Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Working Luncheon With Out-of-Town Editors
The President. Well, I am grateful to Joe Sterne1 for putting this group together, issuing the invitations and being so helpful to Karna2 in arranging this briefing.
1Joe Sterne, Baltimore Sun.
2Karna Small, Director of Media Relations and Planning.
And now that I've gotten—[inaudible]to recognize someone who's familiar with the locale. They keep me busy reading a lot of other things, but I still manage to keep up with the papers. And the White House News Summary includes editorials from all of the papers that are represented here, as well as others.
And I know that on the editorial page, usually, the cartoons run. And there was one from a paper the other day that I was very happy to see, because it was for all those people that want instant results for changes in something that have taken several decades to be installed here in government. I don't know how many carried it. It's this cartoon of the group. I'll pass it around the table so you can see it. And the radio reporter, so you'll be happy to know, or TV reporter is saying, "And so it seems clear to this reporter that Reaganomics has failed, failed to thrive in a climate of optimism, failed to blossom into a viable economic alternative, failed to bear the fruit of prosperity—at least in these first five disappointing minutes." [Laughter]
Well, I think we should, because it is a working lunch, get to the questions. And as I said the other day when we had a briefing with some people from the Defense Department over here, I said that we will decide that etiquette does not prevail, and speaking with your mouth full will be considered a military necessity. [Laughter]
Ms. Small. Something else, Mr. President. This afternoon, as soon as they leave here, they will be meeting with David Stockman and with Secretary Drew Lewis on transportation issues, and they will also be hearing from Secretary Schweiker from HHS. So, you know, if they ask you something really technical and—you know, they will be hearing from those people on those issues later on this afternoon.
The President. All right.
Virginia Gubernatorial Campaign
Q. Mr. President, may I ask you a Virginia question? As you know, we have one of the two Governors' races, I think, in the country this year, between Chuck Robb, otherwise known as "LBJ's son-in-law," and Marshall Coleman. Have you made specific plans to come into Virginia to campaign for Marshall?
The President. I understand I am scheduled to. I was scheduled there for a reception, and it had to be canceled because of the live broadcast. Yes, I am scheduled now for an appearance in his behalf.
Mr. Meese. 3 I think it's week after next.
The President. Yes.
3Counselor to the President Edwin Meese III.
Q. Do you know when it is exactly?
Mr. Meese. I think it's the 27th of October. That's my belief. But, Karna, we could find out for sure. Is that right, Pete?4
Mr. Roussel. Yes.
4 Deputy Press Secretary Peter Roussel.
Q. Is that in Tidewater—Norfolk, Virginia Beach area?
Mr. Roussel. I don't know about the locations they worked out President's Talks With Senators on AWACS
Q. Mr. President, did you make any converts this morning?
The President. Usually, I've found out they don't tell you whether you have or not when they go out. They wait, and you find out what they say to your people when they get outside whether they have or not. And some of them, very honestly, are really undecided and have heard this, and they want to take it back with everything else that they've heard on the other side and make their decision by themselves later.
So I don't press for that, and every one of them—there are no wrinkles in his sleeve when he goes out. [Laughter]
Q. You've got 51 names on that little list you have in your pocket. [Laughter]
The President. I wish I did. I wish I had a list in my pocket.
I don't know; I'm confident. And I think we're going to get it, because there are a number of them that have expressed themselves that regardless of their own personal feelings, they are concerned about interfering with the foreign policy effort that we're putting forth. Because we see this as very definitely a part of our ability to help in the peacemaking process over there in the Middle East; that the Saudi Arabians are very key to this. And we've had their help already, and so on, in things that lead us to believe that going forward at this and establishing this kind of a relationship with them will bear fruit.
The Palestinian Question
Q. Another Middle East question, sir. I see President Eisenhower's picture hanging in here. And I was in the Middle East last year for my newspaper and talked to a lot of people, including a lot of Palestinian Arabs, and they would often say that, "We remember Mr. Eisenhower with fondness. He seemed to understand the Arab cause."
We have the Palestinian problem in the news again with the comments by Presidents Carter and Ford. The autonomy talks are starting up again soon. Just interested in your general view of the Palestinian question. Do you think that these are people with a legitimate grievance? Is it something that goes back to the late forties and the founding of Israel? How do you see that problem?
The President. Well, I think wherever it may come from, you've got a million and a half people who are living there as homeless and refugees. I don't mean homeless in the sense of no shelter; that's being taken care of. But I think that problem—they have to be a part of the problem. And as those two gentlemen said, one of the keys is that you can't deal with someone or negotiate with someone as long as they maintain that position that they don't recognize Israel's right to exist as a nation.
Now, here again is one of the reasons we believe the Saudi Arabians can be a great help in changing that, changing that position, just as Egypt once changed their position. And, at the same time, I think that maybe they could be of help in broadening the representation of the Palestinians.
You know, the PLO is a self-announced voice for the Palestinians; no one elected them. And I think that it would be—that if this other takes place, if they acknowledge Israel's right to exist, that it ought to be broadened and there ought to be people-perhaps you could find leadership among some of the mayors of those communities on the West Bank and so forth. But that has to be a part of it.
Saudi Arabia's Role in the Middle East
Q. What kind of expectations do you have about what the Saudis might be willing to say about Israel's right to exist?
The President. Well, the best evidence that we have that—first of all, they're as concerned about the threat to the Middle East by the Soviet Union as, I think, we are.
They have seen those puppet governments installed around them with the proxy troops and so forth. They .have seen the ability of—now, with Iran in chaos and the Soviets in Afghanistan, they've seen the case with which the Kuwait oil installations were bombed. They know that they're vulnerable, their oil fields are vulnerable to such an attack.
But I think they want to be a part of the West. They associate more with our views and our philosophy.
In the Lebanon situation, when we'd sent Phil Habib over there, there came a point in which it was close to blowing up. The triggers were ready to be pulled. And he called us, and he told us of a gentleman from part of the establishment in Saudi Arabia who was here in the United States. He wasn't here on any official mission. He wasn't here in Washington. And we contacted him, that man, and on a Saturday afternoon, late afternoon, he was here in the White House, or in the Oval Office. We told him what it was we wanted and what we believed might forestall this blowup. And by evening, he was on a plane headed for Saudi Arabia, and he delivered our message to Prince Fahd. And within 12 hours, Prince Fahd was dealing with the Syrians and with the PLO. And Habib says there would have been no cease-fire without their intervention.
Now, this is what leads us to believe that with that kind of leadership and position in the Arab world, that if we go forward with this AWACS deal, that we will have further strengthened our credibility with them and our peacemaking ability in the Middle East. If we don't, I believe we could lose all credibility. And what could I say in trying to negotiate with them in the future? They could say, "Well, we don't know whether anything you tell us is right, because you may not be able to deliver."
And we think it's vital. This is why Sadat was so strong in support of this. And it's why the other day that group of 17 gentlemen that we had over in the White House for lunch, ranging from Henry Kissinger all the way back to people who'd been associated with administrations as far back as before Eisenhower, Democrat and Republican-all of them willing to go forward and stand out on the Portico with me and announce that they were in support of the AWACS sale on the belief that it was essential to Israel's security and essential to our security. And so this is why we're putting up the fight.
President's Talks With Senators on AWACS
Q. Mr. President, there have been some reports that you and/or Mr. Meese are giving away everything but Mrs. Reagan's new china to seal this bargain with the Senate. [Laughter] Would you comment on that generally and on, specifically, some charges that you either would run or would not run against Democrats who sided with you on this?
The President. I am delighted with that question and a chance to answer it. And incidentally, I'm going to preface it by taking Nancy off the spot. She didn't buy any china— [laughter] —and she didn't even get any contributions to buy china. The china itself was a gift from a foundation to the White House, as is most of the furniture in the White House—all the antiques and the paintings and so forth. And the company, a New Jersey company agreed to, because this foundation was buying it, to sell it at cost to them. So, the china is being a gift to the White House and, incidentally, the first new set of full china since Harry Truman's time.
But now, to get back to the other. No, we don't make deals. And I've said pretty much to everyone that we have over, and to the last four which made me late here, I said pretty much just what I've said to you about the necessity of this, plus the fact that I feel we can guarantee the security of the technology and the security of Israel in this. As a matter of fact, when Mr. Begin left here after his visit, and I told him what we were going to do, he told me he was going to maintain his position but he was not upset at all. And he left saying to others, not to us, but to others, that he believed he had the best understanding with us that he has had with any administration in Washington.
I don't know where these stories came from. Well, I know one that I will be honest about. This was back in the budget battle when the Boll Weevils were so stalwart in their support, it made it a bipartisan package. One day, one of them said, "You know, some of us, we wonder now after we've all been together on this," and this was before it had been passed even, he said, "We wonder if you're going to come down into our districts and campaign against us." And they didn't ask anything at all, but I volunteered how I actually feel. I said, "There's no way that I could go down and have any respect for myself and campaign against any of you individuals that have been doing what you've been doing."
Q. Would that presumably hold true for those who have sided with you on AWACS—
The President. I never said that about the AWACS deal. Q. Would you care to say something now? The President. No, it's never been asked and I'm quite sure that—there was a bond; those Boll Weevils kind of—there was almost a total agreement on ideology, on policy, and everything else with them. I think the AWACS deal can find people who could vote yes on that, then be against us on the budget and the tax program and everything else. We're still representing two differing policies.
MX Missile System
Q. Mr. President, let me bring up the MX issue if I might. Since your proposals were announced, General Jones and Senator Tower, among others, have questioned the survivability of missiles even in super-hardened sites. Since strategic weapons really get down to a question of perceptions in international affairs, is there a danger that this kind of reaction could undercut the credibility of your MX program with the rest of the world, particularly with Moscow?
The President. No, I don't believe so, because, first of all, the Air Force itself-there's been, I know, a lot of reporting of General Jones' opposition to this, his favoring the multiple shelters—but the Air Force is divided on that. Now, I agree that there is a vulnerability even in the hardened silos, but there is also the same vulnerability in the multiple shelters. It's as simple as this: What we're buying is some time while we try to narrow that window of vulnerability.
The Soviet Union—it will take them a few years to improve the accuracy and the power of their missiles, enough to make them vulnerable in those hardened silos. By the same token, if we put them in the multiple shelters, all they'd have to do there is build enough warheads to cover the whole area of shelters. They wouldn't try to pick out which one's got the missiles in it. They'd just destroy them all.
So, in either way, there is an ultimate vulnerability to either system. We feel that the other was so costly and so destructive, you might say, of the countryside and all, that as long as it was also going to be vulnerable, that we would proceed with this one which will buy us the time to, as I say, narrow the gap.
The only real defense so far that either side has with regard to intercontinental ballistic missiles is the threat that we both represent. In other words, if we balance them enough that they know that our retaliation could be more than they want to afford, then they'll restrain from a first strike. And I suppose the same thing holds with us, although we've never taken a position that we'd ever make a first strike.
In the meantime, we really mean that we're going to go forward with them and try to persuade them into a program of not limitation, but a program of actual reduction of these strategic weapons.
We will start in November the negotiation on theatre nuclear forces. Now, that doesn't mean the tactical weapons that will be used, soldiers against soldiers. Those are the theatre nuclear weapons like their SS20's, that are targeted in on every city in Europe. And there's no defense and nothing comparable on the NATO side to that.
So, we're hopeful that maybe some of the systems, the very systems we're talking about, won't ever have to be completed. But right now, all we've committed to is 36—those missiles going into the old Titan silos and some of the Minuteman 3 silos. And we're still studying what might be the way to use the other 64 or the way to base them. And we haven't ruled anything out or anything in on that.
European Peace Movement
Q. One other thing. You mentioned the theatre nuclear weapon negotiations in Europe. How great a danger do you perceive of the European peace movement that's growing up and that had a quarter of a million people gathered in Bonn last weekend? How can the United States capture the peace issue instead of having it used against our country?
The President. Well, I think that we're up against the result of a long-time propaganda campaign. I think that some of those—while some are maybe very well meaning, I think a great many of those demonstrators represent the same kind of people we've seen in some demonstrations in our own country, whose philosophy is a little different than most of ours. And I think the propaganda that has led to this, the ability to turn it on, can be traced back to the Soviet Union. But still, we haven't had any result as far as the Europeans—our allies, their governments, falling back or falling away from the installation of these weapons.
Farm Price Supports
Q. Mr. President, the farmers back home are bringing in very big crops now, and they're facing also very low prices—prices that are lower than the cost of production. And your administration is fighting the higher farm price supports. What do you say to farmers who are confronting this problem?
The President. Well, I know this in a non sequitur, but I grew up in an era in which the only thing the farmer ever worried about was not getting a good crop. And it seemed kind of strange to me that today they can get a bumper crop, and it destroys them instead of help[s] them.
One thing, I think that—and I've said this before—I believe that we need to cooperate in the creation of more world markets, so that a farmer can look forward to a bumper crop and know that there's a market out there for it. I think that you can't pull the rug out from under them in a program that's been instituted for about four decades or more. But what I would like to see us work toward is a free marketplace and let them be governed by the marketplace.
If we go back to the days when this started-grew out of the Great Depression-you'll find that only about 20 to 25 percent of agriculture was ever in the system of supports and limitations. And the other 75 to 80 percent of farming was showing, year after year, a per capita increase in the consumption of what it produced. The government-subsidized part was showing a reduction in the per capita consumption. And I think it's significant that prior to the Carter administration, under Earl Butz, the support program got down from several billion dollars to only about $600 million, and net farm increase in the country increased by 16 percent. And under the Carter administration when we went back—and it went back up to about $61/2 billion of price supports, net farm income decreased 14 percent.
So, I think the marketplace has proven itself if given a chance. But as I say, you can't just instantly say, "Well, you're out there on your own," not when they've based everything they do and all their planning on this other system. So, what we're trying to do is work with them toward a program that will, if we can, get back to the free marketplace. But at the same time, as I say, I believe the government has a function it can perform in helping to bring about an expansion of markets worldwide.
Saudi Arabia and Iran
Q. Mr. President, could you tell us in some more detail what you meant in your last press conference when you said that we would not permit Saudi Arabia to become another Iran?
The President. Yes, I said that because the question was asked in the sense of, "Well, what if Saudi Arabia went like Iran and they had our planes there and so forth?"
What I had in mind was that I don't believe that the Shah's government would have fallen if the United States had made it plain that we would stand by that government and support them in whatever had to be done to curb the revolution and let it be seen that we still felt that we were allied with them. But I think that the United States made it very evident that we weren't going to. As a matter of fact, we gave him very bad advice at the time and restrained him for some time.
I have been told by someone very knowledgeable and involved at that time, that there was a point at which the revolution, so-called, could have been headed off with the arrest of 500 individuals—just the arrest. They weren't executing people like they are now. And we advised against that.
And I suppose what I meant was that if we will make it plain that we recognize we have a stake in the Middle East and that we are going to stand by our friends and allies there, both Israel and those nations like Egypt and the Sudan and so forth, that I don't think that the same thing will happen, that kind of an overthrow would take place.
I think that if we, on the other hand, retreat and step back fearfully and say, "Well, we don't know what's going to happen in the Middle East, to Egypt or anyone else, and we better stay clear," then I think that we can bring about.-
Saudi Arabia and AWACS
Q. Would you be prepared to side openly with the ruling Saudis in case of a revolution there and help suppress it?
The President. My belief is that it won't happen if we're evident there. But again, as I should have said earlier, the fear that prompted that question was a fear of our technology failing into strange hands. Well, that is a groundless fear also, because the technology that will be involved in this sale is not the ultimate technology that we ourselves possess; that is equipment that is not part of the sale. It is an effective, sophisticated radar system, but it is nothing that can't be found in the British Nimrod, in the planes that Israel itself has put into that service, their own surveillance planes. And I think the Warsaw Pact with the Soviets is making progress with the same type of thing.
The thing that makes our own AWACS plane, when we use it, exceptional, is an additional piece of equipment. So, I think there wasn't really any need for their worrying about that or that question.
The Budget's Impact on Older Industrial Cities
Q. Mr. President, there's some concern in older industrial cities like Chicago that they're really going to get hit with a double whammy by your budget. First, they're going to be losing a lot in some domestic programs and second, that the great bulk of defense spending will be going to the South and to the West. And all the tax advantages for businesses will apply equally to the South and the West, and also that the severance taxes that energy-rich States are charging are reaping so many billions that they'll be able to give incentives to industry that a city like Chicago just can't give. Do you have any program for counteracting—[inaudible]?
The President. Well, I think we're conscious of where we can—without increasing the cost or lowering the quality—where we can give contracts. The Northeast is going to get them up there—particularly by way of the Navy buildup—is going to get additional work out of the defense program. It is true that the missiles and the planes are basically built both in the South and the West. That's been true of the airplane industry for quite some time, and yet not exclusively—there are subcontracts in the building of all of those planes and things that are spread around the country somewhat.
Actually, we can't pretend that this whole program—that everyone isn't going to have to share a little bit in what happens. But at the same time, we think that continued inflation is a bigger threat than anything we're doing and could be the ultimate destruction for all of us.
And we believe that our program is going to be successful. It already is bringing inflation down. It's in single digits now, and I was interested to see that our Nobel economies prize winner, Milton Friedman, has just been quoted as saying that he believes it'll be down to 6 percent next year.
Federal Reserve Board
Q. Mr. President, are you satisfied with the performance or the policies of the Federal Reserve Board now, in managing the money supply and the interest rates?
The President. Well, we know that we have to have a consistent monetary policy that doesn't do what we've done over the last few decades, of the roller coaster effect—of when unemployment gets out of hand and it looks like hard times, they flood the market with paper money. And then when that brings on inflation, then all of a sudden you pull in and tighten it down and you go the other way. This is what's been happening.
I do have one little criticism, and yet I can see how it happened. You realize that we can visit with them, but we can't impose on them. They're totally autonomous. But it is true, recently, that they have two lines going up, a kind of a bracket, following productivity in the country, and they are trying to keep the money supply between those two lines. It may fluctuate a little bit, but staying between those two lines. And sometime back, they fell below their bottom line in this. And then they were faced with the prospect of trying to have a stable monetary policy to help in the fight against inflation. They didn't know how to just get back up where they should be without it looking like when on Wall Street they would look at the money supply and see this surge, they'd say, "Oh, oh, here we go again," and start acting as if, well, it was the same old game being played.
But I think that gradually they have moved back up into that, and that's why you've seen two and a half points drop in the prime rate just in recent weeks—the last one being just a few days ago. I think you're going to see some of that kind of nibbling away at the high rates for the next few months. But I believe as we go through next year, we are going to see a definite fall, because there will be that fall in inflation.
The other part, of course, I could say, also, that we're penalized a little bit, too, because those interest rates have thrown our figures off somewhat on what the budget cuts will do or what our deficits will be because of the price we have to pay to pay for the deficits that are already there.
And may I remind you that in 1981, the year we've just concluded, fiscal year, was the year that we were promised the budget was going to be balanced. And the deficit is somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 to 60 billion dollars. I don't know just what the figure is for the off-budget deficits. Now, that's money that you have to go into the capital market and borrow, and I don't claim any responsibility for it, because we weren't running the show.
You know, something that none of you have mentioned very much that I think you might be interested in is that not only did they say that it would be balanced, but we've operated—and I believe this is probably the first time, maybe I'm wrong-we've operated a whole fiscal year without a budget. And right now, the leadership in the House side is making it look as if they're going to start onto the second year. There has been no budget for 1981. They have simply passed continuing resolutions of spending, and in this way there was no way to get the handle on the spending in '81, and that's why we have that size deficit.
But right now, we're now into 1982, and we still don't have a budget. And the first continuing resolution that came down came down at a rate that was higher than the rate that they themselves passed when they passed the budget cuts, which means that they're ignoring their own action in passing those budget cuts. And—[inaudible]—now, that if we continue on with these spending resolutions. And at the same time, they've taken away from the President the right to impound or hold back any of that spending.
Now, you ladies and gentlemen wouldn't like to start an editorial campaign to give the President the right of line item veto, would you? [Laughter]
Your Governors all have it; I had it as a Governor. And the States, most of them, have a balanced budget clause in their constitution, and it works. Why should Uncle Sam think it's above all of that?
The Line Item Veto
Q. Do you think you inherently have that right, Mr. President, not to spend money, as President?
The President. I think that as long as—I think the whole budget policy, let me answer it this way: The whole budget policy of the Federal Government is a kind of a Rube Goldberg thing that doesn't make as much sense as it does in any State in the Union, and that is, it's called the President's budget. But about 80 percent of it is mandated on the President by actions of Congress. And then the President sends over a suggested budget, and the Congress, with no regard for what the estimated revenues are going to be in the coming year, does whatever they want to do to it. And again, the President doesn't have line item. He has to accept the whole budget or none at all.
And let me just cite what seems to me to make sense. As Governor of California, it was called the Governor's budget. Every year a group of experts from the private sector and government met and estimated the revenues. And over 25 years of this custom in California, that group never missed by more than 1 percent their estimate of what the revenues would be in the coming year, and then that 1 percent was on estimating them too low. Never did they go overboard and say, "Oh, we're going to have a lot more money" than we ended up having.
Then the Governor—with all the requests from the various departments coming in, programs from the Congress—the Governor worked out the budget with his people and submitted it to the legislature. The legislature could take out anything they wanted to take out, and the Governor could not put it back in. But by the same token, the legislature could put in things and the Governor could veto those things out, line item. Then it went back, and the Congress, if they could get a two-thirds vote to override the veto, could put them back in, so that you had a double control working back and forth between Congress, or the legislature, and the Governor.
And the system, why something of that kind couldn't work—I suggested it to Tip O'Neill when I first came here, and he acted as if I was threatening the very province of Congress and taking away all their rights. Well, all their rights have given us a $1 trillion deficit. Now, why couldn't such a system of that kind at the Federal level be just as effective as it is at the State level? After all, the State of California is 10 percent of the population of the Nation.
But when you say that, yes, I think there should be some method of checking. There is no restraint on Congress passing any spending program they want. I could veto that program, but how many of the spending items are hung on as amendments to a bill that you can't veto? And some of the things that have been performed in the past, of hanging an amendment on, let's say, the social security payments—that's so farfetched an example, it didn't—but I mean like a welfare program that's very essential. And you can't veto the amendment, and you can't say no, and suddenly shut off the welfare checks.
Ms. Small. Mr. President, I just want to make one comment. The President hasn't had an opportunity to eat his lunch yet, and I thought if anybody had a question, maybe to direct to Mr. Meese just for a moment, to give the President an opportunity to eat.
The President. You ate your lunch. That's cheating. [Laughter]
Government Intrusion Into the People's Lives
Q. I can direct this question to Mr. Meese, as well, and perhaps if the President disagrees he can say so.
The President campaigned on a platform of getting the government off the backs of people, and yet we find the administration trying to make it more difficult to get information out of the government under the Freedom of Information Act. There are proposals advocated by the administration for preventive detention and for modifying the exclusionary rule to make it possible for government agents to break the law and to have their evidence admitted. There's talk about a change in the Executive order governing the CIA to enlarge the CIA's area of activity in domestic matters. Now, does this seem to you a contradiction to this pledge to get the government off the backs of people?
The President. I'm sorry; I'm eating. [Laughter] Go ahead.
Mr. Meese. I'm sure the President would answer it much better than I would.
The President. No.
Mr. Meese. Let me just say, first of all, a lot of the premises that you state are incorrect. We have actually gotten the government off of the backs of people amazingly well in just the first 10 mouths. For example, on regulations, the regulatory reform package I guess can best be summed up by looking at the Federal Register, which is about a third less the number of pages just because there are less than half as many proposed regulations this year than there were at this time a year ago. So that in terms of the kinds of regulations that impose upon individuals, labor and management, business and industry, we think we've made major strides in that regard.
Now, on the specifics you're talking about. The Freedom of Information Act, I think most people who have examined it would agree, can use some reform. We have—it has actually imposed a tax burden upon the public, and it's been misused by a lot of people. You take a person like Philip Agee, the renegade ex-CIA person. It's cost the government $500,000 to provide information to him under the Freedom of Information Act, which he then uses against our country. And I don't think this is what was intended by those of you—and I suspect most of you supported the Freedom of Information Act—and I don't think it's what was intended by Congress.
So, it's the reforms in this direction. As a matter of fact, some of the reforms are designed to make it easier for the news media to obtain information. And I think there's a great interest—I don't know whether Jon
Rose5 has talked with you yet?
Q. Yes, sir.
5Jonathan Rose, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Policy, Department of Justice.
Mr. Meese. But I think there's a great interest in working out with responsible members of the news media any problems that you have with the proposed reforms. That's one item.
Let's talk about the CIA, because that's easy. There is absolutely nothing in the proposed intelligence order which will expand the ability of the CIA to engage in domestic spying. That is totally false, and it's propaganda being put out by some staffers on the Hill who were part of Frank Church's infamous intelligence committee that was so destructive of our intelligence authorities some years ago.
Take the preventive detention, which is a name put upon a bail provision. The Constitution provides that bail shall be reasonable. What we're suggesting, what the Attorney General's task force has brought up, is that there would be a reasonable standard of bail. And we think that to take a person who has proved, by committing another crime while out on bail for a first crime, that they should be let out on bail again and again, we don't think that's reasonable. So, we're looking for some modifications of bail, to look at the protection of society, along with the ability of people to get out prior to their trial.
And finally, on the exclusionary rule, I don't think anybody who's studied the exclusionary rule would believe that that's been beneficial to society. It does not allow illegal acts by police. What it does is, it provides a good faith rule. Many times a police officer has to make a decision in 30 seconds, or at least in 5 minutes at the most, on whether he will make a search or a stop or something like that. And he does it under all the applicable law at that time. Two years later, by a 4-3 decision in a State court or a 5-4 decision of the United States Supreme Court, they decide that he was wrong, and they change the law. And it applies retroactively to what that officer did. So, what we're suggesting is that a rule of reason be established to say that if the officer was acting in good faith under the applicable laws of that time, then he should not be penalized and the evidence should not be excluded against an obviously guilty person.
So, in essence, I don't think any of these moves are inconsistent with our ideas of getting the government off the backs of the people.
The President. May I add—and incidentally, because I saw you noticing that was saccharin I put in there, and I have pledged I will not give any of it to Canadian rats. [Laughter]
Just one example, and I'm going to take this, on the exclusionary rule, because California had a classic case of this a few years ago. Two narcotics agents in San Bernardino, California, had enough evidence to get a warrant to search a home, a couple living there that they believed was peddling heroin. And they searched the home and they didn't find the heroin. But as they were leaving, one of them, on a hunch, went back to the baby's crib. There was a baby. He took its diapers off and there was the heroin, stashed inside the diapers. And they went to court. And the judge threw the case out of court on the basis that the baby's constitutional rights had been violated by taking its diapers off without its permission. [Laughter]
And I told that story publicly once, and one of the Secret Service agents assigned to me came up afterward, and he said, "I thought you'd like to know, I was one of those narcotic agents, and that's when I quit, changed jobs, and became a Federal agent." [Laughter]
Strategic Nuclear Weapons
Q. Mr. President, I'd like to take you back to strategic weapons in Europe again, a couple of things you said. I guess I think that some of the people in Europe who are opposed to some of our policies are afraid that they may wind up as kind of proxy victims in a war between us and the Soviet Union, which—a fear that may be a little more, seem a little more plausible because of all the conversation about integrated battlefields and limited use of nuclear weapons. And I wonder—you must think about this-do you believe that there could be a limited exchange of nuclear weapons between us and the Soviet Union, or that it would simply escalate inevitably?
The President. I don't honestly know. I think, again, until someplace—and I know that all over the world there's research going on to try and find the defensive weapon against strategic nuclear weapons. There never has been a weapon that someone hasn't come up with a defense. But except in this one, the only defense is, "Well, if you shoot yours, we'll shoot ours." And if you still had that kind of a stalemate, I could see where you could have the exchange of tactical weapons against troops in the field without it bringing either one of the major powers to pushing the button.
The intermediate thing—and this is to call your attention to where SALT was so much at fault—is that we have our allies there who don't have an ocean between them, so it doesn't take intercontinental ballistic missiles, it just takes ballistic missiles of the SS-20 type. Well, the SS-20's will have, with what they're adding, 750 warheads—one of them capable of pretty much leveling a city. And they can sit right there and that's got all of Europe, including England and all, targeted. And the only comparable thing that has come along is now our proposal. And this is what's at argument there, is to provide and put on European soil the Pershings and the cruise missiles, so that, again, you've got this same kind of a stalemate, although, even so, ours do not have the range to really reach the depths of Russia. Russia's too far expanded, and the rest of Europe is too concentrated, so they can destroy where we can't.
And the SS-20's were not even considered a strategic weapon, because they didn't cross an ocean. In that SALT treaty there was no restriction on them, just as there was no restriction where they called our old B-52's strategic bombers, they didn't call their Backfire bombers, and we agreed to that in that treaty.
But these are the weapons, these—now what I call strategic, these theatre weapons, that are in the theatre of war, potential war, but would be used strategically, that we want to limit, and that's what we're going to start talking about on November 20th. This does not touch upon the actual tactical weapon, the thing that's fired out of one of our 8-inch guns, a shell that would be fired. And there we would kind of be on the other side of the fence, because the conventional supremacy of the Soviet Union is so great at this point that if—and I wouldn't be surprised if they would throw this at us in the negotiations—that if they should say, "Well, let's do away with the tactical weapons, too," then what's to stop them? You know they outnumber us in every conventional weapon, thousands of tanks, more than the NATO defense can have. At the moment, the only stalemate to them is the tactical nuclear weapon that would be aimed at those tanks, if they ever started to roll forward.
Q. Do you think there could be a battlefield exchange without having buttons pressed all the way up the line?
The President. Well, I would—if they realized that we—if we went back to that stalemate, only because our retaliatory power, our seconds, or our strike at them after their first strike would be so destructive that they couldn't afford it, that would hold them off.
I do have to point out that everything that has been said and everything in their manuals indicates that, unlike us, the Soviet Union believes that a nuclear war is possible. And they believe it's winnable, which means that they believe that you could achieve enough superiority, then your opponent wouldn't have retaliatory strike capacity.
Now, there is a danger to all of us in the world as long as they think that. And this, again, is one of the things that we just want to disabuse them of. I feel very strongly about the negotiations for reduction. But I also feel that one of the things that's been lacking in the last several years in any negotiations was they sat on their side of the table and had nothing to lose. And we had nothing to threaten them with. Now, I think that we can sit down and maybe have some more realistic negotiations because of what we can threaten them with.
There's one thing sure. They cannot vastly increase their military productivity because they've already got their people on a starvation diet as far as consumer products are concerned. But they know our potential capacity industrially, and they can't match it. So, we've got the chip this time, that if we show them the will and determination to go forward with a military buildup in our own defense and the defense of our allies, they then have to weigh, do they want to meet us realistically on a program of disarmament or do they want to face a legitimate arms race in which we're racing.
But up until now, we've been making unilateral concessions on our side, allowing ours to deteriorate, and they've been building the greatest military machine the world has ever seen. But now they're going to be faced with that we could go forward with an arms race and they can't keep up.
Arms Sales to Foreign Countries
Q. Mr. President, if I could go back to the AWACS issue for a moment
The President. All right.
Q. You were discussing earlier restrictions, legislative restrictions on the powers of the Presidency. Do you think it's a good idea that the present legislation gives Congress a veto power over major foreign arms sales by the President, or do you think this is an encroachment, intrusion on the President's flexibility to conduct these affairs?
The President. Well, I think out of what happened in the aftermath of Vietnam, I think the Congress has gone too far. It's always been recognized in this country that the executive branch is more or less entrusted with foreign policy, because you can't run foreign policy through legislation. And while there may be some safeguards that should remain—I wouldn't be averse to that; we do have a multiple kind of government—I do think that the President has got to have some leeway with regard to negotiating and some ability to say, across a table, this is what we will do or what we won't do. And those that he's dealing with know that he has the authority to say that.
What I meant would happen to us now, if they do this, is that how, how do I then go forward with this quiet diplomacy of trying to bring the Arab states into a peacekeeping process in which they can sit there and say, "Well, we don't know whether you can deliver on what you're talking about. You're not the fellow that's in charge; Congress is."
Supreme Court Jurisdiction
Q. Mr. President, speaking of separation of powers, a lot of lawyers and judges have worried about bills in Congress to limit the jurisdiction of the Federal courts in areas like busing and school prayer, affirmative action. How do you feel about that, because they might come to your desk? And what sort of advice will you seek from people in deciding whether to sign or veto that sort of legislation if it does pass?
The President. Well, I could quote Thomas Jefferson, who even back in his time warned that the courts were getting out of hand and that the courts, if they did take powers that properly belonged to the legislature, could upset the whole balance. And I think there's evidence that that's happened.
Let me give you an example and throw one at you right now, without getting into the specifics of those particular issues. We have an election—fair elections commission now, and we have rules and regulations with regard to contributions and the declaration of the same. And a Federal judge has just ruled that one political party in the United States does not have to obey those rules, the Communist Party.
The Communist Party does not have to reveal its list of contributors because those contributors might be politically harassed by our own government. This was his reasoning. And therefore, any Democrats and Republicans, they've got to sign up and their names go in to the [Federal] Election Commission, but the Communist Party can get its money any way it can get it, and no one knows where or how.
Well now, how can we recognize that? If their support is such that it would be so embarrassing, then maybe they shouldn't be a political party. And yet, we've never said that. We've always recognized the right of anyone to be [in] a political party. But then, if they're going to be, then don't they have to live by the same rules the other parties do?
And these are the type of things apropos of the things we were talking about in the exclusionary rule. How many people really stop to think that that's no law, that that is nothing but a case law? That was a decision handed down by a judge, and then other judges felt bound by precedent, and so it has become a matter of case law. But no legislature and no Congress ever passed that law. For example, I happen to believe that the court ruled wrongly with regard to prayer in schools, for example. The first amendment doesn't say anything about that. The first amendment says the Congress shall do nothing to abridge the practice of religion or to create a religion. And yet, we're still a country where it says "In God We Trust" on our coins and over the doors of the Supreme Court. Wasn't this a case, maybe, of the court going beyond what the Constitution actually says?
Busing. Again, I think this whole thing maybe has grown out of the extent to which the Federal Government has injected itself into something that traditionally was believed to belong at the lowest local level, the school district, that there, where the parents and those hired to teach their children could get together and work out how they wanted their children educated. To say nothing of the fact that I think busing has proven a failure. Now, I support fully the theory behind busing or what prompted it, the idea of equality of opportunity, no segregation. And yet, we've got a reverse segregation.
I think it's significant that Mrs. Brown, the woman who brought about the desegregation of schools with her decision, her personal story—maybe you're all aware of it. It's, I think, very interesting. When she was a little girl they lived next to a school. But then, in the racial prejudice of the times in areas in the United States, she had to walk about 1/2 mile beyond that school to go to the school that she was permitted to go to. And on cold and wet days and so forth, she told of crying in this long walk when the school was right next door. So, she—the Brown decision—she started this fight after she grew up so that her little girl wouldn't have to do this. And not too long ago, she said, "What I didn't have in mind is that my little girl now is picked up in a bus and taken past the school near our home and taken to a school several miles away." And she said, "I didn't have that in mind." [Laughter]
Ms. Small. Mr. President, I know that your schedule is very tight here. You have a meeting coming up in just a couple of minutes, and—
The President. Yes, but I want to finish my dessert. [Laughter]
Ms. Small. I know you do. I just thought by way of summary, it would be kind of nice to make this a two-way street. Maybe one of you could tell the President some of the concerns in your area. Jerry, we haven't heard from you. Could you just tell us-some of your readers down there in the San Diego area, what they're maybe saying about some of the administration programs? We could hear from your side.
Q. I'd much rather ask the questions. [Laughter]
Ms. Small. Oh, I know. I just wanted him to have a chance to finish up here.
The President. I must say I enjoyed reading in the Cleveland Plain Dealer the other day the page of letters to the editor that was contained in our news summary.
Ms. Small. We are getting some feedback. I just thought someone might have some comments to feed back to us.
Voting Rights Act
Q. Well, I would say that in Virginia, Mr. President, we are very concerned about the Voting Rights Act which has deprived the citizens of the city of Richmond the right to run their own government for about 10 years now. And I think, generally speaking, the prevailing mood of the people in Virginia is to hope that you will continue to oppose extension of the Voting Rights Act in anything like its present form. That's my message for the day. [Laughter]
The President. Well, I had always believed and somehow I thought the Voting Rights Act should have been nationwide, rather than picking out certain areas and so forth. But then, I must say it was brought to my attention recently after I'd made a statement about this again, that some said that they were opposed to this because it would make it so cumbersome—and I hadn't thought about this—that it might be impossible to enforce. So, we dropped that position. But I know that the House is working on one and, I think, has maybe been pretty extreme in what it's done. I'm hopeful that the Senate is going to be more reasonable in what's done.
It has become a great symbol, I must say, to the minority communities, and I think this should be taken into consideration. But I agree with you that the perpetuating of punishment for sins that are no longer being committed is pretty extreme.
Ms. Small. Mr. President, I'm told that people are waiting for you for your next appointment
The President. Yes.
Ms. Small. —and I know things have been kind of delayed, but we certainly do appreciate your taking this much time to be with us today and answer all of our questions.
The President. Well, I am most grateful to all of you for the opportunity and sorry to rush away, but just between us, Mr. Kohl, the leader of the opposition party in Germany is waiting in the lobby out there.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Thank you all. We ought to schedule one of these for all afternoon sometime. [Laughter]
Everybody else has the fun.
Note: The interview began at 12:15 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. The transcript of the interview was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on October 17.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Working Luncheon With Out-of-Town Editors Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/246416