Public Papers - 1991 - June
Interview With Linda Douglas of KNBC, Jim Lampley of KCBS, and Paul Moyer of KABC in Los Angeles, California
Q. You won't play in an hour and a half, I guarantee you. You won't get around.
The President. Even in a cart?
Q. If you drive fast, you might.
The President. -- -- a little golf today.
Q. Gaining some of the weight back, are you?
The President. Unfortunately.
Q. Do you still do the stair-climber?
The President. Is that a vicious assault on my figure, or what? [Laughter]
Q. No, you look good. I know you dropped -- --
The President. Actually, I got it down. I was, normally, weighed out about 198. Got it down to 185 in a not-very-pleasant way. The medicine drove it -- now I'm at 190.
Q. Can you feel the thyroid medicine's side effects?
The President. Not anymore. I feel it in that it's not quite right in the tummy and stuff, when it affects you in that way.
Q. Doesn't make you feel logy and tired, though?
The President. By the end of the day I'm probably a little more tired than I would have been, but I have a full schedule. Go to work at 7 a.m. and all of that; work normally. Like yesterday, though, I came home before going to the ball game and took a little nap, which I might have done anyway because of the 3-hour time change.
Q. Have you had any other recurrence of the accelerated heartbeat? Has that happened?
The President. I don't think so. I think it's supposed to from time to time, but if it has, it's been very, very short. But I think it's been normal 99.9 percent of the time. They don't seem to worry about that anymore.
Q. Mr. President, as you know, abortion may be a key issue in the 1992 Presidential campaign. You have supported the overturning of Roe versus Wade. Why do you think that States should be able to make abortion illegal? Why do you think abortion should be illegal?
The President. Well, because I think there are too many abortions, and I favor life over abortion. I think there are other means. I've said this in the past, but I think adoption is a good one; I think education is one. The spiraling rate of abortions in this country just bothers me from an ethical standpoint. So, it's that. And my position is well-known.
Incidentally -- you put it in a context of an election -- I remember in 1988. Some think this is the deciding factor. It's but one of but many issues. And in the Republican Party, for example, we have people that agree with me and we have people that disagree with me. And so, I think it will always be that way, and it's a very tough personal issue for the American people. But that's my position, and I'm going to stay with it.
Q. Pete Wilson, Governor of California, has taken a very strong position against your position, that is, your position supporting the law which would prohibit Federal funding of clinics that disseminate abortion information. He would use scarce California tax dollars to supplant those Federal funds that you are trying to cut off. How do you react to that? Is that frustrating to you?
The President. No, not at all. What's frustrating to me is using Federal taxpayers to promote or counsel on abortion. That's against the policy of this and previous administrations. But whatever somebody else at State levels do, I can't argue with the Governor. We have a difference on how we look at that very sensitive question. But there are so many other issues with which I agree with him that it doesn't bother me, if that was the question, at all.
So, I think the thing is, look, here's what I believe. We've got people in our party that agree and people that disagree, so stay with your position. And have people understand that we've got a ``big tent'' approach in our party, and I think the Democrats do. I think many, many Democrats support my position.
You know, they had some protesters out at CalTech where I spoke yesterday. As I said to the crowd there, it was kind of beneath the dignity of my office because there were so few. [Laughter] Normally, we can attract more protest than that. But they had gags. They were the noisiest people with gags in their mouths, I'll admit, that I've ever seen. What they were protesting, though, is something quite -- a misunderstanding. I think they were saying the Federal Government says you can't inform people about -- I mean, that the policy in the country as a result of the Supreme Court decision is that you can't inform people about abortion. That's not correct. I just don't want them done with Federal taxpayers' money going in a way that would promote abortion. And that's my view. But people are free to do it, but I don't want the Federal money going into that.
Q. Mr. President, Saddam Hussein is still there.
The President. Yes.
Q. The sanctions before the war didn't get him out. His people did not overthrow him, as you called for them to do. He put down two rebellions, one in the north, one in the south. The bottom line is he's still there. What's it going to take to get him out?
The President. Well, may I remind you a little history. The policy was not to get him out of office; the policy was to get him out of Kuwait. International statements by the United Nations in concert said, this aggression won't stand. The original call for sanctions by those who opposed my policy right up to the very end was, ``Sanctions will get him out of Kuwait; sanctions will reverse the aggression.'' It was very clear to me that it wouldn't. And so, out he went from Kuwait -- which would have, under the policy of everybody, achieved all the objectives. It achieved ours.
Then along comes the Kurd problem and the Shiite problem. And my view is, we will not have normalized relations with Saddam Hussein as long as he's behaving this way. But get it in focus. Don't change the goalposts, I tell my critics. The goalposts were, aggression will not stand. And aggression didn't stand. And it was an enormous victory that was properly celebrated here and all around the world.
Now, am I happy that Saddam Hussein is there? Absolutely not. Will we lighten up on international sanctions as long as he's there? No. But I must clarify, because the way your question came at me made me think of some of the political critics who were saying we didn't succeed. We did succeed. And our objective was never to throw him out of office. Look at all the U.N. resolutions.
So, I'm still hopeful that, recognizing the economy in that country is very sorry, that the Iraqi people will do what they should have done long ago, in my view. This man is unforgivably brutal. What he's done to the environment, what he did to the people of Kuwait, what he's doing to his own people is unconscionable. But it was not an objective of the United Nations resolutions or the U.S. policy to throw him out of office. The objective was to throw him out of Kuwait, and boy, did our people perform well.
Q. If I can follow up, your people are interviewing an Iraqi defector, and they take great credence in what he's saying about the fact that there are maybe four nuclear installations in northern Iraq that we didn't know about, one hidden in a mountain. There could be 88 pounds of highly enriched uranium, enough to make two or three bombs. Forty percent of his chemical capability could still be there. What are the implications of that, Mr. President, to Israel's security, to the United States, and what are we going to do about it?
The President. The implications are that he is violating agreements with the overall peace agreement. The implications are that he's got to -- I mean, the answer to these charges is that we're going to have to find out how much of all these allegations are true and make him comply with what is now international law through an agreement with all the parties that they would fully account for what's left.
And so, there are a lot of sources. I think you're dealing, understandably, with part of the data. I hope I'm dealing with more of the data. I don't think either of us is dealing with all of the data. So, one, we've got to establish the facts, and two, we have to make clear that he will not remain with a nuclear capability. And, yes, probably some of it did survive, obviously. And I can state this without contradiction: His ability to project all this into an atomic weapon has been set back into the Dark Ages. But nevertheless, you're right when you say there should -- or indicate that there should be concern about his possession of any of these things.
So, we've got to probe. The U.N. has a committee; they must go and examine every lead. They must go into the geography, into the places that defectors or any other pieces of intelligence lead us. And he better be open about it. And that's one more reason there will not be any normalized relations under the status quo.
Military Base Closures
Q. Mr. President, let's turn to the subject of our military defenses and California's economy. We are 2 weeks away now from final recommendations as to how many California military bases are going to be recommended for closure. Millions of dollars -- hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands of jobs at stake. The Long Beach Naval Shipyard, just for one example, turns a profit, returned million to the Treasury last year, and is targeted for elimination. What do you see as the most important criteria in making these final decisions?
The President. What I see is the most important criteria is what's best for the overall defense of this country. We pledged to get defense spending down, and it is moving down dramatically. We've seen in the war the need to have a rapid-deployed force that is the best in the world. And we've seen in this, out of the Gulf Desert Storm operation, Desert Shield, the need to project naval forces around the world.
So, the policies of the Defense Department are based on this national interest. Now, there is a Base Closure Commission that will be making final recommendations, and they are trying to approach this without regard to politics. They are trying to say what is the best for the national defense. And as you would cite the concerns from a shipyard that has performed well, I can shift you to the east coast and cite the concerns about an airbase that my airplane lands in that was the first one -- Air Force One up at Pease Air Force Base, the SAC base -- that had a useful role to play in Desert Storm and is targeted for the first airbase to be closed.
I would also make a political statement that I hope is not misinterpreted by the people of Long Beach. Every Congressman I know wants to close bases, but they want to close them in the other guy's district. And so, what we're trying to do is take into consideration the economic facts, take into consideration how well an installation has performed, but do what's best for the national good. And then it will go up to the Congress, and it will be fine-tuned there.
But I might say, it's not just bases. It is systems, vast, expensive military systems. And I have great confidence in the Secretary of Defense and in Colin Powell and the Chiefs to make these very tough decisions. But I remember the campaign and the politics where -- ``Why are you spending so much on defense?'' Well, defense has taken a big hit, and we can live with it. But we've got to live with it in a way that projects force rapidly and so I can go to the American people and say, look, we've got the adequate defenses -- sea and air and ground -- to, one, safeguard this country, and two, to do what's right around the world.
Q. So, are you saying that you're likely to go down the line with the recommendations of the Defense Base Closure Commission regardless of whether those recommendations run counter to your short-term economic goals and dollars?
The President. Absolutely. Short-term economic -- I will go down the line with the recommendations of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense, just as I did when we waged war in Desert Storm.
Q. If they say Long Beach, Long Beach goes?
The President. I have great confidence in them. And if I didn't have confidence in them, they wouldn't be in their jobs. It's not a President's role to second-guess the fine-tuning of the defense. It is his dire responsibility to guarantee to the American people that the national security interests are being met and that our military is second to none in the world. So, I have to look at it that way.
Q. If they recommend to close the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, you'll close it?
The President. I will not use politics to counter a decision by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense. And Congress will take a look at these matters. But do not count on the President to look after my political interests, confident as I am of the ability of that shipyard and other shipyards around this country, air-bases around this country. That is, the President has to rise above politics no matter whether it hurts him or helps him politically. And I have to look at it that way. And my appeal to the American people if I run again will be, look, we're doing what's in the best interest of the United States.
And I make one more observation. There's some history to base closings. And there's also a history that after bases close, if the economy is in good shape, there's a vigorous private sector that comes in and that gets these facilities in one way or another. There's a public service aspect where some of these could be turned into facilities for other purposes. But I am not going to use politics to second-guess my Secretary of Defense. And I hope the American people understand that.
Q. Mr. President, the Office of the Vice Presidency has always been the most powerful springboard into the Presidency that has existed over time. Do you hope that Dan Quayle will some day become President?
The President. Look, let me say something about that. I was there for 8 years. You say it's a powerful springboard, but do you remember the flak I got that no Vice President since Martin Van Buren had ever ascended to the Presidency in his own right? It was called the Martin Van Buren syndrome. And I used to go around saying Marty is going to be proved wrong, or proved right. And sure enough, it worked out that way.
My view on Dan Quayle is he's done a good job. He is getting the most unfair rap from his critics of anybody that's been in this job. And you're talking to ``the wimp.'' You're talking to the guy that had a cover of a national magazine that I'll never forgive that put that label on me. And now some that saw that we can react when the going gets tough maybe have withdrawn that allegation. But it wasn't pleasant. The job doesn't lend itself to high profile and decisionmaking. It lends itself to loyally supporting the President of the United States, giving him your best judgment, and then when the President makes a decision, supporting it.
And Dan Quayle has been superb. May I give you an example? He just came back from Eastern Europe. I don't remember any front-page stories or spelling out the great success of that trip. And it was successful. He's over there reassuring the Eastern Europeans that we are interested in their recovery. All you read about is the Soviet Union in that regard. He did a fantastic job there. He's done it in South America. He's done it in Asia. He's done it domestically, supporting my domestic agenda that we don't read too much about. And so, he's doing a first-class job.
And I'll let the system work on the politics, but I'm glad to have this opportunity to defend him fully. You're not going to get me into 1992 politics as it relates to the Vice President or this one except to say he's going to be on the ticket if I run again.
Q. That wasn't my question. My question was -- --
The President. That's all right, that's my answer. [Laughter] Thank you, nice try.
Q. Do you hope that he will some day become President?
The President. I gave you my answer. Don't try to get me -- and listen, I've learned a lot since I saw you guys last, and that is to answer what I want to answer, not what you want to ask.
Q. I'm going to ask you this anyway.
The President. Go ahead.
Q. Let's talk about Dan Quayle, the man, all right? Your support for him is undeniable. We have just heard it. What is it about Dan Quayle, the man, that prompts these jokes from Carson, Letterman, the ``piling on,'' as one Congressman put it the other day, and the impugning of this man's character? What is it about Dan Quayle, the man, that created these kinds of jokes?
The President. Hey, listen, you're talking to the number one butt of the jokes for Leno and Letterman and Johnny Carson for 8 years. I think I led the parade. Every once in a while, Ronald Reagan, popular as he was with the people, would take a couple of broadsides. But I led the parade. It goes with the territory. It has nothing to do with Dan Quayle's performance because his performance is superb.
Q. How did it start?
The President. Same way it started with me. Same way it starts with any Vice President. So, it just goes with the territory. Don't you remember what Herbert Hoover said -- I mean, who was it said -- Vice President Garner -- ``The Vice Presidency isn't worth a warm bucket of spit.'' Now, try that one on for size and see how Jay Leno goes with it.
Q. Are you suggesting that if Pete Wilson were Vice President he'd be the subject of just such jokes and barbs?
The President. I'm suggesting that when I was Vice President for 8 years, I was the subject of such barbs. It goes with the territory. So, look at it that way. And I tell Dan that. I say, hey, start the word with a B, not a Q, and put history in perspective. This isn't anything new. I admit they're piling on more. But it's so grossly unfair. But the only explanation I can give you to a very good question is, it goes with the territory. Some good things go with it, too.
Q. The implications of some of these comments -- --
The President. Here I sit, Martin Van Buren to the contrary.
Q. That's right. The implication of some of these comments about Dan Quayle, Mr. President, to be quite candid with you, are that he is not very bright, that he's a dufus.
The President. And they're just so unfair and so grossly wrong that I can think of no other answer than it goes with the territory. I really believe that. I see the guy every day in action. He asks the tough questions. And I ask him -- I challenge him on things inside. And I could ask for no more loyal supporter in that job than Dan Quayle. So, I can't explain it.
But you know, I'll tell you something. After I had a little fibrillation cum thyroid, there was kind of a -- there was a piling on. Any fair-minded American knows that. Might have been a joke; might have been a hype in these news magazines -- regrettably, some of them going more to the gossip, the little squibs in the front. And yet there was a reaction, I think. The American people are saying enough is enough. Look at the guy on the merits. And I'm confident when all look at him on the merits, they'll see what I see. So, I enjoy defending him because I know I'm right. I see him in action. Jay Leno doesn't; he needs a laugh in 1991, just like he needed one off of me in 1987. It took me a while, incidentally, as Vice President to get used to it. Then they were saying to me, hey, he's spelling B-U-S-H right, so why not let him fire away. [Laughter] You can't do anything about it anyway.
Q. Well, sir, I guess you do appear to be willing to talk about Mr. Quayle, so I guess I don't understand why you're not willing to address the question of whether or not you'd like him to be President some day.
The President. I answered your question as best I can, and I'm not going to answer it anymore. I think he's well-qualified to be, but please don't inject me into 1996 politics before a final decision's been made on 1992. That's the only reason.
Q. Well, let's talk about -- --
Q. So when will that decision -- --
The President. If you're asking me, is he qualified, the answer is, absolutely, yes. So, let me go a little further and tell you that.
Q. Mr. President, there's a brand new book by the political writer of the Washington Post, ``Why Americans Hate Politics.'' Recently we had a municipal election here, 5 city council seats up for grabs; voter turnout was well under 20 percent. Do Americans hate politics?
The President. No. I don't agree with whoever the writer is for -- --
Q. Why don't they vote?
The President. Who wrote the book?
Q. E.J. Dionne.
The President. Good man. I haven't read the book, regrettably, so I -- --
Q. Why don't Americans vote?
The President. Why don't they what?
The President. Maybe they're happy with their President. Do you think? I don't know why. I don't know why they don't participate. They're making a big mistake if they don't. And I think there's a turnoff on politics. I've been pointing out some of it recently in the fact that I think there's a frustration with the legislative branch as a body because I think people see the Congress, as a whole, not acting.
And maybe it's my own frustration because we have proposed initiative after initiative. I'll give you one example: an anticrime bill that we put forward 24 months ago, I think, today, and no action has been taken on it. And American people look at their neighborhoods and they say, wait a minute, we have 535 Members of Congress, and why hasn't something happened? This could be part of it. I don't know. I don't know why there's a frustration, but I mean, I should, in fairness, look at Dionne's book because I think he's a cogent observer of the American political scene. But I hadn't heard of the book or seen it.
1980 Hostage Deal Reports
Q. Mr. President, I know that you recently wrote a letter to former hostage William Morehead, I believe, is his -- --
The President. No, not William. Morehead Kennedy.
Q. Morehead Kennedy, excuse me.
The President. Yes.
Q. Eight of the former hostages have called for an investigation of the accusations that the Reagan campaign people delayed the release of the hostages until after he was inaugurated, signed also by a local hostage by the name of Jerry Plotkin, local former hostage. I know your feelings on this. Let me ask you, you don't like what you call the rumormongering and the speculation. Wouldn't a bipartisan congressional investigation with subpoena power put all that to rest?
The President. It could, and Congress is looking at it.
Q. Would you like to see it?
The President. I haven't seen any evidence to support it. None. But if Congress concludes it, I'd welcome it. But I've seen enough rumormongering and hatemongering, accusing me of things inferentially that I don't like, that I can categorically deny it, as I did to Morehead Kennedy. I think he's accepted that.
They had me in Paris on October 20th. So, what did we do? We put out a play-by-play, an hour-by-hour part of the schedule. And so, some of them had the decency to retract that charge. Others are still saying, hey, there's evidence out there. Let Congress do it. I think anything by the executive branch would be suspiciously viewed as something less than objective.
Q. But you'd welcome a congressional investigation?
The President. If they see the evidence to go forward. But to spend millions of taxpayers' dollars based on rumors, I'm sorry, I don't think that's good.
But let me tell you this on that one. To assign to me the motive that for political gain I would assign an American to captivity one minute longer than necessary, I think is a vicious personal assault on my integrity and my character as President. I don't think I'd deserve to be in this Office if for one minute I suggested a person be held hostage so I could get political gain. And I know the same is true of President Reagan.
So, this is what troubles me about these allegations. But if there's evidence -- the Congress is looking, they've got committees looking at it -- let them go forward. I have nothing to -- wouldn't stand in the way of that. But if there's no evidence, I think they ought to say so, to lay it to rest. If I were a hostage -- I told Kennedy, hey, if I were in your position and I read a bunch of allegations about me or anyone else, I'd be heartbroken. I'd want to get to the bottom of it. But that's not the case. So, let me tell you, Morehead, what I know. And I know I had nothing to do with it, and I have no knowledge of anybody that had anything to do with it.
Q. Was there an ``it''?
The President. They're alleging there was an ``it''.
Q. Can you categorically state that there was never any such plan?
The President. To the best of my knowledge, I can. I know of nothing, direct or indirect, that would suggest this. And I can categorically deny that I wasn't in Paris when these rumors and these allegations put me there.
How do you clear your name? Maybe the investigation is it, but it has to be based on fact. It can't just go out there and have a billion-dollar witch-hunt. So, I'd love to get it cleared, and I've done it as emphatically as possible. Because this gets to the heart of character. This gets to your soul. This gets to what's decent and right in the world.
And to suggest that a sitting President or a then Vice President would in any way, direct, indirect, know of and condone this, it touches me much more than some that -- like disagreeing on abortion or disagreeing on closing bases. This one gets to the soul. And I'm glad you gave me a chance to wax emotional about it because it really turns me off, these little clever suggestions that I might have been involved. And all I can do is deny any knowledge of it, direct, indirect, for me or anyone else. That's all I can do. And I have a feeling that the American people are fair and they'll understand this. This is the most emotional I've been about it, but you touched a real nerve, and so did Kennedy. That's why I wrote him the letter I did, which categorically denied it, direct or indirect.
Q. Mr. President, is George Deukmejian on your list of candidates for Attorney General to replace Mr. Thornburgh?
The President. Hey, you know something? One, great respect for George Deukmejian. Two, that matter's been thrown into a cloud, a judge intervening in the process up there, so I don't know there's a vacancy. And three, I don't have a list. High regard for Deukmejian, tremendous. He seems very happy in what he's doing.
Q. Can we get, just very quickly -- we touched on it in the beginning -- --
The President. This is the longest 15-minute interview I've had, too. But I've enjoyed it very -- --
Q. I know you've got to go tee it up at Sherwood.
The President. Let's get our priorities sorted out here. [Laughter]
Q. How are you feeling?
The President. Healthy.
Q. Are you still taking the medication?
The President. Yes, I take medication, and I've brought along my doctor, who's tethered out here somewhere, who would be glad to give you -- oops, he's not tethered out there somewhere. But if you really want it, on-camera question, I'm sure he'd be glad to answer it. I'm on medication. The medication is trying to get the thyroid in balance and guards against, in the process, fibrillation of the heart.
Incidentally, I think every other guy on the street has had a heart fibrillation. I have never seen so much mail from people across the country. Not only that, but they're all doctors. They're all telling me exactly what to do. We had a letter from one saying it was a conspiracy of the Mossad, which happens to be the very good security agency in Israel. It's the damnedest thing I have ever seen.
Q. Are you running again?
The President. And I'm flattered with the interest. But I feel very good.
Q. Running? Are you running again?
The President. I ran 2 miles on Monday. I worked out on one of those bicycles this morning. Play golf today. Play tennis tomorrow. So, I feel good. I can't tell you I feel perfect yet, but I'm getting there. Weight got low and now bounced up a little. And I'm back. But I want to get off all this medicine. And I think they proclaim in a couple of weeks I'll be there.
Q. Are you going to endorse Senator Seymour in his race against Bill Dannemeyer?
The President. Yes.
Q. Even though he's pro-choice?
The President. Listen, there's a thousand issues, and I'm proud to have his support. You know, you asked a good question. What is it that tries to find a difference -- I guess it's because you don't want to talk about all the banks that weren't robbed today, that were not robbed today. [Laughter] So, everybody looks for a difference between me and another Republican, just as they look at the differences the Democrats are fighting endlessly about in the same way. Really carving themselves up, nationally. I don't know how it is out here. Maybe it's more tranquil, the Willie Brown versus whoever it is in the Senate.
But nevertheless, I support Seymour. It is my view that the country has got other issues on their mind -- national security, the economy, the environment -- a thousand issues, including pro-choice. Are you for abortion or are you against it? A lot of people have that one as the number one issue. But elections aren't decided on that. And then you have another layer which is the values. People tease me about talking about family, faith, all this kind of thing.
So, it's not as simple as some proponents of a special issue would have you believe. And I learned long ago, there isn't one single Republican that agrees with me on every issue. And I learned something else: I'm not going to ask that there be a litmus test on every single issue. I want somebody else to vote for me besides me. And so, I support Seymour. He's an incumbent Senator. I think I'm going to be out here in the fall for a fundraiser for him and I hope it drags in some bucks.
Q. The other Senate race to fill Alan Cranston's seat. We've got a Representative Tom Campbell from up around Stanford who's a moderate Republican; we have a conservative by the name of Bruce Herschensohn, who's a political commentator. How do you handicap that one?
The President. The same way I did in handicapping when I ran for President in '88. Let the voters decide it.
Q. You want to endorse somebody there?
The President. Let the voters decide it. No. I don't get into primaries. I'm supporting tickets, but I don't get into primaries.
Upcoming Presidential Campaign
Q. Sir, you say ``if you run'' again in `92. Why wouldn't you?
The President. Oh, you're pressing me a little early. Why wouldn't I? Can't really think of a reason except, certainly health. I'd owe it to the American people to say, hey, I'm up for the job for 4 more years. I'm absolutely convinced on that one. If you had to ask me that one today, I think health's in good enough shape to certify, yea, but I want to take a look at it later on. I don't know. I've got a strong-willed wife. Oh, she's strong. [Laughter]
Q. Who doesn't? [Laughter]
The President. And the Silver Fox, boy -- --
Q. Is there another kind?
The President. But if the family appealed that I not do it, I'd have to say that would weigh with me. Our kids differ, incidentally. Some of them are enthusiastic: ``Hey, Mom, I'm on TV.'' [Laughter] And others want to shun the -- they want to protect their privacy. I think we've worked out a balance as a family, but in all seriousness, that could have an effect. It wouldn't be decided on running away from a battle. The fact if there's a battle, and there will be, that would make me inclined to say, ``I'm going to be a candidate again.''
I just haven't decided. It's early. Don't push me. I think it's good politics, too, not to have to get out front and have, ``Here's my campaign manager for Orange County,'' or ``Here's who's going to run the fundraising effort in San Francisco.'' Too early. You know, one more point on the politics. They always say, hey, these campaigns are too long. Campaigns go on too long. The political observers -- you had mentioned one. I don't know about Dionne's position, but many of them -- it's brutal. It's unfair to the American people. There's no active political campaign on now for 1992 on either side of the aisle. And people are saying, hey, how come you're not in there? How come you haven't said you're a candidate?
Q. So you oppose moving the California primary to March, as opposed to its present position in June?
The President. I'm going to take an heroic position on that one and say let Californians decide. [Laughter] That's the federalist system. That's the way it works, the way it should work.
I've got to get out of here now. Come on -- --
Q. One more. One more.
The President. This is Saturday. What is this -- Saturday. I'm going to go tee it up. A quick one for him, one for her, and then I'm history.
Q. Thank you.
The President. And don't ask me the same question again, because I just can't answer it. [Laughter]
Q. I'll ask you a different one. You are perhaps one of the most qualified Presidents in our history in terms of your experience, before you became President, in government. In light of that, search your soul for this one -- --
The President. Yes.
Q. -- -- and tell me what is it, the one thing about this job that's just so doggone harder -- much more difficult than you thought it would be?
The President. In many ways it's less hard. But the one thing that's harder, or if I could substitute the word frustrating, is the inability to get my domestic program through. We're in a fight on civil rights, for example. I pride myself on having a record of conscience and compassion on civil rights. We have before the Congress a civil rights bill that, in my view, would go a long way to eliminating discrimination in the workplace. And it would not result in quotas, direct or indirect. It wouldn't compel employers to put in quotas in order to avoid lawsuits. I feel strongly about this legislation. I can't get my legislation seriously considered, hearings before committees on it.
So, there's a frustration level, and I guess I'd have to accept your word: It is harder, given the fact the other party controls both Houses of the Congress, to get the things done I want done -- or put it more broadmindedly, get the things done that I think I was elected to do. Therein lies a frustration. But I have to accept the fact that the executive branch is ours, the congressional branch is controlled by the leaders. So, when we get into the campaign you're pushing on, I'll go after them. They've already started going after me. And I've started a little bit kinder and gentler approach so far. But the American people will get this in focus.
But therein is the harder part because I spell out an agenda, I take my case to the people on an agenda, and we're frustrated. The war was something else. We needed the support of the Congress. And I think if you go back and look at the history of Desert Storm and Desert Shield, I had to bring the American people along as Commander in Chief or as President and then, at the appropriate moment, go to the Congress, although I didn't think I had the constitutional responsibility to do this, and say: Sanction the use of force. Do what every nation in the world has done almost through the United Nations sanctions.
There it was different because the President in foreign policy and in running a war, if you will, has much more power in the ability to call decision. I didn't have to call the subcommittee on military defense to ask if the air war should start. I didn't have to summon the congressional leaders to say, please give me a vote, 6 to 4, as to whether we're going to start the ground war.
And so, that part -- not that the war was easy, not that the committing of forces was easy, but from a running-my-job standpoint it was easier. I could assign the duties to Norm Schwarzkopf, through Colin Powell, through Cheney, and not have to worry about a subcommittee wanting to take a look and now we'll reallocate -- hey, Norm, don't send the 81st Airborne there; put them over here in Iraq somewhere.
It's a big difference; foreign policy is a big difference, not in funding but a big difference in how you run, making something happen. My frustration: inability to make stuff happen. And that's going to mean I need more support in the Congress -- excuse the pitch.
Q. In a sense, you're saying that, as for your job, the war with Iraq was easier than the war with Congress?
The President. Yes. In terms of making decisions, not in terms of emotion. Not in terms of what's in my heart when I have to say to a mother or a cousin or a brother: I'm going to put your son in harm's way; I'm going to send your daughter to be the first woman that might be in combat -- thinking of a dead woman who performed heroically, the helicopter pilot.
I mean, therein, it's much tougher. I confessed the other day -- I don't like these personal confessions, but I confessed that up at Camp David the tears came down my eyes as I had to contemplate this. So, it's not easier in that, in the moral obligation you have, but it's easier in getting something to happen.
Upcoming Presidential Campaign
Q. Can you imagine, understanding that you want to stay away from the '92 campaign, that you or whoever runs in your place will, nevertheless, make a point of those Democrats who voted against the war, a strong point, to defeat them on that issue?
The President. Well, you're already seeing some of that on both sides. You're seeing people defending their votes, and you're seeing people attacking some on their votes.
Q. How about you, though?
The President. I don't know. As I told you, I haven't contemplated tactics or campaign. I think on that one I would say, look, you're -- kind of like I did just now -- here's what I had to do, here's how the American people responded.
You see, I don't think it's wrong to have these parades. When I go down -- yesterday, riding in a big limo in areas where people -- I'm sure they didn't vote for me in overwhelming numbers, some of the neighborhoods we went through. They were just areas that demographically are tough for Republicans. But when you see them out there with a little American flag, they're not saying hooray for George Bush; they're saying something's different in our country. There's a pride. There's a patriotism. And back inside the beltway, on some of these deadly talk shows, some of them don't get it. They don't understand what's happened in the country. I don't have to flog this. I don't have to put it, ``I did it.'' This team -- these are young men and women, many of whom are -- put it in political terms -- for me, against me, they did their duty for their country. And I think the American people will understand that without my having to throw a partisan spin on it for 1992.
It was bigger than that. It was more majestic than that. And I'll try to resist demagoguery because I really feel so emotional about what our troops did and what our general officers did and how the war was done, compared to other wars. And for that, I salute those who had the authority to make decisions. So, I hope I can rise above a temptation to politicize something that was noble for our whole country and in which everybody -- Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservatives -- should take enormous pride.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
Q. Thank you, sir.
The President. Thank you for this 15-minute opportunity. [Laughter] Sorry I got wound up, but these are very -- --
Q. We were wound up as well as you, sir.
The President. Well, I enjoyed it -- as you could tell -- very, very much. Thank you.
Note: The interview began at 7:55 a.m. in the Burton Room of the Four Seasons Hotel. The following persons were referred to: Gov. Pete Wilson of California; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney; Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Vice President Dan Quayle; television talk show hosts Johnny Carson, David Letterman, and Jay Leno; journalist E.J. Dionne; former hostages Morehead Kennedy and Jerry Plotkin; former President Ronald Reagan; former Governor of California George Deukmejian; Attorney General Dick Thornburgh; Senators John Seymour and Alan Cranston; Representatives William E. Dannemeyer and Tom Campbell; California State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, Jr.; Bruce Herschensohn, Republican senatorial primary candidate in California; and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.