Jimmy Carter photo

Plains, Georgia Informal Exchange With Reporters.

December 24, 1980


Q. How's it feel to be back, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, it feels good.

Q. Sir, what do you think the chances are that the hostages could be gotten out before January 20th. At this point, is there much chance of that, do you think?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't want to be overly optimistic. We've always been disappointed in dealing with the Iranians, as you know. But we'll continue to try to deal with the Iranians, as we have in the past, both protecting the honor of our country and also trying to do everything we can to protect the lives and safety of the hostages.

We will not pay any ransom. We never have been willing to even consider that. What we have tried to do is to deal with the Iranians through the Algerians, not negotiating directly, so that the possibility of restoring the situation as it was before the hostages were taken. But the prospects for their early release, I think, is unfortunately quite dim.

Q. Were you disappointed by the latest response suggesting, as it did, that they didn't understand there are things you can't do, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We explained our position very clearly to the Iranians through the Algerians, and either they just ignored what we told them we could or would do or else they deliberately made demands that they knew we couldn't meet.

Q. Are you more concerned now, Mr. President, about the prospect of trials?

THE PRESIDENT. When the revolution took place in Iran there were 50,000 Americans there, and ever since those early days when literally thousands of people in Iran have been killed, my deepest personal concern about human beings has been to keep Americans alive. We extracted all the Americans without loss of life. And of course, my concern the last 13 or 14 months has been the safety of the hostages and their well-being, and we'll continue to do everything we can to preserve both their safety and well-being.

Q. They're talking once again about putting the hostages on trial. The Majles addressed itself to that in the conditions it set down.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, more than a year ago we let the Iranians know the consequences of any trial, and I don't think it's necessary for me to repeat that.

Q. This is also the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.


Q. Do you have any comment?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the Soviets made a serious mistake in going into Afghanistan. They've not been able to establish any government in Afghanistan that was supported by the people themselves. The Afghan army, on which the Soviets thought they could rely, has now been almost completely dissipated by desertions, because the Afghan people don't support the Soviet invasion. The Soviets have suffered very severely by worldwide public condemnation of their aggression and the occupation. And, of course, the economic constraints that we've placed on the Soviets with the grain embargo, I think, has hurt them very badly.

So, the Soviets made a serious mistake in going into Afghanistan. I don't see any signs that they've made any progress in the last year.

Q. Economic news was really pretty bad, the CPI yesterday, and Reagan's talking about meeting with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Volcker. Is that appropriate for him to do?

THE PRESIDENT. Sure. I meet with Mr. Volcker regularly. We have a regular scheduled meeting. It's a luncheon, as a matter of fact, every month, with me and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of the Treasury and a couple of my advisers, including Charles Schultze, and we discuss how best we can handle the inflation process and constrain it and keep economic growth up and employment high. But, of course, the Federal Reserve, under the law, is completely independent of the President's influence, and I can't demand that the Federal Reserve do this or that.

But I think the overall economic status of our country is very healthy. The value of the dollar's high. We've had the highest trade balance this past quarter of any in history, except one in 1975. We'll have a positive trade balance this year in spite of imports of oil. Employment is the highest it's ever been in the history of our country. The percentage of the labor force that is employed is the highest it's ever been in history.

So, we have a lot to be thankful for in this country. Inflation is excessively high because of OPEC oil price increases, and, of course, the interest rates are too high also. But you can't have everything perfect. But in general we have a strong economy and have set alltime records in many elements of economic prosperity and benefits to our people, and I'm very proud of what we've done.

Q. Were you surprised at the surge in the growth rate last month?

THE PRESIDENT. In the growth rate?

Q. In the GNP.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. It was higher than we had anticipated. We thought it would be less than 1 percent, but it was up about 2 1/2 percent. And of course, the American people's income has been higher than has the inflation rate, which is another encouraging factor. But there's still room for improvement. I don't deny that.

Q. Is it time for an economic emergency to be declared?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think for anyone to declare an emergency would arouse a psychological reaction that would very likely damage the economy and the growth and enhance inflation. I don't think that ought to be done; don't think it will be done.

Q. By raising expectations, you mean, unnecessarily?

THE PRESIDENT. Just by creating a semblance of panic. I think for any public official who has authority to say that there's an emergency and so forth would naturally tend to cause excessive reaction which might exacerbate the situation.

Q. Mr. President, what do you think of Henry Kissinger's travel plans? He says he's going to the Middle East to meet with foreign leaders with Ronald Reagan's approval.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that would be good. I hope that and I expect that Governor Reagan will continue the Camp David process to try to bring peace to the Mideast and to let there be a continued search for peace by the Egyptians and the Israelis. And I think that when I go out of office and Sol Linowitz is no longer the special ambassador for the peace process that Secretary Kissinger or anyone else who speaks with authority for the President would do a good job there.

Q. Has he consulted with you or will he be in touch with you, so far as you know?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the transition process is going on as best we can manage it, and both Secretary Muskie, dealing with General Haig, and Harold Brown, dealing with Cap Weinberger, have tried to provide continuity. And I have no doubt that Sol Linowitz will make a special report both to me and to the representatives of Governor Reagan before we go out of office.

Q. What's your view of the Reagan Cabinet?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to comment on the Cabinet. I'll let the Senate assess the quality of those appointees.

I would like to say that there was an event yesterday that I considered to have perhaps the most profound significance constitutionally of anything that's happened in my 4 years. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the congressional veto over executive decisions was unconstitutional. This is a struggle in which we've been engaged for the last 4 years. In fact, it's a 40-year struggle between the President and his executive branch of Government, on the one hand, and the legislative on the other.

I've never signed a bill that had a legislative veto in it that I didn't express my own opinion that it was unconstitutional. And yesterday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, ruled that the legislative veto was, indeed, unconstitutional. I'll be issuing an Executive order soon to all executive officers telling them to act accordingly, and I'll be consulting with the Attorney General within the next few days to see whether or not we should go directly to the Supreme Court and let the Supreme Court confirm the finality of the victory that we won in San Francisco in the Circuit Court.

Q. I take it you'll be telling the department and agency heads to ignore such congressional vetoes.


REPORTER. Thank you, sir.

Note: The exchange began at 11:30 a.m. outside Hugh Carter's antiques store.

Jimmy Carter, Plains, Georgia Informal Exchange With Reporters. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250772

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