tv The Presidency President Reagans First Press Conference CSPAN March 31, 2021 11:03am-11:35am EDT
fulton, missouri's westminster college invited winston churchill to speak on march 6, 1946. not long after, the british prime minister who guided england through world war ii was voted out of office. they greeted harry truman and winston churchill with a parade. they gathered in a gym to harry winston churchill talk about how an iron curtain has descended across the continent. watch tonight starting at 8:00 eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. next, on the presidency. ronald reagan gives his first press conference nine days after taking the oath of office on january 20th, 1981. questions about the recently resolved iranian hostage crisis and its aftermath dominated a discussion that ranged from domestic affairs to the new
administration's foreign policy priorities. president reagan met with the press in the old executive office building next door to the white house. this video is courtesy of the ronald reagan presidential library in simi valley, california. >> how do you do. i have a brief, opening statement here, before i take your questions. yesterday, secretary of the treasury, donald reagan, sent to the congress a request to raise the debt ceiling to $985 billion. this represents a dramatic jump of $50 billion over the previous debt ceiling. the administration took this action with great regret because it's clear that the massive deficits our government runs is one of the root causes of our profound economic problems. and for too many years, this process has come too easily for us. we have lived beyond our means, and then financed our
extravagance on the backs of the american people. the clear message i received in the election campaign is that we must gain control of this inflationary monster. let me briefly review for the american people what we've already done. within moments of taking the oath of office, i placed a freeze on the hiring of civilian employees in the federal government. two days later, i issued an order to cut down on government travel, reduce the number of consultants to the government, stop the procurement of certain items, and called on my appointees to exercise restraint in their own offices. yesterday, i announced the elimination of remaining federal controls on u.s. oil production and marketing. today, i am announcing two more actions to reduce the size of the federal government. first, i am taking major steps toward the elimination of the council on wage and price stability. this council has been a failure. it has been totally ineffective in controlling inflation, and it's imposed unnecessary burdens on labor and business. therefore, i am now ending the
wage and price program with the council. i am eliminating the staff that carries out its wage-pricing activities and i am asking congress to rescind its budget, saving the taxpayers some 1 and a half million dollars a year. my second decision today is a directive ordering key federal agencies to freeze pending regulations for 60 days. this action gives my administration time to start a new regulatory oversight process. and also prevents certain last-minute regulatory decisions of the previous administration. the so-called midnight regulations from taking effect, without proper review and approval. all of us should remember that the federal government is not some mysterious institution comprised of buildings, files and paper. the people are the government. what we create, we ought to be able to control.
i do not intend to make wildly, skyrocketing deficits and runaway government simple facts of life in this administration. as i have said, our ills have come upon us over several decades, and they will not go away in days or weeks or months. but i want the american people to know that we have begun. now, i'll be happy to take your questions. helen? >> will your policy be one of revenge or reconciliation? and will the united states honor the recent commitments to iran, especially since you approved of most of them during the campaign? >> well, i'm not -- certainly, not thinking of revenge. and i don't know whether reconciliation would be possible, with the present government or absence of the government in iran. i think that the united states will honor it -- the obligations. as a matter of fact, the most important of those were already put into effect by the preceding administration in negotiating the release. we are, however, studying,
because there were four major agreements, and there were nine executive orders. and we are studying thoroughly what is a pretty complex matter we've discovered. with regard to whether they are in keeping with international -- our own national laws. and so, i won't be able to really answer your questions on specifics until we've completed that study. >> mr. president, the treasury treasury said monday that your budget cuts will be of a much higher magnitude than most people thought they would be. you have said they would be across the board. now that you have had some time to study the budget, can you say where these -- where these cuts will be made? what program will feel the cuts the most? >> they'll be made every place. what we meant by maybe across the board was the wrong decision, although it describes it. what i meant is that no one is exempt from being looked at for areas in which we can make cuts in spending. and, yes, they probably are going to be bigger than anyone
has ever attempted because there's -- this administration did not come here to be a caretaker government. and just hope we can go along the same way and maybe do it a little better. we think the time has come where there has to be a change of direction of this country, and it's going to begin with reducing government spending. >> mr. president, in your welcoming address to the freed americans, you sounded a warning of swift retribution in future-terrorist situations. what kind of action are you prepared to take to back up this hard rhetoric? >> well, that's a question that i don't think you -- you can or should answer as to specifics. this is a big and it's a powerful nation. it has a lot of options open to it. and to try and specify now just particularly what you should do, i think, is one of the things that's been wrong.
people have gone to bed in some of these countries that have done these things to us in the past, confident that they can go to sleep, wake up in the morning, and the united states wouldn't have taken any action. what i meant by that phrase was that anyone who does these things, violates our rights, in the future, is not going to be able to go to bed with that confidence. walt? >> mr. president, you campaigned rather vociferously, saying it was slanted toward the soviet union. yet i noticed your secretary of state now seems to suggest that, for the time being at least, the united states will abide by the limits of the treaty and he hopes the soviet union will, too. how long do you intend the united states should abide by the agreement which you consider equitable and what do you consider its greatest inequities to be? >> well, the treaty, first of all, i think, permits a continued buildup on both sides of strategic nuclear weapons.
but in the main thing authorizes an immediate increase in large numbers of soviet warheads. there is no verification as to the number of warheads on the missile. no method for us to do this. i don't think that a treaty -- salt means strategic arms limitation. that actually permits a buildup, on both sides, of strategic-nuclear weapons is -- can properly be called that. and i have said that when we can, and i am willing for our people to go into negotiate -- or, let me say, discussions leading to negotiations. that we should start negotiating on the basis of trying to effect an actual reduction in the numbers of nuclear weapons. that would, then, be real strategic arms limitation. and i happen to believe, also, that you can't sit down at a
table and just negotiate that unless you take into account and consideration at that table all the other things that are going on. in other words, i believe in linkage. >> mr. president, what do you see as the long-range intentions of the soviet union? do you think, for instance, the kremlin is bent on world domination that might lead to continuation of the cold war? or do you think other circumstances, detente is possible? >> well, so far, detente's been a one-way street the soviet union's used to pursue its own aims. i don't have to think of an answer as to what i think their intentions are. they have repeated it. i know of no leader of the soviet union, since the revolution, and including the present leadership, that has not more than once repeated, in the various communist congresses they hold, their determination that their goal must be the promotion of world revolution. and a one-world socialist or
communist state, whichever words you want to use. now, as long as they do that, and as long as they, at the same time, have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause. meaning they reserve under themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that, and that is moral, not immoral. and we operate on a different set of standards. i think, when you do business with them, even at a detente, you keep that in mind. let me take someone. young lady. >> mr. president, what's your opinion of american companies that now want to resume business with iran? >> my opinion of american companies that want to resume business with iran? i hope they are going to do it by long distance. we wouldn't want to go back to
having just a different cast of characters, but the same show going on. i can understand that, particularly in the field of energy. they're -- they're wanting to do that. but, we are -- we're urging the ed people think long and hard before they travel to iran because we don't think their safety can be guaranteed there. >> mr. president, we americans are still incarcerated in vietnam. can you tell us the status of their cases and whether the administration is doing anything to get them back? >> i have told our people about those three. they knew about them, of course. but i've told them that, yes, we continue. and we want to get them back also. now, i know i have been staying down front here too much. i've got to prove i can look at the back rows there, too.
sir. >> the president -- oh, i'm sorry. >> oh, okay. mr. president, some administrative officials have promised adherence to the civil rights laws, which are on the books. but there has been considerable discussion about dismantling the affirmative action aspect of that. give those laws, to some people, greater meaning. and i am wondering, mr. president, if there will be a retreat in the federal government on the affirmative action programs, generally, and in federal hiring of blacks and hispanics, specifically? >> no, there will be no retreat. this administration is going to be dedicated to equality. i think we've made great progress in the civil-rights field. i think there are some things, however, that have -- that may not be as useful as they once were. or that may even be distorted in the practice. such as some affirmative action programs becoming quota systems.
and i'm old enough to remember when quotas existed in the united states, for the purpose of discrimination. and i don't want to see that happen again. >> mr. president, when and how will you seek the control of the natural gas crisis? >> well, we haven't dealt with that problem yet. we thought oil would do for a starter. but i can't really answer your question. that will be a matter for discussion in future cabinet meetings. lou? >> mr. president, during the campaign, you repeatedly talked about the unfairness of the grain embargo, as you saw it. do you have second thoughts, now? or will you lift the grain embargo? >> well, with the grain embargo, my quarrel with it from the first was i thought it was asking only one group of americans to participate, the farmers. it was not -- you only have two
choices with an embargo. you either lift it or you broaden it. and we have not made a decision, except that at the request of secretary of agriculture, john block, i have taken the matter of the embargo out of, you might say, discussions of the national security council, and it next week is on the agenda for a full cabinet meeting as to what our course will be. so i can't answer what we do about it until next week. as i say, it was asking one group of americans to bear the burden. and i have always thought was more of a kind of gesture than it was something real. yes, ma'am. >> mr. president, what will you do to honor the request by federal officials, well, atlanta officials, for you and the federal government to intercede in the atlanta case of 17 missing black children? >> just a few minutes before i came in here, that message was
handed to me that the atlanta mayor wanted to talk. and we are going to get someone in touch with him immediately. now, you recognize, of course, that possibly civil rights would be the only basis upon which we could have any jurisdiction down there in this. for fbi, for example, on any other thing, there's been no evidence of crossing state lines or anything, and yet we want to be helpful because that is a most tragic case. and so we will be meeting on that very shortly. >> mr. president, when the jamaican prime minister was here yesterday, mr. siaga, he suggested publicly that now might be a good time for you, as the new president, to have a foreign policy initiative for latin america and for the caribbean. do you intend to follow that suggestion? and if so, how would your policies differ from those of former president carter?
>> well, i think we have seen a great reverse in the caribbean situation. and it came about through prime minister siaga's election. it was the turnover or turnaround of a nation that had gone what is certainly in the direction of the communist movement. kind of a -- was a protégé of castro. and his election was great -- greeted by me with great enthusiasm because it represented the people by their vote having experienced that kind of government turned another direction. and i think this opens the door for us to have a policy in the mediterranean of bringing them back in those countries that might have started in that direction or keeping them in the western world and the free world. and so we are looking forward to cooperation with the prime
minister. >> mr. president, i think you meant caribbean, in that last answer. >> what'd i say? >> mediterranean. >> oh, i meant caribbean, i'm sorry. >> what do you intend to do, mr. president, about the draft registration law that was passed during president carter's administration? and in view of your opposition to it and the campaign, how is that consistent with your intention to strengthen our national defenses? >> well, to answer the last part first, i just didn't feel that the advance registration on all the evidence we could get would materially speed up the process if an emergency required the draft. it did create a bureaucracy. it caused, certainly, some unrest and dissatisfaction. and we were told that it would
only be a matter of several days, if we had to call up in a draft, that we could do that several days earlier with the registration than we would be able if there was no registration at all. we -- this is one that's something to be looked at, further down. i have only been here nine days, and most of these nine days have been spent in cabinet meetings on the economy. getting ready to send our package up to the hill. and so, i -- i just have to tell you that we will be dealing with that, meet with that, and make a decision on what to do with it, down the road someplace. gary. >> mr. president, speaking of your economic package, can you give us your thoughts on an effective date for the tax cuts that you plan to recommend in your economic recovery plan? and specifying whether you prefer one effective date for a business and another for personal cuts, or whether you would like to combine them? >> i'd like to see it all go
forward, all at once. as to date, i know there'd been talk about whether it should be retroactive back, or whether it should be as of that minute. that, to me, isn't as important as getting, for individuals, the principal of a 10% cut for each of three years, in place. and the business taxes also so that we can all look forward with some confidence of stability in the program. and we are going to strive for that, and i can't really answer you about what the date will be until we submit the package. >> mr. president. mr. president. >> no. the young lady. >> mr. president, i know you said earlier that you were not thinking of revenge toward iran. but does that preclude any punishment whatsoever for what they've done? >> well, again, i have to ask your forbearance and wait until we've finished our study of this whole situation, as to what we are going to do. i -- i don't think any of us
have a friendly feeling toward the people that have done what they have done. but i think it's too complex for me to answer, until we've had time to really study this. >> just one followup. are you -- would you go so far as to encourage american businesses to resume commercial trade with iran? >> at this point, no. >> mr. president. >> no, i'll go back there, in a second. >> mr. president, do you intend to follow through with your campaign pledges to abolish the departments of energy and education? >> i have not retreated from that at all. yes. the process, however, that i have asked for is for both the secretary bell of education and secretary jim edwards of energy to reorganize, to produce the most effective streamlining of the department -- of their departments that they can. in education, to look at the
appropriate role of the federal government in education, if there is one. and to report back. and then we will decide making our recommendations. much the same thing holds true with the department of energy. the reason for this being that while they were new cabinet-level agencies, they incorporated government functions and programs that had been going on in them when they came under that umbrella. and we have to find out which of those functions that have been a federal government function continue and where they would best fit. but yes, i am determined that -- and i believe that it was wrong to have created the two agencies to begin with. now, there. >> mr. president, during the campaign, your chief arm spokesman put you on record as favoring, for the time being, continuation of the dairy price
level where it had been. within the last couple days, your budget director and your secretary of agriculture have indicated the dairy program is too expensive and should be cut back. can you reconcile those differences of approach for us? >> well, i can only tell you this, again, is something to wait for the next cabinet meeting. all of these things are worked out between the appropriate cabinet members and our director of office -- of omb. and then, they come to the cabinet for full discussion so that others who have an interest in this can have their input. so i can't answer you because that has not yet come to the cabinet. young lady. oh, there are two young ladies. you and then you. >> iran and the soviet union share a long border and a region vital to peace and stability of the world. given the anti-u.s. sentiment there, how do you best think the united states can ensure the stability of the region? >> of the -- you -- you said
iran. the border between iran and the soviet union. well, i think one of the first things that has to happen for stability has got ton in iran itself to establish a government that can speak as a government for iran. and part of our problem in all these long 444 days has been the inability of anyone, seemingly, to speak for that nation to have a government. now, i think that any country would want to help another if they really showed an intent to have a government that would abide by international law and do what they could to help them in that regard. but until such a thing appears apparent there, i don't know that there's anything we can do. no. young lady. >> mr. president, if it's your intention to signal the world
that this country will respond with swift retribution in cases of international terrorism in the future, why is it your policy not to retaliate against iran? >> well, what good would just revenge do? and what -- what -- what form would that take? i -- i don't think revenge is worthy of us. on the other hand, i don't think we act as if this never happened. and i'd rather wait until, as i say, we complete this. who said -- i know i have been on this side too long but someone said por favor. >> mr. president. >> yes. >> impressed when i listen, the other day. [ speaking foreign language ]
>> is it true that given the opportunity to serve this country, they serve the country -- in view of this undisputed fact, when are you going to appoint hispanic-american to serve in your administration? >> we are definitely recruiting, and definitely trying to do that. i want an administration that will be representative of the country as a whole. and, please, don't judge us on the fact that we have only picked a hundred. there will be 1,700 positions to fill in the executive branch in the white house senior staff and staff. and the personnel committee in our administration that is talent hunting and looking for these people contains members of the minorities, hispanics and
even a majority of women. and we -- we want that very much. so don't judge us now at the tip of the iceberg. wait till it's all in. >> yes, thank you. mr. president, the chairman of the federal reserve board has been implementing policies that are exactly opposite, in basic thrust, from what you recommend. he has been squeezing the productive sector of the economy in favor of the speculative sector. now, i mean, frankly, mr. president, there are important sections of the american economy that are about to go under. and won't even have an opportunity to benefit from the programs that you are putting forward because of the federal reserve's policy. i have a two-part question. first of all, do you think that objective economic conditions justify the interest rate levels that we now have? and i don't mean for your answer to imply a criticism of the fed. it's just an objective question. and the second question is are
you concerned that there might be a sabotage, so to speak, of -- of your policies, by programs that the federal reserve might be putting forward? >> no, i am not concerned there would be sabotage. i have met with mr. volcker. but i think we have to face the fact that interest rates are not, in themselves, a cause of inflation, they are a consequence. we have to face the fact that interest rates are not a cause of inflation, they are a consequence. and when you have, as we have had, double digit inflation back to back for two solid years now, the last time that happened was in world war i. and when you have double-digit inflation there, that way, there is no question that interest rates are going to have to go up and follow that inflation rate. and so the answer to the interest rates is going to be our program of reducing government spending tied to the reduction of the tax rates that we have spoken of to bring down inflation. and you will find that interest rates come down. we do want, from the fed, and would ask for, a moderate policy
of money supply increasing relative to legitimate growth. all of these things have to work together. but i -- i don't think if the fed just deliberately raises interest rates -- the reason we have to the to tie taxes and tie spending together is we, for all these decades, we've talked and we have talked about solving these problems and we act as if the two were separate. so one year, we fight inflation. and then unemployment goes up. and then the next year we fight unemployment and inflation goes up. it's time to keep the two together where they belong. and that's what we are going to do. yes, sir. >> mr. president, a number of conservative leaders, among them, some of your staunchest supporters, are very concerned about some of your appointments. the basis of the concern is that many people, who have been longtime reaganites and supporters of yours do not seem to be able to get jobs like van cleave who played a role on your transition team.
whereas other individuals who have not supported you or your philosophy, like mr. bell, and mr. frank carlucci, deputy secretary of defense, who is not a supporter of yours, they have gotten jobs. my question is why are these individuals in your administration? why isn't mr. van cleave? and how much of a problem do you think this conservative dissatisfaction with your appointments is? >> the only problem that i have had that is more difficult than knowing which hand to raise to point to here. and believe me, it bothers me. i go home feeling guilty at all the hands i couldn't point to. the only problem greater i've had is in the selection of personnel. now, in some instances, some of the people whose names were mentioned did not want a position in the administration. helped, worked very hard, and wanted nothing for it.
but you also have to recognize there aren't that many positions. after all, look how many votes i had. you can't reward them all. >> thank you, mr. president. >> but thank you. all right. thank you. weeknights this month, we are featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight american history tv and washington journal look back 75 years to one of the cold war's most iconic speeches. fulton, missouri's westminster college invited winston churchill to speak on march 5th, 1946. not long after, the british prime minister, who guided england in world war ii, was
voted out of office. they welcomed harry truman and winston churchill with a parade. 2200 gathered to harry winston churchill declare an iron curtain has descended across the continent. watch tonight starting at 8:00 eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. next on the presidency, frank donatelli sits down with craig shirley to go behind the scenes with the 40th president's campaigns for the white house. this picks up with the 1976 republican contest with incumbent gerald ford took place as part of mr. shirley's universityof virginia course called "reagan on leadership." >> thank you for being with us. this is the first-ever reagan on le