Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on Domestic and Foreign Policy Issues

April 14, 1983

U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Director

The President. I am deeply gratified by the United States Senate's confirmation today of Ambassador Kenneth Adelman to be Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. It's my earnest hope that this positive step will mark the beginning of a new, bipartisan consensus on the vital issue of nuclear arms reduction.

I'm convinced that Kenneth Adelman will prove that the confidence which the Senate has expressed in him today is well founded. Under his leadership, we can look forward to a reinvigorated Arms Control and Disarmament Agency that will make an important contribution to our arms reduction efforts.

As we seek equitable and verifiable agreements with the Soviet Union to reduce the arsenals and the risks of war, we will need the advice and support of the Congress. I'm confident that with full consultation with the Congress and the development of our arms reduction initiatives, the United States can continue to be a force for genuine peace and progress in the world. And if we're met with reciprocal seriousness of purpose from the Soviet Union, 1983 can be a year of historic importance in securing a more solid and stable peace through arms reductions.

Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]?


Q. Mr. President, are we directly or indirectly supplying, arming, or training any insurgents-Nicaraguan insurgents—and if so, why?

The President. We are complying with the law, the Boland amendment, which is the law. We're complying with that fully. And in-

Q. Does that mean we are not arming or supplying any of the dissidents along the border, the Honduran border?

The President. I am not going to get—I could not and would not possibly talk about such things. But may I point out that this whole controversy over Nicaragua is ignoring some realities, that the Nicaraguan Government is a revolutionary government that took power by force, but with the promise of democratic elections, none of which have taken place. And all of this was under the previous administration. The previous administration, however, did recognize this government of Nicaragua, sought to help it with considerable financial aid, and withdrew that aid, long before we were here, when it became apparent that the government had become completely Marxist, had turned away and thrown out some of the democratic groups that had supported them and fought with them in the revolution to bring democracy to Nicaragua and were, then, no longer a part of the government.

But also the cutoff of funds was because the Nicaraguan Government had pledged to the United States that it would not attempt to overthrow any other governments in Central America, particularly El Salvador, by helping the insurgents there, the guerrillas, and they violated that promise. And they are still violating it.

And anything that we're doing in that area is simply trying to interdict the supply lines which are supplying the guerrillas in El Salvador. But the picture today is that Nicaragua, with its protests that somehow someone is trying to overthrow them, it, as a revolutionary government, is trying to overthrow the government of a neighboring country, El Salvador, which was a duly elected government and which is going to hold another election before this year is out.

Q. But, Mr. President, what is the American public to think if Congressman Boland, who, as you know, is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says there's very strong evidence that we are violating the law? How do we clear this with the American people? Don't they have a reason, if a Congressman is saying that we're violating the law, that something's wrong

The President. Well, maybe some of you people misled him.

Q. No, but he has access to intelligence information, to administration briefings.

The President. Yes.

Q. What's going on?

The President. And I think Secretary Shultz and our security adviser, Judge [Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs William P.J Clark, have both been talking to him. And you have seen the statement by Barry Goldwater of the Intelligence Committee that is absolutely positive that there is no violation of the law whatsoever. I think that when they pay a little more attention to this, they're going to find out we're not violating the law.

Let me do what I promised the other day and start with some of the people in the back of the room here.

Q. Mr. President, are you willing to say flatly that the United States is not engaging in any activities that a reasonable person could assume could be for the purpose of overthrowing the Nicaraguan Government?

The President. We are not doing anything to try and overthrow the Nicaraguan Government. As a matter of fact, let's put that in perspective for a moment.

Nicaragua today has created the biggest military force in all of Central America and large parts of South America—an army of some 25,000, backed by a militia of 50,000, armed with Soviet weapons that consist of heavy-duty tanks, an air force, helicopter gunships, fighter planes, bombers, and so forth, heavy artillery. And a few thousand Miskito Indians and guerrillas—I don't think it's reasonable to assume that that kind of a force could nurse any ambitions that they can overthrow that government with that great military force. And I think that people should understand some of these things and ask themselves what is the need for them having the biggest army in all of the region.

There are—we are cooperating with the other Central American countries in the region to try and bring democracy and peace to Central America.

Q. Yes. Mr. President, this morning your Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Mr. Enders, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that there was a possibility Cuba or the Soviet Union may introduce high-performance aircraft or even Cuban troops into Nicaragua. Do you have any information about any impending possibility of this? And, if so, what would be the American response to that move?

The President. Well, no, I think—I'm not going to answer a hypothetical question with a hypothetical answer. And I only know that that possibility does exist, because the Soviet Union, by way of Cuba, has been engaged already. May I remind you that at the inauguration of the revolutionary government when it took over, Castro was present and a representative of the Soviet Union, and both of them openly hailed Nicaragua as the first Communist country on the mainland of the Western Hemisphere.

Q. Mr. President, could I ask a domestic question?

The President. What?

Q. Mr. President

Q. Could I ask a question on a domestic issue?

The President. I'll get you next.

Q. Mr. President, considering what you've just said about Nicaragua and your past statements about how it is a staging area there, doesn't the United States want that government replaced? And is there anything that you feel that we should be doing within the law to have that government in Nicaragua replaced with a democratic one?

The President. We, of course, as I said-anything that we're doing is aimed at interdicting these supply lines and stopping this effort to overthrow the El Salvador Government. But what I might personally wish or what our government might wish still would not justify us violating the law of the land.

Q. You're not doing anything to overthrow the government there?

The President. No, because that would be violating the law.


Q. Mr. President, you were successful in your efforts to get a job for Ron Bricker, the bold young man from Pittsburgh who gave you his resume. I understand a lot of other unemployed steelworkers are now flooding the White House with requests for help. Are you planning to help get jobs for these other people, too?

The President. I haven't seen any of those resumes, if they've been sent or anything. I didn't know that. I know there's been talk about up here. If you'll remember, that day Mr. Bricker accosted me and handed me his resume and asked me would I show it to anyone if I had the opportunity, that he was seeking work. And I said, yes, I would. I did. He's got a job.

Now, I didn't expect that all of the unemployed were suddenly going to ask me to be the employment agency individually for them. I think that'd be impossible. But at any time that I can be in any way of help in lining someone up with an employer who's looking for an employee, of course I'd do it, because I think it's a problem on all our minds. And I think—this digresses from your question, but I think we ought to recognize that throughout this country radio and TV stations that have held job-a-thons have been successful in getting thousands of people put back to work. There are local groups and committees, including right there in Pittsburgh, that are doing the same thing in an effort to help stimulate and move faster, and they have to do it on a basis of individuals. And, we, of course, in our own legislation, with the so-called jobs bill, are doing our part here at the government level. But the main way they're going to go back to work is going to be with the recovery of the economy.

Now, Bill [Bill Plante, CBS News].

Ms. Thomas. Thank you, Mr. President.

Q. Mr. President, do the

The President. Oh, I just recognized Bill.

Ms. Thomas. That's all right.

Q. Thank you so much.

Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. [Inaudible]

The President. Can I take his—

Ms. Thomas. He may. [Laughter]

Foreign Policy

Q. Let me ask you this, sir. Do the War Powers Act and the Boland amendment unduly restrict your authority as the Chief Executive? And would you like to see something done about it?

The President. Helen, I should have listened to you. [Laughter]

I think any legislation which restricts the relation—or confines itself to the relationship of a single country, our relationship with a single country, yes, is restrictive on the obligations that the Constitution imposes on the President.

Ms. Thomas. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke at 4:02 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on Domestic and Foreign Policy Issues Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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