Telephone Interview With Bob Mohan of WSB Radio in Atlanta, Georgia

August 24, 1985

Mr. Mohan. Good morning, Mr. President. This is Bob Mohan with WSB Radio in Atlanta, Georgia.

The President. Yes. Good morning, Bob. Good to talk to you.

South Africa

Mr. Mohan. Thank you so very much, Mr. President, for this opportunity to talk with you this morning. Since time is at a premium, I have a three-part question regarding South Africa, sir. In view of the increased unrest in South Africa, Mr. President, do you anticipate any change in our policies in South Africa?

The President. No, not really, because I have to look at what has been accomplished so far. Our relationship with South Africa, which has always over the years been a friendly one -- we have made it plain, in spite of that, that apartheid is very repugnant to us and that they should go down the path of reform and bringing about a more perfect democracy in their country. And our present relationship has, we believe, resulted in some very substantial changes: the very fact that now the blacks have ability -- being in labor unions or even having their own labor unions; the fact they can buy property in the heretofore white areas; that they can own businesses in some 40 white-dominated business districts. They have eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country -- the type of thing where hotels and restaurants and places of entertainment and so forth were segregated -- that has all been eliminated. They recognize now interracial marriages and all.

But we believe that for us to take an action now such as some are suggesting, turning our backs and walking away, would leave us with no persuasive power whatsoever. We think that if we continue we can help the present administration there, which is a reformist administration as evidenced by the things that I have just mentioned.

Mr. Mohan. Mr. President, what is your reaction to Reverend Jerry Falwell's statement that Bishop Tutu is a phony who does not represent the interests of South African blacks?

The President. Well, I was very pleased to see his clarifying statement -- yesterday, I believe it was -- and what he had to say about that and his apology to Bishop Tutu. It seems from what I could read that his original statements were based on more, not his judgment, but on quotations from those people that he had met with in South Africa -- both blacks and whites. You know, we must recognize that the black majority in South Africa is a combination of minorities. There are at least 10 tribal divisions there. And so, he heard that some considered Bishop Tutu a leader; others rejected him as a leader. And this is what he was trying to say. But I was very pleased when he went public and said that his use of the word ``phony'' was really an unfortunate choice of words, and he certainly had never meant in any way to describe the character or the beliefs or philosophy of Bishop Tutu. He was trying -- he used mistakenly, the word to describe the thing that he had found -- that he was not recognized as a black leader of all the blacks.

Mr. Mohan. Mr. President, do you fear a pro-Communist government may take power in South Africa if the present government fails? This is a fear that many people who call my talk show express. How do you feel about that?

The President. I have to say that for us to believe the Soviet Union is not, in its usual style, stirring up the pot and waiting in the wings for whatever advantage they can take -- we'd be very innocent, naive, if we didn't believe that they're there -- --

Mr. Mohan. Yes.

The President. -- -- ready to do that.

Tax Reform

Mr. Mohan. Okay. The next question I have regards tax reform, Mr. President. Several members of the Georgia congressional delegation are saying that tax reform will be the first order of business when Congress reconvenes. After all the gnashing of teeth, debate, and compromise, can the American people expect any reform in the tax system this year?

The President. I have to be optimistic and believe they can, because we're going to push very hard for it. You see, if we don't do it this year, then we've got to wait a whole other year, another year before this can be implemented. I think there are such advantages to the program, the tax reform program that we've presented: the simplification, the fairness, the advantage to the family. I was greatly encouraged when a committee of the House, dominated by the opposing party, came forth the other day with a statement that this tax plan as we've presented it offers the most advantages to the American family of any of the tax proposals that have been made. So, we're going to try very hard. I know that with the Congress it isn't so much an outright opposition as it is their concern that they've got too much on the plate to get to this in time.

Mr. Mohan. Mr. President, I have one more question I've been allowed. You have been very kind to allow me to ask you some questions. Since my listening audience comprises about 36 States, I would like to afford you an opportunity to ask them something that they can discuss with me during my show on Monday night. Is there something you would like to ask them?

The President. Oh, my. [Laughter] I wish I'd have had some warning about that. I could probably think of several things.

Mr. Mohan. You'll probably think of a thousand things afterwards. I know that's sort of slipping it in the back door. I didn't check with Sue Mathis on that, but I thought perhaps you would have something that you might like to ask them because they'll be talking to me on Monday night.

The President. Well, there are a couple of things where I think there's a possibility of great misinformation: one we've just been talking about -- the tax reform. I know that the people have been told where we're eliminating a number of so-called tax deductions and so forth in return for the much lower rates; that if the people have any questions as to exactly how this would come out for them regarding what the fairness would be -- would their taxes be increased or reduced? They, in fact, will be reduced. The only people who have to fear this are those people who've been avoiding their fair share of taxation by taking advantage of certain tax shelters and loopholes and so forth -- but if they would ask, so that they would know and understand.

Mr. Mohan. Thank you very much for this opportunity.

The President. All right.

Mr. Mohan. Thank you.

The President. Thank you.

Note: The interview was conducted at 9:24 a.m. from the Atlanta studios of WSB Radio. The President was at Rancho del Cielo, his ranch near Santa Barbara, CA. In the final question, Mr. Mohan referred to Susan K. Mathis, Deputy Director of Media Relations. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview, which was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on August 26.