News Conference in New York City Following a Meeting with Senator Adlai Stevenson III
Governor Carter. Senator Stevenson and I have had a very productive meeting concerning the role of the Vice President, and we have discussed a great number of matters that you might want to question us further about.
We were listening to some of the chants outside, and I told Senator Stevenson that I wanted the Vice President to be in charge of women's rights, amnesty, abortion, gun control, Gay liberation, and I told him this at the end of the conversation so he wouldn't leave.
I look forward to that relationship with the next Vice President if we are elected.
We have had a good meeting, and I was extremely grateful to him and his wife, Nancy, for coming.
We have had a chance to discuss in depth some of his own responsibilities in the Senate concerning energy—he is on the Commerce Committee—and multi-national corporation interest, and economics, perhaps more than anyone else.
And I have now completed my own personal meetings with those that I have been considering as a recommendation to the delegates.
I have had a chance earlier to meet with Senator Stevenson, about the time of the Maryland primary, at his home, and so was better acquainted with him than with most of the other persons that I have had a chance to meet within the last week. And this has been a follow up to that earlier conversation.
We are both of us available now for questions if you would like to ask them.
Q. When you are considering the Vice Presidential candidate, what do you have in mind exactly?
Governor Carter. Well, as I have said many times, there are three overall considerations. The first one is by far the most important. It is who, in my own opinion, would be the best qualified person to lead this nation if I should not finish out my term and if he should become the President of our country.
It is undoubtedly the most important decision that I shall make this year, perhaps one of the most important of my whole life.
And of course the second thing that makes it so important for me to meet with them personally is that I would like to be assured that there is an adequate degree of compatibility between myself and the person who would run with me this year in the campaign and serve with me if we are elected for the next 4 years.
The other aspect is some sort of balancing to compensate for my own lack of experience.
One of those characteristics that I do lack is knowledge of the Washington political scene, and that is why I have decided that a Member of Congress would be a better person to serve with me.
Q. Governor, are you now absolutely finished with your interviews; and will you, as you said yesterday, absolutely select your Vice President from among the seven candidates you have seen?
Governor Carter. That is my present intention, barring some completely unforeseen circumstance—yes.
Q. Governor, have you now made up your mind who that selection will be, and if not, have you nan owed it to two, and if you have narrowed it to two, can you tell us who they are?
Governor Carter. No; I haven't narrowed it at all. I have deliberately tried successfully not to narrow it. I have a completely open mind about it. I am going back and reassess my own notes and think about the different persons, and I will spend, I would guess by tomorrow night—it is a guess that I will have narrowed it down, but I have deliberately refrained from any sort of closing of my mind about all of the persons being considered.
Q. Senator, there is an impression in the public print, at least, that you are not near the top of the Governor's list. I would like you to tell me where you think you rank.
Senator Stevenson. I think that question should go to the Governor. But I might add, I might say, Governor, that hearing that description of the Vice President's duties, I am not sure I want to be on that list.
Q. Seriously, it was a serious question, do you think this is just a courtesy that the Governor is extending to you------
Senator Stevenson. No, sir; of course not.
Q. There has been a lot of speculation in the press corps, al least, about whether you are a dull campaigner. Was this question raised in your conversation with Governor Carter and was it discussed at all?
Senator Stevenson. Well, the Governor took great courtesy in not raising that. It has been raised in all my prior campaigns before now, and maybe dullness is what it takes to win.
Q. Senator, do you believe that a President Carter would offer his Vice President a role that you would like, that it would be worth leaving the Senate for?
Senator Stevenson. Gentlemen, let me first say that Governor Carter and I have had a most friendly and useful conversation.
I told the Governor that I expected him to be elected President of the United States, that I felt he would have the greatest opportunity of any President since Franklin D. Roosevelt to unite and to lead forward our country, and that I would serve him as President and as the candidate for the Presidency in any capacity, including the Vice Presidency.
I am convinced on the basis of this conversation and on the basis of what the Governor has said about that office that he intends to make the Vice Presidency a significant office.
Q. Governor, can I ask in your deliberation how much weight you are giving the recommendations of the so-called distinguished Americans whom you have contacted as part of this process?
Governor Carter. Not so much anymore. At the beginning of the process, I would guess in all 20 or 25 different people were recommended to me by those distinguished Americans, who represented every aspect of American society—Members of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, advisory groups who worked closely within the structure in Washington, business and professional leaders, educators, and others who were in a position to judge the quality of prospective leaders of our country.
From those earlier recommendations and based on my analysis of past voting records and general philosophical attitudes, we started narrowing down the list.
Since then we have shifted gears to a much more advanced analysis of individual potential nominees, status within the Senate or House, interviews with their peer groups, other Senators who worked with them on committees, we have asked them for health and financial records. Then this final stage which has just been completed, my own detailed personal interviews with the person to arrive at some assessment of our compatibility on major issues and just in a personal way.
In this latter stage the recommendation of the original group of so-called distinguished Americans played a relatively minor role.
Q. How significant is it to you that Mayor Daley is supporting Senator Stevenson and is very vocal in that support?
Governor Carter. Mayor Daley has never suggested to me that I should choose Senator Stevenson. I have read in the news media statements that he has made, expressing his confidence in Senator Stevenson, but in all my conversations with Mayor Daley he has never tried to influence my decision at all.
I interpret that, and I think accurately, as his own recognition that it is a personal decision for me to make. I understand very clearly the high esteem in which Senator Stevenson is held by Mayor Daley, but he has never tried to persuade me to make a choice.
Q. Governor, Mayor Daley held a breakfast for you in Chicago. Apparently, Cardinal Cody boycotted the breakfast. Today he said he did so because of your views on abortion. I wonder if you expect to run into any official church opposition on that account?
Governor Carter. I have never known that Mayor Daley held a breakfast for me. I was not there either.
Q. It was at the dinner for Michael Howlett, which you addressed, a fundraiser for Michael Howlett, which the Cardinal was invited to attend. Today he issued a statement, it was not any affront against Daley or Howlett but because of your stand.
Governor Carter. I would certainly not question a statement made by a distinguished leader of the church.
My position on abortion is very clearly known. I am against abortion. I think abortion is wrong, and I think that within the present ruling of the Supreme Court that everything possible should be done to minimize the need for abortions, and I will do that. But it is not a recent revelation of my position. And if the leaders of the church feel strongly enough that they cannot appear on the same podium with me or platform with me, that is a decision for them to make.
I honor their posture and hope they will understand mine.
Q. Governor, when you make your choice for Vice President, you may be anointing the front runner in successive races after you retire from office. Is that a consideration of yours in selecting a Vice Presidential candidate?
Governor Carter. Yes. In fact I have discussed that possibility, which is obvious, with almost all the ones that I have met with, the fact that they might very well be my successor, because if something happened to me during my term, or if I should finish out my term, they might very well be the next natural candidate for President or even nominee.
I feel a very heavy responsibility on my shoulders in that I might very well be helping to choose the next President of our country if I should be successful in being elected, and I recognize that very clearly, yes.
Q. A follow-up question on criteria. What kind of balance, along with the rumors of the distinguished Senator's alleged dullness, what kind of balance are you trying to strike as far as political philosophy and ability on the campaign trail as a hard hitting politician?
Governor Carter. I consider the dullness to be part of compatibility, not part of contrast.
I think Senator Stevenson's ability and knowledge of the congressional structure, his work in the U.S. Senate, the fact that he comes from a different part of the country than I do, his knowledge of politics from his infancy, as his father's son, and family that served in public life—those kinds of things. I do not think there is any contrast or supplementation to cause a difference of attitude toward basic political philosophy or stands on the politician spectrum.
Q. How well did Senator Stevenson stack up in the polling done, in the pairing with you that Pat Caddell did?
Governor Carter. I do not recall exactly, but I know Senator Stevenson was one of those who did not cut down on my lead. I think that, to be frank, only 2 of the ones out of 14 actually added to the strength that I presently have. I believe one of those was Senator Muskie and the other was John Glenn. It was primarily because of their name recognition factor.
But that would be very slight differences between them and the position occupied by Senator Stevenson. That was obviously a very preliminary thing and has practically no significance.
Q. With any of those gentlemen with whom you have had your conversations—there has been some rumor that several have asked not to be considered.
Governor Carter. I said this morning that we had approached Senator Ribicoff, and he asked not to be considered.
Q. I mean of those with whom you held conversations so far?
Governor Carter. Yes; one of them asked not to be considered.
Q. Who was that?
Governor Carter. I would rather not say at this point.
Q. So you are now down to six?
Governor Carter. That is correct This will be the last question.
Q. What procedure will you use to make your decision and how are you going to set aside the time for it?
Governor Carter. It will be a personal decision of mine. I don't know how to describe the procedure, unless just the thought process.
Thank you very much.
Jimmy Carter, News Conference in New York City Following a Meeting with Senator Adlai Stevenson III Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347625