Informal Exchange With Reporters in Norway, Iowa

September 20, 1984

Q. Mr. President, how could that bombing have happened? I thought there were all kinds of precautions that were taken after the last one?

The President. I'm not going to say more about that till we get more details, except, Bill [Bill Plante, CBS News], I will say this: It did not get into the compound. Apparently, according to the Ambassador -- I've spoken to him -- it simply was exploded in the street; that it crashed through some barriers in the street further up the road and was exploded.

Q. Well, are we going to -- --

Q. Are you satisfied with the security, sir?

Q. -- -- going to take any retaliatory action, sir? Is there anyone we can retaliate against?

The President. I can't discuss anything of that kind.

Q. Are you satisfied with the security, sir?

The President. Yes.

Q. Pardon?

The President. What?

Q. Are you, sir?

The President. Well, as much as I know about it, yes. It seems to have -- I think if someone is determined to do what they did, it's pretty difficult to prevent it.

Q. Mr. President, do you have any intelligence as to why this would have happened now?

The President. We've just known for a long time that not only ourselves but people of other countries -- officials throughout the world -- are under a threat of terrorist activity right now.

[At this point, the President discussed the soybean crop production with farm owner John Brockschink and his son-in-law Don Wiebold. After several minutes, the exchange resumed.]

Q. Mr. President, Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro have criticized you for your failed policy in Lebanon and the deaths of marines there. Do you think today's attack in Beirut will reopen that criticism of your policies there?

The President. I don't know what they're going to say, and I'm not going to comment on their charges and accusations in any way. I'm not going to reply to them.

Q. Well, did you think you have any responsibility for what happened today, Mr. President? Your policy?

The President. No. I don't see how anyone in this country -- we have a program in which, in cooperation with our allies, we're trying our best to find an answer to the international terrorist problem. And as I say, we're -- all of us -- targets of that, probably because of what we believe and what our principles are, and they disagree with them.

Q. When you welcomed the hostages back from Iran, you said on the South Lawn that terrorism -- and everyone thought you meant something like this -- would be dealt with swiftly. Are you going to deal with this swiftly?

The President. As swiftly as you can. Speaking of hostages, that's a different subject. Actually, the only defense you have against terrorist activities is if you can infiltrate and intercept and know in advance where they're going to strike.

Q. Will you retaliate for this act, sir?

The President. I can't discuss that.

Q. Is it hard to campaign after a tragedy like this, sir?

The President. It doesn't add joy to the event.

Q. Did you consider canceling today's trip at any point?

The President. We talked about that, but realized that what's the difference whether I'm there or here? You're President wherever you are, and I have as fast a communication on these matters wherever I am, so -- --

Q. From the soybean field or the White House you can do the same thing?

The President. Yup. [Laughter]

Note: The exchange began at 10:50 a.m. while the President was touring a soybean field at the farm of John and Louise Brockschink.