Richard Nixon photo

The President's News Conference

January 30, 1970

THE PRESIDENT. Will you be seated, please.



[1.] Mr. Cornell [Douglas B. Cornell, Associated Press].

Q. Mr. President, for several days I have been collecting some headlines that sort of point up the question I would like to put to you. I would like to run over some of these headlines with you: "Balance of trade makes slight progress in 1969," "Circus rings up record 1969 profits"--Ringling Brothers, "Big firms, 1969 profits down," "Dow average hits new low for 3 years," "GNP rise halted," "Ford joins GM, Chrysler in work cutbacks," "Wholesale prices show sharp rise," "U.S. Steel will raise sheet prices February 1."

The question is, how, sir, do you assess the possibility that we may be in for perhaps the worst possible sort of economic conditions inflation and a recession?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Cornell, the major purpose of our economic policy since we came into office a year ago has been to stop the inflation which had been going on for 5 years without doing it so quickly that it brought on a recession. Now, as a result, we are now in a position, the critical position, in which the decisions made in the next month or two will determine whether we win this battle.

In my view, the budget that we will announce on Monday, that I understand has received some attention already--but that budget will be a major blow in stopping the inflation psychology. Now, whether we can anticipate now whether we are going to have a recession, as some of those figures that you gave would imply, I would simply say that I do not expect a recession to occur.

Our policies have been planned to avoid a recession. I do expect that the present rate of inflation, which was less in the second half of 1969 than in the first half, will continue to decline and that we will be able to control inflation without recession.


[2.] Miss Thomas [Helen Thomas, United Press International]

Q. Mr. President, how do you view the possibility and size of a new Tet offensive in Vietnam and a hot war in the Middle East in view of the rising violence there?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, with regard to Vietnam, we are watching that situation closely, particularly in view of new inflation figures. The inflation--I mean, we were talking about inflation--I meant infiltration.

The infiltration in Vietnam, and, of course, that means inflation as far as the number of forces of the enemy in South Vietnam is concerned, has gone up in January. However, the number of infiltrators is still not of a size to provide what we believe is the capability the enemy would need to mount and sustain a prolonged offensive beyond that which we are able to contain.

We are continuing to watch the situation, and we will be prepared to deal with it. I would remind everybody concerned, and particularly remind the enemy, however, of what I said on November 3d, and repeated on December 15th. If, at a time that we are attempting to deescalate the fighting in Vietnam, we find that they take advantage of our troop withdrawals to jeopardize the remainder of our forces by escalating the fighting, then we have the means--and I will be prepared to use those means-strongly to deal with that situation, more strongly than we have dealt with it in the past.


[3.] Q. Mr. President, on the Middle East, you recently said we will not hesitate to supply arms to friendly states as the need arises.

Has the sale of 100 jets to Libya by the French caused an imbalance in the Mideast arms situation, enough so that the United States should now expedite the sale of additional jets to Israel?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Jarriel [Thomas Jarriel, ABC News], the problem of the sale of arms to Libya has been one that does concern us. As you know, that involves our relations also with the French Government. Now, one encouraging thing that has happened since we came into office is some improvement in our relations with the French.

One of the reasons that those relations have improved--and that improvement began when I visited President de Gaulle last February--is that we have had better consultation and discussion with regard to our differences, and those differences exist primarily in two areas, our policies toward the Mideast and our policies toward NATO.

President Pompidou will be here next month, and I will be discussing a number of problems with him. I would not want to speculate now as to what I will be discussing with him, except to say that all of those differences, naturally, will be on the table.

As far as our own policy toward the Mideast is concerned--a question which was the latter part, incidentally, of Miss Thomas' question--as far as our own policy toward the Mideast is concerned, let me put one thing in context: I have noted several recent stories indicating that the United States one day is pro-Arab and the next day is pro-Israel. We are neither pro-Arab nor pro-Israel. We are pro-peace. We are for security for all the nations in that area. As we look at this situation, we will consider the Israeli arms request based on the threats to them from states in the area and we will honor those requests to the extent that we see--we determine that they need additional arms in order to meet that threat. That decision will be made within the next 30 days.


[4.] Q. Mr. President, in June, I believe it was, you told us that you hoped to be able to beat former Defense Secretary Clark Clifford's projected timetable for the withdrawal of all ground combat troops, and I want to get this exactly correct, by the end of this year. Your present rate of withdrawal does not seem to be beating that timetable. Could you tell us if you still hope to be able to do that, and, if not, why?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Pierpoint [Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News], that is our goal. Our goal, of course, is to end the war in Vietnam, preferably by negotiation, as quickly as possible. If not by negotiation, through Vietnamization, in which the South Vietnamese will assume the primary responsibility for their own defense.

We are moving on schedule on Vietnamization. More announcements will be made. I do not want to speculate now as to whether we will beat the requirement that--or at least the proposal that Clark Clifford put out. I do say, however, that that is our goal, and we hope to achieve it.


[5.] Q. Mr. President, on Mr. Cornell's question of inflation and recession, a former Johnson administration official feels he has figures to prove that jawboning was effective in holding down prices, and he also claims that the rate of inflation was greatest during 1969, your first year, than in any other single year in the decade.

I am wondering if the decisions you say you will be making in the next month or two might include considering jawboning?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the official statement to which you refer, of course, is correct. The rate of inflation in 1969 was greater than in any other year in the decade. But what happens in any particular year is not a result of the policy of that year. It is caused by what was done prior to that time, and for 5 years prior to 1969 this Nation, by going into debt to the tune of $57 billion, planted the inflationary seeds which grew into almost an uncontrollable situation in 1969.

Now starting in 1969, and again in 1970, and again in 1971, we have balanced budgets. That kind of policy we believe will turn it around. It is the best way to turn it around, and the only effective way.

Now, with regard to jawboning, we think that the policy of so-called jawboning failed and was no longer used in 1966 and 1967. It is effective, certainly, when the President of the United States calls in a big steel company or a big automobile company and says, "Lower prices. If you don't, we will do this or that with regard to Government contracts."

But that is effective with regard to that company. It is not effective with regard to the whole problem, and it is basically unfair. We are going to continue on our present course. We believe it is the right course.


[6.] Q. Mr. President, Secretary Rogers and Vice President Agnew have said, with somewhat different that the course of U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam is irreversible. You have just issued a warning about the level of enemy activity.

Do you mean, sir, that, if there is a rise in the level of enemy activity, that it could cause a halt in the withdrawal program?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, what Secretary Rogers and the Vice President very properly referred to was my speech on November 3d in which I said we had implemented a plan in which the United States would withdraw all of its combat forces as Vietnamese forces were trained and able to take over the fighting. That policy of Vietnamization is irreversible.

Now, as far as the timing of the plan is concerned, how many, and at what time they come out, that, of course, will depend on the criteria that I also set forth in that speech--the criteria of the level of enemy activity, the progress in the Pads peace talks, and, of course, the other matters, the problems particularly with regard to the rate of training of the Vietnamese forces.

As far as what I answered in Miss Thomas' question was concerned, I am simply repeating again what I said on November 3d when I announced this policy of withdrawal of our forces.

If the enemy, when we are withdrawing, does then jeopardize our remaining forces by stepping up the fighting, we will react accordingly and we have the means to do so which I will not hesitate to use.


[7.] Q. Mr. President, if you had known about the speech in which he advocated white supremacy, would you have nominated Judge Carswell to the Supreme Court?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I would. I am not concerned about what Judge Carswell said 22 years ago when he was a candidate for a State legislature. I am very much concerned about his record of 18 years-as you know, he had 6 years as a U.S. Attorney and 12 years as a Federal District Judge--a record which is impeccable and without a taint of any racism, a record, yes, of strict constructionism as far as the interpretation of the Constitution and the role of the Court, which I think the Court needs, the kind of balance that it needs. Those are the reasons that I nominated Judge Carswell.

I should also point out that, looking at a man's record over the past, any individual may find instances where he has made statements in which his position has changed. I was reading for example, referring to the press corps here, a very interesting biography of Ralph McGill 1 the other day. In 1940 he wrote a column in which he came out unalterably against integration of education of Southern schools.

1 Editor and publisher of the Atlanta Constitution, who died on February 4, 1969.

He changed his mind later. As you know, he was a very great advocate of integration. That doesn't mean that you question his integrity in his late years because in his early years in the South he took the position that other Southerners were taking.

I believe that Judge Carswell will be approved by the Senate overwhelmingly. I think he will make a fine judge. And I think that he will certainly, in this whole field of civil rights, interpret the Constitution and follow the law of the land in a fair and equitable way.


[8.] Q. Mr. President, how do you feel you stand, now that you have been in office a year, in terms of having the confidence and trust of the black people in this country?

THE PRESIDENT. I have been concerned, Mr. Kaplow [Herbert Kaplow, NBC News], about polls and statements by some black leaders, and some white leaders who purport to speak for black people, to the effect that while the administration seems to be doing rather well among most of the American people, that we do not have the confidence that we should have among black people.

Let me, however, respond to what I intend to do about that in this way: I think the problem we confronted when we came in was a performance gap with regard to black people in America--big promises and little action and, as a result, immense frustration which flared into violence.

Now I know all the words. I know all the gimmicks and the phrases that would win the applause of black audiences and professional civil rights leaders. I am not going to use them. I am interested in deeds. I am interested in closing the performance gap. And if we can get our welfare reform, if we can stop the rise of crime which terrorizes those who live in our central cities, if we can move on the programs that I mentioned with regard to rural America where 59 percent of the black people live, if we can provide the job opportunity and the opportunity for business enterprise for black people and other minority groups that this administration stands for, then when I finish office I would rather be measured by my deeds than all the fancy speeches I may have made. And X think then that black people may approve what we did. I don't think I am going to win them with the words.


[9.] Mr. Theis [J. William Theis, United Press International]

Q. Could you tell us, going back to the Carswell matter, whether or not the two controversial issues raised in the hearings were brought to your attention before you submitted the nomination, during the screening process?

THE PRESIDENT. No, they were not. The two controversial issues--I assume you meant the speech that Judge Carswell made when he was a candidate for office and the fact that he had belonged to a restricted golf club--yes. I can only say with regard to the restricted golf club that--I did not know, of course, about the speech--as far as the restricted golf club is concerned, if everybody in Washington in Government service who has belonged or does belong to a restricted golf club were to leave Government service, this would have the highest rate of unemployment of any city in the country.

And as far as Judge Carswell is concerned, I think that he has testified very openly about his membership in the club, and the members of the Senate committee overwhelmingly have considered those matters and have decided that he is not a racist and that he will be a fair and, it seems to me, a very competent judge of the Supreme Court.


[10.] Q. Mr. President, I wanted to know if you have decided whether you are going to recommend an expansion of the ABM system?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it was approximately a year ago, not quite a year in a press conference in this room, that I announced we were going to go forward with an ABM system with two purposes in mind:

First, a purpose of defending our Minutemen sites against any major nuclear power, and, second, an area defense cover the possibility of attack by any minor nuclear power.

As far as that decision was made I said then that I would reexamine it annually. I have reexamined it in a meeting of the National Security Council last week. I have decided to go forward with both the first phase and the second phase of the ABM system, and Secretary Laird will announce the details of the program in about 30 days.


[11.] Q. Mr. President, in connection with Biafran relief, some people seem to think that the United States should put more pressure on the Nigerian central government in order to speed up the relief operations.

Are you satisfied with the efforts the United States has made and with the pace of the relief effort?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Horner [Garnett D. Homer, Washington Evening Star], we have done everything that we think it is proper to do to bring to the attention of the Nigerians Government the concerns that we have and the reports that we have received that they may not have received with regard to starvation in Biafra. We all have to understand, of course, that no relief can get into Biafra unless we do it through the Nigerians Government. And that is why we have brought these matters to the attention of the Nigerian Government.

I would add one further thing, that there are two questions here that sometimes become confused on Biafra. There is first the question of politics and second the question of people. The question of politics involves who is to blame for the starvation. Is it the defunct government of Biafra who is to blame or is the Nigerian Government to blame?

We're not interested in the politics. We are interested in the people. If there are starving people, and there have been reports that there are numbers of starving people, perhaps hundreds of thousands, then it is our desire to get food to them. We have made considerable progress in getting the Nigerian Government to accept our offer of trucks, hospitals, food, and we are going to continue to press in the interest of helping hungry people and not involving ourselves in the politics of who was responsible for the starvation where it exists.


[12.] Q. Mr. President, Le Duc Tho, one of Hanoi's chief negotiators, has arrived in Paris. I wondered, sir, if you plan to take advantage of his stay there either to make new proposals yourself or to try in more detail to get North Vietnam's position?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you know, Le Duc Tho, at least according to press reports, has arrived in Paris to attend a Communist Party meeting that is being held there. Now, whether he will now participate in the negotiations again or whether we could have an opportunity to have discussions with him remains to be seen. I can only say that we have a very competent Ambassador there in Mr. Habib. He has instructions to explore every possible avenue for a breakthrough in the negotiations, and if an opportunity is presented, he will do so.


[13.] Q. Sir, in connection with the ABM, there have been suggestions that expanding the ABM from a protective system for Minutemen into an area defense of cities might raise problems in connection with the negotiations on arms control.

Without going into too much detail, can you tell us whether your decision to proceed with the second phase involves area defense or simply an additional defense of Minutemen like the first phase?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Bailey [Charles W. Bailey 2d, Minneapolis Star and Tribune], our decision involves area defense. The Minuteman defense is only effective insofar as an attack by a major power, taking out our retaliatory capacity.

The area defense, on the other hand, is absolutely essential as against any minor power, a power, for example, like Communist China. I don't anticipate an attack by Communist China, but if such a power had some capability with ICBM's to reach the United States, an area defense, according to the information we have received, is virtually infallible against that kind of potential attack, and, therefore, gives the United States a credible foreign policy in the Pacific area which it otherwise would not have.


[14.] Q. Mr. President, would you tell us what you had in mind a few moments ago when you said that the decisions to be made in the next month or two would determine whether we have inflation or how we go on the road toward greater economic stability?

THE PRESIDENT. I think first we must put this in the context of the action of the Congress just a couple of days ago on the HEW veto.

I think the significance of that action-and I am not here to gloat over it because what we have to do now is to work together toward getting the fight kind of bill that will be noninflationary--but the significance of that action, and it is a signal to the country, is that we are not going to have a runaway Congress and, therefore, not going to have a runaway budget and a runaway inflation.

Now, with this administration submitting a hard budget, not a bargain basement budget--I could have, by a little gimmickry, gotten this down to $199.8 rather than having it $200.7. But $200.8, which is the figure that we finally agreed upon, is a hard figure. It is an honest budget, we can keep it, and we have a surplus which is a real surplus.

Having made those decisions, this means that the Federal Reserve can now consider the fact that we do have fiscal restraint in determining whether or not this is the time to loosen up on monetary policy.

Now, let me be quite precise in this respect. The Federal Reserve is independent and the new Chairman, who will be sworn in here tomorrow, is one of the most independent men that I know.

As President of the United States, I am not saying what the Federal Reserve ought to do; I do know, though, that if monetary policy remains too restricted too long, we have a recession, and monetary policy will remain restricted unless the Federal Reserve and those who are in charge of monetary policy are convinced that fiscal policy is responsible. Fiscal policy is responsible, and as a result of that I think the time is coming when monetary policy can be relaxed and that would lead to what I mentioned a moment ago.


[15.] Q. In a news conference early in your administration, you noted that the North Vietnamese would not negotiate in earnest unless the country supported and was behind your Vietnam position.

Now that there has been a virtual moratorium on criticism, do you feel that the chances are improved for a settlement in Paris or for a breakthrough, and do you feel this is having any effect on the North Vietnamese?

THE PRESIDENT. We have had no evidence of any effect yet on the North Vietnamese. They are just as recalcitrant in their position as they have been and just as stubborn. On the other hand, we haven't given up hope. We continue to meet with them each week. We continue to be as forthcoming as we can.

I would say that the fact that we have had more support, and I should say perhaps more understanding of our policy and, therefore, more support for it than previously, should be an incentive for the North Vietnamese to negotiate, because that is a message to them that they aren't going to win--they have nothing to gain by delay. They are not going to win their ends by a division in the United States.


[16.] Q. Senator Mansfield has asked for details of the military involvement of the United States in Laos. So far the administration has said nothing beyond your recent statement that we have no combat troops there.

Just how deep is this country's involvement in Laos?

THE PRESIDENT. I answered that same question in my press conference approximately a month ago in this room and I will not go beyond that answer at this point, except to say that the North Vietnamese have 50,000 troops in Laos and thereby threaten the survival of Laos.

Our activities there are solely for the purpose of seeing that the Laotian Government--which was set up by the Laotian accords, and at their request--for the purpose of seeing that they are not overwhelmed by the North Vietnamese and other Communist forces.


[17.] Mr. Roberts [Chalmers M. Roberrs, Washington Post]

Q. Mr. President, to go back to Viet-Nam a moment, assuming the best on the military front and that you can continue to take troops out, the text of the remarks of the Air Force Secretary the other day about turning over gradually the air jobs to the Vietnamese made it sound as though at least air units and presumably combat units which are tactical are going to have to remain in Vietnam for many, many years.

Could you give us your feeling about that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Roberts, first, how long any units remain in Viet-Nam will depend upon whether we have a breakthrough in negotiations.

Assuming--and I assume this is the basis for your question--there is no breakthrough in negotiations, then we still stand on what I announced on November 3d, that our plan envisages the complete withdrawal of all American combat forces. But it does also envisage support for the South Vietnamese logistically and, until they are ready to take over, support in the sea and support in the air, where you have highly sophisticated training programs involved, will stay there for a longer time than support in terms of ground forces. I think I will just stand on that statement.


[18.] Q. Mr. President, you said a minute ago that your expansion of the ABM system will provide a credible defense in the Pacific. Do you mean in part by that that it will expand your options in the war in Vietnam and the war in Laos in the event of unanticipated difficulties?

THE PRESIDENT. No, what I was referring to was the time span of perhaps 10 years from now, and we must do now those things that we may be confronted with 10 years from now, to deal with those things.

Ten years from now the Communist Chinese, for example, among others, may have a significant nuclear capability. They will not be a major nuclear power, but they will have a significant nuclear capability. By that time the war in Vietnam will be over. By that time, I would trust, also, the Laotian war may be resolved.

But, on the other hand, with a significant nuclear capability, assuming that we have not made a breakthrough--and we are going to try to make the breakthrough in some nonrealization of our relationships with Communist China--then it will be very important for the United States to have some kind of defense so that nuclear blackmail could not be used against the United States or against those nations like the Philippines with which the United States is allied in the Pacific, not to mention Japan.

Helen Thomas, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The President's ninth news conference was held in the East Room at the White House at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, January 30, 1970. It 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

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