Jimmy Carter photo

The President's News Conference

May 26, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. I have a brief statement to make and then I'll respond to questions.


I think that in this first 4 months the cooperation between the Congress and the President has been very good. We have had a productive session so far. We have, however, one potential problem that is evolving that causes me some concern.

There is a high degree of fiscal budget deficit that has been a problem for many years. Since 1974: we have had $184 billion of Federal deficits. And the prospective deficit for fiscal year 1978, starting next September, is about $60 billion. I feel very strongly--and I expressed my belief on many occasions during the 2-year campaign for President and since I have been in office--that in a normal economy, with high employment, that the budget ought to be balanced.

I am committed to that proposition, and we are working to create both those elements, a strong economy, high employment, working toward a balanced budget.

The main concern at this point on the economic scene is the rate of inflation which is tied directly to the degree of responsibility of the Federal Government in handling excessive spending. There are now several matters before Congress which I hope very sincerely to work out with them that put excessive pressures on the ability to finance needed programs in the future--welfare reform, tax reform, including substantial reductions, adequate health care, defense needs-and these we are discussing very thoroughly and constantly with congressional leaders.

The farm bill, as passed by the Senate, has a very high cost, much greater than I think is necessary, much greater than the House has passed. Expenditures conceived for water projects amount to about $3 1/2 billion more in total cost than I have advocated.

The House has tentatively approved the Appropriations Committee adding about a dozen other projects with a total cost of almost a half billion dollars.

We advocated, as have all the Presidents since Eisenhower, the elimination of impact aid for very wealthy communities where military installations exist, $3 1/2 million [billion].

The Congress so far has decided not to eliminate this very costly project. I say this not in criticism of the Congress, because no decision has yet been made, but to point out to the American people a potential problem. I respect the Congress and I will work day and night to reach an agreeable solution to these potential threats to harmony. But I have to reserve the right and the duty to say no when spending is excessive.

Mr. Cormier [Frank Cormier, Associated Press].



Q. Mr. President, can you tell us where you would like to go from here on SALT with particular reference to cruise and Backfire, and how do you assess the upbeat words we got from Secretary Vance in Geneva and the downbeat words we got from Foreign Minister Gromyko on the same?

THE PRESIDENT. Compared to the Moscow meeting, the Geneva meeting was very upbeat. There was a great deal of harmony there. There was a sincere effort on the part of the Soviets and ourselves to explore conflicting positions and to seek for some framework on which we could agree.

There are three basic elements, I think, of a SALT II agreement. One is an agreement that would last through 1985, ratifying in effect those elements from Vladivostok on which agreement was reached without dispute, and hopefully encompassing significant reductions below the Vladivostok levels.

Second would be a protocol, in addition to the basic agreement, that would last for a briefer period of time, 2 or 3 years, in which temporary solutions to the controversial issues might be included, giving us more bargaining time. This would include the very heavy missiles of the Soviets which caused us great concern. It would include some constraints on the cruise missiles. And the overall agreement would also include some constraints on the Backfire bomber.

And the third element of the agreement which we hope to achieve, would be a mutual commitment in writing to pursue the drastic substantial reductions which we advocated as an alternative in Moscow, leading toward a much more comprehensive, much more effective, much more needed SALT III agreement.

So, I think there are substantial remaining differences between ourselves and the Soviet Union. No firm proposals were put forward on either side. It was an exploratory meeting. But the tenor of the meeting, the obvious attitude of the Soviets toward being willing to assess our positions and to modify their own, I think was reciprocated by us, and in that way it was an upbeat meeting as described by Secretary Vance.

When you emphasize the differences that still remain, however, there is cause for some concern.


Q. Why did you fire General Singlaub?1 He claims that the officers there have never been given a rationale on withdrawal. And have you had any soundings from North Korea as to the possibility of improving relations?

1 Maj. Gen. John Singlaub, Chief of Staff, U.S. Forces in Korea.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, in the first place, General Singlaub was not fired. General Singlaub was informed that he was not being fired; he was not being chastised or punished. He was being transferred to a new position at an equivalent degree of responsibility and stature.

We have, however, considered very carefully the question of our troops to be withdrawn from South Korea, the Republic of Korea, ground troops. This is a matter that has been considered by our Government for years. We have been in South Korea now more than 25 years. There has never been a policy of our Government evolved for permanent placement of ground troops in South Korea.

In 1970 and 1971, a full division of troops was withdrawn. Many leaders in our country and in the Republic of Korea have advocated complete removal of ground troops from Korea.

Melvin Laird, the former Republican Secretary of Defense, is one of those. President Park himself, the President of the Republic of Korea, has called for the removal completely of American troops.

The essence of the question is, is our country committed on a permanent basis to keep troops in South Korea even if they are not needed to maintain the stability of that peninsula? I think it is accurate to say that the time has come for a very careful, very orderly withdrawal over a period of 4 or 5 years of ground troops, leaving intact an adequate degree of strength in the Republic of Korea to withstand any foreseeable attack and making it clear to the North Koreans, the Chinese, the Soviets, that our commitment to South Korea is undeviating and 'is staunch.

We will leave there adequate intelligence forces, observation forces, air forces, naval forces, and a firm, open commitment to our defense treaty, so there need not be any doubt about potential adversaries concerning our support of South Korea.

I think it is accurate to point out that overall strategic considerations have changed since the 1940's and early 1950's, when the Korean question came into most prominence in the international scene. The relationship between the Soviet Union and us, the People's Republic of China and us, and the relationship between the People's Republic and the Soviet Union have all changed, among other things.

South Korea, because of their own incentive and deep dedication to progress, now has one of the most strong economies in the world. Their growth rate last year in real terms was 15 percent. They have massive, very healthy industry--in steel, shipbuilding, electronics, chemical industries--to make it possible for them to grow into a position of defending themselves.

We have also a complete confidence in the deep purpose of the South Koreans to defend their own country. Compared to the North Koreans, they have a two-to-one advantage in total population, and they have much greater access to the Western industrialized democracies for advanced equipment and for technology.

So, for all of these reasons, I think it is appropriate now for us to withdraw those troops. A decision has been made. President Park has been informed. And we will work very closely with the South Koreans for an orderly transition, leaving the ground troops of the Republic of Korea strong enough to defend themselves and leaving our own commitment to them sure.

I might say that this has been brought about by two things--our complete confidence in the Republic of Korea and its ability and a complete awareness on the part of the rest of the world that our own commitment is firm.


Q. Mr. President, to follow up your opening statement, does that mean that you are putting Congress on notice that if they pass the appropriations bill with the water projects and with the impact aid, and if they pass the higher farm price supports, that you will veto those measures?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would rather wait until I see the final form of those bills. As you know, some of these measures have gone through appropriations committees; some have not. I don't think any of them yet have been approached in final form, but in the conference committees, on the floor votes, I will get a clearer picture of what Congress' intention might be. But I certainly reserve the right to veto bills if I think they are excessive.

I would rather not say definitely that I will veto a bill until I see what form it might take in its final completed form.

Q. To follow up that just on another prerogative that you have, if it gets to the point that a bill is vetoed and overridden, would you consider using the procedures that you have to rescind appropriations that have been voted, which, of course, have to be voted on by Congress, but would you use all of those prerogatives also if necessary?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I would certainly have to reserve the right to use any proper and legal prerogatives to pursue my position. I can't win on everything I advocate. Obviously it's a two-way proposition. I might add again, as I said in the very first sentence, that the Congress and I have had a very good, cooperative relationship so far. But if these differences do evolve, I will have to reserve my own prerogatives as President to say no by veto, to rescind, if necessary, but I hope that it will not come to that.


Q. Mr. President, on March 9, you talked about the idea of Israel withdrawing to her '67 borders, with only minor adjustments. Is that still your position, and is there any way that Israel could retain the West Bank of the Jordan and make that fit in the definition of "minor adjustments"?

THE PRESIDENT. That is still my position, although I might add again that the United States, including myself as President-we do not have a Middle Eastern settlement plan, but the basic premises have been spelled out very clearly.

In the United Nations resolutions that have been passed, coming from the Security Council, voted on and supported by our Government--and these have been binding policies of the Government--they do include the right of the Palestinians to have a homeland, to be compensated for losses that they have suffered. They do include the withdrawal of Israel from occupied territories from the 1967 war, and they do include an end of belligerency and a reestablishment of permanent and secure borders.

All these things have been spelled out in writing in those United Nations positions which we have endorsed--every administration since they were passed.

I would certainly assume that withdrawal from West Bank territories, either partially or in their entirety, would be a part of an ultimate settlement, but that is something that has to be worked out still between the Israelis and their neighbors.

We do not intend to put forward a description of what the exact borders should be. It is not our role to play. We will explore possibilities for common agreement and reserve the right to make our opinions known. But we have no control over anyone in the Middle East and do not want any control over anyone in the Middle East. But those three basic principles-permanent peace, secure borders, and resolution of the Palestinian question--all have been and still are integral parts of any peace settlement.


Q. Mr. President, the Coalition of Northeastern Governors and the Coalition of Northeast-Midwest Congressmen have both written you letters urging more consideration for military installations, in the Northeast, primarily.

I wondered if those letters had come to your attention, if you had any reaction to them, and also whether it is logical and justifiable to have more military construction money for the coming fiscal year allotted to the State of Georgia than to all 16 of the coalition States combined?

THE PRESIDENT. I have heard from Members of Congress and from local Chambers of Commerce and others in almost every part of the country about the location, expansion or reduction of military installations.

This has been done and is being done and will be done strictly on the basis of national security requirements, when there is a very close call to be made.

A major factor is also the economic impact, and some decisions on environmental impact is also a factor. I think that if you would look at every one of the decisions that has been made so far by the Defense Department, you would find it has been made on the basis of merit and not on the basis of politics.

Obviously, we have to take into consideration the adverse impact on employment and the degree of investment of a community's future in a military installation. But I have never had any inclination during the campaign to promise that we would keep a specific base open or close one. I have no inclination to do that now. Each decision will be made on its merits.


Q. Mr. President, to follow up on the Middle East, Mr. President, could you give us more of your thinking on the disposition of places like the Golan Heights, which you talked about during the campaign, the question of Jerusalem, and other areas like that? And can you say how your proposal for minor alterations differs from the 1969 American plan calling for substantial alterations?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I can't respond to those specific things. I think it would be inappropriate for me to try to draw a line on a map in the Golan Heights, the West Bank of Jerusalem, or the Sinai Peninsula. That is something that would have to be negotiated between the parties involved.

But I think also that it was obvious that the United States didn't advance the cause of the settlement when the so-called Rogers plan was put forward without adequate prior consultation with the different nations who were concerned with the Middle, Eastern question.

I think it is better just to talk in terms of what our country has had as its longtime policy. But as far as an exact definition of the borders, I don't have the capability nor the inclination to go into that.


Q. Mr. President, I'd like to go back to General Singlaub and your transfer of him. How do you square that with the claims of your administration that it's an open administration where dissent is encouraged? Isn't there a double standard between your treatment of him and your treatment of Andrew Young, the United Nations Ambassador, who has dissented several times from American policy and yet has not been transferred from his job?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I know of no instance when Andy Young has violated a policy you described. In the case of General Singlaub, as I said earlier, he was not punished. We evolved the policy for South Korea over a long number of years. And I finally made a decision after consultation with the intelligence community, the military leaders, a formal meeting of the National Security Council, that we would withdraw our ground troops over a period of 4 or 5 years.

A member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bernie Rogers, went to South Korea to meet with our own military leaders and some of the South Korean military leaders, as well. Our policy was explained. General Singlaub was one of those.

An announcement was made publicly that a representative of the State Department, Phil Habib, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Brown, would go to Korea to explain this policy to the Korean officials and also, of course, to the American military officials.

After that announcement was made is when General Singlaub made a comment publicly that if this policy was carried out, it would result in war. In my opinion, that was a very serious breach of the propriety that ought to exist among military officers after a policy has been made, and I think to some degree it was an invitation to the North Koreans to believe that South Korea was not able to take care of themselves, which we think they are. I think it was an invitation to the world to expect an inevitable war. And I certainly don't agree that there is any cause for a war to be expected.

In addition to that, I think it is important to remember that we are now in the process of carrying out this policy. And I don't believe that General Singlaub, being our negotiator with the North Koreans, by the way, and also being the third person in command in South Korea, could have effectively carried out this policy when he had publicly been identified as being opposed to it.

The other point is I think his presence in South Korea on a continuing basis would have been a disturbing factor. He would have been the focus of admiration and attention from those who do not want to carry out our policy. And I think it would have made it very difficult for his superiors to carry out the policy in harmony and cooperation with the South Korean Government.


Q. Mr. President, some people have expressed concern about former Presidents making millions of dollars by in effect selling the Presidency with television interviews and memoirs. What are your own intentions as to what you will do after you complete your term or terms?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't answer that question yet. I might say what I have done so far. I wrote a book in the winter of 1975 called "Why Not the Best," which has now sold several million copies. Any receipts that have come in from that book since the end of May last year have not come to me or my family in any way. They have been put into a special reserve fund to finance a future library to hold the papers that might be derived from my own administration.

Shortly, there will be another book published of excerpts from my speeches since the time I became Governor of Georgia. That book has been given in its entirety to the public use, not to have any money from its use come to me or my family.

I think that this is a policy that I would like to pursue after I go out of office. I don't know what my financial circumstances might be then. I might find a need on occasion to derive some financial benefit from writing or from appearances of some kind.

So, I can't close the door completely to what I will do after I am out of this office, but I can describe to you what I have already done voluntarily to make sure that there is no financial reward coming to me because I happen to be in the White House or even after the primary season was over because I was a prominent political figure. I don't want to benefit financially from this status.


Q. Mr. President, your SALT II proposals calling for deeper cuts in the Vladivostok agreement were rejected by the Soviet Union after you had enunciated them publicly.


Q. And your public statements with respect to a Palestinian homeland are being credited as being a factor in the election of a conservative, hard-line political group in Israel.

Do you think that you are going to be able to continue your policy of open discussions of foreign policy issues and, at the same time, achieve agreements? In other words, do you think you are going to be able to have your cake and eat it, too?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't agree with the premise of your question. I don't believe that my open espousal of a desire on the part of the American people to reduce the number of missile launchers or atomic weapons prior to the time we negotiated in Moscow was a reason for a breakdown in that discussion.

It has led to continuing discussions, and I believe it's a viable policy that I will pursue and I see no reason why the American people should not know it, and I believe that overwhelmingly the American people support it.

I think it's good for the American people to know what our positions are at the time that the Soviets know what our positions are, and vice versa.

This is a matter that must be addressed openly. It involves not only the Soviet and American people but it also involves our allies and friends who depend upon us around the world.

In the campaign itself and in my Inaugural Address, I expressed a hope which I still have, that ultimately myself or my successor, Mr. Brezhnev or his successor, can arrive at a point where nuclear weapons are eliminated completely from the Soviet and the American arsenals.

The other point of your question was concerning the results of the election in Israel. I think that the international questions in Israel were very slightly discussed or debated during their campaign. My opinion is that the result of the elections were not affected appreciably if at all by any statements that I made concerning an ultimate Middle Eastern settlement.

Our positions are compatible with the positions taken by my own predecessor and, in fact, historically the United States has espoused these basic principles. And I think that this is something that must be addressed frankly by the prospective government in Israel, by the people of Israel, their Arab neighbors, and by the people in the United States.

So, I don't intend to refrain from expressing very clearly my position on foreign issues to the public on occasion when negotiations are going on--or when we have an agreement with our negotiating partners to refrain from public statements, of course I will do so. But that will be an individual judgment to be made.


Q. Mr. President, during the campaign when you discussed welfare reform, it was an attractive political incentive for the people of big cities to vote for you, sir. Yesterday Joseph Califano outlined your welfare reform proposals, and there seems to be a lag in time, number one, for the effective implementation of the program, and number two, very little relief for the cities of the Nation.

Do you think that you're conforming with your pledge during the campaign to help relieve the welfare burden from the big cities of this Nation?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do. You can't isolate welfare, though, and just say that stands on its own, it's not related to other aspects of programs.

When we put forward multi-billion dollar programs for public works, for countercyclical aid, which goes directly to local and State governments for tax reduction for people who live there, for increased transportation funds, and so forth, all these things relieve financial burdens from local and State governments.

We are proposing before the August recess by the Congress our welfare package. A lot of work has been done on it. It's shaping up into a very attractive and, I think, very good proposal.

The basic premise on which this proposal has been evolved has been no additional cost above and beyond what we presently spend on welfare plus training and employment programs for those who might go on welfare.

Later if we see that we have additional money, we can expand the program or directly reduce the amount paid into the program by local and State governments. But in the evolution of the program itself one of the requirements that I have laid down which is a tight constraint and a necessary discipline, is no additional cost above what we have now. So, I think we are carrying out our promises.

And the other aspect of your question was the late implementation of it. This is a very expeditious schedule. There is no way that Congress can act on welfare early this year. It will be submitted before August. And then the Congress can start debating this very complicated subject. But Congress right now has all it can handle in major proposals, with social security reform and tax reform coming up, and with the energy program.

But I think if it was passed immediately, it would take 3 or 4 years to fully implement it. But as soon as it is passed by Congress, the implementation will commence without delay and will be implemented as expeditiously as possible.


Q. Realizing that the Israeli government is not in place yet, but assuming that Mr. Begin will have a dominant role in it, and based on his initial remarks about withdrawal of the sector, do you see him as a potential obstacle to the peace process?


I don't yet have any way to know who will put the government together. Obviously, Mr. Begin leads the Likud government which came in first. And we are waiting now for the Israeli election results to be confirmed and for the President of Israel to designate the leader of that party to put the government together. Following that time and before the government is completely evolved, I intend to congratulate Mr. Begin, if it is he, and to invite him or whoever is designated to come over here for discussions with me.

There obviously are difficulties caused by a change in the Israeli government. But in the long run, as is the case in our own country and in a democracy like Israel, the government leaders fairly accurately reflect the hopes and desires and fears and purposes of the people whom they are chosen to lead.

Mr. Begin will have to put together a government. He'll have to deal with conflicting interests as he forms his cabinet and brings in other groups to make sure that he has a majority in the Knesset.

So, I don't look at this as an insuperable obstacle. It does create a question. I think a large part of that question can be resolved when I meet with him personally and when he meets with the congressional leaders and with the Jewish Americans who are very deeply interested in this and sees the purpose of our own country.

I think this may have an effect on him. I have already seen some moderation in his views as he's dealt with Mr. Yadin and others, and I hope that this moderation will continue.

Obviously, the Arab leaders also have to be moderate. Some of the adamant stands that they have taken in the historical past will have to be abandoned. If they didn't, there would be no hope for peace.

So, both sides of this--or rather all sides of this discussion have to yield to some degree to accomplish the purposes of their own people.

MR. CORMIER. Thank you, Mr. President.

[President Carter's eighth news conference began at 10:30 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building and was broadcast live on radio and television. Following the news conference, the President remained in the room to answer questions from reporters on an informal basis, as follows:]

Q. [Inaudible]

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I am going as a guest of the Navy. I don't know whether it will be possible to take any on board or not.

Q. I am sure if you asked them, they would say yes.

THE PRESIDENT. There's a limit to the space there. There's also a problem with very high security aspects on a nuclear submarine. So, that's not something that I have gone into. I've told Admiral Rickover and the commanding officer of the ship that I would leave that question up to them.

Q. Mr. President, what is the status of the Australian CIA investigation?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I don't want to respond to any substantive questions.

Q. Mr. President, do you think you should go on a submarine for 9 hours, in terms of safety, the country's security, and so forth?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I'll have adequate communications from the submarine with special Signal Corps people with me, and will still be in command of our Nation's affairs. Also, of course, the Secretary of Defense and State and the Attorney General and the Vice President-all of them will still be available.

Q. Will you have a hot line?

THE PRESIDENT. The hot line will be available to me, yes.

Q. I am not clear why you are going there--on the sub.

THE PRESIDENT. I want to learn at first hand about our Armed Forces' strategic capabilities. I'm not going to spend that much time just talking about that submarine and its design. I'll be talking to the naval officials, including Admiral Rickover, at some length, about the capabilities and limitations of our strategic submarine force, which is an integral part of our defense mechanism. And as you know, I've already been on the Air Force command 'and control plane.

But over a period of months, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, I need to know about our defense capabilities, and one of the best ways to get that information is to visit in person some of the military bases and installations.

Q. Mr. President, once again you didn't get beyond the fourth row this time. I've got a question about the month of May.

About a month ago, you declared May a time to remember the problems of the elderly, and I've got a couple of questions I've been trying for the last three press conferences to ask you.

THE PRESIDENT. Why don't you wait until the next press conference, and if you'll remind Jody, I'll try to call on you.

Q. All right. Fine.

Q. Mr. President, that submarine can carry cruise missiles. Could you talk to us a little bit about the cruise missile?

THE PRESIDENT. Not now, Marilyn [Marilyn Berger, NBC News].

Q. Mr. President, one thing was left unclear. Aviation News reported that you are considering a moratorium on cruise; is that accurate?


Q. Mr. President, you are tying yourself more and more tightly to balancing the budget, and it may be a goal that has factors that you can't afford. How come you keep locking yourself more and more tightly into it?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm not--not any tighter than I have been.

President Carter's eighth news conference began at 10:30 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building and 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/243206

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