The President's News Conference
SECRETARY OF STATE KISSINGER'S TRIP TO THE FAR EAST
THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Won't you be seated, ladies and gentlemen. I guess I should say, all of those who can find seats.
Dr. Kissinger, as you know from an announcement that I understand got out about 30 minutes ago from Peking, will visit Peking on October 26 to 29. This is part of the continuing dialog between the People's Republic of China and the United States which began with my visit to China last year.
The subjects that will be discussed include those that have been discussed on previous occasions--trade, for example, where it is interesting to note that the amount of bilateral trade between the two countries, which was approximately $6 million in 1971, will be an estimated $800 million in 1973. Scientific and cultural exchanges will be a major subject for discussions--and, of course, other matters of mutual concern to the two nations.
In addition, Dr. Kissinger has been invited by the Foreign Minister of Japan, Mr. Ohira, to stop in Japan on his visit to the Far East. He will do so. The timing of that visit, however, has not yet been agreed upon and will be announced as soon as we hear from the Japanese.
Incidentally, I learned that 12 to 15 members of the press will be invited, if they desire to go, to go on the trip with the Secretary of State, and if you would put in your applications at the State Department, in this instance, I think that they will be honored in the order in which they are received.
Now, I will be glad to take questions on other subjects, since I understand Mr. Warren has been rather busy with his briefings lately.
QUESTIONS COUNSELLOR HARLOW
[2.] Mr. President, would you tell us why you sent Bryce Harlow out to Arizona last month just after the Vice President and Mr. Goldwater conferred?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't send him to Arizona, as far as I know. I think he went to Oklahoma.
Q. He was reported to have gone to Phoenix.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, he might have. He might have. I think that what had happened was that Senator Goldwater had indicated an interest in the status of the situation with regard to the Vice President's case, and Mr. Harlow, being somewhat familiar with that matter, was the best man to provide that information for him.
VICE PRESIDENT AGNEW
[3.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that the Vice President should resign if he is indicted?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the Vice President has addressed that question, and his answer is an altogether proper one. The Vice President is in a different position, for example, than a member of the President's Cabinet or a member of his staff. I have indicated that if a member of the President's Cabinet or his staff is indicted, he would have to resign pending the outcome of the trial.
However, the Vice President, like the President, is elected by all the people. He holds that office in his own right, and the decision as to whether he should resign is for him to make. He has indicated that he will not resign if indicted, and therefore, that decision on his part should be respected.
Q. Mr. President, have you ever asked for him to consider resigning?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I have not. I have noted the lively discussion about resignation here in the press room, and I understand that. But let me say that in all the conversations I have had with the Vice President, I have never asked him to resign. I have always told him--and he understands this position--that this matter is one for him to decide.
I would say further that as far as our discussions are concerned, they are privileged, and I will not go further than that, other than to say that we both agreed that we could make public the fact that the charges that have been made against him, and which he has denied publicly, he has denied to me privately on three occasions.
THE PRESIDENT'S RESIDENCE AT SAN CLEMENTE
[4.] Q. Mr. President, at your last press conference you said that some of the Government work done at San Clemente had diminished the value of the property for use as a home. I would like to ask about two items that are in the GSA [General Services Administration] reports on it.
First, do you think that the $13,500 electrical heating system that was installed diminished its value? And, second, do you think that when the GSA hired a local landscape architect to redesign the flower beds on the west side of the residence four times a year, that they were spending the taxpayers' money wisely?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can plow that ground again, I guess. If any of you have lived in California, you will know that gas heat costs less than electric heat. I preferred the first, gas heat. For security reasons, apparently, they decided that it presented a fire hazard which could not be tolerated. And so that decision was made.
With regard to the other matters that have been brought up, I think full statements have been made over and over again on this, and I really think anything I would say in answer to your question, in view of the way you have already presented it as a statement, would not convince you or anybody else.
UNFILLED POSITIONS IN THE ADMINISTRATION
[5.] Q. Mr. President, may I ask you two questions in one, because both relate to--
THE PRESIDENT. You are like Mr. Mollenhoff [Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune]. You can ask three if you like.
Q. I will just ask a doubleheader, all right? Both are related to unfilled jobs. That is why I am putting them together.
We have not had an Ambassador in the Soviet Union now for going on to 9 months, and the Chairman of your Commission on Civil Rights, that job has been unfilled about 8 or 9 months, also. What are your plans on that?
THE PRESIDENT. The Ambassador to the Soviet Union is a very important post, and as a matter of fact, I discussed that with Dr. Kissinger just yesterday. I think we will have an announcement on it within the next e or 3 weeks.
With regard to the other position, that is one also that we consider to be very important, and it is at present being considered within the Domestic Council. I am sure a recommendation will be made to me soon, and we will try to fill it.
The main thing about these appointments, as I am sure you all know, is to get the right person, man or woman, for the job rather than to do it in too much of a hurry.
SENATOR PERCY AND THE 1976 PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION
[6.] Mr. Beckman [Aldo B. Beckman, Chicago Tribune Press Service].
Q. Mr. President, can you tell us if you will actively oppose Senator Percy's efforts to win the 1976 Republican nomination, and if you will not, can you tell us what has changed since February when you suggested that you might?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have noted that particularly in the Chicago papers, not only the Tribune but the Sun-Times and the News--and is there another one there, too?
THE PRESIDENT. And Today that there has been much speculation about my meeting with Senator Percy. It was a very candid discussion. I did say at one point, due to a misunderstanding, that I thought that Senator Percy should not be a candidate in '76, and as I told him when we met, that statement was made because I had understood that he had opposed Elliot Richardson for Attorney General right after I had announced that I was sending his name to the Senate, which I thought was a highly irresponsible thing to do in view of the fact that both Elliot Richardson and Senator Percy are in what we call the more liberal wing of the Republican Party.
Senator Percy, however, later explained that his resolution in that respect, that would have affected Elliot Richardson, had been misinterpreted, that he had actually introduced it prior to the time that I had made my announcement. Now, so much for the statement that was made in February.
Second, to put it all in perspective, whether it is Senator Percy on the one side, or one of several Governors or former Governors who might be a candidate, or mayor of Indianapolis, or a number of Senators and one or two House Members--all of them have a right to seek the Presidency if they so desire.
As far as I am concerned, I will make no decision with regard to supporting or opposing any one of these candidates until they have been tried in the field of battle. I think that we learned in the year 1972 that when an individual moves from the Senate--and I am referring now to the primaries--to the big leagues, or when he moves from the governorship to the big leagues--and we learned this in other years--that sometimes he can't hit the big league pitching. And I would like to see how these various potential candidates handle themselves in the primaries before making any decision with regard" to who should be the candidate.
I am. not saying now, incidentally, categorically that I will endorse a candidate before the convention. I reserve the right to make that decision at a later time. But certainly, I would say finally that Senator Percy has been a vigorous campaigner for the Senate, an articulate spokesman--not always on the side of the Administration, but I respect differences of opinion--and he has every right to seek the Presidency. He will not be opposed at this time, and should he prove to be the strongest candidate, he will not be opposed, certainly, if he receives the nomination. I will support whoever receives that nomination.
FURTHER QUESTIONS ABOUT THE VICE PRESIDENT
[7.] Mr. Jarriel [Tom Jarriel, ABC News]. No. Go ahead, I am sorry.
Q. Mr. Risher [Eugene V. Risher, United Press International].
THE PRESIDENT. Gene Risher. You look like Jarriel though.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. YOU are not paid as much as he is though.
Q. I know.
THE PRESIDENT. UPI please note--a raise in salary.
Q. Could you tell us, Mr. President, if you have done any contingency planning about a possible Vice President in the event that Vice President Agnew leaves office for any reason?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Risher, certainly not. It would be highly inappropriate to have any contingency planning with regard to what should happen if the Vice President leaves office.
As far as the Vice President is concerned, I have said in my statement of the 25th of September that he has denied the charges that have been made against him, that he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, which is the right of every American citizen, and I urge all of my fellow Americans to give him that presumption of innocence, as I certainly do. And particularly that presumption of innocence, I think, should be underlined in view of his years of distinguished service as Vice President, having in mind, too, the fact that the charges that have been made against him do not relate in any way to his activities as Vice President of the United States.
I would say further in that respect that I would hope that in this rather white-hot atmosphere, which I understand has developed since the Vice President's case came to public attention, that he will not be tried and convicted in the press and on television by leaks and innuendo and the rest. There is nothing really that is more harmful to the rights of an individual than to be tried and convicted in the press before he has an opportunity to present his case, and I would urge all of you ladies and gentlemen, because I know you want to be responsible in this respect, to make your judgments on the basis of all the evidence, not on the basis.
Q. Mr. President
THE PRESIDENT. Let me finish.--make your judgment on the basis of all the evidence and not simply on the basis of a unilateral charge that is made, not under oath.
Q. Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Mollenhoff, yes, you.
Q. On that particular point, you have been briefed in some detail .on the evidence in the Agnew problem. You are also a lawyer with some expertise. You could tell us--
THE PRESIDENT. Some would question that.
Q. whether there is any substance to Mr. Agnew's charges that this is a frivolous investigation, that it is a frame-up, and that it is in fact a smear.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Mollenhoff, when you say that I have been briefed on the charges, I should respond to that by saying that I have not heard the witnesses. I have only been briefed on what it is believed the witnesses might testify to.
As far as the charges are concerned, they are serious and not frivolous. The Vice President's complaint, as you know, is that the leaks that have come out on this particular matter have convicted him in advance, and it is that particular point that concerns him, and it concerns me as well.
As a matter of fact, in the strongest terms I have spoken to the Attorney General about this matter. He shares my view. He has taken personal charge of the investigation with regard to leaks, and incidentally, he has assured me, Mr. Mollenhoff, that the Assistant Attorney General, Mr. Petersen, whom, as you recall, I praised rather highly in my 22d of August press conference in San Clemente, was in no way--neither he nor members of his office in the Justice Department-involved in the leaks involving the Vice President.
Q. Mr. President, if I may follow up, please.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, you may follow up.
Q. Thank you.
In view of that remark, do you then still support Mr. Petersen's handling of the investigation?
THE PRESIDENT. If I did not support Mr. Petersen's handling of the investigation, he would have been removed at this time. But it would be a disservice to an individual who has served both Administrations with distinction for many, many years, to remove him from handling the investigation unless there was clear evidence that he had been guilty of an indiscretion, and I have taken this matter up quite directly with the Attorney General.
The Attorney General assures me that his investigation--his, the Attorney General's investigation--indicates that Mr. Petersen has handled this investigation without prejudice in advance and without, of course, engaging in what, in my view, is the totally inexcusable and inappropriate conduct of leaking information on a grand jury investigation.
PLANS FOR EUROPEAN TRIP
[8.] Mr. Theis [J. William Theis, Hearst Newspapers and Hearst Headline Service].
Q. In view of your sidewalk remark the other night 1 about travel plans, can you pinpoint for us any better your timing of your trip to Europe?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Theis, it is difficult to pinpoint 'the timing of a trip to Europe, but in order that all of you can make your plans a little better, the trip to Europe will be made within the next few months, and the timing will be based on these factors: first, the progress which is made on the discussions now going on with regard to a declaration of principles with regard to the alliance and with regard to economic matters as well.
1On Monday, October 1, following dinner at a Washington restaurant, the President stopped to talk with an Italian family outside the restaurant and mentioned that he hoped to visit Europe in a few months.
The latter, as you know, I discussed with Mr. Ortoli when he was here.2 That progress is going on, incidentally, well ahead of schedule according to Dr. Kissinger. As soon as those preliminary negotiations are completed and as soon as it is clear on both sides of the Atlantic that this will be a trip not for protocol purposes, but one that will have real substance in it, then we will work out a date.
2The President met with Francois-Xavier Ortoli, President of the Commission of the European Communities, at the White House on October 1, 1973.
Now, the second factor, however, which enters into this is the Congressional schedule. I cannot take a trip to Europe or anyplace else at a time when there are matters before the Congress of very great significance. That is why I cannot pinpoint this in terms of saying that just as soon as the Europeans are ready, we will go.
If the Europeans are ready at a time that we have a heavy calendar in Congress, I shall have to postpone the trip until that.
But I would say I am thinking in terms of the next 3 or 4 months, but it might be sooner than that; probably not much later.
Now, with regard to Japan, I agreed with Mr. Tanaka, when he was here, that I would visit Japan before the end of 1974. We will, of course, make those plans again consistent with our developments on the bilateral side and at a time when we think that there is a matter of substance to be discussed or matters of substance to be discussed and at a time which is consistent with my responsibilities on the domestic front.
AUSTRIAN DECISION ON JEWISH EMIGREES FROM THE SOVIET UNION
[9.] Q. Could I ask, Mr. President--
THE PRESIDENT. This lady is--
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. You don't mind a lady going ahead of you, do you?
Q. No, sir.
Q. Thank you, sir.
Do you have any comment to make on the Austrian decision to close the Russian emigrant facilities?
THE PRESIDENT. Excuse me.
Q. The Austrian decision to close the Russian emigrant facilities.
THE PRESIDENT. I heard your question, but I wanted the radio to hear it, too.
Q. Oh, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I have. The Austrians are in a very difficult position here. As you know, I stopped in Austria on my way to Moscow and for the first time--no, the second time, met the Prime Minister, Mr. Kreisky, and anybody who knows his background knows that he is certainly not anti-Semitic. But Austria is in the eye of a hurricane, and Austria, therefore, being a relatively small country and relatively weak militarily, et cetera, is making a very, what I am sure for Mr. Kreisky, painful decision in this respect.
I recall, for example, that at the time of the Hungarian revolution, Austria opened its arms very generously to thousands of refugees, and I know that is the Austrian tradition and custom. I would hope--and I would express this--I would hope that the Prime Minister would reconsider his decision, even though I know he has even lately reiterated it, reconsider it for this fundamental reason that goes far beyond his country and even ours, and that is that we simply cannot have governments, small or large, give in to international blackmail by terrorist groups. That is what is involved.
Not to mention, of course, the fact that we all have a concern for the emigrees. They must have a place to come. So, on humanitarian grounds and on geopolitical grounds of the highest order, I believe that that decision should be reconsidered, but naturally, I am not going to put my friend, Mr. Kreisky, in the position of trying to dictate to him what it should be.
Now, you go ahead with your question.
PRESIDENTIAL TAPE RECORDINGS
[10.] Q. Sir, there is at least the possibility that if you don't give up the Watergate tapes, some of the cases or potential cases against your former aides might be aborted. I wonder if you are concerned about this and, further, whether you might see some room for compromise in the appellate court suggestion?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, since the appellate court is still considering the matter, it would be inappropriate for me to talk about what should be done with regard to compromise. As you know, discussions, extended discussions, took place between Mr. Buzhardt and the Special Prosecutor in this respect, and they agreed to disagree.3
3On September 20, 1973, the White House issued a letter from Charles Alan Wright, consultant to the Counsel to the President, to Hugh E. Kline, United States Court of Appeals Clerk, which reported the failure to reach a compromise on examination of the, subpoenaed Presidential tape recordings. The text of the letter is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 9, p.1166).
As far as the tapes are concerned, I have stated my position, and I restate it again today. The position is that the confidentiality of Presidential discussions must be maintained. And whether it is a Presidential paper, a memorandum of conversation prepared by a member of his staff after meeting with the President, or whether it is a tape of a conversation, it is the responsibility of the President, with regard to the separation-of-powers principle, to defend the integrity of those conversations so that Presidents in the future will be able to conduct freewheeling, extended conversations with no holds barred with foreign visitors and, of course, with those who come to see him from the United States.
UNEMPLOYMENT AND INFLATION
[11.] Q. Mr. President, do you agree with the proposition put forth by your CEA nominee, Mr. Fellner,4 that the country will have to abandon its goal of 4 percent unemployment and move to 5 percent, or perhaps higher, to fight inflation?
THE PRESIDENT. I noticed Mr. Fellner's rather, shall we say, outspoken comments and also his comments with regard to Phase IV, where he said he thought that we should apparently--at least the press indicated that he thought that we should junk Phase IV pretty soon, or sooner than we certainly intend to do so.
4William J. Fellner was nominated to be a member of the Council of Economic Advisers on September 25, 1973.
Before answering that question, let me say that I have found that economists are the most independent breed of the human species, except for members of the press. And the reason for that is that the American economy is highly unpredictable. It is a free economy.
I have found that my economic advisers are not always right, but they are always sure in everything that they recommend.
Now, as far as Mr. Fellner is concerned, whether the goal should be 4 percent or 5 percent is not really the point. The main thing is to get unemployment down as low as we can.
At the present time, this economy is going at full bore ahead--that is on the plus side--despite the unacceptable rate of inflation, and unemployment is, we trust, going to either stay where it is or come down.
But I am not going to say that we are going to abandon IV or go to V or go to VI. Our goal is to see that every American who wants to work, and who is qualified to work, can get a job. That is one that we must never give up on, and the percentages are not the main factor.
JAPAN AND EUROPE
[12.] Q. Mr. President, just a point of clarification.
THE PRESIDENT. Sure.
Q. In your discussion of the declaration of principles, there was an intention to include Japan as well as the European Communities. Is that still the case or has that been changed?
THE PRESIDENT. Let me explain what we feel now with regard to including Japan.
I have told all of our foreign visitors, Chancellor Brandt, and of course, Prime Minister Heath, President Pompidou, that it is vitally important that Japan-which is now the second major economic power in the world and, of course, in the Pacific, a potential, very great force for peace and stability--that Japan not be out of the club.
Now, they all agree. The difficulty is in writing a declaration with regard to the Atlantic Alliance which fits Japan; the difficulty is writing one with regard to the European Economic Community which fits Japan.
So, what we are presently thinking of is three declarations, one for the Atlantic Alliance, one for the Economic Community, and then a more general declaration to which the Japanese might be willing to adhere.
Now, I have gone beyond what we have worked out, but that is what we can expect.
Let me say finally that in that respect, I know that these declarations may not seem too important when we consider the domestic problems that presently obsess us. But it is essential at a time that we are having negotiations with the Soviets and with the People's Republic of China--it is essential that we breathe new life and new purpose and new spirit into the American-Atlantic Alliance and into the free world community, which includes Japan, and unless we do so, unless, for example, the Atlantic Alliance speaks to our times rather than to the times 25 years ago, it is going to fragment. Our European friends realize this, and I am glad to note that even the economic experts like Ortoli recognize it, too.
FRANK CORMIER [Associated Press]. Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Nixon's thirty-fourth news conference was held at 11:34 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House on Wednesday, October 3, 1973.
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/255327