Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a World Affairs Council Luncheon in Los Angeles, California

 

October 28, 1988

 

The President. Thank you all very much. And Paul Miller, thank you very much for that very kind introduction. It's wonderful to be here in California. And I'm sure you all know I'm looking forward to getting up to the ranch this afternoon -- [laughter] -- and especially to that day in January when I permanently move from Air Force One. In fact, we've already started to bring a few items back with us from the White House. We came out here -- Nancy had me bringing several rolls of paper for lining shelves. [Laughter] And as you may have heard, the Dodgers came to the White House on Wednesday. They were awfully nice; they volunteered to bring a lamp back to Los Angeles. [Laughter]

 

But I am delighted to be addressing the World Affairs Council again. Much of what I have to discuss today goes to the heart of what this organization is all about: the development through public discussion of a democratic consensus behind a strong American foreign policy. In this regard, the work of the council has been notable and much needed. I'm reminded of one despairing commentator who said sadly a few years ago that if you asked 10 Americans to define ``highly nuanced,'' 6 were liable to respond, ``Wasn't he the leader of Ethiopia?'' [Laughter]

 

And the importance of your work comes home particularly now in the final days of a political campaign, a campaign in which the American people will speak out on the issues of war and peace, democracy and totalitarianism, and make decisions that will affect the world and our foreign policy consensus for a great, long time to come. And this election comes, too, after one of the most crucial and significant years in the history of that foreign policy. Right now, we have hopes -- and for the moment we must remember that they're only hopes -- that our children might see 1988 as the turning point in the great twilight struggle known as the cold war.

 

In a number of addresses this year, most recently to the United Nations, I've pointed to the extraordinary progress made on so many fronts, that truly -- ``peace is breaking out all over.'' Even in the few weeks since I spoke to the General Assembly, we've seen this progress continue in settling regional conflicts in places like Angola, Cambodia, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere; regional conflicts once thought impossible to resolve. And so, too, the INF treaty has taken force. We've seen Russian and American missiles -- once growing in number and ready to wreak destruction on a massive scale -- themselves destroyed in the Russian and American heartland. Arms negotiations continue, too, or are in prospect, in a series of other areas: chemical weapons, conventional weapons, nuclear testing, and of course, the START talks on strategic offensive weapons.

 

And yet -- as we've also frequently pointed out -- what prevented progress in the past in these areas, indeed, what was at the heart of the cold war, was not some failure of communications or giant misunderstanding between East and West. Far to the contrary, it was understanding -- not misunderstanding -- that was the root cause. And I speak here of the clear consensus that developed in the West shortly after World War II on several vital points: the true nature of the Soviet regime, the fundamental distinction between totalitarianism and democracy, and the moral duty to resist the international threat to human rights posed by Soviet expansionism. It was these realities, not some unfortunate or avoidable misunderstanding, that caused East-West tension. And we can forget this lesson only at the greatest peril.

 

But fortunately, it's also here we see the most encouraging change of all. Every issue of the morning paper seems to bring with it news of questioning in the Soviet Union: questioning of state control of industry, of restrictions on human rights, and even of the ideology of world domination, of class warfare in international politics, all of which formed the greatest barriers between our two nations. This talk of democratic reform in the Soviet Union remains tentative -- hardly the stuff of sure-fire prophecy.

 

Still, to those of us used to the monolithic nature of Soviet society in the postwar era, these changes seem remarkable -- no, not conclusive, but certainly remarkable. Like myself, I'm sure most of you would have had trouble a few years ago, given the state of our relations, imagining the sight of an American President strolling through Red Square with his Soviet counterpart, or that same President there in the Lenin Hills addressing the students of Moscow State University on the wonder and splendor of human individual freedom. We see a restiveness also in Eastern Europe, where peoples who've been denied their right of self-determination for four decades are exploring the limits of a new, seemingly more tolerant environment.

 

In Poland, we see the resurgence of the free labor movement, Solidarity, with which the Government is now forced to negotiate after years of trying to suppress it. In Hungary, bold steps are being taken toward economic reform. Throughout the region, the pressures of change -- and, yes, for freedom -- are accelerating. And if there are any who doubt the immensity of the change that has come upon us in 8 years, perhaps they should seek out ethnic Americans and ask their opinion. Ask Polish- or Hungarian-Americans -- ask Estonian-, Latvian-, or Lithuanian-Americans if it doesn't mean something when relatives in the old country can at last worship in a long-shutdown cathedral or negotiate working conditions in a shipyard. Yes, ethnic Americans will confirm such changes, however long overdue. They'll hold great promise, and we pray today: May that promise be fulfilled.

 

Change, indeed, is inevitable. No one should doubt the instability of the present situation in Eastern Europe, in which an artificial economic and political system, long imposed on these peoples against their will, is more and more exposed as bankrupt and discredited. The new degree of tolerance of experimentation is welcome. But no one should doubt, either, that Moscow's handling of the growing drive for self-determination within its European empire will be a vital test for us of how deep is the transformation of Soviet foreign policy in a new era.

 

So, whatever the future may hold, it's safe to say: We've come a long way, and this is a portentous time. Indeed, when I hear some of the critics of our foreign policy, the most apt comparison that comes to mind has nothing to do at all with the serious matters of foreign policy of war and peace. I'm instead brought back to a story of my Hollywood days by scriptwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who described the time his producer walked through the door of his office and asked him what he had planned for the film's archvillain, Blofield. And Mankiewicz very proudly told the producer, ``Blofield is going to threaten to blow up the world.'' And the producer looked at him for a moment and then stormed out of the door in a rage, shouting, ``It's not big enough; make it bigger!'' [Laughter]

 

Well, let us remember that great steps have been taken in the last few years, steps to safeguard against archvillains -- not to mention the blowing up of the world, of course. Let us not be satisfied, and certainly not smug, but let us be appreciative of what has happened and determined to build on that progress.

 

Now, in other addresses here, I've noted that maintaining that progress means realizing that our foreign policy during these past 8 years has made a significant departure: We now hold that containment is no longer enough; that ours is a forward strategy for freedom; and that this strategy means not only maintaining our defenses and vigorous diplomatic engagement but also candor about and to our adversaries, support for freedom fighters all around the globe, and encouragement of human rights and democratic reforms within the Eastern bloc. And yet while these elements do signify a departure, we must also remember that all of them are based on the bipartisan consensus developed shortly after World War II, that consensus that was the basis of American foreign policy leadership for the first decades of the postwar period.

 

As perhaps many of you know, at the close of World War II, Winston Churchill's government was defeated for reelection, a defeat that occurred in the midst of the Potsdam Conference. As Churchill left the conference, he grew depressed at the increasingly aggressive tendencies of the Soviet Government and viewed with great alarm the inability of his own government, under its new leadership, to mount a vigorous challenge to the Soviet refusal to keep its agreements on Germany, Poland, and the other nations of central Europe.

 

Yet it was the man many disparaged as a former haberdasher and F.D.R.'s ill-prepared understudy, the new American President, Harry Truman, who became an enormous source of comfort and solace to Churchill. Because it was Harry Truman who moved with vigor to meet the Soviet threat to world freedom. Indeed, at the very moment when Europe seemed most vulnerable, the Truman administration, working with a Republican Congress, produced the framework of strategic survival: the Truman doctrine, the Marshall plan, and NATO.

 

It's well to remember that the Truman doctrine, which saved both Turkey and Greece from the threat of Soviet domination and rallied the forces of freedom in many other nations, was based on two important premises: first, that the United States must be ``willing to help free people to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes,'' and second, ``this is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed upon free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundation of international peace and hence the security of the United States.''

 

Now, as I say, I believe these premises have held fast, and they're premises not so much changed by this administration as extended. And again, I refer here not only to the concept of military help for freedom fighters but also the concept of pressing, through private but especially public diplomacy, the cause of democratic reform and human rights within the Eastern bloc and even the Soviet Union itself. And yet for all of that, this progression from containment to a forward strategy can be misunderstood if it's thought of strictly in Soviet-American terms.

 

In point of fact, this new zealousness for freedom has permeated our foreign policy and is seen in all multilateral relations. The call for a worldwide crusade for freedom and democracy, which I first made at Westminster in 1982, was one meant for all nations and all peoples. And in this context, we've stressed, particularly, the importance of freedom in the economic sphere: freedom as the font of human creativity and prosperity.

 

So, there has been a larger, even deeper change in our foreign policy -- not so much a policy decision as a vigorous renewal of America's advocacy of freedom. Today we see its fruits in our daily headlines: people's yearning for democracy in the Philippines and South Korea, or in Chile, Burma, Haiti. Or when this decade began, for example, only a third of the peoples of Latin America lived under democratic regimes; today the figure is close to 90 percent. There are the economic miracles taking place in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Korea, and even the People's Republic of China itself. In Africa, we've seen a special U.N. General Assembly Session develop a consensus for less state control and more free-market incentives.

 

And I think if we look closely enough here, we'll see at work not just a foreign policy successful at expounding the cause of freedom but a foreign policy successful precisely because its very purpose and meaning was defined by that cause and sprang from the greatest of all ideas of Western thought and civilization: freedom, human dignity under God.

 

And if I might, I'd like to pause here and note: It's truly ironic that even as those Western insights and traditions -- the tinder and fuel of human liberty -- start fires all across the world, here at home they are called into question. Their legitimacy as areas of required study on some of our campuses is even questioned. I recently came across an interview in Time magazine with Allan Bloom, the author of ``The Closing of the American Mind,'' in which he expresses his own deep concern that too much of the academic community has lost sight of the uniqueness and the moral superiority of Western values such as freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. ``Hey, hey, ho, ho!'' -- the chant went on one campus -- ``Western culture's got to go!'' All across the United States we've heard other expressions of concern from those like former Secretary of Education William Bennett, who criticize groups with special interests or political agendas that seek to diminish and restrict the teaching of the insights contained in the great books and learning of Western civilization.

 

Our chief arms negotiator, Max Kampelman, has a favorite quotation about all this. He likes to note that no one has spoken more eloquently of the preciousness of this heritage or its pertinence to foreign policy concerns than former President of the U.N. General Assembly, the late Charles Malik -- a friend of the United States, a champion of freedom. As he wrote: ``A civilization constituted by Homer, Plato, and Aristotle; by the Old and New Testaments; by Cicero and Augustine; by Shakespeare and Goethe; by Newton and Einstein; by Pushkin and Dostoyevski; and by the joy and zest and adventure and freedom of the great American experience; and all that these names concretely mean -- can such a civilization lack supreme values for its conviction and burning fire for its will? Who else has anything comparable with this incomparable heritage? America and the West underestimate their immense potential. And the West is not only the problem but also the solution. That is its singular greatness. And the solution is to be true to the deepest value of the West: the primacy of the spirit and freedom of the soul.''

 

Yes, thanks to the perseverance of the American people and her allies, the twilight struggle did not fade into the dark night of totalitarian rule. Instead, in 1988 the lights are going on all over the world: the lights of freedom. So, at this critical moment, let us be certain that this continues, that the source of that illumination, the great works of Western thought and culture, is protected and revered and, yes, studied -- above all, here in America.

 

America's first line of defense is found as much in our universities and the great works of humane learning as it is in all the NATO tank divisions on the German border. And the direction of our foreign policy is based as much on the great ideas that bind together the free nations of the world, as it is on the pace of all the peace conferences in Geneva.

 

So, I call today on America's college faculties and administrators to consider this proposition: that returning to sound education, that getting back to basics, involves not just closer attention to good grammar or better mathematics but devotion to the very wellsprings of human freedom -- to the nurturing of the precious intellectual heritage of Western culture, to the preciousness of the idea of human freedom. And it is in this spirit that we can approach the great problems that remain -- the unfinished agenda of our postwar foreign policy. And it is in this spirit that we can move forward aggressively through the remainder of this administration and into the next with what, I believe, must be our critical foreign policy goals.

 

First, we must maintain progress in settling regional conflicts, conflicts that could so easily escalate into a larger war. Here especially, it is essential to stick to the policy in Central America that is bringing progress in Angola, Afghanistan, and Cambodia. Congress must give up the double standard: one for freedom fighters in far corners of the globe, but a different standard for freedom fighters only a few days' drive from our borders. Until the Sandinistas make good on their promises of democracy, until Daniel Ortega stops restricting civil liberties, we must support the contras.

 

And second, we must aggressively pursue the research, development, and testing of our Strategic Defense Initiative. In recent months, we've seen significant research breakthroughs, breakthroughs that lead us to believe deployment could be less costly than originally thought. We've been so successful in our research efforts that we've been able to reduce the projected cost of our most promising program by tens of billions of dollars. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, not cut them back. A nation protected against nuclear missile attack, particularly an accidental or limited launch -- this is not just a policy option, it's a moral imperative.

 

Third, we must at all costs keep our entire defense structure strong. The American people have made enormous sacrifices over the past four decades to maintain America's military readiness. That sacrifice is now paying handsome dividends in peace initiatives across the globe; a safer, more secure free world; and an Eastern bloc forced to confront its own problems. Now, of all times, at this moment of opportunity, we must keep the military strength that has made all this possible.

 

Fourth, our public candor about human rights abuses and the fundamental moral differences between totalitarianism and democracy must continue. We must continue to speak aggressively for the cause of human freedom. We must be unafraid to point out the moral wrong of those who would repress liberty. We must be unashamed to say that economic growth and material prosperity are the result of economic freedom, not state planning.

 

Fifth, we must continue our policy of diplomatic engagement in arms reduction negotiations. A START treaty is attainable in the next few years. In a few months new negotiations will open on conventional arms.

 

And there are other areas of concern. It's ironic that just when we're beginning to see reductions in nuclear arsenals and new negotiations on conventional arms, the scourge of an older and equally deadly menace appears to be on the increase. I'm talking about chemical weapons -- poison gas, whose use in the Gulf war has horrified the civilized world. And we face the prospect of more and more countries capable of producing or acquiring such weapons. We must establish respect for the international norms against illegal use of chemical weapons and see to it that this does not become a part of the history of the 21st century. I've called for an international conference against the use of chemical weapons, which will meet in Paris in January. This conference, along with the current negotiations for a comprehensive, effectively verifiable, and global ban, are our best hope for putting an end to this horror.

 

One other problem that darkens the otherwise hopeful horizon is the continuing failure of the Soviet Union to live up to important obligations in the arms control area. Chief among these is their large radar facility near Krasnoyarsk, which is a significant violation of a central element of the antiballistic missile agreement. We have told the Soviet Union that unless that violation is corrected in a verifiable manner we will not be able to conclude any new strategic arms control agreements. Nothing is more damaging to the integrity of the arms control process than for one side to be able to choose which parts of a solid agreement it will fulfill. The Soviets had more to say on this issue yesterday. We're certainly listening to what they have to say, but our legitimate concerns must be met.

 

This is a full agenda for the remainder of this administration and certainly for any future administration. But I do believe we have come farther and faster in these last 8 years than even the greatest optimists could have supposed. I believe this progress can now be maintained -- maintained as long as we keep faith with the great values and traditions of Western civilization: our faith in freedom and in the eventual triumph of the human spirit, a faith that must sustain us, as Winston Churchill wrote to Harry Truman in those early days of 1945, until ``the dark days of world tragedy have passed away.''

 

And as Churchill also said to his own people at the end of the last war: ``Forward, unflinching, unswerving, indomitable, till the whole task is done and the whole world is safe and clean.'' Thank you, and God bless you.

 

Eastern Bloc Reforms

 

Mr. Mack. Your first question, from Kelly Wellman and Jay Kirner: With Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika, do you think there will be conflicts between the Eastern European countries?

 

The President. I don't know whether conflicts between them, but we have noticed, very definitely, that they are aware of the meaning of glasnost and perestroika, and they're moving, as Gorbachev has been moving in Russia, to make changes. I have met with the headman of Hungary just recently. He is a close friend and associate of Gorbachev's, and he is even moving faster than they are in the Soviet Union with actual economic changes and so forth. So that, I think, and I think in Russia, that his opposition is not from the people. We saw that in the summit meeting there. But the opposition is coming from his own bureaucracy that see some of their perquisites disappearing if he continues with his plan. And I've longed to tell him about some of the things that can be done and what he can go with the people. One of the things I've wanted to tell him -- haven't -- is that if they'd look back honestly at their revolution that brought communism to the Soviet Union they would find that really all they did was wipe out an inherited aristocracy and replace it with another inherited aristocracy: the Politburo.

 

Mr. Mack. Robin, from your portion of the room, please?

 

Iran

 

Q. Yes, Mr. President, a few weeks ago, the young Shah of Iran spoke to us here at the World Affairs Council about his hopes of returning to Iran as the monarch here. Do you, or would you in the future, support the new monarch's efforts to return to his country?

 

The President. If that's what the people of Afghanistan, who have fought so bravely and courageously to restore their freedom -- if that's the --  -- 

 

Q. Mr. President, we're talking about Iran.

 

The President. What?

 

Q. Iran.

 

The President. Oh, what am I doing? I got into Afghanistan by mistake.

 

Q. Sorry. Do you want me to repeat the question?

 

The President. Well, once again, the answer is correct. The people themselves -- you know, we've heard, not so much lately as we did a year or so ago, that there were factions rising all over. And we were supposed to believe that the Khomeini's life was going to end in a matter of hours -- or days, if not hours. But there would be a different government. I have to say that our relationship with the Shah -- and even though he was, in the sense of royalty, a ruler -- Nancy and I were there shortly before the revolution that ousted the Shah, and it was amazing to see that country then. As you looked to the skyline, you saw derricks all over. These were building low-cost housing apartments for the people. A land reform was put into effect that gave land, as we once did, through homesteading to the peasants. And maybe part of the reason for the revolution was that most of that land belonged to the Mullahs, and they didn't like having it taken away.

 

But, no, I know that there are moves on, and there are factions that are organizing right now with the expectation that, come the end of the Ayatollah, the country can actually be moved in one of several directions. And people are preparing for that. And I think that the United States would be very willing to be supportive of a regime that wanted to restore democracy and freedom to the people.

 

Soviet-U.S. Relations

 

Q. Mr. President, with the new emphasis in the Soviet Union and its economic prosperity and peaceful coexistence with other nations, how do you feel about the possibility of continuing these events in the absence of Gorbachev's power?

 

The President. Well, you mean, would it continue if Gorbachev was no longer in office? Is that the nature of the question?

 

Q. Yes, sir.

 

The President. Well, of course, it would depend on who followed him, but I think it would be a great setback if anything happens to prevent him from continuing the program that he has set forth. As I say, we saw it among the people there. And I believe that one of the things that explains what he's trying to do is that he had hurdled over Stalin -- and I have reason to believe and know that he has no respect or regard for Stalin whatsoever -- but he's gone back to some of the teachings of Lenin.

 

Now, Lenin, admittedly, was the starting Communist force. But at the same time, remember some of the things that he advocated, that he publicly said to the people of Russia: You may find yourselves working beside Capitalists, but don't be concerned. You'll learn from them. Well, now, you didn't hear anything like that from Stalin or any of the people that have followed him. But this man seems to have some ideas of that in mind. I hope that he can continue and will continue on this path, but he does have a built-in structure opposed to him. On the other hand, the people in the street seem to be on his side.

 

Mexico-U.S. Relations

 

Mr. Mack. Mr. President, a question from Raoul Garza: What do you consider to be the major issue or priority between the United States and relations with the President-elect of Mexico?

 

The President. I am not familiar enough with him yet to know enough about that, other than that we -- and have for 8 years -- we have tried to have a closer relationship with the countries of the Americas. I think this is one of the reasons why there's been such a spread of democracy in Latin America, but also right here on our northern continent -- Mexico and Canada. And we started a custom of having regular visits between the heads of state: my going there -- at times, their coming here. And we think that we can be most helpful there in what has been a kind of one-party state for a very long time. So, we will be making our moves to extend the hand of friendship and cooperation to it.

 

Mr. Mack. Robin?

 

World Peace and the President's Future

 

Ms. Beeby. We've got a question from Drew Ryan, age 10, and Sarah Dennison, age 11. Drew asks: Do you ever think we will have world peace? And Sarah says -- two cards, sorry -- My sixth grade class at Meadowpark School in Irvine wanted to know how you feel about being replaced, and what you're going to do with your free time? [Laughter]

 

The President. I didn't hear the last part of it. Well, first of all, whether it can be achieved or not, world peace must be the goal that we strive for. If you look back over the centuries and see how much the world had wars and bloodshed going on, seemingly all the time, in different areas of the world, we have to continue to strive for that.

 

And I have to point out that the peace that we have now is the longest one since World War II, more than 40 years. When, before that -- and I've often credited it a lot to the Marshall plan and to things that were done in the peace. Previously in Europe, where countries fought countries down through the centuries, every time a war ended, the peace agreement seemed to lay the foundation for the next war. And this time we did something different. We not only held out the hand to our allies, we held it out to our erstwhile enemies -- who are now our closest friends, or among our closest friends. So, we've had four and a half decades of peace.

 

Now, the other question there: How do I feel about being replaced? [Laughter] Well, I could give you kind of an odd-ball answer, first of all, to that. And it also touches on what I'm going to do when I have some free time. I'm looking forward to maybe getting out on the mashed-potato circuit -- [laughter] -- and making some speeches as just a ``Joe Citizen'' for things I believe should be done. And one of them has to do with the replacement of a President. I happen to believe now -- I didn't to begin with -- I believe now that the 22d amendment -- you see, I can say this now because it's not for me; it's for whoever follows me -- that that was an invasion of the democratic rights of the people of this country. You should be allowed to vote for who you want to vote for, for as many times as you want to vote for.

 

But my concern is not just being replaced, it's who the replacement is. [Laughter] And I have some very strong feelings about that. But again, let me tell you, the free time -- yes, we're looking forward to that. I don't think anyone ever leaves this job that I have without having things left undone, things that you'd hoped could be accomplished, and so you leave hoping that they will be then accomplished by someone else. So, I have something of that feeling. But I will also tell you something else. Nancy and I -- when you're a Californian and you're away for 8 years, you live in a perpetual state of homesickness -- [laughter] -- and we're looking forward to living in California.

 

U.S. Middle East Policy

 

Q. Mr. President, I have a two-part question here which unfortunately is going to have to be the last question of the afternoon, due to time constraints: Do you agree with the recent statements by Secretary Carlucci that the American Jewish community should stop objections to major arms sales to friendly Arab countries? And do you believe that -- with your departure from the White House -- will the next administration continue your positive support of the state of Israel?

 

The President. Yes, if the regime that I want to go in the White House -- [laughter] -- makes it, yes, I know that this relationship -- I don't think any country has ever had a stronger ally than Israel has in the United States of America. And it's going to remain that way, I believe.

 

But we try to reassure, because remember that technically there is still a state of war in the Middle East. That war has not been ended. And we're trying to bring to the Middle East -- to help bring -- a plan for peace among the people who must live there, together, in all those several nations.

 

And so, we put in the contract of weapons that we sell to any of those countries -- we put in the contract that those weapons can only be used for self-defense. They can never use them to become aggressors and start a war. And I can understand Israel's worrying about what happens if these countries that have been so hostile and where there is this state of war are armed better and so forth.

 

On the other hand, if we are to be able to persuade those countries to come in and join in a conference to bring peace to that troubled part of the world, I think they have to see us as being willing to be fair and friends of theirs, just as they now see us as what I said before: the best friend of Israel. So, we've been very careful. We're not going overboard. We're not going to create any armed monsters and aggressor nations there. But I do think that our judgment should be respected on when we have decided that we can make a sale of that kind that we should be allowed to do so because, once again, our pledge to Israel is that if anyone ever violated that contract -- to use them there -- Israel would have an ally: the United States.

 

Well, that's the last question. There are just a couple of things that weren't asked about, that didn't get in, that I just would like to tell you if I could. I have a new hobby. I am collecting jokes. [Laughter] And these jokes are jokes that I can absolutely prove are written -- not written -- are invented by the people of the Soviet Union and told among themselves. And they reveal a great sense of humor that we would all find very simpatico with us, but they also reveal a certain cynicism about facets of their system.

 

For example, you know, in the Soviet Union, for a private citizen to buy an automobile there is a 10-year waiting period. So, one of their stories has to do with that. This man is finally -- you have to put the money down, too, 10 years in advance. So, this man has gone in, and he's doing all the signing, all the papers, and putting out his money. And finally when he makes that final signature, the man behind the counter said, ``Now, come back in 10 years and take delivery.'' And he said, ``Morning or afternoon?'' [Laughter] And the man said -- wait a minute, wait a minute -- the man behind the counter said, ``Well, 10 years from now what difference does it make?'' ``Well,'' he said, ``the plumber's coming in the morning.'' [Laughter]

 

And now I'm only going to tell one more of those and then just a little something about my relationship with Mr. Gorbachev. I've told him a couple of these stories. A lot of them it would be tactless to tell him -- [laughter] -- but a couple I thought I could. And this one I did tell him, and he laughed quite heartily. And that was that this was an American and a Russian arguing about their two countries. And the American said, ``Look, I can go into the Oval Office, pound the President's desk, and say, `Mr. President, I don't like the way you're running the country!''' And the Russian said, ``I can do that.'' And the American said, ``You can?'' He said, ``I can go into the Kremlin, into the General Secretary's office. I can pound his desk and say, `Mr. General Secretary, I don't like the way President Reagan's running his country!''' [Laughter]

 

Now, I'm just going to say this, and then I'm -- I've talked too long. [Laughter] This is just one thing. I know that there are some people that have thought in these summit meetings, and this relationship, that maybe I've changed from my original beliefs about the Soviet Union and that somehow maybe I could be taken in. Well, I've gone to the trouble to learn -- I'm not a linguist, but I learned one Soviet -- or Russian proverb, and which I've used on Mr. Gorbachev repeatedly. And that is: Dovorey no provorey -- trust, but verify. Now, the reason I learned that was because I didn't think he would understand a good old American piece that I would like to say to him: Trust everybody, but cut the cards. [Laughter] Thank you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 12:55 p.m. in the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The question-and-answer session was moderated by J. Curtis Mack II, president of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, and Robin G. Beeby, editor of the World Affairs Journal.