Remarks and an Informal Exchange With Reporters on Foreign and Domestic Issues

January 6, 1984

Unemployment Figures

The President. I just wanted to say one thing about the economy, and I think all of us can look forward to 1984 with even more confidence in view of the unemployment figures that we were handed this morning: that unemployment figures went down again in the month of December; 335,000 more people were working in December than were working in the month before. And it means that about 4 million more people are at work now than were at work a year ago in December.

And I think this is -- the rate, counting in the military, which I think is the only way to count it -- total unemployment is now 8.1 percent. And, as I say, I think it's encouraging news for all of us, and we're going to keep on.

Central America

Q. Mr. President, do you think if we spend $1 billion more on Central America that that would somehow stop the Sandinistas from doing what they've been doing?

The President. Andrea [Andrea Mitchell, NBC News], I don't know. I've only known this -- and I have spoken of this several times before -- I think that we haven't been doing all that should be done. That was one of the reasons for having a commission. I have not yet obtained their report. But solving the social and economic problems or helping them solve them, themselves, down there is essential, just as it's essential that we help provide for their security while they're instituting those reforms. And we haven't been allowed to do as much as we should do.

Q. So, is the Kissinger group calling for a lot more money? Is that what your understanding is -- that the Kissinger group will call for a lot more money?

The President. That I don't know. And, of course, the definition of what ``a lot more'' is could be subject to interpretation.

Charles Z. Wick

Q. Mr. President, do you condone the taping on the telephone by Charles Wick?

The President. I'm not going to comment further other than to say that I don't think that Charles Wick is a dishonorable man in any way. And the nature of the things that he was recording and that -- I can understand his forgetting sometimes when he was talking to people particularly that he knew -- but the purpose of that was different than it is from someone that is trying to keep a record on other people's conversations. What he was actually trying to do was be able to immediately transcribe so that he could provide the suggestions that were being discussed to the people that would have to implement them.

And I've heard there are some rumors around. Let me just say this. He has done a splendid job. I think the Voice of America, the whole United States Information Agency is far superior to anything that has ever been, and he's going to continue there.

Q. Mr. President, the New York Times claims he lied to them about the taping.

Q. Did he lie to them?

The President. That's their statement.

Note: The President spoke at 3:15 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House as he was leaving for a weekend stay at Camp David, MD.