Jimmy Carter photo

Perth Amboy, New Jersey Question-and-Answer Session With New Jersey News Editors.

September 09, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would like to say, first of all, that I'm very glad to be back in New Jersey. We've had a delightful and exciting visit to the Raritan River Steel Plant, which is a new technological development. It's very beneficial to our country. And this is my first visit here after I got through with the convention and got the nomination. I'm intending to carry New Jersey in November. And I'm here as President and as a candidate to answer any questions that you might have.


Q. Mr. President—[inaudible]—in what you're doing in winning over the strong support Senator Kennedy had here, and how hard do you think that's going to be and how far have you progressed?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the entire convention was a unifying effort. When we came out of the convention, the party was, I think, remarkably committed to common goals. And the very slight differences between myself and Senator Kennedy on emphasis—on public service jobs, for instance, within government rather than private industry jobs—was the main difference.

Since then, Senator Kennedy has been very gracious and helpful. He's let it be known publicly, both at the convention and particularly when I visited Massachusetts, that he was strongly for me. He went out to the American Federation of Teachers convention and spoke for me, went to the Machinists convention and spoke for me. And he's done that on several occasions. He and I intend to appear jointly at a Democratic National Committee fundraising effort in Los Angeles-I think September 22.

A lot of Senator Kennedy's supporters-labor unions and other leading Democrats-have also endorsed me since the convention was over. Recently, this weekend, for instance, the Farm Workers in California and the UAW—I think I got about 89 1/2 percent of all the 17 regional meetings in the UAW. So, those are the kinds of things that have happened since then that have brought a natural consistency back toward a unified position.

Jerry Doherty, who will be heading up my campaign in New Jersey, is a longtime family friend of Senator Kennedy's. He helped in this year's election in the primary season in a leading role. Jerry also happens to have run my own campaign in New York State in 1976, and now he'll be helping me again.

So, those are a melding of effort among Democrats that's the result of some of those elements that I mentioned.


Q. I just heard you say that you've just seen that wonderful thing in Poland and we're proud of that. [Inaudible]—are you confident that the changes in Poland will be—[inaudible]—leadership?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, so far the changes in Poland have survived the change of government. Mr. Kania, as you know, in his first public statement said that he would honor the agreement worked out with the Polish workers. There are still a few labor disturbances in Poland as local party officials don't recognize the right of the Polish workers to have independent unions in their particular locality, but that's the only aftermath that I know of that's creating any publicized problem.

I believe that the depth of the commitment of the Polish workers was demonstrated by their courage and their tenacity during recent weeks, and had it not been extant, their success would not have been so significant. In addition to that, the Polish Government, in making its changes, had an opportunity to reverse the agreements and decided otherwise.

So, my judgment is that barring some unforeseen developments over which I have no control and don't want to have any influence, that the changes will be permanent and that both the workers and the government will carefully pursue the agreement that has been hammered out.


Q. There's a widespread perception in this region that the so-called snowbelt States are suffering from an economic imbalance with respect to the rest of the country—we're losing population, productivity is lagging—[inaudible]—tax base. Do you agree that such an imbalance exists, and if so, what can a second Carter administration do to correct it?

THE PRESIDENT. I agree that it did exist. But it's important to point out the achievements of my first 3 1/2 years working with Bill Bradley, with Brendan Byrne and others. I mentioned a few of the statistics in my statement at the steel plant.

There has been a net increase of 478,000 jobs in New Jersey. The unemployment rate's dropped from 11.4 percent down to 8.1, which is still too high, but that's a 30-percent reduction. In mass transit in this 3 1/2 years New Jersey has gotten more than $400 million, which is more than all the previous years of Federal support of mass transit in history put together. In economic development aid there's been a program for the last 15 years. Two-thirds of the total that New Jersey has received has been in the last 3 1/2 years. Only one State, Ohio, has gotten more Federal funds for urban parks systems. This is the kind of change that's taken place.

And I believe that with the changes in formulae approved by the Congress for the allocation of Federal assistance funds in things like education, housing, transportation, urban parks, economic development, that there has been a basic improvement of the lot of the so-called snowbelt in the last few years since I've been in office.

The new economic development program that I outlined week before last will help even more, because with the special emphasis on changing technology and the ability of industry to establish new plants where highly skilled workers already exist—certainly that applies to New England and the snowbelt, as you call it. And also the ability to revitalize obsolescent industry with tax benefits, that will help your region of the country as well.

The other element of the program has been the strong urbanization program that we've had, the urban policy. We've worked it out on a nonpartisan basis with the mayors and local officials, both Democrats and Republicans. And I think it would be hard for you to find a mayor around the country who doesn't say that this new emphasis on the revitalization of our deteriorating central city areas has been a positive development. I would see :his trend as being positive so far and improving even more in the future.


Q. New Jersey is very dependent, and still, on imported oil. Could you comment on how the Syrian-Libyan unification talks are apt to affect our Mideast policies and our oil supplies?

THE PRESIDENT. As you know, Libya and their policies are unpredictable. We import about 10 percent of our oil from Libya, a much less amount from most of the other countries, and none from Syria. Syria is an oil-importing nation. I don't think this will affect the amount of oil supplies on the international market.

Now, as you know, because of strict conservation measures taken here and in other industrialized, consuming countries like Japan, Germany, France, and so forth, the demand for oil is now approximately equal to the supply so that the spotmarket prices are at or below the OPEC established prices, quite different from what it was just a few months ago. We and the other countries have committed ourselves to a long-term change in efficiency of energy consumption; that is, we expect to reduce by 40 percent the amount of energy it takes to produce a given level of gross national product.

We're already making great strides on that. Secretary Duncan announced that our oil imports now was 37 percent less than it was just a year ago in this past month, and we expect to import this year, every day, an average of 2 million barrels less than we did a year ago. That means that we're not nearly so subject to damage or to attempted blackmail by an individual OPEC nation that wants to try to force us to act in a certain way as was the case back in 1973 and 1974. We're doing this through conservation—which I've already mentioned—and more efficient use of energy, and secondly, to increasing our own production of energy, both oil and gas on the one hand and also derivative energy sources, synthetic fuels from shale, coal, and also from solar power and others. You might be interested in knowing too that we have a higher level of exploration now for oil and natural gas than we have had in the last 25 years.

So, we're making good progress with a brand new energy policy. What will happen in the years ahead is hard to predict, but I would guess that this will be an uninterrupted progression of more efficient use of energy and more production of energy at home. It'll make us less subject to damage from interruptions of supplies and less subject to blackmail or an attempt by foreign countries to orchestrate our foreign policy.


Q. You've stressed aid to the snowbelt States—[inaudible]. Are you saying that the American people in general are better off today than they were when you took office, and if so—[inaudible]?

THE PRESIDENT. I think so. We have more than 8 million additional people with jobs now than we did when I took office. As I said earlier—I just looked up the figure this morning—478,000 of those new jobs are in New Jersey.

I think our country is more united than it was. I think there's a greater respect for the Government and its integrity than existed in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and the CIA revelations and the Watergate scandals which took place shortly before I was elected. In my opinion, there's a major achievement in tone or confidence in the future brought about by the evolution of a new energy policy. This was like a cloud hanging over our head when I was running for President.

The social security system has been stabilized and put back on a sound basis. We also have, I think, completely reversed the despair that existed among our older cities that was so apparent when I was a candidate back in 1976.

We have opened up new opportunities for trade and friendship with China, which is a major stabilizing force in Asia and also opens up new trade possibilities for us that we didn't previously enjoy. We've not interrupted our trade with Taiwan, at the same time. And we've had 3 1/2 years of peace. And in addition to that, we've been able to bring peace to the Mideast. We've got a new policy toward Africa, where we now have an intense interest in the democratization of Africa and the building up of new trade opportunities there. So, in those areas we have improved in domestic affairs and also in international diplomacy.

And the other thing that we've improved has been the structure of our defense establishment. For the 8 years prior to my inauguration, we had a steady decrease in the amount of money spent for our military defenses in real dollars. Every year since I've been in office, with the help of Bill Bradley and others, we've had a steady increase in the amount of real dollars above and beyond inflation that we devote to a defense capability, and we have projected in the future and the Congress has endorsed for the next 5 years the continued increase in our Nation's commitment to a strong defense.

So, I think those are a few things that we've done well. I don't have time, unless you want to pursue it further, to accentuate civil rights and human rights and the ability of our young people to get better training and so forth, but there's a gamut of things that have been accomplished which can be described more clearly and also analyzed more thoroughly—criticized on occasion during a political campaign. I've just outlined to you some of those that come to mind in an offhand way.


Q. Mr. President, how do you assess the Anderson candidacy and the feeling that some observers have that it'll hurt you more than it'll hurt Ronald Reagan?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there's no doubt that it hurts me more than it does Reagan. All the polls indicate that it's different, and particularly in States like California and New Jersey—California and New York—and I'm not sure about New Jersey.

I think Anderson is primarily a creation of the press. He's never won a primary, even in his own home State. He's never won a caucus contest in any State in the Nation. He ran as a Republican, and he's still a Republican. He hasn't had a convention; he doesn't have a party. He and his wife hand-picked his Vice-Presidential nominee. But Anderson being the third candidate in the race, who's given equal treatment on the evening news and in the newspapers with myself and the Republican nominee, is obviously the recipient of support from people who are disaffected with me or with Governor Reagan, and this makes him a very significant factor in the 1980 election contest.

We've had other third candidates running down through history, some with parties and some without parties. On occasion they've been highly publicized, as was the case with Theodore Roosevelt when he tried to run for reelection, and George Wallace when he ran. But I don't know what's going to come out later on.

It's still early in the season, and we are concerned about the fact that I've not been able to induce Governor Reagan to debate me, for instance, on a two-man basis. What he will do in the future is hard to discern, but as you know, a three-person debate format is more like a forum than it is a real debate.

But I've accommodated political uncertainties in the past and been fairly successful, and I have no aversion to making the same attempt in the next few weeks. I believe I'll be successful with it. It's hard to say what the final outcome will be, whether Anderson will be a significant factor or not. Right now I'd say he's a significant factor.

Q. You stand pat on the decision not to debate, not to just take—[inaudible].

THE PRESIDENT. I've never said that we wouldn't debate Anderson. What I've said was that we wanted to have two-man debates with Reagan assured and that I would be glad to debate Reagan, Anderson, or any other candidates in an open forum. I have no aversion to that at all.


Q. Do you think that big business or the Government should bear most of the economic burden with the toxic waste problems, and do you think that the superfund is—that we're doing enough with the superfund to deal with that problem?

THE PRESIDENT. The superfund is a great idea that absolutely must be implemented. In my opinion, the superfund is better for the communities, for the people, for business, including those that produce toxic materials, and obviously is better for the Federal Government. It's kind of an insurance program where a very small amount of money is put in for each barrel of toxic material sold, into a fund. The name is probably not a very good one. And if in the future damage to a community is threatened or materializes or to a person is threatened or materializes then out of that insurance fund, so-called, the damages would be paid, and within very narrowly defined limits the Federal Government would coordinate this effort.

Bill Bradley has been one of the strongest supporters of the superfund idea. It'll be voted on within the next few days. And I deeply hope that the Congress will pass this legislation.

We have more than 50,000 potentially toxic dumpsites in this country, each one of which. could become a very serious threat in the future. And unless we take some action now, I believe we're going to have a serious developing crisis in our country.


Q. Mr. President, one of Ronald Reagan's main campaign themes has been less government intrusion in our lives. Some of your earlier initiatives tended somewhat in that direction, with attempts to reduce the Federal bureaucracy and deregulate in certain cases. We haven't heard much talk along these lines lately since Reagan's campaign has heated up. Does this indicate that the Republicans are able on that issue to dictate somewhat the force of your campaign, and what do you feel about that philosophical point itself, less government intrusion in our lives?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the reason you don't hear much about it is because the Republicans don't want to raise that issue because we've done such a good job with it as Democrats. We've had a more profound change in the government-business relationship since 'I've been President of any time at least since the New Deal.

We have deregulated completely the CAB. We have deregulated the trucking industry. We're now on the verge of deregulating the rail industry. We have deregulated the financial institutions of this country, and we have an excellent prospect of deregulating the communication industry in the next few months. Nothing like this has ever been done before, and I think it's a very major achievement.

I have the same basic philosophy about government intrusion in the private enterprise system as is exemplified by these actions that the Congress has taken with my full support and, in some cases, ray leadership. I think it's absolutely important that we continue this deregulation process and reduce the amount of paperwork and the onerous burden of government intrusion into the free enterprise system. But I don't stand aside for anyone in acknowledging the importance of it, and I believe this is one of the notable achievements that we've had for our country in this 3 1/2 years.


Q. Mr. President, Governor Reagan seems to be using the economy as an issue here in New Jersey and elsewhere as one way of wooing the blue-collar vote. What can you say to those blue-collar voters about the economy, about inflation, in order to convince them to vote for you in November?

THE PRESIDENT. The more people know about the absolutely ridiculous Reagan-Kemp-Roth tax proposal, the more they get frightened of it. This became an issue in 1978 in the congressional elections all over the country. The Republicans lost because of it, and toward the end of the congressional election season in '78 many of those who espoused it at the beginning were disavowing this ridiculous proposal.

Now Governor Reagan is saddled with the Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal. He backed off a little bit, I understand, today in some of the productivity elements of it. This is highly inflationary. It doesn't do anything to help revitalize the American industrial system. It's not a carefully targeted, nonpolitical approach to taxation and to the economic revitalization like we've put forward. It would cost our economy about a trillion dollars between now and 1987, and an economic analysis of it shows that there is no way that you can have a Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal intact, make an attempt to balance the budget, keep a strong defense, to which Governor Reagan professes to be committed, and even continue the routine programs that are designed to help the American people have a better life. It's just a ridiculous proposal, and any economist who studies it knows that.

Recently, I understand that former President Ford was given a briefing on the Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal by, I think, Governor Reagan himself—at least in his presence—and announced that he could not support it. And I don't know of any qualified economist, except Mr. Laffer, who originated this concept, who is endorsing the Reagan economic program. And I don't know of any labor union, where they have highly qualified economists on occasion saying, "What is best for the workers who employ me and who pay me to give them advice?"—I don't know of any labor union that's endorsed Mr. Reagan or his proposals, either one,

So, I don't believe he's going to be successful, but that's the challenge for me as a candidate to make sure these issues are clearly described to the American workers and then let them make a judgment on their own.


Q. There's been a lot written in the press about an evangelical political movement, or the solidification of Evangelicals as a political movement. Do you think that's a real phenomenon, and if so, how do you see it playing a part in the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it's a real phenomenon: The new public attempt by the electronic media Evangelicals to become politically organized and politically active—that to me is a new development. The leader of it—I noticed his photograph on the front of one of the news magazines this week—is Jerry Falwell. When I ran for President in 1976, I was a target of repeated attacks by Jerry Falwell at that time. So, his present support of Governor Reagan is no different development.

Of course, the word "evangelical" can be misinterpreted. I consider myself to be an evangelical, but I'm not part of the group that's been highly publicized recently as being directly involved in trying to shape political contests based on religious faith. I really don't believe that they will be as effective as has been alleged in some of the articles that I've read about recently. I noticed the Gallup Poll this week that said that a certain definition of Evangelicals supported me in preference to Governor Reagan, but the organized groups that I've just referred to—the electronics group—have pretty well endorsed Reagan.

I don't think that over a long period of time, that kind of a religious intrusion into the political process will be significant.


Q. The public seems to be very concerned about conflicting reports or opinions concerning the ability of our present-day volunteer Army to defend us adequately. There's been talk about, rumors about recalling retired Army personnel and rumors about our volunteer Army being unable to handle sophisticated equipment they're given. Do you think that our present-day volunteer Army could adequately defend us, with this kind of attitude? And as far as I know, everyone is very concerned about it.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. The answer is yes. I don't want to go into detail now, because the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of Defense today are answering an article that was published in the New York Times this morning on the front page saying that some of our Army divisions were not prepared for combat or did not enjoy combat readiness.

We've added, including a bill I signed yesterday to increase the pay and benefits of military personnel, we've added about $4 billion since I've been in office to improve the quality of military persons, to improve the retention rate among vital trained petty officers primarily and also to help with recruitment.

We've had remarkable success that we did not anticipate really with the registration for the draft with about 93 percent of the young people who were eligible registering for the draft. About 15 percent of those who registered expressed a desire to know more about career opportunities in the military forces—there was a place on the form that they could check there-which I think will help us with recruitment in the future.

The spirit within the military is very good. They've had some onerous assignments that I've given them, for instance, the long-term stationing of aircraft carders and the support ships in the north Indian Ocean. They've performed superbly in that respect. I visited a lot of the military bases. I happen to be a professional military man by training, and I've found them to be well trained. So, I would guess that our military forces are in good condition.

We've had—I started to say, I think, a rebirth of spirit of cooperation among the NATO Allies, where formerly there was a lack of trust and a lack of cooperation. Now the commitment is there on a longterm basis for 15 years in the future to constantly improve the quality. A very difficult political decision was made by the military allies in Europe for the theater nuclear force weapons to meet the Soviet threat from the SS-20 and others, a sharing of kinds of weapons among the different allies so that there'll be a more efficient expenditure of limited funds. These kinds of things bode well, I think, for our Nation's military preparedness.

In balance I'm pleased with that. And the new technological developments that our Nation enjoys help to reassure me as Commander in Chief that we will stay in the forefront of the evolution of weapons, which I hope we'll never have to use, that are crucial to our Nation's defense and the maintenance of peace.

Maybe one more question. Yes, sir.


Q. I saw President Ford this morning talking about the present administration's playing fast and loose with defense secrets, particularly with regard to the Stealth bomber. I wonder if you had had any indications of unhappiness on the part of the NATO Allies on this point—on the use of security in U.S. politics.

THE PRESIDENT. That's never been done. Governor Reagan and a carefully orchestrated Republican coterie made an absolutely false and ridiculous allegation that the Stealth information was promulgated improperly and with some derogation to our Nation's security. That is absolutely not true and it's unwarranted and I resent it very much.

As a matter of fact, the existence of a Stealth program was not even classified when I became President. The program did exist in its embryonic stage; it was unclassified. Public testimony was given about the Stealth program, not in a closed session. A contract was let for the evolution of a Stealth-type airplane, and it was a public contract. In the 3 months after I became President we classified this program, Harold Brown did, the Secretary of Defense in April of—in the springtime of 1977, I don't know the exact month—and we began to move forward with a development of this very important, new technological advance.

It is a profound change in military capability. And since that time, the program has grown more than a hundredfold. It's now reached the stage where large numbers of people have to be involved in it. Literally thousands of workers have been involved in the so-called Stealth program, and we have had to brief several dozen House and Senate Members and the crucial members of their staffs, because we're getting ready now to move toward a greater commitment to this program. And you cannot keep something like this secret that long. It is amazing that we were able to keep it secret this long.

Nothing has been revealed about the Stealth program except that it exists. That's all. Nothing has been revealed about the technological developments on the details of this program. So, there has been no violation of our Nation's security. And as a matter of fact, the only thing that has been revealed, to repeat myself, the existence of the program was unclassified when I became President.

So, you can see how absolutely ridiculous this whole series of highly publicized Republican allegations have been. If it weren't for the political season, there would have been a unanimous accolade for our Nation for this tremendous achievement. But I can't sit mute nor quiescent as President of our country and as Commander in Chief of our military forces just because a political season takes place. I've got to continue to strengthen our defense. I've got to continue to try to be innovative. I've got to continue to deal with crises and problems. I've got to continue to work for peace here and in the Middle East. I can't just go into seclusion in a closet somewhere just because there's a political season. And I think it's contrary to the best interests of our country for Governor Reagan and the Republicans to make a big issue out of this as though we were violating our Nation's security when, as a matter of fact, we have strengthened our Nation's security and improved greatly the confidentiality of the program compared to what it was when I became President. I feel very deeply about it as you can probably tell.

And I wish I had time for more questions, but Jody tells me that we have to go. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:44 p.m. in the Olive Street Community Center.

Jimmy Carter, Perth Amboy, New Jersey Question-and-Answer Session With New Jersey News Editors. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250808

Filed Under




New Jersey

Simple Search of Our Archives