Jimmy Carter photo

The President's News Conference

February 13, 1980


THE PRESIDENT. Since the day our Embassy was seized in Tehran, we have had two goals: one, the safety and release of the Americans being held hostage, and the other is the protection of our national interest in this critical area of the world. Since that first day, we have pursued every possibility to achieve these goals. No stone has been left unturned in the search for a solution.

Over the past several weeks, our efforts and our activities have become particularly delicate and intense. Recently there have been some positive signs, although experience has taught us to guard against excessive optimism.

Since mid-November, we and the Iranian officials have been discussing with Secretary-General Waldheim of the United Nations his proposal to send a commission of inquiry to Tehran. We would support steps by the United Nations that would lead to the release of the hostages if the steps are consistent with our goals and our essential international principles. An appropriate commission with a carefully defined purpose would be a step toward resolution of this crisis.

I know that you and the American people will understand that I cannot afford at this delicate time to discuss or to comment further upon any specific efforts that may be underway or any proposals that may be useful in ending this crisis.

Thank you.



Q. You cut me off at the pass. Mr. President, do you think it was proper for the United States to restore the Shah to the throne in 1953 against the popular will within Iran?

THE PRESIDENT. That's ancient history, and I don't think it's appropriate or helpful for me to go into the propriety of something that happened 30 years ago.


Q. Mr. President, Senator Kennedy appears to have taken off the gloves in his direct contest with you, and today some of your closest associates have seemed to do likewise in rebuttal. I wonder, what is your position: Are you going to turn the other cheek to Senator Kennedy, or do you have a rebuttal to his harsh criticisms of the last few days?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the statement that was made today by the Secretary of State and by others in answer to Senator Kennedy's speech last night and his previous statements, I think, were appropriate. There is no cause to prevent an open discussion and a free debate of the issues in a political forum, on a campaign trail, and in a meeting like this. But there must be bounds of both propriety and accuracy in the presentation of views by a responsible official, including a United States Senator and also including a candidate for the highest office of our country.


Q. Mr. President, if the crisis in Afghanistan is real and as serious as you have said it is—if it is, does the U.S. have the military capacity to cope with it, short of using a nuclear weapon?

THE PRESIDENT. The crisis is a great one, precipitated by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for several reasons. First of all, this is a crucial area of the world—to us, to our allies, and to other nations. Twothirds of all the oil exported in the entire world come from the Persian Gulf region. Secondly, it's a highly volatile, rapidly changing, unstable part of the world. Third, the Soviets have been indulging in a steady military buildup over a number of years, which has caused us concern and to which we have reacted since I've been in this office. Fourth, the Soviets—a major departure from anything they've done since the Second World War—have now exhibited a willingness to use their military forces beyond their own borders, in a massive invasion of Afghanistan.

The reaction that I have taken to these steps are appropriate and, I believe and hope, adequate. We must convince the Soviet Union, through peaceful means, peaceful means, that they cannot invade an innocent country with impunity and they must suffer the consequences of their action.

Everything we've done has been to contribute to stability, moderation, consistency, persistence, and peace. We have taken actions on our own, and we have asked our allies and others to join in with us in the condemnation of the Soviet Union and the demand that the Soviets withdraw from Afghanistan and to convince them that any further adventurism on their part would cause grave consequences to the Soviet Union.

In my judgment our forces are adequate. We cannot afford to let the Soviets choose either the terrain or the tactics to be used by any other country—a nation that might be invaded, their neighbors, our allies, or ourselves—if-they should persist in their aggressive action. Those judgments would have to be made at the time. But I believe they're adequate.


Q. Mr. President, I'd like you to respond directly to two of Senator Kennedy's criticisms. One, he says that you rejected the idea of this commission with Iran until just recently. And two, he says that Afghanistan might not have happened if you'd paid more attention to the signs and had been more resolute in advance; he says the Russians might not have invaded Afghanistan.

THE PRESIDENT. It's not my inclination to respond to every allegation, erroneous allegation, that Senator Kennedy has made, but what you've asked is typical of what causes me the deepest concern. First of all, his statements have not been true, they've not been accurate, and they've not been responsible, and they've not helped our country.

When the hostages were originally seized—an act of international violence contradicting every norm of diplomacy and international law—Senator Kennedy insinuated that because we had given medical treatment to the Shah, that somehow the seizure of our own hostages was not the fault of the terrorists who took them, but the fault of the United States.

Senator Kennedy has also said that the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union was not only not very serious but that somehow or another the Soviets were not the culpable party, but the United States was at fault and somehow caused or contributed to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

And more recently he has insinuated-again, falsely—that some action or lack of action on my part or the United States part had perpetuated the incarceration of the American hostages.

This thrust of what he's said throughout the last few weeks is very damaging to our country, and to the establishment of our principles and the maintenance of them, and the achieving of our goals to keep the peace and to get our hostages released.


Q. Mr. President, in .Afghanistan again, sir, what kind of regime would be acceptable to you? The Russians have said that if they withdraw, they would leave—I think have left the indication that they would leave a puppet regime. Would you insist on a neutralist regime, or what ideas have you on it?

THE PRESIDENT. What we would like to have, first of all, is a Soviet withdrawal and a commitment, that might be verified and carried out, that the Soviets would not invade another country or use their military forces beyond their borders again to destabilize the peace. We would like to have a neutral country. If there had to be a transition phase during which a neutral and responsible government might be established acceptable to the Afghanistan people, then perhaps some peacekeeping force espoused by the United Nations, maybe comprised of Moslem military troops or otherwise, could be used during that transition phase.

But the prime consideration that I have is to make sure that the Soviets know that their invasion is not acceptable, to marshal as much support from other nations of the world as possible, and to prevent any further threat to the peace and the cause of war. I think through strength we can maintain peace. But we've got to be resolute, we've got to be consistent, and our actions have got to be in a tone of long-range, predictable action clearly understood by the Soviet Union.


Q. Mr. President, you call for an increase of about 5 percent in military defense spending. Some Members of Congress have suggested that that might be too small, given the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. Would you support a plan by Congress to go as far as doubling the current 5-percent increase in military spending?

THE PRESIDENT. Ever since the first year I've been President, we've had a substantial and steady increase in spending for defense, because I recognized that we had some defects in our defense capability when I became President. I might add, in complete accuracy, that President Ford had initiated this buildup shortly before he went out of office. It's one I've continued.

In my opinion, the military budget that we have presented to the Congress in recent weeks is the appropriate level of expenditures. It's very carefully matched to how rapidly we can purchase and develop weapons and accurately matched to the ultimate goals of deployment of our troops, the mobility of our troops, and the interrelationship with our allies.

I'm not saying that there would be no fine tuning or some modification to the budget that wouldn't be acceptable to me, but I would resist very strongly any effort—as has been proposed just recently-to cut the defense budget below what I proposed.


Q. Mr. President, when you say that Senator Kennedy—that his statements have not been accurate, responsible, and that they've not helped our country, and when he and his aides say that your own campaign has been misleading and negative and taking cheap shots, how can that do anything but further and bitterly divide the Democrats? And aren't you both helping Republicans in the general election?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I might point out to you that I'm an incumbent Democratic President. I didn't ask for a challenger— [laughter] —but have no aversion to a campaign, as was indicated by my opening statement and is further confirmed by the fact that I have to negotiate with many other leaders around the world, including carrying out the principles of the Mideast peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, put into effect very complicated proposals like the grain embargo and a restraint on shipments of high technology equipment to the Soviet Union and the implementation of our commitment that athletes should not go to Moscow to participate in the Olympics as long as Soviet invasion troops are in Afghanistan. These kinds of things are very time-consuming to me.

I'm a campaigner; I'm a candidate. I've had some success in politics as an active campaigner. And it would obviously be much better for me to be on the campaign trail in Minnesota or New Hampshire than to be closed up here in the White House dealing with these issues that I consider to be of paramount importance. And I look forward to the time when the hostages are released and I can go out and campaign actively and recruit votes and delegates to my cause.

But I have no aversion to the issues being discussed, and I think, as has already been pointed out in this press conference, there are sharp, identifiable, wellknown differences between me and the Senator, that have been clearly expressed by me from the White House and also have been expressed by him out in the different parts of the country.

I might say additionally that I have not secluded myself. In the last 2 months I have had cross-examination by news people, open forums. I've made a major speech on the State of the Union and others. I've not hidden my positions at all. My proposals have been very clear. But I look forward to the time when I can campaign without restraint and I can take care of the other issues, if the American hostages are released.

I might add one other personal point. We cannot lessen the commitment of the American people that a crisis does indeed exist as long as 50 innocent Americans are being held hostage by kidnapers. Some attenuation or lowering of the focused attention on the hostages is inevitable, but I, as President, have got to maintain the accurate image that we do have a crisis which I will not ignore until those hostages are released. I want the American people to know it, I want the Iranians to know it, I want the hostages' families and the hostages to know it, I want the world to know that I am not going to resume business as usual as a partisan campaigner out on the campaign trail until our hostages are back here, free and at home.


Q. Mr. President, Senator Kennedy has made your decision not to debate a major campaign issue. I wonder if you could clarify for the record when you might be willing to debate. If the hostages are released, would you be willing to debate then, or would you want to wait until the Soviets leave Afghanistan? Do you think you will debate your Democratic challengers before the general election in the fall?

THE PRESIDENT. As I've just said, when the hostages are released, I would resume normal campaigning. Whether or not or when a debate would be appropriate would have to be decided in the future, when I assess the invitations received and the circumstances prevailing then.


Q. Mr. President, this is an issue on which you and Senator Kennedy agree, and that's the bailout of Chrysler. Now, you know President Nixon bailed out Lockheed, ostensibly to take care of the corporation. That's a traditional Republican ally. Some of your aides indicate that you were more concerned about union jobs at Chrysler.

My question goes, though, that both Republican and Democratic administrations and Senator Kennedy are—this is on the road to socialism, government support, aid, subsidies for these very large corporations; this should be a repugnant trend in our society of free enterprise. Do you favor Congress studying this issue, drawing a line on this issue, or with each corporation—especially in a recession or this threatened recession, further failures-more policies of subsidies, of bailouts for these major corporations?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I wouldn't adopt it as a policy that we would pursue time after time after time. But I did strongly support the legislation passed to guarantee loans for Chrysler provided they got adequate financing to match what the Government effort would be.

In my judgment the Government loan would be secure. It would require Chrysler to take corrective action and to get financing elsewhere, and required a substantial contribution from the workers in Chrysler to make sure that Chrysler was financially able to proceed as a viable corporation. When that legislation was put on my desk, I signed it with enthusiasm.


Q. Mr. President, you have said, sir, that the Soviets have to be made to pay a price for invading Afghanistan, and your counsel has said that our boycott of the Olympics is not intended to be punitive. How do you explain the seeming difference between these two positions?

THE PRESIDENT. We have no desire to use the Olympics to punish, except the Soviets attach a major degree of importance to the holding of the Olympics in the Soviet Union. In their own propaganda material they claim that the willingness of the International Olympics Committee to let the games be held in Moscow is an endorsement of the foreign policy and the peace-loving nature of the Soviet Union.

To me it's unconscionable for any nation to send athletes to the capital of a nation under the aegis of the Olympics when that nation, that host nation, is actively involved in the invasion of and the subjugation of innocent people. And so, for that reason, I don't believe that we are at all obligated to send our athletes to Moscow.

And I would like to repeat, if the Soviet Union does not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the 20th of this month, then neither I nor the American people nor the Congress will support the sending of an Olympic team to Moscow this summer.


Q. Mr. President, do you believe that draft-age youth are overreacting to your registration policy with their fears that this will directly lead to the draft?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think they're overreacting. I have not called for and do not anticipate calling for a draft. The best way to prevent having a draft in the future and mobilization of our Nation's efforts, both natural and human efforts, is to be prepared. The registration which I have called for, and which I am sure the Congress will approve, will permit us to save 90 to 100 days, weeks or even months, in a mobilization effort, if it should be called for in the future. We are not advocating the draft; we are advocating registration for a draft.

I might point out, too, that this will marshal an additional discussion and commitment among the American people and a realization that the peace is threatened and that everything that I am trying to do, working with the Congress and others, is to take peaceful action, preventive action, to prevent the Soviets taking further steps that might lead to a war.

Fifty-five other countries in the world that I know about, including most of our major allies, not only have registration but have the active, ongoing draft, and this includes countries like Mexico, Germany, France, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland. Many other countries, 55 of them, have the actual draft. I'm not advocating a draft. So, there has been a gross overreaction. And I think that registration for the draft will help us in other ways that I need not detail, in concert.


Q. Mr. President, if the Soviets by any chance should remove their troops from Afghanistan between February 20 and May 24, when the Olympic committees have to give their decisions, is there any possibility you might change your mind and then support sending the American team to Moscow?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't see any possibility of that.


Q. Mr. President, your $2 billion youth budget employment program has only $3 million [$300 million] requested for employment in 1981, and $900 million will go for training of these children through the schools that have already passed over these children. And this budget will not become fully operational until 1982. So, isn't this budget deceptive and misleading, as the Black Caucus says?

THE PRESIDENT. No, it's not. I believe it's accurate to say that the Labor Department and the Education Department will be moving to implement the youth employment program as rapidly as we possibly can. It won't be a lack of money appropriated by the Congress that will slow down the process at all.

I'd like to point out that in the last 3 years we've had notable success in improving the employment situation.. We've had an annual growth in employment of 3 1/2 percent per year since I've been in the White House as President. We've added 9 million new jobs, and of the people who've got new jobs, we've had 50 percent more new jobs for minorities than we have for all other people who've benefited from our employment programs.

So, I think the narrow focusing of the new program on youth and also on minority youth will be a major boon to those who have been deprived too much in the past because of unemployment. It's certainly not misleading and would be implemented as rapidly as the bureaucracy can function, as employers can be identified, and as the training can be provided for these young people who want jobs, but in the past have not been able to get them.


Q. Mr. President, as you know, the French have not agreed to go to a Foreign Ministers conference in Rome later this month. The West Germans have not agreed to the Olympic boycott, and there's been some dissatisfaction, I understand, with your administration's reaction to the Japanese. Have you been entirely satisfied with the Japanese, the French, and the West German reactions to your call for punishment and sanctions against the Soviet Union?

THE PRESIDENT. In general, I have been well pleased, yes. There's a remarkable degree of unanimity among all our major allies about the seriousness of the Soviet threat into Afghanistan and the actions that must be taken to counter that threat and prevent further aggression by the Soviet Union.

There are nuances of difference. The countries are different; they have different perspectives; they have different forms of government. Some are coalition governments where the Prime Minister has a different party represented in his Foreign Minister and so forth. We do have times when we get aggravated and displeased, for instance, with the French. There are times when the French get aggravated and displeased by us.

The recent disagreement on exactly the time and the composition and the secrecy to be maintained by the Foreign Ministers meeting was unfortunate. My understanding of it was derived from a telephone conversation with Chancellor Schmidt after he met several days with President Giscard d'Estaing. My understanding was that the date and the place had been arranged by them and that I was conforming to their request. That was not the same understanding that the French had. We did not communicate adequately. But that's just a minor difference compared to the major agreements on which we base present and future policy among us allies.


Q. Sir, I wonder if you think that we really need a national effort to try to make people better informed about their need for cooperation to fill these vacancies in the military.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, we do need, I think, a better education for this purpose. We've got—as you know, now about 8 percent of our military forces are comprised of women. And we anticipate, with no changes in present circumstances, that in 5 years, by 1985, we'll increase that by 50 percent, to 12 percent of our total Armed Forces. Women now fill about 95 percent of the different kinds of billets that we have available in all our Armed Forces combined.

I think many people believe that we're going to a draft soon. We have no intention or need for implementing the draft. Some people believe that I've advocated the use of women in combat. I have no intention of advocating to the Congress and the Congress would never approve any legislation that would permit women to engage in actual combat.

So, the need to educate people about what our proposals might be is real, and I believe that when the Congress starts debating this issue, as we decide details about the program for registration, that will create new opportunities for people to understand it better.


Q. Mr. President, the goals of your anti-inflation program, as incorporated within the voluntary wage and price guidelines, attempt to hold down prices, including those charged by oil companies here. However, these goals appear to conflict with the goals of your energy program, which are to conserve oil and relieve our reliance on foreign oil through allowing the prices of gasoline, heating oil, and diesel fuel to rise. Does your administration, sir, have plans to deal with this conflict, and do these plans include excluding oil company prices and profits from the anti-inflation guidelines?

THE PRESIDENT. There is no doubt that there are many conflicts that presently exist in our very confused energy situation. What we need is a final action by the Congress on the legislative proposals that I have made to them that will give us, for the first time in history, a comprehensive, clear, understandable, legal energy policy.

There are only two ways that we can reduce imports of foreign oil: One is to increase production in our own country, energy of all kinds; and secondly, to improve conservation, to cut out waste. In my judgment the artificial holding down, by subsidies and otherwise, of the price of oil conflicts with both these principles, because if oil is excessively cheap, financed by the general public, then that means that the people use too much of it and probably waste some. And also, it prevents competitive forms of energy, like solar power, for instance, from being developed, because solar power has to compete with an excessively cheap price of oil.

There is no doubt—I don't want to mislead anybody—that everywhere in the world, oil prices and general energy prices have been going up, and there is no doubt that in the future those prices will continue to go up. But every American will be benefited if we cut out waste, continue to conserve, produce more energy here at home, and shift to more plentiful supplies of energy, particularly those that are replenishable, that come directly from the sun.

I might point out that the American people, as the result of partially implementing our new energy policy, have been conserving energy very well. We import now about a million barrels a day of foreign oil less than we did the day I was inaugurated. And in this last year alone, we've cut down consumption of energy overall about 5 percent; gasoline in December was 10 percent less consumed than December a year ago.

We've got a long way to go. But the American consciousness had to be built up that there is indeed an energy crisis; that we do indeed, as you point out so wisely, have major conflicts in our programs in the past that prevented progress; and we need a clear and consistent, well-understood policy to put into effect in our country,


Q. Mr. President, is it the policy of your administration to boycott, wherever possible, States that have not ratified ERA? I'm referring to a memo that—

THE PRESIDENT. No, that's not my policy.


Q. Mr. President, you once said that you weren't sure whether American troops should ever be used to defend Yugoslavia. Marshal Tito is sick. In light of Afghanistan, do you still feel that way?

THE PRESIDENT. We have had close discussions with the Yugoslavian leaders, including Marshal Tito when he was here not too long ago. The overall message that they give to us, which I accept as accurate, is that Yugoslavia is a strong, fiercely independent, courageous, well-equipped nation that can defend itself. If we are called upon to give any kind of aid to the Yugoslavian people in the future, we would seriously consider it and do what, in our opinion, would be best for them and for us.

I've had frequent conversations recently with other major European leaders about the need to strengthen our ties with Yugoslavia and to protect them as a nonaligned country, without being dominated or threatened successfully by the Soviet Union. We'll take whatever action is necessary to carry out those goals, but commensurate with actual need .and commensurate with specific requests from Yugoslavia itself.

FRANK CORMIER [Associated Press]. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

Note: The President's fifty-fourth news conference began at 8 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. It was broadcast live on radio and television.

Jimmy Carter, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250082

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