Ronald Reagan picture

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

July 21, 1983

Nation's Economy; MX Missile Production

The President. Good morning. I have a brief statement, two very welcome pieces of news. This morning's report of a surge to 8.7 percent in second-quarter real economic growth and last night's bipartisan victory for the MX Peacekeeper program send an important signal to the world. I think that confidence in America's economic recovery and leadership for peace continue to build.

The economy is growing with more vigor than most economists predicted, and this heartens us. Vigorous growth is the surest road to more jobs, declining deficits, and a future filled with opportunity for all our people. We must encourage the roots of confidence to grow strong and deep by protecting the recovery from a new burst of runaway inflation and interest rates. We support the commitment of the Federal Reserve Board to a monetary policy that ensures stable prices, and we urge the Congress to help us make the Fed's job easier, not by taking more money out of the people's pockets, but by exercising discipline to hold down Federal spending.

I want also to thank courageous Republicans and Democrats in the House for giving America the bipartisan unity needed to pursue two vital national goals—strategic modernization and arms control. It's now time for the Senate to act. If the Senate joins the House in approval of funds for production of the Peacekeeper, the United States representatives in Geneva will have increased leverage to negotiate significant mutual and verifiable strategic arms reductions. End of statement.

Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]? Central America

Q. Mr. President, are we trying to overthrow the Government of Nicaragua with a sending of what some people would call a kind of a gunboat diplomacy approach?

The President. No, we're conducting exercises such as we've conducted before here in this hemisphere. We've conducted them in other parts of the world, and there haven't been too many questions about that or suggesting that we're starting.—

Q. Well, what is the purpose?

The President.—to try to start a war in those other areas. We conduct annual maneuvers more than once a year, as a matter of fact.

Q. Are you saying they have no political purpose?

The President. We're conducting exercises there. And I think that there's every reason for us to do so with the responsibility we have in this hemisphere.

Yeah, Bill [Bill Plante, CBS News].

Q. Mr. President, would you say that the pressure the U.S. has put on the Government of Nicaragua, by supporting the rebels against that Government, has helped to bring the Government to a position where they are expressing some willingness to negotiate? Would you attribute that to the pressure that the U.S. has been able to bring to bear? And would you accept a negotiated solution in El Salvador contingent on a solution in Nicaragua?

The President. Well, you're getting very complicated there and getting me deep into the field of things that I don't think are at hand yet. I'd have no way of reading their minds as to why. I think it could be assumed that maybe what is happening there with the contras, who are opposing the Sandinista regime, have something to do with this decision. Undoubtedly Contadora did also have something to do with it.

I welcome this first step. I don't think it's far enough. But what really is needed is what the contras are asking for, and that is that the Sandinista government is in violation, literally, of a contract that they made with the Organization of American States. That's not just the United States; that's 30 other American States. They made a contract during the revolution that, if they had the help of the OAS in persuading the Somoza regime to step down and let their revolution take over, they made specific promises as to what they would do with regard to freedom of press and freedom of—well, all the freedoms that we enjoy here in this country. They have violated all of those provisions. And the OAS considers that the violation of a contract. And what the contras are really seeking, having been members of the Sandinista revolution for the most part in its effort to bring democracy to Nicaragua, they are trying to restore the original purpose of the revolution.

Q. Well, just to follow, if I may, sir. Would you consider a negotiated settlement in El Salvador if there can be a settlement in Nicaragua?

The President. Well, without even waiting for Nicaragua, we have proposed and the Salvadoran Government has proposed that if the guerrillas will lay down their arms and come in and participate in the democratic process of election, they will be granted amnesty. They have a peace commission that is organized to negotiate such a thing with them. And, so far, the guerrillas in El Salvador have refused any such meeting on that.

Q. Mr. President, Henry Kissinger was someone that you said should resign back in 1976. He's controversial because of his role in overthrowing the Allende regime in Chile, because of his support for covert action. Why did you choose him to head this Commission, considering your past doubts about him? And aren't you, in effect, shortcircuiting the work of the Commission, since the administration is already planning an increase of some $400 million in its aid request for next year for that region?

The President. I don't think any such figure has been advanced by us as yet. We're asking for the $110 million that we had proposed for 1983 and which the Congress has so far refused to give us. We have asked for some increase in that in our request for the 1984 budget, but nothing of that figure.

But, with regard to the first part of your question, as I recall in '76 the entire issue of Henry Kissinger came up in response to questions from the audiences as to whether I would choose him as my Secretary of State. And I said that I had other things in mind and I would make my own choice of a Secretary of State.

I've chosen him for this committee because I believe here is a man with a distinguished record in diplomacy. I believe he is exceptionally well qualified to bring back the information that, I think, we all need and that would help the Congress make the decisions it needs to make about Central America.

Q. Well, to follow up—to ask you whether you think that there is no need, then, for this massive increase, because there are administration officials who have said that there are planning papers already at the budget office for this big increase in economic and military aid. Do you think it will not be necessary?

The President. You know, if I ever find those unnamed individuals that are quoted as administration sources, I'm going to take their White House passes away from them.


Q. Right in your office.

The President. I don't know who they are.

Q. Is it true or not?

The President. No—

Q. We can give you a list of names.

The President.—I have never heard that figure advanced as anything that we're asking for. But I do think that this commission-what I want is to bring back and with the Congress sit down with the idea of an overall program for all of our neighbors here in the hemisphere. It is what I talked to leaders about when I made my one trip to South and Central America—talked to them about all of us becoming equal allies here in the Western Hemisphere, all dedicated to the same thing, to progress, economic reform, what social reforms are needed in some areas and so forth. And this is my goal for Central America.

To achieve it, however, you've got to stop the shooting. You have got to let them proceed with these reforms without getting murdered by terrorists who want a continuation of what we've seen too much of in the past, and that is revolutions that only overthrow one set of rulers in order to establish another set of rulers.

Yes, Larry [Laurence I. Barrett, Time].

Q. Mr. President, in view of your frequent criticism of the Sandinista regime, which you repeated here this morning, do you think it's possible to get any kind of regional settlement and regional stability if that regime remains in office? Or do you think that regime would have to go before there would be any settlement?

The President. Now, we're talking—now, wait a minute, which country, again, are we talking

Q. I'm talking about in quest of regional stability—

The President. Yes.

Q.—do you think that's possible in Central America if the Sandinista regime survives in Nicaragua?

The President. Well, if the Sandinista regime remained, but remained true to the original purpose of the revolution—this is a government by one faction of the original revolution. It exiled, it jailed, it threw out of office the other leaders of the revolution because they wanted democracy and the present group wanted Communist totalitarianism. And this is what they presently have there. So, what is being struggled for there is a restoration of the original revolution.

Q. So, you think if this present faction remains in power alone in Nicaragua, there cannot be a satisfactory settlement. Is that your

The President. I think it would be extremely difficult, because I think they're being subverted, or they're being directed by outside forces.

Gary [Gary F. Schuster, Detroit News]?

Q. Mr. President, with the presence of the American ships off the western coast of Central America, is there any plan by the United States to go on the Gulf side of Central America, especially off the coast of Nicaragua, to impose a naval blockade?

The President. Well, a blockade is a very serious thing, and I would hope that there will—that eventuality will not arise. There are going to be maneuvers of various kinds

Q. In the Gulf?.

The President. Yes, just as last year we had some maneuvers in the Caribbean, I prefer to call it. And we will be doing that again because of our interests there and the importance of that to the United States.



Q. Sir, the Polish Government says it's going to lift martial law, as of tomorrow, and free some, but not all, of the political prisoners. Is this action enough to cause you to lift the remaining sanctions or not?

The President. We just have received the actions of the Parliament there, and what it is they're proposing. And so, I do not have the result of any study of what those proposals are.

What we want to be on guard for is-having a cosmetic change, in which they lift technically martial law, but replace it with equally onerous regulations. If that's true, then the situation has not changed. And so, I can't answer until we know whether there actually has been any improvement.

Then we've always said, if there is, we're going to go by deeds, not words. If there is something that indicates that a reciprocal action by us is desired—us and our allies-then we'll consult on that.

Q. Well, sir, as you know, the Parliament has also approved new laws which people like Lech Walesa say make the government just as onerous from the standpoint of having the ability to control the country as martial law.

The President. Well, that's what we want to find out for ourselves in the study when we analyze what has been done.

Ms. Thomas. Thank you, Mr. President.

Q. Mr. President—may I finish my sentence, Helen?

The President. All right. Helen's just laughing, but I think she's laughing "yes."


Q. Thank you. Within the framework of the economic recovery, what can you say to the 11 million unemployed? Is there any tangible message of hope, or whatever for them?

The President. Oh, yes, there is. Now, we know that the unemployment is the last thing that responds to the economic recovery. But, look, there are 1,100,000, 1,200,000 more people employed than were employed last December; 345,000 more just between May and June, was the increase in the number of people employed. I have been informed by industrial leaders in the automobile industry of their plans in just the next several weeks for the recall of layoffs.

We do know this: I think sometimes we look at the pool of unemployed—and, remember, the rate is down to 9.8 percent; we're out of that 10-percent bracket now. We look at the unemployed, and we incline to believe that this is the same group of people that have been sitting there helpless and hopeless throughout the entire recession. Seventy percent of the unemployed today have been unemployed 7 weeks or less. Thirty percent of the unemployed today are newcomers to the job market, seeking their first employment. And if you want another rather hard-to-imagine figure, if you take the total weeks of unemployment, more than half of them were accounted for by only 3 1/2 percent of the unemployed.

Now, it's a more complicated picture than just simply transferring one thing to the other—the number of young people that are being put to work this summer in summer jobs, more than in several years and in part due to—as yesterday out in the Rose Garden, our ceremony where we contributed some money here, but that was only part of another $800 million nationwide. We've been working with the private sector on this. The job-a-thons held by television and radio stations throughout the country, particularly television—they've had a remarkable success. And it happens within the time of the program literally that these people get them back.

So, there is reason for encouragement. There's only a very limited number of people who have been unemployed 6 months or longer. And they are the hard core, and they are the real basic problem we want to get to. But we have to deal with it as it is. And I think there is certainly very definite reason for hope of employment. All right, thank you.

Q. Is that a new tie—1 of your 127

The President. You're pretty observant. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 10:30 a.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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