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Telephone Interview With Lockwood R. Doty of Washington Broadcast News, Inc.

August 24, 1985

Mr. Doty. Good morning, Mr. President.

The President. Good morning, Dick. Haven't talked to you since our lunch at the White House.

Mr. Doty. That's right, sir. And that was a good experience and this will be, too. And I thank you very much for talking to us.

The President. I'm pleased to do it.

Tax Reform and the Federal Budget

Mr. Doty. Mr. President, you said you will launch a hard campaign to get Congress to pass your tax reform package when you and Congress return to Washington. What will you do first?

The President. Well, we're working on the schedule of appearances and so forth. I will be taking this issue to the people. I think they're the ones who have to show us exactly what they think. And according to all the evidence we have so far, the people are pretty much united that tax reform is exactly what we need. I think they have been misinformed to a certain extent by some pressure groups that want one item or the other taken out of the tax reform program. But we feel we have a good reform there, and it'll be the first one, literally, that we've ever had in the income tax.

Mr. Doty. How do you plan to persuade Congress to accept both budget cuts and tax reform, particularly now that you're getting some negative reaction, not only from Democrats but also from Republicans in both House and Senate?

The President. Well, let me point out one thing: Actually, on tax reform there is no argument about whether we should have it or not in the Congress. The approach is completely bipartisan. The only areas of disagreement have to do with some features of the program—whether it should do one thing or the other.

Now, the same thing is true of the budget. It is true that they have gotten together, and before they went home they passed a budget resolution in the Congress. It's a nonbinding resolution; it is a compromise. I still think that the budget we originally submitted was the best for dealing with the deficit problem and reducing government spending. But we now have this one, and, again, if there is disagreement, it would be over particular items—where to cut, for example, and how much. I'm going to be watching it very carefully because each one of the features has to be augmented by legislation and appropriation bills, and I'm prepared to veto at any time if they start to add in things that would increase the deficit. And I know that there are a number of spending bills that are still before the Congress.

Mr. Doty. President Harry Truman once kept Congress in session when the Members wanted to go home. Do you have any plans for keeping them in session, perhaps through Christmas and New Year's, in order to force tax reform or spending cuts?

The President. No. And, Dick, I think I'd have to tell you that if I did have any ideas of that kind, I don't think I would mention them now. But, no, we haven't considered that. We've just thought that we're going to do everything we can to aid the Congress in dealing with these and getting the plate cleared this year.

South Africa

Mr. Doty. Mr. President, here in Washington, the uproar over apartheid in South Africa is reaching something of a crescendo and there's talk of economic sanctions against South Africa. If Congress passes such sanctions, what will be your reaction: veto or no veto?

The President. Well, Dick, I've always refused to say whether I will specifically veto something before it gets to my desk because you never know just exactly what it's going to look like when it gets there. I will tell you that I am basically opposed to the idea of punitive sanctions. I think in this particular case—South Africa—they would hurt the very people we want to help. They would have an effect on the economy that would result in more unemployment, setbacks in the gains that have been made by labor and by the blacks in South Africa. And so, I can tell you I'm standing back and looking with a kind of jaundiced eye at what may come to me. But then, the final decision as to whether to veto or not will depend on exactly what does hit my desk.


Mr. Doty. What do you plan to do about foreign footwear imported into this country: leave it alone or cut it back?

The President. Well, that's a decision that I have to give an answer to in the next several days. I'll answer that in a broad brush stroke also. I am opposed to protectionism. Protectionism is a two-way street, and you may help some particular industry with protectionism or some group of employees, and you find that you've done it at the expense of other employees. And I recall very well in the Great Depression back in the early thirties when this country did turn to protectionism with the mistaken belief that it might help somehow in the Depression. It was then the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill, and all it did was expand the Depression more worldwide than it was and make it worse and prolong it. So, I have to tell you, basically, I don't think that protectionism is the way to go. We're trying to talk to our trading allies about a meeting to get trade more open, more fair, between all countries—open markets in all countries.

U.S.-Soviet Relations

Mr. Doty. Mr. President, when you meet with Soviet leader Gorbachev, are there proposals that you'll make to him to ease U.S.-Soviet tension?

The President. Well, I'm looking forward to the talks with him, and I hope that it won't be just a session of trying to make some agreements on particular, specific issues, but that we can get right down to discussing the problems between us and an agenda for the future so that we can eliminate the hostilities and the suspicions, if that's possible. There's no question but that the Soviet Union has made it plain that they are embarked on an expansionist program. They believe in the one-world Communist state, the world revolution. But at the same time, you have to wonder if this is not based on their fear and suspicion that the rest of us in the world mean them harm.

Now, I think that we can present evidence to show that we have no such intention and if we could discuss things from the standpoint that we're the only two nations in the world, I believe, that could start world war III. We're also the only two nations in the world that could bring about world peace, and I would think that that would be our task in history—to deal with that problem. And I'm going to do my best to present the evidence that would show and prove that this country has no intention of taking hostile action against them and also, however, that we believe we have good reason to believe—to think—that they do have hostile intent—their expansionism worldwide, their invasion of Afghanistan, and so forth. But I wish we could get that out on the table and, hopefully, reduce the suspicions between us.

Mr. Dory. Thank you, Mr. President, very, very much. It's been—

The President. Thank you, Dick. My best to your wife.

Mr. Doty.—a pleasure to talk to you again, sir. Thank you.

Note: The interview was conducted at 9:16 a.m. from the Washington, DC, studios of Washington Broadcast News. The President was at Rancho del Cielo, his ranch near Santa Barbara, CA. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview, which was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on August 26.

Ronald Reagan, Telephone Interview With Lockwood R. Doty of Washington Broadcast News, Inc. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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