The President's News Conference
The President. As you know and have
been told, I do have a short statement here. Before we begin, I thought I'd
mention that one reason for our visit to
I think you all know that I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help. A great many of the current problems on the farm were caused by government-imposed embargoes and inflation, not to mention government's long history of conflicting and haphazard policies. Our ultimate goal, of course, is economic independence for agriculture, and through steps like the tax reform bill, we seek to return farming to real farmers. But until we make that transition, the Government must act compassionately and responsibly. In order to see farmers through these tough times, our administration has committed record amounts of assistance, spending more in this year alone than any previous administration spent during its entire tenure. No area of the budget, including defense, has grown as fast as our support for agriculture.
this month we announced our decisions on grain exports, and this morning we
announced a drought assistance task force and, with regard to storage problems,
the availability of price-support loans for all the grain in this year's crop.
The message in all this is very simple:
other brief point: Tomorrow the Senate will cast a crucial vote. The question
is that of assistance to the freedom fighters who are trying to bring democracy
The end of statement. And now, as is traditional with a Presidential press conference, I start by calling on the representatives of the two major news bureaus.
Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press]?
Strategic Defense Initiative
Thank you, Mr. President. Sir, Soviet and American negotiators just completed 2
days of top-level talks in
The President. Well, that isn't
exactly what we've proposed to the
Q. Are you more or less optimistic, sir, about the prospects for a summit in November?
The President. Yes, I am optimistic. And I'm optimistic that we're going to make more progress than probably has been made in a number of years because of some of the problems that are concerning the General Secretary at this time.
Norm [Norman Sandler, United Press International]?
Mr. President, your recent speech on
The President. Well, I don't think that it's a case of whether it's firm action or not. I think the simple case is that punitive sanctions that would affect the economy there would not only be disruptive to surrounding states that are virtually linked to South Africa's economy but would also be very punitive to the people that we want to help. And whether the Members of the Congress were ready to accept what I said in that speech -- I can tell you that in communication with some of the most prominent of the black leaders, individuals who are leaders of groups of several million, 4\1/2\ million in one religious group, and are all solidly opposed to the sanctions. And the one group that is in support of them in South Africa is a group that very definitely has been the most radical and wants the disruption that would come from massive unemployment and hunger and desperation of the people; because it is their belief that they could then rise out of all of that disruption and seize control.
this has been transmitted to me personally by some of these other leaders, like
Buthelezi of the largest tribal group in all of
Well, if I could follow it up, sir: If you're unwilling at this point to define
what a reasonable timetable is for the abolition of apartheid, does the
situation, in fact, reach a point at some stage where the
The President. Well, I think that's something that you face if and when that time comes. Yes, we're impatient. And, yes, we feel as strongly about apartheid as anyone does, and it should be done away with. On the other hand, President Botha himself has said the same thing, and that his goal is to eliminate apartheid.
Now, we'll go over to the home side here.
Presidential Campaigning for Republicans
I'm Hugh Hill, from WLS - TV in
The President. Well, I don't know. If there is a dissatisfaction with some candidate, I don't think that someone else's coattails can do that individual any good. But there is another facet you haven't even mentioned. May sound crass, but you can also help them raise the funds they need for campaigning. And so far, I've been rather successful in that area.
Q. Mr. President, you've said that you would support voluntary drug testing in the workplace and, perhaps, mandatory drug testing for those with sensitive government jobs. I'd like to ask, sir, how any form of drug testing, voluntary or not, which is subject to peer pressure can be truly voluntary? And also, what that does to our constitutional rights of not to incriminate ourselves and the presumption against self-incrimination and the constitutional guarantee and the presumption of innocence?
The President. Well, I think I made it plain on one count: They won't be incriminating themselves. Because what I have said is that in voluntary testing these individuals that might turn up and that are found to be drug addicts -- I would say that there should be no threat of losing their job or of any punishment. There should be an offer of help, that we would stand by ready to help them take the treatment that would free them from this habit. So, it's not a case of saying that we're now going to find a way to, as you say, have people incriminate themselves so that they can be fired or anything else.
And I just have to believe that the time has come, as it did once around the turn of the century in this country, and again, cocaine was the villain. We had a great drug epidemic around the turn of the century, and it really was eliminated simply by the ranks of the people -- suddenly said, ``Enough already.'' And then, whether it was peer pressure, whether it was friend helping friend or whatever, that disappeared for a very long time. Well, now we have the thing back again. We have done all -- and are doing -- and are going to continue to do all that we can to intercept the drugs. And you might be interested to know that since we've been here we have increased by 10 times over the seizure of narcotics with our drug enforcement. But that isn't going to do it. The only answer is going to be taking the customer away from the drugs, turning them off.
Q. But, sir, how can it be truly voluntary, though? If a member of your staff declines to take a voluntary drug test, aren't you, or is not someone on your staff, likely to be a little suspicious?
The President. Might be suspicious, but nothing's going to happen to him in the sense of firing or anything else. What would you have thought of me if I'd refused to voluntarily do it?
Block Grants and Local Taxes
Mr. President, at least once a week the mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington,
says that your tax and fiscal policies are destroying cities like
The President. And he wants what?
Is he correct that your policies are leading to the destruction of basic services
The President. No, as a matter of fact, several hundred million dollars come here in grants, and a good share of that -- at least half, if not more -- is for rapid transit. And we have tried, as a matter of fact, in a number of the helpful grants and so forth that the Federal Government has been giving to States and local communities. Speaking from experience as a Governor, I can tell you that in many of those instances the administrative overhead of the so-called compassionate programs that were to help the needy amounted to more than the money that was actually reaching the needy, in some instances costing $2 to deliver $1 to a needy person.
what we've tried to do is take the redtape off these
grants, to put them together, and to allow the local communities more power to
determine how the money will be used. I found as a Governor that many times I
had to look at a program, and I had to follow the Federal rules and regulations
for the administering of the program. And this made for great waste and fraud,
well, I call it waste fraud. And if we had been allowed to do what we felt was
best for our people and our State, we could have managed the program at far
less cost. So, since I've been in
My name, by the way, is Mike Flannery with Channel 2 News here in
The President. No, it isn't a fair assessment. Because in some instances what we set out to do did involve local and State governments with regard to taxes, in the sense that the Federal Government had so usurped the tax sources that local and State governments -- there wasn't anything left where they could turn to without disruption of their economies and certainly distress to their people.
we thought that if we could reduce that Federal burden that this would then
open areas to where a local government or a State government that had a need
for additional revenues could take those revenues. The Federal Government had
simply monopolized and grabbed off all the resources, and then the Federal
Government turned and said: Oh, you poor people back there, you haven't got the
money to do things. You'll have to take our programs. We'll do them for you.
And every place that there was government help, there was government control,
Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News]?
Sales to the
Mr. President, after you announced your decision to subsidize grain sales to
The President. Well, you fellows all
caught Secretary Shultz -- he'd been away, and you caught him before he'd had a
chance to talk to us and find out what it was we really had done. Now, we're
not out as a matter of policy to continue subsidizing the
measure that I employed was in the bill that the Congress passed. And what we
did was say for this one crop, and for this one season, that we would offer
this subsidy to the farmers. We didn't do it for the
Q. A lot of people just simply think you were trying to buy votes in the fall elections. Because, sir, the American taxpayer is going to pay about 20 cents a bushel for this subsidy.
The President. No, we're trying to help in a situation that I believe was originally created by the Federal Government, when the Federal Government, back in the days of the Depression, started invading the farm community. And with all its various programs, it has brought on most of the problems that bother the farmers today.
Now I have to go back over here to the home side. Yes.
Mr. President, Bruce DuMont
from WTTW Television in
The President. Oh, I would have no hesitation, whatsoever, in a summit meeting to discuss this with the General Secretary. I think it's a wall that never should have been built. And I happen to believe that at the time that they started to put it up -- and they started with wire, barbed wire, instead of a wall -- that if the United States had taken the action it should have -- because that was a total violation of the Four Powers agreement for Berlin -- that if we'd gone in there and knocked down that wire then, I don't think there'd be a wall today. Because I don't think they wanted to start a war over that.
Q. How realistic is it, though? Some critics have suggested that it raises false hopes for those beyond the wall.
The President. Oh, I don't think
anyone is intending to do anything of that kind. But we know that they've done
a kind of a lucrative business in letting people come through that wall, if the
price was right, and rejoin their families and friends in
Mr. President, I'd like to go back to your first answer on
The President. No, but I don't think he's right in what he's advocating now. But, Chris [Chris Wallace, NBC News], I guess that was careless of me. I was talking in terms of the various groupings, political alliances and so forth, of the people in the black community there. Of course there are individuals that may be all over, individuals that think that's the thing to do, that there's no other answer now except just punish, never mind trying to find a solution to the problem. And so, I agree that was careless of me. No, I was not linking him in with the particular group that I had in mind.
If I might follow up, sir: You also, in your first answer, talked about a
possible meeting -- Western governments invited to talk to the South African
Government and to blacks. Could you tell us a little bit more about where that
stands? And also where does it stand now, the question of your appointing an
The President. Well, we have made no
decision yet on the Ambassador, nor have we made up our minds whether we want
to send an envoy or not. But at the risk of violating something that I said, or
I thought that I wouldn't do, I am going to say one thing about Mr. Botha's speech today. Now, I'm not going to comment
generally or take questions on that because I haven't heard it, and I'm not
going to comment until I hear the whole thing. But I did, thanks to the media,
hear at least one line of his. And this line -- he spoke of the idea of having
the leaders of
Well, this is what we ourselves have been talking about, and among ourselves, these same leaders -- is if we could be of help. This is a sovereign nation. You can't go in and dictate to them and tell them how they must run their country. But if we could be of help in bringing together various groupings there to discuss with the Government as to how something could be planned to bring along an end to apartheid earlier, this we would be pleased to do.
Well, now, as I say, I can't comment because I haven't heard or read, and I will get his transcript and read his speech. But he did -- and that was quoted on the air -- he did say that he was thinking of such a meeting.
Q. Would you go to that kind of a summit, sir?
The President. I've got to go back to what?
Q. Would you go to that kind of a summit meeting?
The President. I don't know whether it would require us or whether it could be done with foreign ministers or not. We'd have to see the details.
have to go over to this side. If you've noticed, I'm going from
Q. Mr. President, Basil Talbott
The President. Well, let me say I'm not here to do battle with him, but I don't believe I could find myself in agreement with him on just about everything that he stands for. And my suggestion to those people -- since he chose the Democratic ticket to invade -- is: Play it safe, and vote Republican. [Laughter]
Andrea [Andrea Mitchell, NBC News]?
African National Congress
Thank you, Mr. President. When you spoke earlier of that one group that you
said wants disorder and is radical -- just to clear up the point -- you seemed
to be referring to the African National Congress, the very group that Secretary
of State Shultz says should be negotiated with, that the Commonwealths feel
should be part of the solution. Now, are you saying that they should not be
among the groups that ought to be included in some sort of dialog, even though
they seem to be very representative of a large number of people in
The President. Andrea, the African
National Congress started out some years ago, and there was no question about
its being a solid organization. But in 1921, in
Let me understand, also, the logic of what you said tonight about sanctions.
The frontline states, the neighboring states, have said that they, even though
hurt by sanctions, would welcome it if it came from Western countries. Yet
President Botha has imposed sanctions upon them.
You've not criticized him for that, you personally, and at the same time this
country has imposed sanctions on
The President. No, with regard to
Poland, if you would check the sanctions that we finally felt had to be applied
there, we applied sanctions that we were sure -- and we sought Polish advice on
this -- that would not harm the citizens of Poland, that there would be
restrictions on the Government that was at that time denying Lech Walesa and the union and so
forth, the Solidarity movement, its rights. With regard to
what we're talking about is helping the people of
Mr. President, thank you. Chuck Goudie
from WLS in
The President. Well, contrary to what the tone of some people is, we've been trying relentlessly to get those hostages back from the first day of their captivity. First, we had to try and find out where they were. We still don't really know that. They're moved frequently. And we're going to keep on trying. We have had some broken hearts. Many times that we thought we were on the track and that we were almost going to be able to set a day when they would be free, and then it would disappear into the sand and we'd have to start on another path. We're going to continue until we get them back.
But he did bring some oral messages -- well, I say messages because I didn't hear the one that was for the Pope -- but he did to us. And I feel that it was told to me in confidence, and I have a feeling that if I should go public with some of the things in that I might do harm to our efforts to try and get them back. So, I'm not going to comment on that.
Q. Sir, if I can follow on that: Can you say tonight that we are any closer to seeing the other Americans held there being freed as Father Jenco was?
The President. My hesitance about that -- it's just what I've said before: that there have been times when, if you'd asked me that question, I would have been tempted to say, yes, it's imminent. And then, as I say, it disappeared, and we had to find another track and start over. And we've known encouragement and discouragement. And I can't comment. We must get them back, and we're going to keep on doing everything we can and trying to get them back. But I don't want to say anything that will endanger them.
Mr. President, the comparison you discussed before between
The President. I think that I have
condemned publicly all of those things that you're talking about. On the other
hand, I also realize the complexity of the
And he pointed out that those companies -- some 200 of them -- following the Sullivan principles, in which there is the kind of treatment that we would recognize as being decent in this country with regard to their employees and outside the actual employment, the things they've tried to do to improve life for the families on the outside, that this would all be lost if some people had their way with sanctions and so forth and with forcing us to withdraw. But then he also pointed out that because of the Sullivan principles that were used by these American companies a great many South African companies had taken the cue from that and adopted on their own principles that were similar to that -- having to do with promotion, having to do with hiring, having to do with ignoring racial difference with regard to promotion to supervisory positions and all.
this is all going on. Well, nothing like that is going on in Nicaragua, not
when a priest stands up and speaks to his congregation and because he says some
things that -- well, for example, protesting the fact that the Government has
shut down on the church's newspaper and shut down on the church's radio
station, seized their printing presses so that they can't even have church
bulletins anymore -- and then he's thrown out of the country for having said
that. That's a little different than what was going on in
If I could follow up, sir: Twice now, black candidates to become your new
The President. No, has nothing to do with that. And the one that fell by the wayside -- let me tell you that I regret that more than anything. I have the greatest respect and admiration for that man. And what happened was some possible connection with a legal action involving some institutions -- he's in a public relations field at this moment -- and that he, for one thing, he very probably would not be able to leave and have the time to go there as this comes to a head.
Now -- --
The Homeless and Mentally Ill
Mr. President, Ron Magers of Channel 5 from
The President. Yes.
Q. Can you tell me if you still recognize that as a problem? And what you've done to patch those cracks up in 3 years?
The President. Well, what has happened, as you know, under the guise of civil rights, there were rulings that people who did not represent a threat of violence to themselves or anyone else could not be committed to an institution. And, thus, a great many people were turned loose from institutions who did have mental problems, whether it was retardation or whatever, and there was no place for them at the local level and, in many instances, either no family or no family that wanted them. And there they are in the streets. And they present a problem, also, in the sense that in many instances, having walked away from an institution, they turn away from many efforts that help, because they feel that it might get them back -- institutionalized.
Now, I don't know what percentage of all of the people that are out there fall into that particular situation, but I do know that -- from my experience as Governor -- that we tried at the State level to subsidize local treatment centers, where they could live at home and be -- with the development now of new drugs and so forth, drugs in the good sense -- that they could be outpatients. And this was coming along, although in some instances counties, just even with the State subsidy, would not take this up. But this is a problem in which, unless they represent a threat to someone else -- to put them in an institution where they would receive the best of care and certainly have fine quarters and be fed and all.
To follow up on that, let me share with you a letter I received today from a
family that does have someone in the family who is mentally ill and what they
say about it. They say first they suffered through emptying and closing of
hospitals. They say, then, the dumping of their relatives onto the streets.
Then they had the withdrawal of funds from community-based programs, they say.
They say in
The President. Well, I would look into all the charges they've made there to find out if all of these things are true and whether the financial things that they mention there are the reason for those cases. I would think that Governor Thompson would like to see that letter very much.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
Q. One more from the local side, Mr. President, please.
The President. I was supposed to be going back and forth here.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Oh, well, he just settled the whole argument there.
Q. One more from -- --
The President. No, I can't really take
any after -- it is traditional that when the man in the aisle tells me the time
is up I can't take any more. No, I'd be breaking all the rules here, and then
I'd never be able to live with that side of the aisle when I got them back in
Thank you all very much. I'm sorry I couldn't get to more of you.
The President's 38th news conference began at in the Rosemont
Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in