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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With the Magazine Publishers of America


The President. Apologies for keeping you waiting. Let me just open with a brief -- I don't want to filibuster -- but open with a brief statement on a word about Germany. And then I'll be glad to respond to your questions.

I talked this morning with both Chancellor Kohl and Mikhail Gorbachev and had a fairly long conversations -- about 30 or 40 minutes -- with each one. I feel that the agreement that was announced yesterday between Gorbachev and Kohl is very, very significant and very important, and I'd like to reflect on how we got -- I say ``we'' because the U.S. has been in the forefront of suggesting the best way for stabilization and peace would be a united Germany, a unified Germany as a full-fledged member of NATO. So, let me reflect on how we got here.

First, everybody had to recognize that this unification was going to take place, was going to happen, and that it was right. And you don't have to go very far back in your minds to remember there was some debate about the speed of unification and whether a unified Germany indeed would be a factor for peace. I remember telling the press last October, before the Berlin Wall came down, that when we said we supported German unity we really meant that, and we meant it without qualifications. After the East German elections in March, people began to realize that unification could actually occur this year, and my view was the sooner the better. And I know the German people have appreciated that stand by the United States.

And the second step was to put together a solid Western position on the external aspects of German unification. In February Chancellor Kohl and I had a very long talk out there at Camp David about the alignment of a united Germany, and we came out after those meetings and agreed unequivocally that a united Germany needed to remain in NATO, including its full membership in the integrated military structures. Prime Minister Thatcher and President Mitterrand, as well as other leaders in the alliance, developed a solid meeting of the minds on German unification.

And the third step, though, was to persuade the Soviet Union. And President Gorbachev and I discussed this in Washington. We discussed it in considerable depth on that Saturday up at Camp David. And then in our joint press conference, I said that I thought we both agreed that Germany should be free to choose the alliance that it would belong to.

President Gorbachev, if you remember, didn't challenge that; and we all thought that that was a good sign then -- the Soviet having been positioned, as you remember, against Germany in NATO. But he didn't challenge that idea that everybody ought to choose what alliance they want to be in.

We also had to show him that the NATO alliance was not his enemy but was a force for stability that could, indeed, adapt -- could, indeed, change -- adapt to the new realities in Europe. And that's why the recently completed NATO summit was so important, where all of our colleagues agreed to our proposals for the transformed alliance. And I'm very proud of my collaborators here -- the top foreign affairs and national security people, Jim Baker, Brent Scowcroft -- in formulating this position, this leadership position, on behalf of the United States.

I sent a paper around prior to the NATO meeting, and it was that paper from which everybody worked, and it became the basis for this agreement. Then yesterday, President Gorbachev commented that -- and here's what he said -- that without the ``very important impulse'' from the London Declaration it would have been difficult to make headway. So, the Soviets viewed the NATO agreement as something that was very important to them and demonstrated less of a threatening mode on the part of NATO.

Both Kohl and Gorbachev have displayed, I think, exceptional qualities of leadership during this challenging period. I commended -- as a politician -- commended President Gorbachev on the outcome of the Party Congress over there. You talk about a guy getting hit from all sides -- I mean, I felt just -- [laughter] -- totally relaxed about what's happening in this country.

So, anyway, I don't know -- but I must say, I take pride in the way Europe is moving into this new era of freedom. It's a goal that we Americans have long worked to achieve. We've still got some very important problems that lie out there ahead of us. But it's a challenging and very exciting time to be President of the United States, and I expect my other co-leaders in the alliance would feel that way. I'm not sure Mr. Gorbachev feels that way yet, but isn't it exciting when you think back a year and a half ago to where we stand today?

Now, with no further ado and without this opening designed to deflect you away from matters domestic, I'll be glad to respond to questions on any subject.

Yes, sir?

Media Literacy Campaign

Q. Mr. President, my name is Peter Diamandis, and I'm the chairman of the magazine publishers association. First of all, I'd like to thank you for spending some time with the representatives of the industry. We're planning a party next year -- this is sort of a statement, not a question. [Laughter]

The President. All right, I'll take it. [Laughter]

Q. Okay. We're going to plan a party next year. We're having a 250th anniversary of the first magazine in America. It started in 1741, appropriately titled the American Magazine. This industry has now grown to 10,000 titles on every conceivable subject. And in honor of that celebration, we're going to devote a big part of our budget and our time to fighting illiteracy -- I know that's a big subject for you and your wife. I would just like for you to know that and hopefully support that in 1991.

And on that note, I'd like to introduce a fellow Texan, Mr. Reg Brack, who's the president of Time, Inc., magazine.

The President. Well, first, I'm delighted to hear that. And it is very important. This whole media support for the antinarcotics and for education, with literacy being in the forefront, has been dramatic. I will say this -- not to avoid my responsibilities as President, but it couldn't be done -- the Federal Government -- there are not enough chips around to do what your industry and others are doing on a pro bono, Thousand Points of Light basis.

Excuse me Reg, go ahead, sir.

Postal Service

Q. Well, Mr. President, first of all, I'd like to congratulate you on your most recent accomplishment regarding the German issue and the handling of NATO and the development of Europe in general.

I would like to take this opportunity, on the heels of yesterday's troublesome news about the deficit, to address some issues domestically. And in that respect, I hope you know that I'm sure all magazine publishers are supportive of the administration's apparent willingness to begin to seriously address the deficit crisis.

But in that respect, I'd like to just make a quick comment and then ask a question. The comment has to do with the fact that magazines are particularly dependent on two things if we're going to continue our contribution to America's knowledge and vitality and diversity. Those obviously are advertising -- and you just mentioned how advertising functions on some important national matters -- the other is the United States Postal Service. And since advertising is, by a large measure, the machine or the engine that drives the consumer demand in this country, we would all hope that you would agree that anything that constrains or restricts advertising of any kind is actually a restriction, really, on the free enterprise system.

As you can imagine, as an industry we're more dependent than any part of the knowledge business on the United States Postal Service. Now, we know we have to pay more; and in fact, the Nation, next year I believe, will be confronted with a cost for its mail billion greater than it pays this year.

My question really has to do with your view of the Postal Service in general and, specifically, your position on the Postmaster General's strategic initiative to address costs in general and reduce labor costs in particular, because it's vital to the way the Nation gets its information.

The President. In the first place, I would obviously support bringing the Postal Service even more significantly into the end of this century. I mean, I think most people that look back historically have found that there are certain inefficiencies there. The whole concept of getting it more out of the political patronage business was to be able to overcome some of those inefficiencies. You people would probably be in a better position than I to judge how successful those efforts have been.

But certainly, I would be for encouraging the ultimate in that. I happen to not be fearful of the competition that has been brought to bear on the Postal Service. I know that some are critical of it, but on the other hand, I think it's a good thing. And I think if that's the way to stimulate efficiency, more efficiency on the part of the public side, the Postal Service itself, so much the better. So, it's a very general answer to a rather specific question, but clearly, I'd like to think the answer is in reducing costs through efficient management as opposed to raising more revenues to support what historically most people think has been politically abused and, to some degree, inefficient system.

Who's next? Yes, sir?

International Competitiveness

Q. Ed Torrero, executive editor, IEEE Spectrum magazine. I'd like to change the topic to international competitiveness, if I might. There are three technologies which are generally agreed upon to be essential to the national security. They are electronics, computers, and telecommunications. Their vitality depends on a vibrant commercial industry. Sir, are there any conditions or scenario under which you would support a somewhat more focused support of critical technologies by a stronger buttressing of commercial activities?

The President. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by ``buttressing commercial activities.'' I mean, clearly, you put your finger on the future. And what we are trying to do, recognizing America's historic ability to lead in these areas, is to open up markets. But I'm not sure I understand what you mean in buttressing -- --

Q. If I might clarify. In the commercial area, there have been three specific examples in recent years where we may have been able to do something in terms of public policy, but thought better of doing it. One is in the supercomputer area, where we've lost some companies; another is in HDTV, where the former speaker gave some information; and a third is -- if I may continue the specifics -- in the area of semiconductor equipment manufacturers, which was almost lost to this country. A government agency recently predicted, therefore, that by 1994 the Japanese will, among other Asian technologies, dominate this particular area. So, the previous speaker outlined a very exciting program to help R D and so on. The question is: Is that enough in time?

The President. I think it's enough in time for the Government. In other words, we are trying to take a look at antitrust to see that we're not giving our producers and our industries a disadvantage. We are trying to open up markets so that we can compete, and we are putting a lot of emphasis on research. I forget the total budget figure for research this year, but it's enormous, not just as it relates to electronics, computers, and telecommunications. But I think that I would draw the line in terms of R D and then trade policies that give us a chance to compete.

I've just come from an appeal by a United States Senator for support on -- this is a little off your question -- for the textile industry, to protect the textile business further. And I can't do that. I can't say that I think the answer to the problem of textiles is further protection. Nor can I say that I think the answer to these three very important elements of our technology is further protection. So, that leads you then to R D and to opening the markets abroad.

Fundamental Values

Q. Mr. President, I'm Jim Guthrie of the MPA. I'd like to address you as our spiritual leader who would like to keep us looking ahead. We're coming out of a decade that could probably be politely defined and characterized as one of self-indulgence and immediate gratification. There were inquisitive yuppies. There were junk bond LBO's that led to certain decrements in our own economic fabric. There were Wall Street convictions. And now we're at the S L crisis. Secretary Mosbacher talked about the Baldrige Award. You've talked about a Thousand Points of Light. What else is going on that will keep us looking ahead to the quality and the value that we're talking about restoring to all areas of our life?

The President. You know, I've never been too pessimistic about America in this regard. I'll make you a slight confession: I still am trying to find the appropriate way to discuss, using the bully pulpit of the White House, these matters you talk about -- talking about religious values, family values, or whatever. I think there is a danger that one can overdo it, and yet I think it's appropriate that the President try to not only adhere to those values but to discuss them.

Having said that, I'm not pessimistic about America. We go through cycles. We went through a cycle in the Vietnam war where our own sons and, to some degree, daughters were told that our cause was immoral -- people feeling as strongly as they did. I was old enough or blind enough, or whatever, not to accept that view. I still don't accept that view, because when I look at Southeast Asia and I see a Vietnam where the charge was against us -- if we'd only get out; this is an indigenous civil war; you'd have a little more democracy there -- that hasn't worked out that way. And in your line of work, where there were many publications, there are now but a few. And you see, still, people going out in these boats.

But the point is, as it relates to your question, we had a generation of Americans that were taught about a deep conviction by professors and politicians and others that our purpose, our cause, was wrong. And then we condoned as a society certain excesses that we should have condemned. And I'm talking about an elevation of understanding about narcotics, for example, which gets right to the core of values.

Well, you've got to understand. I even think that we condoned graffiti as an expression of people's -- wasn't this marvelous -- creativity, when all it was, was littering and cluttering up not exactly beautiful subway cars but -- [laughter] -- nevertheless, we condoned things we should have condemned. I have confidence that the country goes somewhat cyclically, but always moves forward to our fundamental values.

I'm not discouraged about it. I wrestle with things that I think are important -- and I don't want to get into a debate with you all about the flag amendment. I happen to feel strongly about it, and I'd like to see the debate done so you could do it without having to call the other guy a demagog. I may be wrong, but I feel strongly about it. And I've fought for it because I do think there was a unique symbol there. And there's pretty good understanding on the part of the American people. The debate can go on without denigrating the other person's convictions that disagrees or feels that amending the Bill of Rights or the Constitution would be an egregious error.

But I keep coming back, as I listen to the debates on all these questions -- the National Endowment of the Arts -- all of them -- that we have a way of finding our way through, in the United States, these -- what appear to be -- dilemmas or these challenges. And the reason is, I think, there is a fundamental understanding that we are one nation under God, that we have great respect for religion diversity, and that as we see the social problems of the day we return more and more to the importance of the family.

So, I don't know what we can do about it. I want to be very careful about censorship and about demagoging these issues, whatever they are. But I don't feel that I ought to address myself, in a legislative sense, to helping with this question because I think we can sort it out as people. And I'm confident not only of our decency and honor as a country but of our tremendous generosity as a country. We've got some big problems here at home, and I've got to address myself perhaps more effectively to some of those. But I don't put down one of them the weakening of the moral underpinning of this country. I hope I'm right.

Here we've got a couple of more. I was late getting over. Yes? [Laughter] Thank you, Kristin [Kristin Clark Taylor, Director of White House Media Relations]. I don't want to overrule my leader here. [Laughter] She'll kill me when we get out of here.

Federal Budget Negotiations

Q. Mr. President, I'm Tom Ryder, from American Express. After yesterday's disappointing budget news, does the administration's game plan on deficit reduction change?

The President. No -- --

Q. Where do we go from here?

The President. The news in the Congress has been somewhat discounted because the numbers have been shared with them. And that news is one of the reasons I tried to make very clear that we would go with no preconditions to these talks.

We're getting to a crunch. The debt ceiling vote is going to drive some of the action. I'm still optimistic -- or put it this way, fairly optimistic that we're going to get a budget bill. But it can't be on one side of the equation or not. By that I mean it can't be done by all spending increases, it darn sure can't be done by revenue increases, and it cannot and will not be a budget agreement unless we get budget reform. The American people ought not to be asked to put a Band-Aid on a problem because of the budget process on Capitol Hill.

So, we've got three ingredients to the question, and I think we're going to have to move forward on all three of them. I believe that we can get something done, and I think it is essential, given yesterday's public news -- which I think has been discounted by the budgeteers -- but I think it is absolutely essential something be done. I will do my part. And I have felt constrained on talking about what kinds of revenues or what kinds of spending cuts or what kinds of reforms because I made a deal with the congressional leaders that I wouldn't do that.

As I said as I departed for Camp David the other day, I'm perhaps the only guy in town abiding by those constraints -- [laughter] -- which isn't all that bad. Because people on both sides of the aisle feel strongly. We've got to make progress. And given yesterday's news, Tom, it is essential. The time for game playing is over. And we have to get something done that is not only a sound budget agreement but is seen by the American people to be a sound budget agreement. And I worry that if we don't get one -- about the confidence in the marketplace that, obviously, you know a good deal more about than I do.

So, we will be pushing in the next couple of weeks. And the meter is running. We're getting close to adjournment of the Congress. And we're getting close to a deficit ceiling that has to be raised. But I'm very serious about it, and I will stay with them just as long as is required to get a sound deal.

But the news is disturbing. It's big. It's strong -- most of it or a lot of it coming because the economy has been more sluggish. But I still feel -- and I'm going to filibuster here -- but I still feel that there isn't quite the acute awareness on the part of the average American as deserves to be there. And maybe that means I'll have to do a little bit more once I feel unfettered from my agreement with the leaders.

Let me take three more, and then I will go peacefully.

Space Program

Q. Mr. President, Terry McGraw, McGraw-Hill. Since the completion of the Apollo space program, the U.S. space program has seemingly struggled for a definitive notion of its mission. Could you comment on your priority the space program has in your agenda and, more specifically, what your expectations are in this new investigation of NASA?

The President. One, I have great confidence in Dick Truly, the Administrator of NASA. And so, to lay that part of the question to rest, what we are doing is asking him to form an outside committee of the best minds he can find to look to the future, not go try to assign blame because a mission is delayed getting off the ground. I mean, these shots are highly complex. We have been the leaders in space, and I want to see us continue to be the leaders in space.

So, the group that was advertised a couple of days ago or heralded as an investigation of NASA is nothing of the kind. I saw the stories and, once again, went semiballistic, thinking, my heavens, how could somebody write this when that is not what the President intends? But I think the Vice President, who is doing a good job as head of the Space Council, clarified that.

In terms of goals, we've got some broad objectives that go far beyond lunar landings now. But the first one obviously would be this space station, but with continued shots back and forth to do what's almost becoming journeymen's work in space. I'm confident we can do it. Obviously, we're in tight budget times, so we've set the goals for Mars and beyond out there many, many years. But I have confidence in NASA. And it's a perilous business, I guess, anytime you put people up there into space; but the record has been very good.

And yet, I think the management is such a complex -- it's such a complex organization that it is appropriate that the Administrator now call on the best minds he can find to see how we're going to meet these next goals and meet them, hopefully, within budget. And I'm talking about the space station; I'm talking about what Sally Ride [shuttle astronaut] talked about, Mission to Planet Earth, where we actually utilize to the fullest extent possible space shots in improving matters on Earth -- obviously, the environment comes to mind, and agriculture comes to mind. And then taking that third step, how do we organize NASA to meet this big, tremendous management challenge that will come about for this next quantum leap forward -- and discuss the cooperation with other nations in all of this.

I mean, as the whole world is changing -- and it has dramatically changed -- there may be some real opportunities now to do more with the Soviet Union, for example, or with other countries. So, all of this requires a new look, and that's what this story was about.

Two more. Who's got them? Right here. Yes, sir?

South Africa

Q. Mr. President, Ed Lewis, publisher of Essence magazine. Mr. Nelson Mandela, who has visited us, had great impact on many Americans. What are you doing to -- or are you -- doing to negotiate an agreement between Mr. Mandela and Mr. de Klerk [President of South Africa] to facilitate a hopeful, peaceful resolution for all South Africans?

The President. What we're doing now is encouraging Mr. de Klerk to come here. And I think it is important, having had good visits with Mr. Mandela -- and they were good, and I'll tell you about that in a minute -- that de Klerk come here. It will be somewhat controversial. There will be a lot of picketers out here. I think they're wrong. I think in de Klerk you have a new kind of leader in South Africa.

I detected quite a respect on Mandela's part for de Klerk. And thus, I have concluded that it is important for the President to sit down with Mr. de Klerk. In the meantime, why, we're having a lot of diplomacy going on as to how we can encourage further change on the part of South Africa towards the elimination of apartheid.

We are not going to change our sanctions position until there is more progress. And you can argue that. I've sometimes felt that sanctions might be counterproductive, but I'm not going to change them now. And I think we're right -- nor am I going to strengthen -- nor am I going to acquiesce in their being increased right now. And I think that position is understood by Mandela as head of the ANC [African National Congress], and I think it's understood by de Klerk. They may not agree with it.

So, that's about where we are. I will say that the visit with Mr. Mandela was very interesting. I had a long talk with him over here, and then took him and his wife over for lunch. What impressed me -- this is kind of a personal observation and off the substance -- is how a man who had been incarcerated for so long could retain this quiet sense of dignity and, I thought, reasoned understanding. I disagree with him on, at this juncture in history, the use of violence. He made his position clear. And I happen to think that my position is correct for the United States to keep emphasizing peaceful resolution to this question as opposed to a violent one.

But I talked to him very frankly about the differences we have on Castro [President of Cuba] or Qadhafi [leader of Libya], and yet he didn't take offense by that. But I felt if these talks are going to be meaningful at all, you might as well tell him what he's running into in the United States in terms of Castro, Qadhafi, Yasser Arafat [leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization].

So, we had a good, frank discussion; and I hope that he went away -- I think he did -- he called me up just before he left -- with a feeling that the United States Government had been responsive and certainly interested. And we'll see where we go. But I think more than any of the European countries we can be catalytic. We were not a colonial power, and we are united in our opposition to apartheid. And then we have an Afro-American population here that feels fervently -- this is a gut issue. And I think that's a good thing. That might not be quite as prominent in other countries as well.

So, I think those ingredients make our country uniquely able to serve as a catalyst between the various factors in South Africa, and that's what I want to try to do.

Last one. Who's got it? Yes, ma'am?

President's Reading Habits

Q. Marie Petersen, Crafts 'n Things magazine. Our business is communicating via the written word. But many of us in this room are so busy doing our business we don't have time to read. When you have time to read, Mr. President, what is it that you choose to read for pleasure?

The President. What do I read as President?

Q. And for pleasure.

The President. For pleasure? Thank God you added that, because -- [laughter] -- because really, this job is -- and I don't want to single out -- well, he's not even here to defend himself -- but his able deputy and my trusted friend, Bob Gates [Assistant to the President and Deputy for National Security Affairs], is here from the National Security Council -- and Brent Scowcroft, who's not here. Part of the job -- I'll address myself just to the concept of reading -- is endless numbers of papers. I do better getting briefed in person where I can ask questions of our Cabinet or of our national security team, but I have to have reading ahead of that. So, most of my reading is formal and heavy going. But in terms of process, I have enough confidence in our people that when they take those yellow, underlining-highlighting pens, they can take a 40-page document and convert it into 10 pages of reading. I cite this as process.

And it's not just foreign affairs. It's Bob Mosbacher's business or Dick Darman's business, the budget stuff. And so, there's plenty of that to do. The CIA, in which I have great confidence, has some marvelous studies of things all round the world. They've got a good economic part of the house out there. So, I have to do a lot of that reading.

What I do in terms of pleasure is to read mostly novels, some of them not so -- I wouldn't say that they would be particularly weighty. ``Bonfire of the Vanities'' is one which was pretty darn good and was up near the top of the list. I'm reading ``Network News'' right now. I'm halfway through that. I read a couple of books on Teddy Roosevelt. I'm reading Caro's ``Lyndon Johnson.'' I say reading -- I've got about two or three books going right now. There's a plain mystery by a guy named Beschloss called ``Mayday'' that I started and put aside because Barbara gave me the other one. [Laughter] But it's relaxed reading. It is relaxed kind of reading, and it's novels. I find I can do that just before -- instead of taking one of these Halcion sleeping tablets, a good novel will help. [Laughter]

But I wish I could tell you that I was doing more serious historical reading; I am not at this moment.

Listen, thank you all very, very much for coming, and I'm glad to have had this opportunity.

Note: The President spoke at 11:35 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his opening, remarks, he referred to Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany, Prime Minister Thatcher of the United Kingdom, and President Francois Mitterrand of France. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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