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Public Papers - 1991

Interview With Julius Hunter of KMOV - TV in St. Louis, Missouri

1991-11-13

Linkage Between Domestic and Foreign Affairs

Q. Mr. President, you're being given worldwide acclaim for your foreign policy programs or foreign policy initiatives, but your critics are crying a lot. I mean, I'm sure you've heard that crying recently that you, during the last 3 years, have not looked homeward and have not taken care of business at home. How do you respond to that?

The President. I think they're not telling the truth. I think that in the first place, I see the world as one great big market. And I think every time we export, we're doing something good. So, when I go like the other day to an EC meeting in The Hague and try to expand our agricultural sales, that are very important in Missouri; try to expand those around the world, I think that's in the American interest.

Secondly, I think world peace is in the interest of your kids and mine and our grandchildren. And I'm going to continue to work on that.

Thirdly, I have a good domestic agenda program. But my problem is the liberal Democrats that control both Houses of the Congress want to try it some other way. So what I have to do is keep proposing and reproposing, make compromises as we did on child care and clean air and some of these bills that are important, and then keep fighting for my agenda: The crime bill, the transportation bill, and these other growth measures that I've talked about. But it isn't easy.

In foreign affairs, when we went to win a war I didn't have to ask the leadership of the Democratic Congress whether it's okay. ``Hey, is it all right if I move this division there? Is it okay if we send Schwarzkopf here or there?'' I didn't have to do that. I'm the President; made something happen. It's different on domestic affairs. You're always fighting some tired, in my view, tired, old ideas up there.

'91 Elections

Q. Speaking of tired, old ideas, do you detect a swing in voters' mood in the country? Witness the defeat of Buddy Roemer in Louisiana, the rise of David Duke and the defeat of Dick Thornburgh, your handpicked guy for the Senate in Pennsylvania.

The President. Well, in the first place, the Buddy Roemer was a terrible blow because it gave rise to a very tough choice in Louisiana. But I have said publicly, and I'll say again: I couldn't be silent in the face of a man who is an ex-Nazi, who is a bigot, whose past is full of racism. So, I've spoken out on that. And the only worry I've got on that one is will that help Duke or hurt him, because Louisianians are proud. I used to work over there. They don't like people coming in from outside telling them what to do. But when you have a man that denies the Holocaust or is bigoted against minorities, I've got to speak out. I owe the country that kind of moral leadership.

On the Thornburgh matter, yes, I'm concerned, but I also was delighted when Governor Florio of New Jersey said, ``This is a referendum on President Bush, the elections here.'' And we swept both Houses. So, there was some good news for us and some not so good.

Q. Do you think you might have to take the unprecedented step of backing David Duke's opponent, the Democrat?

The President. Well, I've done that. Yes, I've said that, that if I were down there I'd vote for Edwards. But, again, the risk on that is that you are counterproductive. But I feel so strongly that we must speak up against racism and bigotry, that I was pleased to do that in the sense that it's the principled thing to do. But I'm not sure of the election effect.

The Economy

Q. You're in an area with extremely high unemployment, and there are a lot of people who are struggling to make ends meet right now. There are the homeless and the hungry in this country, those who are in despair. It might be difficult for them to believe that the recession is truly over. Might you be getting a picture painted for you by your chief economic advisers that is rosier than it actually is out there in the jungle, in the real world?

The President. I don't think that's the case, but I think there is a danger of when you say the recession is over that people who are out of work -- and it's 6.8 percent or something of that nature -- misunderstand that. We had a period of growth in the third quarter, and the definition of recession is two negative quarters in a row. Well, we had a positive quarter. But what's happening is the growth is slow. It's anemic. And what we ought to do is pass some of the growth measures that I've got before this Congress to stimulate growth and move forward on things like home-ownership and tenant management and a whole new approach. But I'm having difficulty with the leadership in the Congress, frankly. They're thinking old, tired thoughts.

And the American people see this. I'll take my share of the blame, but the American people are right when in survey after survey they blame Congress, as many as four times as much as the President. But this isn't a question of blame; it's a question of trying to help somebody. And I'll continue to reach out to Congress, but I can't accept bad legislation that's going to hurt everybody in the country.

Health Care

Q. There are 34 million Americans with no health care insurance. And the plan that's been recently offered by business and labor leaders, you're opposed to that plan. What would you say to those 34 million Americans who might seem to think that you're not interested in them getting health care?

The President. I'd say we're going to have a health care program. We've got some good programs under HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan. But there are 60 programs that have been put out. There's another one, maybe that's the one you're referring to today that came out, that Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford were on. The price tag on some of these are enormous. And we've got to have a comprehensive program where we do something about the costs that have accelerated so much and try, at the same time, to provide health care for all.

The program, as I see it, that was proposed today looks very much like the one that they proposed in Massachusetts. And they put it in, and then the voters rebelled because it cost everybody way too much money. And we simply have got to be sure that when we get one, and we're going to have a proposal, that it is not going to bust the back of everybody else or put people out of work.

You're concerned; so am I, about jobs. And you don't want to say to every small business, ``You're going to be rendered uncompetitive because the Federal Government is going to impose mandates on you.''

'92 Presidential Election

Q. I know you don't want to aid and abet the enemy, but is there any Democrat that you would be loathe to run against in the next election?

The President. If there was I probably wouldn't tell you about him. But, no, look, I've always said I'll have a tough race. I'm confident that I'll prevail. And I want very much, if I decide to be an official candidate, to prevail.

Q. If you decide?

The President. But I don't go along with the common wisdom as to who's the toughest or not. The media frenzy back in the East I expect -- I hope it's kind of been avoided out here in this very sensible part of the country -- but they have picked some that they think are the toughest. But let the American people decide this. And let the Democrats sort it out in their own primaries, and then I'll take on whatever they offer up.

Q. If you decide to run?

The President. If I decide to run. And I've said, though, and not being cute about it, that the only reason that I can foresee would be if I had some health problem. That came up last year, but I feel like a million bucks right now -- before taxes. [Laughter]

Q. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

The President. Good to see you.

Note: The interview began at 4:40 p.m. in the Radisson Hotel, St. Louis Airport. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.

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