Jimmy Carter photo

The President's News Conference

July 20, 1978


THE PRESIDENT. Good evening, everybody. Before I answer questions, I'd like to make one brief comment. Dr. Peter Bourne, out of consideration for my administration, has submitted his resignation this afternoon, which I have accepted with regret.

Dr. Bourne is a close friend of mine and my family. He's an able and dedicated public servant. Because of this unfortunate occurrence, he has left the Government. 1

1 Dr. Bourne, the Special Assistant to the President for Health Issues, resigned following the disclosure that he had issued a drug prescription for an assistant without using her real name.

There are some allegations which will be the subject of investigation, and because I would not want my comments inadvertently to affect or to influence those investigations, I will have no further comment on this subject this evening and will not answer questions on this subject.

I'll be glad to answer questions on other items.



Q. Mr. President, you seem to be embarked on an eye-for-an-eye diplomacy with the Soviets, and they're accusing you of blackmail in terms of human rights.

My question is how far in the direction of reprisals do you plan to go, and what do you intend to accomplish?

THE PRESIDENT. We have a deep commitment in our Nation to the enhancement of human rights, not only here but around the world. The Soviets, when they signed the Final Act of the Helsinki agreement voluntarily, along with 35 or so other nations, committed themselves to certain principles to be honored among their own citizens—the right of citizens to emigrate from the Soviet Union, the right of families to be united, and the right of the government in a legitimate way, even, to be criticized by their citizens.

The recent trials in the Soviet Union have been aimed against Soviet citizens who were monitoring compliance with the Helsinki act, which the Soviets themselves signed. And we, along with voices throughout the world, have expressed our displeasure at these actions.

I have not embarked on a vendetta against the Soviet Union. I know that we cannot interfere in the internal affairs of the Soviet Union. I would like to have better relationships with the Soviets. We have continued our discussions with the Soviet Union on SALT and other matters. We would like to even enhance trade with the Soviet Union. But we have to let our own foreign policy be carried out.

I might add that in addition to those highly publicized dissidents that have been tried recently, Mr. Shcharanskiy, Orlov, and others, that there is a Lithuanian named Petkus, who has also been tried and sentenced, and when I was in East Germany recently—West Berlin-there have been two men tried in East Germany, a Mr. Hubner and also a Mr. Bahro.

I met with the six leaders of other Western democracies. All of us are concerned about this move in the Soviet Union to punish dissidents for monitoring compliance with the Helsinki agreement. But I would like to have better relationships with the Soviet Union. We have expressed our displeasure, I think, in a very moderate way.


Q. Mr. President, the House Ways and Means Committee seems intent on improving one of the capital gains tax cut proposals that you said here on June 26 that you saw no possibility you could accept. Would you veto the Jones or Steiger amendments, or would you accept some sort of compromise such as cutting the capital gains tax only on the sale of homes?

THE PRESIDENT. We put forward to the Congress a tax reduction and tax reform proposal that I think is adequate and necessary. First of all, it would reduce the tax burden on the American people substantially. It would permit an efficient formation of increased capital to invest back in plant and equipment and to provide better jobs for the American people. It would protect the average homeowner, the average working family against shifting the tax burden on their shoulders and away from the shoulders of the very rich, the very powerful, and the very influential. And it would also result in a simplification of the tax system.

These are principles that I feel very deeply about. In my opinion, as I expressed at the last press conference, I believe, the Jones and Steiger amendment would violate some of those principles. I will have to wait until the final tax package is placed on my desk, after it's been considered and complete action from both Houses of the Congress is concluded. At that time, I will decide whether or not that tax bill is in the best interests of our country. If it is not, I will veto it.


Q. What are you going to do, Mr. President, to save your civil service reform? Or is it snagged now hopelessly in Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. The reorganization plans in the House and Senate that relate to civil service has been approved overwhelmingly. The House recently took action, I think 36 to nothing, to approve it. This is a key element. The Senate passed the reorganization proposal relating to civil service very strongly in the committee. The only thing they changed was one element concerning veterans preference.

The House Post Office and Civil Service Committee has passed a bill last night after long debate and some delay with some very adverse attachments to the bill, which we hope to get removed either in the Rules Committee or on the House floor or in conference.

This is a crucial element of my attempt to control the bureaucracy in the Federal Government, and it's such a burning issue in the minds of the American people, to finally do something about waste and control of the Federal bureaucracy, that I really am convinced that the House Members and Senate Members of the Congress will not go home to face election not having acted upon it.

So, because of that, I believe that the unsatisfactory amendments will be re. moved, and I predict that the civil service reform bill will be passed because it's so badly needed and 'because the American people and I demand that something be done.


Q. You told the economic summit conference in Germany that the price of domestic oil in the United States is too low and the heart of your energy program is to raise it. But how would conservation justify the hardship that would have on American consumers and its own inflationary effect as well?

THE PRESIDENT. The long-run impact of excessive oil consumption and waste is one of the major contributing factors to the underlying inflation rate that we have now. We simply use too much oil, we waste too much oil, we import too much oil. One of the reasons is that the price is extraordinarily low. And I'm committed to a comprehensive energy package that I put to the Congress 15 months ago in April of 1977.

The Congress has still not acted finally on any one of the five crucial elements. Conference committees have completed work now on four of the five, almost completed. And the Senate has acted on one of those elements. The one that the conference committees have not yet considered is the crude oil equalization tax.

There are four basic ways, if I can remember them all, where we can increase the price of oil just to the world level price to discourage waste. One is to let the oil companies decide how much they should raise the price of oil, which I think would be very bad for the American consumer. Two other ways are for me to impose quotas or oil import fees which would result in administrative difficulties but which is presently permitted under the law.

The fourth way is much preferable, to impose a crude oil equalization tax to raise the price of oil and, within that act of the Congress, to restore that money collected immediately back to the consumers of this country. There would be no net shift away from the consumers of money. But the price of oil would be raised to encourage conservation.

That's my preference, and I still hope and believe that the Congress will take action accordingly.

Mr. Bradley [Ed Bradley, CBS News].


Q. Mr. President, what effect has the statement made by Ambassador Andrew Young had on your human rights campaign, and do you agree with him that there are political prisoners in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT. The statement by Andy Young was unfortunate, and I do not agree with it. I don't think there are thousands of political prisoners in this country. He went on to explain what he meant, that 10, 15 years ago during the civil rights demonstrations and debates, that he and others were imprisoned because of their belief that the laws of the United States should 'be changed. They were changed. We made great progress, which Andy Young pointed out.

This is a subject that I've discussed with Andy Young. He knows that I disapprove of his statement. I do not agree. We have, I think, persisted in our human rights commitments in spite of that statement, and I've discussed this with Andy Young. And I don't believe that he will make a similar statement again.

The fact of the matter is that Andy Young has been and is very valuable to our country. He's opened up new areas of communications and mutual trust and cooperation, among the nations of Africa in particular. At almost the same time when Andy made that unfortunate statement, he had been remarkably successful in bringing about a conclusion of the Namibian question, which could have exploded into a very unsatisfactory conflict in southern Africa.

So, I know that Andy regrets having made that statement which was embarrassing to me. I don't believe he will do it again.


Q. Mr. President, you have been promising for the last 6 months to provide the American people with some sort of national health insurance. Are you going to provide that to the people this summer? Are you going to propose something and send it up to the Hill this summer?

THE PRESIDENT. By the end of this month, I will have a directive to the Secretary of HEW to consult with Governors, with mayors, with Members of the Congress, with those who provide health care in our country. And expressed in that direction to him will be the principles on which a comprehensive health care system will be established in our country.

The Congress obviously will not have time to take action on this comprehensive proposal this year, but I want the American people and the Members of Congress to know the principles under which it will be formed.

One of the very discouraging aspects of our present health care system is the enormous increase in costs that have burdened down the American people. The average increase in cost of health care per year has been more than twice as much as the overall inflation rate. I can't think of anything the Congress could do that would benefit consumers more than to pass the hospital cost containment bill that we proposed and which the Commerce Committee in the House voted down or gutted with an unsatisfactory amendment this week.

This will cost the American consumers over the next 5 years $56 billion in unnecessary health care costs and will cost the American taxpayer, through Federal expenditures, $19 billion. This is an extraordinary and unnecessary burden on the American people, but the Commerce Committee was not able to deal with it.

So, we've got to control costs even under the present system, and this year the American people will know the principles and the framework for a comprehensive health care system that cannot be acted upon this year but, I believe, the Congress will consider next year.


Q. Mr. President, I hope that this doesn't fall within the area of legal issues that you prefer not to discuss tonight, but the health of the President himself has always been a matter of great concern to the country.

Can you say whether any of the prescriptions that were signed by Dr. Bourne were substances that went either to you or members of your family?

THE PRESIDENT. Dr. Bourne has never given me any treatment of any kind.

Q. None of those substances went to you?



Q. Mr. President, the city of Washington is vexed right now by a subway strike. We're facing a possible mail strike. Philadelphia has had a sanitation strike, Louisville, a police strike. There have been fires accompanying a firemen's strike in Memphis. How long do you think the people are going to stand for this, and what are your thoughts about strikes by public employees?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I deplore the circumstances that finally result in a strike. We obviously prefer that through regular legal bargaining procedures that disputes can be settled without disruptive strikes. This evening, for instance, we are waiting with great interest the outcome of the postal workers' negotiations, and we hope that they will be resolved successfully before midnight, which is the deadline. If they are not, then legal procedures provide a mechanism by which some extension can be granted.

But I deplore strikes, but recognize the right of workers to conduct labor negotiations; if they aren't successful, sometimes strikes are advisable. But I prefer, of course, to see the disputes settled without strikes.


Q. Mr. President, during your summit in Bonn, did the Western leaders bring up the subject of the Turkish embargo? And if so, what was your reaction? Could you tell us, please?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Every member of NATO, including five of the members who were there with me—the only exception is Japan, who's not a member of NATO—are deeply interested in removing the embargo against Turkey. This embargo was imposed, I think properly, 3 years ago. The results that were expected have not been realized. It has not resulted in any progress being made in resolving the Cyprus dispute of restoring the human rights of the Greek Cypriots, who have indeed suffered and who suffer today. It's driven a wedge between Turkey and the rest of the NATO countries, between Greece and NATO, between Turkey and Greece, between us and Turkey. And I hope that the Congress will act expeditiously to remove the Turkey arms embargo.

And there is a unanimous belief that this is the proper action within NATO, with the exception of Greece. And I believe that this action will in the long run benefit Greece as well. It's a very important subject, the most important foreign affairs subject that the Congress will consider the rest of this session.


Q. Mr. President, Barry Bosworth, your Council on Wage and Price Stability head, says that there will be a restructuring of the anti-inflation program in the administration. The feeling is that the present program isn't doing the job. Is that at your instigation, and are you happy with the anti-inflation program?

THE PRESIDENT. No, it's not at my instigation. We are doing what we can from the President's office, trying to control inflation. We are cutting down the Federal budget deficit. In 1976, the budget deficit was in the 60 billions of dollars. In 1978, it was in the fifties of billions of dollars; in 1979, in the forties of billions of dollars. I hope that in the next time we can bring that down at least to the 30 billions of dollars.

We are being very constrained on the Congress in not having excessive expenditures. We also have announced that the wages of Federal employees, blue-collar and white-collar employees, will be limited to about 5 1/2 percent. I've put a complete freeze, from my own sense of responsibility, on executive salaries. There will be no increase this year.

We have tried to induce business and labor to have less of a price or wage increase this year and the next year than they did in the 2 preceding years. So, we're trying to do everything without mandatory controls to limit inflation.

One of the most serious needs to control inflation is to cut down on the waste of energy. This puts an enormous burden on the American people. And I hope that the Congress will act here. As I said earlier, Congress has not acted yet on the civil service reform legislation or on hospital cost containment. Airline deregulation is another bill that's being considered by Congress that will control inflation.

So, we have a comprehensive program that we put forward. In some cases, the Congress has acted, in other cases they have not. But I think the more the American people's interest is built up and the more political influence they use themselves as individuals on Congress to act against inflation, the better chance we'll have to succeed.

I think some business leaders have complied with our request; some labor leaders have acquired to our request, some have not. But we are building momentum, and I believe that we can at least let inflation top off this year. Someone's got to control it. It's got to be a partnership between the American people, the Congress, and myself. I'm doing all I can.


Q. Mr. President, do you agree or disagree with those who urge that American athletes boycott the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow as a protest against Soviet treatment of dissidents?

THE PRESIDENT. This is a decision that will be made by the United States Olympic Committee. My own hope is that the American athletes will participate in the 1980 Olympics.


Q. Mr. President, Ben Reyes, a Mexican American in the Texas Legislature, said today that you called him to express your embarrassment about Attorney General Griffin Bell's decision not to initiate Federal prosecution of the Dallas policeman who shot a 12-year-old Mexican American boy while handcuffed in the rear seat of a patrol car.

Are you embarrassed by this politically sensitive decision, and did you either ask the Justice Department to prosecute the case or express your disapproval when Mr. Bell declined prosecution?

THE PRESIDENT. When I was in Texas a few weeks ago, I studied the details of this case. It's one of about 150 cases that the Justice Department has been reexamining to make sure that there was no deprivation of the political rights or criminal justice rights or civil rights of people because—who are minorities or who speak Spanish.

I think the Justice Department has done a good job. This was a particularly disturbing case, because the person killed was only 12 years old. He was handcuffed, in the custody of police officers. At that time, I called Griffin Bell, the Attorney General, and told him I was deeply concerned about it and asked him to look into the case personally. He promised me that he would, and he did.

I did not ask Griffin Bell nor his subordinates to either prosecute or not prosecute. This is a legal decision over which the President has no control. It's one made by the Justice Department officials themselves. They have decided not to prosecute this case further.

It's a very complicated legal issue. The primary reason that they quoted was that there was an enthusiastic prosecution of this case by the State officials. The relatively low sentence, I think a 5-year imprisonment for this death, was granted by the jury, and because of that, the Justice Department decided not to prosecute under the present provisions of the law. But I have no authority nor inclination to direct the Justice Department to reverse their decision.


Q. Mr. President, are you aware of any negotiations under way for the release of Anatoly Shcharanskiy or Alexander Ginzburg?

THE PRESIDENT. No, not specifically. I think it would be inappropriate for me to talk about the negotiations that go on between ourselves and other governments about release of prisoners in general or specifically.

Q. In principle, is the United States willing to negotiate the release of these men?

THE PRESIDENT. We would like to see the prisoners released, but I can't go into that now.


Q. Mr. President, there's been a lot of talk about this term "political prisoner." I'd like to follow up Ed's question. What is your definition of a political prisoner? Do you believe that Ben Chavis of the Wilmington 10 is a political prisoner or not?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's hard for me to define in a brief period of time what is a political prisoner. I think that if there is a commission of crime involving violence, damage to another person's property or health or life, and if they are prosecuted for that under the rules of our Government, that would certainly not come under the categorization of a political prisoner. What we deplore in the Soviet Union is the prosecution of persons who speak out, even in accordance with international agreements that have been signed by the country involved.

I might add very quickly that the Soviet Union is not the only country guilty of that.


Q. I, too, have a question about the Bourne case, which does not touch on the allegations against him. And it is simply this: whether you agree with Dr. Bourne, as he stated in his letter of resignation, that the attacks on him were really designed to harm you through him.

THE PRESIDENT. I would prefer not to answer that question.


Q. There have been some published analyses that you've lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 in your interest in your warehouse firms. If those allegations or analyses are true, are you considering replacing your friend, Mr. Kirbo, as trustee? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I would rather have made a profit on the warehouse last year. When I was sworn in as President, I agreed with the public and Mr. Kirbo and others that I would not become even knowledgeable about the details of the operation of my former businesses. And I don't know what caused the loss. I am authorized to sign the tax return, which showed the loss, but I'm not contemplating changing the trustee.


Q. Dr. Bourne, about 6 months ago, helped initiate a report of the National Institute on Drug Abuse that said paraquat, one of at least 13 herbicides being used on marijuana in Mexico, caused lung fibrosis when smoked by marijuana consumers here in the United States. The report went on to say that maybe we should halt this spraying program.

Right now in the Congress, Senator Percy has a bill which would outlaw the future expenditures of money, men, or DEA material to Mexico to spray marijuana which is later harvested, brought to the United States, and smoked. My question, sir: Are you willing to support Senator Percy in stopping the spraying of paraquat and other herbicides on marijuana in Mexico?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm not familiar with the bill. My understanding is that American money is not used to purchase the paraquat. I think Mexico buys this material from other countries, and they use their own personnel to spray it with. My preference is that marijuana not be grown nor smoked. It's an illegal—

Q. What about the $13 million a year that's being channeled into Mexico now that's being used with the helicopters to go out and spray the fields, or DEA, Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence that goes out to help eradicate these fields?

THE PRESIDENT. I favor this relationship with Mexico. When I came into office, about 75 percent, for instance, of all the heroin used in our country was coming from Mexico. Because of the work of Dr. Bourne and the officials at the DEA, the drug enforcement agency, we and the new President and officials of Mexico, President Lopez Portillo, we've mounted a very successful campaign, and now we've almost stopped the flow of heroin, for instance, from Mexico into our country.

Marijuana happens to be an illicit drug that's included under the overall drug control program, and I favor this program very strongly.


Q. Thank you, Mr. President. There is the press speculation in Japan and South Korea that you would invite General Park Chung Hee of South Korea to Washington in next January for talks. Could you comment on this?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know of any invitation that is planned for President Park. I would certainly have no objection to meeting him, but we have not extended an invitation to him so far as I know.


Q. Mr. President, could you tell us how you're leaning on the sale of the Dresser equipment to the Soviet Union, and what are some of the factors involved in the decision?

THE PRESIDENT. We have taken all the action that I intend to take for the time being. We terminated the sale of a very advanced computer to the Soviet Union-roughly a $6 to $7 million sale—which would have provided a quantum jump in computer capability, multiplying the speed of the computer, I think, 20-fold. And this was supposed to have been bought by TASS, one of the Soviet news agencies, to, I think, handle the requirements for the 1980 Olympics. This was far in excess of what they needed for that purpose.

And I've put under the control agreement in our country, where different Government agencies assess the need for sales equipment that would result in increased oil production in the Soviet Union. On the particular case to which you refer, I have not cancelled that.

This sale of technology—the Germans will install it—was approved, I think, the last day of May, before we reassessed this proposal. There is still pending one element of this sale, some kind of arc welding, that I have not yet approved. I've not decided what to do about it.


Q. Mr. President, News Secretary Powell has indicated that in the future when U.N. Ambassador Young speaks out on issues such as human rights, that perhaps this will be a subject for discussion at the White House beforehand, perhaps indicating that he might require your prior approval on a number of topics. Will this be the case?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think so. I trust Andy to realize that he will be more careful in the future. It would be almost a full-time job for me if I tried to assess- [laughter] —if I tried to assess every statement that Andy Young and other Ambassadors make, or other officials who have the same opportunity to consult directly with the press.

And I don't intend to get into the censoring business. I have to trust the sound judgment of those—I've made mistakes myself, and I've tried to correct them in the future. I think in this particular case Andy made a mistake. And I think he'll try to correct it on his own initiative.


Q. Mr. President, members of your administration, including yourself, have often cited the findings of Amnesty International with regard to political prisoners in other countries. Why is it, then, that you do not accept the group's finding with respect to Reverend Chavis and the Wilmington 10? And also, sir, are you not aware or concerned that what is called by some black leaders a dichotomy in your human rights policy with respect to foreign dissidents and with respect to human rights in this country is threatening your black constituency?

THE PRESIDENT. I have been concerned about human rights violations in our own country as well as others. The Justice Department reassessed the case of the Wilmington 10 after the Governor decided the action to be taken this past year. Now, so far as I know, there is no legal basis for further action on the case by the Justice Department.* The attorneys for the Wilmington 10 have the right to appeal to the Federal courts on their own initiative, and I presume that they can, under a habeas corpus request or some other. But so far as I have been able to determine from the position of the Presidency itself, having no direct responsibility for it, the case is still being considered, appeals are still permissible under certain Federal codes, and I believe that the justice system in our country has worked well.

BROOKS JACKSON [Associated Press]. Thank you, Mr. President.

*In fact, the Justice Department is analyzing the situation to determine whether it should enter the case. [Printed in the transcript.]

Note: President Carter's thirty-fifth 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/248004

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