Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Public Forum in Keene.
Thank you very, very much, Jim, John Croteau, Reverend McCarty, Bob Clark, Charlie Burns, the wonderful principal of this fine school, ladies and gentlemen:
Gee, it's really great to be back in New Hampshire and particularly in Keene, and I thank you all very, very much. Let me assure you that New Hampshire is vitally important, and you can put us on the road to victory next Tuesday.
Actually, the purpose of my visit can be summed up in just a very, very few words. I believe very strongly in a strong and prosperous American automobile industry, but I am here to say that this year there is absolutely no reason to trade in your Ford on a new model. Some of those new models might be mighty expensive.
Actually, I am looking forward to your questions, but first let me make just a very few brief remarks.
I have been President now for almost 19 months. When I took office in August of 1974, America was faced with some of its most pressing and serious problems in our country's history. Our economy had gone haywire with prices going up at an annual rate of more than 12 percent and everything else slowing down. Our national resolve to meet our international commitments was being called into question by both our allies and our adversaries. There was great danger to peace in many, many areas throughout the world.
Underlying these serious problems was a crisis of confidence in our Government, a crisis of the spirit among our American people. With the understanding of the American people, with your prayers and your support and your help, I set about to do what I could to meet those challenges, to put America at peace with itself and throughout the world. The past 19 months have seen many of these efforts succeed. I believe my policy of common sense and a realistic approach to America's problems has helped restore confidence in our great Government.
As I said on my first day as President, "truth is the glue that holds government together," and as long as I am President, I intend to be forthright, candid, frank with all of the American people and make this system work the way it should work.
America's economic picture is considerably brighter today than it was 18 months ago. The inflation rate that was over 12 percent has been cut almost in half. That's still not good enough, but that is progress by any standard and we're going to keep making that kind of progress in the months ahead with the right kind of policies that we are pursuing right now.
We have recovered 2,100,000 jobs since last March. That is 96 percent of all the jobs that we lost during the recession. Unemployment is still too high, but we are headed in the right direction. The Commerce Department announced just yesterday that personal income has risen by 9.2 percent in the past year, well above the current inflation rate. That means real earnings, real purchasing power is climbing; that's good news for every American. We're on the attack, and we will stay on the attack and win this important victory over inflation and unemployment and every other economic enemy of the American people.
In foreign affairs, we have pursued a policy of peace through strength. That policy has been successful, so successful that tonight we can say that America is at peace with every nation on Earth, and we will keep it that way in the future.
We will keep it that way by keeping our defenses strong. As long as I am President, America's defenses will be strong and ready without equal in the world in which we live. Our strength makes it possible for us to negotiate with other great powers of the world from a position that commands their respect and invites their cooperation.
We are now negotiating with the Soviet Union for a further reduction in the level of strategic nuclear arms, a reduction in the potential terror and destruction that each nation can inflict upon each other. We have entered these negotiations with our eyes open, our guard up, and our powder dry. Yankee traders have always known the score, and we continue in that great tradition in 1976. With our military strength we can strengthen peace and not return to the cold war.
One way to reduce the dangers to peace in the world is to have a reliable, responsible, and effective intelligence-gathering capability. I have taken steps, as I am sure you know, to reorganize and reform America's intelligence community, to make it an instrument of peace and an object of pride for the American people. One thing is certain: We cannot improve our intelligence cat)ability by destroying it, as some would like to (to. I have no intention of seeing the intelligence community dismantled, and I know you don't want it dismantled either. Its operations should not be paralyzed or its effectiveness undermined. The irresponsible release of classified information by people who should know better must cease.
The abuses of the past must be corrected and never, never repeated. I have made concrete recommendations to ensure that the intelligence community keeps out of politics and out of people's private lives. As President, I intend to see that the Federal Government is under the people's control and not the other way around.
This next sentence pretty much sums up my philosophy: We must never forget that a government big enough to give us everything we want is a government big enough to take from us everything we have.
But the American people know that it is not enough to talk about the evils of big government. They know that it just is not realistic nor is it wise to turn back the clock and undo all the progress we have made with the help of responsible and constructive government programs.
It is easy to say we ought to cut $90 billion or so from the Federal budget. It is easy to say we ought to toss a lot of very worthwhile programs into the laps of the individual States and let them administer those programs if the local taxpayers will assume the extra burden. It is easy to say that people who don't like the way the programs are administered in one State can just Vote with their feet and move to another State. I have always believed that Americans, Democrat or Republican, vote with their heads and not with their feet.
Oh, it is easy to say that the Social Security Trust Fund upon which 32 million Americans---older and disabled in our society--that that trust fund should be invested in the stock market, making the Federal Government a major stockholder in most American businesses, but that's the best blueprint for back door socialism that I ever heard.
I want to improve the social security system, not cripple it. I want to make sure that program is strong, sound, and certain, not only for the present generation of beneficiaries but for every generation of working men and women, and that is what I intend to do.
I want to improve the Medicare system. I want better and more comprehensive medical coverage for our older citizens. There is absolutely no reason why older Americans or their loved ones should have to go broke just to get well or stay well in the United States of America.
Yes, the list could go on and on. We have to be realistic about what the Government can do and what it can't do, but we must also recognize that there are certain things that Government must do and do better if we are to continue the progress we have made in the past.
We have a great, great country, and I am proud to be an American, and I am proud of America as you are. We have our problems, and we are not afraid to admit them. But I think it is high time people stopped running America down. We should brag about America.
I think it is time we remembered that we are the most richly blessed nation in the history of the world. We have special gifts, special resources, and special responsibilities greater than any nation on Earth.
From the vantage point of the Presidency I can see the greatness of America as I never really saw it before. I can see its many problems, its frustrations, its strengths, its weaknesses, its ambitions. I can see its people working, playing, hoping, planning, praying, living their lives the best they can, and they are good lives which most of mankind envy very greatly.
Obviously all of our problems have not been solved and all of our challenges have not been met. As Lincoln said, "The question is not can any of us imagine better but can we all do better." Of course we can, and that is why I am asking for your continued support next Tuesday, next November, and over the next 4 years.
Thank you, and I will be glad to answer your questions.
CATEGORICAL GRANT PROGRAMS
Q. Mr. President, Tom Baird, president, Keene Jaycees. It seems as though there is a lot of duplication of effort and expense in the Nation's Capital today with various agencies and governmental departments competing to serve the same needs. Do you as President have any plans to avoid that duplication of effort and to provide better local control over programs to assist consumers, which will also decrease the cost of programs to the taxpayers?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do, and let me tell you what we have done and then tell you what we plan to do.
Two years ago, we consolidated seven categorical grant programs that gave aid to cities and metropolitan areas around the country. The new legislation provided for one single block grant instead of seven categorical grant programs. It meant that the city of Keene, for example, instead of having to make up about 20 applications, could make a single application and get the same or more money. But the best impact, at least from our point of view, was that when they had the seven categorical grant programs, there were 2,300 Federal employees in Washington, D.C., and now that we have a block grant program instead of categorical grant programs, we have less than 200 people in Washington handling the same amount of money. That's what we have done.
Now that that has proven to be a very sound program, we are recommending or I have proposed to the Congress that we take 27 educational categorical grant programs-27 of them--combine them into one, give to the school districts the same amount of money and let them decide how they on the local level-here in Keene or in Manchester or in Los Angeles or in Seattle--let them decide how that money can be best spent under local decisionmaking by Charlie Burns and others who know something about the educational problems right here in Keene. I think that makes a lot more sense and it will in effect deliver the Federal dollars more effectively to the local level.
And we propose the same thing in 15 health areas--15 categorical areas involving health, in 15 social service programs. The whole effort is to reduce the Federal bureaucracy and to make the money available at the local level so that the services are delivered under local control and jurisdiction, and I think we are going to get the Congress to go along with some of those programs. We certainly think it is in the best interest of the recipients as well as the Federal Government.
Q. Mr. President, Cathy Allen. As you may know, there is a move in this State to write in the name of Elliot Richardson as Vice President on next Tuesday's ballot. Would you have confidence in Mr. Richardson as a Vice President?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I nominated Elliot Richardson as the American Ambassador to Great Britain. I called him back to be the Secretary of Commerce in my Cabinet. He attended his first Cabinet meeting this morning. I have mentioned him as one of the potential possibilities as a Vice-Presidential running mate. Obviously, the answer is yes.
COMMUNIST MEMBERSHIP IN NATO
Q. Mr. President, my name is Fran Silvestry. Recent events in Italy suggest that the Communist Party may soon be admitted into the Italian Government. If this happens, would you instruct our intelligence agencies to attempt to alter this, and how secure would you feel with the Communist government as a member of NATO?
THE. PRESIDENT. Well, I have taken a very strong position, first at a NATO meeting that I attended in Brussels last May, that the members of NATO should not have Communist Party members as a part of their government, period. We told that to the Italians, we told it to every other European country. I don't think you can have a Communist government or Communist officials in a government and have that nation a viable partner in NATO.
So, I have taken a very strong position against the inclusion of any Communist membership in a government in Western Europe or in any NATO country. I hope that the good people of those countries, Italy or elsewhere, will make certain that they have one of the free political parties in their countries to head their governments. I think it will be a stronger and better NATO, and we would vigorously oppose any Communist participation.
PREPARATION FOR PUBLIC OFFICE
Q. Mr. President, Peter Clark. What courses do you have to take at college to become President? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I would not limit my recommendations to what you might take in college, because I think your whole educational process from kindergarten through college or to graduate school is equally important, but I would make two recommendations: I would study government; I would study history--the history of the United States.
But I have one more suggestion. You can't go wrong joining the Boy Scouts and learning the Scout oath and the Scout laws, because those are good guidelines for anybody in public office.
Q. Mr. President, Polly Croteau. May I address my question to Mrs. Ford?
THE PRESIDENT. She does a good share of the good talking in the family so[laughter]--
MRS. FORD. I'm not used to this but I'll be happy to.
Q. Well, I understand from my reading that you are a very frank person, and so, frankly, Mrs. Ford, outside of attracting celebrities to the White House or making one dress designer more important than another, of what use is the power of the position of the First Lady? Is there any area where you feel you really influence events? Have you ever advanced any projects all your own?
MRS. FORD. I would be happy to answer that, and long before there was the attraction of celebrities to the White House or any attraction of a designer for clothes, I was already in the work for the retarded children and the underprivileged children, actively working in Washington.
I have actually been a member of the PTA since, I think, our first year, both the President and I, 1958 until just last year, when our daughter graduated from high school and is now in college. I worked as a room mother, I worked with the PTA, it gave me great association with the parents and their children in school which I thought was a great advantage. And I feel that working as a Sunday school teacher and putting in the hours that I have as a mother, I am qualified.
CONGRESSIONAL AND FEDERAL PAY RAISE
Q. Mr. President, my name is Jim Hartman. Ronald Reagan has deplored the lack of moral leadership evident in the secretive manner by which the congressional pay raise scheme was passed. Governor Reagan, quoting Cicero, called it the "arrogance of officialdom." I was surprised, Mr. President, that last Thursday in a meeting with New Hampshire newsmen you discounted the connivance and secrecy with which the pay raise was maneuvered.
Mr. President, do you categorically deny the reports here in my hand, published in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Congressional Quarterly, that the congressional pay raise rider was the result of 6 months of secret meetings between congressional leaders and members of your administration
THE PRESIDENT. The members of the two committees in the House and in the Senate, in consideration of a number of employee or personnel matters, did consult with some of the members of my staff. And that is a very responsible thing for those members, both Democratic and Republican, in the House and the Senate to do, and they should have done it. And the members of my staff ought to provide information to those individuals from the House and the Senate that want information. But there was no conniving, and any charge to that effect is inaccurate and completely without fact or foundation.
But now let me tell you the good thing about what happened after that. Under the existing law all Federal employees get a cost-of-living increase predicated on the increase in the cost of living. But because of the financial problems that the Federal Government has, I recommended a 5-percent pay increase instead of the 8.6-percent pay increase, and the Congress sustained it. And I think it was the result of the coupling of pay increases for judges, for executives, and for Congressmen and Senators with all other Government employees. So, we saved $1,200 million, and that's not bad.
Q. Mr. President, I am Bob Page, I am a student at Monadnock Regional High School. Mr. Stanley Arnold, a Democratic opponent, says that he can reduce unemployment from 8.3 percent to 3.3 percent just about overnight. How would this drastic change affect our economy and why?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, any allegation to that effect cannot be proven. A lot of politicians have tried it in a number of countries. It has never worked, and the net result every time it has been tried is that those countries go broke. And if anybody were to try and do that by priming the pump with a lot of make-work jobs at a cost of some $25,000 a job, this country would go broke.
Therefore, the better way to do it, in my opinion, is to increase the incentive for the private sector of our economy where five out of six jobs exist today so that our private sector will expand and provide jobs. The proposal that you indicate won't work, it never has worked in the history of any country, and the proposals that I have suggested are working, so I strongly support them.
Q. Mr. President, I wish I could shake your hand, because I think you are one of the greatest Presidents that has come along in recent history.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very, very much, sir.
Q. I was waiting for him to shake your hand.
[The President shook hands with the previous questioner. ]
Q. Mr. President, I'm Katherine B. Donahue from Keene, New Hampshire, and because I am getting over a cold, Mr. Caldwell will read my question for me. Thank you.
Q. Since the Parent Locator Service law is now in operation, titled Office of Child Support Enforcement, through Federal funding as of January 28-29, 1976, and is affiliated with the social security service, why is it necessary to spend welfare funds over a period of months on one case to locate a delinquent missing father of a dependent child or children to receive court designated payments who are not on welfare when the social security number is available and could be traced in a shorter period of time? Would this not be saving a lot of tax dollars?
THE PRESIDENT. The legislation to which you refer was passed about a year, year and a half ago. What it seeks to do is to give new tools to Federal officials and to local officials to locate runaway pappies so that they can be brought back to take care of their financial responsibilities to their children and to their former wife--but primarily to their children. That legislation was long overdue. The first bill that I introduced in the House of Representatives in 1949 was called the runaway pappy bill, because fathers go from New Hampshire to Michigan or Ohio or Florida, get a job, they don't take care of the court-ordered financial responsibilities for their children. That legislation finally materialized into what was passed a year and a half ago, and I can assure you we are going to make it work because it would relieve the welfare burden and it would force so-called runaway pappies to pay for their financial responsibilities to their children. We are going to make that law work, I can assure you.
Q. I don't want to take question time away from someone else, but I just have one more question.
THE PRESIDENT. Sure.
Q. This has happened over a period of 10 years. I have raised 8 children for 16 years. Now, when I went to Social Security, they denied there was any such office in Washington. I found the address through, really, pressure, and because I am not a welfare parent, I had to send $20 to start the case. The Social Security here in Keene knows where my husband is, knows where he is employed. When the welfare worker called me after they received my check, she told me it would be 4 months before I would hear anything. Now, I think that is a disgrace, because that girl in that welfare department could be working on something else for 4 months if they know right now where he is.
THE PRESIDENT. There are two problems. The first one is that kind of service should not be condoned and it won't be, and if you will give me your name and address, we will see what we can do effectively to help you.
The second point is, I think employees in the welfare office are actually State employees, not Federal employees. I am not trying to pass the buck, but I think that is true in every State that I am personally familiar with. But I can assure you, if we get the information from you, we will see what can be done at the Federal level. There is no excuse whatsoever for a court order not being enforced and getting the information to you so that you can find your runaway pappy and make him pay up.
Q. Thank you.
FORMER PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON
Q. Mr. President, my name is Kenneth Jenkins, and during your press conference on Tuesday night, when asked about the influence or impact of Mr. Nixon's visit to China, you stated that he had not been briefed and the visit was to be treated in the same fashion as any other private Americans would.
Now, why wasn't it 18 months or 19 months ago--whatever it was--you didn't treat him as any other American and have him face criminal charges in the same way as any other American would instead of pardoning him? Now, at the time I more or less agreed with you, but now don't you, in retrospect,
don't you fed in some way that you were maybe a bit premature in your decision?
THE PRESIDENT. Not at all.
Q. Could you explain why?
THE PRESIDENT. In the first place, as far as penalty is concerned, the former President obviously resigned in disgrace. That is a pretty severe penalty--1 out of 37 Presidents to have that happen to him.
Number two, as long as that situation festered, there would be continuous problems developing from the Special Prosecutor and so forth. The only way to get rid of the problem was to do as I did so we could concentrate on the problems of the economy and strengthening our efforts to achieve and to maintain peace. I think it was the right thing to do. I defend it. And the treatment that he is getting in going to China is just like that of any other private citizen.
Q. Mr. President, I came down from the north country to ask you an economic question. These campaigns are very good up in the north country for all the candidates because they take up storefronts and they eat in the restaurants and everything. But Stanley Arnold will be back on Park Avenue this time next year and Shriver will probably be running his mart and I guess Carter will be working for Maddox--[laughter]--and Loeb will only have the Dartmouth students to pick on and then he won't be selling many newspapers.
And what I would like to ask you, on behalf of the fellows in the ski business, will you come up and go skiing with us next year, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. You don't have to worry. The answer is yes.
Q. Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. But let me point out that I started skiing in New Hampshire back in 1938 and 1939 and did for 3 years. So I have skied in North Conway and all throughout New England a long, long time ago when we didn't have the kind of bindings and the boots and the poles and all the other stuff that we have today. And I wasn't very good then. I'm a little better now. [Laughter] But I left an awful lot of sitz marks all over New England. [Laughter]
CONGRESSIONAL PAY RAISE
Q. Mr. President, in view of your response to a previous question regarding Ronald Reagan's support for repeal of the congressional pay raise scheme, the secret plotting described by the Los Angeles Times was reconfirmed February 14 with Donald Smith of the Congressional Quarterly.
Mr. President, my question concerns only elected officials--Senators and Representatives, not appointees. Do you think it is wise public policy to guarantee Congressmen protection from inflation, counter to the view of Governor Reagan?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that a Member of the House and Senate ought to have fair treatment, and I think it is demagoguery to isolate them from all other people who work for the Federal Government. I think they ought to be fairly treated, and I think it is pure political demagoguery to allege otherwise.
PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
Q. Mr. President, my name is Elia Schwartz, I'm from Franklin Pierce College. Do you feel the Chinese Government, by extending an invitation to former President Nixon to visit China, in any way reflects the deterioration of existing relations between the office of the President and the nation of China?
THE PRESIDENT. Not at all. I have visited China twice, once in 1972 for 12 days where I had the opportunity to travel extensively in the People's Republic of China; I returned this year, or last year, in December and had an opportunity to talk personally with Chairman Mao. I can assure you--because I was there--that the relations between the People's Republic of China and the United States are good, and they are going to continue to be good. And there is no reason whatsoever for anyone to doubt that.
It is important for us to have a relationship, one that recognizes their system is different than ours, but it recognizes also that there are 800 million-plus people in China with a vast land area and we ought to keep that relationship. We are keeping it, and Chairman Mao and the other people that I talked with are as anxious as we are to maintain that relationship. It is good. It is good for them and it is good for us, and we intend to keep it that way.
FOOD AND OIL MONOPOLIES
Q. Mr. President, my name is Peter Doyle, I'm from Keene. The Democrats, particularly Senator Harris, have proposed to break up the food and energy monopolies, citing the fact that they are illegal, that they promote inflation, and that they have killed competition and the idea of free enterprise in our government. Have you ordered the Attorney General to enforce the law of the land in the antitrust laws on the books?
THE PRESIDENT. Against what industry?
Q. The food and oil monopolies.
THE PRESIDENT. The Department of Justice, the Antitrust Division, has been strengthened in numbers and personnel since I became President, and in the budget that I submitted for the next fiscal year we added additional personnel. And we have a first-class Attorney General who is a former antitrust lawyer, served in the Department of Justice and worked on the Hill, and is a very qualified man. I can assure you that he and his department will carry out the law as far as antitrust activities are concerned.
And I should add this: Better than a year ago, I recommended to the Congress some strengthening of our anti-trusts laws, including added penalties for criminal violation of those antitrust statutes. So, our record is good, as far as the Department of Justice is concerned, as far as new legislation is concerned. and I can assure you, if there is, if there is any monopoly in the food business or in the oil business, Attorney General Ed Levi will go after them.
Q. Would you say that the food and oil monopolies are adding to the inflation in the U.S.?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the main cause of inflation in the oil business is the fact that we now buy 40 percent of our oil from foreign sources, and it is a cartel in the Middle East. That is the reason why we are having added costs in fuel oil and gasoline and so forth. Forty percent of our current oil supply comes from overseas. We don't control those prices. Those prices are controlled by the cartel, not by us. What we have to do is give an incentive to increase our own domestic oil production, and we will be free of the stranglehold that the foreign oil cartel has over us.
Now, if you take food, the farmer gets a lot of blame. I don't think he deserves it. The real problem is from the time it leaves the farm until it is bought by the consumer. The middleman, from the time it leaves the farm until it is sold to the consumer, that is where the problem is. And if there is a monopoly, whether it is in labor or management, the Department of Justice will go after them.
Q. Mr. President, because of the time I think we have time for one more question, if you would.
THE PRESIDENT. Three more, four more--I like this.
Q. Mr. President, my name is Phil Martin. You said 2 weeks ago that you were going to let the voters vote on your record. Why have you come back to New Hampshire?
THE PRESIDENT. Pardon, sir?
Q. Why have you come back to New Hampshire?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is very wholesome for me to have an opportunity to see, what--3,000 people here in Keene. I think I can benefit from the questions that are being asked, and I hope that my answers are helpful to those that want to get some information. I am back here because I think it is important to win in New Hampshire, I think we are going to win, and it will get us on the road to victory to win in August in Kansas City and to win November 2 in the general election. I like people from New Hampshire, and that's why I am here.
Q. Mr. President, my name is Steven Payne. Before I state my question, sir, I would just like to state briefly my premises. To me, freedom is intimately connected with work. The two are inseparable.
THE PRESIDENT. Work?
Q. With work, yes, sir. For a man to be free he must be able to determine the kind of things he produces, the way he produces them, the way he advertises them, the people to whom he sells them. Now my question is this: Has your administration under consideration any legislation that would grant representation on the boards of directors of large corporations to the people who work for these large corporations and to the citizens who live immediately around these corporations, so that the people who are most intimately affected by the decisions of these corporations have input into the decisionmaking process of the corporations? It seems to me that until the people get true freedom--that to have freedom come from on high is a negation of what true freedom really is.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, under our system you have to give representation to the people who have invested their money into the building of the plant and the purchasing of the equipment---
Q. If I can interrupt for a second, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. -----and the operation of the facility. Now, there are instances where employees have bought the business. Obviously, in that case the people who are employed ought to run the place, not only in the management but in the plant itself.
In a number of cases where you have stock ownership programs, where an employee or the employees buy stock and, therefore, are a part-owner, there is representation by those employees or somebody representing them on the board of directors, and that is very proper. Whether or not you should go beyond that would create some considerable change in our whole system.
Now, it has been tried in Germany or West Germany, with some success. Whether it ought to be tried here or not, I think, it is premature to make any. comment.
Q. Mr. President, I would like to know if the United States was ever in a world war situation, would you authorize the first strike, and if the answer to this is no, then how do you justify such a high defense budget?
THE PRESIDENT. The United States has no plans for any first strike, but now let me answer the second question. The United States Government has been putting less and less of our resources into our national security for the last 10 years, and the net result has been that the percentage of the Federal funds that go to defense this year is 24 percent and social programs derive about 50 to 55 percent of the total Federal expenditures.
We have reached a point of diminishing return for several reasons. One, the Soviet Union, during the same period of time, has increased their expenditures out of their total government expenditures, their total GNP, and if we don't correct the situation--which I am trying to do and tried to do last year--the national security of this country will be in some jeopardy.
Last year I recommended a defense budget of about $100 billion, which was about 25 percent of the total expenditures by our Government for our national security. The Congress cut $7,200 million out of it. It was a mistake. This year I have recommended expenditures of $100.1 billion, which is for the second time in 10 years that a President has recommended a change in that curve.
If the Congress is wise enough to support my defense budget, we will spend roughly 25 percent of our total expenditures for our national security. I think that's right. You can't have the freedom in America unless you have the necessary military capability to deter war or to defend America.
Q. Mr. President, I am Pamela Barrett of Walpole, New Hampshire. I would like to ask you this question: What do you do as a President, and may I shake your hand?
THE PRESIDENT. Did I understand the question--what do I do as President? [Laughter]
Well, I spend about 14 hours a day at the job, but it is a complicated job, dealing with some 2,100,000 civilian workers, 2,100,000 military personnel, and making sure that our country is strong economically and internationally or in foreign policy. I have to deal with the Congress, and believe me, that is a problem. [Laughter] All except for Jim Cleveland over here.
Now, if you would like, just stroll up here and I would be glad to shake hands with you.
[ The President shook hands with the questioner.]
Let's do two more, and then we will call it quits. I enjoy it. It's great.
FORMER PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON
Q. Mr. President, could you reiterate the justification of originally saying you would not pardon President Nixon and then going ahead and pardoning him?
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't hear what you said.
Q. Would you please repeat why you first said you would not pardon President Nixon?
THE PRESIDENT. I never said I wouldn't. I said that I did, and I thought it was right at the time and for good reasons, period.
REPUBLIC OF CHINA
Q. Mr. President, my name is Bob Croteau and I'm from Troy. I would like to know, you said you like good relations with the People's Republic of China. What about the Republic of China on Formosa?
THE PRESIDENT. We have excellent relations with the Chinese Nationalist Government. I have been there. I know their top people. It has been a good ally. We have a defense treaty with them. They are good friends, and we are going to stick by them.
Q. When are you going to visit them again?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am pretty busy right now. [Laughter]
Q. I wish you good luck, Mr. President.
REFLECTIONS ON THE PRESIDENCY
THE PRESIDENT. One more and then we'll quit.
Q. Mr. President, I would like to know if you like the job as President or if you would rather have another job, and why?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I really enjoy the job. I enjoy the challenge. I get up every morning--I can't wait to get to the office. [Laughter] That's true, that's true. I thoroughly enjoy it. And I like to go home and have dinner with Betty, but I like to stay and get the job done every day. It's a great challenge because we have problems, but they are solvable, and I enjoy the opportunity to work with people in trying to solve those problems. And I like the job, and that is why I am a candidate, and that is why I would appreciate your support next Tuesday and on November 2.
Thank you very much.
[It this point, the President left the main gymnasium and entered the girls' gymnasium where the overflow crowd had assembled. After being introduced by Mrs. Ford, the President continued answering questions. ]
MRS. FORD. I appreciate how much it means to us that you have all been here and stayed here, and it gives me great pleasure to present the President of the United States. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Those are kinder words than she usually gives me. [Laughter] Let me thank you all for coming, staying, and it is a great privilege and pleasure for both Betty and myself to come and see you all firsthand. And if I don't violate the rules of the house, can I take a couple of questions here? I'd be delighted to.
Q. Mr. President, what plans do you have for the next 4 years to balance the Federal budget?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, in the budget that I submitted to the Congress in January, if the Congress holds the restraint on Federal spending that I have recommended, we can have a balanced budget in 3 years. The Federal budget has been growing at the rate of 11 percent per year for the last 10 years. In the budget that I submitted it cuts that in half--it cuts the growth in the Federal budget, expenditure-wise, by 50 percent.
And if we can, instead of going up like that, can cut it in half, we can have a balanced budget in 3 years, and that will include another tax cut. So, it is the kind of a budget that is, I think, responsible. It puts the main emphasis on the private sector, and it gets some of these uncontrollable programs in the Federal Government under control.
Q. Mr. President, why didn't you take stronger leadership on the question of conservation, really lay it on the people, if you will? We have to start saving more of this energy--we are running out.
THE PRESIDENT. Let me say that I think it is unfortunate that America has not done as well as most other major industrial countries throughout the world. I was looking at some statistics just yesterday. Virtually every Western European country since the oil embargo of 1973 has done better than we have in conservation. Now, the American people will always respond to a crisis, but, unfortunately, once the oil embargo was lifted the American people mainly went back to many of their old habits.
Now, I do have to say this: Prior to the oil embargo, the rate of growth in energy use in this country was about 6 to 7 percent per year. At the present time, that has been cut to a rate of growth of about 1 percent, so we are doing better but, compared to many other countries, we are not doing as well as we should.
Now, in order to conserve energy I have recommended to the Congress a number of proposals: One, to increase the efficiency of our automotive industry in the cars that they produce; another, to provide a tax incentive for people to insulate their homes, a proposal of $80 million to get individuals who were in the disadvantaged groups to have insulation provided by their Government so that we could save energy in that way. We are trying to get more utilization out of our railroad system rather than relying on the automobile and the airplane. We are doing some things, but I happen to agree with you that we ought to do better.
Q. Mr. President, it is nice to see you here this evening. My question is, a few weeks ago the Boston Globe stated that Margaret Chase Smith of Maine said she was surprised that you were still in the running as a candidate, and she was wondering why you hadn't quit as yet and--
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I was a little surprised myself--[laughter]--because I have always had very cordial and good relations with former Senator Smith. I admired her then, and I admire her now.
The reason I am running is because I think I am the only person with a moderate, middle-of-the-road political philosophy that can win as a Republican or as a Democrat, and I think it is vitally important for the future of America having somebody who is not on one side or the other.
I think it is important for a person who has a middle-of-the-road philosophy to win to give us the kind of strength at home and the kind of strength abroad that is needed, not only for our generation but for a lot of these kids I see here tonight.
Q. Mr. President, how do you feel about foreign aid?
THE PRESIDENT. How do I feel about foreign aid? Well, let me give you an example of how foreign aid was very helpful, and then I can give you some examples where it hasn't worked.
But I see some people in this audience who came back from World War II when Western Europe was devastated. And if it had not been rehabilitated, most of the Western European countries today would be under communism. But the United States contributed a substantial amount of money to the rebuilding of Western Europe, and the net result is we have freedom in those countries-France, West Germany, Belgium, Holland, and so forth. That was a good investment by America in a foreign aid program.
Now, we have helped some other countries where the programs have been good. I think the Chinese Nationalist Government on Taiwan, we helped them. We are no longer helping them because they are on their own.
Now, we have made some bad investments, too. So I think you have to realize that in programs that involve distant lands, different kinds of people, different kinds of societies, you will be successful one day and you may not be as successful the next.
I think the United States should have a responsible foreign aid program for two reasons: One, humanitarian. We ought to help people less well off than ourselves. Americans are generous, humane, and we ought to help them. Secondly, I think we ought to in order to help ourselves in the implementation and execution of our foreign policy.
Q. Mr. President, I want to say two things before I ask a question. Number one, bring your wife with you on all your campaigns. She is a real asset to you.
THE PRESIDENT. I agree. So are my kids, though, and I'm proud of them.
CLOSING OF MILITARY FACILITIES
Q. I have a good many questions. I think when people are well informed they do right, and you have done it straight with me, and I think you have done a good job.
I have got a little question I would like to ask. We are thinking of phasing out Fort Devens. We have phased out almost all of our forts here in New England, and I think that you should consider thinking it over before you phase it out.
THE PRESIDENT. Let me respond to that. The Department of Defense is always in the process of trying to analyze where they can get the best results from the utilization of facilities. Three years ago we had 3,500,000 men in the armed services; today we have 2,100,000, so we don't need as big a base. I'm not saying that Fort Devens is going to be closed or it won't be closed. All I'm saying is that the Department of Defense is analyzing the situation because first the Congress cut them $7 billion in the defense bill for this current fiscal year, and that is about 8 percent. I added money for next year but, nevertheless, I can assure you that Fort Devens or any other facilities will get a fair shake, but
the Defense Department will make the analysis.
Thank you very much.
All right. Two more. This young lady back here.
Q. Mr. President, I would like to know what you feel should be our projected military involvement in Angola.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think our military involvement should be in Angola at all. I never proposed that one American soldier ever go to Angola. But I did say and I tried to convince the Congress that we ought to help in a very small way the two organizations that were fighting the MPLA [Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola]. And those two organizations, UNITA [National Union for the Total Independence of Angola] and FNLA [National Front for the Liberation of Angola], had more Angolans in their organizations than the MPLA did, and they were winning until 12,000 Cubans and $200 million worth of Soviet arms went into the MPLA.
I am convinced that we should help people who want to help themselves, and we were anxious to help two out of three to give them arms for them to solve the problem themselves. The Congress wouldn't go for it and the net result is the Soviet Union and 12,000 Cuban Communist mercenaries are in effect running that country. I don't think that's good.
Q. How long do you want to be President? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would like to be President until January 20, 1981.
ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT; NUCLEAR POWERPLANTS
Q. I need to ask you what your stand is on nuclear powerplants--the awareness of the internal large agencies supporting and regulating these plants. They're dangerous, they create, if nothing else, a lot of anxiety--some good in different ways. And it seems to be that there's some very economical and free ways to--
THE PRESIDENT. Well, let me answer the latter part first. I know of no prospective energy source that our Government isn't supporting. I have increased the research and development in solar energy by about 40 percent, from about $80 million to $120 million in the next fiscal year. We have increased the money for geothermal research and development. We have put around $160 million into coal research so that we could make it cleaner and that we could make it a more productive fuel.
If you know a source of energy that we are not supporting, I would like to hear about it and we will look into it. But every scientist that can come up with a responsible source of energy for us to seek to develop, we have got money in it.
Now, talking about nuclear energy, there is an agency or a commission called the Nuclear Regulatory Agency [Commission]. It has the responsibility of taking the applications for nuclear plants, analyzing the design and the construction, the site, and determining whether that plant should be built in that area. We now have roughly 50 nuclear plants in this country.
I saw some statistics the other day--and these are undisputed--that the chance of any nuclear accident to an individual is 1 in 2 billion, something like that, and the chances are far, far less according to the statistics than being struck by lightning. Now, that doesn't mean we cannot improve the safety, and I added to the budget for the next fiscal year a substantial amount of money to make nuclear reactors safer and to make them more reliable. I think we need nuclear energy under the right conditions, and they will only be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency [Commission] if they are.
This lady has the last question.
STATE AND LOCAL DECISIONMAKING
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
I am very much concerned about the rules and regulations that override our State laws. The people who make the rules and regulations are not answerable to our people because they are not elected officials. Is there some way that you could set up a legislative subcommittee to oversee the rules and regulations or get their approval before they are finally made?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am sure you are familiar with the fact that under our system of government of checks and balances the President can't tell the Congress to establish a committee or a subcommittee. They are a separate and coordinate branch of our government. In fact, they would probably do just the opposite if I recommended it. If you recommended it, they might proceed with it. No, I am being very serious. I don't think that the Federal Government-and I can only speak for the Federal Government--should override responsible local or State decisions. And frankly, that is one of the reasons why I have tried so hard to get the Congress to move from categorical grant programs, where some bureaucrat in Washington makes the decision and overrides the decisionmaking process of a local official or a State official. And under the program where I recommend taking Federal money and giving it to the local officials and State officials, then you don't have some bureaucrat in Washington making the decision; you have the process handled right here in Keene or Manchester or Portsmouth or Conway or any one of the other places.
Thank you all. It's a great pleasure to see you. Good luck to you.
Note: The President spoke at 7:42 p.m. at Keene High School. The forum was sponsored by the Keene Jaycees.
In his opening remarks, the President referred to James A. Masiello, vice chairman of the New Hampshire President Ford Committee, John M. Croteau, Jr., chairman of the board of the Keene Jaycees, Rev. Chandler H. McCarty, .pastor, St. James Episcopal Church of Keene, Robert M. Clark, master of ceremonies, and Charles Burns, principal of Keene High School.
Gerald R. Ford, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Public Forum in Keene. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/256846