Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the Sale of AWACS and Other Air Defense Equipment to Saudi Arabia
October 27, 1981
Q. How about telling us about the AWACS?
Q. Yes, Mr. President. I understand you've got it won. Is that right?
The President. I'm not going to say that. I'm cautiously optimistic, but I feel good.
Q. How about a count? If you won't say you'll win, why don't you give us your estimated count?
The President. Well, you know how it is. Those things can go one way or the other. But we've been busy, and I think it looks good.
Q. Do you feel that you've convinced some of the Senators that you've seen in the last couple of days to come to your side?
The President. Well, I think some have, yes.
Q. What's the argument that you've been using that's persuaded most?
The President. That it is good for the United States, good for peace in the Middle East, and good for the security of Israel.
Q. And good for President Reagan?
The President. No. I've never been in an AWACS myself. [Laughter]
Q. No, sir. I mean the argument is being made that if they don't support you, they weaken your hand in the conduct of foreign policy.
The President. I think that would be a natural assumption to make, yes. But that isn't the argument I have been using.
Q. What exactly has made you so optimistic tonight? I mean why do you feel good?
The President. Well, I just think that it's much closer than has been reported in the last few days.
Q. You need three votes?
The President. I don't know how many.
Q. Well now, when Ms. Thomas [Helen Thomas, United Press International] said in Cancun, ``We have heard that before,'' you said, ``Yes, before we have always won.'' Remember? You have won this one, haven't you?
The President. I don't know, really. No, you couldn't get me to say that if you threw a bomb at me -- and don't. [Laughter]
Q. Would you consider an emergency arms -- invoking the emergency powers?
The President. We haven't considered that. We haven't talked about that yet, and I seriously doubt it.
Q. You wouldn't rule it out though?
Q. You are expecting some more Senators to jump on the bandwagon now?
The President. Jump on or climb on or -- --
Q. Are you going to send the letter tomorrow to the Senate?
The President. I think that the letter has gone, hasn't it?
Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. It goes tomorrow.
The President. It is tomorrow? Yes, the letter is going up tomorrow.
Q. Have you made any deals? Have you been giving anything away?
The President. No, I don't make deals.
Q. What happens if you lose, Mr. President?
The President. I lie me down and bleed awhile and then get up and fight again. [Laughter]
Q. Which is closer, Marshall Coleman's [Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia] victory or AWACS?
The President. On both, I am cautiously optimistic.
Q. Thank you.
Note: The session began at 5:17 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House as the President was preparing to depart for Richmond, Va.