Exchange With Reporters on Unemployment Rates

January 8, 1982

Q. What about unemployment?

Q. Meese!

Q. What about the unemployment figures?

Q. What do you have against Mr. Meese? Why are you trying to rout him out?

The President. What?

Q. Meese.

Q. Unemployment.

Q. Take your choice.

The President. We'll take that one from -- Meese?

Q. Meese.

The President. That is an entire invention that has never been heard of, and there is not one shred of truth in it.

Q. What is ``whole cloth?''

(FOOTNOTE)Earlier in the day, Deputy Press Secretary Larry M. Speakes, in his press briefing, had reported that the President had said about a press report that Counsellor to the President Edwin Meese III would be leaving his position that ``the matter is made up entirely out of whole cloth.'' The President. What?

Q. What is whole cloth, anyway?

The President. Well, the older generation knows that as an expression for falsehood.

Q. What about the unemployment figures?

The President. The unemployment figures? Well, I think it's tragic. It's been coming on for a long time. I'm hoping -- and that's why we have our program in place, and I think it's the only way to get us back to where we can provide the jobs for the people. I don't know of any other way to do it. But if you'll remember, there were 2 million who lost their jobs in the last 6 months of 1980, during the election. And then we held our own for a while until this recession came along.

Q. Well, is it necessary to bring down inflation? Do we have to -- --

The President. No. And anyone who suggests that this is a deliberate part of bringing down inflation is, again, inventing something out of whole cloth. No. This is a result of, particularly, two industries that have been hard hit -- in large part due to the high interest rates -- the automobile industry and the housing industry. These are the two greatest sources. And of course it spreads there then to associated industries. But we want to do everything we can to get the economy back on track, and that's what I think our program will do.

Q. When will it start picking up?

The President. Well, I think that all of us expect that there's going to be a few months of [a] low period; we can't help that. But I think that as we get down toward the spring and going into the summer, we're going to see the economy begin to come back.

Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. Thank you. Last question.

Q. Do you think it'll get worse before it gets better?

The President. There may be a slight, additional fluctuation in the unemployment rates before it begins to turn up. Hope not, but that can happen.

Q. Are you going to meet Brezhnev?

The President. What?

Q. There's a news story that you're going to renew your efforts to meet Brezhnev.

The President. Oh. We've always had in mind a meeting with Brezhnev, and that's still in the works.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Q. Meese wants to be Secretary of Agriculture! [Laughter]

The President. That's the job I want.

Note: The exchange began at 3:16 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House as the President was leaving for a weekend stay at Camp David, Md.