Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on Domestic and Foreign Policy Issues
The President. Wasn't it nice of us to get you all out in the spring weather here today? [Laughter]
Before taking your questions, I want to offer one or two remarks concerning the situation before us in the South Atlantic. From the outset, we've made clear our wish to assist in finding a basis for resolution of this difficult issue. It was for that purpose that I sent Secretary Haig to both capitals last week. During his travels I've remained in close communication with him, and today have had the benefit of a thorough report on where matters stand.
The situation is most sensitive. Nonetheless, ideas have been presented which are being seriously considered on both sides. Peace is our common cause. In the interest of finding a solution, I've asked Secretary Haig to return shortly to Argentina for further talks. In view of the sensitivity of this situation, I'll have no further comment on this matter. It wouldn't be appropriate at this time, and I will defer all questions until further developments occur.
Q. Sir, we're just going to have to ask you about the reports that the United States is helping Great Britain in several ways in this crisis. Can you not comment on that?
The President. I cannot comment. This situation is too critical that any comment, I think, can be taken one way or the other and endanger the peacekeeping or peacemaking process. So
Q. I understand, sir, but the last time you spoke you said that both sides were our friends and you implied that there was a certain evenhandedness in our attitude. Is that still our position?
The President. We are still trying to be a fair broker in this situation and bring peace. And again, things lose translation between here and when someone may hear them on either side. That's why the safest thing is to not comment.
Q. Mr. President, just how sensitive is this situation? How much time does Secretary Haig have—does the United States have to bring it to some resolution?
The President. I don't think anyone could speculate on that as to what the time situation is.
Q. Mr. President, how concerned are you that Israel will find some pretext or put some pressure on Menachem Begin to renege on his pledge to return the Sinai to Egypt?
The President. All I can tell you is that I have his pledge that the turnover is going to occur and that they're going forward with the Camp David—in the framework of the Camp David talks. And we have Secretary Stoessel over there talking to them about various problems. And so I'm going to have confidence in that statement that he's made to me.
Q. When are you going to stop the bloodshed—
The President. What's that?
Q.—the Israeli occupation against the Arab shooting of children and women and
The President. Well, this is a tragic affair. Obviously, the individual who perpetrated that horrible deed at the temple is deranged, and now for this to lead to the great unrest, yes, it's a great tragedy.
Q. Are you willing to consider a temporary surtax of, perhaps, 4 percent as part of a package to reduce the deficit?
The President. The discussions that are going on, and of which we're not—I'm not participating, are discussions that are exploring every avenue of what can be a package that, hopefully, can bring about a bipartisan move to meet the problems, deficit problems that we face this year. And I have not been party to any of the many alternatives, both with regard to revenues and regard to cuts in spending that have been made.
And what will happen is the leadership on both sides—myself on this side and the Speaker and others on the other, Congressman Wright—when the discussions have led to something that they think is a package that now has reasonable success of being negotiated out, then we'll treat the thing in the whole, the whole package. So I'm not going to have any comments on consideration on any of these things that are being talked about.
Q. Mr. President, you're not—there are those who feel, because of your strong stand for tax reduction, that the surcharge has, sort of, automatically been ruled out. You're not doing that, are you, here?
The President. I'm neither ruling out nor ruling in, because, as I say, I'm on the sidelines until those who are carrying on the discussions—and they're not negotiations, they are discussions—feel that they have something that has a possibility of success with both sides, and then I will see it.
Q. How close are they?
The President. I understand that they're reasonably optimistic with the discussions that have been going on.
Q. When, Mr. President—next week do you think you'll become personally involved? Senator Dole said the other day it was time for the principal players to suit up for the game, yourself and Speaker O'Neill.
The President. Well, they're coming close, but I'm going to—they're going to have to set that time when they decide that it's time to come forward and say, "Here, our discussions have led to this."
Q. What do you think the chances are that Secretary Haig can find peace?
The President. Again, this would be commenting in a way that could be detrimental to the process that's going on. I'm just going to say that what he's doing—I think we should all be hoping, and we should all be praying. And he's working extremely hard, as you know, on this.
Q. Mr. President, does Jim Baker have your authority to proceed the way he's been proceeding in discussing, at least, the surtax and other tax issues?
The President. He's there, but mainly he's there observing and listening and, as I say, it is not—it's been portrayed as negotiations; they're not. So, he's there with my encouragement to go forward with this process.
Q. Sir, according to the participants, he's been doing more than listening; he's been suggesting and offering ideas as well.
The President. Well, I'm sure in a discussion-type meeting that there are moments when that takes place. But he's not going there in the sense of going with positions that I have backed or offered or said, "Do this or do that."
Q. How would a surtax fit in with your supply-side philosophy, with what you hope will be an incentive to people to invest?
The President. Well, again, you've asked me—well, I'm just not going to comment while they're going forward. I want them to complete their discussions, and then I'll look at the package as a whole.
Q. Have you considered that?
The President. But I won't comment on any particulars until I get the whole package.
Q. You haven't said anything about whether the U.S. is supplying any intelligence information to the British. But could you comment on reports that the Soviets are supplying intelligence information to the Argentinians?
The President. Well, that has been reported and evidently is established. And I think that it's a—I'd like to see them butt out.
Q. You're meaning you're confirming it?
Q. You'll confirm one but not the other?
The President. What?
Q. You mean it's not too sensitive to confirm the Soviet involvement?
The President. No, no. I said all I know is what I've heard and read, and if that's going on, why, I would rather
Q. How does this affect the whole balance of the situation in the whole Latin American region with the Soviets, who you claim are helping the Nicaraguans and the guerrillas in El Salvador, siding with the Argentinians, who are apparently against the Nicaraguans? I mean, how does this
The President. Yes, but now, you see, you've just made my case for me. You've just indicated that there's no way to comment on these things without running the risk of saying something or creating some perception that will make it more difficult for Al to do what he's doing. So I just can't do it.
Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. This will have to be the last question.
Q. Can we go back to the budget?
Mr. Speakes. One question.
Q. Ed Rollins says that Republicans on Capitol Hill who don't 'support your program should be disciplined. Do you agree? And if so, what's the difference between the Democrats last year who supported your program? Shouldn't they have been disciplined?
The President. Well, no, I don't agree. And I intend to support as many Republican candidates as I can in the coming election year. And I've never used that—in spite of all the inferences in the many meetings that I've had with legislators on the issues that have come up and the votes, and so forth—I have never used anything or attempted anything but to try and persuade them to my viewpoint. And there's never been any club held over any of them.
Mr. Speakes. Thank you. Thank you.
Q. Will you talk to Mr. Rollins about that?
Mr. Speakes. That's got to be the last question. Sorry.
Q. Will you speak to Mr. Rollins about that?
The President. What?
Q. Will you speak to him about that? Or have you?
The President. He says it's the last question.
Mr. Speakes. Last question.
Q. Next time you hold one of these, will you let us carry it live? Because I think you didn't say anything that you wouldn't mind being heard live, did you?
The President. I never say anything that I wouldn't mind being heard live. [Laughter]
Q. Well, we'll tell your aides that you said that, sir. [Laughter]
Q. Thank you.
Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.
Ronald Reagan, Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on Domestic and Foreign Policy Issues Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244996