July 27, 1984

Views on the Presidency

Ms. Fuldheim. Mr. President, thank you very much for this opportunity. I wanted to ask you this question: Through the years you've been in office, why do you want to be President, with all of the burdens and responsibilities?

The President. Well, the funny thing is, I kind of greet that question with mixed emotions, because for all of my life, while I was active in supporting candidates and causes that I believed in, simply because I believe that you have to pay your way, and life had been very good to me, and the business that I was in gave me some recognition, and I could attract an audience and help at fundraisers and things -- I did that. But I never wanted or thought that I would seek public office. Then I was persuaded to, for the Governor's job in California.

And, you know, someone has once said that life begins when you begin to serve. And I found there that life did begin. I thought that I would regret leaving the occupation and profession that I had practiced for so long. But I found it so fulfilling. And now, at this stage of my life, I want to continue to serve.

Tax Increases

Ms. Fuldheim. Well, I hope you do continue.

I'd like to ask you something else. Is there any truth to the rumor that you're waiting until after the election to increase the taxes? This bothers me a great deal.

The President. Let me tell you, there's been a distortion of something I said. Maybe I answered too much of an answer in the press conference sometime ago when I spoke about that.

No. No plans, nor do I believe that we need a tax increase. We're going to reduce the deficits by the way they should be reduced, which is reducing the cost of government. To me, a tax increase is a last resort. My opponent has made it plain that to him it's a first resort. And his record indicates he really feels that way.

Now, what I said that was misinterpreted -- I tried to explain that if, when we have gotten government costs down to the point at which they could not be reduced any farther and government still be able to perform the services it's responsible for, then, if the tax policy did not match the outgo, you would have to look and adjust the situation then. But we're nowhere near that. And I am still going to go after what I think is fat in government and get it out of there.

And believe me, I have no plans, other than this last resort thing that I mentioned -- if that should turn out to be true someday down the road, years from now -- I have no intention of asking for a tax increase.

Blacks and Voter Registration

Ms. Fuldheim. Mr. President, I also have the same attitude to fat that you do, only mine has to do with my body, not with taxes. [Laughter] Do you think that Jesse Jackson has increased the importance of the black vote in the United States?

The President. Oh, I think he has. I think he's been responsible for one thing -- something that maybe the rest of us couldn't have done -- and that is to get a great many people who hadn't bothered to participate in the political arena, who hadn't registered to vote, to get them to register and now to participate as voters.

I would like to see everybody that is eligible to vote -- see them registered and see them voting. That would really be our democracy at work. Over recent years we've seen declining numbers going to the polls to vote in elections, and I think part of it is because we've just satiated them with political campaigns that run too long -- until they seem like they're always hearing about a political campaign, whether at the local or State level, or at the national level. And, no, I'm glad to see more people registering and getting ready to participate.

Nuclear Weapons

Ms. Fuldheim. One final question, and this really is a serious one. All nations are beginning to construct more nuclear weapons. Our Defense Department said the other day that our nuclear armament is inadequate, and that we will have to increase it more to be competitive. I don't understand it. We spend billions of dollars.

The President. They are right about that -- unless we can persuade the Soviet Union, and until we can persuade them to come back to the so-called START and INF talks, which are negotiations to reduce the number of weapons on both sides.

But we have less nuclear power today than we had 20 years ago. We've withdrawn a thousand nuclear weapons from Europe, and we plan to withdraw another 1,400. In the last 10 years, the Soviet Union has added 800 ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles of the MX type that we're seeking to build. We're trying to get permission from Congress to build 100 of those. But they have built 800 in these last 10 years; we have built none -- zero.

And we are so far behind that we run the risk of having lost a deterrent capability; in other words, having a capability that says to them, you better not fire -- just as they're saying to us, we better not fire. And so, what we're trying to do is update and modernize with these hundred weapons.

Our weapons that we have on hand right now are of such an early generation that the Soviets have produced and deployed about four new generations of weapons while we have produced none. And their weapons have greater accuracy, greater power, than our old-fashioned ones. So, we're seeking just a hundred MX missiles.

Ms. Fuldheim. Mr. President, thank you very much. I hope you come and visit soon again.

The President. I would like that. And thank you very much.

Note: The interview began at 3:18 p.m. in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House. It was recorded for later broadcast.

The interview was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on August 1.