Jimmy Carter photo

The President's News Conference

November 30, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.

Mr. Cormier [Frank Cormier, Associated Press]?


Q. Mr. President, if worse came to worse and I know that you don't anticipate this eventuality—but if the choice came down to continuing the fight against inflation and reconciling yourself to being' a one-term President, which choice would you make? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I would maintain the fight against inflation—and at the same time I would like to add a comment that I believe this is exactly what the American people want. Instead of being an unpopular act, I think it would be a popular act to maintain it. I think we will be successful in leveling off the rate of inflation and then bringing it down, and I don't see any adverse political consequences from doing so.

I'd like to add one other point, and that is that the decisions are not easy ones. As we go into a very tight 1980 fiscal year budget, I'm beginning to see more and more clearly how difficult it will be. But I intend to do it.


Q. On that subject, Mr. President, do plan to stay with your pledge to increase your defense budget by 3 percent despite your anti-inflation drive? And also on defense, there are published reports that you're going to change your nuclear strategy to focus more on massive retaliation. Is that true?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, let me answer the last part first. Our nuclear policy basically is one of deterrence; to take actions that are well known by the American people and well known by the Soviets and other nations; that any attack on us would result in devastating destruction by the nation which launched an attack against us. So, the basic policy is one of deterrence.

We, obviously, constantly assess the quality of our own nuclear weapon systems as times change, as technological advances are made, and as the change takes place in the Soviet Union's arsenal. We keep our weapons up to date; we improve our communications and command and information systems. But we will maintain basically a deterrent policy rather than to change the basic policy itself.

The other answer to your question is that our goal and that of other NATO nations is to increase the real level of defense expenditures. This is our goal. Each expenditure on defense, each system for which we spend the taxpayers' money will be much more carefully assessed this year to make sure that we are efficient and effective in the funds that we do expend.

Over the last number of years, including since I've been in office even, the percentage of our total budget and our gross national product that goes into defense has been decreasing. And at the conclusion of the budget cycle, when I make the budget public to the Congress and to the people in about 6 weeks, I know that I'll be responsible to make sure that the social and other domestic needs of our Nation are met, our international obligations are fulfilled, and an adequate defense is assured, and that there be a proper balance among these different, sometimes conflicting, demands.

So, I'll be responsible, and I will assure you and other Americans that when the budget is assessed that I will carry out my responsibilities well.


Q. Mr. President, I'd like to ask you about China. What is your timetable for reaching full normalization of relations with China, and have the recent events that are now going on in China—have those altered that policy? And do you envision China as a potential military

ally at any time against the Soviet


THE PRESIDENT. We don't have any intention of selling any weapons to either China or the Soviet Union. We are improving our relationships with the People's Republic of China as time goes on, even short of complete diplomatic normalization. Our goal, however, is to move toward normalization in accordance with the Shanghai Communiqué agreements. The attitude of China, the domestic situation in China, has changed, and we watch it with great interest.


Q. Mr. President, the austerity budget you're now working on is for spending that begins October 1 of next year, as I understand it. In view of that, and in view of the inflationary pressure we have today, would it have been more effective to veto the tax bill, which would have had an immediate impact on the inflationary economy, rather than waiting until next October?

THE PRESIDENT. No, in balance, it would not have been good for our country. It might have had some tendency to control inflation, but at the same time, I think it would have added a tremendous additional tax burden on our people and restrained greatly the normal growth that we anticipate maintaining throughout next year.

Our growth rate will be reduced somewhat, to maybe below 3 percent. I don't think we'll have a recession. But we took that into very careful account as we put together our overall anti-inflation program.

So, in balance, I decided to sign and to put into effect the tax reduction bill. I think in spite of that, maybe compatibly with that, we'll still be successful in adequately fighting inflation.


Q. Mr. President, is it correct that you have decided to go ahead with the M-X mobile missile and the Trident II in the next budget? And will you comment on the suggestion that that decision, if you take it, the decision on civil defense, is actually a part of a plan to sort of pull the fangs of the anti-SALT people, that it's part of a SALT dance, rather than an independent action?

THE PRESIDENT I don't think it's part of a SALT dance. I have not decided yet on what types of new weapons systems, if any, we will advocate in the 1980 fiscal year budget for our strategic arms arsenal.

The press reports about a $2 billion civil defense program have been completely erroneous, and I have never been able to find where the origin of that story might have derived. No proposal has even been made to me for a civil defense program of that magnitude.

We are considering the advisability of pursuing some civil defense assessments, including the fairly long-term evacuation of some of our major cities if we should think a nuclear war would be likely, which is obviously not a very likely project in itself, a proposal in itself.

But I have not yet decided when to move on the M-X or if to move on the M-X, what to do about making sure that our present silo missiles are secure. The Soviet missiles, as have ours in recent years, have been improved in their quality, particularly in their accuracy. And this makes the one leg of our so-called triad more vulnerable, that is, the fixed silo missiles.

We are addressing this question with a series of analyses, but I've not yet made a decision on how to do it.


Q. Mr. President, what do you think about Richard Nixon beginning to speak out on the public issues? Could this become a problem for you?

THE PRESIDENT. I think Mr. Nixon has the same right to speak out as any other American, and it doesn't cause me any concern.


Q. Mr. President, there have been a number of reports about the problems that the people who are running your anti-inflation program have been having, and we are now being told that the wage and price guidelines are going to be modified in some cases. How satisfied are you at this point with the way the program has gotten off the ground? And how concerned are you that some of this early confusion is going to make it more difficult to get people to comply with it?

THE PRESIDENT. I am satisfied with the way the anti-inflation program has commenced. Alfred Kahn, who is heading up the entire program, until a week or 10 days ago—I've forgotten the exact time-was completing his service as the Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, and it's only been that brief period where he's been full-time on the job.

In accordance with the law of our country, whenever new proposals are promulgated from an administrative point of view, as have been the anti-inflation proposals, they have to be published. And after a certain period of time for requisite public comment among those who are most directly affected by a regulation, then the regulations are made final. The time for that public comment has not yet terminated. It won't be until the end of this week. So, as is always the case, as is required by law, we are now in the phase of letting the public and interested groups respond to the proposals that have been made.

I might say that we are moving expeditiously on the anti-inflation effort. My guidelines, expressed to the public in an evening television address, have not been modified at all. Obviously, with more than a thousand different kinds of decisions to be made, there will be some flexibility. And the reason for this public discussion, as I say again, required by law, is to let special groups that might be affected in an unanticipated way have an opportunity to present their case before the regulations are made final.


Q. Mr. President, I'd like to follow up on Mr. Sperling's [Godfrey Sperling, Jr., Christian Science Monitor] question and ask a more specific Nixon question, if I could.

He was at Oxford University today, and he said of your human rights policy, quite critically, that it is designed to win a lot of publicity and votes, but it won't achieve results. I was wondering if you'd care to respond to that criticism. And secondly, do you see the events in China as an outcome of your human rights policy?

THE PRESIDENT. I could make a career out of responding to all the criticisms- [laughter] that are made and comments made by other political figures, even including ex-Presidents. I don't intend to do so.

I personally think the human rights policy of our Government is well advised and has had broad-ranging, beneficial effect. I don't claim credit for the American human rights policy when political prisoners are released from certain countries or when those countries move toward more democratic means, or even when—as is in the case of China now—there are public and apparently permitted demands or requests for more democratic government policies and enhanced human rights.

But I think our policy is right. It's well founded. It's one that I will maintain tenaciously, and I think it's demonstrated around the world that it's already had good effect.


Q. Mr. President, I want to ask about Guyana. Do you think that the nature of that cult says anything about America? And secondly, what can the Government do to avoid future Jonestowns?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I obviously don't think that the Jonestown cult was typical in any way of America. I think these were people who became obsessed with a particular leader's philosophy. They were obviously misled; a tragedy resulted. It did not take place in our own country. In retrospect, all of us can deplore what did occur.

It's unconstitutional for the Government of our country to investigate or to issue laws against any group—no matter how much they might depart from normal custom—which is based on religious belief. The only exception is when there is some substantive allegation that the activities of those religious groups directly violate a Federal law.

I might point out that Congressman Ryan and other Congressmen did go to the Justice Department several weeks or months ago to go into the so-called brainwashing aspects of a few religious cults around the country. My understanding is that the so-called People's Temple was not one of those thought by them at that time to be indulging in brainwashing. It was a recent, late development that no one, so far as I know, was able to anticipate or assess adequately.

So, I don't think that we ought to have an overreaction because of the Jonestown tragedy by injecting government into trying to control people's religious beliefs. And I believe that we also don't need to deplore on a nationwide basis the fact that the Jonestown cult, so-called, was typical of America, because it's not.


Q. Mr. President, where do we stand on a Middle East accord between Egypt and Israel, and what can you or are you doing to try to bring the two parties together?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we are negotiating and communicating with both the leaders of Israel and Egypt on a constant and sustained basis. I have been dissatisfied and disappointed at the length of time required to bring about a peace treaty that was signed by both Israel and Egypt. I've already outlined in the past my assessment of why this delay has taken place, as contrasted with Camp David. I'm not dealing directly with the principals simultaneously, and a lot of the negotiation has, unfortunately, been conducted through the press because of political reasons, domestically speaking, or other reasons.

Although I'm somewhat discouraged, we are certainly not going to give up on the effort. Tomorrow, I will be meeting with the Prime Minister of Egypt, Mr. Khalil, who's coming, I understand, with a personal message to me from President Sadat.

We have a need, obviously, to get a treaty text pinned down and approved by both governments, and to resolve the very difficult question of the so-called linkage, whether or not certain acts in the West Bank, Gaza Strip have to be taking place at the same time the Sinai agreement is consummated.

But regardless of temporary disappointments and setbacks that we've experienced since Camp David, they are no more serious nor of any greater concern than some that I experienced at Camp David. And we will continue to pursue our efforts to bring about a peace treaty there.

My reason for what optimism I keep is that I know for certain that both President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin want a peace treaty. I know that their people want a peace treaty. And I think as long as this determination on their part is extant, that our own good offices are very likely to be fruitful. So, I will continue the effort, no matter how difficult it might be in the future.


Q. Mr. President, it seems that we are all being asked to settle basically for our present standard of living, something that we don't find easy to accept after all these years of expecting more. And does it seem, indeed, from your anti-inflation program, that either one has to get a promotion or increase his or her productivity greatly; otherwise there could be no more money? And how important is an acceptance of that to the success of your wage-price standards?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we anticipate that America will continue to be strong, viable, prosperous, progressive, growing in the quality of life of our own citizens measured in a multifaceted way. We don't anticipate a recession or depression next year. The free enterprise system of our country will still reward outstanding effort or outstanding ability, or perhaps good fortune on occasion, and I see no reason for despair at all.

Most people, many people, look upon an effort to control inflation as a negative or adverse factor in our country's life. I don't look on it that way. It takes a strong, viable, dynamic, confident nation to deal successfully with the question of inflation.

This is not something that has recently arisen as a problem. The last 10 years we've had an inflation rate of about 6 1/2 percent, and I just think now it's time for us to make every effort we can to correct it. But I don't think that the American people need to fear that if we are successful in controlling inflation that their lives are going to be constrained or less pleasant or prosperous in the future.

My belief is that to the extent that we are successful in controlling inflation, the quality of life of Americans will be enhanced, not hurt.


Q. Mr. President, I'd like to ask you about the MIG's in Cuba. Have you come to a decision yet on whether the MIG23's in Cuba represent any increased threat to the United States? Have you asked the Russians to take them out? And do you believe the 1962 understandings with the Soviet Union have been violated?

THE PRESIDENT. There have been MIG-23's in Cuba for a long time. There is a model of the MIG-23 that's been introduced there late last spring which we have been observing since that time.

We would consider it to be a very serious development if the Soviet Union violated the 1962 agreement. When we have interrogated the Soviet Union through diplomatic channels, they have assured us that no shipments of weapons to the Cubans have or will violate the terms of the 1962 agreement. We will monitor their compliance with this agreement very carefully, which we have been doing in the past, both as to the quality of weapons sent there and the quantity of weapons sent there, to be sure that there is no offensive threat to the United States possible from Cuba.

I might add that we have no evidence at all, no allegation that atomic weapons are present in Cuba.


Q. Mr. President, is there any reason that you feel that the Shah is justifiably in trouble with his people?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the Shah understands the situation in Iran very clearly and the reasons for some of the problems that he has experienced recently. He has moved forcefully and aggressively in changing some of the ancient religious customs of Iran, for instance, and some of the more conservative or traditional religious leaders deplore this change substantially. Others of the Iranian citizens who are in the middle class, who have a new prosperity brought about by enhanced oil prices and extra income coming into the country, I think, feel that they ought to have a greater share of the voice in determining the affairs of Iran. Others believe that the democratization of Iran ought to proceed more quickly.

The Shah, as you know, has offered the opposition groups a place in a coalition government. They have rejected that offer and demand more complete removal from the Shah of his authority.

We trust the Shah to maintain stability in Iran, to continue with the democratization process, and also to continue with the progressive change in the Iranian social and economic structure. But I don't think either I or any other national leader could ever claim that we have never made a mistake or have never misunderstood the attitudes of our people. We have confidence in the Shah, we support him and his efforts to change Iran in a constructive way, moving toward democracy and social progress. And we have confidence in the Iranian people to make the ultimate judgments about their own government.

We do not have any intention of interfering in the internal affairs of Iran, and we do not approve any other nation interfering in the internal affairs of Iran.


Q. The General Accounting Office is currently working on a report to Congress criticizing the Department of Energy intensely for failing to follow through with enforcing some pricing regulations on oil, and, in particular, failing to follow up on some oil fraud situations in Texas that GAG says Department of Energy was aware of 2 or 3 years ago.

What do you think about that, and what do you intend to do to increase the Department of Energy's enforcing actions?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm not familiar with the particular late development that you described, if it is a late development. I know in the past, earlier this year, on several occasions the Department of Energy has taken very strong action to require some of the oil companies to repay consumers or to pay actual fines when they have violated the laws of the American Government.

My own position is probably predictable to you. I will do everything I can to enforce the law and to assure that any members of my Cabinet or any agencies enforce it also. But I'm not familiar with the specific allegation that you described.

Q. If I could follow up, the General Accounting Office report is supposed to come out sometime in December. This is a new report-


Q. which is going to say the Department of Energy has consistently failed to respond to these previous reports.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would obviously want them to comply completely with the law and do it very rapidly.


Q. Mr. President, I was looking at the employment figures for the Federal Government. It looks like there are 6,000 more employees now than when you took office, and depending on how you look at it, it looks like there's a net increase in Government agencies—I don't mean advisory commissions, but Government agencies. Now, what's happened to your program to streamline the Government?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think we've streamlined it considerably. I would like to go out of office having had no increase in the total Federal employment in spite of the natural and inevitable growth in services delivered to the American people. Some of the mandated programs that I ask Congress to approve by law are expanded by the Congress in a proper way, but more than I would originally have proposed. And sometimes a program is put forward by the Congress that I did not advocate, that I accept, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes with enthusiasm. But I think that we have made the Government much more efficient.

The new move toward civil service reform is a good example of that potential progress in the future. It's a new law that's just gone into effect. In addition to that, we've put forward five or six reorganization plans, all of which have been approved overwhelmingly by the Congress.

So, my expectation and my goal is to complete my own service as President with substantially enhanced delivery of service to the American people and with no increase in the total employment of the Federal Government.


Q. Mr. President, when you came to office, there was a lot of criticism of the intelligence agencies about the methods they were using, and now since the Iran thing there's a good deal of criticism, it seems, about their evaluation.

How concerned were you about the intelligence evaluations in Iran? And could you give us a general comment about what you think the state of the intelligence arts is today?

THE PRESIDENT. I've said several times that one of the pleasant surprises of my own administration has been the high quality of work done by the intelligence community. When I interrogate them about a specific intelligence item or when I get general assessments of intelligence matters, I've been very pleased with the quality of their work.

Recently, however, I have been concerned that the trend that was established about 15 years ago to get intelligence from electronic means might have been overemphasized, sometimes to the detriment of the assessment of the intelligence derived and also the intelligence derived through normal political channels, not secret intelligence; sometimes just the assessment of public information that's known in different countries around the world. And recently I wrote a note-which is my custom; I write several every day—to the National Security Council, the State Department, and the CIA leaders, and asked them to get together with others and see how we could improve the quality of our assessment program and also, particularly, political assessments.

Since I've been in office, we have substantially modified the order of priorities addressed by the intelligence community in its totality. When I became President, I was concerned, during the first few months, that quite often the intelligence community itself set its own priorities. As a supplier of intelligence information, I felt that the customers, the ones who receive the intelligence information, including the Defense Department, myself, and others, ought to be the ones to say, "This is what we consider to be most important." That effort has been completed, and it's now working very well.

So, to summarize, there is still some progress to be made. I was pleased with the intelligence community's work when I first came into office, and it's been improved since I became President.

MR. CORMIER. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Frank, very much. Thank you, everybody.

Note: President Carter's fortieth news conference began at 4 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. It was broadcast live on radio and television.

Jimmy Carter, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244395

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