Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Members of the American Legion Boys Nation
The President. Good afternoon, and welcome to the White House. And greetings to Mylio Kraja, executive director of the American Legion; to General Thomas Turnage, our VA Administrator; to the director of Boys Nation, Marty Justis; president Gregory Orman, of Minnesota; and to your new vice president, Patrick Ungashick, of Missouri; and to a Boys Nation institution, ``Casey'' Cason. By the way, does he still play reveille on the trombone? [Laughter] I suppose it's only fitting, because after all, as far as I'm concerned, he's still young enough to call me Junior. [Laughter]
a few years, we allowed our leaders to forget what a great and creative people
we Americans are. And today, as I've said before on a number of occasions,
was a Frenchman more than a century ago, came to this country -- already abroad
they had seen the great progress that this young nation was making. And he came
here, and he went back. His name was de Tocqueville, and he wrote a book called
Well now, listen, I'm not going to go on with a speech anymore. I just welcomed the opportunity and thought -- I know I've only got a few minutes out here -- but I thought that maybe some of you must have at some time or other said, ``If I had a chance, I'd like to ask him . . .'' And you have a chance. There's a microphone right here in front, and if somebody has a question that they'd like answered -- all right. I ought to be able to do some tricks or something while they're getting to the microphone.
Strategic Defense Initiative
Q. Senator Scott Whitaker, of
The President. Well, I would never let it become a bargaining chip in the sense of that if they would do something we'd give it up and not go forward. Let me just put it as simply as I can. And you'll understand, there are a lot of details that -- at the moment with negotiations to come and so forth -- that I don't feel free to say. But I have made it plain from the very beginning that I believe this concept of a defense plan, where today our only defense is deterrence. Our only defense is to say that, ``If you ever'' -- to them -- ``If you ever use those missiles on us, we'll blow you up, too, with ours.'' Well, that's not very sensible for the world sitting -- both of us sitting here saying, ``We'll destroy the world.'' So, my feeling about the strategic defense is that if and when our research reveals there is such a credible weapon, or a defensive system, that is when we should step forth to the world and say that we would be willing to use that to get nuclear weapons eliminated completely in the world. We would not monopolize and use it to give ourselves a first-strike capability. We would want it to be the cause for eliminating nuclear weapons once and for all.
Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev
Good afternoon, Mr. President. I'm Mario Mancuso, from the State of
The President. I think that he, of course, has been raised in all of his entire life in that system. I think he's dedicated to the system, believes in their system. But I think also that he is a modern man in contrast to some that we have dealt with there in times past. He realizes that there are great economic problems. And I believe that he can be dealt with, that he knows that there must be some changes if he is to resolve some of the problems that are besetting them. And what our great hope is with regard to arms reduction -- and he is the first Russian leader that I know of who has ever proposed the actual elimination of some of their own nuclear weapons -- that he believes that, for the sake of their economy, that it might be in their own interest and practical for them to join in reducing these great stores of arms and ending an arms race, which is so costly to them that it has been the principal cause of their economic problems.
I found him, well, completely different than others
that I had dealt with. For example -- if I could just tell one little incident
-- we were under the impression that if we could come back from the Geneva
summit just with an agreement to have another summit meeting that the meeting
would have been a success. And on the very first day, just he and I talking,
and he mentions something that he wished that I could
So -- yes?
Q. Senator Cook, from
The President. What does tax reform mean to you? I think it means a great deal for your future. You remember my predecessor once called the income tax system the greatest disgrace in our country. Here is a law that was passed in 1913, put in the Constitution, only 16 words; and it now takes a shelf 57 feet long to hold all the tax regulations and rules of the Internal Revenue Code. And that's why we've not only needed a tax code that is fairer, but a tax code that is also simpler so that most people don't have to hire legal advice to help them make out their tax. It's the only fiduciary thing that you will have facing you in your life -- or has been under the present system -- in which someone tells you that you have to figure out how much you owe. And even their own employees don't know the rules and regulations enough to help you. And then if you make a mistake in how much you owe, you've got to pay a penalty, a fine, and maybe interest in order to square yourself.
And so, what we're coming up with is a tax program that gets back to the beginning in which the rates were very low. Put the rates down low. And to do that, then, eliminate many of the numerous loopholes that were put in the law because the tax had become so unjust and so high. Instead of lowering the rates, they'd put in other loopholes and say, ``Well, if you spend money on this, you don't have to pay tax on this.'' And what we created were what we call some loopholes in which certain people, and even businesses, could figure out ways to avoid paying any tax or much tax at all. That won't be true in this new tax system when it's adopted. And the rates will be low, and it will be fair. As a matter of fact, we anticipate that about 6 million people at the lowest end of the scale will be dropped from the tax rolls completely.
Someone -- yes?
Mr. President, Christopher Ortiz, from
The President. Now, who? Becoming -- --
Q. Drugs -- excuse me. Drugs.
The President. Oh.
Q. We see drugs becoming a great threat to our nation. What can we do?
The President. You are right. As a
matter of fact, the American people in a recent poll showed that they believe
that drugs are the number one problem in the
the real answer is going to have to be: Let's turn the customers off. Let's
persuade the customers to abandon the drugs. And as a matter of fact, we, right
now, are in the midst of talking a plan. There's a great deal going on. And as
you know, the organization is nationwide now among young people and children,
of Just Say No. And that came out of an answer to a question that
Ms. Maseng. Mr. President, I'm afraid we have time for only one more question.
The President. One more question. All right. There. Sorry. You can see I'm not really the boss around here, I -- [laughter] -- --
POW's and MIA's
Thank you, Mr. President. I'm Robert Tarkoff, from
the great State of
The President. I have to tell you that I believe they've come further than they ever have before. We have had meetings with the Vietnam Government now about this, and apparently there is better cooperation than we've ever had. But we, at the same time, are making every effort that we can when there is a report, as you so often get, and someone says they've seen someone or they've seen prisoners here or there -- we still go out of our way to track those down and find out the truth about it. And we're going to continue everything that we can do, not only in meeting with them, but in this same thing, to track down and find -- get the final story on the missing in action and the former POW's.
This isn't the first war where this has happened. The other wars in the past -- as some of the gentlemen who sponsor this thing that brings you to Washington know -- in wars past there have -- well, that's why we have a grave to the Unknown Soldier -- never been identified in our past wars. But it is true that there has been -- they were refusing to give us information, and more and more they have at least been providing us with the information on the missing and those that can be identified as dead. But we're still going to keep on in the event -- so far, we have never been able to track down evidence when reports have been made of actual, remaining, living POW's still held there. But when we're tracking down every lead that we get to be sure that that is so. And if there are some left, we'll do whatever's necessary to bring them back.
sorry that I can't take some more here. I shouldn't have talked so long at
first. But I want to, again -- I've been familiar with this particular program
for a long time. I'm grateful to the American Legion for sponsoring it, and I
hope that you found it productive and haven't been too bewildered here in the
puzzle palaces on the
God bless all of you. Thank you for being here.
Note: The President spoke at in the Rose Garden at the White House. Mari Maseng was Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Liaison.