Exchange With Reporters and Senate Majority Leader Baker Following Senate Approval of the Sale of AWACS and Other Air Defense Equipment to Saudi Arabia

October 28, 1981

Senator Baker. That's what campaigning in Virginia does for you, Mr. President. [Laughter] Mr. President, that was quite a vote.

Q. How do you think he did it, Senator?

Senator Baker. Well, I had one Senator today who told me he was going to vote for the proposal. He said, ``You know, that man down at the White House could sell refrigerators to an Eskimo.'' I said, ``Well, I'm glad he could sell AWACS to you.''

The President did a tremendous job. He really did. We worked him very hard, I'm afraid, talking to Senator after Senator, but it paid off handsomely, and it was a good operation.

The President. Well, let me interject and say that there's a lineup of gentlemen here who worked very hard also, to whom I'm very indebted.

Senator Baker. We thank you. We appreciate it. And we're relieved. [Laughter]

Q. Any hidden tactics you want to reveal?

Senator Baker [laughing]. No hidden tactics. It was one vote at a time.

Q. What do you think did it? What pushed it over the top?

Senator Baker. I don't know if there was any one thing. I think that the weight of logic and time for people to think about it and to weigh the arguments pro and con -- I think we had the better arguments, and I think in the final analysis, that's what one would make of it.

Q. You don't think it was the meeting with the President?

Senator Baker. Oh, yes, but you know, the President was our chief negotiator. And at one time or the other I expect the President saw, virtually, maybe every Member of the Senate or almost every Member of the Senate. And with some of them he met more than once. I somethimes got ashamed of myself for calling down here and asking him if he would meet with so-and-so. And sometimes Mr. President would say, ``Well, I already did that.'' I'd say, ``Well, I know, but you've got to do it again.'' [Laughter]

Q. Was it excruciating?

The President. No. And I must say it was very impressive, also, because many of the Senators that I talked to, in fact most of them, were honestly trying to find what they thought was the right answer for the country.

Reporters. Thank you.

Note: The session began at 6:10 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House, where Senators Howard H. Baker, Jr., Paul Laxalt, Sam Nunn, John Tower, and John W. Warner met with the President after the Senate vote.