Richard Nixon photo

The President's News Conference

March 24, 1972



[1.]THE PRESIDENT. Miss Lewine [Frances L. Lewine, Associated Press], we will take your question first.

Q. Mr. President, in view of the suspension of the Paris peace talks, can you tell us if the hopes are dimming for a negotiated peace settlement and what you assess the situation as?

THE PRESIDENT. What we are really trying to do there, Miss Lewine, and this has been done under my direction, is to break a filibuster. There has been about a 3 1/2-year filibuster at the peace talks on the part of the North Vietnamese. They have refused to negotiate seriously. They have used the talks for the purpose of propaganda while we have been trying to seek peace. Whenever the enemy is ready to negotiate seriously, we are ready to negotiate. And I would emphasize we are ready to negotiate in public channels or in private channels.

As far as the hopes for a negotiated peace are concerned, I would say that the way the talks were going, there was no hope whatever. I am not saying that this move is going to bring a negotiation. I do say, however, that it was necessary to do something to get the talks off dead center and to see whether the enemy continued to want to use the talks only for propaganda or whether they wanted to negotiate.

When they are ready, we are ready, but we are not going to continue to allow them to use this forum for the purpose of bully. ragging the United States in a propaganda forum rather than in seriously negotiating peace, as we tried to do as exemplified by not only our private contacts in the 12 meetings that I discussed on January 25, but also in my speech of January 25, in which I made a very forthcoming offer.


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

Q. Mr. President, was there any link between the ITT antitrust settlement and the contribution to San Diego as a convention city and do you think that Mr. Kleindienst will be confirmed as the Attorney General?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have noted that you ladies and gentlemen of the press have been pressing on this matter, as you should, because it is a matter of very great interest in the Senate and in the Nation.

I will simply limit my remarks to these observations: First, Mr. Kleindienst is being considered for, as you have indicated, confirmation as Attorney General of the United States.1 That is the purpose of the hearings. I had confidence when I appointed him that he was qualified for this position. I still have that confidence. I believe that he should be confirmed and I believe that he will be confirmed.

1On February 15, 1972, White House Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler announced the President's intention to nominate Richard G. Kleindienst as Attorney General of the United States. On the same day, the White House also released a biography of Mr. Kleindienst, which is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 8, p. 440).

Now, as far as the hearings are concerned, there is nothing that has happened in the hearings to date that has in one way shaken my confidence in Mr. Kleindienst as an able, honest man, fully qualified to be Attorney General of the United States.

However, I am not going to comment on any aspects of the hearing, any aspects of the case, while the Senate is still conducting them and while the Senate is still trying to determine the authenticity of some of the evidence that is before it. That is a matter for the Senate committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Eastland to continue to consider. But I would point out that Mr. Kleindienst asked for these hearings. We want the whole record brought out because as far as he is concerned, he wants to go in as Attorney General with no cloud over him. He will not have any, in my opinion, once the hearings are concluded, and what we are talking about will be proof, rather than simply charges which as yet have been unsubstantiated.


[3.] Q. Mr. President, on another aspect which I think is not directly related to the ITT case, I wondered if you could give us your view on the proper role of White House Staff members in contacts with executive departments and regulatory agencies concerning matters that are before those departments or agencies.

My specific reference, of course, is to the involvement of Mr. Flanigan2 in some of these matters, but I wondered if you could give us, on a more general basis, what you consider the proper role and the limits of that role for a Presidential aide in dealing with regulatory and law enforcement matters.

2 Peter M. Flanigan, Assistant to the President.

THE PRESIDENT. A Presidential aide must listen to all of those who come to the White House, as they do in great numbers on all sides of all cases with regard to complaints that they have or causes that they wish to work for, just as they go to the Members of the House and the Senate and others in that connection.

What is improper is for a Presidential aide to use influence for personal gain, and to use influence in any way that would not be in the public interest. As far as Mr. Flanigan is concerned, Mr. Ziegler has responded to that charge at considerable length with my total authority and his views represent mine. I have nothing further to say.


[4.] Q. Mr. President, how do you expect the war on inflation to succeed without the cooperation of George Meany and his friends?3

3 See Items 101 and 102.

THE PRESIDENT. The war on inflation will succeed with their cooperation, if possible, but without it, if necessary. I think the best indication of the fact that it is succeeding is that as far as that part of the Consumer Price Index which is made up of those items that are under control, as Mr. Stein pointed out in his briefings yesterday, the wage-price controls have been effective.

The only part of the Consumer Price Index or the major part of the Consumer Price Index which resulted in what we thought was a disappointing increase in prices, at least a one-month increase, was the food index.

The food index, as we know, is not controlled. Now, insofar as that food index is concerned, we discussed that at considerable length at the Cost of Living Council yesterday. What we found is that it is a mistake and totally unfair to make the farmer the scapegoat for the high meat prices and the high food prices.

Approximately a third of what the prices are that the consumer pays in the grocery store or the supermarket for food, approximately only a third of that amount is a result of what the farmer receives as farm income. The other two-thirds goes to middlemen, to retailers, and others. And our preliminary investigation of this situation shows that the spread between what the farmer receives and what the consumer pays in the grocery store and the supermarket has widened. It is too great.

That is the reason why the Price Commission is, on April I e, as you know--I think it was announced this morning--is going to conduct a hearing on this matter to determine whether or not the profit margins in this period have gone beyond the guidelines that have been laid down.

I will simply say that as far as we are concerned, we can say that on the one hand we are glad to see that, looking at a 6-month period, the rate of inflation has decelerated. On the other hand, we are disappointed at even a one-month figure in which the rate of inflation is at the level it was this time.

We are particularly disappointed that the food component was as high as it was. That is why we welcome the action of the Price Commission looking into that component as to why it is, and then in the event that those food prices do not start to move down, then other action will have to be taken. I am prepared to have such other action taken. I have directed those who have responsibility in this field to see what action can be taken. I would simply conclude by pointing out that to feel that the action that will be effective is to control or move on the one-third, that which the farmer receives as income for what he sells, is not the most effective way to do it.

One little example that I can use which I think is quite graphic--and Secretary Connally was discussing this matter in the Cost of Living Council yesterday. He said that he had been in Texas and had talked to a rancher who raised chickens. He asked him how much he got a dozen for eggs. He got 30 cents a dozen. A couple of days later he got breakfast at the Hotel Pierre in New York and he ordered a couple of eggs for breakfast. It was $5 for two. That is at the rate of $30 a dozen. Now, of course, the eggs have to be transported, processed, cooked, and served, but 30 cents a dozen to the farmer and $30 a dozen to whoever buys those eggs in a restaurant, that is just too much, and we are going to get at that middleman one way or another.


[5.] Q. Mr. President, will you give us your views on the general proposition of large political contributions either by corporations or individuals in terms of possibly getting something back for it?

THE PRESIDENT. Nobody gets anything back as far as the general contributions are concerned in this Administration. As a matter of fact, I think some of our major complaints have been that many of our business people have not received the consideration that perhaps they thought that an Administration that was supposed to be business-oriented would provide for it.

As far as such contributions are concerned, they should always, of course, comply with the law.

Second, as far as those who receive them are concerned, they must be accepted with no understandings, expressed or implied, that anything is to be done as a result of those contributions that would not be done in the ordinary course of events.

Let me just say on that point that looking at ITT, which, as I understand, has been a contributor to a number of political causes over the years, it is significant to note--and I would hope that the members of the press would report this; I have not seen this in many stories--it is significant to note that ITT became the great conglomerate that it was, in the two previous administrations primarily, in the Kennedy Administration and in the Johnson Administration. It grew and it grew and it grew, and nothing was done to stop it.

In this Administration we moved on ITT. We are proud of that record. We moved on it effectively. We required the greatest divestiture in the history of the antitrust law. And second, we also, as a result of the consent decree, required that ITT not have additional acquisitions, so that it became larger.

Now, as Dean Griswold4 pointed out, that not only was a good settlement, it was a very good settlement. I think under the circumstances that gives the lie to the suggestion that this Administration, in the handling of the ITT case, just using one example, was doing a favor for ITT. If we wanted to do a favor for ITT, we could just continue to do what the two previous administrations had done, and that is nothing, let ITT continue to grow. But we moved on it and moved effectively.

4 Erwin N. Griswold, Solicitor General, Department of Justice.

Mr. McLaren5 is justifiably very proud of that record, and Dean Griswold is very proud of that record, and they should be.

5Richard W. McLaren was Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, Department of Justice, from January 1969 to February 1972.


[6.] Q. Mr. President, could we discuss your speech the other night and your moves on the problems of the schools, particularly with the blacks in our society? There are those who feel that in the combination of the constitutional issue that has been raised, in which you have asked that the courts have a moratorium, and at the same time by putting more money into black schools, what you are doing, in effect, is going back to the old doctrine of separate but equal facilities for blacks. Could you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I see that that charge has been made and I can see how that understanding, or misunderstanding, could develop. But let me explain what we were trying to do and what I believe our proposals, if they are enacted by the Congress, will accomplish.

In the first place, we have to analyze what the constitutional problem is. The Constitution under the 14th Amendment provides for equal protection of the law. The Constitution does not provide, as a remedy, busing or any other device. The Constitution in the 14th Amendment expressly grants power to the Congress to set up the remedies to accomplish the right of equal protection of the law.

We turn now to busing. Let me relate this to Brown v. the Board of Education. Brown v. the Board of Education, as its name indicates, was about, primarily, education. Brown v. the Board of Education held, in effect, that legally segregated education was inherently inferior education. I agree with that.

On the other hand, how do we desegregate and thereby get better education? Here is where busing compounds the evil. Busing for the purpose of achieving racial balance not only does not produce superior education, it results in even more inferior education.

So what I was trying to do was to tackle the issue by saying we can and should have desegregation, but we should not compound the evil of a dual school system, of legal segregation, by using a remedy which makes it even worse.

That is why I have concluded that, first, a moratorium on busing for a year was the right move to make. I believe, incidentally, that the moratorium is constitutional. I believe it will be so held by the Supreme Court due to the fact that it deals with a remedy and not a right. That is the fundamental difference. Lawyers will disagree on that, but the Court will decide. I think the Court will decide that the moratorium is constitutional.

That is why, also, I moved in another field. When we talk about education, we must remember that if we had busing at the maximum degree suggested by the most extreme proponents of busing, it would still leave the vast majority of black schoolchildren living in central cities, going to what are basically inferior schools, a lost generation, as I described it.

I decided that we could not allow that situation to continue without trying to move on it. How have we tried to move? We have tried to move through a program which has not yet been fully tested---I am not sure that it will work, but we have got to do something--and that is in the field of compensatory education, a program in which we, rather than doing it with a shotgun approach which has proved ineffective, that we use the "critical mass" approach, $300 as has been described per pupil, for the purpose of improving education in those schools where no plan for desegregation that anybody has suggested will ever affect. We cannot leave those people, those students, there without having some action and some attention paid to them.

One other thought with regard to this whole matter of compensatory education. I noted on one of the networks, not yours, but NBC's, a very thoughtful series to the effect that compensatory education is a failure. We looked into that. As a matter of fact, on the basis in which it has been used up to this point of a shotgun approach where you have $100, $150, $200 a student, it has not worked.

You have an example in the District of Columbia where over $300 has not helped. But on the other hand, in California and in four other States which came to our attention, we have found that there is substantial evidence to indicate that if we can get $300 a student or more into those schools, it will raise the level of education in those areas. That is why we are going down this road.

Another point I should cover, incidentally, since this subject has been raised, is the matter of new money. Let me say there is certainly a great deal of new money in this program. First, you must remember that the Congress has not yet passed and has not yet sent to my desk a request for a billion dollars in emergency school aid funds that I have asked for; that billion dollars will go into this program.

Second, we have asked not only that that billion dollars come here, but that the program be 4 years, rather than simply one year, because our proposal, as you know, was simply a one-shot proposal for a billion and a half. So that means that you have $2 1/2 billion in new money.

I would say in conclusion, I would like to be able to assure everybody here that this program of compensatory education, concentrating money in some of these areas on students who will never be helped by any program of busing at all, no matter how extreme, I would like to say that it will succeed. I am not sure, but I do know that we cannot go on with the present situation where we leave them there growing up in inferior schools with no chance for hope.

I know Mr. Shultz believes--and others, experts that I have talked to--this "critical mass" approach will get at the problem. I just want to say, however, that as far as desegregation is concerned, this Administration has made great progress in desegregation. There are more black students that go to majority white schools in the South than in the North at the present time. The dual school system has been virtually eliminated.

What we were trying to get at is the problem of busing, busing which is a bad means because it compounds the evil which Brown v. the Board of Education was trying to get at. Also it poisons relations between the races, its creates racism, and it was time for somebody to move on it in what I thought was a responsible way.


[7.] Q. To go back to the ITT case for a moment, since you have said that you see nothing improper in Mr. Flanigan's activities in the various cases that you mentioned, will you permit him to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee if he is invited to do so?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Ziegler answered that question, I will not respond further.


[8.] Q. Would you care to comment on the primaries and do you expect Congressman Ashbrook to go right down to the wire to the convention and go for the nomination?

THE PRESIDENT. I realize that a lot of you have political questions. You may remember, as, I think, the first president of the Press Club that I ever introduced at one of your meetings many, many years ago, that I stated several months ago that in Presidential press conferences I would not answer questions on partisan political matters until after the Republican Convention. That includes the Republicans. That includes the Democrats. That includes those who may leave the Republicans or leave the Democrats.

Q. And it is still your intention, Mr. President, not to campaign until after convention time?

THE PRESIDENT. It is. As a matter of fact, I will not be making any political speeches--well, you may call them political-but I will not be appearing, Mr. Warren [Lucian C. Warren, Buffalo Evening News], before any partisan political groups, making partisan political speeches, and I am not going to answer any partisan political questions one way or another in any Presidential conference or in any other forum of this kind.

Between now and the Republican Convention, I shall continue to meet the responsibility of President of the United States and I will answer all questions in that area. I will not answer political questions. I will have plenty of time to answer them after the Republican Convention.


[9.] Q. Mr. President, how do you assess the military situation in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia, and will you be able to follow your schedule for withdrawal of troops and perhaps tell us something more of it?

THE PRESIDENT. I will not tell you more about the withdrawal at this time because, as you know, we make these announcements at the time that they are scheduled and on the basis of the situation as it exists then. Another announcement will be made before the 1st of May.

Second, with regard to our program for withdrawal, it has gone well, as you know. The casualties again were low this week-still not zero, which is our goal, but, too, it is better than 200 or 300, which is what it was when we came in. As far as the military situation is concerned, an ominous enemy buildup continues. The press has very well reported the threats to the Laotian base of Long Tieng. There have been some sporadic mortar attacks in Cambodia and there has been a considerable amount of action in South Vietnam. On the other hand, I have gotten a report from General Abrams just a few days ago. He says that they still expect-he doesn't guarantee it but he says they are still prepared for some attacks in this dry season. They have not come yet. He says if they do come he is confident that the South Vietnamese will be able to contain them. He is also confident that while the South Vietnamese lines, in the event the attacks are heavy, may bend, that they will not break. If this proves to be the case it will be the final proof that Vietnamization has succeeded.


[10.] Q. Mr. President, have you satisfied yourself, sir, that the Justice Department acted properly in quashing an investigation of campaign contributions to San Diego last year?

THE PRESIDENT. I have covered that question already.


[11.] Q. Mr. President, you spoke in terms of busing a minute ago and that the patterns of living are the root cause of it. Have you then thought of some kind of new programs to try to break up the patterns that keep the blacks in the inner city, to try to get at integration in that way?

THE PRESIDENT. It is very difficult to find any new programs because so many have been suggested and I imagine there are not any that could be classified as new. The breaking up of these patterns is something that probably is going to occur over a period of time as economic considerations and educational considerations come more into play. I am confident of this: That we cannot put--as I said, not in my statement on busing a few days ago but in my original statement on the whole educational process of last year--we cannot put the primary burden for breaking up these patterns on the educational system.

The purpose of education is to educate. Whenever a device is used to desegregate which results in inferior education, we are doing a grave disservice to the blacks who are supposed to be helped.


[12.] Q. Mr. President, is it a pragmatic observation that the world now is divided into three parts: the United States, China, and the Soviet Union?

THE PRESIDENT. Some would perhaps describe the world that way, but I think the world is much bigger and much more complicated. I don't think that you can rule out by such a simplistic observation the future of Latin America, the potential in Africa, the potential in South Asia and the rimland of Asia, the future of Japan, which is an economic giant even though it is a mini-military power.

At the present time, it could be said that the United States and the Soviet Union are the two major super powers from a military standpoint, that the People's Republic of China is the most populous nation in the world with the potential of becoming a super power, and therefore anyone who is interested in trying to build a structure of peace must deal with the relationships between these three great power centers now.

I think that is the key to the future. But we must also, at the same time, have policies that look to the future of Japan, the future of Western Europe, because it will play a major role, and, of course, the future of Latin America and Africa.


[13.] Q. Mr. President, sir, you have sort of a pattern of making peace with enemies around the world. Are you next going to see Fidel Castro?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have not been invited.


[14.] Q. Mr. President, do you have a comment, sir, on the recommendation of your commission on drugs that the use of marihuana in the home be no longer considered a crime?

THE PRESIDENT. I met with Mr. Sharer. I have read the report.6 It is a report which deserves consideration and it will receive it. However, as to one aspect of the report, I am in disagreement. I was before I read it, and reading it did not change my mind. I oppose the legalization of marihuana and that includes its sale, its possession, and its use. I do not believe that you can have effective criminal justice based on a philosophy that something is half legal and half illegal. That is my position, despite what the Commission has recommended.

6 On March 21, 1972, former Governor Raymond P. Sharer, Chairman, Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, met with the President at the White House to present the Commission's first report.


[15.] Q. Mr. President, on your trip to Canada, do you intend to try to do something about getting us in a better trade position and, also, do you intend to take up the matter of cleaning up the Great Lakes?

THE PRESIDENT. We are working out the agenda for our Canadian trip at the present time. I would have to say quite candidly that we have had very little success to date in our negotiations with our Canadian friends, which shows, incidentally, that sometimes you have more problems negotiating with your friends than with your adversaries. But that is as it should be. They have a right to their position; we have a right to ours. But we will discuss certainly trade, and we will discuss the Great Lakes and the environment. I am sure we will also discuss the world situation in which Prime Minister Trudeau has some, based on my previous visits with him, some very constructive ideas to suggest.

In addition, on my trip to Canada, I will, of course, brief Prime Minister Trudeau personally on the results of my visit to China and also brief him, prior to my going to the Soviet Union, on my visit to the Soviet Union.

I think it is a very helpful thing that at this point we are meeting with our friends from Canada, although we will find that we have some very basic disagreements, probably, after the meeting as well as before.


[16.] Q. Mr. President, when you went to China there were a lot of people in this country who sincerely hoped that your trip would be helpful in terms of settling the Vietnam war in some fashion or another. Did you find that trip helpful in that respect and, if so, can you tell us how?

THE PRESIDENT. At the time that we went to China, I indicated that the purpose of that trip was to discuss relations between the two countries, and that its purpose was not to discuss the situation with regard to other nations.

As far as the discussions that did take place, the agenda did include the whole range of problems in the world in which the People's Republic of China is interested, as we are interested.

As far as Vietnam is concerned, I don't think it would be helpful to indicate what was discussed, what was not discussed. Only time will tell what is going to happen there.


[17.] Q. Mr. President, there has been some question raised about Ambassador Watson's qualifications to negotiate with the Chinese in Paris.7 Do you still have confidence in his ability to negotiate exchange agreements with the Chinese?

7 On March 21, 1972, former Governor Raymond P. Sharer, Chairman, Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, met with the President at the White House to present the Commission's first report.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Lisagot [Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News], the best test of that--and I should know--is how the negotiations are going. They are going very well. Mr. Watson is conducting them with great competence and, I understand, total sobriety.

I realize that there are those who raise questions about the personal conduct of an Ambassador when he travels to his post. I see that some Members of the House and Senate are raising such questions about that. I would say that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. [Laughter]


[18.] Q. Do you plan to have any more breakfasts with George Meany, or do you consider that a political question?

THE PRESIDENT. Not at $30 a dozen for eggs.

Seriously, Paul Healy [New York Daily News], I do want to say that I respect Mr. Meany not only as a powerful labor union leader but as a patriotic American who, at a time that many of his weak-spined business colleagues were ready to throw in the sponge with regard to the security of the United States and what was best for this country in dealing with its adversaries abroad, stood firm.

On the other hand, in this particular area, I think Mr. Meany, I respectfully say, has overstepped. In the latter part of the 19th century this country determined that no business leader could take the attitude of "The public be damned." And in the latter part of the 20th century that applies to both business leaders and labor leaders.

Mr. Meany, in his case, I am sure, thinks he is acting in the best interest of his members, but I would respectfully suggest that I believe that a great number of his members, possibly a majority, realize that the wage increases that are eaten up by price increases are no wage increases at all. They will also remember, as they look at their income, that in the past 6 months since Phase 2 began we have had an increase in real wages, something that we have not had for 5 years before that time in any significant degree, and while we have had this one month of bad figures-and believe me, I am not satisfied with bad figures; I want these food prices down--nevertheless, our wage-price controls are working. We are going to reach our goal, in my opinion, or are going to come very close to it, cutting the rate of inflation in half.

Even though Mr. Meany is not with us, I think what we do will be in the best interest of his members, and I hope in the end that maybe he will invite me to breakfast.


[19.] Q. With respect to Mr. Agnew, do you still not feel like breaking up the winning combination?

THE PRESIDENT. I covered that question in a rather lengthy discussion with Mr. Rather [Dan Rather, CBS News], sitting right in this room, a few months ago.8 My views are the same now as they were then.

8 See Item 1.


[20.] Q. Mr. President, I would like to ask one question on the forthcoming Moscow trip, even though it is down the road. Are you still hopeful of having a strategic arms limitation agreement not only to discuss, but hopefully to sign?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Semple [Robert B. Semple, Jr., New York Times], I realize that there are many of you here, I hope, who will be able to go on that trip, who went to the P.R.C., and many who did not go to the P.R.C. can also go.

The Moscow trip, at the present time, will be very different from the P.R.C. trip in the sense that it will be primarily devoted to a number of substantive issues of very great importance. One of them may be SALT, if SALT is not completed before Moscow. It does not appear now likely that they can complete SALT before Moscow, because in my conversations with Ambassador [Gerard C.] Smith before he left, I find that while we are agreed in principle on the limitation of offensive and defensive weapons, that we are still very far apart on some fundamental issues--well, for example, whether or not SLBM's [submarine launched ballistic missiles] should be included, matters of that sort.

Mr. Smith went back to the meetings, this time in Helsinki, with very full instructions from me, both written and oral, to do everything that he could to attempt to narrow those differences. I believe there is a good chance at this point, particularly in view of Mr. Brezhnev's quite constructive remarks in his speech the other day, that we may reach an agreement on SALT in Moscow on defensive and offensive limitations, and also agreements in a number of other areas.

This is our goal, and I would say that at this time the prospects for the success of this summit trip are very good.

NORMAN KEMPSTER (United Press International). Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Nixon's twenty-third news conference was held at 3:03 p.m. in the Oval office at the White House on Friday, March 24, 1972. He spoke without referring to notes.

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

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