Jimmy Carter photo

Press Briefing in Plains, Georgia

August 18, 1976

Governor Carter. I might point out, just as a matter of interest, that when we start our sessions at 1 o'clock or whatever it is, we don't ever stop, we don't take a break or anything else, we just keep going. Everybody who comes generally agrees afterward that even the experts learn a lot from one another because it's a source of a major exchange of ideas. I think that all of them would agree that, as contrasted with congressional hearings, there's a tremendous amount of information exchanged in a short period of time in these unstructured discussions.

At the conclusion of our roughly hour discussion, we went around the room and everybody suggested a major point on which there was general agreement. I'm not trying to speak for all these people here and I don't expect them to speak for me later on, but I'll go down these points. I know we have both foreign trade and economic journalists here who've come from major periodicals and we'd like to have your questions. If I can't answer them, which is the likely case, I'll refer them to someone in the back.

The first point on which we agreed—and these are not in any particular order—is that there is a very close interrelationship between foreign trade, tariffs, the international monetary system, multinational corporation attitudes and investments, and our domestic and foreign policy. There is no way to separate these factors.

The second thing on which I think everybody agreed is that in the present government structure, most of these component parts are indeed separated from one another. The decision making process is not coordinated. As someone said, very accurately in my opinion, "The federal government is in total disarray, as far as evolving and consummating a cohesive foreign or domestic economic policy."

This responsibility is spread among multiple major agencies and at least eight departments, including, obviously, Treasury, Agriculture, Defense, State, and Commerce. This is almost an insurmountable obstacle to evolving a coherent, long-range, comprehensive policy within which our private sector, the Congress and the President and foreign nations can function most effectively.

Another point is that our nation's economic strength is substantially unshaken by recent international and domestic events. And this strength is recognized not only by leading economists and other analysts in our own nation, but also among foreign governments. The rest of the world still looks to the United States to provide leadership. In some instances, in recent years, that leadership has not been forthcoming. There are major negotiations going on now concerning the international monetary system, future modifications in trade, controls over foreign investments, and multinational corporations. These kinds of things must be addressed in the upcoming years, and the United States, because of its economic strength and influence, is going to be the major spokesman or shaper of these events.

Another point that was made was that quite often in recent years the selection of leaders to head up major departments and serve in major diplomatic posts, and our preparations for international discussions on population, food, environmental quality, freedom of the seas, and so forth, have been completely inadequate. Quite often leaders or spokesmen have been selected not on the basis of merit or competence but on the basis of political payoff or some other consideration not associated with competence.

One tremendous recent development has been the increase in agricultural exports. And this has been a major factor in helping to compensate for increased prices of oil. We've had, I think, roughly a tripling of agricultural exports in the last 5 years, from roughly $7 billion to a little over $22 billion. There was also a general consensus that in the long-range future our nation and Canada—North America—plus Europe are likely, almost inevitably, going to be the suppliers or the producers of food. Almost the entire balance of the world is going to depend on us to make up their deficits in food production.

This brings up a question about foreign aid. Now we have multiple, sometimes uncoordinated, programs related to foreign aid: our support for the World Bank and regional banks on the one hand; bilateral aid with specific nations on the other; technical assistance; capital investments; reduction of tariffs or quotas to help developing countries strengthen their own economies. These kinds of things are at the present time in a state of confusion. In many crucial areas, like our contribution to the World Bank or regional banks, and so forth, we are far behind in meeting the commitments we have made previously. We have violated our own agreements and are not providing the amount of contributions that are necessary to meet our own agreements. And we have fallen far behind almost every other developed nation in the world in the percentage of our gross national product allocated to foreign aid in a general sense.

Most of the other participants would, I believe, agree that instead of the continual piecemeal allocation of gifts or surpluses to countries, the best approach is to permit these countries to have capital formation investments and productivity as a first priority, and also we ought to provide some lessening of obstacles to trade, particularly with the less developed countries so that they can sell their products on the open market and have a chance to process their basic raw materials.

Another point that was made is that the President has a great responsibility in the future not only to be a spokesman for our country and to select qualified people to represent our nation in negotiations in economic and political and military matters relating to foreign countries, but has a great responsibility to educate, to be frank with, to involve the American people in the decision making process. Quite often we have a duality of national policy, one for foreign consumption and the other one for domestic political consumption. Frankness ought to prevail in the relationship between the President, the White House, the Executive Branch on the one hand and the Congress and the American people on the other, as well as our relationship with foreign countries.

Another point was that in the foreign aid field, the bilateral aid provisions—that is aid from us to one particular country—ought to be designed to reach people who actually need it, not to buy another Cadillac for tinhorn dictators. And in the past, this abuse has been one of the major factors in turning the American people against a natural inclination toward legitimate foreign aid.

I think an overall conclusion drawn is that to the extent that we can solve problems in the foreign economic field—increased trade, stronger relationships with other countries, less tariffs and quota obstacles, a stable and predictable economic policy, better international monetary stability—those solutions will contribute directly to solving our own domestic problems of inflation and unemployment, and vice versa. To the extent that we can make our own domestic economy strong and viable, it will contribute tremendously to the alleviation of foreign economic problems.

The initial long conversation that we had was on exchange rates. I think there's a general agreement that floating exchanges rates are a permanent fixture on the economic or foreign scene.

And the last point I would like to make before we take questions is that I believe there is a unanimous agreement that I, if I'm the next President, should take a strong stand against international bribery, and against the yielding to boycotts against our own domestic corporations because they happen to have Jewish citizens or others in positions of executive leadership. And I myself find tertiary boycott to be morally obnoxious, and I believe that it would be a serious mistake for us to continue to condone, as our government presently does through quiescence or reticence, the concept of legitimate bribery.

Those are a few of the points that we discussed during the 4 1/2-hour period, and now if you have specific questions to ask about these or other matters concerning international economics, I'll call on one of the teachers in the back to help with those points. Does anybody have a question?

Q. In foreign aid, you made the point that we ought to give it to people who need it, not to what you called "tinhorn dictators" Can you give some examples?

Governor Carter. I don't particularly want to spell out specific examples. Maybe somebody back here would want to volunteer to do that. But there was a general agreement that it has been quite often. We've not monitored in many instances the ultimate consumer or recipient of American aid. Congress, I think, has moved much more aggressively than has the present administration in trying to eliminate those abuses. But to call the name of a national leader who has channeled some of that money into the purchase of additional Cadillacs I think would be inappropriate for me to say.

Q. Governor, did you discuss the issue of international commodity agreements? And if so, would you take a more sympathetic view toward them than the present administration?

Governor Carter. Yes, we did discuss that quite at length. I think that we would take a more sympathetic view. We did discuss the existing commodity agreements that relate to coffee, tin, and cocoa, and how those might be extended to other commodities. The general consensus was that although we don't participate directly in the cocoa agreement, it was a successful achievement and in some other areas, for instance I think copper was named, there might be an opportunity for additional commodity agreements. The idea, of course, would be that there would be some stability of pricing, except in extreme shortages of supply where the price is inevitably going to go up. That there would be a moderate investment in reserve stocks, there might be a purchase when the price was low, and then the stocks could be consumed or sold when shortages did occur in the supplying countries. That was one of the discussions. And I think I would be in favor of that general concept and the expansion of it.

Q. Governor, on that question of floating exchange rates, did you get down to anything as specific as the suggestions that some people have made that Japan is now fluctuating the rate of the yen to our disadvantage and what we might do about it?

Governor Carter. Yes, that was discussed. And we discussed the problem and I specifically asked the question of what would be a legitimate way for us to deal with that problem, and the response was either through diplomatic means or I think there was a quick analysis made that the Japanese have already begun to correct that problem in that the value of the yen has increased 3 percent in recent weeks. The view was expressed that the Japanese have already become aware of the concern about the inclination to buy dollars, to sell yen, to lower the price of the yen, and this trend has already been somewhat reversed because of action by the Japanese government.

Q. Are you in favor of any more direct or any more specific international control or surveillance of these rates?

Governor Carter. I think that could best be done through multinational mutual agreements. Of course it can be done through quiet diplomatic channels. But not being the President now, I think it would be improper for me to say what else ought to be done. I think my voice as a nominee would be a significant factor in international understanding and I would be reluctant to go any further than that because of my own unofficial influence. I'm going to be cautious about that.

Q. Did you get into any discussion of what the effects would be of these grain agreements we've had with the Soviet Union and their sad result on the American economy?

Governor Carter. Indirectly, we didn't specifically discuss the excessive sale of American grain when we had a shortage ourselves. It was devastating, I think, in its inflationary impact on our country, combined with general shortages of commodities and the increase in the price of oil, which came simultaneously in 1973. But there was a discussion and I certainly agree with the fact that we should not use the withholding or the boycott of shipments of food overseas to try to effectuate some sort of international policy as it relates to other countries.

Q. That doesn't exactly jibe with the AFL-CIO views.

Governor Carter. I realize that.

Q. Did you discuss the tax benefits that multinational corporations enjoy and what changes ought to be made in the tax laws, if any?

Governor Carter. No, and my own position on that has been clearly spelled out in the press. I think that we ought not to continue the deferral of payment of multinational profits that are earned overseas. I personally believe that that does work to the disadvantage of employment in this country. But I think that there's a general recognition that the payment of taxes to foreign countries ought to be considered when we collect taxes from the same income. But we did not go into that this afternoon.

Q. In connection with this briefing, and others that you’ve had, are you inviting people who you know are in accordance with your candidacy, or have you tried to invite people across the board, and are we to draw any conclusions at all as to whether some of these gentlemen might be in your administration?

Governor Carter. Most of the people that have met with us down here in Plains I've never known before. Some of them were helpful to me during the primary campaign, the vast majority of them were not. We have tried to invite participants in these discussions based on their own qualifications and their earned reputations in the subjects that they've discussed. We've also made a specific effort to get people to participate who have divergent responsibilities, background, experiences, and political philosophies. There is a fairly heated discussion that developed quite often in these meetings among those who do disagree. So it hasn't been based on who supported me in the past. Unfortunately, the superb judgment that many of the participants show in domestic and foreign affairs was not mirrored in their political judgment in the spring. But I think from these people who do participate I would certainly get advice from, when and if it comes time for me to choose leaders in these fields in government. When I put together a Cabinet and choose major advisers in domestic and foreign affairs, if I don't ask any of these people to serve specifically in government, I would certainly ask their advice on who might be the best qualified people to serve. But it would be improper, and I have never mentioned to a single person in this country any position in the administration, if I should be elected.

Q. Do you make notes to yourself as to who might have impressed you and not impressed you? Does this affect any future judgments of yours?

Governor Carter. Yes, it certainly does. One of the most immediate responsibilities and perhaps one of the greatest responsibilities that I will have if I win in November is immediately to select people to help me run the government in January. And that would only follow my concept of what the organizational structure of the government ought to be over which I have control before we reorganize the complete government. The interrelationship between domestic and foreign economic policy making. The expansion or contraction or changes in the posture of the National Security Council. How the White House staff would relate to Cabinet members. These kinds of questions will have to be addressed by me even during the campaign itself. I am certainly forming opinions as I meet with these leaders about their compatibility with me personally, their compatibility with me on philosophical or political matters and attitudes, their ability to express themselves, and the submission of magazine articles or books that they've written. I very carefully read them and am therefore forming my own opinion about who would be best qualified.

Q. Could I take that question one step further? Some of your opponents have from time to time suggested that you are deficient in various areas of expertise and therefore should not be President, Is it also your intention in these meetings to send out the impression, via a network that seems to be building by geometrical and mathematical jumps, that you are in fact qualified and that you know what you're talking about?

Governor Carter. I think that my opponents are accurate in saying that there is a great deal about the nation's government with which I am not familiar and where I need help and advice. And I would guess that statement would be accurate even when I complete my service as President. I'm trying as best I can to compensate for that inadequacy by gathering around me people who can supplement my own knowledge and experience. And I feel sure that the people of this country would better trust me to the extent that they believe that I will have good advice in areas where I'm not experienced myself. So, politically speaking, I think it's an advantage, but to my mind it's a mandatory requirement for me if I hope to lead this country. I need to have people to help me who participated in the Kennedy round, who negotiated ever since the Point Four Program, in agricultural interchanges with other countries, who are familiar with international economics and international monetary funds, and I think that's a legitimate part of governmental processes to admit one's own deficiencies or needs and to turn without constraint or hesitation to people who know more about a subject than I will know.

Q. A two part question. First of all, why was Senator Mondale not included in these sessions this week? I know he's been out politicking.

Governor Carter. That's why.

Q. Second, do you plan on any more of these sessions before you start out on Labor Day?

Governor Carter. I think I've asked Stu to take 8 more hours for these sessions. We'll have at least two more sessions. Senator Mondale has staff members present. I talked to him yesterday about the progress that we were making. He has been gracious enough to fill a lot of invitations that I've had that I could not myself accept. And this has been a mutual decision that we've made. As you probably know, as a Member of the U.S. Senate, he has had a lot of opportunity to participate in public hearings on these matters too, and he has an advantage over me particularly in the one we had Monday on domestic problems—welfare, health, social security, veterans' affairs, and so forth. He and I together just have to decide how best to allot his time and my time. I think my time is best allocated here. I don't particularly want to be highly visible traveling in the nation on a full-time basis. I think I made three speeches last week and we'll be going to California this weekend and so forth, but it's not anything other than he and I have both agreed that his priorities would be higher to go somewhere else right now.

Q. Why do you not want to be highly visible?

Governor Carter. That's not the overriding consideration. The main consideration is that I need to be here learning and putting together the campaign structure. For instance, one of the major responsibilities I have is to learn about proper relationships between me and the congressional leaders. And Congressman Ullman has been nice enough to come down here. I've asked him to spend the night with me tonight. So we will have had a chance to spend 8 or 10 hours discussing the mechanism by which we can improve the relationship between House leadership and the White House, and talking about the practical application of my own commitments in the field of health and welfare, tax reform, Social Security, and so forth. And I just believe that's a higher priority for me. On occasion, maybe two or three occasions every week, I will make appearances to raise money for the Democratic Party or to make a speech on a certain subject or perhaps to help Democratic candidates as was the case the other night in West Virginia. I think that's the proper balancing. There's no particular reason for me not to campaign full-time. I just have to assess the best use of my time.

Q. Would you come back for a moment to that question of international bribery and boycotts? What might be the component parts of that?

Governor Carter. If I am elected President I would make it clear in my initial major speeches, State of the Union address or some other major speech or series of them that I am personally committed against bribery. I would call on the multinational corporations or others to voluntarily police themselves and point out that I would consider it a crime if any evidence of bribery was presented to me as President. And that I would proceed with the prosecution of those who are guilty. That would be a proper thing for me to do. I would also seek legislation to make it illegal for companies or for the national policy to include yielding to the tertiary boycotts against banks or corporations that happen to have Jewish citizens in positions of executive leadership. I know that some states have already done this, like New York State. I don't know of any deleterious consequences that the state has suffered. And I think that if I make my position clear as President, that would go a long way toward resolving those two problems which I consider to be a matter of principle.

Q. Are you for full disclosure of companies who bribe officials overseas who seek bribes?

Governor Carter. Yes, I am; I'm also in favor of punitive action to be pursued by those who voluntarily admit they have bribed or are bribing, and also the prosecution of any one who is convicted of bribery.

Q. So if it came to the attention of the U.S. Government that x number of Cabinet officials in Japan, or Norway, or Pakistan, had received bribes from American corporations and there were reasonable indications that they had in fact accepted those bribes, you would be in favor of disclosing those names publicly?

Governor Carter. I would. That's correct. I would disclose that information to the government involved. I'd have to assess each case, but my inclination would be to make it public. I made a speech on this subject in San Francisco, I think at the largest gathering that I had during the primary campaign. I called for our own government to reveal completely the circumstances around the Lockheed bribery case. I think it would be better for the nation of Japan if that information were made public. I don't see any reason for the President to participate in concealing evidence of a crime. To me, it's just that simple. There may be some other complicating factors that I don't discern, but I could never bring myself to join in the concealing of a crime. Perhaps you have questions to ask of some of those behind me. I'd like to call on these people to correct any mistakes that I've made in my comments.

We've got some very fine people here. I think if you'll look down the list of those who have attended you'll be as impressed as I was with the credentials of those who volunteered to come here and help me. I might say, not specifically relating to this afternoon, that we have had remarkable success in having our invitations to Plains accepted, and I want to express my personal thanks again to these people who have given up their valuable time to come down here and help to educate me. I'm not being presumptuous in assuming that I'm already elected. I've got a long, hard, tough campaign to pursue, but if I am elected President, and I intend to be, then I hope that I can be as well qualified as possible. And people like those standing behind me will deserve a great deal of credit to the extent that we can resolve the present problems that afflict our country, and we can reinvolve the American people in the consideration of these complicated but very important matters, and also help to resolve the difficulties. So I want to again express my thanks to them and say that they have responded very unselfishly to my request that they come down and help me prepare for possibly the biggest job in our country. Thank you very much.

Q. [For Marina Whitman.] We have observed that you were in the recent Republican Administration, and I was wondering if you see any differences in attitude or approach?

Marina Whitman. Obviously, there are some disagreements between us about the nature of the conduct of policy in the international economic arena in the last 4 or 5 years. However, I think I can say quite seriously that this area of international economic policy is not an area of great partisan division. Obviously, there are feelings that this has been inadequate, this could be done better, and so forth, and as I say in some of these areas, of course, I would have some disagreement. But basically, I think this is an area where there's a very wide range of consensus on what the problems are, the basic approaches to tackling them, and the very great difficulties involved in tackling some of these problems, some of which have been plaguing us for a long, long time.

Jimmy Carter, Press Briefing in Plains, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347630

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