The President's News Conference
TROOP WITHDRAWALS FROM EUROPE
THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Mr. Risher [Eugene V. Risher, United Press International] has the first question tonight.
Q. Mr. President, Chairman Brezhnev1 recently indicated a willingness to negotiate troop withdrawals from Europe. Do you plan to take him up on this?
THE PRESIDENT. We have completed within our own Government our study of the question of balanced, mutual force reductions. Secretary Laird has had some consultations last week on this matter with the NATO defense chiefs, and Secretary Rogers is conducting consultations at the present time with the Foreign Ministers of the various NATO countries. When those consultations have been completed, then the United States and our allies will move forward to discuss, negotiate, with the Soviet Union and other countries involved, with regard to mutual, balanced force reductions.
1Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
POSSIBILITY OF EUROPEAN MEETINGS
[2.] Q. Mr. President, we not only have the prospect--maybe distant in the future--of the mutual reduction of force, but we have the Berlin question, the SALT talks, the dollar problem in Europe. Do you foresee meeting with the leaders of Europe on their own soil within the foreseeable future?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Cormier [Frank Cormier, Associated Press], I plan no trip to Europe and no meetings with European leaders in the near future. If such plans do develop, of course, I will announce them. And if it becomes necessary, as a result of developments in the question of mutual force reductions or arms limitation, that such meetings occur, I will, of course, go any place that I think would serve the interests of our goal of reducing the dangers to peace in the world and, of course, reducing the burden of armaments.
DRUG ADDICTION PROBLEMS
[3.] Q. Mr. President, what are you going to do about the tens of thousands of American soldiers who are coming back from Vietnam with an addiction to heroin?
THE PRESIDENT. I think it is well for us first to put the problem of drug addiction in Vietnam in perspective. It is not simply a problem of Vietnam veterans; it is a national problem. It is a national problem that primarily focuses on young people. When Mr. Finch and Mr. Rumsfeld came back from Europe,2 they pointed out that it was an affliction not only of young people who were in the armed services but of young people who were tourists in Europe.
2Robert H. Finch and Donald Rumsfeld, Counsellors to the President, made a 23-day trip to Europe and North Africa to discuss drug abuse prevention and control with foreign officials. On May 21, 1971, the White House released the transcript of a news briefing on the trip by Mr. Finch and Mr. Rumsfeld.
Consequently, what we need is a national offensive on this problem and one which, of course, will particularly take into account the immediate problem in Vietnam. The problem in Vietnam is aggravated by the fact that heroin can be purchased there at a much lower price than it can in the United States, and, therefore, when men are exposed to it, or they are able to obtain it, the habit is one that they can afford to have.
What we are going to do, therefore, is to step up our national program on four fronts: First, the front of getting at the sources. This means working with foreign governments where the drugs come from, including the Government of South Vietnam, where they have, of course, a special responsibility.
It means, also, prosecuting those who are the pushers. It means, in addition to that, a program of treating the addicts, and that, incidentally, insofar as veterans are concerned, means treating them where they are addicted to heroin or hard drugs before releasing them, giving them the opportunity. And, finally, it requires a massive program of information for the American people with regard to how the drug habit begins and how we eventually end up with so many being addicted to heroin, the hard drug, which virtually is a point of no return for many.
In that respect, that is one of the reasons I have taken such a strong position with regard to the question of marihuana. I realize this is controversial. But I can see no social or moral justification whatever for legalizing marihuana. I think it would be exactly the wrong step. It would simply encourage more and more of our young people to start down that long, dismal road that leads to hard drugs and eventually self-destruction.
I am going to be meeting, incidentally, Thursday of this week, with the Secretary of Defense, the three Service Secretaries, the three heads of the armed services, and get a direct report from them on the programs they have initiated at my suggestion and at the suggestion and request of the Secretary of Defense in the drug field.
We consider it a problem of the highest priority, and we are going to give it the highest priority attention at all levels, not just with regard to veterans, where it is a special problem, but nationally, where it is one that concerns us all.
MORALITY OF THE VIETNAM WAR
[4.] Q. Mr. President, much of the debate about Vietnam seems to have shifted from the question of practicality of policy to questions about morality of the U.S. involvement. Some of the people who have been demonstrating against the war have contended that your Administration is responsible for war crimes, not only speaking of certain face-to-face encounters between U.S. soldiers and civilians but speaking of the policy of massive bombing of large areas of Southeast Asia.
How do you respond to the suggestions that the bombing constitutes immoral, criminal conduct?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, my views with regard to war are well known. I grew up in a tradition where we consider all wars immoral. My mother, my grandmother on my mother's side were Quakers, as I have often pointed out to this press corps, and very strongly disapproved of my entering World War II. As far as Vietnam is concerned, like all wars it involves activities that certainly would be subject to criticism if we were considering it solely in a vacuum.
But when we consider the consequences of not acting, I think we can see why we have done what we have. To allow a takeover of South Vietnam by the Communist aggressors would not only result in the loss of freedom for 17 million people in South Vietnam, it would greatly increase the danger of that kind of aggression and also the danger of a larger war in the Pacific and in the world. That I believe. That is why I have strongly supported ending this war, ending our involvement as we are, withdrawing Americans, but ending in a way that we do not turn the country over to the Communists, ending it in a way that we give the South Vietnamese a reasonable chance to defend themselves against Communist aggression. And that is why I believe that kind of ending will contribute to the peace that we all want.
STRATEGIC ARMS LIMITATION
[5.] Q. Mr. President, if there should be agreements on both defensive and offensive weapons with the Soviet Union, do you plan to submit both of those agreements to the Senate in a treaty form, or only the agreement on defensive weapons, leaving the other to an understanding?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Lisagor [Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News], this is a matter which you have raised, along with other reporters that cover the White House, in some of the background briefings, and I am sure that all of you know that it is not possible for me, and it would not be appropriate for me, to discuss this matter in any way that would jeopardize the agreement itself.
We cannot tell at this time what form the agreement will take. With regard to defensive weapons, the ABM, it is a simpler matter, because we are talking about only one weapons system. Therefore, it might be subject to a treaty.
With regard to the offensive limitations that we are talking about, it is not as simple a matter, because here we have several weapons systems. We have missiles. We have bombers. We have nuclear submarines. And the understanding, the commitment that has been made at the highest level, deals with only some of those systems. Consequently, what would come out with regard to offensive weapons may or may not be at the treaty level. It might be at an understanding level at this point, and be at a treaty level at a later point.
I would like to be more precise than that, but that is an accurate statement of what we expect.
WOMEN IN GOVERNMENT JOBS
[6.] Miss Means [Marianne Means, Hearst Newspapers and Hearst Headline Service].
Q. Mr. President, women make up more than 50 percent of the population, but it seems that men have a lock on the top Government jobs. Out of the top 10,000 Federal supervisory posts, only 150 are filled by women, and in 2½ years you have appointed only 200 women to Federal jobs, 62 of them to one single arts commission.
What are your goals for bringing more qualified women into Government and promoting them, and how do you personally feel about women's liberation?
THE PRESIDENT. After that question, I am not going to comment upon women's liberation! But I will comment about the problem about women in Government jobs.
This Administration is proud of its record insofar as putting women in top positions of responsibility. We have women, as you know, as not just members of commissions, but one is the Chairman of the Maritime Commission, and I have just appointed a woman as Chairman of the Tariff Commission. These are breakthroughs. There will be more. They were appointed to these positions not because they were women, but because they were the best qualified people for those jobs.
There are many women who are the best qualified people for jobs in Government, and wherever we can get women to take those jobs, they will be appointed.
I have asked my staff--and particularly in this case we have Mrs. Franklin working on this--to give me any recommendations that they possibly can that will bring qualified women into Government, because finding qualified people is very difficult and we don't want to rule out such a great source of qualified people as the women might provide.
THE MIDDLE EAST
[7.] Q. Mr. President, what effect will the Soviet-Egyptian treaty have on your efforts to get a peaceful settlement in the Middle East?
THE PRESIDENT. The Soviet-Egyptian treaty will have effect only in terms of how it might affect the arms balance. In the event that this will be followed by an introduction of more weapons into the Middle Eastern area, it can only mean a new arms race and could greatly jeopardize the chances for peace. We trust that that is not the case.
It is too early to appraise the treaty in terms of what it could mean, in terms of introducing arms into the area.
As far as we are concerned, we continue to support the truce which is now in its tenth month. We continue to work for an agreement, either an interim agreement if necessary; of course, a comprehensive one if possible.
And we are not going to allow this treaty to discourage us insofar as seeking that agreement is concerned. We seek normal relations with all the countries in the area, including the U.A.R. And we believe that the chances for an agreement are still there. Whether the Soviet follows up with large-scale arms shipments into the area will determine whether or not it increases the chances for peace or sharply increases the chances for war.
CONGRESSMAN MG CLOSKEY
[8.] Q. Mr. President, a Republican Congressman who is a Marine Corps veteran from your own State, Paul McCloskey, has been going around the country talking against your Vietnam policies and has plans to run against you in the primaries next year. Do you welcome this as a challenge, or does it make you the least bit nervous?
THE PRESIDENT. I realize that there are probably many political questions in the minds of reporters and, of course, many of our listening audience. I, however, have decided as a matter of policy that the Presidential press conference is not a proper forum to comment on any partisan political matters or political questions.
Consequently, I will not comment on that, and I will not comment on any other political questions.
PRISONERS OF WAR
[9.] Mr. Horner [Garnett D. Horner, Washington Evening Star].
Q. Mr. President, what does a refusal of all but a handful of the sick and disabled prisoners that South Vietnam had planned to return to the North do to the chances for exchange of such prisoners?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Horner, you will remember that we went through somewhat the same thing in Korea many years ago when the Korean prisoners, many of them, refused to go back. As far as this is concerned, there are a few, less than 20, who have agreed to go back, and, of course, they will be returned.
We hope that the refusal of the others to go back will not deter the North Vietnamese at least to consider some kind of action on their part with regard to sick and disabled prisoners.
Mr. Rather [Dan Rather, CBS News].
Q. Mr. President, thank you. And I especially appreciate it because it gives me an opportunity to follow up on Mr. Horner's question. Some of the wives-by no means all--but some of the wives of prisoners of war held by North Vietnam are critical of you and your policies concerning their husbands, saying specifically, among other things, that you should set a date for withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Vietnam contingent upon release of all the prisoners; that, if North Vietnam doesn't respond, then you lose nothing by that.
The question is, first, generally, would you respond to that criticism, and then specifically, what is ,there to lose by setting a date contingent upon release of all prisoners?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Rather, I discussed this matter with Ambassador Bruce when he was here. And I asked him what success he had had in raising this question with the North Vietnamese, because, as you note, they have even put out stories to the effect that if we would set a date certain, way in the future, they would be willing to move on the prisoner issue. It always comes back to the same thing. If we end our involvement in Vietnam and set a date, they will agree to discuss prisoners, not release them.
Now, we have been around this track before. I should point out that when President Johnson agreed to the bombing halt in October of 1968, he did so with the understanding that there was going to be progress in the negotiations, that there was going to be discussions, and for 2½ years we have had discussions in Paris and no progress.
Now, as far as we are concerned, we at this time are not going to make any kind of agreement with regard to prisoners that is not going to be followed by action or concurrent with action; from the standpoint of the North Vietnamese, we have yet no indication whatever that they would be willing to release prisoners in the event that we took certain steps.
POLICE ACTION DURING DEMONSTRATIONS
[10.] Mr. Kaplow [Herbert Kaplow, NBC News]
Q. Mr. President, it has been about a month now since the Mayday demonstrations, and in that period, several people have raised the question as to whether the police handled it properly. And also the charges against, I think, more than 2,000 people arrested on that Monday have been dropped.
I wonder with that perspective now of a month, whether you think the police handled it properly; and the broader constitutional question involved of protecting individual rights in a difficult situation of control.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Kaplow, yes, I believe the police in Washington did handle the question properly with the right combination of firmness and restraint in a very difficult situation.
Let us separate the question into what we are really dealing with.
First, there are demonstrators. The right to demonstrate is recognized and protected and, incidentally, has been recognized and protected by the Washington police. Thousands of demonstrators have come down here peacefully and have not been, of course, bothered. They have been protected in that right.
But when people come in and slice tires, when they block traffic, when they make a trash bin out of Georgetown and other areas of the city, and when they terrorize innocent bystanders, they are not demonstrators, they are vandals and hoodlums and lawbreakers, and they should be treated as lawbreakers.
Now, as far as the police were concerned, they gave those who were in this particular area, and who were engaging in these activities, approximately 15,000 in all, an opportunity to disperse. They did not. They said they were there to stop the Government from operating.
I have pledged to keep this Government going. I approve the action of the police in what they did. I supported it after they did it. And in the event that others come in not to demonstrate for peace, but to break the peace, the police will be supported by the President and by the Attorney General in stopping that kind of activity.
This Government is going to go forward, and that kind of activity which is not demonstration, but vandalism, lawbreaking, is not going to be tolerated in this Capital.
POSSIBILITY OF VISIT TO SOUTHEAST ASIA
[11.] Mr. Theis [J. William Theis, Hearst Newspapers and Hearst Headline Service].
Q. Mr. President, there has been persistent speculation that you might also visit Southeast Asia this year. If you can tell us anything about that, it would be welcome, but specifically, are you ruling out a visit to South Vietnam in advance of the presidential elections there this fall?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Theis, I have no plans to visit South Vietnam before the presidential elections. As far as any other travel to Southeast Asia is concerned, I have no present plans. Naturally, I will give all of you advance notice because I know you have to have shots before you go to Southeast Asia.
[12.] Mr. Morgan [Edward P. Morgan, ABC News]
Q. Mr. President, last week in Birmingham you praised Southern progress in civil rights. And you held in contempt those northerners who you said used a double standard on civil rights. However, the Civil Rights Commission has in effect accused your Administration of the same thing. In its May 10th report for instance, it says that the Department of HUD appears to be withdrawing from the battle for fair and desegregated housing.
Do you have a response to that report?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Morgan, I have read the report of the Civil Rights Commission, and I respectfully disagree with it in two areas: One, where they say that this Nation, the American people do not have a commitment to the cause of civil rights. I believe that is an unfair charge. I do not question the sincerity of the members of the Commission. I do not think they should question the sincerity of the great majority of the American people on this issue, particularly in view of the great progress that has been made.
With regard to the housing question, I should point out that the Supreme Court has spoken out on that issue in two recent cases, the Lackawanna case and the California case.3 As a result of those two cases, it is now possible for us to issue a comprehensive statement on housing which will be in compliance with the Supreme Court cases.
3Kennedy Park Homes Association v. City of Lackawanna, N.Y. (401 U.S. 1010) and James v. Valtierra (402 U.S. 137).
The Attorney General and the Secretary of HUD are completing their memoranda. They will be submitted to me later this week. The statement will be issued the first of next week. It will set forth this Administration's position on the housing question, which will be in complete compliance with the law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court.
FURTHER QUESTIONS ON POLICE ACTION
[13.] Q. Mr. President, regarding the mass arrests, I wonder--you seem to have thought that closing down the Government keeping it running, in other words, was so important that some methods such as suspending constitutional rights was justified.
Was it that important? Do you think it was?
THE PRESIDENT. I think when you talk about suspending constitutional rights that this is really an exaggeration of what was done. What we were talking about here basically was a situation where masses of individuals did attempt to block traffic, did attempt to stop the Government. They said in advance that is what they were going to do. They tried it, and they had to be stopped. They were stopped without injuries of any significance. They were stopped, I think, with a minimum amount of force and with a great deal of patience.
And I must say that I think the police showed a great deal more concern for their rights than they showed for the rights of the people of Washington.
Q. Mr. President, as pretty much expected, if I may follow up, if that is true, then why are the courts releasing so many of the cases and so many of the people that have been arrested? If they were lawfully and properly arrested, why are the courts letting them out?
THE PRESIDENT. Because, of course, Mr. terHorst [J. F. terHorst, Detroit News, North American Newspaper Alliance], as you know, that arrest does not mean that an individual is guilty. The whole constitutional system is one that provides that after arrest an individual has an opportunity for a trial. And in the event that the evidence is not presented which will convict him, he is released. I think that proves the very point that we have made.
Q. Mr. President, but they are not being released on the grounds that guilt hasn't been proved. They are being released on the grounds that they weren't properly arrested.
THE PRESIDENT. It seems to me that when we look at this whole situation that we have to look at it in terms of what the police were confronted with when those who contended they were demonstrators, but actually were lawbreakers, came into Washington.
They were confronted with what could have been a very difficult crisis. They dealt with it. They dealt with it, it seems to me, with very great restraint and with necessary firmness.
I approve of what they did, and in the event that we have similar situations in the future, I hope that we can handle those situations as well as this was handled. And I hope they can be handled that well in other cities so that we do not have to resort to violence.
SUPPLY OF GOODS IN VIETNAM
[14.] Q. Mr. President, sir, I wonder what you are going to do about the oversupply of goods in Vietnam. I understand we have enough telephone poles over there for 125 years and acres of trucks and other communications equipment.
Will that be brought back, and where will it be put?
THE PRESIDENT. At the present time, my main concern is to bring back the men from Vietnam. After that we will think about the goods.
[15.] Q. Mr. President, since April you have been considering policy studies on the China question, easing trade with China, and representation at the United Nations. Can you say where these stand now, please?
THE PRESIDENT. With regard to the United Nations question, a significant change has taken place among the members of the United Nations on the issue of admission of Mainland China. We are now analyzing that situation in consultations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and with third countries.
After we have completed our analysis, which I would imagine would take approximately 6 weeks, we will then decide what position we, the Government of the United States, should take at the next session of the United Nations this fall, and we will have an announcement to make at that time with regard to that particular problem.
A number of various options are open to us.
With regard to trade, the various agencies have now completed their review of the situation and have submitted their recommendations to me. And on June 10, I will make an announcement releasing a wide variety of items which previously had been banned. These are all nonstrategic items in which trade can be conducted with Mainland China.
Let me put all of this in context by saying that there are only two areas where we have moved. They are significant, however, in themselves. In the area of opening the door to travel and opening the door to more trade, we have made significant movement. I think what, however, we should realize is that we still have a long way to go.
As I recall, there is a Chinese proverb to the effect that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We have taken two steps, but the important thing is that we have started the journey toward a more normal relationship with Mainland China; and eventually--and this is vitally important--ending its isolation and the isolation of 700 million people from the rest of the people of the world. This we think is a goal well worth pursuing.
DRAFTEES AND VIETNAM
[16.] Q. Mr. President, when do you plan to stop sending draftees to Vietnam?
THE PRESIDENT. The question of whether we could stop sending draftees has been considered, and I find that we are unable to do so at this point. I think, however, the question is going to be a moot one in due time, since as you know, as we stand here at this time, over half of those who were in Vietnam when I came into office have now come home.
By December 1, two-thirds of those who were there when I came into office will have come home. November 15 I will make another announcement with regard to a further withdrawal.
Under those circumstances, it would seem that the number of draftees that will be called into service for Vietnam would be very, very small if not minimal.
PUBLIC OPINION AND THE WAR
[17.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the fact that you are continually reducing the number of troops in Vietnam, bringing more American troops home all the time, how do you account for the fact that two major public opinion polls now show that about two-thirds of the American public don't believe they are being told the truth about what is happening in the war?
THE PRESIDENT. I am not surprised by the polls. I think of the people--and the war has been going on a long time--they are tired of the war. We are an impatient people. We like to get results.
On the other hand, if all the problems that I have in this Government could be as easily solved as this one, I would be very happy. Because the answer to whether or not the American people believe that I am ending the American involvement in war is in the fact we have already brought home half. We will have brought home two-thirds, and we are going to bring all home, and bring them home--and this is what is vitally important-in a way that will not be inconsistent with two other objectives: in a way that will secure the release of our prisoners of war; and, also, in a way that will give the South Vietnamese a chance to avoid a Communist takeover, and thereby contribute to a more lasting peace.
That fact, the very fact that we accomplish that goal, will end the credibility gap on that issue once and for all.
INTERNATIONAL LABOR ORGANIZATION
[18.] Q. Mr. President, may I ask a question on another subject? As you know, there is a considerable uncertainty about the position of the American Government with respect to its affiliation with the International Labor Organization, the ILO. Now, to remove this uncertainty, could you tell us whether the United States seriously intends to continue its membership in the ILO; and second, if it does, will the Administration leadership apply its energies on Capitol Hill to get the appropriations necessary to pay our dues to the ILO?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Meany talked to me about the ILO, and as you may know, he has very strong feelings and reservations about our membership in the ILO. However, we have decided to continue our membership. We will attempt to get the dues in arrears paid by the Congress. We will have to have considerable support in order to accomplish that.
But also, we are going to see to it that American labor, and free labor throughout the world, gets a better voice in the ILO than it has had previously.
The reason that Mr. Meany, a top free world trade union leader, opposes the ILO is because free trade unions have received a very bad deal in ILO meetings, and we are going to have to have better treatment in that way or American support for the ILO is going to go right down the drain.
REPORTER. Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Nixon's seventeenth news conference was held at 8:30 p.m. in the East Room at the White House on Tuesday, June 1, 1971. The news conference was broadcast live on radio and television.
Richard Nixon, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/240177