Informal Exchange With Reporters on Foreign and Domestic Issues

December 21, 1984

Q. Mr. President, some conservatives are complaining that George Shultz is stacking the State Department with moderates and turning away from your policies.

The President. I have read all of that and, no, it is not true. And he and I have met and discussed all of the changes that are being made and most of those are just rotations. The individuals are going from one place to another. And it just isn't true.

Q. So, you approve of it, then?

Q. Are you satisfied with the way he's running the department?

The President. Yes, there's a limit to how long you prefer to leave, particularly, the career Ambassadors in one particular place. You give them a change of scenery.

Q. Did your advisers tell you you should get tough with Prime Minister Nakasone on trade?

The President. How can I get tough with a very good friend?

Q. Did they ask you to press him more on trade?

The President. No, he is being most cooperative, and he has some of the same problems I do. He has some people in government that don't always agree with what he's trying to do, but we have made great progress. But there's a long way to go yet, and he knows that, too.

Q. What do you think of Mr. Gorbachev and his criticism of ``Star Wars''?

The President. Well, I know that in that great distance there's probably a reason why he doesn't know what he's talking about. He doesn't understand exactly what it is that we're researching, but we're going to be very pleased to let them know exactly what it is that we're talking about. And I think they'll see that maybe it's better if we have a world in which you've got some kind of a defense that maybe can destroy weapons without killing millions of people.

Q. But both Mitterrand and Thatcher are also concerned about it, sir.

The President. Well, I'll get them to understand what it is, too. Today the only defensive weapon we have is to threaten that if they kill millions of our people, we'll kill millions of theirs. I don't think there's any morality in that at all. We're trying to look for something that will make those weapons obsolete, and they can be eliminated once and for all. Mr. President, when you come back from Christmas and from New Year's, do you think you'll have a second honeymoon with the Congress?

The President. If I've had a honeymoon with the Congress, romance has been dead in Washington for 4 years.

Mr. Roussel. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The exchange began at 3:17 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House. The members of the press were assembled there to watch the President and Mrs. Reagan accept an 8-foot-square Christmas card from the citizens of Johnstown, PA. The card was presented to them by Mayor Herb Pfuhl.

Peter H. Boussel is Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary.