Public Papers - 1991 - November
Interview With Dave Ward of KTRK - TV in Houston, Texas
Q. Mr. President, this is kind of a broad way to begin, but tell us what is America's biggest problem right now.
The President. Right now, world peace having been enhanced, progress having been made as we start a whole new approach to education -- although we've got big problems there -- I think it's the economy. I think it is that people don't have confidence.
Q. Unemployment figures just came out today for October: up another one-tenth of 1 percent, 6.8 percent. What can be done?
The President. Well, in the first place, these things need to be in perspective. It doesn't help to tell someone that's out of work, ``Unemployment is 6.8 percent, and that's far lower than in recession times when I was Vice President back in the '81 - '82 days.'' It happens to be true.
I would have a mixed message, and it would be this: One, for those that are hurting, we've got to help; those whose unemployment benefits have run out, send me a bill that I can sign that doesn't further burden everybody else by busting the budget agreement.
Secondly, using hindsight, I would have liked to have thought that Congress would move on the package that I put forward to stimulate economic growth: IRA's, a transportation bill, a capital gains reduction, and things that actually create jobs. Lacking that, we've got to fight for a package that will stimulate.
And then thirdly, I'd say I believe the economy is recovering. It grew at 2.4 percent over the previous quarter, in the third quarter. And yet, you go tell some guy at Compaq that's getting laid off, and he's not interested in that. He wants to know, ``How about my job, my family? I'm worried.''
And so, I've got to be careful I don't over-cheerlead on this economy, but I don't want to talk people into a further lack of confidence because it's a good time to buy a house, frankly. It's a good time to buy a car in terms of historic interest rates. It's a good time for sound banks to make sound loans. And we've got a banking reform bill that would further enhance credit. I've been worried about that. We're working with the regulators to lighten up on some of the regulation that is causing banks to loan less money.
So, the message is mixed. But when someone is hurting, I must be concerned. And I am. And we're trying hard.
Q. Would you like to see the Federal Reserve cut interest rates at all?
The President. Yes. I'd like to see them down more. They've been worried, and I think at times properly worried, about inflation. Nobody likes that insidious stealth tax; it rips it out of everybody's pocketbook. But yes, I think we could go down more on rates. And again, a President has to be careful. What I say -- it seems hard for you to believe, having known me all these years, but this affects the markets and there's procedures for doing these things.
But you've asked a frank question, and I've given you a frank answer.
Capital Gains Tax
Q. You may have a Democratic opponent who's calling for a capital gains tax.
The President. Great!
Q. I read one, Tsongas I think, says capital gains tax promotes reinvestment.
The President. A lot of them are talking about it now, but the old thinkers in Congress are unwilling to do it because they're thinking politically, ``We don't want to give the President a victory.''
I told them last night, I said: ``Look, give me all the political grief. You call it a tax for the rich. Lay that on. Keep on with your rhetoric. But let's try it. It worked in '78. It created new jobs. It added revenues to the Federal Government -- didn't cost the taxpayers a thing. Let's try it. Let's try to create jobs through the incentive that comes with entrepreneurship.''
It's small business that's the backbone of this country. But we're in a political fight, and yet, I think some are coming this way. I've even heard some of the most unlikely sources talking about it now. So, we're going to keep on it. I'm not saying it's a magic that's going to solve everything, but our package will help a lot.
Q. A lot of people blame our social ills in our country on the breakdown of the family, giving us social problems. Don't those eventually evolve into economic problems?
The President. Certainly. And I -- oh, Dave, I'll tell you -- --
Q. What can be done about it?
The President. Well, I'm not sure the Federal Government can do a heck of a lot about that: the dissolution of family, marriages breaking up wantonly and at random, children left with nobody knowing their names. I think one thing we can do is safeguard against legislation that is going to inflict mandates on families. I'm for parental choice, for example, in education. I fought hard and got a child care bill that lets the parents choose how this should work.
I don't want to sound holier-than-thou, but you're on to something. The dissolution of the family is a bad thing. And I might put in a plug for what Barbara Bush does here because I think the American people see in her somebody that epitomizes a family value. She goes into any neighborhood; it doesn't matter who votes for who. It's not going to matter next year. She'll be there holding somebody's hand, holding an AIDS baby in her arms, helping with education, getting parents to read to their children. You're talking about family strength. That's a wonderful thing. And it may seem small to some people, but I think the American people see, well, that she practices what she preaches in terms of family. And I'm very proud of her. And I want to try, myself, to assist without trying to mastermind the family problems of individuals.
But I worry about it all the time: The dissolution of the American family, the relaxing of traditional values. It troubles me. But you can't legislate it. It's not something that -- you can't legislate moral behavior in this country.
Q. Another trouble spot that we have in Houston and, well, nationwide, but really in Houston -- we've got a horrible crime problem, and we're one of the five drug hotspots in the country. You have said communities should solve their own problems, and I understand that. But we're struggling. We're having a hard time. Is there more that can be done?
The President. Dave, you're right. In the first place, the community action is a very important way. I hope I've not said it to the exclusion of Federal participation. We've got a crime bill that proposes tough anti-crime legislation: habeas corpus reform and a whole bunch of things that I think would strengthen the hand of the police, would be tougher on the criminals, including more rapid capital punishment for those that kill police officers and involved in this insidious narcotics business. So, we have a program here that can help.
But again, I think communities do have to move forward. And Houston is trying. Houston is trying hard. I think our police chief is trying hard in this. I think our officers, some of whom I know and respect, are out there on the front line. And what the Federal Government must do is support them. And that's what our crime bill will do.
But the liberal Democrats have a very different, softer kind of let's-help-rehabilitate-the-criminal approach. And I think we've tried that, and it's failed. And yes, I'm for some rehabilitation, but I want to support the policeman on the block. And I don't care whether it's a Democrat policeman, Republican policeman, liberal, conservative: they deserve our support. And I need some help from Congress.
Upcoming Drug Summit
Q. Some speculation that the next drug summit might be held in Houston. Do you have any word on that?
The President. Well, I'd like to see it held in the United States. The last one was in Cartagena.
You see, it's my view -- and I'm not talking defensively here -- I think that working with foreign countries on antinarcotics, I don't think that's foreign policy. They say, ``Bush spends too much time on foreign policy.'' Yes, I went to Colombia and met with them, but I think that helps every neighborhood in Houston, Texas, if we can make more progress on interdicting drugs.
Now, I've invited leaders of many of these countries to a meeting next year, and I'd like to see it in the United States. And it might well turn out to be in Texas. Other States, of course, are interested, and some are accusing me of funneling a little too many events into Houston. But this is my home, and I'm not apologetic about it. And we're a crossroads; we're a community here that can handle these things well.
Governor Ann Richards
Q. Our Governor, Ann Richards, she made a name for herself by kind of trashing you at that last convention. Would you like to say anything about the way she's running the Governor's office?
The President. Well, I don't want to be too nice to her, I mean -- but look, Ann had to do her thing, and she ran a good race. And I'm told that in many areas she's getting along just fine. But everybody forgives a little excess political rhetoric. I don't think she'll be running that same theme again in the future. If so, I'll unleash on her.
But right now I'm in a kind and gentle mood towards our Governor. She's helping in a lot of the education initiatives that I believe in. Most Governors -- you know, our Education 2000 program isn't Republican or Democrat. We've got tons of Democratic Governors supporting it.
So, the jury is still out on her. The jury is still out on me. And let's see how she does. But I'm not going to be carping and criticizing any Governor of Texas. It's my State.
Redskins vs. Oilers
Q. One last thing. The Washington Redskins, Houston Oilers, RFK this Sunday. Who are you going to be rooting for?
The President. I thought that might be the first thing with you. [Laughter] No, I've said this publicly since I've been in Houston, and I always start out by saying I've got great affection and respect for Joe Gibbs. You better have great affection and respect for Joe Gibbs if you want to live in Washington, even inside the fence in the White House. Besides that, he merits that.
Joe is a -- God, what he does, the great work he does with kids. But look, Jack Pardee is my friend. The Oilers are my hometown club. Warren Moon is a guy not only that I respect, but I believe he'd recognize that we have a friendship, too. And so, I want the Oilers to win it. And I want them to go on and do so well that Barbara and I receive them in the White House as Super Bowl champs.
So put that one out there, and I'll go back and take the flak in DC tomorrow.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. It's good to see you again, sir.
The President. Thank you. Nice reunion.
Note: The interview began at 9:58 a.m. in the Houstonian Hotel. Paul E. Tsongas, former Massachusetts Senator, is a candidate for the Democratic Party's 1992 Presidential nomination. This interview was not received in time for publication in the appropriate issue.