July 27, 1984

U.S.-Cuba Relations

Mr. Schneider. Hello, Mr. President, this is Mike Schneider in Miami. It's good to be able to talk to you again, sir.

The President. Good to talk to you, Mike.

Mr. Schneider. The first question is, Mr. Castro just celebrated yet another anniversary in power in Cuba. Lots of questions there: He reportedly wants to talk to the United States, and there are rumors in Miami right now that the United States is negotiating in some secret capacity with the Cubans, possibly about the return of the Mariel criminals. Is that true? What can you tell us about that?

The President. Yes, there's been an indication that they're willing to talk about this, and we have been in communication with them and certainly are ready to talk. No plans have been set, as yet, for that, but to talk about the so-called Marielitos.

Mr. Schneider. Is there a good possibility that those people can be returned in the near future?

The President. I believe so, unless they go back on things that they have already said to us. And we see no indication of that. Yes, I think it's a matter of numbers and deciding how many, but they've expressed a willingness to take back.

Mr. Schneider. How soon could that be, sir? Possibly this year?

The President. I would hope so.

Immigration Legislation

Mr. Schneider. The Simpson-Mazzoli bill, sir -- a lot of people down here have very strong emotions on that. Especially in the Cuban-American community there's been strong support for it. Those people thought that you supported that bill. Now we hear that if the House version of it is accepted and goes to your desk, you, in fact, will not sign it. That's what we've heard. Is that true, and if so, why this apparent flip-flop?

The President. Well now, Mike, it's no flip-flop with me. And I never comment on whether I'll veto something until I see it finally on my desk, because sometimes what's been an apple up on Capitol Hill, turns into an orange before it gets here, or vice versa. But it is true that I support the Senate version of that bill.

The House has injected some things in the bill that I find it very difficult to support. It would give us very great problems. Now, it hasn't gone into conference yet, but someplace in conference they usually come down between the two versions. And I will have to wait and see what is there.

But, yes, I've had to say that the House version would be unacceptable to me, because -- --

Mr. Schneider. What is -- --

The President. -- -- of the things that had been added.

Mr. Schneider. If I may, sir, what is it in the House version that you find objectionable?

The President. Well, for one -- and there are a number of things, but for one, alone, is a tremendous cost factor that didn't exist in the other bill.

Entitlement Programs

Mr. Schneider. The question now refers back to Mr. Mondale's charges that -- he of course says that he will raise taxes, and he claims that you will, too. You say that you won't, that you'll try to cut spending. And there are many people in our area concerned that the spending cuts could come, of course, in Social Security or in Medicare packages, or in packages that aid the elderly. What can you say to reassure those people?

The President. Well, first of all, with regard to Social Security, we have absolutely no plans whatsoever to change that. As you'll remember, Social Security was made the object of a great deal of demagoguery in the 1982 election. And there were a great many falsehoods spread which had the terrible effect of frightening many people dependent on that program, in spite of the fact that we tried in every way we could to tell them we were not going to pull the rug out from under them. But we were faced with Social Security bellying up bankrupt in July of '83. In fact, to get some checks out, we had to borrow money.

Then, after the election, we had a bipartisan commission put together, and we worked out a plan which has put Social Security on a sound footing for -- well, as far as we can see, to the year 2025. So, we're not making any changes in that.

Now, Medicare is a problem that we have to meet, because Medicare has something of the same problem that Social Security previously had, and it is faced -- not as immediate in danger, as was Social Security -- but it is faced with problems of fiscal insecurity in the next few years; before 1990. So, we are going to have to follow the same procedure and come up with a plan that ensures the fiscal soundness, because there are 28 million people in this country depending on Medicare for their health services.

Social Issues

Mr. Schneider. Mr. President, there are those who claim that a second Reagan administration would be a much more dogmatic, conservative administration, that you'd be pushing harder on your so-called social agenda -- pushing for a constitutional ban on abortion, for a ban on school busing. Would that happen under a second Reagan administration?

The President. Well, I have been strongly in favor of a number of measures -- the tuition tax credits, for one. And now we've made some progress in the last few days on prayer in schools. But I certainly wasn't seeking to impose prayers; I simply wanted to give them permission to pray if they wanted to, and it'd be up to them.

And, with regard to abortions, I feel that unless and until someone can establish that the unborn child is not a living human being, then that unborn child is protected by the constitutional protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And if you found a body and you didn't know whether it was dead or alive, you wouldn't bury it until you found out for sure that it was not living. And I feel the same way about the unborn child.

In fact, all of the medical evidence, so far, proves definitely that the unborn child is a living human being. And we have no right to take its life unless it would be taking that life in protection of the mother's life.

Mr. Schneider. Mr. President, thank you very much for letting the people of south Florida know how you feel. We appreciate it.

The President. Thank you.

Note: The interview began at 3 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.