Informal Exchange With Reporters on the Presidential Campaign

October 22, 1984

The President. [Inaudible] -- running across the country for the cause of cancer, across the United States.

Q. That's very courageous.

Mr. President, let me ask you a question: How did you do last night?

The President. What?

Q. How did you do last night?

The President. Why, I was waiting for all of you to tell me.

Q. Well, no, you're the -- --

Q. Did you win, Mr. President?

Q. What do you think?

Q. Wait, Mrs. Reagan -- --

Q. Wait. She just coached you.

Mrs. Reagan. He won.

Q. She just said you won. [Laughter]

Q. Is she coaching you again?

The President. She says I won.

Q. What do you say?

Q. What do you say?

The President. Well, it comes better from her than from me. [Laughter]

Q. Well, seriously, don't you think you did a little better than Louisville?

The President. Yes, I felt fine. I felt good about it. I was sorry there were so many things that there wasn't time to respond to that I think were misstatements of facts.

Q. Well, what would you have told us at the end of your summation had you finished it?

The President. I was talking about the wonderful young people that we've met on campuses and high schools and just out of school and going to work, and how wonderful they are, and the responsibility of my generation and the generations between mine and theirs -- --

Q. Why did you do better this time, sir?

The President. -- -- have to do to see that they have the same kind of country and hope and opportunity that we had growing up, and that was our responsibility.

Q. But that letter -- you were reading a letter.

Q. Why did you do better this time, sir?

Q. You started to read a letter.

The President. I finished about that.

Q. You didn't tell us what was in the letter.

Q. You didn't say what was in the letter.

The President. Well, it was a letter that had to do with our times and so forth, but then aimed at the -- [inaudible] -- and I knew that I was writing to people that, as I say, already knew the outcome a hundred years from now, that we were just -- --

Q. If they were alive?

The President. -- -- just giving them personal observations and so forth in there, but hopefully something that might be interesting to the generations -- --

Q. Why did you do better this time, sir?

The President. What?

Q. Why'd you do better this time than in Louisville?

The President. Well, I think sometimes, sometimes you go kind of flat. And I didn't feel that good in Louisville. I felt kind of flat. But maybe I'd overcrammed and so forth.

Q. And last night, sir?

The President. Last night? I felt fine.

Q. But they didn't brutalize you with the process this time, right? [Laughter]

The President. I haven't felt brutalized since I've been here. Oh, once or twice, meeting with you people, maybe, but -- [laughter] -- --

Q. Well, you're going to win the election now?

The President. What?

Q. You're going to win the election now?

The President. You know me. I never say that. I'm superstitious.

Q. Mrs. Reagan, tell us what you thought.

Q. Mrs. Reagan -- --

Q. He's going to win the election?

Q. Tell us what you thought, Mrs. Reagan. Let Mrs. Reagan tell us what she thought of the -- --

Mrs. Reagan. He won.

Q. He won?

Mrs. Reagan. He won.

Q. Is he going to win the election, Mrs. Reagan?

Q. Is he going to win the election, Mrs. Reagan?

Mrs. Reagan. And I loved it when he said the thing about the age.

Q. Mr. President, are you going to campaign for the Members of Congress now?

The President. What?

Q. Are you going to go out and campaign for Republican Members of Congress now?

The President. I've been doing as much of that as I can. I've been doing spot ads for them, things of that kind. And I'm going to continue doing all that I can, because, again, I think that -- I think it's only fair that you ask the people -- if you're asking the people to support the things that you advocate, then you ought to be asking them all to send you a team to help you do it.

Q. Mrs. Reagan, did he win the election?

Q. How did Mondale do last night?

The President. Oh, I thought he was his usual self.

Q. Now, you know we're all going to play that submarine thing. We're going to play that tape from that '82 press conference about recalling submarine missiles. And we're going to compare your words with what you say you said.

The President. All right. I was talking about the submarines and the airplanes, that they could be called back, in contrast to the inadvertent possibility of someone putting his thumb on the button and then finding out it was a mistake and no way to recall an attack -- that you can call the submarines and the planes back before the launching point of a missile. And, also, the fact that those more conventional-type weapons, they're not as destabilizing in people's minds, because we know from previous wars they can be intercepted and knocked down or sunk. But never -- how could anyone think that any reasonable -- [inaudible] -- would believe that you could turn a nuclear missile around and bring it home? I think that that shows a lack of intelligence on their part to believe that.

Q. Well, see, that's what you said. I know you say that's not what you meant -- --

The President. No, it was taken out of context. And I realize that all of you are on the record of having repeated this so often, but, now, try to to find your way back off the end of the limb. I won't cut it off on you.

Q. Why are you pulling out of Beirut -- --

The President. What?

Mrs. Reagan. And you're -- [inaudible] -- Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News].

Q. Absolutely, Mrs. Reagan.

The President. Why didn't I what?

Q. Why is the United States pulling out of Beirut?

The President. Why didn't we pull them out?

Q. Why are you pulling them out?

The President. We pulled out because the terrorist activities -- --

Q. No, I mean, why are we pulling out now?

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. No, we've reduced all over the world. Our Embassy staff is streamlined, because our Embassies are being pressed in every country in the world.

Q. Is that why you're -- [inaudible]?

The President. But the thing is -- I don't know what Mr. Mondale would do about this -- but we're not going to hunker down and pull all of our representation of the world out in the face of terrorist acts. That's what they would like us to do.

Q. But you are reducing personnel -- [inaudible].

The President. Yes, streamlining down so that there are as few people as possible, but maintaining our Embassy contacts.

Mrs. Reagan. We have to go now, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]. I'll throw you an orange. [Laughter]

Q. Mrs. Reagan -- --

The President. This young man is an example of that generation I was talking about last night, also. And they're a wonderful generation.

Q. Mrs. Reagan, how do you feel as compared to after Louisville?

Mrs. Reagan. Better.

Q. Better? Why?

Mrs. Reagan. Because he won.

Q. They didn't do anything to him this time, huh?

Mrs. Reagan. No, sir.

Q. You're quoted as saying, ``What have they done to Ronnie?'' last time.

Mrs. Reagan. I didn't say that.

Q. You didn't say it?

Mrs. Reagan. No.

Q. Okay.

Mrs. Reagan. I'm quoted as saying lots of things I didn't say. [Laughter]

Q. I know.

Note: The exchange began at 9:55 a.m. near Air Force One as the President was preparing to leave the Kansas City Downtown Airport in Kansas for Palmdale, CA. Prior to the exchange, the President met at the airport with Jeff Keith, of Stamford, CT. Mr. Keith, who had lost a leg to bone cancer 10 years earlier, was running from Boston, MA, to Los Angeles, CA, to raise money for the American Cancer Society.