Richard Nixon photo

The President's News Conference

May 01, 1971

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

I thought this morning that it would be well to give those who particularly are members of the White House press corps, and others, of course, who are here, who have joined us in California, an opportunity to follow up on the press conference we had Thursday.

After that conference I noted that there were only one or two questions out of all the questions that were asked, of the 18 or 19, that were in the field of domestic policy. So consequently, so that you can have a chance to follow up in the domestic field, we will limit this conference to domestic policy questions, any area that you would like to explore in that particular case.

I note that you are all standing. I understand that for the purposes of this conference, that to get recognition if you will simply hold your hand up, or speak up, either one, and I will recognize you.



[1.] I think Mr. Cormier [Frank Cormier, Associated Press] has the first question.

Q. Mr. President, on the basis of the first quarter GNP figures which were up sharply, Director Shultz saw the basis for a broad expansion; some others in your Administration said, "Well, it is too early." "One swallow doesn't make a spring," and what have you.

What is your view on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Cormier, I think it is well to put all of these economic indicators into some perspective. I don't do it as an expert in economics, but I have heard a lot of experts and this is the way I would evaluate it at this time: First, it is true that the first quarter figures are up. I think we can say that at this time we are in the midst of a strong economic upturn. Housing starts are up; retail sales are up; productivity is up; and, just as important, inflation is down.

Now, having said that, however, as we look to the future, I think it is well to bear in mind that every month is not going to reflect the same trends. We will have zigs and zags in a free economy. That is the only thing certain about a free economy, that it does not move on a certain path. All that I am sure of is what I stated at a press conference perhaps 2 or 3 months ago when I said that I believed that this would be a good year economically, 1971, and 1972 would be a very good year.

We have projected high goals for the economy, and we are adopting policies for the purpose of achieving those goals. We have two dangers, I should point out. One, inflation. While inflation was down, the rate of inflation, it is still a danger, and we must fight it on particularly two fronts: the wage-price front, where we must have decisions made that are responsible and do not create inflationary pressures, and second, on the governmental front, where it is very important that we not exceed the full employment revenues. And that will make it necessary for me on occasion, perhaps, to veto those irresponsible spending proposals by the Congress where they go beyond the full employment revenues which are, as you know, a very, very high number, and which provide for an expansionary budget.

The other area in which we still have problems ahead is unemployment. Unemployment always hangs high in any kind of recovery or upturn. It is the last number--unemployment is the last number in a downturn to be reflected in going up, and it is the last number in an upturn to be reflected in going down.

We, however, believe that the long-term effect of our policies will be to bring unemployment down. I would particularly refer, while we are in California, to the fact that unemployment is at this time highly regional in its impact. California is considerably above the national average; so is the State of Washington. One of the major reasons for that is that California and the State of Washington, and Oregon to an extent also, the whole west coast, has been highly dependent upon defense contracts and also on aerospace industry.

Since we have approximately now 2 million men, since this Administration has come into office, who have been let out of the armed services and also have left defense jobs, this has had its greatest impact in California. That is why decisions that I will make in the future, and decisions of this Administration insofar as future government contracts, as they deal with our turn from a wartime to a peacetime economy, California and the Pacific Northwest will get special consideration.

That is the way, of course, that the law is properly adjusted. It doesn't mean that we regionally are favoring one part of the country over another, but this part of the country has suffered the most from the turn from a wartime to a peacetime economy, and now it is necessary, as we move in certain areas, to look at California and the Pacific Northwest, as well as other pockets where they have suffered primarily from the change in defense spending.


[2.] Mr. Risher [Eugene V. Risher, United Press International].

Q. Mr. President, you said that you will not be intimidated by the antiwar demonstrators in Washington, but can you tell us if you consider that these demonstrators serve a useful purpose or a legitimate purpose, or whether you will meet with any of them when you return to Washington?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no plans to meet with any of them, Mr. Risher. I am quite aware of their position. They have, along with many others--some of those who represent their views in the Senate-have strongly expressed their position to me. I respect their views. I respect their right to disagree with my position.

But I believe my position is right, and I think in the long run they are going to reach that conclusion, too, because they don't want just what is so easy for a man in terms of leadership, that quick political movement that would say "Peace now" without regard to peace in the future. And it is peace--not just in our time, but peace in their time, these young people-that I am constantly emphasizing.

Now, with regard to the demonstrators, when I say that I will not be intimidated, and that the Congress will not be intimidated, I am simply stating the American principle that while everybody has a right to protest peacefully, that policy in this country is not made by protests. Those who make policy must, of course, listen, and then they must weigh all the other facts and then do what they think is right.

And also, when I say that we will not be intimidated, I should point out that while the demonstrations a week ago were peaceful demonstrations for the most part, this week we have had some incidents at several departments where it was necessary to arrest those who were breaking the law. If this kind of illegal conduct continues next week, as some say it will, we are prepared to deal with it. We will arrest those who break the law.

The right peacefully to demonstrate, or let me put it another way, the right to demonstrate for peace abroad, does not carry with it the right to break the peace at home. And we are going to see to it that anybody who comes to Washington to demonstrate peacefully is protected in that right, and that it is recognized.

But, on the other hand, we are going to see to it that the thousands of Government workers who have a right to go to work peacefully are not interfered with by those militants, those few militants, who in the name of demonstrating for peace abroad presume that they have the right to break the peace at home.1

1 A statement on the operation of the Government during the demonstrations was read by White House Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler during his regular news briefing at the White House on May 4, 1971, and is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 7, P. 725).


[3.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Muskie of Maine has sent to the newspapers copies of a memorandum to the White House of last December by the Treasury Department which raises strong doubt that you have the authority to order some of the changes in tax depreciation which were announced when we were out here in January.

Senator Muskie says the memorandum by Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Nolan shows that the Administration was knowingly violating the law. As you know, this whole matter of this $3 billion tax depreciation change has become rather controversial. I wonder if you would tell us your thinking in ordering this change, and whether, specifically, you ever saw the Nolan memorandum or took any notice of it in your consideration.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first, so, that we may understand that in all these conferences-and I have said this to other members of the White House press corps, but I want the members of the California press corps to know the position that I follow-I, of course, will never comment on any political comments that are made in a conference that I hold as President of the United States. So a release that a presidential candidate or a Senator sends to the paper, I will not comment on that.

But I will comment on your question, which goes to, as I understand, the whole proposition of the order that I did issue with regard to the depreciation. The answer is that within the Government and among lawyers there is and was a difference of opinion as to what authority the President had to provide for depreciation allowances.

The Nolan memorandum and, as a matter of fact, memoranda from others were also brought to my attention, indicating what that authority was.

I, as President--and as I may say, too, formerly one who practiced a good deal of tax law--I consider that I had the responsibility then to decide what the law is. And my view is that while they had expressed a different view, that the correct legal view and the right view from the standpoint of the country was to order the depreciation allowances.

Now, the reason that we ordered it is this: The reason is that at this time it is vitally important to move this economy from a wartime to a peacetime basis. In order to move it from a wartime to a peacetime basis, we must provide incentives for business to write off faster on a depreciation basis those kinds of expenses that appropriately can be written off, and that means more jobs.

Now, any Senator or any critic who wants to oppose a program that is going to mean more jobs for Americans, peacetime jobs rather than wartime jobs, has a right to take that position.

I don't agree with him.


[4.] Q. On the matter of jobs, House Speaker Carl Albert has urged that

you call a national conference on unemployment.

Are you considering doing that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I believe that many of the critics of our economic policy should listen to their top economist, Mr. Paul Samuelson. You may recall Mr. Samuelson, who is a very fine economist and one who has been rather pessimistic about the economy up to this point, made a statement recently to the effect that he thought those who were criticizing the Administration on the economy might find that they might not have an issue next year.

Now, I am not making any predictions about what is going to happen each month, but I do believe that we are on the right track as far as the economy is concerned.

I do believe that what we are doing has now checked the rise in unemployment. There may be zigs and zags, up and down, but the long-range goal of the Administration is one that is achievable. I will also point out that this is an activist Administration, as my answer to Mr. Oberdorfer's [Don Oberdorfer, Washington Post] question a little while ago indicated. Where I think that action can be taken to stimulate the economy, we are going to take it. And if I find, as we look at the April figures and then the May figures and the June figures, that this economy is not moving as fast as it should move to deal with the unemployment problem, then we will act. We will act on the tax front and other fronts.

I do not see anything to be gained by calling a conference on the problem. We are quite aware of it, and I can only say that we are doing something and achieving something that was not achieved in the 8 years while we were not in Washington. And that is that we are achieving an economy that is strong, and we trust one in which we will have a strong economy and a prosperous economy, but without having it at the cost of war.

We want to remember we did not have low unemployment except at the cost of war in the 8 years between 1961 to 1969. It is that that this Administration is working on.


[5.] Q. Mr. President, in the background of this question is the effort of a Congressional subcommittee to subpoena film which was made for, but never used in a news documentary.


Q. By CBS. Also NBC. Also in the background of the question, of course, are various pressures and counterpressures which some of us believe we see from your own Administration.

In December 1969, the Republican U.S. Senate Policy Committee issued the following statement as a matter of their policy. The question is whether you agree or disagree with this, and also I would like to get your comments on this general area of subpoenaing newsmen's notes and unused film. The Policy Committee statement was, "Whether news is fair or unfair, objective or biased, accurate or careless, is left to the conscience of the commentators, producers and network officials themselves. Government does not and cannot play any role in its presentation."

THE PRESIDENT. Let me address myself first to the quotation. I think the quotation states a principle that most Americans would support. However, I do not believe that that means that network commentators or newspaper reporters, as distinguished from editorial writers who, of course, have a right to every bias and should express such bias, are above criticism, and they shouldn't be sensitive about it.

Now, when you go, however, to the question of subpoenaing the notes of reporters, when you go to the question of government action which requires the revealing of sources, then I take a very jaundiced view of that kind of action unless it is strictly--and this would be a very narrow area--strictly in the area where there was a major crime that had been committed and where the subpoenaing of the notes had to do with information dealing directly with that crime. As you know, that is provided for in many States at the present time.

But as far as the subpoenaing of notes is concerned, of reporters, as far as bringing any pressure on the networks, as the Government is concerned, I do not support that.

I believe, however, that each of us, as a public figure, has a right to indicate when we think the news coverage has been fair or unfair. Generally speaking, I also feel that I do not have to say much about that because, regardless of what I say, you are going to say anything you want about me, and it usually may not be very good.


[6.] Q. Mr. President, regarding the use of wiretaps in domestic security matters--

THE PRESIDENT. The kind that you don't have with subpoenas, in other words?

Q. Right, without court orders. The Attorney General has stated the policy on that, and he has been criticized by Congressman Emanuel Celler of New York, who says that this could lead to a police state. Would you comment on the threat of a police state in the use of this type of activity?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have great respect for Congressman Celler as a lawyer and as, of course, the dean--as you know, he is the dean of all the Congressmen in the House, a very distinguished Congressman. However, in this respect I would only say: Where was he in 1961? Where was he in 1962? Where was he in 1963?

Today, right today, at this moment, there are one-half as many taps as there were in 1961, '62, and '63, and 10 times as many news stories about them. Now, there wasn't a police state in 1961 and '62 and '63, in my opinion, because even then there were less than 100 taps; and them are less than 50 today; and there is none now, at the present time.

All of this hysteria--and it is hysteria, and much of it, of course, is political demagoguery to the effect that "the FBI is tapping my telephone," and the rest-simply doesn't serve the public purpose. In my view, the taps, which are always approved by the Attorney General, in a very limited area, dealing with those who would use violence or other means to overthrow the Government, and limited, as they are at the present time, to less than 50 at any one time, I think they are justified. And I think that the 200 million people in this country do not need to be concerned that the FBI, which has been-with all the criticism of it--which has a fine record of being nonpolitical, nonpartisan, and which is recognized throughout the world as probably the best police force in the world. The people of this country should be thankful that we have an FBI that is so greatly restricted in this respect.

This is not a police state. I have been to police states; I know what they are. I think that the best thing that could happen to some of the Congressmen and Senators and others who talk about police states is to take a trip--I mean a trip abroad, of course [laughter]--and when they go abroad, try a few police states.

This isn't a police state and isn't going to become one.

I should also point this out: Where were some of the critics in 1968 when there was Army surveillance of the Democratic National Committee--at the convention, I mean? We have stopped that.

This Administration is against any kind of repression, any kind of action that infringes on the right of privacy. However, we are for, and I will always be for, that kind of action that is necessary to protect this country from those who would imperil the peace that all people are entitled to enjoy.


[7.] Q. Mr. President, Director Shultz of the Office of Management and Budget said a couple of weeks ago that the performance of the economy in the first quarter did not come up to your high goals.

If the performance continues in this way for the next few months, are you considering a cut in taxes, or some other action?

THE PRESIDENT. First, with regard to the goals that we set, while the performance in the first quarter did not reach that goal, it was, nevertheless, a very strong first quarter, and I am not going to venture a guess as to what the second quarter will be.

I will say this: that this Administration is prepared to act in the event that we feel that the economy is not moving as well as it should. But at the present time, particularly based on the March figures--because when you break out the first quarter, when you break March out from February and January--you find that it was a very strong March.

If the economy continues at its present level, at its present rate, the rate that we had in March and as it seems to be moving in April, or has moved in April--we won't get the figures for April for about another week--then I see no need for the kind of action you suggest. If on the other hand, the economy does not move strongly, we will act.


[8.] Q. Mr. President, getting to the question of the depressed defense industry in California, are you prepared to go to Congress and ask for loan guarantees for Lockheed, for the Tri-Star airbus?

THE PRESIDENT. I have seen, incidentally, some speculation after my meeting with former Prime Minister Wilson, on that point. I was delighted to learn in my conversation with Mr. Wilson that he had had dinner with Senator Humphrey the night before, and that Senator Humphrey, who had opposed the SST, had indicated that he now would support the Administration in the event that we did go to the Congress for the necessary guarantee for Lockheed.

We are going to make the decision on that either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Secretary Connally is in charge, and he will make his recommendations to me. I will only say this: that Lockheed is one of the Nation's great companies. It provides an enormous employment lift to this part of the country, and I am going to be heavily influenced by the need to see to it that southern California--after taking the disappointment of not getting the SST, which would, of course, have brought many, many jobs to this part of the country--that California does not have the additional jolt of losing Lockheed. That gives you an indication of where I am leaning.

On the other hand, if the Secretary of the Treasury comes in and gives me strong arguments to the contrary, I will look in the other direction.


[9.] Q. Mr. President, I assume you think that the upcoming negotiations in steel could have a significant impact on the economy. What, if anything, are you doing to see, first, whether a strike can be averted, and secondly, whether a settlement can be reached that you would consider to be noninflationary?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Kaplow [Herbert Kaplow, NBC News], to indicate that the Government is going to move in now to impose a steel settlement would mean there would be no negotiation; the parties would just quit negotiating. At this time, the companies, the steel companies, and the unions are negotiating. The Government stands ready to be of assistance at any time in the negotiating process in order to avoid a strike, if that can be done.

I will only say this with regard to the stakes involved in this settlement: Let's look at the U.S. steel industry. Twenty years ago, when I first was a Senator from California, the United States produced 50 percent of all steel in the world. Today we produce 20 percent. Last year, for example, steel's profits were 2 1/2 percent; that is the lowest of any major industry, looking at it from a competitive standpoint.

Japan 20 years ago produced 5 million tons of steel, last year produced 100 million tons of steel, and by 1974 will produce more steel than the United States of America.

What does this all mean to us? It means that this settlement, a wage-price settlement, must reflect the competitive realities in the world, or we are going to find U.S. steel--and I am speaking of all the companies-we are going to find that the United States steel industry which has been the backbone of our economy, and is the backbone of any strong industrial economy, is going to be noncompetitive in the world.

This gives an indication of how we feel about it. But right at this time we must wait to see what industry and labor will eventually agree upon.


[10.] Q. Mr. President, many of us are rather concerned that a large percentage of our young people are breaking the law constantly by smoking marihuana. As you know, your own White House Conference on Youth voted to legalize marihuana. I know you have thought about this problem, and I wonder if you would give us some of your thoughts on it.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Pierpoint [Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News], as you know, there is a commission 2 that is supposed to make recommendations to me about this subject. In this instance, however, I have such strong views that I will express them. I am against legalizing marihuana. Even if the Commission does recommend that it be legalized, I will not follow that recommendation.

2 Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. A White House announcement of the Commission's membership was released on January 30, 1971, and is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 7, p. 150).

Now, with regard to the penalties on marihuana, that is a matter which I do think is open to a national recommendation with regard to more uniform standards. In some States they are extremely strict, and in other States they are quite lax. I believe that a penalty in some instance can have a detrimental effect in achieving our goal. But I do not believe that legalizing marihuana is in the best interests of our young people, and I do not think it is in the best interests of this country.


[11.] Q. Mr. President, let me follow up on this possible action for Lockheed. It seems a lot of its problems are from mismanagement in the military sector, and now these management problems in the commercial 1011 sector.

Mr. Packard,3 at the Pentagon, has indicated they could continue operating these defense programs even if they were in bankruptcy.

3David Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Where are you going to draw the line about helping these multibillion dollar corporations that end up in shaky financial condition because of mismanagement?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is rather easy to belabor a company as big as Lockheed--as you know, it is the biggest airframe producer in the world--belabor it for its mismanagement.

There has been a lot of mismanagement in military contracts, as you know. In my view, however, looking at this precise case, the airbus problem did not come as a result of Lockheed's mismanagement. It was because of the failure of Rolls Royce in Britain.

Under those circumstances, it seems to me that this particular contract is one that should be looked at separately. And I will certainly--when I make this decision next Wednesday, Tuesday or Wednesday, whatever day we finally get together on it--I will have in mind all these considerations.

But we are not going to damn the whole company for some areas of mismanagement, for some mistakes. We need a strong airframe producer like Lockheed in southern California, and if we can save the company and, frankly, help it toward better management, we will do so.


[12.] Q. Mr. President, to go to the Calley case for a minute, you said Thursday night that you felt that the military system of justice in this country was a fair system. But don't you admit the possibility that your repeated expressions of sympathy for Lieutenant Galley, and your decision to review the case, will inevitably have the consequence of influencing the judges, the military judges, who are going to be reviewing this case up the line? And don't you admit that there is a possibility, at least, that this would actually thwart the system of military justice?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I should point out that what is important is that I am the final reviewing officer. As far as I am concerned, I am going to review the case. I am going to review it fairly, having in mind what the trial court has found, and also what the other reviewing authorities say.

I am not trying to influence the reviewing authorities. I am simply indicating, as they all know, and the law so provides, that as Commander in Chief, I will exercise my right to review.


[13.] Q. Mr. President, many black Americans seem to think that your Administration is anti-equal-rights. My question is, what are you doing to counter that impression, and what do you consider to be your most important actions in advancing the cause of civil rights?

THE PRESIDENT. When we consider the many things that we have done in this area, we could refer, for example, to the food stamp program, which, of course, benefits, as you know, many disadvantaged Americans and many black Americans. For example, the increment that we have asked for this year is twice as much as the program, the whole program, was when we came into office.

In other words, we are dealing with the problem of hunger in America which affects black Americans and many other disadvantaged Americans.

Second, we are making very great strides, significant strides, in the field of minority enterprise. They have not been well advertised, but they are known among those who have businesses, who didn't have them before and didn't have that chance.

Third, we are providing opportunities in government that have not been provided before.

Fourth, and this is an area that I think needs to be emphasized, let's look at the matter of the dual school system.

When we consider today that even before the Supreme Court decision that was handed down last week, 38 percent of all black children in the South now go to majority white schools as compared to 98 percent of all black children in the North going to majority white schools, we can see that a very quiet but significant revolution has taken place in this country; and it is to the great credit of the far-seeing, law-abiding black and white leaders of the South that this has taken place.

They now have another difficult problem, complying with the Supreme Court decision, and I believe compliance will take place because we are going to follow our same tactic of cooperation rather than coercion.

As far as the entire problem is concerned, I have met with black leaders, with the black Congressmen, and with various representatives of the black community, and will continue to do so, and with representatives of other parts of our society, because we have got to move forward not only with black Americans; we have very significant problems--we in California know it--in the Mexican-American community.

I found, for example, looking at some statistics recently, that with regard to poverty, for example, that the problem of Mexican-Americans in the Los Angeles area is even worse than that of black Americans. So we have got to zero in on that problem as well.

REPORTER. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Nixon's sixteenth news conference was held at 10 a.m. on the grounds of the Western White House in San Clemente, Calif., on Saturday, May 1, 1971. It was broadcast live on radio.

Richard Nixon, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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