Question-and-Answer Session at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, Houston, Texas.
Mr. President,1 and members and guests of the National Association of Broadcasters:
[1.] Before going to your questions, ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement with regard to decisions I have made as a result of the lifting of the oil embargo.
1 Vincent T. Wasilewski was president of the National Association of Broadcasters.
First, it will not be necessary for us to have compulsory rationing in the United States.
Second, effective this Sunday, I have rescinded the order which closes all service stations on Sunday.
Third, Director Simon is increasing allocations to industry and agriculture so that they can have the necessary energy to operate at full capacity.
And fourth, with regard to those gasoline lines which have troubled us in several places in the country, we will now be able to allocate additional gasoline with the purpose of diminishing the lines and, we hope, eventually eliminating them.
Now, it is necessary for us to keep this development, however, in perspective. We must recognize that as far as price is concerned, the pressure on prices will continue, because the oil we import from abroad--from, for example, the Arab oil-producing countries--costs approximately twice as much as the oil we produce in the United States.
Also, with regard to the shortage, it is not yet over. We still have an anticipated shortage of perhaps 5 to 8 percent in the United States. Therefore, it will be necessary to continue our voluntary program of carpooling and also of slower driving.
Third, with regard to the energy shortage generally, I should point to the necessity for action in one area. When we speak of an energy shortage, the greatest shortage of energy is the lack of energy on the part of the Congress of the United States in getting to work and passing the legislation that will produce more energy in the United States of America.
Now, as all you ladies and gentlemen of the press know and, I am sure, in this audience know, there are now 17 bills before the Congress which have not been acted upon which would deal with the problem of increasing the supply of energy.
Among those that come to mind that would have an immediate effect if they were enacted would be, first, the deregulation of natural gas, so that we can have additional supplies of natural gas, which we have in great abundance and which is the cleanest fuel that we could possibly have.
Second, it is necessary to develop not only in terms of production but also exploration, the sources of energy that the Federal Government has in various installations across the country, particularly in Elk Hills.
And third, it is essential in terms of energy that the Congress act on the legislation that I have requested which would relax environmental restrictions which at the present time do not allow the mining of coal and the use of coal, and coal is, of course, as you know, our major source of energy. We have 63 percent of all the coal in the free world, and it should be used at this time when we do have an energy shortage.
So much for the short-term activities. In addition to that, the Congress has before it a number of bills which would affect the long-term problem, for example, authority to build deepwater ports, for example, authorities that would speed up the construction of nuclear plants, which in the long term is going to be one of the major sources of energy in the United States.
As I have said, and as you have heard me say on many occasions, the purpose of the United States is to develop our energy resources which we have in abundance so that by the year 1980 the United States will be completely independent of any foreign source for our energy. We can accomplish that goal.
But we can accomplish that goal only if the Congress quits dragging its feet on the proposals that they now have before them and have had before them for several months. And I trust, with the cooperation of the Congress and the support of the American people, we will be able to have action, and action soon, on these measures that have been submitted.
SENATOR BUCKLEY AND THE QUESTION OF RESIGNATION
[2.] That is the only announcement that I have, and I understand Mr. Johnson is entitled to the first question.
Q. Mr. President, Bos Johnson, WSAZ Television, Huntington, West Virginia. You have said repeatedly that you will not resign, and yet today, Senator James Buckley today called for you to perform an extraordinary act of statesmanship and courage, voluntary resignation as, as he put it, the only way by which the Watergate crisis can be resolved.
Would you comment on the import of this statement coming from a conservative United States Senator, and whether it might cause you to reassess your position?
THE PRESIDENT. Well first, it does not cause me to reassess my position, although I, of course, do respect the point of view expressed by the Senator and by others, perhaps some sitting here, who share that view.
The point that I wish to make, however, is that when we speak of courage, if I could address that from a personal standpoint first of all, it perhaps would be an act of courage to resign. I should also point out, however, that while it might be an act of courage to run away from a job that you were elected to do, it also takes courage to stand and fight for what you believe is right, and that is what I intend to do.
Mr. Johnson, I would not want to leave your question simply with a personal judgment. I am thinking of the statesmanship which Senator Buckley also addressed. From the standpoint of statesmanship, for a President of the United States, any President, to resign because of charges made against him which he knew were false and because he had fallen in the polls, I think, would not be statesmanship. It might be good politics, but it would be bad statesmanship. And it would mean that our system of government would be changed for all Presidents and all generations in the future.
What I mean by that, very simply, is this: The Constitution provides a method by which a President can be removed from office: impeachment--impeachment for treason and other high crimes and misdemeanors. Now, if a President is not guilty of those crimes, if only charges have been made which he knows are false, and if, simply because as a result of those false charges and as a result of his falling in the polls, he decides to resign, it would mean then that every future President would be presiding over a very unstable Government in the United States of America.
The United States and the free world, the whole world, needs a strong American President, not an American President who, every time the polls go down, says, "Well, maybe I'd better resign."
Let me give you an example: I have often said to members of the Washington press corps that the most difficult decision I made in my first term was the very last, in December of 1972. You recall then that I found it necessary, because of the breakdown in negotiations in Paris with the North Vietnamese, to order the bombing of military targets in North Vietnam in the Hanoi and Haiphong region by B-52's.
The bombing began, we lost planes, and at that time I can assure you that not only my friends but many others who had supported the actions that I had taken to attempt to bring the war in Vietnam to an honorable conclusion, criticized and criticized very strongly what I had done.
Great newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Star, that had previously editorially supported me, for example, were among them, and many Senators as well as other public figures spoke out. As a matter of fact, one Senator said, "The President has taken leave of his senses." Now, I had no hard feelings about that. I made him Attorney General. [Laughter]
The day after Christmas, some of my closest advisers felt that because a poll that they had taken privately indicated that I had dropped 20 points in the polls since the bombing began, that I should consider stopping it. I considered their advice. I did not take it.
I ordered the bombing to continue. I ordered it, as a matter of fact, to be increased on military targets. Five days later, the deadlock was broken, and as a result of that action, an unpopular action but an action which I felt was right, the longest war in America's history was brought to a conclusion, and our prisoners of war were brought home, as I have often said, on their feet rather than on their knees.
Now, I want future Presidents to be able to make hard decisions, even though they think they may be unpopular, even though they think they may bring them down in the polls, even though they may think they may bring upon them criticism from the Congress which could result in demands that he resign or be impeached.
I want future Presidents to be able to take the strong, right decisions that he believes are right. That is what I did then, and that is what I intend to do in the future.
I think, after that answer, it is only right for me to turn to the left.
SHORTAGES AND PRICES
[3.] Q. Mr. President, Tony DeHaro, KRIS-TV, Corpus Christi, Texas. While the Vietnam war was on, we as a nation had to supply a military force, a couple of nations plus our own with food, fuel, and just basic commodities--well, in short, all of the things that we now find expensive and scarce. Why is it with the drain now over, and even before the oil embargo began, we, instead of having surpluses, find ourselves with high-price shortages? And what can be done to bring things back a little closer to normal?
THE PRESIDENT. The reason why we have the shortages, not only in terms of food, which, of course, as you know, came before the energy crisis and resulted in an upsurge in food prices, but also in energy, is that it is not just a U.S. crisis, but a world crisis.
In a sense, that is good, because all over the world people are eating a little better, people are using more energy, and the result is that we need to produce more energy and produce more food in order to deal with these shortages.
Here in the United States, we are moving on the energy crisis as it was--it has now, I think, been reduced to a problem-and we are also trying to move in the food area. And the way to move is to see to it that we increase production.
Let me also suggest that I know many wonder, why not just control the prices? Well, the way to get prices down is not to control prices at a level where the farmer quits producing and the producer of energy will not sell. The way to get prices down is to produce more. That is why I am against controls in these areas. We must produce more, and we will get the prices down, and I think we shall.
U.S. POLICY IN THE MIDEAST
[4.] Q. Mr. President, Jay Solomon, WCOL News, Columbus, Ohio. Our Middle East policy has seemed to point three ways: support for Israel, keeping access to Arab oil, and containing the Soviet influence. It seems to be touchy at best. But now with the Arab oil embargo lifted and with Egypt seeming to lead the way in that regard, what does that do to U.S.-Middle East policy, especially should push come to shove as regarding Israel?
THE PRESIDENT. I realize that many of those who support Israel and its independence, as I have since that state came into existence, wonder about the policy of the United States, which is now one designed not only to be a friend of Israel but to be a friend of Israel's neighbors. And I would only suggest that in terms of the future of Israel, it is much better to have the United States a friend of Israel's neighbors and thereby able to influence and perhaps restrain their policies rather than an enemy or with no communication.
And so, therefore, our policy is designed to accomplish these things:
One, we will continue to support the independence and the integrity of the State of Israel.
Two, we will continue to try to seek not only renewed relations with Egypt but with other countries with which those relations have been broken, as you know, in the past, growing out of the June 1967 war.
But let me make one thing very clear: Being a friend of one of Israel's neighbors does not make us an enemy of Israel. In the long-term interests of Israel and in the long-term interests of all of the countries in the Mideast, it is vital that the United States play a constructive and positive role.
For example, the progress on the Syrian disengagement, which will be even more difficult than the disengagement on the Israeli-Egyptian front, is a news item which I think came over the ticker just a few moments ago. This is a positive move.
We have a long way to go. But in the long term, we have to realize that a U.S. role in the Mideast must be one that works with all the countries in the area that are willing to work with us.
The other point that I should make that I know perhaps is not included in your question, but is implicit in many questions that are asked in this field: Why is it that we follow this attitude in the Mideast and at a time when the Soviet Union seems to be following, some claim or allege, an obstructionist attitude in the Mideast?
Let me say, there cannot be permanent peace in the Mideast unless the United States is for it and plays a role to get it. But also, there cannot be permanent peace in the Mideast if the Soviet Union is against it. As far as the Soviet Union and the United States are concerned, our interests are not always the same in the Mideast, but in my meetings with Mr. Brezhnev 2 years ago, also this year (last year) and, I trust, also later in the year, the problem of peace in the Mideast will be high on the agenda.
We will not always agree. But it is to the interest not only of the countries in the Mideast but of the Soviet Union and the United States, to work out a permanent settlement, because it is one of those flash points in the world far more important to the interest of the U.S. and the Soviet Union than a place like Vietnam. And we cannot again, if we can avoid it, run the risk of a confrontation between the two super powers in that area of the world.
So, I believe our policy of working toward permanent peace with Israel, with her neighbors, and working with the Soviet Union, where the Soviet Union is willing to work with us, is in the best interests of everybody concerned.
[5.] Q. Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. [Tom] Jarriel of ABC.
MR. JARRIEL. Thank you. I would like to follow up that question, Mr. President. In your Chicago meeting with reporters on the Middle East, you said that if the oil embargo lifting had indications that it might be conditional and they might reimpose it, the United States would not be pressured, and any implications of pressure would have a counter effect on the peace negotiations. My question goes to the fact that according to the news reports, the embargo is lifted on a conditional basis of a review in June.
Because of this, will you recommend that Dr. Kissinger break off his efforts in the negotiations between Syria and Israel until there is a firm and final lifting of the embargo?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I will not. And I will not for this reason: that what the decision was, as I understand, Mr. Jarriel, was that the Arab countries would meet again in June to review the situation. It was not a decision with a condition.
Now, as far as our policy in the Mideast is concerned, we seek a permanent peace as an end in itself. Whatever happens to the oil embargo, peace in the Mideast would be in our interest and in the interest of the whole world.
As far as the oil embargo is concerned, it is in the interest of those countries that imposed it, as well as the United States, that it be lifted. The two should go parallel. Inevitably, what happens in one area affects the other. And I am confident that the progress we are going to continue to make on the peace front in the Mideast will be very helpful in seeing to it that an oil embargo is not reimposed.
THE PRESIDENT'S ACCESSIBILITY
[6.] Q. Mr. President, I am Paul McGonigle, from KOY Radio in Phoenix. You have become so accessible of late, not only with Washington news conferences but with appearances such as these, a group of us were talking a while ago that it is difficult to think of something new to ask on a subject that hasn't been beaten to death, like Watergate, for example, and--[Laughter]--
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, ask that, I am used to it. [Laughter]
MR. McGONIGLE. What I would like to ask you, sir, is why this accessibility has not marked your Administration throughout the entire tenure of your years in the White House?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, with forums like this I think I should be more accessible, I agree.
No, seriously, the press conference is a very useful medium through which a President can convey his views to the American people. There are times, however, when a press conference, a President determines, would not be useful, because of very sensitive negotiations that are going on where even a "no comment" could be very unhelpful.
I would suggest that in the future, as I see the future, it is likely that I will continue to have a considerable number of meetings with the press, and I would welcome the opportunity to take the questions that people from Phoenix and the Washington press corps ask. I will try to answer them as responsibly as possible.
INFORMATION FOR HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE INVESTIGATION
[7.] Q. Mr. President, Chris Clark, WLAC-TV, Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. President, it appears likely that the House Judiciary Committee might subpoena the tapes and records which you have refused to give to them. My question is this: Will you honor such a subpoena and turn over such records if that becomes the case?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think in response to that question, I should put it in perspective by pointing out what we have already provided to the committee, and what our general policy is, and what the status appears to be at the present time with regard to possible future furnishing of information. I have already directed that all of the information that we turned over to the Special Prosecutor, which includes 19 tapes and over 700 documents, be turned over to the House Judiciary Committee. In addition, I have directed that seven Government agencies turn over several box loads of documents that they requested be turned over so that they could conduct their investigation.
In addition to that, as you know, Judge Sirica yesterday directed that the records of the grand jury, any records that might be pertinent to this investigation, be turned over to them. That was done not only without our opposition but with our acquiescence, because we want them to have all the facts that they need to conduct a thorough inquiry. Before, however, they had examined any of this material, they demanded 42 more tapes, several hundred documents, and access to every document and/or tape, in effect, which is in the White House.
Now, on that point we are still discussing the matter with Mr. Doar, the counsel for the committee, and of course, he is discussing it with the committee members. The reason that we do not say "Come in and bring your U-Haul trailer and haul it all out" very simply is this: It is not because of a lack of desire to cooperate. It is, first, because we believe that the committee has enough information to conduct its investigation and to see whether any charges it may have against the President are true or false.
Second, insofar as additional documents are concerned, in other words, virtually a hunting license or a fishing license--whatever you want to call it-within the White House is concerned, I am following the precedent that every President, Democrat and Republican, since the time of Washington has followed, and that is of defending the confidentiality of Presidential conversations and communications.
Now, I realize that many think, and I understand that, that this is simply a way of hiding information that they should be entitled to, but that isn't the real reason. The reason goes far deeper than that.
In order to make the decisions that a President must make, he must have free, uninhibited conversation with his advisers and with others. And if the time comes when those who come to advise the President assume that anything they say, even though it is very unpopular at the moment, is going to be turned over later and made public, all he is going to find is a bunch of yes-men around him or ones that are going to play it so safe that he isn't going to get the variety of views he needs to make the right kind of decision.
So, as far as the House committee is concerned, we will cooperate. I have agreed, also, as you know, to answer any questions that are submitted in writing. I have agreed to meet with the chairman of the committee and the ranking member of the committee to answer orally any other questions that they have, and Mr. St. Clair, White House Counsel, is discussing with Mr. Doar what other methods might be found whereby we can cooperate.2
2 On April 9, 1974, the White House issued the text of a letter from James D. St. Glair, Special Counsel to the President, to John M. Doar, special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, on the progress of discussions to date. The letter is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 10, P. 397).
But of one thing I am sure: To provide this huge amount of documents and all of the tapes would only have the effect of prolonging an investigation that has already gone on too long because, believe me, dragging out Watergate drags down America, and I want to bring it to a conclusion as quickly as we can.
RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
[8.] Q. Mr. President, Carl Connerton, KWBA Radio at Baytown. In the early portion of 1960, you made a statement at what you called your last press conference, stating that the press wouldn't have Nixon to kick around anymore. Here it is mid-1970. Do you feel that the press is kicking Nixon around again?
THE PRESIDENT. Before this audience, I answer that? [Laughter] No, I realize that perhaps--incidentally, the year was 1962--after I lost for President I probably didn't feel I should have any difficulties with the press, I had had enough already. So, after 1962, with no political future, I said that I didn't intend to be participating in politics--and thoroughly expected that that would be the case--and that, therefore, the press would enjoy kicking somebody else around rather than me.
But to come to the heart of your question, there is always--as my friend, now retired, of the Washington Star, Jack [Garnett D.] Horner, senior White House correspondent for many years, said--there is always an adversary relationship between the President and the press. That is healthy, that is good.
I think the press has a right to criticize the President, and I think the President has the right of self-defense. I would suggest, also, that we should follow this rule: The President should treat the press just as fairly as the press treats him.
PAYMENTS TO WATERGATE DEFENDANTS
[9.] Q. Henry Keys, United Press International, Washington, Mr. President. I wonder if you would explain the difference between a statement you made last August regarding payments to the Watergate defendants and what you said at your press conference this month.
You will recall that in August, you said you were told that the funds had been raised for attorneys' fees and this month that Mr. Dean had told you the money was to be used for keeping the defendants quiet, not simply for their defense. Could you explain the difference between those statements?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I stated in Chicago, my statement on March 6 was incorrect insofar as it said that I learned that payments had been made prior to the time that the demand for blackmail by Mr. Hunt--alleged demand for blackmail, I should say, since it has not yet been tried--that payments had been made for the purpose of keeping defendants still.
I should have said they were alleged to have been made, because as a matter of fact, those who were alleged to have made payments to defendants for their defense fees and for their support--Mr. Ehrlichman, Mr. Haldeman, Mr. Mitchell--all have denied that that was the case. They have said it was only for the support of the defendants and only for their attorneys' fees, which would be completely proper.
Under the circumstances, therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to say anything further on this point, because these men have a right, now, in a court of law to establish their innocence or to have established the guilt, if they are guilty, of whether or not the payments were made for one purpose or the other.
FOOD PRICES AND PRODUCTION
[10.] Q. Curtis Beckmann, news director, WCCO Radio, Minneapolis. This is a follow-up to your comment about increasing production and decontrolling prices. Some cattlemen's groups now are predicting another round of beef shortages this fall because of current low prices at the farm level for the cattle--the prices are way down. And with the experiences of controls on food that we have had, especially beef, what steps would you anticipate in handling another beef shortage which they are expecting in the fall?
THE PRESIDENT. I am sorry that I have to tell the audience here that there is an echo in this room. Did you say food or fuel?
MR. BECKMANN. Beef--food and beef.
THE PRESIDENT. Beef, that is sure food. Okay.
The situation with regard to pressure on prices I would summarize in this way: It is not over. For example, the inflationary effects of the energy problem will continue to push prices up until we get more production.
Insofar as food is concerned, the prospect is better. We expect a very big harvest of grain foods, particularly. But as far as beef prices, which is your point, the problem is still going to be a very difficult one because of the fact that those who--and I am not an expert on how beef is raised. Here in Texas you can find a lot of them, I am sure, and also how to write it off. [Laughter] But nevertheless, the problem is that in the case of beef, that the beef production by the fall will not catch up to the point that it will have a downward pressure on prices.
However, looking at prices generally, I can say this, across the board: While we will continue to have a difficult time as far as the Consumer Price Index is concerned, through the balance of the second quarter and, possibly, into the third quarter, we believe that the upward pressure on prices will then begin to subside, and in the latter half of the third quarter and in the last quarter, that the food--not only the price level generally, but the food price level, even including beef--will be on a downward trend.
I do not mean by that, that we are going to see the prices come down in the way that we would like it, because prices are always too high if you can't make it with the family budget. But I do mean to say that our projections are that in the latter part of this year that the rise in the CPI, which has plagued us--primarily, 60 percent of the cause of the rise of the CPI, for example, in the last quarter, has been due to energy and food--that the rise in the CPI will begin to abate, and we hope to continue policies that will assist that.
[11.] Q. Mr. President, David Day with the Texas State Network in Fort Worth. You and members of your Administration have said that you do not expect the country to go into a serious recession. Yet a newly released Harris poll indicates that a big majority of Americans believe that we are in a recession now. What do you think is causing this illusion of economic recession in the minds of 68 percent of the people?
THE PRESIDENT. Because 80 percent of the people listen to television and radio. [Laughter]
No, seriously, I think Mr. Harris' poll would probably have been the same last year, in 1972, when we had one of the best years of our history. But let us look at the situation with regard to recession-what it is now, what will it be at the end of the year, and what it will be in the next year.
At the present time unemployment is at 5.2 percent. That is higher than we would like, but that is the lowest peacetime unemployment we have had in I I years. In 1961, in 1962, in 1963, the only peacetime years of the sixties, unemployment averaged 5-7 percent. So, on the unemployment front, we certainly are better off than we were before.
Second, with regard to recession, the economy--we would have to be very candid in admitting--has in the past few months and will for the next few months, be in a difficult period due primarily to the energy crisis which we have been passing through and to other factors.
However, the projections are that as we enter the latter part of the year, unemployment will go down, the price level will abate, and by that time I think that the American people will become convinced, I trust they will, that they are not in a recession.
I can only say that in terms of recession, there is no greater goal, of course, of any President or of any administration than to adopt policies that will see that every American has a job who is able and willing to work and that he is able to balance his family budget at prices he can afford to pay.
THE PRESIDENT'S PUBLIC APPEARANCES
[12.] Q. Mr. President, I am Al Voecks, WSM, Nashville, Tennessee. I would like to follow up the question which the gentleman from Phoenix, Arizona, asked, on the accessibility of the Presidency to the people.
You answered affirmatively regarding news conferences. Last Saturday night, there was a side of President Nixon revealed to the American public which hasn't been seen too often in the past few years. Do you plan to bring this side of President Nixon out and get to the people more often?
THE PRESIDENT. I left my Yo-Yo in Nashville. [Laughter]
[13.] Q. Mr. President, I am Don Owen from KSLA-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana. You made the statement that to drag out Watergate is to drag down this country. Do you feel that this country would be better off tonight and in the immediate years ahead if the Watergate break-in had gone undetected and that the actions of that group of people had never been reported to the American people?
THE PRESIDENT. Certainly not. The action was wrong; the action was stupid. It should never have happened. It should not have been covered up, and I have done the very best that I can over the past year to see that it is uncovered.
I have cooperated completely with not only the grand jury but also with other investigative agencies and have waived executive privilege perhaps further than I should in terms of the Office of the Presidency in order to cooperate.
When something happens like this, to say, cover it up, forget it, when it is wrong, this of course is completely against our American system of values, and I would very, very seriously deplore it.
I would also suggest, not by way of defense, but I was often criticized after the '60 campaign that I always ran my own campaigns. In the year 1972, I am afraid I was too busy--the trip to China, the decision on May 8 with regard to the bombing and mining in the Haiphong area, the trip to the Soviet Union, the negotiations in Vietnam which brought that war to a conclusion--that I frankly paid too little attention to the campaign.
Now, I don't intend to be in another campaign, needless to say. But I also want to say that if I had any advice for candidates in the future--run your own campaign, regardless of what the press says.
MIA'S IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
[14.] Q. Mr. President, Russ Thornton, WBAP in Fort Worth. Concerning those men still listed as missing in action in Southeast Asia, could you tell us what is being done to determine their fate, and do you think a complete accountability is possible?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, to those who are listening--and there are, perhaps 1,500 is the number, I think, presently MIA's who have not been accounted for--I can say that we have been working on this problem continually since the peace agreement was signed.
We have had some success, but not enough. We are continuing to discuss it with the North Vietnamese. I do not want to hold out false hopes, but I can say that as long as I am in this office, I am going to do everything that I can that they are all accounted for, because I know the pain and suffering that those wives and mothers and fathers go through. I have met them often in the White House. My heart goes out to them, as I know the hearts of all Americans do, and you can be sure that your Administration and your President is going to do everything he can to see that we get an accounting.
[15.] Q. Ralph Renick, Station WTVJ in Miami, Florida. Mr. President, at your news conference last October 26, you were particularly critical of broadcast reporting. You mentioned the network TV reporting, calling it vicious, distorted, outrageous. The National News Council subsequently tried to obtain from the White House specifics on those charges, but those were not provided. Do you still feel tonight that you are being victimized by television reporting, network reporting, and could you be more specific?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as far as network reporting and television reporting is concerned, I realize that bad news is news, and good news is not news. I realize, too, that people don't win Pulitzer Prizes by being for; they usually win them by being against. I don't mean to say that in criticism of those who award the prizes, because that is part of the job of a good investigative reporter.
But I don't think that--speaking to my long-time friend from Miami--I don't think any useful purpose would be served by me in talking to many of the Washington press, the regional press, and our friends from the NAB to discuss the President's problems with the press.
Let me just say this: I am not obsessed by how the press reports me. I am going to do my job, and I am not going to be diverted by any criticism from the press, fair or unfair, from doing what I think I was elected to do, and that is to bring peace abroad and, I trust, prosperity without war and without inflation at home.
RELATIONS WITH EUROPEAN ALLIES
[16.] Q. Mr. President, Norman Wagy, Storer Broadcasting in Washington. Since your rather forceful comments last Friday about our relations with our European allies, both the French Foreign Minister and the French Ambassador to the United States have responded apparently in a friendly manner. What is your reaction to their response and have you had reaction from any other European nations?
THE PRESIDENT. I was, of course, happy to see the response, very, I thought, proper response on the part of our French friends. As you know, when I came into office our relations with France were very poor. I met with General de Gaulle on two occasions, and I have since met with President Pompidou on two occasions. In addition to that, we have developed a much better relationship with the French than we had in the sixties, and I won't go into why that happened, but I think that much of the fault was ours rather than theirs at that time, although both must bear some of the blame.
But coming to the heart of your question, which is with regard to the whole reaction of Europe, let me restate the policy of the United States with regard to Europe.
This Administration is well-known for having started negotiations with those that we weren't talking to for 20 years--the People's Republic of China. Why? Because they are the leaders of one-fourth of all of the people on this Earth, and it is far better to talk to them now than it is to wait until later when they would be a very, very great super power with, of course, the ability to use that strength even against us or our allies.
Second, we have started negotiations, some of them heavily criticized by members of the press and others, with the Soviet Union. Those negotiations have resulted in finally beginning to limit nuclear arms, avoiding a crisis or at least avoiding a confrontation in the Mideast developing into a crisis which could have been far worse, and also a number of other areas that we think are quite helpful.
Now, at a time that we have begun to seek better relations with those who are our adversaries, it was my thought that this year, 1974, should be a year in which we should shore up and develop a better relationship and a closer relationship and consultation with our friends.
That is what the "Year of Europe" was about. We have made considerable progress on it.
As far as agreement with regard to security-in other words, the NATO Alliance-the declarations that were being prepared for a possible meeting at the summit by heads of government have gone very well. Now, in the political and economic field, in the dealings between "The Nine"--the European Community-and the United States, those discussions have not gone well. They have not gone well due to the fact that "The Nine," at times, have not consulted with us, we think, fully or in time and, second, in some areas have actually taken a position which is hostile to the United States.
Now, under the circumstances, therefore, the trip that we had thought I would take to Brussels, and other European leaders would take to Brussels, to sign a communiqué with regard to the new relationship not only with regard to security but also in the economic and political field, I felt should be postponed. I felt it should be postponed for this reason: You must never go to the summit unless you know what is on the other side. And when you go to the summit and summit leaders have broad differences and paper them over with diplomatic double-talk, that does not serve the cause of good relations.
That is why some rather direct statement needed to be made from this side of the Atlantic with regard to our concern. And I would say that with regard to the nations of Europe, that we have had communications from other European leaders. I believe that we are going to work out the differences that we have in the economic and political field.
I do not mean by that, that we are not going to continue to be competitors, because the free Europe, the European Community, will be a great economic unit. But I do mean that at a time that the United States furnishes the security shield for Europe, that we can at least expect from our European allies and friends that they will consult with us and not work actively against us in the political field or the economic field. It is that point I was trying to make.
The other point that I made I would like to elaborate on, too. Some have thought that as a result of my statement in Chicago, that I would go along with the Mansfield amendment or others to unilaterally reduce our forces, and I am sure that question was in your mind as well.
I will not go along with that regardless of what happens in terms of the economic and political arrangements, because it is in the vital interests of peace in the world and in the interests of the security of America as well as Europe that that alliance be continued and that there be no reduction of American forces in Europe unless it is mutually agreed with the Warsaw Pact and, of course, with the Soviet Union.
That, of course, will be one of the subjects we will discuss when I go to meet with Mr. Brezhnev.
So, I will continue to work for a continuation of cooperation in that field. The point I was making in Chicago, and I must speak very bluntly--and everyone in this audience knows it--there is growing in America a new sense of isolationism. After Korea, after Vietnam, many Americans say, "Let us bring everybody home. We have carried the burden long enough. Bring them home from Europe, bring them home from Korea and other places in the world, and we will take care of ourselves."
That is good short-range politics. It is disastrous long-term statesmanship, because the United States must play, as the major free world power, a positive role in Europe and in Asia, if we are to be able to have a generation of peace and perhaps an even longer period of peace.
And so will we continue to work with our European friends even 'though we, at times, disagree. But they must understand that in the event that their policies in the political and economic fields appear to be hostile to us, it is going to he hard for any President, including this President, strong as I am for the alliance, to get through the Congress the necessary appropriations to continue doing what I think we have to do for their security and ours.
That point needs to be made. I think they understand it. And as a result of their understanding it, I believe we are going to make progress in the economic and political fields.
COOPERATION WITH SPECIAL PROSECUTOR AND HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
[17.] Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Dan Rather, with CBS News. [Sustained audience reaction]
Mr. President--Mr. President
THE PRESIDENT. Are you running for something? [Laughter]
Q. No, sir, Mr. President; are you? [Laughter]
Mr. President, I believe earlier that you said that you had cooperated completely with the grand jury investigation. It was my impression--and I could be wrong about this--but that the record shows that that is not quite the fact; that number one, that the grand jury asked that you come down and tell your side of some stories they had heard, and that you declined to do that. Number two, that the Special Watergate Prosecutor, Mr. Jaworski, indicated in a letter to the Senate that he did not get all of the evidence that he thought he needed, and I would be interested in hearing you reconcile what I believe is on the record of these previous statements.
My basic question is this: That in recent days you have, in effect, attempted to define the limits of the House Judiciary Committee investigation, what evidence that they have access to. Now, since the Constitution, and I think, without qualification, clearly assigns to the House of Representatives impeachment investigations, how can the House meet its constitutional responsibilities while you, the person under investigation, are allowed to limit their access to potential evidence?
THE PRESIDENT. Which one of the questions do you want me to answer? [Laughter]
First, with regard to the first part of the question, Mr. Rather, what I was referring to with regard to cooperation was that Mr. Jaworski, at the time he handed down the indictments, said that he had the full story on Watergate. You reported that on CBS, I think, as did other reporters, quite properly.
Now, as far as appearing before the grand jury was concerned, I respectfully declined to do so, and incidentally, I would advise no President of the United States to appear before any grand jury. That would be not in the interest of the Presidency of the United States.
Now, if you would repeat your second question so that we can keep our train of thought.
MR. RATHER. Well, the second question had to do with the House impeachment investigation. I pointed out that you have sought to limit, to define the limits of that investigation, what evidence they have access to and what evidence they should not have access to.
Now, given the constitutional assignment to the House of Representatives of an impeachment investigation without qualification, how can the House committee do its job as long as you, the person under investigation, is allowed to limit their access to potential evidence?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Rather, referring to the House of Representatives, just like the President, it is bound by the Constitution. The Constitution says specifically that a President shall be impeached for treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors.
It is the Constitution that defines what the House should have access to and the limits of its investigation, and I am suggesting that the House follow the Constitution. If they do, I will.
FARM PRICES AND PRODUCTION
[18.] Q. Mr. President, Grant Price, the KWWL Station, Waterloo, Iowa. I would like to go back to the question of food production, if I may. Your Administration has asked our farmers to embark on all-out production, I believe, as one of your--as part of your program. In view of some of the USDA miscalculations of the past, notably with respect to the impact of the feed grain exports last year on domestic reserves, what assurance do the farmers have that their super output will not lead to a disastrous break in farm prices, as in fact has already occurred in the beef feeding industry?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, first, let me say that despite what is called a disastrous break in farm prices, the farmers have never had it so good.
Second, we want them to have it good, because the farmer is not going to produce unless he gets a good price--and I know Iowa well because, as you know, I was stationed there during the war.
The second point that I would like to make is this: That with regard to the USDA, I don't think we can be too critical of their predictions, because there is one thing that the USDA, with all of their expertise, cannot control and that is the weather. The weather throws them off sometimes.
This year, however, Secretary Butz, for whom I have very great respect, has checked these facts, and I have gone over it with him over and over again. He assures me that the feed grains will continue, that we are going to have a bumper crop to begin with. But second, with regard to the demand, the demand worldwide, is still going to be very big.
I do not expect that the farmers of this country are going to have a bad year in 1974. But the prices that they had, for example, $14 for soybeans, that was too high. Now perhaps it is $7. That is still about $3 more than it was when it was $4. And $7 is pretty good.
I am simply suggesting that as far as the farmers are concerned, I think they are doing very well, and our policies, our policies of opening new markets for them abroad--and that is one thing that our negotiations with the Europeans is all about--we believe that Europe's markets should be open to our farmers rather than closed. We believe that Japan's markets should be open to our farmers rather than closed. So, we will have plenty of markets abroad.
But at the same time, we want to see to it that in our export programs abroad we don't create shortages here which forces prices that the housewife pays to exorbitant heights, because our first concern is what the American housewife pays for things, and we are not going to be exporting so much that we have shortages here at home to feed our cattle and to do the other things that are necessary to keep prices on a reasonable basis.
PRINCIPLE OF CONFIDENTIALITY
[19.] Q. Mr. President, Tom Brokaw of NBC News. Following on my colleague Mr. Rather's question, you have referred here again tonight, as you have in the past, about what you call the precedents of past Presidents in withholding White House material from the House Judiciary Committee. But other Presidents protecting the confidentiality of their conversations were not the subject of impeachment investigations, Mr. President, and in fact, many of them wrote that the House Judiciary Committee, at least Congress, had the right to demand White House materials in the course of the impeachment investigations. And history shows that Andrew Johnson gave up everything that the Congress asked him for when he was the subject of an impeachment investigation.
So, Mr. President, my question is this: Aren't your statements to that matter historically inaccurate or at least misleading?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Brokaw, it is true, as you say, that the only other President who was exposed to .an impeachment investigation was Andrew Johnson, and insofar as that particular part of your question is concerned, you are correct.
However, insofar as the principle of confidentiality is concerned, that principle still stands, and it affects an impeachment investigation as well as any other investigation. Because in the future, if all that a Congress under the control of an opposition party had to do in order to get a President out of office was to make an unreasonable demand to go through all of the files of the Presidency, a demand which a President would have to refuse, then it would mean that no President would be strong enough to stay in office to resist that kind of demand and that kind of pressure. It would lead to instability. And it would destroy, as I have indicated before, the principle of confidentiality.
With regard to the problem, I simply want to say this: It is difficult to find a proper way to meet the demands of the Congress. I am trying to do so and trying to be as forthcoming as possible. But I also have another responsibility. I must think not of myself but I must think also of future Presidents of this country, and I am not going to do anything, and I am not going to give up to any demand that I believe would weaken the Presidency of the United States. I will not participate in the destruction of the Office of the President of the United States while I am in this office.
MR. JOHNSON. Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: The question-and-answer session began at 7 p.m. in Jesse Jones Hall. It was broadcast live on nationwide radio and television.
Richard Nixon, Question-and-Answer Session at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, Houston, Texas. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/256551