern in clear terms to the Soviet Government.


THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't paign, you said that nuclear power should be America's last energy resort. When and why have you changed your position?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't changed my position. I always made it clear when I said that, that our first emphasis ought to be on conservation. Our second emphasis ought to be on saving oil and natural gas, which are getting very rapidly depleted and the production of which in our country has been going down steadily and inexorably, I think; that we should increase our production of coal and renew an effort to encourage additional use of solar power, cut down on imports, and to the extent that all those efforts are not successful, we ought to make up the difference with atomic power.

But I always made it clear and still feel that there is a significant role to be played by nuclear power.

I was involved to some degree in evolution of peaceful nuclear power uses, and I know that in some parts of the country, like around Chicago, about 50 percent of the total power comes from nuclear plants. I'm very interested in TVA. I'm going to be down in TVA, the national headquarters, on Monday.

Six plants are being prepared for construction in the TVA program. I support this. We've tried to expedite the licensing procedure, but at the same time do all these other matters which I think would minimize the need for nuclear power.

Q. Isn't more of the research money still going into nuclear power than such things as solar and geothermal?

THE PRESIDENT. No. Compared to what the Congress has authorized previously, we've had a substantial increase in other forms of energy, as far as the budget is concerned, on research and development. I think for the first time now, we've gotten nuclear power research and development down to less than half of the energy budget.

But I think, as you probably have noticed, there's a much more fervent commitment to some very wasteful projects, like the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, in the Congress than I have. I would like to terminate the Clinch River Breeder Reactor and have tried to, and the Congress has so far overridden my objections to it.

I do think we ought to continue to keep open the option of breeder reactors. And we have a very heavy allotment of funds available for research and development in that field. But to tie down a specific design and start constructing an operating plant now when we do not need it, I think, is a very large and unnecessary waste of money.


Q. Mr. President, Congress is currently struggling with the difficult issue of, if the equal rights amendment is fair, is the extension of ratification fair. What's your opinion?

THE PRESIDENT. I strongly favor the passage of the equal rights amendment—

Q. What about the extension of ratification?

THE PRESIDENT. —-and I hope that it passes. If it becomes obvious that it wouldn't pass, then I would favor the extension of the law.

Q. Mr. President?



Q. Is the United States responding in any way to the continued Soviet-Cuban adventures in Africa? Are we doing anything to discourage that specifically?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I think you probably know that the Congress placed very tight constraints on the President and any initiatives that can be taken, in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and the aborted effort to move into Angola after they got their independence from the Portuguese.

I favor a lot of those constraints. The War Powers Act suits me fine, where the President cannot initiate military action without consultation with the Congress. I think this is good.

But within the bounds of the present law, which we are honoring rigidly, we are doing all we can. One of the real needs is to have more public support for foreign aid programs. I don't know of any issue that has less political support than that program itself, foreign aid in all its forms.

The Soviets and the Cubans are quite eager to provide military weapons to any group in a country where they might see a foothold there opening for them in the future for increased influence. And the Soviets are very eager to send Cuban troops, actually to be involved in the fighting. And the Cubans respond without reticence.

In order to meet that challenge, we depend upon our own voice to express our concern to the Soviets through my own public statements, through private correspondence between me and Brezhnev, through diplomatic channels, through the voices and influence of our allies around the world who want to see an absence of military action and outside interference.

We try to strengthen the Organization of African Unity and prevail upon the black leaders of Africa that the issues in that continent can be best resolved by leaders who live in Africa. We have tried, since I've been in office, I think in an innovative way, to increase our own routine involvement in Africa, not just go in there at the last stages after a crisis has occurred.

I received overwhelming welcome, for instance, in Nigeria, whereas a few years ago—3 years ago, I think—the Nigerians refused to let Secretary Kissinger come into their country. And I think whereas Kaunda, who's here now from Zambia, has been highly critical of our Government and our policies in the past, now he's very supportive and very constructive.

We are trying to honor the legitimate demand of black Africans for their own voice, on an equal basis with other citizens in the shaping of government policy and the election of their own leaders and in the determination of their own future, their own destiny.

Majority rule, one person, one vote principles that we espouse so fervently here in our country, we are trying to espouse those same rights in Africa. To the extent that we fail to do that, it opens up an avenue for enhanced intrusion by the Soviets and the Cubans on a default basis.

We are working much more closely in harmony now with European leaders. For instance, in settling the Namibia question, we have a five-person committee working under the aegis of the United Nations-ourselves, Canada, Britain, France, West Germany—who are dealing directly with the South Africans and directly with the SWAPO organization. We have combined our efforts with the British in trying to resolve the Rhodesian question fairly, with open elections, free, so that any person can participate who chooses, and where the same basic form of elections can be held as are held here and in Great Britain.

We work with others who are interested in peace in Africa. The Saudi Arabians have been very helpful in providing some nonmilitary aid when countries get in bad economic circumstances. We are trying to help nations that have a one-commodity export dependence, like the Zambians with copper, and so forth, to have a much more stable market, better reserves.

So, in every possible way, on a peaceful basis, we cooperate with nations in need so they don't have to turn to the East, to the Soviets and through their surrogates, the Cubans, for help.

We are watching with great interest and concern now the degree of Soviet involvement in the internal matter in Ethiopia concerning the Eritreans. The Cubans, for instance, claim to be a nonaligned country. It's obvious that they are not nonaligned. They are the most heavily dependent and subservient countries that the Soviet Union, which I am aware of, certainly outside the Eastern Bloc itself. And we point this out frequently when we have visitors here from, say, Romania, or from Yugoslavia. We point out that military presence of the Cubans in Africa is inimicable to peaceful progress and is an unwarranted intrusion.

So, through all these matters we try to meet that challenge on a nonmilitary basis. We have a limited ability to supply defensive weapons to those countries, under very tight constraint from laws that control my actions, and we take advantage of that. So, those are some of the things we are doing, Bill, that I think are adequate.

I might make one other point that I made in Spokane the other day, and that is that in the long run we have an advantage, because I think we have a much more natural affinity for and compatibility with the black people of Africa than do the Soviets. They know that in the long run their economic well-being, democratic principles, basic human rights can be better guaranteed through a relationship with the Western democracies than with the Eastern totalitarian countries. And in many instances those leaders in Africa are deeply religious people, and they have some reluctance about affiliating themselves with the atheistic governments of Cuba and the Soviet Union. Those are some of the distinctions that are drawn between us and them.


Q. Mr. President, I'm from an oil- and gas-producing county in Texas. I wonder what the outlook is for the energy policy and deregulation of natural gas?

THE PRESIDENT. I think at this point it looks much better than it has in months. We've seen the two committees, two conference committees, the House and Senate, being almost exactly equally divided. As you know, the Senate committee, when it began to confer, was divided 9 to 9. And the unfortunate death of one of the committee members is the only thing that relieved the tie.

We've had the House committee conferees recently divided, I think, 13 to 13. And I know we've needed 13 votes to prevail. We see a prospect of step-by-step deregulation of natural gas at a rate of the inflation plus 4 percent, to be completed in early 1985 with, I think, adequate protection for consumers. And this would round out the fourth major element among the five in our comprehensive energy package. The one remaining, as I said, would deal with oil pricing.

So, I think at this time the prospect for success in the conference committee is very good. It's the first time I've been able to say that in 13 months.


Q. Mr. President, what, if anything, has been a new development in the Dominican Republic vote?

THE PRESIDENT. There have been three very distinguished citizens there who were invited in to monitor the outcome of the election and the proper procedures used, headed by Galo Plaza, who's a former executive secretary of the OAS—Secretary General. I understand that they are now on the way back to OAS headquarters.

We have expressed, through diplomatic channels and publicly, our deep concern about the interference in the electoral process by the Dominican Republic military. We've been assured repeatedly by Balaguer, the incumbent President, that the votes would be counted and counted honestly and that he would abide by the result of the election. Our impression is that the military does not want Guzman to be elected President. They want Balaguer to stay in office. And the military are the ones who have interfered.

If it becomes obvious to us, after we analyze the procedures used in the election, that the will of the Dominican people has been subverted by illegalities or unwarranted interference in the democratic election process, this would have a major effect on the support that we would give to the future Dominican Government, and my guess is that we would turn then, also, to the Organization of American States for a thorough investigation of what did occur there.

We are quite concerned about this-we, the Venezuelans, the Colombians, the Costa Ricans, and others—because we believe so deeply that democracy must-be improved among the nations of Latin America on their own initiative. We're not trying to interfere in the internal affairs of another country. But there are four other nations who presently are committed to democratic elections in the future, who now have military governments in varying forms. And I think if we should have a demonstration in the Dominican Republic, which is a very good democracy up until now, that those principles don't prevail, it would have an adverse effect on the entire Southern Hemisphere.

So, we are deeply concerned about it. We'll do all we can without interfering directly in the internal affairs of the Dominican Republic to let our concern be felt in a beneficial way.


Q. Is this country about to establish full diplomatic relations with Mainland China?

THE PRESIDENT. We don't know yet. Ever since President Nixon's highly publicized visit to the People's Republic, we have lived under the so-called Shanghai Communique commitments. I have reconfirmed my approval of those agreements, which do call for a normalization of relationships with the People's Republic of China.

Dr. Brzezinski is not going to Peking to negotiate normalization. He's going there to exchange ideas, to try to build up a better relationship between ourselves and the People's Republic, to enhance trade, to search out mutual interests that we have around the globe, and to let there be a better understanding between us and the people of Mainland China.

We recognize under the Shanghai Communique that there is one China. We insist that any differences between Taiwan and the Mainland be resolved peacefully, and we don't know yet with what degree of success the move toward normalization can be expedited. We just don't know yet.


Q. You mentioned earlier that reforming the civil service had been more than you anticipated.

THE PRESIDENT. No, I said that the problems in the bureaucracy had been more than I anticipated.

Q. Has your education in dealing with the Congress been similar?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I've had a good relationship with the Congress. I think when this term is concluded, for instance, and an inventory is made of what achievements we've realized, there will be a recognition that my relationship with the Congress has been very good. We've had some very difficult issues that we've addressed, some highly controversial matters and some hot debates, and some failures, of course.

But, for instance, the natural gas deregulation question has been one of the most controversial ever addressed by the Congress. I think the first natural gas deregulation bill was vetoed by Harry Truman, I think, in 1950 or so. For 30, 35 years, this has been a difficult matter to resolve.

I'm not saying flatly that this one will be resolved this year. My anticipation is that it will. But I think that if you look back a year ago on what were the most controversial questions, it was whether or not I would have the authority to reorganize the Government, whether or not we could form an Energy Department, whether or not we could have success in a comprehensive energy policy evolution hi our country, or whether or not we could deal with the most crucial issue then, which was unemployment.

Since then, because of the action of the Congress in concert with me and my administration, we've added a net increase of 5.5 million jobs in this country, an unprecedented achievement, and the unemployment rate has dropped 2 percent.

Now the Congress and I, because of changing economic circumstances, because of an unanticipated success in the employment field, are much more deeply concerned now with controlling inflation than we were before. The inflation rate this year has built up more rapidly.

But I have an excellent relationship with the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership in the House and Senate. We have meetings here over in the White House, every 2 weeks at least, with a complete group of Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. This past Tuesday morning, we had the Republicans and Democrats together. And so, I have been pleasantly surprised at the relationship that I have had with the Congress.

MR. WURFEL. Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you all very much. I'll answer one more question, and then I'll go.


Q. As I understand it, you proposed to reduce the number of soil conservationists in the Nation and cut funds for certain programs. In my State of Iowa, I understand it could be possibly 50. Are you going ahead with those cuts?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. With the Soil Conservation offices, is that what you said?

Q. Conservationists.

THE PRESIDENT. Conservationists, oh. I don't know. We are trying to evolve now, approaching a final decision on basic water policy. And as Governor of Georgia, I've seen some very serious abuses in the Soil and Water Conservation Service. I understand that in the Midwest and the West, the same conditions don't prevail.

In Georgia, for instance, the abuses that I tried to correct, I think successfully while I was in office, was the unwarranted draining of freshwater wetland areas, which is highly costly, utilizes channelization, destroys the environmental protection for wildlife and game. I won't outline all the advantages there, but primarily the result is to reward financially the landowners who bought the property, knowing that it was a wetland and who want to have it changed into productive farmland at government expense when we have an adequate supply of farmland in Georgia.

Another problem in some of our mountain regions was in the design of dam structures in some of our smaller mountain streams, where the type of discharge raised the temperature of those mountain streams 10 to 15 degrees sometimes and therefore destroyed all the wildlife below the dam which had formerly been indigenous to that area.

So, I think the establishment of a good water policy will help to resolve those questions. But specifics on how many persons would be discharged, I'm not familiar with that at all and don't know of any plans to do that.

Let me say, again, that I appreciate you being here. And I would like, if you don't mind, for you to come by and let me have a photograph made with each one of you. It would be a pleasure for me.

Note: The interview began at 1:10 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Walter W. Wurfel is Deputy Press Secretary.

The transcript of the interview was released on May 20.

Jimmy Carter, Interview With the President Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With a Group of Editors and News Directors. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244885

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