The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. I have a brief statement to make before we begin the questions.
This has been one of the most difficult decisions that I have made since I've been in office. During the last few months, I've done my best to assess all the factors involving production of the B-1 bomber. My decision is that we should not continue with deployment of the B-l, and I am directing that we discontinue plans for production of this weapons system. The Secretary of Defense agrees that this is a preferable decision, and he will have a news conference tomorrow morning to discuss this issue in whatever detail you consider necessary.
'The existing testing and development program now underway on the B-1 should continue to provide us with the needed technical base in the unlikely event that more cost-effective alternative systems should run into difficulty. Continued efforts at the research and development stage will give us better answers about the cost and effectiveness of the bomber and support systems, including electronic countermeasures techniques.
During the coming months, we will also be able to assess the progress toward agreements on strategic arms limitations in order to determine the need for any additional investments in nuclear weapons delivery systems. In the meantime, we should begin deployment of cruise missiles using air-launched platforms, such as our B-52's, modernized as necessary. Our triad concept of retaining three basic delivery systems will be continued with submarine-launched ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and a bomber fleet, including cruise missiles as one of its armaments. We will continue thereby to have an effective and flexible strategic force whose capability is fully sufficient for our national defense.
Q. Mr. President, the House at least seems bent on providing the money for the B-1. Does this put you on a collision course with them on the whole subject?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I think not. The Congress took action last year to delay a final decision on the B-1 bomber pending my ability to analyze its needs.
When I came into office, I tried deliberately to have an open mind. And I've spent weeks studying all the aspects of our strategic defense forces. I've met with congressional leaders. I've spent a great deal of time with the Secretary of Defense and others in trying to understand all the ramifications of this very important decision.
The leaders in the House and Senate this morning have been informed of my decision, both by Frank Moore 1 and by the Secretary of Defense.
1 Assistant to the President for Congressional Liaison.
My belief is that the Congress will be supportive knowing that our previous requests for limited production funds were based on a previous decision. But my decision is that this production is not now necessary. And I believe that the House and the Senate will confirm my decision.
RELATIONS WITH THE SOVIET UNION
Q. Mr. President, in view of the growing difficulties between the United States and the Soviet Union, are there any early prospects in the coming months for a meeting with Brezhnev, between yourself and Brezhnev, and is August in Alaska--does that have any validity?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't agree that there are growing difficulties between ourselves and the Soviet Union. The technical discussions on SALT questions, comprehensive test ban, demilitarization of the Indian Ocean, a reduction in the sales of conventional weapons to developing nations of the world have been proceeding with very good attitudes on the part of the Soviets, and, of course, us. So, I don't believe that the relations between us are deteriorating.
I think that my own relationship with Mr. Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders should be one of continuing consultations, not just to ratify final agreements but to get to know one another. And I would welcome a chance this year to meet with President Brezhnev, to explore the ability of our countries to reach quicker decisions. But it would not be based on any deep concern about relations now, nor any frustration about what's gone on before.
The time or date or place would still have to be worked out, and it would be inappropriate, I think, to try to presume what those decisions might be on specifics until we determine accurately the attitude of the Soviet leaders.
Q. May I say that ---
THE PRESIDENT. Please do.
Q.---you yourself have expressed surprise at the reaction of the Soviets to your human rights drive, and Brezhnev has told Giscard that there are difficulties. So, I don't think it's exactly--I mean there is an atmosphere.
THE PRESIDENT. There are difficulties, obviously, in reaching final decisions on matters that are very controversial, very difficult, and which never have been successfully concluded. We've never tried as a nation to have a comprehensive test ban to eliminate all tests of all nuclear devices, both peaceful and military. We've never tried to open up the discussions of demilitarizing the Indian Ocean, first freezing the present circumstances, then reducing our military presence there. We've never tried for a sharp reduction in the deployment of nuclear weapons.
So, these new ideas obviously take more time to conclude. But I don't have any sense of fear or frustration or concern about our relationships with the Soviet Union. We have, I think, a good prospect of continuing our discussions, and I have every hope that those discussions will lead to success.
B-- 1 BOMBER
Q. Mr. President, what were the major factors that led to your decision against the B-I bomber?
THE PRESIDENT. There are a number of factors. One is obviously the recent evolution of the cruise missile as an effective weapon itself. The tests of this system have been very successful so far.
Another one, of course, is the continued ability to use the B-52 bombers, particularly the G's and H's, up well into the 1980's, and the belief on my part that our defense capability using the submarine-launched missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles combined with the B-52 cruise missile combination is adequate.
We will also explore the possibility of cruise missile carriers, perhaps using existing airplanes or others as a standoff launching base.
But I think in toto the B-l, a very expensive weapons system basically conceived in the absence of the cruise missile factor, is not necessary. Those are the major reasons.
Marilyn [Marilyn Berger, NBC News].
Q. Mr. President, the Soviet Union has shown great concern about the cruise missile capability of the United States.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. What limits are you ready to .accept, if any, on air-launched cruise missiles so far as their range, and secondly, are you willing to accept the proposition that an airplane carrying cruise would be counted as a MIRV under the limits that you would set in a SALT agreement?
THE PRESIDENT. Those questions are being negotiated now. We have a fairly compatible position with the Soviets on maximum range of air-launched cruise missiles carried over from the Vladivostok discussions. I don't think there's any particular difference in that. It's an adequate range in my opinion for the cruise missiles to be launched as a standoff weapon without the carrying airplane having to encroach into Soviet territory. This, though, is a matter that has not yet been finally resolved.
Also, the definition of what is a MIRVed weapon is one that is still in dispute. We don't believe that a bomber equipped with cruise missiles as a weapon ought to be classified as a MIRVed weapon. But depending upon the Soviets' attitude in reaching an overall comprehensive settlement, those matters are still open for discussion.
Q. Mr. President, in listening to factors involved in your decision, sir, you didn't mention or I didn't hear the fact that you had made a commitment or what many people took to be a commitment during the campaign against the bomber, I think particularly in the submission to the Democratic Platform Committee. Was that a factor, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, when I went into office, as I think I said earlier, I tried to take the position of complete openmindedness, because obviously I've had available to me as President much of the classified analyses and information about weapons systems which I did not have before. And I tried to approach this question with an open mind.
I've spent many hours reading those detailed technical reports, the advice of specialists on both sides, an analysis of ultimate cost of weapons. And although, obviously, opinions are always hard to change, I deliberately tried not to let my campaign statements be the factor in this decision. I've made it, I think, recently with an original, very open mind, after carefully considering all aspects of the question and consulting very closely with the Secretary of Defense.
And I might say that with the advent of the cruise missile as a possible alternative, that the Secretary of Defense agrees with me that this is a preferable decision.
Q. Can I follow that up, sir? Mr. President, could I follow that up?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, if you insist.
Q. This openmindedness that you describe, does that apply to other campaign commitments that you made in other areas outside of defense?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll always try to keep an open mind and make my decision based on what I think is best for our country.
Q. Mr. President, is this decision on your part not to go ahead with the B-1 intended 'as any kind of a signal to the Soviets that you are willing to--that you want to do something quickly in the strategic arms talks?
THE PRESIDENT. I can't deny that that's a potential factor. But that has not been a reason for my decision. I think if I had looked upon the 13-1 as simply a bargaining chip for the Soviets, then my decision would have been to go ahead with the weapon. But I made my decision on my analysis that, within a given budgetary limit for the defense of our country, which I am sure will always be adequate, that we should have the optimum capability to defend ourselves.
But this is a matter that's of very great importance, and if at the end of a few years the relations with the Soviets should deteriorate drastically, which I don't anticipate, then it may be necessary for me to change my mind. But I don't expect that to occur.
Mr. Sperling [Godfrey Sperling, Christian Science Monitor].
HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY
Q. Mr. President, is this emphasis on human rights now central to your foreign policy?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. My emphasis on human rights is central to our foreign policy. As I've said since my first press conference, I see no relationship between the human rights decision, however, and matters affecting our defense or SALT negotiations. And I have doubts, based on analyses in our own country and from those who know the Soviet system very well in other countries, that there's any connection between the two in the minds of the Soviets.
Q. To follow there, has this emphasis helped or hurt those in the Soviet Union whose rights were being impaired?
THE PRESIDENT. It's hard for me to say. I think that in the long run our emphasis on human rights, the high publicity that has accrued to the human rights question because of the Helsinki agreement and the upcoming Belgrade conference in October--those two factors, combined, I think, dramatize every violation of human rights that is known.
And my guess is that the Soviets, like ourselves, want to put a good image forward for the world to observe, and I think in the long run that this emphasis on human rights will be beneficial to those who desire free speech and an enhancement of their own human freedoms.
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Mr. President, Senator Javits says you are pushing Israel too far. And other Americans sympathetic to the Israeli position say worse, that you are perhaps selling Israel down the river. My question is, first, do you think you are, and secondly, how difficult will it be for you to continue your policy if the American Jewish community sides with Mr. Begin instead of Mr. Carter?
THE PRESIDENT. I might say, first of all, that I look forward with great anticipation to the visit of Prime Minister Begin on the 19th of July. My determination is that the talks will be friendly and constructive and also instructive for both him and me.
He'll be received with the kind of friendship that's always been a characteristic of the American people's attitude toward Israel. An overwhelming consideration for us is the preservation of Israel as a free and independent and, hopefully, peaceful nation. That is preeminent. At the same time, I believe that it has been good during this year, when I hope we can reach a major step toward a peaceful resolution in the Middle East, to have the discussions much more open, to encourage the Arab nations and Israel to frankly understand some of the feelings that each of them has toward the other, and to address the basic questions of territories, the definition of peace, the Palestinian question.
I really think it is best for this next roughly 3 weeks before Mr. Begin comes that we refrain from additional comments on specifics because I think we've covered the specifics adequately. And if I or someone in the State Department or someone on my staff emphasizes territory and the definition of peace, the immediate response is: Why didn't you say something about the Palestinians, and so forth. So, I believe that we've discussed it adequately.
I believe all the issues are fairly clearly defined. It's accurate to say that our own Nation has no plan or solution that we intend to impose on anyone. We'll act to the degree that the two sides trust us in the role of an intermediary or mediator, and I still have high hopes that this year might lead toward peace.
But it will never be with any sort of abandonment of our deep .and permanent commitment to Israel. And I have made this clear in specific terms to every Arab leader who has been to our country.
SUPPORT OF DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Q. Mr. President, as the leader of the Democratic Party, how important do you believe it is for Democratic leaders on the State and local level to support the nominees of their party even when their preferred candidates may happen to lose in a primary? And, second, sir, do you plan to support the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City regardless of who it may be?
THE PRESIDENT. My general belief is that Democrats ought to support the Democratic nominees. I have not ever violated that premise in my own voting habits. I've never departed from voting for a Democratic nominee after they were chosen. My own inclination is to stay clear of Democratic primaries. Let the Democrats in a particular State or jurisdiction make their own choice.
But I think every Democrat, every American can reserve the right to participate with varying degrees of commitment or intensity or enthusiasm. And I would certainly not ever disavow a Democratic candidate unless he was completely abhorrent to me, which I think would be highly unlikely.
So, in general, I think Democrats ought to support their nominees. But I'm going to be fairly reluctant to inject myself directly and personally in very many elections around the country. We do have two important gubernatorial elections this year, and I think all Democrats will be looking with great interest on the outcome of the general election in Virginia and also New Jersey. And I hope personally that the Democratic candidates win. But that's a decision for the people in Virginia and New Jersey to make.
As far as New York is concerned, I wouldn't want to make a prior commitment about the degree of my support for a candidate until I see who it is.
Q. Mr. President, given the numerous and obvious violations of the Helsinki accords by .the Soviet Union, which they were pledged to uphold, could I ask why the United States should, on good faith, accept the Soviet word on a matter far more vital, say, for example, the SALT treaty, which you are in the process of negotiating?
THE PRESIDENT. We have never been willing simply to take the word of the Soviets on SALT agreements, and neither have they been willing to take our word alone. We have methods of confirming or verifying the carrying out of the agreement with various means, including aerial surveillance from space.
And I think that as we get down to the more .technical agreements, that verification is becoming more and more a problem. For instance, if we should conclude a comprehensive test ban treaty with the Soviets of preventing any sort of nuclear tests, even including peaceful devices, then we would have to have some way to confirm that the Soviets indeed are carrying out their agreement, and vice versa.
There are sensing devices that might, for instance, be placed by us on Soviet territory or perhaps around the periphery of the Soviet Union. And we might conclude a similar agreement with them. Or if a factor in the agreement should be that certain kinds of uses of atomic weapons-not weapons, but explosives to divert the channel of a river, we might want to have actual observers there, and vice versa. My own hope is that we can conclude an agreement that there would be no testing. But verification is one of the aspects not just based on the word of us or the Soviets but on actual observations on site by sensing devices or by visual observations or others that I need not go into now.
PANAMA CANAL NEGOTIATIONS
Q. What is the status, Mr. President, of the Panama Canal treaty? Are you likely to sign such a treaty soon?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know about the time schedule because it obviously takes two sides to agree to a treaty. We are putting in a lot of time on the Panama Canal treaty negotiations.
And I hope that we'll have a successful conclusion this summer. We've been encouraged so far. The major questions that were identified at the beginning have fairly well been concluded.
One of the disagreements at this point is on the payment of portions of the tolls from the Panama Canal to Panama and the exact financial arrangement.
But I hope still that we'll have one by summer. I think that General Torrijos feels the same way, and, of course, we have been aided by the good offices of President Perez from Venezuela and others who want to have a peaceful resolution here.
I can't give you an answer because I don't know yet. We are also trying to keep the Members of the Senate and others informed about progress as well as I'm being informed so that when we do reach a conclusion, it would be one that, with a major effort, we could have confirmed by the Congress.
OPEC OIL PRICES
Q. Mr. President, in view of the apparent moderation by the OPEC countries on oil prices lately, does that appear to be aimed at diffusing some of the stronger measures you'd like Congress to adopt, and what strategy can you have against that?
THE PRESIDENT. When Prince Fahd was over here, we discussed the prospects for OPEC prices, and he told me in confidence what he thought were the prospects. And I think that is going to come true, that the Saudi Arabians would raise their price to equal that of other OPEC nations .and that the OPEC nations who had already raised their prices 10 percent would forgo their planned additional increases .at least through this year.
I hope, and I believe the Saudis also hope, that that extension of a price freeze would go through 1978 at least. I think that our own strong country can accommodate additional increases in the price of oil.
I think the prices are too high. But there are obviously major adverse impacts on world inflation, and the poor countries that have to buy large quantities of oil and can't equal it by exports are very badly damaged.
But we can accommodate the change, but we are using our good offices when possible to hold down additional increases in the price of oil.
Q. Mr. President, is it your intention to terminate either our defense commitment or diplomatic relations with Taiwan as a step towards normalizing relations with the People's Republic of China?
THE PRESIDENT. Our attitude on the Chinese question has been spelled out by my predecessors and confirmed by me as based on the Shanghai Communiqué which acknowledges the concept of one China. We also hope that Taiwan and the Mainland can work out the differences between them. We obviously hope that these differences can be resolved early, or perhaps in the future through peaceful means.
Other nations who have now full relationships with the People's Republic of China, on the Mainland have continued trade, cultural, social exchanges, sales of major equipment to Taiwan.
I can't give you a better answer than I've already described. The Secretary of State is planning to go to China, to Peking, in August. This was part of the Shanghai Communiqué .agreement, that we would have consultations at the highest level, obviously at the Secretary of State level or the national leader level. But I can answer your question better after he returns in August.
Did you have one followup?
Q. Could I just follow that in a broader sense? Is it possible to have relations with the People's Republic of China and at the same time maintain 'a defense commitment to Taiwan?
THE PRESIDENT. This is a difficult question to answer now. My hope is that we can work out an agreement with the People's Republic of China having full diplomatic relations with them and still make sure that the peaceful lives of the Taiwanese, the Republic of China, is maintained. That's our hope, and that's our goal.
Q. Mr. President, in New York last night Secretary of State Vance spoke of a constructive dialog now on the way with .Communist China. And I believe you have referred to this at least once publicly yourself. However, so far as I know, there have been only low-level talks with representatives of the Liaison Office here about property claims and also, there have been some other--an occasional meeting or two. What is involved in this dialog? Where and when are these exchanges taking place?
THE PRESIDENT. As you know, we don't have ambassadors exchanged. We have special representatives with the rank of ambassador. Ambassador Huang here in Washington meets with the Secretary of State. He's also been to the Oval Office to meet with me. We've had a very frank discussion about some of the relationships between our country and the People's Republic of China.
The first meetings at the foreign minister level or the head of state level will be in August in Peking. But the preparations for that visit will obviously be continuing through regular diplomatic channels. I think that's the limit of the discussions to this point.
PRESIDENT'S TAX RETURN
Q. Mr. President, you signed your income tax return on June 6 knowing then that you would owe no tax. Some days later you said you thought it had been filed. But it wasn't until about a week after that that you wrote the letter returning the $6,000. Was that an afterthought?
THE PRESIDENT. I had a substantial amount of income in 1976 from the sale of my book "Why Not The Best?" I think it was about $70,000. I'm not sure if the exact figure. That payment was made to me by the publisher on the first day of January, 1977. And the question arose whether or not we could count that as income in 1976 and therefore pay taxes on it.
We went to the Internal Revenue Service shortly before we published our statement and asked them for permission to include that income in 1976. They said that it would not be appropriate, that it would have to be included in 1977. So, because of that decision, I did not owe any income tax in 1976. Believing as I do that people in my income bracket ought to pay taxes, we took our adjusted tax income and paid the minimum tax on it, roughly 15 percent, and, of course, now I will pay the full income tax owed on the income from the book itself.
The difference in the total amount of tax that I would have had to pay either way was zero, so far as we could determine. But had we been able to include the book income in '76, I would have owed a substantial amount of tax and would not have had the problem.
I considered it to be a problem not because there was anything improper about it but I think that I, as President, ought to demonstrate that the present tax laws are not adequate and that someone who earns as much as I did in '76 ought to pay taxes. That was the reason for the delay.
U.S. POSTAL SERVICE
Q. Mr. President, we've talked today about sending a missile around the world. Could you talk--
THE PRESIDENT. Sending what?
Q. A missile halfway across the world. Could we talk about sending a letter halfway across town? [Laughter]
Have you made a decision yet on the future of the United States Postal Service? Will you ask Congress to bring it back into the executive branch?
THE PRESIDENT. I've not made a decision about that yet. I think in the July meeting of the board which governs the Post Office, which as you know is completely independent of the President--I have no responsibility for the Post Office [laughter]--they will have to make a decision. I think, absent any decision on their part to forgo Saturday deliveries or to increase the price of postage, we will face about a $200-million-a-month deficit.
But after they make their decision-and I've not studied the problem--and make their recommendation to the Congress, then I think it would be an appropriate time for me to comment. I don't yet know what my preference would be, whether the Post Office should continue as an independent agency or whether it should be part of the Government itself.
Q. Mr. President, Panax Newspapers has a tape-recorded statement by Dr. Peter Bourne that even though your own relationship is monogamous, you never held anything against people in your organization who were involved promiscuously with other women. My question is, is Dr. Bourne right or wrong in this recorded statement? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. He certainly is right in part of it. My relationship--[laughter]--my relationship is monogamous.
Q. What about the rest of it? Can 1 follow up, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. I am sorry?
Q. What about the second part of it? He has stated that you never held anything against people in your organization who were involved promiscuously with other women. Is he right or wrong?
THE PRESIDENT. My preference is that those who associate with me--in fact, all people--would honor the same standards that I honor. But I've never held it against people who had a different standard from myself. I've done everything I could properly and legitimately to encourage my staff members' families to be stable, and I have also encouraged the same sort of thing in my Cabinet.
If there are some who have slipped from grace, then I can only say that I'll do the best I can to forgive them and pray for them. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. President, can you give us your reaction to the Supreme Court decision on former President Nixon's tapes and documents, that they are the property of the Government, and the implications that this might have on the disposition of your own Presidential material?
THE PRESIDENT. My intentions are to make my own Presidential papers and documents the property of the people of the Nation after I leave office. And I have no objection, obviously, to the same thing being done in a mandatory way with the papers and documents of President Nixon.
I do have concern, however, about the enormous complexity of the requirement of making all those documents available for public scrutiny. I understand the cost of this process will be more than $55 million. There are literally millions of documents and hundreds and hundreds of tapes. And whether or not we should guarantee that any citizen of the country should have unimpeded access to any document and tape is one that does concern me. But, of course, I am constrained to abide by the 1974 law, and we are looking into how we can make sure that these documents and tapes are not concealed from the public, but still handle them in a rational way.
This is what I intend to do when I am no longer President, is to make my own papers available to the public.
HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY
Q. Mr. President, just one other aspect of human rights. Although you've expressed surprise, as Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International] pointed out in the beginning, about some of the Soviet response, that reaction at the very beginning was predicted almost without exception by people who had long experience in dealing with the Soviet Union. My question is, did you consult any qualified, experienced people before undertaking your campaign? If you did, who were they? What did they tell you?
THE PRESIDENT. I would guess that the Secretary of State and my national security adviser, my staff, and others would be adequately qualified. I don't have any regrets at all about our enthusiastic endorsement of the principle of human rights, basic human freedoms, and the respect for individuality of persons.
I was asked by a group of local newspaper editors if there were any surprises to me. And I said that the degree of disturbance by the Soviets about what I considered to be .a routine and normal commitment to human rights was a surprise. It has not caused me any deep concern, and I would certainly not do it otherwise in retrospect.
Q. Could I just follow up? Did any of them suggest that you not undertake this campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. No, never.
FRANK CORMIER [Associated Press]. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT Thank you very much.
Note: President Carter's tenth news conference began at 10:30 a.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/244181