Jimmy Carter photo

Radio-Television News Directors Association - Interview With Members of the Board of Directors of the Association

April 29, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. Have you had a good day so far?

Well, I'm very glad to have a chance to welcome you to the White House. I know you've already been here earlier, and I hope when your visit is completed you'll be at least acquainted with some of the things we go through during a typical day's work.


This morning I have spent a great deal of time preparing for Monday. I'm going to outline the 'basic principles of a welfare proposal that will then be discussed in detail with the Governors and welfare administrators around the Nation, with the congressional Members and their staffs, and with others who are interested. And then we expect to have a complete package of specific legislative proposals ready for the Congress later on.

I also spent a great deal of time this morning and last night preparing for an almost unprecedented meeting Monday with my entire Cabinet, with Chairman Burns from the Federal Reserve Board, and with key congressional leaders, looking at the Nation's revenues and anticipated expenditures over the next 4-year period, leading up, under normal economic circumstances which we anticipate, to a balanced budget by 1981. But I want me and my Cabinet and the congressional leaders to see from the same perspective the prospective developments, economically speaking, in the rest of my own term.

I had a meeting with my key transportation advisers, including Secretary Brock Adams and Special Negotiator Alan Boyd, and then called the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Jim Callaghan, for about a 20-minute conversation about treaty negotiations of international air routes. This is a matter of some importance to our countries.

On the 22d of June,.last year, the British notified us that the treaties would be terminated. There is a 1-year advance notice requirement. And we hope that we can get these negotiations completed before that date, so that we won't interrupt routine travel between our two countries. I and my very good friend Jim Callaghan are eager to see this done, but there are some very difficult questions to be resolved.

Later I met with the new President of Spain. He and the King of Spain have worked very courageously, in my opinion, to bring democratic government to that nation after long years under Franco. And I was extremely pleased with him, and I think we had an instant friendship evolve. He just left a few minutes ago.

And then following his departure, I met with a group of students from Concord, North Carolina, whom I had invited to come to the White House during the campaign, if--I think I told them, when I was elected President. After I left North Carolina, having complete confidence in my ability as a campaigner, they raised $9,000 with soup suppers and garage sales to come up here. And they just finally made it, with their Congressman.

And then following that, during that same period, I signed transmittal letters to the Speaker of the House and to the Senate majority leader, or rather to the Vice President, sending a 275-page legislation on the energy plan to the Congress for their action.

And then I spent 5 minutes eating lunch and then came to be with you. [Laughter] But this is a typical half-day in the life of a President, and I've had nothing but pleasure from it so far.

I've had a lot to learn. I recognize even clearer now than I did 3 or 4 months ago that I don't know all the answers.

I've put together, I think, a superb Cabinet. There is not a single member of my Cabinet that I would change if I had it all to do over again. They've grown in their jobs, and I've tried to keep my commitment that they would indeed run their departments without interference from either me or the White House--White House staff--and we've never departed from that commitment at all.

I have also, I believe, a very competent and sensitive White House staff. They give me adequate support and advice. They have broad-ranging knowledge and experience that they're harnessed in a very productive fashion, and they have no inclination to want to run the affairs of Government, which is quite a departure from what it has been in the past in some instances in the White House, where the Cabinet Secretaries had practically no authority and where directives were issued from the White House staff to them on how to run their affairs.

The other thing that I have that is, I think, unprecedented, is a superb relationship with the Vice President. I've been blessed with Fritz Mondale and a natural compatibility between us. And I've put on him tremendous responsibilities and, I think, a unique independence to make available to the Nation his superb qualities. He and I have never had a cross word. We spend several hours together every day.

He has the secret briefings in their entirety that I get. He has a permanent invitation to attend every conference in which I participate. And I believe that there is a growing recognition in the Congress and among special interest groups in our country and among foreign leaders that we do have a Vice President now who can speak for me. And I've benefited greatly from this relationship.

I think the other thing I've tried to do--and then I'll answer questions--is to have a maximum amount of accessibility to the core of Government, among people, through the news media. I've been criticized on some occasions for being too frank in discussing sensitive and controversial issues publicly. I have no qualms about what I've done and I intend to maintain this position.

As we approach difficult decisions involving nonproliferation or SALT negotiations or our relationships with Vietnam or the People's Republic of China or Cuba,. or when we have a difficult question to resolve about a complicated international question like the Middle East, my own belief is that it's best for the American people to know what the options are, what my thinking is. And quite often, the things that I have said publicly have been long understood among those who negotiate or plan in secret.

And I feel much surer that I will make the right decision about these difficult questions if there has been an open and public debate about them among the American people. The sound judgment and intelligence and competence and common sense of the American people is a reservoir that I consider to be very precious to me. And if there is additional controversy on occasion because these matters have been brought to the forefront of the American consciousness, I think those slight problems are vastly corrected by the sense of strength that I have that the American people know what's going on.

I think the last thing is that when I do speak on a matter or when the Secretary of State speaks on a matter there is a general feeling now, that's accurate, that the American people and the Congress are familiar with what we are saying. And I think this has a much greater impact on international councils than if we spoke after a private, closet agreement just between me and the Secretary of State.

So, I think that some changes have taken place of which I'm very proud. We still have a long way to go. We are addressing some difficult questions that have been pushed under the rug too long, trying to evolve a comprehensive energy policy that's fair and adequate and acceptable. I think we've done that.

We are also now constrained by law to reorganize the executive branch of Government. This will be a long-term commitment of mine. We have 3 years' authority, and it may be extended if we see it necessary.

We will this year have proposed to the American people and to the Congress a comprehensive revision of the welfare system--which is long overdue--of the income tax structure, of the social security system, and other matters of equal importance. And I think it's time to address these matters.

It would be possible, maybe politically advisable, for me just to ignore them for a while and hope that they wouldn't reach a crisis stage until my successor is in office. But I think that it's better to, go ahead and do the best we can with these problems, even though it does create a lot of extra work for us and sometimes is costly in a political sense.

I think the best thing for me to do now would 'be to answer your questions. I've tried to outline as briefly as I could some of the things that are important to me, and I'll just kind of go around the table and get the ones in the back.



Q. How would you characterize your relationship with Congress 100 days into your term, in view of the budget decision of yesterday and the energy proposals they're now going over?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm pleased with it. There have been some problems, because when you change past procedures it creates controversy. I think it's better for me, though, to express myself clearly on matters like the water projects, which I think are a complete waste of money, than it is to stay silent and have additional projects approved that have no economic or environmental justification for them. It would again be obvious to anyone--it was to me--that this would not be a popular thing among congressional leaders or Members whose districts are affected.

I've got an excellent relationship with the Speaker, with the majority leader in the House, obviously, with the Vice President, majority leader in the Senate, and all those who work with them. I can't be a quiescent or a timid leader. I wasn't when I was Governor. I wasn't when I was a candidate. I don't intend to be when I am President.

I think that it's completely legitimate, for instance, once we put forward a proposal on the defense budget matter, to maintain our commitment to that proposal unless some circumstance changes that causes us to have an alteration in our own opinion.

We asked for a $120 billion spending level on defense, which was about $2.8 billion reduction. I think this is necessary, and I also think it's adequate.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees and Senate Budget Committee, all three, agreed with our figure almost exactly. The House Budget Committee cut that figure, I think by $4.1 billion. And I didn't try to go 'behind the back of anyone. I discussed this openly and freely. And when Congressman Burleson, without my knowledge, offered an amendment that would just restore what we had advocated, then I think Secretary Brown properly espoused that amendment and the House overwhelmingly adopted it.

It's a very difficult thing to pass a budget resolution. I understand that. A lot of negotiation and balancing has to be done within the House. But I think that these matters are inevitable. It's also inevitable that quite often the administration is going to get blamed for some failure that takes place in the Congress. And at times, the difference of opinion is a cause of the confusion. But I think it's better for me to maintain my position, even though it might create some disharmony within the Congress, if I think I'm right.


Q. Mr. President, if the gas tax feature of your policy, energy policy, fails in the Congress, how important is the gas tax feature to your overall energy policy, and do you have an alternative to the gas tax proposal that would accomplish the same end if it should fail?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't have any alternative. I think it is very important and hope it won't fail. I think that we've got to have some way to encourage a reduction in the consumption of gasoline. It comprises about half of our total oil consumption, and it's the greatest opportunity for us to save energy and to reduce waste.

The gas tax is very modest, and it's also not inevitable. If the American public will cooperate and will reduce waste of gasoline, only cutting back total consumption by 10 percent between now and 1985 with much more efficient automobiles, then there is no reason for the gas tax ever to be imposed.

If it is imposed, it would be 5 cents per gallon at the time. If subsequent reductions in consumption meet the prescribed goals, then that tax would be removed and all the money collected from the gas tax would be refunded to the families in our Nation. For instance, this would amount to about $6 billion, which figures out to about $25 per person in our Nation.

So, if the 5-cent gas tax were imposed because of inadequate conservation cooperation, that would mean that each family of four would get back $100 in direct rebates or tax credits, which means that a family that didn't use gasoline, or that used it in a parsimonious way, would actually benefit. Those who insisted on large expenditures for gasoline would have to pay a slight increase in price.

I might point out in fairness, though, that the wellhead tax would also add about 7 cents a gallon to the price of gasoline. I think that this is a modest amount, compared to the severity of the consequences of not conserving.

So, it is important. I hope it will pass. I don't have any alternative. We considered, obviously, dozens of alternatives, and this optional or standby gas tax that would be implemented only if moderate goals were not met, I think, is the best approach.

We tried to fix the levels of conservation so that there would be at least a 50-percent chance of the tax not being imposed. And if the American people will join in, in a patriotic way, in trying to save, then the gas tax will never be imposed.

Q. Mr. President, in places like Arizona where you have to travel a long way just to get to work, how is that going to work? I mean, you can't conserve; you've got to get to work. There aren't systems, mass transit systems, like we see in the East. It doesn't seem equitable.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, for, say, a family that has an efficient automobile, say that meets the 1982 standards, if they drive 10,000 miles a year to and from work, then I think the cost there would be about $20. But they would get back, a family of four, about $100 in tax credits. So if someone does have to go to work and if they do use an efficient automobile, it would not cost them.

This, I think, is fair. And there is a choice to be made. If they have an automobile that would continue at the present average efficiency, which is about 14 miles per gallon, it would cost them a slight amount. So I don't think it would work any hardship even on a family that had to use their car extensively for travel.

I think a 10,000-mile annual use of an automobile would well take care of any requirement for going to and from work.


Q. Mr. President, in light of the drought that we're facing in the West, could you address yourself to the possibility of a Federal water-sharing plan of some kind and, also, to the possibility of increased research and development in the desalination projects in the West?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you know, we've put forward, as a result of the extensive drought, a legislative proposal that's likely to be passed that consists, I think, of about $850 million--about $200 million to $250 million of which is grants.

Many of these grants will be spent to improve water supplies with local welldrilling efforts and also with plastic lining of irrigation channels in order to try to do two things: to increase the production of water from underground strata and, also, to encourage conservation. I don't believe that--with a few exceptions like in the northern part of California--there has been much attention given to water conservation in the country yet. And I would guess that inevitably, no matter what the Government does, that there is going to be a heavier and heavier emphasis placed on water conservation efforts on a nationwide basis.

Even in my own part of the country, like Atlanta, we now see that in a few years water supplies are going to be short. But nobody has made any effort yet to emphasize a conservation need.

We have, obviously, no control over the weather. The few communities each year, relatively speaking, that have extraordinary weather conditions are eligible for aid from several of the programs that already exist in the Federal Government under housing programs, under the Department of HUD, under the emergency programs, low-interest loans under Agriculture, and so forth. But I don't see anything being done of any major consequence in the future, other than those items that I've described to you.

Obviously, we have about 300 water projects that have been approved by the Corps of Engineers and the reclamation agency within the Department of Interior. All those are going forward. The number that I've recommended terminating is about 18 or 19, and the number that I recommended be reduced was about 9, I think. So, there is still a vast effort being made in the country for water projects of that kind.

We have, I would say to summarize, a need for a nationwide conservation program where the States and local governments and the Federal Government, along with private users, can cooperate on how to save the waste of water. This is a chronic problem that's going to be, maybe, the next major thing after energy.

Q. Mr. President, your predecessor was very concerned about the burdens that Government places on business and industry, and you sent out a memo to Bert Lance to unburden. In other words, you want to have some deregulation, apparently. What progress are you making in those lines? What are your plans?

THE PRESIDENT. I think good progress. Some of the departments have already reported cutting back on reports required by as much as 20 percent. We are now requiring that every department give us a list of all the reports that can be eliminated. We'll put these changes into effect by the end of this fiscal year.

On regulations, I am requiring, for the first time, that people who write regulations sign them. We are having schools all over the Federal Government now to teach people how to write simple regulations that can be understood.

I asked the Cabinet Secretaries--and they complied--to read all the regulations that came out of their departments for several weeks, just so they would see the complexity of the regulations that came forward and also, in some instances, to see that the regulations were, on occasion, incompatible with the policies that the Secretary thought existed.

We have an opportunity to reduce the number of Federal agencies, many of which promulgate excessive numbers of guidelines and regulations.

We have 50 agencies, for instance, that will be brought together in the new Department of Energy when that legislation is passed. And I have now generic authority to reorganize the Government in other ways.

We've eliminated already more than 200 advisory commissions and boards, and that work has only just begun.

I've asked many leading groups like college presidents, State school superintendents, the National Association .of Manufacturers, and others, to give me a list of regulations and reports they get from the Federal Government that they think are ill-advised or unnecessary. And they come in to Bert Lance. Bert assesses them and, in some instances, we eliminate them or combine them among departments. So, I think we're making good progress.

Q. We're broadcasters, of course, sir, as you know, so when the FCC one comes by, would you take a good look at it? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I would always welcome--for instance, the National Association of Broadcasters. If you all would take the forms that you .are required to fill out, put yourself in my position and let your staff of the national association look up the law, and if you can devise, with a few days' work, a simplified form that meets the requirements of the Government, we would welcome that. And it will come directly to Bert Lance. He'll bring it to me and I'll say, "Well, why don't we put this into effect?" But I have to ask you not to try to mislead us.

You know, I think it has to be adequate to fulfill the law and the legitimate needs of the Government, because we do need a lot of information. But we welcome that effort on your part. And the college presidents organization and the State school superintendents are already working on this project.


Q. Mr. President, first of all, before I ask my question, as president of this organization, Radio-Television News Directors Association, we thank you for this day. We've had a very profitable morning and are looking forward to more. So, thank you very much.

How do you feel about the way the American public has reacted to this point about your energy proposals?

THE PRESIDENT. There have been three or four public opinion polls conducted that I've seen, and I believe that there has been a dramatic shift or increase in the number of Americans who think there is a serious problem. Before I went public with our analysis and proposals, there was substantially less than 50 percent. Now some polls show as high as 70 to 130 percent of the American people agreeing that energy conservation is important and that we have a serious crisis ahead if we don't do something about it.

As far as the number who approved my proposals are concerned, I think that's also been encouraging. We don't have a majority who advocate a gasoline tax, but we have a majority who advocate most of the parts of the program. And sometimes you have to do something that is not popular, like advocate a tax increase, even though the people don't approve.

My own personal popularity is probably going to drop. At first it didn't. I think the New York Times-CBS poll that I heard about this morning showed that it had not decreased. I think the Harris poll and the Hart poll. Gallup poll, showed it had not. I think NBC did a poll that showed it had dropped some. But that's to be anticipated. I don't particularly regret that.

The automobile manufacturers, the oil companies, and other legitimate interest groups have expressed varying degrees of concern about the proposals. I think they've been very moderate and very modest. And most of them have said we think this is a good overall proposal, but we think something could be done differently.

The oil companies say that there is not an adequate incentive for production. I think it's completely adequate and very generous. We have offered the oil companies the equivalent of world energy prices for newly discovered oil. I think this is enough. And when they demand more, perhaps that's a bargaining position.

I haven't gone yet to meet personally with the oil executives to ask them if they would espouse the program in its entirety as a patriotic gesture. I think it would be very good for them and the country if they would.

I think our own analysis of the impact on the automobile manufacturing business shows that it won't be a bad blow to them.

Our own projections on computer models, which are quite often not completely accurate, show that by 1985, the number of cars will increase somewhat; that the economic impact of the program will not be adverse, and the inflation rate will go up about a half percent because of the energy change.

So, in general, I'm pleased with it. The test is in the Congress. And I'll just have to keep the details of the proposal before the public, because if I don't, the highly focused opposition from the special interest groups can cause a distortion here in Washington about the opinion of the people in the country. And I'll have to monitor this, and I and the congressional leadership will just have to let the people know the benefits to be derived from taking an action that a special interest group may oppose.

I think, though, we've had good response so far, much better than I had anticipated.


Q. Mr. President

THE PRESIDENT. I promised I would get to you.

Q. Yes. If we could get back to water for just a second?


Q. From the intermountain part of the West, Utah, where I am from, the Central Utah Project, what was to have been a very vital project in water development or water diversion--it's a semi-arid State, which you may or may not be aware of--what alternatives in such an area where ground water is rapidly dropping because of the drought--the only other water that seems to be available is that that's on the eastern slope to be brought over to the western slope. What can happen if energy is to be developed in that part of the State, and so on?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have to say that all of the recommendations that were made concerning reclamation projects-and that's a reclamation project--were worked out by the Secretary of Interior and his people. And the Central Utah Project was one that was cut back along with the Central Arizona Project and the Garrison Diversion Project in North Dakota.

I believe that the decisions that we made are the proper ones. We did not eliminate, as you know, all portions of the Central Utah Project. There were some left intact that we think are adequate. I'm sure local people think not.

It comes down to two questions: one is the limit of growth in inherently arid regions, and the second thing is the degree of strict conservation that would be imposed voluntarily over a period of years, as water supplies dwindle compared to the population demands.

We have found in northern California, in Marin County, for instance, that they've cut back water consumption 65 percent this year. I doubt that it's worked any hardship on the people who live there, but that's just an indication of what can be done as water supplies appear to be inadequate. It may be that consumption is excessive.

I don't know enough about the details of the Utah question to answer any better than that.


Q. Mr. President, the House informal committee on textiles has in the past few days passed a resolution asking that not only should the multi fiber agreement be renewed when it runs out at the end of December, but that in negotiating in Geneva later this summer, that some thought be given to reducing the amount of imports that will be required because the textile import situation is getting so bad.

What would be yours and Mr. Strauss' reaction to that request to make the import quotas even stiffer, especially in view of your reluctance to do very much on the shoe situation and leave that on an open market?

THE PRESIDENT. I hate to comment on that in detail. The present multifiber agreement, as you know, authorizes in most instances, a 6-percent annual increase in exports from other supplying countries to us. It also has a provision in it that concerns me somewhat, and that is, if they don't export that much in 1 year, they can make up the following year their 6 percent plus what they carry over from the previous year.

Some of the shoe manufacturers want to cut down the 6 percent to 3 percent, or equate it with the growth in shoe consumption in our country--I mean, textile consumption in our country. I don't know yet what our position will be.

Chairman Strauss, now Ambassador Strauss, has been over in Europe to talk in a preliminary fashion to some of the people there. Last fall when I was campaigning, the request of the textile industry was that we simply renew the multifiber agreement in its present form. Now their position has changed to demand a reduction.

Obviously, this is a multinational agreement and we do have a strong voice in the negotiations, but we don't have any veto power over it. My general inclination, though, is to not erect trade barriers. I think in many instances, we've been successful on a bilateral basis in getting voluntary agreements on constraint. We've done this in the case of textiles on occasion. We are now trying to do this in the case of Taiwan and South Korea on shoe exports, and we're doing the same thing at this time on color television sets from Japan.

So, I think, in general, I've outlined the problem. I don't know exactly what level we will assume as a negotiating position on the increase per year that can be permitted. I have some ideas, but I'm reluctant to make a public statement on them any further than I have.


Q. Mr. President, can you give us your views on the upcoming summit in Europe?

THE PRESIDENT. And what was your question?

Q. It had to do with jobs.

THE PRESIDENT. Okay. Well, I'm for more jobs and I hope to be successful at the summit. [Laughter]

I'm spending a lot of time preparing for this summit. This will be my first trip outside the country since I've been President, perhaps my only trip outside the country this year. Many of the leaders I've had a chance to know in the past in my travels as Governor, and we've had visitors here quite often.

Prime Minister--or President Suarez from Spain, I think was the fifth head of state who's been here in the last 10 days. And we have an average of about one prime minister or president or king coming every 2 weeks the rest of this year. In each instance, before they come I do a lot of study about their nation -its background, economic, social, political structure, history with us, bilateral problems, multinational agreements.

Some of the things that we'll discuss at the summit are our relationships with one another; the strengthening of NATO at an immediately following meeting; questions concerning human rights; preparation for the Belgrade conference to assess the efficacy of the Helsinki agreement: nonproliferation questions concerning reprocessing of spent nuclear fuels, the plutonium society.

We also will discuss among us our dealings with the less-developed countries of the world, how much to strengthen the International Monetary Fund, how much to depend on other multilateral lending institutions like the World Bank or regional banks, how much to cooperate in trade matters.

We'll discuss quite frankly with our friends and allies from Japan, Canada, and Europe, the possible approaches to a SALT agreement.

We'll discuss the mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Vienna that have been stalemated now for about 3 years. I think we'll form personal friendships and interrelationships that will stand us in good stead in a time of trouble or crisis.

In fact, when I called Prime Minister Callaghan this morning--we have a personal and easy relationship because we've had a chance to be together for a number of hours when he visited us.

I don't know President Giscard from France. I do know Chancellor Schmidt. And I think I'll come away from there with a new sense of what their special problems are and opportunities in the nations involved.

We'll talk at length about energy, and we'll talk about the entire fuel cycle. We hope to get a multilateral cooperation begun in the very expensive research and development projects concerning energy.

For instance, we are just about ready to go ahead with a very large, solar energy power production plant in Spain. This has been worked out before I was in office. But as we approach a very difficult question of solar power use, fusion power, of breeder reactors, it's important for us to do it with a common commitment to share the expense, to share the information and experience derived, and to make sure that we also share a protection against the increased capability to make explosives from nuclear fuels.

These are the kinds of things that we'll discuss, and the agenda is quite full. I think everyone involved is making an extra effort to prepare thoroughly.

There was a general feeling that at the last summit conference on economics, that the preparation was not adequate. And I've already exchanged three or four letters, for instance, with Chancellor Schmidt and the same with President Giscard from France.

I wrote and sent to Chancellor Schmidt early this morning a four- or five-page response to his recent communication with me.

We've had numerous meetings already with our official representatives to prepare for the summit, and we have, in addition to what I've just described, scheduled bilateral meetings between myself and almost every leader in Europe--sometimes only 15 minutes, sometimes for an hour or an hour and a half.

And following the summit, which is a seven-nation meeting, we'll have a special meeting, a very private meeting of the nations responsible for Berlin. And then I will go to Geneva to meet with President Asad from Syria. I'm trying to meet with all the Middle Eastern leaders before the end of May. And I'll come back to London for the NATO Conference and then back home.

So, I think we'll derive a great deal of benefit from it. I think we'll come away from there with a new knowledge .of the differences that divide us and the options to be presented to our people and the Congress. I think we'll find a lot of common ground that we haven't yet recognized. But tensions tend to build up among nations when there is not an easy way to communicate between the heads of state.

And I was quite concerned, as I said earlier, about the potential breakdown in negotiating new air rights. The British feel that we have too many planes flying between our country and London with too many empty seats, that this is wasteful of energy and wasteful of airplanes, that it creates excessive competition and excessive costs for the few passengers who do fly on a half-empty plane. We agree with that.

The British are also, though, quite insistent that we cut down on the number of additional points that we serve beyond London. We feel a much more deep dedication to the free enterprise system and to competition than most of .our allies, even as close a friend as Britain. And just the fact that Jim Callaghan and I can sit down and talk about these things and see what we can yield on--we cannot afford to let another country tell us what the capacity of our airplanes ought to be but I can tell Jim Callaghan that I'll personally be responsible to him that we cut down on the waste of empty seats, but that we cannot yield on that point and that we can't give up our right to travel beyond London to Frankfurt, to Copenhagen, and to other points around the world. So just the fact that we can have a personal relationship will benefit us greatly.

Let me say in closing that I really appreciate a chance to meet with you. I wish I had more time to talk about things in detail. All of these matters that get to the President's desk, as you can well see, are things that can't be solved at a State level or between employers and employees or within the Congress. And I've welcomed a chance to get deeply involved. I've enjoyed it.

Our family has gotten well established in the White House. Amy is enjoying her school nearby. Rosalynn bas gotten deeply involved in problems concerning the elderly and in her mental health work. We've had a tremendous increase here in the burden on our staffs because of our openness. I get from 65- to 85,000 letters a week, and this is about three or four times more than President Ford got. Rosalynn gets 3- or 4,000 a week. Amy gets 2,000 letters a week.

We appreciate this access to the public. but it has caused us some problem in staffing. And we hope that our availability and accessability to you will be the kind of thing that we can maintain as long as I am here.

Rosalynn had we were really worried about Rosalynn for 2 or 3 days. She had a lump in her breast and we obviously didn't know the character of it, but yesterday afternoon she had an operation and it turned out to be benign. And we are very grateful about that.

I might say--I haven't told anybody else, but President Ford called last night. It seems he heard about it. And I thought it was an extraordinarily gracious and kind thing for him to do.

Q. What did he say?

THE PRESIDENT. He just called to say that he had heard about Rosalynn's operation and that he and Betty were praying for us and that he was deeply concerned about our health, that 'he knew what Betty had had to go through in a similar operation, and he was just grateful that the tumor turned out to be benign.

But I thought it was very kind of him to take the time to call. And I really did appreciate it. And we reconfirmed our agreement that whenever he comes to Washington, he'll come by and see me personally to give me advice and counsel and let me tell him about the latest developments on international affairs.

We keep both him and President Nixon informed with regular briefings from the State Department and the CIA on secret, unpublicized interrelationships between us and other governments. And I think this is a very beneficial thing to me to continue this. But we have a good friendship between me and President Ford.

Q. Have you had any feedback from Mr. Nixon?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, President Nixon has written me several letters, and we've exchanged telephone calls. His attitude toward me has been perfect. He has said that he didn't want to intrude, but that he was always available, that he'd like to be kept informed, and whenever we had a question about some personal relationship that he had had with a foreign leader in the Soviet Union or China or the Middle East, that he'd like to make his information available to us, and that he would always like to have the right to call me if he was concerned about any action of our Government, but he would always do it privately and in a constructive way, that. he'd never be critical of what I did in public.

So, we've had a good relationship with both of them. As I said in the press conference the other day, it's a very small fraternity of people who've been here, but I think that both of my predecessors recognize that this is kind of a lonely job in a way, but it's also one where you need all the help you can get.

I never had a chance to meet a Democratic President---[laughter]--but even the Republican Presidents have been very constructive.

Thank you. I've enjoyed it.

Note: The interview began at 1:02 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. The transcript of the interview was released on April 30.

Jimmy Carter, Radio-Television News Directors Association - Interview With Members of the Board of Directors of the Association Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243829

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