Jimmy Carter photo

The President's News Conference

June 13, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon. I have a brief report to make, and then I will answer questions.


Four months ago, a group of distinguished Americans began to screen about 230 persons for selection for the directorship of the FBI. They have interviewed a large number of people, about 45 or 50, and they have now made a recommendation to me and to the Attorney General of five persons whom we will now interview and consider. We may or may not choose one of these five, but the likelihood is that we shall.

One of the persons is Judge John Irwin from Massachusetts. Another one is William Lucas, the sheriff of Wayne County in Detroit. The third one is John Van de Kamp, district attorney from California-Los Angeles, I believe; Neil Welch, who is the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Philadelphia; and a Circuit Court Judge, Seventh Federal Circuit, Judge Hurlington Wood. Those five men will be interviewed by the Attorney General, investigated thoroughly, and then I will interview them personally. And the chances are that the next FBI Director will be from those five, although it's not a certainty.

Ms. Thomas [Helen Thomas, United Press International].


Q. Mr. President, Senator Byrd says you overreacted on early defeats to your energy program. And you said that the American public is not aroused enough against the oil and auto lobbies. One, do you think you overreacted? Two, why do you think the public has not been aroused in view of your avid campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that my statements concerning the votes both in the commerce committee subcommittee, under John Dingell, and the Ways and Means Committee were moderate and accurate. I am deeply concerned about the inordinate influence of the lobbyists and representatives of the oil companies and the automobile manufacturers.

I've never criticized the Congress as a whole. As a matter of fact, I believe that Al Ullman and John Dingell did an extraordinarily good job in trying to protect the recommendations that I had made to the Congress.

It's important that the American people be aroused to the fact that unless they are deeply involved in helping the Congress and me to come up with a substantive, comprehensive, fair, and adequate energy policy, that the special interest groups will prevail.

I've never attacked the Congress on this matter at all. I believe that it's a good likelihood that the full commerce committee and the Members of the House of Representatives on the floor debates and vote will reverse some of the setbacks that were suffered last week.

I have confidence in the sound judgment of the Congress, and I believe that they and I are on test. And if we are not successful in coming forward with an adequate program, we will be deserving of legitimate criticism by the American people for timidity and for an absence of concern about what I still consider to be the gravest domestic issue that I shall face during my own term as President.


Q. Mr. President, are you now considering unifying the direction of all the intelligence agencies under a single individual, and if so, when might that come about?

THE PRESIDENT. Shortly after I was inaugurated President, I asked the National Security Council to begin a study about the organizational structure of the intelligence agencies. I have no predisposition about what that decision might be. This study has been going on now for more than 4 months, and I think a recommendation to me is imminent.

There obviously will be differences of opinion. I would hope that these differences could be ironed out among the State Department, the national security adviser, the present Director of the CIA, the director of the intelligence community, Stun Turner, and the Secretary of Defense.

But those matters on which they still disagree, when the recommendation comes to me, I'll resolve them without hesitation. I think that there is a need to protect the very important aspect of a diversity of opinion in making assessments of intelligence, the proper collation of data to be presented to me and other consumers. And I think it's important that we move very strongly away from a past procedure and let those who use the intelligence data give a direction to the intelligence community about the relative priorities that are important.

In the past, the intelligence community itself has set its own priorities. I think in the future the Defense Department, State Department, the President, and others ought to set the priorities. But I don't have any predisposition yet about the exact organizational structure.

One other comment is that I have met with the congressional leaders about this subject. My own hope is that if we can reach reasonable agreement within the executive branch, that we can work very closely with the Congress in setting into law the charge to the intelligence community and the organizational structure of the intelligence community. So far this has been done by Executive order.

But I think that progress is good. There are bound to be differences of opinion and strong differences of opinion. If they are not resolved otherwise, I'll resolve them myself.


Q. Mr. President, during the campaign you advocated removing the regulatory agencies and departments from the control of regulators too friendly with the people they regulate, and you also advocated environmental protection. Your nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Interior for policy, budget, and administration, Robert Mendelsohn, of California, has consistently voted against environmental protection in favor of the interests of large campaign contributors as a member of the California Coastal Zone Conservation Commission.

However, since he began consulting for the Interior Department in February, he has accepted over $110,000 in campaign contributions and/or forgiven loans from the same interests. In view of your statements and his record, why have you nominated him to this position of influence over the Government's environmental protection efforts?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not familiar with this record that you have described, but I will immediately become more familiar with it. [Laughter] And if there are conflicts of interest, we can always change the appointment if it is in error.

I believe, however, that as a general rule that my nominations and my selections for important positions relating to the environment have been overwhelmingly approved by environmental groups, quite often who are very fervent and very demanding and whose standards are very strict. But in this particular instance, I am not familiar with it. But I will let you know later on if you will check with me.1

1On May 5, the President had nominated Robert H. Mendelsohn to be Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Management, Program Development, and Budget.

At his news conference at the White House on June 14, Press Secretary Jody Powell made the following statement:

There was a question yesterday with regard to a nomination of Mr. Bob Mendelsohn, which unfortunately contained some allegations against him which are not true. And I think, in addition to the fact we promised to respond on the question, it is important that the record be set straight with regard to this individual to the extent it can be.

I might say to begin with that everything which I am now about to tell you has been available on the public record for a matter of weeks, if not months. There have been in the past several weeks extensive committee hearings and several press statements from Interior on this specific matter, so that none of this information, in fact, was in a position that was not available to any reporter that wanted to look for it.

A question was raised about a fundraising event which Mr. Mendelsohn had. Let me say that event took place only after checking with the counsel in this office and at Interior. It took place before his nomination to the Senate. Every contributor to that fundraiser was screened by the White House counsel and the counsel of Interior to make sure that they were not people who were doing business with Interior. Only two of the contributors had any connection with Interior at all and that was judged to be so remote as to be insignificant.

There was, in addition, an allegation that Mr. Mendelsohn has a poor environmental record. Suffice it to say during the entire course of the committee hearings, not one environmental leader raised any objection whatsoever to his appointment to this office by the President.

The Secretary of Interior happens to be in California today, and I think he is making a similar statement there.

I might also say it is my understanding that the members of the committee who considered this appointment in fact were complimentary in the way in which the fundraiser and the contributions were handled by the nominee and by the Department of Interior.


Q. Mr. President, within the past 10 days the White House has reemphasized its commitment to campaign on behalf of human rights activists persecuted in foreign countries.


Q. In Wilmington, North Carolina, the Reverend Ben Chavis and nine others have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms totaling 282 years for what they contend are human rights activities. The Reverend Mr. Chavis and his supporters, including now the NAACP and several prominent business and political and elected leaders in North Carolina, have implored you for your intervention and comments in their behalf.

What comments do you have regarding the Reverend Ben Chavis and the Wilmington 10 and their charges of political imprisonment?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the only comment that I am free to make under our own system of government is that I hope that justice will prevail; that the ones who are accused of a crime will be given a fair trial; if they are found guilty, that they will be punished in accordance with normal procedures for an equivalent crime committed.

There is a very strict prohibition, as you know, against the encroachment of the executive branch of Government on the judicial branch. The Attorney General is concerned about this particular case in that he wants the same thing I want, and that is that justice 'be done. This has been a matter of long-standing controversy, both on the domestic scene and internationally as well, and I trust the system in its entirety. If there ever is a mistake made at a lower level in our judicial system, there's always a right to appeal. And I believe that the history of our judicial system is that ultimately they make the right decision.

But I am not trying to evade the question. I think that it would be improper for me to try to impose what I think should be a judgment in a case that I have not heard tried. I don't have any direct familiarity with the evidence. I believe that justice will prevail.


Q. Mr. President, when you unveiled this energy program to the American people, you said that the alternative to your proposals might be a national catastrophe.


Q. I want to know exactly what proposals you had in mind. If you lose the standby gas tax, you lose the rebates on fuel-efficient automobiles, if you should lose the deregulation of new natural gas-are those the ones that you had in mind? Or is it the wellhead tax and the coal conversion that you really think are the heart of your program?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think you could single out any one particular point and equate it with a national catastrophe. But unless we take action to meet the goals that we have established--a reduction in overall oil consumption, a reduction in the excessive consumption of natural gas, a shifting toward increased consumption of coal, and an equitable means of pricing oil and gas to encourage additional exploration on the one hand and to protect the interests of consumers on .another--those cumulative effects of not meeting these goals would be catastrophic.

We now see a rapid escalation in consumption of gasoline. I think this summer we will see the highest use of gasoline in the history of our country. Imports are growing by leaps and bounds. Our trade balance, negative trade balance, is going to be very excessive this year--$25 billion. We'll probably--possibly import $45 billion worth of oil. And unless we reverse these present trends by strict conservation, brought about by voluntary means, by pricing structures, by tax incentives, the cumulative effect of this absence of adequate leadership on the part of me and Congress will be catastrophic.

But each individual component part of this complete plan can't be equated with catastrophe. I might say that we don't consider ourselves to be infallible. Over the 3 or 4 months that we considered this plan before it was presented to the Congress, there were a lot of differences of opinion. Some of the judgments made were quite closely called ones.

And the Congress is now finding an equal difficulty in dealing with this controversial issue. So, I don't say that everything we've proposed has got to be passed just as though we put it forward. But I think cumulatively, if we don't take strong and active action, the economic and political consequences will be catastrophic.

Q. Mr. President, Senator Byrd, Saturday, when he made his comments and suggested that maybe you should cool it with the rhetoric, suggested that one reason that you didn't have a very good showing on Capitol Hill last week was because of the ineffectiveness of your own lobbying organization. So, I would like to ask you, do you plan to beef that up or are you planning some sort of new strategy? You say the public has to be aroused. What do you plan to do from here on out about this? Perhaps you will make some compromises with Congress on other issues, for example?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that our efforts have been adequate. I noticed that one of the comments from a congressional leader--I have forgotten which one it was-in response to my criticism of the oil and automobile lobbies, was that the most effective lobby on Capitol Hill was the one from the White House. I think we are presenting our views to the Members of the Congress in an adequate fashion.

The agenda for the Congress this year is extraordinarily complex and diverse not only in ethics legislation, reorganization legislation, the construction of a new Department of Energy and energy policy, social security, but also many things concerning air pollution standards, welfare reform to come, and I believe that our presentation of our views in a forceful and fair and objective way to the Congress through my own congressional relations group is adequate. I am proud of them. And I think the differences of opinion that arise between the Congress and myself are not caused by a failure to present ideas. It's just a result of an honest difference of opinion about what ought to be done about these controversial issues.


Q. Mr. President, you were attacked rather savagely in the Soviet press last week as "James Carter, an enemy of detente." From your vantage point, do you feel there can be any U.S.-Soviet detente without respect for observance of human rights on their part?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, obviously, the differences that arise between us and the Soviet Union are the things that are highly publicized. I'm grateful to know that we are beginning this week to work closely with the Soviet Union on a comprehensive test ban treaty to prohibit all testing of nuclear devices underground or in the atmosphere.

They have suggested, along with us, that Great Britain join this negotiation. That's a step in the right direction.

Paul Warnke will begin to negotiate with the Soviet Union within the next week on demilitarization of the Indian Ocean, again a very major step forward if completed. There are continuing discussions between ourselves and the Soviet Union on details of the overall SALT agreement. And, as I have announced earlier, the Secretary of State and the Soviet Foreign Minister will meet at least twice more between now and the expiration date for the present agreement.

So, I think that in general we are moving in the right direction. Our statements concerning human rights, I think, have been well received around the world. We have not singled out the Soviet Union for criticism, and I have never tried to inject myself into the internal affairs of the Soviet Union. I have never made the first comment that personally criticized General Secretary Brezhnev.

But when we pursue aggressively and with determination our commitment to the principle that human beings are to be well treated by governments, that human freedom is one of the highest aspirations and commitments of our country, I think this is the right thing to do. If it hits ourselves as self-criticism, so be it. If it touches the Soviet Union and they interpret it as intrusion, so be it. But we have tried to make this a broad-based approach.

I think it's hard to assess the results of this deep commitment which I think is compatible with the inclinations of the American people. But I don't believe that there is a single leader of a nation on Earth today who doesn't have within his or her consciousness a concern about human rights--how do we appear to our own people, how do we appear to observers from other nations? And as we approach very quickly now the preparation for the Belgrade conference to assess the Helsinki progress--that will take place next October--I think there's a general sense in the world we had better get our own houses in order, we had better make a good image available to the outside world. And the scrutiny that's focused on this issue is constructive.

And I think that the Soviets' reaction against me personally on the human rights issue is a misplaced aim. I have no hatred for the Soviet people, and I believe that the pressure of world opinion might be making itself felt on them and perhaps I am kind of a scapegoat for that adverse reaction on their part.

But I feel very deeply that we ought to pursue aggressively this commitment, and I have no second thoughts or hesitation about it.


Q. Mr. President, U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young continues to make head-lines with his comments about racism.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. [Laughter]

Q. Do you think his words have opened old wounds at home and damaged our interests abroad, or do you welcome this discussion on the nature of racism that he has touched off?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the statements that Andy Young has made are different from what I would have said. The word "racism" has different connotations to different people, as does the phrase "human rights." I think in almost every instance when Andy has said something that was criticized, if someone read the entire text, how he defined racism, there is no criticism involved. But when you extract the one word, it implies a much heavier condemnation than Ambassador Young meant. I read the transcript of his comments about former Presidents Nixon and Ford. He explained that when he used the word "racism" as it applied to them, that it was not a condemnation, but it was an assessment that they were not familiar with the special problems of black people or minority groups who did not have an opportunity to be vivid in their own consciousness as former Presidents.

I think that, in general, what Ambassador Young is accomplishing for us in dealing with Third World nations, those who are struggling for recognition, those who are struggling against oppressive hunger and disease and poverty, is very good. They now look on the United States as having at least one representative--I hope more--but at least one who understands their problem, who speaks their language, who will listen to them when they put forward their woes and their hopes for the future.

I think we have a new sense in the minds of those kinds of people of caring about them, and to a major degree it's because of their trust in Andy Young.

I'm disturbed that after he spent 17 days in Africa, sometimes at some considerable danger to his own self, that a remark about Sweden was a major headline that derived from that entire, very fruitful visit on his part to that continent.

Andy is concerned also. He pointed out to me in a private meeting this past week that he thought it was time for him to shift his emphasis more toward other developing nations outside of Africa, in Asia, in this hemisphere, and so forth. I agree with him on that. But, in general, I think that Andy Young has been a superb representative of our country. And I think that his use of the word "racism" has clouded the issue and has brought perhaps undeserved criticism on himself.


Q. Mr. President, you have taken a pretty strong position on double-dipping. I want to ask a question about singledipping. [Laughter]

How do you justify a system under which a million and a half government workers retire, take full-time jobs, and draw full pensions, whereas 30 million social security retirees, if they work, don't get any pension?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't try to justify it. I don't think it's right, and I don't think it's fair. We've had two meetings recently concerning the retirement system and a need for it to be reassessed and perhaps changed. I think there's a wide difference in the retirement benefits that can be expected among Americans who have done the same work as a background and who have contributed widely varying amounts of money into their own retirement system. I think it's time for a Presidential level blue-ribbon commission to look at this whole question, the singledipping, the double-dipping, triple-, sometimes quadruple-dipping into retirement benefits.

There is another question that's been addressed, at least as far as private retirement systems is concerned, and that's whether or not they are financially sound.

Many government retirement programs are unsound, particularly at the local level of government, some at the State level of government. And this is a very dangerous thing for the security of many public servants in our country, presently and in the past.

So, I think the entire system of retirement needs to be examined very carefully. And although I haven't announced it publicly before, I intend very quickly to appoint a commission to give me advice on what ought to he done to correct these inequities.

Marilyn [Marilyn Berger, NBC News].


Q. Mr. President, on Saturday you spoke about aggressively, peacefully challenging the Russians in their own spheres. Could you please elaborate on those remarks and explain how this differs, for example, from the cold war, which in some cases led to hot war, as in Korea and Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. The comment that I made was--with an emphasis on peaceful competition--was to win the friendship of nations that in the past have not been close to us who may have been heavily influenced by or very closely friendly with the Soviet Union and who may still be.

I think this is a normal and a proper hope for our country. We don't want to be in a position that once a country is not friendly to us and once they are completely within the influence of the Soviet Union, they should forever be in that status.

And as I have already indicated and named several countries--Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, even more controversial nations like Vietnam, Cuba--I want to move as best I can to reestablish normal, friendly relationships with those countries.

In some instances the obstacles are quite severe, as in the case of Cuba and perhaps Vietnam, but I think this is what our government ought to do, and I would like to have a situation when I go out of office that all the nations in the world have diplomatic relationships with us.

We now have 14 who don't. And I've been pursuing this aggressively, to use the word that you described, and also I think that I am completely in harmony with the Secretary of State and others who work with me on this pursuit.

Mr. Mohr [Charles Mohr, New York Times].


Q. Mr. President, to follow up on your remarks about human rights, Mrs. Anatoly Scharansky, the wife of a Soviet dissident who is under arrest, is visiting in the United States, and yesterday she expressed interest in seeing you to ask you to intervene in this case. I'd like to ask, do you think that this sort of thing can be useful, and do you plan to see her?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't have any plans to meet Mrs. Scharansky, but I have inquired deeply within the State Department and within the 'CIA as to whether or not Mr. Scharansky has ever had any known relationship in a subversive way or otherwise with the CIA. The answer is no. We have double-checked this, and I have been hesitant to make that public announcement, but now I am completely convinced that contrary to the allegations that have been reported in the press, that Mr. Scharansky has never had any sort of relationship to our knowledge with the CIA.


Q. Mr. President, in the context of your campaign you said a number of times that the B-1 was an exotic weapon which should not be built. Now you've given two sets of Congressmen who met with you last week the impression that even though this is the most expensive plane that ever would have been built, that you are about to go ahead.

Can you comment as to whether you have made a decision; and whether you have or not, what leads you to reconsider? What factors make you rethink this compared to what you said in the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have not made a decision about what I will do concerning the 13-1 bomber. As you know, the Congress, late in 1976, in effect put the B-1 bomber construction in a dormant stage and permitted the expenditure of a certain amount of money per month to build a few B-1 bombers to keep the program alive.

I'll make a decision before the end of this month. I have received a great deal of conflicting advice from those who work closely with me and was eager to meet with one group of Members of Congress who were against the B-1 bomber to hear their arguments and then later met with a group who were for the B-1 bomber-I think the other way around. But both groups presented their views very strongly and very effectively to me. I think now is the time for me to perhaps on my own and perhaps in a lonely way to make a final judgment.

There are major factors involved--the status of our relationship with the Soviet Union in the SALT talks, the quality that we have seen in the latest test of the B-1 bomber, its radar cross-section and the effectiveness of present and future electronic countermeasures, the effectiveness of substitutes for it, the cruise missile being one of those, and in the overall context of our tactical and strategic needs I'll make a judgment before the end of this month.

FRANK CORMIER [Associated Press]. Thank you, Mr. President.

[President Carter's ninth news conference began at 2:30 p.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. Have you sent in your tax forms?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it has been waiting until Rosalynn got back to sign it. I am sure it went in today.2

Q. All done?

2 At his news conference at the White House on June 16, Press Secretary Jody Powell stated that the President and Mrs. Carter had decided to take a few more days to look over their tax returns before filing them. Mr. Powell said that an extension of the filing deadline had been requested by the President's accountant, Robert Perry.

THE PRESIDENT. We had until the 15th of June, yes.

Q. Mr. President, the House, as you know, is considering a public works bill with $200 million worth of water projects money. If that bill reaches your desk in its present form, can you say now whether you would veto it or not?

THE PRESIDENT. I would rather not say specifically what I will or will not do. The Senate and the House both have to consider it and the conference committee, and it will have to get to me. I'd rather wait until later to decide whether or not I will veto it.

Q. The last time we asked you about tax reform you said you hoped that there would be no loss to the Treasury as a result of your tax reform plans. And since then, Secretary Blumenthal has indicated that there probably will be some revenue loss. Where is the administration on this question, and how much loss can you accept and still balance your budget?

THE PRESIDENT. No decisions have been made about tax reform. I think it was Mr. Schultze who made that comment, unless both of them did, but I think it's premature to say yet what will be done about tax reform. We are having a series of meetings about it, and the decision will be made early enough. I just don't have any---

Q. Mr. President, you seem to have changed your views somewhat since the campaign about the B-1. Is that accurate?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think that you could detect what my view might be. I'll make that decision this month.

Q. You no longer seem to view it as an exotic weapon that shouldn't have been built. Even though you haven't made your final decision, what you said today seems to be in somewhat of a different context than the campaign. You seem to think it's a very serious question one way or the other and that--there's a different tone to it. Am I wrong?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, during the campaign, many of the observers of my effort said I was so fuzzy on the issue that they couldn't understand what I was saying. Since I have become President, people have an almost exact capability of discerning what I said during the campaign. It's hard to correlate the two.

But one of the things that I was concerned about during the campaign was that in spite of the fact that the tests on the B-1 bomber were not supposed to be completed until last November, early in the spring President Ford came out in favor of a construction program. I haven't decided yet what to do. But when I make a judgment, I think you would agree with me that I made the best judgment within my ability.

Q. Mr. President, you were talking about Government retirement systems and public retirement systems. Are you satisfied that the Federal retirement systems are sound, at least---

THE PRESIDENT. I think so.

Q. ---And that they're equitable?

THE PRESIDENT. You mean the major retirement system for the Federal employees?

Q. Yes.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, that's sound. And so is the social security system sound up until this moment. But unless the Congress takes fairly quick action to implement reforms, it will not be sound. One of the major social security funds will be exhausted in 2 years; another one 4 years later. But I am sure the Congress won't let that need slip by without taking action.

Q. Could you tell us how you could consider giving Cuba diplomatic recognition---

THE PRESIDENT. We have not recognized Cuba.

Q.---and how you'd consider this, though, as a future action until Castro releases some of these thousands of people that he is holding as political prisoners and until he withdraws some of his troops from Africa?

THE PRESIDENT. Those are two of the items that I have said would be of deep concern to me before we could normalize relationships with Cuba. The consultation with Cuba, the exchange of ideas with Cuba, the working out of a fisheries agreement or a maritime agreement or hopefully an anti-hijacking agreement--those kind of things I think are perfectly legitimate. But there is no immediate prospect for diplomatic recognition and exchange of Ambassadors with Cuba.

Q. Would you insist that he bring his troops home from Africa?

THE PRESIDENT. That is one of my expectations.

President Carter's ninth news conference began at 2:30 p.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/243706

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