Jimmy Carter photo

Lansdowne, Pennsylvania Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Local Residents.

October 02, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, let me say to Joe and Bertha and their small family how delighted I am to be here. They've just about got the Nation covered with college students, and I've been very pleased to meet them.

Before I start I'd like to ask all of you in your own way, later on, to say a prayer for my mother. She's in the operating room right at this moment. She fell this morning and broke her hip, and she's very strong and very vigorous and in good spirits. I don't know whether she was riding a skateboard or surfing, but she's very active, as you know—82 years old, and I hope that she'll be all right.

I would like to say that this is a delightful experience for me to be in a neighborhood that's obviously well groomed. It's a little noisy; I don't see how you ever get any sleep with this crowd on the street. But I've really enjoyed having a chance to get ready to come out here.

Before I answer questions, I want to take just a couple minutes to remind all of you how God has blessed us in a nation of strength and freedom and diversity and concern about one another. Our Nation has been through a lot of trial and testing, through periods of difficulty when our existence was threatened and when the harmony of our people was really put to the severest possible challenge: in World War I, World War II, the Korean war, the Vietnam war, the Great Depression, the social changes that shocked our country when we removed the last vestiges of legal discrimination against black people, the threat to the integrity of the White House by the Watergate embarrassments. These kinds of things have afflicted our country from time to time, but we've always pulled ourselves together. We've never lost our faith in God or in each other, and when our Nation was unified and when we could see clearly the question or the challenge or the problem or the obstacle, we've never failed to overcome it or to answer the questions.

Nowadays we've got some problems. The whole world has problems; almost every nation has much more serious problems than do we. And what you see in the news and hear on the radio is the argument and the debates and the differences and the temporary inconveniences and the changes that are taking place in our lives that we can't stop and don't want to stop that cause us to be concerned about the future. But what we need to remember is the underlying basic strength of the American people and our government.

This is a time of reassessment to think about our past and present and also to make plans for the future, and I'm very delighted to be with you to share for a few minutes your thoughts and your concerns and your questions. I hope to learn about your own community and about you in the few minutes we have together and also hope that you can learn something about me and about our country from the perspective of the Oval Office when I respond to your questions. So, I'll be glad to answer questions. I don't know

who's going to decide—

Q. [Inaudible]

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. I'm sorry—thank you very much.

Q. [Inaudible]


THE PRESIDENT. Right on. Yes, sir-with the attractive white moustache.

Q. My question is, Mr. Carter, why you have not cut down the size of the Federal bureaucracy as you said you would?

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, we have. I've been in office 2 1/2 years. We've had an inevitable growth with a 75-percent increase in Federal funding for education, with a steady upward growth in our military, with the new Energy Department, with a lot of things that our people need to have, better transportation systems. But on top of all that we've had several tens of thousands fewer Federal employees now than when I took office, and by now we've probably reduced the Federal rolls about 45,000. We've cut down on waste, and we've increased efficiency. We've still got a ways to go. But my hope and my commitment is to continue this downward trend in total number of Federal employees at the same time we have to meet the needs of an increasing population. And, of course, lately we've had an increase in the problems that have been brought on us by the unexpected increase, almost doubled and doubling the price of OPEC oil.

So, we've cut down on the total number of employees, We've cut down on the number of agencies and departments and at the same time increased services-still have a long way to go to improve it further.

Yes, ma'am?


Q. I'd like you to know that we certainly do pray for you and your wife. You're under a lot of pressure with things the way they are. We're concerned-I'm concerned in this part of the world that Federal funding is not available for mental health and child care. Some of our agencies have had to close down. Do you see in the future help for that, for Federal funding?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, ma'am. We have just gotten through the Congress—I have not yet signed into law—a landmark Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. It will strengthen mental health programs of all kinds. This is a result of a study that was done the first 2 years I was in office. My wife was the chairman of the group. She had hearings, I think, in 22 different cities around the Nation to let people who were experts in mental health care and who know the problems at the local and State level give her and then, through her and a commission, to me advice on what could be done.

I would guess next week I will go to one of the mental hospitals in the Washington or Virginia, Maryland area and sign this legislation, which would be the basis in the future for the entire mental health program.

On child health we've made substantial progress already. We put forward a so-called CHAPS legislation, which hasn't yet passed. But as far as programs like immunization and the prevention of disease is concerned, we've got that fairly well under control, with tremendous improvement in the percentage of young people who are immunized against preventable disease.

We need to have a nationwide comprehensive health insurance program, and the first implementation of that will be compatible with what we want to do to save money and to minimize Federal intrusion into the lives of our people. I'm in favor, for instance, of keeping the relationship between the private person and the choice of one's own physician. I'm in favor of continuing to use the private insurers as much as possible to provide the insurance coverage. And I'm in favor of having a maximum emphasis on prevention of disease rather than treatment of extended disease that could have been prevented. I'm in favor of having an emphasis on out-patient care rather than the incarceration of a patient permanently in the hospital or for an extended period in the hospital when it can be avoided. We also are going to emphasize the first phase step toward increased care for women and children—women during the prenatal period of childbearing and children with each year the age increasing until they're covered up to maybe 14 years old, .but starting with the infants and then the small children.

This is the kind of program combined with a catastrophic health insurance for all families in the Nation. It will be the first step toward a more comprehensive program. But those are the principles involved. The emphasis has been and will be on the care for children under the general health, and I believe that you'll be pleased with the new bill that has been passed on mental health.

Thank you.


Q. Mr. President, as a classroom teacher I'd like to first thank you for the strong support and commitment that you have given to improving public education in this country. I'd like to also, if you could, share with us your views as to why you think it is important that the ERA be passed soon and what significance do you attach to the fact that the Republicans have seen fit to exclude it from their goals for America?

THE PRESIDENT. Every Republican President in modern history has favored the equal rights amendment, and the Republican Party platform has strongly supported the equal rights amendment for 40 years. This is the first departure by the Republican Party from a commitment to the ERA. As a matter of fact, the Republican Party actually endorsed in its national platform the equal rights amendment before the Democrats did. It's hard for me to understand why the Republicans now have withdrawn their support for the ERA.

There's a lot of reasons to pass it, and I need not go into all of them, but it's important to women to have their rights protected. A lot of distortions have been put forward about ERA that have been absolutely misleading. The thought that it would eliminate American families, would encourage homosexuality, would require men and women to go to the same bathrooms, would mean that young girls would be drafted into the military forces—all those lies have been put forward in, so far, a very effective, highly publicized campaign to defeat ERA. What ERA says is this and this is the amendment: That [neither]1 the Federal Government and no State governments can pass a law discriminating against women. That's it. And that is the amendment that's being opposed by people in such a fervent way. That's the amendment that's being opposed by Governor Reagan. I do not understand why.

1White House correction.

There are hundreds and hundreds of laws all over this Nation in different States that deprive women of a right to own property if their husbands should die; that require a husband's signature before they can get title to an automobile, or in some places even a driver's license; the guarantee that at this time in the enlightened Nation that we love, a woman doing the same work for the same length of time requiring the same skills only gets 59 cents as much as a man gets a dollar for doing the same work. The fact is that women are the heads of a lot of households. Women have a normal lifespan greater than men, and there are a lot of widows, for instance.

I remember in Plains once there were 32 widows at one time and only 1 widower, and that's the total town and the widower was my wife's grandfather. But the point is that women have rights that have not yet been guaranteed in the Constitution, and it's the last remaining major need in our Nation, to realize the hopes and ambitions of our original founders that people would have an equal opportunity in this country.

So, I'm strongly in favor of it. We've got three States to go. I'll do all I can to get it passed.


Q. Mr. President, in the early days of your campaign the tone of your political commercials was very upbeat and positive as to your leadership qualities and to the loneliness of the job, et cetera. However, in the last week or so, the negative aspects of your campaign strategy have been evident in some unclear rhetoric in political television commercials attacking your opponents, et cetera—for instance, the Jesus Christ amendment and Mr. Anderson. Please comment on your use of religious institutions as a forum and if you approve of these TV commercials and the use of a little mudslinging maybe?

THE PRESIDENT. I've never heard of the TV spot that you referred to about Anderson and the Jesus Christ amendment. And, in fact, I've very carefully avoided any reference to Congressman Anderson as well for political, tactical reasons, as well as others.

It is my responsibility as a candidate in the give-and-take political world that's part of a democracy not only to point out what I have done in the last 4 years, and not only to point out what I intend to do the next 4 years, but to point out in a legitimate and accurate way the differences between me and my major opponents.

For instance, the question about the equal rights amendment, it is a legitimate issue for me. It's not just enough for me to say, "I'm for it." I think it's legitimate for me to say that Ronald Reagan is against it and then let the people decide. There are many people who are against ERA, and when I make that point, that means they can decide if they wish that that's the only issue to vote for Mr. Reagan.

On the question of peace—which is another item that has come up recently in the news—I don't claim and have never thought that any President if they got in the Oval Office and were faced with crises in that lonely job would want war. But, it's legitimate for me to point out that in the last 8 or 10 years, whenever there's been a dispute around the world in a certain troubled region, Governor Reagan has repeatedly called for the sending of American military forces there. Off the coast of Equador, for instance, he advocated sending in the American Navy. Off the coast of Angola, in Cyprus, in Lebanon, in North Korea, in the Mideast-Mr. Reagan, I think 8 or 10 times, has called for the sending in of military forces when the obvious judgment made by me, since I've been President, and by Nixon and Ford and Johnson and Kennedy and Eisenhower and Truman, has been to avoid conflicts and to try to resolve those issues in a very troubled, tense part of the world in a diplomatic way. What Governor Reagan would do if he was in the Oval Office, I don't know. But that fact that he's called for military forces to be used repeatedly, time after time after time, is troubling to me.

There's another crucial issue that's come up in the last 2 days, and that is the control of nuclear weapons. Every President since Truman has tried to spell out the goal of SALT negotiations, the control of strategic arms or nuclear weapons. Nixon and Ford before me worked to get a SALT II treaty. I finally concluded the SALT II treaty with President Brezhnev. It puts limits on both the Soviets and us at roughly equivalent levels and would require the Soviets to go, incidentally, to dismantle about 10 percent of their total missiles.

Governor Reagan said the day before yesterday that he was going to do away with SALT II if he were elected, start a nuclear arms race, and use it as a card to be played against the Soviet Union. That is an extremely serious proposal, and I think his inability to understand the consequences of it and the attitude of American people who have, in the past, Democrats and Republicans, been in favor of limiting arms. And now for a potential President to advocate a nuclear arms race is a shocking thing to many people and of concern to me, just the atmosphere in our own country. Also, our allies in Europe and around the world are intensely interested in the United States being committed to controlling nuclear weapons. And the Soviet Union is also committed to the control of nuclear weapons. And for Mr. Reagan to think that if we start a massive nuclear arms race, which he proposes, and that the Soviet Union is going to all of a sudden abandon their construction of nuclear weapons, he's mistaken. We wouldn't do that on the other side. And that's the kind of threat, I think, that the stability of the peaceful inclination of the world that I feel obligated to point out.

I'm not insinuating that Mr. Reagan wants war. I'm not insinuating that he's a warmonger. The thing that I'm insinuating or stating clearly is that all the previous Republican Presidents have advocated the most fervent continual negotiations to limit, have equal, and then reduce nuclear weapons. Mr. Reagan's proposal is a radical departure from what they've advocated in the past.

So, this is the kind of thing that might have the tone of being negative, but is really a legitimate part of the political debate that has always taken place in this country during a Presidential election. And I think I would be doing myself a disservice and the Nation a disservice if I only pointed out how great and how good I am, or the accomplishments we've had for the last 4 years, all the hopes that I have for the next 4 years, and not draw vividly in the minds of the American people the real differences between me and Governor Reagan.


Q. Mr. President, in the past several years we have seen our garment industry, our auto industry, and our steel mill production go down; a lot of them have closed up because of foreign imports. In your next 4 ),ears in office, do you have plans to have some of these foreign countries do more business in the United States to put our people back to work and limit some of the imports that we're taking in from their country?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We've had good luck already with the so-called Multilateral Trade Negotiation settlements on textiles.

Not too long ago I was down in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and their whole economy is built around textiles. And I noted then that in the last 2 years alone, since we had this new phased bill passed, that we have increased our textile exports by $2 billion and by several hundred million square yards; we have reduced the total amount of textile imports coming into our country. So, this is a very new achievement that was unlikely 3 years ago, with imports going down and American textile exports going up.

Secondly, on steel—yesterday, day before yesterday now, as a result of 2 years of hard work with me and the Steel Workers Union member leaders and the executives of the steel industry we worked out an approach to put the steel industry back on its feet. Actually imports from overseas of steel have gone down with the trigger price mechanism that we put into effect after I became President. We are now seeing a steady increase of American steel production along with it and a high utilization of the steel facilities than we had before. We've advocated for passage next year, not now, a special tax program that would make investment tax credits refundable and also to give accelerated depreciation allowances for steel companies that could invest and modernize our plants.

Not long ago I was in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to visit a small steelplant that's modern just to show what America can do. It's the most modern steelplant in the world. The average worker in that Perth Areboy steelplant produces more steel per year than in any other plant in the world. I asked them what they were doing with the steel. They make steelrods about as big as my little finger and in big bales a ton at a time, and 50 percent of all their steel is going halfway around the world to China. An American steel company with modern techniques, and we're better than anybody in doing the modern things, can make steel and ship it that far and sell it to China cheaper than the Japanese can produce it and ship it just a few hundred miles across the China Sea to China. That's the steel industry. I think that's the one in good shape.

Yesterday I was in Detroit and Flint, Michigan, visited the Ford plant in Wayne County, Detroit. They are now producing American automobiles that are safer, more durable, and just as energy efficient as any you can buy in the world. I don't know how many of you all have foreign automobiles, but I hope the next time you go to trade that you'll go into the American showrooms and look over the American products. now and compare it with what you can buy from overseas. You can think about American jobs if you want to, but make your own judgment about what's best for your family and what's best for our country. Make your own judgment, but I can tell you that every one of those new automobiles rolling off the assembly line, there's somebody waiting to buy it.

One of the cars that I had waiting for me at the airport when I arrived in Detroit was a Volkswagen, and then I had American Motors and Chrysler and Ford and Chevrolet cars there too, just to show me what the new products look like. I asked the Volkswagen-America manager what portion of all the Volkswagens that are sold in our country are now made in our country. Seventy percent of the Volkswagens sold in the United States are now built in the United States, and we're getting the Japanese to move more and more into our country, not only to buy our parts for their cars but also to build the Japanese-made cars in the United States. So, we're putting as much legitimate influence or pressure on those foreign countries to treat our workers right as we possibly can.

So, in those industries that you mentioned-textiles, steel, and automobiles-making good progress.

Coal, of interest to some Pennsylvanians-you might be surprised to know that this year the United States will produce more coal than any year in the history of our Nation. And we could produce more if we had the port facilities to load it and ship it overseas. But we've had such an explosion in production and foreign sale of American coal that we really literally don't have a way to load it fast enough on ships and send it to the customers overseas. That's coming very rapidly, and the coal industry is going to really be healthy in the future. And my hope is that eventually as a major energy source we can replace OPEC oil with Pennsylvania coal. That's what I want to see happen.

One other point is this: You've got anthracite coal, and I just came from Ohio where they have very high-sulfur coal. With our new windfall profits tax fund we'll be producing now from coal synthetic fuels, clean-burning gas, cleanburning liquids, from those kinds of coal that in the past have not been popular. And this will give us a new opportunity to increase further coal to be used in our own Nation. And we've got a proposal in the Congress now that will require electric powerplants to shift away from burning oil and natural gas to burning American coal. So, in every way we're moving forward on the energy front. And I think now that we've got an energy policy in place, that Bob Edgar and the other Members of the Congress helped me get done, we've got a foundation to revitalize the entire American economic system and to give us an exciting future.

It was a shock to this country when we changed from wood to coal, but the result was we had millions of new jobs and a better life for people. It was a shock to this State and other States when we shifted from coal to oil, but it gave us a new possibility for a better life. And I predict to you that shifting away from foreign oil to more conservation and more American energy will give us a new chance in the 1980's to have an even more exciting life than we've had in the past, and using American high technology and research and development and our superb education' system and our free enterprise system that encourages innovation, we'll be on the cutting edge of progress and change and benefit not only our country but other countries as well.

So I look forward to the future with confidence, not with fear.


Q. Mr. President, about a year ago the Fed changed its way of dealing with monetary policy.


Q. As you know. Since that time do you think that the experience has been that this new method has shown us that the monetary supply can be, in fact, controlled by the Government, that it is a better way to deal with the problems of inflation? And finally, how would you evaluate Mr. Volcker's performance in dealing with the new policy?

THE PRESIDENT. Let me predicate my reply by saying that under the American law, the Fed is independent of the President. It's just like the judicial system. I don't have any influence on it, but that doesn't mean I have to sit mute. My own judgment is that the strictly monetary approach to the Fed's decision on the discount rate and other banking policies is ill-advised. I think the Federal Reserve Bank Board ought to look at other factors and balance them along with the supply of money.

Now, in my judgment, too much of their decision is made just by measuring the amount of money available in our system, both the M-I, M-2 supplies of money. I think that the Fed ought to look at the adverse consequences of increased interest rates on the general economy as a major factor in making their own judgments.

I might add that the Congress and I together would have the ultimate authority to override some of the consequences of a Fed decision. But that's a very complicated process and creates unwise conflict and controversy within the economic system. I think Paul Volcker is an outstanding Chairman, a highly qualified, very brilliant man, and he has to look, as do I also, at the value of the dollar overseas, the international stability that must be maintained in the monetary system of the entire world. He has to look at our trade balance, and he has to look at the economy and how it grows and the impact on our gross national product. All those things are some minor factors, but I think they put too much of their eggs in the money supply basket and are not adequately assessing the other factors that I've outlined.

I've got to answer one more question. Yes, right here.


Q. Mr. President, there are so many demands on you. Please tell me what you'd like us to do to make your job easier during the next 4 years.

THE PRESIDENT. Okay. I wouldn't say you would make my job easier the next 4 years depending on what you do in the next 5 weeks. [Laughter]

Well, let me close. I think it might be good and interesting to you, to close, just to outline my own feelings about the Presidency itself.

For anyone involved in politics, I think the ultimate goal would be to occupy the Oval Office as the President of this great country, because it's the highest elective office, certainly, in the free world. It's also an office that is respected and revered by the American people, because I'm the only elected officer with authority to represent all the American people.

It's a lonely job. And there are a lot of crises that come to my desk in the Oval Office. If I handle those crises well, then the likelihood is that you never know about it. If I handle the crises poorly, it could have an adverse effect on every life in the United States and perhaps the entire world. I have good advisers; I have a superb Cabinet. They're politically sensitive as well as being highly qualified. They work with me on issues that are important to our country, but there's a limit to what a Cabinet can do.

The questions that I get as President are the most difficult ones of all. They are the questions that can't be answered in your own family or in a city hall or county courthouse or they can't be answered in a Governor's office or a State legislature. If they can be answered in those places, then I don't ever hear about them. But if they cannot be answered there, they come to me and I have to make an ultimate judgment. I consult with my counselors.

My experience has been though that if the question is extremely serious and important and very difficult to answer, that my advisers are most likely to be split fifty-fifty, with half of them saying no and half of them saying yes, because you have a natural difference, for instance, between the Secretary of Treasury on the one hand, and the Secretary of Labor on the other, because the Secretary of labor and those Secretaries responsible for health and for human services and for education are naturally inclined to want to spend more money to alleviate the need of their constituency group. The Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Treasury, and others are much more inclined to want fiscal stability and a restraint on spending and lower deficit and more rigid attention to the bureaucracy of government. So, when an issue is extremely important the responsibility comes down to the President. I don't deplore it, but I just point out to you the importance of the office and the gratitude that I have to be able to hold it.

I've learned a lot in the last 3 1/2 years. I was in local government, I was in the State senate for two terms, I was Governor of Georgia, I campaigned for President for a long time. But I was not prepared in any of those ways for what I found when I got to the White House, and no one else could be who hasn't actually served there, because it's a unique job. A Congressman or U.S. Senator cannot prepare himself or herself to be President through past experience. I've been in there for 3 1/2 years; I've learned a lot. I've learned about our own country; I've learned about our people, the conflicting demands that are made on government; I've learned about the organizational structure of our Government: I've learned about foreign countries; I've learned about the leaders of foreign countries; I've learned about the troubled places in the world and what can we do to avoid war and to perpetuate peace. I've negotiated with people who see things differently. I've tried to be a peacemaker when I could. I've tried to exert the beneficial influence of our Nation in human rights :red in other areas for the benefit of the other people of the world. So, I think the experience that I've had will pay rich dividends in the next 4 years.

I can do a better job, I think, the next 4- years. I've made some mistakes. I'm sure I've done many things with which all of you disagree. But I have to balance all of the conflicting interests that come before the Government and essentially work in harmony with the Congress.

The reassuring thing about all this political job of being President in this country is that I have a lot of partners. I've got 230 million partners who feel that you're a part of me and part of our country, part of its problems, part of its glory, part of its weaknesses, when there are weaknesses, part of its strength, part of its failures, part of its achievement. And I don't feel lonely because of that, and what I need most of all is to stay as close as possible to the American people. To the extent that you know the issues and you understand the reasons why I make decisions, my voice is stronger and I'm less likely to make a serious mistake.

When we have made serious mistakes in recent years—Watergate, maybe Vietnam, the CIA revelations—when we were embarrassed, it's been because things were done in secret and the American people were misled, not told the truth, or weren't involved in making the decisions. So, the best insurance that I have is for you to understand my job, and that's why I'm so grateful to Joe and to Bertha for letting me meet with you in their backyard this afternoon. I've learned a lot, and I think I'll be a better President because of it.

Bob, I'm glad to see you. I'm glad you came.

REPRESENTATIVE EDGAR. Mr. President, I jogged from Lansdowne Avenue over to visit with you. I came in from Washington on the last plane possible, and I just wanted to say on behalf of all of the people who are bore and on behalf of the people of Delaware County, we not only thank you for coming to Delaware County today to participate in this public forum, hut we thank you for the Saratoga, the Defense Contracting Agency, the compromise on the Blue Route, the Reynolds plant, and a lot of other things that you've done.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. If I've got one final thing to thank you for, it's for sending a Congressman like Bob Edgar to Washington to help me.

Note: The President spoke at 4:42 p.m. outside the home of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Phillips.

Jimmy Carter, Lansdowne, Pennsylvania Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Local Residents. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/252042

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