Public Papers - 1991 - November
Interview by Ron Stone of KPRC - TV in Houston, Texas
Q. Mr. President, you made a stemwinder of a speech last night. Let me go over some of those points.
The President. Please.
Q. So you can say again what you said then or clarify some things for me. A majority of the people according to polls think the economy is just going the wrong way.
The President. I know it, and I'm concerned about it. The irony is it's doing somewhat better than most people think, but still a lot of people are hurting. I'm sure they saw and you saw the recovery figures or the third-quarter figures that showed slow but reasonable growth. And yet, when people are being laid off or worrying about their jobs, these numbers don't mean anything. And what we've got to do is to try to take the kinds of action that will create jobs.
So, I'm concerned about it. But as we move into a political year, maybe we can get more done. I feel frustrated, and what we've tried to do, it gets blocked.
Linkage Between Democratic and Foreign Affairs
Q. Some of the people questioned in the polls believe you're not paying enough attention to the economy.
The President. I hear that. I think if you ask them the question, ``Well, did we properly engage Saddam Hussein,'' they'd say, ``Yes'' or ``Do you think it's worth working for peace in the Middle East?'' They'd say, ``Yes.'' But when a person is hurting and they worry about their families eating and whether they have a job the next day, I can understand that. I also made the point last night, though, that these things are interactive. For example, our relationship with Mexico and our working on a free trade agreement will mean jobs for the American people.
Now, I took on the labor unions on that. They have a different view. They think it will cost jobs. But it's job important. When we're talking now about getting a trade agreement, we're talking employment; we're talking more prosperity for the workers in Texas; we're talking about better environmental conditions on our border. And these are domestic issues, but they interlock.
Similarly, I think the peace issues, wherever they are, whether it's an altered Soviet Union or a more peaceful Middle East, eventually, that will mean far less security requirements for the United States.
So, I see the world as interlocking in this communication age, the way capital travels around the world, in this instant-communications age, foreign affairs are domestic affairs.
But again, the opposition is jumping on me for political reasons and saying, ``Well, I spend too much time on that.'' And then it gets harped on, and people pick it up. I don't agree with it, and I'm not going to change my schedule, incidentally. I'm going to do what I have to do to guarantee to the people peace and the national security interests of this country.
But again, I have to look and say, Ron, ``Am I thinking about this right?'' Some guy in Detroit being put out of a job. Someone in Dallas, his firm having to lay off. I can't ask him to think of my being in Madrid is good. But I've got to keep it in focus because I have the responsibility for the national security and for world peace.
Relations with Congress
Q. Well, in all fairness, Congress doesn't get very good grades either for being -- --
The President. They get worse than I do, which is -- they merit that in my view, particularly the Democrat liberals that control it.
You know, what I had fun with last night -- because I've been standing there like a placid punching bag, saying to myself, ``what I want to do is get something done for the men and women of this country.'' And to do that when the other party controls Congress, you have to compromise, you have to give or take, but you have to lead sometimes through vetoing. And I've been kind of a shock absorber for highly partisan criticism.
And I'm not going to do that anymore. I'm going to say when a guy takes me on in a demagogic way, I'm going to hit him right back. And I'm going to be doing it more and more. I still have to work with Congress. But we've had a good record on getting things through, but we need to do a lot more now. And I'm not going to sit here and let them alter the facts by these personal attacks.
I mentioned one little guy, that's the leader in the Democratic side in the House, criticizing me for being in Madrid, Spain, for I think it was 36 hours in a peace conference that is historic, something nobody in the world would dream we could bring these people. And this little guy jumps up and ``He shouldn't be there. He ought to be here.'' They ought to go home. The Congress ought to adjourn, and then that would help the American people more. And let us do what I was elected to do.
Q. I don't pretend to understand Washington, but the buzzword up there seems to be somehow, a ``jump start'' for the economy.
The President. Yes.
Q. What is that?
The President. What I think people are talking about, they share the concern I have about people that are out of work. And so, they're trying to see, is there something the Federal Government can do quickly, like a quick tax cut or a quick fix on a jobs bill that will ``jump start'' the economy? I don't believe that's possible if the price tag is higher taxes because of breaking the so-called caps on the budget agreement.
I think we've spent way too much Federal money. I think the Federal Government intervenes far too much in our lives. And so, I want to hold the line on that. But I think that's what people are talking about.
And the irony is, I have proposed growth programs, some popular, some not, in three State of the Union messages. But the Democrats have a different philosophy. Not guys like Lloyd Bentsen or some of our congressmen and stuff, but the people that control the machinery up there. They're the old thinkers. So, we have a certain price you pay for divided Government.
Q. You mentioned tax cut, and we hear more and more talk about that. In all probability, that's going to be the big debate that's going on next year during the campaign, is it not?
The President. Well, it depends how the economy is. I think, if you can say, ``Let's just cut taxes,'' and then let your voice trail off so you don't say, ``Let's increase the deficit,'' that might be all right. I have proposed a package of growth measures including IRA's and capital gains that actually would bring in revenue by stimulative tax cuts. Now, the Democrats elect to call capital gains a tax for the rich. I think if you look at 1978 and the Steiger bill, you'd see that it increases jobs. And that's what I'm interested in: The working men and women having a job with dignity in the private sector.
Q. I don't suppose anybody ever asked you a simplistic kind of question. So, I'll ask you one right here.
The President. Go ahead.
Q. The question is, if the cold war is over, why can't we take all that money we were spending there to help the folks at home?
The President. I think you can take some of it to help the folks at home. First place, when the Government man comes along and says, ``I want to help you,'' watch your wallet. Be careful. Because when the Congress says, ``I want to help you,'' that means they want to mandate; they want to tell you, whether you're in school, whether you're in a factory, whether you're in your home, exactly how you want to live your lives and run your business if you want ``Federal'' money. It's the taxpayers' money.
So, I don't think that there's any quick fix on all of this. And frankly, I think there's some reason to believe that the Democrats, my view is -- let me start this way: I think it's a sorry thing when the only way somebody thinks he can be elected is to say how bad everything is in the country or to hope that it will get worse so he can win. And it's a sad kind of a negative approach. And I'm much more of a positive person than that, and we'll just keep on trying.
Q. As I was driving over here this morning, I thought back to a time longer ago than either of us would like to think about when you ran for Congress, and we talked after you had won the first time. And I said, ``Why in the world would you want to do this? You know, you've got a good job. You've got a lot of money. Why do this?'' You said, ``I think people who can, ought to try to make a difference, ought to make the Government work. Now all these years later when you've got the best job there is, can you really make the Government work?
The President. I think we've made a difference. I think we've made a marvelous difference in the feeling in this country about our own national pride. And that's broad scale, broad-brushed, and I think what happened in the Gulf after the malaise days of Vietnam really inspired, way beyond party, the American people. And I can take some satisfaction from that.
On the domestic issues, like the environment and health care and medicine and education and crime, I think we can make a difference. But the problem I'm facing is, I'm up against the liberal Democrats that control Congress who have a very different philosophy. But, yes, I still feel that emotion that I felt. You were nice to mention the Congress because you also talked with me after I lost my first race. [Laughter]
Q. No, we won't mention that.
Redskins vs. Oilers
Q. I only have time for one more question and it's the most important one. And everybody wants to know who you're going to pull for in the Washington-Oiler game this weekend?
The President. You want a good, a straight answer or a political answer?
Q. Well, we'll try both.
The President. All right, let me give you a combination. I love Joe Gibbs of the Redskins. I know him. He does wonderful things for youth. But I'm for the Oilers. And I talked to Jack Pardee a few minutes ago and told him I was rooting for him, told him I hope he'd come by the White House on this visit because Barbara and I will be back there Sunday, and sent my best to Warren Moon, also a friend and guy of whom I share the pride in him everybody does. But, no, put me down in the Oilers column. And I'll have to get up quickly and explain it to Gibbs. I may catch a little hell in Washington, but look this is my home, and that's who I'm for.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: The interview began at 9:35 a.m. in the Houstonian Hotel.