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Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the President's Overseas Trip on Board Air Force One en Route to the United States

January 06, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. I think I will answer your questions for a while.


Q. Starting out, Mr. President, would you give us your assessment of the trip and what you think you accomplished?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wanted to project the image of a nation that stands for what is right and decent and good, strengthen the concept of democracy, both in the developing and the developed nations, try to make progress on resolving the Middle Eastern dispute. And one thing that evolved everywhere I went was an expression of interest or concern on the part of the foreign leaders about how we were going to address the energy question.

Additionally, of course, I wanted to strengthen, if possible, the friendship in varying degrees that existed originally between our own Nation and the other countries that we visited.

I had never been before to India or the Middle East—or the countries that we went to in the Middle East. These were the four or five things that I had in mind. I think we did a fairly good job.

Q. I know that's what you intended to do, but do you think you accomplished those? What, in particular, do you think you have accomplished?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there is no doubt that the friendship between ourselves and Poland, ourselves and India, ourselves and Saudi Arabia, ourselves and Iran, ourselves and Egypt, ourselves and France and Belgium were enhanced. And this was accomplished.

I believe that we made some progress in the Middle East. So far as I know, there are no differences that separate us from Sadat, for instance. We reemphasized the same basic principles that we proposed 6 or 8 months ago to the Arab and the Israeli leaders. In this respect, the trip was successful.

I made two or three major speeches, too: one on democracy as it relates to the developing nations in the world under changing circumstances; the other one, democracy as it relates to the developed or industrialized nations in the world in changing circumstances. It's hard to say whether the speech has made any impact or not.

I think we also put forward the image of a nation that is strong and secure and self-confident, but which doesn't have to prove our strength by taking advantage of other nations that are not so strong or forceful or secure as are we.

The personal relationships that I evolved between myself and the foreign leaders was very gratifying.

I would say the most emotional day was yesterday with the visit to Normandy and the reception—

Q. That was beautiful.

THE PRESIDENT. of the people in Bayeux and the response of the French people along the streets of Paris and the tremendous crush of people that showed up last night at the Palais de Versailles. It was a very deeply moving experience.

JODY POWELL. Let me interrupt for a minute. Does anybody need a "shooter?"

THE PRESIDENT. Does anybody care for a drink. That's the question.

MR. POWELL. Let the record show that six reporters were offered a chance for a drink, and they all turned it down. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. That's news. [Laughter]


Q. At a couple of points you looked sort of tired to us, but many of us were completely exhausted. And what I'd like to know is how you stood up physically and how it affected you in the changing time zones, whether or not in retrospect you may feel that the itinerary was a little too hectic and if in future foreign trips you might tell your staff to go a little easier on you when they plan a trip?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll be honest with you. Today is the first day I've been tired. The rest of the trip I felt quite rested and relaxed and didn't feel hurried. I actually got more sleep per night than I would ordinarily get in Washington. And generally I get up at either 5, 5:30, or 6 o'clock in the morning. I slept later than I ordinarily did. Last night we stayed up pretty late, about an hour later than anticipated. Today was really the first day I felt tired at all. And that was at the NATO meeting.

I think that one of the major considerations-and you can keep this on the record if you want to—is how the rest of the entourage, including the press, are affected by the trip. I'm always taken care of. When I get to the final place, 20 minutes after I make a major speech, I can go to bed and sleep until the next morning. You all have to file your stories and get up and be ready for me to emerge the following morning. I think that that factor is one that we will consider in the future.

Q. Do you think, sir, that there were a couple of gaffes—I guess it's the word?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. There were.

Q. In the Polish translation, the open mike in New Delhi—did that cause you any problems in dealing with the leaders, or will it cause any permanent problem in relations with these countries?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, both were inadvertent, of course. Gierek, I thought, made a very fine statement afterwards. He said, "In Poland we don't criticize women or translators." [Laughter] That happened the first time I met Gierek, and afterwards we had a very fine personal relationship. He never commented on it except just to smile and say, "Well, it was kind of ancient Polish and had a Russian influence." But I don't think it had any lasting effect.

And I have read the news reports of the statements of the Indian leaders after we left, and I think, perhaps, without trying to be overly optimistic, that it kind of helped me and Desai both. I was very forceful about our nonproliferation program, pointed out to him very frankly and bluntly that the Congress was likely to pass stringent requirements on fuel supplies in the future, with my approval. And I wanted him to know at least 18 months ahead of time that it would affect India.

And he and I made a joke of it several times after that in a perfectly easy way. And after we departed, their reports to the press were that it was a very constructive visit.

I think it showed Desai was, as I referred to him, adamant in the Indian position. We tried to evolve some solution to this potential conflict about international safeguards on production of nuclear power versus an adequate supply of fuel. One possibility that we will explore is that if we and the Soviets, the British, can conclude a comprehensive test ban, that this would be an adequate new factor to permit Desai to accept comprehensive safeguards without having to violate the principles of autonomy or independence.

But I regret that the open mike thing occurred. I can't mislead you about that. Between me and Desai, it was always a matter of humor and good reception. I think anybody that observed me and him closely saw that there was a genuine feeling of mutual respect.

Q. Let me just follow up here.

THE PRESIDENT. Please do. But it was a mistake.

Q. Yes, sir, it was probably a mistake, but was it a mistake because of the way the press operates or was it a mistake on your part?

THE PRESIDENT. It was a mistake on my part. I should have said "a very frank and factual letter" and not "a blunt and cold letter." But what I was trying to talk about to Cy Vance—obviously I had nothing of ill feeling toward Desai—what I was talking about was it was a cold, technical subject, and it ought to be described to the Indians in no uncertain terms so that they would know what to expect 18 months after the legislation takes place.


Q. Mr. President, I am intrigued that you—I don't want to belabor the Middle East episode, but it certainly did overshadow the trip in many ways; developments kept going—you say that—Sadat said that you have an identity of views, and you say that you don't seem to have any differences. Does that put you—and Sadat has differences with Begin—so where does that put you with Begin?

THE PRESIDENT. I lead the news reports after my statement at Aswan, and Begin expressed approval of what I said. There is a fairly good agreement between Begin and Sadat on matters concerning the definition of peace.

Sadat told me that when he met in April with me in Washington and I outlined the three basic principles, one was complete peace between Egypt and Israel—open borders, diplomatic recognition, ambassadorial exchange, free trade, tourist and student and cultural exchanges. And he told me it would never happen in his lifetime, which he did—he told me that in April.

He told me the other morning in Aswan that he was completely wrong, that not only was he well accepted in Israel but he was a hero when he came back to Egypt, that when the Israeli negotiators came to Cairo, that they were embraced and the Egyptians wept. And he said to me, "My people were far ahead of me, and what you proposed in April that I thought was never possible has already proven to be possible." That's one aspect.

The withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank, with minor exceptions on the western boundary, is a principle that we espoused back in February or March publicly. And I think this is still an acceptable approach to the Arabs, although publicly I wouldn't expect them to espouse it now because it violates, in effect, the statements in Rabat. They are able and, obviously, willing to speak for themselves. But this is something we've been very clear on.

The other question, the resolution of the Palestinian problem, I think, can be resolved with an interim solution for a joint administration. I don't want to be definitive about it, but possibilities including Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Palestinians, perhaps the United Nations for a period of time, specifically outlined ahead of time, and then the right of the Palestinians to decide their own future between whether they should continue that kind of administration or affiliate with Jordan—those are the kinds of principles that we have described very clearly and in writing, beginning 13 months ago.

So, the details are going to be a problem. But on those expressions of principle, I don't know of any differences that separate me and Sadat.

Q. Do you call that self-determination?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, yes, I don't think it's—I have never thought and do not think that it's advisable for us, for the Middle Eastern countries, or for the world to have an independent Palestinian nation located between Israel and Jordan. I think they would be a target of subversion. I think there would be a concentrated influence, perhaps, exerted there by some of the more radical other leaders of the world. And I think that that Palestinian entity or homeland ought to be tied in at the least in a very strong federation or confederation with Jordan.

But now I want to say that's our preference. And if Israel and Jordan and the Palestinians and Egypt should work out something different, we would not object. But that's our position. And we made it very clear from the very beginning of my administration to the Israelis and the Arabs that that's our preference.


Q. I was wondering, were there any unexpected gains or losses throughout the past 9 days?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that's hard to describe. You know, I'm not an objective analyst. But I felt that the progress we made with India was extraordinary.

Q. In what specific area?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, under Mrs. Gandhi, there is no doubt that the orientation of India, which has been an historic friend of ours, has been away from us, perhaps toward the Soviets.

I felt like Desai and his government has at least come back to a completely neutral or nonaligned position. And there was a genuine feeling of compatibility and friendship, based on deep religious convictions, a commitment to democracy, the principle of human rights, that was very encouraging to me.

It was more than I had anticipated. I don't want to analyze it myself, but the French news media have said that we have never had better relationships with France in this past hundred years than we have right now. I feel very close to Giscard d'Estaing.

I think the French outpouring of emotion and friendship toward us and the tremendous crowds that evolved on the streets of Paris—Giscard d'Estaing said that's a very rare occasion.

The French are almost as blasé about foreign visitors as are the people in Washington, because it's such a center for diplomatic visits. But I thought it was a very good expression of friendship.

And as I said earlier, I thought the community of memories, of history expressed on the beach near Omaha yesterday was something that you can't anticipate and you can't contrive. I thought it was really genuine. Well, those are a couple of things that impressed me.

Rosalynn's and Dr. Brzezinski's visit with Cardinal Wyszynski showed that there's a pluralism in the Polish society that is not frequently acknowledged in an eastern European country.

It's obvious that as far as the influence on the minds and hearts and future of the Polish people that there's a sharing between a great religious leader and the political leader.

And privately they expressed admiration for each other. And I think this is a good, kind of a pleasant surprise to know more about the nations behind the Iron Curtain.

I think the Curtain is being parted. I think it's a good step forward. We consummated an additional proper action today by returning the crown to Hungary.1 We're not trying to drive a wedge between those Warsaw Pact nations and the Soviet Union. But we are trying to get them to look to us as friends who want peace, who recognize the horrible suffering that they've experienced, and who are building a basis for friendship and trade and mutual exchange.

We signed a nuclear agreement with the Iranians that will provide billions of dollars of trade for American industry, a lot of jobs for American people, that won't violate at all our nonproliferation policies.

So, there were some things that we hadn't really laid down on the agenda ahead of time that occurred. But it's hard for me to be objective about it.

Q. What about any kind of negative aspects? Were you surprised by anything that didn't go as well as you thought it might have?

THE PRESIDENT. NO. I can't think of anything. But perhaps you can.


Q. As a follow on your discussions about Poland, I have two questions: One is why didn't you yourself see Cardinal Wyszynski, and did you make any efforts to suggest to Mr. Gierek that he should allow his dissident journalists into your press conference?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We requested that the press conference be open ahead of time. That's his country. He made that decision. And I made the decision to comment on it publicly. And he made the decision, I presume, for my comment to be published very freely in the Polish newspapers and also on the television that evening.

We extended an invitation to Cardinal Wyszynski to come and meet with me. But he said it was not proper for a cardinal to come to pay his respects to me. So, we thought it was a good solution there, at the last moment I might say, for Rosalynn to accompany Dr. Brzezinski, who had planned to see Cardinal Wysznyski all the time.

I wrote him a private message. He wrote me a little note, and it was a mutually beneficial thing. But I think the contact with him through Zbig and Rosalyn was adequate.


Q. Mr. President, can you be more specific—maybe you don't want to be-on what you mean when you say Palestinians have the right to participate in their own self-determination?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't really want to spell out in any more detail what the procedure ought to be. Dayan and Kamel 2 will be meeting in Jerusalem on the 15th of January. Cy Vance will be there. We'll offer our good offices.

My own preference is that the Israelis and Egyptians negotiate that interim procedure with a final referendum themselves. We'll try to find some compromise between them. I think if we can evolve an acceptable set of principles, then it would be much easier for King Hussein and, perhaps later on, the Syrians to join in the discussions. I did not try to convince Hussein to participate now.

I feel and he feels also that Sadat is adequately representing the Arab position. And I think Sadat, in an almost unique way, not only has the trust of his own people and the rest of the world but also, to a substantial degree, the trust of the Israeli citizens.

So, all of us feel for now until Sadat specifically requests it, that Hussein should stay out of the direct negotiations. The Shah will be supportive, the Saudis were very encouraging about the future, and Hussein and we agree completely.

And so, I think that the present posture is a good one. But exactly how the vote should be handled or when or what the options might be offered to the Palestinians, I don't want to say. I don't know.

Q. Can I also ask you, do you think that as a result of your visit there, that Sadat's position with the hardline critics of the Arab world has been improved and that he's strengthened his hand as a result of this?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think I would be violating any confidence to say that all the Arab leaders with whom I met said they support Sadat unequivocally. Now, the feeling of Syria is something that I can't assess. I didn't happen to talk to Asad lately, but the feeling of Iraq and Libya and the more radical Arabs is obvious. They don't want peace to prevail. They don't want a settlement to be reached. They don't want the Geneva conference to be concluded. And many of them still have as a unique purpose the destruction of Israel.

I don't think that Asad or King Hussein or Sadat or the Saudis—the ones with whom I've talked—I don't think any of them feel that way. I think they all are perfectly willing to accept Israel now as a permanent entity in the Middle East, living in peace.


Q. Mr. President, before we left, you said you were going to talk about human rights, and you certainly did, I think, just about every place we went.


Q. But since we were in Poland, where you told us about Gierek's commitment to you on emigration rights, I don't think we had any specific information that any of the leaders have given to you any reaction to your own position. Is there anything specific? In particular I am thinking about Iran. Have there been any concessions that we haven't learned about?

THE PRESIDENT. No. Obviously, we don't seek concessions on human rights in Belgium or Egypt or France. In Iran, the Shah and I have had very all-encompassing discussions about human rights. I am Dot inclined to reveal the private conversations. But the basic question in Iran is the law that exists that outlaws the Communist Party and that outlaws communism are very similar to the laws that we have enforced in the past very rigidly. And this is the basis for the problem.

But the Shah is very deeply concerned about human rights, and I mentioned human rights in my statement in Iran. But we've seen in Iran, in many ways, the opening up of the rights of women, the welcoming of disparate religious and racial groups to Iran—a very fine movement forward, I would say, equivalent to what we've done in the last 20 years. (The last phrase refers specifically to movement on the rights of women and racial and religious minorities.) 3


Q. Sir, if I could, I would like to get off the hard news for a minute here.


Q. And, really, I guess it's a two-part question. One is that you, in many of your talks and after the statements and things that you made, you mentioned the word "symbolism." You said, "This is a symbol" of various things.


Q. I guess the first part is, was the trip partly symbolic? And the second is that you have stayed in the last 9 days in some of the most elaborate buildings in the world. [Laughter] Are you at all uncomfortable with where you have been and the service you've been given in staying at places—you didn't stay at Versailles, but being in places like Versailles—is that at all uncomfortable to you?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll have to be honest and say it was not uncomfortable. [Laughter]

MRS. CARTER. I enjoyed it.

THE PRESIDENT. It was obvious that every leader, beginning with Poland all the way through the stay in the palace in France, went out of their way to try to make me feel welcome and to give me not only friendship but show what their nation had to offer, historically and culturally and in the spirit of hospitality.

So, I enjoyed it. It was very fine, and we expressed our appreciation to them. I've already written thank-you notes to everybody, including our departure from Paris, and told them how much we appreciated it.

The trip was symbolic. It's a very sure and comforting feeling to represent what I consider to be the greatest nation on Earth. And we don't have any weakness that I feel that requires me to artificially prove our strength. We don't have any need that I feel that requires me to take advantage of someone else to meet our need. We don't have any feeling of superiority or domination over other nations with whom we visited. We genuinely treat them as equals, as partners, as people with whom we would like to be even closer friends in the future.

So, it was a trip that was symbolic of the power and influence and the good will of the United States. I tried to emphasize everywhere I went the concepts of morality and decency and goodness and friendship and human rights. So, I didn't feel under any sort of uncomfortable strain to prove something that I don't really think our Nation represents. It was symbolic to that degree. It symbolized what America is, what America wants to be.


Q. Do you think you would have liked to have been Viceroy of India? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I tried to learn while I was in India what their feelings are toward the British. And my sense was that they have a genuine appreciation of what the British did, that the viceroys' administrations were in general very benevolent. There was no India before the British came. It was just a collection of a large number of independent states in all forms. The British brought the subcontinent together in unity.

After Gandhi's heroic and unbelievable crusade, the British left with good spirits. They turned over the power to Nehru on their departure.

And they were very proud to take me to a room, for instance, where no American or European has ever been. It's a beautiful portrait gallery, underneath the palace where we stayed, of all the British viceroys and other administrators who had been there and their wives. Every portrait is, I'd say, twice life-size. And it's very beautifully done, and it shows the respect that the Indians feel toward the British. So, I didn't have any yearning to be a viceroy. [Laughter] I'd rather be President. [Laughter] I think the British left with a good feeling among the Indians.

Q. This is a time for me to ask about the Indian village.

MR. POWELL. Let me first of all say that I would like one more question, in order to get it transcribed and get it back. This is the last question.

Q. I am very interested in what your impressions were of that Indian village and what your thoughts and feelings were, particularly when you touched that poor old blind lady sitting in the dust.

THE PRESIDENT. I felt just as much at home in that Indian village as I did in the palaces. It would be hard to describe my own anticipation of going to the village and the accuracy with which my mother has described the life of an Indian in a typical rural area which is very poor.

In a sense, I was representing my mother when I went there, because she went in and out of those small homes. She ran a clinic and administered to lepers and those who were dying and those who were outcast.

Without scheduling or without anybody knowing about it ahead of time, Desai and Rosalynn and I went into several of the homes. In fact, that home had no idea we were going in there, as you know. And I didn't feel like an alien there. I think those people don't realize the comparison between their lifestyle and that of other people. I don't think they were ashamed of their poverty.

They showed, at least to me—and my wife and I disagree to some degree on this—that between a better lifestyle under a totalitarian government and the right to own their own house and to work a half-acre of land and to keep their own children close to them and to make their own decision in a political election, that they had made their choice. The substantial vote—I think over 200 million people voted in this past year's election for Desai compared to Mrs. Gandhi—they showed a concern about the derogation of democracy in India. And, I don't know, those are just some mixed emotions, but that was one of the best parts of the Indian trip to me.

Q. I don't understand what it is that you and Mrs. Carter disagree on.

THE PRESIDENT. I'm not going to go into that.

Q. Okay. Maybe I just missed it.


Q. Mr. President, I know Jody said this is the last question, but I think all of us here would be remiss because of the rumors that have been going around, and I will ask this while Ham is standing in the door: There have been many rumors since Ham came to Riyadh that something is going on, that he is leaving, that he is not, that he is going to be chief of staff. You could hear everything in the world on this trip. I think it would do yourself and Ham and us a service if we could get some kind of statement from you about if anything is going on.

THE PRESIDENT. No, nothing is going on so far as I know. I don't want to corroborate what Jody said. [Laughter] Ham is the person in the White House that analyzes for me and with me the domestic, political considerations of both domestic and foreign policy. And the meeting with Sadat, when I didn't have a chance to go to see Begin—because he had just been to the United States and because Cy Vance is going to Jerusalem in 10 days—was kind of a sensitive political issue.

And I particularly wanted him to be there with us to make sure that there was an objectivity and a fairness between our unscheduled visit with Sadat and our responsibility to the Israelis to be fair as a mediator.

And that's why I wanted Ham to come over. But there is no change. Hamilton has no better relationship with me than he had before. [Laughter]

REPORTER. Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I enjoyed it. Thank you.

1 The Crown of St. Stephen and other Hungarian coronation regalia were returned to the Hungarian people by a delegation headed by Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance at a ceremony in Budapest on January 6.

2 Moshe Dayan, Foreign Minister of Israel, and Mohammed Ibrahim Kamel, Foreign Minister of Egypt.

3 Printed the White House press release.

Note: The question-and-answer session was held during the flight from Brussels, Belgium, to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. The transcript was released on January 7.

Jimmy Carter, Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the President's Overseas Trip on Board Air Force One en Route to the United States Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244539

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