Excerpt From an Interview With Ann Devroy of the Gannett News Service on Women's Issues

August 24, 1983

Ms. Devroy. I promised not to ask you any nonranch questions. Can I ask you one question about women?

The President. Yes.

Ms. Devroy. Why are you so misunderstood on this issue?

The President. I don't know.

Ms. Devroy. Do you think you are misunderstood?

The President. Yes, I do. But I think part of it is very deliberate and political. I think, very frankly, in the 1982 election, it was made apparent that some of those who are most active in this are most active if it's in behalf of the Democratic candidates. Let me just point out: We had some fine Republican women candidates, and they didn't get any help or support, even though they were in -- well, Millicent Fenwick is an example. So, I think this is part of it.

But if they look back, the California record, I don't know of anyone else in the country that did this. Yes, it's true that I happen to disagree about the equal rights amendment, but not because I think it would give women something of value to them.

I'm surprised that more of them have not looked at how much mischief could be done, brought about by men, that could take advantage of that and then say, ``Hey, you can't make me do this because, labor regulations and so forth,'' that are definitely there for the benefit of women. I could see some troublemaking men, mischiefmakers just saying, ``Well, look, I don't have to do that.'' The same would be true militarily. But mainly, the main thing is, as I see it, it would put -- it isn't an instant solution. It would put things in the hands of the courts that belong in the hands of the legislature. If you thought it was discrimination, you would have to take -- you would have to file a suit.

Now, what I set out in California, when I was faced with this, and I finally came to the decision about that, I said, but there should be equality. And so we started combing the statutes to find out where in the State law might be based discriminations. We found 14 laws that deliberately discriminated against women. For example, a wife with her own money could not invest that money without her husband's permission. Well, that's ridiculous. And so, we got all these 14 changed.

Then when I got to Washington, I'd been dreaming about this -- and one other State had done it -- and I said let us in this whole federalism talk, let us go to the States, to the Governors, the State legislatures, and see if they won't set up the same kind of operation. Well, all 50 States did. Now, I understand, if what Miss [Barbara] Honegger said is right, that maybe some of them have dallied and so forth. There's a limit. Once I persuade them to do this, you can't force them. The States are sovereign in our system here. But maybe there is more we could do to encourage them.

Ms. Devroy. Well, Larry's getting mad at me.

Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. What he is saying is what I said about 15 minutes ago.

Ms. Devroy. I know.

The President. This was true. But we also started the Justice Department on this combing of the Federal laws. Well, that's quite a sizable undertaking. And she's absolutely wrong in what she said about what we're doing there, and the pace. It has come in, as I understand it, in three very voluminous packets.

Well, out of the first one we have already submitted recommendations to Senator Dole, who is following through now legislatively. These things have to be done by legislation. And there has been a kind of a full plate there for the legislature. And you can't just get on the phone and say, ``Pass this.''

So, we're doing this, and, believe me, I'm sincere about it and want to correct it and want it done. And I wasn't joking when I said that women actually were the civilizers of humanity.

Ms. Devroy. I guess people didn't understand that.

The President. No. And I think a great many scholars have said that in the past before I ever thought of it, that women have been the civilizing influence. You are kind of the superior people.

Ms. Devroy. Maureen and I talked about this just 2 days ago.

The President. Golly, I think we've talked all there is about the ranch.

Mr. Speakes. What's amazing about your answer is I just gave about a 30-minute lecture to the press that you'd say I got from the horse's mouth.

Ms. Devroy. You sure did. The same points, very similar points.

Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate it.

The President. Thank you.

Note: The interview began at 11:20 a.m. at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif.

As printed above, this item follows the text of the White House press release.