The President-Elect's News Conference in Los Angeles
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here. Good morning, I have a statement that you will be given but that I will read for the sound media.
George and I are glad to be here today, especially under the current circumstances, and since this news conference is live, I think this is a good time to thank, again, all of those who worked and voted on our behalf.
You all gave us a great victory and I can assure all of those I'm speaking to now that we won't disappoint you. And before I begin taking questions, I know that you're interested in the transition and what its status is.
We've already begun to work, putting together an administration and we'll begin immediately on the job of translating campaign promises into reality. I'm turning again to Bill Casey to head up the latter effort, as chairman of the transition executive committee. Bill will also serve as chairman of the interim foreign policy advisory board.
I want to thank Bill for all he did to make this victory possible, both in the early primary days and in the general election. Now, he's asked to go back to his law firm, but he has agreed to serve as chairman of these two committees as well.
I'm asking Anne Armstrong, former Ambassador, who was our campaign co-chairman, to serve as vice chairman of the transition executive committee.
And I'm pleased that Senator Paul Laxalt, our campaign chairman - someone that we're both so indebted to for all that he has meant to this campaign - has agreed to organize and chair a Congressional advisory committee to work with us throughout the entire transition process.
The director of the transition team will be Ed Meese, who was campaign chief of staff; deputy directors, serving under Ed, will be Mike Deaver, James Baker, Richard Wirthlin, William E. Timmons, Verne Orr and Drew Lewis. Senior advisers will be Caspar Weinberger, Martin Anderson and Richard Allen. Director of personnel management will be Pendleton James, president of E.P. James & Co., an executive search firm. Other transition officials will be named in the next two weeks.
Now, I'm appreciative that President Carter has moved swiftly to make this transition both easy and affective. He has named his chief of staff, Jack Watson, to work with Mr. Meese in effecting an orderly transition. Other officials of the Carter administration have already indicated they are anxious to cooperate in the transition.
In a separate area, that of the interim foreign policy board, I'm most grateful that three prominent Democrats have agreed to work with us. They are Senator Henry M. Jackson, Senator Richard Stone and Edward Bennett Williams.
And as I promised during the campaign, I will work hard to rebuild a bipartisan base for American foreign policy. The board will receive recommendations from a group of 120 distinguished foreign policy and defense policy advisers before it reports to me in January. And I am requesting that it begin, today, its work of assessing the major foreign policy challenges that we must address.
Members of the board announced earlier include former President Gerald Ford, Senator John Tower, Henry Kissinger, Gen. Alexander Haig, Gov. William P. Clements, Caspar Weinberger, Eugene B. Rostow, Donald Rumsfeld, George Shultz, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, John J. McCloy, Anne Armstrong and Richard V. Allen.
And now, both of us are here and available for whatever your questions might be.
Q: Governor, you had said during the campaign that you would like to abolish the Department of Energy and the Department of Education - the two new departments. What are you going to do in terms of appointing Cabinet officials? Are you going to appoint heads of these departments while you think about abolishing them?
A: Well yes, these departments exist and of course you're going to have to have heads to the departments. Let me make it also plain that I am well aware that in both of those new Cabinet-level departments, there are functions - legitimate functions - that have existed for a long time and that were then incorporated in those.
So, when you talk about questioning whether a Cabinet-level department should exist as it is today, that does not mean that you are throwing out the legitimate functions which have always been performed by Government and that should continue to be, but that have since just been incorporated in those departments.
Q: Governor, for South American press, I would like to ask you if you regard, by yourself, your Government as an expression of the national unity of the United States, or it is the incident of another groups - minorities or entrepreneurs? What is the position by yourself? It's a big flame of the national Government unified for the first time in this latest years? That's my first question. My second is, why with the South Americans the journalists are absent in the news press in Washington in the White House. If you will put a remedial to that situation? Thank you President.
A: To answer your first question, I have only one concept - if I understand the question correctly - I have only one concept of this job: I think the President and the Vice President are the only two people in Washington who have been elected to represent all the people. Others there have a responsibility for districts, for states, as well as the good of the country too. But there are two people that are there who were chosen by all the people to represent all of them.
With regard to the countries of South America, Central America and here on the North American continent our two neighbors, I've repeatedly made it plain that I think over the years we have let relationships deteriorate. And this should not be. And we are going to make every effort to bring together, by way of bilateral agreements and so forth, the peoples of the Americas so that North and Central and South America can be united in their determination to be free.
Q: Governor, since Mr. Allen resigned from your campaign in the last four days to spare you embarrassment - he said - your reappointment of him, today, to the transition staff, suggests that you still have confidence in Mr. Allen. Have you made any inquiries into the charges against him? And do you believe he's been cleared?
A: Yes, our people have and we find absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever. As a matter of fact, several major newspapers have come to the same conclusion after this matter was brought up. We found no conflict of interest. We found nothing that should change our mind about him. And I might say that he has the full support of the people he's been working with -those many scholars and others who've been advising us in the field of foreign policy.
Q: Those of us who've traveled with you over the last several months have been trying to pin you or your staff down on a schedule of press conferences, if and when you won the office. Now that you've done it, can you tell us how often you will hold press conferences, once you assume the Presidency?
A: Well, I don't think that's a detail we've settled on but, again, if you'll look back at the record, we were - and I was - quite available as Governor and - to the press - and consider this as a part of letting the people know what's going on in Government. So we'll do our utmost to have them on a fairly regular and consistent basis.
Q: During the course of the campaign, Ambassador Bush said that if he gained your confidence during the campaign, he would have ''tons to do'' and if not, he'd be going to a lot of funerals. From what you've said ...
A: (Mr. Bush) If I said that, I'm sorry. Q. ... he seems to have gained your confidence. Are you expecting him to have a major role? If so, can you define it for us and will he have an office in the White House or will it be at E.O.B. - at the Executive Office Building?
A: (Mr. Reagan) Well, let me say you're asking for details here. I said earlier - and I thought I had covered that. No, he's not going to be going to a lot of funerals. (At this point Mr. Bush made an inaudible comment, drawing a chuckle from Mr. Reagan.) Maybe we'll take turns. But what are we laughing about? No, it - I feel very definitely that it would be a waste of a valuable asset to look upon that position as anything other than a definite aid - and the experience that he has had in Government. But to say that at this point we have sat down and talked to this and worked it out, no, that again has got to be part of the transition process - when we have an opportunity to do it.
Q: Governor Reagan, what is your evaluation about the commitment of Turkey as a NATO ally to the Western security, and are you going to increase economic and military aid to that country when you take office?
A: Well, again now, you're getting me into positions that I think are going to be the result of more thought and consultation than we've been able to do in a campaign. But I think all of us have to recognize that Turkey and Greece -and I would hope that the problems between them, that if we could in any way help ease that situation will be eased because that is the Southern flank of our NATO line, and therefore is most important to our own national security.
Q: Governor Reagan, in light of the Reagan steamroller effect, you said a little bit earlier that you would seek a bipartisan base for foreign policy. Would that indicate that you might consider putting a Democrat on your Cabinet staff, or in the Cabinet, a Cabinet-level Democrat?
A: That could very well be. I've made no decisions on that and this, again, would be getting into discussing individuals. We haven't done that as yet, but I very definitely want, in foreign policy particularly, I want the world to know that there is no political division that affects our foreign policy.
Q: Governor, concerning the American hostages again, do you expect to reveal your specific ideas to President Carter during this transition period and offer them as suggestions to ending the crisis?
A: Well, the President has very graciously offered us both briefings, which we think we will take advantage of, naturally. And I think if there is any opportunity, or if out of those briefings comes any thought on our part that we could suggest anything that would be helpful, we certainly would do that.
On the other hand, as I've said before, we don't want to seem to be trying to invade the province of the President, who is still President. And I hope, from the news reports that we have seen, that the Iranians will not have any ideas that there will be profit to them in waiting any period of time. We want those people home.
Q: Sir, if your ideas are vastly different from President Carter's, would you prefer to hold on and hold back until you take office? A. No, not if I thought for one minute that it could by one minute move up their release.
Q: Governor, among America's allies there seems to be a bit of concern over how the foreign policy will change. What can you tell America's allies in Western Europe about America's foreign policy now that you've taken over? And are there certain misconceptions you feel about yourself among the people of Western Europe?
A: Well, I think that's very possible. I think in a campaign, when they have to have translated into their own language campaign rhetoric and so forth, there's got to be a certain element of confusion about the participants in the game over here. But I want them to know, and we will make it plain to them when it is our opportunity to do so, that we intend to consult, we intend to confer with them on major decisions. We believe in the importance of the NATO alliance and we'll do everything we can to reassure them that we're not going it alone. We want to restore confidence in us and that they can have trust in our word, and that we do consider that alliance very important to the United States.
Q: Governor, if President Carter's attacks on you have compromised your position with your allies, do you think that George Bush might have a specific job to do in that direction, in talking to foreign powers? A. Well, I know that George can be most helpful in that, and will be.
Q: Governor, now that the Republicans have control of the Senate, there is already an effort under way to prevent Howard Baker from becoming the Senate majority leader. Do have confidence in Baker in that role, and would you support him?
A: I not only have confidence in Howard Baker, but I have been informed by members of the Senate that there is no friction and there is no move going forward to change in any way that his position is solid. He will be the majority leader of the Senate.
Q: Governor, will you permit the Moral Majority to have any role in signing off on your decisions about the Cabinet members? A. Well, the only one who officially has a role in signing off on that is Senate ratification of Cabinet members. On the other hand, this does not mean, as I've said, that we are not going to utilize all the input we can with regard to having a Cabinet that will, first of all, be made up of people who are the best we can find with qualification for the jobs. I think they understand that. And we will welcome any input that any group, or any individual has, with this regard. And that will be a definite part of the transition.
Q: Governor, have you had any discussions to date with the Democratic leaders in the Congress? And how do you plan to work with them in implementing your program?
A: Well, no, in this campaign I can't say that I've had contact with Democratic members of the Congress. But I have had a contact since in the two that I named who are a part of our transition team, in foreign policy, two Senators. But, again, based on my previous experience, I recognize the need for bipartisanship there on getting necessary legislation, and certainly intend to make contact with their leadership also, and with their members, just as I have been meeting throughout this campaign at every opportunity with the Republican members of the House and Senate.
Q: Do you plan to announce your Cabinet by the first week in December, and do you hope to release the names all at once or release them one by one? And is there a specific effort to find minorities or blacks to fill any of the Cabinet posts?
A: These will be considerations, of course, because I think it should be, in addition to being well-qualified - and I'm sure there are well qualified people in various ethnic divisions, racial divisions and all. And yes, we shall be looking at that. To the first part of your question, we hope by late November or early December to be able to announce our choices for the Cabinet.
Q: Governor, the relationship that France and the Soviet Union have till now seems to have bothered President Carter. Does the privileged relationship that Mr. Giscard d'Estaing has with Mr. Brezhnev bother you?
A: No, but I also hope that the United States and President Giscard and our administration can have, will be very close and that they will recognize that we look upon them as a very close friend.
Q: Governor, the situation in Northern Ireland has been an irritant in relations between the United States and the United Kingdom; can you tell me what your approach will be towards that situation and can you specifically say if you will be reviewing the decision of the State Department to suspend the sale of U. S. weapons to the police force in Northern Ireland.
A: Well, I can't answer specifically on something of that kind, again, until I've had an opportunity to look more. But I would say this - with the name of Reagan - that the United States cannot intervene or interfere, but the United States, I think, should make it plain that if there is any way that we can be helpful, we would be more than eager to do so, because I think it's a very tragic situation.
Q: Do you plan to introduce any of your proposals to the lame-duck session of Congress, or such a cut in Federal spending? A. I think that some of our own Congressmen - and now that we have a majority in one House, in the Senate, I think that there are proposals that I was talking about and many times referred to that were already in discussion or in legislative form. And I'm quite sure that as the Congress reconvenes that they'll go forward with those, and I'll be delighted to see them do it.
Q: Governor, you'll be taking office at an older age than any President in history. Are you prepared to say today whether you intend to be a one-term President, or have you not ruled out seeking re-election in four years? A. No, I haven't thought beyond the term to which I have been elected. And if there is any question, I feel just fine.
Q: Sir, you staked much of your campaign on your economic prescription for the country. Now that you've been elected, can you tell us how quickly you expect to move on your economic program and how quickly the American people can expect results on it?
A: I expect to move as swiftly as possible. I think this is the most important thing, I think it was the issue of the campaign; I think it is what the American people told us with their votes they wanted. And so we'll move instantly on that. And if the Congress - I know there are measures before the Congress with regard to some of the features, tax cuts and so forth. It'll be just fine with me if they don't wait, if they go forward with those in this interim period.
Q: Governor, you were obviously elected with millions and independent votes, do you still feel totally wedded to the Republican Party platform? And will you specifically push for passage of an antiabortion amendment to the Constitution?
A: I am - I ran on the platform; the people voted for me on the platform; I do believe in that platform, and I think it would be very cynical and callous of me now to suggest that I'm going to turn away from it. Evidently, those people who voted for me - of the other party or of independents - must have agreed with the platform also.
Q: Governor, given the size of your victory, there are a number of people who were saying that it's being interpreted as a mandate for considerable change. Is there anything that you would say to those Democrats or Republicans, liberals and moderates, who feel potentially disenfranchised by your political views? Is there anything that you would say to reassure them?
A: Well I don't think that anyone is disenfranchised by my views. I know that, for example, through the campaign the issue of the equal rights amendment constantly came up, and I tried to make it plain at every instance that if you will read the Republican platform, it has never spoken more strongly with regard to equal rights for women - and I feel that way myself.
The only difference of opinion was whether an amendment, that in over eight years has not been able to secure ratification of the states, or even if it could - if the amendment was the best and the most practical way of achieving those equal rights - and I have pointed to my own record, here in this state, of what we did by statute.
Now, I am going to aggressively pursue the subject of equal rights for women. It's significant, I think, that 13 of the 15 states who haven't ratified that amendment have Democratic majorities in their legislatures, and with a Democratic majority in Congress and a Democratic President, they still were not able to get those states to ratify that amendment.
So those who chose to believe that my feeling about the amendment - during this campaign - meant opposition to equal rights for women were absolutely wrong and I think in some instances many of them knew that. Because my record is clear and I've made my assertion to you of what we're going to do.
Q: Governor, there are reports out of Washington this morning quoting senior Administration officials as saying that President Carter might be prepared to take unpopular actions to free the hostages. Is there any concern on your part that, as a lame duck President, Mr. Carter might be ready to knuckle under to Iranian demands? And would you counsel him not to?
A: Well, he several times has made the statement that he would not do anything that violated the honor of country, or our interests, and we have to accept those statements that he will do that. And so I don't think there's any place for me to intervene in that regard.
Q: Governor, do you intend to pursue the Camp David peace process? And would you still characterize the P.L.O. - as you did about a year ago - as a terrorist organization?
A: Yes, I think the P.L.O. has proven that it is a terrorist organization. And I have said repeatedly I separate the P.L.O. from the Palestinian refugees. No one ever elected the P.L.O.
And yes I intend to do, again - and to cite the other situation we discussed earlier - whatever can be - the United States can do. We don't intend to mandate or dictate a settlement, but whatever we can do to promote peace in the Middle East, that we're going to do.
Q: Governor, will you meet with Prime Minister Begin when he comes to the United States, within the next couple of weeks as he plans to do? Would you invite him up to you ranch, for instance?
A: I think here is a question that has to await some of our transition process. I would not - there's a delicate point here as to whether you seem to be, again, putting yourself in the place that is not yet mine, the Presidency, and I wouldn't want to do anything, in any way, to give that impression. And, again, I recognize the necessity of contact, but deciding when that is proper and right, we haven't settled on.
LYN NOFZIGER, a Reagan aide: Governor, this is your last one.
Q: At the beginning of President Carter's term, he gave human rights a very high priority and he said he did this because of his belief in the Bible. Does your belief in the Bible compel you to make human rights a similar high priority - especially in the Third and Fourth World countries?
A: Yes, I think that all of us in this country are dedicated to the belief in human rights. But I think it must be a consistent policy. I don't think that you can turn away from some country because here and there they do not totally agree with our concept of human rights, and then at the same time maintain relations with other countries, or try to develop them where human rights are virtually non-existent.
This is what I think I meant earlier about that subject, as well as others, should be part of any negotiations on the foreign scene, any relationships we have with other countries.
But I don't think that our record of turning away from countries, that were basically friendly to us, because of some disagreement on some facet of human rights, and then finding that the result was that they have lost all human rights in that country - that isn't a practical way to go about that.
MR. NOFZIGER: Thank you ladies and gentlemen very much.
Ronald Reagan, The President-Elect's News Conference in Los Angeles Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285627